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

Study in Canada

CultureWorks students, I applaud you! Again you find yourselves at the end of another successful term, glowing from your efforts studying English.  And again, we need to reflect upon why you are able to realize your academic dreams.  Of course, hard work and determination are the key components ~ you should be very proud of yourselves!  But the other component is quite clear too, although maybe too obvious to realize sometimes:  you chose to study in Canada!

I stumbled upon this amazing article today and had to share it with you.  If you need a reminder why you chose Canada, or you know someone who wants to come here to study, read and share this article. It is amazing.


Canada is built to help people succeed.  Our educational policies set out by the government are designed to help students build their future.  Whether you are studying in London, Oshawa, or Ottawa, you have experienced the amazing support our country brings to facilitate your learning.  Furthermore, Canada is proud to have international learners come to our great shores!

Have a spectacular term break!  Enjoy our mighty country and come back to the classroom with stories to tell!



“Down to Earth” ~ An Interview with Meredith McGregor @ CultureWorks London!

meredethmcgregor_hrPlease welcome Meredith McGregor to the Hotspot! After reading her interview, you’ll learn she is a thoughtful and sincere person.  You might even say she’s “Down to Earth”.  I’d love to have her as a teacher!

How long have you been working at CultureWorks?  What is it about teaching English that you like the most?

I started as a substitute teacher at CultureWorks in the Fall of 2010 and then began full-time in January of 2011. The staff and students are the best part about teaching at CultureWorks. What I like best about teaching English for CW is the academic nature of the program.

What are your hobbies?  Which of them do you recommend new students to Canada try, and why?

I teach dance aerobics part-time for a gym. This is something I really enjoy doing in my spare time. I also like cooking and reading.


 There are a lot of students from a wide variety of cultures at our school, and each culture is rich in music, food, film, art, history, and stories.  Which of these cultural features would you be most interested in learning about?  Why?

Since working for CultureWorks, I have become really interested in visiting China one day.  I think it would be nice to have a better sense of where our Chinese students come from, and be able to relate to them better. Also, it just sounds like a really diverse and interesting country with a rich culture and history.


 What is your role at CultureWorks? Which courses do you specialize in?  How do you feel these skills will aid our students in university or college?  Do you have any advice you’d like to give students in these areas?

I mostly teach Level C/D Writing and Grammar. Being able to write well is an important skill not only for post-secondary studies, but for employment as well. My advice is to develop your vocabulary so that you are able to express yourself clearly and directly. Having strong diction is an asset that influences all aspects of communication.


 Lastly, for fun, if you could visit any Canadian province, where would you go? Why?

I would love to see more of Canada because I feel like I have traveled more outside of my own country than domestically. I have never been to Nova Scotia, so maybe I would choose to go there, especially during the summer.





My colleague Christina informed me this week that our “Loonie”, the Canadian dollar, is at its lowest value now since 2009.  “Isn’t that cool?” she exclaimed.  “Wouldn’t it make a neat blog post?”  “Yeah,” I laughed. “It’s a little loonie, but it’d work.”

Loonie is the slang name for the Canadian dollar.  We call it that because it has the image of a beautiful Canadian bird, the loon, on it.  Also, loonie (or loony) is another way of saying someone or something is ‘crazy’.  And let’s face it, there’s a lot of things in Canada that are pretty loonie!

So how is a lower dollar value a good thing for the Canadian economy.  I admit, I am no economist, so I had to do the research on this.  What I learned is rather cool.

1.  A lower Loonie will help our economy


Canada sells a lot of stuff to other countries (export).  This includes manufactured goods and services.  Canada’s tourism and services industry is big, too.  So with a lower dollar, suddenly our stuff isn’t so expensive compared to the rest of the world.  As a result, more countries will want to buy Canadian.

2.  A dip in the dollar will help employment

Oil Field Worker in Alberta, Canada www.opencanada.org

Our lower dollar will make the U.S. exports more expensive.  This means that other countries won’t buy as much from the U.S., and American workers could lose their jobs.  Meanwhile in Canada our exports are busier than ever, which creates work for Canadians to keep up with the demand.

3.  A bargain buck means ‘buy Canadian’


A lot of Canadians shop ‘over the border’, or in the U.S. because their prices are usually cheaper than ours.  This is especially true for groceries and gas.  But with the Canadian buck (slang for dollar) low, it doesn’t make sense to buy in America.  Canadians will buy in Canada, and a higher volume of business is great for the economy.  Also, Americans will come to Canada to buy Canadian!  It’s a win win!

4.  Cut-rate cash is great for tourism


Canadian music and theatre festivals, ski resorts and summer resorts, will all benefit from a lower dollar.  Why?  Because other countries’ money is higher value, making Canada a great place to travel too.

There are drawbacks, of course.  People with Canadian investments and retirement savings won’t be earning as much.  Bank rates haven’t been lowered either, which means people are paying more on their credit cards while the dollar is technically worth less.  In the end however, this was a good lessen for me.  When people say the ‘dollar is low’, it doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.  It’s when people say your pants are low, or your marks are low – that’s pretty much always a bad thing.

Tips on Study Tips


I remember preparing for my third year Anthropology class presentation, writing a 25 page term paper for my Classics course, and studying for three other courses, and all were all taking place in the same week. Ugh! They say university and college is great for teaching us time management, but I’d like to add that it is also great for teaching us how to stress out and throw dishes against the wall.

In researching this week’s blog post on study tips, I kept coming across the same advice.  Study with a friend.  Don’t procrastinate.  Use a highlighter.  Keep a log of difficult words and ideas.  Quiz yourself.  Divide your material into smaller, manageable chunks.  These suggestions are very good.  You’ve heard our teachers at CultureWorks give you the same advice a million times, so I don’t want to bore you with repetition.  Luckily, I came across two videos that offer some different ideas about preparing for tests.

This video has a lot of strange ideas that are just weird enough to work.  I definitely agree with listening to instrumental music while you study – music with lyrics are much too distracting.

[wpvideo xnQyUrVP]

This video offers excellent advice on setting a time limit when you are really concentrating.  In our age of iPhones and universal internet access, this is a great skill to practice.

[wpvideo NM4E1QUr]

These tips will especially help you with advancing your reading, listening, writing, and grammar skills.  Not only that, they’ll make your brain HUGE! Big brains are attractive, right?

HAPPY ESL WEEK! (And happy everything else, too!)

It seems every time I check the calendar, there’s another reason to celebrate another aspect of our lives or society.  A few weeks ago, it was National ‘Hug a Drummer’ Day.  I guess drummers in bands don’t get a lot of respect.  And apparently there is an ‘Edible Book Day’.  Did you know about this?  It’s true.  Literature and snacks all in one.

Hug a Drummer Day.  https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net
Hug a Drummer Day. https://fbcdn-profile-a.akamaihd.net
These books are cakes. http://library.law.wisc.edu
These books are cakes. http://library.law.wisc.edu

Today however, I wish you Happy ESL Week!  Oct. 21st-25 is English as a Second Language Week in Canada.  It is a time to recognize the valuable work our ESL teachers do, the exciting progress our ESL students make, and the significant impact language has in transforming lives.  Canada thrives on change and diversity, and the ESL field contributes so much to the values and identity of Canadians.

If you are studying ESL in Canada, congratulations!  You should be proud of the hard work you are doing to achieve your dreams.

If you are teaching ESL, thank you!  You should be proud to be an ambassador for the new participants in Canada’s culture.

For anyone who has learned a second language, you know how much power it gives you.  From everyone here at CultureWorks, Ontario’s leading on-campus ESL & EAP school, happy ESL week everyone!

In honour of ESL Week,  enjoy the beautiful artwork below submitted by ESL students for a contest held by TESL Ontario.   Aren’t they awesome? Other significant ESL contributors to our society include TESL Canada and Tutela.

Interestingly, it is Canadian Citizenship Week too.  The two go hand in hand, actually.  If you are downtown Toronto or by Niagara Falls tonight, check out the colours!  It should look really cool, and Canadian!


I love all the wonderful days we get to recognize.  It’s great!  I just wish they were holidays.

Being Erica & Learning English


CultureWorks ESL teachers often tell their students to watch English TV and movies.  I know, they’re pretty cool teachers.  Of course they are suggesting this for students to improve their skills.  But what shows and films are best for students to watch?  Although Canada doesn’t produce nearly as many TV shows as the U.S., many of our shows tell interesting stories with intelligent ideas that just happen to be perfect for anyone learning English.

The show I’ll present this week is called Being Erica.  It is a popular CBC program that is in its final season.  Read the show’s description and see if you can guess why it would be a good one to watch:

“Being Erica is a one-hour series that explores the life of Erica Strange, a woman who has been given a wonderful gift. Every episode, Erica goes back to relive a regret from her past, in order to come back and make a positive change in her present.”

Firstly, the main character travels in time, so that’s a good enough reason to watch it.  Secondly, because she travels in time, it’s the perfect show to learn about VERB TENSES!  By watching this show you’ll hear it all:

Present Tense Family: the simple present (I live), the present progressive (I am living), the present perfect (I have lived)

Past Tense Family:  the simple past (I lived), the past progressive (I was living), the past perfect (I had lived)

Future Tense Family: the simple future (I will live), the future progressive (I will be living), the future perfect (I will have lived)

Conditionals:  I would, I could, I should…

In addition to memorizing the rules, it is most effective to listen and watch English being used.  Being Erica is the perfect show for this.  Watch this clip to see what I mean, and see how many tenses you hear.  Write them down and say them aloud as you hear them, too. You might want to close the door when you practice though, some people might think you’re crazy! 🙂


You can search through all the seasons of this show and more on CBC’s site: http://www.cbc.ca/player/

Happy watching!

Is Speeling Importent?


A man goes on vacation.  He send this email to his wife:

“I’m having the best time of my life.  I wish you were her.”

Ok, I will keep this week’s blog brief.  Or is it breef?  Beef?  Oh man….

English teachers get this question all the time: “Do we really need to learn how to spell?”  With the predictive spelling technology on our devices, and spelling and grammar checks on Microsoft Word, I can understand why an ESL student would ask this question

But let me be clear here.  Spelling is VERY important, and if anyone learning your native language asked you the same question, I bet you would say the same thing.  Of course, we all make mistakes:


Why is spelling important?

1.  Computers cannot catch all the mistakes.  A journalist friend of mine admits he makes 7-12 simple spelling mistakes per article, on average.  That is after he has corrected his work!  Every journalist needs to have their articles reviewed twice before publication.

2.  As a result, your spelling mistakes can change the meaning of your writing.  You are writing things to be understood, right?

3.  Your ability to spell is connected to your ability to read.  If you have difficulty spelling, you’ll have difficulty reading, and reading is one of the most important skills to have in any language.

4.  When you apply for a job, and there is a spelling mistake on your cover letter or resume, you are immediately considered less professional, responsible, and capable than the other applicants.  You may not get the job.

5.  Bad spelling looks bad.  It’s like walking around with ketchup on your face.

With the recent flood of texting and tweeting, a lot of spelling mistakes have become forgivable.  After all, people are writing while they’re in line at the movies, on the train while listening to music, or even in class…yes, we know you do it!   The difference is that essays and presentations are formal and require attention to detail.  It is simply negligent, or lazy, to ignore the rules of language in the academic context.

So yes, practice your spelling.  In addition to your teachers’ guidance, here are some links  to help you out with common English spelling mistakes.

http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Common-Spelling-Mistakes  There are some ads on this site, but it explains some commonly difficult words to spell.

http://goo.gl/Ff4Kov  This site has a huge bank of difficult words and a quiz section to help you practice them.

Buy! er…By!…um…Bye! LOL. 🙂

A Man of Many Hats ~ An Interview with Trevor van Peppen, CultureWorks Ottawa Director

CultureWorks Ottawa Director, Trevor van Peppen
CultureWorks Ottawa Director, Trevor van Peppen

Name: Trevor van Peppen

Title: Director of Ottawa Campus, CultureWorks

Best Canadian Musician: Pianist Andre Laplante

Q.  The idiom ‘to wear many hats’ is an appropriate one for you, Trevor.  You do wear many hats.  Out of all your projects as an educator, curriculum designer, and leader, which one are you focusing mainly on now? How will it impact the students’ experience?  

A. I am collaborating with my colleagues to develop a test preparation course so that our students will be successful on a recognized English language proficiency test, and this will give students access to universities across Canada.

Q. If you were to actually wear a hat, what kind of hat would you wear?

A. I love a good Fedora.

Courtesy of www.knowyoumeme.com
Courtesy of www.knowyoumeme.com

Q. Most people limit their singing to the shower, but I know you like to belt out a song wherever you are!  Tell us about your career as a musician.  How has it affected your life?  

A. I’ve sung as a chorister in opera halls throughout the world and done some solo work with orchestra – over 20 years ago! When you are singing, you are critiqued on your voice, your clothes, your physical appearance, your interpretation of the music, your diction, your stage presence…everything. Now, when I am in front of people, I feel no nervousness when speaking. Performing music gave me that confidence.

Courtesy of www.ottawachoralsociety.com
Courtesy of www.ottawachoralsociety.com

Q. Every term, many new students arrive at CultureWorks.  They are full of excitement and anticipation to start his or her Canadian experience, and improve many vital English skills. If you could give only one piece of integral advice to help new students succeed, what would it be?  Besides singing, that is.

A. Develop friends and interests that are part of Canadian culture but have no direct relation to your studies. This will help with your overall happiness in Canada and help you overcome homesickness and culture shock. With a happy mind, you will be able to focus on your studies more effectively.

Trevor & Kelly @ Opening Ceremonies 2012
Trevor & Kelly @ Opening Ceremonies 2012

Q. Lastly, for fun, if you could have any Canadian animal as a pet, which would you choose?  Why?

A. I would keep a snowy owl.

One day, my father and I were driving home and noticed strange tracks in the snow. We stopped the car and followed the tracks to a wounded owl, which I caught by using my father’s overcoat. I brought it to a sanctuary, where they treated its gunshot wound. A few weeks later, I released the healthy owl back into the wilderness. He glided away silently and perched on tree branch across a field. That memory has always stayed with me.

Thanks for your time Trevor, we hope to have you back on the Hotspot soon!

A Snowy Owl ~ Courtesy of www.whalesworldwide.com
A Snowy Owl ~ Courtesy of www.whalesworldwide.com

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