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The Benefits of Extensive Reading

Extensive reading – what is it?

Well, it’s like intensive reading: intensive reading for English classes or finding answers for your YES / NO /NOT GIVEN questions in IELTS, but for fun! Extensive reading is reading something that you enjoy or are interested in and lots of it; extensive reading is just reading, and it should be for enjoyment, interest or pleasure.

Reading is a mental activity as opposed to TV which is not; TV is purely visual (although TV is good for listening comprehension and pronunciation among other things, but that’s another story).

Everyone including those of us learning a second language can benefit from extensive reading. Carrel and Grabe (2010) argue that language learners can improve their comprehension and vocabulary by doing a little extensive reading. According to Julian Bamford and Richard Day (in Kreuzova 2019) you should read as much as you can on a variety of topics that you have chosen; the materials should be easily understandable to you from books, newspapers and magazines.

Extensive reading is moving away from the intensive reading of answer identification in your Cambridge, TOEFL or IELTS exams, and the reading skills of skimming and scanning toward a more relaxed form of reading; the kind of reading you do on the sofa because you want to, because there is nothing on TV or there’s nothing on your streaming service worth watching. So, think about what you like to read; are you interested in reading about what English-language newspapers say about your country or region; are you interested in learning about your own country’s history from another perspective? Like cooking? Read a few recipes? Remind yourself, what do you like reading in your own language: try reading the same in English.

I was surprised when I started to learn about British history from the Spanish and Argentinians. I never knew the British invaded Buenos Aries in the nineteenth century. I never knew the Dutch sailed up the Themes and stole the English flagship. It has also been suggested that extensive reading helps in examination results, make them more aware of the grammar when they are reading, increase a learner’s reading proficiency and by extension their vocabulary learning (Prowse, 2000) and (Liu and Zhang 2018).

There are other beneficial effects. It is generally believed that reading develops your concentration. When you’re watching TV, you’re probably doing something else: chatting, eating, doing your nails, interacting with social media, but reading, well reading is a different matter.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love binge-watching The Man in the High Castle on a lazy Saturday afternoon trying to forget work. With a book, you need to concentrate and focus on what is written and everything that it implies. Which brings me to another thing reading improves: your imagination. You can lose yourself in a character or situation, imagining yourself in their situation. Imagine yourself as a different person or asking yourself what you would do in such a situation.

In turn, reading is a good de-stressor; you are more likely to read when you’re in a quiet room, with no TV and oblivious to the world outside and exercising the most important organ in your body – your brain. So, while you are doing whatever you are doing like channel hoping, you are not using your imagination. We switch off our imaginations, but with a book we use our imaginations to a greater extent. Reading enhances your verbal skills; TV is visually-based media and normally uses short and simple sentences whereas books contain complex language more than you would find on TV or in a streaming service. This means using a greater range of vocabulary, longer sentences and more complex sentences; you can become aware of punctuation. So, go and borrow a graded reader from your school’s resource centre, borrow a book from the city library or read some on-line articles in magazines or newspapers on-line.

by Chris Scott, March 2020

Reference List

Carrel, Patricia. L., and Grabe, W. (2010). Reading. In: N. Schmitt, ed., Applied Linguistics, 2nd London: Hodder Education, Page 215- 229.

Sarka Kreuzova 17 July 2019, Encouraging Extensive Reading, English Teaching Professional (1 09), viewed 31 December 2019, < https://www.etprofessional.com/encouraging-extensive-reading >.

Philip Prowse (2000), The secret of reading, English Teaching Professional, (13), viewed 2 January,2020, < https://www.etprofessional.com/the-secret-of-reading >

Liu. J., and Zhang. J., (2018). ‘The Effects of Extensive Reading on English Vocabulary Learning: A Meta-analysis ‘, English Language Teaching; Vol. 11, No. 6; 2018, viewed 2 January 2020, < https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1179114.pdf >

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Critical Thinking

Ever since I went to college many years ago, I’ve been hearing the term critical thinking; it keeps popping up from time to time, but do we as teachers and students sit down and think about what this means, and do we use critical thinking outside the confines of academic study? Do we use this in our everyday lives?

For me, critical thinking is challenging the assumptions we have about the way we think, what we believe, what we read in the newspaper, what we are told, see on TV or the internet and hear in the world around us and not just in the classrooms; it’s about challenging dogma; it’s about looking at the preconceptions we and others have of the world around us; it is about challenging what we believe and how we behave.

Levels of Critical Thinking

For Chia Suan Chong (2019) it is about promoting meaningful and positive relationships and building empathy as well as developing one’s academic potential. But how can we use this in the classroom and in our everyday lives? What benefit does it give our students or us as learners?

Blooms Taxonomy (Bloom cited in Pineda-Báez) is most often cited when attempting to define critical thinking. According to Benjamin Bloom, there are six levels of critical thinking.

The first level is Remember; it is the ability to recall dates, people’s names, places, quotations and formula.

Level two is Understand; this is to comprehend what you are reading; it is to understand newly acquired information, to describe, classify and explain it, e.g. what is the difference between a cat and a lion.

The next level, level three, is called Apply; this is where we use this new information, solve problems, demonstrate, and interpret information.

Level four is Analyse; it looks at materials and decides what the overall purpose is; what is its relationship with other parts in society and the world in general. It is to differentiate, organize, and to relate information to the wider world, and compare or contrast.

The fifth level is Evaluate; this is to form an opinion or judgement based on standards and criteria; it seeks to appraise, argue and defend a point of view or opinion; it judges, selects, support, and critiques information.

The final level is Create; it is to use conjecture, formulate new ideas, and to investigate; it is to put all the information you have and create something innovative.

Critical Thinking Based on Reason

Another simpler definition of critical thinking is which I like is from Tim Moore (cited in Schmidt); According to research conducted by Moore, critical thinking is based on reason; in today’s world basing an argument on reason as opposed to reactionary opinions that are so prevalent in the news media and politics today is a good thing; it allows us to decide if something is good or bad, true or false, it allows us to consider the validity of something; it is thinking sceptically; critical thinking involves thinking productively, challenging ideas and producing new ideas; it involves coming to a conclusion about an issue or issues; importantly for me and something I feel strongly about; it is about looking beyond a reading or listening text’s literal meaning.

Critical Thinking in the EFL classroom

When we look at these levels, we see that we as students use most of them in the EFL classroom; those of you preparing for the IELTS and Cambridge English exam use them all the time; it is a valuable skill that students use when they enter institutes of higher education.

Regardless of your background we use critical thinking skills when deciding what to what, buy in the supermarket or believe in the newspaper.

How can they be used more in the EFL classroom or our own language learning? In her article Ten ways to consider different perspectives, Chong suggests a number of activities where critical thinking can be applied to classroom activities; one activity is ‘What would their day look like? Where the students select a photo of a person, animal or inanimate object, do a little research and give a little presentation to the rest of the class; another activity is the classic debate where you could divide the class into opposing teams; Chong suggest having students argue for or against something they would normally oppose or disagree with. This is a good way for students to try to understand something from another’s perspective.

Most of the activities involve trying to see life through someone’s else’s eyes. I saw a similar activity in Buenos Aries a few years ago when students used shoes to imagine the shoes lives.

by Chris Scott, January 2020

Reference List

Chia Suan Chong 17 July 2019, Ten ways to consider different perspectives, English Teaching Professional, viewed 30 December 2019, < https://www.etprofessional.com/ten-ways-to-consider-different-perspectives>.

Clelia Pineda-Báez December 2009, Critical Thinking in the EFL Classroom: The Search for a Pedagogical Alternative to Improve English Learning, ResearchGate, viewed 30 December 2019, < https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277834572_Critical_Thinking_in_the_EFL_Classroom_The_Search_for_a_Pedagogical_Alternative_to_Improve_English_Learning >.

Anthony Schmidt [n.d.], CRITICAL THINKING AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING PT. 1, EFL magazine, viewed 30 December 2019, < https://www.eflmagazine.com/critical-thinking-english-language-teaching/ >

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発音の向上

 

ハッキリとした発音はコミュニケーションにおいて、とても重要な役割を果たします。発音をおろそかにすると、恥ずかしい思いをしたり気まずい状況に陥ってしまうこともあり、発音練習の意欲をなくしてしまうこともあります。以下では、自宅でリラックスしながら発音練習をして自信をつける、さまざまなヒントをご紹介します。 

鏡とBBCの発音練習ビデオを利用する 

発音は運動の一つです。正しい発音をするには口の形に注意することが大切です。 「BBC Learning English」のビデオと鏡を利用して、難しい発音の訓練をしましょう。 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/features/pronunciation

自分の発音を録音する 

初めは少し違和感を感じるかもしれませんが、自分の発音を録音することで、何を修正する必要があるのかを実感できます。映画やテレビ番組のセリフを繰り返し発音し、聴き返してみて本物の発音と比べてみましょう。さらに、口の形を分析するために、発音している姿をビデオに撮るのもよいでしょう。 

 Siri」に話しかける 

Siri、Alexa、Googleなどの瞬時にあらゆる情報を提供してくれるAIアシスタントは、多くの人々に利用されています。しかし、これらの賢い機能が発音向上にも役立つということをご存じですか?言語設定を英語にして会話をしてみましょう。とくに難しいと感じた発音フレーズを書き留めておき、それらを発音してみてAIアシスタントが理解できるかを確認してみましょう。 

歌をうたう 

歌をうたう行為は気分を上げる効果だけでなく、発音練習にも効果があります。歌詞がついた曲のミュージックビデオをみてみましょう。まずは慣れるまで何度か聴いて、その後歌手に合わせて歌をうたってみます。必要に応じて停止したりリピートしたりして、練習しましょう。 

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SeaCity Museum, Southampton

Last week was amazing; I visited the SeaCity museum in Southampton with my friend Hassan.  I learned a lot about Southampton’s history and the Titanic.  Actually, I got very excited watching the Titanic film. 

While we were at the museum, we talked about what happened, and we visualised the lack of safety boats on the Titanic and how this changed for future ships.  In my opinion, there is no person to blame, but this was the result of a sequence of mistakes and wrong decisions.  

The important thing is that we get the benefits of what happened and maybe try to avoid such events again. 

Mustafa A.

October, 2019 

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IDIOMS

Do you know the meaning of these frequently used English idioms? Have a think.

to beat about the bush

a bed of roses

to bite off more than you can chew

to call it a day

cat nap

The answers will be revealed in out next blog post.

For more information about studying General English, Cambridge Exam Preparation or IELTS Exam Preparation courses with Europeak Southampton or Eurospeak Reading, please contact us on:

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ENGAGING WRITING

When you write, it’s important you engage the reader so they’re interested in your writing and want to continue reading. So, here are some techniques you can use to achieve this…

One way is to address the reader directly. This means you need to use the word you a lot. You can see plenty of example of direct address to the reader in this blog – you can even see it in this sentence!

Another technique is to use questions. You can ask questions directly to the reader, for example, Have you ever thought about what you would do in this situation? Questions like this make the reader think about their own answer and they want to read on to find out what the writer’s answer is too. Alternatively, you could use a rhetorical question. A rhetorical question is a question where the answer is so obvious it doesn’t need to be stated, for example, Who would have thought it? These types of questions engage the reader because they’re persuasive – the reader already knows the answer, they agree with you and so they’re on your side.

A further technique is simply varying your vocabulary. Nobody wants to read something with the same words repeated over and over again – it’s boring! So, use lots of different words. You could do this by using synonyms – different words with the same meaning; another way is to use adverbs to make your writing more descriptive.

And finally, the reader will be much more engaged in your writing if you adopt an enthusiastic tone – if you don’t sound like you’re interested in the subject you’re writing about, how can you expect anyone else to be?

So, the next time you’re writing, try out some of these techniques to make the reader more interested and engaged in what you’ve got to say. Good luck!

For more information about studying General English, Cambridge Exam Preparation or IELTS Exam Preparation courses with Europeak Southampton or Eurospeak Reading, please contact us on:

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3 ways to motivate yourself to study English

  1. Never compare your English skills to “others”!

One reason that many English language learners have a low opinion of their skills is that they’re comparing themselves to native English speakers or other learners who have reached fluency. You should also avoid comparing yourself to other English learners. The fact is that everyone is different – some people naturally learn faster, some people naturally learn more slowly. Some people have invested more time in studying, other people have studied “on and off.” Some learners have had excellent teachers, other learners have had trouble finding a good teacher or a good method. Just focus on your individual progress!

  1. When you feel lazy just take a “baby step”!

A baby step is a very small action.  Sometimes you just feel discouraged and lazy – you simply don’t want to study that day. Tell yourself you’ll just do one TINY thing.

  • I’ll read an article or a book in English for 5 minutes
  • I’ll watch a video on Youtube in English for 5 minutes
  • I’ll listen one song in English
  • I’ll learn 5 new words and 2 Idioms

 

The hardest part is often starting! However, if you take a “baby step,” you’ll definitely learn something – and you will probably regain your motivation in the process.

  1. Be encouraged! Your English is probably better than you think it is!

Unfortunately, a lot of English learners have a very negative view of their English skills. Yes, of course there is room to improve. But you already have good English skills. If someone can understand your speaking and writing, it is a really big accomplishment.

So if you tend to have a low opinion of your English, try to eliminate those negative thoughts by focusing on what you CAN do, and not in what you can’t do yet.

For more information about studying General English, Cambridge Exam Preparation or IELTS Exam Preparation courses with Europeak Southampton or Eurospeak Reading, please contact us on:

 

 

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Common UK Expressions

Have you ever wondered about common UK expressions?

Maybe you are going to visit the UK and want to learn a few of them?

 

Here is a list so that maybe you won’t be surprised or embarrassed:

  • All right? – Hello, how are you?
  • Bloody – used to emphasize annoyance, as in “Bloody hell!” Bleedin’ or bloomin’ are variations
  • Bomb – something impressive
  • Full of beans – lots of energy
  • Give me a bell – call me
  • Hiya – hi there, hello
  • I’m easy – I don’t care, it’s all the same to me
  • Mate – friend
  • On about – talking about
  • Posh – high class