Showing posts from January, 2010

smooth v soft

Another difficult one that came up in class. Let's see if I can explain the difference...

Someone can have smooth, soft hair.
Soft: it's probably just been washed and dried, and nice to touch.
Smooth: it isn't curly and it is probably long. There are no imperfections in it as you run your fingers through it. Not much of a difference?

Skin can also be smooth or soft.
If you stay in the bath for ages, your skin is soft to touch.
Smooth skin has no imperfections, so no spots or hair. Imagine a woman whose legs have been waxed.

Maybe it's easier if we consider the opposites:

soft / hard

smooth / rough

Fabric can be soft or smooth.
Imagine you close your eyes and feel the fabric between your fingers, it could be soft to touch. You add fabric softener when you wash things like towels.
Imagine you close your eyes and your hand travels down the fabric (silk). You don't feel any differences in texture so it is smooth.

Are you getting the idea?

How about a soft drink?
Fizzy d…

You've bean hacked

Here's a story from the start of the month that I missed.

Hacker pokes funat Spanish PM

Visitors to Spain's EU presidency website have been greeted by an image of hapless fictional character Mr Bean instead of Spain's Socialist leader.

An unidentified hacker briefly hijacked the site on Monday, replacing Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero with that of a bumbling comedy buffoon.

In Spain, the similarity between Mr Zapatero and the Mr Bean actor Rowan Atkinson, is a long-standing joke.

The government said the site itself,, had not been attacked.

In a statement, it said that a hacker had taken a screenshot of the homepage to make a photo montage.

"The alleged attack exploited a vulnerability called cross-site scripting," it said.

For most visitors, this meant that a smiling Mr Bean replaced Mr Zapatero, complete with a benign smile and the words "Hi there".

In a recent edition of El Pais, Mr Zapatero was depicted as Mr Bean in a carto…

Up Int - module 5 vocab

Complete the following sentences with a word in the correct form. All are taken from module 5.
I can't c___ w___ all this stress. I need a break.Where do you find the s______ to do everything? I am always exhausted by the end of the day.The soldier was p______ by his commander for showing great courage.I have a lot of expenses - all the bills, the mortgage, the children's school f___ etcI sometimes go r_____ on the lake when I go to Retiro Park.I thought he gave an o__________ performance in that role. You really should go and see the film.You should s__ a better e_____ to the children. Otherwise they will think that kind of behaviour is acceptable.Millions have been r_____ to help people affected by the disaster.I don't know him well at all. We aren't even on f____ n___ t____.The company has a higher t______ compared to last year.I hate doing the h________ c_____, especially cleaning the bathroom.My husband is t_______ me to a weekend away. How do you manage to j_____

Unusual traffic offence

Driver fined 'for blowing his nose'
An Ayrshire businessman says he has been fined by the police for blowing*his nose while driving.

Michael Mancini, from Prestwick, said he was sitting in stationary traffic with the handbrake on when he used a tissue to clean his nose.

He claimed he was waved over by four police officers and given a fixed penalty for not being in proper control of his car.

He has refused to pay the £60 fine and the case may now proceed to court.

The 39-year-old, who runsa furniture restoration business in Ayr, said: "The traffic was nose to tail in the high street and the traffic stopped and I thought that was quite a good time (to blow his nose).

"I stopped the van and put the handbrake on. I saw four police officers nearby. The traffic moved on and I was waved across by an officer.

"He said I was not in control of the vehicle."

Mr Mancini said he was "absolutely stunned" by the police action.

He added: "I said to the offi…

aim v target

This is a really difficult one. It's probably best to treat them separately.

A target is

something you intend to shoot:
He hasn't missed the target once. (see pic)a person or group that you direct something at:She was the target of false rumours.a level or situation that you intend to achieve:Our target is a rise of 10% in sales.
An aim is

a result that your plans or actions are intended to achieve:
I don't really have a main aimin life. Just to do as well as I can.the act of pointing a "weapon" towards something:
I'm not good at darts. My aim is really bad.His aim is bad too. (see pic)I live in a really noisy nieghbourhood. Sometimes there are people shouting and screaming in the middle of the night. I have been known to throw eggs or tomatoes at them. I have never hit the target(the idiots on the street) because my aim (how I throw) is very bad.

to target: to direct advertising, criticism or a product at someoneTobacco companies aren't allowed to target youngst…

Changing attitudes

UK 'more liberal' on homosexuals

Public attitudes to homosexuality are becoming more liberal, according to a government-backedsurvey.

Some 36% thought homosexual acts were "always" or "mostly" wrong, down from 62% when the British Social Attitudes surveywas firstcarried out, in 1983.

But the public is taking a tougher line on cannabis, the surveyof 4,486 adults, conducted in 2008, found.

More people see themselves as Tory rather than Labour supporters for the first time since the 1980s, it adds.

The survey also suggested the number of people who felt a pressingneed to vote in general elections was declining.

Some 56% of those questioned thought it was "everyone's duty to vote" - down from 68% in 1991.

'Staying at home'

This fell to 41% among the under-35s. Meanwhile, 32% of people said they had "not much" or "no interest" in politics.

The report's co-author, Sarah Butt, said: "Lowturnout has been a feature o…

Confusing words - concrete

Susana went ona shopping spree to New York. She asked the shop assistants if they had "a concrete bag". She was puzzledas to why they didn't understand her.

She realized laterthe mistake thatshe had made.
She had been asking for a bag made of concrete - hormigón. It's no wonder thatthe shop assistants thought she was mad.
It would have been prettyheavy to bring back to Spain anyway.
What should she have said?
She should have asked for " a special kind of bag".
Concrete can be used to mean definite or specific - a concrete answer, a concrete proposal, a concrete time, concrete evidence - but with intangible nouns.

Pic: a concrete mixer

6 minute English - Burns Night

Tonight is Burns Night in Scotland. It is when we celebrate the life of Robert Burns, our national poet. He wrote the words toAuld Lang Syne.

Listen to the discussion on this important day in Scotland.

It is taken from6 minute Englishfrom the BBC. where you can listen to discussion on many interesting topics.
Read here about theAmerican ban on haggis. We should boycott Macdonalds until they lift it.

Man's best friend - Greyfriar's Bobby

John Gray a gardener, together with his wife Jess and son John arrived in Edinburgh around 1850. Unable to find work as a gardener he avoided the workhouse by joining the Edinburgh Police Force as a nightwatchman.

To keep him company through the long winter nights John took on a partner, a diminutive Skye Terrier, his ‘watchdog’ called Bobby. Together John and Bobby became a familiar sight trudging through the old cobbled streets of Edinburgh. Through thick and thin, winter and summer, they were faithful friends.

The years on the streets appear to have taken their toll on John, as he was treated by the Police Surgeon for tuberculosis.

John eventually died of the disease on the 15th February 1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby soon touched the hearts of the local residents when he refused to leave his master's grave, even in the worst weather conditions.

The gardener and keeper of Greyfriars tried on many occasions to evict Bobby from the Kirkyard. In the end he gave…

Pet burials

Owners pay to be buried with their pets

Growing numbers of pet owners are seeking burials with their favourite domestic animals.

From Egyptian pharaohs to Anglo-Saxon warriors, humans have been buried alongside their most sacred or treasured animals.

Now the practice is making a comeback with an increasing number of pet owners seeking burials with their favourite cats, dogs and horses.

Planners in Lincolnshire last week approved the latest in a series of joint animal and human cemeteries where masters can be interred close to their beloved companions rather than being cremated.

A handful of joint cemeteries even allow pets and owners to be buried in the same plot.

The trend has been accelerated by the growth in non-denominational 'natural' sites for humans that use biodegradable coffins and often have woodland settings without rigid lines of plots or fixed headstones; such layouts make it easier to add pets.

Penny Lally, who runs a pet crematorium, cemetery and 'woodland bur…

Spotlight on Vocabulary

At the end of many articles you can find spotlight on vocabulary. It highlights an expression from the post and shows further examples of how it can be used.

A spotlight is a circle of strong light which is sent from a lamp (like in a theatre or in a prison). If you are in the spotlight, you are receiving a lot of public attention.
The mayor is in the spotlight just now because of his controversial speech.So the spotlight on vocabulary means I am focusing attention on a word.

Here is a list of all the expressions that you can find in spotlight on vocabulary so far:
as/so long asa rip-off/ a conkeenreluctantthe underdogso fara march/a rally/a demonstrationto hire/ to take on/ to recruitto be made redundant/ to get the sack/ to be laid off/ to be firedawkwardto hesitatethen againto get on your nerves/ to hold your nerve/ to lose your nerveto bear/ bearable/ to bear something in mind/ to bear with someoneto have time offthere is no point/use in doing somethingto be afraid ofto tackleto boo…

CNN student news/Obama anniversary

For those of you who want to practise American English, the CNN Student News page is a good place to start.
You have a daily news programme and a transcript of the programme to read as you listen. Look at today's programme. Today is the anniversary of Obama becoming the US President. Look back at all the Obama related stories that have been posted onto the blog. Obama is sworn in for second timeListen to Obama's victory speech and read the transcript.USA's oldest voter106 year old voter chooses ObamaI got a crush on....Obama - videoObama curriculumWhat do you think of his first year? Are you satisfied or disappointed? What has he done well? What should he do differently?

It's Wednesday so you must be miserable.

Wednesday is the most miserable day of the week, claim researchers
Wednesday – not Monday – is the worst day of the week, according to research by two American applied mathematicians.

Professors Christopher Danforth and Peter Dodds, of Vermont University, analysed words used in 2.4 million internet blogs such as Twitter, giving a scoreout ofnine depending on how positive they were.

Words like free, fun, and rainbow all scored above eight, while words such as betray, cruel, hatred and suffocate all scored less than two.

Saturday and Sunday rated predictably well but, perhaps surprisingly, Monday came out as the second happiest day of the week, partly because people were still reminiscing about the weekend. However by Wednesday, these feelings had subsided.

Professor Danforth said: "People's daily experience is being reflected somewhat in what they're saying. And this is more of a story, we think, for Twitter messages, which we've just started to pay attention to, about …

Italians love to live with mamma (and pappa)

Italian crackdown on 'big babies'

A senior government minister has suggested that Italy needs a new law to force grown-up children to leave their parents' home.

Renato Brunetta was speaking after a judge ordered a father to carry on* paying a living allowance to his 32-year-old live-in daughter.

The average age of home-leavers in Italy is one of the highest in Europe.

Mr Brunetta has been tasked with reforming Italy's notoriously inefficient bureaucracy.

He seems to be on a one-man crusade to shake up Italy.

He has already declared war on the fanulloni - the skivers - who abuse their safe state jobs by sloping off for long lunch breaks and the like.

Now he has turned his fire on young adults who refuse to leave the parental home. They should be forced out at 18, he says - if needs be by law.


His comments follow a court order forcing a father, Giancarlo Casagrande, 60, from Bergamo, to help pay his 32-year-old daughter's living expenses - eight years afte…

Int - module 4 Right or wrong

Are the following sentences right or wrong? Correct them if needed.

A: What does he look like? B: He looks like tall with fair hair.They were married for 10 years. They'll celebrate their anniversary in July.A: How long do you live here in Madrid? B: since 2001A: When did you last eat out? B: Last night. We had Italian.She has been interested in painting all her life.I have moved to Barcelona 2 years ago.She's bought a new car.I started work here since I finished university.They haven't seen each other since ages.A: Have you ever took her out for a meal? B: No, never.A: How long have you been waiting? B: I arrived just two minutes ago.I am driving since I was 18.He took up the piano when he was a teenager and he has been playing it ever since then.Have you two known each other for a long time?I've been working in the sales department for the last few months.

Int - module 4 vocab

Complete the following sentences with a word in the correct form.
I live in Madrid but I wasb_____ up in Zaragoza.She t____ a____ her mother. They both have a lot of self-confidence.He got ad_____ in economics but now he works for a law firm.They s____ u_ after just 2 years of marriage.They gote______ last year but they don't have a date for the wedding yet.I don't think it's f___ that we have to work so late on a Friday evening but the boss can go home at 6 as usual.I b_____ i___ my colleague in the supermarket the other day. Apparently he lives near us.She is very p____ of her son because he passed all his exams with top marks.He only t___ u_ acting in his thirties and now he is a successful actor.I have a d______ l______ but I don't have a car.She has excellent personal s_____ and so would have no problem working as part of a team.He joined the company after g_______ from university.

Up Int - essay errors

Do you remember the essay that I gave you just before Christmas? They were generally well done. Here is a list of some of the mistakes I found. There might be more than one correction to make in each sentence.

I was living in London during three months two years ago in order to improve my English.We met on sunday evening for spending time in Spitalfields market. At night we had already bought a lot of things and decide to take some beers in a pub.I was very far from my home and I didn’t know come back home without getting the tube.Suddenly I saw a bus, I ran for asking to the bus driver. He said me that I could get this bus and explained me how I could arrive my home.It was a saturday night and my friends and me had been being in a disco.When we arrived to the train station, it was just opened.There was nobody more except we in all of the train station.One of the most frightened experience of my life was in my current job.That situation was too much embarrassed.I had a very bad remind …

Int - essay errors

Do you remember the essay that I gave you just before Christmas? They were generally well done. Here is a list of some of the mistakes I found. There might be more than one correction to make in each sentence.
I don’t think you have time to visit Picos de Europa but is really worth seeing. You mustn’t visit it in August because is too hot. I recommend to visit Reina Sofia and you must walk on the Retiro Park. You should go to Granada and Cordoba. I think that you really like this cities. We arrived to Paris and we were there only for two days because we had been in Paris before. In my opinion Paris is one of the most beautiful city in the world. Ruan has one of the most amazing gothic cathedral that I have seen in my life. We were there only a day and it was enough for visit all the town. The second day it’s for to visit three neighbourhood. The first day it’s a good moment for a first approach with New York. I’d recommend, if the weather is nice, to take a stroll for the wonderfull Br…

Scots don't drink that much surely

Scots 'drink 46 bottles of vodka'

Adults in Scotland are drinking the equivalent of 46 bottles of vodka each in a year, a study has suggested.

The research was based on industry sales data analysed by NHS Health Scotland.

It said sales for the year to September 2009 averaged 12.2 litres of pure alcohol per person over the age of 18.

The Scottish government said the figure, which had remained static since 2005, was the equivalent of 537 pints or 130 bottles of wine per person.

The new figures come as the Scottish government pushes for a minimum price for alcohol to tackle the country's drink-related problems.

Minimum pricing

In total, 50.5 million litres of pure alcohol were sold in Scotland last year, enough for every drinker over the age of 18 to exceed the weekly consumption guidelines.

People in Scotland drank 25% more alcohol per head of population than individuals in England and Wales, the figures suggested.

In England and Wales, the total for the same period was 9.7 l…

6 minute English - New Year resolutions

You should explore the BBC Learning English page. It contains lots of useful things to do.

In the 6 minute English section you can listen to topical programmes. There is a question to answer and a list of vocabulary. You can read the script of the programme as you listen too.

Why not start with the programme on New Year's resolutions?

Have you broken your resolutions yet? Have you made any plans for 2010?

Looking back at my 2009 resolutions, I think I didn't do too badly.

Up Int vocab - remarkable achievements

Not only should you write down new vocabulary in your notebooks, you should also write an example sentence. Choose some of the following expressions and write a sentence (or two) that clearly demonstrates its meaning.

remarkable (adj)an achievementto raise (money)a role modelstamina (n)to overcometo cope withworthwhile (adj)a turnoversiblings (n)to juggletough (adj)upbringing (n) (to get) praise ( n/ v)

Up Int vocab - formal/informal expressions

Not only should you write down new vocabulary in your notebooks, you should also write an example sentence. Choose some of the following expressions and write a sentence (or two) that clearly demonstrates its meaning.

to boosta supplytedious (adj)(to make) a purchase (n/v)to work outfurthermore (adv)to hesitateon behalf of sbas a gesture of goodwillconcerned (adj)a complaint(to get) a refund (n/v)

My latest flying experience

I always get nervous before flying because something often goes wrong. Either I miss my connection or I lose my luggage or something eventful happens.

So because of past experience, I didn't expect an easy journey this time either.

I had an early morning flight on the 26th and I made it to the airport in plenty of time. There was a slight delay but that didn't matter because I had a four hour stopover in London.

So far so good.

There were more security checks than normal in Gatwick airport but I had time to do some shopping.

It was a smooth flight to Inverness with clear skies. There were spectacular views of the white landscape below. It's been ages since I saw so much snow.

As we approached Inverness airport, I could make out a bankof fog along the coast. The flight attendants made the usual preparations for landing. The plane started to descend through the thick fog that was surrounding the airport but then suddenly it shot upsharply. A few people screamed.

It's the f…

Funny aeroplane announcements

Now and againairline attendantsmake an effortto make the in-flight safety presentation and their otherannouncementsa bit more entertaining. Here are a few of them I have found on the web:

Pilot: "Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switchthe seat belt signoff. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land. It's a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flightpattern."

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight XXX to YYY. To operate your seatbelt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pulltight. It works just like every other seatbelt and if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn…

Int - module 3 vocab

Complete the following sentences with a word in the correct form.
She is only a b__ older than me. I was born in October and she was born in May of the same year.I think the standard of l_____ is better but the cost of l_____ is about the same.Niagra is probably the most famous w________ in the world.I'm not keen on the beaches in the Canary islands because the s___ is black.Las Vegas is the g_______ capital of the US.I'd like to live in the countryside because the pace of life in the city is too f______.I prefer going to the beach in September because it is too c______ in August. More people are on holiday in August.Madrid has a lot of p________ because of the amount of traffic.It's an amazing film - it's really w____ seeing.Badajoz is near the b_____ with Portugal.Houses in the outskirts are a lot l___ expensive than in the centre.Scotland is famous for its wonderful s______.There is a spectacular v___ of the coastline from the top of the cliff.History was my w____ su…

Int module 3 - Right or wrong

Are the following sentences right or wrong? Correct them if needed.
Barajas is more busier than El Prat.It's one of the most expensive shops in town.May is slightly warmer than April.I think Valencia is the third biggest city in Spain.She is much more popular than her brother.Is Benidorm more far north than Alicante?His first novel was by far the better one he has written.He has the same car that mine.This film is completely different from the previous one.The weather in Edinburgh is very similar to the weather in Glasgow.You must to visit the castle; it's really impressive.The museum is really worth to visit.I wouldn't recommend to going in summer. I'd go in May.Personally, I wouldn't buy one. They are too expensive.How long should I stay there? One or two nights?

News review 2009


January was the month when Barajas Airport was closed by bad weather for the first time in its history, when heavy snowfall on the 9th of the month brought traffic chaos and long delays to the Spanish capital. The airport was closed for more than 5 hours by the snow falling in central and north eastern Spain, with hundreds of passengers having to spend the night in Barajas and thousands affected by the long delays. The Civil Guard had to be brought in to persuade passengers on three grounded aircraft to disembark when they refused to leave the planes.


The actress Penélope Cruz started off the month with a Goya award, the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars, as Best Supporting Actress for her role in ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’. She went on to receive an Oscar for the same role later in the month.

A scandal erupted over the news that Mariano Fernández Bermejo, the then-Justice Minister, had been on a hunting trip at which the National Court judge, Baltasar Garzón, was one o…

Phrasal verbs review

Here is a list of the phrasal verbs contained inthe following posts:
to put someone upto give up somethingto put something offto point something outto stand by someoneto put up with something someone/somethingto fall out with someoneto make up with someoneto set something upto turn someone/something downto put somebody off somethingto turn upUse one of the above phrasal verbs (in the correct form) to complete the following sentences:
I _____________ her because of her behaviour. We haven't spoken since the arguement.He often ________ late for the meetings and blames the traffic.I'd love to _______ teaching and ______ my own business.I was suprised when she ___________ your generous offer.Can you ___ me __ until I find new accomodation?The TV is _______ me ___ my work. I can't concentrate with it on.You don't need to _________ all my mistakes, just the most serious ones.They _______ their wedding until next summer. I don't know why.You should try to _______ with him. …