Tag Archives: English communication skills

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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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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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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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!

Learn more about our online business communication learning and development solutions by clicking here: https://www.britishcouncil.in/english/corporates

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.

Learn more about our online business communication learning and development solutions by clicking here: https://www.britishcouncil.in/english/corporates

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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Helping learners at NIT Patna get dream jobs

NIT Patna students engrossed in a group discussion

NIT Patna students engrossed in a group discussion

British Council successfully completed a Professional English Course for 50 learners at NIT Patna. This is a renewed partnership between British Council and NIT Patna after a successful training intervention in 2014. This time around we aim to train 500 learners (20 batches) at NIT Patna premises over four months (June- September 2016).

The 24-hour course comprises four main sections – interview skills, group discussions, CV writing and presentation skills taught at different levels – all aimed at helping learners bag job placements in their dream companies.

Students were seen participating actively in engaging, activity based lessons with several practice and feedback sessions built in for continuous improvement. Practicing their employability skills using simulations of real life scenarios has helped boost confidence in public speaking, improve fluency and prepare to sell themselves in interviews.

Student feedback has been very positive. Learners  particularly  appreciate the teaching methodology used and have quoted it as being ’perfect’ and ‘excellent’ in mid-course focus group discussions. On feedback forms 100% of learners were able to mention concrete takeaways from the course that will significantly improve chances of being placed with companies of their choice. They also appreciate the efforts of college authorities to liaise with British Council for English language training and requested us to ‘organise more (training) events like this’.

We hope to continue this training program successfully for rest of the 450 learners. As a team, we are very happy to partner with NIT Patna and help bright young minds to bridge the gap between capability and employability.

For more information on English communication skills courses please visit here.

If you represent an organisation and want to enquire about English communication skills courses, please fill the form here and we will get in touch with you.

Post by Tapsi Chhabra

 
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