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The Power Of Proficiency: How English Changed My Life

Valeria: "It has given me confidence."Valeria, a 22-year-old computer engineer and programmer, first started learning English from her father at home in Costa Rica.

“He spent time in Canada and the States. But I think I’m better at English than him now – don’t tell him, though!”

English proficiency for a brighter future

Her father saw the opportunities that can come from learning English during his travels overseas, and now Valeria has seen them firsthand too. “I have better job opportunities, and I get paid more because I can prove I have a great level of English.”

This became clearer when she landed her dream job — working for a company whose headquarters are based in Atlanta, making English language skills a must for any member of staff. “Most of our clients and vendors are in Atlanta, so we have to use English every day.” Luckily, she was able to get her B2 certificate while at university. Knowing she could prove that she had a good level of English gave Valeria the confidence to apply for the role in the first place.

It was all made possible when her professor arranged for her class to sit the Oxford Test of English at the end of their course. She found the experience of taking the online test quite relaxing and was able to complete all the modules in two hours. And, unlike other English proficiency tests, the students didn’t have to learn a particular way to answer the questions, which Valeria appreciated.

“I could focus on my English instead of learning how to take a test.”

It also didn’t hurt when she learnt that her Oxford Test of English certificate is valid for life.

“Whenever I need evidence of my English proficiency, I can show my Oxford Test of English certificate. You can use it for business or travelling – the possibilities are endless. It’s amazing for anyone who needs to prove they have a good level of English.”

Like Francisco, for example – a Mechanical Engineering Student & Basketball Coach from Spain.

Proving English proficiency to study abroad

Francisco: "It takes just two hours."Francisco needed to prove he had a B2 level of English when he was applying to spend a year studying abroad in Finland, as all his classes there were in English.

Once he arrived, he found his English also came in handy when he was socialising too, as not that many of the locals or other foreign students spoke Spanish.

“I realized that if you can speak English, you can communicate nearly everywhere you go.”

Just like Valeria, Francisco certified his English level with the Oxford Test of English, and also enjoyed the fact that it was online and adaptive.

“The structure of the test is great; it adapts to your ability, getting harder or easier depending on your answers. It’s nice because you’re being tested during the whole exam.”

So would he recommend it?

“Yes, absolutely! The test takes just two hours, and then the certificate endorsed by the University of Oxford stays with you and remains useful for your whole life. It’s ideal for people who need to prove to a company they can operate in English, and it looks great on a CV.”

Not to mention, it helped open the doors to a once in a lifetime experience of studying in Finland –

“I think it was probably the best period of my life. It was just four months, but they were so special. I travelled around the Nordic countries and Russia and met people I’d never meet in any other situation. I’m so glad I was there – and all because of the Oxford Test of English!”

 

You can read other students’ success stories and find out more about the Oxford Test of English on our website.

Find out more

Don’t forget to share this link to our Learning Resources Bank with your students – where they can find additional tips and support to guide them through their English learning journey.


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Remembering Ritsuko Nakata

Ritsuko NakataWe were saddened to learn of the recent passing of Ritsuko Nakata, co-author of the best-selling Let’s Go series and founder of the IIEEC Teacher Training Center. Ritsuko’s career was dedicated to the teaching of English to young learners.

Born and educated in the USA, Ritsuko moved to Japan early in her teaching career, where she began experimenting with more practical, effective ways to get children to learn English.  Her focus on getting students to ask questions as well as answer them and to thus be able to engage in more natural dialogue is a cornerstone of the Let’s Go approach.   The series was a pioneer when it was first published in 1992, setting the standard for many others that followed; now in its 5th edition, it remains a market leader. In fact, one of Ritsuko’s great pleasures was meeting English teachers who had studied with Let’s Go when they were children and who were now using the series in their own classrooms. She was a wonderful mentor and teacher trainer who could get roomfuls of teachers on their feet and practising her signature action-based routines. Always kind and always enthusiastic, she was especially skilled at inspiring new teachers, putting them at ease, and helping them to feel confident in their teaching.

 It’s no exaggeration to say that through her work, a lifetime of teaching, authoring, and training, Ritsuko has touched the lives of millions of primary teachers and students — in Japan where she lived, across Asia, and around the world. She leaves an amazing legacy and her loss will be keenly felt by the staff at OUP and all those who knew her.  Ritsuko touched so many lives here at OUP and in the world of ELT, and she will be missed by all who knew her. We send our deepest condolences to her husband and two daughters, as well as to her fellow Let’s Go authors.


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How To Increase Your Team’s Change Resilience | ELT Together

Colleagues laughing in a team meetingSupporting a team effectively through a change is an invaluable skill for any manager. And, with the Covid19 pandemic affecting all of us in some way, it has never been more relevant. Some changes can have huge impacts on people’s mental well-being and their ability to perform in their role. Therefore, supporting people to develop greater resilience to change is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective, but it also helps to protect your team’s productivity.  

To effectively support people through a change, it’s important to understand why change can be so difficult. All change is emotive – it doesn’t matter if a change is regarded as positive or negative, it will still create an emotional reaction in the people affected by itModels such as the Kubler-Ross Change Curve attempt to illustrate the psychological journey a person has to go on when faced with a change. Opinion is divided as to how accurate the particulars of such models are, but the truth is that everyone has to process their emotional reaction to a change before they can accept it and move forward. 

So why is change so emotive?

One reason is that change brings with it something humans find particularly difficult – uncertainty. Neuroscientific research has proven that the state of uncertainty is the most stressful state for humans to be in. Apparently, uncertainty registers as an error in the human brain and we feel compelled to resolve it. Some changes can result in people experiencing uncertainty for an extended period of time which can be very draining. Another reason change is so emotive is that a common reaction to it is a fear of loss. In a work environment, this could be a fear of a loss of job security, job satisfaction or simply the ability to perform activities to the same high standard.   

The good news is that an effective and supportive line manager can make a hugely positive difference to a person going through a change. Below are some strategies you can put into practice: 

1) Encourage people to talk 

Humans fare much better when they articulate and process their emotions, and so give your team members lots of opportunities to share how they’re feeling about the change. Don’t assume that they have someone they can talk about their feelings with outside of work. Vary the forum to give everyone the chance to open up – some people flourish in a group setting, others prefer one on one. 

2) Talk openly about resilience 

Talk with your team about the importance of protecting and building personal resilience, and be clear about what you believe resilience is and importantly isn’t. Remind people that resilience isn’t about being strong and pretending everything is fine when it isn’t. Resilience is about practising healthy habits – both physical and mental, recognising how a situation is affecting you and asking for help when you need it. 

3) Be open about your own challenges

Sharing your own struggles with your team members will encourage them to open up about their own. This is not only a bonding experience for a team, but will give you insight into what support people need. One idea is to invite everyone to share a highlight and lowlight from their past week. If people are nervous to share, start with your own. What you’re doing is acknowledging that it’s OK not to feel OK all of the time. 

4) Model healthy habits 

Encourage your team to reflect on what healthy habits – mental and physical – will give their resilience a boost. What helps them feel stronger and more able to face challenges? You could run a team session where everyone shares and discusses the habits that are important to them. Again, be open about your own healthy habits – whether they’re eating well, getting more exercise, meditating and/or keeping in touch with friends.  

5) Keep people informed 

Feeling like they’re being kept well informed about a change will help people to cope with it better. Make sure you communicate regularly with your team and pass on any relevant company updates. Give team members a chance to ask questions and discuss any updates. Remember, if no information is available, people are more likely to speculate a worst-case scenario than a best-case, so use regular updates to keep rumours to a minimum. Where relevant, remind your team of the company strategy that’s driving change and the benefits you’re working towards. 

6) Remember we’re all different 

Remember that everyone’s experience of change is personal, and so will need different support. Your team members’ situations will vary and so will their emotional reactions. The best way to find out how someone is really feeling is to be a great listener – ask open questions, don’t interrupt or change the subject and show a genuine interest in what a person is saying. Make use of open questions, such asHow are you feeling/did you feel about that? Can you tell me more? What was it that you found challenging? What was your experience? 

7) Remember you’re a person, too! 

And lastly, don’t forget that you’re a person as well as a manager and you need to build and protect your own resilience. Be sure you practise your own personal healthy habits, and to reach out to your own manager if you need support. 

 

Interested in the wellbeing of language teachers and students?

Join any ELT Together session and receive a certificate of attendance and free professional development resources:

Register for ELT Together!


Kirstin McCreadie is a change consultant at Oxford University Press based in Oxford. As well as being involved in overseeing the implementation of changes across the organisation, she also develops and delivers training in change and resilience. Kirstin also has experience of line management and leading teams through changes.


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References 

https://www.ekrfoundation.org/5-stages-of-grief/change-curve/ 


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What’s Your OALD Story?

Animation of a crowd of people in the shape of a question markThe Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (OALD) was first published in 1948. Since then, over 100 million English language learners have used OALD to develop their English skills for work and study, and that’s why it’s the world’s bestselling advanced-level dictionary for learners of English.

THE OALD COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED.

You can still tell us your OALD story using the comments box below, find others stories about the dictionary here, and use our teaching resources below to build your students’ vocabulary.

Competition Terms and Conditions.


Teaching resources

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is the complete guide to learning English vocabulary with definitions that learners can understand, example sentences showing language in use, and the Oxford 3000™ and Oxford 5000™ word lists providing core vocabulary that every student needs to learn.

Word lists

Do you need to build your students’ vocabulary?  We’ve pulled together some of our top word list resources:

Try these vocabulary activities with your students:

Go to word lists

Improve your learners’ vocabulary-learning skills with these activities from Oxford Word Skills Second Edition, based on the Oxford 3000 and Oxford 5000:

Elementary / A1-A2

Intermediate / B1

Upper-Intermediate to Advanced / B2-C1

Find out more about Oxford Word Skills Second Edition

Lesson plans

Are you looking for ways to improve your students’ dictionary skills, or to help them with their vocabulary, writing and speaking?

Find these OALD lesson plans and more in the Oxford Teacher’s Club and try them with your class:

Log in with your Oxford Teachers’ Club details to download the lesson plans. Not an OTC member? Join now to access free teaching resources, articles, blogs, videos, webinars and more…

Get more ready-to-use teaching resources with OALD premium online. Download lesson plans, video walkthroughs, and classroom and self-study activities.

Read our digital brochure to find out more about the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary including premium online and the OALD app.


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Remembering Kathy Gude, ELT Author

Kathy GudeWe were saddened to learn recently that Kathy Gude, one our most prolific authors of English language teaching materials and a great friend of OUP, passed away in early August, following a brave battle with a long illness.

Kathy made an enormous contribution to our English language publishing, working with us for more than 35 years as author/co-author of the Matrix series and other successful titles, including Success at First Certificate, Proficiency Masterclass, Fast Class, Kickstart, Countdown, Aspire, Advanced Masterclass CAE, Advanced Result, CAE Advanced Listening and Speaking, and Venture into First, which many thousands of teachers and students have enjoyed using over the years. Everyone at OUP who was fortunate enough to work with Kathy held her in the highest regard and loved working alongside her.

Across all her numerous projects with OUP, Kathy brought extensive teaching, teacher training, and assessment experience and expertise. She was a very creative author and a master at crafting engaging and valuable content which has stood the test of time in ELT classrooms all around the world. Her extensive assessment expertise, which she developed as an item writer and paper chair for UCLES/Cambridge ESOL exams (now Cambridge Assessment English), meant that students using her books could – and still can – be confident of being well prepared for their exams. Kathy loved new challenges too, and one of those was authoring OUP’s first online workbook in 2009 – a project she took on with great enthusiasm, and which paved the way for the ELT online learning products that followed.

Kathy always worked hard, including on the promotion of her OUP courses – travelling to give her popular author talks in towns and cities around Italy, Greece and Eastern Europe. She loved talking to teachers that she met at these and other ELT events, and it was clear that she was widely respected by many for her professionalism and wisdom, and loved for her warmth of character. Many teachers and colleagues will also fondly remember Kathy for her beautifully coordinated, colourful outfits.

Kathy was immensely caring, generous, supportive and thoughtful. She was also full of fun and found joy in life – even at times when life was not easy. Kathy was a great listener and took a keen interest in the lives of everyone she met, always making time for them however much else she had going on. She was devoted to her husband, Peter, their three sons, and their grandchildren – our thoughts are with them.

Kathy touched so many lives here at OUP and in the world of ELT, and she will be sorely missed by everyone that had the honour of knowing her. Her legacy will live on at OUP and in the ELT community for many years to come.