Thursday, November 29, 2012

Transportation: Trains

All Aboard! Today we'll be talking about trains. This is the main train station in Beijing, China.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Hello! You may not know it, but two things I really like are trains and maps (yes, I know, I'm strange). So when I found this picture yesterday, I thought was cool:

Picture by Annie Mole, via Flickr. Click on picture for details.

Obviously, this isn't a real map, but it is interesting and fun to look at. It also inspired me to talk a little bit about transportation. Today we'll look at travel related to trains and identify possibly new and useful vocabulary. Then in a few days, we'll look at vocabulary related to subways, metros, and trams.

This train is on the island of Langeoog, in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. It's a very nice train but a very small system: there are only two stations! (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)


Trains are large vehicles that move passengers and cargo. A train normally has two parts: an engine, and multiple cars. Generally the word train refers to the engine and all of the cars, but it can also refer to the entire system. Trains move over rails (the two long metal pieces) and tracks (the metal, plus the structure that supports it), so for that reason train systems are also called railways or railroads.

These are some (old) train tracks in Colorado. "Tracks" refers to the whole structure, and "rails" refers to the two pieces of metal that the train's wheels sit on. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

There aren't really many trains in Costa Rica, unfortunately. There is a commuter train system connecting San José and Heredia, but that's about all. I think that in the Limón province you can sometimes see freight (cargo) trains, but they're not common in the rest of the country. Passenger trains are also uncommon in most of the US, except in the northeast. However, there are lots of freight trains in the whole country. 

A passenger train in Switzerland. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)
A freight/cargo train in Colorado, probably carrying oil or gas.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

If you want to see lots of nice, new trains, one of the best places to go is Europe. Most countries have their own well-developed rail systems, and those systems connect to other countries. You can find long-distance trains, as well as railways that serve individual cities or regions. Additionally you can see smaller rail systems like subways and streetcars. It's also possible to call those individual vehicles "trains."

So what do you do when you want to travel by train? When you want to catch a train or ride (on) a train, you generally have to go to a train station. There you can buy your ticket and find your train. If it's a large station, you need to figure out what track or platform your train will be leaving from. When you find the correct platform, you can board or get on the train, and then the fun begins.

Passengers in the Main Train Station in Berlin, Germany wait to board their trains. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Well, sometimes. But normally trains are more relaxing than driving, since you can sit back and read, listen to music, sleep, or talk with other people. That's why trains are nice for long-distance transportation. Some even have dining cars or, for very long distances, sleeping/sleeper cars. Those cars have beds and are basically like moving hotel rooms --but of course hotel rooms usually are bigger, nicer, and have less ugly curtains!

In September my wife Angela and I took a trip to China. This is Angela in our sleeper car on the train between Hangzhou and Beijing. The beds were very comfortable --but ugly! (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Finally, when you get/arrive to your destination, you get off the train. From there, you can find other types of transportation to get to your final destination. If you're in a big city, one option might be a subway or metro. We'll talk about vocabulary related to those systems in a few days.

So, let's review today's vocabulary:

1. train
2. engine
3. car
4. rail
5. track(s)
6. railway/railroad
7. commuter
8. passenger
9. freight
10. by train
11. station
12. catch a train
13. ride a train
14. track
15. platform
16. board a train
17. dining car
18. sleeper car
19. subway
20. metro

Can you define or explain each of these words? Try to do it, just for practice!

We'll be back in a few days to look at more transportation vocabulary but in the meantime, happy travels! Thanks for reading!

Angela took this picture of me in front of the "Maglev" (magnetic levitation) train in Shanghai. The track is very short, and only connects the city to the airport, but it's very fast: it can go up to 430 km/h! You can see a shaky video here. I guess it's technically not a railway, though, since the train doesn't really run on rails. Instead, it uses magnets to "float" above the tracks. It's a pretty cool train! (Picture by Angela Jimenez Mora)

Thursday, November 22, 2012


A slice of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I made this last Thanksgiving.
Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It's possibly my favorite holiday (read more about holidays in general here), but most people here in Costa Rica don't know anything about it. So today let's explore what the holiday is about! Many of these words --especially about foods-- may be new or strange for you, so I'll include definitions or explanations for the bold words at the end of the post.

First of all, Thanksgiving is an old holiday. The history of Thanksgiving is a bit complicated, though, and there are different ideas about the "first Thanksgiving." You can watch this video or any of the others on if you want more general information about the holiday's history. For today I just want to focus on the modern celebration.

Thanksgiving is celebrated in the US on the fourth Thursday of every November. Most people generally have Thursday and Friday off from work or school, so generally people try to get together with friends and family for a big meal (sometimes called "Thanksgiving dinner" or a "feast"). Different people eat different foods for Thanksgiving, but the most common food is definitely turkey. As sides, people often eat cranberry sauce together with the meat --it may sound weird, but it's delicious! Additionally, people often eat mashed potatoes with gravy, bread or rolls, stuffing, and save the most delicious thing for dessert: pumpkin pie

It's a special time of year, and I think one of the best things about the holiday is that it's not commercial, and that it's just about spending time with loved ones and being thankful for the good things in your life. Many times people take turns saying what they're thankful for in their lives.

At the old school where I used to teach, the students wrote what they were thankful for on a paper leaf. What are you thankful for in your life?

Let's go over some of the vocabulary for today. Before you read the definitions, though, can you explain what each of the words means?

have ____ off
get together (with)
cranberry (sauce)
pumpkin pie
spend time
loved ones
be thankful for
take turns

Now, let's look at some definitions or explanations for each of the vocabulary words:

Thanksgiving - a holiday at the end of November in the US
holiday - a special day; normally people don't have to work on holidays (see here)
have ____ off - if you have a day off, it means you don't have to work or go to school
get together (with) - to meet with someone
meal - a time when people eat food; the three meals are normally breakfast, lunch, and dinner
dinner - the name for the main meal at Thanksgiving (sometimes it's at lunch time, though)
feast - a very large, special, or elaborate meal
cranberry (sauce) - a cranberry is a tart fruit (see here)
mashed - "mash" is very similar to "smash" or "crush"
gravy - a thick sauce made from meat juices; often served with meat and/or potatoes
rolls - small, individual pieces of bread
stuffing - a mixture of bread cubes, celery, and other ingredients; often cooked inside the turkey
pumpkin pie - a dessert made from pumpkin, a type of gourd
spend time - we normally use the verb "spend" for time (not "pass")
loved ones - people who are important or special to us
be thankful for - to appreciate someone or something
take turns - when different people do something in order, one person at a time

So, what about you? What are you thankful for? I'm thankful for you, for reading this blog! If you have any comments or questions, please leave a comment. Thanks again for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Culture Tab

You may have noticed that there's a new "Culture" tab near the top of the screen, below where it says "Sitzman ABC":

If you click on the Culture tab, you'll find Sitzman ABC posts related to "cultural" aspects of language. The topics there include holidays, communication, names, and other things that are difficult to classify. I'll also plan on adding more posts to this section in the near future.

Don't forget, there are also tabs that will take you to pages with lists of Common Errors, False Friends, and "Fun" ("Fun" includes things like songs, videos, and other activities).

So have a look around, and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What Time Is It?

If you've been my student recently, you've probably noticed that the question I usually ask right before class is: "What time is it?" There's always one correct answer, no matter what the clock says. If you don't know the correct answer, it's hidden in the picture below--can you find it?

So, what time is it? That's right, it's ENGLISH TIME! 

I took this picture when I was in Istanbul, Turkey on a recent trip. I thought it was a funny and interesting coincidence, so I decided to share it here.

Thanks for reading, and I hope that English Time is your favorite time! 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Common Error: "Earn," "Win," and "Beat"

Good afternoon, and welcome again to Mistake Monday! I've been busy traveling the last few months, but I'm back in Costa Rica now, so I'll try to update the blog more frequently again. Today I want to look at another Common Error. If you're not sure what kinds of errors I'm talking about, look here for a list of previous errors we've looked at on the blog.

Monopoly (or "Monopolio," as it's called here in Costa Rica) is one of my favorite board games. I don't always win, but I often am able to beat my opponents by buying as many properties as possible. (Photo by Ryan Sitzman)
Today's error is found often when talking about sports or other types of contests. It's also confusing for Spanish speakers because one Spanish word (ganar) can mean all three of the English words. Let's have a closer look:

Common Error: Earn, Win, and Beat
DON’T say this:"She wins a lot of money in her job."
"Saprissa won La Liga in last night's soccer game."
WHY?-Earn refers to the money a person receives for doing work or a job. For example, you can say:
"Pablo earns 5,000 Colones per hour working for the phone company."
"I'd like a job where I can earn enough money to support my family."
In most cases, you can also use the word make instead of earn. ("Pablo makes 5,000 Colones...").

-Win (past tense: won) means that one person or team defeats or conquers another person or team. The opposite is lose (past tense: lost). When you use these words, you usually mention the competition or contest, but not the opponent:
"Jenny was the winner of the poker tournament. She won $50,000!"

"Spain won the World Cup in 2010."

The team with the highest score is the winner, and the team with the lowest score is the loser. Also, you can win a contest or competition unexpectedly (like the lottery or a raffle, for example):
"I hope I win a free car in the supermarket raffle!"

-Beat: Finally, beat is similar to win, but it's used a little differently in a sentence. You have to indicate both the winner and the loser (opponent) when you use the word beat:
"Terry beat Tommy in the video game, but Tommy beat Terry playing soccer."
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"She earns a lot of money in her job."
-"Saprissa beat La Liga in last night's soccer game."
-"Saprissa won last night's soccer game."

Hopefully you understand. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Prince, not a pirate.
Hello and Happy Halloween! Halloween is a holiday that is popular in English-speaking countries, particularly in the US. It's also becoming more and more popular in other countries like Costa Rica. It's common for people to go to parties and wear costumes to celebrate the holiday, and children go trick-or-treating, where they go from door to door in their neighborhoods to ask for candy.

I found this good, brief video that talks a bit about Halloween on It has information about customs, traditions, and history associated with Halloween. Check it out:

Also, if you click here to go to the video's page, you can also find lots of other cool videos related to Halloween.

If you are going to celebrate Halloween, have a good time and be safe! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Are We All "Americans"?

Hello! It's been a while since I've written on this blog, but I've been on a long trip. I finally have a little time to blog again, so I'd like to talk today about the use of the word "American." 

Two flags, but are they two American flags? Photo by Ryan Sitzman.

Who or what can be considered "American," at least in English? This is one of the most common questions/complaints I get in my English classes. As you probably know if you have friends from the USA, we often refer to ourselves as "Americans." I was recently listening to a Grammar Girl podcast that talked about this very issue. You can see the transcript or listen to the podcast here. The episode is great listening practice, of course, but some of the English is a bit advanced, just so you know.

In the USA, as well as much of Canada, Europe, and other regions, we learn that there are 7 continents, and that North America and South America are two different continents. However, in Latin America, schools teach that North and South America are combined, and that the continent is called "America."  As a result, in Spanish you can refer to anyone or anything from Alaska to Argentina as (an) "americano/a." This is a small difference in names, but it can cause bigger problems in cultural communication. 

If I refer to myself as an American in a class in Costa Rica, some of my students complain and say something like, "We are Americans, too." Sure, that's true. But they're also Costa Ricans. Or in South America, they're also Argentinians, Venezuelans, Peruvians, etc. The USA is at a bit of a disadvantage because there's not a word that can describe the people from the country, at least not in English (estadounidense works OK in Spanish, but there's not an equivalent in English).

Another issue that comes up in classes is the use of the word "North American." In Costa Rican Spanish, "norteamericano" is often used to refer to Americans and Canadians, but only sometimes Mexicans. It's a confusing term, especially if you're talking to a person who learned that Central America is part of the North American continent. I tell my students that according to geographers in the USA, Costa Ricans are also "North Americans"! Even if you eliminate the "norte," it doesn't necessarily make things less confusing or controversial. Just try calling a Canadian or a Mexican an "americano" and you'll see what I mean.

Basically, this is my message to my Costa Rican students and other readers in Latin America: If a person from the United States of America calls himself or herself an "American" when speaking in English, please don't take offense. They're not saying that you aren't Americans, too, but there's just not an English word that lets us describe our nationality in another way. If both English and Spanish speakers keep this in mind, it can help us avoid some cultural and linguistic misunderstandings.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

More About Procrastination

Do you remember the word "procrastinate"? It sounds like a dirty word, but it's actually not. We talked about it a while ago in this post. Basically, it means to avoid doing work. That's probably an over-simplification, but that's the general idea.

In any case, this video talks a bit more about procrastination, and how you can try to fight it:

I personally am a big procrastinator. That's one reason there haven't been posts on Sitzman ABC recently (the other, very valid reason is that I was in China, where Blogger is blocked). In the coming weeks I'll try to put up a post or two on this blog, but you can also check out Sitzman ABC's Facebook page for more frequent updates about languages, travel, and other interesting things.

We should be back to a normal posting schedule on this blog by the end of October or the start of November. In the meantime, check out the Facebook page.

Thanks for reading, and take care!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Few Chinese Things

As you may know, I'm currently taking a Chinese course and I'll be visiting China soon. So naturally I've been interested in Chinese language and culture. I've come across a few resources recently and I thought I'd share them here. They're all in English (at least the explanations), so even if you don't know a word of Chinese they may be interesting for you.

The first resource is actually my teacher Elizabeth. She's sent a lot of videos, and some of them may be interesting for you. This is one about Shanghai:

Next, there's a site called LingoBite. I found out about this site through a contact on Airbnb, actually. The site has very short and quick lessons to help you learn Mandarin Chinese. It also has a blog, which recently had a list of the 8 Best YouTube channels for learning Chinese.

Finally, the language blogs at Transparent are usually pretty great and they post frequent updates, and the Chinese one is no exception. A few days ago they had one that described the parts, history, and evolution of Chinese characters. It's pretty cool, so check it out!

I hope something here is interesting for you. Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Schedule Change

This is just a quick note to let you know about Sitzman ABC's new publishing schedule. Right now there are three posts a week, but that's going to be very difficult since things are busy right now. Some posts can even take up to two hours to write and at three per week, that's a lot of time. Additionally, I'll be traveling some in the coming months. So I've decided to do one post a week, at least temporarily. The weekly post will probably be on Wednesday.

I really like writing this blog, and I've gotten good feedback from my students. And in fact I do think that this blog has attracted a few more readers with three posts a week, but unfortunately it doesn't attract extra time or money. So in the interests of having more time to do other things, I've decided to make this change, at least for the next month or two. If you have any comments or feel strongly that this is a good or bad idea, I'd like to hear from you. And of course, if you want to leave a donation* to Sitzman ABC, I'd love to hear from you, haha!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to all my readers for giving me a reason and motivation to write this blog! Have a great week!

*Seriously, though, if you do want to donate something, just click on the big yellow "donate" button at the top right of Sitzman ABC. No pressure, though. Just do it. If you want. Now.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Friday: Interesting Site About Physics (Strangely Enough!)

It's been a long day, but I still wanted to do a Fun Friday post. Today I wanted to mention a website that my brother recommended to me called "What if?" Its motto is "Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday."

Now, I'm not a fan of Physics normally, I must admit, but this site talks about it in an accessible, interesting, and funny way. This week's post asks, "What would happen if everyone on earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?"

(Image from this week's post)
If you can even get your mind around the question, it's pretty funny, but the answer is even funnier. If you're interested, check it out. And either way, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

False Friend: Groserías vs. Groceries

Good evening, and welcome to Word Wednesday! Today we'll look at another False Friend. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post (and go here for a list of the False Friends we've already talked about). Today we'll look at the difference between groserías in Spanish and groceries in English. 

This is our refrigerator right now. I'd say it's about time we bought some groceries!
False Friend: groserías vs. groceries 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, groserías are bad words:

"No me digas groserías!"
("Don't say bad words to me!")

In English, groceries is a word that refers to all the food you buy at a store or supermarket:

"We're almost out of milk, and we need to buy more pasta, also. Let's go to the store to buy some groceries."

Notice also that the "c" in "groceries" is pronounced like an "sh," like in the word "she," at least in American English.

This is pretty easy to remember, and it's not that commonly confused --but when it is, it's pretty funny! Now that I think about it, I'll have to do a series on bad words in English and Spanish, since there are some that are very similar, but they're less serious or offensive in one language or the other. So stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

False Friend: Terrorífico vs. Terrific

Hello! I've been pretty busy lately, so instead of a (longer) Common Error post, I decided to do a False Friend post today (especially since we talked about this word in my class this evening). If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post. Today we'll look at the difference between terrorífico in Spanish and terrific in English. 

Is this clown terrific or terrorífico? I guess it depends on your point of view, but read on to find out the difference between these two words (they're very different)! Image by Graeme Maclean via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

False Friend: terrorífico vs. terrific 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, something that is terrorífico is very scary; the English equivalent is terrifying:

"La foto del payazo es terrorífica!"
("The photo of the clown is terrifying!")

In English, terrific is a synonym for words like excellent, wonderful, or amazing:

"I had a terrific time on my vacation. I can't wait to show you the pictures I took!"

So, I think this is pretty easy. Just remember that "terrorífico" and "terrifying" are bad, and "terrific" is good!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Really Good English Blog

Peter Bruegel's painting Tower of Babel. (Image)
I recently came across a blog called Separated by a Common Language. The author is a woman who goes by the name Lynneguist. The blog mostly focuses on differences and similarities between American and British English and indeed, the blog's name comes from a quote by George Bernard Shaw that says:

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

It's a pretty funny quote, since in my job as an English teacher I constantly notice little differences between American and British English, but I really like how Lynneguist investigates and explains them more.

For example, in this post from a day ago she talked about how British people seem to be more likely to say "please" when making a request, especially in restaurants, and then explains why that may be. 

In short, I'd definitely recommend the site if you're an upper-intermediate or advanced English learner, or if you're a native speaker that just likes to learn more about our language's idiosyncrasies.

That's it for tonight. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

False Friend: Colegio vs. College

A hallway at a colegio (high school) in San José, Costa Rica.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)
Hello! It's been a long time since we had a False Friend, so let's look at another one today. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post. Today we'll look at the difference between colegio in Spanish and college in English. 

False Friend: colegio vs. college 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, a colegio is like a high school in English:

"Ella va a un colegio bilingüe."
("She goes to a bilingual high school.")

In English, college is basically the same thing as a university (apparently there's a difference in Britain and Canada, but in my experience in the US, the two were  essentially the same):

"Most people in Costa Rica graduate from high school when they're between the ages of 17 and 19. After graduation, some of them go to college, and others get jobs right away."

So, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between these two words, right? Just remember, college=university. For our next False Friend I think we'll talk about the differences between a bachelor, a Bachelor's degree, and a bachillerato in Spanish. 

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Senses: Final Review

When I drink coffee, it activates all five of my senses (and sometimes even my sixth sense: the ability to find more coffee). If coffee doesn't do the same thing for you, you're probably doing it wrong. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Good evening! Last Friday we finished our last post related to the five senses. It's taken a few months, though, since it was a pretty complicated topic to talk about. So, I decided that for today's post, I'd just give a complete overview of all the other posts, so that you can have them all in one place and you can check any you might have missed.

The Five Senses

This post introduced the topic, and also included a video that briefly explained how to use the sense words.

Sight Post 1 Common Error. This post talked about how to use the words look at, see, and watch.
Sight Post 2: Vision Vocabulary. This talked about all sorts of words related to sight and vision.
Sight Post 3: Video. A video of Johnny Nash's song "I Can See Clearly Now."

Hearing Post 1: Mistake Monday. This post examined the difference between the words listen and hear.
Hearing Post 2: Hearing Vocabulary. All sorts of vocabulary related to hearing and ears.
Hearing Post 3: Podcasts. A list of my top 5 favorite podcasts to practice listening skills.
Hearing Post 4: Common Error. Another common error post, this time about hear and sound.

Smell Post 1: Vocabulary. Words related to smelling and smells.
Smell Post 2: Videos. Two videos related to "smells."

Taste Post 1: Common Error. A post explaining the difference between taste, try, test, and prove.
Taste Post 2: Vocabulary. All sorts of vocabulary related to taste.

Touch Post 1: Common Error. The difference between touch and feel.
Touch Post 2: "Good" Touch Vocabulary
Touch Post 3: "Neutral" Touch Vocabuarly
Touch Post 4: "Bad" Touch Vocabulary

So, that's a lot of posts and a lot of information! If you've been following the series you obviously don't need to read all of these again, but it could be good to review some time in the future if you ever have any questions or problems related to the senses. 

And as usual, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tell me.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Few German Things

Good Evening! As you probably know, I focus mostly on English here at Sitzman ABC. I do that mainly since it's my native language, and because there's a lot more demand for English than any other foreign language here in Costa Rica. However, I actually studied German, not English, and I have a special place in my heart for German-- a dark, somewhat scary place in my heart, but a place nonetheless.

I've been teaching a few German classes lately and I came across a few interesting links and resources that I thought I'd share. If you're learning German, it may help out, but even if you're not, the explanations are often in English, so they can help you practice English, also!

Gender (aka "German Word Sex")

First of all, I found this page with tips about German genders. As you may know, some languages have "gender" for their nouns. Spanish, for example, has masculine (el) and feminine (la). German takes the fun to the next level! It has masculine (der) and feminine (die), but it also adds a third one called "neuter" or "neutral" (das). The worst part is, there's no clear-cut way to know what gender a word is. In Spanish most words that end in "-o" are masculine and most that end in "-a" are feminine...but that doesn't work at all in German. However, there are a few general tendencies that you can find, and these pages help you sort them out:

Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle is awesome in any language, but it's best in German. It's like the BBC's continental cousin that always wears black, even on hot days. It's got all kinds of information and news, and it has a whole section about learning German. It also has extensive cultural articles, like this one about Ostfriesland, one of my favorite parts of Germany.

And Another Video

In class this week we were talking about seasons (all of which are masculine words in German, by the way), and I found two videos about Der Sommer. The first is at the top of this post, and the second is here:

Enjoy, and have a nice week. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Bad Touch" Words

Good evening! Tonight we'll look at our last three words related to the sense of touch. In our last post we talked about "neutral" touch, and today we'll talk about "bad" touch, which are words that are generally used in a negative way.

What is this woman doing? If you don't know, read on to find out!
(Image by Jonathan Pankau, used under a Creative Commons license)

Today's words are generally used when talking about touching humans, not objects. The words are:

Slap, Punch, and Molest: "Neutral" Touching

Technically, a high five is a kind of slap, since you need to have an open hand to do it. I know a high five is usually "good" touching, but I had trouble finding a picture of someone slapping another person in the face. (Image by Ingorr, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Slap" is to use your open hand to hit a person. Many times this is used to describe a hit to the face:

"Mark often says offensive things to women, so women often slap his face."

A synonym of slap in this case can often be "smack." The main thing to remember is that with this action, your hand is open, not closed.

If you're good at boxing, you can make a lot of money by using your fists to punch other people! (Image
"Punch" is another type of hitting (and that's why it's generally "bad" touching). It's different from slapping because if you punch someone, you hit them with a closed hand. In fact, there's a special name for a closed hand: a fist:

"The two drunk men at the bar used their fists to hit each other like boxers. They punched each other in the head and stomach until they got kicked out of the bar."

Be very careful with this word! In Spanish, molestar means "bother" or "annoy" in English. But in English (especially American English), "molest" generally means to touch someone in a sexually inappropriate way! Unfortunately, it's often used with children, but not always (and you can understand why I didn't include a picture for this word!)

"The criminal was put in jail for abusing and molesting a child."

So, that's it for now. I hope you rarely have to use these words, but they're still important to learn to increase your vocabulary. If you have any questions ideas, please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

(Answer from Monday's post: The problem is the word the. It's not necessary before "Istanbul," but it is necessary before "The United States." Thanks for checking it out!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Sad Day

(Today's post will be very short-- We'll be back in a few days with an English post.) 

One of my students, a young man named Johnsen, suddenly died last night or early this morning. It was a shock to me and to all of us around here. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was a very nice man. He was not only a student, but also a friend. He will be missed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mistake Monday: Find Two Errors

Hi! I was going to complete the series of posts on "touch" words, but today has been a long and tiring day, and I need to get up tomorrow morning for my Chinese class. So today, I'm just going to do a short post, and we'll finish the "touch" words on Wednesday.

Look at the picture below, taken from Turkish Airlines' website. Does anything look strange? I can find two mistakes, can you?*

We'll be back on Wednesday with the answer, as well as the final post in our "senses" series. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great night!

*By the way, I'm referring to language mistakes, not geography. But now that I think about it, there doesn't seem to be much order in the way they're listing cities or prices, either!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Neutral Touch" Words

The two people in this picture are holding hands.
(Image by Elizabeth Ann Colette, used through a Creative Commons license)
Hello! Tonight we'll be looking at four more words related to the sense of touch. In our last post we talked about "good" touch, and today we'll talk about "neutral" touch, which are words that can be positive or negative, depending on the context and circumstances.

Today's words can be used for humans, but you may notice that they're also frequently used to talk about touching objects. The words are:

Touch, Poke, Hold and Grab: "Neutral" Touching

"Touch" is the most obvious of these words, and I'm only listing it here to mention that it can be positive, negative, or neutral, depending on how you use it. It's general, basically. It can also mean to make an emotional connection:

"I was touched by the thoughtful gift you gave to me, especially since I didn't expect it."

The children in this picture are using a stick to poke into the sand, possibly to find something. (Image by Jconnell22, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Poke" means to use your index finger (or any other single finger, or a long object like a stick or a pole) to touch something. People often poke things to test if they are dangerous, to feel their texture, or to check if they are alive:

"Jane drank a lot of wine and now she's apparently 'sleeping' on the couch. Someone should poke her to wake her up and make sure she's OK."

This animal is called a Hedgehog. The person is holding the hedgehog in his hand. (Image by Hundehalter, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Hold" is a word that indicates you continually have something in your hand for a period of time. It's often used in sentences like:

"Can you please hold this bag of groceries while I find my keys and open the door?"

Also, if two people have their hands together for a long period of time, they are holding hands (like in the first picture above). This is common in romantic couples.

The bars on the sides of this toilet are called grab bars. If a person has difficulties sitting or standing up, he or she can grab the bars to help keep their balance. (Image by Shoyuramen, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Grab" is very similar to hold or take, but it indicates taking something quickly or informally. For example, if you leave your house and realize you forgot something, you can say:

"Oh! I forgot my book. I'll go back inside to grab it."

Another way to use "grab" can be to use it like "get," as in:

"After we finish work, a few of us are going to a restaurant to grab some dinner. Do you want to come?"

So, that's it for today. On Monday we'll finish our trio of posts with three more "bad touch" words. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the conversation! Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Good Touch" Words

Hi, and welcome to Word Wednesday! Tonight we'll be looking at words related to the sense of touch (also often described using the word feel; see Monday's post for a closer explanation).

Over the next few posts we'll look at 10 words that can describe different ways to touch. I'll divide them into three categories:

Today -"Good" (types of touch that are generally considered good)
Friday -"Neutral" (can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances)
Monday -"Bad" (types of touch that are generally considered bad)

Today's three "Good Touch" words all used for humans, but coincidentally they're also commonly used to talk about animals. They are:

Pat, Pet, and Rub: "Good" Touching

A sign advertising a "back rub" for men and women surrounded by red lights? Sounds a bit suspicious! I guess this could be good or bad! (Picture by CTLiota, used through Creative Commons license).
Here we go...
This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. The pages had different textures that you could touch and feel.
"Pat" usually means to move your open hand up and down on top of something. In some cultures, people often pat children on the head. You can also pat an animal, especially on its head.
In a semi-literal sense, you can use the phrase "pat on the back" when you want to congratulate a person for something. For example, you can say: 

"John deserves a pat on the back because he finally graduated!"

Of course, "Pat" can also be an abbreviation for Patricia or Patrick, so pay attention to the context.

Many guide dogs and other "working" dogs (like drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport) have signs that say something like "Please don't pet me, I'm working." (Picture by Hurricane Omega, used through Creative Commons license).
"Pet" usually means to move your open hand in a line while continually touching a surface. There is more hand contact with petting than there is with patting. 
"Pet" is often used to talk about touching animals. Of course, animals that live in our houses are called "pets," but I'm not sure if that's a coincidence.
Also, when people have a close romantic relationship, they often use different or "cute" names when talking to each other. Those names can be called "pet names."

Our cat Chubby always enjoys a good belly rub! (Picture by author)
"Rub" is very similar to "pet," but it's more continuous. Sometimes it's used to describe touching in a circular motion. It's also used for therapeutic touching or massage. For example, when a cartoon character is hungry, he often rubs his stomach. You can also give a back rub to someone who has back pains.

So, that's it for now. If you understood all these words, you deserve a pat on the back! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the conversation!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Senses: Touch and Feel

Hello, and welcome again to Mistake Monday! It's been a few weeks since we looked at a Common Error. Today's is actually not very common, but I still wanted to mention it briefly.

I've never seen this game before, but somehow it still reminds me of my childhood.
Image by Axel Tregoning, used through Creative Commons license.

Remember that we were talking about the Five Senses, and that we still had one more to talk about: touch. When we experience this action, we also often use the word feel. This can get complicated, so we'll look at more vocabulary words related to these topics on Wednesday. For today, let's see quickly how to use these words:

Not-Very-Common Error: Touch and Feel
DON’T say this:"She feels herself bad."
"I want to learn to touch the guitar."
WHY?Hey, I admitted that the errors weren't that common.
Anyhow, here are a few tips:

-Touch usually means to use your hands or fingers to make physical contact with an object or other person:
The crazy man on the bus screamed, "Don't touch me, you aliens!"
"Can you close your eyes and touch your nose? If not, you may be drunk."

As you can see, touch is normally used as a verb, but there are also cases when you can use it as a noun.

-Feel (past tense: felt) is closely related to touch. In fact, you can normally say that a person who touches "does" the action, and the person who feels "receives" the action:
"Did you feel that tremor? It wasn't an earthquake, but I still felt the room shake a bit."
"I went to the dentist and they gave me anesthesia. I can't feel my tongue when I touch it."

-Feel is also commonly used with temporary physical states and emotions (but it's not reflexive like in Spanish or some other languages):
"I feel really hot-- do you think you could open the window or turn on a fan or something?"
"I felt really sad when my cat died."

As you can see, feel is a verb. The noun form is feeling.

-Touch is not used with musical instruments (unless you only want to touch it... but most people prefer to play an instrument):
"In the past I could play some songs on the piano and the saxophone, but I've forgotten how to play them."
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"She feels bad."
-"I want to learn to play the guitar."

Do you have any questions? Remember that on Wednesday we'll look at more vocabulary related to this sense. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment or contact me. Thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Solution to Wednesday's Song Exercise

Hi everyone! Today's post will be short, just to give you the solution to Wednesday's song exercise. Remember that you had to find the errors in the song below. I'll include the video with the lyrics again, just for reference, and after that I'll include the solution at the end of the post:

Find 11 Mistakes in These Lyrics:


Tonight we drinks to youth
and holding fast too truth
don't want to loose what I had as a boy
My heart still has a beat
but love is now a feet
as common as a cold day in LA
Sometimes at nite alone I wonder
Is there a spell that I am under
Keeping me from seeing the real thing

Love hurts, but sometimes is a good hurt
And it feel like I'm alive
Love sings, when it transcends the bad things
have a heart and try me
'Cause without love I won't survive

I'm fettered and abused
Stand naked and accused
should I surfaced this one man submarine
I only want the truth
So tonight we drinked two youth
I'll never lose what I had as a boy
Sometimes at night alone I wonder
Is there a spell that I am under
Keeping me from seen the real thing
(Repeat chorus)

(changes are underlined and in bold)


Tonight we drinks to youth
(drinks--> drink)
and holding fast too truth
(too--> to)
don't want to loose what I had as a boy
(loose--> lose)
My heart still has a beat
but love is now a feet
(feet--> feat)
as common as a cold day in LA
Sometimes at nite alone I wonder
(nite--> night)
Is there a spell that I am under
Keeping me from seeing the real thing

Love hurts, but sometimes is a good hurt
(is--> it's)
And it feel like I'm alive
(feel--> feels)
Love sings, when it transcends the bad things
have a heart and try me
'Cause without love I won't survive

I'm fettered and abused
Stand naked and accused
should I surfaced this one man submarine
(surfaced--> surface)
I only want the truth
So tonight we drinked two youth
(drinked-->drink) (two--> to)
I'll never lose what I had as a boy
Sometimes at night alone I wonder
Is there a spell that I am under
Keeping me from seen the real thing
(seen--> seeing)
(Repeat chorus)

So, were you able to find all the errors and understand why they were errors? If you have any questions or comments, I'd be happy to hear from you!

Have a great weekend, and see you again on Monday!