|www.mjcsmith.net||Mike Smith - teacher and trainer||Brisbane, Australia|
www.mjcsmith.net / Help for Students of English
English is a difficult language. You need a lot of time and a lot of hard
You can measure your level of English skill by taking some tests. Most schools offer pre-tests for free.
Or you can just ask a teacher.
English levels are often described with these words:
True Beginner - You have no English.
Beginner - Most students have a little English to start with. Asian students usually have more skills in reading and grammar accuracy. European students usually have more skills in listening and speaking fluency.
Elementary - Students have very basic vocabulary and some common phrases.
Pre-Intermediate - Students have basic vocabulary and grammar, developing skills (listening/speaking/reading/writing), and are becoming more confident.
Intermediate - Students have more advanced vocabulary, grammar and skills but must work hard to continue improving in all areas. Writing development often slows down. Students can communicate with native speakers using common speech of medium speed.
Pre-advanced - Students are using more structures to decode and express examples of critical thought, humour, and cultural differences.
Advanced - Students communicate very well with native speakers, but may still be confused by regional expressions and pronunciations.
You must decide what type of English you need to learn and why.
General English is for travelling and has more listening and speaking. Academic, Business, and Technical English are for study at university or for work. They have special vocabulary and have much more reading and writing.
Schools and teachers can give you what you need but you must tell them your objectives and goals.
Name all the common things you see everyday. Don't worry too much about uncommon things at first.
Build word families and write them in lists:
Play with nouns, verbs and adjectives. In English you can use words for any function. You can make new words. Maybe you won't be 100% correct, but everyone will laugh and understand.
There are three articles in English:
These articles are like adjectives. Articles give information about nouns (things).
Adjectives give information like colour, size, ownership, etc. Articles give information about familiarity of the thing. This information is usually for deciding 'which' thing.
All nouns have an article. This includes other words acting as nouns such as: gerunds (verb+'ing'), and noun phrases. This idea is very important and will help you understand and remember.
'the' - it is one (or a group) of many but it is (or they are) familiar, usually mentioned recently or soon expected (see External References).
'a' - it is one of many and it is not familiar, it does not matter which bus, or it is not known which bus.
Chose 'an' if the following sound (not letter) is a vowel sound.
'zero article - Ø' - most familiar, specifying 'which' is irrelevant
Adjectives give information about nouns (things), perhaps the colour, size, type, or number of things, or what they are made of.
In English, the the word order in a sentence is that the adjectives are before the noun.
In comparison, In French the adjectives are after the noun.
However since French has influenced the development of English, we sometimes adopt the French word order (when we want to sound a bit fancy).
The last example even sounds French and helps explain why we change the word order. A bit of history...
There are rules about the order of multiple adjectives before a noun but usually the maximum is three.
The useful rule is that the adjectives which describe finer detail are closer to the noun. Size is usually furthest , while material is usually closest.
Prepositions are much easier to understand if you think in a certain way. It may help to think about prepositions using geometry. Please read my paper (available soon).
Like prepositions, conditionals are much easier to understand if you think in a certain way. Conditionals should be taught at once, not separately. This helps students to understand the patterns and meaning. Please read my paper (available soon).
A very confusing aspect of learning English (or any language I suspect) is that not all the information is in the sentence. Sometimes very important information comes from understanding which is already shared between the speaker and the listener.
This sentence does not specify the subject. 'It' could be anything - my breakfast, my sore knee, the taste of my coffee. However the usual meaning is the weather and this is understood as an external reference.
The examples above are backward references and are indicated by pronouns. Backward referencing is easy to decode because you can find the information usually in a recent sentence.
The examples below are forward referencing. This creates a more dramatic feeling because you must continue reading to find out what it is talking about. Your curiosity makes you keep reading.
Forward referencing is good for dramatic narratives and shows high language skills. It is excellent for spoken story telling.
It is not appropriate for formal, business, technical or academic writing.
Pronouns are special nouns we use for convenience to talk about other nouns. You must decide which thing or person that the pronoun is talking about. This can be confusing in English because of referencing (see above). Read my paper (available soon)
Listen to as much English as you can. It doesn't matter if you can't understand. Your brain will still learn and start to recognise words and expressions.
Listen to other people at cafes and on buses and trains. Write down new expressions and ask your teacher about them.
Read as much as you can. Start with simple books like children's books with pictures and easy language.
Many adult books are published again for English learners. These may be books you know from your language. Read them again in English.
If you like the Internet, try to make friends in chat rooms.
Write a diary to help you remember your vocabulary and grammar. Practice writing about the past and the future. Write about your dreams, wishes and regrets.
If you like the Internet, try to make friends in chat rooms.
There are lots of Internet resources. Here are just a few:
|Updated 20 July 2004|