So you have reached a university-level of English and undoubtedly you’ve spent the better part of 2 decades studying grammar and spelling to get here.  Well, I have some good news and bad news for you. The good is that there really isn’t that much more grammar you need to learn in order to grasp 98% of what is being said or written in English.  The bad is that there is an enormous amount of vocabulary which you have barely scraped the surface of.  Contrary to the belief of some, English, or any language in my opinion, cannot be mastered in 1000 words.  So how can you improve?

 

Follow these simple guidelines to maintain a positive learning curve:

 

  1. Read non-fiction.

 

Although there is certainly a lot of amazing literature in English, the vast majority of what is sold to the English language learners’ market is watered-down “beach” novels.  While these are great for the beach or disconnecting a bit, I am not convinced they are the best to push the envelope and force you to improve.  They often regurgitate vocabulary and remove the more colourful parts of a novel (which often includes the new vocabulary you are looking for).

 

However, non-fiction is factual and can also be written with flair and colour.  I am not suggesting the newspaper rather biographies, historical accounts, psychology, philosophy, sociology, sports, engineering, politics, the story of inventions or industries (automotive, aerial, space, naval, fabrics, plastics, architecture, or pyrotechnics).  There really is a virtually unlimited array of topics to be explored.  Starting at the beginning you get introduced the jargon of the topic and little by little you can increase the difficulty by digging deeper and deeper into the topic.

 

  1. Watch documentaries.

I think that my reasoning for non-fiction reading over fiction applies as well to movies and TV series.  The latter are great for tuning out and consuming easy to digest material but they don’t really go beyond that.  In order to get new vocabulary and jargon, I find that documentaries are an excellent resource.  They don’t tend to use slang which very often goes over the learner’s head but they do use jargon and academic vocabulary to dive into some very interesting and complex issues.

 

  1. Get a hobby you only do in English.

Everyone needs a hobby.  I am a firm believer in this and not only for people who want to learn another language. Challenging yourself and learning about the world and life is essential to a healthy and strong mind.  Learning English can be an extremely useful vehicle to a lot of information on almost any topic in the world.

 

Let’s make one thing very clear about hobbies.  Pastimes are not necessarily hobbies.  Going to the cinema isn’t a hobby.  Listening to music isn’t a hobby.  Going to the beach isn’t a hobby.  However, “the cinema” is indeed a hobby if you love the history, art, movements, and development of the motion picture industry.  “Music” is a hobby if you dive into and learn about artists, history, movements, implications, and immerse yourself in the culture of music.  A hobby of music is NOT sitting on your bed and simply listening to songs.  If you travel the world exploring beaches and loving beaches for their diversity and differences, then you have a hobby.  If you go to the beach in your hometown to get a tan on Saturdays, this is not a hobby.

 

Hobbies are an active activity in which the participant goes out of their way to explore and learn more.  Pastimes are passive and help us to switch our brains off and relax.  Reading a trashy novel, laying on the beach, enjoying a Vin Diesel movie are all great pastimes.  Improving your photography skills, learning to make wine, or immersing yourself in train culture and building model trains are all great hobbies.

 

Now, I know not everyone will agree with me but I think that if you follow these three small guidelines, you will certainly see your vocabulary and general knowledge increase.  Putting your English to use is why, after all, you learned the language in the first place.  So after you finish the latest Dan Brown novel, get your teeth into something a bit more meaty and challenge yourself with non-fiction

On your next trip to London how would you react if someone asked you, “Do you want some Rosie Lee?” or said to you, “That’s a fine jam jar you´ve got there”, or someone else exclaimed, “They’re telling you pork pies!” These expressions contain examples of the famous Cockney Rhyming Slang. Read on to find out what these particular expressions really mean, but first you’ll need some background information.

Cockney Rhyming Slang’s Origins

Cockneys were originally working-class people from the East End of central London (from within the sound of Bow Church bells for the purists) with a culture and a way of speaking English all of their own. Since the mid-19th century they started introducing into their already distinct dialect the use of rhyming slang. Some say as a secretive code to evade police control or to dupe unwary clients in many of London’s street markets, but nobody really knows. There are few authentic cockneys left in the centre of London now. Many of them having migrated from their poorer origins, as their fortunes presumably prospered, to settle in regions surrounding London, like Essex; taking their distinct manner of speaking with them. In this way, as well as through a number of popular T.V. programmes (see Stepstoe & Son, Til Death Do Us Part, Minder or Eastenders for example) their rhyming slang has become quite widespread in the English language, being heard often today, not just in London and the surrounding areas.

 

More About The Lingo

In Cockney Rhyming Slang a pair of words are collocated such that the last word in the pair rhymes with another word actually being referred to. Let’s see this in practice using our previous quotes:

Rosie Lee = tea                Do you want some Rosie Lee* (tea)?                       ¿Quieres algo de té?

jam jar = car                    That’s a nice jam jar (car) you’ve got there.          Ese es un bonito coche que tienes ahí.

pork(y) pies = lies           They’re telling you pork pies (lies)!                       ¡Te están contando mentiras!

*Rosie Lee was a popular 1920´s exotic dancer

To further confound the general public, cockney speakers will tend to drop the second, rhyming word in the pair. So, it’s quite common to hear, “Would you like some Rosie?” or perhaps, “You’re telling me porkies!”.

Try translating the following cockney phrases still in common use today (the answers are at the end):

How are you, my old china?

There’s something in your barnet.

Can you lend me some bread?

Take a butcher´s at that!

Try using your loaf!

I don’t Adam & Eve it!

We haven’t seen you in donkey´s.

Do you fancy a Ruby?

Modern Developments

In modern times new rhyming slang expressions have been composed, tending to focus mainly on the names of famous people, known in the U.K. or internationally. This shows that this cultural phenomenon isn’t ready to disappear just yet. Look at some examples below:

Ayrton Senna = tenner (£10 pounds)                      The famous 1970’s Brazilian Formula 1 driver.

Lee Marvin = starvin´                                                 The very popular U.S 1960´s actor.

Britney Spears = beers                                                The famous U.S girl pop-singer.

Pete Tong = wrong                                                       A popular U.K rave D.J.

Calvin Klein = wine                                                      The well-known clothes designer.

So, are you ready to rabbit like a cockney?             rabbit & pork = talk   (in English pork & talk sound the same)

You can find lots more cockney expressions at www.cockneyrhymingslang.co.uk

china plate = mate ( friend)

Barnet Fair = hair

bread & honey = money

butcher´s hook = look

loaf of bread = head

Adam & Eve = believe

donkey´s ears = years

Ruby Murray = curry  (a popular Irish singer in the 1950’s)

M I Theory Summarized

In my previous blog I talked about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, and how by applying it to the classroom setting teachers could harness student’s different learning styles more fully. The following table nicely summarises this school of thought.

 Multiple Intelligences  Learning Methods/Materials  Learning Activities
Verbal-Linguistic Books, stories, poetry, speeches Writing stories, scripts, poems, storytelling
Mathematical-Logical Exploring patterns, problem solving, classifying systems Counting, calculating, theorizing, demonstrating, programming
Musical Tapes, CD’s, live music Performing, singing, playing, composing
Visual-Spatial Posters, art work, slides, charts, graphs, video tapes, laser disks, CD-ROMs and DVDs, museum visits Drawing, painting, illustrating, graphic design, collage making, poster making, photography
Bodily-Kinaesthetic Physicalizing concepts, rhythm exercises Dance recital, athletic performance
Interpersonal Teams, group work, specialist roles Plays, debates, panels, group work
Intrapersonal Reflection time, meditation exercises Journals, memoirs, diaries, changing behaviours, habits, personal growth
Naturalist Terrariums, aquariums, visits to museums, botanical gardens, zoos etc., nature walks, Collecting, classifying, caring for animals
Existential Working on causes, charity work, spiritual concepts Community service, philosophical debates

MI in the Classroom

It would be quite unrealistic, I think, in the classroom setting to try to tailor-make each lesson to suit every individual’s learning style. It is more realistic, on the other hand, to vary  learning activities as much as possible over the whole of a course, so that in time you can stimulate all the different types of intelligences.

Moreover, by observing students on how they respond to the different activities, and recording this information, one might well discover a certain predominant composition of learning styles; for example, that there is a class with a majority of visual learners. In this case one may try using flash cards more often, for instance, or focus on board work activities more, without forgetting the other learner’s styles of course. I think this partly explains why sometimes I have tried an activity with one group and it has fallen flat, to later find it works really well with another set of students.

Classroom Activities with MI in Mind

Here is a small selection of the type of activities I use in some of my classes in order to tap into student’s differing learning styles.

Name of Activity Brief Description MI Involved
The “Pi” Counting Game Students in a circle take turns counting, in order, from 1 onward. However for certain multiples, e.g. of 3 or 5, they have to say “pi!” instead of the number. Henceforth the counting changes direction. Any mistakes would result in a forfeit, e.g., doing a sum. Mathematical-Logical

Verbal-Linguistic

 

Guess the Mime A group of 3 or 4 students organise themselves unseen, and then mime a scene in front of the class. The other students have to guess what the actions are, using set target language, e.g. present continuous. Bodily-Kinaesthetic

Interpersonal

Verbal-Linguistic

 Blind Serial Drawing Students are asked to draw on a sheet of paper. However they start drawing only part of said drawing e.g. the head of a monster. Then they fold the paper so that only part can be seen, e.g. the neck. They then pass the sheet to the student on their right. Then on the sheet they’ve been passed students continue drawing up to another indicated point. The drawing-folding-passing continuous until the drawing is completed by different students. Finally the original students unfold the drawings they had started and describe it. The resulting drawing is usually very funny. Visual-Spatial

Verbal-Linguistic

Re-writing songs Students are played a song which contains rhyming using particular word types e.g. –ly adverbs, -ing adjectives or –ed participles etc. After a comprehension stage, students in small groups are asked to re-write the song using alternative target words. The groups have to sing their song to the rest of the class. The teacher finally asks comprehension questions about the new song. Musical-Rhythmic

Verbal-Linguistic

Lottery Conditionals Using the 2nd conditional students write on a sheet of paper what charitable works they would perform if they won the lottery. The teacher collects, and reads out these writings one by one, whereby the others have to try and guess the author. Intrapersonal

Existential

Verbal-Linguistic

 

In conclusion I would say that although you can’t please all the students all the time, it’s good to bear in mind that there are many different ways of learning and adjust the class activities accordingly. If you identify a loner or someone who is always up and out of their seat, you might try from time to time putting activities into your lesson plan that you think will suit them.

When people ask me how they can improve their English, especially their listening, I am surprised by the question. Twenty years ago you would have to buy the listening material, on CD or cassette, but a lot has changed since then.

Firstly most TV’s now have a dual option, this means you can see a film or a series in the original language.

In addition you (obviously!) have the Internet. The obvious place to start is Youtube. Here you can find videos on almost any subject and with subtitles. But with a bit of searching other channels can be found that can be just as useful, for instance TED. Here you will find videos on every type of academic topic given by people at the forefront of their field.

Here is an example of one on creativity, which everyone should watch, regardless of their language. There are subtitle for lower levels.

https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

To improve your readings there is even more material online. Newspapers and articles on everything imaginable.

Tips

  • Short and Continuous

It is not recommendable to try and watch films or long programmes if you have a low level. If you try to watch Lord Of The Rings you will probably get very frustrated and demotivated. It’s too long for lower levels. So try to watch shorter programmes. A series like the very popular The Big Bang Theory lasts about twenty minutes, this is far more digestible. If it is a reading you want, choose a short article. You tube videos can be five minutes, very manageable.

However try to make your use of these things continuous, for example twenty minutes every day is better than three hours on Saturday morning.

  • Fun

Whatever you read or watch, try to choose something you have an interest in or enjoy. You are far more likely to keep on watching or reading.

  • Work It

As you are watching or reading note down vocab or structures that you did not know or find interesting and then study it. This means you will take advantage of your time and get clear and defined benefits. Try using Spanish subtitles if you have a low level. Then as you get better switch to English subtitles.

In conclusion use the English that surrounds you all the time to your benefit.

Conditionals are of the most common structures used in English or most languages. They are simple to use, and in addition they are exactly the same in usage and meaning to the Spanish equivalents. But they are also much more flexible than the basic grammar suggests.

If you are going to take the FCE or the CAE, then conditionals are a must. You should use them in both the writing and speaking tasks, and you will also see them in the universally dreaded Use of English paper 4. So here are some tips on how to make them even better and get you points in the exam.

 

Modal verbs – All of the usual 3 types of conditional have the auxiliaries will or would. These can be easily change for other auxiliaries, modal auxiliaries.

 

1st Conditional

If it’s sunny tomorrow, we can go to the beach.

If he arrives on time, we might get to see the start of the film.

If you can’t stop, you should at least cut down.

If you must watch it, you could turn down the volume

 

2nd conditional

If I won the lottery I could travel around the world.

If I had a better job, I may be able to afford a car.

 

3rd Conditional

If I had seen him, I might have told him.

If you had known, you should have warned him.

 

Mixed Conditionals – Another way to make your conditional more sophisticated is to use mixed conditionals. These are generally a mixture of the second and third conditional.

 

If I hadn’t seen it, we wouldn’t be here now.

If they had won, we would have the trophy.

If you had brought your coat, you wouldn’t be freezing now.

 

Or

 

If the team wasn’t winning, we would have been relegated.

If I had a bigger house, everyone could have stayed.

If I didn’t have to work this week, I could have gone to concert.

 

Unless  – Also you should never forget unless. Unless means IF NOT. So if you are writing a conditional and the first part is negative than you can easily change it to unless, not forgetting to make any other necessary changes.

 

In conclusion if you use these structures in the official exams they will give you the needed sophistication to score higher marks than with the more normal conditionals.

A principio de cada curso escolar muchos padres dudan si deberían apuntar a sus hijos en algún tipo de actividad extraescolar, o qué actividad es la más adecuada para ellos. Las actividades extraescolares suponen un pequeño esfuerzo económico para las familias y una inversión de tiempo y esfuerzo, tanto físico como intelectual, de los alumnos. Existe una amplia oferta de actividades extraescolares de diferentes tipos; idiomas, deportivas, académicas, artísticas, nuevas tecnologías, etc. Todas ellas adaptadas a las necesidades de la sociedad actual.

Para responder a la cuestión planteada en el presente artículo, nos basaremos en diferentes estudios relacionados con el efecto que tienen las actividades extraescolares sobre al rendimiento escolar. El estudio realizado por Clandellas y clos (2013) muestra que, en un grupo de alumnos de primaria, presentan mejores calificaciones los alumnos que llevan a cabo alguna actividad extraescolar respecto a aquellos que no realizan ninguna, destacando que los alumnos que realizan actividades deportivas muestran  calificaciones más altas.

Los mismos resultados obtuvo el estudio realizado por Capdevila y cols (2014), el cual indica que existe una correlación positiva entre la práctica de actividad deportiva y el rendimiento académico de los alumnos. Se ha demostrado que las actividades deportivas en alumnos tienen un efecto muy positivo en el desarrollo tanto físico como intelectual de los alumnos, siempre que se realicen fuera de un nivel de exigencia demasiado alto.

Los efectos positivos de las actividades extraescolares no son exclusivamente a nivel académico. Estas actividades cumplen un papel importante a nivel social, ya que favorece las interacciones sociales entre el alumnado, desarrollando sus habilidades sociales y alejándolos de un sedentarismo o inactividad que podría tener efectos negativos a largo plazo.

En conclusión, las actividades extraescolares son un recurso muy útil que en términos generales, favorecen el desarrollo cognitivo, físico y social de los alumnos Siempre que se lleven a cabo dentro de un horario y nivel de exigencia adecuado.

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Every English teachers has used music in class, but generally after the first few years of primary school, listenings tend to change to the more conversation orientated listenings. So for adults we never tend to see music as a way of language learning. This is a pity, as everyone likes music and it still can be a productive way of improving as the melodies usually ingrain the words quicker and more permanently than just basic repetition.

First for A2/B1 students, I would suggest someone like Frank Sinatra. He is very clear in his diction, and the song writing uses English correctly, unlike some more modern styles. A song like the one below can help your speaking, pronunciation and it uses common English words, “get along with”, modal verbs- should, gerunds after prepositions – thrill of being, expressions – break my heart in two, and the ubiquitous “I do”.

I Get Along Without You Very Well – Frank Sinatra

I get along without you very well

Of course I do

Except when soft rains fall

And drip from leaves, then I recall

The thrill of being sheltered in your arms

Of course, I do

But I get along without you very well

 

I’ve forgotten you just like I should

Of course I have

Except to hear your name

Or someone’s laugh that is the same

But I’ve forgotten you just like I should

 

What a guy, what a fool am I

To think my breaking heart could kid the moon

What’s in store? should I phone once more?

No, it’s best that I stick to my tune

 

I get along without you very well

Of course I do

Except perhaps in spring

But I should never think of spring

For that would surely break my heart in two

 

For higher levels B2/C1, Bob Dylan can be great for vocabulary, his singing is sometimes unclear, but with the lyrics we can find some great vocab e.g:

Chimes of Freedom

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll

We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing

As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds

 

Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream

I think I’ll call it America. I said as we hit land.

I took a deep breath. I fell down, I could not stand.

Captain Arab he starting writing out some deeds

He said let’s build us a fort and start buying the place with beads.

Just then a cop come down the street crazy as a loon

They throws us all in jail for carryin’ harpoons

 

When the Ship Comes In

Oh the seas will split

And the ship will hit

And the sands on the shoreline will be shaking.

Then the tide will sound

And the wind will pound

And the morning will be breaking.

 

Of course everyone has different tastes in music. You may not like the above artists. However, whatever your preference you will be able to find the lyrics to practically any song. Furthermore, in this day and age you will probably find most songs on youtube with the lyrics or even in a karaoke style, where you can sing to your heart’s desire.

 

So in conclusion, if you are a teacher, never forget the value of music for adults, and if you are studying English, then listening (and reading the lyrics) to songs can improve your pronunciation, vocab, and understanding in a fun way. Better than doing a gap fill.

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Este año hay más alumnos que necesiten demostrar su nivel de inglés, bien para la universidad, para estudiar en el extranjero, trabajar en una empresa internacional o buscar trabajo en el extranjero.  Hoy en día no se puede negar que el inglés es una necesidad para todo aquel que pretenda ser un ciudadano del mundo.

Por eso educamos a nuestros alumnos en que el inglés no sea un idioma sino una manera de acceder al mundo.  Ayuda cuando una está estudiando, investigando cosas por internet, viajando en cualquier país del mundo o simplemente haciendo amigos internacionales.

Actualmente, ofrecemos preparación para los exámenes de Cambridge para ayudar a los alumno a satisfacer los requisitos universitarios.

Sin embargo, hay otra posibilidad: Los exámenes TOEFL y TOEIC.  Tienen muchas ventajas, pero vamos a ver a sólo 3 de ellas:

  1. Estos exámenes no son de sólo un nivel, ni se pueden “suspender”

Todo el mundo hace un esfuerzo tremendo para preparar los exámenes de inglés y no deberían ser “castigados” si no aprueban.  Hemos visto alumnos que no han obtenido un título de B2 por un solo punto y se han quedado sin nada que les pueda ayudar, ni justificar el esfuerzo hecho.  Eso no ocurre con el TOEFL ni el TOEIC.  Cuando haces estos exámenes estás demostrando el nivel que tienes en una escala y esa escala refleja tu nivel de inglés.  Hay sólo UN examen para todo el mundo con preguntas que se van complicando a lo largo de la prueba.  Cuando llegas a las preguntas demasiadas difíciles o te cuesta demasiado tiempo completar una parte, significa que has encontrado tu nivel y eso se refleja en la puntuación.

Siempre tendrás una cualificación después de hacer el examen.

  1. El precio

 Los precios de TOEFL y TOEIC son inferiores a otros exámenes.  Esto permite poder hacer más exámenes si uno quiere para ver su progreso, ya que no hay que esperar hasta que se consolide un nivel en concreto.  No hay miedo a “suspender” y perder el dinero.  Se puede ver el progreso real sin gastar demasiado.

  1. Más fechas para examinarse

Hay pruebas todos los meses incluso dos al mes.  Esto permite que el alumno pueda hacer el examen cuando quiera o necesita.  No hace falta esperar meses hasta que hay una convocatoria y luego meses para recibir los resultados.  De hecho, se puede recibir los resultados en una semana si hace falta.

Los exámenes de Cambridge tienen sus ventajas para quien los necesite, obviamente, pero seamos claros, no son los únicos en el mundo que van a satisfacer las necesidades de la gente que necesita una cualificación en inglés.  Ven a visitarnos o llámanos y te aconsejaremos sobre el mejor examen para ti y tus necesidades.