Acadia English Blog

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.

English Immersion: Perspective France

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“Acadia is the right place for successful immersion, and Camden a nice and friendly place to visit. That’s why I went there four times!” Jean-Marc, a small business owner in organic products, talks about his Acadia Center experience from his home office in Paris, France.

Like vs. As: How to Choose Correctly

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Butterfly in Maine.Like or as? For English language learners, this is one of the trickier questions.

To choose the correct form, ask yourself: Is it followed by a verb? 

If the answer is yes, use as.

Examples:
As I mentioned previously, the meeting will begin at 9 am.
It sounded as though she would be late.

In each of these examples, the word as is followed by a subject and verb (I mentioned; she would be). In this context, as is a kind of connecting word called a conjunction, and conjunctions can be followed by verbs.

Like, on the other hand, is not a conjunction. So, in the above examples, as is the only correct choice, right? According to most language guides, it is. However, don’t be surprised if you hear a native speaker, in informal speech or writing, use like followed by a verb – for example, like I said before… or it sounded like she would be late.

In her article on like vs. as, Mignon Fogarty aka Grammar Girl gives a good synopsis of the controversy.

For your purposes, as an English language learner, the safest choice is to use as, not like, before a subject and verb.

Now, back to our original question: Is it followed by a verb? 

If the answer is no, like and as are both possible, but with a difference in meaning.

If there is no verb, just a noun or noun phrase, you want to use a preposition rather than a conjunction. Use like for the meaning similar to, and use as for the meaning same as.

Compare these examples:
You look like your sister. (You look similar to your sister.)
As your sister, I’d like to give you some advice. (This might be said by a woman speaking to her brother; she is his sister, so as, not like, is correct.)
You sound like a teacher! (This might be said to a student who is explaining a grammar point to another student. It only makes sense if the person referred to is not really a teacher.)
It’s up to her, as the teacher, to design the curriculum. (She is the teacher.)

To recap, ask yourself if it’s a conjunction (followed by a subject and verb) or preposition (no verb; only a noun or noun phrase). If it’s a conjunction, use as. If it’s a preposition, ask yourself if the meaning is similar to or same as. If it’s similar to, use like. If it’s same as, use as.

Now you can use like and as with confidence, like a native speaker!

New Premium English Course

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Acadia Center English immersion students from Brazil and France.Only have a short time – 1 or 2 weeks – for an English immersion course? Want to maximize learning with individual attention all day 6 days per week? Want a mix of classroom lessons and real-life practice, exploring our friendly community and practicing your English conversational skills with a teacher by your side?

Register now for a premium private English immersion course, ideal for executives and other professionals who need to maximize their English learning in a total immersion setting.

Register Early & Save 5%

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Acadia Center students from Quebec and Mexico with teacher Maureen O'Keefe.

Our 2016 English immersion courses begin March 13.

To receive a 5% Early Registration Discount, register now for a 2016 course and pay the deposit by January 30, 2016!

Discounts are also available for friends or couples taking a course together and for alumni.

If you work for a company, get a group of colleagues to enroll in an intensive English course together and enjoy even larger discounts and savings!

English Immersion in Maine: Perspective Mexico

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Many executives and professionals from Mexico and Latin America have found Maine, with its friendly people and distance from any Spanish-speaking populations, to be the perfect place to study English in a total immersion environment.

In this video, Rosario, an accountant from Mexico, talks about her experience in a 3-week intensive English immersion course at Acadia Center.

Learn English Prepositions with Photos

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Who is the English language student’s enemy number 1?

Prepositions.

Acadia Center intensive English course students on top of Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park.

Acadia Center intensive English course students on top of Mt. Battie in Camden Hills State Park.

Prepositions are small but pugnacious, refusing to fade into the background.

Prepositions laugh at translation (that’s laugh at, not laugh with, because it’s not a friendly laugh). Depende de in Spanish. De = of or from in English. So, it depends of the context, right? Wrong. It depends on the context.

The choice of preposition can be based on the word before and the word(s) after. You work in an area of expertise, for a company, with colleagues, and on a project. You work, for example, in pyrotechnics, for Up in Smoke, with your fellow pyrotechnicians, and on the Great American Fourth of July fireworks display.

Prepositions depend on other words for meaning, and yet, in what are known as phrasal verbs, if you change the preposition, you totally change the meaning of the verb that precedes it. Sadly, when it comes to (talking about, referring to) prepositions, no one has yet come up with (invented) a magic spell to instantly know them all, or come across (find, often when not actively searching for something) a secret key to unlocking their mysteries.

Prepositions are proudly defiant of our awkward attempts to master them, like wild mustangs.

So how do we learn them?

There are only two types of prepositions that can be easily corralled by grammar: prepositions of place and time, and prepositions of transportation (stay tuned for future blog posts). The rest is vocabulary!

Acadia Center student at helm of schooner Olad in Camden, Maine.

Acadia Center student at helm of schooner Olad in Camden, Maine.

And what is the best way to learn vocabulary? Not from a list. Leafing through several pages in the dictionary trying to learn all the phrasal verbs using the word get will get you nothing but sad, mad, and bewildered. Much better to learn them in context, reading (or listening to) things of interest to you, and observing how prepositions are used in the real world.

To illustrate, let’s look at six selections from one of The Guardian’s gallery of amazing photos from around the world, and see how prepositions – free spirits that they are – roam into and around the captions.

Mumbai, India: Rose petals and coloured powder are showered on a huge idol of the elephant-headed Hindu god Lord Ganesha during the 11-day Ganesh festival.

On can have the physical meaning of on top of.
Of follows the idea of representation as in a picture of, a copy of, etc.
During with an event: during the concert, during the meeting. Use for, not during, with a time period: We stayed there during for two weeks.

Kunming, China: A butterfly perches on a boy’s face at a butterfly exhibition.

On: the physical meaning of on the surface of something.
At: during is also possible with an event, but during can emphasize something of relatively short duration (like the shower of powder in the first photo) occurring in the context of an event of much longer duration (an 11-day festival). For another example, see the use of during Catalan elections in the next caption.

Barcelona, Spain: A dog waits outside a booth at a polling station during Catalan elections. Pro-secession parties say they will push for independence within 18 months if they win a majority in the 165-seat parliament.

Outside: Opposite of inside the booth, where the dog’s owner is voting.
At: A specific geographical location.
For: The go-to preposition for purpose or objective.
Within: No longer than. To indicate the maximum time period from now into the future.
In: In a group.

Fribourg, Switzerland: Guillaume Rolland, a professional mountaineer, balances on a highline on top of the Moleson mountain at 2,000 metres above sea level.

On: Physical meaning (see above).
On top of: Physical meaning.
At: For a specific point on a scale, as in Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius.
Above: Above and its opposite below are used for numbers on a vertical scale.

Brussels, Belgium: A statue is silhouetted against a supermoon.

Against: Indicates contrast or opposition.

Zhodino, Belarus: Up to his eyes in muddy water, a man takes part in an extreme run competition.

Up to: As high as.
In: Physically inside a substance (muddy water), or in an event with the emphasis more on participation than time.