Intonation Training: From Yam-Yam to Yia Sou

Intonation adds a thousand different colours to speech. Coloured glass. Image by Simon Jackson on FreeImages.com

When you meet me, one of the first things you notice is probably my accent. Despite being embedded in Scottish life for over a decade, there’s still an unmistakeable Midlands lilt that persists. The vowels have flattened out to something… Continue reading

Phonetics Mismatch – Why We Mispronounce Foreign Languages (And Why It Doesn’t Really Matter)

A picture of a mouth articulating. Accurate phonetics gets us close to sound native. Image from freeimages.com

This week, I had the great news of an offer to study towards an MSc in Linguistics. And, keen on preparing well for a good start, I started working through a couple of the set texts. First up: phonetics and… Continue reading

Social Bookending : Scripting conversation start and end points for better flow

A row of old books. Image from freeimages.com

Tim Burton tells us that every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Or was it Jean-Luc Godard – or even Aristotle? Anyway, whoever – and whenever – it was, they had a pretty solid, if obvious,… Continue reading

Speaking without foundations (and putting it right)

Speaking is like a skyscraper. Aim high, but watch your foundations too! Image by createsima on freeimages.com.

As I sit at the station tapping away at Anki, I’m impressed at the level of the vocabulary I’ve reached: interactive, futurism, equality… All those lovely advanced words! I enjoy a moment of language learner pride, before I remember that… Continue reading

Speaking Bingo Sheets for Snappy Active Vocab Recall

Bingo could be good for your speaking, too! Image by Michiel Meulemans on FreeImages.com

When it comes to making vocabulary stick in memory, there are few more effective methods than actively working new material in your speaking practice. Regularly engaging with new words and phrases in a foreign language is constructive recycling. They gain… Continue reading

Adverbs Aware: Learn these little words to ace your speaking early on

Adverbs describe how

Hacking or bluffing is about learning efficiently. That means spending time on those elements that give you the greatest results with just a modest effort. And one great way to buff up your speech economically is to focus on using… Continue reading

Support your speaking skills with custom crib sheets

Note taking, particularly in the form of crib sheets, is a powerful way to summarise your knowledge.

If you have ever revised for exams, you are probably already familiar with the crib sheet. A condensed, one-page summary of all the major facts to remember, they have saved the academic life of many a student over the years.… Continue reading

Describe It! Speaking drill game for fun practice prompts

I’m always looking new ways to make speaking practice fun. It was BBC’s Just A Minute that inspired me to put this basic drill activity together. From a bank of many random concepts – TV shows, celebrities, countries, landmarks –… Continue reading

Speaking without words: optimising your target language with non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication, such as hand gestures, are just as vital as speaking when it comes to real-life language use

Sticking to your target language isn’t always easy. But it’s a rule worth sticking to. Denying yourself the luxury of speaking your native language is vital in building up mental ingenuity and spontaneous, flexible thinking as a linguist. However, it… Continue reading

Conversation turbo-boosting with speaking bingo sheets

Notebook for note-taking

I’ve been having something of an iTalki renaissance lately. iTalki, if you haven’t come across it already, is a website that connects language learners with teachers all over the world for online lessons. There are few easier ways to get… Continue reading