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Story Writing Project – Travel Vocabulary – Part 8

Before we continue the story, have a look back at part 7. Notice how we used ‘could’ to talk about possibility. In part 8, look for verbs that are used with speech.

~ My trip to Paris ~

Part 7: The Eiffel Tower

I remembered I could use the internet and the navigation system on my phone. This was a very good idea. I only needed to walk for ten minutes to get to the hotel.

Eiffel Tower

It was a little hotel in an old house. It had lovely rooms in the French style. A few minutes later I was on my way to the Eiffel Tower, the most famous building in Paris. It has always been my dream to visit it.

It was easy to find because I could see it from the hotel. However, when I arrived there, all I could see were a lot of people standing in queues. I’d understood that you could go up the Eiffel Tower inside the four legs. There are elevators in two of the legs. The other two only have stairs. Unfortunately, one elevator had broken down and its entrance was closed.

I decided to take the stairs because the queue was not so long. When I arrived at the first platform, I was pleasantly surprised by the view over Paris. Then I looked again and I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Part 8: The balloon

Hot air balloonThere was a hot air balloon hanging in the sky in front of me.

“Where did that come from?” I asked a woman next to me.

“Look,” she replied. “The pilot is waving at us.”

I looked at the pilot and waved back. He continued to wave.

“I don’t think he’s saying ‘Hello’,” said the woman. “I think the balloon is in trouble.”

She was right. The balloon was getting nearer to us. It was quite low.

“Will it hit the tower?” I asked the woman.

Before she could answer, the lift attendant shouted, “Evacuate now!”

Go to Leave a Reply at the bottom of this page and tell us what should happen in part 9.

Homophones 2

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but have different spellings and meanings.

The words but are easy to say but it’s important to know the spellings and meanings of the most common English homophones.

Our first homophones quiz was so popular that we decided to make another one. This one is more challenging than the first.

Test yourself now.


Homophones interactive quiz

Pronunciation is important when you speak another language. If you have good, clear pronunciation it is easier for people to understand what you say.

What aspects of English pronunciation do you find most challenging? Use the comment box at the bottom of this page to tell us.

Do you need to develop your spoken and written English? Contact us to talk about doing a course.


Words making the headlines – controversial

Yes - No

Here’s a word that doesn’t tend to appear in headlines. It’s a bit too long for that. However, it’s regularly used to describe anything that’s causing public disagreement and discussion. We’re talking about the word controversial.

It’s a word that’s frequently attached to the highly controversial figure of US President Donald Trump and every controversial action he takes. Unusually, the most common use in the last week or so has not been Mr Trump’s latest controversial statement or latest Tweet containing a controversial claim or a controversial opinion about a controversial topic such as immigration or US international relations. The word controversial has been used most to describe Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury which claims to tell the inside story of Mr Trump’s first year as President of the USA.

Let’s pause for a moment and examine the pronunciation of the word. Here’s the phonemics: /ˌkɒn.trəˈvɜː.ʃəl/  . We need to get the word stress in the correct place. It falls on the third syllable. That means you say the word like this: controVERsial. However, notice in the phonemics that in British English we don’t tend to pronounce the letter ‘r’ in that stressed syllable. However, North American speakers such as Mr Trump do include that sound.

There’s another transatlantic pronunciation difference. Controversial is an adjective that derives from the noun controversy. In Britain, we have a choice. We can pronounce it with the stress on the second syllable: conTROversy or on the first syllable: CONtroversy. Over in the US they usually use the second pronunciation.

Now let’s go back to other uses of controversial. We’ll stay in the United States where Mr Trump has a controversial proposal to build a wall on the border with Mexico. Californians recently voted to pass controversial legislation to allow people in that state to buy, sell and use marijuana. Finally, there’s the ongoing investigation into the Trump election campaign’s controversial relations with people in Russia. All of which gives Americans plenty to discuss and disagree about even after they’ve finished reading Michael Wolff’s book.

Practise your listening. Click on play to hear the text.


Find more Words making the headlines.

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

Do you need to expand your English vocabulary? Contact us to talk about it.


Checking and clarifying on the phone

Business English - Talking on the phone

Speaking on the phone can be more challenging than speaking face to face. You don’t always hear exactly what the other person said.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, it’s important to check and be clear you understand correctly.

In our first video of 2018, Louise and Simon play Kate and Tony, two colleagues making a phone call.

The first part of the video shows what can happen when there is a misunderstanding on the phone. The second part shows you how to use a set of phrases for checking and clarifying to make sure you understand.


Video by Barney


Here are the checking and clarifying phrases they use in their phone call.

Sorry, Kate could you say that again, please?
Sorry, Tony. I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again, please?
Sorry, did you say ten thirty or two thirty?
Sorry. I can’t hear you , Kate. Can you speak up a little?


Was this useful for you? Watch our videos and download information about using the International Radio Alphabet to spell words over the phone.

UPDATE (24/03/2018) You can now test your knowledge of the checking and clarifying phrases with this interactive exercise.

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

Do you need to practise speaking English on the telephone? Send us a message.

Merry Christmas from Stratford Teachers

Stratford Teachers round hte Christmas tree

Merry Christmas to everybody from all of us at Stratford Teachers.

2017 has been a good year for us. As well as teaching hundreds of online lessons, we’ve also delivered face-to-face courses here in Stratford upon Avon, proof-read an academic thesis, and helped people in China to practise their English pronunciation.

Next year we will continue to provide our popular and flexible online lessons and adding to our blog. We are currently planning a new pronunciation course which wil combine online, face-to-face learning with specially designed videos and interactive exercises.

Is there anyway we can help you to improve your English? Contact us to talk about it.

Here’s a little Christmas present from us to you. Test your knowledge of English prepositions by decorating our Christmas tree .


Decorate the Christmas Tree

(Note this doesn’t work in Microsoft browsers. Please use another browser such as Firefox or Chrome.)

Linda, Simon, Barney, Joy, Louise & Stephen



Giving directions – interactive

Imagine this situation. You are visiting a friend. It is your first visit to this town. You want to send a package home but how do you find the post office?

You ask your friend for directions, of course.

Try our new interactive exercise and see if you can follow his directions to the post office.


Giving directions instructions


We are creating more and more interactive materials for our blog and to support our language courses. If there is a particular area of language you think we should focus on, please use the comment box below or contact us with your ideas.


Internet vocabulary – Interactive exercise

One of the most popular recent blog posts here has been the Internet vocabulary mind map.

People from all over the world have read the blog post and downloaded the mind map.

In response, we decided to create an interactive learning module using some of the vocabulary from the mind map.


Internet vocabulary interactive exercise

Louise and Simon helped Barney to test the module. In the process, they learned a lot more about the names of elements of a webpage and what those elements are used for.

So, if you need to learn the different between check boxes and radio buttons and to drag & drop and to hover, click on the red button below and try the interactive learning module.


We are creating more and more interactive materials for our blog and to support our language courses. If there is a particular area of language you think we should focus on, please use the comment box below or contact us with your ideas.