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CISL San Francisco

California Life CISL San Francisco Featured Social Media Vocabulary

ESL Vocabulary for Videos + Awesome SF Videos

March 20, 2017

From gorgeous parks to its iconic plazas and bridges, San Francisco is a city recognizable by most. But new drone videos on YouTube are providing us with birds-eye views of SF (and a perspective of the City by the Bay that we’ve never seen before)! Have you checked out some of these incredible videos? Enjoy this unique look of the city, and be sure to learn some of the ESL vocabulary for videos we’ve included to help you understand sites like YouTube.

Awesome Videos of San Francisco

Enjoy these videos of San Francisco, which were professionally shot using drone footage. These aerial shots make us love SF even more!

ESL Vocabulary for Videos

How many of these ESL vocabulary words for videos do you know?


Definition: photos or video

Example: You got some great shots of the sunset and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Definition: film recorded for a particular event

Example: Did you see the footage of the fog rolling in to the Bay?


Definition: a small machine that flies and often carries a camera to shoot footage from the sky

Example: They used drone footage to show how many people attended the festival.


Definition: existing, happening, or operating in the air

Example: People use drones to get aerial footage of sites.


B & W

Definition: black and white

Example: We can’t decide if we like the footage better in color or in B & W.


Definition: a three-legged tool to hold a camera

Example: We used a tripod for more stability.


Definition: high definition

Example: This new camera allows us to take photos in high-def.

Would you like to see similar videos of San Diego and also learn some more ESL vocabulary for videos? Check out our post on YouTube Vocabulary and Videos of San Diego!

CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Featured Vocabulary

Phrasal Verbs for the ESL classroom

February 7, 2017

Phrasal verbs are an important part of the English language, and we find them used in the business setting, while using public transportation, when talking about love, and–you guessed it–in the classroom! Academia is common place for phrasal verbs: read on to learn more about phrasal verbs for the ESL classroom!

Phrasal Verbs ESL classroom

Phrasal verbs for the ESL classroom

Some of these phrasal verbs have more than one meaning. In this case, we are looking at the definition that is used with the context of an ESL class.

Catch on

Meaning: to understand a concept.


  • Your CAE Speaking score has really improved. It seems like you’re really catching on!
  • It was difficult at first to learn a new trolley route when I arrived in SD, however, after two weeks I’ve caught on.

Note: this phrasal verb is intransitive (it does not require/take an object). To learn more about intransitive vs. transitive phrasal verbs, check out our article on Grammar Lesson of the Month on phrasal verbs. 

Hand out

Meaning: to distribute (usually papers).


  • The teacher handed out the test to everyone and then we began taking it.
  • Before my presentation, I handed an outline out to each classmate.

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and hence is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Phrasal Verbs ESL classroom

Hand in/Turn in

Meaning: to submit (usually papers/homework).


  • We all handed in our tests before we left for the day.
  • Did you hand  your homework in so I can correct it?
  • I forgot to turn in my essay! Hopefully I can email it to my teacher.
  • Did you turn your paper in?

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and hence is optionally separable. The second and fourth examples show how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Make up

Meaning: to do at a later date than originally planned.


  • I was sick on Monday, so I made up my test on Tuesday.
  • You cannot make the CAE up; therefore, it’s important that I don’t miss my test!

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Pass out

Meaning: to distribute (similar to “hand out”).


  • She passed out our new EAP books today and I think they’re great!
  • My classmate passed candy out to each of us after his presentation. They were chocolates from his hometown.

Note: this phrasal verb is transitive (it takes an object) and is optionally separable. The second example shows how you can separate this phrasal verb. 

Student.Question.Class.Teacher.FAQ,Phrasal Verb

Speak up

Meaning: to say your opinion.


  • If anyone doesn’t understand, please speak up.
  • Which beach should we go to after class? Someone speak up!

Note: this phrasal verb is intransitive (it does not require/take an object).

Business English Career English CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Featured Vocabulary

Sales Vocabulary + CISL’s Career English Program

January 24, 2017

CISL is proud to offer students the Career English program, where students master business English and communication skills before spending time in an American company. Past students have experienced architecture, marketing, event planning, and even real estate through CISL!

One of the most requested areas of interest for students is sales and marketing. Do you know these common sales and marketing related terms and expressions?


Sales and Marketing Vocabulary

Cold call

Definition: (verb, noun) to call a person or company that you do not have relations in hope of beginning a new business relationship.

Example: We estimate that 70% of our cold calls are not successful . . . but 30% are!

Example: The first time I cold called someone when I was at my host company, I was so nervous! But my English got better each time I did.

Conduct (research)

Meaning: (collocation) to do research (on the market, customers, competitors, etc.)

Example: We conducted extensive research before choosing our logo.

To close (a deal/sale)

Meaning: (verb) to finalize an agreement or sale.

Example: After closing the deal, we celebrated with a little champagne!


Follow up

Meaning: (phrasal verb) to make contact with someone after a meeting.

Example: He made a follow up call to see if they were still interested in the product.


Meaning: (verb) to begin something, to put a plan into effect.

Example: They implemented their new marketing plan in January 2017.



Meaning: (adjective) original, advanced (ideas, plans, etc.)

Example: Her innovative marketing plan led to her promotion.


Meaning: (noun) a tip; a potential client or sale.

Example: I have three leads to look into today.


Meaning: (verb) to make something better; reach its potential.

Example: After optimizing the website, we saw sales increase by 15%.



Meaning: (adjective) the ability to make money/be profitable.

Example: They were worried about the profitability of the new product, but in the end it was incredibly successful.


Meaning: (phrase, acronym) “return on investment.”

Example: The ROI on social media marketing is becoming easier to track.


Meaning: (adjective) carefully planned; with purpose.

Example: They asked us to design a strategic sales plan . . . in two hours!

For more information on CISL’s Career English, contact the CISL Career English Coordinator.

Academic English CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco EAP

What IS academic English? (+ 10 words for academic writing)

November 21, 2016

When selecting an English course, many students look for a class that has a specific purpose. Some courses are designed to prepare students for an English proficiency exam, such as CISL’s TOEFL, IELTS, and Cambridge FCE and CAE courses. Others, like CISL’s Premier English classes, focus on the business English skills necessary for professionals and executives. Course materials, syllabus, classwork, and homework are all focused on helping students improve skills specifically related to this type of English.

Academic English is another popular and important type of English course (and one which CISL offers throughout the year). But what IS academic English, and what does an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course at CISL consist of? Let’s take a look!

Academic English at CISL

According to CISL San Diego’s Academic Director, Tamara, CISL’s 12-week Academic English program is “the ideal class for students transitioning from a language school environment to an American university. Our EAP program was created to give our students the necessary tools to meet and surpass the academic challenges inherent in this period of change.”

Read on to learn how specific skills are sharpened in CISL’s EAP course.


In a Standard Course at CISL, students focus on communicating in English. This includes expressing opinions, agreeing and disagreeing, talking about oneself and current events, and using the English tenses to discuss the past, present, future, and real and unreal situations.


Academic English will do the same, but with a focus on the English skills needed in the college or university setting. For example, a student will learn to express opinions in the classroom: how to agree or disagree with a classmate, or how to express opinions based on facts (such as academic articles or research studies).


In the Standard CISL classroom, listening skills are always being tested: the class is English-only, and students speak (or listen to others speak) English for hours! Whether listening to songs, to other students speaking, or watching videos that create meaningful class discussions, students are constantly sharpening their listening skills.


Listening skills in the college or university classroom, on the other hand, require an understanding of classroom lectures: this includes understanding the academic language and grammar used, and possessing the ability to process information while taking notes. In addition, students must often listen to their peers as they participate in classroom discussions.


A Standard CISL course will have readings from the textbook as well as texts that CISL teachers choose to include: newspaper articles, online articles, chapters from books, and even poetry are often found in a CISL classroom! With Academic English, the reading is more focused on academic texts and readings from the academic-based class textbook(s). This will prepare students for the rigorous academic reading that they will do when at college or university.



With the CISL Academic English course, students learn how to write essays in the form and style appropriate for academia, and students leave the EAP course with an understanding of the entire academic writing process. CISL’s Academic Director, Tamara, states that “Our students conduct independent research, apply the five step writing process, and walk away feeling confident in their writing skills.”



In the Standard CISL classroom, students focus on grammar that is highlighted in their textbooks (and the concepts that students ask about in class). English tenses, relative clauses, phrasal verbs, lessons on the Passive Voice vs. Active Voice, Action Verbs vs. Non-Action Verbs . . . these are all a portion of a typical day for a CISL student! These lessons are accompanied by fun and useful conversations that use the new grammar concepts learned in class.

Grammar English

Grammar in the EAP class is equally as useful. Students learn the grammar skills necessary to write, speak, and read better and apply each of the concepts they learn to an academic-based activity. For example, students will learn about the Active vs. Passive Voice and then apply this to writing an essay, taking careful steps to avoid using the Passive Voice in writing (something that is frowned upon by academia!).

So what makes CISL’s EAP program different from the academic programs of other schools? In addition to CISL’s small classroom size, we employee the most qualified of instructors! CISL’s Academic Director Tamara says “Our teachers are either writers themselves, or are university professors. We feel this gives our students the added benefit of being taught by professionals who thoroughly understand the academic landscape ahead. At CISL San Diego, we are happy to facilitate this process and prepare our students for a positive and fulfilling university experience. “

10 Useful Verbs for Academic Writing

Will you be taking an EAP course soon? Here are some excellent words that are commonly used in academic writing. Incorporate them into your writing for essays that use strong and appropriate vocabulary! For even more vocabulary words, check out this list from English Companion.


Definition: to carefully examine something, typically for purposes of explanation and interpretation.

Example 1: In this essay, I intend to analyze research on the positive and negative effects of caffeine in order to determine what conclusions science has made on this topic.

Example 2: In order to fully analyze the pros and cons of private school education, researchers took data from schools throughout the U.S. whose students are from various backgrounds and social classes.

Other useful forms: analysis, analyse (British), analyzed


Definition: add notes to (a text or diagram) giving explanation or comment.

Example 1: The version of Heart of Darkness referred to is the 2014 annotated edition from W.W.W. Norton and Company.

Other useful forms: annotation, annotated


Definition: state a fact or belief confidently and forcefully.

Example 1: Researchers assert that their findings are accurate.

Example 2: The article asserts that little has been done to alleviate the serious pollution of the local river.

Other useful forms: asserted, assertions


Definition: to quote or refer to (a passage, book, or author) in substantiation as an authority, proof, or example.

Example 1: This essay cites the most recent studies regarding this issue.

Example 2: Cars have been cited as one of the largest contributors to global warming.

Other useful forms: citations, cited


Definition: recognize or ascertain what makes (someone or something) different.

Example 1: Before discussing the pros and cons of wearing uniforms in school, it is important to differentiate between uniforms and dress codes.

Example 2: I would like to differentiate between different forms of social media before discussing its effects on our youth.

Other useful forms: differ, differentiated, differential


Definition: express (an idea) in a concise or systematic way.

Example 1: Many formulate an opinion on the “small government vs. big government” debate before they take take the time to understand the intricacies of each.

Example 2: In order to formulate his education reform policy, the governor met with many academic advisrs and financial planners.

Other useful forms: formulated, formulations


Definition: put (something) forward as a hypothesis.

Example 1: I hypothesize that several themes in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird are found in many works by later authors, including the coexistence of good and evil and the existence of social inequality in our society.

Other useful forms: hypothesis, hypothetical, hypothesized


Definition: deduce or conclude (information) from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements.

Example 1: Based on these findings, scientists can infer what happened to cause the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Other useful forms: infer, inferred, inference,


Definition: disapprove of and attempt to prevent, especially by argument.

Example 1: I personally oppose government censorship of the internet and believe in a free exchange of information. In this essay, I will explain why.

Example 2: Those who oppose climate reform claim it comes at a cost to businesses.

Other useful forms: opposing, opposition, opposed


Definition: depict (someone or something) in a work of art or literature.

Example 1: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness portrays the horrors of colonialism in the Congo.

Other useful forms: portrayed, portrayal


Check out some of our other articles on Academic English!

American Traditions California Life CISL San Diego CISL San Francisco Dining Featured Grammar Holidays San Diego San Francisco Student Activities

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Preposition/gerund combinations + things a CISL student can be thankful for

November 1, 2016

November 1st marks the day that Americans put away their Halloween decorations (and costumes!) and turn their focus to the next exciting holiday: Thanksgiving! Many Americans consider this to be their favorite holiday because of the warm traditions surrounding it: dinner with friends and family, lots of delicious home-cooked food, and a holiday focused on spending time with loved ones and being thankful for our blessings.


A Thanksgiving tradition is to say what you are thankful for as you eat traditional Thanksgiving dishes. This is an excellent way to practice gratitude . . . and it is also a great way to practice a common grammatical construction in English: saying you are thankful for something uses the construction adjective + preposition + noun (gerund).

Here are some examples of this construction.

  • I am thankful for having dinner with my family. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for spending time with my friends and family. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for being healthy. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for not working on this holiday. (gerund)
  • I am thankful for my job. (noun)
  • I am thankful for my Mom’s delicious pie! (noun)

Note that with the negative example, we use the construction adjective + preposition + not + gerund.

Grammar English

Adjective + preposition + gerund combinations

Here are just a few of the many adjective + preposition + gerund combinations we have in English. Can you think of example sentences? Some suggestions are below.

  • afraid of
  • bored of
  • committed to
  • excited about
  • famous for
  • guilty of
  • happy about

Here are some examples using these combinations.

  • Afraid of. She was afraid of taking public transportation when she first arrived. But then she read our Guide to Public Transport in SD and SF and now she’s a pro!
  • Bored of. He was bored of doing grammar lessons and not speaking much in class. Then he switched to our school, CISL, and now he’s much happier.
  • Committed to. Our teachers are committed to providing our students with the best educational experience possible as an international student in California!
  • Excited about. I’m excited about celebrating the upcoming holidays. I just read the Guide for Shopping in SD and now I know exactly where to go!
  • Famous for. San Diego is famous for having beautiful weather all year, but did you know that it also has some great skiing just a few hours away?
  • Guilty of. We went to the SD Courthouse to watch a court hearing, and the man was found guilty of violating parole.
  • Happy about. He was happy about scoring so high on the CAE exam.

Things a CISL student can be thankful for

As an international student learning English at CISL San Diego or CISL San Francisco, you have so much to be thankful for! Here are just some of the things our students said they most appreciate.

Heart Beach Love Girl Sunset California

Great classmates and friends

With such a diverse student population (check out our nationality mixes for SD and SF!), CISL students have a diverse classroom of students. At break and after school, it’s not uncommon to mingle with students from around the world. What an exciting and unique opportunity!


Quality instruction

CISL teachers have advanced degrees and years of experience teaching English to international students. In addition, many have also lived and worked or studied abroad, so they understand what life is like for an international student!


A beautiful city

How can you not be thankful when you are surrounded by the beauty of San Diego or San Francisco? From the unique neighborhoods like Little Italy, Chinatown, the Mission, or Gaslamp to places like Dolores Park or Balboa Park, there is always something new to explore.

San Diego

New experiences daily

Speaking of exploring, both San Diego and San Francisco provide students with the most exciting events, festivals, and activities. Check out a local happy hour, attend the next film or music festival, or check out CISL’s Activities Calendar to see what fun events CISL has planned for you. Of course, there’s always the beach!


Real-life English practice

Living in the U.S. is a priceless opportunity to meet and mingle with native speakers. Learning doesn’t end when class is over each day: with your new friends from around the world and your after-school and weekend social activities, you are continually practicing your English while a student at CISL. Fun AND learning at the same time, in beautiful places and with wonderful people? That’s a lot to be thankful for!