Smart-working, Richard Ayoade and the difference between 'However' and 'Although': Here are this week's Café Moments

The days are getting longer, green shoots are starting to show, spring is in the air and the vaccine has started to protect people. It's a great time to feel positive in your life and in your goals. 

If you are learning English, here are some of our Café moments to inspire you and give you a flavor of what happens in our lessons. 

1. Grammar moment: However/Although - My student from Latvia is preparing for the IELTS exam and at the moment we are working on her writing skills. She wrote this sentence: 

'Although regular exercise is not always the best way to improve health, at least it is not the only way towards the desired goal'.

It's easy to confuse although and however because they're both used to show a contrast between ideas. But they aren't the same kind of word. When you use Although at the beginning your sentence, you should have two parts, and the second part should contrast with the first part. While saying the first part of the sentence, try putting out your left hand, and while saying the second part, put out your right hand: there is a balance. 

Although regular exercise can help you achieve your desired goal of improving your health, it is not always the best or only way. 

Although it was freezing outside, we were warm and cosy inside in front of the  fire.

When you use However at the beginning of your sentence, you should have a comma after it and it should also make a contrasting point but in a full sentence with a full stop. It's very similar to 'but' when used in this way. While saying it, try putting out your two hands together, and then put them down again at the end of the sentence. 

However, regular exercise is not always the best way to improve health. At least it is not the only way towards the desired goal.

Can you see the difference? If you want to practice, there is an exercise here 
In this exercise you can think of it like this:
Although = In spite of
However = But

2. Vocabulary moment: Smart-working. Many things are 'smart' these days: smartphone, smart car, smartTV and lots of smart home technology that enable you to control your heating or even your coffee machine from your phone. Smart devices are electronic devices usually connected to other devices or networks by a wireless connection such as bluetooth. My lovely student from Italy and I were talking about working from home, which many people are doing these days and he creatively called it smart-working, which is how they refer to it in Italian. In English we usually call it 'remote-working' but I think 'smart-working' is a fantastic new word and you will probably hear everyone using it soon. Add it to your vocabulary :) 

3. Culture moment: My lovely student from Japan was telling me about her hobby iajitsu. As I am not too familiar with Japanese martial arts, I wondered is it similar to kendo. It is similar, but my student explained a crucial difference. Iajitsu is the practice of drawing your sword, developing the skill of always being prepared and drawing your sword skillfully and at precisely the right time. Kendo, on the other hand is the act of sword fighting. It was an interesting cultural learning point for me. Can you explain a culture point like this? I would love to hear it. 

4. Tv moment: If you want to understand dry British humour, look no further than Richard Ayoade in Channel 4's tv show Travel Man. His biting wit combined with a pin-sharp intelligence makes for lots of laughs as he tours popular cities around the world. He is unapologetically verbose, which sometimes is a little uncomfortable to watch, for example when he is interacting with tourism staff who don't speak English as a first language, and there are many 'lost in translation' moments. But he makes no attempt to be understood, he is just completely 100% himself. One of my beautiful students from China loves this show and we had fun as I tried to explain some of his humour to her. Here is the episode in Barcelona . How much can you understand? 


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