Showing posts from February, 2010

Big events

Choose one of the following events that you have been to and describe it with some of the structures that you have studied in class.
a weddinga sporting eventa football matcha demonstrationa rallya concerta peace marcha special partya big concerta performance by a famous actor or singerJust over a year ago I joined a group from Equanimal on a trip to Galicia. I follow the organisation's news with interest because I feel very strongly about the welfare of animals.

I jumped at the chance to go to Galicia to try to disrupt a day of fox-hunting.

I was a bit nervous though because I didn't know anybody.

A bus full of people  left Madrid in the evening and arrived in a small village near Pontevedra around 5am.  It was the meeting place for protestors from all over Spain as well as the hunters.

Needless to say, I didn't manage to get any sleep during the journey.

It started to pourrain as all the protestors gathered together. I remember shivering as we tookshelter. It was absolut…

Most unfortunate names

What do you call some of the most unlucky people in Britain?
Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still.

It sounds like a bad joke, but a study has revealed that there really are unfortunate people with those names in the UK.

Joining them on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin.

And just imagine having to introduce yourself to a crowd as Doug Hole or Hazel Nutt.

The names were uncovered by researchers from parenting group after trawling through online telephone records.

Retired airman Stan Still, 76, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said his name had been "a bloomingmillstone around my neck my entire life".

"When I was in the RAF my commanding officer used to shout, 'Stan Still, get a move on' and roll about laughing," he said.

"It got hugely boring after a while."

But 51-year-old Rose Bush, from Coventry, West Midlands, said she loved her name.

"I always get comments about it but the…

Anyone but England

Kilt shop owner warned by police for selling anti-England World Cup T-shirts

 A KILT shop got a police warning for selling World Cup T-shirts with "Anyone But England" on the front.
 An officer told staff at Slanj of Scotland's Aberdeen branch that the slogan could spark racial unrest.
 And he gave the same warning over another of the store's T-shirts, with the slogan "Algeria, USA and Slovenia Supporters Club".
 The three countries will be England's group opponents at the World Cup in June.
 The shop's assistant manager, Jamie Wilkinson, 23, insisted yesterday that the T-shirts in their window were just "harmless football banter".
 He added: "It has nothing to do with hating the English. It's just about winding them up.
 "I'm really surprised they are makingsuchan issue about this, and I think they need to get a sense of humour about it."
 Slanj owner Brian Halley vowed that the £20 T-shirts would stay on sale.

You never tire of London

"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."
— Samuel Johnson

Have you ever been to London?

What did/didn't you like about it? What was the highlight of your trip?

What memories do you have? What struckyou most?

Would you like to live there? Why/why not?

Compare life in London to life in Madrid.

If you haven't been, would you like to go?

What would you like to do and see?

How do you imagine London?

Pronunciation -ed endings

Even if we do some work on pronunciation and word stress, we don't do nearly as much as I would like to. I'll try to create some posts now and again, that give you the chance to impove your pronunciation skills.
Many people still have difficulties pronouncing the -ed endings. There are three ways to pronounce the ending:
/t//d//ɪd/It is only in the third group that there is an extra syllable (because of the vowel /ɪ/ sound) when the -ed is added.

An example for each group:
watch /wɒtʃ/ (one syllable), watched /wɑtʃt/ (one syllable)stay /steɪ/ (one syllable), stayed /steɪd/ (one syllable)start /stɒːrt/ (one syllable), started /'stɒːr tɪd/ (two syllables)NB In group 3 there are only verbs that end in a /d/ or /t/ sound and there is an extra syllable when -ed is added.

eg invite /ɪnˈvaɪt/ (2 sylls), invited /ɪnˈvaɪtɪd/ (3 sylls)
eg decide /dɪˈsaɪd/ (2 sylls), decided /dɪˈsaɪdɪd/ (3 sylls)
A. What are the following verbs? Put in brackets how many syllables there are. Listen to …

Fined for dropping banana

Woman fined £50 as baby drops banana
A mother from North East Lincolnshire is refusing to pay a fine she was given after her baby son dropped part of a banana from his pram.

Kirsty Allen, 29, from Grimsby, said she was "appalled" afterbeing given a £50 fine by a litterwarden.

She said the end of the banana had rolled off 16-month-old Lennon's blanket and into a puddle.

North East Lincolnshire Council said it was "standard procedure" to issue a fine to anyone caught littering.

However, Ms Allen said: "I was shocked, I was appalled actually."

"Maybe if it had been actual litter that you could see then I would understand, I would pay the fine first time, but no, I was appalled."

'Banana skin'

However the council disputed Ms Allen's story, saying the skin of the banana had been dropped.

Environmental enforcement manager for the council, John Waite, said: "It is standard procedure to issue a fixed penalty notice to anybody who i…

Noisy Kinder

Noisy children no longer verboten in Berlin 
Children in the German capital Berlin are to be exempt from strict laws on noise pollution.

An amendment to the city's law now makes it "fundamentally and socially tolerable" for members of the younger generation to make a racket.

Berlin has become the first of Germany's 16 federal states to adopt such legislation.

But all Berliners - children included - must continue to respect the official quiet time at night and all day Sunday.

Until now, only church bells, emergency sirens, snow ploughs and tractors have fallen outside the stringent rules on excessive noise in Germany.

In Berlin alone, hundreds of complaints are made each year about noise levels in kindergartens and children's playgrounds.

Some day-care facilities have even been forced to close after local residents have gone to court in search of a quiet life.

 Now Berlin's local government, the senate, has passed a law giving children the right to be noisy, …

Ash Wednesday

Lent is the period of forty days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar, traditionally a time of fasting and reflection. It is preceded by Shrove Tuesday and begins with Ash Wednesday.


Lent is the period of 40 days which comes before Easter in the Christian calendar. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.

The Christian churches that observe Lent in the 21st century (and not all do significantly) use it as a time for prayer and penance. Only a small number of people today fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It is more common these days for believers to surrender a particular vice such as favourite foods or smoking. Whatever the sacrifice it is a reflectio…

Up Int - module 6 Right or wrong

Correct the sentences if they are wrong.
Always remember giving a firm handshake at the start of an interview.Avoid translating word for word. Try to translate the idea if anything.The Thursday is my favourite day of the week by far.The Scots are much friendlier than the English.I like the Italian fashion but I prefer the Spanish food.It's important don't to overdo it. Start by jogging ten minutes each day.I've had an absolutely dreadful day. I should have stayed at home.It was really nice of you to do what you did. You are so kind.The last Thursday I went to the theatre for the first time in ages.It was you who suggested going; it wasn't my idea..I really do think you should take your time before making a decision.You rang her on the Sunday before you went away.A: Do you know what the longest river in the world is? B: I think it's the Nile.A: They have two children - a son and a daughter. B: Do the children go to the university?What time did you go to the bed at th…

Confusing words - terrific

Don't confuse terrific with terrorífico.

We had a terrific time. = We had a great time.

We had terrific weather this summer. = We had fantastic weather this summer.

Wow! That's a terrific idea. = That's an excellent idea.

You look terrific.

You are a terrific friend.

Terrific usually has a positive sense. It is an informal adjective. It is an example of an extreme adjective, so we can use it with "absolutely"

Did you enjoy the match? It was absolutelyterrific.

Terrorifico which has the idea of fear can be translated as (absolutely) terrifying or (very)frightening. In another sense (un terrorifico error, una terrorifica decisión), it can be translated as horrific or dreadful.

Can you think of an actor or actress who gave a terrific performance in a film? Why were they so good in the role?
When did you last have a terrific holiday? Why was it so good? What are the ingredients for a terrific holiday?

The town where pupils speak 150 different languages

Schools in just one town are having to cope with pupils who speak 150 different languages, a survey has found.

They range fromthe Ghanaian dialect of Akan, throughthe African language of Chichewa and the ancient Aztec tongue of Nahuatlto the Indian language of Telugu.

This is as well as the more common foreign languages of Urdu, Punjabi and Polish.

The survey in Reading, Berkshire, shows how schools are being put undermounting pressure by the rising levels of pupils who do not speak English as their first language.

In a bid to ease the burden, Reading Borough Council, is offering discounted English lessons for both children and adults.

The aim is to get children, whose command of English is often much better, to help their families learn it.

Lesley Reilly, head of adult learning at the authority, said: ‘Our aim is to involve stakeholders in community groups across the town to encourage people to join the English classes.

'Our target is to reach more men, unemployed people, learners…

Reported speech

to promise, to agree, to deny, to refuse, to remind, to suggest, to admit, to blame, to persuade, to advise, to invite, to congratulate, to explain, to accuse, to offer, to apologise, to threaten, to warn, to forgive, to demand, to recommend.

Rewrite the following sentences using the correct form of one of the above verbs. Make any other necessary changes.

eg You should read his latest book.

He recommended (reading) his latest book.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth, Diana," said Charles."I didn't kill her," said the gardener. "The butler did." "If she doesn't arrive on time, I will sack her" said the boss." I can give you a lift if your car is at the mechanic's, John," said Anne."I'll buy you a computer, Andy" said his father "but only if you pass your exams.""You press the button and it switches on," he said."Why don't you try this cream next time?" she said."…

Ban on Valentine's

A primary school in Weston-super-Mare has been criticised for banning Valentine cards to save pupils the "emotional trauma" of being rejected.

Children at Ashcombe Primary School were stopped from exchanging cards because the head teacher said they were not emotionally mature enough to cope.

Peter Turner told parents of the 430 pupils that cards would be confiscated.

One pupil's mother said: "I think it's outrageous. They're just children. Why spoil their fun?"

The woman, whose son attends the school, said: "It's comical really. I couldn't believe it when I saw the newsletter.

"My son is six and he's had a little girlfriend since nursery. They say they're going to get married, but we don't read anything into it."

Mr Turner said in the newsletter that children get upset when they are "dumped" which interrupts their learning.

He said children should wait until they are mature enough emotionally and socially to …

Reporting verbs + nouns

Here is a list of reporting verbs. What are the corresponding nouns?
eg. to advise / advice (NB uncountable noun, an advice WRONG)
to agreeto offerto inviteto accuseto warnto refuseto denyto suggestto apologiseto remindto promiseto admitto recommendto demandto decideto threatento explainComplete the sentences using one of the nouns.
His silence was as good as an ___ of guilt.Did you hear the weather ___? Apparently there is a big storm on the way.The MP issued a ___ that he was having an affair with the actress.Is that a ___? Will you give me your word?Have you got any ___ where I can go this weekend?You deserve an ___ from him. He had no right to say such a thing.I'm going to take my time because it will be the most important ___ that I have ever taken.Whenever I have a problem, I go to my best friend for ___.Why haven't I received an ___ to the wedding?You can't make such ___ if you haven't got any proof.The unions have reached an ___ with the airline and they have cal…


Are the following sentences right or wrong? Correct them if they are wrong.
We've been having such a horrible weather recently.I had such a nice time. Thank you.I was so glad that you were able to come in the end.So much people came that there wasn't enough food for everyone.I laughed so much that I fell off my chair.You gave me such a fright. I didn't think there was anyone here.The meeting went on for so long. I thought it would never end.I've missed you so much. I am a so lucky guy.I've seen this film so much times.He is such an idiot. How can anyone be so stupid?My English is so much better than this time last year.Try these other exercises too:
Flatmates (BBC Learning English)Grammar challenge (BBC Learning English)So/such quiz (usingenglish)How could you continue these sentences?

eg. He's so stingy. He is always the last one to reach for his wallet.
eg. I love you so much that I would do anything for you.
He is so rich.I drank so much last night that...It wa…

Up Int Vocab - Worst case scenarios

Here is a list of the words from the "How to cope in an emergency" text. Choose some of them and write example sentences (not definitions).
a wound (see difference with "an injury")thunderto outruna piece of stringa piece of ropea haven to chargeto be struck (to strike)debriscardboarda bandagea doorwaya booma shelterto antagonisea threatto bleeda bandageto remain stillto kneela splint

Are you tired or tiring?

Here is lots of practice on the ed/ing adjectives:
The FlatmatesGrammar ChallengeAre you bored or boring?You can find more exercises under the grammar section in the left-hand column.

Choose some of the following to talk about. Give reasons for your answer.
an exciting job to havea boring job to havea confusing part of English grammaran annoying famous persona fascinating person you'd like to meeta disappointing filma frightening experiencea depressing story in the newsan amazing viewa shocking statisticChoose from the following. When did you last feel...? Why?

Int - module 5 Vocab

Complete the following with a word in the correct form.

You won't earn much if you become a teacher. It's really b____-p___.He's had a really s_________ career. He's the top manager in the firm now.It's only a t________ job. It ends in March and then I'll have to look for a new one.Has he got w___ it t____ to be a soldier? I think he is too indecisive.I don't think he made a w___ decision. He should think again.I'm going to finish work early tonight u_____ my boss asks me to stay behind.The train on platform 2 isd__ to leave in 10 minutes.I think the prime minister should r_____. He lied to parliament.He is just j______ that I got a promotion and he didn't.I wouldn't mind having a c__________ job; it would make life more interesting.She is t_______ to be a nurse. She'll finish the course this summer.Which university he goes to depends on his g_____ from school.I need to find a more exciting job - I'm really f__ u_ being a teacher.He's…

No need for English lessons?

Don't bother to learn foreign languages: Google to launch smartphones that will translate for you in real time

It could be the end of learning a foreign language. Internet giant Google is developing software which it claims will be able to translate conversations almost instantaneously.

Like a real-life Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the firm says it would enable people to communicate without understanding a word of one another's mother tongue.

Based on Google's existing software for automatically converting websites and documents into a different language, it would use a voice recognition system to translate real-time speech.

While it sounds like the stuff of science fiction, the multinational says the technology could be available on phones within a couple of years.

However sceptics are likely to point out that text automatically translated by Google is currently littered with grammatical errors.

Meanwhile linguists doubt whether voice recognition te…

More cat owners 'have degrees' than dog-lovers

Image source: wikipedia

Image source: Wikipedia

People who own a cat are more likely to have a university degree than those with a pet dog, a study by Bristol University suggests.

A poll of 2,524 households found that 47.2% of those with a cat had at least one person educated to degree level, compared with 38.4% of homes with dogs.

The study said longer hours, possibly associated with better qualified jobs, may make owning a dog impractical.

It also found that UK pet ownership was much higher than previously thought.

Cat and dog numbers were last estimated in a scientific peer-reviewed journal in 1989, which said there were 6.2 million and 6.4 million respectively in the UK.

But according to Bristol's Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, the populations today are likely to be about 10.3 million and 10.5 million.

Overall, it estimated that 26% of UK households owned cats and 31% owned dogs.

The study suggested a number of other characteristics, aside from education level, were …

Untidy beds may keep us healthy

Failing to make your bed in the morning may actually help keep you healthy, scientists believe.

Research suggests that while an unmade bed may look scruffy it is also unappealing to housedustmites thought to cause asthma and other allergies.

A Kingston University study discovered the bugs cannot survive in the warm, dry conditions found in an unmade bed.

The average bed could be home to up to 1.5 million house dust mites.

The bugs, which are less than a millimetre long, feed on scales of human skin and produce allergens which are easily inhaled during sleep.

The warm, damp conditions created in an occupied bed are ideal for the creatures, but they are less likely to thrive when moisture is in shorter supply.

'Small glands'

The scientists developed a computer model to track how changes in the home can reduce numbers of dust mites in beds.

Researcher Dr Stephen Pretlove said: "We know that mites can only survive by taking in water from the atmosphere using small glands on th…

Confusing words - quiet

Be quiet! = stop talking.
Can you keep quiet while I'm on the phone? = Don't make so much noise.
The town centre was very quiet today. = It wasn't busy.
You are very quiet today. What's the matter? = You aren't speaking much. What's wrong?
I'm looking forward to the peace and quiet. = I'm going to a place where there isn't much activity or excitement and no stress
Why did you keep quiet about your new job? = Why didn't you tell anybody about it?

¡estáte quieto! = Don't move! Stay still! Stand still! Sit still! Stop fidgeting! (NOT Be quiet!)

He's always very calm. (tranquilo) = He doesn't get angry or stressed out.
She's so laid-back. (tranquilo) = She is really relaxed about things. She doesn't let things worry her.
Tranquilo! = Relax! (NOT Quiet! and NOT Silence!)
Tú, tranquilo, lo haré yo = Don't worry! I'll do it.
Ahora que estás aqui estoy más tranquilo = I feel much better now that you are here. (NOT more quiet)

Someone wro…

Time Warp - Rocky Horror Picture Show

For some reason the subject of men in suspenderscame up in class. Hence this clip from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

You must have heard of the Time Warp! Nobody knew what I was talking about in class the other day.

You'll notice a young Susan Sarandon in this clip.

Source: You Tube (WhispersFromTheGrave) Key Words: time warp rocky

It's astounding, time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely, not for very much longer
I've got to keep control

I remember doing the TIme Warp
Drinking those moments when
The blackness would hit me and the void would be calling
Let's do the time warp again...
Let's do the time warp again!

It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
With your hands on your hips
You bring your knees in tight
But it's the pelvic thrust that really drives you insane,
Let's do the Time Warp again!

It's so dreamy, oh fantasy free me
So you can't see me, no not at all
In another dimension, with voyeuristic intent…

Question tags

The BBC Learning English page covers most things including the dreaded question tags. Check out the following:
Question tags -Grammar challengeTag intonation -Grammar challengeThe Flatmates - episode 20Confirmation -Learn itAsk about English -listeningAsk about English - shall I?Don't say that you don't have enough practice!
Important - if you do any of the above exercises, let me know by leaving a comment here.

Def, Indef and zero articles

The, A/an, -

There are only three articles in English: definite - "the", indefinite - "a/an" and zero article - no article. So you would think that they would be easy to use but they can be quite tricky.

I have found a lot of tasks (of varying difficulty) to do:
The indefinite article -Grammar challenge(BBC Learning English)Articles -The Flatmates(BBC Learning English)The definite article -Grammar challenge(BBC Learning English)The definite article -Learn it(BBC)Articles -3 levels of exercises(Learn 4 Good)Just google Definite articles and you will find plenty of other exercises.

San Blas storks

Today is San Blas. This morning I caught the end of a TV report from the neighbourhood of the same name. I don't really know if there are any special celebrations or traditions that surround this particular saint, but it reminded me of a saying.

Por San Blas, la cigueña verás, y si no la vieres, año de nieves.

By the day of San Blas you will see the stork and if you don't see it, year of snow.

Por San Blas, la cigueña verás y si no la vieras, mal año vendrá.

By San Blas, the stork you will see and if you don't see it, a bad year will come.

I didn't discover if the storks had arrived yet or not.
Do you have any favourite sayings? Many are related to the weather.

In the backround of the photo on the left, you can just about make out a stork in its nest. There were plenty of them to see around Caceres.
I was there around March last year. The storks were tending to their young and the strange sound that they make could be heard all around town.

They are impressive birds, …