September, 2011

Pronouncing English

Tweet If a person is not introduced to a language’s structure as a baby, the language will not be instinctual. The structure of the brain changes as children age, and in babies there is a particular constellation of emotions which attach to certain sounds, and that changes rapidly. After a certain age, language enters through […]

Grammar in an ESL versus an American class

Tweet Teaching ESL and writing at the same time is illuminating, to say the least. While the American writing student mentioned in a previous post could not pick out the subject and verb of a sentence, ESL students can do that easily, since they learn English as a second language and cannot approach it through […]

A confession

Tweet What do you do when a college freshman, who has passed the required classes and tests to get into college, says the Subject of the sentence, After being forced to look into a deeper meaning I realized how that one little factor could alter your mood, is “mood?”  (Please ignore the other problems with […]

The World Language

Tweet We need a world language. It greases the wheels of commerce, education, science, medicine, and even Rock ‘n Roll. At the moment that language is English. Dennis Baron’s recent blog posting provides his usual interesting take on this situation: The future may involve the development of new languages as English mingles with Japanese, […]

Idiom translator

Tweet For people studying other languages, there is a new site which translates idioms,  I find that reviewing the literal translations of idioms in other languages curls the mind. I entered, “You can’t have it both ways” and got the following responses: Meaning in English: you cannot achieve inherently contradictory goals   Chinese:  魚和熊掌不可兼得 Literal […]

Language, morality, and philosophy

Tweet Noam Chomsky writes in Language and Thought, that “some of our worst contemporary muddles are due to the general neglect of language as an instrument of thought.”  This holds true particularly in the area of moral and political thought. What is a “person?” Mississippi is about to vote on whether a zygote is a […]

Evaluating students’ work

Tweet It is the beginning of a new semester, and I have to evaluate the initial work of students to see if they are properly placed. It took a week in my ESL class to discover that two students should be in a more advanced class. The key was not in the students (who welcomed […]


Tweet My linguistics professor once posed the question, “What is an idea?” I must admit that I am still unsure. There is a complex process which occurs between thinking something and speaking or writing it. When we speak, we have not taken the time to figure out exactly what we think beforehand. The American Heritage […]

September 11th, 9-11, 9/11 – Words from our worst day

Tweet We still are not sure how to refer to that awful day — is it “nine eleven” or “September 11th?” As a society, we’re still vacillating. In 2001, 9-11 (or equivalents) was the Word of the Year, according to the American Dialect Society. In 2002, it was Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). What do […]

American pronunciation

Tweet I am teaching an ESL classes at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey this term, and am having great fun introducing American English to speakers of other languages; in this case, mostly Chinese and Malay, with two Arabic speakers and one Portuguese speaker. Our next class will be on the phonetics of […]