Changes in Australia Student Visa Options

Small person running through opened door for carrer opportunity479566953The Australian the Department for Immigration and Border Protection recently announced that, starting later this year, it will accept results from both the TOEFL iBT and PTE Academic as proof of English proficiency for a number of its post-graduate visa options. This decision, which goes into effect in November 2014, mirrors a 2011 change to accept these two exams for academic admissions purposes and means that these same exams will be accepted as proof of proficiency for all graduate, skilled, and business visa applicants.

Popularity Has Its Benefits

Not only does the addition of two more test systems give visa applicants a wider choice of English proficiency exams (and with it the opportunity to take the exam best-suited to their needs) it also gives their would-be hosts –that is to say, Australian universities and businesses– access to a larger pool of recruits. After all, the TOEFL iBT alone has been taken by more than more than 27 million people around the world and this ruling means that every one of them could potentially use their TOEFL results for undergraduate admissions and a host of post-graduate options. Continue reading “Changes in Australia Student Visa Options”


A Little “M-phasis” is all that’s you need!

'yes, no, maybe - hesitation concept'100843120In English, it’s important to pay close attention to the details. Indeed, small details have big implications for the language. Consider the following example as both proof and a reason to be extra careful when using the language:

Maybe vs May Be

These two look-alikes not only sound the same they are, in fact, the same – apart from a very important space, that is. Still, a space can make a big difference! The no-space maybe is an “adverb” that means “perhaps” while the two-word may be is actually two verbs and is equivalent in meaning to “might be.”* While both can be used to express uncertainty, they are used differently as the following example illustrates: “I’m not sure but it may be that a maybe is worse than an outright no!” Continue reading “A Little “M-phasis” is all that’s you need!”


English Idioms Inspired By People

Dating couple scene, love confession461997309Idioms are a great way to improve your English knowledge, and it can be fun way to get some insight into the culture! Every language has it’s own idioms, and some may just make you laugh, crazy, or cock your head in confusion. Here are a few of our favorite English Idioms inspired by people:

To Go Dutch – a restaurant meal in which each participant pays for what he or she ordered/ate.

example: While friends often go Dutch when they eat lunch together it is probably not a good idea if you are trying to impress a girl on Valentine’s Day!

Note: As illustrated in the example above, the “Dutch” used in this idiom is a proper noun and should be capitalized no matter where it appears in the sentence.

To Keep Up With The Joneses – to work (somewhat competitively) to have the same things as your neighbors or peers.

example: When Jackie became the fourth girl in her class to get the same model of cell phone I knew she was just trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Note: Again, as this idiom is based around (idealized) people – The Joneses – the fictional family name should always be capitalized.

To Run In The Family – to have a similar characteristic or trait among different members of the same family.

example: Before I met Katy’s mother and father I always wondered whether her height was a family trait or not. After seeing how tall her parents are, though, I knew immediately that height runs in the family.

The Real McCoy – genuine, not an imitation

example: I suspected the opposite but Jeremy told me that the diamond ring he bought his girlfriend was the real McCoy – and quite expensive!

Note: For this idiom be sure to capitalize the family name – McCoy – but not the world “real”.

Check out our dedicated discussion of Idioms to better understand their importance and, of course, find additional practice!


“M”ore Sound-Alikes!

Colorful font letter M460842035Though it may not always seem so, the English language favors short words over long ones. This is a mixed blessing for language learners. While short words are easier to remember and easier acquire than long ones – consider German, a language famous for lengthy nouns, an example of the contrary – this it also makes homophones – words that sound alike, like read and red – quite common. The letter M alone has two examples where no less than three words sound the exact same! Fortunately it is easy enough to keep them apart with just a bit of practice.

Meat vs Meet vs Mete

Despite the fact that these three words sound exactly the same – all rhyme with neat or sheet – they mean entirely different things. They are even different parts of speech! Meat with an a, for example, is a noun which refers to “flesh” (as in steak) while the other two are both verbs. The more common meet is used when you “encounter someone for the first time” while the less common mete means “to measure or distribute.” While context usually keeps the noun from the verbs, the fact that the spelling of the second verb “distributes” one e on either side of the “t” can help you keep them apart.

Metal vs Medal vs Mettle

While an expert ear can tell that these three nouns are pronounced slightly differently, for all intents and purposes they sound almost identical. Sound and meaning are different, however! A metal, for example, is a hard substance such as iron or steel while a medal is a flat disk made of metal given as a reward. Meanwhile, the longer mettle is roughly equivalent to “courage”. This can all be a bit confusing so try this helpful phase to keep things clear: Heroes often receive metal medals for their mettle! It might sound like a tongue-twister but it is also a clear way to see how each form is used!

Want to learn more about other confusing words? Check out our other blog posts on commonly confused words and our Learn English section.