Tag Archives: grammar

It’s not always your fault

Do you feel frustrated when you can’t understand a few lines in a really interesting movie you’re watching? Or when you miss some words of that cool song everyone’s been listening to lately? How about when you travel abroad and feel like you’re under water because everyone’s accent seems so different from what you expected? Let alone when you try to ask the guide something and he just looks at you like you’re from outer space! Ok. Count to ten, take a deep breath, let it out, and get ready to read something that will make you feel better:

it’s not always your fault.

Yes, my friend, it’s that simple. All those times you felt like the tiniest living being on the face of the Earth, you were just fretting over nothing. Because, the movie? Didn’t you realize that the characters were all speaking at the same time?  Maybe you weren’t even supposed to understand that line clearly. And the song? Do you know how many times the singer had to record that part so it came out correctly? It’s not easy to say that many words in such a short time. And the trip abroad? Are you sure all those people were locals? I’ll tell you, the hardest thing to find in New York is a New Yorker! You may think everybody was born in that area, but you might be talking to people from all over the world, with a wide variety of accents. And the tour guide? Do you have any idea how many questions these guys answer everyday? Maybe he was thinking about the pizza he was going to have with his girlfriend later on and didn’t even hear you, but was embarrassed to ask you to repeat.

Hey, I’m not letting you off the hook here! I’m not saying that you always speak perfect English, with a perfectly clear pronunciation and that you should always be able to understand what everyone’s saying. All I’m saying is: it’s not always your fault. You shouldn’t beat yourself up just because you didn’t get what someone said or someone didn’t get what you said. Just remember all the times this has happened when you were speaking your mother tongue.

How many times have you had to ask someone to repeat what they’ve just said – in Portuguese?! Until fairly recently I thought the lyrics to Rita Lee’s “Lança Perfume” went: Lança menina/ Lança todo esse perfume/De baratinha/ Não dá prá ficar imune. That song came out when I was 8 years old, how could I know what ‘desbaratina’ meant? What does it mean anyway? And don’t get me started on Legião Urbana…

And I always tell my students what happened to me when I was in England for the first time. I was staying at a youth hostel (good old times when I was a youth!) and I wanted to try the typical British breakfast. Call me crazy, but I was excited to eat that heavy food first thing in the morning. The problem was: there was a breakfast buffet, and I wasn’t quite sure what was typical and what wasn’t. We had to order the food from a lady who commanded the buffet, so I asked her in my most perfect International English: “please, I’ll have a typical English breakfast”! For the life of her the girl could not understand what I was saying! After repeating and rephrasing it a few times, I asked the guy beside me to just say the same thing. He did. And she got him perfectly. You know what she told me? “Sorry, love, I don’t speak your language!” (I’m pretty sure she wasn’t a native speaker of English herself, and wasn’t used to accents other than the ones she heard everyday).

So, my point is: if you’re having trouble understanding or being understood, keep trying until you succeed, but even if you don’t, don’t blame yourself. It’s not always your fault!

Please don’t take this as encouragement to stop studying…



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Co-pilots not needed?

What would you say about this? How would you defend the need for two pilots on board? What words would you use to convince someone of your ideas? This is a good practice in terms of structure, vocabulary and fluency.

Controversial Airline Boss Questions Why Planes Need Co-Pilots

The outspoken head of budget carrier Ryanair says co-pilots are not necessary on passenger planes and could be eliminated to save money.

“Why does every plane have two pilots? Really, you only need one pilot,” says Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. “Let’s take out the second pilot. Let the bloody computer fly it.”

He goes on to say a fight attendant on each plane could be trained to help with landing, in case something goes wrong.

“If the pilot has an emergency, he rings the bell, he calls her in,” O’Leary says. “She could take over.”

O’Leary has previously suggested adding standing room and charging passengers to use toilets on the Irish carrier’s planes. While he says he is serious about both plans, neither has happened.

Jim McAusian, general secretary of the British Pilots’ Association, calls O’Leary’s proposal to eliminate co-pilots a publicity stunt.

“His suggestion is unwise, unsafe and the public will be horrified,” McAusian tells the Telegraph newspaper.

With low fares and added fees in a number of areas, Dublin-based Ryanair is one of the world’s most profitable airlines.

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Plane crash in Venezuela

A plane crash usually attracts audience, so as soon as one happens, it’s all over the news. Let’s say you’ve read the headline above, about an accident that happened today in Venezuela: what questions would you expect the article to answer?
  • Who? Who was involved?
  • What? What happened (what’s the story)?
  • Where? Where did it take place?
  • When? When did it take place?
  • Why? Why did it happen?
  • How? How did it happen?
  • Read the articles and watch the video below, taken from various sources on the Internet, and try to answer those questions. After that, would you ask any other questions?

    Remember: pilots have to be able to ask questions about aircraft accidents and also to report them to the authorities if necessary.

    CARACAS — Fourteen people were killed in a plane crash in Venezuela Monday, a local governor said, adding that 33 people had survived the accident and another four were yet to be accounted for. The Conviasa Airline plane was en route to the resort city of Isla Margarita when it went down about six miles (10 kilometers) from Puerto Ordaz, carrying 47 passengers and four crew.

    At Least 4 Reported Dead in Venezuela Plane Crash – VOA News13 September 2010 – Officials in Venezuela say at least four people have been killed in a plane crash in the eastern part of the country. Local officials say there are at least 21 survivors in the crash of the ATR-42 owned by state-run airline Conviasa.  The plane was carrying about 50 people and was traveling between the island of Margarita and the industrial city of Puerto Ordaz when it went down, crashing on the property of the state-run Sidor steel mill near Ciudad Guayana. The local governor, Francisco Rangel Gomez, says the pilot had sent out a distress call, but the cause of the crash is not clear.

    At least 13 killed in Venezuela plane crash – 2:06pm EDT – By German Dam – PUERTO ORDAZ, Venezuela (Reuters) – A passenger plane owned by Venezuela’s state-run airline Conviasa crashed with about 50 people on board on Monday, killing at least 13 as it came down just outside a steel mill. The ATR-42 plane was on a domestic route between the Caribbean island of Margarita and the southern industrial city Puerto Ordaz when it crashed near the gates of the vast Sidor mill on the banks of the Orinoco river. “We still don’t know the exact cause,” local governor Francisco Rangel Gomez told state TV, adding that the pilot had radioed warning the plane was in difficulty. “I hope we are able find more survivors.” Jose Bonalde, head of fire services and the scene, told Reuters that 13 corpses had been removed from the plane. A nearby Puerto Ordaz hospital received 21 injured people and two corpses from the crash site, where twisted and charred wreckage of the turboprop plane was still smoldering after the mid-morning accident. Hospital director Yanitza Rodriguez said many of the survivors were seriously injured. Gomez put the number of survivors at least 23. He said 51 people were on the Conviasa flight, while Transport Minister Francisco Garces earlier had said 47 were on board. ATR, which makes 40-70 seat twin-engined turboprops, is a joint venture between Airbus parent company EADS and Italian aerospace group Finmeccanica. Officials said the crash did not cause any injuries or damage to Sidor’s installations. “The plane fell on a waste area where they put barrels of unused steel materials,” governor Gomez said. In the last major crash in Venezuela in 2008, another ATR-42 belonging to private local airline Santa Barbara with 46 passengers on board crashed into mountains, with no survivors. The Conviasa plane was flying flight number 2350 and carried the registration YV1010.

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    First, a joke…

    You may have heard this joke in Portuguese, but are you able to understand it in English?

    A woman takes her husband to the doctor. When he comes out, the doctor calls her into his office and says:

    – Your husband is profoundly stressed. His state is quite delicate, and unless you follow the instructions I’m going to lay down now, your husband will most certainly die.

    These 10 simple instructions will save his life:

    1)  Make him a substantial breakfast every morning.
    2) Offer him nutritious dishes for lunch.
    3) For dinner, cook him something special, like Japanese, Italian or French food.
    4) Have beer in stock at all times.
    5) Never interrupt his soccer game on TV.
    6) Quit watching soap operas.
    7) Do not bother him with girl problems.
    8 ) Let him come home as late as he wants.
    9) Never ask him where he’s been.
    10) Satisfy all his sexual needs.

    On their way home, the husband asks his wife what the doctor has told her.

    She answers:
    – He said you’re gonna die.

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    Typical pilot mistake: “don’t have conditions to…”

    Some mistakes are typical to a group of professionals, probably because all of them have access to similar training materials, manuals, and deal with similar equipment and situations. Pilots have several peculiar mistakes, and I’m going to try to address them slowly from now on…

    The first typical pilot mistake we’re going to see is: “I don’t have conditions to…”. The origin of this error is clearly a wrong translation from Portuguese, the mother tongue of most of the pilots I teach. Pilots tend to use this expression mistakenly when they want to say that it’s impossible for them to do something, for example when it would be impossible for them to land because of the bad weather, or when it wouldn’t be possible for them to take a certain action for some reason.

    To make this idea sound more natural in English, the best solution is to use either one of the following expressions: “I’m unable to…” or “I’m not able to”. Of course, the verb TO BE has to be changed according to the subject and to the context (adjusting singular x plural and verb tense), but this would sound better and still carry the same meaning.

    Let’s see some sample sentences:

    “It was raining so hard that we were unable to land at our destination”.

    “If I’m not able to put out the fire, I will land immediately”.

    Can you think of other examples? Let’s practice in class!


    Erro típico: “don’t have conditions to…”

    Alguns erros são típicos de um grupo de profissionais, provavelmente porque todos eles têm acesso a materiais e manuais de treinamento similares, e lidam com equipamentos e situações semelhantes. Pilotos têm diversos erros peculiares, e vou tentar tratar deles devagar de agora em diante…

    O primeiro erro típico de pilotos que veremos é: “I don’t have conditions to…”. A origem desse erro é claramente uma tradução errônea do português, a língua materna da maioria dos pilotos a quem dou aulas. Os pilotos tendem a utilizar essa expressão de maneira equivocada quando querem dizer que é impossível fazer algo, como por exemplo, quando não teriam condições de pousar devido ao mau tempo, ou quando não seria pssível tomar determinada atitude por alguma razão.

    Para que essa ideia soe mais natural em inglês, a melhor solução é usar uma das duas expressões a seguir: “I’m unable to…” ou “I’m not able to…”. É claro, o verbo TO BE tem que ser adaptado de acordo com o sujeito e o contexto (ajustando singular x plural e o tempo verbal), mas soaria melhor e ainda teria o mesmo sentido.

    Veja exemplos de uso:

    “It was raining so hard that we were unable to land at our destination”.

    “If I’m not able to put out the fire, I will land immediately”.

    Você consegue pensar em outros exemplos? Vamos praticar em aula!

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    It’s A New Fad

    It seems like the threats against commercial aircraft in the U.S. has become a new fad. There was a new

    Taken from http://aircrewbuzz.com

    Hawaiian Airlines B767

    situation yesterday, as you can se

    e here, here and here.  Apparently, a passenger refused to stow his carry-on luggage in the

    appropriate compartment and made some threats against the crew members. That was enough to make the pilot decide to turn around and return to the origin airport, in Portland, Oregon, although it is not known who called for the escort.

    Think of these questions, and see if you would be able to answer them in compliance with level 4:

    – What would you have done if you were the captain of this flight?
    – If you had decided to return to the airport, what would you have done if you had seen the F-15 fighter jets escorting you there? What would you say to them after establishing communications?
    – Do you agree that a good solution for this kind of situation would be to always have a US Marshall onboard? Why? Why not?
    – Do you think commercial crew members should have some kind of training to enable them to neutralize this kind of threat and avoid such costly solutions as returning to the airport or alternating?

    You need good vocabulary and structure (a.k.a. grammar) to be able to answer these questions. Let’s practice this in class!


    Virou Moda

    Parece que as ameaças contra voos comerciais nos Estados Unidos viraram moda. Houve outro evento ontem, como você pode ver nos links do post acima. Aparentemente, um passageiro se recusou a guardar sua bagagem de mão no compartimento apropriado e ameaçou a tripulação. Isso foi o suficiente para fazer com que o piloto decidisse dar meia volta e pousar no aeroporto de origem, em Portland, no estado do Oregon, embora não se saiba quem ordenou a escolta.

    Veja se consegue responder às questões acima de acordo com nível 4. Para isso, você precisa de um bom vocabulário e de boas estruturas (vulgo

    gramática). Vamos praticar em aula!

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    News: Aviation Today (Structure and Vocabulary practice)

    Here’s an article taken from here.  Read it and send me the answers to the questions below it, if you’d like to discuss the topic. Remember that if we were practicing this in class it would be oral, and you’d be exercising all the 6 evaluation criteria: Pronunciation, Structure, Vocabulary, Fluency, Comprehension and Interactions.


    Notícias: A Aviação Hoje (Prática de Estrutura e Vocabulário)

    Aqui vai um artigo tirado deste site.  Leia e me envie as respostas às questões abaixo dele, se quiser discutir o tema. Lembre-se que se esse exercício estivesse sendo feito em sala de aula ele seria oral e você estaria praticando os 6 critérios de avaliação: Pronúncia, Estrutura, Vocabulário, Fluência, Compreensão e Interações.


    United Places Orders For Boeing, Airbus Planes
    Dec 08, 2009 09:54 AM

    United Tuesday announced a significant investment in the company’s future with a widebody aircraft order that will enable the carrier to reduce operating costs and better match aircraft to key markets it serves, while providing its customers with state-of-the-art cabin comfort. The new technology aircraft will reduce fuel burn and environmental impact, while enabling service to a broader array of international destinations, the carrier said. United ordered 25 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft and 25 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and has future purchase rights for 50 of each aircraft.

    The order follows a six-month request for proposal process, which resulted in agreements with both manufacturers, enabling the company to meet its financial and operational objectives and respond to changes in future market conditions. The breadth in size and capabilities of the different aircraft models ensure the company has the right aircraft for the right market throughout the fleet replacement cycle, United said.

    “Over the last few years we have made fundamental improvements in United’s performance, delivering excellent cost control while improving the quality and reliability of our product,” said Glenn Tilton, UAL Corp. chairman, president and CEO. “This aircraft order is another significant step on the path to position United for long-term success in a highly competitive global market.”


    1) What’s your favorite manufacturer, Boeing or Airbus? Why?
    2) Do you think it’s better for an airline company to have all its aircraft made by the same manufacturer? Why? (or why not?)
    3) What aspects should a carrier take into consideration when making such an important decision?


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