All posts by ICLS

Now Hiring: Evaluation Specialist

Evaluation Specialist:

ICLS is seeking a highly-qualified individual to fill a position as Evaluation Specialist II for our contract with the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Language Studies.

The Quality Management (QM) Coordinator for Testing is responsible for developing and coordinating quality assurance and control processes in the Language Testing Unit (LTU). As a testing and measurement expert, the QM Coordinator collects and analyzes test score data to gather evidence of test validity and reliability, advising the LTU accordingly on impact factors, such as rater training, testing procedures and the design and development of new tests, as needed. The QM Coordinator carries out his/her responsibilities under the guidance of the Division Director, in consultation with the Heads of Training and Operation, and with the support of the QM team.

  • Design, implement and coordinate a comprehensive quality management program for the Language Testing Unit.
  • Organize and improve test data reporting and analysis to track in-house testing trends and vendor performance on outsourced tests.
  • Coordinate test review processes, including responses to test review requests and mediation in cases of test score discrepancies.
  • Coordinate testing materials development and refresh.
  • Coordinate and conduct validity and reliability studies.
  • Assess the need to update test procedures and propose initiatives when appropriate.
  • Advise on and draft policies and guidelines related to testing processes and procedures.
  • Support School-wide initiatives related to testing and assessment.


  1. MA/MS or Ph.D. or foreign equivalent degree in a relevant field
  2. A minimum of five (5) years of experience in evaluation design and delivery in an educational context and/or a minimum of five (5) years of experience using qualitative and quantitative methods in social science research
  3. Native or near-native proficiency in English
  4. Ability to speak and write clearly on topics related to evaluation
  5. Experience managing the design and implementation of comprehensive organizational systems preferred
  6. Experience teaching or researching adult learners of foreign languages preferred


If interested please submit your resume and cover letter to

Baseball Idioms

During the presidential campaign of 2016 there was some confusion over a word or phrase that Donald Trump kept using. It was hard to discern whether he was saying the word “bigly” or the phrase “big league.” It was eventually confirmed that he was saying “big league”, but what does this term mean? Big league is a reference to professional baseball in the United States. The “big league” is the one where every professional player aspires to play, Major League Baseball. The Washington Nationals play in the National League’s East Division of Major League Baseball.

It is not surprising that a presidential candidate with years of television experience would use a baseball term. However, President Trump used the term “big league” in a particularly colloquial manner. For example, he said that he would cut taxes big league and that manufacturing would be brought back big league. These uses show that doing something in a “big league” manner means to do it in a significant way.

Baseball is called “America’s pastime” and therefore the American vernacular is full of baseball idioms. To meet or start a discussion over a specific issue, people might “touch base.” This idiom is a reference to when baseball players are on base and occasionally converse with a player on the opposing team. Once a player is on base, he needs to have part of his foot touching the base, otherwise he can be tagged out with the baseball. In a city like Washington, it is common to come across examples of “inside baseball.” This idiom refers to a topic or theme that is difficult to understand if one does not work in nor has experience working in a particular industry. Another example is when someone throws or is “throwing a curveball.” A curveball is either a pitch that is both notoriously difficult to hit, or a situation that is surprising or difficult.

– Christian Zimmerman, ESL Teacher and ICLS Blog Contributor

5 Tips On Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is never easy, and some people go their whole lives only speaking one. But some people successfully learn and use multiple languages in their lifetimes. Sid Efromovich is one such polyglot who speaks seven languages. In a TED talk he gave in 2013 he shared some of his techniques.¹

1. Make mistakes

Language is not like math, where making mistakes is unacceptable. Here, errors are actually encouraged because they underline the nuance of language and act as important tools. By constantly practicing, saying something wrong, and then discovering how to say it right, it is possible to hone your skills and become fluent in no time. If you keep trying to be perfect, you will never really use the language, and thus cannot learn quickly.

2. Scrap the foreign alphabet

Use your native pronunciation as a guide instead of the foreign spelling. For example, if you are a native English speaker and Portuguese fluency is your goal, seeing a word spelled “real” will make you want to pronounce it like you would in English. This will not help you learn the language. Instead, you should learn how to pronounce words based on a system of letters that makes sense to you, such as writing “real” as “hey-ou”, because that’s what it actually sounds like.

3. Shower conversations

To truly facilitate a safe and fun practicing environment, why not have a conversation with yourself in the shower? In practicing both sides of the conversation, you can improve fluency, enhance pronunciation, and use authentic language that you might use in the real world. The result can be greater fluency and a better understanding of what words or phrases need to be reviewed later.

4. Buddy formula

If you know someone who wants to learn your native language, and you want to learn theirs, a great strategy is to buddy up and help each other! An ideal language partnership involves two people who each want to learn their buddy’s native language. Generally, language partners meet on a regular basis and teach each other. This method is free and makes the process fun and engaging.

5. Find a stickler

A stickler is a guide who can correct your mistakes. A willingness to make mistakes is important, but sometimes an outside helper is the only way to learn from those mistakes and improve. The best guides are professional teachers from accredited schools. These teachers have studied language acquisition, know how people learn, and can correct you in a safe space.

Bonus tip:
When I practice a target language, I personally love watching YouTube. Find videos in the target language, play the scenes repeatedly, and practice speaking like the native speakers you watch!
Regardless of what language learning techniques you choose, the right combination of these strategies can lead anyone on the path to success. Good luck, everyone!

– Alex Vera, ESL Teacher and ICLS Blog Contributor

1. Efromovich, S. (2013). 5 Techniques to Learn any Language. TEDxUpperEastSide. Retrieved from

Meet the Staff: Adam McConnell

Meet the Staff: Adam McConnell  

I started my ESL career in Vienna, Austria, where I worked at a school for wine production for two years. It was an exciting experience because Vienna is so beautiful and working with those students was a lot of fun. I’ve worked at ICLS for 7 years, first as a German teacher and then as an English teacher. ICLS is an exciting school because we meet students from all over the world.

What do you love most about your job?

I love working with international students. I always feel that I learn as much from them as they do from me. International students are often the most well-traveled people you can find and it’s very exciting to learn about their backgrounds, countries, languages, and travels!

What is your favorite food and why?

I love food! I think my favorite food is chocolate or hazelnut desserts.

What do you like most about living in or near Washington DC?

I like the fact that Washington DC has many great international restaurant because I love food! Because I like to bike, I enjoy having so many bike trails throughout the area.

Why is learning English important for achieving global success?

English is a global language and knowing English gives students communicative access to the world. Students are able to travel anywhere more easily, and knowing English gives individuals an advantage in the workplace and at the university.


ESL Thanksgiving Writing Contest

What Are You Thankful For?

In light of the Thanksgiving holiday, we have asked our current ESL students and alumni to share with us what they are thankful for this season. Today, we are proud to announce three winners whose essays we are excited to share with you! ICLS would like to thank all of our students for participating in the contest. We are touched by your stories.

Meet the winners

Advanced Category: Cesmel Meledje


Cesmel’s Essay

Thankful, Grateful, Blessed
On this day of joy, it is with a heart full of happiness that I would like to share my gratefulness for having the opportunity to live in the United States. However, I would first like to reflect on the meaning behind the celebration of Thanksgiving, which is a famous tradition held on the 24th  of November when people gather together, enjoy each other’s company, and share food in a familial atmosphere [editor’s note: Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. This year, it fell on November 24th]. This custom began in the early days of British colonies in America four hundred years ago. The Pilgrims’ immigrated here and they had trouble adjusting to the new land. They had arrived too late to grow many crops, and their plants were not suitable for the climate. Most of them died of diseases the first year, but they received help and training from the native inhabitants, the Wampanoag tribe. The Wampanoag brought with them a man named Tisquantuman, who knew some English and helped translate for the Pilgrims. Throughout the year, the Wampanoag held festivals to thank the earth for its many gifts. The Pilgrims had much to be thankful for, so they planned a feast of thanks and special day of prayer. According to the legend, the Pilgrims invited the Wampanoag and there was a big turkey banquet that became the symbol of conviviality. I can relate to this story because just like the Pilgrims persevered through their hardships in immigrating to the United States, I faced a similar situation. With the help of locals, I have overcome my own difficulties in getting used to the life here. This reminds me of how I should be grateful for being so lucky to wake up every day and live in this the United States. I need to embrace every single moment with merriment and a smile because tomorrow may never come, but at least I would have lived to the fullest.

Intermediate Category: Shotaro Ishigaki


Shotaro’s Essay

I am thankful for people all over the world because I experienced a major disaster five years ago in Japan. It was a very big earthquake. Also, the earthquake caused a tsunami. The tsunami destroyed many houses and many people died. Fortunately, I stayed away, so I was safe, but my colleague lost his house. At that time, people around the world helped by donating money and saving people trapped in the rubble. In addition, volunteers came to rescue a lot of people. Today, many buildings have been rebuilt in Japan, and we returned to the life we had before the earthquake occurred. However, I will never forget their assistance. I want to give back to people all over the world, and I hope the world will help each other more.

Intermediate Category: Mark Kim

Mark Kim

Mark’s Essay

I’m thankful for the people in my life. Upon reflection, they always provide me with opportunities. When I was young, my parents always helped me and, when I went to elementary school, my teachers always taught me how to appreciate a good friendship. Also, my friends appreciated me. I had a beautiful childhood. When I went to middle school, I really liked that because I had five friends. I still keep in touch with them today. When I had a problem they came to me immediately. Whatever, whenever. When I went to high school, life was hard because I had to study and train. I graduated with the help of my friends and instructors. When I served in the Air Force, a lot of comrades helped me. Now, I’m living in Washington, DC. Thanks to all the people in my life, I’m able to study English at ICLS. I’m really happy. I’m going to help other people in my life as other people have helped me.

Meet the Staff: Connie Lee

Meet the Staff: Connie Lee

Connie Lee is the Director of the ESL Division at the International Center for Language Studies.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in sociology from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and holds a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from the University of Pennsylvania. Additionally, she holds two certificates: Teaching a Second Language for Business Communication and Training & Assessment.  She has 15 years of experience as an ESL/EFL teacher and program administrator in university-based intensive English programs, education companies, and non-profit organizations in the U.S. and China. She has also provided curriculum development consulting to English language programs in Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.  She is an active site reviewer for CEA (The Commission on English Language Accreditation) and a regular participant at TESOL conferences.

What do you love most about your job?

I enjoy every aspect of my job, but my favorite part is working with students and teachers who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. It is fascinating to learn about various cultures although I can’t seem to keep up with all the superstitions from different countries!

What is your favorite food and why?

Food is my passion and I love exploring new cuisines, which makes this question a very tough one! But if I must choose only one, I would say sushi because of its simplicity and elegance.

Why is learning English important for achieving global success?

We live in a time where degrees alone won’t get you far. Living in an increasingly global world, practical skills are needed in addition to degrees and cross-cultural experience, and no matter what your goals are, good communication plays a critical role in your success. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively in English will give you an edge you need to get ahead – academically and professionally.