sábado, 29 de dezembro de 2012

Encouraging talk, encouraging learning

By Carol Goodey

I was asked recently to give an ESOL workshop to volunteer literacies tutors. While all are experienced and well trained to use a social practices learner-centred approach with a range of literacies learners, the majority would not have had ESOL specific training. Also, many would be working one-to-one with a learner, either on their own or in a group setting. I thought for a long time about what would be most useful for them and what we could look at in the one hour we would have. After a few false starts in my planning, this is what I went for in the end (without the interactive bits).

The ESOL learner, like the literacies learner, is at the centre of the process. It’s what they want and need to be able to do in their contexts that should be the focus, helping them to become confident language users, successful language learners, responsible multilingual citizens, and effective communicators (and contributors!) The starting point should be the learner – not the grammar, the vocabulary or the skills.

The wealth of material around English language teaching can be confusing and overwhelming to those new to it. The focus on grammar and skills that comes across in many publications and in initial training courses can lead new practitioners to wonder how we can apply a social practices approach to working with ESOL learners. The approach outlined in Teaching Unplugged offers what seems to be an ideal solution. As the authors, Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury, remind us:

“Learners are your primary resource. They have stories to tell, ideas to explain and feelings to describe.” (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009: 24)

They go on to say that:

“Allowing learners to express themselves, encouraging them to do this to the best of their ability, and showing them how they can do this more effectively, is the essential work of the unplugged teacher.” (Meddings & Thornbury, 2009: 24)

This is also the essential work of a literacies worker. The main differences would be that there is usually less shared language and often more focus on improving speaking with ESOL learners. So, building on the previous two quotes, we had one more from an NRDC Effective Practice Study which suggested that:

“One of the main tasks is to encourage classroom talk, transforming talk into learning and learning into talk.” (Baynham, Roberts, et al, 2007: 54)

As this study also highlighted, ‘talk is work’ in ESOL. But before we can take advantage of the learning opportunities offered by talk, we need to encourage the learners to talk. Some learners are very keen to express themselves and have lots to say. Others though, particularly new learners who are getting to know us, are nervous, hesitant, not sure if they should talk, if they can talk, and will need encouragement. So how do we do this?

Create the right atmosphere. We all do this already. Put the learner at ease, smile, laugh. Show interest and respect. Establish good rapport and treat them as equals and as fellow speakers of English (and other languages). This is what I was getting at in the post Language use for learning.

Allow space for the learner to make contributions. Build longer pauses into your own talk. It’s not comfortable to do this. We don’t easily tolerate pauses in a conversation but it’s worth getting used to. Learners need time to process what’s been said and what they want to say. Leaving space before we start an activity or topic will provide an opportunity for learners to bring up their own topic and this will usually be more relevant and memorable for them – you can always save what you’d planned for the following session. Not rushing to speak when a learner hesitates will allow them to continue their turn, to have the time to find the words and phrases themselves, and to allow them to initiate a topic change. A study by Scott Thornbury and trainee teachers showed that the time a teacher waits after asking a question was usually very short but that “even slight increase in wait time result in an increase in the quantity and quality of learner contributions and an increase in the number of learner questions.” (Walsh, 2011: 39-40) (I’ll let Rachael Roberts tell you more about the wonder of wait time.)

Use prompts. Bring something along that you think will interest the learner. This could be anything – questions, texts, activities. It could be photos (ELTpics perhaps? ), visuals, or visualisation tools like those featured in the Reflect ESOL approach. When getting to know learners, I’ve found that things like maps & visualisation tools often work well. The focus is off the language and the conversation and on something that can be understood without much language, but a lot of information can be shared. It is, of course, important to be sensitive to difficult areas in a learner’s life that they may want to avoid talking about. You can also encourage learners to bring things along and to ask questions. It’s important for learners to get a lot of practice asking questions so that they’re not always the ones in the less powerful position of answering and responding – whether in the learning situation or the wider community.

By encouraging learner talk, by conversationalising all work, and being open to ‘off topic’ contributions, we find out more about them – both their interests and what they can do in the language – even about complete beginners, communicating through mime, drawings and dictionaries. This continues to give us information we can use to plan future sessions and gives us a place to start building on their language. So, how do we help learners develop their language? Selecting and adapting ideas from Teaching Unplugged… again, the following are some of the ways that practitioners could work with the language.

Before focusing on the language, react first to what is being said, to what the learner wants to communicate.

Recast the learners utterances by reformulating what they say to make it more like what we would usually hear. A lot of people, whether language teachers or not, will have a tendency to do this anyway. Parents and teachers do it with children as they are learning the language and university lecturers do it with new students becoming part of a new discourse community.

As we reformulate or help with vocabulary, we should make sure that we record the new language so that we can focus on it and come back to it. One of my favourite ways of recording the language that comes up in a session with small groups is on little pieces of paper (you can move them around, notice patterns, add to them). As you help learners with words and phrases they need to express themselves, write them down and keep listening. At an appropriate point – you may not have to wait until the end of their story (as long as you come back to it) – focus on some of the language more closely.

That appropriate point might need to be the following session after you’ve had a chance to research the language. You can refer to other sources – grammar books, coursebooks and online reference sites - between sessions and you can also refer your learner to them.

But your own knowledge of the language – through using it (& increasingly reflecting on it) yourself - is also going to be useful for your learners. You know what sounds right. You’ll know if a word is missing or if something doesn’t sound right and how it would sound better. [In the workshop, we looked more closely at some language that had come up in one of my recent ESOL groups, prompting the participants to notice similarities and differences, patterns, pronunciation and collocation, and how a focus on the language could then bring us back to conversation.]

So you react to the message, you reformulate and help as needed (but not jumping in too quickly), you record and focus on the language. Repetition is a useful strategy. Learners can repeat a word or a phrase to make sure they have the pronunciation right, or to practice producing a longer sentence after you.

Repeating an activity can be a really valuable exercise. Studies have shown that simply repeating a task improved learners’ accuracy and fluency. I’ll let Rachael tell you more about this too, because this post is getting too long – Task repetition: helping students to improve accuracy, repertoire and fluency.

It’s then important to review and recycle the language. The language can be reviewed at the end of the session. Learners can be asked to recall the language by being reminded of the context it came up in, or by giving a definition or a synonym that they’ll recognise. Learners can select some of the language they think they’ll be able to use after the session, think of how they’ll be able to use it, in which contexts, rehearse and then use it and report back. Language can be reviewed and recycled in future sessions, in a range of planned activities or further conversation. As you become increasingly aware of the learners’ needs and interests, it’ll be easier to select other activities from the many sources around – in course books or resource books, on blogs or websites, or from colleagues.

That’s an as-brief-as-I-can-make-it overview of what we did. There is so much more I would have liked to talk about but we only had an hour. There were good discussions and I’m hoping it was useful for and useable by the participants. I’ve heard that the feedback on the day was positive.

If you’ve made it this far… well done and thank you! I wasn’t sure I was going to manage to the end myself
So, as a wee reward, here’s some suggested further reading.

A Multilingual Lesson by Sam Shepherd’s blog. This is a lovely example of creating the right conditions for genuine communication and consequently language learning.

Baynham, M., Roberts, C., Cooke, M. and Simpson, J. (2007) Effective Teaching and Learning: ESOL. London: NRDC. (Also available online.)

Meddings, L. and Thornbury, S. (2009). Teaching Unplugged: Dogme in English Language Teaching. Peaslake: Delta Publishing.

Walsh, S. (2011). Exploring Classroom Discourse: Language in Action. Abingdon: Routledge.

Source: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/communitylearninganddevelopment/adultlearning/ESOL/framework/about/aims.asp

Recasting in Language Learning by the Teacher

If you’re a language teacher, you’re probably quite familiar with the concept of recasting, even if you don’t know the name. And if you’re a language learner, being aware of recasting can help you learn faster. So what is recasting?
Fukuya and Zhang define a recast as “implicit corrective feedback.” Another definition of “recast” given by Han Ye in a presentation at the ACTFL 2008 conference was “a native speaker’s corrective reformulation of a student’s utterance.”

It’s not very complicated in practice. Here’s a simple example:

Student: I want read.
Teacher: Oh, you want to read?

In the above example, the English teacher communicates with the student (using a question to confirm what the student had said), while at the same time making a correction (adding “to”). The teacher may or may not choose to emphasize the correction.

Here’s a slightly more subtle example:
Student: I want read.
Teacher: What do you want to read?

In this example, while you could identify a correction in the teacher’s question, the focus is more on communication and less on correcting the mistake.

Recasts don’t have to be questions, and they can be focused on pronunciation, on grammar, on vocabulary… but they always carry with them some degree of ambiguity, because recasts are not overt corrections, and some degree of repetition is a natural part of normal speech. Will the student pick up on the correction, or will the conversation just keep moving along? (Does it even matter what the student consciously notices his mistakes?)

I believe that much of my own success in acquiring Chinese has been due to (1) getting lots of practice with native speakers, and (2) being receptive to recasts.

Here’s a typical example of an exchange that might occur (in Chinese), with a string of letters representing the focal language point:
Learner: Abcde.
Native speaker: What?
Learner: Abcde.
Native speaker: Ohhh… AbcDe!
Learner: Yes, Abcde.

The native speaker’s second utterance above was a recast, but as we see in the last line of the exchange, the learner didn’t get it. Yes, the recast was almost imperceptibly different from what the learner said originally, but recasts tend to be that way (from the learner’s perspective)… especially when they involve tones. As a learner, when you become more sensitive to recasts, you’ll hear them all the time.

Think about it… some people will pay big bucks to a teacher in order to obtain explicit corrective feedback. In actuality, though, if that person is in a second language environment, he is probably getting corrective feedback all the time in the form of recasts and not even knowing it. Recasts are great because they don’t impede the flow of information and they’re usually not an embarrassing form of correction. They’re also great because you don’t get them if you don’t get out there and talk to native speakers. They’re a positive side effect of speaking practice. As a learner, recasts are your friend.
At ACTFL 2008, Han Ye of the University of Florida presented the findings of an experiment on tonal recasting. The experiment sought to compare the effect of recasts on Chinese heritage learners with the effect of recasts on non-heritage learners. The recasts were all for tone-related errors.

Interestingly, the study found that the uptake rate for non-heritage learners was 51%, but only 28% for heritage learners.
I found this interesting for a number of reasons. The Chinese heritage learners were likely much more confident in their ability to communicate, and probably less self-conscious about their Chinese. The non-heritage learners are more receptive to feedback, but do they communicate as well?

It is likely that the role of recasts is most important in the early stages of learning a language. Our own parents used recasting on us plenty when we were children still learning our mother tongues, but eventually, either they stop doing it or we stop paying attention.

There are a lot of factors at play here, not the least of which are individual learning styles and learner personality. Recasting research continues.

I’m just one of those people that likes to pay attention to recasts.

Source: http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2008/12/29/recasting-in-language-learning

sexta-feira, 28 de dezembro de 2012

Happy 90th Birthday, Stan Lee!

The man, the myth, the legend! Stan Lee turns 90 today. Join us in wishing a very happy birthday to a man who was the major creative force behind some of the world's most endearing and timeless literary characters of all-time.
Read more at http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/GraphicCity/news/?a=71834#M4ML0cdKzPZCIKBG.99 

oday is the birthday of comic genius and wily television personality, StanleyLieber, better known as Stan Lee. The Marvel writer and editor behind works such as "The Amazing Spiderman" and "The Incredible Hulk" is turning 90 years old this Friday, December 28.
A young Stanley Lieber began his comic career at Timely Comics in 1939 in New York. His initial duties included proofreading, erasing pencil marks and filling inkwells, but two years after this drudgery he enjoyed his first text-filler job in a 1941 issue of "Captain American Comics," writing under the pseudonym Stan Lee.
His first real career break arrived at 19 years old, when Timely editor Joe Simon and his creative partner Jack Kirby left the company. Lee was subsequently given the post of interim editor, but it was his talent for writing and imagining epic heroes that earned him the permanent position of editor-in-chief, a seat he would occupy until 1972...

Read more in: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/stan-lees-birthday-the-comic-genius-turns-90_n_2371345.html

quarta-feira, 26 de dezembro de 2012

Hence or Thus?

Hence and thus are by common usage interchangeable, however according to the rules of grammar they are different. Hence should indicate future use - such as "Hence we will proceed as described." Thus should indicate the past in its usage, or to indicate a conclusion, such as, "The British and American troops fought to a standstill, thus no winner was declared."

Common usage is no excuse for incorrect usage. I often interchange hence and thus when using them without thought. Tonight I heard a man say the following, "We ate like animals, we slept like animals, hence we were animals." This was incorrect, "... thus we were animals," would have been correct as cited above.

Clearly the word in question was used to indicate a conclusion, not to describe future conditions. If the speaker had said, "We will live like animals, we will sleep like animals, hence we will be animals," the use of hence would have been correct. However, he did not, thus his use was incorrect.

Source: http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/ask-teacher/17458-when-use-word-thus-hence.html

terça-feira, 18 de dezembro de 2012

How to Use EVER and the difference between EVER and ALWAYS

ever = at any time
Ever usually means at any time and can be used to refer to past, present and future situations. The converse, meaning at no time, is neverEver is mainly used inquestions. Sometimes it is used innegative sentences (not ever) as an alternative to never. Compare the following:
Were you ever in the Boy Scouts? ~ No, I never was.
Have you ever been to the Everglades in Florida? ~ Yes, I was there once, but it was years ago.
Will you ever speak to her again? ~ No, I don't think I ever will.
If you ever need any help, just give me a ring.
ever : for emphasis
We sometimes use ever to give emotive emphasis to what we are saying as an indication that we feel very strongly about it. Thus, in speech, ever receives strong word stress:
If I ever catch you fiddling your expenses claims again, you'll be sacked.
Don't ever do that again!
How ever did you manage to drive home through so much snow?
When ever will I find time to get to the bottom of my in-tray?
Why ever did he marry such a domineering woman?
We sometimes use ever in compound expressions with hardly or if:
hardly ever = very rarely / seldom
It seldom / hardly ever / very rarely rains in Puglia in the summer.
seldom, if ever = almost never
Now that we have young children, we seldom, if ever, go out in the evening.
ever = always?
We do not often use ever to mean always, i.e. on every occasion or all the time. We have to say, e.g.:
I always bike to work now. It's so much healthier. (Not: I ever bike to work now. It's so much healthier.)
Compare the difference in meaning between these two example sentences. In the first sentence, they often agree, but not on every occasion. In the second sentence, they never agree:
My mother and I don't always agree about the best way to rear children.
My mother and I don't ever agree about the best way to rear children.
ever = always
But occasionally, ever is used to meanalways. We sometimes end letters withYours ever or Ever yours as an alternative to Yours sincerely. Here Ever yoursmeans Always yours.
And in these contexts too, in which we are indicating that a person has particular qualities, ever is used to mean always:
Let me open the door for you. ~ Ever the gentleman!
I always wear loose-fitting clothes like this ~ Ever the hippie!
In a number of compound expressions, everis used to mean always. These include as everfor ever and ever since:
as ever
As ever, they couldn't agree. They've never ever agreed on anything.
As ever, he was dressed in the style of Eminem.
I thought she might be upset by this, but she was as unperturbed as ever.
for ever or forever
We plan to live in this village now for ever. We shall never move out.
I intend to remain married to you forever. I shall always love you.
ever since
She's had a drink problem ever since her husband died.
I first met him when I was in the army and we've remained friends ever since.
Note that with the ever since construction the 'always' period commences when something happens. In the above examples, this is husband's death or army service meeting.
Finally when ever is combined with acomparative adjective, it is used to meanalways:
The water was rising ever higher and we were in danger of being cut off.
The volume of work is going to increase and I shall become ever more busy.
always = very often
As well as all the time or on every occasionalways can also mean very often when it is used with the progressive form:
She always going on about the cost of living and how expensive everything is.
I'm always losing my keys. I put them down and can never remember where I've put them.
Note the difference in meaning between these two examples of use:
I'll always lend you money when you have none. You know you can depend on me. (Always = on every occasion)
I'm always lending you money when you have none. Why don't you try to budget more carefully? (Always = very often)

segunda-feira, 17 de dezembro de 2012

The use of EVEN

The following is a mini-tutorial on the various uses of the word "even." 


When a strong statement is made, the statement is often followed with an example containing "even." The word "even" adds shock, surprise, or excitement to the example.
  • He loses everything. He even lost his own wedding ring!
  • John has amnesia, and he can't remember anything about the past. He can't even remember his own name!
  • He could become anything. He could even become President of the United States!
  • I love that author, and I have all of his books - even the ones which are out of print.

Even Though / Even When / Even If


"Even" can be combined with the words "though," "when" and "if." It emphasizes that a result is unexpected. Study the following examples and explanations to learn how these expressions differ.
  • Even though Bob studied very hard, he still failed his French tests.
    Bob always studied hard. But, unfortunately, he failed the tests.
  • Even when Bob studied very hard, he still failed his French tests.
    Bob occassionally studied hard, but it didn't really make a difference. Every time he studied, he still failed.
  • Even if Bob studied very hard, he still failed his French tests.
    Bob didn't normally study very hard. But in the rare situation when he did try to study hard, he still failed the test.
  • Jerry is never happy. Even though you do everything his way, he is still dissatisfied.
    You do everything his way, but he is still dissatisfied.
  • Jerry is never happy. Even when you do everything his way, he is still dissatisfied.
    You sometimes try doing things his way, but he is still dissatisfied.
  • Jerry is never happy. Even if you do everything his way, he is still dissatisfied.
    You have tried doing things his way once or twice , but it makes no difference because he is still dissatisfied.


These expressions are not always interchangeable; the context of the sentence will affect your choice:
  • "Even though" is used when something is always done or a fact is mentioned.
  • "Even when" is used when something is occasionally done.
  • "Even if" is used when something is rarely done or just imagined.
  • Even though the interview went terribly yesterday, Cheryl got the job. Correct
    The interview went terribly, but she got the job.
  • Even when the interview went terribly yesterday, Cheryl got the job. Not Correct
    This sentence is incorrect because the interview did not go terribly more than one time. There was only one interview so "when" is not the right word for this sentence.
  • Even if the interview went terribly yesterday, Cheryl got the job. Correct
    You have not talked to Cheryl since her interview. You imagine that the interview went terribly, but you think she probably got the job anyway.
  • Even though he wins the lottery jackpot, he won't have enough money to pay off his debt. Not Correct
    This sentence would suggest that he always wins the lottery.
  • Even when he wins the lottery jackpot, he won't have enough money to pay off his debt. Not Correct
    This sentence would suggest that he sometimes wins the lottery jackpot.
  • Even if he wins the lottery jackpot, he won't have enough money to pay off his debt. Correct
    There is a chance in a million that he might win the lottery jackpot, but it wouldn't make any difference because he still wouldn't have enough money to pay off his debt.


The meaning and context of the sentence is very important when deciding whether to use "even though," "even when" or "even if."

Even So


"Even so" is very much like the word "but" or "however." "Even so" is different in that it is used with surprising or unexpected results.
  • She is loud and unfriendly. Even so, I like her.
    She is loud and unfriendly, so it is unexpected that I like her.
  • The bed is extremely large and heavy. Even so, Jim managed to carry it into the house by himself.
    It is unexpected that Jim could carry the bed by himself.
  • Jane was sick for a couple days in Los Angeles. Even so, she said her trip to the United States was great.
    If she was sick, it is unexpected that she enjoyed her trip.

Source: http://www.englishpage.com/minitutorials/even.html

sexta-feira, 14 de dezembro de 2012

The Difference Between EVEN and EVER

A)Have you ever been to Brazil?(Você já esteve no Brazil?)
B)Did you ever see that?(Você já viu isto?)
C)The greatest player I´ve ever seen.(O melhor jogador que já vi.)
D)The best ever.(O melhor de todos os tempos.)

A)I don´t even know.(Eu nem mesmo sei.)
B)"Not even God can sink this ship."("Nem mesmo Deus afunda este navio.")...Titanic
C)Even I like her.(Até mesmo eu gosto dela.)
D)Even a kid can do that.(Até mesmo uma criança consegue fazer isso.)

Source: http://www.englishexperts.com.br/forum/ever-x-even-qual-a-diferenca-t3031.html

quinta-feira, 13 de dezembro de 2012

How to Be Tactful at Work

by Tina Boyle, Demand Media

Improving your people skills helps you rise to the top in business and in life.

Strengthening your people skills in the workplace not only can build rapport between coworkers, it can advance your career. According to National Seminars Training, individuals with outstanding interpersonal skills rise to the top in their careers. Some people are born with it; others need to work at improving their skills. Learning to use tact in the workplace means fostering better communication between you and your colleagues, as well as your superiors, to push ahead in your career.

Step 1
Handle conflict with confidence. Ensure your body language and words are in sync. Rockhurst University reports that you convey a message more tactfully when your body language is “in sync” with your words. When they are not in sync, people will rely on body language. Positive body language includes sitting up straight and making good eye contact. Poor body language includes folding your arms across your chest and staring at the other person or not making eye contact at all. In times of disagreement, use a warm and sincere tone. Avoid sounding “flat, dull or disinterested,” Rockhurt University advises. Maintain "open" body language: place your hands by your sides throughout the exchange.

Step 2
Listen actively. Tact begins with good listening. While using positive eye contact, remain calm and allow your co-worker to say everything he needs to say; don’t interrupt. After he’s aired his concerns or grievance, tactfully paraphrase what he said. Be succinct without rushing or expressing impatience. Tact in the workplace follows the 90/10 rule, according to Rockhurst: listen 90 percent of the time, talk 10 percent of the rest.

Step 3
Employ the “pause button” when emotions run high during a conflict or personality clash. Managing your emotions with tact eventually earns the respect of coworkers and bosses, and goes a long way for your reputation. Instead of using anger to emphasize a point, employ positive assertiveness. Avoid sarcasm. Allow the person you disagree with to talk first. If you still disagree, use “I statements” to express your viewpoint. Start with “I see it differently,” rather than “You’re not understanding the situation or you're missing the point.” Present your viewpoint and maintain your composure. Step away from the situation if emotions are overwhelming and come back to it once you've gained some perspective.

Step 4
Find common ground. Tact demonstrates maturity and confidence. If you and someone you work with never seems to see eye to eye, find common ground and build more positive experiences around that. It’s rare that two people don’t have at least one thing in common either in their personalities or work ethic. For example, if you tend to talk fast and use an extensive vocabulary, but the other person speaks slowly with less verbal precision, modify your style of communication to meets the other person’s needs, Rockhurst University advises.

Source http://smallbusiness.chron.com/tactful-work-21991.html

segunda-feira, 10 de dezembro de 2012

If + Present simple + Will to talk about real possibilities.

We can use other conditional tools instead of "if" like unless (if not), as soon as and when.

- If he comes today, I will tell him.

- Unless it rains, I will visit you.

- I will do it as soon as I get home.

- When I have some sleep I will help you with the boxes.

We can also use other modal verbs instead of "will" like won't (will not), can, should and must.

- If it snows, people won't go out.

- If she stays here, she should show some respect.

- If you go to France, you must have your passport.

sexta-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2012

A New Way of Teaching

English tenses taught in the other schools:

1.simple present
2.present continous
3.present perfect
4.present perfect continous
5.simple past
6.past continous
7.past perfect
8.past perfect continous
9.simple future
10,future continous
11.future perfect
12.future perfect continous
13.past future
14.past future continous
15.past future perfect
16.past future perfect continous

English taught at the Frank Experience

Your tense

quinta-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2012

Awful & awesome

As it was a lazy summer Friday afternoon with my roommate out of town, I had to find something only vaguely work-ish to work on, so I decided to look into the etymology of awful.  (Who says grad students don’t know how to have fun?)

A little background on this: back in high school, my best friend and I attempted to work a backhanded compliment out of awful by saying that certain things made us “full of awe” — things like *NSYNC, reality TV, and so on; things that most decidedly did not fill us with awe, unless “awe” is taken to mean “vomit”.  Of course, it was a failed venture, because statements like “Your artwork is full of awe” made no sense yet were pretty transparently insulting.  What I’m trying to say is that using “full of awe” did not reduce the number of beatings we received for our snide commentary.

But this little language game danced around a bigger question: why is something bad described as awful, while something good is described as awesome?  Why is some awe good, but a lot of it bad?  The answer, I assumed, lay in the history of the English language, and so, given an afternoon to myself, I engaged in my standard pastime of reading the Oxford English Dictionary.

So here’s the story.  As it turns out, awe originally meant fear or dread.  That’s an archaic usage now; as the OED puts it, “From its use in reference to the Divine Being [awe] passes gradually into: Dread mingled with veneration, reverential or respectful fear”.  This in turn changes into “solemn and reverential wonder, tinged with latent fear,” which most closely approximates my personal take on the modern meaning of awe.

Since the meaning of awe was changing, the meaning of word derived from awe depended a lot on when they were derived.  Aw(e)ful entered the language fairly early on, while awe still was predominantly a type of fear, whereas awesome came along later (around the turn of the 17th century), after the dread had mostly filtered out of awe.  That said, each of these adjectives has been used where those of a modern inclination would use the other, which leads to some rather surprising sentences:

(1) His truth, His awful holiness. [1870]
(2) Together did the awesome sisters cry. [1880]

Unfortunately for my purposes, awful means “respectable” far more often than awesome means “dreadful”, so I can’t very well go around calling things “awesome” strictly to demean them.  But one could go along calling awesome things “awful”, without distorting modern usage too much.

Anyway, this is etymology, which I generally consider outside the purview of grammar, and which I generally shy away from posting about because bradshaw of the future already does it so unfairly well.  But when such a neat story like this one falls in your lap, you can’t keep it to yourself.  Such is the beauty of language and language change.

quarta-feira, 5 de dezembro de 2012

The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey

A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market.
As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them
and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"

So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their
way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See
that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."

So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself.
But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom
said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little
son trudge along."

Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his
Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to
the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The
Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey
with you and your hulking son?"

The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They
thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied
the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to
their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met
them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one
of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end
of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and
his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.

"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:


terça-feira, 4 de dezembro de 2012

How to Win a Debate, Presidential or Otherwise

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary.

President Obama and former governor Mitt Romney have teams of advisors and aides to help them prepare for their three debates. But what about the rest of us who would like some help winning an argument -- at work, at school or at home?

For advice, we asked two experts at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Allan Louden chairs the 
Department of Communication. Assistant professor Jarrod Atchison is the director ofdebate. His first piece of advice is to know your audience.

JARROD ATCHISON: "Before you know if you've won or lost, you have to know who the audience is or who the judge is. And so in everyday argumentation some people think that logic alone will prevail when sometimes that's not the most persuasive form of argument in a given situation. So you have to know your audience and what they consider to be relevant information for the debate at hand."

Second, find a "universal principle" that everyone in the room -- from the audience members to your opponent -- can agree to. Mr. Atchison says if you argue from that principle, "then you don't have to fight the fight about the basics of the evidence."

Third, he says the best debaters are the best listeners. They listen to what their opponent is saying, instead of just repeating their own position.

And fourth, he says, be "very careful in deploying history in argumentation." Some people think that having one strong historical example to support their side will win the argument. But their opponents may have other historical examples to support their side.

JARROD ATCHISON: "And a very good debater will always use that to their advantage by saying, 'Well, you may have identified one example that supports your direction. But here's a larger, more important example that supports my side.'"

Next, some advice about terms to avoid.

JARROD ATCHISON: "Where people tend to get in trouble is they try to use phrases like 'always' and 'never,' and we find these in our relational arguments as well, that nothing draws the ire of an audience than an overstated claim. Because then all the other person has to do is to make a little bit more nuanced argument about where under certain conditions a particular argument or Plan A makes sense versus Plan B. So one of the major mistakes people make is they try to think that they're arguing in absolutes to sound more persuasive, when in actuality it comes across as too ideological and not nuanced enough."

Professor Alllan Louden says debaters should be careful not to underestimate their audience's ability to follow the arguments.

ALLAN LOUDEN: "They're kind of assuming the first-time audience that doesn't know much, and they tend to pander, when in fact if you were to step it up a notch and actually say what your position was and defend it with support, etcetera, that would be well-received."

In the end, he says, people have to make up their mind for themselves.

ALLAN LOUDEN: "Ultimately, everybody persuades themselves, and the best message is that which solicits the person to whatever part of their cognitive makeup says that this is a good idea. Typically people see things from a point of view, so you pick a language which is in their language and you argue from a perspective which says 'This is to your advantage because,' things that they kind of agree with. People ultimately persuade themselves."

So what should you do if you feel like you are losing an argument? Jarrod Atchison says the first thing to do is to be willing to recognize what parts of your opponent's arguments are persuasive.

JARROD ATCHISON: "The best debaters in the country, from an academic perspective and in our daily lives, are the people that can acknowledge what parts of their opponent's arguments are correct, make sense, are persuasive -- 'however,' and then provide a warrant after the however that explains why their position is still more persuasive in the end."

Professor Atchison says everyone can improve their argumentation skills. There are lots of books that people can read.

JARROD ATCHISON: "But in my experience the best resource is evaluating your own arguments in action. And that can be something as self-reflective as sitting back and asking yourself, 'How did that conversation go? Was it where I wanted it to end up? Were there moments when I found myself acting reactionary rather than conceding that my opponent may have had something to say there?'

Another thing that can help, he says, is to use a method of debate training known as switch-side debating.

JARROD ATCHISON: "And that's where you basically stake a position and then argue from the opposite side. And if the better you are at being able to articulate the argument against your position, it will teach you both the skills of empathy, to learn that the other side might not be just as crazy as you think, but also to critique your own arguments by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent's position."

That was Jarrod Atchison, director of debate at Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Oh, and one more thing. He tells us that his wife is one of the top debaters in the country. So we wondered what the conversations are like around the dinner table.

JARROD ATCHISON: "Well, the best debaters know what arguments are worthy to argue about, and so we find that oftentimes we don't have as many arguments as our peers because we know what the nuclear option looks like."

Tell us about your own experience with debate and everyday argumentation. Share your comments and advice at the VOA Learning English page on Facebook. I'm Avi Arditti.


Contributing: Kate Woodsome

segunda-feira, 3 de dezembro de 2012

English as she was spoke

The future of English

The days of English as the world’s second language may (slowly) be ending
ENGLISH is the most successful language in the history of the world. It is spoken on every continent, is learnt as a second language by schoolchildren and is the vehicle of science, global business and popular culture. Many think it will spread without end. But Nicholas Ostler, a scholar of the rise and fall of languages, makes a surprising prediction in his latest book: the days of English as the world's lingua-franca may be numbered.

Conquest, trade and religion were the biggest forces behind the spread of earlier lingua-francas (the author uses a hyphen to distinguish the phrase from Lingua Franca, an Italian-based trade language used during the Renaissance). A linguist of astonishing voracity, Mr Ostler plunges happily into his tales from ancient history.

The Achaemenid emperors, vanquishers of the Babylonians in 539BC, spoke Persian as their native language, but pragmatically adopted Aramaic as the world's first “interlingua”. Official long-distance communications were written in Aramaic, sent across the empire and then translated from Aramaic upon arrival. Persian itself would serve as a lingua-franca not at the time of the empire's greatest heights but roughly from 1000AD to 1800. The Turkic conquerors of Central Asia, Anatolia and the Middle East, though they adopted Islam and worshipped in Arabic, often kept Persian as the language of the court and of literature. Persian was also the court language of Turkic-ruled Mughal India when the British East India Company arrived.

Some lingua-francas have ridden trade routes, but these are tongues of convenience that change quickly with circumstances. Phoenician spread from its home in modern Lebanon along the northern coast of Africa, where (pronounced in Latin as Punic) it became the language of the Carthaginian empire. But Rome's destruction of Carthage in 146BC reduced it to a dwindling local vernacular. Greek, by contrast, planted deeper roots, surviving not only Rome's rise but also its fall, to serve as the lingua-franca of the eastern Mediterranean for over 1,000 years.

What does all this, then, have to do with English? Often very little. It seems sometimes that Mr Ostler, fascinated by ancient uses of language, wanted to write a different sort of book but was persuaded by his publisher to play up the English angle. The core arguments about the future of English come in two chapters at the end of the book. But the predictions are striking.

English is expanding as a lingua-franca but not as a mother tongue. More than 1 billion people speak English worldwide but only about 330m of them as a first language, and this population is not spreading. The future of English is in the hands of countries outside the core Anglophone group. Will they always learn English?

Mr Ostler suggests that two new factors—modern nationalism and technology—will check the spread of English. The pragmatism of the Achaemenids and Mughals is striking because no confident modern nation would today make a foreign language official. Several of Britain's ex-colonies once did so but only because English was a neutral language among competing native tongues. English has been rejected in other ex-colonies, such as Sri Lanka and Tanzania, where Anglophone elites gave way to Sinhala- and Swahili-speaking nationalists. In 1990 the Netherlands considered but rejected on nationalist grounds making English the sole language of university education.

English will fade as a lingua-franca, Mr Ostler argues, but not because some other language will take its place. No pretender is pan-regional enough, and only Africa's linguistic situation may be sufficiently fluid to have its future choices influenced by outsiders. Rather, English will have no successor because none will be needed. Technology, Mr Ostler believes, will fill the need.

This argument relies on huge advances in computer translation and speech recognition. Mr Ostler acknowledges that so far such software is a disappointment even after 50 years of intense research, and an explosion in the power of computers. But half a century, though aeons in computer time, is an instant in the sweep of language history. Mr Ostler is surely right about the nationalist limits to the spread of English as a mother-tongue. If he is right about the technology too, future generations will come to see English as something like calligraphy or Latin: prestigious and traditional, but increasingly dispensable.

Source; http://www.economist.com/node/17730434