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Jest to blog Bartosza Goździeniaka.

Up to ears

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on poniedziałek, 14 lipiec 2014
in Learning English

Hello.

This time I'm back to learning English. In this post I'd like to turn your attention to a thing which I've recently found is crucial to succeed. Hearing. Hearing and listening.

 

Diagnosis

When I teach English to groups I rarely notice the problem, yet when it comes to individual classes it is more than obvious. People can't hear. I'm not talking about English, specific sounds, I mean generally. They can't hear the sounds which are obvious, for example a /t/ at the end of a word as in 'eight' and say /ei/ instead of /eit/. It is especially difficult for me for I don't seem to have the problem with distinguishing sounds, thus my job, but I can rarely help with advice based on my own experience. However, I have observed that the inability to hear and listen greatly disturbs the process of learning. I have thought about it for some time now, and I have come to a few conclusions and remedies which I'd like to present.

 

Prescription

First of all, let your ears rest. Believe it or not, we bombard our ears with sounds non-stop, for hours on end. When we wake up we either turn the radio or the TV on, when we drive to work we listen to something in the car, at work we always have a radio playing in the background. Offices, shops, waiting rooms, pubs, homes - there's sound everywhere, sound we can turn off. I remember I once dined in a small place in the city centre which I'd visited for the first time and loved it. It wasn't about the food, it was rather average, but it dawned on me a while later that they didn't play any music there! What a relief! The room was quiet, the people calm and polite, the food tasted better. Think about it.

Secondly, be more attentive to sounds. This is the next step of our trip down the hearing-better lane. When you turn all the disturbing and unnecessary sound off, go for a walk. Try listening to the birds, distinguishing their sounds, cars also emit various sounds, the rustle of the leaves on the trees, people talking nearby (yes, it's eavesdropping:)). The more you hear, the more you are focused on your audial stimuli, the more you practice your hearing in general. It's great fun, really. I sometimes play a game for myself. If I'm walking down the street and there's a car coming from behind, I try figuring out what make it is. I rarely succeed, but the game is fun in itself.

 

Moreover, use modern technology to practise hearing.

This is the point when I'd like to ask you to show some effort. Google is a great search engine, so key in 'ear training games online' and see what you can find. Most of the websites which provide such entertainment are in English, yet only basic, the games are quite easy too, so why not give it a try? You'll have fun and you'll practice hearing.

What is more, I strongly recommend you should try a free game 'Solfege'.

http://www.solfege.org/download/

I've played it for some weeks now and aboslutely love it. It needs some time to learn to use the software, yet it's worth spending time on it.

 

Last but not least, get involved in music.

Learn to play a musical instrument. Go to concerts more often. Think what music you actually like listening to and why. As far as instruments are concerned, it only takes 15 minutes a day to learn to play. I'd recommend the guitar for the beginning, or a piano, or keyboard. Fairly easy instruments and a useful too. Imagine that at your next Christmas you'll be playing the carols on your own! Your family might love it too (not in the beginning though:)).

 

Conclusion

I hope you'll devote some time to your ear training. It doesn't only help in learning languages but it improves your quality of life as well. Remember about having fun and regular practice!

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Likes

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on czwartek, 28 listopad 2013
in Learning English

Hi there! It's been a while since I last wrote anything in my blog, yet I couldn't decide what I should cover. Should I share my pet hates about students as hinted in the last entry? In the end, I dropped the idea as I'd rather focus on the positive side of life. Having said this, I'd like to write about the things I like about my students.

Honesty

I know it rings a bell. Haven't I written about it recently? Still, it's by far the most important thing. Whether it's about homework, not understanding grammar or vocabulary, a text or listening material, I want to know it all. The more questions you ask, the better you know the language. Please remember, there are no dumb questions.

Tastes

We all have the things which we like, don't like, hate or don't care about. Please consider and make your own list. The conversation I really hate to have with my students goes like this:

(T)eacher: What kind of music do you like?

(S)tudent: I don't know. Maybe rock.

T: So who's your favourite artist?

S: I don't know

.T: So wat music do you listen to in your free time?

S: I listen to the radio.

T: What radio station?

S: (gives a name of a station where you can only listen to crappy pop mixed with ridiculous competitions where you can win ridiculous amounts of money by sending a ridiculously priced text with an answer to a ridiculous question [Personal comment: most radio stations in Poland, unfortunately])

I really would prefer to hear that you don't care about music. Like once I had this student who admitted he didn't read any books because he didn't like reading at all. How much better is that answer from staggering about things you kinda like? Sometimes I think students do that because they don't want to look stupid, yet what can be stupid in having your own tastes? On the contrary, it shows you have a life.

Creativity

Yes, I have mentioned that before too. It makes the whole process of learning soooo much easier and funnier when I and my students have fun. The more creative my students, the better the laughter. In the end, it's not what you say but how you say it that matters (in the classroom of course).

To sum up, the things I love about students are when they're honest, have tastes and are creative. If I remember about anything else, I'll try to tell you.

See you!

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Honesty

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on piątek, 25 październik 2013
in Learning English

Generally, when you learn anything, you do it for you only. Even though your boss, mother, father or anybody else sent you to the course without your consent, you're going to benefit from it. Then, be honest about it.

 

Level

First thing students often lie about is their level of English. Some say it's lower, some that it's higher than in reality. The latter often happens when people rush to take certificates like FCE or CAE. The truth is that you learn best when you're on the right course. When it's easier, you're going to be bored to death; if it's higher, you're going to get very frustrated. Both ways, you're going to quit the course and not learn anything at all. Is that really what you want? Besides, you can take certifcate exams anytime, yet the thing is to pass them.

Homework

Let me put it straight: You don't have to do homework! Really, period. The reason why I give homework to students is that I want them to be in touch with the language. However, you can as well watch TV in English, read a book or listen to the radio. My homework is not and never will be the most important thing in your life. Yet, when you don't do it, just say so. Don't make up silly excuses. All in all, I know the things and you should be responsible for your learning yourself.

Missing classes

I honestly believe that going to classes regularly is the most important factor. Yet, there are situations in life, emergencies and health issues when you have to miss class. Please, inform me about it and I don't really need to know the reason. Yet, when you give one, be it the true one. It doesn't happen often but once in a while I hear students can't come because they've fallen ill when in fact they went on holiday.

Tastes

They differ, that's true. Yet, I have to know that you don't like for example a certain kind of exercise, or a topic of conversation or even the whole coursebook. Tell me about, be honest, and we can do something about. Sometimes people quit because they don't like my way of teaching them, but have they told me about that? No. And that's food for thought.

I don't understand

Last but not least. People have this unreasonable fear of admitting to the fact that they don't understand something. I guess it's because of our experience in public education system. My task, however, is to really teach you English. How can I do it if I don't know that you have come across an obstacle? Tell me about. There are no dumb questions.

 

This post may seem as a personal list of pet hates about my students, but it's not. I give it to you because all these misunderstandings can be easily avoided by simply being honest. I'm just thinking that maybe I should write a post about the most annoying things about learners?

See you!

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Stress

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on piątek, 11 październik 2013
in Learning English

Ultimate killer

Nothing is as powerful in slowing down your progress in learning English and lowering the pleasure you take from it as stress. It makes you feel uncomfortable, quiet and shy, very often it can even make you quit learning at all.GroundsI've never been able to identify the reasons for stress correctly. It's so personal, every single student has a different story. Yet, with a little help of statistics, I can give you the ones which occur most often.

Impatience

People are used to the fact that, in modern world, when you want something you usually get it fast. Unfortunately, that's not the case with learning English. It simply takes time. Don't get impatient and feel stressed because you've just started and still don't understand the articles on the BBC website. Simply wait and appreciate the things you can already do with your English. Be it checking in in a hotel, asking for directions or doing shopping, not a long time ago you wouldn't have been able to do that at all!

Pace

Students sometimes get stressed because they feel uncomfortable with the pace of the lesson. Seldom do I hear remarks that I should speed things up. The reason behind me speaking too fast is very simple. When I have classes with advanced students before the elementary ones, I sometimes forget to switch to 'slow English' mode. Instead of getting upset, just tell me about it. I'll always adjust to my students' level. That should happen with every English teacher in every English classroom.

Expectations

So you've been learning for a long time, yet still can't understand an article you've just found on the Internet? Do you feel frustrated? Well, if yes, you shouldn't. The one fact we all ought to accept is that you'll never learn to understand any language in 100%. Do you know the medical or technical jargon in your native language? Probably not, so don't expect to do it in English. Relax, take a deep breath and consider every new situation a challenge. This way you'll soon learn more than you ever expected.

Precautions

In order to limit the chances of stress spoiling your fun with learning English, I recommend you should do these things:

  • watch comedies, sitcoms, comedians in English – your brain will connect the language with having a good time and say good bye to stress,

  • take a deep breath and relax - learning English is fun, fun, fun,if you don't understand anything ask, ask, ask - nobody knows everything,

  • last but not least - learn English on a level appropriate for you, if it's too high you'll always feel stressed about it; when it's too low, you'll be bored.

Honesty

The last point in my recommendations talks about being honest with yourself. I think I should write something more about it in my next post.

 

See you!

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Thinking

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on czwartek, 19 wrzesień 2013
in Learning English

The obvious

Many people imagine that when they're learning English they really think about what they're doing and concentrate at their hardest. This isn't that obvious since we are very often used to doing many things at the same time, and many thoughts cross our minds. Yet, this entry is not about concentration, but about thinking.

 

The right words, the wrong time

In my teaching career I have quite often been faced with situations when my students made correct sentences but their phrases didn't make any sense at all in a given situation. I have tried to figure out why this is happening and the only conclusion I can draw is that they focus too much on the form, not the content. When you're learning a foreign language you need to cope with quite a difficult, dual task. First, there's the vocabulary and grammar; second, there's the actual message.

 

Example

Let's think of a lesson when we revise present time tenses. I start and ask my student about his daily routines and after I get all the answers the roles change. The first question is: 'What time do you have lunch?'. OK, I answer that usually at 2 pm. The next questios I hear is: 'What do you do at 2 pm?'.Can you see it? The words are all right but the question, in fact, doesn't make any sense at all.

 

Prevention

The only advice I can give to students is that before you say anything think twice. Simply double check your message. It can't be done easily, especially when we're not yet conident with the language you're learning. Take time to think, speak slowly but fluently. Nobody is going to be mad at you because you speak slowly, but they can get annoyed when you talk nonsense.

I am quite aware of the fact that students might feel the pressure of speaking correctly as far as both content and form are concerned. This is really stressful. I'm going to cover dealing with stress in my next post.

Thank you for now!

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Context

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on czwartek, 05 wrzesień 2013
in Learning English

What is it?

Cambridge Dictionary online (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/) gives the definition of context as 'the situation within which something exists or happens, and that can help explain it.'. Let's turn our attention to the very important word 'situation'. It makes a big difference.Use your creativityPlease try to think of as many situations as you can, when the word 'bitch' wouldn't be considered as offensive. It's really easy. When you're talking about your pet, or at a vet, or at a dog show. Now, let's think of the situations, when the word is rude. Do I really have to mention them?

 

The King

Context is the King. One of my fellow teachers coined this phrase. He couldn't be more right. Unfortunately, when we look at the most self-study books, especially about grammar, they're totally deprived of context. The student is asked to do exercises which often have nothing to do with real life merely because there's no context to the sentences which you need to put the right tense in. Let me show you this with a random example from a random website offering free English grammar exercises of this kind.

→ When Jonathan (do) a language course in Ireland, he (visit) Cork.

So, OK, when did Jonathan visit Cork? After or during the course? If after, then the sentence is: 'When Jonathan had done a language course in Ireland, he visited Cork.'. If during it's: 'When Jonathan was doing a language course, he visited Cork.'. Or maybe the sentence isn't about the past time at all? Maybe it's about the future, for example: 'When Janathan will be doing a language course in Ireland, he's going to visit Cork.'. There are as many options as there are contexts we can think of! And every answer might be, in fact, correct!

 

Learning aid

The awareness of importance of context is crucial in language learning. Don't just learn new words or grammar rules in lists. Don't think of examples only. Think of the whole situations. One exercise I like giving my students when they want to learn Simple Past irregular verbs is this: take a list of the words and make a story with them. Sentence by sentence, each with a different irregular verb. In this way you'll provide context for the words, and studying will be more fun. One important thing, don't write the story down, just remember it and every time you sit down to learning the verbs create a new one. Your brain needs to work!

 

Think

Yes, as hard as it may seem, when we're learning a language we need to think. That's the topic for next entry. I hope you'll all read it! Bye!

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Creativity

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on poniedziałek, 19 sierpień 2013
in Learning English

Welcome back. Today, I'm going to discuss the importance of creativity in the process of learning English.

 

Definition

First of all, what is creativity? For me, it's the skill of thinking outside the box, having the heart to come up with the stupidest ideas, the most absurd solutions, silly questions. Let me give you an example of a creative student.

 

Creative Student

I once taught a boy whose task was to write an essay about his friend. I'd like to add that he was still in school so I expected a typical description of a John, a classmate. Yet, I was greatly surprised. I can still remember that that was the moment when I discovered how creative my student was. He described a character from his favourite computer game, set their friendship in the Vietnam war and wrote a really silly essay! Keep in mind, though, that it was extremeley good as far as English is concerned. I had great time reading this piece of writing.

I hope you now understand what creativity means to me. How does it help learn English?

 

Your world, your rules

Firstly, when you imagine yourself to be in a silly situation, one that is very unlikely, you don't feel the necessity of following any rules. In other words, you are totally free to do and say whatever you want. You made a mistake? So what? Your world, your rules. Yet, bear in mind that you are learning and mistakes are for the teacher to correct them and for you to remember the right language.

 

Laughter

Secondly, creativity brings an element of humour in the learning process. What better way of relaxing than to laugh wholeheartedly. The better the mood, the faster the learning. What more do I need to say?

 

I've been there

Last but not least, creativity helps you imagine the situations and find context for various phrases. When you learn a new grammar tense, it's really useful to think of as many occasions as possible when you might use it.The more creative you are, the more situations you'll think about.

 

Thus, we came to talking about context. The fact that it is vital is beyond discussion. Yet, I'm going to write about it in my next post. For the time being I hope you'll all start practising creativity and using it in your everyday learning. Bye!

 

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Imagination

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on poniedziałek, 27 maj 2013
in Learning English

Hello again. As I wrote in my previous post, this one is going to be about imagination and how to use it when we're learning English.

 

The dangers

Imagination is really fun! Yet, when not controlled, it can really slow down the process of learning. This happens because, as far as I've observed, my student don't read or listen what really is written or said but imagine what might be written or said. Instead of seeing the real text they guess it. This helps to read in your mother tongue (it is done faster), yet when learning a foreign lanuage, it poses a serious threat to success.

 

Reading

Let me exemplify this. Imagine that in the text you can see such a sentence: 'I think Japanese people are getting fatter.' The last word is really tricky. Normally, your guess would be that it is 'faster'. You see the first letter 'f', then the last 'r' and the first thought that comes to your mind is that the word must be 'faster'. Without any doubt you move on reading. The text, however, cannot be understood correctly any more. What should we do to avoid this trap, then? Well, the answer is simple: focus and read slowly.

 

Listening

As far as listening is concerned, the problem is even more complicated. Imagine that you're listening about shopping. You hear the word 'department store' and you assume that the text must be about loving shopping there. The rest of the listening is therefore only 'skimmed' with your ears because you already know all about it. In fact, the text might be about hating shopping in a  department store. Yet again, due to a wrong guess in the beginning, the text cannot be understood correctly. What should we do to avoid this trap? Focus and turn your imagination off, just listen to what is being really said.

 

Usefulness

How is imagination helpful in learning a foreign language? It helps create situations and images which support practice. For example, when you need to make a conversation at the reception in a hotel, focus hard and imagine that you really are there talking to the person. You need to somehow forget that you're in the classroom, feel the excitement of really being in the hotel and talking to the person. Then, when you go on holiday and are faced with such a situation, you have, in fact, already been there.

 

Creativity

What is more, imagination is connected with creativity. Saying that creativity is invaluable when learning English is an understatement. I'm going to cover this in my next post, so watch out for it!

 

As for now, that's all. I hope you understand the pros and cons of imagination in the process of learning. See you soon!

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Concentration

Posted by Bartosz Goździeniak
Bartosz Goździeniak
An English teacher and proud of it.
User is currently offline
on środa, 01 maj 2013
in Learning English

Why do I want to write this blog?

This is my first post in my blog. I write it to help people learn English and discover the infinite chances which open once you've learned the language well enough to communicate.

 

The essential matter

Yet, is communication the most important thing? Not exactly. First of all, the crucial factor, is to master the learning techniques. There will come the day when a student leaves the classroom and has to deal with English on their own. A teacher's role is to equip them with appropriate tools which will help them continuously improve their skills whatever way they choose. This starts in the classroom.

 

Focus

The very first thing which I try to make my students consider is concentration. Focus really hard on what you're doing and forget about everything else. As long as you're in the classroom, there's nothing else in the whole world which could turn your attention away from the process of learning. Let me give you an example of how hard you should be focused.


I have a baby son. I like playing with him a lot. We do a lot of crazy things, every time we have the opportunity to spend time together I try to show him something new. What amazes me is his ability to pay a total 100% of his attention to what he's doing at the exact moment. We very often play with drumsticks, he hits various objects and does it really loudly. One day I showed him that empty yoghurt cups can serve as perfect drum kit as long as you set them in the right pattern. The moment he grasped that, he dropped the drumsticks and started arranging the cups in the pattern he had in mind. I called him his name, I tried to make him remember about the sticks which were lying on the floor around him, yet nothing worked. At that very time he was arranging the cups and that was all. This is the kind of attention we need in classroom.

 

But...

I have to admit that even though my students are very often well concentrated, they do not listen or read what is being given to them, but imagine what they hear and read. This is the next topic which I'm going to cover in my blog. See you soon!

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