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tips to learn english

©Denise Krebs

English is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world and we often mistake this for meaning it is an easy language. Yes it may be a lot easier than many other languages in terms of grammar and lack of gender but we often forget about all of those silent letters and vowel combinations making pronunciation and spelling a particular challenge to the non-native speaker. Take “ou” combinations for example, such as thought, though and through which all have a complete different pronunciation and how is a non-native speaker supposed to know that numb is not pronounced numb but rather num?

The truth is that a lot of these weird and wonderful things about English you will simply need to learn and memorise. But here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Its or it´s?
  • it´s = it is
  • it´s cold outside = it is cold outside
  • Its refers to possession
  • The hamster is in its cage
  1. Fish not fishes
  • Some nouns do not follow the usual pattern for plurals
  • Regular plural nouns:
    1 dog, 2 dogs
    1 cat, 2 cats
    1 banana, 2 bananas
  • But watch out for the following exceptions:
    1 sheep, 2 sheep
    1 mouse, 2 mice
    1 fish, 2 fish
  1. Don´t forget your articles when talking about professions!
  • I am a teacher
  • I am a doctor
    In many languages the “a” is not necessary when expressing professions but in English it sounds strange to say I am doctor or I am teacher

    I am a doctor
    ©Jeff Eaton

 And the next ones even some native speakers get wrong!

  1. There, their or they´re?
  • There = location
    Where is James? James is over there.
    A tip to help you remember this one – (there has the word here in it which implies a location)
  • Their = possession
    Their house is lovely.
  • They´re = they are (apostrophe replaces the a)
    They´re moving to Spain = they are moving to Spain.

They´re happy with their new house:

Their new house is over there:

They´re happy over there in their new house:

  1. Your or you´re?
    Again the apostrophe replaces the a so you´re = you are
    You´re happy with your new job
    You´re playing with your children
    You´re wearing your new hat
  1. Fewer or less?

There are fewer clouds in the sky today NOT less clouds

It is less rainy today because there are fewer clouds in the sky
Fewer is used when referring to quantities

The same goes for much and many:
There are not many clouds in the sky today NOT much clouds

There is not much rain today because there are not many clouds in the sky

  1. “I before E except after C”

There are of course exceptions to this, but in general this little rule will help you with your spelling!
For example relief and receive

  1. An or A before the noun?

Words starting with a vowel use an as the determiner whereas words starting with a consonant use a
e.g. an apple, an orange, an elephant
a plum, a grape, a radio
NOTE exceptions are made with silent consonants such as with hour (pronounced as our) an hour

  1. Some useful links:

From Roald Dahl´s Matilda to remember the spelling of difficulty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFdrYxYIdDI

BEAutiful Bruce Almighty:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K3UpktQH9w

Learn English with EXTRAS – an easy comedy to help you understand British English!


 We hope these help you kick start your learning and if you decide to join us in one of our schools, remember…in English we take a photo NOT make a photo!

©Frank Hemme
©Frank Hemme



Top Tips for Learning Vocabulary

Words. Words are important. On this I think we can all agree. So, how can we learn them better, in better ways, by better means, with more (or less) accurate meanings? Here is the first tip in a 5 week series of ideas which I hope can help students at our school on their journey to becoming more proficient and confident practitioners of the English language…

Tip #1: Read more (and party)!

This might sound like a boring, obvious and/or unhelpful suggestion but it is an important place to begin. Estimates suggest that an average native speaker of English recognizes around 50,000 words that they encounter in texts. And yet very few of these words were ‘taught’ to them in a classroom – they learned most of these words by ‘meeting’ them regularly in conversation, in their houses, at work… or in texts. By reading as much as possible you will multiply the chances of ‘meeting’ new words. But it’s important to limit the number of new words you meet.

It should be like being at a party where you know most of the people but not everyone, so you can spend some of the time meeting new people/words but also have the option to hang out with some old mates from school. Nobody wants to go to a party where they don’t know anyone’s name! So make sure you choose your party/text carefully. Graded readers (books that are written for learners of specific levels of English) are a great option – Hint: Lucy has lots in her office in Room 9 and they are free to borrow – while there are many novels that are suitable for higher level learners too (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, for example, is a great book written in a nice, simple way). So choose carefully and ask your teacher for advice too, but make sure you read as much as possible! Reading, reading, reading will make your vocabulary grow, grow, grow!!!

English is one of the most dominating language of the world which is having its impact on every field of work. Undoubtedly, English play a much greater role in the world that it is inevitable for people to ignore it fully. Here are 10 reasons why English is such an important language.


1. It’s the most commonly spoken language in the world 

Depending a bit on how you count, in addition to the approximately 400 million native speakers, English is understood and/or spoken by 1-1.6 billion people. With over a quarter of the world speaking the language, there’s always someone to practice with, especially when you travel.


2. It’s the language of international business

With world business headquarters predominantly in the financial hubs of the UK and USA, English has long been the default language of trade as you can read in the history of the English language. Therefore, English is the dominant business language and it has become almost a necessity for people to speak English if they are to enter a global workforce, research from all over the world shows that cross-border business communication is most often conducted in English. Its importance in the global market place therefore cannot be understated, learning English really can change your life.


3. Most movies are in English

Hollywood is a powerhouse of global entertainment, so it’s natural that English would become the main language for movie-making. Sure, the movies are often dubbed over or subtitled – but they’re really best enjoyed in the language in which they were intended.


4. It’s easy to learn

This is debatable depending on who you speak to, but it’s generally accepted that English isn’t the most taxing language to get to grips with. The vocabulary is simple to grasp and it has developed throughout different languages regarding its evolution that is explained in the article about the history of English language. Therefore, many speakers of those languages can see where concepts in English originated from and fast adapt to understand the basics of English.


5. It helps you understand other languages

English has a long and fascinating history that spans wars, invasions and influences from around the globe. Cultures that have helped shape modern English include Romans, Vikings and the French. For this reason it’s a hybrid language comprised of Latin, Germanic and Romance elements.


6. You can say things in a hundred different ways 

One of English’s best assets is its flexibility: you can often find many different ways to to explain the same thing thanks to its wide range of vocabulary. It’s said to have well over 750,000 words (depending a bit on how you count – some generous estimates put that number at 1 million) and is adding new ones every year as mentioned in the article about the history of English language.


7. It can be used around the world

English is also hugely important as an international language and plays an important part even in countries where the UK has historically had little influence. It is learnt as the principal foreign language in most schools in Western Europe. It is also an essential part of the curriculum in far-flung places like Japan and South Korea, and is increasingly seen as desirable by millions of speakers in China. Therefore, if you have the basics of English language you can make yourself understood in nearly every corner of the world.


8. It’s really flexible 

Non-native English speakers who learn it as a second language often comment on how many ways there are to say things. That’s because English doesn’t discriminate – you can use it however you like. Countries like Singapore have taken this concept to heart, inventing an entirely new type of English called ‘Singlish’ that has absorbed facets of other languages like Chinese and Malay.


9. It’s the language of the internet

Most of the content produced on the internet (50%) is in English. So knowing English will allow you access to an incredible amount of information which may not be otherwise available.


10. It continues to change

Selfie, Hashtagging, Blogging, Smasual, etc. All these words are new to the English language but have already become valued members of the lexicon. More than any other language, English continues to evolve and absorb new words that branch out – often untranslated – into other languages. Every year approximately more than 1.000 new and approved words are added to the Oxford Dictionary. This tremendous development is the result due to technology, Social Media and how people spontaneously coin new words during daily life. More information you can find in the article about the history of English language.

new words


All the football slang you need for a brilliant football evening or weekend in the UK.

Football is a national obsession in Britain and it’s full of weird and wonderful phrases. Here are the most common football expressions explained to help you understand locals when watching a match in the UK. One important rule at the beginning to avoid making a gaffe at the beginning; NEVER EVER call it soccer!


What a howler!

If you find yourself watching the English national team play- this phrase will likely come in handy. This expression is used after someone has made a comical mistake. It is usually attributed to red-faced goalkeepers after failing to stop a shot and sullen-looking players who’ve scored an own goal.




Who’d be a referee?! Almost every decision is met with unrelenting cries of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing,’ and ‘get your eyes tested.’ Disagreeing with the officials is constant in most sports across the world and simply shouting ‘ref’ in disbelief at a dubious decision is commonplace in football.


What a screamer / What a beauty / What a cracker! 

These terms are usually reserved for “snipers” like Gerrard, Messi or Ronaldo, who sometimes score a goal from a long distance that creates pandemonium in the stadium.

That was a sitter / he should have buried that 

A phrase that is used to show shock, sadness and anger as a player misses the simplest of chances to score a goal. Mostly used by really fanatic fans.


We need a clean sheet! 

This phrase doesn’t have anything to do with a basic article of bedding. It football it is often said in hope that the goalkeeper doesn’t concede a goal. Keeping a clean sheet certainly makes it easier to win a game!


It’s time to park the bus

This is an ultra-defensive style of football where teams do anything to preserve their clean sheet. By putting all 11 players behind the ball to thwart the opponent’s attacking threat, and then rarely attacking yourself, is considered to be equivalent of parking a bus in front of your goal.



He was caught ball watching 

These expression is directed to players who are normally technically savvy but just watched the ball and got caught out of position, which will be taken advantage of by the opposition.

ball watching


The wall did its job 

It takes a brave person to stand in a wall. When players stand in a line, 10-yards from a free kick, this is known as the wall. If the wall stands firm and blocks or deflects the ball, they are said to have done their job.



He’s a dead ball specialist

Dead ball situations are when the ball is stationary after a stoppage in the game. A dead ball specialist refers to a player who is able to score from free kicks and penalties or can whip a corner into the penalty box with pinpoint accuracy.


Stay on your feet 

A strange phrase for a sport played on your feet, but fans shout this in 1 against 1 situations when they hope that their player won’t be tackled to the ground.


Ever wondered how English with approximately 750,000 words came to be the wonderfully expressive and multifaceted language it is today?

Unlike languages that developed within the boundaries of one country (or one distinct geographical region), English, since its beginnings 1,600 or so years ago, evolved by crossing boundaries and through invasions, picking up bits and pieces of other languages along the way and changing with the spread of the language across the globe.


Old English (450-1.100)

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders – mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from “Englaland” [sic] and their language was called “Englisc” – from which the words “England” and “English” are derived. Their language, now known as “Old English“, was soon adopted as the common language of this relatively remote corner of Europe. Although you and I would find it hard to understand Old English, it provided a solid foundation for the language we speak today and gave us many essential words like “be”, “strong” and “water”.

Middle English (1.100 – 1.500)

The Viking invasion: With the Viking invasions (Vikings were a tribe of Nordic people that ransacked their way through Northern and Northwestern Europe 1,000-1,200 years ago), Old English got mixed up with Old Norse, the language of the Viking tribes. Old Norse ended up giving English more than 2,000 new words, including “give” and “take”, “egg”, “knife”, “husband”, “run” and “viking”.

The French are coming: Although English was spoken widely on the British Isles by 1,000 AD, the Norman invasion established French as the language of royals and of power. Old English was left to the peasants, and despite its less glamorous status, it continued to develop and grow by adopting a whole host of Latin and French words, including everyday words such as  “beer”,”city”, “fruit” and “people”, as well as half of the months of the year. By adopting and adapting French words, the English language also became more sophisticated through the inclusion of concepts and words like “liberty” and “justice”.

Modern English 

Early Modern English (1500 – 1800) – the tempest ends in a storm: In the 14th-15th century, following the Hundred Years War with France that ended French rule of the British Isles, English became the language of power and influence once again. It got a further boost through the development of English literature and English culture, spearheaded by William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s influence on the development of the English language and its unique and rich culture is hard to grasp; the man is said to have invented at least 1,700 words, including “alligator”, “puppy dog”, and “fashionable”, in addition to penning classics like Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet!

Towards the end of Middle English, a sudden and distinct change in pronunciation (the Great Vowel Shift) started, with vowels being pronounced shorter and shorter. From the 16th century the British had contact with many peoples from around the world. This, and the Renaissance of Classical learning, meant that many new words and phrases entered the language. The invention of printing also meant that there was now a common language in print. Books became cheaper and more people learned to read. Printing also brought standardization to English. Spelling and grammar became fixed, and the dialect of London, where most publishing houses were, became the standard. In 1604 the first English dictionary was published.

Last Modern English (1800 – Present): The main difference between Early Modern English and Late Modern English is vocabulary. Late Modern English has many more words, arising from two principal factors: firstly, the Industrial Revolution and technology created a need for new words; secondly, the English-speaking world was at the center of a lot of scientific progress, scientific advances went hand-in-hand with the evolution of the language.

English goes global

From around 1600, the English colonization of North America resulted in the creation of a distinct American variety of English. Some English pronunciations and words “froze” when they reached America. In some ways, American English is more like the English of Shakespeare than modern British English is. Some expressions that the British call “Americanisms” are in fact original British expressions that were preserved in the colonies while lost for a time in Britain (for example trash for rubbish, loan as a verb instead of lend, and fall for autumn; another example, frame-up, was re-imported into Britain through Hollywood gangster movies). Spanish also had an influence on American English (and subsequently British English), with words like canyon, ranch,stampede and vigilante being examples of Spanish words that entered English through the settlement of the American West. French words (through Louisiana) and West African words (through the slave trade) also influenced American English (and so, to an extent, British English).

Today, American English is particularly influential, due to the USA’s dominance of cinema, television, popular music, trade and technology (including the Internet). But there are many other varieties of English around the world, including for example Australian English, New Zealand English, Canadian English, South African English, Indian English and Caribbean English.

English of the 21st century 

And on that note: the most amazing thing about English is that it’s still evolving. From the development of local dialects and slang in countries as far apart as the US, South Africa and New Zealand, and in cities as different as New York, Oxford and Singapore, to the incorporation of tech vocabulary into everyday English. English is in a constant state of flux.

Vocabulary alone is increasing at a pace of approximately 1,000 new and approved words per year; and these are just the words that are considered important enough to get added to the online version of the English Dictionary! This dramatic increase in new words is largely due to technology, and how people spontaneously coin new words in their email and text transmissions that spread quickly and efficiently via social media. A large percentage of new words are portmanteau words, also called blended words — a word that combines the meaning of two discrete words; for example, cineplex is formed from cinema and complex, bromance is formed from brother and romance, staycation is formed from stay and vacation. You get the idea.

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© David Goehring

The English language has been shaped by a number of other languages over the centuries, and many English speakers know that Latin and German were two of the most important. What many people don’t realize is how much the French language has influenced English.

During the Norman occupation, about 10,000 French words were adopted into English, some three-fourths of which are still in use today.

According to Oxford English Dictionary 1.000 new English words are added to the dictionary every year. The reason is that English is official language in 83 countries/regions and spoken in 105 other countries and second most spoken language worldwide after Mandarin. 380 million people speak English as their first language, 510 million as their second. That makes in total 890 million English speakers worldwide. Furthermore,  technology, healthcare, aviation, engineering, power and energy and all of the sciences have also one thing in common. They are all subjects that are almost universally communicated in English.

Due to these facts it is no surprise that every year new English words, terms and expressions are born. However, there are still words and phrases missing that are French and should be used in English. Here they are:


© Daniel Dalton / BuzzFeed

British English and American English seem both versions of the language have the same roots, the last 400-odd years have produced some pretty strong variation in the English language that can seem worlds apart. Depending on the region, American and British English have large differences in spelling, pronunciation, vocabulary, punctuation, and tenses. Here are just a few:


1) Spelling:

Many differences between American and British English stem from Latin-derived spellings and Greek-derived spellings. Those differences are seen in the unstressed endings to words such as:

Latin-derived spellings:

American English British English
Color Colour
Behavior Behaviour
Honor Honour

Greek-derived spellings:

American English British English
Organize Organise
Dialogue Dialog
Analyze Analyse


2) Pronunciation:


There are some words that are spelled the same in both dialects, but that are pronounced with a distinct stress on difference syllables: controversy and schedule are just a few. The word ‘aluminium’ in Britain and the English colonies has a curious extra letter and syllable added, to make it ‘alumini-EE-um.’ Then there are words that have both differing spelling and pronunciation: defense (British version: Defence) and axe (British version: ax).



3) Vocabulary:


Some words in one dialect may have a completely different meaning in the other, or vice versa. A ‘boot’ to an American would be a pair of shoes, but to a Brit, the boot would refer to the trunk of a car, as in: ‘just getting my tire out of the boot’. So to keep your miscommunications to a minimum, here are some helpful translations:

American English –> British English

Cookie –> Biscuit

Pharmacy –> Chemist’s

French Fries –> Chips

Highway –> Carriageway

Trash –> Dustbin


4) Dates:


In the UK, dates are usually written differently in the short (numerical) form. Valentines Day 2015, for example, is 14/2/15, with the day preceding the month. On the contrary in American English it’s written 2/14/15. This way can be quite confusing, when writing letters or arranging a meetings. In fact British refer to the day/month/year structure, the Americans prefer to write in the style of month/day/year. So make sure that you know with whom you communicating in order to avoid misunderstandings.

5) Punctuation:

The most common form of differing punctuation is seen through titles. In American English titles such as Dr., Mrs., Ms., Mr., are spelled with the use of a period, while its not uncommon for the British version will omit the period altogether.

All in all, you’ll find that written forms of British and American English vary surprisingly little, while the most noticeable differences will be in the spoken form of British English. Winston Churchill once said: “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” True then, true now, but perhaps we can make the gap a little bit smaller. Or, as the Brits might say, make it teeny.


© Kamyar Adl

1. You replace your coffee machine with a kettle for tea, and you’re sorted.

2. Whether it’s healthy or not, drinking tea with milk becomes natural.

3. You start having serious discussions on the way to make “proper tea” (Tea first, than milk – Never ever milk before tea)

4. You have an opinion about which biscuits are best for dunking in your tea.

5. You start calling everyone by their first name; your boss, your banker, your doctor…

6. Apologizing replaces complaining; even when people bump into you on the street.

7. Weekends turn into pub crawls and are dominated by football.

8. After work = pub time

9. The sun comes out for 5 minutes and you drop everything to phone your friends and organise a BBQ.

10. You bet on dog and horse racing.

11. You wear flip flops and shorts on sunny days, even when temperature are less than 15 degrees.

12. Talking about the weather turns into a daily habit.

13. You never make eye contact with anyone on public transport.

14. You order your next pint before you finish your first – you must NEVER EVER EVER have an empty glass.

15. You’d rather spend Christmas in England than in your home country — they have crackers!

16. Alcohol oils the wheels of your social life – from a traditional wedding to the conviviality of a night out at the local pub or after a day at work.

17. Dinner must be eaten between 17h30 and 18h30 (at the latest!), otherwise you miss pub time.

18. You are great at queuing; even in front of the fridge at the supermarket.

19. Packing an umbrella is a must – just in case the weather turns.

20. You drink your first beer of the holiday at the airport, whatever the time it is.

21. Putting chips or potato crisps in a sandwich are common side dishes.

22. You start losing sensitivity for cold, especially on a Friday or Saturday out

23. You get used to drink your beer warm, especially Ale.

24. Even if your hairdressers shaved off all of your hair, you still say “thank you – it looks fine” in order to be polite.



Do you have the thought about learning something new every day, for example a foreign language? Many people are thinking about the same but most of them have lack of time or motivation.

This makes it difficult to start and go ahead with the project “learning a foreign language” but I want to show you 9 reasons about how learning a new language can change your life.







4) You have more fun while travelling

Learning a new language has a massive impact on the way you experience your trips. Instead of spending most of the time in assisted hotel complexes, you will have the courage to mingle with the locals. You will be capable to experience a country and its culture deeper and differently.

Locals will appreciate your effort to speak their language and they bring you to hidden treasures off the beaten track, where no trip advisor would have ever taken you. Speaking a new language is your key to collect unforgettable impressions of the holiday destination and experience your personal and fascinating adventure.


5) You will change the way you think

Each language is another personality and has its own distinctive way of expressing ideas. Varying grammar structures force the speaker to rethink how they emphasize certain ideas. Words can have different etymologies that, even if only on a subconscious level, affect the associations you have with them. As a result an important part of language learning is embracing these personality changes and being comfortable with them. That’s why people who are “fluent” in a language are generally those that don’t shy away from this. If they adopt the mannerism and mentality of a speaker of a different language, their delivery improves, along with their grammar, pronunciation and of course confidence.

The University of Stockholm found out that speaking two languages can have a cognitive impact on the behavior of a person. Especially on bilinguals, because the way they think differently depends on the linguistic environment in which they act. To emphasize the effect of speaking two languages I quote the study of the University of Stockholm: “The study examined English and German, which differ in how they express events: English has a progressive tense to zoom in on the unfolding of an event, whereas German does not have this option grammatically. When asked to match videoclips depicting everyday motion events, German speakers attached more importance to whether there was a visible goal of the motion, whereas English speakers were more focused on the action itself, paying less attention to the endpoints. German-English bilinguals, in contrast, matched events on the basis of either action or goal, depending on the language in which they received the instructions.

Moreover, when one of the languages of the bilinguals was kept busy through the repetition of number strings, the other language came to the fore, such that when they repeated numbers in German, the matching preferences were English-like, and vice-versa. Crucially, this behaviour was attested within one and the same participant, as the language of number repetition was switched half-way through the experiment.”




6) You become open-minded as well as more tolerant and making decisions becomes way easier

The study of the University of Chicago shows that there is a link between speaking a foreign language and the ability to make wiser financial choices. Psychologists from the university found that when people speak in a language other than their native tongue, it helps eliminate our tendency towards loss aversion and getting caught up in the ‘here and now’ to make choices that could profit us further down the road. That’s the reason why people, who speak a second language, have a higher self-confidence and reassess things in the other language, before they take a decision.  Learning a new language helps to simplify small decisions in life as we become more open-minded and adventurous.




7) You get more attractive

Learning a language through a language course is a social process and mostly done within a group. You meet new people whom you would have never met before and start bonding with them. An accent in a foreign language seems to be attractive regarding several studies of CNN and BBC. The reason is that an accent indicates something unfamiliar and new for a native speaker and attracts him or her to speak to this person. Especially the British, French, Italia and Spanish accents in a foreign language have a high sex appeal but also Czech, Nigerian, Brazilian and Thai attract native speaker to show interest in the foreign speaker. That’s the reason why you should stop being ashamed of your accent in a foreign language.




8) You get more paid and successful

Learning a new language can be high valuable for you professional career and your wallet. People, who are able to speak foreign languages, are not only more popular with the opposite sex, they increase also their earning power regarding the BBC study. Speaking a second language can increase an average worker’s salary by 4.200 euro a year and 205.000 euro per lifetime. According to the company’s survey, the sector most in need of language skills is media, sales and marketing.


9) You climb the job ladder

Nowadays, it is nearly inevitable that you don’t have the ability of speaking minimum two languages, if you want to find a job with high responsibilities and opportunities for advancement. In a globalized working atmosphere applicants with a diversity of languages are in great demand. The companies are internationally orientated and expect from their employees to communicate with their clients in their native language. Learning a language is not only limited to studying grammar or vocabulary. You learn also about the culture, traditions and their way of thinking. You start questioning your actions and analyze what is wrong or right. Dealing with and understanding other cultures and their history helps to see things differently and makes more tolerant and open-minded. Due to these facts learning a foreign language is the key to go abroad and work in a different country. It enables it for you to become the responsible for specific international business relationships, where the specific language is mandatory and it turns you into a highly important employee.


Summing up, speaking a foreign language helps you to get smarter, to make new friends and to find undiscovered places on your personal adventure. In addition it increases your average salary and makes you more attractive. Adventure, money, success and love! What do you want more?

I hope I could provide you with enough reasons, why it is recommendable and helpful to learn new languages.



The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment, is a guideline used to describe achievements of learners of foreign languages across...