Rose Nassif Travers

Eurovision 2021 – did you notice what happened?

Did any of you watch Eurovision last Saturday? It was unique.

Not only because it was the first European entertainment event held in front of a live (negative tested) audience of 3,500 held during the pandemic.  But also, I would say because it was difficult to choose the winner. There were so many well-written songs and talented singers who performed incredibly professionally. There were several countries I found who rightfully deserved to win.

Is that a good or a bad thing?  And why would I even ask such a question?

First, of course, it is a good thing.   I am guessing the reason the standard was so high this year is the accumulative effect of the many TV talent shows and song contests like “Got Talent” and “The Voice” which have been syndicated around Europe (not to mention the world) and have become ubiquitous. Each country has their own version.  Hundreds of people are pushing themselves now to win these highly competitive contests from all over Europe.  The Swiss entry, Gjon’s Tears, had competed in 3 of them starting at 11 years of age. And don’t get me wrong – he was my favorite!

Yet, why do I feel somehow disappointed when watching Eurovision?

One of the main reasons is that I find it a shame that so many entries sing in English now. Did you realize 1998 was the last time that all countries sang in their national language?

Also, because I miss seeing quirky, funny acts that take you by surprise.  It boils down to “Vanilla-ism”.  And – no, that’s not a real term.  “Vanilla-ism” for me is what Hollywood has done over the years, creating movies that sell by following a formula rather than taking a chance on something new.  “Vanilla-ism” lacks vulnerability, I guess. 

Less vanilla – more spice

And yet, I believe my sentiment was echoed by the way people voted.  And the way the jury voted, too. In lockdown, especially, I feel we crave for something different.  Something not so “vanilla”.  Uniqueness and vulnerability somehow feed our souls. So, with all the acts that sang so professionally, the best way to stand out was to sing in your own language.  And those were the ones who caught our attention.  Those are who everyone voted for most.

So, I see hope. These performers could have probably sung in English but instead chose to proudly take the risk of singing in their own language. It showed, quite frankly, singers who bet on the right horse and won.

A new development

There is yet another reason why the 2021 Eurovision signals a turning point. And that is, it was the first time that neighboring countries did not vote automatically for neighboring countries. 

Politics, perhaps, still had an influence, Russia for maybe the first time didn’t get so many votes.  And the Brexit factor to vote against UK continued.  However, I truly believe the Eastern Block vs. Western Block voting divide seemed to disappear. The votes seemed to be cast based on merit rather than sticking to expected, polite political norms. And that can only be a good thing.

P.S I do tip my hat to Gjon’s Tears for being vulnerable and true to himself.  For those who have not seen his music video for “Tout l’Univers”, I do invite you to watch this moving clip:             

And to take a look back in time, I invite you to watch the following Eurovision final recaps of:




And this year’s:


Cryptocurrency back in the news

Author Philip Inman wrote an online article for “The Guardian” in February 2021 soon after Elon Musk invested nearly $1.5 billion in bitcoin.  Here is a link to this article entitled: 

“Bitcoin surges through key $50,000 level in European trading”.

What do you think of bitcoin?  Is it just another Ponzzi scheme?  Will it only be a matter of time that the system will crash?  Or is it something that will become more secure over time?

We used this topic as the focus of one of our Hangout in English sessions and created a Vocabulary Quiz based on words found in the article related to the stock market.  Maybe you may find this also useful?   Or if you wish to read more about 

We hope you may consider discussing such a topic and others with us at an upcoming Hangout hosted by The Boston School soon! 

 And if you’d like to get the answers to the Vocabulary Quiz, click here:

Stock Market Vocabulary Answer Key:


B1 B2 C1 Progress

What are the differences between B1, B2 and C1?

What are the differences between B1, B2 and C1?

You’re an intermediate learner.  What now?

It is clear that to move from one language level to the next, learners need to expand their vocabulary. They also need to be able to apply increasingly difficult grammar rules correctly to progress from one level to the next. 

But what are these specific differences?  How can we know when we have finally progressed to the next level without taking an official exam? 

There are two main ways in which I would like to address this issue.

First, by showing specific examples of different vocabulary and grammar levels. 

And secondlythrough giving examples of communication skills learners can achieve through their ongoing process of gaining knowledge of the language. 

 Firstly, let’s look at the smallest elements to every language: vocabulary and grammar and see how these relate to the 4 skills: the “passive or comprehension skills” of reading and listening and the “active skills” of speaking and writing where learners apply their knowledge to express themselves. 

 VOCABULARY: Which words are B1, B2 or C1? 

For vocabulary level, there is a convenient online tool that uses AI to quickly assess the vocabulary level of each word of a text.   Let me show it to you here: (

It’s called English Profile Text Inspector, developed by the University of Cambridge, Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment.  

 We’ll analyse the text found in the first 2 paragraphs of “Crisis Communication Tips for Customer Service Teams” written by Matthew Patterson and referenced in a previous blog on The Boston School website, demonstrating the power of this AI tool. 

English Profile Inspector : Sample Input 

English Profile Inspector Screenshot

Overview of Word Analysis by CEFR level 

Text Inspector CEFR Analysis

Here, you can see the categorizing of each word by level: 

Text Inspector Analysis per Word


Based on this instant analysis of vocabulary level of each word, we can see that it should be relatively easy for a reader with a B2 vocabulary should be able to understand this text without much effort but could be a slight challenge for a B1 level learner.  And a great challenge for an A2 level learner.

 So we can say that vocabulary level of knowledge is an important factor in determining a learner’s reading comprehension level.   

 But at what level would the learner need to be to be able to write such a text as this?  

If you answered C1 or above.  I agree with you!  One’s writing level is not just about comprehension but being able to apply what has been learned to one’s own communication needs.  This requires critical thinking and not just memorization techniques.   

And what about grammar?


 GRAMMAR: Which points are B1, B2 or C1? 

There are many grammar points that students need to learn to progress from one level to the next. However, I would like to focus on 3 key grammar topics that seem to stand out amongst them all as progress indicators: 

  • Verb tenses and voices 
  • Conjunctions and connectors  
  • Sentence structure complexity 

What learners need to be aware of is that being able to use more complex forms when writing and speaker requires a much higher level than when talking about reading or listening comprehension skills. 

Just as a child needs to understand words before they begin to speak, so does anyone learning a new language.  One must follow the natural process: 

The Natural Law of Learning – 3 Steps

1: Comprehend:  understanding when listening or reading 

2: Learn:  studying and exposing oneself to the language in context repetitively so that learners turn understanding from short-term to long-term memory 

3: Know:  when you apply knowledge actively through speaking and writing, only then can the outside world know we understand and can use our knowledge properly 

Therefore, it is very common that someone with a B2 level knowledge of vocabulary and grammar, can speak and/or write at a B1 level only.  if they have not had the chance to use words and grammar points to express themselves, then their comprehension skills may never turn into proven active knowledge

Reach the next level: build your vocabulary

How to build your vocabulary in 5 steps

You’re an intermediate.  So now what? 

Have you heard of the plateau that happens in learning a language? It’s the zone of intermediates. You can understand and be understood. Can follow basic directions and give them.  And with over dependency on online translators, you just may remain in the “Intermediate Valley” forever. You know enough to get by and it works. 
And that’s the problem.  You start to feel comfortable.  You stop trying to push your limits. You’re no longer feeling put on the spot.  And you may know how to avoid situations that no longer require you to step out of your comfort zone.  

So how do we keep pushing ourselves? 

New goals can work like magic. And especially those that have more at stake.  The two that come to mind?  1) a better job 2) attending university.  Both require higher level writing skills.  And to write better, we’ve just got to read more.  One doesn’t come without the other. 
I would like to share with you my 5-step learning cycle I use with my students to increase their vocabulary one topic at a time.   (FYI – I am using this for myself to improve my German.)

 1) Choose reading material that you’re interested in learning about. 

Pick an article where you will be slightly challenged.  For example: with 10-20 unknown words to learn

      2) Create a vocabulary list based on the text. Save it where it works!

Looking up new words and writing them down is time consuming.  But it is a crucial step.  Writing them on flashcards or even better yet adding them to an online app like Quizlet, will turn learning new words into a game.  And later, this is going to come in handy!

      3) Read through the text again to ensure you can summarize it yourself

Often words have several meanings.  It is important to read through the text again to make sure you’ve chosen the right definition that fits its context. 

Be sure to make any necessary corrections to your wordlist before you start memorizing them.  Write down a summary of the text.  It’ll do wonders for your confidence!

For those at a pre-fluency level learning English (B1 or lower) – feel free to do this in your own language.  For those at a B2 level, you should be able to learn new English words through definitions in English. 

In our blog posts, we create links to a bilingual dictionary such as linguee to help you comprehend the text.

     4) Play memory games repeatedly to help you learn new words 

Now that you are sure you have the write definitions for the words – start memorizing.  Quizlet will mix them up for you, keep track of which words you still need to focus on and create fun games and quizzes. When you can recall them to Quizlet’s satisfaction, you are doing well!

      5) Find another article in English about the same subject and summarize!

To reinforce your learning, it is important you see the same words again in context.  The best way to do this is to choose an article with the same subject.  Google is great for that.  Identify which words from your list have reappeared.

Can you understand the text without looking up the words?  If not – go look them up again.  And if you can understand the text without that step – then bravo! 

You’re ready to write a summary about this article using the words you’ve been studying to help you.

The Boston School would be happy to help you with this 5th and final step. It’s where a teacher’s feedback can really come in handy.

We are currently in the process of creating interactive mini-lessons connected to our blogs. Would you like to know when we will be ready to launch?  If so, please be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed.