12 Foreign Words and Phrases New Yorkers Love to Use

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It’s no secret that languages borrow from other languages. The French, despite their reputation as linguistic puritans, are known for enjoying “le weekend.” Any English-speaking fan of telenovelas has probably  heard the word “look” being used to describe one’s personal physical appearance and style. 

The classic and much imitated Colombian telenovela, Yo Soy Betty La Fea centered on the transformation of Betty’s “look.”

English has always had its fair share of borrowed phrases. When Europeans first arrived in the Americas they stole native words as well as land.

Wabanaki (Native American) Canoe. The word “canoe” came from the Arawaken language. Can you canoe?

Americans have adopted many foreign words and expressions that were brought to our shores by people who came here from all over the world. New York City, which continues to draw immigrants, visitors, dreamers, and doers from every corner of the planet, has a particularly rich history of taking words of foreign origin and adding them to our unique regional lexicon.

Below is a list of 12 foreign words and phrases that one is likely to hear in New York.  I’ve excluded words used only to describe foods such as pizza, tacos, and so on. They’re too easy!  Most of these words have been brought to me by my English-language students who heard them at work, in social settings, or on television.

Click here to read the complete list. (more…)

Watch Me Teach Live

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in American English Grammar and Usage, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, New York Culture

Most of my students want PRIVATE lessons. They are self-conscious about their English, and don’t want an audience on the world wide web! However, last week I was asked to teach a lesson on somebody’s livestream. I wasn’t sure, how it would work. We were supposed to meet indoors for a regular lesson, but we wound up meeting outside. It was cold and windy. I didn’t write anything down, which is unusual for me. The student was interrupted by his audience, who had many questions and comments! It was very distracting!

Here is a link to the livestream. My lesson starts at about 1:20:

The Old Bait and Switch

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Business English, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, Online English lessons, Tutoring

Let’s try something different. I’ve created an audio file, so you can listen to this lesson as you follow the transcript below. Words in boldface are explained in a short glossary beneath the text.

“Bait and switch” is a commonly used expression. It comes up in conversation, and it’s mentioned sometimes in newspaper and magazine articles. In fact, if you google it, you’ll find plenty of references!

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Getting to JFK: Here Are Your Options

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“Why isn’t there a direct subway line to the airport?”

“Why is it so expensive to get to Kennedy?”

“I always take Uber, but how do you New Yorkers get to the airport?

I get these questions a lot. Many of my English language students are here on work transfers, or they are the spouses of someone with an L-1 visa. They love to explore U.S. destinations, including San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles . They enjoy going back home for the holidays. Some of them have a “revolving door” of visitors crashing on their couch. They often lament the high cost of getting to the airport, and are surprised that a major city like New York, doesn’t offer better options. Usually, they take Uber.

Today I’m going to give you some other options for getting to JFK. I will follow up with posts on getting to Newark Airport and LaGuardia.

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Welcome to New York! Now learn English and find a job!

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in American Culture and Holidays, American English Grammar and Usage, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, Tutoring

(Quick Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer and this blog post does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about your visa or ability to work in the United States, consult an immigration attorney!)

Congratulations! Your spouse works for a multinational company or organization and just got a job transfer to New York or maybe Los Angeles, or another major American city. You are excited about the prospect of spending a year or maybe more in a foreign country.

However, there’s one little problem….
While this is a great career opportunity for your better-half, it might not be so great for your career. Maybe, if you are very lucky, your company will allow you to stay on and work remotely, but with the time difference between the US and Europe, that might not work out so well. Chances are you are going to have to take a long leave or quit your job.

But there’s some good news: You can work legally in the United States!

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The Way We Speak (English) Now: Hooking Up

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in American Culture and Holidays, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, New York Culture

“Hooking up” is a phrasal verb – which means (as all my ESL students know) it is an expression containing a verb and a preposition.

Once upon a time is a phrase we use to start fairy tales. It was also used in the very first Star Wars film, in the opening captions where we learn that the story takes place “Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away. Sometimes we use “once upon a time” ironically to mean “a not so long time ago in the past,” as in the following:

Once upon a time “hooking up” was an innocuous expression used in the following way:

John: My flight was delayed, so I won’t be able to meet you at the breakfast. I should get to the conference by noon.

Kevin: That’s fine. There’s a lunch break at noon. We’ll hook up then.

John: Great! I’m looking forward to it.

In this context, “hook up” is very similar to “meet up.” Here’s another example, just to make the point:

Sarah: So did you have a chance to talk to John at the conference?

Kevin: No, his flight was delayed, and then he got stuck in traffic, and I was on the panel in the afternoon. We never managed to hook up.

However, in recent years the expression “hook up” or “hooking up” has taken on another meaning, which has just about supplanted the previous meaning. Here is an example of how you are likely to hear it used:

John: I really like Sarah, but I think she’s dating Kevin isn’t she?

Beth: Dating? I don’t know about that. They may have hooked up a couple of times back in college, but I think now they’re just friends.

John: Friends with benefits?

Beth: Maybe once upon a time. I doubt it in the present. Kevin lives with his girlfriend, and I hear she keeps him on a pretty tight leash. Honestly, I doubt that Sarah and Kevin are more than co-workers.

John: Wow. I don’t think I’d be too comfortable with that history if I was Kevin’s girlfriend!

Beth: Oh c’mon! What happens in college stays in college.

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I’ll Be Back — Everyday Expressions and Phrases with Back

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“Back” is another one of those words with multiple meanings in English. The definition in the English Language Learner’s Dictionary is huge, and it doesn’t even cover some of the most common uses!

Most American native-English speakers will recognize the phrase “I’ll be back.” It was a line from the movie The Terminator. Arnold Swartzeneggar says it very menacingly – as a warning — before he leaves a store. Maybe it sounds scary in the movie BECAUSE it is such a commonly used phrase. The meaning is simple: “I will return.”

For this post, I’ve collected many of the common phrases you’ll here with back.  You’re likely to hear them on the street, in the office, on television, and just about everywhere else. (more…)

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5 Easy Labor Day Weekend New York Getaway Day Trips

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in American Culture and Holidays, English lessons in New York, New York Culture, Tutoring

 

Most of my students are newcomers to New York. Some already understand that New Yorkers love to get away from the city, especially on long weekends during the summer, but if you didn’t make plans, it’s not too late to have a fun three-day weekend. There a lots of interesting places to explore within the five boroughs of New York City, and there are plenty of easy day trips outside of the city that don’t require finding a “last minute”  car rental.

Here are five ideas for outdoor excersions that will feel like mini-vacations.

  1. Explore Manhattan’s Northern Tip

You can start by catching the A train to 207th Street. From there you can visit Fort Tryon Park. The park offers beautiful Hudson River views on winding paths. This is also where you can find visit The Cloisters. You can then walk to Inwood Hill Park, which offers hiking trails with old growth trees. There is also a Nature Center there where you can learn more about the local ecology. Sometimes there are additional activities sponsored by the Parks Department, such as kayaking. (more…)

Got or Gotten? How to Speak North American

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in American Culture and Holidays, American English Grammar and Usage, English lessons in New York, ESL tips, Tutoring

Someone should write a book on all the uses of “get” in the English language. This post is for a select audience of grammar-nerds and advanced English language learners already familiar with “get” in everyday speech. Sorry, but this is not where you are going to learn 500 new idiomatic phrases with “get.” I’m going to attempt to focus on when to use “got” and when to use “gotten.”

Got it?

Okay, let’s go!

Here’s the lowdown:

Most of those handy PDFs that list commonly used irregular verbs have two past participles listed for the verb “get.” Those past participles are “got” and “gotten.” Which one is correct?

Some lists break it down by classifying “got” as British English and “gotten” as American English, but that’s not helpful. In North America(US and Canada) we use both “got” and “gotten” and we use them for different things. (more…)

Handy Phrases: With Hands (Part I)

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handsAll languages have phrases and saying involving parts of the body. English has a lot of them! I’m only going to write about a few of the more common uses of the word “hand” here. If you would like more, please let me know in the comment section below.

Let’s start with the use of  hand as a verb. Hand is a regular verb. (It takes “ed” in the past and perfect tenses.) In its simplest form it means to pass or give something to someone. (more…)