Red Balloons, London T-Shirts and Open Doors: The Experiences of an Oral Examiner

“Look at the following pictures. I would like you to describe them for me please,” I asked as I handed the candidate the photos. As he spoke, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would have said if our positions were reversed. Some pictures are so vague, I actually feel sorry for the test takers. How long and to what extent can you describe a red balloon? The student had already started trembling as I urged him to continue with his description, so as to meet the time restrictions imposed by the university. To his merit, he did quite well as he expanded the description to how the image made him feel.

By Katherine Reilly, Author, Teacher Trainer

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How to Use a Semicolon

It may seem like the semicolon is struggling with an identity crisis. It looks like a comma crossed with a period. Maybe that’s why we toss these punctuation marks around like grammatical confetti; we’re confused about how to use them properly. Emma Bryce clarifies best practices for the semi-confusing semicolon. Lesson by Emma Bryce, animation by Karrot Entertainment.

Language vs. Dialect

Outside of China, Mandarin and Cantonese are often referred to as Chinese dialects, despite being even more dissimilar than Spanish and Italian. On the other hand, speakers of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, which are three distinct languages, can usually communicate with each other in their native tongues. So, when is speech considered a dialect versus a language?