Changes to UK Student Immigration

This April, legislation was introduced and passed for the UK student visa process. The legislation, which will affects international students planning to studying in the UK, will be implemented in three phases.

The first phase went into effect on April 21st 2011 and changed the minimum accepted English proficiency level accepted by the UK Border Agency (UKBA). At the same time, the UKBA released new standards of acceptance for the PTE Academic exam and also indicated that private educational institutions themselves will face greater scrutiny in their international student enrollment process.

More recently, the second phase of legislation, effective July 4th 2011, will affect Tier 4 visa holders and their families in a number of ways. For example, beginning in July, proof of financial solvency (maintenance) for Tier 4 application will include a formal declaration at the application stage that maintenance funds are genuinely available for use by the student while studying in the UK. At the same time, students from certain “low risk” countries who are accepted by an a educational institution designated a “Highly Trusted Sponsor” may not need to provide further evidence of their maintenance requirement, as their initial educational program application will serve as formal verification of their solvency.

Moreover, the new rules indicate that a Tier 4 student visa will only be issued to applicants who are applying for admission to a program that represents academic progress from a previously undertaken course of study. Thus, students who are applying to review a course or resit an examination with need their Tier 4 sponsor organization to confirm that the course complements or enhances your previous study.
Finally, Tier 4 visa holders are now eligible to work only if they are enrolled at a college, university, or other higher education institution. Moreover, Tie4 4 visa holders can bring dependents with them to the UK only if they are enrolled

  • in general postgraduate program at a college or university that lasts 12 months or longer, or
  • are in a Government-sponsored program that lasts 6 months or longer.

All that having been said, it is important to remember that these new policies effect applications filed on or after July 4th,2011 and will not impose any additional restrictions or conditions on existing Tier 4 students.

If you are interested in an ESL program in the UK, check out ESL Directory for more information.


English Slang Words

Likely similar to your experience with your native language, English speakers around the world use a great number of slang words (or, words that are informal and casual) in their everyday language. English slang varies geographically and can be found in casual conversation or even in Hollywood movies.

Because of this, American slang is most globally understood more than any other English speaking country due to the mass media this country produces. However, this is not to say that countries like the United Kingdom don’t have their own unique slang words. Indeed, if you wander the streets of Birmingham or York saying “howdy” to everyone you meet, you’ll seem quite out of place.

If you’ve just moved to the United Kingdom to learn English, you should be familiar with some of the words that you might not understand if you’ve learned your English in a formal setting.

For starters, the word “mate” is used for a man or woman and is common to all ages. “Mate” is also commonly used in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. The origin of this word is usually related to sailing ships in the nineteenth century; think “first mate” or “gunner’s mate.” It’s almost universally acceptable, as long as you’re on friendly terms with the person you’re speaking with.

“Pal” is another slang word from the UK meaning friend. It’s most commonly used in the North of England and Scotland as well. Another slang, “Chap”, can also be used to refer to a friend, but is a bit more old fashion.

Slang words can also be used to describe a moment. For example, in England, the term “cracker” means “great” or “wonderful” and is derived from firecracker. You can also use the word “brilliant” or “class” which can be used interchangeably.

There are many more interesting English slang words out there. A great source for learning new UK slangs is peevish.co.uk. Please remember that not all slang words are as inoffensive and innocent as the ones mentioned here. Before trying to incorporate English slangs into your everyday vocabulary, be sure to understand the word or phrase fully to ensure that you use the phrase as it was intended (as well as how you want it to be understood).


Motivation and Language

A recent study conducted by scientists showed that neither age nor language proficiency predicted how quickly Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S. learned English. Instead, the immigrants who learned the fastest showed both the greatest motivation to learn and a willingness to use English at every opportunity despite being not very good at it at first, according to a report recently published on MSNBC.com.
To better understand how the brain changes in response to language learning, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle Lee Osterhout held a lab that used electrodes placed on the scalps of language learners and fluent speakers to measure the electrical activity created by the signals of brain cells. This allowed researchers to examine differences in brain patterns between the two groups who were tested. Surprising results were reached from their studies.
Repeated studies of French language students showed that their brains responded differently to real French words in comparison to fake words even if the students themselves were not able to tell the words apart. This was determined after just two weeks of classes. After 32 weeks of instructions, the brain patterns of the students were almost indistinguishable from native French speakers, Osterhout said during a panel that was part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and also reported on MSNBC.com. The report said Osterhout hopes to tease out the importance of motivation in language learning in future research, and he wants to get a better sense of what separates the proficient language speakers from the truly fluent ones.
The article also explained that U.S. government agencies have been forced to learn how to cultivate the most talented second-language speakers among college students with little to no other-language expertise, since there is a lack in students who are fluent in French and/or Spanish when they graduate college.


Exchange Rates for ESL Students

If you plan on leaving your home country to learn English, one important subject that you’ll want to become an expert on is exchange rates. In other words, how much is your home currency worth compared to your host country’s currency?

You might have asked yourself what this has to do with your upcoming trip to an ESL school. It’s relatively simple: if the value of your home currency increases (or appreciates) in value again your host country, you will have more money to spend while you are there.

There is a big exception to this, though.

If you’ve already exchanged all of your money in the beginning of your trip, you will not reap the benefit of the exchange rate fluctuations unless you’ll be exchanging your money back to your home currency. So in effect, you may be able to reap the benefits of such a change and literally increase the amount of money you have.

With all things good, there may also be risks involved. In this case, the opposite is true if your home currency loses value versus the value of the currency of your host country.

We’ll use Australia and Japan as an example. If Australian Dollars lose value compared with Japanese Yen, a Japanese ESL student would have less money in Yen when they attempt to change their currency back to their home currency. Even though our Japanese student would be exchanging the same currencies as they did initially, they’re now losing money in real terms on this transaction.

To avoid impacting your wallet too heavily one way or another, you should consider keeping a reserve of your home country’s currency which you haven’t exchanged for the currency of your host country. Just like stocks or other securities, it is ideal to “buy” currency when the price is low, and “sell” when the value is higher. World exchange rates have been relatively stable historically, but international exchange rates do fluctuate, and you can gain or lose money based on exchanging currencies alone.