Learn American English Online Blog
July 31, 2010
Let me tell you a story about something that happened yesterday while I was at a Toyota dealership waiting to have my car fixed. I needed a new radiator, so the three-hour wait was a good opportunity to look at cars to replace another, older car I have. My family needs two cars in order to get around town, and I prefer Toyotas because they’re reliable and the repair costs are relatively low.
The salesperson called to the reception area inside the Toyota showroom was an Asian man whose first language was not English. He introduced himself as "Kevin," and I introduced myself as "Paul," and then we went outside to the car lot.
After I told him what I was looking for, he showed me a Prius and I asked him if I could take it for a test drive. He seemed reluctant to let me get in the car and drive it, but when you go to a dealership and ask to drive a car, that’s what you do. As we were driving, the thing that I noticed most about Kevin wasn’t his accent but his attitude towards me. He gave me the impression that he didn’t really want to spend a lot of time helping me find a car. His answers to my questions were short and quick, and soon it was clear that I wasn’t going to buy a car from Kevin–ever–because he was really rude.
Rudeness is the worst quality for someone in sales. Perhaps it was because I didn’t look like a buyer. I normally dress very casually (as you might know already), and my manner is also very casual for a man of 46. I probably don’t look like I have the money to buy a car that would cost over $14,000, but in the United States, with good credit, anyone can buy anything. Kevin made a big mistake in underestimating my potential as a customer, and I believe he made this mistake because he didn’t believe there was the potential to do business with me. That was a big mistake.
First impressions are made by the way you dress, the way you speak English, and the way you carry yourself when you are around other people. Kevin’s English was very difficult to understand. I had to ask him to repeat the things he said to me several times, but I understood what he was saying and I wasn’t going to judge him on his ability to speak English. As a customer I just wanted some help, but he seemed very reluctant to provide it to me.
If you work at a job that requires personal attention to a customer–whether it’s at a restaurant, hotel, retail store, or a car dealership–make sure you give the person you’re working with your full attention. Never assume anything about anybody and treat everyone with the same level of respect. Look the customer in the eyes and ask questions to indicate that you are really interested in being of service. If you practice this everywhere you go, you’ll have successful interactions with other people. Don’t worry too much about how your English sounds. Improvement will come over time. Your accent is not as important as your attitude.
July 30, 2010
You can review the lessons taught in the Violet Level by going to the quizzes page. There are only two for the Violet Level, but as you can see, there are many other quizzes for the other levels that might help you determine where you need more practice.
Here’s a new YouTube video. It’s on asking and answering questions about sound:
July 29, 2010
The last lesson in the Violet Level is for the word "besides." Don’t confuse it with the preposition, "beside." That’s a very common mistake that many people make.
July 28, 2010
Lesson Twenty-four in the Violet Level provides some examples of how to use the word "meanwhile." This is a new lesson added just this week. Tomorrow’s lesson on "besides" is also new.
Here are some examples of how "meanwhile" can be used. It’s very similar to "while," however, notice that this word usually appears between two sentences or two independent clauses. "Meanwhile" describes simultaneous activity (things happen at the same time).
July 27, 2010
Today’s lesson in the Violet Level will help you understand how to use the word "instead." We use this word when describing substitutions and alternative choices.
Did you receive the email I sent out this morning. If not, make sure you sign up. It’s free!
Word of the Day:
This is a contraction of the verb “be” and “not,” but most English teachers don’t teach it in class because it represents poor English. However, it’s a good idea to learn about this word because you will hear it a lot in American English. British English uses it also.
“Ain’t” can be used in the present tense:
"Ain’t can be used in the present continuous tense:
“Ain’t can be used with the “going to” future tense:
Notice that "ain’t" remains the same whether in the singular or the plural form. That’s one reason why some people like to use it.
Click here to see a video with more examples of "ain’t."
July 26, 2010
Today’s lesson is on "as soon as." It’s similar to "when." Here are a few examples:
I’ll call you as soon as I arrive in Boston.
I’ll call you when I arrive in Boston.
So what happens first? I arrive in Boston. Then I’ll call you.
As soon as she finished one painting, she started another.
What did she do first? She finished a painting. Next, she started a new painting. (of course, she’s an artist!)
We should get together as soon as possible.
When should we get together? "As soon as possible" is the first opportunity to do something. It’s very popular in English. Some people shorten it to "A.S.A.P." or "asap."
Here are a few more examples with "can" and "(be) able to" which are often used with "as soon as" because they express possibility:
I’ll help you as soon as I can.
She came as soon as she could.
He’ll be here as soon as he can.
He left the office as soon as he could.
As soon as we’re able to, we’ll visit you.
As soon as they were able to, they visited me.
They got married as soon as they were able to.
She had a baby as soon as she was able to.
July 25, 2010
I’m glad to see so many more people go to the chat rooms now. If no one is there, just wait a minute or two and someone will show up eventually.
show up: arrive; go to a place
July 24, 2010
There are many different ways to use the word "as." In Lesson Twenty-one in the Violet Level, you’ll learn how to use it as a conjunction that means "at the same time." It’s very similar to "while."
As I was making dinner, the phone rang.
It gets lighter in the morning as the sun rises.
As the sun sets in the evening, it gets darker.
Listen to the audio recordings very carefully as you read.
July 23, 2010
The lesson for the day will help you learn how to use "as long as." These three words together are very similar to "if" and "while." Look at these sentences:
We can take a vacation this summer as long as gas prices remain low.
We can take a vacation this summer while gas prices remain low.
We can take a vacation this summer if gas prices remain low.
The meanings for all three sentences are pretty much the same; however, "as long as" and "while" emphasize duration (time) and a condition while "if" introduces only a condition.
You can also use "as long as" at the beginning of a sentence:
As long as the weather holds, we’ll be able to have our picnic.
As long as you don’t mind, I’d like to come by for a visit.
As long he continues to practice, he’ll improve his English.
July 22, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the word "while." It means "at the same time." Two things are happening at the same time:
I like to listen to the radio while I work.
Listen to me read sentences that use "while" in this lesson.
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Here’s a new vocabulary and reading exercise. Let me know if this is helpful or too easy. I’m thinking about creating a new section with exercises like this one.
July 21, 2010
Today’s lesson in the Violet Level is on the word "since." This can be used as a conjunction to indicate when something began:
She’s been speaking English since she was five years old.
Since they moved here, they’ve met a lot of new people.
Do you know how long it’s been since he ate?
We often use "since" with the past tense and the present perfect tense. _
Here’s a new vocabulary and reading exercise. Let me know if this is helpful or too easy. I’m thinking about creating a new section with exercises like this one.
July 20, 2010
Did you receive the email with links to lessons, the new video, and a new page on popular expressions in the U.S.? If not, make sure you sign up on the homepage. Some new material is only available to new members. Signing up with this website is free!
July 19, 2010
The lesson for the day is on the word "unless." This is a tricky word to listen for and use in a sentence. It’s similar to "if," but look at the sentences below to see the difference:
She will lose her job unless she starts to come to work on time.
She will lose her job if she doesn’t start to come to work on time.
So "unless" is almost like "if + not." That might be one way to think of it.
July 18, 2010
With over 16,000 subscribers on my email list, I get a lot of requests from people asking for personal help. I hope everyone who contacts me will realize it’s not possible to respond to every email that’s sent out, although I try. At the moment, I’m the only person who works on the website, so bear with me (bear with me = be patient).
I’m also still learning how to build a website, so please excuse my mistakes. If you see any errors here, please feel free to contact me and tell me on which page the mistake was made. Your teacher is very good at making mistakes, so I appreciate your input.
My main goal for the website is to provide something that feels like a "classroom" online; however, the instruction here is self-paced and the students who benefit the most are self-motivated. It’s also free. People around the world without access to a regular classroom can learn the fundamentals of English grammar and usage, and with that knowledge, they should have good writing and speaking skills when it comes time to use them.
I’m also very interested in providing a place for students to communicate with each other via online forums, such as the chat rooms. If you are a regular visitor to this website, go to the chat section for the level you are working on. If you need help, someone might be able to answer your question there. And if someone else needs help, then you can help that person. Anyone can be a teacher. When you help another person learn something, you are also learning the subject that you teach. After 20 years of teaching, I know this is true.
If you are really willing to work hard, this is the website for you. Learning English isn’t easy. It requires long hours of study and practice, and sometimes you must repeat lessons already learned. I recommend that you listen carefully to the audio tracks in each lesson and in the videos. If you feel comfortable enough, repeat what I say out loud. This will help you improve your ability to retain (remember) what you have learned. Simply clicking on things on a webpage is not a good way to develop your memory. It’s much better to speak out loud (use your voice) and write things out by hand (use a pen or pencil and paper).
July 17, 2010
Lesson Fifteen in the Violet Level is on the word "furthermore." While "furthermore" is considered an adverb, I simply think of it as a transition word. It’s similar to "in addition," but it has a little more strength than "in addition" and its use represents a higher level of diction by the person who uses it. "Furthermore" must come after a sentence or two in which someone is making a strong point about something:
Here’s a video with more examples:
July 16, 2010
The lesson for the day is on the phrase "in addition." Its meaning is similar to "and," "plus," and "too."
July 15, 2010
"On the other hand" is an expression that connects one idea to another contrasting idea. The two ideas should be different. "On the other hand" is very easy to use:
July 14, 2010
We’re about halfway through the month of July. I hope you are enjoying the Violet Level. I’m planning on going to the prepositions section of the website during August. Several students have requested that we work on prepositions because they are so confusing. Then in September we’ll return to the Blue Level and start the seven levels over again. Repeating the website is important if you want to remember what you have learned. After you have remembered everything that I have taught you, you can find many other websites from which to learn English.
The lesson for today is on the conjunctive adverb, "otherwise."
July 13, 2010
"Even though" is similar to although. Click here to read and listen to some example sentences.
July 12, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the word "although." We use "although" to describe situations that are different from expectations. It’s similar to the conjunction "but," and it’s very similar to "though." This word goes at the beginning of a clause, and it can appear at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence:
Although clowns try very hard to make people laugh, some children are scared of them.
July 11, 2010
World Cup games come to an end today as Spain goes against the Netherlands in South Africa. It has been an exciting month, hasn’t it? Finally, we’ll know which team will claim the title of world champion. Who are you rooting for?
root for: support; cheer for
claim: win; to say something belongs to someone
go against: compete
July 10, 2010
Today’s lesson is similar to yesterday’s lesson; however, one small change will make a big difference:
It was such a hot day that they decided to turn on their air conditioner.
It was so hot that they decided to turn on their air conditioner.
Do you see the difference in these two sentences? What is it? Here are another two sentences to look at:
He’s such an impressive sportsman that even his opponents like him.
His sportsmanship is so impressive that even his opponents like him.
The word "such" is followed by a noun, and the word "so" is followed by an adjective but not a noun. In the first set of sentences, "day" is a noun and it follows "such," but when using "so" you can use the adjective, "hot," but not a noun.
There’s one more thing about the use of "both "so" and "such" that you should know. It’s not necessary to use "that" in these kinds of sentences:
We had such a good time at the party that we didn’t want to go home.
We had such a good time at the party we didn’t want to go home.
Click here to learn more about the use of "such" and "that" in a sentence.
Here’s a video that provides more explanation for the differences between "so" and "such."
July 9, 2010
The lesson for today is on the use of "so" and "that" together.
There are two ways of using this word combination. The first use for "so that" indicates that one thing happens to produce a desired result:
Carole went to school every day so that she could improve her English.
Why did Carole go to school? She wanted to improve her English.
Ahmed bought a small car so that he could save money on gas.
Why did Ahmed buy a small car? He wanted to save money on gas.
The second use for "so that" indicates to what extent something is true. It shows the size, depth, degree, quantity, etc.
John ate so much pizza for lunch that he couldn’t eat his dinner.
How much pizza did John eat? He ate an amount that was so large, it wasn’t necessary to eat later.
Sheila is so in love with Pedro that she’s moving to Spain to be with him.
How much does Sheila love Pedro? She’s moving all the way to Spain! She must really love him a lot.
Click on this link to find more examples for using "so that" in a sentence.
July 8, 2010
This video should help you with today’s lesson:
July 7, 2010
The lesson of the day is on the word "both." This word describes two things that have the same qualities or two people who have the same experiences or feelings:
The opposite or negative for "both" is "neither."
July 6, 2010
In Lesson Five you will learn how to use "due to." These two words together have the same meaning as "because of." If you’re not using "due to" when speaking and writing in English, you should consider using it to describe reasons why something happens. Here are some simple sentences to demonstrate:
She can’t come to school due to the flu.
Due to the weather, we’re canceling classes tonight.
The house fire was due to faulty wiring.
Due to the doctor’s quick response, the boy’s life was saved.
Her success is due to all her hard word.
Due to a healthy diet, he lived until the age of 99.
Watch this video and you’ll see more ways to use "due to" in a sentence:
July 5, 2010
Lesson Four in the Violet Level will help you learn how to use "because" and "because of." Both answer questions using "why," but there are some important differences between these conjunctions that you should know.
Use "because" with a clause (that part of the sentence that has a subject and a verb):
He decided to move to California because he likes the weather there.
I’m thirsty because I ate some salty peanuts.
They bought a Hyundai because it was inexpensive.
Now see what happens in the second part of these sentences when you use "because of" instead of "because."
He decided to move to California because of the weather.
I’m thirsty because of those salty peanuts.
They bought a Hyundai because of the price.
Notice there isn’t a subject and a verb following "because of" — there’s just a noun.
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I have the day off today because yesterday’s holiday fell on a Sunday, so I’m going to ride my bike around Minneapolis and then go to Lake Harriet for a swim.
July 4, 2010
Happy Fourth of July!
Today we celebrate our country’s independence from England.
July 3, 2010
In today’s lesson, you’ll learn how to use the word "consequently." It’s kind of a big word, and there are many other good words that you can use instead of it; however, you will hear people use "consequently" in formal speech and on TV news programs, so it’s good to know.
Here is an example:
Local, organic food is increasingly becoming popular in the United States; consequently, residents of city neighborhoods are turning empty lots and fields into community gardens that produce fresh food and flowers.
a community garden in Minneapolis, MN (click on each pic)
July 2, 2010
Today’s lesson is on the word "therefore." It’s used to express the result of some action or decision. It’s very similar to the word "so." "Therefore" is usually placed in the middle of a sentence after a semicolon (;) and followed by a comma (,). These examples will help you understand how to use "therefore" in a sentence:
July 1, 2010
The word "however" can be used as a conjunction or as an adverb. It usually appears in the middle of a sentence, or it comes between two sentences. "However" is very similar to the conjunction "but."
The word "however" can also mean "in whatever way" or "in any way." This is a more difficult way to use it:
To learn more about the word "however, " go to Lesson One in the Violet Level.
Click here to go to June 2010