Acadia English Blog

How to Use Actual, Actually in English: A Top Ten Mistake for Spanish Speakers

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One of the top 10 vocabulary mistakes in English made by speakers of Spanish, Italian, French, or other languages derived from Latin comes from confusing the English adjective actual or adverb actually with words that look or sound very similar in the Romance languages, words like actual in Spanish, actuel in French, or attuale in Italian.

In English, actual means real, not current. Actually means really or in fact, not currently or now.

English speakers use actual and actually to clarify something, to correct a mistake or to be more precise.

To illustrate the meaning of actually, the adverb used with a verb, two of our English immersion course students were sporting enough to act out a misunderstanding on a recent excursion to the workshop of the fabulous master furniture makers at Windsor Chairmakers in Lincolnville, Maine.

English excursion to Windsor Chairmakers in Lincolnville, Maine.

 

Lupita: What’s this called?

Rodrigo: Wait a minute. Let me think. A sweep!

Lupita: No, actually it’s called a broom.

Rodrigo: Ah, yes, you sweep with a broom.

Lupita: You got it!

By using the adverb actually, Lupita did not mean to imply that the name broom had changed. She was simply correcting Rodrigo’s mistake. It’s a less formal, and therefore more common, way of saying in fact and then proceeding with the correct information.

As another example, let me ask you a geography question about Camden, Maine, the home of Acadia Center for English Immersion… Which is farther north: Camden or London?

Most visitors to Camden, reasoning that Camden, like the rest of New England, gets considerably more snow than London does, would pick Camden.

English immersion course student on Main St. in Camden, Maine., USA.

 

Actually, London, at 51.51 degrees north latitude, is much farther north than Camden, at 44.21. In fact, Paris, Bordeaux, and Milan are all farther north than Camden. You would actually have to travel as far south in Italy as Bologna or Genoa to find yourself at the same latitude as Camden, Maine.

False friends is the name we give to words in different languages that look similar but have different meanings. Now that you know the actual meaning of actual and actually, you can avoid this common vocabulary pitfall.

Save 5% with Early Registration Discount

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Is your English ready for take off?

Biplane at Owls Head Transportation Museum in Rockland, on excursion with Acadia Center English immersion students.

 

Now is the time to take advantage of our Early Registration Discount and save 5% when you register for an English immersion course in Camden, Maine, by January 27, 2018.

New courses begin every Monday starting April 23.

If improving English is important to your professional life or personal life, Acadia Center’s English immersion courses offer a comprehensive program designed to raise your English to the next level.

Featuring small group classes, private lessons, family-style meals with teachers and local dinner hosts, homestay accommodation, and excursions in and around a classic New England small town by the sea, an English immersion course at Acadia Center will give you the conversational and writing skills you need for your work and for travel.

English immersion students tour the Maine Statehouse in Augusta.

 

“Everything was prepared to give us the greatest possible integration between the English lessons and real life,” says Waine, an accounting executive from Brazil. “That happened always in an efficient and fun way, including our coffee breaks, lunches, and parties in the evenings at school, when we had the great opportunity to meet new local people, as well as people from different parts of the world.”

Discounts are available to companies sending two or more students in one calendar year, to friends or couples attending a course together, and to alumni.

For the biggest savings of the year, make sure to register for an English immersion course in 2018 by January 27!

Camden: “A Hub of Big Ideas”

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In a guest post for the tech community organizer and news website Technical.ly, Camden, Maine, writer and editor Joan Phaup explains what makes Camden a great place to live and visit.

“Camden,” she wrote, “is a community with spectacular surroundings, a vibrant cultural life and an inquisitive, dynamic spirit that grabbed us from the start and has never let go.”

Citing such marquee cultural events as Pop Tech, the Camden Conference, and the Camden International Film Festival, Phaup describes Camden as “a small town with big ideas.”

With its beautiful setting between ocean and mountains and all the cultural opportunities, Camden has the feel of a university campus, wrote Phaup. “This combination of the great outdoors with world-class learning opportunities still astounds me.”

Thanks to Acadia Center English immersion course alumnus Jean-Marc from Paris for calling our attention to this well-written portrait of Acadia Center’s hometown!

 

Register Now for 2017!

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Acadia Center students on excursion in Belfast, Maine.

 

Give yourself a treat! Sign up now for a 2017 English immersion course at Acadia Center in Camden, Maine, USA. New English immersion courses begin every Monday from April 17 through November 18.

If you want to speak and understand English with confidence and communicate about business and personal topics with ease, it’s time to invest in your future and enroll in one of our intensive English courses.

“The progress is very good,” says Steve, a real estate developer from Montreal, “because you are constantly speaking during the day with the teachers or with the host families during dinner.”

“The English lessons were all fantastic,” says Milton, a telecom executive from Argentina. “In particular, I want to mention the variety in background, personality, and teaching style of each professor. This characteristic enriched the classes and made me feel engaged and interested in all the classes.”

English Immersion: Fall Courses in New England, USA

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English immersion class at Acadia Center.

 

Have you always dreamed of being able to converse in English in a relaxed and confident way?

The best way to improve your fluency is to immerse yourself in the language from morning to night. Acadia Center and its dedicated, experienced teachers give you a friendly, supportive immersion environment in which you can learn the tools you need to raise your English to a higher level.

New English immersion courses begin every Monday, now through the end of November. Register now for an immersion course in Fall 2016, or at discounted prices for 2017!

Acadia Center English immersion students visit Port Clyde lighthouse, featured in the Tom Hanks movie Forrest Gump.

Summer English Courses in Maine

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Summer English Courses in MaineThe lilacs are in bloom, the schooners are under sail, and professionals from around the world are coming to Maine for full immersion summer English courses.

Sailing, kayaking, hiking, biking, and swimming, as well as more sedentary activities such as relaxing at an outdoor café table, are all awaiting Acadia Center’s English immersion course students in Camden, Maine, this summer.

Register now for a learning vacation with like-minded professionals who want to improve their everyday English in a total immersion environment!

Conversation Tourism

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An antique biplane at the Transportation Museum.You’ve heard of eco-tourism. What about talking-tourism or conversation-tourism?

The best way to learn a language is by immersing yourself in experiences that get you conversing with native speakers, so why not talk about the things that interest you most? In our premium English immersion courses, you go on daily excursions with a teacher by your side always on the lookout for opportunities to help you learn new vocabulary in a fun and memorable way.

An executive from the Czech Republic, for instance, was eager to meet other professional pilots, so in an afternoon excursion to the dynamic Owls Head Transportation Museum, he got the chance to chat with a local pilot who has flown many of the antique biplanes at the museum.

Studying wildlife migration map with ecologist Janet McMahon.Nature and conservation is the passion of another student of ours, an executive from Barcelona, and the excursions designed for him included a tour of a woodland management project with a local forester and otter and owl tracking in a nearby nature preserve with a local ecologist and wildlife expert.

Hands-on learning, a rich visual and experiential context for vocabulary, all while visiting the many cultural and natural treasures of Maine!

5 Tips for Making New Vocabulary Stick

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When you take an English immersion course, you have a great opportunity to expand your vocabulary in English. But how do you make the new words stick in your long-term memory, so that you remember them not just tomorrow, but next week, next month, next year?

Here are 5 tips for making new words part of your permanent English vocabulary:

Be hungry for new words

Learn actively, rather than passively. Learning vocabulary from a list is boring and ineffective. Instead, when someone uses a word in conversation that is new for you, ask her/him to explain it to you. Repeat it aloud a few times and ask for feedback on your pronunciation. Ask how to spell it and write it down in a notebook. When you see a new word in your reading, copy it in your notebook, along with a short definition and the context in which you found the word.

KeepAcadia Center students at a cafe. to the target language

Translating the new word into your native language might help you get a quick understanding of a new word, at least in a general sense, but it actually makes it more difficult to remember the meaning of the new word the next time you hear it or see it, which after all is the main point.

Also, most words, individually and out of context, cannot accurately be translated – change the context, and you often have to change the translation. Abstract words are particularly and notoriously difficult to translate.

Explore the word from many angles

Learning a new word might start with the answer to the question What does it mean?. But there are also the questions How do you pronounce it?, How do you spell it?, and crucially if you really want to make the word your own, How do you use it with other words?

For example, if you use a noun after the verb depend, you have to use the preposition on, as in it depends on the weather  (not depends of – an understandably common mistake for Spanish speakers translating word for word from Spanish to English).

Other ways of looking at a new word that can help you not only use it correctly but make it more memorable include:

Tone – is it formal or informal, pejorative or neutral, current slang or old-fashioned, etc? There is a world  of difference, for example, between the synonyms smell, scent, stink, stench, odor, and perfume.

Word families and word history – the word trust, for example, comes from an Old Norse (Scandinavian) word for strong, can be used as both a verb and a noun, and is part of the same family of words as the adjectives trusting (trusting others), trustworthy (deserving of trust by others), and trusty (reliable and faithful for a long time).

Familiarity – learn the most common way to say something first. If you want to talk about a lot of precipitation in a short amount of time, first learn: It’s raining hard. Then: It’s pouring. Attempts to impress people with fancy-sounding idioms often backfire (bring about the opposite result), as with the cloying cliché It’s raining cats and dogs.

Google word definitions feature a graph that shows the popularity of a word over time: trusty, for example, was more popular in 1800 than it is now, while spin has skyrocketed in popularity since 1950, maybe because of its frequent use in modern political talk to mean a biased interpretation intended to influence public opinion.

Give the word a rich context

Memory works best by association. If the first time you encounter the word upshot (eventual outcome or result) is in an alphabetical list of words with prepositions as prefixes (upbeat, upend, upshot, uptake, upturn), chances are that all of those up-words will blend together and you won’t remember which is which.

Acadia Center English immersion course students at work in the study center at Acadia Center in Camden, Maine.If, instead, the first time you hear upshot is in a story with many twists and turns  that ends with the tagline and the upshot was I got the job, or and the upshot was that there was enough lobster for everyone, the entire context of the story, even the room you were in when you heard the story and the expression of the storyteller when he reached the story’s end – all of these atmospheric details contribute towards making the new word memorable.

For memorability, nothing can rival seeing and experiencing a word in the real world. That’s why excursions during an immersion course are such a great way to learn new vocabulary. Picking wild blueberries is by far the best way to learn the difference between the verb pick and the phrasal verb pick up.

Practice the word

To make a new word not just memorable but unforgettable, you have to start using it, in conversation and in writing, and the sooner and the oftener the better. According to James Gupta, a medical researcher at Leeds University, “We know that the brain preferentially stores information it deems to be important. It strengthens and consolidates memories of things it encounters regularly and frequently. So spaced repetition –revisiting information regularly at set intervals over time – makes a lot of sense.”

Keep a list of the words you are trying to learn, and return frequently to them, especially the ones that seem hardest to remember. Repetition is the key. Ask native speakers for more examples of how to use a new word in context. Try using it yourself, and make adjustments in how you use the word based on feedback from native speakers.

Be on the lookout for new words. Avoid translation. Investigate the word. Make it memorable through context. Practice and put it to use right away. And the upshot will be that you will have added many new words to your vocabulary.