Author Archives: English Language Services

The Anatomy of a Training Session

Author - Beth Caldwell, Head Blended Learning, English, India

A great training session doesn’t just start on the day of delivery. Planning is equally important and impacts greatly on effectiveness. Just as important is the consideration given to the ‘takeaway’, thinking about what you want to change or happen as a result of the training – what participants will be taking with them to apply in the real world. For example, if you were conducting a training session on the importance of communication skills in business, some of the key takeaways could be: 

  • Understanding the importance of good communication in business
  • Key business communication skills
  • Presentation skills and strategies 
  • Tips for good business writing

Training

Planning

  • Consider what the participants already know. Make sure the session is pitched for their level, needs and interests. You could share a pre-session questionnaire which will help you plan for this.
  • Decide what you want the participants to know beforehand. Share details of the session to build interest. Having clear objectives, pre-session tasks (if you are leveraging a flipped classroom model), a list of equipment needed and a brief biography of the trainer can all help prepare participants and whet their appetite.

Delivery

A good training session has clear stages that go from learning to application. One possible way to label these is Define-Inform-Connect-Resolve.

  • Define the issues, skills or development areas being covered.
  • Inform participants by introducing strategies, techniques, theories or models that can be applied to the above areas.
  • Connect participants to the strategies through practical activities such as role plays and discussions.
  • Resolve the learning through considering future and alternative applications of the strategies.

Takeaway

Training is a success when the participants can immediately go out and apply what they have learned.

  • Ensure you provide opportunities to participants to reflect on what they have learned as it applies to their own contexts. Make sure they always have something practical to ‘take away’ and apply.
  • Always ask for feedback after the training. It’s a great way to gauge how well participants processed the information and to find out what they enjoyed and what they didn’t. Use this when you are planning next time to create an even better training experience!

Sign up for our webinar on the ‘Anatomy of an effective training session’ by clicking here.

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Future-proof your ambition: 21st Century Skills for Workplace Success

Author – Beth Caldwell, Head Blended Learning, English, India

It’s a common situation: you want to shine brighter in interviews or at work. You wonder how best to get the job or promotion you want. You want that ‘X-factor’ that makes you stand out. The solution could be simple: focus on adding 21st century skills to your skill set.

Business communication skills

According to a LinkedIn survey, 57% of senior leaders say soft skills in business communication are more important than hard skills. Other than job-specific knowledge, the key skills needed in order to participate in a global economy and succeed in a rapidly changing work environment are known as 21st century skills. They include:

  • Critical thinking and problem-solving   
  • Communication and collaboration   
  • Creativity   
  • Global and cultural awareness   
  • Digital skills
  • Leadership and personal development   

Here are some things you can do to develop these skills:

  • Be well-informed about your profession through Internet-based research for personal development and to flex your digital skills.
  • Analyse ideas and concepts you read about: Think about the pros and cons of applying them in your own situation and develop your problem-solving abilities and creativity.
  • Discuss ideas with colleagues or others in your industry, face-to-face or in the virtual world, to develop your collaboration and communication skills.
  • Network with people in other states or countries for fresh perspectives and to build your cultural awareness.
  • Build your communication skills by commenting on articles, taking part in online forums and making the most of video conferencing.

Taking an online course is a great way to advance your 21st century capabilities. They can help you develop self-motivation, time management, digital research and communication skills. MOOCs, for example, will expand your professional knowledge and provide global perspectives from other participants who join from around the world. The British Council offers range of MOOCs on the FutureLearn platform, including How to Succeed in a Global Workplace’.

If you want to develop your communication skills in English, look for courses that focus on maximising opportunities for you to speak or write. A good course will develop your independent learning skills and offer practical learning activities based on real-life situations. At the British Council these skills are built into our course design. For example, our online myEnglish courses include communicative group tasks in live online classes – all under the guidance of an internationally-qualified and experienced teacher.

Whether independently or via a course, you will benefit from identifying and developing your 21st century skill set. With these skills in hand you can future-proof your career aspirations, stand out to employers and gain the advantage in the 21st Century workplace.

Join our free live online webinar and learn all about using online learning skills to get ahead in the global workplace.

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Future proof your business

In a Human Capital study conducted by Deloitte in 2016, 90% respondents rated soft skills as a “critical priority”. In this study, organisations indicated that communication and soft skills can enhance employee retention, improve leadership and build positive organisational culture. And yet again, LinkedIn’s annual learning report shows that 57% of senior leaders state that soft skills are more important that hard skills and they never go out of fashion.

Yet another L&D study, conducted in 2019, reveals that organisations with highly engaged employees are over twice as likely to prioritise soft skills training. Soft skills, including communication skills, are top priority for the majority of organisations in 2019.

After globalisation, which has resulted in the increasing importance of communication skills and intercultural fluency, the next big wave to have an impact on jobs is automation. As industry gets more and more automated, the jobs of the future will increasingly be those which rely on soft skills and the human touch. There is a growing emphasis on customer service, and impactful and professional communication skills will be in even greater demand in the new age of AI. More and more, jobs require greater creativity, collaboration and relationship building.

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Essentially, the only common denominator in L&D studies conducted over 1990s, 2000s and 2010s was soft skills. This is of no surprise to us at the British Council. We work with many organisations in India and around the world and have seen how our soft skills and communication skills training programmes make a difference to business performance. Productivity, collaboration, intercultural fluency, networking, creativity, customer satisfaction and communicative effectiveness are just some of the areas our training programmes cover. It also has a positive washback on the outcomes of other training programmes, which have English as the medium of instruction.

It is important for organisations and L&D professionals to consider these factors while designing their training programmes. Communication and soft skills training can future proof your employees and in turn help you set your organisation apart.

Author: Shivangi Gupta, Assistant Director, English India

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5 Tips to Become a Better Speaker at Work

Author – Neenaz Ichaporia (Academic Manager, Blended Learning)

How can you become a better, more confident speaker at work? Read the tips below for a range of useful ideas on how to do this. You’ll learn about websites, links and other resources that you can use. You’ll also learn how the British Council’s online language improvement course, myEnglish Workplace, makes you a better, more confident speaker.

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Make meetings matter – Expert tips to improve your meetings  

Meetings that run on endlessly or where everyone is preoccupied with their gadgets can be a frustrating part of work for most of us. Don’t jump on the ‘boring meetings’ bandwagon. Here are 4 tips to hold effective meetings that energise your team and leave clear objectives.

1The endgame   

Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve through this meeting. Clearly define to the group what will happen because of this time spent together so they will better focus in the meeting.  Share clear action items, like ‘by the end of this meeting we will have created a marketing action plan with timelines and decided on leads for each activity.’

The medium   

A face-to-face meeting may not be the best medium to achieve your outcome. A shared, collaborative document such as Google Docs provides, or an online meeting platform such as Zoom or Skype for Business can help your team review a proposal in real time. Project updates could be shared effectively through a project management tool or communication platform such as Basecamp, Asana, Slack, or Microsoft SharePoint. Our ‘myEnglish Workplace’ courses delivered online with a teacher to facilitate is a great starting point to practice and build confidence using online collaboration tools for meetings and more.

The invite 

2Meetings are more productive if you engage your invitees even before the physical meeting happens. The meeting actually starts as soon as the invite is sent out. Set a clear, specific agenda so people know exactly what to expect. For instance, ‘identify three business opportunities’ sounds more specific and organised than ‘discuss business development’. Include all the details so that people know the venue and what to bring. Perhaps you could set a task for attendees like ‘think of one key opportunity to share with the group’ so that everyone comes prepared. Effective communication like this helps build long-lasting and effective work relationships. For more tips on relationship building, read this interesting article with language tasks.

The preparation 

3Use the pre-meeting time to carefully plan your approach. Have discussions with key players attending the meeting to uncover any important or sensitive topics. Understand the team dynamics if you want people to collaborate in the meeting and don’t want any surprises. Get a preview of the participants’ thoughts before the meeting. This helps you anticipate concerns, questions or challenges so you can prepare clear solutions.

What are your top tips to make meetings more interactive? We’d love to hear from you so feel free to leave your comments below.

If you know someone who spends a lot of their time in meetings, share this article with them. You could also enquire about our ‘Managing Meetings’ workshop for organisations which focuses on preparation, planning and timing in meetings, and skills needed for chairing a meeting.   

Each year, the British Council reaches over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.  Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.   

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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Planning your company’s L&D strategy?

English has emerged as the lingua franca for international business. The rise of the internet and multicultural organisations demands proficiency in using the ‘universal language of the internet and the world’ a.k.a English.

Here are the three main reasons why English language training should be your top L&D priority for the year.

Avoid communication breakdown: The popular request ‘Please revert/reply back as soon as possible’ may present a limited awareness of English and could be a direct translation from a local language, ‘Please reply as soon as possible’ is as effective and the use of ‘back’ is unnecessary.

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Non-standard English in international contexts causes confusion and poses barriers to building good business relationships. If not corrected, they can even lead to communication breakdown. To get quick and easy tips on Email writing and useful practice exercises visit here.

Save time, save costs: We spend 28% of our work week reading, writing or responding to emails according to The Muse and a massive 35% on meetings as published by Mashable India! The purpose of most communication in emails and meetings is to get things done. When employees improve their Business English, messages conveyed are clearer and further clarification is not needed. Colleagues then better understand what is expected and perform tasks more effectively. Many companies report that highly-paid senior managers often have to edit presentations and emails for non-standard English. If that’s the case in your organisation, it is time to consider English language training. With a range of resources and courses available, you can start right now with our free grammar practice app.

12 oct 3Boost confidence and propel leadership: You may hire people with excellent technical skills, but can they lead on projects that require a high level of communicative expertise? Effective language training empowers them to lead and perform beyond their job description. Don’t be surprised when a manager cracks that deal with a major client all on his own just because he/she recently attended a negotiation skills workshop!

Tweak your L&D plan todaysave costs and shape leaders by making language learning your top priority for 2018! You could start with our Podcasts for Professionals here with workplace contexts and embedded language practice.

Have you struggled with communication breakdown in the workplace and the high cost of training? What do you look for in language training programs? Comment below and let us know.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.

Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses.

To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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The 5 Cs of Email Writing

Business communication is heavily reliant on emails – an indispensable tool in the business world today. Emails need to be written as clearly as possible to avoid causing confusion with colleagues, partners or stakeholders.

Here are 5 ‘C’s to keep in mind for clear, concise, and competent emails.  

9 octComplete: State your purpose up front and provide the right amount of information. It is a good idea to explicitly state what action will follow and when and who will do it. For example, ‘I am writing to enquire about the new photocopier model manufactured by NEWX.’ We should state the reason for writing in the opening sentence of the email and present all information in a logical order. Here are some quick tips and tasks to start and end emails.

Clear: Use precise language. e.g. ‘You now have until 31st March to remove all machinery from the site’. Keep it simple so your message cannot be misinterpreted – don’t use big words. Use linking words and paragraphs to logically connect ideas. For more ideas on organising emails, visit Learn English Website.

Correct: Check your email for grammar and vocabulary. Grammatical accuracy plays a big part in how you come across to the reader and if the message was received as intended. Read it as if you were the recipient – is your message completely clear? Remember, words are powerful, but the right words are dynamite. Our ‘LearnEnglish Grammar’ app for smartphones is a convenient way to practise and improve grammatical accuracy. Get more information about this app here.

Concise: It is important to use short sentences with no more than one or two ideas in each sentence.  Take a look at this sentence: The recommendation I have, and this is the area which I will now address in this section, is that relating to the issue of whether we need to provide refreshment for the employees of our company. It being my considered opinion that in fact, it would save time if the aforementioned meal could be provided by our company rather than having the employees go outside for any eventual refreshment. 

This is certainly not concise and may confuse your reader. Keep your emails crisp with easy to understand messages. Sentence length and “big” words can distort the message, and if your mail runs to many paragraphs, you likely have a problem! Who has the time to read long-winded emails? A better sentence is: In order to save time, my recommendation is to provide refreshment to all staff in the office rather than having them go out.

We develop business communication skills online with a teacher to help our learners develop clarity and efficiency with our courses for organisations like yours.

9 oct 1Courteous: Consider what the tone of the message is and strike the right level of formality. Our relationship with the reader influences our choice of language (formal/informal). When talking to your reader, you need to tailor your writing to fit their specific needs. Even formal emails are expected to be less formal than formal letters, but it is important to know these differences. Our ‘Email writing’ workshop develops email writing skills with a focus on the participants’’ ability to adapt their writing according to the audience, organise information to enhance readability, use plain English and to edit and proofread their own emails.

If you like the article, share it with someone who will like it too! Visit Learn English Website for more tips and tricks on writing effective and efficient emails.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. We do this by making a positive contribution to the UK and the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. We work with over 100 countries across the world in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Each year we reach over 20 million people face-to-face and more than 500 million people online, via broadcasts and publications. The British Council works with top companies across sectors to design customised business communication-related solutions targeting specific needs.

Our Business English Training programmes are highly relevant, practical and customised to the requirements of the company. Our interactive, communicative methodology helps us create a unique and engaging learning experience for every participant in our courses. To set up a consultation with one of our experts, contact us on 0120-4569000 or visit our website for more information.

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MBA Students to Actors: How Everyone Is Benefiting From a Change in Tech and Education

[As appeared on The Better India, October 2017]

Using live online classrooms and guided online activities, these teachers are changing the traditional model and bringing the classroom to their students across India.

myEnglish teachers at the British Council, India are guiding adult learners to achieve success through interactive online English courses. Unlike most teachers however, their job comes with a twist – their classroom exists in the virtual world!

Read responses from some of our myEnglish teachers to questions about their work and their students.

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How did you get into this very 21st century way of working?

Purbani: “I was given an opportunity to be a part of an online teacher-training programme. The course opened new avenues for me and I realised that online teaching might just be the future of education”.

Avinash: “I’ve always been interested in the use of technology in making learning engaging and more accessible. I’d had some experience as a student and was interested in the implications it had for a teacher. I felt there were several possibilities to be explored with online teaching.”

Huma: “The excitement of doing something so new and the fear of the unknown meant it would expand my teaching skills as well as give the flexibility and convenience of working at my own pace in my own space – something I had been long wishing for.”

Ellora: “I love teaching online. It allows me to work from home which saves time and allows flexibility”.

Rajul: “I can see all my students; I connect with them online and deliver classes prepared for them in a relaxed, fun manner without feeling the need to travel and rush into class from home. I am teaching from home! Even the students don’t have to go to class; the class comes to them wherever they are”.

What’s a typical week on a course like for your students?

Huma: “Interactive, practical, exciting, and demanding nevertheless! Everything that happens in a face-to-face class is possible here. The only thing different – the location, of course”.

Purbani: “A student spends around five hours of study on online activities per week and meets the trainer and the classmates for two hours over a live online session. The study time can be spread across the week or can be spent on two consecutive days – the flexibility is key”.

Avinash: “Students complete their online activities in order to prepare for the forum discussions and online classes as they’re linked and build on each other. They respond to forum posts and add their own. This gives them a chance to practise the language they’ve learned and this gives me an opportunity to respond to their opinions and ideas and give individual feedback”.

Rajul: “They also review videos to recap their learning, increase their vocabulary and access the website to explore and learn more. Unknowingly they learn to manage their time and study independently, overcome their fear of writing and gain confidence in their speaking. They communicate with others without hesitation in real life situations”.

What are the benefits of teaching and learning in an online format? Have you faced and overcome any challenges?  

Huma: “I’m neither a technophobe nor am I tech-savvy. Like some of my students, I’ve had to work my way through handling technology but it’s been fun. I tell myself that I’ve been developing some 21st Century skills!”

Purbani: “In a face-to-face classroom, we often see that the learning stops once the learner leaves the classroom. On an online course, the possibilities of learning are limitless”.

Avinash: “One of the main challenges both learners and I have faced as a teacher is time management. In my experience, setting realistic weekly targets and working frequently and for shorter durations has helped most students and me have an enjoyable and enriching experience on the course”.

Can you share any success stories?

Rajul: There’s a student who was not even ready to write or talk to anyone because he didn’t feel confident. He’s currently enrolled in an MBA class! Another student was unwilling to speak in class. He would just say ‘I can’t’. After the course, he got selected to appear for a TV interview”.

Huma: “One of my students has special needs and passed the course! This also goes to show that we are truly inclusive and the courses are meant for everybody”.

Avinash: “I taught an award-winning actor. She wanted to develop her fluency and accuracy as she had upcoming projects in international films. Over 3 courses she has developed her accuracy to a great degree, especially in pronunciation, and is now so much more confident with intonation and emotion in the English language.”

Purbani: “At the formal launch of myEnglish courses in August a former student of mine spoke to the gathered press in an eloquent manner about his wonderful experience on our online courses”.

Ellora: “A student from my class wanted to speak better English so he could study International Law. When he joined my class he had scored a 5 in IELTS. He completed the whole level and took his IELTS again, he scored a 7.5. He’s going to Canada in 2018 for his studies”.

The clock is ticking. What's your

Pave your path to success by being a part of the British Council’s online courses. Click here to learn more about our online English resources to help you improve your fluency, accuracy and confidence.

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What makes an online course click?

The article has been authored by Beth Caldwell, Head Blended Learning, British Council India.            [As appeared on Hindustan Times, 20 September 2017]

The education system in India, and across the globe, has undergone many transformations. It has evolved from community sessions in open spaces to classrooms with blackboards, to being truly online and on-demand. Today, technology is at the heart of everything that we do, including education and learning. The proliferation of gadgets and access to the Internet has democratised education and given a level playing field to anyone who wants to improve or enhance their level of proficiency in any subject. As per a recent Google-KPMG report, the Indian online education sector is expected to grow eight-fold to a USD 1.96 billion industry by 2021, owing to increased smartphone penetration and increasing data speed. 99811

These statistics and estimates are impressive and promising, and there is no doubt that millions of individuals are inclined towards online courses given their multiple benefits such as ease of access, flexibility, personalisation etc. The demand has given rise to a multitude of online course providers and the development of MOOCs designed by faculty members from prestigious universities the world over. Hence online course seekers today, especially working professionals, have multiple courses and provider options to choose from depending on their schedule, the current level of subject knowledge, additional skill requirements at the workplace and course content and budget, among other considerations.

Given the complexities of modern-day lifestyles and growing workplace skill demands, the popularity of such courses in the long-run seems very promising. The only question now is if learners benefit from such courses and if these online courses are delivering the promised value. It is time to assess all online courses on one key parameter – effectiveness! Are the learners who have enrolled for such courses getting the maximum value and learning what they expected to or were promised? Are these courses simply cashing in on the need or are they actually delivering results? Or, at least, ensuring progress? Yes, technology has enabled access and provided more tools – e-classrooms, e-books, video tutorials – and facilitated greater collaboration through connected workplaces, remote working, virtual presence and annotation capabilities. But there is a need to utilise this all-powerful platform in the right manner. There is a need to ensure that the AR/VR headsets, e-classrooms, etc. act as tools that truly foster and catalyse learning rather than going down in the history books as ‘disruptive ideas that had immense potential’.

97494Hence, the real success of online courses should be measured by learning outcomes rather than just access. On how many students learnt vis-à-vis how many students enrolled. How much the students remembered and applied vis-à-vis how many modules they attended. Effectiveness and end result must be the parameter for both course providers as well as the customers. For instance, there are many online courses for improving one’s English proficiency, but do these courses ensure effective learning? Are these courses designed and structured in a way to ensure the desired learning outcomes for the learners? At the core of this discussion lie the basics of teaching. All our experience and research in the area of English language teaching proves that student-centered learning is catalysed through techniques using a communicative approach, such as classroom discussions and guided discovery, so that learners develop their independent learning capabilities and learn from and interact with each other, rather than passively receive information. Guidance and regular feedback ensure that learners progress and achieve their learning goals, and meaningful tasks based on real-life situations help consolidate what has been taught. Just as in our physical classrooms, this ethos is also behind the design of our online English course myEnglish.

Given that the platform, the experience, the environment and the tools are all relatively new, especially to the majority of the learners taking up such courses, the real magic of technology lies in creating a user-friendly and interactive environment that learners can relate to and are comfortable with. The onus also lies on the course developers to include effective teaching and evaluation techniques in the delivery structure and ensure that technology is effectively utilized to ensure success. Looking at the example of an effective online English course – yes, it must be available on demand and across devices – but should also offer an environment conducive to learning and a methodology that replicates effective classroom pedagogy, using techniques that enable progress. Hence, an online course is only successful once the learners effectively recollect, not when they simply connect (to the Internet)!

Find out more about our English courses and resources to help you improve your fluency, accuracy, and confidence: www.britishcouncil.in/English

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Improve your speaking skills for the workplace

Written by Neenaz Ichaporia, Academic Manager, Blended Learning  

Do you want to speak more confidently at work? Many of our students feel the same:

  • “I have good knowledge of my field. But because of my weak communication skills, I am not able to convince my customers. I can do better if I improve my skills in public speaking.”
  • “I have obtained a higher position at work, but my English is too simple. Sometimes I find it difficult to explain some situations.”
  • “I always have this feeling that my English is not good enough. Improving it will help me in my career by boosting my confidence.”

As English is the international language of business communication, professionals are looking to improve their speaking skills. There are three main areas to consider:

  • Fluency
  • Business communication skills
  • Pronunciation

People lack confidence in speaking English when they don’t have enough chances to practice. If that’s you, don’t worry! You can improve your speaking by using online resources.

Improve your fluency

CaptureThis is the ability to express ideas quickly and clearly. This does not mean talking quickly – that can be very confusing for your listener!

  • Use the ‘You’re Hired’ series from the British Council Learn English website. It helps you learn skills for finding a job. Watch the videos and then practice the dialogue.
  • To improve anything, you need practice. So, practise speaking out loud, even if you are alone.
  • You can use the BBC’s Get that Job series. The activities and quizzes build your knowledge of job-related vocabulary.

Improve your business communication skills

At work, you may need to do different tasks e.g. making a presentation, attending a meeting, or answering a telephone call. It’s helpful to learn useful language and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of business communication.

  • Listen to the free Professionals podcasts from the British Council to improve English for your career. These are useful for intermediate to advanced levels.
  • Use the pause button and repeat whole phrases after listening. This will help you say them right and remember them.
  • Note down new phrases you hear and use them in conversations at work.
  • Are you a job seeker or a young professional? You can do the free short course English for the Workplace. This will help you with language to find and start a job.

Improve your pronunciation

ChartHaving good, clear pronunciation can help you communicate clearly and sound more professional. Here’s how you can learn the features of good pronunciation.

  • Start with individual sounds. Practise these out loud to better say them.
  • You will find phonemic script very useful. It’s used to describe the sounds of language (not the spelling). The British Council has a free phonemic chart to download as an app.
  • Understanding phonemic script is useful when you’re looking up words in the dictionary. Most good dictionaries use this to show the pronunciation of words.
  • Do you know which sounds you find more difficult? Listen to and practise these sounds out loud.

We hope you have found these tips useful and are motivated to go online and practice. This will help improve your speaking skills and confidence.

Sign up for a myEnglish Workplace course to boost your career prospects. This online course is delivered by expert British Council teachers. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn live from the experts! Register now.

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