The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Monday, April 28, 2008

Word of the Week - 16

I was level testing some students in a company last week and one of them used this word which I found impressive. It's an adjective with two main uses. The first is to talk about something that has been affected by rust. When a piece of steel or iron has reacted with air and water and turns a reddish brown colour we can say that it is rusty. The second use, and the one that the student used, is to talk about a skill that you were once good at but now you are not as good at because you are out of practice and you have forgotten a lot.

It's such a long time since I spoke French that I'm a bit rusty.

I need to get a new bike, my other one is old and rusty.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

What's the difference - 1?


Students often confuse these two words and use them as synonyms. However, these words do not have the same meaning.

Fun can be used as a noun or an adjective to describe something that is enjoyable.

We had a lot of fun at the party.

Horseriding is fun.

Funny is an adjective we use to describe something that makes us laugh.

The Life of Brian is a very funny film.

John makes me laugh, he tells the funniest

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

World Book Day

As you may have heard, today is World Book Day. In 1995 UNESCO decided to make this day the international day of reading, publishing and copyright. The 23rd of April was chosen for two main reasons. The first is that since 1923 in Catalonia people have celebrated Saint George's Day with men giving roses to their sweethearts and receiving a book in return. The 23rd of April is also the date on which many great authors from history have died including Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Inca Gasrcilaso de la Vega and Vladimir Nabokov. To find out more about World Book Day you could check out the UNESCO webpage.

Do you like reading? Do you think you are a bit of a bookworm? Have you always got your head in a book? If so, why don't you write me a review of the last book you read or your favourite book. I would love to read them and the best ones could be published on the blog! Tell me something about the plot, the characters, the reasons you like the book and who you would recommend the book to. I look forward to receiving your reviews. Remember you can send them to me at Happy reading and writing!

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Word of the Week - 15

This week's word is another adjective which you can use to describe something that is really, really big in an informal way. It is often used when somebody is exaggerating about how large something really is. The word is what is known as a Portmanteau term, because it has been made up through a fusion of two other adjectives; gigantic and enormous.

Tom and Gina's wedding cake was absolutely ginormous! I had never seen such a large cake before!

-I look ginormous in this skirt! I really must go on a diet.
-Don't be silly, you look wonderful!

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Emails in English

Do you have to write emails in English for your job? Do you wish you had a list of useful expressions to help you write those emails? Do you want to know how to sound polite even when you are requesting things with urgency? Do you want to know the best way to start and end your emails? There is a website with activities that you can use to teach you all that. So what are you waiting for? Get practising right away!


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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rhyming Slang

To lead on from the article I posted about the girl who wanted a cab and instead got a cabinet, I thought we could look at Cockney rhyming slang. If you remember, the girl phoned Directory Enquiries asking for a Joe Baxi which is slang in parts of London for a taxi.

Cockney Rhyming Slang is a specialised form of slang used in the East of London. It is a kind of anti-language where words are replaced by phrases that sound the same or rhyme.

Dog and bone = phone
Adam and Eve = believe

Sometimes, the last word is dropped, which can make it very difficult to understand unless you are used to it. An example of this is with the Cockney slang for lies. The original phrase was 'to tell pork pies', but now the second word is rarely used and the term has been shortened to 'porkies'.

Most Cockney rhyming slang would be difficult for many natives to understand but some forms are widely used. For example, if you want to say that you are alone, you can say that you are on your Jack Jones. And some men still refer to their wife as the trouble and strife!

If you would like to learn more about the history of Cockney Slang and see some more examples, you should check out this website.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Word of the Week - 14

This week's word is an adjective you can use to describe somebody who is very unpleasant, rude or even highly offensive. (However, the word in itself is not offensive).

Some of his colleagues say that he is loud and obnoxious.

We have all met someone who is just rude, annoying, argumentative and well let's face it, completely obnoxious!

Although most people try not to be obnoxious on a regular basis, there is a webpage dedicated to helping you become so, if you'd like.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Pronunciation Problems?

Do you sometimes worry that English-speakers don't understand you when you speak English? Well, you shouldn't worry too much about it since it appears that some English speakers have a hard time explaining themselves when they are native speakers of the language! You can see what I mean by reading an article from the Metro newspaper in Britain which involves a misunderstanding between various people and a girl from South London who wanted a cab (taxi) but received a cabinet! A bit of a problem, innit?

Read the article to find out just what happened.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Word of the week - 13

This week the word is an adjective which we use to describe an object that has such a high value, especially because it is rare, that a price cannot be calculated for it.

33 priceless vases and statues were stolen from the Prado last week.

(Students often confuse this adjective with worthless which describes something that has no value whatsoever.)

It can also be used to describe something that is delightfully amusing or absurd.

The look on his face when he walked into the office was priceless!

Finally, this adjective can be used figuratively to suggest that something is very useful or invaluable.

Her experience and knowledge make her a priceless asset to the team.

The use of priceless in the last two contexts is illustrated well in the Mastercard adverts.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Speaking Practice -Intercambios

My students are always complaining that they don't get enough speaking practice out of class and I am always telling them that they should try to get an 'intercambio'. In Madrid and Madridteacher often have classifieds of people looking for language exchange partners. If you are a bit apprehensive about meeting up with a stranger on your own though, there are plenty of places in Madrid where you can meet large groups of foreigners and practise your English. Here are a few options:

Day and Time : Every Tuesday 22.00
Location: O'Neills (Irish Pub), Calle Principe 12 (Metro Sol, Sevilla)

Day and Time: Wednesdays and Thursdays 22.00 - 24.00
Location: J & J's Books and Coffee, Calle Espiritu Santo 47, (Metro Noviciado)

Day and Time: Every Wednesday 22.30 - 2.00
Location: Café Madrid, Calle Escalinata (Metro Opera)

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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Happy April Fool's Day

Be careful today when you go to class because your teacher may be feeling a little mischievous! For English speakers today is the equivalent of the 28th of December in Spain and so your teacher may be planning to play tricks on you in class! You only have to worry about being the victim of a hoax before midday though, because according to tradition your teacher cannot play pranks on anybody after midday.

For more information about April Fool's Day check out Wikipedia.

And if you like to read about a good prank, you should check out the Museum of Hoaxes Top 100 Hoaxes of all time.

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