Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sleep Deprivation

Hello all. Here's the latest from Six Minute English on the BBC's Learning English web site.

Some of you have already listened to this piece. I have listened myself, and I offer you a simple comprehension exercise. If you haven't listened to this episode of Six Minute English yet, read the questions now. Then click on the link that I will supply after the questions. Post your answers in a comment, or, if they are short, on the Tag Board.

And if you have already listened, you might find it useful to listen again and try answering the questions.

Here they are:

Official question posed by the BBC:

1. What is the longest time someone has managed to go without sleep?
a) 20 days
b) 11 days
c) 3 days

Now for some more questions:

2. What are the main symptoms of not getting enough sleep? Give at least three adjectives in your answer.

3. What does "sleeping in" mean?

4. Lack of sleep is also associated with which physical problem?

Now click here to listen. Note that you can also download the recording as a podcast.

I look forward to reading your answers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More Online Papers and Journals

Hello everyone.

To last week's long list of English-language newspapers online, I would like to add two more. They are:

1. Kindly suggested by Alessandro of class 4B: The British Medical Journal. Alessandro is a medical student, so it is only natural that he should suggest this famous Journal. But I think you will find that there is something for everyone here.

2. The Financial Times. Again, this is a long-established newspaper, British in origin but international in its readership. And it isn't just about money. Have a look at the Weekend FT. There's plenty for everyone here too: from travel and art to books, property and fashion. They even talk about money - sometimes.

I buy the Weekend FT most, er, weekends. One of my favourite sections is known as Expat Lives. Here, each week, someone who has changed countries talks about the advantages and disadvantages, joys and fears of moving to another part of the world. Read the latest one here.

And that's all for now! More very soon - and keep using the Comments and Tagboard.

- Mike

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Global English: The Press Online

Hello everyone.
A while ago, I promised to post links to newspapers in English from around the world. Reading the local press in various parts of the world brings you into contact with all sorts of cultures, as well as helping you to practise your English. And you may discover the subtle - and sometimes obvious - variations in the way English is written.

Let's start with the United Kingdom:

Daily newspapers include:

Here are some Sunday newspapers. These are an institution in the UK and can take all day to read in their printed form. They include:
Northern Ireland:

The Belfast Telegraph

Now for the United States:

Australian newspapers include:

India's English-language newspapers are too numerous to list, so here is a small selection:

Finally, a few newspapers from the rest of the world:

The Turkish Daily News

News Now

The Irish Times

Middle East Times

Saudi Arabia:
Arab News

For an exhaustive list of world newspapers in English, visit The Big Project.
For an exhaustive list of Indian newspapers, visit Indiapress.

Recommendation: try a newspaper from a different part of the world each week. Then write a comment, or post a message on the Tag Board. Say which newspaper you read, and why you liked it - or didn't. Give us a link to a story you found particularly interesting.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Six Minute English

Hello everyone.
As promised, here is a quick listening comprehension exercise based on the BBC Learning English site's "Six Minute English". This time we're looking at love and romance, although St. Valentine's Day is now some time behind us.

As usual, the site asks you a multiple choice question, the answer to which you'll hear at the end of the programme. And here are three questions from me; try to answer them as you listen.

1. In what way are prairie voles like human beings?

2. What can a "genetic love test" demonstrate?

3. Who would use a "genetic love test"?

Please put your answers on the Tag Board or in the Comments section below this post.

Now listen to the programme.

There's lots of useful language there, so this is an opportunity for you to collect new words such as surge, compound, antidote and predisposition.

Coming soon: English language newspapers from around the world.

I look forward to seeing your answers on the Blog!
- Mike

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

That'll Teach 'Em!

Hello all.
Monday night is Level Three night. This class meets once a week, and we use New English File Intermediate.

Right now we're on unit 4A, "Back to School aged 35". And on page 55 there is an intriguing account of an experiment, featured in a TV programme, in which a group of modern British 16-year-olds volunteered to "turn the clock back" and spend a month at a specially-recreated 1950s British boarding school.

Question: how many modern Italian 16-year-olds would like to go back to a 1950s Italian "liceo"?

The objective here was to see whether school nowadays is easier than it was in the 1950s. In our lesson, we listened to a TV critic discussing the programme. Some suprprising facts emerged.

Now, have a look at the "That'll Teach 'Em" home page on the Channel 4 (TV) web site. Can you answer these questions?

1. Home page: What percentage of people said that education in the 1950s was better than that of today?
2. Students' pages: What did Clare Dery (first student) enjoy most about her experience?
3. Students' pages: What did Harry Elgood (second student) hate most about his experience?
4. Students' pages: What is Seraphine Evans's (third student) one question to all the other students?
5. Staff pages: Why will headmaster Andrew McTavish find it easy to recreate the atmosphere of a 1950s boarding school?
6. Yesterday and Today: What is the serious disadvantage of the 1950s selective exam at age 11?
7. Yesterday and Today: What are the advantages of the modern exam system?
8. Yesterday and Today: Discipline: What are the main differences between disclipline in the 1950s and that in today's schools?

Please send your answers, quoting the number of the question only, to the Tag Board, or, in the case of longer answers, to the Comments page after this message.

Do explore the rest of the site: the What it was like pages, containing memories of people who were educated in the 1950s, are especially interesting. The School Report page is also very interesting, and not just for teachers or parents. See also Criticising Education and finally, for masochists, click on Take the test. Tell us all how well, or otherwise, you did in a message on the Tag Board.

Note: though this exercise is based on a lesson with Level 3 students, all readers of this Blog are encouraged to explore the site. Consult your parents to find out the differences betwen the Italian and British eductaions systems, in the 1950s and now.

Coming soon: Six Minute English.

- Mike

Sunday, March 08, 2009

How Words Are Used

Dear all,

There's been some recent debate about vocabulary, in particular the exact meaning of the word "quite". The question was raised by Gianfranco of level 4B.

I answered this query on the TagBoard, and promised you some further information. And here it is, in the form of the Virtual Language Centre, Hong Kong. This Centre has a useful facility, known as a Concordancer.

The Concordancer can show you examples of any word you choose, displayed down the centre of a computer screen, in the middle of the sentence which contains the word. So you can see, from the context, how the word is used, and you can draw deductions about its meaning.

The Concordancer does this by searching very large texts held on the web site's database. Here's an example with our word "quite". I queried the Virtual Language Centre Concordancer and got 342 examples. The first ones I saw were "quite" as a quantifying expression:

2 gains are tax-free, which gives you quite a saving" The Massana valle
3 at the main countries in Europe and quite a significant number in Asia-Pacif
4 . {para} ``In the United States for quite a few years people would drive up a
5 to ride over there. He has told me quite a bit about the place.'' {para} Muc
8 ror and I profoundly feared evil. Quite a few children had died of meningitis

In these examples, "quite a" means a significant number or quantity: "quite a bit" = "a significant amount", in this case, of information.

Here is an example of "quite" meaning "completely":

46 nnot be doubted, it is nevertheless quite absurd that the HFL should allow i

"Absurd" is an adjective that does not allow for gradation: something is either absurd or it isn't, so you can't say "very absurd", for instance.

And here we have "quite" meaning "to a significant degree":

118 ntinued. {para} He said it would be quite difficult to prevent such incidents

I would say that "quite" in this sense is stronger than "moderately" and not as strong as "very" when associated with "difficult".

Now try it for yourself. Go to the Virtual Language Centre and, below where it says "Research and Reference", and "Web Concordancer", type in "quite". See what other examples and uses of "quite" you can find.

And do please tell the rest of us what you have found in a message to the TagBoard or, if your message is more than a few words, in a comment below this posting.

Later this week: a "Six Minute English" comprehension exercise, plus updates and changes to this Blog.
- Mike