miércoles, 31 de agosto de 2011

Talking point: Life skills

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative to talk about the basic skills a person needs to live independently.

The questions below may help you to structure your conversation.

When did you leave your parents' home for the first time?
Did you find it difficult to live without them?
When did you leave your parents' home for good?
What did you have to learn to do before and after leaving your parents' home?
Who taught you to do these things?
What are the essential skills a person needs to live on their own?
Does school prepare a person to live independtly?

In preparation for your conversation session, you can read this article from The New York Times to get some extra ideas to bring along to the discussion.

You may also wish to answer these questions about the article, taken from The Learning Blogs of The New York Times.

WHAT are the “essential life skills” you think a young person might need in order to live on his or her own?
WHY, when doing laundry, should you not throw a bright red top in with the whites?
WHY, according to Professor Lewis Mandell, should you never pay a cable or phone bill late?
HOW do you make out a check properly?
WHEN should you go online and search for a company’s name along with “scam” or “rip-off”?
WHERE are the gas tank, jumper cables, insurance card and registration in the car you drive, or are driven in, most often?
WHOM could you ask to teach you these and other basic life skills identified in this article, including how to sew on a button, change a light bulb, judge how long different foods can stay in a refrigerator before going bad, tip properly, use a microwave safely, strip and make a bed, pack a suitcase and safeguard valuables?

martes, 30 de agosto de 2011

Internet Security Game

Internet Security Game is an online game intended for young kids, but we can all benefit from it, both as far as English is concerned and to refresh some basic concepts about the dangers the Internet poses.

I think the game is self-explanatory, especially if you spend 15 seconds going over the picture below. I hope you enjoy it.

H/T to DDebuel.

Discursive composition or problem/solution essay

A few weeks ago Larry Ferlazzo published this post on his blog on the different steps involved in a discursive composition, although they call it here 'problem/solution' essay.

We intend to devote more post entries to composition writing during the 2011-2012 school year, but you can try this interactive activity (and download it) in the mean time.

lunes, 29 de agosto de 2011

Vowel pronunciation games: /ʌ/ vs /ɑ:/ and /ɪ/ vs /i:/

A few months ago A Clil to Climb published some interactive pronunciation games. We have published on this blog some of them, but not all. On today's post you can have two pronunciation games that mainly deal with the recognition of phonemic script.

The first one is about the difference between /ʌ/ and /ɑ:/. The game is a bit more difficult that it seems at first. For that reason it is only suitable for intermediate students.

First of all, you must bear in mind that for technical reasons the sound /ʌ/ is represented /A/ on this game. On the top right-hand corner of the game screen you will see a word in phonemic script /bAz/ (= /bʌz/) in the image below. Click on the picture on the poster on the word whose pronunciation matches that of /bAz/. Answer: Buzz Lightyear, the famous character of Toys.

To begin playing, you must click on start.

The second game is about the difference between /ɪ/ and /i:/. This game is less demanding than the game before, although the mechanics is fairly similar. This time an English word is shown in the top right-hand corner of the game. We must click on the correct phonetic transcription of that word.

To begin playing, you must click on start.

domingo, 28 de agosto de 2011

An appetite for learning

What skills do you have?
Can you drive, ride a bike, cook, skateboard, paint?
When did you start learning English?
How did you start learning any of the skills you have?
Did anyone teach you how to do any of the skills you have now?
Have you ever taught a skill to anyone?
Do you know anyone who is really skillful at doing something?
Why are they so good?

It would be a good idea that you answered the questions above with someone who speaks English, so that you can also practise your oral English while thinking about the topic of learning.

A few weeks ago Larry Ferlazzo published this video on his blog about the key factors to learn English or any other skill for that matter: Motivation, perseverance.

Watch the video and see if you can name all the activities the protagonist gets involved in. Have you tried any of them? Are you good at any of them?

On a different level, it is the same idea as NBA player Steve Nash is trying to convey in his famous video You gotta practice.

Watch the commercial and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Wow, good kick!
If you spend so many hours by yourself (1) ... ,a lot of stuff goes through your mind.
If it's you trying to incorporate everyone on the (2) ... in some way, whether you're trying to (3) ... half of them, or accentuate, you know, half of them, it makes the game a lot more fun.
It's such a creative (4) ... to try to encompass all those different moving (5) ...  .
Get the passion and the appreciation for the (6) ...   ... of soccer easily translated to basketball.
If you wanna be good, you gotta practice.

1 shooting 2 field 3 deceive 4 outlet 5 parts 6 finer points

sábado, 27 de agosto de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this parody video of Ryanair and answer the questions below.

1 How much does a seat belt cost in total?
2 What does the snack consist of?
3 How many lavatories are there on the plane?
4 How much are you charged for looking at a safety pamphlet?
5 What is free on a Ryanair flight?
6 How much does the flow of oxygen cost?

You can read the transcript here.

H/T to Richard Gresswell.

1 twelve dollars 2 a single peanut 3 None 4 Three dollars 5 Oxygen masks 6 seventy-five dollars sixty-three cents

viernes, 26 de agosto de 2011

Living English

Living English is a 42-part series that looks at the English language used in everyday situations. It is aimed at strong elementary (Básico 2) to intermediate English students.

Each episode lasts about 15 minutes. There is a three-minute film, where the a story develops. Then the language contents of the film are studied in detailed: Grammar, vocabulary and functional language for everyday situations.

A transcript of the episodes is provided, and the video clips can be downloaded.

All in all, Living English provides endless hours of structured language learning. I strongly recommend you to do the course on a regular basis.

Episode 1: Pleased to meet you -Anne, a wine dealer from Singapore, arrives at Adelaide Airport and meets her local buyer, Sarah.

Episode 2: Enjoy Your Stay -Sarah and Mark take Anne to her hotel. She checks in.

Episode 3: What time is it? -In her hotel room, Anne rings a number. John Barbour, the private detective, answers the phone.

Episode 4: Second on the Left -Anne is looking for John's office. A woman is waiting at a bus stop. Anne approaches her

Episode 5: Are you married? -Anne describes her brother to the private investigator.

Episode 6: He didn't write -Anne continues her conversation with the private investigator.

Episode 7: Come to Lunch -Sarah invites Anne to meet her family.

Episode 8: This is my brother -Anne goes to Sarah's house for lunch.

Episode 9: The most beautiful city -They have lunch and talk about differences.

Episode 10: What's the matter? -Sarah finds out Anne's secret mission.

Episode 11: Let me Help -Sarah offers to help Anne.

Episode 12: The day after tomorrow -Anne and Sarah plan a meeting.

Episode 13: What are you doing tomorrow? -Steve makes a date with Anne.

Episode 14: Are there some kangaroos? -Anne and Steve go to a Wildlife Park.

Episode 15: A big grey one -Steve and Anne explore the park.

Episode 16: What Would you Like? -Anne and Steve have lunch.

Episode 17: I usually catch a bus -ANNE and STEVE talk about their different lives.

Episode 18: There's a message for you -Anne returns to the hotel, to find a message.

Episode 19: I haven't found him -John tells Anne of his progress in finding her brother.

Episode 20: You walk sadly -Anne catches a bus to the University.

Episode 21: Single Trip or Daytrip? -Anne talks to the bus driver.

Episode 22: Look after yourself -Anne sees the Professor.

Episode 23: If I were You -The Professor advises Anne on what to do next.

Episode 24: The Most Expensive Wine -Anne and Sarah are tasting wines.

Episode 25: Anne goes shopping at the Market -How many prawns?

Episode 26: I thought I saw him -Anne meets Steve unexpectedly.

Episode 27: It's made of gold -Anne sees John and describes her brother's possessions.

Episode 28: You should relax -ANNE goes to the doctor.

Episode 29: Do you have a wok? -Sarah shows Anne her kitchen.

Episode 30: First, fry the prawns -Anne cooks a meal.

Episode 31: That was Delicious -The family praise Anne for her meal.

Episode 32: He says he knows my brother -David tells Anne what he knows.

Episode 33: Who Wants to Know? -Anne, Steve and Sarah look for David at the Market stall.

Episode 34: You were going too fast -Sarah, Anne and Steve get pulled over for speeding.

Episode 35: This is the house -They arrive at David's house.

Episode 36: This is your nephew -Anne meets her brother's family

Episode 37: I had to find a job -David tells his story.

Episode 38: You Should Ring Your Parents -They discuss what David should do.

Episode 39: How could you? -David talks to his father.

Episode 40: He said he loved me -David reports his conversation to the others.

Episode 41: If I like you -Anne and Sarah, and Steve and Anne discuss the future.

Episode 42: See You Again -Anne, David and his family fly home.

jueves, 25 de agosto de 2011

History of English III & IV: Shakespeare & The King James Bible

The third chapter of The History of English in 10 Minutes is devoted to the importance of Shakespeare in the English language.

I think that today's episode is a little bit more difficult than usual, as there is a heavy vocabulary component  that even some advanced students will find it difficult.

For that reason, there's no task in today's episode. Simply enjoy it and read the transcript below as you watch along.

Remember that if there are any words you don't understand, it is enough for you to double-click on the corresponding word in the transcript to find out its meaning.

As for the idiomatic expressions, you can use the MacMillan Dictionary box on the left sidebar of this blog or use an online idiom dictionary like IdiomDictionary.

As the dictionary tells us, about two thousand new words and phrases were invented by William Shakespeare. He gave us handy words like ‘eyeball’, ‘puppydog’, and ‘anchovy’ and more show-offy words like ‘dauntless’, ‘besmirch’ and ‘lacklustre’. He came up with the word ‘alligator’ soon after he ran out of things to rhyme with ‘crocodile’ and a nation of English tea drinkers finally took him to their hearts when he invented the ‘hob-nob’.

Shakespeare knew the power of catchphrases as well as biscuits. Without him we’d never eat our ‘flesh and blood’ ‘out of house and home’. We’d have to say ‘good riddance’ to the ‘green eyed monster’ and ‘breaking the ice’ would would be as ‘dead as a doornail’. If you tried to ‘get your money’s worth’ you’d be ‘given short shrift’ and anyone  who ‘laid it on with a trowel’ could be ‘hoist with his own petard’. Of course, it is possible other people used these words first, but the dictionary writers liked looking them up in Shakespeare because there was more cross-dressing and people poking each other’s eyes out.

Shakespeare’s poetry showed the world that English was a rich, vibrant language with limitless expressive and emotional power and he still had time to open all of those tea rooms in Stratford.

The fourth chapter of The History of English in 10 Minutes is entitled The King James Bible or let there be light reading. There are also a lot of proverbs and idiomatic expressions in the script, so you can enjoy the video while you read the transcript and look up the expressions and vocabulary you don't know later own.

In 16011 the ‘powers that be’ turned the world upside down with a labour of love, a new translation of the Bible. A team of scribes to the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ went the extra mile to make the King James translation ‘all things to all men’. Whether from their ‘heart’s desire’ to ‘fight the good fight’ or just for the ‘filthy lucre’.
This sexy, new Bible ‘went from strength to strength’, ‘getting to the root of the matter’ in a language even the ‘salt of the earth’ could understand. ‘The writing wasn’t on the wall’, it was in handy little books with ‘fire and brimstone’ preachers reading it in every church. Its words and phrases ‘took root’ ‘to the ends of the earth’, or at least to the end of Britain.

The King James Bible is the book that taught us that a ‘leopard can’t change its spots’, that ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, that ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is harder to spot than you would imagine, and how annoying it is ‘to have a fly in your ointment’.

In fact, just as Jonathan begat Merit-Ball and Merit Baal begat Micah, the King James Bible begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality that still shapes the way English is spoken today. Amen.

miércoles, 24 de agosto de 2011

Talking point -We spend less than forty minutes eating a day

What are some of the pressures of modern life?
What do you usually have for lunch?
How long does lunch take you during the week?
And breakfast?
And dinner?
How long does lunch take you at the weekend?
Do you cook your own lunch during the week?
During the week, do you cook right before having lunch or do you cook it the evening before or even at the weekend?
Have you ever skipped lunch or any other day meal because of work?
Have you ever eaten lunch while working?

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and discuss the questions above. You may wish to read this article from The MailOnline beforehand to gain some insight on the topic.

martes, 23 de agosto de 2011

Speakout elementary: Welcome!

What’s your name and where are you from?
What do you like about it?
What don’t you like about it?

These are the questions some immigrants to the UK are answering about their home country or home town in another podcast from Longman's Speakout (elementary).

Self-study activity:
Note down the answer each speaker gives to each of the questions above.

Can you answer the same questions about your home country or home town?

You can check your answers and read the transcript here.

lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

Good neighbours

Good neighbours is a thriller released in 2010.

The action takes place in 1995, the year of the second referendum on the separation of Quebec. In the dead of winter, a serial killer is on the loose in the small Montreal neighborhood of Notre Dame de Grace. The tenants of an old apartment house must figure out who they can trust and who they can't.

Self-study activity:
This is the promotional trailer. Complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

Please don't!
In a city (1) ... by fear... Should I be (2) ... for my safety? A woman should always be (2) ... for her safety. It's a nasty world. ...three neighbors...
I'm Victor, nice to meet you.
Spencer, Louise.
...are getting to know each other
Car accident. Last winter, my wife died.
Three dead and (3) ...  .
There's a lot more detail there.
Why do you think you're so interested in all this (4) ...?
When everyone is a suspect,...
Were you alone?
No! No, no. Louise, you were here with me.
...they'll discover that the real danger isn't on the street. It's much closer to home.
You have got a serial rapist vibe off of him?
I'm so sorry. It's (5) ...-... outside, you're coming home by yourself and I just leap out.
I saw him, walking outside that night.
I think we have a common problem, Louise: Victor.
Just moved back to town. He's (6) ...  .
Where were you last Tuesday night?
How come you didn't tell me you knew that last victim?
Wait, what's going on exactly?
You tell me.
Hi there
Do you ever like dancing?
I always like watching.
Something's going on with these people.
He's just waiting for any (7) ... to get rid of me.
I have a surprise for you.
Oh, Louise! You always wanna see the best in people, don't you?

1 gripped 2 concerned 3 raped 4 stuff 5 pitch-black 6 lonely 7 chance

domingo, 21 de agosto de 2011

English and football

Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Dirk Kuyt, Gilberto, Mido, Sun Jihai... are some of the footballers from the Premier League answering the questions below:

Is life in the UK what you expected?
What do you like most about living in the UK?
When did you learn English?
What's the best way to learn a language?
What did you find most challenging about learning English?
What advice would you give to a foreign player coming to the UK?

The Premier League together with the British Council present a number of videos where a group of outstanding foreign footballers are interviewed about the way they have adapted themselves to living in Britain and the process of English learning.

The videos come complete with interactive exercises so that we can check out comprehension.

sábado, 20 de agosto de 2011

How to improve your memory

If asked, 90 percent of people will admit to having a poor memory. But is there anything we can do to improve our memory?

If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and try to come up with as many ideas as possible on how to improve one's memory.

Now read this article from The Browser that I found through Learn the Net. In Joshua Foer on Memory, the US memory champion picks five books about the art of remembering things which can throw some insight on what we can do to make things more memorable.

The Art of Memory, by Frances A Yates
The Book of Memory, by Mary Carruthers
Memory in Oral Traditions, by David C Rubin
Metaphors of Memory, by Douwe Draaisma
The Mind of a Mnemonist, by Aleksandr R Luria

viernes, 19 de agosto de 2011

The fear to change

Carly Fiorina, former CEO of HP talks about the dynamics of change and fear in this lecture to Stanford University students offered in May, 2007.

Self-study activity:
Before you watch an extract of Carly's talk, try to decide if, in your opinion, the following statements are true or false.

Everybody is afraid of something.
Some people are blocked by their fears.
Courageous people manage to defeat their fears.
The business world is about risk-taking.
Change is always difficult.
Most people are afraid of venturing into the unknown, which stops change.
People who have positions of power and influence what to keep them.
Wanting to keep one’s power and influence is human, but it also stops change.

Now watch the video and check which of the statements above are true or false.

You can read a transcript of the talk here.

All the statements are true.

jueves, 18 de agosto de 2011

Our motivation for learning

This is a presentation that Karenne Joy Sylvester gave at TESOL Spain this year and the she published on her blog Kalinago English a few weeks ago.

The presentation is primarily aimed at English teachers, but behind the thought-provoking slides and the huge visual impact of the pictures, there's food for thought for everybody regarding our motivation to learn and to do anything for that matter.

miércoles, 17 de agosto de 2011

The eight secrets of success

Why do people succeed? Is it because they're smart? Or are they just lucky? Neither. Analyst Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success.

So what leads to success? is the magical question that Richard St John's is answering in this Ted-minitalk.

Self-study activity:
If you wish to test your listening ability, listen to Richard's talk without watching the video, as Richard's talk offers plenty of visual support to convey his message.

Listen to the talk and note down the 8 factors that, in Richard's opinion, lead to success.

If you want to check your answers, it will be enough for you to watch the talk, but you can also read the transcript here.

martes, 16 de agosto de 2011

Usain Bolt's dream

Watch the first episode of BBC's special Talking Sport. The first guest is Usain Bolt, and he talks about his dreams for the 2012 Olympics in London.

You can also download the worksheet to read the transcript and do some exercises on the word dream.

H/T to Web2literacy.

lunes, 15 de agosto de 2011

CNN Students News is back

From today CNN Students News is back after the summer break. Make a habit of dropping by CNN Students News for both catching up with the latest world's news and brushing up your English.

Also remember that the 8-10 minute news bulletin comes together with a transcript.

Tempest in Crescent City -video game

Tempest in Crescent City is an online game about Katrina.

In Tempest in Crescent City, you play as Vivica Waters. You must travel around New Orleans in search of your mother, helping people, rescuing trapped and injured survivors, and gathering information from local citizens along the way.

Lots of reading practice and good fun.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

domingo, 14 de agosto de 2011

Is your English good enough to study/work in an English-speaking country?

This is a question lots of English students may ask themselves, irrespective of the English qualifications they have obtained in their home country: Is my English good enough to study/work in an English-speaking country?

IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, is designed to assess the language ability of candidates who want to study or work where English is the language of communication. IELTS is recognised by over 6,000 organisations worldwide, including universities, employers, professional bodies, immigration authorities and other government agencies.

For a list of organisations that accept IELTS scores, click here.

You can start by finding out all the details of IELTS in the official IELTS website and download the candidate booklet, where you will find an answer to the most relevant questions about the exam.

And now let's go back to the question in the post title: Is your English good enough to study/work in an English-speaking country? Let's find it out.

Canada Visa offers two complete tests where you can gauge whether your English language ability is high enough to integrate into Canadian society and the Canadian workforce and, consequently, gain admittance in the country.

The four sections of the IELTS (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking) are measured on a Band Score system from 1-9. To receive the maximum number of points for English language ability on a Federal Skilled Worker application, applicants who are required to take the IELTS, must obtain a Band score of 7.5 or higher in the Listening component and a 6.5 or higher in the other three components.

So why don't you have a go at it and check whether your English level is sufficient to pass the IELTS. Take one of the free online tests Canada Visa offers and find it out for yourself.

sábado, 13 de agosto de 2011

Talking point: Planning the perfect holiday

What's your idea of the perfect holiday?
Which of your holidays stands out as the best ever?
Why did it go so well?
What (unexpected) problems have you had to face during your holidays?
Why is it that some people say they had great holidays, even if they didn't?

Planning the perfect holiday is a good talking point to discuss with your friends.

To gain some further insight into the topic, you can read this The New York Times article before you get together to talk.

viernes, 12 de agosto de 2011

The History of English: The Norman Conquest

Self-study activity:
Watch  the second chapter of The History of English, from The Opening University, and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

1066. True to his name William the Conqueror (1) ... England bringing new concepts from across the Channel, like the French language, the Domesday Book and the duty-free (unknown word) (2) ...  .  

French was "de rigueur" for all official business, with words like "judge", "jury", "evidence" and "justice" coming in and giving John Grisham's career a (3) ...   .

Latin was still used "ad nauseam" in (4) ..., but the common man spoke English, able to communicate only by speaking more slowly and (5) ... until the others understood him.  

Words like "cow", "sheep" and "(6) ..." come from the English speaking farmers. While the "a la carte" versions "beef", "mutton" and "(7)..." come from the  French speaking toffs, beginning a long-running trend of restaurants having completely indecipherable menus. 

All in all, the English absorbed about (8) ... new words from the Normans, though they still couldn't (9) the rules of cheek kissing. 

The "bon" army all ended when the English nation took their new warlike lingo of "armies", "navies" and "soldiers" and began the Hundred Years' War against France. It actually lasted a (10) ... years but by that point no one could count any higher in French and English took over as the language of power.

1 invades 2 multipack 3 kick-start 4 church 5 loudly 6 swine 7 pork 8 ten thousand 9 grasp 10 one hundred and sixteen

jueves, 11 de agosto de 2011


Here are two videos I have wanted to post for some time. I think it was through David Deubel that I found them, but I am not 100% confident here.

The topic which runs through both videos is arguments, and I would say that both are quite easy to understand. Even (strong) elementary students can greatly benefit from them.

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English-speaking friend and discuss these questions:

1 How often do you argue?
2 When did you last argue?
3 Do you always tend to argue with the same people?
4 Do you always tend to argue for the same reasons? Which ones?
5 Is it easy for you to start an argument?
6 Do you know anyone who is always arguing?

Now watch the first video, from Casey Donahue, who tries to parody a typical fight between partners.

To what extent do you think the video reflects what really happens in a couple's argument?

What the video again and note down a few expressions you wish to learn.

The second video comes from English Central, and refers to Monty Python's famous sketch Argument Clinic. Watch the clip without reading the transcript and try to understand as much as possible.

Watch the video clip for a second time, but this time you can read the subtitles if you have any comprehension difficulties.

miércoles, 10 de agosto de 2011


Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and discuss these questions.

1 Do you enjoy doing any sports? Which ones?
2 Do you enjoy watching any? Which ones?
3 What do you know about extreme sports?
4 Would you like to try jumping off a mountain with a parachute? Why or why not?
6 Do you own any sports or adventure clothing? If so, when do you wear it?
7 How many of each of these items do you own? Do they have a special purpose?
a pair of shoes - b pair of boots - c coat or jacket - d trousers - e hats or other head wear

Now watch this Oxford University Press video about Berghaus, the British outdoor clothing and equipment brand, and answer the questions below.

a What is the first sport the people are doing at the beginning of the video?
b What sports do Berghaus make clothing and equipment for?
c What types of clothing can we see in the shop?
d What happens inside the big Pentland Distribution Services building?
e What do the two people do at the end of the video?

You can read the transcript of the video clip here.

a mountain climbing
b outdoor sports like skiing, mountain climbing, etc.
c shirts, jackets, sunglasses, T-shirts, shoes, boots, trousers, fleeces, rain jackets
d Finished items are wrapped, packed, weighed, and distributed.
e They jump off the mountain and parachute to the bottom.

martes, 9 de agosto de 2011

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (retitled Jamie's American Food Revolution in the United Kingdom) is a television series which premiered on ABC on March 21, 2010. The show, which is produced by English chef Jamie Oliver and Ryan Seacrest, follows Oliver as he attempts to reform the school lunch programmes and attitudes about food in a U.S. city.

Self-study activity:
Watch the trailer for the series and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 One third of the population is considered obese in Huntington.
2 Jamie Oliver transformed UK's schools food programme.
3 Some people are pessimistic about the results of the programme in Huntington.
4 Huntington has a population of 40,000.
5 Huntington children are expected to live more than their parents.

Remember that you can always activate the CC option on the YouTube player to get an approximate transcript of the clip, but this transcription is sometimes a bit inaccurate.

If you are intrigued about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, you can watch all the episodes on YouTube. The first season had six episodes, all of which are divided into three parts on YouTube. I have just included the first part of the first episode here.

1 F (half the population) 2 T 3 T 4 F (50,000) 5 F (less than their parents)

lunes, 8 de agosto de 2011

The best summer readings?

Most people have more time on their hands during summer, which makes it the perfect time to indulge in hobbies and pastimes like reading.

So the big question is sometimes what to read, and top of the list comes thrillers. Most of them are fast-moving and include elements of suspense and adventure which grab the reader's attention from the very beginning, without demanding big intellectual efforts.

Last year, US National Public Radio compiled a list of the top 100 killer thrillers chosen by more than 17,000 votes.

You can gain full access to the list by double-clicking here, together with some explanations about the criteria to draw up the list and the audience's choices.

The top ten books on the list are shown below:

1 The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris.
2 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson.
3 Kiss the Girls, by James Paterson.
4 The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum.
5 In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote.
6 The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown.
7 The Shining, by Stephen King.
8 And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie.
9 The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy.
10 The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Remember that if you wish to find out the plot of any of the 100 books -or any other book for that matter- you can do so on Wikipedia.

And if you wish, you can give a try to 60 Seconds Recap, which is a site we posted about in the early days of this blog, where we can watch and listen to 60-second summaries of books. Two or three of the top 100 killer thrillers are featured there, and you can also get some ideas for future readings.

domingo, 7 de agosto de 2011

Pronunciation tools on the internet

This blog has a number of entries on pronunciation which try to cover the most relevant aspects of English pronunciation together with some tools (dictionaries, charts) that can help us do so.

By clicking on the Pronunciation tag on the right you will be able to visualise the 30+ pronunciation entries and everything it entails: games, pronunciation of -ed endings, irregular verbs, work on rhythm, songs, videos explaining the phonetic symbols, the diphthongs, remedial work on difficult words, samples of accents of English, online dictionaries, the phonemic chart, pronunciation of individual sounds, most common mispronounced words for Spanish speakers, the alphabet, rhyming poems, pronunciation of the third person singular and plurals.

All in all, the range of activities is quite comprehensive, but it is also manageable as there aren't too many entries.

A couple of weeks ago I happened to stumble on an entry from the blog Educational Technology in ELT  where a lot of the pronunciation points that I have listed above can be visualised at a glance. Vicky Saumell, who runs the blog, has divided all the pronunciation resources in groups:

Pronunciation of individual sounds:
-Printable phonemic charts
-Interactive phonemic charts

Interactive exercises and games

Listening to the pronunciation of words and connected speech

Practising pronunciation of words and connected speech

Make a point of dropping by the pronunciation-related tools that Vicky has selected.

sábado, 6 de agosto de 2011

History of English -Whatever happened to the Jutes?

The History of English in 10 minutes is a collection of ten one-minute videos from The Open University, which provides a funny light-hearted approach to the history of the English language.

The videos are fast-paced and dense, because they try to convey a lot of information in a very short period of time, but the cartoons greatly help with comprehension.

To kill two birds with one stone, we'll be providing the transcripts of all the chapters with some blanks in it, so that you can practise your listening skills while making sure that you get a full understanding of everything that is narrated on the video.

The first chapter in the series is Whatever happened to the Jutes?

Self-study activity:

The English language begins with the phrase Up your Caesar, as the Romans (1) ... Britain, and a lot of Germanic tribes start (2) ... in, tribes such as the Saxons and the Anglos, who together gave us the term Anglo-Saxon, and the Jukes, who didn’t.

The Romans left some very (3) ...   ... behind, but not much of their Latin language. The Anglo-Saxon vocab was much more useful, as it was mainly words for simple everyday things like ‘house’, ‘woman’, ‘(4) ...’ and ‘werewolf’.

Four of our days of the week were named in honour of Anglo-Saxon gods. They didn’t (5) ... with Saturday, Sunday or Monday as they’d all gone off for a long weekend.

While they were away, Christian missionaries stole in bringing with them with (6) ... about jumble sales and more Latin. Christianity was a (7) ... with the locals and made them much happy to take on funky new words from Latin like ‘martyr’, ‘bishop’ and ‘font’.

Along came the Vikings with their action man words like ‘drag’, ‘ransack’, ‘thrust’ and ‘die’. They made have (8) ... and pillaged but they were also into (9) ... and (10) ...    . Two of around two thousand words they gave English, as well as the phrase ‘Watch out for that man with the enormous axe’.

1 leave 2 flooding 3 straight roads 4 loaf 5 bother 6 leaflets 7 hit 8 raped 9 give 10 take

viernes, 5 de agosto de 2011

Debt ceiling

What is a debt ceiling? CNN Student News is on holiday, but they have decided to make this special five-minute video to explain the problem of US debt and the differences of opinion between Republicans and Democrats over this issue.

Self-study activity:
Simply watch the video and try to understand as much as possible.

You can read a transcript here.

jueves, 4 de agosto de 2011

Famous first words

The way in which a sentence begins really matters. Whether it's the opening line of the Gospel according to St John: "In the beginning was the word ...", or the introduction to a story in this newspaper: "Egypt has opened its border with Gaza ...", those first words are the starting point for the message.

This is the first paragraph of The Guardian article by Chris Tribble about some sure-fire formulas to start any piece of writing.

I think the ideas in the article may come in handy for lots of English students who have to grapple with composition writing as part of their English course.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

miércoles, 3 de agosto de 2011

Mr Morton is the subject of my sentence

This is a very funny song I learnt about through David Deubel. I think it can be suitable for lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) to consolidate the basic English structure for statements:

Subject + Predicate
Mr Morton smiles.
Mr Morton winks.
Mr Morton waves.

The video shows a lot of visuals which can help you with comprehension and vocabulary.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

As David suggests, if you wish you can watch the original version of Mr Morton.

You can read the lyrics for this second video here.

As a follow-up activity, after you finish watching the video, try and retell Mr Morton's story.

martes, 2 de agosto de 2011

How to survive without AC in summer?

Self-study activity:
Before you watch this How to video clip, try to think of possible answers to the question in the post entry: How can you survive without air-conditioning in summer?

Now it's listening time. You know that the How-to videos are great for English students because they give lots of visual information to support the aural message, but this can be an obstacle if we wish to put our listening activities to the test.

So, for the listening activity suggested here, listen to the video clip without watching the video and note down as many tips as you can understand. They give nine pieces of advice in total. See how many you manage to understand and how many of your own ideas are mentioned.

The second time you go over the activity, you can also watch the video.

Finally, remember that a transcript is always available with all the How-to videos.

lunes, 1 de agosto de 2011

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Do you enjoy city life? (society)

Self-study activity:
Get together with an English speaking friend or relative and discuss these questions:

Do you enjoy city life?
What are the good things about living in the city?
What are the main problems in cities?

Now listen to some native speakers answer the same questions above. Try and note down the answer each speaker gives.

The video clip is part of a new textbook published by Longman, Speak Out, which stresses the importance of authentic materials in language learning.

You can read a transcript of the video here.