Following the death of Quasimodo, the bishop of the Church of Notre Dame put out the word that they needed a new bellringer. No one applied except a man with no arms. The Bishop declared, “But my Son, you have no arms! How can you ring the bells?” “No matter” replied the man. He then proceeded to strike the bells with his face, producing the most beautiful melody. The Bishop was astonished, believing he had found a suitable replacement for Quasimodo. But in rushing forward to strike a bell, the armless man tripped, and plunged out of the belfry to his death in the street below. The Bishop, was stunned, and rushed to his side. When he reached the street, a crowd had gathered around the fallen figure. As they parted in silence to allow the Bishop through, one person asked “Bishop, who was this man?” “I don’t know his name, “BUT HIS FACE RINGS A BELL.”

The following day, the Bishop continued his interviews for a bell ringer. The first man to approach said, “Your Grace, I am the brother of the poor armless man who fell to his death yesterday. I pray that you will allow me to replace my brother.” The Bishop agreed to an audition, but as the man reached to strike the first bell, he groaned, clutched at his chest, collapsed, and died on the spot. Two monks, hearing the cries of grief from the Bishop at the tragedy, rushed up the stairs. “What happened? Who is this man? ” they cried. “I don’t know his name” exclaimed the Bishop, but HE’S A DEAD RINGER FOR HIS BROTHER.”


What’s so funny about this? With these long jokes, I don’t have time to explain everything. But you do need to know three things. First of all, Quasimodo is the main character in the famous French novel by Victor Hugo, entitled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. He was not a football player. This is a very large church, or cathedral in Paris. Quasimodo’s job was to ring the bells to alert people to come to pray. The next thing you need to know is that the expression “rings a bell” means that something is familiar. In this case, of course, the joke is that his face did literally ring a bell. Finally the expression, “dead ringer” means an exact duplicate. In this joke the second guy not only looked just like his armless brother, but he too died, making him a dead ringer. And THAT’s what’s so funny!

Listen to my audioboo -

Todo sobre los condicionales en inglés


En mi otra página acabo de publicar un nuevo artículo sobre los condicionales y el subjuntivo en inglés.

¡Es un tema grande! Así que pásate por ahí para leerlo.

Los condicionales y el subjuntivo en inglés. «— Pincha aquí

Por supuesto que en mi tiempo aquí en la web he publicado varios artículos sobre las frases condicionales.  Y en mis clases presenciales doy lecciones de varias horas en las que explico todas las formas, las variaciones, y los matices que tienen los condicionales en ingles.

Aquí tienes unos artículos que he escrito hasta el momento:

Primer condicional y segundo condicional

Tercer condicional y mixtos

Condicionales con when, if y as soon as

El uso del primer condicional con WILL

El primer condicional con UNLESS

Pero siempre hay más que decir—así que pásate por mi otra página para ver el nuevo artículo:

Los condicionales y el subjuntivo en inglés

También me gustaría que dejes un comentario ahí con tus dudas o preguntas sobre los condicionales. ¡Muchas gracias!

Hasta pronto,


P.D. Si no recibes mis actualizaciones por correo, ahora es un buen momento para suscribirte. Mando 2 o 3 lecciones nuevas por semana, normalmente. Suscríbete aquí.

P.P.D. Si quieres más inglés, echa un vistazo a mis libros en PDF o a los libros recomendados para prepararte los exámenes oficiales tipo First o CAE: Libros Recomendados.

Just found out that one of the big English teaching programs out here (run primarily by Taiwanese) openly discussed rejecting all east Asian American applicants at one point, since they don’t look “American” (i.e. white) enough. The program in question was already predominantly white, but the second biggest group was composed of said applicants. 

It just goes to show you how pervasive and damaging white supremacy is, even out here.

The chapter my fifth graders have been studying for the past two weeks deals with food and how to ask for helpings of food, etc.  More importantly, through this lesson, I’ve learned that my students are obsessed with the eating habits of foreigners, specifically of white people and their gastric problems.

I was modeling a dialog for one fifth grade class this morning in which I said, “This 찜닭 is delicious!’  New Co, with a surprised look, asked me if I like 찜닭.

"Oh, yeah, I love 찜닭!"

"But….it is not too spicy for foreigner?"

That got my students shouting over each other all at once, “NO, ILLY TEACHER IS BROWN! BROWN PEOPLE EAT SPICY FOOD GOOD!”

New Co seemed a bit shocked. “Really….” And here she was obviously hesitating to refer to me as a “brown person” when she said, “….So…people…like Illy Teacher….eat spicy food good?”

"Yes, Teacher, white people do not eat spicy food good!"

This spiraled into a nearly ten minute story time where all the students had to share times they’ve seen white foreigners try and fail to eat spicy foods.  The third of these story times we’ve had since starting this chapter.

Finally, it ended with one student mournfully stating, “White people too sad.”

So, to any white foreigner in Korea who is suffering under the irritable combination of stomach acid and spiciness, my students’ hearts go out to you.  That and a few antacids should help.

More signs that I just need to GTFO of Taiwan

So I was a little annoyed or whatever at the fuckery at English camp last Saturday where students specifically targeted me for harassment (since I was the only black teacher there). But at the end of the day, I was just meeting these kids so I really had no expectations (sadly), either way.

Earlier this week, though, at one of my schools where I’ve been working all year and feel like I’ve really connected with the students, I had my last period of class teaching 6th graders, and stayed after class for a bit to chat with them in Chinese. We were chatting when suddenly one of the students that I really like asked out of the blue:

"Teacher, why don’t you have blue eyes?"

Which was the exact same question that I’d gotten at English camp from students who’d never met me before, just days earlier.

This was followed in short order by a number of other students asking,

"Why don’t you have blonde hair?"

"Why is your hair curly?"

And they were all laughing while asking. Not maliciously, but in an “oh this is interesting and entertaining” kind of way.

I was surprised by all of this to say the least, as these are students that I’ve been working with for almost a year now, and yet they still conflated Americanness so blatantly with whiteness. My very presence at the school, the relationships that I’d built with them over the last 10 months— none of that seemed to mean anything to them, or to have made any type of real difference in changing their perceptions. It didn’t seem like any of my hard work over the past year had even made a tiny dent in challenging these entrenched white supremacist narratives that in order to be a “real” American, you have to be white.

And to my students, at the end of the day, as a POC I was still deficient in my Americanness by not being white. 

Still. After almost a full year with them. And these are 6th graders not 1st or 3rd.

When I challenged them on these questions, they just responded flatly that “most foreigners have blonde hair and blue eyes” and laughed. My Chinese isn’t good enough to have made that opportunity into a fully developed learning moment, even if I wanted to, but at this point, I can’t even bring myself to care really anymore. Because if my own students who I’ve worked with for this long STILL don’t see me as having equal value compared to a white person… then I don’t know what else to say.

19 Days until departure. 

our EFL [spread][VOTE] ELF! Please vote for Super Junior in Seoul Music Awards! This is important.

Seoul Music Awards Voting Tutorial

There are 2 methods for voting.

Method 1: Mobile Phone voting (This requires Korean mobile phone)
Log on to http://www.seoulmusicawards.comto create an account.

Step 1:
Creating via mobile phone:
Key in your mobile phone number then click on the blue button on the right to send verification number to your mobile. Key in the verification number upon receipt then click the red button below.

Creating via email:
Key in your email then click on the blue button on the right to send verification number to your email. Key in the verification number upon receipt then click the red button below.
(Note: Email verification may take awhile)

Step 2:Tick all the checkboxes to agree to terms and conditions.Then fill in the form as follows.

Next proceed to log on to with your smartphone. 

Once you log-in, proceed to buy voting tickets (투표권). Each one costs 500won and accounts for 1 vote. You can complete payment via mobile phone payment.

Then you can proceed to vote!
 (Or you can just click on vote immediately after signing in and they will prompt you to buy the voting tickets)

Method 2: Phone call voting (International calls can work too!)
Step 1: Call +82 060-600-0006. (There will be a voice coming out. Wait till the talking ends and for the beep to sound)

Step 2: Press 1 (This is to vote for Bonsang)

Step 3: Press 25 (This is Super Junior’s number. The voice will confirm that you have voted for #25 Super Junior - Sexy, Free & Single.)

Step 4: Press 1 if the choice entered is correct. Press 2 if the choice entered was wrong.

You would have had completed the voting for Bonsang. (The voice will first say thank you for voting, your vote has been recorded. Then she will repeat that you can vote for other categories.)

Step 5: Press 3 (This is for Popularity Award)

Step 6: Press 25 (This is Super Junior’s number. The voice will confirm that you have voted for #25 Super Junior - Sexy, Free & Single.)

Step 7: Press 1 if the choice entered is correct. Press 2 if the choice entered was wrong.(Wait for the voice to confirm that you have voted before hanging up.)

Every 30seconds of call costs 300won. 

SJ is nominated for both Bonsang and Popularity award so please take note to vote for both! Votes account for 20% in Bonsang and 100% in Popularity Award. For both methods (mobile phone or phone call), you can only vote once per day per phone. Every vote counts so please vote if you can and also help to spread! 

Super Junior won the Daesang for Seoul Music Awards last year, Teuk also reminded members that the popularity cannot drop! Seoul Music Awards is one of the big award shows in Korea too so please work together to give this award to Super Junior like we have been doing all this while!


10 Shakespeare Quotes that you can use in Modern English.


The English Language owes a huge debt of gratitude to William Shakespeare. Not only did he give us some of the world’s most memorable plays that have stood the test of time, he also enriched our language with a variety of wonderful English phrases.

In fact, a lot of common, modern English phrases originally come from Shakespeare quotes. Whilst researching this blog post, I was very surprised to find just how many  Shakespeare quotes form part of our everyday, modern English usage.

I’d like to share  with you just 10 of these quotes. I’ve given you the modern English phrase, its meaning with an example and the original Shakespeare quote.

1. Bated Breath -  worried or excited and paying a lot of attention because you want to know what will happen

EX: ‘We waited with bated breath to find out who had won’.

Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whisp’ring humbleness,

(The Merchant of Venice)


2. Cruel to be kind - to say or do something to someone that seems unkind but is intended to help them

EX: ‘I told her the facts - sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind’.

So again good night.
I must be cruel only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.


3. Foregone conclusion - a result that you can be certain about before it happens

EX: ‘That the company was moving to California was a foregone conclusion’.

O monstrous, monstrous!

Nay, this was but his dream.

But this denoted a foregone conclusion.


4. He hath eaten me out of house and home (humorous) - to eat too much of someone’s food when you are a guest in their home

EX:’My nephews came to see me at the weekend and ate me out of house and home!’

Hostess Quickly:

He hath eaten me out of house and home, he hath

put all my substance into that fat belly of his

(Henry IV Part 2)

5. Wear my Heart on my sleeve - to make your feelings obvious to others

EX: ’ You always know how Jack is feeling, because he wears his heart on his sleeve’.


In complement extern, ‘tis not long after

But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve



6. In my heart of hearts - used when you know something is true but don’t want to admit it

EX: ‘In his heart of hearts, he knew that he would have to sell the company’.


That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him

In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,

As I do thee.


7. In/At one fell swoop - with one sudden action 

EX:’In one fell swoop, he’s destroyed everything we’ve achieved in the last year’.

MacDuff (on hearing that all his family have been killed):

What, all my pretty chickens, and their dam,

At one fell swoop?


8. Short shrift - a firm and immediate refusal to do something

EX:’I’ll give them short shrift if they ask me for money’.


Come, come, dispatch: the Duke would be at dinner;

Make a short shrift: he longs to see your head.

(Richard the Third)

9.What the Dickens (informal, old fashioned) - used for emphasising a question when you are surprised or angry

EX: ‘What the dickens do you think you’re doing?’

Where had you this pretty weathercock?

     Mrs. Page:

      I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had

       him of. What do you call your knight’s name, sirrah?

NB: 'dickens' here refers to satan and not Charles Dickens.

(The Merry Wives of Windsor)


(The Merry Wives of Windsor at Shakespeare’s Globe, London)

10. Wild-Goose Chase - a futile pursuit, a worthless hunt

EX: ’ I wasted all afternoon on a wild-goose chase - it was so annoying’. 


Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done; for

thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than, I am

sure, I have in my whole five.

(Romeo & Juliet)

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Is Education in Korea really that good?

South Korea routinely comes very high in the tables of Education around the world, alongside counties such as China, Singapore and Finland. A lot of my friends and family back home have been interested to hear about what makes Korean education so successful and the international reputation of the education here is such that countries such as the USA want to emulate certain things about Korean education in order to improve their educational systems. A friend even posted a link on facebook the other day about how Sweden is looking to Korean education for guidance. Before I came to teach in Korea, I was swayed by stories of hard-working studious students who respected their teachers implicitly.

Almost 2 and a half years later, I can tell you  that this is not the case. Almost any of the myths you’ve heard about how wonderful Korean education is are not true. With the end of my time here approaching, I thought it might be nice to explain some of the realities of education here. Obviously all of this is based off of my own experience and what I’ve gathered from friends. 

Why does Korea come so high in international rankings?

Reason 1: Testing

The main reason Korea ranks so highly in World Educational rankings is because Koreans are trained from a young age to succeed in testing. These children are good at taking tests. For example, the school tests run from 0-100 as a score. The children in my Intermediate class still have scores in the 80s because so many students get scores in the 90s!

Korean Education seems heavily focused on memorisation. My Second Grade students will take a speaking test next week- in which they will have to regurgitate a small passage about 7 lines long. Remember it perfectly and you pass! Because that’s how the test Oral Ability here.

So, Koreans are always going to score well in International Rankings because they’re trained to test in a way that’s very different from western education

Reason 2: Academies

For the vast majority of Korean students, school doesn’t end at 4.30. After school they will head to a variety of academies to continue studying in the evening, sometimes until as late as 10.30. 

Popular subjects are Maths and English but younger students in particular study Art and the Piano. Studying tends to get more serious the older the students becomes.

This means that in comparison to a lot of other countries, Korean children study more for longer. This is going to affect their test rankings because extra studying will give you an edge.

Reason 3: Koreans Take Education seriously

One big difference, I feel, is that Koreans take education very seriously. It’s incredible, the way Korea transformed from a third world nation into an economic powerhouse in such a short space of time and Education is seen as a big part of that success.

Koreans parents also believe that unless a child does not succeed in their schooling, that they will fail to secure a good job and thus a good life. A lot of parents push their children to succeed and to study hard. Parents are willing to pay a lot of money to make sure their child does well. 

With a whole culture taking education seriously, that is going to translate into results.

So, what’s the problem?

There are several problems with the things I’ve described above. Obviously studying to tests isn’t itself bad and neither is allowing your kids to have extra tutoring and obviously making education a priorty is great. BUT… BUT…

Testing isn’t always useful

I did all of my schooling in the UK and whilst I was definitely prepared to take exams and get good grades, I’m also able to confidently say that my schooling gave me skills which I’ve been able to use in my life. (Except Algebra). Whilst I think tests can be an important Educational tools, I also think it’s the responsibility of educators  to help children learn in such a way that it readies them for life. I mean, that’s what I want as an English teacher. I want my students to use the skill of English outside of a classroom environment and to feel confident doing so, regardless of their ability. From what I have seen of Korean education, this is not the case. I’m not saying that Korean teachers don’t want their students to do well in life, but furnishing them with life skills is not their main priority because education is so heavily geared towards tests.

And the sad fact is, these tests aren’t really helping students. We’ve all been there- we study very hard for an exam and afterwards we give ourselves permission to forget everything. This is why testing should be put together with skills based education so despite the fact that students might forget information, they still have the ability to use that information in a certain way when they come across it.

I also find some of my students struggle creatively- I’ve worked with Elementary Students and they’re happy doing creative endeavours and projects. However, my Middle School students seem almost… bad at it? Even when I give them free reign to write what they like or to make something students seem confused without explicit guidelines. This isn’t true in all cases and students do get to do creative stuff in art class but I remember my schooling be FULL of projects. Time-lines, reports, maps… I did lots of that in every class. I can’t speak for every subject but I see very little of that here because education is so focused on pumping them full of information when they then pour out for one test.

Extra Studying isn’t always helpful

Sure extra tutoring is a nice idea but the students here do it for HOURS. They basically have an extra half a school day after school. I’m not remotely convinced that this is good for them. These are children- they need time to play and develop in other ways. I think play is an important part of being a child. 

Also, it renders a lot of schooling pointless, particularly for English. Most students have encountered a lot of what they are being taught now if they have been to an academy. 

Also, lower level students do not tend to go to Academy. Academies give students from wealthier families a significant advantage. And they’re so expensive…

I’m just not personally convinced academies help that much. The benefits don’t seem to outweigh the negatives. They cost families so much money and I just wish children here had more time to be just that.

Educational Pressure is Ridiculous

The number one cause of death among Korean teenagers is suicide. And the huge amount of pressure they are put under in regards to education is seen a huge part of that.

Recognising that education is important is not a bad thing. Allowing children to think that if they don’t succeed that they have failed is wrong. Your schooling makes up such a small part of your life- what you do afterwards is just as important. 

Parents, in particular, need to strike a fan balance between support and encouragement vs pressure. There’s a big difference. I have students who are told by their parents that they should be the top students in Ulsan. Students who are asked ‘Why did you not get full marks in every test?’ by their parents. I have a student with depression because his Mother was convinced he was gifted and he knew he wasn’t. Children shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of their parents expectations and Korean parents do seem to have very high expectations about their children’s academic achievement.

But your students are really respectful and well-behaved, right?

Ha. Ha ha ha ha.

The big thing I noticed is how similar Korean teenagers are to British teenagers. Some of them are very respectful but you also get mouthy kids who drive you crazy and you have to remove from class. You have students who don’t care, students who try to answer every question. There’s a wide variety of students. 

Korean students do have a different relationship with their teachers though- it seems closer. And I definitely feel that the discipline issues I experience here aren’t as serious as some of the issues I saw teachers facing when I was at school. But Korean students are fairly normal- their culture hasn’t imbued them with a magic respect. And as a foreigner, I certainly feel less respected by some students.

So, what’s good?

As I said, valuing education is important. Teachers are more valued here too and that’s great. Encouraging students to succeed is good. In fact, the common denominator between countries with good education is that teachers and education have a greater cultural significance. That’s what countries who want to improve their education should take away from Korea.

But the testing and the stress should be taken away. It’s so unproductive and just hurts students.

And well, that’s it folks. Just remember- the rankings you see don’t reflect the reality of an education system. Korea has some things right, but there are some things about working in this environment that I will not be sad to leave behind.