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Giles Parker English Academy podcasts

Do you want to have fun learning and improving your English grammar, vocabulary and listening and reading comprehension? Check these weekly 10 - 15 minute English language podcasts, aimed at ESL/EFL beginners, intermediate and advanced learners. Each podcast talks about the meaning and usage of a part of English grammar and then re-uses it in a short, topical, natural English comprehension text. Download the Giles Parker English Academy podcast and the transcript each week and learn English anytime, anywhere.

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Who could have poisoned Banjo? - Modal auxiliaries to speculate about the past

Modals to speculate about the past – Who could have poisoned Banjo? Hi! Welcome to another great English lesson with New English Academy. My name's Giles Parker and I'm your guide for today's lesson. I live in the beautiful Green Heart of Italy but life isn't always as pleasant as it seems here. So today we're going to hear about how my dog, Banjo was poisoned recently. The grammar point for this lesson looks at how to use modal auxiliaries to make a theory about or to speculate about the past. This is when you see something now but you don't know for sure what really happened so you make a theory or speculate about what happened. We’re going to look at phrases such as Someone must have done it; Someone could have done it; Someone might have done something, or Someone couldn't have done something. We'll do the reading and listening lesson first and then look at the grammar point after. As you listen to the podcast or read the transcript, try to look for these kinds of modal auxiliaries that speculate about the past. This lesson is aimed at advanced level learners because you need to know how to make past participles, and we will focus on some new, rare vocabulary, but don't let that stop you. As always don't forget to check out the website www.newenglishacademy.com for the complete set of interactive comprehension, grammar and vocabulary lessons for this podcast lesson as well as the games and tests. You can also find other free online lessons and a free guidebook on how to use these podcast lessons when you sign up. Comprehension Text – Who could have poisoned Banjo? The Green Heart of Italy is a truly beautiful place to live. We're surrounded by steep, wooded hills and small valleys covered in tobacco plants or sunflowers in the summer, or beans or clover or just left fallow at other times of the year. I can let my two dogs, Banjo and Lucy run in the woods when I take them for a walk. The woods are full of different birds and animals. Sometimes the dogs chase a deer or a rabbit or a squirrel but Banjo and Lucy are too slow to catch them. Recently I was walking Banjo and Lucy on a trail across one wooded hill when Banjo started vomiting violently. Suddenly he couldn't stand up for very long and he started shivering and shaking. He was definitely unwell and tried to crawl under thick bushes to hide. I gave him some water but it didn’t help him. He was really suffering. I half-dragged, half-carried him back down the trail to the car. I suspected that he had eaten some poison that had been left in the woods by someone. We raced to a vet in town and she saved his life. The vet confirmed that poor Banjo had eaten a kind of poison that is often used by local hunters. She also said that she sees a poisoned dog in her surgery every day of the year. I shouldn't be surprised that guys will put down poison to kill animals. It is supposed to be illegal but people still do it. I don't know who did it but it could have been local truffle hunters. Truffles are a delicious type of fungus that grows wild in the woods here. If you can find it you can sell it for €1000 a kilogram. Local guys train their dogs to find truffles. They also put down poison near where there are truffles. A local hunter might have put down some poison to kill the competition. Another theory is that Banjo might have eaten poison that was put down to kill foxes. Hunting is a very popular pastime here. It seems to me, between September to February every year, if something – birds, animals - can move, someone is going to shoot it. Local hunters like to grow and release pheasants in the woods here and then hunt and kill them in autumn. Foxes kill and eat the pheasants while they are still young. A local guy could have placed poison in the woods so as to kill the foxes and to protect the pheasants. I don't know. It seems kind of extreme to me. Another theory concerns boar. There are lots of wild boar in the hills around here and they do quite a bit of damage to the land as they search for things to eat. A local farmer could have left poison in the woods so as to control the boar population, maybe. I don't know - that seems like a bit of a long shot as local people prefer to hunt boar in the winter. In the end, anyone could have poisoned Banjo and we wouldn't know who. There isn’t a lot I can do.  I am more careful about where I walk the dogs and I always carry an anti-poison kit which is basically lots of water, and sachets of salt and bicarbonate of soda. After all this is a beautiful place, but sometimes you have to accept that rules are different in the countryside. Grammar explanation Now for the grammar explanation. Did you find examples of modal auxiliaries used to speculate or make theories about the past? So, for example, in the text, · Someone must have put down poison. · It had to have been a local hunter that did it. This is showing that I am very sure about the past. Did you see the two modal auxiliaries? Did you also see the past participles after have? So the rule for speculating about the past is: · modal auxiliary + have + verb past participle. Each time we use it we're trying to say what we think happened. This means we can express how sure we are, like 100%, or 50% sure. If you're 100% sure something happened (or not) in the past then you can say something must have happened. You can also say had to have + past participle. For example: · He must have felt awful. · He had to have eaten poison left by hunters. If you are 100% sure that something didn't happen, then you can say can't have happened, or couldn't have happened. For example, · My neighbors couldn't have done it. They like Banjo. · He can't have eaten the poison earlier. He was in the garden all morning. But what if you're not so sure? Then you can use could have + participle or may have or might have + past participle. They all show that you're not so sure. For example: · The poison may have been left by jealous truffle hunters, or it could have been put down by pheasant hunters. I don't know. What about making questions? You can easily make questions to speculate about the past. Just move the subject from before the modal auxiliary to after it. So for example: · Could they have done it? · Might he have died? So, to sum up, when you want to make a theory or speculate about the past because you can see something now, just use a modal auxiliary + have + past participle. You can show how sure you are by changing the modal. I hope this has been helpful for you. Don't forget, you can get the full interactive comprehension lesson, the grammar and vocabulary lessons and the tests and games for this free English lesson podcast when you sign up at the website www.newenglishacademy.com. See you at the Academy!


17 Jun 2014

Rank #1

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Why learn grammar?

Why learn grammar? Four great reasons Hi and welcome to another great lesson with New English Academy. My name is Giles Parker and I'm your host for this podcast. Today I'm going to answer a question from one of our listeners who asked me, "Why do you talk about grammar so much? Why do you have to use all those difficult words and ideas?" And she got me thinking - why DO I spend a lot of time talking about grammar? About half of each podcast focuses on grammar while the other half focuses on comprehension and vocabulary. Why do I think it is so important to learn - and teach - grammar? Well today, I'm going to get on my soapbox and explain why I think learning grammar is important. This isn't aimed at any particular level. I think most English learners will find something useful here. You can get the full course with the comprehension and vocabulary lessons and a guidebook with free hints and ideas on how to use this and other podcasts, at the website, www.newenglishacademy.com. Don’t forget, if there is anything special YOU want to practice, let me know and I’ll design a podcast and some online interactive lessons for you. So, why do I think grammar is important? First, I should make sure you know what I mean when I say 'grammar'. For me, grammar is a combination of 4 different things: 1) knowledge ABOUT language, 2) ability to USE language, 3) a special language that helps us talk about language, and, 4) a special attitude, mind-set or way of thinking about language. Grammar is something we all 'do' or use when we communicate. There might even be a grammar of body language, facial expressions, intonation and other non-verbal communication that we don't really know about yet but that we still use to communicate. Most native speakers of any language have a little knowledge of grammar, but they can certainly 'do' grammar extremely well.  They don't really need to know the rules, the special language or develop the questioning attitude, because they can usually intuit the correct results of the rules and communicate just fine without really thinking about it.  One reason to learn grammar is better communication. Grammar describes or talks about the structure of language. It shows us the rules and exceptions that we need to use to do what we want to do in communication. If we have a better knowledge of and ability to do grammar we can communicate more accurately - i.e., we can say what we really mean, better. We can also communicate more efficiently, i.e., help the other person to understand us better without taking lots of time and energy. If our grammar ability isn't so good then we make mistakes and the other guy won't be able to understand us so well and we don't want that. Also, if our grammar ability is weak then other people will make decisions about us that might not be correct. This leads me on to another good reason to learn grammar: Professionalism. This is how you look to other people in your profession or work-place, which is kind of important. If your ability to do grammar is good and you communicate efficiently, then your colleagues and employers will believe and trust you more. This usually brings good things like promotion and better salary and improved chances. Having said that, please beware of prejudices. Some people make decisions about us foreign or second language learners based on our ability to use grammar and they might be wrong. We are learning grammar, which means that (we hope) it will get better and that our current ability and knowledge is just a place in the process, not the end of the process.  One of my favorite reasons to learn grammar is that is develops an attitude or a way of thinking about language, and perhaps about the world. Learning grammar means we can ask questions about language and then look at the evidence of language to find out the rules. We can make theories and hypotheses and test them. If the evidence shows a theory is good, we can make that a rule. To be able to do this we need to share a standardized language that describes language: that is, grammar. Grammar gives names to real things - it tells us what are nouns and verbs, for example, or how sentences and questions and tenses can be formed. So we can use this language about language to investigate the world of language. For me, this ability to ask questions and find answers ourselves, on our own, is quite wonderful.  Lastly, a good reason to learn grammar is that it improves our ability to learn languages. We can learn more and improve our ability to use language if we can describe it and ask questions about it. We can use teachers, other native speakers or textbooks and the internet to help us, but we have to know how to ask the questions and what the answers mean and that is where knowledge of grammar as a language to talk about language will really help us. It is so much more efficient to be able to learn the target language by USING the target language rather than by translation. So, if you're learning English, use English to learn English.  Learn the grammar rules in English to develop your understanding and ability.    What do YOU think about learning grammar? Do you think it is important? Or is it a hassle? Did you notice that I’m talking about learning? That is very different from being taught which is often the death of learning. In a couple of weeks I’ll talk about different ways to learn grammar. If there are any techniques that really help you learn grammar let me know and I’ll feature them. Cheers!


13 May 2014

Rank #2

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Speak like a native - go & like for indirect speech

'Go' and 'like' for indirect speech Hi and welcome to another great lesson from New English Academy. I'm your host Giles Parker and today we're going to look at one of the most useful grammar points that will make you sound immediately like a native speaker. Amazingly, this grammar point isn’t in any of the conventional grammar textbooks for English learners, which is kind of strange because it will help you speak and understand English so much better if you can use it. If you can find this grammar point in a book for EFL or ESL learners please let me know. So, what am I talking about? Basically, what I’m talking about is another way of saying what someone said WITHOUT having to do all the verb tense changes, pronoun changes, etc that you have to do when you use reported or indirect speech. Oh, no. This new way is so much easier and more efficient because it also allows you to do other things at the same time as introduce reported speech. You can also show what you or the other person was thinking or feeling about what happened. And, it can show your opinion NOW about the situation too, and generally it lets you tell or act out a story so the other person can understand you better. So, what is this fantastic, multi-functional grammar point that is so easy to use? A lot of grammar dictators and old school teachers aren’t going to like this but… Basically, just use go or to be + like to introduce the direct speech instead of a reporting verb. And that amazing little grammar point is what we’re going to talk about in this podcast. I'll post a free interactive grammar lesson for you to practice this on the website at www.newenglishacademy.com. And, if you have any ideas or requests for things you want to learn just send me an email and I'll make a podcast and an interactive lesson for you. One of the many things we want to do in a foreign language is to tell someone about the past. Often, we want to tell a story about something that happened and we want to include what other people thought or said. I talked about how to do this in last week's podcast which looked at reported or indirect speech. And, you know, using reported or indirect speech isn't such an easy thing to do. Can you remember the rules to do it? There are a lot of things you have to change in reported or indirect speech. When you say what someone else said, you have to change the verb tenses because the time has changed, and you have to change the pronouns because obviously the speaker is different. And you have to change the here-and-now-type words too again because the speaker and the time and the place is different. But...you don't have to make verb tense changes if what you are speaking about is recent and hasn't changed since. Lastly, you have to introduce what was said with a reporting verb like say, or tell. Do you remember all this? Phew! That is a lot to remember or figure out every time you want to tell someone what someone else said, which is why I put it on the website as an advanced course. But, I was thinking - do we always do it this way? Is there another, easier way to report speech? Then it hit me! Of course - a lot of people don't worry so much about making all these changes nowadays. There is an easier way to speak English like a native without getting confused by verb changes, reporting verbs and pronouns, etc. In fact, two different ways but they share the same rules and they make everything so much easier. You can use go or to be like as ways of introducing someone else's speech. Take a look at this example from Frank Zappa's 1982 classic 'Valley Girl' which exaggerates how girls from a part of California talk. Don't worry about all the examples of like just focus on the one that introduces speech. Also look for the example of go to introduce speech. So like I go into this like salon place, you know? And I wanted like to get my toenails done And the lady like goes., oh my God, your toenails Are like so GRODY It was like really embarrassing She's like OH MY GOD, like BAG THOSE TOENAILS I'm like sure... She goes, uh, I don't know if I can handle this, you know? I was like really embarrassed... Did you see where the speech is introduced by goes and by go? Did you also see how the verb tenses and pronouns don't change at all? No changes – just say exactly what the other person said! That's what makes using go and like so easy and useful. Here are a couple more examples: She said, "Do you want to go out clubbing this weekend?" And he's like "Do I ever!" Or: My boss got angry because I was late and I'm like, "Whatever". He goes, "Why don't you phone and let us know you're going to be late?" And I’m like, “Whatever”. Or: She said, "Do you want to want come out tomorrow?" And I'm like, "That would be cool. What do you want to do?" And she goes, "We could go to the beach?" So why are they so useful? Well, go and like do a lot of things all at the same time. First, they introduce what someone says, just like other reporting verbs. But they also introduce what the speaker THINKS or FEELS about the situation too. This means that the person might not actually have said it, but she felt or thought it then instead. They also make the report about what happened so much more dramatic, more NOW and less a thing that happened in the past. The story becomes something that involves the speaker and the listener now which makes it more powerful.  Often go and like also introduce some kind of body language or gestures and other signs of what the speaker feels or felt about the story. It is almost like the speaker is acting the story for us and this might make the story more appealing and perhaps easier to understand - which I guess is the standard for good communication. Go and like are really easy to use. Just make sure the subject lines up with go or the to be verb. So for example, if you want to say what a guy said, you say He goes.... or He's like... and then you say what he said, or thought or felt. You don't even have to change the tense of go or the to be verb, really, but you can if you want. I mean, you can say He was like.... when you're talking about the past or, She's going to be like... when you report what someone might say in the future. But I don't think that is a hard and fast rule. Most people just use the present simple, He's like... Best of all, you don't have to change any tenses, or pronouns or here-and-now-type words in the reported speech phrase which makes go and  to be + like so much easier than normal reported speech. This is all because we want to keep the story right here between us now, NOT distant and staying in the past.    There is a small problem with using go and like to report speech in that older, perhaps 'higher-class' speakers of English might judge people who use them as lazy or uneducated and as people who can't use or speak the language correctly. However, you shouldn't let that worry you. I think it is a different way of looking at how people talk about things that happened. I think it is kind of exciting that we can make the past closer to us when we use these simple verbs and furthermore that we are seeing a change in English language that is taking place right now. Now, why don't grammar text books for EFL and ESL learners teach it? 


8 May 2014

Rank #3

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Living with cancer - indirect or reported speech

Indirect or reported speech Hi and welcome to another great lesson with New English Academy. I’m your guide, Giles Parker, and today we’re going to look at how to use indirect speech to report or say what someone else said. There are a couple of really useful rules you need to remember when you tell someone what someone else said. For example, verb tenses change, pronouns and here-and-now-type words also change. AND you need to use a special group of verbs called reporting verbs. Phew! It’s a bit tricky and that is why this lesson doesn’t focus on how to make questions – we’ll save that for the next lesson. Our comprehension text today reports the meeting between Paola who is suffering from cancer, her district nurse Stefania and her daughter Katia. Cancer sucks and Paola, Stefania and Katia talk about what they can do to help Paola live at home and be as independent as possible. This lesson was requested by Iolanda in Brazil and is aimed at advanced level students but beginners and intermediate level students can still learn from it. You can get the full course including the interactive comprehension lesson and comprehension test, the interactive grammar and vocabulary lessons and fun online language-learning games at our website, www.newenglishacademy.com. Don’t forget to check out the free courses in the course catalogue too. Finally, let me know if there is something YOU want to study, and I’ll make a podcast and an online course for you too. Grammar explanation How do you tell one friend what your other friend said, or decided or thought? Well, there are two different ways to do this. You can use direct speech which uses the exact same words, like a quote, or 2) you can use indirect or reported speech. With direct speech you say exactly what the other person said. You introduce what she said with a reporting verb such as say or tell. If you write what someone said, then you have use quotation marks or speech marks to show where the quote starts and stops. Here are a couple of examples of direct speech: · She said, “It’s going to rain again.” · “That’s the third time this week,” she added. Did you notice the reporting verbs? To say and to add are reporting verbs that introduce what the person says. But how about when you don’t want to use the speaker’s exact words, or, more importantly, when you are speaking, not writing, English? Well, this is when you use indirect speech. Indirect speech is a report, not a quote. It doesn’t use the exact same words, though it can. When you write it you don’t have to put quotation marks around the report.  You still have to introduce what the other person said with a reporting verb, and there is a free list of reporting verbs that you can download from this course on the website. The report of what the person says becomes a noun phrase or a noun clause which is usually introduced by that. Do you remember the two examples just now where the girl talked about the rain? Here they are again as indirect speech, i.e.; now I’m reporting what she said: · She said that it’s going to rain again. · She added that it’s the third time this week. Did you see where the noun phrase is? It’s going to rain is the noun phrase in the first sentence and It’s the third time this week is the noun phrase in the second sentence. Are you still with me? OK. I mentioned earlier that things like verbs and pronouns change when you use indirect speech. Usually you have to check the tense of the verb in the direct speech and THEN change the tense of the verb in the noun clause. Usually, if the verb in the quote or direct speech is in the simple present then the verb in the noun clause changes to the simple past. For example: · Direct speech: “I’m hungry,” said the student. · Indirect speech: The student said that she was hungry. Did you see what happened there? The to be verb changed from present simple I am to she was. And maybe you can see another change there too. Here’s another example: · Direct speech: “I finished the medicine yesterday,” he said. · Indirect speech: He said that he had finished the medicine yesterday. Did you see how the simple past finished in the direct speech changed to past perfect had finished? The same is true for future forms. For example: · Direct speech: He said, “I’ll do it later.” · Indirect speech: He said he would do it later. But, I’m always saying usually. I have to add a HUGE caveat, or a warning, here. The rule that the verb changes tense when you use indirect speech depends on if you are writing or speaking and, if what someone said is still true now. In spoken English, the verb DOESN’T have to change, so a lot of the time, you will hear the same tense in the noun clause. This is especially true when we are reporting what someone said about the future, or when we are reporting something that happened very recently. For example: · Direct speech: He said, “I’m going to see a doctor about this.” · Indirect speech: He said he’s going to see a doctor about this. · Direct speech:  She said, ‘I’ve had enough to eat, thanks.” · Indirect speech: She said she’s had enough to eat. I think you can see that pronouns change too. This is because the speaker is changing. So, for example: · Direct speech: Katia said, “I’ll look in on Paola every day.” · Indirect speech: Katia said she would look in on Paola every day. · Direct speech: “We are all here to help you,” Stefania explained. · Indirect speech: Stefania explained that they were all there to help her. Lastly, here-and-now-type words change too. This is because the time and sometimes the place in the report are different from the place and time in the direct speech. For example: · Direct speech: Paola said, “I want to be as independent here for as long as possible.” · Indirect speech: Paola said she wanted to be as independent there for as long as possible. · Direct speech: Stefania said, “You shouldn’t be left alone in this way.” · Indirect speech: Stefania said that she shouldn’t be left alone in that way. So, to summarize, you use indirect speech when you want to report what someone said. You use a reporting verb to introduce the noun phrase and in written English more than in spoken English you change the tense of the verb. In spoken English you can relax a bit more. I guess that depends on how accurate you want to be. Now, we’re going to listen to, or read, if you like, a comprehension text that gives a report of a meeting between Paola who is suffering from cancer, her district nurse Stefania who is helping her, and Paola’s daughter Katia. As you listen, try to find all the examples of indirect speech. Then, check for all the different reporting verbs. Don’t forget, you can get the whole course including an interactive grammar lesson and grammar test, the comprehension lesson and vocabulary games at the website and other free courses at the website, www.newenglishacademy.com Comprehension Text: Living with cancer Cancer affects everyone some time, somewhere. We all know someone who has survived or succumbed to this horrible disease. The process can be brutal and quick, or it can be drawn-out and slow. Seventy-six year old Paola has a slow-growing cancer in her lungs. At the moment, Paola is living on her own and has said that she wants to stay independent and at home for as long as possible. Her daughter’s family look in on her every day and the district nurse comes and checks up on her every week. Here are the notes from the meeting last week between Paola, the district nurse Stefania and Paola’s daughter, Katia.   Stefania explained that they were all there to talk about Paola’s current and future needs and asked Paola what she would like to discuss and plan for that week. Paola replied she’d like to talk about everything. She said that recently some things had been getting more difficult for her to do on her own, like the ironing or hanging out her washing. She said she could just about manage at the moment but she got tired easily.  Stefania asked Katia if she could come over and help a bit more with these basic chores. Katia replied that she had been very busy with work and her own family recently, but she would try to find time to help her mother more. Paola also said that she was beginning to have trouble doing her shopping. She said she used to look forward to going out to the shops a couple of times a week but recently she hadn’t been so enthusiastic about it. The groceries weighed a lot, and she often felt exhausted just walking around town. Stefania told her she didn’t have to go out so often, and that she could get help from a local community service that would bring food over for her once a week if she gave them a list. Katia said Paola shouldn’t go out shopping if she didn’t feel up to it. Instead, she said she’d pick up extra groceries when she did her shopping and bring them over for her. She said it wouldn’t be a problem. She said that if she had known the shopping was becoming a burden for her mother she would have got the groceries for her earlier. Stefania asked Paola about her pain. She said she often felt terrible aches in her chest and that she had trouble sleeping. She also had trouble with all the medicine she had to take. She had forgotten to take some of the medicine at the right time once or twice so she had combined two lots at the same time. Stefania pointed out that that was very dangerous and that she shouldn’t have done that. Katia proposed a check-list of times and medicines that Paola could read and check off when she had taken them. Paola said she would try harder in future to remember what drugs to take and when to take them.   Katia reiterated that her mother wanted to stay at home for as long as possible, and asked the nurse when they would have to make a decision about moving Paola in to her daughter’s family’s house. Stefania said it was difficult to say, but generally, patients are moved out of their own homes and into family homes or care-homes when they can no longer look after themselves safely. Usually, this happens soon after some kind of crisis, like a fall, or an accident at home. But it was good that they were already thinking and talking about it as this meant they could plan the move rather than have to make sudden decisions in a short period of time. Stefania assured them that Paola would be safe at home for a while yet, but that it was a good idea to have a plan ready for when Paola could no longer be independent.  Everyone agreed it had been a useful meeting.


1 May 2014

Rank #4

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Could you do me a favor? Making requests

Making requests Hi and welcome to another great lesson from New English Academy. I'm your guide Giles Parker and today we're going to look at how to make polite requests. This podcast follows on from last week’s podcast ‘Pass the paint pot’ which looked at using imperatives. Both imperatives and requests are ways of getting people to do things for you but requests are more polite. The comprehension text also features lots more phrasal verbs which we also started looking at in the podcast on imperatives.  This course is aimed at beginners but I’m sure everyone will find something useful here. You can check out the full course with an interactive comprehension lesson and comprehension test, vocabulary lessons including pronunciation practice and interactive grammar games, and tests at our website http://www.newenglishacademy.com/. And a quick request from me: If you have anything special YOU want to study or practice, please send me an email. Maybe I can make a podcast and an online interactive lesson for you. Now - on to some grammar! In language we are always doing things, like asking and answering, or inviting and refusing, showing or explaining, etc. It is useful to think about what language and grammar we need to be able to do things. One important thing we want to be able to do is to get people to do things when you can't do it yourself. Now, you can use imperatives like we discussed last week, but they are very direct and straight and not so polite. Imperatives are great for giving orders or directions and instructions to friends and people you know well, but not really useful if you want to be more polite. A better way to be polite is to make a request, such as Could you do me a favor? When you make a request to ask someone to do something you use a modal auxiliary such as can, could and would and make it into a question. For example: Can you pick up the groceries tonight? Could you call me when you get back? Would you bring back some fruit? Did you notice how my voice went up at the end of each question? This is because when you make a request or ask someone to do something there are only two possible answers - yes or no.  And yes/no questions usually finish with raised intonation - that means when you ask them your voice goes up at the end of the question. If someone makes a request and asks you to do something for them and you think it's OK, you just say Sure! or Of course or Certainly or Alright. But, be careful! Don't answer with the modal auxiliary. I mean, if someone asks Could you get that for me? it is best not to answer by saying Yes, I could. or No, sorry, I couldn't. People will think you are making fun of them if you do that. What do you say if you want to refuse the request, that is, if you don't want to do it and you want to say No! Well, just saying No! is not so easy, and it is a bit impolite or rude. So, instead, make your refusal politer by apologizing and giving a little excuse or reason or explanation why you can't do it. So for example: Could you walk the dogs this evening? Sorry, I can't. I have to stay late at work again. Did you see the excuse? The guy is working late this evening so he can't walk the dogs. Another, even politer way to make a request is to ask someone Would you mind doing.... This question is nice and easy and very polite. To ask it, just say Would you mind and then add a gerund, that is, a verb + ing that has become a noun. For example: Would you mind taking this out? Thanks. Would you mind turning down the volume? It's very loud. Would you mind paying for me? I forgot my wallet. OK, that about explains how to make polite requests to ask someone to do something for you. Now, a quick reminder about phrasal verbs: If you listen to last week’s podcast ‘Pass the paint pot’ you’ll remember that phrasal verbs are two word verbs that have a preposition or particle as well as a verb. Some of them are separable. That means you can put an object between the verb and the preposition as well as put it after the preposition. And you probably remember that if you use an object pronoun, then it only goes between the verb and the preposition. Unfortunately, the only way to learn which verbs can be separated and which cannot is to, well, just learn them. There is a downloadable list of separable and inseparable phrasal verbs as part of this course on the website. Now we're going to listen to a short comprehension text that uses different ways to make, accept and refuse requests. As you listen, see how many requests you can hear. Then, listen again and try to find out all the phrasal verbs. Which ones seem to be separable and which not? And, don't forget: you can get the full three hours course with the comprehension test, the vocabulary lesson and test and interactive grammar explanation and test and fun online games at http://www.newenglishacademy.com/ Comprehension text Last week my friend Marian came over and we worked together to paint a room. This week, another friend, Helena, is helping me out too. It is Easter weekend this weekend and in Italy, that means family and friends all get together for a huge meal. I want to ask over a few friends for dinner on Sunday and Helena has offered to give me a hand with setting up the meal. H: Well, first, have you thought over the guest list? Could you give me an idea of how many people are coming? G: Sure, about 12, I guess. You know most of them. H: OK, and we'll have to think up a menu, too. G: That's the big problem right there. Half of them are vegetarian. I'm ready to give up! I haven't got a clue what to make for them all. You know how picky people here are about food. H: Don't worry about it. As long as there is plenty of food and wine people will be happy. Now, would you please turn down that awful music and turn up the light? I want to work out a menu for everyone. G: Sure. Thanks for helping out like this. So we talked over who was going to come and what kind of food would be best for everyone. H: One of the fun things about parties is you never know who is going to come in the end. Someone might drop in on the way to another party, and someone might drop out at the last minute, you know? Can you call everyone up and check? G: Sure. Why not? We all get along pretty well so last minute problems shouldn't be a hassle. But, would you mind calling a couple of them too? You know how difficult it is to speak a foreign language on the phone... H: No, sorry, I can't. First you need the practice. Second, I left my phone on all day yesterday and forgot to charge it last night. I used up all the battery and now it has run out, so you'll have to call everyone up yourself… I spent an hour calling friends. Some of them didn't answer first time but they called back later.  Eventually I put together a good list of people who said they could come to dinner. H: Well, what do you think? G: I got in contact with everyone and they all said they can make it on Sunday. H: That's good. Here's a few suggestions for a menu. I don't think I've left anything out.... G: OK, so we've got crostini for starters. Could you pick up the bread and stuff for that on Saturday evening H: Sorry, I can't. I'm going out with friends then, but I could pick something up on the way over on Sunday. G: OK, that's a good idea. What about primo? H: Well, I thought we could have two types. One tagliatelle al ragu and the other a vegetarian gnocchi. But, would you mind making the gnocchi? G: Me? Not at all, but are you sure? I'm hopeless in the kitchen?   H: Don't worry, we'll work something out.


22 Apr 2014

Rank #5

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Pass the paint pot - Imperatives and phrasal verbs

Using imperatives to tell people to do something Hi and welcome to another great lesson from New English Academy. I’m Giles Parker and I’m your guide for this course. Today we’re going to look at some really useful phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs are verbs that have two words to them, always a verb and either a preposition or a particle. You hear them all the time in spoken English so it is a good idea to start learning them. We’re also going look at how to tell people what to do. This is called the imperative form and it is very useful for giving instructions and giving directions or orders. Our comprehension text today is called ‘Pass the paint pot’ and features a dialogue between yours truly and a friend of mine, Marian, who helped me paint my house recently. He is just starting to learn English, so please forgive some of his pronunciation. I think he does very well. As ever, you can download the free transcript and the free guidebook with 25 different activities on how to improve your English using these podcasts from the website, www.newenglishacademy.com. Don’t forget to check out the catalogue of free online English courses too. This podcast is aimed at beginner level students but there is something useful here for everyone. Grammar explanation: Here in the Green Heart of Italy, I have made lots of new friends. Some friends are local people and other friends come from foreign countries to find work here. My friend Marian comes from Slovakia. He is a stone-mason, which means he knows how to build things with stone. Marian speaks pretty good Italian, but many of the people he works for don't come from Italy and they don't speak much Italian. So, he has to speak to them in English. Often, they want to help him do his job. This means Marian has to speak to them in a mixture of Italian and English. He has to give them instructions and directions and tell them what to do and how to do it. When Marian tells someone to do something, he uses a very useful bit of grammar - the imperative form of a verb. The imperative is the verb when you tell someone to do something, when you give directions or instructions or give an order. It's very easy to use. It is also very direct and straight so it is a good idea to be polite with it.  To tell someone to do something with the imperative just use the base form of the verb - that is, the verb without to. You don't have to change it or add anything to it.  So for example: Give me that nail gun. Start the compressor. If you want to tell someone not to do something, I mean, if you want to use the imperative in the negative, that is really easy too. Just add Do not before the verb. To make it friendlier, or politer add Please and make a contraction from Do not to Don't... So for example: Don't stand there. Please don't do that. Marian always tries to be polite so he doesn't always use imperatives. Instead, he makes them into requests. This means, he asks you to do something. It is very easy to take an imperative and change it into a request. All you need is a simple modal auxiliary, such as Can or could and make it into a question.  For example: Could you pass me that hammer, please? Can you put away the tools, please? When someone uses imperatives or requests, you can answer in a couple of ways. If you want to do it, you can say Sure! or OK! For example: · Put that hammer in the box there. Sure! · Don’t throw out that newspaper. OK. But…if you don't want to do it then you have to find a polite way to refuse. Refusing or saying no to anything in English is not as simple as just saying No! We’ll look at how to refuse things in more detail in another lesson. Lastly, a quick word about some of the verbs in today’s lesson. We’re going to look at phrasal verbs, or two-word verbs. This means they have a preposition or a particle after the verb.  They are very common and you’ll hear them all the time in spoken English.  And like everything in any language, there are some rules. Some phrasal verbs need an object. This means they need a something or someone to receive the action of the verb. For example: · You should put away the tools  – put away is the phrasal verb and tools is the object. You can put the object either after the verb and the particle OR between the verb and the particle. So, for example; · Don’t turn on the radio. · Don’t turn the radio on. Did you see where the object is? The object of both these sentences is the radio. In the first sentence it is after the phrasal verb, in the second it is between the verb and the particle. Lastly, one important rule: When the object is a pronoun, it has to go between the verb and the particle. So for example; · Turn the radio off. · Turn it off. Some phrasal verbs don’t take an object so there is no problem with where to put the pronoun. As I said, phrasal verbs are really common in spoken English. There is no easy way to learn them other than by reading and listening and remembering them. You can get a list of which phrasal verbs in the vocabulary lesson in the online course on imperatives and phrasal verbs on the website. Now for some reading and listening comprehension. With the right imperatives to tell his friends and helpers what to do, Marian can build and fix houses. Last week Marian and I worked together. He is the boss so he asked or told me to do lots of different things. While you listen to the dialog try to find all the imperatives. Then, listen again and find all the requests. You can check them on the transcript. Also, check what phrases we use to say yes! when we give an order or make a request. On the transcript, use a highlighter to show the imperative and the answer. Enjoy! That’s an imperative! Comprehension text A couple of weeks ago, Marian and I worked together to paint my house. It was a lot easier with two guys doing the work. I had painted houses before but Marian has more experience than me so he told me what to do sometimes. It all started when I asked him to help me. G: Marian, could you take a look at the paint in my house sometime soon? Some of it is old and needs fixing. M: Sure! When is a good time for you? G: How about tomorrow morning? M: OK. Phone me when you are ready. G: OK. Can you give me an estimate tomorrow too? M: Probably. Let me look at it and we'll see. I have to measure the walls. G: Oh, and could you let me know tomorrow what things we need? M: Sure. It depends on the house, you know? Do I have to prepare an invoice too? G: What? An invoice? So the next day I phoned him and he came over. Here is how it went. G: OK, this is the living room... M: Hmm... look at that damp patch in the corner. We will have to fix that. G: OK, what else? M: Could you help me move the sofa? Thanks. OK - come here a minute. G: What's up? M: There is something wrong with the skirting board here. G: OK, I see. Can you fix it too? M: Sure. No problems. I'll do it later. Now, pass me the ladder, will you? G: Here you go. M: OK, we need to put masking tape all around the doors and windows. G: Sure. Give me the tape and I'll get started over here. M: Pick up the tool box - I think the tape is under it. G: OK, I got it. M: Right. Let's get started. You finish putting up the tape; I'll take a look at the damp patch. G: OK... We worked together and put up the masking tape. The damp patch was difficult to fix, however.  M: OK we have a small problem here. Could you hand me that trowel? I want to dig out some of the old plaster here in this corner. G: Here you go. Can I do anything to help? M: Sure. Get the new plaster for me, please. Then put some of it on this float and pass it up to me when I'm ready. G: Right. Watch out for the old plaster here. Don't let it get in your eyes. It isn't good for you. M: No worries. Here we go. I finished. Now, could you hand me the float with the new plaster? Thanks. G: Sure. Be careful around the edges there. M: It's OK - I know what I'm doing. G: Great - that looks better already. What next? M: Well, we have to wait for it to dry before we can paint it. But we can tidy up the room and get ready for the first coat.... So we started tidying up the place and moving the furniture. M: OK, could you give me a hand with this cabinet? I want to put it into the middle of the room, under the light. It will be safer there. G: Got it. Gee, it's heavy - difficult to move... M: Don't worry - just use koshi mawashi... G: Ha ha, funny guy. What about the tools? They are everywhere... M: OK - put them away. The brushes, mixer and the float go in the bucket. Put the trowel and the tape back in the toolbox. Don’t throw out that paint thinner – it will be useful later. G: Sure. Anything else? M: Hmm... could you turn on the light and turn off the radio? I need perfect light and peace when I'm painting a room. G: OK, Picasso. Lights on, radio off. Right. Let's go have a coffee before we start painting. M: Good idea! After the coffee we mixed up the paint, climbed up the ladders and started painting. The first coat went on the ceiling and walls nice and smoothly and after a couple of hours we were ready to stop for the day and let the paint dry. M: OK, I think we can quit now. Let’s stop here, clean up, and start again tomorrow morning. G: Alright. I’ll wash the rollers and brushes. M: OK, but don’t wash them in hot water, just use cold water. And when you have finished, don’t let them stay wet. Dry them on the tree outside. G: Got it. How about pay? M: Don’t pay me today. Pay me tomorrow when we finish the job. G: Fine – see you tomorrow, then. M: Ciao.   G: Ciao.


11 Apr 2014

Rank #6

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McLanguage change - i'm lovin' it - stative verbs

Stative verbs - McLanguage change Hi and welcome to another great grammar lesson from New English Academy. I’m your host, Giles Parker, and today we’re going to learn about stative verbs, and in particular, how that famous burger chain, McDonalds has shown that grammar rules can change. This lesson is aimed at intermediate learners but anyone can learn something new from the vocabulary or the grammar, or just practice listening and reading comprehension. As usual, you can get the full online interactive comprehension, vocabulary and grammar explanations, the games and the tests at our website NewEnglishAcademy.com. Let me know if you like this lesson or any of the others by sending me an email or rating this on iTunes or Stitcher Radio. The more I know what you guys like, the better I can make lessons for you. Here in the beautiful Green Heart of Italy, I recently saw a sign of an invasion from another culture – a large McDonalds sign with its golden arches next to a main road advertising a new McDrive restaurant. I’m surprised because fast-food isn’t very popular here. My neighbors ask – why do you want to eat fast? The next nearest McDonalds is about 50 minutes’ drive away.  McDonalds is being very brave in trying to start a restaurant here.  Just my two cent’s worth, but I don’t think it will succeed here. American fast-food chains moving into other cultures isn’t really new news, but did you know that McDonalds has also had an effect on the English language too? This really means it is a successful business, just like that new verb ‘to Google’. Recently McDonalds disagreed with the Oxford English dictionary about the meaning of ‘McJob’ which still means a job that doesn’t pay well and that has little future. In the USA, you can have a large house that is not well built and costs too much and that your friends call a ‘McMansion’.  You can find this in the Oxford English Dictionary too! These new words are nouns. But McDonalds, willingly or unwillingly, has also popularised a new grammar rule. Their very successful advertising slogan says “i’m lovin’ it.” There – even my Microsoft Word underlines the slogan in red, showing there is something here with which it disagrees. Actually, there are two problems here – can you guess what they are? One problem is with the punctuation. Usually, first person singular ‘I’ is a capital letter. I know it is more fashionable with some people to use a lower-case ‘i’. Personally I don’t use it and I don’t recommend using it when writing something formal.  Maybe McDonalds started using it more than 10 years ago in order to be fashionable with younger people who were also starting to use lower-case ‘i’ in texts and messages to each other. But the other problem is a grammatical problem - about the verb, ‘to love’. Usually, this is a stative verb. A stative verb is a verb that doesn’t talk about an action or something that you do. Instead, stative verbs talk about a state, or a way of being, maybe something more internal, something inside you, but not an action. Stative verbs talk about emotions, appearances, preferences, mental states, possessions, and measurements. Grammatically, you can’t usually make a stative verb like ‘to love’ into the continuous or progressive by adding ‘to be’ and ‘ing’. For most native speakers, that usually sounds very strange.  Some people say it just isn’t correct.   McDonalds is showing us that grammar rules change and that in this case we can use a stative verb with ‘to be’ and ‘ing’. This doesn’t make it active, like you are really doing it, but perhaps it gives a sense of action to an emotion, or a preference, etc. This makes the internal state more immediate, more ‘now’. Perhaps McDonalds is using old words in new ways to give new meanings. The future is looking good for some stative verbs. Many people say they’re hating something rather than they hate it. Or, they’re thinking or feeling something rather than they think or feel it. McDonalds has certainly made a lot of money from showing that grammar rules can change.  I wonder what other companies help change language? Maybe I should google that.


10 Feb 2014

Rank #7

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Marketing houses in Umbria - changing nouns

Modifying nouns – Marketing houses in Umbria Hi and welcome to another great English lesson from New English Academy. I’m your guide Giles Parker and today we’re going to look at how to change or modify nouns – i.e. which adjectives come before others when they describe a noun. This lesson is aimed at advanced level students but everyone can learn something from it. The comprehension text is titled ‘Marketing houses in Umbria’ and talks about the way real-estate agents describe the beautiful old houses here when they want to sell them to buyers. As ever, check out the website New English Academy.com for all the fun interactive online games, quizzes and tests for this lesson. Also, if you like what you read and hear, don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher Radio or send me a comment on how to make this better. First I’ll talk about the grammar point and give you a few important rules on how to order or sequence adjectives before a noun. Then we’ll look at compound modifiers which often use participles. Lastly we’ll listen to or read (if you have the free transcript) a short text that includes examples of adjectives modifying nouns. So, first, let’s talk about how to modify nouns. When I say modified, I mean that adjectives, and other nouns, give extra information about a noun – they change the noun and make it more precise and accurate. But what do you do if you have two or more adjectives and nouns before the head noun? Which one should come first? Which one should come second? Here’s an example of a noun phrase with an adjective and a noun: · An old house OK, but let’s be more specific and give more information. · An old farm house Did you notice where I put the noun ‘farm’? When nouns modify other nouns, they come directly before the head noun. Now we know what type of house it is, but we still want to give more information. How about this example: · A beautiful big old square Italian pink stone farm house. That’s a lot of adjectives but it really gives a lot of great information. Now we know exactly what we are talking about. There is a fixed rule for the sequence of adjectives i.e. which adjectives come before others. Typically, most native English speakers will be able to give correct examples of the rule BUT they won’t be able to say what the rule is.  They can intuit the usage but can’t explain it. Sometimes, that is why non-native speakers of a language are the best teachers. You guys can often intuit the usage AND explain the rule, because you studied it. If you’re a non-native teacher of English and you’re listening to this, please stand up and take a bow. You guys rock! Anyway, back to modifying nouns. Look again at the example I just gave, and this time try to categorize the adjectives. What do they describe? · A beautiful big old square pink Italian stone farm house. Can you see seven adjectives or nouns that modify the head noun? We can give an opinion, describe the size, the age, the shape, the nationality or origin, the colour and the material. This is the usual rule for the sequence of adjectives and nouns before a head noun. 1. Opinion 2. Size 3. Age 4. Shape 5. Colour 6. Origin 7. Material So this is the general sequence. Try it out by describing the room you are in, or the place where you live, or the person you work for. As a hint for usage, I don’t recommend trying to use every category – you don’t have to describe everything – unless you are a real estate agent trying to sell a house. And, you can change the order to show what you want to emphasize. Did you notice how I read out the sequence? You can see the same thing in the transcript. I mean, each category isn’t separated by a pause or a comma.  But… if you do use two or more adjectives from the same category then just separate them with a comma. Lastly, let’s look at compound modifiers. These are modifiers that describe a noun but that have two words in them. Usually they are joined by a hyphen, e.g. · A half-ruined house · A pre-loved car · A prize-winning stallion They can be noun + present participle, noun + past participle, or an adjective + past participle but they all give extra information about the head noun and act just like normal, single word adjectives.  Very often they are collocated with the head noun – that means they usually go together, for example, someone who thinks he is great is described as ‘big-headed’ not ‘large-headed’ or ‘medium-sized-headed’ if he is more modest. My only advice is that you have to learn these compound modifiers just like you learn other adjectives. You can do it! Now, on to the comprehension text. The area where I live is very rural and there are many old houses for sale. The local real estate agents want to talk them up, that is, tell people how wonderful these houses are, but the reality is that they are often falling down. The text talks about how the real estate agents use language to advertise and market these houses. Comprehension text - Marketing houses in Umbria One of the many things that is interesting about living here in the Green Heart of Italy is the real estate market. I don’t mean the types of houses or the prices they sell for. I mean the ways in which houses are bought and sold. And specifically, I mean the way in which property is described and marketed to potential buyers by real estate agents. Many houses seem to be half-ruined and falling down, or at least in a state of disrepair. They are put up for sale by Italian families who no longer want them, or who can no longer afford to own them. They are bought by mostly upper middle-class European and American people who want a bit of the Italian dolce vita. The foreigners then invest 100’s of thousands of Euros into the property, doing it up to become a glamorous second home that they live in only 3 weeks a year. These often dilapidated piles are too expensive for the locals to buy. But, the turn-over, the movement of the homes and the subsequent repair and renovation creates a useful local construction and real estate economy. What’s really interesting to me, though, is the way these elderly crumbling houses are described and presented in bright, hopeful, ‘can-do’ language by people who write marketing copy to sell these houses. These writers are artists in their own right. For example, a two hundred year old stone farmhouse with barely a roof and no utilities is described as ‘pre-loved and bursting with potential’. Well yeah, I guess it has the potential to be weatherproof with electricity, sewage and water. Another lonely, gloomy two-roomed cottage in the middle of the woods is described as being ‘delightfully isolated with options for shade’. A ‘must-see walk-out terrace and open air bathroom’ means a half-completed building without a toilet door. A ‘charming private rustic villa with park-like grounds in need of tender love and care’ could mean the building is surrounded by forest and needs a heating system and other expensive projects to make it half-way habitable.   You sometimes wonder who is the more creative in this process of buying and selling. Certainly, once the buyer has bought one of these burnt-out buildings, she needs to be imaginative, energetic and well-funded. But you have to admire the writers’ skills. These are people who can see an uninhabited pile of stones and with bright, creative wording can sell it to potential buyers. To be fair, I guess these writing skills aren’t limited to Umbria. I’m sure they exist all over the world, wherever there is a buyer and a seller. Try it yourself. Choose something you want to sell. How would you talk it up and describe it?


16 Dec 2013

Rank #8

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We didn't understand the culture - simple past

Simple past regular verbs – beginners Hi and welcome to another great lesson from New English Academy. I’m your host Giles Parker and today we’re going to look at one of the few nice and predictable things in English grammar – the simple past for regular verbs. Simple past regular is so regular, even new verbs, like ‘to google’ follow the rules! Our comprehension text is about two cross-cultural problems when people from one culture visited another culture. This lesson is aimed at beginner learners of English but there is something here for everyone. Check out the website, New English Academy.com for the interactive online grammar and vocabulary learning games, comprehension tests and pronunciation practice for simple past regular verbs. And, if you like what you hear, please add a comment or a review on iTunes or Stitcher Radio or send me an email and let me know how I can improve this. First I’ll talk about the meaning of the simple past, then look at the rules for spelling for the affirmative and negative, then how to make yes/no questions and finally we’ll find out which wh questions take ‘did’ and which don’t. Phew, that seems like a lot but it is all worth it. I’ll save irregular verbs like ‘do’, ‘go’ and ‘be’ etc for another lesson. You can guess that the simple past talks about – yep! - the past, so that is things before now. But what kind of things and what kind of past does it talk about? Well, the simple past talks about things that have finished, that are complete, over with. It is used to tell stories. Also, very importantly, we usually know WHEN specifically, not just before now, because there is often a time marker like, ‘last month’ or ’10 years ago’ or ‘in March’ or ‘in 1989’, or ‘yesterday’ etc as part of the statement. If there isn’t a time marker in the statement, then we have already said the WHEN before or we know that the listener already knows what we are talking about. Simple past regular verbs are easy to form – which makes life easier for English learners. All you have to do is add ‘-d’, ‘-ed’ or ‘-ied’ to the end of the base form of the verb. They don’t change with the person. How do you know when to add ‘-d’, ‘-ed’ or ‘-ied’? Check how the verb ends AND check if the last vowel is stressed or not. Let’s start with the easy rules first. · If a verb ends with a consonant e.g. k, p, or n, etc, then just add –ed. o Last year I worked in Perugia. o I watched a fine game of rugby yesterday. Did you notice all the time markers? They are very useful and really help us. English speakers get kind of uncomfortable when they don’t know WHEN something is happening. They don’t like vague time and usually try to be very specific about WHEN, oh, and WHO. Back to the rules. · If a verb ends with an e, then just add –d. o I really like living in Italy but I also liked living in Japan. o I hope the economy improves, but I hoped that last year too. · If a verb ends in a vowel (a, e, or o) AND a y, then just add –ed to the y. o I stayed in Japan for 16 years. o I really enjoyed my time there. · If a verb ends in a consonant and y then change the y to –ied. o I tried to speak Japanese every day. o I studied at a language school for a while. · It is also important to check how the verb sounds. If a verb ends in a vowel which is stressed and one consonant, then double the consonant and add –ed. o I stopped living there over ten years ago. o I planned to move to America. · If a verb ends in two vowels and a consonant then don’t double the consonant; just add –ed. o The weather was bad last week. It rained for days. o I shouted at my daughter after she came home very late last night. · If a verb ends in two consonants, don’t double the last consonant, just add –ed. o I wanted to be an explorer when I was a kid. o The teachers never helped me do this. · Lastly, watch out for those tricky Brits. British speakers of English double the last consonant in verbs that end in l such as travel which becomes travelled, cancel – cancelled, excel – excelled. Can you think of other verbs that end in l? So, to summarize the rules so far – make sure you show WHEN something happened with a time marker. Make sure you are talking about something that is finished. Check the spelling and pronunciation of the verb. You can get more information and practice on how to pronounce the verb endings in the online lesson Now, how about making negatives? This is another of those rare moments when English is easy. Just add ‘did not’ or ‘didn’t’ to the base form of the verb. You don’t have to change the verb, you don’t have to show the number, the base form stays the same. The WHEN is in ‘didn’t. For example, · I didn’t live in New York when I lived in America. · I didn’t study at all last week. Don’t forget to emphasize the first syllable of ‘didn’t’ just to make sure people know it is negative. How about yes/no questions? Again, use ‘did’ and move the subject. Don’t change the verb. Why? Because the time is shown in ‘did’! Brilliant! Well done, English! Look at these examples. · Did you open the window? · Did you start the car OK? Do you remember how to pronounce yes/no questions? Listen to my voice – did you get it? The intonation rises up at the end. Remember, the grammar AND the intonation help you transfer your meaning to the other person. If you want to emphasize the time of your answer just repeat the ‘did’. For example; · Did you start the car OK this morning? Yes, I did thanks. · Did you open the window? No, I didn’t. What about wh questions. Well, for regular verbs, use ‘did’ UNLESS the question is WHO or WHAT and the answer is about the subject. Check out these examples. · Who arrived this morning? · When did you arrive? · Where did you live before? · What happened yesterday? · Why did you cook that? · How did you manage to do that? Did you see the differences? So, Wh questions take ‘did’ EXCEPT WHO and WHAT. Instead, just put the simple past form of the verb after WHO or WHAT. Finally I wanted to show you that these rules work well with new words too. For example, the internet services company, Google, is so good at what it does that it has become a verb. Isn’t that incredible? So when people look for something online, they often ‘google’ it. A quick test – is ‘to google’ a regular English verb? It seems to be – try it in the simple past: · I googled fishing gear yesterday and came up with a whole bunch of different websites. · Why did you google that? · I didn’t google sea-fishing things though. Try it with other tests – how do you use ‘to google’ in the future, or with modal auxiliaries? It seems to be regular – just like other regular verbs that end in e, just add –d. That is one of the nice things about English and I bet most other languages too. When you have a rule you can use it to test things you don’t know. While you are learning English, always use the rules you know to test the evidence and maybe then you can predict how the language works. It will give you more confidence and help you so much as you learn. In the end you will become more in control of your learning, which is so important. And a quick warning – watch out for some speakers of American English who sometimes use the simple past for when they mean the present perfect, e.g. ‘Did you eat yet?’ ‘Yeah, I ate already.’ These tenses have completely different meanings but some speakers will use to mean the other. Check out the online lesson on the website for more information on the present perfect. OK, enough of my rant. Now we’re going to listen to or read the comprehension text which talks about how people from one culture had a couple of small problems while they visited another culture. As always look out for examples of the grammar point. Comprehension text: We didn’t understand the other culture These two stories about people who had small problems in other cultures come from a great book called ‘Intercultural Interactions’ by Richard Brislin. North Americans ordering food in a South American restaurant A few years ago, two Americans, Candy and Ron visited their friends Juliana and Gustavo in Porto Alegre, Brazil. One evening, Juliana and Gustavo invited their guests to a nice restaurant in town. When they all arrived, the waitress showed them to their table. Then, she put just one menu in the middle of the table. The Americans were very surprised at this, but their Brazilian friends were not at all worried. Ron called the waitress back and asked her why she had put just the one menu on the table for all of them. The waitress replied that the menus were all the same so it wouldn’t be a problem and went back to the kitchen. Candy and Ron were confused by this but Juliana and Gustavo were relaxed and enjoying themselves. Everyone looked at the menu together. The North Americans tried to remember their own choices and complained to each other about how rude the waitress was. The Brazilians accepted the situation and decided what they wanted together. Why were the Americans unhappy? Why were the Brazilians comfortable? Well, Candy and Ron expected to get a menu each, like they did at home in America. They expected to choose their own dishes themselves. But, in Brazil, often people choose dishes together, in a group. The Brazilians expected to share the menu and talk about their choices together. Candy and Ron had to learn that sometimes when in Rome, do as the Romans do. Korean time in America Mr and Mrs Kim emigrated from Pusan in South Korea to America in the late 1980’s. They settled in to their new home in Colorado and slowly adapted to their new lives. They learned English and joined a local church and other organizations. They made new friends and all seemed well. But, they still noticed differences between American ways of doing things and Korean ways. And they sometimes missed the old ways. For example, in Korea, their friends often dropped in to chat. They never planned or arranged to meet, their friends just stopped by when they wanted. And they stopped by their friends’ too. But in Colorado, their American friends never stopped by or dropped in for a cup of tea and a chat. They always arranged meetings and appointments. It seemed like friendship was a type of business.  Mr Kim talked about this with an American neighbour, who immediately invited Mr and Mrs Kim to dinner at her house, next Friday, at 7:30pm. Mr Kim accepted of course, but he was disappointed and frustrated.   Why was he disappointed? Well, Mr Kim expected the neighbour to understand what he wanted. He wanted more informal, social friendships. He wanted time to be more relaxed with his new friends and neighbours. Unfortunately, his new host culture isn’t like that. Most Americans prefer formal time arrangements and are not happy with friends just dropping in or stopping by. They prefer to schedule time together. Mr and Mrs Kim just had to learn to live with the new way of doing things in their new home. What do you feel most comfortable with?


9 Dec 2013

Rank #9

Podcast cover

Getting what you want - asking permission

Modal auxiliaries for permission - Getting what you want Hi there! Welcome to another fun lesson from New English Academy. I’m your guide, Giles Parker and today we’re going to look at how modal auxiliaries for permission can help you get what you want.  The comprehension text talks about a couple of examples of when someone asked for permission in the wrong way and didn’t get what they wanted. This lesson is aimed at intermediate students but as usual there is something here for everyone. Don’t forget to check out our interactive online lessons that go with this podcast at the website newenglishacademy.com. Let us know if you like this by leaving comments and a rating on iTunes or wherever else you downloaded this podcast. Your input helps this get better. By now, you already know that modals, or helping verbs, help us show things like ability, certainty or permission. Permission means if it is OK to do something, or not OK to do something. Modals also help us be polite to other people. They show the level of formality – that is, how polite we need to be - in a situation.  Politeness in any language is important and while you sometimes want to be cool and relaxed, you also want to be appropriate. That means you want to use the right language for the situation.  Modals for permission will help you do this. When you want to ask permission, the general rule is; modal auxiliary + subject + base form of the verb and maybe please. For example: · Can I leave the room for a minute? · Could I leave the room for a minute? · May I leave the room for a minute? Can is more informal, that means relaxed, while could and may are more polite and more formal. Did you hear how I asked for permission? My intonation went up at the end. As a yes/no question that is what usually happens. If you want to be more polite you can add please to either the beginning or the end of a question or between the subject and the verb. For example: · Please can I leave the room? Try it with the other positions too. When you want to give permission, you can say, Yes, you can; or Yes, you may. Or, you can be more relaxed and informal and say Sure; go ahead; of course. But, don’t say Yes, you could. When you want to refuse or not give permission, you still have to be polite. In English, we’re kind of constipated about a lot of things including when you are refusing something. You have to apologize for not giving permission. And you should really give a reason why you refuse, too. People might think you are rude and impolite and perhaps too direct if you don’t apologize and give a reason. And don’t forget to use the modal as a negative in the response! So, for example; · Can I leave the room? · No, I’m sorry, you can’t. You have to stay and finish this meeting with the rest of us. · May I borrow the car tonight? · No, sorry, you may not. I need it myself. When you refuse permission, don’t contract may + not. If you think that what you are asking for will cause a problem for the other person, you can be even more polite but the answers are back to front. You can use Do you mind if +subject + verb, or Would you mind if + subject + verb. These forms are very polite and useful. But watch out for the responses! For example; · Do you mind if I leave early today? · No, of course not. · Would you mind if I borrowed this book? · No, not at all, go ahead. Look at the responses – they start with No. Look at the question again – they ask if someone minds or has a problem with this. So when you’re giving permission the answer is No, I don’t mind even though you mean Yes, it’s OK. How about refusing permission? Check out this example: · Mum, do you mind if I stay out late tonight? · Yes, I do! You have exams tomorrow and you need to rest. In answering the request for permission, mum says yes but means No. English is fun, isn’t it! Lastly, requesting permission is a really nice way to offer help to someone. For example, in a shop an assistant says: · Can I help you? · Thanks, I’m looking for something for my niece. So to summarize, modal auxiliaries such as can, could and may + subject + verb said in a rising intonation ask for permission to do something. They show politeness with can being more informal and may being more polite.  When you refuse permission don’t forget to apologize for this and give a reason why you refuse. When you want to be very polite use Do you mind if + subject + verb and watch out for the response – it is No, I don’t mind for yes. OK – now we’re going to look at a couple of examples where someone used a modal auxiliary and didn’t get what she wanted. As always, listen or read and check how many examples of this grammar focus you can find. Good luck! Comprehension Text: Getting what you want Some American grade school teachers (and other cruel people) often make a joke when someone wants to use the restroom. Imagine the scene: In an elementary school maths lesson, 6 year old Javier wants to go to the bathroom really quickly. Following the rules of the classroom, he puts up his hand and asks “Please Miss, can I use the washroom?” But the teacher isn’t in a good mood and replies to desperate Javier, “I don’t know. Can you use the washroom? Can you go on your own? Are you old enough? Don’t you want someone to go with you?” The teacher thinks she is being funny, as do some of the other kids in the class probably, but poor Javier is embarrassed and confused - the same as some of the other kids. What is the teacher trying to make a joke of here? Javier appropriately said ‘Can I use the washroom?’ He was asking for permission, asking to be allowed to do something. But the teacher pretended Javier was asking about his ability to do something. Ha ha…very good joke, teacher! This little word can has a couple of different meanings, and can (ha!) be the difference between you getting to the bathroom in time and you being embarrassed in front of the other kids and hating maths. In grammatical language, can and other little words that show politeness, or ability, or certainty, etc, are called modal auxiliaries. They change the colour or tone of the main verb. They help you do what you want to do. You want to go to the bathroom? Try ‘May I go to the bathroom?’ No chance for a joke response from the teacher there. Another little story from a cross-cultural perspective shows how modal auxiliaries can help you get what you want. Mrs Penelope Farnham enjoys her work as the receptionist in the library of a busy pre-university English language school in Australia. She likes meeting and working with the students who come from all over the world. She often has to answer questions and lend out books. However, she does get a bit frustrated sometimes when a student is too direct and doesn’t mind her p’s and q‘s.  Politeness is very important to Mrs Farnham and she likes to be treated with respect by everyone but it doesn’t always happen.   The other day a student wanted to borrow some materials to help her apply to a university. However, the student didn’t exactly ask politely for permission to borrow the books. She said ‘You can lend me these, yeah? And this and this? I’ll bring them back when I’m done.’ Well, Mrs Farnham wasn’t too happy with the way the student asked for the books. It wasn’t really asking for permission, more like checking something was correct or not and so she replied that unfortunately those particular books were not for lending at this moment in time. The student left feeling frustrated, without getting the information she wanted. Mrs Farnham also went home feeling frustrated. She wanted to help the student but she wanted a bit of respect too. All this because a student didn’t yet know how to use modal auxiliaries to be polite. What would you say to get permission to borrow the books?


29 Nov 2013

Rank #10