Although many of our students have been coming to Trebinshun House over a good number of years, of course, there is always a first time. It’s natural for people to wonder how much they will actually improve in a course which is ‘only’ a week long. While every course is tailored to the individual, we thought it might be useful to look at some common themes or trends.
With spring just around the corner, let’s take a moment to review helpful study habits. Here are some questions to run through to make sure you are still on track to achieve your learning goals. It might also serve to help you identify any changes you’d like to make.
Plain (or standard) English is language which is free of jargon. The Plain English Campaign (PEC) started in the UK as early as 1948 when the Treasury department produced a document called ‘Plain English: a guide to the use of English’. PEC is an independent organisation which has been active in the UK, Ireland and the US since 1979 and they work in partnership with government and other official agencies. Indeed, Tony Blair once said, “The Plain English Campaign has played a major role in improving the way public bodies communicate with citizens.” But why is it important and for what reason should it be of interest to non-native speakers?
It may seem strange to use the word ‘performing’ but that’s actually what we are doing when standing in front of a group of people! Whether we know the people or not, we have to perform in a way that actors perform on stage: we want our audience to be interested (ideally!), we want them to leave having learnt something and the best presentations leave the audience feeling inspired or committed to a course of action. So how can we engage our listeners? What techniques can we employ that don’t rely on advanced level language? Here are some areas we focus on in our intensive courses.
Learning style: what way is best for you?
There are different theories about learning styles and a great deal of academic debate. What we see from our experience in training hundreds of students is that each person learns in their own way. It is good to be aware of all options so that we can continue learning efficiently (and perhaps even incorporate a new element). Let’s look at one popular and practical theory on learning styles, VARK, which states that learners have tendencies in one or two of the following areas: visual, auditory/aural, read/write and kinaesthetic. Read each one and reflect on how you like to learn.
At Trebinshun House, we often work with students who want to develop their social English. Do you ever attend networking events, have business dinners with visiting colleagues, or even just work with a multinational team and have everyday conversations about the weekend, family news etc. How can you socialise more easily and effectively in English?
Idioms and metaphors in business: useful or not?
One of my students recently told me that he often uses idioms or fixed expressions when he’s talking with his team at work - he feels that they help him to express himself more fully. He’s soon moving from Spain to the UK and he is keen to find equivalent expressions (or new ones!). So, what is the power of idioms and how useful are they?
Our students often come to us with a variety of objectives for their intensive course: they want to be more fluent, they want to improve their listening ability, they want to write better emails. Regardless of these bigger goals, when we analyse the sub-set of skills, we find that knowing how to explain is very useful. If you think about it, we spend a great deal of time explaining an idea, a procedure or summarising a more lengthy discussion. Let’s look at ways to do this and what phrases are helpful.
Most of our students have to write emails on a regular basis. It might be within the company to foreign colleagues (or perhaps the company language is English) or it may be to foreign suppliers or customers. Whatever the case, unlike speaking, writing is a permanent record and therefore it is important to get the language and the tone right. Writing accurately and clearly is important – we all need to explain, influence or make an impact on our colleagues, clients and superiors. These skills are a little bit more complex than simply summarising information and can take us out of our comfort zone. Let’s look at some golden rules to master this form of communication.
We’ve all heard about IQ, emotional intelligence and today I saw the term Cultural Intelligence. Naturally, we work a lot with cultural awareness on our intensive language courses as many of our students work within international teams or do business globally. We discuss different habits, conventions and even barriers to working harmoniously together. Arguably then, being comfortable working in a multi-cultural – as well as multi-lingual - environment is more important and relevant than ever. So, what is cultural intelligence and why is it important?
Working with a student this week, he told me it was really important to him to ‘keep it simple’: to use sentences which followed a clear structure with vocabulary which everyone could understand. I understood what he meant: he works with native and non-native speakers and he wants to be easily understood and not complicate matters unnecessarily. How can we do this without sounding too ‘basic’ or patronising? Here are some ideas we discussed.
Establishing strong relationships is an important part of being successful in business, where it is important to have reliable partners, work in and manage teams etc. According to the Cambridge Dictionary good rapport is about, “having a good understanding of someone and an ability to communicate well with them.” When we’re using our second language, we can sometimes focus so much on our communication skills that we forget the bigger picture of relationship-building. Let’s look at some key features of creating rapport.