The English Language Blog

Mon blog est écrit en anglais pour vous aider à pratiquer et améliorer vos compétences de la langue anglaise.  L’on s’appele cela Le Blog.

Ludwig Wittgenstein (one of the greatest philosophers in the 20th century) wrote

Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt. ‘
‘ The limits of my language define the limits of my world. ‘ 

I first heard this quotation explained in my philosophy class at my school.   Admittedly some years ago! Although what Wittgenstein meant exactly will probably always be beyond my understanding, I at least began to appreciate the two essential ingredients for good communication between people throughout the world:

  • The importance of clarity and precision
  • The immense benefit of having a second language

Hence my passion for language. 

Please email me at bnbcharente@gmail.com, if you wish to share something on the blog, especially about language or culture.  Anything funny or quirky is a winner!   I look forward to hearing from you

Gordon

28 May

Dracula

The novel Dracula (by Bram Stoker) was pubished on the 28 May 1797.

Bela Lugosi with Frances Dade in Dracula (1931).

One of the most spectacular novels of the 19th century, Dracula still frightens its readers today just as it did over a century ago. The story, like that of Frankenstein, has become a modern myth and has been performed countless times on stage, radio, television, and in film. Presented in a series of formats (such as letters, diaries, even news items), it tells the story of a young London lawyer, Jonathan Harker, recruited by Count Dracula to acquire property for him in England. Harker’s journey to the Count’s Eastern European castle in Transylvania (now in Romania) is an ominous one, with ravenous wolves attacking him along the way, and after his arrival the sense of dread and fear is palpable as the tension rises and Harker slowly begins to realize he is a prisoner in the castle and that his client possess horrible eccentricities. Perhaps the novel’s most powerful moment is when Harker sees his employer crawling face-downwards on the outside wall of his castle, like a bat.

Count Dracula, as he learns, is an “undead” villain who uses his supernatural powers to lure and prey upon innocent victims whom he bites in order to gain the blood he needs to survive. The novel is written chiefly in the form of journals kept by the principal characters—Harker, who contacts the vampire in his Transylvanian castle; Harker’s fiancée (later his wife), Mina, adored by the Count; the well-meaning Dr. Seward; and Lucy Westenra, a victim who herself becomes a vampire. The doctor and friends destroy Dracula in the end, but only after they have driven a stake through Lucy’s heart and cut off her head in order to save her soul. After Harker finally escapes back to England and Dracula follows, a dramatic pursuit of Dracula back to Transylvania ensues, whereupon the vampire is finally killed.

Dracula combined central European folktales of the nosferatu, or undead, with historical accounts of the 15th-century prince Vlad the Impaler, who allegedly impaled 100,000 victims and was given the epithet Dracula (a derivative of Romanian drac, or “devil”). Critics have seen the story’s vampirism as a lurid Victorian literary sublimation of sexuality.

A 2009 sequel to the original, Dracula: The Un-Dead, based on the novelist’s own notes and excisions from the original, was co-written by Dacre Stoker (great-grandnephew of the author) and Ian Holt. It is set in London in 1912, and it features Bram Stoker as a character.

23 May

Word-wheel

Main word clue – A condiment that goes great on a hot dog.

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The goal of a word-wheel puzzle is to create as many words possible with the letters in the word wheel. You can only use each letter once and every word must have the letter in the center of the wheel. Let me know how you get on.

19 May

Two news headlines from today:

 

Royal Wedding

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have today become husband and wife in a moving ceremony at Windsor Castle.  An emotional-looking prince and his smiling bride exchanged vows and rings before the Queen and 600 guests at St George’s Chapel.Ms Markle, wearing a white boat-neck dress by British designer Clare Waight Keller, was walked down the aisle by Prince Charles.

At the altar, Prince Harry told her: “You look amazing.”  After the service the couple – who will now be known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – kissed in front of cheering well-wishers on the steps of the chapel.  Thousands of members of the public turned out in the bright sunshine to see them driven around Windsor in a horse-drawn carriage.

Later, Prince Harry drove the couple to their reception in a silver blue Jaguar, with a registration plate that referenced the date – E190518.

 

FA Cup Final  at Wembley Stadium

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Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

Eden Hazard’s first-half penalty proved enough for Chelsea to beat Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final at Wembley.  The Belgian converted in the 22nd minute, having been brought down by Phil Jones in the area.  The result saw the Blues condemn former manager Jose Mourinho to a season without a trophy. That said, the win was unlikely to save the job of the Chelsea team’s manager Antonio Conte.

16 May

How to write a newspaper article

Image titled Write a News Article Step 14
Research your topic

To begin writing a news article, you need to research extensively the topic that you will be writing about.  In order to have a credible, well written, well structured article, you have to know the topic well.

Begin by asking yourself the “5W’s” (sometimes “6W’s”).

  • Who – who was involved?
  • What – what happened?
  • Where – where did it happen?
  • Why – why did it happen?
  • When – when did it happen?
  • How – how did it happen?
Then carefully follow these steps
  • Compile all your facts.
  • Know your audience.
  • Find an angle.
  • Interview people.
  • Start with the lead
  • Give all the important details. 
  • Follow up main facts with additional information
  • Conclude your article.
  • Check facts before publishing
  • Ensure you have followed your outline and have been consistent with style
  • Follow the AP Style for formatting and citing sources.

Finish by asking your editor read your article

3 May

IMPORTANT NOTE – The next article will appear on the 16 May.  Apologies for the wait, which is caused by work needing to be done on the website, before any more blogs can be added.

1 May

How can I sound more like a native English speaker.  A good way is to start using some phrasal verbs.

What is a Phrasal Verb?
Firstly, let’s outline briefly what a phrasal verb actually is!
Have you ever noticed how when you sometimes add a seemingly tiny word like a preposition or an adverb after a verb, the meaning can completely change? That’s phrasal verbs.

Let’s look at some examples.
Verb: Pick
“Pick” is just a normal verb, not a phrasal verb. Well, not yet at least. It can mean a few things. Let’s focus on one meaning for our example: to select or choose.
We need to pick which meal we’d like to eat.
But look what happens to ‘pick’ when we add the word ‘up’.
Phrasal Verb: Pick Up
Now, as if by some kind of wordplay magic, “pick” has become a phrasal verb. To ‘pick up’ can actually mean many different things. We’ll look at just four of the possible meanings in this post: to improve, to collect someone or something, and to acquire knowledge.

Let’s look at an example for each of these:
Improve: The weather is picking up lately, isn’t it?
Collect someone: Can you pick up Jenny after football practice?
Collect something: Can you pick up my parcel from the post office?
Acquire knowledge: James picked up Spanish really quickly.

Like to learn some top tips about phrasal verbs in English?  Watch this blog later in the month

28 April

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It was in the summer of 1938, when, while lecturing on aesthetics at Cambridge University, Wittgenstein declared, “If I were a good draughtsman, I could convey an innumerable number of expressions by four strokes.” In other words, why say things in words when you could say them using emoji?

The text of Wittgenstein’s lecture series (in the collection Lectures and Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief) depicts three simple faces: one with closed eyes and a half smile, one with a raised eyebrow, and one with open eyes and a full smile.

“Such words as ‘pompous’ and ‘stately’ could be expressed by faces,” said Wittgenstein. “Doing this, our descriptions would be much more flexible and various than they are as expressed by adjectives.” For example, the emotional experience of receiving a text message from a good friend is better expressed through a sketch of a human face than through long words.

Paul Horwich, a philosophy professor at New York University, notes that Wittgenstein’s comments are not simply offhand remarks, but relevant to his broader theories on language. In Wittgenstein’s earlier work in particular, he emphasized the impact of pictorial rather than linguistic communication. Wittgenstein believed that we represent reality to ourselves using language and so, in a sense, construct our sense of reality through language. The impact and interpretation of pictorial forms of communication then suggest we represent reality using pictorial as well as linguistic means.

Perhaps we should next week continue examining the mental power of pictures in a chat about mind-mapping?

23 April

Today is St George’s Day. He is the Patron Saint of England

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Saint George however is a truly Pan-European saint.  Traditions and celebrations are associated with his life (i.e. legendary dragon-slaying) taking place across the continent of Europe.  How much do you know about Saint George and St George’s Day traditions around Europe?  Find out with our quiz, by selecting one of the 4 answers given to each question (email your answers to me for me to advise your score).

According to the stories of his martyrdom, where was Saint George executed for refusing to abandon Christianity in the year 303?
Byzantium
Nicomedia
Carthage
Elysium

Which red flower is traditionally given as a gift on St George’s Day in Barcelona?
Anthurium
Tulips
Poppies
Roses

What was Saint George’s occupation?
Tinker
Tailor
Soldier
Spy

“Saint George!” was the battle cry of which European navy in the late middle ages?
Dutch Navy
Belgian Navy
Venetian Navy
Portuguese Navy

Which two Mediterranean islands have Saint George among patron saints?
Corsica and Sardinia
Malta and Gozo
Sicily and Sardinia
Cyprus and Crete

Which English king first adopted the Saint George emblem of a red cross on a white background?
Ethelred the Unready
Henry V
Richard the Lionheart
William II

It is traditional to give your love a red flower on St George’s Day in Catalonia. What could you expect as a gift in return?
Food
Books
Something silver
Wine

Which English chivalric club, set up by Edward III, invokes Saint George?
Order of the Garter
The Star Chamber
Knights of the Royal Guelphic Order
Knights of the Royal Oak

St George’s Day is widely celebrated as one of the most important Name Days in Bulgaria. But when is it celebrated?
23 April
30 Apr
1 May
6 May

20 April

Auxiliary verbs

Complete the sentences with a positive or negative auxiliary verb. Use short forms where possible.

What <    > you do last night?
BMW Minis <    > made in Oxford.
I <    > seen Bill today. Do you know where he is?
How long <    > it take for the Earth to go round the sun?
We <    >  go to the beach yesterday because it was raining.
She <    > cooking when I arrived.
Email your answers to me for me to advise your score.

18 April

-jean--richard-

Jean Richard, the actor and circus proprietor, was born in Bessines France on the 18 April 1921.  

As a distinguished actor Jean Richard appeared in 80 films, but it was for his portrayal of the pipe-smoking detective Maigret in the French television series based on Georges Simenon’s books that he became a household name in France.

He had started out as a cartoonist, however, and later developed talents as a cabaret performer and music hall star, as well as becoming the first private zoo owner in France and a theme park operator. He also brought about a spectacular revival of the circus industry in his native country. He also found the time to write three books, Mes bêtes à moi (1969), Envoyez les lions! (1971) and his autobiography, Ma vie sans filet (1984).

In 1973, Richard suffered a terrible road accident and for weeks his life hung in the balance. He had been desperately tired and worried at that period, and this no doubt contributed to his near-fatal accident. An arsonist had been trying to destroy his Cirque Pinder unit, with 10 attempts in the space of six weeks. It was even more of a shock to Richard when the pyromaniac was revealed to be one of the circus’s own staff, a groom attached to the elephant act of Costa Kruso.

Despite his terrible injuries, Richard survived the accident, but his control of his businesses was never again as sharp. In 1983, his circus empire collapsed in bankruptcy. He retired to Ermonenville, continuing to run La Mer du Sable there along with his son Jean-Pierre and daughter Elizabeth. The title of Cirque Pinder-Jean Richard was bought by a French investor, Gilbert Edelstein, and is flourishing again as one of France’s leading travelling circuses.

13 April

Q  What do you call a man lying on the doorstep
A  Mat

Q  What’s a foot long and slippery
A  A slipper

Meeting People for the First Time

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When introduced to someone for the first time, we often use thse greetings:

Hello, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
How do you do.

Example Dialogues

Person 1: Ken, this is Steve.
Person 2: Hello, it’s a pleasure to meet you

Person 1: How do you do.
Person 2: I ‘m fine thank you. And you?

Meeting People

When meeting people during the day, use the following phrases.

Formal

Good morning / afternoon / evening
How are you?
It’s good to see you.

Informal

Hi
Hey, how’s it going?

Example Dialogues

Person 1: Good morning John.
Person 2: Good morning. How are you?

Person 1: How’s it going?
Person 2: Good, thanks. You?

8 April

Small facts about the United Kingdom

  1. Big Ben does not refer to the clock, but actually the bell
  2. London has been called Londonium, Ludenwic, and Ludenburg in the past
  3. French was the official language for about 300 years
  4. The shortest war against England was with Zanzibar in 1896. Zanzibar surrendered after 38 minutes.
  5. There is nowhere in Britain that is more than 74.5 miles from the sea.
  6. The first telephone directory published in England contained 25 names.
  7. While the Great Fire of London was largely destructive, the casualty rate was just eight
  8. The first hot chocolate store opened in London.
  9. There are over 300 languages spoken in England.
  10. The English drink more tea than anyone else in the world.
  11. In the Medieval Times, animals can be put on trial for crimes (and be sentenced to death!)
  12. “The Star Spangled Banner” (the American national anthem) was created by an Englishman.
  13. “Pygg” used to mean “clay” in olden day English. People kept their coins in clay jars that were called “pygg jars,” which have evolved into what we currently call piggy banks.
  14. Gargoyles were originally used as drain pipes!

4 April

Word Wheel

Word wheel puzzles are not only fun to do, but also are extremely helpful in improving your vocabulary.  The rules of the game are very simple. The goal is to make as many words as you can make from the letters in the word wheel. And all the words should contain the letter in the centre of the wheel.

create-wordwheel-img.png

1 April

Why do we have Easter eggs?

A lot of us may chomp on chocolate eggs at Easter, but originally eating eggs was not allowed by church leaders during the week leading up to Easter (known as Holy Week). So any eggs laid that week were saved and decorated to make them Holy Week eggs, that were then given to children as gifts.  Victorians adapted the tradition with satin-covered cardboard eggs filled with Easter gifts.  This has now developed into the tradition that many people enjoy today.

Newsround page divider

Why are Easter eggs made of chocolate?

Easter chocolate

The first chocolate eggs appeared in France and Germany in the 19th Century, but they were bitter and hard.  As chocolate-making techniques improved, hollow eggs like the ones we have today were developed.  They very quickly became popular and remain a favourite tradition with chocolate-lovers today.

Newsround page divider

What’s the Easter Bunny then?

Rabbits sitting behind some Easter eggs

The story of the Easter Bunny is thought to have become common in the 19th Century. Rabbits usually give birth to a big litter of babies (called kittens), so they became a symbol of new life.  Legend has it that the Easter bunny lays, decorates and hides eggs as they are also a symbol of new life.

This is why some children might enjoy Easter egg hunts as part of the festival.  It doesn’t do all the work alone though!  In Switzerland, Easter eggs are delivered by a cuckoo and in parts of Germany by a fox.

31 March

The British Press

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2 days ago on the 29 March, I spent a very enjoyable morning with the students at the Lycée Emile Roux de Confolens.  We talked about the British Press; mainly about the most popular newspapers, and briefly also regarding their history.  I would like to share a few of the key points with you.

The first regular daily British newspaper printed in 1702. was the Daily Courant. The world’s oldest Sunday paper is the Observer founded in 1791.  Britain’s oldest surviving tabloid is the Daily Mirror, founded in 1903

UK newspapers can generally be split into two distinct categories: the more serious and intellectual newspapers, usually referred to as the broadsheets due to their large size, and sometimes known collectively as “the quality press” or broad sheets. The others, generally known as tabloids, and collectively as “the popular press”, which have tended to focus more on celebrity coverage and human interest stories rather than political reporting or overseas news.  The tabloids in turn have been divided into the more sensationalist mass market titles, or “red tops”, such as The Sun, Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail.

Most towns and cities in the UK have at least one local newspaper shop, known as newsagents.  The Metro Newspaper is especially different, being free of cost.  It is distributed mainly at train stations and bus stops at no charge throughout the UK.  The major UK newspapers currently have websites, some of which provide free access.

Anyone, who is living in another country outside of Great Britain and learning English, should try reading and listening to the British news online.  I suggest you start with the UK Metro News app.  It’s free, fun, informative and easy to obtain.  There is a morning and an evening online edition each day from Monday to Friday.

Instead of just reading words to a news story inside your head, read the words out loud. Reading out loud helps you slow down and sort out the words’ meanings. If you don’t know a word, highlight it or write it down and come back for a definition if the meaning does not become clear later in the paragraph. Reading the news is a great way to learn English because the articles tend to be short and the vocabulary tends to stay the same on each topic.

Spending only a few minutes each day reading and listening to the British news will boost your English language skills faster than you can imagine.  We will talk next week about which news website video you can watch and listen to. For now I suggest you enjoy reading the Metro News app  ( Google app store link ) and let me know how you get on.

28 March

The following idioms and expressions use ‘time’. Each idiom or expression has a definition and two example sentences to help to understand of these common idiomatic expressions with ‘time’. Once you have studied these expressions, test your knowledge with quiz testing idioms and expressions with time.

ahead of One’s Time
Definition: To be more talented than others recognize.
He’s ahead of his time. No one knows how important his discoveries are.
She’s always felt that she was ahead of her time, so she isn’t disappointed.

ahead of Time
Definition: Before the agreed upon time.
I think we’ll get there ahead of time.
Wow, we’re ahead of time today. Let’s keep it up!

all in good time
Definition: Within a reasonable amount of time.
I’ll get to you all in good time. Please be patient.
Her professor kept on saying that she’d be successful, but that it would be all in good time.

at a set time
Definition: At an agreed upon time.
We’ll meet at the set time.
Let’s make sure that we meet at a set time.

at all times
Definition: Always
Make sure to keep your seat belts on at all times.
Students need to pay attention at all times.

at the appointed time
Definition: At an agreed upon time.
We’ll meet at the appointed time and place.
Did you get into the doctor’s office at the appointed time?

behind the times
Definition: Not fashionable, not up on current fashions.
My Dad is so behind the times!
She dresses like it was the 70s she’s behind the times!

to bide one’s time
Definition: To wait.
I’m biding my time until he arrives.
She decided to bide her time in a shop.

from time to time
Definition: Occasionally
I like playing golf from time to time.
Petra speaks with Tom from time to time.

have the time of one’s life
Definition: Have a fantastic experience.
My daughter had the time of her life in Disneyland.
Believe me. You’re going to have the time of your life.

keep time
Definition: Keep the beat in music.
Can you keep time while we practice this piece?
He kept time with his foot.

live on borrowed time
Definition: To live dangerously.
He’s living on borrowed time if he keeps that up!
She felt she was living on borrowed time because she smoked.

make time for something or someone
Definition: Create a period of time especially for a thing or person.
I need to make some extra time for reading.
I’ll make time for you on Saturday.

out of time
Definition: Not having any more time available.
I’m afraid we’re out of time for today.
You’re out of time for that competition.

pressed for time
Definition: To not have a lot of time to do something.
I’m pressed for time today. Hurry up!
She couldn’t see me because she was pressed for time.

Time is money
Definition: An expression meaning that someone’s time is important.
Remember that time is money, let’s hurry up.
Time is money, Tim. If you want to talk, it’s going to cost you.

when the time is ripe
Definition: When it is the proper time.
We’ll get there when the time is ripe!
Don’t worry you’ll be successful when the time is ripe.

24 March

Congratulations Cambridge in The Boat Race!

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 The Light Blues took control from the start and remained ahead to win by three lengths in 17 minutes 51 seconds.  That takes their advantage in the famous race against Oxford to 83-80.

Cambridge earlier won the women’s race in emphatic fashion, beating their rivals by seven lengths in just over 19 minutes. They also won both reserve races to complete a clean sweep.    It is the first time Cambridge have won all four races in the same year since 1997.

Cambridge men’s chief coach Steve Trapmore, who is leaving his role to take up a new post with the British Olympic rowing programme, said: “It’s been a long year. Every year we review what we have done and try to make it better.  “I really wanted the boys to do well and they stepped up. They took it by the scruff of the neck from stroke one and I’m really pleased they went and fulfilled their potential.”

Oxford president Iain Mandale said: “I think the guys did a really good job – Cambridge were just quite a good crew. It’s not always easy to lose and say it was a good performance but there we are.”  Mandale denied a late change to their line-up – caused by Josh Bugajski’s absence with gastroenteritis – was a key factor.

The convincing win by Cambridge’s men followed a dominant display by the women, who extended their overall number of victories to 43 against Oxford’s 30.  Having triumphed last year by 11 lengths in a course record of 18 minutes 33 seconds, it is the first time this century that Cambridge’s women have won in consecutive years.

20 March

Probably the best joke so far in 2018
Q
  What is it called, when a cat wins a dog show?
A  A-cat-has-trophy

17 March

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Many myths and legends surround the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. So much about St. Patrick is based on legend, that we cannot even be sure when, and where, he is born. We do know that Patrick is born somewhere in Britain, probably near the end of the fourth century.

As a young boy, likely living in Britain with wealthy parents, Patrick is not yet known by the name which has made him famous for thousands of years. Before he becomes Patricius (meaning “Father of the Citizens), which later evolves into Patrick, the boy goes by his birth name – Maewyn Succat.

Patrick is kidnapped at the age of 16 by a group of Irish raiders. During his captivity, Patrick has plenty of time to think – and pray. As he himself tells us, during these years of isolation from his family, he finds God. Patrick spends 6 years as a slave and is forced to work as a shepherd.

Patrick has a dream – one of several which change his life. This time, he senses a voice telling him to leave his captors. After he escapes his life as a slave-shepherd, Patrick tries to return back to his home country of Britain. Back at home, Patrick has a dream of returning to Ireland and responds to that vision by becoming an apostle to the Irish people. Patrick’s approach to life is simple – believe in God and do His will – and he shares this message with the people of Ireland.

As a priest, he wanted to preach the gospel to as many people as possible.  Although he never was canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church, Patrick would have taken delight in being adopted as the patron saint of Ireland by the Irish people themselves.

Did St. Patrick rid Ireland of snakes? Did Patrick use shamrocks to teach people about the Trinity?   Who cares, it’s a good craic!

 

6 Nations Rugby
England 15    Ireland 24
Ireland won the tournament.  And the Grand Slam!

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12 March

How to take a telephone call

Leaving messages on the phone

 To introduce yourself on the telephone:

  • This is Ken
  • Hello, Ken speaking

If you’d like to reply more formally, use your full name:

  • This is Jennifer Smith speaking
  • Hello, Jennifer Smith speaking.

If you are answering for a business, just state the business name and ask how you can help:

  • Good morning, Thomson Company. How may I help you?

Sometimes, you’ll need to find out who is calling. Ask them politely for this information:

  • Excuse me, who is this?
  • Can I ask who is calling, please?

Connecting someone

If you answer the phone, you might need to connect the caller to someone at your business.

Here are some useful phrases:

  • I’ll put you through (put through – phrasal verb meaning ‘connect’)
  • Can you hold the line? Can you hold on a moment?

When someone is not available

These phrases can be used to express that someone is not available to speak on the telephone.

  • I’m afraid … is not available at the moment
  • The line is busy… (when the extension requested is being used)
  • Mr. Jackson isn’t in… Mr. Jackson is out at the moment…

Taking a message

If someone isn’t available, you might want to take a message to help the caller.

  • Could (Can, May) I take a message?
  • Could (Can, May) I tell him who is calling?
  • Would you like to leave a message?

8 March

Happy International Women’s Day!

A special day for a special woman. Mary Wollstonecraft  (April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.  Some say she was the first Champion of women

220px-Mary_Wollstonecraft_by_John_Opie_(c._1797)

An Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the French Revolution ; and the Effect it has produced in Europe (1794) is Mary Wollstonecraft’s one work of history.  She wrote it while staying in France, from December 1792 to April 1795, at a time when it was dangerous to express reservations about the revolutionary government.  It was also a time when there were very few women writing books of history

After Wollstonecraft’s death, her widower (William Godwin) published a Memoir (1798) of her life, revealing her unorthodox lifestyle, which inadvertently destroyed her reputation for almost a century. However, with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, Wollstonecraft’s advocacy of women’s equality and critiques of conventional femininity became increasingly important. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and work as important influences. Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft’s life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died at the age of 38, eleven days after giving birth to her second daughter, leaving behind several unfinished manuscripts. This daughter, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, became an accomplished writer herself, as Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.

6 March

What kind of key opens a banana?
A  A monkey

Create as many words as you can from the word-wheel.  Each word must contain at least 3 letters.  For those of you, who like a real challenge, the central hub letter must be used in each word.  Let me know how you get on.

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Good luck!

3 March

Some / Any Rules

Here are the rules for the use of ‘some’ and ‘any’ in positive and negative sentences, as well as in questions. Notice that ‘some’ and ‘any’ are used for both countable and uncountable (non count) nouns. Once you have studied the rules, take the follow up quiz to check your understanding.

Some

Use ‘some’ in positive sentences. We use ‘some’ with both countable and uncountable nouns.

I have some friends.
She wants some ice cream.

Any

Use ‘any’ in negative sentences or questions. We use any for both countable and uncountable nouns.

Do you have any cheese?
Did you eat any grapes after dinner?
He doesn’t have any friends in Chicago.
I don’t wont any trouble.

We use ‘some’ in questions when offering or requesting something that is there.

Would you like some bread? (offer)
Could I have some water? (request)

Words with Some

Words such as ‘somebody’, ‘something’, ‘somewhere’ which include ‘some’ follow the same rules. Use ‘some’ words – somebody, someone, somewhere and something – in positive sentences.

He lives somewhere near here.
He needs something to eat.
Peter wants to speak to someone at the store.

Words with Any

Words with ‘any’ such as: ‘anybody’, ‘anyone’, ‘anywhere’ and ‘anything’ follow the same rule and are used in negative sentences or questions.

Do you know anything about that boy?
Have you spoken to anyone about the problem?
She doesn’t have anywhere to go.
They didn’t say anything to me. 

28 February

‘Any’ and ‘some’ are used in positive and negative statements as well as in questions. Generally speaking, ‘any’ is used in questions and for negative statements while ‘some’ is used in positive statements.

Is there any milk in the fridge?
There aren’t any people in the park today.
I have some friends in Chicago.

There are exceptions, however, to this rule. Here’s an explanation of how to use ‘any’ and ‘some’ correctly.

Read the conversation below:

Barbara: Is there any milk left?
Katherine: Yes, there is some in the bottle on the table.
Barbara: Would you like some milk?
Katherine: No, thank you. I don’t think I’ll drink any tonight. Could I have some water, please?
Barbara: Sure. There is some in the fridge.

In this example, Barbara asks ‘Is there any milk left?’ using ‘any’ because she doesn’t know if there is milk or not. Katherine responds with ‘some milk’ because there is milk in the house. In other words, ‘some’ indicates that there is milk. The questions ‘would you like some’ and ‘could I have some’ refers to something that exists that is offered or requested.

Barbara: Do you know anybody who comes from China?
Katherine: Yes, I think there is someone who is Chinese in my English class.
Barbara: Great, could you ask him some questions for me?
Katherine: No problem. Is there anything special you want me to ask?
Barbara: No, I don’t have anything in particular in mind. Maybe you could ask him some questions about life in China. Is that OK?
Katherine: Sure. 

The same rules apply in this conversation, but are used for words made using ‘some’ or ‘any’. The question ‘Do you know anybody’ is used because Barbara doesn’t know if Katherine knows a person from China. Katherine then uses ‘someone’ to refer to a person she knows. The negative form of ‘anything’ is used in the sentence ‘I don’t have anything’ because it is in the negative.

We will finish looking at the use of ‘some’ and ‘any’ on the 3 March

25 February

Every Feb. 5, Nutella aficionados worldwide take to social media to celebrate World Nutella Day, composing songs, hosting parties and posting pictures of the sinfully sumptuous hazelnut and chocolate spread on everything from pancakes to pizzas to pastries.

This year’s event was particularly notable, as the “Nutella riots” had surprised the world just 11 days earlier. A French grocery chain slashed Nutella prices by 70%, leading to brawls, injuries, and an “orgy” of shopping madness. The uproar was so extreme that the French government began an investigation to see if consumer laws for discounting merchandise had been broken.

It was all for a spread that’s more palm oil and sugar than hazelnut (13%) and chocolate (7%) – but nonetheless saw astounding global sales of $2.46 billion in 2013. 180 million kilograms of Nutella are manufactured annually, hogging a quarter of the world’s entire hazelnut supply. In fact, Nutella has made its owners – the Ferrero family – so wealthy they recently bought Nestle; they claim to manufacture the same number of Tic Tacs in four years as stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

The meteoric rise of Nutella, and the devotion it inspires, is even more fascinating when one considers that this decadent chocolate-nut butter is actually a direct result of wartime shortages and rationing. Nutella was inspired by a confectioner’s compromise called “gianduja,” invented in Turin, Italy, in the early 1800s when there was a shortage of cocoa due to restrictions imposed by Napoleon.

During World War II, when cocoa was once again in short supply, a pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero improved on the recipe, using the abundant supply of prized, local hazelnut paste. According to Nutella, the blend was made in solid loaves wrapped in tinfoil, to be sliced and smeared on bread – and was about 2/3 hazelnut paste and 20% cocoa. Ferrero’s son Michele tinkered once again with the recipe, turned it into a cream, packaged it in a jar, and named it “Nutella.” He became so wealthy he commuted by helicopter every day from his Monte Carlo villa to Alba in northwest Italy. Today the company is the third-largest confectioner in the world.

22 February 

It is commonly (wrongly) believed in the UK that the last time the French landed by armed force on British soil was nearly 1000 years ago, when in 1066 Guillaume le Conquérant popped over to say hello.  Most people would be surprised to learn about The Battle of Fishguard, which was a military invasion of Great Britain by revolutionary France during the war of the First Coalition  The brief campaign, on 22–24 February 1797, is the most recent landing on British soil by a hostile foreign force, and thus is often referred to as the “last invasion of Britain”. The French General Lazare Hoche had devised a three-pronged attack on Britain in support of the Society of United Irishmen. Two forces would land in Britain as a diversionary tactic, while the main body would land in Ireland. Adverse weather and ill-discipline halted two of the forces but the third, aimed at landing in Wales and marching on Bristol, went ahead.

After brief clashes with hastily assembled British forces, led by Lord Cawdor, and the local civilian population, the invading force’s commander, Colonel William Tate, was forced into unconditional surrender on 24 February. In a related naval action, the British captured two of the expedition’s vessels, a frigate and a corvette.

Royal Oak Pub in Fishguard, where Lord Cawdor set up his headquarters

300px-Royal_Oak_Pub,_Fishguard,_Wales,_UK

20 February

Knock, Knock
Who’s there?
Lettuce
Lettuce who?
Lettuce in, it’s freezing out here

—————————————————-

Can you change the word DOOR on the top rung of the ladder to BELL on the bottom rung?  Step down each rung of the ladder, altering one letter of the word on every step, to enter a new word on each rung.

DOOR
_____
_____
_____
_____
BELL

Let me know if you need the answer!

17 February

Fill in the gaps in this paragraph with the prepositions – in, on, at or to. After you finish, look at the answers below

  1.  Janet was born _____Windsor _____ December 22nd _____ 3 o’clock _____ the morning.
  2. Windsor Castle is _____ the state of Berkshire _____ the United Kingdom.
  3. She goes _____ classes _____ the university.
  4. She usually arrives _____ the morning _____ 8 o’clock.
  5. _____ weekends, she likes driving _____ her friend’s house _____ Wales .
  6. Her friend lives _____ Cardiff
  7. She usually arrives _____ 9 _____ the evening and leaves _____ Sunday morning.
  8. _____ Saturday, they often meet friends _____ a restaurant.
  9. _____ night, they sometimes go _____ a disco.
  10. _____ the summer, _____ July for example, they often go _____ the countryside.

Quiz Answers

  1. Janet was born in Windsor on December 22nd at 3 o’clock in the morning
  2. Windsor is in Berkshire in the United Kingdom.
  3. She goes to classes at the university.
  4. She usually arrives in the morning at 8 o’clock.
  5. On weekends, she likes driving to her friend’s house in Wales.
  6. Her friend lives in Cardiff.
  7. She usually arrives at 9 in the evening and leaves on Sunday morning.
  8. On Saturday, they often meet friends at a restaurant.
  9. At night, they sometimes go to a disco.
  10. In the summer, in July for example, they often go to the countryside.

14 February

Happy Valentine’s Day!

images

13 February

rs7767_thinkstockphotos-638814166-low

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is a special day celebrated in many countries around the world. It is celebrated in English-speaking countries like the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada. In France, the USA and other countries, it is called ‘Mardi Gras’ or ‘Fat Tuesday’. In others like Spain, Italy or Brazil, Shrove Tuesday is at the end of Carnival. On this day many people eat pancakes: thin, flat cakes made in a pan.

Pancake Day is always on a Tuesday in February or March. It is the day before Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter when people often give up or stop eating things that are bad for them like chocolate or fast food. At the end of Lent is Easter. Easter takes place on a different date each year because it depends on the moon. Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring. Traditionally, during Lent, people didn’t eat rich foods like butter and eggs, so to use them up they made pancakes from these ingredients on Shrove Tuesday.

Another tradition on Pancake Day in the UK is pancake racing. People run in a race with a pancake in a pan. As they run, they have to toss the pancake (throw the pancake in the air and catch it in the pan) several times. In some pancake races people dress up in fancy dress costumes. The most famous pancake race takes place in a town called Olney, in the middle of England. People say that Olney has been celebrating pancake races since 1445!

Pancakes are very easy to make. Try our recipe.

Ingredients:

  • One cup of flour
  • One cup of milk
  • One large egg
  • Some salt
  • Some butter or oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Some sugar

10 February

Phrasal and prepositional Verbs

I think that one of the more complicated aspects of the English Language is the common practice of using a preposition to vary the meaning of a verb.

Phrasal Verbs consist of verb + adverb or verb + preposition. The meaning of these combinations is mostly very different from the verb and the adverb or preposition alone.

Let’s inspect the verb look. Together with adverbs or prepositions the phrases have new meanings. Study the following examples:

  • lookafter – He often looks after his brother. (to take care of somebody or something)
  • lookback – My grandfather likes to look back on his childhood. (to think about something in the past)
  • lookdown – They look down on her because she didn’t study at a university. (to think that somebody is not as as good as others)
  • lookfor – I’m looking for my watch. (to try to find somebody or something)
  • lookforward to – She always looks forward to meeting him. (to be excited about something that is going to happen)
  • lookin – Could you look in on Peggy when you are in town? (to make a short visit)
  • lookout (for) – Look out for George while you are in the club. (to try to spot somebody or something)
  • lookover – Could you look over my report, please? (to review something )
  • lookup – You should look up the word in a dictionary. (to look for information – online or offline)

Phrasal Verbs

These verbs consist of verb + adverbPhrasal Verbs can stand alone (intransitive verbs) or they can be used together with an object.

  • Watch out. There is a bike coming.

If there is an adverb in the sentence the phrasal verb can be put before or after the object.

  • He picked the broken car upor
  • picked up the broken car.

If you use the pronounit for the phrase the broken car, the pronounhas to go between the verb and the adverb.

  • picked it up.

Prepositional Verbs

These verbs consist of verb + preposition. The object has to go after the preposition. The object must not go between the verb and the preposition. Prepositional Verbs cannot be separated.

  • correct: the often looks at his photos
  • incorrect: he often looks his photos at

7 February

Tongue twisters are a great way to practice and improve fluency.  Time yourself to see how quickly you can say these 3 popular traditional twisters, while also properly pronouncing each and every word.  If you can master them, you will be doing better than me.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Betty Botter bought some butter
But she said the butter’s bitter
If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter
But a bit of better butter will make my batter better
So ‘twas better Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter

The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick.

4 February

Happy Birthday to me!   I happen to share my birthday with the Jacques Prévert.  So what better way to celebrate today……. than sharing the poem ‘ Barbara ‘.  Your thoughts on the English translation?

Rappelle-toi Barbara
Il pleuvait sans cesse sur Brest ce jour-là
Et tu marchais souriante
Épanouie ravie ruisselante
Sous la pluie
Rappelle-toi Barbara
Il pleuvait sans cesse sur Brest
Et je t’ai croisée rue de Siam
Tu souriais
Et moi je souriais de même
Rappelle-toi Barbara
Toi que je ne connaissais pas
Toi qui ne me connaissais pas
Rappelle-toi
Rappelle-toi quand même ce jour-là
N’oublie pas
Un homme sous un porche s’abritait
Et il a crié ton nom
Barbara
Et tu as couru vers lui sous la pluie
Ruisselante ravie épanouie
Et tu t’es jetée dans ses bras
Rappelle-toi cela Barbara
Et ne m’en veux pas si je te tutoie
Je dis tu à tous ceux que j’aime
Même si je ne les ai vus qu’une seule fois
Je dis tu à tous ceux qui s’aiment
Même si je ne les connais pas
Rappelle-toi Barbara
N’oublie pas
Cette pluie sage et heureuse
Sur ton visage heureux
Sur cette ville heureuse
Cette pluie sur la mer
Sur l’arsenal
Sur le bateau d’Ouessant
Oh Barbara
Quelle connerie la guerre
Qu’es-tu devenue maintenant
Sous cette pluie de fer
De feu d’acier de sang
Et celui qui te serrait dans ses bras
Amoureusement
Est-il mort disparu ou bien encore vivant
Oh Barbara
Il pleut sans cesse sur Brest
Comme il pleuvait avant
Mais ce n’est plus pareil et tout est abimé
C’est une pluie de deuil terrible et désolée
Ce n’est même plus l’orage
De fer d’acier de sang
Tout simplement des nuages
Qui crèvent comme des chiens
Des chiens qui disparaissent
Au fil de l’eau sur Brest
Et vont pourrir au loin
Au loin très loin de Brest
Dont il ne reste rien.
Remember Barbara
It rained all day on Brest that day
And you walked smiling
Flushed enraptured streaming-wet
In the rain
Remember Barbara
It rained all day on Brest that day
And I ran into you in Siam Street
You were smiling
And I smiled too
Remember Barbara
You whom I didn’t know
You who didn’t know me
Remember
Remember that day still
Don’t forget
A man was taking cover on a porch
And he cried your name
Barbara
And you ran to him in the rain
Streaming-wet enraptured flushed
And you threw yourself in his arms
Remember that Barbara
And don’t be mad if I speak familiarly
I speak familiarly to everyone I love
Even if I’ve seen them only once
I speak familiarly to all who are in love
Even if I don’t know them
Remember Barbara
Don’t forget
That good and happy rain
On your happy face
On that happy town
That rain upon the sea
Upon the arsenal
Upon the Ushant boat
Oh Barbara
What a bloody stupid war
Now what’s become of you
Under this iron rain
Of fire and steel and blood
And he who held you in his arms
Amorously
Is he dead and gone or still so much alive
Oh Barbara
It’s rained all day on Brest today
As it was raining before
But it isn’t the same anymore
And everything is wrecked
It’s a rain of mourning terrible and desolate
Nor is it still a storm
Of iron and steel and blood
But simply clouds
That die like dogs
Dogs that disappear
In the downpour drowning Brest
And float away to rot
A long way off
A long long way from Brest
Of which there’s nothing left.

1 February

What happened when the wheel was invented
A  There was a revolution

name-for-words-that-we-repeat.jpg

Words we always use even though they add no meaning or value to a sentence are called crutch words. For example, in the sentence “Then I was like, OMG, then like, he went there, and like…” it is pretty obvious that “like” is the crutch word. “Actually,” “honestly,” and “basically” are also commonly used as crutch words.

And then there are the lazy words.  Ones that we repeatedly litter our conversations with.  A good example is the word ‘ nice ‘.  Should you be tempted to use it, ask yourself firstly if there is a more appropriate word instead.  There often is!

28 January

11-18-610x341Windsor Castle (in the English county of Berkshire)  is still being used by the royal family, which makes it the oldest royal residence in the world.

___________________________________________________________________________________

Can you change the word CAFE on the top rung of the ladder to FOOD on the bottom rung?  Step down each rung of the ladder, altering one letter of the word on every step, to enter a new word on each rung.

CAFE
_____
_____
_____
_____
FOOD

Good luck!

26 January

TMP_NEC_250115BurnsNight01JPG

Every year on the 26 January year Scotland honours its national poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), on his birthday.

Burns wrote over 550 poems in the second half of the 18th century and remains an icon of the Romantic period and a hero for his liberal and socially-minded political outlook.

The centrepiece of the Burns Night festivities remains the noble haggis – a delicacy comprised of a sheep’s heart, liver and lungs boiled with mincemeat, suet and onions in its own stomach.

But before the haggis, neeps and tatties can be tucked into, they must be toasted.

Burns himself wrote a poem ideally suited to this purpose, ‘Address to a Haggis’, an ode it has since become the custom to recite before the meal commences.

For those whose memory needs jogging, the text of the first few lines of the address, written in Burns’s inimitable dialect, is below (with an English translation to follow for the uninitiated).

‘Address to a Haggis’ (1787)

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face, 

Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

Painch, tripe, or thairm:

Weel are ye worthy o’ a grace

As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,

Your hurdies like a distant hill,

Your pin wad help to mend a mill

In time o need,

While thro your pores the dews distil

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,

An cut you up wi ready slight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like onie ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

, —————

 English translation

Good luck to you and your honest, plump face,

Great chieftain of the sausage race!

Above them all you take your place,

Stomach, tripe, or intestines:

Well are you worthy of a grace

As long as my arm.

The groaning trencher there you fill,

Your buttocks like a distant hill,

Your pin would help to mend a mill

In time of need,

While through your pores the dews distill

Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour wipe,

And cut you up with ready slight,

Trenching your gushing entrails bright,

Like any ditch;

And then, O what a glorious sight,

………………….

January 23

In the UK, accents change noticeably about every 40 km

19-18-610x615

January 18

A Pangram is a sentence, which contains all letters of the alphabet.  The challenge is to keep the sentence to as short as is possible.  Probably the most well known example in the English Language is:
‘ The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog ‘
Have a go at creating one yourself.

January 15

Every day, the British drink 165 million cups of tea, which is over 20 times more than the Americans.

24-19-610x457.jpg

12 January

Can you change the word FIRE at the top of the ladder to BALL at the bottom?  Step down each rung of the ladder, altering one letter of the word in order to make a new word.

FIRE
_____
_____
_____
BALL

9 January

Sue and I tomorrow are driving to the UK to visit our family.  We will travel by car for about 5 hours to Dieppe, where we will take the lorry and car ferry, which is a 4 hour sea crossing to Newhaven.  From there we will drive for another 2 hours to Michael’s home which is near Reading.

The ferry from Dieppe to Newhaven was the original channel crossing route for the rail line linking Paris to London.  And now the Avenue Verte London – Paris is a cycle route stretching 406 km. The French section, linking Paris to the Channel port of Dieppe, measures 246 km. It follows special traffic-free greenways (voies vertes), plus some tracks shared with motorists.

The British part of the route uses the National Cycle Network, in particular routes 2, 21 and 20. The website of the cycling organisation Sustrans offers a very detailed map of the route, along with an app: http://www.sustrans.org.uk

Another wonderful joint enterprise between the British and French in creating a green link joining our two great capital cities together by a fabulous bicycle route

6 January

With an area of 242,500 sq km (93,600 sq mi), the UK is quite a large country, but in fact, nowhere in it is more than just 113 km (70 mi) from the sea.

25-18-610x406

3 January

Q   Waiter, will my pizza be long?
A   No sir, it will be round

 When do doctors get really angry?
A   When they run out of patience

1 January 2018

I wish you a happy and healthy New Year.

 

29 December 2017

 I hope you have had a happy Christmas.

A few days ago we said we would examine how good your English vocabulary already is, if you are French.  If you combine the new words you are learning daily with the huge number of words you already know, you are taking your huge steps in your journey towards fluency.

Cognates are words from two languages that are the same or similar. Because English borrows many words from Latin and French, you as a French speaker simply just need to be made aware of the huge English vocabulary you already know.

The easy trick is to learn the following 10 French word endings, which identify the French/English cognates.

Cognate Rule 1

Words that end in –al are usually the same in French. However, this rule does not apply to words ending in -ical, which follow a different cognate rule.

Examples

English French
Animal Animal
Central Central
Final Final
Ideal Ideal
International International
Mental Mental
Original Original

 Cognate Rule 2

Words that end in –ance are usually the same in French.

Examples

English French
Distance Distance
Arrogance Arrogance
Importance Importance
Intolerance Intolerance
Perseverance Persévérance
Substance Substance
Ambulance Ambulance
Finance Finance 

Cognate rule 3. Words that end in -ary change to -aire.

Examples

English French
Anniversary Anniversaire
Dictionary Dictionnaire
Imaginary Imaginaire
Salary Salaire
Vocabulary Vocabulaire

Words ending in -ist change to -iste in French.

Examples

English French
Tourist Touriste
Dentist Dentiste
Artist Artiste
Cyclist Cycliste
Pessimist Pessimiste

Cognate Rule 5

Words that end in -ble are usually the same in French.

Examples

English French
Adorable Adorable
Flexible Flexible
Horrible Horrible
Impossible Impossible
Visible Visible

Cognate Rule 6

Nouns ending in -tion generally have the same ending in French

Examples

English French
Information Information
Conversation Conversation
Tradition Tradition
Station Station
Celebration Célébration

Cognate Rule 7

Words that end in -ct are usually the same in French

Examples

English French
Correct Correct
Contact Contact
Respect Respect
Direct Direct
Impact  Impact

Cognate Rule 8  Words that end in -ent are usually the same in French.

Examples

English French
President President
Urgent Urgent
Client Client
Different Different
Monument Monument

 Cognate Rule 9

Words ending in -ical change to -ique,

Examples

English French
Electrical Électrique
Critical Critique
Identical Identique
Practical Pratique
Typical Typique

Cognate Rule 10

Words ending in -ence have the same ending in French.

Examples

English French
Science Science
Violence Violence
Experience Expérience
Intelligence Intelligence
Patience Patience

Wow!  You really do know a lot more than you realise!  Catch you again in a couple of days time.    Gordon

24 December 2017  Christmas Eve

À MOST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE ARE FROM OTHER EUROPEAN LANGUAGES

601px-Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg

If you are French: try these maths!

  • 12000 = typical total vocabulary of an English person
  • 40% =  estimated percentage of words commonly used
  • 12000 x 40% = 4800 = number of words for fluency
  • 29% =  amount of English language, that comes from French
  • 12000 x 29% = 3480 English words that you already know

Let’s evaluate more clearly how much English you already know (but do not yet realise it) after Xmas.

Bonne Fête

21 December 2017

My students are clever

I recently asked a student where his homework was. He replied, “It’s still in my pencil.”

France wins ‘ Country of the Year ‘

 The Economist magazine has named France as country of the year, just pipping South Korea to the title. And the Economist says that most of the credit goes to Emmanuel Macron.

For the last few years the UK’s economically liberal The Economist magazine has been picking its “Country of the Year”.

Up until 2017, France never troubled these judges. But then along came Emmanuel Macron.

Perhaps its no surprise a pro-free trade, liberal, globalisation supporting magazine chose France in the year a pro-globalisation, economically liberal, progressive 39-year-old (40 on Thursday) became the president of a country after five years of near-stagnation under a Socialist leader.

But here’s why France beat South Korea and Argentina, according to The Economist:

‘  In 2017 France defied all expectations. Emmanuel Macron, a young ex-banker who had no backing from any of the traditional parties, won the presidency.

Then La République En Marche, Mr Macron’s brand-new party full of political novices, crushed the old guard to win most of the seats in the National Assembly.

This was not merely a stunning upset. It also gave hope to those who think that the old left-right divide is less important than the one between open and closed.

Mr Macron campaigned for a France that is open to people, goods and ideas from abroad, and to social change at home.

In six months he and his party have passed a series of sensible reforms, including an anti-corruption bill and a loosening of France’s rigid labour laws.

Critics mock Mr Macron’s grandiosity (calling his presidency “Jupiterian” was a bit much).

They carp that his reforms could have gone further, which is true. Perhaps they forget how, before he turned up, France did not look reformable —offering voters a choice between sclerosis and xenophobia.

The struggle between the open and closed visions of society may well be the most important political contest in the world right now. France confronted the drawbridge-raisers head on and beat them. For that, it is our country of the year.  ‘

19 December 2017

You think English is easy?
1) The bandage was
wound around the wound.
2) The farm used to
produce produce .
3) The dump was so full that it had to
refuse more refuse.
4) We must
polish the Polish furniture.

17 Dec 2017

Have you heard the one about:

Q  Which cheese is made backwards?
A  edam

Q  Which word reads the same upside-down?
A  swims

15 Dec 2017

Christmas crackers

Nope, we’re not talking about edible crackers (we call those biscuits for cheese, though). These are a very important staple at the Christmas dinner table. A Christmas cracker is a cardboard tube that resembles an oversized sweet wrapper. Two people grab either side of the cracker and pull it to make the cracker split in two. Whoever is holding the side still attached to the cracker’s centre-chamber gets to keep the contents — which usually include a corny joke, a small toy and a paper crown.

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