Monday, March 28, 2011

Common Error: "Remember" vs. "Remind"

Hello, and welcome again to Mistake Monday! This error can happen if you confuse two very similar-looking words. Let's take a look:

Common Error: Remember vs. Remind
DON’T say this:Please remember me to pick up party supplies after work.
Did you remind to wash your hands after you used the bathroom?
WHY?-Remember is a verb; it's the opposite of forget. If you remember a piece of information, you keep it in your memory.

-Remind is also a verb, but it's used differently. When you remind someone about something, then you're doing it because you don't want them to forget. You're basically giving a person an order to remember something.
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"Please remind me to pick up party supplies after work."
-"Did you remember to wash your hands after you used the bathroom?"

So, today's error was pretty quick, wasn't it? Hopefully you'll remember the correct way to use these words. I'll try to remember to remind you about this mistake if I notice my students making this error--but then again, I may forget!
If you have any other questions or suggestions, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Common Error: Misusing "advice" and "advise"

Welcome again to Mistake Monday! Our error this week is pretty quick, but I even noticed it in my classes one or two times this past week. Let's look:

Common Error: Misuse of "advice" and "advise"
DON’T say this:This problem is urgent, so please advice me on what to do.
This is my advise: you should quit medical school and start a band!
Can you give me an advice?
WHY?-This is an easy-to-solve problem: advice (with a C) is a noun, and advise (with an S) is a verb.

-Additionally, advice is a non-count noun. That means that you can't say "an" advice, since it can't be counted. Instead, you can make it plural ("some advice") or if you want to "count" it, you could say "a piece of advice."

-For pronunciation, at least in American English: 
    -advice is pronounced with an "/s/" sound
    -advise is pronounced with a "/z/" sound
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"This problem is urgent, so please advise me on what to do."
-"This is my advice: you should quit medical school and start a band!"
-"Can you give me some advice?" OR
-"Can you give me a piece of advice?"

So, that's it for today. I'll be happy to advise you if you have any more questions about this common error. Or, if you have any other questions or suggestions, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Online Conversation Club

As a reminder, if you're a CCCN student in one of my classes, you can participate in the Online Conversation Club being offered this bimester. Click Here for the schedule and more information on how to participate. I hope to see you online!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Language-Learning Site of the Week: VOA Learning English

In a previous post related to podcasts I mentioned that one of my favorite online resources was the BBC Learning English site. I still highly recommend that site, since it's almost like a little world of English-learning resources. However, just this week a student recommended the VOA Learning English site to me, and it seems like a good site if you're looking for additional English resources, without necessarily having to deal with the British accent that comes with the BBC's site (that may sound like I'm joking or being catty, but that has actually been one of the most common complaints or comments I've heard from my students who've checked out the BBC site).

VOA stands for "Voice of America," and although it's based out of the United States, it's meant for audiences in other countries. Their Learning English site has a lot of current news, cultural reports, and other information relevant to English learners. I'm still checking it out myself, but I'll post anything interesting I find on the site to Sitzman ABC's Twitter feed.

In the meantime, if you have any comments or other suggestions related to the VOA site or any other sites that you've come across, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts. Either comment in the section below, or contact us through email.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

VOA Logo Image Source:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Common Error: "Thank God" vs. "Thanks God"

Hello, and welcome again to Mistake Monday! Today's error is small and technically, it's not actually an error some of the time. Still, it could cause some confusion. For example, sometimes my students say, "Thanks God!" To which I just reply, "I'm not God."
Why do I say that? Well, because I'm not God. But there's also a grammatical reason. Let's take a look:

Common Error: "Thanks God" vs. "Thank God"
DON’T say this:Thanks God that we weren't in that earthquake!
"Thanks God!" said Pete when he realized that the quiz was canceled.
WHY?-As I said above, "Thanks God" isn't actually an error, in the right context. If you're talking directly to God, you could say something like, "Thanks, God, that was great!"
-However, most of the time when people use this phrase, it's more of an exhortation (like a command, almost), and in that case, "Thank God" is generally considered correct.
-In the same way, people would say, "Praise God!"
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"Thank God we weren't in that earthquake!"
-"'Thank God!'" said Pete when he realized the quiz was canceled.
-"At church, the pastor could be shouting 'Praise God! Praise God! Praise the Lord!' over and over."
"'TGIF' means 'Thank God It's Friday!'"
-"Sean thanks God every day for his health." (Here "thanks" is a third-person verb)
-"Thanks, God, for my good health." (If praying, since you'd be talking to God)

So, that's it for today. If you have questions or comments, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

German Corner: "The Dumb Fish Song"

So far, I've mainly stuck to talking about English on this blog, but I've been meaning to add more content about other languages, as well. I actually studied German and struggled for nearly a decade to learn it, so often it's actually more interesting for me to talk or think about the German language than it is for me to write about English.

On the rare occasions that people ask about German, they often ask, "Is it hard?" 
Short answer: Yes. 
Long answer: Yes, it is.

German pronunciation is easier than English, since it's phonetic and English isn't, but that's about it. The main killer of students who are trying to learn German is grammar. I remembered I'd heard the following song about 10 years ago, and believe it or not, it's actually a song specifically written to illustrate German adjective endings. You can feel free to watch the video, although only the song is original; the video was made by some junior-high schoolers as an extra-credit project, apparently, and the video quality seems to verify that fact:

Now, if you don't understand German, then it'll likely seem like a bunch of gibberish. If you do speak German, it'll probably still sound like a bunch of gibberish, because it basically is. I guess that's what you get when you write a song based on grammar. For example, the first line* is:

"Eins, zwei, drei / der gute Mann / ein guter Mann / der gute Mann / ein guter Mann / schlag den guten Mann nicht / schlag einen guten Mann nicht / schlag den guten Mann nicht... gib dem guten Mann einen Fisch / gib einem guten Mann einen Fisch"

That means:

"One, two, three / the good man / a good man / the good man / a good man / don't hit the good man / don't hit a good man / don't hit the good man... give the good man a fish / give a good man a fish"

Look at the English, and compare it to the German version. If you notice, there's a lot going on here. In the German, the definite article the appears to be either der, den, or dem, and the indefinite article a comes out as ein, einen, or einem. And it's true! The words "the" and "a" really can have that many variations (or a few more, if you count plurals and genitive/possessive words). And what about "good"? That comes out as gute, guter, and guten. The reason for these linguistic shenanigans? In German, articles and adjectives change depending on whether the noun they're referring to is the subject, object, or direct object of a sentence.

And the worst part of it is this: "Mann" (meaning "man," pretty obviously) is a masculine noun... and German has three genders: masculine, "neuter," and feminine. Plus, you also have to change the articles, the adjectives, and the nouns themselves when you make them plural. And in fact, that's what progressively happens in the following three verses of the song.

English does have quite a few similarities to German due to the two languages' partially-shared history and development, but luckily for today's English learners --and much to the frustration of today's German learners-- English didn't retain a lot of this grammatical complication, while German did.

So, whenever you're having difficulties learning a language, it's sometimes nice to realize that it could always be worse. And if you're struggling with German, remember this: at least it's not Finnish!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

*This Turkish site has a kind of half-baked version of the lyrics (For example, it doesn't capitalize nouns, as is necessary in German), but I only direct you there for quick reference. For a better alternative, I suggest checking out Brad Yoder's website. I just realized two days ago that he wrote the song, and in a strange twist of fate, I actually met him in Pittsburgh in 2001. He's a good guy and deserves your patronage. Plus, he looks quite a bit like me, and he might even be my long-lost, evil-twin brother (or vice versa)!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Online Conversation Club

For my CCCN students in Palmares, I wanted to remind you about the Online Conversation Club. It's free, it's easy, and it's a good way to practice your English.

To participate, use MSN's Instant Messenger. When you're signed in, add 
to your contacts, and you'll be all set! The contact will appear online during conversation club hours. To start chatting, just start the conversation by saying hello. There are different extension teachers administering the chatting sessions each day, and each teacher will provide discussion topics. You can also use the club as a chance to ask any questions you may have about your class.

The schedule for this bimester is as follows:

Tuesday: 6 pm - 9 pm (Ryan)

Wednesday: 12 pm - 2 pm

Thursday: 10 am - 12 pm

Friday: 10 am - 12 pm and 6 pm - 8 pm

Saturday: 2 pm - 5 pm

The club starts in week 2 (Monday, March 14th) and finishes at the end of week 7. The times above are subject to change but if they do, I'll try to note the changes here. [Update 14-March: The session on Monday has been eliminated, and Saturday's now will start at 2 pm, instead of 1. Thanks.]

As indicated above, I'll be the teacher administering the club on Tuesday evenings, so feel free to say hello to me if you have any questions about class or English in general.

Until then, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Open Your Brain!

I recently read a book called The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau (click here for a short review I wrote). I liked the book, and I wanted to mention an idea that the author talked about. One of his pieces of advice for improving understanding of the world is to read a new Wikipedia article every day. He says:

"Set your home page to Over the next year, every time you open your browser, you'll see a different, random Wikipedia page. Read it. Cost: $0."

Actually, that sounds like a great idea to me if you want to learn English! This trick works with other languages, too, but the address would be slightly different. For example, you can try a random article in these languages:

You can apparently do this with any other language that uses Wikipedia, if you know where to click; another option is to simply open Wikipedia and type [alt-x] to get a random article.

Finally, if you're learning English, did you know that there's a "simple" version of Wikipedia? You can find it here. It has shorter, more basic versions of articles. If you want a random, simple article, click here.

So, have fun exploring a bit! If you find anything interesting, tell us in the comments. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Practice Logs

This is NOT a practice log; it's just a normal log.
But I suppose you could practice on it if you needed to.
A few years ago I got really interested in Swedish language and culture. I met some Swedish people, visited Sweden a few times, and even took some Swedish classes at the university. In one of those classes my Swedish teacher introduced me to the Practice Log, and I noticed that it it really helped me improve my language skills. So, I took her idea and I still try to use it in my classes today, whether I'm a teacher or a student.

But what is a log? Well, the picture above shows one type of log (the kind made from tree trunks), but that's not the kind of log we're talking about today. A "log" can also be a type of journal or diary. In my Swedish class, we used a Practice Log to record the time we practiced Swedish activities, whether it was listening to music, reading news articles on the internet, or watching Swedish movies. In my classes today, I have my students do the same thing but instead of Swedish, I ask them to record the time they spend practicing any type of English activity. 

Notice I said any type of English activity: that's important, at least for me. I tell my students that they can do anything they want to practice --play video games, chat online, watch TV, whatever!-- as long as it's in English. I make sure to emphasize that the only requirement is that the activity be interesting for them. (Check out this earlier post with a list of 26 suggestions of interesting ways to practice a foreign language.)

In my classes, I usually have my students provide me with a few basic pieces of information, including the amount of time they spent practicing a language, what activity they did, and any new vocabulary they might have picked up. I've gotten good feedback because it's a non-stressful way to encourage  students to practice. 
Here is an example of a practice log:

The amount of practice time can obviously vary. Some people say that for every hour in a classroom, you need one (or even two) hours of out-of-class practice to advance in a foreign language. I generally have my students practice and report at least three hours per week, but of course the more you practice, the quicker you'll learn the language.

So, that's my tip for today. If you have done practice logs --either as a student or a teacher-- I'd love to hear your comments. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Common Error: "Grow" vs. "Grow Up"

Hello, and welcome to Mistake Monday! Actually, I guess at this late hour, I'll have to call it "Mistake Monday Tuesday"! It's been a busy day and my schedule just changed, so please pardon the delay. In fact, I may have to start posting these common errors on Tuesdays, but we'll see. For now, let's look at a quick error. It's pretty small, but it's one I hear surprisingly frequently:

Common Error: Confusing "grow" and "grow up"
DON’T say this:Those palm trees really grow up quickly, don't they?
"When I grow I'm going to be a firefighter," said Jenny.
I hope to grow up in my new job.
My grandmother always grew up tomatoes in her garden.
WHY?-Generally, the verb "grow" means to become larger, bigger, or to get more experience.
-We can also use the verb grow when talking about agriculture; if you plant a seed, then you want it to grow.
-On the other hand, "grow up" means to become older (to age).
-Both verbs are irregular; the pattern is grow-grew-grown.
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"Those palm trees really grow quickly, don't they?"
-"'When I grow up I'm going to be a firefighter,' said Jenny."
-"I hope to grow in my new job."
-"My grandmother always grew tomatoes in her garden."

So, that's it for the moment. If you have questions or comments, please leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading!