Category Archives: Language Learning Tips

Byte Sized language learning tricks and tips to try today, these are easy to do and should take no longer than 10 minutes max – unless you get carried away in a frenzy

What’s a walking dictionary anyway? Let’s Walk The Talk!


When I ‘walk the talk’ with the sharp entrepreneurs who are incorporating their language learning into her fitness regime, I’ll often hear “Oh this is cool, it’s like having my personal walking dictionary”.

Continue reading What’s a walking dictionary anyway? Let’s Walk The Talk!

Business English Conversation from any Device

Have you noticed how this cooler autumn weather makes it is far less appealing to walk around the block mid afternoon – as our energy fades? I wanted to come up with a way that you could take a constructive break at work, one that would boost your English at the same time.

Take a brain break.

Sometimes your brain needs a break but it doesn’t mean that you should have a complete break, you can just switch to another activity. This helps you re-energise. Time to have a conversation, just switch into English.

Networking or Escaping?

You see, it is easy to head off to the coffee machine and linger as you chat with colleagues. Some of those conversations can be classed as informative or relationship building, but a lot of the time – it isn’t, is it? Not really.

I work from home and I often find myself on social media in that late afternoon energy lull and indeed a lot of Twitter Hours are held at that time. It seems I am not the only one.

Business English Conversation via social media.

I wanted to create a regular time and day for people in business or careers to practice their business English or business conversation skills from any device.

In contrast to in-house business communication or business conversation courses, where you are learning with collegaues and team members, I wanted to make it possible to learn from and with people from a wide range of different backgrounds. That makes any conversation richer and more meaningful. I wanted to welcome men and women from all over the world in different time zones, cultures, companies, industries and functions to be a part of this.

It's time to disrupt adult education. Try #BizEngChat to power up your business English. Click To Tweet

Now business conversation without ‘speaking’ or actually saying anything (unless you speak out loud as you type) might seem like an odd concept for some.


Let me explain. If you think about it, engaging in an online conversation or discussion requires you to activate your language learning skills. You’ll be searching for words or vocabulary, terms or phrases. You will be thinking about how to express yourself (grammar) and reading  lots of posts too. Just because you are not physically speaking, does not mean that a conversation isn’t taking place.

If you work with suppliers in India, it makes sense to invite those suppliers to join your online or blended learning business communication course, which worked well for us at #Heidenhain. It takes a special corporate culture and a strong leader to make that happen in reality across time zones.

Make language learning accessible and relevant, it’s not rocket science!

However if getting ‘bums on seats’ or attendance is a challenge and I can see heads nodding, and if time and flexibility are a problem, then a Twitter Hour could be a fabulously simple workaround. Just find one that is relevant to your needs, industry or market it’s practical too, you can take part even if you are travelling, via any smartphone or device.

If you want to work on your business conversation, try #BizEngChat

Set yourself a reminder, it's time to work on your Business English!
Set yourself a reminder, it’s time to work on your Business English!

So what about if you aren’t really on Twitter a lot or at all?

Well only you can decide which social media works best for you. As a former Twitterphobe though, I can assure you that Twitter is worth investing some time in. For me Twitter is like my professional learning playground because I can get inspiration and information, tips and advice from thought leaders and experts. It is the social land of brilliance to my mind. It took some time to ‘get my head around it’ or understand but I am really glad that I made the effort.

Just log in to and search for #BizEngChat, the hashtag is the life blood of twitter, so don’t forget the funky # symbol.

Some regional or business Twitter Hours have an unstructured format, and are designed to be easy going, where everyone just shows up and chats, you’ll soon see that there is a fair bit of selling going on. I’m not appealed by that.

Teacher Coco
As a language trainer it is important for me to be able to shape the conversation and give you a vocabulary workout. Sure it WILL push you out of your comfort zone and it will get your brain working but isn’t that what success in our business or career always requires?

To really improve your English,  you need to activate or use your English.

Only by actually using your Business English, will your business conversation become more fluent and effective. If you are keen to improve, but don’t have time for classes, then grab your diary.

Set yourself an alarm, online training sessions tend to get overlooked as an appointment. If you are committed to improving your Business English, you should commit to coming regularly. Make it an appointment that is fixed and a part of your commitment to your personal development
Set yourself an alarm, online trainings tend to get overlooked as an appointment. If you are committed to improving your Business English, you should commit to coming regularly. Make it an appointment that is fixed and a part of your commitment to your personal development

After all, someone with your expertise, should be able to talk about their knowledge and experience in English so that you can expand your network and ultimately cross borders, taking your brand to the markets that need it most?

So Thursdays at 3pm is when we meet and I will be trying to get an expert to join us each time, to provide their opinions, examples, lessons learned and much more. If you are an expert in marketing or communication and you want to practice talking about it in English then get in touch.

Women are often doing the school run at some time between 3 and 4pm, but if you can join us even for 10 minutes, that is fine too.
Women are often doing the school run at some time between 3 and 4pm, but if you can join us even for 10 minutes, that is fine too.

But between 3 and 4pm is a bad time for me!

If you can’t make it because you are in a meeting or picking up the children or something, then no problem. You can join us at any time during the hour, it isn’t frowned upon to turn up ‘late’ at all, in fact nobody will really notice.

Often there are more people ‘following’ the conversation than contributing to the discussion anyway. We call these lurkers in the online learning industry but it is fine to do just that at the beginning, it’s like observing from a distance at a networking event. Of course the more you get involved or post, the more practice you get.

After Party

If you can’t make it until after the Twitter Hour then you will be able to read the whole conversation afterwards, just search for #BizEngChat. It is easy to catch up on the conversation later, (less stressful too sometimes). Feel free to add your comments later and the chances are that you will meet other people that would be interesting for you to connect with, so it is a combinination of English conversation and networking. That’s effective time management I say.

What about if I make a mistake?

I can identify with this one, my German is fairly good if I am talking to you in person, but when it comes to writing, I feel like a little girl again, all knotted up with apprehension and fear or making a mistake.

But I ask myself this?
What is the worst that can happen?

If you have something of value to say, people will be more interested in what you have to say than how you said it. In an ideal world we would wait until our foreign language was perfect before we engaged in social media, but what is perfection anyway?

Those of you in business or with a family will know that there is no such thing as the perfect time to do or start anything! Sometimes you just have to start and from there it can only get better – especially if your host is a language trainer.

I will never draw attention to any mistakes via #BizEngChat like they did at school, but those of you working with me will see that I incorporate any of those mistakes into our coaching.

One thing is for sure, I will be there on Thursday at 3pm and I would love you to join me, let’s revolutionise the way that business conversation is ‘taught’.

Let’s learn together via #BizEngChat so that we can get it right when it counts!

Pesky Pronunciation

Pronunciation is all about ‘how’ you say things. When you are learning a new language, it is difficult to make yourself sound just like a native speaker. It is a good goal to have, but is that really necessary?

I  ‘still’ sound fairly British when I speak German, sometimes it drives me crazy! I have a good friend who has been in Germany just a few years longer than me and she doesn’t sound English at all when she speaks German. Naturally I could get upset about this or better still, DO something about it. For me though being self employed, the bottom line is that for my purposes my German pronunciation is actually fine.

Call me lazy if you will or smart for knowing where to draw the line and focus my attention on something else.

Aussprache ist zwar wichtig, aber mach dich nicht verruckt!
Es ist besser was falsches zu sagen
als gar nicht es erst mal zu wagen!

Pronunciation is important to make yourself understood but if someone is interested enough to hear what you have to say, they will make the effort to tune into your accent. Your accent is also a part of who you are. People actually quite like my English accent.

Cheat with online dictionaries

It’s natural to want to get it right though. There are lots of online dictionaries to use if you don’t know how a word should sound. With online dictionaries you are just a click away from pronunciation clarification. I often link to the more reliable dictionaries in my blog posts. This lets you familarise yourself with the pronunciation or clarify the meaning of any unfamiliar vocabulary as you read. It’s like an optional extra if you like for ‘deep readers’, depending on your schedule and language learning energy levels.


Now with the exception of beginners, I would always recommend a single language dictionary. It might seem like hard work to start with, but longer term, it accelerates and intensifies your language learning. It also gives you the skills to explain yourself if you have a memory block and cannot remember the word. It happens to us all!

For beginners though I appreciate that having a translation is helpful, to get you up and running in a language.

Favourite Online Dictionaries.

Try to use them at least once every day. Treat yourself to a notebook and write it down too for extra learning power.


Leo Great for giving you context and some abbreviations, colloquial uses of the word

MacMillan UK/US pronunciations

Cambridge (great for giving you grammatical reference and UK/US)

Your Dictionary

Merrian Websters Dictionary

Urban Dictionary (some swearing)

Try this…

Take a business term or verb that you struggle with, to try it each of the dictionaries with your own word,  for yourself. In just 20 minutes you will get a feel for the different dictionaries. It is purely a matter of personal preference and purpose. Saving this blog post in your favourites would give you instant access to the list of links.

You will see that some tend to focus more on translation, whereas others help you to see how the word is used in context. By experimenting with each, you’ll soon get to know which dictionary will suit your needs. Some dictionaries will let you down from time to time, which is why it is good to have 3-5 dictionaries that you prefer using for you to be able to check meanings and pronunciation quickly.

Active  versus Visual Learning Styles

I do think personally, that the kinesthetic (hands on) energy involved in looking up a word in a paper based dictionary helps you remember the words.  The very movement of turning the pages causes your fingers to cross your midline, which is how the different parts of our brains are nudged into action.

There is an increasing amount of research in favour of offscreen learning retention but sadly a hard copy dictionary in isolation simply cannot help you with pronunciation or listening to the word.

Kindle Users

Using a Kindle is great for looking up the meanings of words but as far as I am aware doesn’t help with pronunciation, feel free to let me know if you have found a kindle workaround. Fortunately most of us have smart phones within easy reach.

If you find it difficult to remember where the emphasis (Betönung) is on a word, you can simply devise your own special marking, mine for on screen (online learning) looks like this:


The business terms, strategic, career and colleague are are difficult for a lot of German speakers. So in addition to nudging my clients with voice recordings of the words to their smart phone via whats app or imessage, I encourage them to make notes similar to the ones above so that they ‘see’ how the word is said.

My handwritten pronunciation notes are a lot messier (mess – messy -messier) but they really have helped me learn four languages with relative precision. Nobody sees your notes! So use whatever your brain needs to help you remember.  Find a form of secret shorthand that helps you, if it sticks, use it!

Visual learners will love these visual dictionaries:

Business_Woman-68 or no pronunciation but helps you work out how it fits into the language and what part of speech it is or can be.


Seeing how something is said …

….might sound quirky to you, but if you are a visual learner, as many of my clients are, you will totally get this. If you need to see how the word is written to be able to process it, then these pronunication notes will help you. I strongly suggest that you come up with your own approach, but be consistent and if colour coding works for you then go for it but keep to the same colours. Maximise on your learning style!

In his book Visual Impact Visual Teaching, Timothy Gangwer claims that 90% of all data that the brain processes is visual. Furthermore it is believed that 65 percent of people are visual learners, and the human brain purportedly processes visualization 60,000 times faster that it does written content.

Use the voice recorder on your phone

The reason why I send language feedback by Whats App voice message, is that you have access to it anywhere and you literally only need a second to  give yourself a pronunciation workout. In just a few moments, you can send me as your trainer,  your own voice recording so that I can hear whether you are getting it right. Language Feedback to go.

mobile learning on any device
With the right tools, motivation and trainer you can learn any time and anywhere from any device as you wait, cook or travel.

It’s not rocket science, but it works because it is tailor made! That’s the kind of language training that really sparks my fire! I love helping women with very individual language learning needs and soon I will be introducing a membership club where every member gets a taste of that special treatment.

My personal clients love this support and very rarely get those words wrong afterwards. Result!

Be warned! I often use the steps on a walk during my #languagenergy programmes to work on pronunciation drills too.

The Parrot Principle

I used to go out with a fella (boyfriend) whose Mum kept parrots, my favourite was an African Grey, not a colourful one but it was REALLY vocal (talked a lot). I soon learned that pulling off his cover first thing in the morning, was NOT the best way to make friends and influence people. Oops!

The moment you took his cover, he was off! He recited every single thing in his repetoire and the interesting thing for me, was that you could hear exactly who had taught him something, because he had exactly the same voice. It was uncanny. He was taught “Pete’s been shot!” by the youngest brother who was once shot in the US and got away with a party trick shot wound.

Repetition rocks!

Anyway I digress…so repetition, just like you would teach a parrot to say something is not to be sniggered at. When I learn a new word or name actually  in German, I try to say it either in my head or out loud in conversation at least three times in the next 20 minutes. The trick is … not to sound like a parrot!

Sometimes if it was something important I would ask mid sentence if it was ok if I wrote it down (often work based vocabulary) which very few people take offence to. Actually most are quite impressed, it is a clear indicator that you are genuinely keen to learn the language. This has the knock on effect of your friends and colleagues being more supportive of your language learning efforts with corrections etc.

Your Memory is Motivated by Importance

I once did some walk & talk coaching with Jesta Phoenix who said that actually if something is genuinely important, you are unlikely to forget it. She prompted me in the accountability phase but actually I hadn’t forgotten at all, because we had found the solution together.

It depends on the situation of course, but if I can repeat the word or name at least three times, I’ve normally got it. Now this isn’t because I am a linguistic diva or anything, it is just a matter of practice. If you do this for a new word up to three times a day your brain will get the workout it needs to help you remember. Your brain is a muscle. Use it or lose it.


When you are mingling over coffee with strangers, you can easily learn their names. Just use their name in the conversation with comments like “So Sylvia, where are you based?” or “Where are you based Jörg?” rather than “So where are you based?”. It doesn’t sound unnatural if you don’t over do it. Ultimately, we all like to be remembered by name – even if there are a lot of new faces.

Pronunciation Patterns

If you learned to read using the phonics you will automatically know what I mean about creating and practicing pronunciation patterns or rhyming lists of words.

Tongue Twisters are a great way of doing this and please don’t ask me where I get these from, I make them up for my clients depending on which words are causing problems. I quite enjoy this part of my work, I think it is a throw back to my poem writing childhood.

Rinse and Repeat is definetly a strategy worth experimenting with:

Compare these words, they all have an ‘….ician’ ending and they trip up a lot of non native speakers. The trick is to put the emphasis in the middle

politician      … poliTIcian

magician     … magIcian

electrician     … electRICian

So pronunciation is a relatively easy language learning challenge to overcome because there are LOTS of resources out there to help you. I have one last vital tip to help you and it is a passive learning approach that you can do literally anywhere on the device of your choice. Listen to native speakers, through the news.

BBC World Service (TV & Radio)
Newsround (designed for children, but great for beginners too and highly visual learners)

Podcasts are like niche/specific topic radio shows. You can find them via Itunes, Mixlr, Overcast.  You are in control here, which is great, you can change the speed setting of a podcast or listen to a section again.

Vlogs (video blogs) are great for this too & you tube channels. As  your English improves the better it gets. If you listen every day, you will soon have more freedom to listen to shows about things that you are interested in on a personal or professional level. Podcasts are very specific and hence more relevant than commercial radio.

Insider Tip. Choose the dullest job you have to do that requires little to no brain power, then listen to podcasts in that time, mine is ironing.

How to Download and Subscribe to Podcasts

Of course if you have a digital radio you have no excuses at all and should be tuning in regularly to hear something that you are interested in.  This is a great way to get the rest of the family learning English by osmosis too 😉

Include English into your routine for a self made immersion course of your own without having to take time away from your job or family.

How approachability and sharing mistakes, helps English learners to relax.

As promised in my blog ‘Venturing out of my Comfort Zone‘ I will be sharing the teaching reminders I gained from teaching German to three English speaking expatriates in Berlin recently.

The first blog post in this series talks about empathy and being on the same page/wavelength as your learners.
Continue reading How approachability and sharing mistakes, helps English learners to relax.

Performance Blaster Approaches for 2016

Before I moved to Germany, most people, including my colleagues and my bosses, seemed to think that I was pretty amazingly organised. I was always juggling career and social life pretty effectively, so it seemed, volunteering at the radio station at Hammersmith Hospital, preparing for post grad qualifications and generally being a busy but bouncy bee. When I moved to Germany, I realised that actually organisation here was perceived as having a tidy desk, being on time and having that cool calm and collected aura.
The bottom line is that I have none of these. Yet.

But 2016 is going to be dramatically different for me, because having balanced teaching English and book selling for the past five years, I have finally taken the plunge to return full time to my freelance language teaching business – hence my recent blog writing  absence – I’ve been on a children’s book selling frenzy.

So from January, my time will be split between walking with clients on the language energy programme, being online for webinars and skype appointments and in my office preparing, moderating and analysing language feedback. I will also be releasing a podcast and bootcamp so boy, I’m going to have to get organised, because otherwise I just know that I’ll get distracted and thrown off track. I’m convinced that my current ‘system’ and I use that term lightly, is going to be as robust as my ambitions.

So I have been reading, a lot!

I enjoyed the Four Hour Working Week by Timothy Ferris, although for me as a working Mum who is over the jet setting era, I had to concentrate hard on finding the nuggets of productivity that were relevant for me in my business. It was certainly inspiring and an enjoyable read but I guess what I really craved was something more concrete. Step by step, easy to implement, no fuss or fluff.

The Bullet Journal by contrast was something I read about this time last year. So of course I needed no excuse to head into TKMaxx, to treat myself to a nice new notebook and naturally a whole wad of Friction pens on the way home in a rediculously OTT range of colours. It took a little bit of time to get my head around but all in all it has been something that has escorted me through the year with varying degrees of loyalty. What I liked about the bullet system was that there were different pages dedicated to different topics, so I could collect my thoughts, action points, resources and ideas all on one page. Plus, because it was indexed, I could find it without having to dive into a sea of words and symbols.

What I found frustrating about the Bullet Sytem was the calendar part. Now I have quite big writing, so if my to do tasks are going to be included on a diary to avoid the ‘some time saga’ I would need to adapt this part. I like to have space in my paper based diary for both events (on the left with a time and location) but also for tasks to be done on that day on the right.

I live on the outskirts of Berlin so I really try to use the travelling time for working on language feedback, quizzes and other post lesson support on the go if I am to have a hope of updating my clients as quickly as possible. Public transport and virtual tech make it possible. But technology alone doesn’t get the job done, the warmth of the tube is a wicked motivation zapper, so I need to be able to see exactly what needs to be done when in an instant.

The book that I have just finished  reading  is “18 Minutes, Find your Focus, Master Distraction & Get the Right Things Done” by Peter Bregman. I liked his approach and although it takes you a long time to get to the point, his storytelling approach based on his quirky life eyperiences, made it an enjoyable read. The great news is that there really does seem to be a pragmatic way to keep your focus in check in just 18 minutes a day. I was relieved to discover that isn’t even a single block of time either. It’s kind of like one of those amazing club sandwitches you get in those ghastly hotel lobbies.

Are you ready? Well first you choose the right type of plate, oval is best, long enough to hold a scewer. That plate is your planning and here I am thinking of a holistic approach, so not just business but our life. Let’s face it we have to split our time to get all the family stuff done too, not just our business priorities right? I won’t give too much away because you really ought to treat yourself to the book ( kindle sneaky business reading approved). Anyway there is planning at the start and the end of the day and weekly self nudges in between. Enough said.

So I am going to combine The Bullet Journal, the 18 Minute self check and some healthy habits (inspired by Superhuman by Habit). Even writing this, it occurs to me that I might be over complicating things but in my heart I feel that 2016 is going to be an amazing year. I never make personal new year resolutions because I tend to make these when we move to another city but for my business 2016 will be more organised and as a result I am going to crack my punctuality hangover from the UK.

After all I have been living and teaching Business English in Germany for 15 years now and whilst I have no aspirations to be the perfect “Hausfrau” or housewife, I think that at the age of 43, it’s about time that I respected other people’s time more because althoug I am not always late, but when I am on time The chances are that I only got there by the skin of my teeth, tell tale signs are erratic hair, flushed cheeks and a general look of relief and quite frankly it is unnecessary. I sure would like a taste of cool, calm and collected.

Can you help?

My problem is that I feel desperately uncomfortable being early. It always feel like a huge waste of time. Anybody got any tips for me on that? What should I do if I am early? Not doing anything at all is really difficult for me.

If I am late meeting you, insist that I get the drinks!

Oh and by the way, this is one of my habits…feel free to download and use yourself

Black Friday English

It’s just weeks til Xmas, but isn’t time you treated yourself to a healthy dose of career freedom?

In just six skype sessions, I guarantee that you’ll feel more confident speaking English – if you’re not happy, you get your money back. 

If you are determined to make a difference in your small business or start up in 2016, this makes that success easier to achieve because you’ll have the confidence to go global.

Who would love to pimp their English without the fear of anybody overhearing?

Who has an important pitch or presentation coming up?

Who wants to start marketing more internationally but is holding back, because they feel uncomfortable speaking English?

Who finds themselves frustrated in the job search because they all want fvvvvg English? Let’s recycle that frustration into language learning energy!

Limited to 36 packages grab yours by  clicking below

(It’s €120, please make sure you change the currency to Euro please, otherwise you’ll be charged the GBP rate – not ideal)

That jaw dropping moment…watch their faces!

Let’s face it, if someone walked up to your desk and started speaking English ‘at’ you at full speed, you’d panic, right? Well frankly most of us would – unless of course we had some hot English speaking lover or something – but more about that shortly.


Continue reading That jaw dropping moment…watch their faces!

Language Practice Paralysis

So this week we have had a junior school French exchange student here, staying with us as part of a fabulous school initiative, only the problem is that I don’t really speak much French and the 10 year old girl, G does not speak much German yet either, or English. Both of the children have only been learning German and French respectively since late summer last year. Talk about ‘in at the deep end!”.
Continue reading Language Practice Paralysis