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...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Do you have a favorite PSA?

Have you come across any good PSAs lately? I have a couple of favorite ones on TV, and I like the ones on this blog post! Here's one of them on being nice to the new guy in class. This was created by a group of students in the current Listening and Speaking course.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are ads or TV/radio commercials that aim to teach citizens lessons about certain concepts or ways to act or look at the world. If you watch TV, listen to the radio or podcasts, surf online, or ride public transit, there's a huge chance you've come across some PSAs here and there. They teach us to be kind, to be positive, to care for the environment, to respect each other, etc. Here's another one created by another group in the same class on showing respect and consideration toward our neighbors.

PSA on Respecting others

After watching and listening to a few samples of PSAs, the students were put in groups and instructed to agree on a topic, decide on the type of PSA they wanted to create and how to create it. Here's what the third group came up with. This one is on littering and appeals to listeners to respect their environment.

PSA on littering

If you were asked to create a PSA, what would you do it on? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.

Take care,

Joe, ESL instructor

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Phrasal Verb Exercise: "HEADS OUT"


"The boy heads out to school."

"To leave, to exit, to go somewhere specific."

Change the example sentence from simple-present to past-continuous tense.

Write another sentence in past-continuous about the boy. (What else was happening)?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Where Language Meets Learning: An interview between a poet and his teacher

This week we would like to highlight our student, Mohamed Abdalla Abdalgadir, originally from Sudan. Like many of our students, Mohamed has called many places his home. He says it has been “quite difficult, but enjoyable at the same time,” traveling from country to country. Coming to New York City was the “perfect choice,” he explains, a kind of “hitting two birds with one stone,” because he knew that here he would both experience a “magnificent” city and improve his already advanced English.

“But,” says a classmate, “your English is so good, why are you learning?” Mohamed smiles, looks away. He is modest about his English. He does has a strong grasp of grammar, but says he would like to gain more confidence in speaking and in writing.
His eagerness and vocabulary might impress his classmates and teachers. In fact, Mohamed is the author of multiple collections of poetry, a lover of language, and applying to be a PhD student. But don’t let his background deceive you. Mohamed, just like everyone else, has his own set of challenges and obstacles, the same challenges and obstacles we all face when learning a new language.
When I found out that Mohamed, my current Fluency Development student, is working to publish his fourth collection of poetry, I knew I had to interview him.

How did you hear about New York Language Center? 
A friend of mine had a good experience at NYLC so he gave me a piece of advice, “Choose it,” which I did.  

Do you remember your first day of class? What was it like, how did it feel, were you nervous or excited?
Of course. It was a Monday morning, everybody was so nice to me, the place was full of energy and I was so excited to take a further step towards mastering my English language.

What are some similarities between your language and English? Do you know any other languages? Are you interested in learning them?
I come from a very rich, sensitive and poetic language (Arabic). For Arab people their language is not only a language but also the core of their identity, which would go without saying if you have the fact that the word “Arab” comes from the verb “yarab” (يعرب), which means to express yourself fluently or eloquently.
I always enjoy comparing between my mother tongue and English. Of course, there are a lot of similarities because languages are sisters from one mother but to be exact I need extra time with the English language to give you an answer that goes beyond the superficial similarity of some words, rules, or even some idioms.   
Regarding the second part of your question, I regret not learning another language earlier. So, yes after mastering my English I’m interested in learning a third language, maybe it would go with my philosophical interest, German, or it might be French or Spanish, if I go with my interest in literature.        

What side-projects, outside of school, are you working on now?
I’m up to my eyeballs in doing a lot of things these days. For instance, I’m writing my fourth book, preparing myself to match the requirements of university for PhD degree, also to make ends meet I have to do my freelancer job. My PhD will be related to philosophy and literature at the same time. My thesis might be called, ‘the reinstatement of philosophical metaphor’. My previous books were about politics, romance, but my new one will be a little different.

What is your favorite line of poetry?
Poetry is the mirror of life. So, it must reflect everything. For this reason, it is hard to choose just one line from the forest of poetry in my head but I will do it randomly. The first lines to come to my mind are by Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi
“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.”

"Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”

What was the most beautiful library you have ever visited? What do you think of the libraries in New York?
I’m a kind of book worm. So, for me libraries are my favorite places in this world. In fact, I couldn’t agree more with the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges who said once, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of Library". I’m always keen on visiting the library in any city where I’m.
Since I came here to the USA I’ve visited some outstanding libraries, like the library of Congress in Washington D.C, the New York public library here, and now I’m planning to go to Jon Hopkins library. But the most beautiful library I have ever been to is the Alexandria library in Egypt which was established in 3rd century B.C. It was considered the most significant library in ancient world.

What is one piece of advice you could give someone who wants to learn English?
At all costs, don’t give up. It is worth it.

What are three of your most favorite words (in any language)?
It is so difficult to answer this question due to the unlimited nature that the language has, in addition to this every single word has own infinity as well. But if I must, I would choose these three words: Dream, Imagine and Create. As you might guess, all of them make me feel that I have no limit at all.

Finally, is there anything you would like to ask me, or the school?
As a native speaker, how can you describe your relevance with the English language before and after teaching it? 
In other words, did you see your mother tongue differently after you started to teach it? If your answer is yes, what is the most astonishing fact that you had from this experience?     

Good question, Mohamed! Your passion for language is made clear from your quest for learning. 

Teaching English has given me the the words to talk about words, the language of language. “Relative clause”, “present perfect tense”, and even the word “comma” fascinate me. The fact that I can express an idea about English to students like you, who want to learn, is sometimes enough confidence I need to teach. I hope you gained some confidence from answering these questions, and that our readers absorb some too. 

Written by: Ivan Brave 
Faculty member Ivan Brave teaches mostly at the NYLC Upper West Side location. He also chaperones for activities and shows students interesting parts of town. His passions include learning, writing, languages, and philosophy, and he believes that the best part about teaching is when a great teacher and a great student meet to accomplish their objectives. You can read more of his writing at