Private English Teacher or English Classes
Is a Private English Teacher Really Worth the Extra Cost?
I’m a private English teacher in Houston, Texas so you already know that my answer to this question is going to be “Yes!” But there are a few things that you should think about when you are making this decision. I agree that private English lessons aren’t for everyone.
If you are in the USA on a student visa, you will probably be in an ESL classroom because you are required to be in school full-time. When you are new to a country, it’s great to meet other expats who have been here for a while and can help you to get settled. They know the best places to live, buy furniture, lease a car and where to send your children to school. All this is very important information when you first move to a new country.
An ESL classroom gives new expats an opportunity to meet people and make friends from all over the world. Very often, my students have never been outside their own country before coming to the USA, which is a melting pot of nationalities and one of the things I love most about this country. An ESL class is going to be less expensive than learning English with a private tutor. All these reasons are good ones to elect to enroll in a class instead of taking private lessons.
With all these advantages, why would someone want to spend the extra money to hire a private English tutor? Let’s say that you can speak English well, but you can’t write. Or you can read English, but you don’t understand what people are saying to you. A private teacher can help you get through these challenges very quickly. When a teacher calls on students in a classroom, it will be your turn to answer once every five or ten minutes. When your tutor asks a question, you are the one to answer every single time! And those questions are especially focused on helping you through your specific English challenges. With a private tutor, you cannot take a break and stare out the window! You are “on” every moment and, in this way, you will learn English much faster and in the way that is most helpful to you.
Your private English tutor is also your psychologist! You can tell your teacher what is bothering you at work, what you like and don’t like about the American culture, or how you spouse is constantly wanting to leave and move back home. And you have a wealth of information sitting right in front of you to help you while you are adjusting to this new environment. I’ve tutored, acted as therapist, offered encouragement to students who feel depressed, counseled women on what to expect from American men and counseled men on what to expect from American women. A private English teacher is a tremendous source of support.
You will spend less time with a tutor because you are learning at a faster pace and, in the end, this may mean spending the same amount or less money even though a tutor is more expensive per hour. You have the advantage of taking classes during the hours that you have free. Furthermore, textbook companies are waking up now and publishing all sorts of business texts that are specifically for different industries.
Unless you are here on a student visa, you should consider investing in English classes with a private tutor, at least for a while. When you feel that you can go to the movie or supermarket without the stress of not being able to communicate, you can transfer to a class and start making friends. (Although, the truth is, I still go to lunch with a lot of my former students, who I consider to be my friends!)
Private English tutors are your biggest supporters! They want to see you succeed. I’m constantly putting myself out of a job because my students don’t need me anymore. That’s the way it works in our business. All the best to you in your adventure of learning English.
If you are in Houston and would like a private tutor, contact Worldwide English or call our office at (713) 993-6511.
In Houston, Texas there is a growing trend to offer English lessons in the workplace specifically for the labor force. This is a group that is almost always exclusively Latino here in the southwest. This type of “business English” is entirely different from going into a corporation to teach a group of business men and women about sending business e-mails and giving presentations in English. At present, Worldwide English has teachers in five different factories/plants at the beginning and end of work shifts. Some of the students do not read at all and have been in the USA for more than 20 years. Yet, they have managed to get along all these years without learning even the basics of English.
The ones that can learn enough English to communicate with those in management stand a good chance of gaining supervisory positions because they act as translators between the labor forces and the non-Spanish speaking managers. But with the increased safety regulations, OSHA, and the general desire to have all levels of the work force able to communicate in one central language, company owners in Houston are looking into and hiring English teachers to come into their companies and teach English classes.
You can imagine that teaching English to laborers requires an entirely different set of teaching skills. You need to be able to teach to people who don’t read at all mixed in with people who have developed habits of speaking English incorrectly for many years. They all come to the classes wanting something different because they speak English at very different levels. Usually, there are just enough workers in one company to fill a single class so teaching classes of different levels is not an option.
At Worldwide English in Houston, we have a strategy for teaching these types of classes that has proven successful. We divide each class into two parts. The first half of the lesson focuses on the type of English that is needed for that industry. We go in ahead of the first class and find out exactly what it is that the supervisors need to be able to say during the workday to the workers. We get a list of the vocabulary specific to their company and teach the words and phrases via dialogues that would be common to what they might say during their workday. We have created a set of dialogues that we can use plugging in the industry-specific English that they use. The second half of the class is spent on general English, just helping them to improve their English communication, practicing with the correct tenses and working with themes as you would in any standard ESL class. We don’t ask them to buy textbooks; rather we use their copiers for the lesson materials we bring and they are happy to allow us to do this.
In these classes, I’ve been asked to teach the decimal system, OSHA rules and guidelines, and how to report a workplace accident in English. In one class, I repeated over and over again what to do if someone in HR says, “Sign your name here.” In their jobs, they know what they are supposed to do. But if they would like make a change in the way their paycheck is delivered or if they have a question about their insurance, this can present an insurmountable problem.
Language is power. I applaud those company owners and managers who take the initiative to help the Latino workforce to learn English. And for the business English teachers out there, this is a great untapped opportunity! I encourage you to go for it by contacting local industries and offering your services.
Opening and Closing Statements in Business E-mails
In Part 4 of Writing Business E-mails in English, we will be looking at opening sentences and closing sentences. As I mentioned in the earlier posts, this will depend on the tone of your e-mail. Is it formal or informal? Do you know the person you are writing to? The answers to these questions will help you to know which sentences are the most appropriate to use.
You are writing to someone for the first time. You want to introduce yourself and your company. For this type of e-mail, you would always use a formal tone. You don’t need to state your name in the body of your e-mail. Your name will appear at the end of the e-mail in the signature line.
Incorrect: Hello, I am Patrick Smith from VRI Petroleum Company.
Correct: I am the sales manager for VRI Petroleum Company.
You are writing to request information:
Incorrect: What is your return policy?
Correct: I am writing to ask about your policy regarding returns.
You are writing to inquire about a job position:
Incorrect: Hello. I am interested in information about your company. Are there any jobs open?
Correct: I am interested in applying for a position in your company.
Remember in Part 3, I wrote about direct and indirect language. It’s not good to be too direct, even with someone that you know well. Let’s look at an example.
You are writing to someone that you already know. You are writing to request help with a project.
Incorrect: I want help with a project.
Correct: I am wondering if you could help me with a project.
You are writing to someone that you know to request more information.
Incorrect: I want to know the answers to these questions.
Correct: Could you send me the following information?
Let’s now look at formal and informal closing sentences. This would be the last sentence in your e-mail before the signature line. When you can, offer thanks for whatever it is that you are writing about. That is always a good way to close an e-mail. Even when you are writing about a problem, you can still offer “thanks” in the closing line such as:
- Thank you for your attention to this matter.
- Thank you for your prompt response to this issue.
- I appreciate your assistance with this matter.
- I look forward to hearing from you.
Let’s look at some formal and informal examples of closing statements.
You are inviting a co-worker to a meeting.
Formal: I appreciate your consideration of our request.
Informal: Hope to see you then.
You are requesting information from a client.
Formal: Thank you for helping us to complete our records.
You are requesting more information about a product.
Formal: I appreciate your kindness and support.
Informal: Thanks for your help.
You are writing an e-mail to someone to request an appointment.
Formal: I look forward to contacting you next week to set up an appointment.
Informal: I’ll be giving you a call next week to set something up.
In the next post, we will look at the body of the e-mail and “calls to action”. Be sure to give Worldwide English a call if you are a professional working in the Houston, Texas area.
Direct VS. Indirect Language
Let’s continue our study of writing business e-mails. There are two main styles when writing a business e-mail. One is formal and the other is informal. When writing a formal e-mail, your language will be more indirect. An informal e-mail contains language that is direct.
In the United States and Canada, most people use a business-like and polite tone that is fairly direct. The point or purpose is stated briefly, clearly and quickly.
Use direct language if:
- You are writing to a co-worker
- You are not making a special request
- You expect your request to be accepted
It’s okay to use very direct language if you are writing to your employee or someone who works for you.
Use indirect language if:
- You are writing to a customer, a stranger, or your boss
- You are trying to say something difficult or negative
Example: Very direct - This needs to be done today.
Less direct – Please do this today.
Indirect – We need this tomorrow, so I’d appreciate your getting it done as soon as possible.
1) Very direct – Send them to me right away.
Less direct – Please send them to me right away.
Indirect – I would appreciate it very much if you could send them to me right away.
2) Very direct – Let me know what you think.
Less direct – I would like to know what you think.
Indirect – I welcome your questions and comments.
3) Very direct – We do not have the item in stock.
Less direct - We are sorry that we do not have the item in stock.
Indirect – We regret to inform you that we do not currently have the item in stock.
4) Very direct – I’ll see you at the meeting.
Less direct – I look forward to seeing you at the meeting.
Indirect - It is with great pleasure that I look forward to seeing you at the meeting on Thursday.
In the next part, we will be looking at e-mail greetings and closures. Goodbye for now from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas.
Content, Tone and Style of E-mails
What is my purpose in writing this e-mail? Who is my reader? How much information should I include? These are all questions that you ask yourself when you sit down to write an e-mail. When you determine who you are writing the e-mail to, you are able to decide whether or not the “style” of your e-mail should be formal or informal and this will help you with the “tone” of your e-mail.
Remember that I stated in Part One of this series that people do not usually pay attention to long e-mails. They tend to read the first and second paragraphs carefully. If you have a lot of information that needs to be included, it’s better to put it into an attachment so that the reader will pay more attention to your content.
So let’s say that you are going to send a co-worker an e-mail about the delivery of an item that was ordered by an important client. And you are also going to send an e-mail to the client about the delivery of an item that they ordered from your company. Let’s look at the difference in the content, tone and style of two e-mails that have the same information.
To your co-worker:
Subject: Delivery of Seismic Equipment for SES
Here’s the update that you asked for. I just talked with the man at the transportation company in Louisiana and he said that they will be delivering the equipment later this afternoon, probably after 4 p.m. Will there be someone there to receive it? Just give me a call if you need any more info.
To your client at SES:
Subject: Delivery of Seismic Equipment
Dear Mr. Edwards,
As promised, I am writing to let you know about the delivery of the seismic equipment. The equipment is scheduled for delivery today after 4:00 p.m. to your warehouse in Louisiana. Please note that, according to our delivery instructions, an SES employee is required to be at the warehouse to receive the order.
If there is anything further that you need at this time, please do not hesitate to contact me. As always, it’s a pleasure to work with SES and we thank you for your business.
Although the first e-mail is much more casual in tone and style, I still use correct grammar and punctuation. These days people write e-mails from their cell phones and the grammar, punctuation and spelling is sometimes terrible. As someone from a foreign country, it’s important to always use the right grammar, spelling and punctuation whether or not you are sitting at a computer in your office or at the airport on your cell phone. Your use of incorrect grammar and poor punctuation is perceived differently than that of an American. Do you understand what I mean? I hope so.
Next time, we’ll continue to discuss formal vs. informal e-mails. Goodbye for now from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas.
“Globalization” has changed the way we do business in the world. A corporation’s employees may not live in many different countries and speak many different languages. Today, most of the international communication is in English and it’s important to communicate properly so that you will be understood and respected in your profession.
Hi Students! This is a series for English learners who would like to improve their business e-mails. In Part 1, let’s look at some general tips to help you when you are writing an e-mail.
· The subject line of your e-mail is important. E-mail is generally used for routine tasks (e.g. asking for information or setting up a meeting) Be sure to state clearly in the subject line what the main topic of the e-mail is. That way, when the recipient looks for your e-mail later, it will be easy to find.
Example: Request for clarification of Expense Report
· Always use a positive tone in your e-mails. E-mail can be easily misunderstood. They are often read very quickly. Be sure to take your time when writing a message. Use the right words and the right tone. If you have to write bad news, do it carefully!
Instead of : I am confused, use I have questions
I am upset, use I have concerns
There are problems, use There are issues
· Use the English sentences that you know are correct. Create a personal dictionary of phrases that you can use in your e-mails that are grammatically correct. Sometimes, when writing e-mails, the writer will start to translate directly from their language into English and many mistakes are made this way.
· Keep your e-mail brief. Most people only pay attention to the first few lines of the e-mail. If you need to write a longer message, put it into a document and send it that way. The recipient is more likely to read an attached document carefully.
· Proofread your e-mail before you send it. Ask yourself:
1. Is the main point clear?
2. Is the action that you want the recipient to take clear?
3. Would you be happy to receive this e-mail?
4. Make sure you have used capital letters, punctuation, spelling and basic grammar correctly. (Note: These days, people respond to e-mails from their cell phones and often, they don’t use correct grammar or punctuation. Because you are an English learner, you should always write correctly!)
· When you receive a reply from a native English speaker, pay close attention to the way the sender is writing. You can learn a lot from that.
· Be positive in your writing! Use words that are positive like helpful, activity, together, useful, productive, team, and tools. Avoid negative words like failure, hard, impossible, never, stupid and waste.
In Part 2, I will discuss writing formal vs. informal e-mails.
If you would like private Business English lessons in person in Houston, Texas or online anywhere in the world, contact us at http://englishlessons-houston.com
Do you have foreign workers in your warehouse or in the field that could benefit from knowing at least a little bit of English? This is English that they need to better understand directions, instructions and the vocabulary of your specific industry. Here in Houston, Texas there are many Hispanic workers that work in the oil and gas industry in the oil field and equipment divisions. Most of these workers (hopefully all documented!) do a good job and work hard. But they are limited because, out of a group, maybe one worker will know enough English to speak for the others. This particular worker will have the greatest chance of advancement to supervisor just because of his knowledge of English. And, the truth is, you really don’t know the intelligence capacity of the others because you cannot communicate with them!
This is not a convenient situation but it can be easily remedied with a few hours of English instruction by a qualified Business English teacher that is willing to come out and teach the workers before work, after work or during the lunch hour or, in some cases, deliver the lessons online.
Why Invest the Time and Money in English lessons for Foreign Workers?
You may have had the experience of a rapid turnover of workers who have come up from Mexico, Central and South America. One of the issues with these workers is, while their children are learning the language very quickly in American schools, they themselves are hard at work and don’t have the time to stop and take lessons. In the types of jobs they do, they are usually too exhausted or too busy to spend time learning English in their time off.
It’s a well-documented fact that workers who can communicate on the job feel more comfortable and will remain in that job longer if they experience the types of benefits that English lessons can offer to them. While learning English about their specific work area, they will also learn English to better adjust to life in the USA.
If a Hispanic laborer has a choice, do you think he will go to work for a company that offers weekly on-the-job English lessons, or one that does not?
We all know Hispanic workers who have been in the U.S. for more than ten years and can still speak only a few words. And let’s admit it, in their country, some of them did not have the opportunity to learn to read and write. They’ve been part of the work force since an early age.
Offering English classes to your workers shows them that you value what they do for your company and that you are willing to invest time and energy in seeing that they stay with the company.
English classes are not a big investment in money and are just a small investment in time. In the next post, we’ll look more closely at what a specialized English class can offer to your business.
If you’re interested in online or in-person classes, give us a call at Worldwide English (713) 953-6511 or visit our website at http://englishlessons-houston.com. We are based in Houston, Texas teaching English worldwide.
Copyright©2012 by The Worldwide English Company. All rights reserved
Studying for the TOEFL Part 1
In this post, I will tell you about six good TOEFL websites that you can visit and learn from for free!
Test Magic is one of the most popular TOEFL websites. One of the advantages of this website is that is allows practice for the TOEFL essay. Not all websites offer this. You can go to their Essay section and read hundreds of essays that were posted by students that received a score of 5.0, 5.5, or a perfect score of 6.0
Unfortunately, they no longer offer free scoring of essays. But if you are concerned about preparing for the TOEFL essay, this is the site for you!
Another free website is Learn4Good. This is a good site for students from other countries. There is information about the TOEFL in other languages besides English and there is a very good list of places to take the TOEFL test in locations around the world. This site includes 11 short tests and some very good tips for writing the TOEFL essay.
Exam English is another free site for the TOEFL. In my opinion, this site is not as good as the others, but you can register for the actual TOEFL test here and there are some very good tips and advice for taking the test. There are several good practice tests that are created using the TOEFL test format.
TOEFL IBT Course has a lot of information and also offers translation to students in other languages. On this site, there are a few practice tests and also TOEFL practice kits that they are selling for $5.00 each. I have never looked at the kits so I am not sure if they are good or not, but $5 isn’t a lot of money, so you might want to try one.
ESL Lab has a section on TOEFL listening exercises that you might want to check out. This is one of the most popular ESL websites – lots of great listening practice! When you get to the website, go down to Listening Quizzes for Academic Purposes.
I wish you good luck when you take your TOEFL test. Be sure to get lots of sleep the night before and have a good breakfast!
I’ll be back with other tips for the TOEFL in the next post!
Copyright©2012 by The Worldwide English Company. All rights reserved.
Hello to everyone from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas, USA. Tommy from Poland recently wrote me about the series on Listening Tips. He asked if I had any more suggestions for movies and TV series for ESL/EFL students. I thought about that and in this post, I will make some suggestions for several American TV series that might be good for ESL/EFL students. These programs feature actors that speak more slowly and are easier to understand.
One of my students said that he likes to watch Monk. This series is about a detective that suffers from OCD – obsessive/compulsive disorder. So at times, the show is quite funny.
In another post, I recommended Desperate Housewives and I still think that this one is a good choice. The content is not great but it’s easy to understand. (No, American housewives are not like this at all!)
Lastly, I like Good Luck Charlie on the Disney Channel. It’s cute and easy to understand.
Did you know that you can download TV scripts to read while you are watching some of these TV programs? Many of the scripts to the TV shows are located on the internet. http://artofprogramming.net is one but there are several.
I hope that these suggestions for TV shows will help you when you are choosing American television programs. Happy watching!
Copyright©2012 by The Worldwide English Company. All rights reserved.
English Lessons – Tips for Listening Part 6
Hello to everyone from Worldwide English in Houston, Texas, USA. This is Part 6 of our series of tips for ESL/EFL students to help you improve your listening skills.
My first recommendation is a website called Listen-to-English. The podcasts on this site will help you to improve your English vocabulary and pronunciation and your listening skills. They are quite short (5 or 6 minutes) and delivered in clearly spoken English. You can download the podcasts to your computer, or subscribe using iTunes or Yahoo, or listen to them by clicking the Flash player on the web page at the top of each episode. The speaker speaks very slowly, so it’s good for advanced beginners and low intermediate ESL students.
Connect with English from Learner.org is a video instructional series in English as a second language for college and high school classrooms and adult learners; 50 fifteen-minute video programs and coordinated books. They speak with different English accents to give ESL students a chance to practice listening to different types of English speakers.
Here’s our last recommendation – ESL.about.com On this website, there are short listening exercises with multiple choice questions to check your listening comprehension and understanding. There are also comprehension quizzes for listening skill improvement for beginner, intermediate and advanced ESL EFL English levels. There are lots of topics and you can choose exercises from your own level.
I hope that this series of Listening Tips for ESL Students has given you some good ideas for places to go to improve your listening skills. This is the final part of this series and we will begin a new series next time. Happy listening!
Copyright©2012 by The Worldwide English Company. All rights reserved.