Thank you to everyone who’s subscribed to my blog recently, and sorry that my posts have been a bit thin on the ground. I’ve just started a new job and moved into a new flat, so am waiting for an Internet connection at home. Next week I’ll be on holiday, so there’ll probably be no contact from me at all, but hopefully normal service will be resumed on or around 5th August when I get the net at home.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of July, and I sincerely hope that your weather is better than what we’ve had in Newcastle recently!


My new blog: PLN Fun Finder

I regularly read tweets from our PLN about good books, travel ideas, recipes, fun songs and lots more. Because three blogs just ain’t enough, I decide it would be fun to try and crowdsource a set of ideas for us to relax with, in the process of which you might learn something too!

I kicked it off this evening with the first post, ‘Take a Photo‘, plus an ‘About‘ page. The idea is that the blog is curated by me, but written by many teachers, inspired by Barbara Sakamoto’s excellent Teaching Village. I’m looking for posts about anything and everything, from language to sport, from good books to the best places to visit on holiday, from a good video game to a tasty recipe. The only prerequisite is that it’s fun and relaxing.

Looking forward to seeing what you have to offer!

Brno and the Czech Republic

From 2008 to 2011 I spent three brilliant years living and working in Brno in the Czech Republic. It’s difficult to put into words everything I love about the town and the country, so I decided to make a video instead. It’s about 20 minutes and shows my pictures and videos from the time I was there. I also tried to include as many people as possible. I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to visit this fascinating, little-known city in the east of the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic: A Love Story from Sandy Millin on Vimeo.


Introducing British (and Irish) accents

On my first teaching day at IH Newcastle, at least three different students said this to me:

My friend told me that if I can understand Geordie, I will be able to understand any English.

While I don’t know if this is necessarily true, it started an interesting discussion about accents, and the students observed that my accent was not a local one* (many of them are staying with host families). I decided to put together a set of materials to raise their awareness of the variety of accents in the UK. While it’s not comprehensive, it should provide a jumping off point for students to find out more.

In Class

  • Discuss the questions in small groups. (Almost all of my students wanted to speak English without other people knowing where they were from, prompting a quick side discussion on accent and identity)
  • Place the towns and cities on the map (sorry, no answer key, but Google will tell you if you don’t already know) 😉
  • Look at the paragraphs written in different accents/dialects. Compare them to the Standard English and find one feature of pronunciation plus one words which is particular to that accent (this was meant as a way to play with the accents, and show how different they can be.)
  • Watch and listen to the videos/sound clips (posted below, with links in the document too) and grade them according to the criteria in the table.
  • Mingle and compare your opinions to those of other students in the group.
  • For the final reading, divide the class in half. Half read the first two articles, the other half read the last article. The question is ‘How are these findings similar/different to your own opinions?’

The Videos

These were the best examples I could find, but feel free to add other suggestions to the comments.

Geordie: Gary Hogg – Funny Geordie Monologue

Brummie / Black Country: Allan Ahlberg – Talk Us Through It, Charlotte
External Link: http://www.poetryarchive.org/childrensarchive/ singlePoem.do?poemId=86

West Country: The Wurzels – I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester

Scouse: Craig Charles interview

Tom Stalker is a boxer from Liverpool. In this link you can hear him talking about his preparations for London 2012.

Glaswegian: Regional Dialects Meme – Glasgow

Cockney: Michael Caine (being interviewed by Michael Parkinson)

Yorkshire: Michael Parkinson (interviewing Michael Caine)

Scottish (non-Glasgow): Scottish Voice-Operated Lift

Welsh: Tom Jones

Irish: Dara O’Briain – Controlling Children


The students went to the excellent British Library Sounds Familiar map, chose a person to listen to and made notes about their accent or dialect to discuss in class the following day.


Other links I shared on Edmodo were:

I used these materials with an Advanced group, but I think they should be OK for Upper Intermediate upwards, and you could even adapt them for Intermediate.


*In case you’re interested, I grew up in Wolverhampton, but don’t have a Black Country accent. My family are from all over England, including Gloucester, Essex and the Wirral (near Liverpool). On my gap year I started to lose features of my Black Country accent, and this was consolidated when I went to Durham University. The last step was teaching in Paraguay, where I was teased (lightly!) for my pronunciation of words like ‘bus’ and ‘much’ – the only conscious change I’ve ever made to my accent. Now the Black Country features come and go. You can hear me talk here 😉