Articles about learning languages ​​from Anna Menshikova

What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam


What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam

What you need to do and what should not be done in preparation for the international exam

The beginning of spring gives people motivation for new achievements. It also includes the desire to supplement the work or study portfolio with a certificate of successful passing the international exam. It is for you, as well as for those who are waiting for the mandatory Russian state exam this year, we will briefly interrupt our series of posts on a “smart” approach to languages. We have prepared some tips that will help you effectively plan your preparation for the international exam and not lose the most important thing in the process - motivation.

So, you have decided, or have recommended, or even forced, to decorate the wall with a treasured piece of paper in a frame. Further actions seem understandable: to find an experienced teacher or a good study guide and follow all his recommendations. However, there are things that you are quite capable of doing on your own. They will help the specialist in working with you and will become a solid foundation for motivation to achieve a result. In other words, before you start preparing ...


1. Determine the purpose

"I want the highest score!" - Needless to say, it sounds ambitious. To build on such an emotional impulse a long-term motivation to study is unlikely to succeed. Carefully study the requirements of organizations to which you will probably be able to provide your certificates. The vast majority of educational institutions or workers' companies clearly indicate the requirements for points. Be careful: many organizations require a certain number of points not only for the exam as a whole, but also for each section of the exam. By standard, it is reading, listening, speaking and writing.

2. Find out your current level of knowledge of the language

"Can I?" - a question that torments everyone in the first stages of preparation. Sometimes the question causes such a strong panic that some prefer to give up immediately. To dispel doubts, it is enough to know your current level of knowledge of the language. Figures are the best remedy for unreasonable experiences. Placement Tests, which are available online, as well as the help of an experienced teacher, will help you with this. It will help evaluate your speaking and writing skills, and you will receive the most objective assessment of your knowledge. You will be able to assess your position on the CEFR scale (Pan-European scale of language competencies), and find out on the official website of the exam:
a) the minimum required language level for passing the exam on the CEFR scale;
b) what is the approximate score with the current level of knowledge of the language you can get.

3. Determine the timing

At the previous stage, it will be quite clear how much time you need to get the desired result. However, you should talk about the main situations on which the duration of the preparation for the exam will depend. So, there may be several situations:

  • First: the current level is not enough to pass the exam. In this case, it is better to postpone testing until it meets at least the minimum requirements. Usually, to reach the next level on the CEFR scale, it takes from 8 to 12 months of training 2-3 times a week. So the deadlines for the exam will have to be postponed for about a year.
  • Situation two: the current level of knowledge of the language for the exam is enough, but to get the desired number of points is still not easy. Your task is to find a teacher. He maintains a curriculum in such a way that you simultaneously strengthen your general English skills and at the same time get acquainted with the strategy for exam assignments. An important role is played by teaching aids. For example, a series of textbooks Complete and Objective for the Cambridge exams. Such training lasts from 4 to 8 months, subject to active work at least 2 times a week.
  • Finally, the third, most positive situation: the current level is enough to get the desired score, and you successfully solve the test versions of the exam. But remember that the success of the test depends not only on knowledge of the language itself, but also on the possession of strategies for completing tasks. If you know how to correctly carry out tasks of various types, you save time and feel confident in your actions. Allocate from two or more months to bring the application of all strategies to automatism.

4. Familiarize yourself with the exam format

Many do it at the very beginning - download an approximate version of the test from the Internet and solve it in order to determine their initial level. And it seems quite logical, but ... It is too likely that even a confident student will get a low score. He will be so disappointed with the assessment that he will completely refuse to participate in the exam, although in fact the chances were good. In fact, the reason for the failure was the ignorance of the strategies that we mentioned above. If you do not know how to most effectively focus on different stages of listening, how to approach reading different types of text, you will make mistakes and spend more time on tasks. Solving trial versions of the test at an early stage only makes sense if the teacher has already explained to you how to work with the tasks. This will be another of the points of diagnosis of your level of training.


1. Trust advertising

International exams are a whole business. Hundreds of courses and thousands of study guides promise to prepare for delivery in the best way, but not all of them are honest with potential students. How to avoid cheating? There is no universal recipe, but there is one indicator that will tell you not the most conscientious people. This promise is to discover "secrets" and teach "life hacks" that are "inaccessible to mere mortals."

Firstly, the main task of the international exam is to provide advanced opportunities to students who already have sufficient knowledge. The selection of the “chosen ones”, who are fortunate enough to learn a certain “secret”, is unlikely to be beneficial.

Secondly, the set of exam strategies for most exams is exactly the same. The difference is only in the number and total complexity of tasks. Here they are:

  • The ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of the main idea;
  • The ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of the individual details;
  • Ability to see the logic of the construction of the text and monologic utterances;
  • The ability to build a logically coherent text and monologue;
  • The ability to understand and apply paraphrasing in written and spoken language;
  • Knowledge and application of vocabulary and grammatical constructions of a certain level of complexity.

And nothing more. Types of tasks are known to any competent teacher - the only difference is HOW he will teach you strategies.

2. Waste time on thoughtless cramming

"1000 words necessary for passing ...", "All grammar for ..." - such headings we see on the covers of manuals. It is these books that we set aside. Why?

Let's open the assessment criteria for the oral and written parts used by experts IELTS, TOEFL и Cambridge exams. They are available on official sites and it will be necessary to get acquainted with them in the preparation process. What do we see there? The criterion "Use a certain word and grammar" does not exist. However, there is such a basis for evaluation as “Uses words and grammar according to the task”, i.e. topic and situation. Therefore, mechanical memorization will not give you an understanding of when and in which combination it is worth using a certain word, phrase, or construction. You will only lose points if you use something out of place. An excellent solution to this issue will be Mental mapsthat we talked about in one of our past articles.

An exception to the rule is the Key Vocabulary List booklets (not for all levels) for Cambridge exams, which are available for download at the official website. Remember that they should not be treated as textbooks. Examine the list of words presented and check yourself: how many words you already know, and how many are still a problem. It will also be a good way to self-test.

We hope that with this article we at least dispel your doubts and add certainty to your plans. Good luck



Anna Menshikova
Global English Ambassador

Mind Maps as a technology for effectively memorizing foreign words


Mind Maps as a technology for effectively memorizing foreign words

Mind Maps as a technology for effectively memorizing foreign words

We continue a series of articles on using the resources of our brain to the maximum and replenishing the vocabulary.

You met a foreign word, analyzed its structure (determined part of speech, compatibility, word-building forms, synonyms, etc.), studied examples of its use and introduced it into your oral and written speech. The teacher gave you a positive review: “Yes, so a native speaker would use this word.” What happens next ...

Ideally, the learned remains in your head forever. A word or phrase pops up in your memory effortlessly, and you use them almost as often as the simplest “hello” and “thank you”. This ideal outcome is rare. Often it turns out that the scope of the word does not belong to the category of everyday topics. Consequently, there is no chance at all to put the new knowledge into practice, and the economical memory wants to get rid of the unnecessary burden ... Or a more complicated situation: what is learned is necessary for the exam, and time is less and less. Is it really possible in this case not to use the good old lists of words for memorization?

Of course you can. But is a leaflet with a set of words in alphabetical order that you thoughtlessly run through your eyes so effective? Methodists and linguists have come up with many ways to work effectively with words. They connect our strong side of the brain - logical thinking. Today we will talk about one of these methods.

Mind Maps, or Mental Maps. This is a way of organizing words, which includes both the ability to combine information into groups (one of the highest cognitive functions) and the visual component. Maps are a scheme in which you break down words, phrases, or phrases into categories and subcategories. So you quickly capture the volume of the recorded. Along the way, you can use your eyes to highlight items by degree of importance (for example, the frequency of use in a certain professional field) for you. Thus, our logical thinking works, builds connections, and in the meantime we memorize more necessary material in less time.

Draw Mind Maps yourself or connect modern technology. For example, the MindMeister resource. At the click of a mouse, he will create convenient and neat schemes for you where you can add colors, pictures, and even emoji if you wish. These cards will be available day and night from your phone, tablet or computer.

Now let's look at ways to group words and choose the one that suits you.

  1. If it comes to words that mean material objects, then everything is simple: remember what other things they are with every day. Distribute the furniture into rooms, clothes according to the part of the body on which it is worn, food to vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products.
  2. Is it difficult to divide into groups words of the same subject? Connect a personal relationship: “like” and “dislike”, your favorite and least favorite character traits, hobbies and activities that you don’t like to perform ... Emotional significance will attract attention and allow you to remember words for a long time.
  3. A common problem for those who are preparing for the exam with oral assignments: “I know that my speech sounds poor, but I can do nothing. Only the simplest words from a primary school program come to mind. ” Recognized yourself? Then make a Mind Map with the synonyms of the expressions you need. Let “hilarious” and “hysterical” be added to “funny”. Remember to include sample sentences using these words to take each to the place.
  4. Mind Maps will help expand your vocabulary by combining nouns and verbs, adverbs or adjectives, which are often found in one topic. What actions do people perform with money? “Spend” (spend), “earn” (earn), “lend” (borrow), “borrow” (borrow), and much more.
  5. Mental maps are used to improve grammar. Mind Maps is a way to repeat phrasal verbs that are a headache for English learners. Here are just to group combinations should not by verb, but by preposition. Yes, yes, because it is the pretext that affects the meaning to a greater extent. So, the category “up” with the value “whole, full” will include “dress up” (to dress), “eat up” (to finish) and “burn up” (to burn to the ground).

We wish you a successful use of mental maps for learning foreign languages.



Anna Menshikova
Global English Ambassador

How to learn English words and remember them forever?


How to learn English words and remember them forever?

How to learn English words and remember them forever?


So, we decided that logic is our ally in the difficult struggle with the difficulties of a foreign language. But how to use its capabilities at full capacity? Let's look at an example of learning new words.

Insufficient vocabulary is one of the main sources of stress for an adult student. For us, with our knowledge and experience, the difference between our mother tongue and a foreign language is too obvious: five minutes ago you discussed the most difficult philosophical concepts in Russian, and now you hardly ask your neighbor to give a pencil in English. “Something needs to be done with this!” You decide, and rush to make long lists or cut hundreds of vocabulary cards.

Well, this way is familiar ... but, alas, ineffective. This method will only limit your understanding of the word (the brain will remember a single version of the translation into Russian from a variety of meanings and shades), and the stress of mechanical memory will quickly exhaust you.

Remember that your forte is analytical thinking. You better remember the word if you recognize and analyze all the options for its use. How to do it? If you have been learning the language for some time and you are not afraid of English-English dictionaries, use them. I recommend to my students Cambridge dictionary, Macmillan dictionary и American Merriam Webster. Find the word of interest in the dictionary:

  1. Find out what part of speech it refers to. This will save you most of the mistakes you make when using it. Many students confuse 'advice' and 'advise'. Knowing that the first is a noun and the second is a verb, it will be easy to avoid mistakes.
  2. Find which words are most often found next to that word. Make an appointment or do an appointment? No more pains of choice!
  3. Or maybe this word is part of the idiom? We remember completely and use in speech; a simple 'weather' will help you tell about the weather outside the window, while 'under the weather' will tell you very expressively that you are not feeling very well.
  4. What words have synonyms and antonyms? This is also useful: you better understand the meaning of the word and avoid its constant repetition when talking on a related topic. It is especially useful when preparing for exams: a student who talks about his purchases using only 'things' will receive significantly less points than someone who knows the synonyms of 'items' and 'purchases'.
  5. And finally, see examples of how the word is used in a sentence.

Done! You have learned all the information necessary for the correct use of the word. The next step is practice, the principle of which remains the same - no mechanical repetitions and translations of similar sentences. Make a short text yourself using the learned words, or record a small statement on a topic related to them on the recorder. Reread or re-listen, holding a dictionary article before your eyes, and then show the work to the teacher - he will professionally evaluate whether you were able to apply the acquired knowledge.

On this word can be considered learned! And about the methods of consolidating the studied, I will tell in the next article.


Anna Menshikova
Global English Ambassador

What helps an adult learn a foreign language?


What helps an adult learn a foreign language?

What helps an adult learn a foreign language?


“Well, that's it, from Monday I pick myself up and sign up for language courses! These ones seem to be quite good ... But after all, so many years have passed since graduation, and at the university we just did that thousands were translated with a dictionary. Maybe the moment is completely missed? If you listen to current experts, you have to start this way almost from infancy, then it will be too late. Can I or can't I? ” Admit it, caught yourself on such thoughts?

Many teachers who work with older students are faced with the problem of motivation, based on the fear of repeating past failures and missed opportunities. Linguists and part-time teachers of English, Richard Roberts and Roger Kreuz, wrote a book “Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Languages”to dispel your doubts. They compared how adults and schoolchildren learn foreign languages, and highlighted several important differences. Here are 4 advantages of adult students who will return your faith in their abilities:

  1. You know how the language works in general: what functions words have, how they logically line up in a sentence, and why this or that phenomenon is needed. A schoolboy who has recently completed parts of speech in Russian language lessons so far has a very vague idea of ​​how the verb and adverb are related, and why prepositions are needed. You see a logical connection and understand what principles it is based on - which means you save time and make fewer mistakes.
  2. You understand that language is not just a collection of words, and the whole system with complex relationships of elements, and for each language this system is unique. Children are often discouraged by the fact that in a given language for some word there may not be an equivalent, and what they used to express in one way, a foreigner will express in ten (oh, how long it took to explain to a group of young anime lovers that adjectives in Japanese too have the past tense form!). Adult consciousness is quite ready to perceive the complete absence of cases - or vice versa, a huge number of them, which again reduces the time of study.
  3. You realize that words and their meanings are not everything. “But will it sound too emotional / official / rude if I say ...” - this is only heard from an adult student. A child (even older schoolchildren) does not always reflect on the fact that a phrase neutral for a Russian-speaking person will be offensive to a foreigner. An adult knows that of the two synonyms, one is suitable for business communication, and the second only for a friendly conversation. And an adult understands irony much better, metaphors, idioms - everything that makes our speech expressive, lively. He is ready to teach and actively apply them in practice.
  4. You know how to plan effectively. Unlike a child who simply follows the instructions of the teacher, the adult clearly understands the intermediate result. Opening the section of the textbook, for example, devoted to emotions, you can easily imagine how having finished it, you can name the main shades of your mood and describe the situations that provoked them. Having received the result, you can evaluate your successes and weaknesses - for example, you understand that grammar was given to you with ease, but to study words, you would have to use a different technique. Unlike a child, you are able at each stage of training to give a teacher a detailed feedback, which helps him to make classes more effective.

So, life experience and developed logical thinking are helpers, relying on which, you will make the learning process quick and effective. And we will explain how to put them into practice in learning English. Stay with us!


Anna Menshikova
Global English Ambassador

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