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News Flash for English Learners

We are very proud to have launched a brand new service for our Student Plan and Pro Plan subscribers. News Flash is an amazing new learning aid that makes news for English leaners even more useful and effective.

If you are learning English then you will know how useful news articles can be. They are an interesting way to learn new phrases and vocabulary, they are a great talking point around which you can practice your English with other students, friends and family and they can be very useful for people learning English for business.

However, no matter how useful news articles can be it is often hard to find news specifically written for people learning English. Often news for English learners can be out of date and not very useful as news. Not with Perfectly Spoken! News Flash is a news service for English learners that is powered by news coming direct from Reuters so you know it is accurate, unbiased and up to date!

Real and Authentic

News is not only topical and a good learning aid it also helps English learners understand and use real and authentic phrases and words. Real news uses real words and the vocabulary people use in it are up to date and real. Real language is so important when learning English, it helps students understand the English native speakers use and good quality English news is a great place to get this kind of content. Not only is our news real it is also high quality from one of the best news agencies in the world.

So Much More than Just News!

Of course, you can expect the latest news articles, video and audio stories but we are offering more than just a chance to learn about what is happening in the world. Our News Flash service also has special tasks carefully created for Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced English students. These tasks help you understand more, learn and comprehend new vocabulary and phrases and test yourself to see how well you did. We carefully select news stories and then create tasks for each learning level; this means no matter what English level you are you can understand and learn using our News Flash service.

A Few Minutes

We know most people do not have hours to read the news. we know that most people learning English online are doing so along side working or studying. So our News Flash stories and short and direct. They only take a few minutes to read or watch and then you can take the test to see how much you have learned.

Find Out More

If you would like to find out more about News Flash – Powered by Reuters then please Click Here. This amazing new service is available to Student Plan and Pro Plan Subscribers along with hours of the best quality online English lessons available, tests, useful additional content and more.

 

 

The Summer is over and things are turning cold – Useful Winter English Vocabulary

If you are learning English and have any experience with British people you will know that they like to talk about the weather a lot. There are lots of jokes about how British and English people enjoy talking about the weather and moaning about it too! So we thought it would be a good time to write a blog post about some useful words British people use to talk about colder weather. While Summer in the UK is often not as long or hot as many other places in the world it is still something people look forward too and something people are often unhappy when it is over. It is now nearly October and Autumn is here and things are getting colder!

Chilly – This is a common word that simply means cold. It is used in many different situations and can be used in formal or informal settings. “It is very chilly today”  – Someone would say this to another person to say it is cold. Chilly is used to describe cold but not extreme cold. Chilly can also be used in a building or home to say it is a little bit cold.

Freezing  – “It’s freezing out there!” This term is used to describe more intense cold. The word actually means when a liquid turns to a solid – water into ice, but as with many British words this one is over stated to make a point. In many cases it may not actually be “freezing” but people use the term to explain it is very cold. Someone may walk into a room and say “I’m frozen” – they do not mean they are literally turning to ice, but they are telling you they feel very cold.

Pouring – It often rains in the UK and there are a lot of different words for rain commonly used by people. “It’s pouring out there” is a very common way to talk about how much it is raining and can be used in any situation. This term is actually common in American English too. It can be used in conjunction with the word down “it’s pouring down” or just on it’s own. There is a traditional children’s rhyme that uses this term:

“it’s raining it’s pouring, the old man is snoring, he went to be and bumped his head and couldn’t get up in the morning”

Chucking it down – This is term more associated with friends and family. It is not a formal term but means it is raining a lot. Someone may walk into a pub and say “it’s chucking it down out there”. This would mean there is a lot of rain and not just a small amount.

Drizzle  – This is a very common word for light rain. Drizzle is light, fine, small droplets of rain and can get you quite wet if you stay out in it. People may use this to say it’s not raining very much Person A – “It’s pouring out there” Person B – “no it inst, it’s only drizzle” This could be a normal disagreement about how much it is raining.

Blowing a Gale – A gale is a strong wind over around 40 mph. If it feels very windy people may say “It’s blowing a gale out there”. They may not know how fast the wind speed is but may just use this term to explain there is a strong wind.

If you are learning English for work, travel or to move to an English speaking country some of these words may be very useful, especially if you are planning to visit the UK!

 

E learning and its role in English Language Teaching

With predictions of growth to a total spend of $250bn by 2020, EdTech is clearly a global phenomenon and has growing implications for the future of English Language Teaching

(ELT)

But what is E Learning and Ed Tech?

EdTech stands for Educational Technology. Sometimes referred to as EduTech or e learning. In general terms it covers any form of teaching or learning that embraces technology

At its heart, the aim of EdTech is to improve the student’s learning experience by making the learning processes more efficient and/or effective. And by integrating technology into education a much more diverse learning environment can be created. This may also result in quite fundamental changes in approaches to pedagogy.

The Advantages of E Learning

Apart from learning a subject through technology and potentially improving a student’s tech skills at the same time, it is argued that EdTech allows for more individualised learning as students work at their own pace

Potentially, it also ‘democratises’ education by allowing more students, more access to more educational content, and potentially from almost anywhere. This can then also result in benefits of time, cost and convenience.

Studies also show that there is an increasing acceptance of online educational qualifications in the workplace even if in reality this is still relatively low in comparison to more traditional qualifications, especially when those qualifications may be potentially career changing.

In addition, research shows that educational apps generally have a positive impact on learning and interestingly apps that encourage feedback and collaboration can help improve group work and it is argued that in fact a blended approach can result in students learning more than with traditional approaches and in less time.

In the world of ELT It is perhaps no surprise then that language learning apps like babbel, busuu and especially duolingo with its almost addictive elements of gamification have become so popular

The Disadvantages of E Learning

One of the major drawbacks can be unrealistic expectations in terms of what the service can actually deliver and how dramatic those changes and improvements will actually prove to be to the learner. Perhaps this is why there are calls for more of the focus of the results to be centred on the learner’s interaction with the technology … not the technology itself. Technology is wonderful, it is a facilitator by which content, and in this case educational content can be delivered to a learner. But in the end, it is the content that is inseparable from the learning outcome

Then there are ‘sociocultural’ questions around the impact on students of working individually rather than socially or collaboratively and being more easily distracted. While students and teachers alike appreciate the convenience of Edtech many prefer and benefit from greater engagement in face to face learning environments

E Learning and Cheating

And of course, there is the potential for taking short cuts or even cheating. This can happen in terms of the learning process itself (fast forward to the next task, this one is boring) However the equivalent can happen in any learning process and it’s really the learner who is cheating himself.

Testing and Accreditation

More significantly is the important question of testing and assessing accurately; the results of which can be career-defining for the learner and so critical to the reputation of the awarding body. Online providers can currently provide self-certification (like with continuing professional development programmes where the user attests to have completed a course of studies) and technologies are being developed to ensure that a candidate is actually who she claims to be. For the moment at least, in the context of English Language learning, Cambridge Assessment English, the providers of the world’s leading range of qualifications and tests for learners of English (including the prestigious IELTS and Cambridge exams) insist that these exams can be prepared for online, but must be taken offline.

The Future

Despite the drawbacks it’s clear that Edtech is here to stay: technology is disrupting industries everywhere and clear the education sector in general and ELT in particular, are no exceptions.

 

 

Why It’s OK to Ask People to Speak Slowly or Repeat Something in a Business Meeting

When you are learning English for business there will come a time where you are using you new skill in a business meeting. The meeting could be online via Skype, on the phone or in person, it could be a presentation and it can be tough! But do not worry, the challenges are something a lot of people go through and they are not something to be embarrassed about. In this blog we look at some of the issues around asking people to slow down and help you understand.

The Same Thing Twice

What a lot of people do when asked to repeat something because someone doesn’t understand is say the same thing again. This is really no help at all. They think you simply may not have heard them properly but the real reason to ask them to repeat is that you didn’t understand the terms or vocab they used. It is important to state this when asking them to repeat. It is perfectly OK to say “sorry, I don’t understand that phrase, can you explain” rather than saying “sorry, I didn’t get that”

Accents

People from different parts of any country will speak differently. But people learning English who live in different countries will also speak differently. So how someone speaks can be a really big challenge in a business meeting. It may be you are talking to a English company but you find the accent very hard to understand. It is not offensive to politely say “I am very sorry, I find your lovely accent hard to understand”. You can complement them on it and ask where they are from and most people will be happy to talk about their home town and help you understand them. It may be useful to ask any colleagues before the meeting about any strong accents so you can prepare a little or have them be ready to help you if you get stuck.

Details and Notes

There are certain points that come up in meetings that are important. it might be an e mail address or a website, it could be a phone number or some important meeting points. It is really important you are confident you have the correct details in this situation. Do not be afraid to ask the person to slow down while you write it all down and then confirm the details. On online meetings you can ask someone to simply write these details in the chat window to make sure they are correct. But getting it wrong because you didn’t ask to clarify could cause problems later on. Be confident and make sure you have the right details.

Slow Down

Most business meetings would benefit from everyone slowing down and making sure all the point are covered properly. It is important you are feel confident to ask other team members or clients to slow down so you can understand them properly. You are learning a new language and it is something to be proud of, but you cannot learn it all from the beginning. Most people will be happy to go over anything and help support you, and that bit of extra time is far better than a list of confused notes and mistakes because you chose not to say say you didn’t understand.

 

Sing Your Way to Better English

It may seem silly but music can help when learning English just as much as movies can. Singing can also help make you happy and singing is very healthy even if you don’t think you are very good at it.

Singing and Vocab

Most popular songs are sung with a wide range of both good and bad pronunciation. You can listen to one song and understand what they are singing about then another song comes on and it makes no sense at all. This is why it can be so helpful, well partly. By listening to vocab sung in songs by all sorts of different voices and styles you will build up your experience with those words. The great thing with the internet is that you can look up the words any time. So sing along, learn the words if you can but check online so you know what the words are and what they mean. It can be a great way to not only learn new words but learn new slang and regional words too.

Happy Learning

Singing and music can really help with happiness and even during a learning period a music break can help you study a lot better. Obviously playing really loud music while trying to follow one of our online English lessons isn’t going to work but you can pause the lesson if you need a rest and sing a long to a song with English lyrics as a break. Singing is also proven to be very good for your health, so having a good sing can have many benefits.

Sings to Help You Remember

Another great way to use singing is to help you remember vocabulary and other parts of the English language. You may find it hard to remember a set of verbs or just a few new words. If you put them to the tune of your favourite song and sing it all day you will find it far easier to remember them for your next lesson.

Watching movies in English is certainly very helpful and should be something you do as often a you can but why not mix things up a bit and bring some English speaking music into your learning. There are lots of places to hear music but YouTube may be a good free place to start. Also apps like Spotify work very well. You can also make playlists for friends who are learning English too and challenge each other to work out what the words all mean.

Learning English can be tough but it can also be fun and adding music, movies, games and more will really help you learn more and learn faster.

 

Are your Children Better at Learning Languages than You?

It has long been held that children are much better at learning languages than adults – after all, it is children who are able to learn and master their mother-tongue so capably, while many adults struggle pick up a few basic words when they go on holiday. This is why it is often encouraged for children to start language lessons as early as possible, to take advantage of their natural learning gifts.

However, in actuality, children are not better at learning languages than adults – it is just that children and adults learn languages in different ways.

A Simpler Vocabulary

One reason that children can appear to be better language learners than adults is because their lives are inherently simpler and they require a much smaller vocabulary and arsenal of tenses in order to communicate. Adults are able to communicate in far more complicated ways, and as such they require a much broader understanding of a language in order to appear fluent.

It isn’t quite right to assume that just because children are more quickly able to get their point across in a foreign language, that means that they are learning the language. Rather that it is simpler for them to make their points.

Doesn’t Age Affect Learning Skills?

It is another misconception to think that as we age, our powers of learning naturally diminish. In fact, this is not the case at all, and people are able to pick up new skills at any time in their life. The only reason that children appear to have better learning skills is that the simply have more to learn, and childhood is a time of intense learning.

The only issues that typically affect someone’s ability to learn a language as they get older are their hearing and their vision – both of which are typically perfect in children.

Different Ways to Learn

One of the major issues surrounding adults learning languages is that they often try to learn in the same way as children. However, this is typically less effective. Children benefit enormously from classroom sessions as well as lots of repetition and reading. However, it is more valuable for adults to learn in a way that establishes meaning they can associate with real life.

This is why it is generally preferable for adults to learn in less formal group setting, where there is less of an intensive student-teacher relationship, but rather a chance to all learn together. Adults also learn better using online learning where children would not have the discipline to take all the lessons and practice.

A Simple Guide to Brexit Vocabulary

Whatever country you are in you have probably heard about Britain leaving the EU. It is a very complex situation and people learning English with a view to working or studying in the UK or with people from the UK may find it useful to understand a bit more about it. Some people are very passionate about this subject and can get angry about different sides of the argument. It is really important to be careful about discussing this topic with people from the UK at work or other places. However, understanding some of the key terms used can be very useful!

Here is a short list of the main vocabulary and terms used when talking about Brexit. Understanding and being able to use these terms will make understanding Brexit a lot easier.

Article 50

When the UK joined the EU it agreed to all the rules and Article 50 is part of the agreement that allows any country to leave the EU. An article is simply part of an agreement like a chapter of a book.

No Deal

This simply means that the UK will leaving the European Union with no agreement relating to trade or anything else. This is an extreme situation and one that many people fear while others feel it would be OK.

WTO Rules

The WTO is the World Trade Organisation. This organisation sets trade fees that countries who do not have a trade agreement use. It is a base line way of doing business with any country when no discussions and agreements are made. Often WTO rules are more expensive than trade deals agreed between countries so buying and selling with countries under the WTO rules costs more.

Transition Period

Transition means change and this period of time after the UK leaves the EU was agreed to help both sides plan how their relationship would work. For the transition period to be started the UK would need to agree the plan Theresa May had negotiated with the EU. During this period the UK could not have any kind of say in any EU laws but would still have to abide by the existing rules.

Backstop

This is one a lot of people have heard of but most people do not understand. At the moment Ireland is split into two countries; Northern Ireland which is part of the UK and The Republic of Ireland which is a separate country. At the moment there is no border between the two countries so goods and people can move freely. Because the Republic of Ireland is in the EU and wants to stay there there is a lot of confusion about if there should be a border once the UK leaves the EU. The backstop is a an agreement between the UK and EU that there will be no Irish border during the transition period while a solution is found. It is a very contentious issue and one that it is best to avoid talking about.

Brexit is very complex but it will be an important part of UK history and whatever happens will affect living an working in the UK for millions of people for many years to come. Learning about it while learning English may be useful.

Spring in the UK

As many of you will know, the British love talking about the weather. not only do they love talking about it, they also like moaning about it when it isn’t very good. Winter in Britain can be very rainy, cold and dark and, for a lot of British people, it is not a season they enjoy. While some areas do get snow and this can be fun as well as disruptive to work and school most places just get a lot of rain. So it is around this time every year when the British start seeing the signs of spring and begin looking forward to the summer!

Signs of Spring

Signs of spring int he UK are important for a lot of people. One of the first signs that spring is coming is that some flowers start to grow. Small white flowers called snow drops are often the first and these often flower in late winter. Also Daffodils and Crocuses are sure signs that spring is on the way. You will see yellow Daffodils on the sides of roads, in parks and many other places as spring starts. Other signs that spring is on the way include sunshine! There really isn’t very much sun in the winter in the UK so bright sunny and cold mornings and days are enjoyed by everyone. One of the nicest signs of spring is the birds singing. From mid February the song birds like Thrushes will start to sing in the morning and during the day and it is a wonderful sound. Another favourite in the UK is the first lambs of the season. As you drive past a field full of sheep you begin to see more and more babies as Spring starts to arrive.

Winter Still Holds On

February and March are certainly months where the UK sees some signs of Spring but they are also months that can be very cold and snowy in some places. Winter still hangs on throughout these months and seems to battle with Spring – one day it can be sunny the next cold, wet and windy again. It is a time of change and one that British people get quite excited about.

Thinking of Summer

Summer is a very important season in the UK. It certainly does not get as hot as many other countries and it can often rain but it is the warmest season the UK has so it is one that people get very excited about. As Spring arrives everyone begins thinking of days by the beach, swimming, warm sunny picnics and treats like ice cream! As this blog is being written in mid February, Summer is still a few months away and while the weather is bright and sunny the British winter may not be over yet and if it comes back again for a few more days the British people will take great pleasure in grumbling about it.

If you are planning to work, study or simply visit the UK the weather will play a big part in your stay. It can rain all day in the middle of summer, it can be bright and sunny in late winter or be dark wet and cold! Learning English and visiting Britain always involves lots of words about weather!

 

3 Foods That British People Love and American People Don’t

When you are learning English you will probably being watching a lot of movies with American actors and listening to a lot of American music. It is very common for people learning English to actually learn American English rather than the more traditional BBC style British English. English people certainly have a lot in common with Americans and share many of the same traditions, music, books, movies and more. But one thing that is often very different is the food. While everyone loves a Pizza or a Burger there are some very British foods that American people don’t like or even understand.

Beans on Toast

While Americans certainly like eating beans of all varieties the traditional British canned baked beans are not as popular. Americans do eat what the British would call baked beans but they do not have them served on toast and find the concept very strange. Beans on toast is a very traditional, simple and low cost meal in the UK, it is eaten right across the social classes from low income families to wealthy people. it is often thought of as a childhood meal and something people think of with happy comforting memories. The idea is simple; heat up some baked beans in a saucepan or in the microwave, toast one or two slices of bread and then pour the beans over the toast. Some people like some cheese on top of this and putting butter on the toast first in optional. In the USA this meal is never eaten and is considered quite unusual if not totally strange.

Marmite

Marmite is a yeast extract used for spreading on toast or to make sandwiches. Even in the UK it is something that some people love and others hate. It has a very strong taste but in terms of British foods Marmite is something no other country seems to like. Australia has it’s own version called Vegemite which is very similar in flavour. In America Marmite is very hard to buy and most people have never even heard of it. You can find YouTube videos of people from America tasting it which can be very funny!

Scotch Egg

While the name suggests the Scotch Egg is Scottish it is eaten right across the UK. If you have not heard of this snack it is a cooked egg wrapped in minced sausage meat, covered in bread crumbs and then fried in oil. The result is a round ball that can be eaten as a snack, part of a light meal or part of a picnic. Once again, the Scotch egg is not something anyone in America understands. While people in the US like sausage and eggs and they certainly like deep frying food they don’t seem to understand why British people would create this snack as a ball.

If you are learning English and planning to live, work or study in Britain or America you may find it useful to understand some of the big differences in language and lifestyle.

3 Easy Ways to Make Friends in the UK

If you are planning on coming the UK to work or to study then making friends is going to be really important. Being away from your friends at home and your family can be tough and building a range of new people to speak to and hang out with is really good for your happiness as well as your English learning.

Work vs School

If you are coming to the UK to study you may find you make friends very easily in class, you may find there are people from your country or even town studying too. If you are coming to the UK to work it can be a little harder to make friends so it is important to make an effort to create relationships.

Just Say Yes!

A great way to start making friends is to be confident and say yes if you are invited out. If someone at work asks you to come out with the team for a drink, just say yes. It is important to be safe and tell someone if you are going out alone with someone you do not know very well. But being brave and going out with new people at work is a great way to start making friends. They may not all be people you become close with but it is a great start point.

Join Groups and Classes

You may already have a hobby like Yoga, or Cycling so have a look on Facebook or ask the local bike shop or gym if there are any groups locally. By joining groups of people who enjoy the same things you can very easily start making friends. Shared interests are the best way to get talking.

Do Things

While joining a group can be a great way to meet people so is simply getting out there and doing things you enjoy. If you like jogging…go jogging and you may find you can say hello to some people who run in the same place as you. Go to the gym and get talking to people. If you do not have any hobbies then try going to a comedy club or a wine tasting event, take a cooking class or something similar. By being active and around other people you will naturally start forming conversations and these can lead to friendships. Why not check out our Facebook page and see if there are any people local to you that you can meet up with and talk about learning English?

By making new friends you will find your English learning will improve. Even speaking with other people who are learning can be really useful. Making friends can be hard but it is worth the effort.