English Banana.com ESL Blog

The latest free material and news from English Banana.com

Big Grammar Book


Big Grammar Book has been downloaded from EnglishBanana.com over 1 million times in 2015 (so far!)

Big Grammar Book

I recently came across this statistic from our server log files and felt it was so encouraging that I wanted to share it with you.

I had no idea that Big Grammar Book was still so popular (it was published in 2004), and the total number of downloads for this year to date will be much higher, since the book can also be downloaded from numerous other websites – the most famous being Guardian.co.uk – where it is the second most recommended resource of all time, and rising! – and TES.co.uk. The million downloads from englishbanana.com does not include any of these other sites!

When you consider that Big Grammar Book was published 11 years ago, you can add to this 1 million all the other millions of downloads over the years – not to mention those of my other 19 books – plus downloads of all the thousands of worksheets – and you can see that EnglishBanana.com material is really pretty popular! The total number of downloads – which I have not been able to calculate, being an English-y sort of person, rather than a maths-y one – must be mind-bogglingly huge!

Is the high number of downloads because it is free? I hope it is because it is high quality, but I guess being free doesn’t hurt! According to figures from bookshops, the average book sells fewer than 250 copies per year and fewer than 2,000 copies during its lifetime. It is only the celebrity books and books by really famous authors that hit the million mark. When people ask me why my material is all free and in the Public Domain, I point them in the direction of this page, which helps to explain my motivation. But as a writer, there is a part of me which gets a great deal of satisfaction from being read. I’m personally thrilled that over a million people – this year alone – have had the chance to use my Big Grammar Book – that I put together on my computer on my own all those years ago – to learn or teach English.

Also, since a normal ELT course book has the “normal” price of £28 in the UK, it’s no wonder that people are glad to download free resources, like Big Grammar Book. I’m glad to be able to offer them. 🙂

So, go ahead! Download Big Grammar Book – and all the other popular free downloadable pdf files and resources from EnglishBanana.com. It is all online waiting for you to discover!

Free Language Club on EnglishBanana.com


Please join us for FREE live English classes on EnglishBanana.com!

Great news! At the end of August 2015 we will be launching our Free Language Club where you can join us for free online English classes. Find out more by checking out the video below – or click on the link:

EnglishBanana.com’s Free Language Club


Why do Polish students insist on writing I as if it’s a capital J?

This is part of some board work that we did today:

  

I know it is the convention for Polish students to write it like this, and that they are even taught to do this in primary school when they first learn how to write, but it puts me in an awkward position as an English teacher. It is not correct in English.

I asked this student to show me this unusual letter (as an I) in a book, either English or Polish, and of course he couldn’t. He said it was only like this for handwriting. But is this OK for English work or not? Look at the example at the bottom of this picture and you can see that the I is more like a number 3 or a question mark:

  

Maybe I have to go with the flow and accept this convention because I work in Poland. But I highlight other errors, so why not this one? What do you think?


12 Years On – EnglishBanana.com Is Still Making A Difference To English Classes Around The World!

A message from EnglishBanana.com webmaster Matt Purland:

“It’s just over twelve years since I founded the English language resource website EnglishBanana.com, and since that first day online we have given away literally millions of free printable worksheets, and an estimated 2 million + free full-length course books. Twelve years is almost a lifetime in terms of internet years, but we are happy to still be here providing high-quality free resources for hard-working teachers and students everywhere. As the ‘net has changed, so we have changed to reflect the different ways our users want to interact with the site, for example, launching our mobile site last year: m.englishbanana.com, which is ideal for people using tablets or smartphones to access the free material. In all of those 12 years it would have been easy to become irrelevant, which is why we are so glad to read the kind of email that we received last week, from a teacher in Spain. A. writes:

Hello Matt,
First of all, I would like to introduce myself a bit for you to understand why I’m so grateful to your generosity.

My name is A. and I’ve been studying a career and some master degrees in order to become a teacher. Currently, due to the effects of a chronic illness I discovered I have, I’m not able to work, but I’m trying to occupy my time studying on my own from home.

As my goal is to teach Spanish as a foreign language, I also need to deeper my knowledge in English. And materials and exercises in English are good for me to improve, and also, to give me good ideas and knowledge on how to prepare my own materials in Spanish orientated to the foreign.

Some years ago, I used some of your exercises to help a 12 years old English student, with great results and a successful final mark on the exams. On that time I kept your web address noted, but didn’t give a proper attention to it. Nowadays, on my current situation, I’ve been surfing a lot in search of ideas, inspiration and a bit of help on materials. And I haven’t found something as good and generous as your altruist work.

That’s why, now that I’ve recovered your web again and used your material once again, I wanted to write to just say: Thank you! The world would be a better place if everyone took your initiative as a way of living. Including me.

My warmest greetings from Spain,

A.

“Thank you, A., for letting us know how much the site means to you. It is invaluable for us to receive this kind of feedback, because it encourages us to keep going, when so many older (ancient?!) free resource websites are closing down around us. Thank you again!”


Free Live English Class on EnglishSpeaking.Tips: Tuesday 13th January 2015 at 8pm CET!

You are welcome to join us for the start of a new online speaking course on EnglishSpeaking.Tips. It starts tomorrow at 8pm CET. Hope to see you there! For more information, please click below:

http://new.livestream.com/accounts/11662553/events/3719591/player?width=640&height=360&autoPlay=true&mute=false


Why does Taylor Swift sing “got a lonely Starbucks lover” in her No.1 song “Blank Space”?

Like for many listeners, there was one line that jumped out at me as seeming odd when I first heard the song Blank Space by Taylor Swift – and when I heard it again, and again, and again on the radio. The line occurs in the chorus:

Got a lonely Starbucks lover…

I assumed it was meant as a pop culture reference, or could even be part of a product placement deal with said coffee chain. It seemed odd and jarring in the song, but I processed it and continued about my business.

Imagine my intense surprise when, thanks to reading about the song online (e.g. here), I was informed that this wasn’t a coffee-based refrain at all, but that the actual line that Taylor sings is:

Got a long list of ex-lovers…

I decided to investigate the lyric further, because now I could hear both versions, where before it had only been the Starbucks one. It seemed to me that the sound spine could be causing the confusion. The sound spine is the sequence of stressed vowel sounds in a sentence. We rely on it when listening to English to be able to process what is said without catching every syllable and sound in a sentence. For example, in this sentence:

I went for a walk in the park.

The stressed syllables are:

I went for a walk in the park

and the stressed vowel sounds in these words are:

e    or    ar

which is the sound spine. (You can find out more about the sound spine and connected speech in my free book Talk a Lot Foundation Course.)

Without  e,  or,  ar  in this sentence, we might have problems understanding it. If you pronounced it with different stressed vowel sounds, e.g.  o,  er,  ee, it would sound like this:

I want for a work in the peek.

which of course is nonsense!

So what about this line from the massive number one-selling hit single “Blank Space”? Here is what the sound spine should be (with British English pronunciation):

Got a long list of exlovers.

o    o    i    e    u

and here is the sound spine that we actually hear:

Got a long list of ex-lovers.

ar    ar    ii    ar    u

Part of this is to do with Taylor’s Southern accent. “Got” becomes “Gart” and “long” becomes “larn”. However, the main problem is that the lyrics do not scan properly. The rhythm demands a stressed beat on “of”, which is a function word, and not usually stressed. With Taylor’s accent pronouncing  o  as  ar, combined with moving forward the  st  of “list” (using the connected speech technique of FCL – forward consonant linking), we somehow get the word “star” as a stressed content word. Taylor also changes the “ng” sound in “long” to  n, which gives us: “larn lii” instead of “long li” (with those crisp British English vowel sounds) – which is very close to “lonely”. Because our brain does not get the correct vowel sounds to be able to process the actual lyrics, it gives us the nearest matches: “lonely” and “Starbucks”. It is as if our brain hears “Star” as the stressed syllable of a two-syllable word and speedily searches for a relevant match. Faced with this difficult task (starfish… starving… star-crossed…?), the brain lands on the familiar word “Starbucks”. We accept it because surely this is a topic that Taylor Swift could be singing about – a romantic liaison in a US-owned coffee shop. It doesn’t fit with the next line, but never mind. We are too busy thinking about the lonely Starbucks lover to hear the next line. We also hear the  ks  of “ex” and this matches the end of “Starbucks” perfectly.

So, the entire line as Taylor sings it can be written in Clear Alphabet (a new phonemic alphabet – more here) like this:

Gar d Larn Lii Star ve Kslu vz

We hear the final word “lovers” correctly because the stressed vowel sound  u  is sounded out clearly.

How could the line be easier to catch? If Taylor had squashed the “of” instead of stressing it, maybe by pausing on the word “list”, before jumping over “of” to the double stress of “ex-lo”. The two double stresses “long list” and “”ex-lo”, separated by the unstressed beat “of” (with a schwa sound instead of  ar) might have sounded OK:

Got a long list, of exlovers…

But it might have been better to rewrite the line to fit the rhythm. Hmm. I don’t know – what about:

Got a lonely Starbucks lover…

It could even have been part of a tie-in promo with the coffee empire!

Does it matter? Only if clear communication matters.

Is it important in the grand scheme of things. Not really, but when I hear this song on the radio maybe 10 times per day, and I have to stop to think about the lyrics each time I hear the chorus (my ears are telling me “Starbucks” while my mind is telling me “No, no… it should be ‘long list of ex-‘…” which doesn’t fit) – it becomes a little annoying. However, I still love the album 1989.

The lesson for English students is: the clearer your sound spine, the more effective your communication.


3 Comments

FREE ESL Lesson Plan: Make a Group Text

This is a free lesson plan from You Are The Course Book – Lesson Plans by Matt Purland. You can download the complete book for free here. (.pdf – 6 MB) This book is in the public domain, which means that anybody can use it for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Method:

1. Stage 2.1 First Draft – Initial Ideas:
Explain that the whole group is going to write a shared text with 8 sentences on the board, which includes an agreed number of vocabulary words and phrases. T states or elicits a text type, e.g. an informal email. A SS from one team comes up and writes their sentence at the top of the board. A student from another group comes up and writes the next, and this continues until there are 8 sentences and SS from each group have participated. As they write, all of the other SS have to copy the text into their notebooks. Other SS can call out with suggestions and corrections. T must stay out of it. T does not try to correct their work. If SS ask for help, T says, “Sorry, I can’t help you at the moment.” By the end of this stage, SS have created the first draft of the text. One SS reads it aloud.

Variation: each sentence has to begin (or end) with one of the 8 chosen words.

2. Stage 2.2 Second Draft – Corrections:
T asks: “Can you see any errors?” T elicits a few from the text. SS work in their teams and analyse the text for errors: grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. After a few minutes, T elicits the errors from the whole group, helping if SS really can’t see some of the errors, and corrects the text on the board (or a SS could do this), until the text is completely correct. SS should also correct the text in their notebooks, so that every SS has the same corrected second draft text written down.

3. Stage 2.3 Third Draft – Improvements:

T congratulates the group: “Good! The text is correct; it’s good, but can it be improved? How can we make it better?” T elicits the different ways in which it can be improved:

  • title / headline / subject line (if required)
  • higher-level vocabulary and more adjectives
  • compound or complex sentences instead of simple
  • character development, e.g. names, motivations, back-stories
  • more dramatic action
  • consequences of actions are explored
  • detail where the text is generalised

SS work in their groups to produce an improved text, which means that there are now several distinct texts in the room. T can check each group and offer advice. After about 10-15 minutes, T asks a SS from each group to read their text aloud. After each reading T asks the other groups: “What was different? How has it been improved?” T helps SS to process what they have done: how they have gone from a few vocabulary words, through a rough version of the text, then a corrected version, to an improved version – working together as a whole group to begin with, then in smaller groups.

Tips:

  • T must let SS do all the work. Guide, don’t lead. Let them make mistakes on the board in Stage 2.1. Encourage SS to peer correct. All mistakes will be corrected in Stage 2.2.
  • Before you begin, make sure you have a few board pens that work!
  • The text that the SS write on the board should be legible and of a reasonable size. If it is too small, other SS will not be able to read it; if it is too big, there may not be enough room for all 8 sentences.
  • SS could write up their own final draft of the third draft text for homework.


FREE ESL Lesson Plan: Mode 1 Vocabulary Session

This is a free lesson plan from You Are The Course Book – Lesson Plans by Matt Purland.  You can download the complete book for free here. (.pdf – 6 MB) This book is in the public domain, which means that anybody can use it for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Mode 1 Vocabulary Session

Method:

1. T asks each group to write down 8 interesting and random words or phrases. They must be content words, not function words. They could be completely random, or begin with the same letter (elicited from a SS), or from a particular topic, e.g. Music. SS work together – one list per group. SS can use dictionaries. One SS from each group reads out their words and T selects the most interesting and random words to write on the board – 8 in total. T does not allow boring words, e.g. table, chair, book… SS write down the whole list.

2. T checks that everybody knows all the words and leads a pronunciation drill with the words. SS have to listen and repeat each word after T.

3. T asks SS to work as a team and write down the type of each word, e.g. noun, verb, adjective, etc. When each group is ready T asks for a SS to come to the board and write the word types on the board next to the vocabulary words. T elicits whether they are correct or not. If not, T elicits the correct answer and the SS writes it.

4. Repeat 3, except with number of syllables in each word.

5. Repeat 3, except with the stressed syllable in each word, which is underlined.

6. Repeat 3, except with the stressed vowel sound in each word. SS writes it with Clear Alphabet, if possible. If not, T elicits it from SS who use the Clear Alphabet chart (p.107). SS could also write each word in Clear Alphabet.

7. Repeat 3, except with whether the stressed vowel sound is short, long, or diphthong. T models the stressed vowel sounds and SS repeat.

8. Repeat 3, except with schwa sounds circled. By the end of the session, your board might resemble something like this (with words from the topic of Music:)

Vocabulary Lesson Plan - Image 1

…and so on.

Tip:

  • Try not to spend too long doing the vocabulary session. Remember to put together a lesson that provides a balanced ‘meal’ – where different skills are practised and different student needs are met. For example, while one SS might be happy to work with vocabulary for the whole lesson, another SS might prefer free practice activities, and so on.


All learning resources on EnglishBanana.com are now in the public domain! :)

Let’s compare two English Banana.com worksheets:

This is Worksheet A:

EnglishBanana.com Public Domain

EnglishBanana.com Public Domain

…and this is Worksheet B:

public-domain-3

EnglishBanana.com Public Domain

Did you notice the difference? Yes, they are the same worksheet, from the Big Grammar Book. But there is a crucial difference. The first one belongs to the past and the second to now and the future. The removal of the tiny copyright symbol makes a big difference to what you can now do with English Banana.com resources – all 4,000+ pages of them!

 

 


School in the Philippines uses English Banana’s Big Grammar Book for their free English Proficiency course

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. - 2014

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. – 2014

Meiji Geneta from Cavite Southern Emerald Academy in the Philippines emailed us recently to ask whether they could use English Banana material to run a free English course. We said yes – of course! – because all English Banana material is covered by our free licence to run courses – and all our free books are in the public domain.

Meiji wrote:

“I am from the Philippines and I have come across the English Banana website and I was very very amazed by the numerous worksheets that were made for students and teachers who are very much interested to widen their learning when it comes to the English Language. We have a school here in the Philippines and the name of the school is Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. It is a non-stock, non-profit school and we cater students in the Preschool and Elementary Department.

“Our school shares the same vision as you do because we also love to share the love for the English language. The Philippines is not a First English Country and being able to use your resources will be able help us teach the our students the english language better and in an organized manner. I believe that the resources you have put in your website are indeed very very helpful and will definitely help our students learn the very best the English Language can offer.

“We will be conducting a two week English Proficiency Class this May 19 to May 30, 2014. This will be offered to the students for free and they will be using the  1st Grammar Book of English Banana.com [Big Grammar Book]. We would like to inform the students and the parents that all resources used in this class came from English Banana.com and we would like to recognize you for this.

“Thank you so much sir for sharing with us the resources of English Banana.com to help teach children about the English Language. I am looking forward to have more English classes with our students soon and use English Banana’s resources.”

Their course was a resounding success (see pics below) and we were delighted that they chose English Banana’s Big Grammar Book for their course material. After all, why pay for expensive course books and ELT material when English Banana material is free to use?

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. - 2014

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. – 2014

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. - 2014

English Proficiency course at Cavite Southern Emerald Academy, Inc. – 2014

 

 


FREE Online English Class with Nadia – You Are The Course Book Demo!

This Saturday 25th January at 6pm CET Nadia is teaching a free online English class using You Are the Course Book Method. All learners are welcome!

She writes:

“This is a demo class on You Are the Course Book Method, developed by Matt Purland, England. Teacher Nadia from Russia will give a mock class using Matt’s method. This a speaking class for English learners, so everybody please get your mics ready.”

To find out more and to sign up for this class please visit the link below:

http://www.wiziq.com/online-class/1605141-you-are-the-coursebook-method-by-matt-purland_nadia-s-demo-class


Free Teacher Training Course – Final Class Tonight!

Our current free teacher training course is coming to an end tonight. The final class will be at 9.15pm CET on WizIQ.com. Please click below for full details. Hope you can make it!

http://www.wiziq.com/course/36615-free-teacher-training-course-for-english-teachers


Next Class in our Free Teacher Training Course for English Teachers

Dr. Muhammad Schmidt, IFTS, Nairobi, Kenya

Dr. Muhammad Schmidt, IFTS, Nairobi, Kenya

You are welcome to join us for the next class in our ongoing free teacher training course, which will be presented by Dr. Muhammad Schmidt of IFTS, Kenya.He will be speaking on the subject of: You Are The Course Book Method within the larger framework of communicative ESL Teaching.

This class will take place on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. CET on Skype. If you would like to participate, please contact Dr. Schmidt via Skype. His Skype ID is: turnoi

The class will last for around one hour and there is a free handout which you can download here.

You can join our free teacher training course here. There are already 126 course learners. We would be delighted if you wanted to get involved!


You can now buy hard copies of 4 English Banana.com books!

We are really pleased to announce that we are now selling hard copies of 4 fabulous English Banana.com books:

Big Grammar Book, Big Activity Book, Big Resource Book, and Talk a Lot Elementary Book 1

Click here for full details!


We’re giving away 20 FREE hard-copy books: Big Grammar Book & Talk a Lot Elementary Book 1!

Free Hard-Copy English Banana Books!

Free Hard-Copy English Banana Books!

PLEASE NOTE: THIS OFFER HAS NOW ENDED. THANKS TO EVERYBODY WHO EMAILED US!

We’ve got 20 FREE English Banana.com books to give away – with FREE postage and package – courtesy of the good people at English Banana Trust! Glyn Purland, who is Chair of English Banana Trust, writes:

“To mark the end of the 10th year online of English Banana.com, the English Banana Trust is offering a number of the two most popular English Banana books, one per person, free of charge including postage and package. We hope that this will help you in your teaching and learning of the English language.”

There are 10 free copies of Big Grammar Book and 10 free copies of Talk a Lot Elementary Book 1. These books are real, not digital – you can flick through them! You can put them in your bag or on your bookshelf at home! You can photocopy them!

All you have to do to get your FREE book is to send us a message with:

* Your full name

* Your mailing address

* WHICH book you would prefer to receive

* A few words to say WHY you would like to receive a free English Banana.com book

This offer is open to teachers and students of English, and is available on a first come, first served basis – one free book per person. If you are not lucky enough to receive a free hard-copy book, please remember that you can still download both books (and many more!) free from English Banana.com.


Free EFL/ESL Lessons for Busy Teachers at EFL Sensei

EFL Sensei.com

EFL Sensei.com

Check out this great resource site for EFL teachers: EFL Sensei. There you will find free printable lesson plans, speaking activities, board games, conversation cards, grammar activities, and more!

Why not try this exciting jigsaw speaking activity for starters? Bourbon Street: http://www.eflsensei.com/Bourbon-Street/?path=52