Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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C1 Resource Pack!!

January 10, 2017

I just published / I’ve just published my notes to help advanced students learn to learn to become independent and resourcesful lifelong learners!

Check it all out on talkingpeople.net!

Direct link

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Beginning of the learning year – some tips for learning English

September 3, 2013

A two-page document I’ve written for my students

LEARNING2LEARN

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STORIES FROM MY TEACHER (ebook project)

July 2, 2013

NEWS JULY 2013

Asun (2 stories so far), Rosa, Ana, and Helena are intending to write stories as Guest Teachers for this little ebook project! So their names will be on the cover. We would be publishing it in October 2013. If any English-speaker wants to help with the proofreading, let us know!

One of Asun’s stories

portada2

OLDER POST: 10 JUNE 2013

Putting together my first e-book of stories as an English teacher!!

I’m collecting (selecting, writing down, proofreading…) stories and idea-stories I’ve been telling people in class in these last year! Thanks to the eCampus I had till this last year!, where I wrote follow-up stuff on things that came up in class!

(From this year, I have Language Misperceptions, Don’t Buy Exams, So here’s a story about love, and The Casino Story... I’ll review these and see if I remember more… If you do, let me know! Oh, I’m improving these days Cruelty to Animals, too)

It would be downloadable for free but also with the request that if people like it they bought it for one euro.

I’ve designed the cover! Do you like it? 🙂

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What she says about bridges!!

June 28, 2013

(edited by me… can’t ask her for permission!
I LOVE THIS POEM, so I’ve fixed it a bit in shape because it seems it was taken from a notebook and it’s not clear she wrote it in verses or in which verses — I LOVE IT BECAUSE… see how it connects (bridges) Death then to Life?? Amazing!!!)

Oh damn I wish that I were
dead — absolutely nonexistent –
gone away from here — from
everywhere but how would I…
There is always bridges
— the Brooklyn bridge
– no not the Brooklyn Bridge because
I love that bridge
(everything is beautiful from there
and the air is so clean)
Walking it seems peaceful there even
with all those cars going crazy underneath.
So
it would have to be some other bridge
an ugly one with no view — except
I like in particular all bridges
— there’s some-thing about them and besides
I’ve never seen an ugly bridge

600full-marilyn-monroe

Marilyn Monroe

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Writing Tests

June 8, 2013

In Writing Tests, like the ones that are given at Spanish EOI’s (standardized in Europe — A2, B1 and B2 CEFR certificates), you are required to respect the TOPIC you are given and the KIND of text (e.g. a letter or email, an article, etc.) and the WORD LIMIT (non-complying pieces cannot be checked by examiners). About the three points you need to mention, whenever required to do so, if you don’t mention one, for instance, that lowers your mark, but examiners can proceed to check your work. In any case, ALWAYS mention the three points, even if you don’t know how to develop one properly.

All EFL textbooks from Britain have wonderful explanations and exercises on how to write each kind of text, and with Useful Language for formal and semiformal letters, for instance. So browse through your textbooks, just to consolidate a few ideas about what you are expected to write for each kind.

Here are some of the notes I give my students, especially at the Upper Intermediate (B2) and Advanced levels (C1). http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/skills/writing.htm

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US American and British Standards

June 8, 2013

Here are some notes on differences between US English and UK English. As you know, there is no “correct English”, just different varieties generated by the sociological and geographical fact of communities in their locations (culture). In Spain, for instance, Andalucian Spanish (the variety used by Lorca, the poet, for instance, Victoria Kent, politician during La República española, and María Zambrano, philosopher) is as correct as Castellano Spanish (the variety used by Rafael Sánchez Ferlosio, the writer and thinker, for instance, or Rosa Montero, the journalist and writer). In both regions there are people who speak badly and write worse, and people who speak and write perfectly well!

Back to English, then there’s the linguistic fact of a kind of International English, which is always about picking the most understandable choices in particular contexts.

Because there is no “correct variety” you can use any, but you should try to be consistent, particulaly in Writing Assignments or Exams, of course. Have a look. (I’ll improve these notes some day — it’s a complicated issue, language and identity — but for the time being, it’ll make do!)

http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/languages/us_uk/grammardifferences.html

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Telling a (true/fictional) story (audios, tips)

May 14, 2013

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“to be worth” + -ing

May 7, 2013

For your List of Mistakes. This LoM material came up in Complaint Letters written by AVANZADO 2 students:

“to be worth” + -ing – IS it WORTH leanING?

“Consequently, we concluded it would BE WORTH boardING the plane first.” (Very formal, too risky to use because then you need to sound this formal in the rest of the letter. This is why I always recommend you use semiformal language.)

“So we thought it would BE WORTH gettING on the plane first” (This can be used also in semiformal letters, like semiformal complaints at the B2 level. And it’s also OK for informal conversations, of course.)

With “it” it is very common in informal language, when you know what “it” is referring to. “It” operates as a reminder of an action you have mentioned before (ellipsis).

“So we thought it would BE WORTH IT” meaning “So we thought it would be worth getting on the plane first.”

Discussion

Can we say “So we thought it would be WORTH IT TO get* on the plane first”?

Answer: In theory you can’t, but… It is common to hear (people speaking)/read (newspapers) — although not in British English

“So we thought it would BE WORTH IT TO get…” — The “it + infinitive” is not the case of…
“So we thought it would BE WORTH TO get…” — I think this is not ever heard anywhere.

So why do we hear “worth it to” if it’s meant to be wrong? Here is my guess: in this case people tend to combine it with the infinitive because (although this is not a grammar rule) intuitively they tend to associate the infinitive to present and future events (including future in the past), and the gerund to past events (as in “Hello” = Nice to meet you; “Good bye” = Nice meeting you” or the verbs that change their meaning depending on whether they are used with infinitive or gerund, like “remember”: Pres/Fut = “Remember to get the bread”, Past = “I remember spending hours with my cousins when I was a child”). This means that even though their Grammar Mind knows you should say “So we thought it would be worth getting on the plane first” considering “getting on the plane” is here a future in the past, they might then use “So we thought it would be worth it to get”

Then, there are more meanings and uses of “worth”, so post your questions if you have any on that.

Native speakers, linguists and teachers can also post freely to discuss the matters I address here!!! Thanks! 🙂

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Resources collected by my admired colleague Rosa

April 28, 2013

Rosa and I worked at EOI San Fernando de Henares from 2004 to 2006. From her, I learned a great deal of things, and one of them was to organize the Writings with specific dates to be handed in each month. In this way, students would have  a month to learn to write a certain kind of text and then I would be able to jot down stuff for a List of Mistakes based on common mistakes in the groups. Most importantly, we would have a C-Day (Composition Day) where students would read out their work, and I would share info on Writing Strategies and for people’s LoM. Sometimes Writings were so many that we spent a few lessons doing this. And I tell you — people learned a lot. This year I haven’t followed this plan because of the teaching and learning circumstances at present. But if you’re a teacher and would like to learn a bit about that, download the Program/Syllabus I designed for Avanzado 2 when we were free to design courses — according to the Constitution we are still free, but the truth is Schools are imposing that all teachers pick the same textbook and stick to it so they can “teach the same things”!!! As if learning were that simple! http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/ra/avanzado2/index.htm

  • Anyway, Rosa uploaded some unit (listening) tests for Upper Intermediate (B2) over here: http://ficus.pntic.mec.es/rgoc0026/Index_A.html
  • And then she has some interesting notes on Formal and Informal language here: http://ficus.pntic.mec.es/rgoc0026/Index_A.html Just in case you can’t read it: For formal and semiformal texts, please avoid BIG (large, high, … it depends on context! A big problem = a SEVERE /sevír/ problem), HUGE (very large, considerable…), KID (child), STUFF (what do you mean?). In formal texts you should avoid MANY. Use “numerous” instead, for instance. Brainstorm on examples. Also in semiformal texts, you can also use “a great deal of” to avoid using “many” too many times!
  • And Rosa has some podcast listenings here: http://ficus.pntic.mec.es/rgoc0026/Index_A.html
  • I have some podcast listenings here: http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/audio/podcasts/episodesinclass.html AND my apologies for Silvia for the delay in fixing the broken the links. I’ll be doing this right now. It might take me a few hours, but hopefully they’ll be working tomorrow! 🙂
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Example Brainstorming for Language (Unit 7, C1) – Productive Skills

April 14, 2013

When learning a language, you should collect useful language based on the language items you are learning. I did this with the language items in the Grammar Bank of Unit 7 (New English File Advanced – the textbook being used by Avanzado 2 students) to show you what I mean. The “brainstorming” part comes in when you pick the sentence which will remind you of the structure. So, yes, it’s not a true brainstorming exercise — words just do what they can! 🙂 Most of the times, it’s useless to jot down words in isolation equalled to a single word in your own language. Useless and misleading and unreal. You should write down the word in English you want to learn, and then look for sentences where it is used and you understand its use (underline the word so it stands out). You should not depend on dictionaries for this, for in real life (and in exams) you cannot use them, and you have to have developed enough skills to work things out in spite of unknown words, at least for many of the times.

When students have to do a writing assignment or when they have a few minutes to think about what they are going to say on a given topic what I recommend they do is that they brainstorm for language: what tenses can I use?, what kind of clauses? (if– clauses, because, although, time clauses: before + –ing, while past cont. then past simple, relative clauses without the relative pronoun…), infinitive / gerund / participle structures, what about modals? A little Saxon Genitive here, other possessives, –ing/-ed adjectives, comparatives, superlatives, “It” subjects, indirect questions preceded by “I don’t know”, “I can’t remember”… Of course, then you have expressions, vocabulary, to make your range rich, but you should also consider morphosyntaxis = grammar.

Two Intermedio 2 students who did this very well in an oral performance are Laura and Isabel, so check out their work! And adapt it to your level! More oral performances by students + videos by Avanzado 2 students with teacher’s written feedback. More videos by Avanzado 2 students: Pedimos el C1

So here’s the example of Brainstorming for Language at a C1 or Advanced level with the items learned in a unit. Once you know how to pronounce it well, you could record it saying each sentence twice, so that you automatize production and achieve fluency and accuracy!

Unit7_Brainstormingforlanguageitems_c1 (1 Word page)

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Oral & Writing Assignments by students

April 9, 2013

EOI (state-run adult language schools in Spain) students at the Intermedio 2 level take a B2 level Certificate Examination in June but use a B2 level textbook, which is crazy, yes, but that’s how things are! Similarly, EOI Avanzado 2 students take a B2 level exam but use a C1 level textbook!

Some students have kindly shared their work so anyone interested can learn from it. Throughout this evening I’ll be adding links to this post as I publish their pieces. Enjoy!

Thanks for the digs — good it’s useful for more people! 🙂

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Talking about the crisis

April 9, 2013

EFL students should not say

The main responsible for the crisis is the government

The responsible is…

Also the responsible are business people / multinationals / the wealthy (“the wealthy” is correct, yes)

This is WRONG in English

What can we say?

Post freely! We’ll appreciate! 🙂 And you could also be helping us improve this section on Talking People. Thanks!

http://www.talkingpeople.net/tp/usefullanguage/everydaylang/responsibility.htm

Apart from this I have a question:  There’s widespread corruption among politicians, apparently. Well, that should be fixed, and we should fight to get that fixed. And get the money back. Then the political system needs relevant improvements. Consequently, we should put pressure so that this happens. But if we discard Politics as our way of organizing societies, which are the options? Should we go back to the military organizing our society (dictatorships)? Or further back to having religious leaders organizing society (they still have too much a say considering we are meant to respect women’s human rights. Anyway)?

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About Job-application letters

April 5, 2013

Eduuu (A2Martes), just checking your job-application letter. Why don’t you check out the examples written by students of mine, and notice the kind of info they include in which moment of the letter?

I have more stuff on Talking People – Writing, but it really needs some organizing, so it’s better for you (all) to notice what each paragraph is about and collect some useful language.

More here: a little post on job interviews 

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Chufings! (chú fings)

April 5, 2013

I have just typed in people’s absent marks for March. Next the Head of Studies will issue the lists of people who would lose their Old Student status if they had missed over a 30% of the lessons (pérdida de la oficialidad). I know you know, but just in case — In no case do people lose their right to take the exam, so don’t panic.

List of Mistakes. I can’t remember if I shared this with you. I wrote it in the English Department while talking to my colleagues, and getting their feedback. It includes Politeness issues, too. List of Mistakes (2 Word pages)

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About job interviews

March 21, 2013

Here is some feedback for Intermedio 2 students who wrote the note to a friend on a job interview they’d had, which was one of the Sample Exam tasks.

When a job interview begins with “personal questions” is not about your life. It’s about personal details — contact info, education. So say “First, they asked me about my personal details” instead of “about my personal life.” Job interviewers — when offering good jobs, proper jobs — do not go around making personal questions. They don’t even have the right to ask you about your likes and dislikes (e.g., your hobbies). They need to check you’re qualified for the post. They check your Education and Work Experience.

Well, of course, I’m telling you this not so much for your writing test. Stick to what you can actually say in the foreign language, to avoid making mistakes.

Incidentally, when we send our CV’s/resumés, we should refuse to include a photo. There is no good reason behind that “request”. I didn’t even include my age when I was younger, in solidarity with older people! And also because I found my education and work experience were enough information, and my age irrelevant!

OK, I can hear you. “That’s not reality.” Well, but it should. One thing I know about jobs is that if they start exploiting you and treating you with no respect, that’s not going to changeand here women have by far the worst (most humiliating / hopeless) part — I decided to take State exams when I realized I was not going to take any more shit in interviews! I had had enough!! They can’t ask you if you’re single, nothing about your lover/partner!, or if you want to have a baby, they can’t make comments on your body or how nice you are, they can’t treat you like an idiot, and of course, they can’t include in the pack forced blue jokes, simpático comments or going for a drink and — if they get lucky — a fuck. Be wary.)

Read Illegal Questions on TP. Oh, and if you see how we can improve the section, send in your stuff! Thanks!

If you desperately need a job, and what you find is that bad, you might have to accept it, OK, I grant that. I’ve done that, too (though putting some limits, like the sex limit, once I even fought my way out of the office because my boss, a respectable man, tried to rape me. And it was horrible hearing him say: “Your word against mine!” He was a diplomat! Still, he never succeeded, and eventually I quit. And people said: “You’re crazy!” People just don’t care much about women, we’ve been nothing as human beings, all as slaves, servants & dolls for too long!). But let’s not turn our backs to what should be. 🙂 It’s important. You should never feel bad for “allowing” people to mistreat you or exploit you, but you should never ever refuse to see reality. Because if you do, you’ll never see any chance to change the situation, and you’ll end up feeling trapped for a lifetime! Dignity is not about what we do. We do what we can. (I’m hearing June Jordan here.) Need can make us do things we would not chose to do. (Though I’d rather join Robinhood than accept the kind of exploitation I’m not willing to accept, I should say!) Dignity is about not losing the self-respect of knowing what’s going on, plus dignity is about not victimizing oneself — which is always hard when you belong to the group which is socially & traditionally meant to be The Victim, targeted for exploitation and abuse.

In any case, my advice is you never accept being mistreated, treated with a lack of respect. They can overexploit you as a worker, say, but that should be the limit! And for women the limit should include demanding the basic human right to be named. The minimum respect is shown by naming the person. And we all know about how violent ordinary (patriarchal) men can get calling themselves the wrong name! WHAT HAS NO NAME, DOES NOT EXIST (Lo que no se nombra, no existe — this is shown now  in numerous sciences) – that’s been women’s case, sure! But here’s what we have to say now: IF YOU DON’T NAME ME, YOU DON’T EXIST! (Si no me nombras, no existes)

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US or UK Englishes? Being consistent in Writing exercises

March 3, 2013

Generally speaking, US English spelling tends to register the word in its oldest spelling form especially when the pronunciation of the Word matches better that spelling, for instance: tigre (instead of UK tigre) or color (instead of UK colour). This is similar to what happens with Spanish in America and in Spain. Both for these places for English and Spanish, places where the language is youngest tend to use older forms in syntax and spelling.

The spelling differences are not always systematic (occurring in all of the cases). Also, (además), it is not uncommon that in both varieties of English you find people who use any of the forms, for instance, in the USA people could be using film, too, when talking about the kind of movie you see in art-house. Another common case is the specialization of one of the terms in the variety where the term is not that common: for instance, “biscuits” in the USA are unsweetened dinner or breakfast pastries. Terms traditionally assigned to one of the two varieties are often used in both!

Then we have variants which are more common internationally, but “internationally” means different things. Here in Spain, the international English choices are more influenced by British English in some cases, whereas in a more global international English, choices are often more influenced by US American English.

As an EFL, consider context, and feel free to choose: in writings, for instance, you could use US American English or British English standards. You may have to choose this or that word (city centre vs downtown, for instance). In spelling, check this, for instance:

Spelling Differences US American EnglishUS English British EnglishUK English
-or vs. -our Color, neighbor, favor, favorite, honor, Colour, neighbour, favour, favourite, honour
-er vs. -re Tiger, center*, theater Tigre, centre*, theatre
-ze vs. -se Analyze, criticize, memorize (learn by heart) Analyse, criticise, memorise
-og vs. -ogue Monolog, dialog, catalog Monologue, dialogue, catalogue
-ll vs. -l Travel-traveling-traveled Travel-travelling-travelled
-m vs. -mme Program Programme
-ck or -k vs. –que(non-systematic) Check
spell-checker
Cheque
spell-chequer
Regular vs irregular verb forms Learn-learned
dream-dreamed
Learn-learnt
dream-dreamt
-ce vs. –se (verbs/noun form pairs) To practice
some practice
To practise
some practice
-se vs. –ce (nouns) License (license plate)
defense
Licence
defence

This word is not “centro” referring to: the city/town centre in UK English, which is downtown in US English.

The list below was put together using the very precious resource of Hints and Things (http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/library/WORDS2.htm)

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Learning to notice “Useful Language” – technology & awards

March 1, 2013

When you read texts in English, use that to collect Useful Language, too, remembering to pronounce out loud the sentences or chunks of language you jot down!

Below, I have underlined some Useful Language for topics like awards, or technology, in a news article found on the PoA Awards website (formal English):

Prince of Asturias Awards: Technical & Scientific Research 2009

Oviedo, 17th June 2009. At its meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, made up of (members of Jury), chaired by (chairperson) and with (secretary) acting as secretary, has unanimously decided to bestow the 2009 Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research on the U.S. researchers, Martin Cooper and Raymond Samuel Tomlinson, respectively considered the fathers of the mobile phone and e-mail.

These two discoveries are among the greatest technological innovations of our time, revolutionizing the way that thousands of millions of people communicate worldwide and contributing decisively to the advancement of knowledge. In particular, they are key elements for achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals that will enable every citizen on the planet to exercise their right to communicate.

Their impact on society is reflected by the more than 4,000 million mobile subscribers and the 1,500 million users of e-mail and other Internet services. All this constitutes an important aid to the Developing Countries, for which it supposes a source of equality and opportunities, bringing nearer basic services such as health and education.

With this Award, the Jury also wishes to recognize the effort and work of all those people who have contributed to fostering and developing the mobile phone and e-mail services, forms of communication that give rise to a connected world, free from geographical or temporal barriers.

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Clauses. Result (so = así que, por tanto…)

February 22, 2013

Part 1: so… (for result)

  • It is pouring rain, so take your umbrella if you don’t want to get wet!
  • The talk was really interesting, so there were lots of questions!
  • The train leaves at 6pm so we should get there by 5.30pm!
  • I’ll get home at 9pm, so give me a ring then!

This lot should not be confused with “so that” indicating purpose (finalidad; para…).

Part 2: so … that; such (a) … that.

Then you have these structures, related to (adv +) adjectives and quantity + nouns:

so (+ (adv.) adjective or quantifier + noun) … (that) + S + V”

adj.
I was so (very) tired (that) I fell asleep in class!
The trip was so (very) tiring that I slept for 23 hours!!
Their performances were so stunning that the movie was a great success worldwide!

quant. + n.
There were so many people that some had to stand up at the back.
There were so few projects we had to cancel the contest.
There was so much rain that we had to find shelter.
There was so little time we had to do it all in a rush

“such  (+ a, for sing., no determiner for plurals + (adj.) + noun) … (that) + S + V”

It was such a thick book that it took me a month to read!
They were such heavy boxes that we had to ask for help.
I went into such a whole lot of trouble that in the end I felt it had not been worth it.
There was such a lot of noise that we had to move to the third floor.

Part 3: As a result, As a result of , Consequently, Therefore, Thus, For this/that reason, In consequence.

There was heavy rain for the whole day. As a result, numerous areas were flooded.
As a result of heavy rain, numerous areas were flooded.
We hadn’t turned off our mobiles. As a result of that, we were asked to leave the room. It was very embarrassing.
The estimated budget for this project is €10,000 and we are €2,000 short. Consequently,/Therefore,  we need to do some urgent fundraising.

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LoM: when to use “could” & “would be able to”

February 19, 2013

If you need to make a proposal, you will be using “could”: “In the past days, I’ve been thinking about activities we could do in class to improve our oral skill.” Here, we cannot use “would be able to do” because this wording indicates ability, not a proposal.

However, you could say (proposal): “We could prepare (proposal) Oral Presentations in small groups. In this way, we would be able to overcome (ability) our fear of speaking in public, because we would do it as a team.”

It’s true it can be tricky to work this out. Just keep in mind you need to consider the other elements in the sentence, the supporting elements, so to say, like “In this way.”

What would you say?:

Case 1: a) “You could choose a few student to perform a speaking task every week” or b) “You would be able to choose a few students to…”

Case 2: a) “If we were willing to speak in public, you would be able to choose a few students to prepare monologs” or b) “If we were willing to speak in public, you could choose a few students to prepare monologs.”

Think about it!

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Weeks 3 & 4 February: moving on in Exam Format Practice Month

February 18, 2013

The agenda of weeks 1, 2 and 3 that is on the Bulletin Board in class is also here.

The new items are that today and tomorrow I’m explaining how we will proceed with the Speaking and Writing tests on the Educamadrid site.

Week 3 – Update

AT THE END OF THIS WEEK, you should have consolidated a knowledge of the kinds of Reading & Listening tasks (and Writing tasks, for the groups getting feedback in class about Politeness et al.) and you should have reduced your fears, developed your confidence in terms of Exam Format. Hopefully, you will have been using the underlining technique, notetaking including skeleton of meaning, some phonemic transcription, skimming and scanning, proofreading your work…

SPEAKING

Get your copies of the sample tasks on the Educamadrid site. You will have time in class to prepare them with your classmates: practice/practise speaking about those topics freely, brainstorm on language, and then practice timed speaking at home. Meanwhile I’ll be calling out people’s names to come to Exam Area. YOU SHOULD NOT WRITE DOWN YOUR MONOLOGUES OR DIALOGUES. You should practice SPEAKING on the same topic over and over again, till you feel confident, using your detailed outline and your jottings from brainstorming on language.

Then, after you have done it again in Exam Area, when I call your name (I’ll use your list numbers), you can record your sample monologues, so that you can listen to them again throughout the rest of this course.

So now you have two areas of Speaking activities to work on in class and at home: the ones based on units 1-5, so that you use the language learned/learnt from using your textbook audios and other exercises; and the timed tasks covering all of the sample cards you have (work on one a week, for instance).

WRITING

Once I’ve given you back your Practice Writing (Intermedio 2’s), work on your List of Mistakes, and start working on Task 1 of the Sample Writing test on Educamadrid. You should be handing it in in the second week in March. Once you get it back, work on your LoM and then do Task 2.

As unit 5 depends on your work at home, remember that you can also hand in your Writing corresponding to unit 5, but only once you have learned to do that kind of writing from your textbook. Considering dates, both Task 2 of the Sample Writing Test and Writing 5 will probably have their deadline just after the spring holidays, perhaps just before them! We’ll see.

Week 4 – Finishing Exam Format Practice Month

We’ll continue doing orals in class, I’ll comment on people’s mistakes, so we can learn to put grammar into use. And we’ll pay special attention to pronunciation, too.

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Uses of “you” that sound rude, impolite

February 18, 2013

  • Don’t say “I don’t understand YOU,” !! It’s enough to say, “I don’t understand” or “I don’t understand the last part”
  • Don’t say “I can’t hear YOU.” It’s enough to say, “I can’t hear (properly/very well).”

In proposals to professionals, when you are not a professional of that field (e.g., when you are a learner addressing your teacher),

  • Don’t write things like “Here are some ideas which YOU could improve” (!). It’s better to word it like this, for example: “Here are some ideas that MIGHT/COULD help US improve our work in class.”
  • Don’t say “I hope YOU think over my recommendations,” it almost sound like a threat! 😀 Say, “I hope my recommendations are useful!”
  • Don’t say “I hope that all these things can help YOU to improve the lessons”! Say something like “I hope my proposal can help US in class” (it’s adult students who need to do something about not volunteering in speaking activities), or “I hope my proposal is helpful”.
  • Compare these two sentences:
    1. I am writing to suggest some new things that you can do to make lessons more attractive and interesting
    2. I am writing to suggest activities that could make lessons more participatory.
    2′ (higher level of English) I am writing to suggest activities that might (polite) encourage learners to speak in public.

    • Which do you think is a better kind of wording, less risky (to avoid sounding impolite)?

Some advice for tasks where an adult learner should suggest ways in which to improve a language lesson: Don’t make the YOU=teacher responsible for what is not their responsibility. Try to use more indirect statements, not involving anyone, or involving your group, the group of learners who need to improve their behavior/behaviour in class, in terms of speaking. (Adult learners in Madrid should try to acknowledge the responsibility they have in not practicing/practising speaking in public in class. EFL teachers actually do zillions of things to encourage them to do so. Still, adult learners keep making teachers responsible for their lack of practice, and this is ill-focused, meaning this will never allow those people to tackle their problem successfully and overcome it!)

(more to come)

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In spite of people knowing this, there are numerous questions about its use!

February 18, 2013

Here is a collection of Useful Language that might help you understand how to use: in spite of, in spite of the fact that, even though, although, despite… Consider these sentences and find your own examples. Post or comment in class.

Square brackets indicate the addition of a clause (subordinada).

  • These days online dating has grown in popularity [in spite of people are still doubtful doubting whether it is a safe way to meet or flirt with others.]  (C1 level)
    • “in spite of” + –ing verb making the sentence “people (not “online dating”) doubting” a kind of noun.
  • These days online dating has become more popular [in spite of the fact that* people are still doubting whether it is safe.]
    • *the fact that allows us to include a regular subject and personal verb (tense; here the present cont.)
  • [Although people are still wondering about its safety/how safe it is,] online dating is growing in popularity.
  • Notice the change here: which idea is in the main sentence and in the clause?: [Despite growing popularity,] people are still wondering how safe it is to socialize in this way.
    • *in spite of = despite

How to remember what admits what!

  • Despite – -ing verbs (verbs operating as nouns) and nouns: Despite knowing this, Despite being late, Despite the traffic jam, Despite the consensus…
  • In spite of – same as above: In spite of knowing this, In spite of being late, In spite of the traffic jam, In spite of the consensus…
  • In spite of the fact (that) – allows us to include a regular subject with its verb in a specific tense. This is necessary when the subject in the main sentence (These days ONLINE DATING has become more popular) is different from the subject in the clause (in spite of the fact that PEOPLE are doubting…)
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LoM (incl. Politeness) – Example 1, for Intermedio 2 (CEFR B1)

February 14, 2013

You shouldn’t make any of these mistakes, and even though you know the grammar, you make them when you speak or write, so it is VITAL that you always PROOFREAD your writings and LISTEN TO YOURSELF as you speak. In this way, you will correct your own mistakes:

List of Mistakes

  • Adjectives are INVARIABLE (except demonstratives “this/these, that/those.”
    different places” is correct. Bad mistake: “you can visit differents places.”
  • You cannot make the mistake of not knowing the verb “to be” or “to have.” This kind of mistake is called “agreement S-V” (concordancia S-V).
    We were talking about…” is correct. Bad mistake: We was late.”
    He has a sister” is correct. Bad mistake: “He have a sister.”

Politeness Mistakes – For proposals, suggestions… when you are not going to present critical thinking (a well-reasoned argument that sustains your critic)

  • Use “I would like to make a proposal.” Don’t say I want to make a proposal” (Polite “would like”).
  • Use “We could do (this or that).” “could” is the modal for proposals. “can” is also an option, but it’s more straightforward and it’s better for letters to friends visiting your city, to say things like “We can do this or that”

WARNING!! about using “should.” “Should” has two very different meanings/uses. You learn that “should” is for adviceand this is the only use of “should” you need to know about for the time being (Here is a reason why it is not very positive to be using a B2 textbook, really, in my professional opinion as a language teacher.) At the B2 level you also learn that “should” is used for strong obligation. But you should be very careful (advice by teacher) because its use is restricted. The authorities use this “should” when they inform us about our duties with taxes, for instance. We also use it more personally when we feel morally obliged to do something. Consequently, if we are not in a position of “giving advice” (for instance to your teachers, even if you are also a teacher, because in this context you are not the teacher), for instance, to professionals about how they should do their job, even if you consider your opinion is important, even if the teacher or the professional shares this, you should not (strong obligation) use “should” because even if you mean it as advice, it will sound as strong obligation, and therefore, arrogant, patronizing, intrusive.

This is one of the reasons why so many of your writings sounded rude (except when the “should” applied to students, not to the teacher), improper at the least. So —

Don’t say We should do (this or that)” to people who are professionals when you aren’t in their group (if you aren’t a professional of the same field). However, you can apply it to the people in your same group, when you feel your equals and you have a moral duty you are not living up to! Example: “We could do more speaking activities (proposal to teacher), and as students we should make an effort to volunteer.”

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NI2M – Example 8 – Making suggestions

February 13, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity. Based on Student 8‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This letter is in a semiformal style. In your Certificate Exams… (read more on this in Example 1) British English.

  • The words in bold are more of a B2 level
  • The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer
  • The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

——————————————————-

Dear teacher,

FOLLOWING YOUR REQUEST, I would like to suggest ways that might improve the lessons and make them more participatory and interesting.

Firstly, it would be great to practise more speaking activities, especially dialogues with different classmates. It would also be good to hold discussions in small groups, for instance after watching a film, and then at Plenary, TOO.

Secondly, we might find more ways so that you can* give individual feedback if we hold a plenary on this. WE REALLY NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS IN CLASS.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you for the oral activity we did last week. It was a great idea to speak in groups about the recording we had heard before.

I really enjoy your lessons because I feel I am learning a lot.

Take care and see you in class!

(127 words, too short, so I’ve included 13 words in block letters)

* “so that you are able to give” sounds as if the problem were the teacher’s Skull. “Can” indicates here possibility.

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NI2M – Example 7 – Making suggestions

February 13, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity. Based on Student 7‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This letter is in a formal style. Formal style in a letter to a teacher nowadays is rare, but it is a safe option (it shouldn’t be so, but… In your Certificate Exams… (read more on this in Example 1) British English

  • The words in bold are more of a B2 level
  • The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer
  • The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

——————————————————-

Dear Ms Ford,

I am writing to you to make some suggestions for our lessons. I hope they are useful.

Firstly, I think that we should do more speaking activities because we need to use our grammar knowledge in communicative practice. In my view, we spend too much time doing grammar exercises in class.

In addition, it would be important that we could have some time for individual feedback. You might find time for that while we are working in small groups. There are some students who have great difficulties and this would be great support for their learning.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you for the activity we did last week. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it. We could do more activities like that because, in my view, we learn more and better.

Yours sincerely,

V.

(141 words)

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NI2M – Example 6 – Making suggestions

February 13, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity. Based on Student 6‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This is a good letter, written informally, and using International English. In your Certificate Exams… (read more on this in Example 1)

  • The words in bold are more of a B2 level
  • The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer
  • The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

——————————————————-

Hi teacher!

This year I’m really happy about my English classes because English is easier than I’d thought! In any case, I’d like to make some suggestions to improve a little next term.

First, we could do more speaking activities with different students in class, and we could set up a rota to book a date for our oral performances. The idea of an Exam Area for our timed speaking practice is wonderful, becauseit helps us psychologically for our finals! It’s very intimidating to speak in front of an Examining Board!

I would also like to suggest you have some time for individual feedback. You might do this while students are working in small groups checking their homework.

Last, I would like to tell you that this course is surprising because you are giving us a lot of tools to enjoy our learning! Congratulations for your work!

As you know, I’m the student rep, so please count on me for anything. We are a team!

Kind regards,

C.

(175 words, far too long, so I crossed out 14)

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NI2L – Example 5 – Making suggestions

February 12, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity.

Based on Student 5‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. The student was HAVING A BAD DAY, and on top of that, she doesn’t feel she can write. So here is what you can do to survive a Writing Test with the task mentioned above. Based on her own writing, which was incomplete and that would have made her flunk, but which could have been enough to pass if she had done something like this with that material…. (Find more examples on the Intermedio 2 page)

The student is using British English

——————————————————–

Dear teacher,

[How are you?]

I’m having a bad day. But here is the letter I promised last week, with suggestions on how to improve our lessons. I shouldn’t delay this more.

Firstly, [I think we have become silent as a group.] I suppose we’re all very tired. In spite of this, I would like to speak more in class. I think this would wake us up, so to say! 🙂 One idea for this could be to establish a routine: every Monday we could speak in pairs after preparing a speaking card. Then, in every lesson, we could speak with a different classmate.

About individual feedback, I’ve been trying to think about it, but I’m blank. I hope other students can help you more than me* in this!

But what I can do just now is tell you I loved last week’s lesson! It was fun and we had a laugh watching that TV episode!

Well, see you tomorrow!

S.

(168 words, a bit long, so I’ve crossed out a few words, but I can’t cross out words here, so they are in square brackets)

Can this letter pass the Writing Test? Yes. It’s true it doesn’t develop the second point, but structure, communicative target, tone/register (informal), and its English are perfectly OK.

Notice the tenses (present continuous, past simple, present simple, polite “would like”, conditional (hypothetical) “would”, present perfect continuous, imperative.
Notice the modals (“would” can also be considered a modal in some of its uses, anyway): shouldn’t (moral obligation), could (suggestions/proposals), can (ability).
Other stuff: “hope” + present (modal or ordinary verb), “how to” + verb, “after” + -ing verbal form, good use of “other”, a comparative “more than me*”, a Saxon Genitive in a time expression! (wow!)…

——————————————————-

* than I or than me? Well, when the word is a Subject Pronoun, it’d be I, and if it’s not, if it’s an Object Pronoun, then it’d be “me”. In this case, the issue is kind of tricky. It should probably be: “I hope other students can help you more than I [can help you] in this.” The fact that we omit the clause, doesn’t erase the fact that “I” would be or IS its subject. However, at a B1 level we cannot consider this ambiguous case a mistake!

TO SURVIVE THE WRITING TEST YOU NEED TO WRITE THE AMOUNT OF WORDS YOU ARE ASKED TO WRITE, WRITE ON THE TOPIC, WITH THE COMMUNICATIVE TARGET YOU ARE REQUIRED, AND MENTION THE THREE POINTS YOU’RE GIVEN.

IF YOU CAN’T WRITE ABOUT A POINT, FUCKING MENTION IT!!! :D, FOR GOODNESS SAKE! SEE EXAMPLE BELOW! (POINT 2)

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NI2L – Example 4 – Making suggestions

February 12, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity.

Based on Student 4‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This is a very good letter, in the semiformal style (no contractions, but not formal). In your Certificate Exams … (rest of text in Examples 1-3)

The words in bold are more of a B2 level: see Example 1. Can you do the same? Identify the language items?
The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer.

The pink words indicate good vocabulary range
The student is using British English

——————————————————-

Dear teacher,

I am writing to you because I think it is a good idea that students suggest different ways to improve our lessons.

Firstly, from my point of view, it would be a very good idea to do more speaking activities like pronunciation exercises, monologues, or dialogues. As you know well, the more we practise, the more we learn. Besides, BECAUSE WE SHOULD ALSO PRACTISE AT HOME, it would also be a good idea to use programmes like Skype to try to speak with foreign people. I am improving my German in this way because I have two German friends.

Secondly, I agree with you about recording our monologues and sending them to you by e-mail. Your feedback could be very useful.

Finally, I would like to congratulate you for your work. You are one of the best teachers I have ever had.

See you tomorrow

A.

(140 words. It would be easy to include a few more, so I did, in block letters)

More…

HOW MANY TENSES AND DIFFERENT MODALS DID L. USE?

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NI2L – Example 3 – Making suggestions

February 12, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity.

Based on Student 3‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This is a very good letter, in the semiformal style (no contractions, but not formal). In your Certificate Exams if the instructions do not mention whether you should use a formal or an informal register, teachers at EOI schools generally recommend you use a formal register. I disagree with this, because I believe examiners should include that information in the instructions, because people have all kinds of relationships to teachers and bosses, ranging from very informal to fairly formal.

The words in bold are more of a B2 level: see Example 1. Can you do the same? Identify the language items?
The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer.

The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

The student is using British English

——————————————————-

Dear teacher,

I am R.O., a student in the NI2L group. I am writing this email because I have some ideas for improving the next lessons in class.

Firstly, in my opinion, we need to perform more speaking activities, like dialogues between two or three students, and monologues. The most difficult skill to develop is Speaking, so I believe that we need to increase that practice.

Also,* it is important that you can** listen to all the students, individually, (in order) to make for corrections and give us feedback. One possibility is to listen to us individually in class, but I know that we are a lot of students and that is very difficult, so I suggest we (should) record a monologue and send it to you for feedback and corrections. With this method, we would be able to work on our own List of Mistakes.

Finally, I want to congratulate you about congratulations for the Exam Format Practice lessons. This is a very useful exercise for us to improve our exam techniques.

See you next day in class.

R.O.

(180+ words, cut down to 160+)

*Also, = Además,

I am also here = también
I am here, too = también

*can, not “are able to”, because it more about an actual possibility than about the person’s ability.

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NI2L – Example 2 – Making suggestions

February 11, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity.

Based on Student 2‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This is a good letter, written informally. In your Certificate Exams if the instructions do not mention whether you should use a formal or an informal register, teachers at EOI schools generally recommend you use a formal register. I disagree with this, because I believe examiners should include that information in the instructions, because people have all kinds of relationships to teachers and bosses, ranging from very informal to fairly formal.

The words in bold are more of a B2 level: see Example 1. Can you do the same? Identify the language items? HOW MANY TENSES AND DIFFERENT MODALS DID L. USE?
The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer.

The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

The student is using British English

——————————————————-

Dear teacher!

I’m writing to you because the other day, after the lesson, some of us talked a bit about our learning. We came up with a few good ideas and decided to send them to you in case they’re helpful!

Firstly, we think it would be good if we practised more speaking activities in class instead of doing so many reading activities.

Another good idea we had is this: when we are speaking in small groups, you could come for a visit and stay a few minutes listening to us. Then at Plenary, you could tell us about all the positive things you had heard* /herd/ and also comment on students’ mistakes.

Apart from this, we wanted to say that the speaking activity we did last week was fantastic! We have learnt a lot of new vocabulary and expressions. Thanks you so much!!

See you next Monday

L.

(151 words)

* you would say (hypothetical, more tentative; with “could” it’s a proposal) the things we did well and comment on our mistakes

CHALLENGE: HOW MANY “THAT” (= 0, meaning “conjunction”) DID I OMIT?

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NI2L – Example 1 – Making suggestions

February 11, 2013

B1 Writing Task: 150 words sending suggestions to language teacher, mentioning three points: more speaking activities, some individual feedback, congratulating on a previous activity.

Based on Student 1‘s work, with corrections and suggested alternative wording. This is a good letter, written informally. In your Certificate Exams if the instructions do not mention whether you should use a formal or an informal register, teachers at EOI schools generally recommend you use a formal register. I disagree with this, because I believe examiners should include that information in the instructions, because people have all kinds of relationships to teachers and bosses, ranging from very informal to fairly formal.

The words in bold are more of a B2 level: present perfect continuous, indirect questions, none of us = singular (that’s why “speak”, not “speaks”). So it’s very positive they are included, of course! 

The underlined words are language items you can include to make your range richer: purpose infinitive, comparative of superiority, comparative of inferiority, That’s the real problem, modal of obligation, conditional tense (hypothetical language), -ing adjective, modal for proposals/suggestions, correct place for “also”, “if you agree, we could” (mixed conditional sentence, with a modal), “hope” + present (for real things to happen), connectors (By the way,), polite “would like” (+ infinitive), “It” subject, correct use of “a lot” (without “of”).

The pink words indicate good vocabulary range

The student is using British English

——————————————————-

Hi, teacher!

How are you?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how we can improve our oral skills to become more fluent and make less mistakes.

I realise that every day none of us really speak. That’s the real problem! We have to solve it!

I think we need more time to speak in small groups every day. It would be good to create our own speaking cards, with new topics and clear instructions. The textbook is good but this would be more exciting/engaging. We could also use the Listen & Repeat technique, to improve our fluency and accuracy!

Because we need your feedback personally, if you agree, we could record our monologues and send them to you by e-mail. Then, you could reply to us with your feedback or corrections.

I hope these ideas are useful!

By the way, I would like to say “Congratulations!” to you about our last lesson.* It was great and I learnt a lot.

Take care.

See you next Monday!

I.R.

*I would like to congratulate you about our last lesson.

Reminder: The days of the week, like months, and names of languages are always capitalized in English, and people keep forgetting about this, so please, include it in your Lists of Mistakes (LoM). By the way, do you have one? Do you use your mistakes are opportunities to learn more? 

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Suggestions are not about judging people (Part I – for learners)

February 10, 2013

In the Framework of Exam Format Practice Month, Intermedio 2 students were asked to write an 150-word email to a teacher suggesting ways in which the lessons could improve. There were three points to mention: 1. Proposal for speaking activities, 2. Proposal for individual feedback, 3. Congratulating the teacher for one of the activities they had done. Surprisingly, there were quite a few exercises where The Student told The Teacher what he or she should do (!), without understanding the implications of the language and ideas the student was using (sounding ignorant/arrogant, lacking respect — human, & professional).

Pleaese, keep in mind these two ideas: the teacher is the professional in charge of the learning situation — and today these professionals are particularly knowledgeable due to scientific research, and the development of democratic ideals — human rights notions. The teacher is not someone who got the job as a result of winning the lottery!, and when a teacher asks for feedback or proposals to improve something that is not because he or she doesn’t know how to manage the learning situation (!), or because he or she does not have enough vigor to do so. People, don’t you think it’s kind of surprising this could ever be interpreted? (Some people have even written “You don’t listen to students” to this poor hypothetical teacher who is actually asking for learners’ ideas on a topic!)

So here are some tips for learners who are required to give feedback, make suggestions, proposals (also applicable to filing complaints or present critical analyses):

Giving feedback (like refuting ideas) is not about judging some particular person, the one you are addressing, but about posing what you would do and why — a reasoned opinion at least! (e.g. In order to improve our spoken English, we could do this or that.)

Listen to yourself, walk in the listener’s shoes: how would you feel if the underlying or the explicit message is that you are asking for feedback because you are incompetent or you fail to impose your will (make adult learners obey?!). How would you feel if somebody said you are not doing things right — milder cases adding: But don’t get upset instead of We could do this or that so as to (in order to)… (Please, read my example and mull over your exercise.)

Getting your message through – while respecting others and ourselves – is about making it possible for the receiver to listen to what you have to say, not because you are being hypocritical or lying, but because you are reasoning why you say what you are saying. For instance, instead of saying “Your lessons are hard and boring” you could say something like “Unfortunately, I go to class in the evening, after a full hard-working day, so I am really tired. Therefore (whichever kind of exercises) are too hard for me. On the other hand, I would really enjoy (whichever other kind). We could also…”.

From this communicative approach I have to say that at least half of the Writings that were handed in by Intermedio 2 students last week would not get a pass mark in a Certificate exam because they fail to comply with something fundamental: the communicative task of suggesting ways in which we can improve the language lesson. Saying what you think is the teacher (Which teachers did you have in mind, holy Molly?! Eek!!) is unrelated to your mission: you had to suggest activities explaining why you think they would be good. You didn’t have to do the rest. Please, mull this over once you get your work back.

About Writing Assignments involving sending teachers suggestions, remember:

About teachers: a) teachers know why they do or they do not do certain things in class, b) not all teachers use the same methodology, and c) they are free to choose how they wish to teach (Many roads lead to Rome) — that is why academic freedom is a Constitutional right in Spain.

About your needs as a learner: You can also avoid sounding arrogant/rude or ignorant/uninformed just by thinking twice before writing something. Express your needs, being aware that those are your perceptions and that you are not the teacher in that specific context. Last but not least important, you do not have to apologize for expressing your views. Instead, use sentences like “I hope these suggestions are useful!” (expressing hopes), “Thank you for welcoming our suggestions! I hope they are useful!” (saying thank you and expressing hopes). You should not use “had better” (that’s a kind of threat!) or “You should do this or that” (are you an expert? The teacher’s angry parents?!)

The ways in which we communicate say a lot about how we see others and ourselves. Learn to be constructive. This will not only improve your knowledge and skills, it will also improve your self-assessment.

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Dear Intermedios! (A Writing Sample and a useful idea!)

February 8, 2013

springE-mailing your teacher with a proposal: Here is a 2-page document with what I would do if I were/was asked to write what you had to write! I tried to stick to grammar points learned at the B1 level, but some of you have a richer range that this. Anyway, this letter I wrote would be enough to pass!

writingsampleintermedio2 (2 pages)

Congratulations for those of you who did well! And for those of you who are disappointed or need to work a bit more, cheer up, come on, don’t waste time fretting! It’s February — you’ve still got plenty of time!!

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Writing Assignments in levels B1, B2 and C1

February 6, 2013

3-ring binderIn the Students’ Pack (a pdf document here), on pages 17 and 18, you will find what kind of writings exams at the Intermediate (B1), Upper Intermediate (B2) and Advanced (C1) levels examiners give.

If you are very worried about this issue, do something about it. Here are some VERY useful ideas:

  • Browse your textbooks (B1, B2, C1) and your notebooks. You can put together a Writing File with examples of each kind of writing in whichever number of words.
  • When you listen to English, or do Listen & Repeat exercises or Oral Drills, jot down under “Useful Language” the kind of wording you could also use in Writing Assignments. Here are some episodes of the TP Podcast that can illustrate what I mean.
  • When you read stuff, including surfing the Net, do the same. Every now and then copy chunks of language and sentences you can “recycle.”

The most important thing is that you AVOID making basic grammar mistakes, and that you brainstorm on language (what kind of wording can I use to request information, for example?)

In my experience (8 years at EOI’s), Spanish students do not generally fail their Writing Test, in spite of the fact that the self-assessment skills are “un churro” (thanks, Oscar!) and they always express fear and boredom.

As you know, I have notes on the kinds of writing tasks Avanzado 2 students get in the Writing section at Talking People. And you can also browse the Writings students sent in for publication, in “Your Stuff” at TP and at the EOI Getafe website – Students’ Corner – Writing Assignments.

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For Int2 Lunes! (Intermedio)

February 3, 2013

Spain, 2012Some days ago I was kind of worried about the group, and I posted my concerns in Spanish here. Well, this is just to say that the Writings on Climate Change by this group have been really good! I had posted some tips for the other Intermedio 2 group here, but I think it’ll be more helpful for them to read your work! So — I’d love to publish them on Talking People, so that more people can get ideas on how to write good pieces on that topic! Oh — something else that impressed me, is that the people doing this task have followed my advice on proofreading, too! And there are a few pieces with an impressive outline! (love bubbles) (The Writing Guideline, for people who are lost, is on the Page here called LEARN 2 LEARN)

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-ed’s, “learned” (adj.) & in defence of texting!

February 1, 2013

I’m quite happy with the progress showed by the students who used to mispronounce the -ed ending. I think I’ve explained it in all the groups. In my presentation, to make this issue simpler, I told you

  1. that you should NEVER pronounce the “e” (the Spanish “e”) in the “-ed” ending (cross it out in red when you see it),
  2. that you can simply pronounce an ending “t”, to make sure you include the dental sound indicative of a regular past tense, and
  3. that when the verb in the infinitive ends in a dental sound (d or t), to avoid assimilation (fusión), and consequently, your verb sounding like a present or infinitive, you need to separate both dentals with an /I/ sound: started = /stártid/ (vowel support).

Well, if you are good at this, and you want to improve further, you will know if you need to pronounce a /d/ or a /t/ by feeling your vocal chords: with vowels and voiced consonants, your “-ed” would be pronounced /d/, as in received /risívd/, jammed /dzaemd/, played /plaied/, studied /stádid/, webbed /webd/… Why all vowels? Because all vowels are voiced. What’s “voiced”? Say AHHHH out loud, with your fingers touch your throat till you notice the vibration of your vocal chords. Now say MMMMMM. Your chords should vibrate, too. But there are voiceless consonants, too: say P – P (with no accompanying vowel sound!), say SH, SH, say K-K-K, all of these are voiceless consonants: your vocal chords do not vibrate when you utter them.

All this you know now. So I’m going to mention some exceptions: you know the verb “to learn”. In US American English it’s regular: learned. In British English it’s irregular: learnt. Both can be pronounced /lE:rnt/ though if you wish to be accurate you can pronounce /lE:rnd/ for the regular spelling. Well, there’s more: there’s an adjective which is spelled/spellt “learned” but pronounced /lÉ:rnId/. Today this word came up in Avanzado 2.

The thing is I used it to say “a learned person is someone who knows what kind of language to use depending on context.” (However, I might be wrong about using “learned” here. I need to check that. I haven’t updated my knowledge on “learned” for a few decades now!) (Perhaps we should just say “a knowledgeable person”?)

By the way, I used that word because I was complaining about the prejudice (at least I think it is a prejudice) against texting. We speak differently to different kinds of people, in different kinds of situations. It’s absurd to text a message writing complete words and complete sentences as if one were writing a letter! As absurd as if we wrote a complaint letter using the kind of abbreviations we use while texting! It’s absurd to say that creating a language of abbreviations (a language that shows how creative and amazing human ability to communicate is) is the reason why people make spelling mistakes — as if people were born knowing how to spell and got corrupted when learning how to text! 😀

Similarly, if you are with friends who are happily hanging out with you and you say, “Get a life!”, they’ll take it as a joke and have a laugh. If you are with a friend who is suffering depression, you will not use that wording, nor the same tone, or body language. You’d sound brutal. You will say something like: I think you could take up some kind of activity you enjoy. You can’t stay in all day, crying. Let’s go out now for a walk.”

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Writings on Climate Change (Feedback) – For Intermediate students

January 31, 2013

If you have to write an opinion article about climate change, you should start by stating clearly your topic, and explaining it. Some tips so that people can clarify their ideas:

  • “Climate change” is not a synonym of “Global warming”. Climate change has always taken place, meaning climate changes are “natural”. The problem you wish to address in your writings is the kind of climate change that results from / resulting from HUMAN ACTION, from humans misusing and wasting the earth’s resources.
  • Climate change in this sense is an environmental issue we need to address because we can all consume in more rational ways.
  • Some Useful Vocabulary (there’s some for B2 and some for B1: pick the language you can actually learn to use, not “any word”  – I mean, to Intermedio 2 students, the points you made in your Writings are enough, just improve what you can actually improve — things at your level of English — not what is at a higher level, out of reach just now) is: The environment, environmental activists, going green (informal expression, good for headings), this environmental issue, the greenhouse effect, air pollution, [carbon dioxide produced by vehicle exhaust fumes and by burning fossil fuels from power plants/stations, factories and homes], this causes temperatures to rise, CFC emissions damage the ozone layer, household, industrial waste, landfill sites, acid rain damaging trees and plants in forests, pollution from smog causes respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, sunlight causes greenhouse gases to undergo chemical change and react with water vapor/vapor, creating acid rain, rising temperatures cause…, ice caps melt, the melting of the poles, rising sea levels, flooding, environmental degradation such as desertification, global warming can cause climate change and environmental disaster, solutions, sustainable solutions, solar power, environmentally-friends answers to (our) problems, carbon emissions, avoid wasting water, reforestation organic farming, biodegradable products, recycling (organic waste, plastic, glass, batteries, paper), consciousness-raising campaigns, to raise people’s awareness of, energy-saving measures…

Your opinion article should start with an introduction where you state clearly what you are going to write about.

Then you can do various things, but all of them should be developing the body of your writing in 2 or 3 or 4 paragraphs depending on the number of words you are asked to write.

  • One is that first you list or explain (in a paragraph) some of the consequences of the problem we have,
  • and then you write a paragraph giving advice on what people can do to solve the problem or prevent it.

Before writing, you should always read about the topic in your Writing Assignment: read texts on the same topic (i.e. climate change), to gather Useful Language and learn how ideas are often worded, and also read pieces that are the same kind of text you are asked to write (i.e. an opinion article), noticing the structure, and also any particular wording for any of the parts (e.g., I can see that articles on “addressing problems” use sequencers like “First/Firstly,” and “In conclusion”). If you find Opinion Articles on Climate change, perfect! But read a few of those, anyway. Last, doing some reading before writing will also help you gather ideas, and/or clarify your ideas.

How can you write an article if you haven’t read a bit on the same topic you need to address? (to gather often-used language chunks), and texts of the type of text you need to write (to notice textual structure). How can you word things in English if you don’t pay attention to how native speakers word things? If you don’t notice how native speakers word messages, you tend to do literal translation from your mother language! When you don’t learn from native speakers’ use of language, you keep translating and using English words to express Spanish syntax (word order) and wording is not learning English, or using English. I mean, if  you translate from Spanish, your English will show numerous transfer problems: things won’t sound like “English.” That is why I keep insisting in this: learn “grammar” by listening to speakers. When we learn to listen, we learn morphology, syntax, semantics, textual formats and textual structures, communicative strategies, we learn about culture, approaches to life, etc. LANGUAGE LEARNING IS NOT ABOUT DOING WRITTEN GRAMMAR EXERCISES. That can be good as follow-up / consolidation exercises (Language Awareness). That is very useful when you combine it with LISTENING. Because then grammar helps you double-check, or check things that don’t sound right. Don’t do it the other way round: from grammar explanations in English textbooks (and they tend to be less good than those your teachers give you, because your teachers know more about your specific problems and your frame of mind as Spanish-speakers learning English) and the Spanish you translate literally into English! That’s the hardest way to do things, and the less effective, because native speakers will need a lot of time to listen to you (you take longer when you keep translating it all) and will be often lost, because of the wording, if they don’t speak Spanish and can work out what you possibly mean.

EXAMPLES BY EOI STUDENTS: This is not an opinion article, but a very brief (basic) report, by a B2-level student who was taking a C1 course: Rocío’s report on Global Warming. Reports have a different structure or lay-out, but the underlying idea is similar to the general idea on structure: intro (presentation of topic) – body (posing the different points) – ending (conclusions, summaries or opinions). This is a 300-word article (reflective writing) on Air Pollution by Fernando. Here is an 175-word Letter to the Editor by Paloma, on the atomic crisis in Japan.

OTHER SOURCES: Global Warming for Kids (reading explanations for kids is very helpful for Intermediate students), Climate change and global warming for kids (just avoid “cool language”! 😀 )

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Av2 Grammar Bank 3B

January 25, 2013

ADDING EMPHASIS: INVERSION

These kinds of inversions are more common in written texts, for those are lacking body language and the expressivity of human voice. As you watch your weekly TV series episode, try to jot down any of these constructions if you hear themª

1 Not until years later, did I realize my mistake, 2 Never had we seen such magnificent scenery, 3 Not only did they dislike her, but they also hated her family [Alternative: Not only did they dislike her == they also hated her family], 4 Only when we had read his autobiography, did we understand, 5 Hardly had we started to eat, when we heard someone knocking at the door, 6 Rarely have I read such a badly written novel, 7 Not until the sun set, did we put doown our tools and rest…, 8 Not only was the hotel room depressing, but it was cold as well [alternative: Not only … == it was cold as well], 9 Only when it was unusually cold, did they light the fire, 10 No sooner had he gone to sleep than there was a knock on the door, 11 Only then did I realize the full scale of the disaster, 12 Scarcely had I destroyed !distrOid! the evidence when the police arrived, 13 Never has he regretted the decision he took on that day, 14 Only when I had spoken to the manager was the problem sorted out.

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Sentences using verbs of the senses

January 21, 2013

The five senses we have are: touch (related: to FEEL your way in the dark), taste, smell, sight, and hearing.

  • There was a blackout and I had to feel my way downstairs! These pants are too small — they feel really tight. It feels smooth and silky (a material like silk!). It feels smooth and cold (an unplugged laptop). It feel really hot!!! Be careful! If feels soft and warm — a pet! (a cat or a dog). The bread was hard as a rock. It felt so muggy.
  • It tastes bitter (dark chocolate) / sour (sour milk cheese). It’s spicy. It tastes really sweet. I tried it and it tastes really nice. It tastes like vinegar. People say frogs taste like chicken. A metallic taste of blood.
  • It smells really nice / yummy. It smells disgusting!! It smells wonderful. It’s too strong (the perfume). It smells like fruit / It smells fruity! (a wine). It smells of burned/burnt rubber…
  • It looks great on you! Your friend looks familiar. The colo(u)r in that skirt has faded. It’s really bright!/colo(u)rful!
  • It sounds interesting! Your friend sounds familiar to me (on the phone). She sang so beautifully!/sweetly!

For Advanced students: more on the senses in descriptions: http://inventingreality.4t.com/description.html

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Language items for Descriptions (book / movie reviews)

January 20, 2013

her-fearful-symmetryangelcartersbookoffairytalesWhen you are asked [I’m making YOU the protagonist of the sentence, so I need to use the passive here] to write a REVIEW, you are being asked to write a DESCRIPTIVE text.

In terms of language range, this means we expect you will use all kinds of modifiers, for instance,

  • modifiers used BEFORE the noun they modify: the middle-aged woman, the 14-year-old boy, the angry young man, the beautiful small ring, the frightening event, this dangerous action; which includes, yes!, -ed/-ing adjectives: The acting performances are outstanding. The story is gripping
  • modifiers used AFTER the noun they modify: the man in a dark green coat, the children with pony tails, the woman in red. PLUS: relative (adjectival) clauses. With “who”, “which” or “that”, e.g., The farm, which lies in a valley, …; He gives it to the woman he met on the train; and also omitting this relative pronoun, e.g. The gas station the main character works in.
  • Other pronouns in relative clauses (where-, when-, why-, whereby; whoever, whatever, whichever), e.g. The gas station where he works…, The reason why she is calling on him that afternoon is because…; The period of time when they lived together…; possessive: The main actor, whose acting is outstanding, is R. L… … there is a village, whose name I don’t recall, where
  • Participle clauses: past participles (-ed, or 3rd column), present participles (-ing) and (passive) “being -ed”, e.g. Hearing a loud crash outside, the little girl runs out of the house and into the street…; The man wearing a blue overcoat is my brother; Feeling very tired Leaving behind all of her possessions, the young woman closes the door behind her; Putting on a serious face, he walks to his father and…; Book reviews published last week were encouraging; Set in the 19th century, the story portrays the lives of different middle-class people who…; Being chosen as the best feature film, “Whatever whatever” tells the story of… Yes, as you can see, we can replace some of these with a relative clause. More: with “have” (perfect): Having completed the journey, the family…; Having been invited to the party (AWESOME!: perfect, and passive!), the family…
  • smokesignals_bookAll kinds of comparatives (including superlatives):
    1. the same as the other; hotter than, more intelligent than, funnier, warmer, less handsome than, the most perfect, the least boring, the least intoxicating. Exclamations such as: They were SO angry!, They felt SUCH anger!
    2. SO/SUCH clauses: It was SO funny that I wet my pants! It was SUCH A funny movie that I wet my pants! There were SO MANY people that we couldn’t move. The place was SO crowded that we couldn’t even move.
    3. The more they try, the harder it gets, so they decide to… The harder they try, the less oxygen they have…
  • Degree adverbs: very/really, too, extremely, quite, not enough…, very much (She likes WHATEVER very much – V + O + “very much”)
  • Connectors like: In contrast, the first part was more exciting. About the screenplay, … In the end (an ending to the story), they found the treasure. At the end of the trip/movie, we… However, … Surprisingly, … Instead (of doing that), they decide to…, All in all (assessment)… Personally, I enjoyed… Unbelievably, in the end they marry.
  • Time clauses are handy to narrate the plot: After they marry, they return to England. Before they married, they were living in Canada. Once they marry, they return to England.
  • Conditional sentence for stating who would like the book or movie you are recommending (but this is not compulsory, you can recommend by using other wording): If you enjoy this kind of action, this novel is a must. / If you enjoyed Titanic, you will certainly enjoy this romantic story (yes, this mixture of tenses is not what comes in the textbook).

Oh my! Long, right? Also for me!!! Time flies! Gotta have din-din!!! 😀 😀 I was just brainstorming, so please, feel free to add some more, or tell me about possible mistakes. Nightie night!

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Functional Translation: Narrating past events / Your own story-telling – Review of unit 2 (Avanzado 2)

January 20, 2013

burglarHere is a story about a past experience. (But I made it up, I swear!) Notice MY TENSES AND OTHER: I’m going to use the past simple, the past continuous (“when, before, after, while- clauses may come in handy!) and the past perfect (for a past happening before the leading past (simple). Then I’ll try to add modals in the past (“used to” and its synonym, “would”-for-repeated-past-actions, or past-habits). I’ll organize/organise my narrative chronologically, but I’ll resort to the present simple for dramatic effect in one or two of the scenes.

  • If you are in Avanzado 2: Can you include more modals to make the range richer? What about more time clauses or some conditional sentence? … If you improve this story by adding language items (and your own imagination), please, read it in class, or post it here!
  • If you are in Intermedio 2: You can adjust the narration to your own level, if you like. And you can also add stuff, at your level.

Now, translate this example. My translation is posted below as a comment. (“Enter” the post by clicking on its title!)

Unit 2: past narrative tenses, used to, would to

Underline the verbs in tenses and think about time in narratives.

twowimminfriendsOs voy a contar una cosa/anécdota que me pasó en un viaje. Fue en 1993, cuando tenía 24 años. Había ido a Londres, para hacer un curso de inglés. Como no tenía dinero, me fui a vivir a una okupa con mucha gente de todos los lados. Muy interesante. Organizábamos todo tipo de talleres gratis y venía mucha gente. En uno de los talleres conocí a una mujer de Alemania y nos hicimos amigas. Al final me invitó a que me quedara en su casa. Fue una época maravillosa. La casa era pequeña pero acogedora, y ella era genial. Hacíamos todo tipo de cosas juntas. Por ejemplo, los domingos nos íbamos al rastro de Candem Town y nos pasábamos allí la mañana, hablando con la gente. Era muy divertido.

Bueno, pues, un día estábamos escuchando música en el salón cuando de pronto vemos a un tío colgándose por la ventana! Era un ladrón! que escapaba con lo que había robado!! Estaba tan estresado el pobre que ni nos vio. Entonces bajamos corriendo y le esperamos. Como habíamos estado en un taller de defense personal, ¡pudimos inmovilizarle! Jajaja, sí! Y después de convencerle de que nos diera lo que había robado (éramos amigas de la vecina a la que le había robado las cosas), nos fuimos a tomar algo a un café donde solíamos ir! Él estaba muerto de hambre, y bueno, ¡le invitamos a comer algo! Al final, le pedimos que diera un taller sobre cómo entrar en las casas. Así mejoraríamos la técnica! (frase hipotética, pal range!)

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Interesting: stories selected by Angela Carter

December 20, 2012

angelcartersbookoffairytalesI bought two copies of this book, because I couldn’t believe its price. Such a good book, such a good present to give someone. So I’ve got one to give as a present!

Such an interesting writer, such an interesting person, and so little known. I haven’t read any of her works yet. I just discovered her while looking for Fairy Tales that did not condemn girls and boys to the roles the patriarchal system imposes on boys and girls through stories!

Angela Carter selected these stories — fairy tales which do not portray women as passive pretty princesses — or finished putting together this collection of fairy tales while she was at hospital — dying of cancer. Working for literature till the very end!

It’s a very interesting book for people with a feminist curiosity, and for people who like stories. Here’s the link to the book on the Virago website (Virago is a British publishing house).

Angela Carter at the British Library (radio 3)

An interview with Angela Carter on the British Library website (audio – for Advanced students)

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Your work being published

December 19, 2012

On Talking People there a few places where you can get your work published. Why would you be interested in doing this? A good answer can be “Because if we all share what we know, what we think, we’ll be taking part in the building of a society of Knowledge”! 🙂

Send your work with “Contribution for TP” in the subject line, and then in the message, include the name you want to use, or nickname. If you don’t say anything, I’ll use your first name.

Section: Your Stuff (right-hand navbar)

Section: Speaking (Skills – top navbar)

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Would you send a postcard to a prisoner for peace?

December 12, 2012

Dear students and other net surfer visiting this tiny blog,

210px-Bradley_Manning_US_ArmyWar Resisters’ International, an international pacifist network based in London, publishes a list of people imprisoned for CO/Total resistance (conscientious objection to military and civil services), Nonviolent Direct Action, making public information about war crimes, and other kind of actions related to fighting for a less violent and juster world. This is called the Prisoners for Peace campaign and it is about sending postcard/letters to people in prison.

This year there is someone who has done a lot in defense of human rights and democracy and has been imprisoned for it, and I wonder if you would send him a postcard so he knows it’s a great deal of people in the world who support him. His name is Bradley Manning. He is a soldier, and since 2010 he is in pre-trial detention in the USA. His crime, allegedly having leaked military video and documents showing evidence of US war crimes.

Bradley Manning (Nov 2011 warresisters)
JRCF
830 Sabalu Road
Fort Leavenworth
KS 66027
USA

Mailing Address (March 2012, http://www.armycourtmartialdefense.info/search/label/Manning%20Case)

The new mailing address for PFC Manning is the following:

Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

If you want to get some guidelines on how to write your postcard, and/or you wish to send postcards to more prisoners, you’ll find their info here:

 

http://wri-irg.org/node/4718

 

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Writing/Speaking Tips – Narrating past events (cf Story-telling, Jokes, Articles)

November 27, 2012

Narrating Past Events/Experiences

When we are telling our friends about a past event in our lives — a past event, like a party you went to, or a past experience, like a trip you made, a love relationship you had, or an anecdote, like a childhood memory, a fun memory of a meeting or lesson)…

  1. How many different tenses do we use? (consider modals in a parallel block)
  2. When do we switch from the past to the present?
  3. Extra quetion you can skip if it makes you feel puzzled: A different kind of question you should also consider is: what language functions do tenses perform? For instance, we use the present simple to speak about habits and routines, things that are generally speaking true or permanent in our knowledge system… This means: tenses do not only mean time! If I were rich I’d set up a co-operative. “Were” and “‘d set up” are not only a past simple and a conditional tense: they’re also indicating what I am saying is hypothetical. (Modals are amazing for this “language function” thingy!)

Listen to yourself and to other people when you/they are doing this.

Notice the use of tenses. Visualize time! Do the same when you are reading. If you read a story in the past, underline present tenses in red (you can use orange for the present perfect, which is a present which includes pasts!), underline past tenses in blue (you can use dark blue for the past perfect and past perfect continuous, and light blue for the past simples and continuous) — and future phrases/tenses in green, if those come up. Do the same with modals: red for present forms and blue for past forms. Last, use pink for the imperative, or purple!

Mull this over, OK?

Notice that we tell jokes in the present.

And we tell stories (e.g. fairy tales) in the past. In story-telling narrators tend to use the pasts to make us understand the story happened before they are telling it, and they just use the presents when they play the role of any of the characters in the story. It is true that at times people tend to use the present even if they aren’t pretending to be one of the characters. It‘s called the dramatic present and it‘s meant to make the narration more lively. As language students taking a communicative exam which is also rather academic, you should try the safest option here and stick to the past for the narration. However, the truth is — you will not be asked to tell a story! I’m just trying to develop your sense of the different functions different kinds of texts have. Story-telling is similar to when we tell stories based on our lives/experiences. And this is the reason why I‘m mentioning it here.

What about plots in movies we see or books we read? Aha! This one‘s the trickiest of all for you English learners. This year Intermedio 2’s — and Avanzado 2’s, too — should be really good at doing those, both in Book and Movie Reviews (written texts) and in a monologue (a talk on the movie/book) or in a dialogue (an interaction). Well, you won’t learn unless you learn to notice / to listen to yourself and visualize time as you speak. Let’s consider other types and then come back to this one and sort things out. In practice!

When we talk about our life stories we switch from past to present in moments we want listeners to focus. Notice how you do it in Spanish. It‘s tricky when you try to do it in English, mostly because you feel insecure. The safest option is for you to stick to the pasts. But as you practice listening to yourself at home, in your weekly monologues (or talks) — remember to record yourself, you will learn much more than you think — you‘ll develop a sense of when it is OK to switch to the present. If you are not doing your weekly monologues, just tell the story in the past.

In articles, well, there are so many kinds! Here‘s an exercise on a news story. A news story is factual, right? It‘s not literature. It‘s about offering information keeping one’s opinion to oneself, sort to say. It’s about letting people know about what is happening in the world — trying to avoid interpretation.

You can post your questions if you like. Or ask in class.

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“Going on an adventure”, Speaking in Public & Textbook Blues

November 20, 2012

In today’s monolog(ue) by Ana (Avanzado 2), on Childhood Memories, we wondered about how to word this amazing childhood experience of “going on adventures.” Ana’s sentence was something like “We used to have many adventures” (sorry if I’m misquoting). This sentence of Ana’s is correct. Still, we wondered. Jorge suggested “get into many adventures” and I mentioned “get into trouble” was quite common but wondered about “getting into adventures”. Well, Jorge, look what I found!:  “Harry and his friends get into an adventure with Voldemort.” (Harry Potter book review) Well done! Then, I don’t understand why I didn’t think of this!!: “We went on very many (childhood) adventures”, because when I was living at the wimmin’s peace camp in England (Greenham Common, remember?) one of the questions we were all often asked was “Do you feel like going on an adventure?” or “Shall we go on an adventure”? (meaning “Should we trespass on to the airbase?”).

Talking about adventures, do you miss that feeling? Well, if you like, I can tell you about how to get it! I’m kind of an expert in this! 😀 When you have to speak in public — in a Speaking Test, a speaking activity at Plenary, at an international meeting representing your company, at a meeting of any kind, in an assembly in Sol, whatever! — if you are a Spaniard and you see that you’ve got to speak in public 😀 you should count of the fact that your body is going to follow a different path to that which your mind will take! Your body will tremble, your heart will beat faster, your hands will feel icy cold and sweaty, your mouth will go dry, and generally speaking, you won’t be the best looking You! But if you practice, you’ll feel how your mind, this amazing organ we have (that becomes more intelligent and kinder the more you learn and work with it — and not against it!!), becomes amazingly focused on the activity you have to perform. Your only world at that moment is the task, not your looks, what people think of you, or the typical self-destructive assessment of “I should’ve –.” I know it sounds like scifi to the people who have not been often confronted to this arduous task, but it’s true. And this means that your mind will rapidly take over your body. You might still have a dry mouth, but your body will feel much better. I even think your body feels gratitude then, a kind of admiration to its mind! Perhaps just a minute or two will have passed, but all that body storm will be nothing because your mind will be TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY FOCUSED ON DOING THE TASK! Obviously, once the event is over, your knees will feel weak, and you will need to drink some juice and eat some chocolate or some crisps, but then you won’t care about it anymore. You’ll have succeeded in your mission, your Mission Possible! (I always visualize athletes at the Olympic Games when I have to speak in public. Well, that’s with Oposiciones, so that’s over, and when I read poems and stuff at events or in squats. I do have a hard time, in spite of being a teacher — an earthling who spends her days speaking in public. But practice helps so much! You’ve got to experience it this year!

Don’t forget this — speaking in public in class is not like speaking in public at work or in an exam. It’s much safer, it feels much safer, so please — give it a try. We’re all there to learn! You’ll be sharing your world with people and offering language material for us all to work with. You should never feel ashamed of making mistakes — that’s arrogant. When we are learning, the natural thing is we make mistakes, till we master that language item. And most importantly, mistakes — in my view — are opportunities for exploration and (self-)discovery! Mistakes are open doors to improvement. (Work on your List of Mistakes, will you?! Check above, the Page called Learn 2 Learn) Mistakes at Plenary are acts of love! because you’re offering people the chance to remember how to avoid that mistake just because you made it and they remember! (Sometimes I sound a bit demented! 😀 It’s exclamations in English! 😀 Plus, I suppose, the passion teachers are able to bring out when trying to help people understand something.) (But don’t be afraid — I’m a harmless! A pacifist!)

(And I’ve got sweets/candy for people who volunteer to speak at Plenary!)

(We could even buy a box of chocolates! /chóklits/ I’ll check prices!)

Last, I’m going to start skipping pages in the textbook, if you allow me to. But you should do it all, and ask me to post this or that. If I don’t start skipping stuff, or selecting what we WILL do together and what you need to do on your own, we will sink into the traditional lesson of learners not using their mouths or ears much and all that. In my defense I have to say that if we spent (we will not, it’s a hypothesis) all of our time together just listening to people speaking and analyzing their performance in terms of language use and in terms of textual structure and communicative strategies, and to people reading out their checked writings and we doing the same sort of thing, you would probably forget about exams and learn so much that then you’d pass the exam. Because all of this would also bring up sociocultural issues that would give you a richer knowledge of your own culture and some of the English-speaking cultures.

But academic freedom, this Constitutional right, has been crushed by an issue that should not even affect slightly academic freedom — that “parents” (really?) complain about the prices of textbooks (or that textbooks are very expensive)! What does that have to do with teachers?! Why do people who have houses and cars and all kinds of gadgets and fancy clothing complain about how much they spend in BOOKS?! This does freak me out! (What can I say? I’m a teacher!)

How much do people spend in books a year? I WONDER! (Incidentally, how many books a year do people read?) So teachers are not allowed to pick the methodology they work best with because parents can’t afford textbooks or because publishing houses are just interested in money-making! Hello, humankind in Spain: can we solve the problem rationally? And allow teachers to use the methodology they choose because transmitting knowledge and helping people learn skills is fucking difficult, and double hard if you cannot pick your method!! (We’ve got the National Curriculum, and the Local Curriculum to make sure teachers teach the same stuff in the same levels, so why can’t we let them do their job?!) I’m so angry! And so sad. Because I don’t really want to set up my own language school. I love public (state-run) education. I think it’s beautiful! Hard but beautiful. (Hard as hell in primary and secondary, but beautiful.) Just think of the people you relate to in class: it’s people from all walks of life! That is what free education for all creates: the chance of meeting all kinds of people, which is to say, the chance of learning about people, about ourselves, and also about the world. All gathered around the  shared interest in language learning. Who do you relate to in your private life? Like-minded people? Well…

OMG! I gotta go. I should be listening to your audios! 😉 Nightie night

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LoM from Intermedio 2 Writings 1

November 17, 2012

This list is based on the First Writing Assignment by my two groups of Intermedio 2 students.

  • The first and most important mistake MOST people have made is not complying with the requirements. If you ignore this in your June Certificate Exam you’ll fail. When you do this in exams, we teachers are not allowed to correct your exercise. So please, pay attention to the instructions you are given. If you can write a type of text, you can certainly write your name or a task description!

So my “Well done!”, “Excellent”, “Good work” only refers to your English in the Writing Assignment, unless you have ticks in the rest of the requirements. Don’t feel bad about having made methodological mistakes — just do it right the next time, if you want to develop this ability and if you wish to make sure you won’t forget about the requirements in your final test! 🙂 Here is the link to the Writing Guideline I posted here in October and pinned on the Bulletin Board in class, too.

  • like/miss + O + a lot / very much: I like it a lot, I miss you very much
  • writing/written: double consonant makes the previous “i” short. /ráitin/ /rítn/
  • Sorry for taking so long to write to you / Sorry for not writing earlier / in such a long time / Sorry for not having written earlier. Listen to a TP Podcast episode on apologies.
  • hope/wish: I hope you can come for a visit (that can happen!) – I wish you could come for a visit (that won’t happy, the person actually can’t!)
  • hope/wish: I hope everything is OK (present) / I hope everything will be OK (future)
  • furniture: I haven’t got much furniture; I need to get a few pieces of furniture for my new house.
  • Proposals: We could do this or that. We can also do this other thing…
  • so vs very/really: It’s been so tiring! I miss you so much!It’s really tiring. I really miss you
  • US write you – UK write to you – but you don’t have to mention who to, in sentences like: Please, write soon.
  • know/meet/learn/see/visit: 1) … so you can SEE/VISIT (not KNOW) the most important sites / the most interesting sites / the most culturally-relevant sites. 2) … and then I MET (not KNOW) a gorgeous girl. 3) …
  • How vs. what … like: 1) I’m writing to know how you are and what your new life is like. 2) I’m writing this letter to let you know what my life is like now/today! / so I’m going to tell you about my new life.
  • Time clauses (no WILL): When you come for a visit, we could… (proposal)
  • Situated: only for formal and semiformal. My house is in Leganés vs (tourist guide: The museum is situated/located next to…)
  • have gone/been to: I have been to a psychic vs. She has gone to a psychic (she is not back yet)
  • nothing/not anything: I have nothing new to tell you / I don’t have anything new to tell you.
  • How about you? – cannot initiate a letter. It implies someone asked you first. It’s good in conversations.
  • , if you like: (better than “if you want”)
  • Spanish?!: I have thought (that) + Proposals ? – There’s no need to write this just before a Proposal. Examples: Instead of “I’ve thought we can/could (do this or that – Proposal modals)…”, just say: “We could (do this or that)… You can use “I have thought” with “about what you told me yesterday”, “I have thought about applying for a job in London”. If you are shy or uncertain of what the reaction to your proposal might be say this: “If you decided to stay at my place, we might go out together. I could show you around — we could visit the Prado Museum, this or that place”.
  • Connectors: “On the other hand,” implies you are now consider a different kind of point in an analysis that has two sides, so to speak (pair: On the one hand – On the other (hand)). “En otro orden de cosas” (Moving on to other issues, On other matters, On another front,  and similar ideas, like “Cambiando de tema” (Changing subjects / Changing the subject), “Otra cosa que quería contarte” (Something else I wanted to tell you about is, Another issue I wanted to tell you about), “Ah, se me olvidaba:”, “Also,”* (Otra cosa, Además) … NB: Remember that “Also,” is not “also”.
  • Vestirse de (disfraz): to dress up as a … ; aunque to dress up = vestirse tipo 31Dec.
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Your Writing Guideline

October 26, 2012

As our priority is to use classroom time to do speaking and listening activities, I’d like to suggest the following procedures to learn to write different kinds of texts.

In your textbooks, after the C lessons (1C, 2C…) and before the audiovisual (for unit 1 that’ll be the weekend after this one), there are one or two pages devoted to learning how to write a certain type of text. You have to do these two pages at  home BEFORE you sit to work on your Writing! In this way, in the lesson devoted to Colloquial English, you will have the chance to ask me in class (during the Plenary, please) whatever it is you need to know. You can use any exercise that requires you to write a text in a certain number of words, or describe the task yourself. If you do so, keep in mind that the aim is to put into practice what you have been working on. [Also, as you are in the second year of a level, you probably have “Successful Writing. Intermediate/Upper Intermediate“. Well, this year you should use this book to expand and/or consolidate your knowledge on the language and format used in the type of text you are learning to write in the textbook unit. We teachers have actually noticed while correcting the Certificate Tests, that students who work in this way to learn to write perform much better than students who don’t!] If you all prefer, I can post on this blog the answers to those exercises. This could save time in class. Ask me at Plenary, at the beginning of the lesson — not during the break, or when people are working in Small Groups, because it’s better my answers are for everybody.

RULES FOR HANDING IN YOUR WRITING ASSIGNMENTS (in orange what you have to do)

(Full) name on the top right corner. Below, your group code, and below this, the date (in English!, not in Spanish. This is the date in Spanish: 1-11-2012!). In a new paragraph: Title of the Type of Text you are going to write + description of the task, i.e. number of words and other requirements.

You can also attach the brainstorming (on ideas, if relevant, and on language you can use) and outline (not the draft copy of your Writing, an outline)

Procedure:

1. Brainstorming and Outline. Brainstorm on language and ideas using your resources (textbook, & Writing Strategies).  You should time yourself in the Before, During and After Writing your piece. Attach to your writing the page you used to scribble ideas, and outline, and Useful Language (for that kind of text), meaning, attach your brainstorming on language, on ideas and your final outline. Staple it, or fold it all when you hand it in. In this Before part, check spellings you might not be sure about, too.

2. Handwrite your piece and contemplate how much space your handwriting takes for whichever amount of words you write. Also, see how many words you usually write per line.

3. Proofreading. You should read your piece at least twice (I check my Writings zillions of time!): once to check the format, to check what you wrote is following your outline and that it makes sense, and another to focus on spelling and grammar issues. (If you have worked on your LoM, remember to have a look at that before you start writing your piece, so you avoid fossilization!)

DEADLINE for handing in your work:

The lesson after watching the audiovisual, or the following lesson tops!

Once you hand in your work, I’ll take my time to correct it, so please, don’t be impatient! 🙂

Enjoy your writing!

The Writing section on Talking People

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