Tuesday, July 29, 2008

BizLaunch Posting

I should have posted this sooner, but better late than never. Please check out the article about the Canadian Academic Success School on the BizLaunch blog: http://bizlaunchcanada.blogspot.com/search/label/small%20business%20story

Monday, July 28, 2008

Pronunciation: /ur/

For some people, the pronunciation of /ur/ can be murder.

Rhyming Words
Yearn Learn Burn Turn Earn Fern
Hurt Assert Desert Alert Skirt
Word Heard Bird Third Spurred
Search Besmirch Lurch Church Birch
Pearl Whirl Unfurl
Germ Worm Term Squirm
Were Fur Sir Cur
First Thirst Worst Burst
Worth Girth Mirth Berth

Minimal Pairs
Yarn Yearn
Part Pert
Carl Curl
Farm Firm
Far Fur
Garth Girth
Heart Hurt
Parch Perch
Par Per
Sparred Spurred
Cart Curt
Star Stir

Nouns Ending With “er”
Change the following verbs to nouns by adding /ur/

Say the comparative form of the following adjectives

Circle the word that you hear
1. Bird Bard
2. Car Cur
3. Further Farther
4. Lurch Larch
5. Barn Burn
6. Curt Cart
7. Hard Heard
8. Fur Far

Listening Script

I saw a bard in the garden.
There is a cur in the driveway.
I went a little further.
My son is in a larch.
That’s a very big burn.
We talked to the cart salesman.
The answers to the test questions were heard.
The jacket is far.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

English Circle

The English Circle is an informal group of non-native English speakers who meet every Tuesday evening from 7 PM to 9 PM at the Canadian Academic Success School, 5308A Yonge Street. We discuss current events in the news with an ESL instructor who has 22 years of high-school & community college ESL teaching experience.

Every week, I browse the internet for articles that can be used as an introduction to a topic for conversation. The articles need to be short, because we want to spend most of our time discussing them and not reading them. They also need to be fairly easy because we get people with a wide range of English levels at each meeting.

Once I've chosen three or four articles, I go through them highlighting vocabulary I think might be unknown to some of our attendees. I also look for a grammatical item to explain, and underline all the examples of it.

During the meeting, each of the attendees takes turns reading sections of the articles while I correct pronunciation. We then explain all the highlighted vocabulary and any other words or phrases people ask about. After that, we discuss the topic of the article. Finally, before moving to the next article, I do a brief lesson on the grammatical item.

In tonight's meeting, we will be discussing articles dealing with where people's names came from, unusual fashion, friends with bad habits, and stupid criminals.

For example, here is the article on names, which I took from the City TV News website. Unfortunately, I can't highlight the vocabulary or underline the grammar here, so I've changed the text colour of the vocabulary to blue, and the grammar to purple:

Man Offers Naming Rights For His First Born Son For Free Gas
Monday July 14, 2008
CityNews.ca Staff

Many people are proud of the stories behind their names. Some have been named after an interesting relative, literary figure or a word with special significance in another language.

One Florida boy may not be so keen on sharing the tale behind his name when he grows up.

David Partin
agreed to name his unborn son after two morning radio show hosts to get some free gas.

The radio hosts offered a gasoline
gift card to a listener with the most interesting offer to trade. Partin called in and agreed to name his child after the radio personalities Richard Dixon and J. Willoughby. The child's full first name will be Dixon and Willoughby - yes, the "and" is included.

The baby is
due this winter.

Dixon and Willoughby - the radio hosts - said they'll
hand over the voucher for free gas when they see the birth certificate.

Perhaps Partin and his expectant girlfriend could try this stunt if they plan to have a second child. Pampers Partin has a nice ring to it.
Naming Rights = the ability to give a name to something (or somebody). We usually use this phrase when the rights are bought or traded. (eg. Rogers Centre)
behind = in this case, behind means the reason for (eg. Money is behind all my problems.)
named after = the source of a name (eg. I am named after my grandfather.)
literary figure = a character from a famous book or a famous writer (eg. Romeo, or Shakespeare)

significance = importance
be so keen on = to really like or enjoy something (eg. I'm keen on sports.)
gift card = a card which that lets the user buy things or services up to the set value of the card. For example, if I go to Future Shop and buy a $50 card which I give to my son, he can buy $50 worth of things at Future Shop.
personalities = people who are very good at something (eg. Tiger Woods is a famous golf personality.)
due = expected to arrive. We also use this to describe when the mother is expected to have the baby. (eg. She is due in July / When are you due?)
hand over = to give up possession of something (eg. The police officer told the drunk driver to hand over his keys.)
voucher = a written, official promise, often for cash or goods. In this case it means the gift card.

birth certificate = An official record of the date and place a person was born. In Canada, it is made by the province after the hospital where the baby was born sends them the information.
expectant = pregnant / going to have a baby
stunt = something that is done to attract attention
Pampers = a brand of diapers (underwear for babies)
has a nice ring to it = sounds interesting or attractive (like the sound of a bell)

Infinitive: “To + Basic Verb”
The infinitive is often used like a noun, usually as the object of a verb. Eg. I decided to go. / I want to go.
However, some verbs use a gerund (verb + "ing") as an object (eg. I enjoy swimming.); so you have to memorize which verbs take infinitives and which take gerunds.

Infinitives can also be used as the subject of sentences, but that sounds old fashioned today, as in Shakespeare's "To be or not to be, that is the question." Nowadays, we usually use a gerund as a subject (eg. Studying is the most important thing.) Infinitives are more common as subject complements (eg. The most important thing is to study / It is important to study.)

Another use of infinitives is to explain the purpose of an action. (Notice the use of the infinitive as a subject complement in that sentence.) If I want to explain why I went to the bank, I can say, "I went to the bank to withdraw some money." This is really a shortened form of the more formal "in order to." (eg. I went to the bank in order to withdraw some money.)

You can get more information on infinitives here: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/627/03/

Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Scam

As an update to my last post, there is another scam targeting ESL teachers. This one is an invitation to teach a foreign worker and/or his family in Nigeria. They usually offer a very generous compensation and offer to pay all your expenses. However, once you agree to accept the job, you'll have to send money to process your visa and other documents. And, of course, there is no job.

Here is an invitation I received through my Meetup page (http://teachers.meetup.com/146/) from a "German engineer" named Gary Braun (http://www.meetup.com/members/7622357/):

Meetup Message from garybraun: me is want you come and teach me family
Hello teacher me name is Engr.Gary Braun me is from Berlin Germany and me is work as Engineer at Bell Oil and Gas Ltd in Port-Harcourt, Nigeria,
me is currently seeking for a good qualified English teacher with Three to five year experience that will come and teach me son and me wife goodenglish here in Port-Harcourt,Nigeria.
me is Already go through you CV and me is like it so me is want to know if you is interested to come and teach me son and wife.
especially me wife she need to start work here and me son need to teach well so that he will be able to communicate with people around here.
me is like you to come september and teach me wife and son.
me is offer you $6,500 Six thousand five hundred united states dollars per month.
me is offer you $700 Seven hundred united states dollars per month for you vacation fee and $500 Five hundred united states dollars] for health fee.
me is rent you a good appartment where you is stay when you is come.
me is sponsor you visa fees and flight ticket so if you is interested you can send me you resume so that me is see and go through it ok.
Email me -
garybraun71@yahoo.com Phone no - +2348053537074
Thanks and God bless.Engr.Braun

Monday, July 7, 2008


This has been written about on many sites before, but the fact that it’s still going on shows that some people haven’t heard about it yet. What made me decide to write about it today is that I received 3 of these bogus offers on Sunday alone. I’m hoping once people stop falling for it, the e-mails will stop, and I won’t have to keep deleting them.

If you advertise tutoring or some other kind of lesson on internet sites such as Craigslist (http://toronto.en.craigslist.ca/cal/#classes) or Kijiji (http://toronto.kijiji.ca/f-community-classes-W0QQCatIdZ4), sooner or later you will get a poorly written e-mail from someone overseas asking for a large block of lessons. The person will claim their son or daughter is coming to visit your area and the parent wants lessons everyday or 2-4 times a week for the child for the length of the stay, usually a month.

If you reply—and you shouldn’t, especially after reading this—the parent will offer to send you the whole amount as a cashier’s cheque before the lessons are to begin.

This is where things go off. They will send you a cheque, but it will be for far too much, or you will receive more than one cheque for the same amount. The parent will then explain that this was a mistake and ask for the overpayment back. (Sometimes they will send you the correct amount, but they'll ask for a refund because the child's trip has to be cancelled due to a tragedy in the family.)

The problem is, even though the bank will deposit the money into your account, it can actually take as long as a month for a cashier’s cheque to clear—and of course the cashier’s cheque the parent has sent you will never clear, because it’s a fake. So, if you have sent any money back, that’s now coming out of your pocket, because the bank will withdraw the amount on the cheque from your account once they discover that the cheque is bogus. Not only that, but the bank is obliged to call the police to inform them that you have tried to cash a counterfeit cheque. Luckily, the police are well-aware of this scam—too bad you weren’t!

These e-mails are easy to recognize. Here are the three I received yesterday. Two of them are the same word for word as e-mails I’ve received within the past couple of weeks:

From "Kenny love" kennyoci@gmail.com yesterday, and "Frank Umar" umar.frank@yahoo.com on July 1 (although the reply e-mail address is the same for both):
Hello, i will like you to know that i am very much interested in your lesson for my son which he will be attending twice a week (Monday and Thursday) (9am-12pm)and i will like you to get back to with the total cost of the lesson for one month at your time schedule. please respond to kennyoci@gmail.com thanks and God bless you.
(Note: Before I had finished composing this blog entry, I received the e-mail above again—minus the reply e-mail address—from "Ramson Scott" scottramson@gmail.com)

From "Juliet Nunu" jjj.nunu@yahoo.com yesterday and "Monica Cynthia Chris" 1111111111manu@gmail.com on June 27 (although Monica/Chris claims to live in the United Kingdom and have a son named Eric,14):
Hello and How are you?. I am from Germany,my Daughter will be coming
for an holiday in the Canada,and i want her to be busy throughout..
Therefore, i just want to know maybe she can always come to you and teach
her great things to know i life all aspect on every afternoon. If this
is possible,i will want you to get back to me with the cost of your
teaching for the MONTH...She will be coming to your house for 1 hour each
afternoon, I have someone that will always drive her down to your
house.. her name is Lisa ,she is 23 years old. I will want you to calculate
1 hour per day for Monday,Wednesday,Friday for the whole 1 MONTH,and
get back to me so that we can arrange on payment. Kindly get back to me
don't hesitate to e-mail with your total charges.
Thanks and waiting to read from you.
Ms. Juliet Nunu

And finally, this one from "terry smith" terry7770@gmail.com (who has a different name from his e-mail--although his son's first name is the same as his e-mail last name--and is unaware that Canada is not part of the United States):

Hey, I am Mr Dalihu.An external Auditor,i will like you to start teaching 2 of my kids for 2 hours aday or 2 to 3 times a week.also my son Name is Smith,15 years and my daughter becky is 13 years.they both live in califonai.I really want to keep them busy cos i will be going for am external auditing outside the state.All about their accomodation in your state wil be provided by me.I will like to know the total cost for 2 months if you take them for 2 hours perday. Kindly get back to me with your full name,address and your phone # so that i can make the payment.My RegardsDalihu

Apparently, this same scam is also used on people selling things on the internet. You can read more about it here:

Friday, July 4, 2008

English Time Tenses

Last night while I was teaching at Seneca College, one of my students did a presentation on how she met her husband. It was a very interesting story, but at times it was hard to follow because of problems with her English. One of the most common mistakes she made was using present tense to describe something that happened 10 years ago. For example, she said, "We meet or call each other everyday before we were married."

At the end of the class I suggested she attend the workshop on time tenses the Canadian Academic Success School is holding this Sunday evening. Here's a sample of what we'll be doing:


Simple Past
Completed Action: We visted the museum yesterday.
2. Completed Condition: The weather was rainy last week.

Past Progressive
1. Past Action that took place over a period of time:
They were climbing for twenty-seven days.
2. Past Action interrupted by another: I was sleeping when the telephone rang.
3. Past Background Action: We were eating dinner when she told me.

1. Plans:
I'm going to see a movie tomorrow.
2. Predictions: It’s going to rain. / It will rain.
3. Promises/Assurances: We’ll be fine.
4. Immediate Future: I’ll answer the phone.
Note: Modals are also used to express future situations: I can/may/should/must leave soon.

Future Progressive
1. Future Action over a period of time:
I’ll be working on the report tomorrow night.
2. Future Action at a specific time: We’ll be camping on August 11.

Present Perfect
1. From the Past to the Present:
He has lived here for many years.
2. Experiences: Have you ever been to Tokyo before?
3. To describe a Past Action leading to a Present State: I’ve finished all my homework.

Present Perfect Progressive
1. To express duration of an action that began in the Past, has continued into the Present, and may continue into the Future:
David has been working for two hours, and he hasn't finished yet.

Past Perfect
1. A Past Action or Condition completed before another Past Time:
When I arrived home, he had already called.

Past Perfect Progressive
1. To express a Past Action
which continued until a specified time in the Past: By the time she arrived, I had been waiting for over 20 minutes.

Future Perfect
1. Action that will be completed by or before a specified time in the future:
By next month we will have finished this job.

Future Perfect Progressive
1. To express duration of an action until a specified time in the Future:
By the time I retire, I will have been working for over 50 years.

Match the Main Clauses with the Times listed below:

1. I was sleeping
2. I’ll be working on the report
3. We’ll have solved the problem
4. I’m working for a bank
5. I’ve been studying English
6. I’d been saving money for years
7. I went to Montreal
8. I’ll have been working for nearly 50 years
9. I will return your book
10.I’ve been to Niagara Falls twice
11.I’m going to run my own business
12.Everyone had already left
13.I go to work

A. everyday
B. at the moment
C. last weekend
D. when he called
E. one day
F. tomorrow
G. tonight
H. so far
I. since I came to Canada
J. by the time he finished
K. when I came to Canada
L. by the time he notices
M. when I retire

Of course, when we do this exercise in the workshop, I'll have each clause and each time printed on a separate slip of paper. These slips will be distributed among the participants, who will have to find the matching Clause/Time. Then, when we discuss each tense, the matched sentences will become another example for discussion.