English Table


English Table

English Table is a great place to meet new friends, try new food, and practice your English in a practical setting.


“The Alchemist” by Paulo Ceolho

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Kody, Level 1 Reading Instructor

Read Paulo Ceolho’s story from “The Alchemist” and guess the moral of the story.

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

The Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls.

He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages.

“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

Courtesy of artsbeat.blogs

The Importance of a Clear Reference—Spring Break Edition


Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Robin, Level 3 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that they will have the most fun.

Uh oh. You may have noticed that my last pronoun—they—was not very clear. In the last sentence, who is “they”? It’s difficult to figure out, because I am writing about three different groups of students—it could be any group, right? It is absolutely essential, then, to make sure your pronoun references are clear.

pronoun reference

The subject of my paragraph was “students.” Writers will often repeat the subject of a composition by using pronouns, synonyms, or idioms. To refer to students, I used students, groups, younger students, hard workers, others, their, and they. Did you notice that I used so many different words to refer to the same people? Writers do this commonly—it’s good writing!


Fixing the problem in the first paragraph is easy. We just need to be clear about who will have the most fun. Will the hard-working students have a lot of fun? Maybe, but that’s doubtful. Will the students visiting families have a lot of fun? Very possible, but that’s probably not their goal. Since we know that people have fun at the beach, we need to think of a pronoun, synonym, or idiom to describe this group.

A pronoun, as we have seen, wouldn’t work very well. Idioms are a challenge to use, and might not fit well in a paragraph meant for other ESL students (but, just so you know, a really good idiom for this situation is “beach bums.”). So what’s a synonym for “students who go to the beach”? It takes some thinking, but beach-goers works pretty well. So, let’s revise the paragraph:

“Hello Grammar and Writing students! Spring Break is coming up and I know that many groups of students have fun plans for the break. Some of the younger students plan to go to the beach, another group of hard workers will stay home and study during the break, and still others plan to return home and visit their families. I think that the beach-goers will have the most fun.”

Looks good to me! Remember this process when writing to make references and subjects clear for your reader. Happy writing! Oh, and have a fun break when it comes—especially you beach bums!

beach bum

Nat King Cole

Emily,  Level 3 Reading and Discussion Instructor

Emily, Level 3 Reading and Discussion Instructor

During the month of February, America celebrates Black History Month, which is a celebration of African-American culture and customs. This nationwide celebration was created in 1962 as Black History Week, but the week was extended into a month in 1976. Our class has discussed numerous influential African-Americans such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.; however, we focused our discussion mainly on a legendary musician, Nat King Cole. In honor of this revolutionary artist, we read Nat King Cole: An Unforgettable Life of Music. 

natkingcoleNat King Cole was born in Montgomery, Alabama and grew up to revolutionize music. Though he began his career in jazz, he eventually transitioned to pop music. Our class thoroughly enjoyed learning about Nat’s interesting life, and I hope you take the time to do the same.

5 Tips to Improve Your TOEFL PBT Score!

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Kody, TOEFL Prep Instructor

Test taking can be challenging for anybody. TOEFL PBT is no exception.  There are a few very simple things that you can do to improve your TOEFL score.

1. Know the test – It is important to familiarize yourself with all of the instructions on every part of the test. TOEFL is a timed test, so you do not want to take any time reading and trying to learn the rules on test day. You should take practice tests early and often to help you become completely confident in the directions of the questions and the style of the questions.

2. Listen for the meaning – On the listening section of the test, do not focus on words or phrases given in the answers that sound similar to the audio. TOEFL will try to confuse you with such questions. You should listen to each part carefully and try to understand the meaning of what each speaker says. The main section of the listening involves short conversations, and the answer is often found in the meaning of what the second speaker says.

3. Look for mistakes in the answers – The grammar portion of the test asks you to complete a sentence or find an error in a sentence. The answers often have one or two very obviously wrong choices. You may be able to eliminate these answers without reading

image courtesy of umshare

the question. Look for patterns or structures that will never be correct and eliminate them first. Then go back to the questions and pay close attention to subject-verb agreement and verb tense.

4. Read the questions first – The biggest problem for most people on the reading section is the limited amount of time given to complete the questions. One way to cut down on your reading time is to read the questions first. After you read all of the questions related to one article, you can skim or read the article quickly to look for the relevant information. Also, many questions in this section are vocabulary questions that simply ask the meaning of a word. These questions can be answered and eliminated early.

5. Answer everything – Finally, you should never leave an answer blank. A blank answer is a wrong answer, so guessing is better than skipping. Always double-check that you didn’t miss any question before the time runs out.

Irregular verbs

Toby, Level 1 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Toby, Level 1 Grammar and Writing Instructor

In the beginner writing and grammar class this semester, we have been discussing various topics dealing with expressing past time and future time. As the class was working through the chapters of the textbook that dealt with past time, I began to notice that many of the students were struggling with the aspect of irregular verbs. This is to be expected with English language learners; particularly beginner level students. As a result, I gave them many exercises in class to help clear up any of their confusion. However, when it comes to irregular verbs, confusion is bound to happen eventually.

So, just what is the easiest way to tell the difference between regular and irregular verbs?

First, in the English language verbs are split into three categories: base form, past simple form, and past participle form.

Regular verbs are those verbs in the English language that have a base form and an -ed form for both the past simple and past participle. (Ex. watch, watched, watched)

Irregular verbs are those verbs in the English language that:

1) have changes in all three forms (Ex. begin, began, begun)

2) have changes in only 1 of the verb forms (Ex. buy, bought, bought)

3) have changes to none of the verb forms (Ex. cut, cut, cut)

One might ask, “What is the easiest way to recognize if a verb is irregular or regular?” There is a simple answer to this question….memorize it!

Give the following exercise a try now that you have a little insight into regular and irregular verbs.  Click here for the practice exercise

For more rules on regular and irregular verbs, click here.

Common Irregular Verbs

Active and Passive Voice

Obie, Level 2 Grammar and Writing Instructor

Obie, Level 2 Grammar and Writing Instructor

In Grammar last week, we were discussing active and passive voice. When attempting to convert from passive voice into active, and vice-versa, you have to know what tense the sentence is written in so that you know which structure to use for the conversion (there are several conversion charts online…google converting verb tense from passive to active…active to passive).

In order for you to know what tense the sentence is in, you have to find the verb (the verb is the action taking place in the sentence). There are many books and other resources that will help you in determining what tense a sentence is written in. Remember, if the subject is doing the action, the sentence is active…if the subject is receiving the action, the sentence is passive voice.


**Please note that active voice is most common in writing because the primary subject and meaning of the sentence is more concrete.

Intelligence Discussion Topic


Obie, Level 5 Listening and Speaking Instructor

Obie, Level 5 Listening and Speaking Instructor

In Listening and Speaking class, we started a chapter on the ideas of the mind and memory. Along with that discussion came the question of intelligence…what is it, how does it work, etc. Watch the video below and determine based on the definition of intelligence if you think these dogs are intelligent.

Intelligence is the idea of taking in information and applying it to some aspect of life.


Do you think the animals in the video are showing intelligence or not?