Friday, March 28, 2014

Blend in

If someone blends in, they become inconspicuous/ less noticeable.. they don’t stand out. They look natural in their environment or even “camouflaged”.

1.      Chameleons, as everyone knows, have the unique ability to blend in to their environment.

2.      When you travel to another city or state in your country, can you successfully blend in, or do people know that you are “not from that neck of the woods” because your appearance or accent stands out?

3.      When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”  If you want to blend in while in another culture, you may have to imitate their customs and habits. For example, in India, Turkey and some Middle Eastern countries they consider it good manners to burp after a meal as a sign of appreciation.

4.      When you go to the beach, do you like to blend in to the crowd or do you like to stand out by the bikini you wear, the music you play or the activities you do?

5.      When I eat Pizza in public in Brazil, I should use a knife and fork if I want to blend in. I once ate with my hands at a Pizza Hut, and many people kept glancing at me… or was it just my imagination?!  

6.      It is almost impossible for me to blend in when I catch a bus, go to Centro, eat at a “lanchonete”, go to a hairdresser, buy coconut water, etc. Sometimes I just want to be a local and blend in.  

7.      If people who are not from Fortaleza want to blend in, they usually need to dress down and wear more casual clothes in general. Shorts and flip-flops are the status quo here in the Northeast. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Get + adjective

When we use the combination get + adjective, the verb “get” means “become”.

1.       Children get excited about everything. As we get older we get excited about fewer and fewer things. That’s sad! What do you usually get excited about these days?

2.      Most of the time I watch a really boring movie right until the end while I wait for it to get interesting.

3.      The only women in the world you can say, “You’re getting fat” to are your sisters. I wouldn’t recommend saying that to anyone else. You have been warned!

4.      When you get hungry between meals, do you snack on sweets/ candy and other junk food, or do you look for something a little healthier. What would you consider a healthy snack?

5.      When I used to get embarrassed I would (used to) blush and go red… but now I am able to hide the fact that I am feeling awkward, and I can face the world.

6.      Sometimes I get stressed out about the most inconsequential things. If you’re like me, would you be honest in a job interview or psychological test and admit that you get frustrated over tiny things?

Monday, March 24, 2014

As we speak...

This popular expression is self-explanatory: Something is actually happening at the time we are speaking. We usually say this when the other person may not be aware that something is actually happening right at the very moment.

1.      Somewhere in the world a bank robbery is probably in progress as we speak.

2.  –  There’s a civil war going on in Syria?!
–  Yes, it’s happening as we speak.  

3.      Do you know of anything significant happening in the world right now as we speak?

4.   –  When will season 4 of “Game of Thrones” start?
  –  Well, it is currently under production, so they are filming as we speak. It will air on April 7th, 2014.

5.  –  I didn’t know that they had already started building the aquarium in Fortaleza!
–  Yep, they’re actually building it as we speak.

6.      I’m an English teacher and I regularly give conversation classes, so at any given time I could say to my students: “I’m making money as we speak!". This is a pun (trocadilho) because it has a double meaning.

7.      The humidity level in Fortaleza, Brazil combined with the constant year-round sea breeze causes everything to rust (oxidize) quicker than in other parts of the world. In fact, something you own is rusting as we speak.

8.      When we’re writing an email, it is possible to say that something is happening as we speak, even though we should really write, “as I write”.

9.      Do you think that someone is thinking of you even as we speak?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Should have + participle

 We use “should have” to talk about past events that did not happen. It is used when we regret something we did or didn’t do.

1.      When you have bought a T-shirt or item of clothing that is too small, you would say, “I should have bought a bigger size… I bought the medium one, but I should have bought the large one.”

2.      When most shops are closed on a public holiday, usually I regret not having gone to the supermarket the previous day: “I should have known that the shops would be closed today… I should have gone yesterday.”

3.      Looking back at your choices in life, can you now see that you should have done something differently? Do you think you should have studied a different career or maybe saved more money?

4.      In retrospect we see many things that shouldn’t have been done, simply because of the consequences. Japan shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbor. The US shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. I shouldn’t have spent so much money over the weekend… neither should I have eaten that whole bag of Doritos.

5.      I shouldn’t have gone to bed so late last night when I knew that I would have to wake up at 5:30am today!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Don't hold your breath!

If you tell someone not to hold their breath, they shouldn’t put their hope in something, have high expectations or wait for it to be successful. People hold their breath in anticipation of something happening, sometimes quite literally… and it’s not physically possible to hold one’s breath for more than a few minutes.

1.      In Brazil, if you expect public works to be finished on schedule, you shouldn’t hold your breath.  

2.      If you’re hoping for a lasting peace treaty between Israel and Palestine any time soon, don’t hold your breath. Not everyone can get exactly what they want out of that situation.

3.      The damage done by the global financial crisis in Europe will take many more years for them to recover from, so don’t hold your breath waiting for the Euro to regain its strength against the US Dollar.

4.      BRICS is the title of an association of leading emerging economies including Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The BRICS members are developing or newly industrialized countries, but they are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies. If you were hoping for Kenya to join the BRICS countries and make it “BRICKS”, don’t hold your breath… they are a long way off in their development.

5.      When I ask my students if they think it’s possible to eradicate (totally eliminate) corruption in Brazil, the answer is never optimistic… and now with an expanded vocabulary they can tell me not to hold my breath.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Brush up on...

When you brush up on something, you revise it so that it is fresh in your mind, because maybe you have gotten a little bit "rusty" or forgotten some details over time.

1. Season 4 of game of thrones is about to start in April… I need to brush up on the names of the characters because it's been so long since I last watched. 

2. From time to time I get students who come to me just to brush up on their English before a job interview. They tell me that they have gotten a little rusty over time because of a lack of opportunity to practice their English in the workplace.

3. One of the best ways to brush up on something, of course, is to read a book... whether it is language or anything statistical. Do you need to brush up on any area or field of knowledge?

4. To be honest, I must admit that I don't keep tabs on (follow) the world of soccer… so maybe I should brush up on soccer statistics if I want to join in on World Cup and soccer conversations in general. Do you ever brush up on anything so that you can impress your friends? 

5. Do you brush up on things that you are not really interested in but you know that other people are? I had a student who used to read classical poetry simply because he thought it was something one should do, even though it was not something that he personally enjoyed himself.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Some + noun

When we use this structure, we are emphasizing either how extreme something is/ was, or how incredible it is/ was. It could be positive or negative depending on your tone and the situation.

1. During a trip in Central America I climbed up an active volcano in Guatemala called Volcan Pacaya. It was some climb!... You need to be fit to do that climb. The views were spectacular at sunset. It was some trip!

2. I’ve heard most people who watched the last Marvel Comics movie, “The Avengers” say, “Man! That was some movie!” The special effects are awesome and the dialogue is pretty humorous too.

3. We’ve all had days that we thought would never end because they were so long and difficult. At the end of the day you can say, “This was some day!”

4. If you think someone has done something crazy or extreme or if you want to express your frustration about someone in a very diplomatic way, you can say, “He’s some piece of work”.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

So far...

 “So far” means: until now/ up to this moment/ up to the present moment. Saying this gives us the idea that something is still not complete… it is ongoing or continuing. (Até o momento/ Até à data/ Até agora)

1. Are you happy with your English classes so far? In other words, are you happy with your progress so far? Do you think you will ever perfect your English?

2. If you are positive about your progress in anything and you want to express that you are satisfied or happy with something, you can say, “So far so good!” It is usually given as a response to, “How are things going?

3. - How is your job interview process going?
- So far so good… I just have to pass through the English interview now!

4. Of the R$165,000,000 that was stolen from the Central Bank in Fortaleza, Brazil in 2005, only R$20,000,000 has been recovered so far, which was apparently left on purpose by the robbers as a red herring (distraction).

5. How many ministers has Brazil's president, Dilma fired so far? Do you think she still needs to fire some more?

Monday, March 10, 2014

On second thought...

We use this expression when we change our minds or our opinion on a topic. Also if we have doubts or are not sure of something. Usually we say this after we've had a little time to think about something. We might make a change to our plans.

1. If you are in doubt about something and are reconsidering your first thought about something, we say that you are "second guessing yourself". If you are doing a multiple-choice question and you say to yourself, "On second thought, maybe it's letter B…", you are second guessing yourself.

2. Have you ever decided to buy something, and upon discovering the price, you say to yourself, "On second thought, maybe I will go for the other model."? Perhaps when choosing a cell phone, a laptop or any other costly product?

3. I asked one of my students whether he thought making a car bulletproof was a good idea if you live in the dangerous city. He responded, "It only keeps you safe while you're in the car… But how about when you're getting into your car or getting out of your car?" On second thought, maybe it's not worth it.

4. Sometimes we change our minds because we are presented with new information. Let's say I'm planning an outdoor excursion, like a trip down the coast... and I see on the weather report that there is an 80% chance of rain showers. I could change my plans and say, "On second thought, maybe we could go to the movies today."

5. Maybe you have been planning to buy an iPhone… And you heard about the recent security flaw in iOS 7... You might say to yourself like some people have, "On second thought, perhaps I'll go for the new Samsung Galaxy."

Friday, March 7, 2014

To pay through the nose

If you pay through the nose for something, you are paying too much for it or paying more than it may be worth.

1. Here in Brazil, if you want your kids to have a decent education, you need to send them to a private school. Nothing spectacular… Just a decent education. The middle class has to pay through the nose to send their kids to a private school.

2. If you want the Sony PlayStation 4 in Brazil, you’ll have to pay through the nose. You will have to pay at least four times more than it costs in the United States.

3. If you want to live close to the beach in Rio de Janeiro, you will surely pay through the nose anywhere in the Copacabana or Ipanema neighborhoods. And with that, the apartments are tiny, box-like dwellings.

4. Skydiving is an expensive sport/ hobby… It costs an arm and a leg, unless you buy a coupon on a deal-of-the-day site. If you would like a video of the experience, you're going to have to pay through the nose.

5. Traveling anywhere in Brazil during the Carnival period is incredibly expensive. Hotels, flight tickets, excursions, etc. will easily cost about double the price. If you don't want to pay through the nose, you might want to consider traveling before or after Carnival.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Accomplish/ accomplishment... Achieve/ achievement

Accomplish/accomplishment is a synonym for achieve/achievement. When you reach or obtain a goal, a dream or an objective, it is an accomplishment. Don't get confused with the false cognate (in Spanish and Portuguese) "realize".

1. Most parents would agree that their biggest accomplishment in life is raising their children. We sacrifice and pour a lot of love, time and effort into our children's lives.

2. Do you have any accomplishments that you're proud of? Sometimes, for me, just getting out of bed in the morning is an accomplishment.

3. If someone has achieved great things in their professional life or elsewhere, we can say that they are accomplished. Who is the most accomplished person that you personally know?

4. When someone reaches a milestone, that in itself is an achievement. A milestone is defined as, "a significant event in one's life or project." In karate, every time you change the color belt and go up a level, it is a milestone. In one's life, here are some general milestones: graduating from high school or university, your first job, getting married, your first wedding anniversary, having children…

5. I wonder why we usually congratulate people when it is their birthday... as if it were a huge achievement. All we have to do is survive another year to hear somebody say, "congratulations!"

Monday, March 3, 2014

Expect, Hope & Wait

Although expect, hope and wait share the same verb form in Portuguese (esperar), they are distinct words in English. Expect has to do with expectations (expectativas). Hope has to do with “esperança”.To wait is to “aguardar”.

1. When you expect something to happen, you are sure or convinced that is will happen: I expect it to be hot in Fortaleza all year round.

2. You can also expect something that you have determined as a condition, a rule or an agreement, or something that is considered common courtesy: I expect my students to contact me if they can’t arrive to class.

3. Do you expect good customer service in your city when you go out? Do you expect to be treated professionally, or have you lowered your expectations?

4. When you expect something to happen “automatically”, we can also say that you take it for granted (tomar por garantido): We take 24-hour access to the internet for granted… so when the internet is down, most people feel like a “fish out of water”.