How to Learn ‘Real’ English

Learn real englishSource: nytimes.com

Learning a language based on strict grammar rules and irregular word after irregular word just isn’t a lot of fun. It is also not the most efficient way to truly internalise a foreign language. What has been proven to help you improve your fluency in English is learning with chunks.
This is also the principle EasyRead is based on. We believe (and research proves) that the best way to learn English is if you see words and grammar in context, so for examples you read articles or also just shorter chunks of language.

 

What are chunks?

Knowing the meaning of a word is a good first step, but knowing how to use it correctly in context is even more crucial. Words can be used in isolation but often form part of an expression, where the original meaning of the word changes. To learn ‘real’ English, so English the way it is used by native speakers in real life, it is therefore important not to just memorise word after word but to learn fixed sets of words as well.
Let me give you an example. Think of the word ‘thing’ and the various ways it can be used. ‘The thing is’, ‘there’s no such thing’, ‘I have a thing for her’ and many more. Just knowing the definition of the word itself which is ‘an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being.’ won’t allow you to know all the other ways the word can be used.

 

3 Types of Chunks

Learn real englishSoruce: englishharmony.com

1)   Collocations
The first type that comes into your mind is probably collocations. There are several collocational phrases, phrasal verbs and idioms such as the below examples. Try to find the correct prepositions to fill in the gaps:

Collocational Phrase: Driving ______ the influence of alcohol is an offence.
Phrasal Verb: I came ______ old graduation photos when I cleaned my room.
Idiom: I looks a bit like a mean old lady but turns out she is really friendly. I guess you really can’t judge a book ______ it’s cover

Wikipedia actually has a pretty good list of the most common English idioms.

Answers: under, across, by

 

2)   Discourse markers
You probably already know a few discourse markers that are mainly used in written English such as ‘on the one hand’, ‘in conclusion’ or ‘to summarise’ but all these are rather formal and normally not used in spoken English. More commonly used discourse markers in spoken English are ‘actually’, ‘well’ or ‘now’. The more you are exposed to the English language, the more often you’ll find yourself using discourse markers such as:

  • By the way
  • Sort of
  • You see
  • I see what you mean but
  • Anyway

 

3)   Common expressions
There are numerous chunks like ‘see you later’ or ‘take a seat’ that are often use in everyday or ‘real’ English. If you want to improve your English all the way to fluency, you should definitely learn those expressions as well. The most frequently used ones are:

  • All the best
  • How are you doing
  • Have a nice day
  • See you soon
  • Excuse me
  • Do you mind

 

If you want to find out more strategies how to improve your English, check out our article 5 Easy Ways to Learn English Faster. And don’t forget to sign up as one of our beta testers at http://www.geteasyread.com to receive awesome launch promotions 🙂

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5 Fun Facts about the English Language

We at EasyRead are all about languages and love how every language has its own particularities. Check out the below 5 fun facts about the English vocabulary and the English language and enjoy 🙂

1) The word ‘SET’ has more definitions than any other word in the English language

So how many definitions could it possibly have? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty? Nope. It has a total of 464 definitions! ‘Set’ can be used as all different types of words – verb, noun and adjective, for example:

  • Set the price
  • Set a good example
  • A set of golf clubs
  • Set apart

2) “sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”

The most difficult tongue twister in the English language is said to be “sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick”. Have a look at this YouTube video to see how to master it:

3) Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis

Yes, pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis is a word that really exists and it is the longest word in the English language. According to Oxford Dictionaries, it is defined as “a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust.”
Check out this YouTube video on how to pronounce it and don’t be shy, give it a try as well 🙂

4) The English language grows at a rate of about one new word every 98 minutes

On January 1st 2014, the number of words in the English language was estimated to be 1,025,109.8. The millionth English word was Web 2.0 and three more popular additions in 2013 were:

  • Defriend: to remove a person from a list of friends or contacts on a social networking website
  •  Me time: taking a little moment out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life and dedicate it to yourself
  •  Srsly: short version of seriously. Other popular examples are ‘txt’ for short text and ‘cos’ for because

5) Shakespeare invented thousands of words

This is one of my favourite fun facts. All around the world, high school students are reading their mandatory dose of William Shakespeare novels. What most of us don’t know is that Shakespeare was endlessly imaginative and not too concerned with grammatical rules. His writings contain over 2,200 never before seen words – a mix of loan words from other languages, compound words from existing English terms, creatively applied prefixes and nouns turned into verbs – many of which found their way into today’s everyday language. Some words we owe to him are assassinate, worthless, noiseless, and cold-blooded.

Did you know any of the above fun facts before? Do you know about any facts we missed out on that you are keen to share?

5 Easy Ways to Learn English Faster

Learning new languages is fun! It makes it easier for you to connect and communicate with people from all around the world, to read and listen to everything from books to podcasts in another language and to feel just a little more globally connected. The first language most of us study is English and while learning the basics is quite easy, becoming fluent is a completely different story and can take quite some time. So how to improve your English faster? We put together a top 5 list of steps you can follow in order to improve your English faster while having fun practicing!
 

1) Keep a Diary in English

It’s already a hassle for many of us to keep a diary in our own language and actually keep writing in it on a daily or even just weekly basis. However, if you want to improve your English, keeping a diary is a fantastic way to speed up your learning. It might take a few days to get used to the routine but will definitely be worth it! Just take 10 minutes before you go to bed to reflect on what you did that day and put it down in writing. Since you will be writing about real things that happened in your life, the vocabulary you use and look up will be truly useful for you and easy to remember. If you don’t feel like writing traditional “Dear diary” entries, think of something different you can do, like:

  • The most awesome thing that happened today
  • One more thing to add on you bucket list and why
  • One fun fact you learned today, e.g. Every time you lick a stamp, you’re consuming 1/10 of a calorie
  • Give each day a motto – e.g. Sunday is Superhero day. If you were a superhero, what would you superpower be and what would you have done with it today

 

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image: screened.com

You get the idea? Great, then go ahead and write, write, write!

2) Listen to English Radio Stations and Podcasts

There are thousands of really awesome podcasts out there you can listen to in order to become more familiar with the English language and improve your own pronunciation and vocabulary. Choose any area you are interested in, like music, lifestyle, travel, etc. and listen to podcasts while you are commuting, waiting, chilling or just feel like listening to something. The Business Insider released a good list of podcasts that will help you improve your English. This is a great way to practice anywhere, anytime.

 

how to improve your english, easyreadimage: vouchmag.com

If you prefer to listen to a radio station to have a mix of music, news and entertainment, here is a list of radio stations in the UK, radio stations in Australia and radio stations in the US.

3) Watch TV Shows and Movies in English

Watch your favourite TV shows in English. And not just once, watch them over and over again until you nearly know them by heart. You can also speak along with your favourite characters. Believe us, it’s fun!

 

how to improve your english, easyreadimage: quotes-lover.com/

You will be surprised how much your language skills will improve by this and how often you will use words and phrases you didn’t even realise you knew! The same goes for movies. Watch your favourite movies in English with English subtitles. If you are not fluent enough to understand them yet, just watch them with subtitles in your own language and once you are familiar with the dialogues, switch the subtitles back to English.

4) Read the Lyrics to a Song

Listening to a song is already a great way to learn new words and phrases and memorise them. If you sing along, you will also improve your pronunciation significantly. It’s a fun thing to do while you’re in the shower or your car. Don’t be shy, just sing it out loud!

how to improve your english, easyread

image: tonedeaf.com.au

And if you really want to get the most out of a song, you should look up the lyrics and translate them word by word so you actually know what it is you’re singing.

5) Read books, newspapers, magazines and blogs

Reading is a great way to practice English! If you are still a beginner it might be easier for you to start with books you already know the story of or a book you already read in your own language.

 

how to improve your english, easyreadimage: theguardian.com

While reading a book, don’t try to translate every word you don’t know. It will slow you down too much and can be extremely demotivating. Most of the words will repeat themselves anyway and you will eventually be able to guess them. If you read short articles or blog posts, you can go ahead and look up all the words you don’t know yet and memorise them by re-reading the article or post over and over again. Make sure you read content you are interested in though because if what you read is irrelevant to you, you will find it a lot more difficult to memorise vocabulary and stay motivated to practice. These are our top 5 tips to improve your English skills as quickly as possible. What other strategies do you normally use?

Merry Christmas from the EasyRead team!

We hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are excited to head into 2014 soon!

Two of us weren’t able to spend Christmas in our home countries with our families this year as we live abroad. We did however have a fantastic Christmas here in Kuala Lumpur and shared our Christmas traditions with our friends. We would love to share them with all of you as well 🙂

CHRISTMAS IN DENMARK

Merry Christmas – Glædelig Jul!

Denmark still has charming family Christmas traditions that have already been lost in many other countries. Baking Christmas cookies is one of the family traditions that everyone takes part in. Another one is gathering around the table with your grandparents and parents to decorate the burne kager (gingerbread cookies) together. Home baked cookies are definitely one of the highlights during the Danish Christmas season and plates full of them are shared between friends and family.

Danes also love to decorate their homes! You will hardly find any house without advent wreaths, mistletoes, Nissers (little gnome like elves), a sea of candles and lights and of course a juletrae (Christmas tree).

Another beautiful tradition that is unique to Denmark is the cut and paste day. A whole day is set apart where literally everyone sits down together to make Christmas ornaments such as strings of small red and white Danish flags or red and white checked heart shaped figures.

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The main day for Christmas celebrations is on Juleaften, Christmas Eve (24th December). Before the celebrations start, families leave a bowl of rice pudding or porridge for the so called Julenisse (mischievous Christmas gnomes) to keep them from making pranks. Christmas dinner often begins with rice pudding that has an almond inside. Whoever finds it will receive a prize. The main course is normally a beautifully browned goose with red cabbage and browned potatoes. For desert, Danish families like to have Ris A L’Amande, a delicious rice pudding served with cherry sauce.

After dinner, it’s time to lit the candles on the Christmas tree and open the presents. Some families still “dance” around the tree and sing carols. Christmas Eve is a day where only the close family celebrates together. Christmas day and Second Christmas Day (December 26th) are spent visiting close friends and extended family.

CHRISTMAS IN GERMANY

Merry Christmas – Frohe Weihnachten

One of the greatest things about the Christmas season in Germany is the beautiful Christmas market. Even the tiniest rural villages will be all lit up and offer their visitors delicious Christmas food, hot drinks to warm you up in the cold and a huge variety of handcrafted products.

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In many parts of Germany, children still write a wish list of presents to the Christkind, a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown that is believed to distribute gifts. Germans don’t entirely agree who actually brings the presents on Christmas Eve. Some tell their children it’s the Christkind, others say it’s the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus).

In Germany, December 6th is also celebrated. It’s known as St. Nicholas’ Day and the Nikolaus brings some smaller gifts such as toys and sweets. He comes to houses in the night between the 5th and 6th December and puts the presents into the shoes children leave in front of the door.

Another tradition during the Christmas season is the Sternsinger (Christmas carolers). Groups of children go from house to house, sing a Christmas song and collect money for charity (predominantly a Christian tradition but widely spread throughout the whole country). They normally come between December 27th and January 6th and write a signature with chalk over the door of the house. For 2014 it will be 20*C*M*B*14.

The Christmas tree is a must for a real German Christmas experience. It is normally set up on December 24th, just before the celebrations begin and is decorated with beautiful ornaments of coloured glass, silver stars, and strings of lights. A golden star or angel is placed at the very top of the tree. On Heiligabend (Christmas Eve), the whole family comes together for Christmas dinner which is normally a beautifully browned goose, just like in our neighbour country Denmark 🙂 Other popular dishes are Turkey or duck followed by a typical German desert called Stollen, a fruited yeast bread that is only eaten during the Christmas season. Christmas Eve is the most important of the Christmas days for German families, even though Christmas Day and Second Christmas day are also public holidays. Presents are put under the Christmas tree and can be opened before or after dinner. Families also often sing Christmas carols together, the most common one by far is “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

And since we don’t just want to share with you different cultures and traditions but help you learn languages, below is how you say Merry Christmas in 10 different languages. So next time you meet people from these countries, you can wish them a Merry Christmas in their own language 🙂

French: Joyeux Noel

Spanish: Feliz Navidad

Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie

Portuguese: Feliz Natal

Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast

Filipino: Maligayang Pasko

Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Natal

Mandarin: Sheng Dan Kuai Le

Arabic: Milad Majid

Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas

We would also love to hear more about the Christmas traditions in your country, please share them with us!! 🙂

Welcome to the EasyRead blog!!

For those of you who don’t know about EasyRead yet, we’re currently developing an awesome new language learning application that allows you to read content that’s of interest to you at your specific difficulty level.

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Say for example, you would really like to read The Economist but English is not your native language and the content is too technical for you to understand. With EasyRead you will have access to a simplified version of the original articles adjusted to your current proficiency level and be able to enhance your language skills by reading the amended version, completing fun, article-related exercises and much more so you will eventually become a pro in the language you want to learn. All that while reading something you are actually interested in!

Sounds good? We are currently looking for some awesome people who like the idea and want to help us test and fine-tune the application. If this sounds like you, please go to http://www.geteasyread.com/ and sign up as beta tester.

Stay tuned for more exciting EasyRead news and Merry Christmas!!

Maja, Sky and Anna

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