The benefits of constructive confrontation

Being nice and treating each other with respect does not mean only saying what others want to hear. Harmony and cooperation is created by honest communication.

This post is about constructive feedback, and how important honest exchange is in every aspect of our lives. Avoiding open disagreement, hiding things away or pretending to be on the same emotional and intellectual plane when you are not, causes tensions and hurtful feelings; the opposite of what we actually intend.

In the short video below, the speaker, Bo Seo, argues that openly disagreeing with each other instead of pretending to be on the same level leads to richer human relationships.

This topic can be supplemented by pages from the chapter on candor in the book about Netflix’s company culture: No Rules Rules (summary of the books’s main points under link).

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Guess the movie

The image above is from one of my favorite films adapted from one of my favorite books that I happen to be rereading at the moment. I would say it also qualifies as a classic of film history.

I’ve been going through my collection of material – something I do every once in a while – and came across these little film synopses you find below. In the past, each of my course participants would get one to read out loud and for the others to guess. Simple little exercise, but I’m always relieved that there is at least a little common cultural ground we share, even if only some classic movies we all seem to have seen.

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Watercooler, coffee kitchen, home office or open space?

Watercooler conversation

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable with the phrase work-life balance, as it seems to assume that work is not life. However, maybe that’s the honesty of the phrase, as work often isn’t.

Recently, due to the pandemic, the topic of work quality has gained a lot of attention. Depending on their line of work, people seem to have become less tolerant towards unsatisfactory to bad working conditions, underappreciation, bad pay or all together. The Great Resignation, people quitting their jobs for various reasons in droves in the last two years, stands as witness to this.

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Green Cities

The image above is from an article on the webpage of the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome about an algorithm that is said to have found the greenest city in the world. Do you recognize the city?

Tim Bowen from onestopenglish created a Guardian Weekly lesson on How to Get Cars out of Cities.

With one of my groups, we never got past the warmer question that asked us to put a list of six cities into a ranking order of ‘greenness’. The discussion triggered by this task was about why these cities had made the list, who had come up with the ranking and, most importantly, what were the criteria for being considered a green city.

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Oscars Potpourri – a selection of ideas

The 94th Academy Awards ceremony will take place on March 27. Again a little later than its pre-pandemic February date. If you like to learn more about the award itself, wikipedia is the place to go.

This year’s nomination ceremony has already taken place and can be watched on youtube.

I always like going through the Oscar nomination ballot sheet that lists all categories and films. It offers great general vocabulary practice, not just specifically film related. Going through the titles, finding out if anyone has already watched some of the nominated films, looking at trailers and synopsies of the films – all this I always find quite enjoyable even if – in most cases – we haven’t seen so many of the films.

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Guess the Movie

Recently I bought a poster: 250 Top Movies Bucket List. I had it hung on my wall and was accordingly asked by some course participants what it was they were seeing. The single movie titles were too small for them to identify over my camera, but they were interested and some wanted to find out how many they actually knew.

I found a page that shows them all. And below I put some quiz questions together. Each sentence hints to one of the films. But before you guess the films: do you know the origin of the term bucket list?

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New Year’s Eve saw the passing of one of America’s most beloved personalities

She was also one of my all time favorites, mainly because I was a big fan of the Golden Girls. I always used to recommend watching the series to my English students. For one, I recommend sitcoms in general as they offer loads of language. They circle around the relationships between the people involved, and, different from many movies where imagery and actions are more in focus, these kinds of series offer exposure to lots of conversation and idiomatic phrases of everyday life.

In the 1980ies, watching the Golden Girls helped me reawaken my then slightly dormant first native language (German being my second). I watched and rewatched and could quote many passages of favorite episodes. I loved the way they bantered, bickered and fought, always to resolve their differences in the end. The topics they tackled were often serious matters of social concern, wrapped in a lot of humor.

But in the US, Betty White is not only famous for playing Rose Nylund. She stood for much much more; more than fans in Germany probably know.

In a little video, CNBC offers a glimpse of the person Betty White was. RIP Betty White and thank you!

Order of Operations

Last week we had an interesting little debate about math education. It does happen every once in a while that we talk about maths, and I always find it interesting. I have quite a few mathematicians in my groups and in general like to know a little about my group participants’ fields of expertise. I also used to like maths in school before I had the wrong teachers. And yes, there is no doubt about it: your success in maths has little to do with your brain (or gender) and all with your maths teacher/s. Continue reading

WEF 2015: Income disparity tops list of global risks

Every year around 1 000 experts (700 in 2014) from industry, international organizations, government, academia and society are asked to give their assessment of a list of global risks. The results are reported on the WEF webpage, where you can also find the survey itself and graphic analyses of the results.

Here the link to this years WEF report.

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One of my favorite webpages, and one I can strongly recommend to teachers and students of English alike is, and here especially Kerry Maxwells collection of ‘BUZZWORDS’.

Buzzwords are newly formed or created terms that reflect upon different kinds of social phenomena or new fads and trends and thus are great for discussion. Additionally, from a language perspective, they offer insight into word formation processes. On the webpage is a whole list of new words and an archive going back several years.

Every once in a while I choose some I find interesting and believe (or hope) will trigger lively discussions. (see post May 2013) Continue reading

Make Me A German

Last week we watched a documentary from the BBC about an English couple who move to Germany to find out what living in Germany is like: Make Me A German. Justin and Bee Rowlatt, both journalists, move to Nuremberg where he takes on a job with a medium sized company (Faber-Castell) and she stays at home to be a good housewife and mother. The differences to their lives at home in England and the related problems they encounter offer great material for discussion.

See also

London Tower Commemorates World War I

On my visit to London this year, I went to the Tower of London to look at the art project installed to commemorate the British soldiers who died in WWI.

It is quite fascinating as you can see if you go to the link below or google Tower of London.

November: In the meantime some weeks have past and the sight around the Tower has changed dramatically. Continue reading

Anniversaries, Anniversaries …

… are always a chance to take up the topic of a historical event.

The most crucial anniversary of 2014, at least from a European perspective, is the centennial of World War 1. History books tell us the outbreak of war was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo, an incident that Nassim Taleb considers might have been a Black Swan: an unpredictable event of large impact. Continue reading

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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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). We had been reading about a general decline in the sales of soft drinks. In this connection, the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City came up. The question arose why anyone would buy such large drinks in the first place, instead of maybe buying a second if you still wanted more after the first (smaller) one. The ‘History of Supersizing‘ provides an answer: we seem so have a tendency not to take seconds so as to not appear piggish. Thus, if marketers want people to buy more of their drink, they have to increase the size of one. (revised December 2021)

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