Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ways to Attack the Academic Word List (AWL)

Well... it's a new year 2011, and finally I'm getting around to putting up some new posts. That's because my energy recently has been focused on reorganizing my wiki for my TOEFL students, from intermediate to advanced level. There is rarely time for me to get my students exposed to essential vocabulary to perform well on this exam, but this link will take you to a very useful site for practicing vocabulary from the AWL (which contains 570 words frequently occurring in academic texts). Students can work on their own on the computer for homework; I follow up with an in-class written vocabulary quiz.

Are Americans 'Wusses'?

I can't believe it's already February, but I'm happy to see that despite my lack of activity here in 2011, many people have been continuing to visit this site and find useful pages and materials. Thank you all for stopping by and browsing!

This posting focuses on both a socio-cultural development and terms that are being used to describe Americans. Do Americans see themselves as wimps and sissies? How does the rest of the world see us? Are you familiar with these terms? The Wall Street Journal came out with this article last month, and it caught my attention. I definitely see changes in the attitudes of the current generation of Americans with their ability to see jobs as stopgaps, rather than lifetime careers, but I must admit that I don't view them as 'wusses.'

Having just viewed the peaceful 'forced' resignation of President Mubarak of Egypt, my family and I commented about how passive Americans are here at home, especially in the case of allowing our troops (including National Guardsmen) to be sent to invade Iraq years ago, despite a large number of us doubting the existence of WMDs (weaspons of mass destruction). I am not sure if our passivity is an outcome of 'wussiness' or 'wimpiness,' but we do seem to be able to tolerate or overlook many government actions, even on our own soil (e.g., recent airport security measures that can require passengers to have full body-scans or hands-on body searches touching 'private' parts), that look like the 'State' overstepping its boundaries or limits.

Whether you agree with the above characterizations of Americans or not, you've got a few more colorful English words to listen for. Be careful about how YOU use them. As with most informal language that has negative connotations, caution should always be exercised when trying to use it on native speakers.