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Callum Callum | 17:10 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

Well Sophea - I see you've been studying very hard - or perhaps have had a little help because after reading your latest blog carefully I didn't notice any mistakes with articles! Well done.

Like some of those who have commented I'm pleasantly surprised that you were able to run the workshops you do. It sounds like couples' therapy is as necessary in the rural world as it is in the urban environment.

I don't know if I would feel comfortable talking about such things in public but it does sound a good idea to split the groups up first so that all the men and women can express themselves freely first.

You didn't try the homework exercise, but for everyone else, here are the answers.

1: It was a really interesting film.
2: I gave my presentation today. I must have been really boring. Five people fell asleep.
3: I think museums are fascinating.
4: I'm thinking of going to China for a holiday. (no article)

Here are a few small things that I noticed in your latest blog. some may just be typing errors - but your writing was so good I have to choose something!

"In Cambodia, couples rarely express affection to each other through hugs or kisses and say romantic words to each other, especially in public."

In this sentence the meaning is completely clear but we would probably express it a little differently. Perhaps like this:

"In Cambodia, couples rarely express affection to each other through hugs or kisses or talking romantically to each other, especially in public."

Don't forget the 's' on plural nouns:

"Their houses are built from wood and bamboo with roof made from thatch or palm leave.
"Their houses are built from wood and bamboo with roofs made from thatch or palm leaves.

In the following example you need two nouns but you've got one noun and a verb:

They main income is from farming and harvest the forest product.

Their main income is from farming and harvesting forest products.

In this next paragraph we need to make a few adjustments to make it flow a bit more naturally.

"They felt that their wives should wait until their husbands wake up to talk about their behavior instead of confronting them late at night or just after they had visiting their friends and had been drinking."

"They felt that their wives should wait until they were fully awake and sober before talking about their behavior instead of confronting them late at night or just after they had come home from drinking with friends."

These were the main things I noticed, but I have to repeat that in general your writing is very clear and easy to follow. Do you get anyone else to look at it before you post your blog?

I'd be interested to know a little bit about how you came to learn English.

Your homework this week, and for anyone else who wants to try it - is to write a couple of paragraphs for me about your English learning experience. When did you start? Where and how did you learn? What's your motivation?

That's all from me for now. All the best



  • Comment number 1.

    Hi, Callum:

    First of all I want to congratulate you for your little son, he is lovable. Well, I started learning English "far away and long ago", when I was at Secondary School (High School) in Buenos Aires, Argentina but it was a subject more, nothing special at that time. Then I started Economics at the University and at the same time I was working at a Canadian Bank and my English was basic, elementary and I took up different courses to improve my knowledge. It´s time to say I am 73 and I´ve lived a long, happy life so far but the English language became very interesting, attractive, important in my life when I started reading English Literature. I was "trapped" by the language when reading Priestley, Wilde, Elliot, T.Williams, Austen, Orwell, Dahl, et, etc. I attended courses in "ultural Inglesa", I:A:D:E:I, and some subjects in a Private Training Teachers College. I passed the FCE and CAE exams and I worked two years preparing the Proficiency but I was very weak with the listening part of the exam and I didn´t sit for it.

    I had many interruptions. I´ve had five children that demanded and deserved lots of attention but I´ve always returned to my classes of English.
    I think my motivation is only Cultural interest that´s why I enjoy and thanks a lot to BBCle.
    The best for you, Callum. Beatriz.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hi Callum,
    I'm waiting your post with a lot of impatience! It's very import for me, since when I find out this site, reading and listening your topics. They help me to improve my english knowledges.

    I seriously begun to study english since two years. I use many grammar books and, when I've got the time, watch the television, trying to understand what they say. I usually watch the "Bbc", but also "Al Jazeera", "Cctv", a chinese state's television's canal, and "France 24 English". I wonder it's a way to improve my comprehension and at the same time to be informed about what happens in the world.

    (I must add that I'm italian and at the moment the State's television is a little bit interested to our Prime Minister Mr. B. and how to make him to appear the best political man actually in Italy, while the other news are so soft and not many interesting like the australian golf fields with the sharks or dog's exhibitions).

    For my studies I'm also reading english books. At the moment I'm being involved by Nick Hornby's novel "How to be good": very hilarious and fanny book, but I've read "About a Boy" and "High fidelity" yet. Could you me suggest any other britain writers?

    I should say that I recently came across the blogs posted in 2006 and 2007 by Stephen Keeler on Bbc learning english, and I printed all them 'cause they are very interesting and, in my view, thank to many explanations and exercices, which Stephen has put at the end of the post, is possible to learn how you can use many phrasal verbs.

    But I should be also say that I lot appreciated Will, Catherine and Neil and I reckon they are goods. It would be great if only the teacher blog were posted more frequently than now, but I see that the engagements are noumerous and so it's not possible to do that. I only made a wish not a reproach!

    When I study english I use two dictionaries both on line: "Wordreference" and "Oxford 3000", but if you know another better, please tell me. At the end, why do I study english? First of all, because I want to fill a gap. During my studies I learnt the French, after university, where I studed italian literature, I started to work and today, past thirteen years, I realize that it's important to know the english if I want to change my job, or even though to better my position.

    Second, I believe that it's the same important to continue to learn during the ourselves life, for growing up like citizens through new knowledges. Last but not least because I want to travel and be able to speak with everyone by myself, and I'm bored myself just to go in french language's countries.

    I hope I haven't been boring you and the other readers and haven't also done so many grammar mistakes.

    I'm looking forward to reading your new post and hearing new interesting things by Sophea

    bye for now


  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Callum,

    Like some of those who have commented I am very pleased to read your writing for the first time...I've read your two previous writings as well...They were very moving stories. Stories about 'baby' would never fail to move readers...

    Well...I started to learn English to make my travel easier in the first place.
    Soon after I began to listening a cassette tape made for beginners, I found myself so much enthusiastic in doing so. The more I learn, the more it became interesting.
    I can say that I have been a very keen learner since then....

    Having said that, It was not easy to make a little progress at all. I could realise that learning foreign languages is a hard job to achive in a short time. I had to be very patient and steady with it. And also It's important to find ways that fit me well.

    One day a friend of mine recommended to visit this BBC LE blog, and I found it very helpful for me.There's plenty of pages to learn and develope myself. I continued to visit here. Well... almost everyday I suppose...

    These days I am really into reading English books. I know that there's still many difficulties for well-understanding. My head aches when I meet those incomprehensible words or phrases....^^... But it's a nice challenge to read over and over until I can wade through...I like it.

  • Comment number 4.

    Yesterday morning I woke up telling me something in English. I suppose that, but I'm not sure and I don't know why. Why - sleeping? dreaming? - was I speaking in English? What was I telling myself? That I have no language, that I have no place... The same things from the beginning of my life! But the ultimate answer was: so I can write without being a writer, in a language which is my no native language and in which I can write with many mistakes - like a child learning his own language, without grammar or rules. So, I can write never telling me "one day" I'll become anyone: a poet, a famous novelist!
    This is why I started a few months ago to study English in my 56: to watch before dying a whole movie and get it without subtitles, neither in English nor in Italian!
    Thank you Callum. Don't worry: I feel good.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi Callum ! First I estimate your entry and i benefit a lot from it .
    caming back to your requetst i'd like to write some phrases about learning English when? ,why? and how?
    I 'm 71 years old and retired since 11 years ago , i speak and write four languages :
    my mother tongue Amazigh_ Arabic_ French- and Spanish . but i felt that the most impotant language is English which is the key for cmmunication every where in the world, and the whay for navigation through wipe sites.
    Then i decided to learn it by selfstudy .
    That was in 2009 when i threy myself into sites like BBCLE ,all thinges concidered
    and VOA voice of amirca , novels, and English shows on TV
    i do some progress but i staied having problemes with following speakers especially the native speakers .
    I'm waitting some advices from YOU apout this problem.
    I forget to tele you that my career was in teaching.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hello Collum,

    I hope things are going fine for you.

    My English learning experience is going to be a long story, but I try to make it as briefly as I possibly can.

    First of all, I started learning English at a language school in Somalia, where I am from, actually. But I was not very confident of my English as I could hardly get to talk to people, who spoke the language well. I realised that when I left home for Egypt.

    Luckily, after studying Arabic as a second language, I decided to take English courses as well , and I went to School of Adult and Continuing Education at the American University in Cairo in 2006. One day as I was trying to read the news in English on BBC News Website, I accidentally saw LE link, and that was how I came to know this wonderful website.

    Today, I am really pleased to tell you that by the time I got to know this website, I soon realised that I didn't have to worry too much about English as I did before.

    After that I moved to Uganda, where I still live, and English is widely spoken, of course with an African accent. And I made a couple of friends who are native English speakers. We used to take part a quiz every other Thursday at one of the city's top pubs, and I got to speak the language as much as I possibly could.

    Currently, those friends went back to their countries, and you know, it's boring to go out alone, I still got friends, though. But above all, I practise on my own.

    Have a nice day, Collum.

    Kind regards,


  • Comment number 7.

    Hi There ,
    What a great idea to speak about our learning English experience , hope my story won't be too long !To tell in a nut shell : I don't know why but from the first I liked to learn English and always my father as he can speak English was my motivation to learn English . Like other readers my main progress in English took place after university when I had time to time some English courses with new teaching technics . I was lucky enough to find BBC Le web site in 2006 , then BBC LE Blog was newly created and from then I 'm a fan of BBC LE BLOG and I can say I have learnt a lot from it . Beside for three years I had regular English courses . Now I try to be up to date with surfing BBC LE and VOA special English , reading English story book , chit chat with my over seas friends via Facebook in English and …. At last not least English is so sweet for me and I doubt if I will find other languages as sweet as it is !

    Have a wonderful day
    Pary from Iran

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Callumn
    It is nice to meet you as a teacher blog now. Since you asked each and every one us about our English learning experience I would like to share my English learning experience with you. I need your comments and suggestion to improve further and gain more confidence.
    Actually I started learning English that was learning alphabet and rhymes of hot cross bun in my Third standard at the age of eight. Now I am forty seven. I completed post graduate studies in reputed collage in one of our metros. You know almost forty years I have been learning English. But still I have lack of confidence to speak English in public places or fear in speaking English to those who are fluent in English. I have doubt about my writing in English also. I am not very sure whether I write it correctly or commit mistakes. Whenever I prepare a mail to my higher officials, I will correct it from others those who are well in English, even for small one. Even after so much of years of learning why could not write and speak in English without mistake. How long others will help me to correct my writings.
    My aim is to speak and write English without mistake. I do not want to write or speak very polish language. Just I want to do it in simple way. I want to communicate without any confusion. I tried many time to overcome my fear regarding this foreign language. You know I was very active member in one of the student unions when I did my collage. It is the national organisation. Once, Students from all the regions participated in the national workshop. In India each regional people speak different kinds of language. Almost all the resource person in the workshop delivered the talk in English. The participants also shared their views in the same language even though their mother tongue is different.
    In this circumstance I also wanted to share some of my thoughts in English. It was twenty five years ago. I just spoke. It must be more than five minutes. After the session many of our friends made a remark why should you talked in English. No one understood what you spoke. I felt very shame. Even the organizers also commented it like that. Even after that incident I could not make it as a challenge and proved a successful speaker of English.
    My father was a ex-service man. He and my eldest brother inspired me to learn this wonderful language. My brother writes and speaks very well. I have a fear to speak even with him in English. I still remember in my school days he came for summer holidays. During night before sleeping he asked questions in the grammar. I never answered correctly. He requested me to learn it hard. I want to learn this language. But I did not make constructive efforts to acquire the language. Both my father and brother were very particular to listen English news through radio. Radio was the only source to receive the information at that time. I also used to hear radio news in English up to certain period. I stopped listening it after some time.
    Certainly BBC learning English radio and web site helped me improve my English. What I write to you like this because of this wonderful website. But here also I commit mistake. I was very active learner three years ago. Suddenly I stopped learning. I used to learn from your favorite talk about English webcast, six minutes English. I made comments regularly in the teacher blog. I bought some books suggested by the blog teachers and finished. All of sudden I stopped practicing all these. I do not know why I gave up. Still I want to learn the language well. I want to communicate without any mistake. I hope Collumn will help me regain the confidence which I lost recent days.

  • Comment number 9.

    Thanks for your comments about my son – he is indeed lovable, though of course, I'm hardly impartial!

    Your writing is very impressive – clear and easy to follow, demonstrating a good range of vocabulary and expression. It's a shame you didn't sit the CPE. It is a more difficult exam but the quality of your written English certainly seems up to the standard.

    You seem to have read very widely in English and developed a love of English writers that would put many native speakers to shame. I used to be a great fan of Eliot. I studied his works at college and university. I once heard a recording of his reading The Wasteland – he had an unusual accent - though perhaps in his day it wasn't seen as such. These days I find I have much less time for reading than I would like. Still - I do read to my little boy and I'll try to encourage him to love reading as he gets older.

    Not boring at all! Interesting to read your experiences. I'm a fan of Nick Hornby myself. Did you know, he used to be an English teacher. He's also a great fan of Arsenal Football Club, as am I. Although at the moment things aren't going too well. Have you read 'Fever Pitch'?

    By the way, don't forget that countries and languages are proper nouns in English – this means we write them with capital letters: English, Italian and Australian, for example.

    Some good advice there! It is important to find ways of learning that suit you. We all learn in different ways but it is also important to remember that learning a language is hard work and takes time and dedication. I liked your use of the phrase: "The more I learn, the more it became interesting." One thing though, the verb form in each half should match so "The more I learnt, the more it became interesting.

    Hi – what an interesting experience, to be talking to yourself in another language. There is a poetry to your writing in English, I have to say. I also like the expression you used when talking about watching a movie without subtitles- you want to 'get it'. 'Get' is one of those verbs in English which has many meanings – one of which is 'to understand' and you used it perfectly.

    Learning a language is always a challenge and takes hard work. It sounds like you have been working hard with many languages! There's no easy answer to your question, I'm afraid. I've found programmes or films which have subtitles to be a useful tool when learning a language. A long time ago I worked in Denmark and I found Danish very tough to learn. Now I am watching a Danish TV serial shown in the UK. It has English subtitles and as I listen to the Danish and read the English I've found that I have picked up a lot more Danish! It's not a perfect solution but it's one thing you can try if you don't have access to native speakers.

    What an interesting story of your travels. I think one of the things that helps most with learning a language is having the opportunity to live in a country where it is spoken or having friends who are native speakers. Sounds like you have benefited from this. Well done!

    @ Pary
    Great that the blog has helped you! 'In a nutshell' is a brilliant expression to use. For those who might not know it, it means: briefly, using as few words as possible. 'Chit chat' is another expression I like and you used it well.

  • Comment number 10.

    Hello Callum.
    I would like to thank you for your support so that we can improve our English. Personally, i am fond of reading novels and books, this -i can arrogantly say- is the most useful method you can get your English improved by. but of course it was'nt my start to learn English at all. learning English is an obligatory material in the Algerian primary schools.hence i got to know English ma'am for the first time when i was 12. after that i continued building a strong relationship with it. when i went to university i was supposed to study traduction (Arabic, French and Spanish), but i studied love in my heart instead. so consequently i got married and i had to stop my courses because of some of circumstances. however, and with all those friends from all over the world i have, i decided to go back to Madame English and have a serious connection with it without being cut this time ! surprisingly, now i am able to write stories in English -as i am a writer in my native language- after i have been working hard to make this beautiful ma'am be satisfied to me.The only problem i am facing is that i can't find who is able to correct my writing mistakes and i bet they are a lot!
    Thank you for reading my paragraph Mr callum .
    Have a nice day

  • Comment number 11.

    Thank you very much indeed, Callum...
    As I see it, you're a really good teacher because you were so sensitive in answering personally to each of us.
    In the school where I work, for fun I call a colleague of mine "William" (Shakespeare) and he call me "Christopher" (Marlowe), even though I teach physics: perhaps is it why you thought about I wrote like a sort of... poetry, innit?
    Have a nice week end.

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks Callum! I really enjoy your posts, and always learn a lot from them.

    Referring to my English learning experience, it is quite typical to Chinese guys at my age. So, I would like introduce it to you combining with some background knowledge about myself and China at that time. I was born in 1982, in an average family, an average rural district of Shandong province. That time, all students in rural district of Shandong Province started learning English in junior middle school (after 5 years of studies in primary school), of course including me. My first English teacher is a young lady, who just finished her study in junior middle school, without receiving any training in English teaching. Why was such an incompetent chosen to be an English teacher? It was just because there was no eligible candidate at all. Not mention to that time (two decades ago), even now, in most parts of rural districts in China, eligible English teachers are still in short, although the situation has been improved much recently. However, the teacher was not the worst part. The worst is that our English teaching and learning in China has been always targeted to passing examinations. The mistake goes through the entire life of English learning for Chinese students from junior middle school to university, and totally ruins our interesting in studying English. Take myself for example, I hadn’t found any interesting or exciting things in studying English until finishing my PhD study but pressure to pass examinations, and to publish papers. I think that is why many Chinese students are still weak in English after 10 more years of studying. They are working hard and suffering a lot, but in a wrong way!

    When I planned to move to oversea for my long-term career, I just realized that English is not only for examination or publishing, but more importantly for communication, to understand people from different cultures and also express myself to them. When, for the first time, I tried to write a diary in English, to express my opinions, my affections in English, the feeling was just like that a light was casted upon me, “Wow, how amazing!”

    Now, I am working in Singapore, and have a lot of chances to communicate with different people of different cultural background. I find much fun in talking with them, and also earn many good friends! My English is still not good, especially spoken English. Anyway, now, I have a lot of interesting and motivations to improve it! I believe I can do better and better, since I am running on the right way!

    Have a nice

  • Comment number 13.

    Have a nice day,

    ;)appended to my last post, they are missing during the posting process

  • Comment number 14.

    I've been taught to to tell the time by saying for example :half past three or ten o'clock and I've been teaching this for years now,but then I hear BBC journalists saying It's ten hours etc...
    Can you help me?

  • Comment number 15.

    Hi everybody. This is my first time here. I'm from Brazil and I'd like to say my experience with English began when I was 7 years old. In my school I learnt elementary English. Things like colours, numbers, verb to be and so on. After finishing High School I did many other things in my life and I completely forgot about English. This year I decided to come to Ireland to learn this mysterious language. I'm living in Dublin since February and I've got to say I'm still struggling with prepositions and phrasal verbs. Prepositions are the most terrible thing regarding English language. They make no sense whatsoever. To me (or for me?), the use of prepositions are extremely difficult to understand. Besides, there's something in English called Phrasal Verbs that drives non-native speakers crazy. I don't know why some people say: "Help me" and some others say "Help me out" or "called off" instead of "cancelled". Anyway, if you wanna learn English you must cope with that. I also want to say that I learn English by listening a lot (watching movies, documentaries, interviews etc) and reading, of course. Well, I guess that's me.

    Congrats for your blog and keep up (phrasal verb) the good work.



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