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How about a poem?

English learners are terrified by poetry. Yes indeed, you want to communicate, you need to communicate, speak, e-mail, present, allure your clients. Pass your exams. Well, that’s true, I assume you pay your good money for your classes. You don’t want in return a middle-aged teacher with fuchsia-dyed hair and post-menopausal romantic flushes, reading you a poem in order to explore linguistic nuances that you don’t want even remotely consider. You paid your due. You want grammar, business letters, Powerpoint slides and financial vocabulary.
Whatever. Now stop for a moment, and read this.

How Could You Not

— for Jane Kenyon

It is a day after many days of storms.
Having been washed and washed, the air glitters;
small heaped cumuli blow across the sky; a shower
visible against the firs douses the crocuses.
We knew it would happen one day this week.
Now, when I learn you have died, I go
to the open door and look across at New Hampshire
and see that there, too, the sun is bright
and clouds are making their shadowy ways along the horizon;
and I think: How could it not have been today?
In another room, Keri Te Kanawa is singing
the Laudate Dominum of Mozart, very faintly,
as if in the past, to those who once sat
in the steel seat of the old mowing machine,
cheerful descendent of the scythe of the grim reaper,
and drew the cutter bars little
reciprocating triangles through the grass
to make the stalks lie down in sunshine.
Could you have walked in the dark early this morning
and found yourself grown completely tired
of the successes and failures of medicine,
of your year of pain and despair remitted briefly
now and then by hope that had that leaden taste?
Did you glimpse in first light the world as you loved it
and see that, now, it was not wrong to die
and that, on dying, you would leave
your beloved in a day like paradise?
Near sunrise did you loosen your hold a little?
How could you not already have felt blessed for good,
having these last days spoken your whole heart to him,
who spoke his whole heart to you, so that in the silence
he would not feel a single word was missing?
How could you not have slipped into a spell,
in full daylight, as he lay next to you,
with his arms around you, as they have been,
it must have seemed, all your life?
How could your cheek not press a moment to his cheek,
which presses itself to yours from now on?
How could you not rise and go, with all that light
at the window, those arms around you, and the sound,
coming or going, hard to say, of a single-engine
plane in the distance that no one else hears?
Galway Kinnell

Have you read it? Have you savoured it? Now, read it aloud. To yourself or to an intimate audience. Do not care for pronunciation, that will come, that will be your homework. Just taste the words. Know that there are thousands of poets out there doing wonders for the English language (and not only Shakespeare who invented half of it). Read them, feast your soul on their verses and then, if you really want, use a good dictionary to transpose their meaning to meaningful words in your language. Then go to your quirky teacher and make her proud. We need to live a little too.
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“Experimenting with English”: scaffolding autonomy

From “Reflection of an English Language Teacher”, a great article.

Lizzie Pinard

How can we create   “a supportive and encouraging learning environment which can help to lower anxiety filters and challenge students to consider new or alternative methods of learning.”  (McCarthy, 2013 kindle loc 4662)? That is the question that I consider in this post, a question that I have been exploring since doing a module on Multimedia and Independent learning, as well as one on Materials Development at  Leeds Met  as part of my M.A. in ELT. It is also one of the questions that formed the basis of the webinar on Learner Autonomy that I did in collaboration with the British Council Teaching English group.

Learner autonomy is complex and multi-faceted, as this diagram shows:

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 20.42.12

This diagram shows the range of levels on which learner autonomy can operate. My post will focus on “independent use of learning resources“, “independent use of learning technologies” and “

View original post 1,992 more words

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Starting point

default.pngNo matter where you are in your learning path, you must use good dictionaries. There are some excellent on-line dictionaries and no, Google Translator IS NOT one of them. The dictionary should be English-English, avoid translations into the target language.
You can find below a descriptive list of my favourite dictionaries. Just click on the dictionary name highlighted in red to open a new page linked to it.
First of all, I recommend the evergreen Cambridge Dictionaries Online (please always select British English among the languages of choice 😉 )
The Longman Dictionary is excellent for learners: provides collocations for each term and it’s subdivided by topics.
Another favourite of mine is the Macmillan Dictionary and Thesaurus. Ok, maybe a bit boring for beginners but,allow me, very professional 🙂
The Merriam-Webster is a classic. Keep in mind it’s American, therefore be ready for slight, although interesting, differences in lexical choices.
Last but not least, if you want some street-talk, check out The Urban Dictionary. Provided you are not tempted to use these terms during a Cambridge examination, this website is a must.
You are well equipped now. Are you ready to start?

P.S. Please feel free to recommend any other dictionary you find useful, in the comments below.

Have a nice learning 🙂

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Here we are

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One out of four of the world’s population speaks English to some degree, did you know? Do your maths: it’s A LOT of people. Apparently, the number is increasing.
I believe English is a democratic language. Anybody can learn it, and it’s easy to practice. Spoken everywhere, it has become the main communication language: it is straightforward, mediated and “mediable”. It is creative. It’s for everybody.

We can help you to learn it, refine it, discover it. This blog is intended as a help and support to your existing classes, if you are following any. Otherwise, this is your starting point. Get curious, discover grammar, idioms, literature, films.
Are you ready to start?

list-of-countries-where-english-is-an-official-language

(And don’t forget to ask. Any question you like.)