The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dishes, plates, courses

Which do you prefer to do, cook or do the washing up? Personally, I prefer cooking; I absolutely hate doing the dishes! Of course, I might not mind if I had pretty dishes like the ones in the picture.

Speaking of dishes, what's your favourite (AmEng favorite) Spanish dish? Personally, I absolutely adore paella. I also think I would die without the summer.

I don't know how I can possibly think about food right now. I've just been for a three-course meal with my students. I'm absolutely stuffed! For the first course we had tempura vegetables, then chicken teriyaki for the main course. For desert we had Japanese green tea ice cream.

My favorite part of going to a Japanese restaurant is the dishes. Our food was served on lovely square plates of different sizes.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Game of the century

Read about the Game of the Century, the 1970 World Cup semi-final between Italy and West Germany.

Does anybody remember this match? If not, what was the most exciting football match you've ever seen?

Good luck, Spain!!

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dragon illusion

Discover how this image of a dragon can create an optical illusion, and get some more listening practice. You can even download the figure and make it yourself, to see how the illusion works in real life.

If you still haven't had enough of illusions, there are lots of sites on the Web with more. Michael Bach has got a whole collection, with instructions in English. While M.C. Escher didn't only do illusions, he's also got some very interesting ones.

What's your favourite (AmEng favorite) optical illusion?

Below you'll find the transcript of the dragon video. Don't read it until you've had a go at the listening!

Here’s our little dragon, sitting on the window ledge. But look what happens the minute we move: his head twists and turns to follow us as we move around the room. It’s all an illusion, of course. He’s not really moving at all. It’s a version of the “hollow face illusion”, but it’s a very powerful effect. And not just side to side: if we move up and down, again, his head cranes to follow us. But our brain has made an assumption about the structure of the dragon’s head. And if we move far enough around to the side, we suddenly realize the structure is different, and the illusion fails.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Listening practice

Get a little listening practice with the BBC World Service commentary box. You can listen to authentic football commentary and do some vocabulary work. The site also offers other football-related material.

If you're not into football, there are lots of other video and listening activities. How do you usually get English listening practice?

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Don't worry, you don't have to learn them all!

According to The Independent

English language nears the one million-word milestone
By Robert Cornwell in Washington

"It will not be of much comfort to President George Bush and others who, on occasion, struggle to make themselves understood. But some time soon the English language, according to at least one reasonably authoritative source, will create its one-millionth word.

The Global Language Monitor (GLM), a San Diego-based linguistic consultancy, reckoned that on 21 March (the vernal equinox) this year, there were about 988,968 words in the language, 'plus or minus a handful'.* At the current rate of progress, the one-million mark will be reached this summer."

*a handful - a few

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

If you like, you could coin (invent) the one-millionth word. The Washington Post is having a contest to name word number 1,000,000, and it has to end in -ion. That should be easy for a Spanish-speaker!


Monday, June 19, 2006

Heads, elbows and knees

Some body parts can also be used as verbs. For example, in the Italy-U.S.A. match, De Rossi got a red card for elbowing McBride in the face. In the morning, when the underground (AmEng subway) is really crowded, sometimes you have to elbow people out of the way to get on or off the train.

If you mix with people of a higher social class than you, however, you wouldn't want to elbow them, but you could rub elbows with them.

Elbowing people out of the way is a bit aggressive, but kneeing a man in his "privates" is even more so. This might not get you on the train, but it could save your life if attacked on a dark street at night.

When you go down on your knees, say to pray or to propose to somebody (ask them to marry you), this is called kneeling.

A very important skill for a footballer is being able to head the ball in the direction you want it to go. A painful skill perfected by football hooligans is headbutting (hitting someone with your head) each other. However, headbutting can also be used as a self-defence (AmEng defense) technique.

Another way to say that you are going somewhere or in a certain direction, is to say that you are heading there, or in that way. For example, "I'm heading into town if you want a lift." (To give someone a lift or a ride is to take them somewhere in your car.)

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 16, 2006

All day and every day

A common mistake made by students is to confuse "all day" and "every day". (In English, you CAN'T say "every days", because "every" is used with a singular noun.)

All day refers to the entire day, or most of it. A shop like 7-11, Tesco Express, or any other convenience store which is open 24 hours, is open all day (and all night!). In summer, you might take your holiday (AmEng vacation) in some place like Valencia, and if you really love to sunbathe, you would probably spend all day at the beach.

When you do something every day, you do it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday! Of course, you can also say, for example, that you get up at 6.30 every day during the week, but that at weekends (AmEng on weekends), you get up at 9.00 or 10.00. During the World Cup, there's at least one football game every day from 9 June to 27 June.


and everyday are adjectives:

When something is an everyday occurrence, it happens very often.

An all-day meeting would probably last at least eight hours.

Labels: ,

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fingers and toes

Spanish people often don't know that in English we have different names for the digits on our hands and the digits on our feet.

On your hands you've got eight fingers and two thumbs (the "b" is silent). On your feet, you've got 10 toes. While the fingers and thumbs all have names, on your feet, only the big toe and little toe are called something different.

Some expressions using the word finger:

Suzanne gets whatever she wants because she can wrap the boss round her little finger / she's got the boss twisted round her little finger.
(to be able to easily get someone to do what you want)

None of the older kids at school dares lay a finger on Sebastian because his big brother protects him.
(to harm someone)

There's something strange about Jessamyn, but I can't quite put my finger on it.
(to identify clearly why a situation is the way it is, especially when something is not right)

If Paraguay don't go through to the next round, they'll surely point the finger at the player who scored that own goal.
(to accuse someone of being responsible for something bad)

Sophie never lifts/raises a finger around the house; her husband has to do everything.
(to not make any effort to help)

Ask Frederick, he'll know, he's got a finger in every pie.
(to be involved in and have influence over many different activities, often used negatively)

How rude! I only asked him how he was and he gave me the finger!
(offensive gesture)

Can you think of any more?

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Football phrasal verbs

OK, so the BLC Blogger is a bit football obsessed right now. What do you expect, it's the World Cup!

Below you'll find some common phrasal verbs (or nouns derived from them, notice the use of the hyphen for the nouns) that you can use in a football context. (When talking about football, we'll use the British terminology, given that "soccer", as it's called in the States, is much less popular there. We'll be giving the American English in parentheses, though.)

- Both halves of the match (AmEng game) start with a kick-off. [to kick (something) off - to start something]

- The visiting team's striker was brought down in the penalty area. [to bring someone down - to tackle them so that they fall onto the ground]

- It was a terrible foul, and the defender was immediately sent off. [to send someone off - to expel them from the game]

- Spain is sure to go through to the next round. [to go through - to advance]

- The match was called off on account of rain. [to call something off - to cancel a scheduled event]

- Jeremy is going to try out for a place on the local team. [to try out (for something) - to try to win a place on a team or in a group]

- A goal cannot be scored directly from a throw-in. [to throw the ball in - the put the ball back into play with your hands when it crosses the touchline]

- When the football match was over, we went to the pub. [to be over - to be finished, completed]

- They were down 3-nil (AmEng 3-zero) in the 80th minute, and knew they would never catch up. But they didn't give up and kept playing their hardest. After all, as they say: "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings!" [to catch up (to someone) - to reach the same level when you are behind] [to give up (doing something) - to stop trying to do something because it's too difficult]

-With the round of 16, the World Cup becomes a knock-out competition. [to knock someone out - to eliminate them from competition by defeating them]

We hope you've enjoyed this sampling of phrasal verbs. Remember, the old BLC student newsletter has an index of the phrasal verbs presented in issues of newsletters.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Shopping lists

I bet most of you make a shopping list before you head out to do the shopping (the grocery/food shopping, that is). Have you ever left your list in the shopping trolley (AmEng shopping cart)? If you have, you might end up in the Shopping List Compendium, a very strange site which posts found shopping lists for all to see!

Remember, when you just go out to have a gander (look) at what's in the shops (AmEng stores), you call it going shopping. Some people love going shopping. They might not even buy anything, just window shop. They see it as a leisure time activity. Not me! What about you? Do you like to have a bit of a shop?


Monday, June 12, 2006

I wish!

In Spanish you have a single lovely word that expresses so much: ¡Ojalá!. In English, to express the same one-word idea succinctly, you've got to say something like "I wish!" or "I hope so!".

There's a difference here, though. "I wish!" (sometimes "If only!" to express a stronger desire) refers to something that isn't really possible. For example, if someone asks you if you have tickets to see a World Cup match in Germany, and as it's very late you have no possibility of getting any, you might answer "I wish!" or "If only!".

However, if someone asks you if you think that Spain is going to win (talking about the future here) the World Cup, you would say "I hope so!". If you said "I wish!", you would be implying that they're going to lose. Now you don't want to do that, you'll jinx the team!

In a future post, we'll look at some more details and grammar of "wish".

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 9, 2006

World Cup

As you may just have realised, it's World Cup time. Why not practice a bit (English, not football) by checking the official FIFA World Cup website in English?

You could also read all the news on the BBC SPORT World Cup 2006 site. Americans are not so much into football, or soccer, as they call it, but Sports Illustrated also has lots of coverage. If you want a perspective from a country not playing this time around, you could look to Radio Telefís Éireann (Irish Radio and Television).

Who do you think is going to win? What do you reckon (think) Spain's chances are of getting past the quarter finals this time? Post your comments below.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Visiting London

Planning on visiting London this summer? I highly recommend it. If you are, you might want to take a look at, the city's official Web site. It's got lots of practical information, and talks about tourist attractions, food, shopping, entertainment and more.

If you've visited London, why not add a comment and tell us what your favourite thing was? Personal recommendations are the best way to find your way around a strange city, I find.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Word Reference toolbar is a dictionary Web site. It offers a number of languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian. A nice thing for learners might be to download a toolbar for your computer. This allows you to highlight a word on a Web page, click on the toolbar and get the definition or translation. Sweet! (Great! / Cool! / Fantastic!)


Monday, June 5, 2006

Welcome to the blog

Welcome to the BLC blog. The BLC blogger will be posting something here regularly. We hope to get the other BLC teachers involved as well. Our idea is to make this a place to explore the English language and the cultures of English-speaking countries.

We want this to be your blog. Please feel free to leave your comments. To do so, just click on the link that says "X comments" under the blog entry. If you don't have an account, just choose "anonymous" and write your comment. (Please put your name at the end of your comment.)

If you would like to post entries yourself, it's easy. All you need to do is create an account, choosing a user name and password. If you have difficulty using the site in English, you can change the language to Spanish.

After you've created your account, e-mail us at and we'll send you an invitation to the blog group. When you receive the invitation, just click on the link, log in, and you'll be added to the list of blog members. You can then write your own posts for the blog.

We hope you enjoy our blog and visit us regularly. Why not bookmark the site for easy access?