Thursday, December 29, 2011

German Video: German guy has trouble with American idioms!

Chris here again with a funny video I found for German. All language teachers and learners can relate to this. Ever have trouble teaching or learning idioms in a language you're learning? Understanding these can often be difficult and will typically come after gaining advanced proficiency with the language and/or spending time around native speakers. The funny video below has a German guy who is having trouble understanding American idioms. You can use this video to start a conversation with your classes. Enjoy!

  • How do you approach idioms in your language classes?
  • Are there any activities you do with idioms?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

News: Word Lens app expanded for French

The Word Lens app gained immediate popularity when it was released about a year ago as an easy way to translate Spanish words on signs, posters, and advertisements into English. The free app has been expanded and now does the same thing for French to English, but not yet from Spanish to French or vice versa. You can read more in the article below:

Word Lens app

News: Pa. Schools provide language options yet fluency remains elusive

Pennsylvania requires public schools to teach two foreign languages, with at least one offering four years of coursework. However, experts criticize that this too often leads to mere memorization as opposed to obtaining a true grasp of the language. Thus, many students graduate from school after taking years of language courses but are still unable to really use the language. This is an ongoing issue regarding the curriculum of language programs in the U.S. today. You can read more about this in the article below:

Pa. schools and fluency

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Chris here wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday! We'll be back next week!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

News: Chinese officials cancel controversial "English language town"

Beijing. Local officials in a Beijing suburb have cancelled plans to build a tourist destination modeled on a European style city. The remarkable feature of the "town" would have been the fact that only English could be spoken by visitors to it. The proposal drew criticism because some viewed it as discrimination to not allow Chinese to be spoken there. You can read more in the article below:

Controversial "English language town" cancelled

  • The idea of "English town" brings up an interesting idea. Would such a model work in the U.S. in limited contexts? 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spanish: Christmas Vocabulary

Hi all, Claudia here with some fun Christmas vocabulary you can share with students. Take a look at the link below which features a list of Christmas words and expressions in Spanish which you can click and listen to the pronunciation. They also provide fun activities you can download.

Spanish Christmas Vocabulary

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

German: Märchen word search (with answer key)

Chris here with a follow-up to the Märchen vocabulary word search. Below you will find links to a word search containing the most famous German fairy tales. Enjoy!


Märchen (Answer Key)

German: Märchen vokabel word search (with answer key)

Chris here again with some more activities for German. Below you can find a word search for Märchen-related vocabulary as well as an answer key. Enjoy!

Märchen Vokabel

Märchen Vokabel (Answer Key)

Monday, December 19, 2011

German: Christmas vocabulary

Chris here with some fun Christmas vocabulary you can share with students. Take a look at the link below which features an extensive A-Z list of German Christmas vocabulary as well as links to other fun activities.

News: Utah Charter School to offer "global perspective"

In August 2013, the Utah International School in Salt Lake City will open. The initial idea for the school came about because the local district has nearly 800 refugee students as well as a high number of new immigrants. The school hopes to provide a supportive environment for English-language learners and also give other students the chance to interact with people from diverse cultures. You can find more information about the school in the Salt Lake Tribune article below:

Utah Charter School to offer "global perspective"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

News: Minnesota elementary school offers dual-immersion program

The Little Canada Elementary School in Minnesota is set to offer a dual-immersion program. Although the program is dual-immersion, it offers a significant twist. Instead of a typical immersion program, where a class of English speakers is immersed in a curriculum taught entirely in a foreign language, this dual-immersion program will have both English and Spanish speakers in one class.You can read more information in the article below:

Minnesota dual-immersion

News: Multi-Language Karaoke in Illinois

A Mexican restaurant in Wauconda, Ill.,  La Malinche,  offers karaoke with an international flair on Friday and Sunday nights. Patrons have the option to sing about 10,000 different songs in English, Spanish, French or Portuguese. You can check out more information about the restaurant and the karaoke features in the link below:

Multi-language karaoke

  • Do you know of any other restaurants or venues which offer entertainment options in several languages?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

News: Dealing with challenges in multiple langauges

There are close to 100 dual-language programs in New York City a recent article reports. About 91% of the students enrolled in those schools are Latino and about 45% are labeled as English Language Learners. Advocates for the programs cite the fact that students are gaining fluency in both languages. However, the students still struggle on city-wide exams. You can read more about these issues facing dual-language programs by following the link below:

Dealing with challenges in multiple languages

News: L. A. Mayor wants to send youth to China for language learning

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently visited Beijing to promote his idea to send a group of inner city children to China for a language learning program.The Mendez Learning Center, which currently instructs over 250 students will be the program chosen to send a group of students over to China next year with the goal of broadening the students' horizons and getting them to think outside of their borders. You can read more about this exciting program in the article below:

Sending youth to China for language learning

Monday, December 12, 2011

News: Rosetta Stone Holiday Offer

Chris here again. Rosetta Stone is offering a great holiday deal for those interested in picking up their software! You can take a look at it here:

Rosetta Stone

News: Australia adds numerous langauges to its national curriculum

A new report from a government authority has resulted in Australia adding more than a dozen languages to its official curriculum. The plan aims to have students spend 5% of class time studying another language during their first few years of school. You can read more about this development in the article below:

Australia adds languages to national curriculum

Update: Comprehensive List of Link

Chris here again with a quick update. In order to replace the unwieldy list of links along the right side of the site, there will just be one link to a post containing a comprehensive list of links to other useful teaching and language sites. Check the link regularly as new links are being added all the time. The link to the post is also included below for those who just want to bookmark it. Enjoy!

News: Learn French while cooking in the smart kitchen

A professor of education and applied linguistics at Newcastle University, Paul Seedhouse, has devised an innovative and fun way for people to learn French. The French Digital Kitchen interactively teaches French words as the user prepares French dishes. You can read more about this exciting learning tool in the Guardian article below:

French Digital Kitchen

News: Families learn to communicate with sign language thanks to deaf tutors

Twenty families in the Memphis, Tenn. area participate in a program with the goal of breaking down the language barriers for young children with hearing impairments, especially those born to hearing parents. You can read more about this program below:

Families learn to communicate with sign language

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Useful Websites: English Leap

Chris here again. Today we have a guest post from one of our readers, Mike Davidson, who would like to share a bit of information about English Leap. Take it away, Mike:

The site is and it provides extremely valuable English learning resources and a Free demo course for spoken English.

Take a look at English Leap guys and let us know what you think!

Useful Websites: Online German Adventskalendar

Hello all Chris here with fun site for German teachers for this part of the year. Check out an online Adventskalendar! This is a great tool for German teachers who teach younger students at the primary school through high school levels. You could always try to get a few real Adventskalendar for your students depending on the class size :) Enjoy!

Online German Adventskalendar

Useful Websites: Games for Language

Chris here with a useful site I found that features interactive games for German, Spanish, French, and Italian.

Check out Games for Language and let us know what you think!

Games for Language

Monday, December 5, 2011

800 Posts!

I am happy to announce that we have reached 800 posts in our second year! Many thanks to our readers who visit and support the site!

News: Spanish speaking students help less fortunate families

A  service project has led a group of high school students to volunteer their language skills to LifeLine Ministries of Northern Kentucky. The Spanish speaking students provide the organization with interpreters for Hispanic families. You can read more about the service project by visiting the article in the link below:

Spanish speaking students help less fortunate families

  • Are there are any service projects in your area where languages are being used? Please let us know!

Reminder: Japanese Assessment Sumer Institute

The deadline for application form submissions is January 31, 2012.

Applicant Eligibility: Faculty members and Ph.D. students who are engaged in Japanese language education at postsecondary institutions are eligible to apply. Fluency in Japanese and English is required. Participants are expected to participate in sessions in English and Japanese and present their classroom assessment tool construction projects in English toward the end of the workshop. If the participants are faculty or staff at U.S. institutions, travel stipends of up to $1000 may be provided.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Useful Link: VizLingo

Hi everyone, Claudia here,

I recently read about a cool tool for putting words into video. This would be a nice way to teach your students with a visual component.

Type any message into VizLingo to see each word of that message illustrated by a 1-2 second video clip. Send your messages anywhere (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, mobile phones and email addresses).

VizLingo was conceptualized and created by entrepreneurs Todd Younggren and Azeo Fables.
Check it out and let us know what you think!

News: LAELPG Call for Papers

The Seventh Lancaster University International Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics and English Language (LAEL PG Conference) will take place at Lancaster University’s Bailrigg Conference Centre, on Friday 13 July 2012.

The Lancaster University Postgraduate Conference in Linguistics and Language Teaching is organized by postgraduate students under the auspices of the Department of Linguistic and English Language, Lancaster University.

The postgraduate conference aims to offer the opportunity for postgraduate students from various areas in linguistics and language teaching/assessment to come together to present papers related to their research and to exchange ideas.

Postgraduate students are invited to submit abstracts for oral and poster presentations on any area of linguistics, theoretical or applied addressing the topic ‘Language in Context’.

Follow the link for more details and for abstract submission guidelines. Submission deadline is March 19 2012

Thursday, December 1, 2011

German: Lieder zum 1. Advent (Domchor Paderborn)

Chris here again with another German video. The video features the Dom choir of Paderborn singing songs for the first day of Advent. This video adds another aspect to a lesson on German festivals and traditions. Advent and the popular Adventskalendar could serve as engaging discussion tools in your classes. Enjoy!

Useful Websites: High School Teaching Certification

Today we would like to share a useful resource for current and future high school teachers relating to state certification. The following website contains links for each state's certification requirements and for the applications themselves. All 50 states are listed! Enjoy!

High School certification

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

News: Delaware agreement with China to provide teachers

Chris here with some more language learning news. This year, about 50 students in two high schools in Delaware will take Chinese language classes taught by native speakers. You can read more about this program in the article below:

Delaware agreement with China provides teachers

German: Narrative Past Crossword

Chris here again. Today I would like to share another downloadable activity with fellow German teachers. Below you will find a crossword puzzle featuring verbs in the narrative past. An answer key is also provided. Enjoy!

Narrative Past Crossword

Narrative Past Answer Key

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

News: Language challenges don't stop South Carolina school

Despite living in high poverty, students at Arcadia Elementary in Spartanburg, S.C, most of whom speak Spanish as their first language, manage to score well on standardized tests. U.S. Department of Education researchers are studying how the school manages to effectively teach so many students to learn English. You can read more in the article below:

Langauge challenges don't stop South Carolina school

Useful Websites: The Guardian Eyewitness Galleries

Chris here with a very useful website that all language teachers will enjoy. Take a look at The Guardian's Eyewitness picture collection. This archive feature pictures from all of the world with many different languages and cultures represented. The collection is vast and the pictures are very useful for stimulating discussion.

Guardian Eyewitness Pictures

News: Surge of Louisiana children choosing French despite growth in Spanish

The nearly 30 French immersion schools throughout Louisiana have had a large influx of students wanting to enroll. This is a peculiar trend as there has also been a surge in Spanish speaking newcomers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. You can read more in the article below:

Louisiana children choosing French

News: New book asks if Canada is truly bilingual

A new book called "Life After Forty: Official Language Policy in Canada" challenges the notion that Canada is truly bilingual. Many people in Canada grow up speaking and learning both English and French. A law that was passed 42 years ago also made Canada officially a bilingual country. However, despite education efforts, only about 7% of anglophones outside of Quebec actually use French to communicate, according to "Life After Forty." You learn more about this interesting book by visiting the link below

Is Canada truly bilingual?

Spanish: Online Translation Woes

Chris here again. Today we have a guest post from Aida Valenzuela regarding issues with online translations in Spanish. If you have any questions or comments feel free to add those below the post. Enjoy!

Below is a humorous account of how literal translations (e.g. online translators, ignoring parts of speech, etc.) can distort meaning and become quite funny. The regional text below tells of a gentlemen who learned English through a dictionary or rather, relies too closely on literal translations. The gentleman witnesses an accident involving a married couple and a police officer asks him to give a report, therein lies the rub.

The gentleman tells the police officer, “I was stop there” when in Spanish he would say, “Estaba parado allí.” In Spanish, parar can be a transitive verb meaning to stop or it can mean to stand. In this case, the witness meant to say he was standing there.

The gentleman goes on to inform the officer that when the husband was seemingly injured and on the ground, his wife yelled, “Honey! Honey! Honey!” In colloquial usage with terms of endearment, one can sometimes use “old man” or “old lady” to affectionately refer to their partner. In the text below, the witness states, “And the woman said, “Old! Old! Old!”. In Spanish viejo does mean “old” but it can also be used in the same endearing context as “old man”.
El hombre que aprendió inglés con un diccionario…

Había un señor que estaba en los Estados Unidos en una ciudad, y estaba en una esquina queriendo cruzar la calle. Un matrimonio estaba del otro lado de la calle y también quería cruzar la calle.

En eso venía un carro muy rápido, y con la llanta pisó una piedra. La piedra saltó y le pegó al marido en la cabeza. El señor se desmayó y la señora histérica trataba de despertarlo y nada.

En eso llegó la chota (policía) y como el señor había sido testigo de los eventos, la chota lo abordó y le preguntó:

Did you see what happened here?

“Yes”, contestó el señor.

Name? Dijo la chota, sacando al mismo tiempo una libreta para apuntar el nombre.

Y contestó el vato que aprendió inglés con un diccionario. “Almost Can See Fontains Pigeonhouses” o sea, Casimiro Fuentes Palomares.

Y el señor contestó, “I was stop there”. O sea, que él estaba parado allí.

“The wheel pushed the stone.” O sea, que la llanta aventó la piedra.

“The stone fly” O sea que la piedra voló.

“And hit the man in the one hundred” O sea, que le pegó al señor en la sien.

“The woman put the shout in the heaven” O sea, que puso el grito en el cielo.

“And the woman said…Old! Old! Old!” O sea, Viejo! Viejo! Viejo!

“Up, Up. Don`t whistle yourself” O sea, levántate, levántate, no te chifles.

“And the man never came back in yes again” O sea, que el hombre nunca volvió en sí otra vez.

Y todo destanteado la chota le preguntó:

And where’s the car?

Y contestó el señor….

“Peel rooster” O sea ¡Peló gallo!

15 Most Butchered Phrases in English

Our friends over at recently posted a fun article dealing with commonly misused phrases in English. This is a useful list that you can share with your students, especially if you are teaching English.You could also use this list by offering your students equivalent phrases for whichever language you teach. Many thanks to Anna Miller of OnlineDegree for sharing this great article with us!

15 Most Butchered Phrases in English

Monday, November 28, 2011

German Video: Fairy Tales

Chris here with some more German videos. Today I would like to share several videos I found which feature some classic German fairy tales. You can use these to supplement your lessons. If you have any other videos you would like to share, please feel free. Enjoy!


Max und Moritz

Hänsel und Gretel - Teil 1

Spanish: How do people celebrate Christmas in Mexico?

Hello everyone, Claudia Sadowski here. The Christmas season is fast approaching and since celebrations of all natures occur everywhere, I have decided to share with you how Christmas is celebrated in Mexico. Traditionally, Mexico is a country predominantly Catholic for at least 95% of the population. Therefore, many of the celebrations are religious oriented. Christmas is no exception. From the 16 to the 24 of December, people organize “Posadas” this word literally means “inn” or a place to stay. The story describes when Mary and Joseph were in their journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and they were looking for a place to stay in order for their son Jesus to be born. Many people denied them the entrance to their home and finally one family let them in their home. However, this family allowed them to stay in their barn. Catholics and many other Christian religions believe that this is the place where Jesus was born. 

Nowadays, Mexico has a tradition to have a reenactment of this occurrence. People get organized well in advance and decide who will be hosting the Posada and what day within the dates of 16 to the 24 of December. Every one of the nine families has the opportunity to host the Pilgrims each night. Once they have everything organized, they start with the first neighbor. They have a procession of people who are already chosen by everyone in the neighborhood. They choose one person for each character: Mary, Joseph, an Angel and the Three Wise Man. The Angel leads the procession, Mary and Joseph follow, some times with a real baby, and also a real donkey as it was believed that Mary and Joseph traveled by a donkey. The Three Wise Man follow the pilgrims and at the end the rest of the people follow the entire procession.

The pilgrims and every single person participates by sing from house to house a very popular song that I am including here: Everyone of the participants holds a lit candle and they sing out loud, some sing inside the homes as a reply to the pilgrims to let them know that they will not let them in and at the end the host family also sing the acceptance to let them in. When the family finally receives the pilgrims, they enter the home and start to enjoy some delicious Mexican traditional meal that typically consists of tamales, ponche (a hot beverage that seems very much like a sweet tea with real fruit consisting typically of guava, sugarcane, tejocotes, tangerines, Jamaica flower, sweeten with piloncillo or brow sugar, and cinnamon sticks – the entire recipe varies from home to home but typically consists of these ingredients), I am including an example of a recipe for Mexican ponche: . The families usually offer champurrado (hot corn based beverage), buñuelos (like the traditional “elephant ears” you find in summer carnivals in the US), and little bags with candy (goodie bags) that are called Aguinaldos. In this Posada there is always at least one piñata for everyone to break. The piñata is filled with candy and seasonal fruit, usually oranges, tangerines, sugarcanes, and peanuts. Here is a video that portrays in short what I explained:

My classes usually see in the part of Cultura around this time of the year when we learn about Christmas around the Hispanic countries. We reenact the procession and I bring real candles and we go from door to door in three different classrooms. I provide my students with the lyrics of the Posadas in English and Spanish. We sing them in Spanish. We previously assign groups that will bring the food. One group is in charge of finding the recipe for Ponche and they make it and bring it to class. Another group buy flour tortillas and fry them and pour cinnamon and sugar before they place them to dry, this food is to represent buñuelos. Another group make a piñata out of a balloon and fill it with candy. The day of our Posada we break it. Then I usually bring the tamales for everyone to enjoy. This is a great tradition to start in your classroom, and students will always remember that part of Christmas in Mexico. 

Here is the link of the lyrics to ask for Posada in English and Spanish:

I found a link that explains how to make piñatas:

Here is a page where you can create your own vocabulary for Posadas. You can read it and listen to the phrases:

A crossword puzzle related to Posadas:

I hope that you have found this post to be helpful for your students.
¡Feliz Navidad! 

 (Mexican flag image form Wikipedia, all rights theirs)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

7 Simple Role Play Situations

Chris here with some more ideas for activities to wrap up the weekend. Below are seven basic role playing situations you can use in your classes. The topics are adaptable to practically any level. You can prioritize and setup the vocabulary and grammar for whichever language you teach. Let me know what you think or if you have any role playing situations of your own that you like to use in class. Enjoy!

You are planning a trip to Berlin (or another city)
  •  One Student plays the traveler and one plays the travel agent
  •  Traveler asks about price, departure, arrival times, general questions about the flight & accommodations, tourist activities

At the restaurant: Splitting the bill
  •  Two or more students are at a restaurant trying to split a bill
  •  Students must decide how much each will pay and what tender, who will leave a tip, etc
  •  One student can be added to play the waiter

You live are an American student who has just moved to (City X) to spend a year studying abroad

  • One student plays your neighbor in the student dorm/apartment/suite mate while the other is the new arrival

  •  The American students is a bit lost and asks several questions: where classes are, how to get to the various classes, where to shop for groceries etc

  •  The German student gives explanations and advice
You are moving and want to sell your furniture
  •  One or more students stop by and want to buy your furniture

  •  Students practice negotiating prices and furniture vocabulary
Students discuss shopping for cars

  • A small group of students is out shopping for cars

  •  Students discuss what type of cars and characteristics in a car they are looking for, as well as price range

  •  One student plays a salesperson who tries to convince students to buy a car
Students have just won the lottery
  •  Discuss what they would do with the money

  •  It can be required that they reach a consensus and must spend the money on something beneficial
Students act out a scene from a popular fairy tale, or create their own
  • Very open-ended role-playing situation where students can be creative

Saturday, November 26, 2011

News: Helpers needed for the BRAZ-TESOL

Would you like to help in the 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention?
The recruitment and selection process has started, it's your chance to attend the conference for free and do some networking while you help.

Friday, November 25, 2011

News: Rosetta Stone Black Friday Sale

Hello all, Chris here. I would just like to pass along that Rosetta Stone has a pretty good Black Friday sale going on with anywhere from $100-300 off of the software depending on which package you get. This is a great deal if you're looking to learn another language or brush up on one you're already learning. You can check out the deals here:

Rosetta Stone

Thursday, November 24, 2011

News: Some colleges move towards online language instruction

Hello everyone, Chris here with some more language learning news. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education reports on colleges that are featuring entirely online language classes. Advances in technology such as Web-conferencing software are increasingly expanding the possibilities of online language courses as programs face a lack of qualified instructors, pedagogical innovations, and budget cuts. You can read the full article in the link below:

Online Language Instruction

Does your school or institution feature online courses or course components? If so, we would love to hear about it!

What are some of the benefits and drawbacks to online language courses?

Leave us a comment!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Wishing everyone a safe and happy holiday with friends and family!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

News: More Talk About the App Gap

Hello all, Chris here. Not too long ago I reported on the so-called "App Gap" that has been developing in schools. Today, I would like to share more about this issue with an excellent blog post brought to us by Jasmine Hall from Their articles is called "15 Telling Facts About the App Gap."

You can view their article here:

15 Telling Facts About the App Gap

We would also love to hear your comments or experiences with Apps in school settings.

News: Scotland cuts number of foreign language assistants

Scottish schools employ native speakers as part-time employees to help students learn foreign languages. However, in the past six years, the British Council Scotland has cut those positions by 80%. You can read more in the BBC article below:

Scotland cuts number of foreign language assistants

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Japanese: Vocabulary Practice

Hi all, Junko desu. Today I want to share an activity for practicing new vocabulary words.

Students choose new vocabulary words in the category of nouns, adjectives, verbs and so on depending on what they just learned (see the attached). Then, form question sentences using the new words. For example, if they just learned the word "sister", they could say "How many sisters do you have?" They should use the grammar points that they already know, or something that they learned in the previous chapter.

When they are done forming the questions, they go ask classmates the questions. When classmates answer the question with "yes", they write down the name of the person.

Follow this link for the attachment:

Japanese Vocabulary Practice

News: 2012 BRAZ-TESOL - Call for papers

The 13th BRAZ-TESOL National Convention ‘Proud to Be’ will be held at Faculdade CCAA in Rio de Janeiro between 16 and 19 July 2012.

A forum for professionals in the field of English Language Teaching, the convention promotes the discussion of practical and theoretical issues related to the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. It is a unique opportunity for BRAZ-TESOL members and international colleagues to get together, present their work and reflect on their practice.

The Academic Committee invites all BRAZ-TESOL members – teachers, teacher trainers, researchers, program administrators, and material writers – to submit proposals for presentations at the Convention.

The closing date for receipt of proposals is February 13, 2012

All proposals will be read by members of the Academic Committee and designated readers, and notification of acceptance will be sent by mid-April, 2012.

All presenters must be BRAZ-TESOL members, and must register for the convention before submitting a proposal.

Please note: Workshops, papers and talks at BRAZ-TESOL conventions are usually conducted in English; however, proposals for presentations in Portuguese will be considered.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Share Buttons Added

Chris here with a quick update. We've added share buttons to all of the popular social sites so sharing your favorite content from the Language Teacher's Toolbox is fast and easy. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

News: Studying abroad on the rise again

According to a recent report in USA Today, more U.S. students are earning credits overseas, and the number of foreign students studying at American colleges and universities also is on the rise. Americans going abroad for school increased 3.9%, according to the Institute of International Education, while foreign students in the U.S. climbed 4.7%. You can read more in the article below:

Study Abroad on the rise


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