Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Some kind of English - funny Chinese signs

Just a quick link for amusement. I've heard that the Chinese government is trying to make sure that by the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, these kinds of signs will be corrected or eliminated. I think that's a tall order given the huge differences between the Chinese language and English. What do you think? Check out these signs photographed by a fellow ESL teacher who is traveling across Asia with his buddy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Getting back to life as an IEP private school ESL instructor

Taking a summer break from year-round teaching was the best thing ever. In addition to having some time to enjoy our new backyard and the wildlife that has come to settle in (having gotten rid of thirsty, weedy grass expanses in the front and back), getting together with some friends and family, and traveling/hiking, I have also been able to start this blog and wiki. I am excited to see if the program works at all with my students. It will be challenging to find a balance between all that goes with teaching, on the one hand, and continuing to develop the blogs and wiki, on the other. Four more days to go. What have I gotten myself into now?! It might have been better to stay a total technophobe.... Counting down....

Just got an e-mail from flo-joe which sent me a link to the new updated Cambridge University test site. Just click here, and you'll go to the home page. From there, you can search for information on ANY of the Cambridge tests.

For those wanting to see a few glimpses of summer activities, I'm eventually going to update my other blog, 'Mbote from San Diego' (see other reflections). It hasn't changed since July and our return from Canada. Time DOES fly! Whoosh.

Monday, September 17, 2007

CAE Wiki

My wiki titled 'englishing' (go to wiki) is primarily for use by students preparing for the Cambridge Advanced English exam. 'englishing' already contains one student-produced word formation reference sheet which I reviewed and edited. After teaching Cambridge preparation classes for six years or so, I've come to the conclusion that building an extensive vocabulary is a key to success on the exam.

How do you build a vocabulary that will be useful? Read, read, and read from a variety of sources. English is everywhere if you pay attention (especially if you're living in an English-speaking country). It's along the highway in the form of billboards and signs; in/on buildings (restaurants, bathrooms, gas stations); on TV commercials; in American/British movies, and, of course, in books, magazines, and newspapers. Usually or often from context, you can figure out the meanings of words and expressions. In this way, you develop a passive understanding of lots of vocabulary.

However, for writing and for speaking, you need more than a passive understanding of vocabulary, don't you? This is where it gets tough. No matter how many times I've taught the CAE, I am always baffled by the difficulty students have in learning and remembering the noun/adjective/verb/adverb forms of common words. The majority of students hate Part Four of the English in Use paper. USING and REVIEWING the words do make the forms stick. Remember to record words and expressions on those index cards or flip cards on a ring (see for an example). You can carry them around everywhere.

When I was a student at UCLA eons ago, I had an American friend who got a Fulbright scholarship to study in Brazil. He was fluent in Spanish as a second language, but he had to demonstrate skill in Portuguese, which he had studied for only a few months before his interview for the Fulbright. Every time I saw him, he had index cards in Portuguese in his hands. It worked! It works!

Good luck on preparing for your CAE, and start enjoying learning vocabulary today!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What is NCLB?

Although I'm not a teacher of ELLs (English Language Learners) in public school, I should be aware of the above acronym (No Child Left Behind), and my readers should too. Maybe you recognized the acronym; I didn't. The politically active and ever voracious reader Exon (a Ron Paul advocate link) was attracted to an article in the most recent issue of CATESOL News. I have to thank him for pointing out the importance of this issue as it relates to American government policy directly affecting all American public school children who are non-native speakers of English.

For extensive coverage of the topic, please check out the following site which pertains to the CATESOL News (Vol. 39, No. 2) article by James Crawford entitled, "A Diminished Vision of Civil Rights: NCLB and the Growing Divide in How Educational Equity is Understood." For the link, click here. To find the CATESOL article, look at the titles in the right column of the home page you linked to.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Not all languages are equal

My last posting made me realize the importance and value of contemplating the role of English in the world and how it affects people's lives. I sometimes push to the back of my mind that I too once worked as a translator (I don't have space to tell the whole story here) - a book translator is quite different from an interpreter or Iraqi translator for American troops. I did not put my life on the line. However, the work did deeply affect my life and that of others. The worst thing was that it negatively impacted on a friend's life and seems to have cost me that friendship. The best thing was that the book was and is still being read ( link ), bringing attention to a close primate relative and an endangered species.

In brief, many years before becoming an ESL teacher, when I was a stay-at-home mom, I translated a Japanese monograph on pygmy chimpanzees (bonobos) for Stanford University Press. At that time, I had rather impulsively agreed to take on two related book translation projects - both were about the great apes that I had studied in Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo). One author, Dr. Suehisa Kuroda, had become a close friend after having spent nearly 6 months in Africa together when I was a graduate student in anthropology; the other was Dr. Takayoshi Kano, the Director of the Wamba fieldsite where we had conducted research on pygmy chimps. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond my control, Dr. Kano's book got published in English, and Dr. Kuroda's did not.

What I didn't grasp in working on these translation projects was that publishing a Japanese book in English meant that many, many more people would have access to these works. Duh! In other words, a Japanese author who was relatively unknown in the USA, for example, could quickly become very well recognized here if his/her book were published in English.

Dr. Kano was a shy, retiring man, and usually avoided public forums whenever possible, but after publication of his monograph in English, non-Japanese students and researchers began to aggressively seek him out at international conferences. At the same time, Dr. Kuroda, who had previously been viewed as a pioneer himself (indeed, he was, though junior to Kano) and who had been far more accessible to non-Japanese because of his gregarious nature and lack of inhibitions in speaking English, began to be seen as a secondary personage in his field.

There aren't many English translations in the field of primatology, and any book that talks about chimpanzees as our closest living relatives captures a rather large readership. Little did I know that publishing a monograph in English could or would change the status or image of the authors in an international context.

Language is power, and not all languages are equal.

For more information about translation for all languages, click on the following link.