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Mairi Learning German: Progress Update

Here’s the year’s first update on my German progress.

How is your German learning going?

I would say that my German is going steadily.

Christmas was challenging.   It was strange to be back in the UK for 2 weeks. I could order coffee without having to think of what to say beforehand! All the signs were written in English! Hearing people with British accents in the street was ordinary! When I hear someone with a British accent in Vienna I want to run over and make a new friend.

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Writing Formal Letters

Today I’ll talk about how to write a formal letter. If you’re doing any sort of business in English, this is a really important skill. We use letters when following up with a company, sending out catalogues, confirmations, or price lists, submitting formal complaints, and especially when applying for jobs. Outside of the business world, writing a formal letter is also a part of English exams at intermediate level and higher.

We write far fewer letters these days, but if anything this means that letter writing is a more important skill! If more and more people are losing the ability to properly structure a formal letter, imagine the advantage it could give you when you send in a job application.

Writing a formal letter can be a daunting task, and I confess that it’s not something that I enjoy doing at all. Thankfully, though, there are plenty of rules you can follow to make your letters stand out.

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New Year in Scotland

Hello everybody!  

I hope your Christmases were wonderful.  I spent the week with the English half of my family, eating too much and relaxing after a busy four months in Vienna. However, the celebrations are far from over.  I’m back in Scotland until the beginning of January, and New Year here is an even bigger party than Christmas.

Since my blog post on UK Christmas traditions was so much fun, I’ve decided to write about some of the things which make New Year in Scotland so exciting.

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Christmas in the UK

It’s almost Christmas! 

In the last two weeks I have eaten more Weihnachtskekse than I can count and visited what feels like every Christmas market in Vienna.   Now my classes are over until 2015 and in a couple of days I’m flying back to the UK. 

I love Christmas, but this year I’m especially excited because 1. It’s been a VERY long time since I had a holiday, and 2.  I haven’t been out of Vienna since August.

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At, On, and In

Today’s post is a bit shorter than usual, but I hope you’ll find it useful. I’d like to show you a simple diagram I use to teach the prepositions of time.

The prepositions of time are at, on, and in.  We use these prepositions when talking about events in the past, discussing future plans, and making arrangements.

When I take German lessons, I find prepositions very confusing, so I understand how hard this can be.  Thankfully, in English, we have an easy way to remember which is correct. Look at the diagram below:

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My Favourite Scottish Words

Until September, I lived in Scotland.  I was born in Aberdeen (Scotland’s third largest city) and went to University in St Andrews. Now we’ve been gone for a whole three months, and today is St Andrews Day – our national holiday!

I haven’t been able to find a good Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced KAY-lee) dance in Vienna, and I think it’s too late to try importing my own haggis for dinner tonight. Needless to say I’m feeling a little bit homesick.

You’ve probably heard Scottish actors (or actors pretending to be Scottish) on TV or in films, but if you actually travelled to Scotland (particularly for the festivities today) you would hear a much wider range of accents. In fact, there are so many different variations of language in Scotland that some people call it a language in it’s own right.

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Resilience in Language Learning

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote about studying German.  In that time, I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of resilience in language learning. Here’s how I’ve been getting on.

How is your German learning going?

It’s going ok… reasonably well… not bad…  This month has definitely reminded me how difficult it is to learn a new language!

 What have you been doing for the last month?

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For, Ago, and Since

Today I’m going to look at three small words used to talk about the past. A lot of my students make mistakes when using for, ago and since when they talk about past events and actions. I think this is partly because the German ‘seit’ and English ‘since’ are false friends – they sound similar, but are not used in exactly the same way.

Let’s start by looking at three different answers to a question I hear all the time. ‘How long have you lived here?’

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How Much or How Many?

Do you want your English to sound more natural? Learning whether to ask ‘how much’ or ‘how many’  will help you to sound fluent.

Nouns in English fall into two categories: Countable and Uncountable.

It’s easy to tell the difference – just think about their names!  Is it possible to count the item out, one at a time?  It’s a countable noun. Is it impossible to count, and has to be measured by weight, size, or in some other way?   It’s an uncountable noun.

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English for the Hospitality Industry – Part 1

English for Hotel Staff

Before I became an English teacher, I spent five years working in the hospitality industry. I’ve done every job from housekeeping to washing dishes, waitressing to reception work, and I’ve also worked in marketing for hotels and restaurants.

Many of my students want to learn English to work in hospitality. Today I’m here to help with my first post on English for the Hospitality Industry.

Imagine you’ve just been given a job as a hotel receptionist. Today is your first day. We’ll take a tour of the hotel and meet the staff.

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