Archive for the ‘Learning Opportunities’ category

Introduction Phonetics: Consonants and Vowels

August 21st, 2020

Phonetics:  Consonants

Phonetics:  Vowels



Online Audio Stories to Help with Pronunciation, Spelling and Vocabulary

July 11th, 2017

English is not a phonetic language which means that the way a word is pronounced is often different than how it is written.  A perfect example is the word “phonetic.”  Writing it out using phonetic symbols the word is spelled:  fə-nĕtʹ ĭk.

Alas, it is understandable why my students are frustrated and perplexed as to the many rules and exceptions that dictate spelling and pronunciation of the English language.  One way to get around memorizing numerous spelling and pronunciation rules (and realistically it’s too difficult to memorize them all) is to use audio books with text to help you learn English pronunciation.

There are many, many audio stories available with subtitles on or other websites, that are at varying levels of difficulty.  With this technology, you read the text while listening to the correct pronunciation of words as the narrator reads the story.  There are lots of subject matters, so select a topic that is most interesting for you to stimulate your curiosity.  Reading in this manner is a fun way to learn not only how to pronounce and spell new words, but it’s also an excellent way to learn new vocabulary.

Another source for audio books is your local library.  If my students are needing extra help with their pronunciation challenges, I also suggest that they check out audio books from the children’s section.  The books are read at a slower pace which helps new learners with listening skills.

Enjoy your reading adventures!


July 1st, 2016

There comes a time when you need to “take the bull by the horns” and go “full speed ahead” with your English in the real world. At the risk of sounding “like a broken record,” you must practice, practice, practice and practice outside of the classroom everything you have studied and learned in the classroom. Then one day “out of the blue,” the realization will “hit you” that you’re having a conversation in English and you are being understood just “as clear as a bell”.

Idioms are expressions used and understood in a given language, but their meaning cannot be taken in a literal sense. Americans use idioms in everyday speech without even being aware that they’re doing so, and most Americans are “in the dark” as to the origin of idioms, but that’s “a horse of a different color.” The most important point is that in order for idioms to become “second nature” in your speech, you’ll need to practice them in the real world – every day.

Did you recognize the idioms that are in quotes from the above paragraphs? Do you know their definitions? If you’re not familiar with an idiom then try to guess the meaning based on the context being used. Study a few idioms at a time from a book or a web site and practice using them with family and friends. The most effective way, though, to learn idioms is to listen and listen carefully (over and over again) how they are used in conversation and then imitate them in your own speech. What is most important is that you won’t be “beating a dead horse” by practicing idioms in the real world. Sooner than you think, they will become a natural part of your own conversation as you use them in the proper context.

So don’t “drag your feet” but instead “brush up” on some idioms. Then “get up your nerve” and practice in the real world by “giving it your best shot.” You’ll soon be “sitting pretty” because you won’t feel “like a fish out of water” in the company of native speakers. Who knows, you might even impress your family and friends to “jump on the bandwagon” and follow your lead.

(A list of some of the idioms used in this article and their definitions are provided below.)

Idiom Definition
·Take the bull by the horns ·Take decisive action
·Go full speed ahead ·Move forward with enthusiasm
·Sound like a broken record ·Keep repeating yourself
·A horse of a different color ·A different subject
·Drag your feet ·Take your time
·A fish out of water ·Feeling uncomfortable in a particular situation
·Jump on the band wagon ·To do the same

Practice English in the comfort of your own living room

May 8th, 2015

Daily ESL/EFL classes may, at times, not be the most exciting way to learn English, but they are effective as you have probably noticed your English improving considerably, especially if you are consistent with attendance . . . so please continue going to class.

But in addition to your daily dose of ESL/EFL classes, you can continue your English practice at home in the comfort of your own living room.  Yes, it is possible and all while watching your favorite American television program or movie.

Just turn on the “closed caption” feature on your television or the English subtitles in a movie, and violà, you are in the midst of the American culture.  You are listening to English while improving your reading skills, and learning so much more (American humor, idioms, expressions, etc).  It is especially enjoyable when the program is a comedy . . . laughter is a great way to end your day.

Enjoy and happy learning!

Learn a new hobby and practice English at the same time!

February 19th, 2015

Would you like to learn a fun, new hobby? And while learning this new hobby, would you also like to meet new friends and practice your English skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking). Does this all sound too good to be true?

Well it really is quite simple. This fun and special way to practice English is to enroll at your local Adult School in a class you enjoy. Adult classes are the “hidden jewels” in our communities, not only are they conveniently located within your neighborhood, but the majority of the classes are free of charge or require a very small fee.

Let’s take a closer look at these hidden jewels in “your own backyard.” Now, you may already know that adult schools offer academic classes for students studying for a high school diploma or a GED diploma, and ESL classes for students needing to learn English. However, did you know that adult schools also offer lots of other fun, exciting classes where you can learn a new hobby or a new skill? Depending on what your local adult school offers, classes can include: Arts and Crafts (art appreciation, painting, ceramic, floral design, cake decorating, sewing, etc.); Music (piano, choir singing, music appreciation, voice class, and more); Physical Fitness (walking, Tai Chi, ballroom dancing, and more); Computer (digital photos, web site design, programming, and more); Foods and Nutrition (bread making, ethnic foods, menu planning), and more. Classes may be offered mornings, afternoons, evenings, and weekends, too! There’s a lot of flexibility to work out a schedule that is convenient for you.

What a great way to practice all of your English skills and have fun at the same time. You can interact with native and non-native speaking students, and make new friends. With English as the “common ground,” you’ll challenge yourself to be more adventurous and meet people from different backgrounds. By taking a class and learning something you really enjoy, you’ll be surprised at how much faster and easier you will master the English language.

For more information on these classes, pick up a free copy of a class catalog at your local adult school or local library. Enroll in a class soon and get started on mastering your English skills and feeling more confident about yourself.   Happy learning!

“Rosetta Stone” free online at San Diego Public Library

October 27th, 2014

San Diego Public Library has FREE online access to the first level of the interactive language software, Rosetta Stone.   For beginning English learners it is a great way to learn at your own pace, as slow or fast as you prefer.  The visuals and audio are excellent and you can repeat lessons as often as needed.  For advanced English learners, it is a great way to review vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling.

Your library card is all you need to access the online resource, and I have provided instructions below to login and access the software.  If you do not have a library card, I suggest you run now to your local library and get your library card or check out the link for more information:

Other public libraries throughout the country are also offering free online access to Rosetta Stone, so check in at your local library if you are not from San Diego.

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April 21st, 2014

Learning English can be fun if you find different ways to practice – but the key is to be CONSISTENT and to practice every day.  Let’s look at some successful methods that have worked for former English learners.  These students were successful in learning English because they were motivated, consistent and had fun too.

Listening to the radio
Listen to the radio, preferably public radio (KPBS in San Diego) for 15 – 30 minutes daily.  Public radio is preferable because the English spoken is standard without the slang and colloquialisms that may be used on other radio stations. Initially you may understand only a few words, but be patient and continue listening.  By just listening, you are “tuning” your ear to hearing the rhythm or “music” of American English (every language has its own music).  As you continue to listen, you’ll begin to notice a pattern of ups and downs in the voice of the speaker.  Relax and listen without struggling to understand the words.  With consistency and practice, you’ll eventually be imitating that same rhythm in your English.

Listening and reading books on CDs/cassettes 
If you prefer something a little easier than public radio, then listen to children’s stories on CDs or cassettes and follow along with the book.  Go to your local library to the children’s section and look for books with CDs or cassettes.  Although some of these books may be easy reading for you, the advantage with these audio materials is the slow reading style of the narrator.  This is a great technique to practice pronunciation and again to hear the “music” of the language through nursery rhymes and other stories.  An added plus is that you will learn more about the American culture through these stories. Over time as you become more confident and proficient with your listening and reading skills, you can progress to the young adults’ section and then on to the literature section.

Watching television
Watch a favorite television show with the captions “on” for the first part of the week.  This will help you understand the language and vocabulary used on the show, and you will become more familiar with “music” of the language as well.  Then for the second part of the week turn “off” the captions and see how much you understand.  Listen for full sentences, write down words you don’t understand and find their definition in the dictionary.

Watching a DVD
Watch a favorite movie with the subtitles and again get familiar with the language and vocabulary used.  You can also get familiar with the plot or story of the movie.  The next time watch the movie without the subtitles and again listen for words and sentences you recognize and for the “music” of the language.  You may be surprised at how much more you understand with each viewing.

You can have fun learning and practicing English so be motivated and do different activities as described above.  Not only will you learn the language, but you will also learn so much more about the American culture.

Happy learning!