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Anniversaries galore

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Jennifer | 15:16 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

Hello everyone - I hope you've all had a good week.

Thanks for all of your comments on my last blog, and welcome to those of you who are participating for the first time. It's good to see so many tips about learning English! I think the general theme of people's advice is that it's good to get stuck in, even if you feel a little shy or embarrassed. It doesn't matter if you make mistakes - eventually you'll get it right, and have some great experiences along the way.

For me, it seems that this week has been full of anniversaries. This week saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, one of Britain's best known authors and a quintessentially Victorian character. Dickens was one of the first people to write about poverty, drawing from his own experiences as a child. He wrote many novels and stories which remain incredibly popular to this day.
You can learn more about Dickensian language here. Have you read any of his novels?

Another very famous Brit celebrated an anniversary this week. Queen Elizabeth II took to the throne sixty years ago this week after learning that her father, King George VI, had died. Most of the celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee will take place in June, including a flotilla of one thousand boats sailing along the River Thames - what a sight that will be!

But for me, an interesting anniversary that was perhaps less well-known than the two above was the anniversary of French film director Francois Truffaut, who was born eighty years ago this week. When I first began to learn French as a teenager, my teacher encouraged the class to absorb as much of the language as we possibly could. As well as reading novels, newspapers and magazines, she gave us a pile of movies to watch, which not only helped us to learn the language, but also gave us a taste of French culture.

Francois Truffaut

Francois Truffaut (Getty Images)

My favourite film by Truffaut is called 'Les Quatre Cents Coups', or 'The Four Hundred Blows.' It's a partly autobiographical film all about an adolescent boy in Paris who is thought to be a bit of a trouble maker. It's a beautiful film.

Watching television programmes or films can be a good way to practise a foreign language. Have any of you used this as a way to understand English? What did you learn or find difficult?


Here is a paragraph all about the writer Charles Dickens. Try to choose the right tense for the sentence, but beware, it may be tricky!

This week saw the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens, who __________ (lives/lived) in London in the 1800s. Before he wrote stories, he ________ (is/was) a journalist. He ________ (writes/wrote) many novels which explored the theme of poverty in London. Many of his characters __________ (were/are) very well-known, such as Scrooge or Oliver Twist. Dickens _________ (is/was) still one of the most popular writers in English literature today.

I'll give you the answers next week, when we'll also meet our new student blogger!

See you then!


to get stuck in - to throw yourself into doing something
quintessentially - typically
poverty - the state of being very poor
jubilee -celebration of a particular anniversary
flotilla - a group of boats or vessels
absorb - take in


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Jennifer,
    It's good to see your blog again. Yes, you're right, seems it has been the week of anniversaries. Though I'd read David Copperfield in my school days, but don't really recollect much of it. Guess, it's time to re-visit Charles Dickens. You're right about the watching movies and listening music in foreign language, it really helps to learn a foreign language quickly. Further, I guess we should idolize someone, trying to imitate the way they speak, I think it is helpful to get on the correct accent. To learn better English, apart from watching movies, one should watch interviews of famous personalities, like actors, sportsmen, authors, politicians and commentators. They do generally have good rhetoric skills. I try to listen BBC radio as much as I can. It gives me twin benefits - it helps improving my English as well as I get a chance to update myself with the latest happenings of the world. I guess, I've improved my GK a lot since the time I've started listening to it. Finally, I agree with you on French movies, though I don'y know Truffaut, I am aware of French literature. I used to read Guy De Mopassa (hope I've spelled it correctly) as a young child without the knowledge of my elders, as his stories were considered sensual. Particularly, The Diamond Necklace touched my heart. I also remember reading a book called 'Bicycle Thief', I guess later it was made into a famous Hollywood movie with the same name. Recently, I've watched The Artist, and I am filled with the great pleasure of watching a great movie. Thank you once again,

  • Comment number 2.

    Unfortunately, I didn't read Charles Dickens. I saw only the David Copperfield movie. The Queen Elizabeth is simply the "Greatest Queen" and we are the same zodiac sign.
    I love François Truffaut and the french culture. I studied French five years a long time and for me is more easy unterstand French than English, because my native language is Portugiese so vocabulary and grammar are more similar because they come from the Latin.
    I think the answers are: "lived, was, wrote, are, is".
    All the best for you,

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Jennifer
    how are u?i ve been missing ur blogs!
    i ve read "great expectations" from dickens when i started learning english many years ago,it was very helpful but some words that was used in the book were very old fashioned,and i was watching some tv series and programs like "friends","Dr house"but i belive reading books and listening the text is better than watching tv

  • Comment number 4.

    i forgot homework!
    lived/ was/wrote/ are/ is
    wish it's all true!


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