Monday, March 31, 2008

Family Advice: What would you say?

If you had only one day to live, what advice or words of wisdom would you leave your family (brothers, sisters, parents, or children) and why? Are your choices of words or wisdom influenced by your own experience, culture, religion, or other values? Please share your ideas.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

ESL Learning: What's worked for you?

Please listen and share your opinions and ideas on this topic.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Making Progress in Learning English

Many students find that once they reach the intermediate level of English, their progress seems to slow down and, in some ways, fossilize. This can be very discouraging. Looking at this situation, students slowly progress in the beginning stages from simple introductions and hobbies to more demanding topics on personal values, environmental issues, relationships, and even politics. However, students either find few opportunities to engage in such topics or are just not interested in discussing them. In this case, it is more a question of knowledge of broader topics than language skills. However, in any future job or educational experience, students will need such higher-level topics. Thus, what are some ways students can extend their learning beyond basic topics on shopping and sports? Share your ideas.


Monday, March 24, 2008

Perfect Grammar or Pronunciation: You Choose!

If you could either speak English (1) with perfect accuracy with an accent or (2) with perfect pronunciation along with some grammatical mistakes, which situation would you choose and why?


Friday, March 21, 2008

Living Expenses: Should adult children pay rent?

Every culture and family has its own expectations on the responsibilities and duties of children who are "adults", that is, people generally over 18 years of age, particularly for those who are living at home. If an adult children, let's say, 23 years old is working full time, but still lives at home, do you think the person should pay rent to his or her parents? Why or why not? Share your opinions on the topic, including any values and beliefs of your culture that explain your answer.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

Keys to Succcesful Language Learning

I am just starting new classes at the university, and students sometimes ask me what are the keys (or secrets) to learning English. As part of this discussion, I often point out four things:

  1. Natural ability
  2. Motivation
  3. Effective study skills
  4. Out-of-class activities
I'd like to share some thoughts on #3 for today. Many students, unfortunately, have little understanding on how their study patterns or habits affect how quickly (or not) they learn the language. In my grammar class, I test all of my students by recording and grading their productive use of the grammar in CONVERSATION. In other words, I give them a situation and then record them using the grammar in natural conversation rather than using a paper test. Unfortunately, studying and reviewing the textbook in a quiet corner of the library by yourself will do very, very little to help you PRODUCTIVELY use the language when you need it in real conversation. However, this is a method used by many students to study for PAPER tests. Students just don't know or see any other way to study.

Therefore, I hold regular speaking workshops after school where students can practice their speaking skills in more natural situations. I also encourage students to use the grammar we are studying in their other classes as a way of recycling and reinforcing the structures we are studying.

Learning to use the language takes a lot of practice, and just being in a foreign country where the language is spoken isn't enough if you spend most of the time in your apartment alone.

So, please share your ideas on the topic.



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

ESL Teachers: Does experience matter?

One question that sometimes comes up regarding ESL/EFL teachers is whether experience makes a better teacher or not, and if so, to what extent. Furthermore, is all experience the same in quality. In other words, if you could choose between a new teacher with less than 6 months of experience in the classroom or a teacher with 10 years of experience, who would you want as your teacher? How about 20 years of experience? Would it matter what subject you were studying: grammar, writing, listening/speaking, or reading? Please share your ideas on the topic.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ESL Classes: Do student nationalities matter?

One of the biggest concerns (complaints) I hear from some students in the US, particularly from certain countries, is that there are too many students from their country in the class, and therefore, they can't learn English. This perception, unfortunately, reveals how limited our scope of the language-learning experience really is. If I moved to, let's say, Mexico, and all of the other students in my Spanish class were native English speakers from the US, I wouldn't care at all, and I wouldn't view this as a negative thing. I feel this way because I see that what I do OUTSIDE of the class just as (or more) important in my language-learning experience as what I do in class.

International students who are concerned about the number of students from the same country being in their class, unfortunately, are often the ones who see the classroom as their world, and when the class is over, they tend to only associate and hang out with students from their own country. On the other hand, some of my best students have been the ones who have volunteered in the community, joined clubs, and helped in reading programs at local schools. They see that learning is much more than a classroom experience.

So, what do you think about this topic? What are some of the best ways to learn English, whether it be in your home country or overseas?


Monday, March 17, 2008

Exciting Travel: Take a cruise or fly?

If you were planning a trip to Hawaii, would you rather fly to your destination or go by ship (on a cruise) to the islands? Share your ideas and reasons to support them. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each travel option? What opportunities would you have to practice and improve your English on the trip?


Thursday, March 13, 2008

English Dictionaries: Text, Electronic, or Online?

Dictionaries are important tools to help ESL/EFL learners improve their language skills, but given the choice, which do you prefer to use and why: a traditional textbook dictionary, an electronic dictionary you can carry, or an online dictionary? Please share your ideas, including the specific dictionary you find most useful, and explain your reasons for using it.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ESL Vocabulary: How can you increase your range?

Please listen and share your ideas and opinions on this topic.


ESL Classes: How many students are ideal?

Please listen and share your ideas and opinions on this topic.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Popular Proverbs: Learning Language and Culture Together

Seen in most cultures and languages, proverbs are popular beliefs that teach some truth about life. Understanding proverbs from different countries can teach us a lot about our world neighbors, including their values about certain topics. Proverbs can always serve as great conversation starters which can help us practice English (or any language) and learn culture at the same time.

A simple one in English is "a closed mouth catches no flies." This often means that keeping your mouth shut and not gossiping or talking about others will help you avoid problems. Personally, I have found this true in my life. It is much better to listen and study all the facts before you make any decision or judgment about any person or situation.

Now, please share a common proverb from your language, tell us what it means, and how it has applied to your personally in your life. You can find more proverbs from different languages and cultures at


Monday, March 10, 2008

Budget Travel: How to travel and where to stay?

If someone were traveling through your country or area, what travel tips and suggestions would you give them to save money and still have a great time? From my experience, staying at a youth hostel can be a way to save money on lodging and meet people at the same time. One Website that can help you find youth hostels around the world is This site lists places around the world and contains pictures and reviews of each place.

So, what other suggestions do you have for people traveling in your country? Share your ideas.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Choosing an ESL Program: What is most important to you?

Many international students often have a hard time deciding where to go overseas to study English, and this is sometimes due to the large number of options available. For you personally, what is the most important factor in choosing a language program? If you have studied overseas, what actually matters most in planning to have a positive experience overseas? Please share your ideas and experiences on this topic.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Manners and Etiquette: What's appropriate in your country?

Listen to this recording and share your ideas on the topic.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Study Abroad: Not as easy as you think!

Having taught English for twenty years, I have noticed many misperceptions among international students and their parents on the keys to learning English here in the United States. In order to learn any language, just being in the vicinity or area where the language is spoken is not enough to guarantee a student will learn. Many parents assume that if there children travel to a foreign country, they children will somehow naturally learn the language. However, I see time and time again on a daily basis that many international students tend to isolate themselves from the community by spending all their time with friends from their same country. Now, this isn't necessarily bad if the students are trying to speak English, but these students will make little progress if the only English they use is in the language classroom and at McDonalds when they order a hamburger.

In fact, I have met many people who learned to speak English in their home countries without ever going abroad, and they were able to do this because they were very motivated, sought out opportunities to speak English when they could, and had very good study skills.

So, please share your thoughts and opinions on how to learn language better, either overseas or in your home country.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Parenting Skills: What will you do differently?

Becoming a parent can be a rewarding, yet challenging, "job", and families and society are changing due to new ideas and influences around us. If and when you become a parent, what things will you do differently than your own parents and how you were raised? Share your ideas.

Personally, I have four children ranging in ages from 10 to adult, and I feel that I have tried to spend a lot of time with them playing games, camping, watching movies, and just talking about their lives. Someone once said that no success can compensate for failure in the home, so I do what I can to build relationships with my children.