Here's a 'simple' exercise to improve your English. This is advanced English reading but focuses on using the following words and grammar points correctly:

a, an, the, to, 's, ~s, was/is, does/do, ~ed, 'll, 'm, 've, 'd, ...

If you'd like more information on our English language training material, want to join our mailing list with free English pointers, want to buy a learning pack or you want a teacher, simply send us an email.
  



Empress Orchid : Prelude    (taken from Bloomsbury)


The truth is that I have never been mastermind of anything. I laugh when I hear people say that it is my desire rule China from early age. My life is shaped by force at work before I is born. The dynasty conspiracy were old, and men and women were caught up in cutthroat rivalry long before I enter Forbidden City and became concubine. My dynasty, Ch'ing, has been beyond saving ever since we lost Opium War Great Britain and it ally. My world has been exasperating place of ritual where only privacy has been inside my head. Not day has gone by when I haven't felt like mous e escaping one more trap. For half century, I participate in elaborate etiquette of court in all it meticulous detail. I am like painting from Imperial portrait gallery. When I sit on throne my appearance is gracious, pleasant and placid.

In front of me is gauze curtain - translucent screen symbolically separating female from male. Guarding myself from criticism, I listen and speak little. Thoroughly schooled in sensitivity of men, I understand that simple look of cunning would disturb councillor and ministers. To them idea of woman as monarch is frightening. When my husband dies and I became acting regent for our six-years-old son, Tung Chih, I satisfy court by emphasising in my decree that it is Tung Chih, young Emperor, who would remain ruler, not his mother.

While men at court sought impress each other with there intelligence, I hide mine. My business of running court is been constant fight with ambitious advisor, minister, and general who commanded army that never saw battle. It has been more than forty-six years. Last summer I realised that I had become candle burnt it end in windowless hall - my health is leaving me, and I understood that my day were numbered.

Recently I have been forcing myself rise at dawn and attend audience before breakfast. My condition I have kept secret. Today I is too weak rise. My eunuch An-te-hai came hurry me. The mandarin and autocrat are waiting for me in audience hall on sore knees. They are not here discuss matter of state after my death, but press me into naming one of their son as heir.

It pain me admit that our dynasty has exhausted it ess ence. In time like this I can do nothing right. I have been forced witness collapse not only of my son, at age of nineteen, but of China itself. Could anything be crueller? Fully aware of reason that contributed my situation, I feel stifled and on verge of suffocation. China has become world poisoned in it own waste. My spirit are so withered that priest from finest temple are unable retrieve them.

This is not worst part. The worst part is that my fellow countrymen continue show their faith in me, and that I, at call of my conscience, must destroy their faith. I have been tearing heart for past few months. I tear them with my farewell decrees; I tear them by telling my countrymen truth that their live would be better off without me. I told my minister that I am ready enter eternity in peace regardless of world opinions. In other word, I am dead bird no longer afraid of boiling water.

I had been blind when my sight is perfect. This morning I had trouble seeing what I is writing, but my mind eye is clear. The French dye do excellent job of making my hair look way it used - black as velvet night. And it do not stain my skull like Chinese dye I apply for years. Don't talk me about how smart we are compared barbarians! It is true that our ancestor invented paper, printing press , compass and explosive, but our ancestor also refused, dynasty after dynasty, build proper defence for country. They believe that China is too civilised for anyone even think about challenging. Look at where we are now: Dynasty is like brain-dead elephant taking it time finish it last breath.

Confucianism has been proved flawed. China has been defeated. I have receive no respect, no fairness , no support from rest of world. Our neighbouring ally watch us falling apart with apathy and helpless. What is freedom when there is been no honour? The insult for me is not about this unbearable way of dying, but about absence of honour and our inability see truth.

It surprise me that no one realize that our attitude toward end is comical in it absurdity. During last audience I couldn't help but yell, 'I am only one who know my hair is white and thin!'

The court refused hear me. My minister saw French dye and my finely arranged hairstyle as real. Knocking their head on ground, they said, 'Heaven grace! Ten thous and year of health! Long live your Majesty!'
your corrections...


View original version of article :

How'd you make out? The best way to do this exercise is to type it out quickly, correcting the mistakes 'automatically' as you go. What you're trying to do is build up your reflexes so that you type (and say) things correctly, 'automatically'.

This exercise is very useful for improving the tiny aspects of grammar which almost all students have continual difficulty with, namely forgetting to use 'a', 'the', 'to', etc. while at the same time challenging your reading comprehension and vocabulary.
Either try a similar exercise with another article or try some of the other exercises with this article.

ex1: make corrections ( a,an,the,'s,to,was/is,does/do,...)
ex2: missing words  (am,is,are,was,were,do,does,...)
ex3: tenses

Empress Orchid (Wikipedia)
A conversation with Anchee Min
From the book: Chapter 1
 -   ex1    ex2    ex3
 -   ex1    ex2    ex3
 -   ex1    ex2    ex3

Return to Free English index