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5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

July 22, 2017

Forget listening to podcasts about learning English: instead, learn about English through podcasts about interesting subjects! If you need to improve your academic English skills for the American college or university setting, spend some time listening to these fascinating podcasts about science, the humanities, culture, and technology.

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Astronomy Cast

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Travel through space all learn all about the cosmos! Where did the Earth’s water come from? Do planets have seasons? How can you make a telescope at home? Who are some famous astronomers throughout history? Hosts Fraser Cain and Dr. Pamela L. Gay answer questions you’ve always had about the universe.

National Public Radio (NPR)

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Science, news, comedy, education, culture, technology: take your pick! NPR has many award-winning, well researched and well produced podcasts on various subjects. The content will keep you interested as you improve your listening skills with one speaker, two speaker, three speaker, and interview style recordings.

NASA Science Casts

5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

NASA offers many podcasts on different subjects. Some focus more on specific projects (such as the Space to Ground podcast about the International Space Station), some focus on education (check out The Beautiful Universe), and others are news-focused, like This Week@NASA.



5 Podcasts for the Academic English Student

Philosophy, history, science, and the human experience come together in RadioLab, and incredible podcast produced by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich.

Converse International School of Languages offers English courses in San Diego and San Francisco, California. Improve your English through CISL’s small, eight-student classes: students can choose from Standard English, Intensive English, or specific courses such as TOEFL Preparation, IELTS Preparation, Cambridge Exam Preparation, and English for Academic Purposes. After EAP, students can attend college in the U.S. through CISL’s Academic Year Abroad and Pathway programs. 

Academic English

5 Tips for Improving Your Academic English + Academic English Idioms

May 20, 2017

Improving your academic English skills can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be! Choosing the right ways to practice your English will greatly improve your skills in this area. Follow our five tips for improving your academic English to set yourself on the track for academic English success.

5 Tips for Improving Your Academic English

Tip #1: Focus on Academic English Vocabulary

Do you know the difference between English vocabulary and academic English vocabulary? Most conversational English classes teach basic vocabulary, idioms, phrasal verbs, and slang. With academic English, students focus more on the words that are used in academia. There are some wonderful lists of English academic vocabulary; for example, the Academic Word List (AWL). The AWL was created by professors at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The list includes 570 word families that are common in academic texts from many subjects. The 570 words are divided into 10 groups: Group 1 is the most popular words in academia, Group 2 is the second most common words, etc. Check it out!

Tip #2: Familiarize yourself with more formal (lecture-style) English

Professors in a lecture hall will of course speak differently than they would in a conversation. Learn the language and tone that they often use. The best way to do this is by listening to lectures: many universities have entire classes online, and iTunes University also has classes available to watch.

Another important part of lectures is understanding the direction the professor takes during his or her lecture. The direction changes based on connecting words such as however, although, therefore, or meanwhile. Read our post on Using Conjunctions in English to improve your understanding of these words.

Tip #3: Improve your writing skills through more complex sentence structures

Writing is of course an important part of academic English. To improve your writing, make sure that you know how to create more complex sentences using grammar concepts such as Relative Clauses. Also be sure that you understand how to properly use Punctuation in English.

Tip #4: Read. A LOT.

Read everything you can! Read for fun (check out our article on Novels  for English Learners), read the newspaper, change your phone and social media to English, and immerse yourself in the language as much as possible.

When reading, read actively. This means that you take notes in your books, look up words in the dictionary, and keep a journal of new vocabulary. Interacting with the text in this way will help you better understand the content.

Academic English Idioms and Vocabulary 

Ace (an exam)

Definition: to pass an exam with a very high score.

Example: I aced my final!


Definition: a person who loves to read.

Example: I was a bookworm as a child. For my birthday, I didn’t want toys: I wanted books.


Definition: a person who copies another person’s actions (or, in the case of academia, a person who copies another person’s work).

Example: The person sitting next to me was a copycat, but we had different versions of the test!

Cram for (a test)

Definition: to study for an exam.

Example: I crammed for my midterm last night.

5 tips improving academic English

Pull an all-nighter

Definition: to study all night before a test (or work all night to finish a project).

Example: My paper is due tomorrow and I’ve only written half. I think I have to pull an all-nighter.

Study buddy

Definition: a person who studies with you.

Example: Pam is my study buddy for chemistry. We are meeting later at a coffee shop in Little Italy.

Do you need to improve your academic English in order to reach your language learning goals? CISL’s English for Academic Purposes course can help! With CISL’s EAP, students take 12 weeks of afternoon classes that are focused on improving the language skills necessary to excel in the American academic setting. (Students also have the option of taking just four weeks of this course: contact CISL for more information.)

Academic English San Francisco University Pathway

Meet our CISL Pathway Partner, Berkeley City College!

April 27, 2017

Did you know that CISL Pathway students can attend a California college (without taking the TOEFL or IELTS exam)? The Pathway Program is the perfect way to study English in a U.S. college! Today we are looking at one of our most exciting partners, Berkeley City College.

Meet our CISL Pathway Partner, Berkeley City College!

Berkeley City College (BCC) is a California Community College located in Berkeley, California. It is part of the Peralta Community College District, so students of BCC can also attend classes at the other schools in the District (Laney College, Merritt College, and the College of Alameda). Students have access to hundreds of classes through these schools!

Berkeley Community College Highlights

Here are some of the many exciting highlights of attending BCC.

  • Urban and academic location: the BCC (brand new!) campus is located in downtown Berkeley just two blocks from UC Berkeley
  • High chance of attending UC Berkeley: BCC has one of the highest transfer rates in the nation for UC Berkeley
  • Academic flexibility: students can take classes at any of Peralta’s campuses (BCC, College of Alameda, Laney College, and Merritt College)
  • Easy transfer to a university: the “Degree with a Guarantee” program ensures acceptance to a California State University
  • Student support: the Office of International Education (which works closely with CISL) helps international students with any questions or concerns

Guaranteed Transfer Programs

With BCC, students can study many subjects and be guaranteed admission into a California State University with which the BBC has a partnership (this is called their “Degree with a Guarantee” program).

Some of the many subjects include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Public Administration
  • Mathematics
  • Language and Literature
  • History
  • Mathematics
  • Political Science
  • Psychology

And more!

Student Programs

Berkeley City College has many clubs and organizations to encourage students to become involved in their new school. With BCC, students have the opportunity to join organizations such as the Association Students of Berkeley City College (the student government association) or many clubs in the Inter-Club Council (such as the Chess Club, the Global Studies Club, or the International Students Association). Additionally, the college hosts fairs throughout the year: Wellness Fairs help promote health and happiness of students, while Transfer Fairs provide information to help students choose the right college or university to complete their bachelor’s degree.

International Student Support

Berkeley City College students (and students of all other colleges in the Peralta Community College District) enjoy the services of the Office of International Education. This office provides help with visas and tuition payments and also helps with housing and other needs of international students. With the Office of International Education, students are well taken care of!

To learn more about transferring to Berkeley City College, contact CISL.




Academic English Featured Listening Practice University Pathway

The Five Best TED Talks about Language

April 7, 2017

CISL’s English classes give students plenty of opportunities to improve speaking, writing, listening, vocabulary, and reading skills. However, we also believe that learning doesn’t stop when class time does: we encourage our students to continue learning English after the school day ends! The following five best TED Talks about language are designed to motivate our language-loving students.

The Five Best TED Talks about Language

Anne Curzan: What makes a word “real”?

What makes a word “real?” How does a new word get put in the dictionary . . . and who makes these decisions? English professor Anne Curzan discusses this all (and the role of slang in the English language). In this fascinating talk, students learn some interesting slang, such as hangry (hungry + angry), adorkable (adorable + dorky), and YOLO (which means “you only live once”).

John McWhorter: 4 reasons to learn a new language

We all have different reasons for learning a new language. Linguist John McWhorter explains how learning a language allows us to connect to new cultures, how languages shape our brain, and how much fun we can have while learning a new language.

Keith Chen: Could your language affect your ability to save money?

Do languages shape the way we think? Economist Keith Chen thinks so. In fact, he believes that “futureless languages” (languages that do not use the Future Tense the way that English does) affect the way that these speakers save money. Decide for yourself in this interesting (and data filled) speech. Afterwards, check out our post on slang words for money!

Sid Efromovich: 5 techniques to speak any language

Sid Efromovich, a polyglot who speaks seven languages, gives us some tips and tricks that have helped him master language learning. His first tip? To relax! We agree, which is why the CISL classroom is always a warm and welcoming environment that makes you comfortable! Another tip? Find a “language buddy” to help you learn. You’ll find plenty of language buddies at CISL!

Tim Doner: Breaking the language barrier

Another polyglot, Tim Doner, discusses some of the ways he improves his vocabulary. He also talks about the ways he uses language to connect with others and better understand the cultures connected to the languages. There is definition . . . and there is meaning. What is the difference? Tim Doner explains!

Remember: TED Talks include subtitles and interactive transcripts to help you improve your English. Use these tools if you need them!

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Adverbs of Degree in English + 4 ‘Really Awesome’ Libraries in California

April 1, 2017

Adverbs of Degree in English

Adverbs of Degree in English

What are adverbs of degree in English? Adverbs of degree show the level of intensity of a verb in the sentence. Using them makes your writing and speaking much more effective (or can even change the meaning of a sentence)!

Here is an example of a sentence with and without an adverb of degree:

  • He won the race.
  • He almost won the race.

The meaning completely changes when we add this adverb.

The meaning doesn’t always change when we add adverbs of degree. Sometimes, these adverbs of degree just give us more clarification.

  • I love you.
  • I deeply love you.
  • I agree.
  • I highly agree.
  • You said what I was thinking.
  • You perfectly said what I was thinking.

In these cases, the verb is strengthened by the use of the adverb of degree.

Here is a list of some of the more common adverbs of degree.

almost absolutely  barely completely decidedly deeply enough enormously
entirely extremely fairly  far  fully greatly hardly highly
how incredibly indeed intensely just least less little
lots most much nearly perfectly positively practically purely
quite rather really scarcely simply   so somewhat  strongly
thoroughly  too totally utterly very virtually well

4 ‘Really Awesome’ Libraries in California

It’s almost impossible to choose just four really awesome libraries in California. However, we are absolutely sure that these are some of the best in the state! Notice how we use these adverbs of degree in English for the descriptions of each library: the words on the adverbs list are in bold. When are these words being used as adverbs of degree?

The San Diego Public Library, Downtown SD

While some people believe that people barely read books these days, we highly disagree: San Diegans read enough that the city just finished an entirely new library! The completely new structure is one of the coolest architectural designs in SD: check out our article about this amazing place.

San Francisco Public Library, Potrero Branch

What a view! This structure was recently renovated in 2010 and offers beautiful city views, lots of natural lighting, free wireless internet, and many places for group meetings and individual study.

Los Angeles Public Library

The Los Angeles Public Library holds more than 6 million books: that’s well more books than any other public library in the U.S.! The building is an utterly beautiful piece of architecture (check out the simply gorgeous globe lamp!) that is worth a visit.

Hearst Castle Library, San Simeon

The Hearst Castle is extremely famous for being one of the most beautiful castles in the United States, so perhaps it is fairly unsurprising that the castle has an incredibly stunning library. The details of the warm and lavish structure are impressive!

Have you been to a library in California? Tell us about it on Facebook!