Word(s) of the Week: Giving Advice

As an English teacher, I find myself giving a lot of advice to students. This week, I have decided to look at a few different ways / phrases for giving advice. Check out the examples below. Please leave me any comments if you have any questions.   (1) Modal verbs: – You should call your mother, you haven’t talked to her in ages. (Meaning: in my opinion, this is a good idea) – You shouldn’t go outside without a coat, you’ll catch a cold. (Meaning: in my opinion, this is a bad idea) – You have to see the new Batman film, it’s amazing. (Meaning: This is very strong advice, not an obligation) (2)  Hypothetical conditionals: – If I were you, I’d give her a piece of my mind. (Form: If I were you, I’d + verb) If I were in your position, I’d call her up this second. (3)  Phrases: – That shop assistant has given you the wrong change again. you should give her a piece of my mind. (Meaning: I’m going to tell her exactly what I think about this situation) – Oh it’s not a big problem, don’t lose any sleep over it. (Meaning: Don’t worry about it. It’s not important) (4) Other ways: – Why don’t you give her a call when you get home. (Form: Why don’t you + verb) – Just give her a call. (Meaning: This is the imperative. It is quite an informal suggestion. The intonation here is quite important so that it doesn’t seem like an order) So my advice to you is to get out there and give some people some advice, even if they don’t want it. You should go and find people who you think need advising and just go for it. If I were you, I’d give … Read more

Weekly Grammar Question: Is the Past Perfect as simple as it seems?

I can’t count the number of times over the years that students have said something along the lines of: “Teacher teacher, I don’t understand the present and past perfect, it’s too difficult”. Now, the present perfect can be quite tricky to get your head around for a number of reasons. The main one being that there are a variety of different uses and also that while there is a version of the present perfect in many languages, it is slightly different in English, which can be confusing. The Past Perfect, however, is great! It has one use and it doesn’t really change. It’s also not as common as the Present Perfect and isn’t as big a deal. So, there’s nothing to worry about. It’s all fine. Check out the examples and explanations below for more info on how we use it.   I didn’t eat a curry for two months. My wife cooked a curry. I came home from work the other day and saw the curry. I ate it very quickly and it was absolutely delicious.  what do you think of this story? Is it interesting or boring? Clearly, it’s ridiculously boring. It’s also incredibly unnatural. When we tell stories, we like to make them more interesting by changing the order of events so that the listener/reader is kept interested. We also think of pieces of information while we are speaking/writing and we add them in as we think of them. These pieces of information often happened before the actions we’ve already talked about. This is when we need the Past Perfect. We use it when we’re telling stories to describe actions or situations that happened before the story or before other actions in the story. Compare the story above with the one below. Which one do you prefer? … Read more

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

Law in action: visiting a real criminal court by Ayan Ali

Our Advanced class were studying crime and law in their coursebook in October. To bring the topic to life, they met and interviewed a real magistrate, went to see real cases in court and became judges themselves in a virtual case online. First, the class learned vocabulary related to crime and law. Then they tried being a judge by following a ‘manslaughter’ case online using actors (this is different to ‘murder’ because there is no intention to kill). They experienced listening to evidence on both sides and debated how long the prison sentence should be. It is interactive and you can try it yourself on the government’s ‘You be the Judge’website: http://ybtj.justice.gov.uk/. To prepare for their court visit, the class interviewed a magistrate to learn about the criminal justice system which they said was “really interesting” and gave them “a lot of new information”. All criminal cases first appear before a panel of three magistrates who either hear the case there or refer it on to a higher court. Magistrates come from all walks of life so you don’t need to be a lawyer because you get special training.     The class sat in the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates’ Court which is open to everyone. It is a court in central London and there have been big cases involving famous people that you can read about here: http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/CityOfWestminsterMagistrates’Court. The class saw extradition and drug possession cases. Here’s how some students felt about visiting a court as part of their General English Course at EC Covent Garden: “It was a nice challenge to hear crime vocabulary in context and it was fun too.” Isabela “It was good to get out of the classroom and do something different. Hearing a case is an experience which you can’t have in Germany.” … Read more

Understanding English money

A lot of our students have trouble figuring out the coins and notes in Britain. Check out the helpful language below and then try some of the questions at the bottom. The answers are at the bottom of the blog so you can check and see if you were right.   2 pounds                                                1 pound                                                 50p 20p                                          10p                                             2p                                         a penny   A few extra points: In British English, a pound can also be called a quid. In American English, a dollar is also known as a buck. For example £3 could be called 3 quid. N.B. quid is uncountable but pound is countable. A five pound note can be called five quid or a fiver. A ten pound note can be called ten quid or a tenner. A twenty pound note can be called twenty quid but NOT a twentier.   Practice Questions: 1) How much are the following coins worth?   2) And these?   3) What would you call the following? a) a tenner          b) Five bucks      c) a fiver               d) five quids   4) What would you call the following? a) a twentier      b) 20p                   c) 20 … Read more

Tips for learning English: an error correction diary

By Ayan Ali Since you’ve been studying English, your speaking and writing has probably been corrected many times by your teachers. But how many of those corrections do you remember later? Do you make changes or do you still find yourself repeating the same mistakes and getting frustrated? Errors are a normal part of learning English and it happens to absolutely everyone. It’s true that you have to take risks and make mistakes so you can learn. But you can help yourself improve faster by keeping an error correction diary and making notes whenever your teacher, host family, friends etc. correct you. Write down the following: What you said or wrote originally. The correct way to say or write it instead.(For higher level students, what you say might be correct but not very natural or efficient so you can still improve your English by finding a better way to say it.) Why it’s a mistake. It could be a grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation error. Here are some examples from one Spanish student who kindly allowed us to share some pages from her error correction diary. You can buy a special notebook just for errors like this student or use the back of your class notebook.           If you don’t have time, write what you can in the moment and leave space to complete all 3 steps later. Over time, you may notice a pattern in your errors e.g. the same sound or tense. Then you can do some targeted practice to improve this area (e.g. grammar exercises) or ask your teacher for help and advice. Try to self-correct whenever you notice yourself making this mistake in conversations and look for these specific mistakes when you edit or proofread your writing. It takes time and discipline, but … Read more

EC London 30+ celebrates World Teachers’ Day!

by Ayan Ali This year World Teachers’ Day fell on Sunday 5th October so we decided to celebrate a bit earlier on Friday instead.   Students at EC London 30+ were very thoughtful and wanted to thank their teachers for helping them learn English and making it fun too. There were some handmade gifts like beautiful origami paper cranes and the teachers enjoyed the edible treats like cupcakes with a traditional cup of English tea in the break. Having such great students made the teachers very happy as you can see in the photo below!  At the end of the day, David (our wonderful Academic Manager) surprised the teachers with drinks and nibbles. The teachers were touched and would like to thank David and the students for making it a special and memorable day. We love our jobs because of you guys!