Inclusion, Not Exclusion, May Be Key to ESL Success

teacher standing chalkboard80377173A new set of best practices has the potential to change the way non-native English speakers are taught. Indeed, while the common consensus among educators has long been that non-native English speakers need to be in separate classes to excel, a new breed of administrators in both the United States and United Kingdom have helped their students to achieve unparalleled ESL success by turning this received wisdom on its head.

Trying Something Else

While non-native English speakers have traditionally struggled in “mainstream” (English-only) classes and tend to get stuck in an endless loop of language remediation at the expense of other disciplines, this new approach comes at the problem from another angle. Though no single educational school of thought can is responsible for this trend, a growing number of schools are placing students who arrive with little or no English in intensive language sessions for as little time as possible before placing them full-time in what are known as “mainstream” (English-only) classes. During the English remediation the core curriculum is still covered and in mainstream classes peer-instruction is maximized. This last tenet is predicated on the belief that students can best learn from their peers – in the words of one teacher, “advanced speakers of English will be able to explain things to somebody who is less advanced” – and best progress through inclusive learning.

The Results

Though no formal studies have yet been conducted, anecdotal evidence from schools around the world would appear to indicate that this approach is working. In the UK, for example, non-native students who participate in this kind of model actually outperform their native English-speaking peers. According to the UK Department for Education, for example, while 22.5% of 16-year-old students whose first language is English achieved passing marks in English, math, science, and other core subjects, fully 24.4% of English as a Second Language students did.

Not a Moment Too Soon

Such conclusions will doubtless be of interest to teachers and administrators in the US and UK. After all, ESL students now represent more than 10% of the student body on both sides of the Atlantic.

Are you learning English and are looking to find the best way to do so? Check out our top 10 tips on how you can learn English.

Everyday mistakes happen every day!

presenter guy 90367946Sometimes it is not even a spelling difference that causes a word to change meaning. Take, by way of example, the confusion created by “everyday” and its look-alike cousin “every day.” The difference between every day and everyday is not so much what is there but rather what is not there: the space! Such seeming insignificance conceals an important difference that is all too often made by both native and non-native students.  As it is, it is hard to know who is bothered more by this pair: the students making the mistake or the English teachers who have to correct it!

Fortunately, we are pleased to report that, despite its reputation for being one of the most confusing parts of English grammar, this is something you can clear up on your own in no time. After all, one word or two, though they are pronounced the same way (although with a small pause between the two words in every day), they do mean quite different things and every appear in different parts of the sentence!

What Does Everyday Mean?

Everyday (one word) is an adjective that means “routine, common, ordinary.” As an adjective, it appears before the noun it describes (in much the same way as the adjective “fast” comes before the noun “man” in the sentence “the fast man was hard to catch.”)

What Does Every Day Mean?

Every day (two words), meanwhile, is a combination of the adjective “every” and the noun “day“ and as a result has the same meaning as “each day.” Thus it usually appears at the end of a sentence to add emphasis. For example, “we study English every day” tells us not only who studies (we) but how often (every [each] day).

Every Day versus Everyday

Finally, to keep it straight, consider our example sentence: “it is an everyday occurrence that it occurs every day.” You can translate this as “it is a common occurrence that occurs each day” and if you do you will be well on your way to using them correctly (especially if you practice every day)!

Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.

Pearson and Busuu partnership to change the face of English testing

online education179151975The Announcement

Two of the largest players in English education have  joined forces in a partnership that destined to change the face of English proficiency exams as we know them. Once the preserve of institutions and exam centers, one of the industry’s biggest players is turning to social media to help deliver the first in a new breed of English language assessments. Pearson English, a division of Pearson – itself well-known as the world’s largest learning company – has signed an exclusive cooperative agreement with Busuu, the world’s largest social network for language learning. Together the two companies hope to leverage their unique strengths – Busuu’s in educational social media and Peason’s in assessments – in order to help English learners more accurately measure their language learning.

The Terms

As a result of the Pearson and Busuu partnership, Busuu will be the first online social media company to have access to Pearson English’s new online proficiency assessment, gSET. In fact, more than that, Busuu will be the first company of any kind to employ the new test. The gSET is uniquely suited to a user-administered approach because it was developed by Pearson English to provide a comprehensive “Global Scale of English” score that measures the core components of language learning – reading, writing, speaking, and listening. The exam is designed to measure performance on an on-going basis using a consistent, nuanced scale. According to Pearson, the results of the exam are much more detailed than anything else on the market and should enable students to measure their progress over time in a much more meaningful way.

Getting Started

The test, which will be available exclusive on Busuu for a four month period beginning in the summer of 2014, will be fully integrated into all Busuu courses and made available to all of Busuu’s 40 million users (paying subscribers will have free Access while free users will need top ay a nominal fee).

>> Want to learn more about English language exams? Check out more on our resources section.

Comparing TOEFL and TOEIC scores

concentration154216896The TEOFL and the TOEIC are practically synonymous with English as a Second Language proficiency and it is no wonder. Despite their common applications and origins – both are developed, administered, and offered by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service at hundred testing centers around the world every year – they are nevertheless hardly synonymous with each other. Although there are other differences, one of the most galling is the fact that the TOEFL (or as it is more formally known, the Test Of English as a Foreign Language) and the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) use fundamentally different grading scales to evaluate their students. Thus the manner in which ESL tests can be compared can seem daunting. Looks can be deceiving, however, and a closer examination of the standards that underpin the two exams makes English exam comparison relatively easy.

Although aligning to two exams to one another would be problematic, the fact that both exams are tied to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEF) and its six benchmark levels of language proficiency means that the two exams can be compared to one another through this common medium. The following table does exactly that by comparing TOEFL and TOEIC scores:

toefl and toeic

Better still, and with the knowledge that the two exams are each comprised of four distinct parts designed to measure proficiency in Listening, Reading, Speaking, and Writing, individual section scores can themselves be aligned to the CEF benchmark levels. Thus even these subsections of the two ESL tests can be compared.


That’s “E”nough of That!

Colorful font letter E460870025As many native and non-native speakers alike can attest, the letter “e” lies at the heart of many commonly confused words in English. Worse still, as the single most common letter in the language, there is no shortage of examples available to prove this! Fortunately for you, we here at ESL Directory have what it takes to help you keep things straight. Consider the following examples:

Elicit / Illicit

Elicit and illicit are often confused for one another but, in truth, it does not take much to tell them apart. Along with the obvious spelling differences come differences in part of speech, meaning, and even pronunciation. Elicit, with the e, is a verb meaning “to draw out” and that “e” at the front is pronounced the same way as the “e” in “egg.” By contrast, illicit is an adjective used to describe illegal and forbidden things whose first syllable sounds exactly like it looks – “ill” as in sickness. To help remember the difference, try this memory trick: “The educated executives elicited a lot of questions about their illegal immigration.”

Eminent / Imminent

Unlike elicit and illicit, eminent and imminent do sound the same (the first syllable of both is pronounced the same way as the first syllable in emergency) and both are adjectives but from here they go their separate ways. That is because eminent means “prominent, famous” while imminent means “soon to occur” or “about to happen.” A handy way to remember this is to remember this key phrase: “The arrival of the eminent scientist was imminent.”*

* Added bonus to help you remember: all of the words that begin with vowels in this sentence (arrival, eminent, imminent) are in order.

Envelop / Envelope

This pair is a great example of how much of a problem “e” can be! After all, not only to envelop and envelope both begin with the that troublemaking letter but it is only that letter which differentiates them. Unfortunately, in this case a single letter changes everything. While envelop is a verb meaning “to surround,” envelope is the name (noun) given to containers for letters and bills. While they should be pretty easy to tell apart, to say them correctly try to make the last part of envelop rhyme with “hop” and the last part of envelope rhyme with “hope.”

Is that not “e”nough of that? Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.