Today, September 26, one year ago was my first day in Canada. I remember how everything smelled different, how everything was strange for me… I found my comfort zone there, in those feelings I had when I first saw everything surrounding me in that wonderful country. I remember waking up pretty early and I was lost in my homestay, I know I had to feel if it was my home but I couldn’t help it , I had the thought all the time like I was touching everything that wasn’t mine . My adorable roommate Ana helped me to get involved in our fantastic college, Tamwood , and to make new friends . Really I didn’t know how to explain what I was living, I wasn’t ready to say “yes, here I am, in Canada, for the next six months having a new life without my parents’ help.” I think that is the most satisfactory thing when you go abroad, that you’ve got the capacity of solving your own problems by yourself, and that is what I did.
Time passed and I already had friends, cool plans to do, also I used to go to the activities my college organizes and the best of all is that are PRETTY cool, we went to pubs to drink with our cool and friendly teachers and to get to know each other better. I’m so thankful also for the trips I went while I was there, Calgary with my beautiful friend Leslie was COOL (even though it was 24 hours trip haha) and Texas with my amazing American family which I love so much. I will never forget the smell of Canada, the smell of Vancouver specifically, the smell of coffee everywhere in the skytrain, in the big malls, on the streets .. I met amazing people I will, obviously, never forget, with whom I did craziest things.
I learned a lot of things besides English, which was the main thing to learn haha . I laughed, cried, I danced, I got drunk as f*** and I won’t regret it NEVER! Vancouver has sheltered me as a Canadian citizen and has been our home for everything, they have never done anything bad or have never said any racist comment referring to us, the foreigners.
I left the country in March totally amazed and I am still amazed! I will definitely go back and start my new life over there when I finish my studies here in my home country. I gotta say thank you for everything, guys if you are reading this, I miss you the most in the world ! Hope to see you soon and I hope our relationship hasn’t changed.
Words & Photos by: Carmen Navarro Casares
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Last week, we gave an overview about IELTS. As a second installation to that, we discuss four skills needed to ace the IELTS exam!
This is supposedly the easiest skill but it is not easy. To be successful, students need a high knowledge of English and a good knowledge of the specifics of the test. The listening is divided into four parts and each part follows a specific format. Spelling, grammar and vocabulary are all important. Continual practice with proper IELTS material is mandatory for success.
Reading is a particular difficult task and in IELTS academic it is often overwhelming for beginners. Students often feel that English proficiency tests should focus on English but the reading portion of the test also tests your speed, deductive thinking, and ability to make decisions based on context.
There are 3 passages and 40 questions in the academic and up to 5 passages and 40 questions in the general test. The questions are often difficult. Again, it takes knowledge of the test and knowledge of English to excel. Vocabulary by itself is not a solution. Skimming and scanning skills by themselves are not a solution. It take a combination of skimming, scanning, reading, deductive thinking and speed to get a high score.
Writing can be very rigorous. There are two writings in the academic test and two in general test. In the general test, students must write a letter and an opinion essay. In the academic test, students must accurately describe a chart, a table, a process, a map or a graph and do an opinion essay.
These skills are not natural for most students. Specific instruction is required to set students on the path of success. General knowledge of society and the ability to support concepts are important in the opinion essay. The use of model answers and having someone to correct your errors are important. Grammar, vocabulary, punctuation and sentence structure are huge keys in achieving a good score. It generally takes a lot of work to be a proficient writer.
Speaking is the last skill we will impart on you. The speaking portion usually lasts about 15 minutes and is done face to face with an examiner. The first portion is 5 minutes long and is about familiar topics. It may sound easy to talk about sports or your home, but to achieve a high score,you must be accurate and use appropriate lexicon. The second portion takes 3 minutes and you must speak for two minutes. Test takers must describe something in detail for two minutes. Finally, the third portion varies to some degree but it tends to be an interactive discussion with the examiner. Abstract questions are common in this part. Most students need continual practice and error correction to excel in speaking.
To sum up, IELTS can be rewarding and can be totally frustrating. IELTS can take you from point A in life to point B but it can also be the obstacle. A high IELTS score is a great accomplishment but it is important to approach it realistically. If you decide to take the test, take time to find a quality school like Tamwood and use quality materials.
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For a large number of people, IELTS represents a hurdle to move to the next phase of life. IELTS general is used as a test for immigration. IELTS academic is used as a proficiency test for university entrance and IELTS is often used as a standard test for particular jobs such as nurses or doctors. The test has become the most common English proficiency test in the world with over 3 million test takers annually.
Other proficiency tests include TOEFL, CAE, FCE and CELPIP. The global acceptance of IELTS has made it so recognised and useful.
Am I prepared to allocate time, energy and resources to improve?
IELTS is a test of English fluency and fluency is a difficult objective. The highest score is 9 and that represents the level of a native speaker. Students sometimes feel that 9 is an achievable score but in reality it is not for most people. It is necessary to have reasonable expectations on what can and cannot be achieved. Also, it is important to realise that language acquisition is variable, and scores and improvement do not always correlate directly to effort. Consequently, it is important to not underestimate the enormity of the task and allocate enough time and energy to getting a high score. For most people, it takes a long time to be good at a second language.
How should I study? What materials are recommended?
There is no easy answer here, but students should avoid improper materials. IELTS is a popular course so individuals want to profit off it and misinformation is often found on the web in schools. Not all websites are equal and correct. Not all YouTube teachers are accurate and correct. It is very important to choose proper materials, proper websites and a school which uses correct pedagogy. In terms of books, a good starting point is Cambridge IELTS books since Cambridge is the official publisher for IELTS. In terms of websites, www.ieltsessentials.com and www.ielts.org are good starting points. Finally, in terms of YouTube, IELTS Liz is well recognized. Be careful to choose proper materials and do not waste time and money with shortcuts. Be wary of offers of guaranteed success for a fee.
Finally, we should consider improving our skills and becoming familiar with the test in the four skills: speaking, reading and listening. Watch out for part 2 on IELTS next week!
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I’ve stayed in Toronto for about 4 months. I’ve experienced many things since I have arrived here. So I’ll introduce you my experiences which I had.
I decided to come here and to study in this school because I had traveled here before and I like Canada. I preferred small schools and thought small schools are more friendly and calm. Also I expected students who wanted to study in that kind of school would study harder than others. On my first day at school, I figured out my expectation was true. Students were so friendly that it makes me comfortable to stay in school. I knew my English wasn’t good but they were patient. Because of that, I wasn’t afraid of speaking English in front of them. Moreover, the teachers are awesome. They always help us when we have any problems about not only studying but also our life. They are empathetic with our situation, so I respect them.
I stay with a Homestay family. They are so kind and patient. My host father is such a good cook so I enjoy our meals everyday. Dishes are better than eating out. I always speak to them in English and at the same time my host mother corrects my English. I learn English in school and at home. I’m so happy to stay there.
Living in Toronto
Toronto has a lot of activities during the summer. Because of this, I am always busy participating in these festivals. The city allows for foreigners volunteers just as much as citizens. I got many chances to talk with Toronto natives and how to organize the festivals. It is difficult to experience a new city or country but with foreigners in my school, the experience has been amazing and it made me more excited in Canada. I enjoy the Canadian life.
Words & Photo by Nozomi Yuki
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