Monthly Archives: September 2011

Why Learning a Language is Useful – Playing Tricks on the Unsuspecting Locals

People choose to learn foreign languages for many reasons – for work, for travel, for study, for love or for fun.

There are no wrong reasons and sometimes knowing a foreign language can just come in handy when you least expect it…

Whilst living in Japan I travelled to South Korea with two of my Australian friends.

We were all quite young at the time (many years ago) and throughout our trip had been mistaken as Americans because of the presence of the US base in Korea.  It was quite common to see Americans walking the streets of the capital Seoul.

Following a fantastic meal at an Indian restaurant we hopped into the elevator and found ourselves surrounded by Japanese men who once again mistook us for Americans, and who definitely had no clue that we could speak Japanese.

We listened to them talk about us for what seemed like a very long elevator ride and when the doors finally opened to let us out we turned to them and in Japanese told them that they should be careful what they say as you just never know who may understand you!

The look on their faces was priceless and I like to think they will never do anything like that again!

Why Learning a Language is Useful – Communicating With Your Loved Ones

When you think about all of the reasons why you should study a foreign language, being able to communicate with loved ones has to be number one on the list.

Consider this short story about dear friends of mine.

They met and lived in Japan. She is Japanese and he is Swiss-German but to understand each other they speak their common language – English.  Well, actually, it is a bit of a blend of all of those languages put together.

They married and had children in Japan but he had to travel overseas a lot for his work. During this time my friend spoke to her children in Japanese but her husband was not home enough to teach the children his native European language.

Years went by and each time he returned home from a work trip to see his family, the language gap seemed larger and larger. It came to the point that his wife had to act as the translator between him and his children as they did not know enough of each other’s language to communicate clearly.

The last straw came when my friend was absent from the house for a while and her husband was home with the kids but could not understand enough Japanese to know what they were saying.

That is when they decided to move to Australia where everyone would learn and speak English to each other. The plan has worked and they are a happy multicultural family blessed with many languages!  Their decisions may have been different if he had learnt Japanese but I am happy to have them here!

Simple Speaking Tip for IELTS – Know Your Topic

Can you talk for a few minutes on a topic of your choice?

In the speaking component of the IELTS you will be expected to talk about something in front of the examiner for a few minutes. It may not sound like a long time but when you are struggling to find the right words it may seem like an eternity.

It pays to be prepared and the best way to do this is choose a few topics to practise and then build your vocabulary so that you will be able to talk freely without struggling for words.

Pick topics that are interesting to you so that you are motivated to learn the key words that you need and will be inclined to use those words in the future.

If you have the vocabulary then you can concentrate on how you are speaking – clearly and confidently while looking the examiner in the eye and having a relaxed body language.

Simple Speaking Tip for IELTS – The Art of Small Talk

The speaking component of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) may be the longest 11 to 14 minutes of your life!

It is broken up into three parts with the first part being a general discussion with the examiner that will probably be very close to a real-life situation. That is where the art of small talk comes in!

Small talk is an expression that means light and informal chitchat that covers a whole range of topics and nothing really specific. In a real life situation it is usually used to cover silence between people who may or may not know each other.

If you can master small talk then you are on your way to doing well in part one of your speaking component.

The best way to do this is to practise as much as you can. The good part is that in most English-speaking countries, small talk is considered normal, so you can chat away to the supermarket cashier, the woman at the bus stop, the waiter in the café and everyone will think you are just a very friendly person!

Japanese Courses at Sydney Language Solutions

Hi everyone,

Our Sydney Language Solutions currently offer the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N2 Preparation Course, Beginners 1 and Beginners 2. 

For the JLPT, N2 course, we use sample exams of the recent years and other materials of relevant books. Also, we read and analyse useful and interesting articles in Japanese in that class. They are from Japanese newspapers (esp. Nikkei) and magazines. The examples of the topics recently dealt were: energy resources and innovation for cost reduction in Japan, solar energy, “Smart House” (currently developing, 10 big corporations’ influential joint project for economic, energy-based and time saving system for consumers), Japanese politics, its future strong industries, its new use of robots for social/industrial needs, Australian nature (e.g. life of fairy penguins and sea dragons) etc. We also chat a variety of things in Japanese.

For Beginners 1, we use “Japanese for Busy people” and other resources for language and Hiragana teaching. For Beginners 2, “Genki 1” is used. Students will develop skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing and can construct dialogues and speech. In both courses, there is elements of Japanese culture learning and enjoyment, students interactions, some activities, e.g. regular singing, origami, fairy tales reading, haiku poems, things about traditional arts/music/sports, customs, politeness/etiquette, food and plenty of other various things about Japan, for both traditional and contemporary senses.

We hope you’ll join us and learn the beautiful language, distinctive culture and its heritage, and exciting things of Japan with enjoyment.

– Toshiko Jackson (Japanese Language Consultant)

The Importance of Register in Indonesian language.

Before I go on with this terminology, I guess I should just re-justify the meaning of ‘register’. Register is a variety of language used for a particular purpose or in a particular setting. So.. How important is this concept in Indonesian language? I would say, very important!

Many people who are currently studying the Indonesian language struggle with one thing. The SLANG! How could I possibly use everything that I have learned in daily conversation with native Indonesian when in fact they use a lot of different words? Well, until today I guess every linguist in Indonesia are concerned with the future of our language. Because almost every day a person (especially young person) in Indonesia could find one or two new made-up words and use it in their conversation and then spread the trend to others! No wonder learning Indonesian become very difficult..

Now, why did I bring both ‘register’ and ‘slang’ together? Perhaps I just want to comfort all the people who are currently learning Indonesian. Knowing that Indonesian ‘sub-consciously’ understand the importance of register and can use variety of language depending on the particular setting that they are in, Indonesian people in general will not always use slang every time. They will only use it to speak with their peer. Not necessarily at work or when dealing with authorities or in writing.

So, don’t give up on learning Indonesian, yet! In my next blog entry I will spare some hints about dealing with Indonesian slang. Sometimes, what may seem to be really hard is not that hard and all you need to know is the trick.

IELTS Speaking: How can I improve myself?

If you want to improve your speaking abilities, a good method is to socialise. If you are in a social environment you do not have the stress you may feel in the classroom. In a test the people who watch and listen to you, are the people who judge your future. To know that can make you nervous. In just over 14 minutes, your future will be decided. Examiners are like school teachers, some are more lenient than others, some are stricter than others. How do you know if a marker is strict or lenient? The answer is, you don’t. You go in there, and hope for the best. While the examiner listens to you, they may try to find as many mistakes as they can. You may not know you’ve made mistakes, until the test is completed. They may do this because they are bored, sadistic, picky, they love the power or they take their job too seriously. Not all examiners are like this. But the truth is it’s hard to know.

However, in a social environment, you are more relaxed and calm. You are with people you know, people you like, people you trust and people you can depend on. These people will tell if you’ve made a mistake. If you feel you’ve made a mistake, you can ask them. You can be yourself. They are your friends, family, work mates, and you know them well enough to ask questions. You can request their complete honesty about anything. They don’t judge you, and they don’t decide your future. You can depend on them for help. You can be yourself. One student asked their lover if they made mistakes or not. While another learnt expressions from their friends. My trainer said, a Somali cab driver in New York, doesn’t just learn English in the class room, they learn it from discussions with their passengers.

While you’re in a social setting, you can pick up new words at your own pace, you can take your time to learn new expressions. You can test out sentences you’ve heard, you can hear new words. This can be a productive learning experience, and a safe learning environment. Little to no fear of ridicule.

In my next blog, I will tell you about the benefits of electronic media, in practising your speaking and listening.

IELTS Speaking & Listening: 4 Cs

Clarity,

Concise,

Concentrate,

Confidence.

Speak clearly, speak concisely (keep to the point, use details and background if necessary), listen to what you’re saying and pay strong attention to the listening CD, and trust in your hearing and remember what you know, and don’t be afraid, be confident in yourself.

Simple Writing Tips for IELTS

Tackling something like the writing component of your International English Language Testing System (IELTS) requires a wide vocabulary so enriching your word range is one of the first steps you can take when preparing for the test.

Apart from working on your vocabulary, one of the best ways to prepare is to read as many sample essays as you can to see what other students have done in the past and what is required of you.

Reading other essays will also give you some ideas for subject matter and what you can write about when it comes to your test.

The next step is to practise your writing so that you become familiar with what is expected of you in the time frame allowed. There can be nothing as stressful as trying to write in a hurry – writing becomes scrawled, spelling mistakes occur and thoughts get jumbled.  If you find this happening to you, take a deep breath and a short break before focussing and starting again.

Simple Writing Tips for IELTS – What Not to Do!

When my children send me a text message sometimes it takes me two or three attempts to understand what they are actually saying.

I, on the other hand, find it hard to SMS and cut my words up so they look like bits of leftover pizza and still make sense. I think this must be due to years of writing and editing, or perhaps I am just old-fashioned!

SMS messaging is a great way to learn a new language and practise your writing skills with friends but when it comes to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), it is a big no no.

Informal English is lots of fun and has a great role to play when experimenting with your new language but not when it comes to writing.

You need to remember to keep your English formal when writing essays, reports and letters. Keep the slang and messaging for informal times.

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