elllo.org - 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: elllo.org (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 Elllo.org. 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. 

Hard Copy

Wednesday, September 8, 2021


In this age of computers, smart phones, and tablets, it’s easier and more efficient to retain files, documents, receipts, even books, in their digital forms. Quite a space saver! In the tech world, those are referred to as soft copies.

So what do you call something printed on paper? A hard copy, of course. Hard copies don’t require an electronic interface, like computers or mobiles phones, to read and display because they are a printed version on paper of data held in a computer. A hard copy is also known as a printout

Ex: I prefer email receipts but today I needed a “hard copy” for a rebate request. 

Throw at / throw to

Wednesday, August 11, 2021


“Life is a great big canvas; throw all the paint you can at it.” 

This quote from entertainer Danny Kaye inspires, in addition to being a perfect example of the phrasal verb “throw at.”

Another phrasal verb “throw to” may seem similar to “throw at” but it is not: 

"Throw at" means to throw something with the intention of hitting something. You throw to hit a target.


  • Giannis Antetokounmpo threw the ball at the basket. 
  • After a snowfall, children have fun throwing snowballs at each other. 

When “throwing to,” you give something to someone by tossing or hurling it. If I throw something to you, you're probably expecting it. 


  • Margaret prefers that Frank hand her the car keys instead of throwing them to her from across the room. 
  • Aaron Rogers threw the football to one of his receivers. 

Use the correct preposition for "throw at" and "throw to" and be a better English speaker. 

American Culture: Shotgun Houses

Friday, July 16, 2021


Does the name “shotgun house” scare you? Fear not, because a shotgun house is a typical small Southern style home of New Orleans, and it’s charming and cute. Even though tiny homes are a big trend now, shotgun houses could be considered the original tiny home because they were very popular in the late 1800s.

Shotgun houses are tiny but long, with one room leading into the next without hallways. This style of home is affordable and particularly well-suited for hot climates because all of the doors line up and, when open, a refreshing breeze flows through the entire house. 

Why is it called a shotgun house? Perhaps it’s because of the architectural design, where rooms are connected without hallways so a bullet fired from the front door could pass through the house without hitting anything and exit through the back door. Other evidence suggests that this name actually derives from the word “shogon.” In West Africa, “shogon” means “God’s House.”

Say NO to "ain’t"

Sunday, June 20, 2021

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a popular expression that means don’t try to change something that is working well.  It has the word ain’t in it. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is the corrected version of this sentence. 

Ain’t is often heard in music, movies, TV, and in conversations (two famous song examples are “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by The Temptations, and “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers), but there is much disagreement on its use in the English language. 

Ain't is a contraction for am not, is not, are not, has not, and have not but it’s strictly slang. I never say it and I don’t recommend that you say it. It’s considered by many to be incorrect or "bad" English although it is common in the speech of some people. The use of ain’t is generally viewed negatively as a sign of low education or low economic status. 

Perhaps this funny little poem will encourage you to never say ain’t

Don't say 'ain't'.
Your mother will faint.
Your father will fall
In a bucket of paint.
Your sister will cry.
Your brother will sigh.
The cat and dog will say good-bye.