Many people start to study Engish when they are making a big change in their lives. Maybe a partner is taking more education, a parent has remarried and moved, home feels too dangerous, or your marital status has changed. This is a great article about 6 people from Calgary who had to make job changes. Your identity changes a lot, along with your employment status and where you live. Read for some good ideas about how to “reinvent” your life.
Because I’m teaching in an English-speaking country, some students learn to listen and speak very quickly and confidently. However, I also teach many students who spend almost all their time outside of school communicating only in their first language. Even if they work, they often work in a place where there is very little spoken communication. Some of those students look terrified every time I open my mouth. They don’t have any confidence at all about their listening skills. Those students will need to do more listening practice outside of class. Here are some great tips for improving listening, especially later in the post. There are also great ideas for ESL teachers to introduce listening.
Are your students struggling with authentic listening activities? Below is a brief guide I wrote to help my EFL students overcome both confidence issues and poor strategic choices when doing indepe…
One of the reasons that I have chosen to teach ESL as a second career is because of my lifelong fascination with words. Words have brought me so much joy in my life. Reading has always been one of my favourite activities, first in print, and more recently in audiobooks. When I listen to music, I’m only drawn to songs with interesting lyrics. The harmony and melody are very important, but I’m only really interested when the words of a song are meaningful in some way. I only took Latin for 1 year, but I’ve always been grateful that my early teachers took time to point out the patterns in the English language. They helped to notice prefixes (word beginnings) and suffixes (word endings), and to recognize the roots of many common words. When we know a little bit more about the origins of a word, we can understand much more about its meaning, as well as pronunciation and usage. As I studied to teach ESL, I was fascinated to learn that most of our food and government vocabulary came from the Norman French when they controlled England.
I hope that this webpage will help you a bit in your journey to understand new words. Often, the new word will have some clues that will help you to guess at the meaning.
I’m very interested in how the brain takes in new information, and how to improve the learning process. I always encourage students to learn more about their brains, to better understand how to learn well. There are a few things that I do regularly, based on what I’ve learned about the brain so for.
- Ask students to talk about “what’s new”. This builds social skills, but it also allows them to practice using vocabulary they already know, and to expand on that vocabulary with new words, expressions and idioms that relate to their everyday experiences. I hope that this regular activity will also encourage them to “English” any of their everyday activities, since they know they’ll have to share something with the class.
- Work on exercises individually, review with a partner, then correct the exercise with the whole class. Good students will also do the connected workbook exercises after each class. This provides several repetition and reinforcement opportunities since we rarely learn something new, the first time we’re exposed to that information. It also allows connections to be strengthened between existing and new knowledge.
- Individual, narrative writing that connects to each new subject area, as well as grammar. Again, this allows students to reinforce new knowledge, connect it to existing knowledge, and expand their “English” thinking about the current subject. As students write, I collect their writing, edit it, and send back the writing that all of the students have done, so that they have a grammatically correct “template” for expressing themselves on the subject. Also, this provides reading material that is interesting, and not too challenging for students to read independently.
- Regular “fieldtrips” to go use the target language in a real, yet safe and enjoyable environment. This means visiting restaurants or grocery stores when learning about food, a nearby gym while learning about staying in shape.
I hope that these various methods are helping students to incorporate their language learning as quickly as possible! Please share any other tips and tricks that have helped you to learn or to teach a new language.
Click the link below to see what scientists are saying about the brain.
Many students ask me how they can improve their vocabulary, as well as their writing, and in my opinion, the best way to do that quickly is to read as much as you can in English, about subjects that interest you. New books are expensive, and if you borrow books from the library, you may find it hard to finish them within 3 weeks. An excellent way to learn about many new things is to visit the Books2Buy booksale, which is held several times/year at the Stanley A. Milner Library, in downtown Edmonton. It’s just upstairs from the Churchill LRT station. The best selection is available early Friday morning, and the best deal is available on Sunday, when you can fill a whole box with used books for only $10! For only $1-2/book, I recommend buying a good selection: some children’s books, non-fiction, English learning, and books that teach you how to do something new. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Somebody decided that today is the most depressing day of the year. I think it was a travel agent who wanted to sell winter vacations, but possibly someone thought that it’s very difficult to survive the winter, and people are very impatient by now. In my opinion, today is a fantastic day. As you can see in the picture above, the dark part of the day is already much shorter, since the sky was turning red at 0630 hours. I exercised with friends before starting the day, walked to work, and my students are full of good news today! These are 2 great stories that I saw about happiness today: one video, and one article. What’s something that you can do to be happier about your life? One thing that I recommend is to try to see new stresses and challenges as opportunities for learning and getting stronger. When we look back on hard times in our lives, we can always find lessons that we learned, as a result of our difficulties.
The good news is that learning another language is always good for your brain! Go to a coffee shop, store or restaurant where you can hear another language. Change your browser settings on your computer to another language. Listen to radio ads in a new language: it’s like vitamins for your brain!!
There are always new ways that you can improve your language learning, if you feel like you are stuck. For a movie to learn, I strongly recommend “The Princess Bride”, one of my favourite movies of all time. It’s currently available on NetFlix in Canada, so you ca watch it again and again. There is some challenging vocabulary (“Inconceivable”), but everyone speaks fairly slowly and clearly, there is a LOT of action, some very memorable lines, and there’s a little bit of everything in the movie.
In 1996, I lived in the USA for six months. I stayed with a host family, went to high school and was the only Brazilian in my neighbourhood. At the time I found it very hard to come to a new country and to have to deal with everyday situations, because my English background was not as good as I thought it was. Being immersed in an environment and being surrounded by people who are only speaking a foreign language, makes you improve your skills, whether you like it or not. It’s a matter of survival. So, when you least expect it, you are not only speaking the language, but also thinking in that language. People often say, once you are fluent, you can even dream, have conversations or interact in English. Although it is hard not to be able to speak your native language with anyone around you, it can be a very helpful situation.
This time around, I came to Canada with my husband and even though sometimes, we speak English to each other to improve ourselves, I find it much more difficult to be eloquent in the language. When we are tired, just not “in the mood” or want a sense of private talk, we tend to speak Portuguese with each other. It is comfortable, comes naturally, and it is easier to express yourself. As well, it is incredibly hard to be around a person that speaks your native language without doing so. Although having the company of someone from your country can be very comforting, it also can delay the process of enhancing your language skills. We see it happen all the time, families or friends that come together to a different country and keep the household with the original language. It can be even worse if one of the members isn’t working or studying at the time. Mostly the only people they interact with all day long are their spouse, or their friends from their home country. It is a much harder process to learn under these conditions.
Taking a class in English, any kind of class, can be helpful. Not only because you practice your speaking skills, but also because you mostly have to think in English. As you are taught the lessons and the procedures, you eventually absorb more than you realize from the language. Working in an environment where your colleagues are talking to each other and you have to do your share and explain yourself, gradually helps you to take your skills to another level. Part of the process of adapting to a different language is being able to understand the social aspects and conduct input in a conversation as well as the use of words in context that you could never be aware of if you don’t interact with people from that culture. So, get out, participate in as many activities as you can, try a hobby, or join a group. These are all effective ways to improve yourself. In summary, I’m trying to say that it is much easier to learn a new language if you can interact with others, especially native speakers.
I have been learning English for more than 3 years. At first, I just knew some vocabulary and grammar that was learned in middle school and high school but I had lots of difficulty in speaking and writing English. So, I thought that I needed to set a goal to improve my English. At that time, I just decided to immigrate to Canada for many good reasons. To apply for Canadian permanent residency, a good result on an English proficiency test was mandatory. It became my short-term goal. I think this was really effective for improving my English. In order to get the required score in the English test, I studied very hard. Despite all of the difficulties such as spending only a little time with my family, I was able to focus on studying English. Then, after about 1 year, I made it! It was hard and sometimes stressful, however, there was no doubt that my English skill improved significantly. So, I would say that you must find a strong reason why you need to learn English.
I was so happy that I could get the P. R. (Permanent Residency) permit, but I felt like learning English was too boring back then. I just put away all of my English books and did nothing relating to English until I came to Canada. Then, I was shocked for some time as I could not speak and understand English well!
So, I started to study English again, but I wanted to do it for fun at that time. Meanwhile, I purchased the Netflix program on my smart TV application for my daughter, as there are various kids’ cartoons.
But, after I logged in, I was really into those programs. There were new and old movies, dramas, documentaries and cartoons with English subtitles. By just pushing buttons on my remote control, I could study English for fun. I followed the story, listened to the dramas or movies and watched the subtitles at the same time. Sometimes I took notes when I read some new words and I read aloud along with the scripts. Now, it is my favourite way to enjoy learning English.
I know it is a long way to go for mastering English. However, I believe I can enjoy the long journey if I keep learning English with a strong goal and easy and fun methods.
How I upgraded my listening comprehension in a very pleasant way
The biggest problem with the English language that I ever had was the understanding of the spoken word. For me it sounded like a sequence of rrr-tones and often I couldn’t recognize where a word started or ended. Most of the time at school, we practiced English by studying texts, reading books or practising grammar. If we had to talk about a subject we could only learn from ourselves, which meant using very simple sentences with a strong accent. Although I was able to read texts or whole books, I had real problems understanding native speaking people. So I could better understand people who had the same strange accent as me.
Our teacher suggested that we watch BBC or CNN news, but in the beginning, this was a very frustrating method. The fast-spoken script, with lots of specialized terminology about special topics in these countries wasn’t the right method for me. But afterwards I discovered the perfect practise for me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been really addicted to American TV-series or shows with a long storyline such as Breaking Bad, Lost, Friends, or Dexter. In Germany, I had to wait a really long time for the next season or episode. That’s because in Germany – in contrast to the most other European countries – all films and TV-shows are first synchronized. So while I’ve loved to spend my time with TV-shows and since I’m always waiting a long time for the next episode, I could just as well watch these shows in English. In contrast to the English news on TV, I could get these shows also with subtitles and stop the scene when it is necessary. This was the best possibility for me to practise understanding spoken English while having fun and reducing tension with this activity. I can really recommend this way of learning English.
Today I am going to write about my experience in learning English as a second language.
To continue my career in Canada, the requirement is an IELTS exam with a 7 score in all four disciplines. When I first took this exam, my score was 5.5, and this improved to 6.5. However jumping from 6.5 to 7 is a challenge for me, especially in writing. The question is why is it so challenging for me? The first reason is that I started out by writing an essay, not by learning about the different parts of essays and their purposes. The second reason is because I was trying on my own to improve, without taking any classes or getting help from a teacher.
My suggestion to people who have a weak language background is to attend classes from the beginning, to learn the different patterns of writing before starting to write anything. This will help significantly to improve your writing. To illustrate, in organized classes you will learn the meaning of writing and the purpose of writing. In my case, when I failed to understand on my own how to write an effective essay, it was a red flag for me. Then I started to take language classes, in which I learned what the purpose of writing is, and how to write various forms of writing for different audiences. In class I learned about writing step- by-step. That means writing is a process of several stages such as introduction, thesis statement, topic sentence, examples and conclusion. To understand all of this took me so long. It is my advice that you join proper classes to decrease the frustration of failure and to build your confidence.
The writer of this article argues that you shouldn’t spend too much time and energy using study materials in English, instead you should take a more active part in your learning, by practicing speaking English and thinking in English about every new experience and activity. I agree with the writer, because I see that students expand their vocabulary and improve their grammar very quickly, when they’re talking about experiences that are important to them.
Learning to cook in English: those cookies tasted SO delicious!
This post highlights a lot of the ideas that I think are really important for learning, such as embracing mistakes, instead of fearing failure, making a long-term commitment, and including play.
Play creates new neural connections and tests them. It creates an arena for social interaction and learning. It creates a low-risk format for finding and developing innate skills and talents.
The differences were staggering. With the same amount of practice, the long-term-commitment group outperformed the short-term-commitment group by 400 percent.
In my experience, when students are having fun, they feel like they are in a supportive environment, and they aren’t afraid of mistakes, then their learning happens very quickly (and pleasantly!).
My high Intermediate students are working on Past Unreal Conditionals, so we’ve been reviewing all of the conditional forms. This is a bit like solving a puzzle, remembering all of the structure of the if-clause, the result-clause, and what the meanings are of each form, once they’re constructed. Like every other skill, the more you can practice, the easier it gets. This ESL Grammar Practice website has excellent practice for new grammar points, and also includes videos to explain new points. If you want to speak and write English fluently and clearly, correct use of conditional forms is important. It’s even more important to understand the meaning of a conditional sentence, to avoid confusion. Take some time to practice this form and to put together some “If I had” and “If I hadn’t” sentences of your own.