Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Improve Your English Skills Quickly: The S.I.M.P.L.E. Method

Almost every student I have ever had wants to learn English quickly and easily. Unfortunately, many students don't understand that age, personal habits, and talent have a lot to do with learning English. Since age cannot be changed, and only some people are born with natural talent for language, we have to ask ourselves, "What is the only thing that we can personally change?"  That's right, we can only change personal habits.

Therefore, I want to give 6 habits that will help you to improve your English as quickly as you are able.  These tips should help you to increase your skill no matter how much language learning talent you may have.

Below is an acronym called "S.I.M.P.L.E."  This should help you to remember these six tips. (An acronym is a word in which each letter represents a word. )

  • Surround  yourself with English. This is very easy to do now that the internet has given us so many options. Sign up for Netflix, Hulu Plus, or some other English media service online. 

  • Imitate English speakers.  As you listen and absorb English, it is important to mimic or copy the sounds of English speakers in movies.  This can be done easily now through Youtube, movies, DVDs,  and there are good sites like English Central that will help you to do this. 

  • Make English speaking friends. In most countries, there are communities of Americans, Brits, or other native English speakers that you befriend. Many of them are looking for friends in a foreign land. If you are studying in the US or UK, you have no reason NOT to have at least 2-3 English speaking friends. 

  • Practice English daily.  There is a saying in English, "If you don't use it, you will lose it."  This is true for anything, but especially English. I have seen students leave the US, return four months later, and they have lost most of their English skill because they did not practice. If you leave your English study, practice by using Skype, chatrooms, Facebook, etc. 

  • Live in English.  This simply means to do things you would normally do in your native language in English. That means if you read the newspaper in Arabic, you would now read it in English. You homepage on your computer could be set to English, not your native language. Your music could be in English, and more. 

  • Experience cultures of English speakers.  Some students come to study English in America and never leave their dorms on the college campus. They do not have any American friends, they only talk to family or friends back home and go to class. This is not a good idea at all. Learn about American traditions, cultures, and history. This will help you to understand the American mind and give you a greater understanding of the language as a whole. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

ESL VIdeos - How To Punctuate Adverb Clauses

Here is a quick explanation/tutorial on how to punctuate (use commas, periods) with adverb clauses.

Friday, May 24, 2013

ESL Videos - Indefinite Articles "A, An"

Here's a quick video that I made with an awesome iPad app called Tellagami.  You only get 30 seconds for a lesson, so here's a quick one on the indefinite articles "a, an."  Enjoy.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

How to Write a Great Descriptive Essay

Descriptive writing is something that really shows skill in English. It uses lots of adjectives, specific words, and imagery to help get people to "see" what you are writing.

This post will not focus on the structure of the essay so much as the content of the essay.  For the structure, please check out this link.  These are some principles that will make your descriptive writing much better. The main principle here is to "show" the reader, not just to "tell" them.

Use Imagery - the 5 senses - What do you touch, taste, feel, hear, or smell?  If you can include 2-3 of these senses in each description you are doing a much better job of "showing" the reader something, rather than just telling them.

Bad Example:  The car was fast.
Good Example:  The bright red Ferrari Testarossa burned its tires and screeched down the road at a blazing speed and left a rubbery odor in the air.

The second example uses colors, sounds, and smells. Also, you can see how much easier it is to write more sentences with description than just "telling" the reader about your situation.

Be specific -  Avoid words like good, bad, tall, short, big, small, nice, pretty, etc.   Be sure to use a thesaurus to help you find more interesting synonyms that hold more meaning than the overused words that are above.

Bad example:  The nice boys did a good job.
Good example:  The friendly and jovial children did commendable work.

Here is a video on Being Specific. 

Use Figurative Language -  Sometimes the best way to describe something is to talk about something else. One way to do this is called figurative language. There are many forms of figurative language, but I will give you just a few example. Simile (comparing using "like" or "as", Metaphor "comparing without "like" or "as", Hyperbole (exaggeration), and Personification
( giving a non-human human-like qualities).  Check out my videos on the site for these forms of figurative language.

Bad example:  The man was slow.
Good example:  The man was like a turtle on a chilly morning.

Tips For Teachers:
  • Bring in pictures of different scenes and have students write descriptive about the pictures using the three principles above. 
  •  "Outlaw" boring words like "good, big, small, nice, etc." in student writing. 
  • Write a "boring" sentence/paragraph using "telling" rather than "showing," then have students rewrite the sentences to "show" much better. 
  • Create an exercise where students must use only pronouns to describe a target object/person to a partner without the other partner know the object. "It has..," "He is like....",  "It smells like..." and have students describe a target object to partner until they guess what it is through the descriptions of partners.  
  • Have students go to a busy place on campus or in the town your school is and describe in writing the scene around them.   (You can also include some grammar points in your assignment here, i.e. present progressive.)

I have found these principles to make writing much more fun and engaging for students overall, and I hope that you do too! Please let me know if you have any more good ideas for description!

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