Sunday, March 6, 2016

Free Games for Practising English

Do you know that one of the best ways to improve your English is to play with it?
Below you can find some funny sites! Enjoy and let me know which one you like best!

Books are magic

What do you know about Harry Potter? Look for these virtues and write down a definition for each of them. If each virtue is linked to a character, which one can you identify with? 
(70 words)

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Do you have a cashmere garment in your closet? Don’t you love its softness?

Cashmere is one of the most rare and special wool in the world and also one of the most valued. It is soft, silky, light and good thermal insulation.

Cashmere wool comes from the innermost layer of the hair of a goat, which originally could only be found in isolated local populations in the mountains of Tibet, on the southern slopes of the Himalayas and in the Xinjiang region in China, mountain areas with sub-zero temperatures.

This inner layer of hair is separated from the outside, protective and thicker during the moulting in spring and only after a manual combing work and classification. Over two goats are needed to make one sweater. If we add the low rate of world production (approximately 6,500 metric tons of pure cashmere by year, instead of 2 million tonnes of sheep wool), we can understand its relatively high price compared with other fibres and its use as a sign of class, luxury and distinction.

Its name comes from a region of northern India. The cashmere is manufactured in Mongolia, Nepal and Kashmir since thousands of years ago to make fabulous scarves and shawls. This fibre is also known as pashmina (Persian wool).

In the fourteenth century, Ali Hamadani reached Ladakh region with 700 weavers and artisans from Persia, discovering the goats of the region and its soft wool. Legend said that he took some yarns and knitted a pair of socks as a present for the king of Kashmir. The sultan loved the quality and allowed Hamadani starts a weaving industry of shawls with this wool.

The shawls were introduced into Europe when the Commander in Chief of the French campaign in Egypt (1799-1802) sent one to Paris. The arrival of the shawl was an immediate success and manufacturing started in France. Trading in commercial quantities of raw cashmere between Asia and Europe began with Valerie Audresset SA, a French company located in Louviers, being the first European company to commercially spin cashmere. Years later the Scottish textile manufacturer Joseph Dawson discovered the Indian pashminas and began importing the material to its factory in Scotland. Dawson sells these shawls to the British upper class women, who appreciated the fabric for its softness and warmth. A piece of high quality cashmere can be up to eight times warmer than sheep’s wool despite its lightweight.

Texture, colour and fibre length affect its manufacture and its price. The more white cashmere fibres require less dye, minimizing the damage that causes the colour to its natural softness, and they are the most appreciated. The quality also depends on the region in which the wool is collected. In Inner Mongolia, for example, winters are harsh and goats have a poorer diet. They produce a finest hair, perfect for the garments of the highest quality.

China has become the largest producer of raw cashmere, but Europe is who controls the spinning and manufacturing methods, and it has cornered the market on high quality products.

One brand that currently manufactures wonderful cashmere shawls is Burberry. This season has presented a new section on its website, “Bar Scarf”. There, fans can customize the classic checks scarf classical of brushed cashmere, adding their initials embroidered. For this campaign, Burberry has made this video that I share with you, because apart from an exquisite aesthetic, you will see the whole making process the shawls in Scotland.


Now that you are aware of cashmere's history, write ten questions whose answers are in the text. Make sure that the most important information is in your questions.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

20 Words and phrases English owes to Shakespeare

A foregone conclusion (Othello) – said when the outcome of a situation is clear from the beginning.
The truth will out (the Merchant of Venice) – meaning that the truth will eventually come out, no matter what you do to try to hide it.
I haven’t slept a wink (Cymbeline) – meaning not to have slept at all.
Too much of a good thing (As You Like It) – used to warn against excess. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

To wear your heart on your sleeve (Othello) – meaning to show your emotions, especially romantic feelings, openly.

There’s method in my madness (Hamlet) – meaning that beneath apparently chaotic behaviour there is some kind of order.

The green-eyed monster (Othello) – meaning jealousy (jealousy and envy are associated with the colour green in English, as in ‘green with envy’).

The world’s your oyster (The Merry Wives of Windsor) – this means being able to do anything you want because you have the opportunity to do so, either through talent, looks, luck, power or money.

To make your hair stand on end (Hamlet) – used to describe something very scary.

They’re all still in common use today, so why not try throwing one or two into your conversation?

Surprising facts about the English language

  1. Although the official language of 56 countries around the world, English is not the official language of the United Kingdom; that is, it has no legal official status, although it is, of course, the de facto official language. The same is true of the United States, New Zealand and Australia. The languages with legally official status in the UK are Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Ulster Scots, Scots and Scottish Gaelic.
  2. Despite the fact that ‘e’ is the most common letter in the language, novelist Ernest Vincent Wright once wrote a novel of 50,000 words – Gadsby – that did not include a single letter ‘e’ – a no doubt amazingly wondrous orthographical act but fully and thoroughly lacking a point.
  3. Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name. Or at least, he never spelled it consistently. There are six surviving signatures by the Bard of Avon, and he spells his name differently each time: Willm ShakpWilliam ShaksperWm ShakspWilliam ShakspereWillm Shakspere and William Shakspeare. However, this is partly because it was common practice at the time to abbreviate names in signatures and partly because English spelling had yet to be standardised. A teacher of mine used to call him Old Billy Waggledaggerinstead. Can you work out why?
  4. There’s a reason why we don’t eat pig and cow but we do eat pork and beef. It harks back to the Middle Ages, when Norman French was the language of the nobility in England and English itself the language of the peasantry. On the farm the animals were referred to by their Anglo-Saxon names, but by the time they reached the dining table they were being tasted and talked of in French.
  5. Even though ‘it’s raining cats and dogs’ is one of the best-known English idioms, very few people actually say it these days or even know where it comes from. The most commonly accepted explanation is that English homes in the past had thatched roofs, and domestic animals such as cats and dogs would often hide in them, only to be washed out of the thatch, or to flee it in search of better shelter, during times of torrential rain.
  6. English has more pronouns than y’all learned in school. Unlike many languages, modern (but not Old or Middle) English lacks a distinct pronoun for the second person plural (at least as far as ‘standard’ English goes). ‘You’ is used to address both one person and more than one person (compare Spanish ‘tu’ and ‘vosotros’). This obvious gap has been filled in numerous creative ways by different groups of speakers. Most of you will be familiar with the US pronouns ‘you guys’ and ‘y’all’, while in the UK it’s not uncommon in certain regions (and within my own family) to hear ‘youse’ or even ‘you lot’. In some parts of the north of England, the otherwise obsolete familiar second person pronouns ‘thee’and ‘thou’ are also still alive.
  7. Perhaps not one of the most surprising facts about the English language, but one in four of the world’s population speaks it either fluently or to a useful level as a second language, with non-native speakers currently outnumbering native speakers by four to one. This reflects not only English’s status as a true world language, but the growing need for non-speakers to learn it in order to be able to operate in an increasingly globalised world.
  8. Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia is a word in English meaning ‘fear of long words’. Although it’s obviously a term that has been coined for ironic effect, it’s based on the genuine medical term sesquipedalophobia. Neither term is helpful if you have to explain your condition at the doctor’s, especially not if ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ is playing on the radio.

Ten funny English common sayings

I have just come across this website where you can find funny common sayings with images which are used in colloquial English.

Guess who?

Today I propose you a little game to play. I am giving you a certain number of clues to discover our mysterious man!
"Follow the rabbit" (remember Alice in the Wonderland!) in order to find out.

April 23rd 1564    

November 27th 1582    

Around 1590? He went to London   

April 23rd 1616   

Are you still lost in the fog? Read some more hints below:

  • April 26th, 1564 recorded in the register of the Holy Trinity Parish Church the baptism, so it is agreed that he was born on April 23rd.

  • The father was a gloves maker and the mother a woman called Mary Arden.

  • November 27th 1582. Marriage licence, he married Anne Hathaway.

  • May 26th 1583 his daughter Susan was born.

  • February 2nd 1585 Hammet and Judith were born.

  • During a period known to scholars as the “ dark years”, a period for which we have no biographical information, he moved to London for career reasons. His father has suffered some financial difficulties and it was necessary for our mysterious man to find a work that would support his family. He managed to obtain a position with Pembroke’s Men and continued to work for London theatrical companies.

  • April, 23rd, 1616 death of a fever and on his tomb was written: 
“Good friends for Jesus sake forbeare

 to dig the dust enclosed here 
blessed the man that spares these bones 
and cursed be he that moves my bones”

  • You would ask what’s in the middle…  I suppose you have already discovered who we are speaking about.

  • He is considered a genius and the best playwright ever, he wrote thirty-eight plays of which the most famous ten tragedies. Let mention them:

  1. Antony and Cleopatra
  2. Coriolanus
  3. Hamlet
  4. Julius Caesar
  5. King Lear
  6. Macbeth
  7. Othello
  8. Romeo and Juliet
  9. Timon of Athens
  10. Titus Andronicus