Tag Archives: English as a Foreign Language

The Best Ways to Learn English

8 May

Students eager to add English to their language fluency repertoire often find themselves trying a variety of learning methods and materials looking for the magic key that will instantly make them good at English.

Films, TV programs, radio, books, music, private tutoring or even travelling overseas to participate in an intensive language experience and education program are all great ways to learn ESL with good results, depending on the sincere efforts of the learner.    I’ve had students employ some or all of these methods as part of their English-learning adventure, and while I can’t attest wholly to their individual effectiveness as this would truly depend on a list of nameable factors, I can pass along my suggestions as to what methods seem to be the most enjoyable and popular among my avid-ESL-learning students here in busy Seoul.

WHAT I THINK:  

Sift, sift… What, then, is the BEST way to learn English?  Permit me to offer my humble opinions and then let’s take a closer look at this eye-popping Kaplan International Colleges infographic to see what results they’ve surveyed.

Learning English, or any language for that matter, is a fluid, ebb and flow process of learning, assessing, reflecting, forgetting, re-learning, focusing, taking time off for things that come up in life, re-strategizing, studying…. In other words, it is a human process.  We are each unique learners and bring our own lives to the process of language learning.  It isn’t easy and there isn’t a magic key.

  • A comprehensive approach with lessons and activities planned around the interests and needs of student is what I think is the path to successful, confident second-language use.
  • A focus on conversation/experience with a native speaker – either in group classes, 1-1 tutoring, or by travelling to an English Speaking country like the USA or Canada to infuse yourself into culture and language.

And now the bright and sparkly Kaplan International Colleges Infographic titled “How to Learn English”:

 After Thoughts: 

Only 8% of people think of Canada as an English study destination?  How sad…

Many of my students LOVE to study with the TV Program “Friends,” and find it applicable to real-life casual conversation.  Other popular ones, as this infographic demonstrates are CSI and Gossip Girl.

Films, yes, but I don’t know many who prefer using them over studying with a native speaker or using TV programs which are shorter and more manageable. Yet, they’re popular.  There are some difficulties for the educator to use movies as a basis for lesson planning for the classroom, but do-able.

Using music and song is a great way to learn idiomatic expressions and slang, therefore making it good for informal, everyday conversation and listening practice.  Especially great for the audio-linguistic learner.

Comics are popular in Korea, and after reading some inspiring ones, I love seeing younger students get really involved and creative making their own comics with imagination and spontaneous ENGLISH!

Great work Kaplan! ^^

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Learning English while doing Taekwondo?

14 Feb

My Korean husband and I started the English Kids Gym & TaeKwonDo here in Hwagok-Dong, Seoul, last October and we’re happy to admit to being really busy!  What a motivation.  Most parents who comes to us say, “What a fantastic idea!  I’ve never heard of learning English while doing play exercise, yoga and taekwondo.  How did you come up with this idea?”  Truth is, we are such a new concept in Language Learning here in Korea that most parents have difficulty understanding exactly what it is that we’re about.  (The business bureau didn’t even know how to classify us!)

And while it feels great to pave new paths in the often overly-strict, pressure-overloaded English language education system in South Korea, we are also proud to impart healthy, active lifestyles.

We feel our approach is essential to the future of English language learners in Korea, many who feel English is a subject and not a benefit with real-life applicability.

Our Teaching Approach and Methods

Our teaching approach is a blend of the Communicative Approach, Direct Method, and Audio-Lingual Method.

Our techniques to impart speaking and listening language learning include the use of situational English conversation exchanges, visual aids, pantomime, play, repetition of language patterns, modelling proper language habits, reinforcing correct responses, and using context to help induce meaning.   Our primary focus is on speaking and listening.  Some writing is encouraged for home study, but there is no homework or pressure from us to complete the work.

English Kids Gym and TaekwondoEach 50 minute class focuses on imparting real life, practical English expressions, vocabulary and phrases, that students come to understand through repetition and context, while at the same time doing physical fitness, play, sports, yoga, and taekwondo.  Grammar learning is inducive, meaning it’s something they’re learning without even realizing it, like a pattern they can later modify in new contexts because they’ve come to understand the grammar inductively.

In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we like to think we’re helping Korean children and students to learn English  in a fun and natural way, as a native speaker may acquire English as their first language.

Goals for our Students

  • To find English education enjoyable and to feel comfortable and confident using English in everyday settings – in the classroom, community and at home.  We feel this will help them in future English learning pursuits.
  • To learn and grow in a non-threatening, pressure-free environment.
  • To be introduced to native Canadian pronunciation, tone, colloquial expressions, vocabulary and slang.
  • To use English to communicate with teachers, community members and peers in a natural way.
  • To become more familiar with Canadian culture through.
  • To promote physical fitness, wellness, and nutritional health in a safe, encouraging environment.

Advice for Learning How to Give Advice

5 Dec

Knowing how to politely give advice is not only an excellent tool for making small talk, but helps ESL students establish friendships with native English speakers, engaging with them in a meaningful, friendly way.

I could probably conjecture that most Koreans are eager to make friends with an English-speaking foreigner so they can practice their English, share cultures, have an interesting time, and from my experience, perhaps because they genuinely want to show you “their Korea.”  And from my experience meeting new Korean friends, there is always a lot of advice sharing.  I hadn’t realized how often we native English speakers offer our thoughts and suggestions to others, especially to co-workers or friends.

I always make sure to include a good lesson or three on how ESL students can give advice.

A few of the difficulties I’ve noticed when teaching “Giving Advice”:

  • Advice is cultural and may not always be polite or practical when transferred to the listener’s culture.  Real life example:  Me – My stomach hurts today. Friend:  You should try making a big dung. 
  • It’s better to give advice that is closer to neutral rather than politically, emotionally or otherwise “fired up.”   In other words, suggesting solutions that are too strange can feel awkward and create distance between the speaker and listener. Real life example: Person 1 – I am tired of riding the bus.  Person 2 – Well, riding the bus saves the environment, so you should be happy about doing it.  
  • Being polite is not easy in a second language, even with the best intentions.  Native English speakers can often take offense easily (and here I’m speaking as a polite, “I’m sorry” loving Canadian).  Real life example:  Me – I’m feeling sick.  Co-workers – You ought to come to work anyways like other Koreans do.
Some resources for getting starting in planning your lesson on giving advice or for learning how to give advice:
Boggles ESL – Giving Advice printable and problem cards for Adult ESL learners.
MyEnglishPages – Asking for and giving advice.
ESLhq – Giving advice board game.
AuthorStream – Here’s a Powerpoint presentation that can be used in the classroom.
Try my Giving Advice Flashcards (pdf) – which can be downloaded and used in your ESL Classroom freely!  (FYI – the “star” symbol represents VERB with my students and I). Enjoy^^

Does poetry help ESL students learn English?

29 Jul

Poems are expressions of how the writer sees the world around them.  They’re rhymes and cadence, tongue-twists and lyrics.  They can be haiku, stanzas, plays or songs.  Poetry is so many inspiring and motivating things, that if you’re not using poetry to learn English as a second language, you’re not embracing the culture from English-speaking countries.

Poems are temporal – they describe the poet’s feelings and their environment in which they live, looking at the world through their own eyes.  And one’s view of the world is influenced by the culture.

I love including poems into my ESL Classroom.  They’re so FLEXIBLE!  You can use poems with any other topic of discussion.

How can I use poetry to learn English

Whether you’re learning English by yourself or taking classes, it’s good to challenge yourself once in a while.  There are countless ways to learn English through poetry.  Any good TESOL teacher would already be employing many different ways to incorporate poetry into learning.   Importantly, you want to feel comfortable when with poems.  Remember, there really are no rules!  Just try to have fun and enjoy the challenge of learning.  Don’t be discouraged.

Try these suggestions yourself or with your ESL Teacher:

  • Do poetry theater, having students act out short plays.
  • Introduce children’s books.  You’ll find rhymes and rhythms, the words often sound pleasing and sing-song when read aloud by parents and educators.  This is a perfect approach for ESL Learners!  Of course, you don’t want to insult adult learners with children’s books, but bringing these concepts into the classroom through the pondering of poetry is a wonderful way to promote language learning and literacy.
  • Song clozes.  These can be of any kind of music and with varying degrees of difficulty.  A great cross lesson for learning slang.
  • Write haiku style poems about the weather or class.
  • Teach rhymes, riddles and tongue twisters and then have the students make their own.
  • Write a poem together as a class on a topic you’re learning about. Include key vocabulary.
Please leave a comment for discussion!
Have you tried some of these suggestions?  Which one was your favorite?  Thanks for sharing.

Should you Take the IELTS or the TOEFL?

14 Jul

The two most popular standardized tests accepted by universities and companies around the world are IELTS (International English Language Testing Service) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).  They assess a test-takers’ understanding and command of the English language.  Global English proficiency tests are important for those wanting to study, work or live in an English-speaking country with more opportunities available to them with positive test scores. In fact, most top institutions demand scores for either the IELTS or TOEFL upon applying.

What do they test? Both the IELTS and the TOEFL tests have reading, writing and listening sections.   How they differ mainly is in the fourth structures; speaking.  For the IELTS, a face-to-face interview is required, but for the TOEFL six questions are answered into a microphone and sent to an examiner for marking.

How are they scored? Scoring of the tests differs also.  TOEFL uses a numerical SAT-type grade, totaling your scores from all the areas, while IELTS uses what they call bands from 0 to 9 with half points in-between.   Here is a handy Scoring Chart for the major English Proficiency tests internationally.

What testing styles are offered? In terms of convenience, the TOEFL is offered mainly in an internet-based tests, but there are computer-based and even paper-based tests.  The IELTS is offered mainly as a paper-based test, but a computer-based test is available (CB IELTS).   However, both styles require the face-to-face speaking test.  For the IELTS, you choose between an Academic module (for educational institutes) or a General Training module (for non-academic training, work experience and immigration).

Who administers these tests?  An American non-profit, ETS (Educational Training Services), administers the TOEFL worldwide, while the IELTS is administered jointly by the British Council, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations and IDP Education Australia.

And the popular question: Which is easier?  That, my friendly test-taker depends on your knowledge and strengths.  It is best to first determine why you need to take an English proficiency test and then determine which test you need.  Check which test is required by your chosen institution.

If you’ve taken either test, please share your experiences and comments below! ^^

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