How to Make Small Talk in English
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
1w ago
The British writer Caitlin Moran once said that she would rather hide in a cupboard than engage in small talk. This had me picturing her hiding amongst her clothes in the dark, waiting for the offending visitor to leave. What would she do in there? Perhaps paint her nails if she’d had the foresight to bring nail polish. Or maybe she had already stashed an emergency cupboard survival kit in a shoebox, complete with a headlamp and an assortment of non-audible soft snacks, like gummy bears.  In this post, we’ll be helping you to master small talk so you don’t have to hide in any cupboards ..read more
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Mistakes Native Speakers Make
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
1M ago
After many failed attempts at relationships, a friend of mine decided her unrealistically high standards were partly to blame for her terrible luck in the romance department. After whittling down her list of desired qualities in a partner, she was left with just three non-negotiable criteria: a sense of humour, doesn’t still live with his mother, and knows the difference between 'your' and 'you’re'.  Yes, you’d be surprised how common this mistake is (the grammar mistake, not dating someone who has mommy issues) among native English speakers. In this post, we’ll explore some of the most ..read more
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Amazing Facts about Cape Town
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
1M ago
‘Gobsmacked’ is a curious word in English. Taken literally, it means to be smacked on your ‘gob’ (British slang for ‘mouth’). The actual meaning is ‘surprised’, which is probably how you would feel if someone slapped you across the face. But I digress. The reason I’m introducing this bizarre word is because this post is all about little-known facts about Cape Town that’ll leave you so gobsmacked you’ll have to tell your friends (but please, no smacking). Bang! On my first day teaching English in Cape Town, I distinctly recall getting the fright of my life on hearing a tremendous bang. I froz ..read more
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Brrrilliant Winter Activities in Cape Town
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
1M ago
Winter in Cape Town? No thank you, right? Cape Town is all about beaches and rooftop parties. Not true. Check out our guide to sizzling hot winter activities in the Mother City, featuring recommendations from ELC’S very own teachers. Oranjezicht City Farm Market Forget about stopping and smelling the roses - come to smell the rhubarb, swiss chard and every other kind of imaginable vege at the Oranjezicht City Farm market. As the market is under an awning, you needn’t worry about getting your gorgeous coiffure wet. Support our local farmers - and your colon - with a kaleidoscope of fruit and ..read more
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Which is more important – vocabulary or grammar?
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
1M ago
If I had a dollar for every time a student asks me if I think grammar or vocabulary is more important when learning English, I might be on a cruise to Ibiza right now instead of writing this post. As an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher, I’ve had many opportunities to consider this question over the years, and to change my mind several times. So when a new student asks me this question, they regret it soon after - or to be more specific, about 45 minutes later when I am still elucidating my response and they are nodding mechanically, casting furtive glances at the door. So in order t ..read more
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How to express degrees of probability
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
2M ago
They say nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. For everything else on the spectrum of probability, you can be certain there’s an English word for it. Alas, getting the word order of these words right in a sentence can be tricky. But never fear – we’ve got your back. Even if the tax man doesn’t. Definitely/Bound to I would say most of you definitely know the word ‘definitely’, but do you know how to use it correctly in a sentence? Can you identify the grammatical mistakes below? Definitely she will go to the party. He won’t definitely break the law. We will not definitely get a do ..read more
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How to Use ‘Do’ and ‘Make’
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
3M ago
On the bumpy path to English proficiency, there are many hidden pits lying in wait to trip up the weary language traveller. (Hence the English word, ‘pitfall’). One of these is the different uses for ‘do’ and ‘make’, seemingly small and insignificant words that are in fact deadly, like poisonous insects that prey on unsuspecting learners on their hazardous voyage to English mastery. Okay, I may be exaggerating a tad, but these words frequently cause immense confusion when used in verb-noun collocations (a 'collocation' consists of two or more words that enjoy hanging out together).  See ..read more
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Why is English spelling so cray cray?
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
3M ago
Often my students ask me why English has notoriously difficult spelling, and naturally, my response to them is: it’s because of Vikings. You see, back in 1066, a French-speaking dude from Normandy invades England and, on setting down his beret in these fair green lands, sends word to his mates (presumably via a young lacky who had to endure weeks of stormy seas and possible scurvy because, unlucky for the messenger, WhatsApp hadn’t been invented yet). England’s surprise new leader tells them that, dudes, this place is pretty cool - you should all come and live here. (In French of course). And ..read more
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The Bare Essentials of Bare Infinitives
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
4M ago
 There’s an old poem that goes like this: Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to give the poor dog a bone. When she came there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none.  Don’t worry - it gets weirder. We can determine two things from these lines: firstly, there are some very strange poems out there, and secondly, one of the meanings of ‘bare’ is empty (unfortunately for the dog in this poem) or basic and simple (see the title of this post). Similarly, we can use this word to mean devoid of clothing; hence, we have ‘barefoot’, ‘bare-chested’, and so on. 'Bare' shoul ..read more
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English Idioms about Happiness
Learn English with UCT English Language Centre
by Leigh-Anne Hunter
4M ago
Smile! The 20th of March is the International Day of Happiness. In honour of this cheerful occasion, we’ll be looking at some common English words and expressions about happiness, which will hopefully leave you feeling like a ‘happy chappy’.   Up, Up and Away If you say you’re on cloud nine, it doesn’t just mean you’re just happy - it means you’re ecstatic, elated, or thrilled (all synonyms for very, very, very happy), or you could say, ‘blissfully happy’ (a common adverb-adjective collocation). Sarah was on cloud nine because it was her last working day before her holiday. Unfortunatel ..read more
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