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How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

October 14, 2017

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking EnglishAre you shy, nervous, or embarrassed to speak English? Even in a warm and welcoming environment (such as the CISL classroom), students can still have difficulty feeling comfortable speaking English. Do not worry: we have some tips to help students speak up in class in order to overcome their fear of speaking English. With these tips and a little practice, you will feel confident communicating in English in no time!

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #1: Ask questions

Asking a question is a great way to participate in the class. You can ask questions for clarification, for more information, or simply to get the opinions of your classmates and teacher. All questions open dialogue and allow you to be an important part of the class conversation. (Plus, asking questions allows you to learn how to form questions in different tenses!)

Tip #2: Be a good listener

There is no such thing as a one-sided conversation. To speak in class, it’s a good idea to listen first. Then you can build on the conversation by agreeing or disagreeing (or adding information).

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #3: Identify your exact fears or worries

Ask yourself exactly why you are so afraid to speak English. Is it because of your accent? Is it because you lack the vocabulary? Is it because you can’t correctly form a sentence with the proper word order? The only way to overcome your fear is to first identify it.

Tip #4: Remind yourself that shame is irrational

Once you’ve identified your fear (or fears), realize that your fear is irrational: all fear is! When you are in the English classroom, the goal is to improve your English. And remember: everyone in the class shares this goal! Absolutely everything that you do will help you improve, so consider each conversation to be a learning opportunity.

Tip #5: Relax (and have fun)

The easiest way to improve your English skills is to enjoy the language (both learning it and speaking it). Develop a positive relationship with English and you will enjoy every step of the learning process. (Yes, even grammar!)

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

What are your tips for improving your English skills and overcoming the fear of speaking up in the classroom? Share with us on Facebook!

Cambridge Exams Featured Idioms and expressions Learning Materials

Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

June 7, 2017

During the Cambridge CAE or FCE Speaking Module, examiners look for your ability to use advanced vocabulary, including phrasal verbs, as naturally as possible. Learn these phrasal verbs for the Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module and your score will improve drastically!

Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE

Before learning the phrasal verbs, you must know what the focus is for each of the parts of the Speaking Module. Once you understand the tasks, you can learn phrasal verbs which are directly related to the types of speech you will use in each section (such as language for talking about the future, comparing and contrasting, agreeing and disagreeing, etc.).

Note: The CAE and FCE Speaking Exams are very similar, but there are a few differences (these are noted below). You can use the same phrasal verbs for each exam, regardless of the differences in the test format.

Part 1

For Part 1 of both FCE and CAE, you may be asked about things like your home town, your interests, your studies, your career(s), etc. When speaking about yourself, try to use the following phrasal verbs.

Bring (someone) up

Definition: to look after a child until it is an adult. (Note: this is often used in the Passive Voice.)

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You will probably be asked about your childhood and where you are from.

Example: I was brought up in a very large family: I have four brothers and sisters.

Get along with

Definition: to have a good relationship with someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can use this phrasal verb to speak about the relationships you have with family, friends, roommates, classmates, etc.

Example: I get along very well with my roommates here in San Francisco, so my stay here has been very enjoyable.

Grow up

Definition: to become an adult.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You can apply this phrasal verb when talking about your childhood and early years.

Example: I grew up in a small town but for the last five years I’ve lived in Zurich.

Look forward to

Definition: to be excited for something in the future.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is common phrasal verb to talk about exciting future plans.

Example: I am nervous for the Cambridge Exam, but I am also looking forward to using all of the things I’ve practiced and learned.

Take up

Definition: to begin a hobby or activity.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: In Part 1, you are often asked about your hobbies.

Example: In my free time, I really enjoy photography. I took it up when I was travelling through Southeast Asia and I’ve enjoyed it ever since.

Give up

Definition: to quit doing something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might be asked to talk about your childhood or past; ‘give up” is often used to discuss activities you don’t do anymore.

Example: Well, in my free time I usually enjoy skiing, but I gave that up when I moved here since I am not so close to the mountains anymore.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 2

FCE: The interlocutor gives you TWO photographs and asks you to talk about them for 1 minute. The interlocutor then asks your partner a question about your photographs and your partner responds briefly (up to 30 seconds).

Then the interlocutor gives your partner two different photographs. Your partner talks about these photographs for 1 minute. This time the interlocutor asks you a question about your partner’s photographs and you respond briefly (up to 30 seconds).

CAE: The test is the same, but you are given THREE photos (not two) and you are asked to speak about two of them.

When speaking about the photos, you will use language of speculation. For speculation, the following phrasal verbs are useful.

End up

Definition: to finally be in a place or situation.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You have to speculate a lot when looking at these photos, so this phrasal verb is a great one to use when guessing how the person came to be in the situation in the photo (or what will happen to them after).

Example: The family in this photo looks very unhappy at her office job; perhaps she dreamed of a life working at something other than a desk job and she’s sad that she ended up in such a dull environment.

Make out

Definition: to be able to see something that’s not quite clear.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You might not be able to see the full details of the photo; this is a great phrasal verb to describe what you think you see.

Example: I can’t quite make it out but I think that the group is holding a trophy, so perhaps they’ve won a competition or game . . .

Make (something) up

Definition: to invent a story.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You are asked to speculate about the people in the photos and their lives, so this is a useful expression!

Example: I would guess that this person is very happy: she has her two beautiful children and a lovely house . . . perhaps she’s a stay-at-home-mom and is appreciative that she can spend time with her children . . . I’m making this all up, of course, but it’s what I would guess.

Useful Phrasal Verbs for Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Module

Part 3

FCE: (4 minutes) This part is divided into two parts and the interlocutor asks you and your partner to talk together in both. In the first part, you are given five written prompts and asked to discuss a question. For example, you might be asked to discuss things ways to improve the environment in your city.

After 2 minutes, the interlocutor will give you one more minute to make a decision together which is related to what you have been discussing.

CAE: You and your partner are given written prompts. You must speak together for about 2 minutes (3 minutes for groups of three) about these prompts. After the discussion time, the examiner will ask you another question which requires you to make a decision. You have 1 minute to talk together and make the decision (2 minutes for groups of three).

 

Part 4

In Part 4, you and your partner will answer follow-up questions related to the topic of Part 3. These phrasal verbs are useful when conversing.

Bring (something) up

Definition: to start a conversation about something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: This is a great phrasal verb to use when responding to a comment that your partner made (or a question that the interlocutor brought up). It shows interaction with what another person has said, which is something they look for in this section of the exam.

Example: You brought up ______; I agree that . . .

Come up with

Definition: to suggest or think of an idea or plan.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Come up with” allows you to present an idea or respond to a question or statement.

Example: What other ideas can we come up with?

Cut (someone) off

Definition: to interrupt someone.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: If you accidentally cut your partner off when he or she is speaking, this is an excellent phrasal verb to use.

Example: Sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off: what were you saying?

Follow up

Definition: a further action connected to something that happened before.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: Following up on something your partner said is a great way to return to something you discussed previously (and add further commentary).

Example: Just to follow up on what you said earlier, I think . . .

Get back to

Definition: to return to something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: “Get back to” is useful when trying to return to a conversation you had previously: it’s very helpful when the conversation seems to have gotten off track and you’d like to refocus.

Example: Getting back to what we were saying earlier about . . .

Go ahead

Definition: to start to do something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You know that awkward moment when you and your partner both hesitate and each wants to speak? Use go ahead to give your partner the green light!

Example: You can go ahead and start if you’d like . . .

Warm up to

Definition: to begin liking something.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: When you’re not certain about an idea, but then decide this is a good idea, you can use this phrasal verb.

Example: I’m warming up to the idea that . . .

Work something out

Definition: to agree to something after a discussion.

Why this is a useful phrasal verb: You and your partner must agree to something in Part 3: use this phrasal verb to announce to the interlocutor that you’ve come to an agreement.

Example: I think we’ve worked it out. We have agreed that . . .

Did you know that CISL is an official Cambridge Testing Centre? CISL CAE and FCE students have the advantage of taking their exam at CISL, which makes them much more comfortable! Hear from our students why our small class sizes and intensive, speaking-based curriculum are excellent for improving your Cambridge score.

 

 

 

 

 

Cambridge Exams Featured Learning Materials

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

March 23, 2017

CISL is proud to have taught intensive Cambridge FCE and CAE  exam preparation classes for the last 25 years (and is equally proud to be a Cambridge Testing Centre)! Would you like some Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II vocabulary and tips? Read on for some of our expertise!

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Overview: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

In Part I, students speak about themselves for one minute (read our CAE and FCE Speaking Part I tips here).

In Part II, the focus turns to a visual prompt. Here’s how it works:

  • The students are given a piece of paper with photos (two photos for FCE and three photos for CAE)
  • Student A is given a task: to answer questions about the photos in one minute. The questions the student has to answer about the photographs are written at the top of the page in case the student forgets.
  • Part of this task is NOT to describe the photos: questions about about what the people in the photos might be feeling/thinking, etc. This is to test the student’s ability to speak on their own (without a partner) about something: it is testing the student’s use of language for comparing, describing, expressing opinions, and speculating.
  • Student A has one minute to speak about the photos.
  • Student B is then asked a question about the photos and has 30 seconds to respond.
  • The students are given new photos and now it’s Student B’s turn to speak for one minute.
  • After, Student A speaks for 30 seconds about the photos.

Example FCE Speaking Part 2

With the FCE Speaking Part 2, students are given two photos.

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I’m going to give you each two photographs. I’d like you to talk about your photographs on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question about your partner’s photographs.

Student A, here are your photographs. They show people who are playing a board game in different situations. I’d like you to compare these photographs, and say how different the motives for the players might be different in each situation. 

All right?

(Student A speaks for one minute.)

Student B, do you enjoy participating in competitions? Why or why not?

(Student B speaks for 30 seconds.)


Example CAE Speaking Part 2

With the CAE Speaking Part 2, students are given three photos.

Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II Vocabulary and Tips

Interlocutor: In this part of the test, I’m going to give you each two photographs. I’d like you to talk about your photographs on your own for about a minute, and also to answer a question about your partner’s photographs.

Student A, here are your photographs. They show people who are playing a board game in different situations. I’d like you to compare two photographs and say how different the motives for the players might be different in each situation. 

All right?

(Student A speaks for one minute.)

Student B, in which situation do you think the players feel the most pressure? Why?

(Student B speaks for 30 seconds.)


Useful Vocabulary: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

Because students are being tested on comparing, describing, expressing opinions, and speculating, it is important that students know the language related to these concepts.

Comparing

We can use the following words for comparing two photos that are similar:

  • as
  • as well as
  • both
  • have in common
  • in the same way
  • like
  • more (adjective) than
  • the most (adjective)
  • similar
  • similarly
  • same
  • the same as

We can use the following words for comparing two photos that are different:

  • although
  • but
  • contrary to
  • even though
  • differ
  • however
  • instead
  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • the reverse
  • unless
  • unlike
  • whereas
  • while
  • yet

Describing

Use the Simple Present and Present Continuous to talk about what is happening in the photos. If you don’t know the vocabulary words, check out our article What How to Answer an IELTS, TOEFL, or Cambridge Question When You Don’t Understand a Vocabulary Word.

Expressing opinions

  • My initial reaction is …
  • I (really) think that …
  • I believe (that) …
  • I’m sure that …
  • In my opinion / My opinion is …
  • For me/ From my point of view, …
  • Frankly, …
  • I do believe/ feel/think …
  • I tend to think that …
  • It seems clear to me that …
  • To the best of my knowledge, …
  • What I think is …
  • It would seem to me that …
  • I can’t help thinking that …
  • I think it’s fair/reasonable to say …
  • I’ve come the conclusion that …

Speculating

  • You could say …
  • I reckon/suppose …
  • It could/might well be that …
  • It could be said that …
  • My best guess is …
  • It’s possible that …
  • Perhaps

Tips: Cambridge FCE and CAE Speaking Part II

CISL is a Cambridge Testing Centre and has been providing successful FCE and CAE testing to students for over 25 years. Here are some of our tips for mastering Part 2 of the Cambridge Speaking Module!

  • Speak for the entire time you are given. Students sometimes become nervous and do not use the full minute or 30 seconds.
  • Practice timing yourself by giving yourself impromptu one minute speeches. In time, you will gain a “feel” for how long one minute is and how long 30 seconds is.
  • Remember to fully answer the questions. If you forget what they are, do not worry: they are written on the paper for you.
  • View more tips (and see another Part 2 practice test) in our previous article about Cambridge FCE and CAE Part 2 Tips. You can view the tips here:

 

Featured Learning Materials Listening Practice Social Media

The Best of TED: 5 Great Videos for English Learners

November 7, 2016

TED.com is a much-loved website for learning about everything from the wonders of the ocean to how the internet is so powerful. Because of its vast amount of videos on many subjects, its transcripts, and its subtitles in many languages, TED is also a great place to learn English!

Want to learn a little more about the English language? Check out these fascinating videos! Remember to use the subtitles or transcripts if you find the language too difficult. Enjoy these lessons and the new vocabulary you will learn!

The Best of TED: 5 Great Videos for English Learners

TED Video #1: “A brief history of plural words” By John McWhorter

We say one book and two books . . . but why do we say one man and two men? Or one foot and two feet? Learn all about these remnants of Old English that still remain in today’s modern English. Check out the University of Victoria lesson on plurals for a full list of irregular plural nouns in English.

TED Video #2: “Where did English come from?” By Claire Bowern

Like all other languages, English has evolved. But from what? A language called Proto-Germanic! Learn all about the origins of English in this interesting history lesson and understand why German, French, and Latin words are often found in English. To understand more about how Latin works in English, read our grammar lesson on Latin Words in English.

TED Video #3: “10 ways to have a better conversation” By Celeste Headlee

Having a meaningful conversation can be difficult . . . especially when it’s not in your native language! Headlee’s advice is great for native speakers and English learners and will help you as you navigate your life as an international student in California.

TED Video #4: “What we learned from 5 million books” by Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden

Have you used Google’s Ngram? It’s a fascinating tool that searches millions of books to see how often words are used. These Harvard researchers explain how Ngram works and what it means for language.

TED Video #5: “Your body language shapes who are you are” by Amy Cuddy

When speaking about language, we can’t forget an important one: body language! Cuddy’s inspiring TED Talk about how your body language changes your mental state is an excellent reminder of the many ways in which we communicate. The talk is also great for anyone who has an interview coming up: watch the video and hear her story to understand! Afterwards, read our article on Interview Tips for Career English students.

Featured IELTS Learning Materials Listening Practice

IELTS Writing Part II + Lyrics Training

August 30, 2016

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
― Albert Einstein

Would you like to use music to improve your English? We suggest an incredible website, Lyrics Training!

With this website, you can watch music videos from some of the most popular artists. Under the video are the lyrics, but words are missing. You add the words while the music plays, and Lyrics Training will keep score to see how well you do! Players can choose different levels, such as Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, so that they can play at the appropriate level.

image1 IMG_1659

Check it out!

It’s incredible how the internet has changed language learning. The internet has also changed many things about the entertainment industry. We are looking at this topic, along with the IELTS Writing Part II.

IELTS Writing Part II

With the IELTS Writing Task 2, you must write a minimum of 250 words.

You are given a prompt (a topic). In the essay, the IELTS committee will see how well you:

  • Give an opinion and justify this opinion with reasoning, facts, etc.
  • Discuss a topic
  • Summarize details
  • Illustrate problems and provide solutions
  • Support all of this reasoning by presenting arguments, personal examples, etc.

In short, you must approach a topic, discuss it at length, and present an opinion or solutions.

Let’s look at some Writing Task 2 sample topics.

image2

In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). You should use your personal experience, which would probably include:

  • If your government censors music.
  • Other types of censorship you’ve experience (did your parents censor the TV or computer when you were a child?)
  • Violence that you’ve encountered in movies, film, or video games.
    image1

In this topic, you are asked to state why you agree or disagree (and why). Your answer will probably include discussions on:

  • The laws on what minors can and can’t do in your country
  • Any examples you have of singers/performers who reached fame at any early age
  • Your government’s influence on matters such as these

FullSizeRender

Your answer might include the following:

  • How you obtain your music (do you download? Watch online? Buy CDs? Why?)
  • The laws your country currently has regarding illegally downloading music or movies
  • A discussion about who owns the internet and who can police it

For more information on the IELTS exam, check out the following:

 Cover photo from Shutterstock.