3 Easy Ways to Sneak in More Foreign Language Speaking Practice into your routine.

Speaking a foreign language, you are studying is often among the most difficult skills to develop. It becomes a lot more difficult when a person is also shy by nature and is reluctant to speak up. The fear of making mistakes is just another challenge to overcome.  To boost confidence and at the same time polish your skills several tricks can become your daily routine.

The first thing is shadow reading.

It is a technique that helps improve pronunciation.  But it can be used for speaking practice as well. What you should do is to choose your favorite TV presenter, as they are known to be good orators. Then, try to repeat after that person with a backlog of a few seconds. While doing this exercise stay focused on intonation. Doing shadow reading regularly will make you notice that you have picked up new phrases and at the same time your own speaking would have become more natural and spontaneous.

Secondly, start practicing retelling.

You can take any kind of book or article. Anything that you consider to be a long read. It is important as you will have room for paraphrasing. At the same time, you will have to follow the line of the author.  Sometimes, when we address a question in a foreign language, we might get confused about how to build the answer in a good way. Retelling will develop certain patterns of speaking behavior. And surely with time confusion will be eliminated. To control this activity you can record yourself, listen and analyze what can be improved. Or to make this activity more fun you can find language practicing groups. There are many language exchange groups on the Net.

Thirdly, while you are walking you can describe in the foreign language everything that you see.

If you think that people around consider you to be strange, you can always have this conversation in silence by thinking in the foreign language. How will it benefit you? You will spot those groups of words that are missing in your vocabulary. Also, you will train yourself to select the words quickly and accurately. These are tasks that are usually solved mentally while speaking.

The bottom line.

These easy exercises will make a difference as soon as you convert them into a habit. Keep in mind the rule of 10 thousand hours. So, everyone can become good at something you are aiming for! Enjoy your coffee!

Can Listening Regularly Help You Boost Language Proficiency? What and How to Listen.

We have discussed the importance of reading in Two Important Factors of Reading Authentic Books While Learning a Foreign Language. What and How to Read”. So, in this article, I would like to talk about another receptive skill such as listening. The drawback of this skill is that it takes time to develop. The bright side is that nowadays, there are so many digital tools that practicing will become fun spending.

Why do we need to dedicate time to develope listening skills?

As I have said above it is time-consuming for several reasons. Firstly, it is not a walk on the beach as there are usually many accents even among native speakers. So, to succeed it is necessary to practice regularly. By regularly I mean every day. Remember the rule of ten thousand hours, which will be beneficial in the future. Secondly, a person with well-developed receptive skills in both readings and listening will find it easier to form their thoughts while speaking or writing. In this case, dedicated time can be considered an investment.

What to listen to?

We should appreciate the time we live in as almost every person has access to tons of resources. You can choose an interesting podcast or opt for a video on YouTube. If you are just a beginner there are websites with recordings where the narrator is reading at different speeds according to the proficiency level of the listeners. So, it is not hard to find something really engaging.

How to listen?

There are several ways of how to tackle this task. Again, if you are a beginner, it is better to schedule the time, about 20 minutes to start with. On some resources, you can find recordings along with the script. In the beginning, you may follow the script while listening just to eliminate the stress level. But don’t take too long, otherwise, the progress will slow down.

If you are at a higher level already, you can make listening to a part of your routine. For instance, while organizing your life in the morning you can turn on something from Ted Talks, or play an audiobook or a video from YouTube. In the beginning, you might feel strange as you won’t have noticeable results. The key is to get used to receiving information on a foreign language on the fly. Once you have incorporated such practices into your everyday life, you will soon notice the level of comprehension. The best part is that you won’t need to focus too much on what you are listening to.

One more tip, the more you listen… try to search for speakers with various backgrounds as they will speak with different accents. Which is really awesome as accents demonstrate each person’s identity. But to understand people better, we should be accustomed to different pronunciation types.

The bottom line

Studying a foreign language is never easy and takes time. So, we can decide whether this time will be entertaining and beneficial or boring and demotivating. Enjoy your favorite podcast and coffee!

You Will Definitely Want to Get This as a Gift

Choosing a gift is never easy. Whether you need one for your business partners, colleagues or just to treat someone very special. No matter who the receiver is, we face the question “What to gift?”

It is great if we know the interests or hobbies of the person, so we can opt for something from that range. At the same time, this approach is short cut and I can assure you that you won’t be the only one thinking along those lines. Let’s imagine that it is your birthday, and your friends and colleagues know that you love fishing. So, you may end up getting several rods. I am sure that there are different kinds of rods for each particular kind of fish. But did you feel special receiving those rods?  Exactly, the main aim of giving presents is to show a person that you’ve been thinking about him or her.

Living in the era of ‘consumerism’ complicates the process of finding the right gift, especially if we are planning to surprise the receiver. Of course, it is possible to give a person something that they cannot afford for some reason. Unfortunately, such generosity is not always well-timed. Moreover, it can even be seen as an insult. Another point to consider is that we are moving towards ‘conscious’ consumption. It means that something small too might be the result of a person’s philosophy.

What to choose …

Nowadays even little kids have a phone or tablet, whereas an adult might have both plus a laptop. The IT industry has been rocketing in creating a vast number of apps that we use regularly. What I am trying to say is that a subscription to an app can be a winning gift. For instance, the pace of life in combo with daily stress at the workplace can negatively affect our sleep patterns. Here is the solution, an app that can help you to relax and fall asleep. I don’t know many people who would pay for such an app, but I am sure there are a lot who will appreciate getting it as a gift.

It is just a single example. But surfing online, you can come across so many useful applications with high-quality content serving different tastes. The choice is unbelievably rich, so the receiver will surely feel special to get a gift of this kind.

Another interesting fact about the human community is that we are becoming picture people. It also works in our favor when thinking of the right gift. Using different digital tools, you can create a customized theme for a phone, laptop, or desktop. Pics of special moments or trips turned into a collage with a thoughtful phrase won’t leave anyone upset. Moreover, the person will decide whether to print it or just keep it in digital format. Advanced users of modern technology can even go further and create a video story, that many people will consider as a unique and memorable gift.

The Bottom Line

I still remember times when hand-made gifts were on the top of heart-warming things. Nowadays they have been turned into digital made which is also cool. Enjoy or coffee while searching for a present or making a digital collage!

Two Important Factors of Reading Foreign Books. What and How to Read.

When we take up a new language, sooner or later we are advised to read more in the chosen language. In many cases, this brilliant idea can confuse new learners, or even demotivate them. Here I am going to explain why the advice is extremely valuable. In addition, I am going to give some tips and tricks about what to read and how to do it correctly.

Why is it important to read?

Well, the most important factor is that you can see all those grammar structures that you had learned already in action. In other words, reading gives you a chance to consciously evaluate your own progress. When you are at a certain stage in your learning journey, you will be exposed to the written language for the first time, which is a great motivation.

Secondly, it is a great way to build your vocabulary. While having text in front of you, you can read at your own pace, make pauses in order to grasp the meaning of phrases. Also, as time progresses you will figure out a certain pattern of words collocating with one another. On top of that, reading is a good way not only to immerse yourself in the language but into the culture as well.

What to read?

If you are just a beginner or your level of proficiency is not that high to read fiction stories, you can always start with books for kids. Usually, the sentences are simple and the plot is quite engaging. Another option is to find books based on levels of language proficiency. The only drawback of this group of books is that the choice is not that great. But, if it is the first time you are reading something in your chosen language and just want to test the water, these books will do the job. Nevertheless, try to select something that will be interesting, so you will stick to your new hobby longer.

How to read?

Many new learners make the same mistake. They take a book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. It is the road to nowhere… Instead of a dictionary, take a pencil. While you are reading, underline words that you come across over and over again. Secondly, underline words that prevent you from understanding the main idea. Again, don’t be in a hurry to look up all those words. I think you should first master the phonetic art of reading, and derive pleasure from it.

To make it a more pleasant process, decide on the number of pages you will be reading without reaching for a dictionary. For instance, 10 pages. After that, look through the underlined words to see which ones are really worth writing down into your vocabulary. Focus on verbs, prepositions, adjectives, opposites, and nouns. And remember to note down not only a word or phrase but also the sentence. By doing this, you will develop the so-called ‘sense of a language.’ And the last tip here, try not to write down way too many words. Let’s be honest, you won’t be able to memorize all those words. Take three to five words from a page.

Now it is time for dictionary work. Having your list in front of you, you can look up the words. But again, think critically, if you are really going to use those lexical units in your regular practice. If your answer is no, ultimately, you can cross that word out of the list and search for another one.

The bottom line

Taking up reading a book in a foreign language is a slow routine. But once you have stuck to it, you will benefit from it. Let me say that by developing reading skills you are planting seeds for your writing experience. Be patient, enjoy the process and your coffee!

Why You Should Visit Hong Kong Once the Pandemic Is Over

It has been a while since we were able to grab our international passports, pack our bags and catch a flight to a dream destination. If I had a chance to do it now, I would opt for Hong Kong. I should say that I have been there 10 times… Wow! So, I am going to give my reasons for adoring that city.

Well-developed transport system

It is possible to get around by metro (MTR) almost everywhere. It means that you can forget about traffic jams. If you want to go to the outskirts of HK or to the beach, then catch a bus. All busses are equipped with air-conditioning and electronic boards where you can check the stations. Moreover, they are double deck. So, each trip becomes a picturesque excursion around the city.

Hong Kong is spread across several islands, which are connected by bridges. But in terms of transport, there are ferries running regularly. It is one more very convenient way to get from place A to B and enjoy the view of the city at the same time.

Victoria Bay, HK

One more old-school means of transport is the tram, running on Honk Kong Island. It is not very fast, but on the contrary, has its own charming vibe. Sitting on the second deck will let you once again enjoy both the ride and different urban landscapes.

What is more is that you can get to the city from the airport within 20 minutes by aero express trains, which run frequently and on time.

All these transport systems are very well integrated, in case you need to change from one to the other. Pricewise, they are all very inexpensive… and it is quite handy that one transport card, Octopus, can be used across all transport systems and also for purchases in shops and cafes.

And yes, there are also taxis, but do you really need them when you have such a terrific system at your disposal.

Things to do in Hong Kong

Many people believe that there are not so many things to do in HK. But in fact, you can find everything that your soul desires. Museums, theatres, parks, beaches, you name it! HK suffers from a paucity of land, that is why the city has developed upwards. It means that if you see a skyscraper and presume that it is only for business inside, you might be surprised to find a park on one of the open levels. And the park will be open to the public even though it is situated in the middle of a business center.

Tourists should do some good research before landing in HK, because there is a lot one can get to see there, like Hong Kong Space Museum, Flagstaff House Museum, Kai Tak Sky Garden, Lee Tung Avenue Rooftop Garden, and many more. Just one thing to keep in mind is that a majority of interesting places are hidden. It will take you some time to spot them.

A lot of nature

Reading this you might think that HK is just an urban jungle. But there are a lot of parks or green spaces of different sizes with rich vegetation in the city. On a hot day, you don’t even need to go to the outskirts to enjoy nature and relax. What I do most of the time, (I picked it up by observing the locals), I usually grab something for lunch and go to the nearest park and just sit there till the swelter is over.

For a day or overnight getaway people usually go to one of the islands or beaches near HK. If you like hiking or camping and all these can be easily be arranged there as well.

Food in Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan place, so you won’t struggle to find something you might crave for. People with all sorts of diets will find something to eat for different budgets as well, starting from high-end restaurants to local street cafes.

The bottom line

So, when traveling to Hong Kong I have never experienced the problems that a tourist usually faces. Hands down it is a people-friendly place, at least for those who come there for a short-term stay. So, I am crossing out days till I land in Honk Kong again and have that coconut cappuccino at one of my favorite cafés. I hope you are enjoying your coffee as well!

How putting down your phone can change your routine and more…

One can hardly imagine a life without a phone. In the modern world, this gadget does more than just connect people. We reach out for our cells any time when we need to search for something online, listen to music or podcast while commuting, read a book or magazine at the time of queuing up somewhere, and much more. As I have realized recently all the benefits of the phone are not as innocent as we might think.

Reason 1: Slow handwriting

We should admit that nowadays we type more often than write something. Moreover, there are many features that are able to suggest the ending of what we are putting on paper. Hands down, it is convenient and time-saving. At least I thought so until recently when I had to write a handwritten leave request. I should say it was a nightmare as I had to rewrite it several times. And the problem was that my thoughts were running a lot faster than my hand could write. As a result, I missed some letters or on the contrary, added some extra syllables. Having discussed this situation with some of my colleagues I felt relieved as I wasn’t alone with this issue. We presumed that it is an obvious outcome of typing most of the time. My female curiosity forced me to immerse deeper into this question.

What I have discovered was quite shocking. Some scientists believe that by losing the ability to handwriting we kind of loses a bit of our individuality. That is because basically typed texts look very similar to one another. In other words, all of a sudden, all people have decided to wear the same Levies’ jeans and a white T-shirt. Whereas hand-written messages are more personalized. But there are some doubts as to whether we would be able to read such messages in the near future.

Another interesting thing is that in order to write legibly we should have well-developed motor control. So, does it mean that we are subconsciously giving up on that control over our ideas or delegating it to our gadgets…….

Some recent research has also shown that writing and typing are controlled by different parts of the brain. Ultimately it might mean that if we don’t practice handwriting regularly certain parts of our brains don’t work… Well, who knows what it can lead to?

Reason 2: Better night’s sleep

Have you ever noticed that the phone is the first thing we pick up in the morning and the last one before going to bed? At least most days it is this way. While scrolling the timeline on Instagram before bedtime the blue light from the screen decreases the level of melatonin. As a result, the quality of night sleep becomes worse. We feel tired in the morning, less tolerant to stressed situations with a low level of productivity. Not a bright picture…Again, the experts suggest that we put away the phone at least 30 minutes before bedtime. What can be done within this time gap is… listen to relaxing music, for instance, read a book or any other activity that can calm down the nerves and balance circadian rhythm.  As a result, we feel relaxed and full of energy in the morning, ready to tackle all sorts of situations with a positive attitude.

Reason 3: Illusion of fulfilled communication

Here we should be honest! When we message, we tend to make it short and informative. In most cases, the situation is the same with a phone or video calls. None of mentioned above ways can compete with real-life chats. I agree that in the time of pandemic all those means of communication are way out. But anyway being physically in the same environment while having a chat opens the door to another dimension. As we can see the facial expressions of our companions, read their body language, and at the same time broadcast additional information as well. Being in the moment is what exactly makes the communication unique and fulfilling. Unfortunately, modern technology enables us to exchange surface information, but whether it can substitute soul to soul conversation is a matter of each individual’s preferences.

Reason 4: Winning time

Statistically speaking, the average young person spends around five hours per day with their phones. At the same time if we invite someone to go out, in most cases a person will refuse to justify it because of the lack of time. The same way we treat ourselves saying that I wish to read a book, but no time. I’d rather try a new hobby, but there is not enough time. How often we wish to have some extra hours a day. At the same time to enjoy a book you just need an hour. A little more to take up a new hobby. So, you know where to get this precious time.

The bottom line

Here are just a few reasons calling for putting down your cell phones and dedicating that extra time to something you have been wanting to do for such a long time. And of course! Being in the moment of enjoying your coffee!

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