Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Listening Practice for All

Hello. In recent lessons I have been emphasising the great importance of regular listening practice.

We do a certain amount of listening in class. There are listening exercises incorporated in the course book. But they are not enough. It's very important to practise listening in your spare time.

An obvious method is to watch a DVD, perhaps of a film you have already seen in Italian. Set the language to English, and set the subtitles to English as well.

The magazine "Speak Up", on sale at many newsagents, is a valuable resource for learners, from intermediate level upwards, and contains many listening exercises.

Internet - BBC
On Internet, there is an enormous number of sites. Look down the right-hand column of this Blog for examples, under 'Listening Practice'. One of the best for Intermediate levels and above is the
BBC's 'Learning English' site.

Look at "Words In The News". This week there is the story of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra's first-ever
visit to North Korea. But if you prefer a different story, look at the list of 'Latest Stories' on the right. You might like to choose 'Obesity Epidemic' or 'EU faces up to Kosovo challenge'.

In "Words In The News", you listen to the story and read the transcript at the same time. Some of the expressions in the transcipt are shown in bold (very black) text. These expressions are listed after the transcript, with an explanation. Sometimes they include useful phrasal verbs.

Internet for Elementary levels

What is there for level 1 and level 2 students? Here is a site from a university in France: Real English Video Dictations, aimed at beginner levels. Try "What Time Is It?" and do the exercise.

Another good site is
Randall's Cyber-Listening Lab which has exercises graded "Easy", "Medium" and "Difficult". If you're in Level 1 or Level 2, then try the Easy exercises.

Randall's exercises are in American English. No problem: it is very important to listen to different accents in English becuase in this way, listening will gradually become easier.

How to practise listening

"Gradually". This is the key word. Listening to a foreign language is never easy to begin with. Therefore it is very important to listen a little, but often. I suggest you do a listening exercise at least three times a week, spending ten to fifteen minutes each time.

A community of learners

And when you have finished an exercise, please help other students by leaving a comment to say how useful, or not, you found the exercise. This is very important, as this Blog is interactive and forms a community.

More soon. - Mike

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Upper-Intermediate Levels 4 and 5: Phrasal Verbs

Dear all,

Phrasal Verbs

We have recently been talking about phrasal verbs and how one verb, such as "put" or "get", can have many different meanings according to the preposition, or particle, which follows it.

One way to collect phrasal verbs is through extensive reading. Since phrasal verbs are often found in informal language, popular newspapers and magazines are a good source.

The Daily Mail as an example. Read as many news articles as you can and find some phrasal verbs.

A more precise and focussed method is to use the Hong Kong Poytechnic's
Virtual Language Centre. Click on "Web Concordancer". Then click on "Associated Words" under English. Set "Keyword string Starts With" and then type "get" in the window.

In the "Associated Word" window, type "on". Click the radio button for "Find to the right of the keyword only".

Select a corpus: I recommend The Times newspaper.

Now click "Search for concordances". In the list that follows, find as many meanings of "get(s)(ting) on" as you can.

Try again with another verb. How about "put on"?

Leave a comment in the comment board at the top right of this Blog, or, even better, below this message.

I look forward to your answers! More soon,


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Welcome to new students this February

A warm welcome to all the new students who have joined classes in the last few days.

I will be posting further messages in the coming week. They will give you ideas on how best to use the internet to learn and practise your English.

Please do use the Tag Board to leave your comments and make suggestions. Many thanks to Federica and Antonella for their messages. I hope there will be more to come.