Learn British English with Anastassia

Exciting Adventures in the English Language and Culture

Month: July 2019

Learning a Language Takes Time

Image by Ruwad Al Karem from Pixabay

This is Part 3 of a series of posts about language learning. Read parts 1 and 2 here and here

I think most people give up on learning a foreign language for one reason – they’re not prepared to play the long game. They believe and are often supported in this wishful thinking by self-proclaimed language experts that a language can be learned in a matter of a few months or even weeks.

Now remember how much time and effort it took you to learn your mother tongue. And even now that you’ve mastered it to fluency and, hopefully, proficiency, which is not the same, there’s still so much to do – all those words you don’t know the meaning of, and those you think you use correctly but one day find out otherwise, tricky word stresses, grammar rules you were taught at school but since then forgot, let alone striving to be eloquent without being bombastic. And that’s, let me remind you, your first language!

So the bad news is that learning a language – any language – is a lifelong commitment, which like any commitment requires patience, discipline and perseverance. The good news is that we’re perfectly capable of doing it as our never-ending learning of our native language proves!

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Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death by Hillaire Belloc

Hillaire Belloc (1870-1953) is considered one of the greatest English writers of light verse along with Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

Naughty Matilda

His cautionary tales are addressed, first and foremost, to naughty children and, with a great deal of humour and playfulness, serve as warnings – if you fail to behave, you’ll get in trouble as did Matilda Who told Lies, and was Burned to Death.  

Matilda told such Dreadful Lies,
It made one Gasp and Stretch one’s Eyes;
Her Aunt, who, from her Earliest Youth,
Had kept a Strict Regard for Truth,
Attempted to Believe Matilda:
The effort very nearly killed her,
And would have done so, had not She
Discovered this Infirmity.
For once, towards the Close of Day,
Matilda, growing tired of play,
And finding she was left alone,
Went tiptoe to the Telephone
And summoned the Immediate Aid
Of London’s Noble Fire-Brigade.
Within an hour the Gallant Band
Were pouring in on every hand,
From Putney, Hackney Downs, and Bow.
With Courage high and Hearts a-glow,
They galloped, roaring through the Town,
‘Matilda’s House is Burning Down!’
Inspired by British Cheers and Loud
Proceeding from the Frenzied Crowd,
They ran their ladders through a score
Of windows on the Ball Room Floor;
And took Peculiar Pains to Souse
The Pictures up and down the House,
Until Matilda’s Aunt succeeded
In showing them they were not needed;
And even then she had to pay
To get the Men to go away,     
It happened that a few Weeks later
Her Aunt was off to the Theatre
To see that Interesting Play
The Second Mrs. Tanqueray.
She had refused to take her Niece
To hear this Entertaining Piece:
A Deprivation Just and Wise
To Punish her for Telling Lies.
That Night a Fire did break out –
You should have heard Matilda Shout!
You should have heard her Scream and Bawl,
And throw the window up and call
To People passing in the Street –
(The rapidly increasing Heat
Encouraging her to obtain
Their confidence) – but all in vain!
For every time she shouted ‘Fire!’
They only answered ‘Little Liar!’
And therefore when her Aunt returned,
Matilda, and the House, were Burned.

© by owner, provided at no charge for educational purposes

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How to correctly use the words ‘travel’, ‘journey’ and ‘trip’

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Of these four nouns the one that confuses English learners most is definitely travel.

Travel is used to refer to the activity of travelling in general. In this meaning it’s always uncountable, i.e. takes no article and is always singular.

His job involves a great deal of travel.

Her interests are history, art and travel.

Travel can be plural when it means journeys, especially abroad.

On their travels they met lots of interesting people, many of whom became their lifelong friends.

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Girl Power

Image by GraphicMama Team from Pixabay

The word girl made its arrival in the language in the early 1300s. Back then it was gender-neutral and was used to refer to kids of both sexes pretty much like the word child is today. So girls were called girls, and so were boys too!

The origin of girl remains an unsolved mystery, though a number of theories have been put forward in attempts to trace it.

About a hundred years later, at the turn of the 15th century, the word girl began to be used in its current sense. And at about the same time the word boy, which is believed to be a French borrowing, changed its original meaning servant, commoner and even scoundrel to male child.

Amazing, isn’t it?!

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How to Agree and Disagree

In English, agreeing and disagreeing with negative statements and questions is a bit confusing, if not counterintuitive.

Don’t you like apples? No, I don’t.

Here you express agreement with no – you agree that you don’t like apples.

– It’s not cold.

Yes, it is.

And here you contradict the speaker with yes – unlike them, you think it is cold.

The rule is to choose yes or no depending on your answer (yes if it’s positive and no if it’s negative) and not what it communicates (agreement or disagreement).

Didn’t you see the sign? No, I didn’t. (agreement but the answer is negative (I didn’t), therefore we use no)

You can’t afford this car. (Yes,) I can. (contradiction but the reply is positive (I can), therefore yes is used)

Hope you’ll never have trouble with this language point again. Did you just say “I won’t”? Great! And if you think you will, well maybe you should re-read this post.

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Today, I Feel by Gervase Phinn

This poem is basically an impressive list of similes.

A simile is an expression that describes something by comparing it with something else, using words such as like, as, as if, as though. For example, as quiet as a mouse (very quiet) and like a bull in a china shop (very clumsy) are similes.

Some of them can be found in dictionaries, others are the author’s coinages. Can you tell which is which?

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Today, I feel as:

Pleased as PUNCH,
Fit as a FIDDLE,
Keen as a KNIFE,
Hot as a GRIDDLE,
Bold as BRASS,
Bouncy as a BALL,
Keen as MUSTARD,
High as a WALL,
Bright as a BUTTON,
Light as a FEATHER,
Fresh as a DAISY,
Fragrant as HEATHER,
Chirpy as a CRICKET,
Sound as a BELL,
Sharp as a NEEDLE,
Deep as a WELL,
High as a KITE,
Strong as a BULL,
Bubbly as BATH WATER,
Warm as WOOL,
Clean as a new PIN,
Shiny as MONEY,
Quick as LIGHTENING,
Sweet as HONEY,
Cool as a CUCUMBER,
Fast as a HARE,
Right as RAIN,
Brave as a BEAR,
Lively as a MONKEY,
Busy as a BEE,
Good as GOLD,
Free as the SEA.

I’M SO HAPPY – I’M JUST LOST FOR WORDS.

© by owner, provided at no charge for educational purposes

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-ed and -ing adjectives

In English, there are quite a few pairs of adjectives one of which ends in -ed and the other in -ing, for example, excited/exciting, bored /boring, inspired/inspiring. The adjectives in each pair are very different in meaning, and yet, as they look so similar, English learners often find them confusing. If you too find it difficult to use them correctly, then read on.

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Efficient Vs Effective

Efficient and effective share the first three letters but shouldn’t be confused as their meanings are very different.

Efficient means ‘working well, without wasting time, money or energy’.

My new car is more fuel efficient than the old one was and saves me about £50 every week.

Laura’s the most efficient PA (personal assistant) I’ve ever had: my business life is perfectly organised with every little thing running smoothly.

Effective, on the other hand, means ‘successful, having the right effect or solving the problem’.

These painkillers aren’t cheap but they’re extremely effective – your headache will be gone in seconds.

A string of pearls would look very effective with that dress.

Now you know!

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Why You Should Learn Languages

Image by MonicaP from Pixabay

This is Part 2 of a series of posts about language learning. Read part 1 here

I can come up with quite a few ideas why studying a new language is worth your while. In no specific order:

it creates a new you – an individual that speaks a different language (you’re likely to notice that even the timbre of your voice changes when you switch to your second language) and through it becomes to some extent British/American/Italian etc.;

it broadens your horizons bringing into your life a whole new world of values, traditions, ideas and viewpoints you might have never even heard of before;

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