Изучение английского и др.языков

Video with tasks in English for beginners

03.12.19

Video with tasks in English for beginners

Video with tasks in English for beginners

for Elementary and Pre-Intermediate levels

How to watch videos in English with a beginner level? Complete the demo from Smart English course and you will learn to gradually dive into the use of resources in English.

Methods of teaching English

30.05.18

Methods of teaching English

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Methods of teaching English

“Let's learn to speak English in two weeks”, “learn grammar without cramming”, “the author's technique for 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), but 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 a well-developed logical thinking, you are very diligent and want to know grammar like an Oxford linguistics student, then the grammar-translation, the traditional method of learning English, will suit you. It is based on memorization of grammatical constructions, translation of texts from foreign into native, and vice versa. This method is most often used in school and university programs.

The main advantage of this method is that it allows you to master grammar at a high level, understand the structure of the language, and lay the 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 a 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 for the past tense, but you can’t apply them.

  1. Practice-Oriented Approach

The problem-solving, practice-oriented teaching methodology helps to solve the problem of the language barrier. During the lesson, the teacher invites students to act out a dialogue, play a game in English or brainstorm, that is, one way or another, use the existing knowledge in action. This approach allows students to master language skills as tools to complete the task.

The practice-oriented methodology helps to master the practical minimum relatively quickly and is suitable for people who learn English for travel, communication and work with foreigners. Thanks to the constant use of the learned words and constructions, the need to apply the acquired knowledge, the skill to speak fluently in English develops.

  1. Communicative technique

For a deeper understanding of the language system, a problem-solving technique is used in combination with a communicative-cognitive technique. One of the main principles of communication is the co-study of language and culture, the dialogue of cultures. To acquaint students with the culture of the language being studied, educational material is selected. For example, texts should show the authentic culture of English-speaking countries, films and audio recordings should show the culture of verbal communication. The lesson organizes the process of mastering a foreign culture, 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 in teaching 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 - gets acquainted with the phonetic, lexical, grammatical aspects of speech and types of speech activity. Exercises include questions and tasks for 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 structured so that the student can get the most out of what they already know.
In the complex, such classes are a built-in system, where there is the study of vocabulary, grammar, listening, reading and translation. Unlike the grammar-translation method, the teacher does not give grammatical rules as a set of laws that need to be learned, but provides students with the opportunity to deduce the pattern of using certain constructions through the 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 on your own helps you learn a foreign language faster and more fully. When the student himself manages cognitive activity and controls the learning process, this is called a metacognitive technique. This methodology is based on the following principles:

  • Planning - the ability to assess how much material needs to be learned and draw up a learning plan.
  • Goal setting is an understanding of what goal you will achieve by solving a particular problem. For example, I listen to these lyrics 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.

American psychologist Ann M. Dirks, the author of one of the first methods for developing metacognitive abilities, believes that the skill of applying mental strategies will allow the student to better navigate life situations. The role of the teacher in this method 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 ready to deal with non-standard situations in the future.

What methods are used in Global Ambassador?

В Global Ambassador we use a combination of several methods, 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 project. And in exam preparation courses (whether TOEFL, IELTS or others) we use a metacognitive methodology to ensure you get the highest possible score on the exam.

 

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

02.02.18

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

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

From the point of view of neurolinguistics, explains Evgenia Efremova, master of Harvard University, academic director Global Ambassador and developer of the effective English program Smart English. 

Popular slogans announcing another unique technique that will allow you to learn “English in 3 months” and finally speak competently are captivating. In the fast pace of modern life, with the ever-increasing need for English proficiency in many industries and the hefty cost of education, we all want to learn effectively - to achieve the maximum result with the least investment of time, money and energy.

But when such slogans become ubiquitous, they subconsciously form stereotyped public thinking and belief in the exceptional veracity of this promise. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to critically evaluate marketing slogans and separate the truth from the publicity stunt. To understand the issue, let's turn to the knowledge of 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. In the production of each of these skills, a separate neural network is involved, which is activated and strengthened in the learning process. Ambiguity to 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), the development of the brain during early childhood, but also by the specifics of the learning experience gained and the influence of the external environment throughout life [1]. Of course, the typical processes in language development can be generalized to people in general. But when it comes to learning, first of all, it is necessary to take into account the individual characteristics of each person.

Of course, the teaching methodology, as well as the quality of teaching, affect the effectiveness. It is important to understand that most of the existing methods are determined by the desired goal, the incoming data of the person and the frequency of classes. If the final goal and frequency of classes can be fixed, then the incoming student data 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 incoming data and, accordingly, an average path from point A to point B. Such averages miss important individual features , around which an adaptive learning model should be built.

Research in the field of neurolinguistics shows that the speed of mastering a foreign language is largely determined by the goal (desired level of proficiency), the frequency and duration of training, as well as the degree of difference between the grammar and vocabulary of the native language from the chosen foreign language, the student's age, previous experience in learning other foreign languages, degree of learning ability and diligence of the student.

What goal do you plan to achieve in 3 months?

First of all, it is important to understand what level this course aims to achieve and what your incoming level is. In English, for example, you can highlight the Skills for Basic Interpersonal Communication (BICS)[2],[3]. Simply put, this is the well-known "colloquial English", which will be enough to solve the basic issues of tourism, domestic issues and communication on the street. This language is also called “corridor English”. Indeed, after 3 months of intensive systematic training, especially hardworking and purposeful 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 enough practice in listening and reproducing the language in typical situations. It is these components, combined with consistency and frequency of repetition, that make it possible to achieve this level in a relatively short time.

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

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), for example, which is used by many foreign educational institutions as a standard for admitting foreign students to study in English, no longer assesses the level of grammar and actual understanding of the language, but reveals more complex skills. Such skills include the ability to analyze text, draw unstated conclusions, synthesize and compare information, and many others. The ability to use these skills in English depends primarily on mental capabilities. In this case, knowledge of vocabulary and grammar will either make it easier or even more difficult to prepare for this test. Therefore, it is not surprising that many students, having mastered conversational / everyday English (General English) at an intermediate 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 with the native. Romanian speakers, for example, quickly learn Spanish and Italian, since all these languages ​​have a common ancestor - Latin, and therefore have common grammatical characteristics and similar word formation.

In mastering the skill of reading, it is important to take into account such a characteristic as “transparency of the written language”[4],[5]. This is expressed in how 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 rules or learn to use context. The word wind, for example, can be read as wind (wind, braid, etc.) or wind (wind). Understanding exactly how to read a given word is possible only 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 difficulty of mastering the skill of reading with the transparency of the written system[5]

Do you have a successful experience of learning another foreign language?

People who have a successful experience of learning a foreign language, as a rule, master the next one faster and more confidently. This can be explained by a number of factors.

Firstly, the experience of successful language learning 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 react more quickly when faced with the next difficulty in learning the next language and not experience toxic stress. It is also possible that an already mastered foreign language 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 as a whole and supports the psychological model “I can”, which allows you to eliminate the fear factor, a typical factor that limits the effectiveness of learning. In addition, previous experience in learning a foreign language will allow you to switch quickly from one language to another and more effectively concentrate on the features of a new language.

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

Since the study of a foreign language is a 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, mastering a foreign language becomes more and more difficult, especially when it comes to mastering pronunciation, as well as learning grammar [6]. Also, the plasticity of the brain, which is involved in making the neural connections necessary to maintain new functions, blunts with age. As a result, the process of mastering a language requires much more time and effort.

Given the absolute differences in the 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, 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 don't progress by leaps and bounds, you are rejuvenating your brain: learning a foreign language is one of the best forms of gymnastics that will support mental flexibility and working memory[7].

What is your motivation and how hardworking are you?

Even the most progressive technique will not allow achieving the declared results without the internal motivation and diligence of the participant himself. Many students, without a clear long-term goal, quickly burn out when faced with process or time management difficulties. It is no secret that it is high motivation that stimulates serious self-study and allows students to achieve incredible results. But there are those who go to classes, immediately declaring that they have neither the strength nor the time for homeschooling, while setting the goal not for themselves, but for the teacher to raise it from zero to the average level in 4 classroom hours a week in 3 month. Of course, such goals and motivation raise great doubts and confuse the teacher.

If learning a foreign language in 3 months was so easy, then why 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 to “learn a foreign language in 3 months” is just 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, set goals adequately and choose a course of study. As a result, your expectations, goals and requirements for yourself and for the teacher will better meet the characteristics of your individual development. Properly set goals will reduce stress levels and allow you to enjoy learning victories, thereby fueling the motivation to further learn 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. nineteen. 
[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, P.H.K. (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, F.I. (2014). Effects of bilingualism and aging on executive function and working memory. Psychology and aging, 29(3), 696.

 

Author: Evgenia Efremova, Master's graduate of Harvard University, 
academic director Global Ambassador and software developer Smart English courses 

EE

   
Read more articles by Evgenia  

Why learn English? Looking for motivation!

13.10.17

Why learn English? Looking for motivation!

Why learn English? Set the right goals and look for motivation

 Application

You decided a long time ago that you want to learn English, but for some reason you can’t learn it: there isn’t enough time or the chosen format of classes doesn’t fit, or you just can’t 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 true reason is motivation. It is motivation that makes us find time and not quit classes. Motivation makes learning a language fun and rewarding! How to find motivation to learn English?

  1. Understand why to teach

    Remember that language is not an end, but a means to an end. 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 apply for a job in an international company? Or do you want to study abroad? Or maybe you want to read English-language articles and attend conferences in order to be in demand as a specialist? Everyone has different reasons, and it is very important to find your own.

  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. In foreign universities, they will immediately tell you how many TOEFL or IELTS scores you need. In international companies, most often the requirements for the language level are spelled out in the vacancy. And for professional development, look at the requirements Cefr and relate them to your area.

  3. Rate your level

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

    • go to a lesson with a teacher to be assessed (be prepared for the fact that this will take not 15 minutes, but a full lesson, and sometimes several lessons)
    • pass a validated test (for example, free test Global Ambassador, which we have 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 trial test is simply necessary - only in this way will you understand what the required scores mean.
  4. Set a clear, measurable goal

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

  5. Determine the way you study

    Now you need to understand how you will do? Will you take group lessons at a language school, or do you need one-on-one lessons 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 classes are quite suitable. If your goal is unique and deadlines are tight, then you need a personalized and more comprehensive approach. In any case, when choosing between self-study and classes in a language school, we advise you to turn to professional help. Lessons with a teacher are more likely to help you achieve your goal.

  6. Determine the load and schedule

    It seems simple: after all, 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 practice. But, unfortunately, it 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 training program. At this point, everything is so complicated and individual that only a good and experienced teacher can handle it. And if you decide not to contact him, then you yourself are probably a good and experienced teacher of a foreign language.

    When contacting a professional teacher, be prepared for the fact that he may advise you to change the terms. It's not that he doesn't believe in you, it's just that he knows more about the learning process. Trust his experience! But feel free to ask questions about the program - he should have a clear plan for your study!

  7. Try and praise yourself

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

    Well, if all else fails, and you start skipping classes or not doing your homework, then you have to start over. Ask yourself, is there a good enough reason for learning English? If, nevertheless, your goal is worth the effort, then return to the mode and try for your own sake!

Ready to take the English Level Test? 

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