Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

10 Most Common Questions From English Language Learners

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 @ 09:05 AM

English language learnersDo you make a lot of the same mistakes again and again in English?

In my experience as an English tutor and an ESL classroom teacher, I have seen English language learners ask a lot of questions.

Almost all of my students have asked me how they can improve their English outside of class and speak English more often in their daily lives.

They also have common questions about confusing grammar points such as the difference between "will" and "going to" or how to pronounce confusing words like "quit", "quiet" and "quite". 

Sometimes students ask what they should know when they do business with American people and how culture affects business interactions.

These are all great questions so today we have the 10 most common questions about English grammar, pronunciation and how to learn English.


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The Top 10 Questions From English Language Learners


#10- "How can I improve my English outside of class?"

Most English students, including international professionals and graduate students, ask this question. It can be hard to make significant progress if you take a class just twice per week for 1.5 hours.

However, your life in the United States is busy, so it's important to find a way to make English a part of your daily life.

Check out this article to find out how to create an English learning network. It is also important to take risks.

Find out how to improve your English by taking risks


# 9- "How do I make conversation with Americans?"

A lot of English language learners feel comfortable speaking English with a tutor or studying with a book but when it comes to really speaking and interacting with American people using English, they don't feel comfortable.

It's time to change that! Watch this video for some advice on how to make small talk with American people.


# 8- "What is the difference between 'going to' and 'will'?"

This is a tough grammar point and there are a few general rules that you can learn by watching this video on the future tense but remember, in American English, we always break the rules and there are many exceptions to the rules. So my advice is, learn the rules, then go out and speak with local people. Listen to them use the future tense, try it yourself and be willing to make mistakes.


# 7- "My pronunciation and grammar are both fine, but how can I improve my listening?"

Listening is an important part of learning the English language but many people think that you have to designate a specific time with a textbook and a CD at home doing listening exercises to improve. I don't agree with that.

I believe that you can improve your listening anywhere, at any time, if you are living in the United States or another English speaking country. Find out how to practice English anywhere through daily listening!


# 6- "When should I say 'used to do' and when should I say 'to be used to doing'?"

This is another common grammar question that is often misunderstood.

If this is a grammar point that you struggle with, have a look at this ESL English grammar lesson on describing habits. When you finish the video lesson, take the 4 question quiz to test your learning!





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# 5- "How do I know which letters are silent and which letters I should pronounce?"

In English, unlike other languages, we have a lot of letters that are not pronounced in words. English words are not always spoken the way that they are written.

Can you pronounce 'autumn' and 'hymn'?

How about 'island' or 'pneumonia'?

If you aren't sure how to pronounce these words, check out these two videos: silent letters part 2  and silent letters part 3.


# 4-" How much and when do I have to tip in the United States?"

Being successful in the United States requires more than just English skills!

You are in a new culture and our customs and values are different from those in your home country. So, daily life will present challenges! One common challenge is tipping.

Find out when, where and how much to tip in the United States.


# 3- "What's the difference between 'do' and 'make' ?"

Another common grammar question!

This is hard for a lot of French, Spanish and Italian speakers. When you speak English, it is important not to translate from your native language.

That is why a lot of students make mistakes with these two words. Learn how to use 'do' and 'make' in this video lesson.


# 2- "What do I need to know about doing business with American people?"

Is it ok to just "be yourself" and follow your own cultural norms and values about time management, business greetings and nonverbal communication while doing business with American people?


There are certain things that you should know about doing business in the United States such as why the handshake is important in the US and why time is money.


# 1- "Why do I need to know about American culture to be successful?"

This is the big question! In the end, this question is more important than any grammar or pronunciation point and here's why- we often make the assumption that we all have the same views on what is polite and what is rude, what is professional and what is unprofessional, which way is up and which way is down.

If you would like to use your English skills to become successful in your life in the United States, don't forget the importance of culture! Read about why just learning English is not enough!



Did you find this article helpful?? If so, your friends and colleagues will probably want to read it too! Please share it on Facebook, Twitter or Linked In


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