Monthly Archives: July 2015

Memorable Moments

I had an interesting conversation yesterday about former students, why I teach, and my classes. It brought to mind so many situations, people, and feelings, but two former students really stand out.

The first is a participant in our internship program. He had come from a successful business background – completed an MBA, started and sold companies before coming to Canada – and was looking to start an international career. He had a 45 minute interview with 7 directors at a sports team, and he said it was the hardest thing he had done for school. He was accepted, and had a fantastic time with the team. I like this story because it shows accepting challenges and striving to improve oneself. My student could have stayed at home and started another company, but he chose to take on the challenge of working in English. And not at a restaurant from his country, either! Being part of his success makes me proud to teach.

My second memorable student came from a successful job as a professor, teaching surgical techniques, in a large country. He realized that his lifestyle was not one that his children could achieve, because the population was increasing rapidly and jobs would become scarce, so he moved his family to Canada. To support his family, he worked as a taxi driver. His English, he said, wasn’t strong enough to enter the medical field, and he didn’t have time to improve it. When I met him, this was 10 years in the past. His children were in high school and his wife was able to work. His wife and children were fluent, but his English was still very basic. Twelve hours a day driving a taxi doesn’t leave much time for English classes. He told me “My children don’t speak my language, and I don’t speak theirs. We can’t speak as anything more than a taxi driver and a customer, but I want them to know more of me. They will never know the poems I can write in my language, but I can meet them in theirs.” His sacrifices for his family, and then his desire to change his life again,  really made him stand out to me. My satisfaction from seeing him pass his IELTS test is a reason I do this job.

I’m sure my colleagues have similar stories. What memorable students do you have?

Online Courses

As you may know, I’m a big fan of MOOCs. (MOOCs are worldwide courses taught over the internet. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course). I found a few that might be of interest to people looking to improve their English or applying to a university in the USA.

Introduction to Public Speaking:

How to Succeed in College:

Applying to US Universities:

You can find many more courses through or Good luck, and let me know which ones you choose!

Grammar Grab Bag

Progressive tenses are also called continuous tenses.

“Agree” is a verb, not an adjective. A common mistake is to say: “I am agree with you.” Just say “I agree with you.”

“Should” and “had better” are both modals used to give advice. “Had better” has a stronger meaning. “Must” is stronger than both of them, and is used for regulations, obligations, or requirements.

– James, you should park underground. (mild suggestion)

– James, you had better slow down. The road is very icy and we might have an accident! (strong suggestion)

– James, you must stop at the red light. (strong obligation or requirement)

Receptive and Productive Vocabulary

Your receptive vocabulary is made up of the words that you understand. Your productive vocabulary is made up of the words you use on a regular basis. For most people, their receptive vocabulary is much larger than their productive vocabulary.

Trying to learn vocab quickly? Start by using words that you recognize more often. Notice your favourite words, and make an effort to use synonyms instead.