Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Sleep and Study

Posted on February 25th, 2014by Melanie
In Education, Language acquisition, Research | Leave a Comment »

Did you go to bed with headphones on the night before an important test or exam when you were at school, listening to the revision notes over and over again? Or did you listen to a recording of your speech as you drifted off to sleep the night before an important presentation at work? It may have seemed a desperate attempt to get the knowledge to stay in your head at the time, but the notion of sleep aiding learning is actually true.

HeadphonesStudies showed that participants who had had a short sleep during the day were able to recall information more easily, and to a greater extent if the nap was taken nearer to the time of learning. A good night’s sleep before a day of testing also gives improved results showing that we subconsciously learn while we’re asleep and can transform this into usable knowledge during the day. But how is this possible?

Everything we’ve learned during the day is reinforced as we sleep due to the fact that the brain stays active. Even a quick snooze after learning something can result in a higher recollection of what we’ve just learned. Therefore, it’s not necessarily the amount of sleep we have, but the fact that we are able to have some sleep which gives our brain a chance to process the information.

file0001988663950So sleep equals enhanced learning. But how does that help you with your language lessons? Don’t worry, you haven’t got to download all of your lessons and listen to them while you’re trying to drift off to sleep, and you don’t need to recite the verbs and tenses repeatedly until you fall asleep. It is a good idea, however, to do some revision not long before you go to sleep, as you’re more likely to remember it in more detail when you wake up. And if you feel like you’re having a brain overload after one of your lessons, try a power nap to help lock the information in your mind.

Do you find that things seem clearer after you’ve had some sleep? Why not see for yourself if the theory works by testing yourself to see how much you can recall from your language lessons both before and after periods of sleep.

Does Low Income Affect Language Learning Abilities?

Posted on October 30th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, English, Language acquisition | Leave a Comment »

Low income learningStudies have been conducted which prove the correlation between wealth and the ability for word comprehension in very young children, but how does that translate into adulthood? Do those who have been brought up in low income households find it harder to learn foreign languages than those who have grown up with wealthier families?

It’s certainly true that by school age, those who have been raised in low income families have a lower reading ability than their peers and can struggle from the outset. Their social background has not allowed them to reach their full potential for their age group leading to an increased risk of lack of cognitive and educational development.

Nowadays, however, educational institutions recognize these social situations and are able to ensure that pupils are taught accordingly. Teaching techniques and resources are such that pupils from any background are able to learn effectively and will quickly progress to reach their full potential.

A high percentage of low income families in the UK actually speak English as their second language, whilst speaking their native language at home and in their community. In this respect, many children are already familiar with the concept of learning foreign languages and, whilst they may need to apply themselves more than their peers to other academic subjects, they already have the capabilities of being able to grasp foreign languages. Bearing this in mind, for those particular pupils, learning foreign languages as an adult should not pose any issues.

Globalization, interactive social media and innovative teaching techniques with a focus on learning foreign languages means that adults, regardless of their background, educational level, or linguistic capability are more than able to learn foreign languages easily. What languages have you learned and do you think your background positively or negatively affected your ability to learn them?

Speaking Diplomatically

Posted on October 20th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Language acquisition, Speech | Leave a Comment »

Language CentreIt’s not just children or pupils in higher education who have the importance of learning foreign languages emphasized upon them. Many career opportunities are available now to those who speak more than one language and even those who have held good positions within their workplace for a long time are now under pressure to learn a new language.

Intensive Lessons for Diplomats

Diplomats are now undergoing intensive language lessons in the Foreign Office’s new language centre. Originally closed by the Labour government in 2007 to save costs by outsourcing to language trainers, the new centre – which teaches up to 80 languages – was re-opened by Foreign Secretary William Hague last month. The aim of the Foreign Office is to increase the number of diplomats in positions abroad who can conduct their business in the language of that particular country. The main focus is on Mandarin, Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian and German, with the intention of strengthening diplomatic ties with Latin America, China and the Middle East.

The Language Centre

The new centre will enable diplomats, as well as staff from other government offices, to study languages in intensive one-to-one sessions. Regardless of any previous knowledge of foreign languages, the teaching techniques used and modern facilities available in the comfortable surroundings make it possible for anyone to study any language to a very high standard. Some languages, such as Mandarin, entail learning the language for 22 months with 4 hours of study each day, before the diplomats are ready to take on their ‘operational’ role overseas in which they are expected to be able to hold press conferences in that language. As diplomats are taking on the challenge, 50 new speaking jobs have been created in UK embassies and high commissions, increasing diplomatic relations with other countries.

Have you needed to learn a foreign language for your career or would you consider learning a new language to take your career in a new direction?

Sporting a New Language

Posted on October 18th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Language acquisition, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Gary LinekerSporting personality, Gary Lineker, has been promoting the benefits of learning foreign languages. Having learned Spanish after he was assigned to play football for Barcelona FC in 1986, he understands only too well the importance that foreign languages have in people’s lives.

Last month was the European Day of Languages and, in celebration of this, 11 schools in England and Scotland were given the opportunity to improve their linguistic capabilities by being awarded new language training resources. Keen to get involved, Gary Lineker visited one of these secondary schools to interact with the kids and to take part in the discussions there which were based on the necessity for increased language learning in schools.

Most schools across the UK are multinational, with many pupils speaking different languages at home, so why not promote language learning in schools? Technology makes learning more fun and interesting for kids, and schools have many technological resources at their fingertips that their pupils can take advantage of. The new language software awarded to the schools will give the pupils the ability to study using devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Other sports personalities are also quick to highlight the benefits of being able to speak foreign languages. Olympic medalist, Tom Daly, studied Spanish to A-level and is able to conduct interviews in Spanish, just as Chris Froome conducts interviews for the Tour de France in French. Paula Radcliffe, the world marathon record holder, finds her fluency in French and German very useful for international events. Ellen MacArthur used her knowledge of French to help gain sponsorship for her round-the-world sailing trip. Having role models like these is a great way for pupils to be inspired to learn new languages and to understand the importance of languages for their futures.

Who or what inspired you to learn a language and how has it helped you in your career or lifestyle?

Take Time to Talk

Posted on September 22nd, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Language acquisition, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Too much to doBusy, busy, busy! There’s always something to do, somewhere to go and never enough time to do everything you need to. Only the essentials get prioritized and hobbies or extras get left behind.

With language tuition nowadays, there’s no need to worry about how to fit it all in as the classes are designed to take away the stress and add flexibility and ease of use to your lessons. Whilst some of us might be grateful for an excuse not to have to learn something in our free time, for those of us that do want to, these pupil friendly courses will blend in seamlessly with our otherwise hectic schedules. Instead of attending an educational establishment, tutors will now happily conduct the classes at their pupils’ homes, workplaces or other convenient locations, and can fit the lessons in around their timetables, including weekends.

For those who travel regularly, online lessons are a great advantage. Pre-recorded lessons can be downloaded and emailed back to tutors from any location at any time with the use of a portable device such as an iPad or Android tablet. You can still speak directly to your tutor using the built in webcam and microphone. Conversations, messages, document sharing and the viewing of websites or videos can be conducted over free software, such as Skype or Google+. In fact, with this type of technology, you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home to learn a new language!

Do you struggle to fit everything into your daily routine? What timesaving tips have you got for others who are learning a new language? Make some space in your schedule where you can and enjoy the satisfaction of being able to speak in another language!

Back to School (Part 1)

Posted on July 10th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, German, Spelling | Leave a Comment »

It´s not just pupils who have to study hard, revise and do homework. Teachers are having to go back to school too!

Back to school 2The government has set the wheels in motion for a new school curriculum to be put in place, with a starting date of September 2014. Following a decline in the level of teaching standards relating to the national curriculum, the government is looking to give it a complete overhaul to reverse the fallen standards of the last decade.

Current subjects will be improved no end to include more detail and more challenging aspects for the children, and these will be taught to children at a much younger age. For example, maths will have a greater emphasis on longer division, mental arithmetic and fractions, whilst English lessons will include harder spelling and will focus more on grammar. New subjects will be introduced such as climate change and computer programming. It will be compulsory for schools to teach children as young as 5 years old a foreign language.

For teachers, these new lessons can be a very daunting prospect, particularly the latter one of teaching a foreign language. Knowing a foreign language doesn´t necessarily mean having the confidence to teach it to others, and some teachers may just be out of practice as far as languages are concerned due to a previous lack of necessity in a primary school environment. Some schools may not currently offer foreign language lessons to their pupils so are not yet in a position to cater to these new demands. However, there is time to prepare. The details of the new national curriculum are set to be finalised this autumn, giving schools and teachers a year to make provisions for the changes.

If, like the teachers, you feel the need to brush up on your foreign language skills, why not start with some German lessons in Nottingham to get ready for the future.

Tackling the TEFL

Posted on July 7th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, English, Grammar | Leave a Comment »

TEFL 3Samantha enjoyed a challenge, which was a good job really considering a huge one loomed before her! Her husband had been offered a job in southern Spain and it was too good an opportunity to miss, so they´d decided to relocate there with their three children.

The plan was that, once she´d got the kids settled in school, she´d earn a bit of cash herself by teaching English to the Spanish children. She´d get to know the other parents and offer extra tuition after school to help the kids with their speaking skills.

In order to do this, however, Samantha had to gain a formal qualification known as the TEFL, Teaching English as a Foreign Language. She knew a couple of people who had already gained their TEFL qualification and they´d warned her that, despite being born and bred Brits who´d spoken English all of their lives, they´d struggled with some of the grammar aspects and found the terminology relating to teaching English a little tricky. Samantha knew this was only natural as people get used to speaking without thinking and become lazy in their knowledge of language construction, but she thought she´d better brush up on her skills nonetheless.

She found some private one-to-one English language training classes in Coventry where she lived. The tutor was willing to structure the lessons around the requirements needed for Samantha to be able to pass the TEFL teacher training course. Soon afterwards, thanks to the expert tuition she received, Samantha was confident enough that she could complete the TEFL course with ease.

Now, with her TEFL certificate firmly in her hand, Samantha is preparing to make the move to Spain and is looking forward to the teaching challenges that await her there!

Educating in English to Expand in Enrolment

Posted on June 27th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, English, French | Leave a Comment »

Welcome bienvenueThe French are proud of their language, just as they are of their country and culture. Their language is their identity and they protect it quite vigorously. And why wouldn´t they? The melodic language is soft and romantic and, to the French, it holds links to its traditions and history.

The Academie Francaise continuously sweeps for foreign words that have been introduced into the French language, usually from immigrants and the influence of their own native languages. It strives to substitute them with French alternatives in order to preserve their beloved language from devolving into a modern mixture of languages as others have done in recent years. English words in particular have a habit of cropping up. And despite their best efforts, it looks as though the English language is about to encroach on them even more.

The French parliament has settled on a debate over the teaching of lectures at French universities in English. Only elite universities and business schools have previously taught courses in English but these new proposals will allow all universities to do the same. This has caused a lot of opposition in France. The arguments are not against the learning of foreign languages – linguistics are promoted and encouraged from an early age – but of academic subjects being taught in a language other than French. The reasons for promoting this, though, are to encourage foreign students to study in France, and this new proposal is seen as an obvious progression if France wants to boost its intake of foreign students. The minister for Higher Education, Genevieve Fioraso, has backed this proposal completely and is adamant that these changes will be a positive change for France and its universities.

If you´re as passionate as the French people about preserving their language, these French classes in Manchester will have you speaking it fluently in no time!

Can´t Learn, Won´t Learn!

Posted on June 16th, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Italian, Research | Leave a Comment »

Can´t learnEveryone can learn a new language! That´s not just an optimistic line aimed at someone later on in life who is groaning at the thought of having to start to learn a language, or someone  who never did well in school and thinks they don´t have the ability to learn. According to research, it has been scientifically proven that, with the correct learning techniques, a new language can be learned by anyone at any time.

How? When someone has been out of an educational environment for a long time or doesn´t have a knack for learning languages, this may seem very unlikely. It´s simple! They just need to listen to a word 160 times over a period of 14 minutes according to neuroscientists. The brain may struggle to recognise the new word being introduced initially but, after this amount of exposure to the word, it suddenly recognises the word as indistinguishable from those they are already familiar with. Findings also showed that it wasn´t necessary for any active participation of the volunteers in the study to try to learn the language; there were no memory tests or repetition exercises, just listening and their brains did the rest of the hard work.

But let´s face it, with such busy lives, who has either the time or inclination to learn new words 160 times, whatever the time period they can be learned over? The study has proven that everyone has the ability to learn a new language, no matter what their age or learning capabilities but, in real terms, the findings aren´t really feasible or practical. The interesting part of the study is that no active participation was needed, just to listen. This is already a teaching method used widely nowadays, where teachers are doing away with the traditional schooling methods of using books and writing tasks, and are concentrating on speaking the language with the onus on the pupils to listen and tune into the new words without questioning the structure and meaning as they would normally.

To relax and enjoy the lessons is also said to enhance the learning process and helps to increase the level at which the new language is absorbed. To make something a difficult task makes it a chore and can act as a hindrance as the brain can “switch off” and therefore not take in as much information. Whereas, if a subject is enjoyable and is practised in a relaxed atmosphere, the brain is more “switched on” and receptive to taking in new information.

So if you´re ready to learn a foreign language and eager to do so without the tediousness often associated with lessons, then it´s time to explore the more modern teaching methods available to you. Using innovative training techniques and by combining language learning with a fun approach, you can easily be at a conversational level in your chosen language in no time at all.  If you´d like to speak a Romance language, for example, then immerse yourself in some lively Italian lessons in London for fast results in an entertaining way!

Immersing into the Italian Lifestyle

Posted on June 1st, 2013by Melanie
In Education, Italian, Speech | Leave a Comment »

ItalyLouise was desperate to learn Italian. She´d been on family holidays to Italy numerous times and loved it; she loved the country, the people, the sunny climate, the food, everything about it, and especially the melodic language. But for Louise, learning a foreign language wasn´t as easy a task as it might seem. She suffered from a learning disorder and, unfortunately, learning foreign languages was considered an unachievable task by her teachers. She was used to the stigma; she´d always been teased about seeming to be slower than her classmates to grasp things but was still determined to learn a second language one day, despite her teachers´ views. They believed that, due to the nature of learning disorders which directly affect language capabilities, the acquisition of a new language when she often struggled with her own was an impossible undertaking which would just cause Louise undue stress and disappointment.

Luckily, Louise´s parents disagreed with this and backed her enthusiasm and determination to learn a foreign language. They´d conducted a considerable amount of research on the subject and had contacted organizations related to both learning disorders and languages. They discovered that it was often the traditional teaching methods that actually inhibited the learning of languages rather than a student´s ability to learn. This is because the reading and writing skills typical of a normal classroom lesson often presented problems whereas learning conversational techniques could be extremely beneficial and produce excellent results. One of the organizations contacted Louise´s parents to advise them of an immersion programme which placed students directly into family homes abroad. This technique had produced excellent results and the experience meant that students learned real life conversational skills as opposed to basic sentences that were the norm usually taught in schools. This was a dream come true for Louise! Not only did she get to live in Italy for a while, but she would be learning the language from a genuine Italian family and living the Italian lifestyle she´d hankered after.

That was then. Now, Louise, who blossomed in Italy under the tutelage of the hospitable family, can speak a great deal of Italian and her confidence has increased no end. The lessons she learned in Italy of how to control her speech and pronunciation have helped her to overcome problems she has when speaking her own language. Not wishing to lose her newly acquired language capabilities, Louise is keen to improve her speech by taking conversational Italian classes in Newcastle. She is coming along in leaps and bounds, much to the admiration of her very proud parents!