Idioms of the week: Halloween

In this blog series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases. This week, we prepared a spooky list of idioms in the theme of Halloween.

1. to have skeletons in the closet (noun phrase): to have embarrassing or incriminating secrets from the past
Ex: Mike became defensive when I asked him why he got fired. He probably has some skeletons in the closet.

2. devil’s advocate (noun phrase): person who disagrees with others so that there will be an interesting discussion about some issue
Ex: Everybody in the class had the same opinion,so the teacher asked a few students to play devil’s advocate to create a more lively debate.

3. a witch-hunt (noun phrase): an attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are not popular
Ex: Social media have become the ultimate tool of the modern witch-hunt; it’s now really easy for people to share information online and track somebody.

4. make someone’s blood run cold (verb phrase): to shock or horrify someone
Ex: My blood ran cold when I saw police at a crime scene two blocks from my house.

5. ghost town (noun): a deserted town
Ex: The campus turns into a ghost town during the holidays because all the students are gone.

6. pale as a ghost (noun phrase): when a person’s face is lacking color, and he/she appears scared or sick
Ex: Mary was as pale as a ghost when she came to work this morning, so I told her to go home and rest.

7. curiosity killed the cat (proverb): being inquisitive about other people’s affairs may get you into trouble
Ex: When Sara started asking too many personal questions to his new colleague, he simply replied that curiosity killed the cat.

8. night owl (noun): a person who is usually active at night
Ex: I never go to bed before 2 or 3 a.m., even on weekdays—I’ ve always been a night owl!

9. to come back to haunt someone (verb phrase): to cause problems for (someone) in the future
Ex: I never imagined that something I did in college would come back and haunt me 10 years later.

10. over my dead body (noun phrase): in no way, under no circumstances
Ex: “Mom, I’m dropping out of college.”
“Over my dead body!”

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!

Task-Based Language Teaching: What Does It Really Mean?

If you Google Task-Based Language Teaching, or TBLT, you’ll find a lot of definitions related to the latest trend in teaching second or foreign languages. But what does it really mean?

TBLT is an approach to language learning that was popularized in the 1980s by N. Prabhu in Bangalore, India. Prabhu discovered that learners were able to learn more effectively when they were focused on a tangible, non-linguistic task like reading a map, than when they were focused on a linguistic task such as using second conditional verb forms.

Similarly, learning a language at its core is simply learning a new skill. And just like any other skill—playing the piano or swimming, for instance—you learn by doing. The sooner you start playing music or jumping into the pool, the sooner you’ll start learning and practicing the skills you need to play an entire song or swim the breaststroke. In contrast, studying music theory or reading a book about swimming techniques may be insightful, but it probably won’t help you achieve your real goal as quickly and efficiently as possible.

TBLT is centered on meaningful tasks using target language (the language being learned) in real-life situations, as opposed to focusing on the target language on its own without any relatable or concrete context. Examples of tasks can range from scheduling a doctor’s appointment and filing a complaint with customer service to answering job interview questions and using small talk with colleagues. TBLT prepares learners for real-world situations, while traditional language teaching that focuses on target language in isolation will not, like a lesson on the past perfect of the verb “to be.” You can easily draw examples of the traditional approach to language learning from your own experience: your high school Spanish teacher may have had you complete irregular verb conjugation exercises instead of role-playing ordering food in a restaurant and applying the target language to a real-life situation. With TBLT, you will never wonder why you’re learning a specific verb tense or set of expressions. The reason will always be related to a real-life situation that is crystal clear to you from the start.

From a language learner’s perspective, a TBLT approach means that your goals and real-life outcomes for learning a new language—whether you want to easily communicate abroad in a country where the language is spoken or work at an international company—should guide your decision when choosing a course, software or tutor. Never lose sight of your goals along the way. For example, if you plan on traveling abroad to Spain and want to learn some Spanish to help you get around, focus on the types of interactions and situations you expect to experience in Spain. Think of common tasks such as asking for directions, ordering food in a restaurant, reading a menu and checking in to a hotel. Don’t spend too much time focusing on language that falls outside of these interactions as it won’t pertain to your experience. And because that language isn’t relevant to your goals, it may discourage you from sticking with it. You don’t need to learn how to describe someone’s eye color (Bob tiene ojos marrones) or learn the comparative in Spanish (El gato corre más rápido que el perro), but you do need to know how to politely ask for information (Disculpe, sabe cómo llegar a la estación de tren?) or how to tell a server that you are a vegetarian (Soy vegetariana. No como carne ni pescado.). This way, you’ll actually be prepared for your trip, you’ll save time and you’ll stay motivated!

More often than not, language learners do not assess their goals when they embark upon the brave journey of learning a new language. They assume that any one-size-fits-all solution will work for their specific needs, but everyone’s goals are different and TBLT acknowledges this as critical to success. If you’re learning English to improve your career versus learning English because you’ll be traveling to New York, the language you’ll need is different. So how could the same exact course help you achieve two very different goals? Instead of choosing a static course designed as a catch-all solution, choose one that is customizable and adaptive based on your unique goals—a task-based and personalized solution.

Mari Nazary is Voxy's VP of Pedagogy and Curriculum.

Mari Nazary is Voxy’s VP of Pedagogy and Curriculum.

Clothes Idioms of the week

Idioms of the week: clothes

In this blog series, we’re breaking down common English expressions that are used in everyday conversation, so you’ll be able to expand your language skills and have fun with new English phrases. This week, we’re keeping to the theme of clothes.

1. old-fashioned (noun phrase): of or relating to the past
Ex: Vintage clothes are making a come-back: I saw a young girl wearing a white, old-fashioned dress in the street this morning.

2. dressed to the nines (verb phrase): to be dressed elegantly, to be dressed very well
Ex: It was a beautiful wedding, everybody was dressed to the nines.

3. put oneself in somebody else’s shoes (verb phrase): imagine what it would be like to be in someone else’s situation
Ex: Stop complaining and try to put yourself in my shoes for once!

4. hit someone below the belt (verb phrase): to do something in an unfair or cowardly way
Ex: Mike is usually a nice guy, but his last comment on John’s questionable work ethics really hit below the belt.

5. do (something) like it is going out of fashion (verb phrase): enthusiastically, to an extensive degree
Ex: Tom is eating his burger like it’s going out of fashion—he is going to get sick!

6. fit like a glove (verb phrase): fit perfectly
Ex: This dress fits you like a glove, you should buy it!

7. fall apart at the seams (verb phrase): in a very bad condition, likely to fail
Ex: I quit my old company because it was falling apart at the seams.

8. hot under the collar (noun phrase): very angry
Ex: He got very hot under the collar when the waiter spilled a drink on him.

9. roll up one’s sleeves (verb phrase): prepare for hard work
Ex: Everyone had to roll up their sleeves to meet the client’s demanding request.

10. cut from the same cloth (verb phrase): of the same nature, similar
Ex: She and her mother are cut from the same cloth, their personalities are so similar.

Try using these idioms the next time you practice your English skills. You’ll find yourself using them more naturally in conversation in no time!

Voxy News

Voxy Launches Popular Digital Marketing Course from General Assembly

Voxy is proud to be working with General Assembly (GA), a global education company specializing in 21st-century skills, to deliver its Digital Marketing course on the Voxy platform.

This collaboration will bring GA’s popular Digital Marketing course to the Voxy platform for English language learners around the world. The professional-level foundation course has been taken by more than 10,000 employees at large companies and uses exclusive content from GA’s online curriculum. The online course covers functional and relevant topics including: social media, UX (user experience), mobile strategy and content marketing.

GA addresses the skills gap in today’s tech- and data-focused workforce and provides professional development and training in areas like marketing, data science and visual design. This new offering will allow Voxy’s learners to access applicable skills to further   their comprehension of the English language.

“Voxy’s partnership with GA is 100 percent aligned with our unique task-based approach to language learning, which takes authentic materials and converts them into language lessons that address real-life goals,” said Mari Nazary, Voxy’s VP of Pedagogy & Curriculum. “Thanks to GA’s rich and effective Digital Marketing course, we’re continuing to address our learners’ needs for improving their professional development skills while also practicing the English they need to advance their careers.”

Want to check it out? Visit the Voxy Unit Catalog and choose Courses from the dropdown menu at the top of the page.


Coffee Break: 10 Expressions About… NYFW

Today is the first day of New York Fashion Week (NYFW). This week, top fashion designers from all over the world will show their 2017 Spring/Summer collections to buyers, the press and the general public. This semi-annual event kicks off the fashion season, with shows in London, Milan and Paris that follow shortly after. Come discover the fashion world with these 10 new words to add to your vocabulary:

1. runway (noun): a raised aisle extending into the audience from a stage, especially as used for fashion shows
Ex: Models will walk down the runway wearing fashion designers’ latest collections this week.

2. sartorial (adjective): of or relating to tailoring, clothes or style of dress
Ex: The wide range of designers present during the week usually offers something for every sartorial inclination.

3. must-have (noun): an essential or highly desirable item
Ex: The bomber jacket is definitely a must-have item in 2016.

4. trend (noun): something that is currently popular or fashionable
Ex: This week will determine what some of the fashion trends for 2017 will be, which will influence what people wear next summer.

5. fashionista (noun): someone who is very interested in fashion or who works in the fashion industry
Ex: Social media and blogs offer a platform for fashionistas to follow and write about fashion trends and shows.

6. apparel (noun): refers to any men’s, women’s or children’s clothing
Ex: In 2013, Eden Miller was the first designer ever to show plus-size apparel at New York Fashion Week.

7. garment (noun): a particular article of apparel
Ex: High-tech garments, such as 3D-printed dresses or glowing sportswear, have also started to make an appearance on the runway.

8. craftsmanship (noun): the quality of design and work shown in something made by hand; artistry
Ex: Attending fashion shows gives you the chance to see how the clothes appear from a 360-degree viewpoint and to appreciate their craftsmanship up close.

9. ready-to-wear: clothes made for the general market and sold through stores rather than made to order for an individual customer; off the rack
Ex: Some luxury brands such as Chanel, Prada and Gucci also produce a ready-to-wear line, which returns a greater profit.

10. fashion icon (noun): a person or thing that is very well known as being highly fashionable
Ex: Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly are considered some of the biggest fashion icons of all time.

Even if you’re not a fashionista, these words are definitely must-haves in your sartorial English vocabulary and will help you follow any apparel-related conversation you may have. If you want to learn more, log in to your English course now!