A New Mayor for London

On 5th May 2016 the residents of London voted for a new mayor /meə/. The Mayor of London is a politician who is responsible for governing greater London. The Mayor is responsible for various policies and strategies related to issues that are very important to Londoners (people who are from London). These include housing, London Transport, the Metropolitan Police and other emergency services. The role of mayor is relatively new and the first one was in 2000. Up until May this year the mayor was Boris Johnson. He was a very recognisable character and although not everybody agreed with his policies, he became quite famous as a representative of the city. We are all very familiar with the bicycle hire scheme. Londoners often call these bikes ‘Boris bikes’ after the previous mayor as the scheme was introduced and became popular when he was in power. On 5th May Boris was out and the new mayor was elected. He is Sadiq Khan, a politician from the Labour Party. He is a Londoner, from Tooting in south London, but his parents moved to the UK from Pakistan just before Sadiq was born. He is the first Muslim Mayor of London. Before moving into politics Sadiq was a lawyer, specialising in employment discrimination, human rights and cases against the police. So, what plans does Sadiq have for London? He has developed ten priorities that he wants to focus on to make London a better place to live. These include building thousands of affordable homes; freezing transport fares for four years; making London a safer place to live by reducing crime; pedestrianising Oxford Street which will mean that no cars, buses or taxis can use the street. These are issues that Londoners feel strongly about and it will be interesting to see how London … Read more

Understanding Native English Speakers!

If you’ve done an English course in the past but you’re still having trouble understanding native English speakers, it might be because you haven’t spent enough time studying pronunciation. Now I know what you’re thinking: “How on Earth can studying pronunciation help me with my listening skills?!”, well, the fact is that if you don’t know how we (as native speakers) are going to pronounce something, you won’t understand it! It’s not your fault. Have you ever learnt a new word and then suddenly started hearing it everywhere? This isn’t because people have suddenly started saying it more often, now that you know it’s possible, you can hear it. Before, it was just sounds and it meant nothing to you.   This is also the reason you should learn your phonemic symbols, because in English we don’t always pronounce words the way they are written. Have a look at how native English speakers would pronounce the pieces of English below. Use the phonemic chart above to help you or click here to hear the sounds.   Do you want to = /ʤəwɒnə/ If I were you = /faɪwəjuː/ I’m going to = /əmgənə/ I want to = /əwɒnə/ a glass of wine = /əglɑːsəwaɪn/ I should have left = /əʃədəleft/ I can swim = /aɪkənswɪm/ Have you ever = /vjevə/ Do you ever = /ʤevə/ You should notice that there are certain differences between how you would expect these words / phrases to be pronounced and how a native English speaker would say them. But don’t worry, you don’t need to do a whole English course on pronunciation, even from the examples above, you can see there are a lot of patterns. Also, listening to TV shows and films with the subtitles on and noticing how the words are being pronounced can really help you.   If you’re thinking … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Habits – past, present and annoying!

Habits, we all have them, both good and bad. Present habits are one of the first things you learn to express in English but there’s so much more to it than just the present simple. Take a look at some of the different examples and the explanations below provided us by the great team of teachers at our London 30+ English school. Read on and improve your English. LET’S START WITH THE EASY STUFF. I go to Tesco every day after work. (This is a nice and easy present simple habit. It’s something that happens routinely in the present. Remember that you can also grade the frequency of your habits by using an adverb) I rarely / sometimes / often / usually / always cook dinner at home. (The adverb of frequency comes before the main verb) I am rarely / sometimes / often / usually / always on time. (The adverb of frequency comes after “be” verb)   BUT WHAT ABOUT ANNOYING HABITS? My brother is always borrowing my clothes without asking. (In this situation, I used the present continuous to show that I am annoyed by this present habit. The “always” adds to the annoyance.) AND WHAT ABOUT TEMPORARY HABITS? At the moment, I’m drinking a lot of beer but when I leave England and return to my country, I’ll probably stop. (The present continuous suggests that this habit will not continue forever. It is temporary) BUT HOW DO WE EXPRESS HABITS IN THE PAST? I used to play football when I was younger but I gave up when I left school. (Used to + verb: expresses an action that was a habit in the past but no longer is) I didn’t use to eat vegetables but now I love them. (remember that the negative is spelled slightly … Read more

Word of the week: Fancy!

WORD OF THE WEEK: FANCY! One of the reasons I love English is because it’s such a lovely versatile language. Don’t you agree? Just take the word “fancy”. It has so many different uses, depending on the situation. Check out some of them below and then try them out:    That’s a fancy suit you’re wearing! Meaning: That suit looks nice, stylish and expensive. I really fancied my teacher at school. Meaning: I found my teacher extremely attractive. Do you fancy a beer? Do you fancy grabbing a quick beer after work? Meaning: Would you like to come and get a beer with me? Pronunciation: /ʤəfænsiːjəbɪər/ (look carefully at how “do you” is pronounced in spoken English) Form: Do you fancy + noun / gerund? I fancy a curry. Meaning: I would like to get a curry. At Halloween we wear fancy dress. Meaning: We dress up in costumes. That doesn’t really tickle my fancy. Meaning: That doesn’t sound like something I want.   Now, go out there and try out a few of these expressions while you’re out celebrating New Year’s Eve. Remember, if you use an expression once, you’re more likely to remember it in the future. If you don’t get out there and try them out, they are just more words and expressions sitting in your vocabulary notebook that never get used. Move them from your passive knowledge into active use by putting them into a conversation. Don’t be afraid to try out new phrases! It’s the best way to memorise them. And remember, it’s OK to make mistakes, that’s how we learn. If you would like to do some more vocabulary exercises, try our Learn English website with over 2000 free lessons to choose from. If you’re interested in finding out more about our English courses in London, … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Will, Going to or Present Continuous?

So, I’m going to tell you a story, a story that will hopefully clear up the difference between will, going to and present continuous:   My ex-girlfriend came home one night with a beautiful new painting that she’d bought at the market. “David,” she said. “I’d like you to hang this painting please.” “Of course,” I answered. “No problem.”  A week later she came home from work and found her picture lying on the ground where she had left it seven days before.  “Ahem,” she cleared here throat. “Em, David!”  I knew I was in trouble now.  “You still haven’t hung my painting.” At this point I had three choices. I could say any of the following: Don’t worry, I will hang it tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’m going to hang it tomorrow. Don’t worry, I’m hanging it tomorrow.  But what’s the difference? In each sentence, the result is the same. The painting will be on the wall tomorrow. But each sentence gave slightly different information to my girlfriend. I have just decided now that I will hang it tomorrow. I didn’t think about you or this painting before now. I thought about this before now and I planned to hang it tomorrow. Not only did I think about this before now, I have also organised everything. I have selected the perfect place on the wall, I have bought a hammer and a nail and I am ready to hang it tomorrow.   Which one do you think I said to her? Number 3 obviously. It might not have been true but it was the message I wanted to tell my girlfriend. And here’s the lovely picture. If you’re interested in learning some more about English Grammar, check out our lessons website. If you would like more information on our English centre … Read more

Don’t you hate it when plans fall through?

Have you ever been let down by a friend? Have you ever been really excited about something that then got cancelled? Well , today at 30+ one of our pre-intermediate classes learnt how to talk about it. This week, one of our teachers Georgia has been discussing ‘Going out’ with her class. They studied some vocabulary and adjectives to describe events that were good and bad, how to make and refuse invitations and finally how to talk about plans that changed. What type of events do you think these sentences are describing?:   1.”The food, the service, everything, it was fantastic!” 2.”The set design, the lighting, everything! It was one of the best I’ve seen in a long time” 3.”The band, the beer, everything! It was spectacular!”   Today the class discovered how to transfer direct speech to reported speech – here are some examples, can you find the pattern? “I’ll pick you up at 8” —- He said he’d pick me up at 8 “I’m not going to go out tonight” ———— She said she wasn’t going to go out “We aren’t going to get in, look at the queue!” —– We decided we weren’t going to get in     Then the class wrote some short stories about plans that didn’t work out including grammar and vocabulary we had studied in class! Look at some examples below:     If you would like to do some quick and easy grammar lessons like this then check out our learn English website! http://www.ecenglish.com/learnenglish

Tips for learning English: English-English dictionaries by Ayan Ali

  Translators can give you help with vocabulary quickly, but English-English dictionaries have a lot of information including: pronunciation – a speaker button so you can hear the word or phonemic script grammar (e.g. uncountable nouns) example sentences to help you understand the word in context register (how formal the word is) collocations (words it often appears next to) and phrases using the word connotation (the associations of a word e.g. ‘fat’ is more negative than ‘big’ for describing people) word families e.g. photograph, photographer, photography, photographic   Students below intermediate level should start with the learner dictionaries below and Macmillan dictionary is particularly good. Here are some good online dictionaries and their best features.   LEARNER DICTIONARIES 1) MACMILLAN DICTIONARY http://www.macmillandictionary.com/ Simple definitions Three-star rating to show the frequency of a word. E.g. ‘car’ is a three-star word whereas ‘tram’ has no stars at all. Macmillan say that the most common 7,500 words in the English language are used in 90% of speaking and writing and these words will have either one, two or three stars. Low levels should focus on frequent words with stars. Remember that a word might not be common in general English but useful in your life e.g ‘dye’ has no stars but is an important word for hairdressers. Thesaurus to help you learn words with a similar meaning Information about grammar e.g. verb patterns, prepositions Common word combinations (collocations)   press this symbol to hear sounds for words such as ‘horn’ and ‘rustle’   2) CAMBRIDGE DICTIONARY http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/ Gives both the British English pronunciation AND the American English pronunciation. Useful if you’ve studied American English at home and want to compare the pronunciation. For example, the ‘a’ in ‘elementary’ isn’t pronounced in British English so the word has 4 syllables but it creates a … Read more

Our favourite films at EC London 30+

  There are few questions that we can answer in our lives. Who are we? Where we are going? Why life is so hard? Does real love exist? What is your favourite movie? I asked the latter question to my colleagues around office and this is our EC London 30+ top movie list! Suzie – Gandhi (1982) “No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one’s way to the heart of the man” with these words, the director Richard Attenborough opens his biographical film on the life of Gandhi. The leader of India’s non-violent independence movement is skilfully played by Ben Kingsley. David – The Commitments (1991) Ireland is famous worldwide for its amazing green landscapes, Guinness, fishermen sweaters, awkward and challenging city names (Muckanaghederdauhaulia) and for its potato-based diet. Not for its soul music. This is a film about Irish soul music. The story begins in Dublin where few working class youths decide to give birth to a brand-new soul band. The life of the band will be endangered by a clash of egos that will involve its members. This movie is based on the homonym novel of Roddy Doyle. Sarah – Pulp Fiction (1994) The second film directed by Quentin Tarantino. After 20 years it is still a masterpiece and has rightfully entered in the hall of fame of the best movies ever. Seven episodes that kicked off a new age for the black comedy and crime film and became the milestone of neo-noir genre. Although the performances of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson are probably … Read more

Future Tenses

  This week one of our teachers taught our  Grammar In Contexts 1 class how to use different future tenses. The lesson started with every students being given a new celebrity identity… Here are some examples – Angelina Jolie, Jamie Oliver, Barack Obama and Richard Branson! The students had to keep their new identities secret and then discuss the following questions with their partner: What are your plans for tonight? What are you doing this summer? What are your arrangements for next weekend? Their partner had to listen to what they said and guess their secret identity! The teacher told the class about a phone call she had received, her friend had invited her to a party! The first time they listened they had to decide of it would be a good party or not! The students listened again and then they were asked to write down 4 different grammatical structures that the teacher’s friend used in the message to talk about the future. Here they are – Present continuous ( for future arrangements) Going to +infinitive Will/ won’t + infinitive Might + infinitive The class then analysed the language, they looked at the differences in meaning and discussed when to use each one. Then the class looked at how to say them. They listened to sentences from the voicemail and found contractions like ‘she’s’ in ‘ she is definitely going to come’ and the weak pronunciation of ‘going to’ which is said /gənə/. The class then practised saying the sentences, repeating after the teacher to sound more natural. At the end of the lesson students had the opportunity to practise the language some more. They used the new language to talk about the future plans of their secret identities from the beginning of the lesson. Then they got together in … Read more

A Life of Pies

I’m not sure if anyone eats more pies per person than the British – or the Scottish, but we here in the UK certainly love a bit of meat in pastry or potato. But now autumn is arriving and the mornings are getting cold, where are best places near EC London 30+ to get your hands on a hot, crusty, flaky, pastry-covered mouthful of meat? My favourite pie shop (near to EC London 30+) is the Newman Arms, just north of Oxford Street  – and it seems Time Out agrees in its TOP FIVE PIE RESTAURANTS IN LONDON! But what is a pasty? What is the difference between a ‘Shepherd’s pie’ and a ‘Cottage pie’? – here are a couple of examples to whet your appetite… SHEPHERD’S PIE & COTTAGE PIE The Daily Mail did a survey a couple of years ago to find that Shepherd’s pie is the most popular winter dish in the UK. It is made with lamb (‘shepherd’s’) or beef (‘cottage’) with sauce covered with mashed potato. Mmmmm. HISTORY: Potatoes became popular as a food of the poor in the 1700s in the UK – the word ‘cottage’ (a small house for a rural worker) became associated with the dish. Originally, cottage pie used leftover roasted meat of any kind, inside a mashed potato ‘envelope’ INTERESTING LANGUAGE FACT: It was only in 1877 that the term ‘shepherd’s pie’ was first used for a lamb pie, separately from the beef based ‘cottage’ pie. AROUND THE WORLD : In Argentina and Chile a similar dish is called “pastel de papa” or “pastel de carne”. The Chilean version includes minced meat, minced and fried onions, black olives, raisins and hard-boiled eggs. In France, “hachis Parmentier”. In Russia, “Картофельная запеканка”. In Portugal, “Empanada”, with two layers of mashed potatoes and a layer … Read more