I'm a big fan of lists. In this post, I'm going to share a few of my highlights of the year. Perhaps those of you who have read the articles already will look at some of them again. Maybe you'll be inspired to read some English language books or start watching English TV programmes. In any case, I hope you find something in this post to help you improve your English.
Top 6 conversation topics
I try to choose a wide range of topics for conversation class and generally my students enjoy reading the articles or watching the TED talks that I've chosen. A few of the topics stand out and are worth re-visiting. Here is my shortlist of favourite topics. Possibly my students have other ideas!
From a skip to the Saatchi - an uplifting tale about rescuing the work of an amateur artist who had just died and finding an audience for it. It's also about modern-day life and how well we know our neighbours. Link.
Fashion for the over fifties - this was part of The Guardian's weekend podcast - so a good chance to listen to English and read along at the same time. Listen here (from 21 mins).
Benjamin Zander TED talk - this is one of the topics I did years ago - definitely worth repeating as it's such a lovely introduction to classical music. You can watch it here.
Sailing around the world - stolen childhood. I always like it when my students are inspired to do further research in order to find out more about the author. Read the article here.
Writing letters to a friend with cancer - it's quite an emotional piece but a good reminder of the benefit of the written word. Here it is.
Top 5 pieces of feedback
I get lots of positive feedback about the lessons - both from the students themselves and sometimes even their relatives. I loved meeting the elderly mother of one of my students who told me how much her daughter was enjoying learning English - the daughter in question is already over 60 years old! In a reverse situation one of my former students, who is still a teenager, told me how much his mum was enjoying her English lessons with me.
Getting positive feedback really makes my day - so thank you to everyone who takes the time to make me feel like my job is worthwhile. Here are a few of the comments I received during 2023.
"How do you attract such interesting people to your conversation classes?"
"She didn't used to like learning English but now she does"
"Just love your newsletter!"
"Mum's really enjoying the lessons."
Top 4 books
It's difficult to choose but here are my favourite four books that I read in 2023. Coincidentally all are by female authors, two of whom (the Claires) are Irish. Charles Dickens nearly made the list, as did Sylvia Plath
Solider Sailor by Claire Kilroy
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
Top 3 television programmes
I'm having to rack my brains for this. The year started off well with a great reality show, The Traitors - it's not my usual cup of tea at all, but I was very quickly hooked. There is a new series on BBC right now, so check it out. I've also decided to include a Swiss programme as I find it really helpful to watch TV in German and/or Swiss German. And finally, there were quite a few good crime dramas this year and I've chosen 'The Gold' which was based on the real life Brinks Mat robbery. IIRC (If I recall correctly) some of the proceeds from the stolen gold made it to Zurich.
Other contenders that almost made my top three include comedies such as Taskmaster (it used to be better), Would I Lie to You and 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown. If you want to improve your English, try watching TV - if you don't have a subscription to English channels, you can find a lot of funny clips via YouTube or popping up on Facebook.
Geboren am - this one's in Swiss German
Top 2 films
I very rarely watch films, in fact I can only remember watching a handful of films throughout the whole year. I did, however, really enjoy My Old School which was based on the true story of a Scottish man who tried to pass himself off as a 16-year-old in order to get into medical school. The other film that has made my list of favourites is Home Alone which I watched on Christmas Day. I haven't watched Barbie yet but it is on my list of things to do.
My Old School (read about it here)
Favourite YouTube channel
I love all the videos posted by David Bennett. He's a musician who really knows his stuff and shares his knowledge via YouTube. If you want to know a bit more about how music works, check out his videos.
28 songs based on classical music. Watch it here. (I particularly like the section on 'Could it Be Magic'.
If you want to find some other recommendations about my favourite podcasts, videos and books, check out the resources section of my blog.