Working from Home

There are many webpages dealing with this topic. Especially now, as working from home has so suddenly become a new situation for so many people, the topic has gained some urgency.

For teachers, a considerable part of our job is done at home – preparing classes, reading, researching etc. – so having a home office and working at home is not totally new for us. But now it has gained a different quality in its exclusivity. I have never spent so many hours sitting at my desk in front of my computer. In the beginning, I didn’t even realize how many hours straight I had been spending at my desk trying to figure things out – see below 😉

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Week Three

It’s the end of week three. I am beginning to get the hang of this online teaching thing. Ideas are popping up and there are great webpages, ESL/EFL and others to be used. Onestopenglish lessons, for instance, are downloadable as PDF files and can be shared. Another page is BreakingNews.com where you can also download and save lessons as PDF files for sharing in your online lesson/meeting.

The sharing is not as complicated as I thought in the beginning – once you understand a few things about the respective programme you are using. (So far I have only been using Cisco Webex.)

There are a few little but essential things you just have to know and follow for everything to work smoothly.

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Different times: second week

I can’t really believe we are only in the second week. I’m not sure who WE all are, but definitely me and my freelance language teaching colleagues and everyone else who has been shut out of their companies or places they used to go to for work.

I’m trying to keep up my academic, observational approach to the whole situation, but I must admit, it is becoming harder. Already. The measures are supposed to last until end of April, we haven’t even reached the end of March.

In the New York Times, and other similar locations, more and more articles are popping up trying to encourage people. Groups willing to help others in need are coming together. Many, many initiatives that give hope that the world indeed might be a different place after Corona. At least for a time. Even the most conservative of politicians (Wolfgang Schäuble last night) are uttering sentiments like that and I’m sure glad to be in Germany in these times and not in the US – or the UK.

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Different times

My blog activities have been pretty rare over the last few years. Ever since I finished my most important project: The Verb Structure Circle. (Though I’m sure there are still mistakes to be found, things to change or edit.)

But now I suddenly find myself with a lot of time at my hands. Almost all my classes have been cancelled and I am stranded at home. We do try to find alternatives; we phone or try to set up online meetings (more about that later), but all in all, we – not just me – are at home. Some are teleworking for their companies, others – like me – are freelancers. The emphasis, at the moment, can safely be put on ‘free’.

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To correct or not while someone is speaking

I don’t like correcting students while they are communicating. My reasons are several. First of all, I don’t want to interrupt their flow of thoughts. As I strongly believe that meaningful communication leads to language acquisition, herein lies my priority. Which is not to say I never go more deeply into questions of accuracy, grammar reflection, vocabulary practice and at times even drilling of forms. Many students expect this in a language course and some profit from it. Continue reading

What is a (grammar) rule?

(Revised March, 2020)

In February, I read an article with my classes about business ethics. You can find it on onestopenglish.com, Business Spotlight Worksheet: Money or Morals.

In the introductory paragraphs, the author (Vicky Sussens) describes a group of children playing hide and seek:

It is a beautiful autumn day. The sun shines golden on a small group of children who excitedly agree to play hide and seek. “Whoopee!” calls Sarah, racing off to a tree to hide her eyes. “Count to ten!” shouts Johnny, “That’s the rule.”

Rules are so much part of human interaction that even children can stick to them – especially in a game where there are winners and losers. (p 2)

This passage led to a discussion on the nature of rules, laws, regulations etc. and someone remarked that especially – not even – children insist on following the rules of a game. We all remembered such incidences. Without everybody sticking to the rules, many games would simply be unplayable. Rules are the defining features of a game.

In larger groups, like societies, rules become laws to ensure, in the best of cases, a cooperative and peaceful life among all members of the community. In any case, there are significant reasons for rules and they are always made by humans (‘humanmade’ so to speak).

Do languages have rules too?

If the answer were yes, what would be their nature? What would they be for? And who made them up or developed them?

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Looks like a ‘past tense’ verb but isn’t or: Confusion by misnomers

One of my main issues over the last years of teaching has been with traditional grammar terminology, especially with ‘present’ and ‘past’. To a certain extent I believe in linguistic relativity i.e. that the language we use to describe something has an influence on how we perceive this something. It is not such a surprising insight, if you think about it. When someone refers to an object as table, I will not think of a chair. Well, I actually might think of a chair in association with the table, but that is a different point.

So when a form is called ‘past’ tense, most people – if not all – will believe that the term refers to the meaning of the form. However … Continue reading

Verb Structure Circle

This year I have given several of my classes an overview of the English verb system using my concept of the Verb Circle. It seems to be helpful and clarifying.  Being a different way of conceptualizing the system, the different perspective is not always immediately accessible.It takes a little time, but, as I  have learned through dancing and guitar practice: there is only one way of becoming better at a skill – repeat, repeat, repeat.

So go to the page above and let me know what you think.

 

Why linguistic terminology can be useful and misnomers problematic

Tense and aspect

What are tenses? And why is the answer not: all verb structures? How many tenses does English really have? And does it matter? What is the semantic relationship between verb form and time? What is time? What do we mean when we talk about time? How do we talk about time? And why should this be important?

In my introduction to the concept of the Verb Structure Circle I mentioned the technical definition of ‘tense’. Tense and aspect are two terms crucial to explaining, and in my opinion, understanding, the English verb structure system. I also noted that in many if not most course books of English ALL verb structures are referred to as tenses and, as far as I can tell, ‘aspect’ is rarely used. Perfect and continuous forms are commonly related to as ‘tenses’ though they are actually referred to as ‘aspects’ in linguistic literature.

Note (2016): Some publishers of English course books like MacMillan make the distinction, as I have found in the meantime.

The reason I believe this issue to be important is because I believe understanding the difference between ‘tense’ and ‘aspect’ could help understanding English verb structures’ meaning and function better. Continue reading

Resources on Food, Diet, and Health

This post was written for an English course I gave for dieticians at the MHH. I decided to keep it here, as I find the issues discussed to be of general interest.

In this post I have listed some of the internet resources and literature I have read and looked at myself and would and can recommend for anybody interested in going into the issues of food and health more deeply. It is, of course, an incomprehensive list and totally selective.

Webpages

There are loads of pages specifically interesting for dieticians. One is an American magazine:Today’s Dietician. We read one article from this website that was, admittedly, a little difficult. Nevertheless I would recommend students of nutrition, diet and health to browse through this website, especially the articles archive. Continue reading

The Third Person Singular -s or: let’s talk about priorities

Recently I was shocked – if not really surprised – to hear that not much seems to have changed in some English classes of (German) schools. I learned about a fifth grader who was not doing very well in English. I asked what his problem seems to be and was told that he had made a lot of mistakes in his last test. Naturally, my next question was: well, what kind of mistakes, and was totally astonished as to the prime nature of his failure. Continue reading

Emails: Requests

An Example

These days I received an email from someone from a company that had asked me for a special English course. I had already spoken to someone else about the course and had a little background information. As I am quite busy, we will have to find a time that fits into my schedule, but I am interested in giving the course as it is a new company of a kind I haven’t taught at yet, so it could be an interesting challenge, and I am willing to squeeze it in. Continue reading