Tuesday, 28 August 2012


Jane Austen  was an English novelist whose rigorous literary craftsmanship, subtle irony, and insights into women's lives have greatly influenced the development of the English novel.
She was born on 16 December 1775, in the village of Steventon,  in the county of Hampshire in Southern England. The seventh of eight children of the Reverend George Austen and his wife, Cassandra,  she was educated mainly at home and never lived away from her family. She had a happy childhood among all her brothers and the other boys who lodged with the family and whom Mr Austen tutored. From her older sister, Cassandra, she was inseparable. 
As a young woman, she enjoyed dancing at local balls, walking in the Hampshire countryside and visiting friends.  It was this world - of the minor landed gentry, in the village, the neighbourhood, and the country town, with occasional visits to Bath and to London - that she was to use in the settings, characters, and subject matter of her novels.

Jane Austen’s lively and affectionate family circle provided a stimulating context for her writing. She was an avid reader. She read both the serious and the popular literature of the day.  She was very familiar with  18th century novels,  including  the works of Richardson and Fielding.
In Jane Austen's era, novels were often depreciated as trash; Coleridge's opinion was that "where the reading of novels prevails as a habit, it occasions in time the entire destruction of the powers of the mind".  Yet Jane Austen once wrote in a letter that she and her family were "great novel-readers, and not ashamed of being so"; moreover  in her novel Northanger Abbey  she gave her "Defence of the Novel", even though she was also making fun of the falseness to real life of many novels of the era throughout Northanger Abbey.
Jane Austen started writing in her early teens. Her earliest works included parodies  of the literature of the day and were originally  written for the amusement of her relatives and family friends. 
At the age of 14 she wrote her first novel, Love and Freindship (sic) and then A History of England by a partial, prejudiced and ignorant Historian. In her early twenties Jane Austen wrote the novels that were later to be re-worked and published as  Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey.  She also began a novel called The Watsons  which was never completed. 

In 1801 the family moved away to Bath. Mr Austen gave the Steventon living to his son James and retired to Bath with his wife and two daughters. The next four years were difficult ones for Jane. She disliked the confines of a busy town and missed her Steventon life. The lifestyle that her family enjoyed there is very accurately portrayed in her novels which contain finely observed and recorded snapshots of the particular stratum of English society in which the Austen family lived.
In 1802, Jane Austen, at the age of 27, received a marriage proposal from a wealthy young man named Harris Bigg-Wither, whom she first accepted, but then refused the next day. Having refused this offer of marriage, she subsequently never married. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012


Oscar Wilde's classic children's tale is about how a selfish giant's life is transformed by the arrival of a special child who teaches him about love and friendship.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. “How happy we are here!” they cried to each other.
One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.
“What are you doing here?” he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


The history of the English language has traditionally been divided into three main periods: Old English (450-1100 AD), Middle English (1100-circa 1500 AD) and Modern English (since 1500).  Over the centuries, the English language has been influenced by a number of other languages.

Friday, 3 August 2012


Learning a second language is not easy by any means, but reading in a foreign language is an excellent way to improve fluency.
When you look at a page filled with writing in a language you aren’t yet fluent in, reading and understanding all can be perplexing,  but if you really want to improve your proficiency and your vocabulary, you don’t have much choice; you are almost certainly going to have to do some reading. But don’t be worried! There are simple ways to make reading in a foreign language easier and to help you get the most you can out of it.

1.     Choose material at the right level
If you are assigned reading for a formal class, it makes things a bit easier; your teacher wouldn’t give you something to read that was completely beyond you.  If you try to start something and it is clear that you haven’t learned half the grammar in it, or you have to look up every other word,  maybe you should try something a little simpler first.
2.      Take the time to do a good job
Read bit by bit and try to take in as much as you can, instead of hurrying through and only picking up the words you recognize right away. Think about the words you are seeing and how they fit together, and try your best to really understand.
3.      Don’t get distracted
You’ll read better without distractions! Turn off televisions and radios!  The aim is to keep words away ... with the exception of the ones in front of you!