Thursday, November 24, 2016

Six Minute English: Cycling!

The regular BBC Learning English Six Minute English quizzes return this week with a programme on Cycling. This means of  transport is becoming more popular in Rome. It's an obvious answer to high costs, disruption by strikes and traffic congestion.

First, read the questions. Here's the official question:-

1. Who invented the first pneumatic – or air-filled – bicycle tyre in 1888?  Was it …

a) John Boyd Dunlop? b) Charles Goodyear? c) Harvey Samuel Firestone? 
(a) John Boyd Dunlop

You'll hear the answer at the end of the programme.

2. Who likes cycling: Neil or Sophie? Neil.

3. What was the 'boneshaker'? A bicycle with iron tyres which was very uncomfortable.

4. When bikes were first invented, what sort of people used them? The wealthy middle classes.

5. For the first time in history, people could travel [where] they wanted, [when] they wanted. (Heh! - I made the mistake of leaving the words in, when I should have replaced them with dots!)

6. How did cycling change women's clothing? They wore "rational dress" - a close-fitting jacket and pantaloon-type trousers. Some traditionalists were offended by this.

7. How did cycling affect 19th century society? It meant that people could travel further, meet new people and marry outside their relatively closed societies.

Now, listen to the programme.

When you have finished, please do post your answers on the Tag Board on the right. You can also post your answer in a Comment.

Don't forget that tomorrow, Friday 25 November, is the last Friday of the month, when traditionally there is a cyclists' rally called "Critical Mass". You can find it on Facebook.

Coming soon: Mike's Bike Blog, "Backroads by Bike". Watch this space.

Happy listening - and On Your Bike!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How To Speak Effectively. By Bruce Warburton

Improving your speaking skills

As we have seen, learning a language is very similar to learning a sport. If you want to become an athlete, you need to do a lot of training. Most athletes do training every day as part of their daily routine.

Naturally, the best way to improve your English speaking ability is to spend as much time talking with native English speakers as possible.

However, most people don’t have many opportunities to speak with native English speakers. So here are a few suggestions for improving your spoken English.

  • When you learn new vocabulary or grammar, learn examples that you can use in everyday life.
  • Learn fixed and semi fixed expressions that can be used in everyday situations.
  • During lessons notice how your teacher says things not just what he or she says.
  • When you do speaking activities in class, consider why you are doing it. Don’t just try to finish it as quickly as possible.
  • Make sure you have learnt the sounds and not just the sequence of words. Remember, a large part of speaking is physical.
  • When you read English underline and learn useful expressions.
  • Read out loud.
  •  In ‘dead time’ (waiting for a bus, walking along the street) hold imaginary conversations in your head.
  • Write dialogues related to situations you could find yourself in.
  • Remember that speaking skills are a combination of fluency and accuracy. You need to find the right balance. If you are too focussed on accuracy, your speaking will be blocked. If you are too focussed on fluency, people might not understand you.
  • Remember ‘ACTOR’: accuracy, confidence, training techniques, making it ordinary, and rhythm.

Most of all, don’t worry.  Learning a language takes time and effort. If you are too anxious, it will take longer.
Good luck!

Useful websites and apps:

Remember this website is interactive. Describe your experiences  practising speaking on the Tag Board - to the right of this post - or in a Comment.

More listening practice coming soon!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

From Bruce: Learning Vocabulary

This lesson from Bruce Warburton is about how to learn and retain vocabulary. It's one thing to remember a word, but another thing altogether to remember it for future use. Happily, Bruce has got plenty of ideas. Here's one below:

Learning Vocabulary

A large part of learning a language is learning a lot of words and expressions. This takes time and effort. In order to learn vocabulary effectively you need to:
·        make decisions about which vocabulary is most important.
·        have some understanding about how your memory works.
·        have a learning strategy.

Whenever you learn vocabulary make sure you really know it. Use the vocabulary checklist.
1.                What does it mean?
2.                How useful or important is it?
3.                How is it pronounced?
4.                How can I use it?
5.                How can I remember it?

The way you keep your notes can have an enormous impact on how effective your learning is. Learning vocabulary isn’t just learning lists of words. Here are some ways of storing vocabulary.


Some more examples:


a nice day
a day off
a wonderful time

 a car
a house

a meal
a cup of coffee

There are many more ways

The memory can be stimulated by association, repetition & emotional impact.

There are lots of websites related to language learning strategies, here are some to try.

 Experiment with different methods, find what is best for you. The more time and effort you invest in learning, the more you will remember.

Now, you try Bruce's ideas. How did you go? Leave your ideas in a Comment or on the Tag Board.
All the best,