4 Tips for Improving Your English Grammar

esl program
CultureWorks students use technology to improve their English language skills

English grammar is hard to learn – even native English speakers don’t always know all the rules! But, even though grammar can be difficult, it’s also an important part of learning English as a second language and preparing for success at a Canadian university.

Whether you need to write an essay, read an article, or explain an important concept in a presentation, you’ll need to understand grammar to complete the task.

Grammar helps structure sentences so that their meaning is clear.

For example, this sentence invites grandma to join the family for dinner: “Let’s eat, grandma!”

But in this sentence, a mistake in grammar completely changes the meaning: “Let’s eat grandma!” (a missing comma makes grandma the main dish).

While these mistakes can be funny, they show just how much grammar impacts the meaning of what we say and write in English.

Want to improve your grammar skills? Here are four simple tips to get started with.

1. Practise Writing in English Whenever You Can

Every time you learn a new grammar rule in your esl program, try it out with sentences you create yourself – in a journal, an email to a friend, or a social media post. This way, you’ll feel more confident applying the rule in conversations and class work.

Go beyond grammar exercises like fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice questions!

2. Read, Read, Read

The more you read in English, the more examples you will see of how grammar is used in context. You don’t need to read long, complicated books to see grammar in action. Simple short stories or news articles are fine.

Write down any questions that come up, and check for answers with your ESL instructor or grammar work book.

3. Challenge Yourself While Talking With Friends

Conversations can be a great way to practise new grammar rules. Try using a tense you’re not as comfortable with, and finding a way to work it into a conversation with your friends.

For example, the next time your friends join you for breakfast, scare them by saying “I have eaten all the pancakes.” Not only will you get to practise the “present perfect” tense (which is one of the hardest tenses to master), but you might trick your friends into thinking they have missed out on a favourite Canadian treat!

Intensive English programs
CultureWorks students practise conversation around the breakfast table

4. Ask Your Instructor for Extra Help

Not sure you understand a new grammar rule, even after it was explained in class? Just ask your instructor for a few more examples. Intensive English programs like CultureWorks hire only the best, friendliest instructors, which means they’re ready to work with you one-on-one to make sure you understand each new concept.

You can write a few sentences using the new grammar rule, and ask your teacher to check them – and also have a short conversation to make sure you understand how to apply the rule in conversation.

English courses for the University of Ontario
CultureWorks students get one-on-one help in class.

Interested in taking English courses for the University of Ontario or another one of CultureWorks’ partner institutions?

Visit us to learn more about how we help international students prepare for university.

5 Strategies for Improving Your English Conversation Skills

intensive english programs
Teachers and CultureWorks alumni catch up and exchange stories.

If you’ve decided to enroll in an intensive English program in Canada, then you’ve already made an important first step to becoming a fluent English speaker.

One of the biggest benefits of studying English abroad is getting the chance to practise your speaking skills every single day as you communicate with locals and complete assignments for your ESL classes.

Looking for ways to improve your English conversation skills even faster? Here are a few tips to improve your fluency and build your confidence.

Connect with Native English Speakers

Many ESL and intensive English programs will encourage you to meet locals so that you can practise your English with native speakers. Conversations with experienced English speakers help you learn syntax, understand expressions, and improve your fluency.

But we understand that meeting new people can be hard! That’s why CultureWorks organizes activities on campus and in the community so ESL students can make those connections more easily.

esl school in Canada
CultureWorks students at a cooking workshop

Don’t Worry Too Much About Perfect Grammar

Grammar is important, and when you attend esl school in Canada you’ll learn all about the rules and how to apply them. But if you focus too much on planning the perfect sentence, you’ll probably never speak up at all!

When you’re making conversation, don’t worry about little mistakes. Your friends will still understand you even if you use the wrong tense or forget how to correctly conjugate a verb. The important thing is that you’re communicating and building confidence through practise (not perfection!).

Practise Your Vocabulary With Karaoke

Karaoke is a fun way to spend time with new friends – and a popular activity in Canada. Plus, since each song comes with written lyrics, you will learn new words by listening, reading, and speaking – all at the same time. You’ll have such a great time singing, you won’t even realize you’re improving your pronunciation, fluency and comprehension skills.

english courses
CultureWorks students and teachers sing at our Christmas party.

Improve Your Enunciation by Imitating Others

Part of learning English is about learning to enunciate new sounds correctly. You want to make sure that you don’t speak too fast or too slow, and that people can understand you. One fun way to practise English is by imitating famous people.

Pretend that you’re the Queen of England, the President of the United States, Canada’s Prime Minister, or your favourite English-speaking actor. Copying a line or two of their dialogue will require you to speak slowly and carefully, while paying careful attention to new words and how to pronounce them.

Keep it Simple!

Long, complicated words and phrases might sound impressive in an essay, but when you’re learning English, it’s much wiser to keep things simple. Small words and short phrases will help you communicate more clearly and help conversations progress more easily. The longer your conversations, the faster you will learn!

Want to learn English in Canada to prepare for university? Check out CultureWorks to see if our English courses for Carleton University or one of our other partner schools is right for you.



Meet Instructor Matthew McGravey in This Week’s CultureWorks Hotspot


Like many of our students, CultureWorks instructors love meeting new people and visiting new countries. Avid traveler, vinyl collector, and CultureWorks instructor Matthew McGravey sat down with us for this week’s Hotspot, and we couldn’t be happier to share his story.

At CultureWorks, we know that our progressive approach to ESL education wouldn’t be possible without experienced, caring instructors. They make sure that each student feels welcomed in the classroom, and receives the personalized attention needed to excel in their English courses and make a strong start at university.

Read on to learn all about Matthew, and what advice he has for ESL students just starting out in Canada.

1. Who is your favourite Canadian musician?

I would have to say Geddy Lee from the band “Rush”. What other musician can play the bass, play synthesizers with his feet, and sing at the same time? The guy is amazing. He is also from my hometown of Toronto. Perhaps I am a little biased towards musicians from Toronto. I also love “the Band” who are from Toronto. I also really enjoy newer bands like the Arcade Fire (not from Toronto).

2. What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

I would say “to grab life by the horns”. Like most Canadians, finding time to play is very important for me. From concerts to road trips to the USA or across Canada, I always keep myself busy. There are so many things that I want to do! It is “never a dull moment” in my life!

3. When you’re not teaching in our esl program, what are you doing? Do have any hobbies and why do you like doing them?

Where do I start? My biggest passion is collecting vinyl records. I have been collecting them since high school. I really enjoy their sound and great covers. Also, I love to travel. From Japan to Latvia, I have been to a lot of interesting places near and far. Immersing myself in a new city or culture is very enjoyable for me. It can be a little scary, but I love that feeling of walking off a plane and discovering new surroundings for the first time.

4. As a history buff, what elements of our students’ histories intrigue you and why?

I’m very interested in the histories of China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and Vietnam.

All of these countries have such unique and rich histories. For each country, I tend to focus on reading about different periods. In terms of China, the Qing Dynasty is perhaps the most interesting period for me. The changes that were happening in China in the early twentieth century are quite fascinating. In terms of Brazil, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia, I am interested in the economic rise of those countries in the last twenty or thirty years. It is amazing how fast these economies are developing and how those changes are shaping the twenty-first century in each country.

5. What is your advice for students enrolled in an intensive English program who are looking to write better?

I would say that “practise makes perfect”. Find different ways to write as much as possible. Keep a journal, start a blog, or even write short stories or poetry. Find something that you like to write and do that often. Your writing will get better as you practise!

6. Lastly, for fun, if you could experience a famous Canadian historical event for a day, what would it be? Why?

I would really want to go to “Expo 67”. It was this great showcase of different countries that happened in Montreal in 1967. I have some relatives who went, and it was a great moment for Canada that many of us are still proud of. There are still some buildings from this event that you can see if you go to Montreal!

Thanks, Matthew for answering our questions and telling us a bit about yourself. We are happy to have you as an instructor on our Oshawa campus.

culture works team

Thinking about enrolling in English courses for UOIT University or one of our other partner universities? Click here to start your application today.

7 Ways to Excel in Your ESL Classes

CultureWorks students practise their English skills while they relax in the student lounge
CultureWorks students practise their English skills while they relax in the student lounge.

Want to get the most out of your ESL classes so you can graduate quickly and move on to university? Read on for some helpful hints that will make you a stronger, faster English learner!

1. Keep a Daily Journal of Your ESL Adventure

Writing a daily journal in English will help you practise your new language skills on a regular basis. A journal is a great way for you to record the new experiences you’re having in Canada, and even share with friends and family back home. Plus, you’ll get an excellent confidence boost when you read over past entries a few weeks later, and see how much your English has already improved!

2. The Best ESL Students Ask Questions in Class

Asking questions helps to ensure that you’ve understood directions, new concepts, and corrections. Questions are really the best route to learning faster and with improved accuracy. Speaking up also helps you feel more comfortable practising English in front of others.

CultureWorks students get comfortable with public speaking during fun exercises.
CultureWorks students get comfortable with public speaking during fun exercises.

3. Immerse Yourself in the Language

If you’ve moved to Canada to study English, then you’ve already made an important first step in immersing yourself in your new language.

Push yourself to the next level by using English when you’re interacting with locals (buying groceries, going to the movies, grabbing a coffee) and you’ll see just how much faster your language skills grow!

CultureWorks organizes trips and activities that immerse students in local Canadian culture.
CultureWorks organizes trips and activities that immerse students in local Canadian culture.

4. Practise, Practise, Practise

Practising your second language is important, and it can be fun too. Maximize your downtime by reading books in English, watching English movies, or playing video games in English. This kind of regular practise will boost your comprehension skills.

If you’re taking English courses for UOIT University because you want to study Engineering, then reading articles about industry trends (in English) will also help your comprehension improve quickly.

5. Don’t Get Discouraged by Mistakes

Saying the wrong thing, pronouncing words incorrectly, mixing up grammar, or getting nervous while talking are all normal parts of the language learning process. Don’t be too hard on yourself when you make a mistake. It happens to everyone.

6. Prepare for Tests Early

Last-minute cramming can leave you feeling stressed and unprepared for a test. Instead, try studying a little bit every night. That way, you’ll remember what you learned, do better on your tests, and move on to university more quickly.

7. Have Fun

Living in another country is an incredible experience! You get to meet new people, see new things, and grow as a person while you learn English.

If you get out there and have some fun, you’ll have more energy for learning, have more opportunities to practise English, and ultimately – do better in your ESL classes!

Are you looking for an intensive English program in Canada? Take a look at our ESL program to see if CultureWorks is right for you!

Top 4 English Skills You Need to Succeed at University

CultureWorks students explore the Western University Campus in London, Ontario
CultureWorks students explore the Western University Campus in London, Ontario

Once you become a university student in Canada, you’ll need to use your English language skills on a regular basis when you:

  • Attend lectures
  • Learn new material
  • Write essays and reports
  • Do research
  • Deliver presentations

No matter what you study at university, you’ll be using your advanced English skills on a daily basis. Everyone from business students to budding engineers needs to have strong English writing, reading and conversation skills in order to excel at school.

Here are the top four English skills you’ll learn at the CultureWorks ESL program, and how they’ll help you succeed in your university courses.

1. Clear English Writing Skills to Communicate your Ideas

Strong English writing skills include correct spelling, grammar and sentence structure – but those are really just the basics. When you write a report or an essay for a university course, you’ll need to develop an argument, cite sources, and structure your essay so that your thoughts are expressed clearly and persuasively.

Intensive English programs help students build advanced writing skills by breaking complex assignments (like essays) into small parts – and then guiding students to master each component. At CultureWorks, ESL students learn to write an introduction, argument, supporting ideas, and even incorporate research with academic citations – exactly how their university professors will want.

2. Excellent Comprehension Skills to Understand Lectures & Readings

CultureWorks students at King's University listen to class lectures in English
CultureWorks students at King’s University listen to class lectures in English

Professors love to lecture, and will communicate many important concepts verbally during class. Strong English comprehension skills are essential for keeping up with the flow of ideas, and taking clear notes.

An effective esl program will ensure that students get plenty of practice listening and speaking in small groups, and following their teacher’s verbal instructions and explanations. This preparation is essential for understanding when your university professor speaks quickly, or covers many complex concepts in one short lecture.

3. Confident English Conversation to Participate in Class

CultureWorks students get comfortable talking in English
CultureWorks students get comfortable talking in English

Many university classes require student participation – which means you have to ask and answer questions in class, and participate in group projects.

CultureWorks prepares students with many opportunities to build English conversation skills. Group trips, conversation circles, class presentations and a supportive environment help students feel confident talking in front of others. With this preparation, you won’t lose grades because you’re too nervous to speak up in your university classes!

4. Specific English Vocabulary for your Degree Program

If you’re taking English courses for King’s University because you want to study Business Administration, you will definitely need an ESL school that offers program-specific electives. It’s important to learn the business vocabulary your professors and classmates will use, so your presentations and reports will sound professional.

CultureWorks offers electives in engineering, business and Canadian culture studies to help ESL students get comfortable with the terminology they will need in their university courses.

Once you’ve mastered these four English language skills, nothing will stand between you and your university degree!

What other English skills do you think are essential for success at university?