Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reference guide for ESL learners who speak Spanish.

Here is a handy reference list of websites for Spanish speakers learning ESL. These websites offer exercises and audio recordings and are free.

For more detailed explanations of the above list please refer to my ESL post that gives fuller information.

If you know of any other helpful websites that can help Spanish speakers of English please let me know so that I can include them in my list.

New English words for ESL students.

An interesting aspect about a language, which I like to cover in my ESL lessons, is the manner in which new words are continually coming into play. Take the English language for example, it is always in a state of growing and evolving with new words and expressions being coined by people and then, overtime, added to the dictionary.
For your entertainment and I hope learning, this post is all about new words.

A new word I came across today is "discomgoogolation" According to London reuters, it is the stressed and anxious feeling at an inability to access the Internet.
Another word that I commonly hear is "chillax" , a merging of the words chill and relax.
Chill (verb) - meaning to relax, take it easy. For example: "This weekend I am doing nothing. I am just going to chill (out). Note that the use of the word out is optional. Chill out is a phrasal verb.
Popemobile - (noun) - the bulletproof car that is used by the Pope during public appearances.
Kumbaya - (adjective) - an ignorant or naive attitude that is held in the hope for peace or happiness. Derived from the hymn Kumbaya, which has become synonymous with sugary sentiment.
Plank (noun) British English meaning a stupid person. For example, "Frank is a real plank!"
Hoodie (noun) a person (often a youth) wearing a hooded top.
Colbert bump (noun) - A popularity boost in the polls that is experienced by a politician after appearing on the Colbert Report. The Colbert Report is an American TV show , which is very funny and satirical especially in political matters.
Andropause (noun) The end of virility. A merging of the words virility and menopause.
Pooper-Scooper (noun) . A scooping device for the collection of animal waste. For example when cleaning out the cat or dog's litter box, you would be well -advised to use a pooper- scooper. Sometimes it is referred to as a poop- scoop.
Fantabbulous (adj) - Meaning excellent, more than fabulous. It is a merging of fantastic and fabulous. For example " Joan and I had a fantabulous time."

This is just a small sampling of the many new words that crop up. As you can see many of them are slang and are a popular part of everyday language. I think this brings so much color and vitality into a language , although I understand it is more words for an ESL student to learn!

On the other hand there is a banished words list going around that calls for the banishment of certain words that have sprung up in our vernacular. Check out the list and see what you think. For example tweet has been picked out as a word that has been so over used it has lost its meaning. It's an interesting concept but maybe it is a bit early in the game to ban words that are being used!

For further new words please go to http: //
Also check out

If you have come across any new words or phrases , please feel free to let me know!
If you need professional help with your English study needs , please contact me. I am an English Tutor and offer private ESL lessons.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Listening resources for ESL learners

Welcome to my resource page for learners of English wishing to practice their listening skills. There are a number of good sites that you can visit for free . Often there will be transcripts so that you can read along and keep a record of new vocabulary and phrases. Many of the sites utilize video too. Practice makes perfect and listening to different materials will also help you with developing good intonation and being aware of the "music" of spoken English. English is a stress timed language and the more you hear it spoken, the more you will be able to reproduce it in your own speech.

1. Heads Up English : I like this site as it covers levels lower intermediate to advanced. The articles are topical and interesting for students. You can also download a pdf of each lesson which is quite extensive and covers a good amount of vocabulary work.

2. English Listening Lounge : You get to choose your level of English as well as choosing from different accents. I think it is useful to hear English spoken with a variety of accents as it mirrors real life. Transcripts of each topic can be downloaded as well as questions and answers. The length of the exercises vary from 2 minutes up to 6 minutes.

3. Randall's Listening Lab : You can pick your level and choose from a variety of topics. Included are comprehension questions as well as vocabulary work. A good resource!

4. Real English : A great site that features English spoken in different accents by real people. The website uses authentic ESL videos of people being interviewed in the streets from all over the globe. A fun and helpful site!

5. BBC Learning English : A good number of exercises available on topical issues . Also included are transcripts and key vocabulary.

6. : I just came across this site. You will find it useful as it has a transcript and a quiz related to the listening text. Good practice material!

7. : Good site, has transcript and questions to test your comprehension skills. Uses stories that have recently been in the news so will help you keep abreast of current happenings.

I will add to this list often so feel free to keep checking ! If you need professional help with your English study needs , please contact me. I am an ESL Tutor and offer private ESL lessons.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

ESL Resources and Lessons for native Spanish speakers

It has been my great pleasure to have had the opportunity of teaching people from many countries. I love the experience of getting to know about the different cultures and customs that each country has. It is a very rewarding experience and I often send out a silent thanks at having a job that allows me to meet with so many amazing and different people from all over the globe. Many times I see how similar we all are underneath it all, when we strip away language, race, culture. Most of the time we all want to be happy, and we want the best for our families and friends.

However, when learning English different nationalities have certain areas that consistently cause problems. I think that knowing this can help you gain an understanding of the specific language areas that you need to focus on and improve, especially with regards to pronunciation. In this post I am going to highlight some of the key areas that will help you to succeed with your spoken English by taking a look at some nationalities and the main problem areas they have . Equally importantly, we will also look at how to address these issues. Lets first start with Spanish speakers of English. For a concise list of resources click here.

Spanish speakers:

You may have problems with pronouncing the -ed endings . There are three ways of pronouncing -ed endings, it depends on the sound of the base verb. If the sound is unvoiced then then the ed-ending takes on a t sound , as in talked (talkt). If the sound of the base verb is voiced then the ed-ending takes on a d sound, as in played (playd). If the base form of the verb ends in the letter t or d , then the sound is -id, as in wanted (wantid). One website I recommend is
This website gives clear examples of the differences between voiced and unvoiced sounds , as well as including a really helpful quiz for you to test your understanding regarding pronouncing -ed endings.

You may also encounter difficulties with word endings, sometimes dropping the sound of the final consonants . Remember that in English we pronounce all the sounds unless they are silent letters. Final sounds are especially important with -ed endings as it tells us what tense is being used. However , try not to over pronounce the letter t at the end of a word.

Ship or sheep? These two vowel sounds can cause difficulties as Spanish speakers sometimes mix them up. For example, list can sound like leest, his can sound like he's , bit can sound like bead. Things can get a bit tricky with the words sheet and peace... but don't worry here is another excellent website for you to practice the sounds of / i/ and / iy/
Also try

Other challenging sounds might include ch, sh, j and y. Check out this website for help with this,

Intonation and word stress is another area that you might need some help with as Spanish speakers tend to have strong intonation at the end of sentences, whereas in English this can change the meaning if we stress words like this. Correct intonation and stress can make the world of difference in terms of improvement, so be sure to spend time on this area. Visit for a clear explanation regarding the rules for sentence and word stress.

English verbs can be very challenging to master, especially irregular verbs. Here is a handy website that gives a comprehensive list of verbs and sorts them from easy to advanced levels. The website also translates the verbs into Spanish

I hope this helps you. If you need help with English, I am a qualified ESL tutor. Happy Learning!

Contact me today to schedule a free 1/2 hour lesson & discuss your learning goals. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Choosing the right ESL Tutor !

There often comes a time when a person decides that they want to invest in some private ESL tuition. I often get inquiries from people in need of exam practice, particularly when they want to revise certain areas. Equally as popular are inquiries from people wanting to improve their conversational skills, as often they simply do not get enough time to practice their English.
It's great when a new person comes to me armed with a lot of questions because then we are both clear from the outset what the goals, expectations and needs are.
This has prompted me to write what I hope is a helpful guide to choosing the right ESL tutor for you.

  • For those revising for exams, make sure the teacher is familiar with the exam that you are taking. This will ensure that they can pass on to you, helpful techniques to succeed in the particular test you are preparing for. Not all exams are equal, and thorough preparation is essential to minimize your nerves on the big day as well as to predict questions that may come up on the exam.
  • Choose carefully. Be clear about your needs. In my opinion it is worth investing in the services of an accredited tutor. However, if you are on a strict budget and your ESL needs are centered more around practicing conversation then it might work out to hire someone who has not been trained in ESL. Remember though, you usually get what you pay for, so that is why it is crucial to be clear about your goals. Oftentimes it is worth shelling out the extra few dollars to ensure success in the long term. You want to know that the person teaching you can correct your mistakes by explaining to you the language rules.
  • Pay attention to how you feel with the tutor. Are you relaxed, do you feel like your are learning, are they patient and do you get enough time to practice the language areas you are covering? Just as in life, we may not click with everyone we meet. It is important that you feel comfortable with your tutor so that you get the most from your sessions.
  • Be considerate , if you need to cancel a lesson ,whenever possible let the tutor know ahead of time . This may sound obvious, but it doesn't encourage good feelings if commitments are not met from either party.
  • Have fun! Who said that you can't enjoy your time together! This is a great way to get to know someone, and honestly I feel like the people I teach have all become my friends.
I am an accredited ESL Tutor. Feel free to contact me for more information.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

ESL making small talk

The ability to make small talk can be a real challenge for ESL students. I want to let you into a little secret, it can also be a bit of an ordeal for native speakers too! Why is this you may wonder? Well lets first look at what small talk is.
The web definition of small talk is " meaningless empty chatter. Chitchat:light informal conversation for social occasions."
I believe the reason that native and non-native speakers alike find it so challenging is that it is generally quite superficial and everyone knows it is superficial.
Why then do we engage in it? One reason is that is warms people up in social settings. It is considered polite to ask general questions of a person when you are first introduced to them, or if they are an acquaintance. That's the reason why most people talk about the weather, not because the weather is a fascinating subject, but because it is a simple, non combative topic to chat about. Nobody is going to get offended by talking about the lovely sunshine we have been getting lately.
Lets look at some small talk topics to get you rolling.
  1. TV show, movies, music.
  2. General information about what you both do.... occupations, student, mother, homemaker.
  3. Your spouses and children.
  4. Hobbies
  5. How was your day type questions.
  6. Weather
In small talk, we tend to stick with those areas that don't arouse strong feelings. The object of small talk is to put each other at ease and find out general information about each other. Small talk is usually reserved for people you have just met or acquaintances.

Lets look at topics to avoid when making small talk.

  1. Politics
  2. Religion
  3. Your health problems.
  4. Strong opinions that might alienate the other person.
  5. Negative comments about other people.
Often with small talk, the introductions are short and sweet. It is good to have a graceful exit strategy for when the small talk peters out. You can excuse yourself in a number of ways, and remember to tell the other person how nice it was to meet them.

Just remember that small talk can lead onto other more meaningful conversations and you might strike up a genuine rapport with the other person. Small talk is just the icebreaker between people.

I am a qualified ESL tutor. If you need help with your English studies please contact me for information about my private ESL classes.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008


English is an international language and the IELTS (The International English Language Testing System) is a highly respected and recognized exam which tests English communication skills in four areas :

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening
  • Speaking

There are two different IELTS exams, one is called the Academic IELTS test and the other is called the General training IELTS test. The academic test is mainly taken by students who wish to study at University , whereas the general training is often taken by people who are seeking to work, or to immigrate to an English speaking country. The same four skills are tested but the format changes for the reading and writing sections. For the academic modules, the language is more focused towards academic studies whereas the general training modules are testing the ability of the student to use general English. At the beginning of your IELTS preparation, you need to decide which exam you will be taking so that your exam preparation can focus on the correct skills.

It is important that you prepare for the IELTS exam, and become familiar with the exam format. It is possible to buy IELTS study programs online, as well as to find free practice sites where you can take mock exams. The more at ease you are with the exam and the types of questions that may come up, the more relaxed and confident you will be on the day of the test. It is vitally important that you read all instructions carefully and that you understand what each task is requiring you to do. I notice that people misread words when they are in a hurry or under stress, their mind makes up what they think the word is. Read each question twice if you have to.

Sometimes students do not have enough time to complete the reading and writing components of the exam, resulting in a lower band score. However, if you time yourself in practice tests before the actual exam, you will be able to train yourself to complete the tasks within the allotted time. For example make sure that you leave a few minutes at the end of the writing test to check through your essays for spelling mistakes, punctuation errors and any other mishaps that might cause you to lose valuable points. For the listening tasks , skim read the questions first so that you have a general idea of what information you need to be listening out for. This technique is also true for the reading part of the exam. There are free reading comprehension tests that you can do online, to familiarize yourself with the different types of questions and to help you complete the reading within the time allowed. You do not have time to read each and every word slowly. Reading skills include :
  • Recognizing the main point in paragraphs.
  • Reading for gist, detail and comprehension.
You will need to skim read the text. Skimming is a fast reading technique. Use it to quickly identify the main ideas in the text. The main ideas of a text are called the gist. Make sure you get a lot of reading practice before the exam, in order to perfect your skim reading skills. One stategy is to read the first and last sentence of each paragraph. You do not need to read every word or every sentence. Let your eyes skim over the text, taking in key words. You can employ this skill when reading newspaper articles for example.

Often, it is worth investing in lessons, either with a language school or a private ESL tutor as you can learn valuable exam tips. Sometimes people get very nervous in the spoken part of the exam, but having some lessons beforehand can make a huge difference in your ability to shine in the exam. Your tutor can guide you through the process and help you to prepare for different topics that might come up. The speaking part of the exam lasts for about 14 minutes and while this may seem like a long time to a non native speaker, it actually goes by quite fast. It is not a lot of time to showcase your spoken English skills so you want to make sure that you are able to come up with the goods on the day. A common concern that students have, is that they go blank and cannot think of what to say. The more practice you get before the exam, then the more likely you will be able to cope with the stress of exam conditions. Please click here for preparation for the spoken part of the IELTS exam.

Likewise with the essay writing, there are certain skills that you need to exhibit and a tutor can help you develop these skills for the purposes of the exam. Your writing needs to show :
  • Correct grammar and sentence structure
  • Appropriate and varied vocabulary
  • Cohesive and logical train of thought.
Time is the biggest enemy, so I cannot over emphasize that you need to practice writing essays of the correct length within the time period. A tutor can give you feedback on your essays and pinpoint the areas of weakness that you need to work on. The more effort you are able to put in before the exam , the better you will do on the day. Practice, practice, practice! Please don't forget to write clearly, it is worth spending time asking people if they can read your writing. If they cannot read your work, then you need to print your words more clearly.

For most people taking the IELTS exam, a lot is resting on the scores they achieve. Perhaps it is a new job, or a place at university or maybe a good band score is needed for immigration purposes. There is no real short cut to success, but there are good methods of exam preparation. Make sure that before the exam you are speaking as much English as possible. Try and listen to English speaking radio shows, or TV shows. Aim at reading English newspapers or articles on a daily basis. This will give you exposure to vocabulary, correct grammatical structures, and who knows you may get some good ideas to put in your essay or to talk about in the oral exam.

I am a qualified ESL tutor. If you need help with preparing for the IELTS exam please contact me.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Idioms with animals for ESL

I love idioms and I really enjoy teaching them in my ESL classes. A lot of the students have similar idioms in their own languages, but I still get a kick out of some of the surprising reactions I get with some of the idioms I teach. I mentioned in an earlier post that an idiom has to be learned as an entire phrase rather than the meaning of each individual word. Why not start an idiom notebook and impress your friends with your mastery of the English language!

Here are some idioms that use animals. These are all pretty popular idioms, see if you can make a sentence with some of the idioms.

" A little bird told me." - Use this if you don't want to mention who it was that told you something.

"Ants in your pants." - To be restless, excitable, unable to sit still.

"Bear market." - A bear market describes a period when investors are pessimistic and expect financial losses so are focused more on selling their stocks, rather than buying stocks. You have probably heard this idiom a lot on the news recently in relationship to the current world economic woes.

"Beating a dead horse" - If someone is trying to convince people to do or feel something without any hope of succeeding, that is called beating a dead horse. This is used when someone is trying to raise interest in an issue that no-one supports anymore. In the UK this idiom is "flogging a dead horse." A dead horse is dead and no amount of beating or flogging will make it do any more work!

"Bee in your bonnet" - If you have a bee in your bonnet , you are very excited about some idea. You are very focused on this idea , and all your energy is directed at it.

"Bigger fish to fry" - If you have bigger fish to fry, you aren't concerned with the affairs or people in front of you, you have more important thins and people to deal with.

"Bird's eye view" - an excellent vantage point. The best view possible.

"Bright eyed and bushy tailed" - ready for the day, wide awake, presentable looking and ready to greet the day!

"Blind as a bat" - very poor eyesight.

"Cat nap" - a short sleep during the day.

"Cunning as a fox" - sly and untrustworthy person.

"An elephant never forgets" - An elephant has a really great memory! We use this to describe a person's great memory too.

"Free as a bird" - to be free to do what one pleases.

"Let sleeping dogs lie" - This means that they a person should not disturb a situation as it would result in trouble or complications.

For more idioms click here.

I am a qualified ESL tutor, please contact me if you need help with the English language.