The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Introducing Sarah Kay

Hit play on this TED video to witness a spoken word performance delivered by a talented and enthusiastic spoken word poet.

Should it intrigue you into wanting to know more about her work and interests, I recommend visiting her site, Kay, Sarah (sera).

I found her site refreshing, the perfect image of Action, a place where no words are wasted. Her performance, on the other hand, brings forth an emotional flux of ideas in simple yet powerful words. That is why action and words are, in Sarah’s case, a perfect match. Remarkable. A worthy stop for any English learner.

Enjoy the video and discover your own response to what you hear and see, a response in action and words. It doesn’t have to be spoken out loud or commented on. It suffices if it  speak for itself, whatever the language.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Happiness, ■ Leadership, ■ Spoken Word Poetry, ■ Talks & Conferences, ►META PHORS▼

“Where are you?”

According to a study mentioned by Eric Weiner in his TED talk held in Bucharest last year, this is the question that comes up, in various forms, in 80% of all phone conversations.

Here are some more points Eric Weiner makes in his talk that you can watch below.

The quality of a society is more important

than your place in it.

(from The World Database of Happiness)

There are more words to describe unhappy states of mind than happy ones,” as a result of which new words are necessary, like the one he coins in order to describe the Swiss: conjoyment (contentment + enjoyment).

Better to fail for the right reasons than to succeed for the wrong ones.

(heard from an Icelandic)

Should more countries use the GNH (the gross national happiness policy in use in Bhutan) to supplement the GDP (gross domestic product)?

Happiness is 100% relational.

(heard from a Bhutanese)

The genuine smile of the Thai is in their eyes.

Beware of the fact that “You think too much“; it may come against your happiness.

What would you conclude after reading all of the above?

To answer the question in the title, I am now in Poland, in the beautiful city of Krakow. Do I currently live in a society I am pleased with? Is it any different than the society I was raised in? Are there happier places for me to be in? Not entirely – and I am thinking again of the Polandia series of interviews that show Poland through the eyes of foreigners of different ages, races, and religions; not really, with the note that living in a foreign country allows me to choose freely my version of reality within its borders, which I like; and probably.

I believe  that happiness happens. Most often unconsciously. It fills us with that beautiful, inexplicable joy that comes out from within to meet the happiness that lies outside ourselves (in people’s eyes, in smiles and first times), and in that meeting the feeling, the memory and the future of happiness that stay with us are born.

Do I have the words to describe happiness or the lack of it? Of course! Do they come easy? They rarely do. That’s why we cherish finding the voice of happiness. That’s why people sing, invent songs, write prose and poetry, or find themselves in other people’s words – a few among so many ways of being happy.

Eric Weiner’s advice: crush envy, do NOT win the lottery, get connected, lower your expectations, and, best of all, in my opinion,

approach happiness sideways.

More about Eric Weiner:

Eric Weiner is a long-time correspondent for the National Public Radio (NPR) and author of the book “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World”.
For as long as he can remember Eric Weiner wanted to be a foreign correspondent. So he could hardly believe his good fortune when, one day in 1993, NPR dispatched him to India as the network’s first full-time correspondent in that country. Weiner spent two of the best years of his life based in New Delhi, covering everything from an outbreak of bubonic plague to India’s economic reforms, before moving on to other postings in Jerusalem and Tokyo.

Over the past decade, he’s reported from more than 30 countries, most of them profoundly unhappy. He traveled to Iraq several times during the reign of Saddam Hussein and he was in Afghanistan in 2001, when the Taliban regime fell.

He’s also served as a correspondent for NPR in New York, Miami and Washington. D.C. Weiner is a former reporter for The New York Times and was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. He was part of a team of NPR reporters that won a 1994 Peabody award for a series of investigative reports about the U.S. tobacco industry.

His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Slate and The New Republic, among other publications. After travelling the world, he has settled, quasi-happily, in the Washington area, where he divides his time between his living room and his kitchen.

His book, The Geography of Bliss, is a travelogue of ideas in search of answers to some pressing questions: What are the essential ingredients for the good life? Why are some places happier than others? How are we shaped by our surroundings? Why can’t airlines serve a decent meal?

At TEDxBucharest 2010 Eric Weiner talks about what really makes us happy and where exactly we should think about moving to.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Geo. of Bliss, ■ Happiness, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The World, ■ Travel

The English Teachers’ Oath

Hmm… Do teachers need an oath? I invite you to meditate on this topic for a little while, read the real-life example below, and think about the topic a little more… Yes, I know, this can turn into a never-ending personal meditation work! 🙂 One of the risks that come with the job…

Bob Obee's oath for exam teachers

Bob Obee's oath for exam teachers, wherever and whoever they are

I took this picture on March 12, at an IELTS conference.  It shows an excellent example of an oath and its author, IELTS exam teacher and author Bob Obee. I would like to thank him for allowing me to share his oath on this blog. Give it a read and see if you would say it as a teacher. If so, raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I, the exam teacher, shall do my utmost to engage you with language through and around the exam and to train you in all the aspects, shedding light into its darkest corners… and thereby enhancing your accuracy, dexterity and fluency in English and above all I shall do no harm.

Filed under: ■ Teachers' Oath, ■ The World

Between Living for the Eye and Living for the Soul

The profile of Grace Coddington is the profile of a visually imaginative genius, and this month’s Intelligent Life cover story stands to prove it.  I warmly recommend this article now available online, as an unusual look into the world of fashion through the eyes of the passionate yet charmingly shy creative director of American Vogue. If you have the time and resources, also watch the documentary The September Issue (2009)- also reviewed in the Intelligent Life.

Who is Grace Coddington? Read more about her life and work in the March online issue of the Intelligent Life.

GRACE CODDINGTON: A LIFE IN BRIEF

1959: At 18, Grace leaves home in Anglesey, Wales, and enrols in Cherry Marshall’s modelling school in London. Norman Parkinson takes his first shots of her, at his farm in the country. “I was running naked through a wood, but it didn’t bother me. Wenda, his wife, was there, and Parks was so charming and dapper.” She wins Vogue’s Young Model competition the same year. “Ah-ha,” says Parkinson at the prize-giving tea, “you made it here! You’ll do well.”

1961: A car accident smashes her face into the driving mirror and slices off an eyelid. She endures two years of plastic surgery before returning to modelling.

1968: After six years of displaying a tendency to take over on shoots and tell stylists how to style, Grace joins British Vogue as a junior fashion editor, on a salary of £1,100 p.a. This is a quarter of what she earned as a model, but she feels it is time to move on. “All the young models come along and make you feel old standing beside them. And styling seemed like a fun, easy job—until I did it.”

1969: She marries Michael Chow at Chelsea Registry Office. Her new husband is the young, entrepreneurial owner of one of the restaurants of the moment, Mr Chow in Knightsbridge. “The restaurant was buzzing with amazing people. It was so much fun,” she says. ”But I was useless at being a restaurateur’s wife—much too shy to table-hop.” They split up after six months.

1973: Grace goes back to the young Vietnamese photographer, known as Duc, with whom she was in love before her marriage. Her sister Rosemary dies young, and Grace tries to adopt her nephew, seven-year-old Tristan, but the Welsh authorities refuse permission. “It was hardly surprising.” After breaking up with Duc she meets another apprentice photographer, Willie Christie, a rangy, rock’n’roll figure, and mentors him at Vogue.

1976: Willie and Grace marry, but “it’s difficult to be employed by your wife,” she says, and they divorce in 1980. Grace transforms herself into a business-suited, short-haired blonde—what she calls a “Calvin person”.

1980-86: At British Vogue, Grace creates a startling series of “sprawling, National Geographic-style photo essays—more than 20 pages long—in which the clothes were so smoothly integrated they barely registered as fashion photographs at all”, as the fashion writer Michael Roberts put it. In March 1986, Anna Wintour becomes editor-in-chief. Grace resigns in December: “Anna was much more into ‘sexy’ than I was.”

1987: A few months later, Grace takes a new job as design director for Calvin Klein in New York—mostly, she says, so she can spend more time with the French hairstylist Didier Malige, a long-time collaborator of hers, who was based in America. She still lives with him today.

1988: She rejoins Anna Wintour, who has now taken up the reins at American Vogue, because she misses the creative buzz of magazines. “Excitement on 7th Avenue ends with the show. The next day it’s all marketing.” Her influence grows: she becomes creative director, and by the end of the 1990s, her theatrical, narrative style is endemic in fashion photography.

2009: With her appearance in “The September Issue”, Coddington goes from a big name in a small world to a public figure. “It’s not like movie stardom,” she says. “It’s just that people feel I’m approachable. And I like talking to strangers on the subway: I’m a good listener, and sometimes miss my stop.”

Filed under: ■ Fashion, ■ Intelligent Life, ■ Leadership, ■ Photos that Speak

ROOM FOR ALL

What


do foreigners think about Poland

and

how do they feel about living in

Poland?

More info on Polandia online.

To watch one of the answers given by foreigners living in Poland click the link below:

http://wp.tv/mc707054

Filed under: ■ EU, ■ Movies, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ Poland, ■ Polandia, ■ Races, ■ The World

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