Tag Archives: Teacher Blog

5 Ways To Improve Your English Pronunciation

pronunciation1Do you want to sound like a native speaker? Here are 5 easy ways to improve your pronunciation so people will be able to understand you more easily!

1) First you need to decide what accent you want to have. A Canadian accent is
often considered the most neutral. Australian and British accents sound charming to North Americans. You need to decide what kind of accent you wish to have, then google Youtube pronunciation videos with that specific accent.

Practice Makes Perfect!

Practice Makes Perfect!

2) Practice in the mirror. You might feel silly doing this, but so much of how we sound comes from the shape of our mouth and the placement of our tongue and lips. Check out what the different positions look like on websites like Rachel’s English, then practice in front of the mirror for a few minutes when you have some time (and when no one else is around ;) ).

voice record app3) Record Yourself. Download a free app like Voice Record to your phone, then record yourself practicing the words you think need improvement. If you have a friend or teacher who is a native speaker you can also record them speaking and listen to it while speaking along with the recording.

4) Ask for feedback from a teacher or native speaker. A native speaker will let you know immediately what words you are pronouncing wrong and how to correct them. You may have to repeat the word several times before it sinks in.

5) Watch movies and TV in English (no subtitles!) and listen to English music to hear how native speakers sound when they say a word. For extra help, google the lyrics (the words of the song) and read along, trying pronunciation5to imitate the voice of the native speaker.

All these things can help you to improve your accent and make it easier for you to communicate.

Good luck!

Alisha Sevigny


Make a Change – Make a New Year’s Resolution

2014 is here! It’s time for a new year and a new beginning. To start the year off on the right foot, why not make a New Year’s resolution?

A New Year’s Resolution is a commitment a person makes to achieve some of their personal and professional goals. New Year’s resolutions are made for the New Year, which indicates new beginnings.  The idea is to keep the promise for the whole year. This tradition is widely celebrated throughout the world.


“Do I really need to eat another cookie?”

Here are some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, according to Wikipedia:

  • Improve well-being: lose weight, exercise more, eat better, drink less alcohol, stop smoking
  • Improve finances: get out of debt, save money
  • Improve career: get a better job
  • Improve education: improve grades, get a better education, learn something new (such as a foreign language or music), study often
  • Improve self: become more organized, reduce stress, be more patient, manage time
  • Spend more time with family and friends

If you need help making your own New Year’s resolutions there is a website that will give you ideas. Check it out at http://moninavelarde.com/newyears/.

NYReso-yogaI have decided to make one New Year’s resolution. This resolution is to find balance. In this day and age, stress has become a major factor which contributes to many mental and physical issues. Whether its work, personal problems or obligations to others, we find there is not enough time for ourselves. So in 2014 I am going to make an effort to make time to relax and keep healthy and happy. One way I plan to achieve my goal is to focus more on yoga. It’s physically and mentally challenging and it has taught me how to breathe and clear my mind, so I can rid myself of stress. So I plan to make it part of my schedule and practice at least three times a week. No matter how busy I am or what excuses I may find, I must make it part of my routine, in order to keep my commitment. Hopefully by sharing my resolution it will help you to think of your own.

I am the first to admit that it’s difficult keeping resolutions throughout the year. So I have some advice that might help you from breaking your commitments.

  1. Make them realistic: I would love to win the lottery or travel the world; however I don’t see myself realistically accomplishing these things this year. So when you are making your resolutions, make sure you are giving yourself realistic expectations.muaythai
  2. Make them specific and measurable: you need guidelines to help you understand your goals and achieve them. The more specific, the better. For example: if your resolution is to lose weight, than be specific and say “I want to lose 5 pounds or 1 dress size”. Equally important is making your resolutions measurable. Think of something you can track, such as the number of minutes you exercise each day or the grade improvements on your assignments in school. You will want a record of your improvement.
  3. Write them down: it’s easy to forget your resolutions, so if you write them somewhere you know you will look constantly, you are more likely to keep them.
  4. Tell friends and family your resolutions: having a support system motivates you to keep your promises. Sometimes life gets busy and we can’t be bothered to maintain our goals, but if your friends and family remind you of the commitments you made, you might think twice about breaking your resolutions
  5. Reward yourself: sometimes we are more likely to accomplish our goals if we have incentives.  Make a plan that once you complete your resolutions, you will reward yourself with something great. For example, treat yourself to a day at the spa or buy yourself something nice.

Happy New Years and I wish you all the happiness and health for 2014!

Erin Casper



What is Movember? Grow your ‘stache, raise some cash!

MovemberMovember is a campaign where men grow mustaches (the hair above their lip) for the month of November. This popular event is called Movember (mustache + November) and run by the Movember Foundation.

Its purpose is to raise awareness and money for prostate and testicular cancer. By raising awareness, the Foundation hopes to increase early detection and reduce the number of preventable deaths.  

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10 Tips for Improving your English Speaking Skills

Are you new to Canada? Feeling nervous about speaking with native speakers?  Don’t worry, the best thing to do is just try. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – that is how you learn!

Student buying coffee for first time in English!

Don’t be afraid to speak with native speakers.

1)   Practice speaking every chance you get! (Example: ordering coffee, shopping, asking for directions, etc).

2)   Read English-speaking newspapers or online articles. (Free newspapers like Metro and 24Hrs are a good place to start – lots of pictures!)

3)   Read children’s books, the grammar and vocabulary are easier. Get a library card or buy them from the Dollar Store.

4)   Listen to English songs, google the lyrics and sing along (you might want to do this in private unless you’re a really good singer ;))

5)   Watch English movies and TV shows – No subtitles!

ILAC students with Canadian flag

ILAC students having fun on activities with people from other cultures.

6)   Make friends with people from other countries so you’re not tempted to speak in your own language.

7)   Participate in ILAC’s social events, join a salsa class, or a free yoga class.

ILAC activities staff helps student choose activity

Activities staff help students plan their time at ILAC

8)   Join a free conversation group or language exchange.  (Maybe your co-worker is dying to learn Spanish to impress the cute guy in the office downstairs – you can help each other!)

9)   Talk to your teacher for advice on any specific things you need to work on, for example, maybe there’s one word you always say wrong.

10)   DON’T BE AFRAID TO MAKE MISTAKES! The more you speak, the faster you learn – and that is why you’re here!

Happy Canada Day!


One of my favourite holidays is Canada Day. Not only do I get to celebrate my country but it marks the first long weekend of summer!

Canada Day picture

Canada Day

Celebrated on July 1st, Canada Day marks the anniversary of the Constitution Act of 1867, which joined Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec into a single country.  The Constitution Act gave Canada a large amount of independence from England, although complete independence was not given until 1982.  Prior to the 1900’s there wasn’t a lot of Canadian patriotism, since most citizens considered themselves British. However, once the government recognized the holiday in 1958, it started to become an important part of Canada’s history. More and more Canadians celebrated this special day and finally in 1982 the holiday was made official. July 1st is also an important day because it was the same day our national anthem “Oh Canada” was created in 1980. To listen to our national anthem visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwDvF0NtgdU.

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The Language Doctor is in – Free Grammar Lesson on Articles

The Truth about Articles

- Josh Pirie (The Language Doctor)

This isn’t so much a blog about articles and when to use them.  I can’t really address that in a whole blog, but I can address the need for them, and areas of grammar that may seem easier.

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AT ALL COSTS – One ILAC Student’s Story of Success

Student writing

- Paul Grieve (ILAC Teacher)

Two years ago I taught Advanced Business English and had the pleasure of teaching a very hard-working student from the Czech Republic.  This student was remarkable in many ways, but stood out in one way in particular; she was deaf.

On her first day, Eva came to me to explain her situation, expressing concern that her hearing impairment may affect her ability to participate fully in class.  I asked her a few questions to assess her listening skills, which were actually quite strong.  When I mentioned this, she told me she relied heavily on her ability to read lips.  When I asked how comfortable she felt in telephone conversations, either in English or Czech, she replied that phone conversations were challenging, but not impossible as long as her hearing aid was working.

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Translating as an ESL Tool: Benefit or Drawback?

Translating as an ESL Tool: Benefit or Drawback? electronic dictionary

- Josh Pirie (The Language Doctor)

I’ll let you figure that out on your own.  I’m simply going to tell you a story that might make you reconsider your dictionary, regardless of whether it’s in book form or electronic.

The year was 2003. I was giving a TOEFL test and one of my students gave me a book to read while they wrote their test.  It was Many Lives, Many Masters by Dr. Brian Weiss. There was only one problem with this book: it was in Spanish.  The student had brought this translation with her from Venezuela.

However, since I studied Spanish (and Latin) for three years in high school, grew up in French and also studied Italian at university, I thought it would be easy to reconstruct Spanish.  Still, my instinct was to make sure I had a bilingual dictionary to help me with the words I didn’t understand.

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Ways to Achieve Your English Goals

“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”
– Bill Copeland

football game

Where am I going?

What are your Goals?

Think about it – if you could achieve whatever you wanted, what would it be?

To be a better English speaker? To become Rich and Famous? Achieve World Domination? (I’m working on the last one).

Most of you have come to ILAC (or will in the future), and doing something amazing, like going to live and study in another country, shows you already have a good idea of how to achieve your goals.

But let’s look even more closely at what it takes to reach our dreams. First of all, how do we get there? Well, what do you do when you want to get somewhere but you don’t know how? You need a map! And how do you get this map? Well, since you’re the only one who knows where you want to go, you have to create it!

You can do this by physically writing out your goals in detail. There is something about committing your inner desires to paper that makes it real. It puts your dreams out into the universe and says “Hey World, look! This is what I want!” It also helps you to focus and define your goals clearly.

Here are three steps to creating a reliable map that will lead you to unimaginable treasures! (And hopefully not into a booby-trapped pit of death).

1. Think about what you really want. Not what your parents want. Not what your friends want. Not what your boyfriend or girlfriend wants. Of course, if the one thing you want most is to make any of these people happy, then by all means, take their wants into consideration. But first think: If you could be anything, do anything, have anything, what would it be? Don’t be afraid to think BIG!

2. Commit to paper. Or screen. After you figure out what you want in each of the important areas of your life, (warning: this may change often), write out your goals. Make sure to include as many details as possible. Think SMART!

Specific (clearly defined – what, where, when, etc.)
Measureable (How will you know when you achieve it?)
Attainable (Sorry, you may not be able to fly no matter how hard you try.)
Realistic (Is it possible to achieve based on your resources, etc.?)
Timely (What is the timeframe? Set clear, reasonable, but motivating dates.)

3. Think and Write in the Positive! The more positive we think about something, the more it affects our subconscious and conscious mind. You should do this in all areas of your life, especially in the areas you want to set goals. For example, you can have Career goals, you can have Educational goals, you can have Personal goals and you can have Health goals (Who doesn’t want to lose that last five pounds?). Whatever you want to change or try – you can do it!

“Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage, but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal.”
- American philanthropist Elbert Hubbard

So get started! Start small, think about your goals relating to your English studies here at ILAC in Canada. Your goals in English can help you to achieve other goals, like getting your certificate or diploma at ILAC, which helps you get into a good university, which helps you get a good job, which helps you to become financially secure, which gives you the freedom to travel and see the world!

Ask your teachers for their advice: what areas of your English do you need to work on? Maybe it’s your listening skills, maybe your pronunciation. If it’s your speaking skills, your goal might look like this:

I will be able to have a five-minute conversation with a native English speaker where we both understand each other perfectly by December 1, 2012.

This goal is Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

And Remember: Don’t be afraid to aim high! As Walt Disney once said:

“All dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them.”


“Ambition is the germ from which all growth of nobleness proceeds.”—Oscar Wilde

COLLEAGUE: (noun): a person with whom one works, especially in a profession or business.

The other day I received an email from a student, not an uncommon occurrence. What was different about this email, and about this student, was that in the email was a question, a question asked to me “colleague to colleague.” As some of you may know, a colleague is a person you work with. For example, my colleagues at ILAC-Toronto are the other teachers and members of the staff. My students (generally speaking) are not my colleagues, unless one of them is a writer or photographer (my other “jobs”). Reading my former student’s email, I chuckled and than smiled when I got to this question:

“Bob, as a colleague, can you answer this question for me? What can I do to get my students to think more about using English by speaking and writing than by worrying about their grammar or pronunciation mistakes?”

This is a wonderful question, and a question that I try to answer for both my ESL students and my TESL students (more about that in a bit). I will write my next blog as an answer to this question but for now, I want to speak about the student who wrote me, who is now my ‘colleague.’ The student came to ILAC-Toronto to study ESL and spent a year at the school beginning at a Pre-Intermediate level and by the time she had finished she had completed both the High Advanced level as well as a TOEFL and IELTS class. Her last month at school, she decided to enroll in our TESL program at night. TESL stands for Teaching English as a Second Language and is a course designed to help people (native and non-native) learn how to become ESL teachers. I was certified in TESL more than 15 years ago and am currently one of the Senior TESL instructors at our school. What makes her email, and her achievement remarkable, is that when she first arrived in Toronto to study English, she had no interest in either being a teacher nor in learning how to teach English. She had graduated in Industrial Design and imagined her life in China as a designer. And then something remarkable and magical happened during her time at ILAC-Toronto. She fell in love with English and later with teaching the language.

When she was enrolled in the ILAC-Toronto TESL course, she was at first intimidated by the other students (mostly native speakers and non-native speakers who were already teachers themselves). The course is a difficult and challenging class that extends over four weeks and can be grueling. However, by the end of the course, her confidence (in both her English and in her talents) blossomed and she said to me on the final night, “Bob, I think I want to teach when I return to China. Hearing this, I was not only moved but excited. Not only for her remarkable development during her time in Toronto but excited by the fact that she had been bitten by the same ‘bug’ I had been bitten by 20 years ago: the desire to share and help and teach others as a way to help them think about their life and improve their future. In a word: to inspire them. She now had become the same, not only a teacher, but a colleague.

While she certainly was not the ‘typical’ language student who comes to Toronto to study English at ILAC-Toronto, her growth and her ‘ambition’ are not unique. One of the great things about coming to Toronto to study English is that, inevitably, what you imagined the experience to be and what you imagined your life to become will transform and change and shift, shift toward possibilities you may not have even imagined. You may begin as a student of English and may just end up a colleague, or even my future boss.

To all of you who aspire, let my student’s email and pride serve as an inspiration. More than students, you will become colleagues, colleagues and companions in a world not displaced by language but gathered by it.

Oh, and the answer to her question? Next time….