Wednesday, December 09, 2015

My Top 10 Words That Make You Think of Christmas

By Jake Taylor; Christmas is a wonderful time of year, there’s loads of things to get excited about; amazing food, presents, catching up with distant relatives. There are tons of words that make you think of Christmas and here is my top 10:

10. Chestnut:

Plural noun: chestnuts

A glossy hard brown edible nut which develops within a bristly case and which may be roasted and eaten.
My view: Chestnuts taste terrific but there's something about Christmas that makes people go nuts for them! They blend well with Brussels sprouts and give that all important Christmas taste at the dinner table.
9. Mistletoe:


Plural noun: mistletoes

A leathery-leaved parasitic plant which grows on apple, oak, and other broadleaf trees and bears white glutinous berries in winter.
My view: Mistletoe adds a bit of romance to Christmas, people used to think that it inspired passion between two people and increase fertility. Nowadays, people use it to kiss someone they like or be romantic with their other half. How sweet!

8. Nativity:

The birth of Jesus Christ.
My view: Jesus' birth is why the holiday, Christmas, exists. Without the birth of Jesus Christ we would not celebrate Christmas and have these traditions we have every year, such as; advent calendars, Christmas movies, presents, Christmas dinner and more!

7. Carol:

Plural noun: carols

 A religious folk song or popular hymn, particularly one associated with Christmas.
My view: Christmas carols are sung every year at church, outside people's homes and anywhere in the street. People sing them to spread the message about what Christmas really means and sometimes even do it for charity. They just make you feel warm and happy inside.

6. Wreath:

Plural noun: wreaths

 An arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring and used for decoration or for lying on a grave.
My view: We hang wreaths on our doors at Christmas every year, but why do we do it? We do it because in the old days it meant that you wished good health on your neighbours and people would exchange their wreaths almost as presents. It's a good tradition as it's quite meaningful.

5. Snowman:

Plural noun: snowmen

A representation of a human figure created with compressed snow.
My view: It doesn't snow every year, yet we think of snowman when Christmas is mentioned. They're just a very Christmassy thing as Christmas lies in winter and snow generally comes in winter (but obviously this depends on British weather). You can personalise snowmen however you want, with different hats, scarfs and coats.

 4. Elf:

Plural noun: elves

A supernatural creature of folk tales typically represented as a small, delicate, elusive figure in human form with pointed ears, magical powers, and a capricious nature.
My view: Elves are made up creatures from stories. Christmas elves help out Santa at Christmas, making toys and helping Santa be on time at Christmas so that everyone has presents to wake up to on Christmas morning. They're very cute looking and you always think of Christmas when you see one or elves are mentioned.

3. Festive:

Relating to a festival, especially Christmas.
My view: Festive is a very Christmassy word, you don't hear at any other time of the year other than in December. It gets you in the party spirit and it makes you feel happy because you know that you won't be sticking to your normal routine and will be doing different and festive things.

2. Noel:

Christmas, especially as a refrain in carols and on Christmas cards.
My view: Noel is another name for Christmas and is normally on the front of your Christmas card. Noel comes from the French language, "Joyeux Noel" means "Merry Christmas". It makes you think of Christmas because the word literally means, well, Christmas and it's on the front of a lot of Christmas cards that we give each other.

1. Tinsel:

A form of decoration consisting of thin strips of shiny metal foil attached to a long piece of thread.

My view: Tinsel is a big part of Christmas, everyone wraps it around their tree to make it look pretty and sparkly but why do we do it? We do it because it's a modern equivalent of the evergreens that were brought indoors to brighten up homes at Yuletide. Many of our Christmas traditions have pagan origins, and predate the birth of Jesus.

What words make you think of Christmas? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter!

Monday, November 30, 2015

An exclusive insight into the brilliant Billy Elliot

By Beth Hepple; Here at our English Centre in Greenwich, we have an active social programme and there is always an array of things for our students to do, from theatre trips to walking tours and museum trips. At Twin HQ, some of our staff were lucky enough to attend a screening of Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

Located just a stone’s throw away from Victoria station, the Victoria palace was opened in 1911 and its exterior is the epitome of regal London. At twin, we are often able to secure tickets at a discounted rate for students and candidates on any course within Twin Group, meaning that they have the opportunity to experience theatre in London’s famous West End.

Billy Elliot is one of the most fun musicals currently being shown in the London at the moment, with some of the Staff at Twin HQ referring to it as ‘an absolute must-see’. Our very own Internet genius, David, shared some of his thoughts: “What a fantastic show with such a great cast, the young lad playing Billy (Euan Garrett) was outstanding and so very talented.  Ruthie Henshall, with her usual high standard of acting, was great in her role of Mrs. Wilkinson the dance teacher.

“The show was very funny in parts, especially the character of Grandma, and sad at times such as when Billy was talking to his mum. Overall, it was a very uplifting and inspiring performance.”

Visiting the theatre is just one of the many things that you are able to do when studying, working or travelling within London. For students currently at Twin, the school office can provide further details of all of the social activities that are available. For those of you thinking of studying, undertaking work experience or using any of Twin’s services, now is your chance to experience more of London. Have you already seen Billy Elliot? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter or Facebook

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Whimsical Winter Wonderland

By Jake Taylor; Last Thursday I was lucky enough to attend the press opening of Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. For anyone who doesn’t know what Winter Wonderland is, it is a fun fair/ theme park with Bavarian style food and drink. The attraction has a lot of things to do, such as, fun houses, slides, ice skating, a giant Ferris wheel, a magical ice kingdom and more!

Winter Wonderland is free to enter (a cheap day out, I know!) however you can pay for food, drink and attractions inside the venue. If you would like to ice skate around the Ski Zillertal ice rink, tickets starts from as little as £9.50 for students and you can book your slot in advance.

Having gone to Winter Wonderland in previous years, I recommend that you go in the evening when it is dark; that way, you can walk around when all the lights are on and it is a lot more Christmassy and prettier.

When you walk up to the entrance of Winter Wonderland you are greeted by an abundance of shops that sell Christmas themed gifts such as scented candles, woolly hats, stuffed animals and more. It is nice to browse the stores and see what they have to offer, you may see a lot of things you like for a decent price. All of the shops look like wood cabins so it keeps to the theme of winter and gives you that warm, cosy feeling.  

The food and drinks at Winter Wonderland are very good; there are many places to buy from, such as; The Famous Bavarian Village, Bar Ice, Mr Fogg’s Cocktail Bar and Grizzly Inn. When I was ready to eat I chose to go to The Famous Bavarian Village as there was the most choice there. My personal favourite is the Pork Roll because it is very tasty and you get a choice of more than just pork, you get the choice of having the traditional scratchings with it as well as apple sauce. Get both toppings! You won’t regret it because they are absolutely excellent. You can also buy tasty treats such as churros which are also very good.

What is a churro I hear you ask? Well, it is almost like a donut with sprinkled sugar and/or cinnamon on top, it’s all very good. With drinks you have a lot of choice, Bavarian style beers, different types of mulled wine, mulled cider, soft drinks and much more line the shelves of the various drink huts that are scattered around the park.

If you’re looking for a quirkier form of entertainment, all you need to do is hop into the fun house. The fun house is great for all of the family and gives everyone a smile on their face; it is well worth parting with the extra cash. If you’re not feeling the fun house then there is also a big Ferris wheel where you can chill and observe all of the scenery.

Overall, Winter Wonderland is well worth a visit and should definitely be kept in mind when choosing what to do in London.  Hyde Park is just a hop, skip and a jump away from our English Centre in Greenwich via the Jubilee Line (North Greenwich to Bond Street). Have you been to Winter Wonderland yet? Share your pictures and thoughts with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Trip review: London bike tour with Brakeaway Tours

One of the main benefits of our English Centre in Greenwich is the location; being just minutes from Central London means that our students are able to explore the capital city with ease. Some of our English students recently went on a bike trip around the city with Brakeaway Tours.

Student, Simon Freier, shared some of his experience with us. He said: "The bike trip started at the Waterloo station. Each of us was given a bike and then we started riding to several sights of London. We visited, for example, the tower bridge, the Piccadilly Circus and some interesting skyscrapers.

"The group consisted of ca. 10 people and a guide, who was very nice. The guide gave some information about the buildings which you might not hear in the everyday life of London. So if you want more information about London than you find in your guidebook and the weather is good, you could give this bike tour a try."

The bike tour is one of many trips that are available to Twin students and it is a great way to spend an afternoon, socializing with the many people of various nationalities that study at our centres and enjoying a break from classes. Simon concluded: "The tour lasts approximately 3 hours including half an hour break to eat something or to take a coffee."

As well as the range English Courses that we have at our English Centre in London, Twin also offer a range of trips and tours to our students at a discounted rate with the bike tour being one of many opportunities that we can provide. This not only gives students the chance to see all of the sights and attractions of London and to explore the capital city, it allows our students to truly experience life in the UK and to practice their English skills in social situations. To study at one of Twin’s English Centres, please visit our homepage for further information.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twin's top 10 weird and wonderful Oxford English Dictionary entries

By Beth Hepple; News broke today that an emoji was crowned ‘word of the year 2015’ by the Oxford Dictionary. Unfortunately, this is not something that we can say we agree with and there is uproar online with Twitter and Facebook users letting their opinions be heard. This isn’t the first time the dictionary gods have had us all discussing the ins and outs of the English Language though. Remember that time they added the word ‘chav’ and there was a national uproar in the UK? Even last year, the word of the year was ‘vape’ to coincide with the popularity of E-Cigarettes and who could forget 2013’s entry? Yes, that’s right, ‘selfie’ was the word we were all saying back in 2013 and this is one that has stuck around, with many Instagram feeds clogged with make-up selfies, funny selfies, dog selfies and such like.

One thing can be said for those guys over at the Oxford Dictionary, they like to get us talking about language. We took a look at some of the entries in the weird and wonderful section of their website and, for your amusement; we bring to you, our top 10 entries and their meanings.

10.Skycap – A porter at an airport.
9. Noctambulist – A sleepwalker.

8. Netizen - A habitual or keen user of the Internet.
7. Floccinaucinihilipilification - The action or habit of estimating something as worthless (a word generally only quoted as a curiosity)
6. Hoddy-noddy – A foolish person.
5. Absquatulate - To leave somewhere abruptly.
4. Cybersquatting - The practice of registering well-known names as Internet domain names, in the hope of reselling them at a profit.

3. Blatherskite - A person who talks at great length without making much sense.
2. Puddle jumper – A small, light aircraft which is fast and highly manoeuvrable and used for short trips.
1. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis - An invented term said to mean ‘a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust’, but rarely used except for its curiosity value.

We have to say, we can’t think of many times that these would be dropped into conversation. It would be much easier to call a sleepwalker, well, just that. Who’s ever heard of a Noctambulist anyway?

Have you used any of the words on our list? Or do you have a favourite word of your own that you would like to share? We would love to hear your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trip Review: Twin English Centres Visits Stonehenge and Bath

Thinking of going on a trip with our English Centres team? London English student Dagmar Vykoukalova went on our Stonehenge and Bath trip with Anderson Tours, and after having such a good time, shares her day with us!


Saturday 18th September 2015

Both places were wonderful, although it’s not possible to come closer to the stones in Stonehenge, (but I do appreciate why that is). I enjoyed both places a lot – Bath is a beautiful city with many attractions.

We had an excellent guide – Stacey. She knew a lot about the places where we went to, and she also gave a lot of information about the places we passed, (our meeting point was at London Bridge, so we also had a “guided ride” through London, whilst picking up the other tourists from different places). Our guide Stacey was witty and funny, with a great sense of humour. The bus driver was really skilled.

I would recommend the trip because both Stonehenge and Bath are nice and interesting places to visit. Plus, if you have such a wonderful guide, good bus driver and you are lucky with the weather like we were, you will be satisfied.

By Dagmar Vykoukalova

Check out Dagmar's photos from the trip below:
The captivating stones at Stonehenge

Break for scones and tea

Beautiful Bath

Do you like the sound of this awesome trip? Then get in contact with our English team or message us on Facebook or Twitter to arrange your excursion to Stonehenge and Bath!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Funny English Idioms and their Meanings

[id-ee-uh m]
: An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own.

We love English idioms – if you look carefully at their literal meanings you will realise that most of them are very silly and some are even downright hilarious. If you’re currently learning English and have never been introduced to the wonderful world of idioms, then check out our list of our favourite funny English idioms – and try to see if you can use them when you speak English!

As cool as a cucumber
One of the funniest idioms (in our opinion anyway) – as cool as a cucumber is used to describe someone who is calm, composed and untroubled by stress. This idiom dates back to the 1730s, and we think it may be based on the fact that in hot weather the inside of a cucumber vegetable remains cooler than the air.

Example: “Despite the stressful day, Harry remained as cool as a cucumber.”

A piece of cake
Not just used to describe a tasty plate of spongey-goodness – a piece of cake is used to describe something which is really easy to do. Apparently this idiom originates from the Royal Air Force in the late 1930s, who used it to describe an easy mission. We can’t tell what this idiom is based on exactly, but we do know we could easily tuck into a piece of cake RIGHT NOW.

Example: “Charlotte didn’t take long to complete her homework – it was a piece of cake.”

Cat got your tongue

It would hurt SO MUCH if a cat actually bit your tongue that you wouldn’t be able to talk – and this idiom is directed at someone who isn't speaking. It is used to describe someone who is silent and is usually directed at someone who was quiet when they were expected to speak, as if to say “have you got nothing to say?” There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that this idiom originated from a cat actually biting off someone’s tongue, so we can presume that, like children’s nursery rhymes, this idiom may be a nonsensical invention.

Example: “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?”

Put a sock in it!
Don’t worry no one will actually be putting any socks anywhere – put a sock in it is an impolite way of telling someone to shut up and be quiet. The direct meaning of this idiom is unclear - it’s not really known why a sock is being used to keep someone quiet and what “it” refers to (we presume the mouth or whatever is causing the noise!), however we do know that this expression began to pop up as early as the 20th century and is now a commonly used idiom.

Example: “Put a sock in it Dad – I’m on the phone!”

When pigs fly

Have you ever seen a pig fly? Do pigs have wings? Obviously not, it is impossible for pigs to fly – which is precisely what this idiom means. It is used to describe something which will never happen. People often use it as a sarcastic reply to someone asking them to do something, indicating that they will never do this thing.

Example: “Yeah well, Ryan Reynolds will ask you on a date when pigs fly!”

Hold your horses
Don’t worry, you won’t actually have to hold any horses, this idiom is used to tell someone that they are doing something too fast and they need to stop and consider their actions, decision or opinion on something. This idiom is directly linked to our four-legged friends, and is based on the times when people used horse-drawn carriages and needed to keep the horses under control, they would literally hold them back from running.

Example: “Just hold your horses! Let’s think about this for a moment.”

Kick the bucket

Though this idiom sounds funny, this one actually has a sad meaning. Kick the bucket is an informal or slang term meaning to die. The original reference for this is still unclear as kicking a bucket isn’t associated with dying, however one theory is that in the 16th century the wooden frame used to hold up animals for slaughter was called a bucket, and as they would struggle before death, hence kick the bucket was born.

“The old horse kicked the bucket today – poor thing.”

Bob’s your uncle
This quirky idiom originating from Britain roughly means “it’s as easy as that”, and is often used immediately after simple instructions to indicate that the process or action is very simple. Dating back to 1887, this phase comes from when the British Prime Minister at the time, Robert Cecil (Lord Sailsbury) appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour to the prestigious post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. The phrase was coined when Arthur referred to the Prime Minister as “uncle Bob” – clearly it was very easy to gain a successful position if Bob’s your uncle!

Example: “You want to reach the town centre? Go straight on till you reach the church, take the first right and Bob’s your uncle – you’re there!”

Head in the clouds

This idiom is for the daydreamers – to have your head in the clouds is to be out of touch with the everyday world and to be living in a fantasy land, making you naive and unrealistic. Though it sounds nice to be living in your own world, this idiom is not used as a compliment and the speaker is usually trying to get the listener to consider the facts or reality of the situation.

“Marnie thinks we could drive to Scotland in just two hours – she has her head in the clouds if she thinks it’ll be that quick!”

The lights are on but nobody’s home
Similar in meaning to “head in the clouds”, the lights are on but nobody’s home is a light-hearted way of suggesting that a person lacks awareness or intelligence, and is also used when someone does not react to your question because they are distracted by something else. We believe it is based on if you go to a house and the lights are on you presume someone’s at home – so in the case of a person they appear to be “there” but they are not, they are distracted or are stupid.

“Where do you want to go for lunch Sam?”
*no reply*
“Sam?!! The lights are on but nobody’s home!!”

These are just 10 of our favourite idioms – have you heard of any others? Start a discussion with us in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter!

Written by Alissa Johnson