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“I got it on a whim one day a few years ago.”

“I got it on a whim one day a few years ago.”

English Lesson: I got it on a whim one day a few years ago.

You have a tattoo on your arm. You didn’t think very carefully about it when you got it. You’re on a date, and your date asks about your tattoo.

I got it on a whim one day a few years ago.

a few (of something)


“A few” is a number that’s not specific, but it usually means somewhere between 3-10. It’s a little less formal than “several” and also sounds like a slightly lower number. Here are some examples:

You may want to consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions.

That’s a very generous offer. Um, let me think it over for a few days and get back to you.


get a tattoo


A “tattoo” is a drawing that’s permanently drawn on your skin with a needle.

Use the word “get” with “tattoo”. “Getting a tattoo” means that you pay someone (or ask a friend) to tattoo you.


(do something) on a whim


When you have a small, temporary feeling of wanting to do something, it’s called a “whim”.

Doing something “on a whim” means doing it wihout planning it carefully or thinking about it seriously. You do it just for fun.

“On a whim” is a neutral phrase: not positive or negative, and neither very formal nor very casual.


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Halloween – Here’s the trick to getting your treat

Here’s the trick to getting your treat

By Amelia Wade

5:30 AM Wednesday Oct 31, 2012

These trick-or-treaters in Parnell certainly deliver on the first rule in Halloween etiquette - good costumes. Picture / Sarah Ivey

These trick-or-treaters in Parnell certainly deliver on the first rule in Halloween etiquette – good costumes. Picture / Sarah Ivey

New Zealand trick-or-treaters lack manners and need to learn the proper etiquette to the Halloween tradition, says an expat American.

Sherry Wagner said October 31 was the one night of the year where she could “become anyone I wished” while growing up in the United States.

“It was all of the creative energy that people put into the night that inspired me … and it was also really fun to see kids and families actually walking around.”

The Lynfield College teacher said wandering American suburbs on Halloween night was comparable to walking up Franklin Rd, Ponsonby, at Christmas to admire all the lights.

But when she moved here eight years ago, she was a bit baffled by the “Kiwi misunderstanding” of one of America’s favourite traditions.

“The combination of dress-ups, lollies and parties appears to be something you’d enjoy. I didn’t really get it. But it’s the sending of children door-to-door, begging for candy that seems to get up people’s craw. Door-to-door salespeople and telemarketers seem to get a better reception than a sweet little fairy toting a plastic pumpkin.”

Ms Wagner offered advice for those planning to head out tonight.

“The whole interaction should be positive, brief and well mannered.

“Firstly, they need to understand that if they can’t be bothered to dress up in a decent costume, they have no business trick or treating.

“And even the most enthusiastic holiday supporter should tell them, ‘no costume, no candy’.

“Secondly, they need to mind their manners.

“After they are greeted at the door, they must say ‘trick or treat’ – it’s the “please” part of the transaction. I realise that it is an imperative, or command, but it should not be used in a commanding manner.”

Instead, Ms Wagner said the phrase should be said in a sweet way, as if you were saying, “please”.

A “thank you” is also a must – those who give away lollies should be praised for their generosity.

Six rules for Halloween

1. Halloween happens only on October 31. Demanding offerings on other days is like asking for presents on December 13.

2. Halloween is for small children. Older children sometimes engage in rowdier pursuits which isn’t the point of the tradition.

3. Costumes are mandatory.

4. Houses signal they are participating with a jack-o-lantern on the porch or in the window.

5. “Trick or treat” translates as “I’d like some sweets, please” – it’s not a free for all.

6. When you say “trick or treat”, nice people give you a bitesize piece of chocolate they have ready and compliment you on your costume. No cash changes hands.

Based on a list by the Guardian.

By Amelia Wade EmailAmelia



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Integrating the 16 Habits of Mind

Integrating The 16 Habits Of Mind

October 31 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News



Integrating The 16 Habits Of Mind

1. Persist

Keep going. Don’t give up. Ask for help when you need it.

2. Don’t be impulsive

Be patient in the classroom.

3. Listening to Others

Listen well. Don’t look for other people’s mistakes so quickly.

4. Think Flexibly

Consider other ideas.

5. Think About Thinking

Why do you think like you do?

6. Be Accurate

Say your ideas as clearly as possible.

7. Ask Questions

Ask questions, and say “I don’t know” when necessary.  That’s a great way to learn.

8. Use Your Past Knowledge

Use what you have learned already when thinking about new problems or questions.

9. Think and Communicate with Clarity

Try not to use words like always, never, or everybody. Be as clear as possible.

10. Learn Through All of the Senses

We learn with all of our senses. Including our sixth sense.

11. Create, Imagine and Innovate

Try not to repeat what has been done already. What changes can you make? What new ideas do you have?

12. Live in Wonder and Awe

Live with passion, Learn with excitement.

13. Take Good Risks

Failure. It is one of the best teachers.

14. Finding Humor

Humor makes everything seem easier and more enjoyable.

15. Think Interdependently

Shared knowledge helps the people around you, including you.

16. Learn Continuously

Learning. It is part of life. Embrace it everyday.


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ELTS preparation tips that helped Bahar get Band 8.5 (Speaking)

ELTS preparation tips that helped Bahar get Band 8.5 (Speaking)

October 30 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News



IELTS preparation tips that helped Bahar get Band 8.5 (Speaking)





Bahar Ranjbaran is a 17-year old Iranian lady who took the IELTS exam for the first time in her life, and … surprise, surprise – received Band 8.5 for her great performance. She won our IELTS results competition, and generously shared these useful tips that can help you, too, replicate her success. Here’s what Bahar suggests:

Make a good first impression.Band 8 in IELTS
First and foremost, make a good first impression. If you prove to the examiner in the early parts of the interview that you possess an incredible English speaking ability, your score will definitely increase as the examiner will develop a good mental image of your skills in the very beginning and will continue to believe you to be a skillful candidate even if you make mistakes or are not as good in the next sections of the test.

Shape up your accent.
That and also your pronunciation count a lot. They have a huge impact on the way you communicate with the examiner as he/she will automatically assume your grammar to be perfect as well.

Maintain eye contact.
Even in a simple everyday conversation, making eye contact plays a great role in enhancing the quality of the conversation as well as boosting your confidence and encouraging you to speak better. Therefore, keep your eyes away from the recorder and the stopwatch as they not only distract you and make you lose your train of thought, but also make you more nervous and agitated, thus bringing down your band score.

Study different topics that are likely to come up in the interview.
There is definitely no need to study any field in great detail; the purpose is to just acquire a brief amount of knowledge about each topic to be ready in case the examiner asks questions relating to any of them.

Preparation is the key. 
Your time is quite precious, but so is the need to prepare. Spend at least 20 minutes a day, if not more, reciting mock interviews with preferably real past exam questions containing a variety of topics. However, it is quite important for you to talk out loud and not just in your head. Your tone of speech, vocal cohesion and the way you express your ideas all fail to be developed or even detected if you only think about your answers and not speak loudly and normally as you need in the actual interview. It is wise to practice with a speaking partner as you both can take turns and interview each other. However, for some—including myself—it is more efficient to talk to oneself rather than being interviewed by friends or family members, since you have more confidence and are able to speak better and more easily. So it basically depends on your personal preference.

Talk to the mirror. 
As ridiculous as this may sound, my experience has never failed to prove that this method of preparation produces significant results. Indeed, no matter what type of interviews I have had, practicing this way always gave and still gives me confidence and is very reassuring for me. I’m certain it will be so for you as well.

Be at ease.
Smile and act friendly. Your confidence does not possess a criterion of its own in your band score; it has no direct influence on the way you’re marked, but it strongly influences the examiner’s impression of you. It is natural to assume from a candidate’s self-assurance and esteem that they have good skills as well.

Eat something sweet before the interview.
Eat a bar of chocolate, before you begin your interview. By doing so, your brain activity enhances and you have a higher chance of receiving a higher mark.


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Business English: Money Vocabulary

Business English: Money Vocabulary

October 30 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News





Money is not the most important thing in life, some people may affirm, but how necessary it is! Some things money cannot buy, but it produces, manages, distributes, trades, puts on display, brags, gives importance and meaning. Money cannot buy happiness, but somehow it helps!

Money Vocabulary

Bank charge – money that a customer pays to a bank for its services.
Bank statement – a document that keeps record of the money put into and taken out of a bank account.
Broke – without money. “I can’t afford to go out tonight. I’m broke.”
Cheque – a printed form, used instead of money, to make payments from your bank account.
Currency –  the money that is used in a particular country.
Debt – money which is owed to someone else.
Draft – a written order for money to be paid by a bank, especially to another bank.
Exchange – to give something to someone and receiving something in return. “The skirt I bought was too small so I exchanged it for a bigger one.”
Funds – an amount of money that has been saved or has been made available for a particular purpose. “The company does not have the funds to buy new equipment.”
Haggle – to argue with somebody in order to reach an agreement about the price of something.
Inherit – to receive money from somebody when they die.
Interest rate – the per cent of an amount of money which is charged or paid by a bank or other financial company.
Invest – to put money into something to make a profit.
Loan – a sum of money which is borrowed, often from a bank, and has to be paid back.
Rate – an amount or level of payment.
Save – to prevent money being wasted or spent.
Transfers – when money moves from one place to another e.g. from one bank account to another.
Withdraw – to take out or remove money from the bank.

Fill the gaps while you learn vocabulary related with money:

  • 1. When I need money I ___ some from a cash machine.
  • 2. They ___ ten per cent of their wages every month to go on holiday.
  • 3. The banks give ___ to people or companies to help them with their projects.
  • 4. The ___ is a price that people or companies pay in order to use the money for a certain period of time.
    Interest rate
    Bank charges
    Bank statement 
  • 5. The dollar is the most important ___ in the foreign exchange market.
  • 6. The movements of money between banks are called ___.
  • 7. When people decide to start a business they need to ___ money, looking for profitable returns.
  • 8. When I want to buy something I always ___in order to get a lower price.




“Their natural habitat is being destroyed, little by little.”

“Their natural habitat is being destroyed, little by little.”

English Lesson: Their natural habitat is being destroyed, little by little.

You’re taking a tour of a zoo. You’re visiting the gorillas. The tour guide talks about why the number of gorillas in the world is decreasing.

Their natural habitat is being destroyed, little by little.

(do something) little by little


Use the phrase “little by little” to describe something that happens slowly. Another way to say this is “gradually”, but “gradually” is more formal. “Little by little” can be used for both positive and negative things:

We’re starting to get the hang of it little by little.

She’s losing her memory little by little. Soon we’re going to have to move her into a nursing home.

There are actually a lot of phrases like this that express doing something slowly and steadily. Here are a few:

bit by bit

inch by inch

day by day

one by one


(an animal’s) natural habitat is being destroyed


An animal species’ “natural habitat” is the area and environment that the animal usually lives in. For example, some animals live in rainforests, others live in grassy plains, others live in deep ocean waters, and so on.

These days, a lot of animal species are in danger because humans are destroying the animals’ natural habitats. This happens when people build homes and farms, release pollution, and so on.


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