oxymoron67: (Default)
We started with student evaluations. I normally do well on these though I have to admit that I don't think they show much of anything.

Anyway, from there, we watched the news broadcast. (I took their summaries and edited them together, adding some commercials made up by yours truly.) They were all laughing and uncomfortable watching themselves.

That's not unusual. We briefly discussed it: who did the best, what they found in their own performances that didn't work (several of them just didn't know what to do with their hands).

Then we discussed the next reading: The Gettysburg Address.

Oh.. a student who stopped attending three weeks ago popped up. He's promising to get all the work he owes me. I doubt it. And "always an hour late" guy was ON TIME. For the first time. Ever. Keep in mind that this is the tenth week of class.

Finally, we discussed -ed and -s endings. The rules for pronunciation of these morphological markers are EXTREMELY regular (to the point where I can't think of exceptions*) so it's a nice break from the heavy duty technical stuff like stress and rhythm.

Then we briefly discussed the final, which is in four weeks. Basically, it;s on everything since the midterm. We promised to have a more detailed review later.

By the time we were done with all of this, it was time to go.

All in all, a decent, fast-paced class.

*This doesn't mean that there AREN'T exceptions, of course.
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)
We started by watching their news broadcast.

I went through the takes they did when they were videotaped and edited the best ones together. Well, "best" is a bit of an overstatement, sometimes it was more "this one sucks the least."

To liven things up, I made three "commercials" for the news cast.

The first was a map of North Dakota, and I said:

This segment of the news is brought to you by the state of North Dakota, where nothing ever happens. North Dakota: the state you're all happy you didn't get in the states project.


Then there was one for Shakespeare.

The news is brought to you tonight by the Immortal Bard, William Shakespeare who is proud of his 500 year tradition of terrorizing English students the world over.


Finally, there was one for Jack Daniels.

The news is sponsored tonight by Jack Daniels Whiskey. If you want to wake up next to someone you don't remember meeting the night before, drink Jack Daniels.


We went back to discussing rhythm after that, in particular, we discussed thought groups, pausing and linking. Since they will record The Gettysburg Address tomorrow, I used the first sentence to show where to pause.

We also discussed what the first sentence actually says, since none of them understood the phrase "Four score and seven years ago". When I explained that a score was twenty... then it made more sense.

Tomorrow? -ed endings! The Gettysburg Address!
oxymoron67: (Default)
I wrote , "Today, we have a quiz! Hahahahahahahaha!"* on the board.
This was the high point! )
oxymoron67: (snoopy)
(I borrowed a laptop from work. My laptop? Still non-functional.)

I introduced the IPA tonight. We started with the consonant sounds. I wrote the symbol on the board, made the sound, and then went around the room asking students to give me the sound first at the beginning of a word, then the middle, then the end.

Next, I asked whether or not the sound was voiced.

We did this for all the consonant sounds. The students had trouble where they always do: the th sounds, -zh- and a few others.

Then we moved on to an overview of the vowel sounds. The consonant sounds are easier to deal with. Even among native English speakers, the vowel sounds scome as a surprise. Standard American English has 17 vowel sounds (unless you count the r-diphthongs, then it's more like 24.).

One of my students, partway through the vowels, said, "This isn't fun anymore."

By the time we were done, they were all spent. they did all participate, though, and they had great questions.

In their defense, we covered A LOT of ground and most people have never analyzed the specifics of how they make sounds. It's a new way of looking at language for all of my students. It will take time to get used to it.

In fact, we talked about that. One of my students said that she felt she was back in English class again. She had a point, and I said so. BUT I also pointed out that spoken language and written language are two different but related things, so while we will be talking about parts of speech, it won't be in ways they've looked at them before.

How intense was today? The two students texting at the beginning of class were furiously taking notes after less than ten minutes.

Then I handed out the homework assignment. It's a list of 20 of the consonant sounds in IPA. They have to provide two example words, underlining where the sound is, and indicate if the sound is voiced or voiceless.

These example words cannot be the words from the book OR the words we used as examples in class (I took photos of the whiteboards.) Also, since they have a week to do this, spelling counts.

Thursday? We start transcribing (taking words in IPA and writing them in English and vice-versa).
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: (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! )

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