Monday, 14 October 2013

eccentric english

What makes the English so eccentric?
Speaking Japanese to their dogs at their local pub, perhaps?

▶ Three German Shepherds in a British Pub. - YouTube

go with the flow

The techniques of the DOGME school from Scott Thornbury are very attractive, because it's all about the student:

Teaching should be done using only the resources that teachers and students bring to the classroom - i.e. themselves - and whatever happens to be in the classroom.
A Dogma for EFL

Dogme language teaching is considered to be both a methodology and a movement.[1] Dogme is a communicative approach to language teaching that encourages teaching without published textbooks and focuses instead on conversational communication among learners and teacher. It has its roots in an article by the language education author, Scott Thornbury.[2] 
Dogme language teaching - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

But what about listening to the students and see where they'd like the lesson to go?

Example One:
> I suggested to my class that, in order to get to know each other, they should write down any 'not too boring' getting-to-know-you questions (What was the last book you read which you really enjoyed? How long have you been learning English) and put them into a box. Students would then pull out a question and answer it (and it could be one of their own).
> I asked the students if they wanted to do this in pairs (to 'maximize' speaking opportunities) or to do the exercise as a full class (to listen to everyone's answers and to contribute to the to-and-fro of discussion) - and the students all voted for the full class practice - their curiosity proving more powerful. We took 90 minutes to do that - and the conversation flowed.

Example Two:
> I wanted to practice last week's vocabulary - which I had put onto bits of paper (in the form of words or phrases that come up in class) and then put them into a box for 'recycling' later.
> So, I asked the students what they'd like to do with the pieces of paper. One student suggested a different take on what I've done before - which is that students working in pairs or threes each take 2 or 3 pieces from the box and then together as a group construct a story.
> This time, we each (including me the teacher) took one piece of vocab from the box only - then took it in turns to tell a story, each following on from the other and having to keep to the story line of the person before. When it came to each person's turn, we took a new piece from the box. We took 90 minutes to do that - and time flew.

immigration part 2

Following on from
Jay Doubleyou: immigration
Jay Doubleyou: social issues
Jay Doubleyou: Identity

Why does this builder employ Lithuanians rather than Brits?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-4/6 - YouTube

How would you feel if a Portuguese guy took your British colleague's job?
Or would you work in an Indian restaurant?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-3/6 - YouTube

But what's actually available at the Job Centre?
Should local employers be employing local people?

▶ The Day the Immigrants Left, Part-5/6 - YouTube

And here is Evan Davis in Swindon:

▶ Prof Dustmann on BBC News, interviewed by Evan Davis on the effects of immigration, 6th July 2006 - YouTube

the present perfect with goldilocks and the three bears

What do Daddy and Mummy Bear say when they look at their bowls of porridge/
And why does Baby Bear say something different when he looks at his?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears.mp4 - YouTube

Although perhaps this 'politically-correct' version has more to say...

Goldilocks and the Three Bears
(A Fairy Tale for the Politically Correct)
By Annie Buller

Once upon time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks.  She liked to play in the woods.  One day Goldilocks was playing in a part of the forest that she had never been in before and she was getting very hungry.  She noticed a cute little cottage between the trees and decided to go and ask for a snack.

She knocked at the door, but there was no answer.  When she tried the doorknob, however, she discovered that the door was unlocked and pushed it open.  “This is very unsafe,” she said to herself, forgetting that she was glad it was unlocked.  “My house is never unlocked when there’s no one home.”

Goldilocks went inside and saw three bowls of porridge on the table in the kitchen.  They looked delicious.  She tasted the first one, but it was so hot that she burned her mouth.  She tasted the second one, but it was so cold that it sent electric shocks down her cavity fillings.  Then she tasted the third one and it was just right.  So she ate the whole bowl.  “I wonder whose house this is,” she said to herself.  “They make great porridge.”

With her full stomach, Goldilocks began searching for a place to sit down.  She found three chairs in the living room.  She sat in the first one, but it was too hard.  She sat in the second one, but it was too soft.  She sat in the third one, and it was just right until she realized that she was too heavy for it.  By that time, though, it was already too late and she had broken through the chair and landed on the floor.  “This house could use a few renovations,” she thought.

She decided to go upstairs and look for a bed.  All at once, she had a horrible thought.  “What if they’re upstairs?”  She called out, “Is anyone home?”  There was no answer.

Goldilocks found the bedroom, and after trying all of the beds, (too hard, too soft, just right) she fell fast asleep.  An hour later she awoke only to find three brown fuzzy bear faces looking sternly down at her.  “This must be the one,” growled the biggest one.  They looked at each other and nodded, then as if on cue, they roared as loud as they could.  Goldilocks bolted out of bed and raced out of the house.

The next morning, there was a knock at the door.  Papa Bear opened it to find Goldilocks on his step with a strange man in a suit and carrying a briefcase.  “Who are you?” asked Papa Bear.

“The name is S. F. H. Scunque, attorney-at-law.  Here’s my card.  I’m here on behalf of Goldilocks.  She has asked me to represent her in a lawsuit on the grounds of personal injury, harassment, and emotional duress.  Here are your papers.”

The lawyer left with Goldilocks.  The bears went back inside to call their own lawyer.  They filed a counter lawsuit on the grounds of trespassing and destruction of private property. 

After a few months, when the flurry of paperwork flying between the two attorney’s offices had settled, they all met in court.  Goldilocks was wearing a bandage on her tongue where she had burned it on the porridge, a back-brace (she had jarred her back falling through the chair), and she had one ankle wrapped from spraining it while she ran away.  The bears’ charges did not hold up in court, unfortunately, because they had not had a “No Trespassing” sign on their property at the time, and also because a state certified psychologist had stated that Goldilock’s actions were merely responses to traumatic events she had gone through as a child. 

It had the makings of a successful frivolous lawsuit until the bears brought in their own psychologist who declared Goldilocks to be insane on the grounds that she liked porridge.  (What kind of child likes porridge?)  Then the judge found Goldilocks in contempt of court for lying under oath.  (No one with a burned tongue has to wear a bandage after a few months of recovery time.)  He found in favor of the bears, although their lawsuit had been dropped and no one received any compensation.  Goldilocks appealed with a new count of unsafe living premises against the bears.  The county and state building inspectors were sent to the bears’ house where they inspected it and declared it safe by state and county standards.  (Although they did confiscate the broken chair as a health hazard.) 

When the dust had finally settled, the bears were happy (except for baby bear who didn’t have a chair anymore), the lawyers were very happy, and Goldilocks was forced to use her college savings to pay off court expenses.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears by whimsicalfaery on deviantART
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thursday, 10 October 2013

my favourite tv

What are you watching at the moment?

The Wrong Mans: Episode 1 Trailer - BBC Two - YouTube

What's the most popular comedy series ever on British TV?

Skyscream2 and Gymm0's Top 20 Fawlty Towers Moments Part 3.wmv - YouTube

In a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, voted by industry professionals, Fawlty Towers was named the best British television series of all time.[1]
Fawlty Towers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Can simply watching TV help you learn English?

How helpful is watching TV/movies for learning a foreign language?
6 Tips for Learning a New Language - Wanderlust and Lipstick - Wanderlust and Lipstick
Can TV can help you learn another language? | Literacy, Languages and Leadership
techniques - Is it possible to learn foreign languages effectively by watching tv series? - Personal Productivity Stack Exchange

Why You Will Never Learn a Foreign Language from TV

By , 3/22/2011 at 12:59 pm
The prevailing wisdom seems to be that one of the best ways to get started learning a foreign language is to watch TV or movies in that language.  “If you just keep watching,” say many language wonks, then you’ll eventually start to “pick it up.”  This can’t be further from the truth.
Listening to entire conversations or plots in a foreign language, without having some significant language skills as a base, fails to provide an anchor for your learning.  The result is hearing a string of gibberish from which little or no actual learning takes place.  To achieve real learning, according to Krashen’s “Input Hypothesis”, the learner must be incrementally exposed to phrases that are just beyond her level of comprehension.  (Krashen defines this concept as k+ 1.)  This is the equivalent of hearing a sentence in which all words or grammatical concepts are familiar except for just one.
In other words, unless you are watching foreign language cartoons directed at 2 year-olds, chances are that your random TV sessions are not exposing you to the language nearly as incrementally as your brain needs it.
Why You Will Never Learn a Foreign Language from TV | The Brainscape Blog: Learn How to Learn Faster

the british class system

Do you know this TV series?

Upstairs Downstairs-Series 1-Episode 4 (The Path Of Duty) - YouTube

But you must know this one:

Downton Abbey Series 4 trailer, ITV - YouTube

Does a narrow social elite run the country?

Eton pupil
BBC News - Does a narrow social elite run the country?
Eton eternal: How one school came to dominate public life

The Eton irrelevance

“ARROGANT posh boys”.

Politics and class: The Eton irrelevance | The Economist

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

history of britain in front of the tv

Is TV a waste of time?
Jay Doubleyou: turn off your tv
Does TV make us stupid?
Jay Doubleyou: dumbing us down
On the other hand, it's all 'listening practice'...
What sort of things have you been watching on TV?

There's a new book out about the history of Britain 'in front of the TV'
Looks cosy, doesn't it?

Family Watching TV 1968.

Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the TV by Joe Moran – review | Books | The Observer

But here's a much more critical few lines from the same book:

The X-Factor Results Show 2009

... his passage on The X Factor, which he describes as "a grotesque caricature of democracy". "It claimed to be empowering but was actually infantilising. The utopian promise of democratic interactivity held out at the start of the digital era was now reduced to a single phone call, a triumph of direct-line consumerism." 

Armchair Nation: An intimate history of Britain in front of the TV by Joe Moran – review | Books | The Guardian

john taylor gatto: on video

Following on from
Jay Doubleyou: dumbing us down

Why do we have the education system we have today?
Where does it come from?

▶ John Taylor Gatto: On Life and Education - YouTube

▶ Human Resources: Gatto explains the seedy origin of public education-indoctrination - YouTube

John Taylor Gatto - The Purpose Of Schooling - YouTube

▶ John Gatto Prussian Education - YouTube


Tuesday, 8 October 2013


Is it OK to reveal secrets?

Learning English - Words in the News - Wikileaks soldier reveals why he shared secrets
Learning English - Words in the News - Manning given 35 years for leaks
Learning English - Words in the News - Edward Snowden still in transit

There is an interesting difference:
Like Manning, Edward Snowden gave away a public secret, revealing that the National Security Agency does not just spy on foreigners, but in violation of the legal framework established after the Vietnam War, also harvests vast quantities of information on the communications of American citizens, including email messages, browsing histories, postal records, and telephone metadata. When public rather than military secrets are given away, the state always insists that military security has been damaged, so it should not surprise us that the Obama administration claims Snowden gave away military secrets that will help those bent on attacking the United States. But there is a reason the top leadership of Al Qaeda has communicated for years bypersonal courier, and it would be a terrorist or insurgent with a very short life expectancy who would communicate by cell phone or unencrypted email. Snowden’s real crime was to reveal incontrovertibly what some already guessed and others might prefer not to know: The US government has secretly created a massive apparatus of domestic surveillance on the edge of the law. Not all secrets are alike | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Do you agree?

Monday, 7 October 2013


It's all about functional language:


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Pragmatics is the study of meaning in language in a particular context, meaning the place where the thing is said, who says it, or the things that
you have already said. Also, pragmatics studies how people speak when they both know something.
Pragmatics also studies how people speak not literally, but in an indirect way, and why even though this is the case, people can still understand
each other. It also studies how people can understand each other even if the words are ambiguous.
The ability to understand what someone intends to tell you is called pragmatic competence.

Here's a nice list - for teaching/learning Spanish:

Resources in Pragmatics and Spanish Linguistics
Conversando en Español Lengua y Cultura
With useful information and pedagogical materials for teaching and learning pragmatics and general linguistics, for
    • language instructors
    • students
    • researchers

  • Pragmatic variation Includes theoretical and empirical information on the acquisition of pragmatics by monolingual and bilingual children at different stages of pragmatic development. Pragmatic variation is illustrated on this site by an atlas which describes regional variation in the Spanish-speaking world and includes samples of how speech acts and conversational routines (e.g., greetings, agreeing/disagreeing) vary in Spain and in Latin America. (In progress.)
  • Politeness Politeness phenomena and samples of perceptions of politeness among different speakers of Spanish.
  • Speech acts Classifications and samples of various speech acts in English and Spanish: apologies, refusals, requests, etc. Access transcripts of interactions, listen, view video clips featuring interactions which highlight particular speech acts. (In progress.)
  • Voces Hispanas Explores the rich diversity of the Spanish voices and culture around the Spanish-speaking world through audio clips of native speakers from multiple countries. Provides Spanish teachers with a variety of activities for teaching various aspects of the Spanish culture. (In progress.)
  • Teaching Pragmatics Teachers' Resource Manual, student handouts, and PowerPoint presentations to accompany the instructor's presentation in class. Includes a pedagogical model that has been used at Indiana University's Department of Spanish and Portuguese, as well as various lesson plans for activities for teaching different cultural aspects of the Spanish-speaking world in the classroom (with audio clips and transcripts). (In progress.)
  • Pragmatic Development Includes theoretical and empirical information on the acquisition of pragmatics by monolingual and bilingual children at different stages of pragmatic development. Audio and video samples of children communicating pragmatic intent include: greeting, requesting, disagreeing, apologizing, and complaining. Includes samples from everyday conversations in settings with family and friends. (In progress.)
  • Exercises in Pragmatics Activities in pragmatics which allow learners to practice various speech acts in Spanish as a Foreign Language.
  • Resources

Discourse Pragmatics - Index

And it's all about 'communicative acts':

What are communicative acts*? Where do communicative acts fit into pragmatics?

What are communicative acts?

As you learned on the first page of this module, pragmatics refers to the way we convey and interpret meaning in communication. Since it would be impossible to cover every area of pragmatics (i.e., all the ways to convey meaning) in this website, we have chosen communicative acts as our point of departure.
communicative act is an utterance, or set of utterances (communicative act set), that we use to perform some sort of linguistic action or function in communication. For example, we use language to apologize, request, compliment, invite, refuse, greet, and complain.
Here are some things to remember about communicative acts:
  • The length and complexity of these acts can vary greatly. Sometimes they require only one word (e.g., the greeting "Hello!") and other times require numerous words and sentences in a complex sequence (e.g., "Good Morning, Mr. President. It is a pleasure to meet you.").
  • The meaning of any communicative act is influenced by non-verbal signals such as gestures and even silence.

Where do communicative acts fit into pragmatics?

Learning to effectively perform communicative acts is essential in accurately conveying and interpreting meaning in any language.
Remember, meaning is the key to pragmatics. You may have all the proper language skills, but ineffective pragmatic strategies will limit your ability to accurately express and interpret meaning.

What are the necessary pragmatic strategies you need to convey meaning appropriately?

PRAGMATIC STRATEGIES can be divided into two types:
  1. Sociocultural Strategies—understanding the sociocultural norms of behavior underlying the communicative act
  2. Language Strategies—understanding the appropriate language behavior (e.g., grammar, vocabulary, structures) for performing the communicative act
Both types of strategies are necessary in order to convey and interpret the proper meaning of a communicative act.

How would you apply these pragmatic strategies?

Let's look at a real-life situation to get an idea of how these pragmatic strategies apply to communication in Spanish.
A passenger boards the bus in Madrid, Spain and asks a stranger to switch seats. He/She says:
Perdón, ¿Le importaría cambiarse de sitio?
three people sitting on a crowded bus

Many sociocultural strategies are needed for this situation.
For example...
  • The boarding passenger must know whether or not it is even appropriate to ask the person to change seats. Is it different for elderly people? Young people?
  • The boarding passenger must also decide how to ask based on the social relationship and imposition of the request. How would it be different if there was only one other seat next to a bunch of screaming kids?
Knowing how to handle these situations requires the necessary sociocultural knowledge of the society you are in (in this case, Madrid) as well as the different options available for making the request.
There are also many language strategies that are necessary.
For example...
  • You would need to know the conditional form (typically, but not always, more polite between strangers in Spanish)
  • The proper vocabulary (i.e., perdón vs. lo siento)
  • The other linguistic elements involved in the request (por favor)
As you can see, it requires a complex set of skills, even for a relatively straightforward situation. This website is designed to help you learn some pragmatic strategies (sociocultural and language) for successfully maneuvering communicative acts (e.g., inviting, requesting, apologizing) in Spanish.

The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

a history of irony

BBC Radio 4 gave us a magnificent tour of the world that is irony - although it was rather ruined by being presented by... an American:
BBC Radio 4 - Archive on 4, A Brief History of Irony

Try starting at "a brief musical interlude" at 15.10...

Which version do you prefer?

▶ Oasis - Wonderwall - Official Video - YouTube

The Mike Flowers Pops - Wonderwall - YouTube

All good students should do as their teachers tell them - and good teachers tell their students to listen to a lot of pop music with lyrics...

Lennon received a letter from a pupil at Quarry Bank High School, which he had attended. The writer mentioned that the English master was making his class analyse Beatles' lyrics (Lennon wrote an answer, dated 1 September 1967, which was auctioned by Christie's of London in 1992). Lennon, amused that a teacher was putting so much effort into understanding the Beatles' lyrics, wrote the most confusing lyrics he could. 

Although this is indeed a piece of pure irony, composer and musician Howard Goodall would classify the song as one of the Beatles' best, from 4.43:

Howard Goodalls 20th Century Greats - The Beatles (Part 2) - YouTube

  • Socratic irony, when someone (usually a teacher) pretends to be stupid in order to show how stupid his pupils are (while at the same time the reader or audience understand the situation).

Irony - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A "No smoking" sign surrounded by images of a smoking Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street tube station.

Irony - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Is this ironic?

Alanis Morisette - Ironic - YouTube

What examples does she mention?
And would you have any of your own?

But here's a comment from the YouTube video:
This song bothers my English teacher since none of this song is actually about irony just unfortunate events. I thought about it and realized that since the song is called irony people listen to the song and realize it's not about irony and so they think that's ironic and that's why the song is called "Ironic"

Here is the original official video to the song:

Alanis Morissette - Ironic (Video) - YouTube

And this is a parody:

It's Finally Ironic - YouTube

'Alanis seems to think that "irony" means "bad timing,"' explained American comic book writer, Matt Sturges, shortly after the song was released.
Examples could inlcude: 'It's a free ride when you've already paid,' 'He won the lottery and died the next day,' and 'It's a traffic jam when you're already late.'
So Eliza tacked on her own quirky statements to finally make the song veritably ironic.
She sings: 'He won the lottery, and died the next day/ from a severe paper cut from his lottery ticket,' and 'It’s a black fly in your chardonnay/ that was specifically purchased to repel black flies.'
The beginning of the chorus, 'It's like rain/ on your wedding day,' which has long been called a coincidence by critics, and not irony, is also changed to: 'It's like rain/ on your wedding day (a day and place you chose because it's known not to rain)'.
While some argue that the original song, in and of itself, is ironic for containing no irony at all, and others call it simply 'stupid,' Ms Morissette welcomes the continued debate.

Alanis Morissette’s song is finally ironic -

What's ironic about these photos?
And would you have any more examples?










18 of the Most Ironic Photos You'll Ever See from Look What I Found

This was in last week's paper, looking at the idea that energy companies should not be allowed to raise their prices:

The energy companies also state that falling dividends will make us worse off, because this will hit pension funds. And we can be sure that’s their main concern. Sam Laidlaw, the chief executive of Centrica with a salary of £5m, and the five British Gas executives who took a total of £11m in bonuses, will be distraught at the effect on pensioners, and won’t for a moment have considered the impact on their own pay. Hopefully, they’ll receive counselling, from someone who can explain they must think of themselves occasionally, as they can’t just worry about the needs of old people ALL the time.

Freeze energy prices and cause the Apocalypse - Comment - Voices - The Independent

But perhaps the most interesting commentator is the British street artist Banksy - with loads of irony:


Wednesday, 2 October 2013