Words making the headlines – Fake news

Fake News!

The phrase ‘fake news’ started to appear in news headlines last year and has now entered the dictionary. Here’s the definition from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. Fake news is:

“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”

The term fake news is used a lot by some politicians. When they say that a news report is fake news, they mean it contradicts their beliefs and so they don’t want other people to believe it. They have a different view of the situation and want to promote that view. Instead of giving evidence to support their view, the politicians try to discredit  the original new report by calling it fake news. Very often, it isn’t important to these politicians whether the news is true or not.

When a politician claims something is fake news they rarely criticise the content of the news report directly. Their aim is to call the writer and publisher of the report a fake. In other words, they’re calling them a liar. Of course, this is also an attack on anybody who accepts the truth of the original news report. The implication is they are stupid to believe it and, therefore, those who don’t, such as the politician and his supporters, are more intelligent.

Although fake news is a fixed phrase it’s not the only word that we use when we talk about attempts to deceive people. There are words such as false, forged, counterfeit, and fraudulent. For example,

The document had a forged signature at the bottom.

Last week I found a counterfeit pound coin in my wallet.

He was arrested for submitting a fraudulent tax return.

We can also use the words fake and false to describe these situations.

He made a false claim that it was his signature.

The pound coin was a fake.

The tax return contained false information.

While we’re taking about words that mean fake, let’s look at some words that mean the opposite such as true, real, genuine and authentic. For example,

Read the article then decide if each of these statements is true or false.

I prefer documentaries to dramas. I like to hear the stories of real people.

The art expert declared that the painting was a genuine Rembrandt.

There’s a new restaurant in the High Street. They serve authentic Malaysian food.

So, what’s the opposite of fake news? It’s just news, of course.

Listen to Barney reading the text.

Download this recording.

By Barney

 

Making contact – social language

Airport conversation

Social conversation is important to help get to know people and to build relationships.

Part 1

Listen

Listen to this conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences? That sounds great, thanks.
Have you been before? I’m a technical manager for IWB.
What do you do? No, I haven’t.
Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch? No, I came last year when it was in Budapest.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi, I’m Julie. Is this the first time you’ve been to one of these conferences?

B: No, I came last year when it was in Budapest. I’m Susan by the way. Have you been before?

A: No, I haven’t. I’ve just started working in medical technology.

B: What do you do?

A: I’m a technical manager for IWB. I’m responsible for technical support in Eastern Europe. What about you?

B: Oh, I’m with BTC. I was in technical support, but I’ve moved into project management.

A: Maybe you could suggest a couple of useful sessions for me?

B: Yeah, sure. Why don’t we have a bite to eat and talk about it over lunch?

A: That sounds great, thanks.

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There are three parts:

  • I’m with BTC. = this says what the present situation is
  • I was in technical support, = this says what the past situation was
  • but I’ve moved into project management. = this says what has changed

Now, use this structure to write a sentence about you that says;

  • what your present situation is
  • what your past situation was
  • what has changed.

 

Part 2

Listen

Listen to this second conversation and answer these questions.

  • Do these two people know each other?
  • Where are they?

Questions and answers

We use questions and answers to move a social conversation. Can you match the questions and answers? Listen to the conversation again if you need.

Questions Answers
Did you have a good flight? Paul hasn’t.
When was that? He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months.
Has everyone else arrived for the meeting? Not too bad.
How long has he lived there? It was last year.

Listen again

Listen again and follow the transcript.

A: Hi Brian. Did you have a good flight?

B: Not too bad, Peter. At least it was on time.

A: That’s good. I’ve had problems with RiteFlite in the past.

B: Oh? When was that?

A: It was last year, on a trip to Buenos Aires.

B: Really? I’ve always wanted to go there.

A: Well, we had a fantastic time apart from the flight.

B: Anyway, has everyone else arrived for the meeting?

A: Paul hasn’t. He called 20 minutes ago to say his train was delayed! It’s typical, isn’t it? The person who lives closest is the one who’s late!

B: Oh really? I thought he lived in Norwich.

A: Not any more. He’s moved to Richmond.

B: Ah. How long has he lived there

A: He’s only been there for 3 or 4 months. He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work!

Phrases

Let’s focus on the section of the transcript highlighted in yellow.

There’s a question about an unfinished time:

  • How long has he lived there?

The answer has two parts:

  • He’s only been there for 3 or 4 month. = an unfinished time = the time he’s lived in Richmond
  • He moved because he wanted a shorter commute to work! = a finished time = the time he moved

Here are two questions with the same structure:

  • How long have you lived here?
  • How long have you worked there?

Write answers about you.


Answers

Part 1

Julie and Susan don’t know each other. They are meeting for the first time.

They are at a conference.

Part 2

Peter and Brian know each other. They are colleagues.

They are at an airport.

 

By Louise and Barney

Do you know the rules of making small talk? Watch our video.

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you need practise social language in English? Send us a message.

 

‘Growing’ your business

A crop of tomatoesStrawberry plants bearing fruit

Did you know, when we talk about business, we use a lot of idioms connected with gardening and growing?

How many garden and growing idioms can you find in these short conversations? Can you guess what they mean?

Listen to each conversation then try the exercise. The transcripts and answers are at the bottom of the page.

Listen

How many garden and growing idioms do you hear?

Money for advertising

The new contract

The interviews

Office closure


Exercise

Can you match the idioms to their meanings?

IDIOM MEANING
1 plough money into a  to produce a result (especially after a long period of hard work)
2 perennial problem b  to separate out (a smaller group from a larger group / people who are less suitable from those who are more suitable)
3 bear fruit c  to go into a different direction/ business area
4 dig out d  to put (a lot of) time/money into a project
5 a crop of e  to result from
6 weed out f  to find something you have not used or seen for a long time
7 stem from g a group of people who achieve something or become known for something at the same time (eg graduates)
8 branch out  h  something which always exists, never seems to change

Transcripts and answers

WeedsCrop of applesa spade

Money for advertising

A: How was the meeting?

B: Well, the Board want to plough more money into advertising, but I think we should be spending it on getting the products right first!

A: Hmm, I know what you mean. It’s a perennial problem:  increase advertising without having any new products or develop new products but lack the budget to promote them!

 

The new contract

A:  Did you hear we got the Strathco contract?

B: That’s great – all that hard work has finally borne fruit.

A: Yes, I’ll have to go back and dig out the research I did right at the beginning  of the process – over a year ago!

 

The interviews

A: Have you finished all the interviews?

B: Yes, just did the last few this morning – there’s a really strong crop of graduates this year, so we’ve got lots of good candidates.

A: That’s good to hear –how many are we taking?

B: Only 10, so I’ve now got the difficult job of weeding out the less suitable ones.

 

Office closure

A: Have you heard they’re closing the Leicester office?

B: Yes – their results have been pretty bad for the last couple of years, haven’t they?

A: Yeah, I think it all stems from relying on one or two big clients and when they lost those contracts….

B: You’re right – we should make sure that doesn’t happen here.

A: Yes but we could also branch out into other areas of business …….

 

Answers

1d 2h 3a 4f 5g 6b 7e 8c

 

By Joy

 

If you have any questions or comments, leave a reply below.

Do you want to learn English idioms? Send us a message.

 

Pronunciation round-up

The schwa - the most common sound in English
The schwa – the most common sound in English

At Stratford Teachers, pronunciation is one of our favourite subjects. This is because it’s very important to have good pronunciation so people can understand you. Of course, it’s also an area of language that you can improve more quickly when you have a teacher.

Here are some of our blog posts about pronunciation from the last year.

 

The spelling of English words can be very confusing. We wrote three posts showing some common sound/spelling combinations :

Sounds and spelling  – vowels 1

Sounds and spelling  – vowels 2

Sounds and spelling – vowels 3

 

Sometimes, somebody asks you to spell your name over the phone. Here’s some help for doing that.

Spelling words with the international radio alphabet

 

What is the most common sounds in English? (Hint: look at the picture at the top of this page.) Click on this link and find out.

The most common sound in English

 

Another important part of English pronunciation but what is it?

What is word stress

Words with predictable stress

 

If you have any questions about English pronunciation, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in improving your pronunciation with Stratford Teachers, send us a message.

 

Words making the headlines – tax

The last word making the headlines was election and when there’s an election on, there’s one topic that is sure to be discussed. That topic, of course, is tax – should we be paying more or less and what should our governments spend the money on?

Everybody knows what tax is but be careful with the pronunciation of the plural form. Taxes/tæk.sɪz/ has a short /ɪ/ vowel sound in the second syllable. If you make this sound too long, people could think you are saying taxis /tæk.siːz/. That would be very confusing!

taxes/tæk.sɪz/
taxis /tæk.siːz/

Here’s a story from the website of the Guardian newspaper about the election promises of one of the major British political parties, the Labour Party. The story is about income tax, the tax that we pay on the money we earn from our jobs.

Other types of tax are:

Corporation tax – the tax that companies pay on their profits

Value Added Tax (VAT) or Sales tax – the tax on goods and services we buy every day.

The article also talks about tax revenue. This is the total amount of money the government collects from taxpayers: you and me.

The Labour party also promises to deal with tax avoidance. Tax avoidance is when people and companies use loopholes in the law to avoid paying some or all of their tax. Don’t confuse this with tax evasion which is when you just don’t pay your tax. Tax evasion is against the law and you can go to prison if the authorities catch you.

Here in Britain, the Labour Party says it will raise taxes by increasing the tax rate for the richest people. In the USA, President Trump wants to cut taxes, especially for business.

Paying tax is something we all have to do whether we like it or not. However, everybody seems to like talking about tax. In fact, Benjamin Franklin is supposed to have said,

‘There are only two things certain in life: death and taxes.’

See how many of these words you can use next time a conversation in English turns to the subject of tax.

If you would like to suggest a word from the news for future blog posts, please use the comment box.

Listen to Barney reading this text.

By Barney

The Sounds of English – Part 2

Here is the second part of our presentation on the sounds of English pronunciation.

The presentation covers:

  • Using mouth diagrams to help you put your mouth in the right position.
  • Two ideas for practising linking words together.

Make sure you use the full-screen button and turn up the sound on your computer so you can hear Louise and Barney say the example words and sentences.

Click on the picture to go to the presentation.

Sounds of English - Part 2

Watch The Sounds of English – Part 1 and our Introduction to English Pronunciation.

By Barney and Louise

 

If you have any questions about this or suggestions, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in improving your pronunciation with Stratford Teachers, send us a message.

You can also watch our other videos on pronunciation and look at the list of our Specialist Pronunciation lessons.

 

Agreeing and Disagreeing

Do you go to a lot of meetings and listen to people giving their opinions about different topics?

Do you agree or disagree with those opinions?

Watch our latest video for advice on the clearest and easiest way of agreeing or disagreeing in English.

By Barney, Eileen, Louise and Simon

 

Was this video useful? Watch our video on the difference between facts and opinions.

 

If you have any questions about this video, leave a comment below.

If you are interested in English for business meetings, send us a message.