The Best Way to Learn English
Using the most up-to-date materials is key to general English language classes for a number of reasons. English is a living language and is constantly changing. Textbooks also take years to develop, so using older textbooks does not just mean outdated teaching methodology but also learning the old-fashioned language.
The Cambridge Empower series embodies the latest ESL methodology and its blended learning approach makes use of the latest interactive technology. Visually stimulating learning with realistic role-plays is the way forward for taught ESL courses.
The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) is the most up-to-date method of measuring English language proficiency. What originally started as a European project is now accepted internationally by the majority of publishers and educational establishments. CEFR simplifies language proficiency into six grades ranging from A1 (breakthrough/beginner) to C2 (mastery/proficiency). This universal system has clear advantages for students moving to study abroad and also for international collaboration between institutes.
Prominent ESL theorists have asserted that an eclectic and principled approach to methodology is best. This means drawing on a number of methods and approaches relative to the students’ needs and the learning environment. This approach rings true with most teachers as general English learners have very different targets, expectations, and motivations to IELTS preparation students.
This method of teaching is more focused on learning to speak English, and that is why it is at the centre of Express English’s teaching methodology. Communicative Language Teaching or the Communicative Approach stemmed from the work of Noam Chomsky in the 1960s and linguists such as Michael Halliday in the 1970s. It has since evolved into a coherent and practical classroom methodology, which also encompasses elements of other ESL approaches. CLT focuses on students’ communicative ability and aims to get them ready for real-life use of the target language as soon as possible. Thus, this method is much more rewarding as students realize that they are learning a useful skill and can take advantage of opportunities related to using English for work or travel.
Using role-play is one of the key features of communicative language teaching as it puts the students in realistic situations where there is often a genuine information gap. Students must communicate in the target language to get the information they need. This works on many levels as low a level student visiting a country for the first time will often be in similar situations where they need to use their language skills to communicate with the locals. These exercises can be designed to practice vocabulary surrounding a particular topic, but situations can also be contrived to have students practising particular grammar points. These two elements can be combined so that classroom activities are as relevant as possible. For instance, in a lesson designed to practice sports vocabulary and the grammatical construct “used to”, students would be asked to find out what sports their partners played or took part in when they were young. This conversation is realistic, it practices sports vocabulary, and encourages the use of the grammatical construct “used to”.
Information Gap/Group Work
These two aspects of CLT are very important and often go hand in hand. Information gap activities involve putting learners in a position where they both need information from each other and need to speak English to get it. Group work tasks are collaborative and designed to encourage communication in the target language and bonding in pursuit of a common goal.
At Express English, Dubai, we use the latest speaking vocabulary apps which automatically put our students in groups where they all have the same questions appearing on their smartphones, but each student has different answers with only one answer being correct for each question. This creates the information gap and encourages the students to discuss their choices to win the game. As well as fostering bonding within the group, it also gets them speaking naturally and using the target language to achieve the purpose.
English classes at Express English Language Training Center embrace blended learning principles to deliver an engaging learning experience. This is achieved using the latest interactive technology and combines interactive whiteboards, tablets, smartphones, cutting-edge applications, and learning management systems. This technology is interspersed with lively, communicative teaching by qualified native speaker teachers. Blended learning is not just combining digital media with face-to-face teaching, but also involves making principled choices about the nature and structure of lessons. Using digital media in the classroom helps us create visually stimulating lessons with gamified learning allowing us to tap into the students’ collaborative and competitive energy.
The latest interactive whiteboards allow us to conduct engaging quizzes, play the latest e-learning games, and display short instructive videos. It also means we can give live demonstrations of online proficiency tests such as Pearson Test of English (PTE) and CELPIP. Using a tri-band router and high-speed internet means that students are always connected, and that teachers can run competitive and fun classroom games where the students connect to the interactive whiteboard with their smartphones. Students can take our cutting-edge, level-adaptive placement test on a tablet, desktop, or smart phone. It is published on our website and available as an app download for android or iOS/Apple smartphones. The test adapts to the student’s level, so when a student gets questions right, the questions will get harder. This means that the questions will still be challenging, but the student will be placed at the higher level they deserve due to higher scoring for the more difficult questions.
Gamification of Learning
We are always searching for new and fun games to enrich our classroom. Part of this involves listening to our students and reading online blogs to keep up-to-date with the latest e-learning apps and software. We currently use several highly effective e-learning applications to engage our students and ensure that learning is fun. We have included a couple of simple quizzes here for you to try!
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We also include elements of Content-based Instruction in our classes. This theory promotes the use of as much authentic material as possible in the learning process. Content refers to authentic reading passages, videos of real conversations or discussions and audio recordings. This approach involves some flexibility and teachers should be prepared to use the internet to pull up examples of contextualised authentic texts relevant to student questions or themes. The adaptability this creates, and the tailored nature of CBI lessons mean that students will feel more compelled to learn the target language.
- Most students want to improve their pronunciation, and this is a much easier task when learning with a native speaker teacher. Many non-native teachers have excellent pronunciation, but students would often prefer to learn from a teacher with a native speaker accent. Learning from a native speaker gives students the confidence to communicate with mother-tongue speakers.
- Many students also want to learn about the culture of the country or countries where the target language is spoken. Lessons can be made more interesting when the teacher has a real experience of the foods, sites, customs, and traditions of the country. Understanding cultural nuances such as the appropriate greetings, manners, and etiquette is essential if you are hoping to emigrate or travel to the country in question.
- One of the strongest arguments for native speaker teachers is there natural ability to use and teach authentic language. In other words, they often have more accurate knowledge of idioms, collocations, slang, and regional dialects. This depth of knowledge is invaluable when students reach the higher levels and need more than basic communication.
Fun Lessons – Total Physical Response
Learning should be fun, and the Total Physical Response teaching method involves combining language learning with related physical activities. This method is most easily applied to the lower levels of general English, and our teachers use games which include physical actions to aid learning and make lessons fun. Practising language in conjunction with performing physical actions improves the understanding and retention of new language. For instance, games such as ‘Simon Says’ are perfect for learning and remembering the body parts whilst bringing the classroom to life.
Top 10 Tips for Improving your English
- First and foremost, don’t be afraid to make mistakes as they are vital in the learning process. Stay confident and listen to your teacher’s feedback.
- Start recording new words in your own vocabulary book, and make sure you review them once or twice a week. This will dramatically improve your retention of the new items.
- Immerse yourself in the English language by trying to include some English in all your normal activities. This could include watching English movies, listening to English language radio stations, practicing English with family and friends or chatting online with English speakers.
- Push yourself and test your ability by attempting to perform everyday tasks or activities in English. Examples would be writing your to-do list in English or playing English boardgames.
- The Internet has brought us the most powerful learning environment outside of the classroom. It means we can learn wherever we have access to our smartphones. This could be passive learning in the form of watching an English TV series or active learning like working through the units of an online course. An excellent example of a free online course is the BBC Learning English website (http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish), where learners can access an extensive, interactive learning programme.
- Set measurable targets for yourself as this will help to motivate you to succeed. For instance, setting a functional goal such as understanding a whole movie in English, or a more academic goal like achieving a certain level in an English proficiency test.
- Reward yourself for reaching your goals with activities that include using the language. This could include visiting an English-speaking country for a holiday or purchasing the latest English movie. These rewards will motivate you to hit future targets whilst also giving you further opportunity to practice.
- Join a general English class or conversation meet up. Whilst passive, unstructured practice can be very beneficial, there is nothing like the speedy progress of well-delivered language course. This will provide authentic practice, feedback, structure, and direction to your language learning.
- Pronunciation is best improved in a class setting as it is sometimes necessary to get feedback from a teacher in order to progress swiftly. However, another successful technique is to record yourself speaking and compare the pronunciation to a native speaker recording. This is particularly useful if you recognise difficulty with a specific phoneme or sound. This method is best used in conjunction with a good pronunciation website, such as Magoosh, where you can use tailored tongue twisters to really challenge yourself.
- Lastly, don’t give up! Language is not rocket science and it’s all about sticking at it and not throwing in the towel. Really trying to make sure you’re getting some English practice each day!