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!

ONE Word>>>ONE LANGUAGE<<<ONE Song

One effective method of learning new languages is simply listening to music sung in that language.

There is something appealing to our senses in doing that – books, magazines, movies and other sources aside. While speaking with a colleague the other day about learning new words in German by listening to music, I was struck by this internal question: what songs would I choose if I were asked to make a list of songs in English to help a foreigner learn new words and phrases. 

For starters, I would choose songs that asked life’s biggest and most common questions, questions that deal with life-long obsessions, myths and even daily reality. One of the most pervasive topics in songwriting through the generation has been oneness:

Here are three of my personal heroes in this regard, three songs that capture a universal expression of the one.

ONE WORD (Joe Cocker), which tells a beautiful story of the meanings of peace in our life – meanings both commonly understood, and also oftentimes misunderstood;

ONE LOVE (Bob Marley), which speaks of the one-ness we experience in being together and comforting each other in times of need;  and 

ONE (U2), a song about discoveries we may be led to make through the inner journey of our lifetime. For starters. 

 Take a listen while reading, if you please. The lyrics to each song are under each player.

“One Word (Peace)”

A man stands on the corner holding a sign
People yell at him as they drive by
I wonder what they read, made them so upset
I looked at the sign and all it said:

One word: Peace
In the neighborhood, peace
One word: peace
In my own backyard, peace

A man in a foreign land kneels to pray
And wonders where the bombs will fall today
Our leaders tell me to fear him you see
Love conquers all is what I believe

One word: Peace
In the neighborhood, peace
One word: peace
In my own backyard, peace

Everybody’s talking about it
Everybody’s got to have their say
But to achieve it, there is only one way
And it starts with me and the word and the word is:

Peace
In the neighborhood
One word: peace
In my own backyard
Peace
One word

One word: peace
In the neighborhood, peace
One word: peace
In my own backyard, peace

***

“One Love, One Heart”

Let’s get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying (One love)
Hear the children crying (One heart)
Sayin’ give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin’ let’s get together and feel all right

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One love)
There is one question I’d really love to ask (One heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

One love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One love)
So shall it be in the end (One heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
One more thing

Let’s get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One love)
So when the Man comes there will be no no doom (One song)
Have pity on those whose chances grove thinner
There ain’t no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin’ one love, one heart
Let’s get together and feel all right
I’m pleading to mankind (one love)
Oh Lord (one heart)

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let’s get together and feel all right

***

“One”

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same
Will it make it easier on you now
You got someone to blame
You say…

One love
One life
When it’s one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s…

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got
We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again
You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One… life

One

***

Filed under: 5►LEARN MORE FROM:, 6►THEME CHEST, 9►EXTRA, ■ Arts/ Music/ Dance, ■ Empathy, ■ Lyrics, ■ YouTube

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

Filed under: ■ Conference Speakers, ■ GLOBAL, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ TED, ■ Women

1, 2, 3, Think, Read, Speak!!!

Like most students, Millenials or otherwise, mine love to stay current & be able to discuss the latest trends, so here’s a Think & Read three-pack I came up with to help the discussion flow & connect present to future technologically as well as linguistically. The texts below are taken from Content Loop, one of our latest favourites here at the ELB.

Have a fab Feb and keep your mind well fed with valuable information!

(Further reading suggested:

click the numbers pics 4 extra reads on senses, skating & L o V e <3.)

1

No.

 THINK about your TOP 3 most annoying habits people have connected with technology in your opinion (like spending time checking the phone during face-to-face meetings) and think of ways people should/could change those habits.
READ this article on technology etiquette for the emerging generation, write down any tricky words, phrases & questions you might have for further discussion.

2

 No.THINK about the specific traits of our generation, the Millennials. (In what ways are we different from other generations?)
READ this article on  how to grab the attention of Millenials via email and compare your ideas against the ideas presented in the text. Would you read mails written in the styles suggested in the text? Which style(s) would you find more appealing? Why? Why not? Be ready to speak your mind on the issues you find most relevant to you, your life & living today.

 3

No.THINK about the type of content/topics/styles/genres you like to read about and describe it/them briefly. Then try to analyse why  you are attracted to these types of content?
READ this text about the link between viral content and emotional intelligence. What do you agree and disagree with, and why?

Filed under: 1►TO DO, 2►READ, 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Communicate, ■ CONTENT LOOP, ■ Generations, ■ Inspiration, ■ Physics, ■ Relation ships, ■ Science & Technology, ■ Technology & Our Generation, ■ The W W WEB, ■ The World, ■ Thinking Space

Last Classes, New Ideas :)

Happy summer holiday 2013!!!

Happy summer holiday 2013!!!

Hello!

This school year is rapidly drawing to a close, so I will take this opportunity to wish you all a very peaceful summer and to reassure you that the ELB is going to still benefit from new thoughts in the summer, just like before. After all, life’s lessons never seem to go on holiday like we do. They are always there, for us to take our pick and share. 🙂

I am writing this post below, to share some thoughts with you, yes, as I have been known to do,  on prejudice and intolerance, the lack of which will help us maintain and cultivate broad-mindedness. Or open-mindedness, if you will. 🙂 Now, what is different about this post is that, in truth, it hasn’t happened yet, by which I mean that the activities I will describe and the links I am about to recommend below are going to be put to work with the students in one of my adult learners groups later today for the first time. Imagine their surprise when I will disclose to them the existence of this article at the end of the class. 🙂 I will be back with impressions in a little while, so hang on.

“Things Should Be as I Think

or

I Know Best About This (Whatever This Might Be)”

 

The first two activities I have come up with sprang from a dialog I witnessed at a class one week ago between two of my students. The general topic of the dialogue was good manners around the world, and the more specific aspect discussed was ways of spending Christmas in Poland. I was surprised to discover how certain one of these students was about THE way of spending Christmas in Poland, the one and only PROPER way. The discussion turned out to be very insightful, as it showed that even open-minded people can have strict ideas and views on certain topics. There is, or there may be prejudice, my dears, even in areas we least expect it to appear. The good part is that once exposed hovering around some ideas in our minds, it can easily go out in a splash, like a candle blown out by a kid at bedtime.

ACTIVITY 1

Imagine:

– that you were offered an all-inclusive opportunity to travel to an area in your country or to an area that you have never visited beforein a poor country. What would you choose and why? 

– that you were living in a slum (a poor urban area in a big city, sometimes found in  developing countries). How would you feel? What would your celebrations/ anniversaries look like? Would you miss anything?

– that you are a CNN reporter who is given an assignment to interview one of the following people: a trainer from India, an Australian writer or a famous person in your country. Who would you choose to interview and why?

ACTIVITY 2

Use the words below to frame or express your own idea about your outlook on the world, on personal success, values and lifestyle:

passion           (a sense of)  purpose             humour              the voice within                   generations                

inhibitions                failures                 disabilities                         problems                          

(passing on) legacies                  (ways of )speaking                  sensitivity (to various issues)                   

Would you cross out any of these words as unnecessary? How about adding anything else to the ones you selected? Explain.

ACTIVITY 3

Watch the recently published TED video below (one of the 29,409 vids currently on the TEDx Youtube channel), in which the stand-up Indian comedian from Bangalore, Sandeep Rao, uses the concepts in Activity 2 above, to shape his own view of life and living. 

Do his views differ from yours? In what ways?

ACTIVITY 4

This is another video to watch and analyse, which is the second part in a CNN series called Talk Asia. It is a very special video to me, because it is a brief, 9-minute guided tour of the Indian universe described in one of my favourite books, Shantaram, a tour given by the author himself, the Australian-born,  controversial and very charming Gregory David Roberts.

There are a zillion questions I could think of asking after watching this video, but the ones that I would probably go for at my class, a few hours from now, are:

  • Can Christians, Muslims and Hindus celebrate together? Can people, in other words, celebrate together if their beliefs, background, and outlooks are very different?
  • Would you like to be able to be “adopted” by a society that is very different from the one you were born in?
  • Do you think you would be able to “adopt” someone who comes from a society very different from yours? How would you welcome them into your world as you know it?
  • How long do you think a society can last? Can societies disappear completely or do they change into something else? What can they change into, if they do and how are these changes possible?

* * * 

Enjoy and be back for extras!

Good day to you all!

 Alina Alens

Filed under: 0►TRUST, 1►LISTEN▼, 1►TO DO, 2►READ, 3►SPEAK▼, 4►LIFE, ■ Celebrations, ■ Christmas, ■ Compassion, ■ Empathy, ■ Gregory David Roberts, ■ Inspiration, ■ Meet my friends, ■ Talks & Conferences, ■ The Path of Metaphor, ■ The Voice Within, ■ Travel, ■ Voice Matters, ■ Writers, ►META PHORS▼

Congratulations Are in Order! David Crystal is Going Global

This post is dedicated to David Crystal, who has recently inaugurated his brand new website.

Here is the story behind it, in the great man’s own words.

The pregnancy is over. The conception was nine months ago, and I have been observing the slow but steady progress of the foetal website ever since. Yesterday and today saw its birth – two days because of the time it takes for the server to point everything in the new direction. This post is the equivalent of a birth announcement, except there is no gender or weight. You will find the baby here.

And also a response to a few correspondents who have asked me why a new site was needed. The motivation was actually the idea which became the Crystal Books Project, a feature of the new site. I am frequently asked for ways of obtaining some of my books which have gone out of print, and there was no easy solution. So the CBP is a way of solving that problem. The intention is to make available, in electronic form, my out-of-print back list. It will take a while for them all to get up there, because in the case of the older books they have to be rekeyed. No convenient electronic files in the 1960s – or even the 80s. Indeed, in the case of one of my books, published in 1976, I see that my first draft is entirely in handwriting – something I find inconceivable now!

The first few books are now available, in e-book form, and will shortly also be available as pdfs and as print-on-demand copies. The publishing firm that has provided the platform for the website, Librios, is exploring the best options as I write. Four e-books are now ready: the two Language A-to-Z books for schools (student and teacher book), which went out of print about 15 years ago; the Penguin book Language Play, which went o/p in the UK somewhere around 2005; and Words on Words, the anthology of language quotations, which went o/p at more or less the same time. All have a search function added, in their e-book incarnations.

 There is a complete bibliographical listing of books and articles on the new website, as there was on the old one, but with better search facilities. One can now order searches by title or by publication date. And there is a more sophisticated range of filters – for example, one can search for Shakespeare + books, or Shakespeare + articles, and so on. We’ll be refining the filter list in the light of experience.

You’ll notice that most of the articles are downloadable. The ones that aren’t are those I don’t have a copy of. So, if anyone ‘out there’ notices a missing download and realises they have a copy of it, would they let me know? We can then arrange a way of getting the text online?

And with a new website comes new e-publishing opportunities. I haven’t used the medium in this way myself yet, but I do have in mind some projects which simply would not work in traditional publishing terms, but which would suit an electronic medium. More on this in due course. In the meantime, Hilary Crystal has chosen e-publication for her first children’s novel, The Memors, and that is available on the site too. This is a techno-fantasy tale aimed chiefly at that awkward-to-write-for group, the 10-14-year-olds, or tweenagers, as they are so often called these days. This is very much an experiment on our part. For it to work, the news of the new product needs to travel. So, if readers of this blog have tweenage contacts, do tell them about it.

… which is what we proudly did! 🙂

Filed under: 9►EXTRA, ■ Books, ■ Celebrations, ■ David Crystal, ■ Generations, ■ GLOBAL, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

Brain Plasticity and Empathy, Dealing With “The Impossible” and Other Thoughts

Imagine  A number of documentaries I watched recently on BBC Knowledge and Discovery have led me to an interesting net-surfing experience, in search of more info on two topics that I, among many others, find absolutely fascinating: the plasticity of the human brain – its causes and effects, as well as its connections with feelings like empathy. Listed below you will find some interesting links and quotes I came across during my search. Feel free to add to it any other sources/ links you consider of relevance.

1.  You can watch a short video on the BBC Virtual Revolution Blog from 2009, in which Baroness Susan Greenfield approaches the question: Is the web changing us? The transcript is available on the site. Here’s an excerpt:

One of the most important issues I think, as well as the good thing about IQ going up, is the issue of risk. Obama said that the current financial crisis is attributable in part to greed and recklessness. Now greed are recklessness occur as part of something called a frontal syndrome, when the frontal part of the brain is less active in various conditions.
Could it be – and also this frontal part of the brain only comes on stream in late teenage years – could it be, given the brain is so obliging in the way it adapts, that if you’re putting it in a situation where you are living for the moment in a rather infant-like way with lots of sensory experiences, that that could be being changed? And I think that’s one of the things that would be very interesting to look at.
My final issue is identity, and it does stun me, Twitter for example, where the banality of some of the things that people feel they need to transmit to other human beings. Now what does this say about how you see yourself? Does this say anything about how secure you feel about yourself? Is it not marginally reminiscent of a small child saying “Look at me, look at me mummy! Now I’ve put my sock on. Now I’ve got my other sock on,” you know? And I’m just being neutral here, I’m just asking questions, right… What does this say about you as a person?

2. On Top Documentary Films you can read about and watch for free brilliant documentaries. Take another great series by the same insightful Susan Greenfield, called Brain Story.

The greatest numbers of documentaries on this site belong to the categories of Science (350) and Society (304). However, these are only 2 of the 25 categories you can browse, so plenty of resources to delve into.

3.  On the topic of visual illusions, I think it is safe to presume that we all prefer and appreciate watching well-produced special effects in pretty much any kind of movie. The quality of the special effects in a science fiction movie is, for instance, what makes the difference between an A and a B movie  for meHollywood award ceremonies never fail to highlight the best special effects in movies on a regular basis. This being said, I was surprised to find out that Harvard University also has an awarding ceremony called: “The Best Illusion of the Year Contest”! 🙂

Here‘s the winning illusion for 2011. The effect is called  “silencing by motion” and its source is Professor Michael Bach’s “Optical Illusions and Visual Phenomena”.  

Click this link to visit Professor Bach’s site and get access to 101 such illusions and phenomena. 

4. The link up next leads to a 2012 scientific research study from the biannual journal Essays in Philosophy  whose intriguing title instantly caught my eye: “On Being Stereoblind in an Era of 3D Movies”, by Cynthia Freeland. Put on a scientist’s hat, or any other kind that is comfortable and feel free to investigate its content.

5.  Can we adapt to unimaginable situations? How does our brain deal with catastrophes beyond our worst nightmares? The Impossible - UK Poster Such questions are the subject of a movie that reached the Polish cinemas this month and that I warmly recommend, called The Impossible (2102).

You can read about the real story that inspired the movie in this article from The Mirror: “Seemingly impossible: Miracle survival of family who inspired new tsunami movie”.

Last but not least on today’s list, the following article from the Health section of the Times investigating “How Disasters and Trauma Can Affect Children’s Empathy” can be placed in the same category of the effects that surviving catastrophes can have on the human brain and the human behaviour – in this particular case, on kids aged 6, 9, and 12. I selected below some of the findings of the studies discussed in the article. 

“There are developmental differences in empathy,[…] and younger children may not be able to regulate their emotions as well as older ones because the prefrontal regions in the brain responsible for such control are less mature. Faced with extreme stress, their self-regulation capacities regress even further. “Adverse events appear to cause six-year-olds to revert back to selfish ways typical of early childhood,” the authors write. Even in situations with less tragic consequences, but which are nonetheless stressful, such as living through a divorce, or getting lost in a public place, many children may resort to more immature tendencies.

By age nine, however, most youngsters have mature enough brains to not only recognize the feelings of others, but to try to mitigate bad ones. Their increased altruism during distress reflects what has been seen in many disasters, from man-made ones such as the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., to natural catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy. […]

While the results support the intuitive sense that the personal experience of pain can increase compassion, there are cases when it can have the opposite effect. Indeed, research shows that if suffering occurs too early in life, when young brains are not equipped to process the experience, or if the pain is too overwhelming, it can make people less sensitive and more focused on self-preservation, such as often occurs in cases of child abuse and neglect. “Painful experiences may increase empathy and care, provided that one can regulate one’s own emotion,” Decety says. The findings suggest that our social and biological structures may be biased toward cooperation and empathy for others: “Without caring for others, we would not survive as a species,” he says.

It would be interesting to compare the findings of this article with the development of Lucas, one of the heroes in The Impossible, who is only 10, in the face of the sixth deadliest natural disaster in recorded history, the 2004 tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean, affecting Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand and the Maldives and killing nearly 300 000 people. The earthquake which caused the tsunami was the 3rd largest in recorded history measuring a magnitude of 9.19.3

Compared to being caught right in the middle of it,  it is much easier to make sense of “the impossible” from a desk in the living-room or from a cinema seat, which is why I wish you all safe trips to the cinema :),  tsunami-free vacations and peaceful school experiences, no guns involved… 

May you be safe, show empathy, and, regardless of situation, always navigate through unpredictable changes with fresh new breaths of faith!

Filed under: 0►TRUST, 9►EXTRA, ■ BBC: The Virtual Revolution Blog, ■ Books, ■ Brain Plasticity, ■ China, ■ Empathy, ■ Movies, ■ News, ■ The Mirror, ■ TIME, ■ TOP Documentary Films

Happy New Year 2013!!!

Alina How would you

fill in my New Year’s wish below?

Solve and apply! 🙂

“May the ………………… ( best / worst ) of 2012 be the …………………. ( best / worst ) of 2013 – in test scores and much more!”

Done? 🙂 Good work! 🙂

Kliny Christmas Talk - 14.12.12 - 11 

Christmas Thoughts is a PowerPoint presentation of a talk on Christmas I delivered two weeks ago, to be downloaded for your delight and inspiration.  

Happy New Year, everyone!!!

2013

Filed under: 2►READ, 9►EXTRA, ■ Celebrations, ■ Christmas, ■ Talks & Conferences

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▼

Inspiration::Summer 2012

A little while ago I got this lovely message from my former Jagiellonian student, Patrycja, which brought back wonderful memories of my first year of teaching English in Poland (2006-2007).

Hey, Famous Alina! 😀
I haven’t heard from you for a long time and lately, I don’t know why, the thought of you keeps popping in my head. So, because I am a fond reader of Coelho’s books, and because I have been your student , I feel like I need to tell you (write to you would be more accurate :P) that you have been one of these people who really and truly inspired me. I am pretty sure it may seem funny and bit chaotic, but sometimes the world gives you signs and I think I am having a sign that I should assure you that you are an inspiring person! So I hope everything is excellent in your life. 🙂Hugs!

Most definitely one of the most inspiring students I have had the pleasure of teaching, Patrycja is an extremely resourceful person, brimming with optimism and enthusiasm, with a confessed love for English language, and a passion for sharing her knowledge in this field.

In her second year as a Law student at the Jagiellonian University where we met, she set out to organise an English camp for the young students she was privately tutoring at that time, and invited me to join her in what looked like a pioneering summer adventure. I happily agreed, and what followed was an experience to be remembered. From the location – a wonderful little mansion in the picturesque village of Marcowka, the general atmosphere to the tailored daily activities and the last day festivities, the English camp organised by Patrycja in 2007 was a great success. Personally, I may add, Marcowka is the birthplace of one of my favourite poems from my debut book of poetry, which you can read here.

The memory of this first camp experience on Polish soil 🙂 is all the more  dear to me at this time, a few days before starting on a new adventure with yet another English camp, this time organised by the Kliny English Courses School in Bieszczady. I will be back with photos, new memories and impressions from the camp in July.

In the meantime, there is room for celebration, as Kliny English Courses, the school I have been cooperating with since 2011, celebrates twenty years of excellence in English language teaching in Krakow.

Inspiring, isn’t it?    

Filed under: 1►TO DO, 2►READ, ■ Inspiration, ■ Meet my friends, ■ Thinking Space

Conversation Topic: Compassion

Be Happy* 

Be happy in the morning with what you have. Be happy in the evening with what you are. Be happy. Don’t complain. Who complains? The blind beggar in you. When you complain, you dance in the mire of ignorance-condition. When you don’t complain, all conditions of the world are at your feet, and God gives you a new name: aspiration. Aspiration is the supreme wealth in the world of light and delight.

What is compassion?

Definition: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is striken by misfortune/ in a difficult situation, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering (improve that situation).

Synonyms:

– kindness, benevolence, consideration, humanity, empathy, mercy, charity, fellow feeling, grace, tenderness/ softness, tenderheartedness/ softheartedness, sorrow

– non-discrimination, fairness, tolerance, impartiality, self-sacrifice, openmindedness;

Antonyms:

– cruelty, hatred, indiference, meanness, merciless, tyranny, antipathy, animosity, enmity,

–  discrimination, inequity, injustice, intolerance, partiality, prejudice, bias, narrowmindedness.

Topics for Discussion

1. You are a very successful person, who, at the end of 2011 has made considerable profit. What kind of charitable act, fund, foundation or institution, would you choose to invest the extra money in?

2. Read or listen to these stories and make comments about compassion and the compassionate nature of the characters. 

1

The moon cannot be stolen

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal.

Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the thief, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”

The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and went away in shame.

Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

2

The Ideal of Forgiveness

From Gopal’s Eternal Brother And Other Stories for Children

by Sri Chinmoy

Once there was a great king named Vishwamitra. One day he learned that there was a saint in his kingdom whom everybody adored. The name of this saint was Vashishtha, and everyone gladly touched his feet. Now, although Vishwamitra was a very great king, nobody used to come and touch his feet. People were afraid of him, and they would tremble before him. But with Vashishtha it was different. People gladly touched Vashishtha’s feet with deepest appreciation and admiration. So Vishwamitra was extremely jealous of Vashishtha. Vashishtha was a very great saint. After praying to God for many, many years, Vashishtha had realised God and could speak to God face to face. Vishwamitra knew that this was the reason why everybody was adoring Vashishtha instead of him, so he too started praying to God. He prayed to God for a couple of years very seriously, often fasting but still he did not realise God. Then he became impatient. He went to Vashishtha and said, “You have realised God, but I have not been able to. I wish you to tell the world that I have also realised God, like you.”

Vashista replied, “How can I say that?” “You can say it,” the king insisted. “If you tell people, everybody will believe you, because you yourself have realised God. You know who God is, you speak to God. Tell everyone that I have realised God. Otherwise I shall kill your children!” Vashishtha said, “You can kill my children, but I cannot tell a lie.” Vishwamitra was a most powerful king. One by one he had the hundred sons of Vashishtha killed. The hundred sons were very well educated, kind and spiritual. They had studied the Vedas, the Upanishads and other religious and sacred books. Nevertheless, the notorious king killed them all. Even after doing this Vishwamitra was not satisfied because Vashishtha still refused to announce that he had realised God. After a few months he thought, “This time he has to tell the world that I have realised God, or I shall kill him!” With this idea in his mind he went to Vashishtha’s small cottage. Before knocking at the door he stood outside quietly listening to the conversation inside. Arundhati, one of Vashishtha’s wives, was saying to her husband, “My lord, why don’t you say that Vishwamitra has realised God? If you had said it I would still have all my children. They were such nice, kind, devoted children. They were all jewels. But just because you wouldn’t say that he has realised God, he has killed all my children, and who knows what he will do next!” Vashishtha said, “How can you ask me to do that? I love him. He has not realised God. How can I tell people that he has realised God? I love him and that is why I cannot tell a lie.” Even though Vishwamitra had killed the hundred sons of Vashishtha, the father could still say that he loved him! When Vishwamitra heard what Vashishtha said, he came running in and touched Vashishtha’s feet, crying, “Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, my lord. I never knew that anyone on earth could love a person who had killed all his children.” Vashishtha placed his hand on Vishwamitra’s head and blessed him. He said, “Today you have realised God, because today you know what love is, what truth is. God is all forgiveness. I am forgiving you because the God in me is forgiving you. Today you have realised God.” What do we learn from this story? We learn that the ideal of forgiveness is the supreme ideal. When we pray to God we see God’s qualities: love and forgiveness. When we receive love and forgiveness from God we can behave like God towards other people. Vashishtha’s hundred sons were killed, yet even then he loved Vishwamitra. Then, when Vishwamitra begged for forgiveness, Vashishtha gave it immediately, as well as giving him his inner Light, Joy and Power. Like Vashishtha, we always have to forgive people when they do wrong things. In this way we give them our Light, our Truth, our Joy. From this story we also learn the importance of associating with holy men. When we are in the company of a spiritual person, even for a second, what transformation takes place in our life! Our life is changed in the twinkling of an eye.

Note: Here, to realise means to bring the existence of God into your daily, practical understanding and, as a result let it influence you life.

 3

Sympathetic Oneness 

From Garden of the Soul by Sri Chinmoy,

published by Health Communications

A father and son were walking together, enjoying the early morning breeze. They had covered a good distance when the father stopped suddenly and said, “Son, stop!”

The son said, “What’s wrong?”

The father said, “Nothing in particular, but let’s not walk any farther on this road.”

“Why not?” asked the son.

“Do you see that elderly man coming toward us?” the father asked, pointing down the road.

“Yes, I see him,” replied the son.

“He’s a friend of mine,” said the father. “He borrowed money from me and can’t pay it back. Each time he sees me he tells me he’ll borrow the money from someone else and give it to me. This has been going on for a long time, and I don’t want to embarrass him anymore.”

The son said, “Father, if you don’t want to embarrass him, why don’t you tell him that the money is a gift and you don’t want it back?”

“I’ve already told him that,” said the father. “When I said, ‘I don’t want it back; it’s a gift,’ he got mad. He said, ‘I’m not a beggar. I’m your friend. When I was in need, you gave me money, and when I can, I’ll give it back. I want to remain your friend, not become a beggar.’ Now I don’t want to embarrass him, and I don’t want to be embarrassed myself. So let’s take another road.”

The son said, “Father, you are truly good. I’m very proud of you. it’s usually the borrower who tries to avoid the lender. It’s usually the receiver who is embarrassed, not the giver. But you want to spare him embarrassment. What I have learned from you is a sympathetic oneness.”

The Three Hosts 

From Garden of the Soul by Sri Chinmoy,

published by Health Communications

One day a king and his minister went out for a walk incognito. The king said to the minister, “I want to give a reward to anyone who is hospitable to us during our walk.”

The king and the minister went up to one man and said, “We are travelers. This is a fine town and we would like to spend the night here. Could we stay at your house as guests?”

The man insulted them, saying, “How do I know you’re not criminals?”

Then the king and the minister went up and knocked on somebody else’s door. When the man opened the door they asked, “Can we can spend the night here? We are travelers and it’s getting dark.”

The man said, “First tell me how many of you there are. Then I’ll decide.”

The king said, “You see that we are only two. We don’t have much money, but if you allow us to stay with you, before we leave tomorrow morning we’ll pay you what we can.”

Then the king said, “It is still somewhat light out, and your country is very beautiful. We’ll walk around and come back in an hour or so.”

So the king and minister continued walking. They approached another house and knocked on the door. The king said, “We’re travelers. It’s getting dark. Could we spend the night at your house?”

The man said, “Certainly! just tell me how many of you there are.”

The king said, “You can see we are only two.” The king told that person also that they would come back in a while. Then they went back to the palace.

The minister had taken down the address of each person to whom they had spoken, and the following day the king summoned all three to the palace. To the one who had insulted him the king said, “I don’t need you in my kingdom. When travelers come from a different kingdom, we must offer them shelter. You could see we were respectable. It was obvious we weren’t thieves.” And the king threw the man out of his kingdom.

To the second man the king gave a large sum of money. To the third one, who immediately offered shelter and only afterwards asked how many were in their party, the king gave his crown.

He told the man, “In this kingdom we need the kind of people who offer everything without hesitation and only then seek to determine how much is necessary. When we approached you, you didn’t ask how many were in our party. You just said, ‘Come, come!’ The other man first asked how many we had. If we had more people, he might not have agreed to shelter us. We need more people like you.”

So the third man received the crown from the king and took it home as his most treasured possession.

_________________________________

About Sri Chinmoy

Sri Chinmoy is an Indian-born poet, writer, musician, artist and spritual teacher who lived in New York, US from 1964 until his passing in 2007. (See the blog entry on Sri Chinmoy’s passing.)

Sri Chinmoy was born in 1931 in Shakpura, Chittagong in what was then British India, and now Bangladesh. At the age of 12 he moved with the rest of his family, to the Sri Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry, south India. Here Sri Chinmoy practised many spiritual disciplines, which led to a profound state of Self-Realisation. As well as spending many hours in meditation, the philosophy of the Sri Aurobindo ashram encouraged an active outer life. This philosophy is known as integral yoga, the idea being to bring spirituality into all aspects of one’s life. In the ashram Sri Chinmoy proved to be an excellent athlete and also he began his first attempts at poetry.

In 1964 Sri Chinmoy felt an inner inspiration to travel to the West to offer the wisdom of Indian spirituality to western seekers. Since arriving in the West, Sri Chinmoy offered many lectures, meditation classes and soulful concerts of meditative music. Sri Chinmoy also serves as a spiritual guide to seekers from around the world. There are now Sri Chinmoy Centres in many different countries in Europe, America, Asia and Australasia . For 37 years Sri Chinmoy offered prayers and meditations at the United Nations in an attempt to foster greater world harmony.

Sri Chinmoy’s teachings advocate a balanced life based on inner spiritual disciplines like meditation and prayer. Sri Chinmoy was also a firm believer in the benefits of physical exercise and completed many marathons and ultra marathons himself. Related to the concept of physical exercise, an important aspect of Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy is self transcendence – the concept of reaching beyond the limitations of the mind to discover your hidden possibilities.

Sri Chinmoy was a prolific author having written almost 1,500 books at the time of his passing, with more unpublished writings still to emerge in the coming years. These are mainly on spiritual themes and include many volumes of poetry. […]

More on Sri Chinmoy on the official complete source here.

This is the main website for Sri Chinmoy. It offers selected writings on spirituality, these include both poetry, questions and answers and talks by Sri Chinmoy. There is also a section called Kind Words. These are pages on Sri Chinmoy’s conversations with prominent world leaders and humanitarians, plus a selection of the tributes that came pouring in from all over the world following his passing. It includes Pope  John Paul II and Pope Paul VI, Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev.

Extra info – by courtesy of musician Atma Anur

Sri Chinmoy was the guru of John McLaughlin, the leader of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and one of the founders of the music style called „fusion”, who played with Miles Davis and other jazz legends and is still performing today. Sri Chinmoy was also the guru of Narada Michael Walden (and actually gave him that name, Narada) – the producer of Aretha Franklin, Withney Houston or Mariah Carrey, as well as the guru of Carlos Santana.

____________________________________________

*Another featured aphorism on Sri Chinmoy’s site:

My ultimate goal is for the power of love
To replace the love of power
Within each individual.
My ultimate goal is for the whole world
To walk together in peace and oneness.
–Sri Chinmoy

Definition of aphorism: short, significant statement of an evident truth concerned with life or nature; distinguished from the axiom because its truths cannot be subjected to scientific demonstration. (Hippocrates was the first to use the term for his Aphorisms, briefly stated medical principles. Note his famous opening sentence: „Life is short, art is long, opportunity fleeting, experimenting dangerous, reasoning difficult.”)

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Atma Anur, ■ Compassion, ■ Compassion - Sri Chinmoy, ■ Sri Chinmoy, TOPICS▼

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