I'm not a great fan of rugby (we were forced to play it at school!), so I wasn't too upset when England were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup in the group stages. At least they didn't lose to France! Anyway, for all you fans of the oval ball, here's a crossword based on vocabulary connected with rugby. If the embedded version above doesn't work, try this one instead. Alternatively, you can download this PDF version.
BACKGROUND Russian warplanes began airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday, adding an unpredictable new element to a four-year-old war that has already drawn in the United States and allies, fueled a refugee crisis and expanded the reach of the Islamic State. In Washington, the dramatic escalation of Russia’s military involvement was viewed as an affront just two days after President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat down to discuss means for negotiating the deep differences in their countries’ approaches to the conflict in Syria. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Peter Brookes from The Times consists of two panels. On the left we see Russian President Vladimir Putin as a bomber pilot giving the thumbs up and saying, "I've just bombed over Syria." On the right, we see President Obama in the Oval Office saying, "So have I!"
EXPLANATION The cartoon relies on a double meaning of the verb 'to bomb'. There's the literal meaning 'to drop bombs on a place', but in Obama's case it's the informal meaning 'to fail miserably' that we are supposed to infer. • The play bombed and closed within a week. Strictly speaking, Putin would be more likely to say, 'I've just bombed Syria', but the cartoon wouldn't work then.
LANGAUGE You can use 'so have I' to say that a positive sentence is true for you too. Other constructions are possible, such as 'so am I', 'so do I', etc. You can find detailed notes on this grammar point here.
The Guardian has a short article about the Parisian authorities' plans to fine smokers who throw their cigarette butts onto the street. The city of Paris, littered with 350 tons of cigarette butts each year, is striking back at smokers with a new 68-euro ($76) fine. The above photo shows a symbolic cigarette butt inside the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris.
LESSON IDEAS 1. Show students the photo and get them to speculate as to what is happening and where. 2. Copy the text of the article into a text editor and remove all the numbers and figures. Print. Play this audio recording to students and get them to fill in the gaps. 3. Discuss some of the language points below. 4. Have a debate. For or against fining smokers? 5. Get students to join the discussion by posting comments on the website (they'll have to register first). Alternatively, create your own discussion forum using a free site such as ProBoards.
LANGUAGE This is from the 'Comments' section below the article on the website:
This is a British newspaper. "Butts" is an Americanism. In Britain, what is left of a cigarette when you discard it is a cigarette end. "Butt" is also an Americanism for the part of the anatomy you sit on. In Britain it is your backside, bottom, bum or arse - but not, please, "ass". In British English an ass is an animal belonging to your neighbour which you must not covet.
I'm surprised 'AngryExpat' didn't also complain about the use of 'sidewalk' instead of 'pavement'!
There's been a lot of talk about stock markets in the past few weeks following the stock market crash in China, so I thought it would be interesting to do a crossword devoted to that topic. If the embedded version below doesn't work, you can try this alternative web version or download a PDF and print that out. You can find more crosswords by clicking on 'Crosswords' in the Categories list on the right, or you can buy my crossword books!
BACKGROUND Dr. Walter Palmer is nowhere to be found. The Minnesota dentist has gone underground in the onslaught of criticism after he killed a prized African lion named Cecil. It probably shouldn't come as a surprise; an angry horde of Cecil supporters is calling for his head to be mounted on a wall. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the circumstances surrounding the lion's killing. "At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately," said Edward Grace, the service's deputy chief of law enforcement. Full story + video >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Mac from The Daily Mail shows the inside of Dr. Palmer's dentist's office. An angry crowd are protesting outside with placards reading 'Animals have rights too' and 'Murderer'. On the wall are trophies from previous hunting trips including a lion, rhino, antelope and elephant. And at the bottom of the wall is a mousehole with the word 'Dentist' above it. A mouse can be seen cowering inside and sweating with fear.
EXPLANATION The cartoonist is comparing Dr. Palmer to a mouse for his refusal to come out of hiding (mice are often seen as symbols of timidity or cowardice).
VOCABULARY The (English) cartoonist has put the word 'surgery' above the entrance to the building. In Britain, the place where dentists (as well as doctors) see their patients is called a surgery. However, in America they say 'dentist's office' (not 'surgery').
BACKGROUND Holidaymakers heading to Greece over the next few days are being advised to take plenty of cash with them amid fears the country’s cash machines could be shut down if a resolution to the crisis is not found. As the Greek people continued to empty the country’s banks, with €1.2bn (£857m) withdrawn on Thursday alone, fears have grown that the banking system could be shut down. Around 2 million Brits travel to Greece each year and falling prices in recent months led to big surge in bookings to the country, according to Abta, the group which represents travel agents and tour operators. It is advising travellers to take “plenty of cash and a mixture of other payment methods so that they are covered for all situations”. Full story >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Kipper Williams from The Guardian shows a couple about to board a holiday flight to Greece. They are carrying a cash machine. The woman comments, 'We're not taking any chances.'
EXPLANATION They'll still be able to get money from their personal cash machine even if the Greek ATMs are shut down.
LANGUAGE If you say that you are not taking any chances, it means that you are not taking any risks. In this context a chance is a possibility that something negative will happen. • I'm delivering my work by hand - I'm not taking any chances.
Here's an animated video ad I created for my two crossword puzzle books, which were published last week (see earlier post for full details). It won't win any awards (the ad, that is), but I'll try and do a better one when I have more time (we're right in the middle of orals for the 'Concours BCE' at EM Normandie at the moment).
BY THE WAY You may be interested to know that my publisher, Ellipses, is offering to send complimentary copies of the books to people in a position to promote it. So, if you'd like a copy to write a review for your blog, or have students who might be interested, or whatever (!), just send me an email with your name and postal address. Obviously, there's a limited number of free books available, so it will have to be first come, first served ...
Regular readers of The English Blog will know that I am a big fan of crosswords and often post my own creations on this site (you can find 55 here!). Well, the big news is that I've just published not one but two books of crosswords for learners of English. You can find them online (see links below) or in your local bookshop. Oh, and if you're an Amazon customer, a five-star review would be nice, but I'd settle for four ;-) In the meantime, check out these sample pages for Level 1 and Level 2.
To promote the return of General Mills’ beloved French Toast Crunch cereal — which returned this January after being discontinued in 2006 — a campaign entitled "The Tiny & The Tasty" has just been launched. A series of ads parodies daytime soap operas, which were at their peak during French Toast Crunch’s heyday in the mid to late 90s (the brand launched in 1995) with a "mini mini-soap opera." The 30-second spots cast a family of dolls and take on such soap opera cliches as "Amnesia," "Murder," "Inheritance" and "Pregnancy." In "Amnesia," a couple’s son suffers from amnesia and forgets, among other things, to wear pants. [Source: AdWeek]
VOCABULARY The "Amnesia" ad illustrates one of the classic vocabulary differences between British and American English. As a British English speaker, when I first watched the ad, I understood that the son was not wearing his underpants (which would explain the censored area!) Then I realized that, as Americans, they were talking about what we in Britain call 'trousers' (which is not quite so bad!)
COMMENT I thought the ads were quite funny and could easily be used in the classroom. The "Amnesia" ad contains several useful vocabulary and grammar points (see below for a transcript). You can watch all five videos here.
TRANSCRIPT FATHER : So, Junior, you were diagnosed with amnesia. SON: Mmm. I do not remember that. MOTHER: Well, do you remember French Toast Crunch from the nineties? French toast tiny enough for us to eat. SON: No, but it looks delicious. You have milk? MOTHER: Yeah, it’s in the fridge. Uh, Junior, you forgot your pants. FATHER: Oh no. VOICEOVER: Brought to you by French Toast Crunch. Mapley, cinnamony, French toasty.
Animated English is a series of ten animated video lessons for learners of English which I created using GoAnimate for Schools. Each lesson features a dialogue based on an everyday situation, a 'listen and repeat' activity, a listening comprehension text, and some personal questions. The accompanying PDF files contain transcripts, language notes, worksheets, crosswords and word search puzzles.
You can download the PDF for the above Fast Food lesson here. A similar PDF is available for each lesson.
The complete set of ten lessons is available on several different platforms - choose the one that suits you best!
WARNING Learners of English should use swearwords very sparingly, and probably not at all. They risk sounding silly or giving offence unintentionally. However, it's always useful to be able to understand swearwords, which are a common part of everyday language.
NOTE BBC's America's Anglophenia ("British Culture with an American Accent") consists of a blog, a YouTube Channel (where you can find all the other videos), and a Facebook page. Although the basic aim is to explain British culture to Americans, these resources are great for learners of English at intermediate level or above.
This cartoon by Mac from the Daily Mail links the so-called Hatton Garden Heist (in which thieves broke into an underground bank vault and stole millions of pounds worth of property from safe deposit boxes), and the Barclays Libor-rigging scandal (in which Barclays Bank traders manipulated foreign exchange markets).
The cartoon shows the Barclays traders drinking champagne and laughing in amazement at the lengths the Hatton Garden gang went to in order to steal the money, whereas all they had to do was change a few figures on their computers. The latest news is that a number of arrests have been made in relation to the heist (whereas all of Barclays rogue traders remain free).
VOCABULARY 1. Quaint means strange and unusual in an old-fashioned and charming way. • On Saturday we lunched at a quaint old inn he had discovered. 2. Chap is an informal British English word for a man, especially one that you like. • Bill’s such a nice chap.
Last week I did a post about the BBC Learning English Lower-Intermediate course, which is now complete. I expressed the hope that they would follow it up with a more advanced course. Well, someone at the BBC must have been listening because they've just launched an Intermediate course. It follows the same format as the previous course, which means that there will be 30 weekly units, each containing several 'sessions' (or lessons) with an emphasis on grammar and vocabulary.
COMMENT I know I've said it before, but I do think that BBC Learning English is the best free ESL site on the web, and probably better than a lot of ones you have to pay for. Does anyone disagree?
Today (23rd April) is Saint George's Day, the feast day of Saint George and the National Day for England. It is celebrated by various Christian churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint. To mark the occasion, here is a crossword all about England. Click on the image below for an interactive web version, and here for a PDF version.