One of the challenges in learning a second language is getting to use it regularly. Many learners work very hard acquiring new skills in English or in French. The problem is how to maintain those skills once you stop language training…or even while you are still involved in language training. Some government departments offer what we call « Maintenance Classes ». These are on-site face-to-face classes where five to ten learners meet once or twice a week to engage in conversation in the second language and do reading/writing/listening activities which can help them retain what they have learned. These classes can be very helpful because many learners return to a uni-lingual work environment where they have no opportunity to practice the second language skills they have worked so hard to acquire
But what can you do when there are no Maintenance classes offered? One solution: find a language buddy! You can do this on an informal basis by finding a co-worker who is also doing language training. Maybe you can meet for lunch once or twice a week. If you are both learning English as a Second Language, you can try to talk just in English for that hour, helping and correcting each other. Or, there may be one person learning English whose mother tongue is French, pairing up with a language buddy who is learning French and whose mother tongue is English. Half your lunch conversation can be in French and the second half in English- what we call a « win-win situation »!.
LRDG offers a Buddy System through its portal. You can connect with another learner to practice and maintain your skills. You can meet in person, or talk on the phone or SKYPE with each other. And you can usually find someone with common interests or who is preparing for language tests at the same time you are. That way, you can offer each other support and build each other’s confidence. It’s a great way to practice and retain your skills and have fun doing it…even making a new friend in the process. Your account manager at LRDG will be very happy to act as « matchmaker »! So…give it a try. Find that language buddy!
In French, there is the verb « FAIRE » which covers a lot of ground. It’s a bit trickier in English, as we translate « FAIRE » to`either « MAKE » or « DO », depending on what we are talking about. One of the most common mistakes we hear is, funnily enough, « I did a mistake ». In English, we « make a mistake » .So, how do we MAKE our way through the grammar traps or DO the work we need to do to understand the differences?
The good news is that there ARE some rules. However, it being English, there are also many exceptions to those rules and that can be frustrating. But here is a general rule that can help demystify the process:
We usually DO an activity but MAKE something that we can see, taste, smell- or eat. something that is tangible.
So, we DO the laundry, the dishes, the vacuuming, the housework, etc
MAKE a pie, a cake, a soup, breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, coffee, dessert, etc. Here come some exceptions…..you knew there would be some, didn’t you?
Even though it’s an activity, we say that we MAKE the bed. We also make plans, reservations, appointments and promises. But we DO the following things: We do our taxes, our homework, our self-study, our reports, etc. We also do a favour for someone, do our hair, do our make-up, do a project, etc.
So yes…it can be frustrating. If you are not sure whether you should MAKE or DO something, there are some very good lists online from some reputable ESL web sites. You can try these three:
So…go ahead. MAKE up your mind to DO some research!
A while ago, as an LRDG ESL tutor sharing a full-time learner with two other tutors, I joked with my learner, saying, `I get the impression you think of me as the Bad Cop`.He started to laugh and proceeded to tell me that that was exactly what he had said to his wife the night before! So it made me think about our relationships with our learners. Much of the time, in every two or three-tutor combination, there is usually one person who takes on the role of « Bad Cop’. And that person may, in the next tutor combo with a different learner, suddenly be perceived as the ‘Good Cop« . As learners, some of you who are now reading this may have experienced the Bon Cop-Bad Cop phenomenon. When co-tutors come up with a learning plan for full-time students, we usually also come up with a `division of labour` plan, deciding who covers what.
If clients are in the Module program, we have to help them with dialogues, new vocabulary from the Worker`s Lexicon, everyday communicative skills, new idioms and expressions and new grammar concepts. Some of it is fun stuff, while some of it takes concentration, repetition and drill. So the tutor who focuses on that kind of drill may occasionally take on the roll of Drill Sergeant, pointing out errors and giving corrections, while the second tutor may assign a fun TED Talk for discussion the following day and the third tutor may focus on helping the learner use general vocabulary in discussions on a wide range of topics. And if the co-tutors are trying, together, to help a learner get that highly desirable C in the Test of Oral Proficiency, one tutor may be the `Good Cop`, trying to help the student relax, breathe and develop confidence, while the other comes off as `Bad Cop« , insisting on language which meets C-level descriptors and expectations. We don`t choose these roles consciously. In fact, the same person can even be Good Cop one day and Bad Cop the next! It all has to do with making sure that all the bases are covered and that the learner is being guided to meet the desired expectations with as many different and helpful strategies as we can come up with. Like anyone anywhere, tutors can have senses of humour, or be very serious…or demanding…or nurturing. What we do strive for it to give our learners what they need when they need it, adjusting our teaching styles and personalities to make them comfortable, all the while challenging them to succeed. So, although we may occasionally come across as split personalities, we all care deeply about our learners and enjoy every interaction we have with them.
In most jobs, you will be called upon to make suggestions (during a team meeting, for example), recommend strategies (as an advisor or when writing briefing notes)or, perhaps, to give advice (when you mentor a new employee).
In English, there are a few different ways we can make suggestions, recommend actions, or provide advice to a colleague or an employee. Let’s look at some of them:
1. Use modals of possibility(could, may, might), suggestion (should, ought to) or necessity (must, need to or have to)
Problem: « I’m really bored with my job. »
Advice: « You could ask around to see if there are any openings. » « You may want to discuss it with your team leader. »
« You might want to talk to a psychologist through the Employee Assistance Program. »
» I think you should talk to your boss about it. »
« You ought to think about switching jobs. »
« You must do something about it or you will continue to be miserable. » « You need to ask for more challenging tasks. »
« You have to apply for other jobs. »
2. Use the second conditional.
Problem: « My employees in the graphic arts division are all complaining of backaches. »
Advice: « If I were you, I would call in an ergonomics specialist. »
» If my employees had back pain, I would try to get them those new desks which can move up and down. »
3. Use the subjunctive
Problem: « What do I do with an employee who has a really bad attitude and who is causing problems with other team members? »
Using VERBS associated with the subjunctive:
« I suggest that you speak to him frankly as soon as possible. »
« We recommend that that employee receive an official reprimand. » » We demand that he take a training in communications as soon as possible. »
Using ADJECTIVES associated with the subjunctive:
Problem: » The new payroll system is making serious mistakes. »
« It is essential that it be repaired quickly. »
« It is vital that the government replace it with more reliable software. » « It is crucial that you keep a record of all errors in your pay cheque. »
So.. now you have a few different ways that you can offer advice or make recommendations. Who knows? You just might need them when you become Senior Advisor to the Director-General!