Short forms

It happens often that I have students who are very good at grammar, writing and speaking. However, when it comes to doing a listening task, they panic. Why is this?

The problem is that they expect to hear each and every word spoken clearly. The truth is, a native speaker doesn’t talk this way. Learners of English hear one, strange-sounding word but in reality it is three common words linked together. Let me give you some examples.

She would have come to the party => She’d’ve come to the party
We are going to travel by train => We’re gonna travel by train
They will have time to talk about it => They’ll’ve time to talk about it

This is the way be speak, folks, and that is why you must expose yourselves to the sounds of the language. Keep a radio station playing in the background while doing housework or spend 15 minutes every day listening to a YouTube clip. However you do it, make time to hear native speakers talk.

By the way, it’s also acceptable to write this way but not in formal situations, such as reports, applying for jobs, etc.

Use the language

If I had to learn your language, would I have similar problems with listening? Can you give a couple of examples?

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Here’s a photo of a LEMON:

Piaggio Fly 125 motor scooter.
Piaggio Fly 125 motor scooter.

No, I haven’t been having an alcoholic lunch. What you’re seeing in the photo is a lemon, which also happens to be a motor scooter. Do I have your attention? So here’s the story.

Some 2 years ago I bought a Piaggio Fly 125cc motor scooter with a lovely pearl white finish that changed colour depending on the sunlight. It was brand new, straight out of the showroom. A small engine but a great runaround bike, it was just what I was looking for. It was not what I bargained for however, because in the first 40 days it broke down 3 times. I was unfortunate enough to have bought a motor scooter that was a lemon.

Lemon can be used to describe something you buy which doesn’t work well. In the USA they actually have a Lemon Law to protect consumers who purchase faulty products. While if you are a fan of Meatloaf (the singer not the food), you will now better understand his song, “Life Is A Lemon & I Want My Money Back”. Here are some of the lyrics:

There’s always something going wrong
That’s the only guarantee
That’s what this is all about
It’s a never ending attack
Everything’s a lie, and that’s a fact
Life is a lemon and I want my money back!

Click the link to watch a live version of the full song: Meatloaf & Melbourne Symphony Orchestra – Life is a Lemon

Use the language

  • Have you ever bought anything which turned out to be a lemon?
  • What was it?
  • What did you do about it?

Write in and share your experiences.

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Tired of saying “good morning”?

It has always amused or annoyed me (depending on the mood) how some students can walk into the classroom for the first lesson of the day without even saying good morning to those present. They head to their favourite chair, sit down, take out their phone and have a silent conversation with its screen. I can understand that the person might not feel like talking to anyone so early in the day. However, something as basic as good morning doesn’t cost much energy to say.

To be clear, most do utter this greeting and I happily return it, even if it is harder when the morning falls on a Monday. In my 25 years of teaching, I must have said it tens of thousands of times. Now surely, in a language which is so rich in vocabulary, there must be another way of saying this classic greeting. In fact, folks, there is. To be clear, it is not at all common and probably many native speakers wouldn’t know it if you said it to them. That, though, is no excuse not to use it. If anything, it might be the start of an interesting conversation! From personal experience, I can say that I’ve seen it in written form a few times and once or twice heard it on the radio or TV. So, next time, instead of good morning, use …


Over to you …

Do you have different options for good morning in your languages? What are they and what is the word-for-word translation?

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Of doctors, bills and cooking

Doctors and medicine – maybe not fun topics to talk about but they will help me explain some words which students often get wrong.

Imagine you have a health problem and need to consult your doctor about it. She does the usual checks, makes a diagnosis and writes out the medication you need to take. This paper with the list of medicines and information on when to take them is a PRESCRIPTION. You take the prescription to the pharmacy and buy what you need. After paying, you are given another paper to show that you have paid for the items. This is a RECEIPT. Of course, it is not only at the chemist’s that you get a receipt. It can be from the supermarket, restaurant, mechanic or language school, amongst others.

Once back home it’s time for lunch. You want to cook something different, something new, but what? Then you remember that a friend had given you a piece of paper with instructions on how to prepare a typical Greek dish. This is a RECIPE; a cookery book is a collection of recipes.

Use the language

Have you got different words for prescription, receipt and recipe in your language?

How about sending in a favourite recipe of yours?

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On a small island such as mine (Malta), a common conversational topic when meeting someone new is about family. This is because with only 400,000 people, it’s very easy to find a connection.

A: I live in Xemxija.

B: Really? My aunt’s from there too.

A: Who is she?

B: Carol. She’s an aunt on my father’s side.

“She’s an aunt on my father’s side”. Hmm … I can use the word AGNATE and simply say “She’s an agnate aunt.”  What if you want to speak about a relative on your mother’s side? Then ENATE is the word to use. For example, “Simona is an enate cousin”, meaning  that Simona is a cousin on  my mother’s side.

Use the language

  • If you know another word which can be used instead of agnate or enate, post a comment to share it.

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ONE OF my friend woke up at 8.50am… “

That is taken from an essay written by one of my students and it contains a very common error.

Look carefully at what is written after “one of“, then see what I wrote with the same phrase.

It is just one of many examples I can give. Can you now work out what the rule is when using “one of“, giving some examples of your own?

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