English / Language Resources / Teaching

Hints for the CELSA orals

And tips from CELSA teachers to improve your languages generally

Have you ever been caught by your parents watching GLEE when you should have been revising – and failed to convince them that you really were working on your English? Well show them this blog. Examiners overseeing entrance language tests for CELSA and other colleges in France are struck each year by how strong candidates have often spent a time watching English-language tv and films or listening to American music.

madmen-07We are not suggesting you throw your grammar books out of the window. But regular exposure to English in contexts other than the classroom really does help – it improves your comprehension skills and without realising it, you will find your accent and intonation improves too. Plus you pick up some of the cultural nuances at the same time. Watch and listen intentionally though rather than just letting it be background noise – notice ways of formulating phrases, expressions, vocabulary. Time is short as you prepare for your entrance exams but you can always podcast a radio programme about something that interests you anyway – film reviews, football – and listen to it as you travel around.

Here are recommendations from some of the teaching staff at CELSA:

Brian Bowe
Personal favourite: I have become obsessed with the American TV show “Treme,” which documents post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans, partially through the eyes of the musicians who make that such an amazing city. I think the show does a great job of showing one of the most culturally vibrant American cities in all its good and bad qualities. I’ve heard that the colorful style of speaking in New Orleans can be difficult for outsiders, so it might help to turn the subtitles on. This opening scene from the first episode of the first season is great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrO7ISerVf8
For students to improve their English:
Glee. It’s a fairly adorable show (although the writing is pretty hokey). With all the musical numbers, there are lots of catchy songs to remember, and everybody enunciates really clearly. For students interested in advertising, I would recommend Mad Men — it’s a pretty fascinating look at the advertising industry of the 1960s.
What keeps you informed about events back home?
The New York Times daily (www.nytimes.com). To keep up on local news, I read MLive (www.mlive.com) and the Detroit Free Press (www.freep.com).

Victoria Hinton
Personal favourite: Spooks, the gripping British spy series that shows MI5 as an office full of depressed social misfits, occasionally stirred into frenzied action. If historical costume dramas are your thing – they aren’t mine – see what the obsession with Downton Abbey is all about. It is a servants/aristocrats series following a grand Yorkshire family from Edwardian times to the roaring 20s.
For students to improve their English: American radio station NPR provides transcripts of many broadcasts so you can read the text while listening – invaluable. The BBC website is full of interesting things.; BBC World Service radio and television have simpler English and a more international slant, perfect for practising, plus there is an English learning section with exercises, video clips to watch etc. BBC Radio 4 is the UK’s leading talk radio station. The Today news programme from 7am to 9am sets the news agenda for the day with items light and serious and some combative interviews. For fans of British football, listen to the Guardian’s football weekly podcast. For a light, populist take on the week’s films, see online movie review show What the Flick?!
What keeps you informed about events back home?
The Guardian newspaper website.

Chandra Laizeau
Personal favourite:
I am suscribed to many blogs including one that sends me a Shakespeare sonnet every day.
For students to improve their English:
NPR or the BBC
What keeps you informed about events back home?
Yahoo and I am subscribed to several blogs.

Félix Zaratiegui
Personal favourite: Humorous television: “Intermedio” and ”Salvados”,,  Channel La 6;
“Vaya semanita”  Channel E.T.B.; “Aragon-Oregon” ,Television aragonesa
For students to improve their Spanish: News: “Los desayunos de T.V.E”, daily news;
“Informe Semanal” (the Spanish equivalent of Envoyé Special). Also: “Corazon-Corazon”,   Celebrities, communication, TVE; “Redes”, Neuroscience, Channel: La 2
what keeps you informed about events back home?
“Los desayunos de T.V.E”, daily news

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