One 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.
Teaching children, especially when you are new to it, can be incredibly daunting, not least because they are so full of energy and can be so easily distracted. Yet it can also be a wonderfully satisfying teaching experience, and with the growth of EFL for younger learners, is increasingly one that English language teachers need to be prepared for. If that rings true for you, then to help you out we’ve put together 10 tricks for keeping the attention of primary-age children in class.
Teaching beginners can be a daunting prospect, especially when it’s a monolingual group and you know nothing of their language, or it’s a multilingual group and the only common language is the English you’ve been tasked with teaching them. Nevertheless, not only is it possible to teach beginners only through English, it can also be one of the most rewarding levels to teach. To help you succeed in setting your learners firmly on the path to increasing proficiency, here are 7 tips for teaching English to beginners.
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
Word games are an engaging way not only to practice vocabulary and spelling in class but also to hone important language skills such as defining and describing. They’re fun, too, make ideal warmers and fillers, and generally don’t require much preparation – especially if you get the students involved in setting them up. Plus, many work well as competitions and can easily be adapted to suit different ages and levels. Here are 6 easy word games for the English language classroom. Why not give them a try?
If 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
Persuading students of the usefulness of watching English-language movies at home isn’t hard, but there are many things you can do to bring films into the classroom as well.
Here are 5 great activities for using movies in the EFL class.
- Half in half out
Choose a scene from a movie that you’d like to work on, preferably one with lots of movement and lots of dialogue. Divide the class into two groups, A and B. Send group A out while you show group B the scene with the volume muted. Then, bring group A back and send group B out. Play the scene again, but this time only let group A listen to the dialogue – don’t let them see the screen (if you have an IWB you can simply turn the screen off, if not just have the students face away). So you now have one group that have heard the scene and one that have seen it. Bring group B back, put students into A/B pairs and have them reconstruct as well as they can what they think was going on. Then show the full scene so they can see how close they were. Continue reading
Many students shy away from writing in English as they feel it is either difficult or boring. At the same time, it can be tempting for the teacher to tackle the skill by setting simple compositions with little structure or purpose. However, writing is not only a necessary language skill, especially for students hoping to use English in their work or studies, but also a great way to improve their level overall, and it need not be boring. We look at 7 tips for teaching writing in the EFL classroom.
Tips for teaching writing in the EFL classroom:
1. Know the aim of text and the target reader
Perhaps the two most important things to bear in mind when teaching writing (and when writing oneself) are the aim of the text and the target reader, as these will dictate the type of language used and the organisation of the text itself. Writing an informal email to a friend to let them know your news requires a very different approach to writing a report for your boss about the progress of a project you’re running. Equally, it would be just as odd to give titles to the sections of a letter of complaint – My Shock on Discovering the Item Didn’t Work, How This Has Inconvenienced Me, Here’s What I Want You to Do About It! – as it would to open a love letter with ‘To whom it may concern…’ Continue reading
Why 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
‘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.