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Author: Speak Up London

In the heart of London, our independent school has a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Students come from all over the world for our high-quality teaching and flexible, affordable courses. Our qualified and dedicated team of teachers deliver a wide range of quality General, Business and Exam preparation courses. We offer private and Skype lessons, and holiday programmes for adults and young learners.

Speak Up London Coronavirus Update

We understand students may be feeling worried about the current situation with Coronavirus.  The majority of people who have been tested in the UK have been negative and we want everyone to know we are taking all precautions necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff.

We continue to monitor the situation developing around the world with Coronavirus and have put into place some policies to help everyone.   Posters have been put up in everywhere in the school advising what you can do to help prevent Coronavirus.  Hand sanitisers have been set up on every floor of the school.   Washing your hands frequently with soap for 20 seconds each time will also help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. 

What should you do if you have any of the following symptoms?

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath

Please stay at home and do not come to school.  You can call the school on 020 7734 0444 or email [email protected] and we can help you call the UK National Health Service on 111.    Please call the emergency number 07850 291147 outside school hours.

If you are at school and you have the above symptoms, please tell a member of staff.

You can also speak to a member of staff if you are worried about your family and friends who may be in areas which are severely affected by the Coronavirus. 

We will post updates as necessary in the coming weeks to keep you informed of the developing situation in the UK.

You can also find more information on the Coronavirus here:

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk

https://www.who.int/ith/2020-27-01-outbreak-of-Pneumonia-caused-by-new-coronavirus/en/

Speak Up London statement on Coronavirus

We take the welfare of our students and staff very seriously at Speak Up London. With the developing situation in China, we would like to communicate the precautions we are putting in place to ensure our students and staff are safe.

The risk in the UK is currently classified as low. However, we are aware of the spread of the Coronavirus is escalating and we are monitoring the situation closely. Direct flights from Wuhan in China have now been suspended and advanced monitoring has been added at airports with direct flights from China.

The China Travel Service Association (CTSA) has announced the suspension of business travel, group tours and package trips for the present time.

The UK Government has introduced advanced monitoring at airports with direct flights from China. A team of public health experts has been established at Heathrow to support anyone travelling in from China who feels unwell.

We are taking extra precautions to ensure our students and staff are safe by raising awareness of the symptoms of the virus and how it is spread. We will be introducing anti-bacterial hand sanitising gel in the school and providing recommended guidance for avoiding exposure to any potential infection.

Please refer to the following government websites for regular updates and further guidance on the situation:

https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.ukhttps://www.who.int/ith/2020-27-01-outbreak-of-Pneumonia-caused-by-new-coronavirus/en/

Cambridge First and Advanced

They are internationally recognised exams that certify the level of English you have achieved. Accepted by over 20,000 employers and educational institutions in 130 countries, they give you a chance to secure a place at the university of your choice and can also be required for visas and immigration purposes.

Cambridge First (FCE)

A B2 First qualification proves you have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study on courses taught in English.

A B2 First qualification shows that you can:

  • Communicate effectively face-to-face
  • Follow the news
  • Write clear, detailed English, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different viewpoints
  • Write letters, emails, reports, stories and lots of other types of text

Reasons to choose B2 First:

  • Accepted for entry to foundation/pathway/pre-sessional courses in English-speaking countries.
  • Accepted for entry to undergraduate programmes taught in English in non-English-speaking countries.

Cambridge Advanced (CAE)

More than 8,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments around the world accept C1 Advanced as proof of high-level achievement in learning English.

Preparing for C1 Advanced helps learners develop the skills to make the most of studying, working and living in English-speaking countries.

C1 Advanced qualification shows that you can:

  • Follow an academic course at the university level
  • Communicate effectively at a managerial and professional level
  • Participate with confidence in workplace meetings or academic tutorials and seminars
  • Express yourself with a high level of fluency

Reasons to choose C1 Advanced:

  • Monthly test dates available
  • Accepted by over 8,000 educational institutions, businesses, and government departments
  • Opens doors to international work and study

Do you have any doubt about FCE or CAE?

Speak to one of our advisors and they will help you choose the most suitable exam for you as well as guide you on how to prepare and succeed in your exam. Send us an email to [email protected] or reach us on social media.

Cambridge First and Advanced

Are you thinking about going to university? Do you need a certificate of English for work? Then the Cambridge First or Advanced is what you need.

What are Cambridge First and Advanced?

They are internationally recognised exams that certify the level of English you have achieved. Accepted by over 20,000 employers and educational institutions in 130 countries, they give you a chance to secure a place at the university of your choice and can also be required for visas and immigration purposes.

Cambridge First (FCE)

A B2 First qualification proves you have the language skills to live and work independently in an English-speaking country or study on courses taught in English.

A B2 First qualification shows that you can:

  • Communicate effectively face-to-face
  • Follow the news
  • Write clear, detailed English, expressing opinions and explaining the advantages and disadvantages of different view points
  • Write letters, emails, reports, stories and lots of other types of text

Reasons to choose B2 First:

  • Accepted for entry to foundation/pathway/pre-sessional courses in English-speaking countries.
  • Accepted for entry to undergraduate programmes taught in English in non-English-speaking countries.

Cambridge Advanced (CAE)

More than 8,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments around the world accept C1 Advanced as proof of high-level achievement in learning English.

Preparing for C1 Advanced helps learners develop the skills to make the most of studying, working and living in English-speaking countries.

A C1 Advanced qualification shows that you can:

  • Follow an academic course at university level
  • Communicate effectively at a managerial and professional level
  • Participate with confidence in workplace meetings or academic tutorials and seminars
  • Express yourself with a high level of fluency

Reasons to choose C1 Advanced:

  • Monthly test dates available
  • Accepted by over 8,000 educational institutions, businesses and government departments
  • Opens doors to international work and study

Do you have any doubt about FCE or CAE?

Speak to one of our advisors and they will help you choose the most suitable exam for you as well as guide you on how to prepare and succeed in your exam. Send us an email to [email protected] or reach us on social media.

Think Piece: Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas?

Every year when Christmas begins to approach, discussions begin over the way we should celebrate the holidays amongst each other. Should we say Merry Christmas?

“But that might disrespect those religions that don’t celebrate Christmas!”

“So say happy holidays!”

Is saying Happy Holidays any better?

In this blog post we explore a little bit the history of Christmas and the argument of holidays vs. Christmas.

Origins of Christmas

Before Christmas became Christmas, or the day that Christianity celebrates Jesus’ birth, there were many pagan (i.e. non-Christian) religions that celebrated the end/start of winter in some manner.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans celebrated the birth of the invincible sun god, appeased their mightiest gods and the gods of the harvest. They would feast from the Winter Solstice (21st December) for several days on. All social rules would fly out the window during this time.

When Christianity started becoming an accepted religion in the Roman Empire, Pope Julius I declared that the birth of Jesus should be celebrated on the 25th December. In this way, he satisfied Christian need to celebrate the birth of Jesus but also appeased the pagan believers. Now, Christmas is one of the biggest religious and commercial holidays – begun by Americans in 1870.

Holiday vs Christmas

From November through to late January/early February, many different faiths and religions celebrate days of birth, new year, etc.

‘Happy Holidays’ is often considered a polite way to include all faiths and denominations in the festive spirit of December. It promotes respect and tolerance for and of all these faiths.

However even writing this blog I have been struggling to not say “festive spirit of Christmas”. Through commercialisation, December has become known as Christmas month. Commercialisation means that even if you want to buy something non-Christmassy, the card will still have the traditional Christmas red, green and gold colours, the majority of decorations to buy for homes will be themed with reindeers, wreath, and holly.

So what do you do? Since you can’t always tell by looking at someone what faith they practice, maybe it’s best to make a personal decision about this. If you feel better saying Happy Holidays do it! Prefer to say Merry Christmas? No problem!

How to improve your pronunciation in 5 steps

You can learn a language; you can write it, read it, listen to it, but can you pronounce it?

Pronouncing it is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a language. It could be argued that English is a difficult language to pronounce, but it’s not just because there are American and British pronunciation differences. Different stresses on the same word can completely change the meaning of the word itself.

In today’s post, we have compiled the top five ways to improve your pronunciation.

  1. Listen, listen, listen!

Listening is already a good way to improve pronunciation. You can do this by watching films, listening to podcasts, songs, music, and pronunciation videos. Listening helps you to get a feeling of how words should be pronounced.

As a bonus, if you switch on the subtitles on the films, you can read along out loud, or quietly, as the characters speak. This action will help you to remember the pronunciation more accurately.

  1. Notice your movements.

When we speak, we move our mouths. Yes, this is obvious BUT following the previous advice of reading subtitles, you get a feeling of how you should produce a word.

You can also watch how you move your mouth when speaking in front of a mirror. If you don’t like mirrors and prefer to do things by touch, you can place your finger in front of your mouth.

  1. Break the words down.

This tip is also very good for spelling. If you break down a word, you do it into syllables. For example, syllable broken down would be syl-la-ble, and that is how you would remember to spell it with double ‘l’. For some words, like Wednesday, this tip is more helpful for spelling it but it works in pronunciation just as well.

  1. Add stress to words.

This is perhaps the most important tip. The English language is a stressed language. This means that the wrong stress can change the meaning of the word.

Words like present mean two different things depending on stress; i.e. PRE-sent is a gift that is given during the holidays and birthdays whereas pre-SENT is to show something in front of others.

  1. Record yourself.

For those of us who are shy, this might seem like the worst tip we could be given. Listening to your own voice is terrible.

However, the idea is that you record yourself reading a page of your favourite book, during a speaking exercise and hear it back. You are more likely to notice when and where you are making pronunciation mistakes and can work to fix that.

Happy learning!

Cultural Beliefs in Britain: Strange Superstitions

In honor of Halloween next week, we have dedicated this blog to superstitions; everyone has them but we don’t always know where they come from.

Every culture has their particular superstitions: don’t walk under ladders or scaffolding, black cats are unlucky, 13 is an unlucky number, seeing ravens means someone you know will die soon, horseshoes bring luck, etc. There are also certain groups of people that are more superstitious than others, for example, actors, sailors, and athletes. Actors can never whistle backstage, or say the name Macbeth – you must always call it the Scottish play. Sailors believed that an albatross was a sign of hope and killing one would bring bad luck.

The list of strange superstitions is long, and there are some strange ones.

Come and have a look at the weirdness of British culture:

General Superstitions

  1. If the ravens of the Tower of London leave, then the Crown will be lost.
  2. Black rabbits have human souls and white ones used to be witches.
  3. You will have bad luck if you spill salt. You must throw salt over your back to counteract the effect.
  4. For luck, brides must wear something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new
  5. If you say ‘white rabbit’ three times on the first day of the month, it will bring you luck for the rest of the month.
  6. Don’t eat lettuce if you want to have children.
  7. Magpies are a bird that you have to greet every time you see it; when you see a magpie say “Hello Mr Magpie, how is your lady wife today?”. There was also a children’s rhyme written about them:

One for sorrow,

Two for joy,

Three for a girl,

Four for a boy,

Five for silver,

Six for gold,

Seven for a secret never to be told.

Yorkshire

  1. Cutting off the end of a loaf of bread makes the devil fly over your house.
  2. Bread will not rise if there is a dead body nearby.
  3. If you visit a newborn child, put a silver coin in its hands.

Somerset & Dorset

  1. A double-yolked egg means that you will have twins. It used to mean that someone would get married quickly due to a pregnancy.
  2. A slow boiling kettle will have a toad inside of
  3. Stirring food in the opposite direction of the sun will ruin it.

Did you find any of these strange or weird? Do you want to share any strange superstitions that you believe in? Let us know about them!

Shakespeare’s Phrases: What we’ve taken from the Bard

There are few playwrights in the English-speaking world that are as well-known as William Shakespeare. He is best known for writing plays including Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer’s Night Dream, Macbeth, Othello, and Hamlet.

The universal themes and the way he wrote his plays mean that Shakespeare is studied at all levels of the British educational system. This is why, in today’s post, we want to show you some well-known phrases that did not exist before Shakespeare and what they mean!

Phrases Explained

For goodness’ sake – From Henry VIII. We think that the phrase was commonly known in Shakespeare’s day but it meant something different. Now it’s more of an exclamation to show annoyance and frustration; back in the day, it was an expression of “For everything that is good and sacred on this earth, just…”.

Neither here not there – Also from Othello, this phrase is now used to say that something is irrelevant to a discussion or in general. It’s grammatically more appropriate to say “neither here nor there”.

Mum’s the word – Used in Henry VI pt II; it means “keep quiet, be silent, do not reveal this secret”. Mum is a Middle English word for silent. Or it derives from “mummer”, the old name for a pantomime.

All’s well that ends well – Taken from a play with the same title, it was a proverb before Shakespeare but he introduced it more widely. As long as everything is okay in the end, whatever you did before is justified.

A wild goose chase – Romeo and Juliet. This phrase is now used to mean that something that you are about to do or perhaps while doing something, that is hopeless.

Not slept a wink – Taken from a lesser know play Cymbeline; this phrase was a few hundred years old. The wink is the act of closing one eye so it literally means ‘I did not sleep’.

Swagger – Yes, Shakespeare came up with this word! Who knew?

Truth will out – From The Merchant of Venice, it warns to not lie because eventually the truth will be discovered.

There’s method in my madness – Taken from Hamlet. It explains odd behaviour by suggesting it is for a reason; that even the craziest plans are plans.

Wear my heart upon my sleeve – Found in Othello, this phrase indicates that someone shows their emotions openly and doesn’t hide them. In Othello’s case, you would know when he was angry or jealous immediately.

The punniest* word play skills: Puns

*See what I did there? Punniest...funniest...LOL

In our next instalment of typically British ways to communicate, this week’s blog post is dedicated to puns.

Image result for pun memes

Puns are generally defined as jokes that exploit the possible different meanings of a word OR the fact that there are words that sound the same but have completely different meanings, used for comedic or rhetorical effect. Puns are also known as double entendre [from Fr. ‘double meaning’], witticism, quips and word play.

These are not a British phenomenon either, not really; anyone with good language skills in any language can create puns. The internet has made it easier for all to see and understand them. And even before the Internet, some British TV shows in the 1970s and 1980s derived their humour from word play, shows such as Blackadder and Fawlty Towers.

Related image

(from Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson)

History

It’s unclear where the pun come from, but it has been around for a long while. William Shakespeare famously used puns and other word play tactics in his plays! Can you see how you could use these examples for comic effect – ‘sun/son’. ‘lines/loins’ and ‘ace/ass’?

The quick wit to think up a pun used to be revered as a sign of mental agility and language mastery in the Ancient times. Some believe that during the Enlightenment, the art of creating puns fell out of fashion, but since the Internet, it has made a miraculous comeback. You just need to look at memes and realise that many are puns in disguise 😉

Image result for animal puns
Image result for animal puns

Obviously, puns can be categorised: animal, objects, dad jokes, grammar, literature, maths etc. The possibilities are infinite and we’ve taken the liberty of giving you 10.

Which one do you think is the funniest? Send us some of your own or one you saw recently that you thought was funny 🙂

  1. The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.
  2. Jokes about German sausages are the wurst.
  3. I am on a seafood diet. I see food, I have to eat it.
  4. What’s the plural of baby? Twins.
  5. I donut understand puns.
  6. Don’t stop retrievin’, hold on to that feline.
  7. If Apple made a car, would it have Windows?
  8. What do you get if you cross an angry sheep and a moody cow? An animal that is in a baaaaad mooooood.
  9. The streets were oddly desserted that night.
  10. Puns are for children, not groan adults.

Twisting Tongues Thoroughly

While two weeks ago we handled the origins and the creation of the cockney rhyming slang today we want to present you with a more international linguistic phenomenon: the tongue twister!

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defined the tongue twister as a group of words “made difficult to articulate” by putting words of alliterative, consonant and rhyming nature together. Shorter sentences must be repeated in order to become tongue twisters.

Origins

No one can say for sure when tongue twisters originated. They were passed down as an oral tradition through the generations until the 19th century. They become part of the linguistic culture and folklore.  There are two particularly famous British tongue twisters with even more interesting background stories.

She sells seashells

She sells seashells by the seashore. The shells she sells are surely seashells

So if she sells shells on the seashore, I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Created in 1908 by Terry Sullivan, this twister was inspired by Mary Anning of Dorset of the 19th century. The story goes that her family used to collect shells and fossils at the local beach and sell to the tourists. At the time, it was fashionable to keep cabinets with shells and fossil as collections in the richer homes. Mary Anning should be correctly credited with the discovery of several dinosaurs including the temnodontosaurus, plesiosaurus, and the pterosaurs. These discoveries which happened years before Charles Darwin published his famous book on evolution, already paved the way for discussions about evolutions and extinction.

Peter Piper

Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers. A pack of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers, where’s the pack of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

The name is anglicised from “Pierre Poivre”. He was a French pirate that raided Dutch ships and warehouses for spices and tired to make them more widely available in Europe (and cheaper!) in the mid-1700s. We should know two more things: ‘peppers’ was the generic term for all spices. Secondly, lime was used to prevent others who bought spices from planting them in their garden and growing. Essentially, this is about why Peter Piper’s peppers wouldn’t grow in his garden when he tried to plant them!

Benefits

Several benefits seem to exist from learning to say certain tongue twisters! They help improve articulation and pronunciation. It helps the speaker understand which tongue movements correspond to which sound. This is why in many films and TV shows, we can see characters making these sorts of enunciation. They also help with grasping the differences in pronunciation, such as between ‘though’ and ‘tough’ or ‘through’ and ‘thorough’. Speech therapists decide to use tongue twisters to help improve or cure defects, such as stutters.

Challenge yourself to say the ones that we have in this article! #tonguetwisterchallenge