Teaching English as a Second Language

Problems with multilingualism

Tweet Karina is from Prague and spoke Czech in her family growing up. She attended high school in Frankfurt and speaks accent-free German. She now lives in Vienna and she and her husband are raising their children bilingual – Czech and German.  She spent her junior high school year in Maine and speaks almost perfect […]

Student comments

Tweet At the end of every semester, students are asked to write a reflection.  For the first freshman course, it is to reflect on one of the principles of good writing they learned, and in the second freshman course, they are to reflect on something they read which touched or interested them. Marios was in […]

Slowing down the class

Tweet Research has shown (as if we needed much research to know this!) that some students process questions slower than others.  This may be for a variety of reasons, among them that the student may be an introvert or shy, or may be a detailed thinker who wants to pause over certain parts of a […]

Naming baby

Tweet My friend Pamela Satran has a delightful blog called Nameberry which is a treasure trove about peoples’ first names, in American culture. As illustrated below, it would be of limited use elsewhere. When my children were born, their father didn’t want any of the usual names and, since he was Australian, went searching in an […]

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 […]

What’s a Teacher to Do?

Tweet A common mistake made by my students is using “everyday” instead of “every day.” One (everyday) is an adjective, as in “That is an everyday concern of mine.”  The other is a noun modified by an adjective, as in “Every day I brush my teeth.” I thought my analysis was undeniably correct until I […]

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 […]

Food as a cultural marker

Tweet My friend Lillian is a Chinese-American chef who has been living in China for the past few years. She has seen more of the country than most native Chinese as she has traveled from restaurant to restaurant, market to market, farm to farm, tea plantation to tea plantation. She is planning to write a […]

The jumbled-up conditional, er, modals

Tweet My French textbook, French Reference Grammar (1993), has an index entry for the “conditional,” and in the section devoted to it, calls it “the mood of verbs tied to a condition.” My Greek grammar, Greek: A Comprehensive Grammar of the Modern Language (1997) also has a section on the conditional mood. My English grammar, […]

The not so mysterious disappearance of the past perfect

Tweet One of the cardinal virtues of good writing is clarity, and proper use of verb tenses is crucial to clarity. Since most students have never been informed of their purpose, or form, they trudge around in a swamp of verb tenses, using them arbitrarily without controlling them. The past perfect (the “had + past participle” […]