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Category Archives for FAQ

Avoid Making Mistakes

Making Mistakes

One of the top questions I’m asked regularly in my English communication courses is “How can I avoid making mistakes?”.  That’s why I’d like to share my thoughts with you on how you can avoid making common mistakes if you are a learner of English as a second language.

The first step …

… is to accept that you are making mistakes. It is the essential part of learning. I get many shocked looks from my students when I tell them making mistakes is OK. One of my favourite quotes is “I don’t fail, I learn.” So consider each mistake a possibility to learn and improve. Don’t be hard on yourself if you make mistakes. That attitude will result in feeling bad, uncomfortable using English and result in avoiding all English communication, which would be a pity. 

The second step …

… is to gain awareness. Ask yourself where are you making mistakes? Is it when you are speaking or when you are writing or both? What kind of mistakes are you making? Pinpointing this is not only extremely helpful, it is essential. You want to find out the reasons you are making mistakes so you cannot only avoid them, but preferably stop making them. So instead of just trying not to make mistakes learn how to identify what is causing you to make them and stop making them in the first place.

It’s all about awareness

Speaking from my own language learning experience, I used to hate it when my teachers only corrected my mistakes but never cared why I was making them. I wanted to identify what I could do to stop making them. Let me give you an example. I grew up learning three languages. Although nobody had the impression I was sometimes confused about which language to use, trust me when I tell you I was confused about a few things more than once. The main confusion occurred when trying to differentiate between English and German, as these languages do have similar words but there are words that have the same pronunciation but are written differently and have a different meaning. In school when learning numbers, I remember a task everybody had to do. It was writing the numbers in a word and not in a figure. Maybe you remember having to do that too. It’s a simple exercise to help you memorise how a word is spelt.

You write the word several times and eventually you have memorised it.

My problem occurred at the number 9 (nine). It sounds just like the German word “no”, which is spelt “nein”. That was the spelling I had used.  Unfortunately, my teacher back then didn’t recognise the problem because she didn’t speak any German. To make a long story short, my mom identified the reason behind this mistake and I’ve never made it again. I had made this mistake because I was growing up multilingually. These kinds of mistakes occur because of the influence another language has on you. Most people are not confronted with learning a second language until kindergarten or grade school. Somewhere between the ages of three to eight might be when they have their first contact with a second language. In Germany the first second language taught in the first four years of school is English. The older you are when learning a second language the more influence your native language has.

Here are some examples:

Possibly in the pronunciation …

… e.g. think of the “th” sound some non-native English speakers find difficult to pronounce. In contrast non-native German speakers have problems pronouncing the “ch” correctly in German, because it is pronounced differently.

Possibly in grammar …

… e.g. when speaking about something that happened a few days ago in English we do not use the word “for”. However, in German the word “vor”, which has the same pronunciation is often mistaken for the correct English word “ago”. Native German speakers might say “I had breakfast for three hours” when they actually want to say “I had breakfast three hours ago”

Possibly in vocabulary …

… you can find good examples of what I mean in my post about “False Friends and How to Avoid Them”, just klick the title to read more.

Another aspect to consider is the awareness of people’s cultural background, their expectations and reactions. My students are somewhat shocked when I tell them, which answers native English speaking colleagues or business contacts expect to hear when they ask “How are you?” This question is used as a prolonged hello and is not enquiring about your health. So please keep it short, don’t go into details and ask back to keep the conversation going. If you answer in full detail, chances are your conversation partner might just end the conversation before it actually started.

“What if I don’t realise the mistakes I’m making?”

In that case your best option is to …

… contact an expert, who will identify those mistakes and give you feedback on how to stop making them. Your worst option is to do nothing. 

Contact me here for a free 20 minute call. After our call I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.

 

In a nutshell, follow these steps

  1. Accept that you will make mistakes along the way and don’t beat yourself up about it.
  2. Become aware of your mistakes, find out where they come from, understand them and stop making them.
  3. Schedule a free 20 minute call and I will tell you what you can do to stop making mistakes and improve your English communication skills.

I’m looking forward to our call.

Take care 

Nadia

Click here to schedule a call now!

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! You can connect with me on social media like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter. 

Yvette and I have a podcast called “Your English Podcast”.  You can find it on iTunes and on Spotify sign up for it, so you don’t miss the next episode.

Language Learning Strategies

language learning strategies

Which language learning strategies do you recommend? 

While teaching an in-company course last week, one of the participants asked me for language learning tips and strategies, as she was interested in speeding up her English language learning.

Immediately different language learning strategies popped up in my head and I remembered which important trick had helped me with each of these strategies. 

Here are my three favourite language learning strategies: 

1. Read English texts 

2. Listen to English audios 

3. Watch English videos 

Let me explain each of them in some detail, before I let you in on the trick, which will make these language learning strategies a success.

1. Read English texts

Now with the first of these language learning strategies I mean reading books, magazines, blogs, comic books, graphic novels and just anything in written form, which interests you. It doesn’t matter if you prefer paper or digital material, it just has to interest you.

2. Listen to English audios

Clearly this language learning strategy you can do anywhere; at the gym, during a walk outside, on a bus or train and while driving. This brings us to what you should listen to. Basically whatever is easy enough for you to follow at the beginning, e.g. songs, podcasts or audio books.

3. Watch English videos

I have to admit, being a photographer as well, I’m quite a visual person. That doesn’t mean the other language learning strategies aren’t good, they are just as good as this one. In this day and age, it’s so easy to watch documentaries, the news, your favourite superhero or comedy movie or TV show in your preferred language or with subtitles. Although, I personally advise against switching on the subtitles the whole time, as you then tend to read instead of listening and watching. Subtitles can distract you too much and eliminate the positive experience. However, if you use them wisely, they are a blessing.

If you’re thinking, “Great! Thanks, for telling me things I’ve already tried out and they did not work for me!”, then please consider this trick, which is essential for all language learning strategies to work:

You have to implement them correctly, otherwise they won’t work. Will you run faster if you only read about running, listen to people talk about running and watch others run? Well, no, you won’t. The only way to really improve is to implement.

Language was made to communicate verbally, so if you want to learn it you have to use it. 

If you want to boost these language leaning strategies fast then find a study buddy or mentor and then use the strategies as follows:

  1. Choose a text you’ll enjoy reading. It can be a short article about your favourite topic, a book or even Harry Potter, it doesn’t matter. You have to enjoy it, because you will study and apply what you have learned. Go through each paragraph carefully. Mark the words you don’t know. Ask your mentor to explain those words and to help you with the pronunciation. Use the new vocabulary you’ve learned as often as possible or they’ll disappear again. Once you’ve understood everything in the passage go on.
  2. For this strategy, I advise repeating what you’ve heard out loud. Repeat not only the words but the word melody too. If you like listening to songs, great then sing along! You’d be surprised at how many words you can remember if you start singing them. In case you’re not sure about the words, then check out the lyrics. Did you know you can reduce the speed of a podcast? Just in case, it’s too fast for you to understand.
  3. Grab you favourite TV show or movie and break it up into consumable segments. Once you’ve absorbed every bit, try imitating the word melody, the accent, the body language and the facial expressions. Get involved with the whole shebang. You’ll see, consuming videos like this, involves work but it is a lot of fun too.

So to answer the question in your head, “Did you implement these strategies the same way?” Yes, I did and I can help you reach your language goal faster too.

Contact me here and we can talk about it.

That wraps it up for today

I hope you’ve found these language learning strategies useful and you’ll join me again for another FAQ and my tips and solutions, which have helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.

I’d love to connect with you and get to know you, you can find me on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing and Twitter.

Have a wonderful time and take care

Nadia

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! Have you checked out our podcast yet? You can find it on iTunes and Spotify. Sign up, so you don’t miss the next episode.

How can I overcome my nervousness?

Nervousness

This is a new part of the series “How can/do I …?“ questions.

Today I’m covering tips and strategies on how you can overcome nervousness.

Your knees seem to be shaky. Your stomach aches. You start feeling moisture on your palms. You feel like you have a lump in your throat. Your self-esteem has just about reached the lowest level possible. Do these symptoms sound familiar? NERVOUSNESS has taken control of our mind and is ordering our body to play these tricks on us just in time for that important presentation, talk or performance on stage in front of  an audience.

Everyone I’ve talked to (myself included) has had at least one of these symptoms. One thing we all had in common at that moment was that we didn’t want to go through the experience again.

What can you do at this point? How can I overcome nervousness?

Come up with a sorry excuse why you can’t do what you set out to do? Be honest, I’m sure you’ve at least thought of that possibility. I know I have, however, it’s not a solution. What has helped me and my students deal with and overcome nervousness is a combination of different strategies. 

Before diving in to the strategies to overcome and leave nervousness behind you, you should first ask yourself why. Why do you feel like that? If you can identify what is causing you to feel like that, it’ll be easier to control those thoughts that are causing those feelings. Don’t forget we are individuals, so there is not only one correct strategy for everyone. You’ll have to try them out and see which work best for you. 

Nervousness starts in your thoughts, change your thoughts and you change everything

1. Be prepared

Preparation covers putting in all the necessary work to achieve your goal and practicing numerous times. Record yourself while practising. It’ll help you get used to your voice and to discover the power your voice and the pauses have. In the preparation phase you can test everything and see what works best for you and your audience. So, in a nut shell Benjamin Franklin’s quote “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” says it all.

2. Visualise a positive experience

Go to a peaceful place where you can relax and close your eyes. Imagine yourself giving the presentation, talk or performance, which you have practised, in front of your audience. Your audience is looking at you in an admiring and friendly way. They are smiling and nodding to what you are saying. They are listening to you because you are speaking eloquently and making the necessary pauses to keep them engaged. You can see that they believe what you are telling them and that they trust you. You hear their applause and you feel the positive energy. As a result, you feel amazing because of the wonderful outcome. Open your eyes again. You’ve just lived through your challenge and it’s wonderful. By visualising in a positive way your mind will believe you’re remembering something you have already experienced. Try it, possibly you’ll want to do it more often. 

3. Concentrate on your breathing

Before you step in front of your audience, concentrate on your breathing. Take slow and deep breaths. This will get your heart rate down and give you the mindfulness you need to calm down. It’s like a mini meditation. Try it for a few minutes. But be careful, you can also use this method to fall asleep.

4. Assume rapport, talk to your audience like you’ve already met them

This means just before you step in front of your audience you assume you’re talking to your best friend. This will let you feel more relaxed and comfortable. 

5. Be excited

Do you remember when you were a child, how you felt before your birthday or Christmas? Excitement feels a lot like nervousness. We get excited about positive things. Tell yourself you’re excited not nervous, after all it is something positive.

6. Recognise your strengths

Sometimes we get nervous because we don’t believe in our abilities and strengths. Others seem to, that’s why you were chosen to give the presentation or talk. Recognise, perceive and use your strengths.

7. Be courageous

Step out of your comfort zone and accept the challenge. Put on your cape, be your own superhero and defeat those negative thoughts that cause nervousness.

8. Positive body language

There are different methods to achieve a positive body language. You can stretch and use a power pose, i.e. raise your fists in the air and jump as if you’ve just crossed the finish line. You can listen to your personal power song and do your happy dance. Whatever it takes to put you into a positive state go for it. If you stand straight in front of your audience, you will ray out confidence and your voice will have more space. Wearing a smile on your face will increase the endorphins, which will make you feel calm and good about yourself. Besides a natural reaction to a smile is to smile back. Try it out, you’ll be surprised.

9. Arrive early

Get to the venue early. Not only can you test everything one last time, you can also meet and talk to the attendees before you start. Look for things you have in common. Find someone nice you can look at during the first two minutes of your presentation or talk. 

10. Worst case

What is the worst that can happen? Is it really that bad? Is it the end of the world? Or is it something you could smile away and start over? Don’t forget we’re all human. Most people in your audience aren’t there to see you fail, they’re there because they are interested in your topic or in you. Concentrate on them and be yourself. 

Those are my favourite strategies to deal with and overcome nervousness. Do you have any you’d like to share? Then please do!

That just about wraps it up for today

One more thing though, Yvette and I have set up an early interest page for an upcoming programme about perfecting your presentation in English. Check out all the information about it here.

 

I hope you’ve found these strategies useful and you’ll join me again for more tips and solutions, which have helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.

 

Have a wonderful time and take care

Nadia

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do! Have you checked out our podcast yet? You can find it on iTunes and Spotify. Sign up, so you don’t miss the next episode.

 

 

How can I perfect my presentation in English?

perfect presentation

This is a new part of the series “How can/do I …?“ questions.

Today I will tell you about tips and suggestions on how you can perfect your presentation in English.

I’ve been helping all kinds of people, from students to other experts in their field, how to communicate successfully in English for over 20 years. During this time I have been asked numerous questions. I’d like to share with you some of the most frequently asked questions my students have asked me about communicating in English and the solutions I’ve suggested, which have helped them.

There are many different opinions out there concerning giving  a successful presentation.

In my opinion, it’s best to start by answering these questions first:

  • Why should you give a presentation?
  • What is your intention? Do you want to inform, persuade or sell a product / a service?
  • How long should a presentation be? Up to 10, 20, 30, or even 60 minutes? Some people have told me about the presentations they have attended, which lasted for hours without any breaks!
  • What is it about?
  • Which messages does it contain?
  • Who is it for? Who is your audience? (Other experts, suppliers or customers) Where are they from?
  • Where and when will you give it?

 

The questions above are actually crucial to set up a road map for your presentations. Please take your time and answer them in detail.

The next step is to structure your presentation into three parts:

1. Introduction

2. Main Part

3. Conclusion

1. In the introduction part of your presentation…

you introduce yourself, your company or purpose and you introduce your presentation. That means you tell your audience what you’re going to tell them in the main part. It is best to have no more than three messages in your main part, which you should structure by using signposts, e.g. firstly, secondly and finally. Giving your audience an idea of your presentation agenda is important. During your introduction, you should tell your audience how long your presentation will last and if you will answer the questions while you are presenting or after. This is really important. Do not make a quick decision about this, as it is crucial. Some people love having questions fired at them during their presentation and even invite their audience to do so, others don’t.

One reason can also be the time factor.

If you know you have all the time in the world, you can invite your audience to interrupt you with their questions. Surely it is easier if you’ve given the presentation before and you know what kind of questions to expect and you know the answers to the questions. Plus if you have studied the topic so intensely that you could even give the presentation in your sleep. In that case, go ahead, you have my blessing and allow for questions during your presentation. However, if you have never given the presentation before and you have a time limit, then ask your audience to wait with their questions till you have finished. This strategy is better if you feel nervous and are afraid of losing your train of thought after answering each question. Typically this part does not take up much time and it is the shortest part of your presentation. However, make sure you have your audience’s attention, and your audience knows why they should pay attention, i.e. you have told them what they will gain from your presentation.

2. In the main part of your presentation …

you deliver your message(s). You tell your audience your topic. Please consider more than three messages will be difficult for your audience to remember. So focus on three key points you want to tell your listeners. It can be helpful for you to write down the three points into three short sentences. Once you have mentioned the first key point, you then explain it and give examples and finally you recap. Follow this procedure with all your key points. If you are using slides for your presentation, please make sure that your visual aids reinforce your messages and clarify your examples.

 

Common mistakes to avoid for a perfect presentation are:

  • having too many slides
  • too much text on each slide
  • you read the slides
  • not interacting with the audience, instead you only look at the screen during the presentation

 

All your slides have to have the same design, i.e. please use your corporate fonts and colours throughout the entire presentation. Using a picture can be much more effective than too much text. If you have too much text on your slides your audience will struggle to read the text and will not listen to you anymore. This is not what you want to achieve. Instead, use images such as pictures to display feelings or graphs and diagrams when presenting complicated facts or figures. Only include information which is really necessary. Keep an eye on your audience. Do not turn your back on them. Announce the next slide before you show it, like this, you will seem to be in control of the slides and not the other way around.

3. In the conclusion part of your presentation …

you summarize your key messages. This is where you can put in your call to action. Don’t forget to thank your audience for their attention and time. If you told them at the beginning they could ask questions at the end, then this is when to invite them to do so confidently.

Make sure you consider the following points:

  • listen carefully to each question
  • show interest by making good eye contact and avoid negative body signals
  • signal you have acknowledged the question; one possibility of doing this is to echo the question, i.e. repeat it with different words. (Like this you can make sure you have understood the question correctly and it gives you time to find the right words for your answer. Plus it’s very helpful if you have a large audience, as often some people might not have heard the question properly and will be happy you repeated it)
  • by thanking the person for their question, you show that you value the question
  • show empathy when required to make your audience feel more comfortable
  • your answer should be as short and clear as possible
  • if necessary offer to meet up and go into more detail later on, in order to ensure that others can ask their questions
  • should someone asks you a question you cannot answer, then be honest and admit it. Offer to find out and deliver the answer within a period of time. After all, even though we are experts, we still are human.

 

Based on my many years of experience, I suggest first getting comfortable with this simple road map, which you can follow and build on. However, there are a few more steps to take before you perfect your presentation in English. I’ll be going into more detail about each step in the upcoming weeks.

 

I’ll tell you the most important step: it’s practice.

Not even talent can beat the experience you acquire through practice.

 

That just about wraps it up for today

 

One more thing though, Yvette and I have set up an early interest page for an upcoming programme about perfecting your presentation in English. Check out all the information about it here.

 

I hope you’ve found the road map useful and you’ll join me again for another FAQ and my tips and solutions, which have helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.

 

Have a wonderful time and take care

Nadia

 

PS If you like what I’ve shared with you and you want to share it, then please do!

 

 

“How can I …?” Questions

Vocabulary

This is part one of the series “How can/do I …? questions”

I’ve been helping all kinds of people from students to other experts in their field, how to communicate successfully in English for over 20 years. During this time I have been asked numerous questions. I’d like to share with you some of the most frequently asked questions my students have asked me about communicating in English and the solutions I’ve suggested, that have helped them.

I’ll start off with…

“I use the same simple words, how can I broaden my vocabulary? I want to be able to use more sophisticated language, how can I do that?”

These are only two quotes I’ve heard over and over again, as this seems to be an issue for many English learners, no matter at which level they are. In order to offer the most effective solutions, it’s important to first understand why YOU want to broaden your vocabulary.

I believe learning is a lifelong process. So of course, I’m thrilled when people ask me this question. However, nothing is wrong with using simple language, especially if you feel insecure. After all, it’s easier for you and your audience to understand as well.

Before answering my question, please think about your audience, the people you are communicating with. Who are they? What is their level of English? What is your purpose for communicating with them? Are you giving a presentation or a speech? Are you training them? And please ask yourself, why do you want to use more sophisticated language?

Now the answers I hear differ:

“… they are all better than I am”,

“I need to make a good impression, otherwise I won’t be taken seriously”,

“… my audience are experts in the field and it’s the only way to be accepted in their circle”, “… if I use other words they will listen to me”,

“… I want to write a handbook”,

“ … my audience are all scientists just like me”.

The list goes on

Did I mention your reason too?

Actually, there is another point of view for you to consider before trying the solutions I recommend below. Please think of the people you are communicating with.

Very often I hear the other side tell me about their struggles too:

“… the presentation seemed promising, but once he started getting into deep technical details with special jargon, I was lost and couldn’t pay attention anymore …” ,

“… I asked the auditor what that expression meant because I didn’t know it and hadn’t heard of it before, but he couldn’t give me an example or explain it in simple words either …”.

These are a few quotes from people who wish others would focus on their audience, instead of showing off their sophisticated vocabulary.

Now having said that, here is the first part of  solutions, of what you can actively do to improve and build the vocabulary you want or need to use

  • You can acquire new vocabulary by listening to podcasts, by reading blogs and articles or by watching TED talks and experts around you speak about the subject you want to improve on.
  • If you need to acquire vocabulary to reach a certain language level, then I’d suggest one of the English Vocabulary in Use books. They have elementary, upper-intermediate and advanced levels, you can find them here, here and here on Amazon (by klicken on the link, you will be redirected to Amazon and if you buy the book with this link, I will receive a small commission). Please get the third edition, as it comes with a useful CD-ROM for Windows and Mac.
  • Listen carefully to the words your audience is using. Whenever you hear a word you don’t usually use, write it down in a meaningful sentence. Practice using the new word in different sentences and in different situations. Say it out loud. Record your sentence with your smartphone so you can listen to it repeatedly. Only when you are confronted with the word over and over will you adopt it into your language.
  • Of course, you can memorise new vocabulary using flashcards or a vocabulary booklet.
  • Writing the words on a Post-it and putting them into your range of view every day, helps a lot. Like this, you are confronting your brain with them whenever you look at them.
hole punch with post it

hole punch

Here is the second part of  solutions, of what you can actively do to improve and build the vocabulary you want or need to use

  • Learn vocabulary using a mind map, start off with the word or expression and write down all the other vocabulary you can remember associated with it.
  • You can use a mind map to draw up a lexical set. A lexical set is a group of words linked together by topic. Within each topic, you can group words by their class (e.g. nouns, verbs or adjectives, etc.) or by the sequence in which you use them.
  • When learning new English vocabulary you don’t only need to know the word’s meaning. You need to know which other words it is usually used with, its grammatical characteristics, how to pronounce it and when to use it, in a formal, informal or even neutral setting.
  • Learn the words, which surround your new vocabulary. These are aka collocations and they include different word classes: adjectives+nouns, e.g. vintage cars, stable connection; verbs+nouns, e.g. to make sense, to mind your language; nouns in phrases, e.g. chain of events, sense of direction; words+prepositions, e.g. in accordance with, in company with.
  • Build your vocab by using word families; those are groups of words, which have the same base or root. By using this technique you can build your vocabulary quickly. For example, the word training (is a noun), the base is train, other related words are trainer, trainee (both nouns), the verb to train and trained (adjective).
  • Another helpful approach is to learn whole phrases or language chunks, e.g. would you like … , on the one hand …, on the other hand … , etc.
  • If you need to use special jargon then consider making your own dictionary.
  • And of course, revise your new vocabulary regularly.

Of course, how successful these solutions are for you will depend on your preferences and what kind of learner you are. So, if you’d like to hear my advice for your individual needs, then please get in touch with me and let us discuss which possibilities would be promising in your case.

That wraps it up for today

I hope you’ve found my suggestions useful and you’ll join me again soon for another FAQ and my tips and solutions, which have helped my students face their challenges in communicating successfully in English and getting their point across.

Have a wonderful time and take care

Nadia

PS If you don’t want to miss the next blog post, then sign up for the newsletter. All information about it below.