Monday, December 20, 2010

Comparative Word Chat Board

Like other game chat boards that I've created and posted at this site, this one has been popular among my colleagues, so I thought I'd share it with you this holiday season. As with my Irregular Verb Chat board, this one only requires dice and coins or colored pieces of paper for markers.

NB: When you print out this game board (jpg format), you should go to 'page set up' under 'file' and enlarge about 150% to 175%. Otherwise, the board will not cover the entire page.

After teaching the comparative, you can use this board repeatedly for review of the structures. This game allows students to work independently while you assess their skills and offer individual error correction. You can make the exercise as complex or simple as you like. Students enjoy this type of board because they can focus on the form and not worry about whether they came up with an interesting set of items to compare. I usually write sentences on the board to remind students of the various comparatives or refer them to a handout that has them in a table.

Rules of the game: Students should be informed that the parts of speech used on the game board vary. If they encounter nouns, they must come up with an adjective comparative structure. If they encounter verbs, they will need to come up with an adverbial form. If the words are adjectives, they will need to supply the noun forms. In addition, if they have to compare 'hot and cold', for lower level students, they should choose only one of the two adjectives and supply the contrasting nouns. For example, summer is hotter than winter. However, if you have higher level students, they must use both adjectives in a comparative sentence. For instance, Hawaii is hotter year-round than Minnesota, whereas Massachusetts is colder year-round than California.

Finally, if you have upper intermediate to advanced level students, you can use the numbers in parentheses at the bottom of the board to encourage students to use a particular comparative. To illustrate, if a student rolls a '1', (s)he must use 'not as .... as' (contrasting baseball and soccer: For most Europeans, baseball is not as entertaining to watch as soccer) and so on. If you use the numbered structures at the bottom of the page, it helps if you put some examples up on the board or give students a handout they can use as a reference.

P.S. If you see any errors or repetitions of comparisons on this board, please let me know so that I can correct.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is English a 'true' multicultural language?

In a fall issue of the Japan Times, an article was published that got me thinking again about why English has stuck as an international language despite its many irregularities. Every day in the classroom, I am struck by the challenges that English brings to non-native speakers: the incongruities between spelling and pronunciation, the use of foreign words which are often not pronounced the same as the originals, and the abundance of sounds and structural aspects that do not commonly exist in other languages.

Dr. Nobuyuki Honna, an Emeritus Professor of Sociolinguistics and International Communication at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, the author of the article, is also the founder of The Japanese Association for Asian Englishes. Honna suggests that today's English would be more effective if it were truly multicultural. In other words, a language should reflect the culture where it is being used. However, when you learn English as a second language in Asia, you often learn it as American or British English. Consequently, the non-native speaker attempts to pick up expressions and concepts, customs and traditions associated with these Englishes, rather than adapt the English language to his/her own culture.

Professor Honna also claims that "Contemporary English has two major characteristics that no other language has ever developed in the history of linguistic evolution. One is its global spread and the other is the development of its regional and local varieties." I cannot deny the reality of the first claim, but I would add that the global spread of English correlates with the technological advancement of the worldwide web established in the USA (starting with the development of the ARPAnet) and is likely a bit of a fluke. Time will tell if the base structure of the internet limits its takeover by another language.

The second point about the unique 'development of regional and local varieties' of English is more problematic for me. Certainly, the Earth's population is larger in size than ever before, but regional and local varieties of French, Spanish, and German have abounded in the past. For example, recently, I was speaking to a friend who had spent some time in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where I also had done field research some 15 years ago. She commented about how difficult it was to understand their 'French.' They didn't have an 'accent grave,' for example. I have heard that Montreal (Canada), which is the second largest French-speaking city in the world, has a unique version of French, too. Whether or not, the varieties of French outnumber the varieties of English can probably be debated, but this puts the second claim into doubt.

Nevertheless, Dr. Honna makes many observations that are well worth examining in depth, such as 'mutual communicability' and a need to have 'language awareness' and recognition given to the many 'Englishes' spoken in the world. There is a huge range of topics for cross-cultural research raised in this thoughtful article. Check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Words with Multiple Meanings (WMM6)

I don't like acronyms very much, but for the sake of brevity in the future, I will refer to these 'Words with Multiple Meanings' (CAE, Part 4, Use of English paper) as WMMs. For those students and teachers who are prepping for the Cambridge Use of English paper or who are building vocabulary for your classes, these word puzzles may be of interest to you.

Not only is the spelling of English challenging, but also the multiple meanings of its enormous lexicon can drive you crazy. If you decide to be intrigued by these features, it will make the mastery of the language more pleasurable. For the curious who've just visited 'Many Englishes' for the first time, there are already 22 different examples of WMMs up on this blog. Today's post will add an additional five (15 sentences) WMMs. Enjoy!

(I am making these exercises easily printable by putting them into a Google document which you can click on at the end of the post.)

Fill in the blanks with one word that fits in each sentence. The word form is the same in each of the three sentences (one set).

1. Janice's mom is not pleased that her daughter works the night ________.
After you have braces, if you don't continue wearing your retainers, your teeth will ______.
There has been a ______ in values over the past few decades, which is why so many people are in debt.

2. Tomorrow I am ______ for Hawaii.
The new book by John Grisham is ______ to be tension-filled.
I had ______ the parcel with string instead of tape, so the post office told me to redo the packaging.

3. The airlines attendant told the basketball players to _____ their heads as they boarded the plane.
Spoiled children often don't ______ the teacher at school, which creates a lot of discipline problems.
'Are you out of your ______?!' was the reaction of the boss when she asked for a 25% raise.

4. Christian gave a very ______ speech which moved everyone to tears.
______ a snake can be very dangerous if you don't know what kind it is.
This eye disease can be spread by rubbing the infected eye and then _______ the other one.

5. Students ______ turns playing the game.
My brother ______ the trash out to the curb every week when he was young.
Even though it's not that far from San Diego, John _____ a plane to get to Los Angeles.

Printable version

Answers: 1. shift 2. bound 3. mind 4. touching 5. took