I hope you read the Teacher Blog every day, and find it useful. Don’t forget that there are teaching notes especially for you, at the end of every blog from me. Sometimes there are also questions and suggestions for your next blog. For example, Soyoung, how about that list of questions to ask me? It could be a nice, simple way of exchanging basic information about ourselves.
Today you told me about going to the movies. You mentioned Casino Royale. Yes, Soyoung, I saw it on the day it opened in London, last November, and I think it is the best Bond film since Goldfinger – maybe even better. I have a soft spot for Bond movies. When I was a boy I was a reluctant reader. The first books I read voluntarily were Casino Royale and From Russia With Love, which had just been published at that time (1966-69, I think). I was lucky to have a very good English teacher at school. He inspired me to read great literature, so I feel a bit ashamed to say that I still like some of the James Bond books.
I can certainly understand why all the women I know think that Daniel Craig is the best-ever James Bond. I’ll share a little secret with you, Soyoung, but please don’t tell anyone else: when I was a boy I used to look in the mirror and practise saying, “My name’s Bond, James Bond.” Is that sad or what? At that time I could almost believe that one day I might look something like Sean Connery. Well, now that he’s old and bald and probably a bit overweight, I do. But that’s not what I meant. I’m afraid I will never look like Daniel Craig. Perhaps I should start going to horror movies instead.
You mentioned that your sister lives in Beijing. Why? Does she work there or is she a student? How easy or difficult is it for Koreans to communicate with the Chinese? How similar are your two languages? Have you ever been there to visit your sister?
You said that you live with your parents. While your mum is away you have to do all the housework. Does that include cleaning and cooking? How about your dad? Does he help? It could be interesting to hear from you about what men do in the family in Korea.
Well, the weekend has started. It is incredibly mild here – about 14 degrees today (it should be about 2 or 3 degrees in early January) – and tonight I’m going out with Lucy, my daughter, to one of our favourite local restaurants. However, the bad news is that I can’t have a beer, or any other kind of alcoholic drink. Why? Because in 5 weeks I’m going to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. It is part of my training to give up everything enjoyable before I go! No more champagne, no more coffee, no more chocolate, until I come back at the end of February. I have to run 10 kilometres per day and I should walk another 10 kilometres. Now it is coming closer I am beginning to ask myself how I ever thought I could do it. Do you have any advice?
I will stop now. I will write some teaching notes for you, below. Then I will post a list of recommended books. Some of our blog readers have asked for reading suggestions. It is a general list, Soyoung. It is not specifically for you. Please don’t try to read all these books yourself!
Meanwhile, I am very much looking forward to hearing about family life in Korea and maybe a bit more about your working life.
Have a great weekend, Soyoung, and don’t drink too much soju!
With best wishes,
SOME USEFUL WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS
have a soft spot for
If you have a soft spot for something it means that you like it, uncritically.
a reluctant reader
someone who is not very motivated to read
by choice, not because I was told to or forced to
made me want to read by making me excited about reading
less cold than usual
to give up
to stop doing or having something
SOME WORDS TO CHECK AGAIN
Use of good dictionary to check the meanings and spellings of these words from your blog:
sauce and source: only once of these words is a kind of food. Which one? What does the other word mean?
chilly and chilli: only one of these words is a kind of food. Which one? What does the other word mean?
Find the original sentences in your blog then look at how I have re-written (corrected) them:
1. …it is interesting that he wrote something about his life…
2. It’s almost 18% alcohol and colourless, like water.
3. It has happened occasionally because I have had enough to drink.
4. Do you ever go to see new movies?
5. What are the newly-released movies in your country?
6. It’s about a Korean-style casino, called Hwatu, where a young boy wants to become the best player, like the legendary Tazza (played by Younsik Baek). The boy learns from Tazza all the technical skills and card tricks necessary to become a great player.
7. I always buy popcorn and a cola at the cinema before I take my seat.
8. …to have dinner (not ‘a’ dinner) with my colleagues.
…AND DON’T FORGET THE ARTICLE!
the teacher’s blog
I had to close the records
…she’s out of the office for three hours
I checked the time
I have to do the laundry…
OK, Soyoung, I’m sure that’s more than enough for one day. Find some time during the weekend to look again at this week’s notes and corrections. Try to listen to some English on the radio for about 30 minutes. Choose one short newspaper or magazine article in English and read it carefully. Try having a telephone conversation in English with a friend – someone whose English is quite good. These are some good ways to help develop your English. Good luck. Have a great weekend. I’m looking forward to hearing from you again very soon.
Many of you who have been reading these blogs, and posting comments, over the last few weeks have asked about books. There seem to be two main queries: which authors are currently popular in the UK and which books have I read and enjoyed? So here are some recommendations. Remember, though, that other English teachers would almost certainly disagree with some of my choices and that you yourself might find some of them strange, boring, difficult or even offensive. This is very much a personal selection, not a BBC selection. Personally, I hope you get them all, read them all and enjoy every word of every book.
A quick note about my selection criteria. I have chosen mostly British authors. That’s not because I am prejudiced against non-British authors. Most of my favourite writers of fiction are, in fact, North American – Raymond Chandler, Carl Hiassen, Elmore Leonard, John Updike, Garrison Keillor, and lots more. I also read huge amounts of fiction in translation. However, here I have mostly chosen authors who have something to say about modern Britain. These books may not become classics. But they are all well written. Several have already won major international literary prizes.
Some fiction authors who are popular in the UK at the moment
Recommended title: Brick Lane, Black Swan 2003, ISBN 0 552 77115 5
Modern, multi-racial Britain.
Recommended title: The Last King of Scotland, Faber and Faber 1998, ISBN 0 571 19564 4
Thriller set in Uganda about Idi Amin’s Scottish doctor. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It’s a great book and has just been made into a film (which I hope to see next week).
Recommended title: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time , Vintage 2004, ISBN 0 099 45025 9
Autistic child’s insights into the non-autistic world around him. Humorous thriller.
Recommended title: Small Island, Headline 2004, ISBN 0 7553 0750 X
Inter-racial issues around Jamaicans who fought for the British armed forces during the Second World War. A fascinating insight into cultural change in Britain in the middle of the 20th century.
Recommended title: White Teeth, Penguin 2000, ISBN 0 140 27633 5
More multi-cultural modern Britain.
I would also recommend:
Anything by William BOYD (start with Brazzaville Beach, perhaps).
Anything by Jane GARDAM (start with Bilgewater, perhaps).
Anything by Nick HORNBY (start with About A Boy, perhaps).
Anything by David LODGE (start with Therapy, perhaps).
Anything by Ian McEWAN (start with ,Saturday, perhaps).
For poetry lovers, here are two popular British poets:
Roger McGOUGH, Collected Poems, Penguin Books 2004, ISBN 0 141 01455 5
Benjamin ZEPHANIAH, Talking Turkeys, Puffin 1995, ISBN 0 14 036330 0 (This is a book of poems written for teenagers, but don’t let that put you off. Reading children’s books is a great way to study a language. My best foreign language is Swedish and I learned it almost totally from talking to the children of a Swedish family I lived with, and from reading their books and comics.)
Ten of my favourite books
(but ask me again tomorrow and I’m sure I’d list ten others!)
Mother Tongues – Travels Through Tribal Europe
Picador (London) 2001
ISBN 0 330 37280 7
Non-fiction. A travel book about the disappearing tribes (and, therefore, their languages) of Western Europe. Beautifully written, knowledgeable and full of fascinating insights into a Europe which is rapidly disappearing. If you are interested in European culture, history, minority languages and change, this could be a little gem of a book for you.
Faber and Faber 2002
ISBN 0 571 21296 4
Fiction: A gentle but disturbing novel about boys growing up in wartime Britain.
Chatto and Windus (London) 2004
ISBN 0 7011 7756 X
Fiction. Sir Edward Feathers, ‘Filth’, was an English international lawyer practising in the Far East. This is his story from childhood to old age. It is also a story of England and Englishness, of the days of the British Empire and the Second World War. It is a story of the past, the present and even the future. It is sad yet funny, compassionate but provocative, delicate and gentle. Like all Jane Gardam’s novels it is also beautifully written.
England – Travels Through an Unwrecked Landscape
Candida LYCETT GREEN
Pavilion Books (London) 1996
ISBN 1 85793 681 7
Non-fiction. The author (who is the daughter of one of England’s best-loved poets, John Betjeman) travels around England looking for the beautiful, the unusual, the eccentric and the hidden. This is ‘England off the motorway’ – she even travels by horse. There are 60 short pieces about places she has visited and four suggested short tours. If you ever visit England you should visit a handful of these forgotten places – before they disappear altogether.
A House by the Shore – Twelve Years in the Hebrides
Futura (London) 1986
ISBN 0 7088 3404 3
Non-fiction. The story of a young couple who met at university, in Oxford, and decided not to live the conventional life that might have been expected of them. They moved to a remote island off the coast of north-west Scotland, bought a derelict house, rebuilt it themselves and turned it into one of the loveliest small hotels anywhere. A book about hard work, setbacks and successes, about wildlife and exquisite landscapes, about food and sustainable lifestyles.
Lake Wobegon Days
Garrison KEILLOR [US]
Faber and Faber (London) 1986
ISBN 0 571 13846 2
Fiction. Lake Wobegon is a small town somewhere in the mid-US. Its citizens are of mainly northern European origin, catholics and protestants, old and, of course, a younger generation, too. An affectionate portrait of small-town American life in the middle of the last century. An elegy of a by-gone time. Keillor’s writing style is gentle, his humour sharp but never unkind. It is one of very few books I have read several times.
Where There’s A Will
Viking (London) 2003
ISBN 0 670 91365 0
Non-fiction. A delightful collection of 32 short pieces about life’s simple pleasures by one of Britain’s best-known playwrights and novelists. They include discussions on ‘Listening’, ‘The Companionship of Women’, ‘Being Vulgar’, ‘Making a Fuss’ and ‘Inventions and the Decline of Language’.
The Assassin’s Cloak – an anthology of the world’s greatest diarists
Edited by Irene and Alan TAYLOR
Canongate Books (Edinburgh) 2000
ISBN 1 84195 172 2
Non-fiction. Before bloggers we had diarists. They wrote on real paper with real pens and ink. Much of the good stuff survived. This is a collection of entries from 170 contributors and claims to be the most wide-ranging and comprehensive anthology of its kind ever completed. There are 686 pages. A great book to keep beside your bed – and to inspire you to write.
R S THOMAS
Phoenix (London) 2002
ISBN 0 75381 653 9
Poetry. A small, relatively cheap and rather lovely hardback book of a selection of poems by one of Britain’s best-known and most accomplished poets. Thomas, who was Welsh, died in September 2000. There are poems about isolation, the people and landscapes of Wales, faith and belief and, of course, love and loss. These are deceptively gentle poems, poems to live with, poems to return to, poems – some of them – even to learn by heart.
John UPDIKE [US]
Hamish Hamilton (London) 2006
ISBN 0 241 14351 9
Fiction. Set in New Jersey, USA, the novel follows 18 year-old Ahmad Mulloy’s struggle to find meaning in the materialistic world around him. A penetrating and topical critique of the human condition in the 21st century.
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