Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Dyslexic Fonts

  1. Wikipedia Article on Dyslexia
  2. Telegraph Article on Dyslexics in Britain
  3. Open Dyslexic Free Fonts
If you want this on your word processor (like Microsoft Word) then you can follow these instructions.
  • Download the Open Dyslexic Fonts (click here
  • If you are using Windows, open the Open Dyslexic folder, select the 4 files and copy them. Then go to Start > Settings > Control Panel > Fonts (if you can’t find Fonts, switch to ‘Classic View’). Now paste the 4 files into this folder. 
  • If you open Microsoft Word, you should see the Open Dyslexic font as one of the options. 
If you want this on your iPhone or iPad, then follow this link.

If you want to put this on your computer, then follow these instructions.

Hope this helps some people.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Accent vs Pronunciation

Teacher, what should I do? I really want to improve my accent.

No, you don’t. You want to improve your pronunciation.

There is a difference between pronunciation and accent and I think it is quite easy to explain. Pronunciation can be good or bad, but accent is accent and there isn't a good or bad accent really.

Everyone has an accent. Accents vary from country to country, city to city, and town to town. It is possible for an accent to change but it takes years, even decades for it to change significantly. However, what is most important is that it is not necessary to change an accent. French people speaking English will almost always have a French accent (unless they are totally bilingual), Thai people will always have a Thai accent in English, Chinese will always have a Chinese accent.

If you are learning English and you are worried about your accent, then don’t. However, what a lot of students need to improve is their pronunciation. Here is the difference between a strong accent and bad pronunciation in my opinion.

You have bad pronunciation if people often say:

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are saying.” 

“Could you repeat that?” 



“Sorry, what did you say?” 

“What’s that?”
You have a strong accent if people often say:

“Where are you from?” 

“Oh, are you from X?” 

“I love your accent. Where do you come from?” 

“How long have you been here?”

Hopefully, you can see that you have a pronunciation problem if people don’t understand you. However, it is possible to have a strong accent that people understand perfectly. If you are still not sure here are a few different examples of the wonderful variety of accents in English.

21 Accents

First of all, this is a video of an actress doing 21 different accents, some of them are from English speaking countries and some of them are not.  Here is a task for you while you watch this video:

Listen and write down the city or country of each of the accents.

Something to notice is that some of the most difficult accents to understand are native speaker accents. Believe me, this doesn't mean they are ‘better’ accents because they are more difficult.

I.D.E.A. (International Dialects of English Archive)

Now, you could also listen to some passages from the International Dialects of English Archive. I've selected a few different recordings, all non-native speakers of English, all speaking English with ‘foreign’ accents and all of them are completely understandable and clear.  The two texts that the people read are 'The Rainbow Passage' and 'Comma Gets a Cure' (you can click on the links for the transcript if you want to listen and read).

French Accent (The Rainbow Passage)

Ghana Accent (Comma Gets a Cure)

Iraqi Accent (The Rainbow Passage)

Japanese Accent (Comma Gets a Cure)

Korean Accent (The Rainbow Passage)

Mexican Accent (Comma Gets a Cure)

Polish Accent (The Rainbow Passage)

Accents are not something to improve, pronunciation is. But remember, if you have no problem with communicating with others in conversation, then you don’t need to worry about accent or pronunciation.

I love all the different accents I hear as an English language teacher, so please don’t try to lose them. :-)

What are your feelings on accents and pronunciation?  Comments anyone?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Phonetic Film Quiz #11

This is a famous little speech from an epic historical drama made in 2000. I've put the speech in phonetics. Can you identify the film from this quote?

/maɪ neɪm ɪz 'mæksɪmɪs 'desɪməz me'rɪdɪjs/

/kə'mɑːndə əv ðiː 'ɑːmɪz əv ðə nɔːθ/

/ˈʤenərəl əv ðiː fiːləks ˈliːʤənz/

/'lɔɪəl 'sɜːvənt tə ðə truː 'empərə 'mɑːk
əs ɒ'reɪlɪjs/

/'fɑːðə tʊ ə 'mɜːdəd sʌn 'hʌzbənd tʊ ə 'mɜːdəd waɪf ən aɪ wɪl hæv maɪ 'venʤəns ɪn ðɪs laɪf ə ðə nekst/

Click here if you want to watch the answer.

Remember, if you have a smartphone, you can download the Interactive Phonetic Chart from Macmillan for free.  Follow this link or scan the QR code below.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Plagiarism – So What? (University Preparation Tip #2)

Plagiarism is stealing ideas from other writers without explaining in your text that these ideas belong to another person. It can be a whole chapter, a section, a paragraph, a sentence, maybe only part of a sentence. It is a BIG academic culture shock to many students and probably one of the most complicated academic ideas to completely understand.

I will probably write more about plagiarism in the future but this is a short post to say this: Plagiarism is a serious problem in many countries. Here is my evidence:

Pál Schmitt (Picture from BBC)
This is Pál Schmitt. He was the President of Hungary from 2010 to 2012. In April 2012, Schmitt had to resign as president of the country because it was discovered that his Ph.D. was mostly plagiarised from Bulgarian and German sources. You can listen to the story from the BBC or click here to listen and read it.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (Picture from Wikipedia)
This is Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. He was the German Defence Minister and many people believed that he would be the next Chancellor of Germany. Unfortunately, in March 2011, Guttenberg was forced to resign when it was discovered that he had copied more than half of his 475-page Ph.D. thesis from other sources.

Ioan Mang (Picture from Twittweb)
This is Ioan Mang. He was the Education Minister of Romania until May 2012 when he was forced to resign because of multiple counts of plagiarism in many of his academic papers.

There are other cases or plagiarism where the politicians still have their jobs but many people want them to resign; Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Russia’s Cultural Minister Vladimir Medinsky and German Education Minister Annette Schavan.

Tony Blair (Picture from Wikipedia)
This is not only something that individual people do. Countries have also plagiarised. In 2003, the British Government, led by Tony Blair, copied the work of Dr. Ibrahim al-Marashi to make a document that Britain and America used to ‘prove’ that Saddam Hussein was making WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) in Iraq. Al-Marashi’s academic work was plagiarised and then used as military intelligence and this document helped to start the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

All of these cases of plagiarism have been found quite easily now with the latest plagiarism-checking software that nearly all universities use.

Plagiarism is becoming easier and easier to identify and it is causing big problems for very powerful people. So my advice to students from other countries is that this is important and you need to spend some time thinking about it and you need to make sure that you understand what it is 100%.  If you don't understand, you need to speak to your tutors/lecturers/supervisors/teachers and get them to explain it to you so you do understand.

Not understanding plagiarism is not an excuse for plagiarising.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reading Exercises (Website Recommendation)

Nasreddin (Picture from Wikipedia)
Here is a piece of advice. Read something short and fun. Learning and language progress happens more often when you do a little bit regularly. It might feel good to do 4 hours of language study one night each week but you will learn more if you do just 30 minutes every day. 

This means that if you are trying to improve your reading you should be focusing on short reading passages.

Here are some great short stories with reading activities about a Turkish wise man called Nasreddin. (If you click on one of these, remember there are two more reading activities so click on ‘Next exercise’ at the bottom of the page.)

Nasreddin and the Pot

Nasreddin Goes Shopping

Nasreddin and the Beggar

Nasreddin and the Smell of Soup

Nasreddin the Ferry Man

Nasreddin's Visitors

As extra practice to help your English, when you finish exercises try to write one of the stories a few hours later and then compare the story you wrote with the story on the website.

These stories are for Lower Intermediate level students of English but there are more exercises for different levels:

Upper Beginner (2 stories)

Pre-Intermediate – Nasreddin (6 stories)

Intermediate – Urban Legends (5 stories)

Upper Intermediate (5 stories)

Advanced – Pulp Friction (1 story)

I love the Nasreddin stories. I think they are short, enjoyable and often educational. I hope you enjoy these.  This website, University of Victoria - English Language Centre Study Zone, is a great website with vocabulary and grammar exercises as well.  Very helpful to improve your English!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Phonetic Film Quiz #10

I have changed the way I do the Phonetic Quizzes now.  You can now find all of the quizzes on this page and you can find all the answers as well.  I will also put the answers on that page at the same time as the quizzes so you don't need to wait.  I think this is probably much more helpful for people.

Anyway, this week is a Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) movie from the 1970s.  I've given you the main characters (not the actors).  Can you figure out which movie it is?  Enjoy!

/'əʊbɪːwɒn kə'nəʊbiː/

/lʊːk 'skɑɪwɔːkə/

/hæn 'səʊləʊ/




/dɑːθ 'veɪdə/

/'prɪnses 'leɪə/

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How Useful is Translation? (University Preparation Tip #1)

The simple answer is... very useful.

However, there are some major problems. Here is a paragraph in a variety of different languages. I've selected languages of students I've had in my pre-sessional classes in recent years.

First of all, can you guess what the different languages are? Your options are Vietnamese, Korean, Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indonesian and Arabic.


وقد ترجمت هذه الفقرة باستخدام جوجل. يمكنك ان ترى على الأرجح أن هناك عدة أخطاء واضحة، وربما كنت لا أفهم بالضبط الأفكار أحاول أن أنقل هنا. لهذا السبب، جوجل ترجمة هو بالتأكيد خيارا سيئا لكتاباتك الأكاديمية. كنت أفضل حالا بكثير استخدام وتطوير المهارات الخاصة بك في اللغة الإنجليزية.

ย่อหน้านี้ได้รับการแปลโดยใช้ Google คุณอาจจะเห็นว่ามีข้อผิดพลาดที่เห็นได้ชัดหลายและคุณอาจไม่เข้าใจความคิดที่ว่าฉันพยายามที่จะสื่อความหมายที่นี่ ด้วยเหตุนี้ Google แปลเป็นมั่นเหมาะตัวเลือกที่ดีสำหรับการเขียนบทความทางวิชาการของคุณ คุณมีมากดีกว่าการใช้และพัฒนาทักษะของคุณเองในภาษาอังกฤษ


Perenggan ini telah diterjemahkan dengan menggunakan Google. Anda mungkin dapat melihat bahawa terdapat beberapa kesilapan yang jelas dan anda mungkin tidak tepat memahami idea-idea yang saya cuba untuk menyampaikan di sini. Atas sebab ini, Google translate adalah satu pilihan yang buruk bagi penulisan akademik anda. Anda adalah jauh lebih baik menggunakan dan membangunkan kemahiran anda sendiri dalam bahasa Inggeris.

Ayat ini telah dijabarkan dengan menggunakan Google. Anda mungkin dapat melihat bahwa ada kesalahan yang jelas beberapa dan Anda mungkin tidak persis memahami ide-ide saya sedang mencoba untuk menyampaikan di sini. Untuk alasan ini, Google translate jelas merupakan suatu pilihan yang buruk untuk menulis akademis Anda. Anda jauh lebih baik menggunakan dan mengembangkan kemampuan Anda sendiri dalam bahasa Inggris.

Khoản này đã được dịch bằng cách sử dụng Google. Bạn có thể có thể thấy rằng có một số lỗi rõ ràng và có thể bạn không hiểu chính xác những ý tưởng tôi đang cố gắng truyền đạt ở đây. Vì lý do này, Google translate chắc chắn là một lựa chọn tồi cho văn bản học thuật của bạn. Bạn đang tốt hơn nhiều bằng cách sử dụng và phát triển các kỹ năng của riêng bạn trong tiếng Anh.

단락은 Google 사용하여 번역되었습니다. 당신은 아마 여러 가지 명백한 오류가있다는 것을 있으며, 아마도 바로 내가 여기 전하기 위해 노력하고 아이디어를 이해하지 않습니다. 이러한 이유로, Google 번역은 확실히 당신의 학문적 작문을위한 좋은 방법입니다. 당신은 영어로 자신의 능력을 사용하고 개발에게서 훨씬 있습니다.

Here are the answers:

A – Chinese

B – Arabic

C – Thai

D – Japanese

E – Malay

F – Indonesian

G – Vietnamese

H – Korean

How many did you identify correctly? One of them might be your native language. Did you notice how it doesn't look very good? The language is not very good and this is because I used Google Translate. This is the original English sentence:

This paragraph has been translated using Google. You can probably see that there are several obvious errors and you probably don't exactly understand the ideas I'm trying to convey here. For this reason, Google translate is definitely a bad option for your academic writing. You are much better off using and developing your own skills in English.

If you are using Google Translate too much, then it is important to know that the paragraphs you give your tutors are of similar quality to the examples I've shown you here.

If you want another example of this problem, follow these instructions:
  1. Go to BBC News
  2. Choose any article. 
  3. Copy and paste a paragraph into Google Translate
  4. Translate the text from English into your language. 
I hope you will notice that the translation is not perfect. Some of the translations might be very good (and some of them might be very bad as well) but all the translations will have some errors that will be obvious to you.

So what are the problems with this translation? 
  1. A university tutor or pre-sessional teacher cannot help a student who uses an online translation website. A student who uses a website like Google Translate does not understand the grammar and vocabulary they are giving their teacher, so they will not understand the corrections they are given either. 
  2. If a student needs to use a translator for their work then they are using non-English sources of information. This is useless for a university degree in Britain. How can your university tutor help you if they cannot read the original information you are using? Using an online translation website is often a sign of plagiarism, (I will always put this word, ‘plagiarism’, in red on this blog because it is a serious academic crime). Even if you have not plagiarised, using a translation website looks very suspicious and your tutors might not trust your work.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Phonetic Film Quiz #9

Here is a small phonetics quiz for you.  Can you identify these actors?  They were in a big action movie this summer.

/sɪlvestə stələʊn/

/ʤeɪsʌn steɪθʌm/

/ʤet liː/

/bruːs wɪlɪs/

/dɒlf ləngrən/

/ɑːnəld ʃwɔːtsɪnegə/

/ʒɒn klɔːd væn dæm/

/ʧʌk nɒrɪs/

Click here for the answers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Shaving for Movember!

"raising money" means to collect money for charity (Picture from
Last year a lot of you saw that I raised money for charity in Argentina by learning 1000 new Spanish words in a month. Unfortunately, with my work and my university studies I don’t have time to learn 1000 more words but I am doing something a little easier this month. 

This month I have shaved off my beard and started growing a moustache. This has changed my appearance remarkably and a few people think I look very funny now but this is all to raise awareness and raise money for research into testicular and prostate cancer.

I am very grateful to my school and my colleagues. A few of them, including my friend Michael, are growing moustaches as well, many others will be donating money. For more information, read more (and see pictures) about it on my school’s blog.

If you want to donate then follow this link.

I’ll keep you posted with photo updates. :-D

The Soft War on the Internet (English Listening Practice)

I am very lucky because I live in Britain and our Internet connection is relatively free of censorship. Do you know this word, ‘censorship’? It is the action of a government or organization that limits information.

Last year, I wrote about how much I hated the censorship of the Internet in Turkey. I think this is a very important issue so I wanted to show you a short video about it. Here are a few questions for you to read before you watch the video:
  1. How many countries did Freedom House include in their ‘Internet Freedom’ report? 
  2. When was this report released? 
  3. How were the countries categorized? 
  4. There were 3 categories for scoring ‘Internet Freedom’, what were they? 
  5. What was the worst scoring country? 
  6. What is the population of that country and how many people have broadband access there? 
  7. What is the general speed of internet there? 
  8. What is the ‘Soft War’? 
  9. The Iranian Government wants to unplug its country from the internet... by when? 
  10. What is a ‘dual internet structure’?
Okay, now here is the video:

Did you get all the answers? If not, try listening again. Answers are below but try listening at least one more time before you scroll down to read them.









Okay, here are the answers:
  1. 37 Countries
  2. April 2011
  3. Free, Partly Free, Not Free
  4. Obstacles to Access, Limits on Content, Violation of User Rights
  5. Iran
  6. 73.2 Million & 560,000 Broadband Subscribers
  7. 56K
  8. ‘The Soft War’ is the Iranian government’s attack on the connection of government protestors, Internet users and international media.
  9. Within the next two years (2013)
  10. A ‘dual Internet structure’ is a system where a country has unrestricted access to the Internet, for tourists and government officials, and restricted access to the Internet for the normal citizens of the country.

Some of those answers were probably a bit difficult.  Here is a small activity to improve your listening.

Watch the video again and try to fill in these gaps.
  • Many governments ____________ are locked in a fight with their citizens. 
  • ...on a _________ of 0 to 100. 
  • Most private ____________ only have 56k connections. 
  • In June 2009, Iranians _____ __ the streets in protest of presidential election results. 
  • Protestors relied ________ on the Internet... 
  • With social media proving to be such a powerful revolutionary tool, it’s ___ ________ that the Iranian government... 
  • ... only about 1000 individuals have direct access to the Internet, ___ _______ ___ the population has access to filtered content 
  • Burma recently launched a intranet-like web portal that ____ ___ wean the public off popular websites... 
  • With all this ____________, it’s hard to dispute that the war for Internet access is _____ __________. 
Here are the answers and a little bit of explanation about how you can use these phrases.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Get Out and Vote!

Pictures from Peter Walsh Projects on Flickr

Here is hoping that everybody who can vote in the US elections today will use their right and vote!

Two Fun Little English Speaking Games

I find that students like these two little games.

The Yes/No Game 

The rules are quite simple. Person A needs to ask Person B questions for 1 minute. If B can answer all the questions without saying “Yes” or “No” then B wins. If B says “Yes” or “No” then A wins. Here are a few videos of Liverpool F.C. football players playing the game... they are not very good at it. :-)

If you are practising for a speaking exam, this is a really good activity because it will help you avoid giving basic answers and will give you more practice giving longer, more interesting answers.

The Question Game 

This game can be a lot of fun but you need at least an upper-intermediate level of English for it to work. The rule is simple – you can only talk using questions. The first person who doesn't use a question loses. This is really good to practise grammar and question structure. Here is an example although these American comedians are talking much faster than you need to.

Enjoy the games!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Phonetic Film Quiz #8

This quiz is a group of characters from a TV series in the 1960s and from movies in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The most recent film with these characters was made in 2009.

See if you recognize any of these famous names in the phonetic script.

Good luck and prosper! ;-)








Here are the answers.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

MusicEnglish (Website Recommendation)

Here is a website that learners of English might like, especially if you like songs and music.

This is a great website that has popular songs from youTube and gives you the English subtitles to the songs as well.  This is really good because you will understand a lot more of the song if you can listen AND read at the same time.

One of the things I really like about this website is that I have a 'similar taste in music'* as the maker of the site.  There are lots of really good songs to listen and read through.  For example, 'Starlight' by Muse, 'The Man Who Sold the World' by Nirvana, 'Nothing Else Matters' by Metallica and many, many more!

Also, if there is a song you want that you cannot find of the website, you can request it easily.

Excellent website and helpful for learning lyrics to favourite songs in English.

* If two people like similar music, then they have a 'similar taste in music'.  If two people like exactly the same music, you could say 'they have the same taste in music'.
Newer Posts Older Posts Home