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Saving time on lesson plans

Language teachers know that often the best lesson plans are those they develop themselves.  Course books are fine used in moderation, and there is a wealth of ready-made lesson plans that can be found all over the Internet.  But nearly everything needs at least some tweaking, if not a full scale adaptation if its going to suit the personality of the trainer and the specific needs of the learner.

But the big issue is time.  With all the best of intentions its not easy to set aside time to develop new materials.  This is where automated text analysis tools come in handy, and can save you time when creating reading comprehension activities.  One such example is lingleonline.com.  They are newly out of beta, and it looks like there are still a few wrinkles that need ironing out, but it’s well worth a try.  Although it is not possible to upload your own text for analysis, there is an extensive database of recent news articles from a variety of sources, and it is fairly easy to find something topical and appropriate.

The process is quick and easy:

  1. Choose your article and level.
  2. Highlight difficult or topical vocabulary (just select the number of words, Lingle highlights a list automatically, which you can save).
  3. Automatically create exercises (grammar and vocabulary gapfills, word matching, word ordering, sentence ordering, or free text options where you can invent your own exercise).
  4. Create a glossary for difficult or topical words. The list is automatically populated with definitions from one of two online dictionaries, or you can add your own.
  5. Create a usage list – a list of sentences with the focus vocabulary used in context (taken from the Lingle corpus – unfortunately the sentences are not always especially relevant, and sometimes too short to give sufficient context).

All of these tools are fairly customiseable, and if you you don’t like any of the words or expressions selected automatically for the gapfill exercises you can delete them and add your own with a little extra effort.

The goal of Lingle is to serve as a platform where you can build up your own collection of lessons, that your students can actually access and use online, so it lends itself well to creating self-access homework exercises.  It is also easy to print .pdfs. But as with any automated tool, you may want to do some cutting, pasting and tweaking before you’re entirely satisfied with the result.  As their user base increases the tool is only going to improve, and at 40€ for a year’s subscription it’s not bad value, and they have a free 30-day trial to take it for a spin.

Lingle lesson plan screenshot

photo credit: blisschan cc

Apprendre par immersion dans un café des langues

Il n’y a pas photo. Si on veut monter d’un niveau dans l’apprentissage d’une langue, rien ne vaut un séjour à l’étranger pour se mettre dans le bain. Mais tout le monde n’a pas cette possibilité, donc comment faire pour créer une expérience d’immersion pour booster ses compétences?

À Nantes, et dans beaucoup de villes de France, il y a un véritable engouement pour le café des langues, ou café polyglotte. Il y a cinq ans quand nous nous sommes lancé dans l’aventure du café des langues (activité que nous avons dû arrêter pour manque de temps, malheureusement), il fallait bien fouiller pour trouver des rencontres pour échanger dans une langue étrangère autour d’un verre. Aujourd’hui il y a presque un embarras de choix.

Quel est le principe? Chaque groupe a son propre fonctionnement, mais on retrouve des points communs partout. On se retrouve avec un petit groupe de personnes, d’origine française où étrangère, le plus souvent dans un lieu neutre tel qu’un café ou un bar, et on cause dans sa deuxième langue (ou troisième, douzième…peu importe). Les séances sont plus ou moins guidées, selon l’approche des animateurs, et il peut y avoir une petite participation financière (en plus de la consommation). Mais il ne s’agit pas de cours de langues. Il n’y a rien de scolaire – on peut laisser les mauvais souvenirs et les blocages à la porte, car au café des langues les nuls, ça n’existe pas. L’atout des cafés des langues est l’ambiance décontractée, qui peut nous décomplexer de nos réticences à ouvrir la bouche. En plus, tout le monde est dans le même panier, et les fautes sont tolérées, voir encouragées, car c’est ainsi qu’on apprend!

L’équilibre apprenant / locuteur natif varient selon le groupe. Si on à tendance à ramer un peu dans la langue cible, il peut être un peu intimidant si on se sent en minorité. Mais il y a tellement de groupes différents maintenant qu’on est sûr de trouver son compte quelque part.

Au début on ne trouvait que l’anglais, mais aujourd’hui il y a des groupes où on peut parler allemand, chinois, espagnol, portugais, russe… Certains groupes proposent différentes langues sur différentes soirées. D’autres séparent les langues avec un animateur à chaque table. Seul bémol: plus il y a du monde, plus il est bruyant – il faut resté bien concentré pour suivre le fil de la conversation.

Mais,  « qui ne tente rien… »

Le café des langues à Nantes

Voici une liste plus ou moins à jour de groupes qui sont installés dans la région de Nantes, mais peu importe la ville, une petite recherche sur Google et on trouvera son bonheur.  Il y a sans doute d’autres cafés des langues dans la région nantaise.  Si vous en connaissez un, merci de rajouter les informations dans les commentaires en bas.

Nom Langues pratiquées Lieu Horaires
« Stammtisch » allemand Café Le Flesselles, Allée Flesselles, Nantes 19h00, 2e et 4e jeudi de chaque mois (hors vacances scolaires)
Café bilingue Nantes toutes (destinée aux familles) Voir programmation Voir programmation
Café franco-chinois chinois Le Lieu Unique, Nantes 20h30, le mardi
Café polyglotte franco-portugais portugais Café Casse Goutte, rue du Beau Soleil, Nantes 21h00, le mardi
Café polyglotte franco-anglais anglais Bar Monsieur Machin, 5 rue St. Léonard, Nantes 20h30, le mardi
Café polyglotte franco-espagnol espagnol Café l’Art Scène, 19 rue du Château, Nantes 21h00, le lundi
Café polyglotte franco-allemand allemand Delhi’s Café, 6 allée d’Orléans, Nantes 20h30, le mercredi

 
photo credit: [phil h] cc

How to prepare for a successful telephone interview

In these days of decentralised workplaces, telecommuting and extreme mobility the traditional face to face interview in an office is increasingly being replaced by telephone or webcam-based interviews.

If English is your second or foreign language, telephone interviews can be particularly challenging. Whether by telephone or face to face, many of the same principles for effective interview technique apply, including the golden rule:

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

In this post we’re going to look at some particularities of preparing for phone and webcam interviews.

What is a phone interview?

Telephone interviews are real interviews, sometimes used as a preliminary interview to sift out applicants who will then be invited for a face-to-face interview.  They may also be used as a final interview in the case where the work is telephone or Internet-based, where telephone skills are paramount, or where you are applying for a job abroad.

The length of phone interviews varies from 20 minutes to about an hour, with the average length being half an hour.  The advantages for the employer: they are time and cost-effective, they test the candidate’s verbal communication skills, and also their ability to cope with the unexpected.  There are also advantages for the candidate: the ease of referring to your CV and application form or letter during the interview, the possibility of being interviewed in a casual or informal environment (in your pyjamas if you prefer!), and the fact that there is no time or money wasted in transport.  Actually – wearing pyjamas is not such a great idea. You will feel more professional if you are seated at a desk, and dressed for action.

Telephone-only interviews have some disadvantages too.  You don’t have the same visual clues to help you gauge the reactions and responses of the interviewer.  They can also seem very short, not allowing much time to think about your answers.  There is not much of a lead-in: very little small talk or ice-breaking at the beginning. Often the interviewer launches straight in to the difficult questions.

What’s the best way to prepare?

If at all possible, make an appointment with a specific time and date for the call.  There is nothing worse than a prospective employer calling you when you are doing your grocery shopping, about to take the dog for a walk, or just hopping out of the shower.  If you are given a general time slot rather than a specific time, ensure you keep your mobile with you, charged, topped up and switched on.  If the interview will be held using a landline that you share with other users (family members, flatmates etc.), ensure you prime anyone who answers the phone to try and sound professional.  You may also want to replace any joke answerphone messages with something you would want a prospective employer to hear, just in case they call at a time you are not able to answer the phone.  You will need as quiet and private a location as possible for the actual interview.

During the interview

 Keep a copy of your application and company information handy, along with what you need to take notes. Where possible access to the Internet may be helpful if you need to check any details about the company, for example.

 Make a list of your USPs – unique selling points.  What makes you better than most of the other people who will be applying?  But don’t just read out your notes – it will make you sound unnatural.

 If not using a webcam, smile as you speak – it will make a positive difference to your tone of voice, and make you sound more lively.  Also, remember to use verbal signals to communicate that you are listening, such as « ok », « uh-huh », « I see », « I understand », « yes » etc.  You can also reflect back what the speaker is saying to show you are listening, with phrases such as « I hear what you’re saying », and « So, if I’ve understood correctly, … »

 Speak clearly, and not too fast.  If English is your second language, remember that SPEED is not the same as FLUENCY.  The interviewer may not be familiar with your accent, and will be more impressed with your clarity than how fast you can speak.  Have a glass of water on hand – you don’t want your voice to crack up at a crucial moment.

 If you know you will be having a series of interviews, immediately after the interview make some notes on the questions you were asked, and think about how you could do better next time.

What questions will I be asked

They will probably be the same as what you could expect in a face to face interview.  Here are some examples of the more difficult typical questions. These are the kinds of questions that, if you don’t prepare the answer, you are unlikely to answer well:

  • Why do you want to work for our organisation / in the job you have applied for?
  • What qualities do you think are important for the role you are applying for?
    KEY POINT: don’t ever talk about qualities without giving evidence to back it up.  It is no use saying you are « motivated » without demonstrating exactly how or why. If there is no proof, you may come across as being superficial.
  • What do we do?
    KEY POINT: don’t bother attending an interview of any kind without first finding out as much as you can about the company.
  • Tell me a time you have demonstrated good teamwork / communication skills etc.
  • Tell me about a time when you have had to cope with pressure.
  • Tell me about a challenge you have faced.  How did you meet this challenge?
  • Tell me about a challenge you faced with a co-worker.
  • What is your greatest strength?
  • Tell me about one of your weaknesses.
  • Why shouldn’t we hire you?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
  • Do you have any questions for us?
    KEY POINT: « No thanks, I’m good » is never an appropriate response to this question.  Make sure you have some intelligent questions to ask the interviewer.

Do you have any other tips for effective interviews over the phone or webcam? What are some of the more difficult interview questions that you have heard? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

For further reading:

How to tackle three of the toughest interview questions.

6 questions to ask during your interview.

 
photo credit: SanShoot cc

Improve your listening comprehension with TED

If you are learning English and you have never heard of TED Talks, you need to stop what you are doing take a look at it right now.  It is a fascinating collection of talks on a huge variety of subjects, each talk with subtitles in a number of different languages, and a transcript to follow with clickable links to navigate your way around the talk.  This makes it an excellent tool for improving your listening comprehension.

Tips for listening with TED.

If you are an advanced learner, all of the talks are accessible.  If you have a lower level, you may find that many of the talks are too long.  You used to be able to search for talks by length, but for some reason this function has been removed.  However, many of the short talks (under 6 minutes) have been tagged « short talk », and you can access a list here (or select view all tags/short talks from the home page).

An example:

One of my engineering students put me onto a short TED Talk entitled How to Start a Movement, by Derek Sivers. Let’s look at how you might use this video for a listening comprehension activity.

1. First activate the English subtitles

TED subtitles for listening comprehension

2. You can also view the whole transcript from the drop-down menu « show transcript ». This becomes especially useful when you want to focus on specific vocabulary in the talk.  For example, in this talk you will hear the word « guts ». After watching the video once you may want to go back to the point in the video where this word was used.  Simply  select ctrl + F (PC) or cmd + F (Mac), type « guts » in the « Find » field, and it will highlight every instance of the word in the transcript. To return to the exact point in the video, simply click on the word « guts », and it will return you to the right spot.

TED talks find key words

What can you do improve your listening skills with this talk?

Focus question:

What are the qualities of a good leader?

Make a list of the top ten qualities, thinking about good and bad leaders you have known.  Now watch the video, and make notes on the following question:

How do the principles in this talk relate to leadership?  What qualities of good leadership are mentioned?

You will notice that there are a number of idioms and phrasal verbs in this talk. For example:

Idioms

  • to have the guts (courage and fortitude; nerve; determination; stamina)
  • lone nut (an eccentric person)
  • tipping point (the crisis stage in a process, when a significant change takes place)
  • to be part of the in-crowd (a group of people sharing similar interests and attitudes, producing feelings of solidarity, community, and exclusivity)
  • recap (short for recapitulate)
  • over-glorified (to honor with praise, admiration, or worship; extol.)
  • gain momentum

Phrasal verbs

  • stand out
  • stick with
  • join in

How are these expressions used in the talk (use the « find » function mentioned above to locate where in the talk they are used)?  Can you guess the meaning from the context?  If not, you can use a good online dictionary such as Dictionary.com to check.

For further vocabulary work, watch the talk again, and make a list of no more than ten new words or expressions, under one of the following categories:

  • the ten words/expressions I find most interesting
  • ten words/expressions I didn’t understand
  • ten words/expressions that summarise the talk

For some writing practice, use the comments below. You could comment on the following:

The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself.

  • Do you agree with this statement?
  • Do you think that leadership is over-glorified?
  • Would you revise any of the qualities of leadership that were mentioned in the beginning?

Finally, note that you can also download the talks to your hard drive for later viewing. This way you won’t have the option of using subtitles or the transcript, however.

Happy viewing!

For more articles related to listening comprehension:

How to use automatic captions to improve your listening skills.  There are many ways of using video clips to improve listening skills. YouTube automatic captions uses voice recognition algorithms to create subtitles.

To learn a language, listen to it first.   The best means to learn a language is through frequent exposure to its sound patterns, even if you haven’t a clue what it all means.

Finding the right words for your writing

Do you write in English?  Do you get tired of using the same old phrases and vocabulary?  Are you looking for a way to spice up your writing style?  Do you agonise over choosing the right word or combinations of words?

JustTheWord is just the tool you need.

There is a ton of online dictionaries and thesauruses out there, but sometimes time doesn’t allow an extensive search for the correct word combination.  JustTheWord combines the usefulness of both dictionaries and thesauruses in one place.  Its database is the 80,000,000 words of the British National Corpus, and it has a powerful and simple search function which produces a list of word clusters for you to choose from.

How can JustTheWord improve your writing?

Writing with JustTheWord 1Say you are writing a description of a new product for a catalogue.  You want to say that the product is « very useful », but on the page that combination looks a bit boring.  To find out what other adverbs you can use with « useful », type the word in the search bar and hit combinations.  You will receive a page with a long list of word clusters. To narrow your search, click on « ADV *useful* » at the top right of the screen, which will lead you to a manageable list of about a dozen examples of adverbs that are used to modify the word « useful ».

You like the feel of « extremely useful » and insert it in your writing.  But later as you are rereading your work, you decide that « useful » doesn’t really do the product justice. What alternatives might there be to this word?  Back to JTW for a second look.  Enter your original phrase « very useful » in the search bar, and this time select alternatives.  This will produce two lists: the list of alternatives to « very » that you have already seen, and a list of adjectives with a similar meaning to « useful » that partner with « very ».  The number beside the word combination indicates the number of times it is found in the corpus, which is also represented visually with a green bar.

Writing with JustTheWord 2The blue bar under each alternative indicates the similarity in meaning between your original phrase and the different combinations.

You decide you like the look of « very beneficial » as an alternative, but to make absolutely sure you’d like to check how the expression is used in actual written text.  Simply click on the expression, and you will see a list of excerpts from actual texts in the corpus where « very » is used with « beneficial ».  This also gives you other useful information, such as the fact that « very beneficial » can be followed by FOR or TO.Writing with JustTheWord 4

Writing with JustTheWord 3Another way that JTW helps you is that it indicates word partnerships that are either rare or simply not used in English writing.  For example, keeping with the « useful » example, you may have heard some English speakers talk about something being « real useful ».  Perhaps you are wondering if this is appropriate in written English, so you enter the phrase into the search bar and select « alternatives ».  It will return a short list of word clusters that indicate with a red bar that the combination « real useful » isn’t found anywhere in the corpus, and is therefore a bad word combination in written English (although we know from your list of « useful » combinations that « really useful » is possible).

Other ways that JTW can be used for better writing by both learners and teachers.

As a learner, if you keep a vocabulary notebook (which you should!), rather than just writing lists of words, you will retain new vocabulary better if you also write a definition and an example sentence.  JustTheWord is great for finding authentic example sentences.  Furthermore, we often remember new words better in word partnerships.

An example:

Imagine you have just learnt the word « confidence ».  JTW can show you other nouns that are regularly used in partnership with this word, thanks to the number showing the frequency of use.  If your focus is business English, you can record the following in your vocabulary notebook: « business confidence » and « consumer confidence ». You will see that « no confidence » and « self confidence » are also common.

As a teacher, you may be preparing a lesson on collocations or word partnerships, but don’t have time to dig through a dictionary or thesaurus.  Simply enter your key words into JTW, and you have a ready made list of collocations to choose from.

I’m sure you’ll agree that JTW is a very useful, extremely helpful, really beneficial, particularly valuable and especially practical tool!

Can you think of other ways to use it? Why don’t you share your ideas in the comments?

photo credit: eyesore9 cc

American or British? Divided by a common language

That’s what Winston Churchill said about the Americans and the British.  George Bernard Shaw referred to American English as a « foreign language », and Oscar Wilde quipped:

We and the Americans have much in common, but there is always the language barrier.

I am often asked if it’s better to use American or British English.  I remember being surprised when I first came to France that people routinely refer to them as two different languages, as in : « Are you learning American or English? » This is reinforced by language schools offering courses in « American English ».

Just how different are they? I was watching a quebecois film the other day, and although after 14 years in France I am very comfortable understanding spoken French, I probably only caught one word in two of the broad Canadian French accent. Surely English on the two sides of the Atlantic can’t be as different as French?

Well, it all depends where you go. The term « American English » is deceptive – which « American English » are we referring to?  You put a Minnesotan and a New Yorker in the same room and you may wonder if they are speaking the same language.  Well, slight exaggeration, but accents and vocabulary vary widely.

And then there’s « British English » – in some parts of England you only need to drive a few miles to hear accents change dramatically, and even such basic language building blocks as personal pronouns aren’t always consistent.  Go to Yorkshire where you can still hear people use « thou » instead of « you« .

As a New Zealander I generally say I speak « British English » when asked, but then hear myself saying « sidewalk » instead of « pavement » (or the more kiwi « footpath« ) and there is often a conspicuous /k/ in my pronunciation of « schedule« . I guess I’m just linguistically confused…

The fact of the matter is that in our day of globalisation you can get away with a variety of different ways of speaking English.  In France I tend to teach sentences like: « Have you been to the doctor yet?« , knowing full well that one day my student will be in the US and hear someone say « Did you go to the doctor yet?« , and will at that point have to decide whether his teacher really knew what he was talking about, or whether Americans have just got it wrong.  The truth is that both forms are completely correct, depending on which side of the Atlantic you’re on, whether you’re American or British.  I have to admit I still balk when an American friend assures me that « If I’d have known you were coming, I’d have baked a cake » (I’m tempted to do my teacher thing and say, « If I KNEW you were coming!« ), but even there, that « mistake » is so widespread – who am I to say that this is not « standard » English, as it certainly is standard in parts of the world.

Choosing American or British?  My advice for learners:

1. Be consistent. Adopt the grammatical habits and vocabulary of one region and stick to them as much as possible.

2. Learn regional varieties. Not that you have to use the different forms yourself, but it’s useful to recognise them so as not to be completely lost when faced with someone who has a different variety of English.

3. Don’t stress about it! The differences are fairly superficial, and any misunderstandings are quickly straightened out.

4. If you are a foreigner living in an English speaking country, why not adopt the local speech patterns?  Regional variations make a language rich – it’s boring if everyone speaks the same way.  I recently met a German living in South Africa, and it was wonderful to hear her say things like « all raht » (for « all right« ), « is it? », « hectic« , and « pshaw » – made a nice change from the standard German English accent!

So aside from the obvious accent and vocabulary differences, here are a few lesser known British-American equivalents to add to your list:

British American
bedsitter studio appartment
beetroot beet
bumf paperwork
capsicum green pepper
codswallop nonsense
crisps chips
drawing pin thumbtack
flannel washcloth
fish slice spatula
grotty shabby
jacket potato baked potato
motorway freeway / turnpike
nappy diaper
outgoings expenses
pillar box mailbox
surgery doctor’s office

If you have any more to add to the list, write them in the comments.

Photo Credit: Chris Turner Photography cc

First language class adapted for live online teaching

To teachers and students who are new to live online language learning, I often say that anything you can imagine doing in a real classroom, you can also do in a Virtual Learning Environment, or virtual classroom – except better!  Well, perhaps a slight exaggeration, but it is quite true that there is no shortage of ideas for adapting language teaching material to the online environment.

When it comes to ideas for language teaching, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Most language teaching activities and methods are just adaptations of old favourites that have been circulated in various incarnations for years, and are easily personalised with a tweak here and there. However, teaching live online does require a little originality to adapt activities to the virtual environment.

So over a few blog posts we’re going to look at some of the classic favourites for first classes, and see how we might adapt them to a virtual learning environment.

Wordling Me.

I think I am indebted to Karenne Sylvester for this idea, and I have used it for many first classes.

Object: introducing the teacher
Language input: practicing various question forms
Skills input: oral fluency

Think of about 15 words or short phrases that illustrate an aspect of your life. For example, you may choose « peanuts », « 14 » and « Somerset Maugham », if you happen to be allergic to peanuts, you have been in your present job for 14 years, and Somerset Maugham is your favourite short story writer.

For best visual effect in a virtual classroom, make a Wordle of your list of words/phrases. Remember that to ensure that words belonging to the same phrase don’t get separated, you need to connect them with a tilde (~). Once the wordle has been created you can modify it to your liking using the font, layout and colour menus. Although it is possible to save a wordle to a public gallery with a link, I generally find it easier to create a .pdf using the print menu, or simply to make a screenshot. Once you have your image saved somewhere convenient for easy access, you can easily upload it to whatever virtual classroom you are using, or share it over Skype or by E-mail. A recent example of my own is at the top of this post.

Timesaver tip:

With visuals I know I am going to use again, I generally insert them into a powerpoint that I can add other materials to for a ready made class. It’s great to be able to upload all the materials you need in one go, rather than having to create individual slides each time you prepare for a class.

Once you have introduced the task, your student needs to begin asking you questions until they manage to elicit from you the exact answer. Take « peanuts », for example:

Student: Do you like peanuts?
Teacher: No. (It generally takes a few tries before they realise that of course closed questions are not going to get them anywhere)
Student: Hmmm. What is your favourite food?
Teacher: Pizza.
Student: OK, what did you have for breakfast?
Teacher: Cereal. (At this point you might offer a clue – « Actually, I really don’t like peanuts).
Student: Oh, OK. What food don’t you like.
Teacher: Brussels sprouts 🙂
Student: Or, what food are you allergic to?
Teacher: Peanuts!

The above example conversation would be for Intermediate level students and above, but the exercise can be adapted to any level, and you can decide as the teacher what level of accuracy you are shooting for.

The exercise easily leads into work on the grammar of question forms, so if your wordle is already in a powerpoint you can just add slides with your question forms exercises and you have a reusable class all ready to go.
It can also be extended into an oral fluency exercise by asking the students to create their own list of words or phrases, and having their partner question them in the same way.

La formation langues à l’abri de la crise

De toute évidence, le secteur de formation professionnelle continue, et notamment la formation langues, se porte plutôt bien malgré le climat économique maussade.   Selon la 5e édition du baromètre de la formation professionnelle, réalisé par Place de la formation et publié en février, l’anglais demeure le numéro un des demandes de formation professionnelle.  Avec une augmentation de 11% de demande de formation en langues étrangères par rapport à 2011, dont un quart concernant l’anglais,  les professionnels français ne sont peut être pas aussi mauvaises élèves en langues que l’on peut croire.  Plus que 50% des demandes de DIF (droit individuel à la formation) concernent l’apprentissage de langues.

Le fait que crise économique rime avec croissance dans le secteur de la formation professionnelle suit un certain logique.  Quand la pérennité de l’emploi est incertaine, pour mettre toutes les chances de leur côté, les actifs cherchent à se former.  Et quand il y a moins de commandes dans l’entreprise, on peut rentabiliser le temps qui se libère pour acquérir de nouvelles compétences.

Les formateurs en langues constatent que tous les stagiaires ne se servent pas forcément de langues étrangères dans le cadre de leur travail.  D’ailleurs, un grand nombre de stagiaires en DIF s’inscrivent pour des formations en langues pour des raisons personnelles.  Ce n’est pas uniquement pour des raisons d’ordre purement pratique que l’on poursuit des études de langues.  L’apprentissage d’une langue, mise à part son utilité évidente dans la communication au delà des frontières, est un entraînement intellectuel qui peut être bénéfique à plusieurs niveaux.

Les chercheurs ont découvert que les étudiants de langues présentent une croissance cérébrale nettement plus perceptible relative aux étudiants d’autres matières telle que la médecine.  Selon une étude publiée dans le journal Neuroimage, plus l’apprenant développe ses compétences en langues, plus il y a de croissance dans les domaines du cortex cérébral qui traitent le langage.  Il reste à découvrir les raisons exactes de cette corrélation, mais on peut en déduire qu’il n’existe pas de meilleur programme de fitness cérébral que l’apprentissage d’une langue.

Et si on apprenait une langue pour se faire plaisir?  Nous sommes motivés par les choses dans la vie qui nous font plaisir, et si on ne prend pas plaisir à communiquer dans une langue étrangère, il est difficile d’avancer.  La pression occasionnée par l’obligation de passer un test en anglais pour satisfaire aux exigences d’un employeur, ou de faire une présentation d’un produit en allemand lors d’une réunion avec des clients, n’est pas forcément la carotte dont nous avons besoin pour nous inciter à aller plus loin dans nos exploits linguistiques.  Par contre, le sentiment de satisfaction que l’on peut éprouver après un échange efficace avec un locuteur natif de la langue que nous sommes en train d’apprendre est une motivation extraordinaire.  Apprendre une langue est, avant tout, drôlement enrichissant.

N’hésitez pas à prendre contact avec nous pour que nous puissions échanger concernant vos objectifs en apprentissage de langue, afin de mettre en place un programme de formation qui vous correspond.

photo credit: Kaplan International Colleges, cc

Make your CV more dynamic with action verbs

When a prospective employer is working his way through a huge stack of CVs on his desk, for the sake of time he has no choice but to find a quick way of singling out the three or four best candidates.  It seems quite arbitrary, but there are certain phrases that make CVs likely candidates for the bin, such as:

I worked with…

I was responsible for…

An employer doesn’t want to know what you were responsible for.  They want to know exactly what you did and what those actions produced.  A good CV expresses work experience in a dynamic, interesting way, and as briefly as possible.  A varied vocabulary might also be more effective in convincing an employer of your English skills than a TOEIC or IELTS score.

This is where action verbs come in.  Some examples of work experience, and verbs you might consider using:

 Imagine you developed a campaign for saving energy at your university.  Instead of developed…

Launched / Designed / Implemented / Championed / Pioneered / Masterminded a campaign for campus energy saving.

 Let’s say you organised classes in computer skills for a voluntary organisation.  Instead of organised…

Managed / Introduced / Directed / Orchestrated / Spearheaded a programme to train job-seekers in basic computer skills.

 Or perhaps you were involved in a new procedure for dealing with complaints the tourism industry.  Instead of I was responsible for…

Established / Streamlined / Formulated / Generated / Structured a new procedure for logging complaints for hotel receptionists.

You’ll notice that in each of the above examples there is no subject in the sentence.  It is common in CVs to omit the subject, and start the sentence with a past simple verb – indicating that you are referring to a past experience with a past time reference (usually because the CV is organised chronologically).

There is a wealth of other action verbs you could use to spice up your CV:

exceeded

generated

leveraged

maximised

mentored

optimised

engineered

rejuvenated

designed

prepared

chaired

drew up

researched

analysed

etc.

A few tools that may help

Thesaurus.com

Visual Thesaurus

Just the word (useful for checking collocations or word partnerships, with examples of how different nouns and verbs are associated).

Europass CV template  (this won’t help you with vocabulary, but is a useful template for getting started in CV writing).

Action verbs will definitely make your CV stand out.  Have you found any other similar tools to help you expand your vocabulary?  Let us know about them in the comments.

Photo credit: the Italian voice, cc

Stages d’anglais accéléré

Vous sentez-vous bloqué en anglais?

Avez-vous constaté qu’un enfant a peu de difficultés à intégrer une deuxième langue, et encore moins sa langue maternelle?  En règle générale un enfant écoute la langue de ses parents pour un à deux ans avant de commencer à parler cette langue (et six à sept ans avant de l’écrire).

Par la suite, les difficultés de l’apprentissage peuvent  se situer au niveau de l’oreille.  Dans la plupart des cursus scolaires nous sommes contraints de produire la langue cible bien avant que notre oreille soit affutée aux fréquences spécifiques de la nouvelle langue.

Pour cette raison nous travaillons en partenariat avec le Centre Tomatis de Nantes, spécialistes de la méthode Tomatis: une pédagogie de l’écoute par l’entrainement des muscles de l’oreille moyenne.   Ensemble nous proposons des stages intensifs d’anglais accéléré, combinant exercises d’entraînement de l’oreille avec une pédagogie de langues intéractive et adapté au monde de travail.  Les résultats d’une étude Européenne (Audio-Lingua), dans le cadre du programme européen SOCRATES, menée sur 3 ans (1993-1996) auprès de différentes universités, montrent que la méthode Tomatis permet un gain de 50% sur le temps d’intégration, comparé aux autres méthodes d’enseignement.

Dates: 11 – 15 février, 2013

            8 – 12 avril, 2013

Lieu: Au Centre Tomatis de Nantes, 44 rue de Gigant, 44100 NANTES (parking privé)

Nombre de stagiaires: 6 maximum

Programme journalier type:

    • 9:30 – Entraînement à l’écoute
    • 11:00 – Cours d’anglais
    • 12:30 – Déjeuner anglophone (avec le formateur)
    • 13:30 – Cours d’anglais
    • 15:00 – Entraînement à l’écoute, intégration

Le stage de 30 heures de formation peut être pris en charge par un OPCA, sous réserve d’acceptation du dossier.

Programme détaillé des stages d’anglais en partenariat avec le Centre Tomatis.

Informations supplémentaires sur l’application de la méthode Tomatis à l’apprentissage des langues.


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