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,

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,

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!

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,

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,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Shakespeare Lives!

As you may know, it's almost 400 years since William Shakespeare died. He died on 23 April 1616. Curiously little is known about his private life. There's even speculation as to whether he was the true author of much of his work. But whatever the case, the works attributed to Shakespeare have had an enormous influence on our language.

So here's a site that will interest you: Shakespeare Lives, sponsored by the British Council. There's lots here. Start off with the video about Romeo and Juliet. And I liked the 'Shakespeare Lives in Photography' section.

Explore the site - and leave a comment about it on the Tag Board or in a comment. Remember, this Blog is interactive - you are welcome to leave a piece of yourself here.

More soonest,

6-Minute English on Interviews: The Answers

Hello all! I am sorry to have taken my time over giving you the official answers to the latest Quiz. Here they are:

  1. "I like it when an interviewer asks a question that catches the guest off-guard ." (Neil)
  2. Use open questions that elicit a long reply.
  3. Closed questions elicit a short reply.
  4. Get some juicy details.
Who developed a method of questioning around two and a half thousand years ago that aims to discover hidden truths? Was it… a) Hippocrates?  b) Socrates? c) Aristotle? 
It was Socrates! And no, that's not the Brazilian footballer.

The secret of TV host Larry King's success:
  1. Ask good questions, listen carefully to the answers.
  2. You have to make the camera disappear.
  3. Good interviewers draw back from being the centre of attention.
  4. Ask dumb or stupid questions
Many thanks are due to stalwart student Filomena for her careful replies, posted on the Tag Board. She confesses to having peeked at the transcript for a couple of answers. But hey! (as they say in the classics), it's all good contact with the language.

Another quiz is coming up soon. Meanwhile, please do explore the right-hand column of this blog for useful web sites. Report any links that don't work. And if you have any suggestions for a useful web site, let me know at once. I will be reviewing our column later.

Have a nice day!