Thursday, March 21, 2019

Benefits of Watching TV and Movies in English

Do you typically watch movies in your native language? Or do you watch English-language movies with subtitles in your language? If you do, you’re missing some great opportunities for English practice! I recommend to all my students to try watching movies in English (with English subtitles if necessary) for a number of reasons:

Image result for watching a movie

1.       The most obvious reason: it’s great listening practice! And unlike in the real world, you can rewind if you didn’t hear something.
2.       You’ll catch on to English colloquialisms in context. This is something that can be overlooked when you’re in a classroom, but casual speak and slang is very important when you’re living in a new country!
3.       There are many different accents in the English language. Sometimes they’re so different that two people from two different English-speaking countries may not even be able to understand each other! There’s a New York accent, Scottish accent, Boston accent, American Southern, Irish, Canadian, a “posh” London accent, a Cockney London accent, Australian… the list goes on! Every one of them sounds different. On sites like Netflix and Hulu, you can hear all of them. Exposing yourself to different English accents will come in handy!
4.       If you don’t quite catch everything you hear, more than likely you’ll still understand what is happening based on the context, the actors’ expressions, the setting, etc.
5.       If you’re watching the movie or show with English subtitles, you’ll likely see some unfamiliar words that you can add to your vocabulary.
6.       Much like how there are different accents depending on the country you’re in, cultures are different, too! Personally, I love watching British TV shows because their sense of humor is very different than America’s. You can learn a lot about a culture by watching a TV show from another country, such as what they find funny, what they think is “cool” or “attractive” in people, how they dress, and so much more!

If I’ve convinced you to start watching some English-language movies and TV, here are some recommendations to get started!

Image result for how i met your mother

-How I Met Your Mother (American series, comedy, on Hulu)
-Dear White People (American series, drama, on Netflix)
-Derry Girls (Irish series, comedy/history, on Netflix)
-Misfits (English series, comedy/sci-fi, on Netflix)
-Skins (English series, drama, on Netflix)
-The Office (There’s a U.K. version and an American version! Both are comedies, both on Netflix)
-Good Will Hunting (American movie *with heavy Boston accents,* drama, on Netflix)
-Trainspotting (Scottish movie, drama/gangster/drug use, available to rent on YouTube)
-The Babadook (Australian movie, horror, on Netflix)

Happy movie-watching!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Irish-American Heritage Month and Women’s History Month in NYC

There’s a lot to learn and celebrate this month! Most people know it’s Women’s History Month currently, but did you know that it’s also Irish-American Heritage Month? On March 17th, we celebrate Saint Patrick’s day, but since 1991 the whole month of March is dedicated to celebrating both women and Irish-Americans!

New York City would not be what it is today without the millions of Irish immigrants that left Ireland to start anew in “the New World” from the early 1800s to the mid-1900s. The Irish worked for next to nothing building the bridges, buildings, and roads that we still have today. In fact, hundreds of Irishmen helped build the famous (and beautiful!) Brooklyn Bridge. In the process, many of them lost their lives.

Image result for no irish need apply sign

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate Irish Heritage Month and Saint Patrick’s day, check out for some events happening in New York City.

A personal favorite: McSorley's Old Ale House! It’s (supposedly) the oldest Irish pub in New York. Check it out with your friends and enjoy their variety of ales: dark or light.

Now, let’s talk about Women’s History! It goes without saying how important women are to New York, society, and the world. Here are some ways to celebrate the awesomeness of women:

  1. At The Brooklyn Museum they’re currently celebrating Frida Khalo! Head over to see their exhibit “Frida Khalo: Appearances Can Be Deceiving.”
  2. Check out some of New York’s funniest ladies at “All Female Reboot,” a sketch show where women make fun of male-dominated movies.
  3. Go to the WOW: Women of the World Festival at the Apollo until March 17th!

Image result for women's history month

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Confusing English

The top complaint from my students is: “English is so confusing!” And, well, they’re right. Using a single word incorrectly, even using the wrong preposition, can change the whole sentence! Here are a few examples:

“He threw the ball to me” versus “He threw the ball at me”

You would think these sentences are the same, but they aren’t! If someone said to me “He threw the ball to me,” I would respond with “Oh, were you guys playing baseball or something?” However, if someone said to me “He threw the baseball at me,” I would respond with “What?! That’s so mean! Why would he do that?!”

You see, the difference here is that if you say “threw the ball to me,” it implies that it was a gentle throw and the receiver knew it was coming. They were probably playing a game. When you say “threw the ball at me,” this implies that it was an aggressive throw, and the person was trying to hurt the receiver with the ball. Not nice!

More examples:

“She stopped to call him” versus “She stopped calling him”

Saying “she stopped to call him” means that she was in the middle of an action but stopped that action in order to call the person. If you say “she stopped calling him,” it means that she was probably angry at him, and therefore didn’t want to talk to him.

“I sent a letter to my brother” versus “I sent a letter for my brother”

If you say, “I sent a letter to my brother,” it means that you are the sender, and your brother is the receiver of the letter. If you say, “I sent a letter for my brother,” it means that your brother is the sender, but you did him a favor by putting it in the mailbox for him!

There are so many more of these, but practice makes perfect! By listening to the news in English, watching TV in English, you’ll start to see patterns. You can also go online to see more examples!


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

5 Ways to Practice Your Speaking Outside the Classroom!

By Isabel Solano

Chances are you already have some ideas on ways to practice your English skills on your own. Turning on English subtitles while watching your favorite TV shows, listening to music or reading a book in English are all great ways to practice while doing activities you enjoy. These are all excellent habits to keep! However, these forms of practice mostly provide a way to improve your passive skills, like listening and reading. But how about your productive skills?

In the classroom, you have the opportunity to practice your speaking and pronunciation through error correction and choral repetition exercises that your teacher provides. But practicing your speaking and pronunciation doesn’t have to stop when you leave the classroom. Here are some ways you can ACTIVELY practice on your own and at no cost:

1. “Hey, Siri”: Take advantage of voice recognition tools on your smartphone. This is a great way to practice your pronunciation and question formation structure. Ask Siri question types that you’ve learned so far: Hey, Siri. How old is Madonna? Or what’s the best Chinese restaurant in my area? Is Siri asking you to repeat? Try again until she can  understand you.

2. Voice-to-text: Similarly, using any voice-to-text options on your phone are a great way to practice your pronunciation. Use the apps readily available on your smartphone, such as: Notes, iMessage, etc. You will see a tiny microphone icon   that will allow you to convert speech into text. Practice minimal pairs you find challenging and repeat them until the text comes out correctly. For example: very vs. berry or cheap vs. sheep, etc. This is also great for new vocabulary you learn in class. Don’t forget to save those notes!

3. Imitate, record, compare: The Voice Memos app is another handy resource available to you at your fingertips (it should already be downloaded to your phone). Use this app to record yourself and listen for errors. I recommend choosing a short sample of speech from a movie, TV show or even a TED talk that you like. Practice reciting it as you record yourself. Then, play both recordings and compare. Find the words you need to work on (if any) and practice until the recordings sound more and more similar. This particular tip is also very useful when working on accent reduction!

4. Meet up with Meetup: Let’s take this out this out into the real world! is a useful website that makes it easy to connect with people with shared interests.  Here you’ll find many language exchange meetups to choose from. Help others practice a language you master, as they help you practice your target language, i.e: English. It’s also a great way to make new friends, network in the city and more.

5. Tandem:  Lastly, if you’d like to connect with people all around the world, Tandem is a free and engaging app that will connect you to thousands of speakers of different languages eager to help you practice your English in exchange for helping them practice your native language or any other language you’re fluent in. Through Tandem you can text or call or both! The options are endless!

Which of these tips would you like to try first? Do you have any other ways to practice your speaking outside the classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, December 3, 2018

The Largest Public Art Installation in NYC

By: Barbara Dick, Executive Director 

As someone who was born in and grew up in New York City, I spent a good part of my life on the New York City Subway System. Name a line: I have been on it. Name an end of a line: I have been there. Of course, it is probably hard to believe but the subway now is much better than it was in my formative * years. To get an idea of what it was like then, just watch a film from the late 70’s or early 80’s like “The French Connection.”

Still, I had no idea that a subway line could be beautiful as well as efficient.  That can best describe the Second Avenue Subway. When commuters descend into the Second Avenue subway’s four stations, at 96th, 86th, 72nd and 63rd Streets,— they will find one of the most ambitious contemporary art projects that the MTA has ever undertaken.  Elevators ( which are glass) actually work. Escalators whisk* you upstairs in seconds.  And the subway entrances on the street remind one of Paris .

Many of the NYLC community have little reason to actually visit the Upper East Side where the subway runs. However, if you get out on any of the stations, you will be surprised by the plethora of restaurants that have sprouted* along the route.

 If you want to see beautiful art in mosaics and amazing architecture and engineering, remember, it is only the cost of a Metrocard.
*formative years: the years that made me who I am
* whisk: to carry quickly
*sprouted: suddenly appeared

Monday, October 29, 2018

American Idioms: There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea

"There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea."

Definition: There are many people who can be your boyfriend or girlfriend. You usually hear this after you have broken up with someone special. 

Example: "Do not worry about being single, there are plenty of fish in the sea."

Exercise: Is there someone in your life that you could say this to? Is it good advice to say?

Written by: Ivan Brave

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Eduardo Ramirez- NYLC Student Services Coordinator and ESL Student

Written by: Ivan Brave

One of the first friendly faces you see when you exit the Midtown elevator on the eleventh floor, walking towards our front desk, is Eduardo's. I usually teach in the Upper West Side, but when good luck brings me the chance to tutor in our central location, I always take it. And Eduardo always greets me with enthusiasm, cheerfulness, and friendliness. "Hello, Ivan!" he says. "Hello, Eduardo!" I reply. Our exchange stayed on this friendly level for a few weeks, until I learned from him that he actually takes classes in the Upper West Side, in addition to working. "What are you doing here?" I asked him once, as polite as possible, seeing him enter the light-filled lounge of the Upper West Side school. "I take classes," he explained. "What! No way! You work and study at the same time?" Eduardo smiled real wide, as he usually does. "Yes, I do."

I knew then he would make an excellent interviewee. His perspective would inspire other students, students who work as Eduardo does, while also taking intensive English courses. It's tough, but possible. Even I took classes while teaching here, last year. Eduardo's story gives us hard-working New Yorkers hope. If he can do it, we all can. You can.

What is your favorite day of the week? Why?
Saturday, because you can either sleep twelve hours in a row or you could not sleep at all and there is no school or work the next day.
For formality's sake, what is your full name, where are you from, where do you live, and when did you start working at the NYLC? 
I’m from San Salvador the capital of El Salvador, I live in Elizabeth New Jersey and I started to work at NYLC in June 2018. My full name has four names: Eduardo Alejandro Ramírez Mendoza, a very typical thing for Latins. Maybe it's weird or maybe not, I’ve met a French person with eight names.

What happened first, work or study, at NYLC?
Work, then I decided to study English in the Upper West Side branch. As you know I don't have much time in the States, this is my first full time job and I work to start my professional life. I'm also a waiter in a banquet restaurant. From my point of view, I want to gain experience the best way I can, step by step. I think both jobs help me a lot, mainly the student services job.

How do you do both? (How long are classes, how long do you study outside of class, and how many hours do you work?)
I work around 7 hours daily and when I leave work I go directly to UWS school, sometimes I have time to study and do homework before the class that starts and ends from 6 to 9 pm. 

I like what I do. I wouldn't have been so good at this job if I had not been member of the Association of Students of Chemical Engineering in the university and also of the Association of Scouts of El Salvador. There I learn many things that now help me to do what I do, like working under pressure, following protocol, taking inquiries, filing paper work, documents, managing entire camps with 100 kids or more, etc.  

What is your favorite word in English? In Spanish?
I’ve never thought about this… in English ephemeral and in Spanish inmarcesible.

Ephemeral: lasting for a very short time
Inmarcesible (Immarcescible, in English): unfading, that which does not shrivel.

What is the strangest phrase/idiom in English you know? Why is it strange?
 “Once in a blue moon.” It isn’t strange, but interesting because when I heard it for the first time I didn’t know such thing as a blue moon existed.
What is the best advice you ever received?
I don’t exactly remember who gave it to me or how it goes exactly, but to answer I’ll quote a phase from my favorite TV show, Grey’s Anatomy.

“Change: We don't like it, we fear it, but we can't stop it from coming. We either adapt to change, or we get left behind. It hurts to grow, anybody who tells you it doesn't is lying. But here's the truth: Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. And sometimes, oh, sometimes change is good. Sometimes change is everything.”

I think change isn’t easy, but it is always there and we have to be prepared and ready for it

What are three ways you stay motivated and awake in the mornings?
Coffee is essential even if I drink decaf it helps me to stay awake the whole day. The more I practice speaking and listening the more I learn. And believing that I can learn new things, and be better in what I do every day, helps too.

Why do you want to improve your English?
To be independent, grow professionally, make new friends, move around different cities, start college in the future, basically to have more opportunities in a new home where everything seems to be so different from our native countries.

I want to travel to Europe, Australia and England. But if I had the chance, I would travel back to El Salvador just for a couple of days to visit my family, friends and dogs (I have one German Shepard and a Cocker Spaniel, both mixed).

College is in my plans, might be in my town, Elizabeth, but it would be nice if I could study in NY. I'm working on that at the moment, but I'm not so sure about what major would be best for me, I have two options though, finishing what I started as a Chemical Engineer or start something from scratch like Business Management, Accounting or even Tourism Management. I am taking suggestions.

Here's a suggestion, Eduardo: keep doing what you are doing! You are doing great. Follow your passion and follow your instinct. It has led you to the greatest city in the world. Maybe you will study here for university. Maybe not. But, I trust, that no matter where you are, if you keep shining and working as hard as you do, you will make it anywhere.

After all, you do know what they say about New York. If you can make it here...