Browsing Category

Suggested student activities

California Life CISL San Diego Executive English Featured Idioms and expressions San Diego San Diego Travel Tips Suggested student activities Vocabulary

Golf Expressions in English

April 9, 2018

Golf Expressions in English

Do you love to golf? This sport is incredibly popular in English, so it is not surprising that there are many golf expressions in English. How many of these have you heard?

English also uses many expressions from other sports: read our Sports Related Idioms for more information!

Golf Expressions in English

Above/below par

Golf definition: “Par” is the number of attempts a player should make before putting the ball in the hole. (It can also be used for  many rounds of golf or for entire tournaments.) To be “above par” means that it took the player more attempts than “normal”; to be “below par” is the opposite.

English definition: Better or worse than average.

Example: Your writing and vocabulary skills are above par, but we need to work on your pronunciation.

Not up to par

English definition: Not as good as something should be; below average.

Example: I’m worried that my skiing is not up to par with my friends. We will see this weekend when we go to Big Bear!

Hole in one

Golf definition: Hitting the ball into the hole in one attempt. 

English definition: A successful attempt at something.

Example: Your presentation was a hole in one. Excellent job.

On par with

English definition: To be at the same level as something or someone else.

Example: My running isn’t on par with Silvia’s, so it’s difficult to exercise with her.

Par for the course

English definition: Typical.

Example: Spending 2-3 hours on social media each day is par for the course these days.

Tee up

Golf definition: To get ready to hit the ball; to put the ball on the tee (the small wooden piece that goes into the ground).

English definition: Prepare something; make detailed arrangements.

Example: The children are teeing up for their annual spring concert.

Golf Expressions in English

CISL San Diego organizes private or group golf lessons for students upon request. The lessons, which are either 30 minutes or one hour, are organized at one of the four beautiful golf courses in San Diego (La Jolla, Coronado, Balboa Park, or Fashion Valley). The lessons include equipment. For more information, contact the CISL Activities Coordinator at sdactivities (at) cisl (dot) edu.

American Traditions Grammar Suggested student activities

5 Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

October 28, 2017

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”  -L.M. Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables

Are you studying English in the United States during the fall? You are in for a treat!* Enjoy some of these American fall traditions!

*in for a treat: an expression meaning you will experience something very enjoyable soon.

5 Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

#1: Visiting a pumpkin patch (and carving pumpkins)

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

A pumpkin patch is an open space, like a field, where pumpkins grow. People visit a pumpkin patch to choose their pumpkin. Which pumpkin will you choose? The tall and skinny pumpkin, the perfectly round pumpkin, the strange looking pumpkin with weird bumps . . . each has its own character!

Pumpkin patches often sell apple cider, pies, and other fall foods: be sure to enjoy them during your trip. (To learn about traditional fall foods, read our article Fall is Here: Time for Pumpkin-Flavored Everything!)

After bringing home their pumpkins, friends or family carve their pumpkins. Carving a pumpkin is when people use a knife to cut designs into the pumpkin (usually a face). Our Guide to Pumpkin Carving has all the information you need for this fun activity. 

#2: Trying pumpkin flavored everything

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Pumpkin has always been an important part of American fall food (after all, pumpkin pie is a staple of Thanksgiving dinner!). However, Americans now have a strange obsession with putting pumpkin flavor in everything during the fall. The craze began with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte and seems to have made its way into all foods: there is now pumpkin flavored beer (yes, beer!), pumpkin candies (such as M&Ms), and even pumpkin cereal. There is a science behind the Americans love for pumpkin: read all about it in this CNN article.

#3: Exploring a corn maze

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

A corn maze is a large labyrinth made from corn plants. It is common for local farms to create a corn maze, which the public can enter (and get lost in)! Sunflower mazes and hay bale mazes are also popular. They’re a fun fall activity!

#4: Going to a haunted house

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Get into the spirit of Halloween and scare yourself by going to a haunted house! This terrifying experience is one of the most traditional for Americans (and also the most scary)! If you’re studying English in San Diego, check out the Haunted Trail in Balboa Park. This outside haunted “house” is actually a trail built in a portion of Balboa Park. It’s one of the most impressive (and frightening) experiences!

Before checking out a haunted house, read our article Synonyms for ‘Scary’ to be able to describe your experience!

#5: Dressing up for Halloween

Fall Activities to Enjoy as an ESL Student in the U.S.

Americans LOVE to dress in costume for Halloween: make sure you join in on this fun holiday! Costumes can be fun, scary, cute, gory*, or even related to something that was in the news. Visit one of the costume stores that open during this time of year and find some inspiration (or, if you’re crafty, make your own costume)!

*gory: involving violence or a lot of blood.


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 Featured Grammar San Francisco Travel Tips Suggested student activities Writing

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

September 1, 2017

Do you know the basic English capitalization rules? Stick with these simple guidelines and you will understand the majority of the times that we capitalize something in English.

Basic English Capitalization Rules

The first letter of the first word of a sentence

This basic rule is something we always follow in English.

  • The thing I enjoy most about living in San Francisco is the city at night.
  • She said she loves living in California because of its beautiful sunsets.

If the sentence begins with a number, be sure to spell the number (not begin a sentence with the number).

  • Fifty states are in the United States. (correct)
  • 50 states are in the United States. (incorrect)

The word “I”

The word “I,” the first person singular subject pronoun, is always capitalized.

The first word of direct speech

Direct speech (the exact words a person says, which are in quotation marks) should be capitalized.

  • She turned to him and said, “Do you want to hear a joke?”
  • He responded, “Only if it’s a good one!”

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Proper Nouns

Proper nouns (the names of people and places) are always capitalized.

There are many types of proper nouns: here are a few.

The names of people

The names of people are always capitalized.

  • Andrea and Whitney are coming to dinner on Friday evening.
  • Tim needs to respond to my email.
  • Has Mark called you yet?

Continents, countries, cities, and regions

Does a place have an official name? Capitalize it!

  • I would like to study in North America, but I can’t decide between the U.S. and Canada.
  • Where is she from in Central America?
  • We are going to Puglia, Italy next summer.
  • I had a wonderful time studying in Southern California.

Planets, mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes

Are you talking about a natural formation that has an official name? It should be capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital


Buildings that have official names are capitalized.

  • The San Diego Convention Center hosts ComicCon every year.
  • I think the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco is so lovely.
  • Have you ever been to Pier 39 in SF?

Businesses, organizations, programs, and sports teams

Officially formed groups and programs are capitalized.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Days and months (but not the seasons)

This simple rule is always followed. Note: the seasons are capitalized when talking about semesters in college.

  • I will see you on Wednesday.
  • My birthday is in October.
  • I love the spring. The air smells so good!
  • I will attend Grossmont College for Fall 2018.
    English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital


Religions are always capitalized.

  • My family is Catholic.
  • My neighbors practice Islam.
  • We are learning about Buddhism in school.


Languages are capitalized when written in English.

  • I will be studying English in San Francisco this fall.
  • She speaks Farsi and German.
  • I would love to improve my English phrasal verbs.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Holidays and festivals

Official holidays, festivals, and celebrations are capitalized.

  • What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
  • I love dressing up for Halloween. It’s my favorite time to be in the U.S.!
  • San Diego’s Little Italy hosts the Art Walk every spring.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Periods of time

Periods of time that have official names are capitalized.

  • Dinosaurs lived during the Mesozoic Era.
  • I enjoy art from the Middle Ages.
  • When did World War II officially end?

Visiting Sacramento, California’s Capital

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

The word “capital” is often confused with the word “capitol.” Do you know the difference? A capital is the government headquarters, but a capitol is the actual building.

The most famous cities in California are probably San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles . . . but the state’s capital, Sacramento, deserves some attention! Have you been to Sacramento? This beautiful city is located between two rivers and is known for its diverse population, tree-lined streets, historic Old Sacramento, incredible restaurants, and sports teams.

In honor of all things related to “capital and capitol” (in language, government, and architecture), we are looking at some of the highlights of Sacramento. Here are a few things you should see and do on a trip to Sacramento, California.

Old Sacramento

What did California look like in the 1800s? A trip to Old Sacramento will give you an excellent idea! This eight-block area has over 100 shops, restaurants, and many museums. Visit the old schoolhouse, take a ghost tour, ride a classic horse carriage, learn about the Gold Rush with the Gold Fever tour, and ride a riverboat before having dinner on the Delta King, a floating hotel and restaurant.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Capitol building

Before seeing the government at work, walk the beautiful parks of the Sacramento Capitol. Go inside for a tour and to visit the museum: you will learn about California’s history while seeing beautiful architecture. Afterwards, visit one of the many award-winning restaurants in the area . . . or take the quick walk to Old Sacramento.

Farm-to-fork dining

Sacramento is known for its restaurants, particularly the restaurants that use farm-to-table (also called “farm-to-fork”) dining. In this concept, the chef has close relationships with local farmers and buys the restaurant’s ingredients directly from the farmers. This allows the chef to control the quality of the ingredients.

English Capitalization Rules + A Trip to Sacramento, California’s Capital

Sacramento Kings and Sacramento River Cats

While in Sacramento, check out a basketball or baseball game! An evening at a Sacramento Kings game is full of excitement and energy. During the warmer months, enjoy beautiful Raley Field and a River Cats baseball game. Play ball!

Photos from Pixabay. River Cats photo from River Cats Facebook. 


California Life Featured San Francisco San Francisco Travel Tips Social Media Suggested student activities Vocabulary

The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF + Sunset Color Vocab

June 21, 2017

California sunsets are one of the best things about living in this beautiful state. When you’re studying English in San Francisco, be sure to enjoy the sunset each evening! These locations offer the 5 best sunset views in SF.

How amazing are the sunsets in California? Take a look on Instagram and you’ll see! Each of these photos were posted within the last day, which shows how amazing the California sunsets are.

The 5 Best Sunset Views in SF

Twin Peaks

Wear comfortable shoes and grab a jacket: the wind at Twin Peaks can be strong, and the hike up is a bit of work! Once you’re at the top, you have stunning views of San Francisco. Stay after sunset and watch the lights of the city come on: this view is beautiful any time of the day.

Twin Peaks: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Lands End

A post shared by Robert L. Gee (@_no.27_) on

Lands End is a park in San Francisco that has many hiking trails, including the famous oceanside California Coastal Trail. San Franciscans use this trail to run and hike, but they also take a moment to stop and enjoy the sunset from the beautiful view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Mile Rock Point and Mile Rock Beach.

Lands End: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121, USA

Bernal Heights Park (and Summit)

A post shared by Karen (@moxykk) on

Bernal Heights Park is built on a hillside, and its park and trails provide stunning 360 degree views of San Francisco. Enjoy the trails and the view past San Francisco: on a clear day, you can see surrounding cities in the Bay Area such as Daly City.

Bernal Heights Park: 3400-3416 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA

Corona Heights Park

A post shared by David Olem (@davidolem) on

Corona Heights Park is next to the Castro and Corona Heights neighborhoods in SF. The views, which are unobstructed, allow visitors to see Twin Peaks, Downtown San Francisco, and beyond. Be careful: the steps leading up to the top do not have handrails, so it can be a little scary!

Corona Heights Park: Roosevelt Way & Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA

Alamo Square

A post shared by Steven Lemeshow (@slemeshow) on

This park has views of the most famous houses in San Francisco: the Painted Lady Victorian houses! Alamo Square Park was just renovated and re-opened in May, 2017. In addition to enjoying the architecture of the mansions surrounding the park, visitors can see San Francisco City Hall, Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge . . . and beautiful California sunsets! 

Alamo Square: surrounded by Webster Street (east), Golden Gate Avenue (north), Divisadero Street (west), and Fell Street (south)

Best Sunset Views in SF

Sunset Color Vocab

How do you describe the beautiful clouds, the amazing colors, and the effects of the ever-changing sunset over the Pacific Ocean waters? These colors will help you


Definition: the intensity of a color (whether it has more light or dark to it).

Example: Look at the many shades of pink in tonight’s sunset!


Definition: a color or shade (similar to the word “shade” . . . although an artist could explain that they are different! For learning English, think of “hue” as a synonym for “shade” or “color”).

Example: Last night’s sunset had so many beautiful hues.

Color + ish (blueish, pinkish, etc.)

Definition: a color similar to the one used in the word, but not exactly the color. (Use this word when you don’t know the exact color you’re describing.)

Example: The sky was a blueish, purplish color: it was so lovely.


Definition: very beautiful.

Example: What a stunning view . . . and sunset.


Definition: on fire.

Example: The sky was ablaze during the red and orange sunset.

Cast (verb)

Definition: to cause light or shadow to appear on a surface.

Example: The sun cast its light on the clouds and created a stunning sunset.


Definition: the streaks/lines of light (from the sun).

Example: The sun’s rays were shining through the clouds as it set.

Best Sunset Views in SF


Definition: bright.

Example: The radiant sunset was impossible to capture in a photo. You had to be there to really see  it.


Definition: a shade of red (often used to describe the sky).

Example: The crimson sky turned into a deep blue.


Definition: to shine brightly.

Example: It looked like the sky was glowing.


Definition: a hint of something; a touch of something.

Example: I could still see traces of orange in the sky an hour after the sun set.

Share your California sunset photos to Facebook and be sure to tag CISL and add #CISL to your photos!

Photos from Pixabay.