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

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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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:

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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

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

Pronunciation: English sounds

Pronunciation: English sounds
All levels

If you want to hear the individual sounds of English, you can use Adrian Underhill’s interactive phonemic chart. Just click on the symbol to hear the sound and an example word. There is also a great free app  Continue reading

Pronunciation: Silent ‘e’

Pronunciation: silent ‘e’
Elementary to Intermediate (A1-B1)

English pronunciation has changed over hundreds of years. Today you will often see a silent letter ‘e’ at the end of words. This ‘e’ often shows that the vowel sound in the syllable before it is long. Continue reading

Reading: choosing the right book to read

Reading: book level test (graded readers)
All levels

Reading is very important if you want to improve your English quickly. It shows you hundreds of examples of good grammar. It also teaches you a lot of vocabulary and expressions. Seeing the same words again and again will help you remember the words you learnt in the past. However, you need to find reading of the right level for you.   Continue reading

Pronunciation: Stressing and unstressing

Pronunciation: not stressing syllables
All levels

Effective English pronunciation is often about deciding which part of a word is important and which part or parts are not important. If a syllable is not important, we often change the standard vowel sound to something more relaxed. You should try to learn how to do this.  Continue reading

Reading: British weather

Elementary to Intermediate (A2-B2)

Britain doesn’t have the best reputation for weather. In some ways this is unfair because people sometimes think London is frequently foggy when in fact London is very rarely like this. Of course 70 years ago people burned a lot of coal to keep themselves warm and this produced some terrible smogs in the big cities. Continue reading

Pronunciation: Syllable stress practice

Pronunciation: syllable stress
Pre-intermediate to advanced level (A2-C2)

The highest mountain in Britain is Ben Nevis in Scotland. However I think the real mountains are in the language! Some students speak English with a flat accent but this makes their pronunciation very difficult to understand.  Continue reading

Vocabulary: A sporting week full of adverbs

Lower level (A1/A2)

You use the words in bold to talk about how often you do something:

Every Sunday morning I play golf with my friends. After the 18th hole we always have a large lunch and then go home. On Mondays I often play tennis with my cousin Susan at her sports club. If I don’t play tennis I watch horse racing on TV. Continue reading

Pronunciation: Which sound is different?

Pronunciation: vowel sounds
Elementary to intermediate level English (A2/B2)

English pronunciation is not very phonetic so it is useful to remember groups of words that have similar sounds. On each line 3 words have the same vowel sound but 1 is different. Which one is it? Continue reading

Writing: Organisation is key

Writing: organising 
Intermediate to higher level (B1-C1)

What is most important when you write? Is it grammar or vocabulary? In my opinion it is the organisation of sentences and paragraphs. Without a logical organisation, a piece of writing is often very difficult to read and understand.  Continue reading

Reading and listening: The boat race

Reading and listening
Intermediate level (B1-B2)

The annual Oxford and Cambridge boat race had to be stopped after an Australian protester swam in front of the boats. The race was restarted and Cambridge went on to win. What I don’t understand is why he needed to get so close to the boats and risk his life.

Listen Boat race

This famous university boat race started in 1829 after a challenge between 2 school friends. It takes place on the River Thames in West London every year. The course is 4.2 miles long – about 6.8 km. So far Cambridge have won 81 races and Oxford have only won 77. In 1877 it was a draw!

In its history there have been striking crew members and boats sinking so this years incident is just one of many.