How to Train your Teacher

This is something I’ve been thinking about lately (and yes, I know I haven’t been looking very specifically at the English language these last few days: I promise I’ll do something about grammar or etymology tomorrow). Tomorrow you see, I’ll be conducting the orientation for the teachers who’ll be in our school’s Junior Summer School, teaching teenagers. And so at this time, as well as at others throughout the year, my mind turns to training, and what approach to take. And there are many ways it can go, and a lot of factors to consider, such as: Continue reading

That isn’t Typing at all – it’s Writing!

At the moment, I’m reading the novel Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco. (I’m aware that this is the second post in a row about what I’m reading: I do like to read, and I feel there’s a future post about a link between English teaching and reading) Yesterday, I was struck by the following passage (context: the book was published in 1988, and the narrator is writing about his first experience using a word processor, referred to as he/him):

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Words I Don’t Know

Why no!, not, in fact, a blank page, but rather a continuation of the theme of what I don’t know about English (though you can expect this to be a very short series of articles). Today I want to have a look at the last book I’ve read: Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut. Like most books I read, it was a second-hand copy from my favourite bookshop, and one of the previous owners had underlined a lot of words. I didn’t think too much of this at first: there are often handwritten notes and underlined sections in second-hand books. That’s part of the appeal of second-hand books: the feeling that they’ve already had a full life (it must have been some journey to get from S&S Books in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop in Galway, Ireland), and the knowledge that someone else got to appreciate them. This case was slightly different though, because there were just individual words underlined, and no notes in the margins. I soon realised that these words were underlined because the previous reader hadn’t understood them. How did I come to realise this? Because I didn’t know most of them either.

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Promote Your Blog Here!

My Life Online

As a thank you for 1,500 followers (1,600+ as this post goes up!), I thought I’d help you guys and give a little something back! Read below for what you need to do to promote your blog and gain followers!

To those of you who know how this works: go right ahead, comment and reblog as usual! Also remember to like this post if you want more similar to this!

To those of you who don’t know, or need reminding, here’s what you need to do:

First, simply leave a small comment telling people about your blog, accompanied with your URL. Then look through the comments of this post and when you see someone you like the look of, check out their blog and give them a follow, etc! If someone follows you, likes a post, leaves a comment, return it, it’s simple!

To gain even more, reblog this post!…

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“Besides” and “Anyway:” a Teacher’s Nightmare

This post is inspired by the moment I noticed that I finished a recent post with a sentence beginning with besides, and ending with anyway. Not so unusual, but it brought back some painful memories…

Quite a few years ago, I was teaching an IELTS class (IELTS is a tough Academic-English exam). The lesson was a vocabulary one, about using linking words in writing. Quite straightforward for me at that stage, as I’d been teaching for some time. I had a quick look at the main exercises (I’d like to say I wasn’t provided with much time to prepare the lesson, but I’m pretty sure my quick look at the materials was solely due to my overconfidence), and was satisfied: Ok, there’s furthermore, however, although, despite, in addition to… yeah, that’s easy, I’ve time to relax for a bit.

Into the lesson then, and everything was going ok. Ok, until I had a look at the exercise I’d just had the students start. It was pretty straightforward, the students had a text with gaps, and had to choose which words to put into the gaps. Normally, I’d get the answers from them afterwards, and get them to explain what they meant. Which would normally be fine, until I spotted that one of the words to be used was besides, and it was supposed to fit in the last gap. And I asked myself: What the hell does besides actually mean!?

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Pride: the Language of LGBT

It’s Pride Week this week, and this weekend sees a lot of Gay Pride events around the world. Here in Ireland there’s a Gay Pride Parade in Dublin today as a culmination of a week’s celebrations. It’s great that such an event is now a normal part of life here that people from all walks of life can get involved in and enjoy. It wasn’t too long ago that such a thing was inconceivable: homosexuality was only decriminalised here in 1993 after all. In line with the great strides many nations have made in dealing with sexual and gender identity in general, have been the developments in our language, as we learn to refer to ideas which were previously hidden, or which we’d never conceived of before. I’d like to take a look at a list of some of these terms and phrases:

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What’s the Difference Between a Pie and a Tart? (I don’t Know)

This is something I often ask myself. And then, I look it up. When I get the answer I’m satisfied, and then I don’t think about it again. And then a few months later I ask the question again, and I can’t remember the answer. Partly because it’s not so important, I suppose. And partly because I struggle with 50/50, it’s-one-or-the-other style answers. Like what the difference between biennial and biannual is, which I’ve long struggled to remember (though I think I know it now, but I don’t want to google it in case I’m wrong: I couldn’t face such a setback).

Only, the difference between a tart and a pie isn’t so trivial to me. Because I enjoy baking occasionally. I’ve liked cooking for a long time, but there was always something stopping me from baking. Maybe it felt too difficult, or I was afraid I might fail, I don’t know. But I’ve made a few things now, and baking’s not so bad. It’s basically just cooking, but with more particular ingredients and techniques. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve made some things that could be either tarts or pies, and I want to know one which they are! In fact, at this very moment I have something in the oven (I checked to see if it was ready after the comma after cooking, three lines above) and I’m not even sure if it’s a pie, a tart, or a cake.

Well, I know it’s not a pie, because it just clearly isn’t one. And if you’d asked me to guess, I’d confidently call it a cake. The thing is though, the recipe calls it a tart, and I’m willing to defer to Mary Berry on this one. But I’m looking at it, and I still think it could be a cake.  Rather than just google it again, only to forget it again later, I’m going to think about and try to figure out which is which, right before your eyes…

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