In answer to your questions …
Hello again Naheed, and everyone reading!
Firstly, thanks so much for all your kind wishes for my goddaughter, Sophie. It’s very sweet of you all and I have passed your wishes on to Sophie and her parents. I have been reading all the different ways you celebrate the arrival of a baby in your countries, and I have to say it’s fascinating. I had never heard of cutting hair from a baby’s head or making a calligraphy brush out of a newborn’s hair, so you see, I’m learning lots too!
Thanks also to Naheed for telling us more about her life in Pakistan. Naheed, if you want to talk about giving food to animals, you can say ‘I feed the pigeons (with grain) every morning’.
I do a kind of exercise that is very similar to the yoga that Naheed does. Once a week, I take a pilates (pronounced pee-lah-tees) class. It’s all about strengthening the muscles that surround the spine, and stretching. I spend most of my day sitting on my bum, so it’s important I do something active!
It sounds as though you’re doing really well in your studies, Naheed. I’m sure you’ll be very successful! You got all of the adjectives correct in the last homework I set you, and I noticed you used the verb ‘taste’ to talk about flavours too, so well done!
However, there are a couple of the Shakespeare-coined phrases that maybe I didn’t explain very well, as you haven’t got the usage quite perfect. I’ll see if I can explain them a bit better here:
· strange bedfellows – these are things about which you would think ‘they’ll never work well together’, but in fact, they do work well together. For example:
‘The oil industry and saving the environment probably seem like strange bedfellows, but some major oil companies are now investing in green energy sources.’
The meaning here is that you might think about an oil company and the environment, and think ‘these two things can never fit together’. But in fact, they do fit together.
· full circle – I can see you’ve got the right idea about the meaning of this phrase, which means ‘to return to the beginning’ or ‘to return to the original state’. However, your example doesn’t quite work. Why? Because you say 'her efforts to learn to drive' came full circle. It is not her efforts that have gone full circle -- she is still trying hard to progress, to move on. It is the fact that she still does not have a driving licence that has come full circle. She had no driving licence before the test, and she still doesn't have one now. Does that make sense? Here is another example:
‘John was once a homeless man, living on the streets. Then he found a winning lottery ticket. He bought a huge mansion, flashy cars and expensive jewellery. He travelled the world. After just five years, all his money was spent. Now his life has come full circle and he is back on the streets, begging for money.’
The meaning here is that John started out homeless, and ended up the same way – homeless.
So perhaps you could say something like this:
Despite hours of driving lessons, Venus had come full circle. Six weeks ago she didn't have a licence, and today, after her failing her test, she still doesn't have a licence.
One other point I wanted to mention, Naheed, was that you sometimes drop articles like ‘a’ and ‘the’. For example, in the following sentence, there are two missing articles. Can you tell me what they are and where they should go?
‘Father or any member of a family says call of prayer in a baby’s ear.’
This is not a huge problem, as we can still all understand perfectly what you mean, so don’t feel bad – it’s just something to be aware of.
I hope you don’t mind if I use the rest of this blog to reply to your comments and questions. I’m not ignoring you, honestly! Sometimes there is a bit of a time delay between your comments going online and my blog being posted. I read them all and they are very interesting and encouraging. It’s such fun to have a virtual online class with students from all around the world! If I can get on top of answering all your questions here, I’ll be free to blog about something else next time.
First, I have to apologize profusely to Phu of the Netherlands, who for some reason I thought was a woman (he’s not – he’s a man!). Phu, I’m so sorry! After telling you all about how people confuse my name, I did the same to you! I am hanging my head in shame. Violante from Italy challenged me to guess his/her sex. I *think* you might be male – something about Italian words that end in ‘e/o’ being masculine, and words that end in ‘a’ being feminine? Let me know if I’m right.
I know that all of you read very carefully – Adek from Poland (a man!) admits looking at the teacher’s blog to try to find mistakes. I like your style, Adek! And some of you have already found some of my errors. Kirsti from France and Jill from Beijing, you’re right: I missed some words out. I should have written ‘No, I am not getting married’ and ‘I’d also like to say a special ‘Hello’ to Naheed, our new student blogger’. Well done for spotting these! I’d like to say they were deliberate mistakes, but really they were just mistakes. Maybe I was just too excited about becoming a godmother?
Kirsti wanted to know whether ‘have the exact same meaning’ and ‘have exactly the same meaning’ mean the same thing. Yes, they do. There is no difference in meaning. Kirsti also wanted to know why I hyphenated ‘current-day’. This is an example of a compound adjective – that’s jargon again. Here, I have joined an adjective (current) with a noun (day) to form one idea (current-day), which is an adjective. In this case, to make the meaning clear, it’s best to use a hyphen to link the two words.
Ali from Iran wants to know whether it’s a good idea to try to read some Shakespeare. Why don’t you start with something short, like one of his sonnets? Whilst we’re on the subject of Shakespeare, a special ‘well done!’ is due to Katy, Ana Paula and Hyoshil, who did really well getting the meanings of those coined phrases. Oh, and Ana Paula, you can say both learn from you and learn with you!
Wisarut, my favourite Thai food is phad thai – a noodle dish. Do you have the recipe? Yes, the photo was taken in the church, and you got all your homework right!
Paulraj, Sophie is about six months old. I didn’t buy her a gift as I’ve opened a savings account for her instead, which she can have when she’s 18. Ana Paula, the christening cake does not contain any special ingredients – it’s simply the centrepiece of the celebrations. Tomo, I was never christened, so I don’t have a godmother myself!
A lot of you, like Koorosh from Iran and Kailarai from Nepal, want to know how you can improve your written English. Firstly, I want to give you all some encouragement. I can understand the meaning of all your comments, even if they’re not grammatically perfect. Making yourself understood is the most important thing when using a foreign language, so don’t beat yourself up too much about making a few mistakes here and there. Secondly, practise makes perfect. Just keep reading and listening to as much English as you can, and you’ll make steady progress. Be patient! And thirdly, just to make you feel better, remember that lots and lots of native English speakers make mistakes all the time. No one is perfect. For example, here is a comment about my blog, posted by my dear brother, Neil:
“Hi jo - its your brother. Sophie says thankyou for being her godmother yesterday at church. she is too young to write - so I will give it a go. How is my grammar and spelling? X”
Neil may be 38 years old and I may be 34, but I still like to tease him. So, for your next homework, I’d like you all to find at least one grammatical error in the comment written by my brother, who is a native speaker and has been speaking English for 38 years. If you like, you can even rewrite it to make his English better. Good luck!
Next time, I’m going to write about one of my pets. But what kind of animal am I going to write about? Here’s a little riddle. See if you can work it out:
I wag my tail,
But only when I’m angry.
I like to sleep,
Usually during the day.
I’m soppy and cute,
But only when I want to be.
I’m a contrary creature.
What am I?
Until next time, Cheerio!
If you describe someone as sweet, it means they are kind and thoughtful.
calligraphy is a kind of artistic handwriting.
newborn – you can use the word newborn as an adjective and a noun, to refer to a baby.
bum – a slang word for your bottom, the buttocks. It’s pretty mild slang though, so you won’t upset anyone if you use this word.
If something is green, it is good for the environment.
A mansion is a huge, expensive house. I’m a poor writer, so I don’t live in one of these!
You can describe people and things as flashy. It’s a slightly negative adjective. It means you’re showing off about how wealthy you are.
drop – in this context, ‘drop’ means ‘to miss out’ or ‘to omit’.
get on top of – in this context, this means ‘to catch up’ or ‘to get up to date’.
If you hang your head in shame, you are very embarrassed or sorry about something.
sonnets are poems, and they are usually 14 lines long.
a centrepiece is the main object or thing.
If you beat yourself up about something, you make yourself feel bad. This is quite an informal phrase.
tease means ‘to make fun of’.
a riddle is a puzzle.
soppy means sentimental
if someone is contrary, they like to have disagreements.
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