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Friday, November 25, 2022

English Christmas Traditions and the Dual Nature of the Language

The winter holiday season is a great time to demonstrate to students the "split personality" of the English language -- its Germanic/Celtic nature of plus its Latin/French roots.

Every country and climate has its own Christmas or solstice celebration, usually featuring the colorful local plants available in that climate and traditional lights to illuminate the longest night of the year.  In the English-speaking world, Christmas is a Christian holiday brought to England by the Romans. However many of the traditions and celebrations are inherited from the area's older, winter solistice celebration: holly, ivy, mistletoe, a Yule log.

Consider the dual etymologies of the following vocabulary:
    "eat" vs "dine"
    "drink" vs "imbibe"
    "drink to" vs "toast"
    "bestow" vs "donate"
    "give" vs "confer"
    "make merry" vs "celebrate"
    "have fun" vs "revel"
    "bedeck" vs "decorate"
    "bell" vs "chime"
    "sing" vs "chant" 

This year, I chose "Jingle Bells", "Deck the Halls" and "Auld Lang Syne" as the best representatives of seasonal songs to teach my bricks-and-mortar class.  They have a few "old-fashioned" words which need to be explained.  But I forgot that I simply cannot carry a tune.  Without a room full of students who already knew the tune, the singing effort turned into a sort of dull roar. 

Next year I'll try "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". I can read that one as a poem.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Christmas Before Thanksgiving -- Part 2

At LingoPractico.com, under "Holidays" in the "Portfolio" tab, I have a second Christmas link.  I can't take credit for contributing anything to that lesson because it simply goes to another teacher's YouTube video.  Maybe I'll write up a transcript or a vocabulary list for it.  

"Let's Learn English Words and Phrases About Christmas" by Bob the Canadian is simply a delightful tour of holiday celebrations in a small, farming town in Canada.  It includes a trip to a Christmas tree farm, decorations in the local shops, a local Christmas Market and a Christmas parade down Main Street at night.

Sadly, many Americans of the current generation have never seen a small-town parade, only the big-city spectacles as shown on TV.  Impressive floats glide down the streets of New York, Chicago, LA and more, lighting up the night as if it were day.  However you feel a different kind of magic when you see neighbors'  tractors, excavators, harvesters and boats strewn with lights and transformed into fabulous, gleaming monsters and mythical barks passing by, accompanied by the enthusiastic music of local school marching bands.  And of course civic organizations compete to create the best entertainments and most spectacular moving displays.

The flashing lights of the glossy police cars, ambulances and fire trucks are enhanced by the twinkle and glitter of raindrops, while the nighttime sprinkle does not dampen the enthusiasm of the bundled-up, intrepid Canadians jubilantly celebrating the midwinter season.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Christmas Before Thanksgiving -- Part 1

 I dislike seeing Christmas advertisements in the malls before Thanksgiving but that's the way it is, these days.  In many places, the decorations are up even before Halloween!

When it comes to lesson plans, though, earlier is better.

Since everything shuts down for the holidays, if I want to practice this vocabulary with my students I have to think like the retailers do.

I've actually already completed my Christmas EdPuzzle and Thanksgiving isn't until day after tomorrow.

If you want to see it, it's here.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Goodbye Baader-Meinhof?

Definition of the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: a situation where something you recently learned about suddenly seems to appear everywhere.

You've probably noticed this in relation to a new word.  You start to hear it all the time.  This is true, not just in a second language you are studying, but in your native tongue when you encounter a specialized or abstruse word.  Like abstruse.

This morning I realized the phenomenon hadn't happened to me in ages, almost a year and a half to be specific.  The last such new word was "onboarding", a term which came up in the process of teaching a student who was looking for a better job as an HR professional.  Does that mean I've quit learning new vocabulary?  Not at all.  I now have a student who plans to attend medical classes in 2023.  In the past, I would have used "prone" and "supine" interchangeably to mean "lying flat".  However, "supine" means specifically lying on your back (which I sort of knew but never thought about) while "prone" means specifically lying face down.  I'm learning abstruse new words all the time, sometimes while searching for the simplest word to express an idea.

"Onboarding" stands out because my frequency-illusion experiences are now rare. Am I associating with illiterate people? Since many current acquaintances are teachers, I hope not!  Have people suddenly started using a smaller vocabulary? Doubtful. So my brain must have quit latching on to a newly learned word, saying, "Hey, there it is again!"

I miss that.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Schwa, Shakespeare, and the Pink Panther

Many thanks to Jennifer Fry Campion at the Facebook group "My Color Vowel Community" for linking to the video The Pink Panther Teaches English Rhythm!

You'll never hear iambic pentameter the same way again!

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Purpose of Education

I know why most of my students are studying ESL.  They simply need to speak English in order to get along, living in the US.  Those who already use English OK want to speak it better because people realize the importance of good communication in today's world.

I hope that in addition to these practical reasons they come to enjoy, as much as I do, simply exploring all the crazy quirks of our eccentric language.

After reading the "aims and purposes" set forth by various courses and schools, I have been thinking about language in relation to education in general.  I remember the stated purpose of education in the public schools I attended eons ego.  It was: "to create good citizens".  It's true that for a democracy to succeed, it needs an educated population capable of logical thought and sound decision making. They must vote for reasonably sensible regulations and representatives. (In the intervening years, much of our country has been woefully deficient in living up to this educational goal.)

However, when I quoted that stated purpose to my parents they were appalled and unhappy.  This was the McCarthy era.  I didn't realize, at the time, how the slogan carried definite connotations of brainwashing!

In graduate school, a French teacher brought up the subject of educational goals; so I tried out the slogan on her.  She, too, reacted very negatively, exclaiming, "Non!" She was adamant that this was incorrect.  I cannot remember the lofty goals that she then stated were the true aim of learning.  However I know I was more than a little annoyed that she totally dismissed my understanding of the aims of the school systems in which I would be teaching.  This was MY country and this was the viewpoint that MY schools held, for better or for worse.

Personally, of course, I value education simply for its "entertainment value".  I am happy if I'm increasing my knowledge and enjoy nothing more than an "aha" moment.

So what is the ultimate purpose of education, or what SHOULD it be -- regardless of an individual school's motto?

Friday, October 21, 2022

Minimal Pairs Again -- Finally -- Part 2

You would think that "a CUP of MUSTARD" would be the easiest vowel to produce in English.  And yet, it is so close to OLIVE SOCK that the two are often confused.  PURPLE SHIRT is also close in pronunciation, though the addition of an "r" makes it a little easier to distinguish.The Color Vowel Chart, Anchor Images & System were created by Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson in 1999.  Learn More at http://www.Colorvowel.com.

Did Ron run?
Did Fawn have fun?
Did the pawn make a pun?
Is the dawn now all done?
He sung the song well,
But rung the wrong bell.
Then shucked the hard shell
And struck a strong smell.
I paid big bucks for the box.
With luck you'll open its' locks.
And stuck in a slurry of stocks
Find the sumptuous gold from Fort Knox.
You follow the furrow
Then borrow the burrow.
Clean dirt from the dart
And the hurt from your heart.
Then jog with the jug
And drink grog from the mug.
I wonder as I wander,
What color is that collar?
The scarf is really scuffed!
It's duller than this dollar!
Poppy bought the puppy.
While Gerda got a guppy.
The bug lived in the bog.
In the dugout with the dog.

© Copyright , Margaret R. Jones