Spring, 2021

Meet Erika McClane,
Co-Owner and Senior Instructor at Professional English Solutions

Erika: I live in the tropical rainforest of Puna on the Big Island of Hawaii. I love the peace and natural beauty that surround me here, in the quiet countryside. The area that I live in has lots of farms and plantations, where papayas, bananas, orchids, and anthuriums are grown. 
My little town is about 40 miles (about 64 km) from Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. People come from all over the world to see the lava in the volcano’s caldera.
When I’m not teaching English, I love to go swimming in the ocean. One of my favorite things to do is snorkeling. There is such a wide variety of beautiful tropical fishes in the waters around our island. When I’m snorkeling, I feel like I’m swimming in an aquarium. 
Another passion of mine is offering group sound meditations with Tibetan singing bowls and gongs. The sounds and vibrations of these ancient healing instruments bring about a deep state of relaxation for the people who attend these events. They leave feeling more peaceful and recharged. 
I was born in Massachusetts, on the East Coast of the United States. I lived in New England during my early childhood, and then moved to Japan with my family. I have lived in many different places in my life, such as Germany, England, Connecticut, California, Kansas, and Hawaii.
Meet Elizabeth Mc Donnell,
Co-Owner and Senior Instructor at Professional English Solutions
Elizabeth … in a nutshell
Is Irish, has 2 grown up children, now lives in Andorra, loves to hike, study plants and is crazy about dancing Argentine tango! 
In the photo below you can see me enjoying myself dancing tango. This was in the Netherlands in 2018 and I was laughing so much that I could hardly dance. Tango is not always as serious as it is sometimes projected to be! I started dancing in my 50s for reasons I will never understand and it was incredibly challenging for me in the first years. But I am so glad that I persisted. In pre Covid-19 times (and hopefully soon again in the future) I travelled a great deal to different countries and would always look for tango. I could just turn up at a milonga (social dance) and see what happened. Language is no barrier to dancing. 

My children are named Aniela and Jarek - how I love these two wonderful human beings and I am so proud of them. They both live in Surbiton in London and, when I get the chance, I go to see them. The photo below was taken at Jarek’s 30th birthday.It was a surprise party arranged for him by Aniela and friends. For once, the British weather obliged and gave us sunshine so that we could drink, eat and dance the night and day away in the garden. A wonderful time was had by all!
From Ireland to Andorra? Well, I did spend most of my adult years in the UK and came here to Andorra in December 2017. 

Photo below: Wild weather in Kerry
I was born in Tralee, County Kerry in the south-west corner of Ireland, it is a most beautiful part of the world with the combination of mountains and sea creating stunning vistas. That is, when you can see in front of you - Kerry is on the Atlantic coast and it rains a great deal there!  When I visit my sister in Tralee, I love to walk the short distance to the shoreline where I can see many wonderful species of waders, wild ducks and geese who come to feed in the rich mud of Tralee Bay estuary.
Featured Article

Making Small Talk

In my 26 years of teaching English to speakers of other languages, one of the areas of conversation that my clients have the most difficulty with is making small talk. They tell me that they feel awkward when they are standing or sitting next to someone and they don’t know what to say. For example, one client (we’ll call her Tina) arrived at a meeting a few minutes early, and there was only one other person in the room (we’ll call her Judy). They both sat at the conference table silently waiting for the rest of the team to arrive. But, after a few minutes, the silence began to feel awkward, and Tina tried to start a conversation. So, she introduced herself, and Judy introduced herself. 

Next, Tina asked Judy if she had any children, and Judy just replied, “No.” Then, Tina asked Judy if she was married. Again, Judy replied, “No,” and Judy turned her attention to the meeting agenda in front of her. So, the conversation ended right there. Tina sensed that Judy may have been offended by her questions, but she didn’t have any idea why that would be. Where Tina came from, it was normal to ask someone if they were married and had children. As a matter of fact, it was a great conversation topic. But, in American corporate culture, this topic is taboo, just as asking someone for personal information. 

So, the next time Tina wanted to use small talk to start up a conversation while waiting for a meeting, she tried talking about an acceptable topic, such as the weather.

The conversation went something like this:

Tina: Hi, I’m Tina.

Anna: Hi, Tina. I’m Anna.

Tina: What a beautiful day it is today! The sun is shining, and it looks like
spring is coming. I spent my lunch break sitting in the sun.

Anna: It is lovely outside. When I get home, I’m going to go for a run in
the park.

Tina: Oh, you like to run? I’ve recently taken up running. As a matter of
fact, I’m preparing to run in the company-sponsored half-marathon
next month.

Anna: What a coincidence! I’m signed up for that, too!

It’s easy to see how the topic of weather can lead to a lengthier conversation, even if you have never met the person before. 

Other safe topics for small talk are:
·      Arts and Entertainment (museums, movies, concerts, theater)
·      Sports
·      Food, restaurants
·      Travel
·      Hobbies
·      The town or city you are in

--Erika Marie McClane

Fun with English
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