A1 · A2 · B1 · phonetics

English vowel sounds short i /I/ & long I /i:/

As a start for this year, here’s another video on English vowel sounds. This video is for short and long i sounds that are often confused by learners of English. At the end of the video you have a short listening activity to practise distinguishing the sound between two words that have a very similar sound, but have a different meaning.

Serena’s blog

/ for ship

  • This sound is a short ‘i’.
  • In English words the sound is in: ship, chip and bitter.
  • The transcriptions of the words above are: /ʃɪp/ /tʃɪp/  /’bɪtə/

/iː/ for sheep

  • This sound is a long ‘i’.
  • In English words the sound is in: sheep, cheap and beetle.
  • The transcriptions of the words above are: /ʃi:p/ /tʃi:p/  /’bi:tl/

/i/ for happy

  • This sound is a long ‘i’ but not as long as /i:/.
  • In English words the sound is in and always at the end of these words: funny, honey and funky.
  • The transcriptions of the words above are: /ˈfuni/ /ˈhʌni /  /fʌnki /

Problems usually happen when a learner of English doesn’t pronounce some English words correctly. Words that are often confused are: sheep/ship, sheet/shit, beach/bitch, cheap/chip, leave/live, peace/piss , just to set some of the most common examples (sorry, but it wouldn’t be the first time or the last that I come across some issues of this kind!). This basically happens due to students making mistakes between long i /i:/ and short i /I/ and actually, there’s nothing wrong in not having a perfect pronunciation, but when the meaning doesn’t get across, we do have a problem because it means that communication is failing, which is the whole point behind learning a new language, isn’t it?

Here’s an activity that focuses on these different sounds.

A2 · B1 · B2 · C1 · C2 · phonetics

What is phonetics and why should we learn it?

Some years ago I devoted part of the blog to this area of language learning, but now that the plug-in is no longer available, I needed to refocus on a new tool. So why not Youtube? I’m going to gradually upgrade all the stuff I wrote on phonetics and here is the very first video. It’s not perfect, I know, but I really enjoyed making it and thinking up all the funny pictures, so as to spice it up a bit. Hope you like it!

The video gives a brief explanation of what phonetics is, and why it’s such a useful tool for language learning. Goodness me! Just to think about the amount of arguments I’ve sorted out thanks to phonetics.

Serena’s blog
C1 · C2 · Idioms

English idiom The Proof is in the Pudding

Mmmmm only five days to Christmas Day and we’ll be eating up some Christmas pudding! I know, all my Spanish friends think it’s absolutely revolting (they don’t say so, but I can read it on their faces :-). Oooops! That would be a translation from Spanish. In English it’s more common to say ‘They’ve got it written all over their faces.’ ), but I suppose you have to be a little bit British to get used to that very rich fruity taste mixed with brandy butter. Mind you, you can only have a very small helping because it’s extremely filling, especially when you are already having problems with what you had on your dish for lunch.

The idiom I’m posting today uses the word pudding, although it doesn’t necessarily refer to Christmas pudding as this word in British English refers to the sweet dish eaten at the end of a meal – Think about Pink Floyd’s song The Wall, when towards the end of the song you can hear somebody saying ‘If you don’t eat your meat, you won’t get any pudding’.

Why I decided to include Doom as part of the video, is even a mystery to me. Maybe I was sort of nostalgic for the hours I used to play this video game. I don’t know, the human mind sometimes has some strange workings!!!!

undaunted · undeterred

A tale of a battle won

Image from europeisnotdead.com

If you love tales of won battles. If you relish learning that despite multiple stumbling blocks, one came out victorious, then this is a story for you.

On the 6th of August I was unfairly excluded from the possibility of obtaining a teaching post in my home province on the basis that I am British and that the UK is no longer a member of the EU. From this day onwards, my family and I have literally lived a nightmare as not only am I a permanent resident, having all the qualifications from Spanish universities and years of teaching experience, but nobody, not even the labour unions, were willing to defend my rights. – It’s pretty ironical to see that one of these unions celebrates equality and the right to work on their website however, it seems that this does not apply to British citizens that hold a legal resident status and have settled on the island. How two-faced can you get!

But if I could hand out an award, for the worst possible blunder of all, it would, without any doubt go to the Consellería d’Educació. This organisation, misinterpreted an official document and twisted language to their own convenience, and even blamed a BOE for my exclusion, the result being that on the 6th of August they launched a resolution that made no sense whatsoever as belonging to the teachers’ list is NOT a ‘PROCÉS SELECTIU’. This brings me to my most sincere apologies to the Government of Spain for taking it out on them as they had absolutely nothing to do with this problem.

A person from the Conselleria, told me that the facts of: being a legal resident, in a stable relationship with a Spanish guy, mother to two Spanish boys, and having worked as a teacher was quite irrelevant. I was British and that was the end of that! He even went so far as to say that this situation would remain the same until Boris Johnson signed an agreement with Spain, recognising Spanish workers’ rights in the UK. I mean, I’ve always been against the whole Brexit idea, and Boris Johnson is definitely not my cup of tea, but what’s this got to do with me? What could I do? Grab a loudhailer and celebrate a very English tea party in Plaza España? Really and truly! Mr X …., I chose to live and settle in this country and will not put up with somebody stripping me of basic rights, pointing an accusing finger and expecting me to take the blame for every single mess the Brits make, will make or made in the past. ( I got over the stage of whipping myself for being British when I studied the history of the British people way back when I took my five-year degree in English philology). So this brings me to the next extra point the Consellería would get in the award for Complete Blunder, which spelt in capital letters would read PREJUDICE or/and DISCRIMINATION.

And finally, I’d like to mention the point the Conselleria would get for “assistance”. Well, we all know that Spain is famous for its red tape system and I never expected the Conselleria to adopt a bosom-friend policy with me, but not even responding a complaint is going a little too far. What do these people do all day? They must be so busy if they cannot even, after four months find the time to answer a complaint, especially one as decisive as not being able to continue working. Honestly, am I asking for too much? Am I being difficult and picky of maybe even, very British?

So adding up all the points awarded to the Consellería so far, we get : 1st for misinterpretation of an official document. 1st for using language to justify an unfair resolution. 1st for prejudice. 1st for neglecting assistance. Now that’s a whole lot of points! Could I add anymore? Yes, certainly.

Fortunately for me and my ‘paisanos’, The European Commission came to the rescue and clearly spelt out what arduous negotiations had established as laws, not only for Brits in Europe, but also for Europeans in the UK. (I may consider sending the document to the two labour unions, so as to avoid any other person having to grapple through darkness for months and months). The result is that we are back on the list and in the future, will be eligible candidates for teaching posts. This may not be the liking of some of my colleagues (the ones that started this whole business in the first place), that consider that Brits should not be allowed to work, but if we are to be just and to find ourselves in a position of claiming reciprocity, we have to accept it.

I now find myself in a situation where I can only possibly get a post for covering a sickness leave, when I should have actually been working since September, But don’t get me wrong, after almost five months of anxiety, stress, sleepless nights and worry, I finally see the light and my mind will find some peace. Whatever may happen from now on will probably be the cause behind another very boring post on this blog. Which finally brings me to an apology for rambling on, but I just had to get it out. I have the pestering habit of expressing my concerns and feelings towards unfair situations and contrary to what many perceive as a problem, I’m not afraid of doing so, even when the thing or person that is in the wrong, is an organisation in power. What’s more, I strongly believe that this is a necessary practice if we wish to keep a healthy democratic system.

A1 · A2 · culture · Grammar · Vocabulary

A1/A2 How to speak about your Christmas Day

Hi there! Here’s a new video and some related activities for some extra practice. This video aims to help beginners to cope with talking about celebrations. To set an example this video is about Christmas Day, but the video is useful for almost any celebration as it deals with routines.

The video has a short quiz at the end and here on the blog, you will also find some more if you go to the activity button below.

The video was a looooooooooooooooot of work, due to all the drawings, but listening to music especially Tool, Porcupine Tree, Opeth (bless them!!!!!!), and doing them is my way of coping with the anxiety and stress caused by the incredibly unfair situation that I’m experiencing. But don’t worry, I’m a fighter and I will definitely put up a good fight! 🙂

serena’s blog

C1 · C2 · Idioms

English Idioms: Left Out in the Cold

Ooooh! All this cold rainy weather has brought this idiom to mind. This video will explain what the idiom means along with two examples of use. I really hope you like the video because I’m thrilled with my animations. I suppose I could almost say ‘No tengo abuela’ Ha, ha, ha!!!

A1 · A2 · Vocabulary

A1/A2 How to speak about your hair

Here’s another How to video for beginners. This video deals with hair vocabulary and adjective word order, which are some of the typical problems that beginners have during the first two years of learning English. If you’re a beginner and want to gain confidence in speaking and learning vocabulary. This video is for you!

Serena’s blog