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