Friday, February 23, 2018

Meet the NYLC Students: Illia Lopez

Students in the Post Advanced Level at NYLC Jackson Heights do essay writing as a part of their practice for the TOEFL Exam. One of our students was asked to “describe a time when you couldn’t do your normal routine”. Here's his heartfelt essay.


Ten years ago, when I was in high school, I used to play a lot of sports, like basketball, water polo, soccer and volleyball, but the sport I liked the most was definitely soccer. If my memory is right, we had won all the tournaments already, but there was still remaining the final of the soccer championship, which was going to be the following day.

In the days before the match I was able to keep myself safe and available until something happened. While we were training, one of my teammates, accidentally, pushed me down and broke my leg!! In that moment while I was falling down and my leg was breaking, I was in darkness. I felt tiny and fragile as though everybody were bigger than me and I would not know how to protect myself from them. I knew I could not face this important match I was preparing for. When I realized that, my eyes filled up and tears streamed down my face as a waterfall in a river.

The match day I could not even go to school to take classes. I felt awful and weak. I did not want to see anyone, not even my parents or friends. I got a lot of supporting messages from my friends but I ignored them. That day went by really slowly. I spent the whole day in my bed watching the ceiling, thinking about the match I was missing when my mom came and hugged me. At the beginning that was weird, because I was not expecting that, but then I felt safe and loved. There is no doubt. Mothers are super heroes. 

Love you mom ❤️    

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Tips for TOEFL: The Reading Section



The reading section seems like it would be the most simple.  It’s the first one, so you are fresh and energized.  You can do back and check your answers (which you canNOT do on the listening section) and the text is right in front of you!  All you have to do is choose the correct answer!


However, consistently this is the section that my students have the most trouble with.  I have had many students who will always finish their reading practice exercises with tons of time to spare.  But suddenly when they are at the test center, they almost always run out of time!  Here are some tips and tricks I have learned to help with the reading section.


Manage your time
You have either 60 mins to complete 3 reading passages or 80 minutes to compete 4.  That sounds like plenty of time!  BUT it is not.  Do NOT spend more than 20 minutes on any of the passages.  There is a clock on the screen to help you.  Look at it frequently, and when you are practicing before the test, try to do 2 passages in 30 minutes as an exercise to help you push the pace.  This brings me to the next tip...


Practice on a computer
My students are always amazed by how much time it takes to click back and forth between the passage and the questions.  Get used to this by using the ETS published books to practice using the CD and a computer beforehand.  Flipping the pages of a book and moving a mouse around a screen actually take up different amounts of time!

Identify the type of question
This doesn’t help everyone, but most textbooks spend a decent amount of time introducing the type of questions that are asked.  Vocabulary questions, factual information questions, inference questions and negative factual information questions are just a few categories that often come up.  Learn what all of that means, and if you get stuck on a question try to think about what category it is and how that could help you find the correct answer. 

Pssstt...there is a trick to the summary questions!

A summary is not a piece of information. 


Vocabulary
The reading section can trip up the most prepared student if they run into a word they have never seen before.  Do not think that means memorizing every word in the dictionary!  Of course you should study vocabulary words, particularly from sample reading exercises in various textbooks, but you should also learn how to understand the word in context, and separate longer words into parts so you can recognize the root of the word. 

Vocabulary: trip up  v. to confuse push the pace expression to increase the rate of something

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

What’s the difference... Academic Vocabulary

by  Mia Della Pietra (native New Yorker)

Mia teaches TOEFL Preparation and other courses at NYLC's Upper West Side location. She was born and raised in NYC and lived in Thailand for two years training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and teaching English.  Now she enjoys meeting students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds and loves finding the humor in the challenges of learning English. In her free time, she watches mixed martial arts, hangs out with her two cats, and eats as much boxed macaroni and cheese as she can.   



The US education system can be a little confusing. It’s not designed in the same way that most other systems are across the globe. This “What’s the Difference” edition will focus on some of the most common questions I get from my students, and how to distinguish between these words and ideas.

College / University

This one is extra confusing, because in England these two words have different meanings. However, in American English we almost exclusively use the word college to describe earning a bachelor’s degree. Most colleges in the USA have the word university in their name, but we would say “I’m in college” or “I went to college” rather than “I went to university.”


SATs / Entrance exam

Across the globe the way to be admitted to university is usually to take an entrance exam, which is very often a standardized test. However, we do not do this in the USA. There is a standardized test that high-schoolers take in their last or second to last year, and this is the SATs. However, this is only a small part of an application to college. To apply to college a student submits their high school grades, a personal essay, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, letters of recommendations and more! So while the SATs are required by most schools, they are just a small part of your application.


Credit / Class

Credits are similar to points, in that they reflect the value of a class. Each class that you take in college will have an assigned credit value. If the class does not require a lot of studying or time in class (for example, a private voice lesson) it might be worth 1 credit. An intensive biology class might be worth 4 credits. It is important to keep track of how many credits you are taking per semester, and how many you have taken in total. It is normal to take about 4 classes per semester for a total of around 12-15 credits. If you haven’t taken enough credits at the end of your 4 years, you might not be able to graduate on time!


Expelled / Dropped Out / Flunked out

If you are expelled from college (or high school) this means that the school decided that you could no longer attend classes there. This is usually due to a behavioral issue, such as cheating on an exam, plagiarism, or a situation involving alcohol or drugs. If you drop out this is usually a voluntary action, due to a personal or maybe financial situation. Flunking out is what happens when you fail your classes, and can no longer continue that that college. Flunking out is usually a mutual agreement between the college and student that is is best if the student discontinues their studies there.



Test yourself!
1. He was really struggling all semester academically, I heard that he ultimately ________________.
2. In most of the world an ________________ is what determines which university a student can or cannot attend.
3. New York ________________ is one of the most expensive schools in the country.
4. I’m really nervous about the ________________, I’m taking them next month and I need at least a 700 in every section.
5. I’m taking 4 ________________ this semester.
6. I went to ________________ in 2010 and got my bachelor’s degree in 2014.
7. My grandmother is sick, I might have to ________________ of school so that I can stay home and help her.
8. I only need 11 more ________________ to graduate, so I think I can finish by the end of the summer.
9. Getting ________________ from college can damage your reputation.


Monday, January 22, 2018

What’s the difference: Family Addition

by  Mia Della Pietra (native New Yorker)

Mia teaches TOEFL Preparation and other courses at NYLC's Upper West Side location. She was born and raised in NYC and lived in Thailand for two years training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and teaching English.  Now she enjoys meeting students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds and loves finding the humor in the challenges of learning English. In her free time, she watches mixed martial arts, hangs out with her two cats, and eats as much boxed macaroni and cheese as she can.   



What’s the difference...

Families are complex, and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish how to describe the various relationships that exist within them.  Here are some similar but not quite the same expressions and vocabulary to help you navigate your family descriptions!


Take after / look like

The difference between take after and look like is a major one.  Looking like your family has to do with physical appearance.  If your face is similar to your mother’s, than you look like your mother.  Taking after someone has to do with your personality or behavior.  If you are a doctor, and your grandfather was a doctor, then you take after him.  If you love spicy food, and so does your father, then you take after him. 

On my mother’s side / From my mother

Does your mother have curly hair?  Do you have curly hair?  In that case you could say, “I got my curly hair from my mother.”  We use this phrase for traits directly passed down from our mothers.  This can be for physical traits or personality.  You can also get a love of Star Wars and an appreciation of French food from your mom.  “On my mother’s side” is used to describe traits that your mother’s entire family has passed to you.  For example “I am German, on my mother’s side,” or “I have heart disease on my mother’s side.” 

Partner / Spouse

There are lots of different kinds of partners.  Business Partners, dance partners, and romantic partners!  Partner is a word that has an interesting history.  Before gay marriage was legalized in the United States, most homosexual couples would use it to describe their “life partner” or “domestic partner” which was the legal definition of their relationship.  Now partner has become more neutral, being applied to homosexual and hetersexual relationships.  The difference between a partner and a spouse is that you are legally married to your spouse, but the word partner just describes a serious, long term relationship, not necessarily a legal marriage to the person.  Both spouse and partner are gender neutral terms. 


Test yourself!
  1. My __________________ and I have been living together for 5 years, but we aren’t married. 
  2. I get my love of action movies __________________.  My mother and I always go to the movies together during the holidays! 
  3. My mother __________________ her mother, they’re both lawyers. 
  4. My __________________is from Florida, and we have been married for 3 years. 
  5. My sister really __________________ me, sometimes people get confused about who they are talking to! 
  6. I’m Brazilian __________________ but my father’s family is from Mexico.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Part II: Tips for TOEFL, the Speaking Section

by  Mia Della Pietra (native New Yorker)

Mia teaches TOEFL Preparation and other courses at NYLC's Upper West Side location. She was born and raised in NYC and lived in Thailand for two years training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and teaching English.  Now she enjoys meeting students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds and loves finding the humor in the challenges of learning English. In her free time, she watches mixed martial arts, hangs out with her two cats, and eats as much boxed macaroni and cheese as she can.   


The speaking section of the TOEFL is comprised of 6 different tasks.  Each one of them will test you on a slightly different skill.  The six tasks always follow the same order, so you can anticipate what kind of question is coming, although you cannot anticipate the topic.  Here is a breakdown of the six tasks, and how to deal with each one!

Tasks 1 and 2: Independent Speaking

The Independent Speaking questions will ask you to respond to a question about a familiar topic.  Task 1 will ask for a response to an open ended question eg: If you could travel to any city in the world, where would you go?  
Task 2 will give you two options, and you will have to choose one and defend why you have chosen it eg: Do you think it is better for men and women to study together, or do you think they should be educated separately?

Tip for tasks 1 and 2: Do not make a list! You only have time to make 1 point, and develop it.  So don’t go through all the different reasons why you want to visit Bangkok, the food, the people, the culture, the history etc.  Instead focus on one thing, and then talk about why that would be important for you.  Be as specific as possible with your examples.  The more narrow the focus, the more likely you will have enough time to discuss it fully.  

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What’s the difference……

by  Mia Della Pietra (native New Yorker)

Mia teaches TOEFL Preparation and other courses at NYLC's Upper West Side location. She was born and raised in NYC and lived in Thailand for two years training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and teaching English.  Now she enjoys meeting students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds and loves finding the humor in the challenges of learning English. In her free time, she watches mixed martial arts, hangs out with her two cats, and eats as much boxed macaroni and cheese as she can.   


Am I missing class, or am I losing class? Am I learning English, or am I studying English?  These words have similar meanings, but they are not the same!  Here are some of the most common verbs I hear switched by my students, and here’s how you can tell them apart!  

Lose / Miss

These two I hear confused all the time!  A good way to remember the difference is that when you lose something, it is physical, or an object, or an idea.  You can lose your keys, you can lose your place in a line, you can lose your motivation and you can even lose your mind!  But when you miss something, it’s physically not there.  When you miss class, you are physically not in class.  When you miss your family, your family is physically not with you at the time.  When you lose your keys, your keys still physically exist!  You just don’t know where.  And when you miss your family, you do actually know where they are, but you are not with them. 

Learn / Study

To answer the earlier question, you are both learning English and studying English, but there is a distinction between the two!  When you learn something, you have understood and and now can either use it or explain it.  When you study something, you are continually developing your understanding of it.  You can learn new vocabulary words, and you can learn a new verb tense.  But once you had learned that new verb tense, present continuous for example, you would study it to prepare for a test.  You learn a piece of music, and you learn the names of the different chemical elements when you are at school but you study music, and you study chemistry. 

Hear / Listen

When you’re in class, you are listening to the teacher (of course!)  But what else can you hear?  You can probably hear cars outside on the street, an ambulance driving by, the other students turning the pages of the books, and lots of other sounds as well.  If you are listening to something or someone, you are paying attention to them.  If you hear something, this is just noise that your ears are open to, including what you are listening to.  So listening has intention, while hearing is passive.



Test yourself!
Choose the correct verb and put it in the correct form! 

1. I always  __________  my family when I hear this song.  It’s my mother’s favorite singer.
2. What did you say?  Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, I was  __________ to music.  
3. Today I  __________  the difference between passive and active voice in my English class.  
4. I can’t find my metrocard!  I hope that I haven’t  __________  it!
5. For the last few months I have been __________ English in the morning.
6. Can you  __________  the birds outside?  They’re quite loud today!  

Friday, November 3, 2017

10 Reasons to Study English in NYC

by  Mia Della Pietra (native New Yorker)
Mia teaches TOEFL Preparation and other courses at NYLC's Upper West Side location. She was born and raised in NYC and lived in Thailand for two years training Muay Thai (Thai boxing) and teaching English.  Now she enjoys meeting students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds and loves finding the humor in the challenges of learning English. In her free time, she watches mixed martial arts, hangs out with her two cats, and eats as much boxed macaroni and cheese as she can.   



1. It’s the best city in the world!
Ok, I’m a little biased, because I was born here and grew up here, but I really believe this is true!  After living in NYC, all other cities seem small, or slow, or like big towns, pretending to be cities!  Musicians say there is nothing like playing a show in NYC because the energy is so incredible and different from all other cities. So if performing here for 1 night is that amazing, imagine actually being able to live here!

2. It’s not like the movies
New York has so many famous movies and television shows that depict life here. But how accurate are all these stories?  “Sex and the City” might be the most classic case of unrealistic expectations. Carrie Bradshaw’s life does not really mirror the typical freelance writer’s lifestyle in NYC. So many of my students come to NYC expecting one version of it and find out that it is actually totally different! So what is it really like? You should come here to find out!

3. You can find everything here
Often when you travel you miss the comforts of home. It’s hard to find a community and it can be even harder to find your favorite foods abroad. New Yorkers don’t usually have that problem. You can find all the comforts of home here, and you can also discover new favorites! You will have the opportunity to try authentic food from every corner of the world just by taking the subway to different neighborhoods!  

4. This!



















5. Your classmates
There’s a famous song that says, “if you can make it here you can make it anywhere,” and this is definitely true. You will be constantly surrounded by talented, intelligent and motivated people, and you might be pushed a bit out of your comfort zone.  Life moves a little bit faster here, and you will have to keep up! But once you experience the pace of life here, you will be bored by anything else.