Ashamed or Embarrassed

Tuesday, April 5, 2022


Quiz: You can only feel one of these when you are alone:   a) embarrassed  b) ashamed

The main difference between these words is that “ashamed” is more about what you think of yourself, and  “embarrassed” is about what other people think of you.

Example #1 — Ashamed: Some people who haven’t had a good education may not be able to read (they are illiterate). They don’t want others to know this because they would be “ashamed” to admit that they are adults who don’t know how to read. Being ashamed is personal, and it’s often associated with feeling inferior, inadequate, or guilty.

Example #2 — Embarrassed: When I was at the university, students would move from class to class on foot (sometimes by bike) and in the wintertime, the sidewalks were often very slippery. It was common to slip and fall on the icy sidewalks, myself included. This was “embarrassing” because other people could see you lose control and it wasn't cool (impressive) in any way.  

When you’re uncertain about whether to use ashamed or embarrassed, think about the source of this feeling: external/other people (embarrassed) or internal (ashamed). 

*(Answer: ashamed)

I Can't Make It

Wednesday, March 2, 2022


Do you know what “I can’t make it” means in the following statement?

“I’m sorry but I can’t make it to your party on Saturday.” 

I can’t make it means “I can’t go.” It's a common expression to say that you are unable to attend a meeting, an appointment, a party, an event, etc. If you say "I think I won't come,” it changes the meaning greatly because it conveys that you don't want to come or you have decided not to come. 

I can make it means “I can go.” You are able to be present at a particular event.

Example: George will reschedule his appointment so he can make it to the meeting this afternoon. 

Try using I can make it and I can’t make it, and you’ll be speaking like a real native. 

USA Culture: Groundhog Day is February 2

Wednesday, February 2, 2022


Happy Groundhog Day! Groundhog Day is February 2, and it’s a very popular day in the United States and Canada. It’s the day on which the groundhog (woodchuck) emerges from its winter rest and predicts the weather for the following six weeks.

Groundhog Day originates from the German tradition that if a groundhog emerges from its burrow (a hole or tunnel dug by a small animal) on this day and sees its shadow due to sunny weather, it will return to its den, and winter will continue for six more weeks; if it's cloudy and he doesn't see his shadow, it means an early spring. Many of Pennsylvania’s early settlers were German and they brought this tradition with them to North America.

Since there are no rodent meteorologists, there is no consistent connection between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the arrival time of spring-like weather, even though Groundhog Day remains a popular tradition. 

I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and, according to the this morning’s report of Gordy, the Milwaukee County Zoo's resident groundhog, he did not see his shadow, thus predicting an early spring for Milwaukee :)


Sunday, January 2, 2022


In a supermarket, what is produce and what items are sold in the produce section? (The word is a noun and the pronunciation is PROduce, with the accent on pro.) 

Produce refers to agricultural products. It’s a general term for many farm or garden crops, particularly fruits and vegetables.  It is understood that the products are fresh and in the same state as when they were harvested. This means that they are unprocessed, unfrozen, whole, raw fruits and vegetables that have not been combined with other ingredients.

If I can, I prefer buying produce at my local farmers market because the products are organic and fresher but, no matter where you buy your produce, it’s important to eat your fruits and veggies! - a fun, valuable learning resource

Tuesday, December 7, 2021


You’re busy, and often it’s difficult to find time to study English. Don't worry. If you can dedicate a very small amount of time every day to English, it will lead to great improvements overall.

I suggest 15 minutes minimum per day as ideal. You will definitely notice a significant impact by doing this versus studying in one 2-hour session per week, for example.

Suggested 15-minute study guide:  

  1. Spend at least five minutes reviewing your notes. The more repetition and studying of notes, the better. Things will become more familiar, natural, and easier. 
  2. Ok, ten minutes remaining? This website has something for everyone: (English language Listening Lab Online). I use it almost every day with my English students and here’s why: 

  • The site contains over 3000 short, free listening activities. 
  • There are different language levels, from beginner to advanced. 
  • The featured speakers come from all over the world, so you are exposed to different cultures, viewpoints, and accents. You can filter a specific country if you want. 
  • The topics are extremely diverse and entertaining.
  • Vocabulary, idioms, and phrasal verbs are incorporated naturally within the text. You can review new words on a separate page (audio notes) if you want; these are short explanations of key terms or interesting language.
  • You can test yourself with a quiz that accompanies each activity. 
  • People speak in everyday English (not formal text book English). 
  • Each listening activity includes the written text if you want to read and follow along with the audio. Some people are better listeners, some are better readers. 
  • Don't listen while driving. You can't effectively study this way.

I’m enthusiastic about Try it for 15 minutes a day, every day, and see how naturally your English skills grow. 

Catching Up

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


We had fun catching up with friends at our class reunion. 

Do you know what “catching up” means in that sentence? 

There are times when we don’t see a person for a long time and then, when you meet again, you need to share news and updates about everything that has happened since the last time you saw each other. That’s to “catch up with” someone.  

When you “catch up to” someone / something, you move faster to join a person or thing that is ahead of you. 

  • I stopped and waited for her to catch up.
  • Lorenzo biked so fast that I couldn't catch up.
  • Kim ran and ran but never caught up to the bus. 

  • *often used figuratively: The North American company will need to use more advanced technologies to catch up to its Japanese competitors.

To “catch up on” is an idiom meaning to do a task that one has neglected, or to do something that one could have done earlier.

  • - Claudia has to catch up on her homework over the weekend. 
  • - Elisa used Saturday to catch up on much-needed sleep. 
  • - Carlo is lazy. As a result, he will never catch up on his office work.
We can use this verb in all forms: catch up, caught up, are catching up, were catching up, have caught up, etc. 

American Culture: Native American Glass Gem Corn

Wednesday, October 6, 2021


I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first saw an image of glass gem corn. It’s a rainbow-colored heirloom corn with a jewel appearance, and it’s stunning!

This ancestral variety of corn was rediscovered in 2012 by an Oklahoma farmer named Carl “White Eagle” Barnes, who was half Cherokee. In a quest to connect with his Cherokee roots, he found seeds that matched up with traditional corns that had been lost to various Native tribes, and he began growing the older, traditional varieties. (The Native American culture places great importance on seeds, planting ceremonies, harvesting, and honoring seeds.)

Barnes isolated different types of corn and replanted those from particularly colorful cobs. A mix of Cherokee, Osage, and Pawnee varieties produced the first multicolored rainbow cobs. 

Carl Barnes, who died in 2016, made it possible for many Native tribes to recover and reunite with their sacred seeds, which helped in the reclaiming of their cultural and spiritual identities.