Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

March 14, 2012

My four Ps for polished performance in English language.

The idea for this post came out of a text chat discussion we had on Gapfillers a little while ago when, we came up with a formula for improving  performance and skills in English.

The title of the discussion was ‘How to get my English to a high level’ and the first three Ps to emerge (they all just happened to start with P) were:

Patience, Perseverance and Performance

and then the fourth and equally important Practice.

With this Posse of  Ps it’s hard not to reach your English goal (and hard to keep away from P-words too :-)! )

So let’s expand on them and see how they can help you to achieve your dream in English.

Patience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your English. If things take time to sink in, make sense or execute don’t worry. If you keep on at a steady pace then you will, almost without realising it, achieve the milestone that you are aiming for. One day you will suddenly realise that you know something, really know it in your muscles, that you have been struggling to master for a while. Remember that language learning goes in a series of plateaux and is not a straight, onwards and upwards, line. You may feel that you are not making any progress for what seems like a long time and then suddenly, almost overnight, you get it! With patience these steps will happen and you will see and feel them. This will give you even more confidence to keep going!

Perseverance

This attribute helps you to pick yourself up, even after you have had a setback, and push forwards. It is easy to give up. It is easy to say I’ll never do this. Let’s say you took an exam and didn’t get the result you wanted you can shrug your shoulders and say that you’re not ever going to get the grade you need or you can learn from the experience and get back on track. Sometimes when you have this experience you need someone to support you and help you to keep going and find out where you went wrong.  A mentor, however, can only show you the way and encourage you. At the end of the day YOU are the one who needs to draw on your inner strength and focus on your dream again and take action to move closer to it.

Performance

By performance here I mean actually using your language. Speaking and writing as much as you can and making sure that you have an audience to receive this performance and sometimes even rate you on it! I speak to English learners every day and many of them tell me how they don’t have opportunities to speak or they can’t find anybody to look at their writing. Then I speak to others who have found themselves language buddies online and they speak every day and assess each other’s writing! You have to try to create opportunities for yourself and it’s so much easier today with the internet.

Be brave if you can’t find a group then why not start one yourself!

The fact of the matter is that languages improve with use and so if you need to improve, then you have to use them. You cannot rely on your books alone you MUST get out there and speak and write.

The more you perform the better (especially if you have good feedback) your performance will get.

Practice

The difference between practice and performance is that one is ‘real’ and the other is preparation for real. If you speak then your purpose is often other than the words and sentences  – it is to communicate something to someone. When you write it is to convey and message, or information, or get an assessment in an exam. On the other hand when you practise you are trying to perfect your skills for the performance. It’s rather like training in sport or rehearsing in music. It is in the practice where you can experiment with new words and phrases or a new style or new ideas. Practice is the focused way in which you get your skills to performance level. It is here that you can try things out, experiment with new words and phrases or new approaches to writing. You can ask people if you are right or gauge someone’s reaction to your new style or new vocabulary. Try and test, test and try, and you will broaden your language for the ‘real’ times.

But both practice and performance work together to get you those high level skills that you desire.

So, here you are; the 4P approach to getting your language skills to shine and achieving your goals in language whatever they may be.

And in case you are interested, here is the ‘warts and all’ transcript from that PPPP chat!!

GapChat

9/02/2011

How can I get my English to a really high level?

Welcome to live chat.
09:02 Berni: Don’t forget GapChat at 13.00 GMT today! See you then 🙂

12:51 Berni: Hello and welcome to today’s GapChat. How can I get my English to a really high level? I’m very excited about this topic as I think Gapfillers is a perfect way to start!

12:59 Berni: Add your comments in the box and press send. Don’t worry about just watching what others

are doing. Add your comments when you feel ready.

13:00 Berni: Hi Blanca I hope you manage to stay with us today!

13:00 Blanca Morales: Hi Berni, I´m sure you have the clue to get my English to a really high level?

13:01 Berni: I was hoping you would give us your advice as your English is at a very high level already!

13:01 Blanca Morales: It seems to be working at the moment.

13:02 Berni: I think one point about you Blanca is that you keep going and always look for areas of your English to work on – this is very important!

13:03 Berni: Three words that I think are very important (and they all begin with P) are Patience, Perseverance and Performance

13:04 Berni: HI Cee welcome – any nuggets for today’s chat?

13:04 Cee: Hi. Just getting my brain into gear!!

13:05 Blanca Morales: It is but it´s true my commitment to keep it going is high, that´s part of my life but when you´re just a learner is more difficult.

13:05 Cee: Would you add a further p – practise

13:05 Berni: Great idiom Cee! It means to get ready for action.

13:06 jay: Hi Friends..

13:06 Blanca Morales: I agree with these 4 P principles you two have just mentioned.

13:07 Berni: I agree Cee practice and performance go hand in hand you need to take opportunities to perform and then depending on the outcome go back and practise (note 2 spellings pof practice/practise noun/verb).

13:07 Berni: pof obviously? = of Lol!

13:08 rosamund: Hi, everyone! I’ll butt in when I have an idea – you seem to have got off to a flying start!

13:09 Berni: HI Jay welcome we are exploring what you should do to get your English to a high level and have come up the the 4P process! Pretty cool!

13:09 rosamund: butt in = interrupt, cut in. i suppose it’s a bit informal

13:09 Berni: Wow we’re producing great idioms today! Hello Ros welcome.

13:10 Berni: By the way cut in was our word of the day earlier in the week.

13:11 jay: This is first time chattting with you guys am new..Could you tell me about this use of chat..

13:11 Berni: So, how can we really use this process of patience, perseverence, practice and performance to push our skills?

13:12 Cee: Do you think getting your English to a high level is a staged process? – read, listen, speak. So that, in stages your confidence builds along with your ability?

13:12 rosamund: Hello, Jay – nice to meet you! What are your ideas about getting your English up to a high level? I think it’s important not to overlook the little opportunities that crop up (= occur) in your everyday routine. A friend of mine learned Polish while he was travelling to work on the metro eveyr day. It was the only free time he had, but he made use of it with a notebook, a list of vocabulary and sometimes headphones!

13:13 Berni: Jay we meet and chat each Wednesday about a topic on online English language learning

13:13 rosamund: Oops! typoe = I meant every

13:13 rosamund: typo – oh dear

13:14 Berni: The topic is voted for by Gapfillers members and then we discuss and look at ways we can use Gapfillers (and other things) to improve English skills

13:14 Cee: Great idea Ros. I have heard of people learning a language by listening to the radio – song lyrics as well as conversation.

13:15 Berni: We are looking at how to really make a difference to English language skills. I think to do something every day (even 5 or 10 minutes) will help.

13:16 Berni: The important things you have in thes example Cee is that this is authentic, real English and so is a good model.

13:17 Berni: The negative side of just listening to songs or radio is that in some way you need to convert this into an active skill – speaking or writing

13:17 Blanca Morales: Once you have reached an advanced level if you want to overcome that plateau level you feel at, you really need a professional to make your English progress. There I come to sth o learnt from Berni, which is brilliant: language auditing -is the spelling right?-

13:18 Berni: Yes, Blanca I agree you have to have someone chack that you are correct and that you don’t keep making the same mistakes – language auditing is a way of assessing your own language for the mistakes you make over and over

13:19 rosamund: Yes, Berni, i agree – what’s ideal is to be able to make the most of the time you have – the word of the day doesn’t take long for people to absorb – and the grammar exercises here on Gapfillers are also short. Some people like to make their own notes on reading or listening exercises to reinforce what they’ve covered – it depends on how your brain works, really. This can be a way of making the learning more active, to take your point, Berni. it’s not active active, but it’s not just passive – you’re taking sth and doing sth with it.

13:19 rosamund: did you mean ‘check’ Berni? My dictionary doesn’t have ‘chack’. (ho, ho!)

13:19 Berni: Jay what is your opinion on getting your English to a really good level?

13:20 Berni: Oh Ros Lol!

13:20 Blanca Morales: Can you see what I´m saying?

13:21 Berni: Yes Blanca – have you faded again?

13:23 jay: Berni..Actually i have a habit to improve my english skills.i used to find new word from dictonary and write it a pice of paper..i will read number of times whenever getting time on whole day…like traving ,roaming and somtimes while do bathing..!!!!

13:23 Berni: If you really want to improve your skills then you have to kep an eye on what ‘real’ speakers do – I find some students get to a reasonable level and then just go round in circles.

13:24 Blanca Morales: In fact, practice and awareness are important to boost the learning process.

13:24 jay: ‘real’ speakers means….native speakers?

13:24 Berni: This is a great idea Jay if you keep looking at the word and using it you will remember it! Make sure you look, listen, speak or write even a little every day.

13:25 Berni: Yes that’s right or very good speakers (they may not be native) I think having a good model is important that way you don’t ‘learn’ mistakes

13:25 rosamund: Yes, Jay – that’s a good idea. Do you ever put the word on a post-it? They’re little bits of sticky paper that you can stick on the fridge, or the bathroom mirror, so you look at them regularly. I have different colours, as i find even that can help words to stick (= sink in = become absorbed / learned).

13:26 jay: but whenever iam trying to speak in english ..iam always used to form sentence in my monther lang..then iam transalate it…some times i cant trsnalate what am thinking..

13:27 Berni: So to summmarise – we need to be patient and persevere, we need to practise and perform as much as possible, we need to have good language models and finally we need to expose ourselves to some English every day

13:27 Cee: Ha ha – some of the English used in the media is really quite poor!

13:28 Berni: Aha Jay now this is important – try not to do this as it rarely comes out right – use what you already know in English and start with simple sentences – what do you think Blanca?

13:28 Berni: I agree Cee it can be awful but there is still enough that is good to use I feel.

13:28 jay: Yes…Rosamund..used to stick papers on my walls,TV and bike!!!

13:29 Berni: Jay, you sound as though you are already doing everything you need to do to improve your English! Now try and ‘think’ in English!

13:30 Berni: Right so how can Gapfillers help?

13:30 Cee: Jay , my friend had a rule when learning French – If I wish to speak in French I must think it French too! She said it was very useful.

13:31 Cee: Whoops, ‘Think IN French’, not it -another typo

13:31 rosamund: It’s a much better idea to simplify what you’re thinking in your own language and base what you say on sth you know is right. It’s always interesting wondering how you would actually say sth in your own language – often it would be really difficult, so better not to translate too much of the time, just occasionally. It’s essential to vary your different types of learning, too. You can get bored and stop taking things in.

13:32 jay: sth means?

13:33 Berni: it means something (an abbreviation often used by teachers!)

13:33 Cee: Sth is an abbreviation of the word- something

13:33 jay: Fine

13:33 rosamund: sth = something – sorry, Jay. sb = somebody so = someone. You’re talking to someone who has spent too much of her life in different dictionaries.

13:34 rosamund: That’s why i know how much time you save doing work on this site and not having to look things up! I’ve been there and done that! (= That has been my own experience.)

13:34 Berni: I love the picture of you living in a dictionary Ros! I am sure this would improve language skills a lot!!

13:35 Berni: Jay, where are you joining us from today?

13:35 jay: From India

13:36 Berni: I’m in cold wet UK!

13:36 Berni: How often do you use English actively?

13:36 rosamund: Wow! Do your friends and family all call you Jay – or is that short for another name?

13:37 jay: Actually we used to speak in english in office hours..

13:37 Berni: Is that a rule or just your habit in your office?

13:37 rosamund: Was that for fun, or because you had to, for work purposes?

13:38 jay: because in india more than 500 native language is there..so English is gobal language for Indians.

13:38 rosamund: The idea of 500 native languages makes my head spin!

13:39 Berni: I think English has been a common language in India for a very long time – how do you feel it compares with English in the UK?

13:39 Cee: Wow, 500 native languages!

13:40 rosamund: In a typical secondary school in the UK we might have 12 – 15 different native languages – only in some would there be more than that – but I can’t imagine there being 500!Top of Form

13:41 jay: Berni..We used to follow UK English only

13:41 Cee: Jay, do you have to speak some English before you start employment, or do you learn it whilst you are working?

13:43 rosamund: What sort of English do you usually need – presumably social English, and also some sort of work-type English, vocabulary and phrases to do with meetings, correspondence, pay and conditions?

13:43 jay: from working environment only…Actually here lot of pepole good in English…

13:44 Berni: Good question Ros – it does depend also on what you need/want to learn – you can plan your programme to reach this goal.

13:45 rosamund: We have a lot of material on the site which should be useful in a work context, Jay.

13:45 jay: I want both !!!! Social as well as Work-type

13:45 Berni: Jay, this is the best answer – everything! can I ask you how you use the Gapfillers site to help youo improve your English skills

13:45 rosamund: Yes, we always laught when people who haven’t learned a language say they want ‘telephone English’. i mean, what do you want to say on the telephone?!!

13:46 jay: Because its makes bore if you speaks only work-type english with friends..Am i right?

13:46 rosamund: laugh – sorry!

13:46 rosamund: I agree, it is boring – and you can be a bit of a bore, too.

13:47 Berni: I think you are right Jay the more widely you use English the better it will become – is there a P word for this?

13:47 Berni: Also, doing things that are not work-related will keep you interested and often you learn more because you are enjoying the topic!

13:48 Berni: Lol Ros, especially if people can only talk about their jobs!!

13:49 rosamund: Shall we invent a term for using Englihs as widely as you can, over as many areas and fields as possible – what about calling it ‘parachuting’?! Jay, Blanca, I’m being silly here, just ignore me.

13:50 rosamund: English – I meant to type

13:50 Berni: Actually parachuting could just work!

13:50 Berni: So, Jay how did you find out about Gapfillers?

13:50 Cee: I can see Potential for some typing lessons here, people!! We are all making lots of typos!

13:51 rosamund: Folks, I’m sorry, but I have to go. Good to chat – thanks for your ideas – I’m going to go and have another think about some of this. have a good week, everyone.

13:52 Cee: I like the term ‘parachuting’, Ros.

13:52 Berni: Bye Ros and thank you for your ideas and thoughts – see you next time!

13:52 Cee: Bye Ros.

13:53 jay: Its really good!

13:53 jay: Got some new word from here

13:54 Berni: I think you are doing the right thing with your practice Jay – maybe you can formalise it a bit more so that you have an idea about the progress you are making. Do you get the word of the day?

13:55 Cee: That’s the good thing about coming onto Gapchat – you see people using everyday, ‘real’ English including idioms, slang and abbraviations. It’s all very useful!

13:55 jay: yes..

13:55 Berni: Which area of your language do you think you need to improve the most?

13:55 Cee: AAghh, abbrEviations! Sorry

13:56 Berni: Lol Cee!

13:57 jay: Simple sentence format and vacabulary

13:57 Berni: In speaking or writing?

13:58 jay: both

13:59 Cee: I have to leave, now. Nice to ‘see’ here today Jay. Thanks again Berni. See you all next week.

13:59 Berni: I see – how much listening practice do you do?

13:59 jay: Bye Cee….

13:59 Berni: Bye Cee thank you for all your input it was very helpful. See you soon 🙂

14:00 jay: i have no extra listening proctice! just i will intract with my co-workers and friends ..nothing else

14:02 Berni: I think this is something you can do to improve – try to find some listening exercises on Gapfillers (or another site you use) make sure there are some exercises so you can test yourself but this will help you to get exposed to good English models in different topics.

14:03 Berni: As you hear more of these examples you can use them in your own speaking and writing and this shoudl help you with your word order and grammar – but be patient it won’t happen overnight.
14:13 jay: Thank you so much for your support..

14:14 jay: Have a great time..Bye

14:16 Berni: It is my pleasure – see you soon! Bye 🙂

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

September 9, 2011

Learning English needs a lot of stamina!

Taking your English language skills to great heights requires strength!

  • Strength of character
  • Strength of mind
  • Strength of body

Learning ANY language is not for the faint-hearted, it takes time and dedication. There are ups, downs and plateaux, there’s despair and frustration and seemingly endless lists to learn!  As soon as you reach one peak you see others looming in the distance and you just know that you have to pick up your grammar book and dictionary, put your best foot forward, grit your teeth and plod on.

So why bother?

Why put yourself through all that work? You can muddle through with the English level you have already or you can use an interpreter or a translator, people who are clearly experts in this area and can do a better job than you can.

Or can they?

Notice the word – interpret – this gives room for paraphrase, for interpretation would this still be YOUR message? Interpreters are certainly experts in what is a very difficult job requiring lots of training but if you are presenting YOUR product or service, or conducting YOUR  meeting with a potential client or looking to move higher in YOUR career,  it is YOUR message that is important. Remember, people buy from and relate to YOU, not someone else trying to deliver you!

So is it worth the effort? Yes, of course it is – just as you would spend time on other aspects of your work and career your English has to be part of that mix. If you have a dream for your work and your future and English is a part of that dream then you have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to get the English you really want and this will take stamina and dedication!

How to get English that really shines!

1.  Decide on where you want to be with your English – imagine how it would be if you had really fantastic English skills, make this your ultimate goal.

2.  Decide how far you are away from that goal now and what you need to do to get there – you will probably need to do an assessment for this or find a teacher who can help you.

3.  Decide how much time you can dedicate to improving your skills daily, weekly etc.. and formulate a plan (see my post Setting SMART goals for your English).

4.  Be realistic, if you only have 1 hour a week then it might take some time – doing a bit each day may work better.

5.  Get as much exposure as possible, use the ‘dead’ time during your day to practice (travel time, waiting at the station, before a meeting, in the doctor’s surgery – my Gapfillers site is designed to do exactly that (Gapfillers Latest offers 10/15 minute exercises every day) or read the newspaper, listen to songs, the radio – whatever you are interested in.

6.  Find things that interest you – dedication and graft don’t have to be boring – there is so much English out there and available that you really should choose what is engaging for you.

Doing this alone will not be easy there will be times when you feel like giving up or when you just can’t be bothered or when you feel you can’t make any more progress. It is easier if you have some support from a group of learners with a similar goal or from a mentor or coach. This will spur you on and encourage you to keep moving forwards. A really good coach won’t let you give up even when you feel you want to.

Whether you use a language coach, join a study group or soldier on alone, remember that it is not going to be an easy ride but the rewards are great – keep focused on that mountain top – you can do it!

We have a range of Gapfillers programmes

Total immersion, short, residential courses are held at Fleetham Lodge in Yorkshire in the UK (from a weekend to a month)

Find out more about English language coaching with English Language Mastery

May 20, 2011

English language learning tips – my Top 10 posts

I decided to go through my archives today and see which of my posts for English language learners were the most popular and put them all in one space so that they would be easy to find.

So here goes my top 10 posts of all time giving tips for language learners

And the winner at number 1 is…………

10 top tips for improving IELTS Scores

It does what it says on the tin I think.

Coming in a very close 2nd….

10 goofy ways to practise speaking skills.

Another obvious title – I really enjoyed writing this 🙂

Pipped at the post at number 3 ……

10 ways to increase your vocabulary

Mmm, seems the number 10s have it!

And in a respectable 4th place ……..

How to be a good language student! 10 suggestions

Those number 10s really have a certain Je ne c’est quoi!

Half way at number 5…….

Are some people better at learning languages than others?

Well – find out here 🙂

Coming up close behind at number 6……

English Verbs that Confuse!

I was certainly confused – hope it sorts you out!

Getting to the end – in at number 7 ……

7 great virtues to help you write well in English

I think I preferred the 7 Deadly Sins

In 8th place (one fat lady number 8 – think about it – Bingo???)…..

Register – choosing appropriate language for the context

An oldie but popular it seems

Not last nor least ….. at number 9..

Using Modal Verbs – part 3

I wonder what happened to parts 1 and 2 ?

And in 10th place – Wayhey you made the Top 10!!

Countable and uncountable nouns – now you get it, now you don’t!

Wow! What a collection.

So my top 10 most popular posts of all time.

ENJOY.

And just in case you get bored with reading all of these here’s a video of my place where you can come and study all of the above!!

April 1, 2011

Is learning English becoming overwhelming?

Sometimes everything comes to a head and we have so much still to learn and we don’t seem to be making progress. It can be frustrating, we make the same mistakes even though we’ve gone over this point a hundred times. We are working hard and getting nowhere;

” That’s it, that’s the end of it we are not capable for progressing any more  – this is our highest level and this is where we are going to stay, We’ve reached our ceiling and there’s nothing more to do!”

Learning a language ( and this is true of many things) is not an ‘onwards and upwards’ activity. There are peaks and troughs, hills and valleys and worst of all seemingly endless plateaux!

Do you remember learning to ride a bike as a child? How many times did you wobble? How many times did you fall off? How many times did you throw the bike down and stomp off?

In the end though wasn’t it worth getting  back on, trying again and finally succeeding?

How good did it feel when that happened and how thrilled were you to be able to ride off down the road alone!

There is only one way and that is to be patient and persevere.

So back to language. There is a great saying in English ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’  Things of great value take time and burn slowly. Take a deep breath, step back and think hard about what you have really achieved so far. You will probably find that it is much more than you give yourself credit for.

Then analyse your English honestly:

  • What is your goal?
  • Where are you having problems?
  • Where are you feeling frustrated (think of some actual occasions when your English wasn’t good enough – is there a pattern?)

Once you know where the blocks are (or try and get help identifying them if you don’t know) then break everything into manageable chunks and go step by step. For example if you think your vocabulary is letting you down then design some strategies for improving this – read a book a month, or a daily news article or learn 10 new words a week – whatever works for you.

Don’t be too ambitious do as much as you can manage – 10 minutes a day is better than 2 hours once a month – keep it simple. Try and use ‘dead time’ in your day while traveling or waiting for a bus or train, that way your learning won’t be interrupting other activities and vice versa.

So here is the 4P approach to learning English (we came up with this at a Gapfillers forum chat)

Patience:

I’ve said a lot about this already. It is vital – you cannot learn all you need to learn in a day. If you start your study knowing that you must be patient it may stop you from becoming overwhelmed.

Perseverance:

I firmly believe that anything worth having is worth pushing for and unless you persevere even when you don’t seem to be making progress you will NEVER succeed!

Practice:

No skill will improve without practice so unless you dedicate some time to improving and developing your English regularly then you will become frustrated and you will not make progress. Honestly, if you are not prepared to practise you might as well go and find something else to do instead!

Performance: 

This is actually using your English! There is little point in doing all the hard work if you are not going to step up, be brave and actually speak or write. There are opportunities across the web to do this – find some. Make some opportunities for yourself to perform your English!

Finally here are 10 top tips to help you improve your English and stop you getting overwhelmed or frustrated!

  1. Do a bit every day
  2. Plan – an approach or strategy for your learning
  3. Choose something interesting
  4. Consolidate
  5. Choose something with (immediate) feedback
  6. Set a time limit
  7. Follow the tips and advice given on the web-site
  8. Join a forum or chat room and USE IT
  9. Re-visit, repeat and recycle
  10. Smile 🙂 you know more than you did 10 minutes ago!

Some other posts you might like:

 Setting SMART goals for your English Language learning

Grammar is dead – Long live grammar!

Making progress as an advanced learner

Doing a language audit

Still overwhelmed? Maybe I can help you.

March 9, 2011

Setting SMART goals for your English language learning.

You have a language dream – how can you get there?

Start with your destination. Don’t worry where you are now, how much, or how little you know – where are you planning to go?

Without a destination in sight it is very hard to keep motivated and keep on track. You wouldn’t set off on a journey (at least most of us wouldn’t) not knowing where you were going. Your destination may need to be adjusted on the way and that’s absolutely fine but you really need to be able to plan this learning journey from wherever you are now to where you desire to be and it is this ‘map’ you have made that will help you to develop your skills, keep you focused and help you find the necessary support you need on the way.

One way of keeping yourself focused and motivated is to set targets for your language learning just as you would for any other process that you need to work through to get to your goal. We have all heard about SMART goals in other areas of business so why not set some for your language learning?

Here is a suggestion for how to set such goals to maintain your progress and keep your English language dream in focus.

Watch this overview on what SMART goals are and how to set them

Now let’s have a look at how that can be translated into your English language learning.

GOAL:  this is your overall aim it might be a dream (to use English as well as Pierce Brosnan) or it might be something more concrete (to make sure I get to do all the major marketing presentations next year). In either case it will not happen overnight and you’ll need to work out a strategy to get you there.

So let’s make these goals SMART!

(some of the words differ a bit here)

SPECIFIC

Make them specific and create steps. If you want to be chosen to do the presentations what changes do you need to make to your English in order for that to happen? Here are some things you might need to improve:

  • Get a wider and more varied vocabulary
  • Have better pronunciation
  • Perfect the ability to tell a joke

Whatever you think is stopping you from getting to your desired  level of English write it down. If you are not sure then ask your teacher. If you don’t have a teacher then check with someone else or consider whether you can do this by yourself – should you get professional help?

MEASURABLE

How are you going to monitor your progress?

If we take the specific goals above;

  • You will know if you’ve learned new words.
  • You may be able to find suitable jokes from presentations you’ve heard or by asking colleagues but will you know if you are telling them well?
  • With pronunciation can you really know how to improve it? There are some online tools and you can decide to use these, or use a voice recorder. You may decide that you need some help from a teacher.

The key here is to be honest and really look at the detail. Think carefully about how to measure progress and decide on the best strategy for this. You must be open and balance the reality against the dream. How important is the dream?

ATTAINABLE

Here again you have to be honest with yourself! Could you really ever be just like Pierce Brosnan – no, but you can use him as your model and get closer. Think about what is realistically attainable for you.

  • If you set a goal to learn 10 new words a week in context can you achieve that?
  • Maybe you’ll get a teacher to help with pronunciation and meet once a week face to face or on Skype
  • You can compile a list of jokes from the internet. You could search for ones that are suitable for presentations. You might look for videos so that you  have the audio too and you can copy the speaker.
  • Maybe you can record yourself and then compare with the original. 
  • Could you set aside two sessions per week ?

These are all the kind of questions you must explore.

By breaking the tasks down into smaller chunks you can set yourself an achievable study programme. Small steps that you can achieve well are better than large aims that are too time-consuming.

REALISTIC

In the video the term for ‘R’ is responsible – whose job is it. The answer here is ultimately – yours. However, it is realistic to ask for help if you need it. Then part of the responsibility can be shared with your teacher or the learning group you choose.

More things to consider:

  • How much time can I reasonably spend on studying to make the outcome effective?
  • It’s fine to push yourself but you have to know what you can manage
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help we all study and work better when we have someone to make us accountable

TIME-BOUND

Setting time limits helps us to plan. Maybe you’ve set an overall deadline for being the chosen presenter – say a year. Then you need to break down the tasks you’ve chosen and assign times to those too.

  • Two sessions on vocabulary, one on pronunciation and one on jokes gives you a reasonable study plan for the week – would that work with your schedule?
  • A study programme starts to emerge.
  • The final piece is to add in some assessment – this can be informal but make it regular say every 4 weeks and make sure you are honest about your progress to date.
  • Or better still find an accountability partner – you can keep each other focused and encouraged.

Setting goals that are SMART, being honest with yourself and then sticking to the plan will get you well on your way to reaching your dream.

Two more words – flexibility – if it’s not working re-visit, re-assess – re-plan and – reward– don’t forget to ‘pat yourself on the back’ when things go well – it drives your motivation.

You will get there in the end!

Other posts you might like:

How to be a good language student

When English skills just aren’t good enough

Business English – what is it you really need to learn?

If you would like find out about my English language Mastery programme see here

December 30, 2010

Playing role-play games online – how these can develop language.

Role play games can be fun learning tools for developing language. They give you an opportunity for free expression and great speaking practice. Yet because you are not being yourself, it also allows you to create a completely different character which helps to take away any fear of speaking and lets you perform as someone else! This can be very powerful especially if you are shy or worried about making mistakes.

I often use role-play games in the classroom and as well as practising speaking, we always have a great time! It isn’t surprising then that a role-play game was the first collaborative exercise I wanted to have on my E-learning site Gapfillers. We are currently running our 3rd game and each time there is a lot to learn both as a materials developer and a teacher! Each game is very different and very surprising.

I’d like to explain something about the game, how it works and how it helps with English language learning.

Our Gapfillers murder mystery game – The Art of Murder – revolves around the murder of an Art Gallery owner. The players are all connected with this man in some way and it is their individual relationships with him which form the substance of the story and provide the clues. The investigation is led by a detective and a criminologist acts as moderator. The players are given role cards and other information. The detective will then send out clues and the players have to send each other messages to find the answers and solve the murder. Players can also build relationships with other characters and use these to make it more difficult for other players to get information. We ask that if information is requested it is given out but how this is disseminated depends on the individual group of players. If anybody gets stuck then they can go to either the detective or criminologist for help. These two (they are teachers) are also in the game and will message, encourage and provide a commentary where appropriate.

The game has been written by a writer/poet connected with Gapfillers and not a teacher so the language is not modified or graded. There is a deal of irony and sophisticated language included in the information so the players have a lot to contend with while playing the game. The game is further supported by a series of newspaper articles, a vocabulary and grammar bank of useful language and a weekly blog post which follows the progress of the game.

The very first time we played the game we were expecting players to use the opportunity to practice their reading and writing skills and also to explore topical vocabulary. We also hoped that they would discover some of the nuances in the language of the game and above all have a good time. What surprised us the most about this first game, and also subsequent games, is the way in which the players ‘clothed’ themselves in the personality of their character!

The characters include a countess, thwarted lovers, a journalist, art dealer and artist all of whom have, each time, taken on fully rounded personalities in the hands of our student players. I have collected some of the messages to give you a flavour of this.

These are in no particular order.

  • I have no idea who this ‘guitarman’ is (why can’t he give his ordinary name, like anyone else?), but I find the suggestion we might meet again sinister. Call me hyper-sensitive, but that’s how it strikes me.

 

  • After a good night’s sleep I’m thinkking I’d be glad never to see any of you again in my life…….

  

  • oooooh!
    touchy!
    would that be a good nights sleep… in jail?

  

  • I guess you are right  – i am stressed out

 

  • no i arent accusing them of murder, just that they dont reply to mails

 

  • i shall go have a glass of wine and calm down

  

  • i so wish this was over 😦

  

  • Hello everybody– I am somewhat late with my introduction but hope you don’t mind under the circumstances.

 

  • My name is M T Hart and I am (was?) R T Guy’s girlfiend. We’ve been in a relationship for 3 years now and was hoping something will come out of it:) What now?

  

  • Oh dear! Poor you. You must be feeling very unhappy at the moment we all feel for your sadness.   

 

  • Thank you for your condolences. I’ll try to stay strong

  

  • We all understand.Youwill need take thimgs slowly

  

  • Yes, I have already asked Gugenheim about the cat but he told me that he had never heard about a cat…..So one of you is lying…..I want the truth!!!!!!!! and quickly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’ve just sent an email to him, so if I learn something I’ll let you know…..

  

  • I am shocked! I thought I was trying to help. Why do yiu think I’m lying and not Gugenheim after all he sold you the forged painting. Hasn’t he proved that he is a liar?

  

  • its very strange that i was unaware of this phobia of his, especially as we were so close

  

  • were you working in the office on the night of the murder? 
  • did you LOCK the door? 
  • or worse, did you let someone in?
  • or perhaps you were IN the office with R T?

 

  • well, Trudy, everyone is a suspect!
     
  • many are accusing me of killing him, i dont understand why, i would not benefit from this at all
    i would only benefit from marrying him, which never happened

 

  • strange you mentioned his temper, it got worse and worse leading up to the murder
  • any idea why that would be?

 

  • I´m sorry there must be a mistake, in fact I hate pets.

 

  • Well, well, well!!! Gugenheim finally show he’s capable of keeping information from us. You know who you can trust in this game, don’t you?? Maybe my dear wife Tik would now like to look to her conscience and come clean about her infidelity, and with whom!

 

  • Funny, isn’t it? I worked with so many of you for so long, including Guy, and now discover I didn’t know you at all. Than kgoodness for the friendship of MT Hart; she has been like a breah of fresh air compared with the rest of you rogues, and she’s lost more than the rest of us!

 

  • So, Gugenheim, what ELSE are you keeping from us??

 

  • Shouldn’t you be more interested in publishing your knowlegde than in trying to make moneay out of it – and possibly landing on the murderer’s “unwanted” list???

 

  • So, what do you know, and what is your price?

 

  • Obviously, I’m extremely interested in your extra information.
    I was just wondering what you mean for ‘price’…
    Anyway we can arrange a fair barter…

 

  • I’d be really grateful if you kept my lover’s name secret.

 

  • I’ve just to stop for a moment and think quietly about it.
    I need to collect my evidence. Right now my I’m quite confused.

 

  • I’m waiting for result, too. No one has already found out the killer. Probably they are afraid. In reality, I think we should be careful. At this point, everyone is likely to be involved in this murder.
    Let’s wait and try to find the solution.

 

  • I have come back – any news??? Holidays without my wife were great…

 

  • Haha very funny!
    Hope the hols were good. I thought you’d taken the money and run away!

 

  • Been talking to your lovely wife – she’s as confused as the rest of us!

 

  • People kep going away & then coming back very strange!!

 

  • You are joking – I had thought the murderer had already been found and guillotined…

 

  • Dear Mr Wragg,
    Much as I would like to help you, I´m afraid that I know little more than what you have already published in your newspaper. As far as I know, the Tofts’ relationship with Guy was simply a business one.
    Sorry I can’t be of more help.
  • Dear Mr Wragg,
    I’ve been doing some thinking since my previous message and I think that I MIGHT be able to help you somehow.
    Of course, this will cost you nothing but it could help if I got to know the name of the victim of a certain “incident” in which Gugenheim was involved.
    I’m sure you will understand that, like you, I want to get to the bottom of this hideous affair.

 

  • Thanks for your message. I’m not skipped town. I have been ill with problems about ciatic nerve. I will grateful your offered information. Bye.

 

  • Lies lies lies, I do not know which paintings you’re talking about – surely La Scala knows the paintings she has hanging on her walls!

 

  • It seems that you want to know more about my grandparents…. first you need to know that they are of great importance to me, I love them more than anybody else and I don’t want them to be involved in this scam. So please don’t write anything about them in your articles… They are pretty old and they deserve to live peacefully. I trust you…I hope I’m not mistaken…

I hope that this demonstrates the kind of language that ‘comes out’ when students are playing such games. They become involved and engrossed in the game itself and somehow the language flows more naturally. They also feed off the language of the other players and the language involved in the game itself  which results in very real and sophisticated usage. Admittedly the players here have quite an advanced level of language but the ability to take on a character and then sustain that throughout the game (which lasts about 5/6 weeks) is not an easy thing to do. As everything is written then there is time to consider and correct but the language being used and learned by our players is amazing!

Games, far from being frivolous, allow students to push their own language to its limits but also, and more importantly, give them the opportunity to draw from the language around them (other players and the language used in the game) to develop and enhance their own.

Gapfillers The Art of Murder is played twice a year within the Gapfillers site. It is open to all members. Our next game will be in spring 2011. (register on Gapfillers for free, see our special Christmas offer available until Dec 31st 2010)

December 2, 2010

Sharing your teacher’s life – courses in a teacher’s home

Studying over a cup of coffee!

Having students come and live and study in your home is no mean undertaking for either the student or the teacher but with some careful planning and a lot of give and take, the experience can be very rewarding for both.

As total immersion language learning experiences go living with your teacher has to be one of the best. Not only are you dropped into a full language experience, you are also surrounded by the culture, social life and even the petty goings-on of an English, Scottish, US etc. household – you become part of the life in that house for the period that you are there. You need to be prepared for this – you will have to share your teacher’s life for the duration of your stay.

The great advantage of doing this is that you have, on tap, your own ‘language expert’, not only to teach you, but also as a resource for all your questions and uncertainties.

Far from being mundane, you can find yourself  involved in some interesting events that give you extra chances to practise and learn! A student of mine recently joined us at the family celebration of a 90th birthday! It was a formal, private party in a restaurant in Tunbridge Wells (she was staying with me in Yorkshire) and it gave her the chance to speak with a lot of native speakers (there were over 60 people) and see another part of England. These kinds of occasions provide authentic opportunities for you to use the skills you are developing in your course. They can be challenging but they are also very valuable.

Attending a large function

Not all students can expect to be entertained in such a way but your teacher will make sure that you are included in their daily activities and you must make the most of these chances to use your English in a real and yet unthreatening way. You may think that it would be impossible to manage in such situations but in fact the very fact of it being a real situation and not a classroom exercise helps you to function. The people who are asking you questions about your country, job, family etc.. really do want to know, they are not just role-playing – this is it for real!!
Whatever time of year you choose to come there are interesting places and activities for you to enjoy in addition to the high quality language lessons you will do with your teacher. Teachers want to share their local area, customs, and celebrations with you.
 
 
So how do we manage time on these courses?
Let me give you a run-down of a typical day with my students. Other teachers may do this differently but you can expect a mix of formal lessons, social time and planned activities on most immersion courses done in a teacher’s home.
  1. The day begins with breakfast – which for my students is cereal, bread, sometimes eggs We have this around 8.30
  2. Lessons start at 9.30 and go through to 12.45 with a coffee break in the middle
  3. Lunch at 1.00 soup, sandwiches, salad – sometimes students ask to prepare something – I love this!
  4. Some afternoons we go out, others are spent studying tasks I have assigned or students have chosen. Some of my students need to connect with their offices in the afternoons (it breaks the immersion – but if it’s necessary this can be the time to do it)
  5. We meet again around 4.30 for another hour’s lesson or to chat over a cup of tea and maybe some homemade cake or biscuits!
  6. Most students then like to have some personal time to watch TV or relax – I can prepare dinner.
  7. After dinner (8 – 9 ish) some students want to retire to their rooms, others want to watch TV – we usually have a couple of movie nights together!
  8. Then we start again!

Shopping in Harrogate!

Weekends are a mix of organised trips or free time where students are welcome to hang around the house, go out for walks or catch the bus to the local town.

Who do these courses suit?

Of course this is not for everybody. Some people would run a mile at the thought of living in someone else’s home! That is fine. If you are looking for somewhere to learn a lot of English in a short time, want to find out a bit about the culture in the UK, don’t mind joining in family life, don’t necessarily need an en suite bathroom and are happy to be flexible and adaptable, then this should suit you well. If you are none of these then you may want to consider carefully whether this type of course would work for you.

If you decide to go for it then you should have a really good experience!

Watchwords.

  You need to remember that this is your teacher’s home.
  • Respect their privacy and that of the other members of the family. They must also respect yours.
  • They are your personal English resource for the duration of your stay but if you wear them out they won’t be any good to you so be sensitive to the teacher’s need for personal time.
  • Most teachers want you to be involved with all the activities of the family while you stay with them. Embrace this chance as it gives you real situations in which to use and develop your English but don’t be shy about refusing if you really don’t want to be involved in something.
  • Don’t hide in your room! If you are not sure what to do in-between lessons ask your teacher if you can help with anything – most of my students end up in the kitchen with me! Remember these are the times when you are using English spontaneously and learning language that you will probably never find in a course book!

For the teacher it is a little like ‘going underground’ – the focus is on the student for the duration of the course as they want to give you the best experience they can.

Sharing your teacher’s life is a great way to learn a language and the hidden benefits in terms of culture, meeting new people and really experiencing life in another country are even more valuable!

Some other posts on  immersion courses:

 Total immersion English courses – fast, furious and fun!

Language immersion

Creating a teacher workshop

Fleetham Life

Find out more about my Immersion courses

November 16, 2010

Grammar is dead – Long live grammar!

Grammar seems to have featured a lot recently in discussions on language teaching:

  • Is it important?
  • Should we teach it?
  • Is it better to let it be absorbed?
  • Does it put students off learning?

At first I was quite shocked to see these discussions, as for me as both teacher and learner, grammar had been at the heart of language learning. I was probably the last generation to be taught English grammar formally at primary school and I loved it – it’s what got me hooked on language! I studied English as part of my university degree and grammar lectures were compulsory – at this level I found some of the grammar quite difficult and it was only when I began teaching that I was able to make sense of a lot of it. My training as an English language teacher was also focused on grammar and how to approach the skills, functions and notions of language within a fairly grammatical framework.

Having seen the discussions, looked at more recent course books and read various blogs and commentaries I began to feel that perhaps there had been a revolution which I had missed in language teaching and that my approaches were seriously flawed! The absence of grammar signalled something rather chaotic to me and this is what I began to see in many of the course books – a melee of structures thrown together, not enough (to my mind) practice before moving on to the next thing, a lack of concept checking and an all round failure to be really cohesive. There was, however, a riot of colour and sound, support across a myriad of supplementary books and CDs but alas it made me feel very dizzy!

During this period of doubting I watched and questioned my students very carefully on the matter of grammar. From 16 to 60 they all wanted to include grammar in their lessons. It grounded them in something familiar. Terms like imperatives, present perfect, gerund and participle were familiar to many of them and a good working jargon. Those who had not studied grammar quite so formally in their own language nevertheless expected it and felt that it was part and parcel of their language learning. In fact I think, from my straw poll, that students expect their teachers to be well-versed in grammar and might suspect those who are not.

Grammar lessons

So where does this leave things? During a recent #eltchat many teachers didn’t like the idea of grammar lessons but what exactly are grammar lessons? What is the role of the grammar book in language learning? I hope, it is a reference book and not a bible! For me grammar is a magical toolbox, the ‘hammer’ and ‘chisel’ a teacher (and student) can use to put language together. Once students know how the tools work they can take them out again and again to fix their latest language inventions. Whether they know the terminology for the present simple tense or not they will know to use the structure when they need to talk about habits, or states or facts. If they have a pressing need to tell a story they can take out their set of narrative tenses and combine this with the packet of shiny adverbs of frequency that sit next to the prepositions of place. You get the idea. The terminology is a shorthand which, for those who know it, can save time, but the actual grammar tools can be used by everybody.

So, grammar lessons (banish the thought!) would be no more than naming tools without demonstrating their use. A hammer has no meaning unless it is used to bang in a nail!

Grammar progression

Present simple to present continuous, to past simple, to present perfect simple ….. 

Do we need to start with the tacks before we move on to masonry nails? If you are fixing a chair what good is having a masonry nail? Is the past perfect really more difficult than the present perfect? Is the concept of completed actions in the past more difficult to grasp than that of actions which straddle past, present and future? After all there are ways of  expressing all these concepts in every language.

The idea of a step by step progression is an old one. Underlying it is the belief that there is a homogenous elementary, intermediate or advanced type of student and somehow they all find themselves in the same class! Language is not like that, things come from right, left and centre. Learners are not like that, they come with baggage – linguistic, experiential, emotional and personal! So why not start with the learner and their current requirements – now there is a novel idea! Even in a large class there can be some way of finding a consensus. What is it that this group is going to have to go out there and do first? A grammar toolbox needs to be full of shiny, useful tools not a collection of rusty old keepsakes!

I like grammar. I think it is important. I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all of language learning, but please don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!!

See these posts on grammar

Prepositions – pearls of great price

English verbs that confuse!

Countable and uncountable nouns

and on books

Choosing dictionaries and grammar books

October 1, 2010

Sharing diaries – Writing from the heart

This is the 3rd and final part in my series on writing for a wider audience. In this final piece I want to look at diaries and how, although more intimate and certainly very authentic pieces of writing, they can still be shared.

 

Writing Diaries

From time immemorial diaries have been an obvious genre of writing for use with students. There are many different ways of approaching diary writing from formal work schedules through daily records to very personal commentaries.

A recent development of the diary format can been in the use of Learner Diaries. This is an excellent and personal way for a student to record their learning both in terms of  progress and also personal reaction to the process and results. It can be at once a practical and a reflective piece of writing. As such it is highly personal and allows the freedom to be more creative.

In a classroom situation students will share their learner diaries with the teacher and perhaps with each other too. When students are studying alone, it may seem pointless to keep such a diary as there is no one to read it (this is not necessarily a good reason not to write one) and who is going to correct it?

See Nik Peachey’s piece on Learner Diaries

I think there are two things to say here.

  • Firstly, keeping a learner diary just for yourself is a valuable thing to do. You will develop a record of your learning which can be very revealing about your journey through the process and it will help you to develop and progress your skills in the future.
  • Secondly, taking into account my previous suggestion in posts 1 and 2 about joining communities online, you can share your diary if you want to. Being an independent learner does not mean being an isolated learner and finding these groups can be part of the e-learning  process.

A personal experience of sharing a student’s learner diary.

So, I’d like to share a diary with you which was written by my student (face 2 face) after staying here for a week in the summer. I hadn’t actually asked him to do this as part of the learning (although I do often ask my face to face and online e-learners to do this).

The student is a dentist and we  had spent a pretty intensive week on a mix of general English and work on several presentations that he was going to be giving internationally.

When the week was over I realised that I had forgotten to get him to give me an evaluation on the week and some thoughts (which I could publish) on the efficacy of the immersion experience he had spent here in Yorkshire.  However, I felt that we had built a good working relationship and that I could ask him for a sentence or two retrospectively.

Imagine my great surprise when the week after the course I began to receive, via email, instalments of his diary that he had written each evening after the day’s work. I was gobsmacked!

It is an amazing piece of writing, full of life and energy and it really captures the week we shared together. When I asked if I could share this on me site he was delighted! I feel so privileged to have been sent this and I feel even more honoured that I am able to share it with you here.

I have made very few changes (although I did go over it thoroughly with him) as I think it it’s ‘raw’ state it has a great deal of energy that I could only spoil.

This a great learner diary!

Ezio’s Diary

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

I was lucky enough to have others share their experiences in blogs and videos too. Here is a collection of their reflections and another way that students can share their learning experiences with a wider audience.

More reflections on learning experiences

 

 

Part one of the series – Using blogs to help your writing skills, the how, the why and the what

Part two of the series Getting your voice heard – authentic writing for English language students

 Other posts in writing:

Warning, mistakes cost marks!

7 Deadly sins to avoid in your writing.

7 Great virtues to help you write well in English

September 28, 2010

Getting your voice heard – authentic writing for English language students

This is second post in a 3-part series about how to write for a wider audience than your English teacher.

Last time we looked at blogging, which is a great place to practise and improve writing skills and attract comments. These can be supportive and constructive but they can also be very critical and even hurtful – this is the risk you take. There are, however, gentler and more modest ways of writing for a public audience.

If you are not ready for the level of risk in blogging or don’t feel that your writing skills are developed enough to tackle a blog then there are other ways in which you can write online for a large audience.

Here are some suggestions.

Comments on other people’s blogs

This is a great way to start writing for a large audience. Comments can be any length so you can begin with a sentence or two and build up to longer comments later. As these are short bits of writing then you can check them for errors before you post. Also, because you have chosen to write this (i.e. it isn’t an assignment set by the teacher) then you can be completely free in what you say and use your own creativity!

If you follow a blog and comment regularly then you will also build up some rapport with the other followers and can enter into a written dialogue with them and maybe the author too!

 

 

from ‘Globally Speaking’ 2004 

Message Boards:

Discussions on message boards give you similar opportunities to those above. Here you are taking part in a discussion with like-minded people and there are many available to choose from, from small English language sites to the BBC site – all available to you and all providing great untapped opportunities for you to practice your writing online.

If you choose an English language message board then it’s likely someone will help you with any errors in your writing. If you choose a wider forum then make sure you follow the guidelines above; start short, check your errors and then build up to longer and more content rich messages. You don’t have to restrict yourself to English language sites,  if you have a hobby or a burning passion about a topic then search out a suitable message board and get started.

With these activities it is important to be mindful of your personal digital footprint. With both forums and message boards you should investigate thoroughly to find the one that suits you and is going to be the best for you to explore your writing. Watch them first, look at the kind of messages that are being posted and if you’re not happy with the content or the tone of the forum then look for another one!

Here are some messages on Gapfillers Word of the Day page

Chat rooms:

Although chat rooms may not seem the best place to practise writing they are in a written format and expose you to the same opportunities. Chat rooms are more tolerant about errors as people are generally writing very quickly to get the message over. This does not mean that it is a free for all! There is a certain tolerance level for mistakes and if you don’t take some care other members of the chat may become irritated. Use the same ‘rules’ as we discussed above and if you attend regularly then you will build not only a learning relationship with other members but a confidence which will help improve your writing skills and allow you to post longer messages with more ease.

This is part of a discussion about studying online – a student’s point of view

Social Media sites: 

There are now many of these from the 140 characters of Twitter to longer but equally functional ‘bits and bobs’ of writing on Facebook, LinkedIn etc.. Use these opportunities to comment. Choose a group within the site with whom you can communicate and the opportunities to flex your writing muscles are endless. Always be careful with your postings, be sensitive to others and watch your digital footprint and you will not go wrong. Finally do your homework – check out the sites, the rules and regulations, the norms and etiquettes and the world of online writing and commentary is yours for the taking!!

Here are some students experimenting with Twitter.

Whatever method you decide to use, it’s time to move beyond the classroom with your writing! Start slowly and safely and increase what you write, or jump in at the deep end and have a go. Just remember you are letting it ‘all hang out’ so treat your authentic writing as you would your homework assignments – take care, check and work towards improvement!

Have fun with your writing!!

Part one of the series Using blogs to help your writing skills, the how, the why and the what

 Other posts in writing:

Warning, mistakes cost marks!

7 Deadly sins to avoid in your writing.

7 Great virtues to help you write well in English.

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