Lessons in the "Europe" Category

Halloween v The Day of the Dead - in Europe, Mexico and beyond

While Halloween is celebrated on the evening of October 31, the Day of the Dead is commemorated on October 31, November 1 and 2.

Halloween sees people dress up as witches and skeletons. There are bats and black cats. Folk like to party. The night is popular in the USA and the UK. The event has spread itself around the world.

One day later, Catholics in Continental Europe, Central Europe, the Philippines, and in Mexico, like to commemorate the Day of the Dead. This is when thousands of people travel, sometimes hundreds of kilometres, to visit graveyards and cemeteries, to place candles and flowers on the graves of deceased loved ones.

Catalonia declares independence from Spain

Yesterday, in Barcelona, the Catalonian parliament declared independence from Spain. They did so, just before the Spanish government enacted article 155 against them.

The Spanish government immediately dissolved the Catalan parliament and called a snap election. Madrid then imposed direct rule on the newly self-declared ‘independent’ country.

Last night, following the declaration of independence in the Catalonian parliament, the people of Barcelona and Catalonia celebrated, though not all of its citizens agree with the new situation.

Why do the clocks go back in October and forward in March?

Why do the clocks go back in October and forward in March in the UK and Europe? It’s an interesting question with an interesting answer. The clocks go forward in the spring to make the most of daylight hours. They go back in the autumn to allow more daylight hours in the mornings in the wintertime.

Benjamin Franklin, who was one of the US founding fathers, first proposed the idea in 1784. He said jokingly that Parisians should get out of bed early, to economise on their candle use.

A new European map is unfolding

If you look at a map of Europe today, it’s hard to imagine what it might look like in 100 years. It might be much the same as it is now, or it could be totally different, with new countries added and border lines changed.

Consider the situation 100 years ago. One could never have imagined the breakup of the German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Who could have imagined the creation of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia?

The UK has voted to leave the EU. Crimea is now Russian. Catalonia is currently in the news. It wants independence from Spain. Who knows what the outcome will be?

Paris and Los Angeles to host Olympics in 2024 and 2028

Paris and Los Angeles have been confirmed as host cities to stage the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games. The announcement was made by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in Lima, Peru on Wednesday 13th September 2017. He said, “This historic double-allocation is a win-win-win situation for the city of Paris, the city of Los Angeles and the IOC”

Paris last hosted the Olympic Games in 1924. In its bid, it said it wanted to host the 2024 Olympic Games. The city had indicated it didn’t want to host the 2028 games. LA was happy about this and had sent signals it was open to going second.

School Etiquette

Today, let’s talk about school etiquette. It is a hot topic in some schools currently. School etiquette is about students social behaviour in school, especially in the classroom. With the new school term having started, students in some schools have been sent home for wearing the wrong sort of school uniform.

In Norfolk, England, one new headmaster is asking parents to make sure their children are in bed every night by 9pm and up by 6.30am. Students have also been told that their mobiles will be confiscated for up to four months, if they use them in class. If a student is feeling sick, a bucket will be provided for them to vomit into. The idea of this strict regime is to improve standards in the school in question, and to ultimately improve exam results.

Junker: English is losing its importance in Europe. Is it true?

Last week, the President of the European Union, Jean Claude Juncker, said English is losing its importance in Europe. He made the remark, at a meeting of European diplomats and experts in Florence, Italy. Is it true?

Junker said, “Slowly but surely, English is losing importance in Europe. The French will have elections on Sunday, and I would like them to understand what I am saying.” He then switched into French for the rest of his speech. Whilst this might have been done to please the French voters ahead of the election, it is a fair point he raises, and to debate now.

May Day celebrations in Europe

Today, let’s talk about how May Day is celebrated in some parts of Europe. For many, it is a traditional workers' holiday.

In Greece, one of the more popular activities on May Day is fire jumping. This is done after the sun sets. Women dance around the lit fire. The children wet their clothes and hair, before jumping over the fire. It is a symbolic act, to keep away winter and disease. Another popular tradition is picking flowers, and creating a May Day wreath, to hang on their doors. It is meant to bring people closer to nature.

In France, May Day is really a day off for its workers. French people like to give family and friends little sprigs, bouquets, or even whole plants of lily of the valley, for good luck. The more bell-like the flower, the better the luck.


Today’s English lesson, about doors, is inspired by one of my students, who happened to be looking at a door, when asked for a topic of conversation.

You’d be surprised what you can say about doors. For starters, there are several different shapes of door. Most doors are rectangular. Some are double-opening doors. They can be made of glass, wood, wood panelling, plastic, or uPVC. A good joiner can make a handmade door, though, many doors today are manufactured in a factory. There are also aluminium and steel doors. Wooden doors can be painted, stained or polished.

Article 50 triggered by PM - Britain to leave EU in 2 years – Historic day for the UK

British Prime Minister, Theresa May, on Tuesday, signed the official letter needed, to give notice to leave the EU. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty allows a country to withdraw from the European Union. No country has ever done this before. It is a historic day for the UK.

The notification letter was presented to European Council President, Donald Tusk, on Wednesday 29th March. He said on Twitter, “After nine months the UK has delivered. #Brexit.” He went on to say, “There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day, neither in Brussels nor in London. After all, most Europeans, including almost half the British voters, wish that we would stay together, not drift apart.” Many people in the UK, and throughout the EU itself, are against the UK leaving the EU.