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Celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S.

November 10, 2018

Halloween has passed, the daylight hours are getting shorter and shorter, and the weather has turned colder. Every American knows that this means one very important thing: Thanksgiving is coming! Many students are curious about the origins and the traditions of Thanksgiving and we are happy to share this information with them.

The Origins of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is primarily an American holiday (although it is also celebrated in Canada) and is held on the fourth Thursday of every November. The holiday was started when 53 American settlers (called Pilgrims) had a big feast with 90 Native Americans to celebrate the Pilgrims’ safe journey over the Atlantic Ocean. The holiday has been an official country tradition since 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln named the day an official American holiday.

Thanksgiving Dinner Turkey

A typical Thanksgiving meal! Green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, turkey with cranberry sauce, and rolls.

Thanksgiving Foods

The main tradition of Thanksgiving is the large meal. What is served? It depends on the house! Each family has different recipes and traditions for Thanksgiving dinner, but here are some staples that you will probably see at most Thanksgiving tables:


Most Americans choose to eat a large, roasted turkey for Thanksgiving. It is also popular to serve at Christmastime.

If the celebration is really big, then some families will also serve another meat, like ham or beef.


A mixture of bread, herbs, and spices is stuffed into the turkey. After the turkey is finished cooking, the stuffing is scooped out and served in a separate bowl. It is very juicy and flavorful!


Some families also choose to have “dressing”, which is like stuffing but is not baked inside the turkey. Instead, it is cooked in a separate dish. Dressing is a little more dry than stuffing because it does not have the juices from the turkey.

Mashed Potatoes

Everyone loves mashed potatoes! Many families also make a gravy from the bits of turkey that fell onto the bottom of the roasting pan.

Cranberry Sauce

This tart fruit sauce is a great addition to the very mild flavor of turkey (and is really good on bread rolls).


Many families serve yams, which look like orange potatoes and are very sweet. An old recipe that some families still use requires you to bake the yams with marshmallows, which makes the dish even sweeter.

It is a joke in many families that some family members REALLY hate yams . . . but do not be discouraged: try them! You might be one of the people who loves this sweet dish.

Green Beans/Green Bean Casserole

Some serve green beans, which can be cooked many different ways: boiled, sauteed, or cooked into a casserole. The recipes vary! For green bean casserole, a layer of green beans are mixed with mushrooms and a thick, white sauce or soup: the mixture is topped with fried onions and baked. The result is a crunchy, sweet top and then soft green beans underneath.

Pumpkin Pie

This delicious pie MUST be served at each Thanksgiving table! Make sure to top your slice of pie with some whipped cream. Most families also serve another dessert, like apple pie, for dessert.


Photo from Macy’ Photo originally from Business Wire.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Just like the menu, the traditions of each family are different at Thanksgiving. Many families watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is on television in the morning, to see celebrities sing and dance on beautifully decorated floats. Most families also take time to talk about what they are thankful for before the meal is eaten.

Another Thanksgiving tradition is Black Friday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and it is the busiest shopping day of the year. Many American wake up VERY early (sometimes at 2 or 3 in the morning!) to get to the stores early and take advantage of the incredible sales. The last few years, these sales have also been online, so recently a lot of families have chosen to stay at home and sleep in . . . and then shop in the comfort of their pajamas on Friday morning.

As a backlash to this consumer-related “tradition,” people began “Small Business Saturday.” In this shopping day, customers visit only the small, local shops and support these businesses rather than the large corporations that dominate Black Friday.

The newest “tradition” is “Cyber Monday,” where many stores offer online shopping deals. What will Tuesday be named? Only time will tell . . .


Holidays Student Life

Halloween Vocabulary for English students

October 27, 2018

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:








haunted house





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?







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 and we will post them next week! Happy Halloween to all of our students!

Featured Student Life Vocabulary

Casual English for Conversation

June 12, 2018

Casual English for Conversation

“Conversation is food for the soul.” -Proverb

Conversation is an art and can be difficult in any language. When learning English, it can be even more difficult if you do not have the right vocabulary words to ask the right questions! The next time you have a conversation in English, try using some of these questions and phrases. They will help you to have a casual conversation in English, which will allow you to get to know someone a little better.

Casual English for Conversation

Use these questions to begin a conversation with someone that you know.

What’s new? OR What have you been up to lately/recently?

Use these questions to ask what is new in a person’s life.

  • What’s new?
  • Not much, what’s new with you?
  • OR
  • What have you been up to lately?
  • Just working and life. What about you?

Casual English for Conversation

What’s new in your world?

This is another question to ask about a person’s life and what is new.

  • What’s new in your world?
  • Not much, to be honest. Just working and studying. How about you?
  • OR
  • What’s new in your world?
  • A lot of work lately! And we are getting ready to go on vacation. And you?

Casual English for Conversation

How have you been?

This general question is to ask how a person has been since you last saw him or her.

  • How have you been?
  • Good! And you?
  • OR
  • How have you been?
  • I’ve been good! What about you?

Casual English for Conversation

How are things?

This casual conversation question is just to ask, in general, how the person’s life is going.

  • How are things?
  • Fantastic. I’ve just started a new job. You?
  • OR
  • How are things?
  • Things are great. A little busy lately but good. What about you? How are things?

Casual English for Conversation

It’s been forever!

When you have not seen a person in a long time, this is a great phrase to use. Usually it is followed by a question about how the person has been doing.


  • It’s been forever! How are you?
  • OR
  • It’s been forever! How have you been?


Casual English for Conversation

How’s _____ treating you?

When you want to ask about the person’s job, project, or relationship, use this question.


  • How’s life treating you?
  • How’s the new job treating you?
  • How’s married life treating you?
  • How’s life in San Diego treating you?


Casual English for Conversation

What’s up with _____?

This question is a good way to ask about the status of something in the person’s life. Usually you knew something about this topic but have not had an update recently.

  • What’s up with that job promotion? Did you get it?
  • What’s up with your neighbor? Did he move?
  • What’s up with your sister? Is she still dating that guy?


Business English Career English Featured San Diego Student Life Voices of CISL

CISL Career English Student Tatiane Learns Marketing with an Event Planning Company

March 23, 2018

Tatiane spent time with Gaslamp Event Management, in Downtown San Diego’s hip and historic neighborhood called the Gaslamp District.

With CISL’s Career English program, students practice their English in the CISL classroom and then spend time at an American company. At their host company, students practice English in the office, in meetings, and through writing emails and creating documents. The CISL Career English program is the perfect way to gain important language skills for your career!

Career English student Tatiane recently wrote a report about her experience working with Gaslamp Event Management, a successful event planning company located in Downtown San Diego. We are impressed with her experience and with how good her writing skills are!

Here are some of the highlights of Tatiane’s report.

Why Tatiane chose CISL’s Career English Program  

My main objective when I chose the program was the opportunity to volunteer in an American company and then add it to my curriculum as a international experience with higher relevance.

What the Career English Program consisted of

In order to start the program, I completed 6 weeks of English classes and went through preparation for interview. GEM was my second interview and I feel confident to make it. With Grace, the program coordinator, help and support I corrected all mistakes regarding my resume and I learned how to create cover letter.

In general, the program meets my expectations. In addition, I would recommend CE for potential students who aim curriculum enrichment and an alternative international experience.

About her experience with Gaslamp Event Management

In GEM, I worked with Sin Bosier, the owner and CEO of the company. When I first started, it was close to Halloween Holiday and the company was hosting a event called San Diego Zombie Crawl. I worked during this event, taking care of the social media and also helping to organize the final details. I also worked in the two days of the event, checking in people and making live videos to post on Instagram.

After the event I focused on Downtown Dolls, which is a division of GEM. My main tasks were:

1 – Responsible for the social media for Downtown Dolls (IG + Facebook).

2 – Develop and launch the new Website for Downtown Dolls, by working with the web developers to make all the changes necessary and also all the site design. So, basically, I needed to identify problems and come up with solutions for them to change on the website.

3 – Talent managing in Downtown Dolls –  select the models that applied and schedule the interviews. Fill data base and point out models who fits the Downtown Dolls profile.

4 – Support if it’s necessary the others with tasks – proposal to clients, quotations, follow up and recap of the events.

Her final thoughts on the Career English Program

My experience at GEM helped me to feel more confident with the use of my English and I can tell for sure that I was not treated like a foreign or a outsider. Sin always pushed me to work as I was native and helped me with all I needed. What I enjoyed the most was the fact the I could really see what is like a company in another country and also the trust that was confided in me.

We are so pleased that you enjoyed your experience, Tatiane! Best of luck to you in Brazil!


Career English Featured Student Life

CISL Career English Student Emanuela Experiences the Biomedical Research Industry

January 29, 2018

Career English Course San Diego California

People often say that the American business model and work environment is different than in other countries . . . but exactly how is it different? With CISL’s Career English program, students have the opportunity to experience the U.S. work environment by spending time at an American host company. Italian student Emanuela recently completed the CISL Career English program and shared her experience with us. We are pleased to see the many ways in which she improved her English through written and spoken tasks!

CISL Career English Student Emanuela Experiences the BioMedical Research Industry

Emanuela had two interviews: one at Constance Ardila, and one at BioMed IRB. Emanuela recalls that she was “positively astounded by Grace’s [the Career English Coordinator] fast ability to find work placements and interviews.”

Before the interviews, Emanuela worked with the Career English Coordinator to prepare. Was she ready? According to Emanuela, the interview experience was “absolutely positive. I felt prepared and the interviewer . . . made me feel comfortable and asked me different questions.”

As Emanuela mentions, there was a need for her to prepare: “For sure, I can say that the way the Career English Coordinator, Grace Turner, helped me to prepare my interviews was really useful; in fact, there is a wide difference between the American and the Italian way to conduct interviews. In addition, Grace also guided me to produce my Cover Letter and my resume.”

After the interviews, Emanuela chose BioMed IRB. “This was a smart choice, because this non-profit company is well-known and its name on a resume is well-seen.” What did she do during her time there? Emanuela details her experiences at the company.

Career English Course San Diego California

“During my experience at BioMed IRB, I had the opportunity to work in a wide variety of tasks:

  • reviewing some old email and check[ing] with the BioMed’s database if there was any missing document;
  • send[ing] email to some customers and call[ing] some of them;
  • reviewing the drafts of the old meetings and verifying that what is written on them corresponds to the invoices on the BioMed’s database with the same date;
  • translation from English to Italian of some official document[s] of FDA;
  • research related with Marco Polo and the spread of the plague in the 13th century;
  • every Thursday I have attended the BioMed’s meetings by computer; this is definitely my favorite part of the work”

Emanuela also completed the company’s CITI program, where she says she learned the following:

  • “writing a mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA);
  • scanning and modifying some document by putting an online stamp of acknowledge and uploading them on their online database;
  • understanding, through an online course, the issue of “patentability” regarding ideas and technologies
  • writing an essay in English and Italian about the scientific method”

Overall, Emanuela says that she really enjoyed her responsibilities. “The two tasks I have enjoyed are: attending the meeting and the CITI program. In fact, attending a meeting by computer is not only interest[ing] because of the topic they vote on, but it’s also a really good practice to improve my listening skills. Furthermore, completing successfully the CITI program and obtaining the official certification are clearly worthy for the resume; also, the issues I studied for it were all strictly related with my major and useful for my future.”

Career English Course San Diego California

Emanuela continues, “In conclusion, my experience was absolutely positive: the work environment is small, but friendly; my supervisor, Fred Fox, has showed good attitude and interest in teaching me every day something new. Everything I have done on my volunteer work was related with biomedical issues.”

Would she recommend the CISL Career English Program?

“I would completely recommend the CISL Career English program to potential students because it is a good experience.” The outcomes, Emanuela says, include “ being more confident on a work environment, especially for someone who has never worked before” and “meeting and being confident with an American work environment.” Overall, Emanuela sees that the CE Program “is absolutely good for the resume, especially for European.”

We are so happy to hear that you enjoyed your experience with CISL’s Career English program, Emanuela! We wish you all the best in your career in Italy and look forward to seeing how you use your English in the future!

CISL’s Career English program is a combination of English classes and time at an American host company. For more information on CISL’s Career English course, contact CISL.