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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VocaTube - Christmas Vocabulary on YouTube

VocaTube - Christmas Vocabulary on YouTube

First things first, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to every reader and follower of the blog! 2010 has been a very interesting year, from the first European countries being rescued due to the debt crisis to the ash-cloud that stopped the entire World.

Not everything has been bad in 2010; during this year there have been some major discoveries that will guarantee the future of humankind, like for instance some famous YouTube series on this blog, best known as VocaTube and GrammaTube (this is obviously written to add a touch of humour to close 2010) :)

We’d like to close 2010 with a last post from the VocaTube series (season finale and not series finale **) that contains a big variety of English vocabulary related to Christmas so you can start getting yourself into the Christmas spirit!

Remember that vocabulary can only be improved with practice and through listening repetitively. It’s difficult for everyone to understand from the beginning but you’ll notice that the more hours you listen, the better your understanding.

Essential Vocabulary explained through images with Christmas songs – elementary English



Link to the video on YouTube

More Basic English vocabulary where you can listen to its pronunciation – elementary English



Link to the video on YouTube

Subtitled video that shows a very typical Christmas song – elementary English



Link to the video on YouTube

Another entertaining Christmas song “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” – elementary English



Link to the video on YouTube

Excellent subtitled video where Mr Duncan explains vocabulary related to winter – intermediate English



Link to the video on YouTube

Good subtitled video about Christmas symbols – intermediate English



Link to the video on YouTube

Great subtitled video about the history of Santa Claus – intermediate English



Link to the video on YouTube

Another good subtitled video about Christmas origins – intermediate English



Link to the video on YouTube

What are the typical Christmas foods? Find it out in this excellent subtitled video – intermediate English



Link to the video on YouTube

To finish this post, a very funny video where a father and his son wish you a Happy Christmas! – advanced English



Link to the video on YouTube

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

** Season finale / last in the series: final episode of a season of a television program.
Series finale / final episode: refers to the last instalment of a television series.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tackling Tricky Homophones and Homonyms

Tackling Tricky Homophones and Homonyms

There are some words that sound exactly the same, but mean different things. These are known as homophones. Recognizing homophones is essential when it comes to gaining a better understanding of the English language, as there are several commonly used words that sound the same but have entirely different definitions and usages. To ensure that you are using these homophones correctly, you must first learn to recognize them.

Homophones are straight-forward due to the fact that numerous homophones are spelled differently, even though they may be pronounced the same. For example, while "knight" and "night" sound the same, the word "knight" refers to a warrior from the European Middle Ages, while the word "night" refers to the time of day when the sun is no longer present. Another example of homophones are the words "wave" and "waive," where the word "wave" refers to either the action of sweeping your hand back and forth or a swell on the water surface, while the word "waive" refers to the act of surrendering something. In both of these examples, the words are pronounced the same, but mean entirely different things. Some other common homophones to keep in mind are these:

"There," "they're," and "their" are often confused and misused. To keep yourself from using the wrong term in your sentence, remember what each of them mean. The word "there" indicates place and location, such as in the sentence "The bus is over there." The word "they're" is a contraction of the words "they are" and should only be used when you want to use those two words, such as in the sentence "They're waiting for the bus." Finally, the word "their" indicates possession and ownership, such as in the sentence "Their bus is late."

"Its" and "it's" are two other commonly confused and misused terms. Remember that "its" indicates possession and ownership, such as in the sentence "The dog chases its tail." On the other hand, the word "it's" is a contraction of the words "it is" and should only be used when you want to use those two words, such as in the sentence "It's chasing the ball."

Another thing that English learners should recognize is the homonym, which is a special type of homophone where the words not only sound the same, but they also are spelled the same. For example, the word "fawn" can either mean a baby deer or the action of behaving in an excessively doting manner. In both cases, they are pronounced and spelled identically, yet still have differing definitions. To deal with these, you simply need to look up the word that you are unsure about in the dictionary and apply the most relevant meaning of the word to the sentence. This way, you will better understand what the text is saying.

Some good resources for lists of homophones and homonyms include a Michigan State University study webpage, and an Earlham College webpage.

Having a good grasp of homophones is essential in effective English communication. Knowing different homophones will allow readers to accurately recognize the meaning of English texts in pamphlets, books, signs, and other reading materials. In writing, knowing different homophones will allow writers to use the correct words in the sentences they are constructing so that the correct meanings are conveyed. Memorizing the correct usage of common homophones like the ones mentioned in this article is a great way to tackle tricky homophones. Another tactic that can be used to understand homophones is to simply look up different words in the dictionary to ensure that you are using them correctly.

This guest post is contributed by Anna Miller, who writes on the topics of online degree programs. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: anna22.miller@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

GrammaTube - Comparative and Superlative Adjectives in English

GrammaTube - Comparatives and Superlatives Adjectives in English

Bigger or more big? What is the right form? If you’re not sure, don’t miss this new episode in the GrammaTube series.

In this new post we introduce several videos chosen from YouTube that will allow you to understand and properly use comparatives (bigger than) and superlatives (the biggest).

Grammar can be one of the most difficult skills to develop in English but it is without doubt the key to progress throughout your learning. A good grammar base will help you to write properly and speak in English, hence improving communication with other people.

Very good subtitled video where Learn American English explains how to use comparative adjectives



Link to the video on YouTube

Basic comparative and superlative explanation and exercises



Link to the video on YouTube

Subtitled video that explains the concept of adjective, comparative and superlative



Link to the video on YouTube

Excellent song to learn comparative adjectives in English



Link to the video on YouTube

Learn about comparatives and superlatives with this video containing questions and answers



Link to the video on YouTube

How to compare two things in English, using comparative adjectives



Link to the video on YouTube

Great grammar lesson on superlative adjectives (most, best ...)



Link to the video on YouTube

Interesting video about exceptions to the regular grammatical rules for comparatives and superlatives



Link to the video on YouTube

The World smallest and biggest things



Link to the video on YouTube
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Top 20 Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

Top 20 Most Common English Phrasal Verbs

You can radically improve your English fluency in a short time if you learn the most commonly used English phrasal verbs and start using them in your English conversations. And of course, the same applies on written communication! If you’re able to use phrasal verbs in your e-mails, for example, they’ll be much easier to read and understand!

So without a further ado, let’s get down to the business!

Bring up – means to mention something. You can tell your colleague, for example: “They didn’t bring up any of our suggestions in the meeting”.

Carry on – this phrasal verb is very similar to “go on”. Just like “go on” it means “to continue” but it’s usually used in phrases like “Let’s carry on” or “You can carry on without me”.

Chase up – a very handy way of saying “to find, to seek out”. For instance, you’ve been assigned a particular task, but some necessary files are missing. You can say “I’ll chase up those files” meaning you’ll go and see where those files are. You can also chase up a person – “I’ll chase up Frank because I need his help with homework and no-one else has an idea how to do it!”

Come across – to find something by chance or to encounter something unexpectedly. If you found an interesting article online and you’re telling your friend about it, you can say: “You know, I came across this article online where they’ve done research on…”

Come up with – this is a very useful phrasal verb if you usually find it hard to describe the fact when someone has told you about a new plan or a good idea. You might be struggling with phrases like – “He created a good plan” or “She produced a brand new solution” or even – “I devised a new idea on how to…” Native English speakers would simply say “She came up with a brand new solution” so you can start using this phrasal verb!

Fall apart – describes when something falls into pieces. Let’s say you’re wrapping an awkward package and you’re struggling with it. You can say “The whole thing just keeps falling apart, I can’t wrap it; can you help me?” This is another phrasal verb foreigners don’t normally use and if you start using it on similar occasions you’ll find it much easier to describe the situation!

Get along – means to have a good relationship with someone. You can say “Do you get along with Mary from the accounting?” if you want to ask that person if he/she is in good terms with Mary. Another sample sentence - “I don’t get along with Mark, I didn’t like him from the very first day I met him!”

Get away with – means to avoid being punished for not having done something or for breaching rules. A typical phrase you can start using right away is “Did you think you can get away with this?” if you’ve caught someone having done something you’re very unhappy about.

Get over – if you can’t accept something that’s happened in your life and you can’t stop thinking about it, you can say - “It’s very hard for me to get over it.” And if you want to lift someone’s spirits and say that it’s not such a big deal after all, you can say: “Common, get over it, it’s not as bad as it looks!”

Give up – use this phrasal verb when speaking about resolution you’ve stopped pursuing or expectations that are most likely to remain unfulfilled. “I gave up my New Year’s diet; I just couldn’t stick to it.” “I’ve given up hope of getting a better job.”

Go on! – This is a typical way of telling someone to begin a particular action or resume doing something. If you can’t wait on someone to start telling an interesting story, you’d exclaim in excitement – “Go on, go on!” You can also use “go on” if you, for instance, are writing down figures your co-worker is calling out for you. Every time you’re ready to put the next figure down you can use the phrasal verb “go on” to let your partner know that he can call out the next figure.

Hold on! – Literally “hold on” means to hold on to something. Most common use of this phrasal verb, however, is when you want to tell someone to stop doing something or to wait until you’re ready to proceed with the initial action. Foreigners usually use “Stop!” and “Wait!” instead; “hold on” is more natural in spoken English.

Look after – means “to take care of” and is used a lot in communications between supervisors and employees at work. Typically your boss would ask you “Can you look after this order for me?” So if you want to sound more natural and friendly, don’t say things like “I’m responsible for this customer”. “I’m looking after this customer” is the best way of putting it.

Look up – to find something in a phone book, on the Internet or any other reference media. This is a very handy phrasal verb to use in sentences like “Can you look up their address on the Net?”

Make out – to recognize, to distinguish details of something. “I just couldn’t make out what she was saying!” – you can say a phrase like this if the person in question spoke too fast, or with a distinct accent, or too quiet. Another sample sentence – “I can’t make out these details; can you help me with this, please?”

Pull over – if you drive a car, you can use this phrasal verb to describe an action of driving to the side of the road in order to stop. Typical application of this phrasal verb – “Can you pull over at the next petrol station?” Foreigners would most likely say “to stop at…” so if you start using “pull over” you’ll sound more natural when speaking English!

Put down – simply means “to write down.” “Hold on, I’ll put it down, let me just find a piece of paper!”

Put off – this is an informal way of saying “to postpone”, “to do later”. “I don’t want to clean my house today, I’ll put it off till tomorrow” would be a perfect example of this phrasal verb in use.

Turn up – means to arrive. You can inquire about your friend by asking “Has Michael turned up today?” if you haven’t seen him and you’re wondering if he’s come to work or school today at all.

Watch out! – you can use this phrasal verb if something endangers someone else’s safety and you want to bring that person’s attention to that object or activity. Foreigners usually use unarticulated sounds instead – like “Ahh!” or “Ohh!” simply because on occasions when a super-fast reaction is needed they can’t think of a fitting word or phrase to say.

Guest post from English learning enthusiast Robby Kukurs. Robby writes about improving spoken English on his blog EnglishHarmony.com. He also regularly posts videos about improving English fluency on his YouTube channel.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

GrammaTube - Learn the First, Second and Third Conditional with YouTube

GrammaTube

After the great reception that the VocaTube series have received (where we compile videos about a specific vocabulary topic on YouTube), we have decided to create GrammaTube, which follows the same principles but focusing on videos for learning, practising and improving English grammar.

Grammar can be one of the most difficult skills to develop in English but it is without doubt the key to progress throughout your learning. A good grammar base will help you to write properly and speak in English, hence improving communication with other people.

In this first post about the GrammaTube series we’re going to discuss conditionals (the first, second and third conditional). Conditionals are usually taught to students with an intermediate level of English. However, we encourage you to watch these videos even if your level of English is lower, as they are very educational and easy to follow.

Good video where conditionals are explained (IF, WILL, WOULD, WERE):



Link to the video on YouTube

Excellent explanation about the three English conditionals:



Link to the video on YouTube

Practice the first conditional with the following video:



Link to the video on YouTube

Learn the second conditional with real conversations:



Link to the video on YouTube

Funny video to learn the second conditional with sentences from “The Big Bang Theory” series:



Link to the video on YouTube

Subtitled video that shows lyrics from songs to illustrate the use of conditionals:



Link to the video on YouTube

JenniferESL explains the conditionals used in present (2a):



Link to the video on YouTube

Another great lesson about factual conditionals from JenniferESL (2b):



Link to the video on YouTube

Conditionals statements with “unless” detailed by JenniferESL (2c):



Link to the video on YouTube

JenniferESL explains unreal conditional statements in the present time (2d):



Link to the video on YouTube

JenniferESL gives an explanation of form and use of unreal conditionals in the past (2e):



Link to the video on YouTube

Exercises to practice unreal conditionals in the past by JenniferESL (2f):



Link to the video on YouTube
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Friday, December 3, 2010

I love Irish humour - Apartment to let in Dublin city centre

Irish people are known for being very social and friendly. They certainly are and they also have very good sense of humour.

To put you in context for this joke, daft.ie is Ireland's no. 1 property website. Taking advantage of the latest snows in Dublin, Mr Plow has decided to let his apartment for just 57€ per week.

Apt in Dublin

This studio is available immediately and its specifications are quite interesting:

Deceptively spacious open plan unfurnished studio in one of Dublin's top locations.

Carbon neutral, hand crafted Inuit design, beautiful ambient light leading to rooftop garden. The studio comfortably sleeps five.

Pets allowed, no parking.

Short term lease for is available the month of December. Owner is interested in selling if market warms up:
  • Central heating
  • Pets allowed
  • Wheelchair access
Visit datf.ie to see the full property ad (and learn related vocabulary in English)
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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

3 More Tips to Master English Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal Verbs 3

Some time ago, we discussed 3 powerful tips to learn English phrasal verbs. Today, we’re presenting 3 more tips that will help you mastering English phrasal verbs. Trust me, after putting into practice all these 6 tips, you’ll notice the improvement in your level of English! Following three tips are numbered from 4 to 6 as they should be used in combination with previous 3 tips already discussed.

Tip #4. Don’t translate phrasal verbs into your language when writing them into your pocket dictionary! Use other English words to explain them!

If you learn new phrasal verbs through your native language, you won’t get out of the translation mode when speaking English. It’s when you build a sentence in your native language in your head first, and then translate it into English. This advice is actually relevant when learning any new English words, so once you’ve acquired the basic English vocabulary, you’d better stop using your native language as reference.

You can always explain a new phrasal verb using very simple, basic English words and that way you’ll facilitate thinking in English which is crucial for your English fluency.

For example, a phrasal verb you’re learning is ‘to keep up’. Write it into your dictionary as part of a phrase ‘keep up with me’ and explain it using simple English – ‘to stay at the same level as me when walking or doing something.’

Tip #5. To choose which phrasal verbs to learn, you can simply start with a list of most commonly used ones. You can also look out for phrasal verbs in textbooks or other English texts you read and you’ll also definitely hear them in English songs, films and of course – newspapers. If you come across the same phrasal verb a number of times, it’s a pretty good indicator that it’s often used and therefore worth memorizing.

Also – when choosing in what context to learn a particular phrasal verb, go for a phrase you’ve heard in real life or read in newspaper. So for instance, if you hear someone saying: “Look who’s decided to turn up!”, you can learn the phrasal verb ‘to turn up’ in exactly this context because this phrase is usually used as a friendly joke when someone arrives later than expected.

Tip #6. Don’t start learning all phrasal verbs that are formed using a particular verb at once!

You’ll realize that every simple English verb can form plenty of phrasal verbs like ‘to get ahead’, ‘to get along’, ‘to get at’, ‘to get by’, ‘and to get down to’. If you try to learn them all one after another, you’ll definitely start mixing them up!

Although it may seem as a pretty good idea to learn all related phrasal verbs together, in reality it doesn’t work.

Instead go for phrasal verb selection based on what you hear in real life. And if you choose them from a list, pick random ones that aren’t grouped together by the main verb!

If you follow these tips and learn at least a couple of dozen of the most commonly used English phrasal verbs, you’ll definitely notice a significant increase of your spoken English fluency. That in turn will provide you with additional motivation to add even more of these multi-word verbs to your active English vocabulary!

Guest post from English learning enthusiast Robby Kukurs. Robby writes about improving spoken English on his blog EnglishHarmony.com. He also regularly posts videos about improving English fluency on his YouTube channel.
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