Monday, 15 September 2014

Speaking/Listening - A teacherly back-to-school ramble (Part 2)

Learning a language entails speaking that language. In my book, if you can't speak you haven't really learnt a language (I exclude Latin and Ancient Greek and other languages that are no longer used on a daily basis from this argument!) The three most common choices for a language learner are English Lessons, chatting to someone who is a native speaker or to friends who are learning the same language. However, classroom time is limited, if there are no native speakers in your neighbourhood to practise on and your friend's English is worse than yours; what do you do?

If you have time and money to spare visit a country where the language is spoken,either for a holiday or to live/work! On a more realistic basis, you could join an on-Line learning Community such as The Mixxer, this is and Adult education site and you must be over 18 to use it, not because of its content but for reasons of safety of the users. Minors are allowed but with the permission of a parent or guardian. Babbel/Friends Abroad and italki are other such sites.

Sing your English! Yes, I'm serious! There are endless videos with lyrics on You Tube and other sites where you are sure to find your favourite songs and hey presto! Karaoke here we go! Invite friends round and make it a party!

Worried about accent and pronunciation?  Don't! As long as the person you are speaking to is not puzzling over what you are saying, a hint of a foreign accent is a lovely thing! Regional accents tend to be very popular these days. Not so long ago (well quite a while ago now I think about it!) I was turned down  from a job on the radio due to my too English accent! Even so if you fancy getting your accent right try Learn the

If you are still despairing, fret no more, we are all in the same boat! I've mentioned this poem before in my posts but here's Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, reading it and there are great pictures and a phonetic translation too.
Benny has a great website so if you are studying ANY Foreign language sign up and find new ways to do old things! Fluent in 3 months!

Listening is an underrated skill but essential if you are to communicate effectively. I believe it is also one of the most enjoyable to exercise. Think how often you hear your native language on a daily basis and more importantly, where you hear it. Translate these into English. The radio and TV are bound to figure there somewhere.

Try uploading an English speaking Radio to your phone/PC and listen to that instead of one in your native language. You will hear music, news, debates, plays and loads more! Check out Lamplight Theatre (For kids of all ages), Focus on the Family Theatre, Ranger Bill (Kids adventure stories), BBC Radio 4 Extra (Stories read aloud). There are many more out there.

Watch TV series/film without the subtitles altogether or with English subtitles, tune into English channels. Most people can find BBC World News on TV (in Greece at least).

You can even listen to audio books, search the Web for your favourite stories read in English! Try LibriVox which has a huge selection of free audio books to choose from. They are all read by volunteers but to a very high standard.

Next and last instalment Reading/Writing coming soon! If you are interested in the Scottish Referendum I have added a pdf to the CAUSE FOR DEBATE section too.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Plenty of time... A teacherly back-to-school-ramble! (Part 1)

Freddy Mercury sings "No time for losers, cos we are the champions..." (See the previous post.)

As much as I love the music of Queen I have to disagree with this sentiment! I have plenty of time for anyone who loses, of doesn't gain the grades they want in exams or fails to achieve in any other project they have set their sights on completing.

No, (I can hear all you realists out there harking on) I'm not a deluded 'everyone can win' type (not exactly) or even worse, 'every student deserves an 'A+'.
"That ain't gonna happen!"
(And anyone who tells you otherwise is a bare-faced liar!) 

I believe that everyone can do their best and achieve what they want if they are determined to. That goes for just about anything . (No, George, I don't mean that if you really want to, you can surf the Milky Way. That is a fantasy not a goal.)

First of all, have a look at this video. It's about ADHD but more importantly about how we learn and how we judge learning/passing/winning or whatever label you want to put on it.

(Thanks to Colin for sharing this so I can share it with you.)
You know which part I like the most? (One of many!) The bit where Sir Ken says 'Don't Copy! Because that's cheating!...Outside of school that's called collaboration.' It reflects something I always tease my classes about.
"If I could enter you in the exam as a group, you'd get straight As!"
It gets a laugh more often than not and students know full well that I'm not angry at them. Some of you might be tutting at my unruly classes but remember collaboration is a really important life skill to learn. "It's the stuff of growth." 
That put me in a bit of a sticky, hypocritical situation as the thing is I have to 'train' my students to pass exams where 'collaborating' most certainly doesn't go down well. What I try to do is to make the fun bits fun and get through the necessary, pen-on-paper, hard work, so let me quote Sir Ken again, "Our Children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth." (Sir Ken Robinson, educationalist) 
and use his idea of  'divergent thinking'. Use all this lovely 'genius' you had as a preschooler and answer this question:
How many ways to learn English can you think of?
Throughout September, I'm going to post some sites where you can find interesting things to help you learn English as well as all kinds of other hints and tips for helping you listen, speak, read and write better. Hope to be of some help...