Great EFL Vocab Graphics

If you are an Social Media active EFL tutor you will have noticed a proliferation of images containing vocabulary.  Many are fantastic, imaginative and fun.  Create your own – and it can be a great activity to get your students to do – work on one in class and then set them each a difference one to create for homework.  I’ve included some of my favourites below…

vocab-fruit-and-vegvocab-vegetables  vocab-clothes2 vocab-clothes vocab-classroom  vocab-body  vocab-animals vocab-weather vocab-cooking-vebrsvocab-verbs2 vocab-verbs  vocab-tools vocab-sad vocab-beautifulvocab-prepositions-of-place vocab-hairvocab-opposites  vocab-hello  Valentine's Day



The ABCD English Guide to the Great British Summer

Summer? What summer? For those of you from more tropical climates, the British Summer can seem a little disappointing. The temperature rarely gets above 30 degrees Celsius and there are more cloudy days than sunny. But on those days when the sun does shine, the Brits know how to make the most of it. Here is our guide to help you enjoy summer in the UK as an EFL student:

  • Eat fish and chips – this classic British meal tastes so much better in the sunshine!
  • Enjoy an ice-cream – Mint-choc Chip, Toffee and Strawberry are some traditional flavours. If you’re feeling adventurous, head to the Chin Chin Labs in Camden where the ‘ice cream scientists’ can turn anything into ice cream.
  • Visit the seaside – top destinations for EFL students include Brighton (an easy day trip from London), the English Riviera on Devon’s South coast, Skegness in Scotland, Whitby where Dracula came ashore and surfer’s favourite Woolacombe.
  • Go to a festival – Glastonbury is not the only one! There are events across the UK celebrating food, film, music, books… the list goes on. Find one near you and experience the fun for yourself.
  • Get outdoors – whether it’s biking, walking or simply a barbecue in the park, behave like a Brit and make the most of the sunshine while it lasts.
  • Play a traditional British game – cricket or croquet? Frisbee in the park? A game of rounders? All of these are traditional summer games – why not organise one with a group of friends? Or, your EFL tutor might be willing to organise a different kind of lesson!

Stay Calm with these IELTS Tips

Preparing for your IELTS test?  Here are 10 top tips to give you the best chance of passing:

  1. Preparation.  The IELTS test is a test of your level of English.  So you need to start by learning English.  Find a motivating class or a English language tutor.  If you are not sure where to start the look for a tutor with a CELTA or DELTA qualification.
  2. Learn from your mistakes.  This especially applies if you self study.  You need to do exercises which you self-mark, or an electronic system which marks your work for you.  Similarly a class where the tutor corrects your English and marks your work is essential.
  3. Learn, don’t memorise. When learning English try not just to memorise it for the exam – you will find it very difficult and it is unlikely to stick.  Instead relax and work through exercises and speak in English to native speakers as soon as possible.
  4. Prepare for the listening with active listening. This involves listening in short extracts, repeating what you have heard and explaining what you have heard. Another form of active listening is to take notes whilst listening – whether to a recording or a native speaker.
  5. Know the IELTS test format.  If you are not prepared for what you see you will feel under more pressure in the test.  The test is divided into three sections and has 40 questions to answer.
  6. Start with the title.  The title will give you the contact of the text – it might be a question which the text will answer.
  7. Skim read the text.  You don’t need to understand all the text, nor translate it.  However if you have had a read through first you will know where to start looking to answer questions.pass ielts
  8. Look out for key words.  As well as the vocabulary you need to look out for the link works.  For example but means that one statement may contradict another, and not is a key word to look out for and understand.
  9. Answer Listening questions in the order they appear. The listening questions normally follow the order of the information in the recording.
  10. If you write less than 150 words in Task 1 or less than 250 in Task 2 you will lose marks.  There is no maximum number of words for either task.
  11. In the speaking task always speak directly to the Examiner, not to the recording equipment.  If you reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to an Examiner’s question, try to add more detail to your answer. For each question, aim to explain at least one point.
  12. Manage your time.  A very common mistake is to take too long on the first part of the test.  Overall you have 60 minutes to answer 40 questions.  So ensure you move on to the next part – and then at the end decide where you are going to spend the remainder of the time.
  13. Practice.  Practice Makes Perfect is a common English expression.  Ask your tutor for some practice IELTS tests – as well as learning new English you will experience the test and have an idea about where you need to spend your time.

Good luck.

A drop of ink may make a million think (proverbs 4 of 4)

This is the final installment of proverbs and common English expressions.  Refer to the previous articles to read:

In this final installment are 34 more expressions which I’ve not heard in general usage, but which may contain a few actual proverbs.  Some have clearly been made up, a few show prejudice of one kind of another, all of them are interesting, and I think some of them should become popular expressions!

  • Silence gives consent
  • Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves
  • An idle brain is the devil’s workshop
  • A drop of ink may make a million think
  • What you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts
  • The best helping hand is at the end of your sleeve.
  • Health is better than wealth.
  • When poverty comes in the door, love flies out the window
  • Happy wife, happy life
  • A fault confessed is half redressed.
  • He who sleeps forgets his hunger
  • A happy heart is better than a full purse.
  • You need money to make money.
  • Eat to live, but do not live to eat
  • We never miss the water till the well is dry
  • rainNature, time and patience are three great physicians
  • A closed mouth catches no flies.
  • A hungry belly has no ears.
  • You need to bait the hook to catch the fish
  • Monkey see, monkey do
  • Love me, love my dog
  • A bad tree does not yield good apples.
  • Mirrors do everything we do, but they cannot think for themselves
  • Success is a journey, not a destination
  • A cat has nine lives.
  • Honey catches more flies than vinegar
  • The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike
  • You can’t shoe a running horse
  • A small leak will sink a great ship
  • Children and fools tell the truth.
  • Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them
  • Every flow must have its ebb
  • Doctors make the worst patients
  • The tongue wounds more than a lance.

5 Tips to Speak English Confidently

You have had countless English lessons at school, you have studied your books, you are going to English classes, you are very keen to learn English, and yet you are struggling to make the step to speak to speak in English at all, let alone Speak English confidently.  You are not alone – there are tens of thousands like you.

But you will have noticed that some have made the step and are speaking.  Yes some people have amazing memories, others might have a ‘natural flair’ for learning languages – but there are many others not in those categories who have also succeeded.  They will be, consciously or otherwise, following some or all of the steps below:

1. Try new methods

If you add up all the hours you have spent so far and it isn’t working then clearly that is not the solution.  Look at different English learning websites for ideas, see what your activities your tutor comes up with.  For example some people like having an an app which tests their vocabulary (through listening as well as looking at pictures).  Others force themselves into situations where they have to speak – for example joining a club – if they are in an English speaking country.  Some join a conversation group or people to speak with others on Skype.  Some watch English television programmes – perhaps starting with children’s programmes that have simpler language – or watch videos on YouTube.

2. Learn in small chunks

Don’t try to put aside large chunks of time to plough through your textbooks – otherwise you will end up putting it off or not finding time when you lose your motivation.  Instead have an English CD/MP3s that you listen to in the car – vary it with instruction CDs, English songs, short English poems and simple audio stories.  Do a short 5-minute English activity that you enjoy before or during breakfast.  Do an exercise from your textbook each evening between eating dinner and doing the washing up.  Keep some fun activities in the car so when you are waiting to pick someone up for example you have something constructive to do.

Label your jars in English
Label your jars in English

3. Learn every day.  

This is similar to the small chunks suggestion above – but do something every day.  Even if it’s just writing out ten post-it notes in English and sticking them on objects around the house (for example on your cupboards, doors and cooking utensils) or re-labeling your spice jars with English labels.

4. Relate English to your hobbies

For example if you enjoy cooking then find recipes in English, translate them, and cook from them.  Arrange a dinner party with friends (perhaps those learning English too) and create a menu in English.  Get a DVD about your hobby but in English.

5. Speak English today.

Building up your vocabulary, doing exercises, listening to CDs and DVDs are all great activities that increase your knowledge of English.  But don’t wait until you have improved your understanding of English before you speak.  Speak now – it’s the best way to learn.  If you don’t have anyone available to speak to then start with speaking to the mirror, and doing listening activities where you are meant to answers.  Even just reading out English from a newspaper article or book is a good start – your mind will start making a link and your fine motor muscles will start making the slightly different shapes that your mouth needs to speak English.  Then find people on Skype, or join a conversation group – but do it now.

Carry out the 5 steps above and I promise that your English learning will accelerate.

Vocab – Colours

Vocab for English Learners – Colours

EFL learner? Learn all the colours of the rainbow, and more – and listen to how the words are said.

IELTS Explained

If you are learning or teaching English and don’t yet know all about IELTS then read on – it’s probably the most influential English test in the world at the moment!

What is IELTS?

IELTS stands for International English Language Testing System. It is similar in some ways to the TOEFL test.

Who takes IELTS?

IELTS is for non-native speakers of English, and there are two variations (although half the test is the same for both).  Take the Academic IELTS test in order to enter an English-speaking university.  Take the General IELTS test for any other situation, for example to demonstrate your level of English for a job applications.  In addition some countries require a particular level in the test for immigration or visa purposes.

What’s the structure of the tests?

The test has four sections: listening, reading, writing and speaking. The first three sections are paper-based, roughly an hour each, and you will normally doing them in the morning.  The speaking test is normally held in the afternoon although some test centres allow candidates to book a speaking test on a different day.

listening practiceIs there a IELTS test for different levels?

No!  This means that if you are a beginner or even intermediate level it can be daunting.  The first task is often a graph or table of numerical information with questions. However if you have completed lots of practice tests you will be better prepared and find them less challenging.

What is the speaking test like?

In Parts 1 and 2 most of the questions are informal questions about you. You might get questions like “Do you enjoy reading?” do which you should replace with three or four short and medium sentences -try to give at least one specific answer.

Where do I take the test?

Go to to find your nearest test centre.  There are test centres all over the world! It is quite likekly to be at a language schools, college or universities.

How much should I prepare for the IELTS test?

Step 1: learn English – you made already have made good progress here, especially if you can understand the gist of this article.  Step 2: practice your English – if you are in a native-English country then get out there and talk to and listen to real people.  Step 3: do English practice exercises whether on paper or the internet.  Do ensure you do a mix of reading, writing, speaking and listening.  Step 4: get at least five IELTS practice papers and work through them.

Small Talk – What do you say when you meet at the photocopier?

Among native speakers small talk is a way to start or develop a conversation – we do this when we meet someone new, or strike up a conversation with someone we don’t know very well.  That’s not to say it’s not interesting in itself – I’m always interested in what people do for a living, what their hobbies are and what their families get up to – but it is also a useful social skill to put you and the other person at ease when you don’t know each other very well.

By the same token it is helpful for EFL English Learners to learn about conversation starters and small talk.  Speaking is often their biggest challenge and those that thrive will be those that get into real conversations in English.

If you are learning English in the UK, many conversation starters are based on the weather.  This is because the weather is so changeable and often unpredictable (being at the meeting point of 3 weather fronts) so it is on many people’s minds – particularly if they have a BBQ or outdoor picnic planned for the weekend.

Some topics for small talk are sport, hobbies, the weather, family, holidays (past and future), news, sport, entertainment, where you live, work, hobbies, fashion and celebrities.  There are some topics you should avoid talking about such as salaries and finances, sales, illness, death, and others you should be cautious as it can be easy to offend such as politics, religion and topics such as  sexuality and racism.

Use the ideas below to start real conversations.

what-do-you-doStart with the weather…

  • Isn’t it a lovely day?
  • Can you believe how much rain we’ve been having?
  • It looks like it’s going to snow.
  • I long for sun and sand.
  • I hear hurricane Nico is on it’s way.
  • How about this weather?
  • Did you bring this sunshine with you?

What’s in the news?

  • Did you catch the news today?
  • Did you hear about that earthquake??
  • Have you been affected by the strike?
  • I heard on the radio today that…
  • Did you read about the job closures in the paper?
  • Who do you think will win the premiership?

At the office…

  • How long have you been here?
  • How was your weekend?
  • What are you doing at the weekend?
  • I hope that sales pick up?
  • Are you working late this week?
  • What’s news in your department
  • What’ve you been up to?
  • Have you heard….?
Party Small Talk
Party Small Talk

At a party…

  • Isn’t it lovely here!
  • How did you get here?
  • So, how do you know the bride?
  • You look great!
  • Are you enjoying yourself?
  • Have you been here before
  • Isn’t this a fantastic party?
  • I wouldn’t recommend the beef.
  • Wow!  Look at that…
  • I haven’t seen you for ages!

Out for a walk…

  • What are you doing around here?
  • How old’s your baby?
  • What’s your dog’s name?
  • Isn’t it a wonderful day?
  • I love this time of year.

100 more English proverbs

In previous posts I have given 100 common English proverbs and 100 common English expressions and now I shall continue the theme with 100 more English proverbs.  I mentioned that the previous 100 English proverbs were common enough that I had used them in a real context.  The following proverbs are less popular or less well-known, but the majority will be known by most native speakers.  So if you or your class are advanced students who are keen to get closer to the elusive ‘speak it like a native’ then they will make for interesting reading

  1. In for a penny, in for a pound
  2. All for one and one for all
  3. The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing
  4. You made your bed so now lie on it
  5. Two heads are better than one
  6. A burnt child dreads the fire.
  7. Money cannot buy happiness
  8. He who sups with the devil has need of a long spoon
  9. A stumble may prevent a fall.
  10. Give the devil his due
  11. Let sleeping dogs lie
  12. Look on the bright side
  13. Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
  14. What’s done can’t be undone
  15. Forewarned is forearmed
  16. An Englishman’s home is his castle
  17. Time and tide wait for no man.
  18. Barking dogs seldom bite
  19. Look after the pence, and the pounds will look after themselves
  20. Revenge is a dish best served cold
  21. Virtue is its own reward
  22. Waste not, want not
  23. The devil looks after his own.
  24. A friend in need is a friend indeed
  25. Give him an inch and he’ll want a yard
  26. A tree is known by its fruit.
  27. There is no such thing as a free lunch
  28. Spare the rod and spoil the child
  29. A watched pot never boils.
  30. There is no point in flogging a dead horse
  31. What goes up must come down
  32. Speech is silver, silence is golden
  33. Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer
  34. A job worth doing is a job worth doing well
  35. The devil makes work for idle hands.
  36. There no honour among thieves
  37. Starve a cold, feed a fever
  38. Marry in haste, repent at leisure
  39. A constant guest is never welcome.
  40. A swallow does not make the summer.
  41. When in Rome do as the Romans do
  42. An army marches on its stomach
  43. Loose lips sink ships
  44. Like cures like
  45. Distance makes the heart grow fonder.
  46. A worry shared is a worry halved
  47. Little strokes fell great oaks
  48. A rising tide lifts all boats.
  49. The first step is the hardest
  50. Procrastination is the thief of time
    Loose Lips Sink Ships
    Loose Lips Sink Ships
  51. A danger foreseen is half avoided.
  52. There’s more than one way to skin a cat
  53. The eyes are the window of the soul
  54. There’s no smoke without fire
  55. Hunger is the best spice
  56. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
  57. A calm sea does not make a skilled sailor.
  58. The truth is in the wine
  59. A light purse makes a heavy heart
  60. The darkest hour is just before dawn.
  61. There is no fool like an old fool
  62. Still waters run deep
  63. There is a black sheep in every flock.
  64. Experience is the mother of wisdom
  65. Slow and steady wins the race
  66. The cure is worse than the disease
  67. No man can serve two masters
  68. The devil has the best tunes
  69. One swallow doesn’t make a summer
  70. An ill wind that blows nobody any good
  71. Diligence is the mother of good fortune.
  72. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen
  73. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
  74. Money is the root of all evil
  75. Misery loves company
  76. May as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb
  77. He who serves two masters must lie to one
  78. March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
  79. Cleanliness is next to Godliness
  80. The pen is mightier than the sword
  81. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander
  82. one man’s loss is another man’s gain
  83. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
  84. Rome was not built in a day
  85. Little boys should be seen and not heard
  86. Two’s company, three’s a crowd
  87. Boys will be boys
  88. They who dance must pay the fiddler
  89. Advice is least heeded when most needed.
  90. A fool at forty is a fool forever.
  91. A book holds a house of gold.
  92. Tall oaks grow from little acorns.
  93. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.
  94. A nimble sixpence is better than a slow shilling
  95. All cats are grey in the dark.
  96. A black plum is as sweet as a white.
  97. Smile, and the world smiles with you; cry, and you cry alone
  98. To err is human, to forgive divine.
  99. Set a thief to catch a thief
  100. A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy.