Advanced Reading – Improve your English & your Knowledge!

Do you think it is possible to become a successful English writer when English is your second language? 


Imagine being taught English at school but not hearing it spoken outside of  the classroom.

This is an everyday fact for many of you.

Imagine not using English until you have moved, as an adult, to an English speaking country.

Would it be possible to reach native-speaker proficiency?

I know that you’ve been told that adults can’t speak English like a native speaker unless they become proficient when they’re a child.

You may have also been told that to be considered proficient, you need to speak with an English accent. However, there is no one true English accent. All you have to remember is that you need to speak clearly so that people can understand you. Keep your accent. It is an important part of you. You don’t need to speak like a native!!

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem

Think about actors like Penelope Cruz,  whose first language is Spanish and Audrey Tautou, whose first language is French. They both sound wonderful when they speak English with strong Spanish / French accents.  

I have taught Asian students who don’t believe that they will be able to speak or write at an advanced level because their language is so different to English. Well, just listen to these Korean pop idols who have never lived abroad and yet speak fantastic English. What about Takahiro Moriuchi, the lead singer from the Japanese group One Ok Rock?  He sings and speaks English very well and is very easy to understand.

Taka Moriuchi …

Korean pop idol – EXID’s Hani

In case you have not yet realised my point, it is this: you should never feel that your English is not good enough for speaking or writing! It’s amazing what you can achieve if you have the right attitude!

I would now like to introduce you to a man who didn’t start speaking and writing English every day as part of his job until he was nearly forty – who has become an internationally successful English writer – reaching #1 and #9 for two of his books on Amazon.

JC Ryan has become a bestselling author of spellbinding archaeological mysteries and crime suspense-thrillers.  He has published books in three series. They are all available from Amazon at very low prices.

You can sign up for his confidential mailing list and  receive the Free eBookMYSTERIES FROM THE ANCIENTS, an 80-page e-book about thought-provoking, unsolved archaeological mysteries. Click on the link to see an image of the free book and a description of what is in the book.

Reading is one of the best ways to improve your English because it gives you Grammar: word order and verb usage; Vocabulary, including prepositions, articles, phrasal verbs and collocations; and Knowledge. Reading helps you become more confident with your English. You also acquire more knowledge about the world and are better prepared to discuss all kinds of topics in Speaking Exams as well as in everyday conversations. 

My advice to you is to check out the links above. Read about J C Ryan. Sign up for the mailing list and free e-book. Then, read it! 

If you find MYSTERIES FROM THE ANCIENTS an exciting read, have a look at the three series J C Ryan has published. There are no free copies available. However, when I contacted Mr Ryan and asked if I could write about him on this blog, he very kindly provided the first chapter of his first novel, The Tenth Cycle, for me to use. I feel very privileged to be able to share it with you.

So, for your enjoyment,  here is a sample of what can be achieved by a writer whose first language is not English:

The Tenth Cycle

A Thriller

A Rossler Foundation Mystery

By JC Ryan

This is the first book in the Rossler Foundation Mystery Series.
Want to hear about special offers and new releases?
Sign up for my exclusive mailing list JC Ryan Books
Copyright ©2014 JC Ryan
All Rights Reserved.


Chapter 1 – Near Kabul, Afghanistan, July 2009

Daniel Rossler and two of his friends from ISAF
headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan set out early in the morning
on Daniel’s birthday, July 8th, on the A1 toward Jalalabad some
one-hundred and fifty klicks and three hours or so to the east.
IEDs, or Improvised Explosive Devices had made this stretch of
road one of the most dangerous places in the world.

Daniel, an irrepressible 26-year-old journalist embedded
with the Marine unit, matched his comrades’ skill for skill except
in armed combat. As a journalist, he was neither expected nor
permitted to carry a weapon, though his upbringing in the North
Carolina Mountains had included skill with a hunting rifle. Now,
his preferred physical activities were hiking, swimming, and the
occasional impromptu wrestling match with the two friends in the
Jeep with him today or other opponents from their unit. At sixfoot-three,
his wiry frame was perhaps a little lighter than most of
his heavily-muscled Marine opponents, but his quick thinking and
unconventional moves allowed him to win more often than he

“Hey, Sarge,” Rossler yelled over the noise of the vehicle
on the highway. “Isn’t this the road that the Taliban keeps
“You afraid of a little rebel IED, Rossler?” the sergeant

That effectively shut down any further discussion on the
matter. The one thing Daniel couldn’t allow was his Marine
friends thinking he was a wuss. Traffic was unusually light this
morning, which should have warned the three friends, especially
the Marines. Instead, they were elated to be making such good
time during the early hours before the heat of the day set in.

Seeing the well-populated area on both sides of the road
for the first fifty klicks, Daniel wondered at the logic of the Taliban
rebels who harassed travelers along this road without regard to
loyalty. Anyone could be killed by an IED, even Afghan citizens
making their way to market, or children.

He was aware of the joint task force squads that had been
specially trained to sweep for and dispose of the deadly items,
though. Daniel felt as safe on this trip as he did anywhere in
Afghanistan, which was to say, not very. Nevertheless, today’s
mission would provide good background for his next column. It
was important work, and Daniel was good at it.

Daniel didn’t realize he had stopped watching the road
ahead until he heard Sgt. Ellis shout, “Look out!” He found himself
in mid-flight as the Jeep swerved violently, and then overturned
beside the road, pinning Ellis and the driver, Sgt. Pierce, and
throwing Daniel clear. He was trying to sort himself out to stand
when shots rang out from further up the road.

Continue reading

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

Relative Clauses #11: Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses

First, read the earlier posts on Relative Clauses, especially #3 and #6.

Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses are not as difficult as their name suggests. There are only two Relative Clause Pronouns used, whom & which, and the Relative Clause is usually at the end of the sentence.

If you are studying for an IELTS or CAMBRIDGE  exam, or any test in which you have to write well, you will need to show that you can incorporate Relative Clauses into your sentences. 

Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses are easy to create because you can just add them to the end of a sentence, and the result is impressive Complex grammar. They can refer to some or all of the information contained in the previous part of the sentence or just one word.

♦  Next year, I’m going to Sicily and Malta with my sister. I’m really looking forward to it.

When I say ‘I’m really looking forward to it , I am not just talking about Sicily and Malta.  I am also talking about going with my sister next year. It relates to the whole sentence:  Next year, I’m going to Sicily and Malta with my sister.

The two simple sentences above are okay for speaking but not good enough for writing. It’s easy to improve them with a Relative Clause. When you have a pronoun (in this example, it) which refers to a previous sentence or clause, you can use an Advanced non-defining Relative Clause:

♦  Next year, I’m going to Sicily and Malta with my sister, which I’m really looking forward to.

Q. What am I looking forward to?  A. Going to Sicily and Malta with my sister next year.
Q. What am I looking forward to?  A. It.

The Relative Pronoun which replaces it.

Here are more examples of sentences with Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses.

#1.  Germany won the FIFA World Cup in 2014, which really annoyed some people.

#2.  Even though they have six children and seemed to be the perfect couple, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt separated in 2016, which shocked a lot of people.

Here are more examples of how to combine two sentences with an Advanced non-defining Relative ClauseThem is an object pronoun, so for people we need to use the Relative Pronoun whom.

#3. I have two sisters. Both of them live in Melbourne. 

I have two sisters, both of whom live in Melbourne. 

#4. I have  three brothers. Two of them live in Melbourne.

I have three brothers, two of whom live in Melbourne.

#5. I have two children. One of them lives in Queensland. One lives in Sydney.

I have two children, one of whom lives in Queensland and one of whom lives in Sydney.

I have two children, neither of whom lives in Melbourne.

#6. There are several choices for breakfast. They all look delicious. 

      There are several choices for breakfast. All of them look delicious.                                                                              

There are several choices for breakfast, which all look delicious.

There are several choices for breakfast, all of which look delicious.

We use which for objects/things and whom for people.

The following table lists common Relative Clause Phrases used in Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses:



One of which One of whom
Two of which Two of whom
Both of which Both of whom
Neither of which Neither of whom
Most of which Most of whom
All of which All of whom
Some of which Some  of whom
None of which None of whom
3, 4, a few, several etc … of which 3,4, a few, several etc …  of whom

I’m sure that if you can see the patterns and create examples which are relevant to you, you will remember the rules more easily. I suggest that you write down the following sentences and fill in the gaps with your own information. *Remember to use a verb in the Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses and the verb must agree with the number; for example, one lives, none wants, neither lives, all look, both are.

♦ My two favourite movies are ______ and ______ , both of which _________.

♦ Three songs I love are _____ , _____ , and ____ , all of which ___________.

♦ At High School, I studied ____ , _____ , and _____ , only one of which I ____ .

♦ I have (number) close friends, one of whom is ____ , and one of whom is ____ .

♦ Next year, I’m going to _____________ , which I’m really looking forward to.

Now, try writing some sentences about your family and where they live, similar to the ones I’ve written above about my family, all of which are true sentences! Just copy the pattern. If you would like me to check your sentences, you can write to me by clicking on Contact Me at the top of the page, or click on Leave a comment below.

Alas, I couldn’t find a song to use in this post! If any of you can think of a song which features Advanced non-defining Relative Clauses, please let me know.

Continue reading

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), Cambridge, Grammar, IELTS, Relative Clauses, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Writing | Leave a comment

Have to … Don’t have to

Hello all you hard-working English students!  

It’s time for some more grammar! The last few posts have been about  watching videos and reading, but it’s time for more English grammar, so let’s go!

Not surprisingly, I will be using songs to highlight grammar usage and I’m going to focus mainly on two very common verb expressions: have to  &  don’t have to

Have to is not hard to understand is it? The meaning is similar to should or must

Have to is similar to must, BUT don’t have to  is NOT similar to mustn’t

♦ must =  a rule
♦ You must smoke outside. This is a rule. You have no choice.

♦ mustn’t = not allowed / a rule
♦ You mustn’t smoke inside the house.  This is a rule. You have no choice.

♦ have to = should / it’s necessary
♦ You have to smoke outside. You have no choice.

♦ don’t have to = not necessary  &/or  you have a choice               
♦ You don’t have to pay for the Internet. It’s not necessary because it’s free.          

♦ You don’t have to cook dinner for everyone. It’s not necessary. You have a choice.      You can if you want to.                                                   

Have a look at the  Peanuts cartoon on the left.

The message is that it is not necessary to be great if you want to start something, BUT it is necessary to start if you want to be great.


Now, we’re going to look at a song by James Morrison called ‘I won’t let you go’. It features the expression ‘don’t have to’ in the chorus, twice. 

From what I can understand of the song, James is trying to help a woman he loves who perhaps is feeling depressed, sad, hopeless or unloved. The name of the song makes this clear. He won’t forget her; he will support her. If you watch the video, you will see a woman who is so upset that she can’t stand. She falls down in the street and stays there. He finds her and lies down with her. 

His message to her is very clear. She has choices. She may feel alone but he is there to help her.                           

♦ Chorus #1
If there’s love just feel it
And if there’s life, we’ll see it.
This is no time to be alone, alone yeah.
I won’t let you go.

♦ Chorus #2
If your sky is falling,

Just take my hand and hold it.
You don’t have to be alone.
I won’t let you go.

Click here for the official video.     Click here for a video with lyrics.


My next song by Goyte called ‘Somebody that I used to know’ is very different. The singer is angry about the choices that his ex-girlfriend has made. He feels that they were unnecessary and mean-spirited.                                   

♦ Chorus
But you didn’t have to *cut me off,

Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing,
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough.
No you didn’t have to *stoop so low;
Have your friends collect your records
And then change your number.
I guess that I don’t need that though.
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.


*cut me off = end the relationship suddenly and stop talking to me
          Goyte is saying the it was not necessary to end the relationship like that. She had                   choices. She chose to do the wrong thing.

*stoop so low = behave badly
          Again, he is saying that she had choices and she chose to behave badly. It was not               necessary

Click here for Goyte’s original video.

Click here for Goyte’s video with lyrics.

Click here for a cover version by Walk Off The Earth with lyrics.


Posted in Grammar, Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Songs, TOEFL, TOEIC, Videos | Tagged | Leave a comment

Baby brings memory and speech back to aged care resident with dementia

A woman with dementia who has forgotten how to speak suddenly rediscovers her voice when paid a visit by a six-month-old baby.

Morleen with 6-month-old Lola

There is so much that we still don’t understand about how we learn, remember, and process language. Click on the following link to watch the video (with subtitles) and read this heart-warming story:

Continue reading

Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Reading, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Videos | Leave a comment

Improve your English and Organize your Life

Watch the following short video, Becoming An Organized Person by Peter Walsh.

Your English listening will improve; Peter Walsh speaks clearly and directly.

It will take less than two minutes of your time.

More than this, I hope that watching this video will help you if you need to organize your life more efficiently and stop wasting time. We all tend to procrastinate (put things off to do ‘later’ rather than do them now). Do you do this with your studies? I know that I do it with housework! Note what he says about To Do Lists, Caring for Yourself, Later, Decisions Delayed, and Clutter.

Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Speaking & Pronunciation, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Videos | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Four weeks as a language student

Related image Studying French language whilst holidaying in France Related image

My husband Anthony and I left Brisbane, Australia, on 25 May to fly to Toulouse, France via Singapore and Paris. Everywhere, except New Zealand, is a long way, so we like to stay a day or so in the Singapore Airport. We booked into the Transit Hotel at the Airport for about 8 hours and had a much-needed sleep; so we missed seeing Singapore and all the delights it has to offer, like the amazing scene in the picture below.

The next stop was Toulouse, our home for a month while we studied French. We stayed just 200 metres from the school, Alliance Francaise, which is located in the splendid Place du Capitole, in one of  the buildings in the photo below.

Toulouse is a vibrant, exciting city with so much happening, it’s hard to keep up! There were funky little bars in every street, a wide variety of restaurants, and music everywhere. I was surprised to hear mostly English music in shops, restaurants and bars. In fact, the only time I heard French music was when I looked for it on television, and it was fabulous! I hope the French people support their local talent, which is every bit as good as that found in the USA and England (and Australia). Continue reading

Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Reading, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

Pictures of Idioms #3


Click on the picture below to find out the meaning of the idiom burn the candle at both ends. Once on the site, you can click on Follow at the bottom of the page to receive  more pictures and explanations of idioms FREE.

burn the candle at both ends

Posted in Beginner (Level 1) | Leave a comment

Song with Dependent Clauses, Collocations +++

Hello Everyone!

Well, I’m back from my French adventure but I will leave the details of my French language studies for a future post. For now, how about getting back to grammar in a song? … Good! I thought that’s what you would want!

For this post, I’ve chosen a song that I’ve loved for a long, long time so I hope that you enjoy it. It’s a love song. You may not know all the vocabulary, but after you check the meanings, you will find the story of the song easy to understand. The name of the song – “If we try” tells you a lot. The singer, Don Maclean, is saying that if ‘she’ just tries a little, she might fall in love with him, because he is falling in love with ‘her’.

First, check the meanings of words you don’t know. I have linked some to This is a wonderful online English dictionary that gives definitions, sentence examples, and pronunciation.

Next, check the collocations in this song:

♥ I lose my concentration = I can’t think clearly

♥  creates anticipation = causes a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen                                                                     

Priscilla Du Preez

♥ it’ll work out = it will be successful

♥ state of mind = a temporary way of  thinking

♥ signs of affection = showing a feeling of love

Now, listen to the song a few times (Youtube video below) while reading the lyrics and singing along. 


Now, let’s have a look at the lyrics and grammar explanations.
      ∗   Independent Clauses are underlined.
      ∗   Dependent Clauses are colour-coded:  Adverb Clauses,
                                                                             Relative Clauses,                                                                                                     Noun Clauses.

Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Relative Clauses, Songs, TOEIC, Upper Intermediate (Level 5) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Watch the News to Improve Listening and Vocabulary

Hello all you hard-working English students!

I’m afraid I won’t be publishing any new posts for a couple of months as I’m off to France this week to study French. You see, I’m a language learner like you. I know what it’s like trying to learn a second language.

My thanks to John Towner for this charming French photo.

In 2008, my husband and I studied Italian in Italy, Beginner level. In 2011, we studied Spanish in Spain, Beginner level.

I last studied French (in Australia) in 2003. To help me prepare for my four-week course, which is starting next Monday, I’ve been watching the French news (no sub-titles) every day for the last three months. (I have missed perhaps four or five days.) I’m hoping to study French at Intermediate level.

When I first started watching the French news, I could understand about 50%. After three months, I can understand most of what I hear. I’m very excited! It’s a wonderful feeling to actually understand the news in a foreign language. I have learnt a lot of new vocabulary, especially about politics. France has just elected a new president, Emmanuel Macron and the election campaign was the hot topic for several weeks. There is a lot of repetition in news programs.

My advice for you is to do what I have done. Watch the news ∼ in English not French! If you are determined, your listening and vocabulary will definitely improve. If I can do it, so can you! The more I watched the news, the more French I remembered. Just try it, but be consistent. You will also learn a lot about English culture, whether it is American, British or Australian.

∗ Before I go: I have discovered a very funny British comedian whom I think you will enjoy listening to and watching  on Youtube. His name is Michael McIntyre and he speaks with a very clear British accent. Click here if you feel like being entertained while learning English.

Bye for now and good luck with your English studies!

♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠  

Posted in Advanced (Level 6+), IELTS, Intermediate (Level 4), Listening, Upper Intermediate (Level 5), Vocabulary | 1 Comment

Are you having a bad day?

 Click here to watch an outstanding video
to read thought-provoking comments by

Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal.


Posted in Intermediate (Level 4), Pre-Intermediate (Level 3), Reading, Videos | Tagged | Leave a comment