Idioms of the Week: Health

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 health.

1. bitter pill to swallow (noun phrase): an unpleasant fact one must accept

Ex. Losing the highly competitive presidential election was a bitter pill to swallow for the once-revered candidate.

2. as fit as a fiddle (adjective phrase): to be healthy and physically fit

Ex. Despite being nearly eighty years old, Tom is as fit as a fiddle.

3. back on one’s feet (noun phrase): to regain one’s physical health again

Ex. With the help of antibiotics to treat her flu symptoms, Melanie is back on her feet.

4. bundle of nerves (adjective phrase): used to describe a very nervous or anxious person

Ex. Because she was scared of flying, Denise was a bundle of nerves during the whole plane flight.

5. burn (oneself) out (verb phrase): to become emotionally and physically tired from doing something for a long term

Ex. After working continuous ten hour shifts as a waitress, she was totally burned out.

6. clean bill of health (noun phrase): a statement or assessment that someone is healthy

Ex. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health when I visited him for my annual physical exam.

7. green around the gills (adjective phrase): used to describe someone who looks sick and nauseated

Ex. After a tumultuous rollercoaster ride, Cindy was green around the gills.

8. bun in the oven (noun phrase): used to describe someone who is pregnant

Ex. When Sharon returned from her honeymoon, she had a bun in the oven.

9. break out in a cold sweat (verb phrase): to perspire from nervousness or anxiety

Ex. Dan broke out in a cold sweat upon learning of the surprise pop quiz in math class.

10. breathe one’s last (noun phrase): to die

Ex. Despite fighting a chronic illness for years, the ninety-year-old man breathed his last.

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!

Coffee Break: Back To School

Coffee Break: 10 Expressions About… Back To School

Back-to-school season is already here! If you’re an English learner, it’s also time for you to refocus on your studies after this well-deserved break. And what’s better than a short vocabulary list to kick off the year? Check out these 10 education-related English words and expressions that we selected for you:

1. pedagogy (noun): the function or work of a teacher; teaching method
Ex: Even though each teacher follows his own style of pedagogy, some teaching methods have been proven to be more efficient than others.

2. to brainstorm (verb): to try to develop an idea or think of new ideas
Ex: The first assignment that was given to the students was to brainstorm ideas for the school play.

3. to hit the books (phrase): to begin to study hard
Ex: Mary wants to increase her grades this year, and she is ready to hit the books.

4. to catch up (phrasal verb): do work or other tasks that one should have done earlier
Ex: The teacher noticed that one of her students was a bit behind in math, but she was confident that he would be able to catch up with the rest of the class quickly.

5. school of thought (phrase): a particular way of thinking, typically one disputed by the speaker
Ex: Even if they have different schools of thought, both students are making efforts to understand the other’s point of view.

6. to procrastinate (verb): delay or postpone something, usually related to work
Ex: I procrastinated so much during the past few days that I’m not sure I’ll be able to meet the deadline for this project.

7. mnemonic (noun): a device such as a pattern of letters, ideas, or associations that assists in remembering something
Ex: FANBOY—which refers to the first letter in the words “for,” “and,” “nor,” “but,” “or” and “yet—is a popular mnemonic to remember coordinating conjunctions in English.

8. pedantic (adjective): a person who is excessively concerned with minor details and rules or with displaying academic learning
Ex: The professor is so pedantic that he keeps interrupting his students to correct their pronunciation rather than letting them speak.

9. plagiarism (noun): the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own
Ex: Because Ricardo copy-and-pasted paragraphs from Wikipedia in his essay, he was suspended from college for plagiarism.

10. to cram (verb): study intensively over a short period of time just before an examination
Ex: She spent all night cramming at the library for her exam the next day.

We hope this article gave you the motivation to hit the books. Now, it’s time to stop procrastinating and to catch up on your English lessons!

Teacher's Corner Header Image

Ashley Dresser: The Morale of Making a Mistake or an Error

Achieving oral proficiency in a foreign language can often feel like an insurmountable challenge. And sometimes, no matter how fast you ride your horse toward it, it still remains a distant speck on the horizon. My adult English learners frequently express their frustration with this feeling, so I always have a lesson ready to help them take ownership over their speaking journey. I call this lesson “The Morale of Making a Mistake or an Error,” and its objective is to teach adult learners the basics of error analysis. As a result, they become better equipped to measure their own progress and they learn not to sweat the small stuff.

From day one of their speaking practice, my adult learners must be able to classify any deviation from correct grammar as either a mistake or an error and maintain two respective lists in their notebooks. A mistake is a grammatical correction that they already know, but they just didn’t apply it correctly in conversation at the time. An error is much more important because it tends to be unrecognizable to the learner; errors represent a lack of knowledge of the correct language rules and a gap in understanding that the teacher and learner must work together to address.

These distinctions are particularly effective for intermediate to advanced students where the learner typically experiences a feeling of “leveling off” in their progress, or they feel like they are making the same mistakes over and over again. It becomes more difficult for them to identify notable day-to-day improvement, and they are often discouraged by repetitive, minor errors, which are usually caused by interference from their mother tongue.

In these moments of frustration, I ask my adult learners to take out their error analysis lists and tell me which one is shorter: the mistakes or the errors. The number of mistakes almost always outweighs the number of errors, and in some cases, they even find that one of their previous errors could now be better classified as a mistake. Their faces light up at this hint of progress and I remind them then that even native speakers make frequent mistakes and they certainly don’t give up speaking!

The power of providing students with consistent visual measurements of progress is one of the great advantages of the online language-learning environment. Through historical feedback, skill scores and word performance percentages, students now have a much more precise picture of their language evolution. Tiny victories can suddenly become major motivators when mapped out in greater detail, and students are very much empowered by this new level of control and autonomy in their learning process. By teaching students to pinpoint their more serious errors as well as to recognize and celebrate their small advances, we are creating a more effective learning environment.

The power of providing students with consistent visual measurements of progress is one of the great advantages of the online language-learning environment. Unlike traditional classrooms, Voxy students have immediate access to data showing their daily progress in core skills like grammar and reading, which allow them to identify and react to weak areas more quickly; and they’re able to monitor the frequency of their study habits to make sure they’re reaching their established goals. The Voxy Proficiency Assessment (VPA®) also personalizes their online course to meet their current proficiency level, so that learners can speed up or slow down their language studies based on their performance and progress rather than the fixed pace of a traditional classroom experience. By teaching students to pinpoint their weak areas, to celebrate even the smallest advances and to become more autonomous learners overall, we are creating a more innovative and effective learning environment.

Ashley Dresser is a Voxy tutor.

Ashley Dresser is a Voxy tutor.

Buenos_Aires_Festival_y_Mundial_de_Tango copy

Coffee Break: 10 Expressions About… Tango Buenos Aires Festival

It's #TangoFestival time! Here are 10 #English expressions you can use to talk about it. Click To Tweet

From August 18 to August 31, the world capital of tango, Buenos Aires, is hosting the biggest tango festival in the world as well as the Tango World Cup. These two events, spread over two weeks, attract thousands of tango dancers and aficionados to Argentina every year. In light of the event’s popularity, we thought it’d be helpful for you to know some dance-related expressions:

1. dance routine (noun):  series of steps that are planned out to make the overall choreography
Ex: The couple was rehearsing their dance routine before their official performance.

2. to have two left feet (idiom): to move in a very awkward way when dancing
Ex: I’d love to learn how to tango, but I’m a terrible dancer, I have two left feet.

3. seasoned (adj.): experienced
Ex: Because of the festival’s prestige, only seasoned dancers perform there.

4. extravaganza (noun): an elaborate and spectacular entertainment or production
Ex: With its tango shows, recitals, classes, book signings and film screenings, Tango Buenos Aires Festival is definitely the world’s biggest tango extravaganza.

5. recital (noun): entertainment given usually by a single performer or by a performer and one or more accompanists
Ex: The tango world champions will give a recital in the streets of Buenos Aires on Wednesday.

6. wildcard (noun): an opportunity to enter a competition without having to take part in qualifying rounds
Ex: One of the couples that will dance in the finals first entered the championship as a wildcard.

7. venue (noun): the place where an event happens
Ex: Classes and performances will take place daily at venues across the city.

8. jaw-dropping (adj.): (inf.) amazing
Ex: I’ve seen some of the most jaw-dropping tango performances ever while I was in Argentina.

9. it takes two to tango (idiom): both parties involved in a situation or argument are responsible for it
Ex: As much as I’d like to see this merger go through, it takes two to tango so we need to wait for the other party’s response.

10. workshop (noun): a class or series of classes in which a small group of people learn the methods and skills used in doing something
Ex: Beginners, intermediate and advanced workshops are organized during the festival so people of all levels can improve their dancing skills.

11. Bonus: milonga (Spanish noun): social event or location for tango dancing
Ex: The first social of the festival, or milonga, will take place tonight at 10:30 PM; all levels are welcomed.

It takes two to tango, so try using one of these expressions the next time you’re having a conversation in English!


Idioms of the Week: Emotions

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 emotions.

1. to go bananas (verb phrase): to rave or cheer wildly; to become extremely crazy, angry or excited

Ex. Judy thought Melanie had gone bananas after she spent $500 on shoes.

2. on cloud nine (noun phrase): a state of perfect happiness or euphoria

Ex. John was on cloud nine when he received the news of his impending promotion.

3. down in the dumps (adjective phrase): in a gloomy or depressed mood

Ex. Natalie’s been down in the dumps ever since she lost the final tennis match.

4. happy camper (noun phrase): used to describe a comfortable, contented person

Ex. Kate’s calm personality is what makes her a happy camper—even when life gets hard, she remains content with her blessings.

5. head over heels in love (adjective phrase): hopelessly in love

Ex. Despite only having met her that morning, David was head over heels in love for the new girl in school.

6. chip on one’s shoulder (verb phrase): the act of holding a grudge

Ex. Jack had a chip on his shoulder after suffering a humiliating defeat to Josh in his election campaign for town mayor.

7. fish out of water (noun phrase): feeling uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings

Ex. The nervous exchange student from Tanzania felt like a fish out of water in the fast-paced environment of New York City.

8. swallow one’s pride (verb phrase): to humble oneself, accepting something embarrassing or admitting one’s wrong

Ex. When Valerie failed her exam, she had to swallow her pride to ask for extra credit from the professor.

9. to get/have butterflies in one’s stomach (noun phrase): to feel very nervous

Ex. Whenever Tim has to speak in public, he gets butterflies in his stomach.

10. no hard feelings (noun phrase): feeling no resentment or bitterness about something

Ex. Ann harbored no hard feelings toward Jim after he apologized for his wrongdoing.

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!