It is hard to make corrections if you don’t know what your mistake is.

Often my students will make a mistake.  I will indicate that they made a mistake.  Then, they try to correct the mistake with a series of corrections.

Here is an example:

Student:  I will go to America in Monday.

Teacher:  In Monday?

Student:  At Monday?

Teacher: …

Student:  On Monday?

Teacher:  Yes, that is right.


Do you think the student will remember this correction?  Probably not.

Usually, I find the student doesn’t remember the correct phrase because they just guessed until saying the correct one. 

So, what should we do as students?  And, what should we do as teachers?


First, as students we should acknowledge that we do not know the answer.   We should realize that this is an opportunity to learn and improve.

Second, we should ask why the wrong answer is wrong and why the right answer is right. 

Third, we should practice using the correction in different contexts.

Finally, we should review it regularly. 


Here is an example of good practice:

Student:  I will go to America in Monday.

Teacher:  In Monday?

Student:   Hmmm.  What should I say?

Teacher:  Monday is a day.  For days we use “on”.

Student:  I see.  “On” is used for days.  So, I will go to America ON Monday.

Teacher:  Yes, that is right.  What will you do on Tuesday?

Student:  On Tuesday, I will see the Grand Canyon.

Teacher:  What else will you do?

Student: On Wednesday, I will watch a concert in Las Vegas. 


What should teachers do in these situations?

First, stop the student from randomly guessing the answer.

Second, ask the student why they chose that word or phrase.   Maybe they learned a rule incorrectly or maybe they don’t know the rule at all. 

Third, give the student context for using the word / phrase.  Show how the word / phrase can be applied in different situations.

Fourth, have the student use the word / phrase in their own examples.  If possible ask the student to explain what they now understand.

Finally, review the correction regularly with the student to make it stick.


So, try not to skip over these learning moments.  These situations clearly show that improvement can be made.  It just takes a little effort.


Natural English used in this post:

make it stick = remember it

skip over = not do something on a list or procedure


First impressions are important.  So, what is the first thing you say when you meet a person?  Do you say, “Nice to meet you”?  I’m not surprised if you do.  Most of my students use this phrase right off the bat.  Many textbooks suggest it.  However, it’s not natural and it might be a little awkward


Japanese introductions have two common phrases: 

はじめまして (Hajimemashite)

よろしくお願いします (Yoroshikuonegaishimasu)


The common structure for introductions in Japanese is:

A: Hajimemashite, Kenji desu.

B: Hajimemashite, Jeff desu.

A: Yoroshikuonegaishimasu.

B: Yoroshikuonegaishimasu.


For English introductions, there is only one phrase: “Nice to meet you”.  So, if we use it in the beginning on the introduction, what will we use at the end?  The phrase “hajimemashite” is basically equal to “nice to meet you”. There is no English phrase for “yoroshikuonegaishimasu”.  So, Japanese introductions and English introductions must have a different structure.  Speaking English requires thinking differently.  


This is a common, but unnatural student introduction:

Student:  Nice to meet you!  I’m Kenji. 

Teacher:  Hi, I’m Jeff.  Nice to meet you.

Student:  Nice to meet you too.  


Have you done this before?  You probably have.  Many textbooks make this mistake too.  So, its not your fault.  

Here is a more natural conversation:

Student:  Hi!  I’m Kenji.

Teacher:  Hi!  I’m Jeff.  Nice to meet you.

Student:  Nice to meet you too.


If you like, you can say: “Nice to meet you” at the same time.

A: Hello.  My name is Masa.

B: Hey.  My name is Kara.

A + B:  Nice to meet you!


There are some alternatives to:  “Nice to meet you”.

Good to meet you.  <– This sounds a little more casual.

It’s a pleasure to meet you.  <– This sounds more formal. 


We all want to make a good first impression.  By using this natural introduction, you will be off to a good start. 


Natural English used in this post:

Right of the bat = immediately

Off to a good start = to start well

Awkward = uncomfortable in a social situation


Last time, we talked about how we can use IN to talk about FUTURE events. 

If you want to review the article, please click here.


Today, we are going to practice talking about PAST events. 

A common mistake is using “BEFORE” to describe one event in the past. 

Here are some examples:


I went to Canada two weeks before.

I arrived at the station 20 minutes before.  


With these phrases, the listener will be confused.  The listener thinks you are talking about the time between two events.  They will be waiting for you to explain the second event. 

So, In these phrases, we should use “AGO” instead of “BEFORE”. 

For example:


I went to Canada two weeks AGO. 

I arrived at the station 20 minutes AGO. 


The easiest way to talk about when an event happened in the past is to use “AGO”.

Here are some more examples:


The store closed 10 minutes ago.

I started learning English 5 years ago.

The rain stopped an hour ago.


So, how can we use “BEFORE”?

Just like using “AFTER”, we can use “BEFORE” when talking about two events.

Here are some examples:


I made dinner 20 minutes BEFORE you came home.

BEFORE going to Canada, I studied English conversation.

Let’s grab a coffee BEFORE watching the movie.

The store closed 10 minutes BEFORE I arrived.


So the structure can be:

(Event # 1)  BEFORE  (Event # 2).


For example:

Event # 1 –> Buy a ticket

Event # 2 –> get on the train

Buy a ticket BEFORE getting on the train. 


We can add time with this structure:

(Event # 1)  (time) BEFORE  (Event # 2).


For Example:

Event # 1 –> Arrived at the restaurant

Time –> 10 minutes

Event # 2 –> Last call.

I arrived at the restaurant 10 minutes BEFORE last call. 



So, when was your last day off?

When did you arrive at work?

When did you eat dinner?

Try answering this questions about PAST EVENTS using “AGO” or “BEFORE”.


Natural English in this article:

Grab a coffee = Buy / get a cup of coffee.  From a cafe, vending machine, etc. Can be used with other drinks and food too.

Last call  = Similar to “last order”.   Your last chance to order food / drinks because the bar / restaurant will close soon. 



Do you have difficulty remembering vocabulary?  I know I do.   Here is a little trick that I have been using recently.  I take the new word and pretend it is a word from my native language.  I think of it as a synonym to the word from my native language.  Then, for practice, I make phrases with my native language using the new word.

So, throughout my day, as I am thinking and talking in my native language I insert the new word.  This helps me build a strong association between the new word and a word that I know very well from my native language.


Here is an example:

I am studying Japanese.  My friend used a word that I want to learn.  The word is: 練習 (renshu – practice).

So, now throughout my day I use this word while speaking to myself.  I say phrases like:

  • I will renshu Japanese for 30 minutes after work.
  • My band will renshu our new song for our concert next week.
  • Renshu makes perfect!

Now, I have a connection to the word in my native language.  And, I have many chances to review the word throughout my day. 


Here is an example for Japanese students studying English:

Let’s learn the word “overcast”.  “Overcast” describes a grey, cloudy sky.   So, here are some phrases that you might say throughout your day:

  • 今日はovercast です。
  • 今日は overcast だから海に行くのにはいい天気じゃない。
  • 今日は overcast だけど雨は降っていない。


Hopefully, this technique will help you build associations with words and create a crossover in your language lexicon. 

Let us know how it works for you!