The BLC Blog

A forum and learning place for British Language Centre students

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween is here!

Halloween is almost upon us. For many Spanish people this is just another commercial holiday imported from America and the UK. However, it is not just about dressing up in strange costumes and going around the neighbourhood asking for sweets with a cheeky call of 'Trick or treat." Halloween originated many, many years ago. You should find out more about this pagan festival by visiting the trusty website and watching the videos, reading the articles, playing the games and of course, practising your English. You might be surprised by what you find out!

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Expression of the Fortnight - 2


This colloquial expression refers to a dark, embarassing secret that we don't want other people to know about! If other people discovered our skeleton, it could have a negative effect on our life. The secret can be something scandalous that we have done in the past. (In American English they say a skeleton in the closet)

If you want to be a successful politician, you can't have too many skeletons in your cupboard.

Every family has got one or two skeletons in the cupboard.

It has been suggested that the origin of this expression lies with the medical profession. In the past, doctors were not allowed to work on dead bodies for research unless they were the bodies of executed criminals. Therefore, bodies for research were hard to find and so when a doctor managed to get hold of one he would keep the skeleton for further research. It was not publicly acceptable for doctors to display these skeletons for everyone to see so they had to hide them away. The most obvious place for storage was of course a cupboard or a closet and that is where this expression comes from.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Grammar Aquarium

While searching the net for intersting links for my TOEIC students, I stumbled across this fantastic website for studying and practising grammar and vocabulary. You should really have a look when you get a few spare minutes! Remember, it's good to be more autonomous in your learning!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Email English Returns

For those of you who did the Email English abbreviations quiz earlier in the month, you might like to check your answers while learning more about email abbreviations and emoticons. Don't worry if you didn't do the email quiz, you still might find the Oxford Better Writing website useful, especially if you are thinking of doing an exam. And for those of you who are not interested in exams or improving your writing, the site also has some groovy word games such as crosswords, hangman and scrabble. So there is no excuse! Go check it out now!

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Word of the Week - 28

By way of getting into the spirit of things (no pun intended!), I thought that this week's word should be related to the upcoming holiday of Halloween. Therefore, today we have an adjective which is used to describe situations and places that are frightening and a bit strange.

Look at this picture. This is a spooky house. If you walked past this house, especially at night, I'm sure that you would feel a little a bit scared. Would you feel happy about going inside? I doubt it! That's because it is spooky looking!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008


We are one week away from Halloween and this got me thinking about pumpkins. In fact I was in Carrefour the other day and I saw lots of pumpkins, both natural and plastic! Pumpkins are often synonymous with the 31st of October when traditionally people in English speaking countries carve faces into their tough flesh and put a tealight inside them to make creepy looking Jack-o-lanterns. However, pumpkins and squashes can be used for other things too. In the States, pumpkin pie is a special dessert for Thanksgiving. Some people think this sounds strange because they see the pumpkin as a vegetable, although technically speaking it is in fact a fruit.

For more ideas about what to do with a pumpkin and how to do it, you should check out these videos on VideoJug. (If you want to see the transcript you will need to click on the 'text version' button under the video.) You can practise your listening and reading skills while learning how to do something new!

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What's the Difference? - 3


'Look', 'see' and 'watch' can easily confuse students of English as they all relate to actions done with our eyes. Many students have difficulties knowing which verb they should use.
Let's look at some definitions:

SEE - To be aware of what is around you by using your eyes. This is often an unintentional action. For example, when you are walking down the road and you see an accident happen. You were not walking down the road with the intention of seeing an accident, it just happened and you saw it.

LOOK (AT) -To direct your eyes intentionallyin order to see something . This verb is usually used when we are talking about looking at inanimate objects. For example, your friend may ask you to look at their wedding photographs.

WATCH - To look at something intently for a period of time, usually something which is changing or moving. For example, you watch the news in the evening to find out what has been happening in the world.

Of course there are always some exceptions. For example, the verb see is often used with the noun 'film' when we are not focussing on the actual action of looking at the screen and observing what happens.

Have you ever seen Titanic?
I saw the new Brad Pitt film last night.
I'm going to see a film with John.

On the other hand in the following example we have to use the verb watch because we are talking about looking at the screen.

While I was watching the film the telephone rang.

So, if you think you understood that, try out this online quiz and practise!

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Word of the Week - 27

This week's word is an adjective which is used informally to mean extremely angry. It is almost always used in conjunction with the verb 'go' to emphasise the process of becoming furious.
If my mother finds out that I borrowed her car without asking her, she will go absolutely ballistic!

John went ballistic when he heard what had happened to his house!

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

More Links for Autonomous Learning

A colleague of mine has set up a new website for students of English as a foreign language. It is called Aulablc and it contains links to other sites where you can practise your English online. Interesting links and activities are organized according to level making the site very easy to use. There are FCE and CAE sections on the site which are particularly interesting for students who wish to sit a Cambridge examination in the near future. So, when you have a spare moment, check out Alistair's new site, !

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Expression of the Fortnight - 1

This is going to be a bi-monthly entry called Expression of the Fortnight which I will post mid-week every two weeks. So, to start us off...

This is an idiom which originated from an Arab proverb about a camel which couldn't move because it had been overloaded with too much straw (paja). We use this idiomatic expression when a small and seemingly insignificant thing happens on top of a longer list of bad things making our whole situation too much to bear (supportar). It is more common to use the shorter version of this expression which is the last / final straw. This emphasises the fact that it is the last unpleasant occurence in a series of negative situations that makes you feel that you cannot continue! The Spanish equivalent would be 'la gota que colmó el vaso'.
The low salary and the demanding boss were bad enough, but the rude co-worker was the last straw. (Then I decided to quit the job.)
Perhaps you have an anecdote you would like to share with us which would explain the meaning of this idiom. I am sure everyone would love to read it so why don't you post it in the comments box or email me and we can post it directly onto the blog!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Causative Have

A common mistake that Spanish speakers of English make is to say 'I have cut my hair'. This is a direct translation from the reflexive construction in Castellano 'Me he cortado el pelo'. When you say this in English, the implication is that you cut your own hair and that you didn't go to a hairdresser's. In English we like to specify that somebody else did the action for us, and we have a special construction just for that. It is known as the Causative Have.


USE: We use the causative have when we arrange for someone else to do something for us.

EXAMPLE: I have had my hair cut.
This construction isn't only used to talk about getting a haircut. We can use it in any situation where somebody arranges for another person to do them a service or a job. It can be used in a variety of tenses and with a variety of subjects.


I had my nails done before the wedding.
(I went to a salon and a beautcian painted my nails)

I'm having the house painted on Saturday.
(Some decorators are going to paint my house)

Fred needs to have his car repaired.
(He needs a mechanic to repair his car)

Kelly has her legs waxed once a month
(She goes to a beauty salon and someone waxes her legs for her)

In more colloquial and spoken English the verb 'have' can be replaced by the verb 'get'.

Ex. I need to get my legs waxed / I'm getting my hair cut / Fred got his teeth whitened at the weekend

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Word of the Week - 26

This week's word is a phrasal verb which is used informally and means to argue with someone and stop being friendly with them. This is a type 1 phrasal verb and therefore is inseparable.
I fell out with Tim last night over his drinking!
(We had an argument because I don't like that he drinks so much)
I've fallen out with my flatmates so I'm looking for somewhere else to live.
John and Fred have fallen out so things are a bit awkward at home at the moment.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Columbus Day

Today is Dia de la hispanidad in Spain and tomorrow is Columbus day in the United States. Both holidays are celebrating the same person and what he achieved, Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. Some of you might be attending the military parade in the Plaza De Colon in Madrid, but for those of you who are sitting at home on this rainy October day, why don't you check out the online history channel to learn a bit more about what exactly is being celebrated. You will find videos, quizzes, articles and plenty more to keep you occupied on this wet Sunday and of course you will be learning English to boot!

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Email English - abbreviations

In emails it is very common to find abbreviations. Of course, it is only appropriate to use them if you are sure that the person you are writing to will understand them!
Do you know what these email and instant message abbreviations / acronyms stand for?

1. FYI
2. ASAP (which is pronounced EI ES EI PI and not Asap!)
3. LOL
4. IMO
6. BTW
7. BRB
9. THX
10. TIA

If you think you know the answers, please post them in the comments box. If you are not sure you can watch these videos from videojug which will give you some useful information and some valuable listening practice!

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Word of the Week - 25

This Monday's word of the week is an adjective which can be used to mean not very pleasant. It is used as a synomym for awful.

It is common to say that something smells foul, for example the toilets, or somebody's breath.

You can also say that the weather is foul when it is very grey, cold and rainy.

You can say that somebody has foul language if they are always swearing or blaspheming.

You can say that you have had a foul day when you have had a particularly difficult or stressful day.

Foul is a useful adjective and adds a bit more variety to your language instead of just using awful or horrible all the time.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Learner Autonomy

I have posted before about this but I think the beginning of a new course is a good time to remind students that they need to be more autonomous in their learning! You will benefit greatly from attending classes but to optimise what you learn at the academy you need to put in some extra effort yourself.

This extra effort could be going to an intercambio evening or checking out the corresponding websites that match the coursebook you are using in class. To find out about these things check out the previous post on this topic.

This year, the academy will be using two new books with Elementary and Pre-Intermediate students from the English Result series. The website for these books can be linked to from here.

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Friday, October 3, 2008

First Certificate Exam

Some of you may have signed up to sit the Cambridge First Certificate Exam in December and might be wondering where you can get some extra practice out of class. I have posted on this topic before and clicking on this link will take you to that entry. However, I have also found another website which may be useful for you.

Remember that the exam has been revised for December 2008 and the Error Correction exercise is no longer part of the exam.

Go here for more practice > > > > > >

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Back to School

The BLC Blog is back in time for the new academic term at the academy. My apologies to everyone for the huge gap between the last entry and now. Things have been a bit hectic over the summer months for me and so I decided it was best to leave the blog until the intensive classes were over and we were all back at work.

So, here we are! Welcome back! I hope you are all ready to study and have fun learning English this year. Don't forget that if you wish to make any suggestions regarding the content of this blog you can contact me by email at or you can leave a message in the comments boxes which you will find at the bottom of each entry.