Friday, October 28, 2011

Keep track of

If you keep track of something, you are keeping a record. You are staying informed about something.

1. How do you keep track of expenses? Do you use Excel, Microsoft Money, an iPhone application, a piece of paper… or do you take mental notes?

2.  To keep track of my students’ classes, payments, material covered etc, I use Google Calendar and Google Documents. They are simple yet effective tools to help with my organization.

3. Is it possible to keep track of your English learning progress? Is there a way to objectively measure your learning, or is it subjective? Do you rely on other people to tell you whether your English fluency has improved?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Add up

If something doesn’t add up, it simply doesn’t make sense. It’s not logical. There seems to be an error or a mistake. Something is wrong.
*If you win something by a landslide, you win it convincingly/ easily and by a long way: Ex, “A landslide victory”.

1.  Sometimes, when people give you a long excuse with conflicting details that just don’t add up, they are probably making up (inventing) the story. From that point on, I take whatever they say “with a pinch of salt”, meaning that I don’t take everything they say seriously.

2. The Bush administration’s claims that there were WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq don’t add up. Even though it turns out that the intelligence (information) was faulty, many people still believe it was a good idea to go in and take the former dictator, Saddam Hussein, out of power.

3. There are many things about the theory of evolution that just don’t add up. It’s fairly logical, but there are many inconsistencies. For example, in a very recent article in the online “Harvard Gazette”, Harvard researchers have found that “rather than increase over time, the value of beneficial mutations in a cell decreases”:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Drive (someone) crazy


If something drives you crazy, it irritates or frustrates you. Similar expressions: to drive (someone) nuts/ bonkers/ bananas/ up the wall. 

1. It drives me crazy when I buy something that costs $20.05c, for example… and the person at the cash register makes me break another bill instead of forgetting about the extra 5c.

2. Doesn’t it drive you up the wall when someone asks you a question and then doesn’t listen to your answer? Are you a good listener or are you easily distracted?

3. One of my “pet peeves” (things that commonly annoy you) is finding any kind of liquid at the bottom of the trash can. It drives me bananas! Here is a list of some peoples’ common pet peeves: Here are some examples from the site: (1) Noisy eaters (2) Anyone – male or female- who says “We’re pregnant” (3) Conspiracy theories (4) When somebody turns off the lights when you are still in the room (5) People who don’t remove the stickers from their new electronics.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Go back

To “go back” is to return. It could be that you are going back to where you came from, or to a previous situation.
Shut up:
Keep quiet / Take off: when a plane leaves the ground
Comfortable, Comfiest: most comfortable

1. When you have to start again, you “go back to square one”. When you have worked so hard and have come so far, it is frustrating to have to start all over again.

2. If you could go back in time and relive any moment or period of your life, which would it be? Would it be your childhood, your high school days… or maybe a significant event?

3 Do you remember how E.T. wanted to go back home? One of the famous phrases from the 1982 science fiction movie that everyone remembers is, “E.T. phone home”:

4. When life or any situation becomes complicated and you need to simplify things, we say that we need to “go back to the basics”. We need to look at the fundamentals.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bite off more than (you) can chew

If you bite off more than you can chew, you take on more responsibilities than you can manage/ deal with. You are trying to do more than you can handle. You are attempting much more than you may be capable of doing.

1. Do you ever land up (arrive at a final point) in trouble because you are ambitious and commit to too many things at the same time? You may be biting off more than you can chew if you are not able to fulfill your commitments… or if you don’t have time for other important priorities. 

2.  Do you think the US Government is overextending itself financially (obligating itself beyond a limit) by being involved in other countries, to the point where the federal budget is allocating too much to defense, for example? Are they biting off more than they can chew, or is this spending well within their resources?

3. If I had to schedule English classes with everyone who contacted me, I would be biting off more than I could chew, because I only have 24 hours a day. I need to eat, sleep, watch TV series etc. I would be overextending myself… so I have to set a limit on how many hours I teach a day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

End up

To “end up” means exactly that: the end result, the final conclusion, what happens in the end. The final consequence. Often it is used in a negative way or has a negative finality to it. It can also be to arrive at some place or a moment in your life.
* To mean well: To have good intentions. 
*Verb forms: Mean/ meant/ meant. I guess: I think

1.  If you live above your means, spending more money than you earn, then you will no doubt end up in debt. Do you regularly use your credit card to your advantage or do you end up in a situation where you have bitten off more than you can chew so that you don’t have the means to pay back your credit card installments?

2. Many students of mine ask me how I ended up in Brazil. Sometimes I give the long story and sometimes the short one. Everyone has a story to tell. How did you end up in the job that you have? How did you end up where you are in any particular situation in your life?

3. When I start eating a bag of chips or a container of Pringles, my intention is to eat just a little… but, like most people, I end up eating the whole lot (everything).

Monday, October 10, 2011

At odds with


If you are at odds with someone, it is a diplomatic way of saying that you disagree with them or don’t like them for some reason (in the general sense). You have conflicting ideas or goals. You can also be at odds about something specific.
* Wipe out: A phrasal verb meaning to destroy/ eliminate/ get rid of

1. If you are at odds with someone, you don’t “see eye to eye” with them, you are not “on the same page” or you are “at loggerheads” with them. Don’t you think the phrase, “Why can’t we all just get along?” is oversimplistic? …or do you really think that it is possible, as John Lennon sang about, for the world to live as one?

2. My wife and I are at odds as to whether we should allow our daughter to draw on herself or not. Which side of the argument do you support?

3. Google and China have been at odds about various censorship issues, including China blocking Youtube. They obviously disagree with Youtube showing politically sensitive material. Turkmenistan, Iran, Libya and Tunisia are amongst other countries that have also been at odds with Youtube at one time or another.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pay off

If something “pays off”, you see the result/ benefit of hard work or any effort.
Red rover: In this game, kids form two opposing lines and attempt to "break through" each others’ line

1. The many hours I spent trying to understand pieces of texts and songs in Spanish, with the help of an English-Spanish dictionary, definitely paid off when I went to live in Central America. I found that I had a good base of vocabulary to draw on.

2. “What you put in is what you get out”, “You reap what you sow”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, “Practice makes perfect” and many such expressions, talk about the worth of putting effort in now, because it will pay off later.

3 The share price of the company “Apple” is now sitting at about $377. 37. Apple’s share price in December of 1980 was just $2.75. If you had invested in Apple at that time, 30 years ago, then your investment would have paid off many times over by now.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Have (your) head on straight

If someone “has their head on straight”, they are sensible, down-to-earth and rational. They think clearly and make good decisions. A variation of the expression is, “to have your head screwed on right”.

1. Unfortunately, Amy Winehouse and Michael Jackson didn’t have their heads on straight. They had difficulties with substance abuse (drugs) and, in Amy’s case, later with alcoholism which lead to her death. Michael Jackson’s personal physician didn’t have his head screwed on straight. He administered MJ a lethal dose of propofol along with lorazepam, diazepam and midazolam which caused MJ to enter cardiac arrest (have a heart attack). At the moment that physician is on trial (in court) for the death of MJ. 
- You need to get your head on straight and think about your priorities.
- Just let me finish watching this Rugby match and then I’ll go out to buy some diapers, ok?

3. My English students have got their heads on straight. Although for most of them English is not an urgent necessity in the here and now, they are investing in their future. We need to make good decisions now that will benefit us in the future. We “reap what we sow”.