Tools & Techniques

Speaking success


It’s often helpful – when you’re trying something new – to hear how others have done the same thing. You pick up new ideas. You’re encouraged by their experiences and successes. And you learn that you’re not alone; others are trying to do the same thing you are. I hope these stories – about success speaking a new language – will do all of that for you.

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If I wanted to speak better English


Every English learner would like to speak fluently. And some have to. Most of my coaching clients, for example, are people who need to speak English fluently for business, professional, and personal success. Unfortunately, fluent speaking is often the most frustrating goal for English learners, especially those who live where English isn’t spoken. Happily, there’s a good way to improve your speaking – a way that takes time, but that’s too enjoyable to be called work or study.

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The 300-word (essay) challenge


One of the best ways to learn something is to watch a master at work. William Zinsser is a master. While his books will teach you a lot of what you need to know to write well, his writing will teach you even more. He deserves to be read – and re-read – by anyone who wants to write. This article, reproduced from The American Scholar, is a good lesson in essay writing.

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Better writing, part 2


Better writing, part 1 emphasized the importance of developing writing competence – a sense, or inner feeling, for what’s right when you write. Writing competence is what guides writers when they write, but it isn’t enough. You also need a reliable process for getting your ideas down on paper or into your computer.

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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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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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More reading, less looking


It’s easy to spend more time looking than reading on the Internet. And that can become a major frustration for someone who’s trying to read as much as possible to improve their English. Help has arrived!

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RSS your way to better English


RSS can help you free up time for the reading and listening that will lead to better English. Today I have some suggestions for using RSS to bring reading and listening material to you automatically so it’s there, waiting for you, when you want to read or listen.

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Finding books for intermediate readers


Many English learners would like to read to improve their English, but they can’t find books that are easy enough to understand. On the ESL Podcast blog, Lucy Tse has written an excellent post about choosing intermediate-level reading. I’d like to add some additional ideas and recommend some books my adult students have enjoyed.

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Dictionaries for English learners


When you’re reading and meet a new word, you have several options – ignore the word and continue reading, reread the sentence or paragraph, guess the meaning from the context, ask a friend, or look it up in a dictionary. But which dictionary?

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Learning to write – from start to finish


Most people would not take a trip without knowing where they’re going and how to get there. Unfortunately, many writers do it all the time. If you want to become a good writer, you need a good plan, or process – like the one I describe in this article.

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Learning to write – in English


Is there any difference between writing in your language and English? The answer is “no and yes.” If you can get your ideas from your mind into someone else’s mind clearly, quickly, and economically when you write in your language, that will help you when you write in English. However, there are some differences that make writing in English different than writing in other languages.

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Learning to write – almost anything


Xurxo knows the secret of learning to write. When I read one of his essays and asked him where he learned to write so well, he said, “Reading New York Times essays.” The secret to learning to write is fairly simple – if you want to write essays, read essays. In other words, read the kind of thing you want to write.

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Is your reading getting the job done?


Are you reading – or listening – effectively? If you’re a regular visitor to Successful English, you already know that reading is the key to acquiring language. Here’s a checklist – from two articles I read this week – to help you make sure your reading is helping you get the job done.

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Learning to write – introduction


Jazz musician Paul Desmond once said that “Writing is like jazz. It can be learned, but it can’t be taught.” Desmond understood something very important about writing: good writing doesn’t come from direct instruction. And the writers, writing teachers, and language specialists I know agree. If you want to learn where good writing comes from and how to write better, be sure to read all of the Learning to write articles.

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