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Archive for May, 2011

Want to speak the lingo when you are abroad?

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

We’ve all been there, on holiday, in a restaurant and you’d really like to order something from the menu and not sound like a complete fool. So you attempt the schoolgirl French that you remember and then die of embarrassment as the waiter gives you a patronising look and repeats what you tried to say correctly (and often in much better English than your French!).  And it’s ok if your pride takes a bit of a battering for a couple of days a year but what if you’ve invested in a holiday home abroad or fancy the idea of taking a working holiday in France or Spain. What if your escape pad or planned job is in an area where there is very little English spoken?

No doubt you’ll have heard horror stories of people buying holiday homes in France or Spain only to find out they hadn’t completed some vital piece of paperwork. This usually comes down to a communication issue because we don’t get a good enough grasp of the language before we trot off on the plane.

Or you could be in the enviable position of being offered a promotion at work, a move to a European office such as Barcelona or Paris is on the cards. It’s great because most people speak English but you’d be in a much stronger position if you spoke the language and were able to handle the very simple day to day activities such as going to the supermarket or doctors without having to resort to using a dictionary or translator.

There are many different ways you can learn a language – evening classes, online courses and tapes. We often get asked at 121 Home Tutors to work with people on their French, German or Spanish language skills because they value the one on one help we can provide. And private language tutoring is one way to learn fairly intensively and with continual encouragement to keep working at it (rather than letting the language tapes languish at the back of a cupboard).  We’re also able to tailor a very specific private tutoring language course rather than teaching you things that maybe aren’t so relevant. If you need business French then we can focus on what you’ll need to work best in the office (so you’ll need to know the word for a photocopier or words specific to your job). If you’re buying a property in say Germany or Spain we can focus on the language relating to homes and any particular legal language you may need. The other great thing is that many of our tutors have spent time in the country you’ll be discussing and can give you little hints and tips.

If you’d like to know more about learning a language such as French, Spanish or German and you live in Manchester or Cheshire (we cover areas including Bramhall, Hale, Wilmslow, Didsbury and Alderley Edge) then contact 121 Home Tutors.

What’s the point of learning a language?

Friday, May 20th, 2011

In the last few years the number of children learning foreign languages has dropped dramatically. In September 2004, they were removed from the compulsory curriculum for 14 and 15 year olds and since then the numbers taking GCSE languages, such as French and German has declined year on year. In GCSE French there has been a 50% drop in numbers over the last ten years and last year for the first time it fell out of the top ten most popular GCSE subjects.

As well as languages no longer being compulsory there is generally held belief that languages are harder. This could be for a number of reasons.  A study a few years ago showed that marking in languages is often tougher than for, say, GCSE Drama. There was also a perception that language teaching in general was less dynamic.  And if children aren’t engaged in the classroom then they are less likely to sign up for a subject at GCSE level. Schools have been accused of pushing their students down the ‘softer’ exam route to boost their rankings.  As languages were always seen as hard but can now be avoided (unlike compulsory ‘hard’ subjects such as Maths and Science) then there is less incentive for schools to encourage children to take the subjects. The recent coalition Government is trying to crackdown on soft GCSEs introduced by Labour.

But what’s the impact of the drop in uptake of foreign languages? One thing we’re maybe not very good at making clear to children is how important an additional language can be personally but also on a wider level. If we don’t possess the skills to operate on an international level then how do we trade with other countries? Our employers should be making it clear to children, through their relationships with schools, that they need language skills to get jobs and grow companies (furthering their own careers).  We have so many international companies with a presence in the UK that it should be clear how important a further language could be.

Companies need to offer incentives for people who speak foreign languages and make it clear in job adverts that this skill is highly prized. If employers don’t make it clear that these skills are valued then there’s no real reason for children to keep learning a language.  If it’s already seen as a hard subject and then there is no end value to pursuing it then it’s easy to see why children aren’t rushing to sign up. We need to stop feeding the idea that ‘every other country speaks English’ and instead look for ways to communicate in their native tongue.

One way to get children interested in languages is to start young – at 121 Home Tutors we work with children at primary level – in interesting and unusual ways to get them really excited about languages. Once they’ve caught onto the idea that languages can be as interesting as their other subjects then they are more likely to want to keep up with their study at a higher level. And because they love it they then want to know how they could use it in their life or career once they leave school. The answer doesn’t seem to be in making languages compulsory again but rather helping children love languages.

If you’d like some help with primary or GCSE French, German or Spanish language (or Business Studies) tutoring in Manchester and Cheshire (we cover the Heatons, Sale, Wilmslow and Didsbury plus other areas) contact 121 Home Tutors today.

How to start learning a new language

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

This month we’ll be focussing on languages – bringing you hints and tips on picking up a new language whether you want to learn holiday Spanish or business French.

You’ve decided you’d love to start learning a new language. Maybe you are going to Spain during the summer holidays and for once would love to be able to order something in fluent Spanish. Or maybe you are thinking about investing in a holiday home in France but would like a better grasp of the language before you part with your money.

Learning a new language can be tricky – it does require a lot of time and effort. Just think about how long it took you to become ‘fluent’ in the first language you spoke as a child – usually several years. So you can’t expect to have a few lessons and converse as naturally as a native of the country.  It’s a good idea to have something to keep you focussed to motivate you as time goes on – maybe a picture of your holiday destination?

Here are some top tips for starting to learn a new language:

1.      Get the basics right

Start with either a book or tape of the language you want to learn (or a private tutor if you prefer) and practice some of the basics. These could be commonly used words and phrases (thank you, hello, how are you). Work on pronunciation and the rhythm of the words.  Keep listening and repeating until you feel confident.

2.      Audio books and workbooks

Listening to audio books, iTunes or a native speaker will help both your listening and pronunciation skills.  Workbooks where you can practise exercises will help you ‘think’ in the language.

3.      Grammar matters

If you are going to be understood then you need to get the grammar basics right. The best way to do this is to get a workbook or work with a private tutor. You need to understand how a verb works in all its forms (called verb conjugation) and how the past, present and future tenses work.

4.      One on one tutoring

Private one on one tutoring is one of the fastest and most effective ways to learn a new language and can be tailored to give you the specific language you need. You can work with a private tutor on the basics like grammar and pronunciation but they can also help with general conversation and subject specific knowledge (language you might need for a job).

5.      Practice

Whenever you get the chance to practice then take it. If you are learning Spanish then take a trip down to your local tapas bar and try out your new skills. Don’t be afraid of trying out your language on native speakers, they can help you with pronunciation (and probably appreciate the effort you’ve made to speak in their language).

If you’d like to know more about learning a language such as French, Spanish or German and you live in Manchester or Cheshire (we cover areas including Bramhall, Hale, Wilmslow, Didsbury and Alderley Edge) then contact 121 Home Tutors today.