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BlogLAEO December 2009

Today is the last day we use the double zero for the year. Some people will call this decade "the aughts;" others might call it "the zeros," "the thousands," or the "Os." Last decade was easy. It was "the Nineties," and before that "the Eighties." But this decade is not easy to describe. Over time, there will be popular agreement on a term.

Have you gone to the chat rooms yet? I keep checking to see if anyone is there. Sometimes you have to wait a few minutes, but as they become more popular, more people will come. I just had a long chat with a very nice person I met from Morocco in the Blue Level chat room.

 

As we get closer to the end of the year, a lot of media attention is focused on the big stories of 2009. Everyone makes a list. Here’s mine. (I’m using the present tense but I could also use the past tense to describe the past year.)

1. Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States in January and is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

2. The Clmate Change Conference convenes in Copenhagen in December.

3. Swine Flu (the H1N1 virus) spreads around the world. Deaths caused by the flu are relatively low compared to past pandemics.

4. The world economy continues its downward spiral. In the United States, banks and automobile makers are kept afloat by the government. General Motors goes bankrupt.

5. China becomes the world’s largest producer and consumer of automobiles, passing the United States.

6. Political unrest in Iran follows disputed election results for president. Who really won? Ahmadinejad or Mousavi?

7. The U.S. begins to shift its focus on military operations from Iraq to Afghanistan.

8. Twitter and Facebook become major players in social networking.

9. The extinction of animal species worldwide continues unchecked due to global climate change and the destruction of natural habitats.

10. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pumps trillions of dollars into the U.S. economy in order to avert a depression in the U.S.

 

There are two new lessons in the Violet Level. Both lessons use the word "as," but the meanings are very different. Click here for Lesson Twenty-One and click here for Lesson Twenty-Two.

Here’s a new quiz I made today for conjunctive adverbs.

 

I’ll be at home all this week working on my website, so you might notice a few changes to LearnAmericanEnglishOnline.com. As I mentioned yesterday, the Chat page has changed. I’ve added rooms to match each level. The chat rooms can also be used as message boards because the log will remain intact. I’ll try to visit each room at least two or three times each week.

 

I’ve added some new chat rooms to the site. It’s my hope that students will go to the chat room that matches the level they are working on or need help in. Click here and tell me if this works. I appreciate the feedback (comments and suggestions).

 

This is a good time to remind everyone that we will go back to the Blue Level in January. Repeating the lessons will help you remember what you have learned, but if you think you have learned enough from me, go to the Links pages and look for a new website for learning English. It’s necessary for you to learn English from several different teachers or websites.

Here’s how you learn English on this website. No matter how much English you already know, start on the Blue Level. Then you go to the Red Level. Then you complete the other levels in this order: Yellow, Green, Purple, Orange, and Violet. It takes seven months to complete if you do all the lessons with me fifteen to twenty minutes per day, but you can also finish the lessons on your own.

I hope students who come here every day also go to the chat rooms and the slang and idioms pages.

Learning English isn’t easy. It takes time and commitment. You have to practice every day, and it helps to work with a teacher, online or in a regular classroom.

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Natasha, who lives in Alaska, sent me this beautiful winter scene:

Isn’t this beautiful? Thanks, Natasha!

Thanks to everyone who sent holiday greetings. I’m sorry I can’t respond to everyone personally, but I’ve read almost all the email and online cards. It’s a pleasure and an honor to know so many wonderful people around the world.

 

Merry Christmas! I wish peace to everyone around the world, especially to my students in Iraq and Afghanistan. I hope you and your families will soon be free from fear and violence.

Today is Christmas Eve. This is the day before Christmas, but it’s an important part of the holiday because this is the day when many people get together with friends and family. If you want to learn more about the holiday of Christmas, I created a page with some information. Click here. I’m not trying to change anyone’s beliefs; however, I think you should learn about the holiday as much as possible, especially if you live here in the United States. Christmas is a religious holiday, but it’s also a secular holiday. If you aren’t a Christian, you can still enjoy all the fun stuff that goes along with it, such as the food, the music, the gift-giving, and–if you live in a cold state like I do–the snow:

This is a picture I took just this morning. We got about five inches of snow since it started snowing yesterday. We’ll get some more over the next few days–perhaps as much as a foot! This is what I love the most about the holiday season.

 

I’m not going to send out a lesson in your email this week, and perhaps next week, because of the holidays. At this time of year, most of my students here in the United States are busy working–which is good, because they can make extra money. They work at restaurants, hotels, coffee shops, transportation and delivery services, cleaning services, and they work at a variety of other jobs that most Americans don’t want to do, such as assembly work (in a factory) or meat packing (in a slaughterhouse where animals are butchered and sent off to stores).

I usually include a word that students might find useful in the emailed lessons, and the one that I’ve chosen for this week is "sink."

sink / sank / sunk

The verb "sink" usually means that something goes down:

A large ship sank in the ocean last week.

If you don’t know how to float in a swimming pool, you’ll sink.

It’s also used for money when making an investment:

They’ve sunk a lot of money into their business.

She sunk a lot of money in the stock market and lost it.

When you aren’t doing well financially…

Bob and Andrea are sinking in debt.

You can use it to express disappointment:

My heart sank when I realized that she didn’t want to marry me.

You often hear "sink" used during basketball games:

Darryl was unable to sink a basket against the other team.

Does the audio help? I’ll continue to add the audio at the top of the blog for people who want to listen and read at the same time. If that’s helping you, send me an email and tell me if it’s something you want me to keep on doing.

Here’s your lesson for the day. It’s on "even if."

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There’s a new YouTube video on the use of the word "being." Some students asked me recently to explain how it’s used, so here you go.

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How do you use the word "unless?" It’s usually used when there is some sort of a condition. "Unless" is similar to "if," but you can’t use the two words in exactly the same way. Here are some examples:

He can’t go to California unless he saves more money for the trip.

He can’t go to California if he doesn’t save more money for the trip.

See the difference? The word "unless" can have a negative quality.

Unless it rains, we’re going to go to the beach tomorrow.

If it doesn’t rain, we’re going to go to the beach tomorrow.

You can also flip it around to make a sentence like this:

We’re going to go to the beach tomorrow unless it rains.

If you want more practice with "unless," click here.

Today is the first day of winter. We say that this is the shortest day of the year because the sun comes up late and sets early. As I look out my window, I can see it’s still a little dark, and it’s already 7:45 in the morning. The sun will probably set this afternoon at about 4:30 p.m., so we’ll only get about nine hours of daylight today.

The lesson of the day is on the use of "furthermore." It’s not a really popular word in conversation, but you do hear it occasionally, especially among people who are well educated. "Furthermore" often appears in newspapers and in print. Click here to learn more.

 

There’s a new video on YouTube. I made this especially for those students who spend a lot of time in the kitchen and need help with vocabulary and pronunciation:

 

Here are some frequently asked questions from visitors to LearnAmericanEnglishOnline.com:

Question: How do I use this website?

Answer: These are your instructions…

  • Start on the Blue Level and complete all the lessons in that level.
  • Next, go to the Red Level and complete all the lessons in that level.
  • Continue on to the Yellow Level, the Green Level, Purple, Orange, and Violet Levels.
  • After you have finished the seven levels, go to the Links page and look for a new website for learning English. I have some good suggestions for free websites that you can go to. It’s important that you learn English from more than one teacher. You’re always welcome to return if you forget the things I’ve taught you.

Question: When did you start this website?

Answer: in 2002, I decided to learn how to make a website. It took a few years of practice, but I made an investment in a good computer (an Apple eMac) and taught myself how to use HTML for making a website. Every year I’ve added something new to the website, and the experience of building the website has been very satisfying and fun.

Question: Why is this website free?

Answer: It’s my hope that people around the world without the money to pay for online instruction will come here. One sure way to make a positive difference in the world is through education, and for people who can’t afford to pay for school, here’s a free opportunity to learn and improve your life. Also, as a teacher I want to demonstrate some techniques for teaching and learning. Often teachers work behind closed doors and the general public doesn’t have any idea of what happens in a classroom. This website represents some of the things I do as a teacher. It represents my training, my experience, and my interest in the profession. Not everyone agrees with my methods or the content of my instruction, but it’s mine. Every teacher is different, and with me, what you see is what you get.

Question: Can you contact me personally?

Answer: My time is devoted to building the website and creating the webpages, so I try to answer email, but with over 12,000 subscribers to emailed lessons and thousands of visitors per day, it’s hard to keep up with students individually. If you need a personal tutor, go to the Links pages and you might be able to find someone there.

 

Your lesson for today is on the use of "in addition." These two words are very similar to "and."

In addition to music, he likes sports.

He likes sports in addition to music.

He likes sports and music.

It’s also used as a transition from one sentence to another:

The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is very important. In addition to the creation of goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases, the U.S. and other developed countries are discussing the formation of a fund that will help developing countries adapt to the negative consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels.

Click here for today’s lesson.

Did you receive my email? The word of the day is "crash"

"Crash" is a regular verb:

crash / crashed / crashed

The verb “crash” is usually used for car accidents:

He crashed his car into a tree.

But there are other uses. Most recently, a couple of uninvited guests showed up at a party held by the Obamas at the White House:

They crashed the party.

You can also use the word as a noun:

A couple of party crashers showed up and met the President.

Here’s another use. If you are really tired and want to go to sleep, you can crash on someone’s couch, but be sure to ask first:

Can I crash here tonight on your couch?

I’m so tired, I think I’m going to crash.

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Click here for today’s lesson

A good way to join clauses together is to use a conjunctive adverb. This type of word allows a writer to make a transition from one idea to another. One example of a conjunctive adverb is the word "otherwise."

He’s going to college right now; otherwise, he would probably be in the military fighting in Afghanistan.

"Otherwise" is similar to "or" and "or else." It usually goes between two clauses. Sometimes the word goes at the end of a sentence and after a verb:

When the homeless man asked Maria for money, she gave him some. Her conscience would not allow her to do otherwise.

Learn more about "otherwise" here.

Today’s lesson is on "even though." It’s almost the same as "although," but I think it’s a little stronger:

Even though it’s really cold outside, we’re going to go skiing today.

Although it’s really cold outside, we’re going to go skiing today.

The first sentence using "even though" sounds a little better to me in this instance, but the meaning in each sentence is the same.

Here are some more sentences that use "even though."

 

We continue to study conjunctions this month. The next one on the list is "although." "Although" is used to show limitations, differences, and contrasts in situations. It’s often used in complex sentences.

Here are some examples:

Although it’s going to take a long time, we’re driving to California.

Although I’m really tired, I’ll stay up and watch this movie on TV.

She needs a new car although she’s broke.

This assignment is interesting although a bit confusing.

Click here to go to Lesson Ten in the Violet Level and you’ll learn more about how to use "although."

This is a new video to help you talk about dressing and preparing for cold weather:

Nanos can do more than just play music. If you want to take video, too, this one does that and more:

 

Yesterday we learned how to use "so that" in a sentence. Today you’ll learn how to use "such that." Let’s first compare the two:

so that: She’s saving money now so that her children can go to college.

"So that" is used to express a result. A person does something intentionally and then there’s a result.

such that: She’s such a good saver that she’ll have no problem sending her children to college.

"Such that" is used to express a quality. A person or thing is something and that explains why something is true.

Here’s another example:

The climate change conference in Copenhagen is such an important event that everyone should be paying attention.

Click here to learn more about "such" + "that."

Congratulations to President Obama who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize today in Oslo, Norway. It feels good to have a President that we can be proud of!

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It’s fun to have a website like this one because it reaches out to so many different parts of the world. According to a new statistics counter I’m using, there are now close to 3,000 visitors who come here each day. Most are from the United States, but there’s also a lot of traffic coming from Viet Nam, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and India. Is the website helpful for everyone who visits? As a teacher, I fear the boredom of my students. If you have any ideas for new sections of the website, just send them to me. I get a lot of good ideas from people online.

Today’s lesson is on "so" + "that." These two words are used together to explain why someone does something. Used together, "so that" is similar to "in order to." You can click on this link to go to the lesson.

If you have any pictures of yourself that you’d like to have included in the Photos section, email them to me at:

The December collection of pictures is found here. I’m organizing them by month now, but I might try to organize them according to country. Do you think that’s a good idea?

 

"Not only" is kind of a strange conjunction. It’s similar to "and," but it comes before two ideas that are joined together in a sentence.

  • Drinking water instead of pop is not only healthy for you, it’s cheap as well.
  • She’s not only really hungry but extremely tired also.
  • Not only did the storm produce eight inches of rain, it also resulted in high winds.

It’s a good idea for you to take a look at some more examples. Click here to see them.

 

Our Christmas tree is up. Every year we put a freshly cut tree in our living room and decorate it with lights and ornaments. It takes up a lot of space inside the house, but it helps make the dark days of late fall and early winter a little less gloomy, so it’s worth the hassel and the expense of having a tree.

Christmas trees are both spirtual and decorative. Our family leans more towards the decorative part of the tradition. We hang gold, red, silver and multi-colored ornaments on the tree. Some of the ornaments are very old, and they have been in the family for many decades.

Today’s lesson is on the word "both."

 

Today’s lesson is on "due to." It’s very similar to "because of."

We changed our plans due to the weather.

We changed our plans because of the weather.

Due to her mother’s illness, she decided to go home to France.

Because of her mother’s illness, she decided to go home to France.

"Due to" is, perhaps, a little more formal than "because of." If’s often used with official announcements for large events when something has changed "due to" unforseen circumstances.

Use "due to" with phrases and nouns but not with clauses:

Our flight was canceled due to mechanical problems with the airplane.

Our flight was cancelled due to there were mechanical problems with the airplane. (No. In this sentence, "due to" is followed by a subject and a verb in a clause. That’s wrong.)

You can learn more about using "due to" by clicking here.

 

Here are some new conversation questions on the subject of problems. Both teachers and students have told me that they find the conversation questions section of the website useful for in-class discussions. Your teacher is welcome to use these in class. Just download the questions, print them out, and give them to him or her.

My tip of the day is for students to watch American sitcoms. The word "sitcom" is made from two words–situation and comedy. You can say either "sitcom" or "situation-comedy." One of the best that I recommend is Seinfeld. However, there are many sitcoms from the 60s and 70s that are worth watching: Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, are just a few.

Why watch a TV show? If it’s a show that many Americans have watched, there’s a good chance that you’ll be talking to an American when suddenly he or she makes a reference to a character from one of these shows, and if you haven’t seen the show, you won’t know what that person is talking about:

He looks like the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island.

She reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld.

I’m living next to the Beverly Hillbillies.

Above: Seven stranded castaways on Gilligan’s Island. Clockwise from the the bottom are Gilligan (the man in the red shirt and hat), the Professor, the millionaire Thurston Howell and his wife, Lovey, Ginger, the Skipper, and Mary Ann.

Americans watch a lot of TV. I don’t recommend that you watch as much TV as they do. (The average American watches five to six hours of television per day!) Listening to the radio is better for developing listening and vocabulary skills. But there are some things in American popular culture, such as movies and television programs, that will help improve your understanding of how Americans communicate.

 

One of the most common conjunctions is "because." It explains why something happens:

She goes to school because she wants to learn English.

Mario stayed at home all day because he was sick.

It is possible to begin a sentence with because, but if you do, you will create a phrase or a clause with it in the first part of the sentence and then follow with an independent clause.

Because of the weather, we decided to play the game another day.

Because they were so tired, they went to sleep early.

You can learn more about "because" by clicking here.

Here’s the new video for making tag questions for indefinite pronouns. This might be a little confusing because indefinite pronouns are singular and the tag question is formed with plural verbs and pronouns. If this is too confusing, watch the other video I made on tag questions before you watch this one:

 

Yesterday in my classroom, we practiced making tag questions with indefinite pronouns. I suddenly realized how difficult this is for students, so I made a video on this topic. Do you remember how to make taq questions:

She works today, doesn’t she?

The bus didn’t come already, did it?

If you have forgotten how to make tag questions, take a look at this lesson on tag questions and come right back.

When you make a taq question for an indefinite pronoun, the rules change:

Everyone wants to be happy, don’t they?

The subject "everyone" is singular, but the subject in the tag question is plural. They don’t match. That’s because we don’t have a gender neutral pronoun in English that can be used there, unless you count the word "one," but few people in the United States want to use that. Here are some more examples:

Someone broke that window, didn’t they?

No one wants to work on Sunday, do they?

There’s nothing in the refrigerator, is there?

The last two sentences contain a negative word, so the tag question at the end doesn’t require the use of the negative. Confused? We will work on this some more later.

Today’s Violet Level lesson is on the word "consequently."

Your lesson today is on the use of the word "therefore." Click here.

Here’s a new YouTube video if you haven’t seen it already. This will help you use the word "trouble."

Today we begin the Violet Level with the conjunction "however." This is a good substitute for "but" if you get tired of using "but" to show contrasts and differences; however, don’t use it too often! Click here.

Here’s a new dialogue page for the Red Level. I’m probably going to start making more of these pages. Let me know if this is helpful.

Click here to go to November 2009

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