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Saturday, February 10, 2007

What is the secret to finding the best ESL school for me? 

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"Dear Ai,
I am looking for an ESL school to take a part-time class. One of my friends recommended me "the best" school. But the other day, other friends said they didn't learn anything from the same school. I am not sure who to believe. What is the secret to finding the best ESL school for me?" Hiro - Japan


"Hi Hiro, thank you for your e-mail. Many students believe there is "the best" school which suits everybody. However, because individual needs and skills are different, it is normal to have different impressions about the same school. For example, a student who would like to improve his/her pronunciation would not be satisfied with taking an academic writing class. He/she might tell you it was a waste of time and money even though the class is excellent.

To find the best school, you need to know what skills you want to improve. Most importantly, you need to know your current English level is. Improving English skills is like dieting or getting rid of debt. You need to know where you are right now before starting exercises or cutting back expenses. If you are trying to lose weight, I am sure you would weigh yourself first. Then you can make a plan to do some exercises or limit calorie intake.

It is a good idea to take some practice tests like TOEIC/TOEFL/IELTS to find out your strengths and weaknesses. Most test preparation textbooks have practice tests. Make sure you time yourself and take it as a real exam. After taking the test, mark it and find out what area of English you need to focus your studying. If you want to improve your English grammar skills, find the specific problem (i.e. prepositions or infinitives), then study only your weakness. If you would like to improve English skills efficiently and effectively, then this method will save you some time.

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Comments:
Finding the right learning situation depends a lot on what the student wants. I am interested in exactly this. What do students want in a learning situation? I am an ESL teacher and have designed an ESL learning survey. The survey is at eslsurvey.theemploymentplace.ca/ It is open to anyone. Please complete this survey. If anyone has further questions I can be reached at eslstudentsurvey@yahoo.ca/ Barbara
 
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