Friday, December 15, 2017

Learning English is cool. Could you be?

Good day everyone. I'm mortified at not having posted anything since 26 October. At this time, I can't think of any excuse, except that I've Been Busy.

I invited readers to complete the expression, "It is. Could you be?" My own suggestion is in the title of this post. But I'd love to see your ideas.

Meanwhile, let's have a listen. Listening is the most difficult aspect to learning a language. I can attest to this as I have joined a Spanish course at CEF level A1.2. I have just listened to the news on Spanish radio and I probably understood forty per cent of it.

Let's try "6 Minute English" on the BBC World service "Learning English". This week's topic is "Should schoolchildren have jobs?"

Here's a short list of questions:

1) Official question: What is the youngest age at which children are allowed to work in the UK?  Is it: a) 12 b) 13  c) 14? You will hear the answer at the end of the programme. 

Here are some more questions:

2) What job did Dan do when he was 14?

3) A "Saturday job" is a term used to refer to ____ ____ work done by ___ .[Each blank space represents one word.]

4) ____ ____ is a very typical Saturday job.

5) The number of work permits issued to young people has fallen from ____ in 2012 to just ____ in 2016.

6) Teenagers are facing pressure not to ....... and instead to ...... [Complete the spaces with expressions that make sense, according to what you have heard.]

7) Dan's job taught him the ____ of ____ ____ . [Each blank space represents one word.]

Now listen to the programme and answer the questions. I'd love you to post your answers on this page.

To post your answers, click on the "Comments" link below and to the right of this post. If there have been no comments yet, the link will say "No Comments". Otherwise it will say, "1 [or whatever number] comments."

After clicking, write your comment in the space provided. To send your comment to us, you must "Choose an identity". The simplest is the "Name/URL" option. But if you choose "Anonymous", then please write your name at the end of your comment.

After that, simply click "Publish your comment".

On Six Minute English, there are some extra facilities to help you. You can see the list of special words on screen, and you can also see a transcript of the conversation between Neil and Dan.

You can also download the conversation as a podcast. This is a very good idea, as it enables you to listen to the conversation repeatedly.

That's all for now. I look forward to your comments. Remember that this is a Blog, and the best Blogs are interactive.

Have a very good day.
Mike (Editor)


Thursday, October 26, 2017

It is. Could you be?

Hello, everyone. To my shame, this is the first post I have written since before the summer holidays. Let me remedy this right now.

We're well into our new academic year. I would like to resume regular posts about how you can practise your listening skills.

I often post listening quizzes based on the BBC. But for now I'll give you a few pointers to useful websites. Then in my next post I'll give you something specific.

Here are some ideas. Your first resource is the British Council's 'Learn English' site. I particularly recommend 'Learn English Teens' even if you are not a teenager. Go to the Video Zone, YouTubers and Graded Listening.

Next resource is the BBC 'Learning English' site. Click on Features, then choose between "English at Work", "News Report", "The English We Speak", "LingoHack", "Six Minute English" and "Words In The News".

"The English We Speak" and "LingoHack" are particularly good for colloquial English and slang.

I must leave you now, but with a question. Look at the headline of this post, "It is. Could you be?"

Think of a noun to replace "It" and an adjective to insert after "is". Or, a verb in the present continuous. Post your suggestion in a Comment. The best completed sentence will get an Honourable Mention in the next post, and an apero after 21:00 in a local watering hole.

Pip pip!

See you soon!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sleep Deprivation - The Answers

Dear Readers,

Here are the answers to the Sleep Deprivation Quiz:

To take the sleep deprivation test, you need a watch, a metal spoon and a metal tray . Check the time and then shut your eyes. When you fall asleep the spoon should hit the tray and wake you up.
If you fall asleep after fifteen minutes, you're OK. But after ten minutes, you're sleep deprived.  If it's five minutes or less, then you may have severe sleep deprivation."
Michael Mosley took just over ten minutes to fall asleep. So he is not getting enough sleep.
He tried the test on some office workers. Three out of ten nodded off in around _____ minutes. That's not surprising when you consider that forty per cent of the population of Britain say they get less than six hours of sleep a night."
That's alarming news for many of us. It's certainly true in my case. In my job, I finish at 9 p.m. Assuming I don't go out - to the theatre, a movie or dinner - I get home to the Rome Borough of Centocelle around 10 p.m.I relax with a drink and a bit of television or a magazine, and then cook dinner. I might perhaps finish dinner around 11.00 or even 11.30.

Then I turn on my computer and edit photos, or maybe even this Blog. At some point I will look at the clock and find that it's already 1 a.m.! And there are days when I get up before seven in the morning. It really is appalling.

Tomorrow the summer holidays start and I'm going up to the UK. I'm resolving to go to bed before midnight every night if I can. Way to go!

Now it's your turn. Write to us and tell us about your sleep habits. Us the comments facility as we no longer have the more interactive Tag Board, and I have not yet found a replacement.

I'll have another message from you very soon. Meanwhile...

... have a nice day!
The Editor.

Friday, June 30, 2017

How Well do you Sleep?

Hello everyone. My humble apologies - it is just over a month since my last post. I'm going to remedy that now. We have an intriguing question from the BBC: "Are You Sleep Deprived?"

I thought of this a couple of days ago as I was teaching a class. It was morning and everybody - including me - was yawning. I confess I often go to bed late - as late as 2.30 a.m. sometimes - and get up early - like at 6.45. That means I'm getting just over four hours' sleep.

Obviously this is a bad idea. But a surprising number of people, perhaps most of us, have a sleep deficit. To find out how badly you are affected, watch this short video on the BBC. In it the presenter, Michael Mosley, tells you how to take the "Sleep Onset Latency" test.

After watching the video, see if you can fill in the gaps in this summary. It is not a transcript of the speech. Each underlined space stands for one word:

To take the sleep deprivation test, you need a _____ , a _____ _____ and a _____ _____ . Check the _____ and then shut your _____ . When you fall asleep the _____ should hit the _____ and _____ you up.
If you fall asleep after _____ minutes, you're OK. But after _____ minutes, you're sleep deprived.  If it's _____ minutes or less, then you _____ have severe sleep deprivation."
Michael Mosley took just over _____ minutes to fall asleep. So he is not getting _____ sleep.
He tried the test on some office workers. Three out of ten nodded off in around _____ minutes. That's not surprising when you consider that _____ per cent of the population of Britain say they get less than _____ hours of sleep a night."

That's definitely not enough. 👎

Listen as many times as you like and then tell us what you think the missing words are. Use a Comment or the Tag Board on the right.

I look forward to seeing loads of people taking part!

More very soon indeed,

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.

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,

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,