Not for one minute did I see this coming when I typed out my New Year greetings just a few months ago. Now here we are, in complete lockdown in most countries – in survival mode – focussing on staying safe, healthy and sane and looking after each other. We’re all enduring hardships in work and family life. And that’s the lucky ones who haven’t had to deal with something far worse! I don’t wish to undermine the gravity of this crisis in any way, but we need to find and share the benefits, so this can change us all for the better.

Luckily work goes on, but it really wasn’t good timing for our new homestay programmes! One very brave Frenchman persevered with his training for ten days in early March. I won’t forget my last day of freedom before the restrictions, exploring the city of Bristol and beautiful Gloucester cathedral with him! His course came to a dramatic end when president Macron made his memorable war speech and my student had to make a speedy repatriation.

Most of my online students are continuing with their classes, and I’m very grateful that I was already well prepared for hosting Zoom parties😀 So I thought why not blend the two and set up a fun English Conversation Club for the lockdown.

I’m also offering special rates for one-to-one coaching sessions. A lot of people I know are reflecting on their lives and reassessing what they want in future. Some are finding the confinement very challenging. Coaching can support people through these difficult changes.

As I’ve been feeling a bit blue lately, I decided to I finish off this update with some phrases containing the word blue.

Do leave your comments below or get in touch with your questions, thoughts and concerns. I’d love to hear some of your stories, so call or email me.

I sincerely hope we’ll all be on the road to recovery by the next newsletter and wish you lots of good health, optimism and creativity.


Practise fluency, get corrections and tips and have some fun together

The first session is free so you can try it out. If you like it, you can sign up and book more.

I’ll invite you and two other learners I know at your level to a one-hour Zoom meeting. If you have one or two friends you’d like to invite, then we can have private groups.
We’ll talk about different topics of a light and entertaining nature and I’ll give you corrections and tips. I really want to make it enjoyable and useful. Let me know some times when you’re free. How about 11.00 or 18.00 BST depending on your time zone and availability, once a week?

Last but not least, given the current economic difficulties many of us are facing, I want to make it affordable too. We can decide on a price when you get in touch.



Life, communication, relationships

As many of you know, I am a qualified coach and work in English with many advanced speakers of English as well as native speakers.
In fact most of my clients have started as language students and moved onto coaching.

I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce you to my coaching activity and programmes through my new website:


I’ve added a special offer to encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try. Again, I don’t want price to stop anyone.


PHRASES with the word BLUE

until one is blue in the face

For ever, or a hopelessly long time
I can ask her till I’m blue in the face, she just won’t listen.


once in a blue moon

Almost never
He doesn’t like going out. He goes to the pub once in a blue moon.


out of the blue

Suddenly or unexpectedly
I hadn’t been in touch with an old school friend for years, when out of the blue I heard her voice calling my name behind me.


The highlight for me this last quarter was a refreshing visit to Paris to reconnect with my wonderful friends, students and clients. The conversations I had gave me lots of ideas and I got such a buzz from stepping out of my comfort zone. It was exciting to get back into speaking French too and being in the learner’s seat for a change.

Now back in the UK, it’s the end of year rush and the traditional Christmas meal and parties are well and truly in sight. Hurray!
With that in mind, I’ve got a couple of games for you. New year resolutions are on the horizon too, so in case English training was on anyone’s mind, you’ll find some interesting new programmes we’re starting next month 😊. And finally some phrases to help you manage these hectic days at work.

Thanks for your comments by the way, and keep them coming!
Also, do you have any language questions? Email them to me and I’ll give you a quick answer and share them in the next post.

Wishing you all a very happy festive season and a peaceful and joyous 2020!


Christmas song lyrics

Lyricstraining.com is one of my favourite websites for fun and learning.
You choose a music video, then your level, and then do the lyrics dictation while the video is playing. When you’ve done that, you’re ready to sing the song! Why not do it with your family and friends this holiday?
Here’s a link to their Christmas songs catalogue.
Try Elton John’s Step into Christmas, guaranteed to get you all up singing and dancing!

The best moment of the year

This is a quieter conversation game and can be played at New Year’s Eve. It’s a lovely way to celebrate the past year, share stories and connect with your guests. You need to make a set of cards with topics related to the past year on them.
In turns, people pick a card and talk about the event on their card. Examples of cards might be – the best conversation I had this year, the most interesting thing I learned, the worst meal I had etc.
Here are some samples I found for you to print out, but I suggest you make your own to adapt the topics. Include some funny or unexpected ones to make it more interesting.


Home Training

I’ve been looking at ways to make language training more affordable and doable, and I’m excited to announce that I’ll be opening my door to welcome students into my own home! It’s just outside the beautiful city of Oxford and 10 minutes by car to a train to London, 1 hour away.
I’m going to trial this 1-week programme in the next 6 months. You get one-to-one training, some free time every day, activities and interesting things to do in and around Oxford and you can practise your English while you experience everyday life and culture in the UK. And of course, you get to meet my friends and sample my cooking!
So if you might be up for it, get in touch and let’s discuss a programme for you.

Skype Lessons

You’ve probably noticed the increasing number of low-cost English tutors offering Skype lessons on the internet.
As you know, you get what you pay for. I created English by Experience to deliver quality and results above all else, and have focussed on holistic training programmes that transform learners’ communication skills and take their language to a new level.
However, given the current demand for conversation practice, I thought – why not? So from January, I’d like to offer our own brand of Skype lessons for those who want to maintain their level and get feedback and tips from an expert tutor.
We guarantee to keep our usual high standards, and promise to offer only qualified teachers. You’ll be surprised at the great prices too!

PHRASES to help you with the end of year rush

make it a rule

Always try to do this.This phrase softens a refusal.
I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. I make it a rule to prioritise my family over the holidays..

have a lot/too much on your plate

have a lot or too much work to do.
I’m sorry, but I’ve got rather a lot on my plate at the moment. Can it wait till the new year?

it’s all go

This is a positive way to say it’s busy.
Perhaps we could set up a call next month to discuss it? It’s all go here before the break.


Rested and Inspired

Blenheim Palace, September 2019

It’s been such an exciting year so far! The holidays have given the team here in Oxford some valuable energy and optimism, much needed in these confusing times here in the UK! So, we felt it was time to refresh and reset what we do. First up, we’ve decided to share a few tips and ideas with you from our world of English language and communication training. Hope you find it useful. We’d love to hear your comments!


No time to practise?

This has to be the biggest barrier to progress. When you’re ready to set the intention, think about ways that are meaningful and enjoyable to you personally. Involve someone else who is learning English in your family for example, or circle of friends.
If you like watching series, watch one episode in English every week. Add English subtitles if you like. Arrange a time with a friend and keep your promise! If you’re into sport, read the sports news on a website in English every Sunday. If you like people, start an English conversation group. You only need 1 other person to start with. Meet in places you’d like to discover, so you get even more benefits.


Confidence coaching

A lot of learners come to us blaming their limited grammar and lack of phrases for their poor communication. In the first session with their coach it soon emerges that most people are much more capable than they realise, and that it is their own negative judgment which is really limiting them. “I make too many mistakes! I have such a strong accent! I use such basic words; everyone speaks better than me”. Does that sound familiar? With confidence coaching, learners start to notice this pattern and begin to see their English in a more positive light. This helps them relax, makes communication more enjoyable and allows them to be at their best – often with surprising results!


If you’re thinking about a way to step up your English, you might be looking at different options. I wanted to share one of the things we do that makes our training very different. Learners often tell us that they learn a lot, but it never feels like “learning”. There are several reasons for this but here’s one of the main ones. We make a point of taking training out of the conventional setting and situate it where our learners would actually like to be, for personal or professional reasons. So, training takes place over lunch at a favourite restaurant, coffee in a quiet Victorian hotel lounge, an exhibition or trade fair, and very often in nature. Lots of research has been done on the impact of nature on mood and creativity, and we are fortunate enough in Oxford to have a wonderful resource in the surrounding countryside and gardens. We think of it as a language retreat.

NEW WORDS you may be interested in

favourite (verb)

To store a link to a web page in a web browser to enable quick access in future – to bookmark.
I’ll favourite the page and read it later.

another brick in the wall

Remember the Pink Floyd song? This idiom is used to describe an individual as an insignificant component in a much larger structure or system.
I don’t enjoy working for huge corporations You’re just another brick in the wall.

gym bunny

A person who spends a lot of time exercising at a gym, male or female. Used informally.
You’re looking in great shape! Have you turned into a gym bunny?

Keep talking!

Online writing programmes

The 21st century writing challenge

Writing for BusinessRecently I’ve had growing numbers of learners enrolling on my writing courses: both native speakers and non. In the digital age, most of us are doing more writing and more types of writing. We have more readers who are becoming more diverse and discerning. The writing challenge is well and truly on –  this blog post is a case in point! Here I am, learning to face this new and daunting task of sharing my thoughts with such a potentially wide audience and in this permanent media!

Writing issues

These are some of the most common reasons I hear for taking a writing course
  • My writing sounds too direct or too formal.

  • If I don’t learn to write better, I won’t be promoted.

  • My emails aren’t clear enough.

  • I make too many mistakes.

  • I want my writing to reflect my professionalism.

  • I’d like to make more of an impact.

  • I need to write a good CV and covering letter to get a new job.

Online writing courses today


The great news is that in the 21st century we have an ever increasing choice of tools at our disposal to make teaching and learning more flexible, efficient and effective. Of course nothing can replace the benefits of the presence and attention of a “real live” teacher and coach, but today things are evolving fast and we really can have the best of both worlds.

There are so many websites and applications that offer content and answers to writing problems but it’s the learner that always comes first when it comes to deciding what to use. In fact, they often have the best suggestions, and I’m always learning from them. But many of you may be wondering what happens in an online writing programme. So, I’d like to tell you about the 2 main technologies I’m using now to deliver my online writing lessons.

Video Conferencing

Some of the most popular solutions – like Skype – are free and can be accessed on any device. They allow screen sharing and messaging – both very valuable when it comes to discussing the written word.

The Cloud Dashboard

Google Doc for Writing courseThis is where we keep everything. So nothing ever gets lost and it’s a great record of progress. Learner’s writing, notes, exercises, materials eg links to documents, videos, websites are posted and uploaded on it. This is also the place the teacher’s posts corrections, feedback, tips, lesson summaries and reports.  Google Docs is one of my favourites. These interfaces are simple to use, free and can also be accessed on mobile devices. The best thing is that they allow both teacher and learner to work together on a text during and inbetween lessons.

What about handwriting?

Yes, handwriting still does play its part. Some people prefer to use pen and paper, and that’s fine. All you need is a scanner app on your smartphone to take a picture of your work and share it instantly with your teacher. I expect this will all seem terribly dated in the not too distant future……. And of course,  feel free to post your comments below!

Never stop Learning

A 2 week English immersion in Oxford

English course for a civil engineer

experiential learning on a construction siteLast month I had the pleasure of working with a cutting edge French engineering company. One of their top engineers, with an impressive CV, had taken up a post in Saudi Arabia where he will lead his first international team in a few weeks’ time. He didn’t seem at all phased by the immense project ahead, but he did have one major hurdle to overcome…. his English!

With only vague memories of English lessons at school and a limited repertoire of traveller’s English, he had 2 weeks to learn enough English and develop the communication skills he needed to focus on the job ahead with confidence. So his programme in Oxford was highly focussed. Patrice worked tirelessly, and, I am delighted to announce that he made it! He is now deemed match fit on all fronts!

Professional experience on site

Learning by talking about engineering projectOne of the experiential learning sessions in his immersion was a site visit to a train station construction site. It’s big news in Oxford, but a small project in comparison the one Patrice is going to lead.  It was the perfect setting for some practice – an authentic environment where he could have a professional experience that was familiar to him and try out his new language skills.

We were welcomed by the English project manager and one of his crew. They showed us round the site, discussing the project and related issues. The meeting was friendly and relaxed. I accompanied Patrice so I could give relevant feedback and teaching after the visit, and learn more about Patrice’s work.

Intercultural meetings

Patrice’s intercultural meetings were another interesting part of his language and communication skills development. He practised his soft skills, getting to know 2 other business English students over an afternoon tea. After some language preparation and discussions with his trainer, he met a South Korean journalist  and Saudi Arabian banker – nationalities he will have on his new team. He used his English to build rapport and exchange useful information about their business cultures, and started dealing with different accents and ways of speaking English. Business cards were exchanged, emails followed, and the learning went on the next morning.

For anyone thinking of embarking on a similar challenge, I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Patrice…..

How to reach your goals

A letter from my student Andrea

Student lunch at the Trout Inn, a 10 minute drive from the office.

Lunch at the Trout Inn, a 10 minute drive from the office.

I’m Andrea Atzori. I’m from Padova Italy, I’m 47 years old. I’m a graduate in Law and my job is in waste management.

I was in Oxford over two weeks​ for an English by Experience course. My teacher was Carolyn Phillips. I guess in terms of  my life experiences, that it was one of the best experiences.

I liked the organization so much, the schedule and the way it was presented. I booked my course in  May 2014 and from the first day Carolyn didn’t waste time – following me and understanding what is best for me.​ She tried, from the outset with a skype interview​ and other ways, to find the best way for the best goals for me.