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).

Continue reading

Exerpt (3) From Louise Penny: All the Devils are Here

The pages below are from Louise Penny’s Gamache series book 16. It plays in Paris, France. The exerpt is an exchange between the wife of the main protagonist Chief Inspector Gamache from the Canadian Sureté, herself a retired librarian who worked in top position at Québec’s Bibliothèque et Archives nationales, and the Chief Archivist of the Archives Nationales in Paris.

Continue reading

Exerpt (2) How does the story continue?

The page below is from a very recently published novel. The author has written a large number of highly successful stories, many of which have been adapted to movies. He likes experimenting with different genres from science fiction, magic realism, fantasy, crime and suspense, to name just a few. His books often relate to current topics of social or political relevance, and frequently, though not always, include supernatural elements or twists. All stories evolve around human relations and conflicts. His strength lies in creating atmoshere and drawing the reader into the story – you feel you are there. He creates complex characters and a vivid sense and atmosphere of the locations or places where events unfold.

Continue reading

Are you an extrovert or an introvert?

The article and quiz ‘Are you an extrovert or an introvert (and why it matters) (link below) is related to a TEDtalk from 2012 by Susan Cain; Quiet: The Power of Introverts. This issue has forcefully come up again during corona times in connection with how people feel about having to work alone from home.

In relation to this, the BBC article Why introverts excelled at working from home deals with the question what kind of personality types are supported by which kind of work. Or in other words: do ‘traditional’ office jobs favor louder, more visible and extroverted people at the expense of introverts – whose time has now come?

Are you an extrovert or an introvert (and why it matters)

What are SPORCLES?

(My sporcle post)

Sporcle.com is a page that provides a huge collection of quizzes of all kinds. For my classes I like using those where language has to be linked to imagery. There are some very creative ideas on this site waiting to be discovered. You can add them to a class at the end when some time left or at the beginning as an introduction or supplement to a topic.

Sometimes, when you start with a sporcle quiz it can also evolve into a full swing lesson. This happened in one of my classes when we played a geography quiz where you had to identify all 50 states of the USA. For one, it took much longer than expected, and then we ended up talking a lot about the single states, researching them on the internet. For something like this to happen, though, it is important to change the setting “timer” to “stopwatch”.

Continue reading

Text exerpt (1) A science fiction classic and some examples of ‘past perfect’ and ‘used to…’

Guess which ‘classic’ the following text passage is from.

The house stood on a slight rise just on the edge of the village. It stood on its own and looked out over a broad spread of West Country farmland. Not a remarkable house by any means – it was about thirty years old, squattish, squarish, made of brick, and had four windows set in the front of a size and proportion which more or less exactly failed to please the eye. The only person for whom the house was in any way special was Arthur Dent, and that was only because it happened to be the one he lived in. He had lived in it for about three years, ever since he had moved out of London because it made him nervous and irritable. He was about thirty as well, tall, dark haired and never quite at ease with himself. The thing that used to worry him most was the fact that people always used to ask him what he was looking so worried about. He worked in local radio, which he always used to tell his friends was a lot more interesting than they probably thought. It was, too – most of his friends worked in advertising.

On Wednesday night it had rained very heavily, the lane was wet and muddy, but the Thursday morning sun was bright and clear as it shone on Arthur Dent’s house for what was to be that last time. It hadn’t properly registered yet with Arthur that the council wanted to knock it down and build a bypass instead. At eight o’clock on Thursday morning Arthur didn’t feel very good. He woke up blearily, got up, wandered blearily round his room, opened a window, saw a bulldozer, found his slippers, and stomped off to the bathroom to wash. Toothpaste on the brush – so. Scrub. Shaving mirror – pointing at the ceiling. He adjusted it. For a moment it reflected a second bulldozer through the bathroom window. Properly adjusted, it reflected Arthur Dent’s bristles. He shaved them off, washed, dried, and stomped off to the kitchen to find something pleasant to put in his mouth. Kettle, plug, fridge, milk, coffee. Yawn. The word bulldozer wandered through his mind for a moment in search of something to connect with. The bulldozer outside the kitchen window was quite a big one. He stared at it. ‘Yellow,’ he thought and stomped off back to his bedroom to get dressed. Passing the bathroom he stopped to drink a large glass of water, and another. He began to suspect that he was hung over. Why was he hung over? Had he been drinking the night before? He supposed that he must have been. He caught a glint in the shaving mirror. ‘Yellow,’ he thought and stomped on to the bedroom.

Then find examples for ‘past perfect’ and ‘used to’. Describe their use. What is the prevalent form most verbs are in in this passage?

Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: 42nd Anniversary Edition (S.3-4). Pan Macmillan. Kindle-Version.

How would we like to work?

During the pandemic, the topics of work-life balance, healthy work environments, satisfying work etc. came even more into focus than they had before. Work environments underwent dramatic changes in various lockdown situations. Whereas in many jobs or professions, employees and workers had no choice as to continue going to their respective work places, others, especially office workers, experienced working from home as a new normal.

Towards the end of the pandemic or the emergency situations, discussions intensified about how people wanted to work in future: which changes induced by the pandemic situation would they like to keep, where would they like to go back to how things were before – if at all – and what was truly missed.

Continue reading

The Rules of the Game – Basics principles of the English verb structure system

For an extensive description go to my page The Verb Structure Circle.

This post is the first in a new category: Basic Principles of English. My focus in the beginning will be on verb structures. I will provide examples and exercises (which is why you will also find these posts under the category Lessons and lesson activities). Each post will focus on one point. Sometimes the exercise will consist of only one small task so that the topic need not take up a whole session.

Continue reading

Verb grammar in context – a little verb grammar practice

Check the texts below. Tip: Before you start filling in appropriate forms, note what kind of text you are dealing with. Is it a technical text, non-fiction, opinion, part of a novel etc. Certain text types tend to be structured and written in a certain way. In a novel, for instance, a narrator tells a story mostly using a past tense form. Nevertheless, the story-telling feels immediate or present, which is why you would find something like: All was quiet tonight – ‘tonight’ suggesting present time. For this reason, some call the past tense form in stories ‘literary past tense’: though using the past tense, the story still feels as if it is unfolding ‘now’ while you are reading (see also: Tenses in fiction writing).

Continue reading

Young Russians fleeing country

Adapted from New York Times, October 5, 2022

Below you find an adapted and abbreviated version of an article from the New York Times reported by Andrew Higgins. He describes the situation of many young Russian men who are trying to escape their home country in a desperate attempt to evade being pulled into a war they do not support.

Continue reading

What is a week?

In the UK and several other countries, research institutes and companies are trying out different ways of working. One such project is the trial run of a four day week instead of the traditional five. Below you find an adaptation of the text from The Guardian, supplemented with a little gap-filling exercise.

One of the research institutes involved in this project is the thinktank Autonomy. On their website you find a little video titled Change the Week.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Talking about the future

Very often, the verb system of English, and maybe also of other languages, is described under the aspect of time. In German, this even finds its expression in the grammar term ‘Zeiten’ for different verb structures. Though not completely incorrect, this creates a focus that places too much emphasis on ‘time’, thereby giving learners of English a distorted perspective on the various aspects and/or meanings of verb structures.

Continue reading

‘Words for Nerds’

Do you know what a finial is? In one of the Spotlight issues from 2020, Judith Gilbert, writer, editor and translator, wrote a little column titled ‘Words for Nerds’. Here she lists a number of words most people probably never heard of, and which demonstrate that it is impossible to know all the words of any language. They are all nouns denoting special little items of everyday life. See if you can find out what they are with the help of internet images. Do you know the term for the thing in your own native language?

Continue reading