Reasons to Learn English in Manila

Do you want to learn English? Are you still looking for an English school that would suit you best? A lot of people are now looking into learning this language because the world is indeed getting smaller. With the global phenomenon of the internet, and English being the number one language being used in the web, more and more people actually see the need to learn it. Plus the fact that traveling around the world is getting more affordable every day, communicating with the people whose country you are traveling to becomes essential. What do most countries use as their foreign language? You guessed it correctly, its English. So why is Manila, Philippines a good place to study English?

First and foremost, the Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia whose majority of the population speaks and understands English. In almost all the corners of this country, to the most remote area you could possibly visit, they can understand and talk in English. If you go to major cities of the country, such as Manila, I can guarantee you that you will never get lost, frustrated or confused because of any type of language barrier. I can assure you too of the people’s hospitality and warm welcome to any foreigner. With the American occupation after World War 2 and the big influx of American missionaries, the Filipinos are one of the better English speaking countries in Asia. Given those factors, your learning of English will not stop inside the classroom since everybody else communicates in the said language.

Secondly, Manila is an urban city with lots of shopping malls and commercial areas that will surely keep you busy during your stay. This place also boasts of quite a selection of good restaurants, from Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Mexican and American cuisine, you will surely find the type of food you eat in this place. Even popular fast food chains are in no shortage in this town. Traveling around the city should be no problem since there are quite a few numbers of means of transportation. You can take a taxi cab, the jeepney, a bus or the MRT. Word of caution, the city is not immune to traffic and pick pockets so always be careful when you are moving around Manila. Just don’t worry too much about the pick pockets, like I said, Filipinos are very hospitable and are always willing to help tourists.

Third reason why a lot of people study English in Manila is the cost of the school and even the cost of living is very cheap. Compared to studying in Australia, Canada or the US, studying in Manila, Philippines would only cost you a fourth or a third of the tuition fee if you opt for other places. With the tuition fees and the cost of board and lodging combined, it still comes out way cheaper compared to studying in America or Australia.

Last but not the least, the Philippines is a great tropical country who is proud of their many gorgeous beaches. If you are tired of cold winters and dry weather, this country is perfect for you. During the coldest part of the year, it’s only 80 degrees Fahrenheit!

How Can I Learn English Quickly and Effectively in Hong Kong (HK SAR)?

This is a question that so many people in Hong Kong ask!

The answer is easy: learn and practice more! Find an experienced private English tutor in Hong Kong and work with him (or her).

Most people will respond with “But I have been learning English in HK since kindergarten!” I do try to learn but I never get more confidence… The three most common problem functional areas in HK are poor English grammar, pronunciation and lack of vocabulary. Communicating in English is also hindered by a strong Chinese accent (from Cantonese or Mandarin mother tongue language). The other main problem is the lack of opportunity to use and practice English. Although English is an official language in Hong Kong, it is in fact a foreign language for most people. There is little chance for people to practice English since almost everyone speaks Cantonese for day-to-day conversation within the office and at home. Thats why practicing with a native English tutor is so important.

English grammar can be improved upon. A good English tutor will use a quick diagnostic test (such as the Oxford University Test) and this will enable your teacher to find out the exact problem areas you have with verb tenses, prepositions, articles, nouns etc. In fact prepositions, articles and verb tenses are the most common errors encountered by local Hong Kong Chinese. Analysing the form and structure and utilising the verb form by writing an article using it can help cement your understanding and thus prevent future errors. Your English tutor can help you correct your writing and improve key areas such as this.

English vocabulary is another problem area for HK people. With grammar mistakes you can still communicate your message, but without sufficient vocabulary you will never be able to communicate in English at all! Reading is a great way to improve vocabulary but choose ones that are interesting for you. If you are interested in photography or sports find a good English language blog and read that. There are lots of free articles on the internet these days, many aimed at native speakers. Just do a search for “free articles”. Newspapers sites are also in abundance and UK dailies such as the Guardian Newspaper publish on the net for free. You can print the article and take it with you to read on your journey to work. It is important, however, that you keep a log book or record of the new English words. Try to use 5 new words every day at work or with your friends. One word of warning (if you excuse the pun!) is not to use too complicated or old-fashioned words; Remember that you want to be able to communicate clearly and if you use a long, old-fashioned word even some native English speakers may not understand you!

Learning how to pronounce English words correctly is best done one-to-one with a native speaking tutor. The tutor will be able to correct you instantly and show you how to pronounce the words properly with the correct use of your mouth, tongue, lips and throat. Many sounds in the English language just don’t exist in Chinese so Hong Kong Cantonese speakers and mainland Mandarin (Putonghua) speakers don’t have the inbuilt ability to produce them. It is rather like trying to do a marathon without ever running before. Chinese native accent also causes problems with communication but this can also be reduced by learning English with a native tutor.

When you are reading look at how the English phrases are put together. Most native speakers remember phrases and blocks of language rather than individual words. Why? Because English words often have several meanings. By remembering the words inside a phrase you will also remember the correct meaning and be able to use it correctly.

Remember practice makes perfect – but you have to learn English first!

For ESL Learners – How Can I Improve My English Listening Ability?

Most English learners find it difficult to understand spoken English. That isn’t surprising because learning to listen to a new language requires many skills.

First, obviously, you have to understand what you hear. This means that you need a good vocabulary – a minimum of 3,000 word families to understand everyday spoken English. (Word families are groups of words that are related, like “respond,” “response,” “responsive” and “responsively.” All of these words together are just one word family.) And, of course, you need to understand the grammatical rules of the language.

Second, in order to understand spoken English, you also have to be able to process information quickly – about 8 words every 2-3 seconds. This means that you have to hear the information and understand it simultaneously because conversation moves very quickly in English. If a listener is too slow, people complain that his or her conversation doesn’t make any sense. Why not? Because the poor listener has just managed to process something that the speaker said a minute ago. A minute ago, the listener’s comment or question made sense, but unfortunately it doesn’t make sense now.

Third, you have to remember what you heard. This is often difficult to do in your first language, much less a second or third language!

And fourth, you have to respond appropriately to what you heard.

So how in the world does anyone become a good listener of English?

First, even though you need a good vocabulary, you don’t need to understand every word that you hear. If you understand most of the words, or even just a few of the words, sometimes you can still make a good guess at a speaker’s meaning. So it’s important to relax! Even native speakers don’t always hear and understand EVERY word, but it doesn’t matter – as long as you understand the general idea.

Second, research shows that English learners understand spoken English better when they prepare to listen by activating their schema. Your schema includes all of the information that you know about a topic. For instance, if the topic is “hospitals,” your schema might include everything you know about: doctors, nurses, illness, patients, surgery, insurance companies, broken bones, cancer, physical exams, medicine, medical drugs, needles, shots, hospital beds, etc. When you activate your schema before you begin listening, it is easier to understand what you hear because you can use your prior knowledge to help you understand the present conversation.

Research also shows that learners listen better when they have a purpose for listening and focus their attention on finding specific information. Even beginning listeners can listen very well to a long and complicated conversation if they focus their attention on listening for people’s names, birthdays, addresses, phone numbers or similar information. Intermediate students can focus their attention on listening for sequence of events in a story – what happened first, second, third, etc. Advanced students can focus their attention on listening for emotional content of a conversation and information about people’s feelings. Having a purpose for listening helps you to focus your attention and get comfortable listening to longer sequences of English.

And finally, it’s important for listeners to know that they should ask questions when they don’t understand something. Too often, English learners don’t ask questions when they don’t understand, and this can be disastrous, especially at work. It’s much better to ask questions than to make a big mistake! One easy strategy is to try to paraphrase the speaker’s words (to repeat what the speaker said). For example, if your boss says, “Go and get a copy of the Route 5 bus schedule out of my bottom desk drawer,” you can simply repeat what you heard (or think you heard). “A copy of the Route 5 bus schedule? Out of your bottom desk drawer?” When your boss nods his head, you’ll know that you heard him correctly. If your boss makes a correction, for instance: “No, the Route 9 bus schedule,” you can be thankful that you asked the question and avoided a big mistake.

In summary, learning to listen to English can be difficult because listening well is a complicated process that requires all of your attention. You can help yourself listen better by relaxing, by activating your schema, by deciding on a purpose for listening and, finally, by asking questions when you’re not sure if you heard correctly. Practice all of these skills frequently and you WILL improve your listening skills.

We’re Not in London Anymore: The Queen’s English Becomes Indian

If you were to conduct a word association game in the United States using the word “Indian English,” most Americans would conjure up an image of the smiling store clerk Apu from The Simpsons. Though Apu’s manner of speaking, like all stereotypes, is not completely off the mark, it grossly misrepresents a dialect of English which has not only distinguished itself from its mother tongue, but has come into its own as a distinct and vibrant language in its own right. From business to literature, English is a potent communication force in modern India.

English first came to the subcontinent with British traders in the 17th century, and three centuries later it ranks as a co-official language of the Indian state. Approximately 10 to 20 percent of the Indian populace speaks English, though it is nearly always a second language, used in the high levels of government and business. It also functions as a lingua franca in South India. The language most closely resembles British English as well as dialects of English spoken in other South Asian countries but, after three centuries of Indian influence, it has distinct regional variations that set it apart from both the mother tongue and other varieties.

Anyone who has been to Britain or Canada will feel at home in an Indian English dictionary, as British spellings remain quite common. For example, “honor” would be acceptably spelled “honour” in an Indian school. Generally, the ideal when teaching English is “Received English” or “BBC English.” As in the United States, where the ideal accent for newscasters is a mild Midwestern, “BBC English” is the most standardized and least regionalized manner of speaking non-American English.

Evidence of Indians’ mastery of the English language can be found in the countless Indian authors whose written thoughts have best been expressed in English. Take this beautiful passage from Jawaharlal Nehru. One can see the distinctly British spelling of “vigour,” and the way in which “remembered” is rendered as “memoried”: “My love of the mountains and my kinship with Kashmir especially drew me to them, and I saw there not only the life and vigour and beauty of the present, but also the memoried loveliness of ages past… the Ganges, above all the river of India, which has held India’s heart captive and drawn uncounted millions to her banks since the dawn of history.”i

Even ignoring the multitude of new words in Indian English, the language has many features simply not to be found in merry England or sunny California One unique feature is its use of compound words, such as “cousin-brother” or “time-pass” (as in “that class was a real time-pass,” i.e, boring). Additionally, Indians use many plurals that are not found in British or NA English, such as “furnitures.” Furthermore, Indians often abbreviate words in novel ways, such as “enthu” for “enthusiasm” or “funda” for “fundamentals.” Changing the word slightly to “fundu” gives you a substitute for “brilliant and wonderful.”

Due to centuries of interactions with Indian languages such as Hindi, the Indian dialect of English has absorbed many Indian phrases into its vocabulary. For example, the question “What is your good name,” is a literal translation of “Aapka shubh naam kya hai?” Indian English is full of these directly translated phrases. “This morning,” for example, is “today morning” and “last night” is “yesterday night.”

Much of the English spoken in India contains actual Hindi and native words. The mixture has been called kichiri (a meal composed of random ingredients). Even in more academic settings, it’s not uncommon to hear Hindi words sprinkled amongst the English. It is the incorporation of these native words which gives Indian English its distinct character.

In the last century, English has become a lingua franca of world culture and business, and so the English spoken in India does not exist in the old vacuum. As British and American influences compete for supremacy, the fact remains that Indian English is not merely a fossilized transplant, but a singular and distinct Indian language. It owes this both to its interaction with Indian languages and to the ways in which Indian speakers have manipulated traditional English ways of speaking. It’s a delightful mix.

In recent times, the younger generation of India has begun to adopt American English instead of British English, largely due to the growing prestige of the U.S. in India and to the power of American popular culture. The staying power of BBC English is strong, however, and in a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents felt that it was still the best model for Indian English. Only ten percent preferred the American variety. It would seem that British English is still very popular, no? 

English Language Teachers: Why Teach English?

“Why do we have to study English?” When your reluctant learners ask this dreaded question how do you respond? How can you motivate them to really want to learn and use English? Here is an approach I’ve used successfully.

Often when I give an academic presentation plenary speech or English teacher training session, I ask the audience, “How many countries have Spanish as the first language?” Since I live and work in South America you’d think the response would be swift and forthcoming. Usually it’s not. After the group has sweated it out for a couple of minutes or so I ask, “Would you like to see the list?” They do, of course so I project the 20 key Spanish-speaking countries, which are: