Monthly Archives: March 2015

Double Bubble Train Your Face

English is a sport for your face! Proper pronunciation requires A LOT of movement of the tongue, lips, jaw and diaphragm.  I am excited to present a video tutorial which will show you a FUN and effective way to train your face for English!  This is great training for English language learners, singers, people who  have to communicate over the phone or Skype a lot, and those who speak in public.

After watching several impressive teachers in action (Bill Acton, Marsha Chan, and the fictional Mr. Miyagi) I was reminded of several truths. First: Stretching is essential for any activity.  This is true for speaking and singing as well.  Another important point not mentioned in my video tutorial is:  Breathing from the diaphragm will give you more oxygen, will help you relax and give you more power for speaking, singing, and living! (How to Breathe With Your Diaphragm).  I was also inspired by Tim Gallwey, a tennis coach who has become famous for his concept and book titled, “The Inner Game.”  Gallwey realized that athletes were over-thinking things and their mind was actually interfering with what their body “knew” to do naturally.

So, by focusing on something other than pronunciation, you will be able to build strength and flexibility in the muscles you need for better enunciation.*

Tips For Blowing a Good Bubble
  • Start with a clean mouth   Food particles will damage the integrity of the gum; the food will absorb some of the gum and the gum will literally fall apart. 
  • Gum can be over-chewed   Once the gum gets too hard it is more difficult to smooth and flatten into your “gum pancake”
  • More gum is better for double (or triple bubbles) But the thicker the bubble, the more difficult it will be to see the second bubble inside.
  • Don’t give up!  Any new skill takes practice. If your jaws and face get tired, you know they got a good workout!  Keep on training!


Here are the varieties of gum that I tested for this tutorial (please share in the comment section below if you have a favorite that is not listed):

Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEGSeal of Approval   Bubble Yum sugarless, and Extra Classic Bubble sugarfree…This gum was a nice rubbery consistency after just a couple of minutes of chewing! This means you won’t have to spend 20 minutes or more chewing out all of the flavoring.  One piece works for a single bubble.  I used two pieces for a double bubble.

Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEGSeal of Approval   Hubba Bubba  I tried the Bubble Tape as well the “MAX” Strawberry Watermelon flavor you see in the video.  I used about 16″ (sixteen inches = 40.6 centimeters) of the tape variety, which has a lot of powder that got all over my hands and subsequently my keyboard.  🙁  I used two pieces of the MAX, either variety works well for double and triple bubble blowing.

Orbit Bubblemint flavor, sugar free.  I found this gum to be similar to the Project 7 gum that I demonstrate in my video.  It is soft and chewy but doesn’t hold up* well and doesn’t make large even bubbles.

.       The Gum Wall, Seattle, WA

Project 7 Gourmet Gum sugar free… This gum helps support a good cause: anti-bullying programs.  As a general rule, gum that does not say “bubble gum” doesn’t work well for blowing bubbles.  Unfortunately, Project 7 gum (although delicious) is not ideal for bubble gum blowing.

Trident sugar free bubblegum….took 3 pieces and wasn’t very hard, had to chew it for a long time (over ten minutes). Again, not ideal for bubble gum blowing.

 My Take On it

My training is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages.  I have given many lectures, made presentations, and was a travelling singer and radio newscaster in college. I have NOT been trained to do speech therapy.  So, if you have TMJ, Down’s Syndrome, have had a stroke, or brain injury, or have any other physical or medical concern which affects your ability to produce sound, or open and close your mouth, talk to your doctor or therapist before beginning this training.

And have fun and take my double bubble challenge!

Thanks, Michele



To and Fro with To, For and From

useful for you and even useful to you Click To Tweet

The title of this article uses the phrase “to and fro” which means “back and forth.” Perhaps you find yourself going to and fro, trying to decide when to use to, for, or from?, –especially when it comes to using to and for with object pronouns (me, you, him, her, them, etc). Well, this article should be useful for you and even useful to you.

FOR indicates an effect, help, purpose, preference, or an amount
  • Effect/Experience  Vegetables are good for you. Speaking Chinese is hard for me.
  • Help    This blog is for you.  I took notes for you.
  • Purpose     These books are for my English class.
    iced tea spoon
    .           iced tea spoon

    This iced tea spoon is for stirring tea.

  • Preference   Are you for or against using nuclear energy?
  • Amount   I’ve been married for fifteen years.

In the first part of the sentence , “This article should be useful for you…”, “for” indicates a beneficial effect and a purpose.

What about, “useful to you”?

TO indicates transfer, destination, direction, comparison, and purpose (with simple verbs)
  • Transfer    She gave a toy to the child.  I will sell this painting to you for $300. (“for” in this example is an amount)
  • Destination    We are going to the airport.
  • Direction  Move the painting to the right.
  • Comparison   I prefer small dogs to large breeds.
  • Purpose  (Using “to” for purpose requires a verb in its simplest form. To  + verb is an infinitive.)  I want to ask you a question.  I’d like to tell you a story.

So, the second part of my sentence “useful to you” indicates a transfer.  This information is being given to  you.

Common combinations with to and for

teach to transfer I teach English to speakers of other languages.
teach to purpose I teach to help people understand and enjoy English.
*teach for help (on behalf of) I taught a class for Mrs. Decouto today. (I subbed* for her).
read to infinitive/direction I like to read to my  grandchildren. (With infinitives, “to” comes before the verb)
*read for help (on behalf of) I read the newspaper for grandpa since his eyes went bad. (as above, “to” also works here:  direction, toward g’pa*)
*read for amount I read for an hour. (Note: the past tense of read is spelled the same but pronounced “red”)
write to destination I am writing to my sister.
*writing for purpose (possibly help) I am writing a note for your teacher. (“to” also works in this sentence as destination, it’s going to your teacher)
sell to transfer I will sell my car to you.
*sell for help (on behalf of), amount We are selling raffle tickets for our dance troupe for just a dollar a piece.
care for others (take care of) benefit I provide care for my grandsons every Tuesday.
care for preference I don’t care for the taste of ginger. (I don’t like it)
prepare to purpose Prepare to be amazed! (Get mentally prepared)
*prepare for purpose I am preparing for my presentation. (Making physical preparations: preparing materials and possibly the environment)

Notice the difference between the last two examples.  “Prepare to” involves mental preparation, or planning.  There is also a sense of urgency.

“I’m preparing to blow this thing out of the water!”

.           Water gun fight

This means you are about to do something epic (really great), or that you are literally going to fire a weapon at something in the water.

Let’s look at another confusing pair:

It is scary for me., or It is scary to me?

“Scary for me” uses “for” as an effect (see the uses of FOR at the top of this article).  The experience is scary.  There is a sense of physical involvement with for here, similar to “prepare for” in the chart above. For is used with more physical experiences.  To tends to be cerebral.*  Just like “prepare to” had a sense of mental involvement, “Scary to me” conveys an opinion, or an analysis.

Now lets consider a question from one of my students:

Q: Can I say, “same to”?  A. Not usually.

We only use “same to” in the expression: “If it’s all the same to you…(followed by a suggestion or a statement of preference).”   For example, “If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to order pizza tonight.”  You are using “to” to say, “If you don’t have a strong preference…I think we should….or I would like to…”  You may be thinking, “but isn’t “for” supposed to be used with preferences?!”  Yes it is. (Thanks for noticing!) Using “to” makes the statement more objective, more rational; it refers to the listeners “thoughts” by using “to” and keeps emotion out.

Here is a little poem, called To and For  I wrote for you, to compare these concepts:shareasimage

Got it?  Check your understanding with this 10 question quiz.

For versus From

One of my students recently said he had stress for work. I explained that this would mean he was was suffering on behalf of his work.  What he meant to say was that he had stress from work.  Work was the source of his stress.

Lessons for Learning

Lessons for Teaching

Clicking on the link above will take you to the teaching material for the lesson above.

 That’s it FOR now!  Let me hear FROM you!


Talking Naturally about Nature

Many English language learners use the word nature unnaturally. In English we don’t say, “I like to see nature”, or “visit nature.”

We experience nature.  We can see things in nature  or see the natural beauty of a place. And we can visit natural areas, but we can’t see  or visit “nature” itself/herself.  Nature is thought of like a force or a spirit and is often personified (i.e., given human qualities). In fact, Webster’s online dictionary gives the following example for the word personify:

The ancient Greeks personified the forces of nature as gods and goddesses.

Look at these famous quotes about nature (photographs by Michele W Snider):

shareasimage (1)shareasimage (2)shareasimage (6)

“Look deep into someone’s eyes”, is a familiar expression. Einstein calls us to look into  nature  itself/herself. (Personification)

Humans have the ability to touch. So, Shakespeare also personifies nature in the statement above.

Leibovitz (above left) refers to nature as it. Nature is talked about as a living thing. Nature, she says, has power and is elusive (hard to pin down) and transformative.

Radhanath Swami (left)  describes Mother Nature.  Giving nature a name, “Mother Nature,” is the ultimate in personification. Notice how he speaks of nature as a woman.  This is a natural way to speak about nature.  As you can see nature is spoken of as an “it”, a “her” or a force.  We can’t see nature, but we can see the work of nature.  We can’t visit her, but we can visit natural areas (see more vocabulary below). Additionally we can say we enjoy being in nature and surrounding ourselves with nature.

Nature can be a creative or a destructive force. We can feel her,  and we can listen to her. We can be in nature and we can be with nature. So, embrace Nature and speak of her respectfully!embrace Nature and speak of her respectfully! Click To Tweet

Let’s look at synonyms and additional vocabulary that will help us talk about nature, wildlife, and natural environments naturally!

 Words to describe natural areas

Nouns: ♣ Outdoors  ♣ The Great Outdoors  ♣ The Wild ♣ The Wilderness ♣ The Bush (Australian) ♣ Nature Reserves  also called Preserves (areas kept in their natural state) ♣ Creation ♣ Mother Nature ♣ Mother Earth ♣ The Environment ♣ Flora and Fauna (“plants and animals”) ♣ Wildlife (animals) ♣ The Natural World

Adjectives: ♣ Unspoiled   ♣ Natural   ♣ Scenic   ♣ Wilderness/Wild  ♣ Undeveloped  ♣  Virgin ♣ Untamed  ♣ Unsettled  ♣ Uncultivated ♣ Uninhabited  These adjectives are used in front of words describing spaces, such as: places, areas, country, territory, and land. For example: unspoiled country, scenic areas, or uncultivated land (you get the idea!).

For more nature words, here is the most comprehensive nature vocabulary list that I have ever seen!

Additionally, here are a few more great quotes about nature (with more of my photographs).

shareasimage (7)  shareasimage (9)shareasimage (8)

 Additional Uses of Nature

The other use of nature refers to one’s essence, in other words the things that are typically true of that person or thing.  Look at these examples of human nature:

 The word pitch above means high point.

The words naturally and natural are used with both meanings of the word nature discussed above.

Things that are grown naturally, are grown in nature without human intervention. We also describe naturally grown produce as natural produce. Here we are using the words naturally, and natural as they relate to the first meaning of the word nature: the natural world. 

The words naturally and natural are also used when talking about things that stem from* one’s personality or natural abilities. When something comes easy* we think of it as natural.  We can say, for example, “He swings the bat so naturally.  He’s a natural born ball player.”  This is also the sense intended in the reply, “Naturally!”  For example:

Annie: “Will you be able to watch the kids for me tonight?”

Betty: “Naturally!” (In other words, it is no effort at all).

Here are a few questions to practice talking about nature naturally.  Try one! (I’ll give feedback on all answers left in the comment box below):

  • Describe something using the words nature, naturally, and/or natural.
  • What comes to mind when you hear the words, “scenic view”?
  • Describe “Mother Nature.” What is she like? What are her motives?
  • Consider the following Bible verse ( from Job 12:7-12), What do you think it means?
7“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
8or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.
9Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
10In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.
Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG Thank you! Michele

Especially Strange!

After a year of teaching English online, I realized that many students use the word “especially” strangely, which explains the title of this post, “Especially Strange!”

I’ve actually heard this:

“I enrolled to the Kyoto University  especially the Environmental Economics.”  

correction:  I enrolled to at the Kyoto University especially to study the Environmental  Economics.

Explanation of corrections: The original sentence mentions the location (where) the student enrolled. Use “at” with a specific location, “in” with a program or course.  Another option, is to mention the program first. Then the sentence becomes, “I enrolled in the Environmental Economics program at Kyoto University.” (A beautiful sentence, don’t you agree?!)

Notice that the word “the” (called the definite article) was removed from the corrected version of the sentence, but “the” was included in this last example. Why? Because in the original sentence “Environmental Economics” refers to a field of study (general), but in the second example it describes a specific program.  This idea of specificity is important, so keep it in mind.*

Observe also that the word “especially” is not used in any of the corrected sentences.  To understand why, look at the definition below (compliments of Google Search):especially

Environmental Economics can’t be singled out of anything else mentioned in the sentence.  If the student had mentioned other courses they would be taking then “especially” could have been used. It is correct to say, “Kyoto University has several programs which promote ecological and economic well-being, especially Environmental Economics.”  In this case, the Environmental Economics program is being identified (singled out) as an example. Do you see how the word “particularly” can be substituted for “especially” here?  Also look to see if any of the synonyms in the Google definition work in the original sentence. (They don’t). So, “especially” doesn’t belong in the original sentence.

“Especially” is used for highlighting examples. Click To Tweet

Remember that I said to keep the idea of specificity in mind?  It occurred to me that the word “especially” is being confused with the word “specifically.”   When talking about a specific area of study, say “specifically.”  I enrolled at Kyoto University specifically for Environmental Economics.  (Beautiful!)

Let’s look at a couple more student sentences:

“Especially I prefer listening to the upbeat music.,”  and

My Grandson, a “Utility Player”

“Especially, I am really terrible at speaking.”

Both of these sentences start with the word “especially.”  For those of you who know adverbs (good for you!*), you know that adverbs are “utility players” (this is a sports term meaning players who can play several positions equally well).  Adverbs can come before or after the verbs they are modifying, or even alongside other adverbs.  The problem in these sentences is that there is nothing being singled out. Look at the sentences again (with corrections):

Especially at the end of the day, I prefer listening to the upbeat music.,  and

Especially in English, I am really terrible at speaking.

Clauses and phrases containing “especially” can also come at the end of the sentence.  So, it’s fine to say, “I prefer listening to upbeat music, especially at the end of the day.,” and “I am really terrible at speaking, especially in English.”

This next sentence is a little trickier:

“I work in a life insurance company and in charge of development of new business especially foreign affairs.  correction:  “I work in a life insurance company and am in charge of new business development especially in foreign markets.”

Foreign affairs” is NOT an example of a new business, so we can’t use “especially” to single it out as one.  We know this student is in the life insurance business.  So, “business development” means acquiring new policy holders (new business for the life insurance company).  I’ve corrected foreign affairs to “foreign markets,” which can be singled out as an area to develop new business.

Now let’s look at some examples of students who used “especially” right:

“I like music, especially western music.”

“I’m always struggling to communicate with them, especially on the phone.”

“I want to improve my English skills, especially discussion skills.”

“I’m interested in the property & casualty insurance industry, especially in corporate sales and underwriting.”

In summary then, “especially” can be used to single something out or to “call attention to that particular thing” (the word “particularly” can be substituted in these examples). Look at the second meaning in the definition above; “especially” can also mean “very.”

The Title of this post is: “Especially Strange!”  that essentially means “Very Strange!” or just “Weird!” It is a good example of how to use “especially” in the second sense however.

And so is this:

I hope you can honestly say, “I find Michele’s blog especially helpful!”

( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)   (wink) Michele

Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG My Take On It

After working with another student today, I realized I needed to include a little more information on the difference between especially and specially.

“Especially” is an enhancer like very Click To Tweet

Especially and specially are often confused (even by native speakers, especially children as they are learning to master English).  Especially will add emphasis and when combined with the word “not” it is very negative (*note: I could also say, “especially negative” which means the same thing).  So, if I tell you that I ate lunch at the ball park today, and you ask me, “Was it any good?” My answer, “Not especially,” means that it was bad. It would be the same as saying, “Not very.”  If, on the other hand I answer, “It was nothing special,” that means it was average.  There was nothing especially special about it.

Specially is the adverb related to the word “special.”  We use it to talk about special or particular purposes or a special manner.   We use it with phrases like, “God treated humankind specially by sending Jesus.,” and  “Although this blog isn’t especially easy to write, it was specially created with you in mind!”  Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss a future post! Thanks, Michele

We’ve Got to Stop Meeting Like This!

The title of this post is a tired* (meaning over-used) joke. “We’ve got to stop meeting like this!,” is the expression people use when they run into* each other several times within a short time period.

After working with hundreds of English Language Learners, I now realize that the word “meeting” has a much narrower use in English than in other languages. So, even advanced students use the word incorrectly.

 Meet is used in the following ways:

  • When you are introduced to a person, a pet, or creature with a name.

NOTE: We can use the word “introduced” with concepts and things, but NOT “meet.“ I can be introduced to rock climbing, but I can’t meet it.  Additionally, it is scary but it is correct to say, “I met the Loch Ness Monster today!”

  • When you are meeting someone somewhere.
    Buster Brown Comic 1903
    Buster Brown Comic 1903

    In this case the location or the purpose must be mentioned or implied.

“I will meet you in/at* the library after work.” Either in or at can be used in this sentence.  “In” means inside the library, “at” means at that location.  If we normally meet in the library parking lot, I would say “at the library.”

  • To describe a formal meeting (see About Meetings below).
  • To refer to an encounter (a surprise or “chance meeting”).  Another common expression, “Fancy meeting you here!” uses meet in this sense. (The word “fancy” has had various uses in English over the years.  This expression uses fancy to mean “what a surprise!”)

Students have said things like:

“I will meet my friend from California.”   No. If they are already your friend then you can’t “meet” them again. This sentence needs a location, if we say, “I will meet my friend from California at her hotel,” then it works!  We can also use “meet up with.”  When using “meet up with” we don’t need to indicate a place.  “Meeting up with” someone is a purpose so no more information is required.

“We were meeting new things.”  No.  We can discover new things (or be introduced to them), but we can’t meet them.

Sometimes a student will greet me with, “Nice to meet you!” This only works once!  If it is our first meeting, then yes. However, usually “It’s good to see you again,” or simply, “Nice to see you!” is what is meant.

Nice to meet you! This only works once Click To Tweet
About meetings

There is a difference between having a meeting, going to a meeting, and joining one.  All three of these expressions refer to “formal” meetings. I am using formal in the sense that the meeting has been called or convened for a purpose, even though it might be very spur-of-the-moment (= impromptu).

  •  To have a meeting, means to have a meeting scheduled, e.g. “I have a lunch meeting tomorrow.,” or “We need to have a meeting with the staff about overtime.”
  • Going to a meeting, means you are planning to go to a scheduled meeting, e.g. “I’m going to my 2 o’clock*! See you tomorrow!” (If these sentences seem strange to you, you will want to read my post about ellipsis* titled “Did I forget to mention…?” )

   If it’s a get-together (you are just meeting someone somewhere), say something like,   “I’m  going to meet the guys at the gym.”

  •  Joining a meeting, this means that you are joining a meeting already in progress.

There are three situations where you would use this expression:

1. You are a guest at the meeting, so you are joining (meaning accompanying) the group for that meeting, or

2. You are not expected to be at the meeting but you decide to attend the meeting (here again “join” is used to express accompanying the others in the group). For example the boss may occasionally join a meeting of his/her staff (don’t say “subordinates”), and

3. You are running late and you join a meeting already in process. So, “join” is used to describe joining a group (even a temporary group, like when you join someone on a bench or join them to go shopping).

When it comes to meetings or other gatherings (like parties), we say we are going or not going.  We “join” the gathering when we come inside the door. Then, we are “joining” the others.

Building Bridges, by Fritz Ahlefeldt
Building Bridges, by Fritz Ahlefeldt


      Michele MVE 02 Icon 80 Percent JPEG My Take On It

The drawing above illustrates “meeting in the middle”, or “meeting halfway” which to me is the definition of respect and where peace and understanding begin.  We don’t have to agree on everything, but let’s find areas where we can “meet.”  Once we get to know each other a little better then we can begin to have some meaningful discussions.

Thank you! Blessings, Michele