Top Ideas on How to Improve English Skills as a Non-Native English Teacher


Hello everybody, it's Liza here. We are just about to start today's live session that is devoted to ideas on how to improve English skills. While I'm waiting for more people to join me let me just tell you about these live sessions. So we are doing them weekly and right now there are a lot of videos to check out on our YouTube channel and our Facebook group. If you missed any of these live streams you can go to our social networks and see any of them there.

Welcome to the new session and if you haven't heard already my name is Liza and I'm a non-native English teacher from Russia. I can see that there are some people from the Philippines here. Aaron, am I pronouncing your name correctly? Welcome from the philippixnes. Let me know where you are all tuning in from because at this moment we are just getting started and it's a great idea to have this piece of communication. We've got this comments chat box and with this you can basically communicate with me and I'll be really glad to hear from you because every time I go live I kind of talk to myself because right now I just see my face on the screen and that's all.

Today's live session will be devoted to some ways to improve your English skills, because the last time we talked about international exams many people asked me to suggest how to practice English on their own and they kind of figured out that it's a great idea to talk about it. By the way, I have prepared a really cool presentation and a nice folder with useful resources for you, so stay tuned until the very end of this session and you will get everything. You will get all of these links absolutely free, just for you to help yourself on your English path.

As I have already said, my name is Liza, I'm from Russia and if you want to talk to me just let me know via the chat box. Where are you from and where are you at on your English teaching path? Let me know. I'll just proceed with the presentation so that you can see my personal experience and hopefully feel that we are on the same page. When we talk about our English skills as English teachers we usually think of taking classes or self-study and today I would like to look at the self-study thing a little bit more.

This is my story. So before 2016 I used to study in a class mostly. Then I found a tutor just to make sure I progressed more because I was really motivated to learn English and to have more opportunities to work in the future. And luckily it worked as my whole life is now connected to English a lot, so it was really helpful. Then I went to university and learned English even harder there, but it was all about me being in a class and in 2016 I finished my linguistics course and started my real life. I had no idea what to do with my future so I went to China and you can see some of the pictures from that time in my life. In China I realized that I needed English a lot because it was not that good unfortunately and I knew for sure that I had to practice myself because I basically didn't have teachers around me.

So I started practicing real life communication, because at that time in 2017 I had a lot of colleagues from all over the world and we all worked side by side in a Chinese school and it was really challenging to express myself because I always felt like an outsider. At the same time I started traveling around the world and I knew that I needed English a lot, but I still didn't know how to work on it myself.

Okay, so I can see that there are people from SaudI Arabia here, glad to see you and thanks for joining. Also from Myanmar. That's a great country, I would like to visit one day. Also from Bangladesh, nice to see you guys. This is just the beginning and I’m just wrapping up my personal story right now. I would like to tell you a little bit more about how to become more aware of your English if you don't want to join a classroom. Basically my recipe to practice and enhance my English ability was to listen a lot. I knew that I didn't have that real environment, like a native speaking environment because at that time I was in China. Then I went to Thailand and back to Russia, so I didn't have a native English speaking environment. My choice was to listen as much as possible and the best source for myself was YouTube. I really love to practice yoga with some YouTube channels run by native English speakers. It was so helpful because I learned a lot of useful vocabulary from those videos and also they spoke real life English, not like in course books. I feel like YouTube is the best source for practice listening.

Some people from China have joined us, nice to see you guys. China is still in my heart. I wish I could go to China again one day. Back to my story. At the same time, apart from YouTube, I still wanted to get some more topical vocabulary so I chose to watch TV shows such as two and a half men, how I met your mother, and so on. They were actually really cool as those episodes were not that long, like 20 minutes and it was just enough to expose myself to some English. I listened to vocabulary and to grammar patterns and in half a year I noticed that my grammar improved. Basically, I learned English grammar without actually studying.

Let's see what other things I attempted to do. There were some practical things such as a TEFL course for example. While in China teaching English for the first year I also took a TEFL course online. It was also quite helpful because I still had a chance to practice more specific things like grammar and pronunciation. We also had a lot of teaching workshops at work thanks to our employers in China because they provided really great workshops at that time. We also had observed teaching practice and peer learning, so other teachers also helped me and it helped me to become more confident in speaking English in front of other people. Because it's kind of difficult for non-native English speakers to show off their skills. It's really intimidating, especially when students look at you or native speakers look at you and listen to you. So for me those things were really helpful.

Apart from that, I traveled from time to time and I had a chance to practice speaking and listening and reading and it was also something to add to my English learning. Okay, so right now please let me know if you have had the same kind of experience or you would like to have something like that. Please let me know.

There are still many people who judge others by their experience and ability to express themselves and sometimes it is still quite difficult to open up and to give presentations and to speak in front of an audience. Even right now I feel really stressed speaking in front of the camera knowing that a lot of people will watch it. So for non-native English speakers practicing English is something really important. I know there are some people who say I have already learned English, but this is an expression I hate because you can't stop learning English. It's like a long-term process, you have to keep learning.

Hello, and by the way, thanks for reminding me. I wanted to congratulate all the women out there for International women's Day. We actually had a huge celebration yesterday in Russia, it's like a public holiday here. It's a bit different from the rest of the world because women are given flowers and nice jewelry and stuff like that. It's nothing about feminism, but I still like this holiday because women are praised here.

Okay, I would also like to look at formal learning. So apart from all the practice, you can still attempt to learn by the books which I have done and I am still doing. I think it's a really important part of the English learning experience and when you pick out some of the course books you kind of get to know the publishers and the teaching styles of those course books. Here you can see two of my favorite course books. The first one is English Vocabulary and Use, I have found this picture for the pre-intermediate and intermediate level version, but these course books come in all different levels. So currently I actually have it right above myself on the shelf. I bought this book just to have it on my shelf so I can refer to it whenever I want.

I also really like this Advanced Grammar and Use. I also bought a printed copy because it is so convenient for practicing grammar rules. I really like this one and I also listed several websites here, and I would like to point out these two for writing. They are really useful. The first one is for writing tips, it’s actually for copywriters not for practicing writing, but how to learn how to write a nice copy. On this resource you can find useful tips on how to use punctuation, so this is probably the most challenging thing for advanced English learners, how to put all of these punctuation marks in the right place. I will send this presentation with all the links after the live session, so stay tuned because you will have all of these resources at your hand and I hope they will be useful.

I also want to mention this pronunciation course. I have been participating in the pronunciation course for two years because it's really helpful. It's a self-paced practice, but they also provide some weekly live streams and weekly group lessons. It's quite affordable and it's a great way to practice English speaking. I also want to mention this resource library. It's a great website, unfortunately it's in Russian but there you can find a lot of useful course books in English which probably cost quite a lot if you go to a bookstore, but there you can get a copy for a cheap price. Of course, it's not strictly legal but I still want to mention it because we teachers really need to get to know different materials and only after that buy them. That's my opinion.

We also have a grammar infographics corner on our ITTT website. You can refer to it if you want to refresh your grammar knowledge. Okay, I can see your comments right now, but I would like to go back to them when we have a Q&A session later. Feel free to write down everything you want to know from myself and I'll try my best to get back to you at the end of the session.

If you also want to practice grammar and vocabulary on your own, this course book from Longman is really useful. It's kind of advanced and a little bit challenging, so I would recommend using it together with this advanced grammar book. I have problems with IF clauses like the third conditional and so on and I often have to refer to Advanced Grammar and Use. First I read all of the simple rules and then I go to this course book, Grammar and Vocabulary, and it's so deep and proficient it helps me to expand my knowledge on the same topic. And this Practice Advanced Writing is a great resource to learn how to write. It is from Cambridge proficiency exams, but if you don't want to take English level tests it is still really useful because there are topics related to writing resumes or proposals, maybe some letters, it's so useful for real life. I strongly recommend you refer to this book. And by the way, all of those books will be on this Google drive in my own folder so you will be able to download all of those copies. I hope that these books will be useful for you.

This is another slide about practicing without an English speaking environment. So generally speaking you can watch movies, TV shows, and YouTube as I have already mentioned, but it's also important to look at podcasts and Clubhouse chats. So if you have already joined Clubhouse you've probably also found some groups or clubs related to your interests and it's a great source of English. Another idea would be to read articles or books in English. If you want to speak English as much as possible then it's a great idea to join a speaking club. There are so many of them and they are so convenient for practicing English speaking. Also book clubs, I actually joined the book club in Russian because I've always dreamed of reading extensively but I've never had a chance to. I think there are also a lot of book clubs in English so it's a great idea to look for it. And the last point is it's a great idea to write on your personal blog. You can basically use social networks, for example I write on Instagram. I don't think there are many western bloggers writing actual posts in English, but I know that many Russian English teachers prefer to write on Instagram compared to Facebook. You can also create a personal web blog and start writing there. It will help you to practice your English writing as well.

I forgot to list another resource which can help you to write better, it is Grammarly. Let me show you what it looks like. I'll just send you a link in the group chat. If you use grammarly you can check if your writing is correct, it will highlight all of the mistakes and errors and help you to improve. It's a great way to practice writing as well by knowing what mistakes you have made.

Right, now let's go to the Q&A session. This is also where we share the 30% discount on any of ITTT’s TEFL courses. So if you guys want to take a TEFL course you can simply scan this QR code or let me send you a direct link to the chat box. If you want to take a TEFL course and you want to start your teaching career, then take this link and when you want to enroll into the course you will have the 30% discount.

Now I would like to go to the chat box because I can see there are many different questions. Thanks a lot guys for asking me because that's the most nervous moment for myself that I won't have any questions and I'll just have to wrap up and finish the session without answering and helping other people.

Agbar asks, what can I read to improve my English?

Basically, you can read anything but it should be related to your needs first, so I would recommend you read articles in English if you are an advanced learner. At an advanced level of English you can check out such resources as the Economist, New York magazine or something like that. Those resources are full of different expressions that are helpful for non-native English speakers. You can also read novels like To Kill a Mockingbird, or Dracula or something like that. Novels that you are interested in will also help you to practice your reading and to practice real life grammar and vocabulary.

As for writing, I have already mentioned that you can look at the resources I listed in the previous slides. So if you need the links stay tuned as I'll finish this session and then drop the link into the chat box and you will be able to download this presentation and get all of the resources I mentioned.

Vanessa from Malta has joined us, nice to see you. Are you a native speaker or a non-native English speaker? She has asked me if you can prove that your English level is advanced with your bachelor's degree in English?

It depends on the place where you got your bachelor's degree. For example, I studied at the linguistics department and I learned English during the four years of my study and after university I was supposed to have an advanced level, but it was actually not true because at that time my level was lower than that. I basically got that diploma from a Russian university not from a native English university, so I couldn't prove that my level of English was comparable to advanced. That's why I needed to take an IELTS test to prove my level.

If you got your diploma in a native speaking country then you can prove that your English level is the same standard as for example an international test, but if you received your diploma in a non-native speaking university then you'd probably need to take an English level test. I hope I answered your question, if not please provide me with some more information like what exactly you would like to prove and to whom.

Aaron says that Cambridge Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary explain some meanings that are not true and I would like to prove it.

I use online versions of those dictionaries and they actually have a lot of useful materials and a lot of useful tips for learning. Not only vocabulary but also grammar and maybe writing and spelling and stuff like that. So let me just show you. I'll stop showing the screen for a moment and show you another. Okay, so this is how the Oxford Dictionary looks. At the top of the site you can see many other links and for example if you go to grammar there are useful links for example usage and you can look through their articles and see what is interesting. That’s probably the most important thing about online dictionaries for me, you can basically use dictionaries in various ways not only to refer to vocabulary but to refer to grammar and other materials.

Okay, so let me check some other questions. So if you need some materials for IELTS I have listed them in my resource library which I will share with you after the session. You will be able to find some of my resources I used when I prepared for the IELTS, I hope they will be helpful.

I'm currently reading a question from the chat box, it's just really long so I won't show it on the screen. It's about CPE preparation materials and some other things related to practicing English in terms of fluency and accuracy. So let me finish my reading and I'll try my best to answer and help you.

As for CPE materials, I've already mentioned some of the resources I've been using. Basically it's Grammar and Vocabulary from Longman, and Practice Advanced Speaking by Mary Stevens. I also have been using Objective Advanced Proficiency. That’s a course book we've been using in a group. I don't prepare for CPE on my own, I joined a group and this course book was recommended by our teacher and the whole course is based on that book. You can actually mix and match and you can also practice proficiency preparation on your own, you don't necessarily need to join a classroom or to find a teacher, you can prepare yourself. I just decided that it's more helpful for me to study in a group so I could have some speaking practice as well.

As for fluency and accuracy without an English environment, that's also a good question. I believe you can only have it by creating this environment yourself, so if you want to become fluent and accurate you need to find some ways to practice English on a regular basis. If you are an English teacher it's quite helpful because you can practice English with your students and even if your students are little children with zero English it doesn't mean you have to only be intermediate or something, you have to strive to excellence and practice even harder. So for me it's a great point of growth because when I prepare for classes with my students I always go back to their materials and look through all of the grammar, vocabulary and stuff like that when I prepare for their lessons and I constantly refresh my knowledge, even on the lower level topics. So I feel like it helps to increase accuracy in English and as for fluency it's all about speaking and practicing.

I have something useful I've been practicing with for a while. This is an app where you input the text and start filming yourself and you can just simply read the lines out loud, it's called teletype I believe. Choose a random text and put it in this app and start filming yourself pronouncing and reading all of the text. After that you will be able to evaluate if you did good or bad and after a while you will probably see that your results are getting better and better. So if you don't have an opportunity to speak in front of an audience, you can speak to yourself basically. You actually don't even need this app, you can do it in front of the mirror.

On another live session I mentioned another app called ELSA Speak, you can check it on the app store because it's a really useful application for practicing pronunciation. There are many exercises to practice various problematic things like pronunciation of consonants, diphthongs and stuff like that, and at the very beginning of the app you will get a kind of an assessment of your pronunciation accuracy. The app will compare your pronunciation to a native speaking level. Check out those applications and try your best to practice speaking daily.

There are also some other ways to practice speaking. For example, right now I'm practicing speaking. I basically don't have opportunities to speak every day, but I practice speaking weekly by hosting these live sessions and it's also helpful because it helps me to become more confident. After these live sessions I can evaluate my speaking by going back to the recording. If you want to have the same kind of experience you could think of starting a YouTube channel. I know that many non-native English speakers run their YouTube channels for the sake of practicing English and you can even go to their earlier videos and compare their results in speaking and see that it actually helps a lot. So if you don't have the environment, you can create it yourself. It's just about your willingness and your commitment. Try these tips and let me know if they are useful.

Another question is about the problem when a student has different levels of English skills, to be more exact their student has B-2 in writing and A-1 in speaking.

What I would suggest is to review the teaching course you are following with your student. Maybe it's a great idea to change the course books you've been using because I had the same problem with one of my students. We've been using a course book which had content focused more on receptive skills than productive skills. It's a really common situation with core course books, they are not ideal so you as a teacher have to add to their content. If you see that there are not many activities related to speaking, for example, you need to add some more activities. And by the way, if you teach online I'd recommend you watch one of my previous live streams where I talked about creating lessons with Mira. It's a great online whiteboard, it's really useful for online teachers and with the help of Mira I actually organize interesting and creative lessons which contain a lot of speaking components.

So don't worry about your student being on different levels with their productive and receptive skills, it's a normal situation. Often, when advanced learners go to language tests we find out that we have this many points on grammar, this many points on reading and writing. For example, when I went to take my IELTS I found out that my writing was falling behind, it was not as good as my speaking which was really surprising to me. I got 7.5 for speaking and just 6.5 for writing. It was really strange to me as I used to believe that my speaking was bad and my writing was better, but that was not true. It’s common to many learners that different skills are on different levels and the best thing is to test the skills as you've done already and adjust the program so that your student could have a little bit more chance to practice those skills that are not as good as the others.

Right, now I will drop the links to the resource library, oh no I have to share the presentation, let me do that and by the way guys we've already been on for 53 minutes so if you still have any questions just let me know via the comments box and I'll try my best to answer. I should say it's been a really productive session and I'm so thankful that all of you came today. Okay, so let me just share the link to the presentation so that you can have all of the materials, and I'll also share the presentation on Facebook as well.

If you still have any questions just let me know. Okay, right now I'm sending the link to this Canva presentation which you are watching right now. Try to click the link and let me know if you can see the presentation. At the end of the session I will also send a pdf file on Facebook so that you can also have a pdf version of this presentation. Let me just point out that all of these links on this slide are clickable and if you click on it you can go to the resource listed here. So all of these websites have actual links and this resource library it's my Google drive, so if you go to my Google drive you will be able to get all of the books I've mentioned today. Make sure you download or copy that Google drive folder so that you have all of these resources.

I can see that there are no other questions. Please let me know if today's session was useful to you. And by the way, if you still have any concerns related to English learning or English teaching just message me right now so that I see it and I'll pick out a topic for next time. So if you have any questions please let me know and I'll try my best to present it next time.

Okay, thanks a lot guys for coming today. I forgot to mention that myself and Linda, my colleague who has live sessions every Friday, are also on Clubhouse, so if you would like to chat with us we can get in contact. Maybe one day we will create a room related to TEFL teaching and we'll be able to discuss in a live chat. So these are our profiles, so follow us and I personally will follow you back. ITTT is represented on various social networks, so if you like Instagram or Pinterest you can follow us on there and you will be able to get updates every day. There are also useful sections on our website, so if you would like to read some graduate’s stories you can go to the website blog and read them there.

I also have a Facebook page so you can directly message me and we can also make friends on Facebook, if you want to add me feel free to do that. If you haven't checked the presentation yet, I will post it on the ITTT Facebook group so you will be able to get the presentation from there. Additionally, don't forget to go to Google drive with all of the materials I listed.

Prudence says that she likes my accent.

Oh my god that is so pleasant to hear as nobody likes the Russian accent. I feel like I might burst into tears right now. All right guys, so it's been one hour already and we all have things to do, so keep in touch and I will see you next week as usual. Have a good day and have a good rest of the week.

Bye, bye, see you next time.

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