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5 Great Reasons Why Your Boss Should ALSO Be Invested in Your Language Skills

Did you know that, according to LinkedIn and other professional recruiting websites, fluency in a foreign language is one of the most important skills that employers look for in job candidates? In our always-connected and globalized world, big corporations and international non-profits aren’t the only ones looking for bilingual or multilingual employees anymore. Today, even local businesses are looking for new opportunities across international borders–whether it’s sourcing materials or selling to foreign customers in emerging markets.

At Speak Up USA, we believe that everyone can improve their English with the right kind of instruction and a little bit of real world practice. And that’s especially true when those skills can be applied in the workplace.

Are you looking for the best way to convince your boss that he or she should also be invested in your language learning skills? Are you a boss looking to be convinced? Here’s five solid reasons why every company should also be interested in helping take their employees’ English language game to the next level.

Bilingual Business Opportunities
If your business is international, this one is obvious. Acquiring a professional level of any new language, whether it’s English, Spanish, or Chinese, is going to create new professional opportunities for both you and your company. Even if your company is local and doesn’t do any international business, that doesn’t mean that all of your customers or clients speak proper English. In the United States, it’s sometimes easy to forget that many clients might be using English as their second language. If you’re in sales, customer service, or some other department that requires you to communicate regularly with customers–written or verbally–this skill is a huge advantage and can lead to all kinds of professional possibilities in the future.

Diverse Workforce
If you’re in the business of innovation, a multicultural workplace can be a big advantage when approaching problems and seeking out new solutions. Bilingual employees can offer a new perspective and a diverse approach to problem solving thanks to their variety of unique experiences all over the world. Those who know other languages and learn English as a second language are often exposed to new vocabulary and cultural experiences that present distinct situations that others may consider normal. A well-rounded and diverse staff could be the key to taking your creative team from ordinary to extraordinary!

Native English Competency
Any non-native English learner will tell you that there is wide gap between knowing English and being a native English speaker. The nuances of any language are difficult to grasp as a non-native speaker, often causing confusion regarding specific vocabulary and specific jargon in professional settings. While it’s true that English is the dominant language of the business world, many companies continue to report their need to employees to possess critical English skills. Polished and professional English could be the difference between closing the deal or losing the bid. Whether you’re presenting to an international investor, answering customer questions, or representing your company at a trade show, your level of English represents not only you, but also the business you work for.

Smart Workers Are Happy Workers
Did you know that numerous scientific studies claim that learning a new language can also make you smarter in other areas of your everyday life? Learning a new language like English can actually grow your brain and increase cognitive functions across a wide range of skill sets. Languages are not only intricate and detailed, but they develop good habits like patience and persistence. What employer isn’t looking for great business skills like those?

Better Employees = Better Morale
When your employer is dedicated to your professional development, it shows. New opportunities and training are highly valued by the majority of company employees, especially those who are allowed to put those skills to good use in the workplace. Creating good morale at the office is a combination of many contributing factors: feeling valued by your employer, high job satisfaction, professional growth, etc. For employers, it’s also important to maintain a low turnover rate and attract happier, more productive employees who enjoy learning and dedicating themselves to the company goals. If your company is cutting costs on training and employee development rather than in other areas, we think it’s worth asking how your employer values the personal growth of his or her staff.

What do you think? Do you think your boss should be invested in improving your English skills? Does your business typically invest in the language skills of its employees? At Speak Up USA, we are experts at tailoring classes to the specialized needs of any company staff, big or small. We offer some of the best and most affordable English classes in New York City for businesses and adult professionals of all ages.

Call for a free consultation or visit us near Central Park to learn more about how we can help you reach your personal and professional English goals.

*Ask about our special rates for local businesses!

1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd.
New York, NY 10026
(917) 473-1059

Who vs. Whom: Who Knows the Difference?

The use of who and whom can be confusing to anyone new to English. In fact, many native English speakers encounter difficulty in remembering the difference. But don’t fret–assuming you already know the difference between he/she (subject pronouns) and him/her (object pronouns), you will catch on very quickly.

Who is a subject pronoun–just like I, we, he, she, and they. Therefore, who is grammatically interchangeable with subject pronouns. (Recall that subjects appear before the sentence’s main verb). Let’s look at a sentence sentence with she as the subject.

She watched television this afternoon.”

If we wanted to change this sentence into a question, we would replace the she with who.

Who watched television this afternoon?”

Easy, right? Let’s look at another example, this time with he. To make it more of a “real world” example, we will begin with the question form first.

Who played the piano last week?”

He played the piano last week.”

It doesn’t matter which subject you replace and it doesn’t matter whether it’s in noun or pronoun form.

They went to the store.”

Who went to the store?”

John and Lisa went to the store.”

Whom is an object pronoun–just like me, us, him, her, and them.  Therefore, whom is grammatically interchangeable with object pronouns. (Recall that object pronouns–and all object nouns for that matter–“receive” the action). For this reason, object pronouns typically appear toward the end of the sentence.  Let’s look at the sentences using him as an example.

“I need to send a letter to him.”

“You need to send a letter to whom?”


“To whom do you need to send a letter?” (formal)

“I need to send a letter to Charles.” 

Pay close attention to the location of the verb. The verb is need, and him comes after it.

Important note: whenever a pronoun immediately follows a preposition, we use the object form i.e. to me, from her, at us, with him, by them. (Never ‘to I’ or ‘by they’). Same rule applies to who and whom. After a preposition, always use whom i.e. For Whom the Bell Tolls (not For Who the Bell Tolls). Another example: when writing a formal letter in English, we use the greeting, “To Whom It May Concern.” (Never “To Who It May Concern”).

The more you practice the use of each, the faster your mind will remember how to use them. The key is using them as often as you can, especially in your writing. (Native English speakers often use who regardless of context in spoken English, but don’t let that stop you from using whom in conversation).

To summarize: always remind yourself that if the answer is a subject pronoun, such as I, he she, we, they, and it and you (before the verb) then your questions should begin with who. If, on the other hand, the answer makes use of the object pronouns me, her, him, us, them, it, and you (after the verb), your question should begin with whom.

We hope that was helpful. Take the quiz below for a little Who vs. Whom quizzical fun.


1. How is “Who” used in a sentence?
a) As a preposition
b) As a subject
c) As a verb

2. How does “Whom” function in a sentence?
a) As a subject
b) As an adverb
c) As an object

3. Which of the following words could you use as a replacement of “Who?”
a) He
b) Them
c) Him

4. Which of the following words could you use as a replacement of “Whom?”
a) They
b) She
c) Her

5. Which pronoun can function as an object of a preposition?
a) Who
b) Whom










Answers: 1. B 2. C 3. A 4. C 5. B

10 Commonly Mispronounced Words (Even by Native Speakers!)

Because English is spoken in so many countries all over the world, it’s pretty difficult to argue that there is just one correct way to pronounce any specific word. Try the word ‘route’, for example – in Britain, the word is pronounced ‘root, while in America it is pronounced rowt (rhymes with ‘out’). Even regional accents can differ within the same country or region.

Because English has evolved delete from a fusion of a variety of different languages, you can’t always rely on the word’s spelling to understand how it’s correctly pronounced. As soon as you learn a pronunciation rule, you’ll be presented with all sorts of exceptions. Take a look at the following ‘ch’ words: cheese, champagne, chaos. While they’re all spelled with the same first two letters, the start of each word is pronounced differently: ch, ‘sh’, and ‘k’. Or how about the different vowel sounds found in these similar looking words: though, thought, through. Mispronunciation is often common even delete among native English speakers.

Today the Speak Up team is taking a quick look at ten commonly mispronounced words, especially for non-native English speakers. Be sure to study the correctly spelling of each word. Most of them are quite deceptive!

The ‘t’ in ‘often’ is completely silent. The correct pronunciation of ‘often‘ is OFF-en.

Unfortunately, pronouncing ‘infamous’ isn’t as simple as adding the word IN before the word FAMOUS. Make sure you’re saying IN-fuh-mus.

Notice the ‘d’ near the end of this word and make sure you’re definitely not pronouncing ‘supposedly’ with a ‘b’. It’s suh-POSE-ad-lee, not suh-POSE-ab-lee.

Make sure you’re pronouncing the ‘s’ at the start of this word. You’re trying to say SPUH-SIH-FIK and not pa-ci-fic.

The ‘b’ in ‘subtle’ is completely silent: SUH-tull.

Here’s a word where the ‘e’ sound at the end is really emphasized. Say hi-PER-boh-lee and not hyper-bowl.

Have you ever caught someone saying mis-CHEE-vi-us? It’s pronounced MIS-chi-vus. (No vee after the chi).

Rather than saying epi-tohm, make sure you’re saying ih-PIT-oh-me.

You need to say the word ‘queue’ exactly like you would say the word CUE.

Et cetera (etc.)
Make sure you’re not saying ‘ex’ sounds where they don’t belong. Say ET CETERA (and not ex cetera).

Just like Et Cetera, ‘espresso’ is one of many ‘es-’ words that people regularly (and incorrectly!) pronounce using an ‘ex-’ sound. Check that you’re not saying ex-presso (or ex-pecially or ex-cape).

If you’re looking to speak English better than a native, learning these commonly misspelled words will be a huge help on your path to English language mastery. If you’re in the New York City area and are looking for the best way to improve your verbal and written English skills, Speak Up USA offers English education and professional studies for adults. Interested in learning about how we can help you achieve your personal English goals? Get in contact and let us help you.

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1970 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd. New York, NY 10026

5 Reasons Your Spelling Is More Important Than You Think

A yellow “Go up and never stop” neon with a long arrow against a black background

Unfortunately, there is no simple shortcut when it comes to learning how to spell in English. It just takes practice. And a lot of it.

Moreover, most professional positions require a high level of communication in English and often assume that any English speaker, native or otherwise, should also have impeccable spelling skills.

At Speak Up USA, we guide our adult students in business English by teaching them the best ways to infer unknown words in English. However, lots of our students begin to ask themselves: is it actually worth all the effort to learn how to spell properly in English?

Here are the top five reasons why our team at Speak Up USA thinks learning to spell in English is incredibly important.

Bad Spelling Can Affect Your Score
More and more examination criteria are testing students’ ability to spell and punctuate as a way of creating a filter. This may seem unfair, but does it seem worth the risk? Do you want to lower your great score for something as foolish—and easy to avoid—as poor spelling?

Bad Spelling Will Distract Your Reader
Incorrect English spelling will definitely distract the reader of a text. Whether it’s important or not is for the reader to decide, but a misspelled work will automatically take attention away from the message being communicated and direct it toward the incorrect spelling or usage, in turn hindering the writer’s credibility.

Bad Spelling Can Change the Meaning
Were you eating a pair or a pear? Were you digging a hole or a whole? If your reader doesn’t know, you’ve got a serious communication problem.

Bad Spelling Can Leave a Poor Impression
While your experience and skills are the most important aspect of your CV, it’s important not to stand out from the crowd for the wrong reasons. Spelling mistakes on your CV will automatically relegate you to a category you deleted don’t want to be in. Some recruitment agencies say they even throw the CV of potential candidates directly into the bin if they find one spelling error. It would be shame to have worked so hard to see your opportunity be squandered by bad spelling.

Bad Spelling Can Cost Your Company a Lot!
If your job is directly linked to the creation of content in English, you could find yourself in serious trouble some day with the appearance of a spelling error. Last year, I heard a story from a colleague about a friend who had approved the English text for about 30,000 shoe boxes with the word ‘opportunity’ spelled ‘oppordunidy’. Not exactly the professional reputation the business was hoping to communicate to their clients. Talk about an expensive typo!

It’s obvious that spelling like a native English speaker is difficult, but it is definitely necessary in the professional world. Businesses judge us for our English spelling skills whether we like it or not.

If you’re looking for more helpful tips on spelling and pronunciation, get in contact with us or visit our social media accounts to let us know what you’d like to hear about. We’re located in Harlem, New York City and offer professional English study for adults looking to get professional about their English skills. Stop by and visit us for a free consultation. No ID or proof of residence required. Special discounts are coming for 2018, so stay connected to learn more!

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10 Common English Mistakes You NEED To Avoid

A woman showing off her apple watch and the amazing display on the watch screenFor those of you who aren’t able to visit us for our professional English classes for adults in Harlem, we wanted to share 10 common mistakes that you’ll definitely need to know if you want to master your written English, whether it’s for work or your own personal growth. Pay special attention to apostrophes and the different spellings between words and concepts that sound similar.

You’re is a contract for you are, so try substituting one for the other. Does it still sound correct? If it sounds right, then it works.

ITS vs. IT’S
The same rule applies as above. Try substituting “it is” and if it sounds OK, then use it’s. If you’re looking to signal possession, you’ll have to use its.

Who’s is a contraction, so try replacing who is and see if it still sounds right. Use whose if it doesn’t sound OK.

There = signals a place or location
Their = signals possession
They’re = a contraction for ‘they are’ (Read more here: http://speakup-usa.com/2017/12/21/tips-on-knowing-the-difference-between-theyre-their-and-there/)

The trick to knowing the difference between using ‘I’ and me is finding a substitute. If the sentence makes sense substituting the word we, then you will use ‘Maria and I’ (subject pronoun). If the sentence makes sense substituting the word us, then you will use ‘Maria and Me’ (object pronoun). Give it a try the next time you’re not sure.

The word then is used to indicate the passing of time: “I ate lunch and then I took a nap.”
The word than is used to make comparisons: ‘I am stronger than he is.”

The word affect describes an action. The word effect, on the other hand, describes the end consequence. In other words, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

The word imply means to suggest indirectly or make a hint at something. The word infer, on the contrary, means to draw a conclusion or arrive at an answer. The speaker implies. The listener infers.

These are compound verbs and the word have should NEVER be substituted for the word OF. Too many native English speakers still make this common English error while writing. (This might be because the contracted forms could’ve, should’ve, would’ve sound something like coulda, shoulda, woulda in informal spoken American English).

E.G. vs. I.E.
The abbreviation e.g. means ‘for example’ or ‘examples given’. The abbreviation i.e., however, means ‘in other words’.

Close-up of a fountain pen writing in a notebookDo you have any questions or doubts about common English errors? Get in contact with us, leave a comment on the blog or check out our different social media channels. Speak Up USA is your first source for adult English classes in Manhattan.

Looking for that extra professional push? Visit us at 1970 Adam Clayton Jr. Blvd. for a free consultation and let us help you reach your English speaking goals quickly and effectively without wasting time, money, or energy.

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5 Fun Things ESL Students Can Do in NYC to Improve Their English

New York City is home to a unique blend of cultures that offers a diverse range of entertainment options to ESL students. From iconic buildings to museums, theaters to parks, the Big Apple has something for everyone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week–it’s no wonder they call it “The City That Never Sleeps.”

At Speak Up USA, we encourage our students to take advantage of this wide array cultural and entertainment offerings. Doing so will improve not only your English, but also your social life and cultural awareness. While by no means an exhaustive list, we hope the following five suggestions will inspire you to get of your comfort zone, meet some new people, and gain confidence in your English speaking and listening skills.

Happy exploring!

1. Watch a Broadway Show

For over 100 years, Broadway has been the epicenter of the theater world, drawing millions of people here every year. Interestingly, musicals provide an added benefit to English learners—many ESL students find it easier to understand English when sung lyrically. When putting words to music, songwriters emphasize the cadence and rhythm of words and phrases. Don’t worry if you can’t make out every word—just enjoy the music. You might be surprised by how much your subconscious can absorb!

Here is a list of a few famous Broadway shows:

• The Lion King
• Wicked
• The Phantom of the Opera
• Chicago
• Jersey Boys

2. Dine out

New York City is a melting pot of cultures, and that diversity extends to the city’s culinary scene. New Yorkers are notorious for eating out, whether grabbing a quick from street carts to exquisite meals at Michelin-rated restaurants. One can learn about new dishes, go on romantic dates, have a drink or meet a group of friends for lunch or dinner. Added bonus: keeping the table talk in English will go a long way in improving your spoken English. Don’t forget to tip your server! (In the U.S., a 20% gratuity is customary for good service).

3. Take a Stroll Through a Park

Although New York City is notorious for being a concrete jungle, many green spaces abound throughout the five boroughs. These sanctuaries provide New Yorkers respite from the everyday hustle-and-bustle. There’s nothing like a little nature to promote tranquility and peace. The most visited—and famous—park in New York City is Central Park. Many free events are hosted there to entertain visitors on a regular basis. Some of the activities include paddleboating, attending film festivals, watching Shakespeare in the Park, and picnicking with family, friends, and/or classmates.

The park’s activity schedule changes according to the month and season. While Central Park is the biggest park of Manhattan, other parks are also frequently visited because of the events they offer and their peaceful environment.

Check out some of the ones below.

• Riverside Park, located in the Upper West Side
• Jackie Robinson Park, located in Harlem
• Morningside Park, located in Harlem
• Bryant Park, located in Midtown
• Inwood Hill Park, located in Inwood

4. Visit a Museum

New York museums represent the best of local, regional and international artists. ESL students can observe artwork and artifacts from all over the world, affording the opportunity to learn about art history, fashion, scientific historical artifacts, and much more. These museums are sure to stimulate conversation, so get talking!

The most famous museum in NYC would have to be The Metropolitan Museum of Art aka The Met. Its historical art spans from over five thousand years ago to the present day. Different exhibitions are held on a seasonal basis, so be sure to check out https://www.metmuseum.org/ for additional information.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), opened on November 7, 1929, has garnered an incredible reputation throughout the years thanks to the remarkable variety of art on display. https://www.moma.org/.

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the The American Museum of Natural History (https://www.amnh.org/) and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum https://www.guggenheim.org/.

On a budget? ESL students looking for free museums are encouraged to check out the following:

• American Folk Art Museum
• BRIC House
• Bronx Museum of the Arts
• Bushwick Street Art Collective
• The Cloisters Museum and Garden

5. Check Out a Live Comedy Show

Life in New York can be hectic and fast-paced. Maybe that’s why NYC became the comedy capital of the world. After all, what better stress-reliever than laughing it up among friends in a cozy comedy club? When it comes to relieving stress, laughter just might be the best medicine.

The most famous popular form of live comedy in New York is stand up–just a man or woman and a microphone, weaving together funny stories, one-liners, or a combination of both. A few of the most popular comedy clubs for stand up in New York City include:

• The Comedy Cellar
• Gotham Comedy Club
• Stand Up New York
• The Stand
• Many more

Group improvisation is a form of live comedy whereby an ensemble creates funny stories and characters “off the cuff” (improvised on the spot), often based on suggestions from the audience. The most well-respected imrov theater companies include:

• Upright Citizens Brigade https://ucbcomedy.com/
• The Peoples Improv Theater https://thepit-nyc.com/
• The Magnet Theater https://magnettheater.com

The city is your oyster. Get shucking!