Thursday, February 24, 2011

Glogs created by my 3º ESO students

These are some of the glogs that my 3º ESO students have made about an English-speaking country. As you can see, the quality is very good for 14-year-olds who are doing English as a second language, being French their first foreign language. Congratulations, class!
Read about the project here.
Glog by Carlos Ruiz

Glog by Lucía Ruiz Gil

Glog by Daniel López and José Mª Díaz

Monday, February 21, 2011

Languages and dialects

Learning a foreign language opens up new opportunities and gives you perspectives in the personal, professional and social fronts. In the world there are about 6000 languages and many more dialects. But, what is the difference between language and dialect?

A language is a system of communication that uses sounds, symbols and words in order to express a meaning or idea.
A dialect is a regional variety of a language and usually has different words, grammar or pronunciation from the language it is derived from.
Image in:

Originally, all the languages have once been dialects because they all come from other languages and with time, they start to develop in a different way from the original one by adding words of other languages that are spoken by neighbouring peoples or performing slight differences in pronunciation, etc.

Take latin, for example. At the same time they were conquering vast territories in Europe, Africa and Asia, the Romans imposed their language and made it the lingua franca, that is, the language that everybody had to speak if they wanted to be understood anywhere and by anybody. Most of the peoples they invaded took latin as their own language, but they didn't forget the old language they used to speak, and many of those words remained. Throughout the centuries, latin started to be spoken differently in the many regions that were once part of the Roman Empire. This was in part due to the influence of these pre-latin languages. Probably, in the sixth or seventh centuries a person living in Paris could understand a person living in Rome, but a few centuries later this became much more difficult and eventually impossible.
This means that the original language developed differently in the different regions, forming dialects that much later, when two people from those areas couldn't understand each other, were considered languages.

Another aspect that linguists consider essential about a language is literature. For some reason, some dialects start to develop culturally, and literary works are written in it, while others don't develop this aspect and are consigned to the spoken and not the written form. That's how some dialects become languages and others remain dialects for ever.
Romance languages.
Image in:

In the video below, Mr. Fawlty tries to communicate with Manuel, the Spanish waiter who can't speak English very well, but, unable to make himself understood, he starts to speak Spanish, which is even worse because his Spanish is really poor. He gets confused with Italian when he says “burro” for butter, and he doesn't know that “burro” in Spanish means “donkey”! When his wife remarks that he is supposed to speak Spanish, he replies that his Spanish is classic, while Manuel speaks just a dialect! What a cheek he's got!
Enjoy the video!

You may also like: Learning English can be fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rob or steal?

Both verbs have the same meaning but different structure:

rob someone of something
steal something from someone

As you can see, steal is used when we refer to the thing that is stolen, while rob is used when we refer to the person or place from which something has been stolen.
For example:
They stole $1 million from the bank.
They robbed the bank of $1 million.

Both sentences mean the same, but the first one emphasizes what has been stolen and the second one stresses who has been robbed.
A burglar breaking into a house

Other verbs that you can use with similar meaning:
  • burgle: to illegally enter a building and steal things from it.
Our neighbour's house was burgled last night.
  • break into: the same as burgle
Someone broke into our neighbour's house last night.
  • shoplift: to steal things from shops by hiding them.
Many people shoplift due to emotional problems.
  • Hold up: to threaten the people who work in a bank and then steal the money.
Yesterday, two men held up a bank but were finally caught by the police.
  • Mug: to attack and rob someone in the street.
The old lady was mugged by a young boy.
  • Snatch: to steal someone´s bag and then run away.
A man pushed her and snatched her bag.
  • Loot: to steal things from a shop or other places especially during a war or riot.
The rioters broke into and looted all the shops in the street.

Other words that refer to the people that steal or the crime of stealing are:

people that steal

the crime of stealing
thief/ thieves theft
robber robbery
burglar burglary/ break-in
shoplifter shoplifting
mugger mugging
looter looting

Now you can do this exercise to check what you have learnt.

Finally, listen to this song by The Smiths from the 1987 album "Louder than bombs".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

St. Valentine's Day

It's the middle of February and if we watch any TV at all, we are constantly reminded that St. Valentine's Day is coming near and... have you bought your loved ones a present to show them how much you love them? Well, if you haven't, they will give you plenty of advice as to what to buy.
image: 'Vintage valentine'

Some people say that this celebration was established by big department stores to improve the sales figures at this time of year when people are still suffering the shortage of money after the big expenses of the Christmas period. For others, it is a fabulous time to celebrate love and show their feelings in the form of cards or gifts. What cannot be denied is that many businesses make a fortune by selling cards, chocolates, romantic dinners and even diamonds. In this consumer society any idea to make you spend your money and keep the economy going is welcome. However, do we really need to have a day to show our love? Can your love be meassured by the amount of money you spend in a gift?

In the next quiz you can check how much you know about St Valentine's Day. Have a go and enjoy yourself!

So and such

So and such can be used as emphasizers, that is, words that help us put the stress on something.
So is used with adjectives or adverbs, while such is used with nouns (with or without adjectives).
This car goes so fast! (adverb)
He's so intelligent! (adjective)
He's such an intelligent man! (noun)
Image: 'the writing on the wall' by ugod

Notice that when such is followed by a countable singular noun, we must use a or an before it. If the noun is plural no article should be used.
Italy is such a beautiful country! (singular countable noun)
It's such an important book!
They are such interesting people! (people is plural, so there is no article before it)

Such can be used before a noun with no adjective if the noun has a gradable meaning that can be emphasised, like fun, mess, fool...
They are such fun to be with!
Your room is such a mess!

Expressions with so and such can be followed by that-clauses that show result or consequence.
It was so hot that we had to stop for a cold drink.
It was such a beautiful day that we decided to go out for a walk.

So can be used with much and many:
So much + uncountable nouns
You put so much salt in the soup that I cannot eat it.
So many + countable plural nouns
There are so many students in my class that it's difficult to hear the teacher.
Try these two exercises:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Project work for 3º ESO F

During this month the students of 3º ESO F will be working on a project about English-speaking countries. The idea is to use an interesting tool: Glogster. With Glogster you can create an interactive poster and make it public so that it can be seen anywhere in the world. Besides, glogs can be embedded in blogs and websites, and in them you can add photos, videos, podcasts, texts...
Have a look at this presentation:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Collocations: make and do

Do and make are two verbs with similar meanings, and sometimes it's difficult to choose one or the other.
Make often expresses the idea of creation:
Let's make a cake!
Do is used to talk about an activity without saying exactly what it is.
What are you doing?
Do is always used with something, anything, everything, nothing...
Come on, boys, do something!

In other cases there are no clear rules. We have to learn the different collocations.

A collocation is a combination of two or more words that happens very often in a language. These words are generally used together. For example, in English you can say: “I like strong tea”, where “strong tea” is a collocation, because both words tend to appear together. It's not usual to see a synonym for “strong” instead of this word: “powerful tea” cannot be said. So, language learners should try to use the correct collocations if they want to sound natural when speaking a foreign language.
That's what happens with do and make: we have to learn the collocations in which they appear. These are the most important:

one's duty the housework sure an offer
good harm arrangements a suggestion
business one's best a mistake a phone call
a favour research an appointment sense
the shopping the washing-up a promise the most of...
the dishes the homework love war

Have a look at this presentation and do the exercises at the end of it:

 Now you can do these exercises to see how much you have learnt:

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