Using Podcasts and Audiobooks to Help Learn English | RPI College
Using Podcasts and Audiobooks to Help Learn English | RPI College

Podcasts and audiobooks are a great tool that can help you with your English listening practice. However, they are also effective in helping you practice your English speaking with a technique called “shadowing”.


Shadowing is an imitation technique where one is imitating another speaker, or certain aspects and elements of someone else’s speech. A great way to practice shadowing is to read along with a narrator during a podcast or audiobook. Most podcasts and audiobooks have word-for-word transcripts that you can download.


After downloading the transcript, you can play the podcast or audiobook while reading along out loud. If you match the speed and accent of the speaker, this technique can be effective in helping improve your English intonation and pronunciation. It can also help you unconsciously improve other things in English such as rhythm, grammar, and vocabulary. If the audio or video is too fast for you, you can pause at the end of each line, or slow down the playback speed.


Here’s a list of resources you can use for shadowing:


- Podcasts with transcripts and/or subtitles

- Audiobooks with transcripts and/or subtitles

- YouTube clips with subtitles

- TED Talks with subtitles

- Movies with subtitles

- Television Shows with subtitles


If you are looking to improve your English, RPI College offers several General English courses for all proficiency levels including Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced.


To determine what proficiency level you are at, we offer a brief placement test that you can complete to determine which of our English courses is a good starting point to match your current skill level.


To take the placement test, please click the following link:

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Canada Remains Open and Ready to Welcome International Language Students | RPI College
Canada Remains Open and Ready to Welcome International Language Students | RPI College

Language students are welcome in Canada and should submit their visitor visa applications now to benefit from faster processing by the Government of Canada.



Canada recently announced an intake cap on international student permit applications, effectively putting a moratorium on study permit application processing until provinces can implement attestation procedures.

Why is that good news for international students looking to study English in Canada?


First of all, a study permit is not required to attend short-term language programs in Canada. On a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), international students can study English or French in Canada for less than six months. Approximately 100,000 students come to Canada on TRVs and eTAs each year.


Second, while the government of Canada isn't processing study permit applications (or very few), IRCC will have more resources available to process other visa applications until at least the end of March, so short-term language students applying for TRVs and eTAs will receive faster processing times.


It is important to remember that there are no restrictions on visitor visas (TRV or eTA) to Canada. In fact, Destination Canada estimates 21.2 million international visitors will visit Canada in 2024. By 2025, the number is expected to reach 23.5 million!


Similarly, there is NO CAP on short-term English language students coming to Canada on TRVs or eTAs, or students on work permits like the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.


So, Canada remains open and ready to welcome international language students. Now is the time to submit visitor visa applications!


Here are just some of the reasons to choose RPI College for your English courses:

  - Choose from a variety of flexible courses that meet your specific needs.

  - The option of both in-class and online courses.

  - Experience Canada’s culture, values, and way of life.

  - Learn and socialize with students from different cultures.

  - Explore the many attractions and natural beauty that North Vancouver, Canada has to offer.


For more information on the courses available at RPI College, or to speak with a team member about any questions you may have, please fill out our Contact form:

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Improving Speaking Ability Through Discussion Courses | RPI College
Improving Speaking Ability Through Discussion Courses | RPI College

Are you struggling with your English speaking skills? Do you find it challenging to express yourself fluently and confidently in conversations? If so, you're not alone. Many people face obstacles when trying to improve their speaking ability, but there is a solution: Discussion Courses. These courses provide an excellent opportunity to practice speaking with others while also improving vocabulary and pronunciation. In this blog post, we'll explore the benefits of taking a discussion course for enhancing your English-speaking skills and how they can help individuals from all backgrounds excel in language proficiency.


Introducing the course

Discussion courses are an interactive and dynamic way to enhance your English-speaking skills. These courses provide a platform for students to engage in meaningful discussions with their peers, practice speaking fluently on various topics, and develop critical thinking skills. The primary objective of discussion courses is to improve learners' oral communication abilities by providing them with opportunities to interact with other speakers in real-life situations that they may encounter. Through these interactions, learners can learn how to express themselves more effectively and confidently while also improving their vocabulary and pronunciation. Unlike traditional language classes that focus on grammar rules and vocabulary drills, discussion courses allow learners to practice using the language in natural settings where the emphasis is placed on communication rather than perfection. Students are encouraged to share their thoughts, opinions, experiences, and cultural perspectives through group discussions led by a trained instructor who provides feedback throughout the session. In addition to enhancing speaking skills, discussion courses also help individuals develop valuable interpersonal skills such as active listening, empathy-building techniques, effective questioning strategies and conflict resolution methods. If you're looking for an engaging way of improving your English-speaking ability while also developing essential social skills – consider taking a discussion course!


What discussion courses are

Discussion courses are a type of language course that focuses on improving speaking ability through conversations. These courses involve group discussions that cover various topics, allowing participants to practice their English skills in a supportive environment. The goal is to help students develop their vocabulary and pronunciation while building confidence in their ability to communicate effectively. In discussion courses, instructors typically provide prompts or questions related to the topic at hand, encouraging students to express themselves freely and creatively. This approach helps learners expand their vocabulary and develop critical thinking skills while also practicing grammar and sentence structure. One of the key benefits of these courses is the opportunity they provide for individuals who struggle with speaking English in social situations. Discussion classes offer a low-pressure environment where participants can practice speaking without fear of judgment or embarrassment. This allows them to build confidence gradually over time as they become more comfortable expressing themselves in English. Discussion courses can be an excellent way for individuals looking to improve their spoken English skills quickly and efficiently. By providing opportunities for regular practice, feedback from instructors and peers, and exposure to new ideas and perspectives, these classes can help anyone become a more effective communicator in any situation.


How they improve speaking ability

Discussion courses are an excellent way to improve your speaking ability in English. This is because these courses create a platform for learners to express their ideas and thoughts on various topics openly. As such, the learner gets to practice and refine their vocabulary and pronunciation skills while building confidence in themselves. During discussion courses, learners get exposed to different accents that help them train their ears and tongues towards proper enunciation of words. Additionally, through group discussions or debates, students learn how to structure sentences coherently by using appropriate grammar rules. Furthermore, discussion groups enhance critical thinking as students engage in challenging conversations over complex topics. Through this process of exchanging opinions with other learners from diverse backgrounds helps build communication skills while also improving listening abilities - both essential aspects of effective communication. Taking part in discussion groups exposes learners to new vocabulary that they can incorporate into their daily lives effortlessly. The more we use newly acquired words or phrases during conversations with others outside the class environment, it becomes easier for us when expressing ourselves naturally without struggling. Participating in discussion courses has numerous benefits beyond just practicing our speaking ability. It enhances our listening skills while also improving our overall comprehension levels thus making us better communicators regardless of language proficiency level!


Who benefits from discussion courses

Discussion courses are beneficial for anyone who is looking to improve their English speaking skills. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced learner, these courses can help you develop your vocabulary, pronunciation, and fluency. If you’re someone who struggles with confidence when speaking in English, then discussion courses can provide a safe and supportive environment for you to practice. You’ll have the opportunity to engage in conversation with others who are also learning the language, which can help reduce anxiety and build your self-assurance. Additionally, those who use English professionally or academically can benefit greatly from discussion courses as it provides them with an opportunity to refine their language skills. They will be able to learn new vocabulary words that they may not have come across before while working on proper pronunciation of commonly used words. Anyone looking to improve their speaking ability through engaging in stimulating conversations about various topics would find participating in discussion courses very useful!


Course structure

The structure of a discussion course can vary depending on the provider. However, most courses consist of weekly sessions with a small group of students led by an experienced teacher. Before starting the course, students are usually given a placement test to assess their level and ensure they are placed in an appropriate group. This guarantees that all participants have similar language skills and can benefit from working together. During each session, students discuss various topics relevant to their interests or current events. These activities encourage participants to express their opinions freely and practice speaking English in a relaxed environment. In addition to discussions, teachers often incorporate other activities such as role-playing exercises or debates into the lessons. Participants also receive feedback on their pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary usage during class time. At the end of each session, homework is assigned for further practice outside of class time. This may include writing assignments or additional reading materials related to the discussed topic. Discussion courses provide structured learning opportunities for individuals looking to improve their speaking ability while interacting with others in a supportive environment.



If you're looking to improve your speaking ability in English, taking a discussion course is an excellent place to start. Not only will you learn new vocabulary and practice pronunciation, but you'll also gain confidence in your ability to communicate effectively with others. Whether you're a beginner or more advanced speaker, there's always room for improvement when it comes to speaking skills. By participating in group discussions and receiving feedback from experienced instructors, you'll be able to identify areas of weakness and work on them over time. So why wait? Sign up for a discussion course today and take the first step towards becoming a fluent English speaker!

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6 Tips for Improving Your English Pronunciation | RPI College
6 Tips for Improving Your English Pronunciation | RPI College

Any English language learner knows that often spelling isn’t very helpful if we want to know how to correctly say a word. Take a look at this sentence, focusing on the words in bold - do you know how to pronounce them?


"The man didn't feel very comfortable in his grey suit. He didn't enjoy wearing smart clothes, and when he wore them he felt a subtle difference in his personality.''


English spelling hasn't evolved much over time, but how we pronounce words has. This makes pronunciation a real challenge for language learners.  But good pronunciation is not just 'how words and letters sound'; there are other equally important features to consider, like intonation (how the tone of voice changes during a sentence, going up or down), stress (which words and syllables have more 'weight' when we are speaking), and connected speech - how words can sound different when they are joined together in natural speech. All of these features contribute to good pronunciation - but don't confuse them with accent. 


In the UK, the USA and other English speaking countries there are many, many different types of accents, but people with those different accents can all be considered to have correct pronunciation.  When you are learning English you don't have to sound British or American. Good pronunciation means being understood; not necessarily sounding like you were born in New York or London. In fact, many native speakers love hearing English spoken with a Spanish, Italian or French accent!  So, how can you work on your pronunciation so that people from all over the world can understand you easily, even if you retain your native accent? Here are six top tips for you to practice and perfect your pronunciation.


1 - Listen!  Listening to examples of authentic speech is the most obvious way to improve your own pronunciation. There are lots of ways to do this - watch a film in its original version, listen to podcasts about a topic that interests you in English (you could try the British Council English podcasts app here ), even listening to music can help. Try to notice the intonation that people use.  You can add to this by 'shadowing'. Shadowing means listening to a short sentence or phrase, and then repeating it afterwards, trying to imitate the sounds, intonation and word stress and noticing how your mouth and tongue move when you speak.


2.  Record yourself. Once you have practiced shadowing, you could record yourself speaking - either repeating a short phrase that you have listened to, or doing a longer speaking task from a coursebook, like describing a picture. Listen back and make a note of any sounds that you have problems with - practice these words / sounds slowly and then record yourself again. Can you notice an improvement?


3. Get to know the phonemic chart. TheInternational Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)  is a visual representation of different sounds. It might look strange and it might feel like you are learning a whole new language, but it can really help you with pronunciation. All dictionaries have a phonetic transcription of words so that you know how to pronounce them. This is really helpful with English because as we have already seen, English spelling doesn't always correspond with its pronunciation. Think about the letters 'ough' in the words 'though', 'through', 'tough', 'ought'. It would be impossible to guess how to say those words without some help. 

Take a look at the British Council's phonemic chart (see link above) or download the Sounds Right app . You can click on the different phonemes and listen to how they sound. This can help you to hear differences between similar sounds.


4. Use a dictionary. As well as printed dictionaries which will give you a phonetic transcription of a word, there are lots of online dictionaries where you can click and listen to the word being spoken. A particularly good one is howjsay  - even the name of this website is a useful guide as to how to pronounce the common question 'How do you say...?' in a natural way.  It's a great resource for checking how new words sound.


5. Do some exercise! Different languages have different sounds, and our mouths adapt to those sounds.  Some sounds are physically very difficult for us to make, as they don't exist in our native language.  Just like when you are learning a new sport or dance move, it's important that you train your mouth to know how to form new sounds - the more you practice the easier it gets. For example, lots of Spanish speakers have problems with the difference between the /b/ and /v/ sound.  We make the /b/ sound by joining our lips together and then letting go. The /v/ sound is similar but your top teeth should touch your bottom lip before you let go.  The more you practice this, the easier it gets - try saying  " I'd like a very big beverage please''! The Sounds of English section  on the BBC's Learning English site has a good selection of video tutorials which explain how to make different sounds and activities to practice them. 


6. Get to know your minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are words that have almost the exact same pronunciation, but with one sound that is different - for example, ship and sheep. The difference between the /I/ in 'ship' and the /i:/ in 'sheep' is the length of the vowel. This can be difficult to hear for many language learners, and comes up in lots of different words.  The first step is to be able to tell the difference between the sounds when you hear them, them. You can listen to some common minimal pairs here  - can you hear the difference? Can you make the different sounds yourself?


Finally, don't feel bad if you still make mistakes with pronunciation - English is famously tricky. As far back as 1922, a Dutch language learner wrote a very long poem about the problems of English pronunciation called 'The Chaos '' - it may be chaotic, but with practice it can definitely get better!

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Building Language Learning Confidence | RPI College
Building Language Learning Confidence | RPI College

People have different ways of building their confidence in learning a language. Still, it’s been my experience that there are useful tips from others that help. Here are 3 ways of building language learning confidence.

According to the Collins English dictionary: “If you have confidence, you feel sure about your abilities, qualities, or ideas.”

Most of us feel confident about some things we do and less optimistic about other things. For example, you may feel sure about playing soccer (which you’ve played since grade school) but not so much about playing tennis (which you’ve just started to learn).

Or, with the same set of skills, we feel confident in one situation and less confident in another. For example, speaking Spanish with a Spanish-speaking friend, no problem; but giving a talk in Spanish at a conference, maybe not so easy.

So in part, confidence has to do with having the skills that are needed for a particular situation.

But confidence is also connected to a belief that you can learn what you set out to learn. A person learning a new language needs to quiet that nagging little voice of self-doubt, that little voice that keeps sabotaging his or her progress.

Rest assured: Anyone can learn a foreign language at any age. And no, you don’t have to have a special talent for languages. Many articles on the web dispel myths circulating about foreign language learning. Here’s a good one: 9 Biggest Myths about Language Learning Busted

So, go for it!!!


1. Create a Confident Mind-Set For Learning

You want to set out with the belief (and the knowledge!) that you can learn what you want to learn.

A good trick is to draw on a successful learning experience that you’ve had.

What new skill did you learn as a child, teenager, or young adult?

How about learning to bike and drive, figuring out your first computer, tablet, or smartphone? Or a skill you use for work or as a hobby?

What got you through the early moments when everything felt a little awkward? Did you accept that making mistakes is just part of the learning?

What motivated you to practice your new skill and stick with it? Apply that self-knowledge to your language learning.

It’s clear that you learn a new language only by engaging with it. You have to practice what you want to learn. And you have to practice a lot.

One way to think about practicing something new and challenging is with “optimistic persistence.” You need to stick with it through the ups and downs.

And, banish any negativity out of your mind.


2. Building Your Confidence Through Practice

Armed with a good dose of motivation and the belief that you can learn what you set out to learn, you have to find a way to practice that works for you and brings results.

Here are tips that have worked for me over the years, now working on my 8th language.

Practice in a safe space.

An online program that gives you the correct answer as feedback is perfect for that. Working that way, you don’t need to worry about sounding “weird” or “saying something stupid.”


Don’t worry about making mistakes.

When you learn something new, you learn from making mistakes. Sometimes you’ll automatically make the same mistake many times before the correct form becomes automatic. Certain mistakes are typical because of interference from your native language.

For example, it’s taken me plenty of practice to see Danish words that end in “-en,” such as “drengen” (the boy), not as a plural. I get interference from German, which has a large group of plural nouns that end in “-en”: Frauen, Sachen, Wohnungen, Blumen, Taschen, etc.


Focus on what you want to learn.

Are you looking to master the so-called “survival language”?

Then it’s enough to learn polite phrases, numbers, and basic phrases to get information, ask for directions, shop at the market, etc.

Or do you want to engage in conversations with native speakers?

In that case, work specifically on vocabulary for the kind of topics you want to talk about. Plus, add words that are important for a conversational context: connecting words (and, but, or, although, etc.), adverbs of time (last year, yesterday, tomorrow, next week, usually, never, etc.), relevant adjectives, phrases that mark what you say as opinion (I think, it seems, I doubt, etc.).


Stick with it even if some of your practice is boring.

To get words and phrases into your long-term memory, you have to recall them, sometimes quite often. That’s okay, even though it can be a little boring.

Frequent recall helps to make your language production automatic; in other words, recall boosts your fluency. It doesn’t matter what recall method you use; it just has to work for you.

Your practice has to be effective.

The authors of “Peak – Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” (Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool) coined the term “deliberate practice.” That means you should use learning techniques that have been established as being effective – in your case in the field of language learning.

Advice abounds. And you may have already found your own favorite language “guru” – a successful language teacher and learner whose techniques you like.

Still, most language learning experts agree on several points:

  • practice regularly,
  • recall often,
  • listen and repeat aloud,
  • start reading soon and read a lot,
  • listen as much as you can,
  • engage in conversations with native speakers,
  • push yourself to build each of the skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing).

If you are learning a language with sounds that don’t exist in your native language (such as Asian, Middle Eastern, or Slavic languages for English speakers) listening and repeating aloud becomes essential:

Adults’ abilities to hear and discern sounds different from their native language(s) decrease with age. It’s one area where young children have a significant advantage over adults.

But practice can even overcome this handicap!


3. Building Your Confidence with Real Conversations

Now comes the most challenging part: engaging with native speakers in real conversations. Even if you’re not in the country where the language is spoken, there are many resources available: live tutors, online tutors, online language groups, online or local language meetups,friends, or friend of friends, etc

Such conversations with native speakers are a very different kind of practice. In addition to dealing with vocabulary and grammar, you also have to manage your anxiety about speaking up in a foreign language, you’re not sure about.


Prepare for conversations.

Preparation for a conversation in another language is a powerful tool. You can look up words and write them down, practice as much as you want in front of the mirror, and record yourself and playback.


Get used to hearing your voice in another language.

Hearing your voice speaking a foreign language can be a little startling. And it can make you self-conscious about opening your mouth.

An excellent way to get used to hearing your voice speaking French, German, Italian, etc. is to record yourself reading short pieces of text that you’ve been learning. The more you do it; the more natural your foreign voice will seem.


Don’t worry about your accent.

It’s easy to forget that you can be quite fluent in a language even if you have a “foreign” accent. Think about people speaking excellent English with an accent: German Chancellor Angela MerkelFrench President Emmanuel MacronFormer Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto; Or Americans speaking other languages: Bill Clinton (German), John Kerry (French), Jeb Bush (Spanish).


Ask questions while in a conversation.

Don’t worry about appearing “dumb.” You can always ask your conversation partner for explanations, for the meaning of words, for help with pronunciation. And it’s usually okay to ask for feedback, for tips on how to improve.


Build your Conversational fluency with small steps.

A real conversation is much more dynamic than interactive practice online. So much is going on at the same time. As you listen to your conversation partner and try to understand what the flow of sounds coming at you means, your mind is preparing a possible answer.

Engaging in real conversations is pretty complicated. Preparing for them will help. Start with short conversations, and increase the length and difficulty incrementally. Remember, you are in charge of your learning.

It may sound simplistic, but it’s true: You can’t learn to engage in foreign language conversations unless you have conversations. So, go for it in your way and at your own pace. But stick with it! The rewards are a more open world experience, a more interesting life, and greater self-confidence.

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of  She’s a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada.

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