Learning a new language can be tricky, we all know it. Besides learning grammar rules and studying endless list of vocabulary words by heart, there is no better way to learn than to actually practice. There are many ways to practice a foreign language other than going abroad and talking to locals. If you do not feel ready to talk to other people just yet, you could start by watching movies or reading books in the language you are trying to learn! This will help you improve your receptive skills and put you one step further to mastering the language!
My advice would be to start with a book you have already read in your own language! You will know the story, which will allow you to spend more time on learning new vocabulary and memorizing recurrent grammar structures!
Here are a few suggestions of books featuring Edinburgh or Scotland in general to get you in the Scottish mood!
Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
How can I write an article about Scotland in literature without mentioning Diana Gabaldon’s series?! Dive into the Outlander books and travel through time and space, visit the Highlands, discover the daily life of 18th century Scotsmen and women, and even learn a few words of Gaelic! Gabaldon certainly does a beautiful job of transporting you all across Scotland.
One Day, David Nicholls
The novel retraces the intertwined lives of the two protagonists, Emma and Dexter, every year on the same day, July 15, for 20 years. The story begins with the two young students graduating from the University of Edinburgh and follows them throughout adulthood. Fall in love with this story and the city at the same time!
44 Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith
44 Scotland Street is an episodic novel that was first published as a serial in the daily newspaper The Scotsman. Now the series already counts 12 books, of which 44 Scotland Street is the first. The novels tell the story of the tenants of a building located at 44 Scotland Street in New Town, Edinburgh. You will certainly love the humour and the insightful observations about Edinburgh society portrayed through the author’s recurring characters!
Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
Scottish writer Irvine Welsh wrote a series of short stories collected in Trainspotting about residents of the Leith neighbourhood in Edinburgh. The story revolves around heroin users, friends of heroin users and people engaging in activities linked to different addictions just as destructive. It has become a worldwide phenomenon and many tourists now walk the streets of Edinburgh retracing the steps of Welsh’s characters.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
First published in The New Yorker magazine, the 1961 novel is now featured on the 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The novel follows a young teacher in her ‘prime’ namely, Miss Brodie and the relationships she forges with her pupils. Set in the Edinburgh of the 1930s, it’s certainly a book you do not want to miss!
Learning a new language isn’t just about learning grammar rules and vocabulary. Knowing how to get your message across is already a great start, don’t get me wrong! But there is a way to go one step further and help you sound like a native English-speaking person: idioms.
An idiom is a phrase, an expression or a group of words used together, the meaning of which is not directly understandable from the meaning of the individual words. For example, in the sentence ‘This car cost me an arm and a leg’, I don’t really mean that I exchanged an actual arm and leg for my new car. Here, the phrase ‘an arm and a leg’ means ‘a very high price’. Every language in the world has its own idioms, which often can’t be translated literally to another language. They can be tricky to master but they will definitely help you sound like a native speaker!
Here is a list of 5 frequent idioms of the English language you should start using right now!
A piece of cake
When you say that something is a piece of cake, it means that it is very easy.
“The exam was a piece of cake. I got everything right!”
To draw the line
When you draw the line, you stop and put a limit on something, usually because you feel it isn’t right.
“I’m okay with doing some overtime at work, but there is no way I will work for more than 40 hours per week. This is where I draw the line!”
To cry over spilt milk
To cry over spilt milk means to be sad and upset over things from the past you cannot change anymore.
“Stop being upset about what happened last week at the meeting. There’s no point crying over spilt milk. What is done is done.”
To be/feel under the weather
When you feel under the weather, it means you are feeling unwell or sick.
“I’m afraid I won’t be coming in to work today. I feel a bit under the weather and I need some rest.”
The last straw
When you say that something is the last straw, it means that it is the last in a series of unpleasant events that finally makes you want to change the bad situation you are in.
“This is the last straw! Patrick just asked me to prepare his meeting for him. I cannot accept this situation anymore, things need to change!”
Did you know that we offer exam preparation classes? Nowadays, it is not rare for universities or employers to require a certain test score proving your level of English. But which test should you take? What are the differences? Here’s a quick guide to help you understand the differences between the Cambridge exams and the IELTS.
Here at inlingua Edinburgh, you can prepare for the FCE, CAE, CPE or the IELTS. But what do these letters stand for?
FCE = First Certificate in English, (aka Cambridge English: First)
CAE = Certificate in Advanced English (aka Cambridge English: Advanced)
CPE = Certificate of Proficiency in English (aka Cambridge English Proficiency)
IELTS = International English Language Testing System.
While both the Cambridge exams and the IELTS test all four major English skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking, there are quite a few differences between them.
The main difference between the Cambridge tests and the IELTS is that while there is only one IELTS for every level, the Cambridge tests are level-oriented. FCE is for an upper-intermediate, B2 level qualification, the CAE is a C1 qualification exam and the CPE is for a C2 proficiency level.
Now let’s look at the ways in which they are assessed.
Despite their differences, one test is not more difficult than the other. You might find the Cambridge tests more interesting than the IELTS, which is a bit more academic, but it doesn’t mean that one is easier than the other.
Whether you need to do it to apply to the university of your choice, to get that job you have been after for a while or just because you want to boost your CV, book a class now at inlingua and pass that exam with flying colours!
There are many ways to learn English, but certainly one the best and most effective is listening to native speakers. As much as you think you already know, there will always be some peculiar phrases that only native English speakers really use and understand.
Here is a small selection of those “useful” everyday English phrases. Get them into your vocabulary and start sounding like a native. Tune in and enjoy!
To have an axe to grind An expression for when someone’s got a strong opinion.
Get somebody’s goat
A phrase about something annoying
Just another way to say “lots”
Hangry I’m sure you all know someone who gets angry when they don’t eat.
A really great way to improve your vocabulary and reading skills is by reading a good book and getting completely absorbed in the story. If you’ve ever wanted to read some English stories, but weren’t sure where to find books suitable for your level, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are my recommendations for some great English books for language learners.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
This book tells the story of Christopher Boone, a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome. Christopher’s condition means that he finds it difficult to connect with other people, and has trouble understanding some of the more complicated aspects of human relationships. Written from Christopher’s perspective, the book is a really interesting description of what it’s like to live with a learning disability, but also presents the world from a different point of view, giving us a new understanding of some things which we might take for granted.
The language in The Curious Incident is simple and easy to understand because Christopher speaks and thinks in an extremely logical and straightforward way. I would recommend this book for intermediate levels and above.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm is a book about farm animals.
The interesting thing about these animals is that they can speak to each other, think complex thoughts, and form governments similar to our own. The story focuses on a group of animals on one particular farm, using the way their society develops as a metaphor for the corruption and dishonesty of human politicians. Animal Farm is a classic story of revolution, power and corruption, told through the prism of a simple fable.
The language in Animal Farm is a little bit more complicated than in The Curious Incident, as it was written about seventy years ago and some of the language might seem a bit old-fashioned. With the help of a good dictionary, I think this book would be suitable for strong intermediate students.
Nine Stories by J. D. Salinger
This is a collection of short stories by one of America’s most famous and influential authors. Focussing on a number of different topics and characters, Salinger explores the pain and suffering associated with our loss of innocence when we grow up. In almost all of the stories, children are compared with adults, the children often possessing the real wisdom and knowledge that the adults fail to see.
This is one of my favourite collections of short stories. Salinger’s language is relatively simple and easy to understand, but is also very expressive and evocative. I would recommend this book for intermediate levels and above
Penguin Graded Readers
If all of these books sound a bit too complicated for your level, a good idea would be to get one of the penguin graded readers. These are English novels which have been adapted to various different levels. The story is the same, but the language is simpler, so they are a good way to introduce yourself to English literature if you aren’t a confident reader.
When it comes to job hunting, getting your cover letter right is just as important as perfecting your CV! Your cover letter is a way to introduce yourself to the employer and is sent to accompany and expand upon your CV.
Many job hunters ask whether they need to write a cover letter when applying for a job, assuming that a CV should be enough. However, 57.1% of professionals rank the cover letter as an essential component of every job application – and with good reason.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your cover letter is a regurgitation of your CV and therefore a waste of time. Your letter is, in fact, a formalised way of introducing yourself and expanding on a few key areas that make you suitable for the role. This is a massive bonus if you’ve run out of room on your two-page CV. As a result, why wouldn’t you write a cover letter when it’s your number-one chance to tell the prospective employer more about why you’d make such a good hire?
Many recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of applications a day and can only spend a matter of seconds reviewing applications – so your cover letter needs to be good.
Below you will find useful guidelines to help you write a strong cover letter. Some recruiters may receive hundreds of applications a day, so your cover letter gives you a chance to stand out from the crowd (and with only 20 to 30 seconds to grab their attention, it needs to be good!)
A cover letter should complement, NOT duplicate, your CV.
The different types of cover letters
The application letter which responds to a known job opening.
The prospecting letter which inquires about possible positions.
The networking letter which requests information and assistance in your job.
« Dear Sir or Madame? » or « To whom it may concern? »
State why you are writing.
Begin by telling the employer and the position you are applying for and how you learned about the opportunity.
Establish a point of contact.
Advertisement in a specific place for a specific position; a particular person’s suggestion that you write.
Give some brief idea of who you are.
Highlight a few of the most salient points from your enclosed CV.
Describe how your previous job experiences, skills, and abilities will allow you to meet the company’s needs.
Stress action. Politely request an interview at the employer’s convenience.
Indicate what supplementary material is being sent under separate cover and offer to provide additional information, and explain how it can be obtained (a portfolio, a writing sample, a sample publication, a dossier, an audition tape, a website / blog).
Thank the reader for his/her consideration and indicate that you are looking forward to hearing from him/her.
Page format guide: 4 steps
1’’ – 1.5’’ margins are always a safe bet. Be careful not to make the content look crammed together.
Don’t go below a 12-point font. Anything below 12 can strain the eyes.
Font style is really a matter of preference. Try to choose one that looks professional or that matches what the employer uses on their website.
Maintain a uniform alignment throughout. Keep all paragraphs left-aligned.