Tag Archives: English

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.

So far….

This expression means “until now.” Use it to talk about a situation that is not yet finished, as in: “So far, school has been easy. We have only three weeks left in the semester, so I hope the test isn’t too hard!”

There is an expression where we use this phrase: “so far, so good.” This means “until now, everything is ok.”
“Hey, Carla, how is your marketing campaign going?”
“So far, so good, Dave. I hope we can increase our sales every week until Christmas!”

Top Five Vocab Mistakes on Your Resume:

1. Talking about your personality. Phrases like “motivated,” “sociable,” and “good at working on a team” are better put in your cover letter. The resumé should focus on your accomplishments, where the cover letter makes connections between you and the job you want.

2. “Responsible” or “responsibility.” While these words may be true, they are not clear. As an example: “responsible for hiring new employees.” Does this mean that you actually interviewed and decided who to hire, or does it mean that you told someone else to interview and make the decision? Replace them with a more specific word – in our examples, we could say “hired new workers” or “oversaw the hiring process.”

3. Using abbreviations after a name. An example: “Technical University of Canada South, Vancouver (TUCSV).” If this is the only mention of this university, you don’t need to waste space with the abbreviation.

4. Advertising. Some people like to add marketing information about their university or company: “Canada Collegiate School (the leading technical university in Canada).” The boss isn’t trying to decide on a university, and the quality of the school doesn’t necessarily transfer to the students at that university! If you need to describe your university or company, keep the details brief and factual. A better example: “QWERTY UIOP Technologies (computer manufacturer),” or “Canada Collegiate School (technical university.)” Make sure the boss gets excited about you, not your schools or companies.

5. Using “et cetera,” “and so on,” or other expressions. If you’re going to give a list, give the whole list. If you are giving just a few examples, tell the boss that.
“Completed projects with computers, models, presentations, et cetera.” becomes “Completed projects with computers, including models, presentations, and presentations.”

Keep the boss interested by using your best vocab and expressions. The resumé is a marketing document – it advertises you, the worker – and so it should be interesting to read. Good luck!

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.

In My View vs. From My Point Of View

In my view – this is used to describe an opinion.

  • “In my view, the plan is bad, because it will be very expensive.”

From my point of view – this is used for an opinion, but it sounds like a contrast will be made with another opinion..

  • Jennifer: From my point of view, snow is bad, because it means none of my customers will come to my golf course.
  • James: From my point of view, snow is good, because it means I will have people attend my skiing classes!

Stressed Out?

By moving our sentence stress, we can change the emphasis of a sentence. I heard this great example from a friend:

“I never said she stole my money” can have seven different meanings according to the stressed word.

1. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it; someone else did.

2. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it, not even once.

3. I never said she stole my money – I never said it, but perhaps I wrote it or thought it.

4. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; somebody else did.

5. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; it was a gift.

6. I never said she stole my money – She stole someone else’s money.

7. I never said she stole my money – She stole something else.

Six-Pack of Financial Words

Just a few words for work conversations today.

  • bankruptcy – noun – a time when a company runs out of money and can no longer pay their debts.
  • liquidation – noun – a time after bankruptcy when the company’s stuff is sold to get money to pay their debts.
  • liquid asset – noun – an asset is something that a business or person owns. A liquid asset is one that is easily sold or exchanged, like cash, gold, or certain investments.
  • fixed asset – noun – A fixed asset is not as easily sold or exchanged as a liquid asset. This group might include real estate, machinery, inventory, or contracts.
  • expenditure – noun – the money that a business needs to spend in order to do business. This might include buying supplies, paying salaries and rent, repairing machines, or advertising products.
  • revenue – noun – the money that comes into a business from doing its business activities, before expenses are paid

Vocab Grab Bag

I heard it through the grapevine. This is an idiom that means ” I learned the information because I was gossiping.”

Coat and Quote are similar, but not the same. “Quote” starts with a /kw/ sound, but “coat” starts with only /k/.

“Software” and “hardware” are noncount. If you want to use count expressions, say “pieces of software,” “apps,” or “programs.” For “hardware,” say “computers,” “devices,” or “tablets/phones/laptops.”

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?