Tag Archives: English

He said, she said: the importance of Reported Speech vol.2

As promised, here are some other reporting verbs:

Inform – “There will be a meeting later this week“. The director informed us about a meeting later that week.

Repeat – “Turn right immediatyely, I say again, turn right immediately!” The controller repeated the instruction because the pilots hadn’t understood it.

Suggest – “Here’s a great website to practice listening”. My teacher suggested a great website to practice listening.

Explain – “I didn’t greet you because I didn’t recognize you! You look so different!” Mary explained that she hadn’t recognize me, that’s why she didn’t greet me .

Ask/ Answer – “- Do you take Lisa as your wife?” ” I do”. The priest asked me if I accepted Lisa as my wife and I answered that I did.

Check/ Confirm – “Sir, are you sure you are not allergic to penicilin?” The nurse checked/ confirmed that the patient wasn’t allergic to penicilin before giving him the shot.

Read back – “- ABC 123, descend to flight level 310 ” ” – Descend to flight level 210, ABC 123″. The pilot read back the instructions incorrectly. (read in the past, pronounced /réd/)

Realize – “Oh my God! I haven’t brought my laptop! Shoot!” I was already at the client’s office when I realized I hadn’t brought my laptop.

Report – “The car came out of the blue and ran over us, officer“. The victims reported the incident to the police.

Advise – “If I were you, I wouldn’t buy that car“. He had advised me against it, but I bought the car anyway.

Warn – “Watch out! There’s a hole on the sidewalk!!” Everybody warned him about the hole, but he fell right into it.

Correct – “I said room 1313, not 3030“. I corrected the receptionist when she misunderstood my room number”.

Clarify – “So, you mean we won’t have a vacation this year?” He clarified the bad news his boss had given him earlier that day.

Insist – “Please go to the supermarket for me, will you? Don’t forget it, there’s nothing to eat at home!” She insisted that I go to the supermarket because there was no food at home.

Complain – “You never tell me you love me!” She complained to her boyfriend about his lack of romance.

There are many more, these are just examples of verbs that make reported speech more accurate and interesting to the listener…

Leave a comment

Filed under learn, tips

Confusing words: due to x because (of)

After “right…”, “why?” is the most frequent word said by an examiner when applying the ANAC test. The examiner always wants to give an opportunity for the candidate to speak a little longer, to develop the topic and provide the examiner with a long enough sample to be able to assess his or her English proficiency.

Pilots just love using the expression “due to” to explain why something happened, or the cause of some problem or failure. But is it always appropriate? Let’s see.

Basically, “due to” must be followed by a noun, nbot a complete sentence, with subject, verb and complement.

“We had to land as soon as possible due to an engine fire”, and NOT
“We had to land as soon as possible due to the engine was on fire”

“Because”, on the other hand, must be followed by a sentence with a subject and a verb, as seen in the example below:

“We shut down engine number one because it was vibrating”, and NOT
“We shut down engine number one because vibration”.

What about “because of”? Well, it follows the same rule as “due to”, so it must be followed by a noun.

“We couldn’t take off because of the rain”, and NOT
“We couldn’t take off because of it was raining”

Why does it work like this? Just because!

Leave a comment

Filed under learn, tips, Typical pilot mistakes

Pro-nun-ci-a-tion

I can’t talk enough about the importance of pronunciation when you are speaking English, or any foreign language, for that matter. Would you like to know why?

Because a non-native speaker of any language depends much more upon a clear pronunciation of the individual sounds*  and on the syllable stress** than native speakers. That is because native speakers’ brains are so used to listening to that particular language that they are able to “fill in the blanks” and understand practically everything they hear, as long as the intonation*** and rhythm**** are right.

It’s quite easy to see this feature in action when you are talking to someone in your own mother tongue. Let’s say you’re at a bar, having a beer with your pals; that’s a pretty noisy environment, but you’re still able to maintain a conversation with them, even if you can’t make out every single word they say, right? That’s because your brain is being kind enough to process the clues of intonation and rhythm, and putting together fragments of words so that you can make some sense out of what you hear. You don’t need your friends to articulate every single sound perfectly, even because after a few beers, that isn’t even possible…

Now, you certainly don’t have that much time to be immersed in an English-speaking environment to allow you brain to achieve that same level of proficiency in puzzle solving. So when you are talking to another English speaker, whether native or not, you pay close attention to the articulation of each sound, and to where the stressed syllable is, and if you hear a sound that doesn’t match the version of a word you have heard and learnt before, you feel like you don’t know that particular word, or you might even get completely lost.

Well, let’s say you’re speaking to another non-native speaker of English, maybe face to face, or over the radio, why not? That person is going through the same process you went through, and may not even have the same linguistic level that you have, so what will come out of that mix? Slower communication, for sure, and possibly a miscommunication. We don’t want that to happen, do we?

So you have to be the agent of change here, and make and effort to pronounce words correctly, to articulate each sound clearly and to imitate the rhythm and intonation of the listening materials available on the market. Because if everyone does their job, we can mitigate the risks of communication breakdowns, which are potentially dangerous in any environment, let alone aviation.

Oh, and before I forget, you can keep your Brazilian accent, all right? Some people are more “musical” and are able to mimic accents easily and naturally and we often feel jealous of that ability. But what we’re trying to achieve is intelligible and clear pronunciation, not a perfect American or British accent. Unless you are born again in the US or in the UK, your mother tongue will always be Portuguese and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that!

Here are some links that will help you improve your pronunciation:

How do you pronounce that word?

Pronunciation practice

*phonemes
** some call it word stress, it’s the position of the “strong” syllable in a word
*** the rising and falling sounds in a sentence, e.g. rising intonation at thye end of yes/no questions
**** also called sentence stress, it refers to the “strong” words in a sentence, that usually carry its meaning

Leave a comment

Filed under learn, tips

How do you say “ano bissexto” in English?

FEBRUARY 29, 2012

I wish I’d had time to post this earlier, but my day has been hectic (nothing new there) and the sizzling heatwave that has stricken us paulistanos just makes any task painstakingly hard to accomplish…

ANYWAY, enough with the excuses and let’s skip straight to the point. Actually, let’s LEAP to the point, as today is LEAP DAY!

That’s right, every four years or so we have an extra day added to our calendar, in order to adjust our man-made timekeeping system to the natural movement of our planet, which takes a little longer then 365 days to go around the sun: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to be more precise.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to say it in English, here it goes: 2012 is a leap year. And today is leap day! Leap is a kind of jump, so it makes sense to call this special year “leap year”, as you leap over 4 years to have one.

Apparently there’s a tradition in Ireland that on this day women are allowed to propose to men, instead of waiting for them to get down on one knee. I’m not sure it’s still observed, but it’s a neat tradition, don’t you think?

What about you? How have you spent your extra day?

Leave a comment

Filed under learn, tips

That’s not what I meant: course and curse

Just another day at the supermarket:

A – “I’ve heard there’s a great curse at the community center.”
B – “Sorry? A curse?”
A – “Yeah! A curse on Ikebana!”
B – “Oh, my God! What have the poor flowers done?!”

Did you get it? No? Ok, let’s analyze the sounds involved in this conversation and find out why speaker B seems so confused.

Speaker A said there is a /cãrs/ at the community center. What she meant was that there was a /córs/ at the community center. The sound /ã/ that she used instead of the sound /ó/ changed the word from course (which was what she intended to say) to curse (which is what she actually said).

Do you know the difference between course ande curse? Which one would you rather have?

Check it out here:

COURSE (check meaning number 9)

CURSE  (check meaning number 1)

Leave a comment

Filed under That's not what I meant

Confusing words: agenda/ diary/ appointment book

Can you match each one of the pictures to one of the words below?

(Definitions found at The Free Dictionary.)

Agenda: things to be done or a list of those things (as a list of the matters to be discussed at a meeting).

Diary: A daily record, especially a personal record of events, experiences, and observations; a journal.

Appointment book: a book containing a calendar and space to keep a record of appointments.

Sample sentence:

“Sandra checked her appointment book and saw the meeting, scheduled for 2 pm. She prepared the agenda, and included some topics she thought were important. Later that evening she wrote in her diary: ‘The meeting was a success!'”

Ainda está difícil de entender? Que tal uma aula?

4 Comments

Filed under tips

That’s not what I meant: ballproof door

Student: “After September 11th, the cockpit of most airplanes in the United States is equipped with a ballproof door”.

Helpful teacher: “A ball proof door? Are you sure?”

Student (thinking the teacher may be deaf): “Yes, a BALLPROOF DOOR! For security reasons.”

Hopeful teacher: “Ok… a BALLproof door… what exactly do you mean by that?”

Student (thinking ‘gotcha! My teacher doesn’t know this word!’): “It’s a very strong door that you cannot open with a gunshot!”

Extremely patient teacher: “Oh, ok, because when you said BALLproof door, I thought you meant it couldn’t be opened by a BALL…”

Student (wishing the ground would swallow him whole): “Oh, no! That’s not what I meant! I meant BULLETproof door!! Teacher, why didn’t you correct me?”

Amused Teacher: “I’m not always going to be by your side when you make a mistake. You must learn how to deal with it! Plus, I was having fun…”

Student (smiling and shaking his head): “Yeah, that was pretty funny…”

Come back tomorrow for the Expression of the Week!

2 Comments

Filed under That's not what I meant