San Diego Comic Con

Coffee Break: 10 Expressions About… The San Diego Comic-Con

Whether you’re on your coffee break at the office, talking with friends or reading the newspaper, we encounter situations every day where topic-specific vocabulary is used. And when you don’t know the language, it can be really difficult to participate in the conversation! When the topic switches to recent news events, it gets even more complicated…

From politics and sporting events to fashion and technology, this blog series will help you understand and convey ideas about a wide range of recent events using the right vocabulary.

Today, it’s all about the geeks! The biggest “Comic Con” of the year starts today in San Diego, and it’s an unmissable event that brings together all the latest and greatest from pop culture. We’ve prepared a list of words and expressions that you’ll probably hear in the upcoming days.

  1. pop culture (noun): modern popular culture transmitted via mass media and aimed particularly at younger people
    Ex: San Diego Comic-Con is arguably the biggest event in pop culture.

  2. exhibitor (noun): a person who displays items of interest at a convention
    Ex: Large groups of fans walk excitedly from one exhibitor’s booth to another.

  3. to unveil (verb): to show or announce publicly for the first time
    Ex: Marvel will unveil a 13-foot-tall bronze Captain America statue at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.

  4. buff (noun): a person who is very interested in a subject and knows a lot about it
    Ex: “Even if you’re not a science-fiction fan or a movie buff, there’s an incredible atmosphere at the convention,” argued the fan.

  5. collectibles (plural noun): items worth collecting
    Ex: It’s rumored that this year they’ll be giving away exclusive Pokemon collectibles to special attendees because of the new Pokemon Go app.

  6. panel (noun): a live or virtual discussion about a specific topic amongst a selected group of experts in front of a large audience
    Ex: The HBO Game of Thrones panel, which will include four experts discussing the show, is one of the most anticipated events at the Comic-Con.

  7. cosplay (noun): the practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime
    Ex: Game Of Thrones cosplays are really popular. Last year, a lot of fans dressed up like Khaleesi.

  8. overcrowding (noun): filled beyond what’s comfortable
    Ex: Because of the event’s popularity, attendees and vendors complained of overcrowding.

  9. fandom (noun): the fans of a particular person, team, fictional series, etc., regarded collectively as a community or subculture
    Ex: Dozens of different fandoms meet each year at the Comic-Con.

  10. attendee (noun): a person who attends an event
    Ex: Around 130,000 attendees are expected this weekend at the San Diego Comic-Con.

We realize that some of these words—like cosplay or fandom—are pretty specific, and you may not find them as useful in everyday conversation. But most of the words on this list—like panel, attendee and exhibitor—are much more common, and will be helpful to talk about all kinds of events or pop-culture trends. Try one out this week!

Industry Words

10 Words for… Basic Business

Working in the business world varies widely from culture to culture and it can be really challenging to bridge the language gap at work, but learning a set of basic business-related terms is a great place to start. That’s where we come in! This blog series will explore the top 10 useful words for specific industries, so you can learn the English you can actually use in the real world. This week, we’re looking at some basic business concepts and vocabulary words.

1. revenue (noun): income of a company or organization
Ex: The company’s revenue increased by 1.4% this quarter.

2. expense (noun): money spent or cost incurred to generate company revenue
Ex: The accounting department congratulated the sales team on their expense management.

3. profit (noun): financial gain from amount earned and amount spent
Ex: In 2016, Qatar Airways’ full-year profit more than quadrupled.

4. budget (noun): an estimate of income and expenses for a set period of time
Ex: Pampers is the brand that spends the most on advertising globally, with a budget of $8.3 billion.

5. deadline (noun): the latest time or date a task should be completed by
Ex: The deadline for the final report is next Monday.

6. competitor (noun): a rival company that offers the same product or service
Ex: In the aircraft industry, Airbus is Boeing’s main competitor.

7. brand (noun): a unique image that identifies a product and distinguishes it from its competitors
Ex: Apple and Google are two of the most valuable brands in the world.

8. to sell (verb): to make something available to be bought in exchange for money
Ex: Amazon sells a wide range of products online.

9. to advertise (verb): to promote a product or service through public communication or news mediums
Ex: A lot of companies use humor as a mean to advertise their products.

10. to invest (verb): to spend money with the expectation it will bring potential profit, interest, or income
Ex: Startups are always looking for people to invest in their companies.

For additional practice with industry-specific terms in English, check out the Unit Catalog in your Voxy course for more work-related materials!

From left to right: Nichole Wallace, Paul Gollash, Michael Preston, Jake Schwartz, Jonathan Harber, Stephanie Dua.

Solving the Problem of Adult Literacy

I recently had the opportunity to participate in an event focused on adult literacy here in the United States and around the world. The XPRIZE for Adult Literacy, an award program sponsored by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, is a competition designed to bring the brightest and most creative minds in education and technology together to transform the lives of low-literate adults. “What we need,” said former First Lady Barbara Bush, “is a recipe for big ideas, bold solutions and team building.”  I was thrilled to be a part of this event, and feel confident that the passionate and dedicated educators that this organization brings together are poised to have a huge impact on this significant societal problem.

Literacy is the biggest equalizer we know. —Barbara Bush

In the United States, more than 26 million adults have low literacy skills, and less than 2% of those adults have access to literacy programs. For the adult participants in programs funded by the Barbara Bush Foundation, there are often major hurdles to overcome—these individuals have an average annual income of $10,000-12,000, and typically read at less than a fifth-grade level. The issue of adult literacy is closely tied to English proficiency, not only for people living in English-speaking countries like the United States, but also for the two billion people worldwide who need to learn English for economic advancement. In New York alone, 23% of New Yorkers have limited English proficiency and about 1.6 million people don’t speak English at all.

Low literacy levels—and the need for language acquisition in general—is such a massive problem that needs tackling. English in particular is the global language of commerce, the language of the Internet and often a key driver of socio-economic advancement. When I started Voxy five years ago, I set out to create a product that would help billions of people around the world learn English more effectively and therefore give them better opportunities in tomorrow’s global job market. Today, Voxy uses cutting-edge technology and empirically-tested academic research to improve the way people learn English: We’ve lowered the cost of getting authentic, up-to-date English content, provided instruction to remote areas of the world and capitalized on the power of mobile learning to reach people who didn’t previously have access to high-quality online learning.

I’m extremely proud of what Voxy has accomplished so far, and also excited for a future where Voxy’s powerful platform can be used to support those who need to become literate in their first or second language.

To hear from the other very talented presenters on how they’re working to increase adult literacy, check out the video by clicking here.

Interested in competing to win the $7-million prize? Register your team at

Paul Gollash is the Founder and CEO of Voxy.

Paul Gollash is the Founder and CEO of Voxy.



6 Ways to Start the Conversation

One of the most exciting things about learning English is the opportunity it creates to meet and form relationships with so many new people.

Whether you’re being introduced to someone for the first time or catching up with an old friend, there are many ways to greet someone. Since a greeting sets the tone for the conversation that follows, it’s nice to have some variety in your personal “word bank”.

These 6 phrases each mean something slightly different – so make sure you read the explanations! – but are all great ways to greet someone.

  • How’s it going?
    • This is an informal way to say, “How are you?”
  • Long time no see!
    • This may look strange as a written sentence, but it’s a common thing people say when they haven’t seen each other in a long time.
  • Pleased to meet you
    • This is another way to say “Nice to meet you.” It generally has a more formal connotation and can be used when you’re meeting a new person, like a new co-worker, for the first time.
  • Look who it is!
    • In informal settings, this is a way to express excitement about seeing a friend.
  • Good to see you
    • Just like it sounds, this phrase is used to say you’re happy to see someone again.
  • Glad to put a name to a face
    • Many times, we’ll talk to someone via email or over the phone before actually meeting them in person. This is what you can say when you’re finally meeting someone face-to-face after communicating with them in other ways for a while.

Now that you know how to use these different greetings in different scenarios, try one out! Whether it’s someone new that you’re meeting for the first time, or an old friend that you haven’t seen in ages*, you’ll be able to start the conversation on a much more personal note with these phrases.

*BONUS: “I haven’t seen you in ages” is similar to “Long time no see!” and is another way to greet someone you’ve missed for a long time.


5 New Ways to Say “I Don’t Know”

One of the first things that most people learn how to say in English is “I don’t know.” This makes sense, since there will always be a lot of things you don’t know when you’re learning a language. And that’s ok! Feeling confused and making mistakes is part of learning, and it’s a good thing.

But, the fact that you’re just learning English doesn’t mean that you have to use the same boring phrase that every other learner uses. Even if you’re a beginner, you can express yourself in English with more personality.

Here are some different ways to tell someone that you don’t know the answer to his or her question, instead of just saying “I don’t know”:

  1. I have no idea.
  2. Who knows?
  3. Don’t ask me!
  4. Beats me!
  5. Your guess is as good as mine.

Bonus: “I dunno” is something you’ll often hear native speakers say, or even write. This phrase is used in direct place of “I don’t know” and is considered slang. Try to say it out loud. See how you’ve just eliminated some of the letters?

Now that you have some more ways to say “I don’t know” – and you understand that not knowing is a key part of language learning – go ahead and try them out yourself. Leave a comment and let us know how it goes!