Tag Archives: language

What Price Professional English?

What Price Professional English?

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In Defence of Grammar Teaching

I recently saw this blog post. It is written by a newly graduated English teacher. Anyone who teaches English, or languages in general, would do well to have a look.

Teaching grammar doesn’t stifle creativity.

Katherine Brandt 1st July 2011

ImageAlthough the rules of the English language are constantly changing and transforming, teaching grammar has great value in the school system because it gives students the background that they need to understand their language and use it effectively both in and out of the academic world.

By teaching grammar, educators provide students with the building blocks of language. When students understand each of the building blocks behind their language, they have a greater ability to communicate not only in their native tongue but also in other languages which employ similar building blocks, albeit in a different order.

Grammar is an important tool because people who do not understand it have difficulty communicating well, and as a result their ideas are often overlooked. Consider children who have yet to learn how to speak well or foreigners who misunderstand how to use prepositions or adjectives. For example, a Spanish-speaker learning English might say, “The sock red has a hole small.” Though people may understand sentences like this one, they might also need to make a conscious effort to achieve understanding.

Although the idea of the foreigner is an exaggerated example, students who understand the idiosyncrasies of English grammar will, in a much more subtle way, be able to control the voice, meaning, and level of formality with which they write. As a result, they will be able to write for an educated audience without the embarrassment of making obvious mistakes.

I have been able to see grammar’s importance in my own education. When I was a child, I attended a private elementary school where we were constantly drilled in grammar. We diagrammed sentences, learned parts of speech, and revised incorrect sentences time and again to master the language.

When I was twelve, my family moved, and I went to a public junior high school where the teaching of grammar was considered unimportant and indeed somewhat damaging to a child’s voice. Nevertheless, in my first month of class, my English teacher checked for students’ basic understanding of grammar. To my shock and dismay, I was the only person in the class who could recognize verbs and complete sentences. My peers consistently struggled with their essays because they had never been taught how to construct a complete idea within a sentence. They had been to school for seven years and could not write a simple sentence. I wondered what they had learned in all that time.

Imagine reading entire papers composed of fragments such as “When I went to the store.” These papers might convey meaning but certainly not in the way that the students intend – with clarity. From the time I entered the public school system, I was at the top of my class in English simply because I had been taught how to put words together correctly. As a result, my teachers could understand and respond to the ideas that I expressed in my papers. All children need to obtain at least a basic understanding of grammar in order to communicate effectively and meaningfully in the educated world.

Knowing grammar also gives students another advantage when it comes to learning foreign languages. When I first started taking Spanish, I had greater understanding simply because I knew some grammar. My teacher, in vain, explained how Spanish speakers position nouns and adjectives differently from English speakers; most of the students did not even know how to differentiate a noun from an adjective. On the other hand, I easily understood what she was explaining because I had been taught to identify parts of speech and their function within a sentence. The other students struggled and guessed their way through the course because every unit presented new parts of speech. Indefinite and definite articles, participles, and verbs were among the difficult concepts that they had not even learned in their native tongue.

I pity my peers who came from a system of those who have written off grammar as unimportant. I have heard these educators say that the study of grammar “stills the creative voice.” My personal experience has shown the contrary. Grammar has been my key to creativity because, with my basic knowledge of the language, I know how to coherently express my ideas so that others can appreciate them. I also know the building blocks to learning other languages which will only expand my creativity and not inhibit it.

It is time for educators to take a stand and teach children to use grammar well so that they may be able to participate both creatively and formally in the educated world. Even as we would not cripple architects by taking away the resources that they need to build beautiful buildings, so we should not cripple our young writers by refusing them grammatical knowledge. From a strong foundation in grammatical understanding will come better, stronger writers who will know how to use the tools educators give them to create beautiful and original writing.

Jump Aboard!

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.

Sources

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.[5]

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.

Reflection boosts Recovery

Moggy at the MAC

We are in recovery phase at HELLO!

After the departure of our excellent student from Montelimar – we have had a little down-time, so that we can plan and develop for future homestay guests and the next phase of our work at HELLO!.

Obviously, the pleasure of seeing a student’s English improve on a daily basis is really rewarding but, because we teach on a 1:1 basis, it is more draining than working in traditional classroom mode, where students are self-managing, to a certain extent.

At times like these, I am always reminded of Dory Previn’s line: ‘You’ve got no grace if you’ve got no space to be alone.’ You need a little time to re-charge your batteries, to review and re-think after a period of professional engagement – whatever form that may take.

Without this, we become stale and predictable and forget our qualitative reasons for doing what we do.

Certainly, at HELLO!, we find that, because we are fascinated by the English language and enjoy the company of our students, this mixture of enthusiasm and expertise gets through to our students, who rate us very highly in end of course reviews.

This may seem like a mutual love-in, but after years of presenting bad news to failing clients, it is delightful to be able to see improvement and satisfaction grow before your very eyes.

So, quality over quantity every time – it may not make us rich, but it keeps us  and our guests happy, and that is what really matters!!