Speaking voices in English I like

These are some of the speaking voices in English I like the most, and that I somehow consider ‘models’ of good pronunciation, stress, enunciation…At some points in life, when I have had to do public speaking, I have reminded myself of some of them, thinking, for example: ‘you should show the same poise as Audrey Hepburn when you’re speaking’.

To my mind, their voices are a delight to listen to and might prove a model to imitate when speaking English.

Audrey Hepburn:

Sabrina (1954)

Brian May:

Desert Island Discs (BBC Radio 4)

Benedict Cumberbatch:

‘Sherlock’ (BBC 2010-2017)

The Imitation Game (2014):

Martin Freeman:

Jeremy Irons:

‘Brideshead Revisited’ (Granada TV 1981)

Emma Thompson

Much Ado About Nothing (1992)

Nicole Kidman:

The Others (2001)

Hugh Grant:

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Notting Hill (1999)

Stephen Fry & Hugh Laurie

‘A Bit of Fry and Laurie’ (1987-1995)

Kate Winslet:

Downton Abbey cast:

Michael Sheen:

The Queen (2006)

‘Good Omens’ (Amazon Prime 2019)

Jack Davenport:

‘Coupling’ (BBC 2000-2004)

‘Next of Kin’ (ITV 2018)

Help!- recursos online para sonar más “natural” en una lengua extranjera

Publicado 2.5.2014, actualizado 20.07.2019

Todos los profesores de/en lengua extranjera, así como los alumnos, en algún momento desearíamos tener a algún hablante nativo al lado para poder preguntar algo que no sabemos decir, o que quizás podemos expresar de una manera gramaticalmente correcta, pero no sabemos si suena “natural” para los hablantes nativos. Para intentar paliar este problema, os propongo varias herramientas lingüísticas online gratuitas:

Diccionarios online: 

Pronunciación: 
  • forvo.com: diccionario “vivo” de pronunciación. Busca una palabra, nombre propio, marca, nombre de lugar…hablantes nativos se han grabado pronunciando ese término. Permite oír a alguien real pronunciando (no a un ordenador), y además, se puede mostrar a los alumnos (confiere cierta autoridad a lo que ha dicho el profesor: “¿no me creéis? Escuchadlo”. Acentos de diversas variedades geográficas y sociales.
  • YouGlish: busca términos en videos de YouTube. Ese video, además, aparece con subtítulos. Ideal para oír la pronunciación de términos, expresiones…y para buscar videos relativos a un tema. Disponible en inglés y francés.

Click en el idioma para cambiar inglés / francés

Expresiones en contexto:
  • http://fraze.it/: permite encontrar expresiones, frases hechas, en contextos reales online (fundamentalmente periódicos, revistas…), para asegurarnos de su uso,  qué preposición va con qué verbo, ejemplificar nuevo vocabulario…Disponible en varios idiomas (click en el idioma para seleccionar).

Inglés- online collocation dictionaries:

Intercambio de idiomas: 
  • http://polyglotclub.com/: registro gratuito. Puedes escribir textos, o hacer preguntas a la comunidad. Hablantes nativos corregirán ese texto, o te dirán qué suena más natural. A cambio se solicita que tú, como hablante nativo de tu idioma, también corrijas a otros miembros que aprenden tu idioma materno como lengua extranjera. MUY ÚTIL

Así, por ejemplo, si queréis practicar la expresión escrita, podéis copiar vuestras redacciones, y hablantes nativos os las corregirán, no solo desde un punto de vista gramatical, sino que lo harán desde el punto de vista de “qué suena natural”. De este modo además tendréis varias posibilidades, ya que es un foro abierto. Y en muchas ocasiones tendréis comentarios de por qué os cambian vuestro texto original.

Para acceder a esta opción, pinchad en vuestro nombre de usuario, y allí os saldrá la opción “mis correcciones”. Allí podréis escribir vuestro texto, o corregir el de otras personas que aprenden español.

polyglot1

polyglot2

Además, la comunidad de polyglot club organiza reuniones en ciudades, así que de vez en cuando podéis ver que hay un “polyglot club meeting” en vuestra ciudad, por si queréis practicar la lengua extranjera que aprendéis con otras personas que también están aprendiendo.

  • http://lang-8.com/ (similar a polyglotclub).
  • https://hinative.comEs un servicio derivado de lang-8 (puedes usar la misma cuenta, registro gratuito). Permite hacer preguntas sobre el idioma, cultura, o cualquier cosa que quieras preguntarle a un hablante nativo de un idioma de cualquier parte del mundo. Tú también puedes enseñar cosas de tu lengua o tu cultura. Aunque no preguntes, también es interesante leer lo que otros han preguntado. 

hinative_screenshot1

* Aviso: en alguna ocasión, si planteáis estructuras gramaticales poco frecuentes, demasiado académicas…puede que la solución que os planteen estos hablantes nativos sea que digáis algo mucho más sencillo. No porque vuestra opción sea incorrecta, sino porque les suene demasiado “academicista”, poco frecuente…y en ese caso esa recomendación no os sería de gran ayuda. Es algo que os puede pasar, especialmente en niveles C1-C2. Probad a encontrar algún ejemplo similar al vuestro en fraze.it, por ejemplo (ver explicación más abajo). 

 

Tips for speaking tests (EEOOII Aragón) (B2-C1)

If you’re going to take the speaking test at any of the Official Schools of Languages in Aragón, you can watch this video with tips for the exam. Good luck!

Inversions after negative or restricting adverbs and for conditional clauses- examples in real language use

If you want to know how to use these expressions-typically used for emphasis-you can watch the video below:

  • No sooner had I …than
  • Seldom have I seen…
  • Little did she know…
  • Should you have any further questions do not hesitate to contact me again.
  • Had I known …I wouldn’t have…

You can find examples of these inversions in such TV shows as The Crown, The Big Bang Theory, or Friends:

Not only will I drive you there

Nowhere is it specified that…

Under no circumstance will you give her that engagement ring.

 

  • You can also find plenty of examples in the news:

Not only have I lost a friend, but we have all lost an extraordinary creative mind. 

Only when the capsule has survived that (…) will people talk about success. 

Only then will they be able to agree to an extension. 

Never before has the Security State of Army, Police, intelligence and militias been forced to concede to the will of the people. 

Scientists (…) were prepared to cool the brains, should they show (=in case they showed) any signs of consciousness. Had they done, it would have been hugely significant. (=If they had done, …)

Rarely (in one night) can both main parties have suffered such a grim set of results. [Both the Conservatives and Labour have just lost a significant amount of votes in the recent local elections, in all likelihood as a consequence of the Brexit deadlock].

(On Theresa May standing down as Prime Minister) Perhaps, had she sought compromise much, much earlier (=if she had sought/ looked for compromise…), then Mrs May’s time in Downing Street need not have ended in such disarray and failure. 

(Published 10.02.2019, updated 25.05.2019)

At a loss for words- tips for English speaking tests

Are you going to take a speaking test in English in a few weeks? Are you suffering from ‘stage fright’ in the face of such an exam? Here are some tips that might help you overcome your performance anxiety, or simply, help you feel more confident.

BEFORE THE EXAM:

  1. Train for the exam. Know its structure, and be prepared for what examiners expect from you. 

Get acquainted with the structure of the exam. That way you can prepare specifically for the different tasks you will be required to carry out. Most institutions make sample papers or past papers available on their websites for prospective candidates to see.

Speaking tests are designed to resemble real communication as closely as possible, but unfortunately, they are not: they are always going to be artificial situations. The upside is that their structure tends to be predictable. I tend to compare them to driving tests: you need to practise to pass your driving test, where the examiner will ask you to carry out different processes to make sure you can drive. When you’re driving in a real road, though, nobody is guiding you, or telling you what you are supposed to do- that will be real driving.

Likewise, at different CEFR levels, you’re required to perform at different levels: up to A2-B1 levels, you’re expected to ‘drive’ (=communicate in a basic manner): be able to understand and make yourself understood. At B2 level, you’re supposed to ‘drive confidently’: the degree of precision you’re required to show is higher. At C1, and of course, C2 levels, you’re supposed to be a ‘professional driver’: you’re required to use the language both academically and professionally.

2. Listen to lots of English

To be able to produce, you need to have received input before. That is the way babies learn to speak, by listening to their parents and adults around them. Listen to any rich input you might find either attractive and/or useful for the level you’re at. Here are some suggestions:

Listen to the radio:

TV shows:

Films:

Songs:

YouTube videos: you can use YouGlish to find videos related to a specific subject, or containing specific words.

3. pronunciation: 

When you’re in class, pay attention to the way your teacher pronounces new words (or words you thought were pronounced differently). Make a note of it.

You can also check with online dictionaries or online pronunciation dictionaries such as Forvo or YouGlish (more information here).

4. practise your speaking: 

It’s always a good idea to participate actively in class, and, if you carry out speaking activities, pay attention to your teacher’s feedback.

If you’re preparing at home, you can think of one of the topics you’re discussing in class. What would you say about it? What ideas can you come up with? What relevant language and keywords would you use? Then, record yourself and listen to it. Do I sound fluent enough? Are my answers too short / too long? Have I used relevant language?

You can also speak English with friends/classmates/members of your family. Alternatively, you can also join a speaking group in your city. Here are some cafés and pubs in Zaragoza.

RIGHT BEFORE THE EXAM: 

Warm-up

Athletes don’t start running in a race without warming up first. Similarly, professional musicians tune their instruments and play for a while before a concert. Why should you start speaking English out of the blue when you start your exam then? Try thinking in English (and if possible, speaking English) while waiting for your turn.

If you are alone, listen to something in English (podcast, song…) on the way to the exam, and while you are waiting at the door.

If you happen to have the other candidate waiting beside you, start having a conversation with them in English. That way, both of you will get used to your English speaking voice.

Try to avoid the kind of candidates that are so nervous that will make you nervous as well. Give them a polite but wide berth.

DURING THE EXAM: 

  1. Make effective use of your think time

If you are given some thinking time for your task, think of

a) what you want to say- the ideas you want to communicate, and how you are going to glue them together (linking words). Think of enough ideas for all the length of time you are supposed to be speaking.

b) what relevant keywords and grammar you are going to use to show that your English is of the level you’re being tested on. Impress the examiners.

2. Be coherent and cohesive

Even if you are given questions as bullet points to help you come up with ideas, try and make your speech cohesive: relate your ideas by signposting them, by using linking words, and by making your speech coherent (don’t contradict yourself).

3. Use the language of your level

The questions you may be given are intentionally easy: they have probably been written at a lower level than you are being tested on to make sure you really understand them. It is your job now not to give very easy or short answers (especially, the higher the test you’re taking), but rather to show that you can communicate at that level of language, however simple your questions may apparently be. Don’t just answer the question: elaborate a bit further; use interesting adjectives, keywords, nice structures

4. Use natural, intelligible pronunciation and intonation

If your pronunciation and/or intonation make it hard for the examiner to understand what you are saying, communication is not being achieved. It’s not a question of sounding ‘native’, but at the very least, of making yourself understood. Again, this can be helped by having listened to lots of English and having paid attention to the pronunciation of tricky keywords.

5. Self-correct

If you realise that you have made a mistake, it’s OK to self-correct (if it is immediate). That will show the examiners you know the right way of saying it, and that it was not a mistake or error, but rather a slip of the tongue.

6. Use fillers (but don’t overuse them). 

Fillers are words/expressions that may not mean much, actually. However, they will allow you time to think about what you’re going to say next. In this post you can find some examples of fillers used by native speakers of English. Just bear in mind that their overuse is discouraged.

7. Interaction/ collaborative tasks- You need to interact!

If you are asked to hold a conversation with another candidate or the examiner, you may have to reach an agreement, make a decision together…you need to interact: both of you need to speak, agree, disagree, suggest…You need to be able to give the floor and hold the floor (=the right to speak). Think of it as a table tennis match: both players keep passing the ball to each other. So, it is NOT one monologue after another. In most exams, you will already have your turn to speak individually. Now it’s your turn to show you can have a conversation with somebody else.

8. Use expressions that encourage interaction: 

You can use some of the expressions on this post:

Expressions to use in a speaking test (monologue/interaction)

 

 

Further resources:

ideas to prepare your (C1) topic presentation

In this handout there are some ideas to help you prepare your ISE III (C1) topic presentation (Structure, useful language, relevant aspects…). They can also be helpful to students at some EEOOII in Spain who are required to prepare a presentation as part of their C1 English test.

Click on the picture to access the document

In this video I explain these ideas, as well as provide you with useful language for your presentation:

In this Trinity College London video you can see a sample Speaking & Listening exam. The first part is the topic presentation. It might be useful to watch it to help you get an idea of what the exam is like, so you can get acquainted with it. You can start watching 28 seconds into the video.

writing- useful expressions for an essay

The expressions on the chart below can be useful when writing an essay:

Click on the picture to download the file.