Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Is the Latin Lover Dead?

G'day all. The above question, I have asked my students in Rome many times. Most people, especially the ladies, emphatically reply "No".

And Six Minute English asks "Is Chivalry Dead?

Let's listen and see. Please, however, try not to look at the transcript until you have finished the exercise.

So - Six Questions for Six Minutes:

1. This weeks's official question: Who wrote the novel Don Quixote, about a 50-year old man travelling Spain in search of knightly adventures in rusty armour and a cardboard helmet? Was it…

a) Miguel de Cervantes: b) Leo Tolstoy: c) William Shakespeare?

2. What does Alice ask Neil to do at the beginning of the programme? (Write a short reply)

3. Chivalry was all about [______] and [______] in [______]. Later it was about being [______] to [______]. (One word for each space.)

4. In Poland they have battle [______] every weekend.

5. Jousting is a contest between two people on [______].

6. Professor Laura Ashe of Oxford University says that in medieval times,  [______] made you a better [______].

Post your answers to the Tag Board or write them in a Comment. The first person to post the right answers will get an Honourable Mention and an apero in the nearby Vineria on Via della Croce.

I look forward to maximum participation. Come numerous, to translate directly.

Have a nice day.
Yours,
Michael

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Migrants: The Answers

Hello everyone. I was very pleased to find loyal student Filomena's answers to the latest Quiz. Let's see whether she got them all right:

1. became a volunteer after going on a sailing excursion (The Optician, Carmine)
2. became a volunteer after her mother died (The Chef, Maria-Grazia)
3. doesn't understand why no one in their own countries helps migrants (The Chef, Maria-Grazia)
4. feels the presence of the migrants in the material he uses for his work (The Carpenter, Francesco Tuccio)
5. finds some aspects of his job "sad" (The Gravedigger, Giuseppe Giardino)
6. gets his material from wrecked migrants' boats (The Carpenter, Francesco Tuccio)
7. has had to find three hundred extra beds for migrants (The Hospital Director, Mr Giuffreda)
8. saved forty-seven migrants (The Optician, Carmine)
9. says "tiredness is not in our contract" (The Hospital Director, Mr Giuffreda)
10. says helping migrants is a blessing (The Hospital Director, Mr Giuffreda)
11. says that Italy and Europe are not doing enough to help migrants (The Gravedigger, Giuseppe Giardino)
12. says that until two years ago the media never talked about migrants (The Carpenter, Francesco Tuccio)
13. says there are many more children and teenagers than in the past (The Chef, Maria-Grazia)
14. sells his work all over Europe (The Carpenter, Francesco Tuccio)
15. took some Eritrean survivors out to sea to revisit the area where they were rescued (The Optician, Carmine)

Yes, she did!
What a pity, however, that she was the only person to take part. :-(

I encourage anyone who is studying English to spend a few minutes every day, if they can, on listening practice. It's the real key to making a substantial improvement.

Look no further than the right-hand column of this blog for a guide to useful websites.

Elementary to Intermediate students will find "Real English" a great help. Advanced students should venture onto the radio. The BBC's Radio 4 and World Service are good for news. As a step up, try listening to interviews. The Radio 4 Today programme is a good place to look; see also "Radio 4 in 4", which has clips lasting under 5 minutes.

A very good opportunity to listen to authentic English is offered by the British Council's "Learn English" site. "Learn English Teens", whether you are a teenager or not, has some very useful materials.

All the links can be found on the right-hand column. If you need help, just write to me in a comment or a message on the Tag Board.

Now watch this space for the next listening quiz!

Happy listening.
Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Migrants: A Listening Quiz

Once more, migrants are sadly in the news after four hundred died recently on a crossing from Egypt to Italy.

On the BBC, you can hear the stories of five ordinary Sicilians who have had extensive contact with migrants. Some are on the island of Lampedusa, the first landfall for many migrants. Others are on the mainland. 

On the linked page here, listen to their stories and match a statement with a profession: the Chef, the Optician, the Hospital Director, the Gravedigger or the Carpenter.

Which person...

1. became a volunteer after going on a sailing excursion 
2. became a volunteer after her mother died
3. doesn't understand why no one in their own countries helps migrants 
4. feels the presence of the migrants in the material he uses for his work 
5. finds some aspects of his job "sad"
6. gets his material from wrecked migrants' boats 
7. has had to find three hundred extra beds for migrants 
8. saved forty-seven migrants 
9. says "tiredness is not in our contract"
10. says helping migrants is a blessing 
11. says that Italy and Europe are not doing enough to help migrants 
12. says that until two years ago the media never talked about migrants 
13. says there are many more children and teenagers than in the past
14. sells his work all over Europe
15. took some Eritrean survivors out to sea to revisit the area where they were rescued 
Post your answers preferably in a Comment. You could use the Tag Board, but you are limited to 200 characters per message.

I look forward to as many participants as possible!!

More soon,
Yours,
Mike

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

6 Minute English: The Commute and Answers

Dear all,
Sorry to have taken this long to get back to you. It's 5 April and the latest 5 Minute English Quiz was posted on Arch 11, nearly a month ago. It's too long of course, but my excuse is that the Easter holidays intervened. But now I can reveal the answers.

1) The official question: What did the word 'commuter' originally describe? Was it someone who…
a) travelled with other people? b) paid a reduced fare to travel? c) travelled by train to work?

The correct answer was (b). It comes from the Latin "commutare" which means "to change". In this context, the change related to the reduced train fare that passengers paid if they often travelled the same route.

There is a legalistic usage of "commute", in which the word means to change or reduce the severity of a punishment, usually known as a "sentence". For example, a person sentenced to death may have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

2. What counts as unusual behaviour on the Tube? When people start talking to each other!

3. Why do you need to be "alert" in Nairobi? In case someone runs away with your belongings. You need to expect the unexpected!

4. What is "trip-chaining"? To make one or more stops along your route.

5. What are the dangers of longer commutes according to the American researcher? Putting on weight and suffering from high blood pressure.

That's all for today. I'll be back very soon with another quiz. Meanwhile, do continue with your listening practice. We can do some in class, but you must do as much as you can privately. I suggest ten minutes every other day.

Here's an example: "The ordinary Italians facing the migrant crisis" In this programme, the BBC's Emma-Jane Kirby talks to Italians who have been in contact with migrants crossing the Mediterranean.

Listen to as many as you can and choose the best clip (programme extract). Say why you like it. Was it easy or difficult? Did you learn any new words? Write your comments in a Comment (preferred method) or on the Tag Board.

Good listening - and more soon!
Have a good day,
Mike


Friday, March 11, 2016

Six Minute English: The Commute

Hello. I'm back again with another Six Minute English Quiz.

You'll notice a word in the title: "commute". What does it mean and how do you say it in Italian, or another language that you speak? Write your answer in a comment or on the tag board.

Listen to Alice and Neil. Why is cycling good for you? Why can travelling by train be bad for you? Again, please do post your answers in a comment or on the tag board.

To start with, here's this week's official question

1. What did the word 'commuter' originally describe? Was it someone who…

a) travelled with other people? b) paid a reduced fare to travel? c) travelled by train to work?

You will hear the answer at the end of the programme.


Some more questions:

2. What counts as unusual behaviour on the Tube?
3. Why do you need to be "alert" in Nairobi?
4. What is "trip-chaining"?
5. What are the dangers of longer commutes according to the American researcher?

Very important: try not to read the transcript before you do this exercise. Read the questions, listen to the programme, and please do post your answers on this Blog.

Then use the transcript to check your answers. How many did you get right?

Write the answers to all these questions on our blog. That way, we are all in a real community of English language learners.

Official answers coming up very soon.

Enjoy the Quiz!
Yours,
Mike

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

You Listen: Maria Sharapova

Good day everyone. This week I bring you another opportunity to listen and understand, and it's from the BBC World Service Learning English site.

Today's exercise is about the tennis player Maria Sharapova, She failed a drug test apparently because she had not realised that the drug in question had recently been added to a list of proscribed substances. It sounds like the kind of mistake anyone could make. But there have been consequences for the tennis star.

To find out more, navigate to the BBC Learning English site and News Review Activity 1. You'll find yourself in Session 2. Scroll down the screen to Activity 1 and read the introduction. Then click on the video clip. It is just over eight minutes long.

In the clip, Neil and Finn introduce you to some new expressions. They include words commonly encountered in news reports. There are also some phrasal verbs.

Watch the clip. Then scroll down to the News Review Quiz and answer the three questions.

Then tell us all what new expressions you learned. If you can, give us both the verb and noun forms of the related expressions. Also, give us the phrasal verbs.

"Telling us" is easy: put your answers on the Tag Board (on the right) or in a Comment.

And let's have the maximum number of readers participating. Remember, this is not a long operation - the whole exercise should take no more than twenty minutes.

One last reminder. On the News Review site, there are various things that can help you. Under Session Grammar, check out the Full Grammar Reference. Under Session Vocabulary, look at the Full Vocabulary Reference.

And at the bottom of the page, look at "Downloads" - click on the word "more" Then there is "More" - just click on the expression "BBC News". I say this because the links are not in a contrasting colour, as they should be.

Good luck - and let's get more participants involved! Last time round, we only saw the ever-loyal and stalwart Filomena!

Another post very soon indeed!
Take care,
Mike

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Listen up!

Hello all.
As I often say, to get better at listening to English, you need to practise. It's like sport or music. A little, every day.

Serious musicians spend, in fact, several hours a day practising. For listening to English, I always suggest at least ten minutes a day.

Below, I set out two ideas for this week. First, the famous American "Technology, Entertainment and Design" website - TED to you. A quick visit today revealed these topics:

Erin McKean: The joy of lexicography - all about dictionaries, how they are made and why we use them.

Thomas Peschak, Ocean Photographer. Great talk and wonderful images and footage. Don't miss seeing Thomas swimming with the sharks!

These talks are for more advanced students, but you can download the transcripts to help you. Just click the "Download" button to the right of the window.
After watching these talks, leave your reactions and opinions in a Comment or on the Tag Board.

Next, on the BBC's Learning English: Being polite by using the passive. In English, to talk about delicate subjects, or ask embarrassing questions, we use the passive rather than the active voice. The principle here is to use less direct language. 

Check here to find out more. What are the rules and suggestions? Do the exercises and then post your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment. 

I look forward to everybody's participation in all the ideas I have mentioned. Don't be shy - go straight to the Tag Board or to Comments as soon as you have finished a task.

Finally, here's a deal. Towards the end of this month, I'm going to Spain. I used to speak Spanish quite well, but it's now quite rusty. So as often as I can, I'll go online and listen to the news on Radio Nacional de Espana, or Radio Exterior de Espana. I'll let you know how I progress.

Have a nice day,
Mike