Lisa's week

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Lisa's week: What’s your “thing”?

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Two things brought this week’s topic to mind this evening.

First of all, I sometimes carry out listening and comprehension exercises in my lessons. We listen to a short report from the BBC and then answer questions on the content of the report followed by a set of questions around some of the more difficult and obscure words from the text. The reports are from one of my podcast recommendations, “From Our Own Correspondent”, which features several short reports from journalists around the world about some news or cultural topic from the place they are assigned to. At between 5 and 8 minutes long they are the perfect length for a short exercise on how much information you can obtain from a report with vocabulary you might not be entirely familiar with. The reporters are well spoken and often native speakers, which gives my students the chance to listen to someone else’s English and there is always a lot of discussion around the subject reported and the language used. (You can find out more about my podcast recommendations in my Lisa’s Week episode 89 here and episode 90 here. And yes, as a side note, I AM passionate about podcasts!)

Now what does this have to do with anything, I hear you ask? Well, I recently did such a reading and listening exercise – as a test actually so we didn’t really get around to discussing the results. But one of the lines of text in the report, which featured the Aldi brothers, was that Karl Albrecht “grew orchids”. And you’d be surprised to know how difficult that is to hear correctly, apparently!

Over the time that I’ve used this audio file in lessons, only three or four people have identified the fact that Karl Albrecht “grew ORCHIDS” and not “grew ALL KIDS” which of course has had many students scratching their heads in wonder! I mean, WHO grows kids, right?? Of course, we make sure to talk about understanding words in context, listening through unfamiliar accents, the fact that words are sometimes joined together when we speak English making them difficult to identify individually, and how to improve their comprehension in real life situations as part of the lesson discussion. But it brings up a real life dilemma for many non-native speakers. Imagine that had been a meeting or presentation where it was important to hear things right first time. You can’t rewind the file and listen again. Usually, it’s a one-time thing.

Now, I know this sounds a little extreme and of course, we smile and joke about this error. We talk about how they knew it was the wrong answer but couldn’t for the life of them come up with the fact that we were talking about plants. However, on a more serious note, it’s a light-hearted lesson to show how important close listening is – especially with unfamiliar vocabulary. I recommend you try similar exercises.

Second of all, coming back to my original opening, orchids happen to be one of MY “things”.

I know I’m not alone in having something that might seem a little extreme to others. I have many “things” to be honest, but I just came in from the kitchen where I have two dozen orchids soaking up some water in their once a fortnight bath, which made me think of it. Two dozen? It sounds like a lot when I write it down but at the moment I only have three in flower and all the others are resting up and hopefully, they’ll flower again sometime soon.

As with all hobbies, this is something I’m happy to talk about. It’s a small piece of me that’s not too personal to share in small talk and I’m often surprised at how many people share my passion for orchids or other plants (and no, I really don’t have green fingers!). Such topics can be easy and comfortable small talk topics because they are relatively general and most people know something about them, even if it’s not necessarily something they love as much as you.

The point I’m making is that if you have a “thing”, whether it’s cats, your garden, your favourite football team, your love of cooking homemade Italian pasta or your attempt to qualify for the New York Marathon, this can be a great starting point for conversation. Take a few minutes to think about what you could talk about and identify missing vocabulary. Imagine a conversation and practice it in your head – or even out loud if you’re alone in the car or at home. Preparing yourself for small talk can make it easier when you find yourself unexpectedly in that situation.

And it might even help you in a listening and comprehension lesson with me!


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!

Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge

Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ

Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)

Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)

Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland

Episode 70: The first day of school

Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!

Episode 72: Celebrating language

Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!

Episode 74: My favourite time of the year

Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading

Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat

Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime

Episode 78: Talking Tenners

Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?

Episode 80: Just another few minutes!

Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.

Episode 82: What sign are you?

Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!

Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions

Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring

Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose

Episode 88: Once in a blue moon

Episode 89: Learning by Listening - part 1

Episode 90: Learning by Listening - part 2

Episode 91: This is the travel news!

Episode 92: The "Beast from the East" hits Western Europe!

Episode 93: The flu hits Lisa's Week

Episode 94: Spring forward and fall back

Episode 95: Holy Week

Episode 96: Quick Tip of the Week - prepositons of time

Episode 97: Perfect for dunking!

Episode 98: Part of the family

Episode 99: It's a boy!

Episode 100: Happy Anniversary to me!

Episode 101: To all the mothers out there

Episode 102: Up, up and away

Episode 103: A very British affair!

Episode 104: Getting boarded!

Episode 105: How do you say that?

Episode 106: Ready for departure?

Episode 107: Happy Father's Day

Episode 108: I'm leaving... on a jet plane... (Part 4)

Episode 109: Can football really come home?

Episode 110: A right royal christening

Episode 111: Touch down!

Episode 112: 70 years of public healthcare

Episode 113: The same but different

Episode 114: A long hot summer

Episode 115: Germany through a visitor's eyes

Episode 116: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 1)

Episode 117: Quick Tip of the Week - question tags (part 2)

Episode 118: All the fun of the fair