Month: April 2013

Best languages to learn

A recent news item, The Telegraph’s “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, ranks German, French and Spanish as the most useful languages to learn in order to improve you chances of professional success. Interesting reading, but perhaps even more interesting are the questions which are raised by any discussions of this list:

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1) The information on which the list is based comes from a survey conducted in the UK, which means that proficiency in English (being a native English speaker?) as well as one of these ‘foreign’ langauges is what they are actually talking about. Given that, for example, Germans now consitute the fourth largest foreign-born group in the UK, it seems logical to ask whether their job chances are higher than British monoglots (presuming, of course, that they have acquired English to a native-like level). And if so, how do various groups of people feel about this? I, for one, would love to think that the English skills I’m teaching my students mean they have a higher chance of professional success on the international market. On the other hand, though, that might mean that my own friends and family within the UK could lose out on the job front to the bilingual Germans I’m ‘sending over’ to Britain. Opinions on a postcard please! (By “postacrd”, I mean, leave your comment below, thank you!)

2) The justification for German being ranked as the ‘best language to study’ includes the comment that Germany, as “Europe’s largest economy – with a GDP of more than €2.4 trillion – continues to defy the eurozone downturn.” Now this is a opint unrelated to langauge teaching/learning, but my first thought is – “really?” For those of us living in Germany, it doesn’t particularly feel like the economy is here continuing to “defy the eurozone turndown”. Cue irrate political discussion. Opinions on a postcard please!

3) It’s all well and good being told which languages might be helpful to learn, but in my experience it’s rather difficult to convince many Brits to learn any foreign language at all! I wonder whether this little article will be able to change this wide-spread lack of enthusiasm? Opinions on a postcard please!

4) One of the comments on the article also offers plenty of discussion material, stating firstly that “Learning any European language is a waste of time since nearly all European businessmen speak English” (is the only benefit of learning a foreign language being able to communicate with European businessmen?!), and then that “nearly all European businessmen speak English, some even better than English people themselves” (My reactions: “ouch!” and “really?”). Ooh err, very contraversial! Opinions on a postcard, please!

Despite the potential for debate here, it seems the article is presenting good news for any native English EFL teachers living and working abroad who acquire communicative compentence in a foreign langauge! Not only would we (apparently) have a better chance of getting a job back in the UK, should we (ever want to) return, but as the comment about Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt shows, having lived and worked (as a teacher) bestows upon us other transferable skills that can lead into very diverse professions. Though whether many EFL teachers want to get into politics is probably debatable!

The news item: “Graduate jobs: Best languages to study”, The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group Limited, n.d., http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/9487434/Graduate-jobs-Best-languages-to-study.html?frame=2314799, accessed 27.04.2013

Resources for Writing Academic Essays

Here are some more useful resources – this time based on writing academic essays. There are lots of discussion threads about this topic in various online forums, which can be confusing for students and teachers, so I thought I’d share the list of resources I recommend:

WEBSITES
MLA Citation style, the basics: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

APA Citation Style, the Basics: http://www.apastyle.org/learn/tutorials/basics-tutorial.aspx

Chicago Citation Style, a quick guide, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

A plagiarism tutorial: http://tutorials.sjlibrary.org/tutorial/plagiarism/tutorial/introduction.htm?flash=no

The University of Edinburgh, Academic Essay Writing: Some Guidelines: http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/study/undergrad/essays/

Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education – Academic Writing: http://www.uefap.com/writing/writfram.htm

BOOKS

Altenberg, E.P., English Grammar: Understanding the Basics (Cambridge U.P., 2010)

Bailey, S., Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students (London: Routledge, 2006)

Cottrell, S., Critical Thinking Skills (Palgrave, 2005)

Cottrell, S., Skills for Success (Palgrave, 2010)

Creme, P., & Lea, M.R., Writing at University: A Guide for Students (OUP, 2008)

Gillet, A., Hammond, A. & Martala, M., Inside Track: Successful Academic Writing (Pearson/Longman, 2009)

Oshima, A. & Hogue, A., Writing Academic English (Pearson/Longman, 2006)

McWhorter, K., Study & Critical Thinking Skills in College (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)

Savage, A., et al, Effective Academic Writing (OUP, 2006)

Snow, A., Zwier,L.J., & Zimmerman,C.B. (eds), Q: Skills for Success – Reading and Writing (OUP, 2011)

Resources for Giving Oral Presentations

Here are some resources I’ve found helpful for teaching EFL students how to give good presentations – focussing on structure and langauge etc. Maybe you’ll find them helpful too!
WEBSITES

Brunel University’s centre for excellence guide to delivering presentations. http://www.brunel.ac.uk/learnhigher/giving-oral-presentations/delivering-your-presentation.shtml

Gillet, Andy. Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education: Speaking in Academic Contexts. http://www.uefap.co.uk/speaking/spkfram.htm.

BBC Key Skills, Effective Presentations: http://www.bbc.co.uk/keyskills/comms/level3/module3/1.shtml

The Open University, Giving Presentations: http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=398876&direct=1

University of Surrey, Communications: Oral Presentations: http://www3.surrey.ac.uk/Skills/pack/pres.html

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (specifically to check pronunciation of words): http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/?cc=global

BBC World Service / Learning English, Better Speaking: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/webcast/tae_betterspeaking_archive.shtml

English Media Lab, English Intonation Exercise: http://www.englishmedialab.com/pronunciation/upper-intermediate%20intonation%20exercise.htm

The New Okanagan College, English Pronunciation/Listening: http://international.ouc.bc.ca/pronunciation/

BOOKS

Bell, D., Passport to Academic Presentations (Garnet 2008)

Cottrell, S., Critical Thinking Skills (Palgrave, 2005)

Cottrell, S., Skills for Success (Palgrave, 2010)

Cottrell, S., The Study Skills Handbook (Palgrave, 2008)

Grussendorf, M., English for Presentations (OUP, 2007)

James,K., Jordan,R.R., Matthews,A. & O’Brien,J.P., Listening Comprehension and Note-Taking Course (London: Collins/Nelson, 1991).

McWhorter, K., Study & Critical Thinking Skills in College (New York: HarperCollins, 1996)

Tenses To Go

 

This post will endeavour to probvide a quick-reference guide to the English tenses (and aspects!). The key words should be enough to remind readers about the detailed usage rules, and also highlight differences between the various tenses and aspects in English.

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Talking about present time

Simple Present: a regular or habitual action that is generally true in the present, or is always true.

Present Progressive/Continuous: (1) an action that is in progress around a point in time in the present OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time that continues in the present.

Present Perfect: the result(s) or consequence(s) of an action is/are still true or visible in the present.

Talking about past time

Present Perfect: (1) the time frame started in the past and leads up to the present, OR (2) the action / state itself started in the past and continues up to the present

Simple past: (1) the time frame in which the action/state took place is completed in the past, OR (2) the action itself was a ‘shorter’ action that was completed in the past.

Past Progressive/Continuous: (1) an action that was in progress around a point of time or for a period in the past OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time in the past.

Past Perfect: (1) the time frame started before a point in the past and led up to a point in the past  OR (2) the action / state itself started before a point in the past and continued up to a point in the past , OR (3) the result(s) or consequence(s) of an earlier action were still true or visible at a point in the past.

Talking about future time

Simple Present: “time table future” used for actions that will (almost) definitely happen in the future, and that were planned/decided on by someone other than the speaker/writer.

Will Future: (1) actions we believe (based on present evidence) will almost definitely happen in the future, OR (2) spontaneous decisions about that future made at the moment of speaking/writing.

Present Progressive/Continuous: “diary future” for fixed plans that will (almost) definitely happen in the future, and that were planned/decided on by the speaker/writer themselves.

Going-To Future: for intentions that are very likely to happen, and that were planned/decided on by the speaker/writer themselves

(Will-)Future progressive: (1) an action in continual progress over a period of time in the future OR (2) a repeated action over a period of time in the future

(Will-)Future Perfect: (1) the time frame starts in the present and leads up to a point in the future (by which time the action/state will be complete/over) OR (2) the action/state itself starts in the present and continues up to a point in the future

Further Reading

Leech, G., Meaning and the English verb (Longman, 2004)

Swan, M., Practical English Usage (Oxford U.P., 2005)

See also other blogs: