Going North – touring California (and beyond) when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Hi all, Yesterday, I told you a bit about driving south on CA Highway 1 if you want to visit Los Angeles while you are here studying ESL abroad at EC San Francisco .  Since I gave you an idea about the joys of Hwy 1 southbound, it’s only fair to give you an idea about the northward journey as well. Drive across the famous Golden Gate Bridge, on U.S. Highway 101.  You can’t see it, but California Highway 1 is there as well.  When you get to the cute Marin County town of Mill Valley, you turn off the big highway, and begin to follow CA 1.  After you cross the shoulder of Mount Tamalpais (Mt. Tam), you begin winding along cliffs high above the ocean, heading for the popular beach town of Stinson Beach.  From there on, it’s typical Northern California coastal landscapes all day  –  rolling hills, unexpected forests, dairy cows, lagoons, small rivers crossed by small bridges, and the ever-present Pacific Ocean on your left.  Highway 1 is only two lanes in most places (one in each direction), so this is about the journey, not the destination.  In fact, going north on 1, there really is no destination  –  there’s just the road and the beauty that is California.  There aren’t many towns, and none of them are large.  However, there are lots of places to eat, and lodging ranging from inexpensive older motels to luxurious inns serving gourmet food.  Mendocino is a popular romantic destination, and a nice town for strolling the main street and window shopping. If you go far enough, past the town of Fort Bragg, Highway 1 leaves the ocean, climbs into the mountains, and ends at U.S. 101, just at the southern end of the great Redwoods.  If you have the … Read more

When you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco, take the train to see more trains

Hi, I’m Karl, a long-term ESL teacher, and when you come to study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco you’ll meet me.  In addition to being one of the Senior Teachers, and a former film and television actor, I’m a rail fan.  I love trains. Some tourists visiting the U.S. don’t even know we have trains, and Amtrak (our passenger rail system) is a bit worn out, and slow.  However, the trains are comfortable, the service is good, and you can’t get lost, or have to worry about crazy drivers or strange traffic laws.  If you want to see the country (rather than just get to another city by air), the train is a good choice, at a good price. It’s also part of the history of this country, and one of the reasons that the U.S. was able to become the world power it is today.  California owes much of its existence as the most populous (and popular) state to the railroad.  It also has, in Sacramento, the California Railroad Museum, one of the best museums of industry I have ever seen  If you are interested in trains, or history, (ideally both), this is a must-see. The museum is just on the edge of “Old Town,” the oldest surviving part of Sacramento.  It is also a very short walk from the Amtrak station.  For me, that’s the best part.  From EC San Francisco, I can take a combination of Amtrak coach (across the Bay Bridge) and train, and be delivered almost to the door of a museum dedicated solely to  — trains!  The journey along and across San Francisco Bay, and then across the great Central Valley, is worth it in itself.  So is the museum.  The combination, for train buffs, is perfection.

Activities when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Hi, I’m Koki, from Japan, one of EC San Francisco’s Student Ambassadors.  It’s my job to help you be comfortable, and have things to do while you are here to study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco     Do you know one of the popular activity, Coffee club??  Last time I led the coffee club, it was really nice. In general, we play some games while drinking coffee, and eating snacks.  Seems simple, but it (and other activities) are good chances to make new friends, to improve English. I strongly recommend joining activities. Starting next time, new ambassadors will lead our coffee clubs. If you have some ideas about games for coffee club and also about other activities, feel free to ask us; we will create that activity.  Thank you for your interest in coffee club, and next coffee club’s chance is up to you; if you want to do it soon, let us know, we will make it soon.

Going South – Touring California when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Most students, when they study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco, want to make the trip south to visit Los Angeles if they possibly can.  As the “other city” in California, it’s probably worth the trip, but there is a lot of California in between, and you miss most of it if you go the fast way, on Interstate 5, or, worse yet, fly.  For those who want to see California, and not just two cities, U.S. Highway 101, or, better still, California Highway 1, are far better choices. Driving south from San Francisco on Highway 1, you pass many State Beaches, the developed areas of Half Moon May and the UC town of Santa Cruz, and then drive along scenic Monterey Bay to the tourist destinations of Monterey and Carmel.  Going south from there, the scenery transforms from merely lovely to spectacular, and the sheer drop to the sea, the winding road (some curves are only 15 miles per hour), the hidden valleys and beaches, and the towering trees of Big Sur make the drive memorable.  You may look at Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame” and go “ho hum,” but nobody forgets the drive south on 1. Highway 1 also goes north from San Francisco, and is equally lovely, but that’s a story for another day.

Vocabulary when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Obviously, to learn a language, you need not only to become good at the grammar and syntax (word order), but also to have the words you need to express yourself.  So, when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco, we try to give you a broad range of techniques to study vocabulary (which most of us are not very good at).  I’ve read a lot of the research, and given a lot of workshops, so here’s another idea that works. Most nouns are stand-alone  –  there’s only one word for a thing.  Name another word for “hair.”  “Fur?”  “Hey, dude, nice fur-cut?”  I don’t think so.  The same generally goes for verbs.  Adjectives, on the other hand (and, to a lesser extent, adverbs), tend to live in families, with different words having different strengths. A very powerful adjective learning technique uses a scale (think of a thermometer), with stronger words at the top, and weaker words at the bottom.  You used this to learn adverbs of frequency (“always” is at the top, “never” is at the bottom).  You can use absolutely the same technique for sets of adjectives.  And the good thing is, when you learn a new word in the set, you just stick it in where it goes. Give it a try with these words –  so-so, ecstatic, happy, sad, depressed, joyful, pleased, suicidal  (hint  –  “suicidal” is NOT at the top!)  And the good part is, this isn’t a science, so if you can’t decide if “joyful” goes above or below “happy” (I’d say it goes above), it doesn’t really matter, so long as you don’t think it is down with “sad” and “suicidal.” For me, this technique often leads me to try to add words to the list (I do this with Spanish  –  I … Read more

Off the Beaten Track (day trip) when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Visitors to San Francisco are probably aware of one famous (infamous) island in San Francisco Bay (Alcatraz), but there are many islands here, ranging from tiny rocks, to Alcatraz, to Angel Island.  When you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco you probably will want to visit Alcatraz, but you should equally strongly consider Angel Island. Alcatraz is famous as being “The Rock,” the only “inescapable” Federal prison.  Well situated as it is, and historically interesting as it may be, Angel Island tops it in three ways  –  location, history, and variety of activities.  Let me put it this way.  I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over 50 years.  I’ve never been to Alcatraz.  I’ve been to Angel Island at least 10 times. Historically, Angel Island is the Ellis Island of the West.  Although far fewer people came through Angel Island, if you were from Asia coming to the west coast of the U.S., you had to stay on Angel Island.  At one time thousands of Chinese lived in barracks on the East side of the island, some of them for months.  They left behind poetry written on the walls.  For lovers of history, these barracks have been carefully restored, the poetry translated, opening a window into the Asian immigrant experience. For me, the best part of the island is the view.  You can walk all the way around the island in a couple of hours (or rent a bike, and go faster), and the views are amazing.  From the landing at Ayala Cove, climb the steep slope to the circular road that takes you around the island.  Take a look across the bay to Tiburon, then turn right, and start walking.  As you progress, you will get fantastic views of Sausalito, then the Golden Gate Bridge, and then … Read more

Comradship and community when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Two weeks ago, we celebrated EC San Francisco’s 3rd Birthday with an International Potluck. It was amazing and delicious. Teachers and staff brought food made from favorite family recipes and students brought favorite dishes from their home countries. We had food from different regions of the United States as well as food from Spain, Japan, Columbia, Taiwan, Venezuela, Thailand, Korea, Turkey, China, Switzerland, Hungary, Saudi Arabia, Russia, to name a few! It was a delicious lunch and just one example of they ways in which we share cultures when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco! (Kelly) Which coutry’s food do you like? I guess you like your own country foods, but we have a lot of opportunities to eat other country’s foods, ask your friends!!  I cooked Japanese food for my friends, it’s called ‘shabu shabu.’ Maybe some of you know about it. Before I came here, I had almost no idea about other country’s foods and I met many friends from different coulture, they told me a large number of things about food.  To eat different kind of foods from your country is good, unforgettable experience. I am looking forword to eating meals which my friends cook (I hope they will) next time!! (Koki)

Another place to eat (vegan) when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Along with the question, “What is American culture?” comes the question, “What is American food?”  Is it just burgers and fries?  (If you want a great selection of vegan burgers [and other “soda fountain” food, such as milkshakes {vegan and non-vegan{], go to Saturn Cafe in Berkeley, only 2 blocks away from BART).  Or is there more to American food?  When you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco, you can find out easily. Since nearly all of what we eat here comes originally from elsewhere, you could say that Chinese, or Thai, or Italian is “American” food, but if you want vegan versions of American traditional standbys like meatloaf, you should try Herbivore.  The chain has three locations (two in SF, one in Berkeley), and I think the best of the three is the one on Divisadero.  The venue is bistro-style, with a garden seating area at the back, for those rare warm days in San Francisco, and the food is as good as it gets.  If you can, leave enough room for dessert  –  the cakes [all vegan] are super.  This restaurant has a reputation that extends well beyond San Francisco.

Cross-cultural communication problems when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco (or anywhere)

CULTURAL MISUNDERSTANDINGS Sometimes when we are in a foreign country, we can find situations where we can be in an embarrasing situation because we say something that in our native language is normal but not in the language that they speak in this foreign country. Or maybe situations where you want to express something and you say one word that is correct, but your pronunciation is not totally correct and they might understand another thing. I have had some experiences with misunderstandings since I arrived here.  My first week in San Francisco (to study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco) I told one friend that I was hungry, but my pronunciation wasn’t correct so my friend asked me “Why are you angry? What is the problem?” And I said to her “ There’s no problem here!, I used to eat everyday”. Have you heard anything about baby cologne? Here it is not usual, but in my country it is totally normal and not only for babies, because some people like it and they use it, like me. I needed it so I went to the supermarket to buy it… I tried in four or five supermarkets, and then in different stores but nobody knows anything about baby cologne, actually people look at me like if I was totally crazy!! Baby cologne?? What is that! In one occasion one guy laughed at me.. I felt so bad, and then I could understand that here is not normal to use it.  These kind of things can be funny, but there are another situations where you might feel embarrassed, like for example, in English you can say “I like you mum” without any problems, because you think that my mum is nice, but in Spain, we only use “like” to talk about objects, … Read more

Cultural events when you study ESL abroad at EC San Francisco

Saint Patrick’s Day and the Parade by Student Ambassador Yunhee Ahn There is a holiday in the United States called ‘Saint Patrick’s Day’ ( originally  from Ireland, but also it has been celebrated in many countries.)  On Saint Patrick’s Day in the U.S, people celebrate for the Irish and Irish American culture. Since the U.S had many Irish immigrants, especially in San Francisco, it became a holiday in some cities in the U.S. The parade for Saint Patrick’s Day starts one day before the holiday. I saw the Saint Patrick’s Day parade while studying ESL abroad at EC San Francisco with my language schoolmates at San Francisco’s  Civic Center. Saint Patrick’s Day is known as ‘the wearing of the green’, so my friends and I wore green items to celebrate it. Saint Patrick’s Day parade was so exciting! Everyone on the parade dressed up with green clothes, and sang and danced together. We also watched musical performances and drank Irish coffee. After enjoying the parade, we went to Irish pub and enjoyed eating food and drinking beer. That day was my first time to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in my life. It was a good chance to know the Irish American culture and to hang out with friends. (This is a bit late, but so many EC students in San Francisco have contributions to the blog that it is hard to keep up.)