David Ellis is an English teacher based in Japan who has been teaching English in the United States and Japan for over 20 years. He has written and published a wonderful eBook for teaching and learning English called Travel English for Busy Travelers.
Best of all – it’s absolutely free! Now, it isn’t everyday that such an interesting and useful teaching resource appears on our desk, so make sure you download your copy today!
Free download (epub, mobi/Kindle, pdf , etc.) of Travel English for Busy Travelers eBook on Smashwords:
By the way, if you have any questions, you can contact David on Twitter: @DavidLS1
David Ellis, author of Travel English for Busy Travelers
I caught up with David recently and asked him about the book:
What is the background to the book?
“As an English language teacher, I often ask myself how I can help my students become self-sufficient learners. Many of my students in Japan are overly dependent on their teachers and feel they don’t know how to study independently. I decided to write an eBook that my students and other students around the world could easily use for self-study. Travel English for Busy Travelers is a beginner’s level eBook focusing on conversation practice, vocabulary development, and reading comprehension that’s full of self-study exercises with answer keys.
Why did you write your eBook?
“I have co-written several reading textbooks that have been used in Japanese universities. Recently, I have been teaching more and more English conversation classes, so I wanted to write a conversation textbook. However, I didn’t want to write a general conversation textbook. Out of all the classes I teach, I enjoy teaching travel English the most, so I decided to write an eBook that I could use in my travel English classes.
Why did you make the eBook free?
“First of all, I wanted the book to be free to download for my students to help them become more independent learners. Second, I hope to attract a larger readership. I hope that more people will download a free eBook. I’ve done some writing for free magazines and university newspapers. I have enjoyed sharing my writing and curriculum with my students and friends this way. It’s interesting to get e-mail about the eBook from foreign countries. Usually, the sender of the e-mail is asking when the second level eBook will be released.
What are your publishing plans for the future?
“My teaching workload is getting busier, so it’s difficult to find time to finish the second book this year. I almost have the first half of the second book finished, so I will try to release a level 2A eBook by the end of this year. I hope to finish the second half of the next book sometime next year. I would also like to rerelease some chapters from my older reading textbooks that are going out of print. In Japan, most English textbooks have a rather short shelf life.
What are the most popular parts of the book?
“My favourite parts of the eBook are the reading passages on important topics for international travelers. Readers find the dialogues, the Appendix section on “Textese” (texting language), and YouTube videos to be especially helpful. Audio for the eBook is available on my YouTube channel: Travel English for Busy Travelers eBook – on YouTube
What other type of work do you do?
“I have proofread over ten books for vintage fashion writer and photographer Rin Tanaka. Rin has written some very successful vintage fashion books such as Harley Davidson: Book of Fashions, Schott: 100 Years of an American Original, XLarge: True OG Streetwear, and Wesco: Boots that Stand the Gaff.”
Thanks David! We really appreciate you sharing your eBook for free!
We know from our experience that it doesn’t really help much when somebody we care about is crying their heart out and all we can think of to say is ‘Stop crying’. Want to be more helpful? Try the approaches in this useful infographic from Happiness is Here Blog:
Ask and answer the discussion questions about summer with a partner or small group:
How many seasons are there in your country? What is your favourite / least favourite? Why? Do you like summer? Why? / Why not?
How is summer different from other seasons in your country? Compare them. What do you do in summer that you don’t do the rest of the year? Do you change your habits?
How many days of holiday do you normally have in summer? Is it enough? Are you able to switch off and relax on holiday, or do you take your work with you, e.g. emailing?
Do you prefer to have a long summer holiday, or several shorter breaks during the year? Do you think school holidays are too long in your country? How long are they?
What kind of summer holiday do you prefer: seaside, lake, mountain, cruise, camping, fishing, city break, cultural break, adventure, desert, jungle, safari, etc.? Have you ever been on this kind of holiday? What did you think of it? Are there any that you wouldn’t like to try? Why not?
Do you prefer to stay in your own country or go abroad? Why? Are you an “outdoorsy” person? Do you like to camp? Could you survive “in the wild” for two weeks without access to a cashpoint, shops, and restaurants? How would you cope if you got lost without a mobile phone?
What is the best summer holiday you have ever had? What has been the most memorable place you have ever visited? Why was it? Have you ever spent the night in a tent, yurt, cruise ship, ferry, train, B & B, motel, or five-star hotel? Tell me a story about each place.
Which hotel or resort would you recommend? Have you ever made friends with people on holiday, but not kept in touch? Tell me about them. Have you ever had any disasters on holiday? What went wrong?
What special events happen in your town / country in summer (e.g. cultural or sporting)? Do you usually attend / take part? If yes, describe each event. If not, why not?
What effect does summer have on your… a) mood, b) attitude, c) health, d) motivation, e) weight, f) relationships with those around you?
What do you like to wear in summer? How does it make you feel? What kind of food and drink do you enjoy in summer? Is there anything you don’t eat or drink in summer? Why not?
Are you a good cook? Do you like to ‘cook up a storm’ on the barbecue with friends, or avoid the hot weather altogether by staying indoors?
What was summer like when you were a child? What can you remember? How was summer different to now? How did you fill the long summer holidays?
How hot is too hot for you? When was the hottest / coldest summer you can remember? Is summer weather changing for better or worse? Is climate change having an effect?
What is the best kind of summer music? Why do you like it? Have you ever been to a festival in summer? Have you ever been on a summer camp or a school exchange?
Have you ever been travelling, hitchhiking, or worked your way around the world during summer? Why? / Why not? What is your dream trip? What are you planning for next summer?
When students ask me about how to improve their English, one of the things I always recommend is watching the news in English. And you can’t watch the news without running into some common political idioms. Do you know what a spin doctor is? How about a fishing expedition? Keep reading to learn 9 essential idioms about politics in American English, complete with FREE infographic!
Political Idiom 1: Strange Bedfellows
When we say that two people, organizations, etc. make strange bedfellows, we mean that they form an unusual or unexpected political alliance. A sort of political odd couple.
In the United States, the two main political parties are the Republicans and the Democrats. They are usually adversaries (= they usually oppose or compete with each other), so if a Republican and a Democrat worked together on an issue, we would say that they were strange bedfellows.
Example sentence: Did you hear that Randy Republican and Dorothy Democrat are working together on this new immigration bill? Talk about strange bedfellows!
Political Idiom 2: Lame Duck
This is a political idiom that you often hear after an election. A lame duck is a politician or a government that doesn’t have much real power because their period in office will end soon and their successor has already been elected. We most often use this idiom to talk about the US President, although it can apply to other politicians, too.
Presidential elections in the US take place in early November, but the newly elected president doesn’t start his term until January. The previous president is considered a lame duck from election day until the new president starts. Everyone knows they’re on their way out, so it’s difficult for them to get much accomplished.
Example sentence: He was hoping to accomplish more during his last days in office, but he’d overestimated how much he could get done as a lame duck.
Political Idiom 3: Spin Doctor
When you spin something, you present information in a particular way, especially one that makes your ideas seem good or your opponents’ ideas seem bad.
So, what’s a spin doctor?
A spin doctor is someone who spins for a living! A spin doctor is someone whose job it is to present information to the public about a politician, an organization, etc. in the way that seems the most positive.
All US presidents have spin doctors. In current American politics, Kellyanne Conway is often referred to as President Trump’s spin doctor.
Example sentence: I’m not interested in the soliloquizing of spin doctors. What are the facts? The plain facts?
(Soliloquize = (usually disapproving) to give a speech about your thoughts, as if you were a character in a play speaking directly to the audience, instead of engaging in a conversation.)
Political Idiom 4: Politically Correct
You probably know that PC can refer to your desktop computer, but did you know that it has a political meaning, too? PC is a short way of saying ‘politically correct’.
If speech or behaviour is politically correct, it makes a deliberate effort not to offend a particular group (or groups) of people.
Political correctness is a hotly debated issue in the United States. On the one hand, it’s obviously wrong to make fun of the disabled or use racial slurs. On the other hand, some people become so worried about being politically correct that they worry that filling their eyebrows might be cultural appropriation. And my sister’s friend actually told her that it was offensive for her to practice yoga because she has European ancestry, not Asian ancestry. (In case you’re wondering, my sister has not quit yoga.)
In the United States, we have people who hate political correctness so much that they behave in offensive ways on purpose. And we have people who are so politically correct that they’re just obnoxious. Luckily, most people live somewhere in the middle.
Is political correctness an issue in your country? Tell us in the comments below!
Political Idiom 5: October Surprise
This American political idiom specifically refers to elections. So, what is an October surprise?
An October surprise is any news event orchestrated or damaging information released in the month before an election, deliberately timed in the hopes of affecting the outcome of the election.
Example sentence: Things look good now, but we need to be prepared for an October surprise. Anything can happen in the final days before an election!
Political Idiom 6: Witch Hunt
These days, you can’t escape this political idiom in American news. It seems to be everywhere on Twitter and other social media!
So what is a witch hunt? A witch hunt is a politically motivated, often vindictive investigation that feeds on public fears.
This popular idiom comes from a dark period in European and American history when people believed that witches were the cause of bad things happening in society. People began accusing members of their communities of witchcraft, and many of those people were executed on the basis of irrational evidence.
This idiom became popular in American politics during the McCarthy Era, when hundreds of Americans were aggressively investigated for potentially being Communists.
Example sentence: No reasonable person could think this investigation was actually after truth or justice. It’s a total witch hunt.
Committing political suicide means doing something unpopular that will likely lead to the end of your career as a politician.
Example sentence: I know you think these activists are idiots, but you can’t say that publicly. It’s political suicide!
Political Idiom 8: Fishing Expedition
When you go fishing, you dip your line into the water and hope that something bites. You might not catch a fish right away, but if you keep at it, you know that you’ll probably catch something eventually.
So, what is a fishing expedition? It’s a political and legal idiom that we use to describe an investigation carried out without any clearly defined plan or purpose, in the hope of discovering useful negative information about someone.
Example sentence: These document requests can’t possibly lead to the discovery of relevant information! You’re on a fishing expedition, and I think the judge will agree with me!
Political Idiom 9: Red Tape
I saved the best for last!
Have you ever been frustrated by endless paperwork when you need to do something with the government? Then you have been a victim of red tape!
Red tape refers to official rules that seem more complicated than necessary and prevent things from being done quickly.
This is something that I personally love to complain about. Curse you, red tape!
Jennifer founded Next Step English so she could help advanced English learners master the vocabulary that native speakers don’t expect them to know. Vocabulary that will make native speakers think, ‘Wow! You really know English!’
In her free time, she loves hiking, playing Bananagrams, and binge-watching British murder mysteries.
This week most of my groups have worked with the topic of planning a holiday on another planet.
I projected the instructions above on the board (or wrote it on the whiteboard, depending on the classroom I was in) and informed students to take out their notebooks and pens and work in groups of three. I informed them that they would have to do a spoken presentation, with all students speaking, which would be assessed.
I told them: “The year is 3018!” I made a kind of swishing noise and waved my arms for a while. “You’re in the future!” I clarified. Generally the students laughed. They settled into their task.
Each 45 minute lesson split roughly into thirds, with 15 mins to do the register and set up the activity, 15 mins for SS (students) to prepare their presentations, then 15 minutes for the presentations. As they prepared I operated some sound effects on an app called myNoise (iOS / Google Play), which I played on my phone through a (hidden) Bluetooth mini speaker. The ‘Warp Speed’ sound effects were great – bleeps and whooshes and pulses that you might hear in a spaceship (or on another planet) – as far as I know, anyway!
I had fun by starting the sounds off low and then increasing the volume, to see how many SS – and who – would notice. When they looked up, I reduced the volume again or denied that there was any noise. Some SS were more aware than others. I feel it helped to set the ambience of a future-themed lesson about space travel.
About 15 minutes before the end of each lesson, the SS gave their presentations in groups and we clapped each group. I was pleased by how much imagination was shown and how much they had been able to achieve in just around 15 minutes prep time.
I did this lesson with ten of my groups and sometimes, due to the lower number of SS in a group, we had time for extension activities:
After a presentation: I asked the group some additional questions about what they had just said, e.g. ‘What colour was the alien? Describe him. Was it a him? How could you tell?!’ etc.
After we had heard all the presentations: if there was time, I switched on the sound effect of the spaceship/space noises again and asked the SS to close their eyes. I asked the group questions, e.g. what can you see? Where are you? What is happening? and so on. A little bit of a drama game.
The sound effects app was quite amusing for me. I’m not sure all the SS appreciated it – or how many of them even noticed it above their (work-related) noise! When SS did notice the weird noises or ask about it, I pretended not to have heard it.
I’m not sure why, but lower-level groups seemed to respond better to this activity – with greater enthusiasm and more imagination. Maybe they didn’t overthink it, unlike some of the higher-level groups.
I asked them to work in groups of 3, in order to break up some established pairs and force them to work with different people. Some SS begged me to work in groups of 4, so I asked them why I didn’t allow it: ‘Because students will talk in pairs,’ said one person. Exactly, and if they work in groups of 4 there will be sure to be at least one, and probably two, students doing nothing, while the other two work.
SS learned new vocabulary, including ‘adventure’, ‘aliens’, and ‘dangerous’.
I noticed that some groups of 3 achieved more than others in the meagre 15 minutes that I allotted. Some presentations were fabulous, with really detailed scenarios, while others were more perfunctory, e.g. ‘On the way home there was a battle. The end.’ I guess this is to be expected in terms of differentiation, although some SS worked harder than others, in my opinion.
It was great, as always, to watch the SS working contentedly on the task – the ‘happy hum’.
This lesson structure is still working well: setup > preparation > presentation (see previous Teaching Blog posts). What is the lesson plan (above) in a nutshell?
Give SS a clearly defined task with several objectives to fulfil, on a topic that is of interest to them.
Give them a fair amount of time to work together in pairs or groups to prepare their response. Offer help and assistance as required, but let them get on with it. In English, as far as possible!
SS show what they have done to T and the rest of the class.
The content has to be interesting to them. When I planned this week’s topic last weekend I was originally going to ask them to talk about a normal holiday. Then I was playing with the new app and I noticed the space sounds and realised that a holiday in space would be so much more fun – and good for the imagination! Serendipity at work.
I enjoyed imagining the future along with the SS. They conjured up a time when intergalactic space flight is not only possible, but absolutely commonplace; when aliens and humans co-exist and intermarry on earth and on other planets, like Mars, Mercury, and their own made-up planets (e.g. ‘Unique Planet’ and ‘Princess Planet’, where some SS went to find out about the beauty effect of magic coconuts); when space travel can involve a ‘space tram’, ‘magic carpet’, ‘flying car’, or ‘a bike in the sky on the Milky Way’; when spaceships can break down, but be fixed; when humans can go on a rescue mission to the sun – which is being robbed of its heat by a dastardly heat-absorbing alien race… It takes just 15 minutes to get all these scenarios – and more – out of SS who are by no means at a high level in English. Bravo! I salute them. I smiled, I laughed, and I played weird sound effects.
I think that having the instructions on the board for SS to refer to at any time while preparing was a big help. It meant I didn’t have to keep reminding them of what to do. It was clear, once we had gone through it at the beginning. This time I included an image to help to stimulate the imagination.
Other positives: group work; variety of focus; not teacher-led lesson, but teacher-controlled; low teacher talking time; after doing this kind of lesson a few times the SS know more what is expected of them; SS take responsibility for their work and their marks; at the end of one of the lessons one student seemed genuinely surprised that it had gone so quickly (a great sign of engagement!): ‘Juz koniec?!’ (in Polish) = ‘It’s finished?!’
Challenges that are familiar from previous weeks with this lesson outline:
Getting SS to do the preparation stage in English is difficult – even with the highest level groups.
SS listening to each other during the presentations – this is getting a bit better.
Limitations of time – 45 mins to start, work on, and complete the activity, with no rollover to next lesson. I have to be very strict on the clock.
I’m concerned – as a teacher – that there is still little or no time for grammar correction, e.g. one group wrote: ‘My friend meet a very preaty girl, and now they have one kid.’ and ‘Adventures – Swimming with Delphin.’ (In Polish ‘dolphin’ is ‘delfin’.) Should I take in the work and mark it at home, then return it with written feedback? How helpful would that be? In the next lesson we don’t have time to return to the previous week’s lesson, because there is a new epic to be created. Focus on speaking becomes focus on writing and grammar? My job is to get them talking, but what about accuracy? Is this a speaking activity or a writing/grammar one? Can we have speaking and presentations without writing and grammar? Without writing, yes, but without grammar, no!