Branching Outwards

Links, etc.

This page will become a miscellany of pieces of writing, book recommendations, examples of my work, useful web links and offers. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

If you want to buy books

after looking at my website, you can reach Amazon dirctly from my site. If you buy anything via my site, I will hopefully earn a small commission.If you live in France, buy from .fr to get free delivery. You can buy the full range of books in English from the French site (livres en anglais section). The second hand books are good value as delivery is only 2,90 euros and the actual book may only be a few centimes for a second hand paperback.

Search here:

or here:

Reading in English

I know that I’ve improved my French by reading in French (novels, short stories, newspapers, instructions, etc.). I encourage all English language students to make reading in English a regular part of their lives. Some people are intimidated at first, but persistence brings good results.

Some Reading Tips

Choose something that interests you – if you’ve enjoyed a “light” novel in French, try the same one in English. Don’t opt for “heavy classics” because you think you should!

Choose something that is quite short. Finishing a simple short story will be very satisfying; abandoning a 400 page novel will not.

Newspapers and magazines are sold in many places. Be careful which you choose because some can be very difficult. For instance a British magazine about gardening should present few problems apart from vocabulary. A women’s magazine may use a lot of the latest slang which may be hard to understand.

British newspapers vary considerably in language and “tone”, and there are some I’m ashamed to see sold abroad! American newspapers can be difficult because they use U.S. English and may use complicated words!

Or read your news on the Internet. has up to date news with videos. This site also has special sections on interests such as sports and lifestyle You can then see the same items in some other languages if you don't completely understand the English version. There are even language learning items.

When you read, don’t look up every word you don’t understand. Read on and if you get the overall or global meaning, that’s fine. You can enjoy the story without knowing every word. Later you may find you’ve learned some meanings without using a dictionary, or you might want to look up one or two words when you’ve finished.

Read aloud! If you can read aloud for just five minutes every day, a magic process will happen. Real English is coming out of your mouth (even if you don’t understand it all) and some grammatical constructions, tenses, etc will stick with you. Try it every day for one month (surely you can find five minutes a day even if you have to lock yourself in the toilet for privacy). You really will see progress and build confidence in yourself.

Suggested reading:

Agatha Christie writes interesting, simply written novels and short stories with a detective theme which keeps you turning the pages. They also show a fascinating portrait of upper-middle class British society in the 1950's.

Douglas Kennedy and Stephanie Meyer are current popular authors who are not very difficult to read in the original.

When you want to learn more about any subject, why not see if you can find an English book to follow your interest? So, if you want to learn more about environmental issues, look for a simply written book in English on this subject. A book I love to keep by my bed is The Art of Happiness - A Handbook for Living, by the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler. When I feel upset or just have a few spare moments, I dip into this book and read a paragraph or two. I usually find something helpful and calming. It's a simply written book offering access to wisdom. I'd recommend it to anyone and I think it's great for English learners as you don't have to read much at one time to benefit!

Books written for children can provide fiction which is more simply written, but are still interesting stories for adults. One I recommend which was originally written for teenagers became a general bestseller for adults recently - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon Other children's books which help you learn about a culture as well as a language are Charlotte's Web, by E.B.White. I only recently discovered this although it was published in 1952 in the U.S.A. Well written and a lovely story, although you may have to use a dictionary for some of the old country Americanisms.
I still love the Famous Five adventures by Enid Blyton. Again they providing a fascinating picture of a culture and period. Buy English books for your young children and read them with them. The pictures will help you all!

If you have found particular books in English which you'd like to recommend to other English learners, please do contact me so that I can consider adding them here.

And finally . . .

If a dog were your teacher...

I have only slightly adapted this piece which sums up a simple approach to becoming contented with life. I believe we can learn a lot from animals and nature. Unfortunately, I can’t find the name of the original author in order to acknowledge him or her.

If a dog were your teacher, you would learn:

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
When it's in your best interest, practise obedience.
Let others know when they've invaded your territory.
Take naps, and stretch before rising.
Run, romp, and play daily.
Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.
On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
On hot days, drink lots of water, and lie under a shady tree.
When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
No matter how often you're scolded, don't fall into the guilt trap and sulk... run straight back and make friends.
Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
Be loyal.
Never pretend to be something you're not.
If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

And MOST of all... When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.