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.