Friday, May 26, 2017

How to ask questions

A very important skill to learn. We can't communicate in any language without asking questions. 

Today we go back to the BBC's "Learning English" and turn to the "Lower-Intermediate" section. We're going to meet three new friends: Alice, Amith and Sophie.

Watch the video, and then do the activities. I'm very interested in your answers to the 7-question quiz: What do you know about our presenters?

Please post your answers on the Tag Board opposite, or in a comment. An aperitivo for the first reader to get all the questions correct!

Stay tuned! and I look forward to your answers.
Yours,
Mike

Exercise and the brain: the answers:

Hello everyone! After rather a long time, here are the answers to our previous quiz:

1. How does Neil regard the quality of his own mind? He doesn't think he's very sharp.

Extra question: What's the opposite of "sharp" when you are talking about someone's mind?

2. Which two countries did he do a "stint" in? Japan and the Czech Republic


3. And what do you imagine he was doing there? Teaching? Journalism? He doesn't actually say.

And the correct verb?

There's a verb we use to mean 'start doing exercise'. Is it…
a) take up is correct.
b) take on
c) take over

Note that these verbs form part of that vast collection of "phrasal verbs", also called "multi-word" verbs. By changing the word coming after the verb, known as the "particle", you can completely change the meaning of the verb.

And now for our next activity. This is aimed at 'Lower Intermediate'. Come in and take part!

More soon,
Yours,
Mike

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Listening: exercise and the brain

Hello everyone. What follows is a somewhat advanced listening exercise, probably at least Council of Europe B2 level and above.

But don't let this put you off. You'll learn some useful vocabulary here, as well as some valuable advice.

It's on the BBC "Learning English" site, in the News review section. It's about some recent research which shows that regular exercise not only develops your body, but also your mind.

Among other expressions, you'll learn the meaning of "sharp", "keep (something) at bay" and "stint".

So now surf over to the BBC's "Learning English - News review", watch the interview and do the activities.

Here are two extra questions:

1. How does Neil regard the quality of his own mind?
2. Which two countries did he do a "stint" in?
3. And what do you imagine he was doing there?

Post your answers in a Comment or on the Tag Board. Also, say how easy or difficult you found this listening. 

Come in, all you readers!

Follow-up later this week.

All the best,
Mike

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Your Learner's Questions Answered...

... by the BBC's "Learning English",  This week they're answering a question that many Italian students of English have a problem with. How do you use "In fact", "Actually" or "Well..."?

What I always say: "infatti" in Italian does not mean "in fact" in English. And "attualmaente" does not mean "actually".

Help is at hand, however. Simply surf to the BBC's Learning English site for advice on how to use these expressions.

Watch the presenter's explanation. Then, at the bottom of the page, do the Learners' Questions Quiz.

When you have finished, write your reactions on the Tag Board to the right of this post. Or use a Comment.

Say whether the exercise was useful. Do you now understand how to use "In fact", "Actually" and "Well"?

Keep exploring this Blog and the links in the right-hand column.

And enjoy your Easter vacation!
Kind regards to everyone,
Mike

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Top Tips to Improve Your Memory: The Answers

Hello everyone. Here are the official answers to the Memory Top Tips:

1. Make notes in class on things that are [useful] and [important] to you. Then [revisit] your notes immediately afterwards.

2. Use mind [maps] which can be drawn on paper or a laptop.

3. Write condensed cards of your notes, and stick them where you can [see] them, such as on a [kitchen] wall.

4. Or, write your notes on your mobile phone and set up a [reminder] to read them regularly.

5. It's a good idea to say things out [loud] . This will help you remember better.

6. One student has a vision of a long white [tunnel] with all the key [topics/vocabulary] written on the side of it.

7. 'Mnemonics' uses [association] to remember facts. Create an [image] in your mind to help you remember a word or phrase.

8. Get a good night's [sleep]. Your memory won't work if you're [tired].

Many, many thanks to these participants: Margaret, Giovanna, Tandis and Serena!

Look out for the next Listening Quiz, coming soon.

All the best,
Michael

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How To Train Your Memory: Some Top Tips.

Most of us have problems remembering things: facts, faces, names, numbers. While this is normal, it becomes particularly problematic at exam time.

However, help is at hand. I have been watching a video on the BBC's Learning English site and have picked up some highly useful tips.

Tips? In this context a tip is a small piece of advice. There are many other meanings to this word - you can look them up in an online dictionary such as Wordreference.

Here are some comprehension questions to focus your attention on the video. Complete the sentences with one word for each space.

1. Make notes in class on things that are [____] and [____] to you. Then [____] your notes immediately afterwards.

2. Use mind [____] which can be drawn on paper or a laptop.

3. Write condensed cards of your notes, and stick them where you can [____] them, such as on a [____] wall.

4. Or, write your notes on your mobile phone and set up a [____] to read them regularly.

5. It's a good idea to say things out [____] . This will help you remember better.

6. One student has a vision of a long white [____] with all the key [____] written on the side of it.

7. 'Mnemonics' uses [____] to remember facts. Create an [____] in your mind to help you remember a word or phrase.

8. Get a good night's [____]. Your memory won't work if you're [____].

Now watch the video. Write the missing word on the Tag Board on the right, or in a Comment. I look forward to seeing you all here!

All the best,
Michael

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Why Are People in Cities Rude? The Answers!

Hello everyone. I have been absent recently but now I am back with the answers to the latest Six Minute English Quiz.

I'm disappointed that no one took part this time, but hopefully the next Quiz will be more successful.

So here are the answers to the quiz on why people in cities are rude. Or are they? New York City used to be notorious for its rude, grouchy inhabitants. But the couple of times I have been there, people have been unfailingly polite and helpful. It just goes to show that you shouldn't trust stereotypes.

1. (This week's official question): When we have a positive interaction with somebody, our body releases a chemical. What's the name of this chemical? Is it…

a) melatonin? b) oxytocin? c) thyroxin?
The correct answer: b) oxytocin

This chemical is also known as the "love drug"

2. If you wear a "Tube Chat Badge" it means you are ... happy to talk to a stranger!

3. People in big cities are often scared to talk to a stranger.

4. According to Dr. Elle Boag of Birmingham City University, "our brain becomes hypervigilant to the perception of threats around us."

5. "This leads to behaviours that are insular and defensive."

6. "It's a protective mechanism by which we can survive our journey."

7. You just don't know who might be dangerous.

8. We avoid making eye contact with other people.

9. According to Catherine, if you grow up in a small town it can feel claustrophobic.

10.  According to Neil, a nosey person is one who shows too much interest in other people's business.

11. According to Tom Farley, we just don't have time for idle chit-chat (two words separated by a hyphen.)

12. "Success quotient " means ... your ability to be successful at work, relative to ordinary or average people.

What can you do? Keep listening - a little every day. Use the sites listed in the right-hand column of this blog. Write to us to report your progress.

More very soon - another quiz is upcoming!

Best regards from,
Mike

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Why Are People in Cities Rude?

Or perhaps they aren't always. We'd love to hear your views. Meanwhile here is a chance to practise listening with Six Minute English on the BBC.

Catherine and Neil are talking, and Neil opens the programme by saying that someone he didn't know actually talked to him on the London Underground this morning. Could this happen where you live?


1. (This week's official question): When we have a positive interaction with somebody, our body releases a chemical. What's the name of this chemical? Is it…

a) melatonin? b) oxytocin? c) thyroxin?
This chemical is also known as the "___ ___".
Listen carefully to the answer which comes at the end of the programme
Some more questions: if there's a space "____" answer with a word for each space; if you see dotes (....) complete the sentence according to what you hear.

2. If you wear a "Tube Chat Badge" it means you are ...

3. People in big cities are often ____ to talk to a stranger.

4. According to Dr. Elle Boag of Birmingham City University, "our brain becomes hypervigilant to the perception of ___ around us."

5. "This leads to ___ that are insular and defensive."

6. "It's a ____ mechanism by which we can survive our journey."

7. You just don't know who might be ___ .

8. We avoid making ___ ___ with other people.

9. According to Catherine, if you grow up in a small town it can feel ___ .

10.  According to Neil, a ___ person is one who shows too much interest in other people's business.

11. According to Tom Farley, we just don't have time for idle ___..___  (two words separated by a hyphen.)

12. "Success quotient " means ...

So... having studied the questions, now listen to the programme.

Then post your answers here in a Comment or on the Tag Board. Let's get as many people listening and posting as we can!

And another thing... do you think people in cities are rude? Post a comment or a message on the Tag Board and tell us: (1) your experiences of rudeness, and (2) your experiences of unexpected kindness in the city.

Happy listening - and have a nice day.
Yours,
Mike (Editor, "Rome English")

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How To Listen Effectively - Repeat Session Tonight 19:30

Hello everyone.

Tonight my learnèd colleague Bruce Warburton is repeating a session he gave a few weeks ago. It's of vital importance to any student of English, or any other language. It's about How to Listen Effectively.

Here are a few notes below:
THINGS TO REMEMBER

 When listening to English spoken by a native speaker, remember PALS.

Purpose
Why are you listening? Remember the context. Use your knowledge of the subject and its vocabulary to guess the meaning of anything you don’t understand.

Accents and stress
Focus on the stressed syllables (the stressed syllables are the ones the speaker wants you to understand the most). Remember that all English accents stress the key words.

Lexis
Don’t worry about words you don’t understand. Keep listening. It will usually become clearer later. Don’t focus on what you have missed, but on what is coming next.

Strategies
You need learning strategies in order to improve your listening skills. Here are a few suggestions:


  1. Buy a ‘reader’ (a graded novel) with a CD. Listening and following the text simultaneously will help you make the connection between spoken and written English. It will also improve your pronunciation.
  2. Watch DVDs or download films. Choose a film that you would like to see in Italian. If you are not interested in the content, it will be much harder to understand. You can also watch the Italian version first so that when you watch the English version you can focus more on the language.
  3. Record the news, or watch it on internet. Watch it the first time without any sound and predict the vocabulary you will hear. Play it again with the sound to see if you were right.
  4. The British Council website, www.britishcouncil.org, has lots of interesting material. For example http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/listen-and-watch  . There is also the apps page on http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/apps
  5. Download podcasts from the internet. Listen to them on your MP3 player when you are going to work. For example, http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts or http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/elementary-podcasts
  6. Register on an on-line course on a subject you want or need to study. Look at MOOC sites like http://www.mooc-list.com/ or http://oyc.yale.edu/
  7. Don’t forget that www.youtube.com has something on almost every subject from all over the world.
  8. Learn vocabulary in ‘blocks’. Practise saying them to learn the rhythm. This way you will understand them more easily.
  9. Make listening to English part of your daily routine. Remember, learning a language is like doing a sport. The more you train, the better you get.

 Relax. If you are anxious or pessimistic when listening to English, you will understand less.

 Good Luck!

Try to get to Bruce's workshop. If you can't, there is plenty of help available on this Blog.
Have a nice day!
Mike


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Proud to be an Introvert

Hello everyone. As promised, here is another Six Minute English quiz. 

Lately, students have been talking about personalities, about our individual characteristics which make all of us so different. We're going to listen to Alice and Neil talking about this very topic on the BBC Learning English "Six Minute English" programme. Here are some questions before you listen.

A note about this exercise: if there is a gap (_____) in the text, then insert one word. If you see a series of dots (....) then write any short answer which completes the sentence logically according to what you hear. 

And if there's a simple question, then write a simple answer. But always pay attention to grammar and spelling.

1. (Official question) Who first used the term 'extrovert'? 
Was it… a) Sigmund Freud? b) Friedrich Nietzsche? c) Carl Jung?

2. What's the essential difference between Neil and Alice?

3. Alice thinks she's a(n) _________ .

4. Alice rebukes Neil for being too _______ .

5. According to Alice, what two qualities do introverts possess?

6. According to Lisa Kaenzig, introverts are people who get their ____ from within ____ .

7. Introverts frequently find noisy environments _____ .

8. In Kenya, psychologist Dr. Peter Aloka recommends that introverts and extroverts work ....

Now listen to the programme. When you have finished, post your quiz answers on the Tag Board or as a comment.

At the same time, tell us whether you think you are an introvert or an extrovert, and say why.

I personally think I am a mixture of the two. I like being with other people. I am happy to be in a crowded bar even if no one speaks to me. So what am I? The word you need to answer this question is heard in the programme!

Let me (and the rest of us) know!
All the best, and more soon,
Yours,
Mike (Editor, "Rome English")

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

USING THE PHONE IN ENGLISH - A Workshop by Bruce Warburton

Bruce has a background in English for business and exams. Here, he takes a look at how to make impactful, effective phone calls in English.

And he will be presenting his ideas tomorrow, 12 January 2017, at the British Council Rome in rooms Keats and Shelley. All students currently enrolled on a course are welcome.

Most learners of English find using the telephone to be very difficult. This is mainly because there is no visual information and you have to rely entirely on the language. It is surprising how much we depend on visual information when we communicate face to face.
Here are some of the ‘tips’ mentioned in the workshop:

 When possible or necessary, plan your call and predict possible responses. Even if you get an unexpected response, you will have a greater chance of understanding it if you have done this. 
When receiving calls, make sure you have all the necessary information. Ask clarification questions and don’t try to guess.
Make sure you are good at spelling. Native speakers use spelling all the time as the pronunciation of a name or place does not necessarily give any idea of how it is spelt. You can also ask for the spelling to give yourself time.
Speak slowly. If you speak slowly, the other person will also probably slow down.
Practise with friends. Most of the difficulty people have with the telephone is due to not getting enough practice.
Learn standard telephone expressions. 
Buy a book so you can practise at home. Here are some examples:
Telephone English by John Hughes, published by Macmillan.
Telephoning in English by  Naterop & Revell, published by Cambridge University Press.
English for Telephoning  by David Gordon Smith published by Oxford University Press.


Remember, using the phone in English is like anything else. It’s just a matter of practice.