Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year..

.. to all our readers. If you are having a holiday, have a very good time.

Business as usual after 10 January!

Until that time, I have locked the Tag Board owing to the risk of Spammers. So please leave your comments in the Comments section.

More soonest!
Yours,
Mike




Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Watch, Listen and Understand: Michael Marzio's Video With Answers

Hello everybody. Today I'm going to give you the answers to the Real English Video Quiz of a fortnight ago.


In this video, kindly brought to you by Michael Marzio, an American teacher of English in France, you watched and listened to a series of people giving their opinions of the British. Here are the questions again, with the answers:


1. Marie's opinion? "A wry sense of humour."


2. Carlo's opinion? "The British are fair. I can live with them if I have to."

3. Arnold's opinion? "They're nice. They have the same sense of humour as the Dutch do, so we go together quite well."
Where is Arnold from? Holland.
 
4. Kyla's opinon? "Very very witty. They've got to keep themselves entertained in that miserable weather."
What adjective does she use for British food? "Abhorrent."
What adjective does she use for British beer? "Wonderful."
Where is Kyla's mother from? Wales.
Which British people does she prefer? The British but not especially the English.

5. Maria's opinion? "Reserved."

6. Michael's opinion? "Family-orientated and aristocratic."

7. Susan's opinion? "Homey, a little stiff, formal... Fun!"

8. Officer Gallagher's opinion? "A nation of shopkeepers."

9. June's opinion? "Cold, less open, more reserved."

10. Katie and Lynn's opinion? "Pompous."

11. Sharon's opinion? Her British boss's ways were "very stringent" and he was "prejudiced against Americans."

12. Tony's opinion? "Stuffy."

13. Bill's opinion? "They're awful ... They're the source of the entire world's problems!"
What nationality is Bill? Irish.


Many thanks to Alessandra and Giorgia of Level 2 for their answers. Marco and Emanuela, also of Level 2, visited the site but did not leave any answers!

I apologize for not sending out a reminder to everyone to visit this Blog. However I urge all readers to come in here at least twice a week. And I'll be posting another quiz before the Christmas holidays start.

Meanwhile, have a very good day.

Yours,
Mike

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Watch, Listen and Understand

Hello everyone. I am sorry to have taken so long - over a fortnight - to give you a new exercise.

Just for a change, we're going to look at something from Michael Marzio's "Real English". Michael Marzio is an American teacher of English, living and working near Paris. He has created a large and very useful website to which there is a link on the right-hand column of this blog. 

"Real English" contains dozens of interviews recorded on the streets of various cities, so the speech is very natural.There are exercises for everyone, but they are mainly designed for Beginner and Pre-Intermediate levels.

Today, we're going to hear what various people, from various countries, think of the British. They are all answering the question, "What are the British like?"

So here is the video from Michael Marzio's 'Real English' site. When you click on the link, a new window will open in your browser, so you can easily switch between the Blog and the video.

Suggested procedure:

First, quickly read the thirteen questions here.

Then go down to the section entitled "For Intermediate Students". Choose the first video, "Regular Long Version".

The video lasts just under six minutes. It's in two parts.
The first part, up to 2 minutes 45 seconds (02:45), shows the interviews without subtitles. Stop when you come to the "Real English!" signature scene.

Give short answers to the questions.

1. Marie's opinion?

2. Carlo's opinion?

3. Arnold's opinion?
Where is Arnold from?
 
4. Kyla's opinon?
What adjective does she use for British food?
What adjective does she use for British beer?
Where is Kyla's mother from?
Which British people does she prefer?

5. Maria's opinion?

6. Michael's opinion?

7. Susan's opinion?

8. Officer Gallagher's opinion?

9. June's opinion?

10. Katie and Lynn's opinion?

11. Sharon's opinion?

12. Tony's opinion?

13. Bill's opinion?
What nationality is Bill?

Stop the video at 02:45.

Now write your short answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment.

Then continue to the end of the video. In this second part, the interviews are repeated with subtitles. Check your answers. Were you right?

I look forward to everyone's answers! Next week, we will look at the British Council's "Learn English" site and how to make the best use of it.

Goodbye for now!
Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stress In The Workplace: The Answers

Hello to all our readers, on a rainy day in Rome.
Here are the answers to the latest Six Minute English Quiz.

1. This week's question: According to a survey carried out this year, what is considered to be the most stressful job? Is it:

a) A commercial airline pilot 
b) A school teacher
c) A surgeon

And the right answer was: 
A commercial airline pilot.

Why is this job stressful? Because they're not only expected to guarantee the safety of their passengers, but also expected to reach their destinations on time, even when flying in bad weather.


And the other questions:


2. What kind of stress do people often suffer from?
Answer: Stress in the workplace, which is the no. 1 cause of absence from work.

3. Why is stress increasing in the UK?
High prices of food and petrol, the financial situation generally.

4. What word does the BBC reporter use as a synonym for economic depression? Hint: the first word is a "D", and it's not "depression", obviously!
The answer is: "Downturn"

5. What proportion of British public-sector companies have reported a rise in stress-related absenteeism?
Answer: half

6. Why is this rise surprising?
Answer: Because public-sector jobs are traditionally seen as more stable and secure.

7. What are the main reasons for stress-related absenteeism?
Answer: organisational change, excessive workloads, lack of job security.

8. What often happens in companies which are planning to make redundancies?
Answer: they report an increase in mental health problems among staff.

9. What can be done to reduce stress?
Answer: Companies should have a plan or a strategy in place to help staff. Offering counselling is one option.

Many thanks to those people who answered. They include "
IELTS Writing Topics" - presumably a human operator of this web site; and Annalisa.

Coming soon:
an exercise based on Michael Marzio's "Real English" site; a survey of the British Council's "LearnEnglish" site; and a further Six Minute English quiz.

While you're waiting for these and other goodies, do take time off to explore this Blog and try out as many sites as you can. As with doing your financial accounts, "a little but often" is a good rule. So try visiting the Blog and connecting to an associated website three or four times a week, for a quarter of an hour each time. It will definitely make a difference.


That's all for now. More later this week.


Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Six Minute English: Stress In The Workplace

Hello everybody. Stress is a problem in many people's lives, whether you work or not. But stress in the workplace is particularly serious because of the high cost to economies that are already in poor health. In this week's Six Minute English, we will learn what causes stress at work and what can be done about it. You'll also learn some useful vocabulary connected with the world of work.

To help you to concentrate on your listening, here are a few questions. Read these first and then click on the link, below, to open a new page taking you straight to Six Minute English.

1. This week's question: According to a survey carried out this year, what is considered to be the most stressful job? Is it:

a) A commercial airline pilot
b) A school teacher
c) A surgeon

Listen out for the correct answer at the end of the programme. Does the speaker get it right? And why is this job particularly stressful? What would be the correct answer in Italy? Or, if you are not from Italy, in your country?

Some further questions:
2. Why is stress increasing in the UK?

3. What word does the BBC reporter use as a synonym for economic depression? Hint: the first word is a "D", and it's not "depression", obviously!

4. What proportion of British public-sector companies have reported a rise in stress-related absenteeism?

5. Why is this rise surprising?

6. What are the main reasons?

7. What often happens in companies which are planning to make redundancies? 

8. What can be done to reduce stress?

Now listen to the programme. When you have finished, send us your answers by using the Tag Board or a Comment.

Possibly a Comment will be better, as on the Tag Board you are limited to two hundred characters.

I look forward to reading everyone's answers! I'll post the official answers at the end of this week.

Yours,
Mike

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How To Make Your House out of Plastic Bottles.

An Argentine man, Alfredo Santa Cruz, has made his entire house, and much of the furniture, out of old plastic bottles.

See his story here on the BBC.

To help you focus your attention, here are three comprehension questions:

1. How did Mr Santa Cruz get his idea of making a house out of old bottles?

2. What special technique has he invented?

3. How many people has he taught to make bottle houses?

Write your answers on the Tag Board.

This follows the story of October 3, about the Manila residents who make roof skylights out of plastic bottles filled with water.

More next week.

And I wish all our readers a very entertaining Hallowe'en!

Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Making The Most of the Internet

For those readers who are also students at the British Council Rome, my colleague Bruce Warburton will be giving a talk on this very subject. “Making the most of the web – using the internet for self study”, presented by Bruce from 19.30-20.30 on Thursday 3rd November.

Meanwhile, this Blog also helps you make the most of the Net. Although the links on this Blog connect to all manner of web sites to help you practise your English, there is some emphasis on Listening. Today, we will look at Michael Marzio's "Real English" site.

Michael Marzio is an American teacher of English near Paris. He has created a series of video comprehension exercises at various levels. His team interviews ordinary people in the street, asking questions that range from the basic to the quite complex. We'll now have a look at Lesson 1. When you click this link, a new window will open in your browser. In this way, you can easily switch between Real English and this Blog.

Lesson 1 is ideal for students at levels A1 to A2, or levels 1 to 2 at the British Council. It is very simple: "What's your name?" In the first video you'll see, lasting 59 seconds, people in the street are asked their names. Although their names are shown on the screen, the dialogues are not.

Michael Marzio recommends that you do the exercise before you watch the videos. So click on the link marked, "Lesson 1 Exercises begin here." You will be shown the individual words making up the dialogues. You can listen to the teacher pronouncing the words. Then you can record your own voice, reading the same words. Play back your recording and compare your pronunciation with that of the teacher.

Now click on "Exercise 2a" at the top of the page. Here, you will see a very short extract from the video. Below the video you are asked to choose the expression you hear. Go on to exercise 2b.

Exercise 2b contains two parts. In the first part, you watch the video and click on the expression you hear. Then, click the 'back' button on your browser to return to the first part of exercise 2b. You can now click on the loudspeaker icon, listen to the short speech, and then record yourself saying the same words. Play back your recording to check your pronunciation and sentence stress.

In exercise 2c, you click on the video and listen to the common expression used when people greet each other.

In exercise 2d you will hear a different greeting expression. How is it different? Exercise 2d contains a link to a special explanation of this expression. It's on "The Daily English Show" video, and I suggest you watch the top version with extra subtitles. When you have finished, click the 'back' button on your browser to resume the exercises in "Real English".

Continue with the rest of the exercises. They go on to exercise 6. The whole of Real English Lesson 1 should take you about twenty minutes.

At the end, you may find it helpful to read the dialogues at the same time as you watch and listen. To do this, watch the second video on the screen. You'll see the same sequence again, with subtitles.

When you have finished, here is a very important task: take five minutes off to leave your comment, wither on the Tag Board or in the Comments section just below this post. In your comment, tell us how you found the exercises. Were they easy or difficult? Were they helpful? After doing the video exercises, did you feel that it was easier to understand people speaking?

It's important for all of us that you leave a comment, as this Blog is interactive. One of its objectives is to create a community of learners of English, no matter who or where you are.

That's all for now. Coming up: a listening comprehension exercise from the BBC's 'Learning English' site.

More soon!
Mike

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Ingenious Idea: The Answers.

Good day to all our readers. I can now provide you with the answers to the last Six Minute English Quiz, which centred on an ingenious idea being applied by people living in the poorer parts of Manila, Philippines.

In these poorer areas, the houses are placed very close together, and this prevents light from reaching them. The inhabitants' idea was to set  bottles filled with water into the roofs of their houses. The effect is to diffuse the sunlight that falls on the bottles, resulting in much better lighting in the house.


So here are the answers to the questions:


1. This week's official question: 
How many islands make up the Philippines?

c) 7107

2. ‘Slums’ are areas of a city where the houses are of very bad quality. How many people live in slums in the
Philippines? Twenty million people, a tenth of them in the capital, Manila.

3. What is one of the biggest problems of living in a
Manila slum? It’s very dark and it is too expensive for most slum inhabitants to use electricity to light their houses.

4. Electricity in the
Philippines is the most expensive in Asia.

5. What does the invention consist of?
A plastic bottle, filled with water. It is placed in the roof of a house, The sunlight shines on the roof and is refracted through the bottles inserted in it. The light can then be diffused all over an otherwise dark house.

6. In terms of electrical power in Watts, how much light is produced by each plastic bottle? Fifty to sixty watts – more than many electric light bulbs.

Many thanks to British Council Rome student Giovanni for posting his answers on the Tag Board. And I know a few people have visited the Blog, listened to the exercise - but not left a comment, either on the Tag Board or in the Comments section.

In these days of heightened concern for privacy, it is understandable if people are reluctant to post to a web site. But please be reassured that your e-mail address or other personal details are not at risk unless you fill in the 'e-mail / URL window on the Tag Board. I would advise you to leave this window blank. But do write your first name in the 'Name' window, as this makes the Rome English site more genuinely  interactive.

I must apologise for taking 15 days to produce the answers to the Quiz. The start of the teaching year is often very busy, not to say 'frantic'. I will be posting something later this week, first on Michael Marzio's highly useful "Real English", followed by another "6-Minute English" quiz.

Finally, a word to the occasional Spammers whom I encounter on the Tag Board. Leaving a message in a language other than English will lead to your message being deleted as well as  reported to the Tag Board site administrator.
More later this week.
Yours,
Mike

Monday, October 03, 2011

Six Minute English: An Ingenious Idea

Hello everyone. There's a famous proverb which says, "Necessity is the mother of invention." This week’s Six Minute English is about how this proverb works in the Philippines. Many Filipinos live and work in Italy. Back home, many people are very poor. But some of them use a simple device, based on an equally simple scientific principle, to light their homes without spending any money. We are about to discover what this ingenious device is. Read the questions first and then listen to the programme.

1. This week's official question:

How many islands make up the Philippines? Is it:

a) 107

b) 707

c) 7107

Listen out for the answer at the end of the programme!

2. ‘Slums’ are areas of a city where the houses are of very bad quality. How many people live in slums in the Philippines?

3. What is one of the biggest problems of living in a Manila slum?

4. Electricity in the Philippines is __________ __________ __________ in Asia.

5. What does the invention consist of?

6. In terms of electrical power in Watts, how much light is produced by each plastic bottle?

Now listen to the programme. Except for question 4, the answers will consist of a long sentence, or even more than one sentence. So I suggest writing them in a Comment. To write a Comment, click on the 'Comments' link at the end of this post.

For further listening practice, explore the British Council's Learn English site. There is a large store of materials here, and more materials are being added all the time. One of the best resources consists of the Elementary Podcasts. In each podcast you'll hear a conversation between two or three people. They talk about such things as money problems, football hooliganism and even about people's favourite times of day.

You can download each podcast to your i-Pod or MP3 player for repeated listening practice. You can also download the transcript of a conversation and a Support Pack. The Support Pack consists of paper versions of the exercises that you can do on your computer.

Why not try Series 3 Episode 4? You'll hear people talking about getting a job to solve money problems, and about the weather in different countries. Listen and do the exercises. Then tell us about your experience on the Tag Board or in a Comment. Did you find the Podcast useful, or not, and why?

If you want to participate on the Learn English site, you have to register. I encourage you to do this. You will then be able to leave comments, make suggestions and ask questions about English, such as about any grammar and vocabulary you are not sure that you have understood.

Registration involves inventing a user name and password for yourself, giving your e-mail address and then a very few elements of personal information, none of which is made public. This is a safe site.

More very soon! I urge you all, wherever you are, to listen to Six Minute English and send in your answers. I also urge you explore 'Learn English' and share your experiences of it on the Tag Board.

Next week: how to use Michael Marzio's 'Real English' for listening practice.
Ciao4now!
Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Help with Grammar

Dear all,

For those of you following a course, you may now be facing an end-of-course test. You will want to revise some essential grammar and vocabulary. Fortunately, the Internet has a lot to offer you.

Look at the right hand column of this Blog. You'll see a whole succession of links to various useful sites. The first one I can see is "English Grammar Secrets". Down the left-hand side of the page you will see a long list of lessons. Why don't you try to solve the classic problem of the Past Simple and Present Perfect? Read the rules and then do the four exercises.

However, when you have finished, don't forget to leave a comment or post a message on the Tag Board to say how useful you found the presentation and exercises. Then return to the list of grammar lessons.

Your next helper for grammar, vocabulary and also listening is the British Council's Learn English site. Have a look at another common problem: adjectives that end in "-ed" or in "-ing". Which form to use? Again, read the rules and do the exercise at the bottom of the page. And as before, post a message on the Tag Board or in a Comment to say whether you found the site useful, interesting, informative - or the opposite. You can also post a grammar question if there is something you have not understood.

Still on the British Council's Learn English site, why not try some listening or video comprehension? Here is a good one on the difference between American and British English. Watch the video and then do the vocabulary exercise at the bottom of the page. Did you get them all correct? Once more, leave a message on the Tag Board or send a Comment.

That's it for the moment. Coming up later this week: a listening comprehension from Six Minute English. There are some interesting topics right now: Blood Doping, Soldier Teachers, Swimming, the World Wide Web, Bird Superstitions and Ebooks, to mention a very few. Which one would you like to know more about? Tell me by leaving me a message on the Tag Board!

More later this week!
Yours,
Mike

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Shopping on 6 Minute English: The Answers

Hello everyone. As promised, here are the answers to last week's Six Minute English quiz:

This week's question:

The Bullring in Birmingham is the UK's busiest shopping centre, but how many people, on average, visit the Bullring each year? Is it:

a) 27 million
b) 37 million √
c) 47 million

Listen out for the answer at the end of the programme!

2. What kind of shopping does Rob like? “I like quick shopping: I like going in, finding what I want, and coming out again.”

He doesn’t like “hanging around and seeing the shopping centre”.

3. The High Street is the main shopping street in a town or area.

4. For the first speaker, the advantages of shopping centres are choice and a good deal, discount or sale.

However, a shopping centre cannot replace localised shopping, such as a nice boutique in a local high street.

5. The second speaker says the restaurants are either fast-food or slightly more upmarket.

6. The disadavantage of shopping centres is that they are often very crowded.

Very many thanks to Stefano, Annalisa and Giovanni for their Comments, and to Giulio and Manuela for their posts on the Tag Board.

Here is a vocabulary quiz for you. What do you understand by these expressions which you heard on Six Minute English?

(a) "hanging around"
(b) "upmarket"
(c) "crowded"

Post your answers on the Tag Board or in a Comment. Try to find an alternative English expression for wach one.

Next post: how to use the British Council's 'Learn English' site effectively.

Yours and more soon,
Mike

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Six Minute English: Shopping Centres

Do you just love shopping? Do you look forward to Saturday afternoon in Rome's Via del Corso? Or maybe you prefer the Roma Est shopping centre, just off the highway as you head east out of town.

Or maybe you hate shopping. Whichever the case, this week's Six Minute English, from the BBC's Learning English site, brings you some people's opinions. It also brings you some useful vocabulary.

Read the questions first, then listen.

1. Official question:

The Bullring in Birmingham is the UK's busiest shopping centre, but how many people, on average, visit the Bullring each year? Is it:
 a) 27 million
b) 37 million
c) 47 million
 Listen out for the answer at the end of the programme!

For questions 2 to 6, listen and insert the word that fits each space. One space = one word.

2. What kind of shopping does Rob like? “I like __________ shopping: I like __________ __________, __________ what I __________, and __________ __________ again.”
He doesn’t like “__________ around and __________ the shopping centre”.

3. The High Street is the __________ shopping street in a __________ or __________.

4. For the first speaker, the advantages of shopping centres are __________ and a good __________, __________ or __________.However, a shopping centre cannot replace __________ __________, such as a nice __________ in a __________ __________ __________.

5. The second speaker says the restaurants are either __________ or slightly more __________.

6. The disadavantage of shopping centres is that they are often very __________.


Now, listen to the programme. When you have finished, post your answers on the Tag Board on the right, or in a Comment.

Keep in touch with BBC Learning English by going to its Facebook page.

And you can do some further reading about an example of a successful shopping centre in the North-East of England. Make a note of any interesting new vocabulary. If you find any really difficult expressions, just post a comment or a message on the Tag Board. Someone is sure to answer.

In my next post, we will look at the British Council's Learn English site and how it can help you with your English. More soon!

Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Listening to English: 'From Our Own Correspondent' (BBC)

Hello everyone. It's 6 September and it is not long since I returned to Rome. So I haven't had time yet to devise a 'Six Minute English' listening comprehension exercise. But here is something equally interesting: From Our Own Correspondent.

Listen to the report from Tripoli, Libya. Here are two questions to help you concentrate on the information it contains:

1. Why did the correspondent find Colonel Gaddafi's Bab-el-Aziziya headquarters in Tripoli 'surreal'?

2. What are the Libyans' reactions when they visit Bab-el-Aziziya?

Post your answers on the Tag Board (limited to 22 characters) or in a Comment - just click the Comment link at the bottom of this post.

More soon!
Mike

Tag Board reactivated

Dear All,

Just back from the summer holidays, and I have now reactivated the Tag Board. You are welcome to post messages as long as they are useful, informative and relevant to this Blog.

A word of warning to spammers, however. There have been too many spam posts to the tag board in the past few months. Be aware that I shall check out the IP addresses of any spam messages, and will delete any messages that don't conform to Blog rules of utility and relevance. I will also report persistent offenders' IP addresses to the Cbox administrators, creators of the Tag Board.

That said, I will from now on post regular messages on how to use the Net to help practise and improve your English. These will include further listening exercises based on Six Minute English.

I hope all readers had an enjoyable summer holiday. Please continue to visit us!

Yours,
Mike Ivy

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Tag Board temporarily suspended

Dear Readers,

This is to let you know that I have temporarily suspended the Tag Board, for I cannot always spare the time to check it for the spam messages that have been left there in recent weeks. The Board will be back to normal in early September.

Meanwhile, you can leave your messages in the Comments section at the end of this, or any other, posting.

Once again, have a very good summer vacation.

Yours,
Mike

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Holidays; Tag Board

Dear All,

It's now summer vacation time in Europe, Ramadan is about to start, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish our readers a happy and festive season wherever you are. I'll start posting regularly again in September. It's just possible that I may have an opportunity to create an exercise for you in August, but I cannot promise.

The Tag Board is causing mild concern. Some individuals are leaving spam messages. I have banned them and their IP addresses, but I will keep an eye on this site. If necessary, I will remove the Tag Board temporarily.

Have a very good summer holiday, and if you are observing Ramadan, I wish you a joyous month.

Yours,
Mike

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Does Italy Have A Debt Crisis? - The Answers

Hello. Here are the answers to the quiz questions on the BBC domestic radio 4 'Today' programme on Italy's debt. You had to fill in the gaps. I have indicated the answers in bold text.
1. Politicians are saying that the markets are overreacting dangerously.

2. Part of the problem is that there is no agreement on the mechanics of a second financial bailout for Greece.

3. The Dutch Finance Minister says that a precondition has to be substantial private sector involvement.

4. Italy is involved because its Prime Minister has fallen out with his Economy Minister.

5. Mr Berlusconi has accused the Economy Minister of being a "prima donna" who “thinks everyone else is a cretin.”

6. This is not what the rest of Europe wants to hear from the Eurozone’s second-largest but determinedly sluggish economy.

7. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is trying to persuade Mr Berlusconi to pass a new austerity budget as soon as possible.

8. She says Italy needs to show that it is consolidating and fighting debt.

9. Politicians who have to answer to electorates always seem to be one step behind the markets.

10. Peter Spiegel, the Brussels bureau chief of the Financial Times, says that “if Italy goes down, then it will be Lehman Brothers …. ten times as bad.”

11. The results could be "brutal".

12. Why have the markets taken so long to react to Italy? Because the markets only focus on one thing at a time.

13. The only way to solve the problem is by issuing common European bonds.

Please do continue to visit the BBC and other sites for listening practice. See the right-hand column for appropriate links. The BBC sites, as well as listening sites, are quite near the top.

Another listening quiz coming soon!

Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Does Italy have a Debt Crisis?

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. This is a slightly different listening exercise from usual. It may be more difficult. It is certainly more specialised: it is about economics and turns on the question: could Italy suffer a debt crisis like that of Greece or Portugal?
To find out more, listen to the BBC's "Today" programme .This is a programme that goes out every morning on the BBC's domestic Radio 4. First, however, look at the exercise. You should try to complete each sentence with the missing words. There is one word for each space, indicated by a short line:
 
1. Politicians are saying that the markets are ________ ________ .

2. Part of the problem is that there is no agreement on the mechanics of a ________ ________ bailout for Greece.

3. The Dutch Finance Minister says that a precondition has to be substantial ________ ________ involvement.

4. Italy is involved because its Prime Minister has ____ ____ with his Economy Minister.

5. Mr Berlusconi has accused the Economy Minister of being a “________ ________” who “thinks everyone else is a ____ .”

6. This is not what the rest of Europe wants to hear from the Eurozone’s ________-largest but determinedly ________ economy.

7. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is trying to persuade Mr Berlusconi to pass a new ____ ____ as soon as possible.

8. She says Italy needs to show that it is ________ and ________ debt.

9. Politicians who have to answer to electorates always seem to be ________ step ________ the markets.

10. Peter Spiegel, the Brussels bureau chief of the Financial Times, says that “if Italy goes down, then it will be Lehman Brothers …. ____  ____ as bad.”

11. The results could be “________”.

12. Why have the markets taken so long to react to Italy? Because the markets only focus on ____ ____ at a time.

13. The only way to solve the problem is by issuing ________ bonds.
 
Now, listen to the programme. It will open in a new window of your browser. Click on the audio play button if the audio does not start automatically. The programme lasts five and a half minutes.

Write your answers on the Tag Board or in a comment. You can also use the Tag Board or comments to add your own views on Italy's financial situation. I look forward to reading your suggestions and solutions.

More soon!
Yours,
Mike

Monday, July 04, 2011

'Posh People' - The Answers

Good day everyone. Here are the answers to the latest Six Minute English quiz. I didn't get many answers, but I expect a lot of people "lurked" and listened to the programme on the BBC. "Lurked"? We'll talk about this further down the page.

Here are the answers:

1. (Official): Which member of the pop group The Spice Girls was nicknamed Posh Spice? It was: c) Victoria Adams √

2. In the English class system, people are classified according to a number of social and financial factors.

3. ‘Posh people’ are supposed to belong to the upper class.

4. ‘Posh’ describes something that is stylish, elegant and expensive.

5. What is the origin of the word ‘posh’? It is an acronym derived from Port Outward, Starboard Homeward on the boats going between Britain and the Far East. "Mi spiego meglio" - let me explain.

In colonial times, business people, or Army and colonial service personnel and their families travelling between the UK and her colonial possessions in the East would travel by ship. The route went down the Atlantic coast of Europe, through the Mediterranean, into the Red Sea via the Suez Canal, into the Arabian Gulf and then across the Indian Ocean.

A ship sailing from west to east would be exposed to maximum sunlight on the side facing south, which would be the right-hand side. So the most comfortable, and therefore expensive cabins, not exposed to direct sunlight, would be on the left-hand side of the boat when going 'outward' from the UK to, say, India. The reverse would be the case on the 'homeward' east-west journey. And in nautical parlance, "port" means "left", while "starboard" means right.

I hope that's clearer.

6. The playwright Julian Fellowes says that ‘posh people’ need to be protected from persecution.

7. A ‘posh’ accent in English is also known as ‘The Queen’s English’. You heard an audioclip of the Queen speaking English during the programme.

8. What does the writer James Delingpole think ‘posh people’ need? Answer: A "level playing field". This means a situation in which all participants have an equal chance of success.

9. The writer Owen Jones thinks that the debate about ‘posh people’ is really about stopping discussion about the fact that politics and the media are unrepresentative of ordinary people .

A new Six Minute English quiz is coming up soon. Meanwhile, think about Your Ideal Trip. Where would you like to go? Who with? What would your priorities be?

Now listen to two people talking on the BBC about their ideal trip. Then give us your ideas. Post them in the Comments section after this post or, if your reply is short (up to 200 characters), post your ideas on the Tag Board.

Finally, I used the word "lurked" at the beginning of this post. "To lurk" means to be in a place without any apparent reason and with a furtive or suspicious manner, obviously not wanting to be noticed. On the Internet, a "lurker" is someone who visits an interactive web site, such as this one, without participating.

Now, I would like to persuade all the "lurkers" on this site to come in from the cold and leave their messages and comments on the Tag Board or in the Comments section. You will be made most welcome!

More soon!
Yours,
Mike

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Six Minute English: 'Posh People'

Good day everyone. A few days ago I promised you another Six Minute English Quiz. I asked you to have a quick preview of the episode and gave you a link to follow. Now I can ask you a few questions. Read them now, and then listen:

1. (Official): Which member of the pop group The Spice Girls was nicknamed Posh Spice? Was it:

a) Emma Bunton; b) Geri Halliwell; c) Victoria Adams ?

2. In the English class system, people are classified according to a number of ________ and _________ factors. (One word in each space)

3. ‘Posh people’ are supposed to belong to the _______ class. (One word)

4. ‘Posh’ describes something that is ________, _________ and __________. (Three adjectives)

5. What is the origin of the word ‘posh’? Can you write a short sentence explaining this idea? You may need to use the Comments facility.

6. The playwright Julian Fellowes says that ‘posh people’ need to be protected from _________ (One word)

7. A ‘posh’ accent in English is also known as ‘The _____’s English’. (one word, possessive)

8. What does the writer James Delingpole think ‘posh people’ need? (A short sentence.)

9. The writer Owen Jones thinks that the debate about ‘posh people’ is really about stopping discussion about the fact that politics and the media are ……. (a short sentence to complete your answer.

Now listen to the episode. I suggest answering the questions using the Comment facility below this post, especially for questions 5, 8 and 9.
 
Coming soon: further ideas for practising Listening. And remember: we now have a Facebook page for the British Council in Italy. You're always most welcome to come and visit us. More on the Facebook page very soon.
 
Have a good weekend!
Yours,
Mike

Friday, June 17, 2011

Social Media Scams: The Answers

Hello everyone. I am sorry that over two weeks have passed since my last message. My excuse must be that here at the British Council Rome we have been holding end-of-course tests which have taken up a lot of time to correct. But that's now over, so at last I can give you the answers to the last Six Minute English quiz that I posted at the very end of May. Here they are:


1. This week's official question: Who was the first celebrity to have more than 10 million people following his or her updates on Twitter?
b) Lady Gaga

2. Social media offer people an easy and entertaining way of staying in contact with those they know and trust. (one word in each space.)

3. Alice uses social media especially with friends who live abroad.

4. BBC Technology Correspondent Mark Gregory mentions that social networking sites are an obvious target for scams involving impersonation.

5. From how many computers has Microsoft taken its information? Six hundred million.

6. What exactly are “phishing” frauds? What do they encourage you to do? Provide important personal information such as your user name or password.

7. How can you protect yourself from a scam? Be careful about what information you provide online; be vigilant about suspicious emails.
Many thanks to Giovanni and Mauro for their answers. Gabriella tried to leave her answers in a comment but for some reason it did not work. However, it is usually easy to leave a comment. You need to choose an 'identity' option - I suggest the 'Name/URL' and just leave your name. Then you need to copy the coloured letters you will see on the screen into a special window. This is an anti-spam measure. It ensures that only actual human beings can leave messages, thus excluding computer robots.

Give me a few days to compose another Six Minute English Quiz. We're looking at early next week. Meanwhile, do continue exploring this Blog and the Internet for more opportunities to practise your English. It's vital to maintain your contact with English over the summer period when you're on holiday, as it is very easy to forget everything you learnt.

So keep returning to the British Council's 'Learn English' site, and to the BBC's 'Learning English'. Why not try listening to 'Posh People' on the latest Six Minute English? What does 'Posh People' mean? Post your answers on the Tag Board.


More early next week!
Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Six Minute English: Social Media Scams

Good day readers!
Recently, everyone has been talking about Social Media - Twitter, Facebook to name but two. They help people find old friends, make new friends, keep in touch and share various aspects of their lives. I use Facebook to share some of my experiences, especially travel.

But there is a darker side. Stephen and Alice, the presenters on this week's Six Minute English, focus on one unpleasant aspect of social networks: the criminals who try to persuade you to reveal your password. Once they have this, they can do you a lot of damage.

Let's have a look at the questions:

1. This week's official question: Who was the first celebrity to have more than 10 million people following his or her updates on Twitter?

a) Ashton Kutcher
b) Lady Gaga
c) Stephen Fry


2. Social media offer an _____________ and _____________ way of staying in contact with those they _____________ and _____________. (one word in each space.)


3. Alice uses social media especially with friends who _____________ _____________.

4. BBC Technology Correspondent Mark Gregory mentions that social networking sites are an obvious target for scams involving _____________.


5. From how many computers has Microsoft taken its information?

6. What exactly are “phishing” frauds? What do they encourage you to do?


7. How can you protect yourself from a scam?

Now listen to Six Minute English. I suggest you give your answers in a comment since, especially for questions 5 to 7, you may go over the 200-character limit for the Tag Board.

I look forward to everyone's answers!

Have a very nice day,
Mike

60-second Word Challenge on your i-Phone

Here's something for readers who have an i-Phone. An app has come out which helps you with your English vocabulary.

It's called "60 Second Word Challenge". It has been released this week for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. It is a fun vocabulary quiz with 10 topics, three difficulty levels and 600 questions.

Download it now while it's free. Search iTunes for '60 second word challenge' or 'british council'.

Or you can download it from here:
http://itunes.apple.com/app/60-second-word-challenge/id432488501?mt=8

Please do share your experiences of the app with the rest of us, by leaving a message on the Tag Board. For comments over 200 characters in length, click on 'Post A Comment' after this post.

And you will help us enormously if you answer the 'poll' (survey) question just above the Tag Board and tell us what kind of mobile device you possess.

Coming soon: another Six Minute English Quiz.

Kind regards,
Mike

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Six Minute English on British Republicans: The Answers

Hello everyone. First of all may I sincerely apologise for not having posted anything since the 11th of May!

But I would like to make up for it by posting the correct answers to the last Six Minute English quiz. Here they are:

This week's official question:
Why were British royals put to death by beheading rather than hanging?

a) It was quicker, because gallows – a special wooden structure - weren't needed.

b) It was less brutal to the prisoner as they died more quickly.

c) More executioners preferred to use the axe.

The correct answer is b): It was less brutal to the prisoner as they died more quickly.

Complete the sentences:

2. King Charles I was executed in 1641.

3. How many people are in favour of the monarchy? 70 to 75%.

4. Republicans believe that a country should be governed by someone who has been elected by its citizens, not by someone who was born into the position.

5. “By 2025 we want to see the monarchy gone or going.” (British republican.)

6. Professor Justin Champion says that the British national identity is built around castles and kings and queens when really it ought to be about being a free born Englishman.

Very many thanks to Margherita, Gianluca and Gabriella for posting their answers in a Comment.

And thanks to Tommaso, Antonio, Irene, Daniele and Alessia for posting to the Tag Board.

Another message very soon!
Yours,
Mike