Tag Archives: Learn English

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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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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Netflix and films for language acquisition

Sunday

We are always on the lookout to find resources and books to improve our language skills. But did you know that you could easily pick up a new language by watching films or television shows? Have you ever wondered if your Netflix or Prime subscription can go beyond entertaining and informing you and benefit you in learning a new language or enhancing your skills in a second language?

In this article, we will look at why films are a great way to learn English or any other language and how you can exploit them to improve your skills.

Let’s look at some of the merits of using films to pick up a new language. The benefits of watching films are plenty. Most importantly, it is entertaining. You enjoy watching films, especially if they are of your choice. This not only makes your experience of language learning more enjoyable, but also helps you remain motivated and engaged throughout the learning process. You’d be eager to do it regularly and consistently.

Another advantage of watching films is that they provide a visual input to language learning. The visual context helps you interpret the language you hear and offers a better understanding. You will also be able to catch-up quickly even if you miss out on a few words or phrases.

Finally, films are a great source of authentic contexts in which language is used naturally. You gain exposure to real-life situations and conversations which gives you an immersive experience. You no longer need to pack a bag and move to a new country to learn a language; you can get the same experience in your living room.

How can you use films or TV series to learn English?

While there are many resources online to supplement your language learning through films and television shows, it is best to start small and be consistent in your approach.

1. Choose a short film or an episode of a TV series. When you start out learning English or any other language, it is best to go for a short film or an episode of a TV series as they are short enough to sustain your interest and you can finish watching them in one sitting. You can find an interesting range of short films in English here:

2. Note down words and phrases that you liked or found useful. It’s okay if you don’t understand every word, try to guess the meaning of the words from the context. Make a note of them and look them up in a dictionary after finishing the film.

3. You could also try saying out loud the new words or short phrases that you hear. Repeating the words help in improving your pronunciation, consolidating your learning, and remembering them.

4. Watch with subtitles. If you are a beginner, watching with English subtitles should help you pick up the spellings, sounds and rhythm of the new language. It also gives you a chance to get used to the accents that you hear. If you are an advanced learner, the subtitles will offer new vocabulary, colloquialisms, and the differences between formal and informal modes of address.

 5. Watch without subtitles. Beginners may find this a very challenging experience, however, if you have seen the film already, watching it again without subtitles will help you improve your listening skills and vocabulary recall.

This chrome extension allows you to enable subtitles in two different languages at the same time on Netflix. There’s also a pop-up dictionary, and the extension suggests the most important words for you to learn.

6Describe a scene or summarise a short film to a friend. Summarising forces you to use new words and stick to the essentials of a scene or a story while also giving you an opportunity to use the new words or phrases you learned from the film on your own.

We hope that you found these tips and resources useful. What are you waiting for? Choose a short film and embark on your language learning journey!

For more collections, visit https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/

-Reshmi V M, English Teacher 

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Five easy ways to encourage your child to read

sunday postThe unprecedented effects of COVID-19 are felt around the world today, perhaps most acutely by our children, who have now shifted from a face-to-face education system to a new online realm. This has not only affected their academic pursuits, but also their reading habits.  

Are you as a parent concerned your child is not reading enough with limited access to the school or local library?  Children who are already reluctant to read now seem to have very few opportunities to pick up the habit.

Reading aids accelerate a child’s ability to pick up language skills. Not only does it stimulate curiosity in a child, but it also increases concentration, improves the attention span and aids in memory retention. Here are our top five tips to take your child on a journey from ‘Learning to Read’ to ‘Reading to Learn’ and to help them grow as an engaged reader.

1. Provide easy access to a wide variety of books

Although we may not be able to go to our favourite neighbourhood physical libraries anymore, we can still access a wealth of books on the internet. Some digital libraries which are free to use include East of the Web, which has interesting short stories and vocabulary games, and Storyline Online, where your child can listen to books being read out by famous actors. Storyline Online also has activity guides with ideas for parents to engage their child further using the theme of the book and extend their learning.

Do visit the reading section of British Council’s LearnEnglish Kids websites to access free age-appropriate reading materials.  Our digital library has a wide collection of books that are appropriate for quality and reading readiness, so, you as a parent can monitor your child’s reading choices and ensure their safety online.

2. Choose books wisely

It is important to allow your child to choose what they read, because each child has different interests. One child might like science fiction, whereas another may like fantasy. The best thing we can do is expose them to different genres, different authors and let them choose the book they like. Also, giving them the liberty to give up reading a book mid-way is okay too, because they might not enjoy it after reading a bit.

If your child is reluctant to read, you could select a humorous book or one with illustrations and diagrams. Comic books, graphic novels and audiobooks are also popular choices. Books by authors like A. A. Milne, David Walliams, Louie Stowell, Robert J Harris, Eric Carle, Julian Clary, Elli Woollard, to name a few, have proven to click with kids of all ages

3. Involve yourself in their reading experiences

Modelling a love of reading has an excellent influence on children. It sometimes seems unfair that we ask them to read when we don’t read ourselves! So modelling is essential. Reading books aloud is also a wonderful way for you to bond with your child while improving their language skills and showing them the joys of reading. If your child interrupts you when you are reading to them, engage them in conversation about the book. You can ask questions, use pictures or make up fun voices for different characters to pique their interest.

If you have older children, you could invite them to read to you or involve yourself in their reading experience by discussing the themes in the book with them.

4Understand your child’s circumstances

It is important to understand difficulties your child experiences while reading and, provide them books appropriate to their reading abilities.   Graded readers, especially of classic storybooks, are an excellent way of providing level-appropriate language as well as letting your child understand and enjoy a timeless classic.

Magazines, comics and graphic novels are good for children who are weak at reading or have learning disabilities.  Being able to complete a page gives them a sense of accomplishment and a huge self-esteem booster which in turn leads to kids naturally wanting to read more.

Lastly, remember reading for pleasure is a leisurely activity! Sometimes, the reason your child seems to dislike reading is simply because it is a timetabled chore rather than something they choose to do in their free time to relax.

5. Extend the reading experience

Reading doesn’t have to stop at the last page of the book. Parents can exploit the reading text to improve their child’s language proficiency and increase their interest in reading.  Get your child to do a task around what they have read, such as drawing characters from the story and describing them, recording new words they have picked up or video recording them narrating the story perhaps with an alternate ending to the story. You could also simply have a conversation around what they have read.  If you have older children, you could also write letters back and forth about ideas and concepts in the books.

With these steps, you can help your child to start developing a love of reading. Try them out and let us know how they worked for you!

- Priyanka Vijayraghavan, Full Time Teacher and  Shonali Khanna, Academic Manager

                                                                                                                                                      

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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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Turn your love of Cricket into success with English!

British Council and Kris Srikkanth together on 9 May 2013 launched EnglishStrokes, an online course that helps you improve your English by exploring South Asia’s favourite sport, cricket.

If you want to broaden your horizons, work in an international company, study abroad or just use the internet, then English is the key.

The objective of EnglishStrokes is to enhance employment potential and lifestyle aspiration of young people by providing access to quality English language learning opportunities. As a result, they develop their confidence, accuracy, fluency and communicative ability. The aim is to provide an online English language course which is engaging and delivers supplementary learning.

Rob Lynes, Director of the British Council in India says, “Recognising the growth of digital media we have developed mobile and computer applications and online courses to reach out to learners of English directly. EnglishStrokes combines learning with fun and mobility and is a great way for young sports persons to develop English language skills”

Kris Srikkanth, renowned cricketer and owner of Sun Online says, “What better way to teach English than through cricket? EnglishStrokes is designed to let you have lots of fun and learn along the way.”

You will find listening activities, video content, games, conversations, cricketing facts, fun tasks and language exercises. You can also listen to anecdotes from some of your favourite cricket players, learn more about their profiles and watch them in action! This site gives you the confidence and skills you need to communicate effectively in English and help you achieve your goals and dreams!

EnglishStrokes

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