Writing Contest – Tell us about your Tet ;)

So the new year is coming. You must be really busy with preparing to go back home, especially if you are studying in another city. Buying train and bus tickets is a hassle, especially with the price going up during this peak time. I never had that experience but many of my friends did.

So I was thinking about writing about Vietnam, about Tet (there is not an equivalent word in English, so just use “Tet”, or Vietnamese new year, or Lunar new year, whichever you feel more like using). But then… since you guys have done with course work (hopefully), why don’t we have a small contest?

So here it is, our small contest. In 500 words, tell us about your Tet. How did you celebrate it in your family, in your city (where you grew up), in Vietnam. If you are to meet some foreigners and they ask you about Tet, what do you want them to know about our traditional new year? You can also tell us more specifically about what you or your family do during Tet.

What’s the reward? We don’t have any “physical” price to give you, sorry. But the best one will be chosen, and we’ll work with the winner to improve the writing (if there is anything left to be improved), and it will get officially posted here, of course 😉

These are similar topics to choose from, pick the one you like the most and write about it. The more original the better. And if you want to write about Tet in your city and it does not happens to be a big city? Even better! we would like to know about your city, your town, no matter how big or small, promise 😉 If you love your hometown we will love it, too!

Have fun 😉


The deadline is Thursday , January 27th 2011 (one week before the new year)

You can either post your entry here or email us at englishstudyforvms at gmail dot com (meaning, englishstudyforvms @ gmail . com)


Purdue Online Writing Lab

So I was cleaning up my old email and found this online writing lab by Purdue University http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/, which has been around for several years. It has a huge resource about many writing types, ranging from general writing to specific subject writing. More over, it has a separate section for ESL students writing with useful tips and information.

Of course for a reference website like this you can not get specific examples, but it is definitely good for general purpose. So yes, check it out! I’m sure you’ll be able to get one tip or two from them 😉

Also, check out their new grammar blog at http://thegrammargang.blogspot.com/. In each post you’ll be able to look deeper at one aspect of English grammar in a friendly and humorous writing style.

And finally, have a happy new year, and a happy new you 😉

Practice writing – 5 – Opening our own companies or…

This topic is suggested by Tran Viet Cuong

“Some people prefer to take a position in a company and work for the company.
Other people think it is better to go into business for themselves. Which do you think is better?

Anh here is Viet Cuong’s essay about this topic.

People have to work to earn money to pay off their life. Working is neccessery element. However, how they work, they are self-employed or  just only employee. From my point of view, I would rather be to go into business for myself. I would explore only a few primary ones here.

The main problem with this argument is that it is ignorant of the basic fact that company of one’s own has more benefit than employee. The employees get a little money, called salary,  from total profit which business gets while the employer get the part of money remaining. It also shows us why one like to become a employer.

Another reason why I think owing the company is better than a employee is that I would like to be an excellent  leader. The business only successes if leader of business has skills and techniques  such as plant one’s succession, really listen, know one’s team,…. I had studied and experienced  these skills and techniques while I was a student. So, I believe that I can lead my company to achieve great success.

What is more, I like to challenge myself to life. I like putting myself under pressure. Only pressure on
working is increasing, I can show all my ability. I want to know my limitation of capacity and how I the
feeling of pushing myself to working and get success is wonderful. How great to experience that feeling in the life.  

In a word, I prefer to be a employer rather than to be a employee because I want to earn more money
and to success in leading. Also going through the life by challenging myself is another reason.
And I want to say that my life is happier if I own my business.

Thanks for your contribution, Cuong. To others, we’re looking foward to your comments, ideas and it is even greater if you can send to us your own essay on this topic.

Font & bộ gõ ký hiệu phiên âm Quốc tế – IPA vào Word

Nếu bạn muốn gõ ký hiệu phiên âm Quốc tế – IPA vào Word như trong bảng sau:



Thật nhiều các kí hiệu mà bạn không biết gõ thế nào trong Word phải ko nào? Không sao chỉ cần bạn tài 1 add-on uniqoder về & install vào Word là ok. uniqoder có thể tài về từ địa chỉ sau:


Bạn download cái uniqoder về, extract nó ra rồi bỏ vào thư mục C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office10\Startup. Với office 2003 thì là thư mục office11. Sau đó bạn bật Winword lên sẽ có 1 menu đổ xuống dùng để chèn kí tự vào văn bản như sau:

Thật tuyệt fải ko nào

Reading towards writing – Part 2

In this post I will explain a little more about how to read effectively.

We usually read for information, to answer test questions or just for fun, but forget about many other interesting detail about language from the passage. What I have learned from my junior high and high-school French classes are, always prepare some highlight pens while reading. You may need about 2 different colors, one for new words and the other, interesting expressions. With those highlights, whenever you revisit your previously read article, you’ll see right away what is important. (Don’t highlight my writing, tho, you’ll get plenty of errors 😀 )

Let’s have a look at a message I get from the International Student and Scholar Services of my school about safety Spring Break vacation. As I found no highlight in worpress, I will simply change the characters’ color instead.


Okay, first, before reading, try to think how would you say these in English:

– hậu quả nghiêm trọng

– người có ít kinh nghiệm lái xe

– tai nạn (giao thông) nghiêm trọng

– lái xe cả đêm

– bị thương nặng

– nghe theo lời khuyên (của ai đó)

– đi chơi xa

– đi chơi gần

– ngủ một giấc thật ngon

– buồn ngủ khi đang lái xe

– ngủ trưa

– lái xe khi đang mệt mỏi

– tỉnh táo

– không phóng nhanh (khi lái xe)

– mất khả năng điều khiển (xe cộ)

– chạy xe đúng tốc độ cho phép

– bị văng ra khỏi xe (ô tô, trong một tai nạn)

– đường ướt

– đường trơn trượt (vì có băng)

– chất bạn bè lên xe (ô tô)

– khởi hành (một chuyến đi chơi)

– để ý, nghe theo một lời khuyên

Now read the passage 🙂




March 8. 2008

During school breaks, many international students in the U.S. have the desire to travel to and experience other parts of the U.S. To save money, they often travel by car or van with a group of friends, who split the costs of gas, hotel, etc. While most of these trips are uneventful, some of them have disastrous consequences. Because the students are sometimes inexperienced drivers, are not familiar with the U.S. highway system, may have little experience driving long distances or in winter road conditions, sometimes drive old or poorly maintained cars and even drive through the night to save money, International Student Offices in the U.S. are reporting an increasing number of severe accidents which result in serious injury and even death.

UB international students have been killed in car accidents and have been seriously injured in car crashes during school breaks. In fact, three UB international students were in a very serious car accident during Thanksgiving break two years ago. We would like to prevent future catastrophic accidents so are sending you some tips which we sincerely hope you will take seriously.

1) If you are not an experienced driver, travel by bus, train or plane instead of by car.

2) If you are an experienced driver, but are only accustomed to driving in Buffalo, do not attempt a long road trip. Plan a shorter trip instead. Take frequent breaks during your trip and drive shorter distances each day.

3) Get a good night’s sleep and eat a good breakfast before beginning your trip. If you feel tired, delay your departure so you can rest first.

4) If you feel sleepy at the wheel, stop your car and take a nap or check in to a motel. Do not drive while fatigued. If you are a passenger, stay awake to be sure the driver is alert.

5) Never, ever, ever drink (alcohol) and drive.

6) Do not speed. You can easily lose control of your car if you are driving too fast. Drive only the speed limit.

7) Wear seatbelts at all times. ItR17;s the law for everyone in the car. Seatbelts will also ensure that you are not ejected from the car if there is an accident.

8) Do not drive at night. Above all, do not drive through the night to save hotel money. If you do, you can easily fall asleep at the wheel and have a serious accident.

9) If the road is wet, slow down. If the road is icy, do not continue driving. Check in to a motel instead.

10) Travel with at most one or two friends. Do not rent a van, fill it with friends and classmates, and embark on a trip. Too many international students in the U.S. have died in van crashes. (Such crashes frequently result in multiple deaths.)

We hope that you will have an interesting, enjoyable and SAFE spring break by taking to heart the advice in this message.


Remember them and use them in your sayings 🙂

Have an interesting, enjoyable and safe spring break 🙂

Reading towards writing

Does it sound strange? It should not, at least for me 🙂 . It sounds like “Listening towards speaking”, when I listen to others speaking English, most of the time I’ll try to capture what expressions they are using, such as “roll up and deal with it”, or “Down the hall then take your right” (what we would say is: Go straight down this hallway then turn left). “Way to go” to a good English speaker, tho 🙂

Okay, the phrases above is just good for speaking, and maybe regional terms, too. For writing we have to read quite a lot. Frankly, I’m a super lazy reader. That is the reason why I know how to become good in writing, but never could I produce a nice paragraph 😀

Alright. So what? In books for TOEFL there are plenty of advices about reading. They tell us to read from NYTimes, USAToday, Reader’s Digest, etc. (at least the books I got said so), especially from the Opinion, or Op Ed part… Well I tried it, but I didn’t learn much from those articles. One reason, I’m slow :D. Second reason: those whose writing is published on these popular newspapers/magazines should be very good at formal writing, while I’m too far from that.

Just recently I have found intermediate level articles that I really enjoy reading, learn from, and hopefully you, too. They are school newspapers, where students write for themselves. Their writing should be closer to ours. We have The Spectrum in our school, SUNY at Buffalo. There is also MIT Admission Blogs. And I believe other schools have theirs, too.

To start, I would like to invite you to try one article from The Spectrum, about the controversal right to carry gun in America. Personally I don’t like the idea of allowing citizens to be armed. But the guy support himself really good, and we can learn a lot about writing from his article.


My turn

The right of individuals and students to protect themselves
MARK W. WEBB – UB School of Management Sophomore

In this fair country of ours, it would seem that the majority of the people consider some of our constitutional rights as more important or more sacred than others. For example, no one, except for the die-hard enemies of democracy, would challenge the first amendment rights of citizens to freedom of speech, religion, and the press. On the other hand, a great multitude of individuals and politicians seem to dismiss the Second Amendment, the right of all Americans to keep and bear arms.

Compared to the general public today, our founding fathers felt much differently about this important issue. They understood that people had a right to live, a right to defend their life, and the right to live it as they saw fit. In fact, they felt so strongly about an individual’s rights to this that they said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Even today, I believe many would be hard-pressed to say that an individual is not entitled to such things; so how is it that “we the people” are so lightly surrendering our right to defend our lives?

In the light of such incidents as the recent campus shooting at Northern Illinois University and the Virginia Tech massacre of 2007, people are quick to blame guns and the “obsession” America has with them. Many use such incidents to fuel anti-gun legislation and brainwash and/or force good, law-abiding citizens to relinquish their rights by banning firearms. You may not know it, but there exist a number of so-called “Gun-Free Zones” all across America. These include universities, some government offices, primary and secondary schools, along with many others depending on the state. In fact, you’re most likely in a Gun-Free Zone (UB) while you’re reading this. These zones force law-abiding citizens, with otherwise completely legitimate and official permits to carry concealed firearms for their protection and the protection of others, to leave their legal weapons at home. You may be inclined to think that this is a good thing: “the fewer guns the better, right?” Well, if you’re talking about criminals, yes: the fewer the better – I’m with you; however, if you’re talking about law-abiding citizens who know how to handle a gun safely and properly, then absolutely not. “Gun-Free Zones” and related laws DO NOT stop criminals from carrying out their illegal and murderous acts – they only prevent good law-abiding citizens from defending themselves and others. The murderers of Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University, and many others planned to kill the innocent and then themselves; why would they bother obeying a “Gun-Free Zone” if they’re already going to commit murder and don’t plan on living more than a minute or two past their sickening acts anyway?

In the end we must recognize we cannot stop insane people intent on committing insane actions, no matter what laws or legislation are passed. We see shootings at schools because the politicians and the government have disarmed good citizens, and hence offered up a flock of sheep to the slaughter – a place where the likes of Eric Harris, Cho, and Steven Kazmierczak can kill without worrying whether or not their victims are armed. We may feel safe, but campus police and even the regular police are not everywhere at once, and the casualty rates of such shootings prove this. If lawful students/faculty with proper licensing and training sufficient for everywhere outside such zones, could carry their firearms onto campuses, these shootings would be fewer in number and the number of victims would drastically decrease. We should not wait for these killers to finish their work and commit suicide. We should be defending ourselves in kind. All of us have a right to defend our lives, 24/7 and 365 – regardless of what those in Albany say.

Remember the victims of “Gun-Free Zones” and use your First Amendment Rights to stand up for the Second Amendment. In this “Gun-Free Zone” at the University of Buffalo, it’s a big step towards the only defense we have in the face of madmen at the moment of truth.

Writing a letter in English

In many cases, you have to write some formal or informal letters. I hope this book will help you in writing appropriate letters.