Twerky turkey day

Have some twerk with your turkey this Thanksgiving! Celebrate this United States holiday on the fourth Thursday in November* with this silly video that combines delicious turkey with a dance craze. Other traditional Thanksgiving dishes like corn, gravy, and stuffing get in on the fun, too.

*Thanksgiving in the United States was declared a national holiday by Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  In Canada, Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday in October (not to be confused with Columbus Day, which is celebrated on the second Monday of October in the United States).

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Take a trip to Latin America


Forget about gas prices.  We're your perfect s...

Armchair traveler. (Photo credit: Newton Free Library)

Want to travel around Latin America without leaving your house?  Check out these personal tours of different Latin American countries, written by friends of Latinaish blogger Tracy Lopez.

A trip to: México – Pyramids, artifacts, Mexican food and dance… can you guess why you should check out this one first? Photos and text by F.J. Kingsbury.

A trip to: Chile – Santiago and Valpariso during Fiestas Patrias.

A trip to: Bolivia – our favorite picture is the street parade in La Paz.

A trip to: Puerto Rico – avocados, Bacardi, coquí frogs, and more.

A trip to: Guatemala – featuring the beautiful colonial city of Antigua.

What’s your favorite country to visit?

Slice, chop, pour, mix: ESL cooking vocabulary

Want to learn to cook in English?  Try these simple cooking videos.

1. Cooking with Haval

Haval and his assistant Keturah introduce you to basic verbs and nouns including cup, teaspoon, tablespoon, pour, add, boil, chop, stir, and slice.  The audio is a little problematic and needs to be amplified, but all the verbs also appear on screen when introduced.

2. Potato Salad

Practice your English while you learn to make potato salad.

3. Cooking for Slobs

Learn five simple recipes with few ingredients and almost no dishes to wash.

4. Crazy foods!

For more advanced English, check out this list of crazy foods like spreadable beer and pickle pops, from Vsauce2.

Do you like to cook?  What’s your favorite recipe?  Comment and tell us how to make your favorite dish.

English: Grammy's Potato salad

Grammy’s Potato salad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grammar jokes for English class

Know any good English grammar jokes? We do! Here are some of our favorites.

Tense jokes:

7 ate 9

7 ate 9

Why was six afraid of seven?
Because seven ate nine!

What happened when the past, the present, and the future walked into a bar?
It was tense!

Subject-verb agreement joke:
The teacher asked Pepito to use the word “I” in a sentence.
Pepito said, “I is–”
“Don’t say ‘I is,’ say ‘I am,'” the teacher corrected.
“If you say so,” Pepito replied. “I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”

Parts of speech jokes:
What’s another name for Santa’s elves?
Subordinate clauses!

A noun meets a verb at a bar. The verb sidles up to the noun and says, “Heeeeyyy, wanna go back to my place and conjugate?”  The noun replies, “I decline.”

What kind of word should you invite to a fancy tea party?
A proper noun.

Why did the pregnant woman yell “Wouldn’t! Couldn’t! Shouldn’t!” when she was in labor?
She was having contractions.

Pepito wasn’t paying attention in class. “Pepito!” the teacher said sharply. “Name two pronouns.”
Pepito said, “Who, me?”

Knock knock.
Who’s there?
To who?
It’s to whom!

(Really. See an explanation of who vs whom here.)

Punctuation jokes:

The adventures of the comma

The adventures of the comma

Why did the comma break up with the apostrophe?
Because it was too possessive.

Why did the comma break up with the question mark?
Because it questioned everything.

Why did the comma break up with the exclamation point?
It was always yelling!

What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?
A cat has claws at the ends of its paws and a comma is a pause at the end of a clause.

A panda bear walked into a bar and ordered a sandwich. When he was done eating the sandwich, he pulled out a gun and shot the bartender. The other patrons in the bar were shocked. “Why did you do that?” they asked. The panda walked toward the exit, yelled “look it up!” over his shoulder, and left.
The patrons pulled out their phones and looked up panda bears on the internet. The description said “eats, shoots, and leaves.”

The teacher asked Pepito to use the word “hyphenated” in a sentence.
Pepito said, “There used to be a space between these two words, but there isn’t anymore because a hyphen ate it.”

While we’re on the subject, here are some sentences in which proper punctuation is vital:

Image from

Image from

A woman, without her man, is nothing.
A woman: without her, man is nothing.

Let’s eat, Grandma.
Let’s eat Grandma!

Private. No visitors allowed.
Private? No! Visitors allowed.

Some people enjoy cooking, their families, and their dogs.
Some people enjoy cooking their families and their dogs.

Spelling jokes:
What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add letters to it?

I’m thinking of a five-letter word that, when you take away two letters, you are left with just one. What word is it?

What’s the longest word in the English language?
Smiles. It has a mile between the first letter and the last letter.

RG was a fan of puns. One day he noticed that his favorite magazine was having a bad pun contest. He was so excited, he picked ten of his favorite bad puns and sent them in to the contest. When he got the next issue of his favorite magazine, he looked to see which of his puns won.
What happened?
No pun intended!

Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party?
Because he had no body to go with.

What’s a teacher’s favorite nation?

Gerunds vs infinitives: Quick English grammar explanation

gerunds vs infinitivesTo learn or learning?  To eat or eating?  To dream or dreaming?  The difference between gerunds and infinitives is one of those things that comes naturally for native speakers but can be a nightmare for English Language Learners.  Here’s a simple explanation and four quick examples to help you keep them straight.

A verb is an action word. In English, if a verb starts with the word “to,” it is an infinitive. If a verb ends with “ing,” it is a gerund. Verbs can be either gerunds or infinitives, but they can’t be both! 

When two verbs are together in a sentence, the first verb agrees with the subject. The second verb can be either a gerund or an infinitive. The first verb determines whether the second verb should be a gerund or an infinitive. 

These verbs need to be followed by gerunds:
Think about
Give up
Feel like
(Can’t) help
(Can’t) stand
(Don’t) mind

You can’t say, “I enjoy to drive.” You have to say, “I enjoy driving.”

Read a longer list of verbs that require gerunds here.

These verbs need to be followed by infinitives:
Would like

You can’t say, “She promises studying.”  You have to say, “She promises to study.”

Read a longer list of verbs that require infinitives here.

Some verbs can be followed by either a gerund or an infinitive. Here are a few:

These verbs can be followed by a gerund or a noun/infinitive combo.
These verbs can have either gerunds or infinitives, but the meaning of the sentence changes.

How do you know when to use a gerund and when to use an infinitive? You have to learn the verbs. You could memorize the list of verbs above. However, native English speakers don’t usually learn them like that. Just pick a few verbs at a time and practice using them correctly until you know what sounds correct and what sounds wrong.

Play this Battleship game to practice using gerunds and infinitives correctly.

Example 1:
Watch this short educational video by a student from the University of Oregon:

Example 2:

Maroon 5

Look for the girl with the broken smile,
ask her if she wants to stay awhile. Maroon 5 (Photo credit: trashpaintedgold)

Can you complete these song lyrics with gerunds or infinitives?

1. I can’t help __ in love with you. (fall)

2. I don’t mind ___ every day out on your corner in the pouring rain. (stand)

3. I want __ free, I want __ free, I want __ free from your lies, you’re so self-satisfied, I don’t need you. (break / break / break)

4. Today I don’t feel like __ anything, I just want to stay in my bed. (do)

5. I hate __ up out of the blue uninvited but I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t hide it, I had hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me it isn’t over.  (turn)

6. So I cross my heart and I hope __ that I’ll only stay with you one more night. (die)

7. I don’t need __ to control you, look into my eyes and I’ll own you with them moves like Jagger. (try)

8. Stop __, stop __, I don’t want to think anymore. I left my head and my heart on the dance floor. (call / call)

9. Hey Jude, don’t let me down, you have found her, now go and get her. Remember __ her into your heart, then you can start __ it better. (let / make)

Check your answers here. The songs are not in the same order as the questions, so pay attention!

Example 3:

Here’s another set of song lyrics. Fill in the blanks with gerunds or infinitives.

1. You make me feel like __, I want __ the night away. (dance / dance)

2. A wise man said only fools rush in, but I can’t help ___ in love with you. (fall)

3. I forgot __ __ her, I can’t seem to get her off my mind. (remember / forget)

4. I guess you’d call it cowardice, but I’m not prepared to go on line this. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t stand ___ you. (lose / lose / lose)

5. You gave me a reason to believe in myself, just when I’d given up ___. (dream)

6. My soul starts spinning again, I can’t stop ___ no I won’t stop ___. (feel / feel)

Watch the video to check your answers. The songs are in order.


Example 4:
Check out this rap between two characters, Mike (Mr. Infinitive), and Paul (Mr. Gerund).

Want more single-serving grammar? Click here for more Four quick examples grammar explanations.
Need more examples? Here’s another explanation with practice exercises for gerunds and infinitives.


In English, obligation is expressed using words like should, must, and have to. Look at the pictures below. What are the signs telling you to do?

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Tips for practicing conversation

elephant talk

Grab a friend and get talking. (Photo credit: gin_able)

Conversation is the best way to improve fluency and confidence in a new language.  All you need is a partner (or two, or three, or more) and some ideas. It helps to have a partner who is fluent in the language you’re learning, but even if you are both students, you can practice and correct each other’s mistakes. And if you need ideas, here is a list of tips and topics to get you started.

Some tips for practicing conversation:

  • Make a date. Have a set conversation time during which you will focus only on practicing. Beginners can do 15 minutes, intermediate learners can do 30 minutes, and more advanced students can work up to an hour. Know when you are starting and when you are ending, so that you don’t get distracted.
  • Share the learning. It’s easy to find a partner to do a language exchange; that is, somebody who is fluent in the language you’re learning and who wants to learn your native language. If you do find this kind of partner, make sure that you give each language equal time in your practice. Again, this means that you will have a specific start time, and halfway through your session, you will make the conscious decision to switch languages. Try to give each language exclusive time rather than jumping back and forth between the two.
  • Don’t be shy. This kind of conversation is awkward. It is more difficult than conversation in your native language. Take the attitude that you’re not going to let fear of sounding silly keep you from practicing. Just go for it.
  • Be patient with yourself and your partner. Try to minimize the amount of time you spend correcting each others’ mistakes and focus on fluency, not accuracy.
  • Have fun!

 The March Conversation Marathon is a new conversation activity every Tuesday and Thursday.  They are written for ELLs (English Language Learners) but can be adapted to many languages. Try them.  And check back here twice a week to watch the list of March Marathon activities grow.

A French-speaking Canadian volunteer helps two...

When you practice, try to spend less time teaching each other and more time listening. The focus is on fluency, not accuracy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beginning English:
My secret celebrity alter ego
Do you believe in ghosts?
April Fool!

Intermediate English:
Hot air balloon survivor
The job counselor
Selling it

Intermediate to advanced English:
Plane crash survivor
Where’s my lawyer?


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