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Symbolism of the Parrot

Symbolism of the Parrot

“Linguists who were both translators and advisors for the king are important officials in the Akan royal court.” - object label at Newfields in Indianapolis, Indiana

Using Improvisation in the Classroom

I recommend taking an improv class for so many reasons, one of which is that some of the exercises can become great springboards for ideas to get students to speak in a group language class. Knowing how to read and write in a language is quite different from speaking it. This is especially true with some Japanese women I have taught. Although their spouses may have opportunities to use English in the workplace, many Japanese women I’ve met tend to befriend other Japanese whose husbands have been assigned to work in the United States. Making American or other English-speaking friends can be tough.

From what I have learned, the Japanese can read and write with a fair amount of clarity; however, forming spoken sentences doesn’t happen without a lot of thought first. Sometimes a series of imperfect sentences can communicate much more than a few perfectly constructed sentences. My goal is to create an environment in which students feel free to try to speak in front of their classmates and me with the understanding that they will be corrected afterwards so that they can ultimately improve and communicate more fluently. This has to be done carefully so the students are not discouraged from speaking at all.

One recent activity that I did with a group of four women was to role play buying a used car. First, I introduced some vocabulary. Next, we listened to a dialogue while reading the script silently, and then the students were paired off. Each person took turns with the role of salesperson and car buyer while reading the script aloud. Afterwards, I modeled how to act out the skit without the script and emphasized that the skit did not have to exactly match the original dialogue. (I chose the most advanced student who was the least shy to help model how to do this.) After we completed the demonstration, I asked the women to work their partner and take turns playing each role without a script. After some practice, it was showtime.

The grand finale was when I had the students speed up the performances from about five minutes to a time limit of three minutes. The result was that the students spoke more naturally, sounded more fluent, and were talking to an actual person while speaking. It wasn’t just reading from a script anymore. It was about interacting.

Improvisation is a part of daily life. We may have patterns that we use in different situations, but ultimately, we think of what we’re going to say depending on whom we are speaking with and what the situation is. Rehearsing is a good idea when stakes are high, but reading from cue cards is not nearly as effective as communicating with the person in front of you.

Interviewing Basics

It’s exciting to interview for a job you are interested in doing; however, simple things send subtle signals that you may or may not be so excited about the job. Here are some tips to help you put your best foot forward and improve your chances of getting hired. Little things mean a lot.

  1. Show up on time. The idea of what “on time” means varies from culture to culture. if you’re interviewing to be an interpreter, teacher, or anyone else who needs to be punctual because others will be waiting for you, then showing up on time might actually mean showing up at least fifteen minutes early in the parking lot of the place you’re going to so you have enough time to gather your thoughts, look in the mirror, and then walk in the door. Showing up late tends to signal that you don’t care about the job or that you are presumptuous about getting hired. Life happens. If you must be late, call as soon as possible.

  2. Smile. You are preparing to interview somewhere you would like to work. You may be nervous, but people like to be around people who have a pleasant demeanor. This is especially true if you are interviewing for a job that requires you to be around other people. No one wants to hire a sourpuss.

  3. Avoid complaining. I once interviewed an interpreter I will never call on simply because she tossed her purse on the interview table, complained about the landscaping in front of the building, and then complained about how difficult it was to come to my office. People tend to hire people who are going to represent their company well and not cause embarrassment or a negative work environment. (See number 2.)

  4. Avoid wearing heavy cologne, after shave, or other perfumed products. Less is more. Some people are allergic to heavy scents and also prone to migraines. Deodorant is fine (and encouraged), but anything else may be too much.

  5. Dress the part. Think of what you would expect someone to wear if they were doing the job you are applying for. Dress shoes, slacks, a button-up shirt, dress, conservative top, and skirts are fitting for most interviews. Assume a more formal atmosphere and discuss the dress code after you get the interview. Conversely, if you get a second interview, don’t assume that you can wear casual clothing. It is better to be overdressed than under-dressed.

  6. Read about the company before the interview. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about what you may be doing and how you might contribute in other ways to the company.

  7. Ask not what the company can do for you, but ask what you can do for the company. In other words, don’t start discussing salary and benefits until you have shared how you would be an asset to the company.

The above tips also hold true even after you’ve been hired. Ask yourself how you can add value to the company. This may open doors to you even after you’ve been hired and can lead to greater responsibility and pay within the company.

Follow-up to Learning Phrasal Verbs with Student-created Illustrations

A week has passed. Everyone remembered the meaning of each phrasal verb that they drew pictures for the previous week. In the follow-up lesson, students were grouped into pairs. Each student had to create a sentence using the phrasal verb together. Their partner had to rephrase the sentence that their partner had spoken and they had to separate the phrasal verbs with the object.

The class moved on to other topics, but I think that the lesson with phrasal verbs was a successful one and will be repeated as homework for future groups of phrasal verbs by having students first illustrate the meaning and then creating sentences two different ways, assuming that they are studying separable phrasal verbs. I would recommend introducing no more than about eight phrasal verbs per week, but it may depend on the level of your students.

Field Trips and Experiential English in Columbus, Indiana

Field Trips and Experiential English in Columbus, Indiana

Experiential learning gives ESL students the opportunity to learn what they have learned in class to help them become independent members of their community.

Overcoming Culture Shock - Adjusting to a New Country

Moving to a new country can be exciting. In the beginning stage of the move, everything is new. There are new places to see, new foods to try, and new things to do. However, there are other stages of living in a new country that are not so pleasant. The purpose of this blog post is to help prepare you for your move. It might also help you if you have already moved and are experiencing sadness from being away from home.

If you know that there are different phases of culture shock, this might help you know that this feeling is normal. After a time, things will get better.

1. Excitement - You have moved because of new work opportunities or for a better life. There are a lot of reasons why people move. When you first arrive, you may be so busy unpacking and getting your new home or apartment set up, that you are too busy to think about anything else. You want to learn about this new place that you will be calling "home" for a while.

2. Frustration - You may be using a new language and simple tasks such as going to the store or going out to eat provide new challenges. You might understand parts of conversations at work, but you don't have enough language skills to be able to add anything to the conversation quickly. Then you realize every day is going to be like this for a while. You might wonder why you ever moved to begin with. You might feel that you should have stayed in your home country. You might start to feel some sadness and even deep sadness for a long time (depression).

3. Adjustment - You start to have a routine of things you do every day or every week to keep you busy. You start to see familiar faces and maybe even make a few new friends. Your navigation of places to go and your routines become easier. You don't compare your home country to your new country as often. If you work, you start understanding more vocabulary and start learning common expressions and short sentences that are used often.

4. Acceptance - Even though there is no place like home, you feel comfortable in your new country. You may not understand why people do what they do in this new place, but you accept that this is what locals do. If it's time to go back home, you might even feel sad about leaving because you now actually like your current home and have made some friends.

Tips for overcoming culture shock:

1. If you live in the United States where there isn't much public transportation, get a driver's license. This will enable you to find new places to go and more things to do in your free time.

2. Take English classes. Learn everyday English sentences or take a business English class. This will help make your everyday life easier. This is also a good way to get to know other people who are new to the United States.

3. Be patient. Learning a new language is a lot of work. You may not learn as fast as you want to, but don't quit.

4. Try to find things to do every day or every week that you can look forward to.

5. Get plenty of sleep. Everyone feels better when they have enough rest. It is easier to have a good attitude anywhere in the world if you get at least seven hours of sleep.

6. Eat healthy food. If you get sick, being away from home will be more difficult. Try to stay healthy to avoid getting sick.

7. Talk with friends and family using e-mail, Skype, Line, or WhatsApp. These days, it is much easier to stay in contact with people you know than ever before.