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

Friday, August 14, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Verbs That Start With Prefix ‘Re-’: Meaning and Pronunciation

Prefix re- generates a lot of words in English. When attached to verbs it usually means ‘again’ as in: refill, refuel, recharge, reheat, remarry

or ‘back’ as in: refund, recollect, recline, reply, recall*.
It can also mean ‘push away or distance/keep from’ as in: reject, refrain, regress, remove, renounce, restrict.

In some verbs ‘re-’ will fail belonging to either of the groups (at least without prior analyzing their Latin or Roman roots) and can be just seen as the first syllable of a word rather than a prefix, as in: recognize, recommend, refrigerate, refuge, regard, register, regulate.

The pronunciation of ‘re-’ at the beginning of the verbs will vary as well. Three groups can be distiguished:

‘re-’ sounds as /ri/ as in: receive, recess, reduce, refer, reflect, regret, rehearse, relate

‘re-’ sounds as /ri:/ as in: redirect, re-enter, rehabilitate, reinforce, re-open, re-phrase, re-print, re-evaluate

/re/ - recognize, recollect, recommend, reconcile, regulate, renovate, reprimand, represent

There aren’t established rules over the pronunciation patterns, though it seems that repeated actions will make a long sound /i:/ and are often hypenated for clarity especially before a vowel: re-examine, rekindle, re-arrange (or rearrange), re-take (or retake), reunite, reuse.

Students should be aware of the various meanings of the prefix ‘re-’ that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘again’. They also should be discouraged from attaching re- to all existing verbs in English as some of these combinations are impossible (it cannot be attached to the verb ‘sleep’, for example).

* recall - doesn’t mean ‘call again’, but ‘order to return’ (as in: They recalled the toys that contained a high concentration of lead) and is usually confusing for many students (who automatically assume that ‘re-’ means ‘again’)
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 12:48 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment

Saturday, August 01, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Idioms - A Cultural Divide?

As members of the same culture, native speakers of English share a lot of common experiences. They’ve been in similar situations through their day-to-day, personal and workplace interactions (e.g.: attended baseball games, wedding receptions and staff meetings). They know how things are commonly done and know how a situation is likely to unfold.

Second language learners often don’t share these experiences. If some details are missing or inexplicitly said, they’ll have a hard time to assume, infer or fill in the rest of the information.

Idioms are a part of shared knowledge. What’s more, they may have no equivalents in other languages, especially if languages come from different families or groups. No wonder, second language learners feel frustrated when they seem to know the individual words, yet can’t make any sense of the spoken and written utterances because of the figurative language.
Idiomatic language is a cultural phenomena that shows learners how the native speakers community functions. Here are some examples:

- Idioms can show how things are commonly done:

The presenter broke the ice by playing the “Find Who” game.
Bidding wars make buying a house so difficult in our neighborhood!

- Idioms can state the values of the English speaking community:

He rules with an iron fist. (ferocity/dominance)
She’s a good sport. (easygoing, even if lost a game, etc.)

- Idioms carry humor:

Sure he’ll help me washing the dishes - when pigs fly.
She can’t boil an egg.

- Idioms show feeling and emotions in a vivid way:

He has an egg on his face.
My heart skips a beat each time I look at her.

- Idioms convey implied meanings/speaker’s evaluation of a situation:

He lives on borrowed time.
You’re skating on thin ice.

- Idioms reveal cultural traditions and points of view:

She gets stronger and stronger every day, touch wood.
When I was young, my mom always told me: “Mind your p-s and q-s”.
Recognizing idiomatic language can certainly serve as a cultural bond (not divide!) as it helps bridge the cultural gap between the native and non-native speakers of English.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 1:12 PM   0 Comments  Add Comment


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