Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Use It Or Lose It

My Spanish class in high school put together a special year book. Here is my page from it.

I wrote this 22 years ago, and have no idea what it says. I had to look up some of the words in a Spanish dictionary. Why? Because I don't use Spanish every day and therefore I have lost a lot of what I learned. So, when you learn a new language, you'd better use it or you will lose it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Love Your Butt

March is ... well, was Colon Cancer month here in the United States. The Colon Cancer Foundation was showing a video to promote medical screening. But I see it as a video with 15 different ways to say butt!

1. booty
2. bottom
3. derriere (French)
4. tuchus
5. bum
6. behind
7. tushy
8. caboose
9. keister
10. rump
11. buns
12. patooty
13. fanny
14. money maker
15. gluteus maximus

Yes, there are many more words to say butt. And yes, there is one that is used quite a lot. (It rhymes with grass.) But it can't be said on certain American television channels, so it was not included.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Say Thank You

I recently send this email to Judy Gilbert, author of Clear Speech and Clear Speech from the Start. And because I love teachable moments, I wanted to post it so you could see an example of an actual email sent from one American to another. We don't know each other, so it is more formal than an email I would write to a friend.

Dear Ms. Gilbert, (I don't know her marital situation, so I am using Ms.)

I have been teaching ESL/EFL for a year. My TESOL certification program did not teach me anything about pronunciation. But I have had many students complain that people couldn't understand them and they didn't know why. I was shocked to learn that the local community college doesn't teach pronunciation. In addition, the TOEFL requires clear pronunciation, but I don't see many resources for learners that include feedback from a native English speaker. So I find myself gravitating towards teaching pronunciation.

I started working on making their pronunciation more clear, and that is going well, but teaching vowels has always confused me. Last night I was at my wit's end. How can I teach all of these vowel sounds to my students if they don't even make sense to me? It just didn't make logical sense.

I eventually came across the prosody speech you did at The New School (on YouTube) and my cloud of gloom lifted. You spoke of everything I have learned or thought in the past year. How important pronunciation is, how native English speakers will give up speaking with a student after a few tries, and how my students can feel isolated because of it. And it explained why the teachers avoid it.

In addition, you gave me a path to move forward. I went to bed excited and renewed. So I wanted to thank you for your speech, it really lifted my spirits.

Thank you,
Lia Hollander


I will let you know if she writes back! But even if she doesn't, it made me happy just to write the email.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Remember Four Things

Here are four things to remember when you are learning English. Or any new skill or task.

1. You are not alone. Ask for help.

2. Practice it every day.

3. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

4. If you fall down, get back up and try again.

You can do it!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Get The Heel Out Of Here!

My sharp eyed readers will notice the pun I used in the blog post title. Yes, normally, the phrase is, "Get the hell out of here!" but in my case, I am talking to high heels. And thus, the pun.

I'm done with high heels. I. will. not. wear. them. any. more. They hurt my back, they hurt my knees and they keep me hobbled. I don't care that they elongate my legs, I don't care that they make me look statuesque. I'm done. D-O-N-E done.

I need to be able to "run" from teaching one English class to another (this term I only have 10 minutes). I want to be able to walk around Spain for more than just 20 minutes without shooting pains up my feet. And I want to feel light, springy and airy. And thus ... no high heels.

But what can I wear instead? What will fit the bill? Introducing an oldy but goody ... Clarks.

I now have the Clarks Hare Sport Flat in Grey (because I'm crazy bold) and the Clark Propose Pixie in Pewter (still crazy).

So the only question that remains is, which pair gets to go to Spain with me?

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye

Wednesday was my last night teaching English at the Cascade Park Public Library in Vancouver, Washington. I had been teaching an evening class each week for the past 9 months. But I had to stop because driving home so late at night was wearing me down. (Don't worry, I just picked up two more day classes at Clark College, so I'll still be busy!)

My time there was priceless. The supervisor at the site, Milton, was eager to share his decades of experience with me, and he let me completely take over. I taught 3/4 of all the classes.

But the biggest surprise during the past 9 months, the thing no one warned me about, was the sadness I would feel when students left. Since I come from a elementary school background, I am used to having students all year long. At Cascade Park, many of the students were just visiting the US. Some were here for a few weeks, and some were here for a few years. It never occurred to me that my students, whom I had bonded with (some for weeks, some for months) would leave me. And because I was so focused on creating interesting and informative lesson plans, I completely forgot to give them my email address so that could keep in touch. So now I just have to wonder how Lucy (Czech Republic) and Ji-Hu (S. Korea) are doing.

So that I don't make this mistake again, I have now added my email address to the bottom of every worksheet I make. This way, if they do want to contact me, they can. But I still get a little sad when their time is up. I'm not sure if that feeling will ever stop.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Be Yourself, No Matter What

I know what people will say when I tell them I am trying to find more clients (students) for my American English Tutoring business. "Oh, you should write a blog just about American English." Right. But I can't do that. I can't show just one part of me (even if it is a subject I talk about all the time) it makes me feel incomplete.

And so, while some of the posts on this blog will be about American English, I will also continue to post about other facets of my life: things that annoy me, books, exercise, Type 1 diabetes, and things that I like.

Perhaps I won't get the hits or page views that I would get if I made a separate blog for American English. Perhaps this is a huge mistake. But I don't care because it just isn't how I work.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Correct Yourself

If you are an advanced American English learner, I highly suggest the book Correct Your English Errors, by Tim Collins. It's a small book, but Mr. Collins has packed a lot of great information into it.

You may need to consult with an English teacher or tutor or an online program to really understand the pronunciation section, but the rest of the book should be easily understood.

I have found it extremely useful, and I think you will too!