oxymoron67: (Default)
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Undergrad? I was a French/Spanish double major with a Political Science minor. (Had I stayed in college one more term, I could have had a triple major, but adding PoliSci to what I had didn't seem to help much.)

Then in grad school, I started off in the French Department, specializing in Romance Language Linguistics and minority and regional languages. Looking around at the job market for Ph Ds in French (not good) and after being jerked around by that department in a million different ways, I transferred to the Division of English as an International Language, and got my Master's Degree.

My MA?I use that information all the time. The stuff from undergraduate? Less so.
oxymoron67: (Default)
It went rather well.

The focus of the class was a further discussion of the stress system of English, but it's the detours we took that were interesting.

1) The word "proverbial" was used, so we discussed provebrs for a good ten minutes.
I had them look up the word, then they looked up some proverbs, I put them on the board and we discussed what they meant.

It was fun. When I teach this class again (and I'm scheduled to do so this summer), I may do an entire lesson on proverbs.

2) We talked about food.
This started when I was showing how word stress changes meanings of words. In this instance, it was "desert" (stress on the first syllable), a noun, the place where it rarely rains versus "desert" the verb, meaning to abandon.

One of them asked about dessert, the after dinner treat.

From there, and I'm still not sure how, we jumped to caviar and then to escargot.

I quoted my mom, re: escargot: "Really, you might as well just eat an eraser."*

3) Then we talked about tone of voice. I was doing the readings and lists we were going over in different voices, including my "lite FM radio" voice, students commented on that, so we all tried to do sentences in different tones and discussed what how THAT can change meaning.

4) The words "silhouette" and "picturesque" were examples, and we talked about art.

5) We also had the "Yes, English is crazy, but ALL languages are" discussion. This came from both working with stress, a question a student had because he can't hear the difference between the vowels in "hop" and "love". (This is common. These vowels are similar.) and because students noted that when English borrowed "escargot" from French, we never altered its spelling or pronunciation.

Overall, a good class.

Tomorrow, the (late) midterm!
oxymoron67: (Default)
This is what I wrote on the board before class:

I have PLANS! Grand, glorious plans that will make me THE MASTER OF THE WORLD! Mwahhahahahahaha! ... But, you know, that's *A LOT* of work. I'll just give you a quiz instead.


Now, this quiz was announced two weeks previously, and in each class meeting after that. It's not a pop quiz.

I'm not a fan of pop quizzes, anyway.

Before the quiz, we went over the pronunciation of the various -s endings (for pluralization or possession). These work remarkably like -ed endings. There are three rules:

1) If a word ends in a voiceless sound, the s ending sounds like an /s/ ex. pot -- pots
2) If a word ends in a voiced sound, the s ending sounds like a /z/. Ex. enjoy -- enjoys
4) Of a word ends in an s, z, sh, zh, ch, or j sound, the s ending sounds like /Iz/ watch -- watches

The students had a few questions about the States Project. Normal things: "Can I focus on a specific area or city?" or "I have too much information here!"

The responses* are fairly easy: of course, they can focus on one place or city and I do make them look up too much information. It's easier to do a research project when you have too much information. Cutting information is much easier than ad-libbing stuff you don't have.

"Response" ends in an /s/ sound, so it follow rule #3 above.

Then, the quiz. I haven't looked at them yet, but given how they left the room, I'm guessing many of them bombed.

I also announced that any work that hadn't been turned in yet was due by Thursday. After that, I just don;t want it.

Late on Tuesday night, I received e-mails from two students: the cheater and one of the slackers*.

The cheater has missed a lot of class recently. She apologized for this and said she'd explain on Thursday. if it;s a legitimate explanation, fine. But, even if I'm convinced to give her an extension, it won't be past next Tuesday. I need to correct all of this stuff. And that takes time.

The slacker e-mailed to say that she'd been in a car accident on Monday, which is why the sentences that were due yesterday were missing.

Of course, that doesn't explain why she hasn't turned anything in since late October. Seriously. She hasn;t done at least four of the weekly recordings. The weekly recordings are half the grade for the class.

Again, I may give an extension. But only until Tuesday.

*"slacker" ends in a voiced sound, so the -s ending sounds like a /z/, as in the rules above. Some speakers of English de-voice the last sound in words so it would start out as a /z/ but end as an /s/, but this is not standard.
oxymoron67: (Default)
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I love the word "Oxymoron" (clearly...) . It sounds like an insult but it isn't.

Think about it. Couldn't you imagine someone saying, "Oh, he's not JUST a moron, he's an OXYmoron."

I'm not quite sure how that definition would work..."An oxymoron is someone so stupid that he or she drives all breatheable air from the room."

But my favorite word is "flummox". It's just so much fun to say! And lots of people fdon;t know what it mean, so my usage of "flummox" flummoxes them!
oxymoron67: (Default)
A friend posted this interesting article.

A brief explantion of vowel sounds:

In English, we can basically divide the mouth into nine quadrant when it comes to describing the vowel sounds. The tongue height is either high, medium or low and the position in the mouth is either front, mid or back.*

For instance, make the "a" sound in "back". Your tongue should be in the front of your mouth and it should be lying against the bottom of your mouth (low). In contrast, make the "u" sound in "boot". Your tongue is pulled back in your mouth and the tip of tongue is close to the roof of your mouth.

So, when the article says "the 'a' is being pulled back", it means that the Canadian "a" in back is starting to sound like the sound in "caught" (if you don't live on the East Coast of the U.S.

Diphthongs are basically two vowels smushed togehter (it's more complicated than this, but it's close enough). Some varieties of English (Austrlian and New Zealander) have tripthongs, which are THREE vowel sounds smushed together.

*This is VERY language specific. French has four divisions: high, high-mid, low-mid and low, for instance. And not all the spots are filled. In English, for example, we have no high-mid vowels.

So, yes, vowels are fun.
oxymoron67: (reading)
I started reading this book, put it down (for lots of reasons), but picked it back up this week:

Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley.

It's a good read. The author explains lots of issues with minority/endangered languages very, very well. It's a great read. Once I'm finished, I'll talk about this. Endangered languages have always been an interest of mine. (I studied IRish Gaelic for two years and Welsh for a semester. I can also read the dialects of Occitan, including Gascon and Provencal.)

But, as I've said before, his comments about the study of linguistics are a little sketchy.

The author made a comment about how he can;t get the feel for a language from reading a linguistic study of that language, because he doesn't understand the technical terms,

I think one of the things he doesn't get is that a linguistic description of a language isn't SUPPOSED to aid in the acquisition of that language. It's supposed to be a scientific study of it, with the technical terms for phonology and syntax. Language acquisition is a different thing, and materials for that are developed separately.

Why? Let's look at French for an example.

Je donne le livre a Sylvie.

I'm giving the book to Sylvia.*

But when we replace words with pronouns:

Je le lui donne,

I'm giving it to her. (The 'lui" can also refer to a guy, but since I started this example with a woman, I though I should continue with it.)

Notice that, when the nouns are reduced to pronouns, they move. The technical term for this is the dirty sounding "clitic climbing" -- this refers to syntax, and the trees we draw to represent sentences. It happens in lots of languages. When we teach this phenomenon, we never use the technical term. Why would we? Why would that help language learners?

But, since it is a common phenomenon, we need a term for it. Of course, we need terms for the uncommon phenomena, as well.

*Sylvie: when I was earning French in high school, the first dialogue we studied was:

Ou est Sylvie? (Where is Sylvia?)
A la piscine. (At the pool)
Avec qui? (With whom?)
Avec Anne. (With Anne)

We went over this little dialogue every day for six weeks. We'd only spend a few minutes on it: it was a warm up thing -- we would start with this dialogue, then substitute new places and names that we had learned the previous day, Anyway, we went over this dialogue SO MANY TIMES that it's probably permanently burned into my brain cells.
oxymoron67: (Default)
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The Bible, of course. I've read it from cover to cover, including the trippy books, like Revelations and Malachi*.

*I remember Malachi as difficult to read and understand. I could be misremembering, as I did this when I was about 13. However, Revelations is DEFINITELY trippy.

But, if we don't include that...

Robert Challes' Les Illustres Francaises

This book is about 700 pages long and is a series of connected stories about the struggles between the old time nobility of France, the new nobility of France -- those who earned their titles through military service or who bought them.

It's actually quite an interesting book.

I was reading this book during the time I was teaching Freshman Composition. My students were complaining that they had to read FIFTY WHOLE PAGES and take notes on them in a week. I pulled out this book and said:

See this book? It's 700 pages long. I have a week to read it, write a reaction paper about it, and then lead a class discussion about it.

Oh, and did I mention that I'm doing all of this in French?

Precisely how much sympathy do you think I have for you right now?


Short works? I don't know. Saint-Ex's The Little Prince? Shel Silverstein's Where the SIdewalk Ends?
oxymoron67: (Default)
It went well.

first, we went over the difficult parts from last week's reading, the St. Crispin's Day Monologue.

Then I asked if they had any questions about yesterday's reading, The Gettysburg Address.

From there, we talked about rhythm, pausing and linking.

Linking is when we join words together to keep rhythm stable.

For instance, say "Aunt Anne".

We do not normally pause between those two words. That's linking.

We do it ALL THE TIME.

Fortunately, it's common enough in other languages, that it's easy to pick up on.

From there, I announced the last set of weekly recordings and Monday's quiz on -ed and -s.
oxymoron67: (roll eye)
I am currently sitting at home because after a weirdly busy and frustrating day at work, I managed to slip on the bus. I didn't fall; but I did grab a pole to balance myself, and definitely pulled something.

As you can imagine, I am a big ball of sunshine and joy right now.

I'll talk about work -- which wasn't all bad -- in a later post.

The class actually went well. I started by returning the quizzes on vowel sounds. I did something with this quiz that I've never done before: I told them the EXACT format the quiz was going to be and the questions.

And, to their credit, most of my students paid attention, and got either As or Bs. Good for them. However, about a third of them apparently didn't bother listening. When one of them came up to me at the end of class, I pointed out that I had told him EVERYTHING that was going to be on the test, and that there was absolutely no excuse for his performance on the quiz.

He was taken aback. Oh, well.

From there, I announced a quiz on -ed and -s endings for next Monday.

Then, we discusses some of the vocabulary words. I've had this list for about two years now (though I've changed several of the words), and I know which words are going to cause problems.

Annotate, for example. Most of my students, even after looking it up, seem to believe that this is just a fancy way of saying "Taking notes", which it isn't. So, we talked about that. We also talked about "foreshadow", another word that gives them problems.

We discussed "gamut", "dichotomy" and "criteria" because, well, gamut needs a range after it; dichotomy needs two things that in some sort of opposition; and criteria is plural.

From here, we started talking about rhythm in English. When I introduced rhythm, I said, "And today, we're going to start... rhythm" and I shook my butt for them.

They laughed (the appropriate response). We talked about the basics of rhythm, which words in English tend to take the "beat" and the basics of when and where to pause. We'll get back to pausing tomorrow.

Then, I put the first sentence of The Gettysburg Address on the board. This is their reading for Wednesday, and, honestly, it's all about rhythm, stress and breath control. We marked the words that are important from a rhythmic standpoint, then we talked about pausing.

I told them that where you pause changes what you emphasize and therefore can change the meaning of what you say. While pausing has some basic rules (you pause at punctuation marks and before conjunctions; you don't split up a prepositional phrase, etc.), there's a lot of freedom there.

Then we played with the first sentence of Gettysburg, to show what I meant.

At this point, it was late, and I could see that they had reached their limit, so I let them go about ten minutes early.

Some students stuck around to ask questions (always a good thing), and one student said something that I took as a compliment. He said that my class was the hardest of the classes he was taking this term. He'd never thought about language the way I describe it in class, and it's totally blowing him away.

BUT... he can see the logic behind it.

Now, keep in mind, this is one of my best students.

Still, I think students NEED to be pushed. If my class is a blow off, then I'm not doing it right, you know?

Wednesday: we'll review this stuff, continue with pausing, probably talk about -ed and -s endings, and maybe move into linking!
oxymoron67: (history)
We went over the rules for the pronunciation of -s endings.

These are remarkably similar to -ed endings.

1) If a word ends in a voiceless sound, the ending sounds like an /s/. Exs: Mike -- Mike's and bath -- baths

2) If a word ends in a voiced sound, the ending sounds like a /z/. Exs: Ann -- Ann's and play -- plays.

3) If a word ends in a sibilant (/s/, /z/, -sh-, -zh-) OR an affricate (-ch- or -dg-), the ending sounds like /Iz/. Examples: place -- places, judge-- judges, watch -- watches.

The native speakers had serious trouble with this. They were all saying "But this makes no sense. It all sounds the same to me.: This makes sense: we don't really pay attention to what we do*.

We also went over the St. Crispin's Day Monologue. Words that gave my students issue: covetous, Exeter, Westmoreland, Salisbury, Talbot, and many others.

I actually like doing this. At first, I get to see who went over it ahead of time, then, as the class looks at the piece, more students ask questions.

Then they asked me to do read it myself. That's cool. I did, and for a cold reading, it wasn't bad. I would have given myself a B or B-. Of course, if I were doing it for a grade, I would have re-recorded it.

However, it was better than what my students could do with it (at least as a cold reading: with practice, several of them are quite good).

We also discussed how to read this. I told them these things:
1) Not a sad piece. Do not read it as such.
2) Make it interesting: this is supposed to be a speech to encourage an army to go into battle.
3) Also, I am going to have to listen to 25 of these things. DO NOT BORE ME.

Finally, I announced next week's reading The Gettysburg Address. (The student who has Pennsylvania gasped because she finally realized that Lincoln never actually MOVED to Gettysburg, he just gave perhaps the most famous American speech there.)

Next week? Rhythm!

*This, by the way, is why no one should rely totally on native speaker intuition. Most of the time, native speakers don't hear/recognize the subtleties of their own language.

Oh, and the student who is always absent on test day? She claims that this isn't true. Despite all evidence to the contrary. Because I'm stupid and unobservant, apparently. On the other hand, the extra two days? They didn't do her any good. She bombed this quiz so badly that I'm amazed wasn't a crater left behind.

Which I don't get. I don't get why ANYONE failed this quiz. I actually told them EXACTLY what was going to be on it. Seriously. No tricks, no ambiguity. I told them what to study and the format.

And yet... several failed SPECTACULARLY.
oxymoron67: (Default)
So... we reviewed the vowel sounds and discussed things like diphthongs and tense vs. lax vowels.
More language stuff! Plus a smackdown! )
oxymoron67: (history)
I have just handed in my application for my college's "How to Teach Online Courses" seminar. For this program, I had to write a page long essay for this.

It is the single lamest essay I have ever written.*

No, really.

And there is some serious competition here.

For instance, in undergrad, I was taking a Women in Latin American Literature Class. The professor had a conference the week before Thanksgiving, so she cancelled class one day that week; her TZ taught it the other day. In its place, we had to write a five page essay on a novel assigned for the class.

This novel was ... well, I'm not sure what it was about. I never bought or even read the book. I remember that it had a blue cover.

Fortunately, the TA gave us a few quotes from the book along wityh page numbers. I used them in my essay. The main point of my essay? "Being poor is rough."

Oh, as this was for a Spanish class, the paper was in Spanish.

The professor's reaction? "You gave two great presentations. I think we can ignore this."

SERIOUSLY. It was that awful.

*This should bother me more than it does, but these people have known me for seven years now. I don't even see WHY I needed to write a freaking essay.
oxymoron67: (reading)
I gave the midterm last night, so class was easy for me.

I hand the thing out, and then occasionally get up and walk around the class to check to see if anyone is cheating.

Easy, easy, easy.

I give them the entire two hours for the midterm, but, honestly, it shouldn't take more than an hour. I noticed that some just got about 25 to 30 minutes in and just gave up. A few also just finished that quickly. (While I haven't corrected them yet -- tomorrow is my correctathon-- I have looked at them. Some, especially among the early ones, left portions of the test blank.) Everyone was done after about an hour and fifteen minutes.

When I was still taking tests, I was almost always one of the first ones to finish: I either knew the answer or could figure it out quickly or had no idea. But once...

Back in my undergraduate days, I was taking French IV. All the sections of French IV had the final at the same time in the same room. I later found out that the TAs teaching the class where all responsible for one section of the final.

They handed out the thing: it was twelve pages long. It literally dropped onto my desk with a thud. I panicked. My mind blanked. I could no longer string a sentence together in ENGLISH much less French. As I turned each page, I gasped a little, and the brain freeze worsened.

It took me about fifteen minutes to calm down and start working. Still, I wasn't at my best, and it cost me half a letter grade )from A to B+). Most of my mistakes were of the "I can't think of the French words for this, so I'll put the Spanish one in and hope it flies" variety.

Which is odd. I started learning French much earlier than Spanish. For me, that sort of leakage most frequently goes the other way: I stick French words and sounds into Spanish. I think of it as language incontinence.

Irish Gaelic was so very different that I never did that.

Portuguese... you would think... Portuguese is a Romance language, like Spanish and French, but it's very different in its way. For instance, like French, Portuguese has nasal vowels. However, those sounds are so radically different that I never really confused them. So no real confusion there.

Wednesday, I announce the States Project and we watch a movie.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I have seen two different commercials that, instead of using the totally correct and delightful comparative "better" to describe something, have chosen to use "gooder" instead.

Really? What are you trying to do advertisers? Since one of these commercials (the one for Gain detergent) takes place on a farm, are you trying to say that "gooder" is more down home language, and only city dwellers would use high-falutin' words like "better"?

The other one is an orange juice commercial, with upper middle class women sitting in a living room while Jane Krakowski poses. Maybe this is to show us that upper middle class people are so vapid that they just can't be bothered to speak properly.

I mean, do we need to dumb down America MORE? There's plenty of stupidity in this country already. (See this: for another example.) Why add to it?

It's not cute. It's not funny. It's just wrong.
oxymoron67: (Default)
I got this from the American Dialect Society mailing list.

Obsolete words that need to make a comeback.

A lot of them are fun. I like "widdendream"... I could use that one with some frequency.

I'm also fond of "jargogle". Like so.. After reading my students' states project submission, I was jargogled. I thought I had entered an Alternate Universe United States.

And I think I'd rather be called "jollux" than "fat." It almost feels complimentary. Plus, I'm a sucker for words that end in "x", like "flummox."

I adore "brabble". "I find that many of my colleagues brabble during departmental meetings."

But my favorite HAS TO BE "Quagswagging." "The midterm so traumatized the students that many of them started to quagswag."
oxymoron67: (Default)
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Let's see: lots of history and biographies... many biographies of not-so well known people.

Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Lots of Graphic Novels and compilations...

And linguistics and foreign language education texts.

Conclusion: Total Geek!

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