I’d like to take the opportunity to summarise the range of topics that we’ve covered in the course and showcase the depth and breadth of the English language we used.
Most recently, we delved into the hot topic of artificial intelligence (AI). With the rise of AI, many are debating the benefits and drawbacks of this new technology and whether we can trust AI to make critical decisions for humanity. As English learners, it’s essential to understand the technical language used in these debates and to keep abreast of current news in this field.
We explored the art of communication. Mastering practical communication skills is crucial whether you’re learning English for business or pleasure. That means learning to express yourself clearly and concisely in written and spoken language.
Regarding slow news days, it’s worth turning to agony aunts and uncles, who can offer advice on various problems, from relationship woes to career conundrums. Reading these columns can help you improve your English vocabulary and understand everyday language better.
Building on the business theme, we pitched a business idea in our Dragons’ Den, just like the popular television show in the UK. As an English learner, watching this show can help you learn the language of business and entrepreneurship.
Working in a team can be incredibly rewarding, but navigating team dynamics is challenging. Developing communication and interpersonal skills to build positive relationships with team members is essential. Understanding the language of teamwork is vital to achieving common goals and objectives.
Finding the right candidate for the role is vital when filling a job vacancy. That often involves examining resumes and conducting interviews. For English learners, reviewing job postings and understanding the required terminology and language skills can be beneficial.
Finally, let’s turn to the importance of family. While this topic may seem personal, it’s universal. Learning how to talk about family events and relationships is essential to learning English.
So, how can you increase your exposure to English? One way is to read English-language newspapers and magazines, watch English-language television shows and films or listen to English-language podcasts or radio broadcasts. Other options include attending English language classes, participating in language exchanges or embarking on an English language immersion programme.
In conclusion, there are endless possibilities to improve your English language skills. Whether you’re interested in business, technology, or everyday relationships, mastering English will open up a world of opportunities.
Good communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships, successful teams and overall well-being. We must practise communicating effectively to facilitate understanding and cooperation, present ideas, persuade others, and build confidence. One of the best ways we can do this is by participating in debates, meetings, and everyday conversations.
When having meaningful conversations, we use a range of skills. One critical skill is being able to argue your point confidently and respectfully. That means presenting your opinion clearly and concisely and being able to defend your point with facts, examples and personal experience. Another vital skill is learning how to persuade someone to agree with you. It requires using convincing arguments, such as demonstrating the potential benefits of your proposal, providing expert opinions and showing how it will positively impact all involved.
Moreover, politely interrupting to clarify misunderstandings, pointing out flaws in an argument, or asking for clarification is often necessary. Disagreeing and offering counter-arguments is also vital as it allows us to hear different perspectives and challenges us to think critically about our beliefs.
Most importantly, we must listen carefully and allow all participants a voice. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying and actively engaging in the conversation while showing empathy and understanding where they are coming from. Additionally, taking the time for quiet reflection after a conversation allows us to process the points raised, consider new ideas and retain information that we may need.
To summarise, the value of having opportunities to practise good communication is immense. It’s a way to convey our ideas properly and acquire new perspectives, learn and grow as an individual. Whether it’s honing our public speaking skills in a debate or learning how to work effectively with others in meetings, good communication is a skill that we should develop throughout our lives. So, let’s take advantage of these opportunities to practise and become better communicators in all aspects of our personal and professional lives.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer just a concept from science fiction movies; it is increasingly becoming a part of our daily lives. As we integrate AI into various aspects of our world, it is essential to consider the benefits and drawbacks of this technology. Moreover, as machines increasingly make decisions instead of humans, a bigger question looms: can we trust AI to make decisions for us?
AI has many clear advantages. For example, it can help us solve problems more efficiently by analyzing large amounts of data quickly and accurately. It can also help humans make more informed decisions through predictive analytics, which provide insights into possible future outcomes. Furthermore, AI can automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks, saving time and allowing us to focus on other activities.
However, AI is not without its drawbacks. One of the biggest concerns is that AI could lead to job displacement as machines take over tasks that humans previously performed. Additionally, there are concerns about the potential for biased decision-making, as many algorithms are created based on data sets that reflect historical discrimination and injustices. Furthermore, there are concerns about the ethical implications of AI, including the potential for machines to make decisions that are contrary to human values and morality.
Considering these benefits and drawbacks, we must ask whether we can trust AI to make decisions. While machines can process data more efficiently than humans, they lack the intuition and contextual knowledge humans use to make decisions. That means we cannot always rely on AI to make the right decisions, especially when the decision involves complex moral or ethical considerations. What do you think?
I’ll leave you with a short clip from one of my favourite films adapted from American writer Philip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” A dystopian science fiction novel where Rick Deckard, a bounty hunter, is hired to track down a group of androids accused of killing their human masters. Food for thought.
Let’s discuss something the British are notoriously bad at – discussing our problems. As a nation, we tend to pride ourselves on our stiff upper lip, our ability to keep calm and carry on, and our reluctance to burden others with our worries. But is this a healthy approach to life?
Keep calm and have a cup of tea.
Let’s start by looking at the benefits of discussing a problem. When we bottle things up inside, they tend to fester and grow until they become overwhelming. But when we talk about our issues with someone else, we gain perspective and often find that the problem isn’t as big as we thought. Plus, we can get valuable advice and support from someone who has been through something similar.
And that’s where the significance of listening comes in. When someone comes to us with a problem, we mustn’t dismiss it or try to solve it. Instead, we should listen carefully, empathise, and offer support. Sometimes, just having someone to listen is enough to make a person feel better.
Now, you might be wondering about the relevance of agony aunts and uncles in the 21st century. After all, we have the internet now, an endless source of advice and support at our fingertips. But there’s something special about the agony aunt or uncle – someone dedicated to listening to and offering advice to strangers. We’ve been reading them for decades, from Claire Rayner to Mariella Frostrup, and the desire to reach out to our agony aunts and uncles is as widespread now as it was a century ago. They’re a staple of our culture and a reminder that asking for help is okay, that we’re not alone in our struggles and that there are people who care and want to help.
What do you think? Click the link to listen. Do agony aunts still have a place in 21st century life?
So, let’s shake off our British tendency to suffer in silence and start talking about our problems. Whether it’s to a friend, a family member, or an agony aunt or uncle, there’s no shame in admitting that we need a little help sometimes. And who knows – we might feel much better for it.
Hello, here is the news.
Ninety-three years ago, on 18 April 1930, a BBC newsreader announced that he had nothing to report. “There is no news,” was the script of the 20:45 news bulletin. Piano music played for the remainder of the 15-minute segment.
With 24-hour rolling news cycles, we’re taking a look at the concept of slow news days. With the proliferation of digital media, news is constantly at our fingertips, but sometimes there just isn’t much happening. How do journalists and news outlets fill the time?
An example of a slow news story could be the report of a black bear caught on camera walking on its hind legs in New Jersey. The bear, nicknamed Pedals, had become a viral sensation.
Or the story of three brothers who built giant sculptures of sea creatures in their front yard. One sculpture, a sea turtle, was over twelve feet tall, took them over 300 hours to complete and became a local attraction.
While these stories may seem trivial, they highlight the phenomenon of slow news days, where even the most mundane stories can become national or even international news. I’d be happy if everyday was a slow news day. Would you?
Still, as language learners, it’s important to be able to report on the news orally, even when there’s not much happening. That can include anything from sharing what you read in a newspaper to summarizing a current event or conversation, e.g. what if your boss calls on you to report on the current situation in your division?
Firstly, being clear and concise when reporting a news story is essential. That means using simple language and avoiding lengthy sentences. Use short, direct sentences to get your point across quickly and effectively.
Next, preparing for your oral report is helpful by jotting down some notes or critical points. It will help you stay organized and should cover all the relevant information. Remember to focus on essential aspects of the story and leave out any unnecessary details.
When delivering your oral report, you must speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Even if English is your native language, practice your pronunciation and diction to ensure you are easily understood. It can also be a good idea to pause occasionally and allow time for any questions or comments from your listeners. And never fear a few seconds of silence. It’s great for emphasis and allows you a moment to refocus if you lose your way. Take a deep breath.
Finally, it’s crucial to maintain a neutral and objective tone when reporting news orally. Avoid injecting personal opinions or biases into the story, and stick to the facts as much as possible.
In summary, when reporting a news story orally, you must be clear, concise, and well-prepared. Speak clearly and at a moderate pace, and focus on the chief points of the story. Keep a neutral and objective tone, and practice your pronunciation and diction. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a confident and effective oral news reporter in English, even when there is no news.
Starting a new business is like setting sail on the high seas to find treasure guarded by dragons in their den. It can be daunting to think about facing the unknown and the potential dangers, but with the right mindset and guidance, you can make it happen. Here are five tips to help you navigate your way to victory:
Identify your target audience: In this journey, you need to know who your fellow sailors are and what they need on the voyage. You should carefully identify the market niche you want to serve, just as you would carefully chart your course before setting sail.
Have a well-organised business model: Your business model is like your ship. It’s the foundation of your company’s success and needs to be well-built and sturdy to withstand rough waters. A coherent business model can keep your ship on course and save money and time.
Build a strong team: As you journey towards the dragons’ den, you need a crew onboard who share your vision, just as you need a group dedicated to achieving your business goals. Recruitment is necessary – you must find individuals with relevant experience and aptitude who can work well together to help you succeed.
Secure funding: Just as you need provisions and supplies to undertake the journey, your business won’t be successful without adequate funding. You need to identify sources of financing and reliable funding necessary to launch and operate your business.
Have a plan: It’s like having a map to navigate the unknown waters. A plan to ensure your business runs smoothly and is sustainable over the long term is vital. A contingency that outlines how you will manage potential risks that could affect your business is like having the plan to defeat the dragons and bring the treasure home.
Starting a new business is like setting sail on the high seas. It’s not just what you do but how well you do it that ultimately counts. So, hoist your sails, set your course, and make your journey towards success! Success may not come quickly, but you can achieve your goals with a solid plan and mindset.
So we discussed something near and dear to our hearts – family. As social beings, we are part of many families. One is our work family, our colleagues, bosses, and employees. We spend a lot of time with them, and like our families at home, we rely on each other for support and help. Sometimes we bicker and argue, and sometimes we just wanna hug ’em and squeeze ’em and tell ’em how much we appreciate ’em.
Whether at work or home, when it comes to getting a job done, there’s nothing quite like teamwork. You know what people say, “many hands make light work”.
And let’s be honest, there’s nothing more satisfying than achieving something as a group. But before we get too carried away with the task at hand, let’s take a moment to reflect on the pros and cons of working in a team.
First and foremost, working in a team can be a lot of fun. There’s nothing quite like the camaraderie of people all pulling together towards a common goal. Whether you’re cracking jokes, sharing snacks, or simply enjoying each other’s company, a real sense of togetherness comes with teamwork.
But it’s not all laughing and joking around. Working in a team can also mean increased productivity. When everyone knows what to do and pulls their weight, tasks can be done more efficiently, leaving more time for the important stuff – like tea breaks.
And let’s not forget the benefits of collaboration. Bringing together people with different skill sets and perspectives makes you more likely to develop innovative solutions to problems. By bouncing ideas off each other, you can uncover new approaches and ways of thinking that you might not have otherwise considered.
Of course, working in a team isn’t always a bed of roses. One of the downsides is the potential for conflict. When working closely with other people, disagreements will inevitably arise. These tensions can be challenging, whether a difference of opinion or a clash of personalities.
Then there’s the issue of accountability. When working on a project as part of a team, knowing who’s responsible for what can be tricky. This can lead to delays and confusion, as everyone assumes someone else takes care of a particular task or responsibility.
And let’s not forget about the dreaded groupthink. When everyone in a team is too focused on consensus and agreeing with each other, it can stifle creativity and lead to less-than-ideal decision-making.
So there you have it – the ups and downs of teamwork. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the right balance. By embracing the positives and working through the negatives, you can build a strong, supportive team that achieves great things together. And if all else fails, there’s always the promise of a post-work pint to get everyone through the tough times.
Kurt Vonnegut said, “One thing I found out was that we need extended families. We need gangs. He went on to say, “… a nuclear family, a man, a woman and kids and a dog and cat is no survival scheme at all. Horribly vulnerable.“
In his play about modern life, A Woman Of No Importance, Oscar Wilde wrote “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
Maya Angelou added “I sustain myself with the love of family.”
And Stieg Larsson, the author of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo wrote “Then I discovered that being related is no guarantee of love!”
Way back in the mists of time, a family was a group of people linked together by blood relationship. Like everything, things change, and our ideas of family have changed too. What does family mean to you? How different is the modern family from past generations? What ideals remain true? How would you define today’s brood?
What are the characteristic features of a contemporary family unit? Are blood ties as significant now? And what of traditional roles? Who is the breadwinner? We discussed the size of our families, but has the size of our clan grown or shrunk with time? Where can we find the 21st century family? And finally, what role does technology play in the current household?
Welcome to the eightieth post.
Political machinations and media corruption may get us down, but there’s no time to frown as the Holiday Season is upon us, and rightly so. We are privileged to discuss a political story’s positives and negatives without fear of repercussions. So filled with the spirit of a reborn Scrooge, let’s take a positive spin for our final meeting round-up.
Firstly, we spoke about regional accents, which is a fascinating study for anyone looking to perfect their English. And it’s not just advertisers who use regional accents but other “customer-contact” positions, too. Why is that? While investigating online, I came across a quote by linguist David Crystal. “By the 1990s, attitudes had begun to change, with conservative RP attracting negative attitudes, such as posh and distant, and modified varieties (such as Estuary) eliciting such positive evaluations as warm, customer-friendly, and down to earth“.
Estuary English is a southern UK accent, so Jamie Oliver and Ricky Gervais are good examples of this type. RP or received pronunciation, as it states on Wikipedia, is “the accent traditionally regarded as the standard and most prestigious form of spoken British English”. Its sound doesn’t give any ideas on pinpointing a location for the speaker, but it does have overtones of a stereotypical class.
When modern RP (Emma Watson) meets Estuary English (Jonathan Ross).
And for RP English, Stephen Fry.
In the 2002 Oxford Guide to World English, McArthur mentions RP and associated accents as “undeserved, or accidental, privilege and as a symbol of the southeast’s political power in Britain”.
Other articles link Scottish and Yorkshire accents with honesty and down-to-earth candour.
The University of Manchester’s Alexander Baratta states, “while some people find regional accents … less educated, others think they sound more in-touch, sincere and friendly and that posh accents are more cold or arrogant.”
And what is posh? Since the fifties, the idea came that ‘posh’ was an acronym for Port Out Starboard Home. However, as I dug deeper, I found to my surprise, that association is uncertain. The waters of the past were too murky for etymologists to say with confidence that it was the case. Click here for the etymology. That’s why it pays to double-check your sources – lesson learned.
The best way to hear authentic British accents is using the BBC regional news tabs. Their local news videos contain people with genuine accents speaking about recent stories. Click here and then click on one of the British regions to find a video story.
Christmas Time Is Here
Like a pair of festive socks and a box of chocolates, I’d like to wrap up my blog for the year with some of my favourite festive films. There are far too many to mention here, but I have lost count of how many times I’ve seen these seasonal classics.
- Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946). If you believe an angel gets its wings every time a bell rings, this movie should be number one on the list.
- The Muppets do Charles Dickens’s in A Muppets’ Christmas Carol (1992), a superb introduction to the age-old classic.
- Do you believe in Santa Claus? Miracle On 34th Street (1947) would make the Grinch well up. I enjoyed the 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough.
- Klaus (2019) is a genuinely heart-warming hand-drawn animation about the origin of the big man. It’s one to watch with the family.
- And if you love the classics and want a singalong, White Christmas (1942) with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen will have you hoping for a White Christmas.
Right now, we all need a little light in our lives and celebrations of faiths, gods, saints, and the new year help us beat back the winter blues. So, if you celebrate this time of year, may your festival bring peace and goodwill to all.
Have a great holiday.
Next week is our last meeting.
I can’t believe how quickly the course has gone. And it has been about perfecting our English, but even as a native speaker and teacher of English, I can still improve. Remember we spoke before about writing; it’s a perpetual challenge. And as many great minds have theorised before, language, English especially, is a living system constantly evolving; language is whimsical, productive, creative, organised, social, learned and conventional. With each new learner, it replicates, and the student, in return, puts a new spin on it.
What do you think? How has your first language evolved?
But don’t take my word for it. Click here for the science.
Take a closer look at the article and answer the questions below.
- What does the report say ‘drift’ is? (It’s not the example in the image above)
- How does ‘drift’ play a role in the evolution of language?
We spoke at the meeting about Brexit and saw some traditional British idioms, but did you know that Brexit has acted as a catalyst for adding many new words to the English language? Click here for that report. Take a closer look at the article and answer the questions below.
- How would you describe the article in one or two sentences?
- What effect did Brexit have on pre-existing language?
- Who is Simon Roberts?
The humble apostrophe has also undergone a long journey to the 21st century, but will it make it into the next? Click here for a piece from the BBC culture site.
- To what does the title of our blog refer?
- Concentrate on the last three paragraphs of the article. What does Laurel MacKenzie say about the survival of the apostrophe?