I have two blogs!

Hello and welcome to my blog!

If you’re learning English, interested in my posts about language and communication or my tips for language learners, you’re in the right place.

If you’ve clicked on one of my blog comments and you’re actually interested in my beauty and lifestyle blog, you’ll find int on my other site, Unseen Beauty.

Whichever blog you visit, I hope you enjoy reading it and don’t forget to say “hi” or let me know what you think :)

All the best,
Kirsty


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?

More from English with Kirsty

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Kirsty working with students


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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Kirsty working with students


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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Should self-employed language teachers start a podcast?

The other day, someone asked me whether, as a language teacher, it would be beneficial for them to start a podcast.

There’s no straightforward answer to this question – it’s one of many things you can do as a freelance teacher, and everyone has to decide what’s right for them in terms of where they want to put their content marketing efforts.

Do you enjoy creating audio content?
Do you have enough to talk about?
Do you have time to commit to this regularly?
Do you like listening to podcasts?

Here are some other things to consider, and questions that I have answered from my experience…

1. Can podcasts help you to learn a language?

I’d say that they can. The reason I set up the English with Kirsty podcast was that I had been such a big fan of podcasts for years. Before the days when I would consume content directly on my phone. Back in the old mp3 player days! I listened to podcasts in English, podcasts for German learners, and also podcasts for German speakers on subjects that interested me.

I’m not a visual learner. I like audio material, and I tell my students now that one of the best ways to improve their listening skills is to use material that really makes them listen.

I won’t write in depth about it here, but I wrote an article called How podcasts can help you to learn a language, which goes into a lot more detail about the benefits of podcasts for language learners.

2. What special skills do you need as a podcaster?

You need to have a message – something to say that can help, entertain, or in the case of teachers, educate people. You need content that will help your learners, and to get that knowledge across in a way that’s memorable, easy-to-understand and engaging.

I’d say that you need to be willing for your voice to be heard.

You need to either learn how to do things such as editing, or to be willing to pay someone else to do it for you.

I think it helps to be interested in podcasting as a subject, to follow the news so you know what’s happening in the world of podcasting, and to engage with others who can teach you things, give you ideas, inspire you, or help you out when things go wrong. If you’re a female podcaster, I would definitely recommend the She Podcasts Facebook group and podcast for this. Alternatively, there is The feed podcast

3. What goes into creating an episode?

This is a simplified version of my workflow:

A. Get an idea. Some of my content is completely unique to the podcast. Other times I use topics from my blog, because my blog readers and podcast listeners tend to be quite distinct, so I find it’s ok to repurpose blog content sometimes.
B. Record the episode.
C. Edit the episode and add the intro and outro music.
D. Create a new episode on my podcast host’s website. This includes uploading the file, setting the image, and writing the information that goes with the episode.
E. I also create a separate page for each episode on my website because that’s where I want to drive traffic. You don’t have to do this though.
F. Publish the episode.
G. Market the episode – because nobody will find out about it if you don’t let people know that it’s out there! Some people automate their social media sharing. I don’t, because I alter the message slightly for each network and want to make sure that the text fits. Nobody likes those tweets that get cut off in the middle because someone chose to share a massively long post from Facebook!
H. Where relevant, add it to the pool for resharing. I don’t use automatic resharing tools, but I do keep a list of evergreen content, because a lot of educational episodes don’t get old. They’re as relevant in a couple of years as they are today. I don’t repost content on my podcast feed, but I’ll happily share it again after a while on Twitter or Facebook, thus driving new listeners back to the content.

4. Why not do Youtube or live video instead?

For a start, I consume much more audio than video content, so it’s a format that I most enjoy.

I don’t like creating video content. I’ve tried it to see whether I would change my mind, but I didn’t.

There’s also the fact that I’m blind and would need help with video editing. Some blind Youtubers get this help. Other blind people do live video with help – some can do it without help – some don’t care how they look. I care very much, and it bothers me that I can’t see whether I’m in focus and whether I look ok. I don’t want to have to rely on someone else every time I want to create content, and with audio content, I don’t need to!

But also from the point of the consumer – not everyone wants to watch visual material all the time. I have friends and customers who listen to podcasts whilst driving to work. You can’t do that with a video. I know people who listen to podcasts while doing chores, running, cycling… You can’t do that with visual content.

There are people with limited bandwidth or data plans. It’s much easier for them to download audio content because it doesn’t chomp through your data as fast as video content does.

5. Does it cost a lot?

In some ways, it costs as much as you allow it to. Yes, better equipment will give you better sound quality, but only if you are using the equipment properly. You can always upgrade if you really get into podcasting, but I would encourage people to get started with what they have. It would be sad if people miss out on your message because you don’t think what you have is good enough. Even if you don’t have the best microphone out there, there are things that you can do to improve the sound quality.

I don’t want to talk too much about my set-up, because I made some of my decisions based on my visual impairment. For example, I pay to use editing software that works well for people who don’t use a mouse, but I know that there is free software out there.

I did pay for an hour of training on this software, although if you are prepared to teach yourself, you can cross off this expense. Or, you could pay to get additional training and enrol in a podcasting course – the choice is yours. The main thing is to not get overwhelmed.

So for me, my ongoing costs are to my podcast host, and for the licence for the editing software.

You could also pay for editing if you don’t want to do this yourself, or cover art if you don’t want to create this yourself. Some people also pay for the social media sharing, but maybe it’s just because I worked in Communications, but my social media and direct communication with listeners or potential customers is the last thing I would hand over to someone else. Everyone is different though!

6. How long should the episodes be?

It’s entirely up to you!

I intentionally keep mine short, because I know that some language learners would feel overwhelmed by a longer format. But I listen to podcasts that range from 3 minutes to 2 hours, so think about the content that you have, and what you want to achieve.

If you waffle on for an hour and send your listener to sleep, it would be better to stick to a shorter show. If you really want to delve into a topic and have plenty to say, it would probably be better to do a one-hour show than 3 20-minute ones.

I try to be consistent so that I can manage listener expectations every week, but I’d say there is no magic length.

7. Who will your audience be?

To be honest, mine is a bit of a mixture. Most of the people listening to English with Kirsty are adult language learners. Many of them are in Germany, because that’s where a lot of my customers are, but none of the content is in German, so it doesn’t matter where they are.

Most of them are intermediate to advanced learners. I do work with beginners, but the speech on my podcast is at a normal speed, and I don’t intentionally slow down or use really easy vocabulary. This is because most of my learners are already working with English and looking for opportunities to practice listening to authentic English, which I find is missing in many language courses.

I have some listeners who are still at school, but the episodes are not aimed at a younger audience, and I don’t do anything about exam preparation.

Some of my listeners are native speakers, but they benefit from the general language tips and they enjoy the explanations about English words and their meanings.

If you decide to start a podcast, try to imagine who your ideal listener would be. What problem would you fix for them? What would they be interested in? what would they want to find out more about?

8. How often do you need to create content?

Again, it’s up to you! English with Kirsty goes out once a week, and I skip a week if I’m on holiday. My other podcast goes out twice a week. I know other podcasts that go out once or twice a month. Others have seasons with breaks between.

The only daily podcasts that I subscribe to are for the news, and I delete anything that is over 2 days old. I know some people produce content that frequently, but they often burn out, because that’s a lot of content production. I also think it’s hard for the listener to keep up.

I’d say once a week is great if you can do it, but two good episodes a month are better than 4 rushed ones.

9. How do you get people to find out about the podcast?

Most of my traffic comes from Apple Podcasts (previously known as iTunes), so once you’ve got your RSS feed from your podcast provider, remember to submit your podcast to Apple Podcasts. Many smaller apps and services pull their data from the Apple Podcasts directory, although some give you the option of submitting directly such as Player FM.

A lot of people ask for ratings and reviews. I prefer to ask for people to share the episodes that they like with their friends or networks.

I share each episode on my business Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn, Xing (like LinkedIn but in Germany), Google, in my Facebook group, in any other Facebook groups where I think the content would be relevant, and in my newsletter.

Being a guest on other podcasts or inviting relevant contributors to be a guest on yours is another way to get your voice or your podcast in front of new audiences.

10. Does it work from a business point of view?

I don’t have sponsors for my podcast. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t, but it would have to be something that I would personally endorse and where there was no conflict of interest in terms of my own products and services.

I do, however, use the opportunity to talk about my own services when they’re relevant. So if the episode is about grammar, I might mention my grammar course. If I’m giving general information about job interviews, I would mention my one-to-one interview training. I also talk about free products, such as the 100 resources for improving your business English, which I put together for episode 100 of the podcast.

But the podcast is not a direct selling tool. If all you do is sell, sell, sell, people will get bored and disengage. Of course you can promote your own online community, products, or services, but it has to be in the context of the value that you’re adding through the free content.

In terms of customers, I have to be honest and say that the podcast isn’t my main method of bringing new customers, but I have had students who found me through the podcast. I see it as a way for people to get to know me, how I teach, and how I work. So someone may discover the podcast, then sign up for the newsletter, then eventually buy from me when something relevant comes up. I don’t want to have all my eggs in one basket, so I use different tools such as the podcast, the blog, the newsletter, the Facebook community – all of them are relevant to different people and help new people to discover my content and my business.

It’s not something direct like an advert. It’s about building a relationship with your audience, developing trust because you show up regularly, adding value. Then hopefully you’ll be top of mind if they need what your offering, or when someone in their network is looking for an English teacher.

You might not see instant results. I try not to be preoccupied with the stats, but I do look at them. However, rather than seeing it only in terms of whether it was an increase or decrease when compared to the last week, I try to imagine the number as that number of people in a room. Finding a room to fit X number of people for a meeting puts it into perspective for me more than “Oh, there were only X number of downloads this week”.

I’m not an expert on podcasting, but if you are a self-employed education professional, I hope this gave you some insight into podcasting and how it can help your existing/future students.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. Also, if you have a podcast of your own, let me know about it so that I can check it out!

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Kirsty working with students

For more articles for teachers, visit my virtual staffroom page.


Spring give-away

This is not about language learning, but I know some people followed this blog because they didn’t realise that I have two!
So, whether you meant to follow my beauty and lifestyle blog, or you do want my language updates and would also like to be in with the chance of winning some skincare products, you can head over to my other site, “Unseen Beauty”, for my Spring giveaway!

Unseen beauty

I’ve decided to do another giveaway on Unseen Beauty. It’s an international one this time and all you need to do to enter is fill in the form at the bottom of this post.

I know some bloggers wait till they have a huge box of stuff before doing a give-away, but I’d rather do smaller ones and run them more often so that more people have a chance of winning something.

These Glossyboxes are good for packing giveaway prizes in! The winner of the Spring giveaway will receive:

  • A Real Techniques foundation brush
  • A coconut bath bomb
  • A mini almond shower gel from L’Occitane
  • Rituals body mud scrub (70ml)
  • A 3-step instant glow sheet mask from Maskorea
  • A mini of the Emma Hardie maringa cleansing balm
  • A chocolate wax melt
  • I don’t have the links for all the products, but this is the sheet mask because I don’t have…

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easy steps to start learning a language again after a long break

easy steps to start learning a language again after a long break

One of the most difficult things about starting to learn a language again after a long break is that you know you weren’t as good as you were at the time when you stopped learning. It will come back to you with practice, and you might surprise yourself about how much you do actually remember, but it’s the same with anything. If you haven’t been thinking about the language for a while, it’s natural that the words won’t come to you as easily, or you might not understand as much of a text or spoken dialogue as you would have in the past.

So the first step, before you even think about doing anything with the language, is to acknowledge you’ve had some time out, and make a deal with yourself that you’re not going to beat yourself up about all the things that you’ve forgotten.

I used to have Turkish lessons every week. One week for homework I had to write a 1000 word essay in Turkish about my experience of the UK school system, what I liked about it, and what could be improved.

1000 words of Turkish in an essay!

I can write 1000 words of English without any trouble. I can write 1000 words of German without thinking too hard, although I would need to check it more carefully than the English text. At that time, 1000 words of Turkish took several hours, but I did it! It wasn’t perfect! There were things that my teacher corrected. But the point is, my brain was used to putting together words in Turkish.

Having not done any Turkish lessons for the best part of 3 years, I’d struggle to write 20 coherent words of Turkish now. That’s a bit sad, but it’s true. My priorities changed, and I devoted less and less time to this language.

I’m sure I could pick it up again if I set my mind to it, but thinking about this reminded me that there are people who feel the same about English.

Maybe the last time they used English was at school, and that was a number of years ago now.

When we were moving house, I found one of my old French books. I was quite surprised at some of the sentences in there. I had written them – it was my writing – but I didn’t understand everything that I had written when I was doing my exam preparation.

So, if you’ve had a long break from a language, sometimes it can feel a bit daunting to get back into it. Here are some ideas that might make it easier for you.

1. Find an activity that you used to enjoy and start by doing that!

This is tough if you didn’t enjoy anything at school, but try to think of something that you would enjoy. Maybe it’s listening to some English songs. Maybe it’s watching an English film – with the subtitles if you like – just something to get your brain back into listening to English. Maybe there was a book or podcast that you enjoyed.

Whatever it was, find the activity that will cause you the least amount of stress, and start by doing that! You’ll still need to spend time on your least favourite activities – mine was speaking – but it’s good to begin s=with something enjoyable.

2. What have you kept from the time when you were learning the language?

You might not have anything, but if you still have some notes or books, why not get them out and have a look through them?

When I was learning Turkish, I made my notes in a way that made sense to me. Sometimes a good way to remind yourself of things is to use notes from what you did in the past. They’re your notes, and personal to the way you learn and write things down.

3. Do you want anyone to help you?

This could be a language partner or a teacher. Maybe you don’t want to work with anyone else, but if you get other people involved, you might be more likely to stick to your goals because you’ve told someone else about them, and they’ll be waiting to hear from you!

4. Start slowly and work up

As with my example of writing in Turkish, if you haven’t done anything in a language for a while, things will take you longer than they used to. That’s ok. Give yourself permission to work at a slower pace. It’s much better to do more than you planned, than to fall at the first obstacle because you decided you were going to do 2 hours of English each day!

5. Pick learning resources that are right for your level

I used to listen to podcasts in Turkish that were meant for a Turkish audience. I don’t know how much I would understand if I did that now. So in my situation, it might be better for me to start with some materials that were meant for learners. Or, if you were at a lower intermediate level before, it’s ok to reach for those beginner books again to remind yourself of the basics.

Finally

Make sure it’s something that you really want to do. I probably will go back to Turkish at some point, but I know there are other languages that I’ve learned in the past, such as French and Hindi, that I won’t return to. That’s ok. Learning a language takes time, dedication, and motivation, and if you lack the motivation, it probably won’t happen!

Of course it may be that you need to motivate yourself, for example if you need English at work, but still that is a type of external motivation with a desired outcome that you can work towards.

It’s so easy to say that we’re too busy for things. If you want to do something, you need to make time for it. That may mean saying “no” to other things or reorganising priorities – so if you’re thinking about starting a language again, make sure it’s something you genuinely want to do.

If you do want to come back to English after a long break, I have resources on my site that will help, such as my monthly newsletter, which you can subscribe to at the bottom of this post, and my podcast.

If you’re interested in one-to-one training, you can check out my lessons page.

More from English with Kirsty

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Kirsty working with students


The five books that I read in February

This is something that I’m reblogging from my personal blog, Unseen Beauty – the one to follow if you are interested in my beauty and lifestyle posts.
I’m sharing this information here because it’s about books, and I thought that might also be interesting for those of you who are interested in learning English.

Unseen beauty

So, it’s time to look at the books that I read in February. A bit of a mixture again!

As always, I’ll try to provide links to audio books as well, as that’s how I read most of my books. If I read a book in German, I’ll look for the English version too!

1. Still me

Author: Jojo Moyes
Available in various formats on Amazon.

This is the third book in the series that started with “Me before you”. I wanted to see what happened, but I began to lose patience with the main character. She finally finds love for a second time, walks away to pursue happiness in another country and wonders why things don’t go well with that?! And even when things finally look as though they’ll turn around, she still doesn’t learn! Is there any hope?

I’m still interested in other books by this author because…

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