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Train Yourself to Read Faster (Part 3)

Image courtesy of Sam Greenhalgh via Flickr (2.0)

 

So far in the series, we’ve discussed three things you should do and one you shouldn’t in order to read faster. Here are a couple more things to avoid.

 

Don’t sub-vocalise

Have you ever caught yourself pronouncing words quietly in your head while reading a text?

This habit of saying words in our mind as we read them is called sub-vocalising.

When we first begin to learn to read as children, we do so by saying words out aloud. This practice improves both comprehension and diction. As we grow older, we learn to be silent while reading, but the habit of pronouncing words one by one sort of stays with us. The difference, of course, is that by then it’s all done in our head.

There’s no doubt that vocalising text helps comprehension, but it also slows us down terribly, so it’s best to kick the habit.  One effective way to overcome this is to move the pointer faster than the speed at which you hear words in your mind.

 

Don’t re-read everything

Do you sometimes go back to a sentence you’ve just read and double-check to see if you’ve understood it correctly?

Don’t worry if the answer is ‘yes’, you’re not alone here.

When doing a reading exercise, however, fight the urge to re-read, because it may be a total waste of time. Instead, wait till you finish reading an entire section before you choose whether or not to go back to a sentence.

You’ll find that reading some more of the text can help you understand without having to re-read that first sentence.

 

Remember to follow these dos and don’ts, and you should be able to read faster with better comprehension.

 

GLOSSARY

The View From Campus: Finals in the USA

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

 

In this month’s edition, Dr. Mandy Hansen, Director of Global Engagement, at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, explains some of the more striking differences about academic life at U.S. colleges and universities.

 

Q. Describe your institution in 5 words?

A. Innovative, scenic, caring, safe, and inclusive.

 

Q. What is your institution best known for overseas?

A. We have strong innovation programs and community relationships that complement our academics. For example, UCCS collaborates with the government entities on the National Cyber Security Center and is involved in a unique project with the US Olympic Committee as Colorado Springs is the Olympic City.

 

Q. What are your top academic programs (undergrad & grad)?

A. Business, Engineering, the Arts and Sports related program (like a sports management program for golf and soccer)

 

Q. What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

A. India, Saudi Arabia, China, Spain, Canada/Kuwait are tied for fifth

 

Q. How does your institution use IELTS in the admissions process? How valuable a tool is it in evaluating prospective students?

A. IELTS is used for admission into our undergraduate and graduate programs. We have a baseline score that is required for admission into our degree programs. We use the test as a predictor for academic success in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. These are skills that our students need for success and to feel comfortable with as many classes are focused on group work, note-taking, and interactions that require fluency on all levels.

 

Q. What is finals week at U.S. colleges and universities like?

A. It is a time that many offices on campus pull together to offer support to their students. Here at UCCS, we assist our students during this stressful time by having a free breakfast for students to make sure they are nourished and energized for their studies and keep the library open for longer. These are a pivotal effort to assist in the students’ success.

 

Q. How do finals exams differ from what most international students experience in their home countries?

A. Finals exams abroad are often the only contributing factor to a students’ grade. However, in the United States most classes give a final grade based upon a variety of activities ranging from group work, class attendance, presentations, exams, and papers.

The final exam, which may even be a final paper, lab report, or presentation, is one part of a student’s grade. Therefore, it is essential that international students attend each class and keep up with the assignments that are due throughout.

 

Q. Is it true that how well a student participates in classroom discussions is often a portion of a student’s final grade for a class?

A. The U.S. classroom often includes group work and interactions between the instructor and other students. This type of interaction is fostered when a student enters elementary or primary school as a child.

Collaborative activities and team projects are the norm and are often values that an employer will want from employees. Having confidence in speaking up, participating, and being involved is essential for success.

Six Ways to Improve Your English Pronunciation (Part 3)

Image courtesy of Jamelle Bouie via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

So far in the series, we’ve spoken about four pronunciation features that a learner should try to improve – individual sounds, word stress, sentence stress, and weak forms. Let’s now explore two more such features.

 

5. Chunking

Ever heard of the word chunk? In a very general sense, it means a piece of something larger.

While speaking, it’s important that we package what we say for the listener so that they are not overwhelmed by too much information. And chunking helps you do just that! Breaking up long sentences into smaller chunks helps the listener understand better.

For instance, if someone were to ask you for your phone number, how would you like to give it to them?

Method 1

9876543210

Method 2

98 (pause)

765 (pause)

432 (pause)

10

Obviously, any listener is likely to find the second method easier, because the pauses in between help them take in information more easily. Now, let’s take this approach and apply it to a sentence.

Text

Did you know that London is the capital of the United Kingdom and has one of the largest immigration populations in the world?

Text with chunking

Did you know (pause)

that London is the capital of the United Kingdom (pause)

and has one of the largest immigration populations in the world?

 

6. Intonation 

In simple terms, intonation can be described as the music of a language when spoken. The rise and fall of the speaker’s voice changes the meaning of what is being said.

As you can see, in the first example, use of a rising intonation signals that speaker B is excited, whereas the falling intonation in the second example indicates displeasure or disappointment.

Use of appropriate intonation patterns does matter a lot, especially when asking questions, ending a sentence, using question tags, expressing feelings, or contrasting two things.

Without it, you run the risk of giving listeners the impression that you are not confident or not in control of what you are saying.

Remember, read up on these pronunciation features, introduce them while speaking, and you’ll start sounding better and better.

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Emily Mathews via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

In the first part, we looked at two of the most widely used punctuation marks: full stops and commas.

This week’s post explores some less common ones, starting with the exclamation mark (!)

 

Exclamation

Originally known as the note of admiration, an exclamation mark (also known as an exclamation point) is used to show strong forms of emotion: excitement, surprise, pleasure, anger, etc. It can also accompany words that represent sounds, or appear at the end of short commands.

Used Example
at the end of a short word or phrase that expresses an emotion: Look out!
Ow! That really hurt!
after a word that represents a sound: Bang!
at the end of a command: Stop!

 

Question mark

As the name suggests, question marks go at the end of direct questions. Another use is in question tags, where a short question phrase is added at the end of a sentence to check if it is correct. Question marks are also sometimes added within brackets to signal that the writer is doubtful about what has just been said.

Used Example
at the end of direct questions: Where were you born?
at the end of a question tag: You eat red meat, don’t you?
to express doubt: They say operating the new machine is quite easy (?).

Remember, you should not add a question mark after an indirect question. For example:
He asked me where I was going. ✔ (He asked me where I was going?)

 

Hyphen

The most important function of the hyphen is to link words or parts of words. Though its use has become less common over time, a hyphen is almost unavoidable when there are certain types of compounds (having two or more parts) in use.

Used Example
in compound adjectives: a custom-made car
when two nouns (e.g. court martial) are turned into a compound verb: to court-martial someone
when a phrasal verb (e.g. to break up) is turned into a noun: The break-up left him shattered.

Despite being one of the most important features of written English, punctuation is often taken lightly by most people; but skilled use of punctuation can help take your written English to the next level.

Deike’s Story: Feeding My Passions

Deike Rosenbusch

 

Last week, IELTS Award winner, Deike from Germany shared her experiences of using English to travel and work around the world. This week, she tells us about her passion for sport.

 

Deike: My passion is sport climbing which is a form of rock climbing that relies on permanent anchors fixed to the rock. We usually climb between 10 to 30 metres high, always on a rope with a partner.

 

I like the physical challenge of it, but also the mental challenge, because there’s always the risk of falling. But if you get into it and manage to climb all the way up, it’s the best feeling.

 

I love to climb all over the world and have some friends who share the same passion. Last year, we went to Thailand and Laos to climb and I’ve been travelling (and climbing!) throughout Europe with my boyfriend.

 

Now in London, I got a membership at a local climbing gym and enthusiastically joined the ‘parkrun’ initiative – a 5 km run every Saturday in most of the parks of the city. It is a great way to do sport and get to know British people.

 

Looking into other possibilities for runs in London, I stumbled across the ‘Cancer Research UK Tough 10’, a 10 km run in Epping Forest in the north of London. This is a charity run to gather donations to support cancer research. I signed up and joined the fundraising activities connected with the run. Although not easy at first, I was able to raise money to support this good cause.

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me, especially the British Council Germany who generously contributed the biggest amount to this! The run itself was a great experience and even though walking was rather painful for a couple of days afterwards, I am sure to sign up to the next ‘Tough 10’.

 

GLOSSARY

rely (on something/one)
Form : verb
Meaning : To depend on someone/thing 
Example : I know I can always rely on my friends
when things get hard.

 

enthusiastically
Form : adverb
Meaning : in a way that shows spirit, enjoyment or approval
Example : Sally was enthusiastically cheering her team on.

 

initiative
Form : noun
Meaning : A project to tackle a problem or improve a situation
Example : Global health initiatives aim to wipe out infectious diseases

 

How Punctuation Can Improve Your English Writing (Part 2)

In the first part, we looked at two of the most widely used punctuation marks: full stops and commas.

 

This week’s post  explores some less common ones, starting with the exclamation mark (!)

 

Exclamation

Originally known as the note of admiration, an exclamation mark (also known as an exclamation point) is used to show strong forms of emotion: excitement, surprise, pleasure, anger, etc. It can also accompany words that represent sounds, or appear at the end of short commands.

 

Used Example
at the end of a short word or phrase that expresses an emotion Look out!

Ow! That really hurt!

after a word that represents a sound Bang!
at the end of a command Stop!

 

Question mark

As the name suggests, question marks go at the end of direct questions. Another use is in question tags, where a short question phrase is added at the end of a sentence to check if it is correct. Question marks are also sometimes added within brackets to signal that the writer is doubtful about what has just been said.

 

Used Example
at the end of direct questions Where were you born?
at the end of a question tag You eat red meat, don’t you?
to express doubt They say operating the new machine is quite easy (?).

 

Remember, you should not add a question mark after an indirect question. For example:

He asked me where I was going. ✔ (He asked me where I was going?)

 

Hyphen

The most important function of the hyphen is to link words or parts of words. Though its use has become less common over time, a hyphen is almost unavoidable when there are certain types of compounds (having two or more parts) in use.

 

Used Example
in compound adjectives a custom-made car
when two nouns (e.g. court martial) are turned into a compound verb to court-martial someone
when a phrasal verb (e.g. to break up)  is turned into a noun The break-up left him shattered.

 

Despite being one of the most important features of written English, punctuation is often taken lightly by most people; but skilled use of punctuation can help take your written English to the next level.

10 Tips for Applying for a Student Visa in the US

Good news! Over the last five years, the global average of students being approved for a U.S. student visa (F-1) has been over 80%, reaching 86% in the most recent statistics for 2013. So, with the right preparation, honest answers, and appropriate documentation you can give yourself an excellent chance of being granted a student visa.

 

Here’s our top ten countdown on how to do it…

 

10. Get your I-20

Make sure you have received the I-20 & admission letter from the college/university you plan to attend. You may have been accepted and received I-20s from more than one school. We recommend that you make a decision as to which institution you will attend before starting the visa process.

 

9. Check your passport

  • Make sure your passport will be valid for at least six months after your initial planned entry into the U.S.
  • Is your name spelled the same (and in the same order) as is listed on your passport? It has to be!

 

8. Pay your SEVIS fee

Students can pay this fee online. You will need an e-receipt for next steps in the process.

 

7. Complete the Visa Application Form online DS-160 (non-immigrant visa application).

You will need most of the following items to complete this form:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS ID (from your I-20 form)
  • Address of the college you will attend (usually on the I-20)
  • Travel itinerary to the U.S. if you have made arrangements already
  • Admission letter from the college you will attend
  • Proof of funding – bank statements, scholarship award letters, etc.
  • Dates of your last 5 visits to the United States (if any)

After completion the online DS-160 application, print off the DS-160 Bar Code page. You will not need to print the entire application.

 

6. Plan ahead 

You can schedule your visa appointment up to 120 days in advance of the start date listed on your I-20 (when your new school requires you to be on campus). In some countries there may be a substantial wait time to get an appointment, and, more importantly, to process your application. The good news is that student visa applicants are given priority.

 

5. Schedule your visa appointment at the U.S. embassy/consulate nearest you.

Using this site you’ll learn whether you can make your appointment online or by telephone. You will also need to pay the visa application fee (approximately $160, price varies slightly per country).

 

4. Attend a Visa Session at an EducationUSA Advising Center in your country.

EducationUSA works closely with the U.S. consular officers that conduct the visa interviews. At these sessions they will make it clear what they are expecting from successful student visa applicants, and the kind of questions they will ask.

 

3. Enjoy the experience

A couple years ago our friends at the U.S. Embassy in London put together a great video to help ease your fears, Mission: Possible – Get Your U.S. Student Visa.

 

2. Talk to your friends

Are any of your former classmates studying in the U.S. now? Ask their advice about their interview experiences and ask for their recommendations. You can also check out how successful students help demystify the student visa process.

 

1. Breathe, relax, and be honest

You have invested a lot of time, energy, and resources to get to this visa interview. Try not to be too nervous. You are almost there. Answer the visa officer’s questions honestly. Why did you pick the particular college you want to attend? How are you funding your studies? What are your plans after you finish your studies? It’s always a good idea to know how you might respond to these questions beforehand. 

 

Finally, good luck as you take this important next step!

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