Built by teachers, loved by learners.

English Language Training Solutions (ELTS) is a teacher-built educational training company dedicated to helping English teachers around the world address the challenges of teaching and learning English. 

We proudly serve teachers, volunteers, schools, and organizations ranging from the U.S. Department of State’s Office of English Language Programs and U.S. Peace Corps to universities, non-profit organizations, and public schools.

ELTS publishes the Color Vowel® Chart and is the exclusive training provider of the Color Vowel® Approach. Our patented learning process is built into our innovative pronunciation/literacy game, COLOR it out!, and the award-winning mobile app, Blue Canoe. 

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Our Story

Karen Taylor created the Color Vowel® Chart at the University of Maryland in 1999. Karen’s international teaching assistants appreciated the way it helped them to pronounce academic and technical vocabulary.

Shirley Thompson piloted the Chart with international students at George Washington University. Quickly recognizing their shared interest in pronunciation and brain-based learning, Karen and Shirley continued developing the Color Vowel® Chart together.

Dr. Robin Barr, Linguist In Residence at American University, soon joined the effort, testing the simplicity of the Chart against the complexities of phonology. Time and again, she has found that the Color Vowel® Chart delivers– providing linguists, teachers, and learners with a touchstone for describing the deep rules of spoken English.

Laura McIndoo, an ESL teacher at Central New Mexico Community College, encountered the Color Vowel® Chart at a conference in 2013 and instantly recognized its potential. With a talent for graphic design and a love of game-based learning, Laura created the spoken card game known today as Color it out!

Color it out! was an immediate hit with learners and teachers alike. It drew the attention of a friend in the tech industry, and a new company was born in 2016. Blue Canoe's mobile app combines the patented Color Vowel® method with speech recognition and machine learning to provide people around the world with access to a virtual English pronunciation coach, a perfect complement to Color Vowel classroom instruction.

All the while, our passionate community of inquisitive teachers and learners has made Color Vowel® what it is today: a wonderfully multi-modal, brain-based way of teaching that connects the spoken and written forms of English with unprecedented clarity, raising profound implications for language identity, pronunciation, vocabulary development, reading readiness, and so much more. 

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Our Team

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Karen Taylor

Co-Founder and Director

is co-author of the Color Vowel® Chart and co-founder of ELTS. She holds an MA in TESOL from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a BA in English Literature from Georgetown University. She taught TESOL graduate courses for nine years as Practitioner in Residence at American University and served as Adult ESL Coordinator at Santa Fe Community College in New Mexico. In 2020. she received Ed Tech’s Visionary Leader award for her work as Head of Education at Blue Canoe Learning.

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Shirley Thompson

Co-Founder and Advisor

is co-author of the Color Vowel Chart and Executive Advisor to ELTS. Shirley holds a Master in Linguistics from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in History and African Studies from Kalamazoo College. She began her teaching career as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa, serving in Bénin and Togo. Shirley taught for 25 years at the George Washington University and served as a Fulbright Senior Lecturer in Senegal. She founded the ESL program at All Souls Church in Washington DC. She enjoys painting with watercolors and acrylics.

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Jennifer Campion

Business Manager & Customer Support

began teaching English over 35 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco. After working as a documentation specialist for a civil engineering firm and then for NASA’s Office of Space Flight for several years, Jennifer returned to ESL instruction in 2003 at the American Culture and Language Institute at Northern Virginia Community College. Jennifer became a Color Vowel® Trainer in 2018 and now works full-time at ELTS. Jennifer holds a B.A. in French from Lynchburg College and an M.A. in TESOL from American University.

Robin Barr

Robin Barr

Lead Phonologist

holds a PhD in Linguistics from Harvard, an MA in linguistics from Harvard, and a BA in Linguistics from Yale. Dr. Barr is Linguist in Residence at American University, where she teaches for the TESOL graduate program. Robin also teaches dyslexic adult learners at the Washington Literacy Council, where she has developed a responsive curriculum the combines traditional phonics with brain-based strategies from the Color Vowel® Approach. Robin teaches our Level 2 and 3 courses and delivers workshops on literacy, learning, and the brain.

Laura McIndoo

Laura McIndoo

Graphic Designer and Master Trainer

is an ESL instructor and recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Faculty Award at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Shortly after discovering the Color Vowel® Chart, Laura was inspired to create COLOR it out!, a spoken card game that supports English pronunciation and reading. Following the game’s remarkable journey into mobile learning, Laura consults with the Education Team at Blue Canoe. Laura holds an MA in TESOL from St. Michael’s College, VT.

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Lynn Swanda

Apprentice Teacher Trainer

has extensive experience teaching English to non-native speakers of all ages and levels for over 25 years. She has a Master of Education in ESL and has lived and worked overseas in Belgium, Germany, Thailand, and South Korea for the majority of her teaching career. Lynn has taught in both local and international schools, as well as managing ESL departments. Currently, she resides in Oklahoma City and teaches at Oklahoma City Community College. She is an Apprentice Teacher Trainer pursuing Color Vowel® Level 3 Certification.

Our Solutions

Color Vowel® bridges the gap between spoken and written English.

do does dont what

"Long" and "short" are misleading terms.

Vestiges of Middle English, 'long' and 'short' are mostly meaningless in the context of Modern English.

Color Vowel® takes a sound-based approach that English learners can immediately put to use: do is BLUE, does is MUSTARD, and don't is ROSE. 

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English is not spelled phonetically.

Cough, tough, though and through look similar but all sound different, while words like do, you, through, new, and shoe can all feature the same vowel sound despite different spellings. 

Color Vowel® moves beyond 'sound it out' and teaches learners how to Color it out.

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English is a stress-timed language.

Without training, teachers and students often remain unaware of stress, instead working fruitlessly on the surface features of pronunciation, overlooking stress and rhythm as the main predictors of comprehensibility.

ELTS builds sound awareness training into every Color Vowel® course and workshop.

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