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Learn Real English: 9 Words for this Holiday Weekend

Learn Real English: 9 Words for this Holiday Weekend

Today, and this weekend, is a holiday in many countries. A friend and I decided to go on hike in the beautiful village of Deep Cove, near Vancouver. As a result of it being a holiday weekend, here are some words I was thinking about and want to share with you!

1. Long Weekend

A ‘long weekend’ is a 3 day weekend, instead of the normal 2 day weekend. This weekend the extra holiday day is today, Friday, so the weekend is Friday, Saturday and Sunday. People here LOVE long weekends!

2. Spring Break

‘Spring Break’ is usually one or two weeks where students do not have to go to class during the spring season. A ‘break’ is a time of rest from work, so this is a time when students rest from their work as students!

3. Get away

Get away (verb) - to escape or break free
Get away (verb) – to escape or break free

Many people who work or study love the long weekend or their spring break because they can ‘get away’ – which means to be free from their work and go far away from their work or the normal stress of their lives! Today there were many people on the hike who wanted to “get away”.

4. Escape the Rat Race

Definition of Escape
escape (Verb) – to be free from a place where you do not want to be, or run and be safe from danger
Definition of Rat Race
Rat Race (noun) – a word to describe the way that people work too hard to get money and power, and how they can not escape this circle of more, more, more….a comparison to rats in science experiments.
Image credit to artist Polyp.

Many people want to get away on long weekends to escape the rat race for a while. People work very hard and the opportunity to get away from their hard work is very welcome!

5. Unwind

Definition of Unwind
Unwind (verb) – to relax

People who are feeling very tired of the rat race and who need a break often say they need to ‘unwind’ (pronunciation of wind is not like the noun, the verb is pronounced,/waɪnd/ ) The idea of unwind is to relax a body that is feeling tight and stressed.

6. Crowds and Crowded

Definition of Crowds and Crowded
Crowds (plural noun) – Many many (maybe TOO many!) people
Crowded (adjective) – when there are too many people

When my friend and I were on the hike today, there were so many people that wanted to get away on their long weekend that the hike was VERY crowded!

7. Parking Spaces

Definition of parking space
Parking Spaces (Plural Noun) – The area where you can park (put) your car

It was not only the hike that was crowded! When we arrived to the village of Deep Cove we had to drive around for almost 30 minutes to find a parking space!

8. Traffic Jam

Definition of traffic jam
Traffic Jam (noun) – A time when cars can not move on the road because there are too many cars

We were lucky in one way. It was a very busy day, but we did not get stuck in any traffic jams. I am sure that in other parts of the city and other parts of the world there were many traffic jams on this busy long weekend, but we got away with no traffic jams!

9. Bumper to Bumper

Definition of bumper to bumper
Bumper to bumper (adjective phrase) – a description of cars in a traffic jam

 

Another adjective phrase we often use to describe a traffic jam is bumper to bumper. We did not experience a traffic jam today, or see any bumper to bumper traffic.

 

I hope you enjoyed this long weekend/Spring Break vocabulary lesson. Please share below on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus or wherever your friends are who need vocabulary help! You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google Plus to continue to get posts about English language learning. Thank you and I hope some of you can join me this summer on an English Language Intensive Travel Experience to learn more Real English!

 

This and more helpful articles can be found here > http://englishretreats.ca/learn-real-english-9-words-for-this-holiday-weekend/

Andrea’s Profile

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Daily Grammar

Like fruits and vegetables, grammar is part of a healthy balanced life.  Well, maybe not for everyone, but if you are learning a language, daily grammar activities should be part of your routine.

Many people don’t have time to eat the proper nutrients during the day, so they take vitamins and get their daily dose of  whatever they are missing.  (ex- I take a vitamin every morning to make sure I get my daily dose of Vitamin C.)  “I don’t have time for that”, a commonly heard excuse for not doing something.  Exercise, cooking properly, improving a skill such as a language…  I’d say we are all guilty of  procrastination at some point or another.

I tell my students that they need to exercise their brain daily and fit some English language activity in everyday.  Activity being the key word there.  Listening and reading are great, but those fall into the category of passive learning.  This is easier because you do not have ‘to act’.  Active learning is when you have to produce something, like an answer in a quiz or a spoken response to someone else.

Fitting grammar in every day does not mean that boring heavy text-books have to be a part of your daily life.  It can be a simple little quiz (Active learning FTW!) or a quick review of something you think you know pretty well already.  The key is to make it part of your routine.  Perhaps everyday while you are eating breakfast with your lap-top open (you know you do this!) you can open up a grammar quiz page and do one.

I’m going to start using #EngGrammar on twitter to tag grammar activities.  So make some time and get your daily dose of grammar! 

dose (noun) a quantity of a medicine or drug taken or recommended to be taken at a particular time
procrastination (noun) the action of delaying or postponing something
fit (something) in (phrasal verb) to give a place or time to
FTW (slang) “For The Win” An enthusiastic emphasis to the end of a comment, message or post
*practice using these words in the comments section and I will check them and give you feedback*

Most common idiomatic expressions in English

The English language is full of idiomatic expressions. While it is nearly impossible to learn all of these expressions, you should be familiar with the most important ones. Here is a list of the most widely used idiomatic expressions in English.

A penny for your thoughts

This expression is another way of asking what somebody is thinking.

Add insult to injury

To add insult to injury is to make a bad situation worse.

A hot potato

A hot potato is a topic or an issue that is widely discussed.

Once in a blue moon

If something happens once in a blue moon it happens very rarely.

Caught between two stools

When you are caught between two stools, you have difficulty choosing between two alternatives.

See eye to eye

When two people see eye to eye, they agree on something.

Hear it on the grapevine

To hear it on the grapevine is to hear a rumor.

Miss the boat

To miss the boat is to miss your chance at something.

Kill two birds with one stone

To kill two birds with one stone is to do two profitable things at the same time.

On the ball

When you are on the ball, you understand the situation very well.

Cut corners

To cut corners is to do something badly to save money.

Costs and arm and a leg

If something costs and arm and a leg, it is very expensive.

Sit on the fence

When you sit on the fence, you don’t make a decision.

This and other helpful information can be found on http://www.englishgrammar.org/category/writing/ 

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Give Yourself a Sporting Chance! Sports Idioms in English

It is funny how big sporting events such the FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon or the Olympics can suddenly turn entire nations sporting mad, even for armchair fans who only cheer on their teams from the comfort of their own homes. Although most people do tend to have a passing interest in sports, we are never as avid fans as when there is a great sporting event taking place.

Someone will be celebrating victory after winning the FIFA World Cup final in Brazil, and although it might not be your team who wins, it is still a good opportunity to learn some phrases or idioms that originate from sports and that have been adopted into everyday speech. These idioms can be used in business situations, social occasions and, of course, during sporting events.

Let’s kick off with a simple one such as, well, kick off. We use this phrase when we want to initiate or start something, but we could just as easily say let’s get the ball rolling, get a head start, be first out of the gate, play ball or even make a flying start.

If you are too eager to get started, someone might use the phrase jump the gun, which usually implies that you have started without getting all of the information required to complete a task properly. You might even score an own goal, by which we mean doing something that has a negative effect, or the opposite of what you intended.

If you get into trouble, it could be three strikes and you’re out, you could be said to be out of your depth, in deep water, or even be for the high jump, but friends or colleagues could offer you support by going to bat for you, or by being in your corner. Be careful, though; the odds may be against you unless you are saved by the bell.

When preparing for an interview for a new job or promotion, you should emphasize how much of a team player you are. You should be ready to step up to the plate to take on a new challenge so don’t drop the ball. Don’t pull your punches when selling your skills and experiences, since you may need to play hardball to convince your boss that you are worthy of promotion. Most importantly, don’t throw in the towel, this could be a whole new ball game for you.

 It’s Not Cricket!

You can have lots of fun, as well as make yourself sound more interesting by using sporting idioms to help to describe many situations. There are far too many to list them all here, as there are an estimated twenty-five thousand idioms in the English language altogether. As you can see from the above text, sporting idioms in particular can spice up your language skills, so let’s take a look in detail at one or two sporting idioms that you may already have come across in business English.

Plain sailing – This denotes a simple or easy situation, although from my experiences there are very few easy situations in real life. Businessmen and women often use this phrase to describe complex decisions or discussions in which they are hoping for a positive outcome.

The ball is in your court – Often used when a decision needs to be reached and the responsibility has passed onto a single person to decide. Sometimes though, it is used by others to strong-arm someone into making a decision against their better judgment.

Call the shots – Usually this signifies who is in charge or making the decisions and where you would go to ask for advice if needed. In cases where different groups are meeting, one might ask the other who is calling the shots in order to discover who they need to impress the most.

Saved by the bell – A term from boxing which signifies when a lucky or fortunate event occurs which has a positive outcome. It describes encountering an event which may have saved you from misfortune, but was totally unexpected.

A level playing field – Often denotes when there is an equal amount of opportunity between rivals, this can apply to candidates with similar skills and experiences who have applied for a new job or promotion, or alternatively be between companies hoping to win a big contract. There is a fair chance for everyone to win or succeed.

 Literally Translated

However, it is not just business situations where these idioms are used. They are used in everyday common language by most of us, so it is important to grasp their meanings as quickly as possible. Idioms exist in most modern languages, but they do not tend to translate very well into anything meaningful when literally translated word-for-word. It is their figurative meanings that are important, which normally cannot be easily understood from the literal meanings of the words.

I suggest that next time you take an English language lesson, prepare some sporting idioms from your own language to translate into English. You can translate them literally into English, and then choose from the many different English idioms that closely match their meanings in your own language. Finally, remember that the use of idioms is vital in the IELTS exam if you are looking for a score of 7 or more!

For more information on idioms in general, a well as sporting idioms, visit me onFacebook, where you will find daily bites of fun English. You can also find me on italki most days, either teaching or gladly helping out with any English language queries you may have.

For further reading on sporting idioms, the BBC has a page dedicated to some of those most commonly used.

Contact Rachel today!  http://www.italki.com/teacher/1394345 

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Using a whiteboard to improve your English

I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times… Surround yourself with English!  How about on the walls of your home!?!

White board for English

Invest in a small whiteboard (or a big one!) and use it everyday to write down new vocabulary words to improve your English.  Everyone has a different style of learning and remembering new words, so do what is right for you.  Here are some suggestions:

  • The definition
    • If you are at a high enough level, write the definition in English.
    • If you still need the help, use your native language– but try to use that the least amount possible.
  • Sentences using the new words
    • Anyone can memorize a word, but to actually be able to use it correctly is another story.
    • Look it up and take note of the sentence structure used in example sentence and BAM! you get a grammar lesson as well.
  • Common phrases or idioms that involve the word
    • You want to speak as natural as possible, so do a bit of research and see how the word is used in “real-life”.
  • Pictures
    • Have fun and draw something to help you remember the word.
  • Questions you think of and want to ask your teacher later on

This method is a great way to bring that passive vocabulary to active.  The small amount of time you spend writing the word and the sentences… that alone is going to help you to remember it, not to mention all of the times you will see it in the day.  Subscribe to a word of the day service and constantly be on the lookout for words to add to your board.  (click below)

http://www.learnersdictionary.com/

Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary

 

Three – It’s The Magic Number

There is something special about the number 3, throughout history it has been a significant number and continues to be so today. The Egyptians built the Pyramids, the Bible talks of the 3 Wise Men and the Holy Trinity. There are 3 primary colours, 3 dimensions, 3 parts to time, we live on the third planet in our Solar System and there are 3 kingdoms on Planet Earth.

I could go on, but we would be here all day, so take a look at this page for more facts about the number 3.

The point I am trying to make is that we use the number 3 in many ways everyday without even realising that we are doing it, and in teaching it can be a very powerful weapon to have in your armour.

Think about it for a second or 3

Stories contain a beginning, middle and ending, and when we speak and use descriptive nouns we tend to use them in threes automatically. Presentations and reports normally include an introduction, main body of information and a conclusion. Our world seems to revolve around the number 3.

So, how can we use the number 3 in language lessons?

I am constantly working with a number of students who are preparing for IELTS speaking test, whose level of English is good, but they just need to show greater fluency on the day. The best little trick I can pass on to them is to think about the number 3.

What I mean is, when you are asked something about yourself, instead of just replying with a single answer such as, ‘I like to watch movies‘, what you need to do is think bigger.

In any answer, you need to think in threes, not in single nouns. So, let’s take movies, drinking coffee and reading as example personal traits, three not one. Next we need to add adjectives to each noun and where possible put them into a specific order of emotion, in order to end up with a response such as: ‘I like to read magazines and drink coffee, but most of all I love to watch movies.’

What you achieve by always thinking in threes is to actually help yourself to achieve greater fluency, which by return means a better score. However, it isn’t just nouns and adjectives that make us seem proficient and fluent. Idioms and phrasal verbs are just as important, and again 3 is the magic number to use. Try to introduce 3 simple idioms and 3 phrasal verbs, and to make sure that you practice using them before your speaking test, so that you understand how and when they are appropriate.

This method actually arms you with 3 tools for getting the score you need on your speaking test; always being able to answer questions with 3 responses, plus 3 idioms and 3 phrasal verbs to use. Interestingly enough, there are 3 parts to an IELTS speaking tests, so the idioms and phrasal verbs can be split equally between them.

 

For more on the Magic of 3, take a look at this video from EngVid.

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Contact Rachel today > http://www.italki.com/teacher/1394345

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Google Phrasebook

Google announced their ‘Phrasebook’ in 2013 > Official Release Statement 

I was very excited by this because I am not only a language teacher, but also a language learner.  I am at a very beginner level, slowly and steadily learning Greek.  Taking my own advice that I give to my students, “you must have English in your life everyday if you want to improve…”  I’ve decided to start a journal writing very simple phrases in Greek.  Using my active vocabulary, each day I’ll write a few things down.

I wanted to check a few words using Google Translate (I know, I know, it’s not always correct, but for simple basic words, usually it is ok- and I am at that simple basic level!) and I remembered about phrasebook.  Happy times!  It is so simple to use and I think VERY useful for helping language learners review vocabulary.

First you just type in the word or phrase in your language using Google Translate

google phrasebook

 

Here I actually searched for the phrase first in English-> Greek and then switched it because I want my phrasebook to have the Greek words first, but either way works.

Next you just click on the little star below the phrase or word and you will see a little notification pop up in the upper left-hand corner showing that a word has been added.  That is your phrasebook icon!

google phrasebook

Click on that little star-book icon and you will see all of the words/phrases that you have previously saved.

google phrasebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, I have mine with the Greek phrase first, but you can sort by language and by the date you added it.

You can even export it to a spreadsheet by clicking on that icon under the search tool.

google phrasebook

 

 

 

 

 

google phrasebook

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many great tools out there to help us with language learning.  I hope that you will try it out and let me know how it works!

Please share some of the tools you use to improve your vocabulary in the comments section below and perhaps be featured in a future blog….

AMERICAN IDIOMS STARTING WITH ‘A’

Welcome to our extensive list of American English idiomatic expressions! These kinds of phrases are used by native speakers all the time. Learn and use some of these idioms and you will be able to speak English in a more natural way. 🙂
  • About time:  Nearly time, high time. ex. “It’s about time you bought a new car!”
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder:  Proverb that means that our feeling for those we love increases when we are apart from them.
 ABSENCE1ABSENCE2

  •  (To) act high and mighty:  To act proudly and arrogantly. ex. “He has been acting all high and mighty ever since he chased away that mouse.”

ACTHIGHANDMIGHTY

  • Actions speak louder than words: Proverb meaning that’s it’s better to do something about a problem than to talk about it.ACTIONSLOUDER2ACTIONSLOUDER

 

  • (To) act one’s age: To behave in a more mature way. Frequently said to a child or teen. ex. “Bill, stop throwing rocks! Act your age!”

ACTONESAGE2ACTONESAGE


 

  • (To) add fuel to the fire:  To make a bad problem even worse. ex. “He added fuel to the fire by bringing up old grudges while they were arguing.”

ADDFUELTOFIRE

 


 

  •  (To) add insult to injury: To make a bad situation even worse.

ADDINSULTOINJURY

 


 

  • Against the clock: To attempt to do something “against the clock” is to attempt to do something as fast as possible, usually in order to make a deadline. ex. “They were working against the clock to finish the project.”
 AGAINSTCLOCK

 
  • All out (adj./adv.): Full-scale; complete. ex: “They said it was only a few skirmishes, but it was an all-out war.”
 ALLOUT

  •  All set:  Ready (to go). ex. “All set?”
ALLSET

  • All thumbs:  Awkward. Clumsy.
  ALLTHUMBS

  • A little bird told me: When someone says “a little bird told me”, it means they don’t want you to know who told them.
 
ALITTLEBIRD


  • All in a day’s work: Typical; normal; par for the course. ex. “Talking to famous celebrities is all in a day’s work for some Hollywood reporters.”
ALLINADAYSWORK 

  • (From) all walks of life: (From) all social, economic, and ethnic groups. ex. “People from all walks of life voted for him, but he still lost the presidential election.”
 Workers
 
 
 
 


  •  Apple of someone’s eye:  Someone’s favorite person (and sometimes thing). ex. “Sarah was the apple of Tom’s eye for quite a long time. He was very much in love with her.”

APPLEOFEYE

 


  • Armed to the teeth: Heavily armed. ex. “The rebels were armed to the teeth.”
ARMEDTOTEETH


  •  At all hours (of the night): Very late at night, throughout the night. ex. “Her boyfriend would call her at all hours of the night.”
 ALLHOURSOFNIGHT

  • At each other’s throats: Fighting or arguing hard. ex. “They were at each other’s throats. The arguments never stopped.”  Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were at each other’s throats as George and Martha.
 ATEACHOTHERSTHROAT

  •  At this stage: At this point. ex. “At this stage, it’s difficult to say who will win the election.”
 ATTHISSTAGE

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JANET’S PROFILE

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IDIOMS

Oftentimes when we speak, we use idioms to make a point.  Idioms are used in many different languages for expression. Though it may be difficult to translate them from one language to another, we may still find ones that share the same basic meaning.  Learning idioms is important if you want to have normal, everyday conversations with native speakers on an informal level.  The rules you learn for speech in the classroom do not always apply to the language of the streets, the clubs, the coffee shops, speaking with friends, etc. Understanding idioms and knowing when to use will help you speak better and help you understand the different phrases you hear.  Here are some of the most common idioms used in the English language.
 
A Chip On Your Shoulder: 
Being upset for something that happened in the past. 
 
A Piece of Cake: 
A task that can be accomplished very easily.
 
Back To The Drawing Board: 
When an attempt fails and it’s time to start all over.
 
Bite Off More Than You Can Chew: 
To take on a task that is way to big.
 
Down To The Wire: 
Something that ends at the last minute or last few seconds.
 
Go The Extra Mile: 
Going above and beyond whatever is required for the task at hand.
 
Hit The Nail on the Head: 
Do something exactly right or say something exactly right. 
 
Mumbo Jumbo: 
Nonsense or meaningless speech

Out Of The Blue: 
Something that suddenly and unexpectedly occurs.
 
Rain check: 
An offer or deal that is declined right now but willing to accept later.
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The 3 best ways to learn new vocabulary

Flashcards

Flashcards can be very effective as long as you are aware of their limitations and don’t overdo it so that it becomes a chore. Of course they work best with pairs of words that have a close correspondence between languages, typically basic nouns.  Single word flashcards will get you quickly up and running with some basic vocabulary, although in the longer term you will want to use whole sentences so that you understand how the words are used in context. Of course as you read, and listen, eventually you will just naturally absorb words after you have encountered them enough times. This is probably the best way, but is a bit more of a long term method. Also over time you learn to recognise parts of words with common meanings and patterns that make it easier to remember.

Notebook

1- Get a notebook and draw columns in it.
2- Write new words in the first column so every row starts with a new word.
3- Title the remaining columns as “day 1, day 2, day 3, week 1, week 2, month 1” etc, that indicates when you saw the word last time, for example “day 3” on 15/04/14, “week 1” will be on 22/04/14.
4- On the next page, write the meaning of each word.
5- In front of every word there will be 6 blank rows, if you remember the meaning of that word, fill in the blank with a ‘+’ sign, if not fill in the blank with a ‘-‘ sign.
6- You can refer to the next page if you don’t remember a word’s meaning and see its meaning again
7- You can also use a part of notebook for the grammar.

If you can remember the meaning of the word in “month 1” then you have memorised the word forever!

Post-it Notes

Use a wall to cover with word stickers! You may want to buy stickers of different colours (one colour for one part of speech, for example, of even one colour for one word, if you need to memorise the forms of one word, or phrases). You can then also play with it, creating sentences! You may even put stickers on objects, such as pieces of furniture to memorise the words for them. Although remember that in the long run you need to memorise not words but phrases, to find out how words ‘behave’ in different contexts. It’s particularly true for English because of the quirkiness of spelling verses pronunciation.