How do you learn a language?
Many people arrive in the UK looking for work with a very low level of English.
Unfortunately this means that only low paid boring factory work with long shifts
People who can communicate in English have a very big advantage when looking for
the better jobs and when trying to use the local services. It is very difficult to
enjoy living in a society if you can’t communicate with people who can help you in the
health service, education, local government, the police, the banks the shops the utility
companies, gas, phone, electricity etc. Some of these companies employ people who speak
other languages but not all. But that person could be you!
Krzystof, 31, came to the UK in 2004. He had been a sales man in Poland and had a
very low level of English language when he arrived. He had never taken an English
Language course or even an English lesson before He worked in factories and in the
evenings spent some of his money on an English course at a private English language
school. He went to English Lessons twice a week. His English level improved and In 2007
he got a job in a bank and doubled his salary.
So like Krzytof, some people manage improve their language level and this gives them
the possibility of getting better jobs in an office or as a supervisor.
The English language level of some people doesn’t change even after years of living
in the UK.
So what is the difference?
- They have confidence to learn
- They want to learn
- They try to learn
It is quite difficult to lean if you are scared. But you can become less
scared if you take the first step. Each step becomes better. If you have
passed your driving test think about how scary the first lesson was! But
soon as you get used to the environment it becomes easier.
Even if you go to lots of English lessons with the best English teachers if you
don’t want to learn then you are wasting your time. If motivation is a problem
then try to think about what it will mean to you to have a better life, job,
house car holidays. Maybe it will mean you can go to university or do your
profession that you left in your home country. Try to imagine how much better
life could be and keep that image in you mind and remember it when you are
Learning is not some magic that happens just because you pay some money, or
sit in a classroom. The English Language teacher can’t open your head and put
the information inside. Good teaching is showing you what you need to learn
helping you to understand it and giving you some ideas abut how to remember it.
But it is up to you to actually learn the information. It will help to understand
how you learn things. People learn in different ways.
Here is a theory about learning styles that may help you to plan how to learn
the English language.
In this theory you can learn in a visual, auditory, kinesthetic way of a
combination of all three.
The theory is that you probably have a dominant one of these three.
Visual - you like to watch some one else demonstrate or read
Auditory – You like someone to explain it for you
Kinesthetic – You like to do it to understand it
You can use this grid as a simple learning style indicator questionnaire -
for example score each
box out of five or ten and then put the total for each column in the boxes.
What level of language do you need?
There are many different ways to describe English levels below a common set of names
for levels that the language schools usually use.
Beginner: just, "hello", "good bye", "my name is" ..
Elementary: simple sentences buy things in shops
Pre intermediate: simple conversations may read some children’s books
Intermediate: the point at which you can work with native
Upper intermediate: more complex conversations, social situations
Advanced: can talk on the phone have can express most things you
Proficiency: can understand most native speakers easily a good
understanding of slang and idiom perhaps teach the language
First Group PLC who had a big recruitment drive in Poland concluded that
bus drivers needed to be at intermediate level to as a
minimum requirement to function safely in their jobs.
Universities look for students to be at upper intermediate level to join a
The NHS (National Health service) require Doctors and nurses to be at an
advanced level to work in hospitals etc.
To work in an office job in the UK you would want to be at an upper-intermediate
level or higher.
So how do you know if you are at that level?
An English Language School will usually give you a free level check and they will
put you in a class at that level.
There are different exams you can do:
Cambridge Exams PET KET FCE CAE PCE
These are good if you want to look for work outside the UK but UK employers don’t
really understand them. CAE is recognised by some universities
ESOL Skills for life:
Entry 1 - Beginner/Elementary
Entry 2 - Elementary to Pre-intermediate
Entry 3 - Pre-intermediate to Intermediate
Level 1 - Upper-intermediate
Level 2 - Advanced
IELTS where you get a score from 1 – 9
There are two types of this exam and the academic version is used for Universities
and the Health Service 6 is usually university entrance 7 for Doctors and Nurses.