Friday, February 29, 2008

Using YouTube to Improve Your Pronunciation

YouTube isn't just a place to find funny videos or shorts of your favorite TV shows. You can actually use YouTube to help you improve your speaking and pronunciation skills. The video below, which works on word stress, was created by an English teacher for speakers of other languages, and is a good example of how you can use the Internet, and web sites like YouTube, to work on your English skills.

To find more videos like this one, put "english pronunciation" in the search field of YouTube and click! A number of videos to help you work on your pronunciation will show up.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Trip vs. Travel: Revealed!

Yesterday we asked you to think of the difference between trip and travel. If you looked at our examples, it was probably rather straightforward: trip is used as a noun (in this context) and travel is a verb. It's as easy as that!
So, let's see how you do with a few practice sentences. Fill in each blank with trip or travel.
  1. We're going to take a ___ to Tena this weekend. My mom and dad will be ___ with us, but my younger sister couldn't make it because she is going on an end-of-the-school-year ___ with her friends.
  2. My father ___ a lot for his job. He usually ___ by plane, but for his Chicago ___ he'll be ___ by bus, since it is only a few hours from here.
  3. To make the most of your ___ , be sure to ___ lightly. Don't pack more than you can carry, since once you arrive to the camp you'll be ___ mainly by foot and will have to carry all of your belongings with you.
  1. trip, traveling, trip
  2. travels, travels, trip, traveling
  3. trip, travel, traveling

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trip vs. Travel

Trip and travel - two words that create confusion for many English language learners. So what is the difference? Why do students get confused?

Have a look at the examples below and see if you can figure out the difference for yourself. Come back tomorrow for the answer and some practice.
  • Have a nice trip!
  • Travel with us again soon.
  • I am taking a trip this Sunday.
  • I am traveling to Cuenca this Sunday.
  • We plan to travel soon.
  • Let's go on a shopping trip next week!
  • After she graduated from high school, she spent a year traveling all over Europe.
  • Is there going to be a school trip this year?
  • I travel to work by train.
  • The trip from Chicago to Minneapolis takes about 8 hours by car.
  • I thought I might take a trip to the Amazon river basin sometime this year.
Picture from

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

See vs. Watch vs. Look: Practice!

Choose the correct verb (see, watch, or look) for each sentence.

(Remember: We see something static, unmoving. We also see the things around us, perhaps without paying much attention to them. We look at something in order to pay more attention to its appearance. We watch something when we want to know what happens (so therefore we generally watch something that is moving or that requires our attention). We use look when we want to direct someone's attention to something.)

  1. Do you ___ that picture on the wall? It is a picture of my great-grandmother.
  2. Tania can't ___ blood or she faints.
  3. When you are done ___ the game, would you please help me in the kitchen?
  4. Can you ___ my children tonight while I am at the meeting?
  5. I need someone to ___ my computer. It isn't working.
  6. ___ ! That little boy is going to fall out of the tree.
  7. I don't ___ the difference between these two pictures. Are you sure they aren't the same?
  8. ___ that man on the corner. He's acting suspicious.
  9. Have you ___ The Lord of the Rings? It's a classic.
  10. I want to learn how to make fanesca. Can I ___ you make it?
  11. Don't ___ me! My hair's a mess!
  12. I have this feeling someone is ___ me. It is really creepy.


  1. see
  2. see
  3. watching
  4. watch
  5. look at
  6. Look
  7. see
  8. Watch
  9. seen
  10. watch
  11. look at
  12. watching

Monday, February 25, 2008

See, Watch, or Look?

Watch: to look at something for a period of time, especially something that is moving. We watch something when we are interested in what happens.
  • Could you watch my purse while I go to the restroom?
  • I love sitting at the window and watching the people walk by.
  • We watched the basketball game on TV.
See: 1 to be aware of what is around you by using your eyes,
2 to watch a film or TV program
  • Did you see Desperate Housewives last night? It was a rerun.
  • When you see Jenny, please tell her not to be late for the party.
  • Do you see that white church? That's San Agustín.
Look: to direct your eyes in order to see
  • Look! There's Marlene with her boyfriend.
  • Look over there - do you see that red bus?
Look at: to view something, to be interested in the appearance of something
  • Look at Martha, isn't she pretty today?
  • Can I look at your answers? Mine are all wrong.
See is usually used for something stationary or static (not moving)
E.g. You see blood, see the stars, see a picture/photograph, see a painting

Watch is usually for something that moves, or that requires attention
E.g. watch a movie, watch children playing, sports

Look (at) is to pay attention to a detail, or appearance
E.g. You can look at people, objects

Look at the children! (Check out their appearance or what they are doing. Do not pay a lot of attention to them, though.)
Watch the children, please. (Pay attention to them so that they don't get hurt or in trouble)
I can't see the children. (They are not within my view.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

American English? British? Australian?

Confused about which accent in English is better? Worried that you are learning the "wrong" accent? Here is a point of view that might put things in perspective.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saying "I Love You" on Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at CEC!

Have you sent your loved one a valentine yet? If not, why not send an e-card? Or, create a handmade card using templates. If you are creative, try making your own valentine. Here are some typical greetings in English you will find on a valentine card:
  • You're so sweet.
  • Be my valentine.
  • From (or to) my valentine.
  • Be mine.
  • Easy to Love.
  • You're Mine.
  • I'm Yours.
Celebrate today with a dinner for two, a quick email or phone call, or some candy hearts. Whatever you do, be sure to spend time telling those close to you how much you care about them.

Answers from yesterday's Valentine's Day Quiz:
  1. February 14
  2. three
  3. Lupercalia
  4. 17th century
  5. 1840s
  6. the British Museum

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Valentine's Day Quiz

How much do you know about this popular holiday? Take the quiz below and then go to this article to find the answers you're missing.

  1. When do people celebrate Valentine's Day?
  2. How many Saint Valentines does the Catholic Church officially recognize?
  3. What ancient Roman tradition is Valentine's Day possibly related to?
  4. When did people in Great Britain begin to celebrate Valentine's Day?
  5. When did the first mass-produced valentines begin to be sold in the U.S.?
  6. Where can you find a display of the oldest known Valentine card?
Answers will be posted tomorrow. Picture nipped from

Friday, February 8, 2008

Reference Books for a Variety of Learning Objectives

As a student of English, it can be difficult to know what reference books are out there. Walking into a bookstore and seeing shelves upon shelves of English textbooks, dictionaries, and reference books can be overwhelming. Asking a clerk for advice can help at times, but more often than not, if the clerk doesn't know English herself or has never been an English language learner, she probably isn't the right person to ask. Teachers can provide ideas of where to look for references that might help, but sometimes teachers themselves are overwhelmed or unprepared to recommend books outside of their level. To help sort it out, we have compiled a short list of reference books pertaining to very specific learning needs.

Giving presentations in English
If you have to give a presentation in English but are unsure of what presentation style is appropriate, Presentations in English by Erica J. Williams will be a good place to start (the book is not published yet). This book will help you work through some of the steps to presenting in English, helping you find your own unique presentation style. It is appropriate for self-learners, but may also be used for classroom activities. The books offers not only presentation skills and tips, but helpful language. A DVD is also available, showing different presentation techniques, and using real students as they work through the course. It is intended for levels Intermediate to Advanced (B2 to C1 on the Common European Framework).

Another option is Mark Powell's Presenting in English - How to Give Successful Presentations (1996). This book focuses on the rhetoric of public speaking as well as techniques for handling audiences. A drawback to this book versus the one above is that there is no DVD, and the audio is still in cassette form.

Writing emails in English
Email English by Paul Emmerson is the perfect resource for business students who need practice writing effective emails in English. It is ideal for self-study, but may also be adapted for the classroom. It includes a Phrase Book with functional phrases commonly used in business and formal emails. It also deals with the informality of emails, teaching students how to switch from formal to informal and providing practical knowledge like knowing when one style is more appropriate than another. Intended for Intermediate to Upper Intermediate students (B1 - B2 on the Commom European Framework), this resource is ideal for anyone wanting to learn the "fine art" of email writing.

Improving reading comprehension
Reading the News by Pete Sharma (2007) is a good resource for students preparing for international exams such as the TOEFL®, TOIEC®, or IELTS®. Students get practice reading authentic news items while learning more about contemporary global issues. It is a great place to start for getting practice outside of the classroom. It includes a special section focusing on journalistic writing conventions, intended to help students become more familiar with newspaper style. An audio CD is also available.

Focusing on grammar tenses
For students who would like to improve their use of grammar tenses, Tense Situations - Tenses in Contrast and Context by Pamela Hartmann, Annette Zarian, and Patricia Esparaza (1998) is the book for you! This text works through the different grammar tenses in English, comparing and contrasting them through a variety of oral and written exercises. Pictures supplement the grammatical explanations, providing a visual representation of how and when certain tenses are used.

Better pronunciation
Heinle Online Speaking Labs taps into this amazing resource that we all have at our fingertips: the Internet. Through speech-recognition technology, students receive immediate, visual feedback on their speaking sessions. Speaking Labs are available for all levels. Unfortunately, at the moment it appears to be available only for language labs for schools and universities, but maybe someday in the future this program will also be avaiable for students studying from home!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Submit Your Film and Promote Global Understanding

Pangea Day, an effort to bridge the differences between people all over the world and develop tolerance in our globalized society, is looking for original short films that tell a unique story, a story to drive people from different cultures and walks of life to compassion and understanding. Films should speak to inspirational themes such as anger, folklore, rituals, and affection. On May 10, 2008, these films will come together and be broadcast through Internet, mobile phones, television, and digital cinemas as a means to connect the world's people, who, so often, are separated by culture, borders, politics, and language.

From the Pangea Day web site:
From the dawn of time, humans have gathered around the village campfire to share their stories, a primal experience building community and creating strong emotion.

The world has shrunk, and today our village is global. But we haven't yet figured out how to listen to each other. Think of Pangea Day as a modern-day campfire. It will be a moment when we stop, gather together, and listen to each others' stories – using the most powerful story-telling technology our species has ever known: film.

We're looking for films that will make us laugh, cry, and gasp. They can be fiction, non-fiction, real-life, animation, or your own unique mixture. But they should hold our attention for every second. And above all, they should tell a story that someone else on the other side of the world will be able to relate to.

As you plan your film, try to imagine millions of people in different countries gathered around in the flickering light, waiting in hushed silence for your tale to start. What story will you tell? What images will you show them?

If you are an inspiring film director and would like to submit a film to be considered in this project, you can go here to learn more about the requirements. Films should be no longer than 5 minutes and can be submitted in any language, although English subtitles are a must (the web site gives directions on how to do this). Do so before February 15, 2008, in order to be considered for this year's event!
Good luck!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Win the Chance to Work in England

Macmillan Business English is hosting a contest from now until June 2, 2008, for people interested in gaining valuable work experience in the UK. The contest, The Business Experience 2008, consists of marketing a product from your country in order to win the opportunity to go to Macmillan Education in Oxford to learn about the world of publishing and gain valuable hands-on experience working in the publishing field.

People interested will have to give some basic information about themselves, and then prepare a five-point marketing plan for a product or service from their country (using the marketing points from page 66 of The Business Upper Intermediate). The winner will work 35 hours a week for three weeks (Monday-Friday) and be given a weekly subsistence fee of £100, flights, and accomodation.

Don't miss this opportunity to become something bigger than you imagined! Visit their web site, read the official rules, and apply before June 2nd to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.

Here is the link to a PDF flie of page 66 from The Business Upper Intermediate.