EC San Francisco visits SF public television

Ideally, part of a good language program is providing students with stimulating experiences that they might not otherwise have.  At EC San Francisco, we work hard to give students a diverse set of opportunities to use English beyond the classroom  So, a couple of our elective classes had the opportunity to visit one of the first public television stations in the U.S., KQED TV in San Francisco. Television is such a huge part of our lives, yet few of us get the chance to be in a studio in front of the cameras, or see the extent of the work that goes on behind the cameras.  In addition to touching the part of history represented by KQED, EC students got to experience a bit of the reality of the medium that, more than any other, has shaped the development of world culture since the 1950’s.  Just another small part of the program that we offer at EC San Francisco, (or similar opportunities at other EC locations).  Want to know more?  Send us a comment to this blog, or follow this link to our website  –  EC San Francisco .

Grammar Help is available (without calling 911)

Most students would say that the core of learning a language is to be able to use the grammar.  As a result, almost all ESL schools focus, to some extent, on the basics of English grammar.  Sometimes, however, the work in class just isn’t enough to make the idea clear to you, or you want to know now not later, but you don’t want to interrupt the teacher.  Don’t fear  –  the “Grammar Doctor” is here. One of EC San Francisco’s weekly free classes, the Grammar Doctor is ready to help you with grammar (or other) questions, assist with homework, or just make you feel more confident about what you are doing.  As with our program as a whole, our goal is to make learning English as positive and productive an experience as is possible.  (And this isn’t just EC San Francisco  –  the same is true for all EC centers.)  So drop in on the Grammar Doctor for “a checkup.”  It’s painless  –  and it’s free.

Golden Era serves up fantastic food (for veggies and non-veggies alike)

One more great eatery for vegetarians / vegans, and not too far from EC San Francisco, is Golden Era, O’Farrell at Jones.  Like its sister restaurant in Oakland, Golden Lotus, Golden Era serves up superb veggie food, mostly in Vietnamese style.  The broth for their soups is amazing, the ginger “fish” is a delight, and the House Rice Claypot, a mix of rice, vermicelli and bean thread noodles, cooked in their great soup broth and flavored with ginger and black pepper, is “to die for.”  For dessert, you can get a vegan version of the French / Vietnamese classic custard dessert, flan.  Except for being a bit less sweet than flan made with eggs and milk, this vegan version has both the taste and texture of the original. Prices are reasonable, and the decor is nice.  I’ve never had bad service at either Golden Era or Golden Lotus, and the organization’s goal of encouraging more people to eat a plant-based diet is necessary for the ultimate survival of life on Earth.  The only downside is the location, on the edge of the SF neighborhood called the Tenderloin, but O’Farrell is a main street, and the restaurant is only a few blocks from the popular Powell Street.  It’s not my favorite neighborhood, but I’ve never felt unsafe there. Now that EC San Francisco is switching to a 45 minute lunch, Golden Era is a bit out of range, but if you are shopping near Union Square, or just want a deliciously different dinner experience, you should try it.  My parents are not vegetarian, and some places we have taken them, I know they were just being polite about the food.  However, if we say “Let’s eat at Golden Lotus” (Oakland is closer to their house), they run to put on their … Read more

Filling your English stockpile of stock phrases, from EC San Francisco

Among all the challenges of vocabulary development, phrasal verbs and what are called “stock phrases” in English are one more level of necessary knowledge.  You can find an endless supply of books and online sources that can help, with a variety of organizational approaches.  One approach I like is to take a key word (either in a phrasal or a phrase), and see what changes can happen around it.  For example, with phrasals, if I learn “look up” (Look it up in the dictionary.), I want to know about “look down,” “look out,” “look in,” etc., changing the preposition (sometimes called a “particle” now) to see 1) Is this a possible phrasal?  and 2) What does it mean?  So, here are some phrases using “end.”  (The choice is random.) to be at a loose end: to have nothing particular to do Toby found himself at a loose end once all of his friends had left the playground to leave something on end: to leave something upside down The waiter put the tables on end before cleaning the floor at/towards the end: when something is close to finishing The plot got surprisingly complicated towards the end of the movie to end up: to arrive somewhere by chance We got lost on our way to Golden Gate Park and ended up in Chinatown to make ends meet: to have just enough money to get by Emma was finding it difficult to pay rent and make ends meet The end of the line: the end of something  –  for a living thing (including a human), death or total defeat.              Waterloo was the end of the line for Napoleon. the end justifies the means: if your goal is good, you can do anything to reach it.                                                               The end of creating a nation that stretched … Read more

“Pronunciation Power” helps develop English for Adult and Executive students at EC San Francisco

Maybe you’ve had this problem.  Your grammar is pretty good, you have enough vocabulary, you feel fairly confident when speaking English, but when you talk to native speakers, a lot of the time you hear “WHAT?????”  The experience makes you feel bad, and really damages your confidence.  Well, maybe the solution is an easy one  –  it might be your pronunciation. “Pronunciation Power” is a free one-hour class that we offer weekly to our adult and executive students here at EC San Francisco.  The class may address common problems (for example, “th” sounds, and the “ir” in bird and world), problems related to your first language (when you say “like,” do people hear you say “lie?”) or individual issues that vary from student to student.  Many “serious” pronunciation issues can be fixed in a short time (some in less than 5 minutes), but you really need an expert to hear what you are doing wrong, and help you learn how to do it right.  And the class is free.  Just one of many free classes and activities available at EC San Francisco, and all EC schools.  Follow the link to our website.

LA another way – The Coast Starlight (train)

Passenger rail in the U.S. doesn’t compare in speed or modernity with rail in Europe, Japan, or Korea.  However, what it lacks in those areas, it more than makes up for in scenic beauty, the opportunity to really see the country, and the chances to meet and talk with people from all over the U.S., and all over the world.  If you are outgoing, and not in a hurry, Amtrak (the train) is a great way both to tour the U.S. and to use the English that you have come so far to improve. From E.C. San Francisco, there are two major rail routes.  The Bay Area is near the midpoint of the West Coast route taken by the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle.  It is also one endpoint of the East/West route between Chicago (and New York / Boston) and San Francisco, the incredibly beautiful California Zephyr.  But for now, let’s talk about getting to L.A. by train. Taking the Coast Starlight (in either direction) takes close to 12 hours.  Southbound, you leave San Francisco (Emeryville station) at around 9 am, and arrive in Los Angeles (Union Station) at around 9 pm.  For this reason, if you aren’t familiar with the area, this may not be the best option.  Instead, you can take another train / bus combination [the San Joaquin] that will get you to L.A. by 4, giving you time to get to your hotel, clean up, go to dinner, etc., before getting a good night’s sleep.  I recommend getting to L.A. this way (or flying, or driving one way), and then coming back to the Bay Area on the Starlight.  So what if you get in at 9 or 10?  You live here! If you do go south on the Starlight, you pass a … Read more

The Castro Theater, a San Francisco landmark

The Castro Theatre is one of the oldest movie theaters in San Francisco. The theater was built in 1922, with a beautiful mixture of Spanish colonial, Chinese, and Italian architecture. The inside of the theater is decorated with murals, an ornate stage curtain and a massive Wurlitzer organ which is played before most movies.  It is one of the few untouched survivors in the Bay Area of the great “movie palaces” of the early 20th century. Nowadays, the theater plays classic American movies, and visitors can travel back in time to enjoy the traditional American movie experience with a unique San Francisco twist. If you want to see a movie at the Castro Theatre, check the Castro schedule online. The theater is in the heart of San Francisco’s famous Castro District, easy to reach on Muni Metro.  After the movie, there are plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to enjoy if you and your friends want to stay out late.  

REALLY SIMPLE ENGLISH GRAMMAR – Avoiding Past Perfect

Lots of students struggle with Present Perfect and Past Perfect, and with some reason, as they are more complex than, for example, Simple Past.  Many student confuse Past Perfect and Present Perfect.  Past Perfect is always about the past, but half the time, Present Perfect is also about the past.  Very confusing.  (See the previous post on this topic). What I like about Past Perfect is 1)  It has only one use, and 2) You can avoid using it if you want to. The One Use  –  comparing 2 events in the past.  The older (earlier) one uses the Past Perfect.  The other half of the sentence (there must be two parts, or two time references close together) use Simple Past.  So, for example, “I went to see The Hobbit, but they had sold out.”  As you can see, the selling of all the tickets (“sold out”) happens before the speaker arrives at the movie.  Both events are in the past, but one (the Past Perfect bit) is earlier.  It is always earlier. This can be a bit confusing at times.  If it is, just don’t use it (sorry, other grammar teachers, but we have to be practical).  Instead of Past Perfect, use a time marker word (before, after, already, when, etc.) to give the same information.  So, as above, “I went to see The Hobbit, but they were already sold out.” Stay tuned for more simple grammar from EC San Francisco.

Yuri, an EC San Francisco student, at Stern Grove

It was a great Sunday with an unexpected nice weather. We went to Stern Grove Park with Our EC teacher Drew and Student Ambassador Qi for a free open live concert. We brought food, snacks, beverages and frisbees! Drew got to the park really early that morning to occupy a good view spot. Thanks for Drew, we sat really close to the stage. During the concert, we hailed and danced, enjoyed every moment. It was so touching when seeing people waving their bodies and singing along with the singer Michael McDonald, an old romantic song. I couldn’t forget the day.  We had  lots of fun there with our EC group, and we really recommend everybody check for the continuous activities of Stern Grove festival. Yuri

Yosemite, the queen of the Sierras

If you’re just an urbanite, and you can’t see the point of life without a club scene and shopping, skip this post.  On the other hand, if the natural world calls to you, if you are in California, you must see Yosemite.  And it’s really convenient to visit Yosemite if you are studying English at EC San Francisco, because it’s just a 5 1/2 hour drive (or 6 1/2 hour train trip).  While Lake Tahoe is very popular, both for gambling and the lake itself (one of the most beautiful in North America), Yosemite is more famous internationally, and for good reason. I’m not sure how many times I’ve visited Yosemite.  Well over 30, because my parents took me twice a year (Spring and Fall), starting when I was 5, and ending sometime when I was in college, and I’ve been there since as well.  I never tire of it.  The towering cliffs, the Merced River’s green stillness or frothing rapids, and, of course, the waterfalls, make the Valley unique in the world.  There is now a free shuttle service, so you don’t have to be trapped in your car (or even have one), and they have reduced the number of lodgings and campsites, so the crowds of the past are gone (although there are a lot of visitors in Summer). I’ve been to the Swiss Alps, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, and both are magnificent, but if you love mountains, and you don’t visit Yosemite (either the Valley, or the backcountry), you are making a huge mistake.  So, when you come to EC San Francisco, either to brush up your English or to prepare for an American university, set aside some time (even a weekend is worthwhile) for this queen of the Sierras  –  one of the jewels in … Read more