Mr. Ben’s non-traditional field trip: Making a traditional Angolan meal

Mr. Ben’s Level 11 class did something different last week. They gathered at a student’s home and prepared a traditional Angolan meal. This allowed the students to learn more about each other’s background, culture, and cuisine, and to build a strong class community. It also allowed people from all around the world the opportunity to speak English together.

We strongly believe at CCB that students and teachers should see each other as human beings, to respect one another, and to learn from one another. When this happens, students feel more relaxed and comfortable in the class, and they are willing to use their English more and not be worried about making mistakes. It is also fun!

Here is the recipe video they created, and pictures of the fun time they had.

 

 

 

Volunteering at Annandale Village

We had an incredible time volunteering with residents at Annandale Village, a community which supports individuals with developmental disabilities. Afterwords, we had some delicious brunch at Egg Harbour Cafe near CCB School in Duluth. Here are the wonderful pictures taken by our Level 8 student Dan Do.

 

5 EASY TIPS FOR USING YOUR TEST SCRATCH PAPER

You are allowed to have up to three pieces of paper at any time to write notes and ideas during the TOEFL exam. Other high stakes tests often allow for use of paper as well. If you are not using this paper, you are hurting yourself. This paper is often called “scratch paper.” If you use up all your paper during the TOEFL test, raise your hand and the test administrator will bring you more. Needing more paper is a GOOD sign that you are taking advantage of this resource.

Taking notes of the TOEFL listening sections and using the scratch paper to prepare your writing and speaking is very important. If it is difficult for you to do it, don’t give up! Deciding that you’re just not going to take notes or use the paper is not a good solution for most test-takers. Practice, practice, practice, at home! Use listening material — especially the listening CDs or listening material that comes with TOEFL books — to practice taking notes. For the speaking sections, write down key words on your scratch paper in the 15 seconds you have. Brainstorm and/or write an outline on the scratch paper as a way to start the written sections.

These Five Points Should Cover Most Ways You Can Use the Scratch Paper:

1.) Write KEY WORDS, not full sentences. You don’t have time to be writing sentences.

2.) Write fast & messy. Only you need to be able to read your words.

3.) Use symbols and abbreviations to reduce writing time. For example, don’t write “money” — instead, you should use the $symbol.

4.) Use numbers to indicate transition words or phrases you will use in your speaking or writing. For example, in your notes, the number “1” means “first of all.” #2 means “in addition,” or “furthermore,” etc. #3 can mean “finally,” or “last but most importantly,” etc. Doing this saves you time from writing all those words.

5.) In the listening section, often the main idea is the first thing you will hear. This means you should be ready to take notes RIGHT AWAY… so be prepared and practice practice practice starting weeks or months before your test date!

Have questions or want specific advice? Just ask us!

What is the Most Common English Word?

Since the 1960s, computers have been able to store and analyze increasingly large amounts of data. Today, we can take all the words found in books, newspapers, magazines, and more, and store them in a database. What’s more, we can also do this with spoken language (although the process of converting it to text and storing it is more difficult).

 

storage

Large collections of language, used for studying and analyzing the language, are called corpora. One collection is called a corpus. A good corpus which can give us reliable information about a language needs to be based on millions of words. The largest American corpus today consists of over 520 million words (http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/). In Britain, several exist containing over a billion words!

Most corpora of American (and British) English say the same thing: the most common word in English is the

So it is not surprising: If we ask “What is the most common word in English?” we will see the word the in the question itself!!

What are some other very frequent words? And, be, of, to, a/an, in, have, that, I, are just some of the most common words which we are sure you already know!

corpus

A Few Valentine’s Day (Love) Idioms

The holiday of Valentine’s Day has its first origins going back at least 1,500 years. Originally the holiday honored one or two Catholic saints named Valentine. Today, however, the holiday is associated with romantic love and is celebrated in many countries. (In the US, like the rest of the world, it is not an official federal or state holiday where many people have the day off work.) The holiday is traditionally celebrated on February 14 (that is my mom’s birthday and her middle name is Val!)

Unsurprisingly, there are many idioms, expressions, and phrasal verbs associated with love in English. Here are a few which might help you out, especially on Valentine’s Day!

lovin

ask out (on a date) – to ask somebody out  (or ask out somebody) is to ask them to go on a date with you, as a possible way of starting a romantic relationship with them.

Example: He is too scared to ask her out.

 

chat up – to chat up somebody (or chat somebody up) is to talk to them in a flirtatious way to show you are attracted to them, and to try and make them interested in you.

British and Australian informal English.

Example: I’ve been trying to chat him up all evening but he’s not interested.

 

cuddle up – to cuddle up with someone is to sit or lie very close them in an affectionate way.

Example: I love cuddling up with my husband.

 

eat out – to eat out  is to eat away from home, at a cafe or restaurant. Many people eat out at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day.

Example: Let’s eat out tonight. I know a very good restaurant.

fall

fall for – if you fall for someone you become very attracted to them, or fall in love with them.

Informal English.

Example: She fell for him as soon as she saw him.

 

get together – if people get together they start a romantic relationship.

Example: They got together in 2001 when they were working in Paris.

 

go out together / with – to go out with someone is to have a romantic relationship with them.

Examples:

1. Will you go out with me?

2. They have been going out together for six months.

 

live for – if you live for somebody they are the most important thing in your life.

Example: Marcus lives for his wife: he will do anything for her.

 

move in together / with – to move in together is to start living with someone – usually someone you are having a romantic relationship with.

Example: We’re moving in together in June.

 

 

pour out – if you pour out your feelings to someone you tell them everything about how you are feeling. (Also: “Pour your heart out.”)

Example: She poured out her feelings and told him how much she loved him.

 

run off with – to run off with somebody is to secretly go away with someone in order to live with them or marry them, especially when other people think this is wrong. Often used to show disapproval.

Informal English.

Example: They were only 17 years old when they ran off with each other.

 

settle down – when two people settle down together they set up a life together and perhaps get married, buy a house and start a family.

Example:

Peter and Marcia are settling down and buying a house together.

 

a heart-throb – a heart-throb is a good looking man; usually someone famous who is attractive to very many women.

Informal English

Examples:

1. In my opinion, George Clooney is a heart-throb; but Justin Bieber is not!

2. Many women think the actor Brad Pitt is a heart-throb.

 

a broken heart –  a broken heart (noun) is a feeling of great sadness and despair, especially when someone you love dies or does not love you.

Examples:

1. They broke up last week and she is broken-hearted. (broken hearted = adjective)

2. Three weeks after our grandmother died, our grandfather died of a broken heart

3. His heart is broken because she doesn’t love him anymore.

 

a heart-to-heart – a heart-to-heart talk (noun) is a completely open and honest private discussion between two people.

Example

We had a heart-to-heart talk last night to try and work out our problems.

 

wear your heart on your sleeve – if you wear your heart on your sleeve you are very open about your feelings for someone, and everyone can see how you are feeling.

loves.jpg

 

fall head over heels in love – to fall head over heels in love with someone is to fall in love with them very suddenly, and with great intensity.

Example: I met my husband at university and fell head over heels in love with him on our first date.

 

lovebirds – if two people are clearly very much in love with each other they are often called ‘the lovebirds’. Lovebirds are small parrots that are well known for showing great affection to their mates.

 

puppy love – puppy love is the love or romantic feelings felt for someone by children or young adolescents. Often used in a negative or derogatory way.

Example: It’s only puppy love. They will soon forget about it.

 

How Americans Wish Each Other Happy Holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.)

Over 70% of the American population identifies itself as Christian. Therefore, there is a strong cultural tradition in the U.S. of Christians (and even some non-Christians) saying “Merry Christmas” to others during and around Christmas time (December 25). This may extend even into the New Year holiday, and some people may say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

Image result for happy holidays

However, over the years the United States has become more diverse, with citizens and residents practicing all the world’s religions. Also, there have been non-Christian communities in the US for a long time, such as Jews from Europe, and Buddhists, Taoists, and Confucians from China.

Image result for christmas merry santa    Image result for hanukkah

Usually some time in December, there is a Jewish holiday called “Hanukkah” which arguably started over 2,100 years ago. There is also an increasingly popular American holiday celebrated by some African-Americans called “Kwanzaa” from December 26 – January 1. It celebrates different moral principles from African cultures and religions.

Image result for kwanzaa

Because of the great diversity of religions and cultures we can find in America today, as well as the various holidays different Americans celebrate, some Americans today choose not to say “Merry Christmas.” In order to include everyone, they might just say, “Happy Holidays!” It is good to be respectful of people’s unique backgrounds but it is probably also true that when people say “Merry Christmas,” they are really just trying to be friendly and because they are excited about the holiday and special time of year.

Whatever you celebrate (or maybe you celebrate none of these holidays!), we hope you have a great winter and hope you’ll come learn more about American culture at our school!

What does “A Dime a Dozen” mean?

“A dime a dozen” is a phrase which is used in reference to anything which is common and/or cheap. A dime is an American unit of money equal to ten cents (a small amount of money), and a dozen means twelve of something. In other words, the thing is very cheap, less than a penny each.

dimes

Examples:

“Experts in this field are a dime a dozen.” (It means experts in a certain industry were very common and/or didn’t make much money.)

“Smiles were a dime a dozen at the Thanksgiving Day Parade.” (It means smiles were very common.)