Articles about learning languages ​​from Anna Menshikova

Do's and Don'ts When Preparing for the International Exam

24.03.20

Do's and Don'ts When Preparing for the International Exam

Do's and Don'ts When Preparing for the International Exam

The beginning of spring gives people motivation for new achievements. It also includes the desire to supplement a working or educational portfolio with a certificate of successful passing an international exam. It is for you, and also for those who are waiting for the mandatory Russian state exam this year, that we will briefly interrupt our series of posts about the “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 decided, or you were recommended, or even forced, to decorate the wall with a treasured piece of paper in a frame. The next steps seem clear: 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 work with you and become a solid basis for motivation to achieve results. In other words, before you start preparing...

NECESSARY

1. Decide on a goal

"I want the highest score!" - that and to speak, sounds ambitious. It is unlikely that it will be possible to build long-term motivation to study on such an emotional impulse. Carefully study the requirements of the organizations to which you may be providing your certificates. The vast majority of educational institutions or work companies clearly indicate the requirements for points. Be vigilant: many organizations require a certain number of points not only for the exam as a whole, but for each section of the exam. The standard is reading, listening, speaking and writing.

2. Find out your current language level

"Can I?" - a question that torments everyone in the early stages of preparation. Sometimes a question causes such a strong panic that some choose to give up right away. To dispel doubts, it is enough to find out your current level of knowledge of the language. Numbers are the best remedy for unreasonable worries. This will help you Placement Tests, which are available online, as well as the help of an experienced teacher. It will help you evaluate your speaking and writing skills and you will get the most objective assessment of your knowledge. You will be able to assess your position on the CEFR scale (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages), and find out on the official website of the exam:
a) the minimum required language level to pass the CEFR exam;
b) what approximate score with the current level of knowledge of the language you can get.

3. Set deadlines

Already at the previous stage, it will be quite clear how long it will take you to get the desired result. However, it is necessary to say the main situations on which the duration of the preparation for the exam will depend. So, there can 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 classes 2-3 times a week. This means that the deadline for passing the exam will have to be pushed back by about a year.
  • Situation two: the current level of knowledge of the language is enough for the exam, but it is still not easy to score the desired number of points. Your task is to find a teacher. He will build a curriculum in such a way that you simultaneously improve your general English skills and at the same time get acquainted with the strategy for completing exam tasks. Educational materials also play an important role in this. For example, the Complete and Objective textbook series for 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 trial versions of the exam. But remember that the success of passing the test depends not only on the knowledge of the language itself, but also on the possession of strategies for completing tasks. If you know how to properly complete different types of tasks, you save time and feel confident in your actions. Set aside two or more months to bring the application of all strategies to automatism.

4. Familiarize yourself with the exam format

Many people do this at the very beginning - they download an approximate version of the test from the Internet and solve it to determine their initial level. And it seems quite logical, but ... It is too likely that even a confident student will receive a low score. He will be so disappointed with the grade that he will refuse to participate in the exam altogether, although in fact the chances were not bad. In fact, the reason for the failure lay in the ignorance of the strategies that we mentioned above. If you don't know how to concentrate most effectively at different stages of listening, how to approach reading different types of text, you will make mistakes and spend more time on assignments. Solving mock tests 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 point in diagnosing your level of preparation.

IT DOES NOT FOLLOW

1. Trust advertising

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

Firstly, the main objective of the international exam is to provide enhanced opportunities for students who already have sufficient knowledge. The selection of the "chosen ones" who happen to be lucky enough to learn some "secret" is unlikely to be useful.

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:

  • Ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of the main idea;
  • Ability to read and listen to the text with an understanding of individual details;
  • The ability to see the logic of constructing a text and a monologue;
  • The ability to build a logically coherent text and monologue;
  • Ability to understand and apply paraphrasing in written and oral speech;
  • Knowledge and application of vocabulary and grammatical structures of a certain level of complexity.

And no more. The types of tasks are known to any competent teacher - the only difference is HOW he will teach you the strategies.

2. Wasting time on mindless cramming

"1000 words needed to pass ...", "All grammar for ..." - we see such headings on the covers of manuals. These are the books we will put aside. Why?

Let's open the criteria for assessing the oral and written parts used by experts IELTS, TOEFL и Cambridge exams. They are available on official websites and it will be necessary to familiarize yourself with them in the preparation process. What do we see there? The criterion "Use of a certain word and grammar" does not exist. However, there is such a basis for evaluation as "Uses words and grammar appropriate to the task", i.e. topic and situation. Therefore, rote memorization will not give you an understanding of when and in what combination it is worth using a certain word, phrase, or construction. You will only lose points if you use something inappropriately. An excellent solution to this issue will be mental maps, which we talked about in one of the last articles.

The exception to this rule are the "Key Vocabulary List" booklets (not for all levels) for the Cambridge exams, which are available for download at the official website. Remember that they should not be treated as teaching aids. Examine the list of words presented and check yourself: how many words you already know, and how many are still problematic. This will also be a good way to self-diagnose.

We hope that with this article we have at least dispelled your doubts a little and given certainty to your plans. Good luck!

 

Anna

Anna Menshikova
English teacher at Global Ambassador

Mind Maps as a technology for effective memorization of foreign words

18.03.20

Mind Maps as a technology for effective memorization of foreign words

Mind Maps as a technology for effective memorization of foreign words

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

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

Ideally, what you learn stays in your head forever. The word or phrase pops into memory effortlessly, and you use it almost as often as the simplest "hello" and "thank you." This ideal outcome is rare. It often happens that the sphere of use of the word does not at all belong to the category of everyday topics. Consequently, there is no chance to apply new knowledge in practice, and economical memory wants to get rid of unnecessary burden ... Or a more difficult situation: what you have learned is needed for the exam, and there is less and less time. Is it really impossible to use the good old lists of words for memorization in this case?

Of course you can. But how effective is a sheet with a set of words in alphabetical order, which you mindlessly skim through your eyes? 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 ordering words, which involves both the ability to combine information into groups (one of the highest cognitive functions) and the visual component. Cards are a diagram in which you break words, phrases or phrases into categories and subcategories. So you quickly cover the volume of the recorded. Along the way, you can highlight points with your eyes in order 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 remember more of the necessary material in less time.

Draw Mind Maps yourself or connect modern technologies. For example, the resource MindMeister. At the click of a mouse, it will create convenient and neat schemes for you, where you can add colors, pictures, and even emoji if you wish. These maps 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. When it comes to words that denote material objects, then everything is simple: remember what other things they are next to every day. Distribute pieces of furniture in rooms, clothes - in accordance with the part of the body on which they are worn, food - for vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products.
  2. Is it difficult to divide words of the same subject into groups? Connect a personal attitude: “likes” and “dislikes”, favorite and disliked character traits, hobbies and activities that you don’t like to do ... Emotional significance will attract attention and allow you to remember the words for a long time.
  3. A common problem for those who are preparing for an exam with oral tasks: “I know that my speech sounds poor, but I can’t help it. Only the simplest words from the elementary school curriculum come to mind.” Did you recognize yourself? Then make a Mind Map with the synonyms of the expressions you need. Let "hilarious" and "hysterical" be added to "funny". Don't forget to include example sentences using these words so you can use each one appropriately.
  4. Mind Maps will help you expand your vocabulary by combining nouns and verbs, adverbs or adjectives that often occur in the same topic. What actions do people perform with money? “Spend” (spend), “earn” (earn), “lend” (borrow), “borrow” (borrow), and more.
  5. Mind maps are used to improve grammar. Mind Maps is a way to repeat phrasal verbs that are a headache for English learners. But the combinations should be grouped not by the verb, but by the preposition. Yes, yes, because it is the preposition that affects the meaning to a greater extent. So, the category “up” with the meaning “entirely, completely” will include “dress up” (get dressed), “eat up” (finish) and “burn up” (burn to the ground).

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

 

Anna

Anna Menshikova
English teacher at Global Ambassador

How to learn English words and remember them forever?

10.01.20

How to learn English words and remember them forever?

How to learn English words and remember them forever?

 Words


So, we have decided that logic is our ally in the difficult struggle with the difficulties of a foreign language. But how can you use its full potential? Let's look at the 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 native and foreign languages ​​is too obvious: five minutes ago you were discussing the most complex philosophical concepts in Russian, and now you are having difficulty asking your neighbor to pass a pencil in English. “Something needs to be done about this!” - you decide, and rush to make long lists or cut hundreds of vocabulary cards.

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

Remember that your forte is analytical thinking. You will remember a word better if you learn and analyze all the options for its use. How to do it? If you have been learning a 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 belongs to. This will immediately save you from most of the errors when using it. Many students confuse 'advice' with 'advise'. Knowing that the first is a noun and the second is a verb, it will be easy to avoid mistakes.
  2. Find what words are most often found next to this word. Make an appointment or do an appointment? No more choice pains!
  3. Or maybe this word is generally part of the idiom? We remember in its entirety and use it in speech; a simple 'weather' will help you talk about the weather outside the window, but 'under the weather' is very expressive to tell you that you are not feeling very well.
  4. What are the synonyms and antonyms of the word? This is also useful: you better understand the meaning of the word and avoid its constant repetition when talking about a topic related to it. Especially useful when preparing for exams: a student who talks about his purchases using only 'things' will get significantly lower points than someone who knows the synonyms 'items' and 'purchases'.
  5. And finally, look at examples of how the word is used in a sentence.

Ready! 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 the same type of sentences. Compose a short text on your own using the learned words, or record a short statement on a topic related to them on a voice recorder. Re-read or re-listen, keeping the dictionary entry in front of your eyes, and then show the work to the teacher - he will professionally assess whether you were able to apply the acquired knowledge.

On this word can be considered learned! And I will talk about the methods of consolidating what I have learned in the next article.

Anna

Anna Menshikova
English teacher at Global Ambassador

What helps an adult learn a foreign language?

10.12.19

What helps an adult learn a foreign language?

What helps an adult learn a foreign language?

 Study

“Well, everything, from Monday I pull myself together and sign up for language courses! These seem to be quite good... But after all, so many years have passed since graduation, and at the university all we did was translate thousands with a dictionary. Maybe the moment is completely lost? If you listen to the current experts, you should start like this almost from infancy, then it will be too late. Can I or can't I?" Admit it, did you catch yourself thinking like that?

Many educators working with adult learners face a motivation problem based on the fear of repeating past failures and missed opportunities. Linguistic scholars and part-time English teachers Richard Roberts and Roger Creutz wrote a book “Becoming Fluent: How Cognitive Science Can Help Adults Learn a Foreign Languages”to dispel your doubts. They compared how adults and school-age children learn foreign languages ​​and identified several important differences. Here are 4 benefits of adult learners that will give you back your confidence:

  1. Do you know how 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 recently went through the parts of speech in the Russian language lessons still has a very vague idea of ​​​​how the verb and adverb are connected, and why prepositions are needed. You see the logical connection and understand what principles it is based on, which means you save time and make fewer mistakes.
  2. You understand that a language is not just a collection of words, but a whole system with complex connections of elements, and for each language this system is unique. Children are often discouraged by the fact that in the language they are learning there may not be an equivalent for a word, and what they are used to expressing in one way, a foreigner will express ten (oh, what a long time it took to explain to a group of young anime lovers that adjectives in Japanese are also are in the past tense!). The consciousness of an adult is quite ready to perceive the complete absence of cases - or vice versa, their huge number, which again reduces the time of study.
  3. You realize that words and their meanings are not everything. “Won't it sound too emotional / official / rude if I say ...” - you will only hear this from an adult student. A child (even of senior school age) will not always think about the fact that a phrase that is 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 is only for a friendly conversation. And an adult understands irony, metaphors, idioms much better - everything that makes our speech expressive, lively. He is ready to teach and actively apply them in practice.
  4. You are good at planning. Unlike a child who simply follows the teacher's instructions, an adult has a clear idea of ​​the intermediate result. When you open a section of a textbook devoted, for example, to emotions, you can easily imagine how, after finishing it, you will be able to 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 easy for you, but to learn words you should use a different technique. Unlike a child, you are able at every stage of learning to give the teacher detailed feedback, which helps him make classes more effective.

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

Anna

Anna Menshikova
English teacher at Global Ambassador

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