Friday, 16 August 2013

academic english

There are a lot of sites dedicated to EAP: English for Academic Purposes...

Stanford University
MOOC | education's digital future
MOOC List | A complete list of Massive Open Online Courses (free online courses) offered by the best universities and entities.
Massive open online course - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia open-source community-based tools for learning
Aula Virtual - CIPFP BATOI - CURS 2012/13
Exeter Learning Environment


Interactive workbook | Cambridge University Press | ELT
View project resource | Cambridge University Press | ELT

Online Course Offerings
RSA - RSA Animate

Computer Science | Khan Academy
Khan Academy

more on 'make' and 'do'...

Following on from the post:
Jay Doubleyou: using bbc learning english - vocab pt 2
some more stuff on these two difficult verbs...

Here's a discussion:
to do an effort vs to make an effort - WordReference Forums
> I'm doing my best = I can't do any better! = I doing as much as I can
> I'm making an effort = I'm trying really hard = to put more energy in

And another forum:
"take a decision" vs. "make a decision"
> I think one is American, the other British...

I don't particularly like this English-German dictionary as students always chose the definition at the top. But it has an excellent forum for discussion - if you just scroll down to the bottom:
English - German Forums - - English missing: to "make" or to "do" a trip?

There are useful lists too:
To make a decision - synonyms or related words for To make a decision - Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus

A good dictionary will give you plenty of examples:
enquiry - Definition and pronunciation | Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary at

But it's not just dictionaries and lists: you can actually use this language in real conversations.
Or not:
Avoid the "What Do You Do?" Question to Keep Small Talk Intersting

Thursday, 15 August 2013

cities and music

Which cities are famous for their music?

Did you know that Glasgow, the biggest city in Scotland, is 'officially' a "city of music"?

Glasgow City of Music

Buskers in Glasgow/Pic: Mariam Penman

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West | Glasgow gets city of music honour

Meanwhile, in London, we have the biggest classical musical festival in the world:

BBC - Proms - BBC Proms homepage

With the famous 'Last Night of the Proms'::

▶ Bryn Terfel sings Rule Britannia - YouTube

But what about other cities?

There's New Orleans:

.You better second line! Jazz funeral in New Orleans for Juanita Brooks - YouTube

There's Vienna:

Vienna, the City of Music

Welcome to the world’s music capital! More famous composers have lived here than in any other city – in Vienna, music is literally in the air: Waltzes and operettas have their home here, and so do musicals "made in Vienna," which have conquered international audiences.
The city’s concert halls and stages offer the whole range from classical to progressive sounds with end-to-end festivals the whole year through. Opera fanswill meet international stars here and jazz lovers will find a pulsating jazz scene.Pop and rock concerts provide unforgettable live music experiences.
Vienna, the City of Music - VIENNA – NOW OR NEVER

And what about your own town or city?
What connections does it have with music?

cities and cinema

Many cities are famous in film.

Rome for example.

This is considered one of the 'best' movies ever:

Bicycle Thieves (ItalianLadri di biciclette), also known as The Bicycle Thief, is director Vittorio De Sica's 1948 story of a poor father searching post-World War II Rome for his stolen bicycle, without which he will lose the job which was to be the salvation of his young family.
Adapted for the screen by Cesare Zavattini from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, and starring Lamberto Maggiorani as the desperate father and Enzo Staiola as his plucky young son, Bicycle Thieves is one of the masterpieces of Italian neorealism. It received an Academy Honorary Award in 1950 and, just four years after its release, was deemed the greatest film of all time by Sight & Sound magazine's poll of filmmakers and critics;[3] fifty years later the same poll ranked it sixth among greatest-ever films.[4] It is also one of the top ten among the British Film Institute's list of films you should see by the age of 14.

The Bicycle Thief Trailer - YouTube

Another film about Rome:

La Dolce Vita (Italian pronunciation: [la ˈdoltʃe ˈviːta]Italian for "the sweet life" or "the good life")[1] is a 1960comedy-drama film written and directed by the critically acclaimed director Federico Fellini. The film is a story of a passive journalist's week in Rome, and his search for both happiness and love that will never come. La Dolce Vita won the Palme d'Or (Golden Palm) at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival[2] and the Oscarfor Best Costumes.[3]
La Dolce Vita - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

La Dolce Vita (1960) - Federico Fellini - Trailer - YouTube

And then there's Vienna:

Amadeus is a 1984 period drama film directed by Miloš Forman and written by Peter Shaffer. Adapted from Shaffer's stage play Amadeus (1979), the story is a variation of Alexander Pushkin's play Mozart i Salieri (Моцарт и Сальери, 1830), in which the composer Antonio Salieri recognizes the genius ofWolfgang Amadeus Mozart but thwarts him out of pride and envy. The story is set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century.
The film was shot on location in PragueKroměříž and Vienna. Notably, Forman was able to shoot scenes in the Count Nostitz Theatre in Prague, whereDon Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito debuted two centuries before. 
Amadeus (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

▶ Amadeus - Trailer - YouTube

Another prize-winner from the streets of Vienna:

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph CottenAlida Valli,Orson Welles and Trevor Howard. It is particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and musical score,[2] and thus it is considered one of the greatest films of all time.
The Third Man - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Third Man (1949) Trailer - YouTube

What about films which are set in your home-town?
Any classics? Anything in English?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

using bbc learning english - vocab pt4

Perhaps my favourite section from this website is 'The Teacher':

Learning English - The Teacher

He's very silly but really makes you want to watch to see what he has to say.
And he has a lot to say about idioms.
Idioms - what exactly are they?
These are phrases which paint a picture - but perhaps in a very different way to how you'd do it in your own language.
For example, do you know any idioms around the word 'drive'?

Transport idioms: Drive

The Teacher


In this episode The Teacher introduces you to three idioms connected with driving:
1. In the driver's seat
2. A backseat driver
3. A Sunday driver

Learning English - The Teacher - Transport idioms: Drive

And there's a video, with the text and audio to download - plus a very animated set of comments.

But what's really useful for learners is getting hold of lots of 'fixed phrases' for use in conversation.

We've seen how 'The Flatmates' works, with lots and lots of popular dialogues:
Learning English - The Flatmates

And this is so popular, it's now on YouTube:

▶ The Flatmates episode 204, from BBC Learning English - Final Episode - YouTube

Here we have a lot of useful tips on the 'How To' section:
Learning English - How to...

How to ... conversation

Useful language for when you're chatting
  • Conversations
    extending a conversation, closing topics, talking about things you like ... more

BBC World Service | Learning English | How To

But the BBC has a lot of other stuff.

Can you answer this question?
BBC News - How many hours does it take to be fluent in English?

This is to help young people speak better:
BBC - GCSE Bitesize - Speaking and listening
BBC - Schools Ages 4-11 - Literacy Sites

Here we have real people in conversation: what kind of language do they use?
BBC - Radio 4 The Listening Project - Home

And here we have a wonderful example of a conversation to music:
BBC - Film Network - Films - Conversation Piece

explaining how your country's health system works

This is a useful graphic overview of the US healthcare system:

▶ Healthcare System Overview - YouTube

And here we look at the possible future of healthcare in the States:

The Future of US Healthcare by Barry Bittman, MD - YouTube

This is compared by CNN with the system in the UK:

▶ British health care explained - YouTube

Here is an official British government film promoting the new National Health Service back in the 1940s:

Universal Health Care - Should the USA Imitate UK? PSA Video - YouTube

But is this system really the best?
What about healthcare in your own country: how does it compare?

ivan illich on education and health

Here's a brief introduction to a very interesting personality:

Ivan Illich: a brief introduction - YouTube

This is what he had to say about education:

Scary School Nightmare - YouTube

the institutionalization of education is considered to institutionalize society and conversely that ideas for de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point for a de-institutionalized society.

Deschooling Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is what he had to say about the health 'system':

Medical Nemesis

In his Medical Nemesis, first published in 1975, also known as Limits to Medicine, Illich subjected contemporary Western medicine to detailed attack. He argued that the medicalization in recent decades of so many of life's vicissitudes—birth and death, for example—frequently caused more harm than good and rendered many people in effect lifelong patients. He marshalled a body of statistics to show what he considered the shocking extent of post-operative side-effects and drug-induced illness in advanced industrial society. He introduced to a wider public the notion of iatrogenic disease [17] which had been scientifically established a century earlier by British nurse Florence Nightingale (1820–1910). Others have since voiced similar views,[18] but none so trenchantly, perhaps, as Illich.

Ivan Illich - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The medical establishment has become a major threat to health." with this opening assertion, Ivan Illich - one of the most brilliant social critics of our time - launches a devastating analysis into "iatrogenesis" (doctor-made illness), examing what medicine really does, as opposed to the myth that has been built around it. "Medical Nemesis" poses some basic questions not only about the medical profession but about the direction of modern society and its dependence upon a maintainence system that is categorically robbing us of power, money, dignity - even life itself.

Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health: Ivan Illich: 9780394712451: Books

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

using bbc learning english - vocab pt 3

Finally, what part of English vocabulary or grammar do you hate the most?
How about prepositions?
In the previous posting
Jay Doubleyou: antimoon
we had the example of 'blindness' to the word 'of'.
And in the posting before that
Jay Doubleyou: using bbc learning english - vocab pt 2
there were some links to pages on those terrible things 'phrasal verbs'...

The bbc learning english website has lots of useful examples of how to use prepositions.

How many prepositions in this one minute?
And what are the full phrases you found them in?

▶ Express English: Freedom - YouTube
Learning English - Express English - Freedom

But what about something a little longer?
The BBC World Service used to offer 'English lessons' over the radio - and this service has largely transferred to the internet. But we still have these nice little lessons.

In this example we have the 'teachers' showing us how to complain effectively.
What sort of phrases do you know you can use if you need to make a complaint or deal with complaints?
And how many of them have prepositions in them...

Towards the end of this '6 minute lesson' we have a 'good' role-play (after a really 'bad' one!).
Again, can you identify the prepositions and the full phrases they are in?
Here's the opening page and below is a link to the pdf for the script of the lesson:

Business English: Customer complaints

A man's fingers typing on keyboard
Would you complain face-to-face, or by email?
In this special business edition of 6 Minute English, Feifei and Neil talk about a very common situation: customer complaints. What should you say if you want to complain about something? And what should you say if you receive a complaint?
Join Feifei and Neil as Business Betty coaches them through a complaining role-play - and improve your customer service skills

Learning English - 6 Minute English - Business English: Customer complaints

And finally, a bit of help from a teacher's blog at bbc learning english on what to do with collocations:


Taru, for your post from yesterday, I’d like to focus on collocations.

I’m sure many of you will be aware of the importance of collocation for English learners. It’s really important to familiarise yourself with combinations of words, and there are many different types of collocation. For example:

Adjective + noun: a warm smile (not a hot smile)
Adverb + verb: vaguely remember (not weakly remember)
Verb + noun: commit murder (not do murder)

These are just a few examples. The point is that the words in the collocation are often found together in English. There is no grammatical reason for this so there are no rules to learn. A bit like prepositions, you need to read a lot, expose yourself to as much English as you can, and when recording vocabulary you should make sure you write down collocations whenever you can. Using a decent concordance programme can help you learn collocations. (for more on how to use concordance programmes see Rachel’s entry below)

LE Teacher blog - concordance

In your blog post, you wrote the following:

it has made a research
it will be really far-reaching view
I would like to tell my best regards
raised our experience

In these examples, the problem is collocation. I’ve given you some correct alternatives below:

It has done/conducted/carried out research
It will have a panoramic/good/great view
I would like to give/send my best regards
Increased/enhanced/deepened our experience

You’ve used prepositions very well in this post, Taru. Well done!

BBC World Service | Learning English | Learning English Teacher Blog


This is a favourite website of mine.
It's been put together by a Polish guy - Tomasz P. Szynalski - who gives excellent tips on how to become really proficient in English.
And he's largely 'self-taught' - and as a 'native speaker' myself, I can honestly say I can find nothing to fault about the quality of his website - both the language and the content.
In fact, it's all very good indeed - and it can offer both teachers and students a lot.
As he says:
 If you want to learn English well, you cannot rely on English classes. You have to take control of your learning. We’ll show you how to do it in a fun and effective way.
Let's go to one particular page:

How to get the most out of English texts

by Tomasz P. Szynalski

Reading for content

Normally, when reading a text, people use a strategy that I call “reading for content”. The goal of this strategy is to get the main idea of the text as quickly as possible and with as little effort as possible. To accomplish this goal, your brain will try to read as few words as possible and spend only a fraction of a second on each word.
For example, when reading the following passage, you don’t really see it like this:
Once when I was six years old I saw a magnificent picture in a book, called True Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest. It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act of swallowing an animal. Here is a copy of the drawing. In the book it said: “Boa constrictors swallow their prey whole, without chewing it. After that they are not able to move, and they sleep through the six months that they need for digestion.”
I pondered deeply, then, over the adventures of the jungle. And after some work with a colored pencil I succeeded in making my first drawing.
To your brain, it looks more or less like this:
 when I was six years old I saw  magnificent picture in  book, called True Stories  Nature, about  forest. picture  boa  swallowing  animal. Here copy  drawing.  book  said: “Boa swallow  prey whole, without chewing  After  they  not able  move, and they sleep  six months  need digestion.”
I pondered deeply adventures  jungle. And after  work with  colored pencil I succeeded  making my first drawing.
Here are some characteristics of “reading for content”:
  • Not seeing “grammar words” like atheinofthroughthat. The eye only stops at content words (main nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs).
  • Not seeing word forms: Was it look or lookedHas looked or had looked?
  • Not noticing the exact spelling. It is well known that the brain recognizes whole words — it does not analyze them letter by letter. Native speakers see the word piece all the time, but many of them still misspell it as peice, because the two spellings have similar shapes.
  • Ignoring difficult words that are not essential to understanding the meaning (here: primevalconstrictor). Who has the time to use a dictionary?
An extreme example of “word blindness” is the rather well-known puzzle where you’re asked to count how many times the letter F occurs in the following passage:
Reading for content is a great, time-saving way to extract information from written content. The problem is that you may not need grammar words to understand a text, but you do need them to produce a text. If you skip over grammar words while reading, you may have difficulty using them correctly in your own sentences.
For example, here is a sentence from the opening paragraph of this article. Most learners (except those who are proficient in English grammar or extremely observant) will probably find it difficult to fill in the blanks:
To accomplish this goal, your brain will try to read as ___ words as possible and spend only a fraction of ___ second ___ each word.
The above explains why some learners can read a 300-page book and still have problems with relatively basic grammar. It also explains why articles and prepositions are among the hardest aspects of English to learn. The conclusion for the English learner is that if you want to improve your production (output) skills, you may have to train yourself to notice grammar words.
Here’s an illuminating passage posted by Maya l’abeille at the Antimoon Forum:
I believe that seeing correct and typical English sentences helps a lot to learn how to use English properly. It is also important to read and read again every structure that is new to you, so that you can remember them. If you only read the book without taking any pause to think carefully about the “new” sentences, you will hardly remember any of them.
I’ve read all Harry Potter books straight myself, and when I opened them again, I realised I had viewed loads and loads of useful structures without remembering them — which was such a shame! I’m reading The Full Monty (Penguin Readers collection) using the “pause and think” method at present. Now after a few days of daily reading, when I take a look at an English text, many structures are familiar to me — “hey, I remember reading this one in The Full Monty!”.
Therefore, I believe this method is efficient and I would advise it to all learners.
Sometimes, we don’t realise how wealthy a single book can be — loads to learn just in one of them.

Pause and think

I agree with Maya about the “pause and think” method. Here’s the process that I recommend for dealing with sentences in texts:
  1. Stop at interesting (not obvious) things: a new word, how a word was used, a grammatical structure, a preposition, an article, a conjunction, the order of words, etc. For example, spend a while to think about the fact that the sentence contains the preposition at, and not on. Perhaps the sentence uses the present perfect tense where you would have expected the past simple. Perhaps the word order is different than in your first language.
  2. If the sentence contains a useful phrase, ask yourself: Could you produce a similar phrase yourself? Would you use the right tenses, articles and prepositions? Would you use the right word order? If you’re not sure, read the phrase again. Practice saying it (or a similar phrase) aloud or in your mind. The idea is to program your brain with it.
  3. If necessary, or if you feel like it, use your dictionary to find definitions of words in the sentence and get more example sentences. This will help enrich your “feel” of the word.

Important notes

  • You don’t have to use “pause and think” all the time. Reading in this mode can be quite exhausting, so don’t do it when you’re tired after a long reading session.
  • Don’t try to focus on every phrase.
    • Some phrases are not useful. Some characters in books and movies use very colorful, but rare expressions (e.g. “This girl’s family has got you by the short ones”). Novels often contain literary language which is not useful for building your own sentences (e.g. “A matted depression across mustache and beard showed where a stillsuit tube had marked out its path from nose to catchpockets”).
    • Some phrases are just too advanced for you. Try to focus on things that are within your reach, i.e. one level above your current level. If you’re still struggling with the present perfect tense, don’t waste your attention on sentences like “I don’t know what it is that the officer said he had seen me do”. (If you keep seeing advanced sentences, you should probably switch to an easier text.)
  • The “pause and think” technique will not always make you remember the exact way to say something. But perhaps you’ll remember that this particular type of sentence is problematic in English. If you remember that, it will at least make you stop before you write that sentence, and look it up instead of making a careless mistake.
  • You don’t have to think about why something was phrased in a particular way. The goal is to focus your attention, not come up with grammar rules. (Though if you like to think about grammar rules, you can do it.)
  • If you don’t like to stop reading (to look up a word in your dictionary or add a phrase to an SRS), you can write down all the interesting sentences, or you can underline them in the book with a pencil. This way, you can handle these sentences later.
How to get the most out of English texts | Antimoon

In other words, you need to see how words are USED.
Don't always ask 'What does X mean?'
Ask instead 'How can I use X?'
Again, it's all about 'collocation'...
And here are some results from the Antimoon website for 'collocation':
Search Antimoon
Check them out: all very helpful and friendly stuff.

using bbc learning english - vocab pt 2

The website has all sorts of exercises to help us handle 'collocation'
(See yesterday's blog entry: Jay Doubleyou: using bbc learning english - vocab pt 1)

Let's look at a particularly confusing example:
What do you know about the difference between 'make' and 'do'?
Do they 'mean' something fundamentally different?
What expressions (collocations!) can you think of which use 'make' or 'do'?
Try making a list - and even put them into sentences!

Here's an episode from the bbc learning english soap 'The Flatmates'.
Can you hear/see any examples of 'make' or 'do'?
How are they used?

Learning English - The Flatmates
The Flatmates
Archive episode 113: you voted that: Tim will take up the offer
Helen in the library
Episode 113: Study time
John:Hi Helen! I haven't seen you in the library for ages. What are you doing here?
Helen:I've got a ton of work from Professor Lewis and I need to make a start on it. I'm surprised to see you working here so late.
John:Oh I'm a changed man! Not that you'd have noticed. You've been a million miles away for ages.
Helen:Yeah. I have. So what made you knuckle down?
John:Well, the prof gave me a good talking to about the whole photocopying incident.
Helen:What did she say?
John:Look, why don't we nip out for a coffee and I'll tell you the whole gruesome tale?
Helen:Oh I shouldn't really.
John:Come on, five minutes won't hurt!
This vote has now closed:
Will Helen go for coffee?
1: Yes
2: No
Total votes: 4470 

What's next?

What's next logo The language point

BBC World Service | Learning English | The Flatmates - Episode 113

What's the language point?

Archive Language Point 113

Language Point logo

Make and do

Helen in the library

'Make' and 'do' are two verbs with similar meanings. 

BBC World Service | Learning English | The Flatmates - Language Point 113

And there are some exercises too:

Quiz logo
Now try a quiz about today's language point - make and do. If the flash doesn't work, try the paper version: Download the quiz
Instructions: Drag the words into the empty boxes. If your answer is correct, the word will stay in the box. If it's wrong, it won't stay in the box.
Here's another nice explanation and a quiz from an on-line teacher at the bbc learning english website, where students can write in and 'Ask about English':
Learning English
spacer gif
learn it! title
'make' and 'do'
Rollers in hair
Davivien asks about 'make' and 'do' collocations:

I would like to know the differences between the verbs to do and to make. Do you 'make an exam' or do you 'do an exam'?
Roger replies:

Learning English | BBC World Service

Or try this quiz in another section:

Learning English
spacer gif
Today's topic: Make and do

1. Which of the following uses of 'make' is NOT correct?
 How many mistakes did you make on the test? Excuse me. I'm just going to make a quick phone call.
 Making money was always the most important thing to him.
 Did you make your homework last night?

puzzled woman
BBC World Service - Learning English


And what about other verbs such as 'get', 'take', 'go', 'have'?
They don't actually 'mean' anything until you put them with another word...

How good's your dictionary in giving helpful examples of them?
I like: Cambridge Free English Dictionary and Thesaurus
but this is good too: English to French, Italian, German & Spanish Dictionary -
and I learnt about this today: Reverso | Free online translation, dictionary

But, again the bbc learning english site has a few things on these verbs.
For example:
BBC World Service | Learning English | Learn it

And here's some useful stuff on phrasal verbs:
Learning English - Face Up to Phrasals
BBC World Service | Learning English | Funky Phrasals

Have fun!