What on Earth Are We Saying?

Every language contains its fair share of illogicalities, but English might seem to have more than most. If you have an 'ept' command of the language - read on!

A Polish student at an English school.

Karolina (right) is currently in her second year of study at Newlands Manor School in the south of England. She tells us about her experiences in the Sixth Form of a co- educational private school.

In recent years studying abroad has become increasingly popular among Polish students. I chose to do this after I went on a language course in London during the summer of 1998. I began my education that September at Newlands Manor School in Seaford, East Sussex, where I intend to complete my 'A' Levels.

For Your Reference.

How would you learn English without a dictionary? These books that we now take for granted would never have existed if it were not for the immensely hard work of a few exceptionally talented men.

"Dictionaries", said Samuel Johnson, "are like watches; the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true." He should know, having been single-handedly responsible for the creation of the most famous and most influential of historical English dictionaries, A Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1755.

Sitcom Philosophy

One of television's lasting legacies is that work of art known as the sitcom. Art? Plain folks may laugh during the funny bits, but smart people like critics are quick to condemn sitcoms as "junk food for the brain."

Close study of sitcoms reveals, however, that they are shaped by a clear set of rules with an aesthetic purpose. In other words, a sitcom can be just as much a work of art as a Shakespeare tragedy or a Moliere comedy.

Taking the FCE.

The UCLES First Certificate Examination (FCE) consists of five papers:

1. Reading 1 hour 15mins
2. Writing 1 hour 30mins
3. Use of English 1 hour 15mins
4. Listening 40mins (approx.)
5. Speaking 14mins (approx.)

There is an overall pass mark (somewhere around 60%), which means you can theoretically fail one part if you do well enough in the other parts to make up the difference. Statistically, Polish students do least well on the listening paper, followed by the Use of English. Each paper represents 20% of the total score for the exam.


This is the first in a series of articles outlining the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) exams. Here we describe all the different tests offered by the organization, the extent to which they are recognized and how to take them. In future issues, The World of English will give an in-depth look into the structure of each of the exams and provide advice on how to study for them.

Taking the FCE

Paper 1: Use of English

This paper consists of five parts, each very different, but all with the aim of testing your knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary and word formation.

Part 1

This is a multiple choice gap-fill exercise which involves knowing not only the meaning of words but also collocations and grammatical patterns. The extract below is the first paragraph of a typical part 1 text.

The London Tea Trade

Bonnie Prince Billy

Next year Scotland will be welcoming Prince William, a brave new royal, to study at St Andrews University, and history will be made.


This is a grab bag of various slang words and expressions used by Americans in literature song and daily conversation.

AIR BAGS: the lungs. Fill your air bags well when we go for a walk in the woods. He is the best runner in the class but the his air bags are larger than most.

BETTER HALF: usually refers to one's wife, sometimes one's husband. This is my better half, Sally. I'd like to go with our group but my better half won't let me out of the house.

Package at Endor.

When the cold winter days are over, you start thinking about holidays in the sun. Numerous places come to mind and you still don' t know where to go. But it' s simple! The answer is: OUT THERE!