Tuesday, 17 November 2009

English with Jennifer: REPORTED SPEECH




Friday, 16 October 2009


Many of the ancient peoples of Europe marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter by celebrating a holiday in late autumn. The most important of these holidays to influence later Halloween customs was Samhain, a holiday observed by the ancient Celts. Among the Celts, Samhain marked the end of one year and the beginning of the next. It was one of four Celtic holidays linked to important transitions in the annual cycle of seasons.

Samhain began at sundown on October 31 and extended into the following day. According to the Celtic pagan religion, known as Druidism, the spirits of those who had died in the preceding year roamed the earth on Samhain evening. The Celts sought to ward off these spirits with offerings of food and drink. The Celts also built bonfires at sacred hilltop sites and performed rituals, often involving human and animal sacrifices, to honor Druid deities.

By the end of the 1st century AD, the Roman Empire had conquered most of the Celtic lands. In the process of incorporating the Celts into their empire, the Romans adapted and absorbed some Celtic traditions as part of their own pagan and Catholic religious observances. In Britain, Romans blended local Samhain customs with their own pagan harvest festival honoring Pomona, goddess of fruit trees. Some scholars have suggested that the game of bobbing for apples derives from this Roman association of the holiday with fruit.

Pure Celtic influences lingered longer on the western fringes of Europe, especially in areas that were never brought firmly under Roman control, such as Ireland, Scotland, and the Bretagne region of northwestern France. In these areas, Samhain was abandoned only when the local people converted to Christianity during the early Middle Ages. The Roman Catholic Church often incorporated modified versions of older religious traditions in order to win converts. For example, Pope Gregory IV sought to replace Samhain with All Saints' Day in 835. All Souls' Day, closer in spirit to Samhain and modern Halloween, was first instituted at a French monastery in 998 and quickly spread throughout Europe. Folk observances linked to these Christian holidays, including Halloween, thus preserved many of the ancient Celtic customs associated with Samhain.

Halloween traditions thought to be incompatible with Christianity often became linked with Christian folk beliefs about evil spirits. Although such superstitions varied a great deal from place to place, many of the supernatural beings now associated with Halloween became fixed in the popular imagination during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance. In British folklore, small magical beings known as fairies became associated with Halloween mischief. The jack-o'-lantern, originally carved from a large turnip rather than a pumpkin, originated in medieval Scotland. Various methods of predicting the future, especially concerning matters of romance and marriage, were also prominent features of Halloween throughout the British Isles.

Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Europe was seized by a hysterical fear of witches, leading to the persecution of thousands of innocent women. Witches were thought to ride flying brooms and to assume the form of black cats. These images of witches soon joined other European superstitions as symbols of Halloween.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

More resources to improve our English

They hold 14 million books, 920,000 journal and newspaper titles, 58 million patents, 3 million sound recordings, and so much more.
clipped from www.bl.uk
The world's knowledge

Major exhibition

King Henry VIII by Hans Holbein the Younger (detail). By Kind permission of The Worshipful Company of Barbers

Henry VIII:
Man and Monarch

British Library websites
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Wednesday, 10 June 2009

1st July: Canada Day

To be Canadian, by Leah Kimura
When I travel or have visitors stay with me in Vancouver, they always ask me about Canada. Physically, Canada is easy to describe. Canada is the second largest country in the world but our population is just over 32 million- similar to the population of California or Mexico City. Canada boasts beautiful mountains, dry deserts, rugged taiga, lush temperate rainforests, gorgeous lakes and endless grasslands. We also have the longest coastline in the world at 202,000 kilometres.

Politically, the country is divided into 10 provinces and 3 territories. The most populated province is Ontario followed by Quebec. Canada follows a parliamentary system adopted from England. We have a Prime Minister not a President. We are part of the British Commonwealth like Australia and India etc.

Culturally, Canada is difficult to describe because it is a mosaic of cultures. Typically, people see Canada as French and English. French and English are our two official languages but if you visit Canada you will experience many other cultures. In our last census, Canadians represented more than 200 ethnic backgrounds and more than 20% of those surveyed weren’t even born in Canada! Since 1901, Canada has invited over 13 million immigrants into the country. For the first 60 years, most of the immigrants came from Europe but today most of them come from Asia. After English and French, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, and other Chinese languages) is the next most commonly spoken language, followed by Italian, German and Punjabi. These cultures help make Canada an interesting place to live in. I can listen to Spanish, Mandarin or French on the radio. I can shop at Japanese, Indian or Chinese markets. Unlike so many other countries, Canadians don’t really share a common culture but despite our differences, most of us share a belief in equality and diversity, and respect for all individuals in society.
People who have never been to Canada often think that it’s cold all year round. While it is true it can get cold, VERY cold in the winter, the weather varies from province to province. Most of the country has four distinct seasons (winter, spring, summer and fall). Canadians talk about the weather a lot and like to tease each other about having better weather than other provinces.

Historically, Canada’s economy has been resource-based including forestry, fishing, agriculture, mining and energy. These industries have played an important part in the country’s history and development. Recently, our economy has shifted focus to the service sector. This sector provides thousands of different jobs in areas like transportation, construction, banking, communications, retail services and education. More than 70 % of working Canadians now have jobs in service industries. In Canada we also have a small manufacturing industry. Manufactured products include paper, technological equipment, automobiles, food, and clothing. Our largest international trading partner is the United States and so our economy is very dependent on theirs. We share the world's largest and most comprehensive trading relationship with the USA.

Here are some interesting facts about Canada:

1) Lacrosse is our national sport but mostly we prefer to watch hockey.
2) We call our dollar the “Loonie” because of the picture of a loon on the back.
3) We live in cities. Almost 80% of Canadians live in urban centres most of which are located along the US border.
4) We say ‘eh’ a lot and pronounce ‘z’ as zed no zee!
5) Basketball, zippers, insulin and the telephone were invented by Canadians.
6) Canada is hosting the next winter Olympics in 2010. A Canadian has never won a gold medal on Canadian soil.
7) Canada's capital, Ottawa, has the coldest average temperature of any capital city in the world.
8) Canada has six time zones. British Columbia is 4.5 hours behind Newfoundland.
9) All Canadians have free access to health care.
10) Avril Lavigne, Shania Twain, Nelly Furtado, Celine Dion, Alanis Morissette, and Sarah McLachlan are Canadian.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Reading books: David Lodge

Lodge's suburban upbringing in a traditional Catholic family in the austere conditions of postwar England is reflected in his early fiction. His first novel, The Picturegoers (1960), is a portrait of a Catholic family living in South London, and their daughter who has attracted the attentions of their undergraduate lodger. Ginger, You're Barmy (1962), his second novel, drew on his own experience of national service, while The British Museum is Falling Down (1965), a comic novel, is the story of a poor Catholic graduate working on his thesis in the Reading Room of the British Museum. Worried that his wife may be pregnant, he becomes involved in a series of adventures and meetings that parallel or parody episodes in the modern novels he is studying. Out of the Shelter (1970) begins with a child's experience of the Blitz and his rescue from an air-raid shelter, a formative experience which is developed as a metaphor throughout the book as the young boy matures into an adult.

Changing Places (1975), was Lodge's first book in a trilogy of campus novels. Inspired by his experience teaching in California, the novel centres on two academics: Englishman Phillip Swallow from the University of Rummidge in the West Midlands, and Morris Zapp, an American from the State University of Euphoria (California), and their participation in an exchange programme that sees them swap politics, lifestyles and wives. Small World (1984), the second book in the trilogy, develops Zapp and Swallow's story, while Nice Work (1988) completes the trilogy with the story of industrialist Vic Wilcox and his unlikely relationship with marxist, feminist and post-structuralist academic Dr Robyn Penrose. Small World and Nice Work were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

How Far Can You Go? (1980) and Paradise News (1991) both deal with the doctrinal changes and moral uncertainty which beset members of the Catholic church in the post-war period generally and the 1960s in particular. Therapy (1995) continues similar themes through the story of a successful sitcom writer plagued by middle-age neuroses and a failed marriage.

Ralph Messenger, the central character of Lodge's most recent novel, Thinks ... (2001), is Director of the prestigious Holt Belling Centre for Cognitive Science at the fictional University of Gloucester. A notorious womaniser, he is forced to reappraise his lifestyle when he becomes involved with Helen Reed, a novelist who has come to work at the university.

David Lodge is a successful playwright and screenwriter, and has adapted both his own work and other writers' novels for television. Small World was adapted as a television serial, produced by Granada TV in 1988, and Lodge adapted Nice Work as a four-part TV serial for the BBC, broadcast in 1989. It won the Royal Television Society Award (Best Drama Serial) and the author was awarded a Silver Nymph for his screenplay at the International Television Festival in Monte Carlo in 1990. He wrote and presented a documentary about the academic conference circuit, Big Words - Small Worlds, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in November 1987, and a film about the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, broadcast by the BBC in 1993. He also adapted Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit as a six-part television serial, first screened in 1994.

His first stage play, The Writing Game, was produced at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in May 1990, and subsequently in Manchester and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lodge adapted it for Channel 4 television in 1996. His most recent play, Home Truths, was performed at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1998. The author subsequently re-wrote the play as a novella, published in 1999. Consciousness and the Novel (2002), explores the representation of human consciousness in fiction, and includes essays on Charles Dickens, Henry James and John Updike. His novel, Author, Author: A Novel (2004), opens in December 1915 with the dying Henry James, and journeys back to the 1880s to explore James's 'middle years'.

David Lodge lives in Birmingham. His latest novel is Deaf Sentence (2008), based on his own experience of deafness.

Friday, 17 April 2009

St. George's Day

On 23rd April, England celebrates the day of its patron saint, St. George. But, St. George isn't just the patron saint of England. In this WebQuest you will discover the answers to these questions: Who was St. George? What is he the patron saint of? Where is his day celebrated? Did he really kill a dragon?
Activity 1: Who was Saint George?

Choose one of the topics below and prepare a report. The questions will help you prepare your report. You can use these two sites for information:



1. A biography of St. George

a) Who was St George?
b) Where was he born?
c) What was his occupation?
d) What kind of person was he?
e) What was the official religion of the Roman Empire?
f) What did the Roman Emperor do that made St. George angry?
g) What was St. George's reaction?
h) What did the Roman Emperor do to St. George?

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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Reading books: Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and History at a large high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Afghan Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then Afghanistan had already witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet army. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States. In September of 1980, Hosseini's family moved to San Jose, California. Hosseini graduated from high school in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University where he earned a bachelor's degree in Biology in 1988. The following year, he entered the University of California-San Diego's School of Medicine, where he earned a Medical Degree in 1993. He completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. Hosseini was a practicing internist between 1996 and 2004.

While in medical practice, Hosseini began writing his first novel, The Kite Runner, in March of 2001. In 2003, The Kite Runner, was published and has since become an international bestseller, published in 48 countries. In 2006 he was named a goodwill envoy to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency. His second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns was published in May of 2007. Currently, A Thousand Splendid Suns is published in 25 countries. He lives in northern California.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Earth hour

Earth Hour 2009

2,712 cities, towns and municipalities in 83 countries have already committed to VOTE EARTH for Earth Hour 2009, as part of the worlds first global election between Earth and global warming.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Reading the news

Peru water shortages


23 March 2009

World Water Day was observed internationally yesterday - not least in

Latin America, and especially in Peru where almost 8 million people

live without access to running water.

Dan Collyns in Lima

A glass of water

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Music from Scotland: Capercaillie

Their seductively contemporary sound and production, their mastery of traditional instruments (along with a willingness to look beyond them) and the voice of Karen Matheson have helped Capercaillie re-model the Celtic landscape...

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Saint Patrick's Day, March 17

Learn a few expressions...

Watch out! Some people get goosebumps... This is the amazing Riverdance performing as the Interval Act at Eurovision 1994, most people agree that Irish music was reborn to the whole world that day.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Grammar movies

Grammar movies

There are over forty Grammar Movies covering lots of important grammar topics on our Learn English Professionals website http://www.britishcouncil.org/professionals-grammar-movies.htm

The movies could be used in class to present different areas of grammar or the exercises used by learners for self-study.

Watch a movie now

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Tradition: pancakes

In the UK, there is a much-loved tradition of making and eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, which falls between February 2 and March 9 each year, depending on the date for Easter. In 2009, Shrove Tuesday falls on 24 February. Shrove Tuesday ('shrove' stems from old English word 'shrive', meaning 'confess all sins') is the day before Lent.

According to Christian beliefs, Lent commemorates Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness, and observant Christians mark this period by fasting. So Shrove Tuesday was cleverly invented to use up the ingredients that were given up for Lent - milk, butter and, particularly, eggs - which may not be eaten again until Easter.

Learn more at...

Monday, 16 February 2009

Music from England: Kate Rusby

Kate Rusby was born on December 4, 1973 in Sheffield. She is an English folk singer and songwriter from Penistone, South Yorkshire. She has headlined various British national folk festivals, and is regarded as one of the most famous English folk singers of contemporary times. In 2001 The Guardian described her as "a superstar of the British acoustic scene." In 2007 the BBC website described her as "The first lady of young folkies". She is one of the few folk singers to have been nominated for the Mercury Prize.
Her official website at http://www.katerusby.com/

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

St Valentine's Day

Romantic festival of St Valentine's Day is celebrated with enthusiasm and fond regard in several countries around the world. Most commonly observed Valentine's Day tradition and custom is expressing one's love with an exchange of cards, flowers and gifts. Pampering one's beloved and making a romantic proposal to one's sweetheart is the other popular tradition of the festival that celebrates love.

In the beginning, Valentine's Day was associated with romantic couples only but in recent times the festival is seen in much larger perspective. Now, people take opportunity of the day to wish ‘Happy Valentine's Day' to anyone they love be it father, mother, teachers, siblings, friends, co-workers or just anyone special to them. The idea behind this tradition is to celebrate love, get love and give love to everyone around us.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Music from Scotland: Amy MacDonald

Amy Macdonald was born on 25 August 1987 in Bishopbriggs, Scotland and she is a Scottish singer-songwriter. She is a self-taught musician and started to play her father's guitar after being inspired by Travis at the T in the Park Festival in 2000, where she heard Travis' song "Turn" and wanted to play it herself. Macdonald started her trade at various pubs and coffee houses in and around Glasgow at the age of 15.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Music from the USA: The Killers

The Killers are an American synth rock band from Las Vegas, Nevada. Formed in 2002, the group consists of Brandon Flowers (vocals, keyboards), Dave Keuning (guitar, vocals), Mark Stoermer (bass guitar, vocals) and Ronnie Vannucci Jr. (percussion, drums). Part of the post-punk revival movement, The Killers draw influence from music styles of the 1980s and 1990s.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Music from Canada: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire is an indie rock band based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and fronted by the husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne. The band is known for their live performances and their use of a large number of musical instruments; in addition to the guitar, drums, and bass guitar, the band's members also play instruments such as the piano, violin, viola, accordion, glockenspiel, upright bass, trumpet, and French horn. When asked about the name of the band, lead vocalist Butler stated that it refers to a fire that supposedly occurred in Exeter Arcade.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Music from Canada: Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan was born on January 28, 1968, and adopted in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As a child, she took voice lessons, along with studies in classical piano and guitar. When she was 17 years old, and still a student at Queen Elizabeth High School, she fronted a short-lived rock band called The October Game.