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Back to basics means making sure you have a good foundation. Many non-native speakers can communicate more or less in English but fall short of their potential. For example, when reading an article, they miss part or even most of the meaning because of certain vocabulary words or expressions they do not understand. Vocabulary means knowing both small and large words. Knowing them means you can spell the word, pronounce word, and use it in a sentence correctly. If you cannot do this, you don't truly know the word. Try reading a child's book written in English. Unless you know every word, your knowledge remains less than that of a child born in the U.S. Small words like in, of, at, on, etc., are used in specific ways, as even young children master them by the time they enter school. Vocabulary is one basic that merits attention. Other basics to consider are grammar, study skills, reading comprehension, error correction, and writing. More on those to come!

Most of my students studied English from textbooks in their native country. Some can read and write basic English well but few have practiced pronunciation or conversation. Fluent spoken English takes a lot of practice. In the past, audiotapes provided a model of learners. Later, VHS videotape language instruction we introduced. Today, learners can buy instructional DVDs, watch YouTube, or use numerous websites to develop their speaking skills. Watching TV or cinema does not improve English fluency at all in my opinion. After all, this dialogue is all scripted and rehearsed in all dramas. Characters in drama sometimes speak in eccentric ways. Vocabulary in drama tends to be most basic, so even less educated people can enjoy it. When you keep in mind that literacy in the US has declined, you can be sure that less common words are not used in popular media. Finally, do you want to speak like yourself or like some actor in a drama? A better idea is to use a webcam to video yourself... read more

Greetings! Today┬┤s blog post discusses the issue of learning culture when learning a language. The easy answer is that language is a reflection of culture...but who wants an easy answer? Seriously, language is a reflection of culture, because each culture provides variations to a language based upon its history and its people. For example, in the 1950's, the word "whatever" did not have the connotation of attitude and sheer exasperation that it has when it is said today. The pop culture of the last two decades has inserted many new words into the everyday speech of U.S. citizens, as well as those worldwide. Many of the words we use in general, today, as well as specifically for the study of mathematics, language and other subjects, have their roots in the Greek and Latin languages. As an example, let's look at one of my favorite words--"spa." (I'm especially thinking about the spa today, because I'm cold and I see snow.) The Greek and Roman tradition... read more

Have you ever stared at a word for so long that its meaning disappeared? Have you ever tried to write backwards across a page? If so, you can begin to understand the task facing English language learners, for whom everything about English is strange and new. Some may even have to learn a new alphabet before beginning to understand the sounds we make and the words we write. I am filled with admiration for these students, who are willing to take on our arcane rules: why we use "the" in front of some nouns but not others, why some adjective phrases take hyphens but others don't, why we turn nouns into adjectives and don't even change the spelling! As a teacher and writer, I no longer take anything about English for granted. Textbooks don't even begin to cover every rule or exception. Each session is a flight into a new question, something I promise I will research in order to bring a coherent explanation to the next session.

Most write some peripheral thoughts about leadership, beliefs and personal philosophy, discuss it with immediate subordinates and talk about implementing into their organization. But talking about it and modeling it are two different philosophies. Modeling requires a change in the way we think. It requires a strong leader to actually have a strong self-awareness and a strong sense of self. To become a leader means to become a change agent. While at a particular healthcare organization, I was able to implement a leadership framework that was inherently sold to the c-suite by the mere response I was achieving. The need from the people - the employees - was so loud that it permeated through the office hallways and at the water cooler. To learn more about leadership and how to become an effective change agent, you will want to speak with me. I look forward to hearing from you.

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