Tips and advice for learning English better.
Real English Victoria is quiet this week.
I don’t mean totally; I mean relatively.
From July 31st to August 8th, 20 students from Musashino Joshi Gakuin, a high school near Tokyo, descended on Victoria to investigate the differences between education, environmental protection, and nutrition between Japan and Canada.
The spaces at REV were perfect for small collaborative groups where students practiced their English in discussions and project-related activities, while Canadian buddies and experienced teachers helped students use English in more powerful ways.
“I like your class, but it’s hard.”
I hear that a lot in Power Speaking. I always find it interesting because when I started my career as a teacher, I never imagined myself teaching a high-pressure class. For sure, we laugh a lot in Power Speaking. But we also have high expectations of ourselves, and we move quickly through the activities.
Reading is hard. Even in our own language, it takes children years to learn. And even in our own language, some people love it and some hate it.
Why do people like reading? Most of my Power Speaking students emphasize that reading can develop creativity and imagination. It is also a good way to learn about new places, people, and time periods. For myself, I like to read before I go to bed because I find it relaxing.
Why is it so hard to read in your second language?
You asked, so we listened! We now have a Full-Time Intensive IELTS Program.
Prepare for all parts of the Academic and General IELTS exam in our intensive program. This program is from 1 to 6:30 PM, Monday to Friday. You will spend a full 5 hours everyday preparing for the IELTS exam. Get personalized help and get the score you want!
Ask us for more details.
The sky is blue, the clouds are white, and the sun is golden… summer’s coming! What are your plans?
On Sunday June 17, you can go downtown to enjoy Victoria’s 3rd annual Car-Free Day. On this day, Douglas Street is transformed into a huge pedestrian area (walkers only – no cars) with food stands, craft booths, music, and activities. You can enjoy walking around, or you can volunteer. (PS – It’s also Father’s Day in Canada, so don’t forget to call your Dad!).
Here is the website: https://www.carfreeyyj.ca/
Credit: Car Free YYJ Official Photographer
Click below to find out more about fun activities in Victoria this summer!
In recent weeks I’ve had a number of students take their test for either the first or second time. I’m very happy to report that all of them felt more confident after attending IELTS at REV and even if they didn’t achieve their intended score, they all improved on previous tests. Great job everyone!
That brings us to today’s topic: writing. Yes, writing tends to be the one section of the test that can absolutely terrify students. Because of this, they tend to avoid serious attention to it or ignore it all together. The first thing to realize is that writing is what we call a productive skill; meaning that we don’t become good writers from simply being around writing or reading about how to write. You actually have to practice your writing! So, here’s a few tips that might help those of you who are frustrated with your progress.
1. Basic Academic Writing: Academic writing is a specific style of writing with its own rules and nuances. Unfortunately, many students haven’t had enough exposure to it. Here are some things to remember:
Patti: Hi Shota! Today is your last day at our school. I just wanted to ask you a few questions because you are one of the happiest students that I know here. You have been here since January and I think that you had a very successful time in Victoria.
Patti: What are some tips that you would give to students coming to Victoria? Life tips?
We will miss you Shota!
Shota: For ‘life tips’ I think that it is important to make connections. Not superficial connections. Close connection! My close friends help me a lot for life in Canada, to study English and to get experience in Canada. So, I think it’s the most important thing.
Patti: How did you make close friends?
Shota: I was in luck, he is my co-worker. I work almost everyday so I could make close connections.
Patti: You say that close connections are very important. Anything else?
Shota: Think optimistic!
Canadians are so kind. So if I make a mistake or if I can’t speak English very well, you don’t need to care.
You don’t need to worry too much.
Patti: No need to be embarrassed.
Shota: Don’t hesitate!
Patti: Thank you, Shota. I just wanted to appreciate you as being a great student at our school and bringing a lot of happiness and positive energy.
Recently a number of my students have taken the IELTS test and one of their greatest fears always seems to be the speaking test. This is natural as the speaking test is the only part of the test which requires direct communication with a real, live native speaker.
Being prepared for the speaking test is essential to get the score you want. This means knowing what the test is, and what it isn’t. Here are some tips as well as some common misconceptions I’ve heard in my years of examining and teaching.
First, know how the test is scored. To do this you should study the public band descriptors available online. You’ll see that there are four criteria that you are evaluated on:
- Fluency and Coherence
- Lexical Resource
- Grammatical Range and Accuracy
Each section is scored individually and each is equally weighted (25%). This means that, contrary to what some students believe, you simply cannot memorize long lists of academic words and phrases and expect a high score. The key to a high score is balance.
- To score high in fluency you must speak naturally, understandably, and smoothly. Use connecting phrases and avoid long pauses (“uhhhh….ummm…”) and unnecessary repetition (“…it was nice….and, uh,…a nice place…).
- Lexical Resource means using vocabulary that is appropriate, not just “difficult”. You also need to be specific and accurate. Avoid saying things are “nice”, “good”, “fine” as these are boring and generic words. But, at the same time describing a memorable trip as “a sufficiently palatable jaunt” sounds strange and unnatural. Balance descriptive with natural.
- Don’t obsess over grammar. Yes, you need to show that you know your present, past and future tenses along with a range of structures, but intentionally trying to fit complex grammar into your responses is more likely to cause you to make mistakes, lowering your overall score. Stick to the grammar you are comfortable with, but prepare by studying useful grammar for everyday conversation. Don’t forget, written and spoken English follow very different sets of grammar rules.
- Accent and pronunciation are not the same thing. We all have an accent. Actually, I have scored an 8 or even 9 to candidates with noticeable accents. The real problem is when your pronunciation affects the ability of the examiner to understand what you are saying. For example, if you struggle with /r/ and /l/, you need to practice before the test. If you tell me that your favourite food is “lice” (little bugs that live in your hair), rather than “rice”…that’s a major problem! Yes, it is common knowledge that some speakers struggle with these sounds, but don’t assume the examiner will understand what you intend to say. Remember, the examiner only evaluates what you actually say, not what you mean to say.
Now that you know all this…you have to practice! That’s where we can help. Come on in to REV and let us help you get that score you need. I have a lot more advice and experience to share with students who really want to reach their goal, so let’s work together!
I’m standing outside the classroom, looking in at my students as they chat. Am I teaching? Yes.
What exactly does it mean to “teach,” then? Traditionally, we think that we are teaching if we are giving knowledge or information to students. Nowadays, however, we believe that a teacher’s job is to help the students learn. Often, the best way to do that is to allow students to learn things by themselves. We all know that real experiences are the best way to remember and understand!