Monday, November 21, 2011

Phonetic Film Quiz #4

This week’s phonetic quiz is from a film written and directed by one of my favourite directors.  I will tell you which director, but only in phonetics.

So, here it is.  First the director’s name, then the actors’:

/ˈkrɪstəfə ˈnəʊlʌn/
/li:ʌˈnɑ:dəʊ dɪˈkæpri:əʊ/
/ken wætɪ'næbi:/
/'dʒəʊsɪf 'gɔ:dɪn 'levɪt/
/'elɪn peɪdʒ/
/tɒm 'ha:di:/
/'sɪli:yn 'mɜ:fi:/
/'mɑɪkəl keɪn/

There is also one other main actress in the movie but her name is French, which uses different pronunciation rules.  Here is the phonetics but these are not in the English phonetic system.

/maʁjɔ̃ kɔtijaʁ/ (Phonetics for French)

Remember to visit the Macmillan Interactive Phonetic Chart for help as well as this helpful video which explains the chart by Adrian Underhill.

Here are the answers.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are you ready for intermediate level English? pt 1

How good do you think your English is?  What level do you put yourself?  One of the scales of language assessment is the CEFR or Common European Framework of Reference.  If you see A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 or C2 on your English textbooks then that's what that means.  Common European Framework of Reference - it’s an awful name but it is a useful system for measuring language ability.  Here is the structure and descriptions.

Click for larger image

What is intermediate level?

Here is how CEFR defines B1: the ability to maintain conversation and the ability to independently deal with problems in day-to-day life.  Let me make this clearer.

Some people like to talk a lot and some people hate talking.  Some people are very social and some people like to be alone most of the time.  This is not important for measuring your level of English.  What is important is your abilityCan you have a conversation of 5 or 10 minutes with somebody in English?  Not, do you like having conversations of 5 or 10 minutes with somebody in English?

Is your English good enough to call the plumber,
explain the problem and arrange for him to fix this?
(Photo from Flickr)
With the problems of day-to-day life, some people can fix washing machines and some people can’t, some people know how to pay their bills on the internet and some people prefer to pay their bills at the bank.  It is not a problem if you cannot do these things, it is a problem if you cannot do these things because your English is not good enough.

A2 vs B1: What's the difference?
There is a big difference between A2 and B1 and it is more than grammar and vocabulary.  B1 learners are independent learners and users.  An intermediate student takes more responsibility for their learning and becomes more autonomous (another word that means ‘independent’).  Let’s look at the description in more detail:

Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
If you travel to another countries are you confident that you can deal with a restaurant?  Book a hotel on the phone?  Deal with a taxi driver who needs directions?  Deal with the police if necessary?  I had to deal with the Mexican police once because I was parked in the wrong place – it was not easy.

Is your English good enough to deal
with a parking ticket if you need to?
(Photo from Flickr)
Would you feel confident going to an English-speaking country and using your English for these things?

Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions...

This is probably the most difficult part of B1.  Can you describe these things and people understand you?  Can you talk about a funny situation that happened last week?  Can you explain what you want to be doing in one year?

... and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Can you explain why you want things like good English, a better English score or a job with an international company?  Can you have a full conversation about these ambitions and plans?

Cambridge ESOL

The CEFR and the Cambridge Exams (Click for large image)
Cambridge identifies the difference between A2 and B1 like this, “Understanding at Level B1 differs in that it goes beyond merely being able to pick out facts and may involve opinions, attitudes, moods and wishes.

Basically this means a few things.

1.  You need to be able to give and support opinions and attitudes.  Compare these two examples:

A2:  I want this chair.  It is comfortable.
B1:  I would prefer this chair because I think it is better for my back.

The B1 example is more polite (“I would prefer”), shows opinion (“I think”) and explains the situation (“better for my back”)

2.  You need to change your vocabulary to help the listener understand your mood or feelings.

A2:  I am not happy because you failed my essay.
A2+:  I’m upset with my essay grade.  I don’t think you were fair.
B1:  I was disappointed that you gave me a low grade.  I think it was better.
B1:  I was surprised that you gave me a low grade.  Could you look at it again?

All of these examples basically give the same information: feeling + reason.  However, the B1 examples are better because they all give the information in a more polite way using vocabulary that is less direct and argumentative.  The A2+ example certainly uses better grammar and vocabulary but it is still direct and argumentative.

B1 users of English needs to understand the context of the situation (a student complaining to a teacher) and understand that argumentative language is not the correct English to use for a positive result.

3.  Another example would be this.

A2:  I need to leave 10 minutes early.  I have an appointment.
B1:  Could I leave 10 minutes early today?  I have an important appointment and I shouldn’t be late.

Again, both of these sentences give the same information.  However, B1 makes a polite request (“Could I...?”) but A2 gives an order (“I need...”).  Also, B1 gives more relevant information (“important appointment” and “shouldn’t be late”).  B1 shows a better attitude and will probably have permission to leave early whereas A2 probably will not.

Some tips for assessing yourself:
  1. Ask yourself, how many times does someone stop me and ask me to repeat?  How many times does someone stop me and want me to explain again?  How many times does a person chatting with me not understand my ideas.  Not the words, the ideas.
  2. How long does it take me to write an email in English?  How much help do I need to use my English in my job?   Can I write a clear email that is easy to understand for users of English?  When I get emails in English, do I always/usually/sometimes need help to understand the meaning?
  3. Do I make phone calls/Skype calls in English for my job or do I get someone else to do it for me?  Do I understand, more or less, voice messages I get on my phone in English?
Useful Links/References

Cambridge ESOL Teacher Support:  This website is for teachers of English but it is useful to clearly explain the types of situations that a learner needs to deal with well to be a B1 learner.

Wikipedia page on the CEFR:  This gives you another description of the different levels.  Unfortunately there is no Simple English Wikipedia page for this.  Read my article about writing Wikipedia articles to improve your English and then perhaps try to write a Simple English page. :-)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Phonetic Film Quiz #3

Here are the actors from a very popular movie that had two sequels. All the movies are from the 2000s.  Can you identify these actors from the phonetic spelling of their names?

/’dʒɔ:dʒ ‘klu:ni:/

/bræd pɪt/

/mæt ‘deɪmən/

/’dʒu:lɪj ‘rɒbɜ:ts/

/’ændɪ ga:si:ə/

Here are the answers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

English for Academic Purposes (Website Recommendation)

I'm teaching EAP at the moment.  That means 'English for Academic Purposes' and that basically means English for university or college.  It's quite different from IELTS or TOEIC in many ways: the essays are much longer, effective listening needs more vocabulary and better understanding of grammar, and there is a lot about academic 'culture' that needs to be taught such as referencing and citation to avoid plagiarism.  I want to talk about plagiarism in a future post but at the moment this is a small blogpost to direct you to a great website:

Using English for Academic Purposes by Andy Gillett

This is a brilliant website that explains a lot about English for university and college courses.  Thanks, Andy Gillett!

Alternatively, you can visit to mobile site if you are accessing from a smartphone: Using English for Academic Purposes Mobile

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Translating British English (Hilarious!)

This has been on several websites and blogs in the last few days.  Unfortunately, I can't find where it came from originally so I can't really reference it.

I love it because it is SO true!  These translations are completely accurate. :-)



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