Listen to the origin of English (and many other languages)

Listening: the origin of English (PIE)
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1) 

Studies suggest that the origin or roots of English, German, Spanish, Hindi, Russian and about 400 other languages come from what is called ‘Proto-Indo-European’ or ‘PIE’. Listen to what it might have sounded like here:

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Don’t let grammar be a big problem

Grammar: don’t let it be a big problem
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1) 

Learning English outside the UK, the US, Australia etc can often be about learning ‘grammar’. This makes people think you need to know ‘rules’ before you can speak or write. However, in my experience, a heavy focus on a grammar problem can stop people learning and communicating. Continue reading

Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year

Vocabulary: ‘Post-truth’ – word of the year
Intermediate to advanced level (B2-A2)

Oxford Dictionaries word of the year is ‘post-truth’. You can see it used in the phrases ‘post-truth politics’ and ‘post-truth world’. It refers to situations where public opinion is shaped less by ‘objective truth’ than by beliefs and opinions.  Continue reading

Reading: Who goes to Oxford University?

Reading: Who goes to Oxford University?
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

This year just over 40% of undergraduate places at Oxford University went to UK students who attended independent schools. In 2005, the figure was 48% and in 1995 it was almost 52%, and if you go back to 1961, it was a little over 65%. Continue reading

Grammar: The subjunctive

Grammar: the subjunctive. Where and what is it?
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

Every language has developed over time. Modern English is simpler than older versions but contains some features from the past. With ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’, the verb form might occasionally surprise you. Continue reading

Reading: Getting close to the EU referendum

Reading: the EU referendum
Intermediate to lower advanced level (B1-C1)

On 23 June this year, a referendum will take place in the UK. The question to be voted on is: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” Continue reading

Adverbs for Cambridge English Advanced and IELTS interviews

Exam tips: the Cambridge English Advanced and IELTS interview
Upper intermediate to advanced levels (B2-C1)

You only have a short time to show how good your English is in the Cambridge English Advanced (CAE) or IELTS interview. How can you do it? Continue reading

Grammar: I’m loving it??

Grammar: loving, liking etc – advanced points
Upper intermediate to advanced level (B2-C2)

Some English verbs are not usually used in the continuous form. ‘Love’ and ‘like’ are two of them. For example:
A: On Saturday, there’s a Pink Floyd tribute band playing at the National Arena.
B. Really? I love Pink Floyd. Continue reading

Grammar: Perfect ‘tense’ – advanced points

Grammar: perfect ‘tense’ – advanced points
Upper intermediate to advanced level (B2-C2)

Hopefully, you will already be familiar with common perfect constructions such as: ‘Have you ever been to Moscow?’, ‘I’ve already bought a ticket.’ or ‘He said he hadn’t seen it.’. However, for higher level English you need to become familiar with some other points. Continue reading

Listening: A wide range of science podcasts

Listening: a wide range of science podcasts
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1/C2)

If you are interested in science, technology or medicine, you can stream or download a very large number of podcasts from the Naked Scientists, a team of scientists, doctors and communicators based at Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education (ICE). Science podcasts

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Vocabulary: ‘Among’ or ‘between’

Vocabulary: ‘among’ or ‘between’
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-A2)

Many learners wonder how to use these words correctly. Some people give the simple rule that you should use ‘between’ with two things/people and ‘among’ when you have more than two. However, in practice, it is a little different. Continue reading

Listening: Good website for podcasts

Listening: Good website for English podcasts
All levels

 

Here is a link to nearly 300 English podcasts from a teacher called Luke: 
These ones have full transcripts:  http://teacherluke.co.uk/episodes-with-transcripts/

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FCE writing tips

Cambridge First (FCE) writing tips
Upper intermediate level (B2)

Many people will be taking the Cambridge First exam this summer. To get ready you will probably need to write a lot of essays. An important tip is to keep a list of your most common FCE writing mistakes and check this list before you write. Continue reading

Reading: The General Election

Reading: the General Election
Intermediate Level (B1/B2)

On Thursday May 7th there will be a General (national) Election in the UK. Nowadays this takes place every five years. The electorate can vote for one candidate in their constituency (local parliamentary area). The winner in each constituency will become the local MP (Member of Parliament). Continue reading

Vocabulary: Mention – a great verb to know

Vocabulary: Mention – a great verb to know
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

The verb ‘mention’ is one of the verbs we can use to talk about what someone has said or is going to say. It’s really useful because using ‘tell’ or ‘say’ is not always appropriate. Let’s look at some examples: Continue reading

Grammar: Using the past perfect

Grammar: using the past perfect – some examples of when you should
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Many learners are a little confused about when they should use the past perfect in English (had taken, had told, had imagined etc). There are several reasons for this. Continue reading

Speaking: Checking you have understood correctly

Speaking: Expressions to check you have understood something correctly
Lower intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Even native speakers need to check that they have understood what they heard or read. To do this, you can use a range of expressions. Continue reading

Updated Cambridge English First and Advanced exams

Updated FCE and CAE for 2015
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

Cambridge English have made some changes to their First and Advanced exams. The biggest change is that now there will only be 4 papers instead of 5 because the Reading and Use of English are being put together in the same paper. Continue reading

Vocabulary: Approximate numbers

Vocabulary: approximate numbers
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C1)

When we communicate, we often want to use words or expressions that are approximate. This is common when we have to talk about numbers. This might be because we don’t know the exact numbers or amounts or because we don’t want to give them. Here are some of these words and expressions: Continue reading

Pronunciation: The ə sound in British English

Pronunciation: the ə sound
Elementary to advanced level (A2-C1)

The ə sound is everywhere in English. It’s almost impossible to speak British English for more than a few seconds and not use ə! It is not a letter but many vowels can be pronounced /ə/. Continue reading

Writing: Keeping essays simple and clear

Writing: keeping it simple and clear
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

Have you ever read a piece of writing and then asked yourself ‘What did that mean?’? I certainly have. I’m not talking about short emails from friends but rather longer, more complicated essays or reports. Continue reading

Vocabulary: Adjective, verb and noun combinations

Vocabulary: adjective, verb and noun collocations and website
Intermediate to advanced level (B1-C2)

Many English words are commonly used with certain other words and these become like mini-expressions. For example, if someone has a serious problem or is in serious difficulty, you can say ‘He is in deep trouble‘. However you can’t say ‘he is in heavy trouble‘. Only some combinations are used. Your language probably has similar combinations or collocations. Continue reading

Grammar: List of irregular verbs

Grammar: a list of irregular verbs in groups
All levels

Most irregular verbs are used a lot in English so they are important verbs to learn. In this list they are grouped, for example, by spelling or pronunciation. This should make them easier to remember. Continue reading