Activities

Reading comprehension

The objective of this activity is to practise the comprehension of a written text and write the answers in well-structured and complete sentences.

Read the following text and then answer the questions below.

Differences between British and American English

American English and British English (BrE) differ at the levels of phonology, phonetics, vocabulary, and, to a lesser extent, grammar and orthography. The first large American dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was written by Noah Webster in 1828; Webster intended to show that the United States, which was a relatively new country at the time, spoke a different dialect from that of Britain.

Differences in grammar are relatively minor, and normally do not affect mutual intelligibility; these include: different use of some verbal auxiliaries; formal (rather than notional) agreement with collective nouns; different preferences for the past forms of a few verbs (for example, AmE/BrE: learned/learnt, burned/burnt, snuck/sneaked, dove/dived); different prepositions and adverbs in certain contexts (for example, AmE in school, BrE at school); and whether or not a definite article is used, in very few cases (AmE to the hospital, BrE to hospital; contrast, however, AmE actress Elizabeth Taylor, BrE the actress Elizabeth Taylor). Often, these differences are a matter of relative preferences rather than absolute rules; and most are not stable, since the two varieties are constantly influencing each other.

Differences in orthography are also trivial. Some of the forms that now serve to distinguish American from British spelling (color for colour, center for centre, traveler for traveller, etc.) were introduced by Noah Webster himself; others are due to spelling tendencies in Britain from the 17th century until the present day (for example, -ise for -ize, although the Oxford English Dictionary still prefers the -ize ending) and cases favored by the francophile tastes of 19th century Victorian England, which had little effect on AmE (for example, programme for program, manoeuvre for maneuver, skilful for skillful, cheque for check, etc.). One of the most common spelling differences, traceable to Webster, is that words ending in -re in BrE are rendered as -er in AmE (such as centre and center, theatre and theater, and metre and meter).

AmE sometimes favors words that are morphologically more complex, whereas BrE uses clipped forms, such as AmE transportation and BrE transport or where the British form is a back-formation, such as AmE burglarize and BrE burgle (from burglar). It should, however, be noted that while individuals usually use one or the other, both forms will be widely understood and mostly used alongside each other within the two systems.

From Wikipedia

Questions:

  1. What was the purpose of Webster’s American English dictionary?
  2. Say two grammatical differences between British and American English.
  3. How did the spellings -or for -our and -er for -re originate in American English?
  4. How does the text explain the differences in spelling between programmme and program, for example?
  5. Which is one of the most common differences in spelling between British and American English?

Suggested answers:

  1. The purpose was to show that the United States spoke a different dialect from that of Britain.
  2. For example, there is a different use of verbal auxiliaries and different preferences for the past forms.
  3. They were introduced by Noah Webster.
  4. The text says that this is the result of the francophile tastes of 19ht century Victorian England, which had little effects on American English.
  5. One of the most common differences in spelling is that of the words ending in -re in British English and in -er in American English.

Speaking: greetings

The objective of this activity is to practise the speaking skills by talking about your job.

Download and listen to the following sound file and respond to each greeting in the most appropriate way:

Greetings ( 215.6 KB )

Note: there’s no correct answer to this question. To check your pronunciation, type your answers in the text editor in the ‘Text-to-speech’ website and then listen to the pronunciation. Practise as much as you want by repeating the words that you hear.

Listening comprehension

The aim of this activity is to check your listening comprehension by listening to a text.

Download and listen to the text. Then answer the questions:

Writing ( 860.9 KB )

  1. Why does the speaker think writing is so difficult?
  2. What’s one advantage of writing over speaking?
  3. Why is writing easier now that before?
  4. How do computers help in writing?
  5. What’s the disadvantage of mobile phones and sites like Twitter?

Suggested answers:

  1. He’s not sure why.
  2. When you write you have more time to think.
  3. Because computers and the Internet can help us.
  4. We have spellcheckers, they warn us if we make mistakes and there’s translation software.
  5. They don’t have a lot of space to write.

Transcription:

I think writing is the most difficult skill in English. I’m not sure why. Some students are really good at speaking, but their writing is terrible. Why can’t they just pretend they’re speaking but write it all down. You certainly have more time to think when you write. I think writing has got easier in recent years. Computers and the Internet have helped us. Although I think many teachers would say technology is not a help. But it’s true. We have spellcheckers when we type. They even warn us if we’ve made a mistake with grammar. There is also translation software, but that can produce gobbledygook. And then there are new places to write. With mobile phones and sites like Twitter you don’t have a lot of space to write.

Numbers

The objective of this activity is to review the English numbers.

Write the following numbers in letters:

  1. 8:
  2. 13:
  3. 76:
  4. 146:
  5. 359:
  6. 1003:
  7. 2014:
  8. 15,381:
  9. 38,964:
  10. 120,756:
  11. 457,890:
  12. 1,567,842:
  13. 670,543,006:

Answers

  1. eight.
  2. thirteen.
  3. seventy-six.
  4. one hundred and forty-six.
  5. three hundred and fifty-nine.
  6. one thousand and three.
  7. two thousand and fourteen.
  8. fifteen thousand three hundred and eighty-one.
  9. thirty-eight thousand nine hundred and sixty-four.
  10. one hundred and twenty thousand seven hundred and fifty-six.
  11. four hundred and fifty-seven thousand eight hundred and ninety.
  12. one milion five hundred and sixty-seven thousand eight hundred and forty-two.
  13. six hundred and seventy milion five hundred and forty-three thousand and six.

Note: please notice that his is only an exercise to check if you can say the numbers. Don’t write numbers above 100 in letters.

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