Know Your Past Tenses!

Are you using your past tenses appropriately? Are you still applying the past simple because you are afraid of making mistakes when writing? Perhaps you recently learned the past perfect continuous but are still unsure why or when to use it. It’s perfectly normal to be intimidated by so many forms of grammar which refer to an action or behavior in the past. Below is a brief summary of all past tenses. Included in this posting are some example sentences, each provided with a context describing when each tense should be used. Have a look and leave your tense anxieties well and truly… in the past. Past Simple – After the baseball game, we went to a restaurant, ate a feast and celebrated our incredible victory. When should I use it? For a series of separate past events. Present Perfect Simple – I have recently been to Malta and am still rather tanned. When should I use it? For events in the recent past that are not completed or connect to the present. Present Perfect Continuous – I have been teaching English for many years. When should I use it? To show something started in the past and has continued up until now. Past Continuous – The sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. When should I use it? For an interrupted past or background event. Past Perfect Simple – The train had left before we arrived at the station. When should I use it? For an event that finished before another past event. Past Perfect Continuous – By the time my sister showed up, we had been waiting at the bus stop for nearly an hour. When should I use it? For a continuous action that finished before another past event. The best way to practice your past … Read more

Teacher Interview: Amol Ray

How long have you been with EC San Francisco? About a year and a half. In which other locations have you taught English? Salvador, Brazil. In your mind, what distinguishes EC from other language centres? I feel there is a great sense of community here at EC, while our staff are friendly and approachable. We’ve also invested in a new library with some great pieces of literature for all of our students to share! Favorite English expression or grammar point. “It’s all good” Must-see place in San Francisco Bay Area. Jack London Square (Oakland, CA). The ride across the Bay from the Ferry Building is a definite must. Bay Area sports team of choice. Golden State Warriors BART or MUNI? MUNI Do you have a favorite route? The 44 O’Shaughnessy. Starting at Golden Gate Park and passing through Forest Hills is certainly an experience!

EC Water Bottle Competition! Where in the world are you?

Do you love your new EC water bottle? Are you making the most of it during weekend day trips across the Bay Area? If you think you’ve got the EC school spirit we’re looking for, then this competition is for you! For this month’s online competition, we want you to send us a picture with your water bottle on display, at an impressive, fun-filled location outside of class. The student who can provide us with a picture that is totally unique will receive a FREE! ONE-ON-ONE with one of your favorite teachers. This session can take place either in-class or through Skype online! So, even if you’re an ex-EC SF student abroad, who still loves to represent our official water bottle, we’d love to see what you’re up to. Show your water bottle the love it desrves and send us a picture via the email address below to win your one-on-one session with Amol, Tess, Kelly or Harrison. All competition entries should be sent to Our winner will be announced at the end of the month. Happy Photos EC! For some great examples, why not check out EC New York on Facebook and inspire yourself to victory! EC New York Facebook Page

EC Academic Student of the Week

It’s the beginning of the week and San Francisco’s Advanced class kick things off with some ‘Talking Points’, centred around visiting the movies. When was the last time you went to the cinema?, How do we define a film as ‘successful’?, What makes a good actor/actress? were just some of the conversational topics we covered. Having read an extract from the famous novel ‘The Godfather’, we looked at a review in our coursebook and analyzed some of the ways in which opinions towards a movie can be appropriately expressed through writing. After expanding on the example provided in ‘Just Right’- Advanced, homework was to produce a review of your own. Today I was extremely impressed by all of my students use of English, but with a winner ‘promised’ to be posted online, I could only choose one. Anne Peichotta, congratulations! Here is your review which I’m sure everyone will appreciate! ‘The Iron Lady’, a biographical film about Margaret Thatcher, was released in January 2012. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd, the film starred Meryl Streep as the first (and only) former female Prime Minister (1979 to 1990), whose performance won the prize for ‘Best Actress’ (Drama) at the 2012 Golden Globe Awards. The film tells the story of Margaret Thatcher’s struggle to gain attention in the male-dominated political world and her successful approach to break barriers of gender. The story is portrayed through flashbacks of the elder Thatcher, who is trapped in her house and gets sheperd by housekeepers. Most of the time, her dead husband Denis appaears as a ghost and argues with her about her decisions and actions as a politician, as well as a mother and a wife. ‘The Iron Lady’ portrays Thatcher’s life in a highly emotional, almost tragic style. Streep’s authentic display of Thatcher, as a brave … Read more

Multiple Destinations with Young Suk Hwang

It’s Wednesday and Young Suk Hwang (a current AY student of mine) is half way through his last week at EC San Francisco. With afternoon electives starting at 1pm, we spent the last ten minutes of our lunch-break chatting in Judah, a quiet classroom where Young-Suk could gather his thoughts and tell me a little bit more about why he is here exactly. Harrison: Why have you come to EC San Francisco? Young Suk: At first I tried to escape from my country for a good reason. I’ve lived in Korea for almost twenty years so I thought I needed somewhere to live outside of Korea. Somewhere I could experience another cultrure. America is one of the largest, most powerful and diverse countries. In Korea we have a lot of American influence, so I believe it’s a good place to live for a while. Harrison: Are you happy with the progress you’ve made since you’ve been here? Young Suk: Yes, I do believe that my speaking and basic survival skills have improved. I’m happy with my writing and reading skills although they can always be better! Harrison: How do you think you can improve these particular skills? Young Suk: I know that I should keep reading newspapers, magazines and anything academic. As for writing, I should try to practice structuring my use of English. Harrison: As you know, it is your last week here at EC San Francisco. Are you flying back to Korea? Young Suk: No, actually I’m planning to visit my cousin in LA. Then I’ll go to EC Boston to continue my Engish studies. Harrison: That’s excellent, really great to hear! And are you going to maybe visit our new centre in LA? Young Suk: Maybe I could haha. Harrison: Well it’s in a nice location. Santa … Read more

Back to Basics: Writing a Review

If there is one form of writing that allows students to express their opinions in full, it’s through a review. Once reaching an Intermediate level, a student’s use of vocabulary, grammar and overall grasp of English is capable of rocketing sky-high. What’s most important however, is the organization of such language skills. Re-arranging our personal opinions and proficient vocabulary can enable us to produce a piece of material that really steals the limelight and stands out in the crowd. Whether your review is of a film, tv show or even a novel, structure is key. Below is a ‘review checklist’, guarenteed to make your writing shine! 1. Target Audience Stop for a moment. Think carefully about whom you are writing to! – Are you writing for a magazine, a local newspaper or simply recommending something to a friend? How old are your readers? Are they male or female? These seemingly minor details are in fact of major importance! – Whoever you are writing for, remember to keep your register appropriate. For instance, is your review meant to be more formal or informal? 2. Purpose – What is the overall purpose or ‘opinion’ of your review? – Are you writing a critique that is positive or negative? – What do you hope to achieve through your review? Are you encouraging readers to engage with your topic, or discouraging them to keep well away and not waste their time and money? 3. Scrap Notes – Grab a spare piece of paper and make notes on everything you would like to include in your review. Think about characters, performers, plot, setting, editing, costume, music or anything that vividly displays your chosen subject. – Once you have brainstormed this information on scrap paper, you can start to organize your ideas more clearly. Begin by … Read more

CAE with Gina Birrer

Gina Birrer is currently EC San Francisco’s only Cambridge ESOL student. After traveling with her friends over the summer and settling down in California from Switzerland, she’s finally getting into the swing of things. As a result of an attendance list that consists of just a single name, Gina begins classes 30 minutes later than General English students. Nevertheless, with hefty workloads at such a proficient level, it’s not all plain sailing! Here’s what she had to say about her EC experience so far: One Intention of my gap year was to obtain as much exposure to English as possible in order to improve my language skills. This is one of the reasons why I am taking the CAE class at EC San Francisco. As a result of the interesting mix between Asian, Arabic, European and South American cultures, I have the opportunity to acquire a profound knowledge of English in conjunction with learning about nationalities other than my own. I think it it is very important to gain a better understanding of the world around us. Furthermore, I am positive about the style of teaching within the school and I like that the teachers focus on every student’s personal needs. Technical equipment is well adapted and the rooms are modern. One can also join different activities within the school after lessons finish for the day. This creates a good balance between studying and exploring the eclectic city of San Francisco. I love the unique spirit of San Francisco and I am glad to be here!