Category Archives: English as a Foreign Language

6 New English Teaching Projects

Six projects across England have been awarded £6m in government funding to teach English to the public using non-conventional methods.

They competed for funding with the aim of reaching 24,000 non-English speakers in so-called priority areas across London, the Midlands and the North.

The projects will be given funding initially but then encouraged to become self-sustaining.

Councils have been told they must encourage people to speak English. Continue reading

Random Facts About English I Bet You Didn’t Know

Amaze at Dinner Parties and Fill Awkward Silences with Awesome Random Language Facts!

The three infographics below just might illuminate you in ways that may or may not be useful, but are certainly interesting and often comical.

At the very least, they will fuel you with fodder for those inevitable moments of uncomfortable silence, or make you the center of attention at the next cocktail party.

Discover such all-important facts like the origin of the word “sideburns”, the surprising Aztec root of the word “avocado”, how “Dick” came to be a nickname for “Richard”, the mystery of the origin of the word “condom” and how women came to be referred to as “broads”.

Discover these and many more entertaining English language facts below.

Part 1 Facts 1-10


Part 2 Facts 11-20


Part 1 Facts 21-30


50 Strange but True Language Facts

Visual Graphic of ‘Awesome’ Language Facts
Did you know Pinocchio is the second most translated book in the world after the Bible?
How about that sign language speakers have accents?
Or that a kid in his bedroom started a micronation with its own language of 35,000+ words!
These and other intriguing language-related tibits have been incorporated into the infographic below. I thought it would cool and interesting for readers of our blog, so I’ve posted it below..
Language Infographic
The infographic provides a visual way to take in fifty facts about languages, including info on world language figures, endangered languages, artificial languages, language translation/cooperation and some linguistic records (biggest, smallest, oldest, etc) – all eye candy for language enthusiasts!

Slang: Love it or Hate it?

Slang such as ain’t, innit and coz has been banned from a school in south London. We’d like to celebrate modern slang and revisit phrases that have fallen out of fashion. Cor lummy!


Please do not misunderstand me. I love modern slang. It’s as colourful, clever, and disguised from outsiders as slang ever was and is supposed to be. Take bare, for example, one of a number of slang terms recently banned by a London school. It means “a lot of”, as in “there’s bare people here”, and is the classic concealing reversal of the accepted meaning that you also find in wicked, bad and cool. Victorian criminals did essentially the same with back slang, reversing words so that boy became yob and so on.

The other banned words are equally interesting. Extra, for example, mischievously stresses the superfluous in its conventional definition, as in “reading the whole book is extra, innit?”. And that much disapproved innit? is in fact the n’est-ce pas? English has needed since the Normans forgot to bring it with them.

And who would not admire rinsed for something worn out or overused – chirpsing for flirting, bennin for doubled-up with laughter, or wi-five for an electronically delivered high-five? My bad, being new, sounds more sincere than old, tired, I’m sorry (Sos never quite cut it).

Mouse potato for those who spend too much time on PCs is as striking as salmon and aisle salmon for people who will insist on going against the flow in crowds or supermarket aisles. Manstanding is what husbands and partners typically do while their wives or partners are actually getting on with the shopping. Excellent.

Nor is tradition ignored. Words that have fallen out of fashion are revived – vexed, for example, is angry. Cockney rhyming slang survives well beyond its original inspiration, as in the currently popular marvin for starving hungry, after Hank Marvin of The Shadows, who, without wishing to be unkind, hasn’t been that well-known outside his household for a good 25 years. Which, even so, is not as long as it is for a ruby (curry), after Ruby Murray, 1950s pop star.


But (and it was always coming) I do have a sadness to report – the loss of much-loved old friends of phrases that have fallen victim to time, change, and two further factors – first, the current need for brevity in modern communications, and second, the much wider acceptance of words previously considered too uncouth for public exchange.

Being generally opposed to censorship, I’ve no quibble with the latter, except when it becomes monotonous and repetitious, or even more crucially, when it drives out charm and variety. Consider, for example, this expression of surprise from Jeremy Paxman recently on University Challenge: “Oh my godfathers!”. It’s a phrase which was clearly devised to disguise the then unacceptable “Oh my God!” and so is equally clearly now redundant. But that’s the charm of it, as with lawks a mercy (Lord have mercy), cor lummy (Lord, love me) and other such “minced oaths”. I’m fond, too, of Lord luv a duck, whose delightful obscurity has defeated even Michael Quinion’s excellent World Wide Words blog but is a splendidly satisfying thing to say. Try it.

Your family must have some similar sayings handed down. My aunt was particularly fond of this, in response to some piece of bad behaviour: “Aren’t people the giddy limit?” My grandmother, wishing to discourage the nagging questioning of grandchildren anxious to know what they’d overheard and weren’t supposed to, used to say, “Raros to meddlers!”.

I’m now lost to know where they came from, although I glean through the magic of the internet that another exasperation-venter, Strewth Meredith can be traced precisely to a music hall sketch, The Bailiffs, first performed by Fred Kitchen in 1907.

Blimey O’Reilly is even earlier, from a song performed by Pat Rooney in the 1880s. My mother’s frequent request to slow down, gently Bentley, is much later, from the perhaps equally forgotten Australian comedian, Dick Bentley, in the 1950s. Most marvellously, my grandmother’s solicitous greeting, “How’s your poor feet?” turns out to be a song written in 1851 in response to the miles people were walking round Crystal Palace at the Great Exhibition.

I don’t want us all to start sounding like Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, or indeed, Boris Johnson. Nor do I say all past imprecations were that good. By the cringe, a schoolboy favourite of mine, should be left where also lie swinging and dodgy, 1960s catchphrases of Norman Vaughan, another performer to whom time has been unkind.

But I do think we would be much more interesting to listen to if we put some effort into achieving what Reader’s Digest used to call “more picturesque speech”.


Modern insult, for example, is terribly thin stuff compared with the master, William Shakespeare. Whole websites are devoted to the staggering range and force of Bardic bad-mouthing. My current favourite is: “You peasant swain! You whoreson malt-horse drudge!”

And if you’re concerned to be brief, just initialise, as with OMG. BO’R, for instance, or RTM.

I’m not entirely convinced, though, that we’re quite ready for the return of Jimmy Young’s TTFN.

Ways to Master a Daily Life Topic in English

In my view it is expedient to master a conversation topic in English in the following sequence:

  1. Learners listen to and pronounce each sentence of English speech (thematic dialogues and narrative texts with transcripts).
  2. Speaking on each conversation topic (imitation of dialogues (role play), ready-made thematic questions and answers with helpful content for using in daily life, narrations/telling stories, talking points and discussions of issues). Learners can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on the dialogue or text they listened to previously in order to make easier for them to tell the content in English. It is important to compare what they said to the transcript. It is a good idea to record one’s speech on audio aid to compare it with the original audio/video recording.
  3. Learning of additional conversation sentences and vocabulary from English phrase books, conversation books and general thematic English dictionaries that provide useful usage sentences. Making up one’s own sentences with difficult vocabulary for potential use in daily life.
  4. Extensive reading of thematic texts and materials from various sources. Telling the content of thematic texts. It is better for learners to write down unknown vocabulary in whole sentences to remember word meanings easier. It would be a good speaking practice for learners telling the content of the texts that they have read. Learners can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan, or questions on the text that require long answers to make easier for learners to tell the content of the text. I believe it is a good idea to read each logical chunk or paragraph of a text and to narrate each paragraph separately, and then the whole text.
  5. Writing on real life topics.

It is important that learners make use of various aids on many daily life topics to improve their English language skills: audios, videos (English learning videos, travel videos, etc.), Internet resources, English (learning) magazines, newspapers, newsletters, radio programmes (especially the BBC English learning programmes/materials), TV programmes (educational programmes, documentary films, movies, news), books and e-books on a variety of subjects, online communication with native English speakers (chat, email, Skype). Good public libraries and the Internet have a wide selection of English learning aids.

My idea below may be important to you to improve your English materials.

As you know word combinations in speaking are unpredictable. There are different word collocations/phrases, expressions and synonyms to convey a thought in English.

It’s possible to encompass in ready-made materials a wide variety of English phrases for each conversation topic. It is a good idea to prepare a potential list of phrases with sentences on each conversation topic, for example fixed conversational phrases that do not require English grammar knowledge (greetings, forms of addressing a person, thanks, well-wishing, apology, agreeing, disagreeing, emotions, etc.).

Practising English with such materials can help a learner easier choose the most appropriate word combinations to convey a thought.

Multiple frequent reading of such sentences in English will gradually ensure firm memorisation of English vocabulary and contribute to developing good speaking skills.

By combining the most inclusive English phrase books, conversation books, general English thematic dictionaries, software, audio and video aids and websites you can create the most practical and thorough content for mastering each conversation topic in English for all levels including a wide selection of ready-to-use phrases, vocabulary and sentences for daily use.

Your own ready-made materials could be superior to (more helpful than) any conversation book or a phrase book in terms of useful comprehensive content and vocabulary.

Learning English Resources

In addition to my English learning articles, this site and some other ESL/EFL sites with advice (tips) I suggest that ESL/EFL learners read the following highly helpful and practical publications for their English language activities and for self-improvement. Do not hastily dismiss these publications as they contain a lot of really helpful practical information on how to learn ESL/EFL more successfully:

Learning to Learn English Learner’s book: A Course in Learner Training, 118 pages.

This package provides a systematic course that enables students to become more effective learners and take on greater responsibility for their own learning. The Learner’s Book is divided into two stages. Stage 1 contains activities that focus on styles, needs, organization, and motivation. Stage 2 covers various skills that include: extending vocabulary, dealing with grammar, listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Learners and teachers can select the skills and strategies they need and plan their own route through the materials. The course can be used in conjunction with a regular language course or presented as separate learner training sessions.

Learning to Learn English Audio CD: A Course in Learner Training [Audiobook] [Audio CD], 2011, Gail Ellis (Author), Barbara Sinclair (Author).

The Independent Learner: A Practical Guide to Learning a Foreign Language at Home from Scratch to Functional, 196 pages, 2009.

Language Logic: Practical and Effective Techniques to Learn Any Foreign Language, 416 pages, 2007.

Language Learning: How to Learn Any Language [Kindle Edition].

How to Learn Any Language, Barry Farber, 192 pages, 2006.

The links below contain highly useful materials for learners of English and can serve as a free and valuable guide for them. Let me know how useful these materials can be in your English learning.

FOR LEARNERS: (click “Links Index” and then “General Tips”) (click “For Students” and then “Explanations”)

Tips and Advice on English Conversation and Vocabulary Learning

I would like to know your opinion about the English learning methods set out below that I suggest to ESL (English as a second language) learners. I believe in their effectiveness because many ESL learners have tried them out and I have received a lot of positive responses about those methods from ESL learners.

I have found important information that may be valuable for all students of English. I am a former English (ESL) teacher. I have undertaken a thorough comprehensive research on the most effective methods and aids for learning English. Those aids include audios, videos, websites, study books, etc. I want to share with you that information for English language learners.

Of course, everyday talking in English to native English speakers on a variety of topics helps best in order to be able to speak English fluently. But relatively few learners of English have such long-term opportunity. To eventually be able to speak English fluently, first of all one must have materials with important content on all everyday topics (audios, videos, printed texts/study books, etc.) for beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of study. The materials must include dialogs, monologues (thematic texts), questions – answers with important content, thematic lists of difficult word meanings and phrases (expressions) with usage sentences, and comprehensive vocabulary on all everyday topics. I believe that one can master English conversation and vocabulary with the following methods:

One must listen to each sentence in conversations (thematic dialogs) in audio materials several times and see printed texts at the same time, and understand everything in those sentences clearly.

2. One must read (pronounce) each sentence aloud and compare one’s pronunciation to the announcer’s pronunciation.

3. Speaking activity with self-control. One must check if one can orally convey the content of those dialogs closely to the original dialogs as much as possible, that is try to be an actor for both speakers in the dialogs. The most important thing is to speak English yourself, and to check in printed conversations (dialogs) whether you have made any mistakes in speaking.
One can also make one’s own written questions on the dialogs that require long answers contained in the dialogs to facilitate (make easier) one’s imitation of the dialogs. Alternatively, one can write key words and phrases, or main ideas as a plan to make easier for one to imitate those dialogs.

4. One must also prepare potential questions and answers with important content on all everyday topics and practice speaking. To show different ways of expressing one’s thought one can make several potential questions and answers on one point in this speaking activity. There are two websites that contain a lot of ready-made questions in English on a large variety of topics:;

5. One must have lists of difficult word meanings and of phrases (expressions) on every topic with usage sentences. One must read those ready-made vocabulary usage sentences many times if needed. Longman Language Activator Dictionary (unique English Idea Production Dictionary) covers this issue thoroughly. One must also make one’s own sentences with that vocabulary, taking into consideration real life situations.

6. One can learn a lot of vocabulary on every topic from thematic English dictionaries. Good thematic English dictionaries provide clear word usage explanations and also a few usage sentences for each word meaning, which is especially important. One must also make one’s own sentences with difficult vocabulary. Think about  the real life situations where and when that vocabulary can be used.

7. One can also learn English vocabulary by reading thematic texts (materials), first of all on everyday topics with important content, for example: Practical Tips and Advice to Make Everyday Life Easier and Better (practical solutions for everyday problems). Such self-help books on settling everyday matters are available at book stores.
One must write down unknown vocabulary in whole sentences. One must practice telling the content of the texts that one has read. As people say, practice makes perfect.

8. Constant review of material ensures solid knowledge and success in learning.

9. One must also make use of other important aids on a variety of topics to improve one’s English conversation and vocabulary skills: audios, videos (English learning videos, travel videos, etc.), Internet resources, English learning magazines, newspapers, newsletters, radio programs (especially the BBC English learning programs/materials), TV programs (educational programs, documentary films, movies, news), books and e-books on a variety of subjects, online communication with native English speakers (chat, by email, by Skype).
Good libraries have a wide selection of English learning aids.

We could also discuss the issue of effective methods and aids for learning English. Information exchange could be mutually beneficial to us. I am open to your suggestions to improve my Tips and Advice on Learning English Conversation and Vocabulary.
All the best.

Michael Chtcherbitski

English the Most Common Language in EU

The findings of a Eurostat study conducted in 2007 have just been released showing that English is the most common language across the European Union (EU).

Of the 21 EU Member States, there are 6 states in which no data collected and of the remaining 15 states, English was spoken in 14 of them.

In fact, English is the most common language in the EU to be studied too. Exceptions to this are Luxembourg, where English, French and German are studied equally and Ireland and the UK, where French is the most commonly studied language.

English as the most common language across the EU is also represented in the data collected on citizens who speak a minimum of 2 languages: 28% of all EU citizens, the study reports. In fact, in Slovenia, 72% of 25 – 64 year olds spoke 2 or more languages, Slovakia and Finland 68%, Lithuania 66%, Estonia 56% and Latvia 55%.

As one would expect if English were to be the most common language across the EU, the UK has the highest proportion of people who stated they only spoke one language, 65%. This was also the case for Cyprus 59%, Austria 50% and Greece and Sweden, both with 45%.

The analysis from this study was released just ahead of The European Day of Languages. The day itself is “to alert the public to the importance of language learning, to promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe and to encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school.”

“The EU recognised improving language learning in the EU as a key factor in the Lisbon strategy and the Barcelona European Council in 2002 set the objective of ensuring that all pupils study at least two foreign languages from an early age.”

Learning English Tools – Electronic Devices

English Language Learning Tools

There are so many English language learning tools out there and with the sometimes daily advances in technology, you are sure to find new and ground-breaking techniques and devices which make great tools for learning English. Here we provide you with a quick run-down on some of today’s learning English tools and electronic devices.

But before we look at the devices themselves, here are two great and increasingly traditional and often free English learning tools that you can get started with:

MP3 English lessons: There are a wide range of places you can download English lessons from and store on your MP3 player, such as an iPod. As most people now have iPods and they’re portable, you really can listen and learn wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Audio tapes and CDs. These are great tools for learning English. All you need do is dust-off your cassette player, Walkman or CD player and you can listen and learn wherever you are. Audio CDs are great to keep in the car, so the next time you hit a traffic jam pop on your English language learning CD of choice and passively better your English skills.

Another great English language learning tool, which helps with reading, writing and speaking English is an electronic translator or dictionary. Again, as they are portable, they can be used in a variety of situations, from travelling on holiday, downtime on a business trip or even while talking with people in English. These devices have come on leaps and bounds since I first saw the international students at my school use them and the majority of the models on the market today will include fantastically accurate text-to-speech and voice recognition software. In fact, you can easily find many models which have vocabularies of more than 1 million words! I bet that’s more than you know in your own language and it’s certainly more English words than I know!

The great thing about these devices that make them fantastic English language learning tools is the fact that they come pre-programmed with numerous common expressions, phrases and grammatical constructs. This makes them great English learning tools and the two most popular models currently on the market are the Talking Electronic English Dictionary and the Audio Phrasebook. Both are handheld, include hundreds of thousands of words, definitions and thesaurus entries, let you view the word onscreen and can even read the word aloud to you.

For those that want devices which function strictly as English learning tools, there are devices which come pre-populated with the popular SAT exam word list and ones which come with grammar guides, exercises, tests and even English language learning games and quizzes!

If portability is not a key feature you require or you are looking for potentially free English learning tools, you could consider downloading English language software to your computer. You could in fact make this semi-portable by installing it on your laptop. The majority of this software will allow you to do advanced English translation inside the programmes you use day-to-day. For example, you will be able to translate English language websites, emails and documents. Many free-to-try English learning tools will have interactive language learning tools, study materials and even speaking and non-speaking dictionaries too. With the advancement in technology of mobile phones and PDAs, there is much development of English language learning tools for Smartphones such as the iPhone and Blackberries, Pocket PC and Palm OS, to name but a few.

By far the best free English learning tools may well also be the most fun: TV and radio! Sounds like every students dream right? Watching TV and learning English. In fact, watching and listening to English TV shows is a fantastic way to learn English. And once you’ve studied enough for the day, why not watch your favourite TV shows in your own language, but with the subtitles on; a great free English learning tool.

In summary, you will be able to find many great English language learning tools on the market and many free English learning tools too. Before you buy, make sure you research each device to ensure it fits with you and your lifestyle.

Effects of English as a Global Language

In most Asian countries, people start learning English as a second language when they enter elementary school. They have to learn for more than three hours a week at the elementary school. As English is becoming a global language, the world is changing. These days, there are many effects of English as a global language. The most important effects are that companies are able to trade with foreign companies well, and that people spend a lot of time to learn English.

The first effect of English as a global language is that companies are able to trade with foreign companies easily. In fact, there are few countries in the world that are self-sufficient now. The overseas market has grown and has become important today. Consequently, most companies are trading with foreign companies. If a company cannot communicate well with foreign companies, their business deals may fall through. So, before, in a meeting or a conference, people used to communicate through a translator. However, people do not need a translator now because they could trade successfully with foreign companies using English. For this reason, companies hire capable professionals that can speak English fluently as a second language. As a result, companies are able to trade with other companies well without misunderstandings that result from language differences.

The second effect of English as a global language is that people spend a lot of time to learn English. In Korea, people began to teach English to every student at the school in 1995. In my case, I spent more time studying English than studying other subjects when I was a high school student. A lot of students usually go to a private institute to learn English after school. Other countries are similar to this situation. Even though students are not good at math or other subjects, they spend much time studying English because many people think that English is the most important subject. Some Korean mothers emigrated from Korea to an English speaking country with their child in order to teach them English, even though their child is too young to speak their own language. Thus, a number of this type of immigrants is increasing.

In conclusion, English as a global language affects companies in communicating well with foreign companies. Also, it makes people to spend a lot of time to learn English. I think that there are both positive effects and negative effects of English as a global language, but one thing that we have to remind ourselves is that we cannot live well without using English. The necessity of English as a global language is very obvious. Indeed, we will use English even more in the future.

This post was submitted by one of our students, Minwoo, in response to English as a Global Language.