The Hazy Memory of a Simpler Past

One of my favorite newspaper columns is Oliver Burkeman’s This Column will Change Your Life that he writes for the Guardian Weekly. The texts are short and poignant, the topics often refreshingly provocative and thus great for classroom discussions.

His column from February 2, 2014 is about our nostalgic tendency to believe in the past everything was better. Depending on the age of the person reminiscing, this could be any decade. What unites them all, according to Mr Burkeman, is that the person praising the respective time (and complaining about how things have changed since ‘then’ – and not to the better) was around seven at the time.

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How Languages Are Learned

This morning in class, the question of correcting came up again (see post from February 18).

A colleague, who subbed for me while I was on vacation, seems to have a noticeably different practice from my own and three of us started talking about this after class.

The issue of correcting someone while speaking raises a lot of questions concerning the process of language learning on the one hand, but also on the subject itself: what is it that we are actually learning? What is or should be in focus? Continue reading

Modality (1)

On the page The Verb Structure Circle, I discussed the four basic building blocks of the English verb: the simple forms 1 (so-called ‘simple present’) and 2 (so-called ‘simple past’) and the aspects continuous and perfect.

What this basic approach to English verb structures does not cover is modality. What is modality? Continue reading

One of the Seven and Another Classic to Guess

Last week the topic of the ‘seven sins’ came up again (see post from 25. June 2013). In one group, we had been reading about a decline in the sales of soft drinks and the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City was mentioned, so I took the text I had provided on the ‘History of Supersizing’ once more to class, in which our tendency not to take seconds so as not to appear piggish is explained in connection with one of the so-called cardinal sins – in this case ‘gluttony’. Continue reading

The Economist’s Annual Issue of the Year

The World in 2014

Every year, the British magazine The Economist publishes a special issue that focuses on the events of the coming year. They write about upcoming events, things that might, could or will happen, and report on how on-the-spot their predictions for the previous year were.

This year, their selection of events around the world (Calendar 2014, p 32) was accompanied by a wonderful illustration by Kevin Kallaugher, their editorial cartoonist, and … Continue reading

NY City’s (Failed) Ban on XXL Sodas and the History of Supersizing

Recently we read an article in class on the mayor of New York City’s attempt to ban the sale of supersized soft drinks. In January, the city’s health board “passed a ban on serving sodas and other sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces (0.5 l) in restaurants and cinemas” (Moya Irvine in Read On , January 2013, p 1).

We discussed the pro and con arguments and related issues like causes of obesity, our own eating and drinking habits, general lifestyle issues etc. According to Moya Irvine, the main parties against the ban were those who feared Continue reading

To work or not to work from home

On the weekend, I read an article in the German FAZ ( ‘Der Unsinn des Home Office’) about the pro and cons of working from home versus working at the office.

It describes a study with which researchers wanted to find out who worked more efficiently: someone working alone, or people working in a team. They gave a group of students the task of enveloping letters. Some of them were paired up, others worked alone. Those in the team enveloped more letters than those who worked alone. Continue reading

How to get the blog to show on Internet Explorer 9

I just found out something quite curious. I was trying out the search function on my blog – I was looking for my post on the War of the Worlds: the page popped up and all the things on the right side bar as well. So, although not a perfect solution, to see the blog completely in Internet Explorer 9 you just type in part of a headline and it shows – black on white with all the categories, former posts, calendar etc.