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Learn English in English classes with expert Canadian and American teachers

Study Tips

The ‘must have’ student tool….your dictionary!

While learning English, your dictionary is the most important tool you need.

It is important to buy a dictionary for your level of English. If you are a low-level speaker, get a learner’s dictionary. If you are intermediate or higher, get an advanced dictionary. You can also buy a business English dictionary if that is what you are studying.

Look for these important things before you buy a dictionary:

Understanding spelling over the phone

Trying to understand spelling over the phone can be difficult for English learners.

But don’t feel bad…it is the same for native speakers, especially when the speaker has an accent!

The best thing to do is ask the person to say a ‘word’ for the letter.

So for my name (Lesley) I might say: Lima-echo-scotland-lima-echo-yellow

This is when phonetic alphabets help!

Writing English Essays

Writing essays is a difficult task – especially in a second language!

There IS a formula to the structure of essays, but the rest is your knowledge of grammar/vocabulary, and…of course…the subject you are writing about.

This is a good reference to help you build an essay:

Best of luck!

SPEAKING DEVELOPMENT = self-correcting

Self-correcting is the MOST important thing you can do while you are speaking. If you make a mistake, fix it in the same moment. It is a good sign if you self-correct. It means your brain is taking note of an error, so you know the word/structure.

If you self-correct the same mistake 3 times, you generally will not make the mistake again!

Teachers love it when a student self-corrects ;)

Keeping a vocabulary book

Keep a vocabulary notebook and review the words as much as possible – on the bus, while cooking dinner…

When you write a new word in the notebook, also write the different variations for the word noun, verb, adverb, adjective (ie. happy, happiness, happily, unhappy)…and use each of them them in a sentence. Now you have learned 5 words, not just 1!

Is English spelling difficult?

YES! Only ½ of English speakers are good at spelling – even after 11 years of school! Italians are good at spelling after only 2 years of education. There are 3,500 popular words in English that do not follow basic spelling rules. In Spanish there are only 600.

English spelling rules are complex and have many exceptions – for example: doubt, pneumonia, castle, and the one Lesley finds difficult to remember…colonel /’kərnl/

Learning new words

I was learning Spanish in South America with my friend Chris who would hear a word once and remember it. I had to hear, see, write, and say the word three times before it was in my head.

The good thing is, I believe in “easy in, easy out”. Often people who can remember a word easily keep it in their short-term memory!

Tips to Improve Your English Listening Skills

Without doubt, listening is one of the more difficult skills to improve when you are learning English. When you listen, you rely on the quality and clarity of the speaker.

When I moved from Canada to Australia, I had trouble understanding approximately 5-10% of most conversations due to slang and the accent…and I’m a native English speaker!

Here are a few tips to help you develop your English listening skills:

Tips for Developing English Reading Skills

ESL students often ask me how to improve their reading skills. Unlike speaking and listening, reading skills development is something a learner can do alone, therefore is a skill that can improve quickly. Here are some useful tips:

1. Do not try to understand every word you read. Reading exposes you to new language, but it is not a ‘vocabulary’ activity. Focus on developing reading comprehension – understanding the main ideas in the text, and searching for key information.

Memory tricks for ESL students – mnemonic tools

When I was a young learner, I had some great teachers. They taught me many memory tricks that have stuck with me and helped me remember the proper spelling of words. I thought you might enjoy learning some of my favourites…