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Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

December 7, 2017

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

Will you be studying English in California during the winter? Experience the holidays, Southern California style! Whether you are on the state’s white sandy beaches or in the Sierra Nevada mountains, you can have a “white” Christmas in California.

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience 

See Disneyland at Christmastime

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

Disneyland is known for decorating its park beautifully for all of the major holidays: pink and red for Valentine’s Day, red, white, and blue for the 4th of July, and fun Halloween decorations during October. But the park really goes all out in December, when Disneyland is transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. Don’t miss it!

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

Disneyland is not the only place that decorates itself beautifully for the holidays: San Francisco’s Union Square is also famous for its gorgeous decor. In San Diego, check out Balboa Park, the ornaments and decorations will put you in the festive mood!

Watch a harbor boat parade

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

Boats decorated with Christmas lights? What a way to celebrate the holidays! The ocean is of course a large part of California culture, so it makes sense that boat owners decorate their boats during December. Check to see if your city is hosting a boat parade and spend the evening watching the floating decorations!

Meet a surfing Santa

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

When there isn’t snow, Santa must find another way to visit the children: in California, it’s by surfboard! Your friends and family at home will have a laugh when they see you with a sunglass-wearing Santa. A true California-style Christmas!

Go Christmas caroling

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

Have you learned all of the traditional Christmas songs? It’s a great way to improve your English! After learning them, find some friends and go Christmas caroling. It is a fun way to spend an evening! If you don’t know how to organize Christmas caroling, check out our article on this activity.

Make a “Sand Snowman”

Christmas in California: 5 Holiday Traditions to Experience

If you can’t go to Big Bear or Lake Tahoe during December, do not worry: you can make a snowman without snow! Make sure to put sunglasses on your finished piece of art, and tag us at #CISLChristmas.

 

 

California Life Featured Grammar Lessons San Diego San Diego Travel Tips

“SO” + Adverbs and Adjectives (+ Things that are “SO” San Diego)

November 1, 2017

In the English language, we use the word “so” in several different ways. Each way allows us to speak with more emphasis; some uses of the word “so”  are more typically “Southern Californian” than others. Learn the most common ways of using the word “so” here!

“SO” + Adverbs and Adjectives (and Things that are “so” San Diego)

“So” means several things in English.

“To such a great extent”

In this meaning, “so” is an adverb that shows the degree (level) of an adjective or adverb.

  • Why are you so angry? (This person isn’t a little angry: he is very angry.)
  • I didn’t realize the car was parked so far away. (The person is surprised that the distance is very far.)
  • Why are you speaking so slowly?
  • My presentation didn’t go so well.

“Very, very”

In this meaning, “so” is an intensifier. It intensifies (gives more meaning to) the adverb or adjective it is modifying.

In these cases, we can switch the word “so” with the word “very.” The meanings seem the same, but “so” is more intense than the word “very.”

  • You are so beautiful.
  • Thank you so much!
  • That was so thoughtful of you.

“So” + ADJECTIVE/ADVERB + THAT

We often use the construction SO + ADJECTIVE/ADVERB + THAT to show the effect of something.

  • He was so tired that he fell asleep while eating his ice cream.
  • I was so upset that I threw my shoe.
  • She was so tall that none of the pants in the store could fit her.

Slang: “so” for a characteristic

With this meaning, “so” is used to show that something or someone is the perfect example of another thing. For example, if someone’s name is Summer, and she lives in San Diego and goes surfing every morning, she is SO Californian!

  • My friend Jane is the perfect student. One day after the teacher gave us our assignment, she completed it! That’s SO Jane.
  • We went surfing, ate a burrito, and then watched the sunset. Today was SO Southern California.
  • With that shirt and those cowboy boots, you look SO country.
  • This sushi roll has avocado and cilantro. It’s SO Californian.

Things that are “so” San Diego

Fish tacos

Yes, tacos with fish. Or lobster. Or scallops! With its close proximity to Mexico, it’s no surprise that California food is influenced by typically Mexican spices and flavors. Since San Diego is on the beach, it’s also no surprise that the local food includes a lot of seafood! While in San Diego, be sure to try fish tacos. In most places, you can order the fish grilled or fried. The toppings will vary at each restaurant, but many include avocado or guacamole, salsa, and cabbage.

Seafood + Mexican food? SO San Diego!

ComicCon

The craziest and most exciting week in San Diego is ComicCon week! Every July, celebrities and comic book fans come to the city’s Convention Center for a crazy week of events, shows, and exhibits. It’s the perfect time to walk around Downtown San Diego and see all of the costumes. Be on the lookout for celebrities as well: you never know who you are going to see!

ComicCon? SO San Diego!

Slomo

Go to Mission and Pacific Beaches and most days you will see Slomo: a man on rollerblades who rides up and down the beach boardwalk for hours. Slomo is a staple of the city, and he is now famous throughout the nation: the New York Times made a video about him! Slomo is actually a doctor who retired in order to pursue real happiness. He found it . . . on the beaches of San Diego!

The happiest person alive is a doctor-turned-rollerblader? SO San Diego!

Surfboard museum in a taco shop

A taco shop in Pacific Beach isn’t just a taco shop: it’s also a museum that pays tribute to Southern California’s surf culture! In 1989, Cindy and Sam McLarty opened Taco Surf, a surf shop that displays more than 90 surfboards.

Is there anything more “San Diego” than a surf museum in a taco shop? Nope! SO San Diego.

 

California Life Featured San Diego Vocabulary

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (+ Surfing Vocabulary and Slang)

August 6, 2017

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (+ Surfing Vocabulary and Slang)

Surfing is a way of life in California, so it is no surprise that surfing vocabulary and slang are parts of the language on the West Coast! We are providing an infographic from Finbin (a website about water sports) about the bodyboarding vs. surfing debate. Do you know the difference? Have you tried both, and if so, which do you prefer? The language in the infographic is for advanced students, but students of every level can learn the surfer slang it includes!

Surfing Vocabulary and Slang

Blackball (black ball)

Definition: The black flag (with a large black circle) that lifeguards use during “no surfing” times. The word is now also used to talk about prohibited areas or actions.

Example: Who is most likely to get insanely barreled in that black ball beach break?

Barreled

Definition: Hit by a wave

Example: Who is most likely to get insanely barreled in that black ball beach break?

Beach break

Definition: When waves break over a sandy area.

Example: Who is most likely to get insanely barreled in that black ball beach break?

Home break

Definition: Your preferred surf location.

Example: If your home break is a spot shared by surfers and bodyboarders alike, you’ve probably heard side comments about the unspoken rivalry.

Lineup

Definition: The line of surfers waiting (in the water) for a wave.

Example: It became easier for all types of individuals–young, old, and older–to paddle to the lineup and catch a wave to get their fill of stoke.

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (+ Surfing Vocabulary and Slang)

Paddle

Definition: To place your arms in the water and use them to move your surfboard.

Example: It became easier for all types of individuals–young, old, and older–to paddle to the lineup and catch a wave to get their fill of stoke.

Prone position

Definition: The position a bodyboarder is in: holding on to the board, stomach on the board.

Example: The prone position offers more stability and balance.

Radical

Definition: An expression meaning “cool.”

Example: You’ll get to ride waves in more radical ways and you sure will have the biggest smile on your face.

Stoke

Definition: “excitement.”

Example: It became easier for all types of individuals–young, old, and older–to paddle to the lineup and catch a wave to get their fill of stoke.

Wipe out

Definition: To fall off the surfboard.

Example: You also won’t have to worry about falling off and wiping out.

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing

Thank you to Finbin for this infographic about the differences between bodyboarding and surfing! CISL often arranges beach activities such as surf lessons: ask the Front Desk for information or check out the month’s Activities Calendar.

Additional Vocabulary

Attest to

Definition: To affirm something is true.

Example: Global surfing competitions, giant surf brands, million-dollar surf movies, and all the images circulating on print and digital media can all attest to the overgrown bubble that has enveloped much of surfing.

Avid

Definition: Enthusiastic.

Example: Morey himself was an avid surfer.

To burst (a/one’s) bubble

Definition: To destroy a feeling of happiness or a commonly accepted idea.

Example: Tom Morey burst that bubble when he invented the bodyboard in 1971.

Catch on

Definition: To become more popular.

Example: The trend has caught on.

Charge (something)

Definition: To run to something with great speed (or, in this case, swim to something).

Example: You can charge bigger waves like it was a walk in the park with a bodyboard . . .

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (+ Surfing Vocabulary and Slang)

Downside

Definition: Disadvantages.

Example: It’s hard to think of a downside to bodyboarding.

Dwellers

Definition: People who live somewhere.

Example: History has it that the first surfers among the Pacific dwellers were those who had royal blood.

Elevated

Definition: A higher level.

Example: Surfing has always enjoyed an elevated status as the sport of kings.

Exclusive

Definition: Not available to most people.

Example: This status gave surfing its sublime appeal, make it aspirational and somewhat exclusive.

Game for

Definition: Prepared; ready for.

Example: What are you game for?

Bodyboarding vs. Surfing (+ Surfing Vocabulary and Slang)

Physiques

Definition: Physical forms (bodies).

Example: Bodyboarding can be enjoyed by riders of all ages and physiques.

Overgrown

Definition: Enlarged; too large.

Example: Global surfing competitions, giant surf brands, million-dollar surf movies, and all the images circulating on print and digital media can all attest to the overgrown bubble that has enveloped much of surfing.

Tug-o-war

Definition: A game in which two teams pull on a rope and try to pull the team towards them.

Example: Nobody knows who declared this psychological war between wave riders and their differing weapons of choice, but it looks like the silent tug-o-war is here to stay.

Tune out

Definition: Stop listening to someone or something.

Example: If you can tune out the haters, you’ll have no reason to regret picking up a bodyboard.

Sublime

Definition: A level of spiritual happiness and divinity.

Example: This status gave surfing its sublime appeal.

Would you like to learn more surfer slang? Check out our articles The Word Gnarly, and California Surfer Slang for English Students

California Life Featured Grammar San Diego

Omitting “That” in Relative Clauses + 10 Fascinating Facts about SD

June 1, 2017

We all know that San Diego is famous for its stunning beaches and amazing weather, but the city is also impressive for many other things! Before studying English at CISL in San Diego, check out these 10 fascinating facts about SD. They give you a fun look at what makes America’s Finest City so great!

1o Fascinating Facts about SD

#1: San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.

Maybe this is why we put avocado on everything? Especially burritos! Make sure you have the city’s famous California Burrito while visiting: read about California’s burrito culture before chowing down!

Fascinating Facts about SD

Not all burritos were created equal: a San Diegan wouldn’t touch this burrito until they added guacamole to it!

#2: Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969.

Today, the bridge is a famous landmark and the entryway to beautiful Coronado . . . although you can also take the Coronado Ferry from the Embarcadero for a more fun way to arrive on Coronado Island!Fascinating Facts about SD

#3: San Diego has over 7,000 farms (more than any other city in the United States).

Maybe that is why our farmer’s markets are so great! CISL San Diego students who live in Little Italy are just one street away from the incredible Little Italy Farmer’s Market; students can also visit the Hillcrest Market on Sundays and the Ocean Beach Market on Wednesday evenings.Fascinating Facts about SD

#4: San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship.

The ship was built in 1863 and still is an active sailing ship! Visitors can check it out (and even ride on it)!

#5: It’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego.

But they’re still worth a visit: the lakes are beautiful and you can still kayak, canoe, and fish. Check out our Guide to San Diego Lakes for more information.

Fascinating Facts about SD

Lake Cuyamaca

#6: The Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure.

It also was home to the first electric-lit outdoor Christmas tree in 1904. These days, it’s located on the #1 Beach in the U.S. and the hotel is still a popular Christmas destination thanks to its outdoor (beachside!) ice skating rink.Fascinating Facts about SD

#7: San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s.

Many of the fishermen were Italian, and their charming homes can still be seen in Little Italy, which is now one of the trendiest neighborhoods in the United States.

Fascinating Facts about SD

The murals in Little Italy celebrate the neighborhood’s Italian history. 

#8: San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss.

His real name was Ted Geisel. Would you like to read more in English? Check out our Guide to Novels in English for some suggestions.

#9: The San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy.”

However, the scenes were actually filmed at the old Los Angeles Zoo, not at the San Diego Zoo. Check out our list of Movies Set in California for some more famous locations on the big screen!

#10: San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country.

The museum has real mummies and seven painted wooden coffins! One of the coffins, the Ptolemaic child’s coffin, is one of only six in the world. Balboa Park is an excellent place to explore: read our Insider’s Guide to Balboa Park for some ideas.Fascinating Facts about SD

To read the full list of San Diego facts, visit Movoto.

Relative Clauses: Omitting “THAT”

Each of the above facts can be rephrased as a question in order to ask someone if they know a fact.

Did you know . . .

  • that San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?
  • that Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969? 
  • that San Diego has over 7,000 farms?
  • that San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship? 
  • that it’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego?
  • that he Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure? 
  • that San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s?
  • that San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss?
  • that the San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy?”
  • that San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country?

Each of these sentences has the word “that.” However, this word can also be omitted and each sentence will still be grammatically correct.

Did you know . . .

  • San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?
  • Former U.S. President Ronald Reagan was the first person to drive across the Coronado Bridge when it opened  in 1969? 
  • San Diego has over 7,000 farms?
  • San Diego’s Embarcadero is home to the Star of India, the world’s oldest sailing ship? 
  • it’s against the law to swim in any of the lakes in San Diego?
  • the Hotel Del Coronado is the country’s largest wooden structure? 
  • San Diego was known as the Tuna Capital of the World from the early 1930s through the late 1970s?
  • San Diego was home to famous children’s author, Dr. Seuss?
  • the San Diego Zoo is a large part of the Will Ferrell movie “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy?”
  • San Diego’s Museum of Man (in Balboa Park) houses one of the most important collections of Ancient Egyptian antiques in the country?

Why is this? THAT in these sentences is not necessary. Let’s see why.

These sentences have two parts. The main clause and the relative clause.

  • Did you know + that + subject + verb 
  • Did you know + subject + verb 

The main clause (“did you know”) is the main part of the sentence. It has a subject (you) and a verb (know). All clauses have a subject and a verb.

These relative clauses begin with a relative pronoun (“that”) and include a subject and a verb. (Relative clauses can also start with other words, such as “who” or “which,” but we are only focuses on relative clauses with “that.”) The relative clause works in relation to the main clause. In this case, the relative clause is the thing we are asking if the other person knows.

Why can we remove the word THAT from these sentences? Because the relative clause already has a subject and a verb.

  • Did you know San Diego produces more avocados than anywhere in the U.S.?

(“San Diego” is the subject and “produces” is the object.)

There are times when we cannot omit the relative clause (“that”). This happens when the word “that” is the subject.

  • Did you know that man who said hello to you?
  • Do you want that piece of cake?
  • Does she need that set of keys?

As you can see, these questions are different: they are not asking a person if they know pieces of information or facts.

What did we learn? We learned (that) we can omit the word “that” from questions about facts or information. And, as you can see from the last sentence, we also learned (that) we can remove the word “that” when reporting about things we learned!

For more information on relative clauses, check out some of our article on Defining and Non-Defining Relative Clauses.

California Life Dining Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego

SD Beach Barbecue Guide + BBQ Idioms in English

May 7, 2017

San Diego is famous for its beaches, but few students take advantage of the many facilities the beaches offer! Did you know that you can have a barbecue on many of San Diego’s beaches? Some even have barbecue pits for you to use. Check out our SD beach barbecue guide before organizing a trip with your CISL friends. Cheers!

SD Beach Barbecue Guide

#1: Choose a beach

Which beach will you choose to BBQ? Coronado? La Jolla? Read our Guide to San Diego’s Beaches for an idea of the facilities each beach has (and to learn the personality of each beach) and then choose the one that’s perfect for your beach day!

Make sure that you research the beach’s facilities and hours before planning your trip: the San Diego City website lists all of the offerings for each beach, including if the beach is accessible by public transport, if there are public restrooms, and if barbecues and fires are allowed.

#2: Grab some friends

Who is coming with you? Make sure you plan in advance so that you know how much food you will need! When planning how to arrive, consider all of your public transportation options: read our Public Transportation in San Diego article for useful information.

#3: Buy the supplies

What will you need to buy for the perfect barbecue? For a BBQ, you are going to need the following:

  • Coals
  • A lighter (to set fire to the coals)
  • Utensils for grilling (tongs and spatula)
  • Plates, napkins, cups, forks, knives, etc. (plastic: no glass allowed at the beaches or parks)
  • Food! Sausages? Burgers?
  • Condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.)
  • Drinks
  • A cooler to keep the drinks cold

Be sure to research if the beach has picnic benches; if not, grab a blanket to sit on while you eat!

#4: Plan the rest of the day 

What will you do afterwards? Maybe play some beach volleyball? Perhaps go swimming? Check out our article for some Beach Activity Ideas (and beach-related vocabulary). Make sure you come prepared . . . and don’t forget the sunscreen!

BBQ Idioms in English 

When we think of barbecues, we think of burgers, fire (and smoke), and good times! These idioms are related to the foods and items you might have at a beach BBQ.

After meat, mustard

Definition:phrase emphasizing that something has come too late to be useful (like mustard being offered . . . after meat has already been eaten)

Example: (Student): I just completed my extra credit! (Teacher): And I’ve just submitted the final grades. After meat, mustard.

To be in a pickle

Definition: experiencing a difficult situation

Example: I can’t decide between going to Balboa Park museums or going to the beach. I’m in such a pickle!

Cut the mustard

Definition: satisfactory or right for the situation or expectations

Example: What do you think about my final paper? Does it cut the mustard?

To go up in flames

Definition 1: burn up completely

Example: They watched the house go up in flames.

Definition 2: [for value or investment] to be lost suddenly and totally

Example: After they lost their main investor, they were afraid the project would go up in flames.

To grill someone (about something)

Definition: to question or interrogate someone intensely and relentlessly (about something)

Example: The manager really grilled me during my interview, but I got the job!

Holy smoke!

Definition: what a surprise!

Example: You got the job? Holy smoke!

To rake someone over the coals

Definition: to scold someone

Example: They raked the politician over the coals for lying.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire

Definition: a saying meaning “there’s always some reason for a rumor.”

Example: I knew there was a problem with the company after the two managers quit. When there’s smoke, there’s fire.