• Sing Along With Your Students

      Teach or learn English while listening to popular songs! 'Am I Wrong" by Norwegians Nico & Vinz (it is in English, don…

      Posted by US Conversation on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

  • Had had had had…..



    What does this sentence mean?  It means that this man is dead (that’s why it is in past perfect, and not in present perfect) and during his life and before his death, he had a lot of faith in something.  However, none of the faith he had during his life had a significant impact on his life.

    Interesting, eh?  My question to you is this: is it possible to have a meaningful sentence in your language with 4 of the same words in a row?  If so, give an example please.

  • The Easiest Visual Jokes for Your Beginners


    …Or else!

    Sometimes you need to know only one word to find a situation hilarious.  In this case, it is  universally understood (and strategically placed, I should add) “Stop”.  When your students understand a joke in a foreign language, even as simple as this one, they are empowered by this sensation: the English language is no longer just a theoretical construct but rather a practical tool for communication and enjoyment.  Do not forget to have fun in the new language to nurture this feeling of joyful discovery!


    Here is another one for you: have fun!



  • If I Only Knew Where to Place “Only”!


    Consider this sentence and count all possible interpretations of this statement  if we add “only” in different strategic positions.  This is an excellent example for instructors to use to demonstrate  the importance of adverb placement to their students.  Let’s count all the possibilities here.  I will start with a few, but not all of the possibilities.  Please contribute other possible scenarios in the comments.

    1.  Only she told him that she loved him.  Meaning: she was the only person to tell him that, but there could be other people who loved him.
    2.  She told him that she loved only him.  Meaning: she told him that she loved only him and nobody else.
    3.  She told him only that she loved him.  Meaning: that was the only thing she told him, and nothing else.
    4.  She told him that only she loved him.  Meaning: She told him that she was the only person who loved him (nobody else did).


    So, how many other possibilities do you see here? :)


  • What errors do native speakers of English make more often than non-native?

    If you guessed that the error is confusing your and you’re, you guessed it right.  The pervasiveness of this error is just mind bogging.  This error is common among both college graduates and  people who never got their high school diploma.  Why do people make this error?  I think the reason is laziness and discounting the difference between the two as something insignificant.  The reasoning goes something like this: they sound the same, and the context will help the receiver  of the message to figure out which one I mean, so why should I bother to spell them correctly? A close second is the “there, they’re, and their” confusion.

    The ironic part is that non-native speakers learn to differentiate and use these words correctly relatively quickly.  This type of error is rare beyond the beginning level of English acquisition.

    I don’t know about you, but when I see a native speaker making errors as basic as this, I can’t help but wonder whether this person is  also sloppy about other things in life…


  • Oxford Comma

    Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 8.44.28 AM
    When we list a few items one by one, we separate them with a comma:

    We invited Roosevelt, Washington, Lincoln.

    What if the last two items are joined with the conjunction and?  Do we still need a comma? In many languages, like Russian, Spanish, Greek, German, French, the comma before the conjunction is not the norm.  In English, however, opinions among writers and editors differ on whether to use the comma between the two final items.

    1) We invited Roosevelt, Washington and Lincoln.
    2) We invited Roosevelt, Washington, and Lincoln.

     The final comma before the conjunction and is called a serial comma or Oxford comma.

    In American English most style and punctuation guides mandate the use of this comma because it helps avoid ambiguity (confusion).

    This funny cartoon demonstrates how we could understand the sentence without the final comma.  Did we invite the rhinoceri and two people?  Or did we invite two rhinoceri who have human names?

  • Runs in the family



    Runs in the family refers to a genetic characteristic that many members of a  family have.  This idiom is frequently used as a joke about families.

     Take a look at this one.  Insanity does not run when it visits this particular family. Why? My guess is Insanity likes this family because they are so insane, that even Insanity itself is curious about them.  Hilarious! :)

  • What Do YOU think? What Direction Should ELT Take?

    Pearson English Roundtable: Creating Global Standards


    Creating a single set of standards on the global scale for measuring English language proficiency is indeed a formidable task. Like many other ESL instructors, researchers, administrators, and other stakeholders in the field, I welcome the impetus to create a single English language assessment scale. I want to share a few thoughts on the subject and would love to hear from anyone who is willing to share his or hers.

    Creating a global scale of standards may affect standards of teaching, the methods used to teach English everywhere in the world, and in a domino effect, the standards of teacher preparation programs worldwide, as well as the direction the ELT publishing industry will take for years to come. That is why there needs to be a global forum where all stakeholders could voice their opinions.

    It is a well-known fact that there is an ever-growing interest in English language worldwide. Teaching English and ELT publishing is a multibillion-dollar industry worldwide. Unfortunately, as the participants of the roundtable mentioned, quality English instruction is not available everywhere, and there are numerous political, social, cultural, and financial considerations that greatly affect the outcome of the ELT process.

    I share Diane’s point of view that even though there are many legitimate Englishes in the world today, there needs to be a single common standard of English for people to understand and be understood by others. However, too often the concept of standard English is replaced by correct grammar and extensive vocabulary, and the ability to communicate becomes secondary to the all-important structural knowledge.

    There is a very good reason why many ESL and EFL teachers prefer to focus on grammar: a communicative approach is more involved and conversational English is difficult to learn and teach. Even though very complex, grammar has a finite number of components and variables, i.e. verb tenses and forms, morphemes, etc., whereas actual spontaneous conversation with a proficient speaker has limitless unknowns for which there are no “correct” answers at the end of the book.

    When I was going through my undergraduate coursework at Kiev State University (Ukraine) almost 30 years ago, I could easily identify, say, instances of Past Perfect Continuous usage, and how a participial gerund was different from an adjective, but was lost in casual conversation with English-speaking visitors to our campus. As far as I can see, little has changed in the methodology used in some parts of the world since then.

    An English-speaking acquaintance of mine visited a prestigious private English school in China a few months ago and had to communicate with the head teacher through an interpreter, even though the school is considered one of the best in the province and parents pay a lot of money to have their children schooled there. If the head teacher can’t express herself in English in an intelligible way, how can she teach or supervise the teachers who educate the students in communication skills?

    I wholeheartedly support efforts to place language in its functional role at the center of the proposed scale, as it might promote the needed paradigm shift in ELT. Form is certainly important, but only to the extent that it helps facilitate functional performance.

    I think it is impossible to learn a foreign language, in the sense that it is impossible to prepare oneself for all possible linguistic and extra linguistic scenarios that can occur within the foreign language context. It is likewise impossible to learn all the structural elements, to the extent that no one can possibly memorize all the words, phrases and dialectal varieties in a language. What can be done is learning enough of the basics of all the structural elements and then employing skills not normally associated with language learning, such as problem solving and critical and analytical thinking, so that the phrase, “How goes it?” is not immediately disregarded for being ungrammatical, and the request, “Shut your eyes” in a hall just before a performance could be correctly interpreted as, “Turn off your i-devices.”

    I think that creating a single, universal English language testing scale brings a momentous opportunity to create motivational mechanisms for teachers and teacher trainers worldwide to increase their involvement with ELT methods that do not only give the learners facts about the English language and its structure, but rather give them the tools to adapt to an increasingly fluid English language landscape and succeed in the original–and still the most important in my view–goal of foreign/second language learning: to communicate.


    Please share your thoughts!



  • Happy Birthday, Nation!

    Bald eagle with a bold attitude! :)

  • Humor Helps Where Service is Lacking


    Our bathroom sucks :)

    Our restrooms suck :)


    Would you complain after this warning?

    Very funny :)


    Vocabulary notes:

    1)   to suck means to be horrible.

    2) “Deal with it” here means “Just accept it, there is nothing you can do to change the situation.”