Category Archives: Adult Learners

Adult language learners, tips and ideas

Why can you not understand English Speakers.

mouthWhy can’t you understand native English speakers?

You have taken English classes for many years. You have passed all your tests with great marks. You can talk with your classmates and teachers without any problems.

Why do you have trouble communicating with native speakers?

Many of my students who come to me are great at reading and writing english.  They understand grammar and how to use different tenses and complex sentences.  They have memorized a large vocabulary.

With all this knowledge they still have great difficulty with listening and speaking.  The main problem is they don’t understand the stress structure of spoken english.

Native speakers, when listening to a sentence, do not listen to every word.  They have learned that there are only a few important words or phrases in a sentence, and the rest of the words provide context or old information.

How do they know which words are important?  By the stress placed on those words.

Communicating in Spoken english depends on factors that are not written on any pages.  These include stress by pitch or intonation, stress by shortening and lengthen vowels, rhythm, and the understanding and use of the schwa sound.

To communicate in english with native speakers you need to learn how to listen to these stress patterns and how and when to use them.

The first step is to listen to podcasts or other material spoken by English speakers.  Choose something that isn’t for ESL learners.  Listen to how the speakers speak.  Listen to the tone.  Listen to the rhythm.  This will give you a good start to learning how to communicate better with spoken English.

I recommend  as a great place to listen to good interviews.

In following articles I will explore the use of stress in more detail.  Let me know if you want to learn more.

Why do you not understand spoken English

You understand written English.  You can write an essay or letter that other people can understand

mouthWhy Can’t you understand what other people are saying?
Why do they not understand what you are saying?

Written english is made up of 26 letters ( the alphabet)  that are combined into separate chunks ( words) that are joined together to make sentences.  When the letters are joined together to form a word there is usually only one way to spell it.  The meaning of the word can change depending on the words around it, but the meanings are limited for each word.


The dog chased three cats around the tree.  A simple sentence that should be easy to listen, and understand and repeat this sentence.  Why might you not be able to understand it?

There are 26 letter. 6 vowels. 21 consonants ( y can be both a vowel or a consonant).  But there are 44 sounds in spoken English. These sounds are made up with different vowel and consonant combinations. To be understand what a speaker is saying, you need to be able to listen and hear the difference in these 44 sounds.  Your native language might not have these sounds.  Before you can start speaking the sounds of English you have to be able to hear the sounds of English.

Using our example sentence The dog chased three cats around the tree. If your native language does not have the “th” sound in three, you will not be able to hear the difference between three and tree.

You have to learn and practice the difference between English and your first language.

Once you can hear the differences in the sounds, you are on your way to being able to understand spoken english.

There is a lot of other things to learn such as stress and intonation.

A good interactive guide to the sounds of english can be found here:


You can also check out my Quizlet page



Read More →

Irregular Verbs List

Irregular Verbs List

This is a list of some irregular verbs in English. Of course, there are many others, but these are the more common irregular verbs.


Base Form
Past Simple
Past Participle
awake awoke awoken
be was, were been
beat beat beaten
become became become
begin began begun
bend bent bent
bet bet bet
bid bid bid
bite bit bitten
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
broadcast broadcast broadcast
build built built
burn burned/burnt burned/burnt
buy bought bought
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
come came come
cost cost cost
cut cut cut
dig dug dug
do did done
draw drew drawn
dream dreamed/dreamt dreamed/dreamt
drive drove driven
drink drank drunk
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
fly flew flown
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got got (sometimes gotten)
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
hang hung hung
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hit hit hit
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
know knew known
lay laid laid
lead led led
learn learned/learnt learned/learnt
leave left left
lend lent lent
let let let
lie lay lain
lose lost lost
make made made
mean meant meant
meet met met
pay paid paid
put put put
read read read
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise rose risen
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
sell sold sold
send sent sent
show showed showed/shown
shut shut shut
sing sang sung
sit sat sat
sleep slept slept
speak spoke spoken
spend spent spent
stand stood stood
swim swam swum
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
tell told told
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
understand understood understood
wake woke woken
wear wore worn
win won won
write wrote written


Verb Tenses Needed for IELTS and TOFEL




Verb Tenses you need to know

There are 13 Verb tenses in English.  How many do you really need to know to get a high score on the IELTS and TOFEL test.


I created this little video to answer this question.

Number 1 tip to improve your speaking score

mouthI teach conversation for student who are taking English tests.  These tests (TOFEL, TOEC,IELTS, PET, KET, FCE) all have a speaking component.  You are marked on your ability to talk on a subject and to have a conversation.

Some students find the speaking part of the exams to be the most stressful and difficult.

There is one tip I give my students that helps them relax and do better on their exams.

And this tip to improve your speaking score?

Don’t Say anything.

This tip of don’t say anything can be broken down into 2 parts… one for the beginning of your answer and the other during your answer and  conversation parts of the exams.

Stop and think before you speak

Most standardized English tests have time limits that you should speak for, but you are not penalized for taking time before you start.  A pause at the start of an answer is acceptable.  It gives you time to formulate an answer.

If you are doing a question answer section ( such as FCE)  You can also use phrases to start your answer to give you more time to think.  Phrases like “that is an interesting question”.


Add pauses in your speech.

We all need to think as we are speaking.  To give us time to think we add “umm” or “awww” to fill the gaps while we think of the word or phrases we want to say.

An answer full of Umms and awws and hummms does not come across as being very coherent.  It seem like the speaker is not very good.

On the other hand if the speaker put pauses in their speech, the speaker comes across as more confident, professional and a better speaker.


So if you want to improve your test score learn when and how to NOT SAY ANYTHING


These are a couple of youtubes I found that talk about how to use Pauses.


This next video is aimed more for teachers, but the information is still important, if you can understand what she is saying.

5 Tips to improve your english speaking skills

mouthI have taught English to non-native english speakers from many countries, for many years .  One of the main questions I get asked by students is “how can I improve my english speaking skills.”  In answer to this I have put together my  5 Tips to improve your english speaking skills.

5.   Think in English.

Learning a language can be a challenge.  In order to get better you need to train your mind.  One of the ways to do this is to try thinking in english.  Narrate your life in english by asking yourself questions and answering them.

“Where am I going?” “I am walking to the store.”

“What am I going to buy?” “I need to buy some bread and milk.”

By having these internal conversations you train your brain, as well as make use of time that you normally would not be using for english.

4. Record Yourself

Most cellphones have a way of recording small voice recordings.  You can also record your voice on your tablet or laptop. This is a way for you to hear and correct your mistakes.

Most people do not like hearing their own voice.  This makes this tip the most difficult to do, but it is worth the effort to improve your speaking skills.

3. Read Aloud

Part of learning any language is reading.  As we read we can stay silent, or we can voice the words.  Reading aloud gives you practice at forming the sounds and structure of the language. This may slow down your reading speed but the advantage of practicing of forming the sounds of the language makes it worth while to do.

2 Listening to English

There are so many places you can listen to english, DVD’s podcasts, radio, TV, Movies, Music, etc.  In order to speak and carry on a conversation you have to be able to listen to and understand what the other person is saying.  Listening to all the different styles you hear in electronic form helps you to improve your listening skills.

Another thing you can do with electronic playback ( such as DVDs) is to repeat or mimic a passage.
-Find a short speech or passage on a DVD.
-Play it once or twice
-try speaking the passage using the words and phrases as spoken
-listen to the passage and see how you did

This allows you to work on a more natural style of speaking.

1 Practice

You can not get better at speaking, without practice.

You can practice with conversation teachers ( such as myself)

You can practice with other students.

You can practice with strangers in the street or on the internet.

You can read, study, and know all the grammar and spelling rules of  English but without practicing and trying to speak, you will not be able to improve your skills. If you don’t practice you will not get better.

Video “the” or “a”

“The” or “A”  When do we use them.


Introduction Video- Adult English Learners

I teach English

My students are Adult English Language Learners at the intermediate or advanced level

5 reasons English Language Learners should read aloud

Robot_readingReading aloud is one of the best exercises you can do to improve your own writing and speaking.

Adult English Language Learners tell me regularly that they can read and understand written english They have trouble with listening and speaking. We don’t know for sure, there are people who believe that different parts of the brain are used in reading/writing  and speaking/listening.  In order to become a well rounded English Language Learner you need to train and practice both areas of your mind.

One thing you can do to practice and improve your Adult English learning is to read aloud.  You can read softly to yourself, or loudly in your class.  You can read newspapers, textbooks, novels or any english material that is of interest to you.

The physical act of moving your lips and mouth are helping you improve.

Why do this?

Reading aloud helps you practice your listening skills

In order to speak you have to hear yourself.  The act of speaking words you know, helps you learn to listen and recognize the sound of these words.

Reading aloud helps learn how the language flows.

The practice of reading the English language aloud helps you learn how the language is structured and flows. Sentence structure in the spoken and written language is similar.  Practicing speaking phrases helps you learn the structure

 Reading aloud helps improve your pronunciation.

Speaking is one of the most difficult movement skills we learn.  We have to learn where to place the tongue, how to move the lips and when to breathe.  Complex movements skills, ( playing basketball, dancing etc) all improve with practice.   Any practice you have speaking helps you to improve how you talk.

Reading aloud improves your visual memory and ability to see images in your mind.

The act of reading aloud connects words together in both the visual and audio parts of your mind.  This bond makes what you have learned stronger.

Reading aloud improves your spelling.

Sounding out words, detecting syllables, and visually connecting the word improve spelling .


It is a simple, and easy tip to help you improve your English skills.  Try reading aloud.