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On 1st March we moved to a new blogging system.

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April 2008

Tuesday, 01 April 2008

Hello from Anne!

Hi Everyone!

Just a quick hello from me. My name is Anne and I’m the new teacher blogger. I’m really looking forward to Xuan’s first post and getting to know everyone.

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am currently living and working in Bangkok, Thailand. I work as Head of English for a large IT company. I am married to Steve and we have two gorgeous kids, Joshua (aged 3) and Rachel (aged 1). I am originally from Newcastle Upon Tyne, which is in the north of England. I have just been back there, actually, for my sister’s wedding. It was quite an unusual wedding and I will tell you all about it once I have sorted through my photos and can show you some pictures. I only got back yesterday, so I am still suffering from jet lag. I haven’t even unpacked yet! I’m at work right now but maybe by the time I get home the kids will have unpacked everything for me….

Ok, like I said, just a quick post from me for my first blog. Let’s wait to hear from Xuan than we can start chatting in earnest.

Bye for now,

in earnest (idiom) – properly, more seriously

Wednesday, 02 April 2008

Thanks for the great response

Good Evening Everyone,

Well, I am amazed by the response to my first blog. Thanks to everyone for all the welcome messages and for taking the time to write. I am really looking forward to chatting to you all over the next few days and weeks and getting to know everyone better. Xuan, hope you can blog sometime soon.

I wonder what you are all doing right now? I’m at home after managing to stay awake all day at work (I was jetlagged yesterday after my trip to the UK, but feel much better today) and it is silent in my flat. The kids are sound asleep and Steve has just nipped out to get some food, so I have time to blog.

Quite a few of you have asked me about my job and to tell you more about my work. You’ve also asked me loads of questions about Thailand. So, let me start to tell you about work first and we’ll see how far we get. Like I said, I work for a large software company as Head of English. The company makes software packages for the finance industry. We have offices all over the world, but the operation in Thailand is one of our biggest, with over 700 staff. The staff have to deal with colleagues and clients in the UK, the US and Australia in conference calls and via email, so my team and I provide them with specific training to help them do this. We also provide training in other business skills, such as meetings and presentations, as well as running courses in general English, to improve speaking and writing skills. The staff have a real need to learn English, as they have to use it to communicate every day for their jobs (like Miao says, English is an essential tool for a lot of people) and they are very motivated to learn.

How did I get the job? Well, like many things, I was in the right place at the right time. I just happened to be in Thailand and saw an advert for the job. To cut a long story short, I applied, got an interview and then got the job. I am really lucky as I enjoy my work, the Thai staff I work with are all great and I also have a fabulous team working with me! Funnily enough, one of my team-mates (Sam, from Adelaide, Australia) discovered yesterday that I was doing this blog and she has said she will log in every day to read your posts. I felt a bit guilty, as I had forgotten to tell the team that I was going to be the teacher blogger. Ooops! I work with another Australian called Rob, Tom, who is from the UK and Nurat, who is Thai. If I can persuade them, I’ll stick a photo of us all up on the blog sometime. We don’t do much translation work, Paulraj, but when we do Nurat is the one to do it, sometimes assisted by Tom who speaks fluent Thai. I am both impressed and very, very envious of him. I am trying to learn Thai but it is difficult, as it’s a tonal language and the alphabet is completely different to English. I’ll get there one day. I think it’s important that if you live in a place, you try to speak the language.

Before my current job, I worked for the British Council in India, where I was posted for 3 years, and prior to that I worked for a university in Thailand. And I started off my career as an EFL teacher working for International House (so yes, Cristina, I know IH very well!).

OK, I think I have waffled on about work enough, so let me reply now to some of the comments you have made. I cannot promise to reply to each of you individually every time, but I will try to do this when I can.

Supriya – thanks for your post and I am looking forward to hearing more from you. Where in India do you live? I was based in Delhi for a while. I am also waiting for Xuan’s first post.

Merce – Well done for trying to read the blog every day. And your English doesn’t sound poor to me :-) Keep writing to us all.

James – I have never been to Taiwan – please tell me more about it. See you and take care

Tanya – I hope I have answered your question about my job. Are you from Ireland originally, or are you just living there now?

Vladimir – I hope I have included some new useful expressions in this blog (a lot of them seem to be informal – I hope that is OK). I promise that I will write some things about life in Thailand next time, so that you can become more acquainted with it. See you later.

Kuldeep – there has been a lot of talk in previous teacher blogs about weddings, so I won’t go into too much detail here. But to answer your question about giving a gift to my sister, I actually haven’t got her anything yet. Is this really bad of me? I will of course send her something very soon....

Antonio (from Portugal) – we have a similar festival in the UK called April Fools’ Day. People play practical jokes on each other and are allowed to tell small lies. I don’t think this happens in Thailand.

A warm welcome to you too, Pedro. I am looking forward to these 2 months as well, and to hearing more from one of my most diligent students.

Paulraj – I think that lots of software companies do employ English teachers, especially international ones. Where do you live in India?

Miao – welcome to the blog! Are you still living in Melbourne? What are you doing now that you have graduated? I think you already seem to be making a big effort to learn English. For example, I saw that you made 2 posts and that you had made changes between the first and the second version. You obviously worked on what you wrote the first time, improved it, thought about the language you were using and then made a second post. This is a great way to write – remember, writing is a process and we shouldn’t expect to get it right first time. We all need to be ready to check our work and write several versions, before we come up with a final version that we like.

Welcome back Yanko. I guess we just couldn’t keep you away :-) Have I told you enough about how the work my team does supports the company we work for?

Hey Ernesto! You are right. Thailand is a very beautiful country. But I have also heard that Chile is an exciting, diverse and exotic place. Am I right?

Haajiabdi – Your post made me chuckle. I liked the way you copied everything Kulpdeep said and added in LIKE SOMALIA. OK, now you have to tell us more about your country.

Eugeny – thank you for your brief message. I did a google search on Tchaikovsky city to see where you live. Do you like his music?

Antonio (from Belgium) – I am looking forward to your ‘active’ comments this month.

Welcome Tahir. Sorry to hear that you were bored at work today. If you get bored again, why not take a look through all the previous student and teacher blogs. That should keep you busy for a while :-) You will find lots of interesting information, as well as exercises set by the teachers, new language and grammar points. In fact, that’s something we can all do. Revising is a very important part of learning – we all need to remind ourselves of what we have learnt, in order to commit it to memory.

Hi Tiasha – I love Thai food as well. In fact, I think it is one of the world’s best cuisines. However tonight, Steve and I are having pizza! But that is one of the joys of living in Bangkok – you can get more or less anything you want, at any time of the day or night. I didn’t realise that I am the first teacher blogger from Thailand.

Good to hear from you Ana Paula – I hope I live up to your expectations about teaching you a lot. I am also looking forward to learning from all of you, as we chat in cyberspace. Best Wishes.

Cristina – I know a lot about International House, but very little about Argentina. Please tell me more about your country. How do you think that doing FCE has helped you in your life / job etc? What motivated you to do it?

Alireza – thank you for your post and I am glad you like the blog. It is a great resource and makes very interesting reading. I look forward to chatting more with you.

Hello Richard – thanks for the wishes for my family. I promise I will tell you all more about Bangkok next time and I hope that along the way I can help you all with your English.

OK – nearly time for my pizza with Steve. But just before I go, let me give you your homework. Hurray, homework! This applies to the posts for Supriya, Merce, James, Vladimir, Kuldeep, Antonio, Pedro, Paulraj, Miao, Yanko, Ernesto and Ana Paula. Read the posts from these bloggers then read the replies I have written. In my posts, I have either amended or corrected something(s) that each blogger wrote. Can you spot what I have amended? Sometimes it might just be a spelling mistake, it might be a change if preposition in a phrasal verb, or it might be using a different verb tense or word to one they have used. You don’t need to post what you have noticed – just keep your own notes and I will give you the answers next time.

Bye for now, everyone, and speak to you soon,


PS. Let's chat about Thailand in the next blog. Out of interest, have any of you ever visited Thailand before?

Sound asleep (adjective + noun) – deeply asleep

To nip out (verb, informal) – to go somewhere in a hurry

Loads of (pl. Noun, informal) – a lot

Operation (noun) - used here as a synonym for ‘office’ or ‘company’

To deal with (verb) – to do business with

I’ll get there one day (expression, informal) – if I work hard, I will be able to do it i.e. speak Thai one day

To cut a long story short (expression, informal) – to avoid going into detail about something

Current (adjective) job – the job I do now

Prior (adjective) to that – preceding/before that (i.e. before I worked for the British Council)

To waffle on (verb, informal) – to talk for too long

To chuckle
(verb) – to laugh

To commit something to memory (Verb) – another way of saying ‘to rememeber’

Thursday, 03 April 2008

From pizza to green curry

Hi Everyone,

Hope you are all well. Xuan has not logged in yet so I still have the chance to read all of your posts and answer your queries. I don’t want to raise expectations too high though. Once Xuan has logged in, a good part of my time will be spent dealing with her posts. In the meantime, I am free to chat with you. Don’t forget the homework I set you yesterday, to compare your posts with my replies to you, and to see if you can spot any differences in the language. I can see that some of you have done it already....well done. Answers tomorrow. And thanks to those of you who spotted my spelling mistakes :-/

Naheed asked me about the differences between living in India and living in Bangkok, so I think that is a good place for me to start talking about my life here in Thailand. I am very cautious of making sweeping generalisations to compare Thailand and India –both countries are very large and very diverse. Comparing specifically Delhi to Bangkok, I like them both in different ways. The pace of life in Bangkok can be very fast. Its a modern, high-rise city with excellent infrastructure both in terms of facilities (shops, restaurants and other leisure facilities) and what I would call ‘ public services’ (electricity, water, transport, road networks). Bangkok never sleeps. You can get more or less whatever you want, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I like that because I am a city person. I thrive on the hustle and bustle. If you don’t like cities, Bangkok is probably your worst nightmare of a place to live. Delhi has a slower pace of life. That’s not to say that you can’t live the high life if you wish. Delhi has excellent facilities, in terms of leisure, but the public services are sometimes not quite as reliable as Bangkok. There are frequent electricity and water shortages due to high demand. But Delhi also has a good metro service, which is rapidly expanding across the city. And yes, in both places, you can get food delivered to your door.

Delhi is city of contrasts. Some of the most beautiful parts of the ‘new city’ were designed by the British architect Lutyens during the British Raj, and there are wide boulevards, large parks and some beautiful buildings. Compare that to the dark alleys of the ‘old town’, with its mosques, bazaars and old shops and you have a fascinating place to explore. Bangkok is also a city of contrasts, from the modern skyscrapers, to the narrow lanes of China town, from temples (known here as ‘wats’) to palaces. There are also some amazing museums and of course there are some wonderful beaches just a short drive away.

One of the things I like most in Bangkok is all the different ways of getting around. Steve and I spent a good few years using Bangkok as a base to visit other parts of South East Asia, so we got to know it quite well. One of my favourite trips was (or I should say ‘is’ because I still do it...) going to the National Museum down on the river from the little hotel we used to stay in downtown. We would walk to the river jetty to catch a long tail boat river taxi to the terminal station. Then we’d catch a tuk-tuk (a 3-wheeler motorised vehicle, like a rickshaw in India) down to the museum. After visiting the museum, which has some fascinating artefacts, we would amble on down to the river and catch a ferry to the other side and have lunch overlooking the water, watching the world go by. We used to see tiny, tiny tug boats puling massive barges and I still wonder how they can do it. I think rivers are fascinating, as there is always something going on to watch. Do you enjoy sitting and watching the world go by, or people watching?

Steve and I find Thailand a very easy place to live. The people are friendly, it is easy to get around and it is very child-friendly. I was thinking about what Leila said, that what I described sounded “out of the ordinary”. Its strange, but we have come to accept life here as normal, I guess because we have got used to it. If I see an elephant in the street, I don’t bat an eyelid. But I think that’s the case for us all, isn’t it. Whatever we are used to seems normal. Do you agree?

The pizza was great, thanks. Tonight we had Thai food. Chicken green curry – my favourite (delivered to the door...). More about food next time. Food is one of my great passions in life. I love eating and cooking. What about you – what are your great passions in life? And I don’t mean people – obviously I am passionate about my husband – I’m talking about the things that you really, really love doing.

OK, night night and speak to you all tomorrow.


cautious (adjective) - careful

sweeping generalisations (adjective + noun) - talking in terms which are too vague and therefore not accurate

hustle and bustle - used to describe a place that is very busy

worst nightmare of a place to live (phrase, informal) - not a good place to live

to live the high life (verb phrase, informal)- to have a good time and/or to have an expensive lifestyle

artefacts (or artifacts - noun) - man-made objects

to amble (verb) - to walk, slowly

to not bat an eyelid (verb ohrase, informal) - this phrase is generally used in the negative eg. I didn't bat an eyelid and means to not be surprised by something

Friday, 04 April 2008

Have a good weekend

Hello Everyone

Hope you’re all looking forward to the weekend. What plans do you have? This Saturday is officially “Daddy Pamper Day” in our house. If you pamper someone, you look after them or spoil them, perhaps giving them treats or presents, or doing something nice for them. While I was in the UK for my sister’s wedding, Steve had a fun but tough week looking after the kids all on his own. He is more than used to this, as he works from home and takes care of Josh and Rachy while I go to the office to work, but I think he deserves a day off on Saturday. I am hoping that he can get a long lie-in in bed, while I whisk the children away (silently, of course) for a morning out. Here is an old shot of the kids.

So, what will I do with the children? Well, it’s getting really hot over here at the moment. I think it was around 38 degrees C which rules out a lot of activities that normally we could do outdoors, like going to the park or visiting the palace. Fortunately, Bangkok has lots of indoor options for small kids, so I think I’ll probably take them both to see the fish at the aquarium (Josh loves looking at the crabs) and then we’ll go to one of the many play centers around town. I love going out for coffee, so I might brave Starbucks or something like that. Then we’ll meet Steve for lunch and I’ll take the kids home while Steve has a mooch around town. He loves bookshops, and I bet he will make a beeline straight to his favourite book store (despite the fact that I have just bought him some new books from the UK….) before heading off to the pub for a quick pint.

In the evening I’m cooking! Not sure what yet, but inspiration will strike me sometime during the day on Saturday, I hope. Steve is a carnivore and loves meat. I like meat, but also love vegetarian food. I once tried to introduce Mondays as “vegetarian day” in our house. It lasted well for a couple of weeks, until on the 3rd week I came home to a very strange smell in the house. I thought I could smell mince cooking, but couldn’t work out why. I had made a very nice vegetarian chilli for us the night before and was really looking forward to it. Well what do you know – my meat eating husband and emptied a pound of minced beef into my beautiful chilli. I have never let him live that down! So tomorrow, I’ll probably do steak or duck. Cooking is one of my great passions and I have a large range of cookbooks, which I will flick through to choose a nice recipe.

Here are your corrections from last time.

Supriya To look forward TO something (not for); Xuan’s (with an apostrophe)
Merce Every day is 2 words. And I changed the position in the sentence
James Capital ‘s’ on See you
Vladimir Become ‘acquainted’ with (not become a bit common)See YOU later.
Kuldeep To give a gift (not gifting)
Antonio ‘Admitted’ should be ‘permitted’ or ‘allowed’
Pedro Warm welcome (not worm – a worm is a small animal that lives in soil); One of the mostDiligent (not dilligent)
Paulraj Software companies.... teachers (not soft ware teacher)
Miao I have graduated (not ‘now I graduated’); Effort TO learn English (not effort ON learning)
Yanko Supports (not support); Work for (not work)
Ernesto Thailand (not Tailand); Beautiful (beatifull) 100 times please
Ana Paula Best Wishes (not wihes)

Now then, here are some things to keep you busy over the weekend. I hope I have covered everyone – if I have missed you out I am very sorry. All comments refer to your responses to my blog dated 2 April.

Ok – who asked me about self-interest? Self-interest (noun) means doing something purely for yourself and not caring about anyone else. The expression ‘out of interest’ means ‘I would like to know’.

Leila – what is the missing preposition – ‘left off the plane due ___ overbooking’?

Vladimir – I want you to think about singular and plural (agreement) and reword a couple of phrases you wrote. (1) There isn’t any doubt / doubts; (2) who is / are the teacher blogger (choose the correct word for each sentence). Can you explain why?

Anwar – is it ‘i’ or ‘I’? Can you tell me why? I would also like to learn another language when I retire.

Jeronimo14 - Do you go to live ‘to’ another country? What is the correct preposition here?

Ernesto – I like your sentence which starts ‘From the hot and dry desert…’. Instead of saying ‘following to’ you could say ‘down to…”. As you are writing ‘beautiful’ 100 times, remember to put a ‘u’ in it :-)

Ana Paula – is key word transformation ‘a hard part’ or ‘the hardest part’? Don’t worry – ‘a hard part’ is grammatically correct, I’m just wondering if that is exactly what you meant? Can you explain the difference between the 2 phrases.

Silwal – what word is missing here? (1) to work in ___ multicultural environment; (2) to work in ___ growing company. It’s the same word both times. Do you know why you need it?

Tanya – did you mean ‘exhaustive’ instead of ‘exhausted’? Can you explain the difference between these 2 words?

Cristina – when you talk about your friend in Ohio, did you mean ‘know’ or ‘meet’? What is the difference?

Mina – check your preposition in the phrase ‘keep on the good job’. What should it be?

Supriya – what is the difference between ‘write’ and ‘right’?

Miao – the UK is 6 hours behind Thailand. Do you really have a lot of furnitures? Or do you have a lot of furniture. Why have I corrected this? And 4 years is a long time to be leaving somewhere. Do you mean living? Can you explain what these 2 verbs mean?

Merce – ‘how is people’ or ‘how are the people’? Which is correct, and why?

Ryan – ‘funnily enough’ is correct.

Habooba – my secret is that to stay active, you have to be active. And drink coffee. Lots of it!

Maryam – I promise I will post some pics. They are all on my sister’s camera, so when she gets back from her honeymoon I will post them.

James – I will try to correct your work where possible. I am glad you like to be corrected. (Compare your post to mine and think about the words ‘correct’ and ‘corrected’. What do you notice?)

Paulraj – is it a ‘detail’ blog or a ‘detailed’ blog? What is the difference between ‘detail’ and ‘detailed’?

Hyoshil – I really like your expressions ‘full of beans’ and ‘fresh as a daisy’. I bet that not everyone knows what they mean – can you explain them for everyone using other words?

Hi Michelle – I have been to Beijing and loved it. I chose to learn French at university (compare this sentence to what you wrote in your blog – is it the same, or different?)

Alireza – You wrote ‘I’m employee’. What word is missing between ‘I’m’ and ‘employee’? Why do you need it?

Antonio (from Portugal) – tell me, do you ‘do’ mistakes, or ‘make’ mistakes? Can you think of 3 other nouns that we can use with ‘do’, and 3 others that we use with ‘make’? To answer your question, I prefer to work in the private sector for now, because it’s a change from the public sector.

Kuldeep – I want you to look up ‘less’ and ‘lessen’, and think about the word lesser (is this a word – is there a different irregular comparative that you can use instead?). Then go back to your blog and think about changes you need to make to ‘face lesser language problems’ and ‘to less homesickness’.

Hi Adek – thanks for post. Don’t feel you have to read fast – take your time and enjoy it.

Jura – that’s an interesting question about how to replace the word ‘read’. What ideas do you have? Tell me and then I’ll give you mine. Perhaps people leave the UK because it’s too cold, or perhaps they think ‘the grass is greener on the other side’. Do you know this expression – if you don’t mind, can you look it up and explain it to everyone?

That’s all folks! Just to manage your expectations, I won’t blog at the weekend (weekends are for relaxing and family, don’t you agree) so speak to you again on Monday.

Have a great weekend,

PS – there might be a vocabulary test on Monday, so you can also revise all the new words I have given you :-)

To whisk someone away (vb – slightly poetic usage)– to carry someone off with a flourish

To rule out (Vb) – to prevent from doing

To brave doing something (vb, informal) – here means that Starbucks will be very busy and crowded, so it will be a challenge for me to go there with 2 kids

To mooch (vb, informal) – to wander round casually

To make a beeline (vb phrase, informal) – to go directly to a particular place

A quick pint (adj + noun, informal) – a pint is around 630ml and is the measurement used for drinks in English pub. I’ve called it a ‘quick pint’ to indicate that he will drink it quickly and not spend too long in the pub J. You could also say, for example, ‘do you fancy a quick coffee?’ or ‘would you like a quick bite to eat?’, meaning that you probably don’t have much time and don’t want to spend too long on either activity.

Mince (noun) - minced meat (could be any kind of meat, but in the Uk usually beef or pork)

To manage expectations (vb) – to make sure you know what I will do and when, what you can expect from me

Monday, 07 April 2008

Hi Cristina!

Hello Cristina,

How lovely to hear that you are going to be the student blogger this month. I am really looking forward to chatting and to getting to know you better, as well as learning something about Argentina. Steve and I have always talked about visiting your country and it is one of our ambitions to go there. But I didn’t realize that beaches in Argentina were cold and windy, so I won’t pack my bikini when we come, ho ho. And I enjoyed the pictures of your sister doing yoga with the children. I am not very bendy or flexible, so even the thought of yoga makes my joints ache :-)

Your story of your family life really touched me. Your mother must be an amazing woman and I imagine that you, your mum and your sister are all very close. And thank you for the pictures of Argentina in the snow. My first attempt to post a picture on this blog failed (as some of you have pointed out...) so I need to work out how to do this. Watch this space!

You asked me when I first came to Thailand and about being homesick. I first came to Thailand, on holiday (to meet Steve – he was travelling at the time) in 1999 and we have been coming and going, on and off, ever since. We initially came here to live in 2003, but were tempted to move away to India in 2004. We realized after Rachel was born that we missed Thailand a lot, so moved back here permanently in late 2006. I have never suffered from homesickness! I miss my family and friends, but I don’t miss the UK very much. That’s not to say that I didn’t like living in the UK, I just love travelling and enjoy living in different places. You said that you had imagined living in other places, Cris. Where have you thought of going to? Maybe Chile, for the beef and wine :-) I think my husband would be in heaven there!

I am already extremely impressed by your writing. You seem to have a rich vocabulary and you made excellent use of a variety of conjunctions and time markers. I especially like your use of phrases containing ‘not until’ e.g. it was not until my husband and I started travelling and ‘if’, for example, ‘If you walk 4 blocks down you get to the South…’. Can you have a look at the following 2 'IF' phrases for me. Is there anything you would change?

(1) If you want to see snow you have to go to that region. --> I personally would replace ‘have to’ with ‘should’, but you could also argue that this change is not necessary. Can you see why I would make this change?
(2) If it weren’t so cold as they are I would go and live there. --> Does the agreement work here?

Also, the following phrases need rewording (no clues, but look at the italicised words and think about how these need to be changed). These are all small slips – otherwise, your writing is quite accurate.

1. I was born in Buenos Aires and I have been living here all my life.
2. During my time at university, I’ve met my husband
3. Hope you have spent a wonderful weekend
4. …after walking 15 minutes in a speed of 6 km per hour
5. To see people enter a restaurant to dinner at 11pm
6. “the sushi” are in fashion now (actually, I had sushi for lunch today. I love it!)
7. Not only it opened my mind, but it also helped me improve all my skills as well.

You asked me about the difference between ‘specially’ and ‘especially’. Well, according to the dictionary, ‘especially’ is used less than ‘specially’. There are two main cases when we would use specially, and not especially

(1) To indicate something out of the ordinary, e.g. He has been SPECIALLY trained --> meaning ‘in normal circumstances he would not have been trained’
(2) To indicate that something is being singled out for a particular purpose e.g. The word was SPECIALLY highlighted for you --> meaning, ‘it was highlighted so that you could see it easily (for whatever reason)’

When there is the concept of ‘individuality’ or ‘something outstanding’, either specially or especially can be used e.g. He is SPECIALLY / ESPECIALLY good at his job --> meaning, ‘he is extremely good at his job’, perhaps better than other people.

‘Especially’ is used when we want to single something out in particular, to be specific about it. So for example, in your phrase ‘Some of the provinces, ESPECIALLY the northern ones….’ I feel we should use ‘especially’. This is because we are not talking about all of the provinces, we are talking specifically about the northern ones.

Does this explanation make sense? Please let me know if this is clear. For reference, I used COLLINS English dictionary with help for the definitions, published by Harper Collins, 1979.

Now, over to the homework I set everyone. Cris, you were correct in your definitions of ‘know’ and ‘meet’.

Silwal, you are correct – determiner ‘a’ is missing in the phrases (1) to work in ___ multicultural environment; (2) to work in ___ growing company.

I asked Vladimir to reword (1) There isn’t any doubt / doubts; (2) who is / are the teacher blogger (choose the correct word for each sentence), which he did correctly. ‘There isn’t any doubt’ and ‘Who is the teacher blogger’. Well done for spotting the additional mistake, Vladimir.

Hi Katie Tran – I went to Vietnam 9 years ago. I bet it has changed a lot since then. I loved Ha Noi and Danang. Good to hear from you and enjoy the blog.

James asked, what does ‘not sure what yet’ mean, with reference to my post of 4th April. I meant ‘I am not sure yet what I will cook’ --> i.e. I haven’t decided what to cook.

Ernesto – you make a good point. It’s ‘down to’ for north to south, and ‘up to’ for south to north.

Roasalba – I am interested to hear what you say about New Zealanders and idioms. There are different expressions and idioms between different English-speaking countries. Can you give us any examples of idioms that people have not understood?

Ana Paula – did you have fun with the key word transformations? I notice that you did change ‘a hard’ to ‘the hardest’.

Tanya asked for a synonym for the word exhaustive. Its always best to look at a word in context to understand meaning. So, in the phrase ‘an exhaustive list’ (i.e. a list that contains every possible detail and fact) you could replace ‘exhaustive’ with ‘complete’, ‘comprehensive’ or maybe even ‘full’.

Hi Bi. Thanks for the details about Vietnam. I have two questions for you. First, why are there no vehicles in DN? The second is, what can I see in Hue? (Look at your post – I have reworded some of the things you wrote. Can you see what I have reworded?)

Hi Supriya. Your answer is correct. Right means ‘correct’. For example, she gave the right answer. To write means to write on paper. The correct preposition is looking forward to, e.g. ‘I am looking forward to your visit’ (meaning, ‘I can’t wait to see you’). But, if you want to express that you have been looking forward to the visit for a period of time, you can say ‘I have been looking forward TO your visit FOR a long time’. But you can’t say ** ‘I have been looking forward for your visit’ **

Michelle – your sentence ‘I chose to learn French as my third language’ is correct.

Merce – your are right. People is an uncountable noun, so the correct phrase to use is ‘How are the people’.

Well done Miao. Furniture is indeed an uncountable noun, and your definitions of ‘live’ and ‘leave are correct.

Vlad – I often get get recipies from the internet as well.

Chiladi – wow, that’s a big trip, to visit Thailand and Argentina in the same year. Good luck!

Hi Adriana – hope you had a good weekend. What did you ‘get up to’ (i.e. what did you do?)

Hi Sullen – did you do much studying AT the weekend (not ** ‘IN the weekend’ **)?

Hi Beatriz – hope working in the cybercafé wasn’t too bad. Please tell me how your life in South America is different TO mine (not ** ‘different OF’ **)

Hello Eugeny – so, you are a violinist! I play the ‘cello. Well, like you, I used to but I haven’t played it for a while.

Hello Mahjabeen – Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I meant to say, ‘my husband HAD emptied a pound of mince into my chilli’.

Now, here is a quick quiz for Monday for everyone. What vocabulary can you remember from last week? Using your own words, can you define what the following verbs mean? You can check the answers yourself, by referring to my previous posts.

To pamper
To mooch
To rule out
To live the high life
To amble
To nip out
To waffle on
To chuckle
To deal with

OK, Cris and readers. I’m off now for some coffee and to read a cookery magazine. Looking forward to your next blog, Cris. Please tell me more about your travels with your husband. Best Wishes and speak to you all soon,


(adj) – able to bend, flexible

To ache – hurt

To be touched by something (verb) – here means to be emotionally moved by something

To be close to someone (verb) – here, means to have a very strong emotional bond with someone

Watch this space (informal expression) - coming soon i.e. I will post a new photo soon

Coming and going, on and off – visiting every so often, visiting now and again from 1999 to now

Initially (adv) – first, at first

In late (adj) 2006 – towards the end of the year 2006

Rich (adj) – here, means wide or extensive

Wednesday, 09 April 2008

From 'fairy elephant' to 'ballroom princess'

Hello Cristina and everyone,

Thanks for your blog, Cris, and well done to everyone who completed the sentences for homework. Cris, the photo of you dancing is amazing! Did you really make the costume yourself? I can’t sew to save my life, so I am always impressed by people who can do it. Do you make clothes for yourself often, or was this just a one-off? My sister is a good seamstress and can quickly put something together. When I was 18, I was invited to a ball by my boyfriend at the time (I was in my last year of college, he was at university). I had nothing to wear, so Louise made me a beautiful ball dress in dark green taffeta. I felt like a princess! I still have it to this day and I can almost still squeeze into it.

I enjoyed your passage about dancing and sport, so I came up with a quick challenge for you (and everyone else). It’s just a game – try it and let me know if you like this type of thing, or not. You need a pen and a piece of paper. Ready? You have 2 minutes to make a list. I want you to write down the names of as many different types of dance as you can. For example, ballet is a type of dance, as is belly dancing (from the photo, I think this is what you mean by ‘Arabian’). Ok, 2 minutes…GO!

So, now you have a list of different types of dance. Now, can you think of at least one adjective that describes each type of dance? Think about each dance in turn and write the first adjective that comes to mind e.g. for ‘ballet’ I thought of ‘graceful’. Once you have done that, see if you can add any more words to your list associated with each dance. Continuing the ‘ballet’ example, I thought of ‘poise’ (noun and verb), which describes the elegant posture of ballerinas. I had a go at this last night – I have put my list at the end for reference.

Finally, can you write a short passage using the list of words you have generated, to talk about different types of dance? Think of different dances you have tried (you have already told us a bit about this), maybe dances you have seen or heard about, what you like / don’t like etc. This exercise uses quite specific vocabulary, but I thought you might enjoy it as you seem to be interested in dance and exercise.

Your story is a little similar to mine. When I was young, my mother wanted me to take up the piano. I was totally against this as I had dreams of being a ballerina and joining The Royal Ballet. Somehow, I persuaded my mum to let me take ballet lessons. I did it for some months, but I wasn’t any good. Why did I give it up? Well, I had no poise or grace and I was like a little fairy elephant. I had no real aptitude or ability for dancing to music so I decided to try out the piano lessons after all.

I also love going to the gym. I try to go at least 3 times a week, but don’t always make it. Unlike you, I am not lucky and do put on weight quite easily. I normally just use the treadmill and the cross-trainer. Aerobics is not good for me. I have a weak knee and anything that is high impact causes me problems.

(In these last 2 paragraphs, I have reworded some of the phrases that you used. Can you spot what I have reworded? I have changed at least 5 expressions)

OK, over to the corrections I gave you last time. You got most right, so I will only mention here those which need further correction.

I asked you to reword ** If it weren’t so cold as they are I would go and live there **. This should be, ‘I fell in love with these last places and if THEY weren’t so cold (as they are) I would go to live there. You need ‘they’ to agree with ‘these last places’. I personally would take out, ‘as they are’ as you rightly suggest, but you can leave it in if you want to.

**Hope you HAVE SPENT a wonderful weekend**. You are correct to suggest that you have used the present perfect because the weekend either hasn’t finished or has just finished recently. However, we don’t say **to spend a good weekend (no object)**, we say ‘to HAVE a good weekend’. So you could say, ‘hope you have had a good weekend’ or alternatively, ‘hope you are having a good weekend’. You can use 'to spend a weekend' if you have an object, e.g. 'I spent a nice weekend shopping, or 'I spent a nice weekend with my family'

**Japanese restaurants, actually “the sushi”, are in fashion now**. You are right to say that ‘are’ agrees with ‘Japanese restaurants’. The problem here is ‘sushi’ which does not take an article. And here is a good example of where you could use ‘especially’. You could say’ Japanese restaurants, and especially sushi, are in fashion now. This empasises that it is not just the restaurants but moreover the cuisine which is popular at the moment.

Now, here is something for next time. One of my passions is reading and I’ll tell you more soon. But what about you, Cris, are you a bookworm? One of the readers, Jura asked me about words to replace the verb ‘to read’. This is a tricky question, as ‘to read’ is quite specific’. If we say ‘to look at a book’ it does not mean exactly the same thing. It could mean ‘to read’, or it could mean ‘to stare at the book without necessarily picking it up’. So, this made me think about other ways of saying ‘read’. I came up with,

To browse
To scan
To flick through
To leaf through
To study
To pore over
To bury oneself in a book

I’ll let you know the exact meanings next time, but in the meantime if you are curious you can look them up.

Bye for now,

PS – I made a really nice meal last night, pork steaks in blue cheese sauce. Really quick, really delicious. What did you have?

I can’t sew to save my life (expression, very informal) – used normally in the negative, means to not be able to do something at all. Other examples are, I can’t cook to save my life (I am a very bad cook); I can’t speak French to save my life (I cannot speak French)

A one-off (noun) – something that is done only once, as opposed to many times

Seamstress (noun) – old fashioned word to describe a lady who can sew. The male equivalent is probably ‘tailor’.

To put something together (verb) – to make things quickly, to create things almost from nothing. Another example is imagine someone comes round to your house and you need to feed them, but you have nothing planned. If you ‘put something together’ for them, it means you make something quickly, using the food that you have in the house at that time.

Taffeta (noun) – a type of dress material

To generate (verb) – to produce, to create

The Royal Ballet (noun) – one of the oldest ballet troupes (or companies) in the UK

Fairy elephant (noun, poetic usage!) – I was quite fat and was not graceful. That, combined with my pink ballet dress, made me look like an elephant dressed up as a fairy.

Cross-trainer (noun) – a type of exercise machine that exercises your arms and legs

High impact (adj) – causes a lot of impact, or pounding, to your body. Aerobics is a high impact exercise, because there is lots of jumping.

Bookworm (noun) – someone who loves to read

Here is my dancing and adjectives list: ballet – graceful; tap – loud; jazz – rhythmic; flamenco – liberating; rumba – groovy; ice-skating (is it a type of dance??) – smooth; belly dancing – wobbly; hip hop - funky; Indian – intricate; tango – passionate; ceroc – French; ballroom – old-fashioned.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Time to swap recipes

Hello Cristina,

How are you doing? I’m having real trouble accessing the internet today. Everyone at work has been complaining about slow access too. I hope that I will manage to get to the end of this blog and post it. Did I hit the nail on the head about the dancing costume? Well, it was a lucky guess. And funnily enough I have also just purchased a brand new pair of running shoes. I was forced to buy them as my last pair literally fell apart when I was in the UK. I had already tried to fix the right toe with super glue so I really had no other choice. There is a sports shop on the ground floor of the building where I work so I went to choose a new pair in my lunch hour. It took me ages to decide which ones to buy, and I think the staff thought I was crazy as I kept running up and down the shop in each pair. But how can you buy running shoes I you can’t test them out properly?

I liked the picture of you and your godson. What is his name? Is he a student or is he working? And please tell us more about Claudia and Celia. Do you get to see them very often? I come from a very small family. My mum is an only child and my dad had only 1 sister, so I only have 2 cousins and I haven’t seen them for years. I am always envious of people from large families. But some of my friends who have lots of relatives say the opposite, and that family gatherings can be hard work when there are so many people to keep happy. What do you think? I suppose that the grass is always greener on the other side. Talking of families, hopefully, here is a snap of my little ones.

What is a porteno/a? Does it translate into English? The words ‘Buenos Aires’ and ‘porteno/a’ don’t seem similar, for example people from London are called ‘Londoners’, and people from Paris are called ‘Parisians’. So why are people from people from your town called this? I feel that there might be a nice story behind the word.

You asked me to give you the recipe for the dish I made the other night with pork. It’s quite straightforward. You basically fry up as many pork stakes as you like in a frying pan then once they are almost cooked, you add a tub of sour cream (or crème fraiche) and any type of cheese that you like. You can adjust the amount of cream and cheese according to your taste. I throw lots of cream and cheese in, as I love the full fat experience! I served them up with plane boiled rice and green beans and a plate of garlic bred. I sometimes add mushrooms to the source, maybe a splash of wine if it’s a special occasion, or even sum fresh herbs. This source also works well with chicken breasts or asparagus. I love recipes like this. Just chuck everything in a pan and serve it up. Yummy! OK, now you owe me a recipe :-)

(In the previous paragraph, 5 words are spelt incorrectly. Can you find them and tell me what the correct spelling should be. Do you notice anything particular about the pairs of words? Answers next time.)

Here are the corrections from the last blog.

(1) CORRECT. To take up something (to start doing something) or to take lessons, but not **to take ballet dancing**
(2) CORRECT. To do something FOR a period of time, not **did it some years**
(3) CORRECT Why DID I give it up, not **why I gave it up?**
(4) This was the only one you missed. To dance to music, not **dancing with music**
(5) NEARLY. Something can be good for you, or not good for you so ‘Aerobics is good for me’, not **the aerobics do me well**

I appreciate that my way of correcting may be new to you, so I am glad that you like it. I will pick up on some more specific points in a later blog, but in general your writing is fairly accurate. For example, I have noticed that you make a few mistakes with present perfect, the odd article mistake, things like that. As I say, I will talk about them but before I do, is there anything that you are not sure of that you would like to ask?

I promised you the definitions to the reading words, in response to Jura’s query.

(1) To browse through a book – implies turning the pages and reading some, but not necessarily all parts, of a book. You might browse through a travel guide to find specific information about a place.

(2) To leaf or flick through a book – implies turning over one or several pages at a time to find a piece of information. For example, you might leaf through a telephone directory to find a number, or you might leaf through a restaurant menu to find a dish you like.

(3) To bury oneself in a book – implies that you do nothing else but read e.g. ‘at the weekend, I buried myself in a good book’ (all I did at the weekend was read)

(4) To scan read is to read quickly, to get the gist of something.

(5) To study, or to pore over, imply reading intently and in great depth.

I love reading fiction, and I do agree with Merce when she says that reading opens your mind to the world. However at the moment I am studying for an MA and find it hard to read anything other than non-fiction. I think my brain is so tuned in to poring over academic articles and studying texts, that I find it hard to read anything else. I would love nothing more than to bury myself in a good book, but I don’t seem to be able to right now. So I’m making do with flicking through cookery magazines and leafing through the daily papers. I’m interested to read that you like American authors, Chris. Please tell us more – personally, I love Steinbeck and Hemmingway (though not all of his novels). Some readers have asked me about my favourite book. That’s a tricky one. ‘Remains of the Day’ by Kazuo Ishiguro is up there in my top ten, as is ‘Of Mice and Men’ by Steinbeck. I also love anything by Jane Austen (but my husband Steve can’t stand her…. one of the very few things we disagree on)

Many readers have been asking me to say more about Thailand. There is a big Thai festival coming up, so I will talk about this over the weekend. But tomorrow, there will be a quiz about an important UK symbol. Look forward to speaking to you all soon,

Best Wishes

PS – well done to those of you who attempted writing the passage about dance, like Habooba and Pary.
PPS – welcome to the new readers from Brighton. Shukria asks ‘Please tell me how I can learn and memorize irregular verbs more quickly’. What ideas do you all have? Cris, can you suggest any techniques?

To fall apart
(verb) – here, means to break

super glue (noun) – very strong glue

the grass is always greener on the other side (expression) – this expression means that people always want what they don’t currently have

straightforward (adjective) – simple, easy

a splash of (adjective phrase) – a little bit of (usually a liquid, because ‘splash’ is a word which is associated with water)

behind the word (expression) – to explain something (so here, 'a nice story to explain the word ‘portena’ ')

to appreciate (verb) – here, means to understand

odd (adjective) – here, means occasional, infrequent

to tune into something (verb) – here, means to be used do something

can’t stand something (verb, informal, usually used in the negative) – to really dislike something

Friday, 11 April 2008

Sawatdi Kha!

Hi There Cris and readers (Steve also says a big 'hello')

Sawatdi Kha, that's Thai for hello. It’s the weekend, yippee!!! And it’s a long holiday here in Thailand so I’ve got 4 days off work. Lots of time to relax and blog. Any plans for the weekend, Cris? Steve and I are going out tonight, maybe to our favourite tapas bar, and then tomorrow some friends are coming over for dinner. So I really need you to give me a recipe, as I can’t decide what to cook.

I really enjoyed looking at all of your pictures and reading about a day in your life. I hope its not raining for Esteban at the Rod Stewart concert. I haven’t looked at the video yet but I plan to do that over the weekend, when I have more time. I’ve also been struggling to upload photos to this site (I need Estaban – can you send him over to me?) but I think I have worked it out. Here is a shot of Josh at the end of the street, next to our favourite foot massage parlour. This is one of the great things about Thailand – you can get fantastic massages everywhere, and at a reasonable price. It’s very relaxing. You asked about ‘trainers’. You can use this word, or also running shoes (not runners), or ‘sneakers’.

I also enjoyed reading more about your family. Does Juan Pablo find it difficult to juggle work and study? You are lucky to have a 4pm finish and you seem to have a very good work/life balance. I am glad that you don’t have to do housework every day :-) I work 9-6, which is OK, but if I could finish at 5pm that would revolutionise my life. I could get home in time to feed the kids, take Josh to the park before it gets dark, shop, do more blogging for this site (ho ho).

I notice that you make quite a few errors with prepositions. Often we have a choice with prepositions, to reflect the exact meaning of what we want to say. So for example, you wrote about Esteban ‘he’ll be IN the Rod Stewart concert’. Now normally, we’d say ‘he’ll be AT the Rod Stewart concert’, meaning he will be present for the event. If you say ‘IN the concert’ it gives the impression that he is right in the middle of the concert. Both preposition choices are plausible. Take a look at the following sentences. What should the correct prepositions be?

1. Round the corner ___ my house (not *of*)
2. Talk ___ the phone (not *by*)
3. I’m ___ the balcony (not *in*)
4. I take the bus ___ the corner of my house (you said ‘at’, which is OK, but there is another alternative)
5. He helped me ___ attach these pictures (not *with*)

Here are the answers to the puzzle I set you yesterday, i.e. the pairs of words from the paragraph I wrote.

Stakes – steaks
Plane – plain
Bred - bread
Source – sauce
Sum - some

The correct words are steaks, plain, bread, sauce and some, all of which you correctly identified. These pairs of words are all homophones – words which sound the same but which are spelt differently and have different meanings. These words often cause problems to students of English. I am sure you have a long list of these already (if anyone reading doesn’t, then here is some homework for you!)

OK Cris, I usually make life hard for you when I correct you. So, as it’s the weekend, I will relent. Here are some revisions for you about what you wrote in your blog “my godson and 2 more sisters”.

(A) You said that you met your godson last Easter. Did you actually mean ‘this Easter’? As Easter has just happened, ‘last Easter’ implies Easter 2007, while ‘this Easter’ implies ‘Easter 2008’. To be totally explicit, you could say ‘this Easter just gone’.

(B) You said **‘you can’t believe that I have a weak knee too’**. I would change the verb to say, ‘you won’t believe it but I have a weak knee too’, or use an expression using a positive verb, like ‘can you believe that I have a weak knee too?’.

(C) You don’t **’do cross-trainer’**. You either ‘do cross training’ or ‘use the cross trainer’.

(D) You said ‘and which was the most important’. I would rephrase this to say ‘And what was the most important (thing)?’.

(E) ‘Enclose’ is not the best verb to use in an email or blog. Normally we use ‘enclose with letters, when we put something in an envelope. So I would say here ‘please could you give me / tell me / attach the recipe…’

(F) ** ‘How fantastic might be living near the Med’ **. I would change the modal verb to say, ‘How fantastic it must be to live near the Med’.

(G) I liked your expressions ‘changing the subject’. This is correct and another way to say this is, ‘to change the subject’. And well done for trying to use ‘specially’. This is the correct approach – when you learn a new word or expression, you should try to use it.

Finally, I promised you all a quiz about UK history / culture. The quiz is about a historical event whose anniversary is tomorrow (12th April). Here it is.

· What famous British symbol came into existence on 12th April 1606?
· What 2 items initially make up this famous symbol?
· In 1801, what additional part was added?
· What is missing from this famous symbol?

It’s a little bit cryptic, but some of you are very tenacious and I am sure you will find out the answers. All will be revealed tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your Friday night and speak to you soon.

Best Wishes,

PS - Some of you thought Rachel is a boy. Although she may be large, she is a girl. Here is a shot of her looking like a little strawberry.

Over the weekend – during the weekend

To juggle (verb) – here, manage to do 2 or more things at once

Work/life balance (noun) – the difference between the amount of time you spend at work and the time you spend relaxing

revolutionise (verb) - dramatically change (here, for the better)

Plausible (adjective) – possible

To relent
(verb) – to relax one’s views a little, to give in

Cryptic – confusing

Tenacious (adjective) – determined to not give up

Replies to readers

Ernesto – thanks for the explanation of ‘porteno’. I must also be a ‘porteno’, as the town I come from in the UK is by the sea (Whitley Bay)

Hi Tanya – your tip about writing as MANY sentence as you can in the past tense using irregular verbs is a good one. What other ideas do you have, readers, for practicing irregular verbs?

Hi Mahjabeen – tell me, what is the difference between ‘quite’ and ‘quiet’?

Hi Rocio – thanks for reminding me about your query. I love all her novels, but especially enjoy ‘Emma’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’.

Hi Ana Paula – if you enjoyed the film of Remains of the Day, I think you will enjoy the book. Aaah – now I see why you eat so healthily – you also exercise a lot. Keep on training!

Hi Leila – just glancing through is better than nothing. And you don’t have to respond with a response every time. Speak to you soon!

Hi Paco – well done, you spotted the correct words. All the words are pronounced the same, but have different meanings. ‘I served it’ (past simple) means when I gave it to Steve, I gave him rice and beans as well.; ‘serve it up’ (present simple) is a general reference to putting the finished dish on the plate once it is cooked.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Union Jack Day

Hi All,

Just read your blog, Cris. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease don’t feel bad about making mistakes. I appreciate that you want to produce high quality writing, but making mistakes is a very important part of language learning. Your writing is already of an extremely high standard. Do you know why I pointed out so many mistakes last time? It’s because I felt guilty that I thought I wasn’t giving you enough help with your English (you know how we women feel guilty about all sorts of silly things…) so I thought I would do a blitz and give you lots of corrections. And you are right – all the things I pointed out were just small mistakes that you probably knew already. So keep writing and don’t fret, pet (pet is a word we use in Newcastle, where I am from in the UK, to mean ‘my dear’. I used it here because it rhymes with ‘fret’, which means ‘to worry’)

Talking of the UK, here are the results of the quiz. As some of you found on the internet, today is the official anniversary of the ‘birth’ of the British flag, The Union Jack. Hurrah!

(image from

This event is not really celebrated by most British people. I have an interest in English history, however, and thought you might like to share in this piece of cultural heritage. The flag, created first in 1606, is made up of the flags of the individual countries that make up the UK (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – but not Wales). The Welsh flag does not feature for various reasons. What is interesting is that nowadays, people talk a lot about splitting up the UK back into separate countries and no longer maintaining a 'united kingdom'. Some steps have alreay been taken to bring this event closer to reality, such as establishing a Scottish Assembly, or parliament. If you would like to know more about the creation of the Union Jack, the following site covers the whole story in great depth.

Just a quick blog today. We all overslept a bit and had breakfast playing with lego.

Then we went out with the kids to stock up on shopping for the holiday (we needed more wine…)

Josh was pretty tired when we got back, so he went straight back to bed in his new Thomas bedding that his grandma got him. Thanks granny!

Time for a cuppa now. Cris, I will go over the prepositions in my next blog and thanks for the recipe. It looks delicious and have sent Steve back out to get the ingredients while I relax and drink tea. It's a hard life, but someone has to do it :-)

Best Wishes and have a great weekend,

To fret (verb) – to worry

In great depth – in a large amount of detail

To stock up
(verb) – to buy a lot of something

Cuppa (noun) – cup of tea

Monday, 14 April 2008

Happy New Year !

Hi Cris and Everyone,

How are you all doing? What did you get up to at the weekend? I have a special message for you this Monday morning and that’s SAWATDI PHIMAI! That’s Thai for ‘Happy New Year’. It’s Songkran here in Thailand this weekend, from 13th to 15th April, which is the traditional Thai New Year. It is one of the most important cultural festivals in the whole Thai calendar and one that all Thais look forward to, as it is a lot of fun. So I’m off work, at home relaxing with the family.

Historically, Songkran is a 3 day festival. On the eve of the festival, housewives give their homes a thorough spring clean. They clean out all the old and unwanted things lying around the house to receive the coming of the New Year Day on the afternoon of ‘Maha Songkran Day’, which means ‘a big change’ and is the first official day of the Songkran holiday. On this day, people pour water on Buddha images and monks, sprinkle water over the family elders and ask for their blessings. In ancient times, old people were actually given a bath and then dressed in new clothes given to them by younger family members, as a mark of respect for the New Year.

This doesn’t happen so much now, but old and young dress up in their new clothes and visit their local temple. They also throw water over anyone else they can get their hands on, which means that out on the streets, all you can see are people with buckets of water, water guns and cannons, waiting to dowse anyone who passes by. You have to be prepared to get soaking wet when you go outdoors during Songkran. But, as this festival takes place during the hot season, it can actually be quite refreshing!

(image from

The 2nd days is ‘Nao Day’, which means the day after Songkran day and the day before the official Thai New Year’s Day, or ‘Taleung Sok Day’. On these days, people relax at home with friends and family…. and continue to throw water on everyone. Lots of staff from my office have gone back to the provinces to be with their parents, as one of the things you have to do at Songkran is pay respect to your parents.

Songkran is a really happy, fun festival. The Thais believe that by sharing their joy with each other, and having fun, they can uphold traditions of ‘keeping a good mind (i.e. thinking good thoughts), good manners, kindness and gratitude’. What major festivals do people in Argentina celebrate, Cris?

OK, over to language now. Here are the answers to the preposition questions I set you.

1. Round the corner FROM my house (not *of*)
2. Talk ON the phone (not *by*) (it is wrong to say *talk by phone*)
3. Correct - I’m ON the balcony (not *in*)
4. I take the bus FROM the corner of my house (you said ‘at’, which is OK)
5. Correct - He helped me TO attach these pictures (not *with*)

Cris, the pasta recipie was delicious. Thanks! We used blue cheese instead of the mozzarella (as its difficult to get good fresh mozzarella here). Steve and I usually eat at around 8-9pm, which is quite late for Thais, but we find it’s too hot to eat before this time. Thais tend to have their evening meal much earlier, at around 6-7pm. The kids eat at 6pm, then we put them to bed so we can relax and have mummy and daddy time. The picture of Steve at the table was taken on Christmas Eve this year. We decided just to have a collation of meats, cheeses and pickles, with some wine of course. Yummy!

To finish, did Ernesto enjoy the Rod Stewart Concert? And you were going to tell us about what you like to read.

Right - I'm off to dowse a few people by the swimming pool with water. Catch you all later :-)


thorough spring clean – a big clean

to sprinkle – to put a little bit (of water) on something e.g. ‘to sprinkle salt on something’, means to put a little salt on it

to dowse - to throw a lot (of water) on something e.g. ‘to dowse my chips with ketchup’, means to put a lot of ketchup on my chips!

to uphold – to maintain

to tend to do something – to usually do something

a collation - a mixture

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

'Early worm' or 'night owl'?

Hi All,

It’s 6am and I am up and blogging. Why on earth am I up this early? Well, poor little Josh had a really bad nightmare a couple of hours ago. I got up to give him a cuddle and then couldn’t get back to sleep. The thought of tea, toast and blogging was too tempting to resist, so rather than just lie there thinking ‘Why can’t I sleep….!!!” it was better to get up and do something. Actually, I am a ‘morning person’ (meaning that I love mornings) rather than a ‘night owl’ (someone who can stay up really late). What about you Cris? Are you an ‘early worm’ (i.e. someone who likes to get up early) or a ‘night owl’? Or do you ‘burn the candle at both ends’ (i.e. you get up early AND you stay up really late).

I am glad that you feel more relieved, Cris, after reading my blog. And I enjoyed looking at all of your photos. The marina looks lovely, with all of the boats. Have you ever been sailing? And your book list is quite eclectic (i.e. varied). I also love Animal Farm and Sense and Sensibility. Trudi is right – go for Orwell’s 1984 and tell us what you think of it. If you enjoy it, you might also enjoy something like ‘Brave New World’ by A. Huxley.

I can believe that the kids below you sometimes stay up until 11am, but at the same time I can’t believe it (do you know what I mean?) In Thailand, parents also keep their kids up really late. Kids need to sleep! Obviously, there are exceptions, like parties or special events, but in general when you think of all the physical and mental development that small children have to undergo as they grow and develop, they really do needs loads of sleep. I think that Josh is having disturbed sleep because of some of the cartoons he watches, but Steve disagrees. Young kids are so impressionable - surely what they watch on TV must affect them? What do you think?

I promised you all some photos of my sister’s wedding. She has just got back from her honeymoon so photos are flying across the internet. Let me show you some and tell you about the day. But, I have blanked out some of the words. Can you guess what they are? I have provided a list of words at the end for you to choose from, but if you want to make it harder for yourself, then don’t look at the list of words. Fill in the blanks with a word you think is correct, using the context to help you guess the missing word, then compare your words with the ones on the list. Check whether you got anything the same or similar, or are your words completely different? Answers in my next blog.

It was an (1)___________ day. We (that is the bride Louise, my other sister Alison, bridesmaid Kate and myself) went off to the hairdressers first thing in the morning to have our hair done. Then we all jumped in (2) ___________ and headed off to the wedding (3) __________, which was a small stately home in the middle of the Northumberland countryside. We spend a few more hours up in Louise’s room (the bridal suite, which was enormous) getting ready, doing our makeup, gossiping (you know, all the things that girls like to do…) and helping Louise get into her amazing red wedding dress. Isn’t she (4) ____________?

One of Louise’s friends was the (5) _____________, and she took shots throughout the whole day, so we have a really interesting collection of pictures showing different stages of the day. Here is a picture of Louise and her (6) ___________ just before we went down the staircase for the ceremony.

The wedding ceremony was held in the home itself, and was a civic rather than a religious ceremony. We were really (7) __________ with the weather, as you can see from the next family photo. It had snowed all week, and the morning of the wedding itself had promised rain, but at around 2pm the sun came out and we had glorious (8) ___________ all afternoon. That meant photos in the garden could proceed as planned! The little boy in the photo is Joel, my (9) ___________, and he is held by his dad Jay, my brother in law.

I love this shot. Matt, the groom, is in the middle, with his 2 best men Jay (left) and J.D. (right, friend). I think black and white photos create a really lovely effect.

We then had drinks, followed by a delicious (10) __________ with my favourite dessert (sticky toffee pudding) and then a ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee). This is a type of folk dance. You normally have a partner and you dance either alone with your partner or in small groups to music played by a small (11) __________ (violin, flute, drums and guitar). A ‘caller’ tells you what to do and describes the steps for each dance, then you just dance your heart out to each number. Here are a couple of shots (can you find me in the picture – I’m not hard to spot)

The most important thing was that Louise and Matt had a wonderful day. I was amazed that I managed to stay awake partying until 3am. Maybe I am a (12) _____________ (2 words) after all?

OK, I can hear the kids jumping up and down in their room, so it’s time to get them up. Poor Steve will need lots of coffee before he can even open his eyes. My husband is not a morning person!

Speak to you soon (probably Thursday…). Just to say, I am reading all of the reader comments and will reply to everyone in a nice long blog by the weekend. Please keep posting, I am enjoying reading all of your comments (Hyoshil, Merce, Praveen on 14th April and Filippo, Chaos, Tanya, Ana Paula, Mahjabeen, Vladimir, Bahij, Silwar and Anna from 12th April) Thank you so much and please keep blogging.

Best Wishes and have a very, very good day :-)


Choose from the following words to fill in the blanks: photographer, night owl, band, amazing, nephew, buffet, cars, lucky, bridesmaids, venue, sunshine, gorgeous.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Getting around Bangkok

Hi there Cris – how are you doing? I forgot to ask you last time. If you don’t have a digital camera, how did you manage to post all those photos? Do you have to scan each on in? Your dinner sounds nice – but I am intrigued by the name of the sauce, as it doesn’t sound very English. I wonder who came up with the name? To answer your question, a shop that sells needles, thread, etc is called a haberdashery shop. Its a lovely, but quite old-fashioned, word.

My sister and I do look very alike. As I get older, I think we have started to look more and more like each other. Can one’s appearance really change that much over time? You spotted me in the photo! I am the one clapping my hands on the right.

Now I have to confess something to you. I am also terrified of scary movies (when you said, ‘impressionable’ I think you meant ‘scary’ or ‘frightening’). I can only watch them if I close my eyes and put my hands over my ears. It drives Steve mad.

There is nothing much that drives me up the wall about living in Thailand. I can’t stand the heat in the summer, but that’s my only gripe. I don’t use public transport much apart from the excellent skytrain system, which is like an overhead monorail going through the heart of the city. It can quickly take you from A to B passing over the crowded streets below, but then you have to walk to wherever you are going. It’s cheap, fast and economical (just like cooking with pork steaks!)

Picture from

I sometimes just get a taxi to work, though, so I don’t get too hot going to the office. Taxis are cheap and plentiful. There is also a subway system and of course armies of buses – but I find these too hot to use. We have a car and we have a parking lot in our building, but we don’t have to pay for it. What is popular here are motorcycle taxis. A lot of the streets here are really, really long and there is no public transport down them, so there are armies of guys on motorcycles, who will take you all the way down a street for a minimal charge. They can avoid traffic jams by driving on the pavements. They all have a uniform of a plastic waistcoat with a number on it - to show that they are legally registered with the local police, I think. Here is a shot of them.

Picture from

Your question about vocabulary is an interesting one. There is nothing wrong with being too lazy to look up words in a dictionary. In fact, if you did this every time you came across a new word then it would take you ages to read anything. You are right to try and work out the meaning of the word from the context. The key to being successful with remembering vocabulary is to try and use whatever you learn. That way, you will commit the word to long term, rather than just short term, memory. If you don’t use something, you forget it. I learnt German at school, but I can hardly remember a thing now as I haven’t spoken any German for such a long time. You could keep a notebook with new vocabulary in, try to use every new word in conversation or make flashcards and revise them on your 7-block trip to work on the bus. In her blog on Tuesday 16th October 2007, Rachel also has a couple more ideas for using and practicing vocabulary. Have look and see if these appeal to you.

Finally, you ended your blog with the phrase ‘*I’m really torn out*’. I think you meant ‘worn out’ or ‘tired out’. But this got me thinking about the verb ‘to tear + preposition’ and all the different meanings it can have. You can have to tear out, to tear apart, to tear up and to tear off. Have a look at the following sentences. Do you know verb would you use in each case? Can you find other synonyms for these verbs or describe what they mean using different words (this is also a good way to improve vocabulary)

(1) Secretary A – What did you do with that rude letter from Mrs Jones?
Secretary B – I didn’t reply. It was so rude that I ______ it ____.

(2) My boyfriend has left me. I feel completely ________ ________.

(3) Student A - Do you have any paper I could have?
Student B – Yes, no problem. I can ______ ______ a sheet from my book.

(4) (John went to see his bank manager with a business plan . He wanted to borrow $100,000. He comes home to his wife Mary in the evening)
Mary: So, did you get the loan, honey?
John: No, I didn’t get the money. In fact, they ________ my whole argument ______ and told me in great detail why it wouldn’t work.
Mary: Oh well, perhaps you can just rework it and present it to them again?
John: No way. I’m going to _______ this one _____ and start all over again.

(5) It’s so hot today! I wish I could just ______ ______ my clothes and jump in a pool.

Cris, as always, I have reworded a few things that you wrote. Can you find them (5 things). And here are the answers to the gap-fill from last time. 1.amazing,, 3.venue, 4.gorgeous, 5.photographer, 6.bridesmaids, 7.lucky, 8.sunshine, 9.nephwe, 10. buffet, 11. band, 12. night owl.
Look forward to blogging again soon! Best Wishes,

Intrigued (adj) – curious
To drive someone mad (vb, informal) - to make someone angry
To drive someone up the wall (vb, informal) – to make someone angry
A gripe (noun) – a complaint
From A to B (fixed expression) – from your starting point to your final destination
Armies of – lots of
to appeal to someone - here means if you like it, or not

Here are some responses to some comments from readers. I know this will make this blog quite long – hope that’s OK with everyone. Thanks to everyone for the compliments about Louise in her wedding dress. I have passed them all on to her!
Responses to some comments from 11th April

Yanko – thank you for the carbonara recipe. I love pasta recipes like this – quick and simple.

Tanya (Ukraine), Pary and Paulraj – you asked me to say more about Thai massages. I find them very relaxing, but I prefer to be ‘massaged’ rather than ‘pulled’. Sometimes they pull your joints and try to ‘crack’ the bone, which I absolutely hate. If you have an oil massage, you feel relaxed afterwards but you need a shower to get rid of all the greasy oil. Price is difficult to say. Like so many things, you can pay very little or you can pay the earth (i.e. pay a lot). For a basic foot massage I pay around 200 Thai baht, which is US$6 or GPB 3. For foot massages, they use the science of ‘reflexology’ which targets specific areas of the foot. This link should give you more information.

Carme asked me about tapas bars in Bangkok. Yes, we have a great little tapas bar very near out house. I am not sure how traditional or authentic the food is, Carme, but it seems good to us. We always have patatas bravas (fried potatoes), calamares fritos (fried squid), chorizo, ensalada con tomate (tomato salad), gambas a la sal (salted prawns) to name abut a few dishes. And of course, all washed down with a lovely rose rioja! The coffee is, in my opinion, one of the best in Bangkok. There are also some great tapas bars in London.

Responses to some comments from 12th April

Chaos – you asked me about the phrases ‘don’t know nothing’ and ‘he didn’t tell me nothing’. This is technically incorrect use of English, as you rightly point out. The correct grammar is ‘I don’t know anything’ and ‘he didn’t tell me anything’. However, people in many places do use English incorrectly, like this. Why do they do this? Well, there are many versions of English. As teachers we try to teach what is grammatically correct, but there are many ‘types’ of English spoken all over the world. Think about even simple vocabulary differences between British English an American English. Language evolves and changes, and sometimes this means that people start using it in a way that is not ‘correct’. But it is ‘real usage’ because that is what people say in a given context. If you would like to know more, have a look at the comment by Rachel in Carrie’s BBC staff blog, 11th April about ‘World Englishes’. Let me know what you think.

Tanya (Ireland)
– in a nutshell (i.e. to summarise very briefly) the Irish problem is due in some part to religion. Some people wanted Ireland to be Catholic, some people wanted it to be a Protestant state. The history is long, but in the early 20s the people of Northern Ireland elected to stay part of the UK, while Eire (southern Irelend) was formed as an independent state. But, don’t quote me on this – I’m just remembering my school history.

Vladimir – thank you for reminding me about the date of the first man in space, which is indeed an amazing achievement.

Mahjabeen, Ana Paula, Anna – thanks for the compliments about the kids. They are little angels (some of the time…)

Responses to some comments from 14th April

Hyoshil – sorry to hear about the lousy weather. I hope you have a good, strong umbrella.

Merce – we all just relaxed at home over Songkran. Went out shopping a couple of times, went to the park, had dinners with friends, that type of thing. I enjoyed just spending time with the family.

Praveen Raj – happy Tamil New Year. How did you celebrate this festival?

Tanya – that’s an interesting question. Should we say Cris’ or Cris’s? Well, I checked in the Cambridge Guide to English Usage. There are some many rules about how to use apostrophe -s, especially with proper names. They recommend that names which end in –s whould be treated the same as any other noun that ends in –s and therefore we should say Cris’s and not Cris’. Also interesting to hear that Dublin still has transport problems. I worked in Dublin for 6 months in 2000. I loved it! The Shelbourne Hotel does the best breakfast in town. What do you like most about living in Dublin?

Hi Jay – I have been to Kerala and loved it. Thank you for telling us about VISHU.

Anna and Vladimir
– I know, it’s funny to think of New Year in April. But that is part of the joy of living overseas – you get to find out about and celebrate so many new festivals.

Ana Paula – I know what you mean about the smell of a new book. Steve, my husband, is a writer and also loves the smell and feel of a new pad of writing paper. I also love espressos!!! I haven’t heard about Irana Palm. Can you tell us more about it.

Hello also to Silwal, Heyula, Anwar, Paulraj. Thank you for all your good wishes and for blogging on this site. Please keep your comments coming.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Breakfast like a king

Hi Cris and all you other bloggers out there !

Are you sitting comfortably? Here is a nice big blog for you to keep you busy over the weekend. We'll talk about language first, then food.

Cris, I really enjoyed your photos and your story about trips to the island. It looks beautiful and such memories are very precious. Do you have a favourite holiday spot now? I too get claustrophobic in lifts. And I also have a phobia about lift doors – I am always worried that they will crush me as I get into a lift. Eeeeeek!!!! Do you have any phobias?

Here is some homework for you. Have a look at the following 5 sentences from your blog. For each one, can you find the mistake, explain what is wrong and try to correct them. Remember to read the sentence in context.
*we had really a lot of fun*
*can you believe my grandfather had built the house by himself*
*there were a lot of trees, lettuce and tomatoes plantation*
*when my grandparent’s died*
*thanks god I have a car*

Thanks for all the questions! Teachers love questions, honestly.

(1) Hmm, another word for haberdashery shop. I’m not sure. Maybe ‘sewing shop’?

(2) You asked for another word for ‘impressionable’. If the movies contain blood, guns etc perhaps the correct word to describe this is ‘violent’.

(3) An MA is a Masters of Arts degree, a program of post-graduate study. I am in my final year of a part-time Linguistics degree.

(4) In your last blog you said “I can make out the meaning…”. Although this is not totally incorrect, I instinctively felt that to say “I can work out the meaning” was a better verb to use in this context. We use ‘to make out’ to talk about things being or becoming physically visible. For example, ‘I can just make out that building in the fog’ (meaning, its foggy but I can just see the building) or ‘Its dark but I can just make out the shape of a man standing over there” (meaning, although it is dark, I can still see a man over there). If you say ‘to make out the words’ its like you could be saying ‘I can see the words on the page’. There are of course many other meanings for the verbs ‘to make out’ and ‘to work out’. How many can you think of?

And Cris – here are the expressions that I reworded.
• I am the one clapping my hands (not *clapping the hands*)
• Now I have to confess something TO you (not *I have to confess you something*)
• Thread (uncountable) (not *threats*)
• We don’t have to pay FOR it (not *you have to pay a parking lot*)
• To look up words in a dictionary (not *loop up words* - I suspect this was just a typing mistake)

The other expressions you noted are all fine – you didn’t need to reword them, but you did come up with correct alternatives. Well done! Intrigue; your sister looks like you; if you drive a car; it takes a long time to get.

So, what shall we talk about this weekend? Do you eat breakfast? Breakfast is a great meal and is often overlooked. So I thought I’d talk about breakfast in my blog today and tell you about different ‘breakfast experiences’. Sounds interesting? Then read on.

We have an expression in English: breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dine like a pauper. This implies that you should eat a large and hearty breakfast and then less and less as they day goes on, finishing the day off with a light meal. Steve has an alternative saying, which is “breakfast like a king, lunch like a king and dine like a king”. Thank you Steve. I think that says it all about his eating habits.

The traditional British breakfast is the ‘fry up’, so called because you ‘fry up’ all the contents in a pan. Usually this means bacon, eggs, sausage, mushrooms, baked beans, served with fried bread and toast. This is too stodgy for most people to tuck into every day, so most people just have toast, cereals, fruits or yogurt for breakfast. In Thailand, you can get all of these things, but there are also come delicious alternatives.

Rice is the staple food of Thailand and accompanies most meals. One of the most traditional Thai breakfast dishes is ‘khao tom’ or rice soup. This is often made with the previous day’s leftover rice, to which stock is added, as well as meat, onions and chopped herbs. You end up with a kind of thick soup. People will often stop at food stalls on their way to work to enjoy a bowl of khao tom (as shown in the picture here)

Alternatively, you can buy it ‘to go’ then eat it later. If this is the case, the soup will usually be put into a plastic bag and served with various accompaniments, such as soy sauce and chilli paste, served in tiny plastic bags. Here is a colleague from work, who has just arrived with his khao tom.

Another popular breakfast dish is omelette or in Thai ‘kai jeaow’. This is again served with rice. You can put anything in an omelette, but at the food stand outside my office I get spring onions, carrot, mushrooms and fresh chillis. The lady in the picture stands right outside my office building and churns out dozens of omelettes every day to hungry office workers. I swear that she does some of the best ones in town.

People in Thailand often have long commutes to work. Some of the staff I work with travel for 1.5-2 hours from their home to the office. They aren’t hungry when they get up, but they need to eat once at their desk. Here is a shot of another colleague enjoying some ‘sai krok’ which is a type of salami sausage and rice, while going through her emails.

As an alternative to rice, you can also find noodles of all shapes and sizes. They are served with vegetables or meat, either as a soup or dry, without liquid. Tom in my team is a great fan of these. Here he is, tucking into a large bowl of egg noodles with pork, called ‘ba mii moo daeng’ in Thai (literally egg noodle pork red).

Although I love having an Asian breakfast, I can’t resist going to the bakery on the way to work and picking up some croissants. I also sometimes eat breakfast at my desk. Although I am an early worm, my stomach is not and I can’t usually eat much first thing.

Actually, in our house we eat something very special for breakfast. What do you think it is? Have a guess and I’ll tell you next time. And tell me – what do you all eat for breakfast? Do you breakfast like a king or do you skip this meal?

Finally, here are the answers to the gap fill from last time.
(1) tore it up (to tear something up means that you ripped it up and/or implies that you threw it away)
(2) torn apart (if you feel torn apart, you feel terrible, often emotionally)
(3) tear out (to tear out is a synonym of ‘rip out’ or ‘take out’)
(4) tore apart (‘to tear apart an argument’ mean to find problems or faults with the logic of an argument) AND tear up
(5) tear off (to tear off is a synonym of ‘rip off’, meaning ‘to take something off in a hurry’)

All this talk of breakfast is making me hungry. Have a great weekend, Cris and everyone, and speak to you soon.


overlooked (adjective) - in this case means 'not eaten'. We use this word to mean something is forgotten or not done.
hearty (adjective) – large
a light meal – a meal which is not too filling, or too large e.g. a salad is a light meal
to tuck into (verb) – to eat and really enjoy it
stodgy (adjective) – heavy or filling
staple food – the food that is eaten most often
stock – a savoury flavoured liquid, used to make soups and other dishes
to churn something out (verb) – to make a lot of something
to swear (verb) – here, means to believe something strongly
can’t resist – means can’t do without
first thing - right at the start of the morning, when you wake up
to skip something (verb) – means to not do something,

Monday, 21 April 2008


Hi Cris,

I am really sorry to hear about the fires outside of Buenos Aires. It must be terrible for everyone. I hope that the situation improves soon.

You are right. If you have food ‘to go’ it means ‘take away food’. What kinds of take-away food are popular in Argentina? I hope this is not a stupid question, but do you have restaurants from other South American countries in Argentina? For example, in the UK we have French, Spanish restaurants etc. The treat that we have for breakfast in my family is chocolate. We have carried on the tradition with Josh. This doesn’t mean a big chocolate feast every day, it means we have one or two chunks with our coffee in the morning. We all need a sweet treat at some time of the day, I reckon! Talking of treats, thank you for the compliments Cris, about me looking young in the photo. At least you can't see all my grey hair in the shot :-)

Well done for doing the corrections from last time. I just need to comment on the following:
• There were a lot of trees, lettuce and tomato plantations (plantations should be plural, as it describes both the lettuce and tomatoes)
• The expression is ‘thank god’, not *thanks god*

Today, I would like us to experiment with a different type of correction. I would like you to try and reword the following passage from you blog. What you have written is very clear, but I would like you to try and play around with saying things in different ways. Why? Because there is some repetition of vocabulary and structure and I think that reworking it can produce a superior version.

We have to wait until Wednesday because it is expected to rain and change the wind direction. The smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide which causes sore throat and eyes. It’s very unpleasant to breathe it. We have to close all the windows and doors and stay indoors. However we still breathe smoke inside the house because it’s difficult to prevent it from filtering. For a claustrophobic and allergic person as I am, this situation is terrible.

1. You are right to use a passive construction in the first sentence, but you need to think about the word order.
2. Sentence 2 is OK, There is nothing grammatically wrong with what you have written, but I personally would say ‘sore eyes and a sore throat’ or change the verb to ‘…carbon monoxide makes your eyes and throat hurt’
3. Sentence 3 – you don’t need ‘it’ after breathe here.
4. Sentence 4 – repetition of doors / indoors
5. Sentence 5 – repetition of breathe. Can you try making ‘smoke’ the subject of the sentence here? The phrasal verb is ‘to filter in’ (nice choice of verb, by the way)
6. Sentence 6 – can you reword ‘as I am’.

There is no reason to be in any way disheartened about this, Cris. I know I seem to have picked fault with every sentence, but I really want to challenge you with your writing. Reworking and rewriting what we produce is a natural part of the writing process. Tell me how you feel about doing this exercise. If you don’t like it, we don’t have to do it again.

I’m really tired tonight. We are having a planning week at work in preparation for starting a new batch of classes next week. Sam and Rob are busy preparing materials for new courses and Tom is working on our intranet. I’ve spent a good part of the day watching clips from a film, Run Fatboy Run, and trying to plan a course round it. We thought we would try something new with the staff, so the idea of ‘English through movies’ was born. I know that this has been done before it other institutions, but its new and exciting for us! Anyway, the film starts with a guy who jilts his pregnant girlfriend at the altar, then it pans forward 5 years later to find him working as a security guard in a lingerie shop. The rest of the film is about how he takes up running in order to prove to his ex-girlfriend (who he still loves and wants back) that he has got the stamina to run a marathon. I’ve only watched the first 10 minutes, but I was in fits of laughter. So, I’m looking forward to the rest of my week at work. How about you, Cris? Have you got anything special planned for the week?

By the way, Ana Paula asked me about cinemas here in Thailand. Cinemas here are great – we get all the big movies and prices are reasonable. But what we don’t have are any small arthouse cinemas, which play foreign films. I studied French and university and lived in France for about 2 years. I was a member of a cinema club and would go and watch movies 2-3 times a week. I really miss it. I know you can get films from the internet or on DVD, but I enjoy the physical experience of going to a cinema. Do you know what I mean?

I have to tell you about my weekend, before I finish. Steve and I have had a lovely weekend – we went for a drink to our local bar on Friday, only to find a great band playing. We love live music and the place was heaving! There were 4 people in the group: a guy on keyboards, a saxophonist, a singer and a guy on bass guitar. They played lot of jazz numbers and some of their own material. It was a great night. On Sunday we took the kids out for some Chinese food then in the evening we went back to the bar as there was another band playing. This time the place was virtually empty, but the band was still good and we got to play pool (which we haven’t done for AGES). We were both very rusty, but I still gave Steve a run for his money! He still won though…

OK. Time to stop and hit the sack. Night night and speak to you all soon.

Thank you Adek, Beatriz, Arghavan, Mohammadullah, Ana Paula, Noora, Silvana, Chaos, Praveen Raj, Jermaine, Junmo , Paco, Vladimir, Silwal Kishore and Maione for your comments on 17th April. Well done to those of you who did the grammar exercise and keep blogging. I do read all of your comments.

Best Wishes,
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz (that’s me sleeping now)

Disheartened (adj) – to feel upset, to feel down
To pick fault (vb) – to complain about
To jilt (vb, informal) - to leave
Heaving (adj, informal) – very busy
Rusty (adj, informal) – here, means out of practice
To give someone a run for their money – to make them work hard
To hit the sack (vb, informal) - to go to bed

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Human footprint

Hey Cris,

I was very happy to log in tonight and see that you had made a new post. I am really enjoying this whole experience – are you? I like the look of the ‘empanadas’. Are they big or small? If they are large, I wonder if they are like our English Cornish pasties, which are also pies in a half moon shape, but filled with corned beef and potatoes.

I have to admit that I am multitasking tonight. As I type, I am watching a really interesting programme on TV called Human Footprint.

(image from

The programme is telling us about the impact of an average person’s life on the planet, and the total amount of different substances that we use, consume or produce in one lifetime. For example, how much milk do you drink from the cradle to the grave (15981 pints, apparently) or how many nappies do we wear from the ages of birth to 2.5 (3800). The figures are based on an average person living in the UK, so for some countries they would differ, but it’s a sobering thought to see how much we consume.

Anyway, I’m typing and Steve is shouting out numbers. How much meat will we all eat (unless of course you’re vegetarian – but I did say this is an average person…)? How does 4 cows, 21 sheep, 15 pigs and 1200 chickens sound? And the number of eggs we will eat is 13345. All the food we eat will generate 8.5 tonnes of packaging, which will go straight into a landfill site. Ana Paula, I know you like apples and you will eat around 5272 of them during your life. And for those of you who like toast and sandwiches, like Eugeny and Carme, you will go through 4283 loaves of bread. We eat 8.2kg of chocolate a year and 845 tins of beans in a lifetime – enough beans to fill a whole bath. Cris – I don’t know how many croissants we will both eat, as they didn’t tell us, but what do you think :-)

To wash all of this food down, the average British person drinks 74802 cups of tea, or an average of 3 cups a day. If you like something a little stronger, your average Brit gets through 10351 pints of beer or 1694 bottles of wine by the age of 60. The average person walks 15468 miles in an average lifetime and drives 453662 miles. That’s from here to the moon and back!

(image from

And can you guess how many words we speak? We have a vocabulary of around 25,000 words, which sounds impressive until you learn that there are around half a million words in the English language. Over a life time, we will speak 123,205,740 words. That’s a lot of conversations. We will meet 1700 people during our lives (knowing a person is defined as (a) you know the person by name and (b) you have contacted them within the last 2 years)

There are lots of details of bodily functions that I won’t repeat here, but in the bathroom we will use up 656 bars of soap, 198 shampoo bottles, 272 cans of deodorant, 276 tubes of toothpaste, 78 new toothbrushes, 21 lipsticks (girls!) and 5.6 bottles of fake tan lotion (Steve would like to know who is using his quota of fake tan lotion). How many rolls of toilet paper? 4239 is the number. Our hair would grow 9.42m and our nails 2.86m, if we didn’t cut them.

Finally, we will have 104390 dreams and blink our eyes 415,000,000 times before we die. So what do you think, everyone? Do all these figures seem plausible to you? Or do you think they are just made up statistics?

(image from

OK, enough numbers, over to language. Your revised paragraph was much better, Cris. Here is what you wrote, along with my comments.

We have to wait until Wednesday because the wind direction will change and it is expected to rain. The smoke contains high levels of carbon monoxide which causes sore eyes and a sore throat. It’s very unpleasant to breathe. We have to close all the windows and doors and stay inside. However, smoke can be smelled inside the house because it’s difficult to prevent it from filtering in. For a claustrophobic and allergic person as me, this situation is terrible.

Sentence 1 – instead of ‘it is expected to rain’, you can say ‘rain is expected’
Sentence 5 – I asked you to use ‘smoke’ as the subject and this phrase is correct. Another alternative is ‘you can’t escape the smoke because it still filters in’
Sentence 6 – I would say ‘such as myself’ or 'like me'.

I wonder how many homework assignments the average student does in a lifetime? Who knows, but I can tell you this. Tonight you guys have just one. I usually give you the definitions of all new words, but tonight I am going to do what others have done before, and try to get you to guess the words from the context. Answers next time. Have a good night,

Bye for now,

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Responses to readers


Responses to readers

Dear Everyone,

Thank you all for continuing to blog. Here are some individual responses to you all. I have written words in CAPITAL LETTERS where I have reworded sections from your posts. Thank you for all of your comments and please keep blogging.

Hi Mark – I got all the numbers from a TV programme. I have a big imagination, but I am not that good with numbers! I think this is the first time you have written a response to one of my blogs, so let me say “hello” to you officially. But tell me, is Mark and Italian name? Are you Italian?

Hello Yanko. This is modern live or LIFE? It would be difficult for US to give up our cell phones etc. How could WE do it? I like your ‘out of curiosity’ question about transport. When I lived in London, I had a 2-hour commute to work each way. Now, it’s 15 minutes door to door (that means from leaving the door of my house to arriving at the door of my office) Over a lifetime? Steve is busy trying to work it out for me…

Hello Shu – I am glad we can help you learn a second LANGUAGE. Thanks for taking the time to write us a reply. Where in Japan do you live?

Hello again busy bee Pary – you don’t have to apologise about not commenting on every blog. It’s great to hear from you when you have the time. I also think the breakfast you describe is disgusting. But, I am sure that some people must like it. You are also right – don’t think about how many beauty productS (or cosmetics) we women use. Well done for doing the vocabulary. I will post the answers tomorrow, to give everyone the chance to do them.

Hi Anwar - good to hear from you and I am always happy to share INFORMATION with you. Does a third of food BOUGHT by rich people really end up in the rubbish dump without BEING eaten? Do you know that in the UK most food has a ‘sell by’ and ‘eat by’ date on it? These refer to the date by which a produce must be sold (or the supermarket will throw it out) or, once you have bought it, the date by which the product must be eaten. A lot of people think that once the food has reached its sell by date, then you need to throw it out, but in my opinion that is not always true. It’s such a waste. Anyway, I think we are both ‘singing off the same hymn sheet’ (this is a cliché which means ‘we agree with each other) about food waste etc.

Hi Habooba – lovely to hear from you again. I like your approach to trying to work out what’s in my blog. I will try to find more pictures to keep you GUESSING next time. Please remind me which country you are from, as it wasn't mentioned in your blog. Thanks for your comments.

Hello JinHee and welcome to the blog. Please tell us more about yourself. What do you do in Seoul (are you working, are you a student etc) and one fact about yourself that you would like to share with everyone. Thank you for blogging and speak to you soon.

Hi Silwal. Good to hear from you again. I like your word ‘edutainment’. I agree with you that using a movie does have some DRAWBACKS with the language level. But, I think that by typing up some of the difficult or crucial passages, so that students can read as well as listen, I can overcome these. What do you think? Thank you for your kind wishes for the success of the programme.

Hello Tanya. Nice to hear from you again. I am sorry to hear that you don’t ENJOY going to the cinema. Please tell me more about your collection of GOOD OLD (word order here…) videos that you BUY in second hand shops. This is a great place to buy things. What about the internet – do you use sites like e-bay, for example, to buy movies? Death on the Nile PRICED at only 5 euros sounds like a bargain to me, you LUCKY lady. I hope you had a good evening listening TO Agatha Christies. Bye for now.

Hello Bezya – I think this is the first time we have spoken (blogged!) so hello and thanks for your comments. Phrasal verbs are a minefield (this means they are very difficult). I have give Cris some exercises on phrasal verbs already, so have a look back (there’s a phrasal verb for you!) through our blogs to find some exercises you can do. I’m going to give you some examples of how to use the phrasal verbs you mentioned. Can you notice any differences in usage?

I don’t want to end our relationship
I don’t want this blog to end

I don’t want to end up alone.
If you don’t work hard at school you might end up with a bad job.

Please clean the flat while I’m out.
Can you clean up this mess please?

Hello Ana Paula – how are you doing? You are lucky to have so many arthouse cinemas in Sao Paulo. When I lived at home back in Newcastle, I also used to go to matinees. I always liked going to the cinema in the afternoon. What film would you next like to see?

Hi Praveen Raj – I am studying my degree through the Open University, which is an English institution. To study at most universities in Thailand you need to speak Thai, and sadly my Thai is not that good. Hope you had a good week yourself and speak to you soon.

Hello Chaos – how are you doing? Have a look at the photo in the blog of my son eating chocolate. And I talk about chocolate at the beginning. That’s why it’s called ‘chocolate’. Tell me more about your life in China.

Hi Paulraj – have you never seen a movie ON the internet? Please don’t feel guilty about not making any comments over the past week. You must be very busy with your job. It is good to hear from you when you have time.

Hello Vladimir – thanks for blogging again. I look forward to your challenging comments :-) Don’t you think I am entitled to complain about where I live, even just a little bit? I’ve tried your version of cooking hot chocolate. A friend of mine once went to Mexico, and brought me back a box of chocolate tablets. I used to mix them with hot milk, as you describe, to make hot chocolate. Quite a lengthy process, but quite delicious. Keep blogging!

Night night everyone,

PS - Happy St George's Day

Saturday, 26 April 2008


Dear Cris,

Wow. You asked us on Wednesday, “Did you like the tour?” To echo what Merce said, I thought your blog was wonderful. What an amazing idea to give us a virtual tour of your city. I guess this is what they call ‘armchair travelling’. Your pictures gave us a really good flavour of the different sides of the city, from modern museums and shopping centres, to cultural theatres, relaxed town squares and of course, football! Truly fantastic. Thank you for sharing your city with us all.

And I was very interested to read all the readers responses. There was a good range of adjectives in there (wonderful, beautiful, lovely, magnificent, great, gorgeous, spectacular, nice, and exciting). I thought up a few more to describe your post, so here is a quick quiz. All the words are extreme, positive adjectives, similar in meaning to ‘amazing’ or ‘wonderful’.

T __ __ __ __ __ D __ __ S

F __ __ __ __ __ U __

O __ __ __ T __ __ __ __ __ G

I __ __ R __ __ __ __ __ E

F A __ __ __ __ __ __ C

S __ __ __ N __ __ D

Here are a few corrections for you to work on. Can you reword these sentences? The mistakes are very small.

1. This avenue is related with the Tango
2. Palermo Woods: It has 80 hectares
3. There are full of paintings and sculptures on this street
4. It’s one of the fewest squares that are totally asphalting
5. It’s among the best of the world

Sorry I haven’t blogged until now. Work has been frantic. The movie course is planned and my first lesson is on Tuesday. Wish me luck.

Well, Cris gave us a tour of Buenos Aires. Inspired, I thought I too would give you all a tour. I travelled a really, really long way, to……………………. the end of my street. There are a collection of stalls at the end of my road, all selling fruit. Thai people love to snack, so the food that is sold at these food stalls, or carts, is very convenient. This means that the food vendors chop everything up for you, put it in a bag and provide something to eat the food with, either a small fork or a stick, so that you can eat whatever you buy immediately. You don’t need to do anything extra with it. I am always amazed by the different fruits you can get here and I love the concept of ‘fruit in a bag’. To someone brought up on golden delicious apples and satsumas, the novelty of being able to buy ‘exotic’ fruits such as mango, papaya, and dragon fruits does not wear off.

People tend to stay loyal to their favourite stalls and always buy from the same people. So here is a collection of my regular fruit haunts.

Josh loves water melon and we always buy it from this man. I mash it up to make water melon juice for Rachel. You can buy one slice of watermelon for 10 Thai baht, around $0.30 or 15 UK pence.

This lady sells the best mangoes in town (of course, everyone thinks that their ‘fruit seller’ sells the best in town…) Here she is selling, from left to right, sweet mango, sour mango and something unknown. The sour mango is sold with a dip, made from sugar and chilli. 1 kg of mangoes costs me just under $2 or around £1.

Her friend has the next stall along the road and sells deep fried banana and plantain.

On the way to work, I usually buy pineapple from this man. Pineapple is also often sold with a sugary, spicy dip. One big slice of pineapple is 10 baht.

And finally, my boss. He does not have to go out to buy his fruit. Someone brings it to him, twice a day, delivered to his desk, all ready to eat. No wonder he looks so happy!

Talking of fruit, our fridge is empty so we need to head off to the shops now. Have a good weekend and speak to you soon.


To echo (verb) – to repeat
Range (Noun) – variety
Concept (noun) - idea
Golden delicious – these are a particular type of apple
Satsuma (noun) – a type of orange
Regular fruit haunts – the places where I normally buy fruit. A ‘haunt’ is somewhere you go regularly

Definitions from the previous blog:
To multitask – to do lots of things at the same time
From the cradle to the grave – from birth to death
A sobering thought – a serious thought
To generate – to produce
A landfill site – the place where household rubbish is stored
Your average Brit – expression to mean ‘most British people’
Fake tan – a lotion that you can apply, to change the colour of your skin to make you look tanned

Monday, 28 April 2008


Hi Cris and everyone,

Thank you Cris for some more tremendous pictures. You are really whetting my appetite to go travelling now. Mar Del Plata looks like a lively resort. You said that the beaches are 400km FROM (not down) the city – what is the best way to travel there? Do you drive? Carilo beach looks beautiful and deserted – it reminds me a beach near where I like in the UK, which is also large and empty, but much colder I expect than your beaches, even taking into account the cold waters and the wind you mentioned. The beach is overlooked by a fabulous castle.

(images from

We would go there when we were kids, to play and have picnics. The castle is called Bamburgh and is well worth a visit, if you ever find yourself in the north of England. Northumberland, which is the northernmost county in the UK, is beautiful – filled with castles, amazing scenery and great countryside. Here is a shot of a famous landmark from my past, the Whitley Bay lighthouse. It is situated about 2 miles from the house I grew up in, and my dad would take us here to look for crabs in the rock pools and to have the occasional ice cream. Whenever I go back home, I like to take a walk along the coast to go and see the lighthouse.

(image from

But, what can I say about the picture of the beach and waterfront at Saint Barths? It looks like a tropical paradise. You have some amazing shots and I imagine many, many happy memories to go with them. You and Oscar are very photogenic (this means you both look good in photos). And Steve is desperate to visit Patagonia. It’s one of the spots on the planet that he has always wanted to visit.

Talking of ‘spots’, well done for spotting the mistake in the bookshop. The inscription should indeed read ‘books delivered to your door’. As you rightly point out, the preposition ‘to’ can also be used with the verb ‘to bring’. For example, ‘I can bring the books TO you, if you like’. Now, the phrasal verb used to mean ‘to decline an offer’ is ‘to turn down’. You can also say ‘to refuse an offer’. To answer your other question, sweet mango is the fruit that most of us have probably tasted outside of Asia. It is sweet in taste, the flesh is orange and quite soft in texture. Sour mango has a harder flesh, and they are eaten when the mangoes are green in colour. They are often used in salads, as they are easy to shred. I prefer sweet mangoes myself.

Actually, I’ve been off work today. I’ve had a really bad stomach ache and Rachel has been ill as well. We went out for lunch with a friend, Ingrid, yesterday and had a lovely meal in a local hotel, but I was sick all last night. So today has been a washout. Poor Steve has had to look after me, as well as both the kids (I was less trouble, of course…). Ingrid lives in our building, along with her husband-to-be Nigel. They are very busy planning their wedding, which will be at the end of the year on a beach on one of the Thai islands, Koh Samui. We spent the whole lunch gossiping about their wedding plans and listening to the fabulous jazz band that was playing. There was a lady playing a double bass, a pianist and a drummer. The kids went bonkers when the drummer did a couple of solos. It was doubly annoying after such a nice day out, that I had to be ill. So your blog, with all the pictures of travelling has really cheered me up, Cris.

Well done for rewording the sentences.

1.You were correct to change the preposition to ‘related to’. However, I think you need a different verb here. I would say something like, ‘this avenue is connected with the tango, because….’ or maybe something more poetic like ‘the history of this avenue and that of the tango are intertwined’ (to be intertwined means to be twisted together )
2.Palermo Woods: It is 80 hectares (in size)
4.It’s one of the FEW squares that are totally covered in asphalt / or made from asphalt

And here are a few more for this time.
• This is the best photo I took in my life (and it is a good photo!!)
• It was the first time I’d seen snowing
• In Saint Barths we sensed the charming of the French.

Thank you for the wish of good luck for the first movie lesson tomorrow. Fingers crossed that it will go smoothly and that the staff at work will like it. Night night for now, I'm off for a restorative sleep.


PS. Well done to everyone who tried the adjectives exercise. Here are the answers:

To whet someone’s appetite – to make someone want to do something
Spots on the planet – poetic way of saying ‘places’
Today has been a washout – today has been a bad day, where I did nothing
to go bonkers (informal) - to get very excited about something
Doubly annoying – literally, annoying for 2 reasons i.e. very annoying
restorative - something that 'restores' you, or makes you feel better

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

What's in your fridge?

(image from

Hi Cris and everyone,

Thanks for all the good wishes everyone. It is really kind of you to take the time to write – thank you. I still felt a bit under the weather this morning, but much better than yesterday. Rachel is still a bit sick, poor little thing, but putting a brave face on it. It’s not stopping her playing with her lego though, but she is sleeping more than usual.

Cris, your corrections were almost spot on. I would just add ‘ever’ to sentence 1, so it reads ‘this is the best photo I have ever taken’. And I like the way you have become a ‘teacher blogger’, with all the FCE tips. Your advice is excellent. It is good to have a bank of words and phrases that you can use to replace and, but and so. I noticed one typo (spelling mistake) in the TO GIVE INFORMATION section. Can you find it? You do not need to use ‘in addition to’ exclusively with verbs. For example, it can be followed by a pronoun, as you have indicated for ‘as well as’

Rice and mangoes are two very important Thai exports. In addition to these, Thailand also produces a lot of the world’s coffee.

The movie lesson went well. We had a few technical hitches this morning, when the video equipment would not work, but we have a superb technical support team in the office and they jumped on the problem and fixed it very quickly. I think the students were a bit shocked when they heard the first film clip. It is always really hard to watch a movie in a foreign language, especially without subtitles. However, once you have heard the dialogue a couple of times, and you get used to the sound of the voices and the speed of speech, it becomes a little easier.

Thank you James for spotting my mistake with the vocabulary. The word for S -- -- -- -- D – D was indeed SPLENDID and not SUPERB. And Hyoshil, I would like to see a picture of your fridge with all your vocabulary on it. I think that fridges give away a lot about a person’s lifestyle. People often stick notices, messages, memos etc on their fridges so you can easily see what things they do in their spare time. And also if you look inside a person’s fridge you can tell a lot about them and their lifestyle. Are they married, or single? Do they cook, or eat out all of the time? It is always a great comfort to me, when I go back to my mum’s house, to look in the fridge to see what she has stocked it up with for me. It’s like being a kid again. If you share my passion for fridges, perhaps you might like to read this series of BBC articles at, where they take a peek at fridges around the world and what people keep in them.

(image from

Our fridge is full of water. You can’t drink water from the tap in Thailand, so we have to buy bottled water. We usually have a stock of fruit and vegetables for the kids, cooked rice (you never have to cook rice here – you just buy it ready cooked), cokes, bread, butter, coffee, lots of milk, eggs, orange juice, beer for Steve, sometimes a bottle of wine and always lots and lots of chocolate :-) What’s in your fridge?

Cris, tomorrow is your last day blogging. How do you feel? What plans do you have for the coming few weeks? I would just like to say how much I have enjoyed blogging with you this month. I have enjoyed getting to know you and hearing about Oscar, your family and cousins, your workmates, hearing about your travels and sharing all of your photos. You have an excellent command of English and you have kept us all entertained over the past month. Please keep in touch via the comments page and just keep on using English whenever you can. Take care of yourself and speak to you soon, I hope.

Have a good evening and best wishes to you all,


Under the weather – to not feel well
to be spot on - to be correct
to put a brave face on it - to cope with something despite difficulty
Technical hitches – technical problems
To jump on the problem (informal) – to deal with the problem quickly
To stock up – to fill

April 2008

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