A Cup Of English

A Cup Of English

United States

Friendly, everyday English to help the anxious language learner. Texts, grammar notes, and photos on the blog page. Another great podcast by LibSyn.com


Bella Bistro  

I have discovered a place where I like to spend time. It's a strange, little cafe called Bella Bistro. I come here as often as I can to write my podcasts, and to work on my other projects. They have food, of course, and some of the best coffee in town. I called it 'a strange' cafe because it is shaped like a triangle, hemmed in(1) my three roads, and still has large metal garage doors, as it used to be a mechanic's workshop. I think those characteristics make it appealing. It buzzes with activity as people of all ages come here to meet their friends or work on their laptops. Usually when I write, I need peace and quiet. I find it hard to concentrate at home when my dogs are playing and people are coming and going(2). However, for some reason I can really focus at Bella Bistro, even with the human activity and background music. The design is simple: rustic with lots of windows. It has a great internet connection, and the ladies who own it and serve the food are fast and energetic. It also has a comfortable international feel with coffee sacks hanging on the walls from Columbia, Guatemala, and Mexico. I find it interesting how some buildings can make you feel comfortable and welcome, and others are repulsive. I find this true of towns and cities as well. Maybe I'm an over sensitive person. Or perhaps it has something to do with(3) the design and textures of places. I know that a lot of people use Feng Shui to create pleasing, peaceful environments. Perhaps Bella Bistro naturally has a good arrangement and good energy. I'm at Bella Bistro right now, actually, enjoying my twelve ounce soy latte, sitting on a high stool facing huge windows. And, ah, it's a sunny day. Thank goodness! So cheers, here's to good coffee, sunshine, and a good Feng Shui. 1. 'Hemmed in' comes from the verb 'to hem' which means to sew into a fold that is at the end of a piece of clothing. So 'to be hemmed in' means 'surrounded' or 'trapped'. a. My trousers were far too long, so I cut the legs and then hemmed them in.  b. The bottom of her dress was frayed, so she got her sewing machine out and hemmed in the material so it was neat and tidy. c. I was uncomfortable at the party as there were too many people. I felt hemmed in! 2. One of the ways to sound natural with your English is to use common expressions like 'coming and going'. Being in present continuous, it gives the impression of a flow of movement. a. There is a constant coming and going of teenagers at our house. It's like indoor traffic! b. The old man sat in his garden watching the coming and going of the little birds that would come to eat the seed that he had thrown on the grass. 3. 'It has something to do with' makes a connection or clarification of a previously mentioned point. a. The Netherlands produces the tallest people in the world. It /this has something to do with their diet. b. English people talk about the weather a lot. This has something to do with the changeable weather in England.    Click here to visit iTalki. It will improve your pronunciation and fluency!

Basic Pronunciation Practice #45 + Interactive English.  

Olma: Liz, a package arrived for you today.  Liz: Oh thanks. Let me see. Oh it's from England, from my friend Steve in York. I think I know what it is. Olma: What is it? I'm dying to know! Liz: Do you remember me talking to you about him studying archeology in York, and all the things he has found? Olma: Oh, Steve, yes! He's so lucky, going on all those archeological digs! Liz: I know. There are so many artifacts in York and the surrounding area that he promised that he would send me something. And here it is. It's small and wrapped up really well. Olma: Oh hurry up! I can't wait to see what it is. Liz: Beads. And his card says that they are Roman beads found at an excavation site. I feel really honored! You've seen a lot of ancient artifacts haven't you Olma. Olma: Yes, Mexico is full of them, as you can imagine. Our ancient peoples, the Maya, the Aztec, and others, were very inventive and left artifacts all over the place, not just in the famous pyramids! Try iTalki for convenient English practice with a native!

Slime sisters.  

I have made multiple trips to the supermarket over the past two months to buy glue, shaving foam, liquid starch, and food coloring. Multiple. It's because of a hobby that my daughter has adopted: she makes slime. Slime, I suppose, is the general term used for a moist, gelatinous paste that is made simply to play with. There are many kinds of slime, which is something that I have learned by watching my daughter while she is mixing the ingredients and chatting to me about their consistencies and names. Slime is used just for fun, to squeeze, mould, or even throw at people. It makes a mess most of the time, unless it is a 'fluffy' slime which though appears wet and gooey, is actually fairly dry to touch. When she first discovered slime on Youtube, her mixing sessions in the kitchen were a disaster and chaotic. I would find slime in various places, open containers, and a sink full of used bowls and pots. However, thankfully she has become more responsible about cleaning up. She also has developed a better sense of careful measurement. So, what is the slime like? My favorite one is the 'fluffy'(1) slime which gets that name because it has a lot of air bubbles in it which don't seem to pop. It feels slightly wet, it wobbles, and it can be squeezed and manipulated all day. You can also add glitter, or tiny styrofoam balls to change the look and texture. Word has got around(2), and it turns out that lots of my daughter's friends are into the same thing. They even make slime for each other as gifts. I told Domini that slime is the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for kids her age. She could even start a small business. I'm quite happy for her to do so, as long as she cleans up (3)after herself. Checkout the pink, fluffy slime on youtube. 1. Some vocabulary to do with textures: 'Fluffy' is light, airy, furry (an animal or soft toy). It can also be moist (as in food, like a mousse). 'Gooey' is usually something that is gelatinous and moist. It can be sticky, but not necessarily. 'Slimey' is something that feels wet, even oily. It slips and runs off of surfaces easily, like a slug or an old peeled banana. 2. 'Word has got around' or 'word will get around' is a set phrase, used a lot in the U.S. It's like saying, 'People are finding out that....' a. Word has got around about the new bakery, and people are lining up for the fresh bread! b. This town is so gossipy; word has got around already about their recent divorce. 3. 'As long as' means 'provided that'. In another context, it can mean 'for the whole duration of'. a. I don't mind you going to the cinema, as long as you come back before 11pm. (provided that/ on the condition) b. I have known that family for as long as I can remember.

The Kennewick Man.  

Two and a half hours drive from where I live is a small city called Kennewick. It is similar to other towns in Washington State that are east of the Cascade mountains; it is dry, flat, and has a climate that is close to that of a desert. In this area, at a park next to the Columbia river, two men came across an intact(1) skull just ten feet from the shore. The whole skeleton was excavated soon afterwards. As scientists studied it, they found that it was the most intact and well preserved skeleton of any ancient tribesman of the Americas. But who was this man, and which tribe had he belonged to? Five Native American tribes claimed that he belonged to one of them, and therefore legally the skeleton needed to be returned to his land of origin and given a proper burial. These tribes are: the Colville, Yakama, Umatilla, Nez Perce, and Wanapum. A court case developed because of this. The man had been found on federal land, and so the 'Kennewick man', as he was named, became the property of the U.S Army Corp of Engineers. However, Native Americans have a lot of legal rights, especially when it comes to excavations(2) of bones or artifacts(3) on land that used to be theirs. Years went by, and many studies were carried out on the skeleton. Some scientists believed that the man was one of the early natives who had originally crossed the Bering Straight ice bridge from Russia. Others believed that he had come to the Americas by sea from Asia. So who was right? The case came to an end after the Corp of Engineers had scientists in Copenhagen, Denmark study the skeleton using the latest DNA testing. The results were that he was about 8,500 years old, and genetically closest to Native Americans such as the Colville Indians. This discovery was a victory for the native tribes, and so, with reverence and satisfaction the Kennewick man was reburied in tribal territory.  1. 'Intact' means 'altogether' or 'in one piece'. A verb that we often use with 'intact' is 'to remain'. a. When we bought the old house, we found very old documents in the attic. They were all intact. b. Even after our terrible argument, my dignity remained intact. 2. 'Excavations' from the verb 'to excavate'. This noun and verb are used in contexts of archeology and construction. a.The land must be excavated and leveled before the concrete is poured for the main floor of the house. b. Excavation will continue at Stone Henge because of the recent, extensive discoveries. 3. 'Artifact' is another archeological word meaning an object that was made or used by man. a. In the local museum, you can actually find many artifacts used by Native American Indians. b. York is a place where artifacts are being found all the time because of its rich and ancient history. iTalki for online English practice with a native teacher.

Handymen and Handywomen.  

I consider myself fortunate to have my mother living in the same town. Her home is just five minutes away from mine by car. Every now and then she asks me to help her with something, and as I like to think of myself as a 'handy woman', I will quickly say "yes", grab my tools, and drive over to her house. So she decided that because she likes to read in bed, she wanted to mount(1) two lamps to her bedroom wall, one on either side of the bed. Thankfully there wasn't any complicated electrical work to worry about. The lamps would actually plug into the socket(2/3), and their electrical wires would run neatly down the wall, hidden inside a tube. Simple. So I turned up, full of enthusiasm, ready to figure it all out. As I laid out all the different parts of the lamps on her bed, I realized that the job would take longer than I had expected. The end of each wire had no plug. I would have to attach a very simple, flimsy version that came in a plastic bag, and hope for the best. "Where's the drill Mum?" I asked and she pointed to a tiny appliance in an open box. It was a little drilling tool that is used for crafts. Hmmm. "What about the phillips heads and screw drivers?" Again, she motioned towards two little things that she had used to open paint cans. "Oh no," I thought. I didn't want to drive home to get my tools, so I searched around in her cold, dark garage and found several things that would work. I started putting bits and pieces of the lamp together, each time reading and re-reading the instructions. My mum sat opposite me in an arm chair to observe. It was a bit irritating actually as she questioned and commented on everything I did, adding sweetly, "Can I help you with anything darling?" I would just look at her with slight annoyance, as I needed to concentrate. I did manage to drill into at least one stud to support each lamp, even though the hardware that came in the bag was quite light and thin. I worked away, putting the puzzle together, and finally stood back, proud, with a smile on my face. "There you are Mum. What do you think?" She got out of her armchair and stood with me at the end of the bed, looking at one lamp and then the other. She remained quiet. I looked at her, and she said, "Are they at the same height?" My heart sank. I was annoyed again. I tried to see them at the same height, but I realized that she might have been on to something. I grabbed the tape measure and measured the height of each from the floor. She was right; the one on the right was one inch lower. "Bum!" I said loudly, and started unscrewing the lamp. I re-measured, and remounted it, and then double checked. There, now they were the same height. My old mum had been right, as usual. Another job well done, well almost.  1. 'To mount' is used when putting up a picture or something on a wall or a stand (like a statue). a. When I worked in the art gallery, we would go to people's houses and mount their new pictures. b. The sculptor mounted his latest work on a big stone block in the square. 2. Okay, here is some vocabulary to do with using tools and mounting objects on walls. a. A stud = the large, vertical wooden post inside a wall or ceiling. b. Phillip's head = the tool used to screw in a screw. It's end looks like an X c.  A screw driver = similar to a phillip's head, but it's end looks like  - . d. Socket = the electrical outlet that you plug a plug into.  e. Hardware = all of the screws, nails, and other metal pieces that a piece of furniture needs. f. A drill = the electric tool that makes a whole in the wall or in wood/ metal. It is also the verb. Try iTalki for English practice with a native teacher!

A Salon Rescue.  

I'm recovering. It was a shock, you know. I'm talking about my experience at the hair dresser's. Okay, I'll give you some background. I have naturally very dark brown hair, fine, medium length. So, last year, as I realized that I had a few white hairs announcing themselves quite loudly from amongst the dark hairs, I decided to have some highlights. I happened to be in Seattle at the time, and I had a few hours to kill, so I walked into a salon and walked out two hours later with gorgeous, natural looking highlights. The story is great so far. The trouble with highlights, or any kind of hair coloring, is that it grows out in a few months. Now, a smart person is supposed to realize this, take it into account(1), and therefore make an appointment two or three months ahead to get new coloring. I didn't. I don't know what I was thinking. Perhaps I assumed that an angel would appear in my hour of need and give me some divine highlights, just like that. Well, the angel was late, so I went into a local hair dresser's which is known to be cheap, and I asked the lady there to do my highlights. I gave her some vague instructions like, "I just want them to look natural," and, "I think I like toffee color." I grabbed(2) a couple of magazines and prepared myself for a long sitting session. However, before I had even read through the first one, she was finished. "Oh," I thought to myself, "she does work fast!" "What do you think?" she asked as we both looked in the mirror. The room was actually quite dark, so I couldn't see very well. It did look more light than usual, but I chose to just pay, and go and examine her work at home. Little did I know that(3) I would get a big shock. The lighting in my bathroom is bright, not very flattering. But I needed an honest look, after all, I have to live with my hair. It was bright orange, right where my parting is. The highlights on the rest of my head were in thick, two inch chunks. And, for the crowning glory, I had three leopard spots on the top of my head, yes leopard spots. My dark color had formed circles surrounded by the pumpkin orange that was on the rest of it. I think I stopped breathing for a while. My mind flew into a panic. What was I going to do? Fly to a remote part of Alaska? I jumped in the car and went back to the salon. "You have to fix this," I told the lady. "I wear my hair back for work, but I can't now because the side highlights make me look bald! Plus I have leopard spots. Look!" Couldn't she see how bad it was? "So, you don't like it?" she asked. I just looked at her. This must be the local zombie salon, I thought to myself. Is anybody awake in here? She did her best to 'fix' the problem and remove the look of a partially bald leopard. Then I immediately made an appointment with a colorist in town who is a hair expert. Luckily, I didn't have to wait for months to see her. Her salon is calm, beautiful, and very classy. So is she. "Did you do this?" she asked me. "No," I replied, and I told her the whole, ridiculous story. "I've never seen anything like this," she said with a deep look of curiosity on her face. Well, she worked her magic, and POOF, transformed me from a pumpkin into a princess. I was elated. I was so thankful. I felt like paying her, and then giving her my watch and my car as well. And yes, I made another appointment with her. I'm going to stick with her like glue. No more leopards for me. I have learned my lesson. 1. 'To take into account' is the same as saying 'to bear in mind'. 'To bear' is the old verb meaning 'to carry', so the phrase really means to carry something in your mind, to be aware. a. I know that she is grumpy, but bear in mind that she is awake every night with her sick child. b. The car is a good price, but bear in mind that you will also have to pay tax and insurance. 2. 'To grab' is a very common English verb. We English use it a lot more than Americans. I could have used 'pick up' when referring to the magazines in the salon, but grab sounds more aggressive and basic. It helps to add to the essence of my ridiculous story. This is something that you can bear in mind when you wish to tell a story, word choice. How can I make what I say funny or effective? a. The policeman grabbed the young man by his collar. b. I was in a hurry. The bus was leaving, so I grabbed my bag and keys, and I flew out of the door. 3. 'Little did I/ another person know that' is also used a lot in English. It is the same as saying, ' I (another person) had no clue that ...' or 'I (another person) was about to discover that ....' a. I got in the elevator. Little did I know that I wasn't going to get out for 6 hours!/ I wouldn't get out for 6 hours! b. I talked ab

Starbucks Era.  

They say that America runs on coffee. It is the drink that gets people awake and focused for another day of work. I personally have two cups each morning. Of course, most of the coffee consumed in the U.S is grown in  Columbia and Brazil. In recent years, coffee drinking has become fashionable amongst young people. Chains of coffee shops have sprung up(1) all over the country, each with their own style and marketing. One of the American chains that has gone global is Starbucks. I have seen it evolve from a Seattle based coffee shop to the largest coffeehouse company in the world. It seems almost unbelievable(2) that it is in 62 countries and is still growing. So why is it so popular? It's appeal lies in(3) its quality roast and its elegant surroundings. It is a place where it is pleasant to linger. The muted, earthy colors of its decor, and relaxing selection of music draw people to not only relax and chat over coffee, but also to do work on their laptops, or even to have small business meetings. This kind of cafe has existed in Europe since 17th century, with the first opening in Damscus in 1530. The U.S, it seems, lacked a casual, non-alcoholic meeting place, away from both the office and home. It was this concept that the creator of Starbucks applied to his business. Now, young people will regularly buy a Starbucks on their way to High School. I occasionally treat my children to one of their non-cafeinated drinks, or a pastry, but not too often as it has become very expensive. Their business still thrives, however, even though they are not cheap. And in this culture of the 'drive thru', coffee is quickly and conveniently available. There are, though, other companies springing up that are providing competition for this coffeehouse giant. 'Dutch Bro's' is a company that the High Schoolers flock to. It is drive through only, so the sales are quick, and it appeals to teenagers as it always has very loud dance music playing while the young servers dance around inside the building preparing the coffee. And I'm sure that there will be other companies with other marketing strategies, all competing for people's money, and offering our favorite drug in a variety of ways. 1. 'To spring up' is a way of saying that something has suddenly appeared or been developed. It can be used figuratively. a. Mushrooms sprang up all over the garden after the previous day of rain. b. Complaints sprang up all over the restaurant when the new chef started working there. 2. 'Unbelievable' is an effective word to use in conversation every now and then. It means surprising, baffling, ridiculous, and not-credible. a. Did you see goal that he just scored? It was unbelievable! b. It is unbelievable how he continues to lie even when we all know the truth. 3. 'It's appeal lies in ...' is like saying that an attractiveness is found in... a. The building's appeal lies in its modern lines and open style. b. His appeal lies in his humility.

Basic Pronunciation Practice #44 + Interactive English.  

Liz: Hi Mum. Mother: Hello darling, how are you? Liz: Fine thanks, and you? Mother: Oh, really well thanks. How is your class selection going? Liz: Fine. I met with my school counselor, and he showed me which classes I have to complete by the end of the year, and which ones I can choose as electives. Mother: Anything interesting? (1)Liz: Well, yes. Even though I'm in a psychology program, I can still take an elective or two. (2)History of art really appeals to me; it might even help with my major. Mother: Yes, it'll help you understand how thoughts and attitudes have developed in society. It'll also give you a break from so much heavy thinking! I would certainly do it. You'll probably learn a lot more from it than you realize. Liz: Yes, that's how I feel about it too. I still have a week to make my final choices. I'll let you know once I've made them.  1a. Subject 'he' + 'a business man', + verb 'to continue' + with his hobbies. b. Subject 'they' + past + science, + time to paint. 2.  'Nursing', 'family's medical problems. b. 'Traveling' + 'them', 'their Youtube channel'. 

A Spring Princess.  

It's the time of year when everyone is thinking about the Spring. As the big machines pile up the remaining snow into huge piles in the parking areas, we find ourselves longing for(1) a more pleasant season, and greenery and flowers. Preparations are being made for life beyond the snow. Bulbs and seeds can be found again in the home centers, new Spring fashions are appearing in the shops, and soccer clubs are starting their practices in whichever gyms are available(2). Even though we still have a couple of months of winter weather, we know what is coming next, and we are waiting anxiously for it to come. As we celebrate the blossoming of apple trees in Spring, we also choose three young ladies to represent the Wenatchee Valley. They are from High School, and have to compete to be voted for. It is like an election campaign. They are judged on their character, intellect, community involvement, and future goals. It is quite different from a beauty contest, thankfully. It isn't just the(3) prettiest girls who become Apple Blossom Princesses. The selection process is quite rigorous, as the girls really need to show what they know, and communicate what they care about. This year's ladies have just been chosen. They will receive scholarships for college, and opportunities to visit businesses and organizations in the town. And they get the opportunity to dress up and look beautiful for a season. It's an American thing, and these ladies are our princesses for a year.  1. 'To long for' is 'to yearn for' or 'to wait impatiently for'. a. He longed for a reunion with his family; he hadn't seen them in so many years. b. She longed for him to hold her hand. c. We longed for rain; the crops wouldn't grow if the rain didn't come. 2. Use of 'whichever'. a. You can take your food to whichever till is available, and then pay there. b. I will have to take whichever plane is available, as mine has been cancelled. 3. 'It isn't just the ...' can be followed by a singular or plural subject. a. It isn't just the ice that's a problem for traffic, it's the freezing temperatures also that affect the vehicles. b. It isn't just the students who need new computers; it's the teachers and staff as well.  

Online Math.  

Mathematics is one of the foundations of education, with some people being inclined towards(1) it, and others finding it quite difficult. My sons seem to have a natural ability, including my youngest, Robert, who is in middle school. He has just started an online Algebra 1 course. Even though they do offer Algebra 1 in his school, he missed the admittance grade by one point. He was so disappointed, as he knew that he was capable of learning Algebra. As he had expressed his disappointment to me several times, I asked him if he would like to sign up for a course. "You will have to do the work at home, right? You do realize(2) that it's your responsibility?" I asked him. He answered "yes" to all of my questions, so before I knew it, I had found a recommended site, paid, and received the curriculum. "Things are certainly different nowadays," I thought to myself. And it's true; our children have so many options that weren't available when I was young(3). At the High School meeting I went to recently, the principal showed us that many new and exciting classes have been added to those that are offered. For half the day, if Robert qualifies, he could actually go to a technical center to study robotics. In this place, called The Tech Center, students can also do cooking, mechanics, crime science, and even work towards becoming a firefighter! Back at the regular High School, they have added classes like mixing electronic music, and 20th century pop culture. It seems like school could actually be a lot of fun. I suppose the world has changed radically, and in this era of technology and entertainment, the next generation needs to be prepared to qualify for many of the jobs that will be available. 1. 'To be inclined to/towards' meaning to lean towards, to have a tendency, or a willingness to. a. I am inclined to agree with what you say. b. As she criticizes him all the time, he is inclined to stay quiet. c. He inclined his head towards the people sitting at the table next to him so he could hear what they were saying.  2. 'You do realize...?" in English we emphasize the word 'do' as a way of looking for affirmation or a response. It is similar to saying, "I hope you realize that...". It sounds like a statement, but it can end with a question mark. a. They do realize that they have to pay for their food and lodging if they stay? b. You do realize that we will miss the bus if we don't leave now?  3. Our children have so many options that weren't available when I was young.  What a sentence! Anyone could use a sentence like this, and if you happen to be young, you could slightly adjust it to fit what you want to say. a. Our university has so many class choices that weren't available for my parents. b. There are so many civil rights now that weren't in place when my grandparents were young. c. There are so many laws that protect the environment that didn't exist when I was young.

Ending Polio.  

There is so much good news around that we often don't hear. Very soon, for only the second time in history, a human infectious disease will be eradicated: Polio. I remember receiving my oral vaccination for this disease when I was in secondary school, but, at the time, I had no idea what it was, nor(1) had I ever been around anyone who had suffered from it's symptoms. Being infected with this disease at a young age can result in paralysis, and it is also highly contagious. However, without most of us knowing, 155 countries have been working together in a monumental effort(2) to vaccinate all children. They have done such a good job that over the past 30 years, the cases have dropped 99.9%, with the actual number last year being about 40. There is a risk of recontamination, however, if some children are not immunized and left undetected in rural communities. Therefore, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, Unicef, and their partners have mobilized an army of volunteers, supervisors, laboratory workers, and surveillance experts, to stamp out this disease once and for all. All children must be vaccinated as soon as possible by taking a liquid orally, starting at two months of age, and having a total of four doses at different times. The vaccination has changed from three strains of the virus to two, as one has already been eradicated. Here in the U.S, every dollar spent on vaccinations saves three dollars in direct healthcare, and ten dollars in societal(3) costs. You can imagine how this can multiply! The billions of dollars in savings each year are mainly experienced by low-income countries. And that means money can be spent on other areas of preventative healthcare, or better infrastructure. It should be this year that we will hear on the news the announcement about the eradication of Polio. And when it happens, we will need to celebrate. One of the great legacies of this movement is that after each unvaccinated child has been vaccinated, the structure will be in place to continue vaccinating new children each year. What a collaborative effort! If you wish to donate, or read about the End Polio Now movement, simply click here. 1. 'Nor' can be used by itself (without 'neither') if you are continuing with a second sentence and speaking negatively in some way. a. I didn't wake up until noon. Nor did I have energy to get  out of bed! b. They didn't attend the history lectures; nor did they turn up for the field trip! 2. 'Monumental' and 'effort' go really well together in English, with 'monumental' being one of the expressions of a large size that is impressive or even historical. It is also a great word for insults and exaggeration. a. Taking care of all the refugees will be a monumental effort that must be shared by many. b. I made a monumental mistake when I called my ex-boyfriend's mother, instead of my own! c. We could have a decent conversation if he wasn't so monumentally silly. 3. 'Societal' is an adjective which means 'of society'. a. Many future societal problems can be prevented in elementary schools. b. There is a lot of societal pressure to be rich. Try iTalki to improve your pronunciation and fluency!

Basic Pronunciation Practice #43 + 'th' practice.  

Emilie: Liz, this packing is exhausting! Liz: I know. I didn't realize that I had so much stuff! Look at all of these boxes. Those over there are so heavy. I'm getting quite thirsty with all of this packing and lifting, my thigh muscles are getting a good workout! Emilie: This will be the third time that we've loaded up the car. It was so thoughtful of Peter to give us all of these cardboard boxes. Liz: I know. Hopefully there'll be just one more trip. Emilie: This box is really heavy. Do you need all of these books? They're nothing to do with your course. What do we have here? There's a book on the theater, one on theology, and a thin one on therapies of different kinds. Liz: You know, I'm such a hoarder. I don't like to get rid of anything! Thinking about it, I could donate those three because I'll never read them again. Emilie: Alright! Liz is becoming a minimalist, finally! Liz: Oh no, think again lady; I definitely like my stuff. Hey, after we load up the car, I'll invite you to a drink. My throat is so dry; I feel like I've just run a marathon! Practice 'th' now with help from Effortless English Club. Try online lessons with iTalki for more pronunciation practice with native English teachers. 

Culture, - acculturation.  

When I first came to live in Wenatchee, the town was very small. That was 25 years ago. I had just moved over here, and I was in shock, as I had lived in London for 3 years and was totally comfortable there. You could describe me at that time as being 'a fish out of water'. I experienced a major culture shock. Although I found the people here friendly, they seemed to be unaware of a lot of the world. Not many people from this town traveled anywhere else, unless they had to. As the town had started with fruit orchards, the people here had been tied to(1) the land, and as a result had stayed locally for the most part(2). London, on the other hand, was and still is(3) the vast, multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan hub of England, with a constant flow of people into and out of the city. I remember walking along one of the streets in Wenatchee feeling stripped of everything that was comfortable: architecture, history, greenery, and a mix of ethnicities. In fact, people were staring at me from their cars because most people here don't walk; they drive. The town was built around cars, not pedestrians. It was a very strange experience. When I think of the students who listen to my podcasts, I do realize that many of them will live in an English speaking country in order to improve their fluency. This can be a challenge. All over the world people are stepping out, moving abroad for education or other reasons, and they too feel like 'fish out of water'. The process of getting used to a new culture while living in a new country is 'acculturation'. It basically means 'to get used to a new culture/ to assimilate into a new culture.' From my experience, and what I've heard from other immigrants, is that acculturating is a process that involves gains and losses, high points and low points. It would be even more of a challenge if you have to learn a new language as well; surely that could potentially hold you back from feeling comfortable and with any sense of being 'at home'. I remember once seeing a young lady sitting on the floor against the wall in King's Cross Station crying. I went up to her and asked what was wrong. She told me that she was from Spain, had come over for a nannying job, but didn't know which platform she needed for her train. She felt lost. I was able to speak Spanish to her, get her to the correct train, and also call her new boss. She was actually fine, but she didn't realize that she was. Sometimes a person simply needs some encouragement to keep going in the right direction. I was lucky that I had encouragement when I first came here. Those of you who will live abroad must be brave, and surround yourselves with encouraging people. Reward yourselves for every step forward you make, and realize that you are making progress, and that that is to be celebrated. 1. 'To be tied to' is a great way of expressing how a person  cannot escape their responsibilities, or how they cannot deny an emotional link to someone or something. It can also mean that something is related to or depends on something. a. He is tied to his contract; he won't be free until it finishes next year. b. She couldn't imagine leaving town; all her family and friends were there, and she was tied to them. c. The success of the apple trees is tied to the health of the bees. 2. 'For the most part' is another way of saying 'mainly'. It is good to have this sort of phrase in your repertoire so you can add variety to your sentences. a. The youth center is sponsored, for the most part, by the local shoe factory. b. For the most part she is even tempered, but when she talks about politics, she gets furious. 3. 'Was and still is' is self explanatory, but a wonderful phrase. Simply by using the verb to be it indicates that a person or thing still has the characteristics that it had in the past. a. She was and still is the best singer in the choir. b. The best way to stimulate the economy has been studied and debated for decades. It was and still is the biggest issue of the government agenda. Try iTalki now English practice online with a native teacher!

Visitors from all continents.  

A market that is in the center of Wenatchee and that is popular with both locals and tourists is Pybus Market. It is open 362 days a year, and is an indoor mixture of open fresh fruit and meet stalls, gift shops, and restaurants. There is also regular musical entertainment, and even dance lessons! During the nice weather, it has an open market in the parking area, where local growers sell fruit, vegetables, flowers, and baked goods. It is a great place to go to in the winter as well, as you can walk around inside, keep warm, eat, and get some entertainment. I had no idea, however, how well known it actually is. You know when you live somewhere, in a way, you take it for granted(1). I have my perspective about Wenatchee, but I am a local(2) (and a foreign transplant). I am not aware of the numbers of tourists who come here each year. There is a display area(3) in Pybus Market that has large maps of each continent. Each map has many different colored pins in various places that have been put there by tourists in order to show which towns and countries they come from. I was really surprised to see how many hundreds of people have come here, and from all over the globe! There were pins from every continent! I suppose Wenatchee can be considered a tourist destination as it is close to Leavenworth, has a large ski resort, and also has hot summers when you can enjoy both water and land sports. I have certainly met foreigners like myself who live here, but the few times that I have met a tourist from another country, that person usually knows more about this town than I do. 1. 'To take for granted' means to not fully appreciate, especially when you are very used to something or someone. It can also mean that you assume that something is real or true without being 100% sure. a. I was so used to him helping me, that I soon took him for granted. I realized that when he left. b. I took for granted that he would pay for the meal, but then he asked me to! 2. 'Local' is understood as a person who lives in a town that is already mentioned. It's a very common adjective to describe really any noun. Also, the noun 'the local' or 'my local' can refer to a pub or bar that you go to on a regular basis (UK). a. I bought the local newspaper and read it in the cafe. b. Ask him where the post office is; he is probably a local. c. Do you want to meet at our local and we'll celebrate your new job? 3. 'Display/ area' is where items are shown so the public can either buy them or get information. a. The new dresses were displayed in the window. b. The charities had a display area where they showed photos and essays of their work around the world. Try iTalki now to get a discounted lesson with a native English teacher!

Trump's Inauguration.  

Today was an important, historic day here in the U.S. Today the President-elect, Donald Trump, was inaugurated. This means that a ceremony was performed at the Capitol Building in Washington DC, where he took an oath (made a promise) to serve the country as its president. This ceremony is the beginning of his presidency, the beginning of his 4 year term in office. The word 'inauguration' comes from the Latin word 'inaugurare' which means to install or consecrate when omens are good. Omens, as you might know, are signs that we see in the natural world that are supposed to reflect luck or good fortune. So, the inauguration is a tradition of promises, rituals, and hope for the future. The person who leads the new President through his oath is the Chief Justice who is the head of the nine Supreme Justices or judges of the Supreme Court which is the highest court in the country. Among the people watching the ceremony are previous presidents, obviously Barack Obama, and also a few others. A huge crowd of thousands of people also gathers to hear the new President's speech. President Trump's speech focused on all the usual things: jobs, industry, tolerance, and greatness. Political speeches are not really my cup of tea; in fact, I think that most of them are a complete waste of time. Everybody hopes that a new president will bring great, positive changes, and be honest and reasonable. But, as we say in English, 'Time will tell'. We have to wait and see the actions of the individual; words, to a certain degree, are much less important. Today's inauguration involved some violent protests which is highly unusual for U.S inaugurations. Political divisions here between the Republicans and the Democrats have degenerated into hatred, unfortunately. Trump must realize, that his campaign did lead to a lot of anger and resentment because of his careless words of prejudice and bigotry. Perhaps that is why in his speech today he said, "Whether we are black, brown, or white, we bleed the same color of patriotism." So let's wait and see, as we do in any country with each change of political leader. There are, after all, 196 countries in the world. So let's wait with patience and hope to see which of the leaders are brave and honest, and can follow their words with intelligent actions.

Basic Pronunciation Practice #42 + Interactive English.  

Peter's cell phone rings: "Hello." "Peter, it's Liz" "Oh, hi Liz, you don't usually call me. What's up?" "Actually, I really need your help. My car broke down. Thankfully I'm in the parking lot of a highway cafe. I stopped to get gas, and when I tried to start the car, nothing happened." "Have you asked anyone to jump the battery?" "I would have but there's no one here! It's just me." (1)"How about you text me your location. How far do you think you are from the college?" "Only three miles. (2)I'm sorry to ask you, but I didn't know who else to call." "No problem; never hesitate to call me if you need help." "Thanks Peter, I really appreciate it. (3)I was beginning to worry as it's so late." "Look, just stay in the car, keep warm, and I'll be there soon. I'm leaving right now." Try iTalki now for live English practice with a native teacher.

A Vegan Option.  

Vegetarianism is growing in the U.S at a dramatic rate. It is estimated that 16 million, out of the population of 320 million people, are now vegetarian, and the number is probably much higher as not all of them have been counted. Half of those vegetarians are vegans who eat no animal products whatsoever(1). This is an unusual, counter-culture trend(2) for this country, as so much  of the general culture's diet includes meat and animal products. As you probably know, there is a health crisis here in the States. Obesity, cancer, and diabetes are accepted as normal. Most of this stems from(3) a huge consumption of sugar and a stressed and sedentary lifestyle. However, there is also more information available to people, and many are taking control and making healthier choices. Even the schools are trying to reduce the amount of sugar that they serve the children, and are also including more vegetables in their lunches. There is much work to be done and a long way to go before the young generation experiences a healthy balance of exercise and diet. A type of vegetarianism that is being adopted particularly by women and young people is veganism. Studies have shown that vegans can expect much lower rates of cancer of all types compared to the general population. Veganism has also become fashionable which, I think, is a good thing, as it exposes young people to healthier options for a longer life. My oldest son, Hudson, has been a vegan for about eight months, and is now committed to his vegetable based diet. He says that he feels so much better. He used to have migraines and gastric problems, but they have completely stopped. He has lots of energy, and his skin is perfect! He has also become a good shopper! He will go to the supermarket and buy bags and bags of vegetables, beans, grains, and fruit. Then he will rush around the kitchen like a chef, chopping, mashing, and stirring, and produce colorful, healthy dishes. I tried his vegan burrito the other day, and I was totally surprised at how it tastes like a burrito but so much better. Instead of a flour tortilla, he used Swiss chard. Instead of meat he used spiced beans and onion; and instead of rice he used finely chopped cauliflower. It was like a revolution in thinking. My son's example certainly has me thinking about my diet. I could probably give up meat and milk, but giving up eggs and butter would be very difficult. Also, I love to bake, and how can you do that without those two ingredients? I'm not quite ready for that step. 1. 'Whatsoever' is emphatic after a negative and means ' at all'. a. The newspaper made no mention whatsoever of the charity that made a generous gift to the homeless. b. It will be no problem whatsoever to beat the other team. c. The hospital didn't have clean water, bandages, medicine, or any other supplies whatsoever! 2. 'Trend' is like 'fashion' or 'temporary tendency'. We also use the word 'trendy' instead of 'fashionable'. a. She likes to follow Japanese trends in fashion. b. Economies change their trends every few years, it seems. 3. 'To stem from' is similar to 'to come from'. When observing plants, most of a plant comes from the stem, its base. It is supported by the stem and develops from it. a. His problems stem from a lack of communication. b. The regrowth of forests stems from regulation that protects them. c. The growth in industry and jobs stems from a general cut in taxes. Try iTalki for conversation practice!

An Awkward Phone Call.  

In your country, do you have many telemarketers? You know, the people you don't know who call you on the phone and try to convince you to buy something. Well, in this country they are like a plague (no offense intended if you are one!). Most people I know will tell me of difficult experiences that they've had with telemarketers who are pushy, or over enthusiastic to the point of being bizarre. It must be a difficult job, I think, to approach a stranger by phone, often while he's at home, and to try and sell him something. I'm not a natural salesperson, and being pushy is not me at all. I don't think I would be very good at it. I have, however, had a lot of experience of awkward telephone conversations with telemarketers. As an English person, I try to be polite. That's not to say(1) that all English are polite. But in general, our society does train us to offer politeness on a daily basis to strangers and to people we know. I think it comes from a general desire to avoid conflict and to get along. So, when I first found myself talking to telemarketers, I would always give them plenty of time to talk, even if they were talking so fast that I couldn't understand them. I would ask questions, make friendly comments, and then really apologize if I didn't want to buy the product they were offering. In fact, my first experience led me to(2) buy two dozen light bulbs for some reason or other. I had recently got married and moved to this country, and certainly wasn't used to telemarketers. When my husband found out, he shook his head and asked me why we needed so many light bulbs, and couldn't we just buy them in the shop when we needed them? The word 'naive' comes to mind. Yes, I was young and very naive. Well, not anymore. I'm older and wiser. So, yesterday as I was getting ready for work, the phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but I answered anyway. Immediately, a high-pitched, giggly voice of a lady presented itself, and with breathy(3) enthusiasm told me that I had won a vacation somewhere. She spoke very fast, so fast that I wasn't sure if her voice was a recording or not. She raced through a list of details and values of the vacation while I stood there, looking at myself in the mirror, with only half of my makeup on my face, wondering why I was wasting my time. Would I listen to her and then politely respond with, "Oh really?" or "That's a generous offer!" or even, "I'm so sorry, but at the moment I don't think that spending X amount of dollars is in my budget." No, politeness didn't even occur to me, instead, I felt a definite instinct for survival rise inside me. I touched the red, round button on my phone, and welcomed the following silence. Then I went to 'recent calls' on my phone and blocked her number. That was it, done; it was over. My thought had been translated into action which had brought relief and success. It was thrilling, like I had just robbed a bank and driven away in a  Lamborghini. I continued putting on my makeup, and found that I looked prettier than usual. Well, they say that success makes a person glow. I look forward to another opportunity of hitting that adorable, little, red button. 1. 'That's not to say..' is used to balance a previous comment. a. When I go to London, I visit my friend Sarah. That's not to say that I go there frequently. b. The French are known for their cuisine. That's not to say that all French people love cooking. 2. 'Led me to' begins with the past participle of the verb 'to lead', and the general sense is that something has influenced you or guided you to a course of action or thought. a. The salesperson led me to believe that my vacuum cleaner was the worst on the planet, that I should have never bought it, and that I should buy a new one from him immediately.  b. The professor's lecture led the student to feel confident and hopeful about the next day's exam. 3. 'Breathy' is an adjective used to give a sense of the sound and 'windiness' of the lady's voice. Many nouns can be made into this kind of adjective by simply adding a 'y', like 'scratchy'. a. She was nervous when she gave her speech; she stammered and sounded breathy like she had been running. b. He had had a cough for a week, and his voice sounded scratchy.

What have you never experienced?  

The title question for this podcast might seem unusual. A more normal question would be, "What have you experienced?" My choice of words was inspired by a conversation that I had with a friend of mine from Bangladesh, Suman. He told me that because his country is warm and tropical, that he and his countrymen have no experience of snow. A friend of his now lives in Japan, and was able to describe to him how amazing and beautiful this white phenomenon is. Having never experienced(1) it before, it was a surprising and pleasant shock. I searched online to find out how many people, similarly, have never experienced snow. Well, I only came up with(2) a rough estimate, as nobody can be absolutely sure of the number. About 40% of the world's population has never seen snow in person. The areas that get no snow are equatorial South America and Africa, and the desert areas of the Middle East. This made me think of natural phenomena that I have never experienced. Coming from England, a green, cool country, I have never experienced a vast desert. This might seem funny to those of you who come from drier countries. And even though I have traveled fairly extensively, I have only seen the desert briefly in Arizona, and also the semi-arid La Mancha in Spain. I am not familiar with miles of sand. And how about you? Which kind of climate or phenomenon have you never experienced? Would you feel comfortable, for example, in a very green, rainy country, or is it more normal for you to see sand and sun? I wonder what it would feel like for an Eskimo who has never been around greenery to experience a tropical forest, or rolling, green hills full of sheep. It would take some time to get used to it, for sure(3). Another thing that I haven't experienced is the Aurora Borealis. I'm sure that the sky full of shifting colors would hypnotize me, and it would take a while to realize that it is real. Let me know which phenomenon you have never experienced but would like to. 1. 'Having never experienced it before,..' having + a past participle, is a great way to make a sentence interesting and different, as the main clause has to come afterwards.  a. Having gone shopping, she came back with ten bags and a big smile on her face. b. Having never scuba dived before, he was nervous but excited. c. Having studied non-stop for eight hours, he ate dinner and went straight to bed. 2. 'To come up with' is another interesting use of 'up' in English that adds to an idiomatic phrase. In this case, the phrase means to produce, discover, or to come to a conclusion. a. The investigators examined the room for hours, but only came up with one fingerprint. b. We brainstormed about how to fix the problem. It was our youngest child who came up with the solution! 3. 'For sure' is a little add-on that we often use to just confirm what we have stated. It can also be said to agree with what someone else has just stated. a. If we want to avoid the traffic, we'll have to leave early, for sure. b. "If she keeps practicing, she will be a proficient driver in a few months."   "For sure!" 

Sleeping Lady Skating.  

"Anna, do you want to go cross country skiing in Leavenworth tomorrow?" was the text I received from my friend Nataliya on Sunday. I thought about it for a few minutes. The lazy part of my brain thought, "Oh, just stay at home. It's cold, and you only have one day left of vacation." However, the better part of my brain thought, "You must go. It'll be fun, you'll spend time with your friend, and who knows when you will have another opportunity like this?" So I texted back, "Yes!" As Leavenworth is only twenty five minutes away, it's really not a hassle to get there. I had my skis, poles, boots, and warm clothes ready in the car when Nataliya turned up at seven the next morning. It was still dark. The neighborhood was perfectly silent, and my outside Christmas lights twinkled against the snow on the trees. I felt as though I was escaping! We arrived at The Sleeping Lady resort and parked in the skiing area. The pathways and ski tracks had been freshly groomed(1). I brought my skate skis, and Nataliya brought her cross country skis. The only difference between them, that I can tell, is that you use a different method to propel yourself forward. My skis require a sideways/ forward motion, whereas cross country skis need a simple forward and backward motion. Nataliya is quite good at the sport, but I am a complete beginner. She was very gracious, as I stumbled and slipped along next to her, she would wait patiently for me to catch up. We chatted the whole way, and stopped every now and then to photograph the amazing scenery. It was thick with snow, as Leavenworth is more mountainous and certainly gets more feet of snow than Wenatchee does. As I warmed up, several skate skiers came whizzing past me with the look of triumph on their faces. They really knew how to move! I studied their movements as they disappeared into the distance, and I mimicked(2)what they did. And it worked. I found myself more relaxed and moving quickly. When we got back to the car I was actually sweaty. I had been working much harder than I had realized, but I was content, and looking forward to a big breakfast. We will go again on Friday. The forecast is between -12 and -9 degrees C, so the conditions should be perfectly(3) snowy and cold, with hopefully some sun. 1. 'groomed' describes how the snow had been combed neatly in preparation for the skiers. 'To groom' is used mainly in reference to people and also animals. a. I've never been really into grooming myself. Some of my friends spend hours doing their hair and makeup, but not me! b. For the dog show, the owners spent a long time grooming their animals. 2. 'To mimic' is to copy the actions or expressions of someone or something. a. My father can mimic the call of a lion perfectly. b. The rude students were mimicking the teacher's instructions and making fun of him. c. Some birds can mimic the voices of humans. 3. 'Perfectly' is a very useful adverb. a. He painted every line and shadow of her face perfectly. b. The contract was carried out perfectly. c. Our customers are perfectly content with our services. *We even use 'perfectly' ironically. d. When we went camping, it poured with rain the whole time. I was perfectly miserable.   Help with pronunciation and fluency from iTalki.

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