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American Traditions Featured Holidays San Diego San Francisco Suggested student activities Vocabulary

Celebrating Mardi Gras in the U.S. + Mardi Gras vocabulary

February 27, 2017

Mardi Gras is here! Are you celebrating? Both San Diego and San Francisco host incredible events for Mardi Gras, but before enjoying the parties, make sure that you know these Mardi Gras-related vocabulary words (and the traditions they are associated with).

Celebrating Mardi Gras in the U.S.

Mardi Gras Vocabulary 

Fat Tuesday

“Fat Tuesday” is the direct translation of the words “mardi gras” in French. It’s the Tuesday before Lent begins (see below) and the day when religious people celebrate before 40 days of more restrained living. For non-religious people, it’s a great excuse for a mid-week party and parade!

Lent

Lent is the Catholic tradition of giving up something you love for 40 days. It begins on Wednesday after Mardi Gras.

To give (something) up

This phrasal verb means “to stop enjoying/doing something.” Here are some examples of things people give up:

  • smoking
  • swearing
  • drinking soda/sugary drinks

For lent, people give up something they love or something that isn’t good for them.

Parade

A parade is an event where people, marching bands, and decorated cars or floats slowly make their way down public streets.

Floats

Floats are large, moving stages that are decorated beautifully (and outrageously)! These floats are used in parades.

Masks

In Mardi Gras, the Venetian-style masks are a common decoration (or piece of attire)!

“Let the good times roll”

This expression is the motto of Mardi Gras. It comes from the French expression “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

King cake

A king cake is the traditional cake eaten for Mardi Gras. A small trinket is placed inside the cake, and whoever finds the trinket in their slice of cake is either considered lucky . . . or is the person who has special responsibilities during the day. The traditions vary from family to family!

Krewe

This word, commonly used in New Orleans, means “group of people on the float.”

Throws

The “throws” are the things that the krewe throws from the float, such as candy or beads.

Beads

Beads are small, (usually round) pieces of plastic that are joined together to make a necklace.

Costumes

Costumes are clothing that are outrageous, colorful, or in the form of a famous person. In the U.S., we wear costumes for Halloween . . . and sometimes for Mardi Gras!

To dress up

This phrasal verb means “to wear a costume.”

Mardi Gras in San Diego

Would you like to join in on the festivities? Check out these two events held in San Diego for Mardi Gras. For these events, you must be 21 or over.

http://www.sdmardigras.com/

http://gaslampmardigras.com/

Mardi Gras in San Francisco

San Francisco’s main Mardi Gras celebration is all about the jazz! Check out this incredible parade if you are studying at CISL SF!

http://sf.funcheap.com/celebrate-mardi-gras-jazz-marching-band-parade-sf/

American Traditions Celebrities Featured Holidays Vocabulary

Nicknames for Santa + the Origin of the Word “Nickname”

December 6, 2016

The holiday season means delicious foods, celebrations, decorations, and the appearance of a strange man in a red suit who flies through the air with eight reindeer. Christmas is indeed a strange holiday!

To celebrate, we are taking a look at this iconic figure, Santa Claus, and his many nicknames. The name “Santa Claus” is common in the US, but other names and nicknames (see below) are also used. Check them out! But first, why do we use the word “nickname?” Linguist John McWhorter explains the fascinating origins of this word in this Ted Ed video.

Etymology of the word “nickname”

Watch McWhorter’s video to understand how this word came to be.

Now that you know the origins of the word “nickname,” let’s take a look at some of the many nicknames for Santa Claus!

Nicknames for Santa Claus

Jolly Old St. Nick

This nickname is the title of a famous Christmas song, but it’s also a name many people use for Santa Claus. Check out the song below!

Saint Nicholas

We know that there really was a man named Nicholas who was wealthy and generous, but exactly where history becomes myth is a mystery. Learn all about the story of Nicholas, who lived in modern-day Turkey, in this article about the origin of Saint Nicholas. The generous man was later named a saint by the Catholic church, hence the name “Saint” Nicholas.

Saint Nick

Nicholas has a nickname: Nick! (How many times can you use “nick” in a sentence??) “Nicholas” is shortened to “Nick” for the name “Saint Nick,” which is very common. The man in red is referred to as “Saint Nick” in this famous Christmas song: check it out below!

Kris Kringle

The origins of this nickname are not clear, but many believe that this is actually from the German words Christkindlein, Christkind’l, meaning “Christ child,” which was used in reference to baby Jesus, not Santa Claus! However, the name came to be used for the man commonly called Santa Claus.

Father Christmas

The Catholic tradition fell out of style around the time of the Protestant Reformation, but the tradition of gift-giving and the character of Saint Nick lived on. To move away from the word “Saint,” which is associated with Catholicism, people (particularly in the UK) began using names like “Father Christmas.”

Old Man Christmas

Another name that emerged around the same time as “Father Christmas,” this is probably another attempt to remove Catholicism from the holiday tradition. This name is also more common in the UK and not used often in the US.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our students and staff! We hope Santa brings you what you want this year!

American Traditions Featured Grammar Holidays Listening Practice Reading Writing

Grammar Lesson of the Month: Irregular Verbs in Christmas poetry

December 1, 2016

One of the most difficult aspects of learning English is the language’s irregular verbs. These verbs make it tough for students to correctly use grammatical structures that require a past tense or past participle verb, such as the Simple Past, the Present Perfect, or the Passive. Students spend hours practicing long irregular English verb lists, but still have difficulties when speaking English.

The best way to practice? Learn these verbs while in use! This month we are looking at irregular English verbs in use through a famous Christmas poem: “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. (Fun fact: this poem is more commonly called “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which is the first line of the poem.)

For many American families, it is tradition to read this poem around the holidays. Enjoy this piece of American holiday culture (and the chance to practice these irregular verbs)!

 Christmas-ESL-SanDiego-San-Francisco

Irregular Verb Practice: Gap-Fill Exercise

First, read the poem below and see if you can complete the missing words with the correct form of the verb in parenthesis. If you need to, listen to the poem being read as well: the video is below.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were _____ (hang) by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there _____ (arise)  such a clatter,
I _____ (spring) from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I _____ (fly) like a flash,
_____ (tear) open the shutters and _____ (throw) up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
_____ (give) a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I _____ (know) in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they _____ (come),
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they _____ (fly) 
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I _____ (hear) on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I _____ (draw) in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas _____ (come) with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had _____ (fling) on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he _____ (hold)  tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That _____ (shake) when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon _____ (give)  me to know I had nothing to dread;
He _____ (speak) not a word, but _____ (go) straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And _____ (lay) his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he _____ (rise) ;
He _____ (spring) to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all _____ (fly) like the down of a thistle.
But I _____ (hear) him exclaim, ere he _____ (drive) out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

 

Answers: Irregular Verbs

Did you get the correct answers?
A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
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.

Thanksgiving.Food

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!

Photo.Friend.Friends.Students.Park.Picture.Selfie.Instagram

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!

Student.Question.Class.Teacher.FAQ

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!

Beach.Friends.Selfie.Summer.Photo

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!

 

 

Holidays Student Life

Halloween Vocabulary for English students

October 27, 2012

This week marks a very special holiday in the United States: Halloween! As our students prepare their costumes, we have prepared a list of common vocabulary words and expressions to help you through the holiday, plus a mini-grammar lesson on Comparatives and Superlatives to help you use correct grammar when talking about the funniest, most original, and cutest costumes of the year.

Useful Halloween vocabulary words:

pumpkin

trick-or-treat

jack-o-latern

ghost

ghoul

vampire

werewolf

haunted house

witch

warlock

zombie

 

Useful Halloween Phrases:

Dress up (phrasal verb): to put on a costume (or, to put on really nice, fancy clothes)

“What are you dressing up as for Halloween?”

“I am dressing up as a pumpkin.”

 

Another way to talk about your costume is to use the phrase “go as.”

“I am going as Superman for Halloween this year.”

 

Carve a pumpkin (verb): to cut a face or shape into a pumpkin.

“I carved a scary face into my pumpkin.”

 

Using Comparatives and Superlatives to Describe Costumes

We often compare costumes: which is scariest? Which is funniest? Which is cutest? To do this correctly, we use Comparatives and Superlatives.

“His costume is scarier than mine.” (Comparative: you are comparing between two things.)

“Ben’s costume is the scariest.” (Superlative: you are comparing between more than two things.)

 

Remember, with comparatives using most one and two syllable words, you add “-er” to the end of most words.

scary –> scarier

cute –> cuter

funny –> funnier

 

With superlatives, when you compare more than two things, you add “-est” to the end of the words.

scary –> scarier –> scariest

cute –> cuter –> cutest

funny –> funnier –> funniest

Whose costume is the funniest? The most original? The cutest?

 

What about with three or more syllable words, like the following?

original

creative

frightening

disturbing

current

 

To compare two things using these words, you must add “more (adjective) than”

 

His costume is more original than mine.

Her costume was more creative than Sarah’s.

His costume was more frightening than Jim’s.

Jim’s costume was more disturbing than Todd’s.

Her costume was more current than anyone else’s.

 

Leandro’s costume was voted “Most Creative” in Amanda’s Level 8 class last year.

To use these words to compare more than two things, use the word “the most” with the adjective.

His costume is the most original.

Her costume was the most creative.

His costume was the most frightening.

Jim’s costume was the most disturbing.

Her costume was the most current.

 

Using Comparatives and Superlatives for Halloween

In your opinion, who won the awards for:

  • Most original
  • Scariest
  • Funniest
  • Most disturbing
  • Most complicated
  • Most daring
  • Cutest
  • Most colorful
  • Most detailed

Send us a picture of your choices at blog@cisl.edu and we will post them next week! Happy Halloween to all of our students!