Ask Sharn

These are some of the questions I’ve received about the English language. If you would like to ask a question, just use the form at the bottom of the page. Courses 

More information on English for Academic Purposes (EAP)

Who chooses to study EAP? To be accepted on a university course in the UK English language learners have to achieve a certain IELTS score. The required score is set by the university but is typically band 6 for an undergraduate Continue Reading…

More information on the Cambridge Proficiency Exam (CPE)

Who chooses to study CPE? The Cambridge Proficiency Exam is the most advanced Cambridge exam available, it is proof of ‘exceptional English ability’, corresponding with level C2, the highest level, in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). Continue Reading…

Literacy 

What is phonics?

Hanna asks, ‘Why are primary schools so intent on using phonics and is this a good thing?’ Phonics is a method of teaching reading through identifying the sounds of words (phonemes) and connecting them with spellings (graphemes). Phonics has been Continue Reading…

How can I encourage my child to write?

Lind78 writes, ‘My 6 year old loves reading but hates writing. How can I encourage her to write?’ Writing’s a very different activity from reading. As well as meaning and content, when we’re writing we have to think about presentation Continue Reading…

Life in the UK 

Do you have any information about the Life in the UK test?

Hong asks, ‘Do you have any information about Life in the UK, which is an English exam for immigrants to take in 2014?’ Hi, The Life in the UK test changed recently as the current government added new content and Continue Reading…

Words 

What is an auto-antonym?

Wclarke writes, ‘The word cleave means both to split apart and to stick to. Are there any other words in English like this?’ Yes! These words are called auto-antonyms, they have meanings which are the opposite of themselves. Cleave is a homonym, although it Continue Reading…

What is more important: grammar or vocabulary?

Amal writes, “I want to take the IELTS exam in July. I do not have a lot of time. I need 6. Do you think I should learn grammar or words?” I think you should learn both. David Wilkins writes, Continue Reading…

Etymology 

Does English have any words of Arabic origin?

Yasamin writes, “I have heard English has taken lots of words from different languages. Does English have any words that come from Arabic?” Hi Yasamin, It’s true that English has taken words from many different languages. We call these ‘borrowings’ Continue Reading…

Punctuation

How to pluralise acronyms?

Lisa asks: How to pluralise acronyms when we are taught that plurals do not need an apostrophe, but to not add an apostrophe could lead to a whole new unintended acronym?  Turns out it’s a bit of a touchy subject…but then, Continue Reading…

Pronunciation 

How can I improve my English pronunciation?

hortetamareta asks “Can you be kind enough to make a post about improving English accent for a crazy Catalan speaker like me?” Interesting question. I’ve done a bit of research…. It seems that for most Catalan speakers one of the Continue Reading…

How can I learn the English phoneme symbols?

Tim asks, ‘How can a newly trained CELTA teacher learn to use phonemes?’ There’s such a lot to learn on the CELTA course and, on top of everything else, it may be the first time you are presented with the Continue Reading…

Are there different English accents in the UK?

Furat says, ‘I want to speak English with a British accent but I am told there are a lot of different accents in the UK. Is this true?’ Yes. The UK, like any other country, has a number of different Continue Reading…

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