Language Articles

The English language.

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Are British accents or American accents preferable for ESL learners?

If you are learning English as a second language (ESL) the question of English accents, and whether you should take on a British accent or an American accent, becomes important. Most often the English language is either spoken with an American accent from the United States or with a British accent from England, but English varies immensely. British accents vary from city to city, and American accents vary from state to state, so really there is no superior or preferential English accent. There are also Canadian accents, Australian accents, Scottish accents, Irish accents, South African accents, and New Zealand accents which all have unique sounds and need to be considered when learning English.


What Makes One Language Harder or Easier Than Another?

What makes one language harder or easier to learn than another? Unfortunately, there is no one simple answer. There are some languages which have a number of characteristics that make them relatively difficult to learn. But it depends much more on what languages you already know, particularly your native language, the one (or ones) you grew up speaking.

Received Pronunciation and the Accent of the Royal Baby 

People around the world are celebrating the arrival of Prince William and the Duchess of Cornwall's son, a shiny new royal baby for the press to pester.  Most people are excited to see what the baby will look like (gorgeous no doubt), but others are wondering how the baby will eventually sound.  Will he speak 'The Queen’s English'?

Yet another set of twins has arrived in our family, I have almost lost count of the number of relations we have who are twins. Apparently for each set of twins in a close family your chances of having twins yourself increases by 8%. My youngest daughter was a twin and she has two grandmothers who were also twins; one of whom also had twin brothers. It is getting to the point where she says she would be disappointed if she only had one child at once.

I read recently that there are at least 40 theories as to how people learn a second language and that each of these theories has a number of scholars who support it, but also those who don’t. What is obvious is that we learn in different ways – by listening, imitation, repetition and so on. These various ways are divided into two groups. There is   acquisition i.e. unconscious learning in the way a child learns by listening and observation  The other way is of course active learning as when we try to learn a verb tense or a list of vocabulary. The conclusion that the linguistic scholars seem to share is that the classroom and book learning are not the most important ways to learn a language. It is being immersed as far as is possible that is important – being exposed to a language in as many ways and as often as possible.

Have you ever heard a "Knock , knock. Who’s there?" joke?  What about something that “makes your hair stand on end”?

William Shakespeare not only wrote great plays, and wonderful, romantic poetry, but this balding, long-dead man from Stratford , so enhanced the English language , that we are still using his words and phrases today. You might have a friend whom you describe as having ‘a heart of gold’ or someone else to whom you say, “Good riddance!”. Maybe certain foods or sounds, “Set your teeth on edge”. Has someone ever made you jealous? Then you were suffering from, “The green eyed monster”.


Proofreading your writing: When to call in the professionals

As an EFL learner it is normal to expect that you will make some grammar and punctuation mistakes in your writing. One of the most effective ways to reduce or eliminate these flaws is to have your writing proofread and edited either by yourself, a friend or a professional. Whilst using the services of a professional proofreader is usually the most effective option, in many cases it is not the most pragmatic or feasible one.

This article seeks to discuss when it is most appropriate to call in the professionals and what to look for in such services. It also provides guidance on cheaper (or free) alternatives when this is not an option for you.


The other day my husband came in with the groceries.

‘I’ve bought plenty of pasta packets.’ he said.

To me this means little packs to serve one or two people, that contain both pasta and the ingredients for a sauce – a quick snack when in a hurry. You just add water or milk, perhaps some butter and heat up.  Today we’d been out for a walk and needed lunch quickly so that he could go on to an appointment. but I searched the shopping bag in vain.  Plenty of plain pasta in packets,  but no pasta packets.  We discussed the difference between a packet of pasta and a pasta packet over lunch – sardine sandwiches.

How to perfect an American or British English accent

The problem

Learning a language is one thing, but learning how to perfect a certain accent is quite another. That said, many people embark on the quest for that perfect British or American English accent.  

Language can be slow to catch up with changes in society, for example, we still talk about ringing someone up, even though phones no longer have a little bell attached as they did in the "good old" days, and we download "ring tones" for our mobile phones, even though half the time they are snippets of popular songs.  We also talk about dialling a number, although we no longer use phones where you have to put your finger into a dial with holes and move it round, but we don’t say we press or type a number, even though that is exactly what we do.

Having trouble learning English? Do it like the stars!

Many of Hollywood’s finest non-native speaking actors have had to learn English fast after realising that they were destined for movie stardom stateside. With this need to master fluent English to seize the opportunities of fame and fortune that Hollywood offers, it is no surprise that they have the inside scoop on some of the most efficient tricks to mastering English quickly.