The First Christmas


It never snows at Christmas in that dry and dusty land.

Instead of freezing blizzards, there are palms and drifting sands,

And years ago a stable and a most unusual star

And three wise men who followed it, by camel, not by car,

While, sleepy on the quiet hills, a shepherd gave a cry.

He’d seen a crowd of angels in the silent starlit sky.

In the stable, ox and ass stood very still and calm

And gazed upon the baby, safe and snug in Mary’s arms.

And Joseph, lost in shadows, face lit by an oil lamp’s glow

Stood wondering, that first Christmas Day, two thousand years ago

By Marian Swinger

Merry Christmas to you !! 🎄🎅🏼

Learning tip: Read and relax!

If you have some free time over the holidays, reading stories is an excellent way to practice and improve your English. Stories aren’t just fun to read. They also contain a wide range of language, including words, structures, styles and meanings that you may not find in other reading texts.

Bellow you can find links with some stories that were written especially for learners at different levels. Here’s some advice:

  • Don’t choose a story that is too difficult. If it’s difficult, you’ll feel confused.
  • Don’t check the dictionary a lot. It slows down your reading and makes it hard to enjoy.
  • Choose a story with some words that are new for you but whose words you mostly understand. That will allow you to enjoy the story more and also improve your reading speed.

Enjoy your reading time!

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/story-zone/a2-b1-

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/story-zone/b2-c1-stories

Source: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/story-zone?utm_campaign=english-all-learnenglish-global-newsletters&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=66874876&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8ej0mVCw1DFzWnvq2a0ANLaTk6fQ8kjssH8b1ykyQyCn_WtiB5ReX5kAZD0HqvK5cnesSaXjKkckCtwKEpikT7nno5hQ&utm_content=66874876&utm_source=hs_email

Halloween Tradition

October 31 is Halloween and is now celebrated in many countries around the world, but do you know anything about the origins of this scary special day? Read the article and find out.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.

The origins of Halloween

If you think of Halloween, you probably think of scary carved pumpkins, all kinds of fancy dress and children asking for sweets. And if you think of a country that celebrates Halloween, you probably think of the United States first. Americans and Canadians have adopted Halloween in a big way, but Halloween traditions actually come from 16th-century Ireland, Scotland and England.

The tradition of Halloween on 31 October comes from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain was the Celtic New Year and they celebrated it on 1 November because that was the end of summer and harvest time (life) and the beginning of winter (death). It was also the time for ghosts to return to earth for a day. People lit a big fire, wore special clothes made of animal skin and hoped to be safe from the ghosts and the winter. In AD 609, the Catholic Church put the Christian celebration of All Saints Day on 1 November. In AD 1000, the church added All Souls Day on 2 November, and All Hallows Eve – or Halloween – moved to the night of the 31st.

Pumpkins

The Celts carved faces into vegetables like turnips, potatoes and squash (a pumpkin is a kind of squash) to scare the ghosts and other spirits and make them go away. It was sometimes called a jack-o’-lantern because of an Irish story about a man, Jack. He played a trick on the devil and then had to walk the earth for all time as a punishment. Irish people who came to live in the United States in the 1800s found pumpkins much easier to carve, and the tradition became the one we see today.   

Fancy dress

The Celts were afraid of the ghosts that came on Samhain. If they went outside after dark, they covered their faces with masks. They hoped any ghosts they met would think they were ghosts too and would leave them alone. In early America, the Native Americans and the first Europeans celebrated the end of the harvest, but not Halloween. When Irish people arrived, the harvest festival started to look more like Halloween and it became popular across the country. In the late 19th century, people tried to make Halloween less about ghosts and religion and more about celebrating the season with a party for neighbours and family. That’s why Americans today wear all kinds of Halloween costumes and not just scary things like witches and ghosts like in other countries.

Trick or treat

This is another tradition that began in Europe, this time in England. When the church introduced All Souls Day, rich people gave poor people ‘soul cakes’, a small cake made with spices and raisins. It replaced the Celtic tradition of leaving food outside houses for the ghosts. ‘Going a-souling’ was popular in England for hundreds of years until about the 1930s. The Americans kept the tradition, but today children knock on people’s doors and ask for sweets. Going trick or treating is so popular that a quarter of the sweets for the year in the United States are sold for this one day.

The rest of the world

Halloween has become the United States’ second-biggest commercial festival after Christmas. Halloween is also celebrated in other countries, but it’s not as big as in the United States, even in the countries where the traditions began. Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead from 31 October to 2 November and some of its traditions, like giving gifts of sugar skulls, are starting to mix with Halloween. In this way, the celebration of Halloween continues to change as new traditions join the oldest of the Celtic ones.

Source: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/magazine-zone/halloween?utm_campaign=English%20-%20All%20-%20Learn%20English%20-%20Global%20-%20Newsletter&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=65028413&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_1pI0V4YEwbZiG_SjXU9O3K3V7pGUKVr6_gN2xOx-iZ7YHWdzZtU_fbDzslzNBVvU1rHv1zEqXPZuyrRYCrCu4NG6NJw&utm_content=65028413&utm_source=hs_email

Common beliefs about dyslexia

Dyslexia is primarily a language-based reading disability, not a visual-based disability.

Research has shown that people with dyslexia are more likely to have children with dyslexia. A child with one parent with dyslexia is about 40% to 60% likely to have dyslexia themselves.

In dyslexia identification there are clear and well-defined cut-off points. An individual either has dyslexia or not.

Because the core difficulties associated with dyslexia are related to how the individual sounds of language are processed in the brain, and not visual perception, coloured overlays do not improve reading accuracy or comprehension for dyslexic students. Research evidence shows no significant benefit in terms of objectively measurable reading gains when using colored overlays despite the fact that many dyslexic students report that they find them useful.

People with dyslexia have difficulties with processing and manipulating the smallest sounds of language, called phonemes. Research shows that, in students with dyslexia, the part of the brain that processes those sounds and connects those sounds to letters is under-activated as compared with typically developing readers. People with dyslexia also perform more poorly on tasks that require analyzing, synthesizing, and manipulating phonemes.

There is no scientific evidence that seeing letters and words backwards is a characteristic of dyslexia.

There is a significant and pronounced difference between males and females when it comes to ‘identified’ dyslexia and reading difficulties. There are a number of reasons for this, one of them is that females and males use different behavioural and emotional compensation techniques and react differently when faced with these challenges. Therefore boys are more easily identified as dyslexic in school settings. When researchers identify dyslexia in the general population, there is less pronounced difference between males and females in the prevalence of dyslexia. Researchers examined gender differences based on the variation in reading abilities among males and females. They found that males show more variability and depending on the cut-off point for identifying dyslexia, indeed there might be more male than female dyslexics (Hawke, J. L., Olson, R. K., Willcut, E. G., Wadsworth, S. J., & DeFries, J. C. (2009). Gender ratios for reading difficulties. Dyslexia, 15(3), 239-242.)

This statement might be true although research evidence is often contradictory on this question.

Research suggests that there are significantly more dyslexic individuals among art students than non-dyslexic ones (Wolff, U., & Lundberg, I. (2002). The prevalence of dyslexia among art students. Dyslexia, 8(1), 34-42). There is also neuroimaging evidence that shows that lower reading skill is associated with a visuospatial processing advantage (Diehl, J. J., Frost, S. J., Sherman, G., Mencl, W. E., Kurian, A., Molfese, P., … & Pugh, K. R. (2014). Neural correlates of language and non-language visuospatial processing in adolescents with reading disability. NeuroImage, 101, 653-666). However, some studies have found that the visuospatial superiority is more apparent in dyslexic men than women (Brunswick, N., Martin, G. N., & Marzano, L. (2010). Visuospatial superiority in developmental dyslexia: Myth or reality?. Learning and Individual Differences, 20(5), 421-426.)

Because dyslexia is caused by difficulties with processing individual sounds of language in the brain, researchers know that effective instruction includes explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness (practice manipulating the individual sounds in our language) and phonics (practice connecting those individual sounds, or phonemes, to letters). There are no scientifically proven benefits of eye-tracking exercises.

Source: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/dyslexia/8/steps/1399907

The origins of English

The story of the English language began in the fifth century when Germanic tribes invaded Celtic-speaking Britain and brought their languages with them. Later, Scandinavian Vikings invaded and settled with their languages too. In 1066 William I, from modern-day France, became king, and Norman-French became the language of the courts and official activity. People couldn’t understand each other at first, because the lower classes continued to use English while the upper classes spoke French, but gradually French began to influence English. An estimated 45 per cent of all English words have a French origin. By Shakespeare’s time, Modern English had developed, printing had been invented and people had to start to agree on ‘correct’ spelling and vocabulary.

Source: http://www.un.org/en/events/englishlanguageday/

Task 1: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/magazine-zone/english-language-day?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=english-adults-leweb-global-global-2022-04-le-newsletter#

Task 2 : https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/general-english/magazine-zone/english-language-day?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=english-adults-leweb-global-global-2022-04-le-newsletter#