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How to Learn Useful Phrases

POSTED ON June 4th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

In English, there is a large number of fixed phrases and expressions that are sometimes not easy to understand, but they are very useful, even necessary. These phrases are a part of the cultural heritage of a nation, present in the speech of most people in one region and they are often not a part of the lexical fund of a language.

Applicable phrases are those expressions or whole sentences that sound natural, and you can use them in a variety of situations. I will give one example – the phrase “That sounds good.” We can use this sentence when we decide to which café we want to go, which movie to watch, when a friend tells us about a new job,  or someone invites us to dinner and says what they will prepare for us.

Often overlooked is the fact that a rich vocabulary consists of using individual words and full phrases. These phrases are especially important to English learners who start later in life. Older students devotedly practice grammar and try to remember independent, singled out words, but in communication, they constantly get shut down because they lack natural expressions. In contrast, those who have learned English through cartoons, computer games, movies and music, know and use these phrases, which makes others feel like the speaker is advanced when, in fact, students who learn like this often struggle with grammar. By saying this, I am not trying to say one method is better than the other. Moreover, both types of students have their advantages and disadvantages. Successful learning is when you take those advantage of and minimize the imperfections.

Now, instead of trying to translate this expression in your head and lose valuable time trying to decipher each of its parts, focus on the sentence in its entirety – say it out loud as a whole a couple of times and I guarantee it will be easier for you to remember it this way.

There is a lot of these phrases and they are all around you – in the texts you read in a textbook, even in language exercises for grammar and vocabulary, and, of course, when talking to those who know more than you. It does not only have to be a teacher, but also some of the students from your class. You just need to be open to the idea that the language is all around you and it is waiting for you to casually pick up useful little things one at a time. And of course, you cannot immediately learn them all – one to two phrases a week, or even a month, is quite enough.

They will also help you to learn to translate less frequently and they will also strengthen your language ego – you will feel better and more successful in communication.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.


Mental Translation And Why You Shouldn’t Do It

POSTED ON May 21st  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Mental Translation is reprocessing words, phrases or sentences from the language you are trying to acquire into your native language.

When learning a foreign language such as English, students tend to get into their own heads too much and try and translate every sentence, usually word for word.

Do not translate! If you want to do one good thing for yourself as a language learner, then try your best not to translate sentences from your mother tongue to English in your head while talking to someone. Why? There are many reasons.

Firstly, you are constantly encountering barriers and thinking to yourself how much “you do not know”. You make pauses every now and then to look up a word, ask your teacher for help or check the dictionary for that one expression that you will use once, and almost certainly forget later. Secondly, translation is a skill that you probably haven’t quite mastered. Chances are high that your mother tongue and English are not mirror languages, so one word or phrase in your native language will not have a direct and absolute pair in English.

The best thing you can do, when you are in class or in a situation that requires communication, is to try and use the things you have learned and that you know as correctly and as accurately as possible. Look at it this way – learning a language is like building a house in the old times. You have to do everything yourself, from floor to ceiling, from door to bed, which requires effort and time.

Mental translation is like constantly attempting to do work from your home despite the fact you do not have the right conditions, and when you are looking for help for that translation all of the time, it is like you are persistently borrowing things from your neighbour. You borrow a tool to do some repairs, then bring it back and then borrow it again in five minutes, and this can go on indefinitely. In time, you will have everything you need in the house, but by then it’s far more desirable to use what you already have and to work even harder on making a new one. This is not an easy road, but in the end, you will are left with a fully-functional house.

Click here for more language learning tips. Are you a teacher? Then check out our Teaching Tips.

About the Author

Milica Madić, freelance blog/article writer from Serbia, with experience in teaching and working with young learners.



4 Things to Remember When Writing an Email

POSTED ON May 14th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Writing emails is one of the biggest parts of communication in the business world. They are the easiest way to send updates, keep in contact, and have a record of what has happened. If writing emails is a frequent occurrence for you, then keep checking these four things before pressing send!

1. Clear, short, and straightforward subject line.

Good examples: Summary of Meeting with XYZ Suppliers

                            Dress Code Memo

                            Quarter 1 Results

                            Quick Question…

Bad examples: Hello!


                          There was a drop in sales this quarter

                          Holiday Dates Have Been Updated To New Ones

2. Who is your reader?

Who your reader is or who your readers are is very important to consider. Do you make the language in the email formal or informal, direct or indirect? Can the email be brief or should it be more detailed? Are they employees or colleagues? If you have had a long working relationship with the recipient, you can do a combination of both tones.

3. Check your spelling and grammar carefully.

Don’t just write, scan over, and press send. Take the time to really look at your email and catch small mistakes such as punctuation and incorrect conjugations. Depending on who your reader is, some minor errors may be okay, but sometimes it may appear unprofessional.

Bonus tip: After you send

4. Get feedback.

Depending on your workplace environment, it might not be the best place to get feedback on the English part of your email. If you do have someone you can talk to at work about it, then great! Otherwise, show your emails to a teacher or someone with a good level of English so you can note where you could have improved and do even better next time!

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

Self-Study from Textbooks

POSTED ON April 30th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Most people think textbooks are boring. They can be. Generally, textbooks are only used in classrooms but why not use them for self-study?

The best way to use textbooks on your own:

  • For new vocabulary

Make a note of new vocabulary words and do the exercises for them. Try to use one or two of the words in your next conversation or email.

  • For reading

Textbooks provide great reading samples that incorporate the vocabulary and give you practice reading in English that is geared for both business and your level.

  • For writing

Do the writing exercises. It’s okay that you don’t have anyone there to correct it. You know the saying: practice makes perfect.

  • For listening

Your textbook should have the audio script in the back of the book for you to follow along and check your answers. Try listening once with no script, again with the script, and again without to get the most benefit from each track.

  • For speaking

Speaking is the hardest to self-study from a textbook because you often need a partner. One alternative is to record your part into your phone and play it back to yourself.

Textbooks are full of material and make for an excellent learning tool and resource. Consider investing in the purchase. There are many different books, but some good ones are Market Leader and InCompany. Order a level lower than what you are because they are so content dense. For example, if you consider yourself to be advanced, order the upper intermediate. All in all, there’s no reason why textbooks only can be used with a teacher!

Looking for more learning tips? Visit our Language Learning Tips blog. Or for something different, check out Shane English School on YouTube.

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

How To Increase Confidence When Presenting

POSTED ON April 16th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Giving an oral report or a presentation can be stressful. It’s even more stressful when you need to give it in a language that you aren’t 100% comfortable with. Here are some tips to help you with your formal business English and your confidence when speaking in front of an audience.

Know and practice the transition words you will use.

Transition words and phrases will make you talk smooth and structured. In turn, you feel more comfortable. You can always use one of them at any time if you become unfocused or lose your train of thought. They will help steer you in the right direction again.

  • Here are some good ones:
  • Consequently, …
  • As you can see, …
  • Because of this, …
  • Therefore, …
  • I’d like to move on to …
  • Let’s now discuss …
  • It’s also important to note …
  • To recap, …
  • Additionally, …
  • So …
  • Another key point/idea is …

There are many more of these, but just choose a few to practice so you can use them to make your presentation more professional and increase your overall confidence.

Have a clear and obvious ending statement.

This one is simple. The best way to feel you have given a solid presentation is to end well. Think of and memorize the last two or three sentences of your speech. This way, at the end you won’t leave with an awkward, ‘That’s all.’ Have the last thing you say be a clear closure so that your audience isn’t unsure if you are done.

Keep an index card for notes.

There is absolutely no reason why you can’t have an index card or paper in your hand as you speak. Do not be embarrassed about it if no one else is doing it or has done it. It will provide support and make your talk better. Make some simple notes to remind you what you want to say. Just remember not to read and make eye contact! The point of this is for support only.

Know that it won’t be perfect.

Even native speakers of English have a hard time with speaking in front of other people. It is challenging. If you go in knowing that it won’t be perfect, then it should help you to relax. Just try your best (by practising beforehand!) and once it is over, it’s over. Move on and know you’ll do even better next time!

About the Author

Yvette Smith is an English teacher currently in Vietnam. She has taught in China and Mexico as well. She enjoys writing about the ESL field and thinks everyone should take the chance to travel abroad at least once in their lives.

Top Tips for Studying English When You’re Tired

POSTED ON April 2nd  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Perhaps you’ve got a full-time job and study English as a hobby, or you’re a student with a million-and-one things to do and don’t know when you’re going to fit in your study time. If you’re struggling to find the energy to keep up your English studies, read our top tips.

1. Take Care of Yourself First

Before English needs, check your human needs. Are you thirsty? Hungry? Do you need a shower? Take a few minutes to refresh yourself in these basic ways and you’ll be sure to have more energy when it comes to studying.

2. Set the Right Goals

Set yourself small goals. If you know you need to do 30 minutes of study but the goal seems impossible, set the timer for just 10 minutes. After that, do another ten. And another. Breaking up your study into more manageable chunks will make it easier to finish.

3. Location, Location, Location

Find a good place to study. If you’ve got laundry all over your bed and dishes piling up on the table, it won’t make for a good environment for studying. A clear working space is crucial for effective working space. Go sit in a cafe or public library, or ask a tidy friend if you can use their study for a while.

4. Every Little Bit Counts

If you literally don’t have the time to open your hefty textbook, don’t give up on English altogether just because you’re too busy this week. Switch some of your daily tasks to include a bit of language practice. Write your weekly shopping list in English instead of your native tongue. Listen to English songs or audiobooks as you walk to work. If you’re reading a recipe, translate it into English in your head as you go. There are countless opportunities to practice English if you think creatively.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer living in the UK. She spent five years teaching English in China and Japan and now teaches Skype lessons to students around the world. She writes pedagogical articles, travel guides, and stories for children.

Four Ways to Improve Confidence When Speaking a Foreign Language

POSTED ON March 26th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Learning a new language is a scary thing, and it’s easy to feel nervous, especially if you find yourself making mistakes. If you feel like you’re losing confidence as a language learner, check out our top 4 tips for staying confident.

1. Speak Up

When you’re afraid to make mistakes, it’s easy to speak quietly because you don’t want people to hear you. But if people can’t hear you, the meaning will be even more unclear. When you speak a foreign language, try to raise your voice and speak clearly even if you think you’ll make a mistake. People will understand you much better if you speak up.

2. Use L2 Fillers

When native speakers stumble on what to say in English, they say things like ‘umm…’, ‘ahh…’, and ‘err…’ If you’re speaking English as a second language, use these fillers too. If you use fillers from your own language, it will be far more noticeable that you’re not speaking your native language. All languages have their own linguistic fillers, but if you use the fillers of the language you’re trying to speak and don’t break out of that language, it will help you sound much more fluent and help to improve your confidence.

3. Body Language

Appearing confident when speaking a foreign language isn’t all about what you say, it’s also about what you do. Even if you don’t feel confident, you’ll look like you do if you adopt the correct body language. Stand tall, keep your head up, use your hands to gesture, make eye contact, and most importantly… smile.

4. Chill

This is the most important thing to remember – everybody makes mistakes, and they are a vital part of learning a language. If you make a mistake, just take it on the chin and move on. Nobody becomes great at a language instantly – it takes time, hard work, and self-belief. You can do it!


Everybody suffers a lack of confidence from time to time. The important thing is not to let it drag you down – pick yourself up and try again. If you put in the work and believe in yourself, you can reach your goals!

Want more learning tips? See our Language Learning Tips blog. Or go here to find out if there’s a Shane English School near you.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer living in the UK. She spent five years teaching English in China and Japan and now teaches Skype lessons to students around the world. She writes pedagogical articles, travel guides, and stories for children.

Four Things Your TEFL Teacher Wishes You Knew

POSTED ON March 19th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Have you ever wished you could get into the mind of your TEFL teacher and know what they’re thinking? Take a look at our list of top things your TEFL teacher wishes you knew.

1. We know when you’re lying.

Teachers are a bit like parents – we want the best for you, we do our best to encourage you, and we know when you’re letting yourself down. This means if you come to class with the excuse that your dog ate your homework or you say you finished the reading assignment when you didn’t, we know. Even if there is no proof (i.e. lack of the homework paper) the fact that you haven’t done the work will be obvious to us – teachers can tell who is prepared and who isn’t. If you haven’t done the work, don’t lie about it – just be honest with us. We’d rather you told us the truth than tried to pull the wool over our eyes.

2. We want you to trust us.

If we propose a game or activity that doesn’t sound like it’s going to help you learn – trust us. We took the time to plan this lesson and chose the activity for a reason. It mightn’t be clear to you straight away, but everything we do in the class is for a purpose. Likewise, if you want to work with certain classmates for group work and we say no, there’s usually a good reason. Trust us.

3. We’re human too.

Students come from all different backgrounds and have different experiences. Sometimes a student is having a good day, and sometimes a bad one. Teachers are the same – we have lives outside of the classroom, we have bad days, we get bad news, and sometimes we lose confidence in ourselves just like students do. Be kind to your teacher. Like all important jobs, teaching can also be a difficult job. We don’t want to be the butt of your jokes, we just want to encourage you, nurture you, and help you to enrich your lives.

4. We believe in you.

As TEFL teachers, we’ve dedicated our lives to helping you succeed in learning the language. Don’t ever think that your teacher doesn’t like you, or doesn’t believe in you – we do. We want you to reach your goals, and we believe you can do it too.

Want more learning tips? Visit our Language Learning Tips blog. Or find a Shane English School near you.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a TEFL teacher and freelance writer living in the UK. She spent five years teaching English in China and Japan and now teaches Skype lessons to students around the world. She writes pedagogical articles, travel guides, and stories for children.

How Getting Enough Sleep Will Help You with Studying

POSTED ON January 29th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Contrary to the belief that the sleeping is a waste of time and that staying up late at night or not sleeping at all the night before the exam will lead to better results, scientific research suggests that the need for a good night’s rest is much more important than finishing homework or studying for a test or an exam.

With the intention to take advantage of every moment, it often happens that before an important exam or test, rather than sleeping, we spend the night drinking coffee and energy drinks and studying, guided by the belief that this is a safe way to learn and strengthen your knowledge.

The remainder of this post will try to answer the following questions:

  • What happens while we sleep?
  • And how does sleep contribute to more effective learning?

What Happens in Our Brains While We Sleep?

Thanks to a large number of sleep process studies, we know that the different parts of the brain are actually very active while we sleep and that time spent sleeping is important to successfully function during the day.

A good night’s sleep is crucial for the ability to learn and remember, because of the formation of additional connections between neurons, because the brain repeats the activities it has dealt with during the day while we sleep.

Lack of Sleep Reduces the Ability to Focus and Study Efficiently

If you have not slept well, your ability to learn new things can be reduced up to 40%. Lack of sleep affects the hippocampus, which is key to remembering the new content.

Sleep is Required in Order to Strengthen Memory

The REM sleep phase is associated with procedural memory. According to the results of different studies, going to bed three hours after learning and one hour after exercise would be ideal.

And finally, It is worth noting that the quality, rather than quantity, is what is important when it comes to how to sleep strengthens our memory.

Make sure you are well rested before studying new material, then go to bed after you have finished reading and your brain will help you remember it while you sleep.

About the Author

Milica Madic is an English Language and Literature Student. Before returning for her Master’s degree, she was an English language educator and freelance writer.

Habits of Excellent Students Everyone Needs to Acquire

POSTED ON January 22nd  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Some are born with the ability to learn things fast, while some need more time and have to work harder. “No pain, no gain,” says the old proverb, but some of the best students have habits that help them achieve their success. Developing healthy studying habits is not easy, but if put a little effort into it, it is not so chaotic.

What kind of habits and skills we have to possess to succeed in school is no longer a mystery. Students should strive for success at school, and being a poor student because of their own laziness is not cool at all.

These are the habits of excellent students that everyone needs to acquire:

1. They Always Do Their Homework

Homework is not a conspiracy created by all of the teachers in the world to tortured poor students but is actually the best way for to repeat what you have already learned.

2. They are Never Late

Appearing at the appointed time is the basis for creating a respectful attitude towards school, so make sure that you know how to plan and organize your time.

3. They Get Enough Sleep

Rest is important for all of us, but it is even more important for young minds who attend school because their brains need enough sleep to properly form neural connections and process acquired information.

4. They are Responsible

Students who get good grades are rarely irresponsible. They are usually a bit more mature than their peers, which enables them to have the right attitude towards school work.

5. They Have Neat Notebooks

A neat notebook contains all the essential information the teacher gives in class and is visually appealing as well which invites its owner to review the material.

6. They Actively Participate in Class

Paying attention and participating in activities in class is very important because by doing that, you will remember a significant amount of new material, which also means you will have less work to do at home.

7. They Have a Schedule

The best students usually have a schedule of daily tasks that they follow. For example, after school, they can take a few hours for leisure activities, but then take care of housework and spend an hour or two doing school assignments.

8. They Talk About School With Their Parents

Kids really love when parents show interest in their activities, including school. Excellent students have nothing to hide from their parents and enjoy sharing things they have learned or even asking for help if they happen to stumble across a task too difficult to handle on their own.

9. They Respect Their Teachers

Students who are successful in school always have respect for their teachers, regardless of everything. The teachers are there to guide and the students to follow them.

10. They Know When to Have Fun

Have fun also important! After a hard day at school, there should always be a reward in the form of something fun. It’s up to you to decide what that is.

Acquiring some of these habits may not be an easy task, but once you start implementing them, we are certain your grades will improve, as well as your overall attitude towards school and learning.

About the Author

When not writing blog posts, Milica Madic is English Language and Literature Student. Before returning to school for her Master’s degree, she was an English-language teacher.