German and English

Tweet German-speaking friends are visiting us. Their vocabularies, cultural knowledge, and structural command of English are impressive, and we speak together fluently. This afternoon we worked on the little bit of accent that remains in my friend’s English speech.  It involves voicing the “g” of “German” or of “joy,” and getting used to pronouncing “th.” […]

Linguistics helps me teach Chinese speakers

Tweet My linguistics background is particularly useful when teaching my Stevens Institute of Technology class of 14 Chinese, 1 Saudi, and 1 Iranian graduate students. The class is called English Communication because the arriving students have studied English for years and could not be called Second Language Learners.  They arrive in the U.S. for a […]

Teaching pronunciation

Tweet I am teaching a class of Chinese students (plus one Saudi Arabian and one Iranian).  They are graduate students who have all studied English for many years, and perhaps were under the impression that they spoke English when they arrived on our shores. They were rudely greeted by professors who gave incomprehensible lectures, and […]

Find the Subject and Verb – “this” and “there” developments

Tweet In previous posts I wrote about Subject-Verb mismatches when a clause intervenes, and when a prepositional phrase intervenes. There is another, perhaps more pernicious, form of mismatching, the There is malformation.  This has become widespread not only in my students’ papers, but on television, in political speeches, and in print articles. Here are some examples […]

New online dictionary available — free

Tweet Collins has published a new dictionary which has several useful features.  I believe it is still in beta form.  It impressed the heck out of me. 1.   Definitions, of course, and the phonetic representation of the word. 2.   A comprehensive list of synonyms and of related terms and related words. For the word “beat,” for […]

Minimal pairs

Tweet One assignment for my mostly-Chinese ESL class was to transcribe the words of the song “Danny Boy” from a Youtube clip.  The results were fascinating both for the way they constructed meaning out of the sporadic hints they gleaned from the clip, and for the way they created words out of similar hints. One […]

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 […]

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 […]

Sometimes speed matters

Tweet We should not undervalue phonetics and phonology in the study of language, though most teachers concentrate on reading and writing. Having timed exercises can place knowledge in what an athlete or a dancer would call “muscle memory,” that is, the athlete or dancer doesn’t think before acting — it comes automatically.  The calisthenics of […]

Ghoti – a common English word

Tweet Obviously, the way to pronounce “gh” sounds like “f” — examples; rough, enough, tough. Obviously, the way to pronounce “o” sounds like “i” — example: women. Obviously, the way to pronounce “ti” sounds like “sh” — examples:  nation, emotion Put them all together and you have — FISH. Tracing the reasons why “ghoti” does […]