Friday, July 20, 2007

See you in Cycle 4!

July and August are typically vacation months in Quito, and we are no exception. We will be taking a temporary break from this blog for the next couple weeks (although CEC will be open as normal), and will see you back here at the start of Cycle 4 (mid-August), where we will have some suprises waiting for you.

Dates of cycles for 2007:
Cycle 4: August 13 - October 5
Cycle 5: October 15 - December 13

Remember - you can take up to two consecutive cycles off without having to retake the placement exam.

Have a great summer break, practice your English, and have fun!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Phrasal verbs: Spelling

Once you learn phrasal verbs, you learn other English words as well. Many nouns and adjectives are formed from phrasal verbs. For example, hand out means to give things to different people in a group, while the corresponding noun handout refers to the piece of paper with information on it that is given to this group of people (generally students in a classroom). Or, look at the phrasal verb speak out (to state your opinion firmly and publicly about something), and notice its relationship with the adjective outspoken (expressing strong opinions very directly without worrying if other people are offended).

What are the spelling rules for these kind of verbs? Unfortunately, there are no clear or set spelling rules. Sometimes they are two words, sometimes hyphenated (-), sometimes combined as one word. Here are some guidelines that you can follow:
  • verb + particle (phrasal verb) = two words: make up, look over
  • particle + verb (verb) = one word: download, overlook
  • verb + particle (nouns) = one word or hyphenated: make-up/makeup, carryout/carry-out
  • particle + verb (nouns) = one word: input, downloading
  • verb + particle (adjectives) = hyphenated: jazzed-up, made-up
  • particle + verb (adjectives) = hyphenated or one word: ongoing, off-putting

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fun with phrasal verbs

Most students cringe at the dreaded phrasal verb - a verb that, when combined with a specific preposition (called a particle), changes meaning. English is tricky this way - instead of having more words, words simply get put together to mean different things. Some verbs, like get and set, have 2-3 pages of combinations in the dictionary! Daunting, to say the least. But students shouldn't fret. With a little planning and 5-10 minutes a day, these verbs can be easily conquered!
  • Invest in a Phrasal Verbs dictionary. Macmillan has a good one.
  • Keep a phrasal verb notebook. Have a page for each letter of the alphabet. When you run across (there's a phrasal verb!) a phrasal verb, write it down. Occasionally go back to your notebook and make connections between the verbs.
  • Read, read, read! The more you read, the more vocabulary you learn. This is not just advice - if you want to successfully learn the language, reading is essential. As you read, underline or mark off the phrasal verbs (or verbs you suspect are phrasal verbs). At the end of the chapter, go back and look up the verbs in your new dictionary. Record them in your notebook.
  • Go through your notebook and choose a phrasal verb at random. Try using it during the course of your day, even if it is just in your head.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Facts and Figures about English

  • There are 300 million people who use English as a second language.
  • A further 100 million people speak it fluently as a foreign language.
  • English is used as an official or semi-official language in over 60 countries.
  • English is used in 85% of the world's organizations.
  • While English is the dominant language on the Web (40%), the presence of other languages is growing.
  • Over two-thirds of the world's scientists write in English.
  • Over 80% of all the information stored electronically around the world is in English.
  • English radio programmes are received by over 150 million people in 120 countries.
  • 50 million children study English as a foreign language at primary schools around the world.
  • At secondary level they are joined by another 80 million children.
  • Around the globe English is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, advertising, business, medicine, technology, diplomacy, sports, pop music, and academic conferences.
  • More than two-thirds of the world's mail is written in English.
  • Many English words have totally changed meaning over the centuries- here are a few examples with their earlier meaning:
treacle- wild animal
villain- farm labourer
cheater- rent collector
sly -wise
taxation -fault finding
naughty - worth nothing
  • Many English words have been taken from other languages. Here are a few examples:
tycoon -Japanese
slim -Dutch
veranda -Hindi
sofa -Arabic
marmalade –Portuguese

Monday, July 16, 2007

Free Study Tips: TOEFL and TOEIC

Studying to take the TOEFL exam? Need to work on your TOEFL-specific vocabulary, brush up on your punctuation and writing skills, or check out some study tips? ESL-Pro has a list of free, downloadable e-books that can help with with anything from tricky elements of English punctuation to tips for summarizing and paraphrasing. You must sign-up (free) for the service, and the site does try to sell other study guides and software, but for those of you looking for some free advice for studying for the TOEFL or TOEIC, this web site may help.
Good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

100 New English Words

Just when you thought English couldn't get any harder - now Merriam Webster has announced that they will be adding close to 100 new words to the English language by the end of this year. So what are some of these words: Bollywood (the film industry in India), sudoku (popular number puzzles, similar to a crossword), and ginormous (a cross between gigantic and enormous).
You can read the short article, as well as hear someone read it aloud, here, at Simple English News.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Learn English - Use Your Cell Phone!

An article about a new service in China: Learn English through your cell phone! The Guardian Weekly has a blurb about this new service, currently only available in China, but maybe we will see something like this someday in Ecuador, too! Imagine having English lessons being sent directly to your cell phone.

Nokia launches English-by-mobile service for China
Finnish mobile phone company Nokia hopes to tap into China's English language learning market and boost sales of its handsets with the launch of an English-by-mobile-phone service. The new education platform is called Mobiledu and will deliver audio and text-based lessons to subscribers' mobile phones.

Full article here.

Nokia plans to charge $0.26 per download. Seem like a good deal? Is this something you would be interested in? Why or why not? Post a comment!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Take a Virtual Vacation

Summer is upon us and with this season, the prospect of travel! This holiday, think of going someplace truly unique: Eritrea - one of the world's hidden gems. This video shows a place that some may never even have heard of! While your pocketbook or work schedule may not allow you to go somewhere this year, why not take a virtual trip? And while you're at it, practice your English! How many different types of English and accents can you find in this video?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Music Videos for Kids (and Beginners!)

Little kids will get a kick out of these videos made especially for them! Beginner adults may also like them. Best of all, there are Mac and PC versions. You can save the podcast on your own computer, too. Learn about colors, parts of the body, greetings, and the names of countries in English.
Have fun!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Online Dictionaries

Dictionaries can be expensive to buy. They are heavy, cumbersome, and inconvenient at times. But there are a number of online dictionaries that you can use.
  • a free online dictionary complete with thesaurus, games, and even featuring languages other than English
  • Merriam Webster Online: click on the speaker icon next to the word and hear the correct pronunciation, play a word game, do the daily crossword, or learn a new word each day. Lots of stuff here!
  • Cambridge Dictionaries Online: Here you can search the various Cambridge University Press dictionaries, including the Learner, which has graded language and clear examples of how the word is used.
  • get links to dictionaries for other languages, as well as an acronym finder
  • alphadictionary: play word games, find instant translators, sign up for the word of the day, take your chance at a virtual spelling bee, learn the most common false cognates in English, learn where the slang you hear is coming from, read a funny language joke, and much more.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Online Vocabulary Quizzes

"Without grammar, little can be conveyed. Without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed."
-D. Wilkins

Vocabulary is essential to communication. Try these vocabulary quizzes - great for beginners and low-intermediate learners.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Benefits of Learning a Foreign Language

Why are you studying English?
It's a question that often comes up in English class, placement exams, and even daily conversation. For those of us studying English, it is something we have probably already asked ourselves.
Common reasons for studying English are to get a promotion at work or to have better job opportunities, to fulfill university requirements, and to enhance one's personal and cultural experiences. But did you also know that people who speak a foreign language have better overall communicative skills, even in their mother tongue? It not only improves your communication skills, but also has an effect on intellectual growth in general. It makes people better listeners. It opens doors to other cultures and gives you the opportunity to meet people you otherwise would not know. It fosters flexibility in thinking and sensitivity and tolerance to other people and situations. And if that's not enough, it's just plain fun!

Click here to see more about the benefits of language learning.