A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.
At DreyerCoaching.com, we are all about "celebrating success." One of our recent success stories was Aaron, a high school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who was chosen to attend an exclusive, prestigious summer program in Israel! What I found remarkable, is that the applicants had to write essays-- in English AND Mandarin Chinese! More than 200 young people applied, and only twenty--that's less than 10% for you non-math types out there--were chosen as finalists to go to Taipei for the face to face interviews, in English. Of those twenty, only TEN were chosen to go--and Aaron was one of the ten! It's a big deal! It's such a big deal, it scored Aaron the first spot on our DreyerCoaching.com Hall of Fame. Check it out, and see if we can help you too make YOUR dreams come true!
While discussing his entry into this program, Aaron told me his time with DreyerCoaching.com had been very helpful. He said his writing classes helped him with word choice, grammar, structure, and flow. Plus, he said the simple act of going online for his class with me each week had boosted his confidence and ability to carry on a conversation in English. So, his essay skills helped him get one of the 20 finalist spots, and his interview skills and poise landed him a spot among the final 10. What a wonderful success story!
However, for this post, I'd like to share with you his essays and some articles about the experience. Enjoy and be inspired! Don't be jealous of others! Be the best YOU that YOU can be!
Aaron's English Essay:
Dear application evaluators, my name is Aaron and I would like to apply for this year's event regarding the International Youth Leader Convention in Israel. From the very beginning, I have shown great interest in this program, but due to age restrictions, I was unable to dedicate myself in formulating such applications. However, now that I have reached 15 years of age, the urge to apply for the position has never been higher. In this self-introduction, I'd like to discuss my motivations for applying this through my interests, extracurricular activities, and overall expectations/aspirations as to what I would hope to obtain in the ten days that the event provides.
To begin with, there are numerous activities that I indulge myself in. For instance, badminton. I began my "career" with this sport from fifth grade and has enjoyed it ever since through the few times that I've been the team captain chosen to represent my school. Not only has it kept my body healthy in past years, it has also strengthened the bonds that I have with my friends, for which I'm grateful for. In addition, despite its uncommonness, attending debate competitions has recently become one of the activities that I appreciate. My friends and I recently went to NIFTy, a nationwide debate competition, and surprisingly got second place for our efforts. This sparked my love for debate, which resulted in NSDA being on my to-do list for the future.
As for extracurricular activities, Model United Nations along with Key Club scores the top spot. Starting from being an admin in 8th grade to representing Germany in this year's PASMUN conference, MUN served as a gateway to the world for me. In this rather daunting activity for first-timers, MUN allowed me to work with other delegates for hours to formulate feasible solutions to the various issues at hand. In the seven conferences that I've been to, the plight of human trafficking in the Middle East to the question of Palestine (which is surprisingly relevant to the program) has been the most interesting to me; through rich debate and discussion, I learned that every nation has different views in regards to any issue, and it is my wish that in this year's convention that I get to experience these different views first hand. Key Club has also played a big part in my school life; it has taught me valuable lessons such as responsibility and perseverance. Leading the club in beach cleanups in Nanliao and endeavoring in efforts to beautify my school has shown me that life can present many challenges, but as long as one perseveres, success will follow.
There are multiple causes that motivated me to apply for this position and also a few aspirations that I have for the program. One being the student exchange program that I attended last year: I went to Fremont High, a distinguished high school in Cupertino, California for ten days to participate and experience the excitement that American high schools bring while also demonstrating the art of calligraphy that I have learned in recent years. However, with this event, I wish to do more than to just enjoy the environment. I'd also like to share the many feats that Taiwan has achieved in regards to environmental protection while also socializing with Israelis in hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of life in the country.
To wrap up, I sincerely hope that I would be chosen for this event in order to contribute my efforts to shine light on Taiwan as a progressive and innovative nation. Thank you.
Aaron's Chinese Essay:
TRULY AMAZING: Here is Aaron's post-trip evaluation. He did fine as it is--until you keep reading and realize he did the whole thing in Chinese too! This young man is fully bilingual to basically a native speaker level in both English AND Mandarin. Wow!
International Convention for Environmental Leadership in Israel: Post Event Report
In the seven days and nights that we were in Israel to attend the International Convention for Environmental Leadership as the delegation of Taiwan, friendships were made and memories were kept. I, Aaron Chen, embarked on this journey along with my nine other delegation members and two teachers. Through hours of hard work in preparation for the conference, I am proud to say that our overall performance during the convention was applaudable. From the never-ending laughs to the sleepless nights, I'm sure that everyone had fun and would not hesitate to call each other friends in the days to come.
In addition to all the academics, participants of the entire congress also visited renowned cities such as Jerusalem and Nazareth. The following five photos will not only demonstrate the things we saw, but also the entire experience that made this trip unique.
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv (8.12.2017)
In less than 24 hours after we've landed in Tel-Aviv, a number of our respective host families took us to the Carmel Market, one of the most renowned tourist attractions in the area. Under the blazing yet pleasant sun, the seven of us quickly congregated, enthusiastically discussing the major differences that can be discerned upon the first few glances. What we all noticed was the unique dress code that some of the people had: there were people with small round Jewish hats on their heads and certain individuals clad in complete Jewish outfits with a black suit and a Jewish top hat. This definitely surprised us, but what topped that off was the fact that we met the Austrian delegation who've also landed just a few hours ago; they would later become one of our closest friends in the environmental leadership program. After greeting each other and asking a few opening questions, we parted from one another and officially began our travels.
Through the crowded entrance and into the bustling market, there were three elements of Israeli life that stood out to me: food, art, and patriotism. First of all, food. From the perfectly stacked spices to the all-you-can-grab sweet shops, the "souk" was interesting to say the least. As customers lined up to scoop up their desired goods with a small shovel, I was fascinated by how diverse and vibrant all the food was. There were bicolored croissants and spiked pear-like fruits, both of which lit up my eyes upon examination. Secondly, the art. Tiny ornaments and elaborate painting lined the walls of the market. Upon squeezing our way through the walkway, we saw artists utilize their craftsmanship abilities to create glass sculptures and proprietors shout their punchlines to attract customers to their funny shirts. One of the shirts said "My Mom is My Google," which cracked me up almost instantly. Finally, the patriotism. Even though traces of this element were present all throughout my sojourn, it was the clearest in the premise of the market. People were waving flags proudly, selling Jewish phone cases, bargaining for Jewish key chains, and as mentioned before, wearing small Jewish hats. Following some thought, I concluded that it was necessary for Israelis to be to some degree, overly patriotic. This was because of the multiple threats that the country faces from all sides; it prompted them to bond tightly, hold on to their core beliefs, and never let go.
For that, I have gained tremendous respect for Israelis. The picture taken upon is dedicated to them, the ones who've kept the Jewish faith alive and would continue doing so in the days to come.
- HaKfar HaYarok (8/13 – 8/18)
As the sun rose from the horizon and the roosters croaked in the distance, Maya, my host, woke me up and took me to HaKfar HaYarok, the school in which the event took place. Upon entering the village with my suitcase and overly stuffed backpack, I realized why the English translation for HaKfar HaYarok was "Green Village": it was due to the lush green trees, the strong camaraderie, and the cheerful animals that roamed about freely. For me, not only did this discovery pleasantly surprised me, the two elements showed the major contrasts between Israeli schools and Taiwanese institutions; they enabled me to gain a whole new perspective on education as a whole.
HaKfar HaYarok had plenty to offer, from endless sceneries of pure green to the never-before-seen harmony between the students, the school was more of a happy playground. This was even more evident in the program; the heated discussions during MUN and the participative audience lectures elucidates my understanding that schools are meant for both learning and enjoyment, not dead memorization. In addition to the teaching methods, the environment also played a crucial role in the difference of attitudes that the students had. Peacocks and rabbits and cats and cows dotted the campus, gracefully going about their respective daily routines of brushing their feathers or attacking others for territory. Of course, with every cute animal comes a caring soul willing to allocate time and energy to ensure the animal's survival; this natural obligation of animal protection that the students had bonded them together, which had a positive effect on the overall atmosphere during the span of four days that we marked our stay. Finally, what I would say differed the most from Taiwanese traditional schools was the spirit: the attitudes that people had towards the beginning of each day. In Taiwan, students are greeted with mock tests, weekly tests, and monotonous lectures while Israeli students begin each day with interactive lectures and outdoor activities that focus on having fun, not timed runs or class rankings seemingly engraved on the bulletin board. Overall, these dissimilarities helped me realize what I can help my classmates understand, and prompted me to live the few short days I had in Israel to the absolute fullest.
3.Shabbat Meal (8/12)
It was a sunny Friday morning; all the shops on the streets were open and ready for a big payday. Maya and I began the day by in the neighborhood mall to look around to check if it sold the cosmetics that my mom wanted to have desperately. What struck me as interesting was the difference in how people greeted each other: on normal days it was "shalom," but that turned into "Shabbat shalom" on Friday. I asked the locals about this phenomenon, knowing it had to be some kind of occasion. One bearded muscular man responded with telling me that Friday was the day in which God rested, which is why the people should also rest, stay with the family, and prepare themselves for the busy days to come. Anyways, I didn't find the cosmetics, but I wasn't devastated. We then left the mall and went to grandma's house for the Shabbat meal.
To be honest, I never expected a grandma's house to be all that elaborate, never mind a wall of wine and a giant flat screen TV. But in the moment that I stepped foot into the apartment, I saw everything that I thought was far-fetched. The room was capacious, the interior felt welcoming, the kids were enjoying rock paper scissors, and above but, everyone spoke near perfect English. After greeting one another with "Shabbat shalom," we sat on the dinner table and watched the grandpa press against the wall and opened a closet-door like door, revealing the countless bottles of wine, including beer, scotch, whiskey, etc. He cheerfully poured a bottle that he explained to be one for Shabbat meals into the adults' glasses and gave us some sprite just so we won't dehydrate. Then began the meal.
The meal was both flavorsome and eye-opening beyond belief. From the hummus to the cold fried vegetable to the delectable steak, the occasion was like no other. Inside the one-of-a-kind atmosphere between the family members, I actually felt that I was included in the conversations. This was when a revelation came to me: family is like no other; it bond people together much tighter than religion. It is the core of all human beings. And for that, I truly enjoyed the experience.
- Gala Night (8/16)
Into the third and final day of the conference, my team members and I attended the Gala night, an event in which all the delegations are required to perform something that is symbolic of their hometown, along with the delegations from five other countries. Into the venue, there weren't too many surprises for anyone except for the Israelis and guests. This was because before the event, we ran through the entire performance once and the finale twice. Either way, we were still pumped to see all the different cultures that are to come during the span of the event. Firstly, the house entertained the school orchestra, which by the way did a phenomenal job, then we had the former chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) speak as well as other influential figures provide us with their inspirational words. In all honesty, we weren't the best audiences among the crowd because during that time, we were all scrambling to finish up our preparation for the play that we decided to perform. Luckily, the order of performing delegations was in alphabetical order, which meant we were the last one to perform. This gave us ample amounts of time for us to finish up while we enthusiastically watched the other delegations perform their seasonal dances, sing Ode to Joy, and enable us to have a great time. After our Taiwanese-standard acceptable performance which the previous acts ensued, all the delegations were instructed to approach the stage and sing "Imagine," which was the finale, by John Lennon, a songwriter, and singer who co-founded the Beatles. Because we were all well-rehearsed, the performance went on in harmony. With an Israeli student with a beautiful voice leading our somewhat disorganized bunch and the instructor trying his hardest to keep us in line, the finale was a great success. People laughed, people smiled, people hugged, and people cried. It was one of those moments where you don't want to let go, it was also one of those moments where you would cherish forever.
- Jerusalem (8/17)
Out of the few short-lived days in the trip, I would say the second to last day was by far the best. For the entire duration of that day, we visited Jerusalem, the city that many influential works such as the Bible and Torah mentioned many times. After a grueling 90-minute drive to the site, we began by visiting the market. While the attraction didn't seem like it was meant for tourists due to the lack of ornaments and collectibles, it provided us with the unfiltered and uncensored Israeli way of life. In addition to the three main elements that I mentioned above, another unique aspect about the place was the people. The similarities were striking; we saw customers bargaining ferociously with proprietors, kids holding food bags while parents laugh, and managers shouting at the top of their lungs to attract heads. Despite few downsides to this souk, I was able to pick up some magnets and small decorations for my friends back here in Taiwan while also trying my first shawarma, a delectable Israeli chicken sandwich topped with a salad and some fries.
Soon after our visit to the market, we continued on to one of the most sacred sites of many religions: the Old City of Jerusalem. Even though I acknowledged the holiness and importance of the premise, I didn't expect to be so surprised by the compound. Everywhere I looked, I feel like I've seen it before. Then it hit me: the pictures on my history textbooks were taken right here! This immediately boosted my energy and encouraged me to listen intently to our tour guide and make mental notes on the information that she gave.
I had a blast in the Old City. But that joy turned into deep thought when we reached the Western Wall, a site where mainly Jews go to confess their sins and formulate wishes for themselves. With tight security and military personnel guarding the area, it quickly changed our mood from a cheerful one to one of caution. As we entered, we discerned many Jewish individuals clad in either complete black suits or fitted with a round Jewish cap. Without hesitation, we decided to follow them to the Western Wall itself where many are reciting the Torah and placing little notes into the cracks between the walls.
I myself wrote a little note that said, "Don't fear what's about to come. Embrace life,"
I thought of my work as pretty inspirational, but I completely took it back when I saw four of my delegation members come out with tears dripping from their eyes. It was only hours later that I realized it was not the atmosphere that pulled their heart strings, it was they themselves who reflected upon their lives and thought of all the good and the bad. For that, I gained massive respect for everyone in my representative team; I will be proud of them forever.
- For self improvement
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- Way of improvement: improve my confidence through ways such as but not limited to leading clubs events or taking on roles of responsibility within the classroom
- Be more proactive instead of reactive when it comes to the conference
- Way of improvement: taking initiative in the classroom by volunteering to participate in community service activities.
- Be more conversational when awkward silences arrive during conversations
- Way of improvement: Engage in conversations with people more often to obtain more social knowledge and opinions on prominent issues today.
- Be more vocal in the chat room with my delegation members
- For the event as a whole
- Better plane schedules
- Everyone had to rush to the plane; I had to sprint just to catch the plane. To be honest, I feel like we'd all be fine if we paid a bit more money to stay one more night. We missed the Dead Sea.
- Better wifi sharing device
- Only 3-4 people could connect to it at the same time, the speed of the device was slow too.
- Better plane schedules
- Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv
- HaKfar HaYarok
在寄宿家庭2天後我搬到HaKfar HaYarok 高中學校宿舍，印入眼簾的是翠綠色的校園，溫暖熱情的各國高中生代表與自由漫遊在校園的各式動物，對我來說，這個開放包容式的校園氣氛，讓我獲得全新的教育觀。
每個星期五，是猶太人傳統的安息日。在平常的日子朋友互相問候打招呼稱作 “Shalom”，但在星期五安息日就互稱“Shabbat Shalom”。我問當地人關於安息日的由來，一位有大鬍子的男子告訴我，星期五是神休息的日子，人們也應該休息，留在家裡，為繁忙的日子做好準備。
- Gala Night
Check out the final episode of our 10-part Civil War mini-series about life and leadership lessons we can learn from that conflict!
If you know anything about the US Civil War at all, you know names like Lee, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, and Davis. However, do you know the name Jubal Early? You may be surprised, he was at MORE Civil War battles than any other Confederate general. Plus, this podcast originates in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, and Jubal Early was from here, being born and raised in Franklin County, Virginia. For the many locals who listen to this podcast, you might be surprised to hear his home is just southeast of Roanoke, right off Rt. 616, in the Red Valley area between Burnt Chimney and Windy Gap Mountain! His home is now preserved by a volunteer agency and is sometimes open for tours; check out their website. Also for our local listeners: in the summer of 1864, Early left Richmond and headed west. He defeated a Union Army under General David Hunter near Lynchburg, then Early's men sent straight over the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Valley beyond--their path followed what today is Route 43 from Bedford to Buchanan, and they passed right by what is today the Peaks of Otter Lodge! (Hear the podcast about that beatiful spot.)
You might be shocked to learn that in July 1864, less than a year before the war ended at Appomattox, Jubal Early invaded Maryland and was at the outskirts of Washington! This is one of the biggest "what if's? of the Civil War. Imagine Early and his CSA army invading Washington, arresting Lincoln, and burning the White House and Capitol--it boggles the mind, and he came close to pulling it off! Listen to find out more, and why his effort failed at the last minute.
The episode then switches sides and discusses some about Union General William Sherman, and how his victory in the fall of 1864 saved Lincoln's re-election chances and thus the preservation of the USA, and how the little-known Senator Edmund Ross of Kansas, by a single vote, saved the presidency of Andrew Johnson! This episode has all sorts of surprises!
Listen to Episode 36 below.
To help our ESL learners, you can practice your listening abililty by answering these question! (Answers at the end.)
1. At 14:40, Early was "making tracks to D.C." What does this mean? Early was...
A. making a railroad
B. following an animal to hunt it
C. traveling and moving
D. none of the above
2. Around 16:40, General Grant "dispatched soldiers from Richmond to Washington." What does "dispatched" mean in this sentence?
A. Grant killed the soldiers
B. Grant sent the soldiers on specific business
C. Grant sent an important message
D. None of the above
(Note: the word "dispatch" is on p. 154 of Wordly Wise 300 Book 7, a book we often use at DreyerCoaching.com. The SAT, ACT, and TOEFL exams often ask about words that have multiple meanings.)
3. Around 15:30, you hear that the Union general defending Washington was "Old Brains" Halleck. Why was he nicknamed "Old Brains"?
A. He was a genius
B. Only older people could realize how smart he was
C. Even though he was old, he had managed to keep his mind sharp and active
D. He had many old-fashioned and out-dated ideas
4. Around 17:00, you hear "Early had fought an engagement." What does "engagement" mean here?
A. a battle
B. a man and woman deciding to get married
C. an important meeting
D. the telephone was busy
5. What was unique about Lincoln at Fort Stevens, right outside Washington DC? (18:00-20:00)?
6. What is the name of the tiny village in Central Virginia where Lee had surrendered to Grant in 1865, thus ending the US Civil War?
7. Where did Early go after Lee's surrender to Grant?
8. True of False: When you study world history, it is common for the winning side in a civil war to show mercy and grace to the losing side and let the rebel soldiers go home freely.
9. What powerful idea, or belief, in the US caused the North to show great mercy to the South after the South lost the Civil War?
10. When Jubal Early's homeplace came on the market in the early 2000s, what are the two reasons why Scott and his family did not buy it?
11. Lee : Jackson :: ____________ : Sherman
12. What city was Sherman's main target in the fall of 1864?
13. Why were Sherman and his army especially harsh to South Carolina when they marched through near the end of the war?
14. Why does Scott often say, "Let that sink in"?
15. Why did Lincoln, a Northern Republican, choose Andrew Johnson, a Southern Democrat from Tennessee, to be his vice president in 1864?
1. C. traveling and moving
2. B. Grant sent the soldiers on specific business
3. D. He had many old-fashioned and out-dated ideas
4. A. a battle
5. It was the only time in US history that a sitting president had been shot at, in a military conflict. (Many US presidents had been soldiers or generals before the White House, but only Lincoln came under enemy fire while president.)
7. He hid in his basement at his homeplace in Franklin County, Virginia, then he went to Texas looking for more soldiers to fight with, then fled to Cuba, to Canada, then finally back to the US
10. They did not have the money for it right then, and the maintenance of an old home would be expensive.
11. Grant (This is called an analogy. Since Lee's "right hand man" was Jackson, Grant's right hand man was Sherman.)
12. Atlanta, Georgia-- it was an important rail center
13. South Carolina had been the first state to seceed, or break away from the Union, so the North blamed South Carolina the most for secession and the horrific losses of the war.
14. This is important; take a moment to think about it and its consequences
15. Lincoln by 1864 was thinking about how to best reunite the nation after he had won the war. So, he thought it would be a great symbol of peace and forgiveness, to choose a Southern Democrat from a state that had broken away, to be his vice president. (Also, it was a political reward to Johnson, who had opposed secession and had stayed at his desk in the US Senate during the Civil War--even though he was a Southerner, he was a firm Unionist.)
Do you want to improve your listening ability? Contact Scott today to see what class you can take to improve that skill!
In the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. It falls on the last Monday of May, so it will be May 28 in 2018. On Memorial Day, we remember all the soldiers who have died while fighting for our country. People wave flags and hang them from their porch. Many people hang their flag at half-mast on that day, to honor the fallen. (Below see a flag at half mast at a popular fast food restaurant, Chick-fil-A, to honor the loss of First Lady Barbara Bush.) We also have Veterans Day, in November. Veterans Day honors everyone who has ever served in the United States military, whether they survived battle or not. However, Memorial Day specifically honors those who have died while serving their country in the US military.
Because Memorial Day is a national holiday and it falls on Monday, a week day, many businesses and activities are closed. (In the USA, we have about a half-dozen holidays that always fall on a Monday. This is so we Americans can have more beloved "three-day weekends," when we get a break from Friday afternoon till Tuesday.) As with many other holidays, including Christmas and Easter, the initial purpose of the holiday has been lost, or made less important, over the years. For example, Memorial Day is thought of as the unofficial start of the summer. Some schools end their year the Friday before Memorial Day. Outdoor pools open on Memorial Day, and since the weather is usually warm by late May, many people go to a nearby lake, river, or have a cook-out that weekend. Stores have Memorial Day or Memorial Day Weekend (the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before Memorial Day) sales featuring low prices for summer clothes. The city that hosts the headquarters of DreyerCoaching.com, Roanoke, Virginia, hosts Festival in the Park on Memorial Day Weekend.
These are all terrific activities and a great way to spend time with family and friends. It can also be great weather, a great reason to spend some time outside. But Memorial Day was enacted to remember the soldiers who paid the ultimate price to protect our freedom and ability to live in the United States. It is because of them that we can have Memorial Day activities. In many towns, there is a parade downtown on Memorial Day with a military band like this one.
These two political cartoons show us how people's thoughts about Memorial Day have become less focused on the soldiers and more focused on the activities. Being able to interpret a political cartoon and identify the symbolism, irony, and overall message is a great intellectual skill. It is a fine way to keep your mind sharp.
This cartoon has a man grilling his food, making sure he has everything ready for the Memorial Day picnic. He doesn't want to forget anything, but the picture reminds us he is forgetting about all the soldiers who have died.
"Sharp" is one of those wonderful words where we have one word in English, but there are two words for it in Chinese.
Sharp is used to describe something with a pointed or fine edge. Sharp things can prick, poke, slice, and cut.
This knife is sharp. Its edge can slice fruit or open an envelope. It can cut your finger if you are not careful. The Chinese word for this is 尖利 Jiānlì or just 利 Lì.
Scissors are also sharp. They are used to cut a length of material or paper.
This tack can poke and prick. It is used to attach papers to corkboard. It is sharp so that it can stick through things. The Chinese word for this is 尖锐 Jiānruì.
Don't let Billy handle the knife; it's too sharp.
Be careful handling those sharp tacks--they can poke you!
In English, we use common items and words in idioms. Today, I was teaching Phil in Chiayi, in South Taiwan. His English has greatly improved through taking classes DreyerCoaching.com and I wanted to compliment him on his improvement. We have been studying metaphors and similies in English. I asked him to write a simile, and I also used a simile, "Phil is sharp as a tack." To be "as sharp as a tack" means to be intelligent or smart. In contrast, to be dull is to be stupid or unintelligent. Sharp can also mean smart. So, we have the idiom, "sharp as a tack," to compare an intelligent person with an item that is very sharp.
"To sharpen" means "to make sharp," and it can also mean "to improve." For example, if you want to sharpen your reading skills, read more of our blog posts! To sharpen your listening skills, listen to some of my podcasts!
Hebrews 4:12 says the Bible is "sharper than a two-edged sword." In the verse, the word of God pierces the soul, spirit, bones, and marrow to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart. In other words, the Bible metaphorically cuts us in half to show us our true selves.
To make things even more interesting, "sharp" also shows a music note that is half a step above the regular note. That is, the black keys on a piano are sharps. However, a note that is half a step low is NOT called dull, but it is called a flat.
Keep your mind and your English skills sharp--sign up for an online English class today!
English is a crazy language!
For example, sometimes DIFFERENT letters make the SAME sounds, like: "Daisy is in great shape."
But at other times, the SAME letters make DIFFERENT sounds, like: "Eat bread & steak."
So it is with the /-ed/ at the end of many verbs. In fact, you can put regular verbs into the past tense by just putting an /-ed/ at the end. It's like this:
We play today. We played yesterday.
The problem, though, is the pronounciation of that /-ed/. In fact, there are THREE ways to say it, based on what word it is in. Let me explain; there are three rules.
Rule 1: If the base word ends with a /d/ or /t/ SOUND, add an extra syllable so the the word ends with the /-id/ sound. (NOTE: Some English words end with the /d/ or /t/ SOUND, but that not that actual letter. For example, "hate" ends with an /e/, but the /t/ sound.
Rule 2: If the base word ends with the sounds "p," "f," "s," "x," "ch," "sh," or "k," then the word ends with the /t/ sound. Again, be careful. The word "promise" ends with the letter "e," but it ends with the /s/ SOUND. "Laugh" ends with the letters "gh," but it ends with the /f/ SOUND.
Rule 3: This is the easiest rule of the three; all other sounds end with /d/!
Do you need help with your English? Many students tell me, "I want to be able to speak English fluently like an American, so that's why I take classes with DreyerCoaching.com." With our all-American, professional teaching team, we can help YOU sound better and better when you speak English! Find out more here. Contact Scott today to find out how we can help you!
Mother's Day is a major holiday in many countries of the world, on the second Sunday in May. It is a major holiday in both the USA and Canada, but since it is always falls on a Sunday, it does not usually change one's work or school schedule.
Mother's Day is a day to honor and thank one's mother, and in many families, also a grandmother. Since it is always on a Sunday, that usually makes it easier for families to get together.
How we celebrate it in the USA
Like most holidays, different families celebrate in different ways. And of course, there are some people who do not celebrate the holiday. Maybe they have, for whatever reason, painful memories or experiences regarding their mother, or motherhood. However, there are some common ways this day is marked.
- Church attendance: Since Mother's Day is always on a Sunday, many families go to church together, and the children or grandchildren sit with their mom or grandmother. Many people who do not attend church regularly as a habit, will go on this day, to support mom, so church attendance is usually higher on this day than normal Sundays.
- Church activities: Most churches recognize Mother's Day in several ways. In many if not most, the clergyman will deliver a sermon, or message from the Bible, based on the role and importance of mothers. (It is widely recognized, that in many churches, women are more active in attendance and paraticipation than men, so women play a crucial role in church as they do in family.) The Bible teaches that mothers are important. Proverbs 31:28-19 reads:
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.” (NIV)
In many churches, the congregation will give each mother a small gift, or maybe the children of the church will enter the sanctuary and give each mom a small gift, like a handdrawn picture or a flower. In many churches, the pastor will ask questions to honor certain mothers: Who is the youngest mother here today? Who is the most experienced mother? (This is a nice way of saying, "Who is the oldest mother?") Which mother has the most children? Which mother has a child the furthest away? (Once the pastor at the church my parents attend in Virginia asked this question. My mom raised her hand, because I was in Taiwan, but another woman raised hers too, because she had a son in Germany, serving in the US Army. At that point, a discussion erupted: Which is further away, Taiwan or Germany? To which my dad answered, "I think Taiwan is about as far away as you can get, until you start coming back again." That year, mom won that prize.) A student from Germany recently spent three weeks with us here, and he said, at his church in Germany, all the members have a cook-out for Mother's Day after the Sunday service.
Take a look at this video from a US church service on Mother's Day: and the woman who is speaking and singing knows a lot about Mother's Day--she has 7 kids!
- Lunch together: It is common for families to eat lunch together on Mother's Day. (Most moms say they do NOT want to cook or wash dishes that day!) So, most restaurants are packed. After several years' of bad experiences waiting for hours in crowded, noisy restaurants, our family eats our Mother's Day meal at home, but the men and children in the family are responsible for the meal--and the clean up.
I do not pretend to be a gourmet chef, but I did not want my wife or mom to have to cook on Mother's Day. So, we plan to grill hotdogs and hamburgers, and I made this bean salad so we'd have something healthy to go with it.
Mrs. Dreyer's 3-bean Salad:(healthy, quick, AND easy!)
- 1 can of green beans
- 1 can kidney beans
- 1 can garbanzo beans (also called chick peas)
- (You can also substitute canned wax beans, pinto beans, red beans, black beans, etc.)
- 1/2 cup sliced green pepper (optional)
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- Dressing: Heat on stove 1/2 cup cider vingar, 1/3 cup cooking oil, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Pour dressing on the salad, chill in the refrigerator and enjoy!
- Cards and Gift: Most children and husbands get a nice card and gift for mom. Common gifts include flowers, chocolates, new clothes, gift cards to mom's favorite restaurant or store, etc. When children are on their own and away from home, they might ship a gift to mom, or at least call her on the big day.
Here are some flowers that some of our children gave their mother for Mother's Day: they knew purple is their mom's favorite color!
Watch how these two young men answer the question, "What does Mother's Day mean to you?"
This is very funny at Mother's Day or almost any time, because "The Mom's Song" takes many things a mom (or dad) will tell a child in 24 hours, and reduce it to 3 minutes. Take a listen! (And you can read the lyrics too--it's fast!)
Many years ago I heard a story from family expert Dr. James Dobson, that has always been in my mind. This story is from many decades ago, before the age of computers and cell phones, when people made calls from phone booths. He said that a card company, I think Hallmark, wanted to do something good for society so they brought a phone line into a prison for a day, to let each inmate make a free call to his or her mom, for Mother's Day. The outreach was more successful than any company executive had dreamed, because all the prisoners came to the courtyard and stood in line for hours, to call mom. In fact, the event was so successful, the company leadership decided to redo the offer in June, for Father's Day. However, that time, the outreach was a failure. Why? Only a few prisoners came out to call dad; instead, most stayed in their cells. Dr. Dobson said this story illustrates how important a role moms have, in that those prisoners all wanted to call mom on that day. However, the story also shows how important fathers are; in this case, most prisoners either did not have a dad, or did not have a good relationship with their father, so they did not bother to call home. Furthermore, Dobson suggested that it was this poor father-child bond that may have contributed to so many people ending up in prison in the first place. So, moms and dads are both important, though maybe in some different ways.
Grammar question: How do you write this holiday? Mothers Day? Mother's Day? or Mothers' Day? This article explains that actually all three are gramatically correct, but each grammar change brings a small change in meaning. However, the woman who created the idea of Mother's Day wanted it written as a singual noun with the apostrophe BEFORE the "s," so that ishow we will use it here: Mother's Day.
This morning I was teaching a student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who is taking U.S. history in high school this year. I told her, history is much more than just memorizing dates. However, there is one year I told her she should memorize: 1945. The world changed radically that year, in ways that still affect us today.
- On April 12, 1945, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt died. As a friend and of colleague of mine, Mr. Flanagan, used to tell his students: "I think FDR died as a war casualty." (This was because, after all the strain of being president for twelve years, including the Great Depression, the burden of being president during World War II helped kill the man.) Meanwhile in Germany, Hitler was delusional when he heard that Roosevelt had died. He was rejoicing, thinking that somehow the Americans would not quit the war. Fat chance. U.S. Vice President Harry Truman, a political lightweight compared to FDR, was thrust into the presidency.
- On April 30, in Berlin, Hitler had stopped rejoicing and instead committed suicide, because he could hear the pounding of Russian tanks just blocks away from his bunker. His dreams for a 1,000 Year "Reich" were crumbling after just twelve years.
- On May 8, the broken remnants of the German government surrendered to the Allies, thus ending World War II in Europe. So, May 8 is known as VE Day (Victory in Europe Day). However, Japan was still fighting in the Asia/Pacific region, unwilling to surrender.
- On August 6, on President Truman's orders, the U.S. B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Even till today, the world lives under the shadow of nuclear war. This new threat--nuclear weapons--entered the world in 1945.
- Just three days later, on August 9, the U.S. dropped a second atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. These two bombings forced the Japanese government to surrender, thus ending the horrors of World War II.
- On August 14, (the 15th in the USA), the Emperor of Japan announced that Japan would finally surrender, so these dates are called VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day).
- On September 2, Japan formally signed the surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri, in Tokyo Bay, Japan, so that date is sometimes called VJ Day too. To learn more about that surrender, the USS Missouri, and the Dreyer family visit to that ship, read Scott's blog about Pearl Harbor.
As you can see, 1945 was a famous year, a turning point in world history.
But for today, let's focus on VE Day, May 8.
Whenever you study history, you have to look at it from the context of that time, not from today's viewpoint. World War II had begun six years earlier, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. (Some would claim that WW II actually began several years before that, when Japan invaded China.) Either way, the war had engulfed much of the globe in conflict, and had killed millions. The Nazi Holocaust had killed some 6 million Jews alone, and the Nazi invastion of the USSR had killed some 20 million more. By any measure, the devastation was horrific.
So, by April 30, 1945, when Hitler killed himself and left a shattered Germany in the hands of his Nazi officers, it was clear Germany had to surrender. The Soviet Red Army was in the German capital of Berlin, while the American forces under Eisenhower liberating Europe from the West. After Hitler's death, Nazi command fell to Grand Admiral Karl Dönitz, who quickly arranged a surrender to Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower, at his headquarters in France, on May 7. Late that day, word reached the BBC, which then broadcast news of the victory to England and the British Empire, and soon the whole world knew. The BBC announced that the next day, May 8, would be a national holiday, Victory in Europe Day. However, with the wonderful news, spontaneous celebrations broke out across the UK and around the world, from London to Los Angeles to New Zealand. London's famous Saint Paul's cathedral held ten consecutive church services, to offer thanks to God for a victorious end to WW II. (The photo at right shows crowds celebrating in London on May 8, 1945.)
At 3:00 pm on VE Day, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the nation by radio; as the wartime leader since the black days when he took office in May 1940, Churchill was the man of the hour and his people wanted to hear from him.
The royal family appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace eight times that day to greet the cheering crowds: it was King George VI (the subject of the movie, The King's Speech), his wife, and their daughters Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret. At one point, Churchill joined them on the balcony (see photo below). During the royal family's last appearance that evening, their two princess daughters were allowed to leave the palace and mingle anonymously among the celebrating crowd.
Despite the jubilation, there was still seriousness. Japan was still at war, and with their fanatical resistance, their defeat seemed far off and uncertain. Plus, the US was still in mournig, where the new president Truman had ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for 30 days. Still, VE Day marked the surrender of Nazi Germany, the end of hostilities in Europe, the end of the killing and carnage there, and the restoration of peace in Europe that has largely continued to this day!
VE Day was a day to celebrate in 1945, and a day for us all to remember for all time. We all owe the World War II generation a great debt of gratitude. No wonder they are called "The Greatest Generation."
Learn more about VE Day here, from the British Imperial War Museum, a rich resource I used as a source for this post.
On April 17, 2018, First Lady Barbara Bush passed away at the age of 92. In the US, "First Lady" is the title to honor the wife of a president or governor. For example, Melania Trump is America's current First Lady, and Michelle Obama was the one before her. (In fact, every US president has been married, except for the hapless James Buchanan, the man who was in the White House right before Lincoln, as the USA was falling apart. Grover Cleveland was also a bachelor when he was elected, but he married during while in office.)
Barbara Bush was an amazing woman in many respects.
Not only is living to 92 a remarkable achievement, she and her husband, President George Bush Sr., were married 73 years-- that is an historical record--the longest US-presidential marriage!
(George Bush Sr. was a one-term president, elected in 1988 and serving from 1989-1993. I remember going to his inauguration in January 1989, when we took over following the retirement of President Ronald Reagan.)
Also, just being a First Lady is remarkable, by being married to a US president. However, what is more, Barbara Bush was not only a First Lady, but also mother to another US president, George W. Bush. (George W. Bush was a two-term president, elected in 2000, who served from 2001-2009.) In all of US history, only TWO women have been both a First Lady AND mother to a president. The other one was Abigail Adams, wife of the United States' first Vice President and second president, John Adams, and mother to sixth president John Quincy Adams.
(Unlike their husbands, First Ladies do not have a formal political role. However, they do usually take on a "cause" or a particular issue they care about, and try to make improvements in that area. For example, Barbara Bush's cause was literacy. In other words, she wanted to encourage people to learn to read and write, no matter how old they were. Mrs. Obama's cause was fighting obesity and promoting healthier eating. Mrs. Trump wants to fight school bullying.)
Mrs. Bush's son, Jeb, former Governor of the US State of Florida and former candidate for president, said he and his mom spoke about her feelings about death, the last time they met. This is what she told her son: "Jeb, I believe in Jesus and he is my savior. I don't want to leave your dad but I know I'll be in a beautiful place." Read more about their last conversation here.
In the USA, when a very famous person dies, or there is some terrible tragedy like 9-11 or such, the flags are flown at half-mast to represent a nation in mourning. When Barbara Bush passed away, many flags at post offices, stores, and even private homes were flown at half-staff. The week she passed away, a young man from Germany came to visit us here in Virginia. He said they do not have that tradition in Germany, and this was his first time to see it done. Below is the flag at a Chick-fil-A restaurant at half-staff, in honor of Mrs. Bush.
In honor of Mrs. Bush and her passing, we chose some of her quotations as our "Thought for the Day" in our social media campaigns. Here are a few:
- The darn trouble with cleaning the house is it gets dirty the next day anyway, so skip a week if you have to. The children are the most important thing.
- The Titanic was built by professionals. The Ark was built by volunteers.
- Giving frees us from the unfamiliar territory of our own needs by opening our mind to the unexplained worlds occupied by the needs of others.
- You may think the president is all-powerful, but he is not. He needs a lot of guidance from the Lord.
- At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
The funeral for Mrs. Bush was held on April 21, 2018, in Texas. Because of her fame, many dignitaries attended her memorial service, including this photo that shows President Bush Sr., President Bush Jr. and his wife, Presidents and Mrs. Clinton, President and Mrs. Obama, and Mrs. Trump. It shows how American leaders came together at that important moment.
She was beloved by the Secret Service agents who protected her and her family. Read one agent's account here.
By Eric Draper, White House Photo Director and personal photographer for President George W. Bush - St. Mary's Today, smaller version published in a Press release by The White House, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1920745
The USA has 50 states, and DreyerCoaching.com is headquartered in the state of Virginia, on the East Coast. Virginia is the state just below the USA capital, Washington, D.C.
Virginia is also the site of Jamestown, founded in 1607, the first permanent English colony in the New World. So, you can see that Virginia is the birthplace of English-speaking America! The fact that you are reading this post in English shows that you have a connection with the English language that has spread around the world!
Many thanks to DreyerCoaching.com team teacher Mr. Woodson who found this link. It gives an A to Z list of cool things to see and visit in Virginia. Note that "A" is "Appomattox," the small town where the US Civil War ended in 1865. This town is only a 90-minute drive east of our DreyerCoaching.com home office, and is also the subject of a blog post that I wrote.
Check out this cool link for yourself here!
Title photo source: http://www.cgpgrey.com/
One of the key habits in Stephen Covey’s bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “Practice Synergy.” That is, true greatness occurs when people work together and the sum is greater than the individual parts. One of the finest examples of synergy in the Civil War that I know of was that of Lee and Jackson. Both were brilliant generals and strategists on their own, but when they worked together in 1862-1863, they created a string of brilliant victories for the South including Second Manassas, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville. Their victories are all the more remarkable when one realizes they faced Union forces two to four times their size, not to mention the preponderance of Union weapons, resources, and practically everything else. In two of the greatest “What If’s?” of the Civil War, what if Jackson had been given the 10,000 men he asked for right after the Battle of First Manassas. Might he have taken Washington and won the war--and independence--for the South in the first months of the war? And in 1863, had he been alive to work with Lee at Gettysburg, might the South have won there too? It’s mind-boggling to ponder! Take a listen and judge for yourself.
Listen to Episode 35 below.
Do you want to improve your listening ability? Contact Scott today to see what class you can take to improve that skill!