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Revise your prepositions with René Magritte

Skill: Grammar Theme: Prepositions
Level: Elementary – Pre-intermediate (A2 – B1)

René Magritte was a Belgian surrealist artist, well-known for his clever, though-provoking images. His works challenge our perception of reality.

Many of his works are now exhibited in the Magritte Museum in Brussels. For more information see here.

One very useful thing about Magritte’s images is that they are great for helping us revise prepositions.  Let’s take a virtual tour of some of the more famous works, and see how many English prepositions we can use to describe them.

La grande famille - Magritte

La grande famille – Magritte

The bird is hovering over the water.

We see the clouds through the dove.

Le fils de l'homme - Margritte

Le fils de l’homme – Magritte

There is an apple in front of the man’s face.

The man is standing in front of the wall.

The man is standing behind the apple.

There is a hat on the man’s head.

La reproduction interdite - Magritte

La reproduction interdite – Magritte

The back of the man is reflected in the mirror.

There is a book on the mantlepiece, to the right of the man.

Unknown title - Magritte

Unknown title – Magritte

The man is standing beside the curtain, on the left.

There is an apple on top of his hat.

Now it’s your turn.

What prepositions could you use to describe the position of the objects you see in the following paintings?  For example: through, on, between, beside, in front of, out of, in the centre, against, to/on the left/right, on top of, inside, over, under etc.

Use the comments field below to write your sentences.
La durée poignardée - Magritte

1. La durée poignardée – Magritte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les valeurs personnelles - Magritte

2. Les valeurs personnelles – Magritte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les valeurs personnelles - Magritte

3. Unknown title – Magritte

Connaissez-vous les ‘quantificateurs’ en anglais?

Skill: Vocabulary Theme: Quantifiers
Level: Pre-intermediate – Upper Intermediate (B1-B2)

Ou peut être vous demandez-vous qu’est-ce que c’est qu’un ‘quantificateur’ en français? Ce n’est pas un gros mot, c’est le terme qui désigne la famille de mots qui servent à exprimer la quantité.

Même si vous avez un bon niveau d’anglais, vous avez peut être quelques difficultés pour vous repérer entre any, none, each,  few, both, either et d’autres quantificateurs qui sont facilement confondus.

Voici une petite exercise de traduction qui vous aidera à trouver les bons équivalents.  Dans l’encadré ci-dessus vous trouvez une liste assez complète des quantificateurs en anglais.  Choisir le bon quantificateur pour traduire les phrases suivantes en anglais.  Le lien pour les réponses se trouve en bas de page.

Exemples:

Je n’ai pas d’argent.

I have no money. I haven’t got any money.

Est-ce qu’il a des amis ? Il n’en a aucun.

Has he got any friends? He has none. / He hasn’t got any.

Il n’y a presque plus de pain.

There’s hardly any bread left. There’s hardly any more bread left.

Maintenant, à vous:

  1. Chaque étudiant a une carte de bibliothèque.
  2. Ses deux parents sont avocats.
  3. L’un ou l’autre de ces pulls t’irait bien.
  4. Aucun des deux livres n’est intéressant.
  5. Aucun des trois livres n’est intéressant.
  6. J’ai peu de temps pour terminer mon rapport.
  7. Je peux te prêter un peu d’argent.
  8. Donne-moi quelques minutes, veux-tu ?
  9. J’ai du travail à faire.
  10. Avez-vous du lait ? Non, je n’en ai pas.
  11. Je ne mange pas beaucoup de viande.
  12. J’ai beaucoup de travail à terminer.
  13. J’ai toute l’information.
  14. Toute la ville a été détruite.
  15. Toutes les maisons du village ont été détruites.

Voici les réponses

Astuce

Il existe en anglais des groupes de quantificateurs, chacun ayant la même signification, dont l’utilisation change selon s’il s’agit d’une affirmation, une question ou une négation.  Exemples:

a lot of / much (indénombrable), many (dénombrable)

Do you have much work to finish?

Yes, I have a lot.

No, I don’t have much.

both / neither / either

Are either of his parents lawyers?

Yes, both of his parents are lawyers.

No, neither of his parents are lawyers.

some / any*

Do you have any money?

Yes, I have some.

No, I don’t have any.

*Il faut quand même nuancer cette « règle » concernant some et any.  C’est un bon principe, mais quand il s’agit d’une question, les anglophones utilisent l’un ou l’autre selon qu’ils anticipent une réponse négative ou positive:

Do you have some money?

(Je sais que tu ne sors jamais sans ta porte-feuille…)

Do you have any money?

(Moi je suis fauché et je sais que toi c’est probablement pas mieux…)

Avez-vous une question concernant les quantificateurs?  N’hésitez pas à la poser dans les commentaires ci-dessous.

What are the qualities of great leadership?

Skill: Listening Theme: Leadership
Level: Intermediate/Upper Intermediate (B1-C1)

The following short video takes a fun look at some qualities of good leadership that you may not have thought of.

Focus

In your opinion, what are the essential qualities of a good leader?  Make a list, then try and put the qualities in order from the most important to the least important.

Write your list of qualities in the comments field below.

Read

There are hundreds of different « movements » around the world that have had outstanding leaders.  Click on this link for a list of movements.  Choose three that you would like to know more about, and look for information to answer the following questions:

  • Who were the key leaders of this movement?
  • In what ways did they demonstrate effective leadership? (you may not be able to find this information for every movement on the list)

Listen

Derek Sivers is best known as the founder of CD Baby. A professional musician since 1987, he started CD Baby by accident in 1998 when he was selling his own CD on his website, and friends asked if he could sell theirs, too. CD Baby was the largest seller of independent music on the web, with over $100M in sales for over 150,000 musician clients.  In the video below, entitled How to start a movement, he mentions some qualities of leadership that you may not have thought of.  According to Sivers, what are the principles behind starting a movement?

Note that this video can also be viewed at Ted.com, where there are subtitles and a transcript available.

Learn

The video contains the following idioms:

he needs the guts (courage and fortitude; nerve; determination; stamina)

lone nut (an eccentric person)

tipping point (the crisis stage in a process, when a significant change takes place)

be part of the in-crowd (a group  of people sharing similar interests and attitudes, producing feelings of solidarity, community, and exclusivity)

recap (short for ‘recapitulate’)

over-glorified (honoured with praise or admiration, in an exaggerrated way)

gain momentum (the force that keeps something moving or developing after it has started)

It also contains the following phrasal verbs:

stand out, stick with, join in

Test: how would you translate these idiomatic expressions and phrasal verbs into your language?.

Think

1. Sivers says:

The first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself.

Do you agree?  Why?  Can you think of any other examples?

2. Do you think that leadership is over-glorified?  Why?

3. Would you revise any of the qualities of leadership that you thought of before watching the video?

Difficult interview questions

Skill: Speaking Theme: Job Interviews
Level: Upper Intermediate/Advanced (B2-C2)

There are three golden rules for succeeding at a job interview:

1. prepare, 2. prepare, and 3. prepare.

But there are some « out of the box » questions that you may never have thought of.

In a typical year, slightly more than 2,000 highly driven people are interviewed for admission to the prestigious MBA program at Harvard Business School.

There are often questions that can take a person by surprise.  The following list of the ten most unpredictable questions was submitted by current Harvard Business School Students who have successfully gained admission.   Thanks to John Byrne who first published this list at Poets and Quants.

  • Explain to me something you’re working on as if I were an eight-year old
  • Describe something that you should start doing, do more of, and do less of.
  • What’s the one thing you’ll never be as good at as others?
  • What are the two best pieces of advice you have been given, and why?
  • What do you want to be remembered as?
  • What is your definition of a leader?  How do you fit that definition?
  • How do you make big decisions?
  • How would your parents describe you when you were twelve?
  • What is one thing I’d never have guessed about you, even after reading your application?
  • What is the one thing you would like me to remember about you?

Practice

Read the questions.  Consider how you would answer each of them and make some notes in your own language.

Choose questions at random and practise answering them in English.

Remember that as much as possible your answers to interview questions should be structured.  Certain questions lead easily to structured answers as they contain several elements to respond to, e.g. « something you should start doing (1st point), do more of (2nd point) and do less of (3rd point).  Other questions tend to lead to waffly answers if you don’t manage to keep a clear structure in mind.  For example, for the question « What do you want to be remembered as? », one efficient way of answering the question would be to think of two or at the most three qualities that you believe you demonstrate.  Speak about each quality in turn, making sure that you give clear examples:

Firstly I would like to be remembered as an innovative person.  In my previous job I created a completely new system for organising tools in the workshop, which increased efficiency by 20%, and I look forward to bringing the same kind of innovation to this new position.  I’d also like to be remembered as someone who is generous with knowledge and expertise.  I’m a great believer in the fact that an effective organisation is a learning organisation, and passing on what I have learnt to others is one of the things I enjoy most, as demonstrated most recently in my role as team leader in the logistics department.

 

Making comparisons

How well can you make comparisons in English. Can you remember the forms that we use?

Skill: Grammar Theme: Making comparisons
Level: Pre-intermediate/Intermediate (A2-B1)

In the slide presentation below you will find a number of contexts where you can practise making comparisons.
But first, a quick review:

To make the comparative or superlative of: you:
one-syllable adjectives ending in e add -r, -st
other one-syllable adjectives add -er, -est
two-syllable adjectives ending in -y change the y to i and add -er, -est
other two-syllable adjectives put more, most in front
longer adjectives put more, most in front

Choose a few examples from the slide presentation, and write as many comparisons as you can.  You can use some of the additional language on the third slide to help you.  Example:

Being an employee is generally more stable than being self-employed, but it is also more restrictive. Whereas social charges are lower when you’re self-employed, retirement benefits are not as high.  Self-employed people have a more flexible schedule, while employees work more predictable hours.  The percentage of employees in France is much higher than the percentage of self-employed people.  That may be because it is easier to be an employee.

Now it’s your turn.  What comparisons can you make?

Choose one of the contexts in the slide presentation and write a paragraph in the comments field below using the language of comparison.

Situations adapted from Business Result DVD Edition: Pre-Intermediate: Student’s Book with DVD-ROM and Interactive or Online Workbook

Les temps présents: lequel choisir?

Le français a un seul temps présent. L’anglais en a trois. La conjugaison est plus simple qu’en français, mais parfois on hésite devant le choix de temps.

Skill: Grammar   Theme: Present tenses
Level: Elementary (A1-A2)

L’astuce

En règle générale, quand je parle d’une routine, ou d’une activité régulière, ou quelque chose qui est toujours vrai, j’utilise le présent simple.

Quand je parle d’une activité en cours au moment où je parle, j’utilise le présent continu.

(Le troisième temps présent, le présent parfait fera l’objet d’un article à lui tout seul.  Ce temps n’est pas employé pour les deux cas de figure cités ci-dessus.)

Contexte 1: ma routine journalière ou hébdomadaire

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
8:00AM Start work
10:00AM Check E-mails
12:00PM Lunch with Carol
2:00PM Department meeting
4:00PM Post Office

Quand je parle de mes activités régulières, j’utilise le présent simple:

Every Monday I start work at 8 o’clock.

I often check my E-mails at 10 o’clock.

On Wednesdays I meet Carol for lunch.

We have our department meeting at 2 o’clock on Thursdays.

I usually go to the Post Office at 4 o’clock.

La conjugaison du présent simple n’est pas compliquée, mais il ne faut pas oublier que pour les verbes réguliers, la forme de la troisième personne change (he/she/it) : He starts work, She checks her E-mail, He meets Carol etc.

Des expressions de temps qui s’emploient souvent avec le présent simple:

every day, on Tuesdays, in July, usually, often, sometimes, never, regularly…

Pratique

Utiliser ce formulaire pour prendre des notes sur vos activités journalières et hébdomadaires.  Ecrire une phrase pour chaque activité en utilisant le présent simple.

Contexte 2: mes projets actuels

Quand je parle de ce que je fais en ce moment, j’utilise le présent continu.

Le présent continu se construit avec un auxiliaire (une forme du verbe BE) + le verbe suivi de -ing.

I am writing an article.

You are interrupting me.

She is meeting her accountant.

We are renovating our office.

They are discussing a new product.

Des expressions de temps qui s’emploient souvent avec le présent continu:

at the moment, this month, today, currently, right now…

Pratique

Quels sont vos projets actuels?  Qu’est-ce que vous faites au travail qui n’est pas habituel?  Ecrire 5 phrases en utilisant le présent continu.

Faute typique: on n’utilise jamais le présent simple pour parler d’une activité qui est en cours au moment où on parle.  Par exemple, At the moment I *write am writing a proposal.  

Ces deux temps présents sont utilisés également pour parler du futurCette utilisation fera l’objet d’un autre article.

Photo Credit: candrews cc

8 qualities of remarkable employees

Whether you are a manager, an HRD or simply an employee wanting to stand out, this article contains some qualities to look out for.

Skill: Reading     Theme: Human Resources     Level: Advanced (B2+)

Focus before reading

In your opinion, what are the main qualities that would enable an employee to stand out from the crowd? (to distinguish themselves).  Make a list.

Predict

Here are the paragraph headings from the article.  Read each one, and make short notes to predict content of each paragraph.  Highlight any paragraph headings you don’t understand and move onto the next one.

  1. They ignore job descriptions
  2. They’re eccentric
  3. But they know when to dial it back*
  4. They publicly praise
  5. And they privately complain
  6. They speak when others won’t
  7. They like to prove others wrong
  8. They’re always fiddling**

Are any of these qualities similar to the ones you listed?  Have you thought of any others you could add to the list?

Read

Now read the article: 8 qualities of remarkable employees

If you print the article, you can use the following annotation method for words you don’t know:

  1. If you don’t know the word, but don’t think you need it to understand the article, cross it out.
  2. If you don’t know the word, but think you can guess the meaning from the context, underline it.
  3. If you don’t know the word, and can’t guess the meaning from the context, highlight it, then look up the meaning.

Apply

  • Think about your own workplace.  Do you have any colleagues that demonstrate any of these qualities?
  • Which of these qualities do you have?  Which ones would you like to develop?

*dial something back is an invented expression which we deduce from the context has a similar meaning to tone something down.

**fiddle often has a negative connotation, but that is not intended here.  It means to take something apart in order to find out how it works and then improve it.

Photo Credit: hippydream [is busy] cc

Stages d’anglais accéléré sur Nantes

Vous sentez-vous bloqué en anglais?

Avez-vous constaté qu’un enfant a peu de difficultés à intégrer une deuxième langue, et encore moins sa langue maternelle?  En règle générale un enfant écoute la langue de ses parents durant un à deux ans avant de commencer à parler cette langue (et six à sept ans avant de l’écrire).

Par la suite, les difficultés de l’apprentissage peuvent  se situer au niveau de l’oreille.  Dans la plupart des cursus scolaires et des stages d’anglais nous sommes contraints de produire la langue cible bien avant que notre oreille soit affutée aux fréquences spécifiques de la nouvelle langue.

Pour cette raison nous travaillons en partenariat avec le Centre Tomatis de Nantes, spécialistes de la méthode Tomatis: une pédagogie de l’écoute par l’entrainement des muscles de l’oreille moyenne.   Ensemble nous proposons des stages intensifs d’anglais accéléré, combinant exercices d’entraînement de l’oreille avec une pédagogie de langues intéractive et adaptée au monde de travail.

Les résultats d’une étude Européenne (Audio-Lingua), dans le cadre du programme européen SOCRATES, menée sur 3 ans (1993-1996) auprès de différentes universités, montrent que la méthode Tomatis permet un gain de 50% sur le temps d’intégration, comparé aux autres méthodes d’enseignement.

Publicité stage anglais accéléré

Le stage de 30 heures de formation peut être pris en charge par un OPCA, sous réserve d’acceptation du dossier.  Ce stage existe également en individuel et en collectif sur le site de votre entreprise, aux dates qui vous conviennent, sur demande.  Cours d’anglais et d’autres langues, selon disponibilité (allemande, français langue étrangère…)

Informations supplémentaires sur l’application de la méthode Tomatis à l’apprentissage des langues.

Pour plus d’information, servez-vous de notre formulaire contact, et nous prendrons contact avec vous rapidement.

How to use automatic captions to improve your listening skills

If you have been a Facebook or Twitter user for any length of time, you have probably been sent links to hundreds of video clips stored on YouTube that your friends have found cute, funny, interesting, shocking, or worth sharing for some reason. But who has time to watch them all, right?  If you’re like me you probably ignore a lot of them.

But if you are a language learner, have you considered turning the otherwise time-wasting activity of viewing all your friends videos into a method for improving your listening comprehension skills?

There are many ways of using video clips to improve listening skills:

  • Watching without subtitles for « gist » or general comprehension.
  • Watching with subtitles in your own language for fun, or just generally tuning your ear to the sounds of the language.
  • Watching with subtitles in the original language (the language of the video) to work on both receptive skills simultaneously (listening and reading), which aids in retaining vocabulary.

The problem is that many YouTube clips do not come with their own subtitles.  Enter the YouTube « automatic captions » function, currently available in ten different languages (English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian and Dutch).  Automatic captions uses voice recognition algorithms to create subtitles, but as you might expect, the technology is not perfect, and this can lead to some quite hilarious errors. These imperfections give advanced learners a great opportunity for improving intensive listening skills, through correcting the captions.

For this exercise, short videos are best (two minutes or less).  To give an example, we’ll look at a short video from The Economist entitled Personal Technology, a short look at how mobile devices are overshadowing the personal computer.

1. Watch the whole video for general comprehension.

Focus questions:

  • What did Steve Jobs mean by the phrase « a post-PC era »?
  • The video predicts an explosion of mobile data by the end of the decade. What form will most of this data be in?

Focus vocabulary:

The clip contains several verbs to describe statistics and change.  Do you know and use these words?  How are they used in the video?  Copy any new words with their context sentences into your vocabulary notebook.

  • grow (strongly)
  • outstrip
  • outnumber
  • catch up
  • soar
  • account for
  • leap
  • rise

2. Access the captions in one of two ways:

Note that to access the captions function you will have to view the video on YouTube.com.

  1. Select « automatic captions available », and highlight the language in the menu.
  2. Select « transcript » for the full text.  Notice that this option allows you to jump to specific points in the video, by clicking on the sentence you want to focus on.

YouTube screenshot

3. Watch the video a second time while viewing the captions.

As you watch, write a corrected version of the transcript.  A great tool for doing this is Videonot.es.

At present there doesn’t appear to be a way of uploading a corrected transcript to benefit the YouTube community.  However, you might be able to persuade a friendly native speaker to review and comment on your work.

Note that it is possible to upload transcripts with videos that you upload yourself.  To do this, you need to create your own Google account if you don’t already have one, and upload your first video.  You then select from your personal menu (top right of your YouTube screen) the option « video manager », select « captions » from the « edit » menu beside the video you want to transcribe, and then « add captions », which opens a field where you can type your text.  Once you have uploaded the text, YouTube will automatically adjust the timings in order to synchronise the text with the dialogue.

How have you used YouTube as a language-learning tool? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

English verbs that are often confused

There are a lot of English verbs that look or sound alike but have very different meanings.   Take, for example, the verbs pour and pore.  The pronunciation is identical, the spelling similar.  One of the three sentences following contains an error.  Do you know which one it is?

  1. Shake the sauce vigorously to mix it, then pour over the salad just before serving.
  2. We spent a long time poring over the map to try and work out the shortest route.
  3. As the accountant poured over the financial data he realised the company was in serious trouble.

Did you get it?  Yes it was the last one.  « Pour » means to flow or cause to flow; « pore » means to study closely, like the man in the picture above who is poring over some documents.

We call these word pairs homophones: words that have the same pronunciation, but with different spelling, and with a different meaning.  It’s easy to get them confused and most electronic spellcheckers aren’t much help in this type of situation: they can tell you if a word has been spelled wrongly but they can’t generally identify the misuse of a correctly spelled word.

Check your knowledge of  easily confused English verbs

Here’s a quick quiz on pairs of similar English verbs that are regularly confused.  Note that they are not all exact homophones.  In some cases there is a small difference in pronunciation.

You can check the word pairs with distinct pronunciation here:

lose / loose

raise / rise

Do you have any questions about homophones?  Are there other verbs that you are confused about?  Leave a comment below.

More posts related to learning vocabulary

How to learn academic vocabulary in context.  The Academic Word List is a tool for learning academic vocabulary. It was compiled from a corpus of over 400 academic texts in 28 different subject areas.

The best multilingual online dictionary.  Wordreference.com is a powerful and very reliable online dictionary full of useful features useful for translation.

Building vocabulary through spaced repetition.  The advantage to learning vocabulary through spaced repetition is that memory loss slows down considerably when an item is reviewed at appropriate intervals

photo credit: stevegarfield cc