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Are you a Learner like Arjuna or Ekalavya? or Hanuman who needs to be reminded of his powers…

Are you surprised by my question?

First of all, why don’t we understand two characters from ‘Hindu Mythology’ before we talk about your ‘Learning style’ and our ‘Assessment approach’, shall we?

You may already know the characters and heard most of the stories from Mahabharat; read the description of 2 characters specifically the underlined text. Read out slowly (or aloud) as you read for your best ‘comprehension’ in English. I intend to use these traits of a good learner in my post… Read on.

Key Points: Full-time student of Drona, Best Archer of his time, Undefeated Worrier, Learned in Practice with Kirants.

  -As per the epic Mahabharata

(source: Wikipedia)

Arjuna (meaning ‘bright’ or ‘silver’) is the 3rd of the Pandavas, who with Krishna, is considered to be the hero of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. He plays the role of a good listener in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna was considered the finest archer and a peerless warrior by many notable figures in the Mahabharata. He is the only undefeated hero in the Mahabharata. He was a (full-time) student of guru Drona. He also learned archery (in practicing) with Kirants of Nepal in a disguise as Kirants were renown archers of that time.

Arjuna was also well trained in religion, science, administration. He became a master in using the bow and the arrow (Archery). He was the best archer except a Kirant prince called Ekalavya whom Drona tricked into vowing never to raise a bow. Arjuna’s strength lay in his extraordinary levels of concentration. In a famous incident under Drona’s tutelage, Drona deemed none of his students other than Arjuna- who had the steadfast focus to shoot the eye of the bird on a tree.

Interestingly, I used to read a lot of ‘Amar Chitra Katha’ during my childhood. Great its coming to good use to build an example or a case study for my students :-).

I Leave the story here to pick-up some important points on How Arjuna Learned Archery (as skill like speaking English):

    • He was a good listener – he asked right questions, had great concentration;
    • Full-time student of his trainer of Archery at his academy, learned for many years;  
    • Practiced and polished his skills with Kirants -or the best Archers of that time.
    • He was undefeated in the war and is still considered the real Hero.
    • He was the best Archer of his time (Except one) – our next hero Eklavaya.

Coming back to ‘the story’ mythology…

ekalavya_idk158

Ekalavya is also a character from the same Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata and therefore the stories of Arjuna and Ekalavya must be connected. We do find some connection on their Learning Archery from the same trainer. Read on the profile of our second character.

Ekalavya: He was a young prince of the Nishadha, a confederation of jungle tribes in Ancient India (now part of Nepal). Ekalavya aspired to study archery in the gurukul of Guru Drona (same academy where Arjuna went to study), the greatest known teacher in the use of weaponry and martial knowledge at the time. He sincerely sought the mentor-ship of Drona in weaponry and martial arts. Drona discouraged him, and ultimately rejected the boy due to his caste.

Self-study of Ekalavya: Aspiring to be an Archer like Drona, Ekalavya began a program of self-study, using a clay image of Drona for inspiration. Eventually, he achieved a level of skill superior to that of Arjuna, who was Drona’s favorite and most accomplished full-time student, and part of the royal Pandava family. The Pandavas come across the boy in the forest one day, and Eklavya told them of his self-study under the idol of Drona. In a dramatically cruel move, the guru demanded that Eklavya cut off his right thumb in obeisance to his guru, a request that could not be refused by a student. Eklavya agreed to the demand without hesitation, cutting his right thumb and presenting it to Drona as Gurudakshina*

(*Trainer’s fee – I also love to get fee for training but only from my full-time students 🙂 )

Again, leaving the story here to concentrate on the key Points on How Ekalavaya Learned Archery:

  • He aspired to study under the best trainer of the time and be the best
  • His trainer could have given him the knowledge on usage of weaponry and martial skills but refused
  • He does self-study taking inspiration from the image of the ‘role model’ -his virtual guru 
  • With only a virtual trainer and his own hard work, he achieved a level of skill superior to that  was taught to full-time student by the same trainer
  • With practice, his skills with ‘the bow and arrow’ developed as he kept practicing with ‘the best archers of his time’; he had a lot of self-motivation and determination to be the best. 

I ponder, if there are students who can remain motivated to learn on their own for 2-3 months without being inspired or pushed to practice in a class-room or language lab.!  We are now exposed to many methods to know about ‘Spoken English’ – like emails, blogs, web-sites, on-line or on-phone programs, self-study CDs, kits or books – you as a student should use what suites you the best to Learn. There must always be some method for transfer of knowledge between the teacher and student. 

Take a quiz to assess your Learning Style and mail me the output for interpretation/analysis. This is very useful to give you practice tips, must be done within 7 days of the start of the program with us. As we see, from the stories  of the 2 archers above, there can be 2 major categories of learners:

  • Students of Type A: who need constant support and want the trainer to speak to them more in the Class, they need guidance and instructions as well as every-day inspiration – they are good listeners and may have great concentration to see and observe in a Sm@rt Class. They may need a gentle push (or a prompt) and constant encouragement to put their knowledge into practice. They need more group practice as they also need to compete with other learners in the class, sometimes they take time to speak-up  They typically ask more questions (sometimes even if they know the answers as they need a confirmation of the trainer)
  • Students of Type B: who learn by doing more, spend more time in the Language L@b and they participate more in the Class they just need some corrective feedback or encouragement from time to time. They may need inspiration maybe once in a week and can get it from various sources (have a role-model to follow besides the trainer). They also pick-up and share the CDs, books and use internet to check what other resources are available for self-study. They volunteer for doing some work to support class activities and come prepared with the topic of the day. They compete with themselves.
  • Both have one thing in Common: a desire to Learn

Arjuna-Ekalavya never fought any war with each other to prove who was superior, so it is difficult to say which learning style is better to Learn to Speak in English. In real-life also we see that both find their own pace and get the right types of learning environment and the trainers as they desire. Both types of Learners can speak well!

Indian education system produces more Type A Students than Type B; Type A are likely to seek more counsel before they start.

Please make it clear during your counselling that you are exposed to all the four learning methods: Listen, Read, See and Doing (practice), ‘As any good trainer should’, we give you exposure to all the four methods of learning so that all types of learners are benefited. We have a dedicated Language L@b where we provide unlimited practice time and Sm@rt classrooms where trainers give you conceptual understanding and discuss topics of interest. Speaking Fluent English is a skill there is no escape from Practice for both type A or B – to learn it faster both also need to do the practice under the supervision of a qualified coach who can guide them to do it right.

So are you type A Learner: like Arjuna or type B learner like Ekalavya. If you don’t know your learning style we give you a small questionnaire to fill in the assessment center to help you figure it out.

In our grammatical skill assessment test, you may also come out be like a Hanuman – who does not know his powers until someone reminds him (yes the story from Ramayana as you may have read it) 

The Type B Learners are more likely to read my posts on this blog to get some inspiration of general guidance on practice. Unfortunately they are less likely to walk-in for an English Study Program as they are confident that they can acquire great skill to Speak good English by practice itself. Drop-by if you need motivation or inspiration. Don’t fret I generally don’t demand a tongue!    

Interestingly, its the ‘linking words’ and not conversational ‘fillers’ that make you a better communicator!

A week link breaks the chain of Thoughts not only for the speaker but also for the listener.

To impressively speak your sentences together, first of all, learn to use some ‘linking words’ such that you form a connected speech and therefore your listener enjoys it as a story. As experience with real-life conversations tells us, that the stories are comprehended easily and are listened with much interest and therefore are appreciated more than some ‘d-i-s-j-o-i-n-t’ sentences which are spoken merely to fill the allotted time. Eventually, it’s the usage of ‘Linking words’ as underlined that make an otherwise boring speech to flow like a story. In short, it makes better sense to tell a story since people enjoy it. After-all Stories sell!

In my opinion, they are as salt in a recipe so when composing a simple description –where you need to add more information, as well as while narrating an event; you need to use them just right. In brief, don’t use too little salt neither too much!

Could anyone understand the paragraph ABOVE without ‘linking words’ that I have underlined?

While reading, you would not have reached to the end of the story (where I talk about ‘salt in recipe’) AND if you somehow have due to some compulsion to read, you would not understood whatever I meant.

Read on  if the above makes sense to Learn some commonly used linking words (an English professor my like to call them by various names – phrasal-verbs, conjunctions) I also give my views on how and where to use them (or not to) to be an impressive speaker or a story-teller.

Here are six fundamental types of speaking that you may normally do in an official environment or even when appearing for a critical interview:

  • Describing your company or product – providing additional information.
  • Narrating events or answering ‘How to’ questions – something that goes in a sequence.
  • Doing Comparison or Contrasting – your company’s services as compared to the competition.
  • Explaining Cause and Effect – giving explanation or reason for the delay, for instance. Caution: Don’t do it until asked for with a ‘why’ question
  • Entering into an Arguments or Debate – everyone doesn’t need to be lawyer but argument do happen and you have ‘make your point’
  • Summing-up or giving overall conclusion – giving information in brief for example what happened in the meeting.

Don’y even try to open your mouth to speak to someone ‘any of the above’ without the connectors or ‘Linking words’.

Personally speaking, I hate giving explanation as also noting down the minutes of meetings but it may just be part of the job and some the job-saver or the job itself…… In contrast, I love to give examples, adding more information so that students have it all (giving reason 😉 ). As a result, the understand more and listen to the story on ‘How to learn…’. In short, I want each lesson to go like an interesting story.

For your to weave your stories together, it is important to learn how and where to use the right linking words. As I said, they add the required flow to your speech when you speak even 4-5 or more sentences together.  To keep the interest of the listener alive, Learn to use these words appropriately:

Note: This is the list of most common 'Linking words' Compiled by T.r.i.c.k.s - there can be more. This is for Usage of Students from Intermediate class (they may Learn 2/3 of each type). Whereas Students of Advanced Classes may do ALL.
Note: This is the list of most common ‘Linking words’ Compiled by T.r.i.c.k.s – there can be more. This is for Usage of Students from Intermediate class who may Learn 2/3 of each type. Whereas Students of Advanced Classes or those preparing for IELTS/TOEFL may do them ALL.

‘How to best learn them such that you immediately gain advantage:

Here are some tips from my experience and some that I picked in a T.r.i.c.k.s class for intermediate/advanced students:

Learn linking words

Its better If you practice them with other learners in a supervised environment, at first, there are less chances of your being wrong afterwards, as you start speaking in public.

You get many examples right and wrong (and both help) from other learners… as also there is someone to point out the over-usage – a communication expert and not just an English professor.  ( like me 😉  for instance. Am I taking too many liberties with the smilies?)

How boring it is to listen to someone’s daily routine with 5-6 usages of ‘then’ : “I start my day at…then… then…then…then”. I rather stop this speaker short on communication skills,  though grammatically nothing out rightly wrong in it.

Some more DON’Ts I have noticed: Don’t over-use any of them, particularly  ‘because’ before all the statements even when you are telling ‘what do you like’ where justification or explanation is not required. Never get into the habit of using some of them as ‘a filler’ word such as: Really or Actually.

Enjoy speaking naturally and I am sure your audience will equally well enjoy listening to your story!

Milestone 1: Parts of Speech OR different types of words

What are Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives? …this is the first thing you Learn in my Grammar class and your Activity #1 To be able to identify ‘different types of words’ . This is before I ask you to start making even simple sentences.

Some of you may say, “I know them” as you start to speak out the crammed definitions from a grammar book. Learning by heart the definitions of these ‘Parts of Speech’ has not helped you to make sentences. Am I right? So, what you need is ‘to LEARN how to use them in a sentence and a quick identification when you add a new word -in your Active vocabulary’. 

Each type of word has different placement in a sentence like a noun/pronoun can take the Subject form while adjective will generally come before the noun etc. Your mind has learned to identify them for Hindi or your first language. You may or may not remember the definitions it does not matter but You need to train your Mind to use different types of words differently. You will LEARN to identify them and USE them rightly in my class!

In Activity #2: You need to recall from your memory in a given time-limit of (say) 5 minutes: 50-60 Nouns, 20-30 Adjectives and 20-30 Verbs. Sounds easy? Try it on your own.  

Learn to identify Types of words or Parts of Speech (or PoS):

To demonstrate the importance of PoS, let me use an example to explain ‘What are parts of speech’ and ‘How many do need to identify for quick formation of sentences’. Assume that in place of  teaching you ‘How to make a sentence’, I am explaining to you ‘How to make a cup of tea’. You need to know the ingredients before you even start, right? Similarly our mind needs to understand various ‘Types of words’  before it can start making sentences in any language. These types of words are Parts of Speech (or PoS) as they are called in a grammar books. You sure got it and also how vital is the understanding of PoS or in other words ‘Why do we need to start from the basics?’

‘Parts of Speech’ or different types of words viz. Nouns, Pronouns, Verbs, Adjectives etc. are the ingredients for making a sentence, they are like milk, water, tea-bag, sugar etc. for making ‘a cub of tea’  You have to know the ingredients pretty well and identify them clearly before you can make a sentence in the right sequence and quickly enough to speak it.  The demand for quick formation of a sentence is more when you want to be spontaneous with your response. You also need to know them for attending an Active Vocabulary session, as well. There we need to Learn the meaning of a ‘new word’, is it ‘a Noun’ or ‘a Verb’.  You want to speak ‘the new word’ in a sentence of your own. You cannot use ‘a verb’ in place of ‘a noun’ … could you?

Okay! How many Types of words do I need to Identify?

At first, to Speak English at the very BASIC level you only need to know 3 types of words: Nouns, Verbs and Adjectives and you need to know them along with the usage  – particularly Nouns -Count/Uncountable. Simple definitions of these three types of words are:

  • Nouns: naming words; the objects they name can be visible or not visible.
  • Verbs: doing words – they indicate some action or work; action again can be in  brain
  • Adjectives: are describing words, they describe the Nouns.

If it is a Noun, you have to identify it as Uncountable or Countable and within Countable there can be Singular or Plural; uncountable by definition can’t have singular/plural forms. Some Nouns can be used both as Countable and Uncountable. e.g. How many times have I told you to do it in time.

Parts of Speech builds or reinforces a solid foundation for understanding different structures of sentences and later the Tenses will become much easier to understand for a BASIC language learner of Spoken English. Point to Note: only Verbs and Helping-Verbs are changed with the tenses. 

Grammar milestone #1 for Spoken English BASIC class: To Know and identify the ‘Parts of Speech’ or Types of words particularly: Nouns (countable and uncountable), Verbs/Helping Verbs and Adjectives. Please give yourself 3-4 days and build some Active Vocabulary along with it. Do some Activities in the class and practice the usage in the Language L@b.

Grammar Challenge for Students of Intermediate/Advanced classes: If you understand and can identify and use all the ‘Parts of Speech’ 8 or 9 – depending on the grammar book you refer to; We offer attractive scholarships!