In the mean time, and after what felt like ages, our online meetings are beginning to be quite okay. My tolerance level for technical problems really degraded after five weeks, but in week six things looked a little brighter and I feel a little less overwhelmed, a little more confident and actually quite happy with some of our sessions.
I must thank my group members, who were so patient and helpful in making our online meetings worthwhile. I also feel that there are some advantages to meeting this way. People seem more attentive, more concentrated and focussed on listening. And listening is significantly important to the language learning/development process. Of course, I have no idea what those are doing who slip out of the picture as most progammes allow only a limited number of videos to appear on the screen. But in times like these it is important to trust.
In week five I have been mainly concerned with listing useful lesson links in the post below. The emotional side of things is best described as a roller coaster ride. The weather outside is really nice, if a little dry. The birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the only really disturbing thing these days are motor bikes.
Most people I speak to agree on two things concerning what they miss most and what they find best about our new way of life these days. What people miss most, of course, are other people, especially those they feel close to like relatives and best friends. After seeing colleagues only online for five weeks now, if seeing them at all, as the video function is the first to go if the connection is bad, people long to meet again in person.
My fourth week of having to stay at home. If this continues much longer, I will have to come up with different headlines for my posts – it’s becoming a little repetitive.
Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in a friends’ garden (without my friends, we are still social distancing), realizing that I was beginning to lose my sense of time; how many weeks have passed now again? I wasn’t sure. However, I did remember that we are in the Easter week. Unless you consider next week to be the Easter week. Actually, it’s just a prolonged weekend and I am babbling.
The weather is wonderful and this week feels a little like a real vacation, despite the situation.
I had just a few meetings and phone calls. And the corona related pictures and videos are gradually being replaced by Easter greetings. However, yesterday I was sent a video that was new to me. (Turned out, when I passed it on, several already knew of it, but enjoyed watching it again anyhow.)
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 😉
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.
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.
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’.
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
(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