It's Valentine's Day next Saturday, so here's a crossword on that theme. You can download a PDF version here, and access an alternative online version here, in case you have problems with the one below.
Here's a presentation I did for the new intake of FC (= Continuing Education) students at the EM Normandie, some of whom will be taking the e-learning version of our Master's Degree. Click on the logos and screenshots for more information. You can download the PowerPoint version here.
BACKGROUND Germans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led several events Sunday, including the placing of a rose in one of the few remaining sections of the Wall to commemorate the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state. In a speech at the main memorial site for the Wall, Merkel said that "the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true." She called the Wall a "symbol of state abuse cast in concrete" that "took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable." Read more >>
Today The English Blog is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Yes, it's exactly ten years to the day since I wrote that first post! Anyway, to mark the occasion I thought I would organize a little competition. It's very simple. All you have to do is send me an email giving the total number of posts (including this one) there have been on The English Blog since the beginning. The winner will be the reader who gets closest to that figure. In the unlikely event of a tie, the entry received first will be the winner. And the prize? A copy of the brand new Collins English Dictionary ("the largest single-volume English dictionary available"), which retails for £45 (read my review here).
The competition closes at midnight French time on Friday 7th November, so get counting!
The teenage killer of Ann Maguire winked at a friend as he walked over to the Spanish teacher’s desk, where he stabbed her seven times and returned to his seat “as if nothing happened”, a court heard . William Cornick, known as Will, was 15 when he killed Maguire in front of terrified pupils during a lesson at Corpus Christi Catholic college in Leeds on 28 April, having talked about an attack on her for three years. Full details of the murder and his motivation can now be revealed for the first time. Full story >>
VOCABULARY If someone is jailed, they are put in jail, a place where people are put after they have been arrested, or where people go as punishment for a crime. • He was jailed for drink-driving.
COMMMENT The suggestion in both cartoons is that Cameron is playing a very risky game with the EU, which could end in disaster. The fact that he is blindfolded implies that he does not know where he's going, politically speaking.
IDIOM A high wire (or tightrope) is a rope or wire that is stretched high above the ground, and used by circus performers. Metaphorically speaking, a high-wire act is something that you have to do very slowly or carefully, because it involves a lot of risk. • The university press is not allowed to either make or lose money—that's a high-wire act.
BACKGROUND Winds as cold as -4C (25F) will bring last month’s record mild spell to a shivering halt with Bonfire Night expected to be the chilliest this century. After the record mild spell, the mercury will plummet by 12C (53F) with Britain going from hotter than Spain to colder than Sweden. Temperatures are expected to hit to -4C in Scotland and the North by Wednesday, with cold winds and rain forecast across much of the UK. It would make it the coldest November 5 since daily records were kept in 1999. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Paul Thomas from the Daily Express combines two news stories: the record low temperatures forecast for Bonfire Night, and soaring UK energy bills. A young boy is asking for a 'Penny for the Guy' (an old Guy Fawkes Day custom), while beside him an old lady has a sign asking for a 'Penny for the heating bill'. The Guy is an effigy of Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic who was a member of the failed Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament in 1605. The Guy is traditionally burnt of top of a bonfire on November 5th to commemorate the event. See here for an earlier Paul Thomas cartoon on the same theme.
NOTE When I was a young boy back in the sixties, it was common practice among children to make a Guy and go round the streets asking for 'a penny for the Guy' (we used to push ours round in an old pram). The money would then be used to buy fireworks. However, in these days of health and safety, the custom has almost completely disappeared.
Britain is to get a freezing blast of winter with temperatures set to nosedive from today. Winds as cold as -4C (25F) will bring last month’s record mild spell to a shivering halt with Bonfire Night expected to be the chilliest this century. Highways Agency gritters are on standby, ready to be dispatched at a moment’s notice of ice appearing on major roads, with snow expected on higher ground. After the record mild spell, the mercury will plummet by 12C (53F) with Britain going from hotter than Spain to colder than Sweden. Full story >>
VOCABULARY A blast is a strong current of air, wind, heat etc. • A blast of cold air hit them as they opened the door.
I got my first iPad in the spring of 2011, and in July I announced the launch of my Business Words app. Unfortunately, it hasn't made me a millionaire, but it's still available in the iTunes Store.
I'm pleased to announce that I've created an app for learning business vocabulary. It's called Business Words and is available for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch. Business Words is on sale in Apple's App Store at the bargain price of €1.59, so don't delay, download it today!
COMMENT I would say that the development of apps for phones and tablets has been the biggest innovation in language teaching over the past few years. Mobile learing is now a reality, and all students entering the EM Normandie are given an iPad.
Sir Richard Branson's space tourism company Virgin Galactic has been accused of ignoring a series of warnings that its $500 million rocket was unsafe for flight. A number of senior aerospace engineers repeatedly voiced fears over the design of Sir Richard’s SpaceShipTwo and the safety protocols surrounding its testing. The Telegraph has seen emails and other documents in the public domain — dating back several years, and as recently as last year — in which the engineers warned of the dangers of Virgin Galactic’s rocket engine system. Full story >>
VOCABULARY An explosion is an occasion when something bursts with a lot of force and a loud noise, often causing damage. • An explosion of methane gas demolished a pensioner's house on Saturday.
By 2010 "Words in the News" had become a regular, almost daily feature in The English Blog. This one is from February 2010 when the Eurozone crisis was threatening to plunge the region into turmoil — and Nicolas Sarkozy was president of France. Who would have thought that four years later, France would be in the economic doldrums? Ironic, isn't it?
The Wall Street Journal Europe is told by a person close to the French presidency that France is working on a plan to help Greece out of its budget problems. Full story >>
VOCABULARY If you lend somebody a hand, you help them. • The stars are coming out for Haiti ... and a big one, Angelina Jolie is heading there to lend a hand.
This is the moment Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket exploded in the air during a test flight, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another. The rocket belonging to billionaire Sir Richard Branson'sspace tourism venture exploded in a fireball during a test flight before crashing in the Mojave Desert in California. A Virgin Galactic spokesman said the rocket "suffered a serious anomaly" after a test flight conducted by partner business Scaled Composites. Full story >>
VOCABULARY A spaceship is avehicle that can travel in space. • NASA's newest crewed spaceship will launch in December on a first-ever test flight that will take it thousands of miles away from Earth.Related articles
There is no evidence that tough enforcement of the drug laws on personal possession leads to lower levels of drug use, according to the government’s first evidence-based study. Examining international drug laws, the groundbreaking Home Office document published brings to an end 40 years of almost unbroken official political rhetoric that only harsher penalties can tackle the problem caused by the likes of heroin, cocaine or cannabis. Full story >>
VOCABULARY Something which is punitive is intended as punishment. • There are calls for more punitive measures against people who drink and drive.
Thousands of illegal immigrants camped out in Calais hoping to reach the UK are "prepared to die", the mayor of the French town has said. The 51-year-old told the Home Affairs Select Committee that some 2,500 illegal immigrants are in the town, with many willing to risk their lives to reach the UK. She said: "You have a much more favourable regime in Britain than in other European countries". She described the benefits migrants receive in the UK as the "real magnet" for those hoping to illegally cross over to Britain. Full story >>
VOCABULARY A magnet is someone or something that attracts and interests many people very strongly. • The town has now become a real tourist magnet.
This two-minute video features some of the 50,000 new words which have been added to the latest edition of the Collins English Dictionary (read my review here). How many of the words do you know? You can find some definitions here and here. You can look the rest up in the online version of the Collins Dictionary.
TEACHING IDEA Call My Bluff is a popular British TV game show that goes back to the 1960s. Two teams of three celebrity contestants take it in turn to provide three definitions of an obscure word, only one of which is correct. The other team then has to guess which is the correct definition, the other two being "bluffs". This would work very well as a classroom activity with more advanced learners using the new words from the Collins Dictionary. Give each team with one or more of these cardswith a 'new word'. Then get the teams to come up with two 'fake' definitions for each word, and you're ready to play the game. See here for a more detailed lesson plan, and here to watch a complete episode of Call My Bluff from 2004.