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.

US Study: Get There with IELTS

Hear what IELTS means for international students in the U.S

 

The U.S. is a popular place for students from across the world.

Each year, thousands of U.S. colleges and universities accept hundreds of thousands of students from other countries.

If you’re thinking of joining them, then you’ll need IELTS.

IELTS is the most popular English test for people who want to live, study or work in another country. IELTS is also accepted by more than 3,300 institutions in the U.S, including all Ivy League colleges, so you have a huge choice of where to go.

An IELTS test score is proof of your English language proficiency and can help you achieve your goal of getting a place at a U.S. college or university.

Click on the video above to hear what some of the U.S. international students are saying about IELTS.

And to hear more from IELTS students who are already living their dream by studying in the U.S., be sure to check out our monthly View From Campus blog posts.

Get there with IELTS!

Traps to Avoid in IELTS Listening (Part 1)

 

Image courtesy of egrodziak via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

 

Ever thought what listening tests are designed to do? Well, the primary aim is to separate the wheat from the chaff – identify which test takers are able to fully comprehend what they hear, and which aren’t. And to accomplish this, traps are set across the test to trick test takers and induce errors.

 

Here are some traps you should avoid in the IELTS listening test.

 

  1. Distractor

As the name suggests, a distractor is something that causes confusion so that the test taker does not pay enough attention to what they should be doing – which is listening for the right answers. For instance, in a conversation, a speaker may say something and then quickly correct themselves, or they may be corrected by another speaker. As a result, the listener hears two versions of the same piece of information – obviously, one is correct while the other is incorrect.

 

Example

Question

5. Telephone number: 9342__________

Recording script

Receptionist: Okay, what’s the best number for us to contact you on?

 

Customer:  You can call me at the hotel where I’m staying. The number is: nine-three-four-two-six-five-three-nine… Oh no, did I say five-three-nine? Sorry, it should be three-nine-five.

 

If you’re not careful, a distractor can make you choose the wrong answer, so be prepared. And here’s an additional tip: in IELTS listening, distractors are most commonly used in section 1, and they usually involve some type of number (telephone number, credit card number, postcode, cost of something, time, date, etc).

 

  1. Spelling

In IELTS listening, poor spelling is penalised, so test takers need to be able to accurately spell words that are long and complicated. If your spelling isn’t great, try learning commonly misspelt words.  Additionally, make a list of words that you have already find trouble spelling.

Mnemonics can also be incredibly helpful in remembering the spelling of tricky words. For example, if you find it challenging to spell the word island, just remember this sentence: An island is land surrounded by water.

 

Remember, one way to avoid falling into a trap is to spot it early on, so keep an eye out while reading questions.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

separate the wheat from the chaff
Form : phrase
Meaning : to identify a good group from the other, less desirable ones
Example : Face-to-face interviews with applicants can help recruiters separate the wheat from the chaff.

 

induce
Form : verb
Meaning : to cause
Example : Drinking cough syrup can induce sleepiness in a person. 

 

mnemonic
Form : noun
Meaning : something, such as a poem or word, that helps a person remember something
Example : Use the mnemonic VIBGYOR to remember the colours of a rainbow.

 

keep an eye out (for something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : to watch carefully for something
Example : While shopping I always keep an eye out for clothes sold at a discount.

View From Campus: Adjusting to Life at a U.S. University

Susquehanna University, USA

 

This month, James Goonan, Director of International Admissions at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, USA shares his thoughts on the often overlooked topic of academic adjustment to life on a U.S. college campus for international students.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

  • selective
  • residential
  • national
  • liberal arts

 

For what is your institution best known overseas?

Susquehanna University ranks No. 15 among the top 30 most affordable colleges with the best study abroad programs in the nation, according to Great Value Colleges (GVC).  And, we are ranked #1 in PA and #9 nationally for getting a job after graduation.

 

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

We are undergraduate only. Our top majors are Business (AACSB Accredited), Susquehanna has one of only two undergraduate liberal arts colleges in North America that have been accepted into the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Recognition program. The Publishing & Editing Major is one of the best in the US and ranks #9.

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college?

Saudi Arabia, China, Macao, Japan, Brazil.

 

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

IELTS is used to evaluate English language proficiency for applicants from countries where English is not the native language.  The normal entry requirement is 6.0 for degree programs.  IELTS is also used for placement in our English Language Learners program.

 

What is the most common challenge new international students face when adapting to the academic environment at U.S. colleges?

Cultural differences.  Our customs are different; school system is different, language is different, and students are expected to be more independent than they might be at home.

 

How much time should students be studying for each class they have?

We recommend that students plan to study 2 to 3 hours for every hour in the classroom.

 

How is the classroom style of professors so different in the U.S. from what most students have experienced back home?

Students on our campus are expected to be engaged and independent learners.  In addition, they are expected to participate in class, question their professors, and take responsibility for their own academic progress.  This atmosphere can be much different than their home countries, where instruction can be more lecture based there and students usually do not question their professors.

 

 

How can international students best prepare to avoid potential problems with adapting to their new academic environment on campus?

We recommend that entering international students participate in a pre-departure orientation in their home country.  These are provided by their local EducationUSA offices.  And, once on campus, the university offers a mandatory Orientation for new International Students.  The most important topics of concern and covered during the orientation.

 

 

What to Expect in a Decent Dictionary (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Chris Dlugosz via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The first part looked at some information that is typically found in most dictionaries – meaning(s), part of speech, pronunciation, verb forms, and miscellaneous grammar points.

 

Here’s some more information you are likely to come across:

 

  1. Synonyms and antonyms

A synonym is a word that has the same meaning, or nearly the same, as another word. An antonym, on the other hand, is a word that means the opposite of another word.

Example:

honest

Synonyms – truthful, sincere, trustworthy, straightforward, reliable

Antonym – dishonest, corrupt, deceitful, insincere, untrustworthy, unreliable

 

  1. Collocations

The word collocation refers to a word combination that happens naturally in a language. Learning such typical combinations is important because it broadens the scope for expressing ideas clearly.

Example:

food

Verb collocations – consume / eat / have / cook / make / prepare food

Adjective collocations – fast / junk / takeaway / fresh / organic / canned food

 

  1. Example sentences

Example sentences are perhaps the best way to learn how to use a word or phrase accurately in a sentence. They show us the way various grammatical features work together to form a sentence. Some dictionaries print fixed expressions or phrases in bold to help users learn faster.

Example:

The change in policy will do serious harm to our business.

Though I’m not particularly fond of my mother-in-law, I don’t wish her any harm.

I know our neighbour’s dog looks ferocious, but he means no harm.

 

  1. Register

The term register means the degree of formality associated with a word. At times, dictionaries also highlight words that are old-fashioned or offensive.

Example:

ascertain (formal) = to find out

ripping (old-fashioned) = wonderful

gaffer (informal) = an individual who is in charge of a group of people

dude (slang) = a man

bird (sometimes offensive) = a way of referring to a young woman

 

  1. Spelling

A lot of words have alternative spellings, depending on the version used – British English (BrE) or North American English (NAmE).

Example:

theatre (BrE) / theater (NAmE)

doughnut / donut (NAmE)

colour (BrE) / color (NAmE)

 

So, the next time you use a dictionary, gather different types of information that can help you better your English.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

miscellaneous
Form : adjective
Meaning : consisting of different kinds of things
Example : Tom has a box of miscellaneous items from his childhood.

 

scope (for something)
Form : noun
Meaning : the opportunity to do something
Example : Sally’s new job offers plenty of scope for international travel.

 

offensive
Form : adjective
Meaning : rude or unpleasant
Example : Students who use offensive language in the classroom will be punished.

 

alternative
Form : adjective
Meaning : describes something that can be used instead of something else
Example : Swimming is a good alternative to running when recovering from an injury

 

 

The View From Campus: An American Welcome for International Students

Ohio University

 

This month, we hear from Vicki Seefeldt-West, Senior Assistant Director for International Recruitment, Undergraduate Admissions at Ohio University, how welcoming are U.S. college campuses to international students.

 

Describe your institution in 5 words?

  • Historic
  • Comprehensive
  • Research-oriented
  • Picturesque
  • Welcoming

What is your institution best known for overseas?

Ohio University has a global reputation for our wide variety of academic programs, excellence in teaching and research, emphasis on hands-on, practical experiences, and high-ranking programs such as journalism and business.

 

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

Undergraduate: Biological Sciences, Journalism, Psychology, Media Arts & Studies, Nursing

Graduate: Health Administration, Recreation & Sports Pedagogy, Sports Administration, Industrial & Systems Engineering, Curriculum & Instruction

 

What are the top 5 countries represented at your college/How international is your institution?

  1. China
  2. Saudi Arabia
  3. India
  4. Iran
  5. Ghana

Ohio University admitted its first international student in 1895. Currently, over 1500 international students from more than 100 different countries call Ohio their second home.

 

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

IELTS is one of the few methods Ohio uses to evaluate students’ English proficiency, which is critical to their success in an undergraduate or graduate degree program.

 

How Welcome Are International Students? 

International students are most definitely welcome in the U.S. In fact, a group of U.S. congressional members recently issued a statement into congressional record supporting international students and scholars. As an international student, you will find that college campuses, in particular, are not only welcoming, but proud to be home to students from around the globe.

 

What steps do universities take to help international students feel welcome on campus?

Most universities make special efforts to welcome international students to their campuses. For example, schools such as Ohio University have groups of current international students available to answer questions before new students arrive, as well as act as mentors once the students are on campus. Admissions offices take extra steps to make certain international students are equipped with the specialized information they require. Many institutions like OHIO offer an international student orientation to make incoming international students comfortable in their new surroundings and to acquaint them with academics, student services, etc.

 

How seriously do U.S institutions value having international students on campus? 

Most institutions in the U.S. are very committed to having diverse student bodies which represent as much of the world as possible. One great example of this is the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, featuring videos produced by a growing number of U.S. universities, which is “…a message of welcome from U.S. higher education to international students around the world.”

Universities also demonstrate their dedication through the amount of resources they invest in bringing more international students to their campuses. At Ohio University, for example, representatives travel world-wide to inform students about the university and all it has to offer them. We have specialists in our admissions office who can work with international transcripts, and a dedicated office to provide support services to international students.

 

 

What is the role of an international student office on campus?

International student offices play a primary role in supporting international students at their universities. Generally speaking, it is the office that provides information and assistance on immigration matters. They may act as a liaison to other support offices on campus, and as a connection with the greater campus community. Additionally, they can serve as a link to public services outside the university. Basically, they are there to help support you in your transition to life at a U.S. university!

Why IELTS Is Your Ticket To The World

Image courtesy of i naina _94 via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

English is spoken at a useful level by a quarter of the world population. That’s over one and a half billion people.

It’s the world’s language of exchange, communication and business – to just a name a few areas. So, to speak English is to open yourself up to a world of opportunities.

If you’re planning to live, work or study using English you will often need to prove your ability to use it.

IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the world’s most popular English language test. More than 10,000 organisations in 140 countries accept IELTS, including schools, universities, employers, immigration authorities and professional bodies

More than 2.9 million IELTS tests around the world are taken each year.

Taking IELTS opens doors. It can help you live, study and work around the world, including USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

IELTS assesses all of your English skills — reading, writing, listening and speaking, and is designed to reflect how you will use English at study, at work, and at play, in your new life abroad.

Employers and universities want you to be able to use English in the real world, so IELTS is what you will need to prove it.

IELTS is the most widely accepted English language test that uses a one-on-one speaking test to assess your English communication skills. This means that you are assessed by having a real-life conversation with a real person. This is the most effective and natural way of testing your English conversation skills.

Whatever your plans in the world, IELTS will help you achieve them.

Apps That Make University Life Easier (Part 1)

Image from Esther Vargas via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

University life can be frantic and exhausting, particularly for foreign students. There’s so much to do, and so little time! From attending lectures and making notes to just unwinding after class, it’s sometimes difficult to stay on top of things.

 

Don’t fret though, because mobile technology is here to save you. Here are some applications that can be useful, both inside and outside classroom.

 

  1. Evernote 

This is the ideal platform to manage whatever information you collect at university, in the form of “notes”. These can be pieces of text, handwritten notes, excerpts from web pages, images, or audio files. What’s more, Evernote supports most operating systems, so you can use it on a device of your choice.

 

Among other things, it also lets you create to-do lists, set reminders, and even share your stuff with others. And the best part – you can locate any piece of information with ease because there are different ways to search for the notes you’ve made.

 

  1. Google Drive

A file storage service provided by Google, this is one place where you can store all your documents. In other words, it’s this huge online cabinet that can hold a lot of virtual files of different shapes and sizes. Once uploaded, files can be viewed, edited, or shared instantly. Google Drive for Education, a later version designed for schools, offers a set of tools for classroom collaboration.

 

Considering that Google apps are widely used in the workplace, being able to use them fluently will help students build career readiness.

 

  1. Wikipedia

An online encyclopaedia that’s available absolutely free, Wikipedia, or Wiki, has something on just about everything under the sun. At the last count, it had over 5 million English articles, and that number continues to grow. So, as part of university work, if you need to have some generalised information on any topic, Wiki is the place to visit.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

frantic
Form : adjective
Meaning : done quickly, especially in a way that is not well organised
Example : The firemen made a frantic attempt to save people from the fire.

 

unwind
Form : verb
Meaning : to stop worrying and start to relax
Example : After a long day’s work, Sam likes to unwind for some time.

 

on top of (something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : be in control of what is happening
Example : It’s important to stay on top of things when you manage a large team.

 

lend a hand
Form : phrase
Meaning : to help someone
Example : Can you please lend me a hand with this bag, it’s very heavy?

 

 

readiness
Form : noun
Meaning : the state of being prepared for something
Example : Schools can help build career readiness in children by teaching them computer skills.

 

under the sun
Form : phrase
Meaning : used to emphasize that something includes a large number of things
Example : He has tried everything under the sun to lose weight, but it just hasn’t happened.

 

at the last count
Form : phrase
Meaning : according to the latest information regarding the numbers of something
Example : He had hit 47 goals for the season at the last count.

 

Handy Tips for Using Bullet Points

Image courtesy of Danel Solabarrieta (CC 2.0 Flickr)

 

These days people are too busy to read long texts, so improving readability has become important. Make content uncomplicated and interesting to read, and you may have the reader’s attention.

 

Bullet points can be very handy in this context, as they help break up clunky text into tidy chunks that are easy to take in. Use a bulleted list, and your text begins to look organised, with all the important points highlighted.

 

Though there are no hard and fast rules about using them, here are some tips to help you.

 

Keep it uniform

A bulleted list should be uniform. For example, make the text following all bullet points fragments, complete sentences, or questions; do not combine different forms.

 

Punctuate if necessary

Broadly speaking, if a bullet point is a complete sentence, it should begin with a capital letter and end in a full stop. On the other hand, if each bullet point comprises a fragment, these things don’t matter.

 

Avoid linking words

It is best to avoid linking words (e.g. firstly, secondly, thirdly), as they are unnecessary; bullet points naturally introduce a sense of structure to the text. Linking expressions, if added, may slow down the reading process, so leave them out.

 

Keep it short

Brevity is the key to making bullet points noticeable, so avoid making them extremely long. Ideally, bullet points shouldn’t look like paragraphs. Remember, the longer the text following a bullet point, the lower its impact.

 

Create parallel lists

Try to have similar-looking words at the beginning of each bullet point – for instance, start with action verbs or nouns. That way, it is much easier for the reader to follow the text.

 

Use numbers if necessary

If you have a lot to include, say more than five points, it may be better to have a numbered list instead of a bulleted one.  The reader can then easily refer to each point by quoting the corresponding number.

 

Overall, there’s no doubt that bullet points can make content attractive and easy to read, but overuse will most certainly lessen their impact.  So, steer clear of too many bullet-pointed sections when you put together a text.

 

 

 

GLOSSARY                                                                                                              

 

clunky
Form : adjective
Meaning : heavy in a way that is awkward
Example : His house is full of clunky furniture.

 

take in
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to understand something that your read
Example : Irene felt sleepy while reading the manual, so she didn’t take in most of the details.

 

hard and fast
Form : phrase
Meaning : describes something that cannot be changed
Example : There are no hard and fast rules about who can use this car park.

 

fragment
Form : noun
Meaning : a smaller piece of something larger
Example : I overheard fragments of the conversation that my parents had in the kitchen.

 

 

brevity
Form : noun
Meaning : the use of few words while speaking or writing
Example : The brevity of her speech surprised us – it was over in less than a minute.

 

steer clear (of something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : to try to avoid something
Example : You are diabetic, so steer clear of desserts at the party.

 

 

 

Deike’s Story: Globetrotting With IELTS

IELTS Award winner Deike (right) tells us about her work, experiences abroad and study goals.

Congratulations on winning your IELTS Award! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background? Where are you from and what are you studying or working on at the moment?

Deike: I’m from the northern part of Germany; I was born in East Friesland which is where the name Deike is from. It’s quite an unusual name that even most Germans have never heard of. I have a background in medicine, more specifically in paediatrics. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, so after completing my degree in Medicine at the Medical School Münster, I specialised in paediatrics, working with children with cancer. After a year, I was given the opportunity to go abroad to work in a hospital in Peru for four months which was a great and intense experience. As this project was developing so well, we decided to do another project to help children in Myanmar. We worked in a hospital there with local doctors to identify the most pressing needs. We found that the main problem was incorrect diagnoses, leading to wrong treatments. We tried to help by sending a specialist over to train the doctors in diagnostics which made a huge difference. I then went to Africa with the organisation German DoctorsOpens in a new tab or window. to work in the second biggest slum in Nairobi, treating babies and young children. This experience has had a tremendous impact on my life and my ambition to help more children through structural changes in the healthcare system.

How did you find out about IELTS and this Awards programme?

Deike: The study programme I wanted to apply for required proof of English language proficiency. I compared different language tests and decided on IELTS as it is globally recognised and had a test centre near my hometown of Oldenburg. I found out about the IELTS Award while checking the British Council Germany website for information about the IELTS test.

You’ve already told us a bit about your work with children in Germany and abroad. Will this be the focus of your studies?

Deike: I doing a Master in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineOpens in a new tab or window.. The reason for doing this is that after all my experience in working with children in Africa, Myanmar, Peru and at home, what I felt I really wanted to do was not only help single children with acute problems, such as malnutrition, but to get to the cause of the problems and help change these, in order to be able to help a lot of children, not only one single child at the time. This is what Public Health is about – improving and maintaining the health of a whole population through structural changes in the healthcare system.

What made you choose the institution and destination for your Master’s programme?

Deike: After deciding that I wanted to study Public Health I looked up which institutions offered this programme and compared their rankings. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is a world-leading centre for research and education in the health sector. They have excellent facilities and some of the best professors to learn from, which were the main reasons for my choice. That the school is located in London is the cherry on top!

Why do you think studying or working abroad is important to young people’s lives and development?   

Deike: As we live in a globalised world I think it gets more and more important to not only think of your own country or culture, but to get to know and engage with other people with different cultural backgrounds. Especially if you work in a field with a more global outlook, it’s important that you move around, travel and get involved with different cultures, which for me, always equals personal growth.

Finally, where did you take your IELTS test and how was the test experience for you? Would you recommend this test to others who are aiming to study abroad?

Deike: I took my IELTS test in Bremen which is very close to where I live. They offered different slots and I found one that suited me perfectly. On the test day, I felt that everything was really well organised and structured. I always knew what I had to do which helped me focus on the actual tasks. I enjoyed all four parts of the test, but must admit that I was a bit rusty with my writing, mainly as I hadn’t written a free text in a while. I would recommend IELTS to everyone and was pleased with the organisation and experience of the test.

Thank you for these great insights, Deike!

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