“B” More Confident With These Phrasal Verbs

Alphabet.B 476907785Although the most recent entries in our Phrasal Verbs Blog Series have focused on examples that share a common root verb (be it break, bring, or burn), not all verbs have so many phrasal variants. Here, for example, are a few verbs that stand alone:

Bawl … Out – to criticize or scold

  • The strict teacher was always bawling students out for not doing their homework assignments.

Note: Though uncommon in everyday English, the root verb (bawl) can stand alone. By itself it means “to cry loudly” – a definition which lends itself nicely to the meaning of its phrasal partner. Continue reading ““B” More Confident With These Phrasal Verbs”


Red Hot English: Phrasal Verbs with “Burn”

Candle In Holder 450636315Phrasal verbs are simultaneously one of the most common and confusing aspects of the English language. Though few native speakers can imagine a conversation without them, it can sometimes be difficult to understand the differences between seemingly identical expressions. For example, though “burn down” and “burn up” seem fairly straightforward they have no less than five distinct meanings between them! Fortunately we are here to help you understand when to use which:

Burn … Down  – to destroy using fire

  • You should always make sure you blow out* any lit candles before you leave the house; if not they might burn the house down while you are away!

Burn Down / – to be completely consumed by fire

  • One day, suddenly and without warning, the abandoned mansion burned down. Nothing was left on the site except the vague outline of what had once been a gorgeous building.

Note: Though seemingly identical, the first use of “burn down” is separable and active while the second is inseparable and passive (meaning, for example, “he burned the mansion down” but “the mansion burned down.”) Continue reading “Red Hot English: Phrasal Verbs with “Burn””


Bring Out Your Best With Phrasal Verbs

Waitress bringing coffee and cookies 187009307As we have mentioned before, phrasal verbs allow English speakers – native and non-native alike – to do more with less. Because phrasal verbs are created by making only small changes to common verbs we are able to stretch our existing vocabulary instead of learning completely new words for every action. While other languages might have five or six completely different words for the actions below, as the following examples prove English (and English speakers) can express the same ideas by using the same root verb: bring.

Bring … Out – to emphasize or stress

  • The color of Monica’s new dress really brings out her eyes; although they were just as pretty before the complementary color really makes them stand out.

Continue reading “Bring Out Your Best With Phrasal Verbs”


New ESL MOOC offered by British Council

179151975The British Council, one of the oldest and most respected names in English as a Second Language education, has announced that it will partner with online course provider FutureLearn to develop a Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) designed to teach English to non-native speakers. While such an announcement may at first glance seem surprising, further examination reveals how this development fits into the now 80-year-old organization’s continuing mission to promote intercultural relations and educational opportunities between the United Kingdom’ and the rest of the world.

Groundbreaking
The fact that educational heavyweights like Yale University now provide content to the world’s leading MOOC provider, US-based Coursera (which itself has raised $85 million in capital from investors in order to further its digital efforts) reveals that MOOCs are becoming an increasingly important part of the educational landscape. Nevertheless this marks the first time that a major MOOC provider will offer language courses.

Continuing Its Mission
What, then, does the British Council hope to gain from its efforts? Well, in a nutshell it sees ESL MOOCs as a way to further its ongoing efforts to attract ­international students to ­universities in the United Kingdom. It believes that ESL MOOCs can directly reinforce the British Council’s existing efforts to help non-native English speakers prepare for the rigors of English-language higher education. Such preparation courses are a natural fit with its existing the International English Language ­Testing System [IELTS]  assessments, an exam which it co-owns with the Australian-based IDP Education and is already offered at British Council testing centers around the world. Proof of this plan can be found in the simple fact that the two UK-based organizations announced their partnership in India. In this light the news, though exciting, can be seen as an integral part of the British Council’s existing student readiness and recruitment process.


Best ESL Apps

Smart phone with color apps flying out.168774905Though smartphones are often criticized for, well, making people less smart – when, after all, was the last time you actually bothered to remember someone’s phone number? – a new generation of applications (“apps”) is helping them earn their name. Indeed, in addition to the thousands of games now available in Apple’s App Store, the Android Market, or Blackberry App World, there are also apps to help you improve everything from your time management to your finances – and language learning is no different. Here are some of our favorite tools to help you improve everything from your vocabulary to your conversation skills:

Vocabulary: Busuu
Far and away one of the most popular language-learning tools on the market, this app helps students of all levels to learn and then review vocabulary using a variety of vocabulary units and tests.

Grammar: English Grammar in Use Tests
Grammar practice got you down? Don’t worry, as this app proves, studying does not have to be all drills and tests. This app, which is based on the popular Grammar in Use series, allows students to practice English grammar through a series of games. As a result, conjugation never seemed so fun!

Prepositions: Preposition Builder
Though it technically focuses on an aspect of grammar, this app merits mentioning because of its sheer usefulness. While the concept is simple – to play the learning game students simply select the correct prepositions describe the image provided – this app takes things a step further by than most by changing the image and sentence if the student chooses the wrong answer. This means that students can learn even while making mistakes!

Conversation: Conversation English
Want to chat? This is the app for you. With it you can try your hand at a variety of comprehension exercises after watching one of 20 video dialogues and, if necessary, read the conversation script before or after for further practice.

Downloaded the best ESL apps available, but still want more? Check out our recent blog on Best ESL Podcasts!


Everyday mistakes happen every day!

presenter guy 90367946Sometimes it is not even a spelling difference that causes a word to change meaning. Take, by way of example, the confusion created by “everyday” and its look-alike cousin “every day.” The difference between every day and everyday is not so much what is there but rather what is not there: the space! Such seeming insignificance conceals an important difference that is all too often made by both native and non-native students.  As it is, it is hard to know who is bothered more by this pair: the students making the mistake or the English teachers who have to correct it!

Fortunately, we are pleased to report that, despite its reputation for being one of the most confusing parts of English grammar, this is something you can clear up on your own in no time. After all, one word or two, though they are pronounced the same way (although with a small pause between the two words in every day), they do mean quite different things and every appear in different parts of the sentence!

What Does Everyday Mean?

Everyday (one word) is an adjective that means “routine, common, ordinary.” As an adjective, it appears before the noun it describes (in much the same way as the adjective “fast” comes before the noun “man” in the sentence “the fast man was hard to catch.”)

What Does Every Day Mean?

Every day (two words), meanwhile, is a combination of the adjective “every” and the noun “day“ and as a result has the same meaning as “each day.” Thus it usually appears at the end of a sentence to add emphasis. For example, “we study English every day” tells us not only who studies (we) but how often (every [each] day).

Every Day versus Everyday

Finally, to keep it straight, consider our example sentence: “it is an everyday occurrence that it occurs every day.” You can translate this as “it is a common occurrence that occurs each day” and if you do you will be well on your way to using them correctly (especially if you practice every day)!

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


Must Check Out App – Duolingo

duolingo-bannerI must say, I am completely addicted to this app. If you, or someone you know, is trying to improve their language skills then I highly recommend this app called Duolingo. Not only is it free, but you can play it on the go whether you have an iPhone, iPad, or Android device.

What’s So Great?

I’ve been playing Duolingo for the past 3 months and have to say that I haven’t seen a free language course like this one. It teaches you words, vocabulary, and conjugations in a fun way. Like any game, you get points the more you play, which of course, make you feel good inside. You get to interact using pictures, listening skills, and matching. Yes, it is as fun as it sounds!

How Does It Work?

Available in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and – of course, why we are featuring it here – English. You will learn your first words once you download the app. Click on the pictures and listen to the pronunciation. Then match the words with the appropriate picture.

That’s not all, then you must listen to what is being said, and either write or match the words you hear. You may be doing translation, or writing what you hear in your native language. Be careful though, spelling, syntax and accents are being watched so be sure to pay close attention!

You will progress through different levels, but it’s important to go back and retake other levels to keep your points up – after all, we do forget after a while. Learn the words for different foods, animals, body parts, clothing, colors, and more.

Practice Makes Perfect

After a while, you may be like me muttering to myself in public with my headphones in pushing buttons and repeating words outloud. So the next time you see someone on their headphones talking to themselves, don’t be surprised if they are playing Duolingo.

Try it and let us know your thoughts! For more about learning English, check out the Learning English section for more information on how you can improve.


Motivation and Language

A recent study conducted by scientists showed that neither age nor language proficiency predicted how quickly Spanish-speaking immigrants in the U.S. learned English. Instead, the immigrants who learned the fastest showed both the greatest motivation to learn and a willingness to use English at every opportunity despite being not very good at it at first, according to a report recently published on MSNBC.com.
To better understand how the brain changes in response to language learning, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle Lee Osterhout held a lab that used electrodes placed on the scalps of language learners and fluent speakers to measure the electrical activity created by the signals of brain cells. This allowed researchers to examine differences in brain patterns between the two groups who were tested. Surprising results were reached from their studies.
Repeated studies of French language students showed that their brains responded differently to real French words in comparison to fake words even if the students themselves were not able to tell the words apart. This was determined after just two weeks of classes. After 32 weeks of instructions, the brain patterns of the students were almost indistinguishable from native French speakers, Osterhout said during a panel that was part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 19 and also reported on MSNBC.com. The report said Osterhout hopes to tease out the importance of motivation in language learning in future research, and he wants to get a better sense of what separates the proficient language speakers from the truly fluent ones.
The article also explained that U.S. government agencies have been forced to learn how to cultivate the most talented second-language speakers among college students with little to no other-language expertise, since there is a lack in students who are fluent in French and/or Spanish when they graduate college.


Common European Framework

Are you planning to enroll in a British university? Do you need to meet minimum English requirements to show to admissions? Will you be sitting for an English language exam by Cambridge ESOL? If you answered yes to these questions, you may want to look into the Common European Framework and how it can work for you.

The Council of Europe originally developed the Common European Framework to help individuals monitor language improvement. If you are looking to learn English, you may find this a helpful resource. This language structure divides English learning into 6 categories of fluency. By breaking down language into these internationally recognized levels, you will be able to:

– Communicate your level of English to an employer or university
– Identify your current level of English skills
– Target areas on how to improve your language
– Tests your English skills and provide a worldwide certification

The Common European Framework will help you target the area of improvement by giving you a self evaluation and examinations to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This language structure will also list the areas of improvement in order to achieve the next level that will help you with your English fluency. Not only that, but the Common European Framework is used by textbooks, audio books, and worksheets so that you are studying material geared at your level. We have an entire section on the Common European Framework since we think this is a helpful tool to help you achieve your goal – good luck!