Sing to Improve Fluency

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In my old job I taught part of a weekend intensive English course. It was tough for a lot of the students, who had really high goals but they improved their English a lot over the course. Every one of the students liked English. At the end of term we had a karaoke party in English, with everyone singing at least one song in English.

Some students were more successful with their songs than others, and some were very ambitious. The difference was not talent or natural singing ability. I asked one of my students how he could sing so fast in English.

“Every week me and my friends do punk karaoke.”

You don’t have to go to karaoke, and you don’t have to sing punk songs, but it helps to sing. You could sing along with a lyric sheet to your favourite song or you could even search Youtube for videos with lyrics

I hope you have a lot more fun with your English study after reading this post! Now, where’s my microphone?

Did you use to do it, or are you used to it?

used_to

‘Used to’ is quite easy to make mistakes with. There are two completely different meanings for this phrase.

  1. used to: This is used when an action occurred often in the past but does not occur now.

    I used to drink and smoke but I have a healthy lifestyle now.

    In questions, it changes to ‘use to’.

    Did you use to have a black and white television, Gran?

  2. be used to: This is used when you have become familiar or accustomed to something, usually (but not always) an action.

    I’m used to reading and listening to English because I read Get Great English every day and download the podcast every week.

    It is often used as ‘get used to’ to indicate a change has occured.

    Marc’s voice was difficult to understand at first but I got used to him speaking with that accent.

    In questions, the verb is still ‘used’ but the subject comes after the ‘be’ verb.

    Are you used to living in London, yet?

Easy Ways to Use English Every Day

“I want to use English,” my students say, “but I don’t have anyone to talk to apart from you.”

motivation

“What about writing a diary?” I suggest.

“I never keep to it. I always abandon it after a week or so.”

In which case, here are some other suggestions.

The first one is from my student who makes her to-do list in English every day. It’s a daily habit and it means she keeps using English and it has to be clear.

Next is the logbook, which is not quite a diary, but a list of the things you have done. It might be a list of the study activities you have done, or in the case of the artist Austin Kleon, a list of all the day’s notable activities. I keep one about this website (in English, my mother tongue) and one about my running (in Japanese, my second language). I have found that the more you do this, the more motivated you become to keep going with your goals so it’s definitely worth trying.

If you know any other easy ways to use English every day leave a comment to share your idea with others.

Don’t Think

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In English, when you are not 100% sure of something, use ‘I don’t think’ rather than ‘I think ~ isn’t’.

Wrong

I think it won’t rain.

I think he is not my type.

I think that when I get home my mother won’t be at home.

I think they can’t handle it.

Correct

I don’t think it will rain.

I don’t think he’s my type.

I don’t think that when I get home my mother will be at home.

I don’t think they can handle it.

Interrupting Is Not Rude

speaking

Everybody seems to think that interrupting people is rude. Maybe this is something learned when we are children, with our parents telling us, “Don’t interrupt when I’m talking.”

Interrupting when it is unnecessary is rude but sometimes you simply must interrupt. Here are the ways to do it.

Try to get someone’s attention visually.

Sometimes a raised finger or raised eyebrows is enough. At other times you may need to raise your hand above head height.

Be polite

This should be obvious but not everyone is polite when interrupting and native speakers are usually the worst. A simple “Excuse me, but I’d like to say/ask something, please.” should be fine. If there is a pause, say what you want to say. Try not to ask if it is all right to ask a question. “Sorry, can I ask a question, please?” is something native speakers do say but it is so weak that someone may simply say no.

Be quick

Remember, you want to interrupt the conversation, not hijack it. If you interrupt and then give a long speech, people will avoid letting you interrupt in future. Keep it simple: three sentences at the longest.

Use Kindle and Kobo to Study English

Books

Even if you don’t own an e-book reader (or ebook reader), you can still download free samples to your smartphone or your computer.

Download the app and go shopping in the Kindle store or the Kobo store (search for your local store) and download free samples of books. You’ll need to sign up but if it’s useful for you, it’s not really a big deal. You have the ability to highlight and search dictionaries for the words you don’t understand, which you can’t do in the middle of a real book shop.

You can then take notes in Evernote or make word cards.

Talk About Music

Vocabulary

Music is fantastic. It’s also a great way to study English but sometimes it can be difficult to talk about music.

Instruments

Most pop, rock, blues and country music is played on guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. The guitar may be an electric guitar plugged into an amplifier or an acoustic guitar. The keyboard may be an organ or a synthesizer. Also, computers are used to make music more and more frequently.

Jazz is often played on the saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and drums but may also be played on the guitar and even the marimba, vibraphone, and flute.

Classical music may be played by an orchestra or a smaller group known as an ensemble, else it is played by quartets, trios, duos or solo performers. Orchestras are split into strings (violin, viola, cello and double bass), woodwind (flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon), percussion (timpani, drums, cymbals and glockenspiel), and brass (trumpet, tenor horn, French horn, euphonium and tuba).

Genres

Classical music is the type of music written by Beethoven and Bach. Classic music could be high quality, old music of any genre. The Rolling Stones are often described as ‘classic rock’.

There are also subgenres. Bebop is a subgenre of jazz and psychedelia is a subgenre of rock music.

The most common genres are classical, jazz, folk, pop, rock, country, blues, jazz, soul, reggae, hip hop, dance, avant garde and world music, which is often used to describe any kind of music which doesn’t sound like Western pop music and is traditional music played by people from non-English speaking countries.

Sound

We might say music is upbeat if it is fast and happy, and downtempo if it is slow. Heavy metal is fast and loud (not big) and bossa nova is usually quiet and relaxing. Music is dynamic if it changes volume and sometimes, but not usually, rhythm.

Comparing things

comparing things

When you compare things there are three ways to do it:

  1. Use an Adjectival Comparative to Compare the Things

  2. ‘-er’ Comparatives

    Adjectival comparatives come in the ‘-er/est’ form for short adjectives, ‘more/most ____’ form for long adjectives and for negative comparisons ‘not as ___’ and for equal comparisons ‘as ____’.

    The one that causes the most mistakes is the ‘-er/est’ form. This is for short adjectives.

    My car is faster than yours. I like your car, but mine is faster.

    This is correct and has the two ways the comparative can be used. You could replace ‘faster’ with ‘better’, the ‘-er’ form of ‘good’ (the ‘-est’ for is ‘best’).

    The following is a common error:

    John is more taller than Jesung.

    Do not use ‘more’ before an ‘-er’ comparative. ‘Worse/worst’ is in the ‘-er/est’ group, and next we shall look at the ‘-est’ form.

    The Superlative, ‘-est’

    When comparing three things or more, use a superlative.

    The easiest way to be successful in love is studying English. It is easier than being rich and it is easier than being handsome or beautiful.

    Some native speakers use the superlative to compare only two things but this is wrong.

    ‘More’ and ‘Most’

    It’s easy to use ‘more’ and ‘most’ correctly by remembering that they come before long adjectives. ‘More’ is the comparative (similar to ‘-er’) and ‘most’ is the superlative (similar to ‘-est’).

    Hyde Park is more relaxing than Green Park.

    The most interesting museum in London is the British Museum.

    Not As Difficult As You Think

    Using ‘not as’ is simple.

    My Volkswagen Golf was not as expensive as my dad’s Lamborghini.

    Superman isn’t as fun as Batman. And Iron Man isn’t as fun, either.

    As Easy As Pie

    To compare things but saying they are equal, use ‘as’.

    We both climbed that mountain. I’m just as tired as you.

  3. Use an Adverbial Comparative to Compare an Action the Things Do

  4. Using adverbial comparatives is easy when you know how to use adjectival comparisons.

    Usain Bolt runs faster than anyone.

    My mother cooks more quickly than my father but my father cooks more messily.

    The main difficulty here is knowing that fast is an adverb and also an adjective.

  5. Compare Using Simple Statements

  6. Sometimes you just need to use a normal statement clause to compare things.

    Batman fights crime by using expensive equipment and gadgets but Superman fights crime using super powers.

Hopefully comparing things is clearer now than it was before. If you thought this was useful, why not leave a comment or share the post with a friend?