Bad at English?




You are not ‘bad at English’. What does ‘bad at English’ mean?

Maybe your listening or reading comprehension skills are not as good as you want them to be. Practise with easy material and hard material. The easy material is a warm up and the hard material is work. I didn’t say you have to read a whole book at once; do what you can, but do try (and try again).

Perhaps your writing is not as interesting as you want it to be. Did you try? Did you rewrite it? Did you check the spelling or grammar?

It’s possible that you think you don’t speak fluently enough. Do you practise speaking? Do you talk to yourself on English at home? Do you talk to your phone? Do you record yourself? Do you put yourself in situations outside your comfort zone?

You need to be less of a judge and more of a coach. You wouldn’t be unkind about a stranger’s English skills so why would you be unkind about your own?

How to Talk About Movies and Books

Vocabulary

To talk about movies and books looks easy but is difficult for a lot of English learners. In this post, I will teach you how to talk about films and novels.

Normally, we talk about genre, characters, setting and plot (or story).

Genre

Some genres are the same for films and books: science fiction, sci-fi or SF (Star Wars, ; fantasy (Lord of the Rings); romance or love story (Brief Encounter); comedy (Dumb and Dumber); and horror (Dracula).

Some genres are used only for films: romantic comedy (Notting Hill) is not used for books, but one might say a comedy romance (Emma); drama (Babel) is not used for books, one would say it’s general fiction or literature (On The Road).

Characters

One normally talks about the character by talking about their gender or their job.

Harry Potter is a fantasy about a boy who becomes a wizard.
Die Hard is an action film about a policeman who fights against terrorists when he’s at the airport at Christmastime.

Setting

Setting means where and when the story happens. For example, Die Hard is set in an airport.

Back To The Future takes place in the Los Angeles suburbs in 1985 and 1955.

Plot

Plot is the main story of a film or book. Remember not to spoil the ending!

In Back To The Future, Marty McFly goes back in time and has to make his parents fall in love but it is more difficult than he thinks.

Be Kind Rewind is about a guy who is struck by lightning and wipes the tapes in a video store and has to remake all the films with his friend.

What are your favourite books and movies that you’ve studied with? Why not leave a short note in the comments?

Describe difficult colours using things

Vocabulary

Sometimes there are colours you want to describe but don’t know how to. It is even difficult for native speakers to describe colours exactly. Instead, we describe difficult colours by comparing the colour to another thing.

For example, imagine you have a rug that is a very light brown, but not exactly beige.

“My rug is a kind of camel colour.”

This only works if you choose a thing that is always, or usually, one colour.

“Her car is a grape colour” could mean green or purple.

“Her car is purple like a grape” is fine.

The basic patterns you can use are:

(Subject) is/are a kind of (thing) colour.

(Subject) is/are kind of (thing) coloured.

It is a (thing)-coloured (object).

Why not add your own examples in the comments to share with other students?

Tell Stories Easily by Using 4 Parts

speaking

You can tell stories easily by using four parts: beginning, main point, reaction and ending. Remember that stories usually stick to the past tense.

Beginning

It is common to use a past-continuous clause (was/were ~ing) and ‘when‘, followed by a past-tense clause (simple or continuous) for a detail to link to the main point.

“I was having a job interview when I felt the room shaking.”

Main Point

Get straight to the point. This is an action.

“There was a huge earthquake.”

Reaction

What did you do after the action you just talked about?

“Everybody left the building and went home.”

Ending

How did things get back to normal or back to a comfortable situation for you?

“I had to walk for five hours because there were no trains.”

This might be useful next time you write your diary.

Write a diary

Get Grammar Lessons From The Movies – Part 1

movieicon

YouTube is an excellent way to learn English in small clips from popular movies. Here are a couple of examples. Don’t be afraid to repeat the clips over and over.

High Fidelity – “I haven’t seen Evil Dead 2 yet.”

Present perfect and the adverb ‘yet’.

Speed – “There’s a bomb on a bus.”

Practice with the simple present and zero conditional.

How to Shop Online in English

shopping_cart

You can shop online using your own language but sometimes you want to buy something that is only on sale from an English website. It isn’t difficult to shop online in English but it is sometimes tricky to understand what to do. Remember only to use websites you trust.

Choose the item

Choose the item you want to buy. Make sure you choose the right colour (‘color’ on American websites) and size.

Check out

On every website there’s a check out or check-out link. This is where you finally buy the item, like taking it to the cashier in a ‘real’ shop.

First, you will need to sign up (join) with an email address, maybe a username and password. You will need to give your address, too. Some websites do not deliver internationally.

Pay for your goods

You’ll need a credit card. Here are some diagrams with the information you need.

Card number, Expiry date, Cardholder's name

Sometimes the expiry date is called the ‘Expiration date‘ or is labelled ‘Expires‘.

You’ll also need the security code which is the last three numbers on the back of your card on the signature strip.

Security number/security code. The last three digits of the number on the back of your card.

If you use a Visa or Mastercard, your card company may ask you more questions in your own language.

Give the delivery address

You need to write your address or the person you want to deliver it to. As I said above, some websites do not deliver internationally. Other websites that sell very expensive items may only deliver to the cardholder’s address.

You might also choose your delivery options, such as express delivery or cheap delivery.

Check your information

Next, make sure you have the right address, the right card information, the right price and also the right item, colour and size and number of the item.

Proceed, and wait

Your item should arrive soon and you should get an email to tell you when it will arrive.

How many times should I repeat this?

I’m writing this in reply to a Twitter conversation.

When you listen to a video or a CD and don’t understand, how many times should you repeat it or replay it?

As many times as it takes. However, are you taking notes? Can you check words in a dictionary. Can you repeat what the speaker says?

If you can take notes, this helps. You will get hints about conversational topics and maybe even guess how the topic will change.

If you can check words in a dictionary, you can check that you understand correctly.

If you can repeat what the speaker says, you can use your phone to take notes, then make paper notes too.

I hope this helps.