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May 2017

Vocabulary for meeting a friend

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I have mentioned it earlier that the discovery or quiz approach to vocabulary is more repulsive than helpful. Thus we take the help of situation which each of us faces every time we catch up with a long-lost friend. To expose you to Vocabulary for meeting a friend.

Where do we meet?

casual conversation between friends

Fluent life – meeting a friend

Raj: Sanju dear! Raj here

Sanju: Okay so the devil has arrived

Raj: Yes sir. I have just landed and I need my poison. And I have no clue how this city works

Sanju: Haha, Nobody knows how Mumbai works. 

Raj: I beg to differ, Google knows the city well, just me the destination I need to enter.

Sanju: Well, why don’t you take a cab to Nariman point. And then we can go pub hopping.

Raj: Roger that!

Vocabulary Analysis

Try to guess the meaning of the highlighted words. You would notice some words have a different meaning than their dictionary definition, for example, devil.

Use the following words to make a sentence and that will cement the word permanently in your active vocabulary:

  • devil
  • my poison/your poison
  • beg to differ
  • destination
  • pub-hopping
  • The meeting

The Meeting

Raj takes 2 hours to reach Nariman point and start walking along the sea

Sanju: God, it took you forever to reach here

Raj: I know it was crazy man

Sanju: What crazy, why did you take the detour via Mahalakshmi, you could have saved at least 30 minutes

Raj: You know my dad. But the traffic was maddening. This city has so many people everywhere. 

Sanju: Well, you get used to it eventually

Raju: Yes but for a first-timer like me, it’s overwhelming. Especially when you come from the US. I mean look at this Nariman Point. It looks like a carnival here. 

Sanju: Okay. Let’s take you to another crowded place now. A place with good food, live music, and that poison of yours

Raj: What are we waiting for. Let’s go!

Vocabulary Analysis

  • taking forever
  • detour
  • eventually
  • overwhelming
  • carnival

Submit your sentences if you want a feedback. You are also free to discuss words whose meaning you could not understand.

A step by step guide to writing effective emails

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someone is writing mail

Fluent life – writing effective mails

This is one topic which does not need an introduction. I cannot think of any professional set-up which functions without emails today. Thus writing an email is as basic to business as running is to sports, but still, we all struggle in writing effective emails. That’s because it needs skills which has to be developed. Imagine if you had a formula for writing perfect emails.

 1. Subject Lines

Be as specific as possible. One word subjects such as “Hi,” “Question,” or “FYI” are not informative and don’t give the reader an idea of how important your message is. Think about the subject lines on the e-mail messages you receive. Which ones do you think are most effective? Why?

2. Greetings and Sign-offs

Don’t just start with your text, and don’t stop at the end without a polite signature.When in doubt, address someone more formally to avoid offending them. Some common ways to address your reader are:

(add a prefix like ‘Dear’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’ before the name of the person) Dear Professor Smith, Hello Ms. McMahon,

Dear Professor Shastri,

Hello Ms. Pooja,

Hi Neha k,

If you don’t know the name of the person you are addressing, or if the e-mail addresses a diverse group, try something generic, yet polite:

To whom it may concern,

Dear members of the selection committee,

Hello everyone

Your closing is extremely important because it lets the reader know who is contacting them. Always sign off with your name at the end of your e-mail. If you don’t know the reader well, you might also consider including your title and the organisation you belong to;

for example:

Mary Watkins

Senior Research Associate


For your closing, something brief but friendly, or perhaps just your name, will do for most correspondence:

Thank you,

Best wishes,

See you tomorrow,


For a very formal message, such as a job application, use the kind of closing that you might see in a business letter:


Respectfully yours,

3. Cc: and Bcc: (‘carbon copy’ and ‘blind carbon copy’)

Copying individuals on an e-mail is a good way to send your message to the main recipient while also sending someone else a copy at the same time. This can be useful if you want to convey the same exact message to more than one person. Be aware, however, that when you send a message to more than one address using the Cc: field, both the original recipient and all the recipients of the carbon copies can see all the e-mail addresses in the To: and Cc: fields. Each person who receives the message will be able to see the addresses of everyone else who received it.

Blind copying e-mails to a group of people can be useful when you don’t want everyone on the list to have each other’s e-mail addresses. The only recipient address that will be visible to all recipients is the one in the To: field.

Tips for writing effective emails – The middle

  1. Think about your message before you write it.
  2. Reflect on the tone of your message.
  3. Strive for clarity and brevity in your writing.
  4. Briefly, state your purpose for writing the e-mail in the very beginning of your message.
  5. Be sure to provide the reader with a context for your message.
  6. Use paragraphs to separate thoughts (or consider writing separate e-mails if you have many unrelated points or questions).
  7. Finally, state the desired outcome at the end of your message.
  8. Format your message so that it is easy to read.
  9. Proofread

Sample E-mails

Use what you’ve just learned to explain why Student 2’s e-mail to Professor Jones is more effective than the e-mail written by Student 1. How does the tone of the messages differ? What makes Student 2’s e-mail look and sound more appropriate? What are the elements that contribute its clarity? If you were Professor Jones and you received both e-mails, how would you respond to each one?

E-mail from Student 1:


i need help on my paper can i come by your office tomorrow


E-mail from Student 2:

Hi Dr. Jain,

I am in your ENGL 101 class on Thursdays, and I have a question about the paper that is due next Tuesday. I’m not sure that I understand what is meant by the following sentence in the prompt: “Write a 10 page paper arguing for or against requiring ENGL 101 for all UNC freshmen and provide adequate support for your point of view.” I am not sure what you would consider “adequate” support. Would using 3 sources be o.k.? Can I come by your office tomorrow at 2:00 pm to talk to you about my question? Please let me know if that fits your schedule. If not, I could also come by on Friday after 1:00.

Thank you,

Nitin Roy

Here are two versions of an e-mail from a supervisor, Jane Doe, to a group of her employees. Which version do you think is most effective? Why?

Version 1 of Jay’s E-mail:

Subject: materials for Wed. staff meeting

As you know, tomorrow afternoon we’ll be meeting to discuss the status of all of our current projects. Donuts will be provided. Be sure to arrive on time and bring along the materials you have been working on this week—bring enough copies for everyone. Some of this material might include your calendars, reports, and any important e-mails you have sent. Also, I wanted to remind you that your parking permit requests are due later this week; you should turn those into Ms. Jayshree, and if she is not at her desk when you stop by, you can e-mail them to her.

Version 2 of Jay’s E-mail:

Subject: tomorrow

Hi, everyone— For tomorrow’s 3 p.m. staff meeting in the conference room, please bring 15 copies of the following materials: Your project calendar A one-page report describing your progress so far A list of goals for the next month Copies of any progress report messages you have sent to clients this past month


How to improve your travel vocabulary

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Fluent Life- Travel Vocabulary

Fluent Life- Travel Vocabulary

Travel!, Before we delve into travel vocabulary, let us first understand the essence of the word itself

Travel is an integral part of our life. We love travel, we all have our dream destinations, our most cherished travel memories. And most importantly talking about travel takes equal space in our lives.

So why learn travel vocabulary. Simply because when something is so important to our lives, we want to talk about it. Your new colleague in office would ask you about weekend getaways. When you visit your old school friend, he will ask you about the metro city you live in. Your boss might ask you about the recent holiday you went to. You might want to co-dream about a Eurotrip with your better half. Words or rather lack of them should never come in your way of expressing a truly amazing travel experience.

How to source travel vocabulary?

Find relevant reading sources, podcast or online English videos. The best sources for travel would be travel shows, travel blogs as well as magazines. There are some you tubers who post their vlogs about their trips around the world. Here are some examples from each category

Travel shows- (examples: Life is sweet, 50 places to see before you die, Departures, Anthony Bourdain: Parts  Unknown)

Magazines (examples: Outlook Traveller, Lonely planet, Travel plus, discovery India)

Travel Blogs – Travel blogs can give you the most detailed and enjoyable information. Nomadic matt is one such blog, it has featured articles on practically every city of the world.

Audio Podcast – Listening to podcasts can be a very fun and effective way to improve travel vocabulary. The listening medium captures your imagination more than television or reading. You can try  The Musafir stories for some amazing Indian destinations.

When you go through through these sources, make sure that you make your list of words. I have listed down some words focusing more on historical and hilly places, you can choose something else, like beaches, or cosmopolitan cities.

List of words

  • Massive
  • Studded
  • Archaeological
  • Tradition
  • Sightseeing
  • Ticket
  • Accommodation
  • Suitcase
  • Fascinating
  • Tourist
  • Situated
  • Retreat
  • Breezy
  • Steep
  • Mountainous
  • Departure
  • Trek
  • Wander
  • Navigation
  • Camps
  • Bonfire
  • Climb
  • Pleasant
  • Metro
  • Night sky

Using travel vocabulary write online.

Once you have your list of words handy, try writing an original piece on travel with at least 200 words. Here is a writing prompt for you

“Describe one memorable travel experience”

Here is an answer from one our students.

My memorable trip to Hyderabad. 

Hyderabad is the capital of the state Telangana and is known as the Pearl City.  It has a richly mixed cultural and historical tradition spanning 400 colorful years. Some of the tourist attraction includes Charminar, Golconda Fort, Laad bazaar. Talking about the Golkonda Fort , it is a massive fort. It is listed as an archaeological treasure on the official “List of Monuments“. It takes you back into the bygone era
After sightseeing at Golkonda , it was shopping time so we went to this famous market named Laad Bazaar, you get best bridal wear, pearls and traditional Hyderabadi glass and stone studded bangles. It was fun time shopping in Laad Bazaar. One gets to shop the best pearl jewelry from Hyderabad which is a local specialty. The old Hyderabad is also famous for its food. 

Here is another entry from another student. Notice how the travel vocabulary changes as we change the place from a city to a hilly destination

The other heaven on earth – Laddakh

There are no words to describe the dry beauty of Ladakh. That’s right, Ladakh has a unique terrain. Situated 11,000 ft above sea level, it is severely low on oxygen levels, still, your breath always feels full of fresh air. Any direction you look into, your view travels unhindered, non-polluted cold desert with picturesque mountain ranges on the horizon. The most exciting trip we had was from Leh to Nubra valley. There were several stretches of brown arid deserts on both sides of the road, with no sign of humans and then suddenly from nowhere a village will emerge, with green pastures and horses and cattle feeding. It almost felt unreal. When we reached Nubra Valley, we were housed in a camp. We spend the night around a bonfire, telling ghost stories and discussing the universe. More so because Ladakh’s night-sky gives you the most incredibly clear view of the milky way. I can go on and on describing my experience, but if I have to capture the essence of the place in one sentence, it would be – the other heaven on earth!

Send your answer to the prompt and discuss freely with me. You can also learn online, if you want to improve your Vocabulary for different situation.

The past, the present and the future.

How to tackle errors of past tense

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Before you jump on to memorising different types of tenses’ tables and timelines, take a moment to ask yourself – will you be able to recall, choose and apply the exact correct tense in the middle of a conversation? No. Nobody can unless you take 30 seconds break before every line you speak. So how do you tackle errors of past tense

Thus to improve your use of tenses you need them as they are used in real conversations, understand types of errors you are making and then work upon them by practice.

Fluent life - Past tense past, present, or future

Errors in past tense | Fluent life

Types of Past tense errors

The best way to identify where would you possibly make an error, is to put yourself into the middle of a conversation. The one below is between two friends who usually meet for an evening jog.  

Neha and Pooja Jogger’s park – PART I

Nehe: So how was your weekend ?

Pooja: Nothing much went to the Mall watched a movie, went to the Donuts shop and come back home

Neha: That sounds like every weekend. There has be at least one interesting experience every weekend.

Pooja: Well, actually there was one. When we went for the lunch, there was this restaurant which had an amazing spread in their lunch buffet and they have live western music.

We went inside, started having our meal, and then suddenly my daughter started running and standing right in front of the band and to my surprise, they started playing twinkle-twinkle little star.

Neha: Wow, that’s sweet

Pooja: I know, they went on to play 4 more rhymes. Piya was so happy and excited.

Pooja: Anyways, how was your weekend?

Neha: Well, I would say, It was  special, because of a rather unexpected visitor from our past.

Pooja: Really, “our past”, as in your and mine, then you must tell me more..

To be continued..

Error type 1 – Mixing past with the present

One of the most common error of past tense in English we all commit is, mixing past with present. For Example : In all the words marked bold, we are mixing past with present.

Let me put both the incorrect and correct statements:-

Error 1: Nothing much went to the Mall watched a movie, went to the Donuts shop and come back home

Correction: Nothing much went to the Mall watched a movie, went to the Donuts shop and then came back home

Error 2: When we went for the lunch, there was this restaurant which had an amazing spread in their lunch buffet and they have live western music.

Correction:  When we went for the lunch, there was this restaurant which had an amazing spread in their lunch buffet and they had live western music.

Error 3:

We went inside, started having our meal, and then suddenly my daughter started running and standing right in front of the band and to my surprise, they started playing twinkle-twinkle little star.

By now you have clear idea about this type of error of past tense. Thus correction for the last error is for you to do, meanwhile we continue with the gossip between Neha and Pooja

Neha and Pooja Jogger’s park continued…

Pooja: Really, “our past”, as in your and mine, then you must tell me more..

Neha: I was sitting in the CCD next to my house sipping coffee, reading a book I long wanted to finish. And you know who bumped into me?

Pooja: Who!!

Neha: Shalini Mehrotra

Pooja: What are you saying, “The Shalini mehrotra”

Neha: Yes, and the best part is she didn’t change much.

Pooja: Oh god, does she still think she is a higher being?

Neha: Not really, but she is so full of her. All she talked was about, how she landed in Mumbai, and how  difficult it was to settle down in a small house. She went on ranting on how she was always getting so many offers and how she had found it so difficult explaining her address to uber drivers and how this would all change in the next few days because her new suv is scheduled for a delivery”

Pooja: My god, she stole the show 

Neha: So many  years have gone by, we have become mothers, but she is the same college girl.

Error type 2 – Changing tenses in a long or complex sentence

When it comes to describing complex past events, our tendency to make errors of past tense further increases and we start mixing different types of past tense.

For example: In the statement given below the bold all the bold marked words are not talking about the same event of the past and thus the sentence seems awkward. 

Not really, but she is so full of her. All she talked was about, how she landed in Mumbai, and how difficult it was to settle down in a small house. She went on ranting about how she was always getting so many offers and how she had found it so difficult explaining her address to uber drivers and how this would all change in the next few days because her new SUV is scheduled for a delivery”

Let us look at the correct version, where all the entire sentence will have correct past tense:-

Not really, but she is so full of her. All she talked was about, how she landed in Mumbai, and how difficult it was to settle down in a small house. She went on ranting about how she was always getting so many offers and how she found it so difficult explaining her address to uber drivers and how this would all change in the next few days because her new SUV was scheduled for a delivery”

How can we tackle the errors of past tense?

To tackle errors of past tense, you must attempt to read a lot of material which is generally written in past tense. Here is a list of things you can do:-

  1. Read local newspapers, which talk about events of the previous day. Event based news has to be written in the past tense
  2. Read travel related blogs. Travel blogs written by authors based on their experiences will have to be in past tense
  3. Read fiction books. They are mostly written in past tense.

Fluent life Mantra:

Read/Listen at least  1000 words of past, and write at least 200 words of past every week and you would be able to get rid of all errors of past in about 2 months. Initially you can practice some exercise to understand the basics of past tense.


Vocabulary of Food: A new approach to improving vocabulary

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Fluent life | Vocabulary for food

Traditionally vocabulary has always been perceived as the number of words you can understand recollect the meaning of. Hence improving vocabulary was mostly focused towards learning a new word everyday. People would often highlight unfamiliar words and find their meaning from dictionary. It was often advised to practice the typical “word for the day” approach, where in you study a new word every day along with its origin, meaning and usage.

The big question here is, do you remember any of those highlighted words you came across all this while? Can you recall even 5 new words you learned in last 5 months? I don’t think so!

If word power is not vocabulary then what is?

Both teachers and student world wide often forget to differentiate between word-power and active vocabulary. Real vocabulary is the words that you can recall effortlessly and spontaneously while having a conversation. And if you truly want to gain fluency, then active vocabulary is what you must target to practice and improve most

Improving Active Vocabulary

To improve active vocabulary you need to change your approach from words to scenarios, settings and context. Every scenario or context have a set of words, phrases and idioms which are used more often than others. Here is a brief list of such scenarios:-

  • Talking about food
  • Talking about people and culture
  • Talking about places
  • Talking about films
  • Discussing music
  • Talking about politics
  • Talking about cricket (or other sports)
  • Vocabulary of experiences (good, bad)
  • Vocabulary of Socializing
  • Vocabulary of business networking
  • Talking about health and fitness

To improve your active vocabulary, you must target a particular scenario and extensively expose yourself with relevant reading material. Once you have read articles articles or written pieces, you must try to write a small piece of your own. I have tried to organise this approach into 4 steps

Steps to Practice Scenario based vocabulary for food


Chose a scenario or setting which you think you might realistically encounter in your social life, for example, “talking about food”

Step 2

Find reading sources and material where you can read or listen about food. The best sources for food would be Food and travel shows, restaurant review and rating sites like zomato, food blogs or podcasts. Here is a list that I could compile

  • Zomato
  • Masterchef Australia and similar television programs
  • Food and Restaurant sections of Top Newspapers like Times of India, Mid-day etc

Step 3

Once you read or listened to all your sources, make an exhaustive list of words that you come across. Here is the list I could compile

  • Flavor
  • Aroma
  • Spices
  • Taste buds
  • Fragrance
  • Curry
  • Tangy
  • Smokey
  • Crispy
  • Crunchy
  • Saucy
  • Melting hot
  • Steaming hot
  • Piping hot
  • Deep fry
  • Masala
  • Taste
  • Culinary
  • Gastronomy
  • food capital
  • Ambience
  • Traditional
  • Produce
  • Delicious
  • Preparation
  • Recipe
  • Texture
  • Melt-in-the-mouth
  • Affordable
  • Restaurant
  • Takeaway
  • Kiosk
  • Fine-dine

Note: Even if you know the meaning of half of the words, you need to learn the usage. Hence keep the list keep as exhaustive  of scenario specific words as much possible, no matter how simple or complex they may appear. For instance a simple word like “texture” is included in the list, because it has a completely different meaning when used in describing food.

Step 4

Write your own piece using as many words needed from the list you have curated. Do not try to stuff words in there. If you are not satisfied with one piece, try another.

To help you out, let us give a problem statement that you can attempt –

“Describe a unique food experience from your hometown”

You can submit your answers to me, if you want a discussion or want them evaluated. Here comes my answer for this question. I will highlight the words used from the  list above

The midnight food market of Sarafa Bazaar, Indore

Indore, which in many ways is both the cultural and commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, is also known to be the food capital of central India and it stands true to this claim in my opinion. One of the most unique food experience that Indore offers, is the midnight food market of Sarafa Bazaar.

Behind the old city palace, which was once ruled by the Holkars, is a maze of small lanes and by-lanes connecting the jewelry and the cloth market, housing shops in the day time, but come evening, their shutters go down, and on their Varandahs pop up the vintage food shops. When you walk down the street, you see small kiosks and thelas offering Jalebis, GulabJamun, Dahi-Bada, Chole Tikiya, Sabudane ki khichdi, Badundi, Bhutte ka kis etc. 

One of the most interesting offerings would be Garadu  which also goes by the name Ratalu. Garadu is foot long root which is chopped into small cubes for the preparation. They are then deep fried and served, garnished with lime, the secret masala and Aamchur. The Garadu which is hot and crispy from the outside is soft and steamy once you bite it. The tangy after taste of Aamchur stimulates a craving in you to pop-in another cube. You’re constantly at the risk of burning your mouth,  but your taste buds tell you otherwise. A local favourite in the winters, Garadu is easily the most unique and delicious offering of Sarafa Bazaar.