Tag Archives: Canada

Drinking and sneezing

I had a great question the other day. “When do I say ‘cheers!’ and when do I say ‘bless you? Here’s how to use these expressions to fit in with Canadians.

“Cheers!” Use this at the table, in the pub, or at the bar, when you’re starting a drink. Lift your glass, or touch it to a friend’s class, and say “Cheers!” It means “Good health!”

“Bless you!” Use this after a friend sneezes. Don’t say it after you sneeze, though – that would be strange!

What do I say?

I had a conversation with a student the other day. She wanted to learn the pronunciation for the show with horses, fighting, and lots of politics: “Game of … Chairs?”

We have all been there. We don’t know how to say a word, or we don’t know what word to use. Some will stop talking, others will reach for a translator, but the best choice, in my opinion, is to describe the word you don’t know. Native speakers do this all the time, but it seems that students of English don’t do it as much as they could.

Here are some examples. Try to guess the word I’m thinking about:

I went to the place where you learn about stuff.  <-school

Can you help me find something that will stop the water from going out of the bathtub? <-a bathtub plug

He was running, like an animal, very quickly, up the mountain. He slipped but it didn’t matter, because he continued anyway. <-scrambling

There are two things we can do to keep our conversation going:

  • Describe the missing word with a phrase. (place where you learn about stuff = school)
  • Use a synonym you know is wrong, and ask for correction. (Game of Chairs = thrones)

Try it out! I’m sure you will find that your conversations will be easier.

Trip and Travel Woes

Trip and Travel

These words, when used to describe journeys or voyages, are basically synonyms, but there are some differences in their connotations and grammar.

Trip is a count noun, and it is also a verb meaning “to fall over.”  A trip could be a short or long distance, and it could take a short or long time. We use it to talk about the whole voyage or journey. We usually use it with the verbs plan, take, or go on.

  • I planned a trip to Egypt to see the pyramids. (emphasizing the whole time away or the complete voyage)
  • I took many trips in Vancouver: I went to Whistler, Deep Cove, and Stanley Park. (emphasizing the number of adventures)
  • She went on a trip last week, so she wasn’t in school.

Travel is usually a non-count noun and a verb with a similar meaning. In contrast, however, it is always a long time and a long distance.

  • Last year, I traveled to 6 countries.
  • My travel took three months.

If we use it to describe a short journey, we are comparing it to a long journey. This might be a joke, or to show how unhappy we are with it.

  • I have to travel to Kitsilano every day from Granville Street. I hate my homestay!
  • Please bring me the remote control. I am sick, and I don’t want to travel to the other sofa to get it.

Funny English!

There are two joke types that came up in conversations at work today: “Knock knock” jokes and “Roses are red…” jokes. These both have a specific format, so let’s learn how to be funny in English!

Knock knock jokes need two people to participate.

Person A: Knock knock!

Person B:Who’s there?

Person A: [name]

Person B: [name] who?

Person A: [joke with name!]

Person A: Knock knock?

Person B: Who’s there?

Person A: Isabel.

Person B: Isabel who?

Person A: Isabel necessary on a bicycle? (Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?)

The best knock-knock jokes have a pun (a joke made from the sound of a word, not the meaning) that involves the name.

“Roses are Red” jokes are based upon a poem structure. The first two lines are always the same:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

After this, you add two more lines about something funny. The rhythm and the rhyme should match the first two lines.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

We put the joke together like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

Most Canadians will be familiar with these kinds of jokes. Ask your homestay family or your Canadian friends to tell you some and post them here!

Make, Do, and Have: which is right for the interview?

Let’s keep it clear. As a worker, you will have an interview with a boss.

As a boss, you will have or do an interview with a worker.

Nobody will make interviews with anyone.

An intern will do an internship. A worker will do a job.

Nobody makes internships or jobs, except when a boss might create a completely new job from nothing. “I liked that person so much I made a job for them. They start Tuesday.”

Work is noncount. “I did a lot of work with customers,” not “I did three works with customers.”

Bartending Certification

Serving it Right is a BC Government training course for serving alcohol. It’s not a legal requirement, but high-profile businesses, like hotels, casinos, restaurants, and bars will want their employees to have it.

The material is free, but the test costs $40. You can take the test online or on paper. All the details are on their website. If you’re in my classes, come and see me. I have a few books left over from when we offered training for this certification in the past.

You can learn about other helpful certifications in my Power Up Your Internship paper. Just follow this link to the free download.

Indian Candy

Perhaps you know that salmon is a popular kind of fish in Vancouver. Maybe you even know that the most traditional style is called smoked salmon. But do you know about Indian Candy?

Indian Candy is a type of smoked salmon. It is different from regular smoked salmon, because it is softer, and has a sweeter taste. To make it, the cooks use brown sugar or maple syrup when they smoke it.

You can find Indian Candy at The Salmon Shop on Granville Island. Here’s a map. Buy some and enjoy a new Canadian taste!

Canadian Volunteer Experience and Marketing Networking

Recently, I’ve had some questions about networking and volunteering in Vancouver. A friend of mine told me about a marketing event that looks really interesting. It’s called ProductCamp, and will be held next Saturday, March 8th, at the Beedie School of Business at SFU. The address is 500 Granville Street, and admission is free. You can read about the plans, register, or volunteer at their website: productcampvancouver.org.

Go Volunteer is a job-search website for volunteers. There’s a great variety of positions available, each with different time commitments, areas of specialty, and locations. I just saw ads for a bartender at a salsa dance, a hospital communications specialist, a cook, social service providers, and seniors’ care helpers. Many of the advertisements offered discounts or benefits for their volunteers, and most offer letters of recommendation or references too.

There’s one for just Burnaby-based jobs at volunteerburnaby.ca

No volunteering post would be complete without my favourite causes:
Bike racing at the Burnaby Velodrome – they need volunteers for the night of March 21st
Technology and environmental work at Free Geek Vancouver

Remember to put your Canadian volunteer experience on your resumé, too. Use it to show that you are familiar with local people, customers, and business culture. Good luck and happy volunteering!