Fun Easy English Classroom August 4
 
 
 
 

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Learn American
English idioms
letter N
Idioms Letter N

Today in the classroom you are going to learn some idioms beginning with the letter N.
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Idioms: American English Idioms - Letter N

Today learn idioms beginning with the letter N.
BLUE UPPER CASE LETTERS = video and detailed written definition and usage
blue lower case letters = video definition and usage
BLACK UPPER CASE LETTERS = detailed written definition and usage
black lower case letters = brief written definition and usage
Idiom Definition Usage
nail biter  
nail down make certain of I want to nail down the exact time that we will meet tomorrow.
named after given the name of She was named after one of her cousins.
name is mud reputation is ruined Your name is mud now that you were caught cheating on the exam.
name of the game main objective The name of the game is to make money for the company.
narrow escape barely avoided She had a narrow escape from injury when she fell off her bike.
neck and neck nearly equal The two teams were neck and neck in the game.
NECK OF THE WOODS an area; a place

The expression is often used to describe what part of the country a person comes from, but it can also be used to describe unfamiliarity with a part of a city or state. It is frequently used in a negative structure.
1. I don’t recognize you and I know just about everyone in this town. You must not be from this neck of the woods.

2. Excuse me. Can you give me directions? I’m not familiar with this neck of the woods.
needle in a haystack close to impossible Finding your earrings in this field is like a needle in a haystack.
NEED (SOMETHING) LIKE (ONE) NEEDS A HOLE IN THE HEAD to have absolutely no need for something

The expression, which comes from Yiddish, is ironic. One certainly wouldn’t want or need a hole in one’s head, and one wants or needs the thing in question just as little.
1. Bonita arrived at work to find a new stack of papers on her desk. “I need more work like I need a hole in the head,” she complained.

2. Don’t subscribe to another magazine, since you already receive more magazines than you can possibly read. You need a new magazine like you need a hole in the head.
neither fish nor fowl not in a definite group This report is neither fish nor fowl and I am not sure where it should be filed.
neither here nor there off the topic What he is saying is neither here nor there.
nervous Nellie nervous person Try not to be such a nervous Nellie.
nest egg amount of money saved He has a good nest egg in the bank.
never mind Do not bother Never mind, I can do the laundry.
new blood fresh energy The new employee sure has added new blood to this company.
new deal complete change This business plan is certainly a new deal.
new person person who has become better Since she lost weight she is a new person.
nice out nice weather It sure is nice out today.
nick of time last possible moment He got to work in the nick of time.
night owl  
nip and tuck evenly matched The two teams were nip and tuck until the end.
NIP (SOMETHING) IN THE BUD

to stop something before it becomes big or involved; to stop something before it gets much of a start

The expression compares stopping a bad situation to cutting (nipping) a flower before it has a chance to grow (while it is still a bud).
1. My three-year-old son has become rude and demanding. I don’t like his bad behavior and I’m going to nip it in the bud before it gets any worse.

2. The boss wasn’t happy with a few of his workers who had begun to leave the office before quitting time. He was afraid they would fall into the habit of leaving early if he didn’t nip it in the bud, so he told them they would have to stop.
NITTY GRITTY, THE the heart of the issue; the most important part of the discussion; the essential points

Compare to: get down to brass tacks; bottom line; long and short of it
1. These conferences always begin with introductory speeches that don’t say much. I’m glad when they’re finished and the speakers get down to the nitty gritty—that’s when we really learn something new.

2. Let’s skip the small talk, and go straight to the nitty gritty: what price do you want for the car, and when will you be able to part with it?
NIX (SOMETHING) to cancel an idea or plan; to reject or forbid something

Synonym: give (something) the thumbs down
1. I thought it was an excellent idea, but he nixed it. Now we are back to where we started.

2. Every time I ask my parents if I can visit my cousins, they nix my request. They think my cousin is a bad influence on me.
no bed of roses not easy Trying to work at two jobs is no bed of roses.
nobody's home the attention is elsewhere If you talk to him you will realize that nobody's home.
nobody's fool an intelligent and independent person She is nobody's fool.
no cigar not agreed to He almost bought the car but in the end the sale was no cigar.
no deal not agreed to He almost bought the car but in the end the sale was no deal.
no dice no He wanted to borrow some money but she said no dice.
no doubt no uncertainty There is no doubt which team will win this year.
no end continually She cried no end after she lost her job.
no end to no finish point There appears to be no end to this project.
no go not happening The plans for this weekend are no go.
no great shakes average The restaurant was no great shakes.
no love lost ill will There is no love lost between them.
no matter regardless of He cannot get good grades no matter how much he studies.
NONE OF (ONE’S) BUSINESS private; not for anybody else to know 1. You keep asking me how much money I have, but I don’t want to tell you. It’s none of your business.

2. I wish my sister would stop asking questions about my personal life. It’s none of her business.
no pain, no gain  
no picnic difficult This new job assignment is no picnic.
no problem okay It's no problem if you bring your friend to the party.
nose about look for something kept private The secretary tries to nose about his desk when he is out.
nose around look for something kept private The secretary tries to nose around his desk when he is out.
no show absent I think that she will be a no show.
no sweat okay It's no sweat to finish the report on Monday.
no sweat easily accomplished Installing the new light in the kitchen was no sweat.
  to be in an indefensible situation or to have no support for an argument or case

Having a leg to stand on lends support to something, and not having a leg to stand on means support is lacking.
1. Some of the workers accused Louis of stealing from the company, but they didn’t have a leg to stand on. He had never stolen from the company and they had no proof that he had.

2. Stop trying to persuade me that you didn’t start the fight. You don’t have a leg to stand on. All the children saw the whole thing, and they told me exactly how it happened.
NOT HAVE A LEG TO STAND ON  
NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT ordinary; so-so; not especially good or important

Antonyms: something to crow about; a feather in one’s cap.

The expression originates from the idea that if one were writing a letter to one’s family, the person or thing or event in question is so ordinary or insignificant that one wouldn’t even mention it in the letter.
1. Tom’s parents wanted to know how he liked the school. Tom said the school was all right, but it was nothing to write home about.

2. When we asked them about their trip, they said they couldn’t complain about it but the hotel was nothing to write home about.
NOT (ONE’S) CUP OF TEA not to suit someone; not to one’s liking

The expression is usually used in the negative.
1. I like going to parks and doing things outdoors. Going to museums and galleries just isn’t my cup of tea.

2. The man JoAnn met at the party was nice, but he wasn’t her cup of tea.
  NOT WORTH A DIMEworthless

Synonyms: not worth a dime, not worth a hill of beans, not worth the paper it’s printed on, not worth a plugged nickel

This expression is always used in the negative.
1. Scott thought that he could sell his collection of comic books to make some extra money, but then he learned that everybody else already had the same comic books. His collection wasn’t worth a dime.

2. Police caught the diamond thief when he tried to sell a fake diamond. It was not worth a dime.
not give someone the time of day not give her any attention I would not give her the time of day.
nothing doing not possible Nothing doing. I am not working late tonight.
nothing if not certainly He is nothing if not punctual.
nothing to sneeze at something that should be taken seriously The new business plan is nothing to sneeze at.
not much of a not a good It is not much of a car, but it works.
not on your life definitely not You want to borrow the car. Not on your life.
not so hot not good She has been feeling not so hot lately.
not touch something with a ten-foot pole not want involvement with that car I would not touch that car with a ten-foot pole.
NOT WORTH A HILL OF BEANS worthless

Synonyms: not worth a dime; not worth a red cent; not worth a plugged nickel; not worth the paper it’s printed on

This expression is always used in the negative.
1. If you don’t follow through on what you say, your word is not worth a hill of beans.

2. You should take good care of that car. If it stops running properly, it’s not worth a hill of beans.
NOT WORTH A PLUGGED NICKEL worthless

Synonyms: not worth a dime; not worth a red cent; not worth a hill of beans; not worth the paper it’s printed on

This expression is always used in the negative.
1. The millionaire invested in oil wells that proved to be dry. They weren’t worth a plugged nickel.

2. I bought this house before I knew it was located on a toxic waste site. Now it isn’t worth a plugged nickel.
NOT WORTH A RED CENT worthless

Synonyms: not worth a dime; not worth a plugged nickel; not worth a hill of beans; not worth the paper it’s printed on

This expression is always used in the negative.
1. That coupon is expired, so the grocery store won’t accept it. It’s not worth a red cent.

2. A telephone directory from thirty years ago isn’t going to help you find what you need. It’s not worth a red cent.
NOT WORTH THE PAPER IT’S PRINTED ON worthless

Synonyms: not worth a dime; not worth a plugged nickel; not worth a hill of beans; not worth a red cent

This expression is always used in the negative and usually refers to documents or money, i.e., things printed on paper.
1. If you miss the train, you can’t just go at another time. Your ticket won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

2. Make sure you spend or exchange all of your money before we leave this country; once we leave, it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
now and then occasionally She likes to go to that restaurant now and then.
no way not possible No way to fit all those things in that purse.
no wonder not surprising Since he stayed up all night, it is no wonder that he is tired.
number cruncher person who works with numbers The owner of the company has always been a good number cruncher.
number one oneself Always looking out for number one is not the best idea.
nurse a grudge keep a feeling of dislike She will probably nurse a grudge towards her old boss for years.
nuts about enthusiastic She is really nuts about watching movies.
nutty as a fruitcake crazy The woman who lives next door to us is as nutty as a fruitcake.
More Idioms
From YOUR Teacher: Name is Mud

The American English idiom "name is mud" can mean your reputation is ruined but it can also mean you are simply in trouble for doing something wrong.
 
Additional Lessons
About These Lessons

The following classroom lessons are great for students who want additional listening and reading practice. Please post a comment at the bottom of this page in the Facebook Comments window with your thoughts about these lessons.
  • Travel America - Beginner Level. Do you love America and American English? Learn before you travel. Facts and other cool stuff about your favorite U.S. state. Great English reading practice.
Travel America - Oregon
(Beginner - Reading)

Learn some interesting facts and read interesting stories about Oregon.
Oregon

Spanish sailors in search of a northwest passage were the first Europeans to see what is known today as Oregon. Settlers traveling in wagon trains over the Oregon Trail in the 1840s followed the missionaries who had come in the 1830s. Oregon was admitted as the 33rd state in 1859. Oregon is a state of great natural beauty with places such as Crater Lake National Park and the Columbia River Gorge. Its mountains, covered in forests, make Oregon the leading state in the production of wood products. The state flower is the Oregon grape, and the capital is Salem. The origin of the state's name is unknown, but one theory holds that it may have come from the Wisconsin River, shown in a 1715 French map as "Ouaricon-sint."
Flag of OregonOregon State Flag


The Oregon state flag was adopted in 1925 and is the only U.S. state flag that displays different images on front and back.

The Oregon flag has gold lettering and symbols on a field of navy blue (Oregon's state colors). The flag's face displays part of the state seal and the words "STATE OF OREGON" and "1859" (the year Oregon was admitted to the Union). The parade flag (or "dress flag") has a gold fringe, but the utility flag has a plain border.

The symbols on the shield include the mountains and forests of Oregon, an elk with branching antlers, a covered wagon and ox team, the Pacific Ocean with a setting sun, a departing British man-of-war ship (a symbol of the departure of British influence in the region) and an arriving American merchant ship (a symbol of the rise of American power). The 33 stars supporting the shield signify that Oregon was the 33rd state to join the Union.

The reverse of the flag pictures Oregon's official state animal - the beaver (Oregon's nickname is The Beaver State, stemming from the early 19th century when fur hats were fashionable and Oregon’s streams were an important source of beaver).
Source: State Symbols USA
 
The great seal of the state of OregonOregon State Facts

Picture: state seal of Oregon
State Capital Salem
Nickname Beaver State
Motto Alis Volat Propiis (She Flies With Her Own Wings)
Statehood February 14, 1859 (33rd)
Origin of Name May have been derived from that of the Wisconsin River shown on a 1715 French map as "Ouaricon-sint."
Largest Cities Portland, Eugene, Salem, Gresham, Beaverton
Border States California, Idaho, Nevada, Washington
Area 96,003 sq. mi., 10th largest
State Bird Western Meadowlark
State Flower Oregon Grape (berberis aquifolium)
State Tree Douglas Fir (pseudotsuga menziesii)
State Song Oregon, My Oregon
Map showing the location of OregonTravel and tourism site for Oregon - This state travel and territorial tourism site provides ideas for your vacations, meetings, and more.
Oregon Stories
 
Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest

You may have built a sand castle or two, but have you ever built a sand castle as elaborate as the one in this photo?

Every year in the small coastal town of Cannon Beach, Oregon, all sorts of things are made out of sand in the Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest: cars, pigs, fish, almost anything you can think of! Most of the people who enter this contest enjoy building things out of sand just for fun. Some people, though, are professional sand sculptors and make a living building things out of sand. They might create a sand sculpture at a shopping mall, for instance, to promote the mall and get more people to visit.

The sand castle contest began in August 1965 as a result of a natural disaster. A year earlier Cannon Beach was hit by a tsunami (an enormous wave). The tsunami (pronounced "soo-nah-mee") did a lot of damage to the town, but it also brought a lot of attention to the area because afterward the lowest tides of the century took place. Two people decided to hold the sand castle contest to take advantage of all the media attention.

Today, the contest begins just after the morning high tide and ends about 12 hours later as the next high tide reclaims the beach -- and all the beautiful sculptures. Kids of all ages are welcome to participate. What would your sand castle look like?
 
Mount Mazama and Crater Lake

Did you know there was a volcano in Oregon? And that when it erupted and collapsed it created a lake?

Around 7,000 years ago, the volcano Mount Mazama erupted and collapsed and, as a result, formed Crater Lake. Molten lava cooled and sealed up the bottom, forming a huge bowl-shaped crater. Over the years, rainfall and melting snow have filled it with over four trillion gallons of water, making it the deepest lake in the United States. The lake is also known for its deep blue color.

Accounts of the eruption of Mount Mazama are found in stories handed down by the Klamath Indians, who are descendants of the ancient Makalak people. According to Makalak legend, there was a battle between Skell, the spirit of the sky, and Llao, the spirit of the mountain. When Skell defeated Llao, the spirit of the mountain's home, Mount Mazama, erupted and collapsed.

Crater Lake is now a national park and draws approximately 500,000 visitors a year.
 
Homowo Festival, Portland, Oregon

For Americans, Thanksgiving Day is a holiday when we give thanks for all our blessings, including food. In Ghana, Africa, people also have their own type of Thanksgiving, called Homowo.

Long ago, when the Ga people were traveling across Africa to reach the continent's western coast, they experienced many hardships, including great hunger. They traveled for many years, but they helped each other through difficult times and survived to settle in what is now known as the country of Ghana. After they settled and their harvests were plentiful, they had all the food they needed. They held a harvest festival, called Homowo, that mocked the hunger that they had suffered during their journey. The word homowo can mean "hooting or jeering at hunger" in the Ghanian language.

The Homowo festival in Portland, Oregon, is a harvest holiday of welcoming and thanksgiving, like the one celebrated by the Ga people of Ghana. The festival began in 1989 as a way for people to share the traditions of Africa and pass them on to new generations. There is a lot of joyful dancing and singing and, of course, lots of food!
 
Pacific City Dorying Traditions

In Pacific City, Oregon, people love to go to Cape Kiwanda to watch the dories. Have you ever seen a dory?

A dory is a flat-bottomed boat, pointed at both the bow (front) and stern (back) so that it can easily ride the waves. Fishermen first used dories in New England in the early 1800s. Eventually, fishermen along the Oregon coast began to use dories, too. Traditionally, dories were powered by fishermen, who rowed the boat with long oars. Large fishing ships used to stack dories several boats high on their decks and when they arrived at a fishing spot, they would send two to four men out in each dory to catch fish.

Today, many dories have gasoline-powered motors for speed. Each year in July dory fishermen from the Pacific City area bring out their dories for a festival called Dory Days. People eat fried fish and watch the dories, old and new, as they race on Cape Kiwanda.
 
Portland's Chinese New Year

Do you love to see fireworks? The Chinese developed them more than 2,000 years ago. Over the centuries, fireworks have developed into the colorful and elaborate displays we see today.

Around the world, Chinese New Year is the biggest celebration of the year for people of Chinese heritage. The date of the Chinese New Year is based on the cycles of the moon, or the lunar calendar, so it's often called Lunar New Year. Because of this it doesn't take place on January 1. It usually occurs about a month later, and in China it is celebrated for 15 days! The Chinese used firecrackers on New Year's Eve to send off the old year and welcome the new one. They also believed that the sound of firecrackers bursting would help chase away the mythical monster, Nian, who was believed to have terrorized the people of China.

In the 1850s many Chinese people came to Oregon, when gold was discovered in the southern part of the state. By the mid-1870s, the Chinese were the largest ethnic group in Portland. Portland's Chinese New Year officially begins with a ritual lion dance performed by musicians and dancers in elaborate costumes. The lion dance is intended to chase away evil spirits and bring good luck. As you might imagine, lots of firecrackers are set off during the celebration, too.
 
Florence Rhododendron Festival

Do you know what a rhododendron looks like? It is a big bush-like plant with large and numerous flowers in shades of pink, red, purple and white.

Rhododendron is the common name for a flowering plant of the heath family, which has more than 850 species. They are native to the Himalayas, southeastern Asia, the mountains of Malaysia and the coast of the Northern Hemisphere. In Florence, Oregon, the beautiful white-pink plant begins to bloom in May, and by June the surrounding area is covered with its warm, radiant colors.

The Florence Rhododendron Festival celebrates the arrival of spring. The pioneers believed that the bloom of the rhododendrons meant that summer was around the corner and the cold and rain of winter would soon end. The festival was first held in 1908. Because modes of transportation have changed since then, the festival has changed too. To get to the festival back then many people took stagecoaches pulled by horses; a few years later, they arrived by train on the new railroad. By the 1940s automobiles were common, and that's how most people got to Florence. By 1960, automobiles were so popular that the festival began to feature a show for fancy sports cars. Another popular event was the motorcycle races. For the past 20 years, "bikers" (the casual name for motorcycle riders) have come to Florence from all over the West Coast to watch the races and see old friends. And, of course, they come to enjoy the beautiful rhododendrons.
 
End of the Oregon Trail

Why are those three covered wagons surrounded by a fence? If you look closer you'll see that they aren't the kind of covered wagons you can ride in. They are being used as a canopy for the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, a museum devoted to the history of the Oregon Trail.

The Oregon Trail was a route used by people who traveled to Oregon Country, which is what Oregon was called before it became a state in 1859. The Oregon Trail was the most popular way to get to Oregon Country from about 1843 through the 1870s. The trail started in Missouri and covered 2,000 miles before ending in Oregon City.

Most people moving west traveled in covered wagons, which were large enough for all their belongings as well as the food they needed for a journey that could take months. The wagons also provided shelter from the weather. Teams of oxen or mules pulled the wagons along the dusty trail. People didn't ride in the wagons often, because they didn't want to wear out their animals. Instead they walked alongside them, getting just as dusty as the animals. The long journey was hard on both people and animals. It was even hard on the wagons, which usually had to be repaired several times during the trip.

To help remember the hardships these pioneers faced, Oregon City constructed this museum so others could learn about the lives and experiences of these pioneers.
Source: Library of Congress
National Forests, Parks, and Monuments of Oregon

The following is a description of national forests, parks, and monuments in the state of Oregon. If you plan to visit or live in Oregon for awhile then you should definitely plan to visit some of these fantastic places.
 
National Forests
Deschutes

On the east side of the Cascade Range, Deschutes National Forest includes Newberry National Volcanic Monument and five wilderness areas. Lava River Cave, at 5,211 ft (1,588 m) long, is Oregon's longest lava tube.
Fremont-Winema

Encompassing the Warner Mountains and bordering Crater Lake National Park, Fremont-Winema National Forest also includes the semi-arid areas of the Oregon Outback. The Gearhart Mountain Wilderness is near the center of the forest.
Klamath

Straddling the California-Oregon border, this forest has part of five wilderness areas, 152 mi (245 km) of wild and scenic rivers, and 200 mi (320 km) of rivers for rafting, including on the Klamath River.The Siskiyou mariposa lily is endemic to the forest, being found nowhere else in the world. This national forest is also partially located in the state of Oregon.
Malheur

In the Blue Mountains of eastern Oregon, Malheur National Forest's highest point is Strawberry Mountain at 9,038 ft (2,755 m). The Cedar Grove Botanical Area contains the only stand of Alaska yellow cedar east of the Cascade Range in the United States.
Mount Hood

This forest is named for and contains Mount Hood, the highest point in Oregon at 11,249 ft (3,429 m). The forest stretches from the Columbia River Gorge and includes Mount Hood National Recreation Area and nine wilderness areas.
Ochoco

Ochoco National Forest contains a variety of odd geological formations, 95,000 acres (38,000 ha) of old-growth forest, the headwaters of the Crooked River, and three wilderness areas. Stein's Pillar is a 350 ft (110 m) tall rock column in the Ochoco Mountains.
Rogue River-Siskiyou

This forest ranges from the Cascade Range to the Siskiyou Mountains, and the Rogue River drains over 75% of the forest's area. There are parts of eight wilderness areas in the forest as well as what may be the world's tallest pine tree, a ponderosa pine that is 268.35 ft (81.79 m) tall. This national forest is also partially located in the state of California.
Siuslaw

Siuslaw National Forest includes Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, three wilderness areas, and Cascade Head Scenic Research Area among the Central Oregon Coast Range. Marys Peak Scenic Botanical Area includes Marys Peak, which at 4,097 ft (1,249 m) is the forest's highest point.
Umatilla

Located in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, Umatilla National Forest includes three wilderness areas, occupying over 20% of the forest. The forest has over 715 mi (1,151 km) of trails, 2,000 mi (3,200 km) of roads, and one of the largest elk herds of any National Forest. This national forest is also partially located in the state of Washington.
Umpqua

Umpqua National Forest is in the Cascade Range of southwestern Oregon and includes three wilderness areas. Watson Falls is a waterfall that is 272 ft (83 m) high on Watson Creek, a tributary of the Clearwater River.
Wallowa-Whitman

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest stretches from the Blue Mountains to the Snake River. Elevations range from 875 ft (267 m) in Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, to 9,845 ft (3,001 m) at the summit of Sacajawea Peak in the Eagle Cap Wilderness Area. This national forest is also partially located in the state of Idaho.
Willamette

Willamette National Forest is in the Cascade Range, stretching from Mount Jefferson to Mount Washington. About 20% of the forest is designated wilderness, but there are also 6,000 mi (9,700 km) of roads in the forest.
 
National Parks
Crater Lake

Crater Lake lies in the caldera of an ancient volcano called Mount Mazama that collapsed 7,700 years ago. The lake is the deepest in the United States and is noted for its vivid blue color and water clarity. Wizard Island and the Phantom Ship are more recent volcanic formations within the caldera. As the lake has no inlets or outlets, the lake is replenished only by precipitation.
 
National Monuments
Cascade–Siskiyou

One of the most diverse ecosystems found in the Cascade Range, it has more than 100 dwelling and root-gathering sites belonging to the Modoc, Klamath, and Shasta tribes. This national monument is also partially located in the state of California.
John Day Fossil Beds

Located within the John Day River Basin, the Fossil Beds have a well-preserved, complete record of fossil plants and animals from more than 40 of the 65 million years of the Cenozoic Era. The monument is divided into three units: Painted Hills, named for its delicately colored stratifications; Sheep Rock; and Clarno. Blue Basin is a volcanic ash bowl transformed into claystone by eons of erosion, colored pastel blue by minerals.
Newberry

Located within Deschutes National Forest, the monument protects the area around the Newberry Volcano and its geologic features. It contains over 50,000 acres (200 km2) of lakes, lava flows, and other geologic features.
Oregon Caves

The monument is known for its marble caves, as well as for the Pleistocene jaguar and grizzly bear fossils found in the deeper caves. There are four primary buildings: The Oregon Caves Chateau, The Ranger Residence, The Chalet, and the old Dormitory.
Travel America
Travel America

Do you love America and American English? Learn before you travel. Facts and other cool stuff about your favorite U.S. state. Visit the Fun Easy English Travel America pages. Read about the beautiful National Forests, Parks, and Monuments. Great English reading practice.
Drive America

Planning to drive in America? Learn the rules and regulations. Great English reading practice.
Additional Information
Study Tips
(Beginner - Listening)

Avoid Ineffective Study Methods. An audio lesson to help you study English more effectively. The English is spoken at 75% of normal speed. Great English study tips.
Click here to visit the lesson page with the written script for this audio program.
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