Business English · English · Student Experience

Do You Want to Improve Your English?

How can I improve my level of English quickly?

Who has the experience and knowledge to make me a better speaker of English?

Who can make learning English fun, practical and effective?

The answer is here….

Whatever your language, you can trust me to help you improve your English quickly and effectively.

Contact me for a free introductory online session (15 minutes). If you are a business professional, a university or school student, someone who wants to improve their English to travel or work, I can help YOU.

Send me an email to frobicycles@gmail.com

Best wishes,

Tony Frobisher

Español

¿Cómo puedo mejorar mi nivel de inglés rápidamente?

¿Quién tiene la experiencia y el conocimiento para hacerme un mejor hablante de inglés?

¿Quién puede hacer que aprender inglés sea divertido, práctico y efectivo?

Deutsch

Wie kann ich mein Englischniveau schnell verbessern?

Wer hat die Erfahrung und das Wissen, um mich zu einem besseren Sprecher der englischen Sprache zu machen?

Wer kann Englischlernen unterhaltsam, praktisch und effektiv gestalten?

Français

Comment puis-je améliorer mon niveau d’anglais rapidement ?

Qui a l’expérience et les connaissances pour faire de moi un meilleur locuteur de l’anglais ?

Qui peut rendre l’apprentissage de l’anglais amusant, pratique et efficace ?

Italiano

Come posso migliorare rapidamente il mio livello di inglese?

Chi ha l’esperienza e le conoscenze per farmi parlare meglio l’inglese?

Chi può rendere l’apprendimento dell’inglese divertente, pratico ed efficace?

Bahasa Indonesia

Bagaimana saya bisa meningkatkan level bahasa Inggris saya dengan cepat?

Siapa yang memiliki pengalaman dan pengetahuan untuk menjadikan saya pembicara bahasa Inggris yang lebih baik?

Siapa yang bisa membuat belajar bahasa Inggris menyenangkan, praktis dan efektif?

中国人

如何快速提高英语水平?

谁有经验和知识让我成为更好的英语演讲者?

谁能让学习英语变得有趣、实用和有效?

日本

どうすれば英語のレベルをすばやく上げることができますか?

私を英語を上手に話せるようにするための経験と知識を持っているのは誰ですか?

誰が英語学習を楽しく、実用的かつ効果的にすることができますか?

한국인

어떻게 하면 영어 수준을 빨리 향상시킬 수 있습니까?

누가 나를 더 나은 영어 구사자로 만드는 경험과 지식을 가지고 있습니까?

누가 영어 학습을 재미있고 실용적이며 효과적으로 만들 수 있습니까?

عربي

كيف يمكنني تحسين مستواي في اللغة الإنجليزية بسرعة؟

من لديه الخبرة والمعرفة التي تجعلني متحدثًا أفضل للغة الإنجليزية؟

من يمكنه جعل تعلم اللغة الإنجليزية ممتعًا وعمليًا وفعالًا؟

Learning & Education · Student Experience · Teaching Methodology

Mistakes – I’ve Made a Few

MISTAKES!!!!!!

Mistakes. The scourge of the student. The fear of all language learners. A reason for shyness, for feeling inadequate, a reason perhaps to give up.

How many times at school did you receive a test back from your teacher? Over your page is a spider’s scrawl of red ink. INCORRECT. WRONG. SEE ME AFTER CLASS!!!! The fear wells up inside you as you expect to be yelled at, made to feel stupid for getting things wrong and even worse, humiliated in front of your friends and school mates.

Aren’t teachers supposed to be educating, nurturing and developing young minds?Surely the best and most effective way is to create a culture of trust and respect and environment that is conducive to learning. Not one that is borne out of some perverse power and ego trip that puts the teacher as the font of all knowledge, to be obeyed and respected through fear, like some despotic dictator. I still remember teachers at school who I feared being in a classroom with. Fear of their temper, fear of making a mistake and fear of never being good enough.

Then again, I remember even more those teachers who were the opposite. Who garnered respect through encouragement, patience and a willingness to help those who found particular subjects or ideas difficult to comprehend. When you made a mistake, they did not single you out or belittle you. Rather they would go over things again, possibly with the assistance of a more capable student. They would demonstrate, illustrate, provide clear and easy to understand examples, but crucially, they allowed you to try again. And would not scold you for making the same mistake again – but they understood you would eventually get it. Given time and the right environment for learning, all students would be able to understand even complicated theories and ideas – but everyone has a different potential for learning and critically, a different speed at which they can assimilate ideas and develop.

Learning anything is not a linear, equal process. I was excellent at geography, won a school prize in the subject, went on to study it at university. I picked up everything without difficulty (except for scientific equations in geomorphology….my Kryptonite). But put me in front of a physics or chemistry text book and it was like learning Chinese or Arabic or Russian. Like a different alphabet and language altogether. I still struggled, but I had patient teachers who assisted, rather than cajoled and pressured me to learn.

The teacher is not always right.

Learning English – Mistakes Are Positive Things

I have now taught English as a Foreign Language for 25 years. And I am confident that every lesson I have taught has contained a myriad of mistakes. From my students, of course. But also inadvertent mistakes by myself. Spelling errors, a mispronunciation with syllable stress, a poorly worded explanation as I could not remember what the word meant (only for a moment or two). But these mistakes are all part of being human. We are not robots, we aspire to but never reach perfection. Mistakes make us human. I would quickly rectify my mistakes and would not hide away from them. If a student pointed out I had accidentally spelled a word wrong (government / environment were always my Achilles heel…n before m please!) I would say, ‘Excellent, well done, you found the deliberate mistake today’ and then go on to say it just shows that

‘Mistakes are normal, to be expected and nothing we need to be ashamed of.’

If I could not think of the correct way to explain a word, or Heaven forbid, I was presented with a word that I was unsure of the meaning of, for example ‘disestablishmentarianism’ I would not try and bluff out some contrived definition. I would say,

‘One moment, let me check in the dictionary. Because that’s what dictionaries are for. To help us out when we don’t know a word. Because, contrary to popular belief, I don’t know EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. in the English language.’

Humanising Mistakes

I have taught students who were so afraid of making mistakes when speaking, that they clammed up entirely and hardly said a word in their first class with me. Despite my best efforts to elicit responses, to encourage and create a friendly, unintimidating atmosphere, they were sometimes just completely overawed. At the end of the class I would ask to talk to them and explain about the ‘importance of making mistakes.’ Sometimes I had to console a student who had broken down in tears. But I always pointed out that

‘If you don’t make mistakes, there is no need for you to be here. You would be speaking perfectly and in no need of English lessons. Mistakes are natural, normal and we all make them. But when you make a mistake, it is my job to identify and help you correct it – and to help you become aware of the mistake, so you learn and hopefully eliminate it. I can’t guarantee you won’t make the mistake again, but eventually the mistake will disappear.’

Then the student would have a light bulb moment and realise what I said made sense. They would depart with a happy ‘Thank you for teach me (sic)

Mistakes Are Positives – Not Negatives

Why are mistakes positives?

  • Mistakes are essential for students to learn and develop. They learn from other students when they mistakes and their class mates will help correct the mistakes they make. It is a mutual benefit.
  • Students are not stupid. There is a feeling sometimes that because a student is a low level in an English language class, they are not that bright. I have had brilliant business leaders, scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors etc, all with a lower level in English. Making mistakes in their normal everyday working life is something they are not expect to do. Helping them feel empowered to make mistakes in language learning is liberating.
  • Making mistakes leads to learning and self improvement. Every time a student makes a mistake, self-corrects, or is assisted in correcting their error, it is another step in the language learning journey. Making mistakes and finding the correct answer helps embed new language, grammar points, pronunciation etc, in their short term and then long term memory
  • Making mistakes can be memorable and fun! When I first learned Indonesian, I remember talking to a street food vendor. I asked her for a cup of tea, without sugar. I said, ‘Satu cangkir teh, tampa gila.’ instead of ‘Satu cangkir teh, tampa gula.’ Gila means crazy and gula means sugar. She laughed, I laughed and I immediately learned the difference between gila and gula and I didn’t make that mistake again.
  • Mistakes create empathy through shared experience. We have all been there, making mistakes as we learn language, a new skill, a musical instrument, a new job. But then again, so have the people around us. No one steps into the language classroom, the new office, or picks up the guitar or violin or plays the piano for the first time without making mistakes. Mistakes ground us, but also connect us to our peers. In turn, as we develop and improve, we can show empathy for those who learn after us.

So, go ahead, make mistakes (but if you are an English language teacher, a music teacher, a dance teacher or any kind of teacher, preparation is the key to reducing mistakes.) But be honest and human about it. Your students will respect you much more if you are honest about mistakes, that you make them and that you are not perfect. No student expects their teacher to be perfect. Instead, they expect dedication, commitment, respect, understanding, empathy, honesty, kindness, integrity, knowledge, patience, trust and to finish every class having learned something.

And if they feel comfortable to make mistakes during each class, not because they were intent on making mistakes, more that they were accidental or through misunderstanding, they will feel able to grow, learn and develop with you.

And you will earn a lot of respect for enabling and nurturing them to do so.

language · Politics & Social Comment

It’s Only Words – The Language of Brexit

Make no bones about it, yesterday (15th November 2018), was a momentous day in the political history of the United Kingdom. An embattled Prime Minister Theresa May, hellbent on delivering her deal for extricating the UK from the tangled web that is the European Union. Overnight, a seemingly unified Cabinet, supporting the deal as laid out in a 500 plus page document (pity the poor person who had to type it, a short blog takes me days sometimes), submitted to the befuddled and bored looking EU officials in Brussels.

“Hurrah!” They cheered, in French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latvian, Dutch and every other European language, sick to the back teeth of the whole protracted business.

“Progress!”, they thought, and some tentatively expressed. Yet, the doubt remained ingrained on their creased and furrowed brows.

Then, with an unseasonal warmth in the mid November morning air, everything went very cold, very quickly. The Brexit secretary, the man who negotiated the deal in the first place, the man who knew the minutiae of what had been discussed and agreed to, decided he didn’t like what he had agreed to and negotiated and resigned. Dominic Raab gone, following a path trodden by his predecessor David Davis, who also resigned his position as Brexit Secretary. The poisoned chalice has yet to be taken up as I write.

And the house of cards collapsed from within as resignation after resignation followed, a mammoth 3 hour PM Questions saw Mrs May batting away bouncers from her own party and everyone on the opposite side of the House of Commons (she loves a bit of cricket). She appeared stumped, but following a review on DRS remains not out, going into the second day of what is being politely called #brexitshambles on Twitter. And others in her own Conservative hurriedly put pen to paper to scratch a letter to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee to state their lack of confidence in Mrs May and in an attempt to reach the 48 Conservative Members of Parliament required to trigger a leadership contest.

An utter mess. A shambles. A laughing stock among our European friends and the rest of the world, who look at the cradle of democracy and scratch their heads, utterly bewildered as to what the hell is going on.

And where on earth the arbiter of this mess is. David Cameron, still in hiding since his decision to allow an EU referendum spectacularly backfired on him, leaving him with egg all over his face, that he still hasn’t washed off.

And so to the language of Brexit. The events of yesterday and the state of confusion that pervades every discussion on Brexit and the immediate and near future of the country, inspired me to consider how Brexit is presented. What words and expressions have become so much part of our daily vocabulary, that were previously non existent or used in other contexts.

So here goes, my brief guide (and non exhaustive list) of Brexitisms….

Brexit

It has become a word in its own right. A bit like NATO or NASA. No one ever says, “A meeting at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation headquarters discussed further cooperation on space research with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration”.  And no one ever says, “What on earth is going to happen after the British Exit?”

A British Exit. It sounds about right though. Some of the language has been particularly trenchant, divisive and unpleasant. An exit for us Brits. The rest of the world can use their own exit.

Hard Brexit vs Soft Brexit

Some like it hard, others like it soft. Boiled for 6 minutes or boiled for 3. Either way you still have to crack a hell of a tough shell to get at the insides. And hard or soft Brexit is like a boiled egg. On the surface, they are the same. But once you crack it open, it is quite different. A hard Brexit. Good bye to the EU and all that. No more Single market or Customs Union. Shut the borders. Lock the gates and turn on the security cameras, don’t let ’em in. No we don’t want them. Stay out.

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A voice chirps across the English Channel…”What about all the workers in the NHS, the Spanish, the French, the Italian doctors and nurses. The one’s who grow to love the rain and Little Chef, start developing an accent not out of place on Eastenders or Coronation Street and add their milk after the hot water and tea and know the exact time for dunking a Digestive biscuit? Hmm, what about them?”

Another voice with a lovely lilting soft Dublin brogue, shouts across the street to his Northern Irish neighbour, who replies with gusto in a wonderfully impenetrable mix of vowel sounds.

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“Excuse me Peter. Would ye be after popping over to mine for cuppa or a pint of Guinness?”

“I would really love to John, so I would. But I have get my passport out, wait by the customs border, have a strip search and an internal body check, come back tomorrow to get my visa stamp and pick it up, so I do. I have a better idea. Get the boats, I’ll meet you on the Isle of Man. So I will”

Hard Brexit. Closed borders, restrictions on movement, difficulties in moving goods and trading, panic ensuing in the business community, people flocking to Tesco to stock up on Knorr stock cubes and bog roll. And the peace that has settled on an Ireland with a fantastic flowing, open border, that encourages trade and friendship, tourism, harmony, development, under real risk again.

Soft Brexit. We are going to leave because we don’t like you and don’t want to have anything to do with you. By the way, can we just stay in the best bits, you know the difficult things we can’t find a solution to, you know, just stay in those parts….Single market, customs union, let the good folks of Ireland travel and trade between each other freely, you know, no border in reality.

No Deal. We were happy to kick a ball about with you, but now we can’t agree which end each team is playing from, we are taking the ball away, trying to play keepy-uppy by ourselves. Get your own ball and play amongst yourselves. We are going to have a kick about with our new trading partners. Kiribati, Easter Island and Guinea Bissau. We don’t need you. At all. And we invented football anyway.

No deal is the scenario many are very concerned about and feels a distinct possibility. No deal negotiated to the agreement of all sides. No effective compromises made. Nothing set and signed. We walk away from Europe, turn our backs and in the words of Monty Python ‘fart in the Eu’s general direction’. Then we wake up the next day and wonder what to do now, as the stocks of Coco Pops begin to dry up and people fight each other over the last Stella Artois in the off licence.

Remainers / Remoaners 

Those of you who wish to stay in the EU, say ‘Aye’! Ah, so that is 1,2,3,4,5,6….48% wanting to stay. And 52% wanting to leave. Now, hang on. Democracy in action. The majority won. Fair and square. 52 is larger than 48. So, apparently the good thing to do would be to shut up and say nothing. You had your chance. Live with the result.

Many people in that large minority of 48% are very disgruntled and given the complexities and confusion and the mess of Brexit, are calling for another vote on the deal presented to the EU. IF we ever get one.

And and do stop complaining. Please. Hence the ‘remoaner’ tag. But think of it like this. You are at a dinner party for 15 people. 8 people decide to have the chicken and 7 are vegetarian. The veggies are told, sorry, the majority have decided to have chicken. And that is what you have to have too. Like it or lump it. You have no say now. Eat it or go hungry.

You would not be happy either.

Leaver / Brexiteer

Those of you who wish to leave, say “Aye!” All for one and one for all, say the 52% Brexiteers (and damn the rest of you, and stop moaning.) But let’s be honest for a second. What many who wanted to leave the EU expected Brexit to be, is not a patch on what it actually looks like so far. It is so complicated and so confused, that many leavers are also extremely cheesed off with what has / hasn’t been negotiated. (As long as that cheese is a vintage mature Cheddar and not a stinking Camembert).

The People’s Vote

Briatin has decided to leave the EU. A referendum. A final decision. Let’s leave. Pack your bags, the taxi is waiting. A certain Mr. N. Farage as your driver. Come on hurry up, get in, he is getting impatient. We need to leave. Now. Why are you sitting down? What, you can’t refuse to leave. Oh, that’s it, is it? You want to have a say on where we are going. Skegness not exotic enough for you? Trust you to want to go to Benidorm.

The People’s Vote is a very vociferous campaign, backed by many well known people in politics, sport, entertainment and public life, to put the final EU deal to a vote. “Do you accept the deal or not.” What could go wrong with another vote eh?

Brexit Means Brexit

Mrs. May is good at banging drums with her language. All throughout her election campaign she talked about being ‘Strong and stable.’ Her critics called her ‘Weak and wobbly’. Despite being an advocate to remain in the Eu, as the leader of the country Mrs. May has had to champion the leave cause. Her mantra became ‘Brexit means Brexit’. In that, we will leave. Definitely. We will. I promise. Deal or no deal.

A Brexit deal today seems a long way off still. Mrs May has become Mrs Maybe.

Brexit mean Brexit means chaos means uncertainty mean confusion mean headaches means frustration means…..and so on.

Enough of this.

I had planned to write a list of Brexit terminology for the English student interested in learning how to understand Brexit and what is going on in our fantastic country (because despite everything and all our disagreements, it is still a fantastic country with wonderful people, of every nationality, religion and political persuasion.)

But as I was writing, I realised that any sensible student of English would be better off watching The X Factor than the BBC or ITN or Sky or Channel 4 or 5. It makes a lot more sense and they will learn a lot more than trying to follow the political machinations and politician-speak that pours out daily, like a stream of melted chocolate words. Initially interesting, but ultimately completely unappetizing.

I will leave you with my poem that I wrote to try and encapsulate Brexit.

I remain, while others wish to leave.

Tony

BREXIT – This Way

Goodbye
We’re leaving EU
An exit, really?
A way out of a mess
That was perceived, construed
Viewed through vitriol
And jingoistic pride
In a notion of a nation
That doesn’t exist
To think of a map
That we coloured pink
A pride in the desire
To assert our uniqueness
And to eschew difference

An exit. Really?
An utter mess
But there it is.
No exit, only a door
Locked and marked
‘Keep Out!’
Only Brexiteers
Shouts and jeers
Only Remainers
The I told you so, complainers
You said this, you said that
Everyone reaching for opinions
And donning tin hats.
A mass-debate
Intractable, endless
Argued and misconstrued
Misconceived and misunderstood, confused.

Because brexit
Is no exit
From the shit 
We find ourselves
Wallowing in
Up to our necks
Swimming against a tide
Of bile and hate and division ‘Close the gates we’re full’
Full of what?
A lack of empathy, compassion
Full of passion, yes
For a world painted in a hue
That which from the mirror
Looks just like me and you

Take back control
We’re strong and stable
Cut adrift in a leaking ship
In a permanent brexitstorm
With a captain and crew
Demonstrably unable to
Bail us out and hoping for rescue
Trying not to sink and being told
You scuppered and holed your own boat
And the lifeboats are full
Time to jump ship
Good luck everyone,

BREXIT – this way

More poems collected at frobipoetry.com

Brexit this way

 

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Learning & Education

The ‘L’ Factor – Language Learning

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Language Learning….Having The ‘L’ Factor…

Learning.

The ability to learn a language, is driven by a number of factors;

1. The personal motivation you have – why do I want to learn this language, how much do I want to learn it

2. The needs and reasons for learning it – are you moving abroad for work, are you going backpacking, do you need to learn it because you have been told to by your boss?

3. The interest you have in the language and its cultural / geographical context (No point learning Arabic if you are going to live and work in Japan)

4. The encouragement (or otherwise) you receive from others – do you have friends who speak the language and are keen to practice also. Or do children refuse to practice French with you because…’Dad, it’s embarrassing…’?

5. The environment in which you learn (to learn Spanish in Andalusia, to live and study /work immersed in the culture and landscape of the language is better than an hour a week in an office in Birmingham)

5. The time and opportunities to practice (interacting face to face or via Skype, reading or listening or watching information in the language, the presence or absence of stress / pressure from work or family commitments.)

6. The teaching methods used, or your own approach to learning (Do you write long lists of words with translations or do you select a handful of words and expressions and try to actively incorporate them in a conversation / email exchange etc?….ie actively engaging with the language as opposed to passive learning and not using it.

7. External Factors: Can you find 2 hours to sit and study, free of distractions, the television in the corner, your children playing, fighting, shouting, the dog insisting on that walk, the emails stacked up unanswered, the project deadline looming? Our brains are amazing things, but in order to be most effective at any task, they need a clear, uncluttered, focused approach. Too many distractions and things going on, will limit any effective learning. You need to create the time and space and provide you mid with the freedom to learn.

8. Confidence to use the language, and enjoying making mistakes – We all make mistakes. I do. Every day.  Even as native English speaker of 50 years and an English language teacher of over 20 years. So don;t expect perfection. Nor worry about making mistakes. Mistakes are the lifeblood of learning. I once asked for a cup of tea in Indonesia, without sugar;

“Satu gelas teh, tanpa gila” There was a look of disbelief, followed by a broad smile and a laugh. I repeated my request. More laughter

“Oh mister, satu gelas teh, tanpa gula?”

You see I had asked for “A glass of tea, without crazy.” Gila is ‘crazy’, Gula means sugar. Easy mistake, a funny mistake and one I immediately remembered the next time. The mistake and my confidence to make the mistake led to my learning. If I had just read the word ‘gula’ in a dictionary, it would not have had the impact, the positive impact, the mistake had.

So be confident. Try the language out. Make your mistakes and the learning will come.

Good luck.

Don’t forget, if you are looking to improve your English, for any reason, from work, to university studies, to travel, my online English classes are right for you. I will work with you to tailor the right course for YOUR needs.

Get in touch and let me help you learn English more quickly and effectively.

And by the way, when you are practicing your newly learnt English, mistakes are positive things. Make them!

Best wishes,

Tony