The silent L

The silent L

In some languages, when you read a new word, you can guess how it’s pronounced, even if you’ve never heard it before.

However, this isn’t true of English. Some groups of letters are pronounced in several different ways, and some letters aren’t pronounced at all.

Today we’re going to look at the letter L, and some examples of when you don’t pronounce it in words.

Sometimes we pronounce it when it comes before the letter D in words like “told” or “cold.

But when it’s OULD as in could, would or should, the L is silent and the words rhyme with “hood” or “wood”.

Two exceptions to this word are the words “shoulder”, and “mould” or words from this family such as “mouldy”. In these cases, we do need to pronounce the L.

Similarly, we pronounce the L before the F in “shelf” or “elf”.

But we don’t pronounce the L before the F in “calf” or “half”.

We do pronounce the L when it comes before a K in “milk” or “silk”.

However, we don’t pronounce it in words such as “yolk” or “folk”. These words rhyme with broke or stoke.

We don’t pronounce the L before the M in words like “calm”, “balm”, or “palm”.

Can you think of any more?

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Kirsty working with students

The books that I read in January

This is a post from my personal blog, but in case anyone here is looking for book inspiration, I thought I’d also share with you what I’ve been reading in my spare time!

Unseen beauty

This is another new feature on my blog – the monthly book review.

Every month I plan to write about the books that I’ve read, what I thought of them, and I’d love to know if any of you have read these books too.

Don’t expect to see pictures of my books because I read them all as audio or ebooks on my phone, but I’ll try to provide links to where you can get them or read more about them – both as printed and audio books. Also, I sometimes read books in German, so in those cases I’ll try to find an English translation to link to as well.

If I hated a book, it probably won’t end up here because I don’t make myself complete books if I’m not enjoying them! There are too many wonderful books out there to waste time on one that’s not fun…

View original post 2,022 more words

Virtual staffroom – when teachers don’t know the answer

In episode 4 of my podcast, I talked about what learners can say when they don’t know the answer to something.

But how about when students ask teachers questions and the teacher doesn’t know the answer?

What do you do then?

After all, you can’t know the answer to everything, can you?

Still, it’s not something that we usually talk about, maybe because we don’t want to look incompetent in front of our teacher peers.

I have to say I was more worried about this situation at the beginning of my teaching career. Not because I think I know everything now, but because I’ve learned some strategies for dealing with the situation.

1. When the student asks something you’ve never thought about before

It’s happened to me a couple of times. Usually it’s because the student is looking from the perspective of a learner and things occur to them that didn’t occur to me as a native speaker who just accepted the language as a child without questioning it.

The question was interesting and I wanted to know the answer too!

Or maybe you know something is wrong, but you can’t think of a better reason than “it just sounds wrong/odd/unnatural” and you want to give your student a better answer than that.

A couple of times when I didn’t know something, I admitted it and said I’d come back to the student. That’s much better than trying to come up with an answer on the fly. After all, the student can research after class as well, and if it turns out you were lying or came up with a story to hide what you didn’t know, it looks worse than if you say that you don’t know but will find out.

2. Using it as a way to learn

I had a situation in which a student wanted to know the origin of an expression. I had know idea how it had come into being, but we turned it into a learning exercise. Where do you go when you want to learn about words and their origins? How do you find out which sites give credible information? We got our answer, and both learned something, but during the course of the exercise, we trained other skills that would come in useful at other times.

If there’s no time for this in lesson, a student might enjoy finding something out as an extra task and reporting back next lesson.

3. We’ll cover that later

As good as it is to answer questions, it’s important to stay focussed on the task at hand. Sometimes students can come up with the most interesting questions in order to avoid a task they don’t want to do. I know this because I’ve done it. I may have been that student who wanted to avoid a free speaking exercise and who came up with some fascinating grammar questions. They were valid and worth exploring, but the danger was that doing that meant there would be no time for the speaking exercise I was desperately trying to avoid. My language teacher saw through it!

As interesting as the questions may be, you don’t have to go down every rabbit hole. If you think something genuinely is interesting and worth looking at in more detail, you can always make time for it later on. It doesn’t need to take priority over whatever else you were doing at that point in the lesson.

Of course, putting something off until the next lesson means that you can take the time to refresh yourself on the topic if you’re not quite sure of the rules or the best way to explain something.

4. When the student is trying to make you look bad

To be honest, I haven’t had this in my classes … yet! The people I work with genuinely want to learn and have no interest in trying to trip me up or make me look bad. Still, I choose whom I work with and I am aware that not everyone is in this position.

I have, however, had this problem in an online forum. Someone who thought it was their task to correct every single comment made in a Facebook group, and who suggested that I’d made a mistake, and that this was a very bad example to set for learners, meaning I must be a very bad teacher indeed!

I hadn’t made a mistake, but it made me question myself. I came back, armed with links and sources to quote. It was maybe more than was necessary, but I felt the need to prove I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I probably wouldn’t bother now – trolls will be trolls. There’s a difference between people who genuinely ask a question when they’re not sure about something, or looking for clarification, and people who feel the need to bring others down so they can feel good about themselves!

I think experience definitely helps when dealing with situations like this. That doesn’t mean the next troll won’t get to me, but I think you do build up some resilience, especially if you’re working in the online space and you’re the face of your brand. At least, it helps if you can do this.

Anyway I digress – if you enter into a battle with a student, you may never win. If someone has decided they’re smarter than you, it will always be a challenge for them to prove that you do know how to do your job, and it will probably take up a lot of your energy. On the other hand, it may become a less “fun” game for them if it doesn’t get the anticipated response from you. If someone’s looking to learn – that’s great. If someone’s looking for a fight every lesson – don’t give them one!

There is of course always the possibility that the student was right on a particular point and you were not. Some may see it as a sign of weakness, but others – maybe the majority – will respect you for owning it and admitting you made a mistake. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad teacher – just that you didn’t know this particular thing.

I’ve heard teacher colleagues say they felt a bit intimidated by students who were very confident and who had spent a lot of time in English-speaking countries. If possible, try to make these students allies, rather than competitors. In some cases it might not even be about the teacher at all, just someone feeling good about the fact that they are good at something, rather than trying to give the teacher a hard time. If someone wants to challenge you as a teacher – is there anything you can learn from it? After all, teachers never stop learning. Is there some way that you can channel the student’s energy into something more positive and constructive?

5. No excuse for bad preparation

This brings me to the last point. Nobody can know everything, but that’s not an excuse for bad preparation. If you’re teaching a particular grammar point and you’re not clear about how to teach it or what the rules are, it’s reasonable for students to feel short-changed. If you dashed off some photocopies of an exercise and can’t explain the task or why there are mistakes in it, you probably won’t want to do that again!

I have seen people who were frustrated by questions that they really should have been able to answer, and then I don’t think the students were to blame. They were there to learn after all. I think that, particularly for freelance teachers who are not following a school syllabus, it’s important to be clear about what you can and can’t offer.

Summing up

My students expect me to know what I’m talking about and answer their questions, but I don’t pretend that I have all the answers. Nobody should feel that they have to do that – even teachers!

Do you have any strategies to add? What do you do if you don’t know the answer to a question?

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Kirsty working with students

Also, if you’re interested in posts for teachers, you can see my other articles about teaching English and running an online language teaching business on my page for teachers.

Visit to the Tower of London

HI everyone,

Today I’ve decided to share something from my private blog because what we did is a good idea for language learners too.

In this article, I talk about what we did when I met up with one of my students. I only provide training online, but when one of my students who had been with me for a number of years decided to come to London, we arranged to meet up and go to the Tower of London.

There would have been information available in German, but we used an English audio guide that told us information as we walked around the buildings.

Whether or not you’re in England, information in English is available at many tourist attractions, so when you’re out and about, why not try to learn about the place in English,rather than your native language?

Or, if you’re learning another language, see if you can find information in that language. I did a boat trip in the Netherlands with information in German, rather than English. It’s a great way to do some language practice while you’re on holiday!

Unseen beauty

One of the interesting and exciting parts of my job is that I work with people in different parts of the world. Most of my customers live in Germany. I meet with them online and help them to improve their English. The customer who has been with me the longest started when I opened English with Kirsty in 2012, but I’ve never met her, because none of my training is face-to-face.

There are many reasons why I love online training – it opens up the pool of customers to people who aren’t in your local area, and also you don’t spend hours trudging around from place to place. After 10 years of commuting to my job in London, I’m done with that!

Anyway, that said, if I hear that one of my students is coming to London, I take the chance to meet up with them.

People tell me as…

View original post 800 more words

Ask the wise old owl – agreeing with negative sentences

Ask the wise old owl

Wise Old Owl

Why can’t I use as well in negative sentences?

If you have a positive sentence, you can use as well:

I like dogs
So do I
I do too
My boyfriend likes them as well

I’ve seen that film
Yes, I’ve seen it too
I’ve seen it as well.

However, you can’t use “as well” in a negative sentence.

You can’t say
I don’t like sweetcorn
I don’t as well.

You have to say something else like
Neither do I
I don’t like it either
Me neither

So the thing to remember is that “as well” doesn’t belong in negative sentences with words like don’t, can’t, hasn’t won’t etc.

I won’t be able to go to the meeting tomorrow.
No, neither will I

I can’t speak Chinese
Neither can I
Me neither

More articles in this series

If you want to read the rest of the articles in this series, go to the wise old owl’s main page.

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Kirsty working with students

Listening skills – One reason you don’t understand is that you’re listning for the wrong thing

Listening skills – One reason you don’t understand is that you’re listening for the wrong thing

There aren’t many students in my courses who say that listening to English is they’re absolute favourite thing to do! It’s something that a lot of people struggle with, and there are a number of reasons for that.

An overreliance on subtitles is one reason. People and telephone conversations don’t come with those! The wide range of accents in spoken English is another. Schools and English trainers do their students no favours when they rely on one generic type of English for all their audio materials, then send the students out into the big wide world to face all the many varieties of English and feel disheartened because they don’t understand much of what’s going on.

Today I’d like to look at a third problem – the fact that spoken speech isn’t like written speech.

Take this short message for example:

Hi, I’m just calling to let you know that I’m running late. There’s been a problem with the trains this morning and everything’s delayed. I’ll probably miss the beginning of the meeting, so please pass on my apologies and I’ll give my update when I get there. Thanks and see you later!

Not that difficult to understand when it’s written down.

But when someone says these words, they don’t pronounce every single word like this:

It sounds more like this:

Features of fast speech

Let’s look at what’s going on here in more detail.

  1. Sometimes when we’re speaking quickly, we drop letters, particularly at the end of words. We often lose the T in this way. For some people, it’s part of how they speak – you hear a lot of this from speakers with a London accent. Other people do it too – which is why “just calling” sounds like “jus’calling”, and “let you know” sounds like “le’ you know”. We also lose the T on “that I’m running late”.
  2. If you’re angry with someone and shout “where have you BEEN?” the “been” will rhyme with seen or green. When you’re speaking quickly, it sounds more like “bin”.
  3. When we have two “th” sounds together, we sometimes lose one of them. So instead of “problem with the trains” we get “problem wit-the trains”.
  4. Sometimes we lose the D at the end of words too. “And I’ll give my update” becomes “an’ I’ll give my update”.
  5. “See you later” got merged together and became “see-y-later”.

So, even in this short telephone message about being late for a business meeting, I could pick out five things that sounded different when they’re part of natural speech.

People may try to speak more clearly when they’re giving a presentation, but in general conversation, and particularly when people are in a hurry, a lot of sounds will be lost and words will become merged together.

It’s good to get used to listening to real speech and to expect this, because then you’ll know what to look out for, and it’ll be easier to understand what people are actually saying because you’ll already be anticipating where words will merge or letters will be dropped.

Next time when you’re listening to spoken English, see what other features of fast speech you notice.

More from English with Kirsty

If you would like more articles like this and other news from English with Kirsty to be delivered straight to your inbox, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter.

Kirsty working with students

Would you read your own blog?

I wrote this article for my beauty and lifestyle blog, but I’m reposting it here because I thought it might be relevant to learners of English who write for their own or their employer’s website, and also to the bloggers who follow English with kirsty.
So – if you’d never seen your own blog before, would you read it? It’s a chance to think about what’s important to you when you’re looking for articles to read, and to look at your content in a new way.
Also, if you’re more interested in beauty, travel and food than language tips, head on over to Unseen Beauty because I don’t repost many articles!

Unseen beauty

Taking a fresh look at your blog from an outsider’s point of view.

If you were a visitor to your blog, would you want to read it?

It sounds like an odd question, but think about it for a moment. Is your blog something that you would like to read if you hadn’t seen all the content before?

Hopefully the answer is “yes!”

The reason I’m asking is because it’s really hard to write things that you don’t find interesting. You might have to do it for a job – I wrote plenty of documents in past jobs that didn’t get me excited – (strategy delivery action plan anyone?) but when it comes to your own blog, people will be able to tell whether you’re passionate and feel excited about the content.

I’m sure there have been articles that you clicked on because of an interesting headline, but then you…

View original post 1,281 more words