once in a blue moon / not as much as I use to / not as much as I’d like to / from time to time / now and then / occasionally / only in my dreams !
How often do you:
Watch foreign films ?
See your boss smile ?
Play badminton ?
Hang out with friends ?
Go to the movies ?
Get a pay rise ?
and / as well as / and also / along with
These link positives or negatives:
I like tea as well as coffee He plays football and also badminton
Big C is quite cheap and also has a great choice
but / however / having said that / on the other hand
These link positives to negatives / negatives to positives:
Jet Mart is convenient. Having said that, it is (it’s) extremely expensive.
Czech beer is not easy to find in Sai Gon, however it’s fantastic quality.
‘therefore’ is a conclusion word:
King BBQ is outstanding and has a magnificent salad bar. Mr Park is reasonable (so-so) quality, but more expensive. Therefore, we will eat at King BBQ in future.
Theme: coffee in Sai Gon
There are so many choices in Sai Gon. Tran Nguyen has the best quality but is very expensive. On the other hand, Milano is incredibly cheap and very convenient however, many people smoke there. Highlands is really popular. Having said that, it is not cheap. Street coffee is extremely cheap but terrible quality !
Last Friday, I went out for dinner with Claire and Helen. Helen’s got a new job so we went out to celebrate. Claire booked a table for 7.30pm at her favourite Italian restaurant in town. When we arrived, the waiter showed us to our table, gave us some menus and took our drinks order. We were really hungry so we decided to have a starter and a main. We placed our order and chatted for a while. Our garlic bread soon arrived. We were hungry, so it disappeared very quickly! Next, the waiter brought our mains. He said, “Buon Appetito!”, which is Italian for ‘Enjoy your meal!’. Claire and Helen chose pasta and I had pizza. The food was delicious, but I couldn’t manage a dessert! Claire and Helen had some ice cream, but I just had a coffee. I can’t wait to go again!
This selection of clips are all aimed at English-language learners. The speech, therefore, will be slower and clearer, vocabulary simpler than real-world videos (which I shall feature in the next Listening blog), as well as a noticeable absence of idioms, phrases and expressions.
American English in real life
Vocabulary Booster: learn new words while listening to a non-native accent.
Firstly, let me start by wishing you all the best. I hope you are staying safe and well. Aside from the medical implications of this pandemic, the widespread lockdown is affecting people’s psychological health, their jobs and therefore their financial security.
As the death toll in my native UK approaches five thousand, our Prime Minister has been hospitalised, and people are being advised to stay indoors, self-isolate and maintain social distancing.
Against this backdrop, I have two recent clips to help my students.
I appreciate that learning English isn’t a priority at the moment, but my school remains open (for online teaching) so people can continue working and therefore have money to pay living costs and help the economy continue.
I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.
I want to thank everyone on the NHS front line, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles, who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. I am sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.
I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones. Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.
I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.
The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children.
Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort.
And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.
It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do.
While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.
But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.
The second clip is from the newly-appointed leader of the Labour Party, Sir Kier Starmer. This clip has English subtitles:
These are photos of real buildings in London. Can you guess what they were / are ?
Can you guess ?
ONE: Tate Modern art gallery – it used to be a power station, hence the large, imposing scale and tall chimney.
TWO: It was the smallest police station; it had a telephone and space for one officer. No longer in service. This is in a corner of Trafalgar Square.
THREE: Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. This is a reconstruction; the original building burnt down in the C17th.
FOUR: Lloyds Building. Lloyds of London are an insurance company, providing financial services.
FIVE: This is New Zealand House, near Trafalgar Square. The building itself is rather nondescript but, for my Vietnamese students, there is a feature of interest …
SIX: A Blue Plaque stating that Ho Chi Minh once worked at a hotel that stood on this site. There are many Blue Plaques around London saying where famous people lived or worked.
imposing– powerful or scary-looking. Normally police stations or government buildings
reconstruction– rebuilding (in this example, made to look like the original The Globe Theatre)
nondescript – nothing special, ordinary, plain
stood on this site- a building WAS here but is now gone (demolished / torn down)
England doesn’t really manufacture – our wealth is derived (comes) from services such as banking, finance, insurance and teaching !
(listening & British pop culture)
Electronic music from the early 1980s. The band is called Human League, the song, a chart-topper (was No. 1 in the music charts), is called ‘Don’t You Want Me.’ What do you think ? Is it up your street (you like it) or not your cup of tea (you don’t like it) ?
Trigger You never know what you’ve got till it’s gone.
Jim Hey ? Yeah, I suppose you’re right there, Trigger.
Trigger I know how much it can hurt. I had a relationship break-up a few years ago. She worked in my council depot. (local government office)
Mike (barman) She was a lady roadsweeper ?
Trigger Oh, no, she was management … real high-flyer … you had to go to her when you wanted a a new broom ! Linda … nice girl, had a funny eye. Never knew if she was looking at me or seeing if the bus was coming. Anyway, she’d heard about this little hotel down Henley-on-Thames (outside London) and she said to me, “How about spending a weekend there ?”
Del-boy (on phone) What sort of money we talking about ? Well, I’ll have to pop down and see you, won’t I, eh ?
Mike Yeah ?
Trigger What ?
Mike What happened ?
Jim Was it a nice weekend ?
Trigger Yeah, at least I thought it was, but she didn’t wanna see me no more after it.
Jim Well, I don’t like to pry, Trig but …
Mike No, no, no … it’s a bit personal.
Del Hang on, Bronco … Trig ! What ‘appened ?
Trigger She got jealous ! I ‘eard later, through friends, that she wanted to go with me.
Jim I’ll have a large scotch, Mike !
What was wrong with the weekend ? What was Trigger’s mistake ?
Do you notice how in parts of London, native speakers drop the ‘h’ so we have “What ‘appened ?” instead of “What happened ?” “I ‘eard, ” instead of “I heard.”
London, my hometown, is a multi-cultural world city. However, there are some problems. For students who live in S.E. Asia, the weather will be awful; grey skies, bitter wind, freezing, depressing rain.
A second factor is money. Unless one has a good job and a good income, London can be a hard place to live.
How does she link her ideas together and keep talking ?
REMEMBER: listening to native speakers in a great way to improve your English. I suggest you only listen to SHORT pieces … maybe just ten or twenty seconds. Write down any new words or phrases. Listen again, then repeat. Speak along with her. Listen to how native-speakers link words and use intonations. Notice how often we use expressions.
What famous buildings or attractions can you think of in London ?
To help you, here’s a video about Top 10 London Attractions
Watch the video then explain how someone can travel on public transport in London.
Now, this video is chockablock (full) of new words and expressions. I’ve selected a sample:
about which more later / bank fees on transactions / hang around
get in everybody’s way / money put onto / top-up / cap
pay-as-you-go / stick (as verb) / as long as it’s nice and fresh / escalator
as far as …. concerned / obvious /on no account swipe
you’ve got to / the thing about …… is / particularly weirdos
get charged / get skinned / reasonable / Routemaster
Now, by listening to the video, and using a dictionary, you try to make some sentences using these new words or phrases.
Here are some examples foryou:
On no account tell anybody your PIN number for your bank card.
Prices are so high in central London, you can easily get skinned (pay TOO much).
The thing about the British Museum is that is can get so crowded.
Don’t stand in front of the escalators or you will get in everyone’s way.
Give a summary of ‘getting around’ London by public transport.
What are the ‘dos and don’ts’ ?
How many different kinds of transport is the Oyster valid on ?
Famous Londonders – real and fictional
Who is the most famous detective in literature ? Most of you would probably say Sherlock Holmes … but have you read him ? This is a great site for English learners – literature but in simple, everyday English
I am an English man, so I always drink damn fine tea. In order to make tea I naturally need boiling water. In my house I have an appliance which boils water. It plugs in to the electric and can boil water in just a few minutes. However, it has no other purpose.
Think of something you use everyday – but don’t make it too obvious.
Many interviews have similar questions. Read the following and then role-play with a partner. Feel free to add your own information, or make up something new.
What experience do you have ? // What do you know about the company ? // Have you ever had to work to a deadline ?
Tell me about yourself
I was born in …. and I graduated from …. University in 2014 with a major in Business Administration. Since then I’ve had two year’s experience in administrative work at ABC and XYZ Corporation.
I’m a very organised person, well-balanced and efficient. I’m hard-working and dedicated.
In my free time, I like to travel and I love to paint. Furthermore, I enjoy going out having coffee with friends.
What do you know about (COMPANY) ?
XXX are an established company with a good reputation. They help …….. and there are over (xx) sites in VN (or your country).
What are your strengths ?
I feel I am easy-going, hard-working, careful and diligent. I think my greatest strength is my positive outlook, even during times of stress. I can work under pressure and I really enjoy a challenge. Lastly, I like working in a team.
What are your weaknesses ?
Well, my English isn’t perfect, so this will be a great chance to improve. Maybe I can be a little quiet sometimes; that’s why working as part of a team will help bring me out.
Can you give an example of when you had to deal with an angry customer ?
One time, a customer didn’t like the price of a visa, and he began shouting and getting angry. I asked him if I could explain the reason. I then told him how it wasn’t our fault, but that I understood his anger and said sorry. Then I told him he could check elsewhere, but we would still be happy to serve him. He calmed down, said sorry to me and bought the visa and was happy.
Where do you see yourself in two years ?
My short-terms goals are to work hard and efficiently, so I can master this job. However, in the long-term, I would be interested in possibly doing more courses so I could be a manager.
What can you bring to the job ?
I’m very friendly and enjoy working with people. I always try to be happy at work and share my positive outlook. I’m very motivated and open to learning. I’m very excited about being a part of this great company.
Do you have any questions ?
May I just ask, what career opportunities are there at XXX ?
It is not a good idea to ask immediately about salary, money and bonuses, although this is an important part of the interview process.
Listening practice: A non-native speaker talks about a crime.
Reading exercise: Sherlock Holmes
Warm up game: Eyewitness
Crime and detection.Being an eyewitness.
Crime and Punishment
This is a famous book by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky. Give students five to ten minutes to research information about him, then present it to the class. This practises extracting relevant information. Reading verbatim from Wiki or other sites is forbidden !
Warm up game:
Eyewitness: Show students a slide or picture of three people for two minutes. Tell them that today some computers were stolen from the office and these people were seen. Ask them to describe the people they just saw. Prompt for as much detail as possible. This will test the students’ ability to use adjectives and learn new vocabulary from each other:
Do you like detective shows ? Which are your favourites ?
The above shows are from USA, UK & South Korea. Detective shows are popular all over the world. Even famous film directors can write detective novels:
I was walking with a friend along Main Street, around 4 in the morning. The street was ………….quiet, just some tourists and a little traffic.
I was wearing a small bag, strung across my shoulder. A security guard was behind me, talking to a person in a car. …….., a motorbike came towards me on the pavement. He stopped, …………..my strap, then drove away.
Naturally, I shouted but it was too late; he was gone. My friend was worried but I told her it was OK, nobody was hurt. The ………of the bag were really worthless: pens, some medicine, a book, but also my designer glasses.
The security guard was comical in his incompetence. He shook his head, mouth open wide, and said, “It all ………. so quickly, there was nothing I could do.”
I should, …….. , have reported it to the police, that was the ……….. but people told me the thief would never be found. What I learnt from this unfortunate experience was to be very careful and never walk around with valuables.
The greatest of all fictional detectives, Sherlock Holmes, along with his loyal companion Dr. Watson, made his first appearance in Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Conan Doyle’s novel A Study in Scarlet (1887) and continued into the 20th century in such collections of stories as The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894) and the longer Hound of the Baskervilles (1902).
New Vocabulary Practice:
What is the ……… for reporting a crime. (noun)
Most of what we learnt on the first day was ………… (adj)
His wife ……….. (verb) him of eating the cake but the real ….. (noun) was the dog !
Jet Mart had two cases of Tiger beer boosted (stolen). In Mr Wall’s house, there were two cases of Tiger beer but, his lawyer defended, this is not proof, merely ……….. …………….
good as gold / butter wouldn’t melt in his\her mouth / a little rascal / a handful
well-behaved / a little madam / a young gentleman / full of him\herself
What are the pros and cons (The benefits and drawbacks ) ofhaving children ?
Pros: makes us responsible / patient / sometimes they can be funny
they can enrich our lives
Cons: sometimes they misbehave ( are naughty) / no free time / they need a lot of energy / need a lot of money for toys, sweets, uniform, books, equipment.
Is there pressure from family to have children in your culture ?
Niece (girl) and nephew (boy) = children of my brother/sister
How would you describe these children ?
She has an angelic smile.
Remember – for sentence building, use adjectives and discourse markers (linking words or phrases). Never start with a pronoun (she, it, he, they) but say what the subject is – in this example, the subject is a girl. Now we can keep building up more information:
The girl has an angelic smile.
The young girl has blonde hair and an angelic smile.
The young girl, who has long straight blonde hair, has lovely big green-grey eyes, and is smiling angelically. She wears a multi-coloured T-shirt as well as some flowers around the neckline.
Now – your turn:
Here, you can also add some verbs and background information. Where do you think he is ? How is he feeling ? Who taught him this behaviour ? Do you think his mother is with him ?
These young gentleman attend a very expensive, possibly elitist, private school. Such schools are named ‘public schools’ in the UK. they include Eton, Harrow and Gordonstoun.
How would you describe the emotions / feelings of these people ?
FREE SPEAKING: What is a traditional wedding in your country ?
In the UK and many western countries, the bridegroom waits in the church next to the Best Man, who has the rings. The church music starts and the Bride walks down the aisle next to her father, who will ‘give her away.’ Behind the Bride are her Bridesmaids. The Vicar will start the service. At the end, the Bride and Groom kiss.
Pictures of typical UK wedding.
Identify Bride, groom, best man, vicar, bridesmaids, father of the bride.
The lady speaks slowly and clearly; try to understand without subtitles.
to consider / to decide / to weigh up (phrasal verb) / to mull over [all mean ‘to think about’]
let me sleep on it (idiom = need time to think).
the final call / the final decision on a subject
logistics (n) // logistical (adj) organising people at the same time.
co-ordinating // arranging things to happen at the same or at an arranged time
It’s a logistical nightmare ! (very hard to co-ordinate all the different factors).
likewise / also, in the same way
therefore / so, for that reason
value for money /deciding if something is good quality and good price.
a multitude / so many
not to mention / additionally, adding a stronger point (expression)
potential minefield / an area of possible dangers and serious trouble (metaphor)
There are a multitude of things to consider when organising a wedding. The tasks range from choosing the dress and accessories, to booking the cars and flowers, not to mention the potential minefield of the food. What do people like to eat, what do they hate ? Are they on special diets, do they have allergies, are they restricted by religious considerations ?
What sort of things have to be planned for a successful wedding ?
Put them in order of importance – if that is possible ! (they are ALL important)
These vary (change) from country to country, but a traditional UK wedding would be something like this:
A church for a Christian service (synagogue for Jewish, mosque for Moslems)
Vicar to perform the service
Bride and Groom
Bridesmaids and Best Man
Father of the Bride
Order of Service
The minister will give plenty of advice on hymns to choose, but order of service is basically broken into six parts:
Entrance of the bride,
Hymns, marriage vows and prayers
Hymn or psalm blessing
Signing the register
Leaving for the reception (party, lunch)
As the party leaves the church, the order should be bride and groom, chief bridesmaid and best man, bride’s mother and bridegroom’s father, bridegroom’s mother and bride’s father, bridesmaids and other attendants.
At the party or reception, people are usually told where to sit. Before the food, there are a number of speeches. Some are serious, but the Best Man usually makes a humorous one, saying funny things about the Groom :
This lesson is about Easter, a public holiday throughout many western countries. Unlike Christmas, Easter does not have an exact date (similar to Tet in Asia). This year, easter falls on Sunday April 12th.
The videos will introduce you to the celebration as well as teaching new words and expressions.
to experience – to feel something, to do something.
I have experienced Tet holiday in Viet Nam
resurrection – to come back to life after death.
festivities – things to do at parties or what happens on a public holiday
symbol – a sign or logo – yellow star is a symbol of Viet Nam, golden arches McDonalds
hang on a minute ! – stop and wait !
mythical – something that is like a legend, probably not real
coincides – happens at the same time. John’s wedding coincides with the World Cup.
break up – phrasal verb – to have a school holiday. The kids break up on the 24thJuly.