Monday 28 September 2009

Learning Method & Website: Visual Merriam Webster Dictionary

Learn English the Visual Way

I think those of you who have attended my classes know well that I strongly encourage the use of visual images / pictures in your English learning. The reasons have been listed in great details in those lessons. To cut short, you can revise numerous times in a very short time -- the keys to good revision.

Recently, renowned dictionary websites have undergone major change in their business and many of them have added visual images in it. Seems like the market in moving in a way that I have long been hoping for -- visual learning.

What I have for you today is the latest Visual Merriam Webster Dictionary. I came across this when a colleague of mine asked me the English word for the part of the door knob that actually locks the door. I thought it was called a shackle but that was only for padlock, so I went to do my result and found the term deadbolt in this dictionary.
As I have always been saying, if you don't bother to draw your own picture, it is best to get an image from the internet and then print it out. And now with this dictionary, you can even learn a few more related ones: strike plate, faceplate, keyway, ring, cotter pin, etc.

If you don't know what you want to learn, click on the Themes section at the bottom left corner of the page.

This is so far the best that you can get, so do share this with your friends who are eager to learn!

Enjoy learning!


Saturday 26 September 2009

Grammar: Second Conditional

I've been a bit lazy with my own blog and busy with my school's stuff, so I must apologise for those of you who have been waiting for my entry this Friday.

Today, we will move to the next type of the conditional sentences, called the Second Conditional.

If you have been reading on grammar books, you must have realised that few of them further classify this type of conditional. Here I would like to group them into two types, I simply call them type 2A and 2B.

Let's take a look at the first type.

Second Conditional 2A
Highly impossible, but not totally impossible
[ If (past simple), (would + infinitive) ]
Condition Result
  1. If I won the Mark 6 Jackpot tonight, I would donate 20% to the charity.
  2. If someone got hit by a car right in front of me now, I would call 999 for help.
Time Concern: From Now to Future
Chances for condition to happen: Very low; alm0st impossible, but not 100% impossible

Alternatively, you can use

[(would + infinitive) if (past simple)]
Result Condition
  1. I would donate 20% of the Mark 6 Jackpot to the charity if I won it tonight.
  2. I would call 999 for help if someone got hit by a car right in front of me now.

This should be easy to understand, now let's move on to 2B.


Second Conditional 2B
100% impossible
[ If (past simple), (would + infinitive) ]
Condition Result
  1. If I were you, I would marry your girlfriend.
  2. If you worked for me, I would fire you straight away!
Time Concern: From Now to Future
Chances for condition to happen: 100% impossible.

Alternatively, you can use

[(would + infinitive) if (past simple)]
Result Condition
  1. I would marry your girlfriend if I were you.
  2. I would fire you straight away if you worked for me.

Important Note:

If you have been reading my previous entry on Zero & First Conditionals, you would have realised 3 things:

Tenses Used: From Present to Past

Time Concern: From "anytime" to only "future and present" --> moving back in time gradually.

Chances for condition to happen: From 100% possible to 100% impossible.

This is the trend for conditional sentences. In the future, you can expect that the Third Conditional would follow this trend too. Till then, enjoy learning!

PS: I hope you enjoyed my examples. I have tried my best to make it sound ridiculous.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Drinks: Coffee Mania

Coffee Mania

Fancy coffee anyone? Which types of coffee do you like? Caffelatte or straight caffe espresso? Do you p
refer Starbucks or Pacific Coffee? Would you go for your favourite all the time or would you
be adventurous to try new editions? Will you drink because of the taste or because McCafe has $12 Cappuccino recommended as perfect by Mr. Chan Ho?

In one of my lessons, one of my students mentioned a type of coffee which is "processed" by the internal organs of a cat and it cost him $250 per cup!!! I have never heard about it! Neither do
I think I am rich enough to try, nor dare to try, but it is worth learning the term, and thus I asked him how to spell -- Kopi Luwak (Coffea Liberica).

Well, actually, it is not "processed" by a cat, but an Asian Palm Civet, called Luwak in Indonesian, so please don't feed coffee beans to your cat at home.

Typically, there are two main types of coffee beans. They are the Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta (or Coffea canephora). Arabica Coffee is also known as the mountain coffee, for the beans are cultivated generally between 1300m to 1500m altitude (height above sea level). It is more expensive and superior to the Robusta Coffee.

On the other hand, since Robusta Coffee (mostly grown in Africa and Brazil) is easier to care for, it is cheaper and it is normally used in lower grade coffee blend as a filler. It is blended with the arabica due to its crema, a reddish-brown foam that floats on the surface.

Recently, I have tried the latest Crema Scura from Pacific Coffee and it is very very rich and creamy, what's more, it is organic (you need to pay $2 more) if you have a chance, you may give it a whirl!

Lastly, Robusta Coffee has about twice as much caffeine than Arabica and thus it really wakes you up!

Normally, when we go to the coffee shop to drink coffee, the baristas have already prepared the mix of coffee beans, which we are generally not allow to intervene.

Starbucks has a page here that sorted the coffee into mild, smooth and bold, and you can take that as a reference to your taste. And Pacific Coffee has a page with very detailed vocabulary for describing the different types of their coffee and I am sure you will find them very useful.

Here are some examples:
Fruity, nutty, creamy, deep, earthy, full-bodied, floral, caramel texture, undertones, acidic, smoky, sweet, snappy, dry, winely, spicy, elegant, fragrant.

Another expensive coffee is the Jamaican Blue Mountain, a type of coffee only grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. I guess it would fit my taste because it is mild and lack of bitterness. If the coffee shop can even play the traditional Jamaican music, raggae, it would definitely be a joy!

picture resources:


Friday 18 September 2009

Idiom: White Elephant

White Elephant

Have you ever heard of this term before?
Many zoos would love to have an animal that is white in colour. White tiger, white lion, white giraffe, white whale, white mouse... oops, not the white mouse. When people go travelling, they want to go to Hokkaido, South Korean, Canada to see white snow. Many years ago, the girls wanted to be Snow White and wish for their White Prince. Nowadays, most Asian girls like white skin and so they buy whitening mask, whitening night cream, whitening day cream, whitening toothpaste, "Milky Foot" to remove the dead skin under the foot ... Some even go into whitening their skin under their armpits!

So it does seem a white elephant is something to aim for.

But unfortunately, in English, it turns out that it carries a negative meaning.

How is it possible?

The story began in South Asian countries when the kings still rule their land. At that time, a white elephant is regarded as "ruling with justice and power"[1]. But because this animal is protected by the law, unlike all other elephants, the white elephants need not work. So if someone was being granted a white elephant at that time, it was both a blessing and a curse[1] -- the white elephant allows you to show off but in return you need to keep it in a good shape and cannot make it work for you.

In modern terms, it is something that has cost a lot of money but has no useful purpose[2]. Do you have something like that at home? Look inside your cabinet.

You may argue, "Hey! I remember that in the movie 'Anna and the King', Mr. Chow Yun Fat spreaded a fake news of somebody spotted a white elephant somewhere and he would go and pay that white elephant a visit, which eventually saved his life with this rumour." But do you remember that this rumour also almost got him killed? Anyway, it is nothing like the original book"Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret_Landon.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

New Article: Headless conjoined twin born

The following news article is directly quoted from 14th Sep 09, Straits Times (for educational purpose).

An Afghan woman has given birth to a baby boy attached at the chest to a headless conjoined twin. --PHOTO: AFP
Headless conjoined twin born

KUNDUZ (Afghanistan) - AN AFGHAN woman has given birth to a baby boy attached at the chest to a headless conjoined twin, a doctor at a hospital in northern Afghanistan said on Monday.

The otherwise healthy infant (baby) was born on Thursday with the torso (body/trunk), legs and hands of a male twin attached, he said.

'For the first few days the attached second body was also alive and was moving, but now it is dead,' Dr Homayoun Khamoosh of Kunduz hospital told AFP. 'It is the first time we have seen a case like this in Kunduz province.'

Dr Khamoosh said an operation to separate the babies was needed to save the life of the fully formed child.

'Doctors have decided to carry out surgery to separate the two bodies before it (the headless body) decomposes (breaks down),' said Dr Khamoosh.

The 35-year-old mother, who has four other children, hid her face from cameras at the baby's bedside and would not give her name.

Afghanistan suffers from one of the world's highest rates of mother and child mortality during labour, mainly because of poor maternal healthcare in a destitute country devastated by decades of civil war. -- AFP


Apart from the movie "Stuck On You" by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, I haven't really seen any other movies which talk about conjoined twins, nor do I know of any others.

There is another term for conjoined twins, commonly used in the movie, called "Siamese Twins", originated from the most famous circus pair of Chang and Eng Bunker in Siam (now Thailand). Of Medical term, this is a form of "Omphalopagus", sharing their liver.

After watching an episode of House on TV one time "Cane and Able", I discovered that there is more to just twins connected through the body. The episode talked about a boy who kept seeing aliens and imagining he was always being captured by them. This boy is so special that he carries two types of DNA strands in his blood. Dr House later figured out that the boy was a chimera, an example of Chimerism (a form of Genetic Mosaicism), of which he actually had a twin brother growing inside his brain in the form of a tissue and was controlling the imagination of aliens. After removing this tissue (his brother), the boy was back to normal.

In an episode of South Park, the school nurse Gollum happened to be suffering from a ficitional diseases Conjoined Twins Myslexia (You can watch this episode by clicking on the link), I suppose this is a form of "Craniopagus".


Conjoined Twins Type: ,

House Episode Guide:

South Park Episode:

Medical Terms:

Medical Terms:

Friday 11 September 2009

Vocabulary: Wedding

The 9th September 2009 (999) was a special day for marriage.
Were you married on this day?
Have you ever attended a wedding? I guess the answer is yes.
Have you ever wondered what you called the people and things in a wedding? Maybe not.

Let's look into the topic together.

First of all, the names of the participants in English:
  1. Bride
  2. Bridegroom / Groom
  3. Bridesmaids
  4. Groomsmen (US) / Usher(UK)
  5. Flower girls
  6. Page boys and ringbearers
  7. Officiant / Celebrant
Explanations as follows:
  1. A bride is a female who is getting married. In a white wedding, she usually wears a white wedding gown(wedding dress), a veil (a piece of see-through cloth attached to the top of the head) and carries a flower bouquet. In some weddings, an heirloom (A valued possession that has been passed down through the generations.) might be carried by the bride.
  2. A bridegroom is a male who is getting married. In the US, the groom usually wears a dark-coloured suit in the day or tuxedo in the evening during the wedding ceremony. He will sign a marriage certificate or a marriage licence with the bride.
  3. Bridesmaids are often the close friends or relatives of the bride. The chef bridesmaid is called the maid of honor if she is not married, or the matron of honor if she is married. Bridesmaids are typically the wedding-event planners, such as the wedding reception and the bridal shower (gift-giving party)/ bachelorette party/hen party/hen night (girls' night out).
  4. Groomsmen may help in organising the wedding ceremony, but a bachelor party / Stag Night / Buck's Night is prefered, as the expense is usually paid by the groom-to-be. The chef of the groomsmen is called the Best Man.
  5. A Flower girl typically walks in front of the bride during an entrance processional and she may spread flower petals on the floor before the bride or carries a bouquet.
  6. A Page boy or a ringbearer is the male version of the flower girl, except that he carries a large white satin pillow with the rings lying on it.
  7. An Officiant / A Celebrant is a person who officiates the ceremony.
After the wedding, a wedding breakfast in England or New Zealand for the bride and bridegroom at the wedding reception sums up the event.

According to an article on Wikipedia, the bride is not the only person to throw an object (a bouquet to the single women) but the groom also. After the bride has thrown the bouquet, the groom will remove a spare garter from the bride's right leg just above the knee while she sits in a chair (traditionally with his teeth but with his hands in modern days), and then throw it to the single male guests. Quoting from the original source, "Those that catch either item are said to be the next to marry. In some instances, it is said that they will marry each other."

Sounds a bit too juicy.


Tuesday 8 September 2009

Websites: Useful Videos for English Learning

I came across a couple of websites, which are rather interesting (which might be useful for your English learning) and would like to share with all of you.

The first one came from a SCMP channel on Youtube. The website is given at the bottom and you can subscribe to it and get the update when there is one.

I find this interesting because you get to see two girls travelling around Hong Kong, speaking English on their way with nice accents. I think they did a good job.

Then you can also find interviews of the celebrities or the likes.

You get to hear different accents and various stories, which is definitely better than consistently listening to the same newsreporters reading the news in a professional tone.

The second one is actually where these videos orginally come from, so if the Youtube Channel doesn't update that often, then the SCMP portal is definitely the first hand source.

Enjoy your learning!


Wednesday 2 September 2009

Grammar: Zero and First Conditionals (Add-ons)

Looks like I missed out the big point which Bo Bo was enquiring, so here are the add-ons.

First, let's look at Bo Bo's examples.

Let's go back to the sentense again :
  1. I'm not quiet and nice, but I'll come, if Mother will let me. I'll go ask her.
  2. I'll talk all day if you'll only set me going.
They might look difficult, but they are actually nothing more than the First Conditional. What is different now is that the "will" in the "condition" part shows a sense of politeness. You can even use "would" to make things more polite. (Some of you who attended my lessons understand perfectly why)

It is like:

  1. Will you help me out? If you will help me out, I'll be delighted.
  2. Mr Krugman is waiting in the conference room. If you would come this way...
So really, there is nothing much to worry about.

Grammar: Zero and First Conditionals

It is always good to receive some good questions to open up a new entry. This time, thanks to Bo Bo for asking me a question on the conditionals.

Generally speaking, there are 5 types of conditionals, namely, Zero, First, Second, Third and Mixed Conditionals.

Conditionals sentence often comes with the word "if" because this sets the "condition".

Let's take a look at the first example.

Zero Conditional
The Truth or the Facts
[ If (present simple), (present simple) ]
Condition Result

  1. If one heats ice, it melts.
  2. If one doesn't eat for a day, they feel hungry.

Time Concern: Anytime
Chances for condition to have the same result: Always

Now, when you use the Zero Conditional, please follow the format above. Alternatively, one can also write
[(present simple) if (present simple)]
Result Condition
  1. Ice melts if one heats it.
  2. One feels hungry if they don't eat for a day.

First Conditional
Very High Possibility, but not perfect
[ If (present simple), (will + infinitive) ]
Condition Result

  1. Last minute into the football match! If Liverpool don't score a goal, they will lose!
  2. If you continue spending so much money, you will go bankrupt very soon!
Time Concern: From Now to Future
Chances for condition to happen: Very High, but not 100% (because it is not a fact)

Alternatively, you can use

[(will + infinitive) if (present simple)]
Result Condition
  1. Last minute into the football match! Liverpool will lose if they don't score a goal!
  2. You will go bankrupt very soon if Iyou continue spending so much money.

Whether the condition will have a very high possibility of happening or not, only the author will know, but once this conditional has been used, you understand what the author means.

Don't you?

Welcome your questions.