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August 11, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Interesting facts

There are so many interesting things we don’t know about the world but there are many that we do know.

So this week we thought we’d look at some interesting facts.  Did you know…

  • Bananas are curved because they grow towards the sun.
  • Ketchup was sold in the 1830s as medicine.
  • Like fingerprints, everyone’s tongue print is different.
  • A duck’s quack doesn’t echo.
  • The Spanish national anthem has no words.
  • Honey does not spoil. You could eat 3000 year old honey.
  • When we breathe through our nose, we always inhale more air from one nostril than the other and this changes every 15 minutes.
  • Written language was invented independently by the Egyptians, Sumerians, Chinese and Mayans.
  • The top of the Eiffel Tower leans away from the sun, as the metal facing the sun heats up and expands, it can move as much as 7 inches.
  • The reason why the wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger of your left hand is because it’s the only finger that has a vein connecting directly to your heart.
  • Antarctica is the only continent with no spiders.
  • Dr Seuss invented the word ‘nerd’.
  • Expiration dates on bottled water is for the bottle and not for the water in it.
  • In a typical lifetime we spend over six years dreaming.
  • There’s a city called Rome (Roma) in every continent.
  • Over 75% of people who read this will try to lick their elbow.

Do you know any interesting facts you can add to these?


August 4, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Gender pay gap

In recent weeks a lot has been written about the gender pay gap.  It came to light that men working for the BBC are being paid more than the women.   

So why is it that men are paid more than women for doing the same job?  Could it be because more women work part-time t  han men do? Or is it because women are usually the ones to stay at home with children?

This is simply not true anymore.  Women make up almost half of the workforce and there are now more female graduates than men.   There are many reasons for the gender pay gap.  Discrimination is still one of the biggest factors and even though some progress has been made to improve things, some industries and occupations, such as construction, there has been no progress at all.

Inequality exists in all countries and across all sectors, because women’s work is undervalued even though the work itself may require equal or more effort and skills.  Women of colour, migrant women and mothers are even more at a disadvantage and the gap widens.

So what can be done to make this situation better?  One way would be to raise the minimum wage, another would be to have more transparent pay structures within organisations.  The most effective would be if governments made it compulsory to have equal pay for all.

What do you think?  How big is this problem in your country?

June 30, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Summer festivals

In England summer music festivals are very popular.  They cater for almost every musical taste and there it’s rock music, pop music, folk music, indie music or dance music.  There is something for everyone.

So what’s a music festival?

Well, it’s a festival of music usually with a theme such as musical genre, nationality or the locality of the musicians.  Music festivals are nearly always held outside.   They are mostly held outside and have a lot of other attractions and activities happening at the same time.  They are usually once a year and have different objectives, for example some are just for profit for the organisers and singers and others support special causes.  Some help new artists.

Festivals are not a recent thing.  They go back a long time.  The Pythian Games at Delphi included musical performances and is the earliest festival known and in the Middle Ages, festivals were often competitions.

There are many festivals around the world promoting different things.  The world’s largest festival is an 11 day event in the United States called Summerfest.  It has been running since 1999 and attracts between  800,000 – 1,000,000 people every year and has over 800 musical acts participating.

Glastonbury is England’s most famous festival and was established in the town of Glastonbury between 1914 – 1926  by classical composer Rutland Boughton and featured works by then contemporary composers.

So if you love music, why not go along and experience one of the festivals in England.

For some of the best festivals in England, click on the link below:



June 19, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

What are you afraid of?

This week we have been discussing phobias in the office.

It seems that everyone has something that they are afraid of.   It could be a fear of spiders or the dark and while these may seem irrational and silly if you don’t have a fear of these things, it is a very real problem for the person who has the phobia.  Sometimes it is so bad that the person suffering from the phobia is unable to leave their home.

It is not completely known why people have phobias but there is research that suggests that we have a phobia gene. Fortunately, there is a lot of support for people who do suffer from phobias.  There is exposure therapy, which is a form of cognitive-behaviour therapy and it is the most effective treatment for anxieties and phobias.  During treatment, you will come face to face with your fear to help you and over time it will become better.

There are so many different phobias – the list is endless.  Did you know that there is a fear of the heart (cardiophobia) or a fear of sitting (Cathisophobia).  So let’s have a look at the vocabulary for some of these phobias.  Can you guess what the words on the right are a phobia of on the left?   Have a go at matching them up below:


1 Ablutophobia A Fear of drinking.
2 Agliophobia B Fear of pain.
3 Ambulophobia C Fear of microbes.
4 Bacillophobia D Fear of hair.
5 Botanophobia E Fear of rooms.
6 Chaetophobia F Fear of crowds.
7 Clinophobia G Fear of walking.
8 Dipsophobia H Fear of ideas.
9 Enochlophobia I Fear of forests.
10 Genuphobia J Fear of cooking.
11 Hylophobia K Fear of plants.
12 Ideophobia L Fear of words.
13 Koinoniphobia M Fear of knees.
14 Logophobia N Fear of going to bed.
15 Mageirocophobia O Fear of washing or bathing.


1. O 2. B 3. G 4. C 5. K 6. D 7. N 8. A 9. F 10. M 11. I 12. H 13. E 14. L 15. J


June 9, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Summer in London

Summer in London is a very special experience.  It is not like a lot of countries where the sun will shine continuously for three or four month of the year.  If we are lucky, we have about two weeks of sunshine in July or August.  The weather is so unpredictable and our average temperature in the summer months is around 20.8°C  (70°F).

This could be because we are an island and our climate is affected by all weather fronts.  That is the reason why it is possible to experience four seasons in one day.

However don’t let the weather stop you from discovering what London has to offer.  There are so many enjoyable events happening in the city during June, July and August that you are sure to find one which suits you.

Things to do in London in the summer:

The Luna cinema starting on the 14th June until 24 September 2017.  If you love films and cinema, then you don’t want to miss this opportunity to watch one of your favourite films in the open air.  The Victoria Embankment Gardens,  Crystal Palace Park, Greenwich Park, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court Palace  are just some of the great locations you can go along to. You can find more information here:

London wine week from 5th June – 11 June 2017.  Perfect if you are over 18 years old and love wine. More information here:

Alice’s Adventure Underground If you like the story of Alice in Wonderland, then you might like to see this alternative production of the famous tale. More information here:

The Chap Olympiad – 15 July 2017 is a garden party to celebrate Britain ineptitude at sports.  You can get dressed up in formal clothes and take part in games.

More information here:

The underground supper club – if you don’t know where to go but want to have a BBQ then the Underground Supper Club is the perfect place for you.  You can have a three course meal on a decommissioned tube carriage.  More information here:

These are just a few ideas of things you can do and enjoy in this great city.  Of course there’s always the theatre, the cinema, the many wonderful museums and restaurants you can visit too.

So what are you waiting for?  Go and have some fun in London.

May 30, 2017
by Bloomsbury International



Do you have a blog? Have you thought about starting one up and never got round to it? Today we are going to talk about the blogging.
A blog is a short and frequently updated website. It’s like an online diary and there are around 173,000 blogs written by people every day on different subjects. They can also include photos, film, audio.

Why blog?

Blogging is a good way of sharing your ideas and interests with the world.  Writing a blog helps you learn new things about your interests and be able to think more clearly about these things.  Blogging helps you to voice your opinion, which may sometimes be difficult to do in person.   It also helps with your writing proficiency.  Writing a regular blog will help you to focus on your language and can help you become a better writer.  Writing a blog can also boost your confidence, if you are sharing your views and ideas about something you are interested in, you will become much more confident about talking about these.  Some people have even made money from blogging.

How do I blog?

Setting up a blog is easy.  Follow these steps:

  • Choose a theme for your blog.
  • Select a platform to host your blog – Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress
  • Create your profile and design.
  • Write your first blog. Start with “Welcome to my Blog.”
  • Organise your posts by genre and category.
  • Update your blog regularly.
  • Don’t forget to add pictures, video and music files.
  • Don’t forget to promote it

So why not start up a blog?  If you don’t want to start one by yourself, you could ask your friends or classmates and set on up together.  It’s a great way to reach a lot of people and who knows, it could even make you famous.


May 19, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

British Coins

When many people come to the UK, they find it very difficult to identify which coin is which. The system doesn’t seem very logical because the 2p (and even the 1p) is bigger than the 5p piece, and the 20p is smaller than the 10p piece. When visitors first arrive, they spend a long time searching through change to find the correct one. Has this happened to you? Have you ever wondered why British money is seemingly so illogical? Is there a reason that justifies the varying sizes?

If you look at euros for example, each coin is grouped with two other coins next to it in a group of three, so they place together the 1, 2 and 5 euro cent coins, the 10, 20 and 50 euro cent coins, and the 1 and 2 euro coins. This grouping causes some problems because the coins look very similar to each other because they are the same colour and only very slightly different in size. So, in order for blind or partially-sighted people to distinguish the coins, each coin has a different edge. So the 10, 20 and 50 euro cent coins can be distinguished by rubbing your fingernail over the edge of the coin.

In the UK we take this a step further by putting our coins, not in groups of 3, but in pairs. So, we put 1p with 2p (small and large with a smooth edge, make with a copper coloured metal), 5p with 10p (small and large with a rough edge and made of nickel, a silver colour), 20p with 50p (small and large with an angular edge) and £1 with £2 (much thicker than the other coins). The sharp contrast in size between the two coins in each pair, as well as the different textures of the edges and the colours of the metals make it much easier for blind or partially-sighted people to identify the coins and much more easily identifiable when paying for things.

The newest UK coins, released in 2008 join together to make a picture, the image of a shield. But why do these new coins only have text to identify their value (FIVE PENCE) and not numbers (5 PENCE)? Well, the above system is judged to be so effective that it was unnecessary. Most British people can identify coins from a large distance and by feeling the weight of the coin without looking at the number. Both of these are much more difficult to do with euro coins. Try it with a friend. Stand 15-20 metres away from a friend and try to identify the coin that they are holding up.

However, these new coins, although clever, admittedly do make it much more difficult for foreign visitors and tourists who may not speak English and who are not familiar with the British system.

Do you agree with the decision in 2008 to remove numbers from the coins? If you worked for the Royal Mint (the organisation that produces our money) what other changes would you make to British coins to make them easier for foreign visitors, while retaining their blind-friendly features?

May 12, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Museums at Night

Museums at NightEvery year in May (and October), many of the important museums and heritage sites in London open at night, and you can visit, go on tours lit by torchlight, enjoy live music and even sleep over. This year, it runs from Wednesday 17th – Saturday 20th of May (and again in October).

There are many things to do:

• At the Museum of Brands in Notting Hill. You can learn about the behaviour of consumers the exhibition entitled: “Neuroscience: Why People Buy” and there will be a talk and demonstration. IT takes place on the 17th of May.
• At the Painted Hall of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, you can do an amateur life drawing class called “Vices and Virtues: Life Drawing” on the 18th of May.
• At Fulham Palace in Fulham, just south of Kenisngton, you can enjoy Victorian folk music, craft beer and entertainment typical of that period on the 18th of May.
• At the Charles Dickens Museum near Russell Square, there is an event called “Dickens After Dark” where you can enjoy live music, drinks and more Victorian activities in the home of the famous author on the 18th of May.
• “Renaissance Late” at the National Gallery offers workshops and activities with a Renaissance themes on the 19th of May.
• At the Bank of England Museum near Bank station, you can touch banknotes and coins of gold and silver and listen to the experts at the “Banknotes and Bullion” event of the 19th of May.
• At the National Archives’ “Sixties Evening” you can wear your best 1960s outfit and enjoy displays, talks, music, workshops and cocktails on the 19th of May.
• At the Grant Museum of Zoology’s there will be an event called “Taxidermy Late” where you can see how models of animals are made and enjoy short film screenings or explore the museum’s quirky collection on the 20th of May.

Museums at NightSome of these events are free so Google “Museums at Night” to find out more information. With most of these museums within a short Tube ride from Bloomsbury International, why not go and explore the Museums at Night?

May 8, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Kew Gardens

As spring comes into full bloom, many people like to go and look at the flowers blossoming on the trees. What better place to do this than Kew Gardens?

Kew Gardens (also known as The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew), is situated in Richmond in West London. It is a World Heritage Site that was founded in 1759, and is the largest living plant and fungus collection in the world. It contains almost 30,000 different kinds of plants, seven million preserved plant specimens. The library houses more than 750,000 volumes of work, and over 175,000 prints and drawings of plants. The site of Kew Gardens formally opened in 1759, and is made up of 300 acres of gardens and botanical greenhouses. There are many unique and exciting features to see at Kew Gardens including the Treetop Walkway, Waterlily House, the Pagoda, Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Japanese Gateway.

The Treetop walkway opened in 2008 and is 18 metres high and 200 metres long. Visitors can go up and down by stairs or by a lift. The whole structure swings in the wind. The accompanying image shows a section of the walkway and the steel supports that were designed to rust to a tree-like appearance to help the walkway fit in with its surroundings.

The Waterlily House is the most humid and hottest of the houses at Kew Gardens and contains a large body of water with different varieties of water lily. It closes during the winter months, so you must see it in the summer.

The Great Pagoda lies in the south-east corner of Kew Gardens and was constructed in 1762, It’s height is 50 m and is covered with tiles and decorated with dragons. It is currently closed, but is set to reopen this year!

The Princess of Wales Conservatory was opened in 1987 by Princess Diana, Princess of Wales. It contains various types of plants including orchids, water lilies, cacti, lithops, carnivorous plants and bromeliads. It is designed to minimise the amount of energy taken to run it, and its distinctive shape helps to maximise the use of the sun’s energy. While it was being constructed, a time capsule was buried (a time capsule is a small box containing things of cultural value for future generations to dig up). It contains the seeds of basic crops and endangered plant species.

The Japanese Gateway (or “Imperial Envoy’s Gateway”) is a small replica of the gateway of the Nishi Hongan-ji temple in Kyoto. It is surrounded by a reconstruction of a traditional Japanese garden.

With so many interesting buildings and plants to see, what is stopping you from visiting Kew Gardens this spring and summer?

April 28, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

May Day

In countries around the world, the first of May is celebrated as a day for workers. However, people in the UK have been celebrating a much older holiday for thousands of years. May Day.

There is a pagan (non-Christian, non-Muslim) holiday called Beltane, which was celebrated by the ancient Celts (Irish and Scottish) on the 1st of May, exactly 6 months from the 1st of November which is very special for pagan people also.

The ancient Romans used to celebrate the arrival of spring by dancing and offering flowers to the goddess Flora. In the Middle Ages, people in England used to tell stories about Robin Hood and people sang songs and performed plays to celebrate the coming of spring. In the 17th century, May Day celebrations were banned by the Church because the origins of the festival were non-Christian, but the festival survived.

The tradition of dancing around a Maypole is about 400 years old and involves children holding lengths of ribbon attached to the pole and dancing around it, making patterns on the pole. These days, this dance is practised in smaller villages. A “May Queen” is crowned every year, and she must ride or walk at the front of the May Day parade. Another traditional English dance performed on May Day is the “Morris dance”, which is an English folk dance performed with music. It involves rhythmic stepping, handkerchief-waving or stick shaking and the performers usually wear pads with bells on their legs.

In 1978 the Labour Party, which was in power at the time, made May Day a bank holiday and today May Day and Labour Day (to celebrate and fight for workers’ rights) are celebrated side by side.

April 21, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Happy Saint George’s Day

Ireland has St. Patrick’s Day, Wales has St. David’s Day, Scotland has St. Andrew’s Day, but what does England have? St. George’s Day.

Every 23rd of April, people in England celebrate St George’s Day. St. George is England’s “patron saint” (a religious person who died and whose spirit protects the country). St. George is also the patron saint of the Caucasian country of Georgia, and the patron saint of the city of Barcelona, which explains why the countries’ flags are so similar (a red cross on a white background).

Strangely, the real St. George never visited England, so why is he the patron saint of England?

St George was born in modern-day Turkey and was a soldier in the Roman Army, but he was attacked verbally and physically for being a Christian at a time when the Romans were still worshipping Jupiter, Venus and Apollo. He was tortured and killed on the 23rd of April AD 303 after he refused to give up Christianity.

St. George was usually drawn killing a dragon, which represented the evil devil. The Italian writer and church leader in Genoa, Jacobus de Voragine first came up with the dramatic story of St George killing a dragon in his book ‘Golden Legend’. A dragon was protecting a well (a hole in the ground where we get water) and in order to get water, villagers had been planning to sacrifice a woman to keep the dragon happy. However, George kills the dragon, saving the village.

Many English soldiers believed that they had seen St George in a vision, fighting next to them, so English people began to view him as the protector of England. He was made patron saint of England in 1415 and the 23rd of April 23 was chosen, the day of his death.

St. George’s Day wasn’t very popular until recently. Many British people wanted to focus on their united British identity, but recently, English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish people are beginning to connect with the identity of their individual countries, rather than the union.

These days, the Mayor of London (currently Sadiq Khan) celebrates St. George’s day by having a special exhibition at City Hall (the Mayor’s office). The exhibition will celebrate London’s history and heritage. Also, on Saturday, there will be the Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square. You will be able to find out about English history, eat traditional English food and see traditional English performers, song, dance and other activities.

April 13, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Using mobile technology in the classroom

Mobile technology has transformed the way we communicate with each other. It’s also changed the way we socialise and the way we buy things. Everything is available to us at the touch of a button.

So why do we not use it in the classroom? Why do teachers insist on making you switch your phone off during the lesson? How can you use your phone more effectively?

Teachers are usually happy for you to use your mobile devise if you are using it to help you with learning English in and outside the classroom. However, they are not happy when you are playing Candy Crush or are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

There are a lot of things that you can do with mobile technology to enhance your learning. Here are some ideas taken from the British Council website which can help you.

Cameras and microphones are useful for learning English

SMART targets are targets which are: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Don’t just say that you want to “speak better English” or that you want to “get a 6.5 in your IELTS exam”, but mention a specific part of the English language that you want to improve, something that you can measure so that you know when you’ve achieved that target, something realistic and attainable, something relevant or useful your you as an individual and then set a time in which you want to achieve it.

You can use the camera or the microphone to record language around you in and outside the classroom. You can take photos of street signs, menus, advertisements and any other examples of written English that you see around you. You can also take photos of when English is misused or when people make mistakes with spelling or punctuation. This can be shared in class with you teacher and other students.

The camera and the microphone are also good for recording yourself, your friends and teacher (but remember to ask for permission first). It is a good way to go back and listen again to what has been said, and it also helps with pronunciation. You can record conversations with native speakers and replay them for clarification and listening practice. You can record your own personal diary about what you do every day or what you did last weekend. You can share your videos with your classmates.


There are a lot of apps that can help you learn English. You can try them all and find one that suits you. Apps add variety to the classroom and can support your learning in another form. Here are some you can try :

iPhone: FluentU on the AppStore
Android: FluentU on Google Play

iPhone: Google Translate on the AppStore
Android: Google Translate on Google Play

For listening practice

iPhone: English Podcasts on the AppStore
Android: English Podcasts on Google Play

For games

iPhone: Words With Friends on the AppStore
Android: Words With Friends on Google Play

iPhone: Fun English on the AppStore
Android: Fun English on Google Play

iPhone: Heads Up! on the AppStore
Android: Heads Up! on Google Play

For grammar

LearnEnglish Grammar (UK ed)

For vocabulary

Flashcardlet by Quizlet

*Please remember that you may have to pay for some Apps.


You can tweet a summary of a lesson or a text in 140 characters. You can tweet photos of your weekend and of interesting things you’ve seen or interesting places you’ve visited and any interesting people you’ve met. If you share a hashtag, your classmates can join in and follow you.

Writing blogposts

You can create your own class blog and everyone can contribute to it. Writing blogs can help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing.

April 7, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

10 common uses of the word ‘like’

The word “like” is a word which causes a lot of confusion for students partly because it is used so often and also because it has so many meanings.
Like ‘can be used as a verb or as a preposition as well as an interjection and there are several common expressions with ‘like’ that are easy to confuse with each other.

● What does she like?

This use of ‘like’ as a verb is for general preferences. ‘Like’ as a verb is usually followed by the ‘ing’ form of the verb (I like playing tennis), but it can also be followed by the infinitive with ‘to’.

“I like eating ice-cream” means you enjoy the activity and the experience.

“I like to eat vegetables 3 times a day” means that you like the benefits that doing that activity bring you.

● What is she like?

‘What … like?’ Is used as an adverb to ask about the appearance or personality of a person or object and is of a general nature. The response should be an adjective or something that describes the kind of person or object it is, ie. “She’s a lovely person, she’s tall and slim”.

● What does he look like?

‘Like’ is used as a preposition to talk about someone’s physical appearance. In this case, ‘like’ can also mean ‘similar to’ if you are making comparisons with other people. The answer to the above question could be “She looks like

● What would you like to drink?

Another common use of ‘like’ is as ‘would like’ to express desires. It is much more polite to say “I would like” than “I want”. Note that ‘would like’ is followed by the infinitive form of the verb and not by the ‘-ing’ form.

● Some animals, like bears, sleep through the winter.

This word means “such as” and is used to give examples of a category that you have just mentioned.

● He plays like Tchaikovsky

This is the word used as a preposition to compare two things. It means “similar to” and is usually followed by a noun.

● They look like they are having fun.

‘Like’ can be used as a conjunction. It is very similar to the previous usage, but the word ‘like’ is followed by a clause. The above sentence means “They look as if they are having fun”. This use of ‘like’ is very common now, but in the mid-1950s it was a new usage which many people complained about.

● I have many likes and dislikes

This use of the word is as a noun, but is not as common as the above uses. It can also refer to the number of times people have clicked the ‘like’ button on a Facebook post or comment.

● I was like, ‘hey, how are you?’

“To be like” can also be used in a very informal way to mean that someone said something, or acted in a particular way. You can used it to show someone an action that you did, ie. “I was like [shocked face]”, or to say what sound someone or something made, ie. “The car was like, “vroom!”. This use started in California, America, but has spread to almost every country in the English-speaking world. It is usually used by younger people.

● I don’t, like, want to go.

For many young people, it replaces other interjections like “umm” and “err”. It is another very informal use of the word that comes from California and that is used mostly by young people. It is a word that some people use when they are thinking about the next word.

So, all in all, we have 10 common uses of the word ‘like’. Have you ever used the word in this way or heard native speakers using it like this? Do you think it’s fine to use the last two phrases, or do you think the English language should stay in its traditional form?

March 31, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ Day is usually celebrated on the 1st of April. People play “practical jokes” or pranks and spread hoaxes (lies or fake news).

April Fools’ Day has been celebrated since at least the 14th century. It is even mentioned in the famous book “The Canterbury Tales” written by Geoffrey Chaucer in 1392.

In the UK, you usually reveal an April Fools’ joke by shouting “April fool!”. Usually you don’t continue making jokes all day, but stop at midday. If you play a joke after noon you become the “April fool” yourself.

Where did this custom come from? Well, in the mediaeval times, people celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25 in European. The New Year was a holiday which began on the 25th of March and ended on the 1st of April. People who celebrated New Years’ on the 1st of January mocked (made fun of) people who celebrated on the 25th March – 1st April.

In addition to ordinary people playing pranks on each other on April Fools’ Day, there are also a lot of complex and elaborate practical jokes which have appeared on TV, radio and the internet. Some newspapers and magazines even report fake new or false stories which are explained the next day in the following days’ issue.
Some large companies and international corporations have played elaborate tricks on people. In 1957, the BBC broadcast a film showing Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti. Most people in the 1950s didn’t know much about Italian food at the time so the BBC was flooded with questions about how to get hold of these “spaghetti plants”. It was so bad that the BBC had to announce the next day that it was a hoax.

What customs and traditions do you have in your country on the 1st of April?

March 24, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

Sounds and meaning

In 1929, psychologist Wolfgang Köhler did some psychological experiments where he showed people two shapes and asked them to label one as a ‘takete’ and the other as a ‘baluba’ (also called a “maluma”).

In 2001, Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Edward Hubbard, two linguists, repeated the experiment but used the words “kiki” and “bouba”.

Between 95% to 98% called the round shape the “bouba” and the sharp, jagged one the “kiki”. There was a great difference in the languages and culture of the two groups, which led them to believe that we naturally associate some sounds with shapes. The round shape might be called the “bouba” because the mouth makes a more round shape to make the sound and the sounds of a K are sharper.

  • In English, words which talk about surfaces in close contact often begin with “cl” (clasp, clamp, clam, clench, clad, clog, close, clot, cleft, cloven, clump, cluster, clutch, club, cling, clinch, clap).
  • Words which talk about the emission of light begin with “gl” (glare, glimmer, glass, glaze, gleam, glimpse, glint, glisten, gloss, glow, glamour, glitz, glory)
  • Words connected to the nose have a tendency to begin with “sn” (snorkel, snort, sniff, snivel, snore, snot, snuff, sneer, snide, snob, snooty).
  • and words meaning tiny pieces or small marks tend to end in “-le“, (bubble, crumble, dapple, freckle, mottle, pebble, pimple, riddled, rubble, nipple, spangle, speckle, sprinkle, stubble, wrinkle).

Do you understand all the words in the 4 groups above? Are there sounds in your language which have a similar meaning?

March 17, 2017
by Bloomsbury International

How to be a good student

1. Made a study plan

If you study only when you feel like it, you will never study. Making a study plan for the week or month, making sure you schedule in specific skills will help you to keep on task.

2. Set SMART targets

SMART targets are targets which are: Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based. Don’t just say that you want to “speak better English” or that you want to “get a 6.5 in your IELTS exam”, but mention a specific part of the English language that you want to improve, something that you can measure so that you know when you’ve achieved that target, something realistic and attainable, something relevant or useful your you as an individual and then set a time in which you want to achieve it.

(For example:) Not SMART ☓
I want to…
I want to…
Specific … improve my English. … learn everyday expressions for conversation.
Measurable … build up my vocabulary. … learn 10 new phrasal verbs.
Attainable … do all the English tenses in my 2 week course. … learn how to use the present perfect in my 2 week course.
Relevant … pass IELTS so I want to practise presentations. … pass IELTS so I want to practise speaking for 2 minutes.
Time-Based … be able to learn Advanced grammar. … be able to use the third conditional by next Friday.

3. Don’t worry about making mistakes

When we are learning a language, we always make mistakes. You should definitely not be afraid of making mistakes in the classroom because the lesson is a “safe space” where you can make mistakes which will then be corrected by the teacher.
However, you should also not be afraid to make mistakes outside of the classroom either. Most people, even native speakers of English don’t have perfect English, so you should focus more on communication and conversation rather than

4. Take every opportunity to practise your reading and listening

Read books and articles on a topic of study, or interest. Whether this is in connection with a course, or just at your own leisure, encouraging yourself to read is a highly effective way to increase understanding of new concepts. Take a trip to the library, or invest in some classics on a topic to provide the best reading materials to self-study.

Watch educational videos to keep yourself actively engaged in a concept. There are many tutorial videos that are intended for teaching people new skills, or educational shows aimed at complementing what students learn in school. Whether you are trying to learn another language, or figuring out how to conduct a science experiment, you can greatly benefit from the audio and visual walk-through.

5. Take every opportunity to practise your speaking

Many students come to the UK and end up only speaking to their teacher and to their classmates. The teacher often speaks more slowly and “grades their language” (adapts their English to the level of the class), and obviously classmates make similar mistakes to those you make.

The only way to really use your English in real-life situations is to go out and meet new people. had a group called “Mammoth Language Exchange” where you can meet new people and practice your English (and you may meet native English speakers who want to learn your language too). Obviously, when meeting strangers, you should make sure you go with a friend and that somebody knows where you are going.

If meeting strangers isn’t your thing, try to have conversations with your home-stay family or roommates about what you’ve learned at school.

6. Have a dedicated study area

A study area is vital to study effectively. You could have an office at home, a desk in your bedroom or you could use the Student Resource Centre at Bloomsbury International. Your study area should have a tidy work space with no clutter or distractions, and should be well-lit.

7. Learn how to take effective notes

Invest in highlighters, coloured pens and sticky notes because they are useful tools to take notes. If you keep notes while you are learning, it will enable you to keep the information in your brain for longer, and it will help you build valuable organisational skills.
This blog post has some excellent ideas for effective note-taking: James kennedy

December 30, 2016
by Bloomsbury International

New Year’s Day in London

New Year’s Day in London
Soon it will be 2017, and what better time to look at British New Year traditions!

There are many old traditions which would be very unusual today, but are unique to this country. There are some others which aren’t so historic, but are probably the same around the world.

As in many countries, British people will go out on New Year’s Eve, and stay awake till midnight, when there will be fireworks all over the country. Even if you stay at home, the firework show from central London, near Big Ben and the London Eye, will be on the television.
Some people will invite friends to their houses, for New Year’s parties, which again will be very long and finish a long time after midnight. Here, you’re more likely to see some of the old-fashioned customs, including a famous song.

Auld Lang Syne
This song is a fixture at even quite informal parties. During the fireworks, a group of friends will stand in a circle, cross their arms, and join hands with the people on either side, bounce up and down and sing a song that most of them don’t understand. This is song is written in an old form of English called “Scots”. The lines that we can all remember go-
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never called to mind

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne”.

After singing this, many English people start singing “nan aa nan a nan aa nan a” to cover their memory loss. The lyrics basically mean that we should get together and have a drink, to make sure we don’t forget each other.

This may all sound very strange, and to be honest, lots of British people find it strange too, but it does still happen.

First footing
Another tradition, which might be known in more countries than just the UK, is that the first person in your house in the New Year is very special. In the past, a person would arrange to come round just after midnight, carrying a piece of coal, bread, money, and something green, like the branch of a tree. All these were to bring good luck.

They would be welcomed, and take away a pan of dust, or the ashes from the fire, to symbolise clearing out the old year.
This rarely happens these days, but in some parts of the UK, there are still fire festivals, where fire is carried through the streets to scare away evil spirits.

New Year’s Resolutions
Possibly the most famous tradition, though, is the making of New Year’s Resolutions, and this is still very common. The most typical resolutions last year were-
1. Go on a diet/lose weight
2. Go on a holiday or mini-breaks
3. Travel and see more of the world
4. Read more books
5. Drink less alcohol

Of course, most of these are not kept for very long- often given up in the first week of January.
What traditions are there for New Year in your country? Please let us know in the comments.

December 9, 2016
by Bloomsbury International

Travelling around the UK

Travelling around the UK
Many students come to the UK to study, some staying for a long time, but don’t leave London. Some Londoners would say “why would they need to?” London has a long reputation of looking down on other parts of the UK. Samuel Johnson, who wrote the first English dictionary, made some famous comments that sum up this attitude- maybe the most famous is-
“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Johnson was no friend to other parts of the UK- a lesser known quote is “The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high road that leads him to England”. Scotchman, by the way, is an old fashioned phrase which no-one would use today.
Johnson is very famous, and some Londoners may agree with him, but in reality, staying in London for your whole time in the UK would be a waste. Here are some other places which are well worth a visit, and none of them too far away, as this country is also quite small.

This is a seaside city, an hour’s drive or train journey from London. London has no sea-coast, so many Londoners go to Brighton for a day, or weekend. It is well-known as an easy-going city. Apart from the beach, which is rather stony, there are some famous old buildings, including Brighton Pavilion, built for King George IV, and equally famous nightlife.

Oxford and Cambridge
These cities go together as they are both famous University towns, the oldest universities in England. They have a similar feel and architecture, all historic stone buildings and quiet courts, near rivers. Many tourists come in the summer, and take boats out on the rivers, to punt (move along with a pole pushing on the bottom of the river). This can look easy, but if you want to try it, be careful- it is very easy to fall into the water.

Another historic city, founded by the Romans, but it became very popular three hundred years ago- Jane Austen, writer of “Pride and Prejudice”, wrote about her characters going to Bath to relax, drink water from the foul-tasting spring to improve their health, and worry about their love lives. You can go there to do all these things if you wish, and enjoy the beautiful buildings.
While you are in Bath, Stonehenge, a world heritage site, is quite near, though there is comparatively little to see there other than the famous stones themselves. Still, in a day that includes Bath, it would be worthwhile.
There are many other places to visit, though in the winter I would recommend these cities, not just the countryside, which is beautiful, but cold. So take advantage of your time here, use a weekend to get out of London and enjoy the rest life has to offer!

December 6, 2016
by Bloomsbury International

Problems with Pronouns

Problems with Pronouns
English is unusual among European languages- we only have one word for “you”. In many other languages, there are two words- singular and plural. These are also used as polite and familiar forms of address in most European languages- “Tu”, or “Du” or even “Ti” are singular or familiar, “Vous”, “Sie” and “Chi” are plural or polite. I used French, German and Welsh, but this is true for almost all Indo-European languages.

So why is English the exception to such a general rule? Well, a few hundred years ago, we had two forms of “you” pronouns- “You” and “your” were the plural, formal form, and singular, informal meaning was expressed with “thee” and “thou”. You will meet these words if you ever read Shakespeare.
A few dialects of English still have traces of these forms- older people in Sheffield may greet you with “how’s thee?” instead of “how are you?” For the most part, though, you’re unlikely to meet this language.

Modern Plural Forms

What do English people say now when they want to distinguish plural and singular “you”? Singular is normally just “you”, but in some US English, a new pronoun has appeared to fill the gap- “y’all”

This pronoun is used mostly in the southern USA, but has been quoted enough in popular TV shows and films to be common knowledge to English speakers. It may make people see you as “rednecks”, or uneducated country folk, though!

Other options are available- “you guys” is another way of saying this, again coming from the USA, but this time it travels better, and is often used by young people in the UK. “Guys” is normally used for men or women, young or old, without distinction, making it a very useful form.

Speakers of other dialects may use “yous” or more commonly pronounced “youz”. British English people do say this sometimes, though it would be seen as uneducated- a British “Y’all”

Gender Neutrality
The other pronoun problem learners can face is how to talk about one person whose gender you do not know. Should we say “he/she”, “it”, what?

This one is a political issue, as it has been argued that “he” is the historical default, only recently challenged by feminists. This doesn’t seem to be true, though it has been suggested we should create gender neutral pronouns, like “xe”, to allow for uncertainty.

The overwhelming majority of English speakers haven’t started using “xe”, or “she/he”, but “they” is the normal form. This may seem strange to most other languages, but it has been the case in English for a very long time- for hundreds of years, writers used “he” or “they” for this purpose, and speakers too- formal writing specified “he” as correct, but even here, “they” is taking over. Feel free to say “If someone studies pronouns, they will get confused”.

November 21, 2016
by Bloomsbury International

Bloomsbury Blog

Building words

Some languages, like German, and Turkish, are organised so that words can be combined to make ever longer words. Naturwissenschaft is a German example. (nature knowledge craft, literally) Does this happen in English?

Not to the same extent, but it is a feature of the language. We create new words mostly by adding set prefixes and suffixes, which may not have meaning on their own, but change the meaning of words in predictable ways.

These are easy to learn, and can help you understand words you didn’t know- a nice example is antidisestablishmentarianism. Not a word that comes up in every conversation, but full of prefixes and suffixes.

VerbsFirst, find the “core” of the word- in this case, the verb establish. Deal with the suffixes first, as they will tell you what part of speech the word is- noun, verb, adjective, etc. Our first step is “ment”- a noun suffix, about a thing which is established. Next, “arian”, a person who does the thing mentioned before. Finally, “ism”, a philosophy or theory about the noun mentioned before. So establishmentarianism is the philosophy of supporting the system that has been established.

We’re not there yet, though- two prefixes, and both negative. “dis” means not, and “anti”, against. So antidisestablishmentarianism is against not having an established system. Or you could say, in favour of the system.

What system was this? Well, briefly, the system of the Church of England, that is, having a church connected to the state. Some people opposed this, others opposed them, and called themselves antidisestablishmentarians! Clearly they wanted people to know them by what they were against rather than what they supported.

Suffixes in Language Learning

The most helpful thing about suffixes is how they can let you know what part of speech you are looking at. There are many lists of these, with examples, but to pick the most common, there are-


Nouns-ment, as in establishment
-ness, as in carefulness
-ship, as in friendship

Each of these makes a noun, but with a slightly different emphasis on what it means- all linked with a state, but –ment is linked to action (movement), -ness is just a state (shyness), and –ship is about having a particular skill or role in life- like a citizen (citizenship) or a partner (partnership)


-ise/ize (British or US spelling) as in memorise
-ate, (activate)
-en, (lighten)

This last is not so commonly taught, but is a basic English suffix, useful to notice in words with many prefixes and suffixes- for example, enlightenment.


-ful and –less (hopeful, hopeless) having, or not having the quality mentioned
-ate again, as in considerate (thinking about others)
-th, (strength, length) a physical feature of what you are describing, another old style

suffix which is not always taught, and doesn’t exist in other European languages.

This blog is not designed to list all the suffixes in English, but pick out a few common and less common ones, and encourage you to think about how they can help you learn.