, ,

Learning English Online as a Beginner

English speaking sessions on Skype are an excellent way for people to practice their spoken English while improving their fluency, learning new vocabulary and fixing any grammar issues.  Sessions on Skype reinforce what you have already learned and give you active practice actually using the language.   But what if you don’t have any previous experience with English?  Can you learn English online as a beginner?

What is the difference between Learn and Practice?  

Learn {verb} : gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.

Practice {verb} : perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it.

First you must learn something and then you practice it to make it better.

Think of a young child learning their native language.  They are gaining all of that vocabulary from their parents, songs, stories… basically everything around them.  If you are a beginner, you are in the same situation.  Before you can speak, you have to learn the vocabulary and have it stored in your brain, ready to use.

Beginner English Sessions on Skype

The great thing about SkypEnglish4U sessions is that we totally focus on speaking and listening, no workbooks or exercises are done during our time together.   This can be a problem if your English level is not enough to carry on a simple conversation for at least 30 minutes.  I have worked with many ‘basic users’ in the past (see chart below), constructing sentences properly and speaking using basic structures.  Basic users can gain from speaking practice and advance on to the next level.  However, absolute beginners will not benefit from sessions on Skype because they do not have the foundation of English to construct sentences.

Beginner English

Suggestions for Beginner Students

Once you feel comfortable (even just a little) with speaking English, contact me for a 30 minute session.   As I mentioned, I have experience with ‘basic users’ so it will not be overwhelming or too much for you.  We will take it nice and slow.

Learning a language is not an easy task, but keep at it and you will feel great about your accomplishment!English for Beginners


, ,

“So” or “too”? Know the difference and why it matters!

One of the most common problems I hear with my students every day is the misuse of “so” or “too.” 

Wow, this is so much food!


Wow, this is too much food!

Do you know the difference?

Actually, changing that one adverb can make a neutral sentence a negative one. Let me explain 🙂


meaning: to such a great extent.

I drank so much coffee yesterday!
= I drank a lot of coffee yesterday!
= I drank a great amount of coffee yesterday!

She speaks so quickly.
= She speaks very quickly.
= She speaks at a quick speed.


meaning: more than is desirable, permissible, or possible; excessively.

I drank too much coffee yesterday!
= I drank more coffee than I should have yesterday!
= I drank an unnecessary amount of coffee yesterday.

She speaks too quickly.
= She speaks excessively fast; I can’t understand her.
= She speaks at a quick speed that isn’t understandable.

As you can see, using “so” in a sentence just emphasizes the extent of the adjective you are describing (I drank SO much coffee). But using “too” actually means that it is more than necessary (I drank TOO much coffee). What are some examples in your daily life when you use “so” and “too”?



, ,

Intonation and Speed of Speaking

Many people from different countries have improper intonation because their teacher had improper intonation. In many situations, being monotone is better than having bad intonation. The worst is when someone goes up and down too much on every word. Another thing you should avoid is to end high at the end of a sentence.

To correct improper intonation, you need to remember to start high and end low. You cannot do it any other way. I recommend going to the interview section and listening to one of the audio files provided by a native speaker. You will hear proper intonation. After listening to the audio, record yourself and listen to it. Does it sound the same? If not, then find the areas that are dissimilar and make the necessary corrections.

This advice is very trivial, but intonation is relatively easy to correct. You can fix your intonation with only a little effort. If you have a friend who is a native English speaker, you can usually fix intonation in a couple of lessons. Recording yourself and listening to yourself might be tedious, but having correct intonation can go a long way.

I have had many students who fixed their intonation after 2 small sessions. The advice I gave them was the same as the one above. This will work, and if you want to speak with proper intonation, please follow this advice.

Speed of speaking
A common mistake of people who obtain English fluency with improper pronunciation and intonation is the speed in which they speak. Because they do not have perfect pronunciation and intonation, it is difficult to understand people who speak too fast. This is the biggest problem I have seen from people who gain confidence in speaking.

In order to improve your communication, and to hear “excuse me” less often, it is important to have the correct speed of speaking. For people with confidence, my advice is to slow down and to speak clearly. Don’t blend words together too much and make sure to separate words with a small pause for words that are difficult to pronounce.

This and more helpful articles from http://www.talkenglish.com/


, ,

Much and Many

Much” and “many” are used so many times in English! It takes much effort to learn the difference between them. Students should spend a lot of time studying if they want to speak fluent English.

There are many great websites that help with this subject. Here are some resources that you can use to learn more:



And here is a quiz for practice.

Do you feel confident with using “much” and “many?” Try to describe the following words using either “much” or “many” for practice:

_______ cars
_______ books
_______ rain
_______ snow
_______ love
_______ coffee
_______ people
_______ groups
_______ time
_______ English!

How did you do? If you are still having trouble, try the websites to learn more. I wish you much luck and many good answers!

, , ,

ADVERB placement

Student: Why is the first one correct and not the second?

The kids work well at school.
The kids work at school well.

Teacher:  The first one is correct because there is a ‘rule of order’ of words in a sentence.  Basic English sentences, until you are at an advanced level of English, is: Subject, Verb, Object.
Then, we usually, put the modifying adjectives, before the noun they are talking about.  The kids (subject)   Or the smart (adjective) kids… AND THE ADVERB comes after the verb…work well….we put the adverb right after the verb to avoid misunderstanding as to which word the adverb is modifying.

Here’s another example…
The dog barked loudly at the postman.
If you move ‘loudly’ to the end of the sentence, you are actually putting the most emphasis on the fact that the dog barked at the postman.  By putting ‘loudly’ at the end…it is almost as if you were saying something as an ‘afterthought.’  When in fact, what you really want to say, is that the dog BARKED LOUDLY…not just barked…so the location of the adverb gives more emphasis.


, ,

Common Phrases

Student: I realize I should learn by heart a set of template common phrases for everyday situations. So I can build my arguments or story around them, use them. Maybe that way to speed my speech flow.

Teacher: It is a good idea to be comfortable using common phrases.  I would not recommend just memorizing them.   You need to be able to use them on the spot, in any random conversation.      Play around with these useful expressions

I believe that learning phrases is more effective than just single vocabulary words.  So many words can be used differently – especially when dealing with prepositions and everyone’s favorite, phrasal verbs!    Just going over that list (or any other list of common phrases) will make you aware of them and you will notice them when you are watching TV shows or reading articles (everyday!)

on the spot:  immediately


, ,

I don’t know where to start for a job interview

Student: I don’t know where to start for a job interview in America because the system I use is only Russian.

Teacher:  Get comfortable with the terms in English so you can easily explain what you do in English.  This is going to require a lot of reading, both about the system itself  (in this case: 1C: Enterprise 8 )  and then general IT interview questions.

Interviews require a lot of research.   You need to know exactly what they are looking for and explain how you fit their needs.  You also need to know about the company and their practices.  In the IT industry the required skill set may be the same, but how the companies operate vary from one to the next.   You need to find out how they operate and make sure that your answers fit with how they do things.


, , ,



udent:   I can't understand it. What's the grammar rule ?

Screen shot 2013-04-17 at 12.31.23 PM

Teacher:  You are treating these words as verbs, but they are adjectives in these sentences.  They are describing the feelings of the subject.    A few simple examples:  I am annoyed.  She is excited to go on vacation.  The dog was tired.  Marathons are exhausting.

Think of emoticons (from skype) when you are trying to decide if a word is an adjective…  neutral I am bored.  

Here is a 'text book' explanation from http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/adjectives.htm

Adjectives that are really Participles, verb forms with -ing and -ed endings, can be troublesome for some students. It is one thing to be a frightened child; it is an altogether different matter to be a frightening child. Do you want to go up to your professor after class and say that you are confused or that you are confusing? Generally, the -ed ending means that the noun so described (“you”) has apassive relationship with something — something (the subject matter, the presentation) has bewildered you and you are confused. The -ing ending means that the noun described has a more active role — you are not making any sense so you are confusing (to others, including your professor).

The -ed ending modifiers are often accompanied by prepositions (these are not the only choices):

  • We were amazed at all the circus animals.
  • We were amused by the clowns.
  • We were annoyed by the elephants.
  • We were bored by the ringmaster.
  • We were confused by the noise.
  • We were disappointed by the motorcycle daredevils.
  • We were disappointed in their performance.
  • We were embarrassed by my brother.
  • We were exhausted from all the excitement.
  • We were excited by the lion-tamer.
  • We were excited about the high-wire act, too.
  • We were frightened by the lions.
  • We were introduced to the ringmaster.
  • We were interested in the tent.
  • We were irritated by the heat.
  • We were opposed to leaving early.
  • We were satisfied with the circus.
  • We were shocked at the level of noise under the big tent.
  • We were surprised by the fans' response.
  • We were surprised at their indifference.
  • We were tired of all the lights after a while.
  • We were worried about the traffic leaving the parking lot.

Do you have any questions?  Please!  Feel free to contact me with them


, , ,

Sentence starters, transitional and other useful words

Student: I’ve noticed I use the same speech patterns every lesson. I mean some of sentence structures like “it depends…”, “I think/suppose/guess …”, and etc. Does exist some common speech patterns helping to speak? 

Teacher: The fact that you notice it yourself means that you are conscious of it and going to be looking for other options 😉 Listen to others and how they start their sentences. Sitcoms are a good tool to observe “natural” speech patterns. Podcasts and interviews about topics you are interested in will be helpful as well. For natural speak- stay away from stuffy news programs or topics that don’t interest you.

Here are about 10,000 examples to get you started  >  http://www2.eit.ac.nz/library/ls_guides_sentencestarters.html

Do you have any questions?  Please!  Feel free to contact me with them