Saturday, July 31, 2021

"R" Is A Vowel!

 How could we have missed that in school?  

It is a consonant in French, German and, definitely in Spanish, but not in English. What parts of your mouth -- lips, tongue, palates, cheeks, gums, teeth, throat -- touch each other when you pronounce that letter?  None!

Say the word "Purrrrrrr" like a cat.  The "P" is a consonant, of course. And "U" is briefly a first vowel.  But after that?  Nothing but open-mouth rrrrrrr!

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Teaching Beliefs

 For an assignment at, I wrote a summary of my teaching beliefs.  Might as well post it here, too.

I like learning.  When you learn a new language, or learn anything for that matter, you are going on an adventure.  I think most teachers like learning and that’s why they also like teaching.  They enjoy the opportunity to go on the journey along with somebody else.  It is true that many students approach this trip as an unwanted trek, one on which they are being dragged along in chains. The teacher’s job is to lead them to find the enjoyment and satisfaction which new skills and new knowledge bring.

Language learning involves not only new insights but new skills built on those insights.  Once you know how to throw a baseball, you do not automatically become a great pitcher.  That takes practice.  Hopefully you have some friends with whom you can enjoy tossing a ball around until you are all more skilled.  That is my view of a language classroom.  

In addition to being a guide and a coach, a teacher must be an inventor.  You cannot take skill or a fact or an insight out of your own head and put it in someone else’s brain the way you can copy-paste text from one file to another.  You can only lead a person to go through the necessary experiences to perceive the facts and achieve the insights on their own.  We already have available many exercises, games, kits, expert explanations, and other aids for this purpose.  However, not all people learn by the same process. There will always be some who try very hard but just don’t grasp it.  Now the teacher must find a series of steps that WILL work for such a student.  Searching the internet and conferring with other teachers can help.  But often it is the teacher who must put on his/her “Thomas Edison” hat and invent a process by which this, particular student can arrive at the “ah-ha!” moment. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Poem from a Sci-Fi Horror Film

This short rhyme, from the novel and movie "Donovan's Brain", is a good tongue twister and pronunciation exercise of "s" and "st".

"Amidst the mists and coldest frosts
With stoutest wrists and loudest boasts,
He thrusts his fists against the posts
And still insists he sees the ghosts."

American novelist and screenwriter Curt Siodmak, who wrote the book in 1942, was born in Dresden, Germany.  Being Jewish and smart enough to see the writing on the wall, he emigrated in the early '30s.  Many of his works, such as "The Wolf Man" starring Lon Chaney, Jr. have a dark side.

The tongue twister, which plays a vital role in the plot, is an intriguing little gem.  I wonder if it is derived from a Jewish or European fable or saying.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Worcestershire Sauce

 I've never been able to pronounce Worcestershire Sauce.  

It turns out I'm not alone.  Worcestershire is on Luke Thompson's most-difficult words list.  See his video at 40+ Difficult Words to Pronounce in English

Guess what! English people often just say, "Wooster" when referring to the condiment.  Not fair!  As a US citizen I've been determined to master the entire British word.

This over-23-minutes video is really a workout!  Toward the end Luke asks, "How's your face?"   If you have been pausing and practicing along with him by now your jaw should be tired!

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Schwa

 You've never heard of the schwa?  

It is the most used vowel in the English language.  It's the small, soft "uh" sound you often make in place of any other vowel when a syllable is unstressed.  Just totally relax your mouth, let your jaw fall open a slight bit and say "uh".  You will sound like a cave person considering speech for the first time.  Needless to say, the schwa makes spoken English difficult to understand for an ESL learner.

The phonetic symbol looks like an upside down and backwards lower-case "e".Go to my Portfolio tab to see a link to a "schwa practice".