Intensive English Programs Accreditation: Size Matters

learn englishIn 2010 the US government implemented legislation in December 2013 requiring Intensive English Programs accreditation to be completed by a recognized body. As a result, only accredited IEP programs can enroll international students and issue the documents they need to apply for and obtain an F-1 student visas.  Accreditation proponents argue the law has been beneficial by making IEPs comply with international standards.  ESL degrees have also become more valuable, as accreditors now check that teaching and leadership positions are taken by qualified instructors. Having an IEP accredited is not an easy task, however, and going through the process does not guarantee success.

The two major accreditor agencies concerning intensive English programs in the US are the CEA (Commission on English Language Program Accreditation), specialized on IEPs, and the ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training), which deals with a wide range of institutions, including career and vocational schools.  Despite their different timelines and benchmarking points, being accredited with these organizations takes a minimum of three years and costs around ten thousand dollars plus annual sustaining fees. Both review a wide range of operational areas and aspects, covering management, instructional programs, services and assessment.

For smaller, privately-owned schools the accreditation process is very challenging, and current regulations require new schools to be fully operational for a certain time before their accreditation process begins, making it next to impossible to start a school.

For bigger operators, the best way to enter the US language market is probably to buy an already accredited school, thus reducing the costs and risk of starting operations. Although this is out of the budget of many smaller operators, it is believed that this was a contributing factor in the recent acquisitions of several US language centers by UK- and Australia-based education groups.

In the end, though, for students the consequence is clear: the law has been successful in raising the overall quality of IEPs across the nation, meaning that students can have confidence when selecting a school.


Angry Verbs: Phrasal Verbs for Expressing Frustration

frustrationAnger is one of our strongest emotions, so it makes sense that we have lots of phrasal verbs that we use to talk about it. Have a look!

Take … out on/ – to direct anger at an innocent third-party

  • It’s not my fault that your girlfriend cheated on you, so don’t take it out on me!

Note: This phrasal verb is exclusively separated. Sometimes, however, the object can come between “out” and “on,” especially when the object is a phrase, like in the following example:

  • They took out their frustration about the failed test on me and made me stay late.

NOT

  • They took out on me their frustration about the failed test and made me stay late.

Flip out on/ – To suddenly direct strong anger/frustration at someone

  • If I forget my anniversary my girlfriend is going to flip out on I forgot last year and we almost broke up!

Note: We can substitute the preposition “about” in place of “on” in order to indicate the cause, rather than the recipient, of the anger or frustration. For example:

  • The board of directors is flipping outabout the tax audit. Apparently there have been some dishonest accounting practices.

Hold … against/ – To maintain anger/distrust towards someone because of their past actions

  • My brother was really mean to me when we were kids, but I don’t hold it against We were just kids, and now he’s one of my best friends.

Note: This is yet another phrasal verb that we use in exclusively separated form (meaning, it needs to have an object). The following example is therefore incorrect:

  • It’s not healthy to hold against people for things they did a long time ago.

Set … off/ – To cause someone to release anger they had kept contained

  • If you start talking about his family you’re going to set him off. The last time he discussed his relatives he was upset for days.

Note: This phrasal verb can be used in a different context where it means “to trigger an alarm.” For example:

  • The smoke from the toaster set off the smoke alarm and the building was evacuated.

Don’t be upset! There are plenty more practice materials waiting for you at our main phrasal verbs page!


Different Englishes: The House

houseDifferent Englishes: The House is an essential entry for anyone planning to talk about the house with Brits or Americans, as some of the terms are completely different. Additionally, if ever you intend to rent or buy a place in an English-speaking country this can offer useful guidance for understanding what to look for.

Key: UK vs. US word

Block of flats vs. Apartment building

  • Although we have gradually adopted ‘apartment’ in the UK, the most common way to call a one floor building is a flat and when there are many we call them a block of flats. In the US this is referred to as an apartment building. These are particularly common in big cities.

 Council estate OR council housing vs. Housing project

  • An area where there is lots of social housing – housing subsidised by the government. This could also be called ‘the projects’ in the US.

Note: in the UK “the Council” simply means the local government.

 Estate Agent vs. Real Estate Agent OR Realtor

  • The person who finds you a house for a fee. Realtor is the commonly used term in the US, but this refers to the specific company they are from.

Show home vs. Model home

  • In a new housing development there is often a house that the estate agents furnish to look like a home for potential buyers to visit.

Note: In the UK we call it a show home because we show it to buyers, and in the US it’s a model home as it’s supposed to show how other houses in the development could potentially look.

 Ground floor vs. First floor

  • The bottom floor of a building (as long as not underground). In the UK the first floor is above the ground floor i.e. one floor off of the ground, whereas in the US this would be called the second floor, and so on.

Note: This one confuses even native speakers so it is worth remembering!

Cellar / Basement– the room underground a house. This is more commonly found in the US.

Loft / Attic– the room or storage space in the roof, above the top floor of a house. Usually you would use a ladder to reach this area of the house.

Garden / (back) yard – the outdoor area where plants are grown. Usually at the back of the house.

Not feeling quite at home yet? Visit our mainpage for more examples.


Connotative Words: Other Ways to Say Busy

busyHello again from our Connotative Words Series! If you’re like us, you’ve really had your hands full of work lately so we’ve decided to devote this entry in the series to different ways to say busy.

People are busy when they’re working, especially working hard. A busy person gives most of his or her attention, efforts and time, to a particular thing. People are industrious if they regularly work hard; and they’re hard-working ifthey alwaysdo demanding, effortful work.

A period of time is busywhen we have a lot of things to do. If we’re told “there’s a very busy week coming next week,” we’d better prepare for an imminent burst of work. “Burst” means here “a short period of increased effort or activity.”Our schedule will surely be full and we’ll have to go into overdrive (a state of great activity, effort and hard work.)Our day will be all go (or in overdrive) and we’ll be knee-deep in (completely engaged in) the rough and tumble (very demanding and forceful activities).If it’s been a hectic day then it’s been very intense or full of fast activity.

A busy place is usually crowded and bustling, full of busy activity. Streets, harbors, etc. are busy when a lot of people or vehicles are using them. Facilities such as lavatories, telephones or shared equipment are busy (UK engaged), when they’re unavailable because they’re currently in use.

Busy people and places can be buzzing ‑ also humming with activity when they’re noisy and full of energy. This noisy activity is called the hurly-burly; or the hustle and bustle if we find it exciting. When a place attracts a lot of activity of a particular kind or it’s very popular, we call it a hothouse or a hot spot.

Well, with so much time of business I’m sure you’ve got other things to do. Today we focused on other ways to say busy but stay tuned for our upcoming posts and don’t forget to come by our homepage for further practice and discovery of these and more Connotative Words!


Business Idioms: Idioms about Bargaining

priceValue for money is important in all aspects of life but especially in the business world. As a result, in this installment of our Business Idioms series we have prepared something for all of you bargain hunters out there: a whole set of idioms about bargaining.

bang for the buck – value for the money spent.

  • We were able to get a lot of bang for our buck when we advertised online; we spent very little but got a lot of responses!

Note: buck is a word used for a dollar in the United States of America originating from the practice of trading deer (buck) skins for other products or services in the 1700’s.

a steal – a bargain or good deal

  • The new computers weren’t exactly a steal at this price, but they were still good value.

cheap at twice the price – very inexpensive, good value for money.

  • We paid only $2000 to have the whole security system installed! It would have been cheap at twice the price.

Note: An even stronger way to say the same thing would be to say “a steal at twice the price.”

for a song – cheaply, for next to nothing

  • I picked up this car for a song because of some aesthetic damage.

Note: when we use this idiom it is as if something free (the singing of a song) had been accepted as payment.

cut-rate – a price lower than usual

  • We went to a cut-rate furniture store to buy all of the furnishings for our new office.

Note: Price can be exchanged for rate in this idiom without affecting the meaning (e.g., we bought all of our new furnishings at a cut-price).

For more installments from the Business Idiom series as well as a whole host of other useful articles and materials please visit our homepage.


School Vocabulary about Success

brainstormIt is natural to want to do your very best. Unfortunately, complicated expressions can sometimes get in the way. Lucky for you, we are here with this set of school vocabulary about success so that you can concentrate more on your studies than idioms!

to put someone’s thinking cap on – a figurative expression used to describe someone who is thinking very hard

  • Okay, team, the new advertising slogan is due next week and we are absolutely nowhere. Let’s put our thinking caps on and get this done!

to brainstorm – to deliberately think of new or unusual ideas, typically with a group

  • The first step in effective planning is to brainstorm for ideas.

to turn (something) around – to recover from a poor position

  • Don’t lose hope, boys, we can still turn this thing around!

Note: The verb rally has a similar meaning.

to pull off – to succeed when it seemed unlikely

  • Although our team was behind in the first half they rallied and pulled off a last-minute victory.

an A for effort – to receive recognition for one’s participation more than one’s skill

  • Well, Denise, you didn’t win but you did finish the race, so you get an A for effort.

Note: Participation trophies (or “a trophy for participating”) are another way to reward people for finishing what they start.

to make the grade – to earn a high score (often by a wide margin)

  • If you study hard you have nothing to worry about – you’ll make the grade without a problem.

to pass with flying colors – to make an extremely high (or perfect) score

  • Congratulations, you passed your driver’s test with flying colors.

cap and gown – the unique clothing that is traditionally worn by people during their graduation ceremonies.

Don’t Forget: Regular visits to our school vocabulary homepage can help improve English mastery!


Improvements in the Panamanian Educational System

panamaWith 4% of all global trade passing through its canal, The Republic of Panama boasts the two busiest ports in the world as well as one of the fastest-growing economies in the Americas. Despite this, only recently have long-standing issues with both quality and access begun to effect improvements in the Panamanian educational system.

Traditional Panamanian education comprises three stages (primary, secondary and tertiary) and schooling is free through the secondary level. Then the system splits into an academic track and a vocational track, with more students choosing the latter. Public education is non-profit, serving 87% enrolled students. Rising enrollment reflects increased demands for skilled labor, but quality problems linger and have resulted in a mismatch between educational offerings and market needs. Rural and urban areas show wide divisions in access and delivery of education services, adding to inequality. Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations also suffer discrimination, high poverty and low political representation, further reinforcing barriers to their educational achievement. In recognition of these problems, in recent years the following efforts have been undertaken:

  • In 2010, in a new evaluation process was set up for universities by the fledgling National Council for University Evaluation and Accreditation of Panama (CONEAUPA). The changes emphasized skills training, curriculum unification and quarterly terms during the academic year. They also established a nation-wide team to update curricula.
  • The government has increased student financial support, quadrupling grants from 2009 to 2013; thus pushing demand for university places in a wider range of study areas. However, areas such as health sciences and export and logistics still face under-enrollment. Panama plans to establish a national, PISA-aligned assessment system to measure learning outcomes.
  • The 2014 program “Panamá Bilingüe” aims to implement a fully-bilingual education system in twelve years, improving English skills among both teacher and student populations, and sending on average 2,000 teachers yearly to immersion programs in the US, the UK, Canada and Barbados.

 

Through these efforts and several bilateral agreements with countries like France, Jamaica, Morocco, Trinidad and Tobago and Singapore, Panama envisions becoming an international education hub in the Americas and has set special migration regimes for educational establishmentsin order to attract foreign students, academics and researchers.


Idioms in Depth: English Pig Idioms

pigA number of English pig idioms exist in no small part due to their colorful characters. As a result, these expressions are as varied as the creatures themselves but if you pay close attention you will be able to mind your p(ig)s and q’s!

As fat as a pig – fat, obese, or otherwise overweight

  • Henry VIII was as fat as a pig but had six wives in his lifetime – it’s cleary very good to be the king!

To (be like) cast(ing) pearls before swine – the squander or otherwise waste resources on an unappreciative person

* Going the extra mile for Jamie would be like casting pearls before swine – he won’t notice, much less appreciate it.

Note: This expression is variously rendered as a verb or a comparison (as above).

To go hog-wild – to behave in a savage or uncivilized way

  • Spring Break is a time when many college students go hog-wild while on vacation.

To go whole hog – to do everything possibility or to indulge in every luxury

  • We need secure this contract so we plan to go whole hog in our proposal.

OR

  • Since this is our only vacation this year we plan to go whole hog and try everything!

Note: The second definition has a meaning similar to another hog idiom: to live high on the hog. Both invoke the idea of extravagant indulgence.

In a pig`s eye – never

  • You want me to apologize for something I didn’t do? In a pig’s eye!

Note: The small size of a pig’s eye explains both the origin of this idiom and its meaning.

Piggy bank – a small container that (primarily) children use to hold money

  • My daughter heard that I needed to buy a new car so she brought me her piggy bank. It couldn’t have had more than a few dollars but it was absolutely adorable!

Note: Not all vessels that hold money are piggy banks; the stereotypical form is made of clay and shaped like its namesake.

(To Ride) piggyback– to be transported on someone’s back and shoulders.

  • When I was a little boy there was nothing I liked more than riding piggyback on my father`s shoulders.

If you haven’t had enough of our idioms series you can always find more on our dedicated idioms homepage.


Speak English Like an Australian: Common Australian Idioms

australiaIdioms are unique, fixed expressions that are natural for native speakers  but devilishly difficult to translate from one culture to another. In fact, in English many idioms are often unique to a country and following list of Common Australian Idioms should give you some insight into some of the most common idioms used Down Under.

To talk the legs off an iron pot
Someone who talks a lot or excessively.

  • My grandpa can talk the legs of an iron pot.

Note: ‘Talk the legs off an iron chair’ is also used and means that same thing.

To pull somone’s leg
To trick or to fool someone.

  • I don’t believe what you are saying. You’re pulling my leg!

Note: this is also a way of saying to someone that they are joking.

Piece of cake
Something that is easy to do.

  • That maths test was a piece of cake.

To spit the dummy
To throw a tantrum and lose one’s temper. Often accompanied with an outburst of anger. The phrase to ‘have a hissy fit’ is similar.

To feel under the weather
To say that someone is tired, weak, sick or unwell.

  • I am feeling under the weather. I cannot be bothered going to the gym to workout today.

To hit the nail on the head
To get something right or to do something very effectively and efficiently.

To speak of the devil
This phrase is said when someone appears just after you have been talking or speaking about the same person.

To hit the road
To leave, depart or to begin a journey.

  • We will be waking up early tomorrow, as we need to hit the road before sunrise.

Note: In Australia, it is common to say this as you depart on a journey, adventure or road trip.

Beat around the bush
When someone is talking and doesn’t get straight to the point.

  • Stop beating around the bush and tell me what you want!

Note: The opposite expression is ‘to cut to the chase.’

Visit our Different Englishes page for extra practice!


Getting Comfy – Relaxing With Phrasal Verbs

relaxingLife moves fast, and it feels like every day is shorter than the last. Sometimes, we just have to stop ourselves and relax. So pull up a chair and get comfy (comfortable) because that’s what today’s phrasal verbs are all about!

Kick back/ – to relax

  • Man, when I get to the beach,I don’t want to do anything at all. I just want to kick back, open a beer, and get a tan.

Note: Unlike other phrasal verbs that can be combined into a compound noun with a related meaning, when “kick” and “back” are put together (as kickback), it refers to money paid to a politician in exchange for a favor, i.e. a form of corruption. See the example below:

  • The mayor is accused of taking kickbacks from construction companies that received government contracts over the last three years.

Settle in/ – to become comfortable in new surroundings

  • It took me a while to settle in when I started living at my girlfriend’s apartment. I wasn’t used to sharing my room.

Hang out/ – to spend time relaxing (and/or socializing with friends)

  • We were just hanging out at my buddy’s house when the cops came out of nowhere and arrested my friend for stealing a car.

Note: This phrasal verb is, like all of the verbs in today’s blog entry, very informal. It is often used in invitations between friends who later decide on what to do. It can be combined to form the noun “hangout” which usually refers to a place where people go to “hang out.”

Chill out/ – to relax or become calm, reduce tension

  • I’m losing my mind. I am so worried about this English test that I can’t sleep! I need to chill out.

Note: This phrasal verb is often used as a command, where it’s meaning is similar to “calm down,” as in the following example:

  • Ok, everyone needs to just chill. The pizza guy is just a little bit late. I know you’re hungry but it’s not the end of the world!

Feeling relaxed now? Great! It’s the perfect time to take a look at our main phrasal verbs page and get some more practice!


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