American College Slang & Idioms

College students in the USA can be very creative with their English. Going to college or university in the United States? Just want to learn how American college students speak these days? This lesson on college slang and idioms is for you!

Download the PDF mini e-book on American College Slang

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New app teaches English with videos

We all know that visuals help with learning. So we decided to do something really special for our new iPad app, Speak English Around Town: we integrated short 3D movies into them! Learning English has never been so entertaining. And we’ve added subtitles to these mini-movies so learners can read along. Target expressions are even highlighted. So grab a bucket of popcorn, turn on your iPad, go to iTunes, and download the new Speak English Around Town app.

Through lively and realistic dialogs, Speak English Around Town teaches the expressions you need for everyday life. You’ll use these expressions when shopping, dining out, traveling, and during a dozen other daily activities. Recommended for intermediate & advanced students of English.

The new ESL app features lessons on:

  • Going Shopping
  • Negotiating a Purchase
  • Visiting the Dentist
  • Visiting the Doctor
  • Ordering Lunch to Go
  • Renting a Car
  • Checking into a Hotel
    … and more!

Watch a sample video on YouTube.

Click here to get the app on iTunes
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Spooky English for Halloween — Thirteen Idioms to Try out for the Holiday!

Halloween is celebrated on October 31 in the United States. It’s a time when children  HappyHalloween

dress up in costumes and, when it turns dark, go door to door to collect candy from neighboring houses. When someone opens the door, the child is supposed to say, “Trick or Treat,” at which point the person at the door deposits candy in the child’s bag (or plastic pumpkin).

We at Language Success Press specialized in idioms and expressions. So we gathered up some spooky American English expressions in honor of Halloween. Use these expressions to frighten (or entertain) your family, friends, and others in your path! First I’ll give an example so you can see if you can figure out the idiom. Then you can check below the example for the explanation. There are 13 idioms list on this list because 13 is a spooky number. Superstitious people consider it unlucky.

1) I need to get to sleep. It’s already past the witching hour.

the witching hour – in modern times, this means midnight (in the old days, if referred to the time of night when supernatural creatures such as witches were thought to appear). Note that this expression can also be used to refer to any time of day when something bad is likely to occur.
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2) Sam shouldn’t be driving anymore. He’s blind as a bat!

blind as a bat – completely blind (note that bats are not really blind. Their eyes are small but functional. I feel a little bad that bats are getting a “bum rap” here, but I’ll probably keep using this expression anyway!).
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3) When a giant witch answered the door, the trick-or-treaters ran away from the house like a bat out of hell.

like a bat out of hell – very fast
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4) You scared the bejusus out of me with your plastic rat. I thought it was real!

(to) scare the bejusus out of – to scare very badly (note: this is slang. The out of is usually pronounced as one word, “outta.”)
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5) Is everything okay? You look as though you’ve seen a ghost!

You look like you’ve (just) seen a ghost! – you look frightened or upset (as one would expect you to look if you had really just seen a ghost!)
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6) We were scared witless when the closet door in our old hotel room opened by itself.

scared witless – really scared (note: this is the child-friendly version of this expression!).
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7) The movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” sent shivers down my spine. After I watched it, I had nightmares all night.

(to) send shivers down one’s spine – to make one feel scared or nervous (shivers are little shakes you get when you feel cold or scared — not something you want to have traveling down your spine!)
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8) My friend told me a story about a farmer who died 100 years ago, but who still returns to his farm each year to harvest pumpkins. It made my hair stand on end!

(to) make one’s hair stand on end – to cause one to be frightened
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9) The man in the grocery store kept looking at me as I was buying my Halloween candy. He was really giving me the creeps!

(to) give one the creeps – to make one feel frightened or nervous (note: there is also the variation: to give on the willies. Take my word for it: you don’t want either “the creeps” or “the willies” if you can avoid them!).
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10) Why is Sandy wearing that witch costume to work today? The boss specifically said no Halloween costumes this year, and he’s going to be very made when he sees her. She’s digging her own grave!

(to) dig one’s own grave – to be responsible for the trouble one gets into
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11) Mary has a skeleton in her closet. She was a practicing witch for ten years before she decided on a career change. Now she’s an accountant.

(to) have a skeleton in the closet – a secret that would create embarrassment if discovered; a shocking secret
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12) Our decision not to book a hotel room in advance for our visit to Salem, Massachusetts has come back to haunt us. All the hotels in town are booked, and we have nowhere to stay!

(to) come back to haunt someone – when one makes a bad decision and later feels the consequences
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13) Trick-or-treaters Billy and Emma knocked on the door of the old Victorian house twice and rang the doorbell four times before finally giving up the ghost.

(to) give up the ghost – to stop trying; to give up
Note: this idiom has two other definitions:
1) to die: At 101 years old, Gertrude finally gave up the ghost.
2) to stop working: I’ve had this computer for 10 years. One of these days, it’s going to give up the ghost).

To be updated on new blog posts and when new materials for English language study become available, please follow up on Twitter: @LanguageSuccess Happy Halloween!

ESL students and the SAT

Did you hear the news? SAT scores were at the lowest level in 40 years. That means not since 1972 did students get such lousy scores! The average scored on the reading section was 496 out of a maximum of 800. How can we explain this decline? Some are saying it is due to the profile of this year’s test takers. A significant percentage — 25 percent — are not native English speakers. Could these ESL speakers have brought down the average on the reading section? Yes, indeed.

While English as a Second Language speakers do, of course, spend a lot of time mastering English vocabulary, it is often not the type of vocabulary that appears on the SAT reading section. The words you find in the SAT are often more literary words … rare in spoken English but not so rare in written English. For example, I can’t remember the last time I used the SAT word “lachrymose” in a sentence. It means sad or tearful (from the Latin; lacrim = a tear). Why would I saw “lachrymose” when people will understand me better if I just say “sad”? But I read “lachrymose” in the following sentence in a Wall Street Journal article recently discussing an exhibit by the painter Salvator Rosa:

“Rosa’s human figures never smile; instead they seem grim, wary, defiant, sullen or lachrymose.”

There are other SAT vocabulary words that I’m sure I haven’t seen in written form lately (by lately, I mean in the past few years!). These include:
crepuscular – active at dawn and dusk
exceptionable – very bad

Then there are those SAT words that I use in spoken English regularly. I am even surprised that they are SAT words because, to me, they do not feel like “big words.” However, I can understand that for an ESL speaker, they would be. These words include:

trivial – unimportant
tangible – something that can be touched; concrete
hedonist – a pleasure seeker (one of my favorite words!)
hypochondriac – one who complains a lot about one’s health

Here’s the truth about SAT vocabulary words in general: the vast majority of native English speakers needs to spend quite a lot of time specifically studying these words. They buy books like “500 Key Word for the SAT, And How to Remember Them Forever.” They buy flash cards like “Picture These SAT Words in a Flash.” And nowadays, they buy mobile apps. And of course, many of them pay big money to take SAT preparation courses in which word lists are handed out and homework includes memorization.

So for the English as a Second Language learner, the workload is heavy. They need to learn useful words that they will actually hear (and want to use) every day. Then they need to learn this test vocabulary too. Some of which indeed, they will want to never forget. Some of which they’ll be lucky to remember (and process) on the day of the test.

If you would like to test your own SAT vocabulary knowledge, I recommend this fun test online:
http://dynamo.dictionary.com/games/53/sat-greatest-hits-most-common-words-on-the-sat/match