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How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

October 14, 2017

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking EnglishAre you shy, nervous, or embarrassed to speak English? Even in a warm and welcoming environment (such as the CISL classroom), students can still have difficulty feeling comfortable speaking English. Do not worry: we have some tips to help students speak up in class in order to overcome their fear of speaking English. With these tips and a little practice, you will feel confident communicating in English in no time!

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #1: Ask questions

Asking a question is a great way to participate in the class. You can ask questions for clarification, for more information, or simply to get the opinions of your classmates and teacher. All questions open dialogue and allow you to be an important part of the class conversation. (Plus, asking questions allows you to learn how to form questions in different tenses!)

Tip #2: Be a good listener

There is no such thing as a one-sided conversation. To speak in class, it’s a good idea to listen first. Then you can build on the conversation by agreeing or disagreeing (or adding information).

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

Tip #3: Identify your exact fears or worries

Ask yourself exactly why you are so afraid to speak English. Is it because of your accent? Is it because you lack the vocabulary? Is it because you can’t correctly form a sentence with the proper word order? The only way to overcome your fear is to first identify it.

Tip #4: Remind yourself that shame is irrational

Once you’ve identified your fear (or fears), realize that your fear is irrational: all fear is! When you are in the English classroom, the goal is to improve your English. And remember: everyone in the class shares this goal! Absolutely everything that you do will help you improve, so consider each conversation to be a learning opportunity.

Tip #5: Relax (and have fun)

The easiest way to improve your English skills is to enjoy the language (both learning it and speaking it). Develop a positive relationship with English and you will enjoy every step of the learning process. (Yes, even grammar!)

How to Overcome a Fear of Speaking English

What are your tips for improving your English skills and overcoming the fear of speaking up in the classroom? Share with us on Facebook!

Featured International Travel Information Student Life

Student and Tourist Visa Information for International Students

October 12, 2017

Student Visa Information for International Students

Are you coming to the U.S. to study English? If so, you probably have many questions regarding your visa: how to obtain it, what to do (and what not to do) during your interview, and how long your visa will be valid. Read on for information about student visas, including the I-94, B2, F1, and I-20.

Student Visa Information for International Students


An I-94 is a document that shows when you arrived to the U.S.. Everyone entering the US (who is not a U.S. citizen) has an I-94.

You can access your I-94 and get a copy of it here.

F-1 student visas

F-1 visas are only issued by the local US Embassy or consulate in a student’s home country.

The steps to obtain a student F-1 visa are as follows:

  1. The student applies for a full course of study and is accepted to a certified school, such as CISL. (For information on how to obtain a visa from CISL, visit our website: or visit the Study in the States website:
  2. The school issues an I-20 form to the student. For this to happen, the student must provide the following: a copy of their passport, a permanent home address, proof of funds, city and country of birth, and exact study dates. Important: Only a DSO (Designated School Official) can sign an I-20. Copies are not permitted and it is illegal to send the I-20 by email or fax.
  3. The student then pays the $200 SEVIS fee using the I-20. The link to pay this fee is:
  4. After paying the SEVIS fee, the student can make an appointment with their local embassy. Follow the steps and pay the visa appointment fee at this address:–online-nonimmigrant-visa-application.html

Student Visa Information for International Students

Tips for the F-1 visa

At the interview, it is important to have all of the required documents with you. This includes:

  • I-20
  • I-901 receipt
  • passport
  • passport photos for the new visa
  • proof of funds
  • proof of a permanent address

Students are asked a lot of questions at the interview, including what they will study at CISL. Sometimes students are denied if they don’t have a clear academic goal. Make sure that you clearly know which courses you have enrolled in for CISL and be able to show that you have a clear academic goal (for example, to pass the English for Academic Purposes course, or to complete the Cambridge First Certificate Exam Preparation course). Students who are unaware of their program and their purpose of study can be denied a visa.

If students are enrolled in the Career English program, it is important not to use the word “internship.” An internship visa is a separate visa, and one that students at CISL do not obtain. CISL does not use the word “internship” in any of its documentation online or in print: this is because the Career English program is to help students improve their English skills at an American company. The goal of the program is not to have students improve their business skills.

If approved, the student will receive a visa in their passport. Please remember our school does not issue “visas.” Only the U.S. government issues visas.

Very important: F-1 students should not attempt to enter the US more than 30 days before their starting date. If this happens, students might not be able to enter the country.

Student Visa Information for International Students

Information regarding other types of visas

Most visas are for students studying full-time. Students studying part-time (17 hours or less) may apply for ESTA at

Note: students already here on an ESTA visa waiver or B2 visa cannot be issued an I-20. They must return to their own country to apply for an F-1.

Visa waiver tourists are limited to 90 days or get a B1/B2 tourist visa for 6 months.

For B1/B2 tourists visas, students can go to the website: for more information.

Students with J-1, M-1, or F-2 visas may only take part-time courses.

Contact CISL for more information on tourist visas.


Featured Grammar

Common Irregular Plural Nouns in English

October 1, 2017

Do you know the difference between plural and singular nouns (and which plural nouns in English are irregular)? Read on to find out!

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Making singular nouns plural

Most singular nouns in English are easy to make plural: simply add an “-s.”

  • One dog
  • Two dogs
  • One bottle
  • Five bottles

For nouns that end in s, x, z, ch, and sh, we add “-es.”

  • One bus
  • Two buses
  • One watch
  • Two watches
  • One fox
  • Two foxes

For nouns that end in consonant + y, we remove the y and add “-ies.”

  • One baby
  • Two babies

However, there are some irregular nouns in English that do not follow these simple rules. The following list includes the common irregular noun plurals in English.

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Singular                  Plural

Analysis                    Analyses

Basis                          Bases

Child                         Children

Crisis                        Crises

Data                          Datum

Deer                         Deer (or deers)

Diagnosis               Diagnoses

Fish                          Fish (or fishes)

Goose                      Geese

Half                          Halves

Loaf                          Loaves

Man                          Men

Moose                     Moose

Mouse                     Mice

Scarf                        Scarves

Self                           Selves

Series                      Series

Sheep                      Sheep

Thief                       Thieves

Tooth                      Teeth

Wife                         Wives

Wolf                        Wolves

Woman                   Women

Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Practicing Common Irregular Noun Plurals in English

Can you complete the chart?


Analysis                  ________

________           Bases

Child                       ________

Crisis                      ________

Data                        ________

Deer                       Deer (or deers)

________          Diagnoses

Fish                        Fish (or fishes)

Goose                     ________

Half                        ________

________          Loaves

Man                       ________

Moose                   ________

________          Mice

Scarf                      ________

Self                        ________

________         Series

Sheep                   ________

________        Thieves

________        Teeth

Wife                     ________

Wolf                    ________

________        Women

Business English Career English CISL San Diego Featured

CISL Student Florian Learns Project Planning, Social Media, and Corporate Design at Casas Advisors!

September 28, 2017

Have you dreamed of improving your English skills for a future job? CISL’s Career English program provides students with the English skills necessary to succeed in the work environment AND offers international students a chance to spend time at an American company!

Our German student, Florian, recently learned English at CISL and then spent time at Casas Advisors, a real estate company. Florian shared some of his experience with us.

CISL Student Florian Learns Project Planning, Social Media, and Corporate Design at Casas Advisors!

Objectives and expectations

Florian’s goals before the Career English program were clear. “My main objective and intention to enroll for the Career English Program at CISL was to improve my business English and to gain some work experience abroad to improve my CV.”

Why did Florian choose CISL? He admits that it’s not easy for international students to find such an experience at an American company without the help of programs such as CISL’s Career English. Florian recalls that “A major issue for finding a company for me was that most companies require to pay their interns and therefore they need to have a working visa.” Thankfully, with the help of CISL’s Career English Coordinator, Florian was able to find a placement at Casas Advisors, a real estate company in San Diego.

Florian’s tasks and responsibilities

Florian spent two months at Casas Advisors, where the “team was very dedicated to integrate me into the team and to always find challenging tasks for me.”  His responsibilities were varied and challenging. “To summarize my activities I created the following list for a quick overview:

  • Creation of social media analysis and planning tool; definition and implementation of recommendations
  • Development of corporate design
  • Creation of buyers & listing presentation
  • Calculation of ROIs of planned real estate investments for creation of investors pitches
  • Increased transparency of projects through Gantt-Project management planning
  • Administrative activities (reply to enquiries, ordering etc.)
  • Revised marketing material

Improving English through a host company

Florian says he saw great improvements to his English skills after spending time with his host company. “Reviewing my time as an intern at Casas Advisors I can say that those two months were great . . . [I was] able to improve my business English in this environment. Mostly this improvement was caused by making phone calls or attending meetings and holding presentations.” Another reason Florian’s English improved is because of his interactions with employees of the company. “Working together with my co-workers made my work more fun, interesting and flexible at the same time. I worked closely with Linda Paz, the Broker’s assistant, and Santiago Orvananos, the Owner and Broker of Casas Advisors.”

Was it worth it?

Florian says yes. “I was very pleased with my working experience in San Diego. Through the aforementioned activities I was able to improve my skillset according to Excel & PowerPoint . . . it was an awesome experience which I highly recommend. I can only speak highly of Casas Advisors.

Congratulations to Florian for a successful experience with a host company, and many thanks to Casas Advisors for providing such a welcoming environment for Florian to improve his English!


CISL’s Career English Program offers students the opportunity to improve their English skills in the classroom and at an American company. Students first spend time in the CISL classroom, which has small class sizes (no more than 8 students!) that allow English learners to quickly improve. Students then work closely with the Career English Coordinator to create an American resume (which is different than a CV) and interview with American companies. Students spend at least two months improving their English in a work environment, either while still taking classes at CISL or after completing their CISL English courses. Contact CISL for more information.


Cambridge Exams Featured Listening Practice

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

September 24, 2017

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

Are you planning to take the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English Exam soon? Don’t stress: in addition to structured test preparation classes, there are many ways to prepare for the exam using self-study! Do you know these CAE Listening Part 1 tips and how to prepare for this part of the test when you’re not in the English classroom? These tips and suggested podcasts will help you improve your score.

The Listening Module of the Cambridge CAE Exam consists of 4 parts. Need more help with the Listening Module of Cambridge FCE or CAE? Check out our other articles, CAE and FCE Listening Part 2 Tips and Listening Part 4 Tips.


CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice  

Before learning tips and tricks for the exam, make sure that you understand the basic requirements and components of Listening Module, Part 1.

Listening Part 1 Overview

  • You hear an audio recording
  • The recording has three conversations
  • Each conversation is between two people
  • You will listen to the recording twice
  • Each conversation has two multiple choice questions
  • Each correct answer earns you one mark

What the test is looking for:

According to Cambridge, this part of the exam is testing your ability to understand feeling, attitude, purpose, function, agreement, course of action, gist, or detail. Examples of this in the test might include the following:

  • Feeling: In the conversation you hear, a person might tell another person their current emotions or how they are reacting to a certain situation. Vocabulary words related to emotion are common.
  • Attitude: A person might tell another person their opinion about something. Opinion-related vocabulary might be used, such as “I don’t care for X” or idioms such as “X isn’t my cup of tea.”
  • Purpose: The reason for doing something is communicated. First recognize what the purpose that is being communicated is: perhaps a person is leaving a job (or moving, or going back to school) and is describing why. Phrases such as “that’s why” and “which is why” could indicate this; the speaker could also use transition words such as “therefore” and “because.”
  • Function: A person could describe how something works (or doesn’t work when it should). Listen for how something works and descriptive language.
  • Agreement: It is natural in a conversation for two people to agree or disagree; therefore, in this section, agree/disagree vocabulary might be used. Of course, the words “agree” and “disagree” are hardly used (that would be too easy!). Instead, listen for expressions that illustrate agreement/disagreement, such as “I totally understand,” “That makes sense,” or “I see.”
  • Course of action: How will something occur? These details of a conversation might be tested. Listen for words that indicate steps in a process, such as “then” and “after that” and “following this.”
  • Gist: “Gist” is the main point of a conversation. What point was the speaker trying to make? This could be tested.
  • Detail: In addition to testing your overall understanding of a conversation (gist), “detail” can also be tested. Listen for dates, numbers, and other specific information.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

How to practice

Part 1 is probably the easiest part of the CAE Exam to practice because it’s based on a conversation between two people. To practice, try listening to as many conversations as you can. These can be conversations between characters on TV, interviews on YouTube or the news, or podcasts.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

Podcasts to Prepare for CAE Listening Module

Try listening to these podcasts to prepare for Part 1 of the CAE Listening Module. Each of these podcasts includes a transcript, so you can read and listen at the same time (until you become comfortable reading without the transcript).

American Stories for English Learners

Experience some of the best short stories written by American authors, but experience them in audioformat. American Stories for English Learners has more than 14 hours of listening content: each podcast is 57 minutes long and is a story from a famous American author (some of the longer stories are in two parts). Users can download the MP3 and the transcript and then read and listen to Mark Twain, O. Henry, Willa Cather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Edith Wharton, and many others. The project is from Voice of America, which provides content written in plain American English with short sentence structures, no idioms, and a limited vocabulary. Each lesson is specifically designed for the English language learner.

CAE Listening Part 1 + Podcasts for CAE Listening Practice

BBC 6-Minute English

BBC 6-Minute English is a popular listening resource for Cambridge preparation students. The lessons are quick (just 6 minutes, as the name suggests), cover an interesting variety of topics, and include learning materials such as vocabulary lists. You can access the archives (lessons before 2014) here, and see updated lessons on its new website.

Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!

National Public Radio (NPR) produces many interesting podcasts on different subjects. “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” is special because it covers the news, but in a quiz format: listeners can guess which of the news stories are real and which are fake. It’s fun, informative, and great English listening practice! You can download “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” here.


Do you need to prepare for the Cambridge CAE Exam? CISL’s small class sizes (never more than 8 students per classroom) and intensive curriculum provide the materials and one-on-one instruction necessary to succeed. Contact CISL to learn more about our effective teaching methods and our beautiful locations of study in San Diego and San Francisco.