Idiom of the Week – “Ring in the New Year”

Well, it’s finally here.  The end of the year.  All the plans and hopes that we had for 2013 have either all come true (hopefully), or we fell short of our goals for the year.  No worries, because the New Year is the only time where we can wipe our slates clean and have a (somewhat) fresh start!. EC Miami English School will certainly have classes during the week of the change to the New Year, but there will be no classes on January 1, so that gives students and staff alike plenty of time to ring in the New Year.  I (Mark) have some former students from earlier this year and last year that have been making plans to return and ring in the New Year here in Miami!  Some people have big parties, while others prefer quiet evenings at home ringing in the New Year with their families and close friends. In many countries, traditions vary related to ringing in the New Year.  In Brazil, for example, it is typical for people celebrating to wear all white, as a symbol of good luck and prosperity.  In Colombia, many people ring in the New Year by packing a suitcase (and perhaps even bringing a passport!) and running around the neighborhood — as a way of ensuring that there will be lots of traveling in the New Year! One typical way to ring in the New Year worldwide is to count down from ten at midnight, and then celebrate by drinking champagne with the people you are with (as long as there are no party poopers!). How will You ring in the New Year?  More specifically, how will you celebrate the arrival of the New Year on December 31 and January 1?

Idiom of the Week — “Party Pooper”

  Holiday season in the United States. For many Americans, the period between Thanksgiving and the New Year is the most festive time of the year. It’s a time to get together with family and friends, exchange gifts and good wishes, and eat lots and lots of food (not to mention the various traditional drinks!). Here at the EC Miami English School, we have many things that we’re doing this month in order to get into the spirit. Our students can take a look at the activities calendar (and pay attention to their teachers and staff as well) to find out all the different things that are going on. But there’s always That One Person at a party or a gathering. Everyone is having a good time, but that person someone manages to bring the others down either by words or actions — or maybe just a bad attitude. This is commonly what we refer to as a party pooper. A party pooper is someone who tries to reduce the enthusiasm of other people. It can also be used when a person doesn’t share the same interests as the others, and therefore tries to discourage them. “Steve is such a party pooper. No matter what we suggest, he shoots it down.” A few years ago, a popular TV show in the USA, Saturday Night Live, had a character that epitomized the idea of a party pooper. Her name was Debbie Downer. Take advantage of all fun things you can do this month here in South Florida! Don’t be a party pooper like Debbie Downer!

“A Christmas Story”

It’s the Holiday season at EC Miami English School!  Today was the last day of class until after Christmas, and I wanted to share one of my favorite holiday traditions with my students today:  We watched my favorite holiday movie, A Christmas Story.  No, it’s not another reworking of the classic Dickens tale, but rather the story of a young boy (Ralphie) who only wants one thing for Christmas:   a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and “this thing which tells time” (a clock).  The only problem is, every adult that Ralphie mentions this to tells him that he’s going to “shoot his eye out”.  The movie follows Ralphie and his family as they prepare for Christmas, as well as his friends and their (mis)adventures at school. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, it still makes me laugh.  It’s a movie that is considered a “modern classic” and brings a smile to everyone.  Set in the early 1940s, it also shows the USA during a more innocent time.  My students enjoyed it, laughing at all the correct places.  It made me very happy to be able to share it with them. I won’t spoil the ending for you.  You’ll have to watch for yourself to see if Ralphie finishes the movie with both eyes. Happy Holidays!! — Mark

Academic Lecture — New Year’s Resolutions

Every month at the EC Miami English School, we give an Academic-style lecture to our students, giving them more opportunities to use English in a realistic setting.  This week, Audrey, one of our newest teachers, gave two lectures (to different level groups) about making New Year’s Resolutions. A New Year’s Resolution is simply a promise that a person makes at the beginning of the New Year.  It’s frequently some sort of self-improvement promise like “I resolve to quit smoking” or “I resolve to go to the gym three times a week”. What about you?  Do you resolve to make any changes for the New Year?

Holiday Travel? Plan Ahead!

Happy Holidays!! Here at the EC Miami English School, many students (and teachers alike), are planning to travel during the holiday break.  Our school will not have classes the week of December 23, and many people may be curious how they will be able to travel if they are on an F1 visa.  Remember: Every student on an F1 student Visa are required to be in class studying a minimum of 18 hours per week in order to maintain their status in the United States.  In addition, students must maintain a minimum of 80% attendance (the list is in front of Elisa’s office at the end of Wednesday every week in case you are wondering what your attendance status is).  Students with this visa are also only able to have a session break once per 12 weeks in the country.  These breaks can last for a maximum of two weeks.  However, if the student is going out of the country he/she may go for up to five months, and doesn’t not have to wait the customary 12 weeks of study in order to take it. Some Important Notes: — If EC has a two-week December break, students may not add on to that break (unless they are travelling to their home country — see above). If EC has a one week student break, students may add only one week on to that break. — Students who will depart the US on break MUST provide proof of their departure with a flight confirmation or ticket, their passport and I-20. — Provided student has all documents it will take UP TO 24 HOURS to return signed documents to students. —  I20s must be signed by either Lynnette or Amanda.  There are NO exceptions to this. Of course, one of the reasons the attendance report is posted every … Read more

“White Elephant” or “Yankee Swap”

Have you ever heard of the phrase “White Elephant”?  It’s something that’s used to refer to an object that is no longer useful to its owner.  A “White Elephant” gift swap take that idea a step further. During the holiday season in the United States, many people will partake in an activity called “Secret Santa”.   Participants pick names out of a hat, and then have a period of time to search for a gift for that person (usually with a pre-determined amount of money decided on).  The catch is that you can’t tell the other person that you are buying the gift for them, hence the name “Secret Santa”!  A “White Elephant Gift Swap” is just a little different. In this game, a group of people will each bring in a small, unwrapped gift (once again, a pre-determined amount of money is agreed upon in advance.)  All the people bring their gifts in on the planned day and the fun begins: Players take turns either choosing a gift from the pile, or stealing the a gift chosen from another player.  If the person decides to “steal” the gift from another participant, they are required to replace it with a gift that hasn’t yet been chosen from the “community pile.”  At the end, each person has a gift! Of course, as with many games there are several variations and they can all be found on the ubiquitous Wikipedia page.   Students here at the EC Miami English School are encouraged to participate and take part!!

Idiom of the Week — “get it/catch on”

Recently I (Mark) started teaching a TOEFL class here at the EC Miami English School.  Students are frequently interested in the TOEFL when they want to work and/or study in the United States.  Often, much like with the Cambridge exams, students will come here to Miami to prepare for their TOEFL exam. But, let’s be honest — the TOEFL is difficult.  Students often start the class with a high level of frustration, simply because it is a new way of looking at the language for them.  However, as time progresses, students begin to get it.  It may take them some time to catch on, but once they do, they find that are able to get it much quicker. When I was a student, I remember very clearly when I finally started to catch on to Spanish.  It was a great feeling when I finally got it and was able to communicate in a foreign language. Of course, I’m talking about understanding!  By now, you‘ve certainly caught on. Do you get it?

Academic Lecture — “Thanksgiving” — by Evgeniy Evseev

Every month students are given an opportunity to attend a college-style lecture given either by one of our teachers, or by an invited member of the community.  Over the time since the EC Miami English School has been open, we have had many students learn about varied subjects.  One constant, however, is in November when Thanksgiving is discussed.  This year, two lectures were given to students in different academic levels.  Students wrote about the lecture they attended, and then one winner from each group was chosen. From the Pre-Intermediate class, we have Evgeniy Evseev from Russia: Thanksgiving is a national holiday. This holiday means that all people give thanks for God . In 1620, the Mayflower sailed up to the “New World” — America, where there lived Native Americans whose were “Indians”.  When pilgrims were exploring the new world, Indians helped them with food, clothes, and medicine.  The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims and Indians together.  But later, the pilgrims decided that this territory belong to them.  Certainly the Indians didn’t agree and the war began.  As a result pilgrims won the war.  In 1863, Lincoln made Thanksgiving official.  This holiday is celebrated every fourth Thursday. In our days, Thanksgiving is usually celebrated with family at home.  A lot of people cook special holiday dishes like green beans, turkey, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie, and turducken. The next day after Thanksgiving is “Black Friday”.  Then day when sales start and people buy everything that they want.

Academic Lecture — “Thanksgiving” — by Minji Kang

  Every month students are given an opportunity to attend a college-style lecture given either by one of our teachers, or by an invited member of the community.  Over the time since the EC Miami English School has been open, we have had many students learn about varied subjects.  One constant, however, is in November when Thanksgiving is discussed.  This year, two lectures were given to students in different academic levels.  Students wrote about the lecture they attended, and then one winner from each group was chosen. This month’s winner was Minji Kang, also one of our student ambassadors and one of our CAE students: Thanksgiving is one of the biggest national holiday sin America.  Literally, it means giving thanks, and celebrating with family or close friends while eating a lot of food. However, some people say Thanksgiving should be more like mourning rather than celebration.  Because it is based on American history which has a tragic part.  The pilgrims moved to America from England for religious freedom.  Because of their rough journey, they had to learn how to cultivate and hunt from Native Americans.  Although most Native Americans were killed by the pilgrims in a battle, after that.  These days, people usually focus on “giving thanks” for the harvest. Turkey is the representative food of this day, but there are also other foods such as potatoes, cranberries, green beans, and pumpkin pie as dessert. In addition, it’s not just sharing food.  The meal is followed by some interesting things like Black Friday and watching sports games. People watch NFL games at home, and many stores provide huge discounts on their product on Black Friday.  Also, Macy’s Thanksgiving parade in New York is so famous that it is televised in all the states every year. Lastly, there’s one wawy to … Read more

Idiom of the Week — “have over”

It’s time for the holidays!  The last month of the year is a festive time for many of us in the United States.  It’s a time for friends and family, a time to be with the people we love and care about.  Here at the EC Miami English School, it is certainly no different. As a child growing up outside of Washington D.C., my family would often have many people over during the holidays.  It would start with Thanksgiving, when we had at least 20 people over for the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  On my birthday, my parents would have my friends over for cake, ice cream, and games to celebrate. Having people over is a nice way to relax and share time with others.  But holidays aren’t the only reason to have someone over.  Perhaps you want to have some people over to simply watch a game or have a casual meal.  When people move, they might have others over for a housewarming party (or even have friends over to help with painting and organizing the new house!).  Dec. 31 is a very popular time to have people over to celebrate the coming of the New Year. When you have people over, you simply invite people to visit your home.  When was the last time you had friends or family over to visit? — Mark