Sham 69!

Welcome to Blog 69. It makes me remember Sham 69! For the last couple of weeks we’ve been focusing on vocabulary and how challenging it can be to acquire new words. (‘Lexical ítems’, as we call them in the business). Today I want to focus a little more on the person who’s learning the language, ‘the learner’, and how different learners have different preferences when it comes to learning. They are often unaware of these preferences until someone points them out. I want to begin by referring you to Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory. In contrast to the traditional definition of ‘intelligence’, still championed by MENSA and the outdated IQ test, Gardner acknowledges that : ‘We are not all the same and we do not all have the same kinds of minds’. He goes on to say that: ‘Education works most effectively if these differences are taken into account rather than denied or ignored.’ Here at ETC, we believe this to be true and try to accommodate different intelligences at every opportunity. The following link shows Herbert Puchta, an experienced teacher and trainer, speaking about MI Theory. I hope you enjoy it J We’ll look more closely next week. Until then, have a nice week. Remember, Spring officially begins on Wednesday.



Welcome back real friends! (Not false ones, I trust!) So, I hope you enjoyed the poem and worked out some of the funnies. ‘A law suit’ is not the gown that a Judge wears in court and the word they were looking for wasn’t ‘toupee’ but ‘wig’. I also believe the oil men were ‘drilling’ for something in the sea off Bournemouth beach.  In Spanish ‘constipado’ means ‘blocked up/nasally congested/stuffed up’ and the Spanish girl’s friend was pregnant, (embarazada).

An ‘unbending’ face is just something I threw in as the collocation is of course a straight face, and the person in question spoke German, where  a cake is a ‘torte’, and ‘bekommen’ means ‘to get’.

If you’re interested, you can find a whole bunch of ‘false Friends’ from different languages at

So, friends, as spring begins to bounce, from all at ETC: ‘later’. (Cool way of saying goodbye!)

False Friends

OK, welcome back everyone. Did you ‘make’ last week’s homework? Of course a ‘weighty’ smoker would be a ‘heavy’ smoker, and a ‘strong’ illness would be a ‘serious’ illness. He had a ‘brush’ with death and a ‘close’ shave but thankfully, ‘pulled’ through. Despite this, I’m guessing you understood.

As promised at the end of last week, today’s blog looks at ‘false friends’ or ‘false cognates’, to give them their official title. English has adapted words from so many languages over the years that it’s not surprising some English words sound similar to words in a foreign language. So similar, in fact, that students often believe they mean the same thing. This is particularly common with Latin based languages, Take for example “I was having a problem with my homework, but the teacher wasn’t very sympathetic.” No problem here, except that the word sympathetic sounds like ‘simpatico’ in Spanish, and this word means ‘nice’. Now, although that makes sense, it’s not really a translation. The teacher may well have not been very ‘nice’, but it doesn’t really mean ‘sympathetic’. Also, in French, ‘sympathique’ sounds even more like sympathetic, but like Spanish it also means ‘nice’ or ‘friendly’. Obviously this unsympathetic teacher wasn’t at ETC, as our teachers are very sympathetic, and ‘friendly’. Anyway, as we haven’t had a poem for a couple of weeks, I thought I’d leave you with this one. It’s another one of mine, because I don’t have to pay copyright! It contains a number of things I’ve heard in my years of teaching, not necessarily ‘false friends’ but all real. Can you spot them? I’ll confirm or correct next week.

False Friends


Today in my class

the Judges wore law suits

with toupees,

and oil men screwed in the sea.


The girl with the sniffly nose

told me that she required a tissue

for her constipation, and her friend had been

embarrassed for eight months.


And everyone kept an unbending face

as Mr ‘not very popular’ said that

every evening he would become a tart

and at Christmas became a turkey.

A large deal… a big deal?

Looking back at last week’s blog and the example in the Cambridge Dictionary, it’s hardly surprising that learners sometimes find it all a bit challenging! However, if someone said ‘a strong frost’ to me, I think I’d know what they meant, wouldn’t I? Scott Thornbury in his ‘A to Z of EFL’ says that in English you ‘thoroughly enjoy’ something and not ‘completely enjoy’ it, and you ‘do’ your homework, rather than ‘make’ it. He’s right, of course; but for how much longer? How long will it be before English as we know it changes under global pressure? As far as I can see, there’s no breakdown in communication if someone says they haven’t ‘made’ their homework, and ‘completely’ enjoy something. ‘Do’ the beds, not ‘make’ was what I grew up with in Manchester, so it’s probably not such a ‘big deal’.

Although at the moment, to me ‘a large deal’ sounds like something you might get in a fast food restaurant!

Here’s a sentence to think about for homework, before we slip into March.

He was a weighty smoker who contracted a strong illness and had a broom with death. It was a very near shave but he tugged through.

Next week, we’ll look at some ‘false friends!

Lurking together…

I get my kicks, on blog sixty six! Couldn’t resist it! Hope you liked the ‘soppy’ poem.

So, groups of word commonly found ‘lurking together’. (On street corners?)

Collocation refers to how words go together or form fixed relationships.

The combination of words formed when two or more words are often used together in a way that sounds correct: The phrase “a hard frost” is a collocation.

In the phrase “a hard frost“, “hard” is a collocation of “frost” and “strong” would not sound natural.

‘A word or phrase that is often used with another word or phrase, in a way that sounds correct to people who have spoken the language all their lives, but might not be expected from the meaning.’

All definitions taken from The Cambridge Learners’ Dictionary.

Here are a few from last week’s poem: ‘to skim for gist’, ‘to scan for detail’, ‘to read between the lines’, ‘to hang on someone’s every word’, ‘to feel the rhythm’, ‘to assimilate what is said’, ‘to respect someone’s right to silence’, ‘tense and aspect’, ‘to analyse discourse’, ‘learning and acquisition’.

Goodness me…Next week we’ll delve deeper.

Where we’re going we don’t need “words”

As ETC is an English language teaching college and this blog is about language, I’ll get back to the ‘serious business of teaching matters’. In our job (TESOL), we tend not to think in terms of ‘words’ but rather ‘lexical items’. Michael Lewis, in his excellent 1993 book ‘The Lexical Approach’, points out that, ‘many ‘bits’ of language (lexical items) do not consist of a single word but are found in groups or ‘chunks’. For example, (by the way, the day after tomorrow, coffee table, I’ll see you later). Here at ETC we know that, consequently, we actively encourage ETC students to notice vocabulary as lexical items, chunks and patterns, rather than as individual words!

Next time we’ll look at this area a little more closely. I’ll be back! J Have a sick St Valentine’s Day, by the way! I’ll leave you with a soppy poem which contains a few lexical items:

The English Teacher’s Wife

He skims her for gist,

scans for detail,

top down, bottom up.

reads between her lines.

He hangs on her every word,

feels her rhythm, her stress,

assimilates what she says,

respects her right to silence.

He considers her tense and aspect;

acknowledges her mood,

analyses her discourse; always

more to learn, more to acquire.

What does it mean?

Where did January go? Away with the snow, probably! The world looked so pretty for a few hours. So, back to business. February, and what does it mean to actually ‘know’ a word? To answer this question, I’ve taken the following definition from ‘The Primary National Strategy, 1779-2005DOC-EN’. It’s what I believe our children’s teachers are being asked to consider when assessing their learners.


Knowing and using words – Definition

Having the ability to recognise, comprehend and produce the particular units of language, in particular words or phrases, which carry independent meanings sufficiently distinct for them to be demarcated from other words and phrases. For example, being able to use a wide range of words and phrases, whether indicated by sound, vision or touch, and recognise that they refer to objects, ideas and concepts in a relatively constant manner.

Wicked! Awesome! Sick! Smittle! Next week, we’ll take a closer look at how important it is to, ‘recognise, comprehend and produce the particular units of language, in particular words or phrases, which carry independent meanings sufficiently distinct for them to be demarcated from other words and phrases,’ see words in groups. Until then, from ETC International, have a ‘sufficiently distinct’ week!