Monday, 20 February 2017

Ornithophobia or How I Killed Two Birds with One Stone

A post featuring 11 English birds idioms in context and proving that knowledge is power in many ways.

Phobias. They are real. Mine used to be an overwhelming overpowering overbearing fear of birds. Everything about birds used to freak me out. Claws, beaks, feathers, wings and tails. Twitching tails like wagtails have. Fan tails like peacocks have. Tiny tails like wrens have. Brrrr, goose bumps.

And birds’ eyes? Have you seen anything more freaky? Unblinking and cold. A bird’s eye stares at you from the side of a bird’s head, the creature waiting for the right moment to peck you in your eye if you make a wrong move. Ok, I don't want to ruffle anyone's feathers here (birds lovers, I am really sorry) but seriously, who has eyes at the sides of their head? Just be normal and face the challenge full front and not just stand there like a stencil staring with one silly round eye!

Trafalgar Square, London. Pigeon free zone now. Thank goodness! Used to be full of them! You would snack on a bagel and feel like they were about to tear it right from your hands, stomping on your feet and slapping you with their wings! Absolute nightmare. Oh, wait, it can actually be worse, I don't envy the old guy here ROFL.

Hm, outside is actually where birds belong so I stand corrected, the worst nightmare, if you exclude a chance of being attacked by a mahoosive pigeon while feeding birds, is when a bird is inside. Inside your own house!

Apparently some old and real fireplaces in the UK have real chimneys and by real I mean there is a hole up there! How do I know there is a hole? A little bird told me, huh! By falling right through the chimney onto the carpet in my lounge. Here I am! Claws and all. I nearly had a heart attack!

Don't ask me how the visitor managed to find the door and leave. Cause I don't know! I didn’t shoo it out. I chickened out! Ran for my life and took refuge in the garden. Well, the bird followed so it might have been me after all who showed the way to escape.

Turning point

I can actually tolerate birds now. Not in my house of course and I still feed them from a safe distance without taking my gloves off: swans have long necks, you know, and I can swear they have teeth! But happy as a lark I can say that I no longer have this big fear of birds. What helped? My English study.

I once came across an advert for a company named ‘Kingfisher’. I then thought, what a strange name. A guy who fishes for kings? WTH? Well, turned out that kingfisher is a bird. And a pretty one actually with blue wings and an orange breast. So, I decided to get my ducks in a row. And learn the names of the most common birds in English.

Well, I can say that I have killed two birds with one stone there! Not only have I learnt these words but I have also started, well, sort of liking these creatures. I have to eat crow as they are not that freaky after all. I guess knowledge is power.

Guys, I hope this post was not for the birds and you have learnt a thing or two.

To memorise the names of the common birds in English grab our vocBlock ‘Birds’. It’s translated into French, German, Russian and Spanish as well. Good free flashcards are as scarce as hen’s teeth, so check it out, I’m sure you’ll like it!

Spread your wings with your language learning and good lark luck!

You might also like these posts:

How to Boost your 5-a-Day Nerd Style (fruit and veg idioms)

How to Jazz Up your Everyday Nerd Style (music idioms)

How to Stop Being a Wimp Nerd Style (parts of body idioms)

Birds’ Idioms Defined

goose bumps - when small raised swellings appear on the skin because of cold, fear, or excitement

ruffle (someone's) feathers - to upset someone

a little bird told me - said if you know who gave you the information but do not want to say who it was

chicken out - to decide not to do something because you are too frightened

happy as a lark - very happy, contented

get my ducks in a row - get everything organised

kill two birds with one stone - to achieve two things in a single action

eat crow - to admit that you were wrong

for the birds - worthless

as scarce as hen’s teeth - very rare, non-existent

spread one's wings - to use your abilities to do new and exciting things

*The list of idioms is based on this great resource:

Monday, 6 February 2017

Practising your Four Language Skills Online in Line with your Goals

A simple question: ‘Do you speak English (German/Spanish etc.)?’ apparently reflects the main desired outcome of learning a foreign language. The verb is not to read or write or understand. It is to speak.

There is no doubt that the most impressive thing is when someone opens their mouth and starts speaking a foreign language fluently, better even with no phonetic burden of their native mother tongue, an accent. Like in a scene from Tarantino’s ‘Inglourious Basterds’ with Christoph Waltz speaking Italian (love this scene!)

While fluent speaking is deemed a pinnacle of foreign language acquisition, it would be a mistake to think that one needs to focus only on practising speaking during the learning process itself.

Reading as well as listening is that ‘input’ without which ‘output’, i.e. speaking and writing will just not happen. And ‘output’ cannot be limited to just speaking, especially online.

It’s not difficult to find content online to practise all four skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. But with the abundance of very often random information, comes a problem of its structuring and choosing what is actually useful. So, you need to focus on what is really important for you.

Just think about the goals you would like to achieve in life. And I don’t mean just linguistic ones as language is a form in which important content comes to you. Think about your professional, your family and personal goals and aspirations when you explore the following online media.

News Websites and Papers

When reading news online, it might be useful to check out specific news sections connected with the area of your expertise, i.e. technology, business, arts, etc. With articles, short videos and opportunity to comment, you have reading, listening and writing covered here. For example, if you are in IT, it’s technology section you might want to check for the latest news. Or if you are an opera admirer, arts section will keep you up-to-date with your craze.

Social Media

Social media are often deemed a mere distraction and a time waster. But it can be really useful as you don’t have to search for the content yourself, it finds you instead. Just make sure you unfollow the sources that don’t bring you any value and follow the ones that do. The professionals you admire on Twitter or LinkedIn, relevant businesses or groups on Facebook, just people who bring you joy on Instagram. Again you have three skills covered here - you read posts, comments and articles, watch videos and post updates and comments yourself.


If you don’t like social media but would still like a nudge now and then referring you to the relevant content, subscribe to emails from gurus in your area of expertise or the area of expertise you would like to develop and explore the content as it lands in your inbox. With some of them it’s not only reading that you have covered but also writing, as some experts encourage you to reply to their emails. Just make sure that, as with all of the above, you don’t do it just to practise your language skills but actually have something to say or a relevant question to pose. For example, if you are a marketeer specialising in email marketing, you might find AWeber newsletters useful. Or if you need language learning inspiration and advice to keep you going, do subscribe to our newsletter by signing up here. We won’t spam you, we promise :)


Some experts also run podcasts so you might want to check iTunes or Google Play to subscribe. Or just browse online for the relevant audio content. It covers your listening skills practice and you can write reviews to help others find great content in your area of expertise. And if this is your thing, you can share your own content with others by creating podcasts yourself. Here is speaking covered for you.


And some gurus even have their own youtube channels which you can subscribe to. There are all sorts of tutorials and vlogs there as well. And I mean, all sorts. Whether you need to plant fuchsia in your garden, put up a shelf in your bedroom, crop a photo, bake a cake, plait you daughter’s hair or do your nails, YouTube has it all. And for writing skills practice there is an opportunity to comment on videos. If you are feeling adventurous, you can create videos yourself with the speaking skill practice covered as a bonus.


These are really popular and give you an opportunity to listen to the experts you follow in real time, post or even ask questions if it’s an option for a specific webinar you attend.


With a bit more time on your hands, you can attend a MOOC (Massive open online course) to get the academic level knowledge related to your professional interests. You listen to the lectures, read recommended books and / or articles on the subject, do the written assignments and interact with other students via forums, covering your listening, reading and writing skills all on one platform! There are even opportunities for meetups organisers of some courses provide (speaking!) if you happen to be nearby.

The table below sums up what skills you can practise with which online medium and also what action you need to take. Happy browsing!

P.S. Before taking these actions, you might want to check out this post to make sure you build in your language practice into your day or week in order to stay on track and prevent slacking.