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English Conversation Starters

POSTED ON October 1st  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Do you want to speak in English but you don’t know how to get started? You’ve made the connections, but it can be difficult to actually start the conversation.

Making what is called “small talk” is an excellent way to improve your English because it gets you used to everyday conservations in an informal way. Many of these conversations are very similar, so repeating them over and over again will make you start to sound like a very natural speaker.

Here are the most common English conversation starters for any and all levels:

“It’s ________ today.” Fill the blank with the weather. This one is probably the most obvious, but that doesn’t mean it’s silly! It’s a great way to open the door to further conversation.

Asking about immediate future plans. “What are you up to today?” “Any big plans for the weekend?” Using these questions when asked in a casual way won’t seem like you are trying to hang out, though if the opportunity comes then that’s great!

“I really like your _______.” Compliments are never a bad thing. If you need a follow-up question to keep the conversation going you could ask where they got it. For example, “I really like your earrings. Where did you buy them?”

“How are you today?” or “How’s it going?” + “__________________.” One of the first things English learners learn is the question “how are you”. This is a standard greeting. For our purposes, it’s just a way to get things started. You have to have something else to add afterwards. Be prepared! For example, either of the above can be followed by any of the other conversation starters listed here.

Even if it is awkward for you at first, like with all things English, the more you practice the better you will be. Get out there are start talking!

About the Author

Yvette Smith has been an educator for the past six years. Her speciality is ESL and has taught students of all ages in China, Mexico, and Vietnam.

English Learning Tips for Advanced Students

POSTED ON September 17th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Once you get to an advanced level it can be tempting to just skate along. After all, at this level, your English is probably very good and you understand grammar in a way that most native speakers can’t match. But even at this stage, there is still a lot to learn.

1. Focus on the deeper meaning.

In written and spoken English, there are always underlying meanings, things that aren’t said but are generally understood by native speakers. Understanding this deeper layer is key to developing your advanced skills. Ask yourself why constantly to start to infer the deeper meanings in everything.

2. Work on your academic skills

If you have advanced skills, chances are that you want to study or work in English. This means working on your academic skills such as notetaking and listening to lectures. This will help you develop the skills you need for school or university in English. It will also help you pass your English exams too.

3. Listen to different accents.

English isn’t just one accent. English is spoken in a range of countries and with an incredibly wide range of accents. Some of these accents can be hard for native speakers to understand, so if you want to really expand your learning, try using resources from different parts of the English speaking world.

4. Speak English in different contexts.

If you’ve learned English in classes, you’ll probably get a shock when you go out into the world and try to use your skills in different contexts. Native speakers will speak more quickly and they won’t make as many allowances if you struggle to communicate. This may be a shock at first, and you’ll feel like a beginner, but the more you practice in a range of contexts the quicker you’ll pick up the different language rules and start to use them naturally.

5. Learn humour and sarcasm.

If you want to build friendships with native speakers, these aspects of language are key. You need to be able to understand and tell jokes and recognise and decode sarcasm if you really want to interact with people on a native level.

For more learning tips, visit our Learning Tips blog.

About the Author

I’m an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller. I’ve taught in Fuzhou, China and Hanoi and much prefer smaller cities to the larger options. When I’m not on the road, I live in Perth, Australia.  I write about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of my work at www.gayleaggiss.com

 

 

 

 

ESL Learning Tips for Intermediate Learners

POSTED ON September 3rd  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Once you’ve moved up to an Intermediate English level, this is where the complexity of the language becomes clear. At this stage of your learning, you need more advanced strategies to help you overcome your more complicated learning issues.

Talk to native speakers.

Chances are that you will start learning English from someone who speaks the same native language as you. This type of learning can be valuable, but it can also create problems. One of the biggest complaints of native English speaking ESL teachers is that their students have learned how to pronounce things incorrectly. And once you’ve picked up bad pronunciation habits they’re very hard to break. So make sure you talk to native speakers and pay attention to how they say things.

Find your weaknesses.

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning. You might struggle with listening tasks, spelling or grammar, and discovering these weaknesses gives you the chance to work on them. Once you start doing that, you’ll really see your understanding grow and your English test results improve.

Change it up.

If your skills aren’t advancing it might be because you haven’t upgraded or changed your learning materials regularly. So if you usually only read school books, find a novel in English. If you only watch movies, try watching the news in English. The more English you’re exposed to, the more your brain will learn.

Focus on context.

Learning grammar or vocabulary out of a book doesn’t really help you use it. At this stage, you need to use your language in a natural context. So if you’re learning to talk about food, go to a restaurant or watch an English cooking show. You want to be able to use the grammar and vocabulary without having to think about the rules because you use them naturally. This will only happen when you completely understand how they’re used in real life.

Expect setbacks.

Some people learn English for years and then get to a point where they can’t seem to get any further. It can be tempting to give up at this stage, but if you do then all the work you’ve done will be forgotten and wasted. If you’re really struggling, try to find another way to learn, but whatever you do, don’t give up.

About the Author

I’m an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller. I’ve taught in Fuzhou, China and Hanoi and much prefer smaller cities to the larger options. When I’m not on the road, I live in Perth, Australia.  I write about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of my work at www.gayleaggiss.com.

The Beginner’s Guide to Learning English

POSTED ON August 20th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

When you’re just starting out learning English, there’s a lot to learn and the idea of it can be daunting. To make it easier, there are several strategies and tips that can take you from beginner to talking in no time.

  • Set goals for your learning.

The purpose of your learning can determine what part of English is most important to you. If you just want to talk in English, then focus on speaking. If you need English for school or work, then you probably need to do more work on writing and reading.

  • Buy a good dictionary.

The best way to learn is to be active. So buy a dictionary and learn on your own as well as in your lessons. Look up new words and use them as often as you can.

  • Make English part of your life.

Practising English once a week in your class isn’t enough. You need to read English, speak English and listen to English as often as you can to improve and get used to the way it’s supposed to sound.

  • Don’t be afraid of mistakes.

If you’re making mistakes, it means that you’re trying and learning. So pay attention when you make them, learn about the mistake, and don’t make the same one again.

  • Have fun with your learning.

It shouldn’t be all textbooks and tests. If you enjoy word puzzles in your native language, try them in English. Play English games, listen to English music and watch movies in English. The more you enjoy learning, the faster you will learn.

  • Take control of your learning.

Your ESL teacher will help, but whether you learn or not is really up to you. Take responsibility for your learning by doing the work, getting help when you need it, and doing as many extra exercises as possible.

If you do all of this, before you know it you will soon understand enough Basic English that you will be able to take an English exam and move up to the next level!

For more about learning a language, visit our Language Learning Tips blog.

About the Author

Gayle Aggiss is an ESL teacher and a dedicated traveller. She’s taught in Fuzhou, China and Hanoi and she much prefers smaller cities to the larger options. When she’s not on the road, she lives in Perth, Australia.  She writes about education, ESL teaching specifically, and you can view more examples of her work at www.gayleaggiss.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Way to Learn is to Teach

POSTED ON July 9th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

There is a quote that says, “If you want to master something, teach it.” Learning is great. By now you know a lot about how to learn and different ways and things you can do to help you remember English. Here’s one more: teach it.

Don’t for a second think you aren’t good enough. Here are some ways you can teach what you know in order to truly master it:

  • If you understand something, actively help your classmates in class.
  • Find someone younger than you/at a lower level than you and teach them something they don’t know or correct them.
  • Join a speaking club and give suggestions to your speaking partners.
  • Join an online learning English page or group and share your knowledge by commenting frequently.
  • Tell a friend who is also learning English about a new phrase you learned and how to use it.

It only makes sense that you will work harder to understand and be more aware of the material you are teaching, whether you know it or not. You will be forced to really dig into the “why” behind whatever you are teaching and use it yourself until it becomes completely natural.

What’s more, you will feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when you see your “students” succeed, even if it is something as simple as using a new word you showed them. Become a teacher in your own way and don’t be afraid to do it. It only brings benefit to both you and the person you are helping.

Are you looking for more learning tips? Make sure to visit our Language Learning Tips blog. Or are you a teacher? Check out our teaching tips here.

About the Author

Yvette Smith has been an educator for the past six years. Her speciality is ESL and has taught students of all ages in China, Mexico, and Vietnam.

 

Language Ego: What It Is And What To Do With It

POSTED ON June 25th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

“Language Ego is the identity a person develops in reference to the language he or she speaks.” – Alexander Guiora

For students who learn English as a second language, learning how to communicate is essential. However, that is not an easy task for everyone. Many students do not have the confidence to use the language orally and feel stressed whenever they need to produce it.

In the scientific and professional literature on the acquisition of foreign languages, the term ego can be found. When we learn a foreign language and when we use it in oral or written form, we are in some way transformed into another person. Why? Well, because our knowledge of a foreign language limits us, and in communication, we can not express ourselves with the same ease as we would if we were speaking in our mother tongue. Consequently, we cannot be equally witty, ironic or eloquent, so we often feel bad. That is not us in our full glory. Therefore, you should invent a new self!

When I meet my students for the first time and when we introduce ourselves, I suggest my pupils make up a new name for themselves. It can simply be an English variant of their name – for example, my name is Milica so the closest possible variant, and the one that would be the most similar in terms of pronunciation, is Melissa. However, I could also be Miley or Mila, even Miranda. And that’s the point – to take and embrace the name you like. Maybe it sounds funny or exaggerated but try it. If you cannot come up with a name for yourself, ask your teacher for help. Believe me, when you say this name several times, you will feel closer to that language and culture, which can be very motivating.

Want to get more useful learning tips? Visit our Language Learning Tips blog. And if you’re an educator, we have some great teaching resources here.

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!

                          Meeting

                          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.