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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Poem from a Sci-Fi Horror Film

This short rhyme, from the novel and movie "Donovan's Brain", is a good tongue twister and pronunciation exercise of "s" and "st".

"Amidst the mists and coldest frosts
With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
He thrusts his fists against the posts
And still insists he sees the ghosts."

American novelist and screenwriter Curt Siodmak, who wrote the book 1942, was born in Dresden, Germany.  Being Jewish and smart enough to see the writing on the wall, he emigrated in the early '30s.  Many of his works, such as "The Wolf Man" starring Lon Chaney, Jr. have a dark side.

The tongue twister, which plays a vital role in the plot, is an intriguing little gem.  I wonder if it is derived from a Jewish or European fable or saying.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Worcestershire Sauce

 I've never been able to pronounce Worcestershire Sauce.  

It turns out I'm not alone.  Worcestershire is on Luke Thompson's most-difficult words list.  See his video at 40+ Difficult Words to Pronounce in English

Guess what! English people often just say, "Wooster" when referring to the condiment.  Not fair!  As a US citizen I've been determined to master the entire British word.

This over-23-minutes video is really a workout!  Toward the end Luke asks, "How's your face?"   If you have been pausing and practicing along with him by now your jaw should be tired!

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Schwa

 You've never heard of the schwa?  

It is the most used vowel in the English language.  It's the small, soft "uh" sound you often make in place of any other vowel when a syllable is unstressed.  Just totally relax your mouth, let your jaw fall open a slight bit and say "uh".  You will sound like a cave person considering speech for the first time.  Needless to say, the schwa makes spoken English difficult to understand for an ESL learner.

The phonetic symbol looks like an upside down and backwards lower-case "e".Go to my Portfolio tab to see a link to a "schwa practice".

Monday, June 28, 2021

Thinking in a Second Language -- Part 2

 In April I described, and linked to, a wonderful video, How To Think in English by Rachel Smith. (10-1/2 minutes)

In the course of  researching "Placeholder Words" I ran across two, similar videos by the ever-creative Bob the Canadian: 

5 Brain Games to Help You Learn to Think in English! -- Only 6-1/2 minutes long, this is not as comprehensive as Rachel's video but presents great exercises from Bob's unique point of view.

10 Fun & Crazy Ways to Practice English When You Are By Yourself -- Just over 11 minutes. Most of these exercises keeping your mind rolling in English with no time for your native tongue.

Bob expands on Rachel's idea of thinking in English just before bed so as to dream in the language. If your phone has the ability, record a summary of your day, then set the recording to be your alarm for the next morning.

One of the crazy activities is simply copying a story, a traditional writing exercise popular with the French and others.  However Bob made a great modification.  You read a sentence from the book (or article) in one place and run to another location to write it down.  That way, you have to keep the words in your head for several seconds while travelling!  

Since Bob demonstrated, using a long table, outside on a windy day, you will see that the challenge can involve physical exercise, too.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

What to Say When You Don't Know the Word

Very early, an ESL student needs to learn the simple expression, "Ummmmm..." so that the other person will fill in the rest of the sentence.  This facilitates conversations wonderfully!  Equally handy are placeholder words such as "thingamajig", "gadget", "whatshisname", "doodad" and so on.  

I found an entertaining beginning level video on "Camping in English", incorporating lots and lots of "stuff". This gave me a great basis for a "What to Say When You Don't Know the Word" lesson.  Having creating the lesson in Edpuzzle, I've posted it on my Portfolio page.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Lots of Free Online Meetups for Practicing English!

I've known about Meetup.com for a number of years and have used it in the past to find computer groups. However I only recently realized that it's a wonderful place for ESL learners to find free groups with whom to practice English! 

 Search on "English Conversation" or "ESL" or similar to find "Events Near You". These days, since almost all meetings are online, "nearby" is meaningless. Although one can search by day, distance, subject category, and type (online vs in-person), I just searched on the word "English". 

 As of this moment, I see that the Denver Public Library's "Online English Conversation Group (Beginners)", being held tomorrow at 12:00 PM MDT, has 6 attendees signed up so far. Per the Details, this is "Free, no registration required." (Meetings with limited attendance list how many slots are left open.)

Tomorrow there's a "*FREE* Online International Meetup in English" whose organizer appears to be in LA but whose attendees appear to be from all over the world. Forty-one people have signed up! The event runs all afternoon, though, with sub-groups getting together for 45 minute sessions. I'd like to see how the host handles that in Zoom.

There are specialized groups speaking in Japanese and English, Spanish and English, and so on. You should be able to find something which is right for you. But if not, start your own group!  That is easy to do, also.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

A Blast from the Past - New in the Present

I hadn't thought about the Voice of America since the Cold War ended. But they're still broadcasting US News and World News. These days though, their audio casts are online and they present news stories online via videos. Most important for ESL teachers, they have added a huge Learning English component to their website.

Not only do they convert their news stories into lessons for intermediate and advanced students, but they offer two entire series of beginning classes: "Let's Learn English - Level 1" and "Let's Learn English - Level 2". In addition they have video channels for grammar, punctuation, idioms and more.

If you are a student studying Enlish on your own, this site actually offers a free, online, person-to-person speaking opportunity under their "Talk2Us" menu. Of course they post past events. At present, the group meets meets at 15:00 UTC time on Mondays and at 13:00 UTC time on Wednesdays and Fridays. To join, sign up for a date at https://talk2usvoa.eventbrite.com.

If you are a teacher who has exhausted TedTalks and YouTube searching for your student's favorite topic, see if you can find it in VOA's huge library.