When I was in university, I took some Chinese classes. One of the biggest challenges I had was learning how to pronounce the sounds correctly.
As a native English speaker, I struggled to reproduce a lot of Chinese sounds. Not only were the sounds difficult for me to make, but Chinese is also a tonal language. Chinese has four tones: high, rising, dipping, and falling. It also has a neutral tone. The sounds and tones were hard enough on their own. Together? HAH! Even now, I sometimes still have difficulty having correct pronunciation for both sounds and tones.
What really helped me improve my pronunciation was music. Once a week, at my university, there was a Chinese singing class. Each class we would learn and practice one or two songs. It was always fun, and I have many fond memories of laughing with my classmates at our pronunciation. However, as time went on, we found that the songs we learned were actually helping a lot with our pronunciation. To this day, I still remember many of the songs we learned. I also like to practice new songs!
Using singing and music is a wonderful way to learn a language. Here are some of the songs I’ve used before in my classes.
We have a special blog post from one of our amazing students, Mike!
I would not say it is a challenge, but it’s a valuable experience for being an English learner that I had three interviews with different native English speakers. Before sharing these, please let me introduce myself first.
My name is Mike and I was born in Taiwan. Following the traditional education in Taiwan, English was not a tool for me; it was a subject which I had to study for the exam and I hated it. For this reason, I hardly talked to anyone in English because it almost killed me. It was easy to keep the speaking part of English away when I was a student; I could be a good student only with reading and writing. But it didn’t work after I got a job and that was why I went to Canada to improve my English skills.
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. I know I did. I have some family time, some turkey, and some rest. I also enjoyed the orange leaves and grey skies – a typical Victoria fall.
When I first taught overseas (in Mexico), my coworkers often asked me why Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on a different day than Americans. (Canadians celebrate it on the second Monday of October, whereas the American date is the fourth Thursday of November). I realized I didn’t know, so I did a lot of research, but I was unable to find a clear answer.
Some websites suggested it was because Canada is further north, so we harvest (pick vegetables) earlier. Some said it is connected with the arrival of explorer Martin Frobisher in 1578, who gave thanks for his safe journey. Another website I read said that it is simply because the Canadian and American governments chose different dates when they made Thanksgiving an official holiday! So the truth is, we don’t really know.
The American Thanksgiving story of “the Pilgrims and the Indians [First Nations peoples]” is well-known, but Americans did not “invent” Thanksgiving; harvest festivals are celebrated in many different cultures. Thanksgiving is essentially a time to celebrate the harvest and be grateful for the good gifts that we have in our lives – food, family, friends.
It’s that time of year again… the leaves are falling, the nights are cooler, and people all over Victoria start drinking pumpkin spice lattes. Fall has arrived!
Do you like this season? Victoria normally has a very nice fall. Especially in the first few weeks, the weather is often dry and clear; this means blue skies, golden sunshine, and orangey-red leaves. I love it! Soon after, the rains will start to come. The fallen leaves will become slippery, and the sidewalks will be full of puddles – so watch your step!
What do we eat in fall? This is when Canadians start to cook more winter dishes. These include soups, stews, and anything with squash in it. We also like to drink pumpkin spice lattes, gingerbread lattes, and peppermint mochas. Some people complain when coffee shops start offering these drinks at the end of August!
What about fall activities? Well, some people will go camping on the weekend. It is a little colder than in August, but September is our last chance to get out into the forest, so some die-hard (crazy, committed) camping fans will still do it! Most farmers markets run until the middle or end of the month as well, so don’t miss this chance to stock up on (buy lots of) local vegetables.
Orange leaves, hot drinks, and cool weather… have a great fall!
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?
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.
Rain, rain, go away!
Come again another day!
These are the lyrics to a well-known children’s song. How do you feel about the rain? Does it make you feel “down” or sleepy? Is it refreshing? Does it remind you of home?
“Weird and wonderful” is an English expression that means “strange and unusual, but in a lovable way.” It’s an affectionate way to describe friends who are unusual but still awesome.
…Sound familiar? That’s because our school is definitely a weird and wonderful place to study! If you need proof, just check out this photo of me in a banana costume.
At REV, we laugh. A lot. We cheat at board games – and then laugh about it. (Cheating is fine as long as you do it in English, right?!). We ask you to do strange projects, like taking apart a printer and using the pieces to build a model of a famous building. We get you to read children’s books to each other using expressive intonation (no robots at REV!). We let you decorate the entire school for Halloween. We give you advice like “stop studying.” And…we let you sit in Drew’s chair!
What a happy place to work and study! I’m so blessed to be a part of this team. If you haven’t met us yet… welcome! And if you have met us already, please come back to say “hi.” Welcome to weird and wonderful Real English Victoria!
Very often, students came into our school with a very vague idea, “I want to improve my English.”
Since at REV we know that a student’s motivation is a key factor to their success in language learning, the first thing we do is to take time to help students discover why they really want to learn English and what they truly want to achieve. These are definitely not easy questions to answer for some of them, as many of them are also just on their way to find out who they are and what they want in life.
REV teachers talk to students in depth before recommending a course for them because we know, unless the classes can be somewhat customized, they won’t truly suit and serve each student’s needs. At REV, you won’t find the conventional grammar, reading and writing, listening, and speaking classes. Instead, you’ll find an integrated program that is cut out for a student’s specific needs. I think it’s safe to say that no two students at REV are taking the exact same program because we tweak each class to help them achieve their different language learning goals.
I was 14 years old when I first really understood that French was a language.
…what?!? You didn’t know that?
Of course I did! I had studied French since elementary school, and my brain knew that it was a language. However, I only heard French in the classroom; it was just a school subject. Finally, when I was on holiday with my family in Mexico, I heard some other tourists speaking French. Suddenly, I understood: French is not just a school subject – it is real communication for real people. That was a real eye-opener for me [something surprising that taught me about life].
Language is much more than a school subject. Language is the way we interact with our world: we build relationships, solve problems, and express our emotions. Language is powerful, complex, and fascinating. If we only learn language in the classroom, we will not understand it completely. That’s why we must go outside and use our language with real people in real situations.
This is why we encourage REV students to practice English by doing real things. In Power Speaking, we visit art galleries during the Art & Décor unit and we interview a music teacher during the Books & Music unit. In Skill-Building, we go outside to grocery stores, restaurants, and cafes. In Project, we make phone calls, interview professionals, and organize events. It’s all real!