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British Accents

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Here’s another language game for you all. Have you ever visited Great Britain and struggled to understand someone talking to you in English and wondered if it was the accent? Perhaps you thought that all British people spoke more or less in the same way? In fact, you don’t need to move too far to find very different accents, try this short game and tell us how you did!

Click here to go to the test

 

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The Flag of Australia

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Flag of Australia

Do you know what the flag of Australia looks like? Of course you do. But what about its origin, any ideas? No? OK, let us tell you.

The first interesting thing is that the original design of the flag was chosen as a competition entry to redesign the flag, which took place in 1901 and from then it underwent a number of changes until it was recognised by law as the Australian national flag on 1953. September 3rd is the Australian National Flag day, commemorating the first time the original flag was flown, in 1901.

Yes, the flag of Australia has got a blue background, in the top left quarter there is the Union Jack and in the bottom left quarter there is a large white star with seven points. This is the Commonwealth Star: six of its points represent the six original states of the Commonwealth of Australia and the seventh one represents the territories and future states of Australia.

The rest of the flag shows the Southern Cross, which has five white stars: one small one with five points and four large ones with seven points.

There are other official flags representing Australia and its people. For example, the Aboriginal Flag was also appointed as one of the flags of Australia in 1995, causing some controversy. This flag has a black top half, a red bottom half and a yellow circle in the middle. It was designed in 1971 by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, who holds the intellectual property rights on the flag’s design. The flag was originally designed for the land rights movement, and it became a symbol of the Aboriginal people of Australia.

As stated by Harold Thomas, the black of the flag represents the Aboriginal people of Australia, the red represents the red earth, the red ochre and a spiritual relation to the land and the yellow circle represents the sun, the giver of life and protector.

That’s all for now. Perhaps you could tell us what you know about your country’s flag!

To undergo – to experience or be subject to (something)

Intellectual property rights – legally recognised exclusive rights

Controversy – public disagreement or strong discussion

To commemorate – to remember and celebrate

Cockney Rhyming Slang

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Cockney rhyming slang is a form of phrase construction commonly used by Cockneys in London. It is said that if someone is born in a place in London from where it is possible to hear the bell from the  St. Mary Le Bow church, then that person is a Cockney. However, geographically and culturally the term cockney is generally used to refer to working class people from the East End, and area of London immediately to the east of the City of London.

Nowadays, rhyming slang is widely understood throughout the United Kingdom as well as in other English speaking countries, but is still associated with Cockneys. It is quite easy to understand how to use the slang if you have been living in an English speaking country for a while. Sometimes, English speakers use cockney rhyming slang without knowing that it is actually rhyming slang! Although it is now widely used, initially it was hard for outsiders to understand, history even suggests that it was a cryptolect developed by criminals to confuse the police, but no one is certain.

How does it work?

If we take the word ‘head’ for example, the cockney rhyming slang for head is ‘loaf of bread’ – ‘bread’ being the word that rhymes with ‘head’. However, generally the end of the phrase is omitted, so ‘head’ is just referred to as a ‘loaf’. This rule doesn’t always apply, sometimes both words are used.

Here are some examples:

Bull and Cow – Row

Trouble and Strife – Wife

Loaf of Bread – Head

Whistle and Flute – Suit

Apples and Pears – Stairs

Mutt and Jeff – Deaf

Boat Race – Face

Hampstead Heath – Teeth

North and South – Mouth

Dog and Bone – Phone

Barnet Fair – Hair

So, using the first 3 examples, a sentence could sound like this:

He had a bull with his trouble, so he used his loaf and decided to leave the house.

Can you tell us what it means?

The trick is to not overuse rhyming slang, often Londoners are stereotyped as people who overuse rhyming slang, but it isn’t really true. So, the next time you are in London, see if you can pick out some rhyming slang and let us know which ones you have heard.

Cryptolect – a secret language

To rhyme – when a word or sentence has or ends with a sound that corresponds with another

Stereotype – a widely understood but oversimplified image of a group of people, person or thing

To omit – to leave out or exclude

To pick out (phrasal verb) – to distinguish

Row – an argument

Another Different Holiday

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If you checked out our earlier article on eco-themed accommodation in English speaking countries and decided that it’s not for you, how about staying somewhere comfortable but unconventional? Below are some examples of available accommodation in English speaking countries ranging from the adventurous to the plain weird.

England – Lighthouse

On the cliffs of Beachy Head on the south coast of England stands the Belle Tout lighthouse. This lighthouse has been lovingly restored and offers a comfortable stay with access to a 360-degree view of the picturesque English coastline. With the lively city of Brighton just 20 miles away and historic London accessible at 75 miles, you can venture out and enjoy the sights of England before returning to calm serenity. For more info visit http://www.belletoute.co.uk/

United States – Former Jail

If you’re looking for luxury from a hotel but want one with a difference, why not try The Liberty Hotel in Boston. In 2007, this hotel was converted into a luxury hotel but it was once the iconic Charles Street Jail. It probably sounds a bit eerie but it isn’t at all. The rooms are very top-notch and are everything you would expect from a luxury hotel with the added aspect that it has some features typical of a jail. For more info visit www.libertyhotel.com

Wales – Traditional Romany Gypsy Caravan

Ever wanted to know what it feels like to live life as it once was for a Romany Gypsy of yesteryear? Well, you can relive the experience by staying in a traditional style Romany caravan. In Monmouthshire, Wales, there is a traditional Romany caravan situated in the grounds of a secluded farm which boasts electric heating to keep the chill at bay from those cold Welsh nights and a separate cabin adjacent to the caravan for washing and cooking. For more info visit www.cottage-holiday-wales.co.uk/romany-caravan-wales.shtml

United States – Beagle Bed and Breakfast

Back to the USA, and this is our favourite: a bed and breakfast that’s inside a huge dog. Yes, you read that correctly – a dog. In Idaho you can stay in the Dog Bark Park Inn where you can dine and sleep inside a huge dog-shaped construction. Although it doesn’t sound very accommodating, it does actually look quite comfortable and the owners have carved some of the decorative furnishings themselves which adds a personal touch. It might not be in a location that you are seeking but it might be worth a slight detour just to add something a little different to your travelling experience. For more info visit www.dogbarkparkinn.com

If you’ve ever stayed anywhere a little unusual, then please send us a message and tell us about it.

Who says travelling should be conventional?

To check out (phrasal verb) – to look at or examine something

Weird – strange

Top-notch (colloquial) – very high quality

Eerie – strange in a frightening or mysterious way

Yesteryear – a time in the past

Secluded – quiet and private, away from other people

To boast – to contain or have

Detour – an alternative route

To keep someone/something at bay – to prevent someone/something from harming you

Guess the Language

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Here’s a fun quiz to take your mind off work for 10 minutes. It’s not strictly related to English, in fact English it’s not even one of the featured languages, but it’s good fun and we thought you might like to have a go.

After three goes each, the best scores from the gainEnglish team were:

David: 550

Colette: 350

Elena: 500

Let us know what you score. Have fun!

Polite? Yes, we are British!

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Today we want to share an article with you about Britons and their politeness.

Everybody knows that for British people politeness is very important: never forget to say “Please”, “Thank you” and to use those incredibly difficult modal verbs. What’s the point? To make what you say sound less direct. For example, a simple request like “Close the window” must become “Could you close the window, please?” Or, even better, “Would you mind closing the window, please?”

Obviously this obsession with being less direct causes a lot of problems for English learners, who think “it is difficult enough to say ‘Close the window’, why do I have to make things even more complicated?” But there is more: look at the table in the article and learn what British people really mean when they speak. Remember that if someone tells you “You must come for dinner”, they don’t really expect you to knock on their door with a bottle of wine in your hand!

Here’s the article, and there’s a little glossary below that you might find helpful. We think it’s quite funny (quite funny, or do we mean really funny?), we hope you’ll enjoy it too!

To shed light – to make clear

To take something at face value – to accept that something is exactly as it appears

To prove tricky – to be difficult

Handy – useful

To fathom – to understand

Weaselly – misleading

A Different Holiday

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If you’re planning a trip abroad to practice your English, ask yourself if you really want to stay in a conventional hotel or something a little more eco-friendly. Below are just some examples of available accommodation that are a little kinder to the planet.

South Africa – Tree House

The term ‘tree house’ probably conjures up images of small wooden playhouses in trees, but there are a number of artistically designed large houses set within trees offering accommodation amongst nature in South Africa. There are eight tree houses in total, all equipped with the modern facilities you would expect in regular accommodation. For more info visit http://www.treehouse-acc.co.za

Australia – Beach-side Shelter

With Australia’s beautiful beaches, why not take the opportunity to sleep within a stone’s throw of one. Offering deluxe safari tents, log cabins, beach camping shelters and more, you can stay right next to the beach in the adjacent woodland surroundings and fall asleep to the sound of the waves. For more info visit http://www.kooljaman.com.au

New Zealand – Caboose

You could stay in a recycled caboose…what’s a caboose? Well, a caboose is an old disused railway carriage that has been recycled and refurbished into comfortable sleeping accommodation. For more info visit http://www.solscape.co.nz/cabooses/

Canada – Traditional Tepee

A traditional style tepee gives you the opportunity to sleep as the Red Indians did. Each one offers the chance to live in the great outdoors whilst having the luxury of an on-site day lodge for washing and cooking if the weather isn’t good for outdoor cooking. For more info visit http://www.goldenwoodlodge.com/teepee.php

As you can see there are some interesting ways to go on holiday and be sure you’re doing your bit for the environment. These are just a few examples, we’ll bring you some more ideas soon!

Abroad – In a foreign country or countries

Kinder (comparative of kind) – not cause harm or damage

To conjure up (phrasal verb) – to think of or imagine something in your mind

Within a stone’s throw (idiom) – very close

To fall asleep – to go to sleep

Disused – no longer in use

Outdoors – not within a building