четверг, 18 ноября 2010 г.

to get the hang of something

This dog has got the hang of swimming! Today, we meet the English expression “to get the hang of”. If you “get the hang of” something, it means that you have started to do it properly. You are not an expert yet, but you have understood the basic idea.

For example, imagine that you are learning to swim. You have never been swimming before. You are a complete beginner. The other people in your swimming class are complete beginners too.

The swimming instructor stands at the side of the swimming pool and shows you what to do. You have to reach forward with your arms, and kick your legs in the water. You try it. You splash wildly with your legs, and the poor swimming instructor gets very wet. A lot of water goes up your nose. But you do not move. You try again, and again. By the end of the swimming lesson, you can swim about 2 meters without your feet touching the bottom of the swimming pool. “Well done,” says the swimming instructor. “You are getting the hang of it.” He means that are beginning to understand how to swim.

Kevin is learning to cook. Ever since he was a student, Kevin has lived off food which comes in tins or packets, plus takeaway pizzas, of course. Then he met Joanne, who is a good cook. But she is not willing to do all the cooking. She thinks that Kevin should do his share. So Kevin buys a cookery book, with beautiful pictures of delicious food. He sits in bed and reads it. The first day he cooks some chicken. However, the oven is too hot and the chicken is burnt. The second day, he makes some curry. The recipe said to add “half a teaspoon“ of salt. Kevin misunderstood, and used half a tablespoon of salt. Then the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the meal was inedible. But on the third day, things were better. Kevin made a chocolate cake, and it was really quite good. “This is delicious”, said Joanne as she ate a third slice of cake. “You are getting the hang of cooking. Perhaps you should cook every day.”

Joanne has a nephew. His name is Jack and he is three years old. He has learnt to talk, and indeed he talks all the time. But, like most other English three year olds, he does not understand about English irregular verbs. He thinks that you can talk about things in the past by adding “-ed” to the end of a verb – any verb! When Joanne went to visit her sister, her conversation with Jack went like this:

“Hello Jack. What did you do today?”

“I goed to nursery.”

“Oh, you went to nursery. And what did you do at nursery?”

“We singed a song. Then we sitted on the mat and the teacher readed a story.”

“I see. And what did you do after nursery?”

“Me and mummy goed to the shops. We buyed some sweets.”

“You bought some sweets. What happened to the sweets, Jack?”

“I eated them.”

As you can see, Jack has not got the hang of irregular verbs. English would of course be much easier if we all spoke like Jack, but unfortunately English has lots of irregular verbs, and you (and Jack) just have to learn them . Have you got the hang of irregular verbs? There is a quiz on the website where you can test your skills.

Beware of the cat !

Today's podcast is about taking care!

I want you to imagine that you are visiting England. You and some friends decide to go for a walk in the country. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and all is right with the world. You walk through a pretty village, and then through a wood. You climb over a fence into a big field. “This would be a good place for a picnic,” you say. So you sit down on the grass under a tree, and unpack your picnic.

Then your friend sees something. “There is a notice on the fence over there,” he says. “can you read what it says?”

You look hard at the notice. You can hardly see the writing. “I think it says – beware of the bull!” you say. “What does ‘beware' mean?”

You find your English dictionary at the bottom of your rucksack, You have just started to look for ‘beware' when you hear a snorting noise. You look up to see a large bull standing about 10 metres away.

Now, some bulls are kind and “hospitable“. They are pleased when visitors come to their field, and they try to make them welcome. One look at this bull, however, tells you that this is not the kind and hospitable sort of bull. He is, rather, the unkind and inhospitable sort of bull. There is only one thing to do. You and your friend run to the fence and climb over it. The bull runs after you, snorting angrily. He stares at you for a few minutes; then he goes back to the tree where you were sitting and starts to eat your picnic.

Now you know what “beware” means. It means “danger! be careful!” “Beware” is actually a shortened form of “be aware”. You can use “beware” as an imperative verb – that means, a verb which gives orders or instructions. You can tell somebody “beware of the bull” or “beware of the dog”. But you cannot say “I beware of the bull” or “you beware of the the dog.” So, “beware” is an incomplete verb – you can only use it to warn someone to be careful.

You will often see “beware” on notices that warn people about dangers. Near a railway line, there might be a notice “Beware of the trains”. Beside a river – “beware – deep water”. Or near a road junction – “beware of traffic from the right”.

And here are some other words or phrases which you can use to tell somebody that something may be dangerous.

be careful!
look out!
take care!
mind out!

There is a little quiz on the website about warning notices and the places where you might find them. Take care!