Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Grammar: further practice with Reported Speech.

Hello all. This is a good time to check out grammar on the Net for some extra practice. Let us look at a recent example: Reported Speech.

Here's an introduction to the subject in the British Council's Learn English website: Reported Speech - 1.  There's an explanation of how the verb forms change as between direct and reported speech. Try the exercise at the bottom of the page and tell us all how well you did in a Tag Board message.

Reported Speech - 2 goes into the topic in more detail and explains what changes can be made, if any, to modal verbs when converting from direct to reported speech. Reporting orders, requests and advice are also treated. There is an explanation of the verbs commonly used in reporting, such as promise, claim, suggest, advise and refuse. As with Reported Speech - 1, there is an exercise at the bottom of the page.

Your next resource for reported speech, especially indirect questions, is on the BBC's Learning English web site, specifically at Grammar Challenge. This is a radio programme so this is excellent for your listening skills. You'll listen to a mini-lesson on reported questions. You can download both the speech, as an MP3 file, and the transcript of the programme. The transcript also contains an explanation of the grammar.

At the bottom of the Grammar Challenge page there are links to further explanations of how reported speech works. The best is this page on reported questions, requests, advice and instructions. Don't bother with the link to EFL at the University of Westminster - it does not work.

There is further information on reported speech on Caroline and Pearson Brown's English Grammar Secrets site. Try the word order exercises at the bottom of the page. You have to drag the words into the dark blue area at the top of the window so that they form a correct sentence.

And there's a lot of material on Indirect Speech here at the Edufind.com website.

Finally, take the Indirect Speech Test, courtesy of UsingEnglish.com, and find out what grade you are!

And as always, please do send a message to the Tag Board telling us how this message helped, or didn't help, your understanding of Indirect or Reported Speech, Questions, Orders, requests and similar.

In the next posting we will look at Present Perfect and Past Simple.

More very soon indeed! Yours,
Mike

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How Musical Are You?

Hello everyone! Today, I listened to the latest Six Minute English. It's an interesting one: there is a discussion of how musical you are, and how important music is in all our lives. And afterwards, you can take an online test to discover your own level of ability.
Here are the questions:
1. (Official question) Listen to two short pieces of music. Are they (a) exactly the same, or (b) different? You will hear the correct answer at the end of the episode. Note your own answer, and see if you were right.

2. Complete the sentence according to what you hear: A musical person is not only someone who can play music or who has had formal training, but also someone who can .......... ........... ............. the rhythm of a piece of music or a song.

3. According to music scientist Dr. Lauren Stewart, someone has a sophisticated understanding of music if they know how to .......
....... ........ .......... ......... ......... ....... ........ or if they know how music ......... ........ ........ ........ ......... .
[Complete the sentence according to what you hear.]

4. According to another music expert, people don't listen to classical music because ........ ........ ......... ........ ........ ...........
....... .

Now listen to Six Minute English. Write your answers in a comment rather than on the Tag Board which is limited to 200 characters per post.

But do please post a comment on the Tag Board saying how easy or difficult Six Minute English was, and how useful or not it was for your listening practice.

And why not take the online music test on BBC's Radio 3? It takes 25 minutes and you will have to sign in or register as a user of the web site. This appears simple: you invent a user name and a password, and give your date of birth. Find out more about musicality here.

Leave a post or a comment to say how well you did. I intend to do it myself soon - and will post the result on the Tag Board. I think that taking this test will be an interesting experience.

Many thanks to Francesco and Tamara for their answers to the Julian Assange interview quiz. Massimo has also listened to a recent Six Minute English, although he does not say which one. But there are many other people out there who, I hope, are reading this Blog. Please do go one step further and make your presence known by leaving a comment or a message on the Tag Board.

Coming very soon: Web sites to help you revise Grammar and Vocabulary.

More anon!
Mike

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wikileaks Interview: The Answers

Hello everyone. We now have answers to the twelve quiz questions about the Radio Four "Today" interview between John Humphrys and Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks.

These answers come to us courtesy of Francesco Mileo and Tamara Tossici of Level Three. Here they are. I have made a few small corrections. Check the questions in the previous posting.

  1. Assange has changed the world because, through the work that his organization Wikileaks has been doing for the last four years, no secret is safe.
  2. Because, he feels “emasculated” by that kind of bad lucky charm on his body.
  3. The case was taken up again when the politician Claes Borgstrom and other forces became involved.
  4. Assange is refusing to return to Sweden because he would be arrested and held incommunicado. He can’t permit his organization to be beheaded right now when a lot of other things are at stake.
  5. Assange has always argued that “the public has to know what’s going on and people can be held to account”, but when some offences are attributed to him, he doesn’t want to face the consequences.
  6. No. He doesn’t.
  7. He means that, over many years, women have been generous to him in different ways: assisting him with his work, caring for him, loving him and, on occasion, having sex with him.
  8. Assange thinks that his organization has achieved a lot of goals which are good for the global community. They have caused changes in governements, new law reform efforts, police and UN investigations and many other developments.
  9. Because they need to do it! Especially to enact certain important policies.
  10. They can continue to speak freely, they have just to write things of which they can be proud.
  11. Assange maintains that, in this case, noboby can prove that documents published from Wikileaks have come from illegal hacking. The allegations are that an intelligence agent walked out with the material on a CD.
  12. He feels he is like someone who is changing the perception of the western world. He feels untroubled but he is paying for his actions with a little solitary confinement.
Many thanks to Francesco and Tamara! Keep up the good work.
Coming up soon: grammar practice recommendations and the next Six Minute English Quiz.

Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Wikileaks: Twelve Questions For You

Hello everyone and welcome back to the Rome English Blog in January 2011.

As promised, here is a list of comprehension questions to help you focus on the interview between John Humphrys and Julian Assange. John Humphrys is a very experienced political reporter with the BBC.

How to listen to the interview: First, read the twelve questions listed below:

1. In what ways does John Humphrys say that Mr Assange has 'changed the world'?
2. Why wouldn't Mr Assange show his electronic tag to the interviewer?
3. Why, after initially being dropped, were charges of sexual assault against Mr Assange taken up again in Sweden?
4. Why is Mr Assange refusing to return to Sweden?
5. What paradox does John Humphrys point out between Mr Assange's refusal to return to Sweden and his principles as the founder of Wikileaks?
6. Does Mr Assange admit to having had unlawful sex with two women in Sweden?
7. What does Mr Assange mean when he says that woman have 'put up with' him?
8. What, in Mr Assange's view, has Wikileaks achieved?
9. Why does Mr Assange believe that, despite Wikileaks, government agencies will continue to keep written records of their activities?
10. How does Mr Assange answer the suggestion that after Wikileaks/Cablegate, diplomats and politicians will no longer feel able to communciate freely?
11. How does Mr Assange answer the accusation that Wikileaks obtains its information by illegal means?
12. How does Mr Assange see himself?
Now go to the BBC web page containing the interview. Click on the audio button to listen. But at this stage, don't look at the transcript on the page. Try listening only, and make a note of the answers.

Then read the transcript to see whether your answers were right. Use your dictionary to look up any unusual words. Here is a short list of words you may like to check:  - belittled - bamboozzled - smear - honey-trap - tizzy - tittle-tattle

And finally, share your thoughts on this interview with everyone by leaving a comment, for long answers, or for short answers, a message on the Tag Board. Don't answer the questions, which can be checked in the transcript. Instead, say how easy or difficult you found it to understand the speakers. Say also whether listening to the interview helped you to improve your listening ability.

Finally, you may like to visit the BBC Radio 4 'Today' site for further interviews. Many of them are podcasts which you can save to your computer or MP3 player.

I look forward to seeing everyone's comments and messages!

More later this week,
Mike