Monday, December 10, 2007

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is one of the most popular children's Christmas songs. But it's not a traditional song; it was created by an advertising executive in 1939!

Still, the song has a nice story about a reindeer with a shiny red nose. The other reindeer used to laugh at him until he was given the special task of guiding Santa's sleigh at night.

Here are the lyrics:

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?"

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!

...and he really did go down in history!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is English suited to being the International Language?

Well, this is an interesting question. English is the language of the world today, there is no denying it. However, it achieved this status as an ‘accident of history’ rather than by actually being the best language for international communication and commerce.

So is English suited to being the International Language? In short, my answer is NO, for the following reasons:

1 The grammar is terribly difficult, and not always standardised, although easier than some other European languages.

2 The pronunciation is difficult for speakers of other languages, especially the ‘th’ sounds (you did realise there are two, didn’t you?) – not many other languages have these sounds.

3 The spelling is not standardised. Why does ‘head’ rhyme with ‘said’?

4 The vocabulary is huge and we often have many words for one thing. Phrasal verbs can often cause problems for learners and there are thousands of them!

On the positive side, English adapts easily to scientific and technical language.
I have personally had some experience of learning Spanish, Turkish and Malay. I can tell you, all three of these languages are much easier than English. If only Spanish was the International Language, how much easier it would be for everyone (except English speakers, who are notoriously lazy when it comes to learning new languages!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yahoo Pipes and Yahoo Answers!

Yahoo Answers is one of my favourite sites and I've found a way to put all questions related to ESL in one place using a program called Yahoo Pipes. (Yes, I'm such a geek).

Click here to try it out.

You will see the 10 most recent questions posted with the keywords: grammar, esl, learn english, language and english teacher

Try it, it's fun and it's constantly updated as new questions come in.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Road To Grammar Junior

Following suggestions from several elementary school teachers, R2G presents ... Road To Grammar Junior!

The original site contains references to alcohol and contains vocabulary and examples unsuited to younger learners. Now teachers need worry no more! Road To Grammar Jr a version of Road To Grammar that has been cleaned up and made more attractive to younger learners.

Basically, the junior site should be suitable for up to age 13, and the main site should be suitable for those older than that. However, some discretion is advised.

Road To Grammar Jr can be found here:

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Even Dictionaries Make Grammar Mistakes?

A friend pointed out this sentence from the CD-ROM of the Cambridge Advanced Learners' Dictionary:

Understand (KNOW) 5 understand one another/each other When two people understand one another, they both know what the other means and wants and they have an agreement: Both sides must try to understand one another, to recognise each others' rights, feelings and beliefs. See also understanding (AGREEMENT).

Can you spot the mistake? The apostrophe is in the wrong place. According to

The possessive forms of each other and one another are written each other's
and one another's: The boys wore each other's (not each others') coats. They had
forgotten one another's (not one anothers') names.

Tut tut, Cambridge.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Sad Songs

Time for some sad song lyrics.

Sad song # 1: Gloomy Sunday

This is a song about a person whose lover has died and she (or he) is thinking about killing herself to join her lover in the afterlife. Then she wakes up to find it was a dream. The version I have is by Sarah Brightman, but the original version was in Czech!

Sunday is gloomy,
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless
Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought of ever returning you
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you
Gloomy Sunday

Sunday is gloomy
With shadows I spend it all
My heart and I have decided to end it all
Soon there'll be flowers and prayers that are said I know
But let them not weep let them know that I'm glad to go

Death is no dream for in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my soul I'll be blessing you
Gloomy Sunday

DreamingI was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep
In the deep of my heart dear Darling I hope that my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you how much I wanted you
Gloomy Sunday
Gloomy Sunday

Sad song #2: A change is gonna come

This is a soul classic by Sam Cooke. He talks about how he's always been poor and nobody would help him. Awww ... so sad! But he's optimistic - he says that 'A change is gonna come'.

I was born by the river in a little tent
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown somebody keep telling me don't hang around
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees
Ohhhhhhhhh.....There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Sad Song #3: Dust in the wind

This classic ballad by Kansas is the saddest song of all. It talks about how we are unimportant compared to the vast size of space and time. We 'refuse to see' that all we are is 'dust in the wind'. Wow.

I close my eyes
Only for a moment, then the moment's gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song
Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind, ohh

Now, don't hang on
Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won't another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind

These are three great songs, by the way. I highly recommend you buy them if you can find them!

Sunday, April 01, 2007


It's not enough just to know individual sounds in English. To have a natural accent, you need to get the word stress correct.

For example, the DEsert is where camels live. deSSERT is a sweet treat like cake or ice cream!

Can you hear the difference or can you pronounce the different? The word stress in English is usually on the first syllable, but there is no set rule. (I know, ESL learners hate to hear 'there's no set rule!)

Practise word stress in English with this activity:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It's Bedlam!

In English, when we say something is 'bedlam', it means chaos or madness.

The word bedlam comes from the name of a hospital for mental patients - Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem. The common people pronounced Bethlehem as Bedlam.

In the 1700s people used to go to this hospital for entertainment. They would bring their families to laugh at the mad people there! Please don't try this today!
New Stuff on R2G

Two new things on R2G at the moment:

1 You can win a copy of 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' by posting a link to R2G on your blog or website. Get the details at

2 Try out a new activity to test your knowledge of sounds in English.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Favourite Words of 2006!

The Marriam-Webster dictionary takes a poll of people's top ten favourite words at the end of every year. Here are the top ten for this year:


As you can see, many of the words are linked to the war in Iraq. The top word, 'truthiness', sounds pretty stange to me. Apparently it means truthfulness based on feelings rather than facts. It has a certain truthiness to it.

Marriam Webster's excellent site is located at

New Quiz: YOUR and YOU'RE

There is another new quiz on Road to Grammar on the topic YOUR and YOU'RE - many learners - and even native speakers - mix up these two ...