The Three Sisters
Hello everyone, and especially Leila!
Wow, what a response to the movies! I don’t think there’s much more for me to tell you, except maybe to make some recommendations for Aussie movies you might like. As I’m sure you know, there are a lot more Aussie actors than I mentioned last time; people like Eric Bana, Naomi Watts and Mel Gibson, to name a few. A lot of movies are filmed here too – the ones that spring to mind are The Matrix (and the sequels), which was filmed here in Sydney (one of my students at the time bumped into Keanu Reeves in a lift), and Mission: Impossible 2. Some of you mentioned some real Aussie classics: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Muriel’s Wedding, Crocodile Dundee, Shine. All of these feature some great actors – Geoffrey Rush in Shine is fantastic. A couple of more recent ones you may have seen are:
Ned Kelly (2003 – I think, starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom & Naomi Watts. It tells the story of Australia’s most famous outlaw, the bushranger Ned Kelly. There’s a 1970s version starring Mick Jagger, if you’re really keen!)
Rabbit Proof Fence (I really recommend this one, although I should warn you it’s VERY sad, the more so because it’s based on a true story.)
Strictly Ballroom (directed by Baz Luhrmann, who you may know as the director of Moulin Rouge and Romeo & Juliet – also filmed on location in Sydney)
The Castle (this is an Aussie classic; a comedy with very typical Aussie humour; you’ll either love it or hate it!)
Japanese Story (starring Toni Collette, about a Japanese business man coming to Aus and the cultural differences they experience. Again, a very sad movie)
Jindabyne (I have to admit, I haven’t seen this one)
Lantana (I did see this one, but I’m ashamed to admit I can’t remember much about it …)
Leila, possum, you mentioned Vegemite … has anyone ever tried it? I have to say I really don’t like it myself, although I’m trying to bring Owen up as a true Aussie by giving him Vegemite on toast for breakfast … Vegemite is a spread made mainly from yeast and malt. It’s actually very high in certain vitamins (vitamin B, I think), and there’s even an expression in Aus where we can refer to someone as a “happy little Vegemite”. I’ve just looked on the pot we have in the fridge, and there’s a website (of course there is!), so have a look if you’re really interested: www.vegemite.com.au
Now, I promised you an Aboriginal legend, didn’t I? Leila, you’ve inspired this, as I was looking for some more photos to post, and I found some of a recent trip to the Blue Mountains. The Blue Mountains are about 90 mins drive west of Sydney, and are really beautiful; in fact I think the area has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. The mountains themselves aren’t really what I would call mountains; they’re more a series of ridges with high plateaus and steep valleys. From a distance they look blue because of the gum (eucalyptus) trees, hence the name Blue Mountains. A few years ago, in a remote area of the mountains, a species of tree was discovered that was thought to be extinct; they managed to grow it in the Botanical Gardens in Sydney and now you can buy seeds so that you can grow it yourself! The area in the mountains where it was first discovered hasn’t been made general knowledge, though. The tree is the Wollemi Pine, and there’s a website which can give you a lot more information about it if you’d like: http://www.wollemipine.com
Probably the most famous area of the Blue Mountains is the Three Sisters at Echo Point in Katoomba. Katoomba is the main town of the mountains – the early explorers tried for years to find the route across as they’d guessed (correctly) that there would be fertile farmland on the other side, and they eventually found a way. It’s the only way across, with the result that all the villages in the Blue Mountains area are strung out along the highway – the railway from Sydney also follows the same route.
Anyway, here’s a picture of the three sisters for you (it's from the Blue Mountains Tourist website: http://www.bluemts.com.au), and I’ll tell you how they came to be turned into stone.
The Aboriginal dream-time legend says that three beautiful sisters, 'Meehni', 'Wimlah' and Gunnedoo' of the Katoomba tribe lived in the Jamison Valley (below modern Katoomba). They had fallen in love with three brothers from the Nepean tribe, but they couldn’t marry because it was against tribal law. The brothers, who had fallen deeply in love with the sisters on account of their great beauty, decided to break the law and to use force to capture the three sisters, which caused a major battle between the two tribes. As the lives of the three sisters were seriously in danger, a witchdoctor from the Katoomba tribe turned the three sisters into stone to protect them from any harm. Although he had intended to reverse the spell when the battle was over, the witchdoctor himself was killed in the fighting. As he was the only one who could reverse the spell to change them back into human form, the sisters remained as a reminder of this battle for generations to come.
There’s another version of the story, which says that the sisters were out one day with their father when they were attacked by a bunyip (a terrifying spirit who lives near water and eats any people who come near). In order to protect the sisters and save himself, their father turned them into stone and himself into a lyrebird. Unfortunately, when he did this he lost his magic bone, which had the power to change them back again. So he remains a lyrebird, scratching the floor to try and find the bone to reverse the magic, while his daughters look down on him from above.
Which version do you like best? And can you tell us about any legends from your country?
I thought I had a picture of a lyrebird that my dad took last time my parents visited us in Aus, but despite looking everywhere I can’t seem to find it! Lyrebirds have an amazing ability to mimic any noise, including cars, chainsaws, dogs and mobile phone ringtones! The lyrebird is also featured on the Australian ten-cent coin.
The following pictures are from our last day out in the mountains, in July this year. We went to Leura, the village before Katoomba on the way up from Sydney, and had a short walk and a picnic. We were expecting it to be really cold, but in fact the weather was wonderful! I’d packed the car full of gloves, scarves and woolly hats, and we didn’t need any of them!
Leila, I have to say that I’m hard pressed to find errors or possibilities for improvement in your writing, as you use English very accurately and precisely to say what you want to say! I’m really glad that you’re feeling that your writing has developed, and that you feel more confident – that’s great! (I don’t know how much I’ve helped you, though!!).
We’ve had a couple of discussions about articles, so we might have a brief look at them now, and I’ve also noticed a couple of structures that you’ve used that might be useful for everyone else. So that’s the plan! (Sorry, the interesting bit’s over!)
I’m sure all of you have had some horrible experiences with articles in English, especially if you’ve been trying to learn all those little rules and exceptions that always come up in the grammar books. Don’t get me wrong, the little rules are important, but there are some more general rules that can be really helpful to know.
Let’s have a look at a few examples:
I took Owen to a park in Dulwich Hill this morning.
The park had lots of things to climb on.
Parks are well set-up for toddlers.
In the first sentence, have I mentioned the park already? Do you know exactly which park I’m talking about? (No – there might be a lot of parks in Dulwich Hill and you don’t know which one we went to.)
What about the second sentence? Have I mentioned the park already? Do you know which one I’m talking about? (Yes – the park that I took Owen to this morning)
In the third sentence, am I talking about one park, or parks in general? (General)
So you can ask yourself these questions:
Does the person listening to me know what I’m talking about? (Maybe I’ve mentioned it already)
If yes - Use the
If no - Use a/an
Am I talking generally?
If yes – Use no article + plural noun
If no - Use the + singular noun
Now I’m not saying that these are the only things you need to know to use articles in English correctly, but these are the main uses. If you can use this, you’ll get it right more often than not.
I thought I’d give you a bit of practice, so here are some errors to correct. I feel a bit mean picking on Leila all the time, so some of these are hers, but some are from your comments (I won’t name names!). In some of the sentences the article is wrong (remember no article is sometimes correct) and in some the article is missing, so I’ve put an (X) to show you where. You might also need to change singular to plural or plural to singular. Good luck! (Answers next time!)
1. Tomatoes and cucumber are grown in a glasshouse.
2. Regarding (X) subject matters you have wished for.
3. We could hear (X) rattling while sitting.
4. (X) Finnish tango is a close relative to (X) Argentinean tango.
5. To wish my parents (X) happy wedding anniversary.
6. The movie would give me (X) bad taste of the book. (But well done for getting “the” right!!)
7. The plot of the film is set in the history.
8. The building has a false ceiling to make it look nice. (X) false ceiling is made of plywood.
And here are the other points I wanted to look at (Leila, these are yours – I’m so glad you used these structures as I think they’re really useful ones to know!)
Here’s the first one, from your post on 11th Nov (I’ve been saving it until we talked about articles!).
more freedom one has, more responsibility one has to take
Firstly, with this kind of structure, we always need to use the in both parts of the sentence, so it should look like this:
The more freedom one has, the more responsibility one has to take.
Can you see the structure?
The + comparative form + first clause, and the + comparative form + second clause.
We use this to show that two things are related, or that two things change together. Here are some more sentences for you – can you complete the second part? You can put anything you like, as long as it’s grammatically correct!
1. The longer I spend looking at the BBC Learning English site …
2. The more I read about Australia …
And here’s the second one, from your post on 15th Nov – again, I’ve been saving it for articles!
Most definitely one must not dive under water, too big shock for your head.
I’m focussing on the adjective/noun at the end of the sentence; it should say:
It’s too big a shock for your head.
Did you notice that I’ve used “a”? Let’s see what happens if we rewrite the sentence …
It’s a big shock / The shock is too big.
When we use too, the word order changes: too + adj + a + noun.
Notice that we use a, not the, and it’s singular. If the noun was plural, we couldn’t use this structure; we’d have to say “the shocks are too big”. Interesting, isn’t it? (I bet you’re all sitting at your computers with your heads in your hands! I hope not …)
So let’s have a little practice of this one as well. Can you rewrite the sentences using the structure: too + adj + a + noun? I’ll do the first one as an example …
1. (e.g.) The day was too hot to go to the park = it was too hot a day to go to the park.
2. The curry was too spicy for Owen to eat.
3. The pile of laundry is too big to do at once.
As I’ve given you so much homework on articles, I won’t look too hard at vocab tonight – I’ll just give you the definitions for the 8th & 12th, and some answers to the last homework. (I might steal the answers from your comments, actually, as they were all great – well done!)
1. What cracks you up?
• funny ring tones
• children (Hyoshil, I loved your story about your son!!)
2. What sort of things might you do or say if you were showing off?
• saying male drivers have more accidents than women (nice one, Adriana!)
• boasting about how much money you have
• buying a pair of Prada shoes
3. Can you tell us about someone you take your hat off to?
• Dr Zilda Arns (thank you, Ana Paula)
• Paulo César Vinha (thank you as well, Adriana)
• Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Ghandi, Mother Teresa (thanks, Leila)
4. Can you tell us something that works a treat if you have a headache? Lots of suggestions for this one – let’s share some advice:
• a cup of coffee without sugar and a dark room
• have a rest
• have a cup of tea
• personally, I lie down with an ice pack on my head (looks very strange, but it works!)
5. Do you ever nag anyone? Who? What about? (Or does someone nag you?)
• Most of you were talking about a family member, and it is of course possible to nag yourself!
• Depending on who you ask, I never / always nag Chris (delete as appropriate!)
6. If you could settle down anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
• the seaside
• Dubai (why, Naheed?)
• the place where I live now (good answer, Adriana!)
• Natal (after your description, Ana Paula, me too!)
• I asked Chris, and he said he would settle down either in Sydney or the little village just outside Durham where he lived when we were at Uni there.
7. What was the last thing you chucked out? Why?
• Chris’s shoes!!!!!!! (no, no, only joking!)
• Our coffee plunger (it broke into pieces when Chris dropped a cup on it – strangely, the cup didn’t break)
OK – here are the definitions for the previous vocab lists …
8th Nov – Springtime in Sydney
off and on (expr) = occasionally
(one of Sydney’s) gems (n) = a very beautiful part of a city or country
knocking off time (expr) = time to finish work
sweepstake (n) = a type of gambling where you put a small amount of money on one horse.The person who picks the winning horse wins all the money.
be into sth (phr vb) = enjoy doing sth, like sth
epidemic (n) = a disease that affects a lot of people at the same time
quarantine (n / vb) = to keep an animal or person away from others in order not to spread a disease
12th Nov – Waltzing Matilda
to do sth (or sb) good (expr) = improve your health or lifestyle
to take advantage of (expr) = to use the good aspects of a situation
it’s bad enough … let alone (expr) = we use let alone to add emphasis, usually after a negative statement. e.g. I can’t believe you’ve swum in a frozen river once, let alone every winter!
to do sth justice (expr) = to treat or explain sth in a way that shows what it’s really like
crikey! (Aus. exclamation) = this is very informal; it’s used to show surprise
And I think that’s it for today!
Goodnight from Oz,
Today’s vocab …
spring to mind (expr)
strung out (adj)
I’m hard pressed (expr)
Don’t get me wrong (expr)
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