Thursday, December 29, 2005

From the Icy English Midlands

Dear All,
I hope you have all had a really excellent Christmas or equivalent. I had a wonderful three days in Norfolk, eastern England, doing almost nothing. How I am in Leicestershire, where it's not at all comfortable right now - it's cold, snowy and foggy. So I hope that wherever you are, you are enjoying yourselves.

To cheer yourselves up, connect to the BBC web site and find out about Clubbing - "everybody wants to party, but it's too cold to be outside." Listen and learn some new words and expressions.

And here's a link to one of London's most famous clubs: The Ministry of Sound. It's got the latest tunes, advice on where and how to party, and much, much more. Take time out to explore this site.

Today I am moving up to the North-East of England, near Scotland. It is normally a three-hour car ride but it is likely to take longer today owing to the dodgy weather. To find out something about this fascinating part of the UK, go to 'This Is The North-East'.

Anyone out there interested in the law and justice? You could be a practising lawyer, a law student, or simply interested in what Italian newspaper readers know as 'la cronaca' - in other words, everyday news about crime. Whoever you are, you'll be interested in this Blog by a London Magistrate. 'The Law West of Ealing Broadway' offers us an insight to criminal justice in West London. You'll learn a lot of colloquial expressions. Just ask me via the Comments if you need help.

Someone has very kindly lent me their computer so that I can write this Blog posting, but I will sign off now because the connection is excruciatingly slow!

Please as always do leave your comment whenever you visit this Blog - and give your opinion of the sites which are linked here. Thank you very much indeed, Silvia and Bee, for your latest comments.

I hope to be able to add another Post to this blog while I am up North. Watch this space.

And a very happy New Year to you all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Season's Greetings

Dear All,
This is the last posting of the year 2005. So a happy Christmas, Season's Greetings, and New Year to you all.

This year's holidays are longer than usual: 23 December to 9 January, or if you prefer, 19 days' total inactivity. So I leave you with a few Internet sites to explore during this time.

Level 4 Intensive Wed/Fri: we briefly mentioned the Winter Solstice, 21 December. Read more about it
here on the BBC's informative web site.

Levels 4 and 5: you will by now have had an e-mail for me about the highly useful
Learn English Professionals site. To enjoy all the facilities of this site, you need a user ID and password. I have given you these in the e-mail.

If you can find 15 minutes during the holidays, please do log in to the site. Read at least one article and do an exercise; do at least one listening exercise. Then please don't forget to leave a comment. Say how useful you found the site and the exercise.

Very Important: try the Listening Downloads at the bottom of the Learn English Professionals' front page. These give you ever more opportunities to practise listening.

And now something for everybody. Often, when you use Internet, you are passive. You read and listen, but you don't communicate. You absorb information, but you don't generate any. So why not try chatting? This is a good opportunity to practise your English online.

Unfortunately a lot of chat sites are a waste of time. But one site has been in existence for longer than most:
Dave's ESL Cafe. Although old-fashioned - you have to click a button to refresh the screen and see the latest conversations - it remains a friendly, safe area. You'll meet teachers and students from all over the world.

straight to the Chat, click on "All First Time Users Must Register Here", and complete the on-screen form. You will need to give your e-mail address, and you will automatcially receive a registration number. Simply click on the link provided in the message, and follow instructions.

Other Chats: you could try
Yahoo!, which has a large number of chat areas, and you can chat to your special group of friends by using Yahoo Messenger. You must be a member of Yahoo to use Chat and Messenger: I am a member myself and I go by the user name of Michaelivy. Let me know if you join Yahoo, and we can arrange to chat regularly.

Note: if your boss looks over your shoulder while you are on any of the sites I have mentioned here, you can legitimately point out that you are enhancing your value to the organisation you work for by maintaining your contact with English and improving your knowledge of the language. And of course your boss is most welcome to join this Blog, as well as the MetroZine. Tell him or her to contact me if desired.

That's all folks! Have a very happy Christmas and New Year holiday. During the holidays I shall be in England and France. If I am able, I will add another posting. So visit at least once a week. And as always, leave a comment!

Kind regards to you all,

Monday, December 05, 2005

Watch the news on the BBC

Many thanks are due to Fabio for his summary of 'Economist' Editor John Peet's interview on the Italian economy. Read about it in the Comments section of the previous posting, 'The Economist' Survey of Italy. I'll be posting my corrections to his comment in the same Comments section. But don't worry Fabio: your summary was well written.

Now for some more opportunities to practise your watching and listening skills. Go to the BBC News website and click on the button on the right: WATCH BBC NEWS IN VIDEO.
Choose any topic that interests you. Then, very important, leave a summary of what you saw in the
Comments section. Don't spend more than ten minutes doing this!
See you all this week. Ciao4now!
Mike, writing from a rainy San Giovanni on Monday night.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

'The Economist' survey of Italy

Levels 4 and 5: a good listening exercise for you:

An interview with the Editor of The Economist, John Peet.

Listen and see if you can understand what Mr Peet thinks is wrong with the Italian economy. Do you agree with him?

Read the survey as well.

And another thing (added 2 Dec 2005): check out the BBC web site for a piece on Italian neighbourhood shops and about Rome's disappearing shops and cafés.

In both cases you can also listen - check the links in the right-hand column.

Don't forget to post a comment after reading and/or listening.


Wednesday, November 30, 2005

To All Students

Last Message This Month!

Everyone: please do continue with listening practice. Check the message posted Friday 30 September with its long list of listening sites. Thanks to Myriam and Francesca for leaving lots of comments. It is very important to leave your comment in order to help other students.

Now for some messages directed to certain classes:

Level 5: we were looking at Lifestyles some lessons ago. What nouns go with 'strong', 'wide', 'plain' and 'high'?

Here's what I found at the
Virtual Language Centre:

16 of everything from new houses to strong ale. THERE was a man as the
8 r. The United directors have taken strong action, but they have tempered ju
64 " explains an insider. "There is a strong argument for this. Purcell's good
91 joke more than he did. He was a strong believer in interdenominational con

7 ays was "ultimately based on the wide acceptance of Christian duty." Yet
46 zones around the world reached a wide audience has been killed in a road
85 door, estate and cabriolet, with a wide choice of trim materials.

11 fell foul of fraud, negligence or plain bad advice by firms that then col
34 word "causes" was to be given its plain commonsense meaning and was not t
113 uary 1995 Mawhinney's accent on plain speaking soothes doubters' nerves

26 heir own sex who pushed them to be high achievers. She never really knew
30 treets are to be closed on days of high air pollution to curb a danger to
43 nstrumental or choral. Some have high ambitions and a real chance to achi
172 lready display insulin resistance, high blood insulin levels, high circul
215 brant economy is complemented by high-calibre government. Britain
223 n bids. Hermes wants to lay high-capacity fibre-optic cable along ra

Can you find any more common collocations with these - or other - adjectives? What about their opposites: weak, narrow etc?

153 rs who are on the run is a serious weak spot in the penal system. Wheneve

Count the number of collocations with the same adjective. If there are two or more, it's probably an established collocation.

Level 4:

Health and Fitness. Try the Interactive Health Tutorial. Find out what might be wrong with you. We hope nothing is, of course.

Under 'Health Topics', check out 'Health and Wellness, bottom right of the page. Example: Exercise and Physical Fitness.

How many new words or expressions did you learn? Write them in a comment.

For everybody, even if you are not interested in football, listen to a story about George Best on the BBC Learning English site. Is it easy or difficult? Tell us in your comment.

Also, learn more about storms.

That's all for the moment!



Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Message To Intensive Level 4 (I4WF18)

Update of 4 November: Martina, Francesca and Fabio, thanks very much for your comments. I look forward to everyone else's comments!

Hello. Do you remember learning the different ways of describing how people dress? Here are some examples taken from The Virtual Language Centre:

Can you explain the different uses of ‘dress’ and ‘wear’?
What categories of objects can you wear?
Can you find any examples of ‘dressed’ associated with an adverb?
What’s the difference between ‘dressed as’, ‘dressed like’ and ‘dressed in’ and ‘dressed up’?
What does ‘dressed to kill’ mean?

Write your answers in a comment.

I am going to make this exercise easier by removing some of the lines:

1 n assure him that at least one well-dressed cleric of my acquaintance looks
3 told the court that a policewoman, dressed as a schoolgirl, had been unable
4 airport yesterday afternoon. {para} Dressed in a grey suit instead of the usu
5 he said. {para} ``They're all well-dressed and they all have have goals.'' {
7 Already angry Polar supporters, dressed as bears, have demonstrated in f
13 ar around 360 degrees. {para} Also dressed by Italian designer Gianni Versace
14 aken a bath and was refusing to get dressed for kindergarten. {para} ``I used
21 low does the talking here, nicely dressed in jacket and tie, speaking off-ca
22 ire, kidnapped the 14-year-old boy dressed in just a T-shirt, socks and und
34 ald Dwight would take to the stage dressed like a duck with outsize glasses a
35 ccompanied at Kai Tak by a casually-dressed man claiming to represent the pub
36 iver in the Marais. The well-dressed Parisians who now occupy their sea
41 ons from 171 countries and will be dressed to kill in their national costume
42 gon was rolling. They come here all dressed up and love it. My wife would ne
44 ap and cheerful, situation comedy dressed up as "specials", and one-man come

9 racters, is promiscuous because she wears "big hair" and tight skirts.
20 e fleets of vans to round up youths wearing baseball caps back-to-front and
21 d with a diversion: "Why aren't you wearing lipstick? Every woman should we
23 h airport markings on it. They were wearing security badges stolen from air
28 ons' delegates, from 177 countries, wearing their national dress are expecte
29 eir lunch money to the fund. {para} Wearing ``Skip lunch'' T-shirts, 16 Form
35 alking towards the balcony. He was wearing a black balaclava, white shirt wi
4 r, grand as an Austrian countess, wore a look of disapproval. She saw me as
5 rst, so somebody suggested Morgan wore a pair of roller skates. The
6 went shopping in Tsim Sha Tsui. He wore a Panama hat and dark glasses. He s
10 e ship on August 26. {para} ``They wore Chinese uniforms but we thought they
12 . Most of the parents and children wore fancy dress costumes or hats and pa
15 ioters feared for their safety and wore hoods during the process, a senior
17 s old and about 175 cms tall. Both wore jeans. Anyone who witnessed the inci

Here are two examples of 'dressed to kill':

1. They will be representing 135 Lions Club delegations from 171 countries and will be dressed to kill in their national costumes.

2. Pat Kavanagh, distinguished literary agent and wife of Julian Barnes, came over. She looked magnificent: dressed to kill (former clients had better beware) in a glittering evening gown.

What do you think it means? Add your comment!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

To All Students starting in October 2005!

This is your Blog. It tells you how to practise and learn English on Internet. You can do this in your free time, on your home computer or in an Internet café.

Or you can do it at work. If your boss sees you, you can honestly tell him or her that you are using The Net to learn English better. In this way you will become more valuable to your organisation.

All the sites listed here will work on any computer running Windows 98 2nd edition or later. You should also have, as a minimum: Real Player, Windows Media Player and Flash. These can be downloaded free.

When you have finished reading this message, I want you to click ‘Comments’ and leave your comment to prove that you have visited us.

Your comment need not be long and should take no more than two minutes to write! In your comment, tell us all which Internet site you liked best, and which activity you found most useful. And also, the contrary.

Web Sites Everybody Should Visit:

1. The British Council’s ‘Learn English’ site

Click ‘Fun Stuff’, ‘Games’ then ‘Word Game’ for a choice of vocabulary games.

Try the current
grammar game: ‘some’ and ‘any’

Click on the grammar game link.

Also, do check the extra links shown at the bottom of the page.

Level 1B (1BTTh18): try the
Adjectives Game – click on Adjectives.

Level 1 (S1TTh19) try ‘
Common Objects’.

Also, use the Search facility. For example, I typed in ‘past simple’ and the site gave me 10 answers, from ‘past simple’ to ‘future in the past’, including ‘already, yet and still’, and ‘past continuous’. This is a good exercises for Level 3. (YL3WF15, Sat310)

2. The BBC ‘Learning English

Click on:
- News English: listen to ‘Words In The News’
- Grammar and Vocabulary: level 5 try ‘Funky Phrasals’.
- ‘The Flatmates’ (Levels 3 and 4)
- Country of the month: Brazil

3. The British Council’s ‘
In2English’ site

Important: ignore the Chinese script. You do not need to know Chinese in order to make good use of this site.

This site is very good for levels 4 and 5 (I4WF18, E5Sat14)

However Young Learners’ Level 3 can click on Music Genre and try the listening exercises. The listening exercises are also good for level Four.

How? Just click on the slide controls on the Studio Control Panel and choose the genre of music you like best.

And if you are in business, there is plenty for you here. Just click on ‘English At Work’.

4. Another British Council site, designed for students in the Middle East: ‘

Ignore the Arabic script. You do not need to know Arabic to use this site.

Level 1B: Click ‘Vocab and Grammar’ and try the ‘Spelling Jobs’ exercise. Is it ‘directer’ or ‘director’?

Levels 3 and 4: Click ‘Vocab and Grammar’ and try the ‘Articles’ exercise.

Levels 4 and 5: Click ‘English In Action’ and try some of the activities.

Enjoy these sites ' and, very important:

Write your comment to this message!

All you have to do is click 'Comment' and follow instructions.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Listening Practice

Listening is a problem for many students - because they do not get enough practice. Here is a list of Internet sites that may help you become a better listener.

I have not had time to try them out, but I will soon. Meanwhile here is a preliminary list. I thank my colleague Simon Sergeant, a teacher at the British Council Singapore, for sending me these links:

For some listenings, you'll need Windows Media Player; for others, you will need Real Audio. If you bought your computer within the last four years, you are likely to have these programs already installed.
Intermediate listening exercises in situations. Follow the instructions and see how well you do.
Children's stories. Some with texts. American English.
Click on 'Songs'
Listen and answer the quiz questions. American English
Business English exercises.
Elementary listening exercises.
We don't normally give dictations in class. But try these Internet dictations and check your score.
Advanced listening practice. Intended for students preparing for Certificate in Advanced English. But try it anyway! See how much you understand.
A complete list of listening exercises from the '' site.

More Listenings soon! Please try them out and post your comment. This is very important: by posting a comment you help other students decide what listening sites to use.


Friday, September 23, 2005

It's Autumn Once Again

... and we are now back in the classroom.

This is a message for everyone but especially my September Level 3A class. I am giving you some advice on Listening.

Your first stop should be at the BBC's Learning English site. Read and listen to 'Words In The News - on the left-hand side of the page under 'News English'.

Then you might like to try the 'Flatmates' story. Look for The Flatmates on the right-hand side of the window. Meet the flatmates, read some old episodes, then read and listen to the latest episode.

When you have finished, decide how the story is to continue by voting, under the 'You decide' heading. Next week, see if your vote influences the way the story goes!

That's all I have time for now. More advice on Using Internet for Listening next week.

Just one thing: write your comment after trying the listening. Remember, this Blog is interactive, and your comments are very important. You can also use Comments to communicate with other students.

Note that when you post a comment, you will have to pass a word verification procedure. This means that a screen will show, with a word in a special colour. You must type the word that you see, and then confirm it by clicking OK.

Why? This procedure ensures that only a human being posts a comment, and not a spammer program. Spam, or junk e-mail, is now becoming a problem on Blogs as well as on e-mail systems.

I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you. Please do leave your comment!
Ciao4now - and good luck!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Summer Holidays So Far (August 12, 2005)

Dear All,
I hope you are enjoying your summer holidays, wherever you are.

Right now I am with my mother in the city of Durham, northeastern England. This city is quite old, with a very famous Cathedral built by the Normans, and a well-known University. The temperature is cool and the weather is a little damp.

Tomorrow we are going to see a school friend of mine. We will meet on the coast of Northumberland, the county just south of Scotland. Then we will drive across the beach along a special track, a 'causeway', over to an island which you can reach by car only when the tide is out. We will have lunch there.

This island is called Lindisfarne and is home to some very ancient traditions. There is a ruined monastery here inhabited by monks who brought Christianity to the north-east of England in the 9th century.

Now, how about a web site to liven your holidays? If, like me, you love gadgets (look the word up in your dictionary), you'll love this site:

Click here to look at the gadgets on offer - and maybe buy one! Decide for yourself which are Very Useful, Useful, Not Very Useful, Useless or Totally Useless - and post a Comment saying why!

More soon! Have a very good vacation.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Blog the Summer

To all students: wherever you are, whatever you are doing, if you have a few spare minutes...]
... Connect to this Blog and use the Comment facility to tell us how you are spending your summer!

Here is a very short list of web sites:

'We're Not Afraid' - Bloggers' response to the terrorist attacks on London. Kindly given to me by Mariangela Dessi of Class S3TTh18.

'The Meaning of Food'. Central to our culture. Kindly recommended by Nik Peachey, formerly of the British Council Naples.

'The Spoken Alexandria Project' - practise your listening, using these Podcasts. Maybe a little advanced, but it will be good for your vocabulary.

Have a very good summer, everybody. I plan to add a few postings about my summer, too. Keep visiting this space!



Thursday, July 14, 2005

You and your Grammar: Comparatives

Are you still having difficulty with Comparatives?

Here are some Web sites to help you:


EnglishZone.Com - Comparatives

Do this multiple choice test and see your score.

BetterEnglish.Com: Find the correct Comparative Form Comparatives

The British Council Learn English site: choose the correct comparative form.

Please don't forget to post a comment about the sites you have visited. Tell everybody what you think of each of the Comparatives sites. Give each one a mark of 0 to 4: 0 = disastrously bad; 4 = excellent.

More Grammar very soon! Mike

Friday, June 17, 2005

Join A Discussion Group on the BBC

Here's a good opportunity to practise your English. Simply join a discussion group on the BBC's 'Learning English' web site. See my instructions below.

Topics at the moment range from Atheism, Corruption and Human Rights to Success, English Language, Divorce and Euthanasia.

How do you join? Simple.
Click Here to go to the BBC's 'Learning English Discussion Groups'.

Then follow the instructions on how to Subscribe. You will soon start receiving digests of the discussions in your e-mail in-box.

You can also 'Unsubscribe' - then you won't receive any more e-mails.

To post a message, go to the BBC Discussion Groups site, as above. But before you post, please do read their rules on the use of language.

This is a very friendly area of the Net, so you will almost certainly receive a reply if you post a message.

Good luck - practise your writing, and post a message on this Blog describing your experiences.

Have a good weekend, and more next week.

- Mike

Monday, June 13, 2005

Going to Great Britain?

Are you going to the UK soon? If so, check out this fascinating web site about how to behave in the UK:

'Acceptable Behaviour in England'

You can find out about everything from how to greet someone to how not to eat.

Compare the rules in Britain with the rules in Italy. If you send me an article about 'Acceptable Behaviour In Italy', I will post it on the 'MetroZine'.

While visiting the 'Acceptable Behaviour in England' site - composed by students from an English junior high school - I discovered this marvellous listening practice site: 'elllo' - the English Language Listening Lab Online.

Favourite football teams, British newspapers, living in Japan and Poland, meeting elephants in India, art, the beach, home towns, Turkey, long trips: these are a few of the topics you can find in the 'Elllo' site.

There are on-line quizzes to test your understanding of the listening. Or if you prefer, just listen and scroll down to read the Transcript at the same time.

Try it now: go to 'ELLLO' - and do please leave your comment.

More very soon - Mike

Thursday, June 09, 2005

We'll Meet Again...

... hopefully at the British Council.

Classes may be over, but our community continues. I will post a new message a week here on The Blog, and send you an e-mail accordingly.

This week's top sites:-

Reading Practice: Story: 'A perfectly fair business deal' by Chris Rose.
Chris Rose is a teacher, writer and literature expert at the British Council in Naples. Read his story., which is set on the island of Ischia, near Naples.

At the end of page 3, continue reading. You will find comments from other readers of the 'Learn English' site. At the bottom, click on 'Send us your thoughts' and your comment may appear on 'Learn English'. Say whether you liked the story and comment about the plot and the characters.

Alternatively, post your comment here on the Blog. Tell us if the story helped your knowledge of English.

Listening Practice: On the BBC 'Learning English' site: the life of the actress Anne Bancroft. As you probably know, Anne Bancroft's parents were from Italy.

Read and listen at the same time. Was it easy or difficult? Did you learn any new words?

Post your comment here on the Blog.

I will be back next week. Have an excellent weekend,


Monday, May 30, 2005

Before Doing The Test: Revision and Practice

We are having our test soon. Here is a short list of recommended exercises and activities. This one is from the main British Council 'Learn English' site:

Level 2: using 'like'

And here are some other recommendations on Internet for some revision and practice, using the Go4English site.

The 'Go4English' site is a British Council site aimed at learners of English in Middle Eastern countries. However, 'Go4English' has a lot of material which you will find very useful, and fun as well.

Although the 'overview language on 'Go4English' is Arabic, you definitely do not need to know Arabic in order to use this site successfully.

Levels 2 and 3: Listening Practice

Listen to a business man reporting a robbery to the police. Complete the police report of the incident.

Level 3 Compound Nouns Quiz

This is a fun card matching game. Don't forget to download the explanation about how compound nouns are formed.

And here's something special for Level 3. Last lesson we were talking about music and some of you have written some homework about your favourite Italian groups and singers.

Now surf over to the Chinese British Council 'Learn English' web site, 'In2english'. Note that, while the overview language is Chinese, you do not need to know Chinese to use this site.

Click on this link:

to listen to an interview with a Chinese rock group. Can you answer the questions? Note that the musicians speak with a Chinese accent but you should be able to understand.

For more on music, click here:

and then click on one of the audio control panel buttons for more exercise on music styles.

Post comments to let us all know how you found the exercises.

Check the MetroZine to see the corrected versions of your homework.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Level 3: 'Prefer' + 'to' or 'Prefer' = '-ing' ?

That is the question....
... that you asked me last lesson. Here is a method of discovering some answers.

In the
Virtual Language Centre, click ‘Associated Words’

1. To find occurrences of ‘prefer to’, in the Keyword window, choose the option ‘begins with’ and type ‘prefer’. This will get you ‘prefers’, ‘preferring’, ‘preferred’ and more.

2. In the ‘associated word’ window, type ‘to’.
3. Set the associated word to appear to the right of the keyword – click the correct button.
4. Choose a corpus; click ‘Search for concordances’.
5. Copy and paste the resulting list into a word processing document.

To find occurrences of ‘prefer –ing’ you need a slightly different approach.

6. In the Keyword Window, choose option ‘ends with’ and type ‘ing’.
7. In the ‘associated word’ window, type ‘prefer’.
8. Set the associated word to appear to the left of the keyword – click the correct button.
9. Choose a corpus; click ‘Search for concordances’.
10. Copy and paste the resulting list into a word processing document.
11. Repeat these steps 6 to 11 and in step 7 enter variants of ‘prefer’ –‘prefers’, ‘preferred’ and the like.

Try steps 1 to 11 with ‘like’ and any other verbs you can think of.

Send your resulting word lists to me. We can check them together in class.

Can you write an explanation of the difference and post it in a comment?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Phrasal Verbs - More Ideas

You are all very interested in Phrasal Verbs - so here is another link, in the BBC's 'Learning English' site:

More About Phrasal Verbs

Listen to the Audio, then try the Quiz. I hope you get all the questions correct - you should have no problem with this one!

Then, try this with the Virtual Language Centre:

1. In the 'word search' window, enter some verbs you typically find in phrasal verbs: get, set, look, put, make. Can you think of any others?

2. For each verb, tell the concordancer to 'sort right'. This will make it easy for you to see what prepositions come after your chosen verb.

3. Make a selection of verbs that you think are typical phrasal verbs. Copy and paste this selection to a 'Word' document.

4. Decide from the context what the phrasal verb means. Decide what 'standard' verb could be used to substitute each phrasal verb. Confirm (or otherwise) that your answer was correct by using your dictionary.

5. Send your document to me via e-mail, and we can present your ideas in class.

And as usual, do please post a comment.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Using Concordancer to discover English

Which verbs are followed by gerunds? Which verbs are followed by the infinitive with or without "to"? What is the correct position of an adverb in a sentence? What is the correct word order in a phrasal verb structure?

You can all these questions and many others by using a 'concordancer' on the Web. As we have seen in class, the concordancer is a tool that allows you to search for a word in a huge body of text, and see it displayed in a list as long as the number of times the word is found.

Go to The Virtual Language Centre, as we did in class. Once you are in the site, try this exercise with the phrasal verb put on:

1. Click 'Web Concordancer'
2. Click 'English: Associated Words'
3. In the 'keyword string' box, enter put
4. In the menu to the left of the keyword string box, choose 'starts with' - so you will find puts as well as put.
5. In the 'Associated word' box, type on.
6. In 'Find', select 'Right of the keyword only'.
7. Select Corpus: I choose 'The Times March 95'. You can experiment with different corpora.
8. 'Sort type': select 'Sort right'
9. Click 'Search for concordances'
10. Here is a very small sample of the results:

45 h, credit is due to both sides for putting on a rip-roaring Cup tie whic
46 "But surely," said the Sab, "putting on a scarlet coat to chase a
47 energy has been committed towards putting on cross country's annual sho
48 and are used to meeting people and putting on dinner parties, though not
49 ag that this rate of exchange is putting on Japan's recovery, the Bank
11 ell it works. The average person puts on just 10 per cent of their body
12 urnt-out East End flats and even puts on the transforming white of the s

You need to find the examples where 'on' is an integral part of the verb expression rather than a preposition taking an object. Thus the example 'Fear of divorce puts marriage on the rocks in France' is not a true example of a phrasal verb, while 'walking down mountains and of putting on weight' is a good example.

Note that you can select, copy and paste a concordance list from the Virtual Language Centre window to a Word or Notepad document for future reference.

Tell me what discoveries you have made in a comment.

Have a nice weekend.

All About Phrasal Verbs

Level Three students

Last lesson, you were asking about Phrasal Verbs.

So try this phrasal verbs site:
The Phrasal Verb Demon

Please, as always, post a comment to let everyone know whether you found this site useful or not.

Coming next: how to use the Web Concordancer at the Virtual Language Centre in order to deepen your understanding of how English works.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The British Elections: Memorable Moments

Would you like to witness the stranger aspects of the recent Election campaign in Britain? And at the same time do some listening and video comprehension practice from the BBC site.

This link takes you to the
most memorable moments of the 2005 Election campaign.

Repeat as often as you like in order to try to understand as much as you can.

As you listen and watch, you can do two things:

1. Write down the 'gist' - the basic content - of the video.

2. Write down as many individual words as you understood.

As always, do please write a comment to say if this exercise helped you.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Your Grammar Questions Answered

Level 3
Serena and Mariangela of Level 3 have asked for more information on directions - giving and receiving them. There appears (as they observed) to be nothing on the LearnEnglish Central site. So I have been looking around the Web to see if any other sites can help...

A Google Search on "Giving Directions" turned up these sites:

English Grammar 4 U Online - a German site:

This site seems much the best. But see these as well:

The Focus In English site (needs RealPlayer):


Both of these sites are American.

Now, how about Indirect Questions? Last lesson some people had trouble understanding these. Fortunately, "" comes to the rescue here:

Use your mouse to drag each word to its correct position in the question.

Ignore the Arabic writing. You do not need to understand Arabic to use this site. "Go4English" was developed for learners of English living in Middle Eastern countries, but you will yourselves find it very useful indeed. (And who knows, you might even learn some Arabic.)

Level 2:

Verb + "---ing" or "to"? That was the question we studied in unit 5B of our book, page 69. The "Learn English" site offers you some extra information:

And try this German site (you do not need to know German) for further help on Infinitives, with or without "to":

And gerunds:

Try the exercises towards the bottom of the page.

As always, please do leave a comment saying why you thought an exercise was or was not useful. And do use the comments - as Serena and Mariangela have done - to send requests.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The past perfect

For everyone in Level Three:

An exercise on the
Past Perfect from the Learn English site. Read the explanation and try the gammar game.

Please always leave a comment to say how the exercise or site helped you with your English.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Listening Practice; Grammar

Listening practice: Listen to today's 'Words In The News' on the BBC World Service. It is about children - mostly girls - who are deprived of an education.

Grammar: here are some sites you can visit to learn more about the grammar we have been studying recently:

1) 'Must/have to' on the BC 'Learn English' site. Be patient if it is slow to load.

2) Using verb + '-ing' or verb + 'to' + infinitive. On 'Learn English'.

3) 'Because', 'as', 'so'. On 'Learn English'.

Vocabulary: try this week's Word Game on the 'Learn English' site. If you are a doctor, you will like this one. (Or even if you aren't.)

Current News: Electing the New Pope. On the BBC web site.

Finally, are you feeling adventurous?

If your answer is 'Yes!', try the 'Go4English' site. It is related to 'Learn English' site and it is for speakers of Arabic.

But Don't Worry! Although there is some Arabic writing on this site, you do not need to be able to read it in order to navigate around and try some exercises.

There are some good word and grammar games here. Try this 'Present Perfect Quiz'.

And try a listening exercise in the 'English In Action' section. click on Nader Abbassi and discover this talented man. Listen to him describing his job. Write your answers in a comment.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Level 3: Reading Practice

Level 3 Students:

For more reading practice about motoring, see this site:
"A World Of Angry Drivers".
Identify the most common annoyances reported by motorists.

Then post a comment here on the blog, and tell us what kind of driving behaviour here in Italy annoys you most.

It does not matter if you are a motorist, scooterist, 'motorino'-ist, cyclist or a pedestrian. Your comment is important.


Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Listening Practice

BBC 'Learning English' site

Meeting people: study the expressions associated with meetings. 'Meet' or 'meet with'? an introduction to colloquial expressions.
'Watch And Listen': Discover London through audio and interactive exercises.

Try 'Listen 1: Choosing transport from Heathrow'.
Listen to the conversation and then drag the expressions to their correct position, using your mouse.

The News: 'Words in the News:

UK visa delay for young Nigerians (11 April, 2005). Listen and read.

'Learn It!' - on the right-hand column.

Click here and then go to 'Phrasal Verbs' and (of special interest also to Level 2) 'Possessives'

Voice Of America

Listen to the news in English.

Level 2: try 'Special English' (American English read specially slowly).
You will find it near the bottom of the left-hand column.
VOA Special Report on
the death of Pope John Paul II.

Please do click on 'Comment' and:

(1) tell everyone which exercises and sites you tried, and ...

(2) say why you found these ideas useful - or not.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Enjoy your Easter holiday...

... and do use the holidays to maintain your contact with English. This is very important.
There are several ways in which you can do this:-

1. Reading. Read a few pages of English every day.

2. Listening. In my Level 3 class, I mentioned the magazine 'Speak Up', which is sold with a CD. Read and listen at the same time, and visit the magazine's web site.

And do visit the BBC's 'Learning English' web site which is full of useful facilities to help you practise your listening skills, accumulate vocabulary and learn more about grammar.

3. Writing. Practise your writing by sending a comment to this Blog, and if I can, I will reply to you, with corrections.

4. Speaking. Rome is full of English-speaking tourists at Easter. Go into one of the English or Irish pubs and start talking to someone. Recommended: The Drunken Ship on Campo dei' Fiori.

5. Interactivity: the text chat on Global Village is a very valuable tool to help you practise fluency in your use of English. Don't forget to save a trancript of your chat so that you can review what people said. Show it to me when we next meet.

And a very useful Web site to help you with Grammar (and more besides):-

Set up by Charles Kelly, a teacher in Japan.

The home page of this site will point you to many useful places where you can acquire more English.

Have a wonderful holiday - and don't forget the homework.

More soon,


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

New Look Blog; Listening on the BBC; Global Village; next week's lessons

Last week I asked students to vote on the new look Blog. Four were in favour of dark text on light background; two favoured the opposite. So I will keep the new look. Later, I may experiment with more formats.

In the news this week: Charles and Camilla's forthcoming wedding. Read about it on the BBC web site.

Listening on the BBC: how did you react to the prohibition on smoking when it was introduced in Italy? Read about it and listen on the BBC Learning English site. Your test question: how much will the European Commission spend on persuading people not to smoke? Post your answer in a comment.

Global Village is the British Council's community web site for students. Last week the British Council Rome was in the top 8 for the number of daily visits. Excellent: keep visiting and using the Chat to practise your English and meet new people.

Next week's lessons:-

Level 3: visit some of the Grammar Sites listen on this page in order to learn more about future forms in English. On Thursday we'll chat about our jobs and ambitions in The Village with people in other countries.

Level 2: visit the BBC web site to learn more about food. And plan a presentation on the best of Rome.

Finally, the Metro Zine has been updated - with photos!

See you next week!

Monday, February 21, 2005

New Look for this Blog

Last week I changed the appearance of this blog. It used to be light-coloured text on a dark background. Then I thought that dark text on a light background would be easier to read.

When I taught Level 3 (S3Tth18) last Thursday, I showed the new-look Blog on the Interactive Whiteboard. And a number of students said: "We want the Old Look back!!"

So please vote by posting a comment. I would like to have everybody's opinion, if possible by Friday 15 February. Then I can decide whether to change it back.

Important note about posting comments: Blogger has added to the comment options. They used to be limited to: (1) 'Blogger' Member; (2) Anonymous. The third option is now 'Other'.

With 'Other', a window appears in which you can directly type your name and your Home Page on the Web, if you have one. It is easier than 'Anonymous', which was confusing.

Please can you use the 'Other' option, and enter your name, when posting a comment? Thank you.

One unexpected effect of changing the Blog's look was that the entire Permanent Collection of Web Links was lost. I am slowly reconstituting this collection.

I look forward to seeing your comments - they are very important.

Listening Practice on the BBC - This Week's Idea

St. Valentine's Day may be past now, but you can still read and listen about the psycological and medical implications of love in this week's edition of the BBC World Service's 'Learning English' site.

Elsewhere in the 'Learning English' site, have a look at:

Watch and Listen
Pronunciation Tips (ideas, or advice)
Business English
Talk About English
Grammar and Vocabulary

Everybody: look at this explanation of the 'zero article' - in other words, when do you not use the article in English?

Please read it and post a comment. I would love to see a comment from each one of you by the end of this week: Friday 25 February.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Mid-February News - Test Results

You will notice that I have changed the appearance of this Blog. I thought that it would be eaiser for you to read dark text on a light background, rather than light-cloloured text on a dark background, which was the Blog's previous style.

Howver, there is one problem: I have lost the permanent Collection of Web links which I had listed. I will slowly restore this, however.

Level Three and Level Two have done their tests. I have almost finished marking them.
The results are rather mixed. Generally, it is clear that we need to do more work on vocabulary and grammar. Both problems can be confronted by doing plenty of regular reading.

Level Two have done well on the Listening. Level Three needs more practice, however. Here's my listening recommendation this week:

Death of a Lebanese Politician

This is a short piece about the murder of former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri, which has also been reported in Italian newspapers.

Listen and read at the same time.

Level One will be doing their test next week.

'Blogger' has now made it easier for you to post a comment. So please do take advantage of the interactive features of this Blog - and make yourself known.

Tell me what you think of the new look Blog!

More soon,


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The First Blog of February 2005!

Hello everybody. This is the first new blog entry for a month. It's not been negligence - just a very busy period.

This week I will give you some grammar links to help you revise for the mid-year test which is coming up in the next 2 weeks. And an obvious place for everyone to try is the new-look Learn English site.

Level 3. Check out the present perfect and past simple. Note the uses as well as the structure. And here is a further explanation.

Revise Quantifiers - "a few", "a little" - by clicking here. Then test yourself with this game. Wait a few seconds for the game to load, then use your mouse to drag the correct expression into either the "few" or the "little" window.

Also have a look at zero articles - in other words, situations when you don't use the article. There is a another long explanation here. Ask me next lesson if you are still having problems with this.

Verbs followed by other verbs: "I like singing" or "I hope to see you tomorrow": click here for a list and an explanation.

Level 2. Grammar points to check include these:

Present simple - all uses.
Present Perfect - basic structure and examples.
Relative Pronouns and clauses.
Present Continuous for the future.

Level 1. Look at these grammar topics:

Possessive with 's (on the Online Grammar site).
Present Simple on the Learn English site and on Englishpage.
Articles on the Edufind site.

More Grammar in the next Blog!

How about some listening practice? Listen and read the news on the BBC's Learning English site. make a note of new words and phrases.

Regular Visits:

Global Village: click "communities" on the Learn English site. Or try here. Do not forget to write ita- before your user name.

The Metro Zine: see some new Christmas Party Pictures, and Level Three's Introductions.

More soon! Please do post comments, with requests and ideas.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tsunami Watch

The horrific consequences of the Indian Ocean Tsunami continue to unfold. To see what is going on in the areas affected, here are two sites:-

Tsunami Help

Tsunami Updates

Both sites are Blogs. Tsunami Help is a good starting point to see what stages the various aid programmes have reached.

See also the BBC news site for extensive coverage.

I am still in UK on my Christmas holidays. I will resume regular updates from next Monday, 10 January.