Friday, July 29, 2022

Escher Sentences!

I finally have a term for the kind of sentence which forms one of my favorite types of jokes: "Escher Sentence".  Why do I not appreciate puns but do love these?  An Escher sentence seem to make sense when you first hear it, but on second examination deso not. 

The classic example seems to be: "More people have been to Berlin than I have."

Back in the day, Lily Tomlin made such a line famous on "Laugh In". As the telephone operator, Ernestine, she would acost a customer by asking, "Is this the party to whom I am speaking?"

These sayings are also called "mixed idioms" and, in fact, are sometimes caused by confusing two idioms or by mixed metaphors.  

I really like "We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it” and "Don’t change horses in midsentence" or "Don't change sentences in midstream."

At other times they are formed with malapropisms. The word comes from a character in a Sheridan play named "Mrs. Malaprop". (In French "mal √† propos" means "inappropriate".)  

Here's a quote from an obituary by Daniel E. Slotnik in the "New York Times" in 2020.  "Norm Crosby, the comedian known as the master of malaprop because he spoke from his diagram and related many funny antidotes, often to a standing ovulation, died on Saturday in Los Angeles."

When you are learning a second language it is easy to create an Escher sentence, sometimes resulting in gales of laughter from your listener.  It can happen when choosing the wrong word or by adding a phrase or clause to a sentence incorrectly.  Don't feel bad.  People will view you as creative!

And if you like Escher art, here's a link.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Free English Classes is a language school in Argentina offering two, free English classes per an online announcement.  Although the website is in Spanish, if you do not read that language, the Google Transalate app can help you navigate.  

Go to for the TalkTime class schedule and to sign up.  GlosaIdiomas says, "The moderator proposes topics to discuss at each meeting and after a quick vote, a ping pong of questions and answers begins regarding the chosen topic."

The other free class is at where the teacher and students read "The Narnia Chronicles" together.  Per GlosaIdiomas, "This course, given remotely through the internet in our Virtual Campus, begins immediately as soon as you register for it." and "We use the chat as a space to discuss what is happening in the book, and to ask about unknown vocabulary."  The classes are totally online, with the teacher dictating them through the school's online platform.

Is the converstion verbal (via your microphone) or written (via chat) or both? Or recorded in the case of the Narnia reading?

I don't know, yet.  I signed myself up for the Talk-Time.  Or, rather, I signed up so as to avoid spam.  We'll see what happens.


Monday, July 25, 2022


I usually don't like puns.  

Often I don't understand them and when I finally do get it they just don't seem funny!  

But this one struck me as hilarious.

Thanks to Bonnie Ruiz for posting it on Facebook.

Minimal Pairs and More

Minimal pairs are those vowels which are so similar that it's hard for a language learner to pronounce them differently.  The classic example is sheep and ship or sheet and....

The traditional way to practice is to read long lists of pairs, paying attention to pronunciation, for example: bit - beat,  pill - peal,  it - eat,  etc.  However, I find this way too easy!  Of course you can pronounce the words correctly when concentrating on nothing but the two vowels, alone.  The challenge arises with vocabulary used in sentences.  

So far I've found one sentence exercise online practicing the difficult SILVER PIN and GREEN TEA pair.  It's posted by Teacher John on YouTube.  

Then there is the famous poem "The Chaos" by Gerard Nolst Trenit√©.  Although quite long and comprehensive, it is a bit too complicted for effective pattern practice. 

So of course I am writing my own couplets.

Green Grendel grins and grits his teeth.  He greets the tree and hides beneath.

Minnie the meany just missed with her mit when Pete pitched the peach or maybe the pit.

Yep, it needs work.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Practicing for an Automated Video Interview

More and more companies, not just those hiring ESL teachers, ask applicants to log in to a website for an automated video interview. A video "person" asks a question which the applicant then "answers" by making a video. Depending on the software the hiring company uses, the applicant may or may not have the opportunity to create practice answers before sending the final product.

A new website, Voomer ( gives you the opportunity to practice your interview beforehand for many, leading employers.  You can also record a "typical" video of yourself and get feedback from the site.  An article at poetsandquants says, "Voomer recognizes the best number of pauses between sentences, the recommended time to deliver a message, and even body language that can help better communication."

They are supposed to have a free trial though I have not yet been able to access it.  More to come on this subject.

Monday, July 11, 2022


 Thanks to Roselyn Gibson-Tolliver in the "Adult ESL Teachers" Facebook group.