Idioms from Colors

rainbow136630755If you have ever heard someone say “it is raining cats and dogs” during a rainstorm or even if you yourself have ever tried “to break the ice” when starting a conversation then you already know that we don’t always say what we mean – or mean exactly what we say – in English. And there are many idioms from colors that can mean many different things.

Idioms, or fixed expressions that are impossible to translate word for word, are the reason for this and, though they may confusing at first, but they don’t need to be. Idioms are just a form of advanced vocabulary and can actually be quite fun! Because a lot of idioms come have colorful (that is, interesting) origins, they can be a lot easier to remember than you might imagine. Speaking of color, then, consider the following few examples of idioms related to color as proof:

  • If you ever wondered why giving someone the green light means giving them permission to do something, just consider your driving habits. After all, when you are driving down the road green means go no matter what language you speak!
  • Likewise, something that is in black and white is clear and easy to understand because things printed out on a black and white page is itself clearly understood. Though it may seem old-fashioned, you will find that this idiom is still true on even the most modern computer screen.
  • Another idiom with historical roots, in the black (which means financially secure or profitable) and its cousin in the red (which means owing money) is based on accountants’ long-standing practice of recording profits in black ink and debts in red. Though centuries old, this tradition is also still maintained on computer programs.

So, as you can see, no idiom truly comes from out of the blue* (out of nowhere) – each has its origins and many times those origins can help us understand and relate to them better.

* The blue in “out of the blue” refers to the sky and its origins are equally simple. After all, if something randomly fell from the sky you would think it came from out of nowhere, too!

Commonly Mistaken Words: Its/It’s, Your/You’re, Their/They’re, and Whose/Who’s

asian woman confused122576781We live in a world where we drive on parkway and park on driveways so it should come as no surprise that English is a confusing language. Fortunately, we are here to help with a few tips that should help clear up some of the mystery around a few of the most easily confused words in English: Its/It’s, Your/You’re, Their/They’re, and Whose/Who’s

Though it may seem confusing, you can prevent yourself from confusing one for the other by remembering this simple rule: an apostrophe (the ‘ symbol) with a pronoun – as in it’s – always means it is replacing a missing letter in a contraction.


“It’s” should never be used in the same place as its similar sounding cousin “Its” – which, as this exact sentence shows, is used to show possession. After all, you would never say “the dog lost it is bone” not only because it sounds silly but also because in that example the bone belongs to (is “possessed by”) the dog and we should therefore use the possessive pronoun.

Your/You’re and Their/They’re

All of the other possessive pronouns are spelled without an apostrophe – consider mine, yours, his, hers, theirs, and so on – so it only makes sense that its follows the same rule. At the same time, this simple rule helps us to understand some of the most easily confused words in English. Following this same reasoning, we can see that you’re literally means “you are” – you would never say “You are brother is nice” when we meant “Your” – and, likewise, they’re always means “they are.”*


Finally, “who’s” is also a contraction – one that means who is or who has – while “whose” is another possessive pronoun (as it, “Whose car is that?”). So, in the end, you can see that it’s as easy as pie to prove you’re an English champ!

* Confusion around the word “there” is easy to clear up for deferent reasons: it is related to the word “here” and always refers to position, no matter how similar it sounds!

ELP In-Depth: American Language Institute

classroom153379569As the first in a multi-part series on English Language Programs in the United States and around the globe, we at ESL Directory wanted to examine one of the world’s premier destinations: New York City. At the same time, since we are visiting the Big Apple, it only makes sense to start with the American Language Institute, the English language program at its namesake university.

Who should attend the American Language Institute?
ALI, as it is widely know, is ideal for both international students interested in studying English full-time in the United States and working professionals already in the area who are interested in polishing their English skills at a more relaxed pace. Because the needs of these two groups are disparate, the ALI offers English language courses from the beginner to advanced levels. Full-time students at or above the intermediate level are encourage to take advantage of afternoon enrichment classes on subjects that range from TOEFL prep to art appreciation. Advanced students are eligible to further their educations still more through evening courses at the ALI or noncredit classes NYU itself.

Where is the school located and is housing available?
The ALI’s main offices are centrally located in downtown Manhattan, just blocks from City Hall and Wall Street. Though NYU’s Office of Off-Campus Housing, international students can find school-managed housing throughout the city as well as advice on making and maintaining third-party housing arrangements.

When are classes held?
All three levels of the ALI’s Intensive English Program classes meet for five hours daily, Monday through Thursday. Afternoon and evening enrichment opportunities extend beyond that. Fall and Spring semesters are 14 weeks in length but two shorter summer semesters (which can be combined) are only six weeks each. Finally, ALI offers still-shorter summer seminars that provide international students with the opportunity to practice their English skills while exploring New York City.

Finally, what makes the American Language Institute unique?
In addition to its almost ideal setting at the heart of one of the English-speaking world’s greatest cities, because all students at the ALI are also part of NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, they are entitled to access the university’s world class facilities (academic and athletic) as well as their legendary cultural events. As a result, ALI students have access not only to New York City but also the world.

How to Find the Right English Immersion Program for you!

evaluating-apples152150049With thousands of study centers to choose from, it can sometimes seem impossible to find the right English Immersion Program. It is important to recognize, however, that ESL programs are just as unique as the students that attend them and, as a result, no one school can be a “perfect fit” for everyone. Instead students should consider the following factors when trying to find a program that meets their specific needs:

Keep Your Eye on the Prize. The best way to find the right English Immersion Program is to keep your larger careers goals in mind. Instead of seeking out the best known schools, try to find ones that offer programs tailored to your specific needs. If you are interested in learning English for Medicine, for example, try to find a program that focuses on that area of language development. Once you have found a few, you can even take things a step further by contacting current or former students to see if their experiences were like.

Study the Demographics. Because you have already reached out to students at the school, this is an ideal time to get a feel for the makeup of the school’s student body. When trying to find the right English Immersion Program the schools with the most diverse student bodies will often serve you best. Though it may seem comforting to know many of your classmates come from the same background as one another (or yourself), a broader mix of students will force you to use English as a common language both in your classes and around campus.

Don’t Forget the Bottom Line. Finally, of course, it is important to take cost into consideration. Just remember that while high prices do not necessarily mean high quality, if a higher price tag enables a school to hire faculty members with more experience (or just more faculty members in general), it may be worth it. Also, of course, better amenities can greatly enhance the learning process. Just remember to budget wisely, though: even the best program is worthless if you run out money before you finish it!

Study at CSI ESL Academy

CSI Academy StudentsThose who are look for the ideal language immersion experience know that sometimes it comes down to location, location, location. Fortunately, as the diverse students that study at CSI ESL Academy can attest, CSI allows international students to carefully select the English immersion environment that is right for them. Indeed, over the years students from over 40 countries have found CSI to be the right place for them thanks to its network of campuses in and around Chicago and Boston. Of course, those with an eye on urban culture will benefit from their Chicago and Boston campuses but at the same time, those interested in trying out a quieter pace of life during their immersion experience will find their other three campuses – two other Illinois (Skokie and Lombard) and another in Massachusetts (Worcester) – ideal.

No matter which campus students select, however, those who study at any of CSI ESL Academy’s campuses will benefit from simultaneously studying a language in class and using it in their environment. By enabling students to apply their new language skills in real world situations, CSI cultivates a self-reinforcing learning environment and enables students to become from more comfortable using English in a variety of contexts.

That variety is further reinforced by the wide variety of English language programs available to those who study at CSI’s ESL Academy. With its beginner, intermediate, and advanced level coursework, students of all backgrounds can benefit from their signature Intensive English courses while those with an eye on English-language higher education will find one of the three advanced-level Academic English programs to be perfect fit for their needs. Likewise, internships arranged through their Business English program allows students with F1 visas to legally work and live in the US while improving both their English and professional skills at the same time.

Thus, as you can see, from the Northeast to the Midwest and from the beginner level to the most advanced, CSI’s ESL Academy’s unparalleled level of service could be just the change you are looking for!