5 Tips to Improve Your English Speaking Skills While Having Fun

Do you want to improve your English speaking skills? Many people say that after certain age, it’s just impossible to improve pronunciation of your second language. They are wrong. If you can learn how to swim or play the piano, you can also learn a new accent! Try methods listed below and I’m sure your pronunciation will greatly improve in the course of time. These methods are for people who like learning while having fun.

1. Sing or rap along

Find lyrics and listen to, sing or rap to English songs. It will be entertaining and you’ll definitely remember how to pronounce words and sentences used in these songs. It’s also a great way to learn new vocabulary.

2. Watch English movies

It’s a great way to learn some real, everyday vocabulary. You can also improve your pronunciation. Just pay attention to the dialogues and try to imitate them. Turning on the subtitles may come in handy.

3. Read aloud in English

Read aloud books or magazines in English. Don’t rush. Try to speak as clear as you can. It will help you develop strong mouth muscles so that it will be easier for you to pronounce difficult words.

4. Practice with audiobooks

Listen to the speaker and then record your voice reading aloud the same section from the book. Compare your pronunciation to the pronunciation of the person who reads the book.

5. Find English speaking friends

It will be the best if you find native English speakers, but talking with non-native speakers will also improve your pronunciation. Just speak English as often as you can. It will be easier for your interlocutor than for you to find out when you make mistakes with pronunciation so that you can concentrate on correcting these mistakes.

These methods will definitely help you improve your pronunciation if you practice as often as you can. Have fun!

Teaching ESL – Four Tips on Explaining Idioms

Here are four tips on teaching and explaining idioms.

1. What is an idiom?

To explain idioms start by explaining the word idiom. An idiom is a group of words that together mean something different than the individual words. This is confusing to the ESL student. For example someone with a chip on their shoulder has nothing to do with fried potatoes, wood chips or a damaged shoulder.

2. Context is king

Since the individual words in an idiom provide no clue to its meaning always use idioms in a context when explaining them. For example: He always had a chip on his shoulder because his education was inferior to everyone else around him. That sentence gives students a clue to work out the meaning of the idiomatic phrase. Another example: Daniel was in hospital for two years before he finally kicked the bucket. It was a relief to his children to attend his funeral since they knew at last their father was no longer suffering.

3. Get a good dictionary

When learning idioms a basic dictionary will be of no use since it will only explain the literal meaning of each word which is useless when it comes to idioms.

A good dictionary will have the origin of the idiom which may help to explain how it came to take on its idiomatic meaning. For example the idiom ‘apple of my eye’ originally meant the central aperture of the eye and it came to mean ‘loved, cherished above others’. Knowing the root as it were of the idiom may help some students remember the idiom more easily. The central aperture is highly valuable, it allows us to see and we cherish it. Bookish folk will be interested in origins though one can get bogged down in obscure literary references as researchers discuss the first recorded instances of an idiom. The website “phrases.org.uk” is helpful for an academic approach to idioms.

4. Teach idioms with games to help your students remember them

Teaching idioms idea 1

Explain six idioms in context either through examples in a poem or novel, or by describing them yourself. For each idiom draw an object that represents it on the board, for example an eye for “apple of your eye” or a question mark for “doubting Thomas”. After explaining the six idioms act one of them out to the class and have your students call out the idiom you are acting. If you are too shy to act pick a feisty student to come up front and do it for you. Using this method you bring your idioms alive, it’s not just a list on a page. Students learn the idiom in context, they have a visual of it with the drawing, they repeat it several times in context with the acting and they even have a feel for it by acting it out.

Teaching idioms idea 2

In a different lesson take six more idioms and teach them using mime. Introduce the idiom in context as before. Make up a sign or gesture for each one. Use your idioms in context again with the whole class making the gesture defined. Now say just the idioms without all the context and students continue to make the relevant gestures. Jump back and forth in no specific order through your six new idioms getting faster and faster and repeating ones you see students have trouble with more often. Repetition is the mother of skill.

Before moving on to a different topic or game revise the idioms you covered in the previous lesson either by drawing the pictures you used, or with acting.

Teaching idioms idea 3

Make up a fun conversation using all the idioms! Let students work on this in small groups or in pairs, each one taking lines in the conversation and performing to the class. You’ll have to give some examples beforehand of course, such as:

“You are the apple of my eye, I really love you babe”.

“Pull the other leg. You say that to all the girls.”

“Don’t be a doubting Thomas, it’s true my darling.”

“Pigs might fly.”

“I give up. You have a chip on your shoulder and it’s pretty annoying. I don’t know why you feel so inferior.”

Teaching idioms idea 4

Play Call My Bluff with idioms (taken with permission from ESL Classroom Activities for Teens and Adults)

Category: Writing, Reading – From simple vocabulary definitions to enriching knowledge of English through idioms, metaphors and sayings.

Level: Beginner to Advanced

Group size: Any class size

Preparation: Students prepare definitions for homework

Vocabulary version

Students prepare three definitions of a word that they look up in the dictionary, two true and one fake. The class listen to the definitions and decide which the true one is. Once students have heard all three definitions have the students all stand at their desks and listen as the definitions are read out again and this time the students sit down if they think a definition is false and stand if they think it true. You can then easily see who has it correct and you can tell those students to award themselves a point if correct. Ideally you can give the preparation task as homework so as not to use class time for the research. Note you may also do two fake answers and one true one for variety, and this is best with beginners too.

Version with idioms or metaphors for advanced students

Students choose an idiom or metaphor and give three definitions of the meaning, two fake and one true. This is an enriching exercise. You have the option of distributing these out to the students, one or two per student, and letting them research the meaning for homework or giving students a free rein to find their own metaphor or expression.

For example the idiom “to kick the bucket” means:

a) to be seriously mad at someone

b) the name of a sport played on small British islands where balls get lost too easily in the sea

c) to die

Learn French Self Study Checklist – Proven Tips To Become Fluent Faster!

Learning French with a software will not be the easiest thing you will do this year, but there is a couple of steps that can dramatically accelerate your learning curve. Anyone can learn everything he needs to speak with French native and if you put your heart in this, you can become fluent in the process.

Self study implies excellent organization skills. What about using a list? I don’t know if you thought about this before, but this will help you tremendously.

Whenever you start studying French, review this list first.

1. The first thing you want to do is to revise the previous lesson. Don’t try to cheat, and make sure that you understood the last course before you start the new one.

Take your time, don’t rush and build your language skills on a solid foundation.

2. Secondly, when you are totally sure that you got it, ask someone to ask you some questions about this lesson. Believe me, most of the time, you think you understood when the truth is that you missed something. That’s why you need a peer that acts as a “control”.

3. Write down the new vocabulary you learn every day on a piece of paper that you will bring with you wherever you go.

4. Intensive Practice. When you discover a new word, you need to pronounce it several times. By doing this, you will pronounce the words and letters more accurately.

5. Don’t forget to get the grammar rule for each lesson. You really need to put extra efforts on French grammar because it is more complex than English grammar

I hope you enjoyed my learn French self study checklist tips. It’s not easy, but if you follow the advice above and have the right software, you will see amazing results.

Invigorate Your Vocabulary – 3 Simple Tips

If you spend all day e-mailing your pals, you may not need a large vocabulary.

But if you are working and socializing in the real world, a good vocabulary is a priceless asset. And if you like to solve word puzzles and games, a good vocabulary is essential. Here are some simple ways you can boost yours.

1. Don’t Dumb Down–Stretch Up

If you are reading this article, you are already thinking that your vocabulary could use a boost. That means you should expose yourself to new words from new sources. If you are currently reading Nancy Drew mysteries, for example, step up to Agatha Christie. If you read only the soap opera updates in the newspaper, try reading some editorial columns.

Try reading short articles, stories and books that are just a bit intimidating. Then keep a dictionary nearby or stay connected to an online dictionary as you read. And remember, just because you haven’t seen a word before does not mean you can’t figure out its meaning. If you reread the word in context, you can often discover its meaning from the words around it.

2. Don’t Be Afraid of Intellectuals

Just as you may need to stretch yourself on reading materials, it may also be helpful to stretch yourself in conversations with people who have great vocabularies. As you hear others correctly use new words, you will gain confidence in how to use them yourself.

If one of your friends has an amazing command of language, he/she really won’t mind if you ask, “What was that word again? I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.” Then ask him/her to expound on it. You will learn something helpful, and your friend will bask in the glow of knowing something that another person values.

3. Don’t Discount the Value of Word Games

  • Reader’s Digest’s quintessential column, Word Power, has run for decades. It provides challenging words on a single theme, along with answers and explanations. If you don’t subscribe the magazine, visit their website or browse through a copy the next time you visit the doctor’s office.
  • Crossword puzzles and other clue-based word games are a great way to increase and practice vocabulary. Sometimes you will learn new meanings for words you already know. While word search puzzles can be fun for some, they usually don’t include word meanings, so their benefit is minimal at best.
  • A great online activity can be found at www.FreeRice.com. Under “options” you can pick a starting level. You are given a vocabulary word with 4 choices of definitions. If you get an answer wrong, you can choose the option to be given the same word again a bit later until you get it right. For every correct definition you choose, the site donates 20 grains of rice through the United Nations World Food Program to help end hunger.

So cogitate on how best to magnify your lexicon, and soon your confidantes and colleagues will be utterly astounded!

12 Helpful Tips to Pass the CELTA or TEFL Teaching Preparation Course

As a Trinity College of London post-graduate diploma holder in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) when a co-worker seriously queried me on the rigors and requirements of taking a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification course for teaching English, I recommended an upcoming CELTA (Certification in English Language Teaching) teacher training certification program at the British Council. After several conversations with him I thought,

“Why not give the prospective CELTA trainee some advice right from a proven source?”

Having such teaching certification opens doors internationally for English teaching positions, enabling certificate holders to work in scores if not hundreds of countries worldwide. But the more reputable and highly-regarded 120+ hour programs are intensive, stressful and difficult regardless of the experience and amount of preparation trainees may have.

So, I contacted Nathan Jones, a CELTA graduate I knew and asked, “Look, can you do something for me? I’m tutoring someone to enter the CELTA training course like the one you did. Would you please give him some insight as to course requirements, the schedule, themes, difficulties, etc.? You’ll be able to provide this prospective CELTA trainee with some idea of what he’s in for this summer if he takes the CELTA.”

Sure enough, Nathan, the CELTA grad, offered some insights as to what might be in store for a CELTA trainee during the five-week intensive regimen. With my insight also included, here’s what our advice consisted of:

We offer you these tips for preparing to take the CELTA or other TESOL certification program. Try to remember these valuable key points:

1. Read everything you are given thoroughly.

This includes handouts, course outlines and requirements, etc.

2. Use your peers to assist you in every aspect of your

training. Get to know your directors, teachers,

administrators, and other personnel on the course

program

3. Complete every course program project on time – or early, if

possible.

4. Be open to being challenged and mentally exasperated, take

copious notes, and share them freely with other trainees.

5. Find another trainee or a small study group you can gel and

work well with.

6. Seek out the person(s) who have had friends or family

previously in the course, because they will likely have a

head start in completing course program tasks.

7. Get lots of sleep. You’ll need it. Don’t fall asleep in

class or get “burned out from stress and exhaustion. Take

some “relax” time daily.

8. Practice your teaching techniques regularly, whether

assigned or not.

9. Try to learn from the students you will be teaching.

10. Follow the required texts, books and materials explicitly –

ask questions if you doubt or don’t fully understand

anything. Make sure you understand the processes of what

you will be learning. This is crucial to your success.

11. Do everything in organized steps or stages and be

consistently persistent.

12. A few final Key Points:

o Ask questions – even the “stupid” ones

o pay rapt attention – everything is important

o follow directions explicitly

o listen carefully at all times

o study regularly, plan your time well – resist the urge

to “goof off”

o prepare well daily for each class or input session

o practice what you learn – that’s what your partner / study

group is for

o get help wherever and whenever you can – don’t allow yourself

to fall behind

Be sure to enjoy the experience and have fun. These people will be your friends for life. Remember that a course alone, while preparing you to enter an EFL / ESL (English as a Foreign Language / English as a Second Language) teaching career, does not in itself make you a teacher. Continue to grow, develop and learn throughout your TEFL teaching career.

Good Luck

How to Learn German – Helpful Advice

• The first task we must assign ourselves id to learn the proper pronunciation of the alphabet, including the letters that are peculiar to German such as “ä”, “ö”, “ü” and “ß”(es-tzet). The best way to do this is to listen to a professor or watch a video where such letters and their respective sounds are dealt with in detail.

• We must be able to organize our time. It is advisable to set a schedule or time-table and devote daily at least some minutes to this learning process. The choice of an adequate place or “spot” is also advisable.

• With the help of audiovisual material we will be acquiring and enlarging our vocabulary. It is very important to listen and to see simultaneously the corresponding images in order to associate them with their German meaning. If at the same time we see the images, we learn the words that correspond to them, thus making this learning process more effective.

• Grammar also requires concentration and study. We must learn the declinations of the articles that affect the adjectives and nouns.

• In German, the first letter in a noun is written with a capital letter.

• It is a good idea to register in the library of some German school or Institute. There we can have a better and more intimate contact with this country’s culture and also get to know people who are also learning this language.

• It would be great if we have the opportunity to do a course in Germany itself. There is no better way to learn a language than in the country where it is spoken.

• Finally, reading is also an excellent way to learn a language. Of course, in order to read it, one must have at least the basic principles. In order to obtain the utmost benefit we should search out the best in literature, well-known authors, thus we shall form a solid knowledge basis.

Tips for Pronunciation of the Swedish Vowels

The most famous parody of the Swedish accent is probably the Swedish chef in The Muppet Show, but also more recently a sketch in The Catherine Tate show called Interpreter. What both these parodies have picked up, is the sing-song element of Swedish, and also the fact that the Swedish language is relatively vowel-rich. The pronunciation of these vowels can prove a challenge when you are learning Swedish. This article goes through all Swedish vowels and gives some tips on how to pronounce them, according to the Swedish alphabet.

A

The thing to remember with A is that it is very long. For English speakers, it usually helps to make the same sound as when saying the English letter ‘r’, but to remove the ‘r-sound’ in the end and only keep the long ‘ah’. Another way can be to visualize the sound you have to make if a doctor examines your mouth and throat. The doctor usually places a spatula on your tongue, and asks you to say ‘ah’. Finally, it is important to remember to drop your jaw properly, which makes the A deep and long.

E

This vowel can be tricky because for an English speaker, the natural instinct is to treat it like the English ‘ee’ (like in for example ‘bumble-bee’). But the Swedish E is lower, and finishes off with a slight A-sound in the very end (at least the accents found around Stockholm and Uppsala on the East coast). The best way to find the right sound, is to say the English word ‘ear’, but to remove the ‘r-sound’ in the end: ‘ea’.

I

This vowel unfortunately adds another layer to the confusion around the Swedish vowel E. This is because the Swedish pronunciation of the letter I is just like the English ‘ee’. In other words, a very wide and smiley ‘ee-sound’. The only consolation is that Swedish speakers have exactly the same problem when learning English, just the other way around!

O

The letter O can be hard to pronounce, because it is a bit more extreme than the English ‘oh-sound’. The ‘oh-sound’ in English requires fairly relaxed lips, and also a relaxed tongue. The Swedish O requires a very tense mouth and hard lips pressed together, like when you are whistling a tune, or sucking a straw. The tongue is pulled right back in the throat, like you do if you eat something that is too hot and you try to protect your tongue.

U

This is perhaps the hardest one to explain, out of all Swedish vowels. When you say the vowel U, your lips should be relaxed, your tongue touching the bottom-row of your front teeth, and your jaw should be slightly pushed forward. It sounds a little bit like the disgusted expression “Eew”, but more like the end-part than the first.

Y

The vowel Y tends to be hard to get right, but I have found a way to describe it that seems to be helpful. Firstly, say the Swedish I (or the English ‘ee’) and analyse what your tongue is doing. Secondly, keep that tongue position absolutely still, but move your lips from a wide smile to a trumpet-like shape (i.e. push your lips forward, quite aggressively). So when going from I to Y, your tongue position should be exactly the same, and the only thing changing is your lips – going from a wide smile, to a trumpet-shape.

Å

Here is the first one of the three extra vowels in Swedish (they come in the end of the alphabet by the way, in this order: å, ä, ö). The challenge is to really distinguish them as separate vowels, and not just muddled versions of A and O. The Å can be thought of as the ‘au’ sound in ‘Paul’. Indeed, some Swedish Pauls actually spell their names Pål. The sound is long, as in a long ‘Påål’.

Ä

This letter can be thought of as the English ‘ai’ in ‘pair’, or ‘hair’. The only thing to remember is that the mouth is actually quite wide, a bit more of a smile than when saying ‘pair’.

Ö

Finally, the Ö is similar to the English sound ‘i’ in the word ‘bird’. Or ‘u’ in the word ‘fur’. Or ‘ea’ in the word ‘heard’. The lips are fairly rounded, but also slightly trumpet-shaped.

And finally, the graduation test is to fully master the following Swedish tongue twister: Flyg fula fluga flyg, och den fula flugan flög (Fly away you ugly fly, and the ugly fly flew away).

That’s it – good luck!

Tips For Getting The Gender Of Spanish Nouns Always Right

Getting the gender of basic Spanish nouns wrong is not only frustrating, but also highly de-motivating. In this article I give you an insight into what causes this problem and I help you overcome it from today.

My fifteen years teaching Spanish have shown me that learning and reviewing vocabulary the wrong way is what leads to those mistakes.

You may be wondering, then, if there is a way of learning new Spanish nouns that will allow you to get the gender always right. The answer, without any doubt, is ‘yes’. Here are the two steps you need to follow:

1. Avoid learning nouns without ‘el’ or ‘la’, and the same goes for reviewing.

2. Always learn new nouns with audio material, preferably audio flashcards recorded by native speakers.

Learning Spanish vocabulary through this method is fast, efficient and a great time-saver.

It takes the same effort to learn Spanish nouns with and without their articles. Learning them with ‘el’ or ‘la’ will save you valuable time and disappointment. As an example, remember to avoid learning that:

‘flor’ means ‘flower’

Make sure you learn that:

the Spanish noun ‘la flor’ means ‘the flower’

This simple step will help you link the word ‘flor’ to ‘la’ every time, the same way that Spanish speakers link them.

Vocabulary audio flashcards are those that give you a list of Spanish words said by native speakers, and they also give you their English translation.

The task of learning new Spanish vocabulary becomes significantly easier with audio flashcards. They are an essential tool for acquiring a good Spanish accent, and a powerful resource for reviewing efficiently.

Briefly, learning new vocabulary following the two steps I’ve described in this article is not only more efficient in the short, medium and long-term, but also much more enjoyable.

Teach English in Colombia: Grappling with Grammar, Gold, Guns, and Guayaba

Americans avoid Colombia for good reasons. A virtual civil war has been waged for nearly 40 years. Rates of crime and violence are among the world’s highest. And then there’s the “drug problem.” Why would anyone consider coming here to teach English?

“I came because a friend who was working in Cali liked it here and recommended it,” says Glenn Yates, a teacher now in his second year at a bilingual school. Tired of Canada’s frigid winters, he fled to a land of year-round warm weather and an even warmer welcome.

Colin Jacobs, weary of gloomy days and drizzle, found his way to teaching English in Cali from his native England more than 20 years ago and hasn’t left since. “I don’t think I could live in London again,” he says. “After adjusting to the near-perfect weather, the food, and the easy-going lifestyle here, I’m not really keen to go back. I’m spoiled for life.”

So am I. Hundreds of varieties of flowers perfume the air, even in winter. Pantries abound with exotic fruits like Guayaba and Carambolo. The year-long growing season allows papayas to reach nearly the size of watermelons; mangoes can weigh up to two pounds each. Colombia’s strong, black coffee, considered the world’s richest, is served everywhere.

But Is It Safe?

There are problems, yes, but not of “run-screaming-to-the-hills” intensity. Most conflicts occur in the countryside. While this can make inter-city travel risky at times, residents inside major cities like Bogota, Cali, and Medellin feel little impact and live quite normally. Adjusting to power failures, phone or water outages, and rainy season flooding is more of a nuisance than life-threatening. Larger cities are reasonably well policed and usually safe, if you’re careful.

Drugs? Most illicit production is for export, so, except for warring drug factions in the coca-growing areas, there’s not much everyday impact. During major holidays the government steps up military patrols of principal highways and vacation resort areas to insure protection and safer travel for vacationers.

Quality of Life

Cali, with two million residents, is known as the “Salsa capital of the world,” rivaling Cuba. The two largest shopping malls house multi-cinema complexes featuring first-run U.S. films in English with Spanish subtitles. English publications are readily available at bookstores and newsstands. Material in English can be borrowed free from the Universidad Santiago de Cali and for a $3 annual fee from the Centro Cultural Colombo Americano. The Municipal Theatre, Tertulia Arts Complex, and Jorge Isaacs Theatre offer regular productions in Spanish. Ethnic restaurants specializing in Latin American and Mediterranean cuisines continually tempt Caleño palettes. Holiday celebrations take place year-round. Check them out online at [http://www.holiday] festival.com/ Colombia.html. You will never be bored in Cali.

Jobs

Native-speaking English teachers are scarce here. Salaries reflect the high demand. Most teaching positions require an applicant to be a native speaker of English and have a university degree. A teaching certificate and some experience are a definite plus. Work is available at bilingual colegios, language institutes, and universities. Sending out a dozen or so resumes in English should land you half that number of interviews, culminating in several on-the-spot job offers.

No hablas español? Interviews are typically in English, but as a working resident you’ll likely want to pick up more than just tourist Spanish. The Universidad Santiago de Cali and the Pontifica Universitaria Javeriana have Spanish programs for foreigners. Berlitz (www.berlitz.com) has offices in Cali with Spanish classes. A private tutor is fairly easy to come by.

“It hasn’t been a problem to find someone to help me when I need something done in Spanish,” said Glen Yates, who, with his limited Spanish, has found Colombians to be very friendly and sociable.

So, don’t worry needlessly about the news reports. Call, write, or email the schools and institutes to get a feel for their needs and requirements. Check out the web sites. Assemble your diplomas, certificates, and reference letters. Don’t forget to collect materials like maps, postcards, flyers, magazines, and memorabilia from your hometown. These will be invaluable for your conversations with students.

I Am Failing Spanish – 4 Tips to Help You Improve Your Grade!

What do you do when you think that you are failing Spanish, about to fail Spanish or that you are just not making any progress?

I know how you feel because I used to get that feeling in Math. I used to feel as though I was never any good at it. Nothing ever made sense except the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. That was it! As far as I was concerned that is all I needed to get by in the real world, so who cares about anything else? Forget algebra and anything else that I would not be using on a daily basis.

But the point I am making is that not all parts of Math were challenging. I simply found some sections and topics more challenging than others so I had to find a way to overcome my challenges in those areas in order to pass it.

But bringing this back to Spanish, I found parts of Spanish challenging as well particularly Spanish listening; learning to speak the language fluently and having a wide vocabulary. Because of this I had to come up with ways to deal with the challenges I was facing.

That was the only way I was going to pass.

So if you are failing Spanish or you think that you are in danger of failing Spanish, I would advise that you do the following:

1. Identify the parts of Spanish in your Spanish course that you are having difficulty with. What do you find to be most challenging about learning Spanish? Is it the vocabulary; verb conjugation; speaking; listening; reading or writing?

2. When you have done that, try to come up with specific tips that will help you to improve in the area in which you are having difficulty. So if you are fairly good at reading, then don’t spend more time on reading Spanish. Spend time on the parts that you find most challenging.

3. Spend an extra 15 minutes a day on those areas. And you are not going to be slaving away at these areas for those for 15 minutes either. You are going to find fun ways of improving in those areas. There are already quite few tips on my blog that will help to keep you more connected to the language and more engaged with it.

Anyone who feels that they are failing something will start to feel disconnected from it, for obvious reasons so you have to find inspiration to keep you engaged and wanting to improve. When you are having fun with something, it stops feeling like work or studying and you just learn or pick up things at record speed. That’s when you start making progress.

4. Be consistent in working to overcome your challenges. If there is one thing that you will hear me say over and over is be consistent whatever your approach at improving. Rome was not built in a day. A little bit of effort over time is what will help you to pass Spanish and get a good grade!

You will not fail Spanish and I assure you that if you start now, you will see an improvement in as little as two weeks because I have seen it happen time and again.

So now that you know what to do, get cracking on it now!

If you want an A in Spanish, click on the link below and visit my blog!