Friday, December 30, 2011

Celebrating New Years’ Eve in the USA

Just like in the most of the World January 1st marks the beginning of a new year in the USA.  The New Year’s Eve’s celebration is the biggest and a truly world-wide party with its climax at the NewYear’s midnight, which like a web interconnects party goers all over the planet and moves around the globe following the time zones.

Majority of people get together with friends and families to celebrate the event.  They either stay home and have private parties or go out to bars, restaurant, theaters or places where they will be able to welcome the New Year in spectacular and scenic surroundings and where they can watch the traditional fireworks shows.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Word Eve in American English

Do you know what the word eve means?  Have you speculated about it?  Did you check into it?

We all know about Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Some of us know that Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day.  But what does the word stand for exactly?  Does it carry the meaning “the day before” as it may imply?   Or maybe it denotes something else?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why Christmas and New Year’s Are Exactly One Week Apart not Only in the USA?

Have you ever thought why these two major holidays Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve and obviously Christmas and New Year’s are exactly one week apart?

It may be just a pure coincidence but maybe not.

Friday, December 23, 2011

One Two Eight or Twelve Days of Christmas in the USA

In most countries Christmas is celebrated as a two-day holiday.  The second day of Christmas is sometimes called the Boxing Day.  No, it has nothing to do with fighting or the sport of boxing.  The name comes from an old tradition of giving gifts in boxes to servants by their lords.

In the USA Christmas is a one day festivity.  I still remember my first Christmas in America.  For me it so obvious that it is a 2-day celebration that it didn’t even come to my mind that I should go to work on the Second Day of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Carols in the USA and the “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

Who doesn’t like Christmas Carols and Christmas in general?  Well … you might be surprised.  But that’s a different story.

What are Christmas Carols, anyway?  When did the carols tradition start?  Why are these songs called carols and what does the word carol itself mean?  Where are Christmas carols performed nowadays?  Should we still talk about Christmas carols or rather Christmas songs?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Gift Giving to Children in the USA and Where the Wise Men Came from

We, the adults, can live without Christmas gifts.  It is a completely different story, though, when it comes to giving gifts to children for Christmas.  For one reason or another presents, especially the ones for Christmas, have a very special meaning which goes far beyond regular generosity.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Is Coming to Town! The Holiday Shopping Season in the USA

Ho, ho, ho!  Coca Cola’s Santa Clause is coming to town!  Shopping malls are full.  It takes forever to get in to go shopping there and even more time to get out from there.  That’s American Christmas time.

Fortunately and lucky for us - shoppers - we have an alternative now.  We can just sit down at the computer or, better yet, take it to bed and go shopping on line at the comfort and convenience of our own home and even our favorite couch or sofa.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Coca Cola Christmas 2011 in USA

It’s all about Christmas for commerce, for both the traditional brick and mortar outlets and virtual Internet stores.

Majority of retailers and wholesalers or whole sellers alike make most of their profits at this time of the year called the Holiday Shopping Season.  Its official start falls on Black Friday, which is the Friday following Thanksgiving.

Now, there is also a digital or electronic commerce or e-commerce equivalent - the Cyber Monday, which is the Monday right after the Thanksgiving weekend. Not really surprisingly, considering the nature and character of the American entrepreneurial spirit and business environment and law, Internet stores started capitalizing on Thanksgiving itself with the very recent addition of Cyber Thanksgiving. 

Christmas commercials are very lavish and impatiently participated by viewers and listeners, too.  They are the cream of the cream of advertising and the world of trade promotions. 
One company took it to the extreme.  I’m talking Coca Cola here. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas in Washington, DC, USA

December is traditionally the month of Christmas celebrations including the annual “Christmas in Washington” show, which this year (2011- two thousand eleven) will air on TNT on Friday December 16th, a week before Christmas Eve. 

In the tradition of so American-like charitable giving by the rich and famous to the poor and needy this show first appeared in 1981 and this year it celebrates its 30th  (thirtieth) anniversary. 

Of course, it is also a huge promotional event for the participating celebrities and the television network itself. 

It is tremendously popular and you will be able to see the re-runs number of times during the year that follows. 

Merry Christmas! (the Christmas Song video and lyrics)

Friday, December 9, 2011

How to Cram for Midterms Learning American English

Let’s start with this.  Cramming or learning a lot in a very short time to pass a test or an exam is for some students a way of learning not just a catch up technique.  The word cram itself usually has a negative connotation.  It’s associated with not doing homework on time and consequently being forced to work extra hard at the last minute just to stay in the game.  It’s not necessarily so. 

Some people simply have good short memory and no intention to retain the information needed for this particular test or exam.  They simply do not want to waste the long memory and intuitively choose the most efficient and the most energy effective learning method not to fail but to pass and to get a “good enough” grade. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tora! Tora! Tora! Did the Pearl Harbor Attack Have to Happen?

Who hasn't heard the Tora! Tora! Tora! phrase popularized by the movie carrying (or under) the same title or has not seen the film itself is rather a rhetoric question.

The Japanese aerial attack on the American naval military base in Pearl Harbor, HI (Hawaii) on December 7th, 1941 woke up “the sleeping giant”and marked the beginning of the official US involvement in WW II (World War Two or "doublew doublew" two).

We all know how it happened.  This, one of the most tragic and most disastrous catastrophes in American history and at the same time one of the most victorious and most glorious Japanese military operations or battles ever, was depicted by some of the most successful and most popular movie hits like “Tora! Tora! Tora!” or “Pearl Harbor”(movie trailer videos). 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Studying American English for TOEFL- Natural Born Learners or Motivation

Either you are natural(ly) good with languages or you need to work really, really hard to make any progress it doesn’t really matter.  Either way you can achieve your goal.  The real question here is how you will approach the English language learning process, how much time you will spend preparing yourself and most importantly if you have the motivation or if you have the internal drive to achieve your goal. 

Why are you learning English?  Do you really, and I mean YOU, not somebody else like your parents or other significant others, do you really want to learn English?  Do you know why and how much you will benefit from knowing the English language? 

Friday, December 2, 2011

TOEFL Exam for the USA and Europe as Well

TOEFL, as you most likely know it already, is the American English fluency test designed specifically as a college entry verification of your language knowledge and requirement for non-native speakers. 

Recently it has also been approved in Great Britain by the British immigration authority UK Border Agency as a proof of your knowledge of the English language together with other English fluency exams. 

It is also accepted by British schools at different levels of education including the University of Cambridge. 

Webster University in Vienna is another example, this time in Austria, among thousands of higher learning institutions requiring and accepting the TOEFL exam. 

Happy learning!  Good luck on your college admission application!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Political Asylum in the USA – the Joseph Stalin’s Daughter’s Case and Homeschooling

Immigration to the USA is strictly regulated by law, just like in any other or at least most countries in the World. 

The political asylum principle, requirements and proceedings are part of the system.  A person intending to emigrate from a foreign country and immigrate to the United States of America needs to meet certain criteria of eligibility.  Primarily he or she must be considered a refugee and be granted the right of asylum.  The link at the end of this sentence takes you to the outline of the complete rules and history regarding this matter of political asylum in the USA. 

Sometimes granting a political asylum decision is controversial and counter intuitive.  The Joseph Stalin’s daughter’s case is one of the best known examples.

How widely or loosely it can be interpreted shows the recent instance of German immigrants who were granted political asylum due to the alleged hardship of the lack of possibilities of home schooling there.

See ya …

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cyber Monday and Cyber Thanksgiving in the US – the Electronic Black Fridays

Now when the craziness of the Black Friday weekend is behind us we can all relax, finally get some rest and in the coziness of our own homes … go shopping online. 

Just like the Black Friday, the Friday right after Thanksgiving, is the beginning of the Holiday shopping season, the Cyber Monday, following the whole Thanksgiving weekend, has become its online equivalent in the e-world and a great start to the year end digital shopping frenzy on the world wide web or net. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday in the USA - the Start to the Holiday Shopping Season

Happy Thanksgiving!  Now when The American Holiday is over and we are all stuffed like the turkey we can do what Americans do best – we can go shopping.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is really crazy.  Not only is it the day of super promotions and super sales.  It is also one of the most dangerous days of the year for traffic and security.  People not only shop till they drop.  Crooks are coming out of the woods looking for an opportunity to make the extra buck pick pocketing, breaking into cars in shopping malls parking lots, robbing homes and just stealing whatever they can put their hands on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving in the USA – The American Holiday of Eating Meeting and Visiting

Celebrating Thanksgiving is all about eating, meeting and visiting.

Families, relatives, or just friends get together at the proverbial dinner table not really to commemorate the first mutual fest of the Pilgrims or immigrants from Europe and the Native Americans or the original residents but to indulge themselves in great food, relax and have fun in the company of the dearest ones.

People tell jokes, watch football games, have a beer or too, so to speak, or a glass of wine, or rather a bottle … to be closer to reality, stuff themselves with turkey meat or filling and other traditional, or not so conventional Thanksgiving dishes and goodies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving in the USA – How the Turkey Day Really Started

Turkey is on the table!  What could be more American than the Thanksgiving turkey?  Well, maybe the American apple pie or the pumpkin pie?  Maybe?  May be.  The tradition of serving turkey for Thanksgiving dinner is as old as the celebration itself, right?  Maybe not.  Actually … not really.

You may not believe it, but the turkey tradition is relatively new and did not became the Thanksgiving staple food until it was popularized on a massive scale only in the late 1940-ies (nineteen forties) by Mr. Sears and company through mail catalogue sales, which is the predecessor to the current day Internet commerce.

The tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving in America we learn in history classes started in 1620-ies (sixteen twenties).  The modern day Thanksgiving is, by popular belief, considered a direct ancestor of the Pilgrims’ celebration.  It, as the research shows however, is not.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Summer Jobs by Youth in the USA

Getting a summer job by students is another American tradition.  It has to do with the concept of raising children as independent individuals who in the future, as adults, will need to take care of themselves, make money and make a living on their own.

The last few years, especially the last summer of 2010, were unusually difficult for seasonal employment including summer jobs for the young due to the recession and high unemployment in the USA.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Other Side of Tolerance in the USA - the N-Word

Slavery is one of the most controversial issues in the history of the United States.  It is still so emotionally charged that the word Niger or Nigger, which in its Latin origin simply means black, is not permitted to be used in mass media.

Hypocritically, however, it is used commonly and with pride among the black population or, as the politically correct term calls it, African Americans.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Attack! Facebook Google and Freedom of Speech in the USA

Facebook has been long accused of serious privacy issues violations.
Google has also been charged with similar confidentiality problems by the Internet community.

The recent attack on Facebook and Google, which peaked on Friday the 10th, 2011 proves anew that people can bear only so much abuse before they start rioting against it and stand up to the violator.

Personal privacy awareness is especially strong in the USA.  The freedom of speech and the right to express your opinion without any recourse is extremely deeply embedded in American souls and hearts.  Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States and other legal acts.  So is the personal privacy of its citizens.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Poland’s Independence Day and Veterans Day in the USA – November 11th

On November 11th (eleventh) 1918 Poland regained its independence after it had not existed as a country for 123 (one hundred twenty three) years. 

In the United States Veterans Day is celebrated on this day. 

It is also the day when World War I (one) or the Great War, as it was referred to before WWII (World War Two), ended. 

For one reason or another this day, November 11th sooner or later has become a holiday in many countries. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tolerance Traditions in the USA – DADT Policy in the US Military

One of the great American traditions is tolerance.  According to the Encarta Dictionary of English (North America) the word has 6 (six) meanings.  The one I mean here is "the acceptance of views other than ours and recognizing other people’s right to have different beliefs or practices without attempting to suppress them".

Throughout the country’s history, which, by the way, is quite short in global terms, the perception of tolerance has also changed.  Being a country that started as a result of a revolution the American set of mind is naturally “born to be free”, “born to be wild”.

One of the most recent example is the DADT policy.  A link to President Obama’s speech on the issue at the Human Rights Campaign (HRS) on Saturday, October 1st, 2011 is not enclosed here but is listed below.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Spring Forward! Daylight Savings Time in the USA and Visualization in Learning American English as EFL

Twice a year we change the clock by one hour. The new, or the “Summer Time”, is called the Daylight Savings Time. The clock changes on the second Sunday of March and returns to Standard Time on the first Sunday in November. Why do we switch between ST and DST?

In 2011 Daylight Savings Time in the United States began on Sunday, March 13, 2011, and ended at 2:00 am on Sunday, November 6th, 2011. Clocks go ahead one hour in the spring and go back one hour in the fall.

Friday, November 4, 2011

TOEFL – American English Language Test

When you apply to a college in the USA, you need a proof that your American English is good enough.  You will be required to take TOEFL and submit the score.

TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language.  This is practically the only exam you need to take to prove your efficiency in American English.  It is recognized world-wide.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

American English versus School-ish

Schools are great!  I truly believe it.  There are also intrinsic school limitations specific to formal mass education.

It also applies to teaching and learning foreign languages.  The way I see it, the two most important confines are the lack of practical approach to contemporary issues and too much emphasis on grammar at the expense of vocabulary.  In other words schools teach the theory of the language instead of teaching the language itself.  Instead of having students speak the language, schools, as a rule, talk about it while the “learners” remain passive and unable to develop speech or simply use the language or just get to learn it for everyday practical conversations or "for real".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat?

Halloween in the US is about having fun and American trick or treating.  On this day of October 31st kids and grown-ups alike dress up in Halloween costumes.  Schools look like huge party halls full of princesses and knights, witches and ghosts, walking pumpkins and winged fairies.

After school children, usually accompanied by parents, go trick or tricking.  Of course in costumes, quite often different from those they wore in the morning.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Goes to America

Halloween in America was popularized by Irish immigrants in the mid 1800’s  (eighteen hundreds).
The traditional turnip used for carving scary ghost faces was replaced by American pumpkin, which was plentiful and easier to work with.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

American Halloween or All Hallows E'en

You probably know the story of Jack O’ Lantern.

Did you know, though, that the Halloween tradition is much, much longer and started as a Celtic celebration of Hallow E’en or All Hallows Eve’s?  Hallow is another word for holy or saint.

Some historians believe that the origins of Halloween can be traced even further in distance and farther back in time – as far as to the Roman Empire.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Did You Go Pumpkin Picking?

With only one week left to Halloween it is time to start carving pumpkins for Halloween.

Pumpkin is a truly American vegetable.  Well, technically it is a fruit.  Just like tomato.  It belongs to the same family with cucumbers, melons and squash.  Americans Indians used it as one of their staple foods.  Pumpkins were planted together with corn and beans in self sustaining, self supporting and self enhancing micro ecological cultivation systems called the “Three Sisters”.

Friday, October 21, 2011

University of Illinois

The City of Chicago, Illinois has a reputation of being the most Polish city in the United States of America.

The State of Illinois also hosts one of the largest and best public universities in the country.  The University of Illinois has three major locations: 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple Picking

Picking up your own fruit (PYOF) by whole families is another great modern American tradition.  First half of the month of October is a great time for apple picking.  The weather is still quite warm and usually very sunny.  Combined with beautiful autumn foliage, it is just inviting to “go out there and do something”.

The history of the apple including the native American Crabapple is told by the University of Illinois Extension.  Here you can also find information on this fruit’s nutrition, stories and legends, cider, orchards, festivals and other “apple” facts.

Monday, October 17, 2011

American English – First Changes from British English

Since the first British reached America in 1497, they came in contact with people who did not speak English.
The first successful English settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 where they were greeted and treated by Virginia Indians who spoke Algonquian.  On the way to the New Continent, the travelers had stopped at Puerto Rico, where they dealt with Caribbean Spanish, which had already developed from its European mother tongue just the way American English would, with time branch off from British English.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus discovered America on Friday October 12th, 1492.

First Landing of Columbus on the Shores of the New World was described by countless authors and depicted by numerous painters.
Columbus Day is celebrated not only in the USA, but also in a number of other countries.

The anniversary of the landing had been commemorated since the early days, before it was formalized.  Colorado was the first state to recognize Columbus Day as an official holiday in 1906.  It became a federal holiday in 1937.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day Sales

What originated as a holiday commemorating the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus has turned into a “get a deal” weekend.
Most holidays in the USA are floating holidays.  They are observed on a specific weekday as opposed to a fixed date.  Even though officially Columbus Day falls on October 12th, it is celebrated on the
second Monday of the month, regardless of the date.  Many other US holidays are set up in a similar manner.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs – Dare To Think Different

This week Mr. Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56 (fifty six).  He was the creator, the visionary and the genius behind Apple Computers.

"I was lucky I found what I loved to do, early in life"
"Keep looking, don’t settle"

"Have the courage to follow your inner voice and intuition"
- Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Schools In the USA

The most noticeable difference American schools display and offer in comparison to, I guess the rest of the World, is the freedom of choice.
Starting in elementary schools in about fourth grade students, as a rule, can choose one of three advancement levels in a particular subject.  Average - is the starting point and the level where most
students are placed or prefer to stay. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Foliage

October is traditionally the month of “going to the country”.
The weather gets cooler, kids are back to school after summer vacation and beaches are too cold to go to.  Apples are ripe and ready to be picked up from the trees.  Pumpkins are growing big.  Leaves start changing colors from green to all shades of yellow, orange and red.  The scenery is spectacular and
breathtaking especially in hilly areas like the Adirondacks, NY or in the mountains of the State of Vermont.

Friday, September 30, 2011

American Holidays - Everybody Happy For Everybody - Rosh Hashana

It is very American-like to be “very happy for you” and “wish you well” and “wish you all the best” on any possible occasion.  By nature Americans, as a nation, are open towards foreigners.  “We are a nation of immigrants; we all came here from somewhere else”. According to popular belief, even the native Indians, historically, came from Asia.

This general attitude of friendliness carries over to celebrating holidays.  American Holidays such as New Year's Day, Independence Day, and Thanksgiving are, of course, followed by everybody.  On top of that there are a number of special days and occasions: ethnic, religious, a.s.o. (and so on) that, even though observed only by limited groups of people, have become a part of American tradition and culture.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Is American English Spelling So Complicated Complex Weird?

Simply speaking - because it has been influenced by so many different languages.

You probably know that another word used for English is Anglo-Saxon.  Did you know, though, that the “Anglos” and the “Saxons” were two out of three German(ic) tribes or people, which (or that or who) moved to Britain from current day Germany and Denmark?

The legend has it, and according to historians it’s not just a fairy-tale, that at first they were invited by the King to help the native Britons, who spoke Brittonic languages (modern Welsh), fight off the neighbors after the Romans had left.

Monday, September 26, 2011

American English Spelling vs. Pronunciation

Spelling versus (vs.) pronunciation or writing and reading.

Every language has rules, which, from the perspective of a foreign language student, make it easier to learn.  The principle followed here is association.  You know one thing, you see something else like it, you think it works in exactly the same or a similar way.  There is even an old English proverb for that. 
 “Like father like son”.  This truth is so universal that you can probably find an equivalent saying in most if not all languages.

Friday, September 23, 2011

American English or British English?

I came across this discussion on the headline subject.

What does science have to say about it?  A lot!  A lot have been said, already, too.  Many Ph. D.’s have been done.  Much more research and many more doctoral dissertations will be done on the topic.  That’s for sure.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why I Love American English?

Why I Love American English?  It’s simple - It Is Simple!  When you compare American English to British English, it’s just much more simple.  Yes, yes, yes: more simple not simpler – for all you English purists.

It’s not just the language, it’s the whole American set of mind and way of thinking that I got to love and admire.  For its pragmatism and down-to-earth approach to just about everything and anything including lavishness.  Yes, yes, yes – again!  Even wasting money, the American way, is done in an efficient, economical way.  But that’s a different story …

Monday, September 19, 2011

In America Time Is Money

Time is money.  Not only is the clock “different” here and there.  Let’s say the time is 1 hour past noon (12:00).  Here, I mean in Poland or more generally in Europe, you say thirteen.  Over there, in America that is, and nobody refers to the country as the United States of America in everyday conversations, you would say 1pm.  You can say thirteen hundred, but that is known as the military time.

And now getting back to my original thought … People here (in Poland, in Europe) still seem to have much more time.  Over in the States there is no such a thing as free time.  You either work to make money or rest to be able to work to make money.  Even if you are unemployed, you value your time in monetary terms.  It’s simply the set of mind.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back from the USA

Just one year ago, at the very end of August 2010, I came back to Poland after close to a quarter century in the US.  When I was leaving in 1987, Poland was still a communist country.  I had hard time getting out of here.  When I got there, to the States, on a J-1 exchange student visa, I had hard time justifying that I wasn’t a communist spy.
Now I’m back in Poland.  I live in Lodz. … What a change…
What shocked me most?  Where do I start?
See ya …