Idioms of the week - Colors

Idioms of the week: colors

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 list of idioms in the theme of colors.

1. out of the blue (noun phrase): without warning, unexpectedly
Ex: He showed up out of the blue on my doorstep this morning.

2. a white lie (noun phrase): a lie about a small or unimportant matter that someone tells to avoid hurting another person
Ex: Mary didn’t want to go to the party so she told her friends a little white lie that she wasn’t feeling well and stayed in.

3. red tape (noun phrase): excessive bureaucracy or adherence to rules and formalities
Ex: It took months for him to get a visa, there must have been a lot of red tape involved.

4. blackout (noun phrase): a failure of electrical power
Ex: The entire city is experiencing a blackout after last night’s storm.

5. to show someone’s true colors (verb phrase): to show the real nature or characteristics of a person
Ex: She really showed her true colors when she was rude to the waitress last night.

6. with flying colors (noun phrase): easily and excellently
Ex: She passed the test with flying colors.

7. green with envy (noun phrase): wishing very much that you had what someone else has
Ex: Her new boots make me green with envy, they’re so pretty!

8. a grey area (noun phrase): a situation lacking clearly defined characteristics
Ex: The main points of the contract are clear but a few details are a grey area.

9. black and white (noun phrase): straightforward, very clear
Ex: The situation is black and white: if we win, we go to the playoffs; if we lose, the season is over.

10. catch someone red-handed (verb phrase): to catch a person in the act of doing something wrong
Ex: I caught him red-handed stealing candies at the store.

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 Attends ICEF Berlin, Global Language Learning Event

Last month Voxy traveled to Berlin to attend ICEF, an international conference that in part connects educators with agents who recruit students for immersive language-learning programs. The event is the largest and most comprehensive of its kind, bringing together more than 2,000 professionals and hosting dozens of seminars on current and future trends in the international language-training market.

One of the event’s central themes this year was the growing interest in moving toward technology solutions for language learning. But new technology also introduces new challenges, such as how to sustain online engagement if students are already spending several hours per day studying their target language in a classroom setting.

The Voxy mobile app addresses this concern by allowing students to continue their English courses at their own pace and in small pieces, no matter where they are. Voxy’s flexible platform can also be used as an effective assessment tool, or as an online supplement to be used before and after an immersive English language program.

Another emerging need for travel-based language programs is a way to grow their customer base while maintaining a low-cost solution that keeps students engaged. Because Voxy can produce thousands of real-world learning materials at scale, we can offer a competitive and cost-effective solution—without sacrificing human instruction or effective engagement strategies.

ICEF Berlin sponsors included EC English, INTO, The Language Gallery (TLG), Language Studies Canada (LSC) and the International Language Academy of Canada (ILAC), among others.

Travel industry

10 Words For… The Travel Industry

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 concepts and vocabulary words related to the travel industry.

1. reseller (noun): Someone who resells goods and services in exchange for a fee, also known as agent
Ex: Travel agencies can use a reseller to buy group tickets for tourist attractions.

2. quote (noun): give someone the estimated price of a job or service
Ex: The school asked several travel agencies for a quote for the class trip.

3. to charter (verb): to reserve an aircraft, boat or bus for private use
Ex: The group chartered a bus so they would have more flexibility during the trip.

4. layover (noun): a short stay at a place in the middle of a trip
Ex: We have a two-hour layover in Iceland before landing in Paris.

5. accommodation (noun): a place (such as a room in a hotel) where travelers can sleep and find other services
Ex: The client has specific accommodation requests for her trip; she only wants to stay in hotels.

6. booking (noun): a reservation for accommodations or travel, or a ticket purchased in advance
Ex: The agency took care of all bookings, from flight tickets to hotel rooms.

7. package deal (noun): a group of services related to travel or vacations that are sold together for one price
Ex: Their package deal includes the bus tour, hotel room and plane ticket, but they will have to pay for their meals.

8. itinerary (noun): a passenger’s travel schedule
Ex: We finished our itinerary for our next trip: we’ll start in Barcelona, then go to Italy and finish in France.

9. amenities (noun): a useful or enjoyable feature of a place
Ex: This hotel has first-class amenities: a swimming-pool, sauna, spa and high-end restaurant.

10. yield management (noun): the process of frequently adjusting the price of a product in response to various market factors, such as demand or competition
Ex: Airlines practice yield management, which can result in drastic variations in airfare over a short period of time.

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

Rebecca Wagoner: Learning English Through Pop Culture

The most common question I’m asked by ESL learners when we first meet is, “How can I become fluent in English?” The answer to this is tricky, because it truly depends on the individual and a number of factors, such as agreeing on what fluency even means. It’s my job to help people become fluent, so I like to give them some real advice that I’ve learned from observing people who speak English as a second language. The learners I’ve met who emit the most confidence with their abilities in English are those who also happen to be well-versed in pop culture.

A learner’s ultimate goal in achieving fluency should be to feel comfortable speaking and writing in a foreign language. Part of that fluency means easily understanding other people, and eventually laughing at jokes and understanding sarcasm. The challenge in achieving this is that the material available in a typical foreign language class tends to cover more formal language skills and grammar, which might fall short when it comes to making friends or developing an identity within a second language. Spoken language is much more nuanced than a textbook can explain.

So how can students learn the depths of real, “natural” English without being fully immersed in it? In short, by watching TV series, movies and online videos. It seems that the next best thing to living abroad is watching people abroad. The type of language in pop culture has a raw edge that is chock-full of different accents, dialects, slang and even mistakes or deliberately incorrect words like “ain’t.” The students I meet who talk with me about the latest episodes of “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things,” for example, are the students who are speaking much more naturally and comfortably about their daily lives.

It has been my experience that being able to grasp the idiosyncrasies in conversations on the big screen translates to a better understanding of the dialogues and quirks of real life. When people watch movies in another language, they absorb phrases they’re more likely to use themselves and they learn a certain level of social expectations within that culture. This familiarity and repetition pulled from pop-culture references helps establish an internal system of acquired language that is especially helpful when it comes to speaking fluently.

So all those reruns of “Friends” might not actually be a waste of time after all. The movies and shows you watch could be helping you form the very language you use to speak.

I suggest finding a show that resonates with your interests and watching it with English subtitles. Choose a show that’s well-paced for your level of understanding—you should be able to tell if it’s a good fit within the first episode. As a basic rule of thumb, if you’re able to follow the storyline of the first episode and you enjoy it, then it’s a good fit. If watching the show frustrates you and you miss half of the dialogue, try watching something with simpler subject material that you can understand with less effort.

For those who don’t have enough free time to start a new series or watch an entire movie, YouTube and Vimeo have a lot of short films that may work better for you. Simply type in “short films” in the search box of the site you prefer, and you’ll find a long list of shorts that range from one to 45 minutes long. I recommend these for someone who’s looking for entertainment without committing to a schedule. Remember to choose a category you’re interested in, whether it’s comedy, horror, drama, animation, or whatever you’re in the mood for.

If you prefer to watch more practical content, I recommend checking out TED talks are relatively short speeches designed to share an idea, and the topics cover a wide range: science, education, technology, health, diversity, art, music, humor, business—and the list goes on. These are great for a quick, informative and inspirational listening session. When you go to, click “Watch” on the top panel, then “TED talks.” Next, you can browse through interesting topics, select English as the language and choose a duration. There are plenty of talks under 15 minutes that are perfect for English learners. These are especially helpful for people studying English for professional reasons or who plan to attend college in English, because they help prepare learners for lectures and presentations.

Ultimately, the goal in watching TV, movies and videos in English is to help learners feel more comfortable understanding their second language. This comfort and familiarity will build a base on which learners gain confidence in speaking with native speakers. Consider this listening practice a form of entertainment while your brain is working hard undercover to achieve the fluency you’re aiming for.

Let us know what you’re watching in the comments below!

Rebecca Wagoner is a Voxy tutor.

Rebecca Wagoner is a Voxy tutor.


Idioms of the week: Halloween

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