Mon, 27 February 2012
Community colleges still don't get the dollars of their four-year counterparts(1), but they're standing very much in the spotlight(2) these days. President Barack Obama made them the focus last week when he unveiled(3) his proposed budget. Why all the attention? One reason is that so-called(4) 'middle skill' jobs - requiring more than high school but less than a full college degree - look like the most promising source of fuel(5) for quickly revving(6) up an economic recovery. Federal data show they account for roughly(7) half of all jobs, and even when unemployment was over 10 percent, companies reported shortages(8) of qualified workers.
1. Counterpart is a very effective word for referring to a related item, especially if you want to avoid repetition. So, instead of saying : Community colleges still don't get the dollars of four-year colleges, you substitute in 'their four-year counterparts. We usually use a possessive adjective with counterpart(s) because it relates to the subject. Also, often an adjective or two about the counterpart are often given in order to make it clear what the counterpart actually is. In the paragraph 'four-year' obviously relates to larger, full-time universities.
Ex: He was much faster than his stronger, heavier counterparts on theteam.
Ex: The country dental clinics are more personable than their larger, urban counterparts.
2. To be in the spotlight, or to stand in the spotlight means to have a lot of attention. It's a great visual description of someone or something having all eyes on them.
Ex: Senator Brown is very much in the spotlight after his comments on the new tax bill.
Ex: The financial difficulties of Greece are still very much in the global spotlight.
3. To unveil is to show something for the first time, or to show something that has been hidden.
Ex: The sculptor unveiled his latest statue that has been donated to the city.
Ex: The city has just unveiled plans for a new park.
4. So-called is used to qualify a description that might not be accurate.
Ex: He's the so-called 'King of Pop'. So-called here shows that perhaps not everyone agreed with the title. There is no way of measuring if he really is the king of pop.
Ex: The so-called free medical care has proven to be quite expensive.
5. Fuel, in this instance, doesn't mean actual combustible fuel. It is used to show the idea that the President wants to stimulate or ignite the economy. It is implied that he wants the economy to grow like a fire gets bigger and bigger.
Ex: I wouldn't argue with him. You'll just add fuel to his argument (fire).
6. To rev up is similar to the word fuel. It is short for revolutions. To rev is usually used with engines, when you push the accelerator in and out and make the engine noise increase and decrease. It is often used figuratively.
Ex: Wake up, have your coffee, let's get revved up for the meeting.
Ex: My neighbor likes to rev his engine, even though his car is tiny.
7. Roughly is often used instead of approximately or nearly.
Ex: The company has increased production by roughly 50 percent.
Ex: Roughly a third of elementary school children are obese.
8. Shortage(s) is often used for a lack of. We see it a lot when talking about employment or produce of some kind.
Ex: There is always a shortage of laborers and nurses.
Ex: There will be a global shortage of wheat this year.
Let's hear the paragraph one more time at normal speed.
You can always join my FACEBOOK page under Anna fromacupofenglish or send a request or question to :
Thu, 23 February 2012
This title is the kind that gets attention, isn't it? I first heard about these two characters a few days ago. My three boys play an on-line game called Minecraft. It's actually quite fabulous. It is an unending arena, where you can discover and create different worlds made out of blocks. My sons' favorites are the survival worlds, where you have to find raw materials* such as wood, edible plants, animals, tools, and fire. In order to survive and prosper, you must build yourself a house, and be in it by nightfall*. The reason is that zombies, or 'creepers', come out at night and attack you if you are not safely hidden in your house. Every day, I hear of their new discoveries such as exotic animals, or useful tools of some kind, diamonds, gold, enemies, friends, and even lava. It is hugely popular and globally played and loved. I can see why. If you have a look at Minecraft, you will see that it is a perfect combination of computer game, interaction, creativity, and adventure. My boys tell me all the time how educational it is, "Mum, you have to read a little, and even type!" And, you know, compared to a lot of the mindless, destructive video games out there, Minecraft is superior because a player not only has to be creative and curious, but he can add his own personal touch in a world of his choice. As with many on-line games, you have the ability to chat with other players. Mind you, you have to be careful what you say. If you accidentally offend a person who has created the world that you are in, you get banned. There are rules. Two people who know these rules very well, are Xephos and Honeydew. They are gurus of the Minecraft world. Infact, they have made their knowledge and practice of this game into profit. They have a website with up-to-date* video blogs of their Minecraft activity and discoveries. They are two, young English gentlemen, who are friends, and devoted gamers. They give regular commentaries while they game together in the same world in Minecraft. They have, what we call in England, 'the gift of the gab', which means an ability to talk and entertain. They are funny, expressive, and energetic, and other gamers, like my boys, love to follow their progress and listen to their advice. They battle evil characters, build detailed and unusual homes, and even search other people's homes and 'borrow' items that they find. The accumulation of riches is an important theme in Minecraft, and Xephos and Honeydew are expert miners who manage to collect all kinds of precious metals and gems* from the ground. I have come to terms with the fact that* my boys are addicted to this game, as are millions of others. And, thanks to Xephos and Honeydew, they will be encouraged to continue for a long time.
Related vocabulary and expressions: raw materials, nightfall, up-to-date, gems.
1. Raw materials are materials that are obtained from nature, and have not yet been processed. Some examples of raw materials are: rock, wood, metals that have come straight from the mine, and unrefined oil and gases that are collected from the earth.
2. We must find shelter before nightfall. As soon as it gets dark, who knows what dangers will appear in this forest.
3. If you want to download from iTunes, you should get an up-to-date version of it first. You can get an update on the website.
4. Look at the gems in the Queen's crown. They are so beautiful. There must be ten different kinds.
Gems or gem can also be used as a compliment for a thing or a person using the word 'of':
Ex: He's a gem of a person. He'll do anything to help.
Ex: We bought a gem of an antique car; there is no other like it.
Ex: I've just finished reading a gem of a novel. It's probably the best I've read in ten years.
Join me on FACEBOOK at Anna fromacupofenglish or email me comments or requests to:
Tue, 21 February 2012
Every Tuesday, I volunteer to drive several kids from school to the local swimming pool. They go once a week* for six weeks for a full hour*. It's actually a new experience for my children to be able to swim during school hours; usually, P.E., or Physical Education, doesn't involve getting wet. So, this is a real treat. The first week, the children were separated into swimmers and non-swimmers. Since then, the swimmers can spend half of their swimming session playing with beach balls on teams. They also are allowed to use various diving boards, while the non-swimmers have an intensive swimming lesson. You could call this their 'immersion' session, ha, ha, do you get the pun?* Anyway, for us, it's an unusual and exciting morning. Thankfully, at the swimming pool, there are comfortable seats near the pool, and even internet connection. Infact, I'm writing this as I watch the children swim. The pool is divided into three sections, so three different activities can take place at the same time.* Closest to the edge where I'm sitting is one lane for elderly* people. They usually do gentle exercises, in groups, often with floatation devices. From what I can see, it's more like a social get-together. Next to them are two lanes dedicated to adults who just want to swim laps. A lap is a length of the pool. They go back and forth at their own pace, and have about one hour to get their exercise done. They are the most serious swimmers out of everyone here. Perhaps they have a background in* swimming, or simply enjoy the sport, and wish to include it as part of their healthy routine. So, as you can imagine, I sit here on Tuesday mornings, looking out over the pool, and observe all sorts of interesting activity. This pool is well equipped as far as safety is concerned*. There are two lifeguards on duty at all times, who constantly scan* the pool. They wear red t-shirts and carry red floatation devices, and are ready at any second to either blow a whistle, or to jump in and rescue someone. As I look around the room, I see more safety devices: rubber rings, stretchers for enabling disabled people to float on and enjoy the water, and even a fire extinguisher! You would have thought that that wouldn't be necessary. The swimming teacher is explaining to the kids at the moment the importance of timing in swimming, how you have to use your arms and legs at different times in order to get fast movement through the water. She explains this with the help of a swimmer volunteer, and now the children are taking turns swimming a lap using her advice. And guess what? I see improvement already! She is a devoted swimming teacher. I've never seen her out of the water; it's as if she's a part of the pool. They've got ten minutes left to swim; the kids never want to get out of the pool. They would rather stay here than go back to school.
Related vocabulary and expressions: once a week, a full hour, a pun, at the same time.
1. She has a piano lesson once a week, and a painting class once a month.
2. I wish this class was longer. It's only 45 minutes. I would prefer to have it for a full hour.
3. 'Immersion' is a pun when talking about swimming. A pun is a joke created by words that reflect the situation you're talking about. In this example, immersion is exactly what you have in water when you are swimming. An intensive lesson is also immersion. So, when I say that the children's swimming lesson is like an 'immersion course', I pun.
4. He is a multi-tasker. He can do several things at the same time. Yesterday evening, he was making dinner, practicing Russian while listening to a podcast, and helping his son with his math homework!
Thu, 16 February 2012
What's one of the best ways to get refreshed? Exercise. I find, that I am a different person after I've exercised. What I mean by this is that I feel very positive, focused, and inspired when I have pushed myself physically. Mind you, it isn't just going to the gym that does it. Walks in the country are the very best for me. I think it's because, not only do I get all the physical benefits of exercise, but being in nature reminds me deeply of what's real and what's good. You could say that it's a scientifically proven huge dose of medicine. However, when I don't have the time to walk in the country, I'll go to the gym. The one I go to is just a few blocks away. It's one of those places that you can go to any time of the day or night. Each member has his or her own entry card that opens the locked doors automatically. This sounds very fancy, but it's actually just a safety precaution, so only members enter the gym at night. And because there are no staff members in the gym, the cards guarantee that members can work out safely, and alone. I've only worked out at night once, as I prefer to do so during the day. I usually go there mid-morning. Generally, there are elderly people working out when I get there, and an occasional younger person. I often wonder what the non-retired people are doing there in the morning. Do they work a night shift*? Are they unemployed? Perhaps they are in college. Or maybe, like me, they are a stay-at-home-parent-blogger. But my imagination isn't enough to keep me walking uphill on the treadmill*, or lifting weights. I need something to help me. Music works best for me, dance music, in particular. My problem is that I'm fussy about what I listen to. I like a huge variety of modern hits, music from the eighties, jazz, and Motown. However, because I really pay attention to words, I get tired of songs if I have heard them ten or twenty times. The music and the beat* really keep me going in my workout, but the words, often, put me off*. Some modern songs have great beats, but the words are either appalling or cliches. "Baby, it'll be alright in the night, hold me tight, our love is right, let's fly a kite, here's my sandwich, take a bite...." you know what I mean; a good piece of music can very quickly become annoying because of the childish* lyrics*. If only my ears didn't care about words. But that's how I am; I'm into* words, and I listen to everything. So, recently, after seeing the movie Tron, I bought the soundtrack. No words. Just a lot of great techo beats and rhythmns. For now, that is doing the trick*. I hope I don't get tired of it. I need to go to a music shop and look for instrumental versions of dance hits. Hopefully, I'll find some good music with no words, if not, I'll have to develop a sense of humor about modern music's silly lyrics.
Related vocabulary: night shift, treadmill, the beat, to put someone off.
1. He prefers to work at night, so he has the night shift in the hospital.
2. A treadmill is the walking machine that can vary speed and gradient. It offers a really good, custom workout.
3. The rhythm of a piece of music is what we call the beat.
4. While I was eating lunch, he blew his nose really hard. It totally put me off my food. I couldn't eat anything after that because I was so disgusted.
Fri, 10 February 2012
Some of my listeners have asked me to examine and explain English phrases and vocabulary in depth. I think that that is a great idea. In order to do this, I have selected a small paragraph from a magazine that is about wasting money. This will be the first in a series of 'Analysis time' that will, hopefully give you deeper understanding of certain, common vocabulary and phrases, so you will find them easier to use.
Stop wasting(1) food! With a little creativity(2), you can use commonly(3) trashed(4) items and save yourself some major(5) dough(6). Did you know that, on average, Americans throw out 25 percent of the food they bring home, worth(7) an astonishing(8) $2,200 per year. Think of what you could(9) do with that cash(10)!
1. Stop wasting...! It's a command. You could add various words at the end, such as, money, time, my time, the milk.
2. With a little creativity, a little thought, a little care, a little attention to detail. You're using your brain to think carefully. Ex: With a little effort, you could finish this project in an hour.
3. Commonly: normally, regularly, daily. It is used to describe the items that are 'trashed'. How often are they trashed? Answer is very often, normally, daily, commonly. This action is committed by most people; it is common.
4. Trashed, comes from the noun trash which means rubbish or garbage. It has become a verb, 'to trash'. Ex: We trashed the old car. This means that we threw it in the rubbish, or that we smashed it up first, and then threw it away. It is an Americanism. It essentially means the same as 'to waste'. Garbage and rubbish are only found in noun form; they are not verbs.
5. Major is also an Americanism. It means 'a lot of'. It implies an important amount, or an important position. Ex: I have major bills to pay. This could mean big bills, or a lot of bills.
6. Dough, is taken from bread dough, the uncooked bread. It means money, again slang. * A note about using slang. If you are going to use it, make it consistent. For example, in this paragraph, both 'major' and 'dough' go together well because they are BOTH slang. It sounds like a good fit. If you mix formal language with slang, it doesn't sound so good.
Ex: Save yourself quite a lot of dough. 'Quite a lot of' sounds more English, precise, and from England. Whereas 'dough' is definitely slang, street language, and very informal.
7. Worth means 'has the value of'. Ex: This coat is worth a lot more than $100.
8. Astonishing here means surprising and shocking. To be astonished. Ex: I am astonished by his progress! Ex: The opulence of the palace was astonishing.
9. Think of what you could..... is a very useful phrase to which you can add a variety of verbs:
Think of what you could eat at the buffet. Think of what you could learn if you went to that university. Think of what you could paint if you had the right equipment. Think of what you could achieve if you were President.
10. Cash, as you probably know is money. It's not as slang as 'dough', it can be used even in formal situations with more formal language.
So, let's hear the paragraph again, first slowly, and then at normal speed.
Wed, 8 February 2012
During Christmas vacation, we took a trip to Seattle to see the Nutcracker ballet, and to enjoy some time in the city. You might not know a lot about Seattle, but if you google it, you will see that it is a stunningly beautiful area, and a very cosmopolitan city. We stayed in a hotel, right downtown, and fortunately were on the thirtieth floor, so we had an impressive view of the city. After leaving our luggage in the hotel room, we decided to go for a walk around the center of town, and find a place to have lunch. We ended up choosing Ivar's restaurant, which is right on the water. It has been around for a long time, and is famous for its chowder. Chowder is a thick, creamy soup that has clams in it, though sometimes it can just have potatoes. Ivar's chowder is so popular, that it can be bought all over the Northwest in supermarkets. As Seattle is a prime spot* for seafood, we all had fish. While we were eating, our waiter gave the kids a mask each, called Ivar's diver. It goes with the sea theme, and has been Ivar's mascot since the 1960's. It was a sunny, Winter day, and we enjoyed sitting by the windows and watching the boats come and go. On such a day, this is the place to be. There is the view of the water, and also of the islands on the Puget sound, with ferries making their regular trips. We had over an hour before we had to be at the theater, so, when we finished our meal, we walked out onto the deck to have a look around. There were tables with people having lunch. They had company. There was a huge gathering of seagulls that were making a tremendous racket* begging for crumbs and leftovers. I was impressed at their size; they're much bigger than I realised. And they were quite aggressive as well. We had deliberately taken some leftover fries with us to feed them. My children threw them up into the air, over the water. These strong, hungry birds whipped* through the air, and ate most of the food before it even landed on the water. It was like watching an acrobatic display. And these birds are on to a good thing*. They are a permanent part of Ivar's because they know that there is a constant supply of food coming from the restaurant. Some people visit Ivar's just to feed the seagulls. Infact, I think that they would be a better mascot than Ivar's diver.
Related vocabulary: a prime spot/ location, a racket, to whip (through).
1. That place is a prime spot for a restaurant. It will be visible and accessible to pedestrians and drivers. We should get lots of business if we have it in that location.
2. What a racket! What a horrible noise! You don't call that music do you? It's awful!
3. The wind whipped through the building. It was so cold and uncomfortable. * Whip is both a noun and a verb. A whip is a nasty, long, leather device to control and subdue animal, and, in the past, slaves. So, here it describes the 'sting' of the wind, as if it is punishment.
Or friend me on FACEBOOK at Anna from A cup of English.
Thu, 2 February 2012
Studies show that the favorite food in the U.S is Mexican. The traditional hot dog and hamburger have to take second and third places, because the tasty and sometimes spicy food found south of the U.S takes first place. When I first came to the U.S., I had very little idea of how much influence Mexico has, in general, on this country. As I am English, and England is very far away from Mexico, I had only ever been to one Mexican restaurant that was in London. I didn't know much about Mexico either. Now, twenty years on*, I'm sure that there are many more, up and down the country, especially the popular food chains like Taco Bell and Taco Time. So, during my first visit here, I ended up eating more Mexican food than I had expected. You could say that while I have lived here, I have learned not only about the U.S way of life, but also about Mexico, its food, its culture, and its people. I've been fortunate enough to* go to Mexico a few times, see its capital, explore some of its major historical buildings, and experience some of its traditions. And Wenatchee, believe it or not, is very influenced by the Mexican culture. Although it is a small town, of about 40,000, a large percentage of the population is from Mexico. Their culture is attractive and lively, and very proactive*. There are more and more restaurants, bakeries, dance clubs, travel agencies, and daycares that are Hispanic and Spanish speaking. A healthy bicultural nature is emerging in this town. Because of this, even the traditional supermarkets are offering products that Hispanics like to buy. It's good business. And one of the prefered dishes is nachos. It is based on corn or flour tortillas, which are flat and round. These can be fried to become crispy, toasted slightly in a frying pan with no oil, or simply warmed in the microwave. Nachos typically are crunchy. Bags of tortilla 'chips' are purchasable anywhere, so it's easy and convenient. Some people make a simple nacho dish of tortilla chips with tomato salsa and shredded cheese on top. However, 'loaded nachos' is a much more substantial dish that is varied and filling enough to be a full meal. The word 'loaded' is used to mean that it is a full, and quite heavy dish. A loaded gun comes to mind; it's ready to do some serious firing, and the nachos are ready to deliver some serious taste. So, we have the tortilla chips, and on top, fried , seasoned, minced beef, salsa, sour cream, advocado slices, black olives, shredded cheese, and sliced chili peppers. Wow! Beat that! It is full flavored, as you can imagine. This dish is perfect for parties and get-togethers. Recently, the Superbowl was on, and it is a tradition to have loaded nachos available as one of the dishes to enjoy while watching the football on television. The supermarkets stock up with all the ingredients, so you can easily throw them all together to make this easy but satisfying dish.
Related vocabulary: ....years on, to be fortunate enough to..., proactive. (Get-together found on Facebook under Anna from A cup of English.
1. She started a naturopathic clinic. Several years on, she had to open two more; it was that popular.
2. We were fortunate enough to find five pairs of shoes on clearance.
3. He is so proactive. He is always making good things happen, and when there is conflict, he finds a way to create a good situation out of it.
OR join me on FACEBOOK at: Anna from A cup of English.