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Text and Message Like a Native

POSTED ON August 6th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

These days, most communication comes via technology and social media. This means a lot of texting and messaging!

Just like what probably happens in your own language, when sending messages in English, there are lots of slang and shortened ways of saying what you mean. Here you will learn the most common of these. That way, you can recognize them when they are written to you, and you can use them yourself.

Shortened Words

Why waste time typing things all the way out when you can do “short-hand”? Here are the most common:

You = u Ex. Do u want to go to the movies with me?

Are = r Ex. What r u up to?

Later = l8r Ex. See you l8r!

Words that end in ing, drop the g – doin, goin, thinkin, etc. Ex. What r u doin?

Spoken Transfers

 When we send informal messages, we often write how we would speak. This applies to things like “wanna” and “gonna”. Ex. What do u wanna do l8r?


Acronyms are by far the largest category when it comes to texting like a native speaker. There are a ton, but knowing a handful most commonly used ones will be just fine.

ILY – I love you

IDK – I don’t know

ASAP – As soon as possible

IDC – I don’t care

LOL – Laugh out loud

JK – Just kidding

RN – Right now

NVM – Never mind

Grammar Rules Need Not Apply

In messages, you’ll see no apostrophes, no periods, no capitals, and many more things that you have learned you “always” need when communicating through writing. Messaging is completely different! Of course, you are welcome to write correctly, but don’t expect others too! You’ll get the hang of it but just observing and reading texts from your English speaking friends online.

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.


5 Apps That Will Improve Your English

POSTED ON July 23rd  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Apps are one of the best ways to help you on your journey of learning English. They are convenient because you can use them on your cell phone, which is something that you always carry with you. Apps are also a lot of fun as many of them are designed like games. Check out these 5 that come highly recommended:


Duolingo has always been a favourite. It’s simple to use and keeps you motivated to learn by being fun and actively tracking your progress. It works on all four skills in a way that makes you feel like you are playing a game. This app is for beginners and intermediate level learners.

British Council- Learning English

British Council has a quite a few different learning apps, so have a look to see which one is best for you. These range from apps with videos about England’s culture to learning US grammar.


Quizlet is a popular website that is also an app. You can use flashcards that have already been made by someone else to practice your English skills. There are different flashcard games you can play. If you upgrade, you can have access offline.


Like Quizlet, Memrise also uses flashcards, but they make it more fun. Memrise helps you to actively and easily remember new words and phrases. It features videos with native speakers so you can also see language in action.


TED isn’t made for English language learners, but if your English level is upper intermediate to advanced, TED is for you. You may already be familiar with TED talks, which are short presentations on any topic, in your own language. Why not listen in English? You’ll probably learn something new and improve your listening skills. TED also had TED-Ed, where the videos are set up as comprehension lessons, which is also a

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.


New Release: Shane Spelling Bee App

POSTED ON April 30th  - POSTED IN News

In 2018, the Saxoncourt Group has released its newest educational tool: the Shane Spelling Bee mobile app. The app is currently available worldwide on the App Store and on the Google Play Store.

The Shane Spelling Bee is designed to simulate a live spelling bee using Shane English School’s curriculum. The free app includes spelling practice for levels 1 to 3; the words come from Shane English School’s SPEC series, Books 1 to 3. Shane Spelling Bee’s full potential is unlocked with in-app purchases (or Shane English School students are eligible to get student numbers assigned to unlock all content).

In their first session, users choose a username that appears on leaderboards. Once signed in, there are three levels of gamified spelling activities:

  • Practice mode that is unscored.
  • Standard mode where scoring puts usernames up on leaderboards.
  • Timed mode where users get as many correct words as possible within a time limit.

To play a round, users select the level they want to practice and then set the options for that round. They can choose how many words they want to practice, and whether or not they get assistance in the form of image prompts and letter spacing. And then the user goes through the spelling bee with audio prompts (in British and American accents). At the end of each round, points are assigned and added to the user’s total for a place on the leaderboards. And then they can do it again!

The app was designed as a learning tool to help Shane English School students practice the spelling words found in their textbooks, but the format of the app is such that it will assist any students with their spelling and vocabulary retention. Specifically, students can develop skills in:

  • spelling and phonics
  • learning and retaining vocabulary
  • listening comprehension (in multiple accents)
  • having fun while learning!

The app is available on the App Store (iOS) and Google Play (Android). To find out more about the app or to get student numbers for your school, contact us here.


5 Ways to Use the Power of Smartphones in your ESL Classroom

POSTED ON April 3rd  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

If you can’t get your student to stop playing on their phones in the classroom, don’t struggle with it. Embrace it and get students to use their smartphones to learn English in your classroom.

Phones in the classroom are often viewed by those of us who teach as an unwelcome distraction preventing students from paying attention. With the growing popularity and widespread use of smartphones (in China alone there are over seven hundred million smartphone users), maybe it is time we instead embrace the many learning opportunities offered by smartphones in our ESL classrooms.

Read on for five fun ways to use your students’ smartphones to help them learn English.

Reading and Writing with a Smartphone

After your students read a text for gist and then for detail, why not supplement the reading task with a permitted search on their smartphones for unfamiliar words? You could then ask your students to explain the new word to you in their own words. If you are setting a writing task, you could encourage your students to use their smartphones to expand their vocabulary and find synonyms for common words.

Classroom Polling and Multiple Choice

For an alternative way to get your students to participate in answering questions, you could use a program such as ResponseWare or Poll Everywhere to create interactive questionnaires and PowerPoint presentations. These programs enable students to link to your presentation or questionnaire with their smartphones and provide answers through their devices. The answers get processed and displayed in real time on your screen or smartboard.

Smartphone Games in the Classroom

Games are a fun and engaging way to learn a language. There are hundreds of smartphone games dedicated to grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary building. For example, Words with Friends, a smartphone variation on Scrabble and 4 Pics 1 Word offer an entertaining way for your students to learn new words.

Language Teaching Apps

There are thousands of smartphone apps, or applications, dedicated to teaching English. Duolingo is perhaps the most known and is available in a format specifically catered to the classroom called Duolingo for Schools. This version gives you an overview of what activities your students do and how well they perform. Other similar, popular apps include Rosetta Stone Ltd., Memrise and Hello English.

Group Texting

A group chat for your class can be an excellent way to encourage your students to write in English. Programs such as WhatsApp, WeChat or Line are all apps facilitating group texting and sending videos or pictures. Hopefully, the text conversation between your students will float naturally, but you can always post some questions to get the conversation going again if the group goes too quiet.

For more ideas on how to use technology in your classroom make sure to read our exhaustive blog post on the subject.

We’re keen to know if you allow your students to use their phones in your classroom? If so, what are your favourite ways to use them to teach English? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter.

About the Author

Aleks Kaye completed a blended CELTA course while working full-time in Student Support at a university in the UK. She is currently exploring Canada with her husband David and blogging about it at

11 Tips for Using Technology Effectively in Your ESL Classroom

POSTED ON November 14th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

Depending on where you teach, technology might be readily available for you to use in your ESL classroom. However, using it effectively, and not just for the sake of using it, is another thing altogether. Some teachers might also be too intimidated to use technology in their classroom and instead sticking to the traditional style of teaching.

Technology, which is a powerful tool, should be used in an ESL class to enhance the lesson and further help students engage with the language.

Read on for 11 tips on how to effectively use technology in your ESL classroom.

1. Film & Video

You can easily use videos (whether they are short films or feature-length) as an engaging way for students to practice vocabulary and comprehension skills. Videos are great to use in your ESL class because it acquaints students with the natural use of English. You can easily make activities to accompany videos that you show in your class; think of fill-in-the-word, complete the sentence, various vocabulary worksheets, and even other writing activities.

2. Podcasts

Listening to podcasts can help ESL students improve comprehension skills and even help them learn new vocabulary words or grammar in context. Furthermore, podcasts can create opportunities for students to practice their speaking skills. Similar to videos, you can create activities and worksheets that complement the podcast(s).

3. Blogs

Setting up blogs is a great way for ESL students to practice their writing skills. There are also several online platforms on which blogs can be created for free. Students generally like writing blogs because it is seen as a more ‘authentic writing experience’ than just writing an essay or story in class. They can also choose a topic or series of themes they like or are passionate about. Additionally, with the potential wider audience reach, students may put more effort into writing their blog.

4. Wiki

Similar in some ways to a blog, you can let your students create a wiki page. The ESL students can easily sign in, add text, edit, and save contributions on this interactive space. A whole class can work together on a topic or each group can create its own wiki.

5. Apps

There are a great variety of apps that teachers can utilise on tables, iPads, and smartphones to make practising English fun for your students. This site lists 16 apps that ESL students can use to practice their English skills. They range from pronunciation and accent practice to building sentences and practising vocabulary and grammar.

6. Online Games

There are various online games available that students can play not only to have fun, but also to practice spelling, grammar, and other ESL skills. There are also digital versions of traditional games such as Hangman, Scrabble, etc. which can be useful and beneficial to the learning process. If you have a smart board in your class, the whole class can play together!

7. Virtual Field Trips

As field trips are not always possible, either due to budgets or maybe the location of the school, virtual field trips are the next best thing as they provide a more genuine way for students to take in new information (see experiential learning).

8. Online Testing Tools

Rather than making tests and/or quizzes the old fashioned way, you can use (free) online testing tools, like this one. Online tests are especially great if all the students in your class have access to an iPad (or tablets) or a computer. Alternatively, you can put a test on the smart board if you want your students to work together as a class or in small groups. This can work really well for a Test Teach Test lesson or even as a review before a big test.

9. Game Show Review

Microsoft PowerPoint (or Mac’s Keynote) is the perfect resource to create review games that are based on game shows, such as “The Weakest Link”, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, etc. If you aren’t yet tech savvy enough to create your own templates, you can easily Google “powerpoint game show template” or visit this link for free downloadable templates.

10. Presentations

If your students have access to computers in the classroom, then they can easily research a topic on the Web and make a presentation. Set some clear rules and time limits. For example, there are quite a few voice-recording apps available – tell the students the introduction must be voice recorded and can only be 2 minutes long. Students can then even present their presentations to the whole class, giving them plenty of speaking practice.

11. Online Grading

As we all become more technology dependent, a tool like an online grading system seems perfect; you never have to worry that you forgot your grade book at home. is one such system, and while it is not free, it does have great features in addition to keeping all grades online. This system tracks changes, helps you create a seating chart, and you can even email parents (or students) directly to keep them up to date with their children’s progress.


There is no need to be afraid to use technology in your ESL classroom or to worry about how to use it effectively. These 11 tips are a great start for any teacher and should make you think of even more ways technology can be utilized as a value-add in the class.

What are some effective ways you use technology with your ESL students?

About the Author

Denine Walters is currently a freelance writer, editor/proofreader and ESL teacher. Previously, she taught online English lessons to students from all around the world and, before that, she lived and taught English to young learners in Taiwan. In her free time, she likes to read, do scrapbooking and grammar quizzes, and travel.



Short Films for ESL Students

POSTED ON October 24th  - POSTED IN Teaching Tips

There are numerous ways in which you can use video clips and short films in your ESL lessons. Whether as a warmer to pique your students’ interest or as a main activity for the class, using media can enrich your lessons and capture your students’ attention.

While you may be sold on using video clips in your classroom, finding free, online, appropriate media isn’t always so easy. Take a look at these top recommended websites for finding videos to use in your ESL classes.

PLEASE NOTE: Not all the content on these sites or channels will be appropriate for all viewers, so know exactly which video you want to use and have the correct one queued up before class.


This website is a number one choice for ESL teachers’, whether you are teaching children, teens or adults. On the FILMS short website, you can easily find what you’re looking for because the films are sorted into different genres, as well as country of origin. One of the handiest features is that you can easily tell which films have dialogue and which don’t (particularly useful because, for use in an ESL classroom, dialogue-free videos offer so many options for potential activities). Just look for the ‘*’ in the title and you’ll know that video is dialogue-free. They also have listings of award-winning films and frequently update the website.

Check it out here: FILMS short

Short of the Week

Another must-see website for finding the perfect film clip is Short of the Week. If you want access to the latest short films, sign up to get updates delivered to your inbox every week. If you’re looking for something specific, click on ‘Channels’ to browse by genre, country or topic. If your students are tech-savvy and tend to have already seen whatever you rustle up from Youtube, this website is a great place to find new material as they showcase videos by up-and-coming film-makers.

Visit here: Short of the Week

Future Shorts

While Future Shorts have their own website, the best place to view their work is on the Youtube page. They release seasonal catalogues of brand new films and the variety is immense. Browse by genre or check out the ‘Best of Future Shorts’ if you don’t know where to start. Be wary of graphic content – always check the films before you show it in class! Future Shorts films are a real conversation starter and many of them are just a few minutes long – perfect for a warmer to start your class.

Watch some here: Future Shorts

The CGBros

Another Youtube Channel not to be missed is the CGBros – the number 1 stop if you’re looking for CGI animated shorts. As well as the latest CGI clips, you can also find tutorials and other videos of interest relating to CGI – great potential if you’re doing a film-making class.

Click the link to visit the channel: The CGBros

Move Clips

Looking for short clips from your favourite Hollywood movies? Look no further than Movie Clips, a Youtube Channel which helpfully splits up great scenes from top films into bite-sized chunks. Whether you’re showing your students clips of a new release or introducing them to something you watched decades ago, Movie Clips can provide the links.

Here is where you’ll find them: Movie Clips

Want more learning tips? Visit our Teaching Tips blog.

About the Author

Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specialises in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact Celia through her website.

Ways to Remember New Vocabulary

POSTED ON October 9th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

Listening, speaking, grammar, reading, writing—all of the skills and aspects of English require one obvious thing: words. But how can you remember all of them?

Different learners have different systems. If you don’t have one at all then keep reading! Here we will share with you three of the best and most common ways that students of English learn vocabulary.

Get a Notebook

There are several ways to organize vocabulary in a notebook. The best way is to create several columns. Have one each for the word, the part of speech, the definition, an example sentence, collocations, and a picture. Doing this will keep things organized and will be something you can always look at.

Or you could try using a mind map: What are Mind Maps and How to Draw Them

Use Quizlet

Quizlet is a wonderful online tool that is more than just flashcards. Although you can use it in a traditional flashcard way, there are so many more features to help you. There are many vocab games to play to quiz yourself. Perhaps the best part is that it can be used as an app. You can check it out here.

Make Up Mnemonics

Mnemonics are so much fun! Mnemonics are a way to remember anything you want. There are many different kinds, for example by using a song or a phrase. The best way for English words is through song or association/connections with something you already know. Here’s one: remember “stroll” (to walk with little purpose) by seeing “st” as street, and “roll”- so in your mind, picture a ball rolling down the street. You can get as creative or simple as you want with this tactic!

Which way is best for you? Try one or try all!

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.

Learning with Technology and Games

POSTED ON June 26th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips


The rapid development of communication technology greatly simplifies language learning. In the vast majority of cases almost any gadget, any device with settings to adjust, provides at least an operational menu in English.

Tip 1: Use a Device’s Menu to Learn

Comparison of different options, commands, and descriptions in settings menus adds basic sets of widely used English words and phrases to active vocabulary. The better you master the device, the easier it will be to switch to English language mode and by using it as previously learn through doing the same functions with new English wordings.

The most popular devices nowadays are mobile phones, tablets, and personal computers, but other household electronics like TVs, DVD players, and speakers may also have English settings menus. And then there are all your online media services like YouTube, Netflix, and HBO Go. Most international services have at least an English version.

Tip 2: Watch International TV Shows and Movies

You can follow these four steps to improve your English with your favourite TV shows and movies.

  1. Watch a show or movie dubbed in your native language with English subtitles.
  2. Watch the show or movie in English with your native language’s subtitles.
  3. Watch the same content in English with English subtitles.
  4. Finally, watch in English without any subtitles.

Following these four steps will greatly develop not only your active vocabulary but also listening and comprehension skills. In some cases, it is possible to switch on both English and native language subtitles simultaneously, which could act as another stage in between ones mentioned previously. The height of this challenge is to move up to live broadcasts, especially the news, as these programs are very dense with new language.

Tip 3: Play Language Games

Playing language games, based on knowledge of English, will help you to expand the volume of actively used words and phrases. There are numerous sites and pieces of free online and offline software for the learners of different stages, starting from the beginners and up to the experienced native speaker levels.

Playing Scrabble (in some versions – Literati), probably, is the most popular way to improve own English literacy. The game fosters player’s development through deep emotional engagement in the outcome. It’s also a fun, social way to connect with different people also interested in learning English and playing the game both offline and online.

One can find numerous ways to use the latest technologies throughout the learning process. And, as new technologies develop, the language itself is developing, too. But that is the subject of another post.

About the Author

Alex Shtern is a language learner and freelance writer who speaks and works in several languages.


How To Learn English: Use Your Smartphone

POSTED ON May 15th  - POSTED IN Language Learning Tips

These days our phones can almost do anything: order us a pizza, keep us in touch with friends around the world, and tell us the weather. However, if you use your phone correctly, it can also help you improve your grasp of the English language.

Here are three simple ways your smartphone can help make you better at listening, speaking and reading the English language.

Change The Language On Your Phone To English

By changing the language of your phone, it forces you to use English. It makes you use the different vocab like “message” and “send” to get through simple tasks on a daily basis. If you want to challenge yourself, change your email accounts, social media accounts and search browsers to English as well.

Text Your Native English Speaker Friends

Don’t take the easy way out by switching to your native tongue. Force yourself to text your English speaking friends in English, and you’ll soon pick up every day English and phrases you would otherwise miss in ordinary conversation. Learn a new word or slang phrase? Write it down, ask your friends what it means and practice using it in your next conversation.

Download Duolingo

Duolingo is one of the best language learning apps on the market. Apple named it 2013’s “free iPhone App of the Year”, and it is easy to see why. The app makes learning a language fun and makes it feel like a game. You advance through its different levels while learning your target language. Before you know it, you will have hundreds of new words in your vocab, plus you can compete with your friends to be the ultimate Duolingo champion.

So what are you waiting for? Get out your smartphone and start using it to help you achieve fluency in English.

About the Author

Lauren Melnick is a South African travel blogger and ESL teacher currently living in Ubon, Thailand. When she isn’t making lesson plans and watching nursery rhymes on YouTube, you can find her eating up a storm, taking selfies with dinosaurs, and planning her next adventure.

Follow her travels on Wanderlust Movement, FacebookTwitterInstagram and Snapchat.