Lisa's week

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: Imagining out loud

One of the topics that I find myself discussing most often is what students can do to improve their language skills outside lessons. It’s probably brought up at least once a week and we find ourselves going back to the topic as different methods are tried out and feedback is given.

You can find this subject discussed in various Lisa’s Weeks here with posts around reading practice, podcasts, learning on the road and many more. Just take a look through the list of now over 120 entries and give them a read.

However, I always tell students that I totally understand their frustration and impatience in wanting to improve their vocabulary and grammar skills. Everything they’re going through is something I’ve experienced myself. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned it before here in my column but when I arrived in Germany many many (many!) years ago, I honestly couldn’t speak German. I could just about ask where the station was and order 200g of ham. But there wasn’t much more than that and once I knew where the station actually was, that was an obsolete question! So I needed to learn. And I did. Fast.

Now you might think that I had it easy. I was living in Germany after all, with German all around and if only you had the same experience in an English speaking country, then you’d learn and improve faster than greased lightening. Yes, you might think that but I didn’t actually experience much German in my day to day and had to get creative in how to hear, read and speak the language to expand my knowledge. I speak English all day with students, you don’t need to speak much in everyday life – station, supermarket etc. – and I speak English at home with my husband. TV was, of course, in German and I learnt a lot just by sitting and watching. I hardly understood a word for the first few months and it could get quite boring – a topic for another week perhaps.

I touched on this topic last time when I suggested you prepare yourself for small talk but honestly, that’s really such a good way to improve. Today, I’d like to take that a little further and suggest you use small pockets of time to play out scenarios in your head or preferably out loud to prepare yourself for upcoming possible situations you might find yourself in. I used to sit on the train and imagine going into a shop for something that I might not normally buy – how would I ask for it, what might the sales assistant say to me, what would be the best way to politely reply. I would consider what a ticket inspector might say to me or how I might ask someone on the train for help if I hadn’t understood the announcement. What might an exchange at the post office sound like when I need stamps, to send a parcel or collect something. It all sounds mundane but it’s the stuff of life.

You might not need anything quite so basic but think about a presentation you might need to hold, attending a meeting or attending a workshop. What about calling a colleague in another country with a request? If you travel for business, think about booking a hotel or things you might need assistance with when you’re there – missing luggage, complaints about the room, requesting room service, asking for directions, or needing a doctor. So many scenarios. Make a list for yourself and then work through it.

Again last time, I suggested that you “role play” these in your head – take both parts and play out the situation. But if you have time on your daily commute where you might be stuck in your car in a traffic jam, think about talking to yourself OUT LOUD! Hearing your own voice gives you a different feeling for how fluent the topic is, where you are hesitating because missing words, what grammar constructions are proving tricky. If you only hold these conversations in your head, it’s more difficult to notice these points and you’re more likely to skim over the problems. I know you might feel a little silly, sitting alone, and talking to yourself but I’m sure you have a hands-free telephone speaker and are happy to have a conversation with someone while driving. Well, just do that without the other person on the end of the phone – anyone looking at you driving past will just assume you’re on the phone! I do a lot of talking to myself while doing the housework or running on my treadmill. I’m sure there are times in the week when you find yourself alone in a place where no one could hear you if you had a little one-to-one with yourself!

It’s not about being perfect. It’s about giving yourself the time and opportunity to consider some real life situations and how you might need to communicate. If you give yourself a few minutes at the end of the exercise to reflect on the problem areas, you can do some follow up work to look up words or refresh a grammar point in a way that’s directly useful for you.

Go on! Have a chat with yourself. You might be surprised what a good conversation partner you are! 


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!

Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge

Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ

Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)

Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)

Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland

Episode 70: The first day of school

Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!

Episode 72: Celebrating language

Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!

Episode 74: My favourite time of the year

Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading

Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat

Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime

Episode 78: Talking Tenners

Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?

Episode 80: Just another few minutes!

Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.

Episode 82: What sign are you?

Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!

Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions

Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring

Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose

Episode 88: Once in a blue moon

Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1

Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2

Episode 91: This is the travel news!

Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!

Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week

Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back

Episode 95: Holy Week

Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time

Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!

Episode 98: Part of the family

Episode 99: It's a boy!

Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!

Episode 101: To all the mothers out there

Episode 102: Up, up and away

Episode 103: A very British affair!

Episode 104: Getting boarded!

Episode 105: How do you say that?

Episode 106: Ready for departure?

Episode 107: Happy Father's Day

Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)

Episode 109: Can football really come home?

Episode 110: A right royal christening

Episode 111: Touch down!

Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare

Episode 113: The same but different

Episode 114: A long hot summer

Episode 115: Germany through a visitor's eyes

Episode 116: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 1)

Episode 117: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 2)

Episode 118: All the fun of the fair

Episode 119: What's your "thing"?