Commenting on the news…

I have added a separate blog for you to add your comments about what’s going on in the world.   There will be a different issue each week for you to read about and comment on.  Keep your comments short – but thoughtful.  You may also comment on the comments other students have made!!! go to I’m still working on the design so it may look a little different if you go in later.

Summer skill development

FORM 6 and 7 – some holiday activities to improve your vocabulary and pronunciation…

1. BBC Learning English – Six Minute English

Six minute English – There are some general stories that have themes like those in the Form 7 exams as well as some themes that are a bit more general.

as an example – Stand up straight – This was the show on August 10 2010.  Some of you will have seen this topic on your exam. You never know what the topic will be on the exam, but all of these episodes will give you exposure to a range of sentence structures as well as some key vocabulary.

Suggested episodes useful for F 6 and 7 include

Social Networks May 26 2011

Social Mobility April 14 2011

Scam Mail Feb 3 2011

Shark Fin Soup Feb 10 2011

Men and health Nov 11 2010 (this one has a few interesting phrases as well).

Dress codes for work Oct 28 2010

Plastic pollution – again, a 2010 episode – and one that regularly appears on exam papers.

There’s a lot more there – but that would be a good start – one each week!

You can download the audio as well as the text so you can follow it. – this can then be played several times. / download as a podcast

1. Listen without the text

2. Listen while reading the text

3. Listen for a third time and read aloud along with the tape and the text

In a speaking / listening journal, note down two things you learned (see) , what you think abut this issue – esp the examples discussed in the program and what you wonder about the future. (see –  think – wonder)

Identify vocabulary you don’t know

2. At the same site, you can also find Express English :

This has short comments by people in the street on a range of topics – eg favourite photographs, honesty, proposals.  There are explanations for key words and phrases.  You can download the text and audio.  Most sections also have a short video with the words and text.  The accents are British, but it is good to listen to different accents.

Again – as with Six Minute English, aim to listen to each program 3 – 4 times

1.  first without the text,

2. then with the text,

3. then read along with the audio and focus on intonation

Express English also has a section where you can add comments – you can read these as well – though be aware that the grammar isn’t perfect in many of the comments.

3. Other listening / speaking on line This is a site to improve your listening – but you can also use it to improve your speaking fluency.  There are different types of lessons and activities. These are real people doing real speaking so there are some hesitations and mistakes.  The best thing to note is how natural they are when speaking.

  • With the listening lessons, you can listen to an interview and follow the dialogue with a written text.  There are people from many different countries so the accents will be different.  Some students have complained that they “speak too fast”.  The aim of the site is to improve your listening skills.  Yes, it will seem fast at first, but persist.
    * listen and read,
    * listen without reading,
    * then listen and read again.
    As you listen and read the second time, try to read aloud and talk at the same speed as the speaker.  This will improve your fluency. The more you listen and try to follow, the better your listening skills will get.
  • Use the video presentations and discussions.  Click the “CC” button below the video to get the text.

4. Academic word list vocabulary and pronunciation.

This is a list of 570 words that are frequently found in academic texts.  They will be useful for you in all of your English Exams as well as when you read newspapers and watch English movies!   Good knowledge of these will be important for University or College study.

You should all do AT LEAST sub list 1.  The more you do the better your vocabulary be.

You can use the list in many different ways.

1. Use the AWD pronunciation file. (attached)  I will explain how to use this in class.  You can copy a line, paste it into and practice the pronunciation of up to 10 words.

You can also do this one word at a time.   As you become aware of the pronunciation of these words, there will be other similar words you will improve as well.


As you practice each word, also take the time to know the word.  We watched this in class.  You could review it again:

Look at other forms of the word.  Look at how prefixes and suffixes change a word.


2. The list is also available here: Each sub list is in a table.  You can listen to the pronunciation but it is more difficult.  There are gap fill exercises to check your understanding of the words.  Some of these are quite difficult.  They are recommended for anyone thinking of doing other tests like IELTS.

The words highlighted in orange are related to words in the AWD.  The words highlighted in yellow are more technical words.  While these are difficult, they are not in the AWD.  This means you must also build a vocabulary related to the topics we read about e.g.the environment, recycling, health and well being …. and many more.

AND …. one more you can catch up onduring the holidays …. The Pearl Report.  The episode on June 27 looked at English standards in Hong Kong.  You can find past episodes here : .  There are Chinese subtitles but do try and listen to the English commentary.Most importantly, take the time to catch up on the meanings of words as well.

Hong Kong air

It’s hard to escape the many news items about Hong Kong rubbish and bad air.  That does mean there is a lot of material around to help develop your skills. The BBC Learning English site has a good episode on Hong Kong air pollution.  You can check the pronunciation of some key phrases as well as developing your pronunciation of these at the same time.

Current issues

During the next cycle, we will look at some issues in the news at the moment.  One I noticed the other day is the use of vinyl banners in Hong Kong.  While there is concern about landfills and lack of space to put all our rubbish, I think some people focus too much on plastic bags from supermarkets while ignoring so many other sources of waste.  Vinyl banners are everywhere.  Many are huge.  Do these become part of our landfill?  When I first arrived in Hong Kong, I thought the pedestrian barriers were built so there would be somewhere to put all the banners.  In Australia, we do have banners but not to the extent that they are seen here.  Every event seems to need a new banner.  Do we really need them?

news online

If you have trouble getting home in time to watch the news, you can catch up with news online :  The subtitles will help your understanding.  You can also use shadowing to develop your pronunciation.  And while you are online, if you need a little inspiration take time to watch this: .  Makes learning English look easy.

Reducing waste

The recent controversy over the Tseung Kwan O landfill has again highlighted the problems of waste disposal in a large city.  Landfills have a limited capacity to hold rubbish.  The people living near this one have obviously been waiting for the day it is filled, covered and no longer a problem.  The suggestion to make it larger was not at all appealing.

While some waste can be incinerated, it is also difficult to decide where to put such facilities.  We are now able to reduce the amount of toxic emissions but very few people are likely to agree to have an incinerator near where they live.

Recycling is one option that is gaining appeal.  We also take fewer plastic bags from the supermarket.  We still need to work at creating less waste in the first place.  Everyday, tonnes of rubbish is created though our lifestyle – take away lunches that use several containers – and these are often sent out in additional plastic bags.

The need to recycle must be made compulsory.  In addition, we must all make choices to limit the amount of waste we create.  There is no longer the space for it.  It’s laughable to limit plastic bags in the supermarket while at the bakery next door; each cake is put into an individual plastic bag which is then put into another plastic bag.  Take away drinks are put in plastic bags as well with no extra charge.

What choices did you make today to reduce the amount of waste you help to create? What do you think should be done about this problem?

current issues on television

There are a number of ways you can keep up to date with some of the issues that are current in Hong Kong.  One good way to catch up on some televison that you missed is via the Pearl report in the Internet.  This episode:  looks at issues related to pedestrians and access in Hong Kong.  It is also a good way to ensure you are familiar with the English names for many places in HK.  The episodes link will take yu to the menu.

Walking to good health


Not all discussions in your exam will be about deep and meaningful issues.  As you read the papers, look for some of the more lighthearted articles.  One I saw buried away the other day looked at the link between brain function and walking. On reflection though, it’s not as lighthearted as it may seem at first.  The world is facing an enormous problem with an aging population.  As the population ages, the numbers of people with demntia increases as well.  According to the article, as we walk, we take in messages from a variety of sources – the things we see, hear, touch.  There is also input from the joints and muscles.  Sometimes we are too qick to look for a pill to cure our illnesses when the answer can be there through a health diet and lifestyle. 
I do wonder though if we sometimes leave it too late to worry about how we can improve our health.  What do you and the members of your family do to make sure you stay healthy and keep your brain functioning well.  I have been walking home from school every day the long way.