The Ability to Master a Foreign Language is like Running a Marathon

The ability to master a foreign language is like running a marathon. Crossing the finish line when the race is over is a great accomplishment, but that 26.2-mile run has many ups and downs along the way.

Just when you think you have the hang of the trail, hills and bumps start appearing. Sometimes when the road looks easy, it is actually the hardest part of the run.

A welled trained marathon runner prepares themselves for weeks and makes sure they are equipped with the right tools to make their run as successful as possible. A never give up attitude, along with their preparation and tools, overcomes human weaknesses such as fatigue and body soars acquired along the route.

Learning a Language like a Marathon Runner

Just as a marathon runner prepares and makes sure they are equipped with tools to run a successful race, language learners need to take the same approach with learning a language; the tools and preparation required to learn a language are different, but they are just as important.

There are many tools language learners can use to learn a language. Dictionaries, literature books, language learning software, television, and native speakers are just a few of the tools language learners equip themselves for success.

Using Tools to Help You Succeed

While spending 24 months in the country of Haiti, I armed myself with the tools listed above to run the language learning marathon. I remember the plane ride into Haiti from Miami. At the time I could only pick out a few words from the native speakers, but I had been studying with Haitian Creole speakers and a dictionary with flash cards two months prior. These tools helped me get a great foundation for learning a foreign language but when I first arrived in Haiti and started hearing these words spoken from native speakers I realized speaking like a native was a whole different ball game.

Haiti Picture

The first day into the country, I was placed in a house with 4 native speakers, and was there for 12 months. The only English I saw or heard was from my English-to-Haitian Creole dictionary and letters from home. This tool was vital to helping me understand the language I was starting to learn.

Each month that passed was like a mile in a marathon, and I became stronger in the language each day. I went from only knowing what was being talked about by picking out a few words of a conversation, to finally being able to converse.

By the time I left the country, I had mastered the language. I even made natives astonished by my vocabulary, pronunciation, and the speed in which I could speak Haitian Creole.

Mastering the English Language

After returning home, I entered college and went back to mastering my native language of English. I became aware of how lucky we are to have spelling and grammar automated tools, and wished there was one for every language spoken. I know I could have used them when I was learning Haitain Creole!

Given my experience with learning a foreign language I believe spelling and grammar tools are undervalued. If used effectively, I believe they can only speed up the pace of mastering a language. These tools help explain why the English language works the way it does, not just that you have made a mistake.

Remember that learning a language is a difficult task. It will not come in one day, but rather over a period of time just like finishing a marathon. Arm yourself with the right tools to succeed, and look for tools that you might have over looked. Happy Learning!

The author of this guest post is Kody Carling. Kody works for Mangoco, a web design company based out of Ashburn Virginia. You can follow him on Twitter @K_carling.
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VocaTube - Learn how to say many different types of houses in English

VocaTube - Learn how to say many different types

On this new episode of the VocaTube series, we’re bringing you a list of videos sorted according to the levels of difficulty with which you’ll learn the most relevant English vocabulary related to types of houses. You’ll be able to learn interesting vocabulary like hut and understand the meaning of maisonette or cottage.

Remember that vocabulary can only be improved with practice and listening through repetition. It’s difficult for everyone to understand from the beginning but you’ll notice that the more hours you listen, the better your understanding.

Introductory video to learn the types of houses in English – elementary English

Link to the video on YouTube

Entertaining song that describes several types of houses – elementary English

Link to the video on YouTube

Excellent video with types of houses where British people live – intermediate English

Link to the video on YouTube

The most expensive house in the World – advanced English

Link to the video on YouTube
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

It is generally accepted that families are not as close as they used to be.
Give some reasons why this change has happened and suggest how families can be brought closer together.

In today’s world the idea of community and family is different to what it was in the past. Whereas previously family was considered the most important unit in society with families spending plenty of time together, this is not the case today.

Firstly, our value systems have changed, with society emphasizing money and wealth as a symbol of success. As a result, individuals focus on their work at the expense of family life and often move to other countries for this purpose becoming further distanced from them. Thus, modern society encourages selfishness and individual profit.

Secondly, as we cannot choose our family members there are often tensions, arguments and misunderstandings between them. In these cases friends become important and families drift apart. Family members may also become bitter when there is a divorce or a parent remarries which is an event that can be seen frequently today.

Even though some distance between families is ideal especially if they are demanding or overbearing, they may be brought together by spending some time together. This might be during celebrations, festivals or even sharing a meal once a month.

Each culture has its unique vision of family. Asians for example tend to have closer family ties and tend to be loyal to their family compared to Western societies. In the fast paced West, individuals are too busy making money to pay attention to their family and this trend is affecting the traditional family unit. In addition, no attempt is made to get close to the family resulting in everyone minding their own business.

Question taken from Past Papers IELTS 3 p.126
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Add value to your CV by improving your level of English

Whether you’re looking for a job or not, it’s always good to acquire new skills and knowledge to help improve your Curriculum Vitae (hereinafter referred to as ‘CV’). These can be directly related to your profession (like a training course) or can be more generic like languages.

There’s no doubt that knowing languages will always open new doors for you as we live in a globalized World with companies having offices in every continent. The professional communication language is English and as such, mastering it is an essential requirement to access to a good job.

If you have decided to improve your level of English, you could be in one of the following situations:
  • You have a job and a good amount of free time. Good for you, make the most of that time and willingness to learn English. On this blog you’ll find hundreds of free resources, learning guides and innovative ideas to learn English.
  • You have a job but not much free time. How can you learn English if, when you finish work, all the academies are closed? Who wants to learn English when you have only 3 or fewer free hours per day? The answer to the first question is that there are loads of flexible ways to learn English and many of them use the Internet. If you are looking for some tips on how to learn English online, start by looking at our learning guides. With reference to the second question, when there’s not much time you have to prioritize; it may look as if learning English doesn’t give an immediate advantage, but in the medium and large term it’ll turn out to be very beneficial for sure.
  • You don’t have a job. The positive side is that you probably have a lot of free time, the negative side is probably all the rest. How can you study English if you don’t have enough money to study in an academy? It seems to be a tin can tied to its tail situation. Fortunately, you can study English for free so no need for money. As with the person with a job but not much free time, we’d recommend you start with our learning guides. Also don’t forget about finding a person to speak English with in some of the social networks to learn languages.
If you’re looking for a job, the most important thing is to keep a positive attitude and never give up. You could also offer to do some voluntary work with charities. Apart from getting to know people, this looks good on your CV. Potential employers often take note of voluntary work contributions.

At Learn English Online we’d also like to thrown in our two penneth. If you have studied a course related to English teaching and are looking for a job, we invite you to collaborate on this blog. If you actively collaborate on the blog, your name will appear on the “Active Contributors” section. If you prefer, it could also include a link to your profile in a professional network like LinkedIn or Xing.

And as always, at Learn English Online we’d like to keep helping you with the best online resources to learn English.

If you have any questions about how to become and active contributor or write a guest post, drop us an email to:
Contacto LEO
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How to Prepare for IELTS?

‘Why Learn English’ for higher studies or professional growth is one question that pops up in the mind of every learner of the language? Well, the answer is simple- enhancing the English language skills comes up as a necessity for qualifying for a degree program in United Kingdom or for succeeding in the professional growth. If you wish to Study in UK for your higher academic degree then, qualifying the IELTS test ranks as one of the most significant step to your success. Canadian, Australian and U.S universities along with the UK universities, also recognizes this test widely.

What is IELTS all about?

IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing system. This particular test is designed to evaluate your proficiency in the English language. It is based on a nine-point band, where a nine signifies the highest mark complementing the equivalency to the highly educated native of the country. Preparing for IELTS requires you to brush all the four skills of the language that includes writing, speaking, reading, and listening in an academic context. You can sit for this test at periodic intervals throughout the year and are organized at centers worldwide.

What is the Qualification Mark for IELTS

Usually, an undergraduate student needs to score a mark of 5.5in average for university admission, while a postgraduate needs to score an average of 6.5. Some universities ask for a higher course for a few chosen programs. Preparing for IELTS should be done keeping in mind the score requirements.

How to Prepare for IELTS Exam?

Preparing for IELTS requires you to enroll at study centers focusing on training the students in accordance to the exam. These days, online classes are also available, which you can take up via the road of Distance Learning. However, you also need to focus on your study techniques for qualifying the IELTS exam. The following tips should help you cut the score required for admission in UK universities:
  • Know about the test and the module. The skills that are being tested require a thorough brush up and hence needs time.
  • Make sure you are using your study time properly. Organize a planned timetable and follow it at best. Take mock tests frequently and try to cut through the past score achieved.
  • Study each skill differently and with proper focus, as each skill is being marked independently in the test. Know your weakness and work towards it.
  • Make sure that you are aware of the exact procedure of the test and the way you are marked or the time given for the test. Set the clock accordingly and appear for mock tests.
  • Only learning for the test according to the curriculum is not advisable. Submerge yourself in English; join an English club, develop reading habits and watch and listen to English channels.
Learn English and qualify the IELTS test to offer your dreams the wings to soar above all.

This is a guest post by Melissa Spears. She is attracted to English language and loves to explore the internationally recognized language at a global base. She writes about English Language Learning and English test preparations.
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Some people believe that children should be allowed to stay at home and play until they are 6 or 7 years old. Others believe that it is important for young children to go to school as soon as possible. What do you think are the advantages of attending school from a young age?

In many countries, children are sent to kindergarten from a young age. School follows shortly after that so children become accustomed to a school environment earlier on. Some parents do not want to rush their children off to school but prefer to let them do what children enjoy most, play.

Those who support that children should stay at home until they are a little older perhaps believe that the home environment has much more to teach them than school. Some parents may also think that children can learn through play or that because they will learn everything eventually at school there is no need to pressurize them.

There are many advantages for children if they are sent to school when they are younger. Firstly, they learn how to be part of a group. Activities in the classroom and in the playground are centred on team work. This skill is useful in later life as being social is viewed positively. If children stayed at home until a later stage, they would not benefit from meeting other children their own age and making many new friends. Secondly, in terms of knowledge, children learn how to read and write and a host of other useful information. Perhaps they would only have access to this information through the TV at home.

In my opinion it is better for children to go to school young as they learn how to share, be part of a group, make life-long friends and become literate.

Question taken from IELTS 4 Past Papers p.129
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

In the past, many people had skills such as making their clothes and doing repairs to things in the house. In many countries nowadays, skills like these are disappearing.

Why do you think this change is happening? How far is this situation true in your country?

Our grandparents were much more resourceful than us. They did not live in a society where mass production was the norm so their skills were better than ours. They appreciated the few possessions they owned either making them by hand or repairing any broken items instead of throwing them away.

Today, society has changed dramatically. Almost all our products are made in China or other developing countries like Vietnam. Consumer products are made in factories at a very low cost and therefore are also sold at attractive prices. Why would someone learn how to make their own clothes when they can purchase a cheap T-shirt very easily? In addition, when anything breaks in the house, it is simple to replace it. Advances in technology means that consumers are keen to update their products yearly.

In Cyprus, young people specialize in the field they are interested in and spend their free time having fun. Traditional skills like making chairs are dying out, even in this small society with parents complaining that their children are disinterested in learning any type of useful skill. Many low priced commodities are imported from abroad and young people do not follow in their parent’s footsteps as they do not show an interest in trade and skilled labour.

In fact, having a skill is often looked down upon by Cypriots who spend their working lives in air-conditioned offices doing administrative work. It is very rare to find a young person repairing furniture, electrical items or sewing their own clothes. We live in a society of easy come, easy go.

Question taken from IELTS 4 Past Papers p.115
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Free e-book - How to Stop Struggling with English Writing

Do you know which the two key pillars are when studying English (and any language in general)? Speaking and writing. And today we’d like to present you this free e-book that will reveal all the secrets and tips for a successful English writing.

The main goal of this e-book is to give you a clear view and procedure to improve you English writing skills. It is divided in five sections that will show you some very handy techniques and tips that you can put into practice to start writing properly in English once for all!

This e-book is absolutely free and you can download it from any of the following links:

“How To Stop Struggling With English Writing”:

Download this e-book from
Download this e-book from
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Some people believe that children are given too much free time. They feel that this time should be used to do more school work.

How do you think children should spend their free time?

It seems that the pressures of daily life, the fast pace and competition do not apply only to the adult world. Children are also subjected to a lot of pressure to perform well at school. They have more homework than ever before and struggle until late in the evening to complete it or to prepare for tests.

Those who think that children have too much free time, perhaps are referring to the long summer vacations and other holidays they have for religious and national events. On these occasions children are left for days on end with nothing to do. While some parents insist that children revise their school work, read or spend their time in the library to get a head start for the new school year, I do not think this is a good idea. Children need to relax their minds. If they are forced to do more school work they will not be psychologically ready for a whole year of more work and will just end up hating school as well as holidays.

Children need to spend their free time doing activities that they enjoy doing. This varies from child to child. Some might enjoy sports, socializing with their friends or even staying at home watching television or playing computer games. Of course many parents do not believe this is time spent constructively and would prefer their children do nothing else but study whilst children think the exact opposite.

Question taken from IELTS 5 Past Papers p.113
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Nowadays we are producing more and more rubbish.
Why do you think this is happening?

What can governments do to help reduce the amount of rubbish produced?

When walking or driving around any big city one can notice overflowing rubbish bins as well as litter in the streets and household waste in empty lots and fields. It is no surprise that we call our modern societies, consumer societies as a result of our overconsumption which has resulted from overproduction and greed.

Due to the fact that we are addicted to products and keep updating our goods, our rubbish also increases. Products come in attractive large packages that need to be disposed of when they are unwrapped. We even ask for plastic bags from a kiosk if we are only purchasing a packet of chewing gum. Manufacturers do not help the situation with the production of useless items. Consumers do not think about what happens to the rubbish they throw away and how long it will take for it to dissolve.

The government can impose certain restrictions on production, for example, all packaging should be biodegradable and kept to a minimum. Dustbins can be weighed during collection time and consumers whose rubbish exceeds a certain number of kilos should be fined heavily. Television campaigns informing consumers of the dangers to the planet because of unnecessary waste could be shown.

Unfortunately we have become wasteful and unappreciative. We are quick to throw something away instead of trying to fix it. It has now become difficult to get rid of household and industrial waste without harming the environment. Consumers, producers and the government should work together to face this irreversible problem.

Question taken from IELTS 5 Past Papers p.127
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GrammaTube - Bored or Boring? Or when to use them correctly

GrammaTube - Bored or Boring? Or when to use them correctly

How often do you use bored or boring when you speak or write in English? Quite some for sure, in sentences like “I’m bored” or “this book is really boring”. You have to be careful when using these words in English as they are quite tricky and it’s easy to make mistakes.

To help you master the use of bored and boring, we’ve prepared a new post on the GrammaTube series that contains videos about explanations and example of use.

Grammar can be one of the most difficult skills to develop in English but it is without doubt the key to progress throughout your learning. A good grammar base will help you to write properly and speak in English, hence improving communication with other people.

Good video with the conditions for bored and boring

Link to the video on YouTube

A funny video to understand the differences between bored and boring

Link to the video on YouTube

Another good explanation about bored and boring

Link to the video on YouTube

Present and past participle: bored vs. boring

Link to the video on YouTube

I am boring or I am bored

Link to the video on YouTube

Good explanation about the differences between bored and boring

Link to the video on YouTube
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Some people think it would be a good idea for schools to teach every young person how to be a good parent.

Do you agree or disagree with this opinion? Describe the skills a person needs to be a good parent.

It is not easy being a parent and this responsibility and joy does not come with a manual. Parents usually learn through experience or following the same techniques their parents used on them. As parenting involves a relationship between an adult and a youngster most people will have different views on how to best treat their children or what makes a good parent.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to teach youngsters how to parent well. This will enable them to be well equipped to handle children when they eventually have their own. Parenting is a challenge and being prepared is helpful. It will also teach children how to respect their parents and what they do for them. Some others however might believe that there is no formula to being a good parent. They may prefer being spontaneous and doing things their way.

To be a good parent, a person needs to be patient and to understand that children will not always act how they wish in order to make their life trouble-free. Good organization and time management skills are needed to fit a child’s activities into a day. It is not always simple planning a routine for children but I think children should feel that they are following a time frame.

To sum up, schools might be able to provide students with useful information on parenting which is one of life’s greatest gifts and challenges. In order to ensure a peaceful balance at home, parents should have some organizational skills that may be acquired through training.

Question taken from IELTS 6 Past Papers p.113
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Using a computer every day can have more negative than positive effects on young children.

Do you agree or disagree?

Children use computers more than ever before these days. They can be found surfing the internet, playing on-line games and on social network sites. Sometimes, especially when there is no parental control, they can spend too much time daily on computers.

Children need to learn how to operate computers as this is essential in their later life. The earlier they begin and the more they use them, the better they will become at learning everything about how they function. Youngsters are better able to learn new information and this can be done through computers.

However there is the downside of overuse to consider. Children who use the pc daily become anti-social. They become addicted to games and prefer these to going out with their friends and playing outdoors. Being on a computer for too long can affect a child’s health. Staring at a screen has a bad impact on someone’s eyes and children might experience headaches, back pain, sore wrists etc. What is more, some children forget to eat while some eat too much junk food as they are distracted by what they see in front of them.

To sum up, although computers are extremely useful for children and they can learn many things by using them, I do not think they should use them every day. There should be some sort of balance in their lives. Children need to get out for some fresh air and exercise. They should have other interests and spend time with their friends as well.

Question taken from IELTS 6 Past Papers p.126

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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Some people feel that entertainers (e.g. film stars, pop musicians or sports stars) are paid too much money.

Do you agree or disagree?

Which other jobs should be highly paid?

While some people think that George Clooney, Lady Gaga and David Beckham are worth the millions of dollars they get paid for entertaining crowds, I strongly believe their income does not reflect the work they do. They pull in the crowds with their star quality and their talent but their salaries are excessive.

If we compare the amount of money that entertainers make and what other professions like teachers, doctors and social workers get, we will see a vast difference. These workers have so much to offer an individual and the community. Doctors save lives and give people hope while social workers ease a person’s emotional suffering. Teachers are underpaid in my opinion and this is unfair considering how hard they work and the knowledge they offer to an individual. Such a contribution cannot be stressed enough.

Even an unassuming job like a garbage collector is important for society and the hygiene of a city. These workers also need to get a higher salary. Their job involves waking up early, hard physical labour and dealing with the dirt and awful smell created by city inhabitants. The city is a much cleaner place to live in because of their hard work.

On the other hand, entertainers have little to offer people. Their contribution lasts a short time only. For example, if you go to a concert, listen to a CD or watch a music video you can escape into another world for a while but what would life be like without people to care about our health and provide us with knowledge? It is worth rewarding these professions more.

Question taken from IELTS 7 Past Papers p.128
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General Training Model Answer – IELTS (Task 2)

Some people prefer to live in a house, while others feel there are more advantages to living in an apartment.

Are there more advantages than disadvantages of living in a house compared with living in an apartment?

The type of accommodation people choose to live in depends on many factors such as income, family size, what is available in a certain location, what makes them feel comfortable and homely etc. So, often people do not have a personal choice about where to live but must decide based on external factors.

Flats are attractive for single people who place importance on their career and do not spend much time at home. Perhaps they want a location in the city centre where all the facilities are and there is easy access to their workplace. If a young person is just starting out in life then they might not have the funds to purchase a house so paying rent is better for them. Some people also enjoy a communal lifestyle with many friendly neighbours in their block.

On the other hand, people who live in a house might have a larger family and so prefer spacious living quarters. They will find apartments crammed and claustrophobic especially if they have pets and enjoy having a garden. Even though houses are more expensive to buy and maintain, those with a house feel they have some place to call home. In addition, they may invite their guests over for parties without worrying about disturbing their neighbours.

In my opinion, living in an apartment is better than a house. With a housing shortage in many countries, a house is an unnecessary luxury. I do not believe that an individual and their family need such a large space to live in. Flats are practical living spaces for modern life.

Question taken from IELTS 7 Past Papers p.116
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