CfAE listening and speaking courses

We provide free listening and speaking courses for Imperial College London international students and academic staff in science, engineering and medicine. All courses are four weeks, unless stated otherwise. In the autumn term, students can book a maximum of two courses in Block A and two courses in Block B.  In the spring and summer terms students can register for as many courses as they like in each block.

Please choose the courses that you wish to enrol onto and fill in your details on the course registration forms. There are two blocks of courses offered each term, so if you missed out on registering for Block A courses, please revisit this page in the week that Block A courses start, when you can register for Block B courses.  

Business School students: please contact the Business School directly about in-sessional English language support.

2019-20 Course dates
DayDatesTimeCourse
Block A      
Monday 20 Jan - 10 Feb 12:00 - 13:00  Stand up and Speak
Monday 20 Jan - 10 Feb 12:00 - 13:00  Lecture Listening   
Monday 20 Jan - 10 Feb 13:00 - 14:00  Speaking: Interactions
Tuesday 21 Jan - 11 Feb  12:00 - 13:00  Spelling and Sound
Tuesday 21 Jan - 11 Feb 13:00 - 14:00    Grammar for Speaking 1 
Wednesday 22 Jan - 12 Feb 13:00 - 14:00  Grammar for Speaking 1 
Wednesday 22 Jan - 12 Feb 13:00 - 14:00  Mouth Mechanics
Thursday 23 Jan - 13 Feb 12:00 - 13:00  Social Situations
Thursday 23 Jan - 13 Feb 13:00 - 14:00  Pronunciation 1
Thursday 23 Jan - 13 Feb 13:00 - 14:00  Stand up and Speak
 Friday 24 Jan - 14 Feb  12:00 - 13:00  Speed Listening
       
Block B      
Monday 17 Feb - 9 Mar 12:00 - 13:00 Pronunciation 2
Monday 17 Feb - 9 Mar 12:00 - 13:00 Communicating Politely
Monday 17 Feb - 9 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Speaking: Information Transfer
Tuesday 18 Feb - 10 Mar 12:00 - 13:00 Social Situations 
Tuesday 18 Feb - 10 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Grammar for Speaking 2
Wednesday 19 Feb - 11 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Grammar for Speaking 2
Wednesday 19 Feb - 11 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Mouth Mechanics
Thursday 20 Feb - 12 Mar 12:00 - 13:00 Pronunciation 2
Thursday 20 Feb - 12 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Speaking: Information Transfer
Thursday 20 Feb - 12 Mar 13:00 - 14:00 Speaking: Idioms for Speech
Friday 21 Feb - 13 Mar 12:00 - 13:00 Speed Listening
Summary of the table's contents

Course list

CfAE Café

No registration needed - just turn up to the Centre for Academic English (level 3, Sherfield Building, South Kensington Campus).
Next date: TBC

Also check out the International Office's ‘Cosmopolitan Café’.

If you would like to talk about your own project at one of our future CfAE Café events, please contact liz.chiu@imperial.ac.uk. This is a great speaking opportunity, and excellent practice for anyone who is preparing to present their research to funders, etc. You will be asked to ‘show and tell’ using an object or picture from your research, speaking informally for 5mins, then answer questions for 10mins.

Communicating Politely

In every culture, spoken language is used to show respect, ask for favours, express personal preferences, explain what we need, show disagreement, and for most close discussion. This short course focuses on achieving successful communication within the international community of Imperial College London. We explore the concept of 'fitting in' to a mixed environment, and what we mean by 'being polite' in the contexts of work and study. We aim to give you an awareness of how we make our feelings known here and help you say what you mean in the most acceptable ways in order to achieve your own objectives.

Delivering Technical Speech

This course is intended to help you if you need to speak to groups of people and want to work on diction and delivery of spoken English. You will have the chance to ‘stand up and speak’ to small groups and to the class, practising various techniques to get your voice and your message across clearly. Each session includes pronunciation exercises and you will have the opportunity to present a prepared speech on your own topic if you wish to.

Speaking: Interactions

We recommend you take the Speaking: Interactions course if this is your first experience of living in an English speaking environment, and you find spoken communication is too fast for you to participate. The Speaking: Interactions course will help you think faster in English and communicate more freely and focuses on developing strategies for dealing with native speaker interaction. For example, we encourage you to be proactive in checking what you’ve understood as well as what your listeners may have understood from you.

In class, you will practise using expressions that native speakers typically use in conversation to make their meaning clear. You will have the chance to speak in small groups in a stress-free environment, to activate vocabulary and move it from written to spoken use, and to process English in real time without preparation and without translating. It is best to take this course and improve your fluency before you take the Pronunciation course.

Speaking: Information Transfer

Does it take you too long to digest new information and respond to it in English? Are you lost for words in group work while your peers make all the decisions?

This course gives you practice reacting spontaneously in academic English to both spoken and written input. Each session you will listen to facts and opinions, read short texts and say what you want to say about them. There is no homework, but additional practice materials are available.

Convert input to output more effectively and improve your own processing speed.

Speaking: Idioms in Speech

How English is your English? Do you feel that you are able to communicate comfortably enough to get by in daily situations, but that you lack flexibility and variety in your language?

At advanced level, many second language learners feel that their language learning has reached a plateau where they can express themselves, but not in a stylish or nuanced way. This course will help you to break through the language learning plateau by equipping you with common English idioms that can be used to make your speech more natural and expressive.

Grammar for Speaking 1

Grammar for Speaking gives you the chance to practise using common structures spontaneously, in speech, without preparation time or writing out correct sentences. This course will challenge the intuitions you have previously formed, based on grammar rules you have learnt. It will make you aware of native speaker usage and encourage you to apply the relevant sentence pattern to specific situations.

Each Grammar for Speaking Course comprises 4 sessions of one hour. For convenience, it is arranged in topic areas and offered in two separately enrolled courses as follows:

  • Grammar for Speaking 1:  1. Modals  2. Past Tenses  3. Tags and Questions  4. Articles and Countability
  • Grammar for Speaking 2:  1. Conditionals  2. Future Tenses  3. Prepositions with verbs  4. Gerund/Infinitive

Lecture Listening

Lectures should be easy to understand because the lecturer is making every effort to be understood. However, when native speakers want to make a complicated point easy to understand, we move from long, academic words to short, 'simple' words - the kind of everyday English that our children can understand but that you never find in text books.

In this course, we take examples from great lecturers who are known for their entertaining approach and consider what kind of English phrases they are most likely to use. We focus on the 'asides' that make the audience laugh and the functional phrases that guide us as listeners. We connect formal and informal phrases with similar meaning or usage, investigate techniques such as paraphrasing, and notice how these great speakers use metaphors to make their meaning clear.

Mouth Mechanics

If you can’t get your tongue around English sounds, you may benefit from doing some Mouth Mechanics. We will help you to identify the 'problem' sounds that do not exist or are made differently in your own language, then give you exercises to move your mouth and vary your tongue shape as required for these English sounds. Each session focuses on one type of phoneme (sound), compares it with related sounds, and includes practice exercises for you to produce it in different words and phrases. All Mouth Mechanics materials are available online through our Blackboard course, and you are advised to check these before class. The following lessons are held during spring and summer terms:

topic

sounds

examples

1. airflow and voicing

h/ʃ//ʧ//ʤ//ʒ/

cheap/jeep, was/wash/watch, sip/ship/chip, eat/heat, ridge/rich,

2. stop and release

/k//g//t//d//p//b/

cap/gap, pig/big, ted/dead/debt, back up/bag up, logged in/locked in

3. tongue vibration

‘th’ /ð//Ɵ//z//s/

other/udder, mouse/mouth, eyes/ice, breathe/breeze

4. vowels 1

Aa Ee Ii Oo Uu

tap/tape, ten/teen, pip/pipe, cod/code, us/use

5. vowels 2  vowels +L  +R

/ɜ:/ /ɔ:/ /ɑ/ /ɒ/ /əʊ/

cat/cart/call, fist/first/fill, pot/port/poll, bun/burn/bull, bet/Bert/bell

6. tongue shape

/l/ /n/ /r/

liver/river, nine/line, lorry/lolly, lonely, problem, bravely, r eally

7. lips

/w/ /v/ /b/ /p/ /f/

wet/vet/bet, wool/pull/full, lab/lav, club/glove, of/off, waves, lifts, tips

8. nose

/n/ /m/ /ŋ/

sun/sum/sung, clan/clam/clang, When I… Come on… Thing is…

Pronunciation 1

In this introductory course, we run through the key aspects of English pronunciation in 4 sessions: consonants, vowels, word stress, and linking in phrases. If you haven’t previously studied the phonemic symbols commonly used to represent the sounds of English or you feel the need to brush up on your high school studies, this short course is ideal for you. 

NB: We will guide you towards the relevant exercises to help you reduce your accent, but improvement will only come with practice.

Pronunciation 2

This pronunciation course can help you develop more natural speech. It deals specifically with connected speech: the way we apply stress patterns to words and phrases and the way words are linked together. Once you have achieved fluency in English, you may want to make your accent sound more ‘standard’ and less like your own native language; we often find that rhythm and linking have a greater effect on accent than individual sounds and words. You will learn to speak in ‘thought groups’ rather than considering individual words as the primary unit of speech. We practise linking words together in phrases and making sounds weak or strong to produce the recognisable rhythms of English speech.

Social Situations

Practise the art of small talk, how to mingle with the locals, make your stories entertaining, understand informal remarks - above all, get to know what the English say and do in informal settings. You may feel that you're stuck in a lab all day and never have the chance to hang out with other people, or, when you meet the locals, you're not sure what to say and you can't work out what they mean. This course will help you access the vocabulary of everyday English and give you opportunities to interact informally. It includes a social event.

Speed Listening

When you first arrive in London, you may find the locals hard to understand! It will take time to adjust to the many varieties of English within the international science community, but perhaps the biggest adjustment you’ll need to make is to the speed of native speaker conversations. Generally, the people who speak fast are the hardest to understand. The Speed Listening course will help you understand fast speech - in particular, features of connected speech which make it difficult for you to identify individual words. In each class, we give advice and practice, and suggest exercises which will help you to improve your listening skills.

Spelling and Sound

Do you sometimes feel that you’re playing a guessing game when you come across a word you’ve never seen before and don’t know how to say it? English spelling can be most unhelpful when you try to decide how to pronounce a word. An even bigger problem is that you may have assumed the sound of many common words according to their spelling; if you haven’t learnt correct pronunciation at the time of learning the meaning, it can be very hard to change your habit later on. In this course, we outline the regularities of the English spelling system, make you aware of the most common oddities, and give you strategies for grouping similar words according to their irregularities.