Yes, I heard that groan

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I heard that. That groan.

“It’s just,” you say. “It’s just, well, do I have to?”

You can try learning a language without grammar if you like. There are plenty of language learning programs that claim you can. You can also try building a tent without any pegs. I just wouldn’t recommend it.

You get the analogy, hopefully, without my having to drive it home. Grammar is what holds the language together.

Depending on your age and the education system you grew up in, you might hate grammar because it was drilled into you until it came out of your…

Big stories from the Big Apple

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New York City has long been a great playground for authors exploring a multitude of worlds in their fiction. Whether it’s the art scene, publishing, theatre, or mingling with the rich and powerful, there’s something for everyone in these six novels published this year, perfect for throwing into your beach bag this summer.

Astrid Sees All, by Natalie Standiford

To help them get to know their city

Unsplash/Casey Horner

If you want to help your baby or toddler get to know Washington, DC, there are a lot of great books that can help. We haven’t been out and about much in the last year, so reading about the monuments, museums, and more, can help them feel at home in the nation’s capital and learn the positive values and culture of the city.

How do you make those pesky new words stick in your mind?

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A big part of language learning is about understanding and remembering words. I have some tips for how to find useful words to learn and how to help your memory do its job well.

Buy a notebook

If you love stationery as much as I do, buy a pretty notebook. Buy the kind that you weren’t allowed for school as a child because your parents said it was too expensive. And while you’re there, buy some gel pens.

If you’re the practical type and like to categorise things, buy an Atoma or similar — one whose pages you can tear out and replace…

for plugging the gap in your knowledge of history

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Women have often been the forgotten protagonists of history. But these books help fill that gap.

Because death is too often a part of life


When you’re grieving, it can be really comforting to read stories of other people who get it too, even if those people are fictional. These six books all explore aspets of the bittersweetness and pain that comes to us when a loved one passes away.

and how to find them in the first place

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That is the beauty of one-to-one tuition: it’s flexible, and personalised.


You may find tutors advertised in local newspapers and on classified ad websites such as Gumtree, or, if you are based abroad, in an expat lifestyle magazine such as The Bulletin in Brussels.

You could also try the Find-a-Linguist service on the Institute of Linguists’ website. (It’s a worldwide database, though the majority of tutors are UK-based.)

Word of mouth

Perhaps you know someone who is taking lessons; it’s even more likely that there will be someone in your wider network who…

but seek them out, because they’re good!

photo from Pixabay

The UK’s YA scene is thriving, but not all of that fiction makes it over to the U.S. in an official capacity. And when it does, it doesn’t always get the attention and marketing dollars it deserves. So you might not have seen these around. But have a hunt for them online — is the best place to buy British books if you’re not in the UK.

Because they’re fun but also… not?

Image from Pixabay

Spring is here. Spring: the season of new things and hope. Also the season of thick lilac envelopes landing heavily on your doormat as you pull your single duvet back over your head. Just me? Come on, I know it’s not just me.

Years ago, in the throes of nuptials fatigue, I pulled together this list of wise gems of advice for wedding-weary single girls. I could leave it to languish in my metaphorical drawer, or I could share it with the world. Lucky you: I’ve chosen the latter.

I’m also happy to report from the other side: it really…

aka fiction and non-fiction for West Wing fans

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I fell in love with the nation’s capital when a little show called The West Wing led me to a visit. Before I ever travelled here, I read a lot of books about Washington, D.C. The first time I saw it was at night, driving around the lit-up monuments, and it felt like a TV set. I moved here in 2012 for two years, and it’s 2021 and here I still am. I love this place, despite its flaws and how seriously it takes itself, and maybe even because of some of these things.

D.C., of course, is not just…

Claire Handscombe

Editor of WALK WITH US: How the West Wing Changed Our Lives; author of the novel UNSCRIPTED and of CONQUERING BABEL: a Practical Guide to Learning a Language.

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