Beating the ‘fear factor’!

Learning English is intimidating. What’s even worse is learning English in a country you are unfamiliar with. If you are ever uncomfortable using English, whether it’s inside, or outside the classroom, it narrows down to one thing- fear! Use these simple steps to help you increase your confidence and beat the fear factor when speaking English! Concentrate and listen carefully! Simply reading words is very different from being able to produce them out loud. Listen to native speakers during natural conversation. Pay close attention to their use of rhythm and stress. Attempt to replicate (that means copy) any of the words, or better yet, sentences you hear. It is also wise to spend at least 1 hour a day engaging with Engllish through any form of media. Newspapers, television and online resources can rapidly boost your level if you are disciplined enough to find the time to study. Don’t worry over small details One problem many students face is that they let small details prevent them from displaying pre-exisiting, high-level knowledge. Don’t panic if you didn’t understand everything that lady just said. If you’re confident you understood the general idea of what she was saying, you’re probably capable of continuing the conversation! Locals are often very forgiving of those students making an effort to both learn and use the native language. Have faith in your ability and you’ll see for yourself that confidence brings with it fantastic results. Imagine you are a native speaker of English. Pretending to speak fluent English means you would have to think in fluent English. By getting into the habit of actively ‘thinking’ or at least, ‘trying to think’ in English, you are forcing yourself to become familiar with something unnatural. However, as time goes by our knowledge and confidence increases. Language then becomes natural … Read more

Linking Expressions: Compare and Contrast

If there is one thing language expects from us, it’s that we use it. Yes, we can read, listen, use grammar even, but in order to remain fully active, we must apply this knowledge through speaking and writing! Understanding English is one thing, but using it clearly and effectively is another. Using linking expressions during conversation or better yet, applying them to written assignments set by your teacher enables you maximize your range of vocabulary, whilst this also gives you practice when story-telling or when expressing personal opinions. As we improve our level of English (whether we’re native or non-native) we often choose to compare and contrast several ideas or opinions in the same sentence. Take a look at the examples below: 1) I like apples. I dislike bananas. 2) I like apples but I dislike bananas. Above, example 1) provides us with an extremely basic comparison, split between two sentences. The speaker states what they do like in one sentence before stating what dislike in a new sentence. The contrasting of two ideas is clear but of the lowest level. In example 2), we see the same comparison, except the two ideas have been linked through but. Again, this is rather basic but at least we are starting to apply two different opinions in the same sentence. Now, what if we could replace but with a better, more advanced piece of vocabulary? Say, something we might read in a newspaper/magazine, or hear when watching the news. 3) Skies remain cloudy, however, sunshine is forecast throughout the afternoon. 4) Despite the torrential rain, farmers’ crops have benefited from such miserable weather. Looking at these new examples, it is clear the language level has shifted from elementary to that of high/upper intermediate. Still, the simple comparing and contrasting of two ideas … Read more

Winter Weather with Soobin and Nouf!

Nouf Alotaibi and Soobin Yoo are no strangers to San Francisco. One environmental difference these students may have witnessed over the past six months is the interesting change in climate. The Bay Area is, after all, reknown for it’s unpredictable forecast. An interestingly multifarious mix of cloud, fog and cool winds offer local inhabitants a significant contrast to the high, somewhat parculiar temperatures experienced during Fall, which are capable of reaching up to the mid-70s in fahrenheit. Soobin Yoo (Upper Intermediate and FCE Candidate, 2011) Harrison: Hello Soobin! Soobin: Hi! Harrison: How are you doing today? Soobin: I’m good thank you. Harrison: Do like this weather we’re having outside? Soobin: Yeah, sure. Before it was really dry and so my skin was also getting really dry. Now it’s better haha. Harrison: What is the weather like now in South Korea? Soobin: South Korea is really cold. It’s freezing and snowing all the time. Usually people like to go skiing. I’d love to do that but here there is no snow! So yeah, I miss it. Harrison: What are you going to do this weekend if it keeps raining? Soobin: I don’t know. I want to stay at home but I actually had some plans to go to Boston and New York. I think there are supposed to be some bad storms like they’re having in South Korea but it will be fun- I love cold weather! Harrison: Excellent. Well, thank you for talking today and have a great weekend. Soobin: Bye and you! Nouf Alotaibi (Advanced) Harrison: What can you tell me about the weather in Saudi Arabia Nouf? Nouf: In winter, the weather is really cool but in summer it’s very hot. It can get very dry and people don’t usually like to spend their time there. They like … Read more

Plan Your Way To Success

The letter P is extremely powerful. Everyday, I see students take it for granted. Beginner or Advanced, students fail to acknowledge the importance of ‘planning’. When learning a foreign language, it’s always easy for us to sit back and let the teacher run the show. Stop and think for just one moment. Who takes the register, sets your homework, tells you which page to open in your coursebook? Who corrects you when speaking, marks your writing and helps you with the exercises in grammar banks? That’s right, it’s your teacher. But what if you could do something more, on top of all this extra help? What if you could learn new material BEFORE your teacher has the intention of teaching it? “Wow Harrison! My English would be incredible!” You’re right. It would improve significantly! So, now that we’re thinking ahead and interested in the idea of ‘planning’ BEFORE we study, what does ‘planning’ involve? Furthermore, how do we make such planning ‘perfect’? Well, there are a number of ways. The first step is make sure you’re up to speed with the current exercises in your course book. After all, it is impossible to plan ahead if you’re already falling behind the rest of your class. Once you’re confident with the current material covered in the unit of your coursebook, start to read over some of the topics in the following unit. Of course, this reading should be done after class. Try not to rush into the new unit. Remember, you’ll be studying this new material very soon. Skim (read quickly) over any new language that interests you. Once you have identified some vocabulary or grammar that grabs your attention, begin your own independent study. Lets take an example. Perhaps you’ve just finished learning the past simple. Maybe it was the … Read more

Welcome to EC San Francisco!

EC San Francisco would like to introduce our new Student Services Counselor, Amanda Marquez! Amanda is no stranger to San Francisco and will primarily be located at the front desk, assisting both Amy and Ashley with EC’s administrative duties. We are extremely happy to have her on board and look forward to her contributions. I was born and raised in beautiful Pasadena, California; but fell in love with the Bay Area at an early age. I moved here in 2009 and graduated from San Francisco State University with a BA in Art History and Studio Art. I’ve tried to travel as much as I could over the years and spent a life-changing semester in Florence, Italy. I’ve currently rooted myself in Oakland – and with a little more spare time after graduating college – I’ve been practicing my Spanish, working on my container garden, learning how to use my sewing machine, and making herbal salves. Thank you!!!

EC Across The Pond: Cambridge and London

I’m Harrison Smith. I currently teach the Cambridge ESOL examination-based classes here in San Francisco, whilst I also provide weekly extra-curricular pronunciation practice. As some of you may know, when I’m not in the classroom I’m usually occupied elsewhere. Your Student ID Cards, Activities Calendars and the printing of Initial or End Evaluation Forms are likely to be within reach of my (rather small) fingertips. Putting these tasks to one side, I’m usually updating online grammar lessons via this very blog. Having moved to California after teaching for EC Cambridge, I was always looking forward to spending my winter break back in the UK. Fortunately, during my two weeks across the pond I was able to visit two of EC’s most popular language centres. First on my agenda was to stop off and see some of my old colleagues. Madge McClary (Assistant Director of Studies), Natasha De Souza (Director of Studies) and Daniela Sibiriu (Academic Assistant) were just as on the ball as the day I left. Despite being pressed for time, we were able to greet with open arms before I gave them a quick summary of the happenings at our branch in the Bay Area. After a nostalgic return to the Guildhall Chambers by Cambridge’s Market Square, I made my way to the school’s second building, just a brisk stroll away. It was there I met with Michael Wood (Custromer Service and Admissions Officer) and Vanessza Kaloczy (Young Learning Coordinator). Mike (also an EC blogger) and I exchanged a couple of inside jokes before he filled me in about his role within the company. I took a few snaps with the camera before meeting Vanessza, of whom I had always shared good working relations with during my time in Cambridge. I asked Vanessza: “What makes EC Cambridge a … Read more