Tips for Learning English

Tips for Learning English

English is a useful tool that can help you open doors and create opportunities for yourself. This is why many people—estimates go up to as much as one billion people around the world, in fact—choose to learn English as an additional language. Whether you are a student learning English in an English speaking country such as Canada, or you are learning English in a foreign-language environment, you will run into challenges along the way. Here at ECSL, we firmly believe that with the right strategies and tools, you can learn English successfully and create opportunities that will change your life.

Here are five pieces of advice that you can follow during your English journey that will help you learn English more efficiently and intelligently.

1.       Set clear, measurable, timely goals for yourself—You may want to get a better job in your home country, work abroad in an English-speaking country, immigrate to an English-speaking country, or complete your post-secondary studies in English. Perhaps you want to travel comfortably or build relationships with people from other countries. Whatever your goals are, it is important to divide your goal into smaller steps that are easy to measure. Make sure that you allow yourself enough time to make a plan, work towards the goal, attain it, and measure your success. Also, make sure that you give yourself realistic time frames to meet your goals. It takes a lot longer than six months to "speak English fluently," so that goal should be broken up into smaller goals and spread out over a long period of time. Also, put up visual reminders of your goals in your living space to remind yourself of what you are trying to do when times get tough, you get tired, or you lose your focus.

2.       Do the work (and we mean REALLY do the work)—Oftentimes, students of English underestimate how much time and energy they will need to spend learning English. But you need to stay focused on what you are trying to achieve and do the long, hard work that is required to get there. This means challenging yourself at school and outside of school to use English as much as possible and in as many different contexts as you can manage. The harder you work, the better you will be at reaching your goals—it's a simple formula.

3.       Figure out what your weaknesses and repeated mistakes are—It isn't easy to figure out what you need to work on. That's why taking English classes can be very helpful; you will have a teacher who can help you through the process of discovering what you should focus you energy on when you are making a learning plan. You have to really listen to and pay attention to yourself, which is not easy! Having a teacher and classmates for this process is really helpful, but then you must go back to #2 and do the hard work of practicing in order to improve in your weak areas and identify your "favourite" mistakes.

4.       Set up a schedule or work plan for yourself—Students sometimes set goals for themselves and think of what kinds of work they will need to do to target their weakness but then forget to plan out how they are going to work on those areas. It is important to schedule your day in a way that will build habits. For instance, a student who really struggles with listening practice can watch YouTube videos in English every day from 9:00pm to 9:30pm. This is a great way to make practicing a habit.

5.       Be healthy and have fun while you learn—This is the final and most important piece of advice. If you are going to learn effectively, you will need to take good care of yourself and balance your language learning with your personal life. Be sure to eat well, exercise, and sleep enough. Also, it is crucial to enjoy your life and do activities you enjoy while you are learning English. Stress will affect your learning negatively, so be sure to relieve it by doing activities that you enjoy and that help you relax and have fun. And interestingly, doing hobbies where you are using English can really help you learn. Some of the students with the best English are ones who watch a lot of English TV and movies, like to read books in English, take lessons (music, dance, etc.) in English, or play video games where they have to type and speak in English.

If you follow this advice, it will definitely help you to learn English or any other language you want to learn. Good luck on your journey!

Posted in ECSL Blog


Challenges and Rewards

Challenges and Rewards

Do you ever feel that there are not enough hours in the day? Do you feel that everything on your to-do list is really important but you never seem to cross anything off? If you never feel like this, congratulations – you probably don't run your own business! If you do feel like this, how do you focus on the important things? I have found that taking time every day to look at my list and really think about what items are important to, and have the most impact on, our students, agents, staff, and partners, helps keep me focussed. One of my important tasks is to meet agents as often as I can.

It is sometimes more challenging to be calm and focussed when I am preparing for a trip as there seems to be a thousand things to do before I go away and then there is a lot of catch-up when I return. However, meeting agents face-to-face is very valuable and very rewarding. It's one of the most favourite parts of my job! Because of the nature of our long-distance work, much of our communication these days takes place by email or on Skype. These are certainly great ways to keep in touch but nothing is more fruitful than a personal conversation. It's amazing what you can accomplish in a 25-minute meeting or over coffee or lunch at an ICEF event!

As I prepare to attend ICEF Vancouver this weekend, I have been reflecting on how many agent events I have attended over the years and how many agents I have met. It is a lot! Once again, I am looking forward to spending a few days with agents that we have met before, and some we have worked with for many years, and to meeting new agents. I know that many of the agents attending ICEF run their own businesses so I know that their lives are just as challenging as mine as they try to prepare for the event and then deal with all the follow up when they return to their offices. For me, one of the best things is knowing that there is an amazing team running East Coast School of Languages in my absence. In fact, they usually don't miss me at all!


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Overcoming and Compensating for Language Barriers

Overcoming and Compensating for Language Barriers

Learning English and completing your English language test at your nearest IELTS Test Centre was your first step to enhancing English writing, speaking, and comprehension skills. Even after successfully passing your tests, there can still be language barriers you’ll need to overcome both in work environments and social settings.
Learning how to adapt to these types of situations requires applying different strategies to ensure everyone can communicate clearly and understand each other including:

Have Patience – You can’t expect communications to proceed as quickly as it would if were speaking to someone in your native language. Overcoming language barriers and avoiding them takes time.

Seek Clarification – Never assume you or others understand what was said. It’s acceptable to ask politely for someone to clarify what they said.

When Speaking, Speak Clearly and Slowly – To avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications, slow down, and take your time to enunciate clearly every word.

Avoid Using Jargon and Slang Terms – Not everyone will understand different types of jargon and slang terms correctly. If you use these phrases, it can lead to improper usage, causing misunderstandings between people. Instead, stick with common words and terminology. If you must use a jargon or slang term, make sure to explain its meaning.

Restate Your Understanding – Take the time to ask open-ended questions of others to verify they understood what you said. If you were the listener, you can also use open-ended questions to confirm you have a clear understanding. For instance, instead of saying, “Are we clear?” ask the other person, “What is your understanding of….?” In cases where you are confirming your understanding, start off with, “What I heard you say was…”.

Be Precise – Your definition of some words and what they mean can vary from someone else. It’s important to be as precise as you can to avoid miscommunications. For example, the word “shortly” can mean different time frames depending on the individual. To you, it might mean the same day, while for someone else it could mean within a few days or even a week.

Use Different Forms of Communications – To further clarify what was spoken, follow up with an email or text message highlighting specific points.

Take Time to Provide Definitions – For more complex terms and words, it helps to provide a general definition to ensure your meaning of the terms is perceived correctly.

Be Aware of Different Words with Similar Meanings – English words can have multiple meanings, which will change on how they are used, such as to, two, and too.

Be Aware of Differences between UK, Canadian, and US English – While all of these countries speak English, there are differences in meanings for certain words, as well as variations in accents and dialects. For instance, the sporting term “football” typically means soccer in the UK, while in Canada and the US could imply a completely different sport.

By utilizing these tips and remembering to use them, you can help avoid misunderstandings and overcome language barriers. For more tips and tools you can use to improve your English or for help prepare for your IELTS exam, explore our website and other blog posts. To locate your nearest IELTS Test Centre, use our “Find an IELTS Test Location” feature or click on the map below.

- See more at:

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Dana Melli: From Refugee to ECSL Valedictorian

Dana Melli: From Refugee to ECSL Valedictorian

On March 24th, ECSL held a graduation ceremony for our University and College Pathway students. These students have now graduated from our highest level and are soon starting their university studies full-time. We are so proud of these students!

One student who stood out during this ceremony was the valedictorian, Dana Melli. Dana is a Syrian refugee who came to Canada last year with her family from Damascus, Syria, via Jordan. Dana's parents and sister were also at the ceremony showing great pride in her achievements. Dana began her studies at ECSL last April on a scholarship offered to her as a refugee. She began in our level 200 and over the course of a year worked her way through our University and College Pathway Program to graduate with an acceptance to Dalhousie University. Dana worked very hard during her time at ECSL, accomplishing her goal to learn English and gain a foundation for success in her university studies. Her valedictorian speech was thankful of those around her, including her classmates, teachers, and family, but it also radiated with a pride in herself.

We are so happy to see Dana enjoying her new life in Canada and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes her way!

For more on the Melli family's story, please read this article from The Coast.

Posted in ECSL Blog


UCP 450 Campus Tours

UCP 450 Campus Tours

On Thursday, March 9, our UCP 450 students attended campus tours at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). The students who attended these tours will be beginning their part-time university studies in May and were very excited to have the opportunity to be on campus for the first time! The campus tours take place near the end of every term for the UCP 450 students; they are an excellent opportunity for our university-bound students to see and learn about the campus that they will soon be attending.  The students learn very practical information, such as where to pay their fees, how to obtain a parking pass, what the classrooms and labs look like, and the differences of the residence options. Additionally, students get the opportunity to experience the 'culture' of the campus. Since students will be investing both a significant amount of time and money to furthering their educational and professional goals, being on campus and experiencing the culture are an important part of confirming that they made the right decision.

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IELTS Reading Tips

IELTS Reading Tips

IELTS Tips: Advice for the Reading Section

The articles are too long. The vocabulary is too difficult. There is not enough time. The test taker beside me is reading out loud and the lady in front of me is tapping her foot. These are just some of the comments that I have heard from recent test takers in regards to the Reading Section. Here are some tips and advice on how to handle the IELTS Reading Section.

1) Use clear penmanship - I know this does not seem important but it is crucial. If the marker cannot read you answer (even one letter), it will be wrong. Answers can be submitted in either print or cursive but make sure they are neat and clear. Good time management skills can ensure that you use your best handwriting. I have seen many test takers rushing to fill in their answers which usually leads to poor handwriting.

*Tip - Proofread at the end, focusing on the legibility of your answers.

2) Watch your spelling and grammar - IELTS does not give you points for effort. "Oh, that looks like the right answer" or "That is close so let's give it to them" are phrases that you will never hear in the IELTS world. If it is spelled incorrectly, it is wrong, and if it is the wrong part of speech or word form, it is also wrong. Pluralization also matters. For example, in the following answer, 'cows' is correct, so if you write 'cow', it is wrong.

The farmer had a very productive day because all six _______ produced milk this morning. (cows = correct but cow = incorrect)

*Tip - Try to proofread your answers after you have transferred them onto the answer sheet.

3) Read instructions carefully - Instructions tell you exactly what to do. Two things to focus on are word limits and what type of answer is required (NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS, True/False/Not Given, etc.). Giving extra information will also make for an incorrect answer. Look at this example:


Q - The witness stated that the ____________ car caused the accident. (blue)
A - fast blue (wrong - word limit)
A - blue car (wrong - word limit)
A- blue (right)
A - bule (wrong - spelling)

*Tip - If the question asks you to choose the answer from a list (A,B,C, etc), just write the letter that corresponds with the answer because it is not necessary to write out the long form of the answer. This will save time and could eliminate incorrect answers due to poor handwriting. Look at this example:

Choose the correct letter A, B, C, or D.

Q - Who won the 2015 MLB championship?
A - Montreal Canadians
B - Toronto Blue Jays
C - Kansas City Royals
D - Kansas City Chiefs

The answer is C, so just write C on the answer sheet because it is not necessary to write the full answer of Kansas City Royals.

4) Use a variety of reading techniques - Be flexible by using a variety of reading skills. Here are some typical reading skills that test takers use:
 Skimming - reading quickly for general meaning
 Scanning - looking for specific information
 Gist reading - reading for main ideas
 Key words - reading for a specific word (be careful because the questions tend
to use synonyms)

*Tip - One successful method is to read the questions first so you know what information you are looking for. You can underline or circle the key words to reinforce this stagey.

*Tip - Use fast reading strategies to point yourself in the right direction but then use detailed reading to find the correct answer.

*Tip - While reading, make sure to underline key information or make notes in the margins.

*Tip - Once you think you have found the answer, quickly refer back to the question to ensure that it is what you are looking for.

5) Be aware of time - Make sure that you are using your time wisely because there are three texts which all have questions following them. Remember that you only have 60 minutes which does not include any time to transfer answers to the answer sheet. For this reason, you should try to write the answer directly on the answer sheet as you go.

*Tip - Try to stay relaxed and calm. If you run into a difficult article, skip it and come back to it later. Also, try not to get bogged down by new vocabulary because it is impossible to know every word.

*Tip - Put yourself in testing conditions when you are doing IELTS reading practice tests but not during every reading exercise that you do.

I hope these tips and pointers will help you achieve your goals. Always try to stay positive and PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! Feedback is always welcome and important, so let me know what you think about the IELTS test in general or about what you would like to see in future IELTS related blogs. Follow us on Facebook (IELTS East Coast School of Languages) and stay tuned for the next IELTS related blog!

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Transitioning to Springtime in Halifax

Transitioning to Springtime in Halifax

This winter, Halifax experienced a lot of snow in a short amount of time during January and February. However, now that March is here, the feeling of spring is in the air and we should thank the groundhogs for it!

Groundhog Day is a unique holiday in North America originating in the United States in the 19th century. Celebrated on February 2nd every year, several "famous" large rodents called groundhogs are watched by news stations and people everywhere as they emerge from their burrows first thing in the morning. If a groundhog appears to see its shadow on the ground, it will return underground suggesting there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if the groundhog does not see its shadow and stays above ground, an early spring should be expected.

This year, on February 2nd, the two most famous Canadian groundhogs, Wiarton Willie of Ontario and Shubenacadie Sam of Nova Scotia, did not see their shadows. Therefore, Canada hopes for an early spring and an end to the snow. Many Nova Scotians are looking forward to warm, sunny days with outdoor activities, especially here at ECSL! We can't wait to plan activities for our students that include sightseeing outside of the city, camping, sports, and outdoor theatre.

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