9 Interesting Facts about the English Language

For students and teachers of English:

* The longest word with only one vowel is ‘strengths’ (a nine-letter word).

* There are only four words ending with -dous are tremendous, stupendous, hazardous and horrendous.

* The oldest word is ‘town’.

* The longest one-syllable word is ‘screeched’.

* The longest word with all the letters in alphabetical order is ‘almost’.

* The only two words ending with -gry are hungry and angry.

* The longest word without the main vowels is ‘rhythms’.

* The dot on the top of the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle.

* The most commonly-used word in conversation is ‘I’.

What does Temps mean?

Geez, I actually found an English word, which isn’t listed in dict.leo.org.

Leo Dictionary is usually my holy Bible when it comes to words I no longer remember in German, or a technical English term which needs translation into German.

The word not listed in Leo is temps. After I had sent an image of spring flowers sprouting in January to one of my students, she asked me about the meaning of the word temps I had used in my mail. “Because the vortex sucked up all the cold air, we are getting vernal temps. Maybe.”

(Please note the maybe, as I was figuratively speaking)

I was a bit surprised to learn that not even dict.leo.org had this colloquial abbreviation listed. Temps stands for temperature, but then is used in plural, such as: “Tomorrow’s temps are supposed to be in the mid-fifties.”

sprouting in mid-winter

sprouting in mid-winter

Speaking of vortex (die Windhose) in German – the literal translation is wind pants. Cute, isn’t it?

12 Things You Should Look Out For With U.K. Student Housing Contracts

There was a time when I actually thought life would get a bit quieter once our son is enrolled at university. Should have known better as we know, when situations change, so do the demands.

During his first year at the University of Nottingham, he has room and board. For the second year (starting September 2013), he has to find his own private housing arrangement.

Sure enough, 10 days ago, I got a phone call, asking to send money for a down payment and retainer as he and his friends were going to look at a house for rent. When I asked him what a retainer was, he was not sure either. But in order to secure a reservation, he had to have the money for it.

Of course, he was told to pay by cheque the same day, which is very unlikely going from a German bank to a British institution. I made a direct deposit into his postal account instead and we has able to make a cash payment.

Our son then sent us the guarantor form and rental contract. After looking both forms over, I decided to send them to a friend who is an expert in the field of renting/letting in the U.K.

He pointed out the following things to watch out for when renting student housing:

1. Make sure your prospective landlord offers you a Unipol standard contract. The best landlords in Nottingham are Unipol registered, which is designed to protect the student from rogue landlord demands.

2. The amount of 250 pounds for a down payment is normal. Make sure you receive e-mail confirmation from the Deposit Protection Scheme (DPS) within 14 days of paying the deposit to the landlord. If not, the landlord is forced to refund the money to you.

3. The charge of a retainer (my friend has no idea what this is…) is neither required, nor acceptable under Unipol contracts. If they want to charge you for a retainer, find out what it is, why it is required, and when it is returned. Get this in writing.

4. This is a joint agreement, i.e. each person can be accountable for the WHOLE rent if someone pulls out. Student tenants each agree to be jointly accountable for all the rent. Harsh, but normal.

5. Make sure the amount of utilities (gas/electric/water) are included in the contract. Watch out for the costs on a weekly basis to avoid shocks. As a guideline, one person’s electric bill share should be about 5 pounds and gas should run about 6-8 pounds a week.

6. Make sure all defects are noted and agreed at the beginning of the contract, i.e. before you move in. If not, take photos, note the defects on a check-in sheet (make one yourself) and have the landlord sign it. This is for your protection.

7. Insist on a minimum of 24-hour notice for access, i.e. when the landlord wants to show the house to prospective tenants.

8. Reputable landlords do NOT advertise until 21 January, the official start of Nottingham house hunting. If advertised earlier, then watch out.

9. Watch out for the interest fee charged for late rental payments. Ours said 8% if the rental fee is 14 days late. Again, this kind of interest fee is not allowed under Unipol and is a clear warning sign of a tough landlord.

10. Make sure to get the completion date noted if your housing rental is still under construction. Clarify this before you sign. Living in an unfinished house, with construction workers in and out, while paying full rent, is not right.

11. Quoted from our contract:

“PROVIDED that if the rent or any instalment or part thereof shall be in arrears for at least 14 days after the same shall have become due (whether legally demanded or not) or if there shall be a breach of any of the agreements by the Tenants, the Landlord may re-enter the Property (subject to any statutory restrictions on his power so to do) and immediately thereupon the tenancy shall absolute determine without prejudice to the other rights and remedies of the Landlord.”

This is illegal. There is a legal procedure to reclaim a property, but this clause is not permitted.

12. If you decide to rent with a landlord who isn’t registered with Unipol, then insure the following:

– Ask to see the House of Multiple Occupation licence (HMO), which will demonstrate that safety standards or some kind are met. If the landlord is not in possession of such HMO licence, the landlord can only legally rent to two people in the house and risk big fines if the tenants report him.

– Ask to see the Gas Safety Certificate. This is critical and needs to be valid at all times of the tenancy.

– Ask for a CO2 monitor. The cost is about 20 pounds and will detect CO2 if released.

– Ask to see the Fire Certificate/Working alarm system. There MUST be a working fire alarm system in the house.


Last, but not least, take your time and look at various buildings with your friends. In regards to Nottingham, there are 4000 more bed than students, so there is no need to rush. The university told you to take your time, and so do I.

British Continental Translation Guide

Learning English words and phrases can be easy, but when in conversation with a Briton, watch out for some typical misconceptions.

This list of Anglo EU expressions from what Britons say, but what is actually meant up to what non-Britons conceive in the end, is a useful guide to better understanding. While this might not apply to everyone’s language use, it is a good reminder not to take things literally.

Credit for this list is also due to the original Anglo-Dutch guide
I always get my sin / druk 38: het bizarre Engels van Nederlanders by Maarten H. Rijkens.

English Level Test EF Cambridge (EFCELT)

Für die deutschen Leser (gelesen auf XING):

Kostenloser Englisch-Einstufungstest für die Leveleinschätzung

EF Englishtown entwickelte zusammen mit der Universität Cambridge ESOL den EFCELT (EF Cambridge Englisch Level Test), der das Englischniveau anhand international anerkannten Standards einstuft. Jeder EF Student kann diesen 40-minütigen Test online absolvieren und erhält so eine detaillierte, anerkannte Einstufung des Sprachlevels, die sich nach den Kriterien des Gemeinsamen Europäischen Referenzrahmen für Sprachen (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) richtet. Der EFCELT wurde in 18 Monaten Forschung entwickelt und an mehr als 8000 EF Studenten in 14 verschiedenen Ländern erprobt.

For the rest of the world:

English Level Test EF Cambridge (EFCELT) is a free assessment test of your English language skills provided by Englishtown.

This EFCELT test was developed by EF Englishtown and Cambridge University to assess your skills on an international standard level. To attain a detailed and recognised level assessment, every English as a Foreign Language (EF) student may take this 40-minute online test. The levels are based on the European framework of language testing (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2). EFCELT has been tested on more than 8000 EF students in 14 different countries within its 18 months of research.

To take the free online test, click on Englishtown online Cambridge student quiz

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