The old-fashioned way

Regular readers of the World of Words will know that I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to technology. I love new gadgets and trying out the latest technology. This weekend, I spotted this video on Youtube:

It got me thinking. Sometimes, you don’t need the latest technology for learning a language. It’s nice to have videos and interactive games, but for some things, like making notes and learning new words, a good-old piece of paper and a pen works best.

Five tips for speaking on the phone in English

Speaking English on the phone can be difficult. Sometimes, you plan what you’re going to say, then, when the moment comes, the words just won’t come out. If you have difficulty speaking on the phone in English, the five tips below might be just what you need to help you get your point across.

1. Make notes before you make the call. You don’t need to write down every word but having some bullet points with your main ideas and questions will help you remember them if your mind goes blank.

2. Make notes during the call. If you are concentrating hard on understanding the other person, it is easy to forget any dates, times, or other information they give you. Make a note, so you don’t need to ask twice.

3. Speak slowly. I’ve mentioned the benefits of speaking slowly before but it’s even more important when you are on the phone. Give yourself time to breathe and think. It will make you easier to understand and help you relax.

4. Ask the other person to slow down. Nobody minds being asked to slow down a bit. You could even say that the telephone connection isn’t so clear if you need an excuse.

5. Make sure you know where the volume controller is. Trying to find the volume control during a call might cause you to panic. Make sure you know where it is beforehand so you can adjust the volume and hear the other person nice and clearly.

Today’s image is by Gokhan Oku.

A fun way to remember English idioms

Many people have difficulty remembering idioms in a second language. Here’s a fun way to remember idioms in English or any other language. If you are already good at using image association to remember new vocabulary, this may be similar to the techniques you use.

All you need for this is a notepad and a pen.

First, think of the idiom you want to remember. Now, try to draw a picture that reminds you of the meaning of the idiom and the words contained in it. Remember, you don’t need to be a great artist, you just need to draw something that helps you remember the idiom.

Once you are comfortable doing this, you may wish to move on to practising image association in your head. It’s exactly the same but you don’t actually draw the image on paper – you just draw it in your head.

Here’s an example (I’m not very good at drawing!). Can you guess what idiom it represents?

5 ways to improve your English in your coffee break

Why do learning English and drinking coffee go so well together? Lots of my students and friends on Twitter love learning English while drinking a hot cup of coffee. I also like to have a cup of coffee while I’m teaching my morning classes. I find it’s a great way to start the day.

I’m sure that people learn well when they are relaxed so maybe having a cup of coffee helps people get in the right mood to study. Here are five exercises you can do to improve your English during your coffee break today.

1. Review your words for the day. If you have any new vocabulary you are learning, have a look at it and try to make three sentences using each word or expression.

2. Listen to a podcast. Listening to the news in English is a great way to build your listening skills and vocabulary. If you have difficulty listening at full speed, try one of the simple English podcasts from VOA.

3. Think in English. You don’t need any equipment for this one. Just look around the room you are in and try to name all the objects in English. If there are any words you don’t know, look them up. Once you have named all the objects, describe where they are.

Once you have described the room, think about the people in it and try to make up some stories about them in English. After that, you can think about anything you want – just make sure you do it in English.

4. Read a book. Even if you are not a member of a book club, reading in English is a great way to practise your reading skills and develop your vocabulary further.

5. Have a chat. If you have friends at work you can talk to in English, that’s great. If not, try meeting some people to chat with online. Twitter is great for this or you could try my English café. It’s an open chat room and free to use whenever you want.

All this talk of coffee has made me thirsty. I’m going to go and make myself a cup, now!

English nap: Practise in your sleep

A while ago on the World of Words, I mentioned studying before you go to sleep so you can dream in English. What about if you prefer to study during the day, though? Why not take a nap after you study?

Just a short nap of 20 minutes can leave you feeling refreshed and make you more productive for the rest of the day. How do you do it, though?

First, find a quiet place where you are not going to be disturbed. Turn your cell phone off and get comfortable. You can nap in a chair or on the floor, whichever suits you best. Set an alarm clock or a timer to wake you up in 20 minutes.

Next, make yourself comfortable. You don’t actually need to fall completely asleep to take a nap, just start by aiming to close your eyes and completely relax for your nap time. Relax the muscles in your face then slowly relax all your muscles. Try to clear your mind and focus on breathing deeply.

If you are able to, let yourself drift off to sleep. If not, just make sure you are totally relaxed for 20 minutes with your eyes closed until the alarm goes off. Make sure to get up as soon as the alarm goes off. If you oversleep, you will end up feeling more tired.

With practice, you will be able to nap whenever you want and you might even be able to have a dream in English!

Today’s image is by Kymberly Vohsen.

‘Green’ exercise can improve your English

I saw a really interesting article on the BBC News website this weekend. It claims that exercising for five minutes in a green space such as a park can improve your mental health.

In their experiments, the researchers also found that it improves mood and self-esteem. If you have better self-esteem, you’ll feel more motivated and be able to reach your goals in English faster.

Practising English outdoors would be fun, too. Why not try it this lunchtime? Take your iPod to the park with you, put on an English podcast and enjoy being outdoors whilst practising English.

Today’s image is by Miguel Saavedra.

How to practise English – The big list!

One of the most common things people ask me about every day is how to practise English. My opinion is that there’s no single best way to practise English. How you should practise English depends on your personality, what kind of learner you are, and how much time you have available.

When you are choosing how to practise English, you also need to think about what kind of resources you have available. If you have some money to spare, you could go on a course or take private English classes. In that case, the teacher will be able to help you find resources to practise English with.

If you are on a budget, there are lots of great free resources online to choose from but you will need to organise how you use them yourself. Sometimes, it can be difficult to decide which resources will work best for you and how to use them to practise English.

To help you out, I’ve put together a list of all the most popular tips I’ve shared on the World of Words about how to practise English. Remember, we’re all different so some of the tips will work better for you than others so it’s best to try out a few of them and continue with those you find work best.

Different methods of practising English for different types of learners

How to practise reading in English:

How to improve your confidence and conversation skills:

Organisation and making time to study English:

Remember, if you have any more questions about learning English, you can ask me on Twitter (I am online a lot!) or take an online English lesson with me via. Skype. I’m giving away free 20-minute trial classes at the moment, so why not contact me to arrange a trial class and I’ll help answer all your questions!

Today’s image is by Doctor A.

How to use RSS to organise your English reading material

If you’re like me and read a lot of blogs, sometimes, following all of them can get a little confusing. It’s difficult to know when they are updated and can be a chore having to open lots of different windows in your web browser.

I’ve found the best way to avoid this is to use an RSS reader to make sure I can access all the blogs I like in one place and see when they are all updated. ‘RSS’ stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’ an it works by sending a ‘feed’ containing all the new articles on the site to your RSS reader.

There are many different RSS readers to choose from. I prefer Google reader or Bloglines because I find that they are the most simple to use. Adding a new feed in Google reader is really easy. All you need to do is click ‘Add a subscription’ and enter address of the site or feed you would like to follow.

To view articles, just click the name of the site in the column at the bottom-left and it will show up in the main window.

Once you are following a few sites, you can make folders and put them in groups so you can find them easily. The number of new articles on a site shows up just to the right of its name in the list.

Have you added the World of Words to your RSS reader, yet? If not, maybe it’s time to give it a try and subscribe now.