Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Explaining everyday language

This is a text I created after teaching a pair of private English students:

  1. A DVD player, a microwave oven, a washing machine - all of these are examples of electronic devices.
  2. For people who are partially deaf, there is a device to help them hear. It’s called a hearing aid.
  3. What’s the difference between hear and listen? The first refers more to a physical perception of a sound, e.g. “Did you hear that noise outside?” The second refers to focused attention we pay to a sound, e.g. “I love listening to music while reading a book”.   
  4. Speaking of differences in meaning, two words are always tricky for people learning English: remember and remind. We don’t need anybody to remember something, but if we forget, then someone else has to remind us what we have to do.
  5. Last Sunday, Brazilians went to the polls to do their civic duty of voting for president, governor, senator, federal congressperson and state representative.
  6. We have duties as parents, as employees, as members of an organization. When we do our duty, things usually work and everybody benefits.
  7. When we go to a duty-free shop, it means that the products have not received the import taxes or tariffs of those produts we see in a regular store.
  8. Does it scare you that more and more people are reaching the age of 90 and more?

If you were a student, what would you remember from this text? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

BeWare of the power of the suffix

Prefixes and suffixes are a natural and essential part of many languages, English included. 

The funny thing is that we often forget how productive or dynamic a suffix can be in making new words.

The suffix under discussion here is -WARE

From software to hardware, I came across some other words that form new words when you add the suffix. 

The images represent one of these words



How helpful can this be when speaking? To answer the question, it might help to consider what -ware means in the first place.

Here are some definitions




Based on the definitions and examples, then ...

How would you refer to items that serve the same purpose or are of the same material? 

What other words can you "create" new words with -ware?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014



I came across the word in a blog post today:

The blogger in question, Craig Kemp (@mrkempnz), used it like this:

I told her to provide me with feedback however she would like, the only rules are, be honest and give me some 'feed-forward'. So off she went with a smile on her face, ready to critically analyse her teacher.

For more on Craig's blog, go here.

It got me to really understand what they mean by feedforward and how different it is from the omnipresent feedback

Feedback diagnoses how well or how poorly someone has achieved a task.

Feedfoward outlines what someone should achieve at the end of the process.


Still eager to get more insight on the concept, I found this definition in the Business Dictionary (after failed searches in other online dictionaries):

Reverse of a feedback, it is the 'self-fulfilling prophesy' process that turns logical cause-effect relationships upside down.

What it states is that if you act on what you believe will happen, it probably will. It's more than positive thinking, it is putting in place what you envision or imagine. Sounds very cliché nowadays, don't you think?

How does this apply to teaching someone to learn a language or to learning a language by yourself? 

Here are the scenarios:

If I believe I can learn this language, will I get there by putting more time and effort into the procees?

If I tell students exactly what they are going to be able to do before I start a lesson, will they make a more concerted effort to fulfil my prohesy?  

What are some other aspects that need to be considered in each scenario? 

(It might help to understand concepts like cumulative learning.) 

To leave on a humorous note, remember the difference between feedback and feedforward? How would the boss' feedback in the cartoon below transform into feedforward?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Business is (or can be) social

Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is what we can call a real "down-to-earth" person.

In this video (same video - one with English subtitles and the second with Portuguese subtitiles), he talks about he struck a deal with Danone to address the problem of malnutition in Bangladesh.

As you watch, consider the following questions:

From 0:00 - 1:28 

  1. Was the meeting planned?
  2. Why did he want to make a partnership with Danone?
  3. Why did he think the idea would work? 

From 1:29 - 2:39

  1. What is a social business?
  2. Why did he think Danone's chairman misunderstood his English?
  3. How did he make sure the chairman understood?

From 2:40 - 3:30

  1. How did his initiative help people who used to be beggars?

From 3:41 - onwards

  1. What's the difference between charity and a social business? 

Are there projects like these in your country? How viable would they be?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Practicing - Writing with the lyrics of a song

Here's a new way to look at the lyrics of a song:

A song is like an expository or argumentative essay: it has a thesis statement, topic sentences, supporting statements and a conclusion.

We've all had to write an essay sometime in our lives, but let's look at an example here

But what do the terms above mean? Match the term to the definition. 

  1. Conclusion
  2. Supporting arguments
  3. Thesis statement
  4. Topic sentence

  • A sentence or group of sentences that provide examples to confirm the idea of a paragraph
  • The part that summarizes for the readers the thesis statement and the arguments you presented
  • The sentence or two that contain the focus of a text and tells the reader what the essay is going to be about
  • The sentence that helps the reader better understand the idea of the paragraph

Now read the lyrics and listen to the song. When you are finished, complete the chart. Parts of the song may be used more than once. 

Thesis statement

Argument 1(Topic sentence 1)
  • Supporting sentences

Argument 2 (Topic sentence 2)
  • Supporting sentences

Argument 3 (Topic sentence 3)
  • Supporting sentences   


 Here are the lyrics, in case you didn't get all of them from the video:

You sheltered me from harm.
Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me
Set me free, Set me free
The finest years I ever knew
were all the years I had with you

I would give anything I own,
Give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own,
just to have you back again.

You taught me how to love,
What its of, what its of.
You never said too much,
but still you showed the way,
and I knew from watching you.
Nobody else could ever know
the part of me that can't let go.

Repeat Chorus

Is there someone you know,
you're loving them so,
but taking them all for granted.
You may lose them one day,
someone takes them away,
and they don't hear the words you long to say

Repeat Chorus 

Curious about the answers? Go here