Northern Cree prepare for their return to the Grammy Awards – Home | q | CBC Radio

Many Canadians are really not familiar with the traditional music of this nation but the members of Northern Cree have been drumming for round dances and pow wows since 1982!  According to their webpage, “the group originates from the Saddle Lake Cree Nation but is made up of members from the Treaty 6 area, most notably the Frog Lake Cree Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, Samson Cree Nation, Louis Bull Cree Nation, and the Poundmaker Cree Nation.”  All of the members have full-time jobs and other activities that keep them busy, like raising their families but the group is frequently present at round dances in the winter, pow wows in the summer, and award shows when they are nominated.  Tonight, they will be opening for the Grammy Awards, after being nominated for an award for the 7th time!  Take some time to listen to some of their contemporary and traditional music, as well as the CBC interview with Steve Wood (very slow and clear English).

Northern Cree’s Steve Wood discusses his group’s Grammy nomination and their upcoming performance at the ceremony’s pre-show.

Source: Northern Cree prepare for their return to the Grammy Awards – Home | q | CBC Radio

Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’? | Atlas Obscura

When I travel to various places, people often identify me as a Canadian as soon as I say “eh” at the end of a sentence.  I sometimes wonder what people from other countries do, without “eh”!  It’s a very useful interjection or tag, as this article indicates.  The closest thing I’ve heard is “la” in Singapore, which is used far more than our “eh”!

The story behind Canada’s most distinctive verbal tic.

Source: Why Do Canadians Say ‘Eh’? | Atlas Obscura

By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

Do you want to be happy on Blue Monday?

It’s Blue Monday again (third Monday of January). This time of year, it’s harder for many of us to improve our energy and mood, but it’s possible. Read more to find out what you can do!

ellen's esl teaching blog


Somebody decided that today is the most depressing day of the year. I think it was a travel agent who wanted to sell winter vacations, but possibly someone thought that it’s very difficult to survive the winter, and people are very impatient by now.  In my opinion, today is a fantastic day.  As you can see in the picture above, the dark part of the day is already much shorter, since the sky was turning red at 0630 hours.  I exercised with friends before starting the day, walked to work, and my students are full of good news today!  These are 2 great stories that I saw about happiness today: one video, and one article.  What’s something that you can do to be happier about your life?  One thing that I recommend is to try to see new stresses and challenges as opportunities for learning and getting stronger.  When we…

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By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

The Game of Life: Six Calgarians chose to reinvent themselves after losing their jobs | Calgary Herald

Many people start to study Engish when they are making a big change in their lives. Maybe a partner is taking more education, a parent has remarried and moved, home feels too dangerous, or your marital status has changed.  This is a great article about 6 people from Calgary who had to make job changes.  Your identity changes a lot, along with your employment status and where you live.  Read for some good ideas about how to “reinvent” your life.

We talked to six Calgarians up to their necks in the messy, but necessary, business of professional transformation.

Source: The Game of Life: Six Calgarians chose to reinvent themselves after losing their jobs | Calgary Herald

Somali refugee becomes MP and now Cabinet Minister of Immigration

Many new Canadians arrive here as refugees every year.  For some, it is a continuing struggle, but for many, Canada is the land of success and dreams come true.  Ahmed Hussen arrived in Canada from Somalia and refugee camps in Kenya when he was only 16 and went on to become a lawyer, a Member of Parliament, and now, the Minister of Immigration.  This video was made when he was first elected last year, and the speaking is pretty slow and clear.

Here’s a newspaper story about his appointment as a Cabinet Minister, the person in Canada who is responsible for immigration.



By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

Colorful Golden Globes

North American people come from many different parts of the world.  They have many backgrounds, religions, stories, and colours.  However, most of the people we see the most are one colour: white.  Especially in politics and entertainment, advertising and in the upper parts of the business world. Almost all white, and usually male.  Last night’s Gold Globe awards were an interesting change.  Many of the winners and presenters were not white, and most of them had something to say about that.  If you have the time and interest, watch and listen to some of the speeches and comments.

The female winner for a comedy was Tracee Ellis Ross for her role in the show “Black-ish”:

Tracee Ellis Ross Dedicated Her Golden Globe to Women of Color

The winner for best movie was Moonlight:

Viola Davis won best supporting actress after 5 nominations for her performance in “Fences”:

Dev Patel and his young costar Sunny Pawar introduced their movie, “Lion”. based on a true story about an Indian boy who was adopted by Australian parents. He didn’t speak any English when he began filming the movie.


Donald Glover won as the creator and as the star of a TV comedy, Atlanta.






By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

Funerals ESL vocabulary

Today, I attended a wake for a wonderful woman who was my supervisor a few years ago.  She passed away on January 3.  Her funeral will be on Monday, but I won’t be able to attend.  I realized that funerals are things that don’t happen very often so the vocabulary might not be familiar.  I’ve highlighted a lot of the words about death but haven’t included definitions. There are some good resources available on the internet though!

The picture above is of the hearse, a long car, like a limousine, which is used to carry the coffin or casket away from the funeral home.  The family members standing behind the hearse are called the “pallbearers“, usually 6 close family members or friends, who carry the coffin for short distances.  In some cases, other friends and family are called honourary pallbearers.  They won’t actually carry the casket.  The family is holding a wake for the next 2 days, which means that some people will stay awake through the night, and friends and family will stay together with the deceased until the funeral and burial are complete on Monday. They will have an open casket for people who want to view the deceased.  At some funerals, there is a closed casket ceremony, which means that the coffin stays closed and there isn’t a viewing.

In my family, most of my family members were cremated, which means that their bodies were burned, and their ashes were placed in an urn or another small container.  Most of my family members have had memorial services, which are like funerals but there is no coffin present.  After a funeral, there is usually a burial service at the cemetery.  When there has been a cremation, this might be several weeks or even months afterward. Later, a headstone or marker may be placed above the grave. Some of the guests may bring flowers or condolence cards to any of the different ceremonies above.  Often, they will hug the bereaved family members and share some special memories about the person who passed away.

Often funerals and memorial services can be sad times because people have lost someone who was close to them.  However, there is often a lot of laughter and love at these times, as people share their good memories and they encourage and support each other.

Here’s a listening passage, with vocabulary:

Cemetery: Remembering our Dead (Daily ESL)

Here’s a short video for listening practice, including dictation and captions at the end.

By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

How I spent my winter “vacation”

When I was a kid, my teacher would assign us to write about our vacations every time we returned to school.  It’s always nice to have time away from our regular activities.  One of the only things that I dislike about teaching ESL is that there is no paid vacation.  That means that I have to be very careful with my money when I have time off.  Luckily, I was careful and I didn’t spend too much money.  I did spend a lot of time, doing things that I enjoy.

The last week of school was very pleasant, with students in my classes moving on to the next level.  We enjoyed some different activities after our tests and assessments were finished. My evening class had an amazing potluck. My morning class visited “Little Italy”, exploring the Italian Centre and Zocalo, a lovely cafe and flower shop.  The night before leaving, I bought a carry-on-sized backpack, so that I could travel with my class and go straight to the airport, without paying $25/trip for checked luggage.  I don’t usually “travel light”, so it was a challenge, but I made good choices for what to bring to Victoria for a 9-day visit to my sister and her family.

The day I left was extremely cold and sunny in Edmonton and there was also fresh snow in Victoria when I arrived.  I was glad that I packed warm clothing because I needed it every day.  I took the LRT to Century Park, then transferred to bus #747 which goes directly to the airport.  I had plenty of time to settle in before my flight, after checking in online. Security moved quickly. Because of the cold, our airplane needed de-icing, and it was interesting to watch. My flights weren’t full, so it was a comfortable trip, with a short stop in the Vancouver airport.  My sister and brother-in-law both work hard as homecare nurses so I had a lot of free time during the week to read, play word games and to hunt for Pokémon with my nephew.  We explored a lot of Pokéstops and gyms around town and had fun doing that.  My sister and I took a daytrip to Sooke and area, where we explored a lot of interesting areas.  Because of the wind, cold, and rain, it wasn’t the best day for exploring, but it was a lovely area.  We stopped for an amazing lunch at Point No Point.

My sister hosted her ukelele group for a Ukrainian Christmas Eve supper (my brother-in-law’s heritage).  Traditionally, there are 12 meatless dishes.  They prepared many and I also prepared a “lazy pierogi casserole”, made with lasagne noodles, as well as a dish made with kasha (buckwheat).  They have a lovely, large kitchen with excellent equipment, so it was great to take the time making something new.  I liked both dishes very much, so I made them again for dinner with my kids the next week.  Everyone ate seconds, so they seem to have been hits. Our dinner was very nice, and it was great to sing along with such talented musicians after supper.

I always seem to get sick around the holidays, and I’ve had a sinus infection for about a month now. Most of the time, I feel okay, but sometimes I feel exhausted and very dizzy, and I need to lie down for awhile. I had some great outings with the family, introducing them to Korean BBQ, having breakfast with our cousin, and visiting the craft beer bars downtown.  Walking around town is lovely and I put in a lot of kilometres. However, I chose a taxi when it was time to go back uphill to their home, at the end of our outings (only $10)

On Christmas Day, I flew back home.  I was hoping to meet my niece in the Victoria Airport but her trip was delayed so we couldn’t connect as she flew home from Wyoming for Christmas and her birthday. My kids and grandchildren came over for a great dinner, and then my older grandson stayed over for a couple of days so I could take him to skiing lessons.  We were so lucky that the cold weather finished just before his classes and he learned a lot in 2 days of instruction.  I really enjoyed skiing at Snow Valley while he learned, in gorgeous conditions.  When we weren’t outside, he was so busy with his LEGO and I got housework done.

I rented a fatbike from a shop in Devon for the next 3 days and I had so much friend getting out with different biking friends for a little while every day in some fantastic areas around town.  This week, after New Years, my classes are starting very slowly so I’m organizing my next semester of teaching, as well as my apartment. Next week, my schedule will be full again but I’ve got a lot of fresh energy to get back to business.

By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

Transportation Styles

Being able to move around from one place to another is critical in our daily lives.  There are many ways to get around, whether you’re walking to school a couple of blocks from home, or travelling around the world by airplane.  I’d like to look at some videos that help us to think about transportation.  Think about some of the vocabulary.  What would be good and bad about travel in these different locations?

<p><a href=”″>Seattle: America’s Next Top Transit City</a> from <a href=””>STREETFILMS</a&gt; on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>
<p>&ldquo;The City of Seattle can&rsquo;t handle any more cars than we currently have. Our mode split needs to go from 30% single occupancy vehicle to 25%, and the lions share of that is going to be carried on the bus.&rdquo;<br />
<br />

-Scott Kubly, Director, Seattle Department of Transportation
Seattle, one of the fastest growing cities in America, is making bold investments to ensure the majority of its residents live within walking distance of frequent transit. The city&rsquo;s efforts are paying off &ndash; both bus and rail ridership have seen huge gains in recent years, and 70% of trips to downtown Seattle are now made by people outside of private vehicles. And as a measure of confidence, Seattle voters approved the $900 million Move Seattle transportation levy in 2015 and followed up by supporting the regional Sound Transit 3, a $50 billion rail expansion in 2016.
Seattle is demonstrating how rail and buses can work in tandem to build a fast, frequent and reliable network that encourages people to use transit. A key factor for this success is city government playing an active role forging transit improvements, not taking a back seat to county and regional transit agencies. Seattle&rsquo;s experience demonstrates that when agencies create clear transportation priorities, provide thoughtful, goal-oriented planning and deliver good transit service, ridership goes up and a firm foundation of public support can be established</p>

Here’s a video about travelling to downtown Edmonton for events at Rogers Place:

My favourite video of travelling around Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam!

<p><a href=”″>Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam</a> from <a href=””>Rob Whitworth</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is an amazing up and coming city. This time lapse is a culmination of 10,000 RAW images and multiple shoots capturing some of the cities relentless energy and pace of change.
Everyone who has visited Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam knows part of the magic (love it or hate it) is in the traffic. Ever since I first set foot in HCMC I have been captivated by the cities energy. Saigon is a city on the move unlike anything I have experienced before which I wanted to capture and share.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the film and thanks also to the numerous kind people who allowed me access to some amazing locations.
The soundtrack is the energetic Mondo’77 by Looper –
Used with permission.
The Word HCMC magazine has published a Q&A interview with some background information on the project:
Copyright &copy; All Images Rob Whitworth 2011 –

Here is a lot of the travel around Bangkok, Thailand:

<p><a href=”″>Bird’s eye Bangkok</a> from <a href=””>Pieter Manders</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>
A short tilt-shift time-lapse video shot in Bangkok.
Created by Pieter Manders (
Music: Suite for Toy Instruments no.3 in D major&quot; by Bosques de mi Mente (

This video shows more of the landscape of the country, but also gives you an idea about transportation in Norway:

<p><a href=”″&gt;

Mini Norway – a Tilt Shift Movie by Davide Vasta from BrainStudios
Mini Norway is a miniature representation of Norwegian landscapes and cities, realized through tilt-shift techniques.
A project by Davide Vasta



By elleninsaigon Posted in esl

How to use the internet to improve your listening skills

Because I’m teaching in an English-speaking country, some students learn to listen and speak very quickly and confidently. However, I also teach many students who spend almost all their time outside of school communicating only in their first language.  Even if they work, they often work in a place where there is very little spoken communication.  Some of those students look terrified every time I open my mouth.  They don’t have any confidence at all about their listening skills.  Those students will need to do more listening practice outside of class.  Here are some great tips for improving listening, especially later in the post.  There are also great ideas for ESL teachers to introduce listening.


Are your students struggling with authentic listening activities? Below is a brief guide I wrote to help my EFL students overcome both confidence issues and poor strategic choices when doing indepe…

Source: How to use the internet to improve your listening skills


One of the things that can be complicated in English is using “any/some/no and every”, both as part of compound words like everywhere or nobody, as well as on their own.  Take some time to watch a couple music videos to listen for the words, and take a good look at the grammar that is used.  Unfortunately, the video for “Everybody” that shows the band singing is very poor quality, so it’s easier to just listen to the song and pay attention to the words.  “Somebody to Love” was a hit by the super-group “Queen”.  Their songs were written by the lead singer, Freddie Mercury and guitarist Brian May.  Freddie Mercury died in 1991, so their songs are not new, but they’re still very popular.



Doesn’t _______________ know how to walk ____________?
Doesn’t _______________  know what a radio is for?
Doesn’t _______________  wear their hair down low?
Doesn’t _______________  know? Doesn’t _______________  know?

Doesn’t _______________  hate it when the streetlight turns red?
Doesn’t _______________  want five more minutes in bed?
Doesn’t _______________, doesn’t _______________  have a letter to send?
Doesn’t _______________  wish they had just one more friend?

‘Cause _______________  wants, and _______________  needs
_______________  asks for one more piece
_______________  wants to hear someone say please
‘Cause _______________  takes, and everybody steals
_______________ cries when _______________  feels
_______________  is looking for the drug that heals

Doesn’t _______________  wanna take another shot at me?
Go ahead the gun is loaded and the bullets are for free
Doesn’t _______________  spray perfume to cover up a smell?
Doesn’t _______________  know where to go to get some help?

‘Cause _______________  wants, and _______________  needs
_______________  begs for self esteem
Why don’t you get your mind out of the past?
And _______________  takes and everybody steals
_______________ ‘s been kicked by other heels

Please raise your hands up in the air

Oh in the air yeah
Why don’t you raise your, raise your, raise your hands in the air?
Why don’t you raise your hands up in the air?

‘Cause _______________  wants

Doesn’t _______________  know how to walk _______________?
Doesn’t _______________  know what a radio is for?
Doesn’t _______________  wear their hair down low?
Doesn’t _______________  know? Doesn’t anybody know?

‘Cause _______________  wants


Somebody to Love



Can _______________  find me _______________  to love?

Ooh, each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
(Take a look at yourself) Take a look in the mirror and cry (and cry)
Lord what you’re doing to me (yeah yeah)
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can’t get no relief, Lord!
_______________  (_______________) ooh _______________  (_______________)
Can _______________  find me _______________  to love?

I work hard (he works hard) every day of my life
I work till I ache in my bones
At the end (at the end of the day)
I take home my hard earned pay all on my own
I get down (down) on my knees (knees)
And I start to pray
Till the tears run down from my eyes
Lord somebody (_______________), ooh _______________
(Please) can _______________  find me somebody to love?

_______________  (_______________)…

Upcoming Winter Fun

There are quite a few festivals and special events in Edmonton this time of year.  One festival that happens this weekend is “All is Bright” the Christmas season opener on 124 Street.  The street will be closed to traffic and there are many things to enjoy up and down the street.

All Is Bright 124 Street

At the other end of downtown, the annual Santa Claus Parade will happen at 5 pm:

Santa Claus Parade

An event that I look forward to, every few months, is the Edmonton Public Library’s “Books2Buy” event at Stanley Milner Library, downtown.


This 3-day sale offers thousands of books, CDs, and DVDs for sale at $1-2 each!  This is an excellent place to get reading material about anything and everything that interests you.


Next week, the annual Festival of Trees will be held at Shaw Conference Centre.

Festival of Trees

This is a massive display of Christmas decorating and it’s a huge fundraiser for the University of Hospital Foundation.  The funds are used to purchase a lot of specialized equipment for the hospitals.

Don’t just stay at home this time of year!  Get out and have some fun!

By elleninsaigon Posted in esl