Monday, 2 January 2017

How can I improve my English speaking skills?


This is the question that I am most frequently asked by students.

Last week I created a post for my social media sites '5 Ways to Improve Speaking', immediately after posting I received a number of messages from language learners asking for recommendations and links to websites.  So, what better way to start 2017 than to get back to blogging and write a post to try and answer this question in more detail!





In order to improve your English speaking skills, it is extremely important to practise regularly.  I recommend spending at least 10 minutes every day doing something you enjoy in English.  Here are some suggestions of ways to practise and examples of activities that will help you to improve your speaking skills:


Make friends



Make friends with English speakers and use social media to connect with other learners or native speakers.  Use platforms like How Do You Do, Lingoglobe, Speaky, Easy Language Exchange and Meetup. Chat about current affairs, learn about each other's cultures and exchange ideas about language learning.


If you are living in an English speaking country, speak to anyone, speak to the cashier in the supermarket or your taxi driver (they usually love to chat).   Use every opportunity to practise your speaking skills and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  The more you practise, the faster you will improve and the more confident you will feel.


Speak to yourself


Speak to yourself in the shower, in the car, whilst doing the dishes, anytime, anywhere, speak and speak aloud. Speaking aloud will help you to practise and improve pronunciation and fluency.  Keep it simple, use short precise sentences, express your thoughts, ideas, try out new words and expressions, sing English songs.  Be vocal and build confidence.


Speak to the dog  


If you have a pet, make a conscious decision to only speak to that pet in English.  Have a chat with your pet in the evening, tell them about your day, tell them about your plans for tomorrow and talk to them about anything you like. I'm sure they will love the attention and they'll never interrupt you.


A good listener communicates better


Use the internet or your mobile phone to develop listening skills.  Listen to podcasts like the BBC’s 6 Minute English, ESL Aloud, A cup of English, Podcasts In English or tune into one of the podcasts on Player FM.  Use websites like ESOL Courses, English Central and watch TED talks (I recommend choosing short 0-6 minute talks). Watch TV shows, news reports and short documentaries on VOA News.  


Listen to the pronunciation of words and learn new expressions.  You will improve your ability to comprehend different accents. Exercise the skill of not translating as you listen, learn to grasp the general meaning of what is being said and learn not to panic when you don't understand every word.  Improving your listening skills is an essential part of learning English, and not only will it improve your ability to understand, it will also help you to communicate better.


Read more


The more you read the more words and expressions you are exposed to. Reading is essential for language acquisition. When you read a lot, you increase the possibility of seeing the same words in different contexts, this will help you to retain the language (to remember it). Choose books that are interesting and suitable for your level. Ask friends or search online for book recommendations.   


Read up-to-date news articles that are graded according to level on the Breaking News English website. Knowing what’s going on in the world and having the vocabulary to talk about it will help you to communicate in social situations and make small talk.   


Read language learning blogs, London Language Lab introduces an authentically British phrase each day and English with a twist shares practical business expressions for more advanced learners.  Learning authentic phrases and expressions will help you to communicate more naturally with native speakers.


Do things you love in English


When we participate in activities that we enjoy, our focus is on the activity and not on the language, it makes it much easier to learn and takes less effort.  If, for example, you love cooking: read food blogs to learn authentic language, join an English Facebook group, try out the recipes that are shared, share your own recipes, write comments and give feedback, create a YouTube channel, make a video, make new contacts and chat or Skype with the members of the group.  Surround yourself with English while doing things you enjoy.


Take regular online lessons



Taking a lesson with a professional, qualified teacher is probably the best way to improve your speaking skills.  An online teacher will encourage you to speak and you won't feel so nervous about speaking online (if you are really shy, you can even switch off your video).  However, your teacher will be there to listen, to give feedback and to correct. When you have a one-on-one online lesson, you will get maximum speaking time which guarantees that you will improve fluency and pronunciation and you will progress faster. When your progress is noticeable, you will feel more confident, you will feel relaxed, and you will communicate more successfully.  


Talk2Me English specialises in helping students to improve their spoken English. Your personalised online course is created by gathering information about you, your interests, your language needs, your current level and your language learning objectives. The lessons are topic based, practical and interesting. You'll do most of the talking and you'll receive the correction you need in order to progress quickly. After every lesson, you will receive a detailed report containing: the lesson materials, feedback, new vocabulary and corrections, pronunciation tips, and activities for self-study. See what Emma’s students say about her lessons.  


Italki offers professional lessons with qualified teachers and informal lessons with community tutors (native speakers).  Verbling offers lessons with qualified teachers and also free practice groups with fellow language learners.


As you can see, it's all about the practice.  So be practical, practise often, be vocal and most importantly speak, speak, speak.  




Feel free to comment, your feedback is always appreciated.  If you are a Google+ member please comment below.  If you're on Facebook please message me there and you can always send me a message via my website: Talk2meEnglish

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Engage, Enhance, and Energize - Sharing info and links from ETAI's 7th International Conference


At the beginning of July, I had the pleasure of attending the 7th International ETAI (English Teachers’ Association of Israel) Conference in Ashkelon.  

To be honest, I was a little concerned that the content of the conference sessions would be directed towards school teachers, therefore not relevant to my online teaching. However, when I discovered that Marjorie Rosenberg was one of the plenary speakers, I renewed my membership and registered. The conference slogan was ‘Engage, Enhance, Energize', and it successfully delivered all three E’s.  I came away inspired and motivated. I had the opportunity to meet and learn from some amazing educators and participate in an excellent international conference.

In this post, I'll write a few words about the sessions that I attended and share useful links related to the speakers, their work, and further information about the content of their talks.



Andy Curtis - President of TESOL International

Enhancing Effectiveness Through Contextualization




Andy’s keynote talk was thought-provoking and inspiring. He spoke about the importance of context in teaching.  He made the case that where we do what we do is at least as important as - and possibly even more important than - who does what to whom, in the language classroom. Andy is a wonderful speaker and a natural-born anthropologist.

Related links:  

Penny Ur OBE - Retired English teacher, teacher trainer, author and ELT guru

Enhancing Language Learning: The Primary Goal



In Penny’s plenary, she shared valuable insight into the art of effective language teaching in schools. Her advice was clear and understandable, informative and extremely down to earth.  She challenged many of the traditional myths concerning classroom teaching techniques, like the effectiveness of group work, and checking homework in the classroom.

Related links:
 

Hugh Dellar - Teacher, teacher trainer and author

Making the Leap from Grammar to Lexis




Hugh gave a hilarious and brilliant plenary about the importance of teaching 'lexically'. He suggested a number of practical ways to successfully teach lexis and gave many examples of why traditional teaching methods don't work. It was an inspiring and entertaining session.

Related links:

Hugh Dellar - Teacher, teacher trainer and author

Language-focused teacher development







Hugh’s keynote talk focused on how teachers need to develop their language awareness on an ongoing basis, in order to effectively respond to students' language needs in the moment.  I found Hugh's sessions particularly relevant to my style and method of teaching. I came away feeling confident about what I’m doing in my online classes, and motivated to continue developing my materials and lessons to teach students 'lexically'.

Related links:
http://www.macmillandictionary.com/red-word-game/ (Test your awareness of word frequency)


Dorothy Zemach - Author, publisher, and teacher trainer

Teaching Study Skills

A superb session looking at the importance of teaching students how to study. Dorothy demonstrated useful techniques for teaching and practicing academic study skills. This should be an obligatory workshop for all teachers and parents.  




Related links:


Marjorie Rosenberg - IATEFL President, teacher, teacher trainer and author

Engaging and Fun Business English Activities



I thoroughly enjoyed Marjorie’s lively, and extremely engaging workshop.  We participated in a variety of NTP (no teacher preparation) activities suitable for Business English groups. Marjorie asked for feedback and gave examples concerning how the activities could be adapted to suit any class.  I must admit after Marjorie’s inspiring workshop, I found myself yearning for the energy and interaction of a group class again.

Related links:

Marjorie Rosenberg - IATEFL President, teacher, teacher trainer and author

Making Lessons Memorable



Marjorie’s closing plenary was a treasure trove of practical lesson ideas.  She shared activities and tips for creating fun, relevant and engaging lessons.  She highlighted activities for different learning styles and explained their methodology. I hope to add the PowerPoint presentation of the plenary at a later date because it contained a tremendous amount of information.

It was a memorable plenary to end an excellent conference with.

Related links:



I would like to thank everyone involved in organising this conference, I can't imagine the amount of work that goes into planning such an event here. And a special thank you to the local and international speakers for sharing your wisdom!



Feel free to comment, your feedback is always appreciated.  If you are a Google+ member please comment below.  If you're on Facebook please message me there and you can always send me a message via my website: Talk2meEnglish.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

New Year's Resolutions - Lesson Plan


This is a lesson plan I created a few years ago, I have used it in my online lessons many times and it is a good lesson for promoting discussion.  It would also be suitable for a classroom lesson.  I have updated it and I am reposting it for my students and for any teachers looking for a ready-made lesson this week.  


I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my blog readers a very happy New Year and all the best for 2016 :-) 





  • Level: Intermediate/Intermediate+
  • Method: Online class, face to face class, one to one or group.
  • Age group: Suitable for teenagers and adults.
  • Skills: Listening, understanding, discussion, expressing opinions.
  • Language:  Resolutions, opinions, describing, promises, conditionals.
  • Equipment: Whiteboard, the list of 13 questions below and YouTube (via screen share with sound, projector or individual mobile phones). 


  

1. What is a New Year's resolution?

A New Year's resolution is a decision that you make, to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.

2. Can you think of some examples of common New Year's resolutions?



3. Here are some popular New Year's resolutions:


1. Save more money 
2. Get out of debt 
3. Get fit/lose weight
4. Change job/career 
5. Quit smoking 
6. Give up alcohol
7. Spend less time working
8. Spend more time with family/friends 
9. Give up chocolate 
10.  Move house 




4. Why do you think that people make resolutions?


5. Why do you think most people fail to keep their resolutions?


6. If we could focus on what will be the advantage of keeping a resolution, would it help? 


For example:


If I stop smoking, I will save money.
If I stop smoking, I will be healthier.
If I stop smoking, I will live longer.

7. What is this sentence structure called in English?


We call this the 'First Conditional - We use the first conditional to talk about a real possibility.
If + present simple, will + verb.

For example:


If I eat less, I will lose weight.
If I use Facebook less, I will have more time.
If I do sport 3 times a week, I will be healthier.

8. This is a good idea, but it is still only a possibility.  Which word in the sentence could we change to make this possibility more certain?  


Change the 'If' to 'When'.

When + present simple, will + verb.

For example:

When I give up smoking, I will be healthier. 
When I get a new job, I will be happier.

9. 'When' makes the likelihood of the resolution more certain, but it still does not guarantee that you will succeed in keeping the resolution.  Is the name 'resolution', the problem?  What about changing the name from 'New Year's resolution' to 'New Year's promise'.  Could that help?


Word Definition:
Resolution: A firm decision to do, or not to do something.
Promise: A declaration that you will definitely do something in the future.


10. How do we structure a 'promise' sentence in English?


I + promise + to infinitive


For example:


I promise to stop smoking.
I promise to do more sport.

I + promise (that) I + will/won't + verb.

For example:

I promise that I will do more sport.
I promise I won't spend so much time on Facebook this year.

11. Now watch this excellent video by 'Because I said I would' about making New Year's promises.  While you are watching, try to write down the promises that you hear and read in the video:




 12. Share with your teacher/class, which promises you were able to note down and give your opinion of these promises.


Here are some examples:

I promise to:
- rescue more animals.
- push myself out of my comfort zone.
- be who I want to be, not who society wants me to be.
- drop under 200 lbs.
- make 5 people smile every day.
- go vegetarian.

13. What about you? Are you going to make any New Year's promises this year?  


 





I appreciate any comments and feedback.  If you are a Google+ member please comment below.  If you're on Facebook please message me there and, of course, you can always send me a message via my website: Talk2meEnglish.