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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, 17 October 2018 20:39

Episode 12--10th Anniversary Online!

October 2008 was a strange time in the USA. For millions of Americans there was terrible fear, but for millions of others, great excitement!


Many were afraid because of the global financial crisis. Many saw the value of their homes or stocks drop by one-half or more!  Many people lost their jobs and retirement funds.


But at the same time, many other Americans were full of joy. A little-known US Senator from Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, seemingly came out of nowhere to defeat well-known Hillary Clinton and by October was well on his way to becoming the next US president. To hear the way many in the news and entertainment media were presenting him, Obama seemed to be a new savior to solve our problems and show us the way! 


Against this odd backdrop, I tried something I had never done before. On Wednesday, October 22, 2008, I taught my first online English class to Asia!


Seated by my laptop on my dining room table in my hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, I taught my inaugural online lesson to two sisters in Hsinchu, Taiwan, where I had lived from 1989-1999. The class began at 7:00 a.m. and ended by 7:50 Eastern Time, so I could then hop on my bicycle and teach the rest of the day at my full-time job at a local high school. I had been a licensed teacher since 1987, and had taught both in Virginia and Taiwan, but presenting a lesson over the internet was a novelty then. Over the passing ten years, the internet has exploded with more and more classes, shopping, and much else, but in 2008, that was still a new step, both for me and for the parents and students who trusted me with this responsibility.  

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You can listen to more of the story below.


Listen to Podcast Episode 12. Listen here. 


To celebrate our 10th Anniversary of Online English classes, I am offering FIVE FREE classes all next week, October 22-26! Here are the details.


When? Monday to Friday at 9:00 p.m., China Standard Time

How do I join?     Download the free software at then at 9:00 p.m. click 

How long will the class be?  About 30 minutes, but you can start or leave at any time. No worries! 

What level does my English have to be to join?  Since Scott speaks Chinese, you can be at any English level, or speak none at all and just speak Chinese!  However, most of the discussion will be at a Intermediate Level (Steps 4, 5 or 6) or above. 

What kind of questions can I ask? Feel free to ask Scott any question about life in the USA or the English language, from basic level to advanced


I hope to see YOU online SOON!


--Scott    Contact me today if you have any questions or would like to know more! 

Friday, 12 October 2018 15:58

Creepy Story!

Photo: Jack Gittoes


Recently a teacher on the team sent me this in an email:

"I couldn't resist sending this to you!  Katie said she wrote this in 10-15 minutes!  Amazing!"

Truly, this is AMAZING writing, from Katie, a middle school student in Hsinchu, Taiwan, who has taken a writing class for many years. Notice the great verbs: exhaled, creaking, shivered, gazed, flopped down. Notice the great adjectives: damp, shadowy, musty, creepy. Great use of thoughtshots too, set off with italics: Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?

Very creepy story-- just in time for Halloween. Enjoy!



He exhaled, his breath making puffs in the frigid air, the wooden floorboards creaking under his feet. Running a hand through his purple hair, he set down his knapsack in the middle of the dusty bed. He shivered, and pulled out a damp windbreaker and put it on. An owl hooted outside, and he quickly turned just in time to see a shadowy figure outlined in the window. He rubbed his eyes, and the figure disappeared, and he sighed, turning back to the bed.

He sat down on the bed, the musty smell of the feather stuffed mattress filling the air. Wrinkling his nose at the stench, he gazed into a corner of the old room. The sky outside was dark, and the moon cast creepy shadows into the room.

He flopped down onto the bed, closing his eyes briefly. Why had he chosen this house to live in? Why couldn't he have chosen another house, more brightly lit and modernly furnished?

The man stretched, and yawned. It had been a long day, but now he was unable to sleep. The whole feeling of the room was extremely off-putting. He felt like he was in a haunted house, complete with bats and four-poster beds.  

He huffed out a breath and pulled out his cell phone, squinting at the brightness. In the corner of the screen in tiny letters, it said “no service”. He scrunched his nose in disgust and tossed it aside, the phone landing on the mattress with a barely audible “whoomp". He closed his eyes, and tried to fall asleep, to no avail. He sighed.

His eyes snapped open and he swung his legs over the side of the bed and got up, slowly opening the door.  It creaked quietly. The man stepped out into the hallway, careful to avoid the questionable puddle of dark liquid that was too dark to see. He shrugged, and continued down the hallway, stopping at an open door. He peeked in, seeing a old painting in the corner of the room, a small lit lantern in a another.

He cocked his head at the painting, wondering where he had seen that painting before. He reached for his phone to search it up, but, he remembered that he had left his phone in the room he was sleeping in, and there was no service. He muttered something under his breath and stepped further into the room. The painting had an oak frame which was in an archaic style, in a simple red and black. The paint was chipped and cracked in multiple places. There were cobwebs hanging from every corner of the frame, and there was a large closet made of maple standing in the room.

He stopped and admired the design of the closet, the way the cuts in the wood made an intricate design. He could have sworn he heard footsteps, and he whirled around, only to see a shadowy figure drift across the doorway.

He stiffened. Was there someone else in this house? He stopped and listened. Nothing. He scratched his head, and plopped down on the floor. He sighed, suddenly tired. He leaned back on his hands, and he felt his hand touch something slimy and wet on the floor.

He picked up one hand and sniffed the liquid, the metallic smell of blood filling his nose. The lantern suddenly went out and a voice boomed throughout the room.

“Hello, it’s been awhile. I’ve been waiting for you.”



Do you want to improve your writing skills? Join an ONLINE writing class that comes right to your home or office! Contact Scott today to find out more!



Tuesday, 09 October 2018 19:20

University of Virginia: David's Essays

Our son David recently applied to the University of Virginia (UVA) and below is his Pesonal Statement from the Common Application. He was accepted and is a Biology major. 


(word count: 355)


Transferring to a four-year university has always been my goal. Beginning when I was five, my parents invested in the [prepaid college] program to pay for a bachelor’s degree for my three older siblings and me. Every parent’s dream is to see their children succeed, and my parents did what they could to help make that happen. Even as a child, I knew I wanted to make an impact in the world. I wanted to do something that set me apart; not something just anybody could do. By the time I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field. Since then, I have narrowed my career down to becoming a dentist or an orthodontist. I have been working towards that goal for three years at Virginia Western Community College, and while my time at Western has been fruitful, it is time for me to move on and get one step closer to achieving my goal. Transferring to a four-year university is the next step. My ambition is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree and upon passing the Dental Admissions Test, to matriculate at VCU’s School of Dentistry. After that, if I decide to specialize in a particular branch of dentistry, I will go on to study that post graduate program. While every step in this journey is important, I believe that the most important step is always the one that we are facing at the moment, and in my case, that would be transferring to attain my bachelor’s degree. These next few years will be pivotal in the direction my life goes, and I want to ensure I make the right choices and meet the right people, as cliché as that sounds. I am blessed to be a world traveler; however, my whole life, I have lived in Roanoke, and this is an opportunity to expand my horizons and enrich my life by seeking new experiences and meeting new people in new places. College is the ideal place for this, and I am eager to meet other bright and ambitious students who are also working toward their goals.


He also wrote two other essays, specific for UVA. Stay tuned.


Are you an international student studying in the USA, or you want to? Check out this article with helpful ideas about how to be successful in a US university! (PS: The tips are good for American students too!)


Do you want help with English writing? See how we can help you here. Do you want help applying to a US high school or college? See what universities Scott has helped other students gain acceptance to. Scott helped them; he can help you too!

Contact Scott today to find out more. 

Wednesday, 26 September 2018 20:23

Friend Week! 朋友週!


October 1-6, 2018

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How it works:

1. Invite 1 or 2 friends to join your online class! They can come to your house and take class with you, or join from home!您可邀请一两位朋友到DreyerCoaching.com您上课的时间,他们可到您的家或在他们自己的家一起和您学习并感受网路学习美语的情况!

2. Tell Mr. Dreyer their name and email address and he will send them the zoom link. Or, you can give them your zoom link.请告诉Dreyer老师他们的名字和电子邮件,老师就会给他们Zoom 的连接,或您可给他们您的连接。

3. Help your friend learn more English that week, October 1-6, 2018. It is more fun and helpful to learn with your friends!在十月1-6日这周,和朋友一起学习美语!

4. For each friend you bring to class, we enter your name 1 time in a drawing-- 3 people will win ONE FREE 1 on 1 class! 

5. Encourage your friend to JOIN a class for the whole year! The schedule and sale prices are below! 


42498188 10217066666916779 1255197230114013184 n2018-2019学年度小组课暑期大优惠  SALE!

   Register NOW to reserve your space in these classes that run until June 2019. Each class is capped at 6 students or fewer!


  原价Regular investment: RMB 8,950 / NT$ 39,550

   优惠价至10月15日止 SALE PRICE!  Only RMB 8,000 / NT$ 35,000!  Offer ends October 15, 2018!


Step 1

第一阶级      線上指導,週二 / 週五晚上8:00-8:50     剩 余位Spaces left   3     Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


 Step 2

阶级       線上指導,週三 / 週四晚上8:00-8:50  剩 余位 Spaces left  3     Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


Step 3

阶级       線上指導,週一 / 週三晚上7:00-7:50     剩 余位Spaces left  4       Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000

 Screenshot 13

Step 4

阶级       線上指導,週二 / 週五晚上8:00-8:50    剩 余位Spaces left 2      Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


Step 5 

阶级       線上指導,週一 / 週三晚上8:00-8:50  剩 余位 Spaces left 4    Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


Step 7 

阶级      線上指導,週一 / 週四晚上8:00-8:50     剩 余位Spaces left  3     Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


Step 8 

阶级       線上指導,週四 / 週五,晚上9:00-9:50   剩 余位 Spaces left   1    Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000


Step 11

第十阶级      高中到大学線上指導,週三 / 週五,晚上9:00-9:50  剩 余位Spaces left  4     Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000                               42497141 10217066690477368 8733907028247838720 n


Writing 6 

英语写作课-6     週五晚上8:00-8:50      Spaces left  1      Only 人民币 4,850 (SAVE 人民币 545!)       Only NT$ 21,400 (SAVE NT$ 2,475!)


Conversation Class   

会话课              週三 晚上9:00-9:50                Only 人民币 4,850 (SAVE 人民币 545!)       Only NT$ 21,400 (SAVE NT$ 2,475!)                     


SAT Vocabulary & 

Critical Reading-4

中學 Vocabulary & 

阅读級線上指導-4         國二到高三線上指導週一 / 週三晚上8:00-8:50    剩 余位Spaces left  4     Only 人民币 8,000 / NT$ 35,000

Contact Scott  today to learn more and register!                     

I hope to see YOU online soon! -Scott 


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Ask Scott: This question comes from Bob in Hangzhou, China.

Q. How do you use the word SINCE?

A. Great question! Like many words in English, it has MANY meanings and uses, so it has MANY translations in Chinese! It can give a reason for something, like "because" or "as."

1. It can give the reason for something, like "because" or "as."

  • Bob visited us in Nanjing since he lives in Hangzhou and it's not that far away.
  • Bob's English is getting better and better since he studies online with!
  • Since it's raining, we're going to stay home today.

2. It can mean "from then until now."

  •  David has played the piano since he was four years old. 
  •  I have been teaching since 1986.
  •  China has seen many changes since World War II.
  •  Ricky began learning English with and has been with us ever since. 
    (Note: Use "since" with a specific starting point in time.  Since 2:00. Since we graduated. Since last Friday. If you want to refer to a length of time WITHOUT a specific starting time point, use "for."  For example:
    He has played piano for five years.                         vs.    He has played piano since third grade.
    They have lived in New York for three years.          vs.    They have lived in New York since 2017.
    He has been eating for 30 minutes.                         vs.    He has been eating since 12:30.

Be careful. These two words SENSE and CENTS sound the same as SINCE, but have different meanings.




1. One of the faculties of sight, sound, touch, hearing, and taste (noun)

  • Young children learn about the Five Senses.
  • Both dogs and deer have an amazing sense of smell.
  • If you catch a cold and lose your sense of smell, you often lose your sense of taste too-- foods don't taste very good if you can't smell them.


2. A "gut feeling," understanding or intuition (noun)

  • The longer he was there, he had a sense that something was not right.
  • Billy had a strong sense of regret when he realized he had been wasting a lot of time in high school.
  • Robert felt a huge sense of accomplishment when he graduated in the top 10% of his high school class. 

3. An inborn ability or strength (noun)

  • Mom has a very strong sense of right and wrong.
  • Deborah has a great sense of direction; she seldom gets lost.
  • Dad has a great sense of humor; that's probably what helps him stay young. 

1. To feel or figure something out (verb)

  • We sensed that something was wrong with the neighbors, but we couldn't identify what it was.
  • Dad sensed that Marie was trying to hide something, but he couldn't figure it out.
  • Betty sensed her friends might do something special for her birthday, but she never dreamed it would be a huge surprise party!


CENTS  Plural of "cent," 1 penny.

  • "When I was a kid, you could buy a whole bag of candy for just five cents," Grandpa told us.
  • "That will be five dollars and 37 cents," the cashier told us.
    Do you SENSE you want to improve your English skills? SINCE you already on this page, contact me today to find out how we can help you learn English online. You can learn safely and conveniently at your home or office. Does that make SENSE




Photo by George Hodan


 Ask Scott Dreyer

This question comes from our online student Bob in scenic Hangzhou, China, which is known as one of the most beautiful places in China. I'd like to dedicate this post to him.

Q: How can I use the words EVEN, HAPPEN and KNOWLEDGE?

A: Thanks for that great question, Bob!  My answer is below.

EVEN: As is common in English, this word has MANY meanings and uses, so it has MANY Chinese translations, depending on how you want to use it.

1. EVEN numbers can be divided by 2, so 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 etc. are all EVEN NUMBERS. (In contrast, ODD numbers are 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, etc.  Bonus information: ODD can also mean "strange.")

The gym teacher made us all count off by ones, and the even-numbered students were Team A and the odd-numbered students were Team B for the basketball game. 


2. It can mean SMOOTH or FLAT.

Look for a smooth, even spot to put your tent. Otherwise, you might wake up with a backache if you are sleeping on a rock!

I love the Christmas Carol based on a true man in history, Good King Wenceslas. The first line is: Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen, When the snow lay round about, Deep and crisp and even


3. It can mean FAIR or EQUAL.

Mom gave each child an even amount of ice cream.

Many English idioms rhyme, and "even Steven" means "fair or equal."

The boy decided to divide the cookies even Steven so no one would get mad or jealous.

All the students like Mr. Flanagan. He is fair and evenhanded with all his students.


Many times EVEN has a "word buddy," that is, another word it often goes with, and together the two words add emphasis or surprise.


4. EVEN THOUGH means something happens despite something else happening.  

Even though it was raining, we went to the picnic anyway.

Even though he had lots of Cs and Ds, he still applied to Harvard.


EVEN IF tells if something surprising would or would not happen

Even if Billy drove a BMW, I still wouldn't go to the dance with him, Emily said. 

Even if Billy gets an A on the final exam, he will still only get a D for the year in English, because his other grades are so bad. 


By itself, EVEN can also show shock or surprise.

Aunt Barbara said the pies she bakes are so bad, even her dogs would  not eat them!

It was raining so hard, even all the schools had to close.



HAPPEN:  (verb) This usually means "to take place" or "to occur."

No one knows what will happen tomorrow, but we still need to make plans.

We did not know what would happen when we put the dog and cat in the same room.

Megan was sad that her "best friend" suddenly got mean with her, but I told her that has happened to me before too. 


It can also refer to things that occur without planning or design, but seem to be random.

We don't know why the lamp fell off the table. It just happened!

Billy and Megan seemed so happy together all year, but we don't know why they broke up. It just happened.



KNOWLEDGE: (noun)  This is the noun form of the verb "to know."

1. Facts, information of skills someone has.

Good teachers love working with students who are curious and have a thirst for knowledge.

In the US we say, "go to college to get more knowledge."

2. Awareness or familiarity

Billy has been playing games on his phone during class without his teacher's knowlege.

To my knowledge, Shenzhen is the fastest-growing city in the world. 

This Bible verse from Proverbs 1:5 (Good News Translation) has the words EVEN and KNOWLEDGE. 

These proverbs can even add to the knowledge of the wise and give guidance to the educated, 


I will end this post with one sentence using all three key words:

Even though Bob lives in Hangzhou, he and his mother came all the way to Nanjing to visit with us when we happened to be there last May; to my knowledge, Bob is my first online student in Hangzhou, and he has a GREAT attitude.



Do YOU have a question about English or life in the USA? Contact me today to ask! And, join an online class so you can improve your KNOWLEDGE of English, EVEN when you HAPPEN to be at home of in the office! 


Monday, 17 September 2018 18:14

Constitution Day

The word "holiday" usually makes people think of big days like Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter. However, September 17 is a link between holidays and US history: Constitution Day. Americans celebrate it that day because the US founders signed the Constituion on September 17, 1787--four years after the Treaty of Paris ended the US Revolution (aka War of Independence). (A Constitution is a written plan of government, an explanation of how a government will be set up, run, and what freedoms the people have.)  Constitution Day, which celebrates American liberty as free people, also follows just six days after 9/11, a day inflicted on the US by terrorists who hated American freedom.


September 17, 1987 was a big day in the USA--the bicentennial of the signing.  That was also a big time in my personal life; my first month teaching full time.  As a newly-minted history teacher just out of William and Mary and starting my career teaching in Richmond, Virginia, I thought it was important to teach my 11th grade US history students about that bicentennial event. The US Supreme Court judges, President Reagan and some other government leaders were on TV that day to mark the celebration. Wanting my students to be informed, I let them watch the ceremony during class. I remember a few students being interested, but I also remember many putting their heads on their desks to sleep, as I walked around trying to get them to pay attention. Looking back, I see that as a metaphor for our country. We Americans like to enjoy the freedoms our Constitution gives us, but not enough care to pay attention let alone fight to keep those freedoms. (Many teachers quit in the first three years of teaching, and I can see why. I am thankful I did not let those students' apathy discourage me; I have stuck with teaching ever since and it's been a fabulous career working with many fantastic students and families.)


Brief Overview:


The US Revolutionary War was fought from 1775-1783. On July 4, 1776, the US Congress approved the final language of the Declaration of Independence. That is why July 4th is considered "America's birthday." However, the Declaration just explained that Americans wanted to be free from English rule, and why. It also gave the world the name "The United States of America." It did not include a plan for government. Actually, the plan of government that the Americans used during the Revolutionary War was called the Articles of Confederation.  It was a weak system of government. In order to pass a law or raise taxes, all 13 states had to agree--something almost impossible to do, since each state had a distinct identity, communication was slow, and there was very little direct contact among the states. In those early years, the USA was almost more like 13 little, independent countries, that just worked together when it suited them. 

By the mid-1780's, many founders saw the need for a stronger plan of government. England had been defeated and had granted the US their independence by 1783, but the states had a hard time working together.


However, many other American leaders feared a stronger federal (national) government too. They thought: "we just fought an eight-year war to be free from the tyranny of the English king. A strong Constitution might make the states (and thus the people) enslaved to a NEW tyranny-- a strong federal government!"  Patrick Henry of Virginia was a famous example of such a person. When he heard that there was a meeting to create a new Constitution, which he thought would make the national government too strong and thus make the states too weak, he wrote: "I smell a rat."


1787 Meeting in Philadelphia:


A group of founders met in Philadephia, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1787 to improve or strengthen the Articles of Confederation. Instead, they created an entirely new plan! Interestingly, those men met in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...the same building that the founders met in 11 years earlier -- in 1776 -- to debate and write the Declaration of Independence. This makes Independence Hall one of the most famous buildings in the US and the bell that was in its tower, the Liberty Bell, a treasured icon of freedom. (Many are surprised to know there is a Bible verse carved on the Liberty Bell from Leviticus 25:10: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."  This is one more example of the huge role that the Bible and and the Jewish and Christian religions have played in the founding of the USA. Many do not want you to know this today, but it is true.)


Of those who met in Philadelphia that summer, James Madison of Virginia is considered among the most important. He arrived in the city armed with some specific ideas he wanted to see included in the new document and worked hard to see it accomplished, so he is called "The Father of the Constitution." The framers also voted to make George Washington of Virginia the president of the meeting. As the respected general who had led the American forces to victory over the British, his leadership gave immediate credibility to the convention. The crucial roles of Madison and Washington show how Virginia plays a key position in the birth of American civilization and human liberty. Also, since is based in Virginia, when you study English with us, you also learn more about US history and thinking.


The leaders who met in Independence Hall that long, hot summer had a hard time reaching agreements. They came from states as far north as New Hampshire or as far south as Georgia. Some owned slaves and some did not. Some were from big states like Virginia and some were from tiny states like Delaware. Simply put, they had many different views. Many times it seemed their meeting would end in failure, without their creating a new government plan. One of the biggest conflicts was over the issue of representation. That is, how would they decide which states got how much power? For example, the states with large or small populations has very different ideas about how power should be spread out. For example, large states like Virginia wanted power to be based on population. That is, the more people they had, the more power they would have in the government. This was called the "Virginia Plan." In contrast, small states were afraid of being "gobbled up" by the big states and they wanted each state to have equal power. This was called the "Connecticut Plan." For awhile it seemed the discussion would break down. Finally, the framers created  the "Great Compromise." The solution? Congress would have two houses. The House of Representatives would have seats based on population, which made big states happy. Big states like Virginia and New York would have more seats and thus more votes. In contrast, the Senate would give each state the same number of seats, and thus power, so that made the small states feel safe in the new system, that they could defend their interests. This is a wonderful example of how history influences the present: the Congress still has two houses set up this way, till today!


Another concern of the framers was: how to keep the new government from becoming a dictatorship? They had just fought a long war to be free. They knew from studying history, those in power love power and want to keep it.  So, the founders thought of human nature. They reasoned, since human nature makes people selfish and desire power, then the way to prevent the government from becoming a dictatorship is to spread out the power, so no one person or group has all the authority. So, they created a government based on three branches, where each has some power to "check," or control, the others. These closely-related ideas are called "Checks and Balances" and "Separation of Powers."




The new Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, so that is why this date is now called Constitution Day. However, the Constitution did not go into effect right away. The founders required that nine of the original 13 colonies would have to approve, or ratify, the new document before it went into effect.  This was to guarantee that a majority of states agreed to the new plan. Tiny Delaware, believing they would be safer if included in a strong Union, was the first to ratify the document. This is why today Delaware's licence plates say "The First State." (For dates each state ratified the Constitution click here.)


Many do not know this now, but there were FIERY arguments among Americans who supported or opposed the new Constitution. Those in favor were called "Federalists" while those opposed were called "Anti-Federalists."  In general, wealthy, urban areas were pro-federalist while poorer, rural areas were anti-federalist.


The ninth state to ratify the Constitution was tiny New Hampshire, so the Constitution was technically approved. However, the two biggest states at that time-- Virginia and New York-- had not approved it yet, thus making the new plan's survival unlikely. Plus, not only were Virginia and New York big in population, they were  big in areas--stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian Mountains. So, while these two "giants" were not yet onboard, the nine states of the United States were not even contiguous; that means, they did not even touch each other, so the nation's long-term chances looked slim. It was not till later that summer when Virginia and New York voted to join, the the Constitution appear to be on a strong foundation. (This is one more example of the important role that Virginia has played in US history. And since is based in Virginia, not only do you learn English here, but you learn about US history, life and culture too!)


(Later, in 1860 and 1861, this ratification process was cited by the leaders of the 11 Southern states who voted to seceed, or leave, the Union. Their reasoning was: "Some eighty years ago, our grandfathers debated and voted to let our state join the USA. Now, we the grandsons are also free to debate and vote to LEAVE the Union. In other words, if our state was free to voluntarily join 80-some years ago, we are free to voluntarily LEAVE now." Newly-elected President Lincoln did not see it that way, and the Civil War began in April 1861.)


The Bill of Rights:


So, some American leaders liked this new Constitution while others did not. Later, to get more Americans to agree to support the new plan of government, there was another compromise: Add a Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights, which became the first ten amendments to the Constitution, guarantee personal freedoms such as freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, etc. (Read the Bill of Rights here.) The Bill of Rights was written after the Constitution, as a separate document. However, since it was the first part added to the Constitution and made it more popular, the Bill of Rights is seen as a critically-important part of the Constitution. (Source)  Many do not know this today, but the 10th Amendment reads: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This means several things. For one, the Constitution was designed to be LIMITED in nature. In other words, unless it specifically grants a power ot the federal government, all other authority rests with the states and the people. Also, it shows the supremacy of the states. (source)  (Many tell you that slavery was the main cause of the US Civil War in 1861, but that is not true. Lincoln allowed slavery to continue in Union states such as Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri for the whole war. A more accurate explanation for the cause of the Civil War was: who would win the tug of war of power: the states or federal government?) The Union victory over the South at Appomattox, Virginia in 1865 sealed the federal goverment as supreme over the states, and since the New Deal of the 1930's, this trend has accelerated.)


Today, it is crucial that we understand the role of the US Constitution. The USA is not  a perfect country by any means--far from it. However, we should know that the US Constitution, dating to 1787, is the longest-used Constitution of any country in the world today!


The Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence and many other crucial documents are on display in the National Archives in Washington D.C. 


Some threats to the Constitution and our liberties today:


  • Twisting the language: Many like to call the Constitution "a living and breathing document." That sounds good, and yes, the Constitution CAN and DOES change to meet changing times. Specifically, amendments can be added to address specific needs. For example, later amendments have banned slavery, given women the right to vote, etc. However, some people twist that phrase into something like: The Constitution can be interpreted into whatever we want it to mean. Some even say, "The Constitution means whatever the judges say it means, or the judges WANT it to say."  (source) In contrast, "Originalists" are those who insist one must read and interepret the Constitution based on what the founders intended, and on the original intent of the document.


  • Out-of-Control Presidency: Also, over the years, the role of the US President has grown very large, probably far larger than the framers intended. If you read the Constituion for yourself, you will see that Article I establishes a legislative branch, with two houses of Congress. Article I is the longest and most-detailed part of the Constitution. Since the text setting up Congress comes first and has the most information, most believe that the founders wanted Congress to be the most powerful of the branches. In contrast, the president is not discussed till Article II, and the judicial branch comes in Article III. As I write this on Constitution Day 2018, the US "trade war" with China and many other countries is in the news. However, the Constitution says that CONGRESS has the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations." It is not President Trump's authority to oversee trade, but Congress' job! (source) A few years President Obama declared his "DREAMERS" act to legalize some people in the US illegally, but that was also not in his jurisdiction. It is the job of Congress to write immigration law, not the president's to just declare it. (source) The other night while driving I was listening to some radio news, and the "talking heads" were lamenting: "Why won't Congress do its Constitutional duty and stand up to President Trump?" I remember thinking: why complain about it now? Congress has been passive and letting presidents have way too much power for most of my  lifetime--why are you waking up to this problem only now?


  • "Hate Speech": A tricky thing about "hate speech" is...what is it? And who decides what "hate speech" is? Beginning in the 1990's and getting stronger and stronger, much "free speech" is being stifled because someone somewhere might label it "hate speech." Nowadays, it seems many think that if you say or write something that might "offend" one person or make one person "feel uncomfortable," then you should not be able to say it. This thinking is especially true on many college campuses, which is ironic, because a university should be a place to argue and debate MORE ideas, not fewer. The group FIRE works hard to defend free speech, especially on campuses.


Want to study more about the US Constitution yourself? Hillsdale College in Michigan offers a FREE online class, "Introduction to the Constitution." Check it out here.


Thanks for reading! Want to know more about English and life in the USA? Join one of our online classes today. Contact me to find out more!

Tuesday, 11 September 2018 19:59

9/11 Patriot Day

America's New Holiday


"Holidays." The word brings happy images to most people.  Holidays include Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Chinese New Year, and so many more.  But in the USA, September 11, also called 9/11, is a sad holiday, now called "Patriot Day."


Older Americans--those born around the mid-1950's and earlier--remember where they were when they heard JFK was shot in 1963


Also, most Americans born before the early 1990's remember where they were on the morning of September 11, 2001, when they heard of the news of the terrible terrorist attacks.

I remember that day well.  After a hot Virginia summer, that Tuesday morning was suddenly cool and comfortable, with a beautiful clear, blue sky. I rode my bike that morning like normal to my job teaching 9th grade high school history, and the ride was refreshing and pleasant.

That year my planning period was first period in the morning, so as the 11th grade history teacher was lecturing in the classroom, I went back to our department office so I could do some lesson planning. The phone rang, and it was the wife of the 11th grade teacher.

"Is Dave there?" she asked.

"Yes, but he's teaching next door right now-- can I take a message?" I asked.

She responded: "Yes, tell him I just heard the news that a plane crashed into a building in New York City just now."  As I remember, I think she also suggested we turn on the TV to watch the news ourselves.

I told her I would pass the news on to him and hung up. Hearing that news, I imagined such a crash as being an accident; I could not fathom someone actually flying a plane into a building to kill people!

I went into the classroom and apologized for interrupting, but told the teacher his wife had just called and wanted me to tell him about the plane crash. As I remember, the teacher asked the class for a moment of silence, then we turned on the TV.  The crash had occured at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time, (Virginia, Washington D.C. and New York are in the same time zone), so we all sat in stunned, silent disbelief to see smoke pouring from the side of the North Tower of the World Trade Center in downtown New York. At that point, I was still thinking, "this must have been some terrible accident."  I even remember thinking: "The sky is a clear blue up there in New York, just like here in Roanoke. How could a plane fly into a building? The visibility is excellent!"


There are two English idioms, "right out of the blue" or "a bolt from the blue," that both refer to a total shock, the same way a person would never expect to see a bolt of lightning come from a clear, blue sky. That is how we all felt that morning: the attack was truly "right out of the blue," a surprise plane crash on a clear day with excellent visibility.


Then at 9:03, as we all stared at the TV, we saw a second jet crash into the South Tower, setting off a tremendous fireball! The TV news reporters started yammering in shock, as surprised as the rest of us. That was when we all knew this was no "accident" -- we were under a deliberate attack! Even more shocked, we all sat, glued to the TV

Then, the news broke in: a jet had crashed at the Pentagon! Soon we saw a split screen on the TV: one side showed smoke pouring out from both World Trade Center (WTC) towers, and the other side showed smoke billowing from the Pentagon! The terrorists had not only hit the US, they had also hit our state of Virginia!

(In the years since, when discussing the events of 9/11, I often ask my students, "What places were hit on 9/11?"  Everyone knows that New York was a target, but many others also answer "Washington D.C." But that is wrong. The Pentagon is in Virginia. Since it is the main building for the Defense Department, a major part of the US government, most people associate it with Washington. However, the Pentagon is on the south side of the Potomac River, right across from the famous Jefferson Memorial, so it is actually on Virginia soil.)

Later, as we all sat in shocked disbelief, other rumors began to spread. "Planes hit Washington D.C.!" "Planes are falling down in other places too!" By late morning we heard that a jet plane had crashed somewhere in Pennsylvania. 

At some point during the day, the school superintendent sent out the order: ALL TV's in all the schools must be turned off. All of us, students and teachers alike, were upset, because we wanted to know what was happening, plus we thought we NEEDED to know. Also, we knew history was happening that day. Yet, we needed to obey the orders, so the TV's went off. (It may sound crazy to young people who grew up in a world where wifi is everywhere and cell phones are like "mini-computers," but as recently as 2001, the TV was still a main source of information, so when the TV went off, our main source of news in the classroom was what we could get on the radio--a technology from the 1920's!) Needless to say, all we could think about and talk about the rest of the day were the horrific attacks we had just seen.

(The next day we found out why the superintendent had ordered all TV's off-- it turns out, some teachers of kindergarten and first grade classes -- unbelievably -- had their TV's on too and were letting the small children watch those terrible images. So, to protect the younger children, all TV's were to be shut off.)



President George W. Bush


That morning, President George W. Bush had been in the US state of Florida, reading books to young children. That night on the news we saw images of him when an aide whispered to him about the attacks, and he quickly left the room. then back to his airplane, Air Force One.  Read here to find out more about what President Bush did and where he went on that fateful day.   Even his advisors thought the first attack might have been an accident, and it was only when the second plane hit that they realized it had been terrorism. His advisers' first concern was the president's safety and they thought him returning to Washington could put him at risk.  Still, against his advisers' wishes, Bush insisted he go back to White House by that evening.

On the night of 9/11, President Bush spoke to the nation on TV, and in his speech he recited the 23rd Psalm from the Bible. In other words, in the early days of the 21st century, when America was reeling from a brutal shock, President Bush reached back 3,000 years to quote a Psalm from the Jewish King David.  (Recently Chinese students have asked me about the role of God, Christianity and the  Bible in the U.S. government. The role is huge and historic, too much to address here, but Bush quoting from the Bible that night, in America's darkest hour, shows the respected role the Bible holds in American public life.)


One of the first things Bush did after the attacks was demand that ALL non-military planes be grounded, for days. In those early hours, with plane after plane crashing, no one knew how many more hijakers were out there, so to reduce the risk, all planes landed. team teacher Mr. Woodson and his wife were flying from the US to Taipei, Taiwan that day, and got stuck in the US state of Michigan for four days. Even President George Bush Senior, George W. Bush's father, was flying that day and was grounded mid-trip. All across America, as flights were stopped for four days, people were scrambling to rent cars or get on buses or trains to get to their destinations.


Read Mr. Woodson's first-hand account here in his own words. (Note: In history studies, a "secondary source" comes from an author writing about an event that he or she learned about but did not observe personally. For example, books written today about Abraham Lincoln are secondary sources. In contrast, a "primary source" comes from an author writing about an event that he or she saw or experienced first-hand. Examples include diaries, letters, records, and photographs. Mr. Woodson's account below, and my personal observations in this post, are all primary sources, and these are of special value in the study of history.)


Sept. 11th, 2001 was the day we were to leave Virginia for Taiwan  where I planned to work for several years as a university English teacher. My wife, 7 yr. old daughter, and I flew out of Richmond around 8:30 that morning, heading for Detroit where we were to change to our flight from the U.S. to Asia. Thankfully, the one and a half hour flight was uneventful, and we landed safely in Detroit around 10 a.m. When the plane came to a stop at the gate where we were to disembark, the pilot calmly made this short announcement, "There's been some terrorist activity; it's going to be an interesting day." 

Only after we disembarked and entered the terminal did we passengers realize the gravity of his message. The videos playing on every TV monitor showed what had happened a couple of hours earlier. Everyone watched in utter disbelief at the visions of collapsing towers and a burning section of the Pentagon. When we finally regained some composure, we headed to our airline's information desk to find out what to do next. We were informed that all flights were cancelled until further notice, and that we should arrange to leave the airport by ground travel or stay in a local hotel until flights resumed. Our check-on baggage would be held for us, but we would not have access to it. 
We were fortunate enough to get a room in a local hotel, so checked in there with our carry-on baggage. The sky was blue on this lovely September day, but the only things that flew around the Detroit airport for the next 4 days were birds. Finally, our carrier informed us that we would be able to leave on our Asian flight, so we boarded the second international flight out of Detroit International Airport after 9/11. Our extraordinary travel experience wasn't over, however, because we arrived in Taipei airport on the eve of a typhoon that brought the worst flooding Taipei had experienced in 50 years! 
A dear friend who serves with Youth With A Mission picked us up from the airport and transported us to an apartment in Dan Shui where we stayed for a few days until the storm subsided. Thankfully, the university I had interviewed with back in August hired me to teach English in their Language Center, and I spent the next five years doing that and having an enjoyable time living with my family in Taipei. 


Even years later, I still remember the odd but reassuring feeling to be in my home in Roanoke, Virgina, at night, and again hear planes in the sky, after days of silence. It's funny how so many "little things" of life we actually miss, when they are gone.


United Flight 93 


Most of the attention on 9/11 was on the twin towers of the WTC, with somewhat less attention on the Pentagon. After all, most of the dead were in New York. Of all four crashes, the least attention had been placed on the last, mainly because that plane crashed into an empty field. All on board were killed, but at least none on the ground were. Why? In the days and weeks after the attacks, we began to learn more.


On 9/11, there were 19 hijackers-- but the original terrorist plot had called for 20. As it turned out, US intelligence had flagged one hijacker as dangerous and he was not allowed on the plane. (Many have since asked, why were the other 19 allowed to board? How can we make the US more secure against future attacks?)    As it turned out, the one hijacker kept off a flight was kept off of Flight 93. So, of the four planes, that one only had four hijackers onboard, not five. Plus, since Flight 93 was the last one to be hijacked, the passengers had already heard of the previous three crashes. (In all the years before 9/11, the common wisdom about hijackers was: Be calm, and do what they say. The idea was, people hijack planes to make some statement or get some political goal, so just be calm and you'll eventually be released. This is why, on the first three hijacked flights, we do not know of anybody trying to fight back.  Plus, with five armed terrorists aboard, the passengers were probably too petrified to move, let alone try to fight back.)  9/11 was the first time the world was introduced to SUICIDAL hijackers who wanted to die!) Imagine the horror those passengers experienced when they got cell phone calls and messages about planes being taken over then flown into the WTC and Pentagon. Then, imagine THEIR horror when THEIR plane was hijacked over Ohio and it started flying back east!


Todd Beamer  was a 32-year-old from Michigan, flying on Flight 93 that day.  When he got the awful news of the other attacks, and the terrorists had taken over his plane, he tried to call his wife and tell her he loved her, but because it was so early, he could not reach her.  (In fact, since the four planes were all flying early in the morning from the East Coast to the West Coast, it was about 6 a.m. on the West Coast, so many passengers tried to call home in their last moments but only got to leave messages on their answering machines!)  When Beamer, a white male, could not reach his wife, he spoke with the phone operator, Lisa Jefferson, a black woman.  Beamer and Jefferson, who did not know each other, prayed the Lord's Prayer together. Both were Christians and Americans, which shows that their belief in Jesus and identity as Americans is greater than gender or skin color. You can read Jefferson's inspirational story here

After they prayed together, Todd Beamer famously said "Let's Roll" as a few other courageous passengers and he rose up and fought the hijackers. Had their been the full five terrorists onboard, they would have had the advantage, but with only four, that gave the passengers a fighting chance. The plane weaved in the sky as both sides fought for control. Sadly, the passengers lost because, unlike the terrorists, they had no weapons. But, by going after the cockpit, the passengers forced the terrorists to ditch the plane over an empty field, thus saving their desired target-- the U.S Capitol building. As AWFUL as 9/11 was-- and it was awful-- it would have been FAR WORSE if the fourth plane had hit the U.S Capitol! That building, with its huge dome on an exposed hill in Washington, D.C, was a sitting duck.  The U.S. Capitol dome, which was half-completed when Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861, is one of America's most iconic structures.


It is interesting and ironic. With all the first responders going in to help and the massive US military response after 9/11, the first counter-attack against terrorism on 9/11 was NOT done by the police, the army, the air force, or any armed force. It was not organized by any general or police chief. The FIRST counter-attack was done by brave, unarmed, "normal" people who happened to be traveling on Flight 93 that day!  An important part of the traditional "American mindset" is "taking action" and "doing what you need to do." Those people on Flight 93 were heroes who gave their lives by fighting back, and saving the U.S. Capitol and hundreds if not thousands of other lives on the ground.   (See the Flight 93 flight map here.)

The terrorists, though they had twisted thinking, had clear symbolism with their targets. The twin towers of the WTC, near Wall Street and the US stock market, represent America's economy and free market. The Pentagon, main office of the Defense Deparement, represents America's military and ability to defend freedom. Lastly, the Capitol, home to the U.S. Congress (the House of Representatives and Senate), represents our free and democratic way of government.   The terrorists were also diabolical in their choice of flights to take over. All four began on the East Coast and were to fly to California; so, all four were full of the maximum amount of jet fuel which would make the biggest and most deadly fireballs possible. 


Today there is a Flight 93 Memorial, a National Park unit, in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. President Trump spoke there on 9-11-2018. Watch the full speech here.  President Trump in his speech referred to "radical Islamic terrorism" as being the force behind the attacks, which of course is the case. In contrast, President Obama would never utter those words together. 


Immediate Aftermath


  • In the days and even weeks after 9/11, most Americans just stayed home after work or school, staring at the TV news, hardly able to take it in. The news kept running images from that horrific day and interviewing people who had lived through it. Sunday church attendance nationwide went way up, for awhile.


  • Just three days after the attack, President Bush went to "Ground Zero" in New York, where the twin towers had stood, and gave his now-famous "bullhorn speech," where he thanked the first responders and called for American resolve. It was an iconic scene and moment.


  • Later, with so many people just staying at home, President Bush urged Americans to go out to eat and to go on vacation.  Stimulate the economy!  Trying to support the president and my country, I took my family out to an Italian restaurant for dinner a few days after 9/11.  I remember it was half-empty, but we tried to do our part. That was ironic too: in wars past, such as WW II, it was patriotic to save and NOT buy things, but this time it was patriotic to spend money and buy things! I remember big yellow signs by some motels reading "THANKS FOR TRAVELING."


  • Since the WTC was right next to Wall Street, this area of lower New York City is America's financial capital. Since everyone was in shock that day and to prevent a market collapse, the US Stock Market did not open on 9-11-2001, and in fact remained closed until September 17--the longest closure since 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression! When the stock market reopened, it dropped by 7.1%, the biggest one-day loss in history. When the markets closed that Friday, stocks had dropped over 14% just that week! (source)


  • Furthermore, the entire U.S. tourism industry suffered -- especially Hawaii, because you have to fly to get there. It took months for flights to get back to full-booking again. After all that had happened, many people were afraid to get on a plane, and some still are!


  • Watching the attacks that day--first the billowing smoke and fire, then the horror of seeing both skyscrapers collapse--we were wondering: how many people are trapped inside?! Tragically, many jumped to their deaths rather than burn to death inside. The first death estimates were around 6,000, considering how many people would normally be at work during office hours in those two skyscrapers. The eventual death count for the day was 2,977 killed--the vast majority (2,753) was killed in the WTC, but also 184 were killed inside the Pentagon, and all passengers and crew aboard all four planes perished too. (source). (In contrast, 2,335 US military personnel were killed when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.) The terrorists wanted it to be an "attack on America," which it was, but it was also an attack on the WORLD, when you consider that 27 killed were citizens of other countries, and countless others had either dual-citizenship or had been born overseas but had since gotten US citizenship (source).   Sadly, the death toll has gone up since then, because many people later got cancer or other diseases from their exposure to harmful chemicals and smoke that day. Many still suffer from health problems from 9/11.


  • As people discussed the attack, some told stories of people they knew who had been involved. I distinctly remember one day while I was seated in the hallway of our high school building, on hall duty. One woman I worked with--she was involved with gifted eductation in our school system--stopped by to chat. While discussing 9/11, she told me she had lost a niece in the attack on the Pentagon. I was stunned. She told me her niece had been a secretary in the Pentagon, where she prepared reports and made coffee for the generals and staff. Her office had been at the spot where the third plane had crashed, killing her instantly. My friend continued, adding that of course her family was heartbroken, but that "she was ready to go." My friend explained that her niece had been a strong Christian and knew Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and so her family knew she was in "a better place," and that gave them tremendous comfort.


  • The woman I co-taught with that year (She taught English while I taught history) is married to a firefighter. She told me that although 9/11 had shocked the whole nation, her husband and all firefighters were especially torn up. That was because first responders (police and firefighters) paid a very heavy price that day; many died rescuing others. She explained: "Did you see all the news? While everyone else was running AWAY from the danger, to be safe, all the first responders were running TO the danger, to try to help as many people as they could." Those first responders were among the many heroes of that day.


Since 9/11


  • I have been a teacher since 1987, and a major teachers' union, the National Education Association (NEA) often issues lesson plans and ways for teachers to discuss and approach certain issues in classrooms. The NEA has a strong left-wing political bias, and they shocked many people when, in the year after the 9/11 attacks, they told teachers they should not "assign blame" for the attacks. Many thought: that's crazy! Are we supposed to believe the attacks "just happened," they way you might teach about an earthquake or tornado?   The attacks were a deliberate act; here are the 19 hijackers, the faces of hatred.


  • As soon as flights resumed after 9/11, airport security was heightened. Passengers were told to report to airports much earlier, to allow for the longer and more thorough screenings. Most passengers do not like the annoyance but realize it is now necessary. Overall border security went way up too. I remember pre-9/11, a whole carload of people could cross the border between the US and Canada if just the driver only showed a driver's license. That was just one example of the long-standing friendship between our two countries. No more. Now, each person needs an actual passport. As part of heightened security, President Bush and Congress created a new government agency: the Department of Homeland Security  


  • Every year since 2001, there have been annual observances in New York City, at the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. 


  • September 11 is now a new holiday: Patriot Day. (Note: do NOT confuse this with Patriots' Day. That is a state holiday in Massachusetts and some other parts of New England, on the third Monday in April, to remember the April 19, 1775 battles between American "minutemen" and the British soldiers going to take away American guns and gunpowder. Those first fights at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, are seen as the beginning of the American Revolution, or War of Independence.)


  • It may seem odd, but within just a few years after 9/11, the news media largely stopped showing images of the massive fireballs from the twin towers. In their annual coverage, they show images of presidents giving speeches or people crying or placing flowers by a monument, but the fireball image--the iconic scene from that day--is noticeably absent. Do not take my word for it. Watch your own 9/11 coverage and decide for yourself. Why do you think that is? I have my ideas, but I invite you to think over it and come to your own conclusion.  (Photograph by Spencer Platt-- source)

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  • On 9/11 now, many people fly US flags, even at their home, and many flags are at half-staff.


  • Because of the attacks, many people chose to move away from New York City because they thought it was going to be too dangerous of a target in the future. In fact, many people left other big cities too, like Chicago, Los Angeles and others, for the same reason. (Of course, far more stayed than moved away.) Small world: just today I was speaking on the phone with a man I had never met before. We were chatting and he mentioned he had moved to Southwest Virginia in 2002 from New York City, and I asked him what had led to that change. He told me, "After 9/11, I decided I wanted to live in a safer area, so we moved to Bedford County and we live on Smith Mountain Lake. We raised our family here." When I asked him how he felt about the move, he said he had made the right choice. "The people here are kind and gracious, and I have been to many places in my life, and this area is by far my favorite." So as we wrap up this post about 9/11, it is a blessing to finish with the story of a man for whom that catastrophe led to a new place of residence and a whole new way of life. 


For another account of that fateful September 11, read this blog


This post is written and dedicated to the 9/11 victims and their families. Reflect and Remember.


Thank you for reading. If you would like to know more about the English language, contact me at to register for an English class and to learn more about life in the USA.


Thursday, 23 August 2018 23:28

Top 10 Most Beautiful Places in China

A good friend of mine recently returned from a family trip to China, where he visited the famous Li River and Yangshuo. Small world: my wife and I had been in that same spot just a month before! 


China has some truly beautiful scenic spots, and this link gives (what is in the author's opinion) the top-ten most beautiful. The author, Cindy Tang, writes well. She has a strong vocabulary and does well to explain the beauty of these spots in words.


Do you live in China or have you been there before? If so, which of these places have you visited?  You can read her article here


In addition to beautiful sights, China has delicious food too! Check out this list of some of China's top dishes!  


And finally, to link food with geography, this is a map showing China's eight major culinary regions. In a land as vast as China, the regional differences in food and taste are vast. You can learn more about the individual food regions and their signature tastes and dishes here


 Gfp chinese thanksgiving feast


    Do you want to improve your English writing? Learn more about our online English classes here and contact me today to find out how we        can help you!


Tuesday, 21 August 2018 13:18


The word "copia" comes from Latin and can mean abundance or fullness. (Learn more.) A cornucopia, or Horn of Plenty, is a symbol of abundance and blessing, often seen in Thanksgiving decorations. 

In writing and speaking, "copia" refers to the communicator drawing from a large "well" of expressions so one can be rich and versatile with words, instead of being terse and tongue-tied.

In an online writing class today, I asked the students to finish this sentence: It has been a/n ________ summer. This is what they wrote:


Katie: It has been a hectic summer.

Alex: It has been a humid summer.

Ian: It has been an enjoyable summer.

Me: It has been a fast summer. 


Then I asked them to rewrite their sentence in as many ways as they could; it's fine if they change the shade of meaning some, but they have to keep the overall idea the same.

This is what they came up with:


Ian:  It has been an enjoyable summer.

It has been an entertaining summer.

It has been an amusing summer.

It has been a delightful vacation.

It has been a pleasurable summer.

It has been a delightable summer.

It has been a congenial summer.

It has been a lovely summer.

It has been a pleasant time.

It has been a wonderful summer.

It has been a sublime summer.

It has been a magnificient break.



Katie:  It has been a hectic summer.

It has been an exciting summer.

It has been a chaotic summer.

It has been a busy summer.

It has been a crazy summer.

It has been a frantic summer. 

It has been a summer filled with traveling. 


Alex:  It has been a humid summer.

It has been a moist summer.

It has been a soggy summer.

It has been a wet summer.

It has been a sweltering summer.

It has been a steamy summer.

It has been a muggy summer.



Scott:  It has been a fast summer.

The summer has sped by.

It's been an action-packed summer.

It's been a busy summer.

It's been an eventful summer.

Wow! What a full summer!

The summer break has been action-packed.

This summer has been full to the brim.

The time has flown by this summer.

This summer: where did the time go?

I can't believe how quickly this summer has flown by.

I can't believe it's late August: where did the summer go?

I can't believe there are only a few days of summer break left.

I can't believe there are only a few days of summer left.

I can't believe there are only a few days of summer vacation left.


See how it works? This is a GREAT way to push writers to think of more and different ways to express the same idea. Again, there may be some slight differences with shades of meaning, but this forces writers (or speakers) to expand their vocabulary and ways of expression. is a great tool for helping build one's vocabulary. Another way is to join a Advanced Vocabulary or Writing Classes


Here are the three students' brief reports on their summer. They had to write it in class, so they said much in the short time. The topic was broad and gave them lots of latitude to work with, and I liked how all three approached the prompt differently. For example, Ian took the broadest approach: he briefly reported on the party at the bowling alley on his first day out of school, trips to Hualien and Kaohsiung in Taiwan, then he closed with his summer classes. In contrast, Alex and Katie chose to zoom in on one particular aspect of their summer. Alex focused on his family's trip to Europe, then zoomed in on Prague, specifically Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and the Old Town. Katie focused on her family's trip to the US to take her brother to tour college campuses, yet she zeroed in on the transportation aspect. That is part of the beauty of writing: the writer chooses what to focus on! Take a look! 



How was your summer break? My summer is sometimes packed with classes and homework, while other times overflow with fun and entertainment. On the last day of school last June, right after we left for the summer, my classmates and I threw a party at a bowling alley. It was unbelievably exciting, so the time quickly sped past. In the blink of an eye,days were flying past. Two weeks ago my family visited relatives in Hualien, and my brothers, my younger cousin, and I had a great time. We taught our four-year-old cousin how to swim and played together at other times. One day we after we got home from east Taiwan, we drove south to Kaoshiung, where I soon found myself lolling on a cozy sofa, watching TV motionlessly. However, those trips were the calm before the storm because as soon as we returned home, I was bombarded with multiple classes and piles of homework each day. I have baking classes every morning, while English and swimming lessons in the afternoon made me so stressed I fall right asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow at night. But despite all the work, this summer is amazing!


-- Ian in Hsinchu, Taiwan



My summer of 2018 has been the best in my life so far. Why?prague 2367366 960 720 This summer, I went to three different countries in Europe-- Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic-- turning the scenic views from pictures into a reality. In my opinion, Prague was the most memorable city from the Europe Trip: we visited the Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, and rented an Airbnb in the iconic Old Town. First, we strolled across the Charles Bridge, inspecting the handcrafted sculptures and the amazing view of the Old Town. Luckily, we were there early in the morning, so we enjoyed the Charles Bridge mostly to ourselves. Then, we prowled around Prague Castle; since the castle has been used for centuries, display boards explained the different battle tactics and the cruel methods of how enemy soldiers and spies were tortured down through the years. Despite the incredible experience of seeing Charles Bridge and Prague Castle, the Old Town was the most memorable place in Prague, due to the red-tiled roofs, which one does not see anywhere in Taiwan. Not only has my summer been a blast, but it has also taught me that we live in a truly diverse world.


-- Alex in Hsinchu, Taiwan




My summer was filled with travel, both in cars and on airplanes. As we had been touring colleges all across the US all summer, we had to trek from campus to campus. We visited many places in the US, including many states I had never been to, for example Michigan, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois. In addition to driving and flying, we would take the subway around the city, like what we did in Boston. Because we flew so much, I noticed some differences between the airlines in Asia and in the US. For example, those in Asia always serve complimentary meals (unless the flight is only about 30 minutes), and always have an entertainment system, which contrasts to American airlines, where you have to pay to watch. Although I spent countless hours on airplanes and in cars, it was an extremely exciting summer.


-- Katie in Hsinchu, Taiwan



Do YOU want to improve your writing skills? Or those of your children? Contact me today to find out how we might be able to help you!  



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