How to Choose an English Teacher

One of the hardest things to know how to do when learning a second language is knowing how to choose a teacher. There are so many people that teach English as a second language, in your home town and all over the world and online! How do you know which one will be best for you? How do you know which one won’t steal your money? How do you know which one will help you learn English the fastest?

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While traveling, I’ve met other people that teach English as a second language. Some of them are great teachers and help many students learn to speak English fluently. And … some of them aren’t so great. Some of them hardly speak English fluently themselves and teach their students incorrect grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation. If you happen to end up with a teacher that doesn’t speak English correctly or doesn’t know how to teach, you will waste your time, your money, and may actually move backwards in your progress to speak English fluently.

Although it is important to make sure that your teacher speaks English fluently, be careful with automatically assuming that a native English speaker will know how to be an English teacher. Many native English speakers think that they can be English teachers simply because they know how to speak English. But there is much more involved in qualifying to be an English teacher, such as knowing grammar and how to teach pronunciation and how to teach in general.

The following guidelines are basic requirements for an English teacher:

  • Speak English fluently
  • Completed some sort of training to be a teacher
  • Has studied English in some way
  • Loves to teach

In addition to the basic requirements, think about what is most important to you. Your priorities will help you choose the best fit of a teacher for you. Ask yourself the following questions in order to determine what is most important to you.

  • Do you want to learn at home (online learning) or in a classroom?
  • Do you want to learn from a textbook or from a more creative teaching style?
  • Do you prefer flexibility or rigidity?
  • Do you prefer classes with just yourself and the teacher? Or do you prefer a class with large amounts of students?
  • Are you a beginner student or a more advanced student?

Once you have your answers, try and find a teacher that meets your priorities and expectations.

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Many teachers offer a trial period, which means that you can do lessons with a teacher for a short period of time in order to see if you like the teacher, if you get along with the teacher, and if the teacher’s teaching style works well with your learning style. This is a good idea to trial the teacher before committing to a long period of time with the new teacher.

 

It is also good to meet the teacher personally or via Skype or FaceTime in order to get to know your teacher before committing to a long period of time with the new teacher.

What kind of teacher do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

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Learn English with Podcasts

Have you heard of podcasts? A podcast is like a radio show, but it’s recorded and released through iTunes. It’s absolutely free (!), and there are so many different topics to learn about. I love listening to podcasts since they talk about so many different topics. And you can pause it and start listening again later when you can.

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There are several reasons why listening to podcasts will help you learn English faster.

Practice listening

If you have trouble understanding what people say verbally, then podcasts will help you improve your ability to understand what people say. The more that your ears become used to hearing English, the more that you will understand. If you don’t practice listening to English, then you will never be able to understand people speaking English.

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Lots of different topics

There are sooo many topics available in the podcast library in iTunes. Whatever you’re interested in, you will find it. You can listen to people talk about the news, literature, music, movies, sports, and anything else! When you listen to something that you’re interested in, you’ll enjoy it more. And you’ll remember more of what they say.

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Pause it at any time and come back to it

If you have a normal busy day and don’t often have time to listen to a full hour length of podcasts, don’t worry. You can pause the podcast and it’ll save your place. Later, when you have time, you can come back to where you were and start listening again.

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Slow it down or speed it up

One of the very cool things that you can do with podcasts is slow down the audio or speed up the audio. If you have a hard time understanding the English, slow it down so you can understand more. If you understand everything perfectly and want a challenge, you can speed it up to see how much you can understand.

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Go back 15 seconds to repeat

With a podcast, you can also go back 15 seconds. This is helpful if you didn’t understand something that was said. If you didn’t understand, you can go back 15 seconds and listen to it again.

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Try listening to these podcasts to start with!

These podcasts are specifically designed for people learning English.

  • All Ears English
  • The English We Speak
  • Happy English Podcast
  • The World in Words
  • That’s What They Say
  • Podcast – 5 Minute Language
  • Language Mastery
  • The Actual Fluency Podcast for Language Learners

I also recommend that you listen to podcasts that talk about a subject that you’re interested in or talk about the news in English. Especially if you’re interested in the topic, you’ll pay more attention and learn more.

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Listening to podcasts is a fun way to practice your listening in English and take one more step towards fluency!

What’s your favorite podcast?

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Learn English with Mad Libs

There are so many ways to learn English! There isn’t only one way nor a correct or right way to learn English and become fluent. One of the funnest ways to learn English is to use mad libs.

Mad libs = A mad lib is a paragraph or story that has certain words missing. For the words that are missing, there is a blank space with instructions for what kind of word to put into the blank.

Children use mad libs to create a story that is funny, that doesn’t make sense. It helps you recognize the type of word (grammar), as well as think about new words. To complete a mad lib, one person holds the story and writes in the words that the other person provides. For example, the first sentence has one blank. The required word is an adjective. The second person provides the word “blue” and the first person writes in the word “blue” in the blank.

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Why It Works

  • You know more words than you think you do. When you have to think of a certain type of word, you start thinking of all of the words that you know and which one you want to use. This helps you think about all of the words that you know and which words that you need to learn.
  • Grammar is boring. But thinking about grammar in the context of a funny story makes it interesting. It makes you think about words in relation to grammar.
  • It makes English fun. This is so important! This helps you stay motivated and interested in learning English.
  • You practice English with someone else. Working with two people provides two brains, two sets of English, and it makes it fun when you’re working with someone else.
  • This helps you become used to puns or play on words, which is very common in English. In other languages it may not be as common and it can be hard to understand the way that Americans often play with the words.

 

Grab a partner and use the Day Trip Mad Lib to practice your grammar and vocabulary and have fun at the same time!

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How to Stay Motivated While Learning English

I can’t count how many times I’ve told myself that I’ll learn a new language. I’ll learn Italian! I’ll speak Spanish better! And time after time, I’ve given up. Learning a new language is hard! And while doing hard things, it’s hard to stay motivated.

Motivation = the reasons for doing something, especially the reasons that help you continue to do something when it is hard

Identifying your motivation, or what will help you continue to learn English when it’s hard, will help you not give up. And not giving up means that you’ll one day be fluent!

What’s your motivation for learning English? I can think of several motivations.

  • Learn English for your job or for work in order to achieve more opportunities or receive a raise in pay
  • Learn English in order to speak with English speaking friends
  • Learn English in order to travel some where that they speak English
  • Learn English because you like the language
  • Learn English to learn a new language

Some of these reasons may seem like they wouldn’t motivate you at all. Everyone’s reason for learning English is different. Some may seem insignificant to you and may be really important to others. Find your reason for learning English and don’t forget it!

Once you know your reason for learning English, there can be other things that you can do throughout your progress of learning English in order to keep your motivation, in order to STAY motivated.

Do fun things. Try new things.

I think one of the hardest things while learning a new language is to stay interested. When you only look at grammar or when you only study vocabulary, without doing anything fun, you’re going to lose interest and motivation in learning the language. This is fact.

Plan out fun activities that help you learn English or practice English. You can go to a party and only speak English. Go to a new restaurant. Teach someone how to make a new food in English. Go swimming with friends. Do whatever is fun for you and only speak English. Do whatever is fun for you and make it involve American culture or English language.

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Plan out time in advance.

When you work and go to school all day and then spend time with family and clean your house and THEN decide to learn English, let’s be real. It’s not going to happen. Right?

Planning out time in advance to study English will make sure that it happens. It’s harder to say no to studying English when you’ve already planned that time out and when it will happen in your day.

Mark out a time on your calendar that will always be your English studying time.

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Make goals.

Making goals will help you look forward to something. It will help you remember that you want to achieve something. What you’re doing now may seem unimportant but if you remember it in relation to your goal, its importance changes.

Your goals can be something such as go to Disney World and be able to talk to people at the rides. Or your goal can be to be able to order your own food at the restaurant. Or it can be to pass the TOEFL. Or it can be to go to college.

Make a goal and then don’t forget it.

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Plan activities to use English.

If you only study English at home and never use it outside of your home, you’ll never become fluent in English. It is a fact that you have to practice English in order to learn it completely.

Activities to use English could be to practice speaking with someone or to play a game in English. It could be to watch a movie in English or record yourself speaking about something in English.

Let me know if you need more ideas for activities to help you practice English!

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If you feel like you’re getting frustrated with English and losing your motivation, first, remember why you’re learning English. Then, think about why it’s not interesting or why you’re getting frustrated. Finally, think about something you can do that will help you love English again and love learning English.

And then you’ll master your motivation again and continue on your journey towards fluency!

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How to Really Learn a New Word

Learning vocabulary or new words when learning a language is one of the most important parts. Even if you know all of the grammar and know the accent perfectly, if you don’t know the words that you want to say, you’ll never be able to speak the language.

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The process to learn new words can be frustrating. Often it’s hard to know which words to learn. Or it’s frustrating to actually remember the words that you’re learning. When I first started learning Portuguese, there were so many new words that I was learning. I forgot so many of them during the day and kept asking people what a certain word meant or how do I say this. I felt that I would never remember the meaning of certain words.

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In the process of learning a new word, there is short-term memory and long-term memory. Short-term memory, as you can probably guess, is when you learn something and remember it for a short amount of time, for a few minutes or maybe even an hour. Long-term memory is the opposite, when you learn something new and you remember it after you sleep. You can remember it and use it appropriately after a week or after a year.

The key to actually learning a new word, the key to remembering it for a long time, is to make sure that the word goes to your short-term memory and then passes to your long-term memory. If you can get the word to your long-term memory, then you’ll really learn the word.

Follow these steps in order to make sure that your new word goes to long-term memory!

  1. Recognize that it is a new word.
  2. Ask that someone say it slowly.
  3. Repeat the word.
  4. Have the person correct your pronunciation or accent.
  5. Repeat the word.
  6. Repeat the word again.
  7. Ask how the word is spelled.
  8. Write the word on a piece of paper.
  9. Write the word and say it at the same time.
  10. Try and use the word in a sentence.
  11. Write the example on paper.
  12. Write the word and leave it somewhere that you’ll see it often.
  13. Come back to the word in one hour. Repeat steps #3-11.
  14. Come back to the word after sleeping. Repeat steps #3-11.
  15. Try using the word throughout the day.

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When you follow steps #3-11, you are developing the following in your brain.

  • You learn the sound and pronunciation of the word. This helps your brain recognize the word when someone says it.
  • You learn the spelling of the word. This helps your brain recognize the word when you read it. You’ll also know how to spell the word when you want to write it.
  • Learning the spelling of the word helps your brain with the pronunciation as well, since you’re breaking down the parts of the word.
  • Saying the word out loud several times helps your mouth become familiar saying the word. Your brain is also learning the word.
  • Using the word in a sentence helps your brain put the word into context. You help your brain learn the usage of the word, or how to use the word properly. This helps you be able to actually incorporate or put the word into your normal speech throughout the day.

Steps #12-15 help your brain develop the word into long-term memory even more. After waiting for some time to pass, you’re giving your brain a break. You also test your memory to see where the word is at. Learning the word after sleeping helps you learn the word even more. While you sleep, the things that you learned throughout the day get passed from short-term to long-term. In the morning, if the word did not get passed to long-term, you want to make sure that it does get passed again.

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Following this pattern and these steps will help you learn vocabulary and stop worrying about forgetting words. Let me know how it goes for you!

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5 Websites for Reading in English

You can definitely learn a language through only conversation!

That said, you will become much more fluent in a language and learn more about vocabulary and grammar if you read in that language.

I have always loved to read. When I was young, I would stay up as late as I could in order to read a book. When I went to the library, I returned home with a stack of as many books as I could carry. And often, my mom told me that I was taking too many books home. During the summer I would read about one book a day and always seemed to be reading.

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Benefits of reading to learn English

  • You will learn vocabulary.
  • You will see correct use of grammar.
  • You will learn slang and the way people talk.
  • You will familiarize yourself with English.
  • You will improve your ability to understand spoken English.

If you haven’t read or practiced reading in English, commit to start today!

If you have always wanted to read in English but never found a book or something to read, here are five websites of written material to help you practice your reading!

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https://newsela.com

This website is very cool! It includes news articles about different topics, and there are five levels of difficulty for each news article. So if you’re just starting out, you can choose the easiest level. If you’re a little bit more advanced, you can choose a higher difficulty. There are also quizzes to check your comprehension, or what you understood.

https://readtheory.org

This website lets you choose the difficulty and also includes a quiz to see what you understood. The really cool part is that there is an app that lets you practice your reading anywhere that you may be.

http://wonderopolis.org

This website is awesome because it talks about the <wonders> or questions of the world. The very cool part is that words that you may not understand are highlighted. If you rest your mouse over the word, the definition pops up.

http://www.cdlponline.org

This website includes articles about different topics but includes the audio. This is a great technique to read and listen at the same time.

http://easyworldofenglish.com

This website includes small paragraphs with audio at different levels. This is great because you can choose at which level you want to start and listen to the audio while you read.

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When do you find time to read and practice your reading? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Improve Your English with Imitation

Happy Friday! If you’ve been with us for the last month or two, you know that every Friday we talk about one way to improve pronunciation or tips to learn English.

Today we’re going to talk about five things to <imitate> when learning English.

Imitate = to copy or do the exact same thing

Imitation helps you learn English because

  • it helps you pay attention to the sound of the words
  • it helps you pay attention to the way native speakers pronounce words
  • it helps you pay attention to formation of phrases and sentences
  • it helps you tune your ears (make your ears work harder), and
  • it helps you connect your ears and your mouth.

And all of that will help you speak English better and learn English! Sounds great, right?

There are several things that you can use to imitate English.

  • Recording of someone speaking: record someone speaking and save it on your phone or computer
  • TV: press play, pay attention, pause, imitate, rewind (go back), press play, pay attention, pause, imitate … and repeat!
  • Music: same thing as TV but with music
  • Speaking partner in person: this is the same as listening to someone but the person may say the phrase differently every time. The benefit of this is to have the person say it slower.

Let’s talk about five things that you can imitate when listening to a native speaker.

For each of these, use this sentence with the audio.

  1. My name is Sally and, well, I love to run, swim, do yoga, and relax. 2. What do you like to do?

Imitate breathing

  • Does the person breathe before? In the middle? After the phrase?
  • How many phrases does the person say before breathing again?
  • In the example, I breathe before the first phrase. I also breathe after the first phrase and before the second phrase.

Imitate pauses

  • When does the person pause?
  • After which words?
  • Before which words?
  • In the example, I pause at the following points in the two phrases.

My name is Sally | and, | well, | I love to run, | swim, | do yoga, | and relax. | What do you like to do?

Imitate pitch

Pitch is the use of intonation.

  • When does the person’s voice go up?
  • When does the person’s voice go down?
  • With what words does the person’s voice go up or down?
  • In the example, the pitch goes up with the following words: run, swim, do yoga, you, do.
  • In the example, the pitch goes down with the following words: well, relax, like.

Imitate word connections

  • Which words are connected?
  • Which words are separated?
  • In the example I connect the following words.

My name is Sally, and, well, I love-to run, swim, do yoga, and relax. What-do-you like to do?

Imitate speed

  • How fast does the speaker say the words?
  • At what points does the speaker slow down?
  • At what points does the speaker speed up?
  • In the example, I speed up at at the end. I slow down at “and, well,”.

 

Use the audio example and practicing imitating how I say the phrase. Find your own phrases to imitate and see if you can get better the more you imitate.

Have fun!

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Learning English with Music – Heathens by 21 Pilots

Guys. This band is so good. I hope you’ve listened to them before! 21 Pilots is a band that has recently become popular, probably in the last year or two.

One of their songs “Heathens” was featured in the movie Suicide Squad. And it’s a good one 🙂

Today, let’s look at some vocabulary (and lots of slang) you will need to know in order to understand the lyrics of this music.

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Don’t forget to check out my blog post about how to learn English with music for more tips!

Heathens

  • Definition: someone that doesn’t believe in a religion
  • Example: The church welcomes heathens as well as believers.
  • Example in the lyrics: “All my friends are heathens.”
  • Pronunciation:

Sudden moves

  • Definition: to move or make an action quickly or start an action
  • Example: The snake suddenly moved toward me and scared me.
  • Example in the lyrics: “Please don’t make any sudden moves
  • Pronunciation:

Room of people

  • Definition: a closed area with four walls that is full of people
  • Example: The room of people was hot since there were so many people.
  • Example in the lyrics: “Welcome to the room of people
  • Pronunciation:

Murderer

  • Definition: someone that kills other people, someone that commits murder
  • Example: The murderer is going to prison.
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll never know the murderer sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

Outsiders

  • Definition: someone that is excluded (or isn’t part of) the main group
  • Example: She feels like an outsider because no one talks to her.
  • Example in the lyrics: “We don’t deal with outsiders very well”
  • Pronunciation:

Newcomers

  • Definition: someone that is new to a group or a place
  • Example: We are newcomers at school. Yesterday was our first day at school.
  • Example in the lyrics: “They say newcomers have a certain smell”
  • Pronunciation:

Freakshow

  • Definition: someone that is really strange or weird (This word comes from people that were part of the circus because they were strange or weird.)
  • Example: She looks like a freakshow. Her hair is orange!
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll never know the freakshow sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

Weird people

  • Definition: people that are strange or different
  • Example: Only weird people like this restaurant.
  • Example in the lyrics: “You’ll have some weird people sitting next to you”
  • Pronunciation:

 

Now go listen to the music and practice your English!

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P.S. Don’t forget to check out my blog post about how to learn English with music for more tips!

How to Learn English with Music

One of my favorite ways to learn another language is listening to music in that language. Using music to learn English helps you in the following ways:

  • It helps you learn new vocabulary.
  • It helps you learn vocabulary that is popular, instead of words that people don’t actually use.
  • It helps you learn more about culture.
  • It helps you learn how to pronounce the words correctly.
  • And it’s fun. 🙂

Follow these steps to improve your English with music.

Popular music is best!

Choose a song in English that is popular. If you need help choosing a popular song, ask your friends, listen to the radio, or go to Apple Music and look at their popular songs. You may want to choose a song that is slower if you’re still in the beginning of your English learning journey.

No subtitles or lyrics

Listen to the music without any subtitles or lyrics. Try to catch as many words as you can. It’s okay if you can’t understand everything. What was the message of the song? How did it make you feel?

Use lyrics this time

Listen to the music again, but this time with the lyrics. Read the words as you listen to the words of the song.

Write down words

Write down any words that you do not know the meaning of. Add them to your notebook of new words to learn.

Main point

What was the message of the song? Did you learn new things about the message of the song after listening to it with the lyrics? Were there any cultural references that you did not understand?

Pronunciation

Were there any words that you have been pronouncing wrong?

Fill in the blank

The last time that you listen to the music, use a “fill in the blank” sheet to practice your listening skills. You can create a fill in the blank worksheet by randomly deleting some of the words from the lyrics. Then, when you listen to the music, write in the missing words.

And don’t forget to have fun! Follow these steps and watch your English get better quickly!

What is your favorite music in English?

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Need somewhere to start? Use my FREE fill in the blank worksheet for the song “Good Grief” by Bastille.

Reasons to Learn English with Netflix

My husband swears that he learned English by watching Netflix. He would watch American TV shows with the subtitles. Although he didn’t always understand everything that was said in the beginning, he gradually started to understand English more and more. And now he watches Netflix without any subtitles.

Who knew that something that almost everyone uses can help you learn English?!

How does Netflix help you learn English?

Watching Netflix improves your listening skills

The more English that you listen to, the faster you will learn English. Your brain needs to get used to hearing it and soon, your brain will start to recognize the sounds of English. The more than you listen to English being spoken by native English-speakers, the more that you will improve your ability to listen and understand spoken English.  As you listen to the English in the movies or TV shows, you may not understand all of what is said. Watching the actions of the actors can help you guess what unknown words may mean.

Suggestions

  • If you’re just starting to learn English, watch children’s movies or TV shows.
  • If you are already on the path to learn English, start watching something that you really enjoy.
  • The more that you like to watch it, the more that your brain will accept the English.
  • Write down words that you don’t know while watching and write down what you think that the word means.

For more reasons why writing down new words is helpful, see my article “8 Ways to Improve Vocabulary.”

Watching Netflix improves your reading skills

Sometimes we don’t understand everything that is said while watching Netflix since, hello, we’re still learning English. When that happens, it can be helpful to put the subtitles on. Subtitles are the written words of what is being said that stays at the bottom of the screen while you’re watching.  Studies prove that reading while listening to someone say the words out loud helps you learn faster and improve your reading skills. It helps you learn the correct pronunciation of the words. It also helps you learn the correct inflection of the sentences.

Suggestions

  • Put the subtitles on when you’re just starting.
  • Write down any word that you don’t know.
  • Pay attention to words that you thought were pronounced differently but the actor says correctly.

Watching Netflix helps you learn about culture

There are so many TV shows or movies that represent different aspects of culture. For example, some of my favorite TV shows are “How I Met Your Mother,” “Friends,” and “New Girl.” All three of them show a group of friends, including their careers, what they do for fun, their slang and jokes, and what may be appropriate or not appropriate. They celebrate holidays and show different traditions for the holidays. The characters make references to pop culture and other commonly known elements of living in the United States.

Suggestions

  • Write down questions that you may have about different aspects of culture that you notice while watching Netflix.
  • Ask your speaking partner those questions and use them as starting points for your conversation time.

Watching Netflix can help you learn slang

Netflix is one of the good sources to learn slang. The characters of the movies and TV shows use the normal vocabulary of normal people. This is one really great way to learn the normal words that people use. Learning English through a book will not always teach you the English that is normal.

Suggestions

  • Write down the slang and how it’s used.

Make sure that you know how to properly use slang and when it is the right time to use it. Sometimes you may not want to use slang when you’re talking to a teacher or parent.

 

Now go binge watch Netflix and learn English!

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