My second book -Achieving results online with adult language learners

So, my second book is now available to buy, and this time it’s one for people who are thinking about teaching English online.

I never thought about writing on this subject, but after I wrote the first article about working with blind students, more followed, and they seemed to be well-received with shares and comments from other teachers. Sometimes it was other online teachers, sometimes it was people who wanted to set up their own language teaching business. Sometimes it was people who had been working in schools, giving face-to-face lessons for years.

I knew I didn’t want to write a step-by-step, how-to guide, because a lot of the time, we are our brand, and the unique and individual things that people bring to a business are what set it apart and make it unique. However, what I can do is share my experiences, ideas, tips and knowledge, so that people can take on board what’s relevant to them, adapting it for their own use.

“Achieving results online with adult learners” is available as a paperback from Amazon, and as an ebook from Amazon, iTunes, Tolino, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Here are the Amazon and iTunes links for the UK.

Here are the Amazon and iTunes links for Germany.

The book is available in a number of other countries too, so if you’re not in the UK or Germany, just look for Kirsty Major in your country’s version of one of the above sites.

book front cover

Here’s the text from the back cover:

“Have you ever wondered what it’s like to run an online language teaching business?
Being your own boss and working from home might sound appealing, but what else is involved? How do you find your own students if you’re not working for a school, and how do you manage your social media, bookings, invoices, learning materials – and perhaps most difficult of all, your time?
How do you make sure that customers leave your training sessions with a sense of accomplishment, and the ability to meet practical goals and master real-life situations?
If you’re looking for a magic formula or a step-by-step guide on exactly how to set up a successful language school, this isn’t the right book for you.
However, if you want to find out what life’s really like when you run an online teaching business, Kirsty’s ready to share her tips, anecdotes, things to avoid, things to consider, lessons learned, and ideas.

Kirsty says “When I started English with Kirsty, I didn’t really know anyone who was doing the same thing, so I didn’t have anyone to learn from.
“I’ve been on courses where people try to sell you their hidden secret, but so much depends on the individual, their idea, their relevance in terms of what people are looking for, their skills, and the way they communicate with others. You see the best results when you figure out what works for you, your skill set, and the people whom you want to help.”
I don’t have all the answers, but I want to share what I have learned and hopefully help people out who are thinking of doing something similar.
Each chapter in this book covers a topic, so you can either read them in order or jump straight to the topic that interests you. The first part of the book covers things that you need for setting up a language teaching business, including designing on what makes you stand out, pricing, finding students, boundaries, your workplace, self-care, and solving problems before they arise. The second part looks at working with students including your first meeting, working with quiet students, using your own materials, helping people who have had negative experiences of language learning, and supporting learners with busy schedules.
So get yourself a cup of coffee and hopefully you’ll find some actionable tips to use in your new or existing language business.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to run an online language teaching business?

Being your own boss and working from home might sound appealing, but what else is involved? How do you find your own students if you’re not working for a school, and how do you manage your social media, bookings, invoices, learning materials – and perhaps most difficult of all, your time?

How do you make sure that customers leave your training sessions with a sense of accomplishment, and the ability to meet practical goals and master real-life situations?
If you’re looking for a magic formula or a step-by-step guide on exactly how to set up a successful language school, this isn’t the right book for you.

However, if you want to find out what life’s really like when you run an online teaching business, Kirsty’s ready to share her tips, anecdotes, things to avoid, things to consider, lessons learned, and ideas.

When she started English with Kirsty, she didn’t really know anyone who was doing the same thing, so there was no one to learn from.

There are courses where people try to sell you their hidden secret, but so much depends on the individual, their idea, their relevance in terms of what people are looking for, their skills, and the way they communicate with others. You see the best results when you figure out what works for you, your skill set, and the people whom you want to help.

This book doesn’t have all the answers, but Kirsty is willing to share what she has learned and hopefully help people out who are thinking of doing something similar.

Each chapter in this book covers a topic, so you can either read them in order or jump straight to the topic that interests you. The first part of the book covers things that you need for setting up a language teaching business, including designing on what makes you stand out, pricing, finding students, boundaries, your workplace, self-care, and solving problems before they arise. The second part looks at working with students including your first meeting, working with quiet students, using your own materials, helping people who have had negative experiences of language learning, and supporting learners with busy schedules.

So get yourself a cup of coffee and hopefully you’ll find some actionable tips to use in your new or existing language business.”

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How to pronounce the TH sound in English

The other day I asked on my Facebook page which sounds or groups of letters people struggle with in English.

The reply I received didn’t surprise me – the TH sound.

This sound can be Difficult, particularly for people who don’t have the same sound in their language as in German.

What mistakes do people make?

First, let’s begin by looking at the mistakes that people make.

Sometimes they pronounce the TH like an F sound – “Fursday” instead of Thursday.

In fact, some native speakers do that as well, which is more of a regional pronunciation. But doing this Can actually change the meaning:
I thought – thought is the past tense of think
I fought – fought is the past tense of fight.

Sometimes people pronounce the TH as a T sound. But again, this too can change the meaning:
Three = the number 3
Tree = something that grows and has leaves and branches (unless it’s a Christmas tree, but you know what I mean!)

Sometimes people pronounce the TH as an S sound.
I sink
I think

How should the TH sound be pronounced?

Actually, there are two TH sounds – a voiced one and an unvoiced one.

The unvoiced TH is when you push air between your tongue and your top teeth. Your vocal chords don’t vibrate, so you won’t feel anything if you put your fingers on your throat as you are making this sound.

We use it in words such as think, Thursday, through, things, and three.

It can also come in the middle or at the end of a word in words such as month, unthinkable, and anything.

The other sound is the voiced TH sound, or the THE sound that we find in words such as the, this, that, though, these, and those.

It’s also in the middle of words such as other, weather, and clothes.
The tongue is a little further back, and you can feel the vibration of your vocal chords if you touch your throat because you make a sound, rather than just pushing air through the gap between your tongue and teeth.

Sometimes there is a change when a word becomes plural. “Mouth” uses the unvoiced sound at the end, but “mouths” uses the voiced sound.

However both the words month and months have the unvoiced sound at the end.

If you’d like to listen to me talking through this and pronouncing the examples, you can also check out episode 135 of my podcast.

If you’d like me to look at any other sounds or groups of letters in more detail, let me know in the comments.

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“Too many words were happening” and sensory sensitivities

This is a post from my personal blog, but I’m also posting it here for the teachers who read English with Kirsty, and who may have students with sensory sensitivities in their classroom. I’m not an expert on the subject, but I share my own experiences.

Unseen beauty

For many years, the people around me, and even I to some extent, put some of my quirky behaviour or reactions down to my blindness, or just my being a bit unusual. It was only when I started doing some research because I was working with a learner with autism that I began to discover things like sensory sensitivity, which I never knew were a thing, and really relate to them.

The thing was, I started reading articles to be a better teacher, but I think one of the reasons I seemed to have more success communicating with this particular learner than some of the others around me was that some of the things I was reading made sense on a level that was deeper than just understanding the text. I got it!

That didn’t mean I related to everything – I didn’t have the learner’s difficulties with social interactions…

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What are filler words and why can they become a problem?

I’ve just been listening to someone talking, but I got distracted. I started counting how many times she said the word “like” instead of actually listening to her. I got to 17 in the first 5 minutes. I don’t mean things such as
I like this
Or
It smells like coffee
Or
I don’t want to work with people like that.

No, I mean using “like” as a filler word:
It’s like amazing
And
I was like really surprised
And
He was like 20 minutes early.

For me, this was LIKE really distracting!

Why do we use filler words?

We all use filler words to some extent, and they can make our speech sound more conversational, spontaneous, and less like a script that we have rehearsed. We can use words such as “ok”, “like”, “well”, “you know”, or it can even be sounds like “erm” or “er”. Sometimes, when people are editing their podcasts, they take all of these out. I think this can sound a bit unnatural, so I don’t do that, but I do try to limit them.

We use these fillers for a number of reasons.

1. They give us time to think of what we want to say. This is particularly useful if you can’t decide or don’t know how to answer something.
2. We use them to fill silence – we don’t want the other person to start talking again, but we’re not quite ready to answer.
3. They can be used to soften something if you give a negative response. “Would you like to come to my party?” “No!” Sounds a bit harsh and direct. “Er, no, actually I can’t come to your party because I’m on holiday that weekend,” sounds a bit more friendly! It shows that you thought about it for a second before you said that you wouldn’t come.
4. Sometimes we use them when we need to process information. “Ok….so….that means that…” I’m working out in my own head what it means before I suggest what we do now.
5. We want to fit in. Sometimes you notice in groups that if everyone is using “like” all the time, other people might do it because their friends are and they want to blend in.

So, in normal speech, we all do it, sometimes intentionally, and sometimes because it’s become a bit of a habit while we think about what we are going to say next. However, particularly if you’re going to be speaking in front of other people, try to work out whether there are any words like this that you use excessively so that you can try to avoid them, or at least not use them as much. You don’t want people to focus on these filler words and not listen to what you’re saying. Also, if you’re giving a presentation, it can make you sound as if you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s not good!

I say “right” and “so” too much at the beginning of sentences! I know this, because I edit my own podcast, so I have to listen to recordings of myself sometimes. Nobody likes to do this, but if you’re someone who needs to speak in front of others in meetings, or to give presentations, it’s sometimes good to record yourself so that you can pick up on any annoying habits or filler words, because you probably won’t be aware of them when you’re speaking.

This thing with “like” is something that a lot of native speakers do, but if you’re learning English, please don’t copy them!

Can you think of any filler words, sounds, or expressions that you use a lot? Let me know in the comments!

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The silent T – pronunciation guide for learners of English

I wrote a post about the silent L, and yesterday a post from one of my favourite language blogs, English Language Thoughts, got me thinking about the silent t.

The post was actually about the T in often and whether you should pronounce it. If you want to know the answer, you can read the post yourself!

However, there are some other words in English which are more straightforward and the T in these words is silent. This means that you don’t pronounce it.

Here are some examples:

You do pronounce the T in words like past or fast, but you don’t pronounce the t in fasten.

You don’t pronounce the T at the end of words such as ballet, gourmet or chalet.

You do pronounce the T in words like list and twist, but you don’t pronounce it in glisten, christen, listen, listening, or listened.

Often is up for debate, but we don’t pronounce the t in soften. We do however pronounce it in soft.

Both the T and the H are silent in words like asthma and asthmatic.

You do pronounce the T in words like robust and cast, but When you see words like bustle, wrestle, whistle and castle, you don’t pronounce it.

You don’t pronounce the T in words like Christmas or chestnut, even though you do pronounce it in words like wrist and chest.

You don’t pronounce the T in mortgage.

Can you think of any more?

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How changing the way you think about grammar can improve your language learning

Some of my students enjoy grammar exercises. It’s often the engineers and lawyers – people who want to know how things work, or to know the rules so that they can work within them.

Actually, I was one of those students too – I’d much rather do a grammar exercise than a free speaking exercise. They made me feel safe, and understanding the rules gave me something to help against my dreaded enemy – making mistakes!

However, a lot of students say that they hate learning grammar. There are many reasons for this.

Maybe grammar lessons at school were boring. Who wants to do something that will be boring?

Maybe the explanations never made sense. One of my students read me something out of her grammar book the other day. The information was correct, but there are much easier ways to say it, and the book made it sound more difficult than it actually is, relying on a good knowledge of grammar vocabulary to be able to understand the explanation.

Maybe the student struggles with grammar in their own language. They can speak and write it well enough, but have no idea what an adverb or a possessive pronoun is. Sometimes people don’t want to admit that.

Maybe the student doesn’t think it’s important – after all, isn’t being understood more important?

The problem is that I work with a lot of people who use English in a business context. Being misunderstood could cost them or their business in terms of a lost opportunity, an embarrassing situation with a client, or just the fact that people don’t realise how good the product or service is, because they keep focussing on mistakes in the email or conversation that they had with a representative of the company.

People do make judgements on what they see and hear, and according to this research carried out by Global Lingo found that 59% of those asked would not use a company that had grammatical or spelling errors on its website. Most of these people said that they wouldn’t trust the company to give a good quality service, and as a result, they would choose to take their business elsewhere! So like it or not, grammar does actually matter!

When it comes to doing grammar exercises, I’ve found that when the students changed the way they thought about it, it helped them to see the tasks in a more positive way, and also to see the benefits to their language learning.

1. Grammar is like an instructions manual for the language

I’m not saying you should read the instructions manual from cover to cover, but if you have something that isn’t working, isn’t it quicker to find out why, with easy steps on how to fix it, rather than to try and figure it out yourself or just not to fix it?

2. Old habits are hard to break

If you’ve been doing something incorrectly for years, it’s harder to remember to do it the right way. It’s much better to get into good habits at the beginning of your language learner journey, than to keep guessing your way through sentence building and then have to fix the problems later.

3. Knowing grammar rules helps you to avoid mistakes

This was my big motivator when it came to learning grammar rules. I don’t like making mistakes. Of course we all have to make mistakes if we want to grow and learn, but some of them are avoidable, and if I could find a way to avoid incorrect word order or verb endings, I took it.

4. Getting grammar right could be good for business

As we saw from the research quoted above, people really do take notice and however great your company might be, if you don’t communicate your message well, people might see that as a reason not to trust you.

5. Sometimes it really does make a difference

When I arrived, the meeting had already started = you missed the beginning of the meeting.
When I arrived, the meeting started = your colleagues waited for you to arrive before starting the meeting.

If my meeting finishes early, we can meet for a coffee = maybe we will meet for coffee.
If my meeting had finished earlier, we could have met for coffee = the meeting isn’t going to finish until later, so there’s no time for coffee.

Sometimes things just don’t make sense and confuse people:
I buy the tickets on Thursday = this is wrong, but does it mean
I bought the tickets on Thursday
I will buy the tickets on Thursday

6. It doesn’t have to be complicated

I think I would have got a headache if I’d been using my student’s book! Books like that are fine for looking up the finer points, but if you want to learn the basics, find something that’s clear and easy to understand, preferably with examples. There’s nothing wrong with learning about grammar using a book or website in your own language if that helps you to get the rules straight in your mind before attempting to put them into practice!

7. Understanding the reasons

I think some people get frustrated with grammar because they do an online test, find they got 4 out of 10, but don’t understand why. That’s demotivating. Some online tests give explanations on how to get to the right answer, but if you don’t understand the explanation, you’re no closer to the answer.

I write my own grammar exercises, but I don’t just put them up on the website or sell them. I want to go through them with the learner to make sure that they understand exactly what they’re doing, because that will help them when they come to build their own sentences in the future. 10/10 won’t help you if it was just luck or guesswork that got you there.

Take-aways

So, if you’re someone that thought grammar was boring or unnecessary, I hope this has helped you to see it in a different way – as something that can be useful to you.

Try to find some resources that you like – for example, I often recommend the The Englisch-hilfen website, which has a lot of explanations and examples.

Also, I sometimes put grammar exercises in my newsletter, and subscribers have the opportunity to email me back with their answers. If any are wrong, I explain why (in English or German).

For anyone who is looking for one-to-one help with grammar, I also have a paid grammar course – students can either do the whole course or put their own course together by choosing the most relevant modules. This is where you can find more information about my grammar course.

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Cheese tasting in Amsterdam

This is a reblog from my personal beauty and lifestyle blog. I’m sharing it with you because even on holiday, there are opportunities to practice another language.
I don’t speak Dutch, but I enjoyed attending a bilingual presentation about cheese. I speak German, so I tried to see how many words I could recognise. If you’re learning English, why not try to go on an English tour of a local tourist attraction, or somewhere you’re visiting on holiday? Or you could try to read the information in English if there are signs and information boards.
Later in the post I talk about the boat tour, which had different options for audio. I chose to listen to the information in German instead of English, because it gave me some language practice as I was learning about the places that we passed.
Something like an audio guide is ideal for this, because if you’ve had enough after 5 or 10 minutes, you can always turn it back to your native language. But it’s a great way to practice your listening skills.
Have you ever done anything like this on holiday?

Unseen beauty

Last year, my boyfriend and I spent a weekend in Amsterdam.

The way it usually works is that I’m in charge of researching and planning things that we would both like to do, and he is in charge of navigating – finding where the places are on the map and working out how we will get there. I usually put together a list of ideas and we pick our favourites, which we then try to fit into our stay.

I looove cheese, and my boyfriend is quite fond of it too. So I was really pleased when I came across a cheese tasting session in Amsterdam. You can read more about it and visit the Reypenaer website here. The family-run company has been producing cheese for over 100 years and where possible, it uses milk from cows fed on fresh grass, because apparently this gives milder and better milk. There…

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