Friday, December 18, 2009

Six Minute English: Talent Shows

Hello everyone. You have probably seen those TV 'talent shows' in which people who are totally unknown have a chance to become famous singers. Six Minute English explores talent shows, the organisers and the participants.

Read the questions and then listen to the programme:

1. How old was the oldest contestant?
(a) 49 (b) 84 (c) 101

2. What exactly are 'talent shows'?

3. Why do people participate in talent shows?

4. What does Neil think of the music in talent shows?

5. What does Pete Waterman think of the contest organiser, Simon Cowell?

6. What's the difference between a 'single' and an 'album'?

7. What usually happens to singers who appear on a talent show after the show has ended?

Now listen to Six Minute English.

Write your answers on the Tag Board, or in the Comments section below this post.

Honourable mentions to people who have recently participated in this Blog: Kannan from India, Savina, Mario, Anna, Giovanni, Claudia and Marianna. Thank you all very much for your answers to Listening exercises, and your other comments.

Marianna wonders whether listening to Six Minute English is the best way to practise listening. I would say that this is just one way to practise. There are many other methods. Here are some of them:
  • listening to the radio;
  • listening to songs in English;
  • watching films in English: audio combined with video;
  • trying out as many of the links in the 'Listening and Video Sites' section on this Blog. Elementary Video, Randall's Cyber-Listening Lab and English Language Listening Online should be on your priority list.
  • listening to English speaking visitors in some of the bars round Campo dei Fiori. How much can you understand?
These are just a few suggestions. Never forget that developing your listening skills in English needs regular practice by you. In this respect it is no different from any other skill, such as learning to play a musical instrument or becoming an expert footballer.

Marianna is also concerned by the fact that she had to repeat Six Minute English several times before she felt able to answer the questions. This is absolutely normal, and is one of the great advantages of the Internet. Of course in real life you cannot always obtain a repeat. This is all the more reason for regular practice.

Notice that I have rearranged the list of sites on the right-hand column of this blog. And I have added a special section dedicated to the BBC's Learning English site. This is an enormously important resource for you. I urge you to visit it as often as you can.

So if you can visit this Blog two or three times a week, trying out a different listening site each time, you should begin to notice an improvement in your listening abilities after two or three weeks. You will find that you will understand more words and especially more phrases. You should find that the questions in Six Minute English become easier.

And if you can manage a few visits during the Christmas and New Year break, you'll find it much easier to return to classes after the holiday is over.

Which brings me to conclude: Season's Greetings, a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Next post: in January 2010.
Yours,
 - Mike

Friday, December 11, 2009

Practising Pronunciation; Six Minute English

My friends: this week I'd like to start with some Honourable Mentions. This is a list of students who have contributed recently to the Blog by leaving messages or comments. Their names are: Savina, Marina, Cristian and Anna.

Congratulations to those people! However, there are only four of them, out of the many students who could be reading this blog and trying out the links. Please don't limit yourself to reading the Blog. Try out a link - and tell us if you found it useful. Likewise, try the Six Minute English quiz - and write the answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Some students have expressed concern about Pronunciation. This is a complex area, and right now I can only give you a quick answer. On this Blog, go down the page and check the right hand side for this heading: "Web Sites for New English File". Choose the book you are using and click on the link.

On the left hand side of the window, look for "Pronunciation". Click here, and in the new window that opens, choose what you'd like to practise: Vowels, Diphthongs, Consonants and - an interesting one here - Stress Monsters. This is a video game that tests your knowledge of word stress.

As always, let everyone know how the Pronunciation pages helped them, or didn't, by leaving us a message.

And now it's time for Six Minute English. Eyes down on these questions - then click on the link I will provide, and try to answer them all. This week it's about Keeping a Diary.

1. Anne Frank's Diary, published in 1947, has been read by:
(a) 10 million people;
(b) 17 million people
(c) 31 million people.

2. Has Neil (one of the speakers on the programme) ever kept a diary? Why (not)?

3. Why do people keep diaries? Because ..... (give a short answer)

4. Why does Gyles Brandreth ( a writer and politician) keep a diary?

5. Gyles Brandreth re-read his diaries for the first time in many years.  What was this experience like for him?

6. The most interesting thing about many diaries is the ....... (short answer)

7. What is a 'time capsule'?

Now listen to Six Minute English and leave your answers in a Comment after this posting, or on the Tag Board.

And you may like to read more about Gyles Brandreth.

That's all for today. I look forward to seeing your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Ciao4now!
 - Mike

Monday, December 07, 2009

Laughter Yoga: The Answers

Hello everyone! Just a short update for now.

Laughter Yoga on Six Minute English: you can find the answers in the Comments section below the previous post.

Many thanks to Savina, Anna, Mario and Alessandra for their answers.

Thanks also to Marina and Christian for their messages on the Tag Board.

It is clear that you all want more listening exercises. So watch this space. Later this week, I'll give you another listening exercise, most likely from Six Minute English.

However, don't neglect "Words In The News". Here's my suggested procedure for pronunciation practice.

1. Have a tape recorder or digital voice recorder ready.
2. Play "Words In The News", and read the lext as you listen.
3. Now switch on your recorder. Read the text yourself. Imagine you are a real newsreader. Imitate not only the pronunciation, but also the intonation, stress and pauses.
4. Listen to the BBC voice again.
5. Now listen to your own recording. Are there any differences? Make a note of them.
6. Now read and record the text again.
7. Listen again to the official voice.
8. Listen to your second recording.
Have you made any corrections?

Don't worry about this. Achieving good pronunciation takes time and practice. Try the above exercise once a week, and then twice a week when you gain confidence.

And don't worry about listening to your own voice. We all hate our own recorded voices, just as we often hate looking at our own photos, and for similar reasons. Do this exercise in the privacy of your own room, and make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Tell us all about it in a message on the Tag Board, in an e-mail to me, or when we next meet.

Of course, if you are not studying at the British Council Rome, then I recommend this exercise anyway.

More soon,

- Mike

Friday, November 27, 2009

Laughter Yoga on Six Minute English

Hello everyone.
If you are a Level 3 or Intermediate student, and you're using 'New English File Intermediate', you may recall unit 5A, in which you hear an expert giving advice on How To Slow Your Life Down.

One of his 'tips' is: "Forget the gym. Do yoga instead." It so happens that a recent edition of Six Minute English is devoted to "Laughter Yoga", and I would like to share it with you.

Read the questions before you listen. To start with, here's the official question as set out on the site:

1. In which Indian city did Laughter Yoga originate? Was it
(a) Delhi
(b) Darjeeling
(c) Mumbai

Some more questions: fill the spaces with one or two words. Each _____ indicates one word.

2. Indian expert Dr. Madan Kataria's exercises combine ________ (one word) with _______  __________ . (two words)

3. "Endorphins" are a chemical released in the _______, and which make us feel ________ and _______ .

4. BBC reporter Rob Crossen went to India to try out 'laughter yoga'. What, for him, were the health benefits?

5. How, according to Rob Crossen, do you 'laugh for not reason at all'?

6. Did Rob Crossen enjoy 'laughter yoga'? Why? or why not? as the case may be.

When you have listened to the programme, write your answers to the questions in the Comments at the end of this message. For questions 4, 5 and 6, just write short answers.

Please note that whoever you are, wherever you are from, you are always welcome to use this blog, try out the sites and exercises and post comments. You can be a student of English anywhere, or even just an interested visitor. You are always welcome to participate.

All for now! Back again next week.

 - Mike

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The meanings of "get"

Hello everyone.
In my last post I asked you to deduce the various meanings of "get" from a list of occurrences generated by the Concordancer at the Hong Kong Polytechnic. The only person to reply so far has been Claudio, who has given a list of phrasal verbs with "get".

So here is a short list of sample sentences from the Comcordancer, with the meaning of "get" below each sentence:

  1. plot about a Bronx mother-of-three who gets a job to bail out her philandering hu get = "obtain"
  2. re is a link between star signs and who gets along with whom. Even those dubious a get along = "have a good relationship"
  3. at 1,000m in the eastern Alps probably gets as much snow as a resort at 1, 500m ( gets = "becomes"
  4. union. This is where the debate gets interesting. When the Bank governor w gets = "becomes"
That's all I have time for right now! Can you do the rest?s classes are all downstairs, but as he gets older his year group will also be tau
  1.  
  2. used after she saw a couple with a baby getting into a car. She told The Sun: "I s
  3. ther about providing he goes to bed and gets up at reasonable hours. 3. A s
  4. " "I wouldn't like to think that I was getting you down." "No, don't worry about i
  5. e Rolling Stones, and they shouldn't be getting married in the first place — modern
  6. well. IDEAL FOR A BREAK If your idea of getting away from it all is relaxation, the best o
  7. tends to press ahead with its policy of getting rid of 15,000 staff a year over the next t
  8. e tonight." "Umm, well, I think we were getting a taxi." "Please; let me. Please. Fiona. Y
Write your answers in a comment or on the Tag Board, quoting the question number. Thank you!
 - Mike

 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

How Words Work: Using a Concordancer

Hello all. In recent lessons we have explored some difficult questions on the meanings and uses of words. What, I am asked, does "get" mean?

The answer, of course, is that it means many things. And it's impossible to give a definitive answer in the course of one, or more, lessons.

This is where you can do some research. And the Net can greatly assist you - through a 'concordancer' program.

A concordancer is a simple search tool. You type in a word on which you want more information. The Concordancer will rapidly search through a large body of text - called a 'corpus'. When done, the program will display all occurrences of your key word down the centre of your computer screen. The sentence in which it has been found will be shown to left and right of the word. Then you examine each occurence to see how the word is used.

Here is an example. I search on the word 'get' and display some of the results below. How many meanings of 'get' can you find?
  1. plot about a Bronx mother-of-three who gets a job to bail out her philandering hu
  2. re is a link between star signs and who gets along with whom. Even those dubious a
  3. at 1,000m in the eastern Alps probably gets as much snow as a resort at 1, 500m (
  4. union. This is where the debate gets interesting. When the Bank governor w
  5. s classes are all downstairs, but as he gets older his year group will also be tau
  6. used after she saw a couple with a baby getting into a car. She told The Sun: "I s
  7. ther about providing he goes to bed and gets up at reasonable hours. 3. A s
  8. " "I wouldn't like to think that I was getting you down." "No, don't worry about i
  9. e Rolling Stones, and they shouldn't be getting married in the first place — modern
  10. well. IDEAL FOR A BREAK If your idea of getting away from it all is relaxation, the best o
  11. tends to press ahead with its policy of getting rid of 15,000 staff a year over the next t
  12. e tonight." "Umm, well, I think we were getting a taxi." "Please; let me. Please. Fiona. Y
Here are two quick links to concordancers:


Please do leave your answers on the Tag Board or in the Comments section after this post. Include the line number and the meaning of 'get' in the line concerned.
I look forward to your answers.
Coming up: more on Listening.
All the best!
 - Mike

Friday, October 30, 2009

Grammar, Vocabulary and 6 Minute English

Good day everybody.
First, a message to this year's Levels 2 and 3 students. If you are not in these categories, please do stay with me because I try to include everyone in this blog.

Level 2. We have recently been studying Defining Relative Clauses. It's well worth doing some extra practice on this, and this link will take you straight to a simple test. When you have finished, go on to the second test, in which you have to put the words in the right order.

When you have finished further practice on Relative Clauses, try some vocabulary. Here's an exercise revising body vocabulary, which we studied last week.

These are all exercises to be found in your book's official web site.

Level 3. We have been studying Conditionals, both 'real' and 'unreal'. This link takes you straight to some further practice on the book's web site. As for vocabulary, how about some extra practice on the language of education?

These exercises are from the book's official web site. These links are also to be found in the list down the right-hand column of this blog. For more grammar and vocabulary sites, check out the 'Practising and Learning English' section.

Please do leave a comment or a message on the Tag Board to say what you thought of these exercises. Were they easy, difficult or Elementary?

Let me remind you that even if you are not one of my Level 2 or Level 3 students, you are warmly encouraged to participate in this Blog by doing the exercises and leaving messages and comments.

Now for Six Minute English. This time it's about Shopaholics and how to control your spending habits. Before you listen, read these questions:

1) Official question: According to some sources, what percentage of the population are shopaholics? Is it:
(a) 1%  (b) 10% (c) 50% ?

2) Complete this definition: "Shopaholics are ........." [use a relative pronoun in your definition.]

3) Listen to shopaholic Helen. What kind of things did she spend money on? Choose from these:
  • cars
  • furniture
  • holidays
  • jewellery
  • shoes
 4) Why did Helen buy so many things?

5) How, according to the expert, can we stop spending money uncontrollably?

Now, listen to Six Minute English. When you have finished, send your answers to this Blog in a comment.

I look forward to hearing from you!
More very soon,
 - Mike

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Arachnophobia!

My friends,
Sorry for my recent absence from The Blog. I am back now and will be posting more exercises and pointers to help you optimise your use of the WWW to help you learn and practise your English.
For the moment, let me give you the answers to the recent quiz questions on Spider Invasion. They are:

1) The answer is (c) - forty thousand, much to the horror of one of the speakers. And there may be thousands more undiscovered species.
2) Harmless!
3) A combination of environmental factors: last year's wet autumn and this year's temperate summer.
4) He went 'cold turkey' using a technique called 'flooding'. In other words, he cured himself instantly by putting a very large spider on his hand.
5) Within three hours, using hypnosis.
6) Over eighty per cent.

Many thanks to former student Serena and current student Flavia of level 3B who got the right answers. Now listen again and compare the answers with what you hear.

And if you like wildlife, have a look at the winning photos in a recent competition organised by the BBC. I very much liked the winner, which shows a Spanish wolf.

What techniques did the photographers use to capture each image?
More soon,
 - Mike

Friday, October 16, 2009

Welcome To All Students

   Hello everyone. This is the first general message of the new academic year at the British Council Rome.
   But I am also addressing anyone who is visiting this Blog. It does not matter whether or not you are studying English at The British Council. You are all equally welcome to explore this Blog and contribute to it.
   The aim of this Blog is to encourage people to maintain their contact with English in their spare time, between lessons or even during holidays. The Blog displays links to many web sites of great use to you, as a student.
   The sites are listed down the right-hand column and are organised in various categories. Do please take time to check out the listening and video category. This Blog emphasises the importance of listening. Many students complain they do not get enough practice in this area. This Blog attempts to correct this problem.
   Right now, you can go to the second posting on the Blog, dated October 15, and answer the questions on 'Spider Invasion' after listening to the programme.
   If you are a current student at The British Council, scroll down to "Web sites for New English File". Look for your book, and click on the appropriate link. You will find a large collection of practice exercises for your level.
   I will be posting regular messages, at least once a week, so please return to this space regularly. Don't forget to add this site to your favorites.
   More very soon,

   - Mike

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spider Invasion - this week's Six Minute English topic

Hello. And a warm welcome to all new students visiting this Blog. I'd like to remind the world that this Blog is open to everyone, but especially to anyone learning English as a foreign language. You are all encouraged to make this Blog interactive by sending your feedback, either to the Comments section at the end of each posting, or to the Tag Board at the top of the right-hand column.

There's great emphasis here on Listening, as many students find this to be one of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language. So we will start off with an exercise from Six Minute English. Today it is about Spiders and Arachnophobia.

Read the questions first, then click on the link to the BBC's Learning English web site, listen, and try to answer the questions. Send your answers to the Comments section or, if your answers are very short, to the Tag Board.

Question 1 (official): How many known spider species are there in the world today? Is it:
(a) 2000; (b) 20,000; (c) 40,000 ?

Question 2: Are most spiders in the UK dangerous or harmless ?

3. Why are there more spiders than usual in the UK this autumn?

4. How did arachnophobe Dave Clark cure his fear of spiders?

Dave now works at the London Zoo where he runs course to help people cure their arachnophobia.

5. How long, according to Dave, does it take someone to get rid of their fear of spiders?

6. What is Dave's success rate?

Now listen to the programme. Then post your answers to the comments section or the Tag Board.

Coming soon: "How To Use This Blog" for new students.
More soon!
 - Mike

Friday, October 02, 2009

A new academic year starts...

... at the British Council Rome. As before, this Blog will continue to provide you with ideas on how to exploit the Internet in ways which will help you improve your English.

The emphasis at the moment is on Listening. And if you'd like to see the correct answers to the listening exercise about the young Dutch sailor, read the Comments section at the end of the posting about her.

Now here's a further exercise, from Six Minute English, on "The Digital Divide". Read the questions first:

1. (Official question):
How many people over the age of 15 in Britain today are not online? Is it
a) 7 million?
b) 17 million?
c) 30 million?

2. The "Digital Divide" means .... [write a few words to complete the definition].

3. For what reasons do some people not want to use the Internet?

4. Why, according to Martha Lane Fox, is it important for people to get online?

Now
listen to the programme. Then give your answers by posting them on the Tag Board or by putting them in a comment - preferable, as there is more space.

Finally, how do you like the Blog's new look? Let us know in a post on the Tag Board, or, if you write a longer message, post it in a comment below this message - just click on the word Comments.


Note that when you leave a comment, you do not need to log in with a user name and password. You can write your comment directly.Then you have to type the special letters you see into a small wondow; this is a device to prevent Spammers leaving comments. Then, choose either the Name/URL option, or the Anonymous option. But if you choose Anonymous, then please leave your name at the end of your message. This will help us to appreciate your contribution fully.

More soon,
- Mike

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Dutch Girl's Ambition

Six Minute English describes how a Dutch girl's ambition to sail round the world by herself was halted by the Dutch authorities. They said that at the age of thirteen she was too young.

Before you listen, read these questions:

1. (Official question):
Some ambitious parents encourage their children to become the youngest to accomplish a gruelling (in other words, extremely exhausting) feat. Which phrase do you think she uses to describe this? Is it
a) a rat race to become a 'superchild';

b) a mousetrap for child competitors, or
c) a three-legged race?

2. What precise reason did the Dutch authorities give when they stopped Laura from sailing round the world?

3. Does Julie Thomas, of the Children's Legal Centre, agree with this decision? How do we know?

Now listen to the programme and give your answers in a Comment.

And now for your opinion. Do you think the Dutch authorities were right to stop her? Why (not)?

Coming soon: "The Digital Divide" on Six Minute English.

=>NB: check List of Useful Websites in the right-hand column. I have added the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme" to the "Listening and Video" category, and have made additions to the Indian Newspapers and Dictionaries categories.

Ciao4now! - Mike

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What Pizza?

From Yahoo News of today: what pizza to avoid when in the UK.

Enjoy!

More very soon,
- Mike

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Authentic Listening

Hello everyone.

In our current Level 3 Intermediate course at the British Council Rome, we have been exploring the idea of experimentally changing your job and doing something completely different.

We saw the example of a young girl working as a librarian who was trained, in one month, to become a tough, professional politcal reporter on TV.

To follow up this lesson, I demonstrated the BBC Radio 4 website for the "Today" programme. The "Today" programme, which is broadcast (or which "goes out") every morning on British domestic radio, often carried interviews with politicians. Occasionally these lead to quite heated discussions.

We started watching Lord Ashdown, former head of the Liberal Democrats, giving his views on the future of British involvement in Afghanistan, but did not have time to listen to everything. So I am giving you the link: click here to go straight to the interview with Lord Ashdown.

Tell me how much you understood - leave a comment or post to the Tag Board. Use the Comments for longer answers.

And do explore the rest of the Today Programme site.

More soon,

- Mike

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New-look Blog

Hello.
For some time I have been promising changes to the appearance of this blog. It's essential for web sites to change their appearance from time to time to avoid looking static.

So I have changed the image at the top of the blog. I welcome any comments on the choice of picture. And I'd like to invite you to contribute your own images. If you have a picture which captures the essence of Rome, and which would look good at the top of the Blog, just send it to me. Use this address: Michel.Ivy@gmail.com.

Your picture should be in JPEG format and should be 760 pixels wide to fit the width of this page. It should not be too deep - about 200 pixels is fine. Please leave some space at the top for the "Rome English Blog" title. Don't worry if the 760-pixel width causes distortion, as it has done in the current image. Distortion can look artistic.

If you like, I can put your name at the bottom of the picture so that you are credited, as in Photo by Michael Ivy.


At the beginning of the week I'll add another "Six Minute English" comprehension exercise. And I'll draw your attention to further web sites which could greatly help you to practise your English.
More soon,
- Mike

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Six Minute "Chinglish"

This week's episode of "Six Minute English" focuses not on how to use English correctly, but on how not to use it. Before you listen, here are some questions to help you with your comprehension.

1. Official question for this week:

Which of these types of incorrect English do you think we are mainly focussing on? Is it
a) Chinglish

b) Spanglish, or
c) Hinglish?

2. What is a very common cause of mistakes in English on notices in China?

3. What is the difference between "valuables" and "values"?

4. (a) Why is this notice, "If you are stolen, please call the police at once", funny?
(b) Which word in the notice is wrong?
(c) What would be the correct word?

Now listen to the programme. Then write your answers in the Tag box or in a Comment.

Thanks
Many thanks to September students Francesca, Serena and Annunziata for their recent posts to the Tag Board. And special thanks to former students Alessandro Abbouda and Iacopo, who loyally returned to this Blog long after their courses had finished.

Coming soon: small changes to the Blog's appearance; review of useful web sites to help you practise your English.

Keep visiting us!
- Mike

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Welcome back after Summer 2009

Of course, it is still really summer here in Rome, but we're mostly back to work now.

And this week I'll post a further activity on the Blog. How about some more Six Minute English?

Meanwhile, please do check out the lists of web sites down the right-hand column of this Blog. Especially the listening sites. I will be checking them myself. And I welcome any new recommendations from you.

Another thing: I will be changing the appearance of the banner at the top of the Blog.

So watch this space!
Ciao4now - Mike

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Six Minutes, Six Questions...

... on Six Minute English.

As it's summer, we're going to listen to the BBC's Learning English site on getting a sun tan and why it is so popular, especially in the UK.

Read the questions first:

1. Official question from the site: Which designer made it fashionable to have tanned skin?
a) Yves St. Laurent
b) Coco Chanel
c) Gianni Versace

2. Why is tanning so popular in the UK?
3. Why can we sometimes see very deeply-tanned people in mid-winter?
4. What were people's attutudes to tanning a hundred years ago in the UK?
5. How does Ilda De Vico get her sun tan?
6. How does she feel about being brown?

Now listen to Six Minute English and try to answer the questions. Post your (short) answers on the Tag Board or in the Comments section below this post.

And that's all for now. If I have an opportunity I will post something during the holidays, but I am now off until 1 September.

So have a very good summer holiday wherever you are.

However, don't forget to maintain your contact with English. It could be through this blog, or reading and DVDs, or through people you meet. All methods work.

And even if you are no longer doing a course with us, you are always welcome to use this Blog.

See you in September.

Ciao4now - Mike

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Like and "As" ' The Answers!

Dear All,

Here are the answers to the "like" / "as" quiz of a few days ago:

  1. And, like Sir Geoffrey and Mr Heseltine, he routinely sets up federalism as a straw man to knock down.
  2. Astonishingly, they both work full time, Jenny as a district nurse, Michael a doctor.
  3. Cambridge boss Ian Atkins described his team's performance against Portsmouth on Saturday as " disgraceful".
  4. Does it look like a begonia?
  5. Guthrie was not prepared to accept what seemed like being the total demise of Sadler's Wells Opera.
  6. He said that they behaved like "wild dogs" when they broke up a peaceful demonstration by schoolchildren.
  7. I cried like a baby every time I tried to close my eyes.
  8. I don't know anything about Gary as a footballer but he's got nice legs.
  9. January is traditionally thought of as a bleak month.
  10. Publishers rarely, if ever, charge for personal things like Christmas cards.
  11. Senna struggled for a long time with what he later described as an undriveable car.
  12. The news comes as a shot in the arm for players and supporters.
  13. Are the standards of Germany are to be imposed on countries like Britain?
  14. Watching it as a professional I had to be concerned about poor defending. [a football report]
  15. What will it look like after the honeymoon?

Coming up: a final Six Questions for Six Minute English, the last before I go away on holiday later this week. Watch this space!

Yours,

- Mike

Friday, July 10, 2009

6-Minute English: The Answers

Hello everyone!

As promised, here are the answers to the Six Minute on House Swapping:

1. The right answer is the USA. Fifteen per cent of house swappers chose the U.S., twelve per cent the U.K., and eleven chose Australia.

2 (a) "free" and (b) "become somebody else." or "inhabit/live someone else's life"

3. (a) "accommodation" and (b) "vehicle" or "car".

4. The two types of accommodation mentioned were "houseboat" and "apartment".

5. You "don't have to live out of a suitcase".

6. "local" and "tourist".

Congratulations to José Maria and Gianfranco. Sorry Giorgia: you got question 1 wrong, but you did very well on the other questions. So let's organise an evening out soon and I'll buy a round of drinks for those who got the right answers.

While we're on the subject of listening, I am just looking at the Learning English page on the BBC. And there's a good section on Listening and Pronunciation. See it here. For current Level 6A students, I recommend doing Unit 6, "Eating Out", as it is very close to what we have been doing in our book. Concentrate on word stress as you listen What kinds of words are stressed? Try the Speak 1 exercise in order to practise.

For everyone else, try all the listenings and exercises.

Finally, let's try something quite different. We have been discussing the difference between 'like' and 'as'. When do you use which? Here is a short exercise that I have taken from the Concordancer:
  1. And, _____ Sir Geoffrey and Mr Heseltine, he routinely sets up federalism as a straw man to knock down.
  2. Astonishingly, they both work full time, Jenny _____ a district nurse, Michael a doctor.
  3. Cambridge boss Ian Atkins described his team's performance against Portsmouth on Saturday _____ " disgraceful".
  4. Does it look _____ a begonia?
  5. Guthrie was not prepared to accept what seemed _____ being the total demise of Sadler's Wells Opera.
  6. He said that they behaved _____ "wild dogs" when they broke up a peaceful demonstration by schoolchildren.
  7. I cried _____ a baby every time I tried to close my eyes.
  8. I don't know anything about Gary _____ a footballer but he's got nice legs.
  9. January is traditionally thought of _____ a bleak month.
  10. Publishers rarely, if ever, charge for personal things _____ Christmas cards.
  11. Senna struggled for a long time with what he later described _____ an undriveable car.
  12. The news comes _____ a shot in the arm for players and supporters.
  13. Are the standards of Germany are to be imposed on countries _____ Britain?
  14. Watching it _____ a professional I had to be concerned about poor defending. [a football report]
  15. What will it look _____ after the honeymoon?

"As" or "Like" ?

I look forward to your answers!

More soon - Mike

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Six Questions for Six Minute English.

Hello everyone. This week I have chosen "House Swap" from 6 Minute English.
A house swap is when, on holiday, you exchange your house for someone else's in a foreign country. Supposing you want to go to London for a holiday, and you know a family in London who want to come to Rome. No worries! Instead of spending a fortune in a hotel, you arrange to exchange, or swap, houses. Do you know anyone who has done this?

In 6 Minute English, the speakers discuss this idea, and you will hear from people who have had this experience. Before you listen, look through these questions:

1. Official Question: According to a recent survey, which is the most popular destination for UK home swaps?
a) Australia
b) UK
c) USA

2. The first woman you hear likes home swapping because:
a) it's ________; (one word)
b) it's a great opportunity to _____ ______ _____ ____ . (up to four words)

3. Home swapping is cheap because you don't have to pay for:
a) ________________ (one word)
b) a ________ (one word)

4. The woman speaker mentions a "wide range of options" when you are house-swapping. Which two does she mention on this list?
(a) a houseboat; (b) a cottage; (c) an apartment; (d) a town house: (e) a penthouse.

5. In the family who spoke, the girl liked house swapping because "you don't .........." Complete the sentence according to what you hear.

6. The man said, "... you can feel like a _______ , not like a ________ ."

Now listen to Six Minute English!

Answer the questions by writing in the Comments section below this message. You could write on the Tag Board as well, but space is limited.

I'll buy an 'aperitivo' for the first person who gets all the questions right!

Have you tried the idea I suggested for pronunciation practice, using the BBC's "Words In The News"? Try it now. Read the piece about Michael Jackson's death. Record your voice on a tape or other recording device. Listen to the newsreader, then listen to your recording. What differences did you notice? You can tell us about it in a message on the Tag Board.

More next week! - Mike

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

News Sites

Hello. A small update to the Newspapers section of the Blog.

Links to Indian newspapers in English suddenly stopped working, so I have updated them.

To follow events in Iran, use the BBC or other British media. But don't forget the American media and, for another perspective, an Iranian newspaper, The Tehran Times, in English. There is also the official Iranian news agency IRNA, whose site was not available when I tried it today at 12:20.

Why am I suggesting these sites? Because the Internet can easily transport you into other countries and cultures, using English as the medium. These sites are a great way of practising your reading in English, and bringing you to another world.

Coming soon: more radio and TV sites.
If you have any suggestions of your own, I'd love to hear them. Post them on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

- Mike

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Workaholism

Hello everyone! This is my first posting this month of June 2009. And a quick note: just because courses have finished it does not mean that the Blog has finished. You are welcome as always to use the Blog and participate. I'll be updating it until mid-July at least.

What do you think of the title? Do you know what it means? How do you say it in Italian - or any other language? And if you don't know what it means, you now have a chance to find out.

As you listen to this recent episode of Six Minute English from the BBC Learning English web site, try to answer these questions:

1. How many hours a week do people in the UK normally work? (And how many in your country?)
2. The "work-life balance" means ............. [a short phrase to complete the definition]
The lawyer said...
3. The lawyer worked ........... to ............ hours a day in his office.
4. For him, eating became a ............ .............. . [two words]
5. His symptoms of the effects of workaholism included ............ .
6. Working in the evenings and at weekends became ......... ......... [two words]
7. 'Burnout' means ................ [a short phrase to complete the definition.]
8. People who experience 'burnout' include .................... [write three types of worker]
9. Overwork brings (1) .............. (2) ..................... (3) ..................... .
The psychologist says:
10. Workaholsim definitely does not .............. [a short phrase to complete what he says.]
11. Workaholics become ................. , .................... and ............... [three attributes].
12 People are most productive when they do not ............................ [conclude the sentence appropriately.]

Click here to listen. Write your answers in a comment; the Tag Board may not have enough space.

More soon!

- Mike

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spring Cleaning

That's what this week's Six Minute English is about. And it is something I find extraordinarily difficult to do. However, when you listen to the programme, you will see that I am by no means alone.

First, let's consider the official question:

How many hours per week do you think the average woman spends doing housework?
(a) 3 hours

(b) 15 hours
(c) 20 hours

As you listen, try to answer these questions as well:

1. What does "skimming" mean?
2. According to the first speaker, what used to happen in her house on a Monday?
3. The second speaker Vivien Emleigh's house is ................... ..................... .
4. Her kitchen is clean but very .................................... .
5. According to the presenter, 'obsessive' means: ................................
6. 'Clutter' means .....................................................................
7. A 'clearout' is when you .......................................................
8. According to the presenter, spring cleaning clears both the air and ............ ............... .

Now listen to the programme and write your answers in a comment or, if there's room, on the Tag Board.

More soon!
_ Mike

Friday, May 15, 2009

Astrology on Six Minute English

Hello everyone.

Do you believe in the horoscopes? This week I have chosen a piece on astrology in "Six Minute English" as a listening comprehension exercise.

Here are a few comprehension questions:

1. Official question, as seen on the site:
- How many star signs are there?

Now for some more questions:
2. Jackie's star sign is ......
3. Her star sign means that she is ........ (3 personality characteristics)
4. The Scottish journalist Jan Muir's first job on her newspaper was ................
5. The formula for a horoscope included a ............, a ............. and a .............
6. According to Jan Muir, why do people continue to be interested in horoscopes?
7. According to the professor of astrology, horoscopes are a piece of ................... (two words)

Listen and write your answers in a Comment. The first person to get the answers correct will get an Honourable Mention - and I'll buy them a drink if we go out.

Now for two further things:
1. In Level 4A (Wed/Fri classes), we have been talking about crime. Have a look at a British newspaper, "The Times". Here's a link to the crime reports. How many new words, connected with crime and justice, can you find? Can you identify any special structures, such as passives? And can you identify any special reporting verbs?
- Write your answers in a comment.
2. I have promised to demonstrate how the concordancer web sites can help you research into how English works. Right now I only have time to point you to the main concordancer sites. I have temporarily moved the links up to just below the Tag Board. Here are some exercises you could try:
(a) How many phrasal verbs with "get" can you find, and what do they mean? Can you identify a "get" phrasal verb with more than one meaning?
(b) How many adjectives ending in "-ly" can you find?

That's all for now! More soon.
- Mike

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Learning to listen

Hello everybody.

Still on the subject of listening: later this week, I'll add another "Six Minute English" listening comprehension. For now, however, I would like to point you to "Learning to Listen". This is in another area of the BBC's "Learning English" web site.

It's intended for people who are considering studying at an English-speaking university. So the emphasis is on English for academic purposes. Everyone, however, will find this useful.

I recommend clicking on Part 1. This is the introduction. You can listen immediately by clicking on the tiny loudspeaker icon. But I suggest that you download the programme as well, and don't forget also to download the script, which is in Adobe Acrobat format.

Here are two comprehension questions for you:

  1. How, according to the programme, can you become a better listener?
  2. How can you prepare for listening to English at an English-speaking university?
Then try Part 2, in which you learn how to listen to lectures.

As always: do leave a comment below this message, or a quick note on the Tag Board, to say how useful you found this programme - or didn't, as the case may be.

Coming up soon: how to use the Concordancer web sites to find out how English words and expressions work. Look down the right hand column of this Blog, where useful sites are listed. Find the "See How English Is Really Used" section. Here are two questions for you:

  1. What's the difference in meaning between "think of" and "think about"?
  2. How many adjectives ending in "- ly" can you find?

That's all for now. More soon!

- Mike

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What is Happiness?

Six Minute English discussed this very question on April 9. Listen yourselves and try to answer the lead question: which is the happiest country?

And here are a few more questions:

1. Why is Rebecca happy today?
2. What makes her happy? (2 things)
3. What makes the first speaker happy?
4. What, according to the first speaker, is the main problem with happiness?
5. What's the second speaker's attitude to happiness?
6. What two things does the second speaker say lead to happiness?
7. What does the second speaker not mention?
8. After what point does money not buy us happiness?
9. What is Britain's position in the Happiness List?

Now listen to Six Minute English. Did you learn any new words?
Did you answer This Week's Question correctly?

Post your answers to the Tag Board or the Comments section at the bottom of this posting.
More soon!
- Mike
PS Many thanks to Agostino for his comment about the English Language Listening Lab. He is an example to us all!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to Leave a Comment

Hello everyone.


Here's a brief reply to an enquiry: someone has asked how to leave a Comment on this Blog.


Most people use the Tag Board when space is not a problem. For longer comments, or replies to specific posts (such as this one), there is a specific Comment link.


You'll find the Comment link just below any posting. It will show "Comments" and be preceded by a number indicating the number of comments already left - usually 0 (zero)!


1. Now, just click on the Comments link. A smaller, new window opens. Type your message in the Comment window.


3. Next, choose an Identity. The easiest options are Name/URL and Anonymous. In Name/URL, you just write your name. If you choose Anonymous, please do write your name at the end of your message, in the main message window. It is always nice to know who is leaving a comment.


4. Finally, you should be asked to read some characters displayed in coloured letters on the screen, and type those characters into a special window. This device prevents 'bots' and Spammers from automatically posting comments, often of a dubious nature.


5. Click on "Publish Your Comment" - or the equivalent, depending on the system language chosen for your computer's operating system.


That's it! Your comment will appear very shortly.

Recent comments have been written by:
Micaela, Peppe, Maria-Laura, David and former student Serena.
Recent Tags have been left by:
Andrea, Paola, Gianfranco, Alessandro, Giorgia, Peepe, Carolina and Gianni.

This is gr8, but there are many more people who could have left Comments or Tags.
Where are they??

More very soon,
- Mike