Sabtu, 19 April 2014

The Secret to Memorizing English Vocabulary and Grammar

Do you have problems remembering English vocabulary or expressions? Do you find it difficult to memorize idiomatic expressions or slang? Do you struggle to understand grammar concepts?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone: most language learners have these problems.
Even native speakers of English have a hard time remembering spelling for some words because often there is no direct correlation between English spelling and pronunciation.
The secret to remembering new words and spellings – for both native and non-native speakers – is to develop a good memory. If you are one of those people who think that they have a poor memory, read on.

This article will explain some techniques that will help you remember vocabulary and grammar much more easily.
First, we need to understand how memory works.

So how does our memory work?

Our memory stores information. The first time we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch something our memory places that information in a certain area.
In some cases, however, when the time comes to retrieve that information, we can’t find it.  Sometimes, even when we try hard to memorize something, the piece of information just won’t cooperate and stay in the appropriate slot in our memory.

Can I improve my memory?

Yes! You can use memory aids: mnemonics.
Mnemonics are images, sounds, rhymes, or acronyms that establish a link to a word, expression, or spelling that is difficult for you to remember. This link connects the two items in your memory, so if you remember one of them, you will easily remember the other.
Imagine this: a stormy sea with bits and pieces of a shipwrecked boat, seaweed and other debris floating around aimlessly on the surface.
Debris floating on the sea - copyright tauntingpanda
This is what happens to a poorly organized memory. It is difficult to find something you need in that huge mass of unrelated bits of information.
Now, imagine a port or harbor where every boat is anchored or docked in the right place. Everything is organized and in its place.
Port with organised moorings - copyright sosolly
The image is a bit unrealistic, but hopefully it will help you imagine what well organized memory is like. Following this analogy, a mnemonic would be an anchor keeping a piece of information in place and not allowing it to float away.
Let’s take a look at a few different ways we can use these “memory anchors” to learn a language.

Using mnemonics to remember spelling

Spelling mnemonics are used by both native speakers and language learners because English spelling can be very confusing! If you cannot remember the spelling for certain words, create a mental connection to something that will help you remember.
Here is a great example: many people are not sure how to spell the word “vacuum”. There is a double letter in the middle, but which one, “c” or “u”? This video has a great mnemonic to help:

Hear, here! How to remember homophones

Weather or whether? Hear or here? There, their, or they’re?
It is particularly difficult to remember the spelling of words that sound alike but have different meanings.  Once again, mnemonics to the rescue!
I used to confuse two words: compliment and complement. Then I came across a mnemonic that helped me remember the difference and I’ve never had trouble with these two words ever since. I’ll share the mnemonic trick with you.
A compliment is an expression of admiration, praise.
He told her he admired her music, and she returned the compliment by saying that she was a fan of his poetry.
A complement, on the other hand, is something that enhances or completes something.
The necklace was a perfect complement for her dress.
Both words can be verbs as well as nouns, and both can have other meanings depending on the context, but these are the most important meanings.
The difference between the spelling of the words compliment and complement is that one has the letter i in the middle and the other has the letter e. So how do we remember which one is which?
Here is a mnemonic: The opposite of a compliment is an insult. Insult starts with the letter I, therefore compliment is spelled with the letter i in the middle.
When one thing complements another, it usually enhances it in some way. It makes the other thing even better. You know that enhance starts with an e, so just remember that if one thing enhances another, it complements it – and it is spelled with the letter e in the middle.

Another great way to remember words that have similar spelling or pronunciation is to make a mnemonic sentence that includes all the words you’re trying to remember.
The sentence needs to make some sense and should be easy to visualize and remember. For example: A barefoot bear drank beer.
Illustration of a bare-footed bear drinking beer
The sentence needs to make sense, but the image doesn’t!

Idiomatic expressions and slang

A picture depicting a literal interpretation of an idiom can be an excellent mnemonic.
For example, to remember the meaning of the idiom “to be all ears”, imagine a person with huge, elephant-like ears pointed in your direction. This image will help you remember the meaning and the central idea of this idiom:
Illustration of a person with large ears having a conversation with another person
What do people use to listen and to hear? Ears, of course. So if a person has huge ears, that means he is listening intently and paying attention to what you have to say.

And what about grammar?

If English has a different grammar structure from your native tongue, it can be difficult to understand the logic behind “alien” grammar concepts.
It may take a long time and several attempts to learn a grammar rule before we really “own” the concept.
By owning I mean that you feel absolutely confident about it and you use it correctly 100% of the time.
Take a look at the 4 steps I follow when internalizing an “alien” grammar concept. Let’s see if they remind you of your own experiences:
  1. I read the rules and I read/see/hear some examples of how it is used. I understand the meaning (or at least I think I do). The rule makes sense. More or less…
  2. I start doing exercises, and now I realize that I don’t completely understand it. I need to see/hear/read some more examples before I start using it myself.
  3. OK, so I think I understand the concept now, but there are so many exceptions! And I hear native speakers using the concept “incorrectly”!  Are they making mistakes, or is there something that my grammar book and my teacher haven’t told me yet?
  4. I now know (hopefully) how to use this piece of grammar. I can use it correctly, and I  know the various contexts where I need to use it. I own the concept now.
Here is the $64,000 question (an idiom which means “a very important question”): is there a way to skip a step or two in this process?
The answer is: Yes. It is difficult, but possible.

How to use mnemonics for grammar

It’s important to visualize (imagine) the new concept; the mental image will help you understand and remember it.
Here is an example.  In Slavic languages there are no auxiliary verbs for the perfect tense (I have read the book) or the continuous tense (I am reading the book).
In Russian there is no difference between, for example, “I read” and “I am reading” – Russian speakers understand the time aspect from the context, but there is no distinction between the two verb forms.
To help Russian speakers conceptualize the difference between the Present Simple and Present Continuous in English, I would ask them to try to imagine two pictures.
For repetitive actions (ie the Present Simple: “I read every day”), imagine a kangaroo jumping up and down on the calendar: I read on Monday (jump), Tuesday (jump), Wednesday (jump), etc.
Kangaroo jumping from one day to another day on a calendar
For actions happening right now (ie the Present Continuous: “I am reading”), I would ask them to imagine a river in front of them that was filled with words and phrases. I would say, “You’re sitting on the bank of the river, and the text is flowing past you, from left to right to illustrate that process of reading right now.”
At first the difference between the two actions can be quite confusing – one is repetitive and general, and the other is developing right now, in front of you.  But the images certainly help to visualize the difference, and eventually to internalize it as well.

And another grammar example

Let’s consider another example of a difficult grammar concept: stative verbs.
These are the verbs that are not normally used in the continuous form, even when we are talking about temporary situations or states.  Have you ever been confused about the logic of stative verbs? How can the same verb denote a state and an action in the same situation?
Example: “The girl is smelling the rose” compared to “The rose smells good”.
How do we know if it is an action verb (and so we can use the Present Continuous), or a stative verb (and so we can’t use the Present Continuous)? Visualizing will help you again.
Imagine you are that girl performing this action.
Imagine every little step of the process: you take the flower in your hand, then bring it to your nose, and gently inhale the air through your nostrils to experience the delicate smell of the rose. Is there an action in this?
Hopefully you SEE the action and you UNDERSTAND that there is in fact an action associated with this.
Now, imagine you are the rose.
What are you doing? What is your action? If you think about this for a few seconds, it will become clear that there is no action on the part of the flower.
Let’s consider other examples:
The cook is tasting the soup. The soup tastes good.
I’m feeling your forehead. Your forehead feels really hot. Are you sick?
Can you visualize yourself being the cook, and being the soup? Can you picture yourself as a forehead?!

How to create mnemonics

  1. Not all words and expressions are equally important. Because of that, not all difficult vocabulary items “deserve” to have a mnemonic. Identify the words and expressions that are really important to you professionally or socially, and create mnemonics for them first.  Don’t worry about esoteric or very rare words that you can’t remember.
  2. Create word mnemonics in English, not your native tongue.  If your mnemonic is an image, try to think of it only in English.
  3. Do not overdo it: try not to create too many mnemonics.  If you do, you could overwhelm yourself and spend too much time trying to remember mnemonics instead of reading, writing, or speaking in English. We all have a limit to how much we can remember, so explore yours.
  4. Not every mnemonic will make sense to other people.  Personally, I divide my mnemonics into two groups:  public and private.  Public are the ones that will be easily understood by other people. Private, on the other hand, will make sense only to you.  Private mnemonics are very difficult to explain to other people, but don’t worry about that: the only thing that matters is your own ability to quickly retrieve the word or concept from your memory.

From Frustrated to Fun – How 4 People Found the Motivation to Learn English

Let’s face it, learning English is hard.
There will be times when it’s difficult to get motivated because you’re frustrated with the language.
There may be grammar concepts you don’t quite understand, or you just can’t seem to remember all those words on that vocabulary list. You might wonder if all those years you put into studying are worth it.
In fact, many people have felt the same as you. You are not alone.
Just when they feel like giving up, they found that with encouragement from others and some hard work, they were able to achieve their goals.
And you can too.

Yes, We Can

I’d like to share with you the stories of some students I have personally taught that have gone through exactly the same situation, and had the same problems as you.
They are proof that, no matter what your level is, you can do it.
The secret is to keep motivating yourself and to persevere when you feel like giving up.

Forming Friendships

The existing phrasebooks are inadequate. They are well enough as far as they go, but when you fall down and skin your leg they don't tell you what to say - Mark Twain
There were two separate students who had similar English skill levels when they started my class. Bob was a very shy person that worked in the IT industry and would barely speak, while Ricardo, a project manager, was a very outgoing student who loved to participate.
While both of them knew a lot of vocabulary, they didn’t know how to use these words in normal, everyday conversations – for example, they knew would constantly confuse the words ‘fun’ and ‘funny’.
But when it came to talking to other students casually in English before or after class, they felt lost.
After a few weeks, Ricardo started to get really embarrassed and would arrive at class just when it started, and would leave as soon as class time was over.
During class, however, he would talk a lot. When it came to group work he would talk less. Bob was the same – he barely spoke on his own.
One day I noticed that Ricardo went up to Bob to ask about his day. I listened in for a few minutes because I was curious to see how Bob would respond. Bob responded that he had a long and tiring day at work. They both talked briefly for 5 minutes.
I started noticing that over the next 6 months or so, Bob and Ricardo would sit together and chat before and after class. They first started by staying a little bit later, around 15 minutes. Then they also started arriving a little bit earlier, around half an hour.
One day I was getting my teaching materials ready and noticed laughter in the classroom. It was Ricardo and Bob swapping funny stories.
Bob became more outgoing in class and started participating more. Ricardo spoke a lot as usual, but I noticed that his language became more natural, closer to that of a native English speaker.
To this day, Bob and Ricardo are still the best of friends. They go on trips together with their families, and still help each other out with learning English.
Bob told me that it was because of Ricardo’s friendship that he was able to improve his English skills enough to be able to deliver an important client presentation. That client presentation eventually helped him get promoted at work.
Lesson learned: having someone to learn English with can serve as a great motivator.

Going International

Mastery of language affords one remarkable opportunities - Alexandre Dumas
A Chinese student I taught was very motivated. He told me that his dream was to go to the USA, and together we made a plan to improve his skills.
He would read a novel or two every week and he would proceed to tell me what happened in each of them. Once a day he worked on writing essays or short stories, and asked me to edit them during our telephone lessons.
He not only worked hard at English, but he worked hard at his job too. He was an engineer.
One day, as we were chatting right before class, I briefly mentioned that the USA has an employment based visa. This type of immigration visa allows someone who is highly skilled to move to the US, even if they don’t have a job offer yet.
He was very excited about this idea and wanted to know more. We found a website where he could apply to find out more, and was told that he had to prove his English was fluent enough.
He was scared he would get rejected, and I reminded him that he had worked too hard to give up.
Within the next few days he went and signed up for a TOEFL test. He scored well and went through the US visa application process and was accepted.
That was a few years ago – the last I heard of him, he was interviewing for a job in Texas.
Lesson learned: if you let fear get in the way of what you want, you will never achieve your goals with learning English.

From Broken English to English Editor

The only normal way to begin speaking in a new language is to begin speaking badly - Greg Thomson
Five years ago, I was working in a training center that taught professionals who wanted to work with foreign companies. Many students spent a few months at the center so they got to know each other well.
One day a new student who barely spoke English walked into my class. He was in an entry position at his company, and during his first week in class he showed me a picture of his wife and children.
However, he was very shy and looked extremely nervous every time he was in the classroom.
Most of the time I only heard him say “hello” and “goodbye” during class. Many of the students didn’t know how to work with him because they were not able to communicate with him in English.
Many students simply ignored him.
He would come in with his book and try his best to read the words presented in front of him. Most of the time he failed, and some students were kind enough to correct him.
Even though he appreciated the kindness, he still felt sad. I knew that he was comparing himself to everyone else around him.
A week into class, this student would come to me after every lesson and ask me to help him read. In his broken English, he said “Help…me…good…English.”
He started drawing pictures or adding notes in his native language. During class discussions he would try to use words he learned the day before.
He started out using the words incorrectly, but within a few months, he had learned enough words to have fairly good conversations with students in the class.
The students who previously ignored him started becoming friendlier towards him. He also learned a few jokes and shared them with his classmates.
Five years later, I still keep in contact with him. He tells me that he helps to edit business correspondence for his colleagues and gets asked to go on business trips overseas. He’s hoping to continue to improve so that one day he can get promoted.
Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The more you make, the more you learn from them.

Never Learn in Isolation

Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
An Italian student of mine was really struggling with learning more advanced grammar in class.
She was taking courses in English writing because she had recently gotten a promotion at work. Part of her responsibility was to write client presentations, business correspondence and proofread other people’s work.
She put a lot of pressure on herself to do well and would stress out constantly in class.
During one class, students were paired off and told to edit each other’s work. Her partner was being friendly and giving constructive feedback, but she got visibly upset. She excused herself and didn’t return until class was over.
I asked her what was wrong.
She was very hesitant at first to tell me what she was struggling with, but then told me that she didn’t understand how to construct certain complex sentences.
I tried going over rules such as verb tenses and subordinate clauses, but she kept getting more confused.
Instead of shying away, she would ask me again and again how to write something if she didn’t understand.
During this time I was learning Italian. I remembered from an Italian grammar lesson that some of their grammar rules were very different from how English grammar works.
I decided to bring my Italian language textbook to class the next day and do a lesson comparing Italian and English grammar.
As we talked about some of the similarities and differences, I saw that she started to smile. When her partner was editing some of her writing, she wasn’t nervous at all.
She told me later that because she was able to compare English with her native tongue, she could grasp English grammar more easily.
Lesson learned: never learn English in isolation. If you can compare English to what you already know about your own language, it will be much easier to improve.

From Good to Great – 4 Techniques to Perfect Your English

So you’ve gotten pretty good at communicating with clients and colleagues in English. Now what?
Are you happy with ‘good enough’, or do you want to be great? When it comes to learning a language your journey is far from over. In fact, it has just begun.
Sometimes, when we start getting really good at a skill, we tend to hit a plateau. That means that we get too comfortable and reach something called the ‘OK Plateau‘.
This is when we reach the point where we do something well enough that we stop improving.

According to Brain Pickings:
We reach this OK Plateau in pursuing just about every goal, from learning to drive to mastering a foreign language to dieting.
After an initial stage of rapid improvement, we find ourselves in that place at once comforting in its good-enoughness and demotivating in its sudden dip in positive reinforcement.

So how does this relate to you and learning English?

View From the Top cartoon - copyright Itchy Feet
For one, it means that we get so comfortable communicating using the vocabulary we already know that we forget that there are probably thousands more words that we could be learning.
While our writing is great, we might forget that we need to refine and perfect our skills in perfecting certain grammatical concepts, such as verb tenses or articles.
The OK plateau was first recognised by psychologists Paul Fitts and Michael Posner but it is something we can all relate to. Think of it as a “creative block”.
And yes, learning is a creative activity.

Getting Unstuck

With all creative activities, sometimes we get stuck. Reaching a plateau in our learning means we’ve stumbled upon our creative block.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield believes that reaching a plateau means that we are not doing the work necessary to rise above it. When we procrastinate, it means that we are letting our inner resistance take over.
He believes that Resistance (he spells it with a capital R) is an inner voice that tells us not to do any work. He says:
The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.
Never forget: this very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance.
This second, we can sit down and do our work.
Yes, it can be as simple as that, doing our work. But what do we need to do exactly to get over the OK plateau and continue improving our English?
There are 4 techniques you can use:

1. Make Mistakes on Purpose

Making mistakes picture - copyright advertisingelyse
Learning involves making mistakes. When practicing English, get out of your comfort zone and put your skills out there.
Some of the best learners study their failures. They monitor mistakes they consistently make and focus on the skills they haven’t quite mastered yet.
They know that they have a long way to go before they become better, and that learning is a lifelong process.
Go ahead and think about the mistakes you’ve been making. Can’t think of any? That means you need to start tracking it.
Once you’ve figured out what English skills you need to work on, focus on improving on them.
If you aren’t sure of how to track your mistakes, here are some suggestions:
  • Sign up for a language exchange class, and have your partner point out errors you make during your conversation. Write down what specific mistakes you make on a spreadsheet, a notepad or even by using an app like Evernote.
    It might be also helpful to note the dates when you’ve made these mistakes. At the end of the week, review the list to see if you notice any patterns.
  • Write every day. Try to aim for 500 words daily. After a few days, go and look at what you’ve written to see if you can spot mistakes. Also, give your pieces of writing to your teacher, or even friends who are native English speakers.
  • If you notice any patterns, such as skills you’re not good at, make it a goal to learn them. Mark out a plan for the next two weeks to focus only on learning those and applying them in a real world context.

2. Overcome Fear

Face to face with Darth Vader in Lego - copyright Jonathan_W (@whatie)
What does fear have to do with getting stuck?
According to Steven Pressfield, fear matters a lot. Sometimes English learners plateau because they feed into their fears. They might fear they’re not good enough to do the work.
Being scared isn’t a bad thing. In fact, Pressfield believes that being scared is good:
Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do.
Remember our rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.
Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance.
Maybe you’re scared because you’re due for a promotion and you’re not sure your English is good enough. Feeling fearful means that you really want something, such as that promotion you’ve been dreaming about.
Having self-doubt indicates that you know you have a lot more work to do.
So how do you overcome your fear? Try one of these techniques:
  • Acknowledge your fear. In English, or whatever language you’re most comfortable with, write down what you’re scared of. You might even want to speak about your fears with a trusted friend. Getting your fears out in the open is part of letting go of them. You’d be surprised at how much better you feel once you recognize your fears.
  • Remember the best case scenario. Analyze what would happen in the best case scenario – will you get promoted, or land that client you’ve been trying to get for ages? Keep these scenarios in mind every time fear crops up.

3. Get Competitive

Getting competitive last stand in Lego - copyright Jonathan_W (@whatie)
Sometimes all you need is to get some outside accountability. Sure, you may be taking classes or participating in local conversation groups. But you might have gotten too comfortable with these people and don’t care when they point out mistakes to you. Putting yourself in a more competitive situation can push you to learn more.
Some ways to get more competitive can include entering an contest that involves English.
Go and do a quick search on your local area to see if they have speech contests, or even a local Toastmasters group where you can practise giving a speech in public. Speaking in front of a group of strangers is certainly different than practicing with a friend.
Why not enter writing contests meant for native English speakers? You will be competing against people with excellent skills, so that means you really need to push yourself.

4. Slow Down

Relaxing on the beach - copyright Franconian
We’re all human. Sometimes there are so many things going on in our already busy lives that we get burnt out. We start by coming home from work tired. It might even lead to loss of sleep, or even being irritable around our friends and family.
Other people might notice that they do really well for the first few weeks studying new vocabulary. All of a sudden, they might start to slack off, or start skipping their English classes, finding any excuse not to go.
Don’t feel guilty if you’re not as productive when you feel burnt out. It’s simply your body’s way of telling you that you need to take time to slow down.
Sometimes, being more productive means that you need to take a break every once in a while.
It’s great that your goal is to perfect and become very fluent in English, but you risk getting severely burnt out. Take at least a day off where you’re not studying English. Reflecting on your achievements can help as a quick motivator to further your skills.
For example, if you feel like you can’t learn any more vocabulary words, take the time to revisit words you’ve already learned. Really look at the words to get a sense of what the definitions are, and how you can apply them in a work setting.
Take the time to consider how you can apply what you learned. During this process, you might even find that you discover new definitions of those words. You might even find that taking the time to revisit these words gets you excited about learning more.
There is nothing wrong with not always pushing yourself. Constantly pushing our limits means that it’s difficult to keep perspective, to check objectively that our study methods are actually effective.
You don’t have to slow down for long periods either. Sometimes, a few days or even a week is all it takes for you to get back on track.


Go forth on your journey, in Lego - copyright Jonathan_W (@whatie)
Go forth on your journey!
No matter what stage of learning you are at, it is normal to reach a point where you’re not progressing as fast as you used to.
Overcoming plateaus in your learning might mean that you need to slow down for a few days. It might also mean that you need to make more mistakes, and get more outside accountability in order to improve.

Teaching Methods

What is the best teaching method for learning English?

According to academic research, linguists have demonstrated that there is not one single best method for everyone in all contexts, and that no one teaching method is inherently superior to the others.
Also, it is not always possible - or appropriate - to apply the same methodology to all learners, who have different objectives, environments and learning needs.
"Applying the most appropriate method for that learner's specific objectives, learning style and context."
An experienced professional language teacher always adopts the Principled Eclecticism approach, deciding on the most suitable techniques and applying the most appropriate methodology for that learner's specific objectives, learning style and context.

Methods of teaching English have developed rapidly, especially in the previous 40 years. It is important that language learners and training managers, as well as teachers, understand the various methods and techniques so you are able to navigate the market, make educated choices, and boost your enjoyment of learning a language.

An Overview

Each teaching method is based on a particular vision of understanding the language or the learning process, often using specific techniques and materials used in a set sequence.
The main methodologies are listed below in the chronological order of their development:
  • Grammar Translation - the classical method
  • Direct Method - discovering the importance of speaking
  • Audio-lingualism - the first modern methodology
  • Humanistic Approaches - a range of holistic methods applied to language learning
  • Communicative Language Teaching - the modern standard method
  • Principled Eclecticism - fitting the method to the learner, not the learner to the method

Timeline showing the evolution of English teaching methods from 1900 to today

What are the Differences?

Each method has a different focus or priority, so let's look at what this means in practical terms in the classroom.
The more common methods have a link to a separate page with more details and an explanation of how they work, including the most common method currently used - Communicative Language Teaching.

Method Focus Characteristics
Grammar Translation
Written literary texts
Translate from English into your native language
Direct Method (also called Natural Method)
Everyday spoken language
Student learns by associating meaning directly in English
Audio-Lingual Method
Sentence and sound patterns
Listening and speaking drills and pattern practice only in English
Cognitive Code Approach
Grammar rules
English grammar rules deduced and then understood in context
Humanistic Approaches - 4 popular examples:
- The Silent Way
Student interaction rather than teacher
Teacher is silent to allow student awareness of how English works
- Suggestopedia
Meaningful texts and vocabulary
Relaxed atmosphere, with music; encourages subliminal learning of English
- Community Language Learning
Student interaction
Understanding of English through active student interaction
- Comprehension Approach (Natural Approach, the Learnables, and Total Physical Response)
Listening comprehension
English speaking delayed until students are ready; meaning clarified through actions and visuals
Communicative Language Teaching
Interaction, authentic communication and negotiating meaning
Understanding of English through active student interaction; role play, games, information gaps
Content-based, Task-based, and Participatory Approaches
What is being communicated, not structure of English
Content based on relevance to students' lives: topics, tasks, problem-solving
Learning Strategy Training, Cooperative Learning, and Multiple Intelligences
How to learn
Teach learning strategies, cooperation; activities vary according to different intelligences
Based on Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Oxford University Press)

Modern Teaching Methods

As mentioned above, the modern language teacher doesn't follow one rigid method, but applies the Principled Eclecticism approach - fitting the method to the learner, not vice versa.
This means choosing the techniques and activities that are appropriate for each particular task, context and learner, with a focus on motivation and helping learners become independent and inspired to learn more.
The explanation of Principled Eclecticism also includes a useful ten-point guide for teachers and language students on the best teaching and learning techniques.

Jumat, 07 Maret 2014

12 Things You Should Never, Ever Say To Teachers

Let me say up top here that I am NOT a teacher — I found this on a blog (listed below) that is all about and by teachers. And it's the kind of thing I hope gets legs so people stop asking these kinds of silly questions.
Oh, and next time your state wants to cut teacher pay and benefits, speak up!
1. “We’ve all been to elementary school, so aren’t we all kind of experts on it?”
Umm, no. You’ve been sick before — does that make you a doctor?

2. “When I retire, I still want to do something, so I think I might take up teaching.”
Teaching is not a hobby, like gardening or sailing. Teaching will likely make your old job feel like a vacation.

3. “Have you ever thought about making your class more fun?”
No, I do my best to make it as boring as I can.

4. “If you really cared about kids, you wouldn’t worry about the salary.”
I love my students. I love teaching. I also love being able to support my family and feed my kids.

5. “If you managed your time at school, I bet you wouldn’t need to plan lessons and grade on the weekends.”
OK, I’m a little busy at school. I teach and work with students almost every moment of the day. Spending 20 hours a week outside of school on prep and grading is normal for me.

6. “You’ll never be a truly great teacher until you have your own kids.”
Actually, yes I will. The relationship between teacher and student is quite different from that of parent and child.

7. “Why do you make them read so much and write so many essays? Why do you give such hard grades?”
Because it’s my job. Because my students are here to learn. Because they’ll need these skills to survive in the world. How many reasons do you need?

8. “I pay taxes in this district, so technically you work for me.”
Sorry, we’re not your minions. That’s not how it works. Taxes support public goods and services — such as the fire department, police, parks, and yes, public schools — for the community as a whole. And by the way, teachers pay taxes too.

9. “Ohh, you teach kindergarten. That must be fun — playing and singing all day.”
Yes, my life is just like Disney movie. I sing and the children and the little animals of the forest come running. Actually, in kindergarten, we teach our students the foundational literacy and math skills — as well as the social and emotional skills — that set them up for success in every grade to follow.

10. “Why are you so strict? They’re just kids.”
We make plenty of time for laughter and fun in my classroom. But rules and routine are not only necessary, they help children to feel safe, secure, and valued in the classroom community.

11. “How hard can it be? You have all summer off.”
A longer summer break is one of the benefits of choosing teaching as a career. But keep in mind, it’s not all summer. I spend weeks every July and August on professional development and curriculum planning. And during the school year, I work 12 hours a day all week long and at least one day every weekend. Add it up and our vacation days are about the same.

12. “Teaching is nice, but don’t you want to be more successful and make more money?”
I teach because I want to make a difference. I teach because what I do every day matters for kids.
That’s what success looks like.

Rabu, 26 Februari 2014

15 Things to STOP Doing When Learning English! (Very Important!)

Learning a new language can be very difficult, but you can make it easier for yourself by NOT creating more barriers that will hinder your progress.  These tips (in no particular order) should help to make your learning process a lot smoother, and make learning English fun!
1. STOP translating!
stop translating

Translating should only be something you need to do in the very early stages of learning English.
Once you have a basic grasp of vocabulary, you should stop thinking in your own language and trying to translate everything, as this slows your progress down, and limits your focus!
When someone says something, concentrate on the words you DO know, and build your understanding from there.
2. DON’T be afraid to make mistakes!
DON’T be afraid to make mistakes!

Fear can become a huge barrier, which makes it difficult to progress. If you know the rules of grammar, but struggle to hold a conversation – that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking in English!
STOP thinking about how people might react, and what they’ll say. Everyone makes mistakes, and then they learn from them – that is how you get better at it!
3. STOP negative self-talk!
Having a negative attitude doesn’t help improve your learning, it makes it worse. If you find you’re saying negative things to yourself like:
“Why do I always get it wrong? I’m so stupid.”
“I always make mistakes; I’ll never get better at this.”
“I don’t know what to say, it’s so hard to speak in English.”
This needs to change! Try to turn them into positive statements, you can rephrase them to show positivity. Instead of saying “I’ll never get better at this”, you should say “I’m going to keep trying, I’m sure I’ll get better at it soon.”
Instead of saying “Sorry, I don’t speak English, I can’t understand you”, say “Sorry, I’m still learning how to speak English, so could you speak a bit slower please?”
Positivity helps you to learn much quicker!
4. STOP being nervous!
STOP being nervous

Speak in English every time you have the opportunity. If you think about speaking, then you’ll just feel even more nervous. Just put yourself out there, and speak!
The more you speak, the more confident and comfortable you will feel, and the quicker you will learn how to communicate in English properly!
You may need to step out of your comfort zone a little bit, but the more you speak in English, the more you will begin to feel relaxed.
5. STOP taking it personally when people don’t understand you!

At some point, you will meet someone who, no matter how hard you try, just can’t understand you. This happens all the time.
Due to the large number of English speakers in the world, there is a wide range of accents, some of which, can be hard to understand!
Eliminating your mother tongue from your accent completely, is extremely difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself!
6. STOP apologising!
No one knows everything – so don’t apologise for not speaking English perfectly! You’re still learning, everything takes time.
The more you speak and practice your newfound skills, the more you will improve. Even native English speakers didn’t learn how to speak in a few months!
The main thing is that you are trying, most people will understand and appreciate that. So just relax, and start talking!
7. DON’T just learn in class!
online English class and course

Learning in a classroom environment is great because you get to ask questions, pick your teacher’s brain, and share ideas with classmates, but you also need to implement the English language into your daily life, and communicate with people in English at every opportunity you get.

If you don’t practice speaking English outside the classroom, then your ability to progress will remain very limited. This is one of the most important things you need to remember.
It is the best way to learn, and will definitely influence how quickly you improve!
8. DON’T give up!
don't give up learning english

At first, it always seems hard when you’re learning something new, but if you keep at it – it will become easier!
You have to keep practising if you want to get better, otherwise it’ll get harder to improve.
Professional athletes have to do the same, they train hard all the time, because if they didn’t – their skills would just get worse!
9. STOP worrying!
STOP worrying

Don’t waste a chance to speak English because you’re worried about whether they will understand you or not. Be confident, and have an ‘I can do it’ attitude.
Don’t be shy! Least of all, don’t worry about learning, because it’s supposed to be fun. The more fun you have, the easier you will learn!
10. STOP comparing yourself to other English speakers!
STOP comparing yourself to other English speakers

No matter what level of English you are on, you worked hard to get there. Be proud of what you have achieved.
Everybody is different, some people learn languages more easily than others, and some people spend more time working to improve their English. Just because your friend is learning faster than you, doesn’t mean you’re not on the right path!
11. STOP using outdated, inefficient methods! (please)
STOP using outdated, inefficient methods

Grammar-translation methods, and memorisation of rules have been standard practice for a very long time, but they’re probably not the most effective ways to learn.
Some students study English for many years, and know all the rules of grammar and sentence structures, but still struggle to communicate properly and hold a conversation in English.
It is important to have a significant amount of time focusing on conversational, functional language use, and learn in context through interaction with other people!
12. DON’T work too hard on one skill and neglect the others!
working hard

If you just want to be able to speak to people, then you might place less emphasis on reading and writing, but you shouldn’t neglect them too much, as they are also crucial for fluency.
You should concentrate on improving your speaking skills, but also dedicate a suitable amount of time practising your reading, writing and listening skills. You shouldn’t underestimate the benefits all these skills have on each other!
13. STOP spending too much time studying!
STOP spending too much time studying

If you sit in front of a book or screen for hours, going over the same rules and flashcards again and again, it won’t make you learn any faster!
You should have short study periods of up to 30 minutes, then spend a generous amount of your available time putting the language skills you’ve learnt, into practice.
It’s okay to study for up to 30 minutes, take a break, then go back to studying if you really need to, but studying for a long period of time, without taking a break, is quite exhausting for your brain!
14. STOP thinking of learning as a chore!
be positive

Learners sometimes associate study with something that is unpleasant, which turns it into ‘boring homework’, and ‘boring exercises’.

Even if they realise that learning is important, they may not be self-motivated enough to do it all the time! It needs to be something you want to do, not have to do. Make it interesting so you have fun when you’re learning.
- If you’re walking down the street, build simple English sentences in your head about the things you see around you
- Learn a new word each day and try to use it in conversation
- Watch a funny video on the internet and tell someone what it’s about
- Read an article about your favourite band (or something else that interests you)
- Communicate with people on a discussion forum.
Soon you will stop thinking of boring classes, difficult grammar rules or lengthy homework – instead you’ll be thinking about a funny English TV show, your favourite band, or interesting conversations with different people – in English!
Only one kind of person would do these sort of things – the kind of person who enjoys them! If you want to learn how  to speak English well, you have to be that person. Have you ever heard of anyone who became successful by doing something they hated?
15.  DON’T disregard the culture!
Language is made up of so many intricate expressions of culture, that it is impossible for books and courses to cover them adequately.
For example, the way an average, ordinary person interacts with other people in his or her community. All cultures and small communities have different gestures, intonation, slang terms, proximity, interjections, fillers, and short cuts!

If you are focusing on learning the tongue of a certain community then it would be best to integrate with them, and learn from them!