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Rules for Natural English Speaking

While speaking English may seem easy from afar, it is will be important for you to incorporate a strong set of rules in order to be a successful and natural sounding English speaker.

Whether you are traveling to Britain, America, or any other English speaking country, you will want to prepare yourself to mesh with citizens of that nation. Pay close attention to the following set of rules in order to help yourself gain comfort and speak the best English you can!

  1. Don’t focus on grammar! —We know—grammar is important! Your teachers and tutors have likely been beating this into your head for years. While learning grammar is key when you want to pass tests, this isn’t usually the case in normal conversation. Truth be told, more foreign English speaker are aware of English grammar principles than native speakers! So, don’t sweat the small stuff. Worry more about what you’ll say to make new friends, get around town, and communicate with people around you.
  1. Educate yourself on key phrases. —As previously mentioned, you’ll have basic needs that will have to be met whenever you arrive in an English speaking country. You’ll need to have food and shelter. If you don’t know how to say anything else, you must be able to communicate well enough to meet those needs. As you go on through your studies, seek to memorize key phrases like “I would like to order a hamburger” or “I will be staying in the hotel for two nights.” Memorizing phrases like these will help you to be more confident in your ability to fend for yourself and make your transition to English speaking stress free.
  1. Use appropriate tools. —In the age of the internet, there is so much information available at the click of a button. Unfortunately, not all of this information will be helpful to you. As you choose the appropriate online course that will prepare you for your latest ventures, keep this in mind. Seek to learn from people who are native English speakers and can give you supplemental material that will beneficial for you.

Sounding and feeling like a native English speaker is no easy feat. It takes time, patience, and tons of practice. But, when you get the hang of it, you will surprise yourself, your closest friends and family, and even native English speakers you come into contact with.

Whatever your reasons for joining an English speaking environment, adhering to these three rules will help you to speak English naturally and fluently. With sessions with SkypEnglish4U, we will capitalize on these steps and include them in your everyday lesson plans. Each student is different and has different reasons for learning English.  We will work together to make sure those goals are being achieved with your practice on Skype.

Joining an online ESL course will get you on the fast track to being comfortable with your English skills. Join today and take advantage of this affordable experience!

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Free Interactive English Practice on Twitter

Practice your English for free everyday by using #SE4UChat on Twitter

I’m going to start using a new hashtag on Twitter that encourages student participation.  That means YOU!  I will use the tag #SE4UChat for any interactive tweets.  When you hit reply, make sure to use the same tag and I will always see it and respond.  Hopefully others will as well!

twitter

Using Twitter to Improve English

Twitter is a great place to practice your English.  In this article > English on Twitter, I list popular hashtags used by English teachers and students to communicate on Twitter.  Hashtags are a great way to find exactly what you are looking for.  If you are looking to chat, use #SE4UChat and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

Follow people and topics that interest you and read the links they share in English.  This will help you to expand your vocabulary and improve your grammar structure.

Get Interactive

In order to truly improve your English skills (or any language) you have to USE the language.  Produce it.  Construct sentences using the vocabulary and grammar that you have previously learned.  Only reading things isn’t going to get you to the next level, you must get involved with using the language.

Make Mistakes

Making mistakes is all part of the learning process.  Nobody likes to make mistakes, but you just have to try! Reply to one of my tweets and if your sentence isn’t correct, I will correct it and then you will have learned from your mistake.  If you don’t try, you’ll never know if you are ‘doing it right’.  This is a very common mistake for language learners, they don’t try because they are embarrassed and therefore, never progress.

It’s FREE

There is no cost involved when you are practicing on Twitter or other social media platforms.  Take advantage of the tweets I send out and use them to improve your English skills and accomplish your goals.

I hope to see you on Twitter soon!  My user name is SkypEnglish4U and you can also find me by using  #SE4UChat

 

 

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5 Ways to Keep Your New Year Resolution of “I Want To Improve My English”

Another year has passed and again we feel that sense of a new beginning.

That’s a good feeling right?  Whether you view it as a chance to start over or a chance to start something new, it’s a START either way.

A New Year’s resolution is a tradition, most common in the Western Hemisphere but also found in the Eastern Hemisphere, in which a person makes a promise to do an act of self-improvement or something slightly nice, such as opening doors for people beginning from New Year’s Day. (thanks Wikipedia!)

I have been teaching English online since 2010, so I’ve been through quite a few of these annual holiday seasons.   Every year, like clockwork, I get messages from many new students after the first of the year.  Is it a coincidence?  I don’t think so!

Popular New Year resolutions are things like losing weight or going to the gym.  New gym memberships skyrocket in the beginning of the year.  Learning a language requires a the same kind of commitment that it takes to go to gym on a regular basis or eat healthier.  They all take dedication and will-power.

The downside of New Year resolutions are that MANY of them don’t last.  We all have good intentions and want to improve ourselves, but we just can’t stick with the time requirements or for some reason or another, we just don’t follow through.

How to keep your New Year resolution of “I want to improve my English”

  1. Be specific with setting your goal.  Don’t just say, “I want to improve my English” and leave it at that.  Start with small goals and go from there.
  2. Find a support team.  People perform much better when they are accountable and responsible for something.  Tell your friends and family about your goal and ask them to check up on your progress and support you along the way.
  3. Recognize that there will be ups and downs.  It’s not all going to be easy, smooth sailing.  There will be days that you hate English and never want to do another grammar exercise again.  That’s fine.  Have a plan for how you will deal with the low points and get motivated again.
  4. Mix things up a bit.  You may get really tired of your Daily Routine.  If that happens, you can simply change it!  Amazing.  What a simple fix.  Message me and I’ll be happy to give you ideas of what you can do to improve your English.  (even if you are not a student, I am happy to help!)
  5. Be disciplined.  Keep track of your progress and hold yourself accountable.  Reward yourself when you reach milestones and keep going!

You are the captain of your destiny!  I can go on with inspirational quotes, but I am sure you get the idea.

New Year Resolution English

 

 

 

Like clockwork (idiom) at regular times
Coincidence (noun) a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected
Skyrocket (verb) to increase quickly to a very high level or amount

*practice using these words in the comments section and I will check them and give you feedback*

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IELTS Practice Sessions on Skype

I have helped many students successfully achieve the score they needed on the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exam.  

Students take the exam for different reasons.  Many of the students I have worked with needed it as part of their visa application process because they wanted to relocate to Canada or Australia.  The other large percentage of students were taking it as part of the entrance requirement for a university program which would be taught in English.  Some students were asked by international companies to take the exam so the company could see exactly what level of English they had.  Lastly, some students just take it for themselves.  They want a goal to work towards and decide to take an exam to push themselves and for some, force themselves to study because they know that exam is coming up.  

SkypEnglish4U IELTS Sessions

Many students purchase IELTS books and use the endless resources on the internet to help them prepare for the exam.  That is great, and I definitely recommend reading anything you can about the exam, but that method doesn’t include speaking practice.  You can read all about the speaking section, possible question topics and example answers, but that is all passive learning.  If you really want to be ready for the speaking portion of the exam, you need to actually practice speaking.  Speaking by yourself in the mirror is a great way to get comfortable for the speaking section, but the mirror doesn’t make corrections and give you feedback.  

During my IELTS practice sessions on Skype, speaking and writing are the two parts of the exam that are  most efficiently practiced online.  As with all of my sessions, the student decides our path and  what they want to focus on.  For example, some may only want to focus on IELTS speaking part 2, while others want to focus on improving their writing and then fill the remaining time with speaking practice.  Each student is different, so I make sure that they are getting exactly what they need.

IELTS on Skype

IELTS Speaking 

During the speaking portion of the exam, you will have a one-on-one discussion with a certified examiner. The examiner will follow the test format with the 3 different sections, but will adapt their questions based on your answers to be as close to a real-life situation as a test can get.  This is why reading about possible test questions is not enough.  You really have no idea what they may ask.  

During our sessions together we can simulate an exam using actual IELTS questions used in past exams.  Part 1 starts with the general questions and topics.  For part 2, I will time you and give you suggestions on how to use the time wisely.  Finally, we’ll practice the part 3 follow up/conversational questions.  While we go over the different topics, I will make notes in the Skype chat box with vocabulary and grammar corrections and suggestions for you to see as we are speaking and also to review later on.

The speaking section is usually the part that students get the lowest score on because they don’t have experience with actual speaking.  Speaking out loud in English about anything will help you with this exam.  Opening your mouth is the first step.  I have worked with students who have never spoken English before our first session, but studied every IELTS book out there.  On the exam day, that knowledge that you learned from the book is not going to come out of your mouth all by itself.  You must practice using what you have learned.  

IELTS Writing

Whether you are taking the General IELTS or Academic IELTS, both require two different types of writing activities.  If IELTS writing is something that you are interested in practicing, I will send you the topic before our session and you write it on your own time and then we review it together using Google Documents (if you can not access this in your country, there are other ways to do it).  

Over the years, I have really noticed quick improvement from many students from using this ‘reviewing/editing together’ process.  With Google Documents, we both see the edits and changes, so it is an active learning process.  If you just send someone your document and they correct it on their own, YOU are not a part of the reviewing process.  It is much better to be actively involved and be able to discuss the changes and ask questions.

Writing is an active process.  You are using your knowledge to create something.  Many students don’t practice this section of the exam enough.  They think that because they can read well and understand most things, that then they can write well.  Another common mistake that students make is to not practice writing with the time you are allowed during the test.  I suggest that students start to practice writing with no time limit and once they start to feel comfortable with the essay format, start to keep track of the time.    

IELTS is an exam which was designed to test your level of English.  Everything that you read, speak, write or hear in English is going to help you prepare for the IELTS exam.  

Be Prepared

Because the examiner is a human, there is no knowing what questions they are going to ask.  You need to be ready to speak about anything and everything (not just the practice questions from the IELTS prep books).    

Taking a test is stressful all on it’s own.  Taking a test in a foreign language takes it to a whole other level.  Put your mind at ease and invest some time in practicing for the exam with me online and feel more comfortable with your level when you walk into the exam.

 

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“I Want To Improve My English”

“I want to improve my English” is something I have heard thousands of times since I started teaching online.  My response, “Just do it”.

Learning a new language requires a lot of work and dedication.  It takes willpower to make the choice to spend time on improving the language instead of doing something else (that may be more fun).  Since I am an English teacher, I’m going to focus on that language, but this advice can be applied to learning any language and maybe even other areas of your life that you would like to make a change.

Are you ready for this?

It is very easy for us to say that we want to make a change, but actually doing it is another thing.  People often make statements that they want to do something and at the time they may have full intentions of doing so, but they haven’t really put thought into what the change means for them.

From my experience, the main obstacle for learning English is time.  It takes a lot of time to learn a new language and this is a long-term process, so it needs to be well thought out.  When students and I discuss their history with English, many tell me that they have learned ‘on and off’ for years.  I think people get discouraged along the way because of lack of focus or feelings of being overwhelmed by the time it takes.

Ask yourself, “Why do I want to improve my English?”  Personal motivation is key in a process such as this.  Be honest with yourself about the commitment and if you are really ready to do this.

Make a plan

You have decided to take this journey, so now what?  Set a goal.  Simply “I want to improve my English” is not what I am talking about.  In fact, set a few goals, milestones along the way that you want to reach.  I can help you with these based on your level.

As with diets or fitness equipment- you will see lots of advertisements for QUICK results and gimmicks like “Learn English FAST”.  I believe it is the same process as it is with living a healthy lifestyle, the change will not happen overnight.  There is no magic solution to improve your English fast.

For a beginner, the first goal could be to speak with a native speaker for 5 minutes.  Nothing crazy, just something that is beyond the point you are at now.  Perhaps it could be to send me a voice recording on Snapchat!  These goals need to be well thought out and written down.  Writing things down makes them real!  Get your Daily Routine together and remember to keep it interesting.

You also need to figure out how to hold yourself accountable.  What is going to keep you on track?  What will keep you focused on your goal?  I like the site Coach.Me which allows you to enter your goals and keep track of them.   Hopefully you will soon be able to see your results and that will keep you going!

English goals

Revisit the plan and reassess

After two weeks, take time aside to review your study patterns and English learning behavior.  Was your initial plan too much?  Are you not able to spend the time you thought?  Maybe you can spend more time on English than you originally thought.

Everybody is different.  You need to take your needs and your life into consideration during this process.  Your colleague may have used a program that worked great for him, but for you- it just doesn’t make sense.  That is OK!  It’s a flexible process with many variations.  On my twitter account, I am always sharing new sites and exercises to help people practice.  Find what works for you!

There are endless resources available to you.  Reach out to me, I spend time everyday on social media helping students to practice and answering questions they have.  At the end of the day, you just to JUST DO IT, take the first step and make the serious decision to once and for all, improve your English.

 

willpower (noun) the ability to control your thoughts and actions in order to achieve what you want to do 
milestone (noun) a significant stage or event in the development of something
gimmick (noun) a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade
hold accountable (phrase) to consider someone responsible for something
reassess (verb) to think again about something to decide if you need to change your opinion of it
once and for all (phrase) completely and finally
*practice using these words in the comments section and I will check them and give you feedback*

 

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What are the Differences: Speaking with a Professional Teacher on Skype, Language Exchange and Language Partners

Active Practice.  I am always talking about active practice and actively speaking and using English.  How can you do this online?

To actively practice you have to produce the language- mainly speaking in this case (writing is also great too!)  I’m an online English teacher, so speaking with me (or any other teacher) is an excellent way to get practice, but there are other options out there that you can do it for free.  Let’s have a look and compare the pros and cons of speaking with a professional teacher, doing language exchange and having language partners.

Sessions with a Professional Teacher

Pros

  • Native Speaker- Unless you are a beginner and need someone who can speak your language to explain things to you, you should be doing English sessions on Skype with an English native speaker so that you can hear their pronunciation and try to speak like that yourself.
  • Corrections- Professional teachers will identify your mistakes and correct you.
  • Pronunciation- Besides you hearing their pronunciation, they will listen to yours and make suggestions on how to improve it.
  • Knowledge- Professional teachers have certifications to teach English as a foreign language as well as knowledge gained through working with other students.  They know what works and what doesn’t based on previous experiences.  They can work with students of all levels.
  • Consistency– Speaking with the same teacher will help you to feel comfortable while speaking English and this leads to improvement and confidence.
  • Organization- There is a topic planned before each session and the teacher is there to make sure that you are getting the best experience possible during your time together.

Cons

  • Cost- Depending on where you live in the world, the price of native English speaking teachers may be out of your price range.

Language Exchange

Language exchange is when you find someone who wants to learn your language and you want to learn theirs.   Usually you split the time in half – half your language / half their language.

Pros

  • Cost- Language exchange is free!  You give some of your time to help someone and they do the same for you.
  • Flexible- There are web-sites that connect people who want to speak English at any time of day- like http://www.speaking24.com/
  • Camaraderie– You feel as an equal with your language exchange partner because you are both learners.
  • Pronunciation- If both people are native speakers, it is a great opportunity to pay attention to pronunciation and natural speech patterns.

Cons

  • No organization- a common complaint I have heard from students is that they don’t know what to talk about when they meet for language exchange.  Who is in charge of the conversation?
  • Lack of consistency- People come and go.  You may have a chat with someone one time and then they disappear, so then you have to search to find someone new and you repeat the same “where are you from” “what do you do?” basic conversation.
  • Lack of knowledge- Unless you get lucky and your language exchange friend is a teacher, you will most likely not be getting the type of corrections that you would from a professional teacher.  Even though they are a native speaker, they won’t have the experience in explaining grammatical structures and why you use a certain word in a certain situation.

Language Partners

Language partners are very similar to language exchange, but you are both learning the same language so you use your time together to speak in a common language.   It has some of the same pros and cons as language exchange, but the main difference is that usually neither of the partners is a native speaker of the language being used.

Pros

  • Cost- It’s free!  Just sign up for a site like https://www.interpals.net/ and start your partner search.
  • Friendship- You may meet someone who you get along with really well and share common interests with and a friendship can be formed from across the globe.
  • Practice- You get to speak.  Sometimes people just need to open their mouth and start speaking.

Cons

  • Non-native speakers- You may get lucky and find a native speaker who will just chat with you in their native language (without practicing yours), but generally people are looking to practice their spoken English, so the emphasis is on speaking and finding someone who will listen- no matter who they are.
  • Difference of level- Finding someone at your level may be difficult, especially the for intermediate and advanced speakers.  Often the partner sites are full of beginners and lower level students.
  • Lack of correction- If both people are learning, they may not have the knowledge of the language to identify each other’s mistakes and make corrections.
  • Lack of knowledge- Language partners are just normal everyday people, so they don’t have experience leading a class nor with explaining things.

 

Pros and Cons (plural noun) the favorable and the unfavorable factors or reasons; advantages and disadvantages 
consistency (noun) the ability to remain the same in behavior, attitudes, or qualities
camaraderie (noun) mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together
*practice using these words in the comments section and I will check them and give you feedback*

 

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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

 

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italki Instant Tutoring

Do you want to practice your English (or any other language) NOW?

Click here > Sign up to italki and once you are all logged in, you can find native speakers who are available to speak with you immediately, no scheduling in advance necessary.

You’ll see FIND A TEACHER on your top menu of your homepage.

italki instant tutor
There are different filters for you to select when searching for the right teacher.  The language you would like to practice is the first on you need to select and then there are some other optional filters such as where the teacher is originally from, what other languages the teacher speaks, price and tags (such as IELTS, TOEFL or business).

Another filter is Availability.  If you want to speak with someone NOW, click on Availability and select ‘Instant Tutoring Available Now’.

italki instant tutoring

You’ll see all of the teachers available at that time listed.  You can adjust the filters according to what you are looking for and then select the teacher for instant tutoring.  Perhaps you prefer to speak with someone from the UK who also speaks Spanish, you can enter that into the filter, but that particular combination may not be available at that exact time.  The instant tutor feature is something that teachers can turn on and off based on their schedule.

instant tutor

The request will be sent to the teacher and they have 10 minutes to accept it.

This feature is GREAT because it allows you to speak to a native speaker at your convenience.  So many of us have busy lives and scheduling in advance can be difficult.  Instant tutoring gives you the freedom to practice your speaking when YOU have time.

I’ve helped people prepare for job interviews, IELTS, TOEFL and even done some proof reading/editing while on ‘Instant Tutoring’.

Remember, the only way to improve your English is to use it, so go ahead, try it out!

 

 

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3 Effective Ways to Help Your Kids Learn English

Are your children learning English?  If so, that is great!  Kids can learn a language so much easier than adults.  As with any learner, the more they are exposed to English, the better. This post will go over 3 simple, yet effective ways, that you can help your child learn English.

3 Effective Methods for Kids to Learn English

1. Introduce English cartoons and videos into your kid’s routines

What is your child’s favorite cartoon?  Have you looked for it in English on YouTube?  I bet you will find it!  Kids get really excited when they see their favorite cartoon character speaking English.  They will think, “Wait!  Peppa Pig is Chinese like me… how can she speak English too!?”  You can play into this as much as you like.  Tell your child that Peppa learned English because all of the cool pigs are doing it!

On YouTube you can find full episodes as well as just short clips.  Start small.  If your child is a beginner, ease them into it with very simple clips designed for young children.   Put it on in the background, just so that they can hear the language around them.

YouTube can also be used to introduce grammar and vocabulary to your children.  I searched ‘Kids English Simple Past’ and it came up with 78,300 results!

Kids Learn English

2. Have your kids use English websites for games and interactive activities

Whether we like it or not, kids these days are all about the tablets, phones and computers.  Why not introduce some fun interactive English sites into the mix?

British Council has great sites for ESL (English as a second language) learners dedicated to kids and teens.

Learn English Kids – British Council 

Learn English Teens – British Council 

I also recommend sites that native English speaking kids use as well.

PBS Kids for younger learners

ISpy – Scholastic

The STACKS – Scholastic  for more advanced kids who are reading

I can not stress the importance of INTERACTIVE learning enough.  It is great for a kid to listen to videos in English, but playing educational games and doing interactive quizzes is the best thing for them.  When the kids are actually USING the language and producing it, that is when they are progressing.

3. Lead by Example

Show your kids that YOU enjoy using English.  I’ve done many sessions with kids of various ages over the years and the parent’s interaction and positive attitude towards English really shows in the child’s progress. Kids may not understand WHY they have to learn another language.

They view it as just another course in school, or even worse– a course they have to do AFTER school!  Make it fun for them and show them that you think it is fun as well.  Sing songs, play games, talk in funny voices… whatever!

Often when I am doing sessions with adults who have children, a child will wander into the room and is very curious about who the person on the screen is that is ‘talking funny’ to mommy or daddy.  It’s great to include them in the sessions, have them say hello or whatever they can, just to get the experience.

It’s all about the experiences they have with English at an early age that will shape their future ‘Learning English’ path. Make it positive, fun, and the results will astound you.

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Understanding Suffixes : English Grammar

Suffixes are a letter or group of letters added at the end of a word which makes a new word.

Learning how suffixes are used in English, can help you to improve your understanding and comprehension of the English language.  There are two types of suffixes used in English.

Inflectional Suffixes 

Endings are added to a word for grammatical purposes, but they never change the word class.

ENGLISH INFLECTIONAL SUFFIXES

Derivational Suffixes 

Endings change the meaning and create a ‘new word’ and the word class changes.  Nouns can turn into verbs, verbs into adjectives and adjectives into nouns… it gets kind of crazy!  In the chart below you will find some basic examples, but there are many more out there.

Derivational suffixes English Grammar

 

This is a good video explaining the different types and showing examples.  Youtube is an excellent way to sharpen your grammar skills while practicing your listening.

[embedvideo type=”youtube” id=”pYdIjc85tRc”]

 

Something to try… when you are reading something in English (on paper) go through the text and look for all of the suffixes and circle/highlight them.  You will be amazed at how many you will find.  Use one color for the inflectional ones that you find and another color for the derivational suffixes.

LINDA’S PROFILE