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Issue #022 -- Week 05/10/14-11/10/14
October 17, 2014

Greetings and General Information

First of all, my apologies again, for sending this issue so late in the week. This was a marathon week, with four exams to administer, grade and write the student reports afterwards. Mission complete by now and let's hope things will get back to normal from now on. I am planning to publish the following issue in time, this Monday.

Secondly, let me extend a warm welcome to our new subscribers! I wish you will 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!

Please feel free to contribute to these pages when you have a minute. They are meant to be a platform for exchanging ideas, stories and opinions - an ideal medium for practicing your English, which should be used to the full. Together, let's bring it alive, let's make it the welcoming community you wished for, when you joined.

You and your friends can subscribe individually through the form on My English Club. If anybody mentions to you that they are interested in receiving it, please tell them this - many thanks. Also, they can read the previous issues on Back Issues for English Corner E-zine.

Month 2 ~ Lesson 7

We started studying three subjects this month: 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.

You will find our past lessons as follows:

Issue 016 - 1) The NAMES and SOUNDS of the Letters
Issue 017 - 2) Short/Long Vowel Sounds & CVCs
Issue 019 - 3) CCVCs and CVCCs
Issue 020 - 4) Digraphs and Silent Letters

Issue 016 - 1) CAUSE and EFFECT
Issue 017 - 2) Comparison of Adjectives
Issue 019 - 3) Comparison of Adverbs
Issue 020 - 4) Special Cases of Comparison

Website building:
Issue 016 - 1) The Basic Concepts
Issue 017 - 2) Content vs. Monetize
Issue 019 - 3) PREselling vs. Selling
Issue 020 - 4) Developing a Site Concept

Pronunciation ~ Long Vowel Sounds

OK my friends, we’ve done the CVCs, the CVCCs and CCVCs, the sight words, as well as the difference between long/short vowels so far. We shall focus today on a specific rule for using the long vowel sounds.

This is the type of sound that, if used wrongly, can create many problems in making oneself understood, in general. If you don’t pronounce these sounds correctly, then most of the times you will actually say something else than you mean. For example:

- Instead of saying ‘sheep’ you will say ‘ship’
- Instead of saying ‘sheet’ you will say ‘shit’

... you can see how embarrassing that can be.

I used to teach my students the difference between these sounds by tapping once or twice on the table, or on a hard surface.

One knock is for a short vowel. That’s how short you need to pronounce these. All the CVC words have this short sound. Do not make it long, or else your listener will perceive another word and will frown at you. Then you’ll have to go through the hassle of explaining yourself, by using other expressions, various words and gestures etc., until your listener gets your meaning. All of this because you couldn’t distinguish between a long and a short sound and you couldn’t say it out loud in the first instance.

So, take your list of CVCs and go through them, pronouncing them one by one and knocking on the table once, as you say the vowel in the middle.

Have the patience to go through the whole list, even though you get the gist of it after a few words. By doing more and more of these, on different occasions, you sensitise your ears to the short sound they contain. Once you know how to pronounce these AND you do it correctly, you will find that this also has an unexpected positive effect: you will start to understand other people better, when they use these sounds in their speech.

It is actually true, that by speaking correctly, you can also listen better to incoming sounds and understand them easily. Who wouldn’t like that? It only takes a little practice!

Now let’s look at the long vowels in short words. If you remember our pronunciation lesson from Issue 016 we distinguished between the long and the short vowels at that point.

Today, I’ll give you a general rule for when you need to use the long vowels. However, although this is a valid ‘general rule’ as such, do remember that we have a lot of exceptions in English, due to the history of the language. Because many words were actually ‘imported’ into English, from various languages, we also received their pronunciation for those particular words, in case you ever wondered why it is so difficult to get around all the different ways of pronouncing the letters in English – some logical and some less so…

Rule [3] that I mentioned in Issue 016 is this: that when you have two vowels between two consonants, then you will pronounce those two vowels like the long sound of the first of the two vowels. Children learn this rule from a great song, in which they are showed (in animation) how ‘the first one does the talking’ – the second one is silent.

Let’s see how this works:

Long a /ā/ sound as in fail, snail, tail, plain and explain
- We have 2 vowels: ‘a’ and ‘i’
- The first one is pronounced /ā/
- Therefore the two together will be pronounced /ā/ : ‘ai’ = /ā/

Long e /ē/ sound as in speed, read, bean, been, and seen
- We have 2 vowels: ‘e’ and ‘e’ (the double ‘e’) or ‘e’ and ‘a’
- The first one is pronounced /ē/
- Therefore the two together will be pronounced /ē/: ‘ee’ = /ē/ & ‘ea’ = /ē/

Long o /ō/ sound as in goal, goat, and coat
- We have 2 vowels: ‘o’ and ‘a’
- The first one is pronounced /ō/
- Therefore the two together will be pronounced /ō/: ‘oa’ = /ō/

The long i /ī/ and the long u /ū/ sounds follow a different rule, which we shall look into next time, so we leave it out for now.

Have a little practice now,

i) Take a magazine, or a book into which you can scribble on the pages and you start hunting for words that contain the above combinations of vowels.
ii) Choose which ones follow the rule and circle it.
iii) Pronounce it aloud, even if that sound is in a long and complicated word you haven’t encountered previously, like perhaps ‘loathsomeness’ (meaning unpleasantness or disagreeableness)
iv) If needed, look it up in a dictionary and add it to a list of new words that you are currently building, from your readings.

And this is it – by doing this, you’ll soon come to read the words containing these letters easily, as well as pronounce and perceive them correctly, when you speak and listen.

More on other situations on this matter, next time.

Grammar ~ Restrictive and Non-Restrictive Meaning

We shall have a short, but important point to mention today. If you understand which words/expressions have restrictive meaning and why; alternatively, which ones have non-restrictive meaning, then you’ll be more capable to distinguish between various uses of articles and other determiners, hence see the importance of actually using them in your speech and writing. Many people simply skip the articles and this makes very bad English, indeed.

To start at the beginning, take these expressions:

- The people
- A king
- The ticket inspector
- These bikes

As they stand, you wouldn’t know which people, which king, what sort of ticket inspector or bikes we are talking about. Of course you wouldn’t – we haven’t specified which and what sort, what kind they are. Imagine that you’re speaking like this, which is what beginners of a language start with usually.

Sometimes we need these expressions as they are, as in:
A king ruled peacefully over the people in a magical land over the mountains.”

This indicates that it doesn’t really matter which king it was exactly – it could have been any king for that matter.

But other times, we need to specify more precisely who the king is, like in:

Faisal was a king of Saudi Arabia for a long part of the last century.

This is not just any king, the range of kings is restricted to only one category of kings – those of Saudi Arabia.

In the expression ’a king of Saudi Arabia’ the words of Saudi Arabia is called a modifier, which helps to specify the meaning of ‘a king’ more precisely.

Equally we can modify ‘the people’, ‘the ticket inspector’ and ‘these bikes’:

- The people who live next door
- The angry ticket inspector
- These latest mountain bikes

When we use a modifier with a noun in order to narrow it down or to restrict its meaning, by saying what kind of people, king, ticket inspector, bikes, etc. we are talking about, this modifier is called restrictive.

On the other hand, we also have a non-restrictive type of modifier, which does not limit the noun in this sense. Getting to distinguish between these two is a good skill to have, which will help you to also give your speech the correct intonation, as well as the correct punctuation to your writing. It’s very simple, but you need to practice with this:

Take for example:

1) She prefers to go out with her brother who drives a Ferrari.
2) She prefers to go out with her brother, who drives a Ferrari.

In the first sentence, the second part [who drives a Ferrari] points out which brother she prefers to go out with - we won’t be asking why, OK? The assumption is that she has more than one brother, but this is the one she prefers to go out with. He is a selected brother, so this modifier is restrictive, i.e. it restricts the choice of brothers to this one.

In the second sentence, the second part is non-restrictive. Instead of selecting, it adds information about the brother. We can assume that she only has one brother in this one, and by the way, he happens to drive a Ferrari.

When we have this kind of situation, we need to indicate this, by raising our voice in speech, or by using a comma [,] in writing.

The above were relative clauses, but simple adjectives can also perform this task of restricting the meaning of a noun. Be careful with these, as they are not so clearly marked (by punctuation or intonation), so more ambiguities may occur.

Any adjective placed in front of a noun is restricting it, reducing the range of the things/people we’re talking about the more specific ones, as imposed by the adjective:

a) The car…
b) The red car…
a) The girls…
b) The fashionable girls…

However, look at the adjectives in the following sentences:

a) The diligent students will always do their homework prior to class.
b) The poor inhabitants of the outskirts of Detroit attacked the offices of their rich bankers.

In [a] do we mean that all students (non-restrictive) are diligent and will do their homework? Or do we mean that only some students (those who are diligent) (restrictive) will do it? In speech, you can mark the difference by putting the stress on 'students' for the non-restrictive meaning and on 'diligent' for the restrictive meaning of this adjective. Try it and see how it sounds. In writing though, you can't do this easily.

In [b] do we refer to all the inhabitants and all the bankers, who happen to be poor and rich, respectively (non-restrictive); or do we refer to only the poor people and only to the rich bankers (as opposed to the poor ones, if there are any) (restrictive)?

You see, these sentences could have either meaning, but the non-restrictive meaning is more likely.

Special case - a double adjective

Now, when we have two adjectives in front of a noun, the ordering of these can make a difference in the perceived meaning:

Her last great novel -> ‘great’ is restrictive (which last novel? – the great one, or the last of her great novels)

Her great last novel -> ‘great’ is non-restrictive (her last novel, which was great) - do you get it?

Website Design with SBI! ~ Choosing Your Niche

Last time we looked into how the SBI! System helps us select the best suitable Site Concept and theme of the new website. Did anybody get confused with the technicalities of this process? Well, that’s just the beginning – we’ll have lots more to do, as the SBI! System actually does the work for us, but we need to be able to programme it and also to control the outcome and select the best combinations of wording for our purposes.

What’s acceptable? The course masters at SBI! have some general guidelines here for us. Let’s look at the guidelines first, in this issue, and then learn how to practically do this in the next issue, which will be more technical in nature again.

Guideline #1)

Do not choose a niche that’s too narrow (Demand must not be too low)
The keyword for your Site Concept itself should normally have a Value Demand of greater than 2,000, preferably over 3,000. If it's a new and growing area, accept a lower number, sometimes substantially lower (depending on your passion and estimate of future potential).

You should also have two or more other keywords that are near or over 1,000, and 10 or more in the hundreds (lower these thresholds, too, if this is a new or growing area).

If your Site Concept Keyword has borderline Demand and if you only have a few other words in the hundreds, its audience may not be big enough to sustain a business. If the brainstorm only brings back 50 keywords or so, you may not have enough "meat" to build a site of substance. We decide on the best choices, based on our own circumstances and monetization plans...

Example 1) Monetization If a keyword is highly related to your primary monetization plan and if each "sale" is high-income/profit, accept lower numbers. For example "Scottsdale Arizona real estate" may have a very low Value Demand and only 20 keywords, total. But that's good enough to take you to the next step of our course, if "Scottsdale Arizona real estate" is your business. After all...

• you will generate more related keywords during the next step
• a single client is worth tens of thousands of dollars, and
• Real Supply is low, making this an easy niche to "own."

Of course, selling real estate is an extreme example. Your own product, if you choose to sell one, will likely be far more modest in comparison... a sub-$100 e-course, say. But it is still hugely profitable compared to contextual advertising. And so you can afford to accept lower numbers than if you planned to monetize through AdSense alone.

Example 2) Low Real Supply In general, low Real Supply is one more circumstance where you could be very happy to accept "borderline" Demand. So analyse the Supply data, too, before deciding (more on this below).

Example 3) Product or Service You want to sell a product or service online and have not been able to generate any profitable Site Concepts related to the niche of your product or service? There is always a profitable niche -- you just have to find it!

Look at the benefits of what you want to sell instead of the features of the product itself. Look at different aspects of the niche. There is always a way to spin a niche, to twist the subject matter, to broaden or adjust, so that it is in demand. Carve out your own niche!

Example 4) Broaden Your Niche Local business seems too narrow? "Early stage" niche has potential? Determined about a certain niche and want to broaden it a bit?

Guideline #2)

Do not make your niche too broad either (Supply must not be too high)
To consider if a Site Concept is too broad, let's switch to Real Supply...

Generally a Real Supply of more than 200,000 (for your Site Concept Keyword) should make you wonder if you have the time and resources to "win" this niche. It can be done, but...

The higher the Real Supply, the stiffer the competition. A nice "sweet spot" area, if you are going to be doing SBI! part-time (say 2-10 hours per week) is a Site Concept Keyword with Real Supply in the 20,000-60,000 area. The lower, the better, especially if it's combined with many high Demand keywords. Higher than 60,000 is certainly doable, and is especially worth the effort if good Demand is plentiful and if you are willing to put in a bit more work to win this niche.

Suppose you are really determined to build on a Site Concept, but it's just too broad? Here's a good way to narrow down and stay within your niche...

Find an interesting keyword in your MKL that's related to your original Site Concept. It will usually be a "smaller part" of it. And then... do a Vertical Brainstorm on it! For example, "debt" is just too broad, so delete the keywords generated by "debt" and try "debt consolidation." There are lots of tricks for narrowing down, including jumping ahead to doing a Lateral Brainstormer query on your Site Concept. You just may find a new, related niche among the keywords that come back. For example...

If your Site Concept had been "Caribbean" (too broad), a Lateral Brainstormer query would find a keyword like "BVI" or "Turks and Caicos." Pick one that strikes you as a good Site Concept and start the process over, doing a Vertical brainstorm on it.

This Is It, Folks!

I hope you find this information useful, even though you're in the stage of building on it and the result will materialise at a later stage. Have patience at this point in time and you'll be able to reap the fruit of your work later on, whichever aspect of our lessons you are concentrating on.

Please feel free to comment and suggest your ideas by replying to this email - I look forward to hearing from you. Those of you who did write back during this week, but haven't received a response from me yet, please rest assured that I will write to you this weekend. As I said, it was an extremely busy week, but it's over now.

OK, I wish you all a good weekend and a great week ahead.

Have fun, as always!
My best wishes,

Lucia da Vinci

Founder of My English Club

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