Here's another Quizlet flashcard set I created for my EM Normandie students. This one covers vocabulary relating to the topic of travel and tourism and contains 134 word and expressions with their French equivalents.
We all know how annoying it can be when someone tries to get you to demonstrate a skill you'd rather not perform. Well, here's a cartoon from the excellent Itchy Feet travel and language comic by Malachi Rempen which illustrates that situation.
COMMENT The cartoon uses a joke much loved by children, who when asked to say (whatever), just repeat the (whatever).
Yesterday, I featured the excellent 'Pet Cat' spoof infomercial made for the Animal Foundation shelter in Las Vegas. If you are are cat-lover, like myself, I'm sure you will have appreciated that. However, I wouldn't want dog-lovers to feel left out, so here's their other ad — 'Pet Dog'.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Before showing the video(s), get your students to brainstorm possible uses for a dog (and/or cat). 2. Organize a debate on the topic of 'Which are more useful? Cats or dogs?' 3.Get students to talk about their own pets. 4. Get students to film their own infomercial for another pet animal (easily done with tablets or smartphones and an app like Videolicious).
I've been doing some lessons on travel and tourism with my EM Normandie students and wanted to find a role play where, in groups of four, they would have to agree on a holiday destination. I was pretty confident of finding a ready-made worksheet on the internet on that very topic, but after a fruitless search, I ended up doing my own. Which was probably a better idea as I was able to tailor it to my students' level and interests. If you're a teacher, you can download the activity file here and modify it as necessary for your own students. You may also be interested in this travel questionnaire.
NOTE I find this sort of activity usually works well because a) the students have something to say, and b) they can relate it to their own experience. I did another one earlier in the year about a family winning the lottery, which you can download here.
Cats aren't just great alarm clocks, they're also excellent sleeping masks. This ad, produced for the Animal Foundation in Las Vegas, parodies those cheesy infomercial spots that present miracle solutions to everyday problems (see here for examples). In this case, however, the gadget that solves all of your problems is a cat! Find out more at NewPetNow.com.
Regular readers of The English Blog (hi Marcia) will know that I'm a big fan of cartoons as a means of presenting vocabulary and grammar, as well as cultural information. So I was very pleased to discover Itchy Feet, a weekly comic about travel, life in foreign countries, and learning new languages.
Itchy Feet was created in 2011 by Malachi Rempen, an American film-maker who now lives in Berlin. Below is a fairly typical example of his work, which could be described as quirky or offbeat. You can find a lot more comics in the same vein in the Itchy Feet archives or the Itchy Feet store.
COMMENT Of course, the girl should have said 'washing machine' and 'toes'. Perhaps she's French because they do actually say 'fingers of the foot' (doigts du pied) in France. However, the French also use the word 'kleenex' for a tissue, so perhaps she's not.
FOOTNOTE If someone has itchy feet, they have a strong desire to travel or move from place to place. For example: I reckon Helen will start talking about moving to a new city soon. She's always had itchy feet, and she's lived here for three years already.
Social language learning mobile app developer, HelloTalk, Inc., today announced that its iOS and Android language learning app, HelloTalk, has surpassed one million registered global users, so I thought it would be a good time to feature it on The English Blog. Here's their official video.
HelloTalk provides a simple, intuitive experience where users teach each other their respective native languages across their mobile and tablet devices. Moreover, HelloTalk provides a variety of mechanisms whereby users can engage in real-time practice of the language they're learning with native speakers of that language.
HelloTalk's more than one million users hail from over 200 countries around the world, with 59% learning English, 9% learning Korean, 8% learning Japanese, 5% learning Spanish, 4% learning Chinese, and 15% learning a variety of other languages including French, Italian, Finnish, Russian, Arabic, German, and more. HelloTalk supports over 100 languages, which includes Navajo and Esperanto.
COMMENT For language learners who have limited opportunities to practise with native speakers, language exchange websites are a godsend. In addition, HelloTalk offers a range of language learning tools including grammar correction, translation, and the ability to create a database of words, sentences and even audio files. I haven't tried it myself, but it's got some very good reviews (see here and here).
BACKGROUND The UK inflation rate fell to 0% in February, the lowest since records began, official figures show. Lower prices for food and computer goods helped to cut the rate from 0.3% in January, official figures show. February's figure is the lowest rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation since estimates of the measure began in 1988. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Kipper Williams from The Guardian shows an old horse (note the glasses, lack of teeth, slippers, and walking frame) marked 'Inflation' telling a younger horse 'My galloping days are behind me'.
EXPLANATION When used of a horse, the verb 'gallop' means 'to run fast so that all four feet come off the ground together in each act of forward movement'. So when the horse says that his galloping days are behind him, he means that he's now too old to gallop. However, we also use the word 'galloping' to describe very high inflation that is out of control. • Latin America is no longer the continent of galloping inflation. The cartoonist is playing on the literal and figurative meanings of 'gallop'.
IDIOM If someone says that their (-ing) days are behind them, it means that they have given up an activity, for whatever reason. • My drinking days are behind me. • Now that his playing days are behind him, he wants to become a manager.
In this episode of Learn English With Photos, we take another look at plays on words and puns used in UK shop names (see earlier episode). You can download a transcript and glossary here, and find all previous episode of Learn English With Photos on YouTube.
COMMENTARY This cartoon contains a lot of grammar points, wordplay, phrasal verbs, and idioms. To get further information, just hover your mouse over the words highlighted in pale blue.
TRANSCRIPT HAMLET: Being overweight is holding my career back. If I were thinner, I could go up for romantic lead parts. BRUTUS: Aye, Hamlet, happen you could. But if you lost weight, think of all those character roles you’d miss out on. HAMLET: Tubby or not tubby, that is the question. BRUTUS: Actually, I’m in a bit of a pickle myself. My agent’s put me up for a job on the so-called 'English Riviera'. HAMLET: But Brutus, old chap, if you take a job on the English Riviera, you’ll be miles away, and out of the theatrical loop. BRUTUS: Torbay or not Torbay, that is the question. FRENCH COW: Excuse me, mes amis, but I couldn’t help but hear your conversation. For I too am on the horns of a, how you say, dilemma. HAMLET: We say ‘dilemma’. FRENCH COW: Aye, that’s right, dilemma. I want to act, but my family in France are putting pressure on me to return home to Seine et Marne and become involved in the local soft cheese industry. HAMLET: Bummer. FRENCH COW: To Brie or not to Brie, that is the question. BUZZ THE BEE: Bzzzzzzzzz. Hello Hamlet. Excuse me but I too …
NOTE You can watch Laurence Olivier reciting Hamlet's 'to be, or not to be' soliloquy, here.
Here's a tweet from BBC Learning English which raises an interesting grammar question. In fact, I don't agree with the assertion that 'I am loving living in London' is 'informal usage'. Surely it depends on the context. For example, if someone has just moved to London (from somewhere less exciting), I can quite imagine that they would say 'I'm loving living in London.', whereas 'I love living in London' would suggest that the speaker has lived there for some time. It just goes to show that where grammar rules are concerned, context is everything.
A few weeks ago Peter Muller sent me an email about a new app he co-created. I was very impressed when I tried it out, and said I would do a post about it on The English Blog, so here it finally is (better late than never!).
Towns & Cities is a 'hip-hop English language mobile app' for iPhone and Android. According to the press kit, 'Towns & Cities works as a supplemental language-learning tool for English learners, and uses original hip-hop music as its main channel for communication and engagement. The music comes from work in the classroom as a language assistant in Spain'. You can preview a few of the songs on the Towns & Cities Soundcloud account.
When I downloaded the app, it was free, which I thought was a bit strange given the amount of work which must have gone into it. It now costs £0.99, which is still incredibly cheap. I did a demo for my EM Normandie students using the videoprojector and they loved it.
THE CARTOON This cartoon by Kipper Williams from The Guardian shows a man looking at the Apple Watch on his wrist. He tells his workout partner, "Either I'm dead or my Apple Watch has stopped."
EXPLANATION One of the features of the Apple Watch is a heart rate sensor that 'uses infrared and visible-light LEDs and photodiodes to detect your heart rate during workouts'. We can assume that the man's watch is not showing any data, hence his comment.
GRAMMAR Note the use of the 'either ...or' which to refer to a situation in which there are two possibile explanations, but only one is correct. • Either John or Mary is to blame.
VOCABULARY The latest big thing in the world of tech (i.e., technology) is wearable devices, which, as the name suggests, are devices you wear, such as the Apple Watch, or Google Glass.
OVERVIEW Knoword is a fast-paced word game that helps boost vocabulary, spelling, speed of thought, as well as increasing analytical, observational and typing skills. When you start a new game you'll be given a definition, the first letter of the word it's referring to, and 1 minute to solve the problem. Guess the correct word and you'll move on to the next puzzle. If you don't know the answer, simply press the "X"-shaped skip button. Every correct answer earns 20 points, and every skipped question loses you 10.
COMMENTS This game is seriously addictive, fun to play, and unlike a lot of similar games and apps which test SAT vocabulary and the like, the words and definitions are not too obscure. A particularly nice touch is the way the system uses colours to show whether you've typed a right or wrong letter, although it's frustrating not to get the answer to the word you're trying to find when you finally run out of time. There's no app, but the game works fine on an iPad as long as you're in portrait mode. You can choose which level to play at (Novice, Hotshot, or Wizard), but I do think learners below post-intermediate level would find the game challenging, even at the Novice level.
LESSON IDEA If you've got a videoprojector in the classroom, you could play Knoword as a team game with the whole class.
Osborne’s aim to eliminate the deficit by 2019 rely on getting through cuts of more than £30bn in the first few years of the next government. Osborne insists that this won’t require cuts any more severe than those enacted under the coalition government, but making that maths work relies on recouping an additional £5bn from tackling tax evasion, and then saving a further £12bn from the welfare budget.
The Guardian article goes on to say that "finding £12bn from already squeezed welfare budgets will be extremely difficult".
THE CARTOON The cartoon shows George Osborne as a barber wielding a cut-throat razor and a pair of scissors. He tells the customer, who has very little hair left to cut and whose head is covered in sticking plasters, "Just another close shave and a little off the back and sides." Above the customer's head hangs a giant sword marked 'Welfare Cuts'.
LANGUAGE 1. If you give someone a close shave, you give them a shave in which the hair is cut very short. However, there's a play on words because a close shave is also a situation where something unpleasant or dangerous nearly happens. • I had a close shave when a tree fell just where I had been standing. 2. 'A little off the back and sides' is another hairdresser cliché. You can find more expressions commonly used at the hairdresser's here, here, and here.