English for University. Com http://englishforuniversity.com English language support for students with English as a second language Sun, 23 Feb 2014 22:02:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.3 Employability skillshttp://englishforuniversity.com/employability-skills/employability-skills/ http://englishforuniversity.com/employability-skills/employability-skills/#respond Sun, 23 Feb 2014 22:02:45 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6641 One of the main reasons for going to university is to get a good job afterwards, and that means being able to talk about the skills that you have been developing your whole life. My students are going to have to sit a job interview as part of their English programme, and that’s because we […]

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One of the main reasons for going to university is to get a good job afterwards, and that means being able to talk about the skills that you have been developing your whole life. My students are going to have to sit a job interview as part of their English programme, and that’s because we want to develop their employability skills. One key employability skill is being able to talk about employability skills! When I talk about these skills in class I find that international students do not know much of the key vocabulary that employers will want you to use when they interview you.

The University of Kent has an interactive Employability Skills Map to help you with this important vocabulary which you can access here.

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The wettest January ever!http://englishforuniversity.com/news/wettest-january-ever/ http://englishforuniversity.com/news/wettest-january-ever/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 22:17:29 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6635 British people often complain about the weather. Now, finally, we really do have something to moan about. Last month was the wettest January ever – well since records began – which is a pretty long time! Thousands of people have been flooded out of their homes and we have lost our train line to Plymouth: […]

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British people often complain about the weather. Now, finally, we really do have something to moan about. Last month was the wettest January ever – well since records began – which is a pretty long time! Thousands of people have been flooded out of their homes and we have lost our train line to Plymouth:

Train line

Now the ‘blame game‘ is underway. That means that everybody is blaming everybody else for the floods. You can’t stop the rain but you can do things to reduce the likelihood of floods occurring, such as cleaning the mud out of the rivers. This is known as dredging – probably another new word for you – and useful if you are an environmental science or engineering student. People in the government are blaming people in the Environment Agency for not dredging the rivers, and people in the Environment Agency are blaming the government for restricting their budget. No surprises there!

I’ve been marking a lot of student written work and I’ve noticed that they make a lot of mistakes using the passive voice. If you look at the photograph above, the best way to describe the situation is to use sentences in the passive voice:

The wall has been washed away.

The train line has been damaged.

There’s quite a lot to think about in these sentences and the passive can get quite difficult when you have to put it into different tenses. I will be telling my students to take a look at the passive exercises at Monash University on their Language and Learning Online pages which you can find here.

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Group workhttp://englishforuniversity.com/uncategorized/group-work-2/ http://englishforuniversity.com/uncategorized/group-work-2/#respond Sun, 13 Oct 2013 18:57:39 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6623 It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything and that usually means that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t found time to write a post. September and October are the busiest months of the year for me because it is the start of the academic year at university. I’ve seen hundreds of […]

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything and that usually means that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t found time to write a post. September and October are the busiest months of the year for me because it is the start of the academic year at university. I’ve seen hundreds of new international students many of whom are feeling anxious about their studies. I know that English isn’t the only problem for students – many of you are coming to a whole new educational culture and it’s hard! One aspect of the new educational culture that international students will have to get to grips with in English-speaking universities is group work.
Lecturers in English-speaking universities like giving group work! You will have to learn how to collaborate with other students, share your ideas, plan together, correct each other’s work and write group assignments. This can be a difficult and frustrating experience – which is why I wrote a book called: Group Work: work together for academic success which you can read more about here!

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Contributing in seminarshttp://englishforuniversity.com/academic-speaking/contributing-in-seminars/ http://englishforuniversity.com/academic-speaking/contributing-in-seminars/#respond Sun, 25 Aug 2013 20:05:10 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6577 One of the hardest things for international students at university is taking part in seminars. In seminars you are expected to take part in discussions and give your point of view. This can be pretty scary, especially if you are not very confident in using English. This means that you need to prepare for your […]

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One of the hardest things for international students at university is taking part in seminars. In seminars you are expected to take part in discussions and give your point of view. This can be pretty scary, especially if you are not very confident in using English. This means that you need to prepare for your seminar beforehand – at the very least you need to make sure you have done the required reading. But if English is your second language you might also want to think about the language that you will use. In seminars you will need to do things like:

give your opinion
ask for somebody else’s opinion
disagree politely with someone
ask someone to explain their point more fully

so you need to be able to use language like this:

Well, the way I see it is that…
What do you think about that?
Hmm, I see your point but I’m not sure I agree with it.
Sorry, can you say a bit more about that please?

Remember that there is usually no correct answer during a discussion: your tutor wants to see that you understand the topic, not that you all have exactly the same opinion on it. Try not to be too worried about your English when you talk – people will be listening to your ideas, not your grammar!
I would strongly recommend that international students take a look at some really good resources on the internet from Queen Mary, University of London which focus on contributing in seminars. There are listening exercises based around seminar discussions and you can read what the speakers are saying too. Improve your seminar skills with these resources here.

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Visuwords online graphical dictionaryhttp://englishforuniversity.com/vocabulary/visuwords-online-graphical-dictionary/ http://englishforuniversity.com/vocabulary/visuwords-online-graphical-dictionary/#respond Tue, 13 Aug 2013 22:16:35 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6564 Visuwords online graphical dictionary is a great resource for learning about words, their meanings and other related words. Let’s be honest, learning vocabulary can be hard work! Anything that makes learning new words, and learning about new words, more interesting is worth taking a look at and I’ve been enjoying myself with the Visuwords online […]

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Visuwords online graphical dictionary is a great resource for learning about words, their meanings and other related words. Let’s be honest, learning vocabulary can be hard work! Anything that makes learning new words, and learning about new words, more interesting is worth taking a look at and I’ve been enjoying myself with the Visuwords online graphical dictionary. What I like most about it is the visual element – the relationship between words is shown in diagrams and networks. You can click on nodes to show more connected words.
It’s great! Enjoy the Visuwords online graphical dictionary here.

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have yet tohttp://englishforuniversity.com/grammar/have-yet-to/ http://englishforuniversity.com/grammar/have-yet-to/#respond Sun, 11 Aug 2013 21:09:47 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6535 The phrase ‘have yet to‘ can be confusing! The present perfect tense in English can be difficult at the best of times, but the use of “have yet to” is another challenge for English learners. A student came to see me the other day with a letter that he couldn’t understand. He had applied for […]

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The phrase ‘have yet to‘ can be confusing! The present perfect tense in English can be difficult at the best of times, but the use of “have yet to” is another challenge for English learners.

A student came to see me the other day with a letter that he couldn’t understand. He had applied for a postgraduate course in another university and he had sent his transcript to the university admissions office. He inquired about the progress of his application and they sent him a letter. One part of the letter said:

We have yet to receive your transcript.

So the student asked me “What does it mean? Have they got it or not?”
Answer: “No, they haven’t!”

We have yet to receive your transcript = We haven’t received your transcript yet.

have yet to is formal English. It is used in formal situations, and is much less common in casual spoken English. Here are some examples of sentences with have yet to:

 

I have written to your company several times in regard to this matter and I have yet to receive a reply.

This sentence comes from a letter of complaint. I’ve written to you but you haven’t written back yet!

 

I have yet to receive an adequate explanation for your conduct!

This sounds like a teacher (or a boss!) talking. You haven’t told me why you did what you did (and you are in trouble!).

 

The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.

Well this last one is a quote I heard which apparently is from Roseanne Barr. Women haven’t learnt yet that nobody will give you power – you just have to take it yourself.

Other articles about grammar on English for University.Com are  here.

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Plagiarism: you’ll get caught!http://englishforuniversity.com/plagiarism/plagiarism-youll-get-caught/ http://englishforuniversity.com/plagiarism/plagiarism-youll-get-caught/#respond Thu, 08 Aug 2013 19:38:47 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6529 It’s not just students who plagiarise! I see on Bloomberg that the Taiwanese Defence Minister has just resigned because of plagiarism. Apparently he copied a story from a magazine in China and put it in his book. Oh dear! Read an article about what happened to one of my students here when she memorised an […]

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It’s not just students who plagiarise! I see on Bloomberg that the Taiwanese Defence Minister has just resigned because of plagiarism. Apparently he copied a story from a magazine in China and put it in his book. Oh dear! Read an article about what happened to one of my students here when she memorised an essay and wrote it in an exam.

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Write it in English!http://englishforuniversity.com/academic-writing/write-it-in-english/ http://englishforuniversity.com/academic-writing/write-it-in-english/#respond Wed, 07 Aug 2013 21:27:19 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6520 I was speaking recently to one of my students. I asked him how we was getting on with the report that he had to write for me. He said, “It’s going well. I’ve done it! I just need to translate it into English!” Oh no! I was lost for words! (It’s a nice phrase to […]

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I was speaking recently to one of my students. I asked him how we was getting on with the report that he had to write for me. He said, “It’s going well. I’ve done it! I just need to translate it into English!”

Oh no!

I was lost for words! (It’s a nice phrase to describe those times when you just can’t think of anything to say, isn’t it?) The more I think about it, the more lost for words I am! When I think about what makes a good academic piece of work at a British university, all sorts of things come to mind (if you want to review my article on the features of academic English now would be a good time and you can find it here) but I doubt that many of those things would be present in a piece of work translated from another language.
Writing in your first language means thinking in your first language. It means that you will use features of your language and your culture. You cannot write an introduction in your first language and then just translate it to English; an introduction to a report or essay in English will have different features to a report in a different language – especially if your language and culture is very different to English. My student needs to firstly plan his piece of work (in English!) in order to get a good idea of the structure, and write it in English.

I talked to the student and asked him how he had planned his report, and he admitted that he hadn’t planned it before writing it.

Oh no!

You wouldn’t build a house without a plan would you? You wouldn’t drive around a new country without a map would you? I suggested my student read this article about the importance of planning your work here.

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Lectures with transcriptshttp://englishforuniversity.com/academic-listening/lectures-with-transcripts/ http://englishforuniversity.com/academic-listening/lectures-with-transcripts/#respond Mon, 05 Aug 2013 22:11:13 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6511 Earlier this summer the weather was fantastic in England. In June we had day after day of sun for two weeks – and all the new students thought that the climate in the UK was great. Oh dear! Now we are back to normal. In Devon, in the south-west of England where I live, there […]

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Earlier this summer the weather was fantastic in England. In June we had day after day of sun for two weeks – and all the new students thought that the climate in the UK was great. Oh dear! Now we are back to normal. In Devon, in the south-west of England where I live, there have been floods today! I think we may have had our summer already.

Lots of students ask me about lectures with transcripts because they want to listen to someone speaking, and see the transcript (that is the words) of what people are saying. You can do this using television very often because most televisions have the facility of showing the words that are being spoken for people who have hearing problems. Listening to television and seeing the words at the bottom of the screen can be a good way to help you improve your listening skills however it is also difficult to control what is going on and usually you can’t easily stop what is happening.

So I’m going to remind students about TED.com and how you can watch a speaker giving an interesting talk, and also read what they are saying at the same time. But it’s better than that! With TED.com you can have the transcript showing in any language you want. Wow! That means that you can easily stop the talk, switch the transcript to your first language, read it, understand it, then go back to the English and carry on. Apart from that, you can click on any part of the transcript to hear that part of the talk. Other websites will charge you money for this sort of thing, but with TED.com it’s free. After understanding what you hear, you should improve your speaking skills by echoing the speaker (saying exactly the same thing) after they have said it, using the transcript to help you. Some time ago I wrote about using Audacity software to record your voice and improve your pronunciation. If you are serious about improving your pronunciation you should definitely be recording you voice and listening to yourself and trying to compare your voice with someone you want to sound like. So my advice for students is to visit the TED.com website (which you’ll find just by putting in TED.com to your browser) and use the transcript button to help you understand what is going on. Then read my article about recording your voice here. If you are clever you’ll be able to record your voice and compare it to the TED speaker. Have fun with TED!

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The pace of modern lifehttp://englishforuniversity.com/british-culture/thepaceofmodernlife/ http://englishforuniversity.com/british-culture/thepaceofmodernlife/#respond Tue, 30 Jul 2013 20:25:38 +0000 http://englishforuniversity.com/?p=6500 Is the pace of modern life too much for you? Then you might be in the UK! Thank you for all your emails about the royal baby. Some of you thought that I was not happy enough about the baby! Some of you thought that I should have said more about it. Some of you […]

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Is the pace of modern life too much for you? Then you might be in the UK!

Thank you for all your emails about the royal baby. Some of you thought that I was not happy enough about the baby! Some of you thought that I should have said more about it. Some of you asked why I was talking about it at all! Well, this website is about Academic English, Advanced English, and British Culture – the topic of the royal baby certainly appeals to many people who are interested in learning about the culture of the UK. I said that the royal baby would never be called Wayne and one reader asked for similar names to Wayne. So similar boys’ names are: Shane, Dean and Gary.

Today on the BBC website I read a very interesting story about the pace of modern life in the UK compared with Denmark. In the UK we are always hearing about how great life is in Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway and Denmark). I’m not joking! Whenever we hear about problems in things such as schooling, health, child care, and so on, we are always told about how things work in Scandinavia and how they have great systems to make everything work well. Here’s another example in this article: Denmark has scored the highest in the UN’s first World Happiness report. Danes work less than the British, have a higher proportion of women in work than the UK and have a more equal society.

Read about the British ‘rat-race’ versus the Danish more relaxed approach to life here in the BBC magazine.

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