Sometimes, my students make me laugh.
Not long ago, I was teaching a TOEFL preparation class, and I asked my students to listen to a lecture and take notes.
I pressed PLAY on the CD player…and immediately they all began writing so quickly, I couldn’t see their hands! Their pens moved so fast, they began fanning the room!
I stopped the activity. “No! No! No!” I cried. “Don’t try to write down EVERY word!” They all looked up, confused.
Then I told them what I am going to tell you now:
The key to good note-taking isn’t writing MORE notes, it’s writing more EFFECTIVE notes.
Why do you read in English? Do you do it for pleasure? For work? Or do you read because you need to answer a question – from your teacher or on an English test? For many students, this last reason is most common.
People use different reading skills for different situations. For example, if you’re bored and looking through a magazine, you’re going to read differently than if you’re trying to answer questions on the IELTS.
In this post, we’re going to look at the kind of reading you do when you’re taking a test, such as IELTS or TOEFL. Understanding the kinds of questions you’re going to be asked will help you understand the strategies you need to answer them.
To put it another way, knowing why you’re reading can help you understand how to read.
When we talk, we want people to understand what we are saying. So pronunciation is VERY important.
Listen to this conversation between a Vietnamese person and an American:
What happened? The American could not understand the Vietnamese speaker because her pronunciation was unclear.
In my experience, both as a language learner and a language teacher, there are a LOT of pronunciation differences between English and Vietnamese. But some problems are more serious than others. A pronunciation problem becomes serious when it interferes with communication.
There are TWO common problems Vietnamese speakers have that I believe are very serious. If you consistently make these errors, people will not understand you.
- Final consonants
- Word stress
Why do people have TWO ears, but only ONE mouth? Because listening is twice as hard as speaking!
Understanding spoken English can be difficult, especially if the speaker is talking very fast. Problems include:
- Feeling frustrated because you do not understand every word
- Only understanding people when they speak slowly
- Finding it hard to keep up with all the information
- Getting tired during long listening
Like all skills, listening takes practice. The following SIX tips will help you improve your listening skills.
I spend most of my work days helping students try to get abroad to university though the International Foundation Year (IFY) Programme at Language Link. Something I’ve noticed from the students I encounter is their lack of awareness of world news.
To help them with this, I implemented a current events summary assignment. Each week students have to do the following:
- Find an article that interests them (politics, sports, fashion)
- Condense (summarise) the article into 150-200 words
- Submit it to me for lexical and grammatical feedback
The real purpose of the assignment was to create general awareness in this ever-expanding global world. If you’re going to study abroad, you need to understand the world you live in.
Listening is supposed to be easy, isn’t it? Actually, it’s not. Hearing’s easy; listening is waaaayyyyy more difficult.
First off, it’s exhausting! Until you are an advanced student – and sometimes not even then – the effort to listen can be very tiring. You have to concentrate very hard. After awhile, it becomes easy to shut off your mind. And this is not useful…or polite to the person who’s talking.
Fear not! You can train yourself to listen more productively. You can learn to focus.
Many students believe that studying grammar is the best way to learn English. I disagree! Grammar helps you pass tests, and at some level it may help you understand the language. But if you want to learn English, studying grammar is not the best way.
Why is this? Language is for communication. It is not a collection of rules. When you study grammar, you avoid communicating with another person, and this is why some people may know all the rules of a language…but still cannot speak it.
Bad Reasons for Studying Grammar
I believe the main reasons people study grammar have nothing to do with learning:
Writing is not easy. It takes study and practice to develop the skill. For both native and non-native English speakers, writing is a process. A piece of writing is never “complete.” It is always possible to improve it.
Whether you are writing an academic paper, business letter, or blog post, it may help you to break the writing process into five steps: