Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My job description

I’m an English Teacher. I teach English to adults in Marseille, in the south of France.
I work with small groups of students, some of whom would like to learn English in order to find a job. English is necessary for jobs in tourism, education and international trade, like Import/Export.

During the day, I prepare lessons by doing research on the internet and using the coursebooks in the centre's library. I prefer doing communication activities rather than grammar.

I sometimes have to attend meetings, which are about planning the courses and discussing new contracts. I have been on training courses in Paris. I take the train early in the morning and stay in a hotel.

I am also an examiner for the diplôme de compétences en langues. I interview candidates and assess them on their linguistic abilities and how they accomplished their tasks.

What's your job? Send me your job description in English and I will correct it before publishing it on my site!

Who wants to be a millionaire?

I love the TV game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Do you have it your country?
It's actually great for learning English because the first few questions are really easy - if you are a native speaker. If you're not a native speaker, you might find the first five or so questions quite hard because they are often about local culture or other things that only the natives would know. Proverbs and nursery rhymes feature heavily in those early questions. I've learnt quite a lot about French life and culture by watching WWTBAM in French.

If you are a contestant on the programme, you can imagine how humiliating it would be to get the first question wrong. Well it does happen sometimes as the youtube clip below shows. I'v transcribed the introduction for you, it's good practice to understand American accents.

Notice "word whiskers" like "pretty much" and "I guess" very common in American English

Joining me now is Chase Sampson, a college junior in Nashville Tennessee, and I understand Chase that you flew in last night, you didn’t get here till three in the morning and that you havent slept a wink, huh ?

I pretty much have coffee flowing through my veins right now.

Do you really, but as a college student I think that maybe thats not so rare

Yeah I’m up pretty late mostly i’m kind of er insomniac I guess, but I’m feeling good, I’m feeling good

Good ,good! as long as you’re feeling good and you know the rules and the lifelines, and you’re ready to play , we’re gonna play.

I’m ready

OK, then let’s play !

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jasper Carrot - Brummie Comedian

If any of you were wondering what my accent is like, here is clip of a famous comedian called Jasper Carrot, who like me is from Birmingham and so has a similar accent (I talk a bit posher, cause I'm a teacher!)

You will learn something about two very well-known stores in Britain, Argos and Woolworths, and what people in the regions think of London.

By the way, pick'n'mix is the self service sweet counter.

'innit' is an even more contracted version of 'isn't it?'

'bloke' is like 'guy' in British English

'nicked' is a slang word for 'stole' or 'stolen'

'spud' is slang for 'potato' but here is used as an insult for an Irishman (they eat a lot of potatoes in Ireland).

Monday, January 14, 2008


Is it possible to comb your teeth? Personally, I brush my teeth, but comb my hair (sometimes). But I recently read an advertising e-mail (not spam, I did request it) urging me to go over the document with a "toothcomb"! Duh!

The English expression that means to examine something very closely, to look at the little details is 'to go over (something) with a fine-tooth comb', that is, a comb with fine teeth, not a comb for your teeth!

I'm not immune to these types of mistakes, so I won't do any more Mickey-taking. Just to say that while looking for examples of 'tooth-comb', I stumbled on this marvelous site by an American professor. Have a look sometime, it's got some great stuff: errors in English.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Improve your vocabulary part 3

Use crazy associations.

I have been writing quite a lot recently about the linkword method, which involves associating something memorable in your own language to something that sounds similar in the language you are learning. Somebody came up with a great list of French phrases that could be converted in into English. The list appears on a lot of 'joke' websites, but it is in fact the basis of having a great memory, not just for foreign words, but for anything else too. Here are a few examples:

Canaille (rogue, rascal) - can I?
ail ou radis? (garlic or radish?) - are you ready?
six tonnes de chair (six tons of flesh) - sit on the chair
guy vomit sur mon nez (guy vomits on my nose) - give me some money
oeuf corse (Corsican egg) - of course

Now the trick here is to create a funny scene in your head that will make it impossible to forget. So a French speaker would imagine a huge six-ton elephant trying to sit on a chair, because to him 'sit on the chair' sounds like 'six tons of flesh' in his language.

You can read more about linkword here

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Moses Supposes (again)

A while ago I suggested learning 'Moses Supposes' to practice the vowel sound 'o'. Well here is the clip of Gene Kelly and co performing it in the classic movie 'Singing in the Rain'. Enjoy!

If you want to learn it, take it slowly and increase the speed only when you have memorised it completely.