Don’t like it? Send it back!

I was in a restaurant with a friend who ordered a beer and then didn’t drink much of it. I gestured at it and said, “So, you’re really not a big drinker.”

She said, “It just doesn’t taste right to me.”

I said, “Then send it back. Get what you want.”

She demurred, “No, that’s okay. I’ll just […]

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When to use “okay” and “fine”

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“Information” isn’t a count noun

When to use “okay” and “fine.”

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“News” isn’t a count noun

“Information” isn’t a count noun.

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How to Date Americans, Part 2

Be sure to also read How to Date Americans, Part 1.

In my first post about dating Americans, we covered the importance of small talk, asking questions, and having a balanced conversation with no one person doing all the talking. Those pointers actually apply not only to dates but any interaction with Americans. Now we’ll look at […]

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“Thanks God” should be “Thank God”

“News” isn’t a count noun.

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Pronunciation: “th” voiced and unvoiced

The “th” sounds (voiced and voiceless) appear in most English sentences and the mispronunciation of “th” is one of the main ways native-born Americans can tell you are not from the U.S. (See how many “th” ‘s showed up in these few sentences?)

For my full pronunciation series (that’s always growing), click HERE.

How to pronounce “th” […]

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Pronunciation: the vowels in “boat” and “bought”

American vowels are tricky. Here are two vowel sounds that are important to distinguish. For my full pronunciation series (that’s always growing), click HERE.

Practice the vowel sound in words like “book” and “good.”

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Americans drop their T’s at the end of words

Is it hard for you to understand Americans? One of the reasons is probably that we don’t usually pronounce the “t” sound when it comes at the end of the word. In less than three minutes, this video shows how we do that and how you can do it, too.

For my full pronunciation series (that’s […]

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How to Date Americans, Part 1

If you want to date Americans, an excellent first step is to learn how to make small talk. Small talk is the inconsequential exchange with which Americans start many of their interactions. On a first date, small talk might include remarking on the place where you are meeting, the kind of beverage or food you’re […]

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Welcome Dialogue Christmas Party was on the news!

The Welcome Dialogue Christmas Party made the news on Christmas Day 2017! I had posted an announcement about it on Facebook, and on the Saturday before Christmas someone from CBS 2 Chicago called and asked me if they could do a story on it. Of course, I said yes.

They said a news team would come […]

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American bad words

Bad words are also called swear words, curse words and cuss words. It’s hard to get an English instructor to tell you what the most commonly used American swear words are, so here they are. I pride myself on providing the most practical information for people who are trying to learn American culture!

Do you want […]

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What exactly is DACA and why is everyone talking about it?

In 2017, a program called DACA has been in the news a lot. It’s become such a common noun that few articles explain what it is, so I’m going to. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It refers to people whose parents brought them to the U.S. without immigration papers, when they were […]

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Reduce your fear of speaking in English

Use this short video to lessen your nervousness about speaking in English.

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Why Do Americans Talk So Much about Nothing?

Many people don’t understand why Americans like to talk about unimportant things. We’ll talk to complete strangers about nothing of consequence such as the weather or how long they’ve been standing in line. Why?

While many cultures engage in friendly conversation, the reason Americans do it is a little different. For the most part, Americans tend to […]

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Why Americans think they embody freedom but really don’t

Possible member of the status quo?

When you ask an American what it means to be American, the most common word we use is freedom. Freedom was one of our core values when our original thirteen colonies battled the English army to become the United States of America. Those roots — combined with the way we […]

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I was on NPR!

Jerome McDonnell and me.

I was on NPR on Tuesday, January 3, 2017! National Public Radio (NPR) is a non-profit American news organization that provides news without advertising or government money. It’s supported 100% by listeners and private grants. The station in Chicago, Illinois is WBEZ 91.5 FM and they have a program called Worldview.

Listen to […]

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How to talk to Americans

Tips on small talk

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A brief history of Christmas

Many Americans don’t celebrate Christmas at all, but the holiday is arguably the biggest one in the American calendar. Do you wonder about the origins of the American Christmas tradition? Here’s my summary of the History Channel’s Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas. Part of our American Christmas tradition is for people to use the phrase “the true meaning […]

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Jobs & networking

Tips on networking

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Confidence speaking English

Tips on speaking

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Practice in real life

Tips on common phrases

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Slang expressions and idioms

Tips on American slang

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Chicago Cubs make history

I know many of you are not baseball fans. Neither am I. I don’t like sports at all, but I am a big Chicago fan and the current standing of the Chicago Cubs in the World Series is a huge cultural and historic event. You have all claimed the U.S. as your home, at least for now, so you have […]

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Public speaking

Tips on giving presentations

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The Art of Small Talk

One of the main ways Americans connect with each other is through small talk. We make small talk with friends, co-workers and complete strangers. Small talk uses inconsequential conversation to build rapport with someone. The subject of small talk might be the weather or plans for the upcoming weekend or a television show. It doesn’t […]

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Pronunciation: the English “th” sounds

A trio of brief videos on how to pronounce the “th” sounds in English (voiced and unvoiced). For my full pronunciation series (that’s always growing), click HERE.

First, how to pronounce “th” at the beginning of the word:

Next, how to pronounce it in the middle of a word:

Third, how to pronounce the “th” at the end […]

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How to apologize properly

Being able to say “I’m sorry” is a critical skill in American business and personal life, but many people don’t know how to do it. Whether you’re an immigrant to the U.S. or were raised in American culture, make sure you’re not making a false apology.

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Immigrants, Trump and the RNC

Trump’s convention

This past week saw Donald Trump accept the nomination for president during the Republican National Convention (RNC) which lasted from Monday, July 18th until Thursday, July 21st. The Republican party is often referred to as the GOP, which stands for “Grand Old Party.” I don’t know if you watched their convention, but here’s what […]

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Slang & idioms

Welcome Dialogue uses original materials with the latest slang and idiomatic American expressions.

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Workplace

Let me help you with questions

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Parties & social time

Welcome Dialogue hosts regular events where you can relax and have fun making new friends. With Welcome Dialogue, you don’t just learn communication and social skills. You get a safe, welcoming place to practice them.

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Tips for workplace emails

Tips on writing email

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Job seeking and networking

Finding a job in the U.S. requires much more than searching job websites and sending resumes. Or maybe you’re looking for clients, business partners or other opportunities. For any of this, you need a strong network of relationships.

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How to talk to Americans

Learn the art of small talk and how to connect quickly with people you’ve just met.

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Painful to be an American

Those of us who live in the United States pride ourselves on being a nation of equality and freedom, but on days like today we can’t deny the ugliness that we actually live with. Police officers killed a Black man named Alton Sterling on Tuesday morning in Louisiana, police in Minnesota killed a Black man named […]

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“I’m having a potluck”

When you hear someone say they’re having a potluck, that means they are hosting guests for a meal, but each guest will bring a part of the meal. It can be breakfast, or lunch, but most commonly people have potluck dinners. Americans love potlucks. I have them all the time. In a practical way they […]

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Get rid of undocumented people? No.

This is one of my favorite stories about how badly it can backfire when the U.S. tries to legislate against immigrants. In October 2011, Alabama passed a law to make it harder for undocumented immigrants to live and work in the state. There’s an expression called “the law of unintended consequences” that applies perfectly to how it all turned […]

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How does the American presidential election work?

Do you wonder how we get from the presidential campaign season to Election Day? Do you wonder how we get from this mess of media-fueled speculation, polling and stories about candidates behaving badly to electing a new president? Let me help. Our election process reflects the American individualistic spirit, aversion to the federal government and need for media […]

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Pronunciation: “good” and “food”

The American vowels sounds in words like “good” and words like “food” are spelled similarly, but sound different. Use this video to practice distinguishing clearly between those sounds because American-born English speakers notice when you don’t.

For my full pronunciation series (that’s always growing), click HERE.

Practice the voiced and unvoiced “th” sounds.

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Pronunciation: “book”

The American vowel sound represented in the word “book” is a tricky one. This video helps you practice. For my full pronunciation series (that is always growing), click HERE.

Practice the vowels sounds as the sound in the words “good” and “food.”

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Practice American vowels: o and a

Here’s a video for practicing the American vowel sounds exemplified in the words “low” and “law.” This video presents these sounds as they’re used in the Midwest part of the United States. For my full pronunciation series (that’s always growing), click HERE.

Practice the sounds in the words “boat” and “bought.”

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Conversation group for English practice

Do you want to improve your American English with a friendly conversation group? Do you want to learn skills critical to life in the U.S. such as how to make small talk, how to network and how to make friends with Americans? If you live in the Chicagoland area, join the American Skills for Internationals […]

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Getting a green card without your husband’s sponsorship

[Disclaimer: I am not a legal attorney and the following is not legal advice. Please consult an attorney to confirm this information for yourself.]

Many immigrants who are married to a U.S. citizen apply for a green card through their spouse. But what if your spouse is abusive towards you and doesn’t want you to have a […]

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Practice vowel sounds in “live” and “leave”

Do you want to make yourself better understood to Americans and other English speakers? Start by making sure your vowels are clear. English has many different vowels sounds that change the meaning of words. For example, don’t say “leave” when you mean to say “live.” Here’s a video to help you practice /i/ and /I/. For […]

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If you’re not networking, you’re not fully job-hunting

social networking

There are many articles with advice about how to find a job, but these days, in the U.S. there’s one critical skill you must have: the ability to network. Your resume can get lost in the pile, especially in these days of online job applications and automated evaluation (a program might be the first thing […]

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Chatting with Americans

Americans are often quite friendly with strangers and many of us particularly enjoy striking up conversations with people from other countries. We call casual conversation chatting. But if you are just getting to know someone that you’re hoping will be a friend, be aware of what topics of conversation are good. If you would like to […]

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St. Patrick’s Day

 

Typical bar advertisement (note the green beer)

Wondering what St. Patrick’s Day is all about? All over the United States, St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) is celebrated with parties at grammar schools, fundraisers, decorations at places of business and people enthusiastically wearing green clothing. The tradition is that if you aren’t wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, […]

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The rise of the continuous present

Once upon a time, American English distinguished between the simple present (I feel) and the continuous present (I am feeling). That distinction is disappearing. The American vernacular more and more uses the continuous present for sentences that used to use the present perfect, as in:

I am wanting to find out about tomorrow’s workshop.

(Instead of “I want […]

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Why Trump now?

I realize I’ve been living in a dream world by thinking that everything’s fine between mainstream Americans and Mexican-Americans. Last summer I felt blindsided by the response of many people to Donald Trump’s statement about Mexican immigrants being criminals, drug dealers and rapists. I expected them to be shocked and offended and many were, but apparently […]

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