Category Archives: Reading

English Idioms: Pardon my French

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Pardon my French: Please excuse me for swearing. Used as a way to apologize for using profanity (bad words) or for saying something that may offend another person.

Pardon my French, but that dress does NOT look good on you. 

An early example of the phrase was in The Lady’s Magazine from 1830, in which the speaker used a French word to insult someone:

Bless me, how fat you are grown! – absolutely as round as a ball: – you will soon be as enbon-point (excuse my French) as your poor dear father, the major.

“Enbon-point” is a French word for plump (fat). The phrase was later popularized in the 20th century in Michael Harrison’s All Trees were Green, 1936.

6 Sources of ESL News Articles

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Using news articles as an student of ESL can help your reading and vocabulary skills, because news writing is usually very straight-forward (meaning uncomplicated) and succinct (meaning  short and to the point). Here are a few ESL resources for news articles:

http://esldivlabs.vcc.ca/news.html – This site has written and audio articles

http://www.breakingnewsenglish.com/- Large collection of over 1800 articles and ESL resources

http://www.english-online.at/ – This site features a vocabulary list at the end of each article.

http://www.simpleenglishnews.com/ – This site offers articles that are 100 words or less.

http://www.elllo.org/ – This site has many videos for ESL students.

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/ – This site features news videos aimed at ESL students in level 1 and level 2.

English Idioms: A Blessing in Disguise

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Blessing in Disguise: Unfortunate event that has an unexpectedly positive outcome.

Missing the train was a blessing in disguise, because that is when I met my wife. 

This idiom has its origins in China, originally part of the longer phrase, “misfortune may be a blessing in disguise.” This saying originally comes from a story in “Lessons from the Human World” of Hua Nan Zi compiled by Liu An in the West Han Dynasty.

 

Graphic Novels for ESL Learning

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Learning English through graphic novels can help build your vocabulary and aid visual literacy. What is a graphic novel? A “graphic novel” is basically a long comic strip. American comics are traditionally funny, short, four panel cartoons, such as Peanuts, Dilbert or Far Side. The graphic novel developed over the past few decades, drawing from traditional American comics, but also influenced by Japanese manga. Graphic novels are sometimes humorous, but often deal directly with heavy subjects and controversial topics that comic strips do not, and they are as often as long as a traditional novel. They can be an interesting source for English learners, because graphic novelists write dialogue that mimics speaking patterns. It can be a good place for finding genuine conversation, idiomatic expressions and understanding slang. Here are a few critically acclaimed graphic novels:

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

“Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the “Fun Home.” It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.” – From Amazon.com

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Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History By Art Spiegelman

“A story of a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father’s story and history itself.” – From Amazon.com. Spiegleman interviewed his father, a survivor of the Holocaust, and translated his experiences into this graphic novel. He deftly retells the story visually by depicting Jews as mice, Germans as cats, the Poles pigs, the French Frogs and the Americans dogs.

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Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

“This first book from Chicago author Chris Ware is a pleasantly-decorated view at a lonely and emotionally-impaired “everyman” (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth), who is provided, at age 36, the opportunity to meet his father for the first time.” – From Amazon.com

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Ghost World By Daniel Clowe

Follows the story of Enid and Rebecca, two teenage girls just graduated from high school beginning to face the idea of adulthood, as well as separation as one goes to college and the other has to accept the irreversible change in their friendship. This was made into a movie, as well, in 2001.

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

“Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution.” – From Amazon.com. This acclaimed graphic memoir was made into a movie in 2007.