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.

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

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

A1 · A2

A1/A2 How to speak about our nationality in English

Hi! Here’s another How to video. This video is a very first class video that beginners can use at home to practice their first sentences in English and gain confidence. It’s also helpful for going over nationality adjectives as there is a list with words that belong to the A2 certificate exams.

Serena’s blog

A1 · A2

A1/A2 How to say the names of American countries in English

It’s true that these names are very, very similar to Spanish. But I’ve had so many students from Venzuela, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and other South American countries that worried about how they were pronouncing these names that I decided to make a video.

It’s another of the series of How to… videos that aim to help adult beginners build up confidence. I really hope you find it useful for this purpose.

PS. Sorry for leaving out the West Indies! There will be more videos. Promise!

Serena’s blog
A1 · A2 · Vocabulary

A1/A2 How to say names of European countries in English

Here’s another of the How to series of videos for beginners. This video deals with names of European countries. At the end of the video you have a quiz that will help you remember and go over some of the names of these countries. I know that there are many names and that it is difficult to remember all of them, but bit by bit, little by little you will become familiar.

Later, there will also be a video for other countries.

Serena’s blog
A1 · A2 · Practical videos

A1- A2 How To Say and Understand Phone Numbers in English

As a teacher that has taught all levels of English (or almost all levels, anyway), I realised that teaching beginners can be as challenging as teaching C2s students. The first reason for this is that adult learners usually feel very shy and self-conscious about making mistakes in front of their classmates so they need to be able to practise a lot before producing new structures. At the same time, they usually have very little time to do English homework because there are a lot of other things that they need to do like: work, take care of the kids, household chores, etc., just to mention a few. Finding a balance in everything can be very a difficult task indeed and for this reason, on many occasions beginners quit English classes before they see any progress, which is a real pity. But on the other hand, if a beginner manages to stay on, they very soon notice that they are having fun, learning a lot and making new friends.

This year, with A1s and A2s in mind (or the groups that I’ve had anyway), I want to create a collection of videos with some tips and practical information on how to do something like for example, how to give and ask for a price, or how to congratulate somebody, etc. Sort of something very short, simple and clear that will allow learners to focus on very little content and have the opportunity to practise so as to gain some confidence with new structures and chunks of information.

I am aware that the videos are and will be in English (as usual), and that this can seem a bit off-putting for a beginner, but it is also true that all the audio files also appear in writing, so at the same time, learners are doing a listening activity where they can associate the written form of the word to the sound of it.

Here’s the very first video of this project that I’m really enthusiastic about, hoping that they will be useful for A1 and A2 English learners and that I may (only may), get some feedback.

Template and animations by me (sometimes being a graphic designer can come in handy)

Serena’s blog

A1 · A2 · Learning English with songs · Listening

Pink Floyd – Bike

This is a really hilarious song performed by Syd Barret. It’s a sort of wierd love song where the boy is wooing a girl offering her the few things that he has and sharing stories and facts about his daily life with her. The end of the song is quite scary and I can’t help wondering if the girl didn’t actually turn out to be ‘the type of girl that fits into his world’. I’m aware that some blog visitors will think me completely bonkers for using this song and that my students may even think that I’ve knocked my head on some hard surface (well I actually did a couple of months back, so that might explain everything!). Anyway, I think this song is absolutely fab for low levels and it’s SO English!

A1 · A2 · Learning English with songs

Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

In no other way could I have started creating and uploading blog entries for this year, other than placing this beautiful cover by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole and his soothing ukele. It’s a song of hope, to which we all relate to during these times of troubles and worries due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s even more than a song of hope. It’s a conviction, that somewhere, there is a better and more beautiful place where humans will find comfort and their problems will melt away like lemon drops. I really hope that some day soon, we find that hidden rainbow.

For this post I’ve set two listening activities where beginners can fill in the gaps with the words they hear. The first button is for verbs and the second button is the same song, but this time filling in the gaps with missing nouns.