Welcome to Cara's Learn English Blog where you will find plenty of resources, tips, stories and information to help you learn English. As well as sharing my knowledge and experience as an ESOL Teacher, I explore some of the most common challenges for English learners and introduce ideas and materials to help you overcome them.
All my blog stories are graded as suitable for different levels of English reading ability to help you build confidence in your English reading skills. If you have any questions or would like to request a topic to be featured in my English blog please contact me!
|Posted on 8 January, 2019 at 9:45||comments (0)|
|Posted on 19 November, 2017 at 0:40||comments (0)|
In a bid to deepen my knowledge of linguistics and English language, and perhaps also as an act of sneaky procrastination that has coincided conveniently with the start of this year's master's level study, I recently started reading about the history of English grammar.
It was here I came across this charming and surprisingly useful little poem. The Play Grammar was published in 1848 with a companion verse entitled 'The Nine Parts of Speech: a rhyme to be learned by heart'
1. Three little words we often see
Are ARTICLES - a, and and the.
2. A NOUN's the name of any thing,
As house, or garden, hoop or swing.
3. ADJECTIVES tell the kind of Noun,
As great, small, pretty, white or brown.
4. Instead of Nouns, the PRONOUNS stand;
Her head, his face, your arm, my hand.
5.VERBS tell of something being done;
To read, write, count, sing, jump or run.
6.How things are done, the ADVERBS tell,
As slowly, quickly, ill or well.
7. CONJUNCTIONS join the words together,
As men and women, wind and weather.
8. The PREPOSITIONS stand before
A Noun, - as in or through the door.
9. The INTERJECTION shows surprise,
As oh! how pretty; ah! how wise.
The whole are called Nine Parts of Speech,
Which reading, writing, speaking teach.
|Posted on 16 September, 2017 at 11:25||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR pre-intermediate (B1+)
Give way is used to describe when a physical structure collapses under too much weight.
For example: The bookshelf gave way.
It can also mean withdrawing or yielding to open space for something else.
For example: Giving way is an important part of the Highway Code. In the UK drivers must give way if there is a sign or give way markings on the road instructing them to do so. At a roundabout, drivers must also give way to vehicles on the right.
Give away means to give something for free.
For example: The radio station is giving away tickets for a holiday to Dubai.
It can also mean to reveal a secret, or expose the truth.
For example: I can't tell you too much about that new movie without giving away the ending.
To give out is to distribute.
For example: The teacher gave out homework. The new shop on the high street is giving out coupons for 10% off.
In some situations you could use either give away or give out.
For example: The new shop on the high street is giving away / giving out samples of their products.
The difference is that give away is only used for things that are free, whereas give out emphasises distribution to many people.
To give up is to stop making an effort or admit defeat.
This homework assignment is so difficult. I feel like giving up.
You can do it! Don't give up!
To give in means to yield to social pressure. For example, if someone has tried to convince you about something for a long time and finally you accept it or agree to do it.
For example: The children in the supermarket asked their mother for sweets until she finally gave in.
|Posted on 20 August, 2017 at 11:25||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR intermediate (B2+)
Job interviews can be nerve-wracking for anyone, but how should you prepare for an interview if English is not your first language?
Prepare for your English language job interview just as you would for any other interview. This should include researching the organisation's history, values, and mission statement.
You should also take care to determine your travel time, organise any materials or documents you will need, and choose an appropriate outfit.
Be aware that some companies may require that you take an English skills test during your interview, or ask you to provide certification of your English level (such as an IELTS certificate).
Anticipate potential questions
Most interviewers have a standard list of questions they use to determine whether you would be a good match for the position and the organisation. Questions might include:
• How would you describe yourself?
• What are your strengths?
• What are your weaknesses?
• Why do you want to work here?
Make a list of potential questions and take some time to think about how you would answer these in English using real-life examples that reference your job history.
Make sure to read the job description carefully, as it will often highlight the essential and desirable criteria that the interviewer will be looking for. It’s a good idea to have at least one real-life example you can use to explain how you match each criterion, and persuade the interviewer that you are the right person for the job.
If you find yourself struggling to answer a question, do not be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat or reword their question. This is completely normal, and happens in many interviews between fluent English speakers. It’s better to avoid memorising your answers in order to sound as natural as possible during the interview.
One way to practise your language skills is to role-play the interview. Find an English-speaking friend who can act as the interviewer and give feedback on your answers. Alternatively, record yourself (on your mobile phone, computer or other recording device) asking and answering the questions in English. Play back the recording to see how you can improve your responses, or send it to a friend for suggestions.
During your role play, pay attention to the speed and clarity of your speech to ensure that your answers are easily comprehensible and convincing. Individuals tend to speak faster when nervous, so by practising speaking slowly and clearly during the role play, you will feel more relaxed and confident during the actual interview.
Consider the importance of body language
Research shows that most communication is non-verbal. Posture, eye-contact, facial expression, and gestures can all influence how you are perceived during an interview.
Also, pay attention to your tone. It’s unlikely that your interviewer will penalise you for pronouncing a word incorrectly, but if you smile and speak with confidence during the interview, you can be sure to make a positive impression.
Be proud of your language skills
In the global market, the ability to speak multiple languages is a major asset. In fact, many recruiters actively seek individuals who understand more than one language, so you can rest assured that your language skills will be valued.
Learning a new language also takes patience and dedication, two important attributes that can help set you apart from other job applicants. If you don’t have a lot of experience in the job you’re applying for, you might even consider sharing examples from your language-learning story to demonstrate some of the skills and personal qualities you could bring to the organisation.
But above all, when preparing for interview success, remember this...
Proper preparation prevents poor performance
Pick up more tips and learn how to improve your English skills for job applications, interviews and office life with Cara’s English at Work Online Course. Want to practise with the help of a qualified English teacher? Contact us
|Posted on 31 July, 2017 at 0:30||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR beginners (A1) +
Language learning can sometimes be quite difficult, especially with a rather complex language like English, which has many tenses. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But the secret to learning any language is very simple: speak as much as possible!
Don’t worry about grammar too much in the beginning. Don't let complicated rules get in the way of what you actually want to do: speak English. Of course you will make a lot of mistakes in the beginning, but shamelessly speaking your target language as much as possible is the only way to succeed, and I recommend doing it from day one.
Start by learning 10 common nouns, 10 common verbs and 10 common adjectives. With just 30 words you can make about 1000 sentences! It is possible for anyone to learn 30 words in just a few days.
Here are 30 common words in English to get you started:
Use with definite article (e.g. the man), or indefinite article (e.g. a man).
(with present simple forms)
1. To be
• I am
• You are
• He / she / it is
• We are
• They are
2. To have
• I have
• You have
• He / she / it has
• We have
• They have
3. To see
• I see
• You see
• He / she / it sees
• We see
• They see
4. To go
• I go
• You go
• He / she / it goes
• We go
• They go
5. To come
• I come
• You come
• He / she / it comes
• We come
• They come
6. To do
• I do
• You do
• He / she / it does
• We do
• They do
7. To need
• I need
• You need
• He / she / it needs
• We need
• They need
8. To make
• I make
• You make
• He / she / it makes
• We make
• They make
9. To know
• I know
• You know
• He / she / it knows
• We know
• They know
10. To get
• I get
• You get
• He / she / it gets
• We get
• They get
9. A lot of
10. A little
Learn these words and once you know them, you can express yourself in English! Here are some examples of what you can say:
• The house is big.
• The man makes a lot of money
• They have a beautiful child
• I know the city.
• The child needs food.
• We see a small car.
Now you can start speaking English. Be like a child and express yourself in the most basic way! I firmly believe that this is the best (and fastest) way to learn a new language.
|Posted on 16 July, 2017 at 9:00||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR beginners (A1) +
Not sure whether I am the right teacher for you? Check out my new video introduction to hear me speaking and find out how I can help you take your English learning to the next level and beyond.
Have a question? Comment below or contact me to discuss your specific requirements.
|Posted on 7 June, 2017 at 17:15||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR intermediate (B2) +
Check your understanding of vocabulary in bold.
The UK is a democratic society. Democracy is listed as one of the fundamental British Values and Principles, and on the 8th June 2017 millions of British citizens will vote at polling stations across the country as part of the General Election.
But what exactly is democracy and why is it important?
“Democracy is the most valued and also the vaguest of political terms in the modern world.”
- Robertson (1986)
Democracy is based on the right of every citizen over a certain age to attend political meetings and to vote on important issues that affect people in society. In a democracy, majority decisions can lead to new laws being passed that could change the way society works or the way it is organised.
In the UK all citizens that have the right to vote in local and general elections are encouraged to do so, so that the democratic process represents all communities, and so that the Prime Minister (the country’s political leader), and any new laws really do have the majority support of the people of the UK.
There are two main political parties in the UK - the Conservatives (Tories) and Labour, and several smaller parties – the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party etc. In the General Election 2017 citizens of the UK will decide who will lead the country for the next 5 years by voting for one of these political parties, and the leader of the party with the most votes will become the Prime Minister.
Each party has a manifesto containing information about their opinions and beliefs about important issues such as tax and public services (like education and the NHS), and voters must decide which party they believe will do a better job of looking after the country and make it stronger for future generations.
All citizens in the UK have the right to participate in democracy regardless of their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or physical well-being. Only citizens that have committed crime and are in prison are excluded from democracy. Once a person has been released from prison they once again have the right to take part in the democratic process.
Sound good, right?
Well yes, in theory democracy is a very attractive system, but there can also be some challenges in practice. For example, in our busy society how many people have time to research important issues that affect society on a local and national level? How many people really understand the complexities of important issues and the consequences of new laws? How can ordinary people be informed of these issues, and how can we make sure that information is not biased?
It’s important to consider these questions when reading about political issues in the news or on social media, and to develop critical thinking skills as part of engaging in the democratic process and discussing important issues that affect society.
Who are the two people in the picture at the top of this article? Do you know their names and which party they belong to?
|Posted on 30 May, 2017 at 8:05||comments (0)|
TEACHERS – are you involved in community learning? Are there challenges you aren’t sure how to overcome? Are you lacking in resources or guidance? Is there a tried and tested method you use for assessing soft skills in your classes?
I have been asked to sit on a professional panel involved in adult education services as part of an ongoing project to improve planning and develop new ways of evaluating and assessing soft skill learning outcomes in non-formal community learning provisions.
This project involves a multidisciplinary team from different local authorities, and presents an opportunity to improve communications and standards in a variety of adult community learning contexts. This is particularly relevant for community-based ESOL provisions newly established as part of the government’s nationwide refugee resettlement programme, as there is currently very little guidance for ELT practitioners operating within this context.
With the aim of further research in this field, and with the hope of improving standards across the board, I am reaching out to you, my fellow teaching professionals, for your experiences, views and opinions relating specifically to the identification and assessment of soft skill learning objectives. If you have any experience in this area, ideas, or have identified any challenges in your teaching practice, I would be very keen to hear from you.
This is for an informal discussion only and your comments will not at this time form part of a formal research process, although the possibility is open for this in future. To share your thoughts you can comment below or contact me via my website englishwithcara.com.
Please provide your name and contact email address with a summary of your thoughts and experiences, and indication of whether you would like to be involved in any future research on the topic.
Thank you in advance for your participation
|Posted on 28 May, 2017 at 13:35||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR intermediate (B2) +
One-to-one tutoring has several advantages over group study. Firstly, one-to-one tutoring is a personal experience between you and the tutor, and for this reason one-to-one tutoring can be much more focused and versatile than learning in a group setting.
So let’s look in more detail at some of the reasons why you might choose one-to-one private tutoring over group English lessons.
A personal learning experience
In group classes, teachers have to ensure that every learner in the class is familiar with the concepts and subject of the lesson. This process means that teachers often have to recap language that some students already understand or can use well. A major benefit of one-to-one tutoring is that your tutor can develop an individual learning plan that focuses on improving weaker areas rather than revising what you are already good at. Equally, if you are having trouble with understanding something you tutor can spend more time explaining and help you to practise until you are more comfortable with new concepts.
Course & content co-creation
Choosing one-to-one tutoring means working together with your tutor to plan your learning and decide the content of your lessons. Ultimately, this can make learning English more interesting as content can be tailored specifically to topics that you enjoy, and allows you to work towards specific contexts you need the language for. Your tutor can also build a structure into your lessons that suit your learning preferences, and set homework that will build your language skills more quickly.
As a private learner you are always encouraged to share your perspectives on what is covered during your lessons, how it’s covered and why it’s covered. This way there’s no need to sit through any lessons or content you feel are not the most beneficial for you, or don’t match exactly what you’re looking for. It can also improve your motivation if you feel empowered and actively responsible in your own learning journey.
Learn fast with less distraction
With one-to-one tutoring your tutor is always there to keep you focused and engaged in the lesson. There are no distractions created by others in the class, which allows you to use your time most effectively and achieve your learning objectives faster. Although private tuition is typically more expensive than learning in a group, you might find that fewer lessons are needed overall and that means you get more for your money.
No peer pressure
If you’re a shy person or new to learning English you might feel self-conscious speaking in front of others or be afraid to ask for help for fear of what others might think. One-to-one private tuition offers a safe, private space for you to learn entirely at your own pace, without worrying about who else is listening. A good teacher will be responsive to your needs and do everything they can to help you overcome any challenges.
With private tuition you don’t have to change your schedule or miss out on work to make a class. As private tutoring is now available online through your laptop or mobile device, you have the freedom to learn whenever and wherever you want!
...but is it all good?
The one disadvantage to private tutoring is that you miss out on practising real conversations with other people learning English. As English is a communication skill, it’s important that you attend some group lessons so that you become better at listening to a variety of accents and develop natural conversation and social skills together with your language knowledge.
A good way to get around this is to take group classes with one-to-one lessons a couple of times a month, or as often as you like, to focus on those areas that you need some help with.
If you’re thinking about private tutoring and would like to give it a try, talk to Cara about a free 15-minute trial session.
|Posted on 27 May, 2017 at 16:55||comments (0)|
Suitable for CEFR upper-intermediate (C1) +
With all the free content available to learn English online you might wonder whether you really need to make the effort of finding a teacher at all. If you log into YouTube, for example, there are literally hundreds of videos posted by teachers and others learning English, covering everything from correct use of prepositions to how to improve your IELTS score. Online language sharing platforms like italki and conversation exchange also mean it is now easier to practise your language skills and help others by connecting on Skype.
Whilst these are all great methods to improve or maintain your language knowledge and conversation skills, it’s easy to underestimate the value of finding a good English teacher to take your language learning to the next level. In today’s global society and with the spread of English as a linguafranca around the world, quality of communications and English language skills can make all the difference between success and failure, whether that be in academic study or in a professional context. In this digital age of economic instability, it has perhaps never been so important to stay ahead of your competitors, and finding the right English teacher can help you achieve just that.
So what exactly is a good English teacher and how do I find one?
Good teachers are highly qualified
Professional English teachers are experts in their field and have studied for a number of years to achieve the linguistic knowledge and understanding that will help you take your communications in English from mediocre to first-rate. A teacher with good subject knowledge will be able to challenge and stretch the most able students and make lessons more interesting because they have more knowledge and content to be interesting about.
With this in mind, look for a teacher that has the highest qualifications, such as a masters in Education (M Ed, MA Ed) or degree in Applied Linguistics with a specialist teaching certificate such as the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity TESOL. Both of these qualifications give you assurance that your teacher has at least 100 hours of observed, high-quality teaching practice; whilst a degree in the field of linguistics ensures that the teacher will have sufficient knowledge to answer any questions.
Be aware that many unscrupulous online English teaching organisations employ unqualified native speakers under the incorrect assumption that a native speaker has sufficient knowledge and skills to teach English language content effectively. The simple answer is that they often do not, and you may end up taking many more lessons than you really need, or make very little progress. To make matters worse, the lesson content may be poor quality or riddled with mistakes.
If you see English lessons being offered at a very low price, be sure to ask the provider what qualifications their teachers have before parting with your well-earned money. A good English teacher will not undervalue their services, and although the hourly rate may be higher, you will save money in the long-term by having fewer lessons.
Good teachers have a fun-loving personality
Personality is probably the most often cited quality of a good teacher identified by language learners. Language structures, skills and grammar can be very dry and uninspiring when read alone from a course book. But in the hands of a highly skilled teacher, this material can come alive and be made relevant to contexts that are most important to you.
Great teachers are creative, and will use a variety of methods and resources to keep their lessons fun and interesting. They’re adaptable, approachable, and they’ll also do their best to create a welcoming and safe learning environment where your individual contributions are respected.
Building strong relationships with learners enables the teacher to create a sense of community that you’ll want to be a part of, and where you can feel supported to achieve. Look for a teacher that makes you smile, respects your values and skills as a learner, and who will offer individual support to achieve your specific learning objectives.
Good teachers are organised and prepared for their lessons
Effective teaching involves meticulous planning. Choose a teacher that puts time into selecting the most appropriate resources for you, and who puts effort into preparing their lessons thoroughly.
Unless you have specifically asked for a more naturalistic conversation lesson, a great teacher will explain learning objectives at the beginning of the lesson, teach you how to use the language in a structured way step-by-step, and check that you have achieved these objectives at the end of the lesson.
Good teachers never stop learning
It may seem obvious, but the best teachers have a passion for learning, are students themselves, and truly understand what it’s like to study. The passionate teacher will be better equipped to help you overcome any challenges or obstacles that may present themselves during your learning journey.
Great teachers actively seek collaboration with other teaching professionals and do not assume that there is only one way to answer a question, or that their way of answering it is the best way. Although professional teachers are experts in their field, only the best teachers understand that there is always room for improvement, keep up-to-date with the latest research, methodology and practice, and ask for regular feedback to continue to improve the learning experience for you, the learner.
Good teachers inspire self-development and have high expectations of their students
Do you remember having a favourite teacher in school that inspired you to achieve more, showed you that you could do something even when you were sure you couldn’t, or whose lessons you looked forward to every week? Chances are that you achieved better grades in those subjects too.
Excellent teachers know that it is a combination of student effort and teaching quality that delivers learning outcomes – not individual ability, and for that reason they will have consistently high expectations of their learners. Through a process of regular assessment, feedback and creative mentoring, teachers with the highest expectations are determined that all learners will master their subject, and know that even less able learners can achieve subject mastery with the right attitude to learning.
Find a teacher that challenges and inspires you to become the master of your own success.