Improve Your English by Watching Friends – 3 Steps on How to Actively Watch TV Shows

GuestPostI am delighted to introduce you to Paul Mains who has written this post. Paul approached me a couple of weeks ago offering to write a piece for my blog. He offered me a choice of topics and I was immediately drawn to the above topic.

Many learners watch films and follow TV series in English.  However, many often feel guilty and think that they should be doing something more worthwhile to work on their English. In this post, Paul proves how you can improve your English Language Skills whilst watching your favourite TV show.

NB: Paul is an American teacher and his post uses American English spelling instead of British English spelling.


Given the widespread availability of episodes from popular TV series on YouTube and Netflix, it’s likely that you’ve probably seen some English-language TV shows. That’s great! For several reasons, watching English TV series is one of the best ways to improve your English language skills. In addition to showing you the language that people really use in everyday life, TV shows are are great entertainment, which helps with your motivation. You’ll feel much more inspired to learn English when you can do so by watching your favorite shows!

While sitting back, relaxing, and watching TV is a good way to expose yourself to the English language, this kind of passive watching won’t help you improve your English nearly as much as if you put a little effort into it. Indeed, by actively watching TV series, you can gain an incredible amount of useful vocabulary, common expressions, and even grammar points — without ever opening a textbook.


To illustrate how to actively watch a TV show, I’ll be using a short clip from the popular series Friends, which you can view on YouTube by clicking on this link.


Image via NBC / Wikipedia

Step 1: Write It Down

Nothing makes the words stick in your memory like actually writing down what the characters are saying. Often times, being able to see what the characters say will help you follow the dialogue better, as well as help you memorize certain phrases for your own future use.

For beginners, try watching the episode with English subtitles (available on Netflix and YouTube), and using them as a guide when you don’t catch everything that the characters are saying. However, one of the hidden benefits of TV being available on the Internet is that you can quickly and easily rewind a given scene as many times as you’d like! Therefore, if you don’t understand something, you can listen to it again and again until you have your a-ha! moment, and everything becomes clear.

Once you’ve written down some dialogue, you’re ready to get to the meat of active listening: the analysis.


Step 2: Analyze, Analyze, Analyze

Are you ready for some active listening? Click the link above to get started! This time, I’ll write down the dialogue for you, and we’ll analyze together. You’ll discover that we can already learn a great deal from just the first ten seconds of the scene:

 Ross: Come on, you guys, we’re sorry! Our subway broke down!

Chandler: That’s a lie! You went to the game — I can see Joey’s hand!

Ross: For the love of God, take it off!


In this three small lines of dialogue, we can already see two useful and common phrasal verbs: break down and take (something) off. The phrasal verb break down is used to when machines or vehicles stop working properly — like Ross’s subway, which caused him to be late. And to take something off means to remove an article of clothing. In this case, Ross is telling Joey to take off his foam hand, which are sold at baseball games.

We also see a colloquial expression, for the love of God. This phrase is used when you are exasperated or frustrated, and you’re pleading with somebody. For example, you might say to the characters on Friends, For the love of God, speak more slowly!”


The original cast of Friends. Image via David Shankbone / Wikipedia

The original cast of Friends. Image via David Shankbone / Wikipedia

Later in the scene, Rachel suggests that they eat a dish that Monica had put into the oven earlier that day (start at 0:43 or click here):

 Monica: You touch that and you’ll be sorry!

Chandler: I’d listen to her. The vein is bigger than I’ve ever seen it!

First, we can see that Monica is angry. In this scene, she’s using expressions — You’ll be sorry! – that are popular for making threats. “You’ll be sorry!” is a synonym of another common expression when threatening somebody: “You’ll regret it!”

If you’re listening closely, you’ll notice that Chandler says, “I’d listen to her”, which contains a contracted version of the modal would. This is an excellent example of using would to give advice. When Chandler says, “I’d listen to her,” he’s really using a second conditional construction like the following: “If I were you, I’d listen to her.” However, in spoken English, it’s not necessary to include “If I were you”.

Finally, when Chandler talks about Monica’s vein (which presumably appears due to her anger), he provides a great instance of the present perfect tense in action. By combining the present perfect (I have seen) with the adverb of time (ever), he emphasizes the fact that, in that moment, Monica’s vein is bigger than it has been at any other moment in time. Scary!



The set of Central Perk, where many Friends episodes were filmed. Image via Marcin Wichary / flickr

At the end of the scene, Joey tries to make amends by apologizing to Monica and Chandler (start at 2:01 or click here):

Joey: Hey listen, guys, we feel really terrible.

Chandler: He’s doing that weird eye contact thing. Don’t look at him!

Joey: C’mon, guys! We want you to know we’re very, very sorry. Right guys?


Here, Joey is making an apology, and uses some very common language to express regret: We feel terrible and We’re very sorry. You’ll often hear people say these phrases when they are apologizing for something.

Something else you’ll notice is that Joey uses the word guys to refer to all of his friends — even Monica and Rachel, who are women. English does not have an official second-person plural pronoun, so English speakers have to get creative. In many dialects of English, “guys” is used to refer to a group of people in the second person, regardless of their gender. For instance, on a Friday evening, you might ask your friends, “Hey guys, what are we doing tonight?”

I want to make one final point about pronunciation. Chandler tells Monica to not look at Joey: “Don’t look at him! Don’t look at him!” However, in spoken English, the pronunciation of at him gets shortened — Chandler omits the “h” and “i” sounds, and ends up saying something that sounds like, “Don’t look at’m!” This type of word reduction is exceedingly common in casual spoken English.


Step 3: Use the Language in Real Life

In just a two-minute clip, we’ve learned about verb tenses, modals, phrasal verbs, personal pronouns, making threats, expressing regret, and some popular colloquial expressions. Not bad, eh?

Indeed, we’ve put a lot of work into analyzing a scene from Friends, and it’s time to reap the benefits! Now that you have your new vocabulary and grammar points written down in front of you, it’s time to use them with your English-speaking friends. If you’re giving advice to a friend, try using the modal would to tell them what you’d do if you were in their place. Try talking about the best movies that you’ve ever seen, or the most interesting places that you’ve ever visited. By actually engaging with the language that you learn in TV shows, you’ll be sure to memorize it. Actively watch an episode of TV each day, and observe how quickly your English will progress!

Finally, don’t forget to monitor your progress. Learning a language is a very long and slow process, and as such, it’s hard to appreciate the progress that you make. Try taking an English listening test after finishing a season of an English-language TV show — you’ll be surprised at how much your comprehension will improve.


What are your favorite English-language TV shows? Do you have any other tips for actively watching TV series or movies?


BLOG_paul photo_thumbnailPaul is a New York-based expat who lives and teaches English in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He writes on behalf of Language Trainers, a language tutoring service offering personalized course packages to individuals and groups. Check out their free English level tests and other resources on their website. Feel free to contact with any questions.


Thank you, Paul for these invaluable tips. I look forward to your further contributions.

If you liked this post, please share it and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you want to receive future posts directly via email.

Ciao for now


“I Have a Dream” – 12 Quotes by Martin Luther King Jr

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. It is an official holiday to celebrate and honour the life and work of one of the leading figures in the African-American Civil Rights Movement in the US.

On 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King delivered the outstanding “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of Lincoln Memorial in Washington. It would be a defining moment in civil rights history in America and the world. You can read a transcript of the speech here. For a more comprehensive and interactive experience, you can explore The Guardian’s excellent piece here.

To celebrate this day, I would like to share 12 of Dr King’s quotes that have made a real impact on me. His stirring words and writings remain as relevant and inspiring today as they were when he lived.

1. “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

2. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

3. “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”

4. “We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”

5. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

6. “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”

Photo Credit: Scott Ableman in Flickr

Photo Credit: Scott Ableman in Flickr

7. “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

8. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood”

9. “Forgiveness is not an occasional act. It is a permanent attitude.”

10. “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

11. “Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”

12. “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

A few years ago I went to the see a play entitled “The Mountaintop”. It was based on Martin Luther King’s final night before his assassination in 1968. It was a wonderful play because it depicted King not as a saint but a good man, passionate about a cause but still very human with the same flaws as all of us. The play was extremely successful and had excellent reviews (read one here).

And that’s what fascinates me about people like Dr King – beyond their inspirational work, they are people like you and me. The only difference is that they are not willing to stand in silence whist injustices happen around them.

The world has still much to do to realise Dr King’s vision. The important thing is that we continue his legacy around the globe.

I wish all my American family and readers a Happy Martin Luther King Day.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please share it and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.

Ciao for now


English Collocation Series: 12 Verbs that Collocate with “Plan”

Photo Credit: Right Brain Planning by Teresa Robinson

Photo Credit: Right Brain Planning by Teresa Robinson

It’s that time of year when businesses are busy planning the year ahead. Some businesses can look forward to some good news over the next few months, whilst others are in the middle of making some difficult decisions.

A number of my clients are in this very position at present. As I was discussing their business plans for 2015 with them and I was sharing  some new vocabulary, it occurred to me that we have many verbs that are  frequently used to collocate with the word “plan”. And as I don’t want you, my readers to feel left out, I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to list these verbs here. The examples I’m going to give are related to the business world. So here goes..

1. Abandon
Sometimes, with the best will in the world you need to abandon a plan you have been working on. This could be for a number of reasons. Perhaps the plan is too costly, it is no longer needed or you simply don’t have the time to do it, for example, a plan to sail around the world.

2. Cancel
Similarly, you may have to cancel your plan to merge your business with a competitor. Perhaps there were too many differences between the two businesses that could not be solved.

3. Devise
As a business you are losing market share to a competitor. You get together with your team and try and devise a plan on how you can regain your position in the market.

4. Formulate
Having discussed matters over a number of days or weeks, you and your marketing team have now formulated a plan on how you are going to win back market share.

5. Implement
So, now that you have formulated the plan, it’s very important that you choose the right people to implement the plan to ensure its success.

6. Make
The most frequently used verb with the word plan. I don’t know about you, but I am forever making plans for my business. Some plans work, others don’t.

7. Oppose
Much as you would like people to agree with you, there are always going to be moments when people, clients or colleagues, oppose your plans, especially if they are unpopular plans like a pay cut or higher prices!

Photo Credit: Cayobo

Photo Credit: Cayobo

8. Outline
You may have a great idea for a project and in most cases you will need to call a meeting so that you can outline your proposed plan.

9. Scrap
Sometimes, we have to scrap plans especially if they end up being too expensive or unpopular with clients or shareholders.

10. Shelve
Or perhaps, it’s not the right time for this plan so you may decide to shelve it for the present time. When things are better, you may go back to it and use it.

11. Unveil
When governments need to inform people of their plans, they often hold a press conference to unveil these plans.

12. Work Out
In these difficult, economic times, many businesses are working out their business plans for 2015.

Do you run a business? What is your business plan for 2015? Have they been implemented yet?

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please share it and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.

Ciao for now


STOP PRESS: Voting has started for the Best Blog in the Love English Awards 2014

Macmillan-Dictionary-Love-English-Awards-2014In early November, I wrote to you to inform you that the nominations had started to find the Best Blog about the English Language in Macmillan’s prestigious Love English Awards. You can see the post here.

Thank you to all of you for nominating me. I am delighted to say that I was chosen to be part of the nominees.

The crucial time has come
The time has now come to start VOTING for who you think should be 2014’s winner. If you think that this blog, English with a Twist deserves to win, I’d be absolutely thrilled if you would cast your vote on the Macmillan website. It is one vote per IP address.

vote for us_love english2Vote for your favourite blog, website or Facebook Page

You can also access the website by clicking the VOTE for US icon that is on the top of the right hand side of this blog. For those of you reading this on a tablet, you will probably not see this bar so you will need to click on the link here.

I have also been nominated for best Facebook Page. If you follow my page and like the content, why not vote for my page, too?!!! Oh, am I too greedy? For those of you not familiar with my page, here is a sneak preview of the page.


No pressure, of course! However, if you can please show your love and help me win!!!

A huge thank you and grazie.



The First Week of 2015 – Some Reflections and Vocabulary

Blog_Rodin's Thinker

Photo by Bob Riel of Riel World

We’re almost at the end of the first full working week (at least here in the UK) of 2015 and what a week it has been!

The start of the week
My week started off with my father in law’s funeral on Monday. The funeral service was held at the crematorium at 3pm. My husband and I went over to my mother in law’s house at 1pm before setting off with the funeral cortege. My husband and his siblings accompanied their mother is one car while I followed with my brother and sister in law and our nephews in the second car. Together we followed the hearse along the route to the crematorium. The cortege always drives extremely slowly through the streets and many people often stop and bow their heads as a mark of respect to the deceased and their grieving family.

The service lasted one hour and was extremely poignant and moving. Some of my father in law’s favourite pieces of music were chosen and played. We had the theme music from “Out of Africa” by John Barry to reflect his love for Africa as we entered the chapel.

In between we had the beautiful song by Nat King Cole “Unforgettable”. This was played soon after the eulogy that was given by my brother in law. His eulogy to his father was touching, poignant and so heartfelt that the majority of us were in floods of tears after.

My sister in law and I each gave a reading but the reading that stood out for us was the one that was given by our nephew, the eldest grandchild. At only 15 and totally bereft at the loss of a much loved grandfather, he stood up in front of everyone and read out a poem entitled “To Our Grandfather” with a beautifully still and strong voice and never once broke down in tears. We were all so proud of him. He even made his father cry and that is saying something!

The small chapel was crowded with over 200 people who came to the service to pay their respects to a man who lived life to the full, was a larger than life character and who was obviously extremely popular. I am so pleased for my husband and his family as it shows how loved their father was.

When the service ended, we left the chapel to the only song that totally captures the way my father in law lived his life and that was “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

We headed to the golf club, where my father in law was a member and where he spent many happy moments, for the wake. There we, as a family, had the opportunity to mingle with friends we hadn’t seen in months, years  – some even since childhood! It was time to celebrate my father in law’s life.

There was a display of photos that covered his life – photos I had never seen and which were very touching especially the ones with my husband and his siblings as children. There were tears and there was laughter – above all there were many moments and memories to share with friends and family.

It ended up being an extremely long day. We didn’t leave until 11.30pm! My mother in law who at 81 has lost her soul mate and companion of 62 years was unbelievable. I don’t know where she found the energy and strength to get through the day but she did.

If my father in law is looking down on us, I think he would be extremely proud of the tribute his wife and children organised and gave him. He will be sorely missed but will always be with us in spirit.

As the week ends…
As I end this post about saying goodbye, I just want to say how truly sad I am about what happened in Paris (#JeSuisCharlie)  on Wednesday. My heart goes out to the 12 people who lost their lives so violently and needlessly and to their families. It’s a tragic end to the first week of 2015. We live in the 21st century and yet, we still have to ask the question: When will it ever be safe to express a view, however controversial, without fearing for one’s life?

Stay safe, my friends.


Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015 – A New Year Beckons

Happy-new-year-london-2015-wallpaperWell, another year comes to an end and a new one begins. In some countries, people have already ushered in the new year whilst others are making preparations to say farewell to 2014 and welcome 2015. My brother has just sent me a What’s App message to wish me Happy New Year all the way from Malaysia.

Many people will be getting all spruced up for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. Hairdressers and beauty therapists will have been booked and visited and party frocks will have been bought and carefully laid out to be worn in a few hours’ time. The jewellery, real or costume, will be dazzling and everyone will be sparkling, if not in a sparkly mood. I have even got sparkly nail polish on!

At this point of the day on New Year’s Eve, I often sit down and quietly reflect on the past year. I don’t know about you but this year has simply flown by. Perhaps it’s a sign of old age…..mmm. Hope not. Anyhow, as I mentioned in my last post this year has been extremely rewarding in terms of both my teaching and blogging career.

My clients
During the course of this year, I have been extremely fortunate to meet and teach some very special people both online and through my full immersion courses. My learners have also become good friends with a couple in particular becoming very important to me. I have been lucky enough to also experience different teaching environments and look forward to exploring more in the new year thanks to my clients.

My fellow teachers
I have also been privileged to forge some significant relationships with fellow EFL teachers through my collaboration with Gallery Languages and through social media thereby building on my Personal Learning Network (PLN). I owe a debt of gratitude to these wonderful teachers who teach me so much and give me so much support. I learn so much from them. A good PLN is vital for any teacher who wants to continue growing as a person and professional.

My blog
Year 2 of my blog and what a year it has been. I have written 91 posts and my followers have grown from 500 to 2926!! THANK YOU!
The pleasure of writing my blog has not diminished even if there were times when finding the time and headspace for creative thinking proved very challenging, indeed!

My blog has been instrumental in introducing me to new clients and therefore building my business as a freelance trainer. I am the busiest I have ever been. My full immersion courses have really taken off ( I am fully booked right through until May 2015!)

The blog has also introduced me to a lovely group of EFL teachers around the world who have also helped grow my blog. 

What’s in store for 2015?
More teaching, more blogging. I’d like to spend more time on some online and face to face professional conferences, time permitting. 

If my business gets busier than at present, I may have to consider getting another teacher to help me. 

There may be opportunities to teach abroad on one-week courses. This is something that I’ve always been interested in and having tried it for one week this December and thoroughly enjoyed it, I wouldn’t say no if I were to be offered another chance.

I need to get back into tip top shape physically so I hope to schedule my weeks to give me the time to go for my runs and/or use the cross-trainer.

I would like to read more books in both English and Italian. I am going to set a challenge via GoodReads and see how I go.

I plan to visit Milan, Italy for the 2015 Milan Expo in May. I am sure I’ll have a blast.

I think these intentions should keep me busy for a few months.

HAPPY NEW YEAR 3Thanks to all of you who’ve followed me this year and shared my posts. I hope you continue to accompany me on my voyage sharing your thoughts, making suggestions on blog topics you’d like to see and above all, being such special readers.

I  wish you all peace, prosperity, happiness and the very best for 2015.

Happy New Year/ Buon Anno

See you in 2015.


Quick Post: A Huge Thank You to You, My Readers

WordPress’s 2014 Report for this blog is out. I am delighted to share some of the statistics here with you.

Blog Report

This is an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 1,200,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 52 days for that many people to see it.

English with a Twist’s activities in 2014 – the full report

Not only do I owe you, my readers, a huge debt of gratitude but also to those of you who took the time to comment on my posts. The report picks out 5 top commentators  for special mention- Anastasia, Aquileana, Jaime, Rosy and Graciela  but I also want to thank everyone else.

2014 has been an exceptional year both professionally and personally. I have relished this blogging journey and sincerely hope that you will continue with me on my travels through 2015.

I will be back tomorrow with a final post for 2014. In the meantime, grazie and thank you.


Christmas is Coming – The Preparations Are in Full Swing (Some English Vocabulary)

BLOG_Christmas 1Since my last post, I’ve had some extremely sad news. Last Saturday in the early hours of the morning, one of my cousins was killed in a road accident. He was only 42. This was then followed by my father in law’s death following post heart surgery complications. He died in the early hours of Sunday morning.  What a weekend. We are now a family in mourning.

Despite the inconsolable sadness, we, as a family, want to make Christmas extra special that will be filled with laughter, tears but above all, many moments of celebratory toasts to a life lived to the full. My father in law was a larger than life figure who grabbed life with open arms and took every opportunity to enjoy it. So whilst my husband’s family may be grieving they can take comfort from the fact that their father had a fulfilling life and the end was quick and painless.

BLOG_Christmas Tree

This year’s tree

Christmas will be at our place with the entire family gathered round. We have already decorated the tree with lots of different baubles. There are multi-coloured lights around the tree which are twinkling away downstairs as I write this. We have the outdoor lights along the front of the house and over a couple of shrubs. It looks very festive at night.

I haven’t bought many presents this year. I’ve decided that what is much more meaningful for me is the time I spend with my family doing things like going to a Christmas Carol Concert, going to the theatre or catching a movie at the cinema. Yesterday we went as a family to watch the new Paddington movie. It was great fun.

My mother is spending Christmas with us this year and I am so pleased she is with me to help me through this difficult time. She is a great support.

BLOG_Christmas Mince Pies

Mince pie, anyone?

I have already started doing bits of Christmas food shopping. I have ordered the turkey for Christmas Day and bought the gravy. I have got boxes of mince pies that will be served as dessert with delicious brandy cream. We also have the Italian panettone. I have bought lots of different savoury snacks to serve with drinks before Christmas lunch. I have stocked the larder up with plenty of potatoes (for the roast potatoes), chestnuts to cook with the brussel sprouts, mixer drinks like soda water and cheese biscuits for the cheese board. Liqueur drinks like Baileys, Cointreau and brandy are in the drinks cabinet. The brandy, whiskey and port have all been decanted into crystal decanters.

The fridge is full of fabulous cheeses like Stilton, Brie and Cheddar. Little cocktail sausages, an enormous piece of smoked salmon and some fresh tortellini make up Christmas Eve’s dinner which will have an Italian theme to it.

BLOG_Christmas Panettone

The panettone

I have bought the Christmas crackers to place on the dining table at Christmas. The Christmas candles are all ready as are the Christmassy table napkins and underplates. I am not very artistic when it comes to laying the table but my husband is the creative one so I will leave him in charge.

I think I have done the bulk of the Christmas preparations. Oh no, hang on….I still have to get sparkling water, carrots, brussel sprouts, cranberry sauce, mustard, parsnips, stuffing…Oh maybe I’m not as ready as I had thought…. Oh dear, I think I’d better stop writing now and hit the shops.

How are your preparations coming along for Christmas?

I hope you liked the post. If you did, please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog if you don’t want to miss out on my posts.
Ciao for now


Key to the colours
The expressions in blue relate to Christmas and general vocabulary and the phrases in pink are collocations, phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions that you can use anytime.

Are You An Ethical Shopper? Let’s Explore Some Vocabulary

BLOG_ethical-shoppingI mentioned in last week’s post that I trained a fashion designer whilst I was in Italy. My client is world famous and is known as the “King of Cashmere” in Italy. During the week’s course, we discussed a number of topics and one of them was about ethical shopping.

Apart for a strong work ethic, my client is renowned for his ethics in business. He decided long ago that he wanted to run his business in an ethical, honest and fair way. He told me what running an ethical business means to him – fair wages, fair price and an honest profit.


Paying a good and fair wage
First of all, he says that you need to treat the people who work for you, whether directly or indirectly, fairly. He explained to me that if you treat people well and pay them a good wage, you give them a sense of pride and dignity as human beings.
In turn, you, as their employer, will have their loyalty, and they will work more productively for you.

Whether you source your workforce locally or abroad, you have a responsibility to ensure that their working and pay conditions are good and that they are able to live a dignified life. You don’t want to be responsible for having created sweat shops and exploited workers especially in low-wage economies.


Charging a higher but fair price to consumers
If you’re going to pay your workers a fair price and ensure that their working conditions are good, you will have to accept that your product is going to be priced at above the market average.

However, in today’s world of cheap goods, consumers  often look for the latest bargains. If you look at the fashion world, shoppers always seek low cost/high fashion items. So, if you’re looking to compete in this market what do you do as a business? I asked my client this question and this is what he replied.

He strongly believes that as consumers, we should always seek to find out where and how the product we’re purchasing is sourced. If we believe that everyone deserves to earn a decent living and live life in a dignified way, then we should be prepared to pay a little more for the product.


BLOG Image_Ethics

Making an honest and fair profit
If you ask most consumers, they say that they would willingly pay more for good quality products. Alas, quality doesn’t always equal ethical.

There are companies that charge their customers a lot of money for top quality but pay obscenely little in production costs. As consumers, we should, therefore, also look carefully at the companies we buy from to ensure that the profit they’re making is honest and fair.

For example, if you buy a cashmere cardigan that costs $1,000 and then find out that the company’s production costs were $60, would you be comfortable knowing that the company has made a huge profit (unreasonable, I would say) at the expense of the workers and you as the consumer? I know I wouldn’t.

Cartoon by Andy Vine for the Ethical Consumer Magazine

Cartoon by Andy Vine for the Ethical Consumer Magazine

As I was wandering around the shops the other day looking for some clothes, I realised that the key to shopping ethically is to buy fewer items of clothing. Certainly in the West there is a tendency to prefer quantity over quality. We would rather buy 10 T-shirts at £4 each than 3 T-shirts for £10 each. We have also become a throwaway society where the appreciation of what we have has been lost.

Talking to my client made me think of how I shop and made me also appreciate him as an entrepreneur and person. He is truly inspirational.

As we approach Christmas, my mind is certainly more focused on how and where I buy. I’d like to think that I am an ethical shopper but I know I could be better. That’s it – I have my New Year’s Resolution.

Are you an ethical shopper? Do you believe that as consumers we have a responsibility to ensure businesses behave ethically?

If you liked this post please share it. And don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to receive my future posts automatically.

Ciao for now


PS If you’d like to learn more vocabulary on the topic of ethical shopping, do take a look at the British Council Learn English website. I also got my inspiration from them.


Learning English in an oasis of peace and spirituality

IMG_5184This week I am in the Umbrian region of Italy in a town called Norcia. It’s a mediaeval town set within city walls and is accessible through the old Roman gates or “La Porta Romana” in Italian.

I am here on a one- week intensive course to coach an Italian fashion designer. He asked me if I would be available and willing to teach him English in this beautiful town for a week!! After much thought (one second), I accepted and here I am.

He chose Norcia for the peace and tranquillity it exudes. Norcia (Nursia) is the birthplace of Saint Benedict who established the Benedictine order of monks. At the heart of the town, in the square or piazza, stands the monastery which is on the same site as where Saint Benedict was born.

Saint Benedict

Saint Benedict

The monastery was closed for 200 years before a group of American monks came to Norcia and re-opened it in 2000. The church is simple when compared to other Italian churches, but what you notice upon entering it is the silence. Rather than feeling eerie, it’s actually very comforting. I am not a regular church-goer, but I found myself drawn to the silence and spent an hour or so sitting in quiet reflection.

IMG_5197I fell in love with Norcia as soon as I set eyes on the piazza and started wandering around the town on Sunday evening. It’s exactly as I imagined a mediaeval town to be. I explored all the little alleys and shops selling such wonderful produce as lentils, pulses, cured hams, salamis and black truffles. Norcia is famous for its black truffles and for its cured meats. Needless to say, I have already bought some products to take home.

And the food – what can I say….it’s absolutely divine!!! The hotel I’m staying in has an excellent restaurant and my client has introduced me to a number of dishes that are typical of the area – each one better than the other. It’s a good job that there is a swimming pool nearby where I have been doing my laps every evening!

The presence of the monastery and the monks give Norcia a sense of spirituality which is something my client seeks in his daily life. He chose Norcia for his course so that he could concentrate completely on his studies with me. I have to say that the silence is extremely conducive to study. We have been working for 6 hours each day and the time flies by. We have talked about all sorts of things – his work, his philosophy, his spirituality and what motivates him in life – as well as the nitty gritty of English grammar.

Before I leave, I am going to listen to the monks sing the Gregorian chants this evening. They pray and sing every evening at 7.45pm and everyone is welcome. I cannot wait.

It’s been a most spiritual, fulfilling and energising experience for me. I hope to re-visit Norcia in the not too distant future.

Ciao for now


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