Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wikileaks: The Interview

Hello everyone.

In our Level 3 classes (Intermediate) we have been looking at the case of a young librarian, Jessica, who, for a month, trained as a television journalist, interviewing politicians. I promised you that I would give you some real life examples of interviews in a future lesson.

And as luck would have it, the BBC's Radio 4 (domestic) carries an interview with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. He is being interviewed on the "Today " programme by John Humphrys, who is one of Britain's best-known radio journalists and presenters.

When you click on the link I have provided, below, you will go directly to the "Today" web site. You'll be able to listen to the interview, during which Mr Assange explains why he does not want to return to Sweden to face charges of sexual assault. As you listen, you can read the transcript of the interview.

I recommend this to everyone. This is authentic, spoken English, yet the speech is not too rapid. And if you have problems, you can refer to the transcript.

Here is the link to the interview. When you have finished listening, please do leave a comment or a message on the Tag Board to give everyone your reactions.

Coming soon: a guide to web sites to help you with our latest grammar, plus a further Six Minute English Quiz.

Ciao for now!
Mike

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Answers to Six Minute English: The Weaker Sex

Hello everyone. Here are the answers to the most recent 6 Minute English Quiz:

1) Tenfold - ten times the number.
2) Men find it difficult to ask for help when they need it.
3) Men are more likely to die from cancer and to commit suicide.
4) Doug didn't return to hospital when he continued to get chest pains because he 'didn't want to be a burden'; he 'didn't want to be a fuss'. (burden = nuisance; 'be a fuss" = draw attention to himself)
5) 'Lifestyle choices' include drinking and smoking too much, a bad diet, and not getting enough exercise.
6. Men fail to consult doctors because they don't like to admit weakness or that they have a problem, or that they are vulnerable.
7. We've got to educate men to be more aware, and we have to make the health care system much more accessible.

Very many thanks to all those who participated, namely:
Maya, Giovanni, Maria, Francesco Mileo, Pierluigi and Marzia.

In my very next message: current top sites and recommendations for further work on topics we have recently covered in class.

Ciao4now!
Mike

Friday, December 03, 2010

Six Minute English: Why are men the weaker sex?

Hello and welcome to this week's Six Minute English quiz. We're going to discover why men are, in reality, the weaker sex when it comes to health. It 'ties in' - that is to say, it is connected with, some classwork we did recently, in which we examined some of the differences between men and women.

When you have finished the listening exercise, do post your own opinions on the Tag Board (up to 200 characters) or in a Comment (longer messages.)

Before you listen, read these questions:

1. This week's official question:

Compared with the early 1960s, each year, the number of men who enter medical schools in the UK has doubled. But how many women enter medical school each year?

a) About the same number; b) Triple the number; c) Ten-fold (= ten times as many)

You will hear the answer towards the end of the programme. For the next few questions, give an answer in your own words based on what you hear.

2. Why, basically, are men the weaker sex?
3. Men are more likely to ............. and to commit ........... . [give a short answer.]
4. Why didn't Doug return to hospital when he continued to get chest pains?
5. Give some examples of 'lifetsyle choices'.
6. Why do many men fail to consult doctors when, in fact, they are seriously ill?
7. What can be done to change this situation in which men are 'the weaker sex'? Give Peter Baker's two suggestions.

Now listen to the programme. When you have finished, give your answers on the Tag Board or in a comment.

And discuss this question: in your opinion, who are stronger: men or women?

I look forward to answers from absolutely everyone ... and it makes no difference whether or not you are currently studying at the British Council. You are all equally welcome to participate.

Ciao4now!
Mike






Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Latest Grammar

Hello everybody on a rainy Tuesday arvo in Rome.

Arvo? That's Australian for "afternoon". Learn more about Australian slang.

Here's a short roundup of the most recent grammar we have come across.

1. Articles. The tricky, or difficult, question here is when not to use the article. Find out more by visiting the British Council's Learn English site. Read the rules, then do the exercises at the bottom of the page.

As we have seen, there are various ways in which articles are and are not used. Have a further look on the Learn English site at the special examples, including "I don't watch television but I often listen to the radio."

Read the examples, then try the test exercise at the bottom of the page.

2. Forming questions. The problem here is when to use an auxiliary such as "does" or "do", and when not to. Again, the British Council's "Learn English" comes to the rescue. Read the rules, and then try the exercise at the bottom of the page.

As always, when you have visited the sites, and, ideally, done the exercises, please give your reaction in a Tag Board message or a comment.

And here's the general link to the British Council's Learn English site.

Update: I have added some new links to the BBC Learning English site in the dedictaed section on the links list, down the right hand side of this Blog window. These include "How to.." (mentioned in Monday's post) and "Pronunciation Tips".

More again very soon!

Mike

Monday, November 29, 2010

How to ... ?

Good day everybody, and very best wishes for Monday, your favourite day of the week.

Very soon, I will post another Six Minute English quiz. For now, I have been exploring the BBC Learning English site, and I can bring you two discoveries.

1. The "How to.." section. Difficult to find, as the BBC's navigation menus are not as clear as they could be. I will add it to the links column on the right.

This section explains the language you need for various types of conversation. For example, you may think you know what to say when you want to know the time. But what exactly to you say when you are talking to a complete stranger? You need to know how to express your question.

Further examples include what to say in general conversation, or when having a general discussion, or when listening to, or giving, instructions and advice. There's also an all-important section on how to ask permission, make a delicate request, or make (and accept or decline) an invitation. Read more about it here, listen, and note the useful language. Don't forget to try the exercises.

2. Pronunciation Tips. This is an absolute must if you want to learn more about pronunciation. Watch the introduction, and try the exercises on the right in which you listen to the difference between similar sounds. These include "key" and "pin", "door" and "coat", "book" and "do", any of which can cause problems.

That's all I can give you right now. I urge you to explore the BBC Learning English site as often as you can - say ten minutes, three times a week as a minimum.

And please do report your experiences back to everyone, either in a Tag Board message - maximum 200 characters. For longer messages, leave a comment.

More later this week!
Ciao4now,
Mike

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Media Blackout: The Answers

Hello everyone. As promised, I am giving you the answers to last week's Six Minute English quiz:

1. (Official question) How many active Facebook users are there in the world?

(b) 500 million

2. How did the experiment work? Student volunteers had to "unplug" their phones, laptops and TVs for 24 hours. And they weren't allowed to listen to the radio or read newspapers.
 3. How have the volunteers reacted? Charlotte says, "It's really difficult".
 4. How has the experiment affected the volunteers' mental well-being? They are experiencing withdrawal symptoms and overeating. And they are feeling nervous, isolated* and disconnected.

5. Student volunteer Caroline Scott says it is quite nice to be "totally separated" for about two hours maximum.

6. The BBC commentator Roy Cellan-Jones says we spend "half our waking hours" on the media.

Thanks very much to those people who answered the questions. Congratulations to Domenico who posted his answers in a comment and got the answers right.
 
I am planning to changing the format of the quiz. Instead asking you to insert words in spaces, I will ask you to give any answer which reflects the ideas being expressed. This is a more flexible way of answering the quiz.
 
So watch out for the next Six Minute English. I propose to look at the question, "Are men really the weaker sex?"
 
Meanwhile in my next post, I'll indicate Web sites to help you practise the grammar and vocabulary we have been examining in our recent lessons. As always, do check out Michael Marzio's "Real English" for listening comprehension. Try some of the other sites too: you can find them in the appropriate section down the right-hand column.
 
More very soon!
Have a good day,
Mike

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Six Minute English: A Media Blackout

Good day everyone. Here's the most recent Six Minute English.


In this edition, Dan and Alice talk about an experiment at a British university: Bournemouth, on the south coast of England. We're going to learn what the experiment was and how it worked.


Here are the questions:


1. (Official question) How many active Facebook users are there in the world?
(a) 300 million; (b) 500 million; (c) 800 million


2. How did the experiment work? Student volunteers had to "unplug" their phones, laptops and TVs for ____ _____ [period of time]. And they weren't allowed to ___ ___ ___ ____ radio or ___ ____. [one word for each underscore.]


3. How have the volunteers reacted? Charlotte says, ".............." [a short sentence to express her answer.]


4. How has the experiment affected the volunteers' mental well-being? They are experiencing ______ _____ and _______. And they are feeling ________, _________ and ________ . [one word for each underscore.]


5. Student volunteer Caroline Scott says it is quite nice to be "totally separated" for about _____ _____.


6. The BBC commentator Roy Cellan-Jones says we spend "..................................." on the media. [a short phrase to express his comment.]


Now listen to the programme. Then write your answers on the Tag Board or, perhaps better, in a comment.


And my question to you is: Would you like to try disconnecting yourself from your media? How long could you do it for? Put your answer on the Tag Board.


That's all for now. More soon!


Happy listening,
Mike

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Grammar This Week

Hello everyone. Today, I'm writing the first of a series of posts on the grammar we're studying right now at the British Council Rome. I'm now going to give you a few useful links to help you help yourself with grammar.

Topic number one this week: Conditionals. "Zero", First and Second Conditionals are explained on the British Council's Learn English site. When you have read the explanation, try the exercise at the bottom of the page.

There are more exercises on Conditionals on the English File Intermediate site. Take note of the verb forms used, especially after "when", "if", "unless" and similar.

Topic number two: Present Simple and Present Continuous. When do we use which? Have a look at English Grammar Secrets. This link is concerned with the continuous form. Read the explanation and do the exercises.

When you have finished, click on "Return to List of Grammar Lessons" and choose "Present Simple or Continuous", or click here. Read the explanations and examples, then do all four exercises.

There are further exercises on the Present Simple and Continuous on the English File Pre-Intermediate site. There is also a talk on the subject with Bilal from Syria on the BBC Learning English site.

Now, leave a message on the Tag Board or in a comment below this posting. Tell everyone which site was the most useful. Did they help your understand of grammar? Or not? And give brief reasons for your answers.

Your feedback is very important to everyone. Your comments and messages provide us all with valuable information. They also make this blog genuinely interactive. In this connection, I would like to thank Margherita, Francesco, Irene, Ilaria and Massimo.

Coming soon: a fresh Quiz from Six Minute English on the BBC. Watch this space!

More soon,
Yours,
Mike

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Six Minute English: The Answers.

Good day everyone. Here are the answers to last week's Six Minute English Quiz:

1. (Official question) In 2005, the BBC announced the UK's best loved - or favourite book. What was it?

a) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
b) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien √ - Correct!
c) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

2. The Spanish classic, "Don Quixote", by Miguel de Cervantes, is Spain's "best-known but least-read" book.

3. What makes a classic novel or book? "Excellent writing that people want to read into the future." (One word in each space.)

 4. "Don Quixote" was completed in the year 1615.

 5. How did the Spanish Academy present "Don Quixote" to a wider public?
- The novel was divided into 2149 short passages.
- Spanish readers pick a passage, record themselves reading it and then upload it to the Internet.

6. "Bite-sized chunks" are useful because people don't like to concentrate for a long time.

 7. People in Don Quixote's time used to read books out loud just as they are doing now.

 8. Yvonne describes "Ulysses" by James Joyce as not exactly "relaxing reading".

Thanks are due to: Domenico, Margherita and Laura for giving their answers.

Coming Soon: Web Sites for our current English studies: expressing the past and conditionals. Watch this space.

Kind regards,
Mike



Friday, October 22, 2010

8 Questions for 6 Minutes

Good day everyone.
You all know how important it is to read when learning a language. This talk from the "Six Minute English" series explores why people nowadays have difficulty reading for long periods, and how this problem can be solved.


Read the questions first:
1. (Official question) In 2005, the BBC announced the UK's best loved - or favourite book. What was it?

a) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
b) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
c) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.


2. The Spanish classic, "Don Quixote", by Miguel de Cervantes, is Spain's "______ - known but _____ - read" book. (One word in each space.)


3. What makes a classic novel or book? "Excellent _____ that people want to ____ into the future." (One word in each space.)

4. "Don Quixote" was completed in the year _____ .
 
5. How did the Spanish Academy present "Don Quixote" to a wider public?
 - The novel was divided into _____ short passages.
 - Spanish readers ____ a passage, ____ themselves reading it and then _____ it to the Internet.
 
6. "Bite-sized chunks" are useful because people don't like to _________ for a long time.
 
7. People in Don Quixote's time used to read books _____ ______ just as they are doing now.
 
8. Yvonne describes "Ulysses" by James Joyce as not exactly "________ reading".
 
Now listen to the programme and try to answer the questions. Post your answers in a comment or on the Tag Board.
 
I look forward to seeing your replies. I will give you the correct answers next week.
 
Have a good weekend!
Mike

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Using the Internet to practise English

Dear All.


In the past few weeks I have been telling you what a great resource the Net is for students of English at all levels.


So here is a very brief summary of web sites:

Elementary Listening: "Real English" by Michael Marzio. Go through the lessons in numerical order. Do the exercises as well.

Pre-Intermediate Book site for "English File Pre-Intermediate"

The site for English File Intermediate

Exam classes, such as Senior F or Level Five: "Flo-Joe". Choose First Certificate or FCE.

Intermediate classes: Listening, Reading, Grammar: "Learning English" on the BBC. This is a very large resource. You could spend a long time here.

That's all for right now. As you see this is a very short list. For more sites, explore the right-hand column of this Blog.


And do report back if you find a site that is not working. You can report to me by leaving a message on the Tag Board.


Similarly, whenever you visit a site and do an exercise, or simply explore the site, leave a message on the Tag Board. Say what site you visited and whether it helped your English.


This message is intended for all learners of English, whether or not you are at the British Council Rome.


Coming soon: a fresh Listening Quiz.

More soon. Yours,

Mike

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A Quick Website Tour

Good day everyone. It's the first regular teaching day here at the British Council in its new premises on Piazza di Spagna. I'm taking twenty minutes off to give you a brief survey of useful web sites.

 
I'm starting with an unusual Text To Speech website called Expressivo. On the main page of the site there is a space for you to type in up to two hundred characters. When you have typed in your text, click on the "Read Now" button, and hear a voice reading it. Then practise reading the text yourself.

You may be able to record yourself reading by using the "Sound Recorder" facility on your computer. On a Windows computer, go: Start>All Programs>Accessories>Entertainment>Sound Recorder. You can record yourself speaking through your microphone, save the resulting sound file, and listen to it. Are there any differences between your recording and that of the speaker on Expressivo?

Next site is the British Council's Learn English site. There is plenty of material here to help you learn and practise English. I suggest you explore ths site, returning repeatedly to visit different areas. An obvious place to start is the Elementary Podcasts.

Don't be discouraged if you are not an Elementary student. You'll find the podcasts quite challenging. You may like to start at the current episode, but you might find it useful to go to the very first episode. Here, you learn how to introduce people to each other, and what to say when you meet new people.

If you are a real Elementary student, say, British Council Level One or Council of Europe A.1, then try Michael Marzio's "Real English". The video comprehension exercises are organised according to conversational functions, such as giving directions or understanding telephone numbers.

A lot of students are interested in grammar, so where better to go than the Grammar section of Learn English. You will see a short list of the main areas of study in English grammar. Click on any that interest you.


Finally, here is a brief mention of another very useful site with a lot of material for students of English. I am referring to the BBC's "Learning English" site. Note the difference between "Learning English" (BBC) and "Learn English" (British Council).

I am out of time now, so I will conclude this piece by asking you to help us make this site interactive. How? By leaving a comment or, if your message is short, leaving your comment on the Tag Board to the right of this post. That way, we can create a community of learners of English.

I look forward to reading your comments and feedback. I will return soon with a further review of useful web sites. And coming soon: another Six Minute English listening comprehension quiz.

Kind regards,
Mike

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Six Minute English: New Words in English: The Answers

Hell everyone.

As promised, here are the answers to the latest Six Minute English Quiz:

1. (b) - two thousand words were added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year.

2. The dictionary compilers use software tools to detect new words, which must have occurred regularly in chat rooms, newspapers and magazines.

3. When you remove someone from your list on Faecbook, you 'unfriend' or 'defriend' them.

4. A 'dictionary attack' involves searching automatically through all the words in a dictionary in order to find a word that matches someone's password to a private web site.

5. A 'toxic debt' is one which is now worthless, such as a mortgage which is very unlikely to be repaid.

6. Alice's favourite new word is 'vuvuzela'.

Another quiz coming up soon - plus a roundup of useful Web sites for you to learn and practise your English.

More soon!
Mike

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Six Minute English on New English Words

Hello Everybody!


I am sorry to have been late with the first Six Minute English exercise of the new year 2010-2011. Here it is!

Read the questions first and then listen to the presenters, Alice and Rob:

1. How many new words were added to the Oxford Dictionary of English this year?

(a) 100 (b) 2,000 (c) 10,000


2. How does Catherine Soames of the Oxford English Dictionary choose new words to add?
She uses _________ [two-word expression] to find words which are used in different places such as _______, _________ or _________ . [She mentions three places.]

3. What do "defriend" and "unfriend" mean?

4. What is a "dictionary attack"?

5. And a "toxic debt"?

6. What is Alice's favourite new word this year?

Now listen to the programme. But don't look at the vocabulary list before you have finished listening. Otherwise the exercise will be a 'no-brainer' (what does this expression mean??)

That's all for now. I will be back later with another exercise and more help on How To Use Internet To Learn And Practise English!

Ciao4now!

Mike

Monday, September 06, 2010

Welcome to September 2010

Hello everyone!

This is my first message of the new year 2010 to 2011.

And the British Council Rome is now in a new place: Piazza di Spagna. The precise address is Via San Sebastianello 16.

Do come and visit us, in "the drawing-room of Rome" (il salotto di Roma) as soon as you can.

Meanwhile, watch out for fresh listening exercises as well as advice on how to use the Net to learn English.

More soon,

Kind regards from
Mike

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hello everyone!

I'm writing this on a hot Friday evening in Rome - 32 degrees in the house, when I should be relaxing down the coast.

But I promised to give you the answers to Six Minute English, and here they are:

1) According to a recent survey in Britain, when does middle age begin? Is it at:

(a) 35; (b) 40; (c) 45 ?
The answer is (a)! (Rather surprising.)


2) It happens to people who are in their forties and fifties. Essentially it is a worrying fear of getting old. People react by looking for ways to recapture their youth.

3) In a quarter-life crisis people...

... are aged in their twenties.
... worry about who they are and where they are going or what they are doing.


4) Quarter-life crises are mainly caused by (mention three causes):



(a) student debt(b) unaffordable property
(c) a very competitive job market


5) Is the quarter-life crisis the same as the mid-life crisis but twenty years earlier? Give reasons for your answer. No, it isn't the same: while middle-aged people worry about getting old, young people worry about the job market and finding somewhere to live.



6) Callum says he is nearly a hundred years old.
That's all for now everyone! Very many thanks to Savina, Paolo and Giovanni for your contributions to the Discussion Board.

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, find a few minutes each week to visit this Blog and explore some of the web sites that are shown here. I'd say that just twenty minutes every so often will help maintain your contact with English.

Try some of the listening web sites and, at the very least, keep up with the summer's news stories through English media such as the BBC, CNN and the newspapers online.

And as always, share your thoughts with us in a Comment or on the Tag Board.

Have a very good summer vacation! I'll be back on the first of September.

Good luck!
Mike

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The Quarter-Life Crisis

Good afternoon everyone. The latest from Six Minute English is about the "quarter-life crisis". We're going to find out what it is by listening and aswering a few simple questions. When you've finished, post your answers to the questions on the Tag Board or in a comment. Then say whether you have every experienced either a quarter-life or a mid-life crisis and tell us how you dealt with it.

First, the questions:
1) According to a recent survey in Britain, when does middle age begin? Is it at:
(a) 35; (b) 40; (c) 45 ?

2) What exactly is a "mid-life" crisis?
It happens to people who are in their _____ and ______ . Essentially it is a ________ of _________ ___________ . People react by looking for ways to ________ ________ _______ .[one word for each line like this:________ .]

4. In a quarter-life crisis people...
... are aged in their _______________ .
... worry about ____ ____ ____ and _______ they are _______ .

5. Quarter-life crises are mainly caused by (mention three causes):
(a)
(b)
(c)

6) Is the quarter-life crisis the same as the mid-life crisis but twenty years earlier? Give reasons for your answer.

7) Callum says he is nearly ______ years old.

Now, listen to the programme. Don't forget to use the Tag Board or a Comment to share your answers with everyone.

More very soon!
 - Mike

Monday, July 05, 2010

Monsters of the Highlands: The Answers

Good day everyone!
As promised some time ago, here are the answers to the Scottish Highland Monsters questions:
1) A Highlander wears his sporran round his waist - answer (b).
2) The Highlands are popular with people who like camping and hill walking.
3) Midges have mouthparts like a pair of shearing scissors. They cut a hole in your skin and suck your blood.
4) A lot of midges together look like a black cloud.
5) The sporran is useful for keeping your money and your whisky.
I can confirm the monstrous nature of Midges. When I went on a cycling tour of the Western Highlands some years ago with two friends from Naples, they were a terrible nuisance. Not only would they bite, they would also get into your eyes and nose. I really wonder what their role in the ecology is. They are less of a problem in the Eastern Highlands but a hazard nonetheless. They are also to be found in the North Pennines and the Lake District, both of which regions are in England. They are not known to spread disease.

Many thanks to Paolo, Savina and Giovanni for your messages! Keep up the good work of visiting this site and making it interactive.

More messages and another exercise later this week.

Yours,
 - Mike

Friday, June 25, 2010

Monster of the Highlands, introduced by Six Minute English

Are you thinking of going to the Highlands of Scotland this summer? If you are, you may want to think again after listening to this week's Six Minute English. The Scottish Highlands are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful regions of Europe. But they harbour a serious hazard: The Midge!

In this week's listening exercise you will learn a little about the midge. The Vocabulary section on the programme's web page will tell you quite a lot.

Now for the questions. Read the questions first and then listen to the programme.

1. Official question: where would a Highlander in traditional dress wear a 'sporran'? Would it be (a) on his head, (b) around his waist or (c) on his feet?

2. Complete the gaps with one word: "The Highlands are popular with people who like _____ - ______ and _________ ." [One hyphenated word, one single word.]

3. Why are midges called "monsters"? According to the expert, "they have __________ like a pair of shearing scissors. They cut a ________ in your skin and _______ your _______ ." [one word in each gap.]

4. Sometimes there are so many midges that they look like a ________ ________ . [two words.]

5. The sporran is useful for keeping your ______ and your ______ . [one word in each gap]

Now listen to the programme. As always, post your answers to the Tag Board or write them in the Comments section. Let's have everyone replying!

Coming soon: more recommendations from the British Council's newly-revised "LearnEnglish" site.

Have a good weekend!
- Mike

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Learning To Drive on 6 Minute English: The Answers!

Many thanks to the people who completed the latest Six Minute English exercise about learning to drive, and the Japanese approach to this activity. Here are the answers:
1. The fear of travelling in cars is known as "amaxaphobia." Extraordinary - I would have guessed (a) myself.

2. Kate doesn't have a car because she lives in Central London. Many New Yorkers don't have cars either - indeed they sometimes proudly tell you they do not have a driver's licence. Paolo found this very strange, as in Rome EVERYONE has a car.

3. Japanese people are not very interested in driving because Japan's public transport is very efficient; at the same time car ownership and parking are very difficult in Japan.

4. Japanese driving schools are trying to attract more customers by being more customer-oriented and offering extra services such as massages and relaxation sessions.
Keep visiting us: I will be posting more about how to get the best from the Net when you are practising or learning English. "A little but often" is the most effective technique.

More later this week.

- Mike

Friday, June 18, 2010

Facebook

Dear all,

A brief update while I wait for more answers to the last Six Minute English, which is about learning to drive, and how learner drivers are encouraged in Japan.

So far only Paolo of Level Four has sent in his replies. I will wait until a few more people answer the questions, and then next week we'll listen to another Six Minute English.

Meanwhile, I guess most of us are on Facebook, and so is the British Council. Here are some special British Council areas on Facebook giving you further opportunities to learn and practise your English online.

Here they are:

LearnEnglish on Facebook
LearnEnglish for Young Learners on Facebook

There's a wealth of material here. Visit the sites - and tell everybody about your experience by leaving a message on the Tag Board.

More very soon,
- Mike

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Learning to drive: four questions for six minutes

Hello everyone. I apologise for my silence over the last few days: since, in fact, 27th May. But it is that time of year again: the end of courses accompanied by intensive periods of correcting tests and exams.

However, I've been able to compile another listening exercise based on tthe BBC Learning English site's Six Minute English, and here it is. Before you try the exercise, read the questions first:


1. (Official question): Some people have a fear of travelling in cars. Is this phobia called (a) 'autophobia'; (b) 'amaxophobia'; (c) 'carnophobia' ?

2. Does Kate have a car? Why (not)?

3. Why are many Japanese people not interested in driving?

4. How are many Japanese driving schools trying to attract more pupils?
Now, listen to the programme. Then post your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Six Minute English is not the only on-line listening resource. Over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to other web sites, so keep visiting this Blog.

More soon!
- Mike

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Robin Hood: The Answers. Plus the BC's Learn English and how it can help you.

Hello everyone! First as promised, the answers to the latest Six Minute English listening comprehension exercise, which was about Robin Hood.
1. The first film of the Robin Hood story was released in 1908.
2. He was a great archer and a good swordsman.
3. Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest with his band of "Merry Men". Be careful of the spelling!
4. There have been over a hundred (100) different film and TV versions of the Robin Hood story.
5. He was always dressed in green and he wore tights. Note: it is worth revising all the vocabulary connected with clothes and fashion.
6. Russell Crowe, playing Robin Hood, wanted "to give the guy some dignity."
7. Russell Crowe sees Robin Hood as a "fighter".
8. Russell Crowe mentions gorse bushes and brambles as the forest flora most likely to damage your clothes. Look these botanical expressions up in your dictionary. What are they in Italian?

Very many thanks to Silvia, Annagiulia, Allegra, Chiara, Sergio, Gianluca, Giovanni, Savina, another Chiara, Lorenza and Leonardo. That's eleven people in all, and is very encouraging. But there are still over ninety people out there who are not responding...

Now, to turn to another topic: the newly redesigned British Council site LearnEnglish. This site gives you instant access to grammar and vocabulary practice, listening and video comprehension, and business English, among many other things. I encourage you to click on the link above and explore around. Take time to do so: twenty minutes should be enough to give you a good introduction.

But right now I am going to give you some specific links to topics we have recently been covering in class. First of all, let me address Level Four:

Passive Forms: a further explanation of the difference between active and passive forms of verbs. Unfortunately there is no game or test attached to this topic yet.

Young Learners Senior E: try this explanation of phrasal verbs. Here is a game you can play to practise phrasal verbs associated with "write". Although we haven't specifically studied this in class, try it anyway.

Level Two: try Passives - click on the link above. Here, too, is some extra practice on "used to"  contrasted with "be/get used to". See pages 80 and 138 in our book.

As always, when you have visited these sites and tried the exercises, give us your feedback by leaving a short message on the Tag Board or by posting a comment. You will find the Learn English site particularly useful for revision before our end-of-course test.

More listening comprehension soon!
- Mike

Friday, May 21, 2010

Six Minute English: Robin Hood

Hello everybody.
As promised, here is another listening comprehension exercise from Six Minute English. This time it's about the movie "Robin Hood", which is in Rome's cinemas and has also been shown at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

As usual, read through the questions below and then listen to the programme:

1. (This week's official question) When was the first film of the Robin Hood story released?
(a) 1908; (b) 1918; (c) 1928

2. Robin Hood's martial abilities included being a great __________ and a good _________ . [one word in each gap.]

3. Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest with his band of "________ ________ ." [two words].

4. There have been over ________ different film and TV versions of the Robin Hood story.

5. He was always dressed in _________ and he wore ________ .

6. Russell Crowe, when he played Robin Hood, "wanted to give the _______ some ________ ."

7. Russell Crowe sees Robin Hood as a "_________".

8. In his interview, what typical forest flora does Russell Crowe mention as being likely to damage his clothes?

Now listen to the programme and then write your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Very many thanks to all those who answered last week's Six Minute English quiz. How many are going to answer this week? I'd love to get as many people as possible participating.
More soon,
 - Mike

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Sign Of The Times" on Six Minute English: The Answers

Hello everyone. Here are the answers to last week's Six Minute English listening comprehension exercise.

1. Hollywood was originally called "Hollywoodland"

2. Mr Hefner compares the Hollywood sign with the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

3. British equivalents to the iconic landmark include London's Tower Bridge, the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben.

4. Mr Hefner says that the best of America comes not from the government but "from the movies".

5. And this "best of America" represents the "immigrant dream".

Many thanks to Diletta, Savina, Bruno, Gianluca, Olimpia, Lorenzo and Leonardo for taking part.

Coming up very soon:
(a) an introduction to the new British Council Learning English site, and
(b) our next Six Minute English listening comprehension.

I apologise for the fact that this is the first posting for ten days, but it has been a busy period.

See you again soon,
 - Mike

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Sign Of The Times" on Six Minute English

Good day everyone. I wish you all a happy start to the week.
Here's a fresh listening comprehension from Six Minute English. It's about the famous sign on a mountainside looking over one of the best known localities in America. Read the questions first and then listen to the programme.


1. The Hollywood sign was constructed in 1923 but at that time it didn't say 'Hollywood'. What did it say?
a) Hollywoodville; b) Hollywoodtown; c) Hollywoodland


2. Hugh Hefner, founder of the Playboy empire, compares the Hollywood sign with another famous landmark. Which one?
 
3. What London landmarks might have similar 'iconic' status? Three are mentioned.
 
4. Hugh Hefner says that the best of America comes not from government but from the ______ . (one word)
 
5. Mr. Hefner further says that this 'best of America' represents the ______ ______ . (two words)

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

Last week twelve people took part, and this was fantastic. Can we double the number this week?

Coming soon: the new British Council 'LearnEnglish' site; and how to use the Concordancer to research English vocabulary.

Watch this space!
 - Mike

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Cycling In Copenhagen: The Answers

Dear All,

Here are the answers to last week's Six Minute English exercise:

1) Official question: 1.2 million kilometres are cycled every day in the Danish capital.
2) Callum's two favourite pastimes are cycling and eating.
3) The hotel is making its offer to encourage guests to think about their consumption of energy.
4) Ten watts of energy will light up two light bulbs.
5) Another source of energy in Denmark comes from wind farms.
6) Wind farms produce a fifth of Denmark's energy. 

Many thanks to all those who sent in answers. This time they include: Giovanni, Damiano, Corrado, Max, Olimpia, Bruno, Simona, Paolo, Leonardo, Lorenza, Simone and Chiara.

A long list this time! This is very encouraging. The more people, the merrier!

Another message very soon.
- Mike

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Cycling For Food" - Six Questions for Six Minutes

Hello everybody. It's a rainy Tuesday morning here in Rome. So to cheer you up, here is another listening comprehension exercise from Six Minute English. This time, it's about an idea in Copenhagen, Denmark, initiated by a new hotel there.

As usual, read the questions, then listen to the dialogue.

1. Official question: according to the Copenhagen government's statistics how many kilometres are cycled in total, every working day, by people living and working in Copenhagen?

a) 1.2 million km; b) 1.6 million km; c) 2.1 million km

2. What are Callum's two favourite pastimes?

3. Why is the new hotel making its unusual offer to cyclists?

4. What can be done with ten watts of electricity, as a practical example?

5. What other form of renewable energy does Denmark produce?

6. And what proportion of Denmark's energy does this alternative form provide?

Now listen to the programme. And as usual, post your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.
And let's participate in Massive Numbers! I'd like to see the Tag Board and Comments Section absolutely flooded with your messages! I look forward to it.

More very soon and have a nice day!
- Mike






Thursday, April 22, 2010

Six Minute English with Malcolm McLaren: The Answers!

Hello everyone.
And many thanks to all those people who answered last week's Six Minute English. They include Olimpia, Chiara, Simona, Gianluca, Giovanni, Silvia, Paolo, Lorenza, Leonardo, Carlo and Simone!

That's a longer list than before, and very encouraging. But I long to see everybody (!) leaving their answers on this Blog.

And now the answers:

1. Johnny Rotten - of course.
2. "iconic"
3. (a) "a real charmer" (b) "a total spieler" (c) "incredibly articulate" (d) "very well-educated"
4. The word is "spieler" and it has come into English from German and Yiddish.
5. Neil Spencer's attitude to Malcolm McLaren is positive, even admiring.

I'll be back soon with another listening exercise based on Six Minute English. Meanwhile, there is a lot that you can do. Lorenza, Corrado, Simona and Elisabetta, to name a few, have been visiting other sites such as Randall's Cyber-Listening Lab and Michael Marzio's Real English.

I very strongly encourage you to follow their example - and leave a message on the tag Board, as they have done.

More very soon!
Yours,
 - MIke

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five Questions for Six Minutes: Malcolm McLaren, the Godfather of Punk

Good day everyone. As promised, here is a further listening exercise based on Six Minute English. Today it is very short. It's about Malcolm Mclaren, the promoter of the group The Sex Pistols, who died recently.

As usual, read the questions first, then listen to the talk. Then post your answers in a Comment or on the Tag Board.

1. The real name of the lead singer of the Sex Pistols  is John Lydon. What is his stage name?
(a) Johnny Terrible (b) Johnny Rotten (c) Johnny Awful

2. The Sex Pistols were the most __________ punk band. (insert one word)

3. The journalist Neil Spencer uses four different expressions to describe Malcolm McLaren. Insert one word into each space:
 (a) "a real __________ "
 (b) "a total __________ "
 (c) "incredibly ________ "
 (d) "very well-________ "

4. One of these words has come into English from another language. Which word and which language?

5. How would you describe Neil Spencer's attitude to Malcolm McLaren?

Now listen to the talk. Then enter your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment. A Comment is better if you are writing a longer answer, or if you want to put all your answers together rather than in separate messages on the Tag Board.

Official answers next week.

Have a good weekend!

But don't forget to visit this Blog at least twice, if not three times, a week.

 - Mike