Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Two Ideas for Listening

Still with the BBC:

1. The latest "Words In The News" is about new animal species being discovered in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Until the 1990s scientists were unable to explore the area because it was a war zone. Now they have found some remarkable creatures.

2. "Six Minute English": in this episode hear about the case of the 20-year-old man in Italy who has taken his parents to court so that he can live with them while he studies. And it seems he is by no means unusual. Listen on...

And note that you can download this as a Podcast, enabling you to listen repeatedly. The BBC page will give you full instructions on how to do this if you are not yet familiar with Podcasting.

And just one other thing.....

............ visit the BBC's special area dedicated to cyberspace: Click. Here you'll be able to watch the programme of the same name, as well as read advice on how to keep yourself, and your computer data, safe when you're online.

More to come - keep watching this space!

Kind regards from,
- Mike

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Puppy Smuggling - The Answers

OK folks: here are the answers you have been waiting for!

1. The trade is worth € 300 million annually - that's $US 360 million.
2. About seventy thousand over the last five years. So that's about fourteen thousand a year.
3. Twenty-five per cent of puppies die during the journey, and fifty per cent within a few months of arrival.
4. They die because (a) they are taken from their mothers too early and (b) because they travel without having been vaccinated.
5. Those breeds: Shitzus, West Highland Terriers, Pugs and Beagles.
6. Those countries: Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and the Czech Republic.

Some listeners didn't understand "Pugs": these are small dogs with flattened, bulldog or boxer faces, like pedigree Persian cats. You saw one at the very end of the video.

Watch the video again.

Honourable mentions to:-

Cristian, Roberto, Gianni Palma and Agostino

for getting the answers totally or partially right.

Thank you all very much for your participation. It is heartening to see such an enthusiastic response.

Coming soon: another listening idea for you. Watch this space.

- Mike

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Gomorra: the latest

Go straight to the BBC's 'Newsnight' programme on TV for the latest analysis of 'Gomorra'. There are scenes of Naples, Casal di Principe and Scampia, as well as interviews with Roberto Saviano and official crime fighters. Some of these speak excellent English. The programme lasts about fourteen minutes.

You can also see a panel of experts reviewing the movie, which has been put forward as an Oscar candidate. The speech is fast and occasionally confusing, so you may need to see it a couple of times. It's just under eight minutes long.

And keep coming back for more newsnight programmes.

Please don't forget to leave a comment after seeing either, or both, of these TV clips.
- Mike

Venice Floods

Dear All,

Here's a piece in the BBC's Learning English site, all about the recent floods in Venice. Read the text and listen at the same time. And check out the glossary, which will teach you new words and expressions.

I'm very happy that quite a lot of you are now leaving messages on the Tag Board. And Sara, from level 4, has even left a message at the bottom of the recent message about the terrorists in Mumbai. She says, "Interesting topic, I spent almost a hour in reading and watching reports."

Since 25 November comments have been left by:

Luigi, Iacopo, Ambra, Cecilia and Sara.

Well done! But where is everyone else??

More later this week.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Terrorist attack in India

Here's a quick link to some listening opportunities on the BBC:


Here, you can read reports on the terrorist attacks that have been taking place in Mumbai.

Scroll down to 0857 to listen to the British lawyer Mark Abell describing how he was rescued from his hotel room. He started exchanging messages on his Blackberry with someone from the British Council, and a few minutes later Indian security forces came to collect him. Mr Abell's account lasts about four-and-a-half minutes and is very clear.

Towards the top of the page, click on the picture of the BBC correspondent Nik Gowing for more information.

As always, please leave a comment when you have finished.
More soon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BBC World Service Report on the Camorra

Last week, some of you took part in a listening exercise on Roberto Saviano and the Camorra. People experienced varying degrees of difficulty, but most of you said you would like to try similar exercises as a regular class activity.

It's time consuming to prepare such activities, but I hope we will be able to do one at least every two weeks. Meanwhile, you can continue practising listening to the World Service by yourselves. Here's how:

1. Go to the BBC World Service Radio Podcasts web site.
2. Check through the lists of podcast categories. Choose, for example, 'Global News'.
3. Each podcast has a summary of the contents, so you can easily see what it contains. Choose one that interests you.
4. Download it to your computer or i-Pod so that you can listen to it as often as you like. You'll see instructions for doing this on the Web page.

Happy Listening! And we'll do another exercise next week. I hope it won't be one you have already listened to. :-)

And don't neglect the BBC Learning English site.

More soon - and please don't forget to leave your comment.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Listening Practice: another British Council site

Dear All,

Here's yet another opportunity for you to practise Listening. It's on the British Council's Learn English site, and it is called Elementary Podcasts. If you click the link, "Elementary Podcasts" will open in a new window, so that you can easily refer back to this page.

Expert teachers say that though the podcasts are labelled 'Elementary', they are really at Intermediate level. I agree.

Try this: click on the current podcast, Podcast 07. A new page opens with links to exercises. On the page you'll see various options:

1: Listen to LearnEnglish Elementary podcast 07
There is a link to the bottom of the page where you can choose to listen to the podcast straight away, or you can save the MP3 file to your computer or other device, such as an I-Pod. That way, you can listen to the piece repeatedly.

2: Practise your English with Elementary podcast 07
This section gives you info on how to download a worksheet with questions for you to answer. This is very useful because it helps you to focus your attention on various sections of the podcast.

To get to the exercises, you can either download an entire support pack in Adobe PDF format, or you can open an online exercise by going to: 1. LISTEN TO THE ENTIRE PODCAST, and then look at 'Section 0 - While you listen', then click on the word 'online', which opens the 'Part 1 - While you listen' page.

Now go down to the section labelled: Practice materials: Listen to the whole podcast and try to answer the questions while you listen.

By clicking here, you'll open a multiple choice exercise that you can answer.

If you have any problems or questions, just contact me and I will do my best to help you. By the way, this podcast is quite long at 30 minutes, but since it is divided into topics, you can just concentrate on one part.

And when you have finished, make sure you....

leave a comment!!

Latest comments since 13 November have reached this Blog from:

Iacopo, Maria-Paola, Ferdinando, Silvia, Agostino, Alessia and Alessandro.

Well done! and keep your comments coming.

More soon,
Best wishes from

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Listening Site of the Week....

.... is the BBC Learning English "Words In The News", where you can both listen to and read a piece on Google Earth's Flu Tracking Facility. It's said that Google is now well in advance of medical science in predictions of how and where this major disease is spreading.

Other things....

House And Home

In Level 3B we have been learning how to describe homes, whether they are apartments or country houses. Discover more about people's homes in the Financial Times's 'House And Home' section. Read about Jeanne Augier, who entertained Chagall, Dali and L├ęger, among others, in her apartment in the Negresco Hotel in Nice. Or learn more about Lake Como. Can you name any famous people who live there? And why did Brian Harris move to New Zealand? This will interest all of you, whether or not you are in Level 3B.

Vocabulary Question: unable to and can't

What's the difference between these two expressions and how do you use them? The BBC Learning English site's 'Ask About English' section tells you the answer. I would very much like to read your comments on this Blog after you have read this piece.

Which brings me to....

Your Comments!

Honourable mentions go to these visitors who have left comments on the Tag Board since 4 November:

Alessandro, Gianni, Luisella, Matteo, Giovanni, Roberto, Daniele, Marilena, Ilaria, Pierpaolo, Ferdinando, Cecilia, Fabrizio, Rosaria and Andrea.

And finally here is a comment from Andrea of Level 3:

"May I give you a piece of advice? You might add to your blog some National Geographic channel podcasts about the "I didn't know that" program: these are short videos that shows funny and interesting experiments about every day objects and all the things we take for granted.Thanks for your work..."

Thanks very much for your idea, Andrea. I will explore the National Geographic and see if their podcasts are suitable for us.

More next week!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Blog Reorganisation

Dear All,

Remember the List of Useful Sites that I distributed to some of you, some lessons ago? I have now put the best of these sites here on the Blog. So no more typing those long complex URLs.

As you scroll down, observe the list of sites in the right-hand column. I have added a new section for Dictionaries. In the Exams section, I have grouped IELTS and Cambridge together.

The Listening section has a couple of video sites added to it; there is an especially nice one from America, entitled "Nature". It has some spectacular footage and commentary about animals, including wolves and crocodiles.

To the 'Practising and Learning English' section, I have added a few sites offering games, quizzes and webquests. These are invaluable for motivating you to concentrate on English and learn new vocabulary.

Keep returning to the Listening sites, especially to the BBC, where there is always something new several times a week. This post US-Presidential Election period is an especially good time for you to perfect your English skills and get to know every aspect of this historical event.

Finally, whenever you visit a site, please do leave a comment. This is very important, and I am very pleased to see how many of you have done just that!

Not only can you leave comments. You can also make suggestions on what other sites you would like to see on this Blog. Do also make suggestions about the Blog itself - layout, content, whatever.

More very soon!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Comments Flooding In!

This is maaaarvellous! Loads of people are leaving comments. Just to name a few recent names, they include:

Alessandra, Alessandro, Agostino, Anna, Nicola, Toni, Ambra, Giovanni, Benedetta, Filippo, Francesca Pagano, Iacopo and Andrea.

But that leaves a lot of people who haven't commented! Come in, all those of you out there!

Your comments suggest that the most popular sites are those that help you with your listening. So I have added a number of Podcast sites for you.

I will be adding more sites from the British Council List of Useful Web Sites for Students, which I distributed to some of you last week.

And don't forget to visit the BBC Learning English Web site at least three times a week. There are regular new listening exercises, none of which is very time consuming. Six Minute English is especially good, as is Words In The News.

More very soon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Comments, More Comments, and Listening

Hello all!

I have been very pleased to see all the comments that have been left on the Tag Board by so many people.

Commentators now include: Luisella, Cristian, Cecilia, Francesca Pagano, Ambra, Filippo, Benedetta, Matteo and Andrea.

And I'd like to welcome back former students Veronica, Maria Paola and Alessia! Many thanks for continuing to visit the Blog and using it to practise your English.

More about Comments: the Tag Board only accepts short messages. To leave a longer message, use the Comments facility at the bottom of each message, or posting. Here's how to do it:

1. At the bottom of the message, click on the Comments link.

2. Write your message in the window below where it says "Leave Your Comment:".

3. Choose an identity. You don't have to be a member of Google, so the first option isn't obligatory.

- I recommend using the "Name/URL" option. This way, your name automatically appears. The URL is optional. Leaving your e-mail address may result in extra Spam. If in doubt, don't leave it.

- If you choose Anonymous, please, please leave your name at the end of your message.

4. Do the Word verification: type in the letters and numbers you see. We use Word Verification to prevent Spammers from leaving comments automatically.

5. Click "Publish Your Comment" - but first check for spelling and grammar mistakes. However, I am here to help you: from time to time I can correct mistakes you make in your comments.

And bingo! your comment will appear in a few seconds.

I've just got time to recommend two Listening exercises, both from the BBC Learning English site:

1. "Words In The News" -
Italy olive oil police;
2. "Six Minute English" -
The wisdom of keeping quiet

Try these out and - leave your comment!

More next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Your Comments Received - Thank You

Hello everybody.

Many thanks to Stefano for his comments which have just come in (at 15.30 on Tuesday afternoon.) Stefano is right when he says that listening is much easier when accompanied by video. So when practising listening, start with video before you try sound-only.

Many thanks are also due to Alessandra, Rosaria and Livia for leaving comments on the Tag Board; and to Sara and Serena for leaving their comments at the bottom of the previous message.

Sara, I'd like to pass your comments on the
British Council China site to Andy Newton, who is in charge of this web site. The site is well worth further exploration.

Serena has obviously benefitted from the BBC web site. Again, this is a large site which is packed with resources for students.

Alessandra has been listening to the Russell Brand Radio Show. You may know that this show ran into some controversy recently, when Russell Brand allegedly left a series of "unacceptable and offensive" messages on the answering machine of actor Andrew Sachs, who starred in the comedy series "Fawlty Towers", about an eccentrically-run hotel somewhere in England. Click
here for further details of this controversy. You can also listen to a commentary about it on the BBC radio 4 'Today' programme.

Now I am going to add some websites to this Blog, taken from the leaflet I gave to some of you last week, "Useful Websites for Students". Check out the lists in the right-hand column.

I have just added four sites to the Listening section.

I'm very glad that people are now beginning to leave comments. It is essential to do this so that we can create an online community of learners and share our Cyberspace experiences. Please do continue!

More soon,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

All Students, Old & New

How to use this Blog.

Whether you're a brand-new student or a returning 'old' student, this Blog is for you. Here are just a few simple ways it can help you with your English:

1. Messages like this one.
Every so often - once a week if I can do it - I write a new message like this one, to draw your attention to a new or updated Web site that may help you with your English.

2. The right-hand column. The column on the right-hand side of this window contains a list of useful web sites, organised into categories. Here are some categories:

- Listening. Many students complain that they don't get enough listening practice. So the Listening section is where you want to be. There is something for each level of English.

- Connect With Other People. Many teachers in other British Council centres have created Web sites for their classes. They are in the form of Wikis, Blogs, Podcasts, Forums (fora?) and others.

Use these sites to communicate with other students or teachers, and make friends in another country. Writing to others and receiving messages from them will motivate you and help you make progress in English.

Here is one you can try: The Link, hosted by Mark Appleby, a British Council teacher in Oporto, Portugal.

Would you like to have a web site for yourselves? Put your ideas on the Tag Board - the message board on the right.

- See How English Is Really Used. Don't know the difference between "further" and "farther"? Do you say "different from" or "different to"? "Think of" or "Think about"? Want to find all the phrasal verbs with "look"? What structure do you use after the verb "suggest"? Then this section is for you. Use "concordance" sites such as The British National Corpus or The Virtual Language Centre - which is easier if you are just beginning. These sites can help you to conduct personal research into English.

- Web Sites for New English File. This section contains direct links to sites connected with whichever English File you are using. I suggest trying the Grammar and Pronunciation Practice sections.

- Practising and Learning English. Here is a long list of sites that can help you with grammar, vocabulary, listening or reading. Some are British-Council sponsored, others are not; but they will all give you opportunities for practice.

- If You're Preparing For An Exam: this section links you directly to sites that will help you with Exam Practice, such as the excellent Flo-Joe for Cambridge First Certificate, Advanced or Proficiency. With the increasing importance of the IELTS system, there is a link to their site, too.

When using the Blog, on clicking a site in a message like this one, the site will always open in a new window because I put in a code to make this happen automatically. That way, the Blog always remains open for you. In the right-hand column, however, I haven't been able to find a way of doing this. But no worries: hold the SHIFT key, the one with the upward arrow that you use to get CAPITALS, while you click on the link. Then the site will open in a new window.

And just one other thing...
To make this site interactive between you and other people, I have installed a Tag Board at the top of the right-hand column. It's very easy indeed for you to leave a short message there. Use the Tag Board to recommend sites or comment on how much you liked, or didn't like, a web site.

How? Write your name, where it says 'Name', then write your message where it says 'message', and finally click Go. You don't need to leave your e-mail address - and indeed, you should not do so if you think you are at risk from Spam or undesirable correspondence.

Another method is to write a comment at the bottom of a message like this one. You do not need a special log-in or password in order to do this. Here is a previous message which gives you help on how to leave a comment.

Your comments are very important because:
(a) they give this Blog a sense of community, of common ideas and purpose, and ...
(b) students have often written in with recommendations for new sites. This is very important indeed, as the Internet is constantly changing.

So is this Blog. See you all soon.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Watch and Listen

Here's a piece about American history, by a British expert, Simon Schama. He has been touring the United States to make a documentary of the country in the run-up to the Presidential Elections.

Visit the BBC web site,
read the article and watch Professor Schama talk about how Americans think and feel.

Please do leave a comment. Say if you found the interview easy or difficult to understand. Tell us, too, if you learned any new expressions in English.

More soon!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Advanced Listening

Here is something for advanced students - but also recent students who have been practising listening to authentic English on Internet.

It is connected with the resignation of London's police chief, Sir Ian Blair. (No relation to Tony Blair, the former Prime Minister.)

You may remember that he was criticised after a Brazilian immigrant worker, Jean-Charles de Menezes, was mistaken for a terrorist and shot dead on the London Underground.

Read the
article on the BBC Web site, and then listen to the extract from the radio programme 'Today'. You may need to listen twice or even times. It's 12 minutes long, but the speakers are quite clear.

When you have finished, see if you can write a comment summarising the arguments for and against Sir Ian's resignation.

I look forward to reading your comments.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008



Every lesson I try to encourage people to listen more, especially online where there is now such a wide variety of material.

Teachers of English often record their students, using both audio and video. Their students' voices and images can then be seen online. Sites such as 'Podomatic' are often used for this.

Here's an example. A teacher has recorded students
talking about what they are wearing. And if you scroll down a bit further, listen and watch Andrew, a teacher, describing what he is wearing.

Was this easy or difficult? Write your opinion on the Tag Board or leave a comment.

And if you want to listen and read the transcript at the same time, here is this week's instalment of
"Words In The News" on the BBC's "Learning English" site.

Please do record your comments on this Blog!

More tomorrow,

Friday, September 19, 2008

Applying for a Job

This has been one of our themes this week, and our current homework is to write a CV and covering job application letter.

And by coincidence, you can get help on this very task through the
British Council's Learn English Professionals site.

On entering the site, just click on the 'Work Skills' tab on the Main Menu bar which runs along the top of the page, just below the banner.

A drop down menu appears; choose J@M: English in the Workplace. Read about 'J@M, London's best known web design company'. Then click on 'Watch J@M now'.

From the menu, choose 'Episode 2: Applying for a Job'. This is an animated cartoon. One of the pictures shows you a sample job application letter. It will help you to do your homework!

And when you have finished, take time to explore other things in Learn English Professionals. Try, for instance, 'Downloads', then go to Podcasts. These are listening files that you can save to your computer - or even your 'telefonino' (mobile phone). Then you can listen to them as many times as you like.

After reading this and trying Learn English, please do write a short comment either on the Tag Board or in the comments section just below this article.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

British Council Web Sites for You

Hello. Here are more sites to help you practise and learn English from the comfort of your office, bedroom or sofa.

English Online: this British Council site comes to you from China. Hover your mouse cursor over the words in the menu at the bottom of the black banner that runs across the top of the page. There's plenty of material for you here. Try clicking "Learners", then "Listening" or "Vocab and Grammar". Under "Community", check out the Blogs.

And you'll learn about China at the same time. Write one interesting new fact you learned on our message tag Board. Or write a Comment at the bottom of this message.

Learn English Professionals: this is from the British Council London. Aimed at business people, lawyers, doctors, bankers, accountants and similar, there is a wide variety of exercises for you. Look at the middle of the front page and try Listening Practice.

You used to need a password to enter the site; now, access is completely open.

Go4English: there is a spicy Middle Eastern flavour to this British Council site which is designed for Arabic speakers. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can switch the language of the site to Arabic or Farsi (Persian). However I suggest that you stick to English for the moment. Listen to Ruba Saqer, a Jordanian musician, describing her experiences of learning English. Remember, it is very important to get used to a wide variety of accents and styles of speaking.

The "Ask and Answer" section contains valuable hints and tips about English Grammar. This week, learn more about modal verbs such as "used", "must" and "had to".

You'll learn something about Middle Eastern culture too. Write one or two new facts you learned on our Tag Board or in the Comments section.

That's all for today. See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Welcome to September 2008 3B 10 Course

Hello everyone.

We have already seen this Blog in class. But I thought I would just remind you of the ways in which you can use Internet outside the classroom.

1. Listening. Look no further than the BBC's "Learning English" site. Visit the "News English" section first. Here, you can listen to recent news broadcasts and read the text, or transcript, at the same time.

Now, just below "News English", try the Crossword to test your vocabulary.

2. How words are used: revisit the Virtual Language Centre (as we did in Friday's lesson) to see how words are used. Type in "get", "gets" and "got" and find as many examples as you can of the different meanings of this apparently simple word.

That's almost all for now. Two more things: (1) - please do leave a "comment" on the tag board. The purpose of this is to show everyone that you have visited this Blog, and to share with us your opinions of the web sites you have seen.

And (2) - remember that to get the best from your English course, you should spend as much time outside the classroom in personal study as you spend with me inside the classroom.

Finally, scroll down the right-hand column of this blog and try out some of the Grammar links.

Have a good weekend and -


Monday, June 30, 2008

More Listening Practice

Here's another place you should visit, this time from the British Council's Learn English site.

You'll find a collection of Podcasts, from Elementary through Themes, Stories and Poems, Professionals and Science. At the end of the list there's a link to thousands of podcasts worlwide. However I could not access it today; I'll try again soon.

Please do try as many of these podcasts as possible. Start with Elementary, then work your way through the other categories.

Remember, you can either listen to the Podcast on your computer, or save it to any device that plays MP3 files so that you can listen wherever you are - train, boat, car, possibly even plane.

Please tell us what you think of these podcasts by using the Tag Board or the Comments area.

- MIke

Friday, June 27, 2008

"On the top of" + further searches

On top of:

I found one occurrence of "on the top of" in the Corpus Concordancer. I searched the BNC Written (1,007,000 words) and it produced this:

"The night-light glowed softly ON THE TOP OF the chest of drawers."

This refers to a very specific place: a particular location on the top of a piece of furniture. Much more often, we have "on top of" as an adverbial or prepositional phrase. See these examples:

"This at a time when our much valued and valuable oil revenues are at their height and on top of this our currency continually drops in value abroad."

"The VAT on fuel (...) came on top of the expected rise in road tax duty, tobacco and alcohol duty (...)"

Try some more searches:

"see"/"watch"/"look at"
"hear"/"listen to"

Tell us what you have found in a comment, of, for a brief message, use the Tag Board.
- Mike

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Word Search Exercises; English Online; Friday Blog

A. Word search:

Do a concordancer search for:

1. "Just" - how many meanings can you find?
2. "On top of" or "on the top of"? Do they mean exactly the same thing?

B. English Online:

Here is a British Council site from China, where the British Council has a large teaching operation to satisfy rising demand in China. As a result, this site is rich in listening, reading and grammar exercises.
Click here to continue.

Try the "Big City Small World Audio Soap". How much can you understand?
Look at "Word of the day" for new vocabulary. What is today's word, and what does it mean?

C. The Friday Blog was inaccessible today so I have not been able to solve the problems that some of you have had. I am on the case, however.

More soon!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

More Tips for Level Two

Tips? That means 'little pieces of advice'. You could also say 'little pearls of advice' - consigli preziosi!

I've indicated Listening and the New English File Pre-Intermediate site. Now see something else.

It's called Concordancing. A concordance is a list of all the occurrences of a chosen word in a text. You choose the word. The computer then searches a very large body of text, called a 'corpus', for your chosen word. Then it displays the word down the centre of the computer screen, with the context sentence showing on either side.

Here's an example, based on a search for "don't have to", followed by "didn't have to":

001. people of your own kind", a girl remarked. "You DON'T HAVE TO watch what you say. Of course, I w
002. hink Penny's an awful nice girl, Russ"- "You DON'T HAVE TO tell me", flashed Cobb. Giving the
003. me today. A fellow came up to me, a Senator, I DON'T HAVE TO tell you his name, and he told me,
004. start them successfully in cold frames. Pansies DON'T HAVE TO be coddled; they'd rather have thi
005. dox Jews: "It's the twentieth century, and they DON'T HAVE TO wear beards". The reason offere
006. ut Evadna Mae Evans". "Well now, Maggie, you DON'T HAVE TO snap at me", Eugenia said. "I'm ju
001. ll your guys not to block the plate". "You DIDN'T HAVE TO ram him". "That's what you say
002. ing baby to a candidate for Hanford College. He DIDN'T HAVE TO be told his son looked like him.
003. e in the morning. It was an awkward hour, but I DIDN'T HAVE TO punch any time clock, and it only
004. ted his request. He took her hand. "I wish I DIDN'T HAVE TO go back to school", she said, and
005. h into it as he could. He left a few things. It DIDN'T HAVE TO be perfect. Roberts was a wastrel
006. mad as she was at his going away when he really DIDN'T HAVE TO, mad at their both having got old

Here's another example based on a search of the preposition "into", sorted left so that you can see what verbs are associated with this preposition:

011. out the land. They say it helps them bring back INTO schools the spiritual and moral values on w
012. , and John Nichols, sophomore guard, moved back INTO action after a week's idleness with an ankl
049. light"! And there is light! In fact, He came INTO this world Himself, in the person of His So
050. ading marks my 15th anniversary. When I came INTO being, 15 years ago, I had one primary purp
051. ead. I was full of hope as Fidel Castro came INTO Havana. Within a week, however, I began to
087. e in administration. They had divided the Congo INTO six provinces- Leopoldville, Kasai, Kivu, K
088. stortion of President Eisenhower's conversation INTO a denunciation of President Kennedy as too
089. extremely competent men who have been converted INTO very incompetent managers or submerged in p
090. uditorium and at least one hotel were converted INTO makeshift jails. More than 1,000 were said

You can click on the key expressions in order to expand the context.

Why use a concordancer? So that you can easily discover how words are used in authentic English. Do not worry whether you can undrestand the words you don't know. Look instead at the keyword and how it is used.

Here are a few ideas for searches:

1. Verbs ending in "ing". Observe what verb comes before the "ing" verb or, in this case, the "gerund".

nhower Republicanism, but the heart stopped beatING and the lifeblood congealed after Eisenhower
oes not drive during that time. He was caught drivING the day after the sentence was pronounced an

What other kinds of words precede "-ing"?

2. "may" and "might" - can you find any differences?

3. Examples and meanings of "get".

Here is the Corpus Concordance English (v.5) - click on the link.

Give us your impressions by using the Tag Board or posting a Comment. This is very important.
More soon - Mike

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Welcome to class 2B

A warm welcome to you all and I hope you will find this Blog useful.

Here are two top sites for you, before I go any further:

New English File Pre-Intermediate Online.

This is where you can practise grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. Listen to those sounds!

News English from the BBC's Learning English site.

An absolute must for listening practice. Choose from 'Words In The News - latest' or 'Words In The News - archive', or 'News About Britain'. There are also Pronunciation Tips under the heading 'New In Learning English'.

Whenever you visit a site, tell us about it. You can do this by clicking on the three small windows below the Tag Board. Click on 'Name' and write your name, then on 'Message' to write your message. You can ignore the 'Mail/URL' window.

Your message will appear immediately at the top of the Tag Board. Of course, you can also leave a message in the Comments section at the end of this post.

It's very important to leave a message on the Tag Board to let everyone else know what you are doing and your opinion of the sites I have recommended.

More soon, and see you tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Listenings and Blogs

Here is the latest listening from the BBC Learning English web site:

The Truck Drivers' Strike

And here you can listen to an older piece about Boris Johnson becoming Mayor of London. Note that with this piece, you can download the MP3 file and save it to your i-Pod. That way, you can listen as many times as you like, wherever you like.

Just right-click on the download icon and choose "Save Target As.." to save the MP3 file to wherever you like on your computer.

Finally, for the moment, there's Six Minute English. Today's discussion is on 'dieting'. Is dieting helpful if you want to lose weight? And what is a 'low-carb diet'?

As always, let us all know how you enjoyed these listenings by posting a comment in the comments section or on the Tag Board.

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

School's Out..... !

... but the Blog is still here. Although our courses are now over, that hopefully doesn't mean the end of all contact between us.

So from time to time I will add further messages with recommendations on how to make the most of the Web so that you can continue to practise your English. That way, when you next come to us, whether next week, next month or in September or October, you will have kept up your contact with the language.

First on the list will be recommended Listening sites. Many people have said they would like more listening. So I will be giving you new materials to try. Please also, however, use the existing links down the right-hand column of this Blog.

It's very important for you to give your own contribution. If you discover a useful Web site, whether practising Listening or another skill, do please tell us about it. Either leave a comment, or write on our Tag Board.

More very soon!

Friday, May 30, 2008

“As” or “like”?

A fortnight ago a student asked me, “When do you say ‘as’ and when do you say ‘like’?”

As often in English, it is not easy for the teacher to answer the question. Very often, it is easiest to give examples.


“He is not as tall as his father.”
“The Peugeot is nearly as fast as the Mercedes.”
“She is now just as tall as her mother.”

We use “as” when making equal, or modified equal, comparisons.

Describing resemblances:

“She looks like her father.” Like is used here as a preposition. We don’t say, “She looks as her father.”

Describing jobs or roles (as in the theatre):
We often use “as”:

Arthur Fellig worked as a news photographer for many years. (Not like a press photographer.)
Mr Smith acted as United Nations representative to Malawi until last year.

Introducing examples – for instance, examples of behaviour:

Use as with a verb phrase:

“Don’t eat all the chocolates, as you did last week!”

However, many people now use like in colloquial English, although it is considered wrong in literary English.

Example: "“Don’t eat all the chocolates, like you did last week!”

Use like with a noun phrase, not as.

"She enjoys jazz music, especially performers like John Coltrane or Fats Waller."

Asking about quality:

What's the weather like in Rome at this time of year?

The answer is "Sunny and cool", not "The weather is like sunny and cool." (but see colloquial uses of "like", where people often say, "The weather is, like, sunny." Here "like" is used as a pause in speech, perhaps to give the speaker time to think.)

Quick Test with “as”: identify “as” in these examples: (1) in the role of; (2) comparisons (3) introducing an example:

a) He has served as a border patrolman…
b) "La Dolce Vita" seems as harmless
as a Gray Line tour of North Beach at night.
c) He collected big fees
as a "labor consultant"..
d) Criticism is
as old as literary art.

Quick test with “like”: (1) resemblance; (2) example:

a) A young woman who looked
like Alix, with her two children.
b) Bertha Szold was more
like Meg, the eldest March girl.
c) Thus ideas like "grace", "salvation", and "providence" cluster together in traditional Christianity.
d) Built upon seven hills, Istanbul, like Rome, is one of the most ancient cities in the world.

(Examples taken from the “Lextutor” concordancer.)

Useful web sites:
Cambridge Dictionary
Merriam-Webster dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/
Web Concordancer: http://www.lextutor.ca/concordancers/concord_e.html

These sites are also listed in the right-hand column of this Blog.

I hope this has helped. Please leave your comments on the Tag Board.

Friday, May 23, 2008

NEW! A Calendar for Tests and Last Lessons

Dear All,

First time ever on this Blog: a calendar to show you when the tests and last lessons are for our classes.

You can view this calendar in various ways: just click on the tabs at the top. The easiest view is "Agenda", in which you can see the complete programme at a glance.

Let me know if anything is unclear!

Kind regards,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Listening and Video


First of all, many thanks to Silvia and Alessia for their kind observations on the Tag Board. This is the way to create an online community of learners among us. Whether you are a current student, an ex-student or a casual visitor, you're most welcome to this Blog.

Did you manage to watch Miss Marple on RAI Edu this week? (See the previous posting.) I watched it on Wednesady evening from 22.30 to 23.20. Just fifty minutes of your time, and an excellent opportunity to practise your video comprehension skills. Check the schedules to see what is on this week. If you missed it you can see it tonight and on Sunday at 22.30.

Now for the latest opportunities to practise listening to the radio. Check out "Learning English" on the BBC World Service, and this week's "Words In The News": the first UK aid plane lands in Burma.

Next, try "6 Minute English". Are you as intelligent as you think? Studies show that men are more likely to overestimate their own intelligence than women. And what does the Latin verb "intelligere" mean? There's also a fine portrait of the British actor Ricky Gervais of "The Office" series.

Listen and watch, and as always, post your reactions to the Tag Board.

More soon!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your TV

There is no shortage of opportunity to listen to and watch people speaking on Web sites such as the BBC. But how about something a little nearer home?

Nearer home is that excellent Italian TV channel, RAI Edu. Check out the famous Agatha Christie thriller series, 'Miss Marple'.

Set in 1950s Britain, this is a charming series with plenty of surprises as unlikely detective Jane Marple tracks down and identifies all manner of ruthless criminals, mostly murderers.

The series is in English with subtitles in English. This week you can see "A Caribbean Mystery". It goes out on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 14.30, 22.30 and 06.30 (!)

You can find further information and schedules. And here is an overview of the RAI Edu site.

Please do leave your comments on the Tag Board.

Happy viewing!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Elementary Grammar; Intermediate Listening Practice

For Level One:

We are approaching the end of the course! :-(
So, if you have not already been there, I advise you to visit the website for New English File Elementary.

Here, you will be able to practise grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, Practical English error correction, and much more.

When you do an exercise, please do not forget to leave a message on the Tagboard at the top of the right-hand column of this Blog.

For Levels Four and Five

This week on the BBC Learning English site there is a piece on the use of Lie Detectors. Listen to the radio programme and read the words.

Also on this site: Arm Idioms. It follows last week's Foot Idioms.

After doing any of these exercises, share your reactions with everybody by leaving a comment on the Tag Board.

More soon!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More on researching into English

For Level Four - but also for anyone interested.

Want to see what expressions are associated with the word "time"? (See in our book, page 28, #3 Build Your Vocabulary, Expressions with time.)
1. Fire up the British National Corpus.

2. Tell it to search for the word "time" in any form - "time", "times", "timing" etc.

3. Tell it to display any associated nouns up to two words either side of the keyword "time". See illustration below.

WORDS: [time] in square brackets tells the computer to search for any form of the word "time".

CONTEXT: [n*] tells the site to search for nouns two words to the left and two words to the right of "time".

Now we click "SEARCH" to get the results:

There is no room to display the full width of the results window. But you get the idea. Click on any of the words displayed to see how they relate to "time".
Or, check one or more of the words and then click on CONTEXT. Then you can compare them together.
Now try searching again, but this time, in the CONTEXT window, type [aj*] to find adjectives associated with time.
But remember. This kind of exercise is no substitute for regular reading!
Please, after trying out the experiments above, do leave your comments on the Tag Board.
See you next lesson!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Researching into How English Is Used

Dear advanced level students.... A reminder from last lesson with level 5, and for anyone else interested.

Want to know what prepositions can follow "interested"? Fascinated by the adjectives that can describe rain? Is "different" followed by "to" or "from" - or are there other possibilities? Have you any more questions?

Look no further than
The British National Corpus, accessed through the Brigham Young University's interface. Although it isn't always easy to use, it is an invaluable tool for advanced learners.

Here are sample searches to answer the questions above. Type the search criteria into the window labelled SEARCH STRING - WORD(S). For prepositions that can follow "interested", try this:

1. Under DISPLAY, click "Compare Words". Then click "List".

2. In the WORDS window, type interested.

3. In the CONTEXT window, type [prp]. This is the search code for prepositions.

4. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 0 (zero) and the second to 1. This limits the search to prepositions that come one word to the right of our search word.

5. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

Now click SEARCH to get your results. What's the most common preposition after "interested"? What is the second commonest.

Now try the same thing for "different". What do you find?

For the adjectives that can describe "rain" (as discussed in our last lesson), we do the following:

1. In the WORDS window, type rain.

2. In the CONTEXT window, type [aj*]. This is the search code for adjectives.

3. In the two counter windows after the CONTEXT window, set the first to 1 and the second to 0 (zero). This limits the search to adjectives that come one word to the left of our search word.

4. Set the SORT criterion to "Frequency".

5. Now click SEARCH to see all the adjectives that commonly describe "rain".

Do the same for "work". Any surprises? What about "play"?

You can modify the searches described above for your own queries. In the next few postings I'll give you further information on how to conduct searches.

As always please post your reactions on the "Tag Board".

Monday, April 21, 2008

TagBoard Changes

Hello all.
As a result of excessive spam on the Tag Board, I am going to remove it and replace it with a new one.

Here is what you have been saying on the old Tag Board:

silvia: hi mike! Hi keep on doing listening and writing exercises, I hope to improve quickly.bye
Mike: Thanks Vance! That's wonderful.
Vance: Hi everyone. I'm chatting with Michael in Skype right now and he's showing me his Tagboard. I thought I'd try it. (Note: Vance is a teacher in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and is an expert on the use of Internet in education. Click on his name, and check out his Blog.)
Mike: Maria Paola: there is very little difference between "what about..?" and How about..?" in informal parlance. They both introduce proposals or suggestions.
Mike: Thanks very much for your comments, Anna. Keep listening, even if it pains you!
anna: Hi Mike, I listened to bbcnews. It pains me to see the international comments about Italy's elections. Sob!
Maria Paola: Hi mike what is the difference between "what about..." and "How about..." in informal talks ?? Thanks
Mike: Glad to be of help, Maria-Paola! All suggestions most welcome.
Maria Paola: Hi Mike...thanks for your website...I'm using it more now than when I had lessons with you!...It means you did a good job because you left me the curiosity...
Mike: Excellent Silvia. We may have time to do a quick exercise during the lesson.
Silvia: Hi mike, I have just given a look to watching and listening exercices by bbc,I have found it very useful
giuseppe: See you Friday
anna: Hi Mike, I listened to the broadcast on Radio4.I found it quit difficult, but very interesting the theory of the "soft power". See you tomorrow.

It has been very encouraging to see everyone communicating through the Tag Board. However I now have to check the Board 3 or 4 times a day in order to remove unwanted messages, some of which are of a very dubious nature.

So I am installing a replacement board. We will see how well it works. Wish us all luck - and keep your comments coming in!