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Why Your English Isn’t Improving

November 20, 2017

Why Your English Isn't Improving

Do you study and study English but feel like your language skills are not improving? Perhaps you are making some of these very common mistakes.

Why Your English Isn’t Improving

You aren’t getting enough practice speaking

Speaking skills can be some of the most difficult to improve, mainly because it requires many hours of speaking practice to see real improvement. Are you interacting with native English speakers in real-life environments?

Why Your English Isn't Improving

You aren’t making it a part of your daily routine

Change your phone’s language to English. Follow English speaking accounts on Instagram. Always watch movies or TV shows with English subtitles. In short, make sure that English surrounds you!

Why Your English Isn't Improving

You aren’t thinking in English

A common (and understandable) mistake that many English learners make is trying to translate exact sentences and phrases into their native language (or vise versa). Once you realize that English will never directly translate to your native language, you will begin thinking in English. This will greatly help you improve your skills.

Why Your English Isn't Improving

You’re too nervous

It is also common to be nervous to speak English, but this feeling will only hurt your progress! Remind yourself that language learning is a process and that it is OK to make mistakes. Be sure to surround yourself with people who support your language learning and provide you with constructive criticism.

Why Your English Isn't Improving

You aren’t fixing fossilized errors

“Fossilized errors” are mistakes that we make again and again. Is there an English tense that you struggle with? Or a sound that’s difficult to pronounce? Perhaps you have a difficult time with certain irregular verbs? Or maybe phrasal verbs make your head spin? Identify your weaknesses and then work hard to fix them. Speaking without worrying about these mistakes will allow you to communicate confidently!

Converse International School of Languages has provided quality English language instruction to international students in San Francisco and San Diego since 1973. To learn more about our intensive programs and our small classes (no more than 8 students per class; 4 students in our premier programs) contact CISL.


Featured Student Life

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

November 13, 2017

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

Moving to the U.S. to study English is an exciting opportunity. For many, it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Make the most of your time in the U.S. and avoid these 5 common mistakes international students make. After 45 years of providing English instruction, we at CISL continue to see these mistakes made again and again!

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

Speaking their native language

It’s very easy to speak your native language, especially if there is some in your residence hall or at your school who speaks your language. Remind yourself DAILY why you are here: to learn English! This means speaking English to everyone, not just people who do not speak your native language. Remember: every conversation you have is a chance to improve your speaking skills.

Not going on activities

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

At CISL, we provide organized activities nearly every day of the week. These activities are an excellent way to see more of San Diego and San Francisco; they are also a wonderful way to meet other students from the school and interact with the CISL staff. Activities often provide access to museums, parks, and events at a discounted rate. Check with the Front Desk and see what’s planned for this month, and don’t miss out on the fun!

Missing local events

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

Sometimes, students are so overwhelmed with moving to a new city that they forget to really enjoy it. Don’t just learn the public transportation systems and where to buy groceries: learn about the fun things happening in your new neighborhood! Check out the Instagram pages of local neighborhoods, search online for local events, and visit local cafes and look for flyers. Immerse yourself into your new environment and you will soon feel like an important part of your new community.

Not disconnecting

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

With today’s technology, we are always connected: WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat are just some of the many ways we stay in touch with friends and family! But don’t forget that you sometimes need to disconnect from the digital world in order to truly enjoy the world around you. It would be a shame to look back on your time in California and remember being on your phone instead of remembering being in a place.

Not exploring the new city

5 Common Mistakes International Students Make

Your new city will have many new neighborhoods to explore: see them all! Don’t get stuck staying in your new community; remember to explore everything the city has to offer. With public transportation and ride services such as Uber and Lyft, you are connected to all parts of your new place. Explore!


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.


California Life Student Life Suggested student activities

5 Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

September 8, 2017

Moving to the U.S. to study English is exciting, but it can also be a little scary! Follow these suggestions for the 5 things you should do in your first week as an international student at CISL San Diego or San Francisco and you will feel adjusted and comfortable in your new home in less than a week.

5 Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#1: Learn the transportation system

Make it easy to see your new city! Learn your transportation options immediately. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get your transportation passes. Check out our Guide to Transportation for San Francisco and San Diego Students for information on city buses, the metro, and trains.
  • Buy a bicycle (if you want to own a bike). Check out Craigslist to buy a used bicycle for a good price. (As always with Craigslist, be sure to meet the person in a public location, like a coffee shop, to make your purchase.)
  • Download apps for the ride-share services in your area (like the apps Uber and Lyft) so that you can get a ride for a good price.
  • If you’re in SD, download FRED (The Free Ride). You can get a free ride to anywhere Downtown!
  • If you are interested in getting your driver’s license, visit the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for information on how to take the test: the process is quite simple in California, but you will need to show proof of address (like an electricity bill). This may take some time for you to set up.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#2: Get your phone card

Get connected to family and friends back home! Pre-paid SIM cards can be purchased from many locations and are very affordable. They can be purchased from a local convenient store (such as 7-11) or at a mobile phone carrier such as T-Mobile or AT&T.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#3: Find your grocery shopping locations

Where will you do all of your shopping? When you are exploring your new neighborhood, try to locate all of the area’s grocery stores. Usually you will be close to a large grocery store (such as Von’s, Ralph’s or Safeway), but there will probably also be small stores close to you that have many of the items you need. In addition, see if your neighborhood has a farmer’s market: usually these are once per week on a scheduled day.

More information:

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#4: Find out where you will exercise

The quickest way to feel like you are at home is to have a routine: make sure your routine includes staying healthy! Find a gym, yoga studio, or other exercise studio in your area and join it so that you can make friends and stay healthy. Check out our International Student Guide to Exercising in the U.S. for some tips and information on U.S. gyms.

Things You Should Do in Your First Week as an International Student

#5: Enjoy some of the local restaurants

The best part about living in a new country is of course the food! Explore your neighborhood and try a few restaurants and cafes that are close to you. See which ones are open late (in case you get a late-night craving for something delicious). Don’t be afraid to talk to the employees: people are very friendly in the U.S.! Chances are, the employees will love to give you some tips for things to do and see in your new neighborhood.

More information:

California Life CISL San Francisco Featured Grammar San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Student Activities Student Life

English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN) + SF’s Best Beaches

July 1, 2017

Prepositions are some of the most difficult aspects of English for many language learners: especially English prepositions of location such as AT, ON, and IN. (These are also called prepositions of place.) Learn how to use them properly to avoid confusion! Since CISL offers English courses in San Diego and San Francisco, we can’t think of a better way to practice English prepositions of location than to use examples of these prepositions in relation to something every Californian loves: the beach!

English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

She is AT the beach, ON the sand, and IN the sun. Lucky girl!

English uses AT, ON, and IN for prepositions of location.


The preposition AT can be used for a location, to show a destination, and to show a direction that something moved.

For location:

  • I’m at the store. Do you need anything?
  • I will call you when I’m at home.
  • Meet me at the coffee shop in Little Italy.

For a destination:

  • We will arrive at the final stop soon.
  • I thought the drive would be long, but before I knew it, we were at home!

For a direction:

  • Why are you looking at me?
  • In dodgeball, you have to throw the ball at the other players to try to hit them. (Notice how this is different than throwing a ball TO someone. When you throw a ball TO someone, they try to catch it. When you throw a ball AT someone, you are trying to hit them!)


The preposition ON is used when we speak about the surface of a space. Imagine that something is on top of an area, not inside.

  • I was tanning on the beach when I saw dolphins!
  • I spilled coffee on my shirt.
  • They put some plants on the walkway of the house.
  • I was jumping on the bed and I fell.
English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

Do you get IN the water when you are AT the beach? Or do you stay ON the sand?


The preposition IN is used when we speak about the area of a space. Imagine that something is inside of a space or area.

  • I am in my room.
  • She is still sleeping in her bed.
  • She won’t be in the office this week. She is sick.
English Prepositions of Location (AT, ON, and IN)

IN the wave or ON the wave? Both, actually!!!

Practice: IN or ON?

The prepositions IN and ON are often confused. Try this lesson to see if you understand the difference. Remember: when choosing the preposition, ask yourself if it is inside of a space or on top of a space.

  1. CISL is located __________ San Francisco and San Diego.
  2. The San Francisco location is __________ the top floor of a building.
  3. The school is also located __________ Market Street.
  4. Some students live __________ a hotel __________ San Francisco.
  5. The school is __________ Market Street; Market Street is __________ the Financial District.
  6. The other campus is __________ San Diego.
  7. The school is __________ a modern building.
  8. The building is __________ Broadway.

The answers are at the bottom of this page.

SF’s Best Beaches

San Diego gets all the credit for having beautiful beaches, but the truth is that all of California offers stunning coastline! Have you explored these five beaches that we consider to be SF’s best?

Ocean Beach

Surfers love Ocean Beach for its strong waves, and locals love it because it is a place where they have beach bonfires. Ocean Beach is also the perfect place to watch the sun set in SF!


A post shared by joe bennett (@tk.joe) on

How to get there:

Take the 5R bus to the La Playa and Fulton St. stop.

Baker Beach

Baker Beach provides visitors with a beautiful view of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, the beach is also a nude beach, but locals know that it is so much more: because fewer people visit Baker Beach than Ocean Beach, it’s a much quieter and more peaceful place for relaxing. Many couples come to Baker Beach to take their engagement or wedding photos, which prove that it’s a romantic beach spot!

How to get there:

Take bus 7 to Lincoln Way and 21st Ave,; transfer to the 29 Baker Beach bus and get off at Lincoln Blvd. and Bowley Ave.

Aquatic Park

Aquatic Park is actually a protected beach and swimming area in the San Francisco Bay. The protective cove makes it a safe place to swim, and Alcatraz and Marin are beautiful backdrops to your day at the beach. The best part? Across the street from the beach is Ghirardelli Square, so visitors have a delicious option for post-swimming dining!

How to get there:

Take bus 47 to Fishermen’s Wharf. Get off at Van Ness and North Point St.


  1. CISL is located IN San Francisco and San Diego. (The school is inside the area of San Diego and San Francisco.)
  2. The San Francisco location is ON the top floor of a building. (The school is located on top of 
  3. The school is also located ON Market Street.)
  4. Some students live IN a hotel IN San Francisco. (The students live inside of the hotel; the hotel is located inside of the area of San Francisco.)
  5. The school is ON Market Street; Market Street is IN the Financial District. (The school is on the area of Market street and is located inside of the area of the Financial District.)
  6. The other campus is IN San Diego. (The school is inside the area of San Diego.)
  7. The school is IN a modern building. (The school is inside of a building.)
  8. The building is ON Broadway. (The school is on the area of Broadway St.)