23 September, 2007

This Week’s Contest: Socializing with Students

In our most recent contest, we asked you to tell us how you assess the language level of new students for placement into an appropriate group. Most of you wrote that you did it on the basis of a short chat, rather than any formal software or written/oral test. However, Diane J. in Hamburg, Germany combines both. After making small talk with the prospective student, she then gives him a short paragraph written in German and asks him/her to translate it as accurately as possible into English after they read it through once in German. The paragraph contains quite a number of different grammatical elements, and so it gives Diane a chance to see how much the student knows about grammar, word order and vocabulary in just a couple of minutes. Here’s the English version:

"Manfred is 47 years old. He works for Volkswagen in Wolfsburg. He has worked there for ten years. Yesterday, he bought a new Golf from the company for a cheap price. Next week he will begin his holiday, and he will drive his new car to Italy. He has been to Italy many times, because he loves Italian food. Two years ago he visited Rome; last year he visited Venice; and next week he will visit Tuscany. He is working very hard this week to finish all his projects before he goes on holiday."

Diane stresses that you should get a native-language translator to create the L1 version for the student. Good job, Diane: you get five free English Toolbox credits!

The topic for the next contest is socializing with your students. Do you get together with your students for meals, drinks or weekend activities? Tell us why you think this is either a good or a bad idea via e-mail to info@englishtoolbox.com by 30 September, and we’ll pick the most interesting argument and post it here. The winner will receive five free English Toolbox exercises, even if s/he isn’t a subscriber!

21 September, 2007

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20 September, 2007

Business English Library is Growing!

We've seen an increased demand for high-level Business English exercises from our customers, and we're working hard to meet it! Here's a "quick & dirty" way to see what's available. Click the "Search" link at the top of this page and use the top pull-down menu (English Course) to select "Business," then use the next menu (English Level) to select "Advanced." Then set the "File Type" menu for "MS Word Document Exercise" and click the "Search for Exercises" button. This will give you a list of all of the more than 100 unique Business English exercises we have for students at an advanced level. You can repeat the process for "Intermediate" rather than "Advanced" by changing your selection in the second pull-down menu. Since beginners are usually not learning Business English, you'll find only a few in that sort result, although we do have some for basic telephoning and small talk in a business environment.

We've added more exercises this week on logistics, business idioms and teleconferencing: check them out!

13 September, 2007

This Week’s Contest: Assessment

Our last contest focused on conversation games. Our favorite submission came from James C. in Bologna, Italy, who plays a game with his classes called, "Liar!" James asks each student a question that could just as likely be answered "yes" or "no" (e.g., "Have you ever had your photo in the newspaper," "Have you ever been stuck in an elevator/a lift," "Have you ever missed a flight," etc.). The rule is that the student must answer each question in the affirmative, and then spontaneously elaborate on the details and answer James’ specific questions about the incident. After a couple of minutes, James asks the class if they think the story is true or false, and these votes are written down. The student then reveals if s/he was describing a true event or simply making it up. The number of people s/he "fooled" is written on the board next to the student’s name, and the game proceeds to the next student with a different question until everyone has participated. The student who has garnered the highest number of classmates who voted incorrectly is the winner. Great game, James: you’ve won five free English Toolbox credits!

The topic for the next contest is assessment. How do you test and place your new students into the proper class? Send your best methods to info@englishtoolbox.com by 20 September, and we’ll pick the most interesting one and post it here. The winner will receive five free English Toolbox exercises, even if s/he isn’t a subscriber!

09 September, 2007

Most Chinese think there is an English learning boom in society

An article we found interesting:

China News, Beijing, Aug 9 - A recent survey shows that 90% of Chinese think there is an English learning boom in society. Nearly half of the respondents to the survey say that English is an essential tool for people living in modern society.

The survey was jointly carried out by the China Youth Daily Social Investigation Center, the information center of Sina.com, and Qtick.com.

What do people learn English for? When such question is posed to the respondents, 83% of them say learning English can help one find a good job; 65.4% of the respondents say it can help one to pass various exams; and 62% of them say English can help people to get a promotion easily.

73.5% of the respondents to the survey think English is useful in their work. As people around the world carry out much closer communications than ever before, no one will neglect the importance of English learning, they say.

Ma Hui doesn't use English much in her work. However, she spends a lot of time studying English every evening. She plans to pass the ITLES test some day.

"I might change a job and go abroad some day. Who knows?" she said. Although she is not quite clear what she learns English for, she's absolutely certain about one thing - learning English will surely be useful some day.

For Xu Feng, the case might be a little bit different. Mr. Xu is the general manager of a software company in Shanghai. To him, for a person who lives in a metropolitan city like Shanghai, English seems to be a must.

"In Shanghai, English is the second most important language, only next to Shanghai dialect. It's okay if you can't write English well, but you must be able to communicate in English. English is very important on many occasions. Sometimes when people go out to play or go to a pub, they like to communicate in English. In Shanghai, many foreigners and overseas Chinese often shift between the two languages when they communicate. Such way of speaking also affects those who do not speak English - they think this is 'fashion.'" Without noticing, Xu himself used an English word when he talked with this reporter.

For many people, English is a magic band: with it, they can do many things they like. In the survey, 27.7% of the respondents think that by mastering English one will "look well-educated"; 12.8% of them even think that English can help them "find a good marriage partner."


02 September, 2007

This Week’s Contest: Conversation Games

Last time, we asked you to tell us what you wish you'd known before starting your first TEFL job. Quite a few responses, many of which were similar to Guy L.'s experiences in a Korean hakwon. Guy (who now teaches in Poland) signed a contract to teach 24 hours a week: however, his boss made him teach a few of those hours in the early morning, a few in the mid-afternoon, and a few in the evening! A very exhausting schedule, but unfortunately a typical trap that new teachers fall into. Guy, we can't give you back your sleep, but we will give you five free credits from English Toolbox!

The topic for this week's contest is a favorite "get them talking" conversation game. It's a very general topic, so we expect lots of suggestions. Send in your tried-and-true games to info@englishtoolbox.com by 10 September, and we'll pick the best one and publish it in this space. The winner will receive five free English Toolbox exercises, even if s/he isn't a subscriber!

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