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I’ve just watched the video (below) of a session by Hugh Dellar recorded at IATEFL Poland, and it has sparked a semi-rant about and sort of love song to teaching. Sometimes people who don't really understand what I do day-in day-out in my job ask me whether teaching is still interesting. “Aren’t you bored, Hannah?” Or "How did you end up in Lithuania?" (The implication being that I didn’t really choose to be here). Well, here’s the news. I chose to be here. I have the theoretical privilege of being able to live and work anyway really. I’m here because it is a great place to live with lots of opportunities if you are prepared to see them and take risks. I’ll explain why I’m not bored, despite working in classrooms since 2000. 

I sometimes market my courses at EnglishTeacher.lt as 'English for Interesting People’. I believe that everyone is interesting. Everyone has stories. Everyone is trying to express themselves and communicate their message. The joy for any teacher is surely helping people to achieve their aims. One of my aims is to help my students find their ‘idiolect’ — their own voice and way of expressing themselves effectively in English in different situations. This is what motivates me.

I am lucky to have complete freedom in my classroom when working for myself. I also work in higher education, where, of course, there is a tighter syllabus and more specific aims. But in both cases, the aim and principle of and principles for teaching are the same. So in the spirit of self-reflection, I am sharing these thoughts that the video provoked.

Our job is not to be robots. Our job is NOT to teach the syllabus or material or course book. Our job is to TEACH the PEOPLE sitting there in the room with us. That means responding to their needs. Language needs. Personal needs. We are HUMAN.

The needs of the students in one group are completely different from those of the smaller group of people who are rather reticent to speak. My third group will ask questions and ask for clarification without me having to probe the group, whereas in the other groups, I need to ask concept-type questions to check understanding of the usage of a lexical chunk, or how else it could be used. Before I can ask the third group, their hands are already up demanding more information.

So each group is completely different. That is because the people in the group are unique, leading to varying group dynamics that come from that specific combination of different people at that point in time. This means that I have to work extremely hard in each lesson. What happens in each classroom at a given time is unique if actual teaching/communication/learning/engagement takes place, which admittedly is not all the time and probably not often enough, but not for want of trying! It’s about our “response-ability” to respond to our students.

So no, I don’t get bored, because I work with people and supplement my courses with authentic material that is relevant at the time of teaching. Current news stories change everyday. There is always a new context for teaching the language that students can relate to - this brings the language alive in the real world (not just on the pages of a course book or course outline). The follow-up work and reflection on what happened in the classroom after each class also affects the way I think about planning the next lesson. The materials may be the same but the way the lesson is executed is different every time. The planning is also different depending on what happened last lesson, the student needs, room layout, number of students, available equipment, time of the lesson (how tired they might be, etc.) — there are so many variables.

I work in different ways but try to be as engaged with each group (although you can probably guess that there are different challenges arising from each group, some of which I prefer over others!). AndI live for the moments of magic that happen from time to time. I live for these, because they involve responding to what is happening at the moment. Thinking on your feet. Hugh Dellar wrote the course books I use with the groups I mentioned above [Innovations and Outcomes]. He speaks a lot of sense. Here, he perfectly demonstrates why we should be human and create the space for others to try to express themselves (rather than sticking rigidly to our lesson plan). As ELT specialists, our job is to supply the appropriate language and structures to help people say what they are trying to say. 

 

Sometimes it is easy to become demotivated in what can, on occasion, feel like a thankless job with rather demotivating conditions. But the daily slog at the whiteboard (or in ever-rarer cases — at the chalkface) is all worth it when these MAGIC MOMENTS transform a lesson, class, human relationships, someone’s viewpoint, or perhaps even people’s lives. So it is the PEOPLE (I may never otherwise meet) and the INTERACTIONS we have that make me LOVE my job. And I hope that is the value that other people see in my teaching.  

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Today I was waiting for a student who was late and felt inspired to draw a stickman.
Here he is. His name is Jim. It might say James in his passport, but the whole of #Vilnius knows him as #Jim for short.

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This is now my third blog post, and I hope I will keep adding content to my page. 
I wonder what kind of mood you are in as you read this?
Where are you? Perhaps on a trolleybus? Perhaps slouching on the sofa at home? Or leaning against the water cooler at work?

Who knows? It is a bit weird for me not to really know who I am writing for. I assume that you probably fit into one of these categories:
  • a current, past, or potential student at EnglishTeacherLT
  • a friend or colleague 
  • someone interested in language
  • someone living in Vilnius or Lithuania?
Maybe I am totally wrong. Maybe you have just stumbled across my webpage. It is a bit disconcerting knowing that you might read this but that I have no idea who you are and indeed, if anyone has actually read what I am writing. There is a certain sense of having to "let go", of releasing my thoughts and putting them out there. It would be really lovely if you left a comment on Facebook saying how you found out about this blog. I suppose I could enable comments here but I am rather wary of getting spammed or trolled. I am not sure I am ready for that as a novice blogger.

This post is turning into a stream of consciousness post. My main aim was to address one of my students' questions about why I have started blogging. So far, this has been a rather convoluted pre-amble, which means I am taking a while to get to my core point.

In the past, I suppose I didn't really think that anything I have to say is of interest to anyone. I may have been right! However, I also have this urge to share. Maybe I will say something to provoke, inspire, or anger you? Or make you laugh or nod in agreement? In any case, you might learn some English.

    So why have I started blogging?


I am not sure really. Maybe it is just the simple human need to communicate. Since I have started writing these posts, I guess I feel some sort of liberation. I have not been editing myself as much as I might in the classroom (where I should be on-topic, relevant, concise, etc.). When I am at work, I need to grade (modify) my language according to the group, level, and other factors. At the end of the day, you are paying me to teach you not to hear me ranting. Writing these posts is one of the ways I have chosen to spend my free time. You are not paying me to do this and you are reading it in your free time. Therefore, I feel liberated to write as I choose.

Part of my agenda is to help improve the standard of English in Lithuania. As far as I am aware, I don't have a drop of Lithuanian blood in my body, but I have chosen to make Lithuania my home and feel a real affinity with Lithuanian people. I want to expose you to as much English as possible. I don't want you to stay on the plateau and not progress. My aim for all my students is the same as my personal language learning aims: I want (you) to find your idiolect. Your own voice. To be able to be yourself in another language. This means making that quip, cracking a joke, catching the nuance, expressing your opinion precisely, etc. These are lofty but valid aims. That is my aim for you. 

Prof. David Crystal writes about idiolect. I like the way he defines it on his website
[id-ee-oh-lekt]
"No, this is not a dialect spoken by idiots. The prefix idio- means ‘personal’ in Greek - as in the word idiosyncrasy, which means a personal habit or eccentricity. An idiolect is your own personal dialect. It’s the kind of language which you - Jim, Jean, Mary, or whatever you name is - make use of, and which makes you different from everyone else. If you think about it, there are so many ways in which our vowels, consonants, voice qualities, words, and sentence patterns differ from person to person that you’d be very unlikely to find two people who had exactly the same way of using language. Everyone has their own idiolect."

 How can you find your own idiolect? 


I believe one of the best ways to learn a language is to focus on lexical chunks, to notice them in context and then try to reproduce them in your own situations and to suit your own communicative needs. So I am going to attempt to pick out chunks of language I have used in this post and help you adapt them in your own speech and writing. The masters of this teaching technique and the people who have inspired my teaching a lot are Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley who work at Lexical Lab. You should really all be following their excellent blog posts and Facebook posts. If you are taking my Advanced course at EnglishTeacher, you should recognise their names as they are the guys who wrote our course materials.

Today we were talking about reading for pleasure in English. I am so pleased that everyone in my *Advanced group has been reading in English. Without being prompted they started sharing stories of what they are reading or have just read. Here are some that I remember them mentioning. Extensive reading is a great way to expose yourself to new ideas, vocabulary, and grammatical structures. We all agreed that it is easier to read passively than speak or write. *You can still join us fro Monday if you'd like to. I have a hunch that it will be a very lovely group based on our first lesson today :)

.

I suggested that for me, it seems to work best if I read the same piece of input (paragraph, chapter, article, book) twice: once for content - to understand the meaning, and then for language. Often I would underline or circle things as I go along to remind me to come back to interesting or intriguing chunks of language. If something really stops me from understanding or keep appearing repeatedly, I would then look it up. If I think I understand, I'd carry on reading. The second time I read, I would note chunks down in my notebook and spend time Googling, looking them up in a dictionary, pestering my other half to explain them in Lithuanian and asking all the questions I have about the items. Such questions might be whether it has positive or negative connotations, whether it is formal or informal, whether people actually use this chunk or whether it is antiquated, how to pronounce it, in what other contexts I can use this chunk, etc.

So that is what I am going to ask you to do now. Please read this post again from the beginning. Not to catch the flow of ideas, but to notice language and interesting chunks. Passively I imagine that you understood pretty much everything I've written, but I bet that you don't sound like me. Of course, my idiolect might be unappealing for you. You might not want to sound like this or come across in the same way that my internal voice does. But I am sure there is at least one chunk or phrase or expression that you can "steal" from me and make your own in your own context.


Here we go again. Repetition is the mother of learning and all that!


This is now my third blog post, and I hope I will keep adding content to my page. 
I wonder what kind of mood you are in as you read this?
Where are you? Perhaps on a trolleybus? Perhaps slouching on the sofa at home? Or leaning against the water-cooler at work?

Who knows? It is a bit weird for me not to really know who I am writing for. I assume that you probably fit into one of these categories:

  • a current, past, or potential student at EnglishTeacherLT

  • a friend or colleague 

  • someone interested in language

  • someone living in Vilnius or Lithuania?

Maybe I am totally wrong. Maybe you have just stumbled across my webpage. It is a bit disconcerting knowing that you might read this but that I have no idea who you are and indeed, if anyone has actually read what I am writing. There is a certain sense of having to "let go", of releasing my thoughts and putting them out there. It would be really lovely if you left a comment on Facebook saying how you found out about this blog. I suppose I could enable comments here but I am rather wary of getting spammed or trolled. I am not sure I am ready for that as a novice blogger.

This post is turning into a stream of consciousness post. My main aim was to address one of my students' questions about why I have started blogging. So far, this has been a rather convoluted pre-amble, which means I am taking a while to get to my core point.

In the past, I suppose I didn't really think that anything I have to say is of interest to anyone. I may have been right! However, I also have this urge to share. Maybe I will say something to provoke, inspire, or anger you? Or make you laugh or nod in agreement? In any case, you might learn some English.

So why have I started blogging?

I am not sure really. Maybe it is just the simple human need to communicate. Since I have started writing these posts, I guess I feel some sort of liberation. I have not been editing myself as much as I might in the classroom (where I should be on-topic, relevant, concise, etc.). When I am at work, I need to grade (modify) my language according to the group, level, and other factors. At the end of the day, you are paying me to teach you not to listen to my rants. Writing these posts is one of the ways I have chosen to spend my free time. You are not paying me to do this and you are reading it in your free time. Therefore, I feel liberated to write as I choose.

Part of my agenda is to help improve the standard of English in Lithuania. As far as I am aware, I don't have a drop of Lithuanian blood in my body, but I have chosen to make Lithuania my home and feel a real affinity with Lithuanian people. I want to expose you to as much English as possible. I don't want you to stay on the plateau and not progress. My aim for all my students is the same as my personal language learning aims: I want (you) to find your idiolect. Your own voice. To be able to be yourself in another language. This means making that quip, cracking a joke, catching the nuance of what someone has said, expressing your opinion precisely, etc. These are lofty but valid aims. These are my aims for you. 

Prof. David Crystal writes about idiolect. I like the way he defines it on his website

[id-ee-oh-lekt]

"No, this is not a dialect spoken by idiots. The prefix idio- means ‘personal’ in Greek - as in the word idiosyncrasy, which means a personal habit or eccentricity. An idiolect is your own personal dialect. It’s the kind of language which you - Jim, Jean, Mary, or whatever you name is - make use of, and which makes you different from everyone else. If you think about it, there are so many ways in which our vowels, consonants, voice qualities, words, and sentence patterns differ from person to person that you’d be very unlikely to find two people who had exactly the same way of using language. Everyone has their own idiolect."

 How can you find your own idiolect? 


I believe one of the best ways to learn a language is to focus on lexical chunks, to notice them in context and then try to reproduce them in your own situations and to suit your own communicative needs. So I am going to attempt to pick out chunks of language I have used in this post and help you adapt them in your own speech and writing. The masters of this teaching technique and the people who have inspired my teaching a lot are Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley who work at Lexical Lab. You should really all be following their excellent blog posts and Facebook posts. If you are taking my Advanced course at EnglishTeacher, you should recognise their names as they are the guys who wrote our course materials.

Today we were talking about reading for pleasure in English. I am so pleased that everyone in my *Advanced group has been reading in English. Without being prompted they started sharing stories of what they are reading or have just read. Here are some that I remember them mentioning. Extensive reading is a great way to expose yourself to new ideas, vocabulary, and grammatical structures. We all agreed that it is easier to read passively than speak or write. *You can still join us from Monday if you'd like to. I have a hunch that it will be a very lovely group based on our first lesson today :)

.

I suggested that for me, it seems to work best if I read the same piece of input (paragraph, chapter, article, book) twice: once for content - to understand the meaning, and the second time for language. Often I would underline or circle things as I go along to remind me to come back to interesting or intriguing chunks of language. If something really stops me from understanding or keeps appearing repeatedly, then I look it up. If I think I understand without any help, I carry on reading. The second time I read, I would note chunks down in my notebook and spend time Googling, looking them up in a dictionary, pestering my other half to explain them in Lithuanian and asking all the questions I have about the items. Such questions might be whether it has positive or negative connotations, whether it is formal or informal, whether people actually use this chunk or whether it is antiquated, how to pronounce it, in what other contexts I can use this chunk, etc.

So that is what I am going to ask you to do now. Please read this post again from the beginning. Not to catch the flow of ideas, but to notice language and interesting chunks. Passively I imagine that you understood pretty much everything I've written, but I bet that you don't sound like me. Of course, my idiolect might be unappealing for you. You might not want to sound like this or come across in the same way that my internal voice does. But I am sure there is at least one chunk or phrase or expression that you can "steal" from me and make your own in your own context.

Groundhog Day?

No, let's get out of this loop at take a look at some of the language I have put in bold.
 
  • I hope I will... - What do you hope you will do?
  • What kind of mood are you in? N.B. to be in a mood means to be in a bad mood. If you are feeling good, you need to say that I am in a GOOD mood.
  • on a trolleybus - on not in. 
  • slouching on the sofa - after a long day, you probably collapse and relax and don't sit up straight! Slouching is not good for your spine, though.
  • lean against - Look round you. Can you see anything leaning against anything else?
  • stumble across - when was the last time you stumbled across something unexpectedly. You might discover something without looking for it. I love being in second-hand bookshops in my parents' hometown. You always find a hidden gem of a book hidden under a pile of books at the back of the shop (and I have no self-control and can't resist buying it!)
  • It's a bit disconcerting - you know that feeling when you feel a bit uneasy. Not nervous but unsettled when something is slightly disturbing. When did you last feel disconcerted?
  • let go - do you feel the need to let go of your negative feelings or attachments? I think it must be hard for parents to let their kids go off into the world and become independent.
  • I am rather wary of - What are you wary of? It means that you are cautious. After I was bitten by a dog in Estonia, I was rather wary of our four-legged friends for a while. It is sensible to be cautious and avoid taking risks around animals you don't know. Little Dan restored my faith in dogs. You should read this book written by my friend who used to live in Vilnius when I first arrived here. It's called 'Dan Knew' and is a beautiful story about the bond between a woman and her dog. In fact, the story is told from the perspective of the dog. It will probably make you cry too as it deals with some tough themes such as alcoholism and domestic violence. I'm sure I don't need to spell out the relevance of this for our little land...


But I digress from my digression. I told you that this was a stream of consciousness post - it is meandering wherever my mind takes me (well, maybe not wherever - you are not quite ready for that yet, dear reader!).

  • I'm a novice blogger, because it is all new to me. I am going to have to learn to edit my posts and have more structure. At what point does an inexperienced blogger stop becoming a novice? Hmm. Are you a novice ____?
  • a rather convoluted post -  I have no idea if you are still with me as I have gone on a bit. Perhaps I should enter politics so I can give convoluted answers that are overly-complicated...
  • the pre-amble - all the prologue before you really get to the 'meat'
  • to be of interest to someone - a more formal way to say be interesting in the sense of to be of concern
  • have an urge to
  • nod in agreement - to move your head up and down to indicate agreement (at least in this culture it does!).
  • Concise
  • At the end of the day when it is all said and done / done and dusted
  • rant - this is how this blog started. To rant means to complain about something or to express your forthright opinions about something (in a way that is not necessarily interesting for those around you)
  • the standarD of English - standarD not standart
  • to feel an affinity with
  • expose you to
  • stay on the plateau
  • find your own idiolect
  • make a quip - an amusing retort/reply/comment
  • lofty aims - unrealistically high aims
  • focus on the prepositions that come after verbs, e.g. focus ON
  • read for pleasure (as opposed to work or because you are forced to)
  • have a hunch that
  • intriguing chunks of language
  • pester sb
  • my other half - my partner - my husband 
  • the flow of ideas
  • pretty much everything
  • I bet that
  • to be stuck in a loop
Right, that was epic and I need to get some shut-eye = zzzz. I will edit this post later and add some more definitions.

Please like and share on FB if you want me to keep writing! 
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I wish I had more time to develop myself, but I usually relish the opportunity to attend seminars and professional development events.

I am pleased to be a member of IATEFL and LAKMA.



Tomorrow I am giving a seminar for teachers in joint partnership with LKPA and VU UKI. One of the tools I will talk about in my seminar is Quizlet.

I am pleased to be a Quizlet Ambassador.

So by giving and attending seminars, I continually strive to get new ideas and develop myself as a teacher (and life-long learner).
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Company names


It frequently amuses, then angers, then saddens me that companies are willing to throw money at TV ads but then neglect to bother to pay a decent translator. Forking out for a reliable person to help make sure that the company image is right would cost (well, not very much) compared to a TV ad...

Sometimes this relates to the name of a company. Some examples that spring straight to mind are MOLESTA, which sounds like 'molester'. I wouldn't choose to name my company after someone who assaults others sexually and I'm guessing you agree. #youtoo?


Screenshot from Oxford Dictionaries online: OED definition

When I first arrived in Lithuania, there was a beer called KOFF. This sounds like 'cough'. Not something I would like to put in a red can and then drink. I think I'll pass. It might have been Finnish, but I don't think it was a great success.

Maybe it demonstrates an underlying immaturity on my part, but I love finding translation fails in menus. So here are a couple. The company is a well-known pizza chain and part of a larger restaurant group. The name of the company has some unfortunate connotations which I might not have thought of until I saw their menu. Pick the meaning you like best: fools, boobs, or cocaine.

Menus

Not the #taikliausias decision for a company name (in my humble opinion). I'm currently half watching the basketball on TV and during every ad break, there is an ad for this company. So I don't mind pointing out how I think this company could have done better. And I am fully aware that my Lithuanian language skills are hopeless considering how long I've lived here. However, I will not let this stop me from sharing the joy of this menu with you...


So which sin would you choose?

I think this one is even better.


This is brilliant. Choose your garnish - great idea; customer choice is pretty much always a good thing. Pick your own garnish - even better. I have in mind some fresh herbs growing in the restaurant and you can pick what you want. Garnish picked up by customer (OK, by 'the customer', but we'll ignore that for now) - this sounds as if the garnish has been on the floor and you must pick it up from the kitchen/restaurant floor. Fantastic. Sounds lovely.

So what have we discovered?
Company names can sound funny in another language.
Choose, pick, and pick up are not the same. There are multiple meanings of the word 'pick'. Here are the ones that I associated with this image:

Choose something - make a selection from the available alternatives
Pick something - make a selection from the available options
Pick a flower, pick a herb, pick vegetables - remove them from their stem/the ground/where it is growing
Pick up - collect something that has fallen onto the floor or left elsewhere

It's not so easy to explain, which is why everyone needs a good dictionary. The examples here have been taken from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/pick

The last one is one that Veryga should be proud of, because burgers are not the healthiest. The powers that be seem to like banning things so should approve of this.



Have you found any gems on menus? If so, please share them!

As well as teaching, I am quite happy to advise your company on what you menu may sound like to foreign ears. Sometimes for a modest sum, and often in return for a burger or Chicken Kiev (just as long as I get to pick my own fresh garnish)!



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Books by Tim Shipman

If you are interested in politics, Britain, Brexit, and modern history, you might appreciate these books. They just happen to have been written by my brother! These are links to the Kindle version available on Amazon. 

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