Acadia English Blog

Business English: How to Learn Business Vocabulary

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To improve your business English vocabulary, read business news articles in newspapers, magazines, and online.What is the best way to improve your knowledge of business English vocabulary? Read. And I don’t mean read business English textbooks, which can be useful in a classroom setting.

Read business newspapers, magazines, and websites. Choose articles that interest you and are related to your business. If you work for a bank, read the latest news about banking. If you’re a stock broker, read about the stock market. If you work in information technology, read about the IT sector.

Maybe you are already in the habit of reading the business news in English every day. If you aren’t – and your excuse is that you’re too busy – consider this: you can make a big improvement with your English in just 10-15 minutes per day.

How do you improve your business English in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee?

If you don’t have time to leisurely unfold the Wall Street Journal while sitting at an outdoor café, go to one of these websites:

The Economist – a venerable British magazine with a very global reach. In the online version of The Economist, Try: Business this week, a weekly summary of the main business stories; People, profiles of people in the news– a great way to learn both business and everyday Acadia Center student and construction company executive studying business English vocabulary.vocabulary; and the Opinion section – whether you agree or disagree you’ll learn new words that will help you explain your position on the issue.

Slate – an exclusively online news magazine with elegantly-written and often witty articles and extensive links. Try: Today’s Business Press Slate‘s daily business news highlights; MoneyboxSlate‘s commentary on business and finance; and Slate‘s Technology column on the latest tech news.

Bloomberg – offering lots of technical information on the business and financial world, and therefore a strong infusion of useful business terms.

Or you can just go to Google News (in English!), enter the name of your country, region, or business sector, and click on one of the many business articles that pop up.

Once you have chosen an article, follow these simple steps:

1) Read through the whole article and try to get a feel for the general meaning. Read the headline (title) and photo captions but don’t give up if they are hard to understand. To save space, headlines omit prepositions, articles (the, a, an), and auxiliary verbs and often use words that are less common just because they’re shorter (eg, vow instead of promise; vie instead of compete). Also, don’t give up if the first paragraph seems very hard. In the first paragraph, the writer is usually trying to catch your attention by saying things in a colorful way or by telling a story or even a joke. Keep reading to the end of the article and chances are it will get much easier to understand.

2) With the general meaning of the article in mind, now go back to the beginning of the article and start to read it againthis time slowly. Take notice of any new words or phrases that are unfamiliar to you. Try to guess at the meaning from context – how the word or phrase is used in the sentence. Look it up in an online dictionary. Because most words have more than one meaning, look for the meaning that best matches the context.

Woman reading, painting by Edouard Manet.In 10 or 15 minutes, you may only have time to read one short article. But if you read it slowly and with care, and search for new words and phrases and look closely at how they’re used in context, in just a few weeks you’ll discover that the dictionary is becoming less and less necessary while you read. And you’ll be happy to find that it is a lot easier to participate in conversations on business topics.

If you have a business news website that you like, or a tip on learning business vocabulary in English, leave a comment here!

Film Notes: The Young Victoria

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The third in a series, this article provides a preview of a current movie along with a vocabulary lesson for intermediate to advanced English learners. The selected vocabulary words are in bold and followed by succinct definitions. Previous articles: Invictus and  Sherlock Holmes .

The 2009 film The Young Victoria.Victoria, crowned queen at the age of 18 in 1837 and living into the 20th century, was the longest-reigning British monarch.  The Young Victoria, the 2009 film from the Québec director Jean-Marc Vallée, casts a sympathetic light on the teenaged Victoria as she comes of age (passes from child to young adult) amid power struggles (conflicts), court intrigues (secret schemes or love affairs), and family feuds (bitter, long-lasting quarrels).

At the heart of the story is the romance between Victoria (played by Emily Blunt) and her German cousin Prince Albert (played by Rupert Friend), whom she married in 1840. Chafing (irritated, angered) under the oppressive control of her mother – the Duchess of Kent – and the Duchess’s political cohort and possible lover Sir John Conroy, Victoria takes great solace (comfort in sorrow or trouble) in the gentle kindness and unpretentious (modest, opposite of arrogant) manner of her suitor Albert.

In a scene that illustrates both the pressures she is under and the antidote (something that counteracts injurious effects, such as a remedy for a poison) offered by Albert, the two young people hold a hushed (very quiet, whispering) conversation while playing a game of chess under the watchful eyes of her family and their allies. Read the exchange below and then watch the chess game scene from The Young Victoria.

Victoria: Do you ever feel like a chess piece yourself, in a game being played against your will?
Albert: Do you?
Victoria: Constantly. I see them leaning in and moving me around the board.
Albert: The Duchess and Sir John?
Victoria in her coronation regalia.Victoria: Not just them. Uncle Leopold, the King, politicians ready to seize hold of my skirts and drag me from square to square.
Albert: Then you had better master the rules of the game until you play it better than they can.
Victoria: You don’t recommend I find a husband to play it for me?
Albert: I should find one to play it with you, not for you.

In an interview, Emily Blunt, the young English actress who plays Victoria, describes the personalities of Victoria and Albert as polar opposites (complete opposites, like the North and South Poles) who balanced each other out. (Blunt uses a very British idiom to convey the same idea of a pair of opposites: “like chalk and cheese.”) Stubborn (obstinate) and feisty (full of animation, energy, or courage; spirited), often mistaking stubbornness for strength, attacking before thinking about it – these are the personality traits Blunt attributes to Victoria, characteristics she says were tempered (moderated, softened) by the logical, serious, calm demeanor (conduct, manner, also expression) of Albert, who in turn benefited from the laughter and joy that the more flamboyant (bold, dashing, showy) Victoria brought to the match.  

Questions for discussion – leave a comment on this page!:

Can you think of another film in which a game of chess – or any other game or sport – plays a symbolic role?

The wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.In a film based on real historical figures and events, how faithful to the facts should the filmmakers be? (One fictional embellishment in this film, for example, is that Albert is grazed (touched lightly in passing) by a bullet as he attempts to save Victoria from an assassin. In fact, Victoria escaped assassins more than once, but Albert was never wounded.)

Which in your opinion is a more interesting film: (1) The Young Victoria; or (2) Mrs. Brown, the 1997 film starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly that tells the story of Queen Victoria’s close friendship and possible romance with her Scottish servant John Brown long after the death of Prince Albert?

English through Song: John Gorka

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Gritty (showing fortitude in a difficult situation) songs about hardscrabble (earning a bare subsistence) or mean-street (poor or rough part of town) childhoods are a folk music tradition and the truth has often been bent (changed enough to give a false impression)  by Folk singer-songwriter John Gorka.songwriters with middle-class backgrounds jealous of the aura that comes with hardship, so it’s refreshing to see the honesty in John Gorka‘s new song about his own relatively comfortable upbringing (childhood) – Ignorance and Privilege, off his latest release So Dark You See.

The song, by a popular American guitarist/singer/songwriter born in 1958, is full of idioms useful to English students. For a quick vocabulary lesson, read the lyrics below, study the vocabulary notes, and listen to the song.

Ignorance and Privilege

I was born to ignorance, yes, and lesser poverties
I was born to privilege that I did not see
Lack of pigment in my skin, won a free and easy in
I didn’t know it, but my way was paved

I grew up a Catholic boy, in a northeastern state
A place when asked ‘Where you from’, some people tend to hesitate
Reply a little late, as if maybe you didn’t rate
I was born to privilege and ignorance.

My dad ran a printing press, a tag and label factory
I may have seen it as a child, now a distant memory
Almost too faint to see, dark red brick factory
I didn’t know it but my way was paved

We moved from a city street, shortly after I arrived
To a house on a gravel road, where I learned to be alive
Crawl, walk, run and ride, that’s where I learned to come alive
I didn’t know it, but my way was paved

If the wind is at your back and you never turn around
You may never know the wind is there
You may never hear the sound

Got to grow and go to school, work at home and dream at night
Even be a college fool, like I had any right
Never went through a war, never Great Depression poor
I didn’t know it, but my way was paved

Nose to the grindstone, shoulder to the wheel
Back against the wall, maybe you know how it feels

If the wind is at your back and you never turn around
You may never know the wind is there
You may never hear the sound

I was born to ignorance, yes, and lesser poverties
I was born to privilege that I did not see
Lack of pigment in my skin, won a free and easy in
I didn’t know it but my way was paved
I was born to ignorance and privilege.

John Gorka's 2009 CD So Dark You See.Vocabulary notes:

lack of pigment in my skin (lack of means you don’t have it; referring to not having dark skin and therefore not being a victim of racism)

my way was paved (a road paved with asphalt is easier to drive on than an unpaved road; referring to the advantages he had in making his way in life)

grew up (past of grow up, referring to his childhood)

northeastern state (in the northeast US, in his case New Jersey, which perhaps unfairly has a reputation for being a little boring)

hesitate (to pause or wait before speaking or doing something out of fear, indecision, or disinclination)

you didn’t rate (rate refers to rating, a kind of evaluation; here, means you’re not impressive)

a tag and label factory (Gorka’s father was the manager of a factory that printed tags – e.g. price tags on clothing – and labels – e.g. the printed paper on the side of a wine bottle)

too faint to see (not clear, vivid, or bright, so therefore difficult to see)

shortly (soon, a short time later)

gravel road (road with small stones rather than asphalt or dirt)

crawl (what a baby does before she/he walks)

the wind is at your back (idiom meaning things are easy for you, you’re lucky)

a college fool (in other words, well-educated but in many ways naive)

nose to the grindstone (working very hard, like a knife sharpener bent over a grindstone sharpening his knife)

shoulder to the wheel (trying very hard to do something difficult, like a horsecart driver in the old days trying to push his cart out of the mud)

back against the wall (in a bad or dangerous situation, without much hope for escape)

“Gorka is an accomplished musician (guitar, banjo, harmonium, occasional percussion),” writes Richard Elliot in a review of Gorka’s newest CD on the website PopMatters, “has a fine baritone voice, and displays a finely-honed knack (well-developed ability) for crafting a telling (effective, striking) lyric.”

When John Gorka sings, he enunciates very clearly, making it easier to understand the lyrics and practice your listening skills in English in an enjoyable way. Give him a try!

Visit Acadia Center’s YouTube Channel

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Acadia Center student raising sail on the schooner Olad in Camden.Raising sail on the schooner Olad, playing tennis, snowshoeing in the Maine woods, skiing at the Camden Snow Bowl, performing our own special version of Men in Black, reciting a poem by the famous Camden poet Edna St. Vincent Millay — you can see clips of Acadia Center students up to all these tricks and more on Acadia Center’s new YouTube channel. Check it out, leave your comments, and subscribe so you don’t miss the next installments! 

New Immersion Course Packages, New Discounts

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Acadia Center seen from the garden in early fall.Acadia Center has added more features to its most popular course packages, giving more value to you and making it easier to plan your immersion course in Maine. The packages for both our combination (private/mini-group) courses and our private courses now include the following features:

  • 16 hours per week of English lessons
  • weekly individual 30-minute meeting with a teacher to assess your progress and objectives
  • 11 hours per week of guided study in the study center
  • all books and materials
  • 2 afternoon teacher-led excursions per week (Tuesday & Friday) including all admission/activity fees and transportation 
  • accommodation in a comfortable private room at Acadia Center or in a village home near Acadia CenterPrivate bedroom at Acadia Center.
  • lunch and dinner with teachers at Acadia Center (Monday through Friday)
  • breakfast (self-serve) every day
  • free high-speed wireless Internet access
  • course certificate
  • free admission to indoor swimming pool, gym, indoor track, and fitness center
  • transportation between Rockland (Maine) or Portland (Maine) airport and Acadia Center on the first and last days of your course

In short, everything you need to raise your English to a higher level and make your stay with us relaxing, comfortable, and fun.

Three new discounts are also now available, and they can all be combined:

Early Registration Discount: Take 5% off the package price when you register and pay the deposit 10 weeks or more in advance of your course starting date.

Conversation and dessert at an Acadia Center dinner.Friends/Couple Discount: Take 5% off the package price if you attend a course with your spouse or a friend or colleague.

Alumni Discount: Take 5% discount off the package price if you previously attended an immersion course at Acadia Center.

See our course prices page for complete details. New courses begin every week, so you can start your course on a date that is convenient for you. To get the largest possible discount, plan ahead and book your immersion course now using our online Registration Form. If you have questions, contact us!

Artist Paints Portraits of Acadia Center Students

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Self-portrait with Van Gogh and Gaugin, by Albie Davis.Artist Albie Davis has recently exhibited several portraits of Acadia Center students she and her partner John Chandler have hosted in their Thomaston, Maine, home.

Albie writes that in her art she tries many different forms and materials, but she is “always coming back to portraits,Portrait of Fernando, by Albie Davis. whether of humans, other animals, houses, cars, you name it. Making art is an excuse to explore the universe, to make sense of it all, and, if inclined, to reveal its nonsense! When I first read T. S. Eliot’s observation, ‘We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time,’ I thought of how each cycle of observation reveals something new about the familiar.”

Albie’s painting of Fernando, an executive from Spain living in Brazil, was her first portrait of an Acadia Center student. Fernando has attended English immersion courses at Acadia Center three times over the last six years and has stayed with Albie and John each time.

Portrait of Daeene, by Albie Davis.The subjects of the next Acadia Center portraits were Daeene, an IT professional from Brazil who posed while reading a book, and Martine, a banking executive from Québec who shares the canvas with Albie and John’s dog Gromit. 

Portrait of Martine, by Albie Davis.Acadia Center students love staying with Albie and John and many have kept in touch with them over the years. Martine recently drove from Québec to see the premiere of Lighthouse, a muscial set in 1930’s Maine for which John wrote the libretto.

Albie shows her paintings regularly in midcoast Maine. We’ll keep you informed of her exhibits!Meeting the artist Albie Davis at her painting exhibit in Camden.John Chandler (L) and Albie Davis (R) with student from Colombia.Fernando posing with his portrait by Albie Davis.

Try an Online Lesson for Free

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study_centerSince the launching of the new program last fall, our online English conversation lessons have become very popular. Convenient, affordable, and very effective, our online classes can help you improve the two skills that most English learners feel are their weakest points: speaking and comprehension.

All you need is a telephone (landline, mobile, or internet phone) and a computer with an Internet connection. We call you at a pre-arranged time. At regular intervals during our conversation and using a screen-sharing tool via the internet as a virtual blackboard, we provide you with clear, detailed suggestions on improving your English vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation.

At the end of the lesson, we e-mail you study notes on the vocabulary and main language points discussed during the lesson.

Now you can try this new program for free: register using our online form and note in the comments line that you are applying for a free introductory lesson. The first three English learners who respond to this offer will each receive a free 30-minute online English conversation lesson (a $30 value). Please note that this offer is available to students with at least a lower-intermediate level of English.

We look forward to helping you improve your English conversation skills!

Film Notes: Invictus

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Invictus starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.The second in a series, this article provides a preview of a movie you might like to see along with a vocabulary lesson for intermediate to advanced English learners. The selected vocabulary words are in bold and followed by succinct definitions. Sherlock Holmes was the previous article in the series – check back soon for the next.

Clint Eastwood’s new film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s first days as president of post-apartheid South Africa in 1994. Morgan Freeman’s moving (evoking strong feelings) portrayal of Mandela’s gentle humor, elegant, old-fashioned courtesy, and fierce intelligence makes for a fascinating (very interestingbehind-the-scenes (theater metaphor: occuring backstage or out of the view of the general public) look at the birth of a new era.

Freeman’s Mandela is continually surprising his advisors and security personnel with his indefatigability (never getting tired) – as he charges out of his house for his pre-dawn (before sunrise) constitutionals (walking for exercise) at the beginning of marathon workdays – as well as with his emphasis on reconciliation (making harmony with your opponents or enemies) rather than recrimination in dealing with white South Africans.

Nelson Mandela.In this spirit, Mandela makes the surprising decision to throw his whole-hearted (full, passionate) support behind the Springboks, the nearly all-white national rugby team that had become a hated symbol of oppression to most black South Africans. And so begins a remarkable turnaround (reversal of fortunes) for a team that seemed destined to make a poor showing as hosts of  the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

If you’re watching the film to practice your English, Freeman’s stately (majestic), measured eloquence as Mandela will give you a sporting (good enough) chance to understand the vocabulary the first time around.

Matt Damon as the Springboks’ captain Francois Pienaar is also not too difficult to understand as he echoes the calm, thoughtful, resilient (able to recover from adversity) tone of Mandela.

President Nelson Mandela congratulating Springboks' captain Francois Pienaar after victory in the Rugby World Cup finals, 1995.The grunting exertions of the rugby scenes are not so lengthy that they risk boring non-sports fans, and the underdog (not expected to win) status of the Springboks makes for stirring drama as their startling (very surprising) success is celebrated with boyish enthusiasm by Mandela.

In a quietly moving scene Damon’s character and the Springboks team visit the tiny (very small) Robben Island prison cell where Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. The song 9,000 Days, the title of which refers to the length of time Mandela spent in prison, by the South African group Overtone with Yollande Nortjie, is featured in the soundtrack (the music in the film).

The title of the film – Latin for unconquered – is drawn from a poem by the 19th century poet William Ernest Henley that in the film Mandela gives to the Springboks’ captain for inspiration. In reality, Mandela did find inspiration in the poem while in prison but instead gave the Springboks’ captain a passage from a 1910 speech called The Man in the Arena by US president Teddy Roosevelt.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Vocabulary from the poem:
fell
(dreadful, cruel)
clutch (strong hold, grip)
winced (flinch, draw back from fear of pain)
bludgeonings (heavy blows or hits)
unbowed (not lowered)
wrath (anger)
looms (action to describe the taking shape of an impending event or the coming closer of something of impressive size)
menace (danger, threat)
strait (narrow – not the same as straight, which means without bend or curve)
scroll (list or roster)

If you see the film, let us know what you think of it!

Acadia Center Alumni T-Shirt Contest

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Student displaying her Acadia Center T-shirt.Announcing Acadia Center’s first-ever alumni T-shirt contest!

Send us a photo (by e-mail) of yourself wearing your Acadia Center T-shirt and try to win one of our contest prizes.

Contest rules:
1. The T-shirt must have the authentic Acadia Center logo (not the cheap replicas you find in Times Square).
2. You have to be wearing the T-shirt.
3. The photo must have been taken outside of Maine – either where you live or somewhere you have visited in your travels.

Contest deadline:
March 15, 2010

Contest prizes:
The three winners will each receive his or her choice of either: a free 30-minute online English conversation lesson (value $30) or a $30 discount to an English immersion course at Acadia Center. Prizes must be redeemed by June 1, 2010.