バックナンバー of the SQ1 Reader – Issue #3

From the Library

Great Crimes, by John Escott, immediately caught my eye when I was searching through the library.

The reason it got my attention is that it contains 11 famous crime stories that I only half knew.

Bonnie and Clyde? I knew they were American outlaws. They appear in pop culture all over the place. They are part of American-English language. If you say, “they are like Bonnie and Clyde!” I immediately think, “Oh ok, outlaw couple”. But did I know their story? Not really…

Charles Ponzi? Sure, that’s the most famous example of a Ponzi scheme. I mean, it’s named after him! I know what that is. But, what did hedo exactly? Ummm… let me ask google.

The Great Train Robbery? Sure, sure, I know that story… they robbed a train and… ok, that’s about all I know.

It’s a level 4 book from Oxford with 15,000 words at the B1/B2 level. It should take you around 2 hours to read, but you can split that up very easily as the book has 11 different crime stories. Pick it up, put it down, take your time.

SQ1 Original Content – Am I a Smartphone Addict? (CEFR B1 Level)

Everyone is a little bit addicted to their smartphones, right?

It’s so easy to get hooked. To be dependent on the little computer in your hand, to be obsessed with checking your email, your Instagram, or whatever your digital drug of choice is.

Curious about this topic, I asked my new students this week, is this sentence true for you, “I am addicted to my smartphone.”

Most students wrote that it was about 70% true for them. They told me they sometimes spent more than 8 hours on their phones.

It sounds shocking, right? But if we unpack it a little, it isn’t quite so scary.

Their smartphones are their primary source of visual entertainment. They are a replacement for movie theatres and televisions. Indeed, many students told me they don’t even watch TV, they only watch Youtube on their phones.

It’s also how they listen to music, it’s how they play video games, and of course it’s how they take those endless selfies.

But it’s also how they do research for homework, and it’s how they contact their friends, their family, and even their teachers. It’s their one screen for absolutely everything.

My smartphone usage isn’t like that. I don’t watch Youtube much, but I do watch my TV.

When I work from home, I avoid my smartphone, but I dowork at my desktop.

When I read a book, I try to read a paperback, but more often than not I doread books on my kindle.

So, am I any less of a smartphone addict than my students?

Of course I am! I’m not a smartphone junkie… but only because I can afford to buy more screens than them.

Study Tips – Google Books Ngram Viewer

In my work as a proofreader for education publishers I am often asked to decide whether a phrase is natural sounding. Would a native speaker of English really say or write this?

The problem is, something that sounds natural to one person, doesn’t always sound natural to another person.

So in order to double-check my own judgements about language I often use Google Books Ngram Viewer. Essentially, what Google Books Ngram Viewer does is scan its database to see how popular or common a word or phrase is over time.

In the example below you can see that Sherlock Holmes suddenly became more popular around 2010. The Benedict Cumberbatch effect, perhaps?

This is also a really good way to check whether a specific phrase is more common than another.

For example, which is better to use, surf the web or use the internet?

An easy win for use the internet. Retirement for you surf the web.

So if you are worried that your dictionary’s suggestion might be too old fashioned, please give Google Books Ngram Viewer a try! 

Or just use it to see who gets more book mentions, Superman or Spiderman.

Thanks for taking the time to read Issue #3 of The Square One Reader.

If you enjoyed the newsletter, please recommend and share The Square One Reader with friends, family, and colleagues!


バックナンバー of the SQ1 Reader – Issue #2

From the Library

The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Stories is a wonderful first step into reading gothic literature. Retold by Adrian Kelly, these tales are still as spooky as Poe intended.

Illustrations also help the reader to get a better picture of some of the scenes described.

It’s a level 3 book from Pearson written at the A2 CEFR level, that means it is suitable for beginners and lower intermediate students.

It’s 11000+ word count sounds like a lot, but it would only take a student an hour or so to read. As it is actually 5 short stories it’s a nice choice for reading just 1 story a day.

SQ1 Original Content – Losing your Cool (CEFR B1/B2 Level)

Losing your cool is an English idiom. It means that you fail to stay calm and controlled. It means you got angry. It means you lost your temper. It means you snapped.

Will Smith lost his cool at the Oscars when he slapped comedian Chris Rock in the face live on international television.

It was a huge shock to everyone involved. The audience were not sure whether it was real or not. They probably assumed it was a bit, a comedy routine, that was part of the show. When Smith continued to shout after returning to his seat it was clear this was no performance. This was real life.

In real life, if you slapped a comedian on stage you would be thrown out of the venue and most likely arrested. Indeed, you probably wouldn’t be able to reach the stage before a security guard tackled you. In Hollywood the rules are different for A-List celebrities. What security guard would want to tackle Will Smith?

An hour or so later, after refusing to leave the venue voluntarily, Smith won an Oscar for his performance in the movie King Richard. The crowd even applauded his acceptance speech. It was a truly bizarre moment.

A man violently assaulted another person because of a joke. He then received a prize. It was a deeply embarrassing night for most of Hollywood, but it was a shameful night for Will Smith.

Study Tips – Mini-Dictionaries

Sometimes dictionaries are not very helpful. They give you a long list of words and you don’t know which one is the best fit. When you are a language learner it’s really tough to pick the right word for the right place and the right time.

Topic dictionaries can help you. A topic dictionary is a mini-dictionary. It collects the most common words you might need and arranges them by theme or topic.

They also tell you what level the word is. If it’s an A1 word you definitely need to know that as soon as possible. If it’s a C2 word you can avoid studying that until later if you want.

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website has a collection of topic dictionaries you can use for free. Please give them a try!

Visit the topic dictionaries page by clicking here.

Thanks for taking the time to read Issue #2 of The Square One Reader.

If you enjoyed the newsletter, please recommend and share The Square One Reader with friends, family, and colleagues!

See you next Monday!

Matt Keighley

Representative Partner @ Square One Japan Ltd.