A trip to Chicago – what to see?

Posted on 26. Aug, 2014 by in Culture, Travel

Image "Chicago River" by Bert Kaufmann on Flickr.com

Image “Chicago River” by Bert Kaufmann on Flickr.com

Let’s take a trip to Chicago! Chicago is the third most populated city in the United States (New York City is first, Los Angeles second). There are 2.7 million people who live in Chicago and around 46 million tourists (international and American) visit every year. Even if you aren’t counted as one of these tourists this year, you can get a taste for what visiting this city would be like by reading this post.


Chicago is in the Midwest region of the United States, in the state of Illinois. It is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes on the border of the United States and Canada. Chicago is known for its freezing cold and windy winters. (One of the nicknames for Chicago is “The Windy City.”) It is also known for its hot humid summers. No matter what time of year you go to Chicago though, there is plenty to do.


One place you will definitely want to visit if Millennium Park. This park is full of art, sculptures, amazing architect, and great gardens. “The Bean,” a large bean-shaped sculpture (pictured below), is in Millennium Park, and is a must see landmark in Chicago. It is a great photo op.


Another must see landmark in Chicago is the Wilson Tower (formerly called the Sears Tower).  This building is 1,353 feet (412 meters) and 102 floors tall. It was once the tallest building in the world. If you go all the way to the top of this building you will get a great view of the whole city. Also near the top, you can also step outside the building into a glass box and look directly down on the city of Chicago, but only if you aren’t afraid of heights.


If you like museums than you are going to like Chicago, because there are a lot of museums in this city.  From the Art Institute of Chicago, to the Museum of Science and Industry, and many more – there is something for everyone.


For those who like to shop, Chicago is known for its shopping district called “The Magnificent Mile.” Here there are a lot of high-end (or expensive) shops, but you can probably find almost anything you are looking to buy in this mile of shops.


There are a lot of universities to see in Chicago, too. Just walking around the campuses of these famous universities is likely to make you feel smarter. You will definitely want to check out University of Chicago, DePaul University, and North Western University, but there are at least a dozen others that you can visit too.


If you happen to be in Chicago for St. Patrick’s Day, you won’t want to miss the city’s famous St. Patrick’s Day parade. In fact, you won’t be able to miss how the city turns the Chicago River GREEN in celebration of this day! (See a picture of the Chicago River turned green above.)

Power English

Posted on 24. Aug, 2014 by in English Language

Image "Dumb Muscle" by Pascal on Flickr.com.

Image “Dumb Muscle” by Pascal on Flickr.com.

Informal English is fine to use when talking to your friends, family, or traveling as a tourist, but what about when you really want to make a good impression on someone or when you are using English for business? These are times when you will want to use more formal English, or what I call, “power English.”

Let’s take a look at how you can make your informal English more powerful for use in business and formal interactions. In all of the examples below, you will see that a simple or basic word in English is upgraded to a more formal word to make a more powerful statement. Learning some of these more powerful words will help make your English more formal for times when this is necessary.


Informal English transformed to “Power English”:


I got your message.  —> I received your message.

I asked for this on Tuesday.   —> I requested this on Tuesday.

I need some help.  —> I require your assistance.

We’ll talk about this later.  —> We will discuss this at another time.

James needs to get in touch with the manager.  —> James needs to contact the manager.

Pam has to put off the meeting another day.   —> Pam needs to postpone the meeting another day.

Please make sure the report is turned in by 5pm.   —>  Please ensure the report is submitted by 5pm.

Can you give me your phone number?   —> Can you provide me with your phone number?

Let me know when you are leaving.  —> Please inform me when you are leaving.

The other team needs to say they are sorry for us to move forward.   —> The other team needs to apologize for us to move forward.

Can you tell me why you made this choice?  —> Can you explain why you made this decision?

Today we are going to talk more about the up coming merger.  —> Today we are going to elaborate on the upcoming merger.

How are we going to fix this problem?  —> How are we going to solve this problem?

The deal has been called off.  —> The deal has been cancelled.

Here is a summary of the transformations that took place in the sentences above. The informal words are listed first and their formal, more powerful, synonyms are next.

get/got = receive/received

ask = request

need = require

put off = postpone

talk about = discuss

get in touch = contact

turn in = submit

give = provide

know = inform

say sorry = apologize

tell why = explains

talk more about = elaborate

fix = solve/resolve

call off = cancel

Can you think of any other simple informal words that have more formal or powerful synonyms, if so add them to the list!

Checking out of your hotel or hostel in English

Posted on 19. Aug, 2014 by in English Vocabulary, Travel


Image "Hotel Room" by William Warby on Flickr.com

Image “Hotel Room” by William Warby on Flickr.com

If you have traveled just about anywhere in the world than you have probably learned that English is the language of travel! Knowing how to speak English is very helpful, whether you are traveling to China, England, or Nicaragua. That is why today I am going to present some important conversations related to travel and checking-in and checking-out of a hotel or hostel. After a long trip you will want to be able to get to your room fast to sleep or relax. You don’t want to have to worry about being understood or not knowing what to say. So study up now and learn how to check in for your next trip abroad – and you might as well learn how to check out while you are at it!

Checking in:

Check-in desk: Welcome.

You: Hi. I have a reservation for _______________(your full name).
Check-in desk: Wonderful, let me look up your reservation, may I see your ID please?
You: Yes, of course. Here it is.
Check-in desk: Thank you. I see you have a reservation for 3 nights. Is that right?

You: Yes.

Check-in desk: We need to keep a credit card on file during your stay, what card would you like me to use for this?
You: You can use my Visa, but can I pay for the room in cash when I check-out?
Check-in desk: Yes, of course. We just need to keep a card on file while you are here. Okay. Here is your room key; your room number is written on the envelope. You have a single, queen-size bed in a non-smoking room.

You: Thank you.
Check-in desk: The elevator to your room is around the corner. If you have any questions once you are in your room, just give us a call here at the front desk by dialing 0. Enjoy your stay.

Another checking in conversation:

You: Hi. Do you have any rooms available tonight?
Check-in: Welcome. Let me check our availability?
You: I’ll take anything that you have. I’m exhausted and I just want to sleep.
Check-in: You are in luck. We have one single room left.

You: I’ll take it.

Check-in: It is on the 8th floor and has no windows. Do you still want it?
You: Yes!
Check-in: It is only free for two nights, then we are have it booked for someone else.

You: That is fine. I just want it for one night.
Check-in: Okay then; how will you be paying for the room?
You: How much does it cost?

Check-in: It is $40 for 1 night, plus taxes and fees.

You: I’ll use my credit card then. Do you take MasterCard?

Check-in: Yes, of course.

You: Here you go.

Check-in: Thank you. Here is your key and here is your credit card back. You room is on the 8th floor to the left when you exit the elevator. Have a good night.

You: Thank you.

Checking out:

You: Hi, I’d like to check out now. Here is the key to my room.
Checkout: Thank you. Let me just print you a receipt. Here you go!
You: Thanks.

Checkout: Do you need a taxi or any help with your bags?

You: No, I am fine, thank you.

Another checking out conversation:

You: I’m leaving now. Here is my key.
Checkout: Thank you; just one second and I’ll give you your receipt. Here you go.
You: Thank you.
Checkout: Did you enjoy your stay?
You: Yes, for the most part.
Checkout: I hope you will be back to visit us again soon.
You: If I am in town again for business I’ll be sure to come back. Could you call me a cab to take me to the airport?
Checkout: Yes, of course. If you step out the front doors there should be a cab waiting, but if not, the doorman will call one for you. Have a safe trip home.
You: Thank you.