Tag Archives: Learning English

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.

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.

What to expect on the TOEFL iBT Speaking test – sample questions, too!

22 Jul

The infamous speaking section of the TOEFL iBT (the internet based TOEFL test), has many ESL hopefuls nervous.  That’s fair because the pace of the questions and the content can be difficult for even some native English speakers.  Of the overall TOEFL iBT test, about 25% is speaking, accounting for approximately 20 minutes of test-taking time.   It focuses on academic English and to get a great score you need to answer questions in a clear, concise way demonstrating an understanding of the material.

 

Breakdown of the 6 Speaking Questions/Tasks:

To ace the speaking part of the TOEFL iBT you need to know what to expect.  There are 6 speaking questions which you answer by speaking into a headset.  Let me break them down for you:

The first 2 questions are called Independent Tasks and are on topics familiar to the test-taker.   You have 15 seconds to prepare an answer and 45 seconds to speak.

A sample Independent Task question is: “Some universities require first year students to live in dormitories on campus.  Other’s allow students to live off campus.  Which policy to you think is better for first year students and why? Include details and examples in your answer.”

The last 4 questions are called Integrated Tasks and involve using more than one skill – reading, writing and speaking for example.  In some cases you can read the question first, then listen to it, prepare your answer and then speak.  Other times you’ll listen first, prepare and then answer.  After listening and reading the test-taker is given a short time to prepare a response, about 30seconds, and then must proceed with answering as requested.  Usually the response time is 60 seconds.

A sample Integrated Task question is “For thousands of years humans have been able to domesticate, or tame, many large mammals that live in the wild together in herds.  Once tamed, these mammals are used for agricultural work and transportation.  Yet some herd mammals are not easily domesticated.  A good indicator of a mammal’s suitability for domestication is how protective the animal is of it’s territory.  Non-territorial mammals are more easily domesticated than territorial mammals because they can live close together with animals from other herds.  A second indicator is that animals have a hierarchical social structure, in which herd members follow a leader, are easy to domesticate , since a human can function as a ‘leader.’ ”  <THEN YOU WOULD LISTEN TO A SHORT 1-2 minute LECTURE BEFORE GETTING A QUESTION…> “The professor describes the behavior of horses and antelopes in herds.  Explain how their behaviour is related to their suitability for domestication.”

 

Now, if you’re thinking that seems difficult – you’re not alone.  The TOEFL test can be one of the most important tests of your life, your score determining whether or not you can be accepted into the overseas school  or company of your choice.  Never fear!  Jennifer Teacher is here!  If you’re ready to start preparing seriously for your test, contact me.

Learning to speak like an English Canadian

20 Jul

Hello, eh!  Native English speaking Canadians may have the best pronunciation amongst ESL Teachers worldwide.  Whether or not you agree, Canadians do have a crisp, clear way of speaking and can often be good listeners, a skill ever so important in conversation.

So how does an aspiring student of English learn to speak like a Canadian?

  1. Seek out a Canadian conversation tutor who you can spend time talking with, picking up their style of speech, idiomatic expressions and pronunciation.
  2. Listen to CBC Radio Podcasts on your mp3 player when walking through town or riding the bus.  Try to imitate how they’re speaking.  They have quite a selection of available podcasts, but the Radio 1 is my favourite.
  3. Watch Canadian films and TV programs – yes, we make movies and TV shows, too.
  4. Find a pen pal that you can have Skype conversations with!  If you’re interested in this opportunity, please let me know.
If you have experience with Canadian ESL teachers, tutors or friends – please leave a comment below and tell us what you think of their English!
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