Real ESL Lesson #39 – Saying Hi to Strangers

IF YOU WANT TO BUY TRAFFICKED … free shipping to other countries

Hey all,

‘Hey’ means Hi or Hello. People say it all they time. How should you answer? You can say Hi back to them. Or Hey. Or What’s up?

I wanted to give you this link I found in case you’d like to order my novel and you live in another country.

TRAFFICKED doesn’t come out until February, but you could get it at that time. Also, check out my author’s website at


(By the way, never end a letter with ‘From’. It sounds like a child. ‘Sincerely’ is too formal. Many people use ‘Best’. I think it’s a bit formal, so I only use it for people I don’t know at all. I prefer ‘Warmly.’ Some girls/women end their letters with xo which means hugs and kisses. That’s common for friends and doesn’t mean anything weird.)

TRAFFICKED – my first novel

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything, but I’m back! I’ve been busy taking care of my kids and writing a novel, which is being published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin, and is coming out in February, 2011. It’s called TRAFFICKED and it’s about a seventeen-year-old girl who comes to LA from Moldova to be a nanny and ends up (follow this with an -ing) working as a slave. You can find it on Amazon, though you can’t buy it until February –

As I’m sure you can imagine, much of this novel is based on the real-life stories from ESL speakers and immigrants I worked with in Los Angeles. Immigrants are second-class citizens in America and in many countries around the world and my students and foreign friends have told me many sad stories. If you’re an illegal immigrant, it can become a real life nightmare. I wanted to write a novel so that I could combine all the stories into one girl and show what it’s like to be trapped (stuck, kept in one place, unable to move) and feel like you have no way to escape (to get away, to run away, to go somewhere else).

If you are in this situation, I hope you can find it in yourself to reach out (talk to, call, approach) to someone – a neighbor, a friend, a police officer, and to know that things can get better.

If you are in another country and you are tempted to work in America or some other country, make sure you ask a lot of questions, like, “What are my wages?” “When will I get my first paycheck?” “How many hours a week will I have to work?” “When will I get time off?” “Where will I be sleeping?” “Will I be sharing a room with anyone?” “How many people will be in my room?” “What is the address for my employers and my residence?” “What is a phone number where people can reach me?” “Do you have any former employees who I can call for a reference?” If the people who are hiring you hesitate (pause) or laugh at these questions, don’t go with them.

If you have to get false documents, I know it is tempting, but try not to do it. You are more vulnerable (weak, open to attack) if you start out (begin) illegal. And finally, if you do get false documents, keep your legitimate (real) ones on your person (on your body)! Never give them to someone else or you will be trapped and it will be hard to escape.

My greatest hope by writing this book is that it will stop someone from going with a trafficker (a person who buys and sells people). And maybe it will save a life.

I wish you all the best (I hope you have a happy life). And now, to improve your English, start writing. Every day, write one page of journal writing in English. Send it to me under the comments. I’ll publish them.

Real ESL Video Lesson #38 – Use Present Progressive for the Short Term Future!

Many of you know that you can use “will” or “be going to do something” for the future, but do you know that you can use the regular present progressive for the future as well?

For example:

What are you doing tonight?
I’m staying at home and reading a book.

The only rule is you have to have some kind of time to show that it’s in the short term future, like “tonight”. It doesn’t have to be exact.

Watch the following blog post and send me any questions.

Transcript is coming!

Real ESL Video Lesson #37 – For Women ESL Learners ONLY!

Okay, men, if you really want to watch, you can, but be warned, you may get grossed out (feel disgusted, feel sick in your stomach). This blog post is about when a woman gets her period (menstruates) in America.

Partial Transcript

    Today we’re going to talk about “getting your period” (time of menstruation/bleeding).
    Yes. I’m wearing my red jacket for this occasion (for this talk, this special event, this situation).
    “Getting your period” means when a woman bleeds every month.
    Okay, guys, you can turn it off. I know this is stuff you don’t want to hear.
    If you’re in another country and you’ve got your period, you need to know what to say and how to say it. You can say, “She’s on the rag.” (She has her period, She’s bleeding.)
    The time before she gets her period, that’s called “PMS” (pre-menstrual syndrome – the week before the bleeding starts when hormones change and can cause mood changes, fluctuations in emotion.
    You can say, “I’m PMSing now.” (But Kim’s Note to Guys – Don’t tell a woman she’s PMSing or she might kill you.)
    Or… “I think my period’s about to come. I feel like shit.” (I feel terrible.)
    Let’s say (Imagine), you are in a bathroom in America and EMERGENCY,you don’t have a tampon or a pad (napkin).
    Sometimes women will ask one another, “Hey, do you have a tampon? Do you have any napkins? Do you have a pad?”
    Even though there is a taboo (a barrier against talking or discussing something) … that’s why I’m talking to you about this.
    If you have an emergency, women are pretty understanding (quite understanding) in America.
    No one is going to say, “I’m so offended (insulted) that you asked me that.”
    They’ll say, “Oh gosh, I don’t.” or “Let me ask my sister.” We tend to help each other out. (to tend to do something = to usually do something)

On Vacation!

Hello everyone,
I’m sorry I haven’t posted for a while. I’m on vacation in Canada right now and after that, I’ll be moving with my family to New York, so just stick with me (stay with me, keep watching)! I’ll try to post once a week during this transition!

For now, I want to tell you a little bit about my trip to help you with the vocabulary of traveling. One quick note on spelling: In America, traveling is spelled with one L. In Canada and Great Britain, it’s spelled with two Ls. The original spelling is of course the British/Canadian one; however, when in Rome… (The expression “when in Rome…” means that when you are in a place, you should do things as the people do in that place.) The rule in America is if the stress of a word is on the first syllable, you don’t need to double the consonant of the last letter of the second syllable even if it contains a soft vowel sound.

Anyway, about my trip… I’m on vacation in Canada. (Note – many people have a problem with this expression. They forget to use ‘on’ and they use ‘in’ or something else.) I’m in Nanaimo, British Columbia right now. I plan to take the Clipper ferry in a couple days over to Seattle to visit the American part of our family, my husband’s dad, stepmom and brother. After that, I’ll be heading back (I’ll be returning) to LA to start packing for New York. So, I’ll do a few more posts from LA and then I’ll be posting from the Big Apple. (New York)

I will try to add more transcripts while I’m on vacation.


Real ESL Video Lesson #35: Post Offices in America and Making a Request

In the ten years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, I’ve always been amazed at people who work in the post offices. The people tend to be quite (very) rude (impolite, not nice) and paranoid (worried that someone’s going to hurt them), so don’t take it personally (don’t think the person is rude because of you or something you did) if this happens to you.

In this lesson, I go to the post office and talk about what the postal worker asked me to do. I also give the grammar behind requests:

to ask someone to do something
to get someone to do something
to have someone do something (Note: No infinitive for this one!)

Partial Transcript

I’m outside the post office.

I’m sending a package to my family.

a bit odd (strange)

They have bulletproof glass. (glass that stops a bullet)

People aren’t so paranoid there. (worried about someone hurting them)

They have an expression that’s called ‘go postal‘. (be angry and aggressive toward people)

There have been postal workers who come with their guns.

You have to open a door, stick it in (put it in) and close the door.

If we both have our doors open, I could take out my gun and boom-boom-boom (sound to shoot people with a gun).

She got me to do it, she had me do it, she asked me to do it. (Note – all these mean the same thing.)

She had me do it. It goes directly to the base verb.

My Biggest Pet Peeve – Height, Weight, Width, Length

Okay, so these words are nouns – height, weight, width, length.
You say, “What is the height of the entertainment center?”
You do not say, “What is the heighth of the entertainment center?”
It is such a common mistake, even for highly educated American people, and I think people get confused because width and length end in “th”.
On the TOEFL, they like to test you on whether you should use the noun or the verb or the adjective form.
All of the following questions are correct:
How high is the table? How tall are you? How much do you weigh? What is your weight? What is the width of the table? What is the length of the table?
If there is an article – “the” – or a possessive pronoun – “your” – you know you need the noun form.


Real ESL Video Lesson #34 – Japanese Town in LA and American Grocery Stores

I wanted to bring you to one of my favorite areas in LA – the second Little Tokyo – not in downtown, but close to UCLA. I went to the Nijiya Market there today and bought some delicious salmon sashimi (raw fish), which I ate for dinner.

At this Japanese grocery store, they were fast and courteous (polite). But this is not always the case (not always true) at many grocery stores in America. Often, the clerks/cashiers are unbelievably slow. Many of my students have commented on this (talked about).

Another problem for students is that the cashiers talk to you. What should you say? Watch the video and let me know what you think!

Also, look at the partial transcript below if you have trouble understanding.

Partial Transcript (Sorry for the wind – this one’s harder to understand!)

Today I’m in one of LA’s small Japanese areas – my favorite.
It’s near UCLA. It’s on Sawtelle between Olympic and Santa Monica boulevard.
If you’re from here and you’re Japanese, you probably already know it.
If you’re not Japanese and you’d kind of like Japanese food, I highly recommend it. Especially if you want noodles – mmm, there’s a great place here.
That’s not exactly what I wanted to talk to you about – it’s about grocery stores.
In a few minutes I’m going to be going to the Nijiya Market, which is a Japanese market here.

There are all kinds of grocery stores, but what I want to talk to you about is, uh, the normal grocery stores.

A lot of my students encounter something that is very strange.

The first thing is that they are slow. Have you ever noticed that? Slow, slow, slow.

If you’ve traveled to other countries, if you’ve been anywhere, if you’re American, and you’re listening to this, it’s shocking how slow people are here, in the service industry, especially in the grocery store.
For my foreign students, people who are learning to speak English as a second language, bring your vocabulary (lists).
If you have nothing, grab a magazine and start reading. If you are going to be very brave, talk to the person behind you.
You say, “Oh it’s so slow.” And they say, “Yes it is.”
You look in their grocery cart and talk (about what’s in there).

Some people might look at you like you’re strange, but what do you care? (why do you care? It’s not important.) You’ll never see them again. And it’s a little English conversation practice.

When you finally get to the teller, the person is pretty chatty. That means the person talks a lot.

“Hey, how are you today?” “Did you find everything you need?”

You may think, yes, I got everything I needed, and that’s why I’m here.

Or – “How are you today?”

You think, “I don’t know you. Why do you care?”

Well that’s just America. They’re trained to talk to you.
Usually Americans say, oh I’m fine, how are you.

They put your groceries through. (to put s.t. through – to complete a transaction)

Sometimes they’ll ask you at the end, “What’s your name?”
That’s just strange, but make up a name and it could be fun.
Okay, they’ll say, “Mr. Balugawuga, have a nice day.”
They just ask you name so they can use it when they say, “Have a nice day.”
Just make up a name. (lie about s.t.) It could be fun.
That’s the grocery store near my home. I always find it weird myself. But whatever.
You can even talk to them. Say, “Hey, so are you having a nice day.”
You know, turn it around. Ask them questions.
They have to answer you.
That’s the greatest thing about a store in America. They have to be nice.

Ask them questions. Don’t be too personal.

Go to my site if you need a transcript.

Real ESL Video Lesson #33 – Fireworks and Adjectives!!

I went out with my family to a friend’s house for a barbecue on this Fourth of July. This holiday is also called Independence Day. Many people have barbecues and watch fireworks. We usually go to the beach, but this year, I wanted something more mellow (relaxing).

Here’s a quick video I did while watching fireworks. Listen for the adjectives. Are there some you didn’t know? Can you think of more? They all mean more or less the same thing. If you are impressed and if you think something is cool, use these!

Thanks for watching!

PS – These fireworks were at Beverly and Rossmore in Los Angeles. I highly recommend them. You can just park on the street!


I’m watching the Fourth of July fireworks and I’m going to give you some adjectives today, some adjectives to describe something…

amazing (oh I said that)
incredible … incredible