Ugh, grammar. Does anybody like grammar? I sure don’t. However, if you want to learn English properly, you can’t ignore the basics. And grammar is a BIG basic!
This is the first article in what we hope will be a series of monthly posts on grammar. We’re going to take one grammatical headache each month and shed a little light on how you can make it work.
One of the key points about English is that for every verb we use, for every action we describe, we need to be clear about WHEN it happens. English language learners often say things like:
I go Lenin Park.
This drives listeners crazy. WHEN DOES THE ACTION OCCUR? Did you go in the past? Do you go every week? Are you planning to go next weekend? You must make the time clear: is it past, present, or future? Your listener NEEDS to know.
Consider the following learning situations, and decide which one YOU would prefer:
- You record a university professor giving a lecture. Later, you listen to the lecture again at home.
- Your teacher draws a lot of words and diagrams on the white board. You copy those words and diagrams in your notebook.
- Your teacher asks you to work on the computer. He doesn’t give you a lot of explanation; he lets you figure things out on your own, but is willing to answer questions.
All three examples represent good teaching and studying techniques, but if you prefer one situation over the others, it may tell you something about your learning style.
What is a learning style? Your learning style is how you, personally, like to learn. By understanding your learning style, you can find study strategies that will help you learn best.
During my first year at university in the United States, I had to:
- Read about 1,000 pages per week
- Participate in class seminars (discussions) nearly every day
- Write one 3-5 page paper every two weeks
- Write a 15-20 page independent research paper twice per semester
- Give a large, public presentation with a group of students
I did not take a single test my entire first year. I was judged entirely on my written and spoken work. My question for students who are planning to study abroad:
Are you ready for this?
The fact is, many Vietnamese students struggle during their first year in foreign universities. Why? Because even though they scored 7.0 or above on the IELTS, they have not prepared themselves with the foundation they need to succeed in a foreign academic environment.
I’m certain you’ve heard of the BBC: the British Broadcasting Corporation. It’s the largest broadcaster in the world, providing TV, radio, and online services to thousands of households in the UK and beyond. But did you know that the BBC has been helping people learn English since 1943?
The BBC launched its Learning English website in 1996, and it currently has 1.5 million registered users. The site features print, audio, and video materials, along with downloadable lessons and worksheets. Content is based on real news events and stories, and updated daily by English experts in the UK. Some material is designed for teachers, but most is designed for students. And it’s all free!
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.
Learning a new language can be an emotional experience. I know, because I have been learning Vietnamese for three years, and I still get frustrated when I have problems. I think:
Why can’t I say this better? Why do I make so many mistakes?
When I have problems communicating, I sometimes feel like I’m stupid. Do you ever feel this way too?
It’s easy to get excited when you start learning a new language. Everything is new! You’re constantly learning new words and expressions, and when you say a simple sentence, it makes you so happy!
But after awhile, this begins to change. You think: In my language, I’m so smart! Why don’t I sound like this in English? You’re no longer happy saying simple things. You want to express your personality – and you get frustrated that you’re unable to do it.
Here’s the thing to remember: these feelings are normal. Everybody feels this way sometimes – but you don’t need to feel that way all the time! Here are some things you can do to build your confidence while you continue learning English.
How Do We Learn Things?
We learn from parents, uncles, aunts, grand-parents, friends, and strangers. We learn from books, films, and surfing the ‘net. We learn by chatting, listening, reading, watching, and even dreaming. Even our pets teach us things – about them and about ourselves.
In fact, the whole world is a teacher to us: the mountains, the weather, the stars.
Our parents teach us because they love us – and it is what our friends do because they love us too.