quinta-feira, 29 de agosto de 2013

Going Further: Describing Stuff in English

Sometimes you may be asked to describe something, what it looks like, and it’s function or purpose or what it isneeded for. For example, you may to talking to a person not up on the latest technological devises or telling someone about the newest time saving kitchen gadget.

When you are describing objects you use adjectives, (words that describe nouns) such as the size, color, shape, material made from, thickness, texture, etc. Look at the expressions below that can be used when asking for descriptions of things.

English Expressions Used to Describe Things

Expression: What does it look like?
Response: It’s big, with eight hairy arms.
Expression: How big is it?
Response: It’s 3 feet, by 4 feet, by 5 feet.
Expression: How much does it weigh?
Response: It weighs 75 pounds.
Expression: What color is it?
Response: It’s bright yellow, brighter than a banana.
Expression: What’s it made out of?
Response: It’s made of plastic and aluminum.
Expression: What is it?
Response: It’s a garlic press.
Expression: What does it do?
Response: It puts a sharp point on wooden pencils.
Expression: What the purpose of a refrigerator?
Response: The purpose of a refrigerator is to keep food cold so it does not spoil.
Expression: What do you use a (… cheese grater) for?
Response: A cheese grater is used to make small strips of cheese from a larger block.
Expression: How does a (… water heater) work?
Response: Water is collected in a large tank and heated by either gas or electricity.

Dialogue about Describing Things

Randall: Do you know what a grandfather clock is?
Horace: Yes, of course.
Randall: I assume it is a kind of clock, but what does it look like?
Horace: Well, they’re usually big, about an average person’s height, and maybe 20 to 24 inches wide.
Randall: And.
Horace: The clock face is at the top, usually a round face, and many have Roman Numerals.
Randall: Go on.
Horace: Below the face is a pendulum which hangs from a chain, or something similar, which swings back
and forth as the clock ticks.
Randall: I’m sorry, what’s a pendulum?
Horace: A weight hanging from a chain, cable, or string.
Randall: I see.
Horace: In all the grandfather clocks I have ever seen, the cabinets were made out of wood, usually stained
Randall: Why are they called grandfather clocks?
Horace: I don’t know. Maybe because they are an old style of clock that was common in our grandfathers’
Randall: The clock in your father’s office is a grandfather clock, isn’t it?
Horace: Yes, but he calls it his grandmother’s clock.
Randall: Why?
Horace: Because his grandmother gave it to him.

Source: http://yadayadaenglish.com/

quinta-feira, 22 de agosto de 2013

Words that English Has Borrowed from Other Languages

By Elisabeth Claire

A language borrows a word (and doesn’t give it back, but keeps it) when it doesn’t have a word
of its own for something new or a new idea.

When the Vikings (who spoke Old Norse) came and settled in England, many words arrived with  them:

Words from Old Norse:

Anger, bag, birth, bleak, both, cake, call, club, crooked, die, drag, egg, fellow, freckle, gaze, get,
hit, husband, kid, kindle, knife, law, leg, lift, loose, meek, oaf, raft, rag, raise, reindeer, root, rug,  same, scalp, scare, seem, skirt, sky, snare, take, they, Thursday, tight, troll, trust, ugly, want,  wand, window, wrong, wise.

Half of English vocabulary came from Norman French because of the conquest in 1066.
Some examples:

archer, assault, bacon, bail, beef butcher, button, chivalry, comfort, court, courtesy, curfew, crime,  custom, defeat, eagle, enemy, dungeon, elope, embezzle, evidence, eagle, error, fashion, gallon, felony,  grammar, grief, grocer, honor, injury, joy, judge, jury, justice, lavender, leisure, liberty, lease, lever,  majesty, manor, marriage, matrimony, mutton, noble, noun, nurse, occupy, odor, parliament, pedigree, perjury, pinch, platter, pleasure, pocket, pork, push, prison, quarter, question, quiet, rape, reason, recover, remedy, rent, repeal, reward, river, robe, royal, salary, salmon, search, sermon, sewer, sir, shop, slander, sail, spy, squirrel, suitor, surplus, surrender, survive, syllable, tax, toil, treason, uncle, usher, valley, veal, venison, vice, virgin, vulture.

Christian monks, and later scientists, brought in many Latin words
Words from Latin:

Abdomen, actor, agriculture, creditor, crisis,December, demonstrator, dictator, dilemma, diploma,distribute, doctor, dogma, drama, duplex, duplicate, echo, educator, ego, editor, elevator, emphasis, exterior, exit, enema, exterminate, extra, exterior, extreme,factor, favor,fetus,focus,formula,fungus, genius, gladiator, geranium, gusto, honor, horizon, horror, humor, icon, idea, ignoramus, illustrator, incubator, index, inertia, inferior, insomnia, instructor, inferior, inspector, investigate, janitor, labor, junior, legislate,  liberate,major,minor,maximum,medium,minimum,minister,minus,minor, moderator,monitor,motor,museum, narrator, nausea, navigator, neuter,masculine, feminine, object,opera, orator, peninsula, perpetrate persecute, person, petroleum, platinum, possess, prospect, quantum, quota,radius,ratio,recipe,saliva,senator,senior, junior,simile,sinister,sinus,stadium,status,stimulus,superior,tenor,terror,thesis,translate,trio,tuba,tumor,tutor, vacuum, vapor,verbatim, vertigo, veto, vice, versa, vigor, vim, virus.
Greek wasmost usefulto provide wordsforideas,medicine, drama, and government.

Words from Greek

Atlas, Bible, barbaric, biography, biology, captain, cardiac, catalyst, catastrophy, category, catholic, cell, cemetery, center, chaos, character, charisma, choir, chronic, classic, climate, code, coa comedy, comma,cost, crisis, criticism, cube, cycle, cylinder, democracy, demon, dialog, diagnosis, diagonal, diagram,diameter, cereal, cloth, echo, hypnosis, narcissus, panic, academic, acrobat, agony, air, allergy, alphabet,amnesia, amphibian, anatomy, apology, architecture, aristocrat, arithmetic, aroma, atheism, athlete,atmosphere, autobiography, dilemma, diploma, dogma, drama, dynamic, eccentric, echo, economic,ecstasy, elastic, electricity, energy, epidemic, epitaph, ether, eulogy, exodus, fable, genealogy,generosity, geography, gigantic, government, grammar, graph, gymnastics, harmony, helium, hero,
hexagon, history, holocaust, homonym, horizon, hygiene, hypocrite, idea, irony, lesbian, mania, mathematics, mechanics, megaphone, melody, metaphor, meteorology, method, microbe, microscope, monogamy,monopoly,music,mystery, narcotic, neurotic, nostalgia, nymph, ocean, octagon, odyssey,octopus, orgy, orchestra, organ, organization, orphan, palm, panacea, pandemic, panic, paradise,paragraph, parallel, paralysis, parasite, patriot, pentagon, period, pharmacy, philanthropy, phlegm,phobia, photo, photosynthesis, phrase, physics, planet, pneumonia, political, practice, problemprogram,prophet, psalm, pseudonym, psychiatry, psychology,rhapsody, rhyme,sarcastic,scene,schism, schizophrenia,school,serial,sperm,sphere,star,statistic,stigma,stomach,strategy,syllable,symbol,sympathetic,synonym,system,talent,technical,telegram,telephone,theater,toxic,tropical,tyranny

Words from Spanish:
adios, albino, alfalfa, alligator, avocado, banana, barracuda, barbecue, bronco, burro, cafeteria, canary, cannibal, canyon, chihuahua, chili, chocolate, cigar, cocaine, cockroach, comrade, embargo, fiesta, filibuster, guacamole, guerrilla, hammock, hacienda, hurricane, iguana, jaguar, lasso, llama, machete, macho, maize, margarita, matador, marijuana, mesa, mosquito, negro, oregano, papaya, patio, pimento, pinata, pina colada, plaza, poncho, potato, pueblo, puma, ranch, rodeo, rumba, salsa, savanna, savvy, shack, siesta, sombrero, spaniel, stampede, stevedore, tobacco, taco, tango, tequila, tomato, toreador, tornado, tortilla, tuna, vamoose, vanilla, vigilante, yucca.

Words from Arabic:
Admiral, adobe, albatross, alcohol, alkaline, almanac, alfalfa, amber, arsenal, assassin, azure, borax, caliber, candy, chemistry, cipher, coffee, cotton, crimson, divan, gauze, gazelle, gerbil, ghoul, giraffe, harem, hashish, hazard, henna, jar, lilac, lemon, lime, loofah, macramé, mafia, magazine, mattress, mocha, monsoon, mummy, muslin, nadir, orange, racket, safari, safflower, sash, sherbet, soda, sofa, sugar, tahini, talc, tariff, zero.

Words from American Indian languages:
Chipmunk, igloo, kayak, moccasin, moose, papoose, pecan, powwow, squash, succotash, tepee, toboggan, tomahawk, totem, wampum, wigwam

Words from Russian:
Cosmonaut, babushka, intelligentsia, mammoth, pogrom, ruble, tchotche, kalishnikov, borsch, kasha, kefir, pirogy, glasnost, MIR, perestroika, tsar, Rodinia

Words from German:

Alzheimer’s disease, aspirin, blitz, concertmeister, dachshund, delicatessen, diesel, Doberman pinscher, dreck, Fahrenheit, fest, flak, frankfurter, Geiger counter, gesundheit, glitz, hamburger, hamster, kindergarten, liverwurst, Neanderthal, poltergeist, quartz, reich, Rottweiler, sauerkraut, strudel, uber, verboten, waltz, wunderbar, wunderkind, zeppelin.

Words from Chinese
Chop chop, chow, feng shui, ginkgo, ginseng, go, gung ho, hoisin, kanji, ketchup, kow tow, kumquat, kung fu, lo mein, mahjong, mu shu, shanghai, silk, soy, tai chi, tangram, tao, tea, tofu, tycoon, typhoon, wok, wonton, yen, Zen.

Words from Japanese
Bonsai, haiku, ikebana, kabuki, karaoke, manga, origami, kimono, zori, bento, daikon, dashi, ginkgo, hibachi, miso, nori, sake, sashimi, shiitake, shoyu, soba, sensei, shiatsu, soy, sukiyaki, sushi, Sudoku, tsunami, tamari, tempura, teriyaki, wasabi, Shinto, zen, akita, geiha, honcho, koi, sayonara

Words from Italian
Artisan, balcony, bronze, cameo, caricature, carpet, cartoon, dilettante, dome, façade, figurine, fresco, gallery, graffiti, grotesque, indigo, Madonna, magenta, mask, mascara, masquerade, medal, mezzanine, model, mosaic, muslin, pastel, porcelain, replica, saloon, sienna, studio, tempera, villa, virtue, virtuoso, al dente, antipasto, bologna, broccoli, calamari, cappuccino, cauliflower, caviar, coffee, confetti, espresso, fettuccini, gusto, lasagna, linguini, lottery, macaroni, maraschino, marinara, Panini, parmesan, pasta, pepperoni, pesto, pizza, pistachio, ravioli, salami, scampi, soda, spaghetti, tiramisu, tortolini, tutti frutti, zucchini, novel, canto,
parasol, pilot, pistol, brilliant, buffalo, bulletin, cannon, caress, carnival, cash, casino, monster, nostalgia, pants, ditto, debt, disaster, extravaganza, fiasco, finale, ghetto, inferno, jeans, lottery, magazine, mafia, ballot, fascism, incognito, Machiavellian, propaganda, algebra, granite,  influenza, lagoon, lava, bank, bomb, bravo, malaria medico, race, rocket, scalpel, torso, volcano, alarm, archipelago, attack, balloon, fantasia, fugue, harmonica, libretto, maestro, mandolin, oboe, opera, orchestra, piano, piccolo, pun, sonnet, stanza, alto, bassoon, cadenza, cello, diva, presto, segue, serenade, solo, sonata, trombone, tuba, violin viola, sedan, sequin, tariff, tarot, traffic, trampoline, umbrella, vista, viva, zero.

Words from Polish
Babka, pierogy, doodle, horde, kielbasa, knish, mazurka, polonaise, polka

From Hungarian
Czardas, goulash, itsy bitsy, paprika, puli, vizsla,

From Indian
Avatar, bandanna, bangle, Brahmin, bungalow, calico, cheetah, chutney, cot, cushy, guru, jungle, karma, khaki, loot, mugger, pundit, pajamas, sentry, shampoo, toddy

Words from Korean
Kimchi, taekwondo, Hyundai, Samsung

Words from African languages:
Banana, banjo, basenji, bongo, bwana, chigger, chimpanzee, cola, coffee, dengue, fandango,
gnu, goober, gumbo, jambolaya, jamboree, jazz, jive, jumbo, juke, kwanzaa, impala, marimba,
mamba, meringue, mumbo jumbo, okra, safari, sambo, tango, tse tse, trek, voodoo, yam, zebra, zombie.

Words from Dutch
Aardvark, ahoy, aloof, bamboo, bazooka, beaker, blink, blister, block, blow, bluff, Boer, boodle,
boom, booze, boss, bow, brandy, brawl, bully, Brooklyn, bundle, bumpkin, buoy, bush, caboose,  cockatoo, coleslaw, cookie, crimp, cruise, deck, decoy, dike, dock, domineer, dope, dredge, drug, drive, easel, etch, excuse, filibuster, freight, frolic, gas, geek, gherkin, gin, golf, grab, gruff,  howitzer, hoist, hooky, kill, kink, knapsack, knickerbocker, landscape, leak, loafer, loiter, luck, mannequin, mart, measles, pickle, pinkie, pit, plug, pump, poppycock, roster, Santa Claus, schooner, scow, skate, sketch, skipper, sled, slim, sloop, slurp, smuggler, snack, snoop, splinter, split, spook, stoop, stove, tickle, trigger, tulip, walrus, wagon, wiggle, yacht, Yankee.

Words from Portuguese
Baroque, breeze, buccaneer, caramel, caste, cashew, china, cabin, cobra, coconut, cougar,
creole, dodo, embarrass, fetish, flamingo, junk, marmalade, molasses, Negro, piranha, savvy,
tapioca, teak, veranda, yam.

Words from Yiddish:
Babel, blintz, bris, bubkes, chutzpah, dreck, ganef, gelt, glitch, goy, haimish, kibitz, klutz, kosher, kvell, kvetch, lox,maven,mazeltov,megillah,mensche,meshuga,minyan,mishpocha, naches, nebbish, noodge, nosh, nu, nudnik, oyvey, schlemiel, schlep, schlimazel, schlock, schlub, schmaltz, schemer,  schmo, schmooze, schmuck, schmaltz, schnook, shegetz, shiksa, shmendrick, shtik, shpiel, tsuris, tukhus, yarmulke, yenta, zaftig

Words are still entering English. Sometimes people know they are loan words. Other times, they do not. Here are some phrases from modern French that can still be recognized as French:
a la carte, a la mode, adieu, au jus, au pair, avant-garde, ballet, belle, bon appetit, bon vivant, bon voyage, bourgeois, brica a brac brunette, bureau, cafe, carte blanche, c'est la vie, c'est magnifique, c'est la vie! chauffeur, chic, cliche, clique,coquette,crepe, croissant, critique, cul-de-sac,decoupage, deja-vu, de jour, eclair, esprit de corps,faux pas, fiance, fiancee, gauche, genre, hors d'eourves,laissez faire, layette, liaiason, mardi gras, nom de plume, rapport, RSVP, repondez, s'il vous plait,sabotage, savant, savoir-faire, vinaigrette, vis-à-vis connoisseur, debut, encore, expose, forte, naive, passe, potpourri, premier, premiere, resume, rendezvous, risque, vignette.

quinta-feira, 15 de agosto de 2013

10 Hard to Translate English Words

Inspired by a comment by a Listverse contributor on a recent list dealing with Untranslatable words, I decided to submit my first official Listverse list on words that represent concepts which are hard to translate from English into other languages. The fact that there’s hundreds of words that are only found in English shouldn’t surprise you at all. The Oxford English Dictionary lists over 250,000 distinct words, not including many technical or slang terms, making English one of the richest languages (if not the richest) in terms of vocabulary. Below some examples of words that represent a challenge when attempting translation. Many of them now serve as loanwords to other languages.

10. Pimp

Before all our Multilingual folks start complaining, allow me to clarify that I’m referring to the transitive verb (not the noun): “pimp”, which roughly means “to decorate” or “to gussy up”. This verb was made popular by T.V shows like: Pimp My Ride. Although this term was to pay homage to hip-hop culture and its connection to street culture, it has now entered common, and even mainstream, commercial use. The Spanish slang “Pompear”, used in a few Latin-American countries, evolved as a direct derivation with a close meaning.
9. Auto-tuned
We are all familiar with those unnatural, robot-pitched voices coming out of singers over the last 10 years or so. So much so that we’ve coined a term for it (unlike most languages). This adjective describes a “singer” whose off-key inaccuracies, and out of tune mistakes, have been digitally disguised so that it appears to perform perfectly. Because it is a relatively new term the adjective is pretty much untranslatable.

8. Trade-off

This term describes a situation in which one must lose some quality in exchange for another quality. It involves a decision in which a person fully understands the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. The term is particularly difficult to translate into any language without using over 5 words or explicitly explaining a scenario

7. Spam

It is unlikely that you don’t know the definition of spam, but here it goes anyway. Spam is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages indiscriminately. No other language has a single, non-derivate word for this concept, in fact the word spam itself is in common use in most languages as a loanword. Spam is, of course, also a term for a canned meat. Delicious.

6. Bromance

Here is a kind of a retro-term that is no longer in common use. Coined in the 90′s, this term describes a very intimate but non-sexual relationship between two (or more) men. In many cultures, including American, Bromance is mistaken for homosexuality and therefore no other culture has coined a term to describe this unusual relationship. Although the term can be described in most languages, no language other than English has a word for it.

5. Facepalm

This popular term describes the gesture of slapping the palm of one’s hand to the face, in a show of exasperation. The term is in common use in the English language, but, surprisingly, no other language seems to have an original term for this fairly common act.

4. Kitsch

Kitsch defines any art that is considered an inferior copy of an existing style. The term is also used in a more free manner when referring to any art that is pretentious, outdated or in bad taste. With the single exception of German (from whence it comes to English) the term is untranslatable into any language.

3. Gobbledygook

This word is defined as any text containing jargon, or especially convoluted English, that results in it being excessively hard to understand, or even incomprehensible. The term was coined in 1944, by former US Representative Maury Maverick (pictured above). Even for professional literature translators this word represents a challenge.

2. Serendipity

Serendipity is any discovery that’s unexpected yet fortunate. You can also call it a lucky find, coincidence or accident. The word has been voted as one of the ten English words that were hardest to translate in June 2004, by a British translation company. However, due to its sociological use, the word has been exported into many other languages.

1.   Googly

A googly (a term in the game of cricket) is a type of delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler. The googly is a major weapon in the arsenal of a leg spin bowler, and can be one of the bowler’s most effective wicket-taking balls. It is used infrequently, because its effectiveness comes mostly from its surprise value. The term is so exclusive to the English language that the Wikipedia article about is not available in any other language. If it were to be translated to a language like, perhaps, Spanish the word would come out like: “Tiro de Cricket curvado hecho por un tirador con la derecha.” or Curved Cricket shot made by a bowler with its right hand.


quinta-feira, 8 de agosto de 2013

Saying 'No' Nicely

By Kenneth Beare, About.com Guide

Sometimes you need to say no when someone makes a suggestion, offers something or asks you to do something for them. Of course, saying just 'no' can be rather rude. Here are some of the most common ways to say 'no' nicely - or at least not rudely.
·         Would you like to see a film tonight?
I'm afraid I can't go out tonight.
I've got a test tomorrow.

·         Why don't we have some Chinese food?
Sorry, but I don't particularly like Chinese food.

·         How about taking a nice walk?
I'd really rather not take a walk this afternoon.

·         Would you like to come to the museum with us?
Thank you, but it's not my idea of a fun afternoon out.

·         Let's go for a drive
Sorry, I'm not really fond of driving for the fun of it.

·         Why don't you stay the night?
That's very kind of you, but I really have to get back to the city.
NOTE: Notice how we often say 'thank you' in some way before refusing the offer. When someone makes an offer it is polite to first thank that person and then say no, often offering an excuse for not wanting or being able to do something. Just saying 'no' is considered very rude behavior indeed!

segunda-feira, 5 de agosto de 2013

The Adventures of You: Apropriação

You and Me

By Adriana Souza

You chega na aula e diz: - Hi teacher, você não vai acreditar - ajudei uma pessoa!

-  I' m so happy to know that, mas como se diz "ajudei uma pessoa" em inglês, You? 

- I helped a person, teacher.

-  Perfect. So, tell me about it.

- Her name is Me. I meet her in a dinner.

I was with my friends and they apresentaram Me para mim. We were talking about learning and speaking English and she told me: 

- I don´t speak English! 

- Como assim?- eu disse -  You are speaking...

- Ah, eu falo um pouco só, but my English is terrible.

- Eu dizia a mesma coisa, mas tenho aprendido que a gente tem de let it flow...

- A gente tem que o quê?

- let it flow - eu expliquei

- Deixar fluir, deixar rolar, e quando você menos imaginar, you are speaking.

- Isso funciona com você, You, but not for me...  Eu sempre...

- You always...

- I always make mistakes, especially when I need to talk with a foreigner... I understand what they talk, but when I want to reply, I get blocked

- I know, I know.. but do they talk in Portuguese with you?

- Não , claro que não!

- No?

-No, of course not!

- So, your English is  better than their Portuguese, Me...

- Ha, ha - ela riu -  It's true, it's true.

- Viu? You talked to me in English all the time, so, you can speak it.

- Yes - ela disse - Thank You, I'm really comfortable to talk to you, but one day I'll be a fluent speaker and I will speak as good as an American.

- Fluent? Speak like an American? C'mon, you need to proud of your Brazilian English.

- Brazilian English? - I will explain it to you , Me, at another time... But remember: let it flow!

You finalizou a sua estória. Eu, on the other hand, queria falar o quanto eu estava orgulhoso dele, mas deixei ele concluir:

- Eu fiquei tão orgulhoso dela e de mim, teacher! So Proud.

-  Me too, You, me too...

Notas: esse texto é de autoria da minha learner Adriana Souza. Gentilmente cedido para ser publicado nessa Newsletter.

quinta-feira, 1 de agosto de 2013


Appropriation is the process of constructing knowledge from social and cultural sources, and integrating it into pre-existing schemas. It is a developmental process that comes about through socially formulated, goal-directed, and tool-mediated actions.Appropriation draws on the developmental theories of Piaget and Vygotsky, as both the cognitive and social-constructivist views of learning are equally emphasized.

Appropriation in education is often understood and analyzed through activity theory. This theory was developed by Leont’ev and focuses on understanding the socio-cultural context (specifically the setting) learning occurs in. Activity theory is predicated on the assumption that a person's frameworks for thinking are developed and carried out in specific settings and that these settings mediate cognitive development.

Since appropriation also places a strong emphasis on setting, these theories complement each other when being used to analyze learning environments.

Process of Appropriating Knowledge

Hung has developed steps through which the appropriation of knowledge usually occurs. The process is as follows:

Growing into dependency (submitting): the student recognizes the differences between their beliefs/knowledge and the beliefs/knowledge of the teacher. The student accepts the teacher as the leader and submits to their beliefs, knowledge and rules.

Dependency (mirroring): The student adapts strategies to help submit to the beliefs, knowledge and rules of the teacher. The student questions the teacher and other students and begins to co-construct and negotiate meanings.

Growing out of dependency (constructing): the student experiments with the beliefs, knowledge and rules co-constructed with the teacher and other students and uses these ideas outside of the classroom. The student discovers patterns, ideas, concepts and beliefs inherent to the learning community and applies them to other environments.

To learn more, access: