Apostrophe challenge!

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Apostrophes are so hard to use that now a council in Devon (the pretty part of England in the south-west where lots of people come on holiday!) is taking them out of road names! So:

BAKER’S VIEW

is now:

BAKERS VIEW

A lot of people are very unhappy about this! (Read about it here).  But does it matter? When we speak we don’t use apostrophes -obviously! – but we understand what people mean so why do we need them when we write? It is quite possible  that over the coming years the apostrophe may slowly die out but meanwhile if you want to get a good mark in your writing you will need to use apostrophes correctly. Even though you might think it is a tiny detail, it is quite possible that badly used apostrophes might influence your lecturer as they mark your work.

I’ve previously written some easy to understand pages on apostrophes here and here, but today’s post is to tell you about a great resource I’ve been looking at from Oxford Dictionaries on apostrophes. Their APOSTROPHE CHALLENGE, which is an interactive quiz on apostrophes, is here. Have a go – how many can you get right??

 

Employability skills

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One of the main reasons for going to university is to get a good job afterwards, and that means being able to talk about the skills that you have been developing your whole life. My students are going to have to sit a job interview as part of their English programme, and that’s because we want to develop their employability skills. One key employability skill is being able to talk about employability skills! When I talk about these skills in class I find that international students do not know much of the key vocabulary that employers will want you to use when they interview you.

The University of Kent has an interactive Employability Skills Map to help you with this important vocabulary which you can access here.

The wettest January ever!

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British people often complain about the weather. Now, finally, we really do have something to moan about. Last month was the wettest January ever – well since records began – which is a pretty long time! Thousands of people have been flooded out of their homes and we have lost our train line to Plymouth:

Train line

Now the ‘blame game‘ is underway. That means that everybody is blaming everybody else for the floods. You can’t stop the rain but you can do things to reduce the likelihood of floods occurring, such as cleaning the mud out of the rivers. This is known as dredging – probably another new word for you – and useful if you are an environmental science or engineering student. People in the government are blaming people in the Environment Agency for not dredging the rivers, and people in the Environment Agency are blaming the government for restricting their budget. No surprises there!

I’ve been marking a lot of student written work and I’ve noticed that they make a lot of mistakes using the passive voice. If you look at the photograph above, the best way to describe the situation is to use sentences in the passive voice:

The wall has been washed away.

The train line has been damaged.

There’s quite a lot to think about in these sentences and the passive can get quite difficult when you have to put it into different tenses. I will be telling my students to take a look at the passive exercises at Monash University on their Language and Learning Online pages which you can find here.

Group work

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It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything and that usually means that I’ve been so busy that I haven’t found time to write a post. September and October are the busiest months of the year for me because it is the start of the academic year at university. I’ve seen hundreds of new international students many of whom are feeling anxious about their studies. I know that English isn’t the only problem for students – many of you are coming to a whole new educational culture and it’s hard! One aspect of the new educational culture that international students will have to get to grips with in English-speaking universities is group work.
Lecturers in English-speaking universities like giving group work! You will have to learn how to collaborate with other students, share your ideas, plan together, correct each other’s work and write group assignments. This can be a difficult and frustrating experience – which is why I wrote a book called: Group Work: work together for academic success which you can read more about here!