Archive for August, 2013

The Logistics of Learning

Posted on August 31st, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Travelling everyday was the best part of Roberto’s job and the main reason he applied to the logistics firm in the first place. His job consisted of collecting packages from the distribution warehouse and delivering them across the United States in his truck. He´d start his journey at the warehouse near his home to collect the packages that were ready for transportation, then he´d enjoy a long drive to the first delivery address where he would ensure the customer was happy with the condition of their package, the timely delivery and general service before asking them to sign for their goods. Then, off he´d go again on the next leg of his journey to drop off the next package. The trips took him all over the States so he constantly saw fresh scenery and met new people.

Before being considered for an interview at the logistics firm, Roberto had had to confirm that he could speak and understand a certain level of English. Although most of his time was spent in his truck, he also had to help with the co-ordination process of the packages at the warehouse, he had to be able to interpret any special instructions left by the customers for delivery of their items, and had to be able to communicate effectively with the customers upon delivery. As English is the common language spoken across the US, it was essential that had a sufficient grasp of the language.

Having passed the interview stage, Roberto had enjoyed many trips in his truck and had settled easily into his job. He did, however, struggle slightly with the different dialects and colloquialisms from state to state. Some customers also had a tendency to be more technical in the way they conversed with him about their goods, and occasionally he found some of the words or phrases to be unfamiliar. So, to ensure he kept his employers happy and his good reputation with the customers intact, he enrolled in some private English language lessons to help iron out the slight difficulties he had come across.

Roberto wanted to ensure he could deliver an all-round good service with timely transportation and good communication, not just the delivery of packages.

Looking After the Little Ones

Posted on August 28th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Maarit was most definitely living the dream. For her, that meant being an au pair in the USA. She’d been living with a lovely family looking after their two young children for six months now and was enjoying every minute of it!

Each weekday, she took the kids to school then ran a few errands such as food shopping, collecting the dry cleaning and taking their dog for a long walk, followed by some free time for herself. Some of this free time was actually spent studying as one of her visa requirements was that she had to continue her studies whilst living in the US, so she had enrolled in a course of English lessons to ensure she kept the language updated and fresh in her mind. Other au pairs from the local areas attended the same classes so it was a good way to socialise and make friends. She also learned more about the area and what there was to do, both with the kids and in her own free time. As well as that, it was good to compare her experiences as an au pair with theirs, and there were certainly some amusing stories.

After doing the school run in the afternoons, she’d help the kids with their homework and then they’d have some fun! They’d usually go to the nearby park to play on the swings and the slide, and sometimes they´d take their bikes or their skates with them. Every now and again, she´d treat them to an outing at the local petting zoo; it was their favourite place to go and they loved stroking the animals. Afterwards, Maarit would get some dinner ready and then it would be time to let their parents spend some time with them after they´d arrived home from work. A bedtime story never went amiss though at the end of the evening!

Maarit was halfway through her stay in the US and had had some amazing experiences as an au pair. She already had many happy memories to cherish, but had a feeling that the next six months were going to be even better!


It Helps to be Hospitable!

Posted on August 24th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Maripaz had landed a job as a customer service representative in a hotel. She’d completed her training for the new position and had been helping out at the front desk and concierge for a couple of weeks now. She really enjoyed working with the public and being able to help the guests with their enquiries.

One of the requirements of employment by the hotel chain was that she had to be bilingual in Spanish and English which was no problem for her as she was Hispanic and had always learned English as a second language. However, she found speaking to so many different people about such diverse topics a little more hard work than she thought she would. It was one thing speaking English in classes with familiar subject matters and knowing you’d be corrected if you made a mistake, but a very different matter altogether dealing with the public, especially when there were so many different accents and unfamiliar questions. She knew that the more time she spent speaking to people and the more she learned her job, she would gradually become accustomed to it, but for the initial stages of her new job she needed a bit of extra help!

She enrolled in an intensive one-to-one language course with a native English teacher to help her get used to the accent and learn colloquialisms as well as more formal terminology. The teacher geared her lessons around the hotel environment and the things that Maripaz could expect to come across in her job. These lessons improved her confidence no end, and the worry of being on unfamiliar territory when she was helping English speaking guests soon abated.

With good feedback from the guests and recommendations from satisfied customers, Maripaz’s bosses were happy with her conduct and Maripaz was able to look forward to a promising career in the hospitality industry!


Travelling to Train as a Teacher (Part 2)

Posted on August 21st, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Keen to improve his English language skills by learning direct from native English speakers, the first thing Cai did when he arrived in the United States was to enrol in an intensive language course. His cousins, who had previously lived in Pittsburgh, had recommended a language school to him so he had wasted no time in contacting their Washington DC branch, which is where he’d chosen to move to.

Washington DC was an amazing place. It was so different from his home in Beijing yet it was exactly as he’d imagined it to be. It was springtime and the scenery surrounding him was full of cherry blossoms which reminded him of the peonies that bloomed each year back home. The many monuments and memorials were breathtaking and Cai spent an afternoon wandering down National Mall taking in as many of the sights as he could.

Although being in the US was predominantly to enhance his English speaking skills in order to become a better teacher back in China, he also wanted to learn as much as he could about American culture while he was there. This was so that he could enthuse his pupils with some excitement by helping them to associate words and phrases in the English language with interesting stories of what he had seen and done on his travels.

The variety of food was certainly different to what he was used to but he grew to love it and often enjoyed trying tasty new snacks whilst sightseeing in his free time. He visited the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and spent hours wandering around it gazing at all of the animals. He even took in an ice hockey game while he was there; it was different to the kind of sports he was used to watching but nonetheless he enjoyed it and felt he´d truly tried something typically American.

With so much to see and do, Cai also had to remember his studies and the serious business of his impending teaching career. So, with his stories stored in his head, he knuckled down to his lessons so that, in the not too distant future, he could impart his knowledge to his own eager students.

Travelling to Train as a Teacher (Part 1)

Posted on August 18th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Cai knew what he wanted to do and exactly how he was going to go about doing it! Having graduated from university with an English degree, he was one step closer to becoming an English teacher. The demand for English teachers in his country was high as it was becoming more and more Westernized, and it was increasingly more common for Westerners to take placements in Chinese universities and language institutions in order to teach the language.

Cai had always had a love of the English language and felt he could pass on his enthusiasm and knowledge to others, even though it was his second language. Before leaping straight into teaching, however, he wanted to further his own education even more and gain essential experience abroad, just like so many of his fellow Chinese graduates.

And where better to learn the language than in the United States of America where he could learn direct from native English speakers while he integrated into the society. He wanted to learn about the American culture and ways, as well as the language, as it was so different from Chinese culture. He felt this was important, not just for himself, but for him to reflect to his future pupils so that they had a fuller understanding of Western society and how the language is used, rather than just reading from books or listening to lessons.

His cousins had previously emigrated to the US after graduating so he was eager to find out what was in store for him. They´d lived in the city of Pittsburgh, and Ming-Lai retold stories of what a wonderful place it was, full of exciting new challenges and never a dull moment. His excitement mounting, Cai was even more determined to achieve his goal, and got ready for the long journey that would take him to the next chapter of his career in English.

Learning to Live the Dream

Posted on August 14th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Have you ever just had the urge to ‘up sticks’ and move abroad? To go somewhere totally different to start a new life, or maybe to continue your current lifestyle but in a much more palatable climate and with more preferable surroundings? Many fantasize about living in another country but, when it comes to the crunch, they just can´t make the leap.

Family ties and friends are obvious reasons but many people are scared of leaving behind the familiarity of their work and home life without having the security of everything they know. How will they find work? How will they make friends? What if they get there and it´s just not for them after all? But the most common factor that puts people off pursuing their dream of living abroad is the language barrier. Fear of not being understood, of being unable to learn the language and get by in everyday situations. Moving abroad nowadays is so common and there are so many opportunities to learn foreign languages that there really is no need to give up your aspirations because of a barrier that really doesn´t exist.

Millions of immigrants flock to the United States of America in the hope of ‘living the dream’ and having a brighter future. But while their hopes and dreams are all well and good, they´re also facing the daunting prospect of finding somewhere to live, finding employment, dealing with the red-tape and generally getting by in a country where they don´t necessarily speak the language. The US is so vast and so diverse that the amount of resources available to immigrants is phenomenal. Many government offices, societies, companies, charities, centres and support groups exist specifically with the purpose of helping and guiding immigrants into how best to integrate into society. Help with visas, housing, employment, and medical care, as well as general day-to-day assistance is available for all nationalities. Not forgetting, of course, help with learning the English language. Countless facilities are available to aid immigrants with learning the English language and, once the basics are underway, the vocabulary soon builds up helping with a smooth transition into their new life and a seamless integration into the US society.

Moving abroad is exciting and opens up a whole new set of opportunities and possibilities; so don´t be put off from fulfilling your dream when it´s as simple as learning your ‘A, B, Cs’!

A Sign of the Times

Posted on August 10th, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

You´re bound to have had a go at semaphore as a child by learning how to spell out your name with the coloured flags, or you read about it being used in adventure stories. By holding two flags in certain positions, letters and numbers can be communicated across long distances. Traditionally used in the maritime industry during the 19th century, semaphore flags are still used today during underway replenishment at sea and as a form of emergency communication. In mountainous regions, where other forms of communication may be difficult, semaphore is still used, as it is by lifeguards in some sea rescue companies. The peace symbol was originally designed by combining the semaphoric symbols for the letters ‘N’ and ‘D’, standing for ‘Nuclear Disarmament’ enclosed in a circle.

Morse code is another form of communication you will have heard of and no doubt given a try at some point. By using a series of on-off dots, clicks and tones, messages can be transmitted and understood by those skilled in how to interpret them. The International Morse Code is comprised of unique sequences of dots and dashes, each representing a number or letter. Popular with amateur radio operators, Morse code is often used even though it´s not actually required for licensing. Air traffic controllers and pilots are only required to have a basic understanding whilst aeronautical navigational aids use it a lot for identification purposes. Perhaps the most commonly recognised signal is for ‘SOS’ which is comprised of three dots, three dashes and three dots. This emergency distress signal is internationally recognised by treaty.

If you prefer the art of real conversation to these time-honoured classics of communication, why not brush up on your English skills and speak in words rather than signals!

A Letter of Acceptance

Posted on August 3rd, 2013 by Melanie in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Maarit was very excited. She´d just received a confirmation letter from the au pair association to say that her placement with her chosen host family in the Unites States had been accepted! This meant she had at least a year living with the family and taking care of the two children.

She’d chosen a family with young children; a boy and a girl aged 6 and 8 years old. Their parents both worked full-time so she would have to get them ready for school each day, collect them after school and look after them until their parents came home in the evenings. She had lots of exciting activities planned to keep them occupied. She´d also get to spend some of her free time going on outings with the family at weekends and during the holidays which she was really looking forward to, and she also wanted to explore some of the US while she was there.

One of the visa requirements was to study during her year as an au pair and she was given a grant for this. She had a selection of courses to choose from but decided to stick with English lessons as a continuation from her current studies, plus she felt she had a responsibility to be as fluent and as accurate as she could in the English language, bearing in mind she was looking after young children and would be an influence over them. Besides, a number of au pairs from the local areas would be attending the same classes so it was a good way to make new friends and keep in touch.

With her suitcase packed, including special Finnish presents for the children and Finnish souvenirs for the parents, Maarit made her way to the airport and waited eagerly to board the ’plane ready to start her new adventure as an au pair in the United States of America!