Let's use an example of a successful Premier League manager to underline the fact that you should never let your level of English get in the way of what you want to do.
Watch the following interview with Maurizio Pochettino and see if you agree with my English language points:
Despite working in the UK since 2013, Pochettino's level of English remains quite poor; he has a strong accent, he forgets to use the third-person s, he often speaks in the present when referring to the past and has a lack of relevant vocabulary. BUT (and I know I'm biased as I'm a Tottenham fan) this does not stop him from achieving success in his career, from being easily understood and taking questions from journalists etc. His happy, positive personality comes across clearly and I believe he's a good example of how your character is very important when communicating. His English has not stopped him from becoming a successful person.
I've often met people who seem a little unfriendly or distant because they are not confident of their English and prefer to remain silent or look down at their phone to avoid an embarrassing situation.
Always remember that your poor English will be enhanced with a smile and a willingness to try to communicate no matter how difficult it is.
One of my English students told me yesterday that the first American series he started watching without subtitles was Friends. It's one of the easier series to follow for learners of English, yes there will be scenes that you don't understand, but give it a go, and you'll be surprised at how much you can actually follow. The language isn't so complicated and you'll be able to understand a lot from the acting. It's a way to improve your 'real' English (i.e. not text book stuff) and it's relaxing and funny too. I can guarantee you'll feel proud of yourself when you get to the end of the episode!
Do you have difficulty understanding native speakers? We usually recommend that our language learners do at least one listening exercise a week at home. Over time this will begin to help you. A couple of our suggestions:
I merely need to say the words "phrasal verbs" in class for a sudden respectful hush to descend on the room. Let's be honest, phrasal verbs are difficult for non native speakers to 'get to grips with' (GET TO GRIPS WITH: TO DEAL WITH SOMETHING OR SOMEONE DIFFICULT OR CHALLENGING).
For every phrasal verb there is always a more formal equivalent: TURN UP THE RADIO PLEASE (INCREASE THE VOLUME), JO & ALI BROKE UP YESTERDAY (THEY SEPARATED OR ENDED THEIR RELATIONSHIP), HE SHOWED UP AFTER DINNER HAD STARTED (HE ARRIVED).
So what's the best way to try to incorporate phrasal verbs into your English? Firstly don't try to simply learn a long list, try learning two a week, writing them down as part of a sentence. Secondly, in the beginning focus on simply understanding and recognising phrasal verbs, when you speak you can always use an alternative. Later when you're really familiar with some phrasal verbs you can begin, slowly, to add one or two to your spoken English. Over time, your English will begin to sound more 'native' with the addition of some phrasal verbs.
If you have very young kids & you want them to speak English when they grow up, believe me, the best thing you can do for them is to oblige them to watch programmes in English rather than Italian. If you start when they're really young, before they can protest about the language change, it will quickly become 'normal' for them. Everytime you let them watch kids programmes, switch the language. Families I know that have doen this from a very early age, have had amazing results. You won't notice much difference when they're young, but as soon as they hit middle school and teenage years you'll see their understanding is streets ahead of other students & their English accent will be very good.
I would be a rich woman if I could have a euro for every person who has said to me "I try watching movies in English but I don't understand a word" (To be honest, here in Italy I hear "I don't understand nuffing!!"). We never recommend an English learner watch a movie in English (unless they have an advanced level), it's too difficult and as a consequence is very demoralizing. A really useful activity, however, is to watch a film that you already know really well in your native language, so choose your favourite movie that you've watched a few times, change the language, and watch it in English. You'll already know the theme, the plot and you'll be familiar with what the characters are saying to each other. You're much more likely to 'pick out' (distinguish) new words and phrases because your brain isn't desperately trying to understand 'what the heck' (what on earth, what the devil) people are saying.
A helpful tip for remembering new English words: when you meet a new word or phrasal verb don't just write it down in a book, record it as part of a whole sentence. For example if the word is 'approval', you could write: 'Trump's approval rating worsens every week'. In this way it's easier for your brain to remember not just the word, but also it's meaning - as it has a context. And you're getting a little bit of grammar at the same time!!
I think the mistake many English learners make is that they draw a line of separation between British English and American English, believing it best to focus on learning one or the other. In reality native speakers do not differentiate between different types of English, yes we are aware of the different English accent from around the world, but to us, it's all just 'English'.
I get asked many times about the difference between AE and BE, so I thought I would take five minutes to talk about the 'infamous present perfect'. It's untrue when people say Americans don't use the present perfect (I have lost my keys ...), however they do have a different idea of time; we teach that if the event still has an effect on or is connected to 'now' (eg "I've eaten too much for breakfast" - with the effect being that now you have stomach ache) then we tend to use the present perfect (British English), however Americans have a different or narrower idea of 'connection', so they think 'this morning' (even if it's still part of 'today') is finished and so they tend to say "I ate too much for breakfast, and now I have stomach ache". But it is still widely used in American English, just in slightly different circumstances, so yes you still have to study it
In each of my last three English lessons, at some point I was asked, "how can I improve my understanding?"
In this blog you'll find little ways to improve your spoken English as well as your understanding, today I want to share a little tip that might sound stupid but is actually a really useful exercise.
Find a recording on the internet by a native speaker, choose one sentence and keep listening to it on 'repeat'. At first just listen to it, then after (and maybe you should do this in the privacy of your own bedroom!) play it and repeat it out loud, paying particular attention to the pronunciation and intonation (both vital aspects to re-creating the sound of native English). Not only will you begin to understand how to pronounce difficult words, but the more often you do this exercise, your understanding of 'real' English will improve.
Go on try it!!
What does the idiom 'you've hit the nail on the head' actually mean? The exact translation in Italian would be: colpire nel segno. We use it to mean, the exact or precise thing.
Some examples of this widely used phrase:
"She hit the nail on the head when she pointed out that problem"
"Yes you've hit the nail on the head with that answer"
"Although we seem to have found a partial solution, no one has actually really hit the nail on the head"
The phrase dates back to the 1400s, it's origins are unknown.
English teacher resident in Italy for 10 years, looking to help people understand this crazy language