English Corner – Simple Present Tense

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“Hobbies, routines, and daily habits are key actions that are described by the simple present tense.”

If you’re a student of the English language, chances are good that you’re familiar with the ‘Present Tense’ grammar form. In order to form basic sentences in your writing or to make yourself understood verbally when speaking to a native speaker, it’s important to learn the ‘Present Tense’ especially before moving on to the ‘Past’ and ‘Future’ tenses which is slightly more advanced and complicated to master.

The ‘Present Tense’ is divided into two forms: the ‘Simple’ present tense and the ‘Continuous’ or ‘Progressive’ present tense. In order to fully understand the present tense grammar form, it’s important to understand both the ‘simple’ and ‘continuous’ aspects to this concept. Please follow along and read through this blog post if you’re a student of English grammar and want to better understand the ‘Simple Present Tense.’ For next month’s edition of English Corner, we will focus on the ‘Present Continuous Tense’ and how that grammar tense is formed correctly.

The Simple Present tense is regarded as being the easiest to learn and most vital tense to master in order to the basics of English grammar down. For example, the simple present tense uses verbs like “to be” and changes the form into singular or plural depending on if you are referring to one more person or more.

For Example:

  • He is on his way to the store to pick up some fruits and vegetables.
  • They are at the ballpark tonight to watch the baseball game.

We can see from these examples how the verb “to be” is put into the simple present tense using the word ‘is’ or ‘are’ depending on if the subject of the sentence is singular or plural. For the subject ‘He’, the corresponding simple present tense form of “to be” would be is which is singular. For the subject ‘They’, the corresponding simple present tense form of “to be” would be are which is plural. With the subject word ‘I’ which is singular, we will use the word am which is singular but is different from the word ‘is’ which is used for ‘he’, ‘she’, or ‘it.’ The subject words of ‘they’, ‘you’ or ‘we’ would be used for the word ‘are’ as mentioned before.

The structure of the present simple tense is quite easy to form correctly when compared to other English tenses. You simply need to put the subject and the main verb together to form the basis of a sentence. This goes for positive sentences which don’t have a negative connotation or which form the basis of a question.

For Example:

1) I do like to swim with my friends at the lake.

The subject for this sentence is the word ‘I’ and the verb form is ‘do’ and it is possible sometimes to follow one verb with another verb or two verbs, as is the case with this sentence. ‘Do’ and ‘like’ can be together as well as ‘to swim’ and then to finish off the sentence with ‘my friends’ who are the objects and ‘at the lake’ which is the location along with a prepositional phrase.

The first verb in a sentence when there are other verbs after is known as the auxiliary verb, which comes before the main verb(s). Once again, it’s important to note that ‘I do’ can change form into becoming ‘He does’ or ‘She does.’ It is a common rule that the verb must be modified to change depending on which subject word in English is being used.

If you need to make a simple present sentence negative, it’s important to add the word ‘not’ after the auxiliary verb of ‘to do.’

For Example:

1) I do not like to dance because the basic moves are hard for me.

2) He does not want to go to work because he does not like his boss.

Regardless of the subject word being ‘I’ or ‘He’, there will always be a ‘not’ after the auxiliary verb. You can have multiple verbs being used in a simple present sentence as well. There is no limit to the amount as long as the sentence makes grammatical sense to the audience.

In order to form a question using the simple present tense, the order of the sentence needs to change slightly in order to reflect this shift. Instead of the ‘subject word’ leading off the sentence, the auxiliary verb of ‘to do’ must be at the beginning. You can either put ‘do’ or ‘does’ at the beginning of a simple present tense sentence. After that, you can place the subject word whether it is ‘I’ or ‘you’ right after the auxiliary verb. In this case, after the auxiliary verb and the subject comes the main verb and then finally the object which is wrapped up with a question mark to finish the sentence.

For Example:

1) Do you like to go skiing?

2) Does he know who you are?

It’s important to remember that the positive form of a simple present tense sentence doesn’t have an auxiliary verb in it while there is one in both the negative and the question form of the sentence. With the main verb for the positive form, it’s important to add an ‘s’ to the end of the word especially if it’s a third-person subject like ‘it’, ‘he’ or ‘she’ in order to make the sentence grammatically correct.

For Example:

  • He likes to dance salsa on Saturday night.
  • She knows that it’s important to study for the Chemistry exam.

When it comes to the negative and question forms of the simple present tense, certain rules must be observed. The auxiliary verb form must be used in both cases and also needs to be conjugated. The main verb form does not change and often comes in its’ normal form which is ‘to ____’. For negative sentences, the word not must come between the auxiliary verb and the main verb for the sentence to be coherent. Lastly, The auxiliary verb has to come at the beginning of a question sentence while the subject comes afterwards which is a reversal of what you would see in a positive or negative form of the simple present tense.

In terms of using the simple present tense correctly, it’s best usage comes in terms of describing general times and situations. Action verbs like ‘to do’, ‘to eat’, ‘to work’, ‘to dance’, and ‘to swim’, etc. are apart of the simple present tense umbrella of usage. This grammar tense is instrumental in describing a statement, which is always true as well as describing actions, which are continuous, habitual, or come from a routine. The simple present tense is most often associated with the verb ‘to be’ which can describe whom somebody is, what they do, where are they going, and why they are unique. The simple present tense can describe those actions, which happen in all forms of time whether it is the past, present, and future.

Out of all English grammar forms, the ‘Simple Present’ tense forms the base of a simple sentence. For any Basic English language student out there, it’s a necessity to master this concept before moving on to other forms of the present tense. After successfully understanding the methodology and the usage behind the simple present tense, an English learner will be ready to move on to the next challenge: The ‘Present Continuous’ tense.

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English Corner – Conjunctions

This ‘English Corner’ on the subject of conjunctions is a continuation of an ongoing blog post series with a new post every month to help English language learners to better understand the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in order to better develop their own proficiency. I have over two years of experience of teaching the English language to non-native speakers, both online and in person.

I hope to use these posts to help you, the reader, improve your understanding of English, and also develop your fluency. If you have any questions about this ‘English Corner’ post, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Any constructive feedback is appreciated and I hope that this will become a popular series of posts within my website. If you enjoy my ‘English Corner’ series, you can also request private English lessons with me through the WordPress message system.

Second only to ‘Prepositions’ in terms of grammatical importance, ‘Conjunctions’ play a vital role in the formation of sentences in the English language. Conjunctions do the important job of connecting words and phrases together to form a complete sentence. Examples of conjunctions include although, and, because, but, etc. Instead of forming simple sentences such as: “I like to play sports”, we can then add on to this sentence by adding the word ‘and’ to create a complete sentence which could be “I like to play sports and hang out with my friends on the weekends.”

Having a good grasp on conjunctions can make writing complete sentences a lot easier and give you the ability to form paragraphs and even entire essays by adhering to the sentence structure by adding a conjunction or two. When it comes to grammar topics like conjunctions, it’s important to be able to remember the correct words that fit into the category and to know when to apply them in your sentence.

The word ‘And’ is the most popular conjunction because it can be used for three different functions. Not only can it connect words but clauses as well as phrases. ‘And’ is also used to describe more than one person in a sentence by grouping them together such as “Tim and Tina went to the movies together last time. In addition to the word ‘and’, other popular conjunctions that are commonly used to connect sentences are ‘although, since, but, unless, or, yet, so, etc.’

Contrary to popular belief, conjunctions can be used in the beginning of a sentence rather than just in the heart of a sentence. For example: “Although he was tired from working late, James still decided to go out for a drink with his friends.” A conjunction is a part of speech that can also be more than one word. Examples of conjunctions that make up more than one word include ‘so that, in order to, as long as, etc.’ By clearing up the confusion and misleading information regarding conjunctions, beginner students of English will better be able to handle this important grammar subject.

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Conjunctions: Successfully joining words and phrases together in order to form complete sentences.”

Learners of the English language often forget that conjunctions can be divided into two categories: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions are known for connecting two parts of a sentence or phrase together to form a complete sentence. This first type of conjunctions is usually used in the middle of a sentence and is supposed to connect words and clauses together along with two parts of a sentence.

An example of a sentence where a coordinating conjunction would be used could be “John picked up Tim after his soccer practice in the park and then they went to the movies together.” There are many different coordinating conjunctions but the most popular ones are ‘and, but, for, or, so, yet.’

Subordinating conjunctions have a more specific purpose than their coordinating counterparts. The main purpose of subordinating conjunctions is to join the dependent clause of a sentence to its’ independent clause to form a complete sentence. The main clause is also known as the independent clause and the conjunction is placed in between the two clauses in order to create the grammatical structure of the sentence.

For example, a sentence with a subordinating conjunction would look like “I had to study hard last night because we have an important English test today. Some examples of subordinating conjunctions include ‘although, because, since, unless.’ It’s important to remember that a subordinating conjunction will always come at the beginning of the subordinate clause, which could either be before or after the main clause. This means that there is some flexibility when it comes to inserting your subordinate conjunction in that it can come in either the beginning or middle of a sentence.

Lastly, in addition to conjunctions that are subordinate or coordinate and are one word usually, there are other types of conjunctions that can be a few words in all when forming a sentence. These two other types of conjunctions are known as compound or correlative.

Compound conjunctions often end in the words ‘that’ or ‘as’ and some examples of these conjunctions include: ‘as long as’, ‘provided that’, ‘because of that’, ‘in order to.’ Remember that a compound conjunction does not always end in ‘as’ or ‘that’ but it’s usually true in most instances. For example, a sentence with a compound conjunction would be like; “You can eat ice cream later as long as you eat your vegetables first.”

Correlative conjunctions are often made up of pairs of two corresponding words such as ‘neither…nor’, ‘either…or’, ‘both…and’, which serve to balance the sentence and the two clauses. For example, you could write a sentence like “We could either go to Spain or Italy for vacation this summer.” When using correlative conjunctions, remember that there needs to be two words that relate to each other in the overall meaning.

Like our previous topic of ‘Prepositions’, learning about ‘Conjunctions’ will help a beginner in English to gain confidence in developing both grammar and vocabulary. Both of these topics are important to review and go over with a student in order for them to correctly form a sentence by adhering to the necessary structure.

By knowing about the different types of conjunctions, some key examples, and their varied uses, students of English reading this post will gain a better understanding of this vital grammar topic. If you have any questions or comments about this ‘English Corner’ post, please feel free to write me a message. In the mean time, good luck with your continuing studies of the English language! I promise that there will be a new post next month focusing on another key topic.

English Corner – Prepositions

The ‘English Corner’ will be a new blog post series from me with a new post every month to help English language learners to better understand the vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in order to better develop their own proficiency. I have over two years of experience of teaching the English language to non-native speakers, both online and in person. I hope to use these posts to help you, the reader, improve your understanding of English, and also develop your fluency.

If you have any questions about this ‘English Corner’ post, please leave a comment and I will answer them to the best of my ability. Any constructive feedback is appreciated and I hope that this will become a popular series of posts within my website. If you enjoy my ‘English Corner’ series, you can also request private English lessons with me through the WordPress message system.

One of the biggest struggles that new learners of the English language will encounter during their studies is mastering the grammatical concept of the ‘Preposition.’ The most common issue that a lot of my ESL students have come across is how to better understand and memorize the grammar rules of the ‘Preposition.’

It’s nearly impossible to memorize all of the ‘Prepositions’ and their specific uses in English. I find that it’s best to examine certain examples where the individual preposition is being used in the sentence and for what context does it most apply fittingly. It’s important to remember that a preposition is considered to be a part-of-speech that comes before a noun type of phrase and connects it to another part of the sentence. The name of ‘Preposition’ can be broken down into pre-position which gives us a good hint that this part-of-speech needs to be placed before the noun. There are different types of noun phrases such as the noun phrase (the short boy), the noun (meat), the pronoun (us), and the ‘gerund or before the verb in –ing form’ (dancing).

The most common prepositions are on, in, to, for, with, by, and. There are numerous other prepositions and for a full list of them, I highly recommend going to this link: https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm

There are three types of relationships that the preposition has with the rest of the sentence. They are relationships in time, in space, and of a certain method.

For some examples of prepositions in these three different relationships, let’s look at the following sentences:

  • The soccer ball is on the floor. (relationship in space)

Note: The physical location of the soccer ball is located on the floor. ‘On’ is a good example of a preposition that is used to demonstrate the relationship in space between itself and the noun.

  • You will meet him in October to discuss the business deal. (relationship in time)

Note: When it comes to date / time / place, a preposition like in is perfect for highlighting the relationship of time when it comes to a noun like ‘October.’ For months, days, weeks, and other words for time, it’s important to use the correct preposition to express this relationship.

  • I sent the wedding invite to you by postal mail. (relationship of method)

Note: When describing a method with a preposition, using by is the most popular and the most useful. Whether its’ mailing a package, or writing a reply to your boss, this kind of preposition will come in handy especially when it comes to connecting the gerund (verb + ing) to the part of speech.

There are several kinds of relationships that are expressed with the help of prepositions but the most common relate to space, time, and method.

Prepositions can either be one word (after, in, by, etc.) or a couple of words, which makes them more complex in their overall nature. (according to, despite that, because of, etc.)

Prepositions will usually come in the middle of a sentence to connect two parts of a whole sentence. However, there are exceptions and sometimes they will appear at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Examples:

Which person did you talk to?

To which person did you talk?

____________________________________________

Another important distinction between prepositions is related to whether they involve place or time.

Prepositions of place describe the relation of an object or thing to another object or thing in terms of space.

This chart below provided by http://www.englishclub.com explains this phenomenon along with a list of corresponding prepositions of place:

prepositions-of-place

Here are some example sentences for preposition of place:

  • My dinner plate is on the table.
  • The boy hid under his bed.
  • He stood in front of the door.
  • The bird flew above the crowd.
  • He looked over his assembled troops on the battlefield.

Prepositions of time usually involve prepositions like at, in, on, by, etc. We use at to describe a specific time or date. We use in to highlight months, years, decades, and long periods of time. The last preposition of on is the most specific and deals with days of the week, and dates in time. By is the least common preposition of time but can be used to express important due dates when it comes to days and weeks.

Here are some example sentences for preposition of time:

  • I have a salsa class at 8 pm tonight.
  • In September, I started my new job.
  • We ended our job strike on Tuesday because our demands were met.
  • You need to finish this project by next week.
  • We will be back from our vacation by Friday night at 11 PM.

This chart below from http://www.englishlearnsite.com is very useful in giving us more examples on how to use these prepositions of time in the correct manner without getting frustrated.

prepositions-of-time

Prepositions are an important grammatical concept to master in order to become fluent in the English language. I hope this first ‘English Corner’ session was helpful to you as a reader of my website. Remember that a preposition is always followed by a noun, and never by a verb. Prepositions usually appear in the middle of a sentence but sometimes at the beginning or end too. Placing your prepositions before the ‘noun’ and after the subject/verb will help you greatly with regards to your English grammar.

I hope you enjoyed this first edition of ‘English Corner’ and I look forward to sharing another topic with all of my visitors again soon.

Book Recommendations – Volume III

After a five-month break, I’m back with another edition of “Book Recommendations.” I’ve had some free time on my hands lately which has allowed me to read these really great books. I would like to share my latest selections with my visitors and hope that you will check these books out for yourself.

Note: I have also posted the links to these books so you can check them out on Amazon.com. You simply need to click on the books’ images below in order to be re-directed to the Amazon page of the book itself. Enjoy.

1.) And Then All Hell Broke Loose: Two Decades In The Middle East by Richard Engel, Chief Foreign Correspondent for NBC News

As someone who has studied the Middle East region extensively in college and has made a few trips to the region (Turkey, Israel, Jordan), I continue to enjoy learning about this tumultuous part of the world despite its rough past and present.

This book by Richard Engel is excellent because it comes from someone who understands the complexities and historical background of the region. He is also a great correspondent and storyteller who weaves his own history of working in the Middle East alongside the tumultuous events over the past two decades, which have fundamentally transformed the region.

Mr. Engel has been a foreign correspondent in the Middle East for over twenty years now. In this book, he clearly displays his vast knowledge of its’ history, culture, societies, and the troubles that continue to plague the region. Engel is fluent in Arabic, Italian, and Spanish. He has worked for NBC News and other major news organizations for over two decades. He re-tells his firsthand experiences and stories of starting out as a freelance journalist for the Agence France-Presse in the late 1990’s during the time of Mubarak’s Egypt. He goes on to discuss his experiences of working and living in Iraq during the collapse of Saddam’s regime and the subsequent U.S. occupation of Iraq.

In addition, Mr. Engel has also spent a lot of time covering the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and the recent civil war in Syria. Richard Engel has also endured some trauma during his career as he was captured and kidnapped by ISIS in late 2012. For the readers of his book, we get personal insight into the hellish situations he has been drawn into through his accounts of witnessing the deaths and injuries of many of his journalist colleagues over the past twenty years. This book is fundamentally a more personal story as he recounts how his 20 years of covering the Middle East had affected his marriage, his friendships, and his mental state.

What I like most about this book is that Mr. Engel gives you the historical background and the straight facts of what happened in the region and why it happened. You can tell that he was both physically and emotionally affected by the wars and insurgencies that he bravely covered for the U.S. media. More than anything else, it is a well-written account of what it means to be a journalist in a very difficult region of the world for journalists. Richard Engel doesn’t preach about what should have happened or what could have been different in terms of the politics but he simply relays his past experiences for those of us who want a more personal, firsthand account of what it is like to cover the Middle East.

2.) Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Cultural Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

A world-renowned traveler, famous television show host, coolest American alive over 50 years of age. You can also add best selling-author to this list as if it wasn’t long enough. These are just a few of the titles that Mr. Bourdain has earned over the course of his life. However, most people forget that he was a very successful chef in New York City and elsewhere during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He is especially known for being the executive chef at the famed restaurant of ‘Les Halles’ in Manhattan, NY.

Due to his years in the kitchen, Kitchen Confidential is an in-depth, intriguing look into the actual process of how the food we eat in restaurants ends up on our plates. You may not feel very hungry after reading this book due to the expose on some food industry practices that could be considered unsatisfactory in terms of health regulations. I know now that I won’t ever order fish or any other seafood from a restaurant if it’s a Monday.

This book is an unfiltered look into life as a cook and Bourdain hilariously delves into stories from his past and the characters he encounters in the various kitchens he’s worked in. He discusses how he worked alongside drug dealers, degenerates, thieves, loose cannons, etc. in the kitchen but that didn’t detract from the excellent chefs that they made themselves out to be. If anything, Bourdain argues, their eccentricities and attention to details help make these people into great cooks.

Kitchen Confidential is also useful in that Bourdain gives tips and advice to his readers on how to cook and prepare food better. His advice ranges from what kind of knives are best to which simple gadgets make the most difference in having a decent kitchen to cook in. If you like his travel shows and his antics as a TV host, you will most certainly enjoy this book.

3.) Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna

The race to win the 21st century will not be a race between militaries, or of competing arms but of overall connectivity. Mr. Khanna argues that whichever country becomes the most connected to the global supply chains of trade, finance, technology, infrastructure, etc. will stand to benefit most in our current globalized world. A geopolitical strategist, consultant, and world traveler, Mr. Khanna displays his in-depth knowledge of international affairs and geopolitics from his past travels and from his extensive research.

From Ukraine to the UAE and from China to Nigeria, Mr. Khanna details how national borders are no match for the global supply chains that are increasingly emerging. Physical boundaries of geography are becoming less important than the priorities of developing high-speed rail lines, building intercontinental pipelines, expanding the World Wide Web, along with increasing energy outputs and resource trading among many different nations.

While some prominent figures in politics are advocating for resurgent nationalism and wall-building, Mr. Khanna understands that this perspective is detrimental in a world which is becoming more fundamentally connected. In the 21st century, countries and continents need each other now more than ever. With ten trillion dollars and growing being spent per year on infrastructure, transportation, energy, and communications, this trend is likely to continue unabated.

Among the notable ideas in this great book that Mr. Khanna highlights are the emerging North American Union with related maps in the book showing how the United States, Canada, and Mexico are becoming more interdependent. China is also connecting itself to many of its neighbors in Eurasia through gas, oil pipelines and freight rail networks.

In Connectography, Mr. Khanna gives us an in-depth perspective on the world’s growing interdependence and how its’ affecting our everyday lives. While there are numerous challenges to this worldwide trend, which are also highlighted in the book, Mr. Khanna strikes on a final note of optimism. Even with the difficulties and struggles of climate change, terrorism, civil wars, etc., only a more inclusive, connected global society can meet these challenges head on and succeed together.

First and Last Projects

teamwork
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”

As apart of my training program to become a Volunteer for Peace Corps – Colombia, my fellow trainees and I have worked hard over these past weeks and months in developing and implementing mini-projects in partnership with our community here in different ways.

Overall, there have been three community projects that we have been working on over these past two months. All of us trainees together have worked on a ‘Limpieza La Comunidad’ or ‘Cleaning up the Community’ project with local citizens in an effort to make the parks and the local river here cleaner and safer for everyone. So far, we have conducted two clean-ups so far during the weekends which have at the central park of our town and then most recently at the ecological park and the area near the football stadium.

It has been a real joy to work with the young people of the community especially. The children and teenagers, who have helped us with the clean-up process the most. They have been extremely enthusiastic and willing to pitch in to assist and work with us. I have worked with one child in particular, named Jesus, age eight, who has helped me specifically with picking up the trash and sweeping the leaves. For both times where we have had our clean-up project in different parks, Jesus has been there to be my partner and help me with my big trash bag. I hope that after we leave for our volunteer sites in mid-April that the children, teenagers, and young people of our current community will become the next leaders of this clean-up effort and will continue these projects and make a sustainable difference in their town.

In addition, my colleagues and I have been able to create two mini-projects related to English education here in the community. A few of my fellow trainees have started a ‘reading buddies’ after-school program where they have read books alongside children and teenagers over the past couple of weeks. Others and myself have worked hard to create a community English class based around conversation lessons that have taken place on Thursday nights and during the weekends.

My fellow trainees and I have split the hours of teaching between ourselves and now provide about three hours a week between the three of us in giving conversational lessons in basic English to those members of the community who want to learn and expressed sincere interest to us in attending our classes. I have been very pleased with the turnout for my community class on Thursday nights and the hard work, engagement that my students have had so far for learning conversational English.

Eight adults showed up for my first class last week and I hope that they will continue coming to class over the next few weeks. For this program, I also hope to designate a leader(s) to continue having English classes within the community. If possible, I will select an adult with the English skills necessary in order to teach his fellow Colombians and keep the class going into the future. I always think back about how lucky I was in the past to pursue my passion for foreign languages and how I was able to take Turkish and Arabic classes at night and also attend Spanish conversation groups as well. It has been great giving that same opportunity to those adults interested in learning my language and developing their conversational proficiency.

Lastly, my fellow trainees and I have successfully completed recently two separate training sessions for the English teachers in our community. The topics have focused around creating speaking and listening activities for their students in an interactive way, as well as working on the pronunciation of difficult sounds in the English language. Both ‘charlas’ or teacher training sessions have been well attended; the teachers were enthusiastic about sharing what they had learned from us and applying this knowledge in their classrooms for the future.

As our first projects finish up over the next few weeks, I can say that we made a meaningful impact in our community during our training program. Each of the trainees has worked hard, provided a lot of time and effort, and have developed good relationships with the local community too. I believe that we can hold our heads up high as we head into April 2016 and the beginning of our formal volunteer service here in Colombia.

A New Adventure Awaits

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U.S. Peace Corps in Colombia – I’m excited to serve and ready for this journey to begin.

In just one week from now, I will begin my training to become a Volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Colombia starting in mid-January of 2016. For my three months of training, I will be living in a town called Santo Tomas, which is about 45 minutes outside of Barranquilla. For my work and living situation, after I’m sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I will be located in a site close to the Atlantic Coast of Colombia close to the cities of either Barranquilla, Santa Marta, or Cartagena. The school where I will be teaching and the community that I will be living in has not been announced yet due to the fact that I haven’t completed my training yet.

This will not be my first time living overseas for an extended period of time. Previously, I lived in Istanbul, Turkey last year as an ESL teacher at a private high school. I also studied for a semester at Bogazici University in Istanbul as well when I was in college. My first overseas living experience occurred when I was 16 years old in Costa Rica where I studied Spanish for a summer there in a language homestay program. I have become quite comfortable with adjusting to a new lifestyle and territory by now. However, it still may take me a few months to adapt to the new culture and hot climate.

My family and my friends have been very supportive of my decision over the past year and a half to pursue service in the U.S. Peace Corps. It’s not easy to be away from your family and friends for a long period of time but they all know about the good work that I will be doing in Colombia. They understand the importance of volunteering and serving. I would not be where I am today without the support of my father, mother, and my brother especially. They have been great to me throughout the whole application and selection process.

My main project while serving in Colombia will be developing, and improving upon the ‘Teaching English for Livelihoods’ program. I hope to work with local Colombian teachers to advance the English curriculum and materials that they are using to teach the students. I believe that with hard work and effort, we can make real progress in creating an effective way of teaching English and improving the English proficiency levels of the Colombian students. I also would like to expand upon tutoring and after-school programs related to English learning and making sure that the students see learning English as fun and useful to them.

I look forward to being apart of a new school and a new community. I am excited to explore my surroundings and to learn about the Colombian culture and their customs. I will be very happy to work with my Colombian colleagues as well at the school and hope that I can make a real difference in improving the English level of the students that I hope to help during my service. I want to immerse myself in becoming fluent in Spanish, learning the local dances, and tasting the Colombian cuisine as well.

My motivation to join Peace Corps was because of a number of different factors. I had a desire to volunteer and serve a purpose greater than myself. I felt that I could contribute a lot to the Peace Corps’ Education sector given my previous background and experiences as an ESL teacher. I wanted to explore a new country and a new culture as well. Spanish was the first foreign language that I learned as well so I hope to use this exciting opportunity to become fluent and to connect more easily with the locals in my community. It was also important to me to volunteer and contribute to the wider world in some way. I hope I can be an example to other Americans who want to be part of something bigger than themselves but are not sure where to begin.

When I leave Colombia, I want to leave behind a school and community that is better off than it was before I arrived. My main goal is to help the local teachers to develop an effective English language curriculum that will last for many years after I depart them. I hope to foster better relations between Americans and Colombians through my actions and my relationships that I hope to build between our two peoples.

I wish to help as many students as possible with their English language skills whether its through tutoring, after-school programs, etc. so that they can become bilingual and have a brighter future. Above all else, I would like to make new, lasting friendships and to be considered an honorary member of their community by the time I leave.

I leave in less than a week and I’m excited to begin and complete my training over the next three months. All I have left is the final packing of my bags and I’m off to Miami for the staging event!

There will be a change of focus for my blog from this point forward as I will focus on writing about my experiences and adventures living in Colombia. I hope to write about the cuisine, customs, culture, and food of my adopted country for the next 27 months. I hope that you will follow me on this exciting journey. Thank you very much for your continuing viewership and support. (Muchas Gracias y Saludos para todos! Vamonos!)

A Short Guide to Teaching English Overseas

Teach English Abroad! I promise that you won’t regret it.
Teach English Abroad! I promise that you won’t regret it.

 This past year, I had my first teaching English as a foreign language overseas experience. I would like to give my loyal readers some insight into what it was like and I can also give you some tips/advice that I could have used when I first signed up to teach English in a foreign country.

 First of all, there’s a lot of different options when it comes to getting your teaching certificate. I would recommend taking either an online TEFL/TESOL course which would take about ten to twelve weeks and cost between $1,000-$1,500. If you want to go full-time and get it done quicker, you can most likely take an in-class course for about forty hours a week and be finished in about a month or so but it will cost you closer to $2,000.

I got my TEFL/TESOL certificate through the International TEFL Academy which is a great organization and you can find out more information about them through a simple Google search. I’ve had friends of mine sign up for a course both online and in-person and it paid off for them with real, good-paying jobs.

 Now, don’t be fooled because there are some organizations out there that are not legitimate and will try to rip you off. Between my Bachelor’s degree and my TEFL/TESOL certificate, I was good to go though and ready to apply to schools around the world. Be ready to work hard and do a decent amount of homework, and in-class training in order to achieve your TEFL certificate. It’s really easy to get good grades in your course as long as you put the effort and hard work in to earn your qualification. I believe the CELTA certificate is more advanced and could lead to more opportunities but I’m not sure how big of a difference it makes really.

 For example, if you’re an English teacher who is interested in teaching in Spain, the program that is sponsored by the Spanish government is a great option if you would like to teach English in Europe. Honestly though, besides Spain and Italy, not many Western European countries are going to pay you very well to teach English. If I were you, dear reader, I would look into Poland, Czech Republic, and/or Hungary if you’re feeling more adventurous.

There’s also Latin America, Southeast Asia, and other Eastern European countries but they don’t really pay too high if that is your main concern. China, Japan, and the Middle East are the biggest payouts even if you have just a TEFL Certificate and a Bachelor’s degree but the cultural differences are large and the living standards vary from country to country. I can’t tell you where to teach but if you do your research and talk to others about their experiences, you may have a better idea of where you want to go. It depends on your lifestyle and your cultural preferences.

 I chose to teach over the past year in Istanbul, Turkey because I was already familiar with the country and culture due to a previous experience living here a few years ago for my studies. I knew the language and the locals relatively well and I got a really good job offer to come here. Some schools will pay for your living accommodations which can help you in terms of saving money and being able to travel around Europe and elsewhere. Please make sure that you research about the school’s reputation and try to interview with them in person or through Skype before signing any paperwork/contracts. Be sure to look over the whole contract before signing on legally to a school for a year or more.

 There have been many young people who have been screwed over in the past because they did not read the fine print. Always make sure to know what you’re getting into in terms of salary, work permit, visa help, accommodations, etc. I was pretty happy with the choice I made although there were hiccups and missteps along the way. I had competing offers to work in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and elsewhere but I am content with where I chose to go. Lastly, eight weeks of paid vacation a year is a really good deal compared to most jobs out there on the market internationally.

 There are downsides to this lifestyle though in that the working culture can be quite different than you are used to and things often are done at a slower pace than Americans / Westerners are used to. Upper management at some schools can be frustrating to deal with at times and will have different work policies than the ones you’re used to in your native country.

Teaching English is a job like any other and it can be quite stressful and to teach children, you will need to develop patience and a lot of understanding. It’s not entirely a vacation from the real world as some folks make it out to be. I worked 40–45 hours a week and had to prepare lesson plans and help create exams. However, I had a great experience in getting a deeper understanding of Turkish culture, meeting new people, making new friendships, traveling when I could to different countries, and becoming a more mature and confident person. I lived comfortably on my local salary and I had free enough time where I could go out and socialize with my friends.

 For someone in their early 20’s, I think it’s a great thing to do and you’ll learn a lot about yourself and the world around you. Just do your research, think about what country fits you best, learn the language, and reap the benefits. It’s not easy moving and living in another country. It’s not for everyone too but if you’re adventurous and want to explore new places, I highly recommend it to all of you reading.

 If you have any other questions about teaching English as a foreign language, please feel free to message me or reply to this post. For more resources on getting a TEFL/TESOL certificate or finding a teaching English job, I would go to these websites, some of which I mentioned to you already above:

http://www.internationalteflacademy.com
http://www.tefl.com/
http://eslcafe.com/
https://www.teachaway.com/
http://www.tfchina.org/en/index.aspx
http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listing…road.shtml

Happy Hunting!