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MERLIN Says: Speaking Tips from Merlin, the Young Warlock
Merlin on ©BBC

Merlin on ©BBC

You fancy learning English and you really want to improve your spoken English, but you don’t know what to do.  Then you’ve come to the right place! Merlin, the young Warlock is here to give you some magic tips. If you want to be a powerful ‘knight’ of English language, just have a look and follow Merlin’s advice. You won’t believe how fast your English will get better!


Tip # 1: Merlin says “Rise and shine!”

Learning a new language is not easy, but it is cool. To taste the fun part of it, you need to start with a good move. Planning and thinking may not be enough. You need ‘action’ and it is never late for that. So why don’t you rise and shine! Yes, now, in this very moment! Stand and begin from somewhere.

Tip # 2: Merlin says “The more you listen and read, the more powerful you will be!”

If you want to speak English, you should listen and read more. Each step you take will make you more powerful. Songs, cartoons, movies and TV series are very helpful and fun. Decide on your favourite ones and ‘open’ your ears while you are listening or watching. Try to understand the words and phrases. Rewind back and follow the subtitles when you need. Join the song you are listening to and see if your pronunciation is similar with the singer’s or not.

Tip # 3: Merlin says “Sharpen your sword!”

To win a battle, you need a sharp sword and in learning a language ‘sharpening your sword’ can be considered as ‘practising’. Be brave and practise. Think about an enemy opposite, you don’t stand with your sword in your hand and think about which moves to take. You just do it. It is the same in learning a language. Don’t wait for making the ‘perfect’ sentence with the ‘perfect’ grammar. Jump in and speak. After some time, you will see that words become phrases and phrases become sentences. If you can’t find anybody to practise, you can try to record your voice. You may start with one minute and extend the time later. Talk about anything you want. Your ideas about a topic, the things you did that day, the film you watched, the people you talked to, the dream you had the night before etc.

Tip # 4: Merlin says “Take notes!”

Taking notes is very important. It helps you to learn new words and phrases. Taking notes is not writing each word you hear, so do not panic! Focus on the new things you hear, the ones you are curious about. If you see or hear a word more than once or twice, that means it is important. It is time to learn about it. You can take notes in your favourite notebook, on your smart phone or on your computer. They are all OK! Just make sure that you use them later. Without using and practising they are nothing but it’s just losing time. You can aim to learn a word a day. Writing “today’s word” on a piece of paper and posting it on your mirror, cupboard or fridge can be useful. You can even type it on your phone or computer, munch the screen and make it a wall paper. By seeing the same word there for the whole day, you will be learning it very easily.

Tip # 5: Merlin says “Never give up!”

No matter what happens, don’t quit! Don’t forget! This is a new language for you. It is very normal to make mistakes in speaking and writing. Mistakes will help you to shape your language and your English will be better day by day. You need to be patient! Keep up your practice and don’t give up!

Tip # 6: Merlin says “Use the right ingredients for your magic potion!”

You need ingredients to make a magic potion and if you don’t have the right ones, it can be a disaster. Then, you should always look for the ‘right’ ingredients. As a language learner, your ingredients are your books, notes, handouts and other resources, but they are not enough. You need some visuals and audios as well. What you have to do is to decide which ones are the best for you and your learning style. Internet is a great option for that. There are lots of links to online resources for listening, reading, vocabulary and speaking materials. You are very lucky because most of them are free.

Here are some of them:

Stories and Poems

Listen to stories and poems and do the online activities. If you have any difficulties, follow the transcript of the listening materials.

The Teacher

You will love the videos of this funny and crazy teacher! They are awesome to learn new idioms.

How to Videos

These short videos will teach you some tips about fun and cool things. You can try the activities and check the transcript when you need.

I Wanna Talk About

These audios are great examples for you to improve your speaking. Don’t miss the follow-up activities. Maybe you can record your own ones later on.

Britain is Great

Learning a language is also learning about a culture. You don’t have to fly to Britain for that. These videos are giving information about the country and they are very enjoyable. The tasks are fun, too.

Fun and Games

Whenever you want to give a break, stop by these games and have fun. There are also apps for your smart phone.

Tip # 7: Merlin says “You have magic!”

Believe in yourself! Be confident! You don’t need to compare yourself with your friends or other people. Each person has different skills and features, so the time of the learning process can be different for everyone. No matter how old you are, where you are from or where you live, you can still learn a new language! Be brave and take risks. Make mistakes and keep going. Practise, practise and practise. Give time and energy. Don’t give up your dreams because ‘you have magic’ :)

This post was first published here.


Does everything happen for a reason?
merve oflaz

by one of my students Tulya Elif B.

There are films that change your life. There are songs that give you a very strong heart beat and there are books that spiritualize you. There are also some days or events that change your whole life.

My story begins on a nice snowy day in Istanbul of the 1990s…

It was the day when I first entered the doors of the British Council at Istiklal Street in Beyoglu. I was a fifteen year old prep student with the strangest hair style ever. My mum who has supported me all the time took me there after my English teacher had advised me to become a member of the British Council Library. I can still remember the smell of the books, the cosy atmosphere and the friendly people working there. The hardcover books were really big and thick with many unknown words. I enjoyed walking through the library aisles looking through the reference books, atlases and novels. Unfortunately I was only able to read the leveled readers as an elementary level student. I was considering myself lucky if a reader was in a plastic bag because that meant the reader had a ‘cassette’ (a flat rectangular device that is used to record sound. (Hard to find one of these nowadays. Oopsie I think I became a little old:) ) These bags were soft and transparent with hard white handles. If the readers and cassettes were heavy, the handle could nearly cut my hand but I never thought of putting it in my rucksack. It was kind of a pride (but not a prejudice:) for me to carry them with a serious look in my eyes saying “I’m learning English.” My favourite section in the library was the great classical novels and poems. I didn’t understand a word in them but I was making a secret oath deep inside my heart to become a real reader of those books one day. I spent hours and days in that library. Looking through newspapers and magazines, choosing the books sitting on the stool by the shelves, reading and listening to cassettes by the bay window, the best liked seat of the library. That place was like the front seat at a theatre because you could watch the busy people walking along Istiklal Street and the little red and white tram ringing its bell.

Days chased days and I became a university student. I was studying English Language Teaching and drowning in homework and projects so once again the British Council Library had been my loyal assistant. Now the library had this huge catalogue, a machine looked like a mixture of a computer and an Atari. It was easier to search the books and materials through by using this thing. Besides I could understand and enjoy the books on any shelves. It was nice not to be limited with the leveled readers. There was also a video club (still no VCDs or DVDs) which was a bit expensive for me but we were allowed to watch them in the special area they provided in the library.

It was just after I had become an English teacher. I learnt that there were seminars about drama techniques and teaching young learners at the British Council. I did my best to attend these seminars given by Laura Woodward and Gulfem Aslan (They were both my heroines and idols, actually they still are) and tried to improve my teaching style.

All these live memories rushed into my mind and filled my heart with a bit of gratitude and a sip of nostalgia at the end of the 2nd International Conference on Language Education, Eclipsing Expectations at Sabancı University. As I was leaving with a bitter feeling and thinking “If only it hadn’t finished so quickly…” (but that’s another story to be mentioned in another blog post), I saw Raymond Kerr ( sitting there in the foyer outside the conference hall. I walked out saying bye to him but then I went back and shaking hands I thanked the British Council for providing me such a nice award after the Blogathon, the blog competition. As a silver award winner, getting a ticket to that conference was a real pleasure for me.  Then, I handed him my card and kindly invited him to my blog. I said “My real award is this blog I started. The Blogathon that brought a lot of teachers together gave me the real inspiration and courage.” He was surprised and asked again if I was serious or not. Then he offered me to share this experience with others through a blog post. “Why not?” I thought. And here I am.

Thank you British Council for changing my life sooo many times. The very first day I entered in that library made me walk in doors of time. Does everything happen for a reason? Yes, I believe that there was a reason that made me go there.


Here are some callouts appeared just above my head during the Blogathon:

  • Fantasies about my blogathon t-shirt: feeling a relationship emerged between the number 120 t-shirt and me.
  • The wonderful (!) word limit: Cookie for me !!! “What if I omit this word and add a comma? Mmm, is a comma considered as a word? Gosh! Why is this limited with 250 words but not between 250 or 300?”
  • Happy as a kid: The excitement I had whenever I see a comment in my inbox.
  • Me, the magician: Ordering the inbox with a bossy manner. “Inbox, Inbox! I order you to be bold.” (so I could see that I had mail.)
  • Super disturbing: The anger I felt if it was one of those spam or forwarded e-mails.
  • Sense the presence of the blogathon spirit all the time: Approaching every little situation in and outside the classroom as a potential blog post.
  • I admit: The anger and panic during the technical problem in the process of readers’ voting. (Luckily we were all officially evaluated by the professional team of the British Council.)
  • I am available: Making myself available even at lunch and break times to read posts and comment on them.
  • Feeling flattered: Cooperation and support of all fellow bloggers and other readers. Post and comments from famous bloggers.
  • A bump in the road: Facebook and Twitter. I did not have any chance to share my posts on social network because I deactivated my accounts for some reason then. (Fortunately, they are active right now.)
  • Trusting my instincts: The day I decided to start my own blog. Apparently it worked out:)

Never forget! Everything happens for a reason :)

This post was first published here.