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!

TED’s 30th anniversary + TOP 10 moments for women in TED

The article below was published on Glamour, March 5th 2014. Here it goes:

Today, TED announced that Charmian Gooch, an anti-corruption activist who cofounded the watchdog organization Global Witness, is this year’s winner of the $1 million TED Prize. (Gooch will explain on March 18 how, specifically, she will use the money to make her “wish” for the world a reality.) You can watch her incredible TED talk—and read through her detailed annotations—on ted.com. But that’s just one of many TED talks given by women that have inspired us. To celebrate Gooch’s win, and TED’s 30th anniversary (yes, TED turns 30 this year!), we asked Anna Verghese, deputy director of the TED Prize, to curate the top 10 moments for women in TED that we all need to see.

TED-Prize-Charmian-Gooch-Anna-Verghese
2014 TED Prize Winner Charmian Gooch (left), and TED Prize Deputy Director Anna Verghese (right)

“There are now more than 1,700 TED talks—”ideas worth spreading”—available online, many of them by badass women,” Verghese told Glamour. “I’m honored to make recommendations of just 10 of the many talks, from scientists to artists, writers to leaders, that have made me feel smarter and more prepared to take on the world in just 18 minutes or less.” Watch a few to get through the afternoon slump at work, or take ’em all in later. We guarantee you’ll be inspired!

Sheryl Sandberg: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders 


“This is the talk that preceded [Lean In],” says Verghese. “[It’s] a great, unconventional, persuasive take on the way that women take themselves out of the running for leadership positions.”

Chimamanda Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story


“The young Nigerian author gives a beautiful, elegant, and at times hilarious talk about the danger of believing a single, narrow story about anything or anyone,” says Verghese. “My favorite anecdote: When she arrived at college in the U.S., her roommate asked to hear some of her ‘tribal music.’ Chimamanda pulled out a Mariah Carey CD.”

Amy Cuddy: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are


“An essential talk for all young women! Cuddy is a psychologist and Harvard Business School professor who explains how our posture and body language shape not only how others see us but how we see ourselves,” says Verghese.

Leymah Gbowee: Unlock the Intelligence, Passion, Greatness of Girls

“The Nobel Prize winner from Liberia shares powerful stories about the unlocked potential of girls worldwide, who are still far from [being] treated as equal citizens,” says Verghese.

Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

“This blockbuster talk came out of one of our TEDx events in Houston,” says Verghese. “Brené’s take on vulnerability—and why it’s essential to our relationships and to our success—has won her millions of fans worldwide.”

Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius


“The author of Eat, Pray, Love offers unconventional advice on how to nurture your own creativity,” says Verghese. “Her advice: Take some pressure off yourself, but never stop creating.”

Courtney Martin: Reinventing Feminism


“A beautifully heartfelt talk, she describes the three paradoxes that define her generation’s question to define the term [feminism] for themselves,” says Verghese.

Angela Patton: A Father-Daughter Dance…in Prison


“The is the amazing and moving story of a group of preteen girls who organized a father-daughter dance in the prison where their fathers were incarcerated,” says Verghese. “I wept.”

Jill Bolte Taylor: My Stroke of Insight 


“Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is a neuroscientist who observed her own stroke as it was happening. This is one of the most popular TED talks of all time,” says Verghese.

Cynthia Breazeal: The Rise of Personal Robots

This MIT professor “talks about her love of robots—which began when she saw Star Wars as a girl (R2D2!)—and new kind of intelligent, personal robots she designs,” says Verghese.

Did any of your favorite TED talks by women not make this list? Do you love one of the talks Verghese selected? Share your top picks in the comments below!
Photos: James Duncan Davidson (Gooch); Mike Femia (Verghese); videos courtesy of TED
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Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ GLOBAL, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ TED, ■ Women

ELT Workshops to Remember – Whether in English or a Language You Do Not Yet Master

Teachers of English anywhere in the world are fortunate to have access to many training sessions, conferences and workshops. They may be organised and supported by renowned ELT publishing houses, by local training institutions and sometimes by local schools and centres. In this post I would like to focus on answering the question: what makes a good ELT workshop?, and challenge other ELT professionals to join the discussion.

Two things that first come to mind are the applicability of the content presented and the trainers’ charismatic presence, both of which have managed, time and time again, to anchor relevant pieces of information to my long-term memory.

Let’s look at some examples.  Earlier this year, close to 6 months ago, to be precise, I attended coursebook writer Leslie Anne Hendra’s workshop, Shaking Up Grammar – A Goals- and Context-based Approach.  The quality that I noticed and appreciated about her right away was her ability to deliver a wide range of ELT ideas in a very natural, logical, and, for this very reason, a very accessible way. Listening to her was entertaining, yet not overbearing, and the pacing of her discourse was very well-timed. I still remember tidbits from her speech like:

“context is king, queen, and the whole royal family”, “the importance of re-contextualising” into pretty much anything you want (as long as these re-contextualisations serve the purpose of what you planned to teach), some examples of “voice savers”, the idea that “not every use is functional” and that we should strive to look for what is “real” when teaching, because what is real always has the strongest impact. I also enjoyed hearing her say something along the lines of: “I’d like to see the passive return to conversation.” I see the passive here as only one possible example of many others it could be replaced by. It is all up to the teacher or the aware English language speakers to decide. 

Whenever I have the opportunity to attend workshops like Ms Leslie Anne Hendra’s, I am reminded of the worthiness of learning from people who have decided not only to constantly turn their experience into an advantage at their jobs on a daily basis,  but who are also willing to share their knowledge with others and take the time to record the best of that experience in writing, in the form of articles, coursebooks or other ELT materials for future use. In an era in which the future of English language bears the brunt of so much misuse and linguistic over- and under-evaluation in the street as well as in the classroom, I read such fortunate encounters like the one provided by Mrs Hendra’s workshop as a positive sign that things are heading toward a bright rather than a dark future for language teaching in general and for English language in particular.

A more recent example is the series of 3 workshops organised in Krakow on November 17 by PASE under the heading of   Kapelusze Lektora, for teachers of English and other subjects. I decided to attend these workshops in spite of the fact that they were going to be delivered in Polish, a language I do understand, but am, however, far from having mastered yet.

During the talk I had with the two trainers at the end of the workshops – which was in English, by the way -, they were curious to know how much I did understand of what they conveyed and which language I took notes in. To their surprise (and my own, truth be told), I confirmed that I did, in fact understand the gist of each of their workshops. I answered that I took notes in English for the most part, while also jotting down words that I wasn’t sure about or wanted to remember – thanks to the colleague next to me, kind enough to help me with their translation (like “nawyki”, “namowic/przekonac”, “moje przekonania”, “mozliwe do osiegniecia”, “miec wyplyw”, “zdolny” and a few others like “haki” 🙂 – the Polish version of the English “hooks”).

Obviously, I attributed my general understanding of the workshop content to that instinctive type of linguistic understanding that anyone aware of the language of his/her community can develop – after a long-enough time, but, apart from that, I had to reaffirm my belief that people who share similar values, guidelines and views on at least a few topics – like certain psychological approaches to teaching in the case of these workshops, are able to communicate and will reach common ground regardless of linguistic differences. Non-verbal language, the attitude and the “vibe” of the trainer may seem to be the main resorts in such cases, but, fortunately for me, they weren’t the only ones.

I enjoyed the two workshops led by Ms Magda Kidybinska. 

The content of the first reminded me of concepts like celebrating success (which was also discussed at the last workshop led by Ms Aldona Serewa), making the best of the student’s potential, activating leadership, demonstrating integrity, embracing  diversity, enjoying participation, striving for excellence, as well as learning from mistakes and acting in a sustainable manner, concepts I came across in the NGO called AIESEC, 

 which is the organisation that had originally sent me to Poland back in 2006, when I started my cooperation with the Jagiellonian Language Centre.

At the second workshop led by the same trainer I enjoyed the most the resources, tips and activities meant to involve our right brain hemisphere, the discussion on the meanings and understanding of naivete, and the borderline differences between extroverts and introverts or between objectivity and extreme creativity. Throughout the two workshops, the trainer won us over with her charisma and energy. I particularly appreciated her use  of intonation and voice dynamics when addressing us. These are two qualities that I have always appreciated in speakers – trainers and teachers included. 

 Impressive results can be achieved through big, as well as small steps. Kaizen, the Japanese technique of achieving great and lasting success through small, steady steps, inspired the first part of Ms Aldona Serewa’s workshop and led to a very enjoyable and relaxed delivery pace, that allowed for questions to be asked and discussed at any point for the duration of the workshop.

I appreciated the visual aids, case studies and references the trainer included in her workshop, that concluded the Kapelusze Lektora series of the day. I was particularly pleased with her comments on the issue of trust in language learning, and felt that they complemented the previous trainer’s ideas on the topic expressed earlier that day.

 The issue of trust is one of utmost importance, that needs to be approached by any teacher interested in creating a suitable rapport with his students, namely a rapport that fosters and encourages the students’ freedom of expressing ideas in a new language past mistakes and linguistic inaccuracies, or in simpler terms, past the fear of “getting it wrong”. 

Establishing trust, along with establishing mutual respect, should be one of the goals teachers set from the very beginning of the learning process. All the more so if the teacher is interested in pursuing creative paths like what I like to call the metaphor path and try to push the learning towards “aha” moments and long-term language acquisition.

To give an example mentioned by one of the speakers, there are situations in which a creative teacher may start working with a group of students who are not particularly creative and/or not particularly interested in any creative approaches to teaching, who rely mostly on structures and rules, and have a more or less difficult time accepting linguistic exceptions, not to mention anything else that falls out of the strict outlines of their books or courses.

With such students, who may even happen to be adults in positions of authority, CEOs and the like, who rely on their analytical, left brain hemisphere rather than the more creative right brain hemisphere, the teacher has to gradually build up a creativity platform for the students to use during classes, so that they gain a sense of comfort in being creative instead of being frustrated at not coming up with ideas or not really understanding what is expecting from them on a creative level.

The progression may involve strategies like a gradual change from closed, yes/no questions to more open ones, with suggested answers at first. The teacher may choose any strategy he or she considers suitable, including switching roles or hats – to use the workshop headline and inspiration 🙂 – from a facilitator or the students’ “best friend” to a more authoritarian figure of the person in the know, able, knowledgeable and competent to share knowledge in areas uncovered or less known by the students.

With practice, the search for the best teaching strategies as they pertain to individual groups will become shorter and easier. A useful piece of advice here may be: keep changing roles, robes or hats until you get the winning outfit. 🙂

All in all, the pairing of the two trainers was a very good choice, so I feel that congratulations are in order at this point. Apart from the ideas, theories and resources presented, the underlying concept guiding and motivating each of the three workshops was the basic idea of giving, the sharing of knowledge and the expectation of positive outcomes to the benefit of both teachers and students. Last but not least, my thanks go out to the Kliny English Courses director for supporting my, and two other colleagues’ participation in this workshop.  

Filed under: 0►TRUST, 1►LISTEN▼, 1►TO DO, ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Giving, ■ Inspiration, ■ Kapelusze Lektora, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The Path of Metaphor, ►META PHORS▼

Back to School

Catching up with old colleagues, summer plans and post-summer thoughts for the future, all while meeting the new-comers, getting your schedule set. Truly, September is all about getting back into business, regardless of whether you’re a teacher or a student.  Top that with some yummie pizzas, a view of the Siberian Ural Mountains and their beautifully peaceful lakes, and a presentation about the use of “Ah!” suspense in teaching and there you have it, the beginning of a new year. There are still a few days before I’m going to meet my new Kliny students, which, everybody knows, is when the real fun begins, so, in the meantime, I’m off picking up some remarkable brains at the conferences and workshops that never seem to let the teaching community down in the busy month of that same old cloudy September.  At the workshop artfully led by Mr Gregorz Spiewak today, we slalomed past eight suspense-filled activities that opened new trails to more creative lesson content and filled our inspiration baggage with thoughts like 1000 ways to fill in these gaps:

“The world is controlled by (1)……………….. (let’s say: teachers) with the help of (2)………………. (maybe, an arsenal of pedagogical purposes, why not?)…” and so on.

Joking aside, and there WAS a lot of laughter we gave in to today, my favourite activity was the so-called “mental” dictation, which can be used to reconstruct images such as a famous painting of your liking. What you have to do is make sure you keep this painting of your choosing a secret until the very end, while spoon-feeding the students descriptive sentences only, one  after the next, asking them to imagine and possibly add more visual details to them, progressively. This activity reminded me of a little experiment of one of my University literary theory professors’. At one of our lectures I and my colleagues were asked to describe the sweet little Red Riding Hood. How does she look? Hmm, she’s tiny, wears braids or one pony-tail, she might be blonde, red- or even dark-haired. We were speculating on various possibilities until we soon enough realised  what the point of the exercise, or experiment, as you may wish to call it, actually was. You’ve guessed, it’s the “imagining” part that is the most important, and this is an utterly personal experience, different with every reader.  This, my friends, is the beauty of reading. From experience, I can say the same about reading your own writings – more on the topic later,  here and there. The musing and sense of wonder remains, that’s a given.       

What’s next on my brain-picking list? The very interesting workshops at the ELT Pearson Conference scheduled tomorrow – see the scheduled activities below, movie treat included! 

 10:30 – 11:30

              Speak Out! Successful Communication in the Classroom, Robert Dean

 12:00 – 13:00 Grammar Practice is Boring – or is it?, Daniel Brayshaw
 13:30 – 15:30    

Cinema treat, where we’ll be watching:

Rebecca Hall-Led Chiller’s “The Awakening”

Haunted by the death of the fiancé, Florence spends her time debunking supernatural claims, using methodical and rational explanations to disprove the notion that the dead can still haunt us. She feels compelled to accept a request to go to Rookwood, a boarding school in the countryside where a boy has recently been found dead and rumours about a ghostly boy haunting the school are causing panic amongst pupils and parents alike.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms

and the ELTea MASTERS IN ACTION Conference recommended and organised by Mr Grzegorz Spiewak himself, and the DOS Training Solutions team this coming Sunday in Krakow. 

ELTea Masters in Action autumn 2012 – to mark the start of the new school year, we are bringing the very best that Canada has to offer the world ELT: the one and only Ken Lackman, with a practical-ideas-packed programme on teaching vocabulary. Totally unmissable! 

 Brain picking, anyone? Some herbal ELTea, maybe?

Filed under: 1►LISTEN▼, 1►TO DO, 2►READ, ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Talks & Conferences

Food – Then and Now

Today’s lecture on Food in Biblical Times delivered by Janna Gur, author of “The Book of New Israeli Food” and editor-in-chief of one of the leading culinary monthlies in Israel, was a wonderful source of discoveries and confirmations as to what we regard today as staples in our local cuisine, 

 whether we think about our home country or the country we live in.


Many of the vegetables we use today (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, sweet potatoes and any kind of potatoes, as a matter of fact, or even oranges) were not used by the ancient cuisine of Biblical times for the simple reason they did not exist at that time. Tomatoes only found their way to those land in the 15th century. What were the vegetables used in Biblical times? They were mainly green vegetables similar to what we know today as cucumbers, along with cabbage, lettuce, watermelons, garlic and leek.  Most of these were considered luxuries and were consumed mostly by the wealthy, who could afford to have a vegetable garden. There were also several kinds of wild veggies that were available at large, which everyone, especially the poor, could use as food.

An interesting fact I discovered was that the ancestor of wheat has been discovered to originate in Israel, which gives credit to the equating of bread with food, in general, in the Bible.

Wheat and barley were therefore among the staple foods in Biblical times, along with oil and wine. Back then people would always drink their wine with water, as they believed that water was purified by the addition of wine. This was the top 3 most important staples then, and I believe it continues to be today. 

The fruits of the land that the ancient region of Israel was renowned for were the following 7: barley, wheat, wine (vines), figs, pomegranates, olives and dates or honey. To this day, dates are used to create a type of honey which has become increasingly popular in the Arab countries in comparison to the bee honey we are more familiar with in Europe. The molasses made of dates has also been a well-known sweetener over the ages.

Another interesting information concerns the identity of the forbidden fruit that is never specifically mentioned in the Bible. You might say, well, it was the apple. You might be surprised to know that historians think that the fig or the pomegranate make for more suitable candidates. If you have ever seen a pomegranate garden, you might agree with their theory.

The 4 best known spices of the Biblical times must have been pepper corn, salt, cinnamon and cumin. As far as herbs are concerned, dill coriander, mint and a wild herb in the oregano/thyme family were the most popular.

Dairy products and meat posed serious conservation problems. They were more frequently used by shepherds than farmers and one person’s intake of meat counted an average of 4 times per year.

Last but not least, Michelangelo went wrong when he seated Jesus and his apostles at the long, rectangular table in his depiction of the Last Supper. According to historians and reputed researchers, they must have reclined (not sat) along a U-shaped table that was popular back then.  Reclining was an attribute, a sign of social standing and a symbol of liberation – slaves could not recline. The menu might have included lamb roasted on sticks over hot coals in a pit served with bitter herbs, unleavened bread, and wine. 

I’m looking forward to Janna Gur’s next lectures during the Jewish Festival this week, that will further explore the historical, religious and cultural contexts of the cuisine of the times when the Bible came into being. 

 In the July issue of the Travel + Leisure magazine there is an article by Peter Jon Lindberg on The World’s Strangest Supermarket Items that gives an interesting perspective on contemporary food items. I invite you to read it and decide on your personal favourites. 

Wherever I travel, I’m pretty much consumed with eating. If I’m not eating, I’m probably looking for food. And when I’m not looking for food, you’ll likely find me looking at food, perusing the shelves of a local supermarket. Sightseeing? There’s no finer. Plus, you get to eat the sights. The Monoprix is my Louvre, Tesco my British Museum.

If one of the perks of travel is the chance to observe foreigners in their natural habitats—unguarded and wholly themselves—there are few better vantages than the corner grocery. No one postures in a supermarket; no one pretends to be someone else. (I once followed David Bowie around a Whole Foods in Manhattan. This was both more and less interesting than you’d think.) Under those too-bright fluorescents, we are all equalized and exposed, our appetites and eccentricities laid bare. You can learn a lot about a culture by watching it shop for groceries. It’s like sneaking into a nation’s house and rifling through the fridge.

At home the supermarket is the most mundane environment you know. Transfer that environment to an unfamiliar setting and our differences come into relief. At first it all seems boringly normal: the same motion-activated doors, whining toddlers, and treacly Muzak you’d find at your neighborhood Stop & Shop. But look closer and you begin to notice: something’s off. Milk in bags. Unrefrigerated eggs. Blatantly racist cartoon characters used to sell rice. Cucumber Pepsi. Hamburger chewing gum. Myrrh-flavored toothpaste. (Alas, no frankincense deodorant.) Globalization may or may not be flattening the world’s tastes, but all manner of regional quirks are still on display at foreign supermarkets. A walk down the aisle reveals the extraordinary range, and geographic particularity, of human cravings—for cephalopod-flavored potato chips (right there with you, Japan!), black-currant-flavored anything (good on you, Britain!), or rank-smelling durian fruit (you’re on your own, Southeast Asia!).

Browsing in supermarkets is also a fine way to hone foreign-language skills. The shelves are basically one long menu-reader, complete with handy illustrations. Let’s see…mulethi must be Hindi for “licorice,” berenjena is obviously Spanish for “eggplant,” and cavallo seems to be Italian for “horsemeat.” (Wait—horsemeat? That’s sick, Italy. Sick!)

Grocery stores offer a window not just onto the culture and cuisine at hand but onto that culture’s taste for othercuisines. Who’d have guessed that the Swiss have a jones for Mexican food? That Australians are mad for Malaysian? That Japan is obsessed with French pastry? It’s also curious-making to see which of our own foods have made the leap overseas. In Europe, high-end food shops stock “gourmet” imports from the U.S., which typically means Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Old El Paso taco sauce, and B&M Baked Beans. Do any Americans still eat B&M Baked Beans? Europeans think we do.

Some travelers go to supermarkets just to laugh at the inadvertently funny labels—your Bimbo-brand bread (Mexico), your Barf laundry detergent (Iran), your Jussipussi dinner rolls (Finland). Yet the packaging can also be seriously beautiful. In Denmark even the dish soap looks elegant; a tin of Spanish tuna could take your breath away. The best foreign groceries double as surveys of graphic design. I have a Neo-Constructivist can of borscht, purchased at a Perekrestok in Moscow, displayed on my living room mantel. But I’m weird like that. My collection of international novelty foods may soon outnumber the actual foods-for-eating in my pantry. I suppose in a really bad blizzard I could finally bust open the decade-old Laotian fish paste, though I’ll hold out as long as I can. That tube is really something.

When it comes to food packaging, few countries can compete with Japan, whose supermarkets are a wonderland of vibrant logos, kooky names, and cute (if occasionally creepy) mascots. Everything is packaged like sugar-charged breakfast cereal, even the bonito flakes; you’d think only children shopped for groceries there. Yet I know plenty of adults who queue up at Tokyo conbini stores to buy each seasonal Kit Kat bar on the day of its release: chestnut in autumn, candied potato in winter, cherry blossom in spring, and 200-odd other flavors throughout the year.

Of course there’s only so much cheese-and-fish sausage you can leer at without becoming utterly ravenous, which is another benefit of foreign grocery stores: they are the visual aperitif, the mental amuse-bouche that presages your next meal. Nothing fires an appetite like a stroll through the supermarket, especially if it’s really, really huge. The rule at home is never to shop for groceries hungry, but abroad I’d never do otherwise. By the end of a trip half my suitcase is filled with groceries. Indeed, some of my all-time favorite foods and ingredients were found—by sheer luck—in far-flung supermarkets: Marie Sharp’s Hot Sauce, from Belize; Laxmi-brand dal from India; Capilano honey from Australia; Amora mustard from France; Yancanelo olive oil from Argentina. Drizzling that oil on a ripe tomato takes me out of my Brooklyn kitchen and straight back to Buenos Aires.

If U.S. Customs would let me, I’d fill a whole other suitcase with yogurt. The entire world appreciates yogurt more than we do; it is the soccer of food. Seriously—walk into any overseas market, go to the (never-less-than-vast) yogurt section, and buy the first brand you see. I guarantee it will blow your mind. And it comes in a little glass jar or a dainty ceramic pot! That you get to keep! For the frustrated American yogurt lover, this all seems patently unfair.

It’s not just about food, either. The pharmacy section is always a treasure trove of horse-tranquilizer-size malaria tablets, jars of “milking jelly” (for cows, not humans), vials of “lung tonic,” and a bunch of other potions and elixirs you never knew existed. (And I’m sure the FDA would like to keep it that way.) Buying medical products abroad is risky, though, since the packaging is usually so inscrutable you have no clue what you’re buying—could be antacid, could be oven cleaner. Maybe both. Traveling in Borneo years ago I came down with a nasty chest cold; at a Kuching supermarket the pharmacist sold me a bottle of cough syrup that I swear was 60 percent deet. Upside: I was cured in 40 minutes.

Regional peculiarities aside, our planet is undeniably shrinking, and foreign treats are increasingly available in our hometown markets or, more so, online. Whether we’ve really gained from this is unclear, but it’s true that something—a certain thrill—has been diminished. Back in my Anglophilic youth I visited London once a year, and my first stop was always at the local Tesco, where I’d buy sackfuls of the things I couldn’t yet find back home: Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles, Walkers pickled-onion potato crisps, Ribena black-currant juice, Flake bars, Crunchie bars, Lion bars, Batchelors Mushy Peas (I ate them straight from the can), and, most coveted of all, McVitie’s Dark Chocolate Hobnobs (“the nobbly oaty biscuit”!). The latter became a real problem for me for a while, as I would beg and pester any U.K.-bound acquaintance to please please PLEASE pick me up a dozen packets of Hobnobs here’s a £50 note and an extra suitcase please PLEASE don’t forget I love them so.Friends learned to stop telling me their travel plans.

Years later, when imported Hobnobs suddenly materialized at a yuppie grocery near my Brooklyn apartment—selling for three times the U.K. price—I briefly worried that I might go broke and corpulent from eating cookies 24/7. Turns out the novelty wore off quick. A Hobnob in any other country, I discovered, was simply not as sweet.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Food & Travel, ■ Israel, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The Jewish Festival in Krakow, ■ Travel +Leisure Magazine, ►FESTIVALS & EVENTS▼

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

3-DAY SUMMIT & TED

Women in the World Conference

March 12 – 14, 2010, New York City


Take a look at who‘s attending this conference and watch the latest video cheat sheets.

As women from around the world gather in New York today for the Daily Beast’s three-day summit, Tina Brown describes how their individual stories of courage and resourcefulness gave her a new passion for making change.

Read more here.


TED

Visit this site if you want to enjoy watching riveting talks by remarkable people, free of charge.

TED is a wonderful resource, full of tips for all of you who would like to improve their speaking skills in order to deliver excellent presentations. Choose a favourite topic or a favourite speaker, listen & learn!

I would like to thank Przemek Banka for sharing this link.

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ Talks & Conferences

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