Learning English and other languages

Beginner's Tutorial English Video

03.12.19

Beginner's Tutorial English Video

Beginner's Tutorial English Video

for Elementary and Pre-Intermediate levels

How to watch video in English with entry-level? Complete the demo task from Smart English course and you will learn how to gradually dive into the use of resources in English.

English language teaching methods

30.05.18

English language teaching methods

 methods2
  

English language teaching methods

“We will teach you to speak English in two weeks”, “learn grammar without cramming”, “the author's method of memorizing words” and many other promises beckon with simplicity and ease. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill for learning a foreign language (we wrote about this in previous article), however, you can choose a proven methodology based on your goals and make the learning process more effective. Let's look at the basic methods of teaching a foreign language.

  1. Grammar-translation method

If you have well-developed logical thinking, you are very diligent and want to know grammar as a student in the linguistic department of Oxford, then the grammar-translation, traditional method of learning English will suit you. It is based on memorization of grammatical constructions, translation of texts from foreign to native, and vice versa. This method is most often used in school and university programs.

The main advantage of this method, it allows you to master the grammar at a high level, understand the structure of the language, lay the fundamental foundation. Disadvantages: insufficient attention to the lexical part, mechanical memorization of words. For reading and translation, either complex literary works or artificial texts are used. When a student enters the language environment, he may stumble upon a language barrier. But it’s very disappointing when you know by heart about the active and passive voice, all the options of the past time, but you can’t use them.

  1. Practice-oriented approach

To solve the problem of the language barrier helps the teaching methodology oriented to solving problems, practice-oriented methodology. During the lesson, the teacher offers students to play a dialogue, play a game in English or arrange a brainstorming, that is, one way or another, use existing knowledge in action. This approach allows students to master language skills as tools to accomplish the task.

The practice-oriented technique helps to quickly learn the practical minimum and is suitable for people who learn English for traveling, for communication and working with foreigners. Thanks to the constant use of the learned words and constructions, the need to apply the knowledge gained, the skill to speak English fluently develops.

  1. Communicative technique

For a deeper understanding of the language system, a problem-solving technique is used in conjunction with a communicative-cognitive technique. One of the main principles of communication is co-learning of language and culture, dialogue of cultures. To acquaint students with the culture of the target language, educational material is selected. For example, texts should show the authentic culture of English-speaking countries, films and audio recordings - the culture of verbal communication. In the lesson, the process of mastering a foreign language culture is organized, taking into account the interaction of native and foreign cultures in various types of situations of intercultural communication. The teacher builds a dialogue between students, encourages them to compare and contrast.

The cognitive approach to learning takes into account both the universal processes of cognition and the individual characteristics of each student's learning. In practice, this means that the student goes through the natural stages of the cognitive process - he gets acquainted with the phonetic, lexical, grammatical sides of speech and types of speech activity. Exercises include questions and tasks on the development of memory, attention, logic, thinking, tasks of a problematic and creative nature, activate the mental and emotional activity of students. The lesson is built so that the student can get the most out of existing knowledge.
In the complex, such classes are a built-in system where there is a study of vocabulary, grammar, listening, reading and translation. In contrast to the grammar-translation method, the teacher does not give grammar rules as a set of laws that need to be learned, but provides students with the opportunity to derive the pattern of using certain constructions through educational material. This approach allows you to more consciously learn a foreign language. 

  1. Metacognition, or metacognitive method

You may have heard more than once that the ability to study and practice independently helps to learn a foreign language faster and more fully. When a student himself manages cognitive activity and controls the educational process - this is called metacognitive technique. This technique is based on the following principles:

  • Planning - the ability to estimate how much material needs to be learned and draw up a learning plan.
  • Goal setting - understanding what goal you will achieve by solving a particular problem. For example, I listen to these texts in order to learn to understand the Texas accent.
  • Self-control is the ability to help oneself in learning, to cope with problematic moments.
  • Evaluation - the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen strategy.

The American psychologist Ann M. Dirks, the author of one of the first methods of developing metacognitive abilities, believes that the skill of applying mental strategies will allow the student to better navigate in life situations. The role of the teacher in this technique is reduced to an assistant, a coach, who shows the tools for learning. The element of self-study helps to effectively prepare for exams and be prepared to solve unusual situations in the future.

What techniques are used in the Global Ambassador?

At Global Ambassador, we use a combination of several techniques, and this set depends on your goals. For example, visiting Smart English courses You learn at once according to 3 methods: communicative-cognitive, metacognitive and design. And in exam preparation courses (whether TOEFL, IELTS or others) we use a metacognitive technique to ensure you get the highest score when passing the exam.

 

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Learn a foreign language in 3 months: reality or myth? The look of neurolinguists

02.02.18

Learn a foreign language in 3 months: reality or myth? The look of neurolinguists

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Learn a foreign language in 3 months: reality or myth? 

From the point of view of neurolinguistics, explains Yevgeny Efremova, Master of Harvard University, Academic Director of Global Ambassador and developer of an effective English program Smart English. 

Popular slogans declaring about another unique technique that will allow you to learn “English in 3 months” and finally speak competently are bribing. At the fast pace of modern life, with the ever-growing need for English proficiency in many industries and the considerable cost of training, we all want to learn effectively - to achieve maximum results with the least investment of time, money and energy.

But when such slogans become ubiquitous, they subconsciously form stereotypical social thinking and faith in the exclusive truthfulness of this promise. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to critique marketing slogans and separate the truth from the advertising move. To understand the issue, let's turn to the knowledge about how the human brain learns a foreign language and what nuances determine the potential and speed of learning.

Language skills, such as listening, speaking and writing, are complex functions of the human brain and have their own specifics and development process. A separate neural network is involved in the production of each of these skills, which is activated and strengthened in the learning process. The ambiguity of these processes is added by the uniqueness of the brain of each person. Our brain, its structure and functional processes, are formed not only by the totality of genetics (nature), brain development during early childhood, but also by the specifics of the learning experience and the influence of the external environment throughout life [1]. Of course, typical processes in the development of a language can be generalized to people as a whole. But when it comes to training, it is first necessary to take into account the individual characteristics of each person.

Of course, the teaching methodology, as well as the quality of teaching affect efficiency. It is important to understand that most of the existing methods are determined by the desired goal, the input data of the person and the frequency of classes. If the final goal and frequency of classes can be fixed, then the incoming data of the student can only be averaged. Since no test is yet able to analyze the complex structure of the functional processes of the brain involved in the study of a particular language, any technique is often based on averaged input data and, accordingly, an averaged path from point A to point B. Such averages miss important individual features around which the adaptive learning model should be built.

Studies in the field of neurolinguistics show that the speed of mastering a foreign language is largely determined by the purpose (desired level of knowledge), the frequency and duration of training, as well as the degree to which the grammar and vocabulary of the native language differs from the chosen foreign one, the student’s age, previous experience in studying other foreign languages, degree of student learning and hard work.

What goal do you plan to achieve in 3 months?

First of all, it is important to understand what level this course is aimed at and what your incoming level is. In English, for example, Basic Interpersonal Skills (BICS) [2], [3] can be distinguished. Simply put, this is the well-known "spoken English", which will be enough to solve basic issues of tourism, everyday issues and communication on the street. This language is also called “corridor English”. Indeed, in 3 months of intensive systematic training, especially hardworking and motivated students successfully reach this level. For comfortable language proficiency at such a basic level, it is important to master the frequently used vocabulary (about 1500 words), basic grammatical structures and get a sufficient amount of practice of listening and reproducing the language in typical situations. It is these components, in combination with consistency and repetition frequency, that make it possible to achieve this level in a relatively quick time.

However, the basic level of language proficiency will not allow you to study abroad, speak at scientific conferences or effectively negotiate. To effectively and fully use the language in such situations, not only vocabulary expansion with less common vocabulary will be required, but also the development of academic skills, including the possession of more complex sentence structures and the organization of texts (Cognitive Academic Proficiency, (CALP) [3 |, [ 4]. The student’s effectiveness in mastering such skills is determined by individual cognitive abilities, such as the ability to control and rebuild thinking, the development of horizons in the field of knowledge in the native language, as well as ovnem logical thinking [5].

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), for example, which is standardly used by many foreign educational institutions to accept foreign students to study in English, does not evaluate the level of grammar knowledge and actual understanding of the language, but reveals more complex skills. Such skills include the ability to analyze the text, draw undeclared conclusions, synthesize and compare information, and many others. The ability to use these skills in English depends primarily on mental capabilities. In this case, possession of vocabulary and grammar will either make it easier or more difficult to prepare for this test. Therefore, it is not surprising that many students, having mastered conversational / everyday English (General English) at an average level, experience great difficulties when faced with this test.

What foreign language do you plan to learn in 3 months?

An important factor for the speed of mastering a language is its similarity to the native one. Romanian speakers, for example, quickly master Spanish and Italian, since all these languages ​​have a common ancestor - Latin, and in this regard, common grammatical characteristics and similar word formation.

In mastering the reading skill, it is important to take into account such a characteristic as “the transparency of the written language” [4], [5]. This is expressed in how much each sound relates to its writing. From this point of view, English - one of the most widely spoken foreign languages ​​- is one of the most opaque (see Table 1). It immediately becomes clear why, when learning English, we often have to remember exceptions to the rules or learn to use the context. The word wind, for example, can be read as wind (wind, braid, etc.) or wind (wind). You can only figure out how to read a given word in context. Spanish, on the other hand, is transparent. Having mastered the alphabet, you can always read the written word correctly with a high probability, even without knowing its meaning.

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Table 1: Correspondence of the complexity of mastering the skill of reading transparency of the written system [5]

Do you have successful experience learning another foreign language?

People who have successful experience in mastering a foreign language, as a rule, quickly and confidently master the next one. This can be explained by several factors.

Firstly, the experience of successful language teaching allows you to understand how it is easier to learn the language, that is, it helps to develop an effective model of self-learning. Language learning skills allow you to respond more quickly, faced with the next difficulties in learning the next language and not experience toxic stress. It is also possible that a foreign language already mastered has common characteristics with a new one, which allows you to use knowledge from an already accumulated database for more comfortable navigation.

Secondly, previous successful experience forms a positive attitude towards the learning process in general and supports the psychological model “I can”, which eliminates the factor of fear, a typical factor limiting the effectiveness of learning. In addition, previous experience of mastering a foreign language will allow you to quickly switch from one language to another and more effectively concentrate on the features of the new language.

Do you take into account the features of the functionality of the brain, starting to learn a language at one age or another?

Since the study of a foreign language refers to the complex function of the human brain, we cannot but take into account the age-related features of the functioning of the brain. Many scientific studies find that with age the mastery of a foreign language becomes more and more difficult, especially with regard to the development of pronunciation, as well as the study of grammar [6]. Also, the plasticity of the brain, participating in the creation of neural connections necessary to maintain new functions, dulls with age. As a result, the process of mastering a language requires much more time and effort.

Given the unconditional differences in speed and biological mechanisms involved in language learning, it is important to choose a form and learning environment that takes these features into account. Thus, you will protect yourself from unnecessary stress, from the fact, for example, “that you do not keep up with the group,” and you will receive pleasant emotions and a sense of satisfaction in the learning process.

The good news is that even if you do not progress by leaps and bounds, you rejuvenate your brain: learning a foreign language is one of the best forms of gymnastics that will support flexibility of thinking and working memory [7].

What is your motivation and how hardworking are you?

Even the most progressive technique will not allow you to achieve the stated results without internal motivation and hard work of the participant. Many students, without a clear long-term goal, quickly burn out when faced with the difficulties of a process or time management. It is no secret that it is high motivation that is the incentive for serious self-study and allows students to achieve incredible results. But there are those who go to classes, immediately stating that there is neither strength nor time for home schooling, while setting a goal not for themselves, but for the teacher to raise it from scratch to an average level in 4 class hours per week for 3 months. Of course, such goals and motivation are very doubtful and confound the teacher.

If it was so easy to learn a foreign language in 3 months, then why then do many of us continue to experience discomfort or a language barrier when traveling abroad? Is it because we chose the wrong courses?

As you already understood, the offer “learn a foreign language in 3 months” is only an attractive marketing ploy, which, unfortunately, misleads many people. The questions raised in this article will allow you to make a meaningful assessment of your personal situation, adequately set goals and choose a course of study. As a result, your expectations, goals and requirements for yourself and for the teacher will better meet the specifics of your individual development. Setting goals well will reduce stress levels and allow you to enjoy learning victories, thereby fueling your motivation to continue learning the language.

Sources:

[1] Fox, SE, Levitt, P., & Nelson III, CA (2010). How the timing and quality of early experiences influence the development of brain architecture. Child development, 81 (1), 28-40. 
[2] Cummins, J. (1979). Cognitive / Academic Language Proficiency, Linguistic Interdependence, the Optimum Age Question and Some Other Matters. Working Papers on Bilingualism, No. 19. 
[3] Cummins, J. (2000). BICS and CALP. In M. Byram (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language teaching and learning. (pp. 76-79). London: Routledge. 
[4] Dehaene, S. (2009). Reading in the brain: The new science of how to read. New York: Penguin Group. 
[5] Seymour, PHK (2005). Early reading development in European orthographies. In The Science of Reading: A Handbook. Blackwell, 296-315. 
[6] Birdsong, D. (2006). Age and second language acquisition and processing: A selective overview. Language learning, 56 (s1), 9-49. 
[7] Bialystok, E., Poarch, G., Luo, L., & Craik, FI (2014). Effects of bilingualism and aging on executive function and working memory. Psychology and aging, 29 (3), 696.

 

Author: Evgenia EfremovaGraduate of Harvard University, 
Global Ambassador Academic Director and Program Developer Smart English courses 

EE

   
Read other articles by Eugenia  

Why learn English? Looking for motivation!

13.10.17

Why learn English? Looking for motivation!

Why learn English? We set the right goals and look for motivation

 Application

You have long decided that you want to learn English, but for some reason you cannot learn it: there is not enough time or the chosen format of classes is not suitable, or you simply cannot do your homework. Then you should start over and ask yourself the question: "Why do I want to learn English?" After all, most often the real reason is motivation. It is motivation that makes us find time and not quit classes. Motivation makes language learning fun and rewarding! How do you find motivation to learn English?

  1. Understand Why Teach

    Remember that language is not an end, but a means to achieve it. If you have a feeling or a vague understanding of the need to learn a language, ask yourself the question: "Why do I need English?" Perhaps you need it to get a job in an international company? Or do you want to go abroad? Or maybe you want to read English-language articles and attend conferences in order to be a sought-after specialist? Everyone has different reasons, and it is very important to find yours.

  2. Define requirements

    We say: “To work in this company / study at this university / participate in this conference you need to know English”. This is true, but specifics are needed. Find out the requirements. Foreign universities will tell you right away how many TOEFL or IELTS scores you need. In international companies, language level requirements are often spelled out in vacancies. And for professional development, take a look at the requirements Cefr and relate them to your sphere.

  3. Rate your level

    For most, adequately assessing themselves is the most difficult. Take this issue seriously. An unknown online test that you find on the net will most likely not be enough. First, he will not appreciate all the skills, such as speaking and writing; secondly, as in any test, you can just get lucky and the result will be better than actually; and thirdly, unfortunately, the test may turn out to be of poor quality. Therefore, we recommend that you turn to proven methods. There are two of them: 

    • go to a lesson to the teacher, so that he appreciates you (be prepared for the fact that it will take not 15 minutes, but a full lesson, and sometimes several lessons)
    • pass a proven test (for example, free Global Ambassador test, which we developed for distribution into groups), or even placement tests from well-known publishers, such as Oxford English Testing (the latter are usually paid).
      And if your goal is TOEFL or IELTS, then a test test is simply necessary - only in this way you will understand what the required points mean.
  4. Set a clear measurable goal

    The goal should at least answer the questions: what to do, when / before what period and what should be the result?
    For example, “pass an interview by the end of February,” “pass the TOEFL 80 points on March 24,” or “reach an Upper-Intermediate level by the end of May next year”.

  5. Define a way to learn

    Now you need to understand how you will be engaged? Will you go to group classes at a language school, or do you need one-on-one classes with a teacher? Or maybe you want to take an online course or just buy textbooks and study on your own?

    It all depends on the goal and the current level. For example, if the deadlines allow, and the goal is quite common, then group exercises are quite suitable. If your goal is unique, and the deadlines are burning, then you need an individual and more multilateral approach. In any case, choosing between self-study and classes at a language school, we recommend that you seek professional help. Classes with a teacher are more likely to help you achieve your goal.

  6. Define the load and schedule

    It seems simple: you already know at what level you are, what and when you want to achieve. It remains only to calculate how intensively you need to do. But, unfortunately, this is not so simple, because it also depends on the degree of your learning ability, on the ability to correctly identify your weaknesses and choose a program of classes. At this point, everything is so complex and individual that only a good and experienced teacher will cope with it. And if you decide not to contact him, then you are probably a good and experienced teacher of a foreign language yourself.

    Turning to a professional teacher, be prepared for the fact that he can advise you to change the timing. It's not that he does not believe in you, he just knows more about the learning process. Trust in his experience! But do not hesitate to ask questions about the program - he must have a clear plan for your training!

  7. Try and praise yourself

    When you start practicing, it will probably be difficult, and you will want to quit. Stick to the schedule and your goal. Soon you will get used to it and will be engaged with great pleasure.
    Be sure to praise yourself during training. If you didn’t want to go to class, but still did it. You are well done! Praise yourself: for example, buy a box of your favorite sweets or please yourself with something else. Such small joys will help you overcome small difficulties on the way to the goal.

    Well, if nothing helps, and you begin to skip classes or do not do homework, you will have to start all over again. Ask yourself if you have chosen a good reason for learning English. If, nevertheless, your goal is worth these efforts, then return to mode and try for your own sake!

Ready to take an English proficiency test? 

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