Thursday, February 02, 2017

Why Are People in Cities Rude?

Or perhaps they aren't always. We'd love to hear your views. Meanwhile here is a chance to practise listening with Six Minute English on the BBC.

Catherine and Neil are talking, and Neil opens the programme by saying that someone he didn't know actually talked to him on the London Underground this morning. Could this happen where you live?

1. (This week's official question): When we have a positive interaction with somebody, our body releases a chemical. What's the name of this chemical? Is it…

a) melatonin? b) oxytocin? c) thyroxin?
This chemical is also known as the "___ ___".
Listen carefully to the answer which comes at the end of the programme
Some more questions: if there's a space "____" answer with a word for each space; if you see dotes (....) complete the sentence according to what you hear.

2. If you wear a "Tube Chat Badge" it means you are ...

3. People in big cities are often ____ to talk to a stranger.

4. According to Dr. Elle Boag of Birmingham City University, "our brain becomes hypervigilant to the perception of ___ around us."

5. "This leads to ___ that are insular and defensive."

6. "It's a ____ mechanism by which we can survive our journey."

7. You just don't know who might be ___ .

8. We avoid making ___ ___ with other people.

9. According to Catherine, if you grow up in a small town it can feel ___ .

10.  According to Neil, a ___ person is one who shows too much interest in other people's business.

11. According to Tom Farley, we just don't have time for idle ___..___  (two words separated by a hyphen.)

12. "Success quotient " means ...

So... having studied the questions, now listen to the programme.

Then post your answers here in a Comment or on the Tag Board. Let's get as many people listening and posting as we can!

And another thing... do you think people in cities are rude? Post a comment or a message on the Tag Board and tell us: (1) your experiences of rudeness, and (2) your experiences of unexpected kindness in the city.

Happy listening - and have a nice day.
Mike (Editor, "Rome English")

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How To Listen Effectively - Repeat Session Tonight 19:30

Hello everyone.

Tonight my learnèd colleague Bruce Warburton is repeating a session he gave a few weeks ago. It's of vital importance to any student of English, or any other language. It's about How to Listen Effectively.

Here are a few notes below:

 When listening to English spoken by a native speaker, remember PALS.

Why are you listening? Remember the context. Use your knowledge of the subject and its vocabulary to guess the meaning of anything you don’t understand.

Accents and stress
Focus on the stressed syllables (the stressed syllables are the ones the speaker wants you to understand the most). Remember that all English accents stress the key words.

Don’t worry about words you don’t understand. Keep listening. It will usually become clearer later. Don’t focus on what you have missed, but on what is coming next.

You need learning strategies in order to improve your listening skills. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Buy a ‘reader’ (a graded novel) with a CD. Listening and following the text simultaneously will help you make the connection between spoken and written English. It will also improve your pronunciation.
  2. Watch DVDs or download films. Choose a film that you would like to see in Italian. If you are not interested in the content, it will be much harder to understand. You can also watch the Italian version first so that when you watch the English version you can focus more on the language.
  3. Record the news, or watch it on internet. Watch it the first time without any sound and predict the vocabulary you will hear. Play it again with the sound to see if you were right.
  4. The British Council website,, has lots of interesting material. For example  . There is also the apps page on
  5. Download podcasts from the internet. Listen to them on your MP3 player when you are going to work. For example, or
  6. Register on an on-line course on a subject you want or need to study. Look at MOOC sites like or
  7. Don’t forget that has something on almost every subject from all over the world.
  8. Learn vocabulary in ‘blocks’. Practise saying them to learn the rhythm. This way you will understand them more easily.
  9. Make listening to English part of your daily routine. Remember, learning a language is like doing a sport. The more you train, the better you get.

 Relax. If you are anxious or pessimistic when listening to English, you will understand less.

 Good Luck!

Try to get to Bruce's workshop. If you can't, there is plenty of help available on this Blog.
Have a nice day!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Proud to be an Introvert

Hello everyone. As promised, here is another Six Minute English quiz. 

Lately, students have been talking about personalities, about our individual characteristics which make all of us so different. We're going to listen to Alice and Neil talking about this very topic on the BBC Learning English "Six Minute English" programme. Here are some questions before you listen.

A note about this exercise: if there is a gap (_____) in the text, then insert one word. If you see a series of dots (....) then write any short answer which completes the sentence logically according to what you hear. 

And if there's a simple question, then write a simple answer. But always pay attention to grammar and spelling.

1. (Official question) Who first used the term 'extrovert'? 
Was it… a) Sigmund Freud? b) Friedrich Nietzsche? c) Carl Jung?

2. What's the essential difference between Neil and Alice?

3. Alice thinks she's a(n) _________ .

4. Alice rebukes Neil for being too _______ .

5. According to Alice, what two qualities do introverts possess?

6. According to Lisa Kaenzig, introverts are people who get their ____ from within ____ .

7. Introverts frequently find noisy environments _____ .

8. In Kenya, psychologist Dr. Peter Aloka recommends that introverts and extroverts work ....

Now listen to the programme. When you have finished, post your quiz answers on the Tag Board or as a comment.

At the same time, tell us whether you think you are an introvert or an extrovert, and say why.

I personally think I am a mixture of the two. I like being with other people. I am happy to be in a crowded bar even if no one speaks to me. So what am I? The word you need to answer this question is heard in the programme!

Let me (and the rest of us) know!
All the best, and more soon,
Mike (Editor, "Rome English")

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

USING THE PHONE IN ENGLISH - A Workshop by Bruce Warburton

Bruce has a background in English for business and exams. Here, he takes a look at how to make impactful, effective phone calls in English.

And he will be presenting his ideas tomorrow, 12 January 2017, at the British Council Rome in rooms Keats and Shelley. All students currently enrolled on a course are welcome.

Most learners of English find using the telephone to be very difficult. This is mainly because there is no visual information and you have to rely entirely on the language. It is surprising how much we depend on visual information when we communicate face to face.
Here are some of the ‘tips’ mentioned in the workshop:

 When possible or necessary, plan your call and predict possible responses. Even if you get an unexpected response, you will have a greater chance of understanding it if you have done this. 
When receiving calls, make sure you have all the necessary information. Ask clarification questions and don’t try to guess.
Make sure you are good at spelling. Native speakers use spelling all the time as the pronunciation of a name or place does not necessarily give any idea of how it is spelt. You can also ask for the spelling to give yourself time.
Speak slowly. If you speak slowly, the other person will also probably slow down.
Practise with friends. Most of the difficulty people have with the telephone is due to not getting enough practice.
Learn standard telephone expressions. 
Buy a book so you can practise at home. Here are some examples:
Telephone English by John Hughes, published by Macmillan.
Telephoning in English by  Naterop & Revell, published by Cambridge University Press.
English for Telephoning  by David Gordon Smith published by Oxford University Press.

Remember, using the phone in English is like anything else. It’s just a matter of practice.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Six Minute English: Cycling!

The regular BBC Learning English Six Minute English quizzes return this week with a programme on Cycling. This means of  transport is becoming more popular in Rome. It's an obvious answer to high costs, disruption by strikes and traffic congestion.

First, read the questions. Here's the official question:-

1. Who invented the first pneumatic – or air-filled – bicycle tyre in 1888?  Was it …

a) John Boyd Dunlop? b) Charles Goodyear? c) Harvey Samuel Firestone? 
(a) John Boyd Dunlop

You'll hear the answer at the end of the programme.

2. Who likes cycling: Neil or Sophie? Neil.

3. What was the 'boneshaker'? A bicycle with iron tyres which was very uncomfortable.

4. When bikes were first invented, what sort of people used them? The wealthy middle classes.

5. For the first time in history, people could travel [where] they wanted, [when] they wanted. (Heh! - I made the mistake of leaving the words in, when I should have replaced them with dots!)

6. How did cycling change women's clothing? They wore "rational dress" - a close-fitting jacket and pantaloon-type trousers. Some traditionalists were offended by this.

7. How did cycling affect 19th century society? It meant that people could travel further, meet new people and marry outside their relatively closed societies.

Now, listen to the programme.

When you have finished, please do post your answers on the Tag Board on the right. You can also post your answer in a Comment.

Don't forget that tomorrow, Friday 25 November, is the last Friday of the month, when traditionally there is a cyclists' rally called "Critical Mass". You can find it on Facebook.

Coming soon: Mike's Bike Blog, "Backroads by Bike". Watch this space.

Happy listening - and On Your Bike!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How To Speak Effectively. By Bruce Warburton

Improving your speaking skills

As we have seen, learning a language is very similar to learning a sport. If you want to become an athlete, you need to do a lot of training. Most athletes do training every day as part of their daily routine.

Naturally, the best way to improve your English speaking ability is to spend as much time talking with native English speakers as possible.

However, most people don’t have many opportunities to speak with native English speakers. So here are a few suggestions for improving your spoken English.

  • When you learn new vocabulary or grammar, learn examples that you can use in everyday life.
  • Learn fixed and semi fixed expressions that can be used in everyday situations.
  • During lessons notice how your teacher says things not just what he or she says.
  • When you do speaking activities in class, consider why you are doing it. Don’t just try to finish it as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure you have learnt the sounds and not just the sequence of words. Remember, a large part of speaking is physical.
  • When you read English underline and learn useful expressions.
  • Read out loud.
  •  In ‘dead time’ (waiting for a bus, walking along the street) hold imaginary conversations in your head.
  • Write dialogues related to situations you could find yourself in.
  • Remember that speaking skills are a combination of fluency and accuracy. You need to find the right balance. If you are too focussed on accuracy, your speaking will be blocked. If you are too focussed on fluency, people might not understand you.
  • Remember ‘ACTOR’: accuracy, confidence, training techniques, making it ordinary, and rhythm.

Most of all, don’t worry.  Learning a language takes time and effort. If you are too anxious, it will take longer.
Good luck!

Useful websites and apps:

Remember this website is interactive. Describe your experiences  practising speaking on the Tag Board - to the right of this post - or in a Comment.

More listening practice coming soon!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

From Bruce: Learning Vocabulary

This lesson from Bruce Warburton is about how to learn and retain vocabulary. It's one thing to remember a word, but another thing altogether to remember it for future use. Happily, Bruce has got plenty of ideas. Here's one below:

Learning Vocabulary

A large part of learning a language is learning a lot of words and expressions. This takes time and effort. In order to learn vocabulary effectively you need to:
·        make decisions about which vocabulary is most important.
·        have some understanding about how your memory works.
·        have a learning strategy.

Whenever you learn vocabulary make sure you really know it. Use the vocabulary checklist.
1.                What does it mean?
2.                How useful or important is it?
3.                How is it pronounced?
4.                How can I use it?
5.                How can I remember it?

The way you keep your notes can have an enormous impact on how effective your learning is. Learning vocabulary isn’t just learning lists of words. Here are some ways of storing vocabulary.


Some more examples:


a nice day
a day off
a wonderful time

 a car
a house

a meal
a cup of coffee

There are many more ways

The memory can be stimulated by association, repetition & emotional impact.

There are lots of websites related to language learning strategies, here are some to try.

 Experiment with different methods, find what is best for you. The more time and effort you invest in learning, the more you will remember.

Now, you try Bruce's ideas. How did you go? Leave your ideas in a Comment or on the Tag Board.
All the best,