Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Some thoughts on using technology in class

Dear friends! I would like to share my thoughts which appeared due to my participation in one very interesting course of British Council that I am now attending. The course is Digital Literacies course and it basically teaches us using technology in class. It is held in the Moscow office of British Council and will last for 4 days. Russia is the third country where the course is presented after Thailand and Malaysia.We are actively participating in workshops organized by two wonderful trainers – Gavin Dudeney from the UK and Mark Pegrum from Australia. I would like to share some thoughts which I have after the first day of the course.
The first part of the day was like peeking into the future for me. Mark was telling us about the importance of technology in our life and why we need to use it in teaching English. So the first question is whether teachers of English have to use modern technology in their classes or it is all right to follow the traditional methods of teaching which have been accumulated for many years, safe to be used and proved to be effective for previous generations. Well my answer is – YES to using modern technology in class and that affirmative answer is a confident one with no hesitations. Of course it does not mean we have to overuse technology and apply it whether we need it or not every time and every class. The ideal variant is to use it when with its help we can do something that is impossible or less effective without it. So let me explain my position on that in more details. I will be using some information I got during the course and my own thoughts and ideas.
If we compare modern life with the situation several years ago the difference will be immense so it goes without saying that the methods we use while teaching English (or any other language) should correspond to with the modern conditions. Several years ago during their school and university years young people were prepared for more or less stable jobs when they just had to apply the acquired knowledge with no need to modify anything so much. Many people were connected to one working place for their whole lives and it was a general rule. Looking at the modern age we can surely say that the situation changed completely. People are not really sure what tomorrow will bring and have to be able to adjust to the changing situation and it changes pretty fast. Modern people have to possess numerous skills to be able to survive in the life which is rapidly changing. The idea of life-long learning came into existence. There is a need to always improve, educate oneself, to be knowledgeable in several spheres. Internet and technology being a substantial part of our life came into the picture. If they are used in our every day life so widely, why should we avoid using them in teaching languages? What technology has in stock for us are the numerous possibilities of making language learning more effective, interesting and enlightening. So why not make use of that all?
When watching science fiction movies or reading sci-fi novels we are amazed at some inventions mentioned. Some things described seem unbelievable to us. Let’s look at our life! There are so many inventions surrounding us now: personal computers, laptops, smartphones, iPads, tablet computers, electronic reading devices, touch-sensitive devices. Could we imagine that all of these devices would appear in our life and develop so rapidly? Maybe some of the incredible things mentioned in commercials seem unbelievable to us right now but several decades will pass and our children will be the witnesses of how they are used in life. Could we imagine we I was a schoolgirl that in only 20-25 years we won’t be writing on the board with the chalk but will write on a kind of computer screen with a pen (like we can do with the interactive board)? Maybe life shown in this unbelievable clip is not so far away, maybe soon all these things will be possible and won’t surprise anyone?
Younger generation already live in the world of technology. Their way of thinking is completely different from ours. They are technology-natives, they can’t imagine their life without it. They acquire and memorize information differently, they are more visual and plain text will not imprint in their memory as good as pictures. They eyes are accustomed to bright and rapidly changing images. Teachers should be in line with that if they don’t want to be left behind. We teach this new generation of future specialists who will be living in the new world of rapid technological development and are already living in it. Should not we try and prepare them for such life? And how can we prepare them if we have no idea about technology or are afraid to use it?
Maybe the time has come for the teachers to reconsider the methods they are using and introduce this new member of the society known as technology into the classroom. It is risky, it is not safe, there can appear problems and it is not always as convenient as it seems at first glance. It is still worth it. Though using traditional methods which were developed throughout the years and are well-tailored to teach our students seems convenient to us we should accept the fact that technology is an integral part of our life and without being computer literate how can we prepare our students for future life? My conclusion for today is –let’s develop digital literacies, support and develop the desire of our students to live with technology. It will help their autonomous learning in the future. Using new devices and gadgets they will be able to acquire the language more effectively and faster and hopefully the acquired knowledge will stay in their mind longer. Let’s use technology reasonably not forgetting about real-life communication which is still vital for language learning. Let’s have technology help us improve our classes. One very important thing here is the ability to look at technology with a new approach. It is impossible to look at something completely new with the same approach as before. The whole attitude and approach should be changed. Technology is there to make our pedagogy more successful and serve our needs to teach effectively. So let’s invite technology into our English-language classroom and try to be friendly with it. Good luck!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

We are as happy as we choose to be!

 What is happiness? We all have asked ourselves this question at least once in our lives. Mostly we like to contemplate and philosophize about happiness and how to find it. Happiness is different for everyone. For some to be happy is to have a lot of money and to live in a luxurious house somewhere in a heavenly beautiful place. Others find happiness in their job which they adore. Many people are happy to spend time with their nearest and dearest and make their lives brighter. We are all different.  But what is common for all of us is that we all can be happy, if we choose to be. 

It dawned upon me recently how much we miss in our lives. We all rush through life forgetting to pay attention to important things. We all go to work, spend the usual office hours there (or even more), hurry home to take care of our families, go back to work and basically that is it. Some lucky ones find time for hobbies, others don’t. I have always been amazed how my American friends from Oregon treat their lives. They are grateful for every single day they spend on this planet, for every minor thing. 

I woke up early one of these days and noticed how beautiful is the beginning of  the day. I felt an itch to go outside and to enjoy it. I did not fight the impulse and went outside. It was peaceful and silent. Not many people around, no fuss. The sun was rising, lighting the tops of the trees. The air was crisp and fresh even though later during the day it will be scorching hot. I went to the small pond there is nearby and observed the little ducks playing in the water. It was a beautiful morning! I usually am not outside at such an hour- I am either going to work, or sleeping or taking care of household chores. It was a rare moment for me to enjoy. Then I remembered a wonderful poem we learned at school and the whole meaning of it opened to me anew.

W. H. Davies
WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

I realized how important it is in our busy lives to take a moment in time, to pause and forget about our everyday fuss and just enjoy – the gorgeous nature and amazing landscapes, the beautiful music, the heart-warming people around us. Life is worth living J I heard someone said: “Love life and it will love you back”. So let’s be happy, I know we can. 

Many people subconsciously or not, with or without admitting it still want to live as long as they can for the chance to realize their dreams and to follow their ambitious plans or just to live and enjoy. So here are some rules to help us realize our secret wishes. Give it a read and I hope you will have a laugh because smiling and laughing make out life happier J But as you know I always want you to learn something from every extract I present here. This time I would like you to use the comparative and superlative expressions given below to complete this humorous article.

a-g  by far the lowest      compared with        even worse      little safer        
 a lot more                much better                      world’s highest

h-n  10%  longer      as famous as       half as many         a little more     
  one of the best          significantly happier       twice as likely 

How to live forever: 8 golden rules
Rule 1 Don’t live in Iceland. With long dark winters, sub-zero temperatures and active volcanoes, it has the (a)____________ suicide rate. Move to Palm Beach, Florida, where you have a (b)______________ chance of living to be over a 100 – like the rest of the residents.
Rule 2 Don’t go to Johannesburg. It is the murder capital of the world. Statistically, it is (c)_____________  dangerous than Sao Paolo or New York. Milan’s  a (d)_____________  but try not to breathe. The pollution’s (e) _______ than in Mexico City.
Rule 3 Don’t get sick in Equatorial Guinea. There’s only one doctor to every 70,000 patients and no anaesthetic. If you have to be ill, be ill in Kuwait. It has (f) )____________ death rate in the world. Only 3.1 people per thousand dies annually, (g) ______________ 11.2 in Britain.
Rule 4   If you’re a man, think of becoming a woman. On average, women live (h)___________ than men. If you are a woman, stay single. Crime figures show women are (i)____________  by their partners than anyone else.
Rule 5 Smoke one cigarette a day. It won’t do you much harm and, according to some doctors, it’s (j)______________ ways of avoiding senility (слабоумие) in old age.
Rule 6 Drink red wine – in moderation. (k) ___________ red wine drinkers suffer from heart attack conditions as white wine and beer drinkers. Drinking all three is not an option!
Rule 7 Become a “chocoholic. Chocolate isn’t good for you, but it releases chemicals in the brain that make you (l)_____________ . And it’s a medical fact that happiness prolongs life.
Rule 8 Die young and famous – like Elvis, James Dean and John Lennon. People will keep believing  you are still alive. Even if you can’t be (m) ___________ Marilyn Monroe or Kurt Cobain, you can (n) ____________ careful than they were. No sex, no drugs, no rock’n’roll. You won’t actually live longer. It will just seem like it!

            I hope you enjoyed the article and won’t take it seriously. Let’s live and be happy, learn and get to know something new and amazing. I have a song to share as well J Just listen and enjoy – no tasks. 

 From In Company  Intermediate (second edition) by Mark Powell

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

My PC is my world?

    Several years ago we could not imagine that our everyday life could depend so much on technology. Nowadays we can hardly imagine the usual day without iPods, iPhones, mobile phones, electronic books, laptops, PCs, mp3 players and other gadgets. It’s disputable whether it is a good thing that we can’t survive a day without modern technology. But life is life, it is moving fast bringing about inevitable changes. Computers and laptops are widely used both in offices and in households. People browse the web, listen to music, watch films, chat, play computer games and do other activities using these devices. Technology is an indispensable part of our life now so when it refuses to work at some vital moment, it might seem the end of the world. The song I offer you here is the new technology version of the traditional English song “My Bonnie lies over the ocean”. Complete the song with the verbs on the right. Use the rhyme and rhythm to help you. And then let’s sing it J I hope you enjoy the song :

My Pc is giving me problems
(to the tune of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean, traditional)
My Pc is giving me problems.
 My PC is giving me hell.
It says it’s got Intel inside it.
But it’s Intel inside is not well.
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back the typewriter please, oh please.
Bring back, bring back, oh bring back my typewriter, please.
1.      It __________ on me three times this  morning.                                        Virus
         And wouldn’t connect to the ______________.                                         Net
         It _______________ my trash without warning.                                        Crashed
         It’s some kind of ______________ I bet.                                                    Emptied

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Thank you and You are welcome

Hello dear friends. I have come across an interesting article recently and this post is to comment on it.

All of us know beginning from childhood are taught  that to be polite we should always use Please and Thank You when asking for something and expressing how grateful we are to receive. Please usually does not cause many problems and misunderstandings, it is advisable to use it every time we are asking for something politely. The same can't be said about the usage of Thank You and the answer to it. So a little clarification of it wont hurt anyone I believe.

Thanks is a nice way to show appreciation for what someone has done. In  Malaysian  the meaning of Thank You is  Received with Love. Is there a better meaning than receiving something good with love? So saying Thank You to a person for something good he or she has done  is actually not just an atomatic responce- it is full of meaning.

The author of the article "Whatever happened to "You are welcome" Ben Yagoda suggests us paying more attention to the way we answer to Thank You. In his opinion, the You are welcome answer is very rare nowadays. He offers a number of equivalents that people are using nowadays to answer to Thank You. They  are :
Sure thing/sure, you bet/you betcha, you got it, my pleasure/the pleasure is mine, don’t mention it, not at all, no biggie, no problem/no problema/no probs, of course!, and the all-time favorite of National Public Radio  interviewees, thank YOU!
 The author doubts that the usage of No problem and No worries is appropriate, because when used to answer to Thank You they somehow turn out to be "the ungracious implication that the action inspiring the thanks was even potentially burdensome". The author feels like replying  “Of course it’s not a problem—what gave you the idea it might be?” to such phrases used in this definite case.

Having analized how the expressions mentioned above are used in literature, mass media and speech the author suggests us acting like deity when  being thanked.  And what does the deity say after being thanked? Nothing. One imagines, if anything, a graceful smile, with an implied “That’s why I’m here. Never “Not a problem!”

To finish off the author points out that he is eager to start  the NVYW (Non-Verbal You’re Welcome) movement.He offered  to acknowledge thank yous with a smile and a slight bow, possibly an arms-extended I-am-not-worthy gesture.

So, dear friends, in the light of everything written above I would like you to  think twice before giving an answer to Thank Yous. Remember what the real meaning of the phrase  is (Received with Love) and maybe you will abstain from using No problem or No worries and answer the traditional You are welcome or just give a slight bow with a smile in responce.

Based on "Whataver happened to "You are welcome"" by Ben Yagoda (http://chronicle.com/blogs/linguafranca/2011/11/22/what-ever-happened-to-youre-welcome/)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

A job interview (Past Simple tense)

Hello  all,
I found an interesting joke in one of the coursebooks I use for teaching English. I would like to share it with you but to make you practice English a little - there is a task. Please, complete the joke using the Past Simple of the verbs in brackets. The first one is done for you.

A businessman (a)  wanted (want) to interview applicants for the position of divisional manager. There (b)___________ (be) several strong candidates, so he (c) _____________ (decide)  to devise a simple test to select the most suitable person for the job. He (d) _________________(ask) each applicant the simple question, "What is two and two?"

The first applicant (e) ____________(be) a journalist. He (f) _____________(light) a cigarette, (g) _________ (think) for  moment and then (h) ______________ (say) "twenty-two".

The second applicant (i) _______________ (have) a degree in engineering. He (j)___________ (take) out his calculator, (k) __________________ (press) a few buttons, and (l) ______________(show) the answer to be between 3.999 and 4.001.

The next applicant (m) _____________(work) as a corporate lawyer. He (n) _______________(state) that two  and two can only be four, and (p) _______________ (prove) it by referring to the well-known case of Gates v Monopolies Commission.

The last applicant (q) ___________________ (turn) out to be an accountant. The businessman again (r) ______________ (put) his question, "What is two and two?"

The accountant (s) _________________(get) up from his chair, (t) ___________ (go) over the door, (u) ______________(close) it, then (v) ______________ (come) back and (w) _______________ (sit) down. Finally, he (x) ___________ (lean) across the desk and (y) ____________ (whisper) in a low voice, "How much do you want it to be?"

From In Company  Intermediate (second edition) by Mark Powell

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Nice to meet you

Today I would like to write about a very common  situation in our everyday life- meeting new people and keeping in touch. It is important to know how to do it in a foreign language. In order to communicate successfully it is also vital to know cultural differences in the attitude of different nationalities. 

I am sure you will all agree with the point that when meeting a person for the first time we want to make a favourable (положительный) first impression. The say: ”You never get the second chance to make the first impression”.  Being like a dead fish (expressing no emotions) does not help to make contacts and to stay in touch. Smiling to people and being friendly is the key to success. But the attitude to smile is not the same in all cultures and not every smile conveys the same meaning.

A smile is very expressive and it can mean so many different things. There can be:
Pleased smile- довольная улыбка
Plastic smile – неискренняя улыбка
Triumphant smile – победоносная, ликующая улыбка
Flirtatious smile – кокетливая улыбка
Approval smile – одобрительная улыбка
Scornful smile – презрительная улыбка
Gloating smile – злорадная улыбка
Loving smile – нежная улыбка
Joyous smile – радостная улыбка
Painted-on smile – деланная улыбка
Embarrassed smile – смущённая улыбка
Smug smile- самодовольная улыбка
Welcoming smile –приветливая улыбка
Apologetic smile- виноватая улыбка
Winning smile – обаятельная улыбка
Smirk - ухмылка
Grin - ухмылка

In western countries it is polite to smile when meeting someone. Smiles are necessary when greeting people and having a polite conversation. The more the person smiles the more friendly he or she is thought to be.
In some cultures people learned to control their natural instinct to smile. In some Asian cultures for instance people smile less because of social pressure that discourages emotional displays. In Japan  the smile is seen less often than in the USA. The Americans are among the most smiley nationalities in the world.  

Russians on the contrary don’t smile without a reason. We are probably the only nationality which have the saying translated as : “Laughter  without a reason is the sign of foolishness or psychological problems”. A Russian smile shows that a smiling person likes you or is close to you. We (Russians) usually don’t show this type of affection to strangers. So in Russia a smile is an expression of good spirits of a good attitude to the partner. A Russian needs a reason to smile which is obvious to others. Only in this case they are given the right to smile from the other’s point of view.

So as we see smiling when meeting people for the first time and making contact is very important in western countries. And below is the list of phrases which will help you express yourself in English in the situation of first meetings and keeping in touch after. The suggested expressions are mostly for the formal situation which we can face in business environment for instance:

Nice to meet you. –  Приятно познакомиться.
Pleased to meet you. – Рад знакомству.
Glad to meet you. –Рад познакомиться.
Pleasure to make your acquaintance. – тоже
Pleasure to meet you. – тоже
The Pleasure is mine.(used to answer back) – Взаимно.
It was nice meeting you. – Было приятно познакомиться.
It was a pleasure meeting you.Было приятно познакомиться.

The phrases It was nice meeting you. and It was a pleasure meeting you. are used when saying good-bye at the end of the first meeting.  
For example, - Good-bye. It was nice meeting you. 
How do you do!How do you do! (this phrase is originally used at first meetings and the answer to it requires the same phrase and it sounds very formal. But recently it came to be used more and more instead of “How are you?” and is answered accordingly).
Here you can find more detailed explanations of the usage of the phrase How do you do?:

We ask each other a simple question “How are you?” every day. The expressions below will give you other ways to ask the same which can help to make your speech more expressive:

    How are you? – как дела?
    How's it going? – тоже
    How are things? – тоже
    How have you been? – как ты?
    What’s up? – как дела? (the answer is usually - Nothing much.)
    What’s happening?– как дела?
    How's life been treating you? – как жизнь?
    What’s new? – что нового?
    How's life? - Как жизнь?
    How's business?- Как работа?
    How's it going in your neck of woods? (informal, idiomatic) – как дела у тебя?

    And here are the most usual answers to the questions. Mostly all questions can be answered with the             same expressions. The phrases are on a scale from good to bad. 

    Outstanding.(Amazing, superb,excellent, terrific, fantastic) – Замечательно.
    I'm great, thanks. - Все замечательно, спасибо. 
    I'm all right, thanks.– Все хорошо, спасибо.
    I'm fine , thank you. – Хорошо, спасибо.
    I'm quite well, thank you. – Вполне нормально, спасибо.
    I'm good, thanks. - Все хорошо, спасибо.
    Pretty good, thank you.Хорошо, спасибо.
    I'm doing well, thanks. – Все идет хорошо, спасибо.
    I'm doing all right, thanks. - то же.
    I'm doing okey, thanks. - Нормально, спасибо.
    Not bad, thanks. – Неплохо,спасибо.
    I can't complain.не жалуюсь.
    Nothing to complain about. – не жалуюсь.
    I've been worse. - Бывало и хуже. 
    I've had worse days.- Бывали дни и хуже. 
    So-so. – так себе.
    I've been better.- Бывало и лучше. 
    I've had better days. - Бывали дни и лучше.
    Could be better. – могло бы быть лучше.
    Not too good actually. – Честно говоря, не очень.
    I'm hanging in there. - Как то выживаю.
    Don't ask! - Не спрашивай!

    Alive and kicking (idiomatic). – Жив, здоров.
    Not so hot (colloquial) – Не очень.

It should be mentioned that to answer the “How are you?” question people tend to use positive answers. They won’t go into details of their problems. Even if they don’t feel too good- they will still answer “I am fine thanks” or any synonym of that.
To wind up everything that was said above I would like to share one song. And I would like you to remember that as someone said: “The shortest distance between people is the smile”. So let’s keep smiling because no matter what language we speak “We all laugh in the same language”

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Welcome !!!

Good time of the day to all the visitors! I am very happy to see you here :) Welcome to my blog ! I hope you will have fun and will come back again and again to get useful information and new knowledge :)
Enlighten your mind with the flame of language!