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Archive for the ‘Speaking’ Category

There’s a lot of talk about confidence when we’re talking about students learning English. Students want to build confidence.  Parents often told me they wanted their children to be more confident when speaking English.  Confidence-building is a class!

But what exactly is confidence? The word “confidence” is the noun form of the verb “to confide.”  When you look up “confide” at, some form of the word “trust” appears 8 times: trust, entrust, intrust, trustworthiness, trustingness, trustfulness. Look up these words if you don’t know them.

One of my most favorite meanings for the word trust is to allow without fear.  We don’t make ourselves confident. We allow ourselves to be confident. Confidence is something we already have. We only need to allow it to come forward.

Many people associate confidence with success. If we’re confident, everything will work out the way we want. This is often not so.  Life often works out differently than we planned. Does this mean we can never be confident? Of course not!

Others think confidence is about being number ONE, the strongest, the smartest, the best, able to beat all others. Well, there is only one number one. What about everyone else? Is it possible to be number 2 or 52 or 192 and still be confident? Of course it is!

Some think confidence is something we put on like a coat. Look and act confident no matter what. Never show you’re afraid or nervous. Is this real confidence? No.

Confidence is allowing us to be who we are and knowing that who we are is valuable.

Confidence is knowing that we’re always learning and learning involves trying and not getting it quite right and trying again.

Confidence is knowing we’ll feel afraid when we try something new and trying it anyway.

Confidence is not worrying so much what others think.  When we’re okay with ourselves, what others think isn’t very important.

Confidence is the ability to confide in oneself — to be truthful and trustworthy with yourself which then helps you be truthful and trustworthy with others.

As we allow ourselves to be more confident, our English lessons become easier. We’re more relaxed so we learn more quickly.

We can speak an English word, say it incorrectly, laugh and try again.

We have more energy to put into our studies.

We’ll take more risks in speaking out and in our writing.

No matter where you are in your English study, you are fine! Keep going! Keep learning and using what you learn! Enjoy!


Improving your vocabulary is always

After writing the post on “how often” I continued to think about different words. I thought about the words that my students used over and over.

Often students would use the phrase “very good” or “very well” when they were really trying to say something was…

meaningful: something that adds meaning or effects

valuable: something that adds value or worth

crucial: critical importance

essential: necessary

fundamental: something that has to do with the basic facts or principals

key: an essential component

significant: an important effect or meaning

critical: extremely necessary

important: of significance or value

or vital: urgently needed

These words all mean “important” but each adds a slightly different meaning.  Here are some sentences to help you see how you might use them.

Today is an important day. It’s the first day that our team will meet and begin to work together.

We hope that everyone will make a valuable contribution to the team project.

Good teamwork skills are critical to our success so one of our fundamental goals is to improve our ability to work together as a team.

The attitude of each team member will be key to our success.

It will be vital that everyone attend and participate in each team session because each person brings a essential skill to the process.

Together, we will look at the most crucial issues facing our school.

In order for our project to succeed we will need to create meaningful and practical guidelines for students to follow.

If we are successful, we could have a significant impact on the future of our school.

Now…this is really important! Knowing new words is valuable but using them is essential! So look up these words. Begin to use them in your conversation and writing. Practice. Learn. Most of all, enjoy!!!

I’ve been thinking about words that describe how often something happens. There are many great English words that we can use depending on….well depending on how often!

How often do you study?  go to the mall? talk to your friends? have dinner with your parents? play a game? take a walk? watch television? go online? get your hair cut?

Starting with not doing something at all to doing it all the time, here are some words you can use to stretch your vocabulary. When there is more than one word that means about the same thing, I’ve inserted (or).

Not at all: I never seem to have time to get any exercise.

Not often: We rarely (or) seldom (or) hardly ever see squirrels in the city any more.

Sometimes: Occasionally, during the term, your teacher will meet with you to discuss your term project.

From time to time we can see the stars, but the smog is usually too thick.

Every so often, especially when we’re in a crowd,  my dog will just jump out of my arms and run away.

Often: He usually goes to the cinema on the weekends.

In the summer I frequently travel to the beach with my friends.

She loves art so she makes regular visits to the local galleries.

Very often: I see him all the time when I go to the park.

I walk daily, the first thing in the morning.

He is constantly forgetting to do his assignments.

Day in and day out you will find most students online doing research, watching movies or playing games.

Those two girls are always together.

Theirs is a never-ending love affair.

The planets are in perpetual motion.

Wow! Now you have many new words and phrases to use when you want to describe how often something happens. Try them out! Experiment! Take a risk! We say in English: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. This means you can only grow and improve if you try new things.

Study hard! Enjoy your English! Use a new word today!

Wow! These young people look frustrated! They must be trying to understand prepositions!

They need to step back, take a big breath and become calm. Prepositions are tricky but they are also simple. Please remember to use the most simple preposition for the sentence you are writing. It’s not useful to try and write in an advanced way when you’re choosing the correct preposition. Keep it simple…KIS!

A preposition is just a connecting word.

I am going to the store. The preposition “to” connects what I’m doing (I’m going) with a place, (the store).

I paid $1000 for my computer. “For” connects what I paid ($1000) with what I bought (my computer).

The meeting starts at 3 o’clock. We use the word “at” to connect the time with the event.

I often study with my friend, Pam.

So we can say that often, when we add more information to a sentence, we use a preposition, especially if we’re adding information that tells, who, where, what or when.

Here are some more prepositions taken from a good list which you can find at the English Club website with examples of how you might use them in your writing. I’ve chosen ones that are a little more challenging.

Everyone except Jane is going to class. Jane’s sick and cannot attend.

We will be going through the entire book of exercises during this term. When you’re finished, you will have learned everything you need to know!

This movie is unlike any you have seen in the past. You will enjoy it because it is so different.

Try to make your presentation without using your notes. It is good practice to try and speak naturally, not reading from a sheet of paper.

He is better at speaking than she is, but she is better at writing.

Since you’ve already taken the introductory course, the intermediate course will be easy.

Sometimes he feels like everyone is against him. He feels like everyone wants him to fail.

They gathered around the table for the meeting so everyone could see one another.

He was dressed as a clown at the costume party.

Try to begin using these prepositions in your writing and speaking. Experiment!!

Take a risk!

Practice and enjoy your English!

Many students feel like this when they think of prepositions.

It’s easy to see why. There are over 150 prepositions in English. There are some rules to help you but not every preposition seems to follow a rule every time it is used. So we have to memorize.

In this post, we will review some of the most often used prepositions, ones that refer to  “where” something or someone is and give some other uses as well.


This water comes in a bottle.  

We are also in love. My friend is in training to be a doctor. A student could be in trouble if he gets caught cheating on a test.  If you are giving a speech you are probably standing in front of your audience.


This cute kitten is on the table.

We are also on time if we have a 3 o’clock appointment and we arrive at 3.  My friend is on TV if she’s in a reality show. If I’m traveling to Thailand and my plane has departed, I am on the way.


The Peanuts kids are sitting under the tree.

We are also under pressure if we are stressed. Fish swim under water although we can also say a fish is in the water. If a building is in the process of being built we say it is under construction.


This little pig is behind the fence.

If my essay is due tomorrow and I have not started it yet, I’m behind on my homework.  If a soldier goes into the country of his enemy in a war, he is behind enemy lines.


These young people are laying on the grass beside one another.

But if you hear someone say: “Your comment is beside the point,” it means the comment is not important, does not relate.


This beautiful girl is standing between two cute guys.

I could also say, “Between you and me, I think Tata is the best singer in Thailand.” This means I’m telling you something that I don’t want you to tell anyone else. I’m sharing a secret with only you.  In English we also say someone is between jobs if he lost his job and has not found a new job yet.

More prepositions to come! Enjoy your English! Study every day!

This came to my mind after a lesson the other day.

Do you have trouble deciding when to use the word “during” and when to use “while?” It is not difficult.

During:  Use this word with a noun.

During the day I often went to the museum to sit and relax.

During class I find myself dreaming.

During my trip to South America, I often felt homesick.

While: Use “while” when you are using a verb.

While I was studying, my phone rang five times!

While he was at his mother’s, he finished his thesis.

While we were visiting Paris, I met many students my age.

Sometimes you can choose either word, but your sentence must follow the same verb or noun rules.  For example:

Please don’t talk during the test.   Please don’t talk while taking the test.

I hope this is helpful!!

We’re all different in wonderful ways……and English helps us share our differences with one another. We do not lose our culture by learning English. We expand it.

From time to time I will write a post about some English words or rules that are confusing. Here are two for today.

1. loose or lose: There are two things to say about these words.

First, “loose” means the opposite of tight like in the phrase,  a loose screw. Loose clothing would be clothing that is bigger than your body and so moves as you walk. To let your dog loose means to untie it to let it run around.

“Lose” means to misplace something. So if I say I lost my wallet, it means I cannot find it. If I lost my sweater, I don’t know where it is.

The second thing to say is that the “s” sound is different in each of these words.

In the word “loose” the “s” is voiceless (come back for my next post on voiced and voiceless sounds). It’s a hissing sound like the first sound in the word “snake” or “sun.”

In the word “lose” the “s” sounds like “z” and is a voiced sound like in the word “zebra.”

2. desert and dessert: These two words mean totally different things. The desert is that dry, sandy place. It is a noun. The Sahara is the biggest desert in the world. The verb, desert, means to leave someone who needs some kind of help or assistance. He deserted her when she needed him the most.

Dessert is what is eaten after dinner and is most often sweet. We had cake for dessert.

But the more confusing issue with these words is pronunciation.

The noun, “desert” emphasizes the first syllable: de-sert. And the “s” has the “z” sound.

The verb “desert” emphasizes the second syllable: de-sert. Again, the “s” sounds like “z.”

Dessert always emphasizes the last syllable….de-sert. Again, the “s” has the “z” sound.

So, don’t be confused…,

study your English and

be happy….!