Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Language IS Power

This is an old advertisement for learning a new language, but its message is still very effective.  Isn't that why so many people are studying English?  From my 12 years of teaching ESL, the reason they study is not from love of foreign languages.

That's what makes the teachers' job challenging.  Many language learners seem to think that if they just sit in a language class, they can absorb everything they need to move to the next level without doing any work outside of class, including speaking the target language.  Go figure!

Ten weeks ago, I had a student announce in class that he didn't think his teachers (including me) understood how much work it is to learn a language.  The other students nodded in agreement and stared at me for an expected defensive reaction.  Instead, I smiled and said that undoubtedly EVERY ESL teacher at our school has had the experience of studying a foreign language and has first-hand knowledge of exactly how hard it is to learn a foreign language.  "Not only that," I explained, "if you haven't cried out of frustration, you're probably not working hard enough!"

I've known male students and female students (besides myself) who've had an immersion experience in a foreign language that brought them to the point of tears.  I often ask my students if they've had dreams or nightmares in their target language because that's another indicator of a foreign language penetrating the subconscious.

Recounting stories of my immersion in Lingala in the former Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo) always gets students' attention.  I went from being laughed at by villagers for my almost non-existent Lingala to wielding the language well enough to pressure a group of men to help me load brick on the camp truck without bribing them with a "tip" of cigarettes (I never gave cigarettes to our workers because they're just as unhealthy for Africans as for Americans.)   Seeing words moving people to action is imprinted on my mind.  Language is POWER.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Read Signs to Build Vocabulary

There are many ways to continually add to your knowledge of English.  Noticing and reading signs wherever you go is an easy way to do it.  Not only do you expand your vocabulary, but you also learn something about local culture and values.  These are some photos I took while roaming around Dana Point in Southern California.  Yes, there were a lot of dog-walkers!  

Pictures definitely help a                            Again the simple drawing of
person figure out the meaning of                   the bird (a pigeon) with the hand
a word like "leashed" (leash =                      and red line drawn through the
a verb and a noun).  The dog in                    image signal to the reader, this is
the picture is leashed by a leash.                  a no-no.  DO NOT FEED THEM!
                                                                     I guess "feed" is what the hand is

"Fine" doesn't mean it's a fine day.  This is a verb meaning to charge 
someone to pay for a rule/law that was broken.  You don't want to be fined 
in Orange County, so be sure to "pick up (the poop!) after your dog." 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Why is English Cool?

English is my business.  These days it seems like that's all that I think about and do - whether it's putting together a literature review for a graduate class in TESOL or teaching ESL in an IEP (Intensive English Program).

I can't remember where I ran across the following reference.  I believe it was a link from a Facebook friend.  It comes from www.freerepublic.com although it's, in my view, primarily for our amusement with the English language - and not to promote conservative politics.

You should definitely have a look at the numerous comments posted after checking out the list of sentences.  The replies contain even more funny (haha-funny and strange-funny) English.  The polysemous nature of my language makes it an endless source of fascination.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sentence Types and Connectors

Thanks to the miracle of Authorstream, I have instantaneously uploaded a Power Point slide presentation (so can you!).  Even though this online tool has been around for some years, it's my first time using it, and it's so cool!  Thanks to Beth Bogage at San Diego's ECC for bringing it to my attention.  My students can view my slides without having the Microsoft program on their computer. That makes this material accessible to all.

Writing Students:  For those of you who are having problems with construction and punctuation of compound and complex sentences and the use of conjunctive adverbs (such as however, in addition, in conclusion, etc.), here is the slide show that I presented in class.  If you have questions, please ask by clicking below on "comments" or ask in class.