Sunday, July 31, 2011

Good Comic

A few weeks ago we were looking at different loanwords in English, and one thing that many loanwords had in common is that they describe foods. We didn't look specifically at Italian loanwords in English, but when I saw this Bizarro comic the other day, I thought it was funny and I wanted to share it:

You can find more comics and a blog by Bizarro's author/creator here. Thanks for reading, and have a nice weekend!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Two Recommended Websites For General English Practice

As I mentioned a while ago, I often have my students complete practice logs. It's a good way to encourage them to practice, and it's also a good way for me to find new language-learning resources that I can pass on to other students. 

This week my student Henry included two good websites in his practice log, and I wanted to mention them here. 

The first is apparently called Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab (although the URL is simply "," which seems much easier). As the name indicates, it's got a lot of listening exercises with audio, partial scripts, quizzes, and vocabulary highlights. It's even got cultural tips in some of the sections, so the site is pretty great. The topics are very diverse, from pizza delivery to how to behave in a Japanese public bath. There seem to be between 200 and 300 different pages with different topics, and they're conveniently arranged according to difficulty. Check it out!

The second link my student visited was It's also got a self-explanatory name, as it's mainly focused on videos. If you scroll down on the home page, you'll see different topics like business English, grammar, pronunciation, and even my favorite, idioms. The grammar section alone has 105 videos, so there's plenty of material to keep you busy for a while! Check it out, and enjoy!

Thanks for reading, and if you have any additional suggestions for online practice, please leave a comment. Have a great day!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Common Errors: Confusing "Family" Words

Hello everyone, and welcome to Mistake Sunday (Monday is going to be busy, so I'm posting this Common Error a day early)! Today's error is common for most of my Spanish-speaking students, since Spanish--and probably other languages, too--has a tendency to group people together under a "masculine" word. For example, if someone says "Tengo cuatro hermanos" ("I have four 'brothers'"), it's unclear if the speaker is referring only to males, or to males and females together.

English did and still does this, too, but it's not as common these days. Consider the phrase from the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal." That was obviously written hundreds of years ago, and today would probably read, "all men and women" or "all people." Nevertheless, this error is easy to recognize and correct, with a couple of good vocabulary words. Let's take a look:

Common Error: Confusing "Family" Words
DON’T say this:Clark Kent lived with his fathers, Jonathan and Martha, before he became Superman.
I'm going to visit my uncles Peter, Paul, and Mary during the vacation.
We are seven brothers in my family, and I am one of the three girls.
WHY?-If you are talking about two dads (both males, obviously), then you can use the word "fathers." If not, use the word "parents," which indicates men and/or women.

-Use "uncles" for men, but if you're including women, you have to use the phrase "aunt(s) and uncle(s)."

-For brothers and sisters together, use the word "siblings," which indicates brothers and/or sisters together.

-Finally, if you're talking about the number of people in your family, the phrase "we are" sounds strange. Instead, say something like "there are (3) of us" or "I have (2) siblings."
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"Clark Kent lived with his parents, Jonathan and Martha, before he became Superman."
-"I'm going to visit my aunt Mary and my uncles Peter and Paul during the vacation."
-"There are seven siblings in my family, and I'm one of three girls." OR
-"My parents had seven children, including three girls."

So, I hope that was helpful! If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for future Common Errors, please leave a message in the Comments section or contact us

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Fun and Interesting Site

My coworker Oscar told me about a site called

A screenshot from the Geography Section, but the English section is good, also!

It's connected to the World Food Programme, and you can take various online quizzes for free. For every answer you get correct, they donate 10 grains of rice to the program. It's pretty fun, actually, and if it all works out like it's supposed to, it's also a good cause (even though rice is one of the most boring foods there is).

You can take different quizzes, but my favorites are the Geography ones. For my English students, I'd obviously recommend the English section, which includes English Grammar and English Vocabulary.

Good luck, and have a good day!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

German Class Update

Fun Fact: In German, my nickname, "Sitz," is actually a
command that means "Sit!" Join the class and learn more!
Hi Everyone!

If you were interested in taking a German class in Palmares, I now have more details. Since quite a few people were interested, I've been talking with my friend Lidio Castillo, who's opening a language academy in Palmares that will teach English, German, and even Mandarin Chinese classes. The facilities will be nice, and there will be official class materials. Basically, it seemed like the best option to offer any potential students.

If you want more information, the new place is called Discovery Language Academy. You can call them at 2453-4541 for more information. They also have some special offers and discounts, such as a 10% discount if you invite friends to join classes. 

The class schedule is still yet to be determined, but it would probably be 4-6 hours per week, depending on the demand of people who are interested. For example, it could be on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 4-5:30, or we could also have one long class on Fridays.

So, that's the information for the moment. Thanks again for your interest, and I'll hope to see some of you soon in German class!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

German and English: Similarities and Differences

A few weeks ago we were looking at loanwords from other languages, including German. I said that I wanted to mention some similarities and differences between German and English, since I teach both languages and I'm hoping to start teaching a German class soon. So, that's what this post is about. If you're not interested, that's OK; I'll try to put up another English-learning post later this week. So, here we go:

"March 18th Plaza," in Berlin.
SIMILARITIES: History, Vocabulary, and Verbs

Historically, German and English came from the same language family. In fact, English is considered a "Germanic" language (click here for a language map and here for a cool graphic with more information). That means that many common words are similar in both languages. Some quick, easy examples are house/Haus, man/Mann, here/hier, and good/gut. 

If you have a high level of vocabulary in English, you can also notice other similarities between the two languages. For example, the German word for "dog" is "Hund." That looks pretty different, but if you know that "hound" is another English word for "dog," then you can see the similarity. Similarly, "chair" is "Stuhl" in German; it looks very different, but it's pronounced quite similarly to "stool," a synonym for "chair." There are many more examples.

Another area where we notice both similarities and differences is grammar. In some ways, German grammar is horrible (trust me). Simply put, it's much more complicated than English grammar. Still, if you know that a verb is irregular in English, it's almost always irregular in German, too. For example, the English verb "to swim" is conjugated swim - swam - swum; in German, it's schwimmen - schwamm - geschwommen. That's obviously not exactly the same, but if you compare it to a Romance language like Spanish (nadar - nadé - nadado), then you can see English is quite a bit closer to German than Spanish.

Löschwassereinspeisung is a compound noun meaning "fire-fighting water feed-in."

DIFFERENCES: Grammar, Vocabulary, and Pronunciation

Before we look at the differences, I wanted to recommend a semi-famous article by Mark Twain called "The Awful German Language." It's a classic among German students, but even if you don't study German, it's pretty funny, and you can hopefully read it to appreciate the German language--while laughing a bit, also!

As you probably noticed, "vocabulary" was in the "similarities" category, too. That's because there are some similar words between English and German, but there are also many different words, as well as different word-forming patterns. As you can see in the picture above, German can sometimes have very long compound nouns. Some can get ridiculously long. Here's a fun one, since yesterday was Independence Day in the U.S.: Unabhängigkeitserklärung ("independence declaration"). Speaking of nouns, another characteristic of German is that the first letter in a noun is always capitalized; that's why Hund, Stuhl, and Unabhängigkeitserklärung are all written with a capital letter.

Another difference is definite and indefinite articles. These exist in English, but they're more complicated in German. The English definite article is "the," and the indefinite article is "a" or "an." But in German, the definite article can be der if the word is masculine, die if it's feminine, or das if it's "neuter." For example, Stuhl is masculine--don't ask me why, though!--so it's technically "der Stuhl," if the word is the subject of a sentence. If it's an object, it changes to den Stuhl. And it changes again if it's an indirect object and again if it's possessive. And that's just for the definite articles--the indefinite articles are a whole other problem! To make a long story short, there are between 6 and 12 ways to say the word "the" (depending on how you count).

And adjectives are even worse.

You're probably thinking, "Wow, that's horrible! Aren't there any good differences between German and English?" Yes, there is at least one area where German is generally considered easier than English: Pronunciation. English pronunciation is notoriously difficult to master, but German is much more phonetic, and if you can figure out how to read some of those ridiculously long words, you can also probably pronounce them without too many problems. German does have a few different sounds and letters (ÖÜ, and Ä, plus the ß, which is basically the same as "ss"), but once you learn what they sound like, they always sound the same way, which is convenient. Then you just need to work on accent reduction!

So, I think that's all for now. I could talk a long time about all this stuff, so I hope it was interesting for anyone who's made it this far. I also hope I've not scared you away from German forever! It's difficult, but also sort of fun if you learn it with the right attitude. If you've got any questions about English, German, or anything else, please feel free to say hi in the comments section or contact me

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Some Sites for English Listening Practice

This weekend, "get a grip" on your English!
Over the last week or so I've come across a few sites that I thought would be helpful for my readers learning English. One is TOEIC-related, and the other two are more about current news.

The first,, has some good practice exercises and tests to prepare for the TOEIC or other similar, standardized tests, like the TOEFL. It seems to have a lot of information, so it's probably good to spend some time exploring it.

Next, I also came across the PBS site called NOW. PBS is the public broadcasting network in the US, and this site has longer reports and videos about current events (for example, here's one about natural gas drilling in the USA). 

Finally, here's another one from the VOA (Voice of America), which has podcasts that you can listen to. Some of them even have scripts that you can read while you listen, like this report about exercising.

So, check them out, and if you have any other links you've found lately, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section! Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!