Sunday, December 23, 2007

Season's Greetings!

To everyone, a very happy Christmas and New Year 2008.

Lessons start again on 8 January. So level 4BTTH 19 will be meeting that evening.

Have a very good time!


Friday, December 21, 2007

"Some" or "Any" in questions

Dear all,

Giacomo of Level Four has this question:

1. Have you some pans in your house?
2. Have you any pans in your house?

What's the difference?


Both are legitimate questions but there is a slight difference in meaning.

2. Have you any pans in your house?
This is a straight open question in which the questioner is simply asking for information.

1. Have you some pans in your house?
This question is probably part of a longer conversation. For example, the speaker might be saying, "Let's organise dinner at your place. We can cook "spaghetti alla carbonara". But before I forget, we'll need at least two pans. Have you some pans in your house?"

The questioner is hoping that the answer will be "yes". So no. 2 is part of an established context.

Tip: go to the
Virtual Language Centre Concordancer and find all instances of "some" in a question. What do they have in common? Is there a rule you can extrapolate?

A couple of examples from the VLC:

"Should the Privileges and Members' Interests Committees have some outsiders on them?"
"some" in the sense of "a few".

"What is Stuart Hall on, and can we all have some?"

"some" of whatever magic potion Stuart Hall (a footballer) is "on", in other words taking.

One of the rules is that if you use "some" in a question you are concentrating on a small, specific number or quantity. With "any" it's completely open. Consider this:

"Would somebody like to come with me?" (just one person)

"Would anybody like to come with me"? (could be more than one.)

I hope this helps.

Please do leave your comment - especially now that it is much easier.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

For level 4: Animals and Ecology

Here's something for everybody but especially level 4 with whom we have studied Chimpanzees: a blog by Mr Lopes, a student from Portugal:

It's a general ecology blog. Have a look and leave a comment.

I am glad to see that people are using the new Comments window.

Can anyone answer Giacomo's latest questions?

More soon,

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New Comment Box

Hello everybody. I'd like to draw your attention to a new feature of this Blog: the message board at the top of the right-hand column.

For some time I have been concerned that not many people have been leaving comments (though honourable mentions go to those who have.) I guess many people are put off by having to search for the Comments link at the end of a posting (article), especially if they want to leave a comment that is not directly connected to the posting.

So I have added a general Comments box to the Blog. It's easy to use: just type your name and e-mail address or URL in the windows provided, then type your message and click the "Tag" button.

NB: your e-mail address is OPTIONAL, and in any case your e-mail address will NOT appear on the message board. But please do write your name - first name only if you prefer - and class code, so that I recognise you. Thanks.

Many thanks to Colin Hoy of the British Council Syria for this idea.

Another small change: I have separated the two Word Search/Concordancer sites from the "Learning and Practising English" list. This should make them easier to find and use.

Enjoy! and more very soon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

"Each", "Every" or are both words possible?

Here are 10 sentences (I have removed a duplicate sentence) taken from a British National Corpus search. Say in a comment whether the missing word in each sentence should be each or every - or are both possible?

1. April 1990, married couples have been taxed independently, and _______ spouse is responsible for paying tax on his/her own income. If

2. found responsible and brought to justice. PRISONER LETTER WRITING CAMPAIGN _______ of the people whose story follows is a prisoner of conscience.

3. from Birmingham. She talks incessantly and seems over-enthusiastic about nearly _______ aspect of life --; prattling on without caring much about the kind

4. now available to members of the public at a price of 50p _______ . Last year ACET educators saw 24,500 pupils in face to face

5. the forms in which it was internalised or repressed., Not _______ reader of his book can have come to it believing the chauvinistic

6. the woman he lives with and loves. It isn't _______ comic genius who would undertake to send his talent into such painful

7. These early groups were called "Threes Groups" because _______ adopted three prisoners, one from the East, one from the

8. use the covenant form attached to this leaflet you can make _______ annual payment at any time, or by any instalments, you

9. vitally important role to play. Until the numbers of deaths _______ month has risen to equal or exceed the number of new diagnoses

10. Well, drove all the way up. Must have stopped _______ ten yards between junctions seventeen and eighteen. Not a trace of

This exercise was designed for Level 4 classes, but I recommend it to Level 3 as well.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Searching for words: The British National Corpus

Here is another tool to help you see how English words are really used. Go to the British National Corpus at Brigham Young University's special Web site. It is more technical than the Virtual Language Center, but it is very good at displaying occurrences of words and their collocates, that is, the words that frequently occur near a word. It also searches a much larger body of text.

It's also very flexible. Here's an example: the word "house". Type it into the window at the top-left-hand corner.

You might want to distinguish between the various "parts of speech" of "house". Can it only be a noun, as in somewhere you live, or can it also be an adjective or a verb?

Ensure that you set the POS (part of speech) option to "YES".

Click "Search" - the button in the bottom-left-hand corner of the window.
You'll then see a list of occurrences of "house", categorised by part of speech:

HOUSE (NN1) means "house" as a singular common noun.

HOUSE (VV1) means "house" as the infinitive form of a verb.
Here's an explanation of those POS (parts-of-speech) codes.

Click on the word "house" to see examples found in the corpus.

But look carefully at all the examples shown when you choose HOUSE (VV1)! Not all of them are verbs. Which examples are not verbs, and if they are not verbs, what are they?

You might like to see the example in its expanded context. Just click on the reference nuimber immediately to the left of the example:

And here's what you see:

Try out this web site - and let us all know in a comment. In the next posting, I'll give you some suggestions on what to search for, based on grammar and vocabulary in recent lessons.
Kind regards,

Friday, November 30, 2007

Adjective Opposites

When do you use "dis-", "un-", "in-", "im-" or "-less" to form the opposite of an adjective? Do you say "unhonest" or "dishonest"?

You know the right answer partly from your reading and general experience of English. But now I can introduce you to a very useful tool: The Virtual Language Center in Hong Kong.

The VLC has a web site which enables you to search a large body of text for examples of English words and expressions as they are really used. You type in a search word, specify the body of text which you wish to search - and the computer will display all occurences of the word down the middle of the screen with the context sentence displayed to either sode of the word.

Here's an example. I went to the VLC and set my word specification, "starts with", then typed in "dis".

arents' Association for Pre- school Disabled Children, the Spastics Associa
said he recognised the defendant's dishonest business partner had left him
recover $82,000, the amount of a dishonoured cheque for one month's rent.
is large enough to accommodate disinfected items such as a telephone,
rested two men and three women for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest,
left the scene in a confused and disorganised fleet. It is the Crown's ca
byline} By JIMMY LEUNG A DISQUALIFIED contestant in this year's
establish a right for appeal for dissatisfied clients; {para} guarantee
Of course, you will have to search through a lot of words beginning with "dis" that are not opposite adjectives, but that is a useful test for you!
And you may make some new discoveries. For example, we teach that the plural of "person" is "people". But does "persons" exist? Go to the VLC and find out.
And as always please please leave a comment!
Post-scriptum for Level 4:
This follows last Thursday's lesson on page 74. It'son the BBC web site. Read it and leave a comment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vote! and read about Houses

Hello. It's a rainy day in Rome, so it's an excellent moment to vote for your preferences in our English lessons by clicking on the buttons in the voting panel in the top right-hand corner of this blog. Only 5 people have voted so far - not many at all. :-(

Another good thing to do on a gloomy day like today is to remind yourselves of the summer sunshine by visiting Alghero Estates, a real estate business in Sardinia. In Level 3 we have been describing houses and apartments, but this is a useful site for everyone. It is packed with good vocabulary. If ever you want to rent or sell your apartment or house, this is the place to come for inspiration.

As always, please do leave a comment! Not enough people are doing this. :-(

More soon.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Blog Readers Suggest New Sites

First, Alicia Rey of Argentina recommends Bell English, the site for the well-known language school in the UK. You have to register to get the best out of the site, but it is free. Try Telephone English, and give us your impressions in a comment.

Alicia recommends her own site, English Studio, which is a Blog packed with videoclips of authentic English, with accompanying exercises. Try it now! (and leave us a comment).

And Rossella of the Saturday 4B course sends us English Club, full of grammar explanations and exercises.

Try all these sites and don't forget to leave your comment. Your comments turn this site into a community.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Changes to the Right-Hand Column

Dear all,

I have made a few changes to the list of sites in the right-hand column.

To make it easier for you to choose a useful site, I have divided the sites up into various categories. I have added more categories and the newest is the list of English File sites at the top of the column.

Please do all use these sites and, very importantly, send a comment!

Why? Comments help us form a community of learners. And your comments tell everyone else which sites are most useful - and which are not.

How would we ever have found out about "Phrases and Meanings" (Rossella, class 4B on Saturdays) or "WordReference.Com" (Alfredo, class 4B on Tues/Thurs) without their respective comments?

You've been very good so far but you could be better!. Please keep those comments coming!

Very soon, I'll be giving you more recommendations. Watch this space!


Friday, November 02, 2007

Can You Read This? (Fast!)

Many thanks to Rossella of Saturday course 4B for her 'Phrases and Meanings' site recommendation. I have added it to the links in the right-hand column.

Found on Facebook!
(but it is actually quite a well known old text)

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too

Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe out of 100 can.
i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

If you can raed tihs forwrad it

Could you read this?? Let us all know what you thought of it in a comment.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Latest comments

Dear All,

Thanks very much indeed for all your comments, beginning with an enthusiastic comment from Edoardo in class 3BWF19, and ending with Carlo's (4BTTH19) revelation that he studied the text on "Why Men Don't Iron" for four hours. That is real dedication and encouragement for us all.

Alfredo (4BTTH19) has given us a very useful link indeed: to, an online dictionary between English and Spanish, English and Italian, English and French, and definitions in English only.

And now something for class 3BWF19: (but you might all be interested)
Remember last lesson we looked at a TV series, "That'll Teach 'Em", about an experiment in which 30 modern 16-year-olds spent a month in a 1950s British boarding school? Well, here are two links to the series:

Channel 4 - "That'll Teach 'Em"

"That'll Teach 'Em" Fan Site

We might see a video on education in Britain next lesson.

My next job: to reorganise the lists of links in the right-hand column. I'll do this as soon as I can.

More soon!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Web Sites for You

On this Blog, look at the right-hand part of this window.

You'll see a list of links. They will take you to sites that you may find useful for your English.

Some of them are sites I have found; others have been found by colleagues.

Please try as many of these sites as you can, especially the listening sites.

And every time you have finished visiting a site, send a comment here. It's very helpful for your fellow students.

And if you find a useful site, we all want to know.

So just send your recommendation in a comment to the most recent posting on this Blog.

Meanwhile, in the next few weeks I'll try to organise the links so that you can easily find what you are looking for.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Special Commendation - Clothes

For Rossella (of the Saturday 4b course) for rapidly finding the details of the Cords and the Gilet on Johnnie Boden's online clothing site.

Do continue to visit this site and collect more clothing vocabulary.

Do you think you could order clothes from the Boden web site and look good in Italy?

More soon,


Friday, October 12, 2007

All About Clothes

This is for class 4BTTH19, but may be of interest to lots of other people.

You will remember that in our lesson we were on pages 55-56 in "English File Upper-Intermediate", collecting vocabulary associated with clothes.

Here's a useful site for you, which I also wrote on the whiteboard at the end of the lesson:

Boden UK Online Clothes Shop and Mail Order Clothing Catalogue

Here's what you can do:

In the left-hand column, click on "Women" or "Men".

Then click on any of the images under "Johnny's favourite" (Johnny Boden is the founder of the company.)

Collect as much vocabulary as you can: names of garments, materials, colours, patterns and styles.

Then leave a comment and tell everybody what you have discovered.

Two sample questions in the "Men" category:

(1) Find a gilet. What is is product number? What colour is it?
(2) Find a pair of needlecord jeans. What colour are they? How much do they cost?

Special commendation to the first student who tells us the right answers in a comment!

See you next week,

Kind regards,

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

To All New Students in October 2007.

Hello and welcome to the British Council.

Welcome also to the Rome English Blog. OK, it is not Beppe Grillo's Blog, but it is a place where you can find Web resources which can help you learn and practise your English.

We can begin with the site associated with our classroom book: "English File". Different levels are using different versions of English File. Here is a summary:

S1SAT10 - Level 1: English File Elementary

S2TTH18 and S2WF18 - Level 2: English File Pre-Intermediate

3BWF18 - Level 3: English File New Intermediate

4BTTH19 - Level 4: English File Upper-Intermediate

If you are in Levels One, Two and Three, can I suggest this:

Try the Grammar and Vocabulary exercises for the file that we are in now. For levels One and Two, this is File One. For level Three, this is File Four.

If you're in level 4, the 4B class, then you can download the File Four Grammar Reference document which is in Adobe PDF format. At the same time, download the Grammar Key document.

Four Level Four, I will try to find something more stimulating on the Net. Meanwhile, all Level Four students should visit the British Council Hub, read the articles and if possible join in the discussions. You need to be a member: ask me about this.

I would like everyone to leave a comment. This is most important. Comments help us become an online community. Your comments also give me valuable feedback. And if you have a query or a problem, you can get help from your classmates as well as from me.

It is very easy to leave a comment. Simply click where it says 0 comment(s) - or 1, 2, 3 or more comments. A new window opens. Write your text in the window. Type in the "Word Verification" letters you will see on your screen.

Then choose your identity. You do not need to be a member of Blogger to leave a comment, but if you are, then you're welcome to send a comment as a member of Blogger.

If you are not a member, then no problem: simply choose "Other"/"Altro" and enter your name and Web site if you have one. Or you can cghoose "Anonymous", but please... if you do so, do leave your name at the end of your message.

Then click "Publish". Your comment will appear almost immediately.

Good luck, and enjoy the Blog.

- Mike

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Harry Benson Photographs

Dear All,

Following Unit 2B in our book, about Harry Benson and his photographs, here is the link to
The Digital Journalist.

Visit the site and see what actions are described. What verbs are used? Have you learned any new vocabulary?

Please do send a Comment when you have finished visiting the site.

How do I send a comment?
Easy!! (1) - Click on "Comments". (2) Write your comment. (3) Choose "Other" or "Anonymous". (4) If you chose "Other" (or "Altro"), enter your name in the space provided. (5) If you chose "Anonymous", please do put your name in the text of your comments. (6) Copy the letters you see on the screen into the "Word Verification" window. This prevents spamming and robot computers from sending comments. (7) Click "Publish your comment".

More soon,


Friday, September 14, 2007

Welcome to September Class 2A


We have almost finished the first week of lessons. I am about to create a Home Page for our class on The MetroZine.

Meanwhile, take time to discover how the Internet can help you with your English.

Your number 1 site must be
The English File Pre-Intermediate site. This site will open in a new window when you click on the link.

From File 1 (the first unit) try some Grammar Exercises.
Then try some Vocabulary exercises.

See how much you can remember from the lessons!

When you have finished, please leave a comment. I will show you how to do this next lesson.

Enjoy your studies.

- Mike.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

A Message for Class 1 B in July 2007

Dear All,

I hope you are all enjoying our course. Today I am giving you a link to a very useful site:
New English File Elementary.

It containes a lot of useful material. First, download the Adobe-format 'Bookmark' containg illustrations of all the sounds in English. You have a choice of colour or black-and-white.

In the centre of the page there is a list of grammar and vocabulary exercises. Try a grammar exercise first. Where you see the boxes "Choose.." and "Choose..", these are menus that you can open to go straight to the grammar exercise of your choice.

Try 'File 2' and 'Lesson B Present simple [?] (1). Or go straight to it by clicking

When you have finished, try another exercise, perhaps on Vocabulary.

And finally, for some fun, try Pronunciation - Stress Monsters. This is an video game in the old arcade style.

When you have finished, take five minutes to leave a comment. This is very important. It helps me to know that you have visited the site and are practising Enlgish. And it helps other students, too. You can tell them which exercises are the best, and which to avoid.

What to say in the comment? Say how easy, difficult, interesting or boring the exercise was. Then say how it helped, or didn't help, your understanding of grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation.

How do I leave a comment? Just click on 'COMMENTS' at the end of this message. Then:

1. Write your comment in the text box that opens.
2. When finished, click on 'Other' or 'Altro' or 'Anonymous' or 'Anonimo'.
3. Give your name. For 'Anonymous'. leave your name in the text box after your comment.
4. Type the coloured letters, exactly as you see them, into the space provided. This is an anti-spam security measure.
5. Click 'Publish Your Comment' (you may see this command in Italian.)

Your comment will almost immediately show on the page. Remember, however, that you should not spend more than ten minutes maximum! A short comment is just fine.

Good luck!

- Mike

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Movie Review Sites

This is for all level 3 students who are writing a movie review for homework.

Here are some well-known sites to get you started:

1. The Internet Movie Database (IMD)

A comprehensive site taking in movies, movie history, actors, directors. There is a lot of material here. The site can be slow to load.

2. MRQE - Movie Review Query Engine

Find reviews in many major newpapers and magazines of any movie within reason. Use their search engine.

3. Classic Movie Site

About the world's all time greatest movies. Part of the all-encompassing '' site - tells you about everything!

4. The Guardian Movie Site

The film section of this important British newspaper. News about movie-making, the Cannes Festival and actors' careers, as well as reviews.

Use all of these to find movie reviews. Don't worry too much about difficult words. For new vocabulary and expressions, ask yourself: does the expression communicate a positive or negative idea?

Please do leave a comment.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

FCE Listening Practice: Tony Blair

Watch and listen to British Prime Minister Tony Blair talking on YouTube about his achievements while in office.

When you have finished, send in a comment summarising his achievements in between fifty and a hundred words.

Let's see how your comments differ from one another!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First Certificate: Advice for Students...

... is available on the British Council's Learn English Professionals site. Click here to see it.

Try the materials for
Listening Practice. Materials for other parts of the exam will be available in the near future.

Don't for get to add Learn English Professionals to your Favorites.

For Listening, I suggest you study the main listening
introduction page and try each part in chronological order.

The first one is "What are they talking about?" Try all eight exercises this week. Tell me how it went by leaving a comment! Please don't forget to do this. Not enough people are leaving comments. :-(

Check the
British Council Hub for a good movie review and commentaries on Portuguese life.

Have a good Liberation Day!

- Mike

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Level Three Homework Reminder

For anyone who has been absent in the last few days:

Homework is:

1. Write about shopping in Rome, based on the text on the last page of unit 4.

2. Do the 'Check your progress' on page 117.

3. Read about transport in London on the first two pages of unit 5.

Next lesson is:

Wed-Fri course: Tues 11 April
Sat course: Sat 14 April.

Enjoy Easter! See you soon,


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Funky Phrasal Verbs

Are you confused by phrasal verbs? No longer: courtesy of colleague Alison Driver, I can reveal a site that will help you. Here it is: Funky Phrasal Verbs on the BBC Website.

Just choose any of the topics in the left-hand column - childhood, schooldays, new home, clothes etc.

You will then see a presentation of the phrasal verbs commonly used in that context. You can listen to and read a conversation in which these verbs are used.

Finally, you can do a quiz to test your newly-acquired knowledge.

As always, do leave a comment.

Angelo and Alessandro, thank you very much indeed for your comments.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Practise Speaking Online!

To All Classes, from Level 2 to Level 5.

We have often discussed the problems connected with Speaking Practice. How to do it? Where to do it? Who to do it with?

Solutions that I have suggested include:

1. Recording yourself with a tape recorder, listening to yourself, and maybe asking someone to correct you. But do you know anyone who can correct you?
2. Going down to Campo dei' Fiori and starting a conversation ("chatting up") any of the English-speaking people who frequent the bars there. But many people are too embarrassed to start a conversation.

Now here is solution number 3: Chinswing. (Look up the words 'chin' and 'swing' in your dictionaries.)

This is a Web site where you can record your voice. I advise you to listen to a few recordings first. Then register on the site and make your own recording. Hopefully, someone will contact you and correct you.

There is no problem about registering: you are asked to create a user name (choose one that is easily pronounceable!), a password, give them your e-mail address and tell them which country you are from.

Oh and you are also asked to privide an 'icon', that is, a small picture that represents you. This can be a photo of you, or a graphic or cartoon. It must be under 2Mb in size - see instructions on the site. It will be resized to 48 by 48 pixels.

Good Luck! and do not forget to leave a comment describing your experiences with this site!

About the
British Council Hub - the latest posting is about an earthquake in southern Portugal last weekend - 'Earth moves... ' Go and visit!
- Mike

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Sleep Questionnaire!

Primarily for Level Three, this questionnaire complements a unit about Sleep in our book.

But anyone can have a try. Answer the questions, and the Shut-Eye site will tell you if you have a problem.

And you'll learn more English at the same time.

As always, please do tell us what you thought of the questionnaire by leaving a comment.

See you again soon!


Friday, February 02, 2007

Music in Mali; Michel Montignac and more

First of all, my apologies for not updating this Blog since 13 December last year. My excuse must be that I have been otherwise occupied, notably in updaing some software that my colleagues use.

Happy New Year 2007, even if a bit late, to all readers of this Blog.

And now for a few links:

Everyone: visit the BBC website and see the Desert Music Festival, held in the Malian Sahara at Essakane, sixty kilometres north of Timbuktu (Tombouctou).

Level Three: we have recently been studying food, and in particular, recommendations by food expert Michel Montignac. have a look at his Website.

Levels 4 and 5: you need more listening practice. Here is an excellent place: the BBC's Learning English Words In The News.

Look at the latest news about Greek olives and a possible cure for cancer (as of today, 2 Feb 2007), or find an interesting story in the Archives. You will findit very useful to listen and simultaneously read the text, or try listening without the next. Note down as many words as you can, and then read the text to see if your words are there. Use the glossary to learn new words and expressions.

Whatever site you visit, please do leave a comment.

More very soon!