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Issue #016 -- Week 25/08/14-31/08/14
September 02, 2014

Greetings and General Information

First of all, welcome to our new subscribers! I wish you find My English Club fun and instructive and I look forward to welcome you as a new valued member soon. Read, learn and communicate around the world!

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Month 1 ~ Lesson 1 ~ Introduction

Life goes on and here we are again, starting a new academic year - 2014-2015. We've made it so far, my friends, like the one in the joke: "I intend to live forever. So far, so good!" ... so, let's step forward positively.

It's time for us to start our courses again in this issue and I shall use the same format as our last academic year: each issue will present the lessons I teach at school during the previous week.

The only difference is that we shall keep constant now, on three subjects: pronunciation and grammar for improving your communication skills, as well as website design and development, for applying your English in practice once you get skilful in English and website building.

Pronunciation ~ The NAMES and SOUNDS of the Letters

So many times students have problems with reading, because of the pronunciation of the vowels encountered in the text. If you haven’t had the chance to learn about the difference between short and long vowels, you may continue to have problems (not only in reading, but also in listening), until you get to differentiate between these easily.

Letters – Vowels - Consonants

First of all, everybody should know the difference between the vowels and the consonants in English. We have only 5 vowels in English: A, E, I, O and U. All the other letters are consonants.

Now, the letter Y classes as a consonant, but it is sometimes used as a vowel, like in ‘gym’, ‘my’, ‘sky’, ‘cycle’, ‘baby’, ‘hairy’. In the meanwhile, Y is treated as a consonant in ‘yes’, ‘yam’, ‘yell’, ‘yellow’, ‘yogurt’.

The rule is that, if other consonants depend on Y to form a syllable, then Y is a vowel in that case. In the first set of words, the first 3 words have one syllable, but if it wasn’t for the presence of letter Y, we couldn’t pronounce them as a syllable: gm, m, sk – do you get it? Whereas in the second set of words letter Y is not as important in forming a syllable – if it were missing, we would still have a syllable: es, am, ell, ellow, ogurt. Although not perfect, one could still read those words, so letter Y is not needed as much as in the previous group of words.

Letter W also acts as a vowel sometimes, and when it does, it always follows A, like in ‘paw’, or E, like in ‘new’, or letter O, like in ‘grow’.

The NAMES and the SOUNDS of the letters

I always teach my students that the letters have ‘names’ on the one hand and ‘sounds’ on the other hand. This is for us to differentiate between calling for example letter A /ei/ or /æ/, or for example letter M as /em/ or /m/.

The simplest explanation is that we use the ‘names’ of the letters for reciting the alphabet, or for spelling words. However, when we speak, we don’t pronounce the letters as when spelling, we use the ‘sounds’ of the letters instead.

Take the word ‘cat’, for example:
- we spell it as /si:/-/ei/-/ti:/ but
- we pronounce it as /k/-/æ/-/t/
Do you get it?

Because everybody knows the ‘names’ of the letters (or if you don’t, I suggest you learn the Alphabet Song), let us look at the pronunciation of the letters, or the ‘sounds’ of the letters in this lesson.

Consonant Sounds

Consonants are the letters which stop or limit the flow of air from the throat in speech. These are the sounds, or phonemes, of single consonants:
• /b/ sound as in boy, black, and bird
• /d/ sound as in day, doll, and duet
• /f/ sound as in fish, fall, and finger
• /g/ sound as in greeting, girl, and grapefruit
• /h/ sound as in hello, hotel and hit
• /j/ sound as in magician, juice, and jacket
• /k/ sound as in cat, kick, and cactus
• /l/ sound as in learn, lamp, and library
• /m/ sound as in money, me, and mummy
• /n/ sound as in night, nightmare, and noodles
• /p/ sound as in panda, pen, and put
• /r/ sound as in rose, run, and rooster
• /s/ sound as in sun, sand, and sit
• /t/ sound as in tell, turn, and toy
• /v/ sound as in violin, van, and vote
• /w/ sound as in water, waterfall, and watch
• /y/ sound as in yak, yacht, and yoga
• /z/ sound as in zebra, zoo, and zipper

Sometimes the vowel u takes upon itself the consonant sound of w, as in quick or suave. This is usually the case when q is followed by u, as in quiet, queen and quaint.

Vowel Sounds

A vowel is a sound made by the relatively free movement of air through the mouth, usually forming the main sound of a syllable. The vowels in English are a, e, i, o, and u.

Each vowel has two sounds: a long sound and a short sound. The long sound is the same as its name. Every vowel also makes a third sound: the schwa. This is the sound of a vowel that is unstressed in an unstressed syllable. There are also some more advanced vowel sounds besides the long, short, and schwa. For instance, the a in father is different than the a in cat. Here are the vowel sounds, shown along with their diacritical marks:
• Long a /ā/ sound as in fail, ache, and explain
• Long e /ē/ sound as in eat, speed, and read
• Long i /ī/ sound as in eye, cry, and line
• Long o /ō/ sound as in oh, ghost, and coat
• Long u /ū/ sound as in you, salute, and costume

• Short a /ă/ sound as in at, taxi, and apple
• Short e /ĕ/ sound as in elevator, jellyfish, and elephant
• Short i /ĭ/ sound as in it, gift, and sit
• Short o /ŏ/ sound as in hop, chop, and crop
• Short u /ŭ/ sound as in up, cut and hug

• Schwa /ə/ sound as in about, item, and circus

You can see that the long sounds are actually the sounds we use for spelling, i.e. the 'names' of the vowels and the short sounds are different.

When do we use the long sound and the short sound?

Now, you need to learn and get to distinguish between the following situations very quickly, as this will improve your reading, speaking and listening to English tremendously:

1) When a single vowel letter is in the middle of a word (or syllable), it usually says its short sound (e.g., got, bed.) But there are many exceptions to this rule, such as irregular vowels.

2) When a single vowel letter is in the end of a word (or syllable), it usually says its long sound (or its name), as in go and be.

3) When two vowels go hand in hand (together) in the same word (or syllable), the first vowel is usually long, and the second vowel is usually silent. e.g., bake makes the ay sound (long a) and the e is silent; goal makes the oh sound (long o) and the a is silent. But there are many exceptions to this rule, such as irregular vowels.

We shall practice these in our next lesson. Until then, please familiarise yourselves with these rules.

Communicative Grammar Concepts ~ CAUSE and EFFECT

We established previously that I shall teach you ‘communicative grammar’ during this year and I shall remind you what this means.

This type of grammar is for speaking English, rather than for learning the grammar rules and doing a lot of exercises, but then never getting to actually use it in real life. In other words, you decide ‘what it is that you want to say’ and this type of grammar will give you the model of ‘how to say it’. Does this make sense to you? Do you like the idea?

The way it does this is by using what we call ‘concepts’, which are kernels of expressions used for different purposes in communication (written or spoken, equally).

Now, because I’m teaching expressions around the notion of cause and effect at the moment, let me start our course with this concept.

Let us look at some expressions denoting CAUSE and EFFECT. Beginners use ‘because’ and ‘as’ very frequently… because these are the simplest expressions for this purpose, usually learnt in school. However, there are many other ways to express causality.

In answering the question ‘why?’, one can indicate cause or reason by using:

1) An adverbial because-clause:
The driver was angry because two passengers were late.

2) A prepositional phrase, such as ‘because of’, ‘on account of’ , ‘from, out of’:

3) The expression Because of:

He couldn’t get to work in time because of a flat tire on the way to work.

4) The expression On account of:

Many students failed on account of bad preparation for the exam.

5) The expressions From, and out of (mainly to express motive, i.e. psychological cause):

He went to visit his grandmother in the hospital, not from/out of necessity, but from/out of a sense of duty.

6) Other prepositions that sometimes express cause are: For (mainly with nouns of feeling) and through:

She jumped for joy. He missed two races through injury.

=== === === === === === === === === === === === === ===

Now, sometimes we link sentences together for different purposes, one of them being the expression of cause and effect or result. We need to know that grammar provides three main ways of putting clauses together:

Coordination – by using the conjunctions and, or, but, both … and, etc;

Subordination – we subordinate one clause to another, making it into a sub-clause, by using such conjunctions as when, if and because;

Adverbial link – we can also connect two ideas by using a linking sentence adverbial, such as yet, moreover, therefore and meanwhile.

Examples of how these can be used to express cause and effect are:

[Co] She had to study last night, and (therefore) she slept very little.
[Sub] Since she was tired, she had a siesta today.
[Ad] When children reach the age of 11 or 12, they start growing fast. They therefore need more protein.

Designing and Building a Website ~ The Basic Concepts

Anybody who starts a website with the idea of making a living from it must be prepared to succeed. The system I’m using, together with tens of thousands of other people worldwide is called SBI!, which stands for Site Build It!

This system comes with a course structured in 10 steps, which is meant as a roadmap to guide us along a proven business building process, based on the concepts of Content -> Traffic -> PREsell -> Monetize

- The Content, including everything you would write about yourself and your products/services will create your presence on the Web. You will learn to build website pages, Facebook like inserts, newsletters, tweets and many other communication devices online;

- The above mentioned Content is the most important aspect of your online presence. Depending on how well you build it, it will attract your free targeted Traffic through different sources such as search engines, social media and your targeted links, from a variety of devices, like other computers, tablets and mobile phones;

- Assuming that your visitors will like your content, they warm up to you, as you PREsell about your business. This concept is based on the idea that one will only buy what one likes and trusts, and so it should be as well. So much publicity ‘manipulates’ people into buying all sorts of things, but this is only viable for a short time – we need visitors who want to come back, to learn more and who want more in a natural way. This is where your content is king.

- Once you achieve this, and only then will you be able to generate an income through a variety of Monetization models, about which we shall learn during our month 4 and 10 of this course. In month 4 we learn about it and in month 10 we implement it, once the website has really taken off and once it shows signs of success.

We call this process the CTPM = Content -> Traffic -> PREsell -> Monetize and it will be our focus for the first 5 steps in building a solid and sustainable business.

During the first month we shall concentrate on three basic aspects crucial for our online success:
1] The fact that we need to focus on ONE online business at a time;
2] Understanding the difference between “PREselling” and “selling”;
3] Build a strong business foundation. Together, we shall learn how.

This Is It, My Friends!

Well, I hope this is not too overwhelming for you. Take it little by little and write down your own notes and build examples to help you remember them easily in the future.

OK, I wish you all a great week ahead ~ it's time to sleep a little bit over here! Have fun in the meanwhile, as always!

All the best,

Lucia da Vinci

Founder of My English Club

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