Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A TOEFL student's success in math and languages

by Mia Della Pietra

After classes have finished at NYLC's Upper West Side location, it is usually very quiet.  The students have left and the staff are quietly typing at their desks.  But two of the students in the TOEFL class sometimes stay behind.  Their table is covered with notecards and textbooks.  Their TOEFL books, however, are in their bags. 

Felipe loves working with numbers, but he also has a huge
interest in learning languages.
Satomi and Felipe stay after their TOEFL class to teach each other Japanese and Spanish.  Satomi is thinking about going on vacation to South America this year, and Felipe just loves languages!  Felipe’s enthusiasm for languages has definitely paid off.  He recently scored a 103 on the TOEFL, which is incredibly impressive!

Felipe is from Chile.  He studied structural engineering at university and has a Master’s degree in engineering, as well.  While he does love languages, he picked engineering because of the mathematics involved in it.  

“Numbers!  Numbers were so easy for me,” he says. Also, engineering had the perfect balance of math and variety.

“I love that you can work in so many places,” he adds. Indeed, engineering school prepared him to learn anything that he wanted. 

In Chile, he worked as an associate director of infrastructure at the engineering school of a university.  He was responsible for new projects, including everything from their budget to their architecture. The most difficult part of his job was managing the construction of the buildings.  

“Construction is so tricky, the needs [of the project] can change while you are constructing something.”  Now he wants to get a Ph.D. in the U.S. in public policy to be able to work in infrastructure and civil engineering. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A Student Shares Her Thoughts on Teaching & Her Interest in Teaching English

by Ivan Brave

What first caught my attention about Heli was her sense of humor. During class breaks, she would show me Instagram memes from her phone, usually about Finnish and English. One day I asked her why she was interested in language, and she explained that she was studying to become an English teacher in Finland, and was soon to begin a study-abroad program in Boston. Immediately I knew she had a unique perspective on teaching, and that to find out more, I should interview her for the NYLC blog.

Heli’s life changed when she met her favorite teacher back in elementary school. Her dream is to give her own students that same feeling. This month, she begins an exchange semester at Boston’s Northeastern University, and returns to her home country in the spring. I was lucky to have chatted with her. Below is some of our conversation, where she shares her thoughts on teaching and learning, what it means to be a good student, and how teachers can equip students to think positively about learning. I've edited the transcript only slightly for brevity and flow.


IB: One thing I like about our interactions in class is your sense of humor. You’re always sharing memes about language. Here’s one my friend sent me last week. (I show her a meme, and it reads: “If pronouncing B’s as V’s makes me Russian, then Soviet.”)

HM: Hah, “So be it.” Yes, I like memes.

IB: Where do you find memes?

HM: I follow “9gag” on Instagram. They have many about anything, all topics.

IB: Is there any recent meme you remember?

HM: There was one today about Game of Thrones.

IB: How does it go?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

TOEFL Preparation Dos & Don'ts

by Mia Della Pietra

Congratulations!  You have decided to take the TOEFL.  More importantly, you have decided to study for it!  The TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) can be quite intimidating.  The test preparation books are huge, and the test score is incredibly important for your academic career.  But don’t worry! Here are some tips to get you through studying for the TOEFL with as little stress as possible!

DO research.
The maximum score on the TOEFL is 120.  However, the TOEFL does not have a “passing” or “failing” score. There is only the score that you need to get in order to apply to the academic program at the college or university of your choice.  The first step is to find out what the required score is.  Some students need a 60, some students need 100, and there is a huge difference between those two scores.  Find out what score you need, and tell your teacher!  Only then can they give you a more accurate assessment of how much studying you will need to do.

DO practice realistically.
The TOEFL is done on a computer, so the essays are typed.  The speaking section involves students recording themselves for a short, specific amount of time.  Therefore, while handwriting an essay for 2 weeks or speaking for hours to your friends might improve your overall English ability, it might not help your TOEFL score.  When you practice writing your essays, actually write the essay in the amount of time given on the test (20 or 30 minutes), and don’t use any programs that have autocorrect or spell check!  You won’t have those tools on the real test.  For the speaking section, record yourself with your phone speaking for 45 seconds or 1 minute.  Then play it to a friend and see if they can understand you.  Practice like you are really taking the test.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are you HEADING somewhere for Labor Day?

Time flies, and summer is almost over once again. Temperatures will start to drop and soon the leaves will turn colors. Not long after that, we will need to wear warmer clothing. Before all this happens though, we take a Monday off to enjoy summer before it goes away. We call this Monday Labor Day or the "unofficial" end of summer. FYI: summer officially ends on the fall equinox, which is on September 22 this year.

  • OVER - finished
  • DROP - decrease
  • FYI - For Your Information

Americans often head somewhere and do stuff to enjoy the weather on Labor Day. Many hit the beach to enjoy the sun and surf. While at the beach, people will likely hit the boardwalk to shop, get something to eat, or just watch people walk by. Some will hit the park to do some hiking and maybe take a dip in a lake. Some of us love to hit the road and get away from the city. What about you? Are you heading anywhere?

  • SURF - waves on the beach
  • TAKE A DIP - go in the water; go for a swim

Monday, August 28, 2017

A conversation between an ESL student and her teacher

NYLC student Beatrice Broglio 

Beatrice Broglio is a dedicated student who sits in the front row of my Post-Advanced Listening and Speaking class. She always raises her hand, ready to participate. 

Beatrice comes from a small town in northern Italy. One of her goals is to attend university here in the U.S. She is a writer who hopes to become a journalist or a lawyer, depending on where her heart takes her. 

by Ivan Brave

I learned that Beatrice loves to travel and has experienced leaving her hometown more than once. In our interview, she talks about moving to Milan, so she can study at the university there. She also talks about coming here to New York City, to improve her English. She shares her thoughts on what it means to be a great student and what she considers the qualities of a great teacher. In the end, we agree with her, and anyone who wants to explore a new and exciting city or who wants to become a better student will find her advice about moving to New York City useful.

Beatrice met me at noon after class on Tuesday to answer a few questions and to share her story for the blog. We were at the Upper West Side location, not in its sun-drenched lounge, for there the buzz of students allowed us no room. Instead, we talked in one of the smaller classrooms off to the side. She sat comfortably, was personable, and seemed excited about being the first student I was about to interview for New York Language Center. Below is a transcript of our conversation.

*Note: The transcript was edited only slightly, for the sake of brevity and to maintain the natural flow of our conversation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Modern Day American Slang

A major challenge that a lot of ESL students face is understanding and becoming familiar with the 15,000+ idioms/slang terms used in American English.  Slang words are informal terms that are very common in speech and, these days, in social media. While some slang words come and go, others last much longer and become commonly used terms for a very long time.

New slang emerge in pop culture all the time and it can confuse even native English speakers!

So to help us keep up, here are some commonly used in our language. Which ones do you already know and use?

Ain't- informal contraction of (Be) not; is not, are not, am not 
"Dime"/"Dime Piece"- (n) a perfect ten, an extremely attractive person
Bae- (n) abbreviation of "Before Anyone Else" -n- significant other
Boo- (n) significant other, boyfriend or girlfriend
Twerk- (n/v)- rump shaking dance
Nut Job/ Whack job- (n) crazy person
Turn up- (v)- to be excited and party
Mad- (adj)- very or a lot

--Slang Words and Definitions Provided by NYLC Instructor Andrew Tate

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NYLC Students Win the New York State TESOL Contest!

Each year, in order to showcase the tremendous talents of English language Learners, NYS TESOL proudly sponsors a student project contest. As usual, the contest theme is framed within the shifting landscapes of the needs of our culturally and linguistically diverse society.
The essays were judged on relevance, organization and overall impact, idea development, content and details and literary style. 

This spring, New York Language Center students and faculty participated in a New York State TESOL sponsored essay contest and our students and faculty were winners for the second year in a row. 

We are so proud of our two Upper West Side  faculty members: Ivan Brave and Jarod Young and their students Semayat Oliveira from Brazil and Ilona Altschuler from Germany.

This week we are featuring the essay that won First Prize, beautifully written by Semayat. Scroll down to read the full essay. 

Semayat Oliveira is a Brazilian journalist who graduated from the Methodist University of São Paulo. She is co-founder of the communications collective We, women of the periphery, which is managed by by seven women from low income neighborhoods in São Paulo. The project was born in 2014 with an article published in the Folha de São Paulo, one of the biggest newspaper in Brazil. The objective was to create new pathways to an alternative and inclusive media. Oliveira produces content as a reporter and is one of the managers of the collective. In October 2017, she will participate in The International Center on Journalists fellowship for Latin American journalists in Washington DC.

Locked Up: How to Support Mothers in Jail with Children Back Home

What is the cost of a kiss in the cheek with a “have a good night” from a mother at bedtime? It can be more important and expensive than bail, can change a life. 

"They have a million questions, they want to know where I’ve been". That's what Tanisha Bynum said about having to speak to her children about why she had been out for a while. She was arrested and far from them for days: no phones, no touching. When they finally met again, the kids were curious and she was worried. But, for sure, both sides were feeling relief. 

I read her story in Time Magazine, around May of this year. She is from Alabama and could have stayed for almost two months behind bars. She drove to the beach with a suspended license and got involved in an accident. The other car ran into her and, after the crash, the result was siting down and waiting in a local prison to go trial. Aside from being a mother of three kids, at that time, she was also two months pregnant. Her bail was around $10,000. She didn’t have the money to pay. Luckily, she had the bail paid by the "Mother Bail Out", a campaign for black women started this year on Mother Day by many movements for racial and social justice in different states.