(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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Some of the questions of the following quiz relate to the reinsurance company hannover re, but not all. Those that do concern HR’s specific company culture.
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
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.
One of my favorite webpages, and one I can strongly recommend to teachers and students of English alike is www.macmillandictionary.com/buzzword, 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
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 bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/posts/Make-Me-A-German