Posted tagged ‘English as a Second Language’

ESL Quick Exercises 1

26 May 2008

(Intermediate Level)

1. Aural Comprehension of Media News

Rewrite this crude pseudo-phonetic approximation of American Spoken English in Global English.

The Madder of the Two Criddicks

When innerviewed, the first indepennant Sennader staded that both puhliddickal pardies on this side of the Adlannick were just full of redderick about Yerp. There hadn’t been a treedy for fordy years. The truth was, he continued, that a noo administration would have to make a frunnal assault on the madder and spend a lodda money to fix it.

‘My Gad! Whadda ya tackin about?’ exclaimed the second gennelm’n.

‘It’s are doody. If we doan make a move, you’ll be hearin the sound of bams goin off sooner or lader.’

‘So, waddle we do about those guys? Can we really afford to leddum achieve a tonnamy in the comin twenny months?

‘Sher can! It’s a real passibiliddy, whadever the Vaddican sezz.’


Careful critical Observation of Politicians, Journalists, Spokespersons and Advertisers may help you to Expand your Vocabulary and Idioms

(Or: Don’t believe everything you hear or read in the Media.)

Spot and correct the faulty lexical choices, incorrect associations, misspellings, malapropisms and mixed metaphors below. (Each line is a separate example. Total: 35)

From the onset, I should like to say the following.

He is an avaricious reader of books.

This opinion perpetrates the old myths.

When asked to vote for us, they were eagerly quiescent.

When I entered the august building, I was issued into the main room.

Rather than senile, he seems to be in control of his facilities.

One of the accused purged themselves.

He is under the allusion that they are innocent.

‘I’ll give you a tingle.’ [on the phone / mobile]

The car was slowed up by an altercation it had with a van in Wagga Wagga.

Skeleton – Medical. Fully articulate. As new condition.

“Australian Himalaysian Expeditions”

He honed in on his target.

“… to a Semantic people, the Jews, this meant that …”

“On a tangenital question, could you tell us why …?

His aim was to circumvent the Globe.

The remains of war heroes were interned here.

The helicopter carrying the Press corpse …

As the corsage left the Cemetery … [from a State Funeral commentary]

It is with fear and intrepidation that I begin this task.

I have never been particularly enarmoured of that idea.

This is his fifedom.

The death nail in the coffin of the State. [a State Premier]

It’s the cut of a thousand deaths. [another State Premier]

This is the crown in the jewel. [the same one, perhaps]

He is a thorn in the eye of some people.

This growing quagmire on our shoulder. [Iraq]

Other words and phrases that are not quite right:

a heart-rendering tribute

a well-tendered garden

We are moving into unchartered waters.

We shall have to administrate this.

The plan will have to be properly intergrated.

[also sometimes found: the adjective “intergral”]

In this much sort after area, this property is a bargain. [Real Estate ad]

senile dementure

strickly confidential

Insights into Spoken English

23 May 2008

From A Textbook for ESL Students and Translators

The following brief Sample is from two longer downloadable SAMPLE documents (See, or …/samplechapter4insights.htm)

From Chapter 1: Ritual Spoken Units
[The beginning of the Chapter Introduction:]
The exercises in this chapter illustrate some of the most characteristic features of spoken language: ritual, or stereotyped, units (of varying lengths, but most often short) with specific dialogue purposes or functions. For the native speaker of English, these are units of speech which initiate dialogue or action, or offer a subjective response to the spoken or extra-linguistic context. Students of English as a Second Language (ESL) will already be aware of many of these ritual sentences (e.g. courtesy formulae for greeting, requesting and thanking, etc.) but others may be less familiar with them.


From Exercise 1.4: Affirmative Responses and Reinforcements

These highly varied and, in colloquial usage, colourful ritual responses indicate agreement, confirmation or acceptance in the dialogue situation. Some affirmative units carry or may be given special emphasis. (For affirmative response patterns, see Exercise 2.2.)

Basic types of responses:
Yes. More informal: Yeah, Yep, Yup, Uh-huh. Aye (esp. in Scotland and Northern England)
Of course

(Other typically positive reactions: Wonderful! Great! Terrific!, etc.)

[50 examples from English language novels and plays are given.]

From Exercise 1.6: Responses which Indicate Indifference, Lack of Importance, Resignation, Uncertainty or Lack of Knowledge

Basic: It doesn’t matter. / I don’t care. / Who cares? / What does it matter? / How do I know?

… [13 examples]

More aggressive:
14. ‘I haven’t eaten all day.’
‘Too bad.’
15. ‘I don’t believe you,’ Cathy said.
‘Tough,’ said Mort. (PC, 67) [The literary sources are given in abbreviated form, explained by the end Bibliography.]
16. People always think something’s all true. I don’t give a damn except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. (JDS, 1958: l3)
17. ‘Anyway, this is one thing that can’t be blamed on Russia.’
‘It means the end of NATO.’
‘Good riddance.’ (EW, 1957: 97)
18. ‘Fifteen pounds a week? … Oh well, all right, But I shall have to pay three pounds out of my own pocket.’
‘A fat lot I care.’ (WSM, Theatre, 34)
19. ‘He believes that? He believes the Mafia would want to kill the President?’
‘What the hell, that’s their business, isn’t it?’ (RC, 1974: 120)
20. ‘They waste your time, these ridiculous celebrity hunters, and they sap your vitality.’
‘Let them!’ I’ve got lots of time and lots of vitality.’ (NC, 374)
…… [ + 11 more examples]


Chapter 2: Expressive Sentence Patterns

[Excerpt from the Introduction]
Given the range of functions covered and the peculiar syntactical or semantic characteristics, the patterns have been grouped partly according to their form and partly according to their content, in the following Exercises:
– patterns for requests, queries, suggestions and commands (Exercise 1)
– affirmative and negative response patterns (Exercises 2-3)
– exclamatory sentence patterns (Exercises 4-5)
– irony (Exercise 6)

Chapter 3: Spoken Signals and Sentence Additives

From Exercise 3.1: Dialogue Stimulants and Other Directions to the Listener

[This is one of the most detailed exercises in the e-book]


c) other informal or colloquial tags like eh?, OK?; huh?; right?; all right?; understand?; do you hear?; and the rarer what? [esp BrE]
23. ‘We’ll talk when I get back, then. Eh?’ (CF, 451)
24. Getting tired of waiting, eh?
25. ‘Just don’t tell me you’re in love, OK?’ (TP, 211)
26. ‘Yes. I’m afraid I must go.’
‘What happened? … The shock’s worn off, huh?’ (DB, 1992: 139)
27. ‘So you think it’s beneath my dignity, huh?’ the Boss asked. (RPW, 39)
28. ‘Well, I’ll tell her I can’t see her, and send her away: do you hear?’ (GBS, 91)
29. ‘And something happened to your brakes, too. Right?’ (RRO, 141)
30. You know what it is, but under no circumstances are you to repeat the contents of this message to anyone … understand? (EKG, 135)
31. ‘Good morning,’ I said. So you’ve got back, what?’
‘I have got back.’ (PGW, 57) [esp BrE]
32. ‘Nice of her to take the trouble, what?’ (KA, 1992: 290)
[plus 7 more examples]

[Later in the same Exercise:]
g) Miscellaneous
[5 examples, followed by:]
as it is / as it was = in fact; already; in the present circumstances (with possible overtones of brusqueness or finality)
56. ‘My dear fellow, we’ve quite enough on our hands as it is. We can’t go to war with the whole world.’ (EW, 1952: 12)
57. ‘Don’t you think we ought to get on with things? It’s late enough as it is, and Mr Myburd may have a luncheon engagement.’ (PW, 1973: 259)
it just so happens
58. ‘Well, Whittaker, what can I say? It just so happens that I see myself as your average John Q. Citizen.’ (GV, 1997: 306)
The provocative or aggressive: if you must know
59. ‘Where were you last night?’
‘I worked late, if you must know, and then went to bed.’ (DDM, 153)
[plus 9 more examples]

Chapter 4: Variation in the Verb System

From Exercise 4.6: to get (got, gotten)


b) Even more frequent is the colloquial use of invariable got or have got to as variants for to have and to have to.

6. ‘We got some good news and some bad.’ (LLP, 49
7. ‘What’s she got to do with anything?’ (RRO, 269)
8. ‘How long have you got?’
‘Not long, actually.’ (LLP, 135)
9. ‘Is that all you’ve got to say – yes? (JC, 142)
10. ‘I haven’t got any more money. (JC, 202)
11. ‘You got yourself another girlfriend?’
‘No.’ (JC, 40)
12. I got to go now.
13. ‘I gotta go.’ (DJW, 2)
14. ‘Don’t you remember?’
‘I guess I do. Josh. There’s something you got to know.’ (MR, 434)
15. ‘That’s not a bad idea.’
‘You’ve got to be joking.’ (JH, 165)
16. ‘You got to believe that.’
‘All right.’ (RPW, 400)


For longer samples of this e-book, see or …/samplechapter4insights.htm

Practical ESL-EFL Topics. 1

12 May 2008

For students of English as a Second Language.

(Dutch, German, Scandinavian and Danish students are not likely to need these examples but they may still derive some amusement from the material.)

As you know, English is not an easy Second Language. Some of its more difficult aspects are its figurative uses and its (non-literal) humour, greatly facilitated by its large store of ‘punnable’ homonyms. The challenge of both of the short exercises below is for ESL students to fully understand the meaning and origin of a number of idiosyncratic language samples. Some of you may have to look up one or two words in a (reliable?) dictionary, but that is always an enlightening experience for all of us.


What is wrong (and possibly amusing) with the following examples of mistranslations of tourist notices from European languages into English?

(Merci de votre visite) Tank for your visit.

Your opinion is a great to us.

For any problems, decomposition or disturb, call desk immediately. (Mexican hotel)

Ring the Bell. Is open. (Shop in Granada, Spain)

Fallow the arrow. (Mexico – mainly for Americans?)

It is prohibited to bring the alcoholics beverages. (Mexican beach)

You have to do it walking. It is necessary to follow the signs road. (Spain)

Listen to the singing of the famous Escolanía, a children’s choir, considered to be the eldest in Europe.

Laundry returned in the 24 hours will be extracharged.

We are not responsibles of discolouring or shinkage.


Lobster per kg (to ask before please).

Eggs caramel cream (maked the house)

Srambelt eggs (?Peru)

Fried pork’s legs

Spanish brochures some years ago:

… church of the Holy Family (master piece of the brilliant archited Gaudí)

Passed Nerja and near Maro, these formations run into the sea very roughly, in high steepy rocks.

In the ten years that these famous performances have been passing, the fame of the Cave has run alongside with that of the artists.

Freeway/Motorway travel in Spain:

Do never change the sense of your driving.

Please do not screw or tear up your transit ticket.

Tarragona: Stretching out on a hill and leaning over the sea, the above Mediterranean town is standing up.

Cambrils: It is a picturesque town of a strong fishing flavour.

Oropesa: All this shall help us get into the sober and rustic beauty of such internal villages as Morella, …

Valencia: The fruit-tree orchards which are so affectionately and meticulously cared of, actually compete with the authentic flower gardens which are so prodigue …

Alicante: A coastal stretchline …


Separate the notices, signs, advertisements (ads) and slogans below into two groups: a) clever or b) clumsy.

An optional extra is for you to account for the deliberate cleverness or the inadvertent clumsiness which has produced these statements. A suggestion: look especially for puns, double entendres, homonyms, paradoxes and ambiguity, as well as errors in English vocabulary choice, expression, spelling, pronunciation, or even punctuation. The simplest element can often make a big semantic difference.

(The first group of examples below are selected from one long page of a huge collection of excellent English material available at:

At a car dealership: The best way to get back on your feet? Miss a car payment.

At a Music Store: Out to lunch. Bach at 12:30. Offenbach sooner.

On the door of a Music Library: Bach in a min-u-et.

At a pizza shop: 7 days without pizza makes one weak.

At a U.S. tire (UK: tyre) shop: Invite us to your next blowout.
At an optometrist’s office:

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
Billboard on the side of the road:

Keep your eyes on the road and stop reading these signs.

Church sign: To remove worry wrinkles, get your faith lifted.
In a counselor’s [UK: counsellor’s] office:

Growing old is mandatory, growing wise is optional.

In a department store: Bargain Basement Upstairs.
In a Los Angeles clothing store:

Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks.
In a New York restaurant:

Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.
In a Pennsylvania cemetery:

Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.
In a restaurant window:

Don’t stand there and be hungry, come in and get fed up.

In a safari park: Elephants please stay in your car
In an office:

After the tea break, staff should empty the teapot and stand upside down on the draining board.
In an office:

Would the person who took the step ladder yesterday kindly bring it back or further steps will be taken.
In the window of a Kentucky appliance store:

Don’t kill your wife. Let our washing machine do the dirty work.
Notice in a field:

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

On a fence: Salesmen welcome. Dog food is expensive.
On the wall of a Baltimore estate:

Trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. – (Sisters of Mercy)
In a Maine shop:

Our motto is to give our customers the lowest possible prices and workmanship.
On a repair shop door:

We can repair anything. (Please knock hard — bell out of order.)
On a Tennessee highway:

Take notice: when this sign is under water, this road is impassable.

Sign on a psychic’s Hotline: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Others from UK and Australia:

Caption to a picture of a smiling fishmonger: If you ask him nicely he’ll cut your head off.

A brand of lemonade: Every bubble’s passed its fizzical.

Car sticker: Jesus Saves. He couldn’t manage it on my salary.

Pub notice:

Our bank has promised not to serve BEER if we don’t cash cheques.

Bank: Losing interest in your current account?

Transport ad with exotic photograph: You can see the Rhine Valley [or Paris] from Victoria Station (London).

You can have anything you like with just a little application. [Lloyds Bank, Access Card]

Duty-Free shop: It’s enough to make you leave the country.

Automatic Teller Machine – ATM: Pop into the Bank when it’s shut.

Caption on a gory but effective road safety sign for cyclists: Dont hit the road without a bike helmet.