CultureWorks is the original ESL school for higher education in Canada.  And London, Ontario is the school’s original location.  Our CW students have created so many great memories in London, all the way from our summer programs, through our school year, and beyond into the alumni chapter.  This Valentines Day, send some love to London, and enjoy these London memories caught on camera

Our King’s Summer students are cooking! Big smiles! (I see one male student and many female students…who says guys can’t cook?)
Behold!  Champions of English!
Behold! Champions of English! (The small guy is the teacher, btw.)
Banging the Drum at Opening Ceremonies in London!
Banging the Drum at Opening Ceremonies in London! The student on the left is really into the rhythm!
London Potluck, 2014
London Potluck, 2014
End of Term Party, London 2014
End of Term Party, London 2014
Janine, Elaine, and Liz enjoying time with London alumni, Peng Tu and Yuxiao
Janine, Elaine, and Liz enjoying time with London alumni, Peng Tu and Yuxiao

Do you have any CultureWorks pictures you’d like to share?  You can send them to us on our Facebook page!


Stan Rath ~ The Best of Both Worlds


Today we’re joined by the one and only, Mr. Stan Rath.  Stan is one of CultureWorks’ powerhouses.  He is a teacher, a curriculum developer, and a mentor to both teachers and students.  If you want to learn something, I suggest you hang around Stan. I recently asked him some questions so you can get to know him a little better.

Q. Stan, who is your favourite Canadian musician?

A. Oscar Peterson is a world class jazz pianist. I listen to his music every day.


Q. What idiomatic expression best describes you and why?

A. I think “the best of both worlds” describes me well. I love to travel and meet people from different cultures, but I also love to stay close to home.

At CultureWorks, I experience the best of both worlds because I have many interesting students from a variety of cultures in the classroom, and I get to live in my hometown of London, Ontario.



Q. When you’re not teaching, what are you doing? Do you have any hobbies, and why do you like doing them?

A. When I’m not teaching, I am usually hiking or planning my next vacation. One of the best feelings for me is being close to nature, and my favourite way to do this is hiking in Algonquin Park here in Ontario.

Stan Students Niagara

I find traveling, seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures very interesting. Two of my favourite countries that I have visited so far are India and Italy.

Q. You studied Biology before becoming a teacher. Do you think language is like science in any way? Do you draw from your scientific background in your approach to teaching?

A. I definitely think that language has scientific structure and rules, and I have found a scientific approach to teaching grammar and writing to be very effective. Many of my students have indicated that they benefit from using a formulaic approach when they practice using their vocabulary to build grammatically correct sentences.


Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could create a new word for the English language, what would it be and what would it mean?

A. gramtastic (adjective) definition: relating to the joy people feel when grammar unlocks doors to language learning

Gramtastic!  I love it!  Thanks so much for stopping by the Hotspot, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you, and I know our CultureWorks students are lucky to have you as their teacher!

Stan Class Photo 2

Coffee Clash!


We all know what we need in order to succeed at school:

1. Attend Classes

2. Maintain Study Habits


So my question is very simple: Which coffee do you prefer?  This has been a long debate in Canada for quite some time, and ever since McDonald’s introduced their line of coffee, the debate has become quite heated! (And we need heat this time of year.)  Starbucks is considered to be the international ‘standard’ for good coffee-on-the-go, so let’s compare the others to it.



I want to know what you think.  Which one has the best taste?  The best price?  The best selection?  Which one works for late night study sessions?

If you are a tea drinker, I’m sorry if you feel excluded from this post.  Feel better knowing that you are probably healthier than the rest of us coffee lovers!


The Power of (S)NOW!


You know when you wake up and you glance out the window groggily as you make your way through your morning routine?  You’re barely half awake, yet you subconsciously need to confirm what the weather looks like before you start your…

…and then, BOOM!  White everywhere!  Welcome to beautiful Canadian winter, baby! It’s here!

Yes, yes, I know, it’s cold and your boots are heavy and it’s hard to hold anything when you’re wearing those goofy gloves. But man, is it beautiful, and clean and fresh and exciting…admit it.  You love snow. I know you do.


I like winter because it’s such a dramatic and refreshing change from the rest of the year.  A dramatic weather change like this helps you to remember where you are, and what you were doing when it happened. Also, I love winter because it brings people together, indoors, playing games and swapping stories (or apps) to help stay warm and cozy. That’s the power of snow.

For those of you experiencing this gorgeous Canadian precipitation, breathe it in and enjoy.  These are the memories that living in a foreign country are made of.  Stay warm and take lots of pictures, my friends!  I guarantee your friends back home won’t believe it.

Why do you love winter?  Leave a comment below and let us know!



The weather is warmer, the grass is bright green, and we’ve all finished watching Breaking Bad.  Time to get outside and play some sports!

You can learn a lot about yourself by doing sports (like how good you look in shorts), and you can actually learn a lot of English, too.  Between high school and university I rowed for seven years, and learned a lot of language out on the water.  We used to chant, “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL” before every race.  It means we promised to work as a team, to do it for ourselves and every team member, equally.  Unfortunately the rest of the language we used out on the water isn’t appropriate for sharing, but I can show you some practical sports idioms! Check out this awesome video to help get your ‘head in the game’ (to focus on what’s important):












Hello new and returning students!  Welcome to another exciting, brand new term at CultureWorks.  2014 is just getting warmed up, my friends…because it can’t get much colder, can it! Ha! (Ok, bad joke.  Too soon?)

I’d like to start the new year off with a wish.  My wish is that all of you will embrace your first week, cherish it, and remember it, because these memories are golden!  They only happen once guys. You are in Canada, studying at CultureWorks, and that’s super cool!  So here’s 5 tips to make your life as an international student memorable.  Believe me, I’ve lived abroad before.   Some people look like they’re having the time of their lives, and other people look like their doing time. (Like, in jail!)  The choice is yours!

5.  Take a picture of something everyday.

Choose something that looks new or unusual to you, compared to life in your home country.  Your friends, Canadian fashion, transportation, the food, sites, etc…These pictures will add up over time and will be a great reminder at how different, and how great, your experience was.

Thanks Gustavo!  Great pic!
Thanks Gustavo! Great pic!

4.  Think of your life in Canada like it’s an adventure.

It is!  When you wake up, tell yourself that you have no idea what weird and wonderful things you’ll see and learn.  Maybe you’ll try a new food.  Maybe you’ll meet an odd bearded Canadian at a Tim Hortons who will tell you strange stories.  Who knows!  That’s the thrill of the ride!


3.  Spice up your life.

If you feel your routine is getting dull, change things around.  Take a different route to school.  Visit a different area of Toronto, or London, or Ottawa.  Explore a new area of campus, or even join a club. Just like a good curry, life is better with spice!


2.  Meet people, make friends.

Honestly, the friends you make now will be with you for the rest of your lives.  When you’re 80 years old, you’ll laugh together about the time one of you took the wrong bus and ended up in Montreal.  Or the time you finished an exam and then passed out with your face in the middle of a pizza.  You get the idea.

Ottawa Holiday Party
Ottawa Holiday Party

1.  Ask questions.

This is my number one piece of advice.  Your teachers, your student services co-ordinators, your cafeteria workers, your neighbours, your homestay parents…these are all people who hold the key.  When you ask, you learn, and you will learn so much from the people around you.  And you know what?  They want to help!

9670134409_06fa2fd41f_z 9670210787_58740e26ed_z liz

I’m jealous of all of you, to be honest.  I want to feel that *new* feeling again of living and travelling abroad.  You know what?  Forget it.  I’m enrolling in CultureWorks.  I’ll pretend I’m Russian and wear a big fur hat.  See you in class!

5 Inventions You Probably Don’t Know Are Canadian


Our most famous foods are maple syrup and poutine.  Our biggest exports are lumber and comedians.  But how many of you knew that these 5 world famous inventions were born in Canada?

1.  IMAX

I recently saw Gravity on IMAX, and it was stunning.  How can you go wrong with 72 × 52.8 ft screens displaying the absolute best resolution on the world’s biggest cameras?  My wife and I couldn’t drive home right away because we both actually felt like we were in space.  Yes, IMAX is a Canadian company, established in 1970 (after years of trial and error), and is now in 679 countries.  Forget Netflix!



Ok, so you might not think this is anything to brag about.  But be honest.  How many unnecessary egg tragedies have been avoided because of this ingenious piece of cardboard engineering?  I imagine when  Joseph Coyle of Smithers British Columbia came up with the design in 1911, it was mainly because he was tired of eggs exploding in his pockets on the way back from the market.



When medical insulin was created in 1922,  Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip revolutionized the medical world forever.  These Canadians made it possible to regulate dangerously low insulin levels in people, and therefore make diabetes a manageable disease.  Ok, so it’s no egg carton, but it’s not bad!



As if 10 pin bowling isn’t fun enough!  Thomas F. Ryan from Toronto, created 5-pin bowling in 1909 to put a spin on the classic game.  With a smaller bowling ball and only 5 ‘pins’ at the end of the alley, some people feel this version is faster and more challenging than the regular game.  Personally I don’t really care.  I love bowling for the shoes.



The G-Suit is a flight suit worn by aviators and astronauts who are subject to high levels of acceleration force (g). It is designed to prevent a black-out and Loss Of Consciousness caused by the blood pooling in the lower part of the body when under acceleration, thus depriving the brain of blood. The first g-suits were developed by a team led by Wilbur R. Franks at the University of Toronto’s Banting and Best Medical Institute in 1941.  Not a bad contribution to the world, eh?


When you travel and/or study in Canada, you need to know information like this.  Why?  Because when you go home you’re expected to be an expert on the country, right?  You need to know how the culture works! Impress your friends!  Shock your neighbours! Impress your teachers at CultureWorks!


You’re cool, you’re hip, and let’s face it, you want to have fun in the sun while you’re here in Canada.  Am I right?  (If I am wrong, well then, you have every right to do otherwise.  It’s a free country after all.)

We still have many luscious weeks of summer ahead of us.  I thought it’d be a good time to let our CultureWorks students know where the good times are happening.  I sincerely URGE you to take advantage of the following festivals.  They are always interesting, different, and usually free!  Here are my selections nearest to our three campuses:


Ottawa CultureWorks Fun List:

Ottawa Lumiere Festival

When & Where: July 29-Aug. 17, Stanley Park

What: A family-oriented multidisciplinary arts and cultural event that culminates with an Evening of Light celebration on Aug. 17.

Information: www.lumiereottawa.com

Arboretum Arts Festival

When & where: Aug. 16-17, Arts Court, SAW Gallery Courtyard, St. Alban’s Church

What: The second annual celebration of music, food and culture has a lineup that includes Sarah Neufeld, violinist for Arcade Fire, Polaris Music prize-winning musician Owen Pallett and Ottawa singer Jim Bryson. Plus artisans, activities for kids, and The Chef Sessions, featuring some of Ottawa top chefs serving up small plates in one-hour sets.

Information: www.arborteumfestival.com

Ottawa Greekfest

When & Where: Aug. 15-25, Hellenic Centre, Prince of Wales Drive

What: Greek food, dance, music including The Zorba Show, church tours and souvenir kiosks are highlights of this annual ethnic festival.

Information: www.ottawagreekfest.com


Oshawa CultureWorks Fun List:

Taste of Danforth

When & Where:  Aug. 9th – Aug 11th, Danforth Ave, Toronto (Map on site)

What: There is Food, Food, and More Food – but there is also much more. There is loads of free entertainment on our Celebrity, Danforth Showcase, and Greek Stages.

Information: http://www.tasteofthedanforth.com

Toronto Busker Fest

When & Where: August 22nd to 25th, Yonge St., Toronto

What:  Free and fantastic entertainers on the street, ranging from clowns, to singer, painters, to stunt men.

Information: http://www.torontobuskerfest.com

Kensington Market (Pedestrian Sundays)

When & Where: Aug. 25th, Sept. 29th. Kensington Market is located in downtown Toronto on several streets south of College St., west of Spadina Ave., north of Dundas St. and east of Bellevue Ave.

What: A car-free street festival in one of Toronto’s coolest markets.  Music, food, dance, artisan markets, theatre…and many surprises.  If you like to people watch, this is the place for you!

Information: http://www.pskensington.ca


London CultureWorks Fun List:

Fanshawe Agricultural Fair

When & Where: Aug. 17 & 18, Fanshawe Pioneer Village, 1424 Clarke Side Road, London ON

What: Threshing, exhibits, rare breeds display and musical entertainment are but a few of the many sights and sounds of a 19th century rural fair.

Information: http://www.fanshawepioneervillage.ca

Festa Italiana

When & Where: Aug. 23-25

What: It is a three-day celebration of Italian culture, food, music and dance.  The sights, sounds and tastes of the culture of Italy are enjoyed the heart of London’s beautiful Covent Garden Market making it a true “Taste of Italy in Downtown London”.

Information: http://www.festaitaliana.ca

Argyle Art in the Park

When & Where: Aug. 24

What: Interactive arts demonstrations, live music, food, kids craft centre, an arts & crafts show & sale AND a movie showing in the park at dusk!

Information:  www.facebook.com/argyleartinthepark

Summer, like life, is what you make it.  You’re in Canada,  and I know you came to make some memories.  So get out there and enjoy yourself!  Send some pictures while you’re at it. 😉


A Chinese Proverb on Education

Tell me, I will forget.

Show me, I may remember.   

 Involve me, and I will understand.

Learning a language is an active process.  So is learning a new culture.  For any international student looking to live and study in Canada, the CultureWorks Canadian Studies trips provide unique, real life experiences that bring our beautiful country to life.  If you are a student at CultureWorks, or are considering to become one, you’ll be happy to know that we follow the above educational proverb in our delivery of ESL (English as a Second Language) and EAP (English for Academic Purposes).

Every Thursday, CultureWorks students leave the classroom behind and embark on a Canadian Studies trip.  These trips are awesome because they involve our students in Canadian culture, language, and lifestyle. When you get involved in learning, knowledge becomes real. Furthermore, these trips are super fun!

Some of the Canadian Studies trips we’ve taken so far this term include…

1.  A journey into the wintery woods outside of Ottawa to a ‘sugar shack’, where our students learned how maple syrup is made.  When we asked how the trip went, the response was unanimous.  “Sweet!”

Traditional Sugar Shack.  I think they made the building to accommodate the man's hat.
Traditional Sugar Shack. I think they made the building to accommodate the man’s hat.
Layering the syrup to freeze on ice.
Layering the syrup to freeze on ice.
The maple syrup expert.  Note: Not all Canadians wear these hats.
The maple syrup expert. Note: Not all Canadians wear these hats.
A delicious crepe.
A delicious crepe.

2.  Our Oshawa campus often explores Toronto, and this time they explored the legendary ‘Hockey Hall of Fame.‘  Here they learned the history of our famous sport, understood the cultural significance of the Stanley Cup, and even had a lesson on the ice!  Our student’s reaction to this also was also unanimous. “Cool!”

Future members of The Toronto Maple Leafs  and Team Canada.
Future members of The Toronto Maple Leafs and Team Canada.

3.  Recently our London campus took a different kind of cultural voyage.  Into their tastebuds!  Professional chefs taught our students many  Canadian recipes, ranging from the common appetizer to the very unique main dish!  Everyone appreciated the hands-on experience, but unfortunately they couldn’t tell us about it.  Their mouths were too full.  Learn English at CultureWorks, where we bring Canada to life!

Getting some food schooling in Canada!
Getting some food schooling in Canada!
The student becomes the chef.
The student becomes the chef.
Appetizers for big appetites!
Appetizers for big appetites!

Your Friendly Canadian Word Nerd


I’m in the mood to put on my teaching hat today.  I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) for 13 years, and as a result my mind is married to the mechanics and the beauty of the English language.  Which is a nice way of saying that I’m a huge word nerd.

Have you ever heard of a ‘collocation’?  A collocation is a pair or group of words that sound natural, and commonly go together well.  The above word cloud is a great example of the many words that go with ‘news’.

There are millions of collocations, and they occur in all languages.  I guarantee that if you start to apply even a few of them in your writing, reading, and presentation skills, your academic English is going to skyrocket.

Why learn collocations?

– You will be more natural and easily understood.
– You will have alternative and richer ways of expressing yourself.
– You will express yourself as a native speaker and that´s the whole point, right?
– It is easier for our brains to remember and use language in chunks or blocks rather than as single words.
– if you are getting yourself ready for an English exam, collocations might make the difference between passing ot or not.


For example, here are regular, acceptable word combinations:

a big house

give a quick report

very different

rather strong

Many of these words are very common in spoken English.  By learning collocations however, we use language more precisely, and choose our words and combinations more carefully in order to sound natural.  So we might prefer:

a magnificent house

present a preliminary report

significantly different

relatively strong

See how they sound so natural, and tell you so much more?  That’s the magic of collocations! 🙂

Now look, don’t get freaked out by collocations, ok? I know, you want to skip this, run away, and go check Facebook or Weibo. You probably are saying what a lot of my students have said to me in the past: “HOW CAN I LEARN ALL THOSE WORD COMBINATIONS!  IT’S IMPOSSIBLE!”

You need to believe me, it’s not.  Collocations might seem intimidating at first.  They can be learned, however, and it’s really quite a lot of fun.  Way more fun than like, trying to lose weight, or picking ice cream off the sidewalk or something.  The bonus is that you’ll communicate so much more effectively once you get the hang of it.  Why don’t we start with the different kinds?

Different Kinds of Collocation

Some word pairs occur together so often that when you see one word, you strongly expect that the other word may be there too.  Here are the most important categories:

1. adjective + noun fatal accident, golden opportunity

2. verb + noun accept responsibility, undermine (my) self-confidence

3. noun + verb the gap widened, a fight broke out

4. adverb + adjective highly desirable, potentially embarrassing

5. verb + adverb discuss calmly, lead eventually to

Now check out these collocations.  Which category does each belong to?:

a.  the wind howled

b. she teaches professionally

c. demolish (the) house

d.  remarkable movie

e. terribly shocking

Ok, we’ll stop there, that’s all I want to show you this week.  I’ll post the answers to the question on our Facebook page tomorrow! (Tuesday, June 4th)

Now that you have been introduced to collocations, keep your eyes and ears open for them.  Try really listening to English speakers and see if you can hear patterns of word pairs they repeat.  And if you want an awesome excuse to watch movies, collocations are it!  Keep a place for them in your notebook or laptop, I promise you’re going to use them later!

Until next time,

Your Friendly Canadian Word Nerd