4th of July Independence Day BBQ or POTLUCK??

That’s the question!!! This a special date for American people, When this day was coming, I was thinking of a big Hot Dog (San Francisco Corn Dog), Big burger and some beers, these was the perfect food for this day, at least for the big day, because when you listened to some American people spoke about your 4th of July, they always said the right word BBQ, friends and family. But for me, this wasn´t a BBQ, why? Because for me it was the best Potluck in my life, mmm ok my second best potluck, (sometimes I felt I now owned this word, and I am really felt like an American person jajaja is so strange!!) also I knew this word here, at the school, on last May, when EC had its birthday, everybody brought the most representative food of his countries; it was an amazing day.  Otherwise,  this day I went to my friend´s house with some other friends to the best Potluck in San Francisc;, we shared the best food I had ever eaten before, a traditional sourdough bread from San Francisco, lasagna, vegetables and avocado salad, rice with vegetables, roast chicken, burgers, corn dog, red and white wine and the best dessert for me, plum pie with ice cream. Everybody that went to the 4th of July, to my friend´s house were from different countries; it was an amazing experience –  we met there with Mexican, Canadian, Brazilian, French and of course,  American people.   At night we went together to The Ferry Building (near to the Bay) to see an amazing and fantastic Fireworks, the day was perfect for me, unforgettable day, always in my mind. It was the real American culture.   This is America – everybody brought the best from your native countries to … Read more

“The Hood” a free student activity at EC San Francisco

All cities have neighborhoods, and all neighborhoods have history.  However, often even local people have no idea about the history of their city.  San Francisco has a famous neighborhood that is easily understood by everyone  –  Chinatown.  And there is the Mission District, currently a vibrant cultural center of The City.  However, not everyone knows that the area is named for the Spanish Mission San Francisco de Assisi (Mission Dolores) that still sits quietly on the edge of the neighborhood.  You can probably guess why Little Italy is called that (just check out the restaurants), but why is Russian Hill called Russian Hill?  And what is the Western Addition? A very popular free activity at ECSF involves students in discovering the history of San Francisco neighborhoods, the influence of people of different nationalities on The City, and the geographic and demographic changes since San Francisco began as a tiny military base belonging to Spain.  Walking, or using public transportation, students get to and then explore various SF neighborhoods, learning about the fascinating history of this famous multicultural center while practicing their English.  This is one of our most popular free activities, and many students come back week after week to learn more about The City, and see it with new eyes.  San Francisco’s “Hoods” are calling you.  Why not join us to learn more?

Off the Beaten Track – Lake Tahoe by train

At one time, you could get on a train in San Francisco, change trains, and actually get off the second train on the steamer dock literally ON Lake Tahoe.  Those days are gone, but one can still get to Lake Tahoe on public transportation (Amtrak), and go anywhere around the lake by bus (TARTS).  And since Lake Tahoe can have really bad traffic, especially on weekends in the summer, getting there, and getting around, without needing to drive, is very attractive. Lake Tahoe is considered to be one of the most beautiful lakes in North America, and anyone who likes natural beauty (lakes and mountains), and has at least a weekend to spare, should make the trip.  The train makes it easy, and interesting, as it follows much of the route originally built by Chinese laborers in the late 1800’s.  The route is called the California Zephyr, named for one of the great American trains, and the leg that gets you close to Lake Tahoe is just the first part of the 3 day and 2 night journey from San Francisco to Chicago (which you should also do if you have time [and like train travel]).  The ride is relaxing, comfortable, and beautiful.  The price isn’t bad either, so what more can you ask? The lake offers water sports (obviously), although the water is too cold to swim in until August, hiking, quiet beaches, and the sound of wind in the pines.  It also has nightlife, great restaurants, and casinos with gambling and floorshows.  In the winter, it is one of the top ski destinations in the U.S.  When you study English at EC in San Francisco, you owe it to yourself to get out of the city and see some of our magnificent state.  And this way, you don’t … Read more

What’s in Your Future? EC San Francisco presents more simple grammar.

When you are learning English, it may seem that the language has little interest in the present, but is obsessed with the past and future.  This may well be so.  Celebrating or regretting the past, or planning for the future, do seem to take up a lot of energy and time in English.  The multiple possibilities for talking about the future certainly seem to suggest  we do it a lot.  And it can be a bit confusing. However, it is becoming simpler.  If you look in an old-style grammar book, you will find a complex set of “rules” for when to use Future Simple (“will”), when to use “going to,” when to use Present Progressive for future, and when you can use Simple Present for future.  In particular, a lot of effort was put into (in some cases, is still put into) the difference between “will” and “going to.” Except that, at least in spoken American English, it really almost never matters.  Plans?  “I’m going to visit Europe someday” is more common, but you can say “I will” in the same sentence, and nobody will care.  Predictions?  “I think it’s going to rain tomorrow.”  “Oh, really?  Well, I don’t think it will rain for at least a week!”  In fact, the only clear difference between the two now is that “will” is still the only way to talk about a sudden decision.  “We are going to lunch now.”  “Wait, I’ll come with you.”  “I’m going to come with you” means a plan, and you can’t have a sudden plan. Okay, what about the other two?  In cases of a plan (but not a prediction), you can use Present Progressive for future if you say it is the future.  Therefore, at noon, if you say “I’m leaving,” you mean now, but … Read more

A hilltop lake? Off the Beaten Track with EC San Francisco

You’re in San Francisco, studying English at EC.  Outside of class, you need something less urban to do.  The idea of a park beckons.  When you visit the lush woodlands and meadows that comprise San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, it is hard to believe that at one time this was a wasteland of sand.  In fact, the whole park is artificial.  This is not to say that this is Disneyland, with fake trees.  The trees are real enough.  It’s just that they, along with the lawns and all the other plants in the park, were carefully planted, and lovingly cared for, in order to create the third largest urban park in the United States. Perhaps the clearest indication of the fantasy-like artificiality of GG Park is Stowe Lake.  What makes it so obviously man-made?  It sits at the top of a hill behind the Japanese Tea Garden.  A lake on top of a hill?  In addition, the lake is nearly donut shaped, with a “mountainous” island in the middle of it.  And on weekends, a huge waterfall drops from the top of the peak, down a number of cascades to the lake.  (On weekdays, the pumps are turned off, and there is no waterfall.)  While the park itself is real, this part of the park would have warmed the heart of Walt Disney  – it’s 100% fake!  And, for me, the obvious fakeness makes it more wonderful.  (Note:  I wouldn’t try swimming in this water  –  it’s green!  –  but you can rent a paddleboat, a canoe, or an electric power boat to go around the lake.  Of course, you can walk faster, but what’s the fun in that?)

Writing development, from your friends at EC San Francisco

Writing is considered to be the toughest of the four major language skills.  In many cultures, there is relatively little expectation that people will ever do much original writing, and the expectation for students to write is limited.  However, in the US, writing is one of the primary ways that students are expected to demonstrate subject knowledge, and no student, even in Math and Science, can be expected to graduate without at least some skill in writing. Obviously, to develop ones writing skill to the level needed to get into an American university, and to succeed there, requires time, dedication, and the help of professionals (such as the staff at EC San Francisco).  You can learn vocabulary on your own, you can study grammar from a book, but to develop the needed facility with language that skilled writing requires, you need some trained outside help.  You can’t learn what you are doing wrong in an essay simply by writing a lot of them.  You need someone to read them. That said, there are some simpler approaches that can get you more comfortable with writing in English.  I had one student who made hugely effective use of a journal.  Every day, whether he felt like it or not, he wrote in his journal.  It might be as simple an entry as a description of the weather, or as complex as a heartfelt expression of his homesickness, and depression about his “slow” progress.  Once a week he let me read it, and make suggestions for improvement. This was a challenge for both of us.  I was faced, essentially, with multiple genres, from pure descriptive writing through narrative autobiography, and into the fringes of self-analysis of personal psychology.  For him, he had to write every day, even if he didn’t want to, or … Read more

Lunchtime at EC San Francisco English language school

EC San Francisco has a great location in the Financial District, just one block from Market Street, BART, and Muni Metro, close to the Ferry Building and to Union Square, and easy walking distance to Chinatown.  Still, like most office districts in major cities, it is not known for fabulous restaurants.  The cuisine here tends more toward the goal of getting some food into as many office workers as possible in a short time. However, just because one has to eat in a relative hurry doesn’t mean being reduced to “golden arches,” or unidentified parts of chicken.  There are a lot of workmanlike places near EC, serving well-made and tasty food, rapidly, and at acceptable prices.  One popular place to get lunch is the Crocker Galleria, which features a large number of small restaurants serving a wide variety of cuisines, both for eating at tables under the arched glass roof, or for takeaway.  You can pick up a burrito, Indian chaat, Chinese, Japanese, or a variety of soups and salads.  Quick, tasty, and just what you need to get you through an afternoon of learning English at EC San Francisco .

Off the Beaten Track in San Francisco – Mission Dolores

Students in California learn about the Mission phase of California history while still in elementary school.  The brainchild of Fra. Junipero Serra, the missions were designed to extend Spanish power up into California from Mexico, by building a series of self-sufficient church communities as far north as was possible.  These communities would be used to “civilize” the California Indians by enslaving them, and forcing them to convert to Catholicism.  The original plan was to build these churches, approximately a day’s ride apart, all the way north to where Russia was hunting and colonizing. It’s easy to tell where most missions were built, since the vast majority of them took their names from saints, and gave their names to the towns and cities that grew around them.  If you see a “San” or a “Santa” in a California city name, there once was a mission there.  Some of the missions are no more, victims of changing demographics, economics, and the weather (as they were all made of sun-dried mud bricks), but many of them are still intact (and still hold church services in their churches).  Mission Santa Barbara is worth a visit, as is Mission San Juan Bautista, not far south of San Jose (which is south of San Francisco, home to EC San Francisco).   But San Francisco itself has its own intact mission, Mission Dolores, in the heart of the Mission district, and easy BART ride from EC.  In the Mission museum you can see artifacts from the early days of California, and get a strong sense of what The City was like when it was primarily a Spanish military base (The Presidio was once a Spanish [and then Mexican] military encampment), long before the Gold Rush, the Bear Republic, or admission to America.  I find the relics of … Read more

EC San Francisco English school visits UC Berkeley

The San Francisco Bay Area is home to dozens of colleges and universities, both public and private, but two stand out both in national rankings and in the minds of people worldwide  –  UC Berkeley (“Cal”) and Stanford.  UC Berkeley is the flagship, and original campus, of the University of California, which has campuses statewide.  Cal was the first, and is still the campus with the best name recognition.  In addition, the campus boasts both scenic beauty, and architectural landmarks. Stanford, (a private university), also is worth a visit when you are in the Bay Area.  The only problem is that it is not very convenient from San Francisco if you are using public transportation.  You need a combination of BART, CalTrain, and bus.  Cal, on the other hand, is amazingly simple.  From EC San Francisco, walk one block to Montgomery BART, and get on a Richmond train.  Ride about 20 minutes, and get off in downtown Berkeley.  From the BART station, it is one short block to Oxford Street, which marks the west side of the UC Berkeley campus. Cal is built on a slight slope, as it is at the foot of the Berkeley hills, so a walk onto the campus (and up through it) is a gentle uphill stroll.  The topography has allowed the campus to retain a great deal of natural beauty, in spite of being densely covered with lecture halls.  If you cross Oxford from Center Street (walking up the street from BART), you come rapidly to a lovely woodland path which immediately crosses a small stream, Strawberry Creek, which flows through the campus from the canyon above.  The short stretch between the first two bridges has been left in a natural state, displaying California Redwoods, California Live Oak, and California Bay Laurel trees.  One … Read more

Developing Your Reading

Of the four primary language skill areas, reading is the most demanding.  In fact, it is so demanding that many people never become proficient readers in their first language.  If you don’t like to read, you don’t read, which means you don’t get better.  It’s one of the big problems in American education, and the problem has spread to Europe and Asia as well.  Smart Phones and the Internet haven’t helped matters either. The real problem is not that people don’t read well, but that, even with electronic technology, reading remains the key to learning, to developing many types of job skills, and to accessing detailed information.  For students who want to attend a college or university, skill in reading is a must.  Yet this is hard to develop in a second language, even if you like reading in your first language.  If you generally never read, it’s even harder.  So what can you do? Well, there’s no easy fix, no magic pill you can take to make reading in English come easily.  If you like to read, developing English reading will still be a chore.  If you don’t like reading it will be harder still.  But if you are really serious about your future, you move forward.  And it can be done. The most common two mistakes are to attempt to read something that is too difficult, or to read something that doesn’t interest you.  Of the two, I think interest is more important.  If you really want to read something, you will, even if it is a challenge.  When the third Harry Potter book was coming out in Britain, children and parents were lined up outside bookshops in London.  The stores were going to open at midnight, just to sell the book.  I saw an interview with a … Read more