English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 5

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 5 Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

An enduringly popular gothic horror story published in 1818. It has been claimed that this was the first proper science fiction novel. It’s the story of a sea captain who sets out to explore the North Pole and meets a chemist called Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein tells him of a creature he made and brought to life which turned out to be a hideous, murderous monster (or possibly just very misunderstood). You may prefer to read an abridged version as the original uses rather a lot of old-fashioned English. 

Themes Quest for knowledge, dangers of knowledge, nature vs nurture. 

Continue reading

English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 4

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 4 Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carol

This 1865 fantasy novel was written by an Oxford don, it is a children’s classic and a must-read if you are visiting Oxford. Alice is a little girl who follows a white rabbit and falls down a rabbit hole into a Wonderland of nonsense. The book is filled with nonsense characters, figures from English nursery rhymes, riddles and wordplay. Although written for children, it was reportedly one of Queen Victoria’s favourite books and everyone knows something of it. 

Words & Phrases:

A Cheshire Cat smile/ To smile like a Cheshire Cat /ˌtʃeʃə(r) ˈkæt smaɪl/ (idiom) To smile very broadly, to grin. 

Continue reading

English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 3

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language 

No. 3 A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Conan Doyle wrote 60 Sherlock Holmes stories. It doesn’t really matter which one you read as neither of the phrases these books have given the language actually appeared in his writing. You may as well start with the first: A Study in Scarlet. Written between 1887 and 1927, the stories are set in Victorian and Edwardian England and provide an interesting portrait of the manners and mores of the time – a time from which, arguably, many British stereotypes originated. Holmes is a great detective who solves many overcomplicated crimes with his partner, Dr Watson. 

Themes Crime, detection, justice

Continue reading

English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 2

British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

No. 2 A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Most of Dickens’s novels are considered classics. A Christmas Carol is the shortest and has always been the most popular. Set in Victorian London it tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an awful miser, who is financially rich but spiritually and emotionally poor and his path to redemption via three ghosts. 

Themes: Poverty, inequality, injustice, friendship, family, ghosts. Dickens was a social campaigner whose novels highlighted the terrible poverty in Victorian London and brought it to the attention of the wider public. This book also had a great influence on shaping the traditional English Christmas. 

Continue reading

English Novels Every Proficiency Student Should Read No. 1


British Novels Which Have Added To The English Language

Fiction or factual, poetry, newspapers or magazines, lengthy books or short stories – they can all help improve vocabulary, grammar, writing and, ultimately, speech. However, while all books may be equal in this respect, some books are more equal than others!* 

Here is the first of my top ten books which have contributed to the English language. While it isn’t strictly necessary to read the books to understand the meaning of the words or phrases they have given English, you’ll probably find them easier to remember and use if you do (and, who knows, you might even enjoy the books!).

No. 1 Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Intro: Orwell wrote this in 1948 after becoming disillusioned with the Communist regime in Russia. The novel is set in a future dystopia in which people’s lives are almost wholly controlled by The Party. It is regarded as a classic and its themes are as relevant today as they were in 1948. So relevant, in fact, that this book has given more words and phrases to everyday English than any other work of fiction I can think of.   Continue reading

Reading with Children

DSCN0542Everyone knows the benefits of reading to babies and toddlers, right? Health visitors hand out Bookstart packs in the UK almost as soon as your child is born, libraries run all-singing, all-dancing, glue & glitter sessions for families; Dolly Parton posts books monthly to children in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia. And the results from research is overwhelming: a child is never too young for a book. Continue reading

An English Empire? Linguistic Imperialism and me.

800px-1855_Colton_Map_of_the_World_on_Mercator_Projection_-_Geographicus_-_WorldMercator-colton-1855When I completed my CELTA (the initial training course for EFL teachers) and considered all the places in the world I wanted to travel to and teach in, I faced some, half-joking, accusations that what I was about to do aided some covert imperialist agenda. Was I a modern-day missionary, an ELT evangelist preaching Received Pronunciation, sermonising about sentence structure, bearing witness to SVO word order? Was I an unwitting foot soldier in the building of a new English Empire, annihilating native languages, crushing cultures, promulgating Western capitalist ideals?

Continue reading