Popular Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year and you’ll be hearing lots of Christmas tunes.

Here are some of the popular songs you may hear the next few weeks in stores, movies/TV, or on the radio.


Jingle Bells


12 Days of Christmas


All I Want for Christmas is You


Jingle Bell Rock


Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer


Stress-Relieving Final Exam Tip

Finals begin tomorrow in our  Intensive English Program here at AUM and many of you have been preparing this last week on your own or in review classes. Are you feeling stressed-out yet?  If so, I have good news for you…here’s a little stress-relieving tip for you!

Take a moment to look at cute animal pictures…

A new study out of Japan (Hiroshima University) found that looking at pictures of cute animals not only relieves stress symptoms, but also makes you more productive!

I know you may think it is unbelievable, but check out the study for yourself or better than that, just test it on yourself.  Here’s some cute animal pictures.  After studying for a while take a look at these pictures for an “awwwwwe” moment, then go back to studying.  See if it helps you out any.

Happy studying and good luck on your final exams!


credits: cbsnews.com

Pronunciation Practice

During this term in Listening and Speaking, our level one class has focused on common problems with pronunciation. Through repetitive practice of certain word sounds, our class has definitely improved our pronunciation! We are excited to share some helpful methods of pronunciation practice that we have enjoyed this term.

1. Minimal Pairs:

Sound 1: /i:/                       Sound 2: /I/

Heel                                       Hill

Sleep                                     Slip

Leave                                    Live

Reach                                    Rich

Sheep                                   Ship

Sound 1: /ʃ/                        Sound 2: /tʃ/

Ship                                       Chip

Sheer                                    Cheer

Share                                    Chair

Wash                                     Watch

Sheet                                    Cheat


2. Sentence Use:

Is that the (bell/bill)?

The green (heels/hills) are very high.

Jim wants to (sail/sell) his boat.

Go get the (pen/pan).

She (left/laughed) after the speech.

There is a (bag/bug) on the chair.

3. Tongue Twisters: 

Suzie sold seashells down by the seashore.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.

Roberta ran rings around the Roman ruins.

If Stu chews shoes, should Stu choose the shoes he chews?

Wayne went to Wales to watch walruses.

4. Top 10 Pronunciation Tips from rediff.com:

 i. Observe the mouth movements of those who speak English well and try to imitate them.

When you are watching television, observe the mouth movements of the speakers. Repeat what they are saying, while imitating the intonation and rhythm of their speech.

ii. Until you learn the correct intonation and rhythm of English, slow your speech down.

If you speak too quickly, and with the wrong intonation and rhythm, native speakers will have a hard time understanding you.

Don’t worry about your listener getting impatient with your slow speech — it is more important that everything you say be understood.

iii. Listen to the ‘music’ of English.

Do not use the ‘music’ of your native language when you speak English. Each language has its own way of ‘singing’.

iv. Use the dictionary.

Try and familiarize yourself with the phonetic symbols of your dictionary. Look up the correct pronunciation of words that are hard for you to say.

v. Make a list of frequently used words that you find difficult to pronounce and ask someone who speaks the language well to pronounce them for you.

Record these words, listen to them and practice saying them. Listen and read at the same time.

vi. Buy audio books.

Record yourself reading some sections of the book. Compare the sound of your English with that of the person reading the book on the tape.

vii. Pronounce the ending of each word.

Pay special attention to ‘S’ and ‘ED’ endings. This will help you strengthen the mouth muscles that you use when you speak English.

viii. Read aloud in English for 15-20 minutes every day. 

Research has shown it takes about three months of daily practice to develop strong mouth muscles for speaking a new language.

ix. Record your own voice and listen for pronunciation mistakes. 

Many people hate to hear the sound of their voice and avoid listening to themselves speak. However, this is a very important exercise because doing it will help you become conscious of the mistakes you are making.

x. Be patient.

You can change the way you speak but it won’t happen overnight. People often expect instant results and give up too soon. You can change the way you sound if you are willing to put some effort into it.

Emily, Level 1 Listening & Speaking Instructor

Emily, Level 1 Listening & Speaking Instructor

Have you ever heard of the flu or influenza?

December signals winter in the United States. When you think of winter, it doesn’t take much to start thinking about getting sick. Here in Alabama, everybody starts to worry about the flu.

Coincidentally, the level four Reading and Discussion class is currently learning about epidemics. An epidemic is the name for a sudden and widespread virus which affects a large area. There are lots of historical examples that show the danger of a flu epidemic. In 1918, the Spanish Flu killed more people than any flu epidemic in history, almost 50 million. The flu (or influenza) is a virus that goes around in any season of the year, but during cold weather people can catch it easier.

You may have heard and seen lots of advertisements about flu shots. Flu shots are a vaccine. They are meant to help prevent people from catching the flu. Luckily, they are widely available in the United States. If you are interested in getting a flu shot to protect yourself for the cold months, a quick Google search for vaccines in your area is enough to find a provider nearby.

The flu mostly affects very young and very old people.  Even if you are healthy, the flu may affect you, and you may be sick for one or two weeks! Being informed about your health and medical options is very important, especially in a foreign country. The flu shot does not guarantee you won’t get sick at all, though. Furthermore, many people who don’t get a flu shot never catch the flu anyway. But it is always a good idea to be informed about the health options for you, your friends, and family.

Robin, Level 4 Reading & Discussion Instructor

Robin, Level 4 Reading & Discussion Instructor

11 Rules of Grammar

For this blog post I wanted to find something that was fun and easy to read.  It is my constant goal to take one of the hardest and driest subjects and turn it into something that is alive with which we can interact.

11 Rules of Grammar


Here are 11 rules of grammar to help you reach more bravely into the scary world of sentence construction and accurate communication.

Active Voice: The Most Important of the 11 Rules of Grammar



Every human language starts an active sentence with the subject, or the “doer.” In English, the verb (what’s being done) follows the subject. If there is an object (the receiver of the action), it comes after the verb. The formula looks like this: S+V+O. This rule is the foundation of the English language.

Here are some examples:

Mary walked the dog.

The dog liked Mary.

I did not like the dog.


Sometimes you want to link two ideas with a second S+V+O combination. When you do, you need a coordinating conjunction. The new formula looks like this: S+V+O, COORDINATING CONJUNCTION+S+V+O.

Coordinating conjunctions are easy to remember with an acronymic mnemonic device:



  • For
  • And
  • Nor
  • But
  • Or
  • Yet
  • So

https://i0.wp.com/www.writers-block-help.com/images/CommaRules.pngCoordinating Comma

FANBOYS are used when connecting two ideas as one in a single sentence, but don’t forget the comma.

For example:

I do not walk Mary’s dog, nor do I wash him.

Mary fed her dog, and I drank tea.

Mary feeds and walks her dog every day, but the dog is still hyperactive.

The Serial Comma

The serial or Oxford comma is the most controversial of these 11 rules of grammar. Some want to eliminate it altogether while others just don’t know how to use it. The serial comma is the last comma in a list, usually appearing before “and.” The serial comma comes after “dog” in this sentence:

Pets R Us has lizards, dogs, and birds.https://i1.wp.com/www.nscblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/the-comma.jpg

Commas separate units in a list. In the above case, each unit only has one part, so it’s easy. Where people get confused is when the units are bigger, but the rule still applies:

Pets R Us has lizards and frogs, dogs and cats, and parakeets and macaws.

Notice that the serial comma comes before “and” but not the last “and” in the sentence. The “and” that follows the comma is only there because it sounds better. Grammatically, “and” is irrelevant. Only units matter.

The Semicolon


https://i1.wp.com/www.blackgate.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/semicolon.gifA list of grammar rules has to include the scariest of punctuation marks. It might look funny, but don’t be afraid of the semicolon; it’s the easiest thing in the world to use! Say you want to connect two ideas but can’t figure out or can’t be bothered to use a coordinating conjunction. The two ideas can be separate sentences, but you think that they are so closely connected; they really should be one. Use a semicolon.

Mary’s dog is hyperactive; it won’t stop barking or sit still.

My heart is like a cup of Lapsang Souchong tea; it’s bitter and smoky.

Mary has to walk her dog every day; it is the most hyperactive dog anyone has ever seen.

Simple and Easy

The simple present is the tense you use for any habitual action. The things you always do or do every Tuesday are described with the simple present, which just means you pick the first form of any verb.

Mary likes dogs.

I don’t walk Mary’s dog.

Mary and I drink tea every Tuesday together.

Progressive for Now

The present progressive tense is for anything that is happening right now. All of the progressive tenses are easy to spot because their verbs always end with “-ing” and get a helping verb. A helping verb is just so we know who and when we’re talking about. In the present progressive, the helping verbs are the present tense conjugations of “to be.”

I am drinking Lapsang Souchong tea.

The barking dogs outside are driving me crazy.

Mary is playing with her hyperactive dog.

The Simple Past

When we talk about the past, we have to add an “-ed” to regular verbs to make the second form. Irregular verbs are tricky and have their own sets of rules. Drink, for example, turns to “drank.” Most of the time, though, “-ed” will do.

I drank a lot of Lapsang Souchong tea yesterday, but Mary didn’t.

The dogs stopped barking two seconds ago, and I am feeling better.

Mary played fetch with her hyperactive dog.

Perfect Timing

Practice makes perfect with the perfect tenses. Here are three rules to finish the 11 rules of grammar. If you remember these, you’ll be well on your way to perfection.

Present Perfect

The present perfect can be confusing for some, but it is one of the most important rules of grammar. When people talk about things that have already happened but consider the time in which they occurred to be unfinished, they use the third form of the verb with a helping verb. The helping verb for the present perfect is the present tense conjugation of “to have.”

I have drunk three cups of Lapsang Souchong tea today.

Mary’s hyperactive cur dog has bitten me three times so far.

Mary has walked her hyperactive poodle 100 times this week.

Unfortunately, the only way to know the third forms of verbs is to remember them.

Present Perfect Progressive

When the action as well as the time is considered unfinished, the verb loads up on third form helping verbs (“to be” and “to have”) and changes to the progressive form.

Western countries have been waging wars in the Middle East for thousands of years.

I have been drinking tea all day.

Mary’s dog has been barking like crazy since it was born.

Past Perfect

When two things happen in the past, we have to mark which one happened first. The one that happened first changes to third form and gets the helping verb, “had.”

By the time I drank one cup of Lapsang Souchong, Mary’s dog had barked a million times.

I had not yet eaten breakfast when Mary walked her dog.

Mary couldn’t stop laughing; her dog had bitten me again.

This information is provided by LoveToKnow, Corp and can be found on grammar.yourdictionary.com


Daniel, Level 3 Grammar & Writing Instructor

Daniel, Level 3 Grammar & Writing Instructor