Acadia English Blog

Acadia Center Alumni T-Shirt Contest

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.

How to Learn Phrasal Verbs

Students of English often complain about the difficulty of learning phrasal verbs. Simply put, a phrasal verb is a combination of  a verb (an action word like look, take, set) and a preposition (a short connecting word like up, out, over) in which the preposition gives the verb a new meaning. In this sense, we can say that the meaning is idiomatic – in other words the phrase can’t be translated word by word but only by looking at the phrase as a whole.

Sometimes verb + preposition combinations are not idiomatic, as in the phrase listen to. To is simply the preposition that’s required after the Listening to a prayer, by Norman Rockwell.verb listen if you want to say what it is you’re listening to, as in: She’s listening to the radio.

Sometimes a single phrasal verb can have both a literal, non-idiomatic meaning and one or more idiomatic or figurative meanings. For example, if you want to see the moon you have to look up at the sky. The word up here is used as a kind of adverb (adverb particle is the Illustration of pirates rowing ashore in the moonlight by Howard Pyle.tehnical term) and it doesn’t really change the meaning of the verb look — it just tells us the direction you’re looking.

However, when you don’t know the meaning of a word and you look up the word in a dictionary, there’s nothing directional about the word up. Look in this phrase still means use your eyes, but the meaning of the phrase as a whole has a very specific focus – searching for information in a At work in the Acadia Center study center.reference book or online.

There are some grammatical issues with phrasal verbs – can another word come between the verb and preposition or not? – but learning how to use phrasal verbs is best accomplished the same way that you go about learning any new vocabulary.

How to Learn Phrasal Verbs:

1. Read and listen. When you see or hear a phrasal verb you don’t know, write it down. But don’t just write down the verb and the preposition, copy the whole sentence. Understanding the context – how the phrase is used with the other words in the sentence – is what will make it possible for you to use the phrase yourself in the future.

2. Find out the meaning in that specific context. This is where a teacher or native English speaker can save you time, because there is often more than one meaning for each phrasal verb, but if you’re on your own, look it up in a dictionary and decide which definition fits best in context.

3. Practice it in conversation and/or writing. Get feedback from a teacher or native English speaker about whether or not you’re using it the way native speakers do.

4. Study your list of phrasal verbs and keep adding to the list. If you find a phrasal verb from your list used in a new way, write down the new example.

Why is learning phrasal verbs in context better than learning them from a dictionary or book about phrasal verbs? Four reasons.

Poster from the 1949 film The Set-Up.1. You can be sure you’re learning the most common uses of the most common phrasal verbs first. You don’t want to waste your time learning the more obscure uses.

2. They will be easier to remember. Dictionary.com has 15 different phrasal verbs based on the verb set (set in, set off, set out, etc.) and 15 different meanings for just the single phrasal verb set up – and the meanings vary widely. If you try to learn them all together, it’ll be too difficult to remember each separate meaning. Take them one at at time, in context.

3. When you’re learning phrasal verbs in context, through reading and listening, you’re learning a lot of other things about English as well, including other vocabulary words and grammatical structures.

4. It’s much more interesting to learn from stories and conversation than from printed lists. And the fact that you’re interested in the context will make it much easier to remember the phrasal verb later.

If you have any questions about the meaning of specific phrasal verbs, or if you have your own tips on how to learn phrasal verbs, leave a comment here!

Great Food, Great Conversation

Gourmet sandwiches for lunch at Acadia Center.Fresh local seafood, fruit, and vegetables, delicious meat and pasta dishes, healthy salads and freshly baked whole grain breads, luxurious desserts — it’s all on the menu at Acadia Center.

Sample lunch & dinner menu:

Monday
lunch: spinach and ricotta manicotta with garden salad
dinner: steak with sauteed greens & rolls

Lunch and conversation in the garden at Acadia Center.Tuesday
lunch: chicken pot pies with garden salad
dinner: fresh scallops with steamed rice and sauteed green beans

Wednesday
lunch: quiche with garden salad
dinner: pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes

Lobster dinner.Thursday
lunch: tarragon chicken salad
dinner: fresh salmon served with roasted vegetables

Friday
lunch: rustic Italian pasta salad
dinner: beef kabobs served with rice pilaf

Enjoying conversation and dessert in the Acadia Center dining room.Lunches and dinners Monday through Friday are included in the immersion course package. The family-style meals give students the chance to practice their English with teachers and other native-English-speaking guests in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.

Comments from recent students on meals at Acadia Center:
Excellent: I ate a lot but I didn’t gain weight. Every meal was delicious and nutritious. – Gerard, IT professional, Venezuela
Well-balanced and diverse. – Jean-Marc, international trade agent, France
Fruit on a branch at harvest time, photo by Marti Stone.Delicious and fun – I had the opportunity to speak about many topics and in this way I was able to improve my speaking ability. – Maria, IT executive, Venezuela
I ate very well every day. The meals were all delicious! – Diane, retired nurse, Quebec
The food was very good: fresh and full of variety. – Rodolfo, sales executive, Italy

Farm photo by Marti Stone.

Film Notes: Sherlock Holmes

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes.Film Director Guy Ritchie’s new take on the iconic 19th-century English detective Sherlock Holmes was released on Christmas Day in the USA. While preserving some of the brooding (preoccupied with morbid thoughts) aloofness (emotional distance, reserve) and bohemian (unconventional, anti-establishment) eccentricities of the character as seen in earlier film versions dating back to the Basil Rathbone series of the 1940’s, this new version of Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr., presents us with a scrappier, funnier, and more vulnerable mastermind.

The scrappiness (fighting spirit) comes into play when Holmes shows off (exhibits) his skills as an expert bare-knuckle (no boxing gloves) boxer and inventive street brawler (disorderly, unruly fighter) in several scenes that pit him against (find him confronted by) opponents nearly twice his size. The idea of investing Holmes with boxing prowess (bravery, ability, strength, especially in battle) comes straight from the pen of Sherlock Holmes’s creator, the author, athlete, spiritualist, and amateur detective Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The vulnerability (susceptibility to being hurt) is seen in his emotional dependence on his friend Dr. Watson, played by Jude Law, and his confusion when ensnared by the seductive Irene Adler, played by Rachel McAdams.

The humor comes occasionally from the repartee (quick, witty replies) between Holmes and Watson, but more often from the clever and eccentric way that Holmes extricates himself from the most dangerous predicaments, as when he hides himself from his enemy in the smoke of a fireplace and then launches himself out of the window of the Houses of Parliament into the River Thames. The first part of his anatomy that resurfaces is not his head, gasping for air, but his extended right hand Jude Law as Dr. Watson.holding the pipe he was anxious to keep dry.

Sherlock Holmes with pipe in a Strand Magazine illustration, 1891.Susan Wloszczynza of USA Today gives us a fascinating backstage look at the making of Sherlock Holmes, describing the conversion of a Brooklyn, NY, armory into a 19th-century English gentleman’s flat and revealing that both Downey and Law pored over (read or studied intently) Doyle’s writings to extract what they dubbed (called) Doyle-isms — characteristic expressions that would lend color and authenticity to the dialogue.

The language of the film, while occasionally formal in tone in keeping with the time period, is fairly straightforward and not too slang-heavy, making it a good choice for upper-intermediate to advanced-level speakers of English.

If you see the movie, leave a comment here telling us what you think!



New Discount for Winter Courses

Take advantage of Acadia Center’s winter course discount and the lower off-season airfares to immerse yourself in English — effectively and affordably – in a beautiful New England town!

Enjoy a personalized learning program, lively lessons focused on your needs, delicious and healthy meals, comfortable accomodations, and total English immersion from morning to night.

Acadia Center student enjoying her first ski lesson at the Camden Snow Bowl.You might even like to take advantage of the season by skiing or snowboarding at the Camden Snow Bowl, just a 10-minute drive from Acadia Center. The Snow Bowl offers downhill skiing (with ocean views from the top of the mountain), snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and tubing — and your lift ticket and equipment rental (and lessons too if you are a beginner) are free during Acadia Center excursions.

If winter sports aren’t your thing, don’t worry — you can stay warm in the cozy shops, cafes, and museums in the area, as well as the nearby fitness center, with its Olympic-sized swimming pool, indoor track, gym, and excercise room — all free for Acadia Center students.

Take 5% off the course fee (not including accommodations) for winter courses. To receive the discount, register and pay the course fee deposit before January 1, 2010, for a course beginning before April 1, 2010. For new registrations only and not for customized courses. Write discount code W5 in the questions/comments line when registering.

Acadia Center Co-Sponsors Maine Literary Festival

Maine Literary Festival 2009 at Camden Opera House on November 7.The Acadia Center for English Immersion is very pleased to be a co-sponsor of the Maine Literary Festival 2009, taking place at the Camden Opera House at 6:30 pm on Saturday, November 7.

This year’s theme is Literature of New Voices in America: Reflecting Cross-Cultural Experience. An extraordinary line-up of novelists, poets, and non-fiction writers from diverse cultures and ethnic experiences will participate in a three-hour program including presentations, readings, panel discussions, and a reception for the authors and participants at the Opera House.

New Discounts for Fall/Winter Courses

Is improving your English essential to doing your job well or finding a new job? Have you been too busy with work and family life to study English?

Individual English lesson.There’s no better way to improve your English quickly than taking an English immersion course, and with new discounts for fall and winter courses at Acadia Center, there’s no better time to make the commitment to improving your English.

For combination (private/mini-group) courses and for private courses, we are now offering a discount of 10% off the course fee (not including accommodations). The discount is for new registrations only and does not apply to customized courses. To be eligible for the discount, you must register and pay the course fee deposit before November 21, 2009, and begin your course before February 1, 2010.

Couples and friends taking a course together are also eligible for an additional 5% discount off the course fee (not including accommodations).

Excursion to Lucia Beach on a sunny fall day.To receive the discounted rate when you register, enter the appropriate discount code in the questions/comments section. For the 10% discount, enter code: FW10. For the couples/friends discount, enter code: TT5.

Take advantage of Acadia Center’s fall/winter course discount and the lower off-season airfares to immerse yourself in English — effectively and affordably — in a beautiful New England town!





Give Your English an Upgrade This Fall

Camden in the fall.Autumn is a great time of year to take some time off from your job and dedicate two or three weeks (or more) to improving your English skills. Acadia Center has new English immersion courses beginning every Monday all year long.

The best way to improve your English in a short time is to focus on your specific needs in English in private and small-group classes (small means very small: 4 students with 1 teacher maximum) and then give you plenty of opportunity to practice what you’ve learned all day from morning to night, at meals and on excursions in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

New England in general and Maine in particular is famous for its beautiful fall foliage. The Appalachian Mountain Club named Camden Hill State Park (only a 10-minute walk from Acadia Center) one of the best places in the USA to see the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of the sugar maple tree.

Register for a course this fall to raise your English to a higher level while enjoying autumn in Maine!

Summer Mini-Group Courses Start July 6

schooner under sailSummer mini-group courses at Acadia Center begin on July 6 and continue through August 28, with new courses beginning every week. Summer mini-group courses are a great option if you are looking for an affordable way to improve your English while also enjoying your summer vacation in a beautiful place.

The Maine coast offers lots of fun outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and sailing.

On our excursions you can see a new exhibit of American or international art, sample a red, white, or rose at a vineyard and winery, and take an afternoon cruise on one of Camden’s classic schooners.

Whether you are paddling on a lake or exploring a vineyard, you are always practicing your English — learning with the help of your teachers new vocabulary and idioms and trying out what you’ve learned in class in a relaxed, friendly, and supportive atmosphere.

We are still taking registrations for summer 2009!


Take it Easy

For intermediate and advanced English students, one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary in English — and get a better understanding of how native speakers put words together — is to read an article that expresses an opinion on a topic that interests you. The nice thing about an opinion article — such as this one in Slate about how to encourage more women to study science at university — is that the vocabulary is precise and expressive, but also informal and colloquial — in other words, it’s like listening to a well-spoken, interesting person at the dinner table. Speaking of listening… you can listen to a podcast of this article as well (scroll down the list of podcasts to June 7).

When you’re reading something difficult, first read through the whole article fairly quickly and try to get a general idea of the the topic and the thesis (the main argument). Then go back to the beginning and read more slowly, looking up words you don’t know and paying close attention to how the words are put together.

For example, in the first couple of paragraphs we find the phrase take the helm – a common expression in business English meaning to take charge, to become the leader of something, in this case referring to Ursula Burns becoming the new CEO of Xerox. The word comes from the nautical world, since helm means the wheel or tiller by which a ship is steered.

Next up is the verb balk (rhymes with walk), which means to stop, as at an obstacle, and refuse to proceed or to do something specified (usually followed by at). Here, Burns’s predecessor as CEO of Xerox, Ann Mulcahy, refutes the idea that Burns would have had a harder time reaching the top if Mulcahy hadn’t broken the glass ceiling at Xerox. Balk is also a term used in baseball, when the pitcher interrupts his pitching motion to fake a throw to one of the bases – an illegal move that allows a baserunner to advance.

This leads into a discussion of the paucity of women in senior positions. Paucity is a noun which means that there isn’t enough of something.

Don’t feel frustrated if it takes you half an hour and you’re still not even halfway through the article. Who cares how many pages or paragraphs you read? The important thing is you’ve learned a few new words in context, and that context will help you understand those words the next time you encounter them in print or on the web.

Bonus article on the topic of women in science: from a science blog, short bios of top women scientists past and present.

Have any of your own tips about learning vocabulary through reading, or about the issues raised in the Slate article about women in science?