Celebrate Roald Dahl’s centenary with Pearson English Readers

‘‘You have to believe in magic to find it’’, Roald Dahl.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - Pearson English ReadersRoald Dahl was without doubt one of the most magical of children’s writers working in the twentieth century. Today his magic still infuses our popular culture and his stories have been translated into scores of languages and adapted into blockbuster films. Our English language students can also experience the Dahl magic via the Pearson English Readers.

Roald Dahl was born 100 years ago in Llandaff, Wales on the 13th of September and this year marks his centenary. His writing career started in the United States with short stories and magazine articles for adults. Roald’s first venture into children’s fiction was the short-story Gremlins, which he wrote for Walt Disney in 1942. Gremlins wasn’t a success, so he returned to writing for adults producing the best-selling short story collection Someone like you in 1953. Continue reading

Using connectors in English to improve your writing skills

Using connectors in English to improve your writing skills - Illustration by Lucy Vigrass (2)When you’re writing in English, especially when you’re writing for exams, it’s not enough to choose the correct words and put them in the right order. You also have to link sentences together to show how your ideas are organised and to guide the reader through your text. For this, you need a good command of connectors, or linkers, those little words and phrases like but, however, in spite of, because of and in order to. In this article we look at using connectors in English to improve your writing skills.

The most common connectors, and the ones used most frequently in speech, are and, but, or, because, so and then, and with them you can express most ideas quite well. However, in order to demonstrate a more sophisticated knowledge of the language and to express more nuanced ideas, especially in formal writing, there are many other connectors that you need in your repertoire. Let’s have a look at some of them. Continue reading

21 idioms from the world of sport

21 idioms from the world of sport - Illustration by Ben_WisemanEuro 2016 is just around the corner, with double the usual of number of teams taking part in one of football’s most exciting tournaments. Whether you’re a die-hard footie fan or just have a passing interest, whether you’re rooting for host country France, cheering on title-holders Spain, or waving the flag for one of the 22 other contending nations, you’re bound to hear a lot about the beautiful game over the coming month. To help guarantee that you’re on the ball during the conversation and to help make sure that you always know the score, we’ve put together 21 idioms from the world of sport. Let’s kick off, then, with kick off!

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35 common English proverbs

English languageIf vocabulary and grammar are the meat and bones of a language, then proverbs are its blood. Not only are these short, pithy, well-known expressions great for giving warnings and advice or for expressing simple truths about life, they also tell you a lot about the cultural context of the language. Each and every language has hundreds of such sayings, but as English is the language at hand, here are 35 common English proverbs for you to enjoy, learn – and hopefully use. Next time you get the chance to throw one into conversation, make sure you strike while the iron is hot!  Continue reading

21 unusual English expressions from around the world

21 unusual English expressions from around the worldOne of the most enjoyable aspects of learning a language is getting to know its idioms and expressions. Indeed, it’s an area of language where the culture of the speakers can really make itself known. With English spoken in so many places around the world, it’s no surprise that the language has a wealth of entertaining sayings and slang, some funny, some rude, some clever and some bizarre. We’ve picked out 21 unusual English expressions from around the world to give you just a taste of this variety.

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10 English words that are difficult to pronounce

When you learn a foreign language, there are always certain sounds that are a challenge to get right and certain words that you must struggle to get your tongue around. With English, the erratic spelling system means that even if you have no trouble with the sounds themselves, you may often mispronounce words anyway.

To help you out with some of the trickier and more readily-confused ones, here are 10 English words that are difficult to pronounce for learners and some tips for getting them right. Continue reading

London English from Cockney to Jafaican

Accent - London English from Cockney to JafaicanIf you’ve ever seen Mary Poppins, you’ll no doubt remember US actor Dick Van Dyke as the cheeky, cheerful chimney-sweep Bert… and his atrocious attempt at a Cockney accent. If you’ve ever seen Sacha Baran Cohen (of Borat fame) perform his Ali G character, then you’ll also have heard a faux ‘Jafaican’ accent. What do Cockney and ‘Jafaican’ have in common? They’re both distinctive London accents. Find out more as we explore London English – from Cockney to Jafaican.

London English from Cockney to Jafaican

Although Received Pronunciation – the standard English accent that you’ll hear in many film adaptations of Jane Austen novels, as well as in many English language coursebook listening exercises – grew out of London and the surrounding counties, the English of the city is characterised more than anything by a mixture of distinctive accents. Londoners can guess pretty well, just by hearing a fellow Londoner speak, if that person is from south or north of the River Thames, or from the East End of the city or the west. Continue reading

Extending the CEFR across English and the globe

GSE-extends-CEFRThe Global Scale of English (GSE) is a new standardised, granular scale from 10 to 90, which measures English language proficiency. We have added over 950 new learning objectives to those already created for the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) including 300 each for general, academic and professional English. Learners can now track their progress from the start of their learning journey with 40 new learning objectives below A1.

How are GSE learning objectives created?

After reviewing existing learning objectives and identifying gaps, new learning objectives are reviewed and refined before being rated by thousands of teachers worldwide on the GSE and CEFR. The learning objectives then go through two rounds of data analysis by our psychometricians in order to calibrate them to the GSE. Any problematic learning objectives are removed, and the final list is checked again by content editors before being published. Continue reading

Why is English spelling so weird?

English spellingWhy does cough rhyme with toff but plough rhyme with now? Why does debt have a silent b? If ewe can be you, how comes eye can be I? Who on earth put the k into knight? Why is read read as red when it’s said in the past, but reads like its reed in the present? Indeed, why is English spelling so weird? In today’s post we look at the history of English spelling to find out some of the reasons that underlie its many orthographic idiosyncrasies.

Why is English spelling so weird?

Too few letters for too many sounds

Modern English has a phoneme inventory of 44 sounds (with some variation according to dialect) but only 26 letters with which to write them. Since its very earliest days, this mismatch has been a key obstacle to spelling the language in a regular manner. The monks who were among the first to write down Old English tried to solve the problem by adding new letters to represent sounds absent in Latin, such as a ligature of a and e, namely æ (ash), and several runic characters – þ (thorn), ð (eth), and ȝ (yogh). Æ can still occasionally be found (for example, in the official name of the Encyclopædia Britannica), but the runic symbols were eventually replaced by digraphs – combinations of two letters to represent one sound – th for þ and ð and gh for ȝ. Diacritics – those little marks above and beneath letters that you find in so many other languages (á, è, ü, ç, ñ and so on) – being absent in Latin, were never used by the early writers of English and so never really became a part of the orthography, except to write certain foreign loanwords. Continue reading

20 words and phrases English owes to Shakespeare

William Shakespeare‘To be or not to be’ – that’s the one line from Shakespeare that everybody knows. But the question is, do you know just how many other words, phrases and idioms he gave to the English language, either by coining them himself or by popularising them through his poetry and plays? This year marks 400 years since the Bard of Avon’s death, and yet even those who don’t know his work probably quote him on a daily basis. Today we’re looking at 20 words and phrases English owes to Shakespeare.

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