Acadia English Blog

Fall Foliage in Camden

Acadia Center English immersion course students enjoying a hiking excursion in Maine during the peak of fall foliage.The month of October brings out a spectacular display of red, orange, yellow, and russet on the leaves of trees and bushes in Maine, and Camden – the home of the Acadia Center for English Immersion – is a prime destination for leaf peepers in search of the most beautiful fall foliage.

In fact, this month Camden was named one of the top 25 fall foliage towns in New England (number 6 to be exact) by Yankee Magazine. In the slideshow on the Yankee Magazine website, you can see a view of Camden – the village, the harbor, and the ocean beyond – from the peak of Mt. Battie, a popular hiking destination for Acadia Center students.

Fall is a great time to immerse yourself in English while enjoying the natural beauty of Maine in autumn!



Camden and Acadia Center Featured in El Pais

El Pais journalist and Acadia Center student Ana Arasanz takes the helm during a day sail on the schooner Olad in Camden, Maine.Ana Arasanz, a Madrid-based travel writer and editor for the web version of the leading Spanish newspaper El Pais, has posted a lively article based on her experiences during her two-week English immersion course at Acadia Center this summer.  Titled (translated into English) From Maine’s Lobster Festival: A Tour of the Rugged Coast of Maine from Camden and Rockland to Acadia National Park, Ana’s travel article features her own photos taken during her excursions in Camden and Midcoast Maine and on Monhegan and Mt. Desert Island.

Ana’s favorite places in Camden include Laite Beach, a small stretch of sand near the downtown with a spectacular view of Camden harbor and the Camden hills beyond, and Mt. Battie, from where you can see many islands in Penobscot Bay.

Acadia Center excursion - sailing in Penobscot Bay on the schooner Olad with captain Aaron Lincoln.Sailing and kayaking were among her favorite activities here, and the article provides many links to more information about things to do in Camden, such as sailing on the schooner Olad with captain Aaron Lincoln, whom Ana describes as an entertaining guy (un tipo divertido) and born storyteller.  

Impressed by what she describes as the varied and cosmopolitan cultural offerings in Camden, Ana recommends the concerts, theater performances, readings, and other events at the Camden Public Library, the Camden Opera House, Acadia Center students Daniela and Ana enjoying a seafood dinner at Port Clyde Seafood Co. in Camden.and the Owl and Turtle Bookshop.

Her lodging recommendations include the Captain Swift Inn, the Camden Harbour Inn, and the Inns at Blackberry Common, and her dining recommendations include Port Clyde Seafood Co., Paolina’s Way, and the Waterfront.  

Want to Expand Your English Vocabulary? Read.

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!

The Maine – Québec Connection

Québec and Maine – home of the Acadia Center for English Immersion – are next-door neighbors, with the drive from Québec City or Montréal to Camden taking only 5-6 hours. Visitors from Québec to our part of the Maine coast fall in love with the natural beauty of the area, the mountains and the ocean, and the small towns and harbors that retain such a strong sense of their maritime heritage.

The business news website Maine Business has just published an article about Canadian visitors to Maine, featuring comments by Acadia Center director Brian Boyd about the appeal of the Camden area to visitors from Québec.

Business English: How to Learn Business Vocabulary

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

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

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

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!