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So, where do you start?

ONE – Know what Score you need

If you want to study at an English university then you will need to write the Academic IELTS (and not the General IELTS). The speaking and listening sections are the same but the writing and reading sections are different.

Know the score you are aiming for. Each university requires different scores. For example, the University of Cape Town usually requires a recent overall band score of 7.0 with no individual element of the test scoring below 6.0 (in reading, writing, listening and speaking), while other institutions may only require an overall band score of 6.0 or 6.5.

TWO – Know your Level

If you are aiming for a band score of 7.0 then you should ideally have reached upper-intermediate (B2) in General English before you invest your time preparing for IELTS.

Preparing for IELTS involves a lot of exam training and less focus on grammar and language development. The focus is on academic use of English.

THREE – Prepare using Trustworthy Sources

Anyone can post their IELTS course online so there is misinformation and bad advice all over the web. It is advisable to use reliable sites such as the British Council IELTS training materials or Cambridge materials and you can download their learning apps. You can also find more advice on the ELC Blog such as this post on writing an opinion essay

If you have the opportunity, you may want to sign up for a course at a language school such as the ELC, where teachers can coach you directly and provide personal feedback on how to improve your weak points.

FOUR – Book your Exam in Advance

Exam centres fill up, so you should book ahead to make sure you get the date you require. Also be sure to book the correct type of exam. There is a paper exam and a computer based exam, there is the General and the Academic exam, there is also a UK Exam. So be sure to register for the correct one.

FIVE – Be Prepared for the Day

The experience is daunting. Some exam centres have 100s of students writing. Security at the exam venue is extreme so no one can cheat. It is difficult to get a bathroom break and depending on the exam centre, you may sit for 3 – 4 hours writing the paper. Get the details on how your exam centre administers the exam so that you are mentally prepared for the day.

Extra TIP – Increase your General Knowledge

IELTS exams tend to cover similar topics such as climate change, population growth and new developments in science such as nanotechnology and neuroscience. So read articles and listen to podcasts on a variety of topics to expand not only your vocabulary but your general knowledge too. It is much easier to understand when you already know something about the topic and it is much easier to write or talk about a topic that you are familiar with.

Good luck with your exam and look out for more tips on IELTS, on our ELC blog.


The post FIVE Tips on Getting Started with IELTS appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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It’s silly season again – that period when there is a higher than usual number of social engagements because  the summer holidays  have begun, the people are happy, the mood is frivolous and it’s time for summer flings and sun-downers! So where should you go to catch up with your friends and spark up new conversations while soaking up this vibe? We have selected a few or our favourite haunts among the myriad wonderful things to do in Cape Town this summer:
1. Tuning the Vine 
Take a casual saunter between some of Cape Town’s hippest venues, as you sample South Africa’s finest wines. Winemakers set up shop at spots around the city centre, so you can take a leisurely stroll with your friends through the heart of Cape Town tasting the fruits of the vine. Your ticket (R200 – R220) also buys you a wine-tuning kit: a glass, a wristband and a map. Grab your buddies and put on your pumped-up kicks to take this time to stop and smell the bouquet (we are not talking about flowers) on Wednesday, 12 July 2018 from 05:30 PM to 08:30 PM.
2. V&A Waterfront
The Waterfront is an open mall with a range of shops, food and entertainment. People amble along enjoying the social ambience, sit and watch the world go by, or listen to local South African bands. Watch or dance in the Tango Marathon tomorrow afternoon from 3 PM – 6 PM. There are also a number of live events planned at the Waterfront this month, including a jam-packed summer children’s programme at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art. The outdoor Silo Concert Programme will showcase the South African Youth Wind Orchestra on 14th December 2018. While you shop, take a moment to see Santa, Mary Claus, Candy Cane dancers, Christmas Carollers, Jingle Bells and the beautiful Snow Fairy run amok in the mall. This joyful show is free of charge and starts at 8 15 PM – 8 45 PM, running from 14th – 17th December 2018.
3. Braai at Oudekraal
Catch a myCiti bus to Oudekraal on the way to Hout Bay. One of Cape Town’s most treasured secrets, this scenic spot is part of the Table Mountain National Park and forms the perfect setting for a summer braai with friends. It’s a small cove sheltered by large boulders and has a safe swimming area for those intrepid adventurous souls. There are grassy areas for those who do not want to sit on the beach. It’s also a very popular scuba diving location where divers can see some fascinating local sea life. Adults pay R30 and it is open between 8 AM – 6 PM.
4. Sunsets at the 12 Apostles
Enjoy a lavish sunset and live entertainment while sipping on delicious cocktails at the 12 Apostles. Catch up with family and friends as you gaze at panoramic views of the ocean at this jewel of a venue that is extremely popular with Cape Town locals and visitors alike.
5. Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts
On Sunday evenings, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden will set the stage for open air concerts. Bring along your loved ones and a picnic basket – which can also be pre-arranged with the Kirstenbosch Tea Room or Moyo Restaurant – to appreciate the South Africa’s indigenous plants while enjoying some phenomenal music. This season, the line-up includes favourites such as Jeremy Loops, Mi Casa, Lira, Goldfish, The Parlotones, The Soil, Freshlyground, and Boney M among many other beloved artists. Tickets cost between R150 – R415 and they sell out fast in the silly season.

The post Top 5 things to do this Silly Season in Cape Town appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Measuring your progress is so important.  We know that students want to move up to higher levels as fast as possible but learning a language takes time.  Our very experienced teachers will help you to progress at a speed that works for you.
How do we measure your progress here at ELC? It is NOT only weekly tests or exams.  We use continuous assessment, which means that we assess your language constantly. This means that everything you do is assessed including attendance, participation, homework, weekly tests as well as your writing in your writing book. 
What does Teacher Alex think about continuous assessment? Teacher Alex, who is very highly qualified, says that continuous assessment is a very valid way of testing because it provides a holistic overview of students’ process. In his vast experience, basing progress on exams only is very misleading.  Students might cram for an exam and then forget everything immediately after the test, which clearly isn’t a great way to learn English!  Or they might be very nervous test takers and do badly in tests, which is also not a fair reflection of progress.
The Weekly TestsYou will also have assessments every Friday. Skills form the base of these tests including reading, writing, listening or speaking. Your grammar and vocabulary is marked within each of those skills.  These are formal tests and teachers record your grade on your own personal mark sheet. 
Writing Books Each student also has their own writing book which is continuously assessed  by your teacher. We take writing very seriously here at ELC as it is such an important skill.   For more information about how to improve your writing, watch our YouTube video.  HomeworkYou will only remember work that you learnt in the classroom IF you revise at home. This is what homework is for.  As a student, repetition is your greatest tool in learning a new language. 

So if you want to progress to a higher level, take part in your classes, come to school regularly, do all your homework, keep writing in your writing book and study for your tests.  Good luck! 

The post How Do We Measure Your Progress here at ELC? appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Diana from Colombia, an Advanced student here at ELC, tells us about her lengthy stay in Cape Town, where she formed some deep friendships with classmates and others around Cape Town. 

What is your name and where do you come from?

My name is Diana Rodríguez, I am from Bogotá, Colombia.

What do you do back home? (student, working, etc.)

I am financial engineer.

What is your dream/life goal for the future?

I would like to have my own business.

What is your favourite restaurant/bar/activity/coffee shop/place to go in Cape Town?


It is so hard to choose only one, I really love Cafe Colombia because it remembers me my home. I love Table Mountain, Lion’s Head…Cape Point…the whole city is amazing.

How did you get to school in the morning, and back home?

In the morning by taxi, and back home by Jammie bus.

What did you do on the weekend?

Hiking, or I used to go to the beach.

What is the best thing about Cape Town?

I love the landscapes and the freedom that I can have here.

Were you nervous about coming to Cape Town?

Yes, it was my first long trip. But it was the smartest decision I ever made.

If yes, what were you nervous about specifically?

I was nervous about my English, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to communicate myself properly.

What was the most difficult thing about planning your trip to Cape Town? (visas, the long flight, making a booking at ELC, etc.)

The visa was the most difficult.

What tips would you give students coming to study in Cape Town?

They have to be keen to explore everything. for enjoying Cape Town you only have to say “why not?”

What is one thing students should not forget to pack in their luggage when they come to Cape Town?

Shoes for hiking…and always have good attitude.



Do you think Cape Town is expensive?

Definitely, it is not.

What did you miss most about home?

Taking off my family and friends…I would say the Colombian food, the Latin parties and my local stadium.

How did you keep in touch with family and friends back home?

We use WhatsApp all the time.


Thanks for your feedback, Diana.  We know that you had a fantastic adventure and you enjoyed your time here as a student at ELC.  We wish you well with your future endeavours. 

For more Student Stories, read about DioufBrunaMohsen, and Galina.

The post Student Stories | Diana from Colombia appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Learning English is more than sitting in a classroom listening to your teacher. If you do more than that, you will learn faster.  If you take responsibility for your learning, you will improve more quickly.  Here we list 5 ways that you can improve your language by yourself.  
Practise all 4 skills – Listening, Reading, Writing and SpeakingStudents often forget about Writing and Reading because they are harder.  Or some nationalities find Listening and Speaking more difficult, so they focus on Reading and Writing.  The skills are all linked, so, for example, reading improves your writing, writing improves your reading, reading improves your vocabulary, and having more vocabulary improves your listening and speaking.  So try not to avoid any of them.  The one that is the hardest, is the one you should be working on the most. 
Use a Vocabulary NotebookWrite down new words in sentences, so that you can see the meaning.  Try not to write lists with a translation next to each word.  Research tells us that if you record the word in a sentence, you are much more likely to remember it.   When you learn a new word, try to learn all its forms.  For example, when you learn the adjective ‘happy’, immediately try to find out what the noun is – ‘happiness’.  Similarly, the adverb is ‘happily’.  That way, you learn 3 words, not just 1!  
Revise, Revise, ReviseBy tomorrow, you will have forgotten 50% of what you learnt today – isn’t that a scary thought? It is so important to refresh your memory of things you have learnt in the past.  And by ‘past’ we mean, yesterday, two days ago, a week ago, 3 months ago and even a year ago.  Your vocabulary will rapidly improve if you do this. 
Read Graded ReadersRead for fun!  Student tell us that ‘normal’ books are too difficult so you can read Graded Readers. These are normal stories that have the very difficult words taken out of them and they are especially designed for English learners.  Remember, reading improves your writing, your vocabulary and even your grammar.  Read Teacher Alex’ tips about improving your reading.

Here at ELC, we have a library just for our learners.  

Photo by Banter Snaps on UnsplashDon’t rely on a dictionary It is so tempting to translate every word that you don’t understand but if you do this, you won’t remember the word.  So, tomorrow you still won’t know what the word is!  Try to guess the meaning of the word from the words around it.  If you must use a dictionary, use an English to English dictionary that explains the word, rather than just telling you the meaning in your language.


Next week we will give you 5 more ways to improve your English on your own.  And remember, Rome was not built in a day:  this means that it takes time to learn English, so relax and enjoy the ride.  

Photo by Simone Savoldi on Unsplash

The post 5 Ways to Improve your English appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Learn English with UCT English Language .. by Christelle Van Niekerk - 6M ago
Why is it called Lion’s Head? It takes a bit of imagination but the shape of the mountain resembles a lion lying down, with its ‘head’ facing Table Mountain.  Signal Hill is the ‘body’ and the ‘tail’ of the lion is Granger Bay.  In the past, Lion’s Head has been called ‘Leeuwen Kop’ and ‘Ye Sugar Loaf.’ 

Although Lion’s Head is lower than Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, it is officially a mountain because a mountain is defined as any peak that is 305m higher than the terrain around it. Lion’s Head stands proudly at 670m above sea level while Table Mountain is 1085m.  
How long does it take to climb Lion’s Head?This can range between 30 minutes and 2 hours, but the average, for most moderately fit people, is 1 hour. 

Capetonian runners love challenging themselves to running up to the peak, from the bar at the beginning of the jeep track to see what time they can achieve.  The writer’s record is 35 minutes 15 seconds. The unofficial Cape Town record, according to the grapevine, is 19 minutes, which is an astonishing feat of fitness.   At ELC, students report between 25 minutes (which is good going) and 90 minutes, with some breaks to take in the spectacular 360° views of Cape Town and the surrounding areas. 


In 2016, 200 000 people summited the peak which must surely be a record for the number of times a mountain has been climbed! 
What routes can you use on Lion’s Head? If you go up by the usual route, you drive up to Signal Hill and about half way up, there is some parking on the right (and a little coffee van and a SanParks hut).  Stop there and on the left, there is a jeep track and this track spirals around the hill and up to the summit.

The other route is to drive past the start of the jeep track, stop further up at this point and on your left is a small track which leads up the back of Lion’s Head – this way you miss the crowds on the way up.  Just a little to the right is the Kramat of Mohammed Hassen Ghaibie.
What is the craziest thing about Lion’s Head?A UCT student ran up and down Lion’s Head in 27 minutes 17 seconds! Every few years, Red Bull organise this event, and runners have to run up and down 3 or 4 times in a very short space of time!  Robert Rorich was an engineering student at UCT in 2017 when he won this challenging race. 


For more information about Lion’s Head, you could download this pamphlet.

The post Lion’s Head appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Our journey as an English language school over the past years has grown in leaps and bounds.  Most recently, the success of the UCT English language Centre has resulted in our student residence being fully booked out for months to come – with many students who are currently with us putting their name down on a waiting list in case someone decides to spontaneously return home for an extended holiday or for work.
Why is living in a student residence important? We have come to understand that the ability to stay in the student residence greatly improves our students’ overall experience of their time in Cape Town and at ELC because they form strong relationships with one another and are able to ensure they are part of a vibrant and active social life, which all starts in a communal kitchen.

This has prompted us to explore our options and open a new student residence for our students.

We are pleased to present ‘The Yellow House’ which is now open and accepting new students.
What can we tell you about this residence?
  • Only ELC students will live in the house. 
  • It is located in the historic and colourful Bo Kaap.
  • The student residence is located in a house, amongst other houses.  It is in a neighbourhood, rather than the city centre, but still only minutes from the city centre.
  • It has, very recently, been newly renovated to our specifications. 
  • It has the most amazing view of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.   It has a balcony with probably the best view in Cape Town.  
  • There is an outdoor and braai area for socialising.
  • It has a fully fitted kitchen. 
  • It is located about 15-20 minutes’ walk or a short bus ride from the school.  And it has bicycles that you can use to ride to school.  

For more photos, see our Accommodation page.

Spending time with your classmates, cooking meals, doing homework together, is such an important part of your English learning process. This is the perfect opportunity to mingle and network with students from all over the world.  To obtain a quote or book online, click on the big yellow button on the right hand side of your screen.

The post Our New Student Residence – ‘The Yellow House’ appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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We held Continual Professional Development Workshop #3 on 14th September and discussed two aspects of ELT:  Teaching Reading and ELT Publishing.  It was great to discuss the skills which enable us to read, and how the ELT publishing world works.  
Focus on Reading – Understanding the Process When we read in our own language, we use certain skills to enable us to understand the text. These skills are automated. That is the goal in second language learning, but it doesn’t happen by chance. The knowledge we employ as readers of English (or any other language) includes: 

  • Genre knowledge
  • Discourse knowledge
  • Socio-cultural knowledge
  • General World knowledge
  • Vocabulary knowledge
  • Grammar knowledge
  • Grammatical cohesion
  • Lexical cohesion
Some of these are bottom-up processing: vocab, grammar knowledge, lexical cohesion, grammatical cohesion. And some are top-down processing: genre, socio-cultural, topic knowledge/general world knowledge. Discourse is between the two – both bottom-up and top-down strategies. 

Teachers can teach students strategies so that they can compensate for a lack of automation of these skills or knowledge. A strategy is a conscious procedure. The theory is that students need these conscious strategies to enable them to read in a foreign language.

We discussed a number of different activities that could be used to give students strategies to deal with their lack of a specific automated skill. For example, we read a short extract which had certain words converted to nonsense words, and we had to work out what the words could possibly be – using various knowledge (or skills) e.g. socio-cultural or general world knowledge, grammar knowledge etc. The aim of this activity was to develop a strategy for inferring meaning of unknown lexis.

There are many different reading subskills. A few, together with which knowledge / skill is used and some example activities, are shown in the picture above. 

For more information or to discuss this further, please contact Christelle or email us on ELC
A Peek into the World of ELT Publishing Sarah Gaylard gave us a fascinating insight into how the ELT industry works and exactly how much work goes into a coursebook (and all its associated books, like the CD’s, workbook, Teacher’s Book etc) and how long it actually takes from conception to final production. 

One of the most interesting points is the discussion around keeping ‘PARSNIPS’ out of coursebooks. PARSNIPS stands for Politics, Alcohol, Religion, Sex, Narcotics Isms.  What do you think about that?
Date of the next CPD workshop? Our next Professional Development Workshop is on Friday, 9th November 2018.  We have two sessions: 


Please come and support your co-teachers.  Attendance is free but please do RSVP here or email Juliette so that we know how many people are coming.

And finally, what knowledge can you share with your colleagues?  Everyone has something to share and we (as in UCT, EDUSA and ALL the language schools in Cape Town) are determined to keep raising the standard of our industry as well as networking and sharing best practice with other ELT professionals.  Please contact us if you would like to facilitate a workshop.

The post Professional Development Workshop for Teachers #3 appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Bruna, one of our students, from Brazil, tells us about her stay here at ELC. 

What is your name and where do you come from?

My name is Bruna, from Brazil, but i live in Mozambique with my husband Guilherme.

Why did you decide to learn English? 

We always wanted to learn English and in Mozambique there are many foreigners and people from different countries so it is important speak English to get good jobs and meet new friends. My husband finished his last job and we had some time free to travel before staring a new project. We decide to join trip and study.

Why did you choose Cape Town to learn English?

My husband and I chose Cape town to study English because is near to Mozambique so it was easier for my husband manage his English course and plain his new work. He needed to travel to Mozambique twice during the time we were in Cape Town.

Even though South Africa has 12 official languages, do you think being in Cape Town helped your English?

Of course. Living in a country where you can speak and listen English every day all day is perfect to improve our English learning. Even people who speak other language speak English too, so it was good to listen different accents.

Why did you choose ELC?

There are a lot of Brazilian in every place. And we thought that in ELC there was less Brazilian students than in other language schools. And we were right. In tree months we met just one girl from Brazil.

How did you find out about us?

The friend’s son did a course at ELC last year and my friend speak very well about the course.

How long did you study with us?

First we booking 9 weeks but we extended for more 2 weeks. (From 23 july to 05 october)

What course/s did you do?

General English in the morning and speaking/listening and reading/writing in the afternoon

Why did you choose this course?

I believe that it was a good opportunity to learn about different things, not just business or academic vocabulary.

Do you feel you improved?

Yes, I improved so much. I am very shy and when I needed to speak I blocked and could not speak. Spending time studying in ELC gave me more confidence to speak and improve a lot my vocabulary.

What’s the best thing about ELC for you?

The most part of time there was few students in class. It is good because we can interact more with our classmates and teacher.

Tell me about your classes?

My classmates were great and we worked very well together.


Tell me about your teachers?

My teacher Catherine was the best teacher. She was very patient and did everything to help us. The others teacher were wonderful too.

What are you doing now?

We came back to Mozambique, but we are looking for new house and new jobs (the English course will help us to get a new and good job)

What do you think about Cape Town?

We have been in Cape Town before the course and we loved. And now we love more.

What has been your best memory in Cape Town so far? (a day, or an event, or a weekend…?) 

I did different things in Cape Town during that time that I have never done before like jumping from the bridge in a bungy jump, hiking Lionss Head, kayaking on a river and many others. But my new friends are the best part of that time. Friends from different countries and different cultures. I hope to see them again and who knows visit their countries.

What did you learn that was not English?

I learned about new cultures and got new points of views.


Do you have any regrets about choosing Cape Town or ELC? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Staying more time in Cape Town, studying English, meeting new people and exploring this beautiful city.
Maybe next year. Who knows?

Thank you so much for sharing these insights with us, Bruna, and we would love to welcome you and Guilherme back at ELC.

For other Student Stories, please check out Student DioufKanon and Galina.

The post Student Stories: Bruna from Brazil appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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Students often ask us how the year works at UCT’s English Language Centre. Although we are part of UCT, we don’t work in exactly the same way as the university classes.  For one thing, we are open ALL year round and you can start on any Monday.  Here is more information about the rhythm of the year at ELC.  
How is the year divided? Students studying degrees at UCT have the luxury of long summer holidays and 4 holiday periods per year.  ELC is open ALL the time, except for South Africa public holidays so we run on our own schedule.  We use 4 coursebooks a year, rotating them so that you never have the same textbook.  Each term is 3 months long.  
How do the coursebooks work? Each coursebook is divided into units and terms are usually about 12 or 13 weeks.  The coursebooks we use include New Language Leader as well as the National Geographic Life series as well as specific ones for IELTS.  
How long does it take to move from one level to the next? It generally takes between 8 and 12 weeks to complete a level.  Obviously the harder you work, the better!   Moving up is also based on assessment. 
How are students assessed?We use continuous assessment.  This means that everything you do is assessed including attendance, participation, and homework. 

You will also have assessments every Friday, which will be based on one of the skills – reading, writing, listening or speaking. These are formal tests and your grade will be recorded on your mark sheet. 

Each student also has their own writing book which is continuously assessed  by your teacher and your homework is also monitored. How do students move up to the next level? If you have outstanding performance in class, do well in your weekly assessments and do all of your homework, your teacher may decide to move you to the next level.  Level changes only take place at the end of each month. 


So, in summary, Rome was not built in a day. This means that something big and beautiful takes time to build. Learning the English language takes time so just keep working hard, trust your teachers and enjoy your year at UCT’s English Language Centre. 

The post How the Year Works at ELC appeared first on Learn English with UCT English Language Centre.

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