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To Thine Own Self Be True, Part 3: This Is Definitely Me

definitelyme

May 16, 2024

This is the third and final installment of the grouping To Thine Own Self Be True. If you have been following this grouping, you know that we have talked about making truthful gracious excuses following an invitation or request;  setting boundaries with people who might attempt to maneuver you to do what you don't want to do. Even the name of the grouping points us to the need to be true to ourselves: our values, our preferences, our opinions, our needs, our personalities, and much more.

 In this remaining article I will attempt to describe what it means to be yourself. I say I will attempt, because this is the most elusive of the facets of being true to yourself. Let's see how this will go; Please have patience with me as I try.

In the fields of psychology, sociology, business, sports management, education, and many others there are ample resources, tools, programs, self-help, measures,  questionnaires,  and the like to help us learn more. Some are very helpful, others are not in asking or answering the question Who am I

Trying to answer Who Am I?

I'll tell you about a questionnaire I once took; 

I am fond of wine and enjoy learning about which wines go best with which foods. I have tasted lovely local wines in Italy, Spain, and France and in the Finger Lakes of New York State.  So, when I came across a questionnaire on the Internet to investigate my wine preferences, I was game. I was surprised to be asked questions that had nothing to do with wine or food but rather preferences about activities and many elements in my life. After I submitted the questionnaire I was greeted by the line you like full-bodied Reds. Well, I had known that for years. So instead of being grateful that my taste was confirmed, I was instead ticked off that I didn't learn any secrets of the universe. 

I guess that's what you get when you use a tool for the wrong purpose. Operator trouble on my part, for sure. 

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences diagnostic

When I was earning my master's degree in ESL education I had the opportunity to learn about Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences. In case you're not familiar with the term multiple intelligences it can be put simply the skills and aptitudes you have from a variety of fields. Some examples are music, athletics, mechanics, writing, performing, etc. 

The subject taking the diagnostic responds to a bunch of statements from many fields of study. For example: I can play a musical instrument; I can make up stories; I find budgeting and managing my money easy and so on. The diagnostic sorts the given answers and summarizes in which field or fields you excel or would find challenging. 

Me: writing, music, performing arts,  Not me: science, athletics, mechanics.

Yeah, I knew that, too.

But this time, unlike my encounter with the wine preference quiz, I was not resentful but rather intrigued and felt comfortable with myself regarding the results. Besides, diagnosis is one of my intelligences.

I admit that I have several little-known character and personality traits. So when people meet me for the first time, they're not sure what they're looking at. 

So the first day of getting to know me they just watch and maybe ask one or two questions and leave it at that. Then if we meet again, they'll start describing what they've seen so far. Then the next time they say statements that they want to confirm as true about me. Like ‘Oh you are the one who sings in the choir at church’.  Or ‘You are married to that nice elder’. Or ‘Oh you run that website’. See what I mean? Three traits. I know that I have a lot more than three traits, but on days that I am feeling insecure, even I can only think of three.

People are not their categories 

Here I was trying to figure out how to finish this article. And so I consulted my husband  (You know, that nice Elder) for a satisfactory ending. He said that God did not make categories of people. He made individuals. Unique, Precious, Special. 

Earlier we talked about some different measures that we can take to find out what we are like and Who We Are.

Questionnaires, rubrics, diagnostics, wine tests… as I look at that list I see how meaningless they are to help answer the question Who Am I? I consider myself a rather complex person with many characteristics, interests, and qualities. I don't want to be boiled down to my favorite wine, or the three things that people know about me, and I don't want to do the same to you. 

boundaries

To Thine Own Self Be True, Part 2:  Setting Boundaries

May 7, 2024

In Part 1 of this article, To Thine Own Self Be True: Making Truthful Excuses, we sympathize with Michael as he grapples with the dynamic of attending a neighborhood barbecue with his ill-mannered neighbor, Bud. Michael learns to give a truthful answer that is also gracious. He finds himself needing to set boundaries with Bud. We are now going to talk about the tricky, but necessary dynamic of setting boundaries with other people.

A resource that I found indispensable in my life was Boundaries, a book by two acclaimed Christian psychologists and prolific authors, Dr.Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.

I'm going to talk about a principle of setting boundaries that I have found to be quite helpful: This is ME; This is NOT me.

 

This is ME; This is NOT me

This is ME; This is NOT me is an invisible yet solid line of division between what is my property and another's property to make sure the other person is fully aware that I am protecting My property just as she must protect hers. By the way, property may be material, such as a house or car, or immaterial such as a value or an idea. 

This is ME; This is NOT me goes something like this:

This is my yard, that is your yard. The This is NOT me  part refers to when someone is requiring you to do something that he has no right to require from you. For example, someone tries to rope you into a large time commitment for a large project that has nothing to do with you. Setting a boundary in this case needs to include clear terms of the request, or perhaps even a firm no

Let's continue with some more examples of This is ME; This is NOT me.

This is my airspace; yours is over there, so please turn down your radio a bit. 

This is my idea, and that is yours. I'll share my idea with you, but it's still mine. Your idea is different from my idea, but let's appreciate the difference. 

These are my political and ideological beliefs, and those are yours. Even if they're different from yours, let's be okay with the difference. And please don't assume that I share the same beliefs as you even if the majority of our neighbors do.

This is my time, that is your time; don't expect me to use my time for something you should have planned for yourself.

These are my kids and I choose how to raise them. Those are your kids and you can choose to raise them the way you see is best. If my kids are making a racket or are trampling your flowers and I don't notice it, I apologize; please let me know so I can make it right.

Setting boundaries 

Setting boundaries does not limit itself to real estate boundaries but refers much more so to my values, perspectives, desires, limitations, permissions, and the like. So just as a fence separates two suburban houses from one another, virtual boundaries set a limit between two people (or groups) and the immaterial things that they possess within themselves as well as the material.

Watch over your heart and guard your resources

In Boundaries, Cloud and Townsend point out the essential premise from a proverb found in the Bible

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Using this one proverb, Cloud and Townsend warn and encourage us to guard the resources within us so that they will not be defiled or be squandered. For example: when we let someone monopolize our time that we had set aside for something important, we are not guarding our resources. When we allow someone to entice us to buy something with the money we were planning on using for something else, we are not guarding our resources. 

Older but wiser Diana

Unfortunately in my life I spent too much time giving away the proverbial store because I did not know that I was not required by God to do so.  (There were some very persuasive influences that talked me into believing that I was supposed to do all of the giving and none of the receiving; talk about squandering your resources!) 

I am grateful that I now have more insight and wisdom and courage to guard my resources as I guard my heart.

I first learned the necessity and benefit of setting boundaries just a few years ago when I watched a video talk about boundaries given by Dr. Cloud.

It comes down to this: When I find myself at odds with another person trespassing on what God has entrusted to me, I remember firstly that I must be true to mine own self, namely,  Diana. That’s it.

I advise you that if anyone, whether individual or a group, tries to take over your free will, that you carefully consider what boundaries you may need to set with that influence.

Truthfulexcuses

To Thine Own Self Be True, Part 1: Making Truthful Excuses

May 2, 2024

Michael was approached by his neighbor, Tony, to come to his backyard barbecue.  Uh-oh, thought Michael, I wonder if Tony's brother-in-law , Bud will be there as usual. The last time I went to one of Tony's barbecues Bud was the most obnoxious guest there. Michael scrambled for a reply.

Oh, sorry Tony, I'm busy that day.  Maybe next time.” 

Note to the Reader: you and I both know that Michael was not busy that day. He only said that he was because he didn't want to go to a barbecue with Tony's brother-in-law wrecking everything.  So Michael gave the most common excuse, I'm busy. And you know what, Tony likely knows that Michael was not busy on the day of the barbecue, just as you and I know that.

Okay, so if you and I, and maybe Tony know that Michael was not busy on the day of the barbecue, why did Michael say he was?

 Let's think of some possibilities.  Michael is counting on Tony not asking him what he's doing that day.

In our culture where our free time is sacrosanct, the person making the invitation isn't going to make a fuss if Michael says he's busy. And contradictorily Michael, like most of us, doesn't believe he can always choose to do what he likes with his own time and so has to make a false excuse of why he can't come.

Why do we think we don't have authority to refuse an invitation or a request? 

Perhaps we believe that we will be perceived as antisocial or selfish.

Perhaps we fear that declining too many invitations might make us lose friends. 

We feel we owe the person a reason if we are declining an invitation. And we also think our reason needs to meet with the other person's approval. (It doesn't.)

Let's take a look at some excuses that are both truthful and gracious.

Graciously telling the truth

So what might Michael say to Tony instead of I'm busy?  Let's take a look at some other excuses that are  both gracious and truthful.

Oh, thank you, Tony I'm sorry but I won't be coming to your barbecue. Please give my best to your wife. 

This response is both truthful and puts the onus on Tony to ask for a reason.  Most times it will end right there. If Tony does ask for a reason, reply that it’s personal, which it is. 

Oh, thanks, Tony. I want to stay home that day, I hope you have a great time. Notice that Michael didn't backpedal with an explanation of what he was going to do while he was home. He just says that he wants to be home that day and doesn't feel obligated to justify himself.( I think perhaps He learned that he  wasn't required to give full disclosure.)

So it looks like this neighborhood barbecue is a regular occurrence in the lives of Michael, Tony, and Bud and Tony's wife. Eventually it may be necessary at some point for Michael to tell Tony about his discomfort around Bud.

But a couple of days before the barbecue Bud notices Michael watering his lawn and calls across the street to him.

 

Bud: Hey Mike. 

 

Michael:  Michael

 

Bud:  Whatever- Mike - Tony tells me you aren’t coming to the barbecue. What gives? 

 

Michael: Yeah, that's right, I'm not.

 

Bud: How come, Mike?


Michael:  Personal reasons.

 

Bud: You're kidding, what could be so important that you miss the neighborhood barbecue?

 

Michael: Listen, Bud. I am trying to be gracious here, but the fact is some of your manner with me makes me uncomfortable.

 

Bud: What’s up with that?

 

Michael: Well, as an example you insist on calling me Mike when I have made it clear I prefer Micheal. It’s things like that make it hard to be around you at the barbecue. I’d really like to get to know you better but I am having a very tough time. Like I told you it’s personal.

 

Bud: Wow, Mike, I mean Michael, I guess it is kind of personal. You don’t get much more personal than your own name.  Tell you what - come on over to the barbecue and I’ll try to keep in mind what you’ve said.

 

Micheal: Thanks Bud, that means a lot. You know I think I will join you after all.

 

Now Michael won't have to have that hard talk with Tony. :) 

 

To wrap up the story let me tell you that the barbecue with Tony and Bud and Michael went well. and Bud learned a few things too. 

 

However, two weeks after the success  of the barbecue, Tony called Michael on the phone and invited him to a barbecue he was having the following week, but Michael told him that he wanted to stay home that day and wouldn't be attending, but thanked him for the invitation just the same. It may interest you to know that Michael didn't give Tony a description of what he would be doing at home that day. Perhaps Michael has learned he is not obligated to volunteer that information.

oralskills

How You Can Practice the Basics of English: Oral Skills

April 24, 2024

Communication is one of the most important functions people have in society.  So, English skills never lose their value in a person's education.  Practice, practice in the basics of English both formal and informal, need to be honed throughout life.

 

How can you practice oral skills?  

Here are some tips:

Oral Skills.  To be a good oral communicator – formally or informally – you should continually practice public speaking in its various forms.  Good communication will always be necessary to obtain a job, perform it, and succeed in social life.  Your school or clubs can provide formal opportunities for you to present your work to others. But informal, everyday communication skills can still be practiced.

You can also look for opportunities to practice speaking in daily life.  You can read books aloud to younger children in your family, your neighborhood, or even the local library story hour.  Or, you may want to read aloud to elderly people in a nursing home, hospital, or community center.  It may be done as part of a formal commitment to an organization, or you may just find opportunities to do it as they come up.  You may find it useful to teach religious instruction, be a panel leader or member of a civic group.  School speeches, debate clubs, and oral interpretation workshops of course, will provide lots of practice, although that may not be your cup of tea.  Getting involved in school or community plays will do wonders for oral skills – never to be lost in later years. 

At home on a family game night, you may be the one to read the rules and coordinate the game.  In the car or at the store, you can encourage younger children to read road signs or packages and help them with their pronunciation. 

Good diction 

The word diction comes from the Latin word meaning to proclaim.  Speakers use this word to refer to how clearly and expressively words are pronounced.  If you have a message to “proclaim”, it is worthwhile to express it so that it is clear to the listeners.  For this reason, you need to focus on pronunciation.  (Two other words people use are enunciation and articulation.)

Have you ever watched someone read a report or a speech and noticed that he barely opened his mouth?  Or did he mumble?   Did you have to work pretty hard to understand what he said?  Or, if not, was it at least a little boring?  Didn't it look like he wasn't very interested in the topic himself or didn't really want to be  there?  If you ever have, then you can use it as a reminder to open your mouth  sufficiently.

You may feel a bit uncomfortable because you're not used to it.  But, if you can remember what it's like when a speaker doesn't do it, it may help you to open your mouth more than you would in everyday life.

Most importantly: be confident. You are or will be a professional and you have a good product to deliver. Furthermore, you have been working hard and you know what you're doing.  Believing that will go a long way toward pronouncing your words well.

Clearly pronounce both consonants and vowels; don't slur them together if you can help it.

These are all things you can do to improve your oral skills – and you may be able to think of other ideas, too!

And again, relax, be in control of your voice and body, and enjoy yourself!

Bonus word study note

Sometimes people choose the wrong words to express what they mean.  Here is a common mistake people make.

The verb we use to talk about saying words is pronounce.  The noun that corresponds to this is pronunciation.  But, instead of saying pronunciation, they often say pronounciation.  This is not a word.  They are taking the verb and adding the noun suffix -iation, but this is incorrect.  If it helps you to remember, pronunciation is very similar to the near-synonym enunciation. 

Study-for the Test Tips -Updated

updatedstudy

April 11, 2024

These study tips are great for a test that has multiple choice/true-false/matching questions, short-answer, and long-answer questions.  If your course has a textbook that has readings broken up into sections with headings followed by comprehension or homework questions, these suggestions are ideal for you.

 

“Test Announcement Day” Tip  When your teacher or professor  announces a test is coming up, Job  One is to put it on your calendar. After that, it's a good idea to find out what format the test comes in: objective questions, long answer, essay, or special equations, scenarios – whatever.  If your teacher doesn't tell you the format, ask.  It will help you prepare better, and the tips below will help.

 

How can you prepare for your test? 

Well, the best place to prepare is by scanning your chapter sections and re-answering the review questions at the end of the sections.  If you took lecture or reading notes, or your teacher gave you study guides or outlines, use them too.

 

If you can identify from your reading all the people, places, dates, properties, shapes, and other factual items and can answer the review questions, you will probably do well.  Most tests have large objective parts (that is, have factual answers that are right or wrong – not application or opinion).

 

If you know the meanings and/or uses of all the boldface words and italicized words throughout the chapter, and can knowledgeably talk about them, you will probably be able to answer all the questions on the test, no matter what form they take — even long- answer.

If you can apply the principles from your lessons, not only identify each item, you will be able to answer the longer questions.  For example, you know what the word distortion means as it applies to maps.  You can talk about different kinds of distortions and which maps tend to have which distortions.  Great — then you can answer any multiple choice, true/false, etc. question that may come up.  But, if you can explain why flat maps have distortion, then you can answer a long-answer question.  That's called application because you are applying facts to situations.  That's higher level thinking!

 

When you answer long-answer or essay questions, you will succeed if you make sure you answer every part of the question.  Sometimes they will ask you one thing, sometimes multiple things.  Don't skip any parts.  Also, if you have to explain something, see if you can give a detail or example from your coursework that will help you be complete. That, too, is higher level thinking!  If your test will include a long essay, you will need to prepare in more depth by reviewing your chapter and taking notes using an outline format or one with bullets. As you do your review questions from chapter readings, jot down anything you know you don't completely have a handle on.

 

Professor's office hours  Maybe, for example, you can answer the what, but not the why.  That's what you should ask in class before the test date.  If the teacher doesn't automatically cover it, bring it up yourself.  If there is no class scheduled between the time you discover a misconception and the test, go see your teacher on your own to ask your question. Most teachers and professors have posted office hours to meet with students.  If you wait until the start of class on test day, she likely won't have time for questions immediately before passing out the test.  Visiting ahead of time is a safeguard for you and a courtesy to her.

 

Form a study group with other students 

If you are in high school or college in a class with other students, consider forming a study group with your classmates. There are many ways to use each other's skills and strategies to study for an upcoming test. you might be able to distribute the sections of material that your class was responsible for and maximize everyone's strengths and contributions to the study group. You could try to schedule a cram session, that is an emergency study session, but it would be more productive and advantageous if you  arranged to meet in methodically organized study sessions. 

 

Oh, and of course get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast.  You don't want your mind to be empty because your stomach is. 

coldreading

A Cold Reading

 

 

March 26, 2024

If you are a public performer,eventually just might be called upon to do what is called a cold reading.

But if you have trained and prepared yourself with general techniques of public performance, that shouldn't pose a big problem to you.  You can handle it!

 

What is a cold reading?

A cold reading is when you are given something to read aloud in public without ever having read it before.  You haven't had a chance to look it over, prepare, interpret, or practice it.  You have to read it the first time you see it!

 

If this sounds scary to you, stop for a second and think.  Have you ever been in a classroom at school and the teacher asks you to take a turn reading aloud from your book?  What did you do?  You looked ahead through each sentence to see where your voice might go up and down.  You watched for breaks and pauses.  And if you mispronounced a word because it has a homonym, you just stopped and corrected yourself and went on.  You made it through just fine!

If you ever find yourself being asked to read something cold, it's a good idea to have a few tricks up your sleeve.

How do I get ready when there's no time to get ready?

  • Flip quickly through the story to check for length, characters, and special punctuation.

  • As you read, try to let your eyes go just a little ahead of where your voice is reading.  Check for the things that will affect your cadence:

    • punctuation

    • homonyms or words that have several pronunciations depending on part of speech

    • breaks and pauses

    • clauses and phrases

    • changes in voice volume or inflection

    • gaps in paragraphing showing time, place, or scene change

It's okay to explain that you've never seen the reading before and that you're looking forward to hearing the story yourself.  This might help the audience to feel more at ease and sympathize with you in case you stumble.  It will prepare both you and the audience, so you can both relax and enjoy the story.

What if I make mistakes as I read?

Well, the first question to ask yourself is: Is this a big mistake or a little mistake?  The answer to that determines what you should do next.

If it's a big or obvious mistake...

... like skipping a paragraph, choking, getting feedback on your microphone, starting to do the wrong voice for a character, or dropping your pages

You have several options:

  1. Say, “Excuse me,” then go on.  (If you say a completely wrong word or something like that, you can say, “Rather...” followed by the correct word.)

  2. Silently correct your problem (like picking up your pages) or wait silently for the problem to correct itself (like getting feedback on your microphone).

  3. Make a brief, light joke as you correct the problem.  Avoid too much humor.  Always read your audience to see if joking is appropriate.  This option is best avoided or used sparingly.

 

If it's a little mistake...

... like mispronouncing a word, bumping into your microphone, losing your place, or pausing longer than you'd like to…

The best thing is to ignore the problem.  Just correct it and pretend it didn't happen and go on.  Make it as painless for your audience as possible.  They'd rather you go on than draw attention to it, since that may make them embarrassed for you.

 

But if it's a really big mistake...

... like reading for a while then realizing you've skipped an entire page, or coming to the end of your story and finding you're missing the ending!

Well, these things happen!  You need to read the situation to see how to handle it.  Do you want to make a big joke?  Start over?  Explain yourself?  Ignore it and hope people won't mind?  Ask your host to cover for you?  You decide.  The one thing you should do is say those simple, important words, “I'm sorry.”

Relax and roll with the punches as you explore a new story with your audience. And you also might just find yourself having fun!

Cold reading practice: The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde 

Here is an opportunity for you to practice giving a cold reading with The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde. Follow the principles found in the lesson as you do your reading. 

The Selfish Giant

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden. It was a large, lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. “How happy we are here!” they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden. “What are you doing there?” he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away. “My own garden is my own garden,” said the Giant; “any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.” So he built a high wall all around it, and put up a notice-board. TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED 

He was a very selfish Giant. The poor children had nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside. “How happy we were there,” they said to each other. Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. 

The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. “Spring has forgotten this garden,” they cried, “so we will live here all the year round.” The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to  stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. “This is a delightful spot,” he said, “we must ask the Hail on a visit.” So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice. 

“I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,” said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden. “I hope there will be a change in the weather.” But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. “He is too selfish,” she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees. 

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. “I believe the Spring has come at last,” said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out. 

What did he see? He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. “Climb up! little boy,” said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the boy was too tiny.  

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. “How selfish I have been!” he said; “now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put the poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.” He was really very sorry for what he had done. So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he did not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. 

And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them around the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. “It is your garden now, little children,” said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen. All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye. “But where is your little companion?” he said: “the boy I put into the tree.” The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him. “We don’t know,” answered the children; “he has gone away.” “You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,” said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad. Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. “How I would like to see him!” he used to say. 

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. “I have many beautiful flowers,” he said; “but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.” One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now,  for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting. 

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly, was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved. Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, “Who hath dared to wound thee?” For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet. “Who hath dared to wound thee?” cried the Giant; “tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.” “Nay!” answered the child; “but these are the wounds of Love.”

“Who art thou?” said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child. And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.” And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

THE END

Giving and Receiving Critiques of Performances

critiques

March 9, 2024

In order to improve our performances, we need to find out what's good that we can keep and what's bad that we can get rid of. If you are preparing a reading for performance, you might want to find someone you trust to evaluate your performance.  We can help our fellow performers grow, too.  One of the best ways to do this is to give and receive critiques.

What is a critique?

n.  Analysis or evaluation of a subject, situation, literary work, etc.”

v.  to analyze and evaluate; criticize.”

— Webster's New World College Dictionary

Did you notice the word criticize in the definition?  In everyday language we usually use that word to mean to find fault with or disapprove.  In the literary or art world it doesn't mean that.  It means to evaluate a work, like a performance, to find its good and bad points and to describe it in order to give information.  No one likes to be put down.  But a person who desires to grow will look for ways to improve.  That's the goal of a critique!

A person who writes critiques is called a critic.  Here's more.

“A person whose profession is to write or broadcast judgments of [art forms] as for a newspaper.” 

— Webster's New World College Dictionary

A critic wouldn't be read and respected if all he ever did was “find fault with or disapprove” the art he was critiquing.  (In fact, a person like that is negatively called a criticaster.)  Instead, the critic looks at the good and bad points of the art so other people can have more information about it.

What should a critique group say in their critiques? Let's look at some things that might be helpful.  Notice these examples.

Encouragement of things that are good: I really liked the way you did the voice for the cowboy.  He sounded just like what I think a cowboy sounds like.

Specific improvements for next time: It was hard to hear you because you looked down at your paper a lot. Maybe you could raise your head and speak a little louder.

Encouragement of things that are okay but are insufficient: You really got my attention when you hushed your voice, but I think you could add more intensity to it to build the suspense.

Things that should be left out

“I found it very distracting when you were twirling your hair.  I think it would work better for you to keep your hands on your music stand.”

Did you notice how specific these remarks were?  and how there were suggestions for improvement?  And how they were kind and as positive as they could be?

It's a good idea to write the critique on a standardized form so that everyone is judged by the same standards.  The performer can have them to think about during practice times.

What kinds of things should not be in a critique?

Personal remarks

  • There's no reason whatsoever to talk about the person's character or personality — only the interpretation itself.

  • Personal likes and dislikes

    • You don't have to like the selection to give a helpful critique.  You're evaluating the interpretation, not the selection.

  • Remarks that aren't clear, helpful, or specific

    • Don't say anything vague or general, like, “It was good.”

  • Unkind, hurtful words.  Never, never, never.

Thinking about how you would like to be evaluated will go a long way to help you critique another person.  Giving a critique can help an artist grow!

What about receiving a critique?

It can be hard to hear other people comment on your performance.  But if we want to improve, it's important to learn all we can.  It's very helpful to remember that this kind of criticism does not mean to put down.  Let that relieve some of your fears.

During the critique, try not to speak unless someone asks you a question, or you can't understand what someone is referring to.  If you respond to every remark, it may make you unable to process it and can also intimidate people because they're afraid they might offend you.  Wait until all the critiques are finished.  Receive each critique humbly and quietly, not defensively.

Good manners are important in a critique group.  Be gracious when someone tells you something, whether positive or negative.  Always say, “Thank you.”  And most importantly, try to relax when giving and receiving a critique.  It's intended to help, not hurt.

What if I am in a competition being critiqued by a judge?

In a competition, follow good manners and etiquette. When you sit with a judge, listen patiently.  Don't take suggestions as a personal attack, but rather as helpful to your performance.  Ask appropriate questions and implement suggestions for a future performance.  If he gives you a poor score, do your best to not show any disappointment.  And remember to say, “Thank you.”
 

Reader ___________________________            Title ___________________________

Evaluator ___________________________       Date ___________________________

 

Nonverbal Skills

Eye contact                   1         2          3          4          5

 

Posture/Body              1          2          3          4          5

 

Holding material        1          2          3          4          5         

 

Performance management

                                        1          2          3          4          5

 

Verbal Skills

Diction                         1          2          3          4          5

Cadence                       1          2          3          4          5

 

Vocal Projection        1          2          3          4          5

 

Breathing                     1          2          3          4          5

 

Interpretation

Selection choice         1          2          3          4          5

 

Mood/Emotion         1          2          3          4          5

 

Vocal Inflections        1          2          3          4          5

 

Physical                         1          2          3          4          5

 

Characters                   1          2          3          4          5

 

Preparation                 1          2          3          4          5

 

Comments

 

 

Lay and Lie : You can learn to use them correctly, and that's no lie

Dog in flower meadow
laylie

March 4, 2024

Many people don't know the difference between lay and lie.  Many people don't even use lie at all — when they should.  Look at the explanations and sentences below and see if you can understand the difference — and use them correctly!

lay — to place or put

This word means to place or put an object down on a surface.

The three principal forms — simple present, simple past, and participle (with a helping verb) and the -ing form — are

 

lay                    laid                    (have) laid                    laying

 

Tommy lays the  pieces on the floor.

Tommy laid the pieces on the floor yesterday, too.

Tommy has laid the pieces on the floor every day for a week now.

Look!  Tommy is still laying the pieces on the floor!


 

lie — to recline

This word means that a person or a thing is reclining and stretched out, like on a bed, couch, or floor.

The three principal forms — simple present, simple past, and participle (with a helping verb) — and the -ing form are

 

lie                    lay                    (have)lain                    lying

 

Alex lies around all day doing nothing.

In fact, Alex lay in his hammock all day yesterday.

Truthfully, Alex has lain in the hammock since Tuesday.

Will Alex be lying in it tomorrow, too?  Probably.

 

 

Animals can lie down.  So can things — even places!

The cat likes to lie on the rug.

Your things are lying all over the floor.  Pick them up!

Fido, lie down!

Where does Chicago lie on the map?

 

However, when you go to bed, you can lay  your head down on the pillow.  Why?  Because you are laying an object — your head — down.

I can't wait to lay my head on my soft pillow!
 

So, if someone or something lies down, it is reclining.

But people lay objects down.

But...

If you lie, meaning you tell an untruth, here are the forms.

 

lie                    lied                    have lied                    lying

 

Jerry, did you lie to me?

I never lied to you.

You have lied to me for years!

Are you lying to me now?
 

Now, one more challenge — the biggest yet!

Can you use them correctly in real life?
 

Let's practice lay and lie

 

A.  Underline the correct word in each sentence.

 

1.  Hens (lay, lie) eggs.

 

2.  Al is (laying, lying) on the grass in the park right now.

 

3.  Jan (laid, lay) the comb on top of the dresser a few minutes ago.

 

4.  If you are tired, you should (lay, lie) down and take a nap.

 

5.  San Francisco (lay, lies) to the north of Los Angeles.

 

6.  Go (lay, lie) on your bed!

 

7.  Where did you (lay, lie) your coat?

 

8.  I've got to (lay, lie) down.

 

9.  (Lay, Lie) your packages down here.

 

10.  A thick fog (lay, laid) over the city.

 

11.  The masons (laid, lied) the bricks.

 

12.  He (had laid, had lain) his keys on the ledge.

 

13.  The old papers (had laid, had lain) on the desk for months.

 

14.  Feeling drowsy yesterday, I (lay, laid) on the couch.

 

15.  The ketchup bottle should (lay, lie) on its side.

 

16.  Albert Einstein's theories (lay, laid) the groundwork for more discoveries.

 

17.  (Lying, Laying) the tip by my plate, I rose to leave the restaurant.

 

18.  The pasture (lies, lays) in the valley.

 

19.  Don't (lie, lay) your books in that puddle.

 

20.  He said to his dog, “(lay down!, lie down!)”.

 

Answers: 1) lay 2) lying 3) laid 4) lie 5) lies 6) lie 7) lay 8) lie 9) lay 10) lay 11) laid 12) had laid 13) had lain 14) lay 15) lie 16) laid 17) laying 18) lies 19) lay 20) lie down!


 

B.  Now you try it.  Compose six sentences below using three forms of lay and three forms of lie.  Underline your target word.

Using a form of lay:

1.

 

2.

 

3.

 

Using a form of lie:

4.

 

5.

 

6.  

Cat on a Soft Blanket

The audio-lingual method: A good way to learn a foreign language?

AL

February 28, 2024

If you have been following my articles on language or general perspectives for teachers, you may have come across the term audio -lingual method. I mentioned this method previously when describing the method I encountered when I first began learning Spanish in junior high. In my articles mentioning the audio-lingual method I said that because of the way my brain was wired and because of my personality and learning style I had said that it worked for me. But it also turned out that the audio-lingual method for learning a language fell out of favor as a viable method.   I also said that despite my success in using the  audio-lingual method, I only truly began acquiring the Spanish language (I said acquiring not learning ) once I began speaking Spanish with native speakers either through relationships or through my travels, and that I never would have acquired the Spanish language by means of the audio-lingual method alone. I affirm that statement again today.

So today I want to describe a little bit about the  audio-lingual method, and its principles and perhaps some history, and then I will leave you to conjecture whether the method has merits for learning a language.

Learning a language versus acquiring a language 

It is difficult in this short space to talk about the difference between learning a language and acquiring the language (perhaps another time), but until we have the opportunity to discuss it in more depth let me just make a quick rudimentary explanation off-book. Learning a language is kind of in the realm of artificiality. You may know a number of vocabulary sets, grammar sets and patterns, conjugations, and so on, but when you are speaking the language using all of the above mentioned features, there's something about the language that is not on the inside in your heart.  Instead, it's just on the top of your head ready to be retrieved by rehearsing the patterns that you know somewhere in the filing cabinet of your head. (just made that up– sorry) In short, you are just translating, albeit quicky.  Based on my fake explanation of language learning, perhaps you can conjecture that language acquisition is far more natural and complete than language learning. Because it is in the inside of you, perhaps even in your heart, and by extension more real and internal. Permanent. Authentic. Natural. Yours.

Description of the  audio-lingual method

The four language skills:  reading, speaking , listening, and writing are taught separately.

The four skills are taught with patterns and expected outcomes. For example, I have a pen. I have a book. I have a desk.

In this particular case the student is mimicking in writing or in speaking, one specific pattern. There is also a great deal of ‘repeat after me’, which I employed with my students until I learned in my graduate work that it was a very ineffectual method. One disadvantage of that method may be a disconnect with comprehension. Likewise there are also patterns of substitution. For example, I want to buy a car. I want to buy a house.

By the way, the audio-lingual method is also called the Army method due to the repetitions of patterned drills.

The principles forming the basis of the  audio-lingual method 

Even though this is a language principle, it is based on the behaviorist theory of stimulus and response.

A main emphasis in this method is audio exercises. Students will mimic either a teacher or a recording, reading to practice the pattern of the sentence. Perhaps from Psychology class you recall Pavlov's dog salivating at the sound of a bell. Beyond that you may be familiar with BF Skinner’s studies using behavioral modification with reinforcement stimulus to achieve a particular response.

Without looking it up, I think that these two scientists mentioned had nothing to do with linguistics or the  audio-lingual method. The linguist who was the pioneer in this particular topic was Noam Chomsky, who believed that linguistic structures are already present in the mind, and likewise that we also possess a universal grammar. (I find his concept very intriguing.) 

 

Can you perceive the disadvantages of  the  audio-lingual method? Perhaps there is a lack of meaning. Perhaps there is a lack of transfer of the skill. Perhaps it is boring. Perhaps it is ineffectual, whose only use is for language learning, not language acquisition (see above). 

Do you know the classic 1963 film Lilies of the Field  starring Sidney Poitier?

Homer Smith (Poitier) is driving his car through the Southwest looking for work when he falls in with a convent of nuns who had escaped Nazi Germany during the war. He ends up living with them for a little while, hoping to get paid for the work he is doing for them.

In one fun scene it is time for the nuns to do their English lessons with the phonograph and records they had brought from Germany. Homer sits and watches the  English lesson, amused. The record first says a sentence in German followed by the English translation which the nuns repeat. the English translation which the nuns Repeat : Please send the valet up to my room . The sentence is ridiculous because they live in an adobe mission house that has no upstairs room nor valet.

 

Then the next sentence: Here is my laundry list

Also ridiculous because the nuns wash their laundry in a tub in the yard next to the chicken coop. 

Finally, Homer ends these ridiculous proceedings and begins to teach them some practical English which they joyously mimic and repeat with motions and gestures: I stand up. I sit down. 

The takeaway from this story is that the German/English records were using the  audio-lingual method. There was no context in which the nuns were learning English. Not only that, the nuns did not benefit from the sentences in the record because it did not apply in any way to real life for them. Although Homer's version of an English lesson was a little ludicrous too and a bit raucous, his  pedagogy was actually superior to that of the phonograph record. His method was also a little along the lines of the  audio-lingual method, but because he used a real context and meaningful gestures, feedback, inflections plus camaraderie and humor, he and the nuns had a great time with the lesson and the women benefited from it a lot,  if only that they were no longer threatened by the English language.
 

Although he got a little carried away with his version of an English lesson,  it actually was more effective than what the records were leading them through, and a lot more fun, which actually is a sound pedagogical principle in acquiring a language. 

betterteachingperspec

I'm a better teacher now from thinking about my own language learning

Let me tell you about me learning English, my first language, and Spanish, my additional language. I want to tell you how my experiences made me a better ESL teacher in particular. (But I can testify that it changed everything about how I taught, regardless of the subject matter.) 

I think I was quick to learn to speak, and was rather articulate at a young age. I also learned to read early, starting at age three. I remember playing with words and sentences even as a small child, making puns and asking adults for clarification. I used to assign words to the objects I saw around me, manipulating them for fun.

When I began to learn the alphabet and sounds, I found great delight at finding similarities and differences in words and word families. Later, as I began to read aloud and do oral presentations in public, I soon learned how to do so with fluency, cadence, and expression because I enjoyed it and also knew it was important. To this day, it is one of the most important things in my life,  and one of the things I’m best at.

(Allow me to briefly insert here that I am totally incompetent in science. I can do math, but I must work hard at it. My handwriting is terrible, and I cannot play sports. My strong points are with language and the Performing Arts, and also with the ability to help people make connections from concept to concept.) [Hence creating this website]) 

I began learning Spanish officially at age eleven when I was in junior high, using a grammar-based textbook, which I enjoyed at the time. I was delighted by the fact that I was learning a new language. I was also thrilled about it because I enjoyed grammar and vocabulary patterns. Most of my formal language learning after that point revolved around explicit instruction in grammar and vocabulary structure. I became adept at it. (It is really important to pause here to point out, however, that this method is not appropriate for most second language learners. As a result, I’ve committed myself as a teacher not to use that method with ELLs!) Eventually, for me, it was not until I began interacting with native Spanish speakers that verbal fluency really began. True, my grammatical knowledge kicked in, including complex conjugation patterns, because of how I’m wired (again, not typical for most people). This was fortunate for me. It was a combination of formal patterns and informal spoken exchange that gave me the boost I needed to grow exponentially in Spanish. There's an article on the audio lingual method forthcoming.

But now I keep in mind the reality that people learn languages in very different ways. I will never assume that my learning style will be my students’. In fact, it’s pretty likely that it isn’t.

In any case, my experiences in first and second language learning informed my teaching methods considerably. Although the specifics of my learning Spanish have equipped me substantially to teach English to Spanish speakers. I am able to use my perspective to teach ELLS of other languages. At various points in my teaching career I taught English to speakers of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean and many other languages, too. I do not speak Japanese, Chinese, or Korean-- all languages which have little similarity to English, but nevertheless I know how to apply second language principles to teach these ELLs effectively. Many learners have a strong accent when speaking English, or struggle with incorrect subject-verb agreement, the inappropriate use of prepositional phrases (is the dog on the bed or in the bed?) or idioms, or inverted word order in sentences. I myself can usually tell when native speakers of one language translate directly from it to English but do not choose the correct word appropriate for the context. I am able to spot mistakes and identify the cause. This insight allows me to know how to help a student overcome the error, which I have found to be helpful.

Learning a new language is not easy, especially under certain conditions. It's not uncommon for native English speakers to think that learning English is easy because it comes easily to them. I always need to remember that things that come easily to one person because of natural gifting, life experience, or environment may not come easily to another person because of the same reasons.

I also need to take into account how each student is affected by his home and school life, his confidence level, how much of his first language he has learned and whether he has learned to read in it, and how much of the second language he already knows (and whether I must simplify wording or use visual cues and so on).

Even when I know the basics of a person's background and current situation, I still can't always know what's going on inside. Why is he struggling? Why is he quiet? Is he scared? Embarrassed? Have an issue at home or work? Feel intimidated by the teacher or classmates? Can’t understand my directions? Have a particular learning style? Am I talking too fast?!? 

I can't know all that affects his learning, but I can press on patiently, helping him develop and grow.

One major turning point in my own learning was when I unexpectedly fell into the role as principal translator and mediator for a group of 44 Americans doing mission work in Mexico. My prior knowledge and foundation – with my dictionary constantly by my side –forced me to grow more quickly than I ever expected!

When I began traveling to Spanish-speaking countries or hosting visitors, I found that that was when I began to grow exponentially in my fluency. I used the grammatical and vocabulary structures that were so important and foundational in my early years (and which I still add to as I can). But I also gained fluency in idioms, synonyms, cultural variations, and nuances never to be found in formal  classroom training.

For me, in large part due to my personality and learning style, the formal, methodical, direct instruction of Spanish vocabulary and grammatical structures were absolutely necessary for my foundation, but my growth in becoming now truly bilingual could never have occurred without real world experiences. So, I would say for me, even the contrived audio-lingual method was effective for me as my foundation, but my real world  immersion was more powerful than my classroom experience ever could be.

Giving an insult by paying a compliment using the adverb actually

Actually

January 27, 2024

I am exploring the dubious usage of a very commonly used adverb, actually.

When I looked up the word actually in the Cambridge Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/actually

I found a short definition:  in fact or really, as in So what actually happened? or Did you actually witness the crime? Did you truly, in fact, witness the crime? 

Are we good so far? That actually means truly or in fact.

I'm sure you can perceive that the two example sentences above are not figures of speech, but are straight literal sentences.

So where does “giving an insult by paying a compliment” come in?

Actually as a figure of speech in casual conversation

Let's take a look at a cringey hypothetical conversation. Imagine you are a teacher in a school and you overhear another teacher pay a student this so-called compliment:

     You actually did good work today. 

Yikes! You may say to yourself, is the student's success such a rare occurrence that he shocked her that day? Perhaps you can perceive in this instance that her use of the word actually in fact means surprisingly. I do not think that the teacher meant the literal meaning of actually as given above in the examples. I really don't think she meant You in fact did a good job today.

Why is this?

 It is because in the modern vernacular, using actually as an adverb modifying a phrase 99% of the time means surprisingly, or  unexpectedly or uncharacteristically. In this scenario the teacher was saying to him, "'You unexpectedly did good work today.” I think that she believed she was indeed paying him a compliment. However, I am concerned about the student who can feel the implied message by the use of that sneaky word actually. 
 

How about these? 

     You actually didn't make any mistakes. Or this one:

     You actually look nice today. (What a miracle.)

     I actually enjoyed my visit with you. (I certainly didn't expect to.) 

     You actually figured that out! (Whoa!)

     The dinner was actually good (It usually isn't.)

Using actually to report a change of plans

Here's an example of using actually which means surprisingly, rather than being an insult, by merely providing a correction or new information.

     Andrew : Are you still going to work with your father in his flower shop?

     Lindsay: Actually, not anymore. We decided that I'd be better off taking some time to get some more courses finished first.

     Andrew: Great. That sounds like a perfect plan for you. 

In this case Andrew had assumed that Lindsay was still going to work with her father in the flower shop because that was the last he had heard. Lindsay corrected Andrew because her plans had changed. In this case there are no insults meant or taken; it was  simply a clarification using  new information. In fact, we see that he's happy for her change in plans. There may have been some surprise for Andrew to hear about the change in the plans for Lindsay, but it is merely on a factual level, not a value judgment as I felt the teacher's compliment to be. I doubt that the teacher intended any malice in her remark. Everybody has his or her own lens through which to see the world and process it. Some people have difficulty sorting through nuances of meaning with their wording.

The takeaway

English has evolved exponentially with phrases, interjections, words with shortened meanings, sound effects, tropes, slang and the like.  It would be a good idea for us to evaluate some of the phrases and sayings that we use with one another in casual speech which by its nature deemphasizes etiquette. As I said earlier, 99% of the time the word actually  has come to mean surprisingly, unexpectedly and uncharacteristically.

The exception is in the case of a change in plans or when you actually mean actually as in in  fact, truly, or really. It’s so important to be mindful that others don’t automatically detect your intention in conversation. They hear and react to the words you say. The best safeguard in handling actually and all other interactions we have is to keep the Golden Rule* close at hand. It actually works.


*The Golden Rule Is a famous saying from Jesus: Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you (Matthew 7:12)

Bonus insult adverb:  even 

I recently came across another adverb that can be used to give a compliment resulting in an insult: even. 

How would you like to receive this compliment?

Everyone made a nice project. Even you. (Gee, thanks.) (See previous explanation re: The Golden Rule)

bolivia
Flag_of_Bolivia_(WFB_2000).jpg

¡Ay, Bolivia!

We hosted a group of college students from Puerto Rico who were studying English for the summer at the university. Their teachers encouraged us to use as much everyday English as possible, including slang and familiar language. While we were hanging out with them one day, sharing viewpoints, we kept joshing each other and saying, “I believe ya!” followed by a soft, affectionate punch in the arm. After a while of this, one of them, who had shown up late, finally asked, “Why do you keep saying “¡Ay, Bolivia!'?

learningforeignlanguage

My personal experience with learning a foreign language and what helped me

January 25, 2024

“Playing school” with foreign language workbooks on the living room floor

As a very small child in first grade I enjoyed doing children's foreign language workbooks as I “played school” by myself. My mother had bought me three children's language workbooks: one in Spanish, one in French, and one in Italian. I did not perceive the difference among my French, Spanish, and Italian workbooks, but I picked it up quickly and had a lot of fun. Early on, my aptitude and interest in language surfaced.

Interestingly, at the time I was living in an Italian neighborhood. A neighbor had taught me the word bambino which means baby.  We had a tiny rose bush in our yard and the neighbor said the buds looked like little baby faces, so I learned to call them bambinos. Funny what things stick with you.

“Do you think you are going to learn it by osmosis?”

I began officially studying Spanish at eleven years old in seventh grade. Mrs. Allen was a semi-old-school but elegant teacher. I liked her a lot. I especially appreciated that you could not pull anything on her. I remember her motto, which she said to the boys who did not study, “Do you think you are going to learn it by osmosis?”

Learning by the Audio-lingual Method

Our textbook was in the AL-M curriculum, that is, the Audio-lingual Method, which has now fallen out of pedagogical fashion and for good reason. Oversimplified, this is basically a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank method of using given sentence structures, replacing key words with the same part of speech to continue to write sentences with an unvarying pattern. We also had to do “repeat-after-me” for all our new vocabulary with little or no real world context.

If you are familiar with the principles of second language acquisition, you will perceive that AL-M is not supported, (although it can conceivably be said that it does pertain to a limited degree to foreign language learning, which is not the same thing as second language acquisition. but there is no room to further develop that point in this article.)

Then I became a Spanish teacher

Later as an inexperienced Spanish teacher, I employed AL-M, for the most part. I noticed after a while that that method wasn't helping my young students as much as it seemed to have helped me. It partially worked for  middleschoolers, but I had also included other activities, like readings, skits, games, and stories. But they did not do as well as I hoped,  because I assumed that they would respond to the rote rhythms of AL-M as easily as I had at their age. I have a strong aptitude for grammatical structures and word families, so this had been very effective for me in learning Spanish structures. I gained a very broad base of grammar and vocabulary. But – I did not acquire idiomatic proficiency to talk with real people until I started talking with real people! 

When I really began using Spanish

When I began traveling to Spanish-speaking countries or hosting visitors, I found that it was then that I began to grow exponentially in my fluency. I used the grammatical and vocabulary structures that were so important and foundational in my early years (and which I still add to as I can). But I also gained fluency in idioms, synonyms, cultural variations, and nuances never to be found in formal training. 

How I reconcile the Audio-lingual method and learning Spanish in the real world

For me, in large part due to my personality and learning style, the formal, methodical, direct instruction of Spanish vocabulary and grammatical structures were absolutely necessary for my foundation, but my growth in becoming now truly bilingual could never have occurred without real world experiences. I wouldn't really recommend the Audio-lingual Method to either students or teachers. But, I would say for me, even AL-M, contrived as it was, was relatively effective for me as my foundation, but my real world experiences were the most effective for my personal bilingual growth. I believe I would not be where I am today without both.

And Mrs. Allen would be happy to know that I did not learn Spanish by osmosis.

Practical tips for Foreign Language Learning, Native English Speakers Edition

NativeSpeakers

You can use many resources and techniques in learning another language. Taking advantage of all the tools — written and mental — that are available, as well as keeping in mind your own learning style, will help you learn more quickly and thoroughly.  Here are some suggestions to try.  You can probably think of others as you learn.  A big key to learning is knowing what works for you.

Know English well

Being familiar with your own language's grammatical structure, peculiarities, idioms, situations, vocabulary, and word origins can bring you a long way in learning another language, particularly when the two languages have the same roots, as is the case with Spanish and English or German and English, for example.

Take advantage of cognates.

When a word looks or sounds similar in your target language to one you know in English, find out if it is a cognate, that is a word that is similar in both languages and have similar meanings.  For example, car in Spanish is carro, and they look and sound similar. Can you see how cognates might help you learn another language? It may very well have the same exact meaning as its English counterpart, or it may have a concept that is similar but not exact.  Even then, the concept may help you learn the meaning or use of the word.  The worst that can happen is that there are no similarities to the English word you thought it was!  You still learned something from the experience!

See how a word is used in context. 

When you are reading a passage or story in your own language,  often find a word that you do not know.  Do you automatically look it up in the dictionary?No, you don't. You attempt to figure it out by the words surrounding it, or by the setting or situation of the passage or story.  This is called context.  Use this same skill as you learn your target language.  As you come to an unfamiliar word, see if you can figure it out by the context.

Practice in various situations. 

When we practice unfamiliar things, we get good at it.  When we don’t, we may lose ground in the subject.  This is especially true in learning a language.  Feel free to practice in many situations, even in unlikely or unexpected ones!  This will help round out your knowledge of appropriateness of word or idiom use.

Try out your new language with native speakers. 

Native speakers of some languages enjoy hearing other people try to speak their language.  They may be encouraging and willing to help you and even to correct your mistakes if you want!

Make mistakes.

Except in situations where mistakes are dangerous, mistakes are a normal part of learning and are healthy for our growth — if  we’re willing to make them!

Guess!  You never know when you’ll be right!

Keep accumulating knowledge and build on it as you go.  Most language concepts are built on ones previously learned.

Listen and read.  Listening to your target language being spoken and reading written material adds to your dimension of learning, rather than just repeating the phrases a teacher or CD gives you.  One technique is to read something in your target language which you are already familiar with in English. Or, read bilingual posters at the clinic or labels on packages.

Examine punctuation and sentence structure.  These are clues to the meaning of a sentence and sometimes help with the framework of the meaning.

Acquire a collection of helpful reference books and materials. 

Here are just a few useful books that you can keep by your side as you learn your target language: language dictionary, verb book, grammar book, traveler's phrase book.  And keep a notebook to write down things that you learn.

Ask, ask, ask questions! 

In some situations, this is the only way you will find out something.  Try to ask them according to your learning style.  For example, if you are good at grammar, ask for an explanation of a word or sentence structure as it applies to grammar. Or, if you manage better at turning a phrase without knowing why it works, ask if an idiom will be appropriate in a new situation.

Don’t give up. 

Language is orderly and you have a good mind to learn. Keep trying as you find yourself in new and challenging situations in your language learning.

Last but not least, have fun! 

It is fun to learn a new language, despite the hard work.  It opens up new experiences for you and helps you to build bridges of friendship with people you’d never get to know otherwise.

Practical tips for English Language Learning, ESL Edition

ESL

You can use many resources and techniques in learning another language, including English. Taking advantage of all the tools — written and mental — that are available, as well as keeping in mind your own learning style, will help you learn more quickly and thoroughly.  Here are some suggestions to try.  You can probably think of others as you learn.  A big key to learning is knowing what works for you.

Know your own language well.

Being familiar with your own language's grammatical structure, peculiarities, idioms, situations, vocabulary, and word origins can bring you a long way in learning another language, particularly when the two languages have the same roots, as is the case with Spanish and English or Italian and English, for example.

Take advantage of cognates.
When a word looks or sounds similar in English to one you know in your native language, find out if it is a cognate, that is a word that is similar in both languages and have similar meanings.  For example, car in Spanish is carro, and they look and sound similar. Can you see how cognates might help you learn another language? It may very well have the same exact meaning as its English counterpart, or it may have a concept that is similar but not exact.  Even then, the concept may help you learn the meaning or use of the word.  The worst that can happen is that there are no similarities to the English word you thought it was!  You still learned something from the experience!

See how a word is used in context. 

When you are reading a passage or story in your own Language you often find a word that you do not know.  Do you automatically look it up in the dictionary?  No, you don't. You try to figure it out by the words near it, or by the setting or situation of the passage or story.  This is called context.  Use this same skill as you learn English.  As you come to an unfamiliar word, see if you can figure it out by the context.

Practice in many  situations.

When we practice unfamiliar things, we get good at it.  When we don’t, we may lose ground in the subject.  This is especially true in learning a language.  Feel free to practice in many situations, even in unlikely or unexpected ones!  This will help round out your knowledge of appropriateness of word or idiom use.

Try out your new language with native English speakers.

Native speakers of some languages enjoy hearing other people try to speak their language.  They may be encouraging and willing to help you and even to correct your mistakes if you want!

Make mistakes.  Except in situations where mistakes are life-threatening, mistakes are a normal part of learning and are healthy to our growth — if  we’re willing to make them!

Guess! 

You never know when you’ll be right!

Keep gaining knowledge and build on it as you go

Most language concepts are built on ones previously learned.

Listen and read.

Listening to English being spoken and reading written material adds to your dimension of learning, rather than just repeating the phrases a teacher or recording gives you.  One tip is to read something in English which you are already familiar with in your own language.  Or, read bilingual posters at the clinic or labels on packages.

Examine punctuation and sentence structure.

These are clues to the meaning of a sentence and sometimes help with the framework of the meaning. Get a collection of helpful reference books and materials.  Here are just a few useful books that you can keep by your side as you learn English: language dictionary, verb book, grammar book, traveler's phrase book.

Ask, ask, ask questions! 

In some situations, this is the only way you will find out something.  Try to ask them according to your learning style.  For example, if you are good at grammar, ask for an explanation of a word or sentence structure as it applies to grammar. Or, if you manage better at turning a phrase without knowing why it works, ask if an idiom will be appropriate in a new situation.

Don’t give up.

Language is orderly and you have a good mind to learn. Keep trying as you find yourself in new and challenging situations in your language learning.

Last but not least, have fun! 

It is fun to learn a new language, despite the hard work.  It opens up new experiences for you and helps you to build bridges of friendship with people you’d never get to know otherwise.

International Flags

A missionary’s perspective on learning a foreign language

Anchor 1

December 27, 2023

My friend Tom and his family lived in Europe as missionaries. They worked in a ministry house. While Tom was home on furlough, I was teaching Spanish in a Christian school. Since my teaching assignment coincided with Tom's furlough, I had the opportunity to interview Tom during Spanish class time about his experiences as they relate to language learning, culture learning, and how those things affected his missionary work. Tom gave some perspective specifically to Spanish learning,though his remarks can be applied to learning any language. Tom’s foreign languages were German and Russian.

 

🙙🙙🙙

 

Q: What are the benefits of learning a foreign language in the mission field?  What are the obstacles when a common language is missing?

A: You can cross so many barriers. You can share ideas, rather than just actions. Otherwise, you can’t communicate in depth, especially spiritual issues.  Gestures only go so far.  Learning a foreign language opens the door and says, "Come in."

Q: How are studies of other cultures useful?

A: You learn what’s acceptable and what’s unacceptable.  You learn what kinds of gestures or mannerisms are important to the people and what ones are offensive.  To some cultures, for example, eye contact is very important. Language is only a small part of a culture.  Having the attitude of a “learner” is very important in a culture.  If someone sees you are willing to take the time to learn what is important to him, a door is opened.  The "learner" attitude is critical. It’s important, as a missionary, not to have the attitude of going to a foreign culture “imparting great ideas” and appearing superior.

Q: Is there any fast way of learning a language?

A: It’s a lot like walking.  You fall down a lot, but you keep doing it.  It doesn’t come right away — perseverance.  You can try to say little things to people that you have learned.  Even "hello" crosses a barrier and opens the door to understanding. Learning a third language is much easier after learning a second.  For example, German is much more difficult than Spanish, but becomes easier to learn if you have learned Spanish. There can be frustrations over communicating in the things of daily life, such as whether you need to give a store clerk more change than you had thought.

Q: What other communications skills besides spoken language can be used in missions?  Do you have any communication tricks when you find yourself without the necessary language?

A: Just like in English, you can find many ways to say the same thing.  The trick is simplify, simplify, simplify. We also use mime, cutouts, pictures, and tracts.  It also helps when there is a translator.  We show the Jesus film in different languages.  When we give someone a tract in his own language and we can’t follow it up with any other conversation, just inviting him to Coffee Bar and showing him love makes the connection of the message of the gospel.  You just have to offer it in faith.  What’s important is acceptance, to communicate openness.

Q: Do you make use of music?

A: We do use music tapes, but it mainly helps if they’re in their native language.  Music definitely opens doors.

Q: In our Spanish class, we use the term bridge-building to describe one of the purposes in studying Spanish.  Do you have any examples of putting that principle into practice?

A: In bridge-building, you move from survival to a deeper relationship.  In the United States, networking is important.  But networking is utilitarian, for what I can get out of the relationship.  The Spanish culture is not based on networking.  Friendship has a much higher value. In language learning in missions, you need to have two things:  a good attitude and a sense of humor.  Be willing to make mistakes.  Leave behind the perfectionist attitude.  One family we visited just burst out laughing at something we had said.  We asked what it was and they said, "We can’t tell you!”

Q: What if a foreign language student isn’t planning on becoming a missionary?  Is there still a way he can use our new language to serve God?

A: Foreigners come here to the United States.  Nothing we learn is ever wasted.   Down the road there may be opportunities.  Spanish is fast becoming the second language.  You may help someone on the side of the road who speaks nothing but Spanish.

Q: Is there anything a student can do with our new language to help a missionary?

A: You can identify with a missionary’s struggle to learn a new language.  A missionary needs tools, like language. You can pray for the missionary to learn a language, to not be discouraged while learning, to persevere in learning the language, that God would provide a good language assistant.

Q: What about learning grammar?

A: Language is not like math.  You want to communicate.  Grammar is like the oil that makes the machine work.

Student

Study-for-the-Test Tips

studyfortest

November 29, 2023

 

You are going to have a test soon. How can you prepare for it?  Well, the first and best place to prepare is by using your chapter review questions at the end of the chapter readings.

 

  • If you can identify all the people and items and can answer the review questions, you will probably do well.

  • If you know the meanings and/or uses of all the boldface words and italicized words throughout the chapter, and can knowledgeably talk about them, you will probably be able to answer all the questions on the test, no matter what form they take — even long-answer.

  • If you can not only identify each item but talk about how to apply the information, you will be able to answer the longer questions.  For example, you know what the word distortion means as it applies to maps.  You can talk about different kinds of distortions and which maps tend to have which distortions.  Great — then you can answer any multiple choice, true/false, etc. question that may come up.  But, if you can explain why flat maps have distortion, then you can answer a long-answer question.  That's called application because you are applying facts to situations.  That's higher level thinking!

  • When you answer “long answer questions,” you will succeed if you make sure you answer every part of the question.  Sometimes they will ask you one thing, sometimes multiple things.  Don't skip any parts.  Also, if you have to explain something, see if you can give a detail or example from your coursework that will help you be complete.  That, too, is higher level thinking!

  • As you do your review questions, jot down anything you know you don't completely have a handle on.  Maybe, for example, you can answer the what, but not the why.  That's what you should ask in class.  If the teacher doesn't cover it together, bring it up.

readingcriticalqustions
Reading

Critical thinking questions you can ask yourself about what you're reading

November 24, 2023

Learning to read literature critically takes effort – no doubt about that. It requires that we do much more than just read to find out what happens to the characters, as if we were watching a soap opera or movie.  Readers can develop the skill of reading to enrich their knowledge, vocabulary, experience, thinking skills, and much more.  If you want to improve your English skills using literature, there are questions you can ask yourself as you read.

First of all, you should always be in a good book.  A key tool to increase your thinking skills is to find proof of your viewpoint.  Whenever you express a viewpoint about a work, try to prove your point with details and examples from the work.

Begin with the plot, but don't stay there!

Here are some questions you can ask yourself about the book you are reading.

“What was the book about?”  After you have given a brief summary of the book, move on to more advanced thinking. If you stay in the realm of the plot and what you think about the characters, you may not mature past the "movie" stage.  But, understanding what happened in the book is important, and gives you a chance to express your initial feelings about it.

“What do I think is the message the author is trying to send?  In other words, what does the author want to say about my life?  Is that a good message for me?  What is the author's view on life?”  All writers have a message to send, whether obvious or concealed.  Inexperienced readers may not see what the message is or may even think there is none.  They may just think there is only a plot.  Or, if they do see the message, they may assume the message is good and true.  Discerning students do not want to automatically absorb all thoughts from all quarters, but rather to examine all messages for their truth value and their usefulness.  If you don't see the message at all or quickly accept it, you may want to stop and think what message there really is and what in the story proves it.

“Are there any changes in the character throughout the book?  Is the character different in the end from what he was in the beginning?  Is there anything I can learn from it?”  Some people (in life and well as literature) are wonderful role models for us; others are perfect examples of how not to behave.  In many books, the central character undergoes a significant change throughout the book in a noticeable progression.  So do we.  We can learn much from others' examples of what to imitate and what to avoid.  It is even possible in some cases to avert failures based on our observations of others.  We can examine literary characters for our own enlightenment.

From a scholastic point of view, we should also see how the character's changes are tracked through and supported by the story.  As you see the character change or remain the same, try to prove it to you by examples throughout the story.  This is a part of critical thinking.

“Are there any other books that are like this one?  How are they alike?  Is there one with something in common to your book but very different from it in most ways?”  It's good to compare literary  works to exercise thinking.  Students can name details that are useful for comparison.  If you remember your early childhood, the same thinking skill is Which one doesn't belong? or What do these things have in common?  Comparing is also useful for students to see that books are very human and no one human book has the perfect viewpoint or the last say on life.

There are so many elements to literary criticism and analysis, but even beginning with these basic questions will help you begin thinking about what you have read.  Again, the best thing you can do to increase your critical thinking in literature is to require yourself to prove your point by citing examples from the work you are reading.  If you notice that you are simply maintaining your opinion without evidence from the book, you may want to consider that your point is not truly well-founded until you find the evidence.  Give two or three specific reasons from the book for your opinion.

If your ideas seem contradictory to each other, a reason you may be mixing up your proofs is that you don't understand the vocabulary or meaning of a sentence.  This may result in having an opposite understanding of the word, thus giving you a mistaken impression.  If this happens, look for the passage that you are using as an incongruent proof.  As you examine it, try to follow the flow of the sentence, and look up any words you don't know.  This method may shed light on the problem of the moment. 

There are other methods you can probably discover on your own as you read and learn.  Try to remember any methods that work for you.  Overall the better you get at proving, the better a critical thinker you will become.

One more point.  Once in a while, read something just for pleasure, without trying to learn great truths or stretch the mind.  Everyone needs rest from time to time.  Reading light material, even at a lower reading level, can be useful to rejuvenate him for the next step.

Englishacrosssujects
Book Stack

How you can use English across all your school subjects

November 22, 2023

In my view, English as a subject in school really should not be an end in itself, but rather should be a tool to further learning in all of life. Even from an academic perspective, that is, keeping the time frame limited to your school years, the study of English is also meant to be an instrument used in order to learn and perform in your other subjects. When we view our subjects only as requirements we need to fulfill or to check off as done, we are compartmentalizing them and making them artificial goals to achieve. (Believe me, though – not all subjects seem to have much more purpose than just getting credit.) The solution to this lies partly in using the skills and information learned in all our studies as integral parts of a whole education.

The idea here is to try to incorporate the various things you learn into all your subjects. Instead of just closing the grammar or vocabulary book and moving on to science, you can pay attention to wording of information as you read the science material. Sometimes, for example, knowledge of word structures, such as prefixes, suffixes, meanings of roots, and other things, can help in studying biological classification. If you see the words bilateral symmetry, and you know that bi means two, lateral means side, syn means same, and metry means measure, you can begin to understand that this term talks about the two sides of an organism measuring the same! This kind of knowledge helps you learn words you have never seen before through word attack skills and has the additional benefit of reducing the number of memorized terms! It also helps you to continue to "learn to learn" – a lifetime process.

Making connections. Different people have different learning styles, of course. For example, we may not see how certain inventors or scientists were at work at the same time as a particular war or world crisis, at the same time as a famous book was written, at the same time as a significant family event took place, and so on. Timelines can be useful to help you make connections of history and other significant discoveries or events. There are some good books and computer games on the market that can help with this, and you can always look on the Internet.

Try to make connections across all your content areas. Ask yourself questions to get a realization that there even is a connection among your studies. Have a little conversation with yourself. When you ask yourself a question, ask another one back. This will cause you to use critical thinking skills as you tie together seemingly separate things you have learned. When you read a historical novel, tie it to something that occurred that time in history or, possibly, to one from a previous or subsequent event in history. 

By the way, there's a fancy word called metacognition. This means “thinking about thinking,” and it will help you learn how to learn!

Good form in all subject areas and in the working world. Try to use excellent expression and usage when studying all your school subjects. When answering science or history questions, you should still pay some attention to correct spelling, grammar, expression, and organization. If you are studying a foreign language, you multiply your language learning skills by knowing English well – and vice versa! A math lesson, too, should be organized and carefully handwritten, especially in geometry proofs. If you think good spelling and grammar in another subject is pointless, you may be compartmentalizing the study of English as an isolated subject.

Try to stay on task in studies other than your favorite.  If possible, try to consider the purpose of a potentially tedious exercise as part of your training, since you may not want to do something in which you see no purpose.  The fun part of such a process will depend entirely on your imagination!  Although we do not select our lessons in life based on their entertainment factor, we can still take up the challenge to make boring lessons fun for us!

In today's working world, bosses can tell the difference between people that are teachable and have good expression and those who don't want to learn nor can effectively express themselves. Employers and prospective clients do pay attention to those who have good communication skills. It does not change the value of the individual, of course, but it does affect one's usefulness as an employee.

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