Perfect Books for Christmas! (I)

Hello! Today I’d like to suggest you a book that I have recently finished. Remember, a book is a perfect way to improve the foreign language you’re learning AND it makes the perfect present for Christmas if you still don’t know what to offer your family or friends (or yourself!). So here we go!

The Girl on the Train (Upper-intermediate)

Maybe you have already seen this title on many libraries. It’s a bestseller since it was published at the beginning of the year, in fact it’s the number one on  The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2015 list,  and I really loved it! If you like thriller and mystery you’ll love it too!

The story is a first person narrative told from the point of view of three women: Rachel, Anna and Megan. Rachel takes the same the same commuter train every morning. Every day the train stops at the signal, allowing her to watch the same couple having breakfast on their deck. One day she sees something shocking and everything’s changed! Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she know to the police and becomes entwined in what happens next, as well as the lives of everyone.

 

Next suggestion next week!

Alphabet Song and How To Memorize Letters

Hello everyone and specially my Callan Group! Today I would like to share with you a link (in red, below) with the most famous song all over the word: the alphabet song! I think songs are a perfect way to memorize new vocabulary, in this case the letters of the alphabet. Please, pay special attention to the main differences between English and Spanish, specially the vowels a, e and i, and other pairs as b/v, q/k, g/j.

You can use little tricks to memorize this sounds as for example remembering common words in English like Email (for the E sound), OK (for the O and K sounds), (pronoun: I like, or Ipad, Iphone; for the I sound) and some other!

If you have children, you can watch the song with them. You can both learn the alphabet and have fun at the same time, I can asure you that they love these songs!

The Alphabet Song and More

Halloween Costumes

Hello! As you have seen during this week, the teachers and the students of Babelis have worn Halloween costumes to school. Some of you have probably watched a video about the origins of Halloween where it was said that at the beginning people dressed up as ghosts to “hide” among the spirits that appear at night in Halloween. But have you ever wondered why do we dress up as witches, vampires, mummies or any other scary thing appart from ghosts (that would be the “original” costume)?

As you may know thanks to the video, we began to dress up around the fifty century. It was the time when Hollywwod movies began to appear all over the country and actors like Lon Chaney, known for his Wolf-Man character and Bela Lugosi, who brought to life the vampire Count Dracula, gave the country the perfect creepy inspiration for Halloween costumes.

Witches, blood thirsty vampires, moaning ghosts, vicious werewolves and many other frightening monsters became the popular choices. The American idea of a creepy Halloween was born!

Reading habits

Reading habits

Hello everyone! Do you like reading? If the answer is “no”, then you haven’t find a good book for you yet. Books are like films: it’s impossible not to like them; we just don’t like a genre or a topic. Today I would like to encourage you to start reading books in English, as it is one of the most useful things for improving a foreign language.

Reading, as watching TV shows in English, is a wonderful way of learning vocabulary, grammar and structures without even noticing it, and having fun at the same time! One of the best things about them is that, if you don’t understand a sentence or even a paragraph, you can always stop and try to read it again, or search the words you don’t know on the dictionary. Let’s say that you don’t have the same “pressure” as you can feel when watching a film or a TV show where the characters talk fast or use words you have never heard.

But, be realistic, would you like to stop every three sentences to search a word on the dictionary? No! It is boring, it gets you distracted, and especially you don’t like stopping when you are in the middle of the action of the book, isn’t it? So, what’s my advice? Try to understand the meaning of the sentence as a whole; you don’t need to understand every word for seeing the meaning of it, and, if it is not the case, then you can search for a word or two on the dictionary. Also, don’t be impatient, if you really want to know the meaning of a word, try to get it from the context first. It can be difficult sometimes, but if it’s an important word you will find it other times along the chapter or the book and finally you will see the meaning, I can assure you that!

I will always give the same example: some years ago I started reading “Game of Thrones”. It is a difficult book, in case you wonder; it is written in something like medieval English, with expressions and words that we don’t use nowadays and that I have never read or heard before, as for example: bethroded that would be more or less the equivalent for “fiancé” nowadays. But it also use vocabulary that we don’t usually use: types of swords, mediaval weapons, horses and medieval transports, war words… So at the beginning I felt lost, but I didn’t give up, I continued, trying not to search for everyone on the dictionary, and guess what, now I can read it perfectly! I don’t know when it happened exactly, or how, but the truth is that we don’t have to underestimate our brain or capacities; we just have to be patient and give it a chance.

Of course, I wouldn’t encourage you to read “Game of Thrones” for example if you have not an advanced level. As for everything, there are different levels and it would be a mistake to try something that it is too difficult as it would maybe discourage you. So in the next post I would try to do a selection of some books and classified them by levels, so you can have some suggestions to start reading!

And don’t forget:

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Best TV Shows for Learning English (3)

Hello, everyone! Today is going to be the last post about TV shows for the moment. I hope you enjoyed it!

 

House of Cards [Level: Advanced]

Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), a member of the Democrats, is ignored for the promotion for which he has waited his whole career. Now he wants revenge and sets up a plan to climb right to the top of Washington D.C. with his wife Claire (Robin Wright).

The series is set in the modern era and it means you will never be able to look at your local politician again! It’s incredibly realistic and definitely makes you think about what really goes on inside those dark and shady rooms…

This is a great series to practice understanding American accents with a lot of technical business and political vocabulary. You will definitely need the subtitles, but thats okay! After watching this one you will certainly have increased your knowledge of the English language and also enjoyed a fantastic series.

 

The Big Bang Theory [Level: Intermediate]

This is perhaps one of the most popular shows on TV throughout the world at the moment. It’s about a group of nerdy friends who work together at the university carrying out different kinds of scientific research and experiments. Sheldon and Leonard are best friends and physicists and not only are they great friends and co-workers but they also live together as roommates. The show follows their relationship as friends, co-workers and roommates and it shows the ups and downs of their relationship which are tested by Sheldon and his very strange ways and behaviour.

For English learners this is perfect, there are lots of different American accents to hear and study as well as an Indian accent from Raj. You also get to see how Raj deals with speaking English as a second language with native speakers! Moreover, you’ll be able to hear and understand everyday slang in context such as “what’s up?” And if you’re particularly interested in science, you can pick up a lot of vocabulary related to the topic.

 

 

Sherlock [Level: Advanced]

Is there any language learner who has not heard of Sherlock Holmes and his friend John Watson? This show is a modern day twist on the old Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes is a consulting detective who uses modern technology to help him solve crimes with the help of his colleague Doctor John Watson, a former military doctor. Together, they work to solve London’s most complex crimes and defeat Holmes’ archnemesis, Jim Moriarty, a criminal mastermind.

Here you have everything that an English language learner and series lover could wish for: British accents, superb acting, London, long and playful conversations with a lot of humour and incredible stories. This show requires you to dedicate a little more time (each episode is 90 minutes), but it’s definitely worth it.

 

Where did English come from?

Hello everyone! Today I’m not going to make a post about TV shows as last time, but about a video that I found very interesting that traces the origins of English language. As a linguistics freak, I love this kind of videos and articles so I couldn’t help sharing it with you. I hope you find it as interesting as I did!

The video has been published by TED, a global set of conferences run by the private non-profit Sapling Foundation. They have thousands of videos about plenty of different subjects and usually you can add subtitles to them, so I think they’re a good option if you don’t like watching TV shows or you don’t have the time to do it; you’ll find almost all their videos on Youtube. In this precise video, the narrator speaks really clearly so I don’t think you’ll have any problem understanding it appart from the specific vocabulary.