The LAEO Blog – Learn English here daily.

August 31, 2008  

   

Here’s a picture of a sunflower that I grew in my front yard. It grew to over seven feet tall! I’ll roast and salt the seeds from this flower and eat them. I’ll leave some of the other sunflowers that I grew uncut so that the birds can eat them.

sunflower

August 29, 2008

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August 29, 2008

Barack Obama made an incredibly good speech last night. We will be very lucky to get him as our President.

Just in from the newswires is that John McCain has chosen Sarah Palin to be his running mate. She’s been the governor of Alaska for the last two years. Before that she was the mayor of a small town of 10,000 people. I don’t think John McCain can make inexperience an issue for Barack Obama to defend against.

August 28, 2008

The Democratic Party made history last night when it put into nomination the name of Barack Obama, the first African-American to have a real chance to become the President of the United States. Tonight he’ll make a speech and accept the nomination. Then he becomes the official candidate of the party.

Also, Joe Biden accepted the nomination for Vice President last night.

August 27, 2008

The Minnesota State Fair is a big event in the Upper Midwest. For 10 days, people from Minnesota and the surrounding states come to eat, listen to music, look at prize-winning farm animals and agricultural exhibits, and go on amusement park rides. In this short video, Kevin Kling, a writer and performer, is reading from one of his books and telling a story about what it was like to learn that school is closed for the day because of a snowstorm. In this part of the country, schools have to close sometimes because there’s just too much snow or ice or it’s too cold for children to go outside. It’s one of the great joys of childhood in this part of the country to wake up to two feet of newly fallen snow and then find out that you don’t have to go to school.

In the video, when he says "public and parochial," that means that the public schools are closed and so are the private and religious schools. "Parochial" is used to refer to a school that teaches religion as part of the curriculum.

 

 

August 26, 2008

There’s just one more week left of summer vacation and then it’s back to school for most American school children. The majority of schools in the U.S. start school after Labor Day, which is next Monday. So I have just one more week to prepare for school, work on my website, and organize my house in preparation for fall and winter.

Today I’m cleaning out my garage and my shed. Because I have three children, it’s necessary to throw out a lot of junk that accumulates in both places. We give a way a lot of stuff, too–usually clothes. Americans have way too much stuff, and I’m included, but I really try not to buy a lot of things that I don’t need.

shed = a small building outside of a house for keeping tools, small machines, and garden supplies.

junk = anything; similar to stuff

August 25, 2008

Starting in September (I don’t know when yet), I’ll return to the Blue Level and concentrate more on helping new students who don’t have a lot of experience with English or who know some English but want to learn the basics again. This is good also for intermediate learners of English because they sometimes forget the rules, especially when it comes to making the negative and questions in the present tense and the past tense (using "do" and "did").

I’ve been teaching English for 20 years, and it is very clear to me how important it is to review basic rules in English. But how do you do that without boring everyone?

The Democratic National Convention begins tonight in Denver. Michelle Obama, the wife of Barack Obama, will be the featured speaker. That will very interesting!

August 24, 2008

Here’s a new lesson in the Violet Level: using because and because of .

I’m putting together a new video for a recent trip I took to the Minnesota State Fair. Until it’s ready, there’s an old video of the fair from two years ago on the home page.

August 23, 2008

Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden, a Senator from Delaware, to be his running mate. Good choice! Biden has strong foreign policy experience and he has been in the Senate for 36 years. He’s a good speaker (like Obama), he’s tough, and he has great appeal to working-class Americans. Obama lacks that appeal a little because he’s so well-educated and when he communicates to people he can’t hide that fact. Americans like someone who’s smart but not too smart. You want to know why Bush got elected twice? That’s why.

Here’s another advantage to choosing Biden: In the U.S. system of government, the Vice President is also the President of the Senate, and there are times, such as when there’s a tie (50 Senators in favor of something and 50 Senators against it) and the Vice President can cast the deciding vote. How many tiebreakers will there be? It depends on how well the Democrats do in the general election. I think they’re going to do very well for reasons that have to do with Bush’s mismanagement of two wars, the economy, and a complete disregard of the environment.

working class = a person who works for hourly pay. This is generally used for people who do manual labor and work with their hands.

appeal = attractiveness; a likeable quality; beauty, intelligence, physical strength, determination, etc.

tiebreaker = an event that ends a tie, when two sides are equal in number.

disregard = the decision to ignore something; the do nothing; carelessness

August 21, 2008

The Republican national convention will be here in the Twin Cities at the beginning of September. I can’t be there for the entire event, but I’ll be there for the beginning. It will be interesting to see how many people show up to protest the political party that has ruined our country.

August 20, 2008

Here’s a new video for the future continuous tense:

 

Well, it looks like Barack Obama will be in Virginia today and tomorrow and in Springfield on Saturday. Perhaps the VP announcement won’t be made until Saturday.

August 19, 2008

According to news reports, Barack Obama will be in Springfield, Illinois tomorrow. This is the city where he announced that he would be a candidate for President, and it’s believed that it might be the city where he announces his pick for Vice President. Springfield, Illinois is associated with Abraham Lincoln because it’s the city where Lincoln started his political career. As a politician from Illinois, Obama probably wants his followers to make that connection between Lincoln and himself. So who will he pick? We’ll probably find out tomorrow.

August 18, 2008

Here’s a new video on making comparisons using "more," less," and "fewer."

 

August 17, 2008

Today everyone is talking about Michael Phelps’ achievement of winning eight gold medals in swimming at the Beijing Olympics. What a great accomplishment! In this blog and on YouTube lately, I’ve been focused on adjectives and adverbs and how they’re used in their comparative and superlative forms, so here are a few examples based on what happened last night (or Sunday morning in China):

Michael Phelps has won the most Olympic medals in one Olympic games. (superlative noun)

Many people say he’s the greatest American Olympian in the history of the games. (superlative adjective)

He’s won more gold medals than another other Olympian. (comparative noun)

He performed better than all the other swimmers. (comparative adverb describes "perform")

August 16, 2008

I get a lot of questions from students who want to know what the difference is between adjectives and adverbs. These two videos might help answer those questions:

Adjectives
Adverbs

 

August 15, 2008

Today is Friday. For many people in the U.S. that means it’s payday–the day employees get their check from their employer. Most are paid every other Friday. Some get a check every Friday. It’s also the 15th of August. Some companies pay employees just twice a month, on the 15th and on the last day of the month. Bars and restaurants are very busy on this day because of this. People are more likely to spend money in the middle of the month than at the end of the month because they’ve already paid their rent or mortgage. Of course, like everything else, this observation doesn’t apply to everyone.

August 14, 2008

So who will Barack Obama pick to be his running mate? This is the question that hangs over both candidates, but it’s likely that Obama will present his choice first because the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado is before the Republican National Convention in St. Paul–which I intend to go to, not as a supporter but as a protester. I’ll be blogging on the event when it happens in early September.

And why is the choice of Vice President so important? There are two main reasons. First, if anything happens to the President while he (or she) is in office, the Vice President takes the position and holds it until the next election. Also, it’s much easier for the Vice President to run for the Presidency, especially after a successful four or eight-year term for the party holding the position. It was eaiy for Al Gore to be picked as the nominee in 2000 because he had worked so closely and effectively with Bill Clinton, who most Americans considered to be a good President despite his bad personal behavior.

August 12, 2008

Today an online student asked about the importance of names in the United States. This was a good question because if you live in the United States, your last name is used for organizational purposes. An American’s last name is the family name–usually the last name of the father–but not always.

Your first name is the name your parents give you. Parents here will name their child after someone in their family, or the name that is given belongs to someone famous, or it’s simply a name that’s currently popular.

The middle name can come from anywhere. Again, it’s often from someone in the family. It can also be the mother’s maiden name. A "maiden name" is the wife’s family name before it was changed upon marriage.

The last name is the family name, and this almost always comes from the father, but there are some families that do something different, such as hyphenate two names and make it into one. If, for example, Tom Jones marries Sally Smith, and they have a child, the child’s name might be Kristen Jones-Smith. But this can cause some confusion and so the majority of Americans simply go with the man’s last name. In the case of the above example, it would be Kristen Jones.

August 11, 2008

I can tell by looking at my web statistics that a lot of people are watching the Olympics instead of going online to learn English. That’s okay. This event happens only once every four years. When I was a kid, I would watch the Olympics for hours and hours, but now I’m not as interested. Too mch attention is paid to who is getting the most medals or which country is ahead in the medal count. Those things are not nearly as important as the fact that all these countries got together to do something that is peaceful and strengthens relationships among people around the world.

There’s also this expression, which you might know in your own language: It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts.

whether = if /  count = matter; be important (count is also used for amounts. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.…..)

August 10, 2008

Here are two new videos. One for comparative adjectives; the other for superlatives.

   
comparative adjectives
superlative adjectives

August 9, 2008

The opening ceremony for the Olympics in Beijing was really spectacular. There were many images I don’t think I’ll ever forget, especially the one of the globe suspended in midair with performers running around the outside of it. What great imagination!

The word "spectacular" is used to describe an event or an experience that is large in scale and creates interest in the minds of the audience. "Spectacular" is often used for movies, theatrical performances, and sporting events. Below is a picture of Chinese performers.

olympics in china

Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Time

August 7, 2008

I continue to add pictures of students to the Photos section. The goal is to have representation from every country on the planet. It seems more people from Europe are coming to this website lately, so how about a few more photos from the Europeans? Email your photos to:

[email protected]

August 5, 2008

This is a short video of a visit to the Farmers Market in Minneapolis which I mentioned in the previous post. A written transcript follows the video, so if you want to read and listen at the same time, you may do that. There’s just a small difference in the transcript between what you hear and what you read, of course, because spoken American English is full of little mistakes and we often run our words together–even I do do that! Also, when I’m speaking with the farmer, he’s helping his customers at the same time, so you’ll hear him say "thank-you" a few times to people off screen, and he tells someone the price of some cilantro while talking with me.

 

Click here for the transcript.

It’s interesting to note that the farmer I’m speaking with in the video was born in the United States, but his family is from Laos, so he’s a first generation American. He’s bilingual in two cultures and two languages. Immigrant families can adapt very quickly here, but I think those who come here as adults have the hardest time adjusting to their new lives. I’m sure the parents of the young man featured in this video are very proud of their son.

By the way, his produce is organic and it’s very good! I bought some basil, some lettuce, and some baby bok choy from him. With the bok choy I made a soup with tofu and rice nooodles. Yum! Many of the farmers who sell at this market are immigrants or the children of immigrants. You can make a good living in the U.S. as a farmer if you work hard and make smart decision about what to grow. A lot of the small farms in this area are run my people from southeast Asia–Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam. Many are Hmong and speak the Hmong language.

There are farmers markets all across the United States in the big cities. They’re growing in popularity because most of the food sold there is local, it’s very fresh, it usually costs less than what you find at the grocery store, and it’s organic. So why don’t more Americans get their food at an outdoor market? Mostly it’s habit. Americans are used to shopping inside at a grocery store. It’s also because the food at a farmers market might not look as "perfect" as the produce found at a grocery store. A leaf with evidence of an insect eating at it, or a little bit of dirt, or a misshapen piece of fruit gives some consumers here reason to think twice before buying something. But anyone who has tried to grow food in their backyard or on a farm knows that these are all signs of natually grown food. Have no fear. I’d rather share my food with the birds and the insects than take a bite of something with dangerous chemicals in it.

August 3, 2008

Today I rode my bike to the farmers’ market just outside of downtown Minneapolis to get some vegetables and take a few pictures and some video for my website. I’ll have a video put together by tomorrow and I’ll try to make it part of the next emailed lesson which I’ll send out on Tuesday this week.

While I was there I met one of my students from a few years back. It’s always nice to run into people you haven’t seen in a long time.

farmers' market

Farmers’ Market – Minneapolis, Minnesota

August 1, 2008

Just one more week and the Olympic games in China will begin. What do you like the most about the Olympics? Is it the ceremonies? The games? The personal stories of struggle and sacrifice? Or is it the fact that countries from around the world can get together and do something positive without resorting to violence?

 

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