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

iTalki Isolation Blitz? Here’s how to make the most!

Three plush monkeys in the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil poses. Image by freeimages.com

Armed with a bunch of loose ends and a clutch of free evenings, I have been spending quite a bit of time on iTalki over the past few weeks. In order to avoid bankruptcy, I tend to go for community… 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

Acing preparation for a good one-to-one language lesson

Like climbing a mountain, making the most of your language lesson involves preparation!

I’ve attempted Icelandic a few times in my life. That sounds ominous, that ‘attempted’, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is that I’ve found the language a real challenge each time. I’ve usually learnt it in the lead-up to a trip,… 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

Preparing for the unpredictable – developing flexible language thinking

Real-life language can be unpredictable, like this tangle of colourful liquorice sweeties!

We’ve all been there. You’ve learnt the tenses. Have the vocab down pat. You have a head full of model questions and answers. You are totally ready for to be unleashed onto the target language streets. But – agh – what was that… Continue reading

Context has your back: Why it’s OK not to understand everything

Context can help language learners in familiar situations abroad, like the coffee shop

I have a confession to make. I failed miserably in my foreign language last weekend. But it was still fine. Context had my back! Before you feel sorry for me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. We fail in our native… Continue reading

Verbs made simple: make your conversation fly

Learn tricks with verbs to get your conversation flying high above the clouds

English speakers have it easy with verbs. Aside from those pesky irregular ones, you’ve only got -s and -ed to worry about. That’s why verbs can be the first brick wall anglophones hit when they begin a foreign language. Look at Spanish… Continue reading

Speaking tips from the emergency room

An ambulance attending an emergency; driver speaking in the window

There’s no doubt about it: speaking can be hard, especially when you’re beginning in a foreign language. You have all the usual mental juggling of remembering vocabulary and grammar. But on top of that, there’s the social pressure of performing live. In… Continue reading

Conversation fillers

Parrots chatting

A common frustration when you’re moving from beginner to intermediate level in a language (A1/A2 to B1/B2 using the CEFR scale) is the stilted nature of the language you produce – short, functional, clipped and often isolated sentences that make… Continue reading