How to use the internet to improve your listening skills

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…

Source: How to use the internet to improve your listening skills

The Best of Edmonton

The students in my low intermediate class are studying about shopping, and they have learned a lot about using comparative and superlative adjectives. Here, they share some of the best places that they have found around Edmonton.

I like Edmonton because the society is relaxed. Edmonton is a cultural, governmental and educational centre. It hosts a year-round slate of festivals, reflected in the nickname, Canada’s Festival City. In Canada, it’s the most popular city for festivals.

Fort Edmonton Park is an attraction in Edmonton, which is the largest living history museum in Canada by area.

If you stay in a hotel, the most expensive is The Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, and it has four stars. The price is $228.44 and that doesn’t include taxes and service fees of USD 28.03.

Here in Edmonton, you have to pay more GST (like VAT or HST).

If you want to buy the least expensive fruits and vegetables, No Frills is the least expensive grocery store.

If you want to visit a mall, West Edmonton mall is the biggest in Edmonton. Before, it was the biggest in the world but now it is only the most popular. You can find anything, you like there.

Hello! I’m from Brazil. Now I live in Edmonton, and I have stayed in Edmonton for five months. I haven’t had a long time to make great suggestions, but I’m enjoying my time a lot. Edmonton has a lot of great festivals in the summer. You should go to the Heritage Festival, Taste of Edmonton or Fringe Festival Theater. Most festivals are amazing for families or on your own. Taste of Edmonton and Heritage festival both have food, but Heritage doesn’t have drinks with alcohol. Taste of Edmonton has a specific location for tasting wine and beer. Heritage has a lot of different traditional food and dances from all over the world. This is fantastic because you can learn a little about the culture of other countries. At the Fringe Theater Festival you should watch a presentation of arts on the street, for example, magic, acrobatics, or juggling outside or inside. If you watch theatre inside, you paid too much money. You can see pictures, handicrafts and snacks if you take more time.

I have some other suggestions for the best restaurants, nicest hotels, best department stores, most unusual markets and the most interesting museums. The best restaurant you should try is Rick’s. If you can spend more money, you could try Lux steakhouse. I don’t know a lot of hotels, but you could try Matrix Hotel. This hotel is downtown, and it has breakfast and a nice environment. The best mall you could visit is Southgate because it has a lot of stores, clothes, house, shoes, sports and others things. If you like to walk and have time, you could go to South Edmonton Common. The most unusual market you should go to a farmers’ market on Saturday on 104 Street. The most interesting museum near Edmonton is in Drumheller. You should visit Telus World of Science or Drumheller Museum to see the dinosaurs. In Edmonton, there are a lot of different places for you to visit.

When you arrive in Edmonton you should go to West Edmonton Mall. In West Edmonton Mall, there are a lot of cheap shops and expensive shops, so it depends on what suits you. In West Edmonton Mall, you can buy whatever you like. You can buy all kinds of clothes, electronic products, toys, souvenirs, and food. Also in West Edmonton Mall you can spend your time pleasantly. The most unusual markets are Costco and Sobeys. I always go there. The best Chinese restaurant where I was is, “Double Greeting Wonton House”. This restaurant looks ugly, but there is good food! In my opinion, the nicest hotel in Edmonton is the Hotel Macdonald. I was there for a moment and I saw a cool dog there. In the lobby, there is a model Hotel Macdonald building built with Lego. I was at one festival in St Albert. This festival was about old cars and a lot of people brought their own old cars and drove them around my street. For me, this was amazing because cars in Poland are different than Canadian cars.

Places to visit when you are in Edmonton:

When visiting Edmonton, you shouldn’t miss:

If you visit with children you can’t miss the most interesting park, “Fort Edmonton Park”!

Another park is “William Hawrelak Park”, and this is the most beautiful park in summer and in winter.

The best and the nicest Hotel is “Fairmont Hotel Macdonald” but it is also the most expensive.

The most interesting market is the “Farmers Market” in Old Strathcona. But there are many other interesting markets in the city in the summer.

“The Royal Alberta Museum” is the nicest museum in Edmonton.

But if you want to buy something, you can visit the biggest mall in America: “West Edmonton Mall” and after that, you can eat in the best restaurant in Edmonton: “Sorrentino’s Restaurant” or in the most unusual restaurant, “Louisiana Purchase” where you can eat crocodile.

I hope you enjoy your visit.

Roots and English Words

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.

Roots and English Words.

Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library

We are very lucky here in Edmonton because the library sells many of their used books, several times a year, in a massive sale.  All books cost only $1-2 each, and they have books of every variety available, including cookbooks, kids’ books, and science and nature books.  I always take my class to the sale, since you’ll never have another opportunity to buy such high-quality books so inexpensively!  Reading for pleasure is an excellent way to improve all of your language skills, especially vocabulary and grammar.  When you own the book, you can write in it, and make notes about what you read, allowing you to read quickly for the main idea, and then go back to read more deeply for understanding.

Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library.

Another fun summer weekend! Things to do in and near Edmonton

Every weekend in the summer, there are many events, activities and festivals, in and around Edmonton.  These are just a few of them.

We’re going to take the Edmonton Streetcar tomorrow to visit the Whyte Avenue area (Old Strathcona).  The streetcar is very interesting and a very convenient and inexpensive way to travel between Old Strathcona and downtown.

Edmonton Streetcar: 100-year-old streetcars have been restored and are operated by volunteers to travel between downtown and Old Strathcona.  $5/return.

Edmonton Streetcar: 100-year-old streetcars have been restored and are operated by volunteers to travel between downtown and Old Strathcona. $5/return.

We’re going to visit the Edmonton Sand Sculpture Exhibition, near Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.  Sand sculptures are very popular in beach locations.  They’re not very common, here in urban Alberta!

The Sand on Whyte is part of a popular, long-running art festival, Edmonton Art Walk, which has operated near Whyte Avenue for many years.

Edmonton Street Performers’ Festival is continuing in Churchill Square, if you want to see acrobats, comedians, or jugglers performing.

For a very unique activity, there are also 2 pow wows being held near Edmonton this weekend:

Enoch Cree Nation is very close to West Edmonton Mall.  Take Whitemud Drive outside the city to Highway 60, and then travel south past the townsite (less than 5 kilometres).  The pow wow arbour is on the east (left) side of the highway, travelling south.

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is located north of Lac Ste. Anne, near Glenevis, AB.  It would be about a 1-hour drive to visit from Edmonton.



Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library

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!

Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library.

Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library Friday, February 20-Sunday, February 22

Several times a year, the Edmonton Public Library sells huge numbers of their used books, to raise money, and to make way for new books in the libraries.  This is a fantastic opportunity to find books to help you with your language learning, and to help you learn about all of the different things that interest you, since everything that is for sale costs only $1-2!  Bring cash, and a shopping bag, and be prepared to take your time looking around in 3 different rooms, in the basement of the downtown library. (near Churchill LRT Station).  On Sunday, you can fill a whole box of books for only $10!

Books2Buy | Edmonton Public Library.

Introduce yourself!

Meeting new people is interesting!

Meeting new people is interesting!

Once you can ask people important questions like, “Where is the bathroom?”, one of the most important skills in a new language is introducing yourself.  In all of my classes, I ask students to introduce themselves (not “present” themselves) every time there’s a new student in class.  It’s obviously awkward for many students, even after plenty of practice.  Remember that when you feel awkward, the person you are talking to will often feel awkward and uncomfortable, as well.  Take time to practice a “script” that you can use, whenever you meet someone new.  The main information they will want is your name, your occupation, and your country of origin.  If you include a little bit more, like hobbies, family information, or personality, it will help the 2 of you have some ideas about what to talk about, next time you both meet.  Make eye contact with the person you are meeting, smile, and don’t speak too quickly.  Practice makes perfect!

Remember to listen when other people introduce themselves.  Find out something that you can ask them about later on.  If it’s your first time with a new group of people, it’s a good idea to write down their names, and 1-2 things about each person.  If you forget someone’s name, tell them you forgot, and ask them to tell you again.  People really like to hear their own name, so try to use it soon after you meet someone.  It will be easier to remember that way.

tell someone about yourself, and find out about them.

tell someone about yourself, and find out about them.

Let me introduce myself

• Hi, my name’s …………… OR Hello, I’m …………… (full name)
• You can call me OR Please call me ……………
(nickname, given name, English name)
• I’m from …………… (city, country)
• My first language is …………… and
I’ve studied English for …………… (length of time) at/in …………… (school/location)
• I’ve lived in Canada for…………… (length of time) OR
since …………… (date, year, month)
• I’m … years old. (This is NOT necessary information,
but it’s okay if you’re comfortable sharing)
• I’m a/an …………… (occupation)
• I’m working as …………… (occupation) at …………… (employer)
• I’m a …………… (faculty/ level) student at …………. (eg. University of Alberta)
• I study English because ……………
• In this class, I hope to/need to ……………
• I’m married/single/a mom/dad/engaged/single (This is NOT necessary information, but it’s okay if you’re comfortable sharing)
• There are … people in my family.
• They are …………… (locations, occupations, personality
• My father is a …………… and my mother is a ………………
• My hobby is …………………..
• In my free time, I also like ……………
• I don’t like …………………………
• My favourite sport is …………………..
• I enjoy eating/drinking ……………
• My favourite singer (or band/kind of music) is ……………..
• I like …………….. (movies).


teacher policeman doctor
nurse builder architect
civil servant engineer social worker
secretary businessman shop assistant
manager fire fighter shopkeeper
cleaner postman waiter/waitress

Hobbies – Free time activities

• reading, painting, drawing
• playing computer games
• surfing the Internet
• doing yoga
• going to the cinema
• playing with friends
• playing soccer/tennis/golf
• going to the park/beach/…
• listening to music
• shopping, singing, dancing
• travelling, camping, hiking


action movie
romantic comedy
horror movie
sci-fi movie
war movie
animated cartoons

• … I like it a lot.
• … I think it’s important.
• … there are many things to see and do.
• … I have to.
• … it’s relaxing/popular/nice/…
• … it’s a lot of fun
• … it’s interesting

Here is a video with some nice, short introductions.  They don’t use contractions (I’m), which almost all Canadians will do when meeting someone new.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions |

I’ve included a lot of posts on my blog about setting goals, and establishing good habits.  Aaron has an amazing blog with a new English phrase or expression every day.  One excellent English-learning habit would be to take 5 minutes every morning to read about the phrase of the day, and then see if you can use it in conversation by the end of the day.

For me, I have a couple of big goals: adventure and socializing.  I can often combine them, by being a part of groups/clubs, like November Project Canada, Ceyana Canoe, and various Meetup groups.  I want to maintain my habit of physical activity at least 5 days/week.  Since my fitness application (MapMyRun) says that I did 412 workouts in 2014, this has been going pretty well for me.  Quite a few of them included biking or walking to work, but each trip was a mile (1.6K) long, so it all helps me to stay active.

It’s important to identify barriers to achieving your goals, so that you can build habits to eliminate those barriers.  I have a bad habit that interferes with socializing: I let my dirty dishes pile up for a week or more at a time.  It’s pretty gross, but I can ignore it a lot of the time.  So, one of my first resolutions is to wash my dishes every day (at least 5 days/week) for January.  Hopefully, that’s long enough to establish the good habit.

Why is learning English important to you?  Does it break down barriers for some of the big goals in your life?  If it does, think of small habits that you can build, to help you to achieve your language-learning goals.

5 steps to achieving your New Year’s resolutions |

Most university students’ English skills at rudimentary levels – News VietNamNet

Most university students’ English skills at rudimentary levels – News VietNamNet.

When I taught English in Viet Nam, I saw that most students had very weak communication skills.  Often, I could hear their other classes through the walls of my classroom.  I noticed that most Vietnamese English teachers taught “English class” entirely in Vietnamese!!  Students were very familiar with English grammar rules, because they spent most of their class time focussing on grammar.  However, it was nearly impossible for them to focus and understand the simplest questions or answers.  Because there is so much international business, there is a strong awareness that communication skills need to improve.


The Age At Which Learning a New Language Stops Strengthening The Brain — PsyBlog

The Age At Which Learning a New Language Stops Strengthening The Brain — PsyBlog.

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!!

7 Language Learning Tips They Don’t Teach You In School | Lingholic

7 Language Learning Tips They Don’t Teach You In School | Lingholic.

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.

Princess Bride