The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Teachers Recommend: Enrich Your English Vocabulary

Welcome back from holiday!

The first post in 2016 comes from the teachers at the school Solo Idiomas in Madrid.

Here’s what teachers there recommend:

Solo Idiomas

1. In order to enhance your speaking skills, the first thing you have to do is create a comfortable environment for “language immersion”. If you have never been to an English speaking country, try to combine different activities:  read blogs, articles, listen to music you like (don’t forget to pay attention to lyrics, as you can learn some new colloquial expressions from them), watch series and TV shows in English. These are effective ways to learn expressions that you may not find in textbooks. While practicing any of the activities above, try to guess the meaning of words from their context before looking them up in the dictionary.

2. If you try to memorize words out of context, one by one, it will be a bit challenging to use them naturally in the flow of speech. It is very important to learn how to use collocations, as English words have a lot of meanings depending on their usage with verbs and prepositions.

 Once you have added new words to your vocabulary, try to use them as often as possible, make up questions and sentences for extra practice. You may also find it helpful to make notes of synonyms as well as antonyms when you record new words, to expand your vocabulary. This will help you distinguish between general and more specific meanings of words.

3. Use monolingual dictionaries (English-English dictionaries). You will expand your vocabulary in a very effective way if you use monolingual dictionaries instead of a bilingual ones. Surely it will take a bit more time to find the right definitions, but you will learn a lot of synonyms and your speech will gain in accuracy.  Plus, it is a great way to “dive” into language. The more you investigate new language, the more confident you will become. Some of the most popular online dictionaries are Merriam-Webster, Oxford and Longman.

4. Create a memo book to write down the new words. It may sound boring for you to write down words to learn, but organizing your personal word lists is an activity which definitely will help you expand the number of words in your active vocabulary. I would suggest that you stick to a certain routine – it is much more efficient to practice English 30 minutes every day than 2 hours at the weekend. Choose which way is suitable for you: either write the words in alphabetical order, or combine them thematically. You can also use your tablet or phone to organize your vocabulary.

5. Remember that all these techniques are particularly useful if you practice English with a friend or tutor. That’s why we recommend that you join a conversation English class or a regular English meeting in your city. 

*****

So, if you find yourselves in Madrid, you are welcome to pay a visit to Solo Idiomas.

If you may find yourselves in Krakow this January, it is worth checking out this invite from the American Consulate:

U.S. Consulate Krakow Language Club  
The Consulate is pleased to continue the second edition of the English Language Club for Polish high school and university students. Each week the club will focus on a new discussion topic drawn from important issues of the day. The goal of the club is to give English language learners an opportunity to develop their speaking skills in an informal setting. All levels of English are welcome. Participants must register in advance to participate in an English Language Club session. Complete information is available on the Consulate website.

 

 

 

Filed under: 5►LEARN MORE FROM:, ■ How to Learn Languages, ■ School, ■ Teachers

To Learn More, This High-Schooler Left The Classroom

To listen to the interview below, follow this NPR link.

Boy surrounded by the wonder of learning.
 Like a lot of students, 17-year-old Nick Bain says he really likes his school, but sometimes it can feel like a chore.

“It just feels a little bit like you just have to keep doing one thing after another, but without a whole lot of thinking about an education in general,” says Nick.

So one day he decided to write down what he was doing every 15 minutes at the Colorado Academy in Denver.

And in his seven-hour school day, Nick says there were only “2 1/2 to three hours that you actually really do need to be in class,” to get instructions from the teacher. The rest of the time was spent at lunch, getting books from his locker or reading.

“It occurred to me that maybe the way school is now is not the perfect way,” he says.

Motivation As A Powerful Force

Nick saw a TED Talk by education researcher Sugata Mitra about his famous experiment in India. It showed how children living in Indian slums could teach themselves to use a computer.

“It’s just incredible that that sort of intrinsic motivation exists,” Nick says. “It seems like a really, really powerful force.”

That led him to come up with his own unusual experiment in learning. He would spend the final trimester of his junior year learning on his own.

With enough convincing, he got his school and parents to sign off on the plan.

He’d take the same tests and write the same essays as other students, but wouldn’t attend class. He’d be graded on a pass/fail basis. It would be a self-taught and self-paced journey.

Nick would take seven courses, instead of the normal four, including calculus, Advanced Placement physics and advanced French.

He also designed some of his own courses: In one, he worked with local scientists on a climate change project; in another, he built a one-seat model aircraft.

He journaled along the way.

Nick’s Journal — March 24, 2015

“I’m again feeling that I’m not efficient enough, but maybe efficiency isn’t the most important thing. I definitely feel like I’m learning. But there isn’t that sense of constant urgency that causes one to save time in all sorts of ways when one is under the gun. But what that also means is that I can walk through the park, for example, to the gardens without feeling constant anxiousness about things.”

Thinking In French

Nick experimented with different ways to learn. First he tried to learn a bit of a subject every day. That didn’t go so well. Then he asked, “What if I spent 10 hours a day on one subject?”

Eventually, he found that being steeped in one subject all day led to more learning.

He figured that out one day at the Denver Botanic Gardens while reading Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days — in French.

“I’d been reading it, and reading, and I wasn’t really liking it because I wasn’t understanding some things,” he recalls. And then by the end of the day, “I realized I was reading the French as fast as the English.”

He discovered his learning wasn’t more efficient on his own because he was spending every waking hour learning. His mother, Lisa Bain, said this last trimester was the hardest she’s ever seen Nick work.

“It was hard to get him to relax,” she says. “It’s important to have downtime, and school sometimes allows you to have the downtime. But when you are self-directed, there’s no time that’s not something you could be doing.”

Nick’s Journal — March 6, 2015

“Noticed that I’m actually under a lot of pressure. Thought flexibility would make things less of a strain, but actually causes more of a strain. Constantly thinking: Is what I’m doing right now the best possible use of my time, and that seems to make me highly inefficient, actually. So it’s a lot harder than I thought, and less efficient than I thought. Realizing that I don’t ever feel finished with something, that there is always something I can be doing.”

Learning More Deeply

At the same time, Nick said his learning was more satisfying outside of school. It had more purpose and he was learning more deeply.

As the days passed, he started to relax into the joy of learning. He realized he wasn’t feeling that anxiousness he felt in school with a conveyor belt of assignments coming at him.

And because Nick was on a pass/fail system, he didn’t worry about the best way to get a good grade. Instead, he realized he was working hard at something because he wanted to.

Nick’s Journal — March 18, 2015

“I’ve been hesitating to note this (because of the possibility that it might not hold true), but I feel exactly as Nate Newman said he felt at Stanford: ‘This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.’ It’s always risky to say things like that because they may turn out differently with time. But I have never been so enthralled by learning, ever. I wish only that I could do it for years and years.”

The Value Of School

Nick is heading back to class for his senior year this fall, but that’s not because the experiment was a failure. In fact, he kept up with his classmates, passing his exams and classes. But one of the unexpected results of the experiment, he says, is that now he can see his school — and teachers — in a different light. He appreciates the role teachers play as curators of the best material.

“[There are] some huge benefits to learning with people that I really missed and I’m going to be glad to go back to,” he says.

“The greatest thing is really this,” he says of his experience: “I can be 45 years old, or 27, any age, or doing anything and become an expert on anything.”

“It makes me really excited for the rest of my life, I guess, because I know that it doesn’t have to stop when I stop school.”

Nick’s Journal — June 2, 2015

“Today was the last day of school. It did not feel like the last day of school. It was very strange. I rode my bicycle home, ate some fruit (it was a half-day), and wrote a 3 page essay on Kant and Voltaire. I think I would have laughed at myself pretty hard at doing something like this last year at this time.

“I think today is probably an appropriate time to end this log. Maybe I’ll sporadically note developments and general time usage over the next few weeks — at least some data would probably be helpful, I think. Otherwise, I don’t think I should even try to describe in a few broad statements the effect of these past months. Neatly summing it up here would not capture the magnitude of its value.”

Filed under: ■ NPR, ■ School

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