ESL Study Guide

Friday, May 30, 2008

Vocabulary showing English fluency

How does vocabulary show you have a higher English fluency level? This can be an important characteristic if your responses on exams such as the TOEFL iBT, but you should keep certain things in mind.

1.) Should I memorize a lot of exotic or complicated words?

Absolutely not! Exams such as the TOEFL iBT are measuring the quality of your response. If you memorize a lot of exotic vocabulary and fail to use them correctly, you will be hurting your score rather than helping it. Focus on skills that will help make your response clear and easy to follow. I am not advocating that you do not spend any time on studying vocabulary, but the idea is to have a balance of all skills. You should also keep your audience in mind. If they do not understand your vocabulary, you will not be understood.

2.) I am worried about topics I do not understand. What about words from them?

This is part of your preparation. Before taking a TOEFL iBT exam, you should make sure that you are adequately prepared. Rather than reading topics from encyclopedias to try and learn as many academic topics as possible, concentrate on areas such as what you would hear in the news. Exams such as the TOEFL iBT do not require you to have special knowledge in specific subjects such as astronomy or chemistry, but the terminology you will hear in sources such as CBC, CNN, or other English news programs will give you a general background in almost all of the topics you will face. You should also concentrate on your vocabulary in context skills. If you can identify what the word is acting as in the sentence, you will be more likely to correctly guess its meaning even if you have not seen the word before.

3.) Can you give me a list of recommended words?

ESL Study Guide maintains many word lists for it members and even places some in the free section of the website. Feel free to browse the site and see what it available.

Finally, avoid sounding too simplistic. A broad vocabulary base will help you avoid sounding like a child or having a response that is too simple (ie, I am a student. I am from Korea.) and ensure that you are easily understood.

Good luck with your studies,
ESL Study Guide

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The role of intonation in speaking

How important is intonation in your speaking? Many second language learners commonly make the mistake of simply believing that their pronunciation is sufficient because they can produce the basic sounds of English and therefore require no further work.

I can be understood, why should I continue working to improve my pronunciation?

This is where intonation comes in. Communication is often dependent on many factors and one of them is intonation. Consider the following situation.

You are in class and have just been caught cheating on an exam. Your teacher is standing in front of you and says "What do you think you are doing?"

At this point, you may know you are in trouble, but exactly how much you can tell by their intonation. Does your teacher shout at you? Does your teacher speak in a tired manner? Does your teacher lean forward looking you in the eye and say it softly, almost in a monotone? Does the teacher simply state it in a bored manner?

In this case, their intonation will tell you just how much trouble you are in.

Good luck with your studies,
ESL Study Guide

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Improving your speaking

Speaking is one ability that language learners often have a hard time improving. Too often they are able to become proficient in one English skill such as grammar and neglect others. This is a very poor thing to do with regards to your overall fluency. If you are unable to meet native English speakers on a regular basis, you should keep certain things in mind.

What helps in your overall speaking ability?

1.) pronunciation
This is incredibly important. Native speakers of languages other than English often have specific sounds that are not present in their first language. It is important to recognize this and know which sounds are typically a problem.

In the case of Korean speakers, it is typically /f/, /v/, /q/ and /ΒΆ/. These sounds are produced as /p/, /b/, /t/ and /d/. The /p/ and /f/ and /b/ and /v/ sounds are also very often confused. English consonants such as /p/ and /b/, /t/ and /d/, /k/ and /g/ are also often mixed up.

2.) intonation
What is the tone of your voice like? Do you talk in a monotone? Are you placing emphasis on the end of a sentence? This is something that signifies a question rather than a sentence.

3.) pacing
Watch how fast your talk. Talking too quickly or too slowly indicates a lack of proficiency and needs to be addressed.

If you feel you are weak in your speaking ability, you can also visit our Live Chat feature and practice with native speakers.

Good luck with your studies,
ESL Study Guide

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