Write it to remember it

If you want to remember something write it down. Research has shown that students who type notes during lectures don’t remember as well as students who hand write their notes.

Why is that? Researchers think because you can type faster than write, people who type tend to take verbatim notes – they write exactly what the lecturer says. But people who hand write have to summarize as they write, so they are immediately processing the information.

So what does it mean for language learning? These days many of us language learners are not writing language, but reading from a screen, or book, typing or tapping, especially in the early stages of learning. The research suggest that we will remember vocabulary better if we hand write it, and grammar rules more strongly if we write them down, and summarize them.

What do you think, do you prefer handwriting or typing? Let me know below.

Read more about the research here.

English for parents – leave it alone

You know toddlers, those little darlings aged 2-3 years old, who love to prod, poke, touch, thump and lick everything, put it in their mouths and, sometimes, spit it out again.

You know parents, they are the ones constantly saying; Leave it alone! Don’t touch it! Stop it! And apologising. A lot.

Leave it alone. The Cambridge Dictionary says it means; to not annoy, change, or touch someone or something.

Leave it alone is a phrasal verb that always needs a noun or pronoun in the middle.

Leave your sister alone, leave the dog alone, leave the plants alone, leave the insects alone, leave that alone, leave me alone.

You might also hear let it alone.   And with that, I’ll leave you alone.


Do you have grit?

This is an interesting, and short, TED Talk on why some students fail and others succeed. Have a watch and let me know what you think.

Continue reading “Do you have grit?”

English for parents – Clean up or Tidy up?

I’m a big believer in consistency, especially around children. I think if you are going to teach them something you should use the same word for it every time.  Especially around toilet training time – it’s no good telling your kid to pee one day and the next day telling him to wee. How will he ever know whether to wee or pee and what’s the difference anyway!?? (see here for a blog about pee and wee!)

But here’s a couple of phrases that I’m always mixing up – Clean up and Tidy up. Why? Basically they mean the same thing.

Clean up your room! = Tidy up your room!

Clean up your toys! = Tidy up your toys!

Time to clean up = Time to tidy up.

So I tell my daughter to tidy up her things, and then I tell her to clean up as well. I hope she’ll learn both.

Up changes everything

Clean your toys is not the same as clean up your toys. Clean your toys means wash them. Clean up means put them away in their proper place.

But! Tidy your room and tidy up your room are almost the same. Tidy up suggests that the action should be complete –  don’t tidy one part, you must tidy the whole room.

Pack up?

Here’s another similar phrase: pack up your toys which means put the toys away in their proper place. But! Pack up your room would suggest putting everything into boxes and moving the lot to another room or house.

Which do you say at home?


Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

The magic of persistence

This video has been trending lately. In it a guy teaches himself to back flip in six hours. Watch the video here
I found it really inspiring. He doesn’t spend six hours reading a book about back flips, or watching other people back flip. He spends six long, hard hours turning somersaults, landing on his head, his back, his knees. But slowly, slowly he gets better, and finally he lands on his feet.

He says it was not really a physical problem for him, but a mental one. And finally he has to remove the cushion that is protecting him, and just do it.

So, there’s two points here. You got to practice, and practice, and practice if you want to achieve something. Same for language learning. Learning a word, reading it once, checking the meaning and writing it a couple of times, doesn’t mean you know it. You gotta use it, again and again, until it’s yours.

Second point, what’s your cushion? Or your comfort zone? What can you do to overcome that? What will push you just a little bit more to start using that word, that grammar point, that phrase? Think about your cushion, and try to throw it away this week, or at least push it aside.


Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

English for parents – Come on and Hurry up

I probably use these two phrases about nine hundred times a day.

Come on, put your socks on now. Hurry up, we’re waiting. Come on, let’s go. Hurry up!

Come on – used for telling someone to hurry.

Hurry up – telling someone to do something more quickly.



Come on and hurry up mean the same thing, and we often use them together in a sentence.



“Come on, hurry up, we’ll be late. We’ll miss the train. Come on, let’s go!”

But there is a slight difference. Hurry up suggests that you’re going to be late, maybe there is a time limit. Come on implies someone is waiting but there’s no time limit.

Other phrases that mean the same thing

  • Step on it
  • Get a move on
  • Get a shift on
  • Get your skates on
  • Get a hustle on
  • Get a wiggle on
  • Chop chop
  • Jump to it
  • Snap to it
  • What are you waiting for?

Do you know any more phrases like this? What do you say?

Like this? I want to help you get more confident with your English speaking. Get my free 5-day email course Speak Happy English and learn all about how to speak more confidently. Sign up here

Learning a language is like being on a diet.

What do language learning and diets have in common? I’ve been reading a lot recently about motivation and discipline and also willpower. Did you know willpower is finite? And flexible? Sometimes you have a lot of it, sometimes you don’t. Willpower is used to motivate dieters and language learners, but it’s not the best way to do either of these things.

Willpower is not a good thing to rely on because it comes and goes. You know the feeling: you wake up in the morning ready to take on the world, you’re going to achieve all your goals and no junk food today! About 11am you’re firing on all cylinders getting through your list, eating healthily. Then Lunch Time, nice healthy salad, and crossing things off your To Do list. Then the afternoon gets a bit sleepy, and you are starting to get a bit lazy, just one cup of coffee to get going again, maybe a bit of chocolate….  You might find a bit more motivation just before the end of your working day, but by bedtime your reserves of willpower are used up and it’s back to Netflix and ice cream on the sofa.

If there is something you need to do, eating healthily, writing an essay, cleaning the bathroom or learning 100 English words, relying on willpower doesn’t work in the long term. That’s why you end up cleaning the bathroom just before your Mum visits, and writing your essay right up to the last minute, and why you let yourself have ice cream on the sofa in the evening  – because you were good all day.

Discipline on the other hand is reliable. If you create a rule or a get into a habit it’s really hard to break out of that. Think of something that you do everyday, without fail. Brushing your teeth is a very good habit, that most of us do at least once a day, without really thinking about it. It’s just part of your routine in the morning or evening. We are disciplined about doing it.

When it comes to language learning we have to be disciplined. You might be really motivated after your holiday abroad and have loads of willpower to buy lots of books and apps, but six months later, the willpower has gone, the motivation is AWOL. But if you have created a habit, if you have made your practice time non-negotiable –  for example always doing your flashcards at lunch time  – you’re much more likely to be sticking to it.

Make a rule for yourself. If you’re dieting:”I do not eat cakes,” is much stronger than saying “I do not eat cakes until the weekend.” Smokers use this technique to picture themselves as non-smokers. When you start saying “I’m a non-smoker”, suddenly you are. When you say “I’m a X language speaker ” you are. If you make a habit of learning the language, and doing a little  towards that aim then with discipline that cannot be negotiated everyday, you will be a successful language learner.

So dieting and learning a language have something in common. It doesn’t take willpower to succeed, it takes discipline.

Are you disciplined? What rule will you make for your language learning success?


%d bloggers like this: