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Scott Dreyer

Scott Dreyer

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.

Wednesday, 07 February 2018 19:34

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is on February 2 and it is a minor holiday. The main idea of the holiday is, if February 2 is a sunny day and a groundhog sees his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. However, if he does NOT see his shadow that day, then it means spring will come early this year. Of course this is not science; it is folklore. Still, it makes a fun story and each year news shows report on what the groundhog sees. 


Groundhogs are a very common wild animal in the USA. They can grow to be the size of a big cat or a small dog. You often see them by the side of the road or in people's yards, eating grass or weeds. In fact, many people consider groundhogs a pest. This is because they like to burrow and dig holes in the ground to live in. If a cow or horse steps into one of the holes, it can easily break its leg and there is no way to fix the broken leg. Therefore, many farmers and horse owners do not like groundhogs at all.


Since groundhogs are a common animal, some people are surprised to learn there is actually an "official" groundhog for Groundhog Day! His name is Phil, and he lives in a small town in the US State of Pennsylvania called Punxsutawney. In fact, the club that takes care of Phil even has its own website,! The custom of watching a groundhog in tiny Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania dates back to 1886! (You can learn more about the history here.) Each year on this date, some of the men in this club wear fancy black coats and hats and tell the world if Phil saw his shadow that day or not. 












Since "All things are connected," "Groundhog Day" is not only a small holiday--it has also become a phrase in the English language! This is thanks to a 1993 comedy movie with Bill Murray where he is a weatherman sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to do a news report on Phil the Groundhog. At the start of the movie, Murray is a selfish, arrogant person, and he gets stuck in the small town he does not like and with people he does not like, because a snowstorm keeps him from leaving. However, not only is he stuck in the town, he is also stuck in a time warp, and he keeps reliving February 2 over and over, until he learns some important life lessons and "gets it right."


So today, some people say "It's like Groundhog Day" to represent something boring that happens again and again.

For example:

  • Billy hates his job. He does the same boring stuff with the same boring people day after day. He says it's like Groundhog Day.
  • None of us like Mrs. Smith's history class: she just talks Monday through Thursday and gives us a test every Friday. It's like Groundhog Day.


Watch a short video clip about the movie here.


For lots more about Groundhog Day, check out this from


Thank you for reading! Do you want to know more about the English language and life in the USA? Contact Scott today to find out how we can help you!



Thursday, 25 January 2018 16:29

Small World!

As a child, I remember riding the popular "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World in Florida. A common English saying is "It's a small world," when we hear a story about people far away having some chance encounter or seeming coincidence. 
The words "small world" came to me twice this week when I heard from two team teachers. 
This story came from Mrs. Armistead:
"The most amazing thing happened in Step 4 today.  Scott and I had taken our friend from China to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Monday afternoon to see the Terracotta Army exhibit.  It was great!   I was very excited to share with my students.  So today in class I showed them the pictures I had from the museum and was ready to share views from the internet as well.  Suddenly Bruce pipes up - that's where I am!  He and his family were in Xi'an and had seen the site yesterday!  They leave tomorrow.  I couldn't believe the timing!  So Bruce was able to tell us about what he had seen and learned and we encouraged the others to go if they can!  And I encourage you to come to Richmond to see this exhibit if you can!  It will be here until March 11.  It is the first time in it's 80 year history that the VMFA has an exhibit devoted to the art and archaeology of ancient China!
Just had to share this cool story!"
This story is related to Mrs. McKinney:
Mrs. McKinney teaches our Advanced Vocabulary/Reading 2 class. We are only a few weeks away from Chinese New Year, and one morning this week she texted me that her students were not in class. We suspected they thought that our online classes has stopped for the holiday. So, I quickly texted the mothers--in Beijing-- on Chinese social media, explaining that class was on and the teacher was waiting. Within a few minutes, the students joined the class and kept improving their English skills. Even in this technological age, I still marvel that Mrs. McKinney can text me, I can then text Beijing, and within a few minutes, our students in China are meeting with their teacher in Virginia--13 hours and 8,000 miles (12,800 km) away!   
It's a small world after all!
Do you want to make YOUR world a little smaller, and a lot closer to the USA? Join one of our online English classes-- contact Scott today to find out how!
Thursday, 25 January 2018 14:38

Battle of Midway (Student Writing)

Recently while teaching a advanced writing class, the students read my blog post about Pearl Harbor. I had asked the students to read it and pay particular attention to how I'd chosen to organize the post. (Primarily Q&A format with a personal story at the end.) To help the students improve their own writing skills, I asked them to chose their own event or period from history, write about it, and include "what if this event had never happened, or had turned out the other way." (In my post, I'd asked "What if Japan had never attacked Pearl Harbor?" Interesting to ponder!) So, to help foster higher-level thinking and a deeper appreciation of history, I asked the students to include the same analysis in their papers.)


One student wrote about the Battle of Midway. In many ways, this battle was a big step after Pearl Harbor, as well as the turning point in the Pacific Theater of WW II, so I am DELIGHTED to add this blog post on the topic!




Turning point. This accurately describes the Battle of Midway, one of the most decisive battles in the warfare of the Pacific during WWII. It not only halted the Japanese dominance in the Pacific, it reduced the potential losses of the American forces. Needless to say, the Battle of Midway is one of the most studied battles in recent history, not only because of its surprising result, but the strategies involved. Excited by its “victory” at Pearl Harbor six months earlier, Japan decided to launch another attack on the American navy by baiting them in at Midway, a small American island that was vital to the defense of Hawaii. However, Japan lost. How? The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) made three fatal mistakes: first, they were discussing the specifics of their plan through radio, which were picked up and decoded by the Americans; second, their forces were split apart too far to be effective against counterattack; last, their plan was based on a fallacious assumption on the availability of American carriers.


First, their message was overheard by the Americans. Prior to the Battle of Midway, the American military broke the Japanese naval code (JN-25). This gave them a significant edge and proved to be pivotal to the Americans’ preparation, winning them the tide-turning battle in the Pacific. The fatal mistake made by the Japanese was to disclose too much of their plan through the radio. Of course, Japanese commanders were completely unaware of the US military’s access to their encoded messages, but these messages became decisive in aiding the US to plan out a counterattack against the Japanese ambush. Perhaps the human error of Japan was to include the specific date and place of the attack in the Pacific on the radio. They could have taken a much safer route of communication, to ensure the message was passed secretly between Marshal Admiral Yamamoto and his colleagues. The result of this leak was significant. The Americans, knowing their exact location and time of the attack, were much more prepared than their unknowing opponent, and prepared an ambush that ravaged the Japanese navy, which caused irreversible harms in terms of carriers and pilots.


Second, the Japanese split their forces apart, resulting in miscommunication and ineffectiveness. Originally, the Japanese force was split into four sections, encompassing a wide region, to surround the American force and ambush them from all directions while they were busy fighting the “bait” at Midway. This was a viable strategy, which was ultimately meticulously planned. However, this strategy had two major downfalls. The first is that it was built on the assumption that the aircraft carrier the Yorktown suffered irreparable damage, rendering it to not able to fight. However, this is not true, and the Yorktown proved to play a pivotal role. The second downfall is the US interception of Japanese plan, which turned Japan’s devious plan of ambush into a weak formation. Mark Peattie, an expert on recent war history and Japanese military, dubbed the Japanese naval force as “glass jaw: it could throw a punch but couldn’t take one.” This split formation allowed the American force, which was originally weaker than the combined Japanese navy, to have an edge as it fights each forced one by one. The miscommunication between the sections also attributed to the US victory, allowing them to take out four Japanese aircraft carriers with only two and a half carriers in action (the Yorktown had only been partially repaired after its damage at Pearl Harbor).


Lastly, the Japanese made a false assumption about the availability of the aircraft carrier Yorktown. During the planning stages of the Battle of Midway, the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto thought that the only two major American carriers in the Pacific were USS Enterprise and USS Hornet. This caused them to underestimate the firepower of their American foe, and devise a rather risky plan that requires delicate coordination between the split task forces. However, with one more carrier than expected available, the Americans were able to turn the tables. Though severely damaged in the Battle of Coral Sea, the USS Yorktown was still repairable. The presence of the Yorktown gave the American task force much more power and played a pivotal role in discovery and destruction of the Japanese fleet at Midway.


Battle of Midway Movement of Fleets ENG.svg


In conclusion, the Americans secured their first victory in Pacific warfare because of a multitude of reasons, but mostly because of three fatal mistakes made by Japan: information leakage, battle miscommunication, and underestimating the American force. This victory secured the United States’s foothold in the Pacific region, and pushed Japan to the edge of the cliff, greatly affecting the later battles in the same region. Japan’s inability to recover from this loss indirectly affected the end result of WWII and changed history forever.


What if the US had lost?

Presumably, if the US had lost the Battle of Midway, not only would they have lost all three of their aircraft carriers active in the Pacific region, they would have also lost their grip on the area, allowing the Japanese forces to control the Pacific with relative ease. This might have complicated the war, and applied great pressure on the US’s Pacific front. However, in the greater scheme of things, the outcome of the war would not have changed, as the development of the atom bomb would not have been halted, and the Japanese surrender would have been inevitable.


--Tim in Hsinchu, Taiwan




Are you curious how we teach WRITING online? Take a look at our advanced writing class where Tim reads his first draft of his essay, and I offer some editing tips and suggestions.


Do you want help with your writing, in a small group or 1 on 1? We help all students, all levels, child to adult! Contact Scott today!



Tuesday, 23 January 2018 12:51


While teaching a basic Step 1 English class just now, we were practicing the short -e sound and the word "get." We discussed how the word "get" has MANY meanings and uses!


By itself, it means "to pick up, receive, or take possession of."

  • Please get some milk and eggs at the store.
  • Get a cup of water if you're thirsty.
  • We often get snow in January or February.
  • I hope we get some rain soon because mom's flowers are too dry.


It can also mean "to change or become."

  • It's supposed to get cold this weekend.
  • Lots of retired people move to Florida because it doesn't get very cold there.
  • Virginia has a pretty mild climate but it can get pretty hot in the summers. 


But when used with some other words, it has MANY more meanings!


get better: to recover from an illness or improve at something


get even: to take revenge

  • When somebody hurts us, the normal response is to try to get even, but the Bible says not to seek revenge. 
  • Jerry wanted to get even after his (former) best friend stole his girlfriend.


get going: start or depart

  • We have a long trip tomorrow so we should get going around 7:00.
  • Sometimes it's hard to get going on a cold, dark morning!


get in: to board or enter a space

  • When people get in an elevator, they usually face the door and say nothing.
  • Get in the car and we'll go.


get in bed: go to bed

  • It's important for young children to get in bed early. 


get on: to board or enter a space

  • Get on the bus and have a seat.
  • Soon after I get on a train, I usually fall asleep.


get organized: to effectively plan your time, goals, and materials

  • To be a successful student, you have to get organized.
  • Whenever you move to a new place, it takes a long time to get organized and put everything away.


get off: to deboard a form of transportation


get out: to deboard a car or leave another space

  • Remember to take your keys with you after you get out of the car. 
  • "Get out!" mom yelled when our dog came in the house with muddy feet. 


get over something or somebody: to recover from a hurt or illness

  • I had a terrible flu last winter; it took me a week to get over it.
  • It normally takes me several days to get over jet lag.
  • Barry was heartbroken when his girlfriend dumped him. "You'll get over her," his mom comforted him. "There's more than one fish in the sea."

get ready: to prepare for something

  • It takes mom about an hour to get ready every morning.
  • If you need to get ready to take your SAT or TOEFL, try our online classes!


get sick: fall ill, become unwell

  • If you don't want to get sick, it's wise to wash your hands often.
  • Mom always says we'll get sick if we go outside on a cold day with wet hair. 


get the picture: understand or realize something

  • "In this honors class, you'll need to do about one to two hours' of homework EACH night to keep up. I hope you get the picture," Mr. Brill warned.
  • In the 1958 movie, "South Pacific," this woman asked her friends, "Get the picture?"


get up: wake up and leave the bed; rise from sitting or lying down

  • What time do you usually get up on the weekends?
  • After a long break, sometimes it's hard to get up and get back to work. 


get up and go: pep; energy level

  • If you're lacking get up and go, maybe it's time to start an exercise program. 
  • Grandpa used to say, "My 'get up and go' got up and went!"


get well soon: a wish for someone to recover full health

  • After grandma was sick, lots of her friends sent her Get Well Soon cards that lifted her spirits. 


get your act together: to get organized and set correct priorities

  • Billy is really smart, but he just can't get his act together. He's 30, can't hold a job, and he's still living in his mother's basement. 


Get the picture? There are LOTS of ways we use "get" in English, but I don't have time to get to all of them. There's "Get a dose of your own medicine," "Get cracking," "Get the lead out," and lots more! To get a better idea of more English idioms, check out our blog post.  But time is getting away from me and I need to get some other things done now, so I need to get this post wrapped up and get it online. 


Do YOU need more help to get better at English? Get in touch with Scott today! 


Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:39

Language Drills

Do you remember times in school when you thought the teacher sounded like the teacher in Charlie Brown, kind of like this?


As a teacher since 1987, I wonder how many times I sounded like that to my students? And when it comes to teaching a foreign language, I think the risk for sounding like this can be HIGH. Much research shows that a foreign language should be taught in the target language, as much as possible. But many times it's easy to talk ABOUT the foreign language instead of IN the foreign language, and there is a difference.


A slow, boring pace can be another "cardinal sin" of teaching. Sure, teachers don't want to go so fast that we lose or frustrate our students. However, it is easy to go so slowly, that we bore them too.  At, we want to find the right class speed. Not so fast we "lose" our students,  but not so slowly that we bore them.


This is where language drills can come in handy.


I first experienced these in the 1980's when I was a student at William and Mary. First, I encountered it as a sophomore student in French 101x. William and Mary required all students to reach a fourth semester in foreign language ability, (which thanks to high school German, I was able to do quickly.) The "x" stands for intensive, because the school offered intensive classes so students could fulfill their foreign language requirement quickly. Here's how it worked: students took French (or another language) with the professor four times a week, Monday - Thursday. Those sessions had the normal explanations, lectures, tests, etc.  However, in the afternoon, the students had a SECOND sesssion, called the "drill session." Here, the groups were kept small, usually eight to ten students, and they were led by an upper-level student. In our case, the drill was a senior girl who had just returned to W&M from her junior year abroad in France.  The professors gave the drill instructors a dozen or so drills to do each day, drills that gave us intensive practice using the grammar points we had learned in our lecture class that morning or in the previous day or so.


Drill topics might include vocabulary practice; working with masculine, feminine, and neuter nouns; verb tenses; forming questions, etc. 


How drills worked:


It was called "drill" because it literally "drilled" the information into our heads! The instuctor gave us the clue, a sample response, as a group we gave a choral response. We did this about 3-4 times, for some familiarity. Then she would give the same clue as we had in the choral response, snap her fingers, and point to one of us. If we got it right, great; then she went to clue #2 and the next student. If we got it WRONG, she just repeated the clue, snapped her fingers again, pointed to ANOTHER student, who then (hopefully) got it right, then she snapped her fingers and pointed to the person who got it wrong, giving that person the chance to say it correctly this time. If the student STILL missed it a second time, she repeated that procedure AS LONG AS IT TOOK for that person to get it right. So the good news is, the student ALWAYS got it right--it just might take awhile. But at least the student DID get it right, and that was a confidence booster. The teacher did a combination of  individual and group questions: usually about 3/4 individual questions, and 1/4 group questions. The teacher both starts and ends each individual drill with the choral response. You start with it to build confidence with the new grammar structure, and you end with it to end on a successful note. This intense drill session went on for 50 minutes, without a break! Needless to say, we learned A LOT of French that year!


Two years later, when I returned to W&M from my junior year abroad in Germany, I was thankful when some professors asked me to be a drill instructor for German 101x. That experience let me make some new friends, help people learn German, earn some extra pocket money, AND it was my first paid teaching gig! So even though I did not get my Virginia teacher's license and start full-time teaching until 1987, I actually became a paid instructor  in 1986, as a (very part-time) staff at William and Mary! 


So let's talk about English.


There is NO SHORTAGE of places where students can learn English. However, I wish I had a nickel for each time a student or parent told me, "I [my child] learned English for years, but never learned to speak it. Every time I [my child] sees a foreigner, all I [my child] can say is 'Hello. How are you?'"


So, with, one of our main ways to add value is to give our students lots of chances to speak English so they build their skills and confidence. 


Let's say you want to teach a key, high-frequency  language point. Sometimes, we need the slow, methodical explanation. For our basic learners, explaining it in Chinese can be a HUGE help too. But to give the students LOTS of chances to have verbal practice, and to keep the class pace lively, look for times to use drills. For each drill, I suggest using 5-7 clues, and use them over and over till the group can master the grammar point.)



Drill 1. Teaching "be" verb conjugations. The teacher should show a chart of some visual, maybe in the book, and explain how the "be" verb changes based on the pronoun. (Note: Chinese has NO verb conjugations! So that's one reason why Chinese is easy to learn, but it's hard for Chinese speakers to learn English.)

After the (brief) grammar lesson, try a drill. 

T: Teacher

SS: all students in class (choral response)

S1: first student

S2: second student, etc.


One idea behind drills is to START EASY, where the students only have to produce one item. You can add complexity as you go on, by gradually adding new elements to each drill sentence.

In person, the teacher snaps his fingers, then turns and points to the student who is supposed to speak. However, in an online class, the teacher can give the clue, then call the student's first name.)


T: I ... I am nice.    I... (waves arms in sweeping fashing, to signal "choral response.")

SS: I am nice.

T: I ... I am nice.   I... (waves arms in sweeping fashing, to signal "choral response.")

SS: I am nice

(Repeat 3-4 times, so students are confident with it. EACH student should be repeating.)

T: I  ... Jessica

Jessica: I am nice.

T: I ... Tom

Tom: I am nice.

T: You ...  Jerry

Jerry: You are nice.

T: You are nice. (wave arms for choral response)

SS: You are nice.

T:  He ...  Jack

Jack: He is nice.

T: They ... Jessica

Jessica:  They is nice.

T: They ... Jack

Jack: They are nice.

T: They ... Jessica 

Jessica: They are nice  (teacher smiles)

T: Mrs. Smith ... Fred

Fred: Mrs. Smith is nice.

T: Mr. and Mrs. Smith ... Jessica

Jessica:  Mr. and Mrs. Smith are nice.

T: You ... Jerry

Jerry: You are nice.

T: You  (wave arms for choral response)

SS: You are nice

(repeat 2-3 times, to build confidence and end on successful note.)


Drill 2: Reviewing "be" conjugations and teaching nationalities

Note: Give the pronoun and country; then model for students to conjugate the verb and say the adjective. Notice how this drill is a bit harder: the students have to conjugate the verb AND change the country to an adjective. Ideally, we want to always be moving our students to higher and higher levels of complexity and competence. 


T: I ... China (wave arms for choral response)

SS:   I am Chinese.

(repeat 3-4 times to build confidence)

T: You ... Russia   (Jack)

Jack: You are Russian.

T: He ...  Vietnam  (Fred)

Fred: He is Vietnamese

T: They ... Mexico  (Jessica)

Jessica: They are Mexican

T: She... Brazil  (Tom)

Tom: She is Brazilian

T: We ... France (Jack)

Jack: We are French

(Note: try to keep the clues consistent. That is, always use "they/Mexico, she/ Brazil, we/France" etc.  


Drill 3: Countable and non-countable nouns (Note: Again, Chinese does not have this distinction, so it's a challenge for our students to master this. And let's face it: many native speakers of English make mistakes here too. How often do we see the ad "Less Calories"?)

T: Tomatoes ... delicious  (wave arms for choral response)

SS: Tomatoes are delicious

(repeat 3-4 times)

T: Milk .. delicious (wave arms for choral response)

SS: Milk is delicious

(repeat 3-4 times)

T:  Pizza ... Fred

Fred: Pizza is delicious

T: Chicken ... Jessica

Jessica: Chicken is delicious

T: French fries ... Tom

Tom: French fries are delicious.

T: ice cream ... Jack

Jack: Ice cream is delicious

T: ice cream cones  ... Jessica

Jessica: Ice cream cones is delicious 

T: ice cream cones ...  Tom 

Tom: ice cream cones are delicious

T: ice cream cones ... Jessica

Jessica: ice cream cones are delicious

T: peas...  Jerry

Jerry: peas are delicious

T: Peas are delicous (wave arms for choral response)

SS: Peas are delicious 

(repeat 3-4 times)


Drill 4: Forming questions

(Language note: It is easy to form most questions in Chinese. Many times you just say the sentence, then add the question word "ma" at the end, and that makes it a question. So, when one has to switch the word order to make a question in English, that is difficult for many students.)


T: You are a student.... Are you a student?

(Repeat 3-4 times)

T: You are a student (wave arms for choral response)

T: You are a student .... Fred

Fred: Are you a student?

T: He is an American ... Jerry

Jerry: Is he an American?

T: We are going ... Tom

Tom: Are we going? 

T: She is from France. ... Jessica

Jessica: Is she from France? 

T: They are from Japan ... Fred

Fred: Are they from Japan?

T:  They are from Japan ... Are they from Japan? (wave arms for choral response)

Are they from Japan? 

(repeat 3-4 times)



Drill 5: Using irregular verbs in past tense

These are difficult for even native speakers, so they are very hard for ESL learners.  Let's say you want to drill these: be, bring, eat, get,  read, ride. Say the infinitive form of the verb. Pause 1 second. Then say the sentence with the present tense. Students say the sentence in the past tense. 


(Note: Here is a list of irregular verbs. Some are more commonly used than others.)


T: BE.  He is happy. 

He was happy. (repeat 3-4 times)

T: He is happy.   He was happy. (Teacher waves arms for choral response) 

SS: He was happy.

T: BRING...She brings cookies to the party....  Tom

Tom: She brought cookies to the party.

T: EAT... I eat a sandwich.... Jessica

Jessica: I ate a sandwich.

T: GET....He gets a book....  Jerry

Jerry: He got a book.

T: READ...I read a book..... Jack

Jack: I read a book.

T: RIDE...She rides a bike.... Jessica

Jessica: She rode a bike.

T: RIDE: She rides a bike. (wave arms for choral response)

SS: She rode a bike.

(repeat 3-4 times)



Would you like to know more about learning or teaching English online? Contact Scott today.  


Monday, 15 January 2018 15:49

Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon

Presidential Turkey Pardon:


One of the funniest of the Thanksgiving traditions is the annual "presidential Turkey pardon." The US Constitution gives the president great powers, including the power to pardon an accused person of a crime. In a humorous twist, there is a tradition of the US president "pardoning" a turkey at Thanksgiving, saying that that turkey will NOT be eaten. Some claim that tradition began with President Truman in 1947, while others believe it began with President Lincoln during the Civil War. (read more here.) Starting in 1981, under President Reagan, it became the tradition for the spared tukey to live out his life at a children's farm. For many years, the turkeys enjoyed a happy retirement at the ironically-named "Frying Pan Farm" in Northern Virginia, close to Washington D.C.


However, recently the spared turkeys have been sent to Virginia Tech, a famous engineering and research univerity close to the world headquarters of On the Virginia Tech campus, there is a spot called "Gobbler's Rest," where they will live. 


After Thanksgiving 2017, a friend of mine from Taiwan drove to the Tech campus and saw Drumstick and Wishbone, the two turkeys pardoned by President Trump. (Scroll to p. 38 and read the article here, on the top right corner of the page.)


It's another funny USA holiday tradition! 

Friday, 12 January 2018 19:41

Comfortable Phenomenon?

Recently I was teaching an online student from Beijing, China, and she explained she had learned from her outstanding Team teacher that the word "phenomenon" is not used very often in English, and that it refers to some occurrence that is rare, remarkable, or unusual. That student is exactly right, and her teacher taught her well! In fact, other than my book Write Like a Champion (p. 90), I am not aware of any other books that mention this little nugget of language learning. I often tell my students, "Many things in Chinese and English you cannot translate directly." "Phenomenon" is one word that DOES have a direct translation in Chinese (现象); however, the USAGE is different.   Basically, Chinese uses this word often, while English uses it rarely. Again, in English, it usually refers to some odd happening that is rare and amazing.


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  • Twins are rather rare, but having one white and one black, is a truly remarkable phenomenon, as is the case of these twin sisters in England. 


In contrast, this word is commonly used and heard in Chinese. So, when Chinese speakers speak English, they might say things like:


  • I feel frustrated when I lose my keys. Have you ever had that phenomenon before? (Sounds Chinglish)


  • It's better to say, "I feel frustrated when I lost my keys. Has that ever happened to you before?"



The same is true with the word "comfortable." This word also has a direct translation in Chinese (舒服). There is also a direct translation for "feel comfortable" (感觉舒服). However, like "phenemenon," this word is used more in Chinese than in English, and it is used in more contexts in Chinese than in English.


In English, it is USUALLY used to describe a PHYSICAL state of feeling relaxed and pleasant.

  • This new sofa is really comfortable.


comfortable cat












  • The students don't like the wooden chairs in their classroom; they are too uncomfortable.


        It can also describe an emotional state:

  •  I feel uncomfortable when the boss keeps staring at me.


  •   I don't feel comfortable asking to borrow too many things from my friends.


In Chinese, though, it is often used in a way relating to health or illness. So, here a Chinese speaker in English might say:


  • My stomach feels uncomfortable, so I'll have to miss school today. (Sounds Chinglish)

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Americans would probably say instead: My stomach doesn't feel well, so I'll have to miss school today. 

OR   I have a stomachache, so I'll have to miss school today.

OR   My stomach doesn't feel well, so I'll have to miss school today. 

  • My body feels uncomfortable. I want to see a doctor. (Sounds Chinglish)

(In this case too, "body" is a word that is used more in Chinese (身体) than in English.) Americans would probably say the above sentence as:


  • I don't feel well. I want to see a doctor.


  • OR    I feel sick. I want to see a doctor.



So, learning a foreign language is funny. Some things you can translate directly, and some you can't. And some words that CAN be translated directly, are used more often or rarely in different languages, and in different contexts.

The upshot? Practice, practice, practice!

Let the team at help you! Contact Scott today!





Ask Scott Dreyer

This question comes from Amy, a student in one of our Basic English online classes

Q: What's the difference between a gorilla and an ape? Are they the same? And are they monkeys?  --Amy in Shenzhen, China

A: Great question! Thanks for asking.


Actually, apes (Chinese 猿 Yuán) are a kind of animal family, and gorillas (Chinese 大猩猩 Dà xīngxīng) are one kind of animal in that family. It's kind of like saying birds are a kind of animal family, and sparrows are one kind of bird in that big group.  In addition to gorillas, the ape family also includes chimpanzees (called "chimps"), orangutans, and some would add humans too.  Monkeys are NOT In the ape family. Apes do NOT have tails, but monkeys do. 


Gorillas are the biggest members of the ape family: some can weigh up to 600 pounds (272 kg)! Gorillas live in Central Africa and are known to be highly intelligent. In a recent advanced vocabulary class, the student had a reading passage about Koko the Gorilla. I was impressed to learn that Koko learned to communicate with sign language, and she even learned the word for "birthday." She loved cats, and when the trainer asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she replied "kitten." On her birthday, she opened her gift and found a stuffed toy kitten. She was so angry, she threw it away! The trainer later gave her a real kitten, which she loved and cared for. When they asked Koko what she wanted to name her pet kitten, she replied "All Ball."  They think maybe it was because the kitten did not have a tail and looked like a ball of fur, so that's why she named it that. Incredibly, Koko was even able to use sign language to tell jokes...and even to tell lies!


Sadly, All Ball was later killed by a car; see the amazing video of Koko playing with All Ball, then grieving over her loss, in this remarkable short video


Learn more about Koko the Gorilla here.


Here is another amazing gorilla story! Louis, a male gorilla at the Philadelphia Zoo, seemingly likes to keep his hands clean--especially when he's eating a snack--so he often walks on his two hind legs, like a human!

Take a look! 


While gorillas live only in Africa in the wild, monkeys can be found in Africa, South America, and Asia. 


Language Fun: several years ago, a friend of ours from Hsinchu, Taiwan came to visit our family in Roanoke, Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday from her school. She had not lived in the US for long then, and it was her first visit to Virginia. Her flight arrived at night. After we picked her up at the airport and were driving her to our home, we were telling her about our city and some of the fun things we planned to do over that Thanksgiving holiday. One of the most famous sites in our city is the Mill Mountain Star, a star built in 1949 that lights up each night and is the most famous icon of our Valley. Even though our friend spoke good English, we tried to tell her about things in Chinese. So, part of our story went kind of like this:


"There is a big star on the moutain. It is a very famous star here. You can see it every night. It's so big, you can see it from many miles away. It's so big, sometimes when you fly into Roanoke, you can see it from the airplane. We will make sure we take you to see it while you are here. We are sure you will love it."


It seemed kind of strange to me, but when we told her about the star that is so popular here in Roanoke, she did not seem very excited about going to see it! 


What we did not realize was, when we were staying "star," meaning 星星 Xīngxīng in Chinese, she thought we were saying 猩猩, which is also pronounced Xīngxīng, but which means GORILLA!


So, when we were trying to tell her we would take her to see the huge star, she thought we were going to take her to see a huge GORILLA that lived on the mountain, and that sounded scary to her! NO WONDER she did not want to go there! 


Learning a new language is a lot of fun, and you have to be able to laugh at yourself! 




Would you like to improve YOUR vocabulary? Contact Scott today to find out how we can help you!


Chinese New Year is coming! 

 每年寒假很多家长很喜欢把握利用寒假期间来加强他们孩子的英文基础。因此, 为此需求开办了进阶小组课和一对一的课程来服务大家。

In honor of the holiday, normal classes will stop from Monday, Feb. 12 - Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. However, during those two weeks, we DO offer two extra kinds of classes! For many years we have offered intensive English classes during the holiday, because schools are out, students have more free time than normal, and many parents and young people want to improve their skills in an intensive way during these two weeks.  For example, during Chinese New Year 2017, we offered two book studies: 1984 and To Kill a Mockingbirdin addition to 1 on 1 classes. Please remember, since our classes are online, you can attend from anywhere you have an internet connection! You can spend all day relaxing and enjoying time with family, and attend just two hours a night, to keep improving your English! (Note: we do NOT have classes on Feb. 15 and 16, Chinese New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.)


Our Class offerings for Chinese New Year 2018 

What Kinds of Classes? Group Classes 小组课 1 on 1 Classes 一对一
What will be the topics students will learn?

课程内容:第二十世记历史的最重要事件之教授---此课程乃是Scott老师 在美国高中教书时所开创的授课资



This year, we are offering a new kind of group class. Scott is to present a history class, an overview of some key events of the 20th Century, using class materials Scott made himself when he taught the class he created, "20th Century European Totalitarianism," at a local public high school. Specific topics include:

  • World War I and its consequences
  • Russia in World War I and the Russian Revolution
  • The Roaring 20's
  • The Great Depression 1930's
  • World War II
  • The Cold War (if time allows)


Topics will depend on the student's English level and interest



Who should take this class?

 Students who want to:

  • deepen their knowledge and undestanding of key 20th historical events
  • improve their social studies vocabulary
  • prepare for later classes in US, European, or world history
  • better understand how the past shaped the world we live in today
Students who want to improve their English skills, 1 on 1, during the Chinese New Year holiday while schools are closed. Students can improve their listening, speaking, pronunciation, vocabulary, reading, and writing skills
What English level is required? Step 8 or 10, Reading/Vocab. 2 or 3, and Writing 5 or 6. The class will be taught in a seminar/lecture format, with many opportunities for Q&A. Since the class pace will be fast and it will include many terms specific to history and social studies, a high-level of English is required.  Any level, Step 1 to Advanced
What are the dates and times of the classes?  Feb. 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 (8 evenings, 16 sessions total), 8:00-8:50 pm and 9:00-9:50 pm China Standard Time   Any evenings, 7:00-10:00, Mondays through Saturdays, Feb. 12-24, 2018
What is the investment?  RMB 1,900, NT$ 8,600 (Registration due by Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. Minimum of 3 students required to open class; spaces limited! Register today! RMB 400, NT$ 1,800, per 50 minute session. You can register for as many 1 on 1 sessions as you like, from Feb. 12-24. (Registration due by Mon. Jan. 22, 2018. Register today!)
Who will teach it? Scott Dreyer  A highly-qualified Team Teacher (we will attempt to match the student with his or her normal school year teacher, when available.)
How to find out more or register?  Contact Scott today!  Contact Scott today!


Some topics and people we'll learn about in our group class!


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Monday, 08 January 2018 19:52

New Year's Day

In the USA, the "holiday season" runs from the late fall, around Halloween and Thanksgiving, through Christmas, till New Year's Day, January 1. 


Since many people stay up till midnight on New Year's Eve, December 31, to "ring in the new year," those people may sleep in and wake up a bit tired on January 1. And for those who felt the need to hit the bottle on New Year's Eve, they may enter the first day of the new year with a headache too! 


New Year's Day is a USA federal holiday, so banks, schools, national parks, and post offices, etc. are all closed, as well as many businesses. (In fact, schools and colleges are all closed for about a two- to four-week period, in honor of Christmas and New Year.)  


Frankly, compared to Christmas, in which excitement builds for several weeks, New Year's Day is generally low-key. Many people sleep in that day, and they may later call, text, or visit friends or family, wishing them a happy new year.


One traditional New Year's Day dish is "Hoppin' John." It's made with black-eyed peas, tomatoes, and cornbread. Some believe eating it on January 1 will bring good luck in the new year. I still clearly remember New Year's Day, 2015. My family and I had just moved into our new home, which is also the office of Dreyer Academy LLC, just a few days before, during the week between Christmas and New Years.  (As teachers, we wanted to move during a time when school was closed, so we did not have to teach, and could just focus on the move.) By January 1, parts of our house had been set up, but we still had lots of boxes sitting around too. (Moving is a lot of work and hassle!) Mom and Dad wanted to give us a break, so they came over that day and, while Dad helped us unpack some boxes, Mom made Hoppin' John for us. It was delicious, and it was great having a hot, homecooked meal made for us right there, so we could enjoy that in the middle of our busy unpacking day.


Here are some photos of us enjoing Hoppin' John on Jan. 1, 2018, at home.  The recipe is here.

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With a new year, many people also like to think back on the past year, evaluate what went well and poorly, and make plans for a more successful new year. This is the end of the so-called "holiday season," because most K-12 schools and all stores and regular jobs get back to normal on January 2. (One exception is colleges: their spring term classes normally start one to two weeks later.)


With all the extra eating and festivities from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's, many people have put on a few pounds, so for many people starting on January 2, one of their main goals is to lose some weight!


On the topic of goals and the new year, check out our podcast episode 2018 New Year's message about S.M.A.R.T. goals; this blog post explains more about goal-setting as well.  



In the new year, do YOU have a goal to improve your English? See how we can help you! Contact Scott today! 

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