The Acadia Center for English Immersion, located in beautiful Camden Maine. New Courses start every week.

Posts Tagged ‘vocabulary’

Carried Away: What does it mean?

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

In a recent New York Times interview, iconic American writer and radio host Garrison Keillor was asked: Have you ever felt carried away by a particular place in America? The phrasal verb carried away, used in the passive with the verbs be, feel, or get, means delighted and enraptured, and can also imply getting a little over-excited and out-of-control. For Keillor, the most intoxicating places in the USA include the Grand Canyon, the back roads of rural Tennessee, the High Plains of North Dakota, and the coastline of Maine.

Carried away, in its possible sense of emotion getting the better of reason, can also carry a more negative meaning, as in this quote from the Catholic writer and mystic Thomas Merton.

The idiom swept away has a similar meaning to carried away, with perhaps a dash more vigor. It appears in one of the best (and longest) movie titles ever, Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August – the English translation of the Italian title of Lina Wertmuller’s 1974 film and shortened to just Swept Away in the 2002 remake starring Madonna.

 

Between You and Me: Grammar Conundrums

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Between you and me? Between you and I? Between me and you? Even native speakers of English confess to feeling perplexed when it comes to choosing the correct pronouns.

In his entertaining podcast Lexicon Valley on the online news website Slate, Mike Vuolo presents a satisfyingly thorough and often funny discussion of the confusion provoked by this expression.

Although most accept between you and me as the correct standard usage (following the rule of using the object pronoun, not the subject pronoun, after a preposition), champions of the form between you and I make the argument that if it was good enough for Shakespeare (in Merchant of Venice), it’s good enough for them.

Which one does singer Jessica Simpson favor? Listen for yourself.

Here is some vocabulary from the podcast that might, without explanation, stump (be too difficult for) even advanced students of English:

hypercorrection - a mistake in grammar caused by a false analogy with another rule that is commonly ignored

smartass – someone who is obnoxiously self-assertive and impudent

high dudgeon  – intense indignation

up for grabs – available to the first person who wants it or tries to get it

roll my eyes – express exasperation

persnickity – placing too much emphasis on trivial or minor details; fussy

cottage industry – a small, loosely organized flurry of activity or industry

from your lips to God’s ears - when used sarcastically, a pessimistic way of dismissing another’s naive hope

Comic Strip English – Doonesbury

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A great way to practice English is to read the comics – they’re short and funny, they feature everyday English vocabulary that you can really put to use, and like movies they give you plenty of visual clues to what’s going on.

A classic American comic strip is Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury. in circulation since 1970 and featuring such legendary charactes as Duke, whose exploits on the sketchiest fringes of the diplomatic world make for witty political satire; BD, the football star and army vet who never removes his helmet; and Alex, the daughter of the strip’s title character, “a true child of the media and searcher for the Killer App.”

Check it out, and if you have any questions about the vocabulary in the strip, let us know and we’ll help you out!

Hike up Ragged Mountain

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Writing about your experiences in a full immersion English course is a great way to help yourself remember the vocabulary you’ve learned. It also encourages you to start thinking in English, rather than translating words that are new for you into your native language.

Last week, Daniela, human resources director for a software company in Bonn, Germany, and English immersion course student at Acadia Center for the second time, wrote an essay about her hike up Ragged Mountain, a favorite spot for local hikers here in Maine. Her guide was renowned artist and illustrator Anthony (Chip) Bacon Venti. After going over the essay carefully with her teacher, Daniela revised it and now you can read the result:

An Easter Sunday Hike

On Easter Sunday I went on a hike with Tomm’s friend Chip whom I have met before. He knew that I had the day off from classes and offered to show me parts of his home state. I really appreciated his offer and he picked me up on Easter Sunday at 11 am. First we drove to Lincolnville and he showed me the beautiful view from Point Lookout which was formerly  a private property. Now there is a kind of upscale restaurant inside. You can even sit on the deck if the weather is warm and sunny enough and enjoy the scenery.

Chip told me the name of some islands and mountains we could see and pointed to an island where celebrities like Kirstie Alley and John Travolta own a vacation home. Further away we could identify some offshore wind turbines which must be huge if they can be seen from that distance.

We took some pictures and than we drove to a parking lot at Route 17 which is at the beginning of the Georges Highland Path. We took our knapsacks from the backseat of his car and started the hike.

The trail was marked by blue markers on trees and rocks and sometimes it was difficult to identify exactly where the path might be. But Chip always found another marker and then we went on. The first part of the trail was not very steep but after about one hour it became a steep climb. Surprisingly we were overtaken by a couple who were running up the hill! We  kept up our pace and the last 20 minutes the path led over rocks until we reached the summit. On the top of the mountain stands a huge tower which apparently receives or sends data. We rested at the foot of the tower for a while and enjoyed our picnic. Chip did some sketches of the panorama and explained the landmarks to me. Then we went back downhill the same way we had gone up.

The whole hike took about 4 hours and was a really unique experience. Later he gave me a ride home to Acadia Center. I have to admit that I was really tired after that but I am glad I had the opportunity to see what I have seen.

 

Learn TOEFL Vocabulary Fast

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

To learn the most common English vocabulary words tested on the TOEFL, check out these online flashcards created by Acadia Center. Read and listen to the words and their definitions, and test your knowledge by studying the flashcards, taking the word quiz, and playing word games online. Each set of flashcards presents a new group of ten common TOEFL vocabulary words along with simple, easy-to-learn definitions.

After you’ve mastered the first two flashcard sets, try the most common TOEFL vocabulary set number 3 and most common TOEFL vocabulary set number 4. These first four sets feature some of the most useful verbs to learn in English, whether you’re looking to improve your score on the TOEFL or just trying to expand your knowledge of English vocabulary.

Want to Expand Your English Vocabulary? Read.

Friday, July 30th, 2010

The best way to learn new words in English is to read something challenging. Read articles in an online magazine like Slate, or choose a book that interests you – probably non-fiction unless your English level is very advanced.

Acadia Center English immersion course student reading Julie & Julia by Julie Powell in the Acadia Center garden on a summer afternoon.Avoid getting frustrated by the difficulty of the reading by following these steps:
1) First try to understand the general meaning of each paragraph and each sentence before trying to decipher the meanings of individual words.
2) Be selective about which words to examine more closely. Skip words that seem obscure, archaic, or unusually technical. (Of course, you have to go partly on intuition with this.)
3) Look up unfamiliar words in a dictionary. Read the definitions (usually there is more than one) and try to identify which meaning is correct in this context. Read the examples of how the word is used in a sentence. If you decide that it’s a particularly interesting or useful word (relying partly on intuition again), copy down not only the word but also the context – the phrase or the sentence that shows how the word is used with other words.
4) Don’t be surprised if it takes you half an hour to read only a few pages. That’s OK. It’s not a race. Getting more familiar with new words requires reading at a pace leisurely enough to allow for comfortable, relaxed, careful consideration of each new word and its environment.

Ivone, a current student at Acadia Center, is a talented chef, so not suprisingly she recommends Julie Powell‘s book Julie & Julia, which inspired the popular movie with Meryl Streep as the endearingly eccentric cookbook writer Julia Child.

Do you have a book in English to recommend? Tell us the title and author by leaving a comment on this post. And tell us briefly why you like the book!

Business English: How to Learn Business Vocabulary

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

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

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

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

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

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!

Try an Online Lesson for Free

Friday, January 29th, 2010

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!