Monthly Archives: February 2014

Listening Skills and Podcasts

The best way to get better at listening is by… listening. Many students use movies or music to practice, but what about podcasts? They usually have natural, spoken English, and they can help with vocabulary as well. The presenters can be anywhere in the world, and that means different accents and slang.

Some of my favourites are This American Life, Stuff You Should Know, Planet Money, and Radiolab. BBC Documentaries is a great source of world news stories in more detail than you will find on TV or the radio.

Happy listening!

Test your knowledge of English

At the University of Gent, in Belgium,  researchers are trying to learn more about reading. They’ve developed a test which is supposed to give you an estimate of the number of English words you know. It takes 4 minutes and can be found here.

If you find that you are not happy with your score, might I suggest starting with some vocabulary-building exercises from my

Free Software

I know that software can be expensive, especially for complex or business-oriented packages. However, there are some excellent free programs that do what the expensive stuff does.

Photoshop? GIMP
Sound recording? Audacity
Microsoft Project? Project Libre
Microsoft Office? Apache OpenOffice, NeoOffice, and LibreOffice

There are also cloud services, where you use software over the Internet.

Google Drive is great for wordprocessing, making presentations, and spreadsheets, just like Office is.

Dropbox is a way to share files and folders with your colleagues.

And of course, if you need a cheap computer to run it all, check out Free Geek Vancouver.

Worried about Presentations?

I used to be shy. Speaking in public was a bit scary, too, so I took a course in acting when I started teaching. My confidence improved, as well as my listening and speaking skills. In my class of 12 people, there were three ESL students!

The instructors are all professional actors, and the class was a lot of fun. If you are ready to upgrade your public speaking, conversation, and listening, check out the Vancouver Theatersports League on Granville Island. The course is called Level 100, and takes two weekends to complete.

Talking about your business

Have you run into problems with business vocabulary? Perhaps you can’t think of the right word, or maybe you’re not sure if an expression is formal or not. I discovered these three word lists that can make your writing or interviewing easier.

 The first one is is a list of 94 business verbs. Use them in your resume or cover letter to tell an employer exactly what you did at your last job.

Second is a list of 97 business nouns. You could use them to describe job duties, transactions, or responsibilities at your last company.

The last is a list of over 200 action verbs, and it includes both business vocab and general English. These will also help you add detail to your cover letter or resume.


Citing your Writing

When you start university, you will find that professors require citations for other people’s ideas that you talk about in your paper. There are two common arrangements: MLA, from the Modern Languages Association, and APA, from the American Psychological Association. It’s tough to keep them consistent. MLA is most commonly used in the humanities, while APA is found in the sciences.

As a student, you will need to use correct citation forms. By using Son of Citation Machine, you can be sure that your work is up to university standards.