General English

Study Skills to Improve Your English

09 Sep 2018

Below we suggest some basic study skills to help you improve all aspects of your English.

Listening

  • listen for the general idea
  • listen for important details
  • listen for grammatical forms
  • listen to tapes or radio programs about your personal interests
  • check your progress with comprehension questions

Reading

  • read quickly for the general idea (skimming)
  • read silently without moving your mouth
  • read carefully for important details
  • notice word order and grammatical patterns while reading
  • find the most important words and highlight only these words
  • read about your personal interests in English
  • check your progress with comprehension questions

Vocabulary

  • repeat new words by speaking and writing
  • gesture while repeating a new action verb
  • list new words by topic
  • read dictionary entries thoughtfully
  • check dictionaries for all the meanings of a word
  • check other similar-sounding or similarly-spelled words
  • write hard-to-remember words on cards
  • sort vocabulary cards into topics
  • sort vocabulary cards alphabetically
  • sort vocabulary cards by how well you know the words
  • think about ways you can use a new word in your life
  • make an example sentence to use a new word
  • speak or write your new words in real communication
  • chart words by meanings – with similar and opposite meanings
  • cut apart long compound words and identify prefixes, roots and suffixes
  • study variant forms of prefixes, roots and suffixes

Pronunciation

  • test your hearing of similar but distinct English sounds
  • use a mirror to see if your tongue and lips are in the correct position
  • repeat difficult phrases to exercise your mouth muscles
  • copy English speech rhythm with a drum or nonsense syllables
  • check your progress by dictation to a native speaker

Grammar

  • compare the charts and explanations of one grammar point in different books
  • compare English word order and grammar forms with your language
  • use computer grammar practice for quick feedback
  • listen for grammar
  • practice grammar in speaking
  • check progress with grammar tests

Speaking

  • rehearse model recorded conversations
  • relax to develop fluency
  • meet people who use English for conversation
  • use English at certain times with friends or family members
  • arrange a conversation practice group
  • give a little speech about something of personal importance

Writing

  • study spelling rules
  • learn cursive writing or italic calligraphy
  • write your personal story in English
  • write letters to a pen pal
  • write a letter to a newspaper or politician
  • write stories and practice irregular past tense forms
  • write a report after reading something interesting
  • translate something from your language then compare your English with a native speaker's translation to study word order and communication style.
 

Differences Between British and American English

13 May 2018

While there are certainly many more varieties of English, American and British English are the two varieties that are taught in most English Foreign Language (EFL) lessons. Generally, it is agreed that no one version is "correct" however, there are certainly preferences in use.

Here are just a couple of differences between the two main varieties of English:

Consistency of Spelling

The most important rule is to try to be consistent in your usage. If you decide that you want to use American English spellings then be consistent in your spelling. For example:

The color of the orange is also its flavour.

Color is American spelling and flavour is British. Here are the sentences with consistent British and American spellings:

The colour of the orange is also its flavour.
The color of the orange is also its flavor.

Use of the Present Perfect

In British English the present perfect is used to express an action that has occurred in the recent past that has an effect on the present moment. For example:

I've lost my key. Can you help me look for it?

In American English the following is also possible:

I lost my key. Can you help me look for it?

In British English the above would be considered incorrect. However, both forms are generally accepted in standard American English. Other differences involving the use of the present perfect in British English and simple past in American English include already, just and yet.

British English:

I've just had lunch.
I've already seen that proposal.
Have you finished that report yet?

American English:

I just had lunch. OR I've just had lunch.
I already saw that proposal. OR I've already seen that proposal.
Did your finish that report yet? OR Have you finished that report yet?
 

Becoming a Better Language Learner

08 Apr 2018

So, you want to improve your English? At your age and level of language learning, there are some things you can't change. For example, you can't change:

  • the language learning ability that you were born with;
  • your ability to tell the difference between different sounds and your ability to make sounds;
  • your ability to remember words and phrases.

However, there are many things you CAN do, and the first and most important thing is to try to change your attitudes about using and speaking English. For example, you can try:

  • not to be embarrassed about making mistakes;
  • to be more outgoing and make more effort to socialise with other people;;
  • to ask questions when you do not understand something;
  • to greet your English speaking colleagues rather than crossing the room or corridor to avoid them;
  • to get into the habit of asking other bilingual speakers the question, "How do you say __________ in English?" or 'What does ___________ mean?";
  • to make opportunities to practice your English (and not just wait for them to come along or expect others to make them for you);
  • to commend yourself for every extra effort you make to use your English;
  • to have fun with your English instead of just studying and worrying about it;
  • to stop saying either to yourself or others, "Oh dear, my English is poor. It will never improve!" It will improve, but only if you use it!

In your efforts to improve your English, it may be helpful for you to understand what the differences are between the Not-So-Good Language Learner and the Good Language Learner.

The Not-So-Good Language Learner:

  1. Doesn't try to say anything he or she doesn't know how to say;
  2. Avoids making mistakes so as not to appear foolish;
  3. Pays little attention to language form, and fails to note language patterns;
  4. Pays little attention to his or her own speech or the speech of others;
  5. Relies too much on grammar;
  6. Doesn't try to guess at meanings;
  7. Doesn't practice.

The Good Language Learner:

  1. Tries hard to communicate, to get his or her message across;
  2. Is willing to make mistakes, even to appear foolish;
  3. Pays attention to language form and looks for patterns in the language;
  4. Monitors his or her own speech and the speech of others, checking for mistakes and deviations from intended meaning;
  5. Pays attention to meaning, knowing that grammar and the surface forms of speech are not in themselves enough to understand the message;
  6. Is willing to make guesses;
  7. Practices.
 

Choosing a Dictionary

18 Jun 2017

Dictionaries differ greatly in purpose, size, and price; and choosing one is a very personal decision. The best advice is to make a note of the things you and your family look up in a dictionary over a few weeks’ time, and then choose one at a good book shop. Here are a few things to look for in making your selection.

Monolingual or Bilingual?

Most teachers and educators agree that very few bilingual dictionaries get close in the quality of information to that found in learners’ monolingual dictionaries produced by publishers such as Longman, Cambridge, Collins or Oxford. Although learners may find bilingual dictionaries easier to use, in the long run the use of monolingual dictionaries is far more beneficial to learners.

Size

Big dictionaries are expensive and take a lot of room in your office or home. They are also difficult for children to use because they are bulky, and it takes longer to look something up. An full-sized dictionary on the coffee table might impress your friends, but unless you use a dictionary on a daily basis, it probably is not a good buy.

Pronunciation Guide

Many people use a dictionary to help them pronounce new words.

The pronunciation guide should be complete but not contain a lot of unfamiliar symbols that require continual cross-checking – especially with the vowels. The English vowel system is complex because we use one letter to spell many different sounds. For example, the letter A has three different sounds in the words at, age, and art. The job for the dictionary makers is to find three common symbols to represent the different pronunciations.

Examples

Sample sentences showing common uses of words are very helpful, both in clarifying the meaning and helping the reader remember the word. The words in the sentences should not be any more difficult than the target word, however, or the reader is sent off on a frustrating chase through the dictionary. In the words of technology, “A good dictionary should be user-friendly.”

Usage Notes

Many dictionaries comment on the usage of words in different types of situations. Many of the old dictionaries contained only the standard accepted usages. The dictionaries do comment on the usage – non-standard, colloquial and regional are some of the terms used to let readers make their own decisions as to whether they want to use the term.

One final comment – forms of speech change much more quickly than written forms; and many spoken items never make it to the written language (slang, for example). For this reason, you will need to buy several dictionaries during your reading life. Find one that you like, and consider its new editions when it’s time for a new one.

 

General Tips to Improve your English

16 Aug 2015

Techniques

1) Some people like to learn by studying English grammar and then using it in sentences. Other people like to learn by listening to spoken English and then repeating it the best way they can. Actually, the best way to learn is to use both of these techniques together.

New Words

2) When you learn a new word, write it down in your notebook. Write the definition in English, not in your own language. Below the meaning, write down the sentence or phrase where you found the word.

3) Many verbs, nouns and adjectives are used with certain prepositions. For example: afraid + of or apply + for. Make sure that you learn the words together with their prepositions.

4) Out of the four skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening, the best way to learn new words is through reading.

Reading

5) Read the day's newspaper in your own language and then read one in English. This way, you already know the context and main ideas of the main stories. It will be easier for you to guess the meaning of new words.

6) Read graded readers. These provide excellent reading practice for elementary to advanced level learners.

7) Read something that you are interested in. If you like sports, read about sports. If you like fashion, read about fashion.

Writing

8) Find a penpal, the traditional way, or an epal from the Internet.

9) Try reading and leaving messages on an online message board.

Speaking

10) Speak as much and as often as you can in English. Don't worry too much about your grammar when you speak. It's ok to make mistakes.
 

How to Address Someone in English

17 May 2013

English learners often feel confused about how to address people properly. Many feel uncomfortable asking the question, "What should I call you?" Even native English people find this question awkward. For example, many women don't know how to address their boyfriend's mother. On the other hand, some parents don't know what to call their children's teacher.

Why is "What should I call you?" such a difficult question to ask? Perhaps it's because you are asking the other person to provide their status or position in the world in relationship to yours. This position may involve age, job, education, religion and even marital status.

Since English is a language, rather than a culture, it is difficult to teach English learners exactly how to address people. There will always be some people and some professions that require more formality than others. Addressing people in writing has different rules and formalities than in speaking.

Asking the Question

If you are unsure of what to call someone, it's best to use a formal address or simply ask one of these questions:

What should I call you?
What should I call your mother?
What should I call you manager?
Can I call you Richard
Is it okay if I call you Deano? [the nickname you've heard others use]
What's your name? (use in a casual situation like a party or classroom where first names are used)

Answering the Question

Please, call me Jane. [first name].
You can call me Wedgy. [nickname].
Call me Dan if you like. [short form]

 

Test

05 Dec 2011
test  
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