Newsletter:Newsletter Summer 2013 print
From the Committee
From the Editor...
Welcome to the Summer edition of the ELTA-Rhine Newsletter, the first edition for 2013, and the last edition that I’ll be editing. Karina Kellermann will be taking over the role of Editor for the Autumn edition, and I’ll slip into the background in a sub-editorial role. A big thank you to everyone who has supported the Newsletter and written interesting and inspiring articles, stories and reviews for it over the last two years. Please keep them coming for Karina. Thanks also to the Newsletter team – Karina, Graham, Christine and Ula – for your enduring support.
It’s a compact edition this time, but with some thought-provoking and fun ideas. The Internet plays a big role this season, with lots of useful and interesting sites provided by Anna Csiky from her workshop in March, along with a discussion of the impact of mobile Internet on our ways of teaching and assessing students (Internet Hard Wear), and an entertaining look at Lorcan Flynn’s life offline (I phoned Telekom).
Creative writing is also a theme this edition, with two stories and some insightful ideas from Noel Denvir which could lead to conversation topics in the classroom (Gentil Dentil).
Stephen Charles is back again with an intelligent and entertaining take on teaching pru-nun-si -ay-shun according to the infamous Car-Fow-Bay method (What You See is What You Get).
I wish you all well for a relaxed and safe summer.
Happy reading :)
There have been a few changes on the ELTA committee since the last newsletter.
We farewelled our beloved former Chair, Vasi, back at the AGM in March 2013. We miss her presence, but are sure she’s enjoying a well-earned rest after so many years of volunteering her energy and hard work for the organisation.
In Vasi’s place, we are delighted to welcome Angela Tuckley as the new Chair. Angela, English teacher and long-standing member of ELTA-Rhine, is also a painter and a teacher of Alexander Technique. She makes a wonderful addition to the ELTA-Rhine committee, and we’re happy to have her at the helm.
Meanwhile, Emma, Mike, Therese, Uwe and Philip remain ensconced in their positions from last year, and Judith has stepped down as Newsletter Editor, making room for Karina to take over the role. Judith, Lilly and Christine will be joined by the newly-recruited Margaret Fletcher, as co-opted committee members. Thank you Margaret, for being willing to join the team, even after attending your first committee meeting!
The decision was made at the AGM to reduce the number of Newsletter editions to 3 per year. This was as a result of the large amount of work required to put together each edition. The other option, of producing more regular mini editions, was discussed as a possibility for the future, but for the moment the format will remain as it has been.
Current membership stands at 237. Our thanks to Mike and Lilly for an enormous effort in administering membership, dealing with payment of fees, etc.
In terms of up-coming events, further events are planned for after the summer break, and we’ll be providing more information about them shortly. Please keep an eye on the website (http://elta-rhine.de/Future_Events) for the latest information.
The ELTA-Rhine Committee
What You See Is What You Get?
Stephen Charles speaks out on the subject of pronunciation
In Britain, in the old days, they used to have a sensible approach to speaking foreign languages. Take French, for example. The natives perversely insisted on saying “Parlez-vous anglais?” (Do you speak English?) in a way that sounded more like “par – lé – vu – o – glé?” Half the letters were missing, and to make it worse they pronounced the “-o-“ part of it through their noses, as if they had a dreadful cold or were just incredibly pretentious. Some French teachers in Britain insisted on such unhealthy, slimy Gallicisms, but many wisely preferred “Parr – laze – vooze – on – glaze?”
In Italy – where I taught English at the end of the nineteen-eighties - I encountered similarly pragmatic attitudes towards my own language. The first time I met adult classes of “false beginners” I would elicit any English they already knew. They almost invariably recited the mysterious and incomprehensible command, “Go to zee blakka-boh-ahr-da!” At first, it was puzzling, but after the umpteenth time it dawned on me that this was what their schoolteachers had said years before when sending them up to the blackboard in an English lesson.
“Oh” and “ah”
Reading aloud in English, my Italian students would tend to pronounce every letter they saw in a word. This was something perhaps many of their schoolteachers had done too, hence the letters O and A in “board” were pronounced as “oh” and “ah”. A word such as “comfortable” became “komm–for-tah-blay”, and they would nod in agreement that this would be a much clearer way to pronounce this word. And teachers (myself included) are perhaps sometimes like insecure teenagers who, desperately wanting to be accepted by a group, end up adopting their language. I think that this is the fate that had befallen the blackboard.
Written Italian is very much like a phonetic transcription of the spoken language. Italians often just say their name slowly if someone else needs to write it down. They do not need to spell it. Italian is much easier to read aloud than English (or French), where many of the letters have to be ignored, and those that remain have to be enunciated in unpredictable ways. Foreigners have less trouble pronouncing Italian, and, perhaps more importantly, young Italian school children have less trouble reading and writing it. After a short while at primary school, kids can write the words they know in a way that is readable, whereas many French and English kids of the same age are still scribbling obscure jumbles of letters. In this sense, Italian is similar to German.
The Magic E
Teaching children to read and write their own language means showing the links between the sound of a word and the way it looks on the page. Primary school teachers constantly draw attention to these phonetic rules. In England, these links can be pretty obscure, so children learn the tale about the “Magic E” which, added to the end of a word, sends all its power to the vowel before, making the vowel so strong that it feels brave enough to say its real name (the letter “A” actually says “Ay” and the letter “I” actually says “eye”), but in doing so, the Magic E saps all its own energy so that it no longer has any voice left to make any sound at all and so has to remain silent. An example would be the word “at” becoming “ate”, a tragic tale of self-sacrifice.
With foreign languages we tend to apply the same rules as in our own language. So when Germans say “pizza” they say a short “I” because in German the double Z makes the I short. When the English say “pizza” they pronounce the final A as a short “euh” because it is an unstressed syllable (and more or less everything that is unstressed in the English language is just “euh”). Nobody in Germany or England, unless they are very pretentious, pronounces the double Z in “pizza” in an Italian style. So we end up with “Pit-sah” and “Peet-seuh” instead of “Peet-tsah”.
Getting the double-letter bounce
So, both the urge to communicate clearly and assumptions about the links between the written and the spoken language affect how a language learner reads a new word. But so do speech habits. Italian double letters feel a bit unusual to German and English speakers. It is basically just one consonant with a little bounce: not really two of them. Oddly, this does happen in English and German very frequently, but only between sense units, not in the middle of them. Take the words felt, tip and pen. Each begins and ends with a consonant. But if the words are joined together as they are in a felt-tip pen, then the T and the P are “doubled” as in Italian. They are not really pronounced twice, but just said with a little bounce. Nobody says fel-T-T-iP-P-en. But if you fail to pronounce the double letters, the word sounds like “felty pen”.
This means that English speakers can learn to pronounce Italian by splitting up words. The Italian word “bello” does not sound like the English word “bellow” where actually only one L is pronounced. The trick is to write “Bell – Low” so that the word gets the right Italian double-letter “bounce”.
In Italy, one habit my students had was tagging a vowel to the end of an English word because they found it easier to pronounce a word this way. Consequently, a phrase such as “I need to buy a pair of shoes” would normally be read aloud as “I needa too buya ah paira ovva shooza.”
When listening, many would ignore the word “a” completely. They were quite deaf to it, assuming it was just a vowel tagged onto the end of the previous word. So if I asked a class to repeat a phrase such as “Marco has a hamster” it would come out more or less correctly (“Marco hazza hamster”), but they insisted on writing, “Marco has hamster”.
This was even worse with those classic beginner-book sentences, designed to teach the use of the word “a” with professions. On one occasion I had an argument with a class. We listened to a tape beginning with the instruction, “Write down the sentences you hear”. When we got to “I’m a police officer”; they all wrote, “I’m police officer”, and when I tried to correct them, they refused to believe me. They trusted their own ears rather than the teacher.
Nowadays things in Italy are different. Many have learned English by ear, so the footwear phrase will now come out spontaneously as “I needa buya paira shoes”, which actually sounds pretty natural. The words are linked together and stressed in a way that to my ears sounds English. The main words come clearly into focus (I, need, buy, pair, shoes) whereas the minor ones (to, a, of) fade into the background. Of course, when some of these Italians are writing, they only have their ear to go on, so “I need buy pair shoes” is what often gets written down.
It is partly how people learn a language in the first place that determines how they speak and write it later. Some students have learned their second language by ear and others have learned more by looking at texts, although I have yet to meet a student who learned their first language from the page before they learned its sounds. Despite this, many students feel that they need to see visual cues when they are learning a second language.
Linking the spoken language to phonetic systems can be useful. The Cologne public transport office (KVB) came up with a jolly idea in 2005. It was shortly before the “Catholic World Youth Day” and they were concerned that their staff would not be able to cope with the influx of foreigners on the trams. They produced a leaflet, which was duly distributed to personnel with “phonetic” transcriptions of useful phrases. “Wieviel kostet eine Fahrkarte?” was translated as “Hau match isö ticket?” and so on. This caused much merriment at the time and was even lampooned on the front page of local tabloids; but despite this, Car-Fow-Bay English, as I call it, has proved quite useful. It is a simple form of phonetics. It is not very accurate, but accurate enough for many purposes. For example, whereas our shoe sentence might often sound like “Ai niehd tuhh bai öh pähr öww schuhs” a more useful transcription might in fact be “Ai niehtö baijö pährö schuhs”.
The German problem is not entirely unlike the Italian one. It is all to do with the stresses and rhythm of the language. The sentence above has five blocks (“Ai -niehtö -baijö -pährö -schuhs”). If this were a song, then musicians might say it had five beats, the main accents falling on the second and the fifth beats.
You could, of course, stress other words if you really wanted to, but it would be a different song and a different tune. For example, you could stress the word “buy” (meaning “I’m not planning on borrowing or stealing these shoes”) or the word “pair” (“I have two feet and do not intend to buy just one single shoe”). These unusual meanings would, I think, only be conceivable in a situation where the rest of the context was already abundantly clear, everything apart from the one single point in question. The speaker is in the middle of a shopping expedition with a couple of dim-witted friends. She needs to clear up a misunderstanding. So she stresses the one key word, and lets the rest of the sentence (facts that even her friends understand) fade into the background. Our shopper is actually getting quite irate, if not incoherent, she is after all being accused of kleptomania or wearing shoes that do not match. Transcriptions into KVB English here might be “önittö –BAI -jöpärröschös” or “önittöbijö – PÄH - röschöss”.
Many might feel uneasy about words fading into the background. They want to hear each word pronounced with the same emphasis. Germans often complain about English native speakers mumbling (“Sie nuscheln”). Of course, there is nothing inherently bad about NOT mumbling. It often actually makes Germans’ English much easier for foreigners to understand than Brits’ and Yanks’.
But splitting words up can create confusion. Once I was in a noisy bar in Cologne with a friend who had just arrived from England. The waiter was writing him a tab, so he needed to get the name. He was very civil, but because of the noise he had to shout. He pronounced each word loudly and clearly: “Wott –is – johr - nähjm?” he yelled, although shouting just two words (“Wottsjö - nähjm?”) would have been enough. My friend looked puzzled. “Tony”, he answered, but then turned to me and asked, “What is he so annoyed about?”
Many Germans insert a very tiny break into the middle of the sentence “Heinz has a dog”: it comes out as “Heinz – häs – ö - dogg.” This sounds unusual to English speakers. The break before “a” makes it sound as if the word is being stressed, which is unusual unless you are giving a dictation and are afraid somebody (perhaps an Italian) will want to omit the indefinite article. “Heinz - häsö - dogg” is the standard series of chunks here. If you wanted to stress the fact that he doesn’t possess a whole pack of hounds, you would say, “Heinz has ONE dog”. Although speaking casually in their own languagemost Germans would say “Heinz hat’n Hund”, this is felt to be substandard and the more correct “Heinz hat einen Hund” is used even in cases where the number of dogs is not being called into question in any way whatsoever.
The German problem with the English indefinite article is almost the opposite of the Italian problem. Marco’s hamster and Heinz’s dog are different animals. Whereas the Italians were sticking “a” onto the end of a word, the Germans want to chop it off and make it stand alone.
This tiny cut in the sentence that Germans sometimes make before a vowel is a kind of glottal stop. In standard German you always get one before a word beginning with a vowel. It is very difficult for non-Germans to pull out all the stops for “eine alte Eule aus Aachen.” To the uninitiated it sounds almost like a stammer. The only time you really hear such glottal stops in English is in cockney dialect, particularly when the letters H or T are being dropped, so that “I haven’t got a lot of money” comes out in cockney (transcribed into KVB English) as “Ai – äwwen – go –ö –lo –ö – manni.”
“If it sounds right, it probably IS right”
Don’t worry. I’m not completely mad. I’m not advocating teaching the above in language classrooms. However, a lot of grammar issues need relating to speaking issues; and doing this visually can help. If a construction sounds and looks awkward to students (or if they imagine they have never heard it outside the language classroom) they are perhaps quite justified in resisting it. “If it sounds right, it probably IS right” is a good maxim. My Italian students who preferred to trust their ears instead of me were maybe quite wise. Perhaps part of our job as language teachers is to try to bring this intuition and this logic together.
The beginner-book phrase “I’m a policeman” sounds as illogical to Germans as it does to Italians. The KVB English “Aimö” might help. But you could just draw a big picture of a bucket on the blackboard. Suddenly the penny drops, and they laugh. The German word “Eimer” is pronounced in exactly the same way. Or near enough.
The comparative “as…as…” is another construction which many German speakers find awkward. One reason is that in both cases the word “as” is unstressed and linked to the previous word. Students have simply never heard it before. That is because Germans expect a word beginning with a vowel to be clearly preceded by a glottal stop and not just tagged onto the previous word. The sentence, “Please send us an email as soon as possible,” sounds like “Pliehs ßendösönn Iemählös ßuhnös Possöböll”, and they might just hear “please – send - email – soon - possible”. Of course, in many cases of communication this will be enough. And if you yourself decide to stress the word “as” from the word before, it does not really matter. Native speakers do it occasionally too, and the currently popular song “Everything at Once” by Lenka is full of this construction in a stressed form (As sly as a fox, as strong as an ox, etc.). However, the song does sound a bit like a nursery rhyme, and I think it is meant to. This kind of enunciation is appropriate when talking to toddlers, but perhaps less so in other contexts.
Like trying on shoes
It is a bit like trying on a new pair of shoes. You have to walk around in them a bit in the shoe shop before you really have the feeling that they fit. If you do not get that feeling, you do not buy them; or worse, you buy them and do not wear them. Learning new phrases is a bit like that. You have to try them on for size. Look at them carefully and then walk around in them. Slowly but smoothly. But you have to learn to trust what your feet are telling you. It is sad if you acquire language and shoes that do not fit.
Most teachers think that teaching pronunciation is about teaching students to speak clearly. It is, to a certain extent. And speakers of many other languages have far greater problems than Germans when learning English. International course books contain exercises on the difference between “ship” and “sheep” for learners whose own languages do not have short and long vowels (such as French and Italian). In this case German has the same minimal pair (e.g. the words Mitte and Miete), so most teachers in Germany skip these exercises. Fair enough. But are there any good reasons for teaching pronunciation to Germans?
Fun talking gobbledygook
Perhaps one could suggest four reasons for teaching Germans pronunciation: firstly, it helps students to listen and understand better; secondly, it helps students to remember the grammar if they learn the language as chunks of sound and not merely as strings of words; next, it helps speakers sound more natural and maybe more polite and friendly; and finally, I think it can be fun and liberating to start talking gobbledygook.
Take the sound “tiddin” for example. It comes at the end of the chunk “Intrestiddin” (interested in). If students learn this as a whole chunk, then they might have a better chance of understanding it when they hear it mumbled by Brits or Yanks; they might be able to use the collocation better productively (the words are forever bound together in their brains, and they will start to say “What we are intrestiddin is …” rather than the less idiomatic “the things in which we are interested”); and finally the language flows better. It is actually easier for Germans themselves to say “tiddin” (rather than “tid…in”) as well. They just have to imagine that these two words are one. It goes against the grain, but if they can make that leap of faith, then they can iron out the glottal stop. If not, try it with a bit of KVB English.
Here are some common business collocations that might benefit from having the glottal stops ironed out: Ai-Wandriff; Tohkö-Bautit; ßinköbautit; Häwwö-Lukkötit; Fain-Dautöbautit (wonder if; talk about it; think about it; have a look at it; find out about it).
None of this has to be fast and garbled. All the above phrases should be pronounced slowly and smoothly, trying to get the balance between stressed and unstressed syllables. A common misconception is that speaking smoothly means speaking faster. Nothing could be further from the truth. Removing the stops actually sounds more relaxed.
Judith Ellis looks at networked fashion accessories and their effect on our education system
I’ve never been a fan of a purely pragmatic approach to “learning” – the idea that the end justifies the means, and that the result is more important that any ideological questions as to how it was attained. But I’m starting to wonder, with the news in recent years about the plagiarism-rife education system, with essays on demand, customised to the requirements of cheating students, if I’m just being naïve, part of a dwindling community of idealists, a dinosaur.
I’ve had a couple of very interesting discussions with students recently on the topic of cognitive enhancement – whether taking drugs which improve cognitive function is cheating. Or, once pharmacology has managed to ensure that such drugs are safe for general consumption, whether they should be accepted, encouraged even, made available for all on a level playing field, benefitting society as a whole with increased cognitive capacity across the entire population. Is that not what we already attempt with our umpteenth cup of hot, dark espresso?
But I think before smart drugs become a general problem for our education system, another, already all-pervading form of cognitive enhancement is slipping under the wire. The Internet.
We, as teachers and examiners, have been working hard over the last few years to keep the Internet out of our examination rooms. But as Google and Apple vie for pole position in the new field of wearable Internet – Apple with an Internet watch, Google with its networked spectacles, both currently being trialed – we are on the threshold of becoming a society which is never off-line. And this has all happened so fast, our solutions, our ways of dealing with the disadvantages, have not had time to catch up.
How fast have things changed? Think back.
Twenty years ago, as a student, I owned one of the original Apple Macs – with no hard drive, and one floppy disk drive (memory capacity, of course, 512KB). Saving a piece of writing was an arduous task requiring the alternate insertion and ejecting of a program disk and a blank disk every 10 – 20 seconds, for about 5 minutes. Longer as the text got longer. My typewriter was unquestionably faster, just not as cool.
Today, we sit on the tram and surf the Internet (something still in the realm of science fiction back in the days of my first Mac) on our smart mobile device with touch screens, working on virtual desktops, saving our documents in the cloud. Imagine how unrecognisable the world will be to our 2013 identities in another 20 years. Despite my delight in new technology, I dread to think.
And why am I writing about this?
It’s hard enough to police examinations and prevent cheating with current technology. Attitudes have changed – young people seem to think that creative commons copyright means wholesale copying without referencing is perfectly legitimate. And what’s the point of leo.org and linguee.de if we can’t make use of them? The Internet has become ubiquitous. We are already connected almost wherever we are. I predict that wearable Internet will become so well integrated into life that it will very quickly become undetectable. Not a second smartphone hidden in your pocket, just a pair of innocent-looking prescription glasses with integrated circuitry. Hoopla, before we know it, the exam paper has been uploaded to Facebook; the answer to question 5 d) has been broadcast over twitter by Anonymous; exam texts will be composed by Google translator.
We will, if we are not very careful, be assessing not the students’ accumulated knowledge, but rather their problem-solving skills and the speed of their Internet connection. Lousy phone reception? That’s a fail for you.
This means either we start planning now to encase all examination rooms in lead, or we need to start re-assessing what we want out of our students in an assessment situation. It strikes me that fundamental language skill can be assessed in real-time, spontaneous, oral situations – where students don’t have time to be looking up the right word.
But where does that leave us with the written word? Should we actually be allowing those online dictionaries, grammar checkers, all those wonderful resources we have available into the classroom and into the examination room. It will level the playing field again. And let’s face it, our students, when they need to write in a professional situation, will be using networked devices. Should we perhaps be teaching them how to use them well?
There may quite soon come a point where we have to just accept the cognitive enhancements – be they byte-size or chemical – as a natural part of our evolving society.
My ethics are the dinosaur watching the pretty colours of the approaching aster…
What makes a moment magical for you? And what makes your skin crawl, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end?
Noel Denvir’s book Gentil Dentil is an exploration of those instants that make up our sensory experience – for better or for worse, they let us know we’re alive and kicking.
A great collection of ideas to encourage classroom discussion, recollection of anecdotes, thoughtful contemplation.
Noel Denvir says:
GENTIL stands for: God Everyday Nice Things In Life. It is a collection of observations, incidents, perceptions and feelings which make up the miniature theatre of our daily lives. They are things that we will all recognize but perhaps have never really focused on. It is about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.
DENTIL stands for: Devil Everyday Niggly Things In Life. Although focusing on more negative experiences, it does offer reassurance in highlighting things that happen to us all. There are 1,300 Gentils and 500 Dentils in this book. I hope they will make you think and smile.
1. The first glimpse of the sea after a long drive.
2. Reservoir dams.
3. Amusing alternative meanings to well-known abbreviations.
4. Raising your arms above your head in a kitchen where things are cooking and feeling the warm air.
5. After driving out of the city; getting out of the car and taking that first breath of country air.
6. A light on in a house at 3 a.m.
7. Waking up one morning after a bout of illness and feeling better.
8. Floodlit public buildings.
9. Seeing the resemblance of a friend in their child.
10. Comic versions of well-known songs.
11. Developing an affection for another town.
12. The small illuminated area around a street lamp.
1. Walking behind someone who's smoking.
2. When the supermarket changes everything around.
3. Walking over a freshly-mopped floor.
4. In a hurry and finding yourself walking about twenty metres behind someone you don't want to talk to.
6. The place you want to find on the map is exactly at the edge of the page.
7. Creaking telephone-box doors that take an eternity to close.
8. People who needlessly press buttons four or five times.
9. People who trip over their own feet and then stop and stare accusingly at the pavement.
10. Humming a song you really hate.
11. Standing on something wet in your socks.
12. Not being able to find something you had in your hand ten seconds ago.
A limited number of copies of the book are still available directly from Noel at €15.00 (200 pages), by contacting him at: Denvirnoel@googlemail.com
English grammar is (a) easy (b) difficult?
Grammar or speaking? (Or both?)
Scott Thornbury gave an excellent talk on these issues at the Alte Feuerwache on May 25th. There was a lot of information to digest. Hopefully the following summary is not too complicated. Looking at Scott’s very informative blog might be more helpful.
Scott began by discussing what most English teachers would call “The Tense System”. This is the main “grammar” most teachers teach (whether explicitly or not) and he suggested it is something of an “inherited mythology”. Just how many tenses are there in English? A glance at websites purporting to provide a helpful overview of the English tense system shows how many there appear to be and how daunting the tense system can appear to teachers as well as students. The vast interlocking networks all look like horribly complex family trees.
Scott argues that in reality things are much simpler than that. Although there appear to be a lot of tenses in English, there are actually only two: the present and past. The proof for this is how English is inflected – or rather how it is not inflected. Other languages have a wide variety of conjugations. English basically has just present and past. There appear to be a lot of different forms, but in actual fact there are only these two basic tenses: present (I go, she lives, they watch, she has lived, they are watching) or past (I went, she lived, they watched, she had lived, they were watching).
Most people think that deciding which tense to use means deciding what time they want to talk about. They think that if you plot the activity on a complicated timeline that will show you which tense you need. But actually there is often no real correlation here at all.
A few classic examples show how little tense and time can have to do with each other. The present tense may be used for future events (“he goes into hospital tomorrow”) and for past events (“And the daughter comes home from school one day and says, mum I want to be like you”). Similarly, the past tense may be used for present or even future events (e.g. when used for reported speech, for third conditionals, or for politeness - “Did you want a cup of tea?”). So time is not a useful indicator of which tense to use. There is no one-to-one relation between time and tense.
A more useful question to ask is whether the event is “remote” or “non-remote”. The past is used for describing things at a distance from the speaker. This distance could be time, but not necessarily. It could also be that of a reporter (“he said he was …” is removed and far away from the person who gave the information); politeness (“did you want…?” creates some kind of social distance); or unreal (“if we were…” is far away from reality).
“Non-remote” events are all much more direct, much closer to the speaker. Here we would use the present tense. So the present is all about “me, here, now, real and direct”, whereas the past is all about “you, there, then, unreality and social distance”. So there is a much closer correlation between “remoteness” and tense than there is between time and tense.
Everything else is a question of aspect, not tense. First, there is the question of the progressive forms. The term “progressive aspect” is more useful here than the term “continuous tense”.
Many teachers would argue about which of the following four sentences are acceptable:
- When I lived in Egypt I taught English
- When I was living in Egypt I taught English
- When I lived in Egypt I was teaching English
- When I was living in Egypt I was teaching English
But actually they all are. And it is not a question of timelines and overlapping activities. These do not really matter in this case. It all depends on the focus, on the perspective.
This is not a question of tense but a question of aspect. A picture of a lemon is different from a picture of a fist squeezing juice out of half a lemon in the same way that the non-progressive form is cut and dried and outlined, whereas the progressive form is much more – well, “juicy”.
Take the following sentences:
- She watched her cross the road
- She watched her crossing the road.
The first sentence is a lemon and the second is lemon juice! The lemon is clearly outlined and closed. The juice is opened up, gooey, in progress, and is “marked for aspect”.
Here the distinction is between marked (progressive) and unmarked (not progressive) for aspect. It depends on what you want to focus on.
A useful analogy might be taking a photograph with a camera. The tense is where we point the camera (at objects which might be near or far away); the aspect is how we focus the camera (what we want sharp and what we want fuzzy). The other aspect is “retrospectivity.”
A picture of a cracked tea cup could be described as follows:
- It has a crack
- It is cracked
- It has cracked
All the sentences are in the present tense. The present perfect sentence, however, means that the teacup has a quality that it has acquired. We are looking over our shoulder. This is retrospectivity.
To summarise, the three questions we need to ask are about:
Remoteness (past tense or present tense)
Progression (marked for progressive aspect or not)
Retrospectivity (marked for perfect aspect or not)
The future is not remote. For the English speaker the future is much more closely linked to the present than the past is. The “is going to” form stresses the “in progress” aspect of a plan showing a movement towards the activity, whereas using the present progressive to talk about the future makes the event “come into focus”. Both of these are in the present tense.
Scott disagrees quite drastically with how many grammar books use the word “focus” when describing the use of the passive voice. These books tend to argue that the passive is used when the “focus” is on the passive subject, the word that comes at the beginning of the sentence. So, according to these books, “The light bulb was invented by Edison” is a sentence focusing on the light bulb, whereas “Edison invented the light bulb” is apparently focusing on Edison. Scott argues that actually the opposite is the case. If you look at these sentences within the context of a text, they actually begin with “given” information (in the first case we are already talking about the light bulb, and in the second we are already talking about Edison) and we end the sentence with the new information. The new information is what we are interested in, so surely that is the “focus”. If we are teaching academic writing, Scott suggested getting students to circle the new information in each sentence as opposed to that which has already been given. Finally, Scott looked at teaching speaking and whether it was possible to teach grammar without speaking or vice versa. Japanese schools apparently teach years of grammar before the students are allowed to speak, with disastrous results.
A video of an intelligent young Spanish student talking freely, very fast and very critically about his English course was watched first without a transcript and then with. We were asked to evaluate his English skills, and there was a lot of disagreement.
Scott analysed the transcript text using a system of colour highlights indicating the word’s presence in different corpora. Blue means K1, the first thousand words (i.e. very basic English), green means K2, the second thousand words (i.e. fairly basic English), yellow means the words are on the AWL academic corpora list, red means off-list, i.e. none of these. This system is recommended for analysing texts (see www.lextutor.ca).
Finally, Scott showed us some statistics that might help show what we should be focussing on: For example, the vast majority of all utterances are in the simple tenses, and in the active voice. The implication is that this should make us think carefully about how much time classroom time we spend on what are relatively “minor” issues.
Technology in and outside the English classroom: What? Why? How?
Speaker: Anna Csiky
16th March 2013
Anna Csiky gave us a very interesting workshop on the many and diverse uses of the Internet for teaching. We learned how to create simple animated movies, where to find a range of games and quizzes, different possibilities for telling stories and uploading the results, ‘publishing’ an authentic-looking newspaper article, where to find news channels for second language learners, where students can publish their writing online and how rewarding that can be, and quite a range of business-related sites to use in the classroom. Of course, there are also a range of vocabulary and grammar sites for dealing with niggly issues in an entertaining way. She also offers solutions to several annoying problems: Getting rid of ads and inappropriate content from a website; Editing videos to shorten them; Adding subtitles to a video; and Creating activities for a video. There’s literally something for everyone in this selection.
Below is a list of the websites Anna introduced, with her remarks about each one. It’s worth looking them up and having a play with them. You can find her original presentation loaded on jogtheweb.com, another site she recommends:
Evernote: Capture anything, access anywhere, find things fast. Ideal for conference notetaking
20 questions - well, as many as it takes: Akinator, the web genius, plays 20 questions with you.
Breaking News English: Breaking News English - General and Business Edition : The lessons are free and there is a new lesson every other day.
• All lessons are based on stories currently in the news - as the world's news breaks, teach it.
• All lessons are also downloadable in Word.doc and PDF formats.
• Much improved over the past year, now you can listen to more speakers read out the news (much better than before) and there are grammar, vocabulary, spelling, reading, writing and listening exercises. Thanks Sean.
Wiki How: The world’s (collaborative) how to manual. Also potential for meaningful writing activities with a REAL audience.
Business Balls: Businessballs is a free ethical learning and development resource for people and organizations. The concept began a few years ago as an experimental online collection of learning and development ideas. The website is now used by about a million people each month.
Mashpedia: Mashpedia is a real-time visual board for millions of topics. It fetches online content from different web services and assembles them on the fly in a convenient interface. Mashpedia makes it easy to visualize, monitor, learn and explore digital contents about any topic.
Lesson Writer - does what it promises to: Lesson planning - from nightmare to fun: LessonWriter, Inc. is a New York State Corporation founded in May 2008 by educators and programmers to change education with expert-system programming that automates the time consuming arts and tasks of instructional design and school leadership. Copy, paste, select and be amazed - and amazing too!
Lessonwriter.com screencast: A very easy-to-follow step-by-step explanation of how Lessonwriter.com works
Animated videos that explain everything (Explania): Watch hundreds of animated explanations, interactive tutorials and instructional videos, and feel free to embed them on your own web pages.
Problem 1: Too many distractions : Advertisements, inappropriate content? Make it look less distracting with a simple click. Drag the quietube icon to your toolbar. Remember this depends on the computer you're using.
TIME - 10 Questions videos: 10 questions for actors, singers, politicians etc. 6-minute videos with an easy to follow format and the questions appear on the screen: perfect time to stop and predict what the interviewee is going to say.
Problem 2: Video too long: Problem 1: Too long : Tool 1: Search for a video on YouTube, then choose and cut the extract you want. You get a link to your new video and you can also give it a title if you like.
True Tube: Videos & Lessons for PSHE, RE & Citizenship (body & health, crime, culture, ehtics & religion, global, jobs & money, relationships, society, the earth), often accompanied by resources. Great with young adults.
Problem 3: No subtitles (Overstream): Add subtitles to online videos. It's so easy.
Meet the Boss TV: MeetTheBoss is an online business TV channel for executives looking for executive learning. We know that everything starts with people: idea, vision, strategy, build, sell, use, loyalty. Short videos, often with transcripts, organized based on topics.
PBS News hour: news in videos, downloadable in mp3, transcript: Watch, learn and discuss current events. Classroom tools (quotes, warm-up questions, discussion questions), and often video transcript.
Euronews: Euronews is the leading international news channel covering world news from a European perspective. Launched in 1993, euronews today is a multi-lingual (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Turkish, Persian and Ukrainian), multi-platform news service.
Problem 4: No task: English as a Second Language Teachers Creating ESL Video Quizzes for ESL Students. Free ESL Video Quizzes and Free ESL Video Quiz Builder.
ESL video tutorial:
Taking stock so far: And also, write about anything : To download your newspaper, use the link at the bottom of the generated image. You can use the images as you wish ie. put them on your own website or blog. Please note, that direct linking to the newspaper clippings doesn't work; the images are deleted from the server after a short time span.
Storify: Storify helps making sense of what people post on social media. Their users curate the most important voices and turn them into stories. Together, they are building a new information network that will give you the social perspective on any event.
Animoto: Create stunning videos! Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Fast, free, and shockingly easy!
Voice thread: Telling stories in the cloud. Very similar to storify, except you can move around your slides in any way you want (great for non-linear narratives, e.g. describing rooms in a house). And as the name suggests, you can record audio, actually multiple speakers with avatars.
Speaking about anything: Vocaroo - The premier voice recording service. Press record, press stop, press listen, and if you’re happy, send to a friend or post on the Internet.
Babblerize: You upload a picture, select a mouth, record some text, and then the picture starts talking - apparently it blows everyone's mind!
Glogster - speak about a topic: Glogster EDU is the leading global education platform for the creative expression of knowledge and skills in the classroom and beyond. We empower educators and students with the technology to create GLOGS - online multimedia posters - with text, photos, videos, graphics, sounds, drawings, data attachments and more.
Dvolver: Make a movie in 5 minutes! Select a sky and a background, choose a plotline and two characters, add some text, add some more scenes if you want to, and email it to yourself (or your teacher)!
50 ways to tell a story: It was not long ago that producing multimedia digital content required expensive equipment and deep levels of technical expertise. We are at the point now where anyone can create and publish very compelling content with nothing more complex than a web browser.
Quizlet - my best friend when learning and teaching languages: The best way to study languages, vocabulary, or almost anything P.S. It’s fun, it’s free, and you can share with friends!
Vocabahead: Learn tough Vocabulary words of SAT GRE or ACT using our groundbreaking system for free. There are over 1000 difficult vocabulary words explained using Videos. Take Quizzes, create your own lists or share and import lists from others.
Bigbot: You need to feed Bigbot the antonyms or synonyms of higher level words. So choosing the right word is a start, but then you need to make sure the word is going to land in Bigbot's open mouth - quite a challenge if you ask me!
Grammar - Animations: English tenses with cartoons
Wallwisher: Online notice board or discussion board.
Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals: Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals contains a series of movie segments and activities to assess or practice grammar points through fun, challenging exercises. Here you will find the movie segments, the lesson plans, printable worksheets with answer key for each activity, and the tips to develop your own grammar activities with the DVDs you have at home. New activities are posted regularly. Teaching grammar with movie segments is inspiring and highly motivating.
Grammar games - snakes and ladder and the like: Exercises for All English Learners- Online Grammar Exercises, Vocabulary Videos, Pronunciation Exercises, Interactive Quizzes for Beginners, Intermediate & Advanced Level English Learners.
Business skills - BBC mini course: This course gives you useful language and phrases to improve your spoken communication skills in English in different business situations. Each section features audio, target language and a quiz - all of which are downloadable. You'll also have the opportunity to practise and test your understanding of the language.
Business Case Studies: Information in this Teaching Resources section can help with business studies lesson planning and preparation. The lesson plans and answer sheets are designed to be used in class, as homework or even to provide a framework to cover lessons.
More business skills: Help with writing cover letters and emails, speaking (negotiations, presentations) and the vocabulary of various topics.
Free Rice: Help make the world a better place, and compile trivia knowledge. FreeRice is a non-profit website run by the United Nations World Food Programme. FreeRice has two goals: 1. Provide education to everyone for free. 2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
How to be a millionaire: Everyone needs a break - plus some great trivia stuff could come up here, perfect for small talk.
Fling the teacher: Fling your teacher!
Even the Dogs by Jon MacGregor
Report of the Literature Group meeting on 27th January 2013 hosted by Elizabeth Hormann
You ring the bell at the foot of the tall residential block in the gloom of a late winter afternoon. A cheerful voice on the intercom tells you to come to the third floor. The lobby and the lift are empty. When you leave the lift a warm light beckons at the end of the corridor.
It’s a book about Robert, Laura, Danny, Heather, Steve, Ant, Ben and Bill. It’s a book about relationships. About marriages that begin with sex in the bathroom and the joys of shared parenthood, break up on the rocks of disappointed expectations and founder on the reefs of inexplicable behaviour. It’s about families, parents and children, brothers and sisters, about those who are supposed to have special bonds and be there for each other when no one else is. Only they aren’t either.
You ask if you should take your shoes off. You do anyway, wondering which of your colleagues the few pairs lined up by the door belong to.
It’s about Einstein, Penny and H - loyal, spontaneous, long-suffering, playful, hungry, abused, simultaneously metaphors of their underdog masters and foils for the selfish duplicity and sometimes plain viciousness of their human counterparts. It’s a tale of cupboard love, alliances of convenience, pragmatic pair-ups, tactical teamwork, one hand rolling up the sleeve of the other.
You pass through the kitchen, helping yourself to cheese and biscuits, eying the cake to be picked up later. You take the proffered coffee.
It’s a hectic narrative, about the desperate scraping together of wherewithal, the relentless hunt for the fix, the feverish fumbling for an unscarred body part to inject into.
It’s an hour-draggingly slow, sickeningly second-ticking tale, where therapy sessions won’t end, soup kitchens never open, phones refuse to stop ringing, couriers never call back, police constables bang on the door too late and mortuary assistants have all the time in the world.
In the lounge two seats are empty. You choose the one that makes the semi-circle roundest and sit down heavily.
It’s a pretentious work, with poetic epithets quite alien to the milieu it describes, endlessly repeated phrases, phrases repeated ad infinitum, sentences that break off in the. There are bravura passages of purple prose, breathlessly unpunctuated accounts of the epic journey of precious opiates from poppy seed to purple vein. It’s an honest book, unsure whether cock-eyed optimism should be encouraged or quashed, conscious that in the end you will splutter out what some recalcitrant part of your grey matter wills you to utter – and regret it for the rest of your days. A cup clinks on a saucer. A spoon clatters down beside it. Crisps and nuts wait impassively on the long coffee table.
It’s a depressing book, containing page after page of barely controlled bodily functions, unforced impecuniousness, raw need mothering nothing but deviousness, leading but to dusty death.
It’s an inspiring book, showing that even where bourgeois society sees parasitic failure, capitalism sees unproductiveness and the moralists see narcotic irresponsibility, yet there is fellowship, yet there is concern for others, yet there is hope of rehabilitation and a better life.
The meeting draws to a close. The farewells come in waves, as if infectious. Outside at the kerb a familiar metal shape is waiting. The engine purrs to life and the lights flash on as you approach. In the back are the two kids, one watching and eager to talk, the other sullenly preoccupied.
It’s a book about war and the unwanted after-effects, undetected consequences, uninvestigated aftermath for those who prosecute it. It’s about the unbridgeable gulf between the successfully functional and the disastrously dysfunctional in what we think of as our society.
You glide through the night, thinking about the book. What else can we do?
The Free World by David Bezmozgis
Report of the Literature Group meeting on 21st April 2013 hosted by Monika Kaiser
You’re going to spend July to November in Rome: what are you going to do? Probably not what the denizens of David Bezmozgis’s The Free World get up to. And that’s one of the attractions of this first novel. A tale of Jewish emigrants from Soviet Riga washed up in the Italian capital on their way to their various new homelands, it is full of surprising details about the tides and currents of human mobility as the cold war enters its last decade. Three generations of a single family are shown reacting to their new-found freedom to be body-searched, vetted, documented, exploited, cheated, deceived, punched, proselytised, seduced – and buried. In their turn, Samuel and Emma, Alec and Polina, Karl, Rosa and their two kids are cajoling, deceitful, frustrating, manipulative, recalcitrant, seductive, spiteful - and forgiving. And as they gradually find their feet in the centre of western Christendom between the pontificates of Paul VI and John Paul II we not only meet the full palette of their new acquaintances but are also given glimpses of their previous existences in the Soviet Union and Tsarist Russia so that we can see what made them the way they are.
But if the unique historical setting is one of the book’s strengths, it is also one of its weaknesses. Apparently based on the author’s family history (Bezmozgis himself emigrated from Latvia to Canada in 1973), the book lacks almost all dramatic momentum. Things happen because they happened once, we imagine, to a Bezmosgis. There is little embedding in dramatic necessity or evidence of psychological inevitability. This was not a narrative that demanded to be told, nor is it a take on the meaning of life to challenge our Weltanschauung or lever us out of our comfort zone. In short, few of us expected to be haunted by its pages many minutes after closing our host’s front door.
On a number of counts, however, I found myself disagreeing with my colleagues that afternoon. The book is funny in a gently wry way and at no point did I find the narrative less than entertaining. Despite some jarring phrases, which perhaps work better in Latvian, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew, Italian, Esperanto or one of the other languages which pretentiously pepper the book, the choice of adjectives is often both fresh and convincing. Finally, though the dramatis personae may not deserve a place in our personal literary pantheons, some individual aspects of character were well-observed and believable: The young man too sure of his powers of seduction, the young woman intrigued and flattered by pattern-book wooing and the old man for whom memories of the long dead have become more real than the living who surround him.
Many thanks to Elizabeth and Monika for hosting these meetings. The next meeting of the Literature Group will be at 4 p.m. on Sunday 13th October.
For the meeting in October, to discuss The Music Room by William Fiennes, our host will be Ursula Roth, Sintherer Straße 23, 50829 Köln (Bocklemünd) Tel. 0221 / 503175, email: Roth.Ursula@t-online.de (Tram No. 3 or bus 127 to Bocklemünd Ollenhauerring).
New members and guests are always welcome but please let the host know in advance that you are coming.
A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
No, we do not have all the answers, but there's a song or two in each of us.
So, come sing with us!
The next choir rehearsals will take place on:
- 28 July
- 25 August
- 29 September
The Choir is always happy to welcome new members. We offer a once-a-month wellness service of conversation over a cuppa, and music. This is a no-stress, no-pressure alternative to sitting at home in front of the box on a Sunday night. Come along and try it out!
Dates vary depending on availability of members. Please contact us if you're interested in coming along.
For more information, please contact:
02203 / 3266
One to One by Noel Denvir
The person who sat opposite me looked like any normal businessman – from the neck down – in his dark grey, slightly oversized suit. But out of the stiff collar and tie grew the head of a vagrant. Thick knotted hair crowned the bearded, weathered face from which two startled bright blue eyes stared at me.
It seemed that the clothes and body had never met before. A farm hand force-dressed for a wedding. I introduced myself.
“My name is Jess, and you?”
“Matthew, you can call me Matt.”
“Okay . . . Matt.”
He smiled and whispered, “Jeese.”
“No, Jess – short for James.”
He nodded and adjusted his collar, which seemed to be causing him discomfort.
“So Matt, why do you want to improve your English?”
“Ah . . . for my job.”
“I’m a head . . .umm.”
I thought of some endings – it’s my job. Master, waiter, case!
“Hunter?” I offered.
He smiled enthusiastically.
“And what are you hunting for?”
We were both enjoying this now, the lesson was getting into gear.
“I look for - talent.”
“What sort? Entertainment?”
“No, I look for person who solves problems.”
I repeat this sentence back to him using the correct article and the present continuous tense. Correction by suggestion, so much more diplomatic.
“Yes, a sort of crisis manager!” Matt smiles at his remark.
I smile back in polite ignorance. It’s nice teaching someone whose English is already very good and who is quite talkative. Matt probably just needs some confidence-building practice, like a musician warming up before the gig.
“Where are you from, Matt?”
“The . . .erm, Middle East.”
“Around there.” He waves his hand as if Israel might be floating somewhere above his head.
“Oh, I spent some time in Israel, when I was younger.”
His smile freezes, “Really?”
“It’s a long time ago, of course.”
He suddenly laughs, “Yes, indeed!”
I find this a bit rude. I regard myself as a rather well kept fifty-year-old.
“So, do you have any hobbies, Matt?”
“Mmm . . . traveling, and . . . performing tricks!”
“Like a magician?”
“Yes, actually I was wondering if you could helping me with one so a trick.”
I repeat this back in an enquiring question form with the appropriate corrections.
A magician’s stooge? Well, why not? He’s paying for it!
“Sure, what would you like me to do?”
He reaches for the bottle of water which is standard courtesy to individual students at our school. He fills a glass in front of him.
“I will now drink some of this!”
“It is water, as you can see.”
He takes a sip, then closes his eyes as if to savour it. He must be very thirsty, or something. He opens his eyes with a start, and smiles at me.
“But it isn’t water!”
I’m fascinated by this behavior, but move my chair back a little – just in case.
“So, what is it?”
“It’s wine! Taste it for oneself!”
Before I can object, or correct, he slides the glass over to me.
“But at first, close the eyes and concentrate. Think on . . . wine! A richly full elixir such like you never taste before!”
I can’t correct this, but I think I know the trick. It’s a sort of auto-suggestion thing. You know: Does your coffee taste funny? Or, what’s that strange smell? If you think you’re going to taste wine, then you will.
I decide to play along and even close my eyes – not completely though – before taking my first sip. I swallow and enjoy the taste of cool, rich . . .
Matt stares at me. He’s really taking this all very seriously.
“It’s mineral water, Matt. Do you want to try again?”
“No, it was just a test.”
“A test, not a trick?”
To my astonishment, he gets up to leave.
“Matt, wait. Your lesson?”
“It is over, thank you for your time.”
He slides an envelope over to me.
“This is for you.”
“No, Matt, I cannot accept gratuities. I get paid for this work.”
“No, it is not money!” He looks aghast.
I contain my disappointment.
The envelope contains a card with the information:
Jezabelle Crowley, 6 Downs Road, Brighton, England.
“I don’t understand. What is this?”
I look up to find no one there. The door is slightly ajar – Matt’s gone.
I shrug and put my papers together. That was my last lesson for today.
This weekend, I might . . . No, I will. Actually, I must . . .
Thank God it’s Friday.
or Two weeks without the internet
by Lorcan Flynn
I used to be a user. I used to have an identity. My identity used to have a number, which the company which used to allow me to access the internet used to call a user number. Perhaps the company still uses the user number but unfortunately I am growing increasingly used to being uncertain of everything to do with that company. However, there is one thing I am certain of. I can no longer use the equipment I used to use to use the internet and I am growing increasingly used to being unable to use it and consequently used to the idea that one can in fact get used to life without the internet. (YES I used to use a capital “i” but, as a form of protest, I am trying to get used to using a small “i”. - Get used to it).
Let me tell you the story in chronological order.
On Tuesday, 16 April (it could have been Monday, 15 April) I tried to use my laptop to access the internet. I couldn't. I quickly established that neither my wife's laptop, which, like mine, used to access the internet via WLAN, nor my son's PC, which was hardwired to the router, could access the internet. However, I did not panic. Having not just a little expertise in the installation, maintenance and working of my home configuration, stemming not only from the skills and knowledge gained during a retraining programme organized by the organization which used to be called the „Arbeitsamt,“ which qualified me as an application programmer, and from years of intense discussions with the IT people I have been teaching (there are no more intense discussions with IT people than those that involve the problems of home configurations and the patient genius required to fix the internet access problems of various relatives and friends) but mostly from watching the not only entertaining but also educational series “The IT crowd,” I did not panic. I was confident that I knew what to do. I turned the router off, waited ten seconds and confidently turned it on again.
I then turned my laptop on again (I had switched it off) and tried to access the internet. I couldn't. Neither could my wife. Neither could my son. So I called the Telekom hotline number I used to use when I had problems. I was not worried. In fact, I was confident that my problem would be efficiently dealt with. A recorded message told me that the number I used to use was no longer usable. I should use the free number 0800 330 1000. I did. I told a robot that I was ringing about a defect and that I wanted to speak to a human being. I was asked if they had my permission to record my call. I said yes. I was then told that there would be a waiting time of approx 30 minutes but that the call was free. As a freelance language trainer, my time is worth very little in monetary terms so I did not mind waiting. In my wildest story-teller dreams, I could never have told the story that was about to begin.
Eventually, I got through to a technician. He was friendly, polite, competent and helpful. I explained the problem to him. He told me to turn the router off, wait ten seconds and then turn it on again. I told him I had done that but he told me to do it again. I did so but I still could not access the internet. He then carried out a test which checked the functionality of the cable from the outside world to my little flat. He told me kindly that everything was fine from his end which meant that the problem was at my end. I told him that I would again check everything and get back to him if the problem persisted. Shortly thereafter, I received a text message apologising for the fault and assigning me a processing number: Ticket ID 152958275.
The following day, I installed a new router, suspecting that the older one was faulty, even though all the lamps which used to burn were, in fact, still burning. In turn, these little green lamps told me that I had electric power, access to the LAN network and that my DSL was correctly connected. However, the new router, which I had bought some time earlier to solve a problem which I eventually solved without it, had an installation CD. I thought that if I followed its instructions to the letter, I would soon be able to use the www again. I did but I wasn't.
When it reached the point where it accessed the internet, the router presented me with a message which told me, among other things, to turn it off, wait for ten seconds and turn it on again. It then suggested I hardwire my laptop, which I was using to install the router to the router instead of using the remote connection for which one buys a router in the first place. I did but it still did not work.
I phoned the Telekom hotline again. I told a robot that I was ringing about a defect and that I wanted to speak to a human being. I was asked if they had my permission to record my call. I said yes. I was then told that there would be a waiting time of approx. 15 minutes but that the call was free. As a freelance language trainer, my time is worth very little in monetary terms so I did not mind waiting too much. Eventually, I got through to a friendly, patient, polite, competent and helpful technician. I too was friendly and patient. My favourite saying from the writings of Baha'u'llah, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith is that “a kindly tongue is the lodestone for the hearts of men.” This had taught me that there is no point blaming a hard working person at the end of your phone or even sitting behind the desk in the office you are visiting for problems you may be having with the service their company is inadequately providing. Being kind and friendly gets them on your side. This approach works.
I explained my problem to the new technician. He told me to turn the router off, wait ten seconds and then turn it on again. I told him I had done that but he told me to do it again. I did so but I still could not access the internet. He then carried out a test which checked the functionality of the cable from the outside world to my little flat. He told me kindly that everything was fine from his end which meant that the problem was at my end. I told him that that was what his colleague had said the previous day. I told him what I had done since to establish that the problem was not at my end. He then told me to hardwire my laptop to the modem. I told him that that would not work because the access codes had been programmed into the router I had been using. He said it did not matter. They were actually in the modem.
I hardwired my laptop into the modem (I had been using a teledat 302 for many years). It did not work. The technician then said he would send a technician out to me. He came on Friday, 19 April.
The technician again tried everything I had tried without success. Like me, he established that all the lamps on my modem, including the one that said “online”, were burning brightly, indicating an access that I did not have. He tested the connection with his own equipment and established that it was, in fact, functioning but was at a loss to explain why I had no access. He asked me for my access numbers, which he entered into various boxes which appeared at clicks of various buttons. He spoke to many colleagues over the phone and in conjunction with them tried many different approaches. He was patient, persistent and competent. Unfortunately, he was as unsuccessful as his colleagues. Then, suddenly, a voice at the other end of the phone told him that after all, the fault was mine. I had been using the wrong access numbers.
“How could I have the wrong access numbers?” I asked. I have been using the same user numbers since I programmed them into the Eumix equipment I was using when I first got DSL in 2001. Several more phone calls established that I had been sent new access numbers in 2011. I protested that I had not made any changes in my configuration and had not programmed any new numbers into my system. I have always been a firm believer in the maxim: “Don't change a running system.” My system had been running fine until Tuesday, April 15. “Why would I have made changes to it?” I asked.
The technician then told me that since it had been established that the fault was mine, he would have to charge me €25 for every further 15 minutes he spent trying to fix my fault, because it was my fault. I protested and he agreed that it seemed strange that everything was apparently working, that everything had been working but that nothing was now working because of access codes which I claimed never to have installed. He tried more tricks and called more colleagues and eventually told me what I had to do to reestablish contact with the outside world regardless of whether the fault was my fault or not.
Apparently, the company's server I used to use, which used to recognize the user numbers I had stored on the equipment I used to use to access the internet no longer did so and was demanding new numbers which I did not have. The technician told me to phone Telekom and ask for new access numbers. I should then install them and Bob would again be my uncle, which is to say everything would be fine and dandy again as far as internet access was concerned.
Over the weekend I went through old letters to see whether Telekom really had sent me new access numbers. I found one letter which told me that I had a new TO number but no new user number. I phoned Telekom on Sunday to establish that this was in fact the number I required. A kind lady told me it was but that I should contact a technician on Monday. On Monday, 22 April, having gone through the usual procedure, I told all this to a new technician. Eventually, after trying to guide me through the access routine, he admitted that the new TO number could not work with the old user number. I needed new access numbers and a new router if I wanted to increase the speed of my connection.
He then put me through to the person responsible for giving me the new numbers. I explained the problem to him and he said it was no problem. He asked me for my name and address and assured me that all would be fine. I told him I wanted a new router and asked what he would recommend. “Well,” he said, “since you are getting a new router, you can benefit from our new voice over IP system and receive a €15 bonus and I will send you a new router along with your new access details. They will arrive on Wednesday.” “Fine,” I said. I felt fine.
I later got a call from a lady who wanted to ensure that I had not been tricked into agreeing to raise my Telekom package to the next level and that I was aware that this entailed a hike in price. I told her I was most interested in getting my internet back and was prepared to accept the price increase as long as the promised increase in speed came along with it. She explained that the new voice over IP system would not be switched on until Monday, 29 April but that I could configure my old system with the new router until that happy date. I told her my tale of woe and she agreed that I should in no way have to pay the €50 the technician wanted to charge me with for his visit. Later, I got a text message telling me that the problem identified as Ticket ID 152958275 had now been solved.
On Thursday, my new router arrived – (I am not going to quibble about it being one day late). However, I do feel entitled to quibble a little about the fact that I now did not have the free hours needed to configure the system anew. I will also mention another little mistake that was made. Instead of a new user number, and TO number which I needed to access the internet, I got a sheet of paper telling me I had a new entry in the German telephone list and informing me that I still lived in the street in Dormagen where I have lived for 25 years. My immediate reaction was a desire to text Telekom back to tell them that the problem identified as Ticket ID 152958275 had not been solved. However, I could not return a message. Instead....
I phoned Telekom.
The technician I eventually got through to understood the situation and promised that I would have the access numbers on Saturday. They arrived and I waited the two remaining days until April 29 when the boys and girls of Telekom made the adjustments needed to get me back online. I felt humbled to think of all these people scurrying about trying to help me and I felt grateful when I eventually got my system up and running again.
I will not mention the excitement caused by the system using a different SSID number than the one specified and the fun and games I had with a technician I had to phone, who, like me, could not figure out why my wife's laptop was not doing the decent thing and going online as it should have done when the “correct” code was entered. After all, computers do have a mind of their own and who are we to tell them what code to choose? Anyway, who cares? I am now back online and can send you this story, which I would not have had time to write if I had been able to access the internet for those two weeks.
BOOKS OFFERED FOR REVIEW
We've got a whopping six new titles on the list of books available for review. Under general English there are Next Starter A1 (number 7), Brush up A2 (number 2), global pre-intermediate (number 12), Straightforward advanced 2nd edition (number 18) and a pre-intermediate reader from the Macmillan Reader series – England (number 13). In our books on exam preparation we've got the Fit for BEC published by Hueber (number 4).
If you decide to review a book, we provide criteria to help you with writing your review and the book is yours to keep after reviewing. This is a great opportunity to keep up-to-date with all the teaching materials out there and will benefit those of us who are always looking for new books to try out in our classes. The reviews also help other teachers to choose new books for courses or their schools. So please do not hesitate to contact me (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name, address and the desired title and I will gladly post it to you.
Coursebook and eWorkbook
By: Lindsay Clanfield & Amanda Jeffries, Rebecca Robb Benne & Michael Vince
Macmillan 2012 distributed by Hueber
Winner of two awards in 2010, the new edition of the “Global” course book is for the target group of advanced learners of English, presumably over 18 years. It is accompanied by an eWorkbook on CD, running flexibly on the versions from Windows XP upwards and also Mac OS, with web support. Formally, it has 168 pages, 125 unit pages, 6 pages of additional material, 20 pages with exercises, final pages with phonetic symbols, an audioscript for the CD and a list of irregular verbs. The new edition is currently available for around €46 on the German book market, but it doesn’t seem to be in stock in spring 2013. No fast delivery, unfortunately.
The book allows English to be applied more integrally with a method of “content training” and “reflecting the world of today with the view to tomorrow”, making the book outstanding. The ideas behind the units are derived from popular science, dealing with global questions worldwide. Nothing and nobody is excluded, it concerns everybody everywhere. The method covers formality and freestyle at the same time. It encourages individual learning as much as discussions in pairs, in one-to-one teaching or in groups. The way of introducing grammar exercises, showing a learning method to speak and write more elaborately and freely can succeed very well with this advanced learners´ book. It can serve as a good preparation for Senior School/Int. Baccalaureate (oral and writing part), intercultural encounters in the workplace wherever you are, or starting at the university. This is due to its wide and flexible focus on active involvement and interest on behalf of the student.
The first impression of the book in combination with a wide-ranging eWorkbook conveys very up-to-date material for young adults and adults, in quality and content, covering theory and practice, worth its price. The cover design appears formal and minimalistic, mirroring the main theme running through the book: global issues, set in complementary contrasts.
Everything in the coursebook and ebook is connected in a rather new way. The introductory structural overview keeps the classic divisions. It balances visually very well the sections text, grammar, reading and writing tasks, listening tasks, vocabulary and pronunciation training in each unit. It has a very clear layout, soft and calm colouring with a balance of horizontally and vertically shown information. The theme highlights are additionally shown on an extra introduction page. These “general themes” show the idea behind the book, working with contrasting themes such as Light & Dark, Hearts & Minds, Time & Motion or Local & Global, et cetera.
The unit-related texts, the photo design, the modern page design and layout work integrally together with the unit, its subunits or parts, and the division into the linguistic and didactic segments. The aspects in each unit are accompanied by modern didactic approaches. The grammar itself covers a deeper look at practice and tasks are combined to form an integrated whole. The form and combination seems to look, at a distance, like grammar structuring methods of former days. It follows a path starting slightly above secondary school level and it works as a link to linguistic and textual reality.
The ten units are subdivided into four parts that deal with four aspects of the general theme. The main theme per unit is intertwined with these four sub issues. Most parts are two pages long, within the frame of a ten-page unit. To give an example: Unit 6 is titled “Trade and Commerce”. Part 1 covers “change and exchange”, part 2 “freedom and slavery”, part 3 “India’s future”, and part 4 “the new golden age/investments”. This all results in a wide range of knowledge about a globally important theme. Its presentation in texts, CD and grammar demands reflection and free constructions in developing language in a different way. While the students start reflecting about an interesting text, a scientific aspect, they solve grammar tasks, learn distinct pronunciation, develop writing skills, listen to interesting interviews with scientists about existential questions, do word processing, et cetera. Learning appears to happen incidentally, not because it is required.
The first time reading through, teachers may need around 45 minutes of preparation per part. The freestyle part remains extra individual work.
This all gives a thoroughly positive impression, and last but not least, it contributes to the teacher´s learning and joy, too.
Claudia Heib M.A.
Jailbird - spies, politics and intrigue
by Ken Singleton
Published by Cornelsen level B1/B2
Including MP3-Audio CD
Soft cover, A5 size with 72 pages
Andy Sparrow has just been released from jail. His half-brother Otto, who is involved in gangland killings and other crimes, including people smuggling, offers him a partnership. However Andy Sparrow had been set up and sent to jail for a crime his brother had committed.
On the other side of the fence, Kim Lomax works for the London police as an undercover agent investigating a ring involved in smuggling people - especially women - from Eastern Europe and Asia, who are then forced into prostitution and other illegal work.
When Otto is found murdered, Andy tells the police of all his brother’s criminal activities, which leads to him very nearly being killed, himself. Meanwhile, a member of Otto’s gang also tries to kill undercover agent Kim Lomax, by planting a bomb near her house. Luckily the police get a tip off and the bomb is disposed of.
The end is left open as the criminal who has planted the bomb isn’t found and may well appear in a sequel to this book….
The book has short chapters, illustrated with both black and white and colour pictures, depicting the action in the text. Footnotes offer English paraphrases for certain vocabulary items and idioms – for example, “you are broke”- to have no money. At the end of the story there are various reading comprehension exercises.
The book describes many aspects of London, including Battersea dogs' home and Wormwood Scrubs. These are explained in more detail at the end of the book, with reference to the appropriate websites.
Jailbird is one of a series of fictional books aimed at school students at a B1/B2 level. The text uses simple vocabulary intertwined with idiomatic language. The sentences are short and use various verb tenses including past progressive, present perfect, past perfect etc. This shows the reader how grammar is used in practise.
I found the plot exciting and appropriate for this age group. I have read other books in this series and would recommend them as well.
Pat Schmitz, January 2013
Newsletter of the English Language Teachers'
Association - Rhine, e.V.
Vol. 30 No. 1, Autumn 2017
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