Author: Josie Gleave (page 1 of 4)

Languages classes – are they really worth it?

With so many free online language apps to choose from, we have to ask the question: is it still worth taking a formal language class?

We’ve all been there. That feeling of beginners enthusiasm. You reach for your phone several times a day, amazed by your own progress. You show everyone down the pub your new language app and even impress them by ordering your drinks in Japanese (to the bewilderment of the bartender).

As the days and weeks roll on, you find this enthusiasm starts to dwindle. The phrases begin to feel repetitive, and although you are getting a lot of the grammar right, you’re not quite sure why certain rules apply (and Googling the answer only leads you down a rabbit hole).

You start forgetting to log in; and when your mate down the pub introduces you to their second cousin visiting from Kyoto, you suddenly feel too self-conscious to say a word. You doubt your pronunciation and realise that, unless you randomly announce to the group that you have brown hair, you actually have very little to contribute towards a conversation.

Confidence knocked, you decide to have a little break from the apps. You receive notifications on your phone reminding you to do your daily practice and the guilt starts to creep in. The notifications are muted, the app is soon forgotten and all your left with is that sinking sense of disappointment.

Of course there are plenty benefits of apps to help you learn a language. But to use them to replace live and interactive classes, well it’s just not the same thing. Like the time in 1997 when your dad bought you a Tamagotchi instead of a puppy. I doubt you would have forgotten to feed your puppy, and definitely wouldn’t have traded it after three weeks for a packet of Opal Fruits and an Irn-Bru.

So, what makes language classes a more successful way to learn?

1. You’re joining a supportive community

Let’s face it. Daily apps can feel monotonous and, quite frankly, lonely. When you join a language class, learning becomes a shared experience. You greet one another, talk about recent events – increasingly more in your chosen language – and support each other.

You realise that other people also struggle with pronunciation and your tutor shares fun ways to improve this. You begin to form friendships. You get one-to-one support. You start to look forward to seeing one another each week and even organise a film night to watch the latest anime. This sense of community is near impossible to achieve with a language app.

2. You will build confidence

For many of us Brits, language apps are perfect. We can learn the language without having to actually embarrass ourselves engaging in conversation. No wonder these apps have such widespread appeal!

There is just one small problem with this approach, though. The only way to really learn a language is to have a go. As much as we would love to burrow away in our rooms and reappear three months later fluent in Japanese, in reality, you will make little practical process if you don’t practice with others.

This means putting ourselves in a vulnerable position and being open to making mistakes. Many, many mistakes! This is what language classes encourage you to do. There’s no hiding behind an app, you’re pushed out of your comfort zone and into real life conversations.

But the beauty of language classes is that we’re all in the same boat. Everyone is just as scared and everyone is just as inexperienced as you are. Tutors create a safe and supportive environment so that you can have a go and make mistakes. And next time you meet a local, you’ll feel confident and prepared.

3. You’ll go beyond basic phrases

Most language learning apps will take you through a standard list of sentences and over time you begin to recognise words and their meaning. They tend to use repetition to remember phrases, which can be effective, but also quite tedious.

In live classes, you’ll learn the tools to create your own sentences and engage in free-flowing conversations about topics that are relevant to you. They don’t continually repeat phrases but revisit them within different contexts to solidify and expand your understanding. This is a much more engaging way to learn.

4. You’ll learn about culture and customs

A good language class shouldn’t just teach you how to communicate, but also how to understand the language within a cultural and historical context. This helps you to abide by social norms and be respectful when you use the language. It also makes learning a lot more fun! You’ll examine newspaper articles, listen to audio clips and watch videos to fully immerse yourself into your chosen language.

5. The content is tailored around you

One of my gripes of language learning apps is the one-size-fits all approach. There’s no flexibility to tailor content around your interests and, worse still, there’s no chance to ask questions or seek clarity.

Learning is a lot more interesting and useful if you can apply it directly to your own experiences and situations. It’s a great way to get to know your fellow classmates too.

Opportunities to ask questions can also help us to understand the language better. Rather than just accepting a rule of a language, we can find out why this rule exists –it’s much easier to learn when things make sense!

6. You’re making a commitment

The problem with apps is that they are too easy to quit. They can send you a dozen emails and daily reminders but the fact is there is no accountability. If you participate in a live class, you will have a dedicated time to learn. People look forward to seeing you each week. You’re set homework you’ll need to complete. This commitment encourages you to go the distance.

So that’s it. Are languages classes worth it? Yes. Unless, of course, you own a Tamagotchi.

You can find out more about our language courses and book on the City website.

Five reasons to apply to The Novel Studio

Applications to our flagship writing course, The Novel Studio close this week!

You could be one of 15 students who will be specially selected to embark on our year-long novel writing programme. Read on for five reasons to apply!

1. The course has a proven track record. Alumni include Award-winning authors Deepa Anappara, Hannah Begbie, and Harriet Tyce, amongst many others.

2. It’s practical. Each module has been designed to support you in writing your novel, from developing your plot to character motivation.

3. The tutors are brilliant: Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone and Kiare Ladner are both professional writers, editors and creative writing teachers who really know the craft and want to help you become better writers.

4. It has great links with the publishing industry. Each year students are trained in rehearsed readings towards an end-of-year show to an invited audience of top literary agents.

5. There’s one fully funded space available for a talented writer from a low-income household via our scholarship scheme.

Apply before Friday 29th April 2022

For any queries, email the Course Director, Emily Pedder.

What Are SMART Objectives?

Businesses need goals in order to grow and experience the desired success. As part of one’s individual job role, it’s logical for each person to also have individual goals. General targets such as “increase sales” and “improve the lead conversion rate” are too vague. How does a business or marketing professional decide what is or is not a realistic target, and the how of achieving those targets? They do this through something called SMART. It is a process of carefully considering goals in an overall plan of implementation and measuring results.

What elements comprise the SMART acronym?

Specific: This means that a personal or business target must be clearly defined. Vague or generic goals are not useful as they do nothing to push the business forward. Being organised from the start and understanding what the goals are helps set out the remainder of the list. Multiple goals are sometimes required when aiming for an intended outcome. A specific goal can be to increase ecommerce revenue by 15%.

Measurable: Having a specific goal must be measurable in some form. The target of increasing ecommerce revenue by 15% is certainly measurable as the relevant people will observe it the cash flow. There are tools a business might use to measure ecommerce revenue, especially if their sales are multichannel (for example selling products through the web and brick and mortar stores).

Achievable: This defines what steps might be required to achieve the goal. Achievable goals need to strike the balance between improving the current situation and requiring a rethink or change of practice to achieve them. It differs from realistic in that “achievable” means a goal that could improve given the right preparation.

Realistic: No business could ever enter a market on a Tuesday and be its market leader by Friday of the same week. Realistic looks at the rules of a market and the potential for progress. A goal must be possible given the investment, resources, skills and in line with trends. It’s should be achievable with a change in strategy, but not impossible.

Timebound: This is the all-important deadline. For business or personal goals, such targets can only work if there is a time limit placed on the goal. A personal goal like “lose weight” is SMART when a target weight and a date is set – lose four stone by our summer holiday. It is the same with businesses. Increasing ecommerce sales by 10% should have a relevant goal such as the business’ busiest quarter.

Why are SMART objectives important?

SMART is a carefully designed system that a business of any size may apply. It’s broad enough to apply equally to marketing, business goals, and cost savings goals, for any business in any industry, and of any size. At the same time, SMART is specific enough to work as a tangible framework of prompts and guides to help experienced and new business owners and marketing executives develop. It’s a system of support, a strategy, and a framework to develop a business.

More than that, SMART is also a method of tracking goals over time. When used correctly, it is a flexible system to help you learn from your mistakes and successes and apply them further in the personal or business SMART framework.

Example goal with SMART applied

A typical personal goal might be: I want to resign from my job and start a business. That goal is vague and the person setting it is likely to give up on it before they have even begun to give it due and serious consideration. Starting a business is an exciting task. It’s also daunting, fraught with difficulty and possibility in equal measure.

A SMART version of the statement may look a little like this.

Specific: I will investigate the potential for setting up in business in line with my skills, qualifications, and experiences before deciding on products or services that could provide a genuine business opportunity. For example: as a wedding photographer.

Measurable: By the end of the first month of setting up my business, I will have a business plan, including a list of services, and a date that my business will effectively open for trade. I will also set up business pages on social media and have a website in this time advertising a list of my services.

Achievable: I will start with a personal website and start taking practice photoshoots now with volunteer models. That way, when I start shooting weddings for real, I will have a portfolio to show to potential clients. Is specialist training or certification required?

Realistic: In order to make it as a wedding photographer in a short space of time, the person must understand photography principles and know how to use the equipment correctly, and build a relationship with local venues.

Timebound: What is the viable timeframe to establish a wedding photography business?

If you’d like to know more about SMART and other goal-setting tools in business, have you considered an introduction to marketing course?

 

What short courses can I do online?

Covid-19 has changed adult education overnight. With all classroom learning postponed until further notice, many of us are seeking out alternatives ways to upskill or pursue a new interest.  And there is certainly no shortage of choice!

The internet is over-saturated with distant learning providers, from prerecorded lectures to technology led learning, it’s hard to know where to begin. If you have found yourself asking the question ‘what short courses can I do online?’ we have some top tips for finding an online course.

Top 3 tips for picking an online course

  1. Find a reputable provider

With so many options online, is can be hard to identity reputable providers from a host of low-quality distant learning courses. Do your research. Be cautious of unknown providers or courses offered at exceptionally low cost – if it seems too good to be true, it may well be.

  1. Be mindful of group sizes

MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are free online courses open to anyone across the world. While this may seem like an attractive offer, it is a learning experience that will not suit everyone. You’ll be one of tens of thousands of students taking a course, meaning there won’t be opportunities to have one-to-one meetings and direct feedback from the tutor. If you want a tutor-led experience, where the tutor will be mindful of whether you are doing well or you need extra support a MOOC is not the answer.

  1. Look for courses with live tutor engagement

The term distant learning can mean many different things. To really get the most out of your time, look for a course that provides live, two-way interaction between you and your tutor. Not only can building a rapport with your tutor and peers improve your performance, it also makes a much more personable and enjoyable learning experience.

Short Courses at City, University of London

City, University of London has already started teaching short courses remotely. We hope that you’ll learn with us and enjoy the benefits we have on offer. If you’re still not sure, here are some reasons to study online with City.

Quality education from a world-leading University

City, University of London is one of the most trusted names in adult education, with a longstanding reputation for excellence across all our short course provision. As part of the prestigious University of London Federation, we offer industry-led education at a world-class University.

Learn as part of small group

Traditionally a face-to-face provider, City Short Courses can bring the benefits of classroom learning to your home. You will learn as part of a small group, with no more than 20 other students – but usually less than ten and often just four or five others – creating a personable and tailored learning experience.

“It’s great to be able to participate in classes from the comfort of your own home and it helps to have a small class size, so we get lots of time to talk about our work and get feedback from the tutor.”

Hamdi Khalif, The Novel Studio student

Quality time and feedback from your tutor

Due to our small group-size, you’ll be guaranteed a high level of interaction with your tutor. Our tutors will be available to you live throughout the class, giving you ample opportunity to ask questions and work at a pace that suits you.

“Each group and class I teach is completely unique. There is no ‘one size fits all’ in my classes, they are very much led by the individual students’ interests or areas of concern. The students get so much more out of the lessons when learning is directed by the students’ needs”.

 Dionisios Dimakopoulos, Tutor and Computing Course Coordinator 

Next term starts Monday 28th September 2020, find out more about our courses and enrol online.

City Writes Takes to Zoom with Magical Effect

By Rebekah Lattin-Rawstrone

What a delight to be able to share our fabulous City Writes competition winners alongside alumna, author, screenwriter and folklorist Shahrukh Husain, with a Zoom audience on Wednesday the 8th July 2020. After delaying the Spring event due to the pandemic, it was brilliant to be back online.

Competition winners, Alexandra McDermott, Marina Nenadic, Mike Clarke, AS Renard and Linda Fripps all shared their stories, taking us from Kansas, to a fish market in Gothenburg, then to a comedy club in Hackney, a horse ride through Mexico and finally to a treatment room in a Children’s A&E department. The authors all read brilliantly. Something about Zoom really lends an intimacy to readings that creates a plus side to missing out on seeing people in the flesh. It’s great to be spellbound by voices that transport us with their stories.

Following the readings, I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Shahrukh Husain. A former student on the Certificate in Novel Writing (the Novel Studio as was), Shahrukh is an incredibly experienced and talented writer with a love and enthusiasm for storytelling that is infectious. Focused around the recent republication of The Virago Book of Witches, which she edited and wrote a new forward for, our conversation explored the witch across cultures and through history. 

For those of you wanting a more in-depth experience, a video of the event is available to watch here. I thoroughly recommend it. The readings and conversation were inspiring. I left wanting to get reading and writing as well as feeling filled with enthusiasm for next term’s City Writes (also to be held on Zoom) that will host the wonderful Deepa Anappara, whose novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, was longlisted for the Booker Prize earlier this year. Watch this space for announcements of competition deadlines and event dates.

Top Ten Tips for Writing Crime Fiction

By Caroline Green

Crime fiction is booming right now. If you have ever wondered if you could write for this thriving, thrilling genre, here are ten things you should know:

  1. Understand who you are writing for. Read widely within the genre and decide what type of crime fiction you love to read. (Frankly, if you don’t get excited about reading it, why do you want to write it?)
  2. But after you’ve read all those lovely books, don’t try and second guess the market. No one saw the likes of Girl On The Train. The most important thing is to know the genre but write what you want to write.
  3. Watch quality drama as well as reading books. Programmes such as Happy Valley or Line of Duty can teach budding crime writers a lot, despite being delivered via a different medium.
  4. Aim for living, breathing, characters, not cardboard cut-outs. If you are writing another alcoholic PI or police investigator make sure they are so well-rounded they could step right off the page. What is their back story? What made them who they are?
  5. Don’t be afraid to delve into your dark side. Your own imagination is more powerful – and has more twists – than all the CGI in the world. Tap into it and never shy away from those big, bold ideas that make you think, ‘Dare I…?’.
  6. The best twists don’t come hurtling out of nowhere. The really satisfying ones make such perfect sense, you can’t believe you didn’t see them coming.
  7. Remember that conflict is the engine of story-telling. Try to weave some form of conflict into every single scene, every conversation, every plot line.
  8. Think about the ‘why-dunnit’ and not just the ‘who’. The reason psychological thrillers have taken off so much – and helped cause that boom in sales – is that the psychology behind dark deeds makes for a gripping read.
  9. Vary your pace. Sometimes readers need space to breathe, and others they need to be sent hurtling towards the thrilling climax of your story.
  10. Let your setting do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to creating atmosphere. A creepy atmospheric setting can really help rachet up tension.

 

Caroline Green writes best-selling thrillers as Cass Green and teaches our Crime and Thriller Writing Summer School.

Book now for a week’s course delivered online, starting 25th July.

Our Turn to Learn: How Short Courses Adapted to Covid-19

In week eight of the short courses spring term the country was hurled into lockdown and all classroom teaching was formally suspended.

News of these much-needed safety measures was welcomed by the Short Course team; but with two more weeks of teaching to go and a new term around the corner, the pressure was on.

Having seen the situation unfold in the weeks prior, we’d already started planning for remote learning; but it was safe to say the global pandemic had thrown us in at the deep end.

Now that safety had been addressed, our first concern was completing the spring term so that current students could finish the courses they had been working so hard for.

Led by Bill Richardson, our team catch-up meetings were upped to twice a week, to talk through issues arising and ensure our students got the quality teaching that they deserve.

All students were notified that the final two lessons of spring term would be taught remotely and were provided with clear instructions for using the online learning tools, Moodle and Microsoft Teams. Course Coordinators worked closely with our tutors to offer training and technical support for running online classes.

Next we had to consider our approach to the summer term, due to start in a matter of weeks. We had to make a choice – postpone teaching or embrace the challenge. Encouraged by positive feedback from the spring term and a desire to fulfil our commitment to students, we decided to make it work.

Our marketing creative required a total overhaul to focus on remote learning. We communicated our new offering via emails, blogs and the City website. This was not without its complications. Our online message to students coincided with a University-wide content freeze of the City website, delaying our plans.  We pushed term back by one week to give us more time to prepare.

Grappling with issues of student IT logins, joining instructions and training for online platforms, there was a lot of work to be done. Forward thinking from the Short Courses Administration team meant that students were contacted to talk through any technical difficulties before the start of term. Computing courses presented their own set of challenges of software setup and configuration.  Our Computing Coordinator offered step-by step guidance and live email and phone support.

The first week of term went smoothly – largely due to the dedication and hard work from the team. We had 474 students confirmed on over 50 short courses. A welcomed consequence of these unexpected events was collaboration within the team – and beyond it. From Course Coordinators leaning on one-another to navigate through set up and planning; to Research & Enterprise’s Stefan Rankov, who particularly went out of his way to offer training support on Microsoft Teams.

Now into our fourth week of the summer term, we are undergoing a careful evaluation process, requesting feedback from students and tutors to identify any problems and adapt our approach accordingly.  We have some tweaks to make but so far, our response has been overwhelmingly positive from tutors and students alike.

 “I had a great time learning C with you. Specific thanks for putting together the virtual class, I found this super helpful and think I actually preferred the format.”

Benjamin Wade, C++ student

“The short courses team expeditiously responded to my training needs and were able to provide close guidance and support on adapting my classes to enable online seminars, chats, calls, screensharing, and file sharing, so that I could seamlessly move into virtual teaching.”

Nasreen Chaudhury, Law tutor

None of this would have been possible without our tutors’ admirable approach to change, their enthusiasm to teach and their wiliness to get to grips with online learning techniques. Even more wonderful is the willingness from tutors to share their best practice techniques and teaching experiences with one another.

Thank you to all of our staff and tutors for making our move to online teaching such a success.

How has your experience been of learning online with us? We’d love to hear, write your comments in the section below.

COVID-19 UPDATE

To ensure the safety of our students and teaching staff, we are delivering courses remotely until further notice. Live tutor support and virtual lessons will take place during advertised teaching hours.

All you need is love

By Emily Pedder

From Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, the question of love has long fascinated writers and readers across the world.

The American editor Shawn Coyne has a theory about this: ‘Love stories are so popular because people not only go to them for the entertainment value but subconsciously they’re watching a love story and they’re trying to track ways that they can become more lovable and form bonds and relationships…People don’t want to be alone.” Love stories, Coyne argues, like all stories, are ‘metaphors that help us know how to behave.’

Our creative writing short course alumni are no slouches in this ‘story’ department and also happen to know a thing or two about love. In celebration of Valentine’s Day this year, we pay tribute to some of their novels which explore the eternal quest for love.

Rachael’s Gift by Alexandra Cameron

A skillfully plotted, continent-crossing literary thriller which explores a mother’s love for her troubled daughter and the lengths she will go to protect her.

Dona Nicanora’s Hat Shop by Kirstan Hawkins

Doña Nicanora has her heart set on turning Don Bosco’s barbers into a hat shop, but Don Bosco has his heart set on her. A wonderfully warm-hearted comedy of errors set in a backwoods South American town.

Foolish Lessons in Life and Love by Penny Rudge

Join Taras, the hapless hero stuck in a futile job and still living with his overbearing mother, as he tries to win back the enchanting Katya. Brilliantly observed and very funny.

Butterfly Ranch by Remy Salters

In a remote jungle lodge in Southern Belize, a local policeman investigates the mysterious disappearance of a world-famous reclusive author. A masterful tale of obsessive love, self-destruction and unexpected redemption.

Flesh and Bone and Water by Luiza Sauma

A letter delivered to Dr Andre Cabal in London catapults him back to his 17 year-old self in 1980s Brazil and begins the devastating and mesmerizing story of one man’s secret infatuation for the daughter of his family’s maid.

Creative Writing short courses at City

City runs short courses on everything from novel writing to writing for children.

Many of our students have gone on to publish books after completing one of our creative writing short courses. Deepa Anappara published her debut novel, Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line, last month after completing our one-year course, The Novel Studio.

 

Short Story Alumna Wins Costa Short Story Award 2019

A former student of City’s Short Story Writing course has won the 2019 Costa Short Story Award. Anna Dempsey, an American-born writer and teacher based in south-east London, won the £3,500 prize for her story, The Dedicated Dancers of The Greater Oaks Retirement Community.

It’s been a meteoric rise for Anna, whose winning story is her very first piece of short fiction and was written and workshopped in 2019, while she was on the course.

“Several friends from my writing group told me about the course,” Anna said. “I was feeling a bit down about my focus and output so taking the class excited me since I knew I would have homework, deadlines and feedback …”

Course tutor Katy Darby said

“Anna’s piece stood out to me at once for its clear, characterful voice, the world-weary wit and humour, her pin-sharp observation and the compassion and depth she brought to her highly memorable characters. I encouraged her to expand it and submit it once it was redrafted – and I’m delighted she did!”

Short Story Writing Tutor Katy Darby

Novelist, editor and short story writer Katy, who also runs award-winning short story event Liars’ League, teaches two of City’s short writing courses, Short Story Writing and Writers’ Workshop, and has had phenomenal success with her former students. From Sunday Times bestselling author Imogen Hermes Gowar to prize-winning novelists Peng Shepherd and Luiza Sauma, many of her students have gone on to publication and critical acclaim.

“One of my favourite things about teaching the short story course,” said Katy “is the variety of students, who range widely in age, background and writing experience, and the abundance of ideas and approaches they bring to their work … I encourage every student to read their own and each other’s writing closely, paying attention not just to the strong points, but to where there might be room for improvement and the potential to polish a rough diamond to a brilliant shine.”

Her approach has clearly paid dividends for Anna: “The course helped build my confidence,” said Anna. “Katy always gave us feedback on what to improve or what she loved. Having an established writer give clear, concise and honest feedback is what I felt like I was missing. I remember Katy saying that she would read more stories with my main character and she also said to send it to loads of places before putting it in the drawer. So, I took her advice … I received many rejections until Costa! I was truly shocked, and even more shocked when I won. What a ride it’s been!”

Congratulations, Anna!

For further information on our short writing courses visit the website.

Read Anna’s winning story here.

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