Today's cartoon by Dave Brown in The Independent relates to the announcement by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon that she plans to call a second referendum on Scottish independence. The first minister’s intervention had been timed a day ahead of when Theresa May had been predicted to trigger article 50, but No 10 later indicated that it would not serve notice to leave the EU until the end of the month. The confirmation of the later date, in the aftermath of the speech, fuelled speculation the prime minister had been unnerved by Sturgeon. Read more >>
COMMENTARY The cartoon shows UK Prime Minister Theresa May having breakfast in Number 10 (the title 'Brexit is served' is a play on 'breakfast is served'). She's wearing a Union Jack napkin round her neck and holding a knife and fork, which makes one think that she's about to tuck into a 'full English'. However, her breakfast has been ruined by Nicola Sturgeon, who has just emptied a load of cold porridge onto the PM's head through the window using a cement mixer! Porridge is, of course, one of Scotland's national foods (along with deep-fried Mars Bars and Haggis).
Here's a lesson I created using EDpuzzle for my EM Normandie students. I think EDpuzzle is a brilliant tool as it allows you to make a interactive video lessons using YouTube videos or ones you upload yourself. It's really easy to use, and if you create a class, you can see your students' answers. Best of all, it's free!
THE CARTOON The scene is the Oval Office. Donald Trump is at his desk, tapping furiously on his phone. We can assume that he's sending tweets or tweeting on Twitter. One of his aides comments to another (Kellyanne Conway?), "That's the sort of tapping I'm worried about."
EXPLANATION The joke relies on a play on the word 'tap'. If you tap (or wire-tap) someone's phone, you connect a device to a telephone so that the conversation can be listened to secretly, or do so remotely. But the word 'tap' can also mean 'to touch lightly', for example when you tap on the screen of a mobile device in order to enter text or make something happen. The aide is worried because Trump routinely uses Twitter to attack his opponents, often without justification. For example, in this case, there is no evidence to support Trump's wire-tapping allegations, which one senior US intelligence official called 'just nonsense'.
There's no shortage of sites on the internet for learning about idioms, but what makes the newly-launched Idiomic blog stand out are the amusing illustrations featuring Iddy, an extraterrestrial who, like many learners, struggles to understand English idioms. In each post, Iddy, tries his best to understand an idiom, and we are then given a definition, an example, and the origin of the phrase.
One of the most difficult areas of English for learners is phrasal verbs (put up with, look after, give in, etc.). So, if you're having trouble telling the difference between take on, take up, take after, and the like, I have great news for you. Our free app, SmartEnglish by EM Normandie has just added a new course — Useful Phrasal Verbs, which teaches the meaning of over 80 of the most common phrasal verbs (see full description below). This means that there are now FOUR complete courses available on a single app, including my own Essential Business English. And it's all 100% free!
DESCRIPTION Useful Phrasal Verbs helps you to learn over 80 common phrasal verbs at B1 level. The topic-based lessons include phrasal verbs connected to:
– romance – crime – accidents – growing up, and much more besides.
There are over 15 minutes of amusing animation in this 12-lesson course!
With all our SmartEnglish courses you can also…
– improve your pronunciation – do lots of interactive practice – take tests to unlock prize videos – take part in a simulated conversation.
And you get more than a learning app – you also get a digital phrasebook. All the phrases from the course are listed in a section called 'Reference' – with audio. It’s like a phrasebook for the 21st century.
Click here to download the iOS version (iPhone, iPad) and here for the Google Android version. Alternatively, just scan the QR code below, which works for both versions. The app is 100% free, so what are you waiting for!
Here's a new ad for Hula Hoops, the popular UK snack brand, which would be great for teaching a couple of English idioms, and can also be used for some classroom activities (see below for ideas).
TRANSCRIPT BANK ROBBER: Stop what you're doing. Give me all the money. BANK CASHIER: Sorry love. I've got my hands full. VOICEOVER: When it comes to the crunch, it has to be Hula Hoops.
IDIOMS 1. If you have your hands full, you are so busy that you do not have time to do anything else: I'd love to help but I've got my hands full organizing the school play. In the ad, there's a play on words, since the woman literally has her hands full (of Hula Hoops!) 2. When it comes to the crunch is an idiom used when a situation becomes serious or an important decision has to be made: You know that when it comes to the crunch, she will do what needs to be done. Once again, there's a play on words because Hula Hoops are a crunchy snack.
LESSON IDEA — WITNESS 1. Show the ad and tell the students they have to watch carefully as they'll be asked questions after to test their powers of observation and see whether they would make a good witness. 2. Ask the following questions:
what colour was the robber's car? (beige)
how many people were in the street? (two)
what was the name of the bank? (West Heath Bank)
what was the robber wearing? (black leather coat, purple polo neck sweater, stocking over his head, a glove)
what was the robber carrying? (a black leather holdall)
what time was it? (3pm on the clock, 15.03 on the CCTV footage)
what was the cashier's name? (Polly)
how many police cars arrive? (three)
TRIVIA NOTE The snack gets its name from the hula hoop, a toy hoop that is twirled around the waist, limbs or neck. See here for photos.
The BBC Learning English site continues to add excellent new resources. The latest one is a drama called 'The Race', which tells the story of Phil a writer living in London. His life isn't that interesting – but it's about change dramatically! Find out just how much in episode one, which you can listen to below.
COMMENTS The series is suitable for intermediate level learners and above, and you can download the audio and a PDF of the transcript. You can also subscribe to the podcast. A great way to improve you listening and vocabulary skills!
COMMENTARY The cartoon shows Trump reacting angrily to the missile test, saying "I will not have an unstable egomaniac threaten my country!", as he' s about to thump his fist down on the nuclear button. The joke is that, although Trump is referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the description could also be applied to Trump himself.
GRAMMAR 'I will not' is used here with the meaning of 'I'm not prepared or willing to'. One is reminded of Churchill's (possibly apocryphal) comment on the 'rule' that a sentence should not end in a preposition: "This is the kind of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put." See here for more on using 'will'.
VOCABULARY An egomaniac is someone who behaves in an unreasonable or crazy way because they think that they and their ideas are extremely important.
Valentine's Day (14 February) is always a good topic for a lesson (see here for resources), and I always like to show my EM Normandie students a few Valentine-related ads. I thought this new one for Galaxy chocolate was particularly well done — and surprising. Adweek has a nice write-up, which you can find here.
LESSON IDEAS There are many ways you could use this ad in the classroom. Here are just a few. 1. Stop the ad at 55s and ask students what product or service they think the ad is for. 2. Stop the ad at 1m11s and ask students how they think the ad will end. 3. Stop the ad at 1m16s and get students to come up with ideas for a slogan. 4. Watch the ad again, eliciting vocabulary. 5. Discuss the meaning behind the ad (Cupid's arrows, etc.) 6. Ask students what the 'message' of the ad is. Is it effective?
It's hard to believe that Donald Trump has only been president for just over two weeks. It already seems like an age — and we've got four more years of this to look forward to! Anyway, this cartoon by Graeme Mackay from The Hamilton Spectator illustrates what many of us are feeling — Trump is everywhere and there's no escaping the man.
NOTES 1. The expression 'peak' + noun is used to describe a situation when something (or someone in this case) has reached their maximum level of use or exposure. For example, 'peak oil' refers to the hypothetical point in time when the global production of oil reaches its maximum rate, after which production will gradually decline. So, in fact, 'Peak Saturation' is really a tautology, since they both mean the same thing. I think that's the joke though. 2. The word 'trump' has several meanings, one of which is 'to fart' in informal English (see the dog!)
British Prime Minister Theresa May, while she was in Washington, D.C. last week, extended an invitation to Donald Trump on the Queen's behalf to make a state visit to the UK later this year, and he has accepted. However, the invitation has provoked controversy and more than 1.3 million people have signed an official petition to prevent President Trump from making a the visit. In his cartoon in The Times, Morten Morland imagines the Queen's reaction.
NOTES 1. The Queen's remark about building a wall is clearly a reference to Trump's promise to build a wall between the United States and Mexico. 2. Monarchs, and today particularly Queen Elizabeth II, are often depicted as using 'one' as a first-person pronoun. This is frequently done as a form of caricature. For example, the headline "One is not amused" is attributed humorously to her, implicitly making reference to Queen Victoria's supposed statement "We are not amused", containing instead the royal 'we'. 3. In the background, we can see the Queen's son, Prince Charles, who is in the process of signing the petition online. 4. The dog is a Welsh Corgi, the Queen's favourite breed.
On Sunday the Dutch comedy news show Zondag met Lubach released a YouTube video introducing President Trump to the Netherlands. It has since been viewed over nine million times. A voice over (Greg Shapiro) describes the Netherlands in speech patterns oddly reminiscent of the commander-in-chief ...
COMMENT Note that the country is The Netherlands but the people and the language are Dutch.