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November 29, 2018
by Bloomsbury International
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How to improve your listening skills fast!

Have you ever been at a bus stop, minding your own business and been asked a question which completely stalled you?

Hi there, do you happen to have the time? …No? …Ok no worries thanks anyway.

You had the time, your phone was in your hand the whole time but the person spoke so quickly that you were still trying to process what he’d said. Sound familiar? Here a few tips to help you in these situations.

  1. Learn the local lingo

Lingo is the local language, vocab and expressions a place has. In London for instance, people are known to greet each other by saying Alright? It may not be the same in other cities so it’s good to pick up the lingo of where you’re staying, to get a better idea of how the locals communicate. Wagwarn Bruva, What’s happening and Sup are phrases commonly used by the youth across London. This website has some common phrases and words used in the capital, https://theculturetrip.com/europe/united-kingdom/england/london/articles/a-very-funny-and-quick-guide-to-london-slang/ – check it out.

 

  1. Be a scribe

If you’re a fan of Netflix (seriously, who isn’t?) then you can learn and have fun at the same time. Next time your staring at the Hollywood beauties in Game of Thrones, be productive and test out your listening skills. Play a short clip without subtitles, about a minute should be fine, then write out exactly what you think you hear. Play the clip again and this time, put on the subtitles. Check and see how close (or far off) you were. This really allows you to focus on the subtleties of natural speech. Always check your pronunciation, this site is useful for phonemic scripts https://tophonetics.com/ , have a look and type in the words you have trouble with.

 

  1. YouTubers

I know they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but in order for your listening to improve, you have to watch something or someone you find interesting. If you’re interested in fashion or make-up, I’d recommend Zoella or Patricia Bright. They’re native speakers and they review various brands and styles but also give advice about relationships and health. It’s a great way to learn about topics you love, but also to train your ear to detect word stress and pronunciation. It’s a good idea to note any new words and phrases down, so you can go over them with your teacher and use them on your classmates. If you’re into sports, cars and gadgets, I’d recommend KSI or Comedy Shorts Gamer. These are just suggestions but there are many British YouTubers, here’s a link to find out more https://www.thetoptens.com/best-british-youtubers/

 

  1. Listen and repeat

Whether it’s a song, a phrase or a tricky word, practise makes perfect. I’d advise you listen to at least one English video per day. You can use the BBC iPlayer service, YouTube or your favourite music playlist on your phone. Don’t be discouraged, you can do this and the more you practise, the quicker you improve. Surround yourself with native speakers, go to pubs, bars and try local events. There are many leisure centres across the city, you’re bound to find something which interests you. Check out this site, it’s packed with activities http://www.freelondonevents.co.uk/ ..

November 15, 2018
by Bloomsbury International
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How to sound like a native British speaker

1. Intonation, intonation, intonation!

The British are super polite (unless you’re on the tube) and have a knack for sounding a lot more socially eager than their American counterparts. We have mastered the art of pretending to care about our colleague’s lunch choices and are pioneers in prolonging conversation beyond tolerable levels. When you ask someone abut their weekend, you really have to sound interested.

How was your weekend?!

When you ask someone about their pet, you have to sound super excited and moved by their canine companion.

OH MY GOD! You have a Labrador, that’s like my favourite breed ever!

It’s actually law to ask them to show you photos and give you a breakdown of their dietary requirements. I joke, but you get the idea. It’s important to show your interested in conversations by raising your intonation. It lets your audience know you’re being respectful as you’re investing your full attention. Of course, if someone is telling you something sensitive, it important to sound tentative and caring, nodding your head in acknowledgment and softening your voice. For more intonation info, check out this great link https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/intonation

2. Pronounce past simple regular verbs correctly.

The amount of times I’ve heard this:
Teacher, I walkid to school today.

When my students hear this I usually frown at my students. A few moments later they tend to realise their mistake and beg for forgiveness. I mean, we all know our past simple regular verbs so why don’t we focus on how we say them? With any language, pronunciation is so important and being conscious of your pronunciation is one of the key components to achieving a high level of fluency. In English pronunciation is paramount and whilst you may think ah it’s fine people can understand me, there’s no need to be so specific, the -ed (t) sound is one of the most common sounds we forget to use in our everyday speech.  Can you believe that something so small, could actually make a vast difference to your fluency?

 

3. Don’t stutter, use filler words.

Do Scottish accents scare you? Do you faint at the sound of a Geordie? Don’t worry, most Brits do. There’ll be situations where you’ll have no idea what you’ve been asked nor will you have the faintest idea how to respond. Instead of running away, why not buy yourself some time and use a filler word. When we need some time to think of a response, we say well, Ummm, let’s see, so, basically…etc. Filler words are universally understood and allow the listener to give you some time to respond. So next time you’re in trouble, don’t mumble, keep calm and use fillers.

 

4. Finally, Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Yes I know, this is easier said than done. It can be frightening speaking in a language you’re still getting used to so I totally appreciate that public speaking probably isn’t at the top of your agenda. However, as a teacher, I notice the students who attempt to speak at every opportunity are the ones who improve the fastest. Remember that speaking is all about communication and your audience won’t be judging your grammar and prepositions; they just want to hear your views. So, speak up! Make yourself heard. Visit speaker’s corner in Hyde Park and discuss the big topics of the day, visit a pub and spark up a friendly chat with the locals or invite your classmates out for a coffee.

 

November 1, 2018
by Bloomsbury International
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The quaintest pub in the City of London

Did you know that there’s a quaint old corner of Cambridgeshire that’s tucked away in the heart of the City of London?

When you pass the security barrier and guard post into Ely Place from Charterhouse Street, no one will tell you that you’re technically no longer in London. However, it technically isn’t London! And what’s even better is that inside Ely Place, there is the quaintest little pub in all the City of London, Ye Olde Mitre.

Ye Olde Mitre, originally called The Mitre Tavern, was built for servants of Queen Elizabeth I. Then, in 1576 she commandeered a gatehouse and a portion of the Palace grounds for her court favourite Sir Christopher Hatton, and regularly came visiting. After stints as a prison and a Civil War hospital, the Palace reverted back to the Crown in Georgian times and was demolished. Then it was rebuilt as a pub with a cherry tree, preserved in the corner of the cosy panelled front bar.
According to the pub’s manager, the pub used to close at 10:00pm, unlike the rest of London, which closed at 11:00pm. It did this because when the gates of Ely Place shut at 10:00pm the pub should shut as well. However, that’s changed: Ye Olde Mitre is open from 11:00am to 11:00pm Monday to Friday – it’s closed on Saturday and Sunday. However, there are some things that haven’t changed: the remains of the cherry tree, the toy-size furniture in the crooked little front bar, the settles, the skylight and ‘Ye Closet’ micro-snug area in the back.

Even the street itself, Ely Place, remains more or less unchanged since then, and it is quite literally a law unto itself, not being a part of London. ‘Robbers run here from nearby Hatton Gardens,’ the pub manger recalls fondly. ‘They know the City police don’t have the right to follow them. The only thing the police can do is seal all the exits and call the Cambridgeshire force, then wait around ‘till they jump in their cars and get down here’.
I don’t’ know if the pub manager was pulling my leg or not. But for now, I’ll content myself by soaking in the history of the place and drinking a lovely pint at the quaintest pub in the City of London!
Cheers!