Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Away for the Summer

My Apologies... I have not been blogging of late as it's the summer. I am in the UK until September, firstly looking after Summer schools, and later teaching at a Uni. But I doubt that you've missed me... there are no exams at the moment after all.


Saturday, 26 June 2010

The Times, it is a Changing...

It seems that the Economist magazine and now the (London) Times newspapers are charging for an increasing amount of online content. And fair enough too. It must cost a great deal to produce such publications. But I wonder at the business model. Far be it from me to question the mighty Rupert Murdoch, the man certainly knows business, but there are plenty of alternatives available online, most of which are free, gratis, for nothing and cost tipota (please excuse my attempt at Greek with the Roman alphabet Greek readers). Certainly he managed to turn a formerly free (by which I mean 'no fee') industry in to a fee paying one in Britain in the late 80s and early 90s with satellite television. He managed to do so by cornering the sports rights, most importantly the football of the Premiership, but the written word is a different media all together, a different 'ball game' as our American cousins might say.
The Economist has been free in its past and also pay to access, but its content is all together different. It's a weekly periodical, more highbrow, better written and serves a different purpose to the Times. And by changing back and forth between paid and free services I get the impression that they might have struggled with this model. Perhaps the traditional internet models of flash advertising are better. But the internet itself is such a game changer and no one can really tell. Who would have predicted Wikipedia ten years ago? Despite being biased occasionally, and less than authoritative in some area it remains a wonderful resource and a place I visit daily, just remembering the usual caveats that pertain to the internet as a whole. And look at those business that were slow to change their models. The producers of music and now films have had to take a long hard look at their industries, and the financing. It is not good enough in a digital age to enforce ancient business models rolling their product to different parts of the world at different times. Spotify, itunes and perhaps product placement will help them out.
I feel it's all going to be most interesting.
We can only watch an wait.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

New Ken Robinson Talk

Ken Robinson has another Ted talk which I have just come across. These are excellent talks about education and creativity, and I heartily recommend them to anyone.
If you are, by the way, unaware of Ted talks they are updated regularly and are interesting and inspiring talks by leaders in their fields, usually in Technology, Education and Design (TED, get it?).

By the way, they also make excellent Advanced and CPE listening practice and often have subtitles for concept checking. They can also be paused. Brilliant stuff!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Fingers Crossed

Back to talking about non-football related things now (and I'm not referring to the drubbing Australia handed England at rugby on Saturday morning). I was examining in a town near here on Sunday; The FCE Speaking. It was pretty well done and students were well prepared. Good. But there were some common traits that students should look out for.
1) It's 'depend on' (Not 'depend of'!!!) I heard this twenty times. Argh! It doesn-t effect your mark too badly at FCE, but getting dependent prepositions right is easy and will boost your Grammar and Vocab mark.

2) Part 2 was not as well done as it might have been. The two recurring errors were poor descriptive language and pointing with 'this' or 'that' picture. You are asked to compare the pictures (the script no longer asks you to contrast them, but you should anyway). Say what you see and showcase your vocabulary! It looks as if here they are...
Perhaps this is an image of a.... whereas here we can see....

3) The second questions of Parts 2 and 3 were often left unanswered. The question will be something like, 'Can you compare the 2 pictures and say which place you'd rather visit (and why if you have time.
Students would compare the pictures for a minute and that's it. Time up. Practice 40 seconds of comparison and then 20 on the question.
Part 3 was the same. The students neglected the second question. It will read something like, 'Discuss the advantages of the different activities on a summer camp and decide which two would be least suitable.' Everyone forgets the second part! Why? It is now printed clearly above the pictures!

Good luck to my CAE guys who have the exam on Wednesday. Fingers Crossed!

Ban the Vuvuzela

The drone of a billion bees is spoiling the World Cup? It may be the traditional African thing to do, I don't know. But the majority of fans are visitors, and it makes the games unbearable to watch on TV with the volume up.
Portugal play today. I live here, and I've drawn them in the sweepstake, yet still I am not bothered either way if they win or not. Why is this?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

C'mon England!

The World Cup has started. These means I'll have even less of my students' attention than usual. I drew Portugal in the works sweepstake, but really my heart lies in one place...

C'mon England!

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Good Luck!

Sorry for the few posts recently. The exams loom and my weekends are filling up with examining and invigilation. Right now it's getting too close to worry too much about your English and worry more about exam technique. Do some timed practice writings, look over your phrasal verbs and make sure, on the day, you have eaten well, have drunk enough water and that you get up in good time and are not rushed or flustered.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Russell Stannard

This one is mainly for teachers. Check out this site. It'll give you great walk-throughs for lesson ideas and to truly use this wonderful thing we call the internet for classes.

CO2 the cause?

This link is for Luis (CAE)- see what you think Luis.


Sites and Dates

The exams are coming closer. The FCE is on the weekend of the 12th and 13th and the CAE the Wednesday after. Get studying...
An interesting aside. I recently tested two similarly levelled classes, one well schooled in the Cambridge exam and one not? The difference between the two classes? 25%! The students who were used to the exam were 25% better. That's huge!
Keep practising!

By the way, here's a new site that is as good as the great for exam prac.

It has excellent Use of English CAE Part 4 (of which I have very few examples)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Sunday Thoughts

I've just been examining this afternoon, the CAE exam. A few thoughts that may be handy. The listening part of the Cambridge had a few dodgy accents in it. Get some practice in with Australian and US accents, as well as UK regional and Irish. They vary a lot and it can be disconcerting to hear them for the first time in the exam itself.
The speaking: the less successful students were those with no ambition. FCE spoken English is not enough and will at best get you a C. Use the vocab and complex linking devices.
Good luck in June!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Old and New

I gave my Advanced class an old paper with the old format to see if they thought it harder/easier/just the same as regards level. My hunch was that it would be harder but it turned out to be fairly similar in terms of its level. The layout though was shocking and the retrospection gave me a chance to see how much better the exams are having been streamlined and standardised in terms of format and tied into the European framework (where they occupy the C1 position for English).

On another topic completely am bemused by the new UK coalition government. I hope it works - it seems to represent the wishes of the electorate - and perhaps that's what UK politics needs. It certainly needs to get away from the yah-boo politics of old, though PR (Proportional Representation) is a bridge too far for me.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Old Tricks are the Best

My rotten CAE class pulled a classic trick on their teacher tonight. I take my watch off when I teach and the little dears advanced it by 15 minutes so they could get away... but I'll have the last laugh... an extra 5 mins to the classes until the end of the year... that'll teach 'em.
The UK election tonight... I'm up all night to watch it. Political theatre at its best.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


I've been going through my assessments as we have mid-term reports to write and go out for next week and looking at them globally allows me to see things in a slightly different light. The writing assessments have been poor, spelling and poor hand writing letting my guys down especially. I am thinking of my FCE guys, though my CAE guys are almost equally culpable. By now, my students at FCE level should not be spelling 'writting' instead of writing, or 'oppening', oh you get the idea. None of these errors are because of lack of knowledge but are for lack of attention. You know how to do this stuff. Just focus, get it right and you'll be fine. Remember, the writing is one fifth, that's 20%, of the exam grade.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Ambition will be rewarded

I was at a training session yesterday discussing the Cambridge exams and some interesting points came up. The emphasis of the meeting was the speaking exam and we had a look at some of Cambridge's most recent releases to try and judge the 'correct' score given. After some reflection I feel that I personally haven't been paying enough attention to cohesive markers and perhaps been playing it a little too safe with my KISS strategy (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Sure, by keeping things simple and answering the question and having a few fixed phrases at the ready you can pass the speaking exam (attain a level 3 or so), but if you are (or have a student) expecting an 'A' grade then you're going to need to do more. At FCE we need to hear linking devices, such as 'Firstly', 'on the other hand', oh, you get the idea.
Also, we are going to need to hear more advanced grammar to get that 'A' grade. Let's have some decent conditional sentences, they are not so hard really, and so interesting adjectives (good, bad and nice are just not enough!).
So, get the basics right, then reach for the stars and have a bit of ambition.
Exams in May and June for my guys.... get studying.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Exams Loom

Travel Chaos reigns across Europe, but as it's no one's fault really, no one complains too much. My Dad was due to come and visit next week, but we'll see. My cousin was on his honeymoon in Rome and was complaining that he was stuck there and couldn't get back to work. My heart bleeds!
My exam guys are due to have solid exam prep until the exams in June, and because of the Portuguese national exams some of them are unlucky enough to have to do a May exam! It's late in the day to worry too much, but top of my list of things you should revise are phrasal verbs. Set/Take/Get/Make for the moment (you'll see these pop up in class in the next two weeks or so) but keep an eye on these.
I am also concerned STILL about silly spelling mistakes. Is it just my students who hate writting (sic) practise.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Easter Break

Sorry I haven't been posting recently. We've been away on our holidays for the Easter break. But now we face the summer term, the time when most of my guys will take their exams. So, all that homework that you have been putting off, all that grammar you neglected to learn... the clock is ticking (an idiom meaning that time is running out) and my classes are going to find themselves doing almost continuous solid exam prep. There's no avoiding it. I am particularly concerned about the timings of exam answers (either my guys rush through them with a million and one spelling and grammar errors or they dawdle and don't finish the paper) and also concerned about writing paper length. In your practice papers count the words of your answers so you get to know what looks like the right length. Trust me, after three or four tries you can guestimate the number of words in your own writing to within ten or so words. It's a handy skill to have. Soon then it's nose to the grindstone (another idiom meaning just hard work).

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Simple Stuff

A busy day examining yesterday - FCE and CAE students in a city near here. The students were good, and well prepared. But there were some simple errors which I really should not be hearing at this level. One girl, perhaps over-reacting to the Portuguese tendency to overuse articles, used none! Another student decided that there were only two prepositions in English (for and in)although might have been saved a fail by excellent vocabulary (which we suspected had been learned from computer games). The thought for today therefore is: cut out the simple mistakes. Much easier to say than do, but by focusing on the simple tasks, and with good exam technique, a really low level student can pass these exams.

Sunday, 14 March 2010


Totally unrelated to the exams.... but sick to the back teeth of my underpowered Orion I've splashed out on a 2.5 v6. It's in the UK so I don't get to play with the new car until then but.......vrooooooooom!

Think... and Blink

My Guys,

You've got until 20th March to sign up. I was looking at the list yesterday and many of you haven't. If you don't sign up now you'll have to wait until December. I'll warn you again in class this week.... it's your call.

On a similar subject...

I was working Saturday, invigilating the FCE exams and also being an Oral examiner. Some more points:
The Writing paper is to be written in pen. Not pencil. It says so on the front of the paper and I told the students but somehow the message did not get through. I can't see Cambridge docking marks because of this but it hardly shows you in a good light if you get simple instructions wrong. And again.... HANDWRITING! None of my guys took it yesterday. Which is good for me seeing such dreadfully formed letters dancing across the page.
The Listening Paper. You need to write your name on the question sheet as well as the answer sheet. I haven't mentioned this to you before (as I didn't know). I imagine it's so that if you appeal your mark it can be moderated.
The Use of English Paper. Some guys left this exam very early. Check, check and check again, but only change an answer if you are sure. Often your first answer is the best (read BLINK, by Malcolm Gladwell. It tells us that we know stuff when we have a hunch... we just don't know why we know stuff, and often we don't trust the stuff we know because we don't know the why... if you catch my drift).
The Reading Paper. I know the notes say 'please don't write on the exam paper'. But as there's no name on the question paper (unlike the Listening) I suggest you make notes, draw diagrams, use high-lighter pens. Anything that will help you get the answer right.
The Speaking. Fossilised errors really hurt marks. Nice vocab and good, appropriate fixed phrases saved a couple of students from lower marks. Exam technique and good preparation for the interview part of this exam will get weaker students through...
Good luck in May and June... and


Friday, 5 March 2010

Sign Up for the Exams

Calling all my June Cambridge exam students. This is a reminder that you have until 20th March to sign up. This also includes the exams we are also holding in May because of the national Portuguese exams. Get to the school and sign up. Cambridge requires these things early, so get to it..., miss it and you will have to wait until December!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Brrrrrrrrrrr. Cold!

Winter, winter, winter. I can't wait for the sun. Still, as we can't go outside because of all the rain we can stay in and study! On a previous blog I mentioned Ken Robinson's talk about education. I've been exploring the site a little more recently and it's a fantastic resource for students and teachers alike. There are lectures on every subject, often transcripts are available and it's interesting too. The talks are between 5 and 25 mins usually, and are nearly all very good to excellent. I particularly liked Jamie Oliver's talk on the Western Diet. So, great, interesting listening practice for free, which is good when it's too cold to go outside.

ps. they are fanatastic for IELTS too, as well as CAE and CPE
TED talks are great!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Parents' Evening

We had our parents' evening yesterday and it was nice to meet the good people who consider English valuable enough a resource so be worth paying people like me to teach it to their offspring! In general, the Portuguese are good at English (when compared to my experience in Spain, France and Italy), and are keen to learn, spurred on by the internet, Hollywood and music. There was a recurring theme however (well, two actually, but 'he/she could work harder' doesn't really count as I KNOW that's a perennial since teaching began), and that was a complaint about hand-writing. It's hard to get students to write, so I am willing to accept my written work as printouts. All well and good (so long as it's not cut and pasted from Wikipedia... and guys, I DO check), but herein lies the rub, the problem. You don't get to practice writing longhand, in pen or pencil, in English. You all write at school and university in Portuguese, but it isn't the same (especially your m and n which are particularly cursive so that the latter looks like the former and the former looks like a child's drawing of the Loch Ness monster).
Why is this important? Because writing is one fifth (that's twenty percent) of your Cambridge mark! And you'll get a lower mark if the examiner gets bored of your spider scrawl. So, spread your words out, write on every second line and take your time. Try different pens. Do something so that it's legible, otherwise you are losing marks needlessly.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Under the Weather

Sorry for the lack of posts this last week. I've been under the weather. I caught a bug and have had a temperature. This may surprise those of you are unfamiliar with these idioms who may be thinking that all of us live beneath the sky, chasing insects successfully is no excuse for not blogging and we all have temperatures, usually 37 degrees or thereabouts. What I mean to say is, I have been ill. Not sick, an Americanism often confused with illness but which means, in British English at least, to vomit, but ill. Some ill-defined virus brought in by my resident plague carrier (read my two year old daughter, continually snotty and prone to wipe said snot all over the place). So, no point to this short blog except to perhaps say that idioms are important and it is worth studying the more commonly occurring ones, so that you are at least familiar with them in a passive sense. This is increasingly important as you go up the levels and essential if you hope to get a decent grade at CPE level.
By the way guys (and now I am referring to my students who took the mock last Saturday), some of you did very well, some not so. You know which group you yourself belong to. General advice is to check out the different categories of writing you might be expected to produce and get a better feel for the layout and style needed. The Expert series which you are all using has some very useful examples in its back pages.
Where are those strepsils?

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Saturday Mocks

I spent my Saturday invigilating and correcting exams, our Mock-Cambridge exams which we use to see if students are ready for June. The results were pretty good, though I kept seeing the same errors again and again. Exam technique and attention to detail are worth between 5 and 10% in these exams to my mind. I have seen the usual mistakes... I'll list them here so you can shake your head in wonder that students still make them and nod sagely and think 'I would never do that' (but someone ALWAYS does).

1) Bad copying on to the answer sheet. One poor girl had the correct answers, just one exam question late. She got a couple of marks simply because there we a couple of times when there were two in a row with the same answer. Fail.

2) No name on the paper. I mean, really! Fail.

3) Simple spelling errors. Marks thrown away.

4) Poor hand-writing. Marks abandoned to the abyss.

5) A poor understanding of the question. Fail (well, banded 2.2 in the writing section) because he didn't read it properly.

Also, to those students who didn't bring pens or pencils... c'mon! You know better!
Still, that's why we do mocks.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


I am a dope. I have been teaching this exam so long that I should be used to this now, but the FCE exam no longer has the exercise in the Use of English paper where the student is required to find the extra word in a line. I was told this, but forgot and kept using my favourite old books and kept making the students do similar practice exercises. It is good training, but is no longer pertinent to the exam. Doh! Advice therefore today is to keep up to date with the shape and the form of the exams. And by the way, my FCE guys taking the mock on Saturday had better finish on time. It's England vs Wales on in the afternoon and if you are late I will miss the beginning of the game.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Ken Robinson Link

A good link this. I don't agree with all of it but it makes you think and laugh as well.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Way with Wordle

Teachers looking to invent games and activities for vocab could do a lot worse than visit this site.
Wordle is a site that randomises the key words in a text and changes the size of the word to reflect the frequency it's used. It can also be used for enliving phrasal verbs or specific collocations, all the things we need to be good at to pass the Cambridge exams!

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Keep Talking

I'm booked in to be an Oral examiner for the FCE and CAE exams in a city near here in March - we can't examine in our own cities as we may be examining our own students as all examiners are teachers - and I'm looking forward to it. It gives me the chance to see a handful of students in another town and see if they are falling into the same traps as my own. Inevitably some do, both groups of students having the same mother tongue with very similar accents as is to be expected of cities close to each other. But occasionally their teacher shines through them. I've come across a whole group of students who all used a double comparative in their speech (more harder), which I think must have been a favourite error of their teacher... and I'll never forget the incongruity of seeing tiny Greek students speaking English in a thick, scouse (Liverpudlian) accent. You don't expect to hear a mini-Yosser Hughes in Karditsa.
But one thing my students don't stress about, and perhaps they should, is what they say (rather than how they say it). They forget they are examined only on those 12 or 13 minutes and that it is their opportunity to show themselves in their best light.
So, keep talking, use all that vocab you have to describe those pictures, to colour the discussion, keep expressing opinions, and keep talking. Don't worry about sounding an idiot. The examiner doesn't care. If you're a fluent idiot you'll still get an 'A'. Better that than a silent genius with a 'D'.
Keep talking, say what you see, and answer any questions like 'Do you agree?' with an 'It depends!' and then say why it depends. If your examiner thinks you're talking to much they will bring your partner in and let them have a go...

Friday, 22 January 2010

Hats Off

I am an amateur. I am truly humbled.... 'Why?' I hear you cry. Because I have found that there can be only 1. And it's not me.... I've been told about this great site which has some fantastic uses for video and multimedia for teaching.


Mocks - Sign Up Now!

We are due to have our mock exams this year for the Cambridge suite of English exams on February 6th. I've warned all my students to all sign up - and as I know some of you read this from time to time I am using this as a reminder.
I have to spend all Saturday watching you lot scratch paper!
As you know, we don't recommend students for the exams unless you have at least 65%. I know it's a long time till June, but experience teaches us that all students who achieve this pass the exam. Of course I want 80% plus and 'A' grades all round, but back on Earth I am happy with 'C' grades. I am interested in getting a look at the writing papers. I want to see how you get on with these... I am expecting the worst.
Have a good weekend, and DON'T FORGET TO SIGN UP!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


I am so annoyed with my Monday/Wednesday CAE class. They are due to take the exam in March '11 and, good FCE results in hand, are sure of cruising their way through with minimal effort and boisterous behaviour in class. I've half a mind to scare them by sneaking a practice CPE test paper into the class and letting them have a bash at that. The CAE has recently introduced some aspects of the CPE into it so they should remain unawares, and the step up might scare them from complacency. They ARE good, but the chippy attitude irks, and they have so little ambition other than a 'C' grade. I can't blame them really. I was the same many moons ago when I was at school. And they are a smart bunch. What annoys me is that I know how much better they could do, how much faster they could improve, and this opportunity cost, while visible to me, is a myth to them. Who was it that said 'youth is wasted on the young'?

Saturday, 16 January 2010

King of the Road

I've just bought a new car! Well, not new exactly. It's second hand. well, not second hand exactly. More like 14th hand. And it's 18 years old. In short, I've bought a banger. Banger, to the uninitiated, is a term with various meanings. It can refer to the humble British sausage (you know, the ones with some much rusk and so little meat content that the EU decided for a time it didn't actually qualify to be called a sausage). It can also refer to a fire-cracker type firework. But in this instance it refers to a beaten up old car.
I did some research, I looked online. I asked friends and colleagues which car they would recommend. I consulted 'honest john' (a top website by the way which talks about motors) and then ignored all this fine advice and bought a Ford Orion. The Ford Orion is one of the few cars on the aforementioned website to only get 1 star out of five. 1 only. Hmmmm. And that was when it was new. 18 years won't have improved it any.
'The Ford Orion?' I hear you cry. I don't know that car. With good reason. The Blue Oval didn't sell that many. It is in effect an Escort saloon, and what you might buy if you thought an Escort (you know, the last version that was really ugly and bad) was too good-looking. 'No', you might think. 'What I need is an ugly car! I can't afford a Fiat Multipla or Ford Scorpio so I'll settle for the Orion'.
So why did I buy it? In a word.... it was cheap. I needed a runner and there it was.
And by 'cheap' I mean really bloody expensive. Cars in Iberia are SO overpriced. Ok, so they don't have to cope with the salt on the road in winter like in the UK so the bodywork lasts longer... but still. But, and here is the rub, I AM ON THE ROAD AGAIN!
Mobile, free, black smoke trailing but mobile!
The environmental movement really does have its work cut out if it thinks that we will replace such binary transport with anything less than what we have now.
I'm off for a drive.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Assuming Nothing

Teaching my FCE class this evening I was shocked to learn how little my students knew of the exam format. They are a good class, and all just passed a class test I set, which was effectively an FCE Use of English Paper. Fine you may say. But I then went on to talk about the mock exam they are due to take in preparation of the June exam. And the students responded with questions, the answers to which I had assumed they already knew. I was shocked. I had been through the exam before, talked about the individual papers, talked about the best technique for this and that part. All well and good. Yet it had still not gone in somehow. The fault is mine, and will, in part be rectified by the mock, a clone of the exam and excellent prep for them. But it goes to underline the old maxim, never assume (you make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'). And because the level of technique in these exams reflects very strongly in their final grade, it is very worth familiarising students with each foible and idiosyncrasy of the exam.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Passing of a Friend

As the frost settles on the grass and the mourners gather around the graveside, a crow is heard cawing over the bleak landscape. The priest murmurs the soothing litany and the honour guard snap their rifles to their shoulders and, at the sergeant's bark fire the three volleys into the cold, winter sky. I bend and gather some of the frigid dirt in my fist and open my hand over the hole. Then I open my fist and whisper, almost inaudibly, 'Goodbye old friend'.
My twelve year old Honda has finally died. I await the strict notice, the certificate and the verdict from my mechanic on Monday, but I know in my heart of hearts that this last will be final, be terminal. Goodbye old friend.
It has been mine these past four and a half years and together we have covered some serious miles. And the car was not young when I got it. The odometer read 122229 miles, but a review of past documents in the glovebox revealed that on its final inspection before I got it it had done 378000 miles. It bore the screwholes for a meter mount. It had been a minicab at sometime in its previous life.
And why not? The Accord was a big, comfortable saloon, economical in its diesel form and I have had on a summer run down to Portugal from Calais, more than 1100 k on one tank. 53 mpg on a full, heavy, old car. It was my workhorse.
It wasn't all roses though. Owning an old car never is and although I have been lucky with other motors over the years I had to pay out for this one. There were normal, wear and tear type problems, tyres, brakes etc, but these are to be expected. But as well as this I have had the linkage welded, the pedalbox replaced. The engine's values, rocker-shaft and pulley wheels done twice (once when the timing belt snapped, once when the oil pump failed). A new oil pump. The clutch replaced. A hole in the exhaust welded. The handbrake pump repaired. The fuel pump replaced. The master and secondary slave cylinders for the clutch and a new (well a replacement) gearbox. After a break in I've also had to fix two windows. They stole my cassette player worth practically nothing, but broke two (2!) windows getting in. I also had the electric windows repaired, a common fault on these cars it seems. It seems it is the gearbox which has died again. I await the verdict Monday.
That's quite a list. Readers are probably asking themselves why on earth I put up with a car constantly going wrong. It's simple really. It handled well, it ate up motorway miles and just fit me, my personality and my needs. But this 800 quid car probably had another 3000 spent on it in repairs. Not cheap motoring. But then look at the miles I have done. I have to estimate as the odometer has never worked since it was clocked before I bought it...
I think I have done between 80 and 110000 miles in these 4 and a half years. There's everyday motoring, the shops, work etc, coupled to some monster drives from UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The furthest north I have taken it is about an hour north of Glasgow, the furthest south probably Italy, near Bari. That'll be the furthest East too, and the beach here in Portugal will be the furthest West. I've been back and forth across Iberia many, many times. Once with a good friend we drove from Madrid to Portugal with only second and fourth gears. The old beast made it.
But tonight I think it is dead. I was towed from the side of the road for the fourth time (I've always otherwise managed to limp to a garage). It's time to say enough. Say goodbye to the old girl. I've slept in the back, taxied family and friends around, hauled stuff back and forth from the UK, overheated on the M25, the list soes on.
The Honda is dead.
No more.

Goodbye old friend.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Burbling Cockneys

Back to school... and the classes progress at a slightly easier pace. I like this time of the school year. We have tests in the middle of Feb, the end of our semester, but I've covered most of the material and so it's revision time, which the students don't mind so much if it comes in the form of games.
I've been thinking about the Cambridge exams and how the assessment of the students works and consider it not to be a level playing field in some respects. The speaking part of the exam is examined my local teachers who are examiners and are accustomed to the accents and foibles of the local language and I think tend to be more forgiving accordingly. The listening part of the exams have phoney accents (put on by the actors) with some frankly odd intonation and seems hardest for those taught by my US and Canadian colleagues, whose laconic drawl differs most from the delivery on the CDs Cambridge use. I had one nice comment from a student yesterday which made my evening (CAE level). He spent some of his Christmas hols in London with his parents (both of whom have the FCE). He said 'Dave! I am pleased I have you as my teacher because you speak so fast!'. I asked him to clarify what he meant. He said that because he was used to my delivery he could cope with the burbling cockneys he encountered, and had to translate for his folks, and so could show off!