Freedom of Speech: What is Cancel Culture?

 Free speech is the whole thing,
the whole ball game.
Free speech is life itself.
                         SALMAN RUSHDIE

Language is communication. Language is so vital to the human condition that those who cannot physically speak or hear have found other effective ways to communicate.

Photo by Daniel Fazio

Sign language is a true language with the grammar, vocabulary, and subtleties of meaning found in the most complex spoken languages.   To be able to communicate and be ‘heard’ is a basic human need.

Freedom to voice one’s opinion, to argue, to debate, to challenge popular and sacred beliefs with impunity ∼ these are the hallmarks of civilisation.

We have taken this freedom for granted for so long that many of us are unaware that it is being steadily eroded.

Universities used to be institutions that welcomed independent thinking and debate. Everyone, no matter his or her views or political opinions could speak and be heard. 

This is no longer the case. Independent thinking is not welcome in universities or society in general in the current political climate with its sinister cancel culture. Diversity of thought can result in being ‘canceled’: being deleted on social media, being ridiculed and targeted on mass media, losing one’s job,  livelihood, even losing one’s home and worse.

     Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
………………………………………………………………………………………………….GEORGE ORWELL

Joy Villa was invited to speak at Congress (USA) recently. She referred to “… laws protecting race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, sexuality and disability …” and implored Congress to expand the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include political affiliation as a protected class. Her very real concern is that “political bigotry is silencing the voices of Americans”. Joy Villa is an excellent speaker: articulate, well-informed, and passionate about her country and its traditional ideals. What do you think of her presentation?

Recommended reading:
Animal Farm (1946) by George Orwell
1984 (1949) by George Orwell 

First they ignore you;

then they ridicule you;
then they fight you;
then you win.


蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿 蘿

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, Listening, Speaking & Pronunciation, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Videos | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How to Describe an Experience … in 4 Easy Steps

How would you describe an experience? How would you start? Which experience would you like to recount: a new job, a meal at a restaurant, a party you went to?

Imagine that you want to describe a recent holiday; where would you start?


♠ Step #1
What do you want to say? Start by asking
Wh …‘ questions:

Who … ? Where … ? What … ? When … ? Why … ? Which … ? How … ?

The answers to theWh … ?’ questions will provide you with a description:

Question Answer
1. Where did you go?
    Where did you stay?
Mexico City
El Gran Hotel, 5 nights
2. When did you go? Last month
3. Who did you go with? My girlfriend/boyfriend/family
4. Why did you go there? To see museums and a UNESCO site

UNESCO site -The ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan – situated some 50 km north-east of Mexico City.

Question Answer
5. What did you do there? We visited:
* The ancient pyramids at the         ..UNESCO site
* El Museo Frida Kahlo
* El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal
* El Palacio de Bellas Artes
6. What was the best part of your holiday? El Museo Frida Kahlo
7. Why? She’s my favourite Mexican artist. 

♠ Step #2
Use the information above to write some sentences:

Last summer, I went to Mexico City with my girlfriend Josefina. 

We stayed at El Gran Hotel for five nights.

We wanted to see some museums and a UNESCO site.

We visited ancient pyramids,  El Museo Frida Kahlo, El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal, and El Palacio de Bellas Artes. 

I enjoyed El Museo Frida Kahlo the most.

Frida Kahlo is my favourite Mexican artist.

The museum used to be her home. She was born there and died there.

We saw some of her most famous paintings in the museum.


♠ Step #3:
Improve the sentences:

To do this, add information that will engage the reader. Was there anything unusual, impressive, or amusing about your holiday? Make notes* next to your sentences. For example:

We visited … El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal.
(*Our 1.5 hour tour included a margarita on arrival and a tequila & mezcal tasting that included five sample drinks. Josefina was drunk after the margarita!)

The hotel was excellent.
(* The view to the Zocalo is delightful by day and spectacular by night. Friendly staff, in historical centre)

Try to convey how you felt at the various times and places: astonished, appalled, fascinated, enchanted, disappointed, overwhelmed. 

We were impressed with the knowledge of the guides at the museums.

We were both fascinated by the pyramids.
(* It was a long drive but it was worth it.)

You could use the gerund form of the above adjectives to describe the places: astonishing, appalling, fascinating, enchanting, disappointing, overwhelming.  Other descriptive adjectives include: wonderful, pathetic, dreadful, incredible, remarkable. 

We visited Frida Kahlo’s enchanting blue house.

Josefina loved the murals by Diego Rivera in El Palacio de Bellas Artes although I found them overwhelming.

Frida Kahlo’s enchanting Blue House

* Avoid using boring, over-used words like: nice, interesting, beautiful, bad, good.  If you find it difficult to think of more descriptive words, try using  This site provides synonyms (words with a similar meaning) and antonyms (words with an opposite meaning).

You can also see examples of the correct usage of a word when you check it in the thesaurus. This tool needs some improvement but it’s worth a look. (For example,  SWAP interesting IN A SENTENCE). Why not have a look now?  I typed in ‘interesting’ and just look at what came up: interesting  The site also provides pronunciation.


♠ Step #4:
Organise the sentences into paragraphs:

You should have a lot of details to write about now. If you don’t, go to relevant websites and find information. That’s what I did! I researched ‘Mexico City’ to find the above facts for this post. Do you have photos of your holiday? Describe what was happening when the photos were taken.

All you need to do now is to put your sentences into a logical order. For an experience, chronological order is the simplest. Use paragraphs to separate your facts and to help your reader understand what you are talking about. 

Your description should have a beginning (introduction), a middle (main body), and an end (conclusion). Use linking words to connect your ideas.

1. First Paragraph – INTRODUCTION: The answers to questions 1-4 will provide all you need for a one paragraph introduction.

2. Next Paragraphs – MAIN BODY:  The answers to questions 5-7 will provide all you need. This is the longest part because it contains the main details. It can be as long as you like but start a new paragraph for each topic. If you wish to write about each museum, give each one a separate paragraph. If you just want to list them with minimal description, put them in one paragraph. Then, you could start a new paragraph focusing on the museum/s you enjoyed the most. 

Perhaps your holiday was at the seaside; surfing and hiking during the day and eating out and then clubbing at night. You could divide your Main Body into four paragraphs with these four topics: surfing, hiking, eating out, and clubbing.

3. Last Paragraph – CONCLUSION: This is usually a repetition of the sentiments/ideas in the introduction. For a descriptive piece of writing like this, point out that you had a wonderful/terrible/memorable holiday that you would recommend/not recommend. Don’t introduce new ideas. 

Formula for a descriptive essay

What do you want to write about? What ..?
Where ..?
When ..? 
Why ..?
Who ..?
How ..?
Topics/ paragraphs?
At least 2-3.
Topic 1 Details/Facts Opinions/Feelings Anything additional?
Topic 2            ”             ”        ”
Topic 3            ”             ”        ”
Topic 4            ”             ”        ”
Repeat ideas in the Introduction;




No new information!

Describing an Experience: 


My Holiday in New Mexico

Last month, my girlfriend Josefina and I went to New Mexico for a holiday. We stayed at the fabulous El Gran Hotel for five nights. Our hotel room, the service, and the views were all excellent, but the main attractions were the pyramids at the UNESCO site and the museums.

On the first morning, we set off early for the UNESCO site to see the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan. It was a long drive in a crowded bus but it was worth it. The pyramids were fascinating.We spent the day exploring the site which had hundreds of steps!* We fell asleep on the way back to the hotel.

The next two days were spent visiting as many museums and art galleries as we could. El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal and El Palacio de Bellas Artes were on our must-see list and they didn’t disappoint. Josefina loved the murals by Diego Rivera in El Palacio de Bellas Artes although I found them overwhelming.*At El Museo del Tequila y Mezcal, our 1.5 hour tour included a margarita on arrival and a tequila and mezcal tasting which included five sample drinks.* Josefina was drunk after the margarita! 

We kept the best to last. We spent  a lot of time at El Museo Frida Kahlo which features some of her most famous paintings. Frida Kahlo is our favourite Mexican artist so it was exciting and inspiring to see the house where she was born, lived and died. Now, her enchanting house is a museum.

I will never forget our Mexico City holiday. It was all we had hoped for. We saw the UNESCO pyramids and the top museums. We loved everything about Frida Kahlo’s house. If you have a passion for art, culture and history (and tequila), I highly recommend Mexico City.


* You could add more detail in these areas. If, for example, you have a lot to say about the UNESCO site, don’t put it all into one long paragraph. Divide it into what you saw in one paragraph and the historical facts in a second paragraph. If, for example, a tourist was bitten by a snake while you were there, you could present the story in a third paragraph.

Even though all these facts relate to the one place, they all introduce a topic within a topic so consider using more, rather than fewer, paragraphs.

Now, it is your turn! Can you describe an experience following my 4 easy steps? Let me know!

Click here for How to Describe a Picture in 4 Easy Steps.

Posted in IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Writing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Conversations with Aussies # 2

Today, I’m talking with Rachel about life on The Gold Coast, her overseas travels, and how she feels about teaching English. 

For more information about learning English with Rachel, visit her website:


♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Video | Posted on by | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

When do we use ‘Unless’ and ‘If not’?

PURLANDTRAINING.COM has just published a wonderful guide to using ‘Unless‘ and ‘If not‘ which I highly recommend. It comes with free, downloadable worksheets. Just click on the links under the picture.

When do we Use ‘Unless’ and ‘If not’? - FREE Printables

Direct download:

Direct download:


Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Grammar, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), TOEIC, Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Leave a comment

A Song with Easy English

English students sometimes feel that they need a huge vocabulary range in order to express themselves clearly.

While students taking a Cambridge exam need to demonstrate an impressive vocabulary range, native English speakers in day-to-day conversations often communicate with between 1,000 and 2,000 words. English students have usually learnt about 2,000 words by Pre-intermediate / Intermediate Level. In other words, they have enough English in their heads to describe people and things, and to say what they want, and how they feel.

It takes time and perseverance to acquire an extensive vocabulary range. Meanwhile, focus on using the English that you know and check that you are using it correctly. Do this and you will find that people can understand you and you will feel encouraged. I tried my Intermediate level French when I was in France in 2017. I didn’t know what I sounded like to people I spoke to, but I was very relieved and pleased that they understood me. 

Today, I’m featuring a song, It Had To Be You, made famous by Frank Sinatra. The lyrics are easy to understand and most of the grammar is simple. The song is a fine example of sophisticated, yet uncomplicated English. The lyrics are under the video.


(It had to be you, it had to be you)

I wandered around and finally found somebody who
Could make me be true,
Could make me feel blue,
And even be glad just to be sad, thinking of you.

Some others I’ve seen

Might never be mean,
Might never be cross, or try to be boss
But they wouldn’t do.

For nobody else gave me a thrill. 

With all your faults, I love you still.
It had to be you, wonderful you. 
It had to be you.

         
Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs, Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Tagged | Leave a comment

Me, Myself, and I



I’ve noticed that it’s not only English students who have problems with pronouns. Native speakers don’t always know when to use Me, Myself, and I. Even people in the media, including radio presenters and politicians, make constant mistakes. So, let’s have a look at pronouns and when to use them.

Well, we need to start with sentences. Every sentence must have a subject and a verb. We can replace the subjects with pronouns, which are called ‘subject pronouns’.

Babies cry. (Subject = Babies)   They cry.
This shark kills. (Subject = This shark)  It kills.
Dogs bite. (Subject = Dogs)  They bite.
John is singing. (Subject = John)  He is singing.

Some sentences have objects. We can replace the objects with pronouns, which are called ‘object pronouns’.

This shark killed a girl yesterday. It killed her yesterday.
John is singing that song too slowly. He is singing it too slowly.
Rena likes cats. She likes them.
That dog bit Pablo. It bit him.

Not all verbs show action but it is useful to think of it in this way: that the subject does the action, and the object receives the action. The dog did the action. Poor Pablo received the action of the dog.

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and object are the same. They ‘reflect’ back on the subject. You cannot use reflexive pronouns if you have not used the subject they are referring to.

  • The dog bit himself/ itself. = The dog bit the dog. (‘Himself/itself’ refers back to the dog. They are the same.) 
  • The dog bit him.       =  The dog bit a male person or animal.
  • Taka bought the car for himself. = Taka bought the car for Taka. (‘Himself’ and Taka are the same.)
  • Taka bought the car for him.        = Taka bought the car for a male person.
Subject pronouns:  I                 you               he               she   it  we  they
Object pronouns: me you him   her it us them
Reflexive pronouns: myself yourself yourselves himself herself itself ourselves themselves

Lady Gaga


Look at the following conversation                                     

DIANA: Are you going to the Lady Gaga concert in Brisbane next month Sally?

SALLY: I‘d like to, but I don’t want to go by myself.

DIANA: That’s why I‘m asking you. Why don’t you go with me?

SALLY: Great idea! Thanks. We could check with Emma too. She loves Lady Gaga and she wouldn’t want to go to the concert by herselfShe could go with us. How are you getting there?

DIANA: We could drive or get a lift with Harry. He drives to Brisbane every weekend.

SALLY: I think that we should drive ourselves and not depend on him.  It will be more convenient.


Typical mistakes:

* Sally and me are going to the Lady Gaga concert.

Correction: Sally and I are going to the Lady Gaga concert. (Subject = Sally and I)

* Sally bought the ticket for myself.

Correction: Sally bought the ticket for me. (Object = me)

* The football game was very exciting for John and I.

Correction: The football game was very exciting for John and me. (Object = John and me)

 *  The children and myself are going to the next game.

Correction: The children and I are going to the next game. (Subject = The children and I)

* A: Who are these books for?  B: Myself.

Correction: A: Who are these books for?  B: Me. (Object = Me)

For more information on Pronouns, click here. For practice exercises, click here and here.

Posted in Elementary (Level 2), Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3) | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A song with Possessive Adjectives

When English students first learn Possessive Adjectives, they should feel encouraged. There are only seven forms: my, your, his, her, its, our, & their. That’s all! Many European languages have 14 – 20+ forms, depending on whether the noun is singular, plural, male or female. 

The rules are simple:

Possessive Adjectives always go before the noun; just like articles (the, a, an)  and like most adjectives.

Possessive Adjectives are never used alone.

Possessive Adjectives are adjectives which shows ownership. They give information about the noun in the same way as other adjectives

Unlike with many languages, you don’t have to work out if the noun is singular, plural, male, or female. Have a look at the following examples describing the picture:

♦ I took this photo with my camera.  (the camera; new camera, red camera.)

♦ She is my daughter, her name is Olivia and she had just finished her lunch. 

♦ My husband Anthony and I had also finished our lunch

♦ Anthony really enjoyed his meal.

♦ The waiter is looking at a bird which is trying to eat food from a nearby table. The customers are not happy! The bird thinks that their food is its food

♦The waiter cleared the/our table after asking us, “Have you finished your meal? Shall I take your plates?”

As with all new vocabulary, don’t expect to remember it after seeing or hearing it once or twice. You need to practise, practise, practise! The best way to practise is to sing songs. Just listening to songs is not enough. It’s important to read the lyrics while you listen and it’s even better if you sing with the singer.

Learning a language is all about Input and Output. Input is what goes into your brain via listening and reading. Output is what you can produce from what you have learned. It comes out of your mouth via speaking or singing,  or what you write. 

Photo by Bruce Mars

∗  Listening is one approach to improving input.

∗   Reading is a second approach.

∗ Speaking or singing is a third approach. 

By singing along with a singer for 3-4 minutes, your English input is multiplied by three, and you improve three skills! This is the most valuable way you can spend a few minutes to learn a new language. Don’t you agree?

Do you have time for a 4 minute English lesson now?  … Yes? Excellent! I have a perfect song for you! It’s by Ed Sheeran and the name of the song is “Perfect”. Click here for the official video. Click here for the video with lyrics.

Here are the lyrics with the Possessive Adjectives highlighted in bold green, nouns in pink

Song: Perfect  by Ed Sheeran

I found a love for me.
Darling, just dive right in
And follow my lead.
Well, I found a girl, beautiful and sweet.
I never knew you were the someone waiting for me.

Continue reading

Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs, Vocabulary | 2 Comments

3 Minute English #7 – English Pubs

 Here’s another video that I hope you’ll enjoy. It has accurate subtitles and the narrator speaks with a clear British accent.

 Listening to videos like this is easy English practice. I know that studying a language can be hard work so you need to find a way to enjoy it whenever possible. That’s why I recommend songs and short videos so much. How hard is it to listen to and watch a 3-minute video? If you enjoy this one, have a look at their other videos. As the name suggests, “Vocabulary in Chunks” focuses on teaching groups of English words together. This is the best way to learn new vocabulary. 

 If you don’t understand some of the ‘chunks’, don’t translate single words. Translate the whole chunk and you will get a better explanation. First, try to work out the meanings from the context and the visuals. Enjoy! 

Vocabulary in Chunks

[Loescher Editore Video]

Vocabulary chunks to learn from video :

  • One of the oldest pubs in the UK.
  • Over a thousand years ago
  • The word pub is short for a public house.
  • In other words a house open to everybody to meet
  • Pubs need a license to sell alcoholic drinks
  • To young people under 18
  • UNIT 2
  • Full of ornaments and curios objects.
  • Pubs, sell wine, soft drinks and naturally different types of beer
  • The beer is served in half pints or pints
  • An ideal place to relax and chat
  • Whether you stand or sit at a table and read
  • Traditional British dishes such as fish and chips

View original post

Posted in IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Videos, Vocabulary | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Russell Crowe Teaches You Australian & New Zealand Slang – Vanity Fair

Russell Crowe recently made a video for Vanity Fair explaining Australian & New Zealand Slang. I thought that you might enjoy it. I do not recommend the subtitles. They are misleading!

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Intermediate (Level 4), Speaking & Pronunciation, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary | Tagged , | Leave a comment

How to Write an Opinion Essay

♦ Opinion & Fact:

It is essential when writing an opinion essay to clearly separate opinion and fact

When teaching essay writing and critical reading skills to students (adults),  I have often been dismayed to discover that they accept written opinions as facts. Alas, such is the power of the written word! 

What’s real? What is your interpretation?

How can we develop informed opinions if we unthinkingly accept the opinions of others as facts? Present the same facts on a particular issue to ten people and you could end up with ten different opinions which can be influenced by personal experience, interpretation, and understanding of the issues to name just a few. What happens to the facts? What’s real? Do we just listen to the loudest, most opinionated voices?

When you write an opinion essay, it is necessary to state your opinion/s very clearly. Everyone should have the freedom to state his or her opinion, however disagreeable it may be to others. An opinion is neither right nor wrong. A fact can be checked for accuracy and truth.

Importantly, you need to support your opinions with facts and examples, otherwise why should anyone accept what you say? How can you expect a top exam result if your essay is unconvincing?

♦ Essay Structure:

◊ Introduction
What is your topic and what is your opinion? State them clearly in the first paragraph. Use everyday language but not slang. 

19th-century author Oscar Wilde

◊ Main Body of the Essay
You need to use facts and examples to support your opinion. The length of the main body depends on why you are writing. If you are writing for an exam, your time and word count will be limited and perhaps one or two paragraphs will be sufficient. If you are a journalist, this section could be several paragraphs.

Make sure that the reader can follow your ideas and examples easily. Sequence your facts logically. Chronological sequence is often the simplest. You may prefer numerical order.

Do not introduce irrelevant information. Use facts and examples that are directly related to your ideas in the introduction. 

◊ Conclusion
This is a repetition of the ideas in your introduction, using different words of course! This final paragraph lets the reader know that you have finished and acts as a summary of your ideas.

∼ ∼ ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼ 

I recommend that you read an excellent example of an opinion piece which I have included below. It was written by Jacinta Price, Councillor for Alice Springs (Northern Territory, Australia) on Facebook a few days ago, a wonderful example of evidence-based writing.

Note that Jacinta Price:
◊ states her feelings plainly and strongly in the first paragraph
◊ provides a wealth of facts and examples to support her opinions, and
◊ in conclusion, reinforces the views outlined in the introduction.

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price

June 11 at 11:00 PM

∼ ∼ ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼  ∼ ∼ 

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Reading, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments