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

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Tell-Tale Heart for Halloween

At Halloween, I ask higher level students to read one of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe short stories, 'The Tell-Tale Heart.' Often I let the students follow along with the text in front of them as I read it aloud. Poe's stories and poems deserve to be read aloud. (Probably this could be said of all well-written works, but since my children are all grown up, I rarely do it anymore.)

Today I was excited to find that on YouTube, there is a two-part (combined 15-minute) video (I, II) of Vincent Price narrating 'The Tell-Tale Heart' on stage. You don't have to be an advanced level student to understand the story as Mr. Price tells it.

If you would like to do a combined reading and listening activity for the upcoming event, I've given you links to a printable copy of the the story with vocabulary and Mr. Price's superb acting performance. Let me know if the lesson works for you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Words with Multiple Meanings, Part 5 (CAE Use of English Practice, Part 4 (d))

This is my fifth post (see 'Words with Multiple Meanings' and Part 4 (a, b, c) for more like this one) about words with several meanings. These exercises can be used for vocabulary development in any intermediate+ level class, but it was especially designed for Cambridge Advanced students preparing for the Use of English paper.

Your job is to find the one word that fits into each set of sentences. The answers are at the bottom of the page. Have fun and good luck!

1. John likes to _______ animals at the zoo.
The robber didn't want to ______ attention to himself, so he hid the gun in a paper bag.
June had to _______ on her account to pay the bill.

2. Your job is to ______ questions at the gathering.
The new employee's questions came out of left ______.
The cows were grazing in a beautiful ______ of green grass.

3. Before we can eat the custard, we have to wait for it to ______.
One of the jobs of the waiter is to ______ the table.
I can't remember where I _____ down my cup of coffee.

4. She just opened up a _____ of soup for lunch.
'______ you open the window? It's so hot and stuffy in here.'
Have you ever tried to _____ tomatoes?

5. He is _____ only smart, but he is funny, too.
My daughter does _____ like dark chocolate as much as I do.
It is _____ a matter of choice; it is a matter of duty.

1. draw, 2. field, 3. set, 4. can, 5. not

Sunday, October 3, 2010

'The Sound of Science'

A classic Simon and Garfunkel song has been transformed into a catchy new one which this anthropologist-turned-English instructor couldn't resist. Advanced level students who already know the tune might like to sing along with this video. In addition, if you're really knowledgeable about evolution, American academics, and the English language, you might give a knowing laugh or two before the end. Enjoy listening and singing along now!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Japanglish in Kyoto

I did mind my step (British English). In addition, the sign warns, 'When crossing [Japanese script], be careful of the footing sufficiently. Understand beforehand because the responsibility cannot be assumed about the accident in case and so on.'

I did take my time following the stone pathway in Ginkakuji's garden in Kyoto. Fortunately, I didn't have 'the' accident. Since I was by myself, I don't have a picture to prove it, but here's one of a fellow tourist who successfully crossed the large pond as I did. ;-)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Words with Multiple Meanings, Part 4 (CAE Use of English Practice, Part 4 (c))

Are you ready for more words with multiple meanings or usages? See how many of these you can figure out. Go back and try the other lessons, Part 4 (a) and Part 4 (b). (Note to Teachers: I have changed the font colors of these exercises to black so that you can print out these sheets for your classes.)

1. My brother usually tries to _______ the bill when we go out together.
My son is almost a ______ taller than me.
They will never set ______ in that country because of the human rights abuses.

2. Let's _____ something new instead of the lasagna.
The lawyer will ______ that murder case next month.
In Star Wars, Jedi Master Yoda said, "Do, or do not. There is no _____."

3. The boss _____ up at work because we were behind in meeting our orders.
The Santa Ana winds ______ so fiercely that they knocked down some trees.
John ______ the whistle on the company for not following safety procedures.

4. You are too close to the car in front of you. You need to _____ up.
After I flew ______ from Japan, I suffered from jetlag.
In the military, you count on others watching your _____.

5. In the USA, we value the ______ to freedom of speech.
He is someone that believes it's important to try to ______ all wrongs.
The teacher wants to see you ______ away.

Answer key:

1. foot 2. try 3. blew 4. back 5.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fun with Puns

What's a pun? According to the Collins Advanced Dictionary of American English, a pun is "a clever and amusing use of a word or phrase with two meanings, or of words with the same sound but different meanings." If you can 'get' (=understand) these, you are most likely an advanced level user of English.

The following came from Barron's, August 2, 2010, printed edition:
1. 'Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.'
2. 'A hangover is the wrath of grapes.'
3. 'She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.'

Monday, July 19, 2010

Follow-up to 2008 International Year of Languages

Interesting follow-up to the International Year of Languages is a publication resulting from a ten-year study of 'Multi-lingualism in Cyberspace.' Is it possible that English is not as prevalent on the Net as we English-speakers had long imagined it to be?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Arizona Forbids Teachers with Accents to Teach English

Many of you have heard of Arizona's SB1070. It is a new law set to come into effect at the end of the month and can empower authorities to check the identity of people living in Arizona, suspected of being in the USA illegally. But, did you also know that some experienced bilingual English language instructors in Arizona public schools may not be allowed to continue teaching English to their Spanish-speaking students because they have an 'accent'?

I have talked about accents before at this blog, focusing on prejudice against Indian English. Now I am contemplating accents again in another context. As Mr. Codrescu so effectively states in his NPR commentary, 'America was made great by people with accents.'

As an ESL instructor at a private school, I have often been confronted by questioning looks when students realize that this Asian-looking woman is their Cambridge or TOEFL or business or advanced level instructor. Is she a native speaker? Ironically, sometimes the worst prejudice or suspicion comes from Asian students. They came to the United States to learn from a White or Black or even Hispanic person - not from someone who looks 'Asian.' If they're low-level students, they don't understand my explanation that I was born and raised in Los Angeles and that my grandparents came from Japan. My parents were also born in California. They feel incapable of judging whether or not my 'accent' is native, so they just go by my race and facial features. Sometimes they even request a change of class - not because of my race, of course - but because they think I speak 'too slowly' or 'too fast.'

Once I was even queried about my 'nativeness' because I spoke so 'clearly.' Believe it or not, an upper-intermediate level business student asked me at the end of her course if I was originally from Japan (even though I had explained three weeks earlier that I was born and raised in Los Angeles). She was asking because, according to her, my speech was clearer and the rhythm of it easier to understand than the other teachers', so she wondered if I had learned English as a second language.

Now in Arizona, we have another issue which goes beyond 'race' per se. It has to do with how close your accent is to some perceived 'average'. Who speaks with a typical 'American' accent? Is it the TV anchorperson from some Midwest TV station, from the West Coast, from the East Coast, or from the South? Should our Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger have had to pass a pronunciation exam before he ran for the important office he now occupies? He still says 'California' differently from how I would say it, and I'm '100% Californian.' Would 'Ahnold' have been as successful as the 'Terminator' if he had spoken with George Clooney's accent?

Clearly, to me, what is important in English language teaching is helping students to build a broad and solid grammatical platform on which to construct flexible and expandable vocabulary houses. From these constructs, fluency in the language can emerge and flourish so that immigrant or foreign students can express themselves well in speech and writing and be able to comprehend all accents and variations of the language in context - while listening to a radio program or watching TV or when reading the newspaper or visiting an internet site. That's what I think my job is about. Any person who is capable of bringing students to this point, regardless of their accent, is an invaluable resource to this country of immigrants.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Words with Multiple Meanings, Part 3 (CAE Use of English Practice, Part 4 (b))

Anyone trying to prepare for the CAE Use of English paper can start to build up his/her vocabulary for the December exam, starting now. One fun way to do that is to pay attention to and start learning words that have multiple meanings. I put up some other examples earlier this month. Students can also sign up at the Flo-Joe site to receive weekly mini-exercises - relevant to the Cambridge exams, many of which are free. If you want to add some other Part 4-type words in the Comments section below, that would be great!

1. My brother was married for ten years, but now he's ______ again.
I haven't had a _____ bite of ice cream since starting my diet.
There's a big difference between the cost of a ______ and a suite.

2. My mind went _____ during the exam, so I'm sure I failed it.
When someone is given a ______ check, it means that they have the right to spend as much money as they want.
If you leave the space _____, the application won't go through.

3. It is often said that '_____ does not make right.'
There's a chance that the USA _____ win the World Cup.
The little girl tried with all her _____ to open the jar, but the lid was on too tight.

4. You should never ask a total stranger to keep an ____ on your bags at the airport.
A photographer has to have a good _____ for composition and detail.
He got a black ____ from a homeless woman who struck him at the bus station.

5. Thomas likes to collect old _____ and coins.
The shape of the birds' _____ is what fascinates some ornithologists.
I paid all three _____ yesterday.

Answer key:

1. single 2. blank 3. might 4. eye 5. bills

Friday, June 18, 2010

Watch What You Say!

One of my favorite song cloze activities uses 'The Logical Song' by Supertramp. Whenever I play the music, almost every student struggles with the expression, 'Watch what you say!' When I ask them, 'What would you yell if someone were about to cross the street and a car was coming?' and I give the clue, '_____ out!', they usually give me the correct word. Then I proceed to give other examples from real-life situations.

To illustrate other uses, I tell them about a very tall, non-native speaker who was boarding a small commuter flight from San Diego to L.A. The stewardess stood at the top of the staircase and told passengers to 'watch your head.' My husband was behind the guy who failed to lower his head and smashed into the top of the door. There's another incident which was related to me by one of my Korean students. He rode the bus to school and one morning decided to leave by the front door. When the door opened, he was about to step down when the driver warned, 'Watch your step!' Upon hearing the remark, the student didn't step down and turned to look at the driver. She repeated the comment, 'Watch your step.' The student stood staring at the step, not knowing why he should look at the step. He turned to the bus driver again, and she repeated the warning. Meanwhile, people were waiting to get on the bus. Finally, the student looked at the driver and commented in frustration, 'I AM watching the step!' The bus driver shook her head in disgust and said, 'Whatever....' The student got off the bus, blushing, and realized as soon as he stepped down that she was simply trying to tell him to be careful as he stepped off of the bus.

Most non-native speakers don't quite 'get' these expressions because they're brief and sometimes sound like little niceties, rolling off native speakers' tongues and correctly assumed to be ones for which there are no required responses, other than a nod of the head. My student paid attention to the expression, actually trying to understand the words and its meaning.

"Watch out!", "Watch your head", and "Watch your step" are American expressions that are used very similarly to the British English expression "Mind your head" and "Mind your step." Mind what you say. Mind your manners!

Here are some other examples in context: from Tony and Thomas's amazing Contemporary Nomad blog, and another from a newspaper article. Now maybe you won't slip and fall, step on a spiny fish, or bump your head when you see or hear these warnings.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why have Indian Americans been winning the National Spelling Bee?

Since I recently showed the movie 'Spellbound' to my class, I was curious to find out who won this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee tournament in Washington, DC. For the seventh time in the past 12 years, a child of Indian parentage has won. Is there a reason why Indian Americans have been winning the annual Scripps Spelling Bee? Is it inspiration from Nupur Lala, of 'Spellbound' fame, the high value placed on education and a competition for learned people, or something else?

Articles abound on the topic and here is a sampling from The Imagined Universe (2010), Sepia Mutiny (2005), and an ABC report about the current Indian winning streak (2010).

Friday, June 4, 2010

English Grammar 'Rules'

Despite the fact that students seek hard and fast rules for grammar that are ALWAYS true, they don't seem to exist in reality. I used to cringe when I'd hear radio talk-show hosts on NPR use the word 'less' with a countable noun like people, probably because I had just taught my students that they should use the comparative 'fewer' in that situation. However, as is stated in this VOA (Voice of America) interview, grammar, like other aspects of language, is not as fixed as we were taught to believe decades ago. Grammar reflects the way people use the language. As has often been noted in this blog, as English becomes more and more globalized, what is accepted as standard structure will continually change with the expanding 'speakership.'

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Words with Multiple Meanings, Part 2 (CAE Use of English Practice, Part 4 (a))

It's hard to excel at the Use of English paper without paying attention to vocabulary. One of my favorite parts of Paper 3 is Part 4, where you find the one word that fits in three different sentences. You can increase your chances of success on this part of the exam if you take notice of common or simple words that can be combined to create multiple meanings. For example, the verb 'put' can be used alone or combined with various prepositions to take on different meanings: 'put on', 'put off', and 'put down.'

Here are some practice sentences that I created for my CAE students. See if you can come up with the solution. Answers are at the bottom of the page.

1. You look really run ________. You shouldn't go out tonight.
The students were worried that they might come ________ with the swine flu.
She's been feeling very _______ since her cat died.

2. Though I didn't want to go to the conference, she twisted my _____.
Many people would give their right ______for a chance to meet Brad Pitt.
The long ______ of the law caught up with the murderer from Texas.

3. That went ______ like a lead balloon.
The robber said, 'Hand _____ the money!'
My father made me turn ______ the key to the car after my accident.

4. I'm new to this area and don't know my ______ around.
My little brother always gets his _____ by crying.
Our teacher went out of her _____ to help us.

5. I was so angry that I gave him a ______ of my mind.
The violinist played that ______ beautifully.
The police had to ______ together all the evidence to find the culprit.

Answer Key:
1. down 2. arm 3. over 4.way 5. piece

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tune Your Ear to South African English

Since the 2010 FIFA World Cup (soccer championship) is about to take place in a week, you might like to hear what South African English sounds like. What expressions are used in Johannesburg that aren't used here in San Diego? Here's a sample. Maybe some of these expressions will catch on in the USA after this global event.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Short Stories for Free

If you're like me, you're always on the lookout for free well-written resources online. For high intermediate to advanced students looking for meaty short fiction, this is the place for you. For teachers seeking material for reading circles, Booktrust (supported by the BBC) has a great site called The Short Story.

Most recently, my class discussed Sticks and Stones. The connections to our own pasts were strong because everyone has observed or experienced some form of bullying. This piece was a challenging read, but we all enjoyed the great discussion that followed. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

TED for Listening Practice

I highly recommend that teachers, students, and idea people around the world visit TED. At TED, you can choose from a huge selection of video material, from academic lectures to a mesmerizing performance of poems sung by Nathalie Merchant. I guarantee you will find something of interest for the classroom, for a lively discussion with family and friends, or simply for your listening pleasure.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ways to Use the Your Expanded Vocabulary ('en')

Now that you've considered the suffix/prefix en, you may realize that you still can't recall their meanings or think of ways to use them spontaneously. Below is an example of a dialog using several of the expressions from the previous posting. Whenever you read or watch TV, pay attention and watch out for words that you've been studying. Hearing the words or seeing them again in print in another context will reinforce the vocabulary and give you confidence to use them in your daily speech or writing.

John: 'Lighten up! You're too serious. You need to enjoy your life each day. Studying English isn't just about strengthening your vocabulary. It's also about broadening/widening your horizons.'

Maria: 'But I want to enlarge my vocabulary and sharpen my skills in writing and speaking. I wish I could lengthen the day so that there were more hours for me to practice and review what I learn. It really brightens my day when I hear or find a way to use a new idiom or expression.'

John: 'Yeah, I know what you mean. However, you can deepen your knowledge of the language by using it in the 'real' world, too - not just doing exercises. If you're a shy person, you can keep a diary or journal and write in it every day, trying to use new expressions and think in English.'

Maria: 'You're right, John. Sometimes my determination is weakened by a feeling of overwhelming anxiety as I realize there is still so much vocabulary that I don't understand or know how to use. But I'm going to start writing in English to myself every day and ask my teacher to tell me if I'm using expressions correctly....'

Doubling Your Vocabulary with Affixes (e.g., 'en')

English is loaded with prefixes and suffixes (=affixes), small particles that can be added to the beginnings or ends of words which change them from adjectives to verbs or nouns and which can change their meanings from positive to negative. If you learn how to control these affixes, you can dramatically increase your vocabulary. Wouldn't you like to do that?

One of the first affixes that I teach my students is 'en'; it can come at the end or at the beginning of a root word. Can you think of some common words that take the suffix 'en'? To start with, consider this string of common adjectives: wide, long, short, high, strong, soft, hard light, dark, bright, sharp, broad, and large. Can you turn them into verbs by adding 'en'?

wide - widen
long - (length = noun) lengthen
short - shorten
high - (height = noun) heighten
strong - (strength = noun) strengthen
soft - soften
hard - harden
light - lighten
dark - darken
bright- brighten
sharp - sharpen
broad - broaden
large - enlarge

See if you can come up with some other words using the prefix or suffix 'en.' Keep your eyes open for other patterns of word formation and add them to this list.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unilinguaphobia - Fear of monolingualism?

What is 'unilinguaphobia'? Although here in the USA, there is no official national language, there are organizations that do promote the idea that English be the only language used in any official context. Most Americans do not see the point of learning other languages because English has become the tourist lingua franca throughout the world. So, we definitely are not worried about unilingualism. Then, what would make our neighbors to the north - also predominantly English speakers - suffer from unilinguaphobia?

In Canada, there has been a long-term battle to ensure that French be recognized as a national language along with English. Thus, if you want to be employed by the Canadian government, you need to be bilingual in English and French. Apparently, if you are conversant in only one of these languages, you can lose your job. This phenomenon prompted me to consider our own language policy. Do we have one?

It is not my purpose to discuss the sense or nonsense in enforcing a law that mandates bilingualism in another country. The USA has tried to balance the racial make-up of the government workforce with quota-like systems and has also experimented with bilingualism in areas, such as the Southwest (Title VII). Since 2002 and the No Child Left Behind policy, we have begun to focus attention back on performance in English by instituting Title III programs.

The question remains, however, of the effectiveness of any federal program that funds schools at the local level in order to achieve some loftier goal, such as (American) English only in the classroom, which should lead to competence in this ubiquitous language. The problem Americans seem to face is not a fear of unilingualism but of multi-lingualism.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Is that English?

I happened to run across this amusing clip while I was searching for information about non-human primates. It is part of an interview between Ellen DeGeneres and Actor Hugh Laurie where they test each other's knowledge of British and American English slang. Not all of the expressions were familiar to me, but the exercise highlights the difference between these two Englishes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Colorful English in Southeast Asia

Some friends who have been traveling throughout Asia for more than two years have a blog (Contemporary Nomad) which recently posted some more examples of English from the 'field.' Some of the signs are amazingly similar to others posted in European hotels, warning guests not to use accommodations for indecent or inappropriate behavior. One wonders if the abusers can understand the funny English. It's a good thing they have some pictures too.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Song Playlist Gadget for Blogs

I'm a big fan of using songs in the classroom to teach pronunciation, rhythm, and vocabulary, so I was very excited to discover this gadget to attach to my blog. It comes from and allows the user to put a music player into his/her blog, website, facebook, or just about anywhere else on the internet - and it's free!

I put one of my favorites on the list, Kenny Rogers' 'The Gambler', which I've actually got a lesson plan for on this site. Unfortunately, I couldn't find another popular one for lower level students, called 'Sing' by Karen Carpenter. Nevertheless, check out all the songs and this gadget/widget. You may find that you like it well enough to put it on your own blog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Previewing Books Online

People can use the internet to access just about everything. However, when it comes to books, I like to see what I'm getting and read parts of it before I buy. Sometimes, however, I don't have the time to drive out to my local Barnes and Noble to browse.

Recently, I found that the Hachette Book Group lets you preview many books online. The selection is limited, but if you're an educator or a student in a browsing mood, this site is an option for you. When you find a book that is 'open' to this feature, you just click on it. Then go to the top of the page and scroll down to the Table of Contents or one of the chapters that is 'open' to this feature. Click on the chapter and begin reading. It's as simple as that.

There are also podcast excerpts available that could make great short listening exercises for my ESL classes. If only I had more time to browse....

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Teaching Parts of Speech

When I teach grammar in my ESL classes (at any level), I like to make sure that my students know the eight parts of speech (recognize the terms, that is) and how they function. What are they? Nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, conjunctions/connectors, adjectives, prepositions, and interjections.

For Cambridge students preparing for any exam, it's essential that they have a consciousness of the parts of speech to make a sound choice of word to fit into gaps and clozes for the Use of English, Paper 3.

Native speakers of English also benefit from familiarity with the parts of speech. This cartoon series (which has been around for a long time, actually), The Schoolhouse Rock/Grammar Rock , is a fun way to learn and review these forms. Adverbs and adjectives color our speech and writing, and English would be pretty dull without them.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Funny English, Part 5?

A while ago I went through a period of searching for funny or strange English online and in my surroundings. Recently I browsed the internet and came up with an amusing list of tourist signs from a site I hadn't visited before. There are some repeats (at the end of the list) of previously posted collections. Nevertheless, this page on 'StrangeCosmos' provides a comprehensive, amusing view of creative English.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Southern California Slang Dictionary

On a quest for a recently published slang dictionary, I located multiple references to UCLA's Slang Dictionary 6 which came out in August 2009. If you want a copy, you can apparently still order one at this address. Before you make your purchase, however, you might want to check out one or two reviews of this particular version. Whether or not these expressions are used nationally or internationally may affect your decision to buy a copy of the dictionary (there is an older version that is downloadable from the above address), but this slang will definitely give you some insight into Southern California young adult culture.

What English Is

This morning I uncovered a wonderful short rap on YouTube called The 21st Century Flux. It captures my views on English quite well. English is this dynamic language that's everywhere right now and has taken on (and continues to adopt) words from every other language in the world. We adopt these words and say them our own way. Vocabulary that people around the world are using that become part of the internet or media lexicon become part of the language. Even the grammar is changing!

Students: If you're preparing for the Cambridge Advanced level exam, you might try listening to the rap before reading the lines on the screen. See if you recognize any of the expressions; then look at the screen the second time around. Since the speaker is not rapping in American English, it was even a challenge for me to understand. That's part of the beauty of English, however. There are so many accents and so many ways to say the same thing.