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ESL Teacher Blog
The teacher's point of view: thoughts, observations and ideas about ESL teaching.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I’m Canadian, eh!

Canada is known for hockey, maple syrup, beer, and the word “eh”.  If you’re unfamiliar with the expression, it’s used at the end of a sentence in order to ensure the listener understands the speaker.  It is also used as a tag question, in order to have information confirmed by the listener.  The listener is not always required to respond to the speaker’s sentence.  If you hear a conversation like this:
Speaker: “This coffee is good, eh?”
Listener: “Sure is.”
Speaker: “I wish I could make coffee like this at home. 
Then I’d never have to go out for coffee again, eh!”
chances are very good that Canadians are speaking.
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 11:20 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Reality Television

Reality television has become increasingly popular in the last 5 years or so.  Examples of reality television are shows like Survivor and America’s Next Top Model.
The word “reality” is used to describe something that is genuine.  It’s misleading when used to describe this genre of television.   Reality programming is supposed to be unscripted to allow the viewer to see events unfold naturally.  But can we call these shows and the actions of the participants genuine?  Can people act completely natural if cameramen are recording their every move day and night?  These types of shows might be entertaining, but are they “reality”?  It seems to be a kind of fake reality.   Reality programming has been in existence for much longer in Asia and Europe, and is only new to North American viewers. 
I wonder if reality television goes by other more realistic names in other countries?
POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 5:11 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Peter is putting a lot of butter into the pudding batter

Have you noticed that putting may sound very similar to pudding?
Indeed, many North American speakers will pronounce /d/ instead of /t/ in the word putting. This is a shorter than usual /d/ sound that is made by the tongue touching the tooth ridge (located just behind your front teeth) and quickly pulled back.

/t/ may sound as /d/:
1. between two vowels when the preceding vowel is stressed:
Peter, putting, butter, batter (as in our sentence);
other examples: total, cottage, attic, patio, citizen, cotton, motor

2. at the end of a word if the next word begins with a vowel:
a lot of (as in our sentence);
other examples:
Put it in the refrigerator. He cut a finger. Get out of here.

Now try to sound out this sentence and find 8 places where /t/ sounds as /d/:

Waiter! Can you please get us a seafood platter, hot onion soup, spaghetti with tomato sauce, and a lot of coconut ice-cream?
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 5:31 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Monday, July 09, 2007

Vocabulary Building Tips – Audiobooks

The benefits of listening to audiobooks are vast. They:

  • broaden vocabulary
  • model correct pronunciation, stress and the specific intonation that the author intended
  • sound out the local proper names (first, last, geographical)
  • highlight humour

Got a tip of your own? Share it with our online community.

POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 11:27 PM   1 Comments  Add Comment

top Monday, July 09, 2007

No Tents Required

If a child in North American tells you they are to camp for the summer, you might imagine they’ll be spending the summer sleeping in a tent, fishing, hiking and canoeing.  But you’re probably wrong.   Although some camps are set in outdoor locations and the participants sleep there overnight, in most cases, the word “camp” is used to describe summer daycare programs. Many families require daycare for their children during the long summer holiday.  The word “camp” sounds more fun and adventurous than daycare. 

There are some very exciting “camps” that focus on sports, art, or music.  But they’re not traditional camps by any means.  While most summer camps have some outdoor events, a large portion of their activities are done indoors.   So don’t be fooled if you hear kids saying they’re spending the summer at camp….probably no tents are required for the type of camp they’re attending.

POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 11:16 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, July 08, 2007

First Class - What to Expect

Whether private or publicly-funded, many schools across North America open their doors to a vast variety of students during the summer months. From continuing education to academic upgrading, from general English to TOEFL classes, and from high school credit to non-credit  courses, it seems there are as many programs offered as there are students willing to learn.

Different as they are, expect these classes to start in the same way though –the teacher will probably plan an activity that aims to help the students to get to know each other better. Following are some sample activities that can be used to warm up the group:
  • Say your name and an activity you like doing.
    The next person then has to repeat the name and activity of the previous person and add his/her own ones and so on until everyone has introduced him/herself. For example:
    (person 1) I’m Susanna and I like gardening.
    (person 2) This is Susanna and she likes gardening. I’m Pete and I like fishing.
    (person 3) This is Susanna and she likes gardening. This is Pete and he likes fishing. I’m Kim and I like swimming.
    The last person, of course, has the toughest job- to repeat all the names and activities mentioned before. But don’t despair, the teacher and students are usually helpful J and will remind you the ones you couldn’t remember.
  • Say three things about yourself, two of which are true and one is a lie.
    The classmates will then be asked to guess what the lie is. Don’t forget to keep your face straight when you’re telling the lie, though.

Whatever activity is chosen to ‘break the ice’, be ready to share some information about yourself – these ‘little facts’ will help you and the others to feel more at ease as the course begins.

POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 8:20 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, July 08, 2007

Being a stranger

In England you drive on the left and overtake on the right. In France you weigh your fruit and vegetables and place a price tag on them before paying at the cash register. In Israel you show your bag to a security guard before entering any public place.  In Belarus you make sure to say nice things about the President when talking to the locals, or else…

Having lived in two different countries and visited a bunch of others, there still were many things that amazed me when we moved to Toronto, Canada.

• Driving is a scary experience at first. You can turn right on the red light, but what’s worse, you turn left on the yellow light (if there are no special arrows for turns). Horrific!

• As a pedestrian, you need to press a button at the intersection if you want the lights to change

• You need to pull a cord on the bus if you need to get off (in old buses)

• At lunch some people eat their pasta or rice cold

• Sizes of drinks are absolutely unimaginable: who can ever finish that large coffee?

• You have to follow absolutely every rule dictated to you by authorities – if they ask for 2 types of identification, they really mean it – “I’ll show you one now and the other one later” won’t work! It’s absolutely nonnegotiable.

• People take fire drills seriously; even though everyone knows it’s a drill, they leave the building as fast as they can and move away from it for the required distance. I was refused to take my kids’ coats when the fire drill unexpectedly started in a parental centre and had to take the kids outside partially dressed on a cold winter day. “Do you want to die?” they screamed at me. “It’s just a drill”, said I, but was given the cold shoulder.

• Drivers almost never honk

• Stop All Way sign – drivers cross the intersection in the sequence they arrived to it
(In some countries it may take a whole day to the drivers to decide who came first)

• Ambulance, firefighters and police come altogether in case of emergency

What’s more amazing is that with time all of it becomes a norm and doesn’t startle you anymore.  Isn’t that so?  What did you find interesting about the country you moved to? How did you feel about it?

POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 8:19 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, July 08, 2007

Conversation Starters

Most places in the world seem to be experiencing strange and extreme weather.  Some blame global warming for the weird weather, while others claim global warming is being exaggerated in the media.  Whatever the reason for our climate woes, why not use the weather to help improve your English?  North Americans love to talk about the weather.  Strike up conversations with strangers about the unusual weather we’re having.  Try one of these conversation starters:

Hot, isn’t it?

I hear we broke a record yesterday.

Did you hear about the blizzard in (New Brunswick)?

Wow, Hurricane Jane really hit (Florida) hard.

I hope this heat wave ends soon. 

I hope the frost doesn’t destroy my garden.

POSTED BY Cecelia Sumi AT 8:19 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

top Sunday, July 08, 2007

Culture Clues-Father’s Day June 17th

Neckties are traditional gifts, but not that many dads wear neckties anymore, so you’ll have to think of something else to give “Dear Old Dad”!

Although fathers are loved as much as mothers, Father’s Day celebrations are more low-keyed than Mother’s Day festivities.
Let Dad snooze on the coach all day…no interruptions!
Treat Dad to a steak dinner, or whatever his favourite meal is.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 8:19 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment

I’m Canadian, eh!
Reality Television
Peter is putting a lot of butter into the pudding batter
Vocabulary Building Tips – Audiobooks
No Tents Required
First Class - What to Expect
Being a stranger
Conversation Starters
Culture Clues-Father’s Day June 17th

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