Monday, June 19, 2017

Pronunciation: Different nationalities, different accents

(A2,) B1, B2, C1

Each nationality has its own particular problems with English pronunciation. These include individual sounds, word stress and intonation.  In this activity from the Pronunciation Studio website, you will discover  the difficulties encountered by French speakers of English. You will hear typical incorrect pronunciations of words and sentences, then practise the correct version. 

There are also links to similar exercises for Spanish and Russian speakers of English, and another to compare British and American speakers .  Activity time: 10-15 minutes per link.

1 Read the description of each pronunciation problem. Don't worry if you don't understand all the technical terms used - it's not important for doing the exercise.

2  Listen to the corresponding audio file for each point. You will hear the incorrect pronunciation first, then the correct one. Repeat the correct version.

Go to the activity on French pronunciation problems here.
For Spanish, go here.
For Russian, go here.
For a comparison of British and American pronunciation, go here.
(For more on British and American pronunciation, you may also like this other post from our site.)


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Video: Clarifying information

(A2), B1, B2, C1

In the BBC game show "Would I Lie to You', celebrities have to read out a sentence about themselves  on a card. Sometimes this sentence is true, sometimes false. The other panellists  then have to  ask questions about the story behind the sentences and decide if the person is telling the truth or not. In this video you will hear Rhod Gilbert talking about this story:

"A mistake I made in France meant that someone in England got hospitalised"

First you will watch the video to understand the main points of the story, then complete some missing words from the questions asked by the panellists. Finally, you will do an exercise to practise other questions to check or clarify information.


1   Watch the video the first time and find out

-  who the person in England was
-  why Rhod was in France
-  why the person in England got hospitalized

Listen again and complete the questions

_____________ you  _____________  learnt to read?
_____________ the mistake you made in the French language?
What _____________ the nature of this mistake?
What _____________ you _____________ in France?
What colour hair _____________ she _____________?
Can you _____________ us _____________ the incident?
Why _____________ they ask you to do that?
What was the relationship between Anne and the person ____________ had ____________ you to talk?
How _____________ you know _____________?
What _____________ next?
So she _____________  _____________ how to speak to the family?
What did you _____________ wrong? What did you _____________ wrong?
What does that _____________?
And that’s a mistake, _____________ ?
What happened?  _____________ they then rush her to this hospital?

3 Do the exercise on checking and clarifying

The video is here.
Exercise 3 is here.
The answers are at the bottom of the page.
If you would like a pdf version of Exercises 1 and 2, click here.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Grammar: the basic tenses and you

(A2), B1, B2, (C1)

How many times have you learnt how to use the different tenses in English, only to forget how to use them a few weeks later?  One way to remember them is to memorize one key sentence about yourself for each of the main tenses.  

That is what you will do in this activity. But first you are going to do an exercise to revise some of the basic tenses. You will also review the corresponding question forms. Activity time: 25 to 45 minutes


1  Go to the revision activity. Complete the example sentences. Each section ends with a question. Write down an answer to each question. The revision activity is here.

2  Now use these ideas to note down some key sentences about yourself .

     I work.... 
     I studied.... for....
     I'm working.....   
     I'm.... next week
     I was living....when....
     I've.... for....
     I've.... since....
     I've never....
     I've just.... 
     I probably won't....

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Video: the sharing economy

(A2), B1, B2, (C1)

Today you can rent a room for the night in a stranger's house, pay for a seat in somebody's car, or borrow a tool from someone living near you in exchange for a small rental charge. These are all examples of the "sharing economy". In this short video, you will learn how the sharing economy is changing the way we consume products and services. Video time: 2 minutes 48 seconds. Activity time: 25 to 50 minutes


1 Before watching, think about these questions:
  • In what areas of business do we find examples of the sharing economy?
  • What is the public response to the sharing economy?
  • What are its benefits or advantages? 
  • What are the issues or disadvantages?
  • What should traditional companies do when faced with this new competition?

2  Now watch the video above and make notes on the questions in 1

3  Match the words on the left with those on the right. Watch the video again to check.

4   Now match the word combinations in 3 with these sentences 

a   After the big storm, 100,000 homes are without electricity.
b   Their sales have doubled in the last year.
c   Half their offices are empty.
d   They make their money from advertising.
e   It's cheaper to rent a room in a house than in a hotel.
f   Our local shop is a lot nearer than the supermarket.
g  People are worried, but there's no easy solution.
h  Their products aren't always in good condition.
i   People generally shop at the end of the month.
j   We bought our house but the running costs are very high.  

 The answers are below

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Video: Passive houses

(A2), B1, B2, (C1) 

The design of modern buildings focuses on reducing energy consumption as much as possible. A passive house is a building that  uses little or no extra energy for heating in the winter or cooling in the summer. This short video talks about the principles of passive house construction. You will practise talking about key ideas and learn some specific vocabulary related to modern house construction. Finally, you will practise reading the text aloud.  Video time: 90 seconds  Activity time: 15 to 30 minutes


1 Watch the video two or three times  and then use the illustration below to talk about the subject. Just focus on the main ideas - you don't need to remember all the words.

2  Do the two exercises on the worksheet. When you've finished, watch the video again to check your answers.
3 The speaker speaks quickly but pauses from time to time. Listen and mark all the pauses with a  /  in the text. Then listen to each sentence again and repeat, pausing at the same time as the speaker.
e.g  It needs to be oriented properly / so the sun can heat it in the winter / and shade is provided in the summer /

The worksheet is here.
The answers are below

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Video: Teleconferencing expressions

(A2), B1, B2 

Teleconferences can save valuable time and money compared with real face-to-face meetings. But as in all meetings, the behaviour of participants and technological problems can make them less efficient. This video shows some of  the problems encountered in teleconferences.  These are presented in a humorous way, imagining the discussion as a real face-to-face meeting.  You will learn some useful expressions for  teleconferences and for meetings in general. Video time: 3 minutes 25 seconds  Activity time: 30 minutes to 1 hour

Task:   Look at the worksheet - the link is below. There are four exercises to do before, while and after watching the video. 
NB You only need to watch the first 3 minutes and 25 seconds of the video (until the end of the teleconference)

Go to the worksheet here.
The answers to the exercises are below.