10 Top Tips for Learning English (or any other language)

Every new year comes with many resolutions:

“This year I’ll go on a diet and lose 20 pounds.”

“This year I’ll stop smoking”

“This year I’ll get a boyfriend/girlfriend/ pet”

“This year I’ll learn (…. – fill in the blanks)”.

But the problem with making resolutions is that they don’t tend to stick. They slip away and melt as if under the tropical sun.

But if you follow these steps (not in any necessary order and at least some of them) you will make progress and then you will feel you can continue to learn English (or any other language for that matter)

  1. Watch movies and TV in your target language (the internet makes it accessible) – even if you don’t understand what’s going on  you’ll get familiar to the sounds of that language. (I particularly love commercials)
  2. Read a book you know well. Preferably a book you liked reading in your mother tongue. When my wife was learning French she bought a copy of the Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) so she could enjoy the book and learn in her new language.language
  3. Keep a notebook – scribble down new words you learn – especially creating word collocation and usage sections. Revisit the notebook once a week.
  4. Use mnemonic devices. It won’t work for everyone but it does work. When learning about the coordinating conjunctions, for instance, you can use the word FANBOYS to help remember the list. Can you name them? I’m pretty sure you can, because of FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So). That is a mnemonic device. Creating a funny mental picture that you’ll remember is another way to use a mnemonic device. The sillier the picture is, the better it will stick in your head.
  5. Listen to podcasts – not only about English learning – but podcasts of other subjects of your interest produced in English or target language.
  6. Get a grammar book and do the exercises. Need I say more?
  7. Be mindful. Notice language. How it’s used. How it sounds.Create a routine, Stick to it.
  8. Read aloud – small texts and paragraphs but that will improve your pronunciation, intonation and fluency.
  9. Test yourself – after a month – review the points you’ve learned and test your progress.
  10. Enjoy your learning

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Have fun.

 

Cheers,

Mo

How to study for the TOEFL in 3 “easy steps”

The Test Of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) is the most widely respected English-language test in the world, recognized by thousands of colleges, universities and agencies in more than 130 countries, including Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the United States. Wherever you want to study, the TOEFL test can help you get there, that is, it is a pre-requirement for academic entry in most English-speaking countries.

My advice on how to prepare for the test is:

  1. Learn the test –  become familiar with it. get lots of samples online and practice, practice, practice – this is how you will learn about the test’s format, strategy, timing. Experience is king – and it’s true – by studying previous TOEFL tests you’ll be conquering years in weeks or months.
  2. Strategy – go to YouTube and listen to different people who have taken their test.
  3. Skills – the test is not just about grammar – identify your weakest skills and attack them. Usually listening comprehension is poor especially for people not living in an English-speaking country – there are 1000s of radio stations online to practice with in addition to podcasts. Also speaking can be a problem. A simple but effective practice is to get interviews of actors, politicians and read them aloud until you feel comfortable. Many times video interviews also have a transcript or closed caption – use them as tools to develop your intonation and pronunciation.

For more information go to their official website: https://www.ets.org/toefl

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2016’s Year-End Musings

This year has been a huge rollercoaster for billions of people around the world, political turmoil in Brazil and South Korea. Russians electing the next US president (sic). The sinking underneath the miry mud of Venezuela and the stubborn economic recession in Brazil feeding the political crisis and vice versa. Let alone humanitarian crises as of the refugees, with Syria imploding with millions of people trying to escape by the skin of their teeth.

What shall I say of tragic deaths of people who made a difference in the world or in their inner circle? Or a plane crash killing almost an entire team of soccer players and reporters because of greed and corner cutting? #ForçaChapecoense

The Oxford English Dictionary chose “post-truth” as word of the year. Australia is going with “democracy sausage”. My choice of word of the year for Brazil is “Eita!” An interjection more or less meaning WTF! without the sexual innuendos.

We’re living in a society when we feel obligated to spend money. We feel we have to give gifts whether the recipient needs or wants it. Our society has turned all stores into “pharmacies” where shopping for shopping’s sake is the drug of choice.

A good idea is to give small gifts, homemade and consumable. They get eaten and gone.

Sal Crosland a holistic therapist said:”I couldn’t remember what I had got for Christmas in the past, but I could remember who I was with”.

So when saying goodbye or good riddance to such a gloomy year which the sun fails to brighten up my advice to you is:

when meeting people (which sooner or later you’ll meet – unless you’re a successful hermit) 

Don’t criticize

Don’t complain

Don’t condemn,  

but rather     BE   Positive,  BE Interested,   And  BE  Interesting!                                           

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Wishing you a wonderful and blessed 2017.

Cheers,

Mo

My Journey to “Teacherpreneur”

This week, Patrice Palmer asked me on Twitter if I was a “teacherpreneur” and if I would be interested in answering an interview. To start off the conversation I wasn’t even sure what she meant by that but a quick Google search showed me the following definition:

“The teacherpreneur merges the image of the innovative classroom teacher with the risk-taking and entrepreneurial leadership that we commonly associate with those who create their own place in the professional world.

Teacherpreneurs are, first and foremost, imaginative teachers. They have created a classroom culture of creativity and reflection. They think beyond the classroom in terms of how to make lessons meaningful, and in so doing, might see a need elsewhere in school that their innovation can address.” (https://www.edutopia.org/blog/era-of-teacherpreneur-heather-wolpert-gawron)

So … I guess I’m a “teacherpreneur” after all. Thanks, Patrice for teaching me one more thing this year. my-journey-from-teacher-to-teacherpreneur-2-1-500x281

Here’s my interview:

Teacherpreneur: Moacir Sena (aka Mo the Americanoid)

Can you start off by telling us where you teach?

I’ve been teaching English and Spanish at banks, law firms and other industries. (99% of the time it’s been one-on-one basis) and the students usually came from managerial positions up to the CEO). I’d say 60-70% of the students have been upper-intermediate to advanced (B2-C1+)

How long have you been teaching?

I’ve been teaching since 1986 – started teaching at a small language school near where I lived and from then on I moved to other language schools until starting my solo career back in 1998.

Can you describe a typical teaching day?

In the past I’d have classes early in the morning -7:30-9am / break / 12-2pm/ break/ 6-8pm (with the occasional class starting at 9-10:30pm) During those windows I’d work on translations.

Considering that I am wholeheartedly a morning person, now I’ve managed to keep my mornings pretty busy – (7:30 to 11am) and (12pm-3pm). The odd student at 4pm. I try to close shop at 3pm. NO evening classes in the last 5-6 years. Hooray. 80% of my students have in-company lessons. 20% come to my home office.

What do you do in your spare time to relax?  

As a man, I watch tv – often not paying much attention to what’s going on. But I love reading and taking long walks in the park in the late afternoon.

You took on the tremendous task of starting a solo career…

I decided to fly solo after having been a partner at a language school here in São Paulo, having to deal with teacher training, teacher and student prospecting, keeping the financial balance of the firm, making money but never seeing it. To keep good teachers you many times had to sacrifice your own pay. To keep good corporate clients many times you had to cut them a discount. So we came to a crossroads – either we would move to larger facilities with more classrooms etc., or shut down. My partner at the time was not interested in expanding so we decided to follow our own path. Being my “own company” I know where to invest, how to manage and control client satisfaction and teaching quality.  And make more money than when I “owned a company”.

How do I get my students /clients you may ask? Word of mouth – 100% guaranteed.

Over the last 6 years or so I’ve dabbled in YouTube – posting video lessons using English and the Bible – ESL with Mo the Americanoid –

Here’s a sample: Episode 104: ESL with Mo the Americanoid: 6 Tips for Teachers One on One Classes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrOUmGofIso

Here’s the link to the playlist:  (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLyyx8yztcz879R6iSGDLpIMfCBQWcj08Z)

Initially the videos were based on a book called ENGLISH LESSONS FROM THE BIBLE (BOOK OF MARK) by Glenda Reece. After a few episodes I felt more comfortable to develop my own material and content expanding to  interviewing some English learners and teachers and presenting some Teaching tips.

Other social media I’m involved in…?

Intensely involved with Twitter – its immediacy and reach are amazing, even though I’ve learned that Twitter is not as much used in Brazil as in Europe and North America. I always follow #ELT #TEFL #ESL #TESOL threads. But I’m not very keen on Tweet Chats – I find them hard to follow live and to try to read a later compilation of the tweets is quite boring and many times senseless. Depending on the editing you’ll read 20 “hello this is…” tweets before getting any real content.

Are you working on any other projects at the moment?

Also writing a blog – www.americanoidblog.com – An English Language Lover’s Teaching Adventures and other ramblings.

A dream I have is to produce a language learning program for the radio or TV. But still don’t know how to get there. Still beginning the process.

What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel as a teacherpreneur?

  • Public speaking – if you can face an audience of rambunctious children or bored teenagers you can face the world.
  • To adapt to different audiences and needs
  • To be flexible and also know when to draw the line (sometimes ;-)

 

What advice would you give to teachers who are considering to go solo or start a language school?

To be self-employed can be a scary experience but also empowering. You feel the world on your shoulders knowing that you will have to provide for everything – from your health insurance to managing your pay so you can afford any sort of  vacations – (no paid vacations or holidays). But it’s liberating: you can set your workday schedule (within certain limits) and explore the world (either literally or in your own town or neighborhood).

To those dreaming of opening a language school or franchise – remember you will be less and less of a teacher and more and more of an entrepreneur. So think carefully before you jump into the abyss.

All in all, the important thing is to do it with passion and remember that the world is not found in your bellybutton.

Cheers,

Mo

teacherpreneur

Summer Reading

This weekend I received a text message from my student that made my day – he was asking for book recommendations in English so he can practice his reading  and expand vocabulary.

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Of course as a teacher I must recommend books that may appeal to the student’s language level and interests. Classics? Fiction? Nonfiction? And within each of those three categories we can find a plethora of material to choose from.

The process:

Reading 30 minutes or more every day

Language level: comfortable but also a little difficult (challenging but not discouraging)

medium: whether digital (electronic) or paper – immaterial. But one advantage of the e-book is the easy access to a dictionary (which can also be distracting if the reader stops at every line)

Some of my reading recommendations: (no necessary order just as they popped up in my mind)

Here are some of my suggestions:

Young adults:

1. Tangerine by Edward Bloor- a young man learning to adapt to a new environment and go against the crowd.

2. Whirligig  by Paul Fleischman- a young man coming of age on a healing pilgrimage from Washington State to California, Florida, and Maine, describing the many lives set into new motion –

Adults: – Fiction

1. Animal Farm – George Orwell – a perennial good read where all animals are equal but some are more equal

2. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury – impossible imagine a world without books or freedom of the press?

Adults – Nonfiction

1. Hunger of MemoryThe education of Richard Rodriguez

2. Stones in schoolsPromoting peace with education in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Greg Mortenson

Classics

1. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain

3. The Pickwick Papers – Charles Dickens’s funniest novel

Happy Reading

Mo

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Summer Immersion Courses – a fading memory

This morning, around 4am, my eyes popped open and refused to shut again, so with 2 more hours before the alarm clock went off I started reminiscing about a summer immersion program I was invited to participate nearly 20 years ago. When I calculated how long it had been I couldn’t believe my own synapses.

It was January 1997, and I was a partner director at ICS Intercultura – a language assistance firm struggling to make ends meet. A person in charge of the English language program on the campus of a University in São Paulo contacted me – knowing I was an English teacher and said that their language center would be very happy if I would help them in that year’s English Immersion program. It was a 2-week program from 9am to 5pm five days a week where students would attend language lessons and other activities in English.

I jumped at the idea of getting to know their program and they were also going to pay me for teaching in the program.

The first meeting already pulled down my castle of dreams – the director, dr. James – a US born teacher with “light-years” of experience in teaching – thanked me for accepting the invitation and told me I would be working along with another young teacher, Alison (son of another teacher who’d already taught at the language center) in developing extra-class activities and games with the students. imersao

  I explained that I would be more comfortable in teaching grammar or reading, for example, but Dr. James was adamant that HE WOULD TEACH THAT. Another teacher would be in charge of writing. Another one, listening and so on and so forth. And the only spot would be for games: meaning – keep the students entertained and happy and we couldn’t find any other sucker to do that so we found you. I had never worked with those kinds of class activities and without any instruction or training I was thrown into the lion’s den for 2-3 hours a day. There were about 15 students at different levels. The challenge was to come up with games, drama, arts, whatever. Fortunately, the other teacher, Alison, had already taught in the previous year and he (yes, Alison is a man’s name in Brazil) could give me some support. The language center had a few books about class activities and games along with some movies on tape and that was our salvation.

My session went on with  highs and lows, with increasingly longer coffee breaks, but we made it. At the end of the program we went on a day trip to visit the Museum of Brazil’s Independence in São Paulo – when the students would be exposed to the language with information about the museum, the city , etc given in their target language. Needless to say, the language center made no arrangements for an English-speaking guide and for leaflets or any useful info in English – so the students had a day trip in Portuguese alone. imersao-2

Since then, that university campus no longer has had a summer language immersion program but I can tell you that nothing much has changed in other language immersion programs. Improvisation and let’s-make-do-with-whatever-resources-we-have-on-the-shelf prevail.

Oh, do I need to tell you that after the program the school took quite a while to honor my payment? But that’s a theme for another blog.

My advice to people looking for immersion courses is to choose a subject taught in their target language and travel abroad.

Happy studies,

Mo