Don’t forget TED.com!

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Rain rain go away, come again another day! A couple of weeks ago it was announced that we had a drought in most parts of England. Of course as soon as the news was out, it has been raining constantly and we have floods all over the place. In previous years April has been the best month but this year it is the wettest month for years!
Don’t forget TED.com for practising your English. This is a truly wonderful site. If you are preparing for an examination with a listening component – like IELTS for instance – then you should be doing lots of listening practice. I would strongly recommend looking at TED.com and browsing through the list of topics. You can use the search facility to find something that you are interested in. Then just listen. If you have problems you can use subtitles in any of about 45 languages. There is an interactive transcript so you can read the transcript and play the video from any point that you choose. The cost of this? It’s free! There are lots of sites which charge you money for similar services! If you haven’t seen TED.com before then why not start by listening to Jay Walker giving a presentation about English learning? It’s here.

Omni-shambles!

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I heard a new word this week: omni-shambles! What a great word! Here it is in context:

Cameron slammed over ‘omni-shambles’ Budget

Well, you might know the word ‘shambles‘  – but then again you might not because it is not that formal. A shambles is a mess, or confusion resulting from bad planning (here for the definition from Cambridge). ‘Omni’ – well, that’s a prefix meaning ‘all’ or ‘every’. So I was delighted to hear the new word omni-shambles to describe the chaos and confusion that the British Government has found itself in after its annual Budget. (I’m not being political – it’s just a great word to describe total and utter chaos!) It’s a brand new word which has been made using a prefix. How well do you know your prefixes and suffixes? If you are good at them then you will be able to build the words you need. Prefixes and suffixes are particularly well used in academic vocabulary. Here’s a link to one of my favourite Academic English websites from Andy Gillett: read about prefixes and suffixes from his UEFAP website site here.

Describing graphs

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My students will have to write about visual information in their end of year exam and that is the reason for today’s post. I am always looking for good pages online which can help students write about graphs and tables and although I have mentioned this one before I’m pretty sure my students won’t know about it.  We did some writing practice in class recently and the main thing I noticed about my students’ writing was that many of them were confusing NOUNS and VERBS. I wrote this on the board:

       Using a VERB as the main word       Using a NOUN as the main word
The rate of inflation increased quickly in 2008.There was a big increase in inflation in 2008.
The rate of inflation slowed in 2009.There was a dramatic slowdown in inflation in 2009.

 If you use these basic sentence patterns you can’t go far wrong. If you can put two short simple sentences together using a connecting word to make a longer sentences in which you use both patterns then you get something like this:

The rate of inflation increased quickly in 2008 but there was a dramatic slowdown in 2009.

which will get you a very good mark!

You need to practice phrases like ‘a dramatic increase’. There are lots of these with illustrations on this page from the Higher Colleges of Technology. This brings back happy memories because I spent a few years working at HCT in the United Arab Emirates and had a great time there. Improve your graph language with their page here.

Subject – verb agreement: the sore thumb of grammar!

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I have been marking some practice exams recently and I’ve been giving feedback to students about how to improve their writing. There are lots of things that I could say, but in this post I’m going to mention just one: CHECK YOUR SUBJECT – VERB AGREEMENT!

When your teacher reads mistakes like these ones in your essays:

Inflation have been rising recently, not least because of the increasing price of oil.

This essay focus on the relationship between interest rates and inflation.

then he or she will groan, and your mark will start to drop. Help yourself and when you have finished your work then check it carefully for mistakes. You should underline the SUBJECT of the sentence:

Inflation

and ask yourself: is this subject singular or plural? Then look at the verb:

have

and ask yourself if this is the correct form of the verb. The sentences above should be:

Inflation has been rising recently, not least because of the rise in oil prices.

This essay focuses on the relationship between interest rates and inflation.

 I know it’s not always so easy! That’s why you need to think about it, read about it and do some exercises on it. I’ve just seen an excellent powerpoint on the sore thumb of grammar (yes, subject-verb agreement!)  on the Guide to Grammar and Writing website. Following the powerpoint there are exercises you can do to improve your understanding of this part of grammar. Get rid of your sore thumb by looking at the powerpoint and doing the exercises here.