Friday, 15 May 2015

The Xylophone Waiting for You

Hello everybody!

I have great news to share with you: there is finally a place for you to practise your English outside of a classroom in Brussels and an opportunity to meet me!

That's right, I'm launching my little business, organizing conversation tables and private classes. Today is also the day that I'm presenting to the world my little baby: my very own website "The Xylophone Waiting for You"

On this website you'll be able to find out what my project is all about: my concept of conversation tables "English Tea Time" and "English, Cheese and Wine", the private tutorials, how to register, my resume, and also my blog.

That's right, my blog. I've decided to reunite everybody into the same roof...
This means that this blog is going to close in order to be pursued elsewhere.
"But where?!" you wonder. Well, that's right here: The Xylophone Waiting for You.

I invite you to continue following me at this new address and I wish you to continue your progress in English.

Cheers to your success!


Friday, 13 March 2015

Buttered Culture - St Patrick's Day

Buttered Culture: Easily learnt, Easily spread

Hello everybody,

Today I thought was the perfect day to tell you all about St Patrick's Day, this wonderful celebration which originates from... Ireland of course! It's only 4 days away (March 17th), so it's high time you understood what's going on, right folks?

Who is this Patrick?

Patrick was born in Britain in the 4th century. His father was a deacon and his grandfather was a priest, so we can say they kind of paved the way for him to become a Saint... When he was 16 years old, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and became a slave to Gaelic Ireland.

He spent 6 years there working as a shepherd and apparently "found God". 

Supposedly , God told Patrick to run away in direction of the coast, where a boat would be waiting for him; and as he indeed reach home again, he became a priest. After a few years, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert those barbarian pagan Irish to Christianity. It is said that evangelized "thousands" of people. 

He died on a 17th of March, and many legends were told about him. For example, it is believed that Patrick used a three-leaved shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans. 

That's how he became Ireland's most famous Saint.

But why do people wear green on Patrick's day? Or the fight between green and blue...

Well, first of all because of this "shamrock" story, the shamrock became a symbol of this celebration, and, well, shamrocks are green. 

Second of all, the color green has been associated with Ireland for a long long time, at least since around 1640. That's when the Catholic Confederation used the green harp flag, so the Friendly brothers of St Patrick (an Irish fraternity from the 1750's) adopted green as their color. 

However in 1783, the Order of St Patrick ( an Anglo-Irish chivalric order) was founded and blue was their color, and therefore became associated with St Patrick. 

But not for long. In 1798, the Irish nationalism movement (the United Irishmen) launched a rebellion against British rule singing "The wearing of the green", which supported the Irish who were persecuted for wearing the color green. 

In the 19th and 20th century, green became associated with Ireland and St Patrick.

What do the Irish do on St Patrick's Day?

Well, as you probably already know, they drink. A lot. So much that for some years, there was a law that said that all the bars and pubs had to be closed on that day! Can you imagine? Fortunately, this law was repealed in the 1970s. 

So, they drink, but also, they celebrate with a parade. The first parade was held in Dublin in 1931 and is still organized today in Ireland, where it lasts 5 days and includes concerts, theater performances fireworks. With this festival the Republic of Ireland wants:

  • To offer a national festival that ranks amongst all of the greatest celebrations in the world
  • To create energy and excitement throughout Ireland via innovation, creativity, grassroots involvement, and marketing activity
  • To provide the opportunity and motivation for people of Irish descent (and those who sometimes wish they were Irish) to attend and join in the imaginative and expressive celebrations
  • To project, internationally, an accurate image of Ireland as a creative, professional and sophisticated country with wide appeal.

St Patrick's Day is also celebrated in other parts of the world, such as Argentina, Canada, Great Britain, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States, Australia, etc; where the festivities are mainly organized by people with Irish heritage. 

Well,  I don't know about you, but I certainly wish I was Irish on that day!

Wait, what about the leprechauns?

Leprechauns? You mean those grumpy greedy little trickster fairies?

Alright, alright! Leprechauns are a kind of fairy. But beware, Irish folklore fairies don't look like the cute little fairies of Disney, such as Tinkerbell. They are nasty, capricious creatures who you should not trust. Leprechauns are often described with a red beard, dressed in green and with buckled shoes. Their job is to make shoes. Each leprechaun has a pot of gold which can be found at the end of a rainbow. According to legend, if you find and capture a leprechaun, you can ask for his treasure in return for his freedom. Normally, they can also grant you three wishes. But be careful what you wish for....

That's it for today! I hope you enjoyed this "Butter Culture" episode. See you next time!

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Vocabulary issues? Memrise is there for you!

Hello everybody

Today, I would like to tell you about a great tool I've recently discovered: Memrise.

I don't know about you, but it's always been difficult for me to find the time and motivation to study vocabulary. I am one of those lazy learners who will always choose the easy way; and so far, with vocabulary, the only easy way was to read loads of things and just absorb the words and their meaning from context. It is of course efficient, but not enough.

And then, I discovered Memrise.

Memrise is a website / application to help people memorize their vocabulary in any language that they want to learn. All you have to do is to register for the a "course" that you choose according to your level, and then learn!

The programme teaches you a limited number of words at a time, and then makes you practice them over and over again until they become a part of your long-term memory. After a couple of days, they send you an e-mail to say that it's time now to refresh your memory, or as they put it "to water" your knowledge.

I have tried it myself and followed an advanced course for native speakers, and I must say that it really works. More than an month after having learnt new words, I still remember them. 

And the best part it: it's completely free! Of course you can pay a certain amount of money to access the VIPs, but I didn't find this as absolutely necessary.

Here's the link to the website:

As a teacher, I'm planning to create a course myself soon, and I will keep you posted as to when it's available! Keep posted!

See you soon,