Group Lessons

20190104_140024Greetings dear readers! It’s Friday, and I’m finished teaching for the week. To be precise, I’m sitting in a café drinking a beer and waiting on two kitties to be neutered. Spaying and neutering cats and dogs is the best way to prevent overpopulation of domesticated animals. You should definitely do it! But I digress.

Let’s talk about language! This week I started teaching English to a group of women that contacted me recently. Group lessons in person are completely different than online individual lessons, but the beauty of learning is constant. There’s just something about learning and speaking another language that is totally thrilling.

Speaking of language learning, the goal of this blog is to facilitate just that. So I’ve decided to corrwvt 5 mistakes made by students this week.

Disclaimer, the English language is spoken far and wide, and oftentimes there is not just one way to express something. When I correct grammar or pronunciation, I like to remind students that language is more about communication and undertsanding tham restricting ourselves to arbitrary rules.

5 mistakes corrected:

My grandmother speak us using Portuguese. My grandmother spoke to us in Portuguese.

This statement was made in reference to the past. It could very easily be made about the present, in which case it would be, “My grandmother speaks to us in Portuguese.”

The connection is worst. The connection is bad.

The connection is getting worse.

I think when we learning a language, we could view the world in a different way. I think when we learn a language we can view/ see the world in a different way.
In her neck is a necklace. On her neck is a necklace./ There is a necklace on her neck. / She’s wearing a necklace.
I passed 4 or 5 years studying. I spent 4 or 5 years studying.

Oh Hello There!

Hi guys! I know it’s been a while. Don’t worry, I’m alive and well; I just haven’t been keeping up with the blog. There has been a lot going on lately with the dog shelter, new volunteers, new work opportunities for myself. All in all, it’s been lovely but hectic. I hope you all are well. My goal for this blog is to update it twice a week from now on, so I’ll see you again before the week is up. Until then, be well.


Lovely mosaic seen in Mazara del Vallo during a recent visit.

How is that pronounced?

Happy Sunday dear readers! What have you been up to this weekend? I went to see the eclipse on Friday evening in the forest near our house. Then on Saturday we made tomato sauce for pasta! It was fun but a lot of work. I’ll make a separate post to share the photos and experience more in depth.

Today I’d like to address pronunciation. I don’t like to preach about pronunciation too much because there is a world full of native and non-native English-speakers who pronounce things very differently. However, this pronunciation inconsistency changes the tense of the word (simple past) or makes that word hard to understand. So let’s talk about it!

First of all, for an in-depth linguistic explanation and accurate phonetic spelling of the example words, check out this excellent video by Rachel’s English. I do not like to focus too much on specific rules but rather offer broad guidance.

When you conjugate a verb into the simple past or use it as an adjective, you must know how the root word ends so that you can pronounce it correctly. Sometimes you add an extra syllable to the ‘ed,’ and sometimes you just cram it all together and pretend there is no vowel.

If the root word ends in a ‘t’ or ‘d,’ you add an extra syllable when pronouncing the ‘ed.’

  1. Marketed
    1. root word (market) ends in a ‘t’
    2. add the syllable: marketid
  2. Dreaded
    1. root word (dread) ends in a ‘d’
    2. add the syllable: dreadid

If the word ends with any other letter, do not add an extra syllable.

  1. Liked
    1. root word (like) ends in a ‘e’
    2. don’t add the syllable: likt
  2. Used
    1. root word (use) ends in a ‘e’
    2. don’t add the syllable: yoozd

Now it’s time to practice! How do you pronounce these words? (All the words in the examples and the list below were taken directly from the ‘pronunciation’ portion of my students’ feedback documents.

  1. Marketed
  2. Stated
  3. Edited
  4. Matched
  5. Used
  6. Evolved
  7. Changed
  8. Filed
  9. Filled
  10. Benefited
  11. Based
  12. Tweaked
  13. Received
  14. Pushed
  15. Concerned
  16. Owed
  17. Traveled
  18. Planned
  19. Smoked
  20. Noticed



Language Tip: I have difficult

Hey everyone. Sorry, I know it’s been a while, so I thought I’d pop back in for a quick tip. One of the most frequent mistakes my students make is saying some version of the following:

“I have difficult.”

“I have difficult to understand.”

“I have difficult to talk.”

“I have difficult to pronounce.”

(These are all actual examples from real students.)

First things first, ‘difficult’ is an adjective, which means it describes things like big, small, happy, and sad.

You cannot have an adjective, but you can have a noun like a house, book, bag, and pencil.

So let’s talk about what you can say instead:

“It’s difficult for me.”

It’s difficult for me to pronounce the word ‘spontaneously.’

“It’s hard for me.” 

It’s hard for me to talk in front of a large group.







Immigration is a HUMAN RIGHT


Hello dear readers and students. Even though I no longer live in the U.S., I cannot ignore what is happening there. My heart has been breaking seeing the news of children separated from their parents at the border, but I just didn’t know what to do. So I decided to write about it.

I know that many of my students are studying English in the hopes of immigrating to a new country, maybe even the U.S., for economic and safety reasons. First and foremost, let’s be clear that immigration is a human right and has existed since the beginning of humankind. If you don’t have food in your home, you will go out in search of it. If you feel threatened in your home, you will leave in search of safety. If you can’t afford to live in your home, you will leave to find a means to support yourself. Humans want to survive, it’s in our nature. But we also want to do more than merely survive. We want to thrive. You deserve to immigrate to improve your life. Period. Full stop.

Vocabulary Words:

  • hypocrisy: (noun) the idea that the United States of America, a country of immigrants, has the right to turn away humans seeking a better life
  • border: (noun) an invented line that separates one country from another
  • illegal: (adjective) a word incorrectly used as a noun to dehumanize humans exercising their human right to immigrate even at the risk of being prosecuted because it was impossible to immigrate ‘legally’
  • immigration: (noun) the natural movement of humans in the search of a better life

If you’d like to practice your listening skills while reading along with the transcript, check out this article from NPR.

Language tip: No human is illegal

Illegal: (adjective) against the law

This word can NEVER be used to describe a human being. Period. It can’t be a noun either.

An action can be illegal:

  • It is illegal to steal.
  • His involvement in the crime was illegal.

A thing can be illegal:

  • The website was taken down for illegal content.
  • The modifications to the car made it illegal on the roads.

But a human’s existence or presence in a country is never illegal.

Language tip: I am used to…

Greetings language students! I’m back with a language tip this week. Today, let’s talk about being used to something. I talked about this a little in my Instagram stories, but I thought I’d include it here as well.

Routine * Schedule * Preference

If you do something on a regular basis or prefer to do something a certain way, you can say something like:

  1. I usually eat dinner at 5:00.   OR   I am used to eating dinner at 5:00.
  2. I usually get chocolate ice cream.  OR  I am used to getting chocolate ice cream.

Now be careful with the 2nd option (I am used to…). This is where most of my students mess up. Instead of saying “I am used to eating dinner at 5:00,” they say “I used to eat dinner at 5:00.

This changes the meaning entirely! Let’s analyze it:

  • I am used to eating dinner at 5:00. = I am currently accustomed to this ongoing routine
  • I used to eat dinner at 5:00. = I no longer eat dinner at 5:00, but there was a period in my life in which I ate dinner at 5:00.



Language Tip: Gonna

Gonna is a simplification of the words ‘going’ and ‘to.’ This word is informal but widely used when speaking.

The most common error my students make is using ‘gonna’ without the verb ‘to be’ in its right tense and in agreement with the subject.

‘Gonna’ cannotstand  alone!

  1. I + am + gonna
    1. I’m gonna have dinner at 8:00.
  2. She + is + gonna
    1. She’s gonna go home for the holidays.
  3. We + are + gonna
    1. We’re gonna graduate in May.

**Interesting fact, the word ‘gonna’ in Italian means ‘skirt.’**


Sunday Update

Greetings everyone! Summer has arrived here in Sicily, and I needed a break from teaching and updating feedback yesterday, so we went to the beach in Marsala!


One of the many canals in the area used to pump water from the sea into pools where the water will be evaporated, and the salt can be harvested and sold. 
Salt harvested from the Mediterranean
Trucks full of salt on Long Island. You can walk there through the water.
Posidonia oceanica: This seaweed is native to the Mediterranean. The detached particles dry up and form protective cushions along the shore. As the plant matter begins to decompose, it creates a smell that many beach-goers do not like. Unfortunately, this encourages many beach communities to remove the stinky plant matter before the tourist season.
You’ve probably heard of Marsala wine. This is just one of many vineyards in the Marsala area. 

Now I’m back on the grind of updating your feedback on this lazy Sunday. I’ll send you an email to let you know when your feedback has been updated. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and I’ll see you soon.

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