Language Articles

The English language.

Double click on any word to listen to the pronunciation.


There are some phrases we hear often in English that just don’t mean what they say.  For example, my daughter comes into the kitchen. ‘There’s nothing on the telly. I’m bored to death.’ She obviously isn’t dead.

She is walking talking, making tea, eating a biscuit – she never gets bored of chocolate biscuits. Her  words though serve to emphasise just how very bored she is.  She could have said ‘Bored stiff’ – dead bodies stiffen after all.

I like to think it's spring in February when the very first snow drop pushes through the snow. But by the time you read this it will be May, the snowdrops have long retreated back into the soil and the garden is full of blossom, late tulips, primroses and all the rest. It is a time of new beginnings, of fresh hopes.

I suppose I've done over half my studies remotely by distance learning. For some people, it's the ideal way to go, but there are a lot of pros and cons. It depends to a large extent on each individual whether it works best for them.

I used to learn French by leaving lists all over the place, even on the bathroom tiles. I tried making lists on particular topics – sport, names of plants, adverbs, the weather. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Then my sister moved to Belgium and invited me for an extended stay. We didn’t do many ‘touristy’ things, but ordinary family things – the supermarket, buying children’s shoes, going to the dry cleaners and making a complaint and all the rest. How my French flourished! The fact is, I was learning in context.


We use codes all the time:  Right now your computer is reading and decoding machine code. And you probably use codes, when you're texting on the phone or the internet, that is using a code. Understanding  that a toddler who says ‘Wink’ is actually asking for a drink of milk  - that is decoding of a sort. We even have dress codes, and the way we dress can tell someone who can read the language a lot. Here in multi-cultural Britain   we can often tell someone’s religion , place of origin or sporting affiliations  by the way they dress – from a a football fan’s tee shirt, to whether a Muslim woman is covered from head to foot, or the brightly dyed cloths of African nationals. In fact, if we see someone these days dressed in a suit and tie, he is likely to be going to a wedding, going to a funeral, or going to try to convert you to his religion, unless he is on business that is. And believe it or not some church minister’s even wear jeans these days  - and not just the young ones.  Dress codes can mean inclusion, whether it is a school uniform or wearing a chef’s tall hat in a professional kitchen. I heard on the radio today about a gang in London who wear just one glove as a sign of membership.


When you meet someone new, under social or business circumstances, it's important to know how to address the individual standing in front of you. Properly addressing people in different situations shows you're respectful of their position and mindful of not offending them in any way. Refined social etiquette as it relates to addressing others promotes smooth and friendly conversation.

Here are 10 tips for properly addressing people in different situations:


There is almost only flat land between my house and the North sea. Only a few trees and the occasional farmhouse or small village between us and the sea, until you come right to the sea front with its taller hotels. This lack of obstructions  makes for strong winds bringing with them freezing weather. Yet my weather cock, seen clearly from the kitchen window , is pointing clearly to indicate  softer westerlies.  One of these days, but not today, I must climb up and see what is jamming it, although at least it promises better weather to come. It is gloomy as well. There is a sundial in the garden, a very accurate one, but it isn’t not much use today when there is complete cloud cover.  Britain is a place of ever changing weather so it is a frequent subject of conversation. As I walk to the next village I am just as likely to greet someone with ‘Lovely day ‘ or ‘Isn’t it cold’ as ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’. It is an ice breaker, a start to a conversation, or just something to say as we pass each other on the road.

We all have preferred ways of learning.  Some prefer to read, others to listen, but both benefit from repetition.

My mother would learn to spell new words by tracing them out on her palm. I am learning German so I keep a grammar book in the bathroom, but it is slow going, mostly because I don't "do" enough.

Understanding how you learn best can help you develop a learning strategy that works for you.

Starting a Blog?

If you are like most people, you need inspiration to be able to start writing. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Union Jack  American Flag

England and America share a common language. Or at least that is the theory. Yes I know there are lots of differences in individual spellings – humor and humour , neighbour and neighbour, and all the rest. Then there are differences of use - they walk on sidewalks whereas we use pavements. They eat cookies and biscuits, whereas we eat biscuits and scones.

I have recently joined an international group of women writers. We meet on line once a week in a chat room  and share ideas, comment on each others work, make suggestions and offer prompts and ideas for other pieces of writing.