Beyond the Basics

Too much accent?


Shortly after I published What about my accent? a Successful English reader asked if too much accent could make it difficult for listeners to understand what he was saying. I told him that could happen. But I also told him that it probably wouldn’t happen very often.

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Better writing, part 1


What can you do to become a better writer? First, you can improve your knowledge about writing; and second, you can increase your ability to use what you know when you write. This article explains what you need to know and how to acquire it.

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What about my accent?


Many English learners would like to “sound like a native English speaker.” What about that? Is it necessary? Or is it a good idea to even try? What can, or should, an English learner try to do about accent?

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What makes English difficult?


A student recently complained to me that English is difficult. “I’ve studied English for eight years,” she said, “and gotten good grades. Why can’t I use it any better?” What would you say to her? Is her problem English, or could it be something else?

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Mr. Mitchell’s writing class


The best writing teachers are writers who draw you into the worlds they create, worlds filled with the most important writing lessons you’ll ever learn. Joseph Mitchell is that kind of writer and teacher.

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Thoughts from a successful English learner


Several months ago, I told the story of Adrian, a frustrated Brazilian English-learner who dropped out of his English class. Shortly after that, he discovered that we acquire language in one way – by reading and listening. In a short time – a little more than two years – Adrian became very fluent in English. Later, he used the same method to acquire Spanish. I recently received an e-mail from Adrian that continues the story of his language journey – a story every language learner should read.

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A word every language learner should know


There’s no question. None at all. Fluency in any language comes from what we read and what we hear. This is what the research tells us. And this is what the experience of many language learners tells us.

The most important principal of language acquisition is very simple: we acquire, or pick up, language when we read or hear interesting and comprehensible, or understandable, input. Now there’s a new word that helps us choose what to read or listen to.

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More pleasure, more English


Benjamin Franklin said it first when he wrote There is no gain without pain. Jane Fonda made it popular in her exercise videos when she said No pain, no gain. And the amazing thing is that almost everyone believes them all the time. Interestingly, this idea may be totally wrong when we think about acquiring, or improving, language. Keep reading!

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My English Journey


In Is my English getting better? I described several things that English students can do informally to get an idea of how much their English has improved. Today I’d like to describe My English Journey, a more formal way to do the same thing.

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Is my English getting better?


Is my English getting better? This is a common, and important, question asked by many English students. They certainly hope so! And if it is getting better, they feel good about themselves and they’re motivated to keep working at it. But how can they know?

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No, I won’t correct your mistakes


From time to time, students ask me to correct their mistakes. And they’re usually surprised when I politely say “no.” Why would I do that? The reason is quite simple: I want to help them improve, and there is no evidence that correcting mistakes will do that.

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Better English at Sweet Valley High


Kyung-Sook Cho’s adult ESL students had made little progress until she introduced them to Sweet Valley High. That’s where they found success.

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Getting the most (English) from your reading


There is no doubt that reading for pleasure is the best way to improve your English. Research clearly shows that readers have larger vocabularies, better grammar, and write better than non-readers. This article describes several things that you can do to get the greatest benefit from your reading.

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Frustration to success


Adrian was frustrated, so he quit his ESL class. But today he’s enjoying English success. How did he do it?

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The purpose of language instruction


What is the purpose of language instruction, or education?

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