Thursday 30 November 2017

Patron Saints of the British Isles

Many countries around the world where Christianity is the predominant religion have a patron saint and the United Kingdom is no exception. However in the UK’s case, there is not one but four patron saints, one each for England (St. George), Scotland (St. Andrew), Wales (St. David) and Northern Ireland (St. Patrick) which it shares with the Republic of Ireland.

These saints have their own ‘Saint’s Day’ when they are commemorated:

St. David 1 March

St. Patrick 17 March

St. George 23 April

St. Andrew 30 November

St. George’s Day is not celebrated as much as the other three saints’ days. In recent years certain prominent figures have tried to encourage people to celebrate this day, which is not a public holiday. Many pubs are decorated with English flags and will promote the English dishes on their menus, and it is possible to see Morris Dancing and Punch and Judy shows in some places. Some organisations such as the Scout movement will also celebrate this day.

St. Andrew’s Day is now a public holiday in Scotland. If the day falls on the weekend then the following Monday is a day off. On this day various aspects of Scottish culture are celebrated with traditional music, dancing and food and drink.

On St. David’s Day, parades take place throughout Wales, celebrating Welsh culture and heritage. People can be seen wearing daffodils and even leeks, as well as traditional dress. Dishes such as lamb, Welsh rarebit and cawl (soup) are eaten on this day.

St. Patrick’s Day is not just celebrated in Ireland but also by large numbers of people around the world who have Irish ancestry. Many people can be seen wearing green coloured clothes as well as shamrocks. Numerous parades are held, with notable ones in Dublin, New York, Chicago and Birmingham. In recent years there has been an emphasis placed on giving more prominence to the Irish language. Naturally, large quantities of Guinness are drunk on this day!

Thursday 23 November 2017

English For PAs And Secretaries: Top Tips, Recommended Courses and Material

PAs And Secretaries: Studying English In Portsmouth (Hampshire)

You have succeeded in getting the job as PA to the boss of a large company. You used your best English and you beat many other candidates. Now you have to do the job! What language will you need? How can you ensure that your English is actually good enough?

This article will discuss the essential language needed, how to survive and how you can improve your English skills.

What skills does a PA need?’ Google gives this answer:
"Duties, Responsibilities, & Functions. A personal assistant helps with time and daily management, scheduling of meetings, correspondence, and note-taking. The role of a personal assistant can be varied, such as answering phone calls, taking notes, scheduling meetings, emailing, texts etc."

We can see that a PA’s position is to ensure the smooth running of the office and to take care of the manager’s diary. So if we break this down, the main skills are:

  • Answering the telephone, writing emails and letters and making arrangements
In an English context this mainly translates into telephone English, email and written English and general business English.

To increase your general business English, in the context of your job will require work on your part. What is the company you will work for? Which department will you be in? What will be the subject area? Try and break it down into manageable areas.

For example, if your new job is in an electronics firm, and your job is in the training department, you will need to know which products they work on, which will be easy enough to find out, and then the language surrounding ‘training’ which you can find by searching on the internet. This is probably the easiest area of language to organise. Generally, company websites have all the main language used by their company in their ‘about’ section. If not all, it will give a good indication of where you may have gaps in your knowledge.

Using the telephone in English is very challenging for many foreign students. Speaking on the telephone is a particular skill, particularly important for many professionals, and made more difficult because of having no facial gestures to guide you. When we speak face to face, we use a lot more than just the words spoken to understand the message. It has been said that only 7% of communication is actual words, and the rest of the message is body language, gestures, facial signs, head nods etc. However true the statistics are, it is certainly true that understanding the other person on the telephone is a great deal more difficult than speaking face to face.

So, how can you improve your performance on the telephone? The following are a few tips that we give our students when they come on our business English courses here in LSI Portsmouth, and can really make a difference.

  • Listen to the Radio. It doesn’t really matter which station you listen to, and you don’t really need to concentrate, it just needs to be playing in the background, so subconsciously your ears ‘tune in’ to the ‘melody’ of the language. You will find after a month or two you can follow spoken English at a much faster pace.
  • Prepare. Think about the conversation you are going to have. Try and predict the questions you might be asked and then have the answers ready. Think about the language and vocabulary you might need.
  • Pinterest – Yes really. Type ‘Telephone English’ in the search bar and you will find lots and lots of suggestions with ‘set phrases’ you can use on the telephone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat, once, twice, three times, as many times as necessary. If you cannot understand the phrase they are saying, ask them to use other words. Tell them you don’t understand. The aim is to understand, not to pretend you understand.
  • Finally, ensure you use a lot of ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ when you are speaking to native English speakers, then even if your English is not perfect, they will know that you are trying to be polite.

Email writing – the principles are very similar.

  • Read! Read as much as you can. The more you read the more your brain will recognise the order of the words. Read emails from native speakers, underline phrases that you keep seeing and make a note of them.
  • Keep your emails short, the shorter they are the fewer mistakes you are likely to make.
  • Pinterest – again it is a fantastic resource for set phrases, and it’s free, type in the search bar: ‘Email English’.
  • Again use a lot of ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ if you are writing to a native speaker, and they will know you are trying to be polite even if you are making mistakes in your grammar.

Of course, another very effective way to improve your professional English is to ask if you can be sent on a Business English course, one where they teach English for PAs and secretaries and the communication skills that are required. Here at LSI Portsmouth we run a variety of professional courses, and one specifically for PAs and Secretaries, where they improve their English for telephoning, email writing, general business English as well as meeting skills and presentation skills. Many companies see this as an investment in their professionals, they know that the skill of speaking English is invaluable in today’s workplace, and it is not easy to learn corporate English in a general English classroom. However, often a company will want to invest in employees who have already proven their worth with a few years loyal service under their belt. Therefore, if the opportunity is not available at the start of your job, putting the suggestions above into practice should certainly help you manage your position.

Friday 17 November 2017

British Culture: The NHS and What it Means to British People

Why We Love The NHS

If you ask any group of British people which institution they are most proud of, most would probably say the NHS, the abbreviation for the National Health Service.

Founded in 1948, the NHS was one of the world’s first health services which was founded on a national basis, bringing together all medical practitioners and services in one organisation. Before it was set up if people wanted to see a doctor or have an operation in a hospital, they had to pay for it. One of the three founding principles of the NHS has always been that it is free at the point of delivery. Quite simply this means that if you have ‘Ordinary Resident Status’ in the UK, whenever you go to see a doctor, if you need to stay in hospital, have an operation or use many other, though not all, related services, you won’t need to pay for anything.

Quite a few people, however, also take out private medical insurance or if they work for certain companies they may be given it as part of their remuneration package. This allows people to access private medical services. Increasing numbers of people, if they can afford these services, have turned to private medicine as waiting times to access NHS services can be quite long, whether it is to see a GP (General Practitioner) or to have an operation.

In recent years there has been a lot of financial pressure on the NHS, particularly in A & E (Accident and Emergency), when it comes to investing in new equipment, employing more doctors and nurses and spending on the latest treatments and medicines. Nevertheless, most patients who use the NHS are happy with their experience of using it.

The NHS is publicly funded, mainly through general taxation, though some money comes from National Insurance (Social Security) contributions and some comes from foreign visitors who pay fees for certain services.

Prescriptions, which you get from a doctor, and which allow you to get medicine which is not ‘over the counter’, result in a charge for many people. A number of groups of people, however, get their prescriptions for free, for example if you are under 16 or over 60, are pregnant or if you are receiving certain state benefits.

Though the NHS faces many challenges now and in the future, most British people, of whatever political persuasion, are likely to continue to be very supportive of the organisation, for what it provides and what it has achieved.

Thursday 9 November 2017

Improve Your English and Cultural Knowledge - Rooftop Interview with Gino

How to Improve Your IELTS Score and Have Fun, ask Gino.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that each and every student is special in their own way.  Each one in the class makes their presence felt somehow.  Some, make a particularly big impact.  One of these 'big impact' students is Gino Petronio. 

Gino first came to LSI Portsmouth in May, and integrated instantly with Portsmouth and any activity he could.  Everyone in the school knows Gino, he is always smiling and always ready to talk.  

Gino comes from Ascoli Piceno, about 200 kms from Rome in Italy.  He was working in his family's business before coming here, but his plan is to follow a PhD in International Relations at the University of Portsmouth next year.  To be able to join the PhD programme he needed to acquire a score of 6 overall on his IELTS, which with a lot of IELTS exam preparation and dedication Gino managed.

In the video below, Gino explains why he likes Portsmouth, LSI Portsmouth and studying here. He also wanted to mention a few particular people who he feels particularly helped him. We have loved having him stay with us, and want to wish him the absolute best for his future, he richly deserves it.

Thursday 2 November 2017

LSI PORTSMOUTH Cements Old and Forges New Relationships in Russia

Our Vice Principal Lea Brophy and our Senior Marketing Executive Emma Hoyle have just returned from an intensive but very successful trip to Russia, where they were able to create many new partnerships for LSI Portsmouth. There was also time to enjoy the very warm hospitality that Russians do so well :-)

During the trip, Lea and Emma met with the Free Economics Society (FES) of Russia – with Margarita Ratnikova and Ekaterina Philippenkova in Moscow as well as St Petersburg region Executive Director Aleksandr Zolotarev. This included Lea giving a TV interview discussing such varied topics as technology in language training and the future of cryptocurrencies. Lea was honoured to be asked to become a committee member, joining such illustrious recent members as James Galbraith (the renowned economist, currently Professor at the University of Texas at Austin) and Peter Nolan (expert on Chinese economic relations and fellow of Cambridge University). LSI Portsmouth will offer other members their support and expertise in the area on English language training and professional development.

LSI have had a successful cooperation with the Institute of Economics and Finance of MIIT, the prestigious Russian University of Transport for many years, working with both students on General and Academic English courses and with lecturers on Professional Development programmes. Lea and Emma gave a presentation to staff and students – pictured here with students and with Lev Rybakov 
(Deputy Director in charge of International Affairs) and Yana Podoplelova (Principal Lecturer and International Officer).

Lea and Emma also met with valued partners at the Financial University in Moscow and RANEPA (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration).

We were also honoured to meet with the Union of Scientific and Engineering Associations, pictured here with Lea and Emma. L-R Olga Boksha (USEA), Ekaterina Philippenkova (FES Moscow Region), Sergey Drukarenko (Vice-President of USEA), Emma, Lea, Kirill Korovitsin (USEA), Andrey Yaminsky (Bauman Moscow State Technical University).

The Vice-President of the FES, Ekaterina Philippenkova, was our gracious host for much of the trip, facilitating meetings and introducing us to some wonderful new partners. Ekaterina also put her language experience at LSI to good use by translating in many meetings – we were very impressed and very proud :-)
picture below shows Ekaterina on the right, with key staff in the International Department at the St Petersburg University of Management and Economics, where Lea was invited to open a new faculty building.

The trip finished in the wonderful city of Tambov, where the State University were wonderful hosts to our team, who had the opportunity to meet both the Rector Vladimir Stromov (pictured below) and the Dean of the Faculty of Philology and Journalism Sergei Khudiakov and their enthusiastic team.

Of course, it wasn’t all just work! We had some wonderful evenings with some LSI friends. Below left shows Lea and Emma wearing yak coats going into an ice bar to enjoy vodka at -15° - with LSI’s very great old friend Dmitry who was their gracious host for the unforgettable evening.

Another special memory was a visit to a museum in St Petersburg featuring art from revolution and Soviet-era posters with our dear friend Ekaterina.  With the 100-year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, it was fascinating to look at such dramatic events in history and the amazing art the period produced.

Thank you to everyone we met for their warm welcome and we look forward to seeing you all in Portsmouth soon :-)