The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

English Lessons in your living-room

I made a great discovery last night while I was flicking through the channels trying to find something good on the box.
It appears that there is a new channel called Aprende Inglés TV which runs twenty-four hours a day. (This channel is only available to people who have digital television) There are a few different programmes which are repeated throughout the day. One of these is called Rumbo al Inglés which allows you to watch a one-to-one class of varying levels and learn along with the student. It's English class from the comfort of your own living-room! And there is no excuse, it is on all day, morning, noon and night!

To find out more about this new channel, the founders, the programmes and programming schedule, go to their website.


You can also take a peek at what the televised classes are like, but be careful, it is a little addictive! Alberto el Seductor is especially good to watch ;-)


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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fun and Games - Play and Learn!

While surfing the net in search of ideas for the blog I came across this fantastic website of word games and puzzles to practise English spelling and vocabulary. The games seem to be meant for native school children but they are fab for students of English too. I quickly became addicted to the first game I played, WHOMP. The game is similar to Boggle, you have to make words by using boxes that are next to each other and you are in competition with the computer to get the most points. You can change the level by picking a higher grade between two and seven.
There is also a cool interactive Hangman you can play too, but you need to be quick because the alien doesn't give you too many guesses!

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Word of the Week - 3

This week's word is a noun that came up in one of my one-to-one classes and I thought it was an unusual sounding but fun word to learn.


Basically it means nonsense! When someone says or writes something that makes no sense at all, you can say that they are talking gibberish.

I was so nervous in the interview, that I forgot what I had planned to say and I just started talking gibberish!

It can also be used to describe language that is extremely technical or very obscure and therefore difficult to understand.

Are those Chinese characters? It all looks like gibberish to me!

(N.B. The 'G' in the word is pronounced as a 'j' sound!)

A 'famous' example of something that is complete gibberish in both Spanish and English is the Ketchup Song (Aserejé - Las Ketchup). What were those girls singing about? Although I must admit the song was very catchy!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

National Pie Day

Another suggestion for the blog was to write about strange and unique national days that are celebrated in the English speaking world. To start us off, today is National Pie Day in the States. This is a day that is set aside to bake lots of pies and try out new pie recipes. It is also a day to give pies to friends, family and neighbours and spread the good pie cheer. National Pie Day was founded by the American Pie Council in 1986. To find out more about the tradition and the origins of pie you can check out their website.

While on the topic of pie, let's look at some expressions that contain the word:

Sometimes people say things that later on they are forced to admit were wrong. This is especially the case when somebody has been boasting about something that in the end turned out to be untrue. When we have to admit that we are wrong, we can say that we have been forced to eat humble pie.

After boasting that his company could outperform the industry's best, he's been forced to eat humble pie.

Another expression with pie is used when we talk, often disapprovingly, about somebody who has a lot of influence over many different activities. We say that they have a finger in every pie.

Ask John, he's bound to know, he's got a finger in every pie!

Finally, if we say that something is just pie in the sky it means that we hope it will happen but of course it is very unlikely that it will!

Their plans to set up their own business are just pie in the sky.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Word of the Week - 2

This week's word is a phrasal verb with several meanings...

One meaning is to dress warmly to protect yourself from the cold. This is something we need to do every day in Madrid in the winter months.

I'd wrap up if I were you, it's very cold outside!

Another meaning is to cover presents with paper to hide what is inside. This is something we do at Christmastime and for birthdays.

I spend a lot of time wrapping presents up at Christmas with special paper and pretty bows and ribbons.

It can also be used informally to mean complete something successfully.

That just about wraps it up for now!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

In keeping with the last blog entry on illnesses, I have found this listening activity where you can practise the vocabulary and learn some more expressions related to the same topic.


If you would like more listening practice, go to the BBC World Service pages and listen to an episode of The Flatmates, when one flatmate goes to the Doctor's. Listen without the text and then click the link on the right-hand side named 'language point' to look at some useful expressions from the tape script. Have fun!


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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Are you feeling under the weather?

Under the weather is a synonym for when somebody feels ill and indisposed. In the winter months it is common for people to feel a bit poorly and many of us suffer from minor illnesses.

Today we are going to look at a list of common ailments that can affect people at this time of year.

A lot of the pains that we feel in our body are expressed in the same way in English - by saying the part of the body that is affected and then adding the word -ache.

---headache------------earache ------ backache------stomach ache

Another way of expressing pain is by saying that something is sore. This is the case when you have a pain in your throat. You say that you have a sore throat.

All of these can be symptoms of certain illnesses. The most common illnesses at wintertime are the common cold, when you sneeze a lot and have a cough, and of course the flu, when your entire body aches and you have a fever and you need to stay in bed.

I hope you are all feeling on top of the world this winter, and not under the weather! But if you are feeling ill, I hope you get better soon!

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Word of the Week - 1

Somebody had the great idea of having a word of the week entry on the Blog to introduce students to useful or unusual vocabulary with some examples of when to use it. So here is the first ever BLC Word of the Week:


Shabby is an adjective we can use to describe something that looks old and is in bad condition.

I need to buy a new coat, this one is six years old and it's looking a bit shabby!

The hotel was very cheap but the rooms were rather shabby.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Plans for the Future

In January we often start thinking about the coming year. Perhaps we don't resolve to change anything in our lives, but we may start making plans for the next twelve months. Perhaps you will talk about these plans in English class or with your English-speaking friends and to do so you need to know the best way to go about it.

Generally Spanish students tend to use the 'will' form to talk about their plans and intentions. However, while people understand what you are saying, it is not the most correct way to express yourself. You need to use either 'be going to' or the present continuous.

If we have decided what we want to do or we are intending to do something we can use 'be going to'. It doesn't matter how far in the future this plan is, it could be within a few weeks or even at the end of the year.

I'm going to buy a house this year.
I'm going to study English twice a week.

If we have made more concrete personal arrangements and have a date and place in our diary for the event we can use the present continuous.

I'm meeting with my bank manager tomorrow at ten to discuss mortgages.
Julie and Tom are getting married on the the 3oth of August.
I'm having lunch with Bob tomorrow.

Students often confuse these two forms. The meaning is very similar but the form is different. Note that with 'be going to' the lexical verb is in the infinitive form but in the present continuous the lexical verb is in the ing form.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

What have you resolved to do this year?

The New Year is often seen as a time to look back on the past twelve months and forward to the year ahead and make new decisions or promises to ourselves about what we want to achieve. Have you resolved to do anything in particular this year? According to, the top ten New Year Resolutions in America are the following:

1. Spend more time with family and friends
2. Go to the gym / get fit
3. Lose weight
4. Quit smoking
5. Enjoy life more
6. Quit drinking
7. Get out of debt
8. Learn something new
9. Help others
10. Get organised

What are your New Year Resolutions? Or do you think it is all a big waste of time?

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year to All!

I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR. How did you see in the new year? Did you eat your twelve lucky grapes, as is tradition in Spain? Did you open presents, as is customary in Greece or did you throw a bucket of water off your balcony, as is traditional in Puerto Rico?

In many English speaking countries it is common to sing Auld Lang Syne when the clock has struck midnight. This is a song and poem that was written by the Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

You can check out a Kareoke Video of the song on Youtube.

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