Sunday, January 31, 2010

Song of the week: I am a rock, by Simon & Garfunkel

I Am a Rock is a song written by Paul Simon. Many times it has been described as "a song by teenagers, for teenagers." It was first performed by Simon alone as the opening track on his album The Paul Simon Songbook which he originally recorded and released in May 1965, only in the United Kingdom. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, as the American pop/folk duo Simon and Garfunkel, re-recorded it on December 14, 1965, and included as the final track on their album Sounds of Silence, which they released on January 17, 1966.
The lyrics of the first verse reference "a deep and dark December" during which the speaker is gazing out from his window to the snow below in the street.
Simon & Garfunkel is an American singer-songwriter duo consisting of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. They formed the group Tom & Jerry in 1957, and had their first taste of success with the minor hit "Hey, Schoolgirl". As Simon & Garfunkel, the duo rose to fame in 1965, backed by the hit single "The Sounds of Silence". Their music was featured in the landmark film The Graduate, propelling them further into the public consciousness.
They are well known for their close vocal harmonies and sometimes unstable relationship. Their last album, Bridge over Troubled Water, was delayed several times due to artistic disagreements. They were among the most popular recording artists of the 1960s; among their biggest hits, in addition to "The Sounds of Silence", were "I Am a Rock", "Homeward Bound", "A Hazy Shade of Winter", "Mrs. Robinson", "Bridge over Troubled Water", "The Boxer", "Cecilia", and "Scarborough Fair/Canticle". They have received several Grammys and are inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame(2007). They have reunited on several occasions since their 1970 breakup, most famously for 1981's The Concert in Central Park, which attracted about 500,000 people.
They created beautiful music, touching lyrics and they used to sing so clearly that they made (and still make) a very useful tool for English lessons. From Labor English Zone we encourage you to discover them and to explore their songs.

If you want to learn more, click here or here
No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is an annual holiday celebrated on February 2nd in the United States and Canada. A groundhog (Marmota monax) is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels.

According to folklore, if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day fails to see its shadow, it will leave the burrow, signifying that winter will soon end. If on the other hand, the groundhog sees its shadow, the groundhog will supposedly retreat into its burrow, and winter will continue for six more weeks. 
The holiday, which began as a Pennsylvania German custom in southeastern and central Pennsylvania in the 18th and 19th centuries, has its origins in ancient European weather folklore, wherein a badger or sacred bearis the prognosticator as opposed to a groundhog. 
The holiday also bears some similarities to the medieval Catholic holiday of Candlemas. It also bears similarities to the Pagan festival of Imbolc, the seasonal turning point of the Celtic calendar, which is celebrated on February 1st and also involves weather prognostication.
Modern customs of the holiday involve celebrations where early morning festivals are held to watch the groundhog emerging from its burrow. In southeastern Pennsylvania, Groundhog Lodges (Grundsow Lodges) celebrate the holiday with fersommlinge, social events in which food is served, speeches are made, and one or more g'spiel (plays or skits) are performed for entertainment. The Pennsylvania German dialect is the only language spoken at the event, and those who speak English pay a penalty, usually in the form of a nickel, dime or quarter, per word spoken, put into a bowl in the center of the table.
The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where crowds as high as 40,000 have gathered to celebrate the holiday since at least 1886. 

Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name, Groundhog Day, which was set in Punxsutawney (though filmed primarily in Woodstock, Illinois) and featured Punxsutawney Phil.
If you want to learn more: 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recommended browsers

We have noticed that some of you using Microsoft Internet Explorer cannot see the right-hand column on Labor English Zone. This section of the screen contains very important information such as our e-mail link, labels por previous posts, links to online dictionaries, resources for English as a second language, press & media in English, followers and top members of Labor English Zone and many more interesting and useful gadgets and info.
Try to refresh the page. Sometimes this works and you will be able to access all that info. If that does not work, we advise you to use a different web browser, such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari.


Quiz solved!


The quiz, posted last December 6th, has a blatant translation mistake. Someone from that Tby store translated  "Oferta en piel" as "Leather Bid".
For the first time we have accepted two solutions tied for the first place, and both students will be given 10 points in this 2nd term. These were the correct answers:

 Marina López Ribera, from 4th A, suggested "Discount on all leather" and "Leather sale"...

...while Belén González Muñoz , from 3rd A, translated it as "Leather on offer".

Congratulations to both of them!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sound of the week /ə/

/ә/ is maybe "the most important sound in English" because it is a very natural sound for English speakers. It is such an important sound in English that it even has its own name: Schwa (a word of Hebrew origin, pronounced /ʃwa:/).
It is a short, mid-central vowel and to make this sound you just relax your mouth. The defining characteristic of a central vowel is that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel. The defining characteristic of a mid vowel is that the tongue is positioned mid-way between an open vowel and a close vowel.
Schwa is actually the most common vowel sound in English. It appears in just about every word with more than two syllables and it is very important for getting the stress and rhythm of English right. In most varieties of English, schwa mostly occurs in unstressed syllables:
'a' in about [əˈbaʊt]
'e' in taken [ˈteɪkən]
'i' in pencil [ˈpensəl]
'o' in eloquent [ˈeləkwənt]
'u' in supply [səˈplaɪ]
'y' in sibyl [ˈsɪbəl]
In many grammar words, such as a, the, of or that,  is the only sound: /ә/, /әv/, /ðә/, /ðәt/.
More examples of Schwa are:
common /'kɒmәn/
standard /'stӕndәd/
butter /'bʌtә/
As well as being a part of many words, Schwa can also be the pronunciation for a whole word itself within connected speech or in what is known as "consonant to vowel linking":
"A cup of tea" is not pronounced /ә kʌp әv ti:/, but rather, more naturally and fluently, /ә 'kʌpә ti:/
Watch the videodownload the poster with examples, download radio programmes on consonant to vowel linking and the pronunciation of Schwa and or take a few quizzes on pronunciation.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.

Song of the week: In the Air Tonight, by Phil Collins

In the Air Tonight is a song by Phil Collins which first appeared on his 1981 album, Face Value. It was the first single of Collins' solo career, and remains one of his best-known hits. The recording is notable for its atmospheric production and macabre theme. Released in January 1981 in the UK, the single was an instant hit, quickly climbing to Number 2 in the Singles Chart.
The lyrics of the song take the form of a dark monologue directed towards an unnamed person (possibly his then wife, as Collins wrote the song while going through a divorce). The singer describes having witnessed an unspecified act perpetrated and anticipating an equally unspecified consequence (I can feel it coming in the air tonight... and I've been waiting for this moment for all my life).
The mood is one of restrained anger until the final chorus when an explosive burst of drums releases the musical tension, and the instrumentation builds to a thundering final chorus.
The song's popularity in the 1980s increased after a nearly complete recording of it was featured in the pilot episode of the American television show Miami Vice ("Brother's Keeper"), thus becoming one of the first pop/rock songs to be featured as part of a TV programme in this manner.
The song also features prominently in the 2009 comedy film The Hangover in which boxer Mike Tyson is seen air drumming and singing along to it. He says it's his favourite song.

If you want to learn more, visit Wikipedia's article on In the Air Tonight.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rugby Anthems

The Six Nations Championship, known before 2000 as the Five Nations Championship, is an annual international rugby union competition involving six European sides: England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
The winners of the Six Nations are seen as being the European Champions.
Ireland are the current Grand Slam title holders, for the first time since 1948, having won the competition in 2009 by beating all other teams, and winning the Triple Crown by beating England, Scotland and Wales.
One of the most exciting and moving moments of the Championship is the singing of the national anthems.
Welsh anthem, Hen Wlad fy Nhadau (Land of my Fathers), at Cardiff Millenium Stadium (formerly known as Cardiff Arms Park):

This anthem is, of course, sung in Welsh. Here is a translation into English of its lyrics. Maybe there is a lesson we could learn from it:
The old land of my fathers is dear to me,
Land of poets and singers, famous men of renown;
Her brave warriors, very splendid patriots,
For freedom shed their blood.Nation, Nation, I pledge to my Nation.
While the sea is a wall to the pure, most loved land,
O may the old language endure.
Old mountainous Wales, paradise of the bard,
Every valley, every cliff, to me is beautiful.
Through patriotic feeling, so charming is the murmur
Of her brooks, rivers, to me.
If the enemy oppresses my land under his foot,
The old language of the Welsh is as alive as ever.
The muse is not hindered by the hideous hand of treason,
Nor is the melodious harp of my country

English anthem, God Save the Queen (you can actually hear the players' voices):

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

Scottish anthem, Flower of Scotland, before the famous 1990 match Scotland vs. England:

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit Hill and Glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Those days are past now,
And in the past they must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Irish Rugby anthem, Ireland's Call (NB - Not the Irish national anthem!):

Come the day and come the hour
Come the power and the glory
We have come to answer
Our Country's call
From the four proud provinces of Ireland

Ireland, Ireland,
Together standing tall
Shoulder to shoulder
We'll answer Ireland's call

If you want to learn more, click here.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Hey, Nadal, will you marry me?

That was what a woman screamed during the match Nadal - Lacko at the Australian Open:

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Tuesday, January 19, 2010



And now a lady just as proficient as your beloved Google Translator: she is able to translate into 7 languages!

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In the Air Tonight (Part I)

Rage, wrath, anger and Phil Collins banging hard at the drums. Just the drums climax here. The full song will be posted next Sunday 24th. Please notice the beard of the bassist appearing at 0:54!!

Song of the week: Umbrella, by Rihanna

A couple of weeks ago we posted a song by her ex. This week, "Umbrella", with subtitles both in English and Spanish (pay NO attention to the Spanish translation, though, it's not very good):

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Sound of the week: /ɒ/


This is a short, back, open sound.
"Back" means that the tongue is positioned as far back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
"Open" means that the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue.
Lot /lɒt/
Odd /ɒd/
Wash /wɒʃ/
Watch the video and practise this vowel here (no comments about the woman's hairstyle, please!).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners

A dreadful language? We are sure most of you find English pronunciation difficult. Here is a piece of evidence supporting that opinion. Use the "Listen to this post" tool and you can hear the text while you are reading it. You may find some interesting surprises!
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead —
For goodness’ sake don’t call it “deed”!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not a moth in mother
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
Just look them up — and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart —
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive.
I’d mastered it when I was five.

When the English tongue we speak,
Why is “break” not rhymed with “freak”?
Will you tell me why it’s true?
We say “sew” but likewise “few”?
And the maker of a verse
Cannot cap his “horse” with “worse”?
“Beard” sounds not the same as “heard”;
“Cord” is different from “word”;
“Cow” is “cow” but “low” is “low”,
“Shoe” is never rhymed with “foe”,
Think of “hose” and “whose” and “lose”,
And think of “goose” and yet of “choose”.
Think of “comb” and “tomb” and “bomb”;
“Doll” and “roll” and “home” and “some”;
And since “pay” is rhymed with “say”,
Why not “paid” with “said”, I pray?
We have “blood” and “food” and “good”,
Wherefore “done” but “gone” and “lone”?
Is there any reason known?
And, in short, it seems to me
Sound and letters disagree.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Pronunciation tool

Now you can use an excellent tool to practise and improve your pronunciation at English Central:  a speech recognition platform which allows you to practise speaking with any video you choose and then get instant feedback on how well you are doing.
Try the demo. It's very easy and great fun. It is a good idea to use a microphone so that your speech is recognised best. Don't forget to look intently at the speakers' mouth and try to imitate them.
Then, all you have to do is register. It is free and you will have unlimited access to their content, will get feedback on your pronunciation and will be able to compete with friends and post your scores on their scoreboard.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only

Understanding Rugby

Álex Otero (3rd ESO B) sent the following videos about rugby to our Physical Education Blog so that we can be more familiar with this thrilling sport. The videos are in English, of course, but you will be able to understand them easily as they have Spanish subtitles.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15th 1929

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th 1929. Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, he was ordained as a minister in 1948. Dr. King became one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement in the U.S., advocating a nonviolent approach to fighting for equal rights. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.

Listen to his famous speech I have a dream or read it:
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history asthe greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.Five score years ago, a great... (click to read the full transcript)

If you want to know more:
Wikipedia article on M. Luther King
No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only

Monday, January 11, 2010

In the Ghetto

Miguel Brenlla, from 4th ESO A, recommends this version of In the Ghetto:

We'd rather recommend the version made popular by Elvis Presley in 1969 (although written by Mac Davies and originally titled The Vicious Circle):

Or more from Elvis - Always on my Mind:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sound of the week: /ʌ/

This is a short, central, open sound.
"Central" means that the tongue is positioned halfway between a front vowel and a back vowel.
"Open" means that the tongue is positioned as far as possible from the roof of the mouth. Open vowels are sometimes also called low vowels in reference to the low position of the tongue.
Strut /strʌt/
Mud /mʌd/
Love /lʌv/
Blood /blʌd/
Watch the video and practise this vowel here (no comments about the woman's hairstyle, please!).
In this video you can also learn the difference between similar sounds /ʌ/-/ӕ/ and if you click here you can do some exercises to identify the contrast between these three similar sounds: /e/-/ʌ/-/ӕ/.
And you have 4 different quizzes to help you learn about English pronunciation.
Finally a quiznet on vowel sounds.

Welcome back!

Yeah, we know, the X-mas holiday is over, but follow the advice of Monty Python from The life of Brian and always look on the bright side of life,:

Irregular Verbs

We are sure most of you try to learn the irregular verbs in alphabetical order. If it works for you, that is ok. But let us show you a more sensible and easier way to do it.
Try to learn verbs using some mnemonic system: according to their endings, meanings, pronunciation, etc. Print or download this list to your computer and you will learn those dreadful irregular verbs with almost no effort.

English for You, Rosa's Blog - 10th January: Anniversary of the London Underground

Very interesting post in Rosa's blog about the anniversary of the London Underground

Song of the week: Forever, by Chris Brown

Original video. English subtitles by Yours Truly (excuse the awkward timing):

And if you ever get married, you might consider doing it in grand style, like this:

And a superb accoustic version by Boyceavenue:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New speech widget!

You can now enjoy a new widget at Labor English Zone. At the end of every post, next to the comments links you can find this: ((•)) LISTEN TO THIS POST
If you click on it, a new window will open, the cogwheels will turn, and after a few seconds you will be able to listen to the post.

Our advice is that you click on it whenever you want to read a post. In this way you can read and listen to the text AT THE SAME TIME! Try it now!
And if you like what you have heard, you can download the recording to your computer as an mp3 file.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Sound of the week: /u/

/u/  This is a short, close, back, rounded vowel.
"Close" means that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
"Back" means that the tongue is positioned as back as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.
"Rounded" means that the lips are protruded: the corners of the lips are drawn together, and the inner surfaces exposed.
Foot /fut/
Put /put/
Good /gud/
Butcher /'butʃƏ/
Book /buk/
Hood /hud/
Wood /wud/
Watch the video and practise this vowel here (no comments about the woman's hairstyle, please!).
You can also do exercises about similar sounds /u/-/u:/

No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only.

Three Wise Men


In Christian tradition the Magi (pronounced /ˈmeɪdʒaɪ/; from the Greek: μάγοι, magoi, usually translated as "wise men", although it probably meant "astronomer" or "astrologer"... that is why they were following a star), also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three) Kings, or Kings from the East, are said to have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts.Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known since the 8th century as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. In the Gospel of Matthew, the only one to describe the visit of the Magi, it states that they came "from the east" to worship the Christ, "born King of the Jews". Although Matthew does not mention their number, because three gifts are recorded as having been given to the Christ Child, traditionally there are thought to have been three Magi. The Magi, as the "Three Kings" or "Three Wise Men" are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity and in celebrations of Christmas.

Western Christianity celebrates the Magi on the day of Epiphany, January 6, the day immediately following the twelve days of Christmas, particularly in the Spanish-speaking parts of the world. In these Spanish-speaking areas, the three kings receive wish letters from children and magically bring them gifts on the night before Epiphany. In Spain, each one of the Magi is supposed to represent one different continent, Europe (Caspar), Asia (Melchior) and Africa (Balthasar). According to the tradition, the Magi come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children; much like Santa Claus with his reindeer, they visit everyone in one night. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi, it is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat.

Spanish cities organize parades (cabalgatas) in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children (and parents) in attendance. The cavalcade of the three kings in Alcoi claims to be the oldest in the world; the participants who portray the kings and pages walk through the crowd, giving presents to the children directly

Matthew 2:1-12 describes the visit of the 3 Magi:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.' Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
If you want to learn more, read the full article at Wikipedia.
Now you already now the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of Artaban, the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with the other 3 Wise Men in the presence of the young child Jesus?
Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) an American author, educator and clergyman wrote The Story of the Other Wise Man. You can read the story here or you can listen to Part 1Part 2 or download the full story here.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Percussionists and Conductors

I was a percussion major when I was in college, and during a rehearsal of the student orchestra, my section kept making mistakes.
“When you’re too dumb to play anything,” the professor conducting us sneered, “they give you a couple of sticks, put you in the back, and call you a percussionist.”
A friend next to me whispered, “And if you’re too dumb to hang on to both sticks, they take one away, put you in the front, and call you a conductor.”

No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only

Only a kiss a yard

Walking up to a department store's fabric counter, a pretty girl asked the clerk, "I want to buy this material for a new dress. How much does this cost?"
"Only a kiss a yard, " replied the smirking male clerk.
"That's fine," replied the girl. "I'll take ten yards."
With expectation and anticipation showing all over his face, the clerk hurriedly measured out and wrapped thecloth, then held it out teasingly.
The girl took the package, smiled a big smile at the clerk, and then pointed to an old man standing next to her. "Grandpa will pay the bill! Goodbye!" she laughed and walked away.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational purposes only

Song of the week: Suburban Knights, by Hard-Fi


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