Author Archives: British Council India

Level up your language skills in 2021

3 Jan

This year has been full of challenges. However, it has given us the opportunity to pick up new skills and sharpen the ones we already have. Many of you have been working on improving your own or your child’s English too. Do you think your child has reached a saturation point in English? The feeling of getting stuck is very common and here are some top tips to help you level up your language game in 2021.

  1. Develop your vocabulary- This may sound cliched but enhancing word power is the key. Widening the range of your vocabulary is very important. Try to watch different types of content instead of watching similar types.  For example, if you like dinosaurs, don’t always watch dinosaur shows. Try to widen your horizon by watching other types of shows. For example, underwater, adventure, fantasy shows on different topics, is a wonderful supply of new ideas, words/phrases, content and so on. Use this resource from our LearnEnglish website to level up your phrasal verbs.
  2. Immerse yourself in understanding different types of accents- Almost 20% of the world’s population speak English. Since it is such a widely spoken language in the world, there are a plethora of accents. You must familiarise yourself with English in different accents. Try to watch films from different parts of the English-speaking world instead of just watching American films. So, if you were facing problems in having a conversation with someone who has a different English accent or someone who speaks quickly, you now know how to cope with the situation. Watching the cricket commentary or Masterchef Australia (junior) or even a British show like The Big Fib are some recommendations of shows with different accents. Here is a list of the top Netflix shows for kids.
  3. Keep practicing- Our tongue is a type of muscle that needs training and practice in order to speak eloquently. Try coming up with a word of the day, and then try to use it as often as possible. Try not to waste time on extremely specific words you will never actually use. Instead, focus on conversational English which is likely to be relevant in everyday life- both personal and professional. Make use of every opportunity to speak in English. Don’t be scared of making mistakes. Record yourself and check your progress. A very important tip for parents is NOT to correct their kids when they make errors.
  4. Follow your curiosity- Encourage your child to ask a lot of questions and try to find the answers together. Think about why a particular phrase is used in a particular way and what could be the other possibilities. Do your research online wisely. There are lots of resources, but it is important to go with the authentic ones. This search engine by Google is the kids friendly version and blocks sensitive content.
  5. Experiment with advanced grammar structures- sometimes we tend to take the easier way out and keep using the same sentence structures that we are comfortable with. Use of simple past and present seems to be our top choice. However, don’t be afraid to use more advanced structures like conditional statements and narrative tenses. The future aspect can be further developed by using a variety of ways to express probability.

The key is to experiment and not be afraid to try and use a higher level of language. Let the new year give you the confidence to be ok with making errors and learning from them. It’s a great time to set yourself language goals – invest a few minutes each day in enriching your English and make it count.

Wishing you and your family a very happy new year!

 -Snigdha Sinha, Teacher British Council

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Top Tips for improving your child’s body language

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Actions speak louder than words.  We as parents need to help our children realize that there is more to communication than just words. Understanding the importance of eye contact, gestures, facial expressions and posture can help children make a good impression and adapt more easily to the complexities of social life. A starting point is to start raising awareness of this unspoken and integral aspect of communication that is often overlooked.

Body language is a means of non-verbal communication that is done subconsciously. Here are some aspects of body language that you can help your child develop.

1. Observe body posture: demonstrate to your child how different movements of the body can convey various feelings and emotions. Crossed arms while talking to someone, constantly fidgeting and hands on the hips; carries a lot of meaning even without using a single word. Parents can develop this sensitivity by using interactions between people in the real world or videos as examples. When dining out, draw your child’s attention to how different people are sitting and ask them to choose their favourite posture. Ask leading questions to find out why and then talk about what it means – the family is having fun, looks like that couple has had a fight. This will make children more aware of how they sit and how they are perceived by others. An upright posture makes you look more sophisticated and elegant.

2. Be aware of facial expressions: Point out ways in which they can notice these nuances to pick up on the underlying emotions and intentions of people. A fun game to play with your family is charades – act out different emotions and take turns to guess. You can get some more wonderful tips from this website.

3. Use gestures to add meaning: Gestures play a crucial role in presentations. Rather than standing with your hands behind the back, encourage your child to use hand movements to add meaning to what they say. TED talks by kids are a great way to show an example of how gestures can be better used.

4. Maintain eye contact: many of us have been taught that looking into the eyes of grown-ups can be a sign of disrespect. On the contrary, not maintaining eye contact can mean that you are hiding something, not interested or lying. Some ways to teach your child how to better their eye contact skills is by parents modelling this behaviour. Look at your child when you speak to them rather than into a laptop or phone. Make them feel that you are really listening and this conversation is important to you. Expect the same from your child when the situation demands it.

5. Encourage positive body language: Positively reinforce by saying “I really like it when you look at me when I speak to you” or “I really liked how you looked at the server at the restaurant and said thank you, it was really polite.” You can use this video to get some ideas of fun games to improve eye contact.

6. Build presentation skills: Eye contact is an important skill to develop even for public speaking. At home, when practising speaking in front of an audience, remind your child to look at them while presenting. With your eyes, make a sweeping motion from left to right and front to back; to make sure that each member feels included. This creates a bond between the speaker and the listener.

These skills will definitely come in handy when your child enters the corporate world and has to socialize with others while working in teams.

                                                                              -Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council

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Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

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Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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Say goodbye to spelling worries! Find out how.

Sun

Spellings are rather troublesome for many of us to work with, more so for our children! This is mainly because we often say a word quite differently than we write it. So, here are a few tips that can help you equip your child to make spellings easier.

Tip 1: Write, re-write and remember

This is a lovely technique that can be excellent practice for your child because it is visual and relies on recalling.

  • You will need to make a chart with 3 columns labelled ‘Write, Re-write and Remember’.
  • Then fold over the “remember” part so that only the first two columns are visible
  • Say the word that you want to learn aloud.
  • Write it in the first column, saying the letters as you trace. Say the word again. You can even spell it aloud.
  • Go to the second column, say the word, and re-write the word in the same way.
  • While the rhythm and the sound and the feeling are fresh in your mind, flip the paper over and say the word and spell it out.
  • If it’s a hard word, put it on the list (the Write column) more than once. If you feel confident and would like to challenge yourself or your child, write and re-write TWO words, and try to remember them both before you flip the page over. However, if you can’t remember it, do it one at a time because you want to practice the words RIGHT, not make guesses!
  • After you’ve done all the words this way a few times, start doing them two or three at a time, and when you feel like you know them, do the list again!

Tip 2: Using memory tricks and Mnemonics

Memory tricks or mnemonics are really useful to remember tricky spellings. For eg. the words stationary can end with an -ary and -ery. So how to you ensure you are spelling it correctly?

One easy way to remember is to come up with memory tricks. For instance, the word stationery refers to pens, pencils, paper etc. As there is an ‘e’ in ‘pen’ and it is an item of stationery, we can try to remember that stationery has an ‘e’ just like the word ‘pen’ has an ‘e’. Whereas the other ‘stationary’ does not have an ‘e’ and refers to ‘not moving’.

Similarly, for the word principal, should we use -al or -le at the end? So here is a memory tip, remember you and your pal (or friend) have the same school Principal. You can also think of words within words for such memory tricks like believe has a lie in it, so you must never believe a lie – this way you can remember that believe has an -ie not -ei.

It is fun to create such memory tricks. And you can ask your children to share their tricks with friends, family and even teachers so that they remember it better. And of course, there are no rules for these, so you can make any that makes sense to you.

Tip 3: Use a recorder to test and practice the meanings of words and their spelling!

The next tip is children could use a tape recorder or a  phone recorder to test themselves and to practice using words.

Here’s how they can do it. Read the words — be sure you’re pronouncing them right — into the recorder. Record it like it’s a spelling test: word, example sentence, word, spelling. For example, you’d say

“Separate.

Put the papers in separate piles.

Separate.

Spelled s – e – p – a – r - a - t – e.”

Play it back — and try to say the spelling before the tape plays it. This tip will help children practice without anyone’s help. This is also something that can be done once and then the tape can be re-use over and over.

Tip 4: Highlight the hard parts.

Some words, like separate, are only hard in some parts. So highlighting the hard part is a good technique for learning rules and patterns.

Ask your child to get different colour pens or pencils or markers, and get small cards. Write the words vividly, boldly on the cards — and make the ‘hard part’ a different colour than the rest. Make a mental picture of that card, read the word aloud and spell it aloud, and change the way they say the “hard part,” maybe saying it louder, maybe putting on a different accent. So, they’d write:

sepArate    believe

 

When they write the whole word, they should think about the hard part, what it looks like or sounds like. So, while they’re writing “separate,” they might be visualizing that bold, red A.

These cards are also easy to carry and can be used almost anywhere. Turn it into a family game for even more fun.

Tip 5: Learning through reverse chaining letters.

Learning spelling through reverse chaining letters is another effective trick. Here’s how the children should do it:

  • Say the word. Then write it, saying each letter (be enthusiastic and expressive)
    • W – O – R – D
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last letter. Say the last letter, but don’t write it.
    • W – O – R – ____
  • Skip a line and say it and write it again — minus the last two letters. Say them, but don’t write them.
    • W – O – ___ ____
  • Do that until you’re only writing one letter.
  • Go back to the top. Read the word, then spell it out loud.
  • Fold the page over so you can’t see the whole word. Say the word, spell it, and add that last letter.
  • Fold the page back again. Say the word, spell it, and add the last two letters.
  • Keep going until you spell the whole word.
  • GO BACK AND CHECK — make sure you didn’t leave out a letter.

Adding variety in the way children learn spellings is a key factor in keeping them at it. A single strategy becomes boring too soon and children tend to lose interest. So, get them to try different techniques. However, don’t introduce all of them at once, as this can be overwhelming and not quite effective.

 

All of these are tried and tested methods so do try out these tips for yourself and let us know which one worked for your child in the comments.

Keep watching this space for more such tips and suggestions on improving your child’s English language and skills.

-Melisha Robinson and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

 

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7 Easy Tips For Improving Your Child’s Study Skills

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Parents do not like to compromise on their child’s academics! However, making your child study, remains to be the most frustrating part of their day. Even though there is no magic formula to make your child study better, these strategies will go a long way in building their study skills.

Study skills are the skills you need to enable you to study and learn efficiently – an often neglected, but an absolutely necessary skill. Here are 7 ways that you can help your child to study more efficiently:

  1. Short study sessions: Research proves that we learn better in shorter, regular sessions rather than setting aside a whole day or week trying to master a challenging math problem or a grammar point! Keep each session as long as 20-30 minutes. Use the Pomodoro method to help you. All you need is a kitchen timer or a phone which has a timer. Such short study sessions are motivating, less daunting and less tiresome.
  2. Maintain a routine: Negotiate with your child and set a study routine. To help your child settle into the routine, check which time they are most attentive- put the difficult subjects/ study areas in that study block. A routine killer is procrastination- saying to yourself “I’ll do this later” don’t fall in that trap. Remember to reward your child for not being lazy and sticking to the routine.
  3. Organise your study space: Set aside a place to study every day. Keep all you need ready before you start studying – pens, pencils, markers, notebooks etc. Watch this video to see “Tidy Up” queen Marie Kondo give some useful tips.
  4. Use flashcards: Rather than highlighting or underlining texts, use flashcards, these are perfect for short study sessions and will help you identify and note down the most important information. What’s more, you can carry them around and learn on the go- in a bus, in the car. And don’t forget to have fun with your flashcards- draw diagrams or even cartoons on them, write questions on them, use different colours. Having fun motivates you to study and helps aid memory. When the exam time comes closer, all you need to do is pull out the pack of flashcards and your last-minute revision notes are ready.
  5. Plan a study session with reachable goals: Decide with your child exactly what they’re going to study and focus on a single topic, concept or subject area. If children cram too many subjects or topics in one day, they get overwhelmed and start panicking. If they don’t achieve even one of those goals, they decide that they have failed and stop studying. When thinking of goals make it as specific as you can instead of saying “Today I will study Math” say that “Today I will complete this topic; XX number of sums/ 5 difficult sums in this topic from XXX book/website”. At the end of your study session, tick off the goals you have achieved
  6. Study actively: Just reading a text is not enough.  To help your child process, understand and remember information, try activities like sorting, mapping, sequencing, summarizing, self-quizzing etc. For example, if you’re studying a long history chapter with multiple dates, draw a timeline that will help you sort the events and remember them. Or in case of English, if you’re reading a difficult chapter or poem- try to summarize it in a few words or if you’re reading a story write the most important events of the story and sequence them to remember the story well.
  7. Listen to classical music: Ever wondered why it’s easier to memorize the lyrics of a song than the periodic table of elements? That’s because our brain looks for patterns to better understand, recall, and process information. Research suggests that THE ONLY genre of music that aids to learning and memory is classical music. So definitely go for Bach over Britney. Music not only betters your focus; it relieves stress and it is a performance booster. Here is a playlist you can listen to.

Try out these easy ways of improving your child’s skills and let us know how it goes. All the best!

-Ridhima Somaiya and Munira Hussain, Teachers British Council

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Do you want your child to write stories? Find out how easy it is here.

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We all enjoy stories, whether it’s from a book or through real-life experiences that we narrate later to people. Stories aren’t just for entertainment or teaching morals but have a deeper function especially for children. It helps them develop their language in terms of their sentence structure, vocabulary used and introduces them to a whole world of new ideas.

Stories help children learn simple ideas like the concept of shapes, colours, nature, numbers etc as well as complex ideas like the importance of sharing, turn-taking, compassion for others and so on. It helps them enhance their real-world knowledge and critical thinking skills. Here are some quick tips on how you can get your child started on this fun journey.

Step 1Brainstorm Ideas for your story.

All good things start with good ideas. So first you need to come up with an idea for your story. Reading a book together is a good place to start here. Your child can make predictions about the endings of stories and this can be a great place to launch off into a new story.

You could also write stories based on real life experiences – for example, your child’s first day to school, an adventure to the beach or park, and read that to them.

Step 2The important W’s – Who, what, where, why

Brainstorm with your child and elicit details from them about the character and setting. Think about things like – will the character be an animal, a child or an adult? Will it be set in the wild, on the beach, in a park, in a town or maybe a magical forest? What’s important here is to let your child’s imagination run wild.

Step 3Have a strong story beginning

First impressions count, even when it comes to stories, so set the opening scene and expand on their character and the original idea. Possible things to think about could be what’s special about the character? Maybe it’s a boy who pretends to fight crime and save the world or a cat that fears mice?

Step 4Conflict is key

This is important to any story because, what’s a story without some drama? It keeps it from being dull and drab and creates the narrative thread for it. Revisit some conflicts in already existing stories and help your child understand it. You can then work with your child and come up with a conflict in their story.

Step 5A twist in the tale or let it fizzle out

The climax or turning point is another important point in the story. Create a bizarre twist to the story that nobody would see coming or end it with something predictable. The choice is yours. Let your child’s imagination loose here. There isn’t a right or wrong way of doing this.

Step 6The final resolution

A good story doesn’t finish without a final resolution. Think about how the conflict in their story turns out. You can make it more interesting by linking the conflict with the turning point to create a sensible resolution.

Finally, appreciation at every stage is important to feel motivated and supported throughout. Remember to not curb your child’s enthusiasm or imagination throughout the process as the more enthusiastic or imaginative they are, the more they will gravitate towards writing and reading. Time to get cracking with those stories!

-Ian Vaz, Teacher British Council

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Indian Words in English Language

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You are probably aware of many words from English which we use in our daily conversations in our own mother tongue. However, did you know that English has over 1000 words that are borrowed from India?

Here are a few of them and their origins:

1. Avatar: The original meaning of ‘avatar’ in English – the arrival of a god on Earth in human form – derives from the Sanskrit avatāra, meaning descent (or literally, ‘to cross down’). By the beginning of the 19th century the meaning of avatar had broadened beyond Hindu mythology to mean a ‘manifestation in human form’ more generally. The word has seen a resurgence over the last 30 years with its use in the field of computing, with one of the earliest uses in this sense found in the 1985 online role-playing game ‘Habitat’. It refers to the digital representation of a person or character (e.g. as a photo, sketch or 3D image), often as the individual’s alter ego, which is able to move about in its surroundings and interact with other characters.

2. Bungalow: The original meaning of bungalow meant not only a one-storied house (as in its current meaning), but also a temporary building such as a summer-house. It derives from the Hindustani banglā meaning ‘belonging to Bengal’, or ‘in the Bengal style’.

3. Coir: Coir, meaning the fibre taken from a coconut and used for making ropes and mats, was first used in English way back in 1582. Derived from the Malayalam kāyar (meaning ‘cord’), its earliest spelling was ‘cayro’ or ‘cairo’, as found in Hakluyt’s 1599 the principal navigations, voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English nation.

4. Dungarees: Dungaree was originally a type of coarse and inferior Indian calico. It got its name from the Hindi dungrī, most likely from a village of the same name to the north of Mumbai. The more common modern meaning is for trousers made of this material, usually blue in colour and resembling denim, or a garment consisting of these trousers with a bib held up by shoulder straps.

5. Jungle: The original Hindi jangal (from the Sanskrit jangala) simply meant desert, waste or forest. The modern meaning, i.e. land which is overgrown by long grass, vegetation and forest, typically in the tropics, seems to arise from an association with tangle.

6. Shampoo: Deriving from the Hindi čāmpo (‘to press’) via ‘champing’, ‘shampoo’ originally had a similar meaning to massage. Its modern meaning, i.e. to wash the head with a cleaning product (and as a noun, to refer to the actual substance), did not emerge until the mid-19th century.

If you’d like to know more words of Indian origins, check out: https://www.britishcouncil.in/programmes/inspired-by-india/70words-project

Word meaning and origins in this article are from https://www.britishcouncil.in/programmes/inspired-by-india/70words-project and Hobson-Jobson- A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms etymological, historical, geographical and discursive. By Colonel Henry Yule and AC Burnell.

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Top tips for improving your child’s pronunciation skills!

Like it is in any language, pronunciation is an integral part of English too. A problem in pronunciation could lead to a complete communication break down at worst and a misunderstanding at best. Read on to know how you can help your child ace their pronunciation game. 

Did you know that the number of non-native English speakers in the world outweigh native speakers by 3:1? This has started a trend of an international accent to facilitate mutual understanding. The key is intelligibility – or the ability to be understood clearly. Therefore, it’s not important to imitate the native speaker accent but simply to apply certain strategies while communicating. Here are some ideas to get a head start:

1. Mimicking model language: We speak what we hear. If children grow up listening to bad models of English, then they imitate that. To improve pronunciation, ensure that your child listens to good models of pronunciation through videos, listening to songs, YouTube etc. Make the most of these age-appropriate videos for children and teens on the British Council website. You can also watch some of these exciting movies and make it a family movie night. Don’t forget the bucket of popcorn!

2. Sound it out:  Does this clip from the very popular sitcom I Love Lucy strike a chord? The English alphabet has 26 letters but 44 sounds, five vowels which can be pronounced in 12 different ways! Children are bound to get confused just like Lucy’s Cuban husband. In English, different letter combinations make the same sound. The trick is to ‘find’ these sounds in your mouth by being aware of the position of the tongue, teeth, jaw and lips.  Use this video series by BBC which demonstrates how to make these sounds. Feel free to pause, rewind and replay the video till you think you’ve got it right.

3. Spell it right: Has it ever happened with you that you have taught your child to phonetically spell C-A-T  and then you move on to spelling the word T-H-E but you are stuck! Some words in English are sight words – what we see is what we spell but the pronunciation is different. Here are some very useful sight word flashcards you can use. When reading together, ask your child to point to the sight words he knows. You can even ask him to count how many times a sight word appears in the book.

4. Use a dictionary: If you think physical dictionaries are passe, online dictionaries are perfect for you. Not only do they fit in your phones and pocket, but they also serve multiple purposes like breaking down of words, providing their phonetic transcription and an audio option to listen to their pronunciation.

Keep this British Council app handy to check the pronunciation of words whenever in doubt.

5. Pronunciation and play:  it’s never too early to start working on pronunciation. Younger children are very receptive to sounds since they learn how to listen before they speak. Repeating rhymes and singing songs develop the muscles of the mouth and makes children used to the rhythm of English. Plus, it’s a lot of fun when accompanied with actions. For older kids – tongue twisters are very popular. Organize a tongue twister challenge and involve everyone in the family for an evening full of fun.

There are some lovely pronunciation activities on our learnenglish britishcouncil kids website as well.

Want to play some games with phonics, PhonicsPlay has some great resources.

6. Reading aloud: Reading bedtime stories to your child every night is a great way not just to lull them to sleep but also to hone their pronunciation while they listen to their favourite tales. Here are some great stories to choose from for your daily night routine. You can watch the stories come to life by playing the video or print the story and read out to your child. Don’t forget to add your own versions of character voices for that extra effect!

Children feel confident to speak as soon as they realize that they can pronounce words just like grown-ups. With these easy strategies and fun games, you can give your child the tools to independently work on their own pronunciation so they won’t need an accent coach like Clouseau in Pink Panther.

                                                                                      - Ridhima Somaiya, Teacher British Council

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How to improve your pronunciation?

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One of the most important aspects of language learning is pronunciation. Learning to pronounce words in English is made more challenging by the fact that words are often spelt one way and pronounced another. For instance, how would you pronounce these words—enough, thorough, bought, though, cough?

To be a successful English speaker, one should also focus on other important features of pronunciation, such as intonation, stress, rhythm, and connected speech. Here are some tips to perfect your pronunciation.

1. Look up in a dictionary: Online dictionaries make your life easy by giving you an audio clip of the pronunciation. Forvo is a wonderful website that let’s you find the pronunciation of words in over 400 languages! While listening to the pronunciation, make a note of where the stress is and practice saying the word as often as you can.

 2. Imitation: Listening to English in real-life contexts and in a variety of accents are two wonderful ways in which you can master pronunciation. Choose interesting words, phrases, or short bits of the video you are watching. Imitate the speaker in the video by repeating the words or sentences exactly the way they are spoken. Pay attention to the stress and the tone of these phrases. Check out these podcasts and videos to practice pronunciation:

 3. Record yourself: Recording yourself speaking in English can help you notice your errors and work on self-correction. You could use it while you are learning new words or to practise longer conversations. Most phones these days have a voice recorder in them. You could also use https://vocaroo.com/ to record yourself as often as you like.

4. Befriend a mirror: The position of your tongue and the way you move your mouth affect the sound you make. For example, the difference in the pronunciation of the words ‘late’ and ‘rate’ comes from the position of your tongue. Watch pronunciation videos that explain these differences. BBC has a great playlist of videos showing different sounds in English and their pronunciation. Watch them here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/features/pronunciation

You could also use our app ‘Sounds Right’ to practise these sounds: https://www.britishcouncil.org/english/business/apps/sounds-right

5. Tongue twisters: If everything else we said here feels like too much work, try tongue twisters! They are great for pronunciation training and most of all, they are fun to do! Try these tongue twisters:

Lastly, be kind to yourself. It is okay to make mistakes. You will get better with practice!

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Keep calm and carry on learning!

Slide 14a

As home schooling continues to be the norm for thousands of families across the globe, many parents are slowly losing the steam they had at the beginning of the lockdown. Here are five ways to get you back on track.

WFH meetings, household chores and keeping the kids busy can be quite the task even for the most efficient multitaskers!  We often have parents asking how they can ensure their child is learning English even when their online lesson is over.

It’s important to remember that learning need not be restricted to books and online lessons alone. English can be seamlessly incorporated into everyday life to make learning a more hands-on experience. Here are some tried and tested ways in which you can blend English with routine tasks at home while also having fun with your child.

Everyday English: Mundane chores can turn into mini-language sessions especially while vocalizing the tasks. Expressions like ‘make the bed’, ‘do the dishes’, ‘set the table’ when used appropriately and frequently get ingrained in children’s minds as language chunks. While seemingly simple, these phrases are often used inaccurately and therefore learning it in context becomes important in order to learn them correctly. Similarly, activities like gardening and cooking are great ways of picking up vocabulary.  Here’s a delicious pasta recipe for you to try out with the kids.

And when things get a tad slow, here’s a poem to pep you up!

Be a virtual tourist: So what if all our travel plans are on hold for the near foreseeable future? We can still travel virtually! Museums around the world have thrown open their virtual doors for the world and all you really need is a screen. The Louvre has some fascinating tours like this one of the Egyptian Antiquities . And then there is The Vatican Museum offering a 360 degree tour of the Sistine Chapel. No better time than now to be an armchair tourist.

Getting crafty: Art and crafts have manifold benefits as learning techniques and even to build personality. They create a sense of calmness, foster creativity, and help to develop higher order thinking. Activities could be as basic as cut and paste posters to the more complex ones such as papier mache and origami crafts. Allow your child and their creativity to take the lead while you only assist them in the process. Don’t let the lack of access to craft stores dampen your artistic drive—find materials around the house like newspaper, old wrapping paper, buttons, card paper, fabric, pasta shells, leaves to help your child with their masterpiece.  Try to read/say the instructions out loud and if possible have the children repeat them so that they can associate the language with the actions.

Here are a ton of craft activities to help bring out the artist in your child.

Gamify learning – That saying about all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy? Completely true! Gamification is a technique used in several classrooms to create a buzz and it can easily be adapted for the home too. Classics like Scrabble, charades, Pictionary, and taboo work across age groups and make for great family games. You could also invite friends and family online and make it one grand game night.

To up the challenge, get the children to create their own board game. Here’s a basic template which they can further add to and design their own challenges. Make sure they also jot down the rules so that everyone plays by the book!

Lyrical learning: There is considerable research that shows that music can be used as a tool for language acquisition.  Repeating refrains in songs, predicting the story around a song or just good old sing-alongs have found to help children with becoming fluent speakers.

Hip-hop artist Akala’s TED talk on connections between Shakespeare and hip-hop is wildly popular among teens. Here are members of GMCBeats with their incredible rap song on internet safety.

Remember that children are very intuitive and can easily pick up on their parents’ emotions. So make sure you enjoy the process of learning and they’re sure to follow suit. Do try out the activities we’ve listed for you and let us know how they worked for you. Happy learning!  

Ananya Banerjee, Teacher British Council

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