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February 4, 2019
by Bloomsbury International
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America and Britain are two countries divided by a common language. (Bernard Shaw)

Students often ask me whether native British English speakers can understand American English equally well as English spoken in the UK.  For the British, the issue is not normally comprehending American English via television, films, music and social media but being able to employ American alternatives in social conversation. It should be admitted that more and more British people are adopting Americanisms thanks to the globalisation of English but there are still certain words and phrases which are normally only used by Americans and vice versa:  only ever employed by the British.

The most obvious contrast between British and American English is the different accent. This is most apparent in Hollywood movies where British actors often now play American roles as much as American actors used to play British characters.  But both nationalities can struggle to put on the foreign accent of the parts they are playing convincingly – for example, Benedict Cumberbatch   as Dr Strange or Kevin Costner as Robin Hood.

For students the main issue is the potential confusion over spelling: there are several words which have American alternative spelling and nowadays when we are writing on Microsoft Word the computer script settings have already been configured to American spelling as this is the most popular form of English used around the world. This means that if you make a spelling mistake it will be autocorrected to American, not British spelling. Although you can reset your computer script to conform to British spelling many people don’t realise that American English is not the only way to write English correctly and are not aware they can adopt this format when they study here. Thankfully, Facebook does give its users the option to choose between US & UK English.

American English tends to be preferred to British English as the medium to be studied at school in many countries around the world especially in the Far East and South America but  European Union students, such as France, Italy, Spain etc still learn  British English in their country . Who knows if this will still be true after Brexit?

Here are some examples of American alternatives to British spelling:

traveling (US) / travelling (GB);  check (US)/cheque; color (US)/colour (GB); organization (US)/organisation (GB)

There are also some words which are normally only used by Americans, not by the British:

metro (US): tube (GB); subway (US): underground  (GB), college (US): university (GB);  jail (US): prison (GB)

There are a few grammatical differences between American & British English as well:

speak with (US)/ speak to (GB); gotten (US)/ got (GB)  appeal (US)/ appeal against (GB)

It should be remembered that the United States was originally a colony of the British Empire and that American English spelling & pronunciation was influenced by Spanish speech as quite a few major states like Texas and California were governed by Mexico (which is nowadays considered to be a Latin American nation). English is not the mother tongue of the United States as it is in Britain; it was adopted as the common language (in Latin lingua franca) by settlers who came from Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, Spain and France as well as from Great Britain.

The question remains:  which should you use: American English or British English? Tell us what you think.

January 17, 2019
by Bloomsbury International
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Why does February have 28 days?

Flowers, chocolates and all things Valentine! This is probably what pops into everyone’s head towards the end of January. For me, I prefer to look at other ways to spend my time instead of investing my efforts into a commercialised holiday, (however I welcome any treats and gifts from my loved ones!) I mean, why were we never taught about the history of February’s 28 days? It’s obviously an important part of British history which schools seem to have failed in educating us about. Well here, let me give you short but interesting introduction to the history of February’s 28 days!

Well first and foremost, we can blame the Romans for the quirks of our modern calendar. Or maybe thank them so we can get through the year quicker? It depends on how you see it.   You see, the ancient Romans only had 10 months in their calendar. It began in March and ended in December. If we’d kept this calendar, we’d be wishing each other a prosperous new year on the 1st March which would be incredibly odd considering we now associate March with Mother’s day and Easter.

For some reason, the Ancient Romans didn’t include the cold winter months and experts suggest it was due to their ‘insignificance’. You see the agricultural cycle of planting and harvest was central to Ancient Roman society and couldn’t be carried out in extreme cold weather, so their year was centred on the months they could carry out agricultural activities. They also decided to synchronise their calendar with the moon, which resulted in some months having 29 days and others having 31 days.

However, around 713 BC, King Numa Pompilius added January and February to the calender, giving the year a total of 355 days. Did you know that the name February comes from the Latin word for “purification,” because a purification ritual honouring the dead was performed in that month? Well, now you do. In order to keep the calendar properly aligned with the seasons, it was necessary to add a short extra month after February every 2 to 3 years. So really, February was just a ‘filler’ month where they waited around for March to start and begin their harvest seasons.

There was yet another change to the calender by Julius Caesar. He reformed the calendar again in 45 BC, abandoning the lunar model and following the solar year of 365 days. Extra days were added to January, August, December, April, June, September, and November, but February stayed at 28. Every four years (including in 2012) an extra day is added to February to keep the year in sync with the sun. A year in which February has 29 days is called a “leap year’’. We don’t do anything special on this day; we just mention in passing at work and carry on as usual. I’d suggest making it a bank holiday so everyone has a day off!

January 3, 2019
by Bloomsbury International
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Sticking to New Year’s resolutions – do you have any?

Happy New Year! 2019 has arrived and we’re feeling refreshed after a much needed winter break. Gyms will have an increase in revenue thanks to the healthy lifestyle many of us will adopt – but will we stick to it? Probably not … Here are the top 3 New Year’s resolutions in the UK and how you can stick to them religiously!

 

  1. Cut down on the junk

Let’s face it, Junk food is a necessity. I personally can’t go a day without having my sweet fix. Some of us are inclined to the God that is sugar and that’s fine, but it’s no secret that Britain is becoming an addicted nation. According to an article published by The Guardian in 2017, the UK is the most obese country in Europe. An alarming 29% of the population is by medical standards, severely overweight or obese. When I read that article, I was genuinely flabbergasted. Do you want to be a part of that statistic? The New Year is the best time for fresh changes and I know I’ll be cutting down on junk food in an attempt to improve my overall health. I mean, there’s no excuse now. There’s a whole range of sugar substitutes such as agave nectar, honey and fruit extracts which are available in the form of snack bars. Sure, they’re a little pricier than the average chocolate bar but is it not worth spending a little more if it means improving our health? To stick to this New Year’s resolution, my advice would be to first replace your naughty treats with a healthier alternative and swap your tea time biscuits for natural alternatives. Pop into your local supermarket, you’ll be surprised by the array of choice.

  1. Get fit

We’re all guilty of signing up for a gym and hardly attending. I guess we sign up to gyms because it makes us feel like we’re making progress in losing weight. It’s an expensive lesson to learn when you’ve paid hundreds of pounds for a 6 month membership and have only been on a treadmill twice. It shocks most people to learn that gyms aren’t the only way to keep fit. London parks host a range of free walks, runs and pop-up classes which are held on a weekly basis. I repeat, these events are FREE: all you need are your joggers and good pair of trainers. www.timeout.co.uk lists a range of free exercise events and activities which may interest you. Check out their website or pick up a magazine by the station for more information. If exercise really isn’t your thing, you could try getting of the bus or train a stop early on your way to school. You could try downloading an app which measures your steps: scientists say you need to take 10,000 steps a day to trim your waistline. To stick to this New Year’s resolution, my advice would be to find a free exercise class which focuses on an enjoyable activity such as dance, so it doesn’t feel like you’re exercising.

 

  1. Save money

We all wish we had limitless funds but in London, unless you’re a banker, that’ll probably never become reality. The closest thing we can do is save, save and save again! If you spend 90% in Oxford St then you probably have a spending problem but if you want genuine money saving advice, I’d suggest a few things.

1. Download a money tracking app -it’ll help you track and manage your spending
2. Have a realistic saving goal – Don’t try to save a ridiculous amount of your earnings and live like a peasant, it’ll just stress you out.
I’d suggest budgeting your spending and put away a modest amount into your savings account. You want to save but not to starve as a result!
3. Delete all temptations! Zara, H&M and Uniqlo apps must be deleted. To stick to this New Year’s resolution, my advice would be to save what you can and focus on your end goal.

Whatever the outcome of your New Year’s resolutions, have a joyous and prosperous 2019!