Browsing Category

California Life

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 California Life Holidays San Diego San Francisco

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.


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!


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!


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 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.