There’s no substitute for taking a course at Aim, but there are plenty of things you can do outside class to accelerate your progress:
1. Bring more English into your life. Instead of reading detik.com, try bbc.com. Instead of Kompas, read The Jakarta Post. For experience of the very best business English in the world, try reading articles in The Economist.
2. Take notes! Keep a notebook with you all the time to record new words, then learn them. You need to repeat new vocabulary many times before it gets fixed in your memory.
3. Hunt down opportunities to speak English.
4. Use the Internet. You’ll find a long list of on-line resources on the Aim website.
5. Make mistakes! Don’t be afraid to try the language. Of course you’ll make mistakes, that’s how you learn. One of our clients, a brilliant scholar with a PhD from an English-speaking university, told us that he always sees an opportunity to learn from the mistakes he makes.
6. Never stop trying to improve. If you do, you’ll slide back.
What’s the first contact that potential customers make with your business? Chances are it’s with a receptionist, either on the phone or in your office. So how well is your receptionist representing your company?
Think of your receptionists as your managers of first (and last) impressions. You rely on them to set the initial tone for the whole business, meaning that they have the power to make or break deals, and determine if your clients walk away happy or not. So, pick your receptionists wisely, train them well, and treat them with the respect they deserve. They should be considered to be among your company’s most important marketing assets
In today’s economy, people are more likely to shop around, so you need to hire receptionists who can really sell your products. This means doing much more than just handing out leaflets and price lists. Are your receptionists trained to convey your company’s unique benefits clearly and persuasively?
A great receptionist is able to ‘smile over the phone’, handle 5 tasks at the same time, work under extreme pressure, and yet still remain calm while professionally representing your business. Not easy. Call Aim now to arrange a free English language audit for your company (including assessing the English of your receptionists), and see how well our font-line people deal with you!
Have you got an exam coming up? Or are you planning to go off to university and you know there will be lots of exams over the next few years? Then read on.
You know what exams are for, of course. They are there to make sure the University only gives out qualifications to people who know their stuff. People who have been to the lectures, studied their subject, and deserve to get their degree. They’re also designed to split the students into groups, with higher or lower level degrees, depending on how well they perform.
So here’s the first piece of advice. It’s obvious, but to pass your exams you need to know your subject! You need to do the work, read the books, think about the theories, and study the data. You need to do this from Day One of your studies, because if you leave it to just before the exam, or perhaps to the couple of months before the exam, you won’t stand a chance. Trouble is, University is fun! New people, new place, new freedoms. It’s really too easy to let the work slip. So if you are serious about the exams, build work into your daily schedule before you allocate time to the fun things.
Next, think about revision. This is the process of revisiting stuff you already know, to make sure you are in a position to answer questions about it. You need to plan your revision, and start it early. In fact you should be revising in month two the things you learned in month one! That’s right; it takes several runs through new information for the average student to absorb most of it. By the time you get to your exams you should have read through your summary notes many times.
So, finally, you’ve done the work, attended the lectures, and revised your notes as you went along. Only the exam remains between you and the grade you want. You will have already found out the basics of exam technique. You know you have to read the questions thoroughly, allocate your time between sections of the exam in proportion to the marks available, write legibly, and so on, and on..
But here’s something you may not have heard, and may not even believe. You need to be fresh and eager if you want to do well. You won’t be fresh and eager if you revise the night before the exam. In fact you should stop revising and do something else, preferably something physical, for three days before your exam. Close your books, go for long walks, ride your bike. Any revision you do the night before your exam will result in you being tired and a bit confused when you start to write. And keep away from your fellow students, especially if they are indulging in last minute panic-stimulated revision.
If you’re not a native English-speaker, and you’re going off to an English-speaking university, you’ve got to do everything I’ve already mentioned, plus read and write in one of the world’s most subtle languages. Now, the AIM team can’t help you with the work, the revision, or the exams, of course, but they certainly can make sure that your command of English is a strength, and not another worry for you.
That’s why they say “Your future starts here”!
An English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course from Aim will help to make sure you’re ready to take on the challenge of studying at an English-speaking university. For more, click: Academic English Courses from Aim
So it’s nearly 2014. It’s odd that we look forward to the changing of the calendar year with a mixture of hope and expectation, almost as if it represents a new start for our lives. Of course the calendar I’m talking about is the Common Era one. There are other ‘new years’ around the world, with their own traditional celebrations.
The turn of the calendar year -the actual moment when 2013 becomes 2014 for example- has taken on worldwide significance in recent decades. Remember the famous Y2K bug, that was supposed to bring the world’s computers down when 1999 became 2000?. From a mythical problem to a real one, the turn of the year is the moment when the global mobile phone network tends to crash under the weight of billions of text messages saying ‘Happy New Year’. Often a picture of the sender is attached to the text, which adds mightily to the weight of data and makes the crash virtually certain. Of course the volume of texts peaks because of the parties, fireworks and occasionally riotous celebrations that go on around the world.
Galloping on, did you know that January 1st is also significant for horses? That’s because it’s the official birthday of every racehorse born in the northern hemisphere. (August 1st in the southern hemisphere). This means that the earlier in the year a foal is born, the bigger and stronger it will be in its first year of racing as a ‘two-year-old’. It’s no surprise, then, that lots of future racehorses are born in January and February, instead of their natural seasonal birthing time in the spring months of April and May.
One tradition at New Year that’s widespread around the world is the making of ‘resolutions’. Certainly it’s commonplace in English-speaking countries like the UK and USA. The idea is that you make decisions on New Year’s Eve to improve yourself or your life in some way in the year just beginning.
Research shows that for the past few years the most frequently made resolution by people in the US has been to lose weight. Unfortunately the rising obesity epidemic in the US shows that this is a resolution equally frequently broken. Likewise, the equally common resolutions to get fit, and to stop smoking are notoriously difficult to achieve.
But these are important matters. Obesity, tobacco and lack of exercise are known killers, so we all want to avoid them, don’t we? That makes it quite difficult to understand why we can’t achieve these resolutions.
Fortunately there’s plenty of experience in the business world that we can borrow and use in our private lives, including in that bit of our lives where we try to improve ourselves or our direct environments. One thing I’ve learned in business, for instance, is the importance of writing things down. A written ‘to do’ list can be a great morale booster as you cross tasks out in a brightly coloured ink!
Telling other people about your objectives can also be very useful. Sometimes they can help you directly. And the fact that you’ve told them, and don’t want to be seen to fail, can help keep you going.
For the kind of self improvement resolutions that we make at New Year, however, it seems to me that sustainability is the key. And by this I mean that the goals you set yourself should be relatively short term, reasonably achievable, and should not require an immediate complete change in lifestyle. Remember, you can always reset a goal when you’ve achieved it.
So, if losing weight is important to you, don’t set yourself a long term target in kilograms; your willpower probably won’t last long enough. Instead set yourself the target of cutting one particularly calorie-filled item out of your diet during January, plus maybe walking, or taking some other weight-burning exercise twice a week. When February comes around, and you’ve lost half a kilo and feel fitter, it will be no trouble at all to reset your resolution for another month.
Now suppose that you need to improve a critical business skill, say the ability to work at a senior level in English. What kind of resolution is most likely to lead to a positive result for you? It surely isn’t “This year I will raise the level of my English language skills from ‘beginner’ to ‘expert'”. That’s far too vague and much too long term. The day to day short term pressures of work and family will divert your attention, and your long term objective will get lost, even if you write it down and tell other people about it.
Choose a sustainable achievable resolution instead; for example “I will contact a good language school in the first week of January for an assessment to see what I need to do in improving my skills.” Then, if you live in Jakarta, write down the telephone number on the ‘Contact Us’ page of this website, tell your friends what you plan to do, and enjoy the New Year celebrations secure in the knowledge that you are going to achieve at least one of your resolutions.
Happy New Year!
We never get tired of people asking us questions. Quite the opposite – one of our major goals here at Aim is to encourage an inquisitive mind. People who ask lots of questions to ensure they always fully understand and are fully informed are the sort of people who will do better academically and in business. And they are the kind of people who are more fun to teach too!
We do hear some of the same questions regularly though. So here are a select few that we’d like to share with all of you (although for some, we don’t have all the answers!):
1.For how long must I take a course in order to be fluent?
One of the most common questions, and one of the most vague answers, I’m afraid. It depends.
It depends on what level you’re at now. For some, many months of courses and practice are needed in order to be able to communicate effectively. For others, ‘brushing up’ or ‘fine tuning’ is all that’s needed.
It depends on how good you are at learning languages. Some people learn languages faster than others; it’s as simple as that. Those who learn quickly are very often those who have a high level of confidence and no fear of using new language as much as possible. Intelligence is a factor too, of course.
It depends on how hard you work. Taking a course is a great idea, but if you don’t practice outside the classroom, progress will be slow. Likewise if you are not active in the classroom (by asking questions, getting involved, having fun) then progress will be limited.
And finally it depends on what your definition of ‘fluent’ is. Absolute perfection – native speaker-level language – is an unrealistic goal for most. Often one must live in an English-speaking country for many years before they’re mistaken as a native speaker. In business, you should aim for an ability to communicate professionally and accurately, and an ability to build quality relationships. Grammatical perfection is less important in this context. For life in general, the ability to confidently communicate in English in a wide variety of everyday situations is usually enough. After a while you’ll be able to describe your way around any language you don’t know, so the person you’re talking to understands your meaning. Remember, communication is the goal, not perfection.
2.What is the best way to learn a language?
You need to get to know your own learning style in order to answer this question, because a learning method that works well for one person may not work well for you. Learning styles have been studied and described in many different ways by different academics, here’s a link to wikipedia on the subject for those of you who are interested.
Fleming, for example, divides learners into three main categories: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Visual learners learn best through visual aids, pictures, diagrams and so forth. Auditory learners learn best through listening (to lectures or discussions, songs or movies). While kinesthetic learners learn best through experiences – moving, touching and doing. Which one are you? Once you know, you can tailor your efforts to learn languages to make them more effective.
The simple answer to this question, and one we’ve mentioned many times before, is hard work and practice. Seek out as many practice opportunities as you can, habitualise the use of the new language in your daily routine, and put in the effort (even when you don’t feel like it). You’ll really be surprised how quickly you can make progress.
3.Am I too old to learn?
I’m not going to say that age doesn’t make a difference. It does. A young child can pick up dozens of new words every day, and in multiple languages. I can’t! However us adults can be more self-motivated, disciplined, ambitious. We enrol ourselves on courses, we make time to do homework, and we are motivated by that job promotion, or that overseas holiday, or that new friend whose Indonesian language is limited.
So while remembering new language might get a bit harder as we get older, many other factors mean that the answer is absolutely not! You are never too old to learn something new.
4. Can I learn English by watching movies and reading books?
To a certain extent, yes. Any practice is worthwhile, and any exposure to the new language (even in songs) is worthwhile. Watching movies and reading books can be especially beneficial if you are an active learner while to do it: try writing down new words you come across, rewinding a tricky bit of pronunciation and imitating, or perhaps even writing a review of the book or movie when you’ve finished. But watching movies or reading books are ‘passive’ activities; you are receiving language, not producing it. To be an effective communicator you also need to work on your ability to produce language yourself; speaking and writing.
These are just a few of the questions we’re often asked at Aim. In coming weeks we’ll perhaps publish a few more. In the meantime, don’t stop asking questions!
“He who is afraid of asking is ashamed of learning” (Danish Proverb).