The Desperadoes & the 100 hour rule.

When students apply to English4Professionals, they are usually one of two types:
a) Those who are panicking about their IELTS test at the end of next week and want emergency help at short notice; &
b) Those who want to book a properly planned personal programme of learning.

The Desperadoes

Those who have left everything to the last moment are a thankless bunch to work with, and a group with whom we cannot win. If we take their money, they believe that we have some magical quality… and so they do not do any work! Then they fail and blame us…

Usually, these students will take the IELTS test 4, 5 or 6 times before they realise that they need to have a properly planned programme. The desperate dash simply does’t work.

Those who ask us for a properly planned programme of professional learning usually prepare well and pass. It is as simple as that.

Quality not Quantity

Or not quite. The first question posed by those planning an IELTS preparation course is “How many lessons do I need?”

Apparently, ‘it is generally accepted that approximately 200 hours of study are required to improve by one band-score’ in the IELTS test (1). Success however depends not on the quantity but on the quality of teaching you receive.

If you go to a small professional English language school – like E4P – you will get intensive, focussed teaching from professional teachers, working on your personal language needs. And you won’t need to pay for 200 hours to achieve your goal.

On the other hand, at one of the big language schools, you will be told to book 200 hours and this will probably include 10 weeks of classes (Monday to Friday), with 3 hours of teaching and 1 hour of homework per day. That sounds good, doesn’t it?

But, what does this actually mean? You will get:
– At least 12 in a class, so you get less than 1/12th of the teacher’s attention,
– Generalised lessons rather than a course tailored to your personal language needs; &
– A class full of students from your country who refuse to speak English to you!

In addition, just think how long it takes for 12 people to enter a classroom, settle down, organise themselves and get ready to learn. How long for the teacher to take a register, pass out the books and give comments on everybody’s homework? All this is before they start teaching and you start learning.

The amount of time spent meeting your learning needs in each hour is very small and, consequently, the results such classes achieve are pretty poor.

A False Economy

Many people prefer to travel Economy and save money. Why not? You get to your destination at the same time as First and Business class passengers, after all.

But learning English is not the same as airline travel. As a rule, if you pay for cheap courses in large classes, you will end up learning more Spanglish than English.

You may have spent less on this class, but it will take you longer and be less effective. In short, it is a false economy.

The 100 Hour Rule

E4P students are assessed when they enrol, so that we can tell you how we will meet your needs in the time available. (If you are a desperado, prepare to be disappointed.)

If you need to make that 1 grade band jump, it will take a maximum of 100 hours of hard work – in the classroom (75%) and as homework (25%). It takes less time because we are full-time, multiply-qualified, native-speaker professional English teachers… and we focus 100% of every lesson on you.

Whether you choose to do these classes over 5 weeks or 5 months, the cost is the same. And so will be the outcome. Just don’t ask us to produce magic for you in under 5 days!

(1) ‘Culture Shock of New Campus Life’; Guardian Weekly; 13-19th April 2000.

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The BDSM Approach to English

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Don’t do The White Rabbit Run!

ImageToday, we have had three people contact us – asking for intensive support because they have exams coming-up in the next two weeks and need help.

Urgently! Please!

Does this sound familiar? Are you a White Rabbit, too?

In Lewis Carroll’s fable ‘Alice in Wonderland’, the White Rabbit is always late, always stressed, always in a hurry. Not a good way to prepare for your exams.

If you are preparing for an exam, extra tuition – from E4P, for example – can make a really decisive impact on your chances of success, but you have to give us a realistic chance to prepare.

We can help, but we need you to think ahead.

If you know when your exam is going to take place, please contact us at least a month beforehand. At least a month: two would be better.

Think about dedicating a set number of hours per day – and days per week – to your studies.

Make sure that you have a quiet space where you can study, and the funds available to pay for your classes.

Ask yourself: “How much is this exam worth to me?” Serious qualifications are very valuable, so it is worth getting your preparation right, so you are well-taught and well-prepared well in advance.

Better to take the time to plan and prepare…

Or would you rather do The White Rabbit Run?


E4P is always happy to help serious students prepare for professional exams. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.

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Why is English so Difficult?

To find the answer, read the HELLO English blog.

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What Price Professional English?

Just what constitutes a good level of professional English? This is a question which must perplex those seeking to improve their communication skills – whether on an individual or on a corporate basis.

There are many definitions combining relevant vocabulary with the four key skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking, but the most important goal for the international professional is excellent communication.

In The Economist’s 2012 Global English survey, 97% of global business executives said poor communication had led to misunderstandings in the past year and 83% had seen harmful business outcomes as a result of language misunderstandings.

A recent BBC report by Kate McGeown announced that the Philippines is becoming a destination of choice for English language learners and it markets itself as the world’s third largest English speaking nation. But ‘studying in the Philippines is not for the faint-hearted’ she writes.  Quite apart from the bureaucracy, corruption and pollution, there is the problem of Taglish.

Taglish – a corruption of English and the native language of Tagalog – is used by most English speakers in the Philippines, and it leads to serious communication problems. Signs are misspelled, usage is often uniquely Filipino and communication breaks down as a consequence.

So, why do people go to Manila to learn English? The answer is that it costs less to go to language school there than to the UK or the US, and this is attractive to some in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

But this is a false economy, as students will often have to pay again to learn English properly if they wish to gain a license to practice their professions in the United Kingdom or the United States.

There are, according to the British Council, over 1.5 billion learners of English around the world. Most are children who learn English because they have to, whether they like it or not. But many are adult learners who are learning for business or pleasure.

For those who are learning English for professional purposes, some want to use their language in order to work and settle in the US or UK, while by far the majority know that improving their English will have great benefits for them in the wider international business community. All of them know that they need to improve if they are to succeed.

Professionals wishing to work in the UK are required by their authorising bodies – the General Medical Council, the Law Society, the General Teaching Council or the Bar Council – to achieve an advanced level of English before they can practice and progress in their professions. This is right and proper, but it is not easy.

However, the rewards are high. Salaries for those with excellent English are consistently reported to be higher than for those without, as are job satisfaction and social rewards, such as conversational and social success.

At a corporate level, companies who invest in Professional English language development, in order to meet the needs of the globalising marketplace, see substantial organisational and bottom-line benefits.

What price professional English? As you can see, good professional and business English is, if not quite priceless, utterly invaluable to the ambitious professional.

At E4P,  there are no false economies (and no Taglish), just high-quality professional English language learning: 1-to-1 personalised programmes designed to meet the needs of the international English language learner.

We are dedicated to improving your English language communication and helping you to achieve success.

Talk to us today about The E4P Advantage – the personal and professional benefits that come from improving your proficiency in English.

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God save the Queen’s English

When it comes to speaking English, it’s the Queen who has the last word.

Since the time of Queen Elizabeth I, the “Queen’s English” has been recognised as the authoritative and most easily understood form of the language.  In its spoken form, the Queen’s English uses Received Pronunciation (RP), the instantly recognisable clear, clipped accent that is often described as ‘typically British’.  RP is used for the phonemic transcriptions in dictionaries, and has traditionally been used as the gold standard for teaching English as a foreign language.

Many of our students come from overseas with commendable qualifications in English.  Using the language when they are here in England can be quite a challenge, however.  One of the most common difficulties that they face outside the classroom is understanding the English that they hear spoken in a range of everyday situations.  Native speakers tend to speak quickly, indistinctly, and using a variety of words and sounds that seem very unfamiliar.  Added to which, most English cities nowadays host a bewildering diversity of accents, most of which are decidedly non-RP.

In particular we have seen a growth in the use of so-called Estuary English – a form of English widely spoken in London and South-East England, especially along the River Thames and its estuary.  Variants of Estuary English are used by many high-profile people in business, sports, the arts and media, and it has been widely adopted as the modern language of the younger generation.

The pronunciation of Estuary English has a number of key characteristics that make it very distinct from RP, and at the same time harder to understand for the untrained ear of the non-native English speaker.  Students of English take note: acoustic analysis and observation have shown that even the Queen, whose unmistakeable cut-glass accent has always been such a wonderful embodiment of RP, now speaks English with an Estuary twang (the Queen’s Estuary English).

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Trust me, I’m a professional…

Today saw the publication of a recent Which? consumer survey, ranking different professions by the amount of trust they engender amongst the general public.  No great surprise to find the top three slots occupied by nurses, doctors and teachers, with bankers, journalists and politicians scrabbling for the bottom three places.

The financial crisis beginning in 2008 and events that have surfaced in its  wake (bankers’ bonuses and the LIBOR scandal for starters), have meant that banking has become an uncomfortable sector to work in.  The word ‘banker’ has become widely accepted as a term of abuse and the former stereotype of banking as a respectable, if somewhat staid, occupation has been replaced by associations of reckless greed, corruption and exploitation.

The key issue that this survey has raised is, of course, the role of trust in professional life.  Over time the list of what constitutes a profession has grown exponentially;  no longer the preserve of divinity, law and medicine, all manner of occupations nowadays badge themselves with professional status, often evidenced by mastery of a specialised body of knowledge and with their conduct regulated by a recognised professional body empowered by statute.  In other words, pass the exams, pay the joining fee and you’re in the club.

What this of course brings home is that being able to call yourself a professional is one thing, but behaving like one is something else entirely.  When we use ‘professional’ as a descriptor, our skills, expertise and the quality of our work are only part of the story, and more important is to follow the implicit code of behaviour that the title confers.

The global marketplace abounds with people offering themselves as professionals in their particular field.  Perhaps the word has become too commonplace as a way of advertising competence, when it is how we conduct ourselves that earns us respect and trust.

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