About HELLO English
This blog is about HELLO English: a small but perfectly formed language school based in Birmingham, in the English Midlands.
We teach English to students of all stages and ages, and from all around the world.
Read about the lovely people who come to study with us, and how they overcome the problems that this weird and wonderful country throws at them.
Oh, and please add your thoughts and comments to our blogs.
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Looking through some language advertisements recently, I saw one I hadn’t been expecting: Free English Lessons! Now, I know that the world and their best friend are offering English lessons in these troublesome times, but free lessons? I had to find out more.
On further reading, it turned out that the advertiser was offering English conversation classes free to anyone who was prepared to walk up and down on his back while wearing high heels! This is certainly a novel approach to pedagogy, but not one that I would advocate for the serious student of English.
So, with so many people offering to teach English, what should a student look for when choosing where to study?
There are two types of factors to consider: those that cannot be controlled (your location, age or budget) and those where you have a real choice: the qualifications, experience and professionalism of your teachers.
For example, on the one hand, the students who come to HELLO English do so because they either live here, or were happy to come here for their course. On the other, they chose to come to us because they liked our combination of qualifications, maturity, professionalism and commitment to teaching English.
What our competitors don’t have, and what our students won’t see, perhaps, is our fantastic range of qualifications in foreign language pedagogy, including up-to-date language qualifications (CELTA 2012) and post-graduate studies in linguistics and philology.
Let’s be clear, though. You do not need to be an expert in grammatology or onomastics to speak sparkling, crisp English. But, if you want to teach students how to use such elegant expression, and to enable them to spring from stumble to fluency, then some serious qualifications in language and teaching will be needed.
On my philology course, we learned about phonetics, poetics, syntax and semantics, among other things, and I use this knowledge every day as an English teacher. But, do I really need to know the difference between prescriptive and descriptive grammars in order to teach about the present continuous tense?
Well, yes, actually. If you want to be able to answer your students’ questions with more than a simple ‘…because that is what the book says…’, you need to know as much as possible about the English language. You should be so fascinated that you live and breathe intelligent insights to convey to your students.
So, students should take care to choose not just cheap teachers (cheap at what cost?) but, rather, teachers who are experienced, well qualified, professional and committed to teaching English.
Elegant English is much like a swan. A great deal of hard work has to be done before you can glide gracefully through the choppy waters of linguistic life.
If you would like to swim smoothly through your English lessons, choose someone who really knows their subject. Talk to HELLO English today about conversation classes or Cambridge exams, IELTS or A-levels.
Jump Aboard: The financial benefits of investing in You as the economy picks up.
What are better language skills worth to you? Will investing in English classes transform your bank account?
Looking at the latest issue of The Economist, I am struck by the powerful case made in their leader article for nurturing the recovery in the UK economy through considered investment.
Apparently, all of us – governments, companies and individuals – need to start spending sensibly again. But, while the Cabinet tries to decide how to invest for growth, how do we make similar strategic decisions?
Famously, you get ‘owt for nowt’* in this life so, if we want to progress, we will need to invest in our own careers. This is as true for me at 54 as it is for my kids at university, and learning new languages is money well spent.
How does that work for me? Well, I go to French classes each week, which helps me think about how I use language. Also, my extra linguistic ability allows me to see things differently and increases my confidence in communicating, both in French and my other languages.
But the best option for the non-native English speaker is going to be improving their English. That is simply the best strategic investment anyone can make in language-learning.
There is a direct link between the quality of your English and your earning power. Those who communicate well tend to do well. They are always able to put their point of view across in an interesting and persuasive way. In almost every situation, they have the advantage because they know how to express themselves clearly.
This confidence is translated into more formal situations, too. Whether it is in closing sales, winning contracts or gaining promotion, good English will be worth money in your pocket every step of the way.
But don’t just take my word for it. Research into the financial benefits of learning English (Pinon & Haydon 2010), conducted on behalf of the British Council, found that employees with advanced skills in English were promoted faster, enjoyed more international business trips, had greater training opportunities and were more likely to gain economic benefits for themselves and their families. This was true even in countries where English was not an official language.
Interestingly, in spite of these findings, they found that objective reality was not the determining factor. It was the perception that good English was necessary for career advancement that drove recruitment as individuals believed ‘…that they will benefit from higher salaries if they speak the language.’
So, what is better English worth to you?
When you are considering whether to invest in a HELLO English course, one question you may like to ask yourself is: how much – in cash terms – is better English worth to you? The fact is you will only need to increase your annual income by a very small result to pay for the course.
Almost all our students confirm that they have reaped financial benefits worth many, many times more than the cost of tuition. This is why we describe the course as being ‘value for money’.
A first class vocabulary, the ability to write well, improved conversation skills, accurate reading and reliable spelling…these are benefits you’ll enjoy as a result of studying at HELLO English. Benefits that will translate into a higher income for you.
Your investment of time and money at HELLO English will increase your income. That is our experience and also what research tells us.
So, base your investment decision on good sense. Invest for your future in excellent English, taught by experts. It will boost your earning power… and kickstart your economic recovery.
Leader Article (2012); ‘Heading Out of the Storm’; The Economist, 29th September 2012.
Pinon R & Haydon J (2010); The Benefits of English Language Learning for Individuals and Societies: Quantitative Indicators for Cameroon, Nigeria, Rwanda, Bangladesh & Pakistan; Report compiled by Euromonitor for The British Council.
*Originally a Yorkshire homily:
‘Ear all, see all, say nowt;
Eyt all, sup all, pay nowt;
And if ivver tha does owt fer nowt –
Do it fer thissen.
Translation: ‘Hear all, see all, say nothing; Eat all, drink all, pay nothing; And if ever you do anything for nothing – Do it for yourself.
It is often said that Great Britain and America are ‘two nations divided by a common language’: a saying usually attributed to one of two Irishmen: Oscar Wilde or George Bernard Shaw, although it is found in neither’s published works.
Shaw’s sentiments are famously paraphrased in the musical ‘My Fair Lady’ – a reworking of his ‘Pygmalion’ – when Professor Higgins concludes that in America they haven’t spoken English for years. This is an exaggeration to make a point, of course, but we do have different vocabulary and this can cause problems.
NAmE is an acronym standing for North American English. What with Hollywood movies, the Web, and Word on our computers, we’re becoming more familiar with US version of English, but it’s still easy to get it wrong.
Most of us know about problem words like ‘pants’ or ‘ass’, but what about ‘parking’? In America that can also mean “romantic intimacy in a parked car”.
So see if you can avoid social or business embarrassment with these; give their US meanings:
b) to appropriate
e) fancy dress
f) first floor
m) to table
n) to tap
o) through (as in “It’s open through lunch.”)
p) to wash up
Click on this link to see how well you did.
Getting it Write: Six tips for better English essays
No matter what level of student you are – from beginner through to doctoral candidate – there will come a time when you have to sit down and write. No more scruffy note-taking and no more background reading: the time is now and your seat is waiting at the desk.
So, what is it that stops you from starting? Why do you dither, prevaricate, procrastinate?
Could it be that you make mistakes that others see when you can’t? How do you feel about English grammar? Does writing give you the jitters, collywobbles and screaming abdabs?
Well, here are six simple tips for how to control your fears, reduce uncertainty and get better marks in English written tasks.
Did I mention the evil word ‘grammar’? It is guaranteed to strike fear into the students across the continents. My EFL students assume (wrongly) that they are the only ones who need to be concerned about grammar. Everyone should be. Without it, meaning runs amok.
We need grammar, punctuation and syntax (word order to you and me), to make those funny squiggly things sit in the right sequence and mean what we want them to mean. For that is what it is all about, in the end: controlling meaning. If you don’t master meaning it will govern you … and ruin your writing.
So my six simple tips will put you in control. Believe me, they correct the mistakes that most irritate examiners, so they are really worth knowing.
- Spell it Write
No Good at Spelling? Tough. There is no excuse. You MUST spell correctly.
Lots of English people are absolutely dreadful at spelling and refuse to improve their language skills because it is ‘too much effort’. They should see how hard my EFL students work.
You can beef up your spelling by working at it, too. Use cue cards and vocabulary-builder exercises. Memorise pronunciation and spelling patterns. Get friends to give you spelling tests or dictation exercises.
Hard work pays off with spelling. (Spellchecker on the computer doesn’t.)
Read more, read differently, and look up words you don’t know. You will expand your vocabulary, increase your spelling accuracy and learn a host of useful new words.
- Join the Dots
Learn the ‘dos and don’ts’ of the dots: the simple rules of punctuation.
Capitals start a sentence and proper nouns. Full stops end a sentence or abbreviations. Use a question mark after a question and an exclamation mark after something really exciting, shocking or unusual. Commas break up the parts of a sentence, or separate examples or items on a list. Apostrophes show omission or possession: don’t use them for simple plurals.
If you can follow these simple rules, you will avoid the main mistakes of punctuation, make your teacher more optimistic and examiners better disposed to give you good marks.
- To ing or not to ing
A frequent mistake in student writing is the use of a gerund (walking) instead of an infinitive (to walk). For example, ‘I want walking’ rather than ‘I want to walk’.
The rule is that we use the infinitive after emotional verbs (I was happy to help) and adjectives (It is too cold to swim), and the gerund for the subject of the sentence (Swimming is good exercise) or after a preposition (without saying a word).
You’ll need to check your grammar book, but it is worth sorting this out now.
- Right that Article
If I had a Zimbabwean penny for each time I have had to correct errors with the use of articles (or ‘adjectival articles’ as some call them), I would be able to retire comfortably on the proceeds. You need to remember that there are four uses of article: Definite (the), indefinite (a/an) and the zero article, where no article is used. Learning how and when to use each of these forms is key to writing well in English.
This is really a matter of style and vocabulary. There are upwards of 600,000 words in English, so it is considered bad manners to keep on repeating the same word, whether in writing or conversation. With so many words to choose from, there will be a variety of nouns and pronouns you can use to avoid repetition.
- Are You In Tense?
The last of our keys to quality in written English is maintaining consistency in the person and tense you use. It is too easy to slip-slide around in time and number: starting your writing as I/me in the simple past tense, but then talking about he/him, in the present continuous. You must stay in the same person and tense.
If you are unsure of moving forward and backwards in your writing, stick with one tense per sentence and use simple grammatical constructions. Once you are more confident with working solely in the simple past, say, move on to using other tenses separately. Only when you can do that properly should you start combining tenses in more sophisticated sentence structures.
Of course, this is just a glimpse of what to watch out for in your own or your students’ writing. For a fuller picture, and for a thoroughly expert grounding in English, you should come to HELLO English – our independent language school based in Moseley, in the English Midlands.
At HELLO English (www.hello-english.com), we have classes and worksheets aplenty on all these failings. Among the range of courses we offer, we can help you with your academic writing and written English, and you can choose from our General English (GEC), Pre University Package (PUP) or various A-level, Cambridge and IELTS programmes.
Why not contact us today for more information?
English Courses in England – What is Available?
As can be expected the UK has more English language courses than anywhere in the world. No matter what you level there is a course for you.
The selection ranges from beginners through to advanced, business and academic or vocational use.
Most English language courses in the UK do not have academic entry requirements, so there really is nothing to stop you from studying English in the UK.
So exactly what English language courses are available?
General English Courses: These courses are available at all levels and are aimed at improving general day-to-day English. You will work on grammar, vocabulary and colloquial English, focusing primarily on speaking, pronunciation and listening allowing you to achieve greater English fluency.
See http://www.hello-english.com for more details
English for Academic Purposes: These courses are designed for students who are enrolled on university courses in the UK. They help students develop the language skills necessary to take notes, write essays, and understand academic journals. Some courses will also help students develop subject-specific vocabulary.
Check http://www.english4professionals.co.uk/e4education/ for academic English.
Study Support: These courses are designed to help students who are currently studying in the UK who have solid English language skills but require a few hours a week guidance to improve their study skills.
Contact Neil on firstname.lastname@example.org for study and research support.
Business English: These courses are aimed at students who want to develop their English skills for a specific industry, such as business, economics, finance, tourism or law. They enable students to communicate effectively and operate professionally within these sectors by developing vocabulary, report writing and delivering presentations.
See http://www.english4professionals.co.uk/e4business/ for more details of business-focused courses.
English Exam Preparation Courses: These can be residential or non-residential. They can be short, high-intensity ‘cramming’ courses or longer with only one or two hours per week. Either way, they will help you to prepare for IELTS, A-levels resist, IGCSE, Cambridge First, Advanced or Proficiency exams.
For information on exam preparation courses, contact email@example.com
Summer Courses: There are several summer courses during the longer summer and Easter breaks that allow students the fantastic opportunity of studying and learning English while also enjoying a holiday. These summer courses really complement students’ English language development and also help students to develop social skills through activities such as sport and sightseeing. For more information about HELLO Homestay English courses, contact Pauline via firstname.lastname@example.org