Liven Up Your English Learning

When I was at university, I learned something interesting from my friend on how to study Japanese in a fun way. We can do the same thing to help us learn English. Before the exam of course we needed to study hard so we didn’t fail. I really studied hard for my grammar exam and one of my friend didn’t. Almost everyday he played Japanese games on his playstation and watched anime (Japanese cartoon). At the end no one failed but his result was better than mine. In my mind I wondered if he had cheated. He didn’t, afterwards he told me about the games he played in Japanese.

Find out ways to make your English learning fun. Start with your hobbies, if you love to reading try to read in English or you like to cook find the recipes in English. Have fun guys ….

Giri

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5 Ways to Increase Your Vocabulary

1. Use a thesaurus

When you learn a new word, look it up in a thesaurus as well as a dictionary. That way, you will find out the synonyms of the word. Maybe you will know some of them already, maybe there will be some words you haven’t heard of before. Either way, it will help your understanding of the word, and give you some new words too.

2. Write down new words

Carry a notebook, or use your phone, to write down new words when you discover them – probably a tip you have heard before, but definitely a useful one.

3. Set daily targets

Try to learn 3 new words a day – some people recommend 5, but we think 3 is the magic number. 3 words are easier for you to remember, and more manageable. Carry the words with you in your pocket or wallet, so they are easily accessed and you can look at them wherever you are.

4. Use images

After you have discovered the meaning of a new word, try to find some images of it, so that you can associate a picture with the word. Google Images is great for this.

5. Create mind maps

Take a central theme, such as Time, and list down all the words, phrases and idioms you associate with it, such as ‘clocks’, ‘minutes’, ‘on-time’, ‘time flies when you’re having fun’. This will help you to create links between words and categorise your vocabulary.

Great Blog for English Learners

While searching the internet this afternoon, I found this blog, which has lots of useful articles for English learners. Look through the content – I’m sure you’ll find something you like!

http://www.engspeak.net/

Quick Tip – Be Selective with your English Learning

Are you trying to learn English for a specific purpose? If your answer is yes, then be selective with your resources. Are you studying for business? Read business blogs or papers. Do you need English for academic reasons? Read articles, or listen to podcasts on your chosen subject. iTunes has some great podcasts, and it also has a feature called iTunes U, which is full of lectures from top universities. Maybe you just want English for socialising. You can listen to some British radio stations online. Read magazines. Focus on the more informal English.

Don’t waste your time learning things you don’t immediately want. Of course, if you want to be fluent then you need to learn all types of English, for many purposes, but this technique will have you communicating faster.

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Quick Tip – English Listening (and Repeating)

When I studied Japanese Literature at university, one of my favorite classes was Kaiwa class with Morita Sensei. Kaiwa means conversation in Japanese. Morita Sensei was very kind, she always motivated us, the way she taught made it easy to understand, and there was no homework. I think it’s easy to understand why I liked this class!

She always brought something important into class for us – a tape recorder and speakers. In the class we needed to listen to new vocabulary and conversation, and after that we had to repeat again what was in the audio. Why did we need to listen and repeat? Because it helped us to know how to pronounce correctly, made us understand the main idea from the conversation, and built our confidence when speaking Japanese.

I think it’s same when we learn English – we need to listen and repeat, it will help you to improve your English. Find an English audio about something that interests you, and try to listen carefully and repeat.

Giri

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Quick Tip – English-Only Dictionaries

Ready to give yourself a new English challenge? Stop using bilingual dictionaries (dictionaries that translate a word from English to your language), and start using an English-only dictionary. You’ll be testing your knowledge and understanding, which will help you more than just seeing the translation.

Reading English Doesn’t Have To Be Confusing

When you read something in English, do you try to understand every word? By doing this, you limit your general understanding of the actual reading. You don’t get any real idea of what the article is about – you end up with a mixed-up definition of many words in your head.

Instead, read through the text without stopping. Ask yourself, ‘What is this text about?’ Read through it again, highlighting the words or phrases you don’t understand. After reading for the second time, look at the words you highlighted, and try to guess the meaning from the context (the words around it, the subject of the sentence, or the paragraph, or even the whole text). Only check in a dictionary for the correct meaning after you have done this.

When you take learning into your own hands, rather than a dictionary, you will feel much more rewarded! Plus, it will help you to remember. Dictionaries don’t have brains.

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Past Simple or Present Perfect? Let Sinatra and U2 Help You Out

Today we’re going to look at past simple, and how it compares to present perfect. The present perfect has several different uses, so we’re just going to look at one. These two tenses are often confused, so we’re going to use two great songs to help us and make it more interesting!

Firstly, let’s look at past simple. We use this for actions that happened in the past, in a finished period of time, such as yesterday, last year, 2002. Here is Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘My Way’. Almost all of it is in the past simple. Just listen to the lyrics, look up any words you don’t know.

 

Let’s look at a few of the lyrics in past simple –

‘I did it my way’.

‘I planned each chartered course’.

‘I bit off more than I could chew’.

Why does Sinatra use past simple? We assume from the song that the singer is looking back at his life, which is almost over, he can’t live it the same way that he was. His life is at an end.

Now, let’s look at present perfect. One of it’s uses is for experiences that happened in a time that isn’t finished yet, like today, this week, this year. This time, listen to U2’s song, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’. Almost all of it is in the present perfect.

 

Check out some of the lyrics –

‘I have climbed the highest mountains’.

‘I have run’.

‘I have scaled these city walls’.

Why do U2 use the present perfect? Bono is telling us about experiences in his life which is not over yet. And the clue is in the name of the song – he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. He’s still searching, he hasn’t finished.

Let’s look at this another way.

‘I have been to Singapore’. I use present perfect to talk about an experience in my life. I can also say, ‘I went to Singapore’, but then we focus more on the past, not the experience.

Can we say Michael Jackson has been to Singapore?

No

Why not?

Because, sadly, his life is over, that time period has finished. Instead we say, ‘Michael Jackson went to Singapore’.

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Improve Your English Listening – Two Tips To Try Now

Hello darlings!

Today we’re gonna talk about listening, and there’s two tips to help you improve. Whoopee!

Listening is sometimes seen as a skill that’s not as important as some of the others, especially speaking. While speaking is an important skill, let’s not underestimate the power of being able to listen well. Listening is how we gain friends, how we learn at school, how we find out about news. Business people know how important it is to listen to customers, politicians must listen to the people, doctors have to listen to their patients. Life is made up of listening. Without listening, it’s hard to speak.

So how is listening different from hearing? We’ve all been in a really boring lecture or lesson, the type where you can feel yourself getting sleepier and sleepier, you doodle on your paper, and you think about your lunch. We hear the teacher talking, but the information literally enters our heads and then floats out again within seconds. We can’t really remember the details of what was said. That’s hearing. We hear the words, but we’re not listening.

Listening is what you do for your friends when they have a problem. They explain what is wrong, you understand, and you offer them solutions. What they said entered your head, and was processed by your brain. You concentrated. You thought about how to help them. You went a step further than hearing, and focused, analyzing the information. It’s an active skill, whereas hearing is passive.

So, how can you improve your English listening skills? It can be difficult to focus, especially when the audio or the speaker is too fast for you.

Firstly, we advise you to approach listening activities differently. When you do a listening exercise with comprehension questions on your own, try using two steps, with two different listening skills. Close your book, don’t look at the questions, and play the audio. Just listen. When the audio is finished, go over everything you remember in your head, or write it down. Then listen again, this time, looking at your questions. Listen for the specific information. You’ll be surprised at how much you understand, and how much easier it is for you to answer the questions. Your overall understanding will have improved. If you approach listening exercises by just listening for specific information, you are missing out on a chance to improve your listening skills fast.

Secondly, if you’re listening to a native speaker of English, and it’s impossible to pause and rewind, ask yourself what the subject, or the topic of conversation is. Don’t confuse yourself by trying to understand every word, or you’ll get left behind. It will be hard at first, but you’ll find you are concentrating less, and therefore able to join the conversation more.

We hope this helps you to improve your listening skills!

Corinne

Don’t be Afraid To Make Mistakes

Hello darlings!

Here is some lovely advice from Giri, about making mistakes (which he does a lot!).

Based on my experience, many people are good at writing in English, and their grammar is good too, but they are not confident when talking in English. They are afraid to make a mistake when they talk and some of them become very shy. As English learners we will make mistakes, that is a guarantee, nobody is perfect. Don’t feel down when you make a mistake and someone corrects you. It’s good if someone corrects you, because then you will not make the same mistake again. I still make mistakes and Corinne always corrects me; for the first time I felt stupid, but I needed to be positive, because my mistakes made my English better. You need someone to correct you in a positive way, you need feedback, you need others.

Giri

How To Improve Your English Speaking NOW

Hello darlings!

Good news! Throw your text books out of the window, because you’re not gonna need them for any of our 6 great tips to help you improve your English speaking very quicky!

1. Think in English

Don’t create extra work for yourself by thinking in your own language first, then translating into English to speak. Next time you need to speak English, think in English. In no time at all, you will find thinking and speaking in English much easier.

2. Watch lots of movies

How great is that? Not just any movies, though! they must be in English (well, duh…). You probably watch tons of Hollywood movies already, so next time you grab a blockbuster, stick the English subtitles on, not the subtitles in your own language. Sorry! It’s for your own good, as my mother would say… At first you will probably think it’s a right royal pain, but practice. You will hear people speaking English naturally, and be able to follow with the subtitles. If you put on the subtitles in your own language, it will make you lazy, because you’ll just read along. Make a note of any words or phrases that you like, that make you laugh, that you don’t know, or that you don’t understand. You can research them later, or hit pause and grab a dictionary. Your vocabulary will increase quickly, and speaking English will be easier, because you will have heard it more naturally. Simple! When you have practiced this a lot, and you feel more confident, you can try turning the subtitles off completely.  

3. Try to understand the ‘Bigger Picture’

When you listen to someone speaking English, do you try and understand every word they are saying? This can be sooooo confusing, and you WILL get left behind. When you finally understand, it’s too late! They’re talking about something else! Next time you’re in this situation, try and understand the ‘Bigger Picture’. What is the subject the person is talking about? How do they feel about it? Do they sound angry, sad, happy, excited, nervous? Listen to the sentences, rather than each word. Take small steps at first, and your understanding will increase. This is great if you want to improve at speaking English, because next time you’re part of a conversation in English, you will be able to keep up. You will be able to share and not get left behind, trying to work out what is being talked about.

4. Sing!

Another nice one! When do you listen to music? In the car? When you’re cleaning? When you’re getting ready to go out? Sing along to your favourites. When you do this, you are speaking English! It gives you great practice.  But don’t just sing the words, try and think about the subject of the song, the meaning of the lyrics. For songs you really like, you can go online and search for the lyrics. Highlight the lines you like, say them to yourself, write them down. What do they mean? How do they make you feel? What emotion do they describe? What tense are they in? What adjectives do they use? Add these words and phrases to your expanding vocabulary.

5. Practice with your friends.

Sometimes this is easier to say than to do. What if they don’t want to, or can’t? You can try simple ways to get your friends more involved in your English learning. Nearly everyone has a Facebook account now, and many people use Twitter, too. When you update your status, message your friends or post on your friends’ wall, do it in English! It will encourage then to find out what you are saying. Do many global bands or artists visit where you live to play live music? Invite your friends to go and watch – a really simple way to have fun and practice your English skills at the same time.

6. Use the internet

How long do you spend on the internet each day? Probably quite a long time. Use your time on the internet to practice your English skills. Search in English rather than your own language. You can use google.com rather than the google for your specific country, and then you can read the results in English, too. What do you do on the internet? Do you like to get updates about sport, read the news, or fill your brain with celebrity gossip? Use sites in English instead. Keep your notepad and a dictionary next to you so that you can write down or look up any words or phrases you like or don’t know, and try and use them next time you speak English.

That’s all for now, darlings!

Corinne