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!

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▼

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

2011 in review

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,200 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Filed under: ■ Celebrations

The Day Has Arrived for Our Century’s Royal Wedding

My favourite quotes of the wedding day come from the speech given by Lord Bishop of London, Right Reverend Dr Richard Chartres, during the royal ceremony. Of many words that have been said at and about the wedding, these are surely words to keep and nourish on at this time and in times to come. It is my pleasure to rewrite some of them below, to remember.

“This is a a joyful day! It is good that people in every continents are able to share in these celebrations. This is, as every wedding day should be: a day of Hope. In a sense, every wedding is a royal wedding, with the bride and the groom as  King and Queenof Creation, making a new life together, so that Life can flow through them, into the future.

“Spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life, in which we discover this:

the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul,

the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves, and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed.

In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.”

“We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely the power that  has been given to us through the discoveries of our last century.  We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence for life, for the earth, and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another a work of art. It is possible to transform, so long as we don’t harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coertion if the spirit is afloat; each must give the other the space and freedom.”

“As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relationships alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We’re all incomplete, we all need the love that is secure, rather than oppressive, we all need mutual forgiveness in order to thrive, but as we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us, and can increasingly fill our life with light. This leads on to a family life which offers the best conditions in which  the next generation can receive and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit whose fruits are love and joy and peace.”

God, our Father, we thank You for our families, for the love that we share, and for the joy of our marriage. In the busyness of each day, keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life, and help us be generous with our time and love and energy. Strengthened by our union, help us to serve and comfort those who suffer.

We ask this in the spirit of Jesus Christ,

and we all say ‘Amen!'”

Filed under: 9►EXTRA, ■ Celebrations, ■ Compassion, ■ Leadership, ■ Richard Chartres, ■ Royal Wedding 2012

STRAIGHT FROM INDIA

Introducing the ancient,

Christmas-like Hindu celebration called

DIWALI: 5-8 November 2010

Diwali

The Hindu festival of light, Diwali, marks the homecoming of the god Lord Ram after vanquishing the demon king Ravana and symbolizes taking people from darkness to light and the victory of good over evil.
 

The Hymn of Goddess Lakshmi - Lakshmi Aarti

The Hymn of Goddess Lakshmi - Lakshmi Aarti (click here to download & listen to it)

 

Whether or not this is your first introduction to Diwali, you will probably enjoy watching the video below, and reading more on the topic at the links I selected for you below.

10 Reasons to Celebrate Diwali,

which lists as the 10th reason:

10. The Pope’s Diwali Speech: In 1999, Pope John Paul II performed a special Eucharist in an Indian church where the altar was decorated with Diwali lamps, the Pope had a ‘tilak’ marked on his forehead and his speech was bristled with references to the festival of light.

Global Diwali. Celebrations Around the World,

Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US among the Hindus across the world.

Ramdas  Lamb’s article: Diwali: A Day Of Light and Liberation

Diwali […] brings together a variety of disparate religious and cultural traditions and beliefs, as well as historical events. Commonly referred to in English as the “Festival of Lights,” it is not only celebrated all over India, but it has been carried to all the lands where Indians have migrated as well.

Because of the close association of the day with Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth, she is typically integrated into all the Hindu Diwali festivities. Nevertheless, among the many reasons Hindus give for the day’s significance, one of the most popular comes from the Ramayana, arguably the most read Hindu scripture in all of north India today. It relates the earthly life of the divine as Lord Rama.

In the story, just as Rama is about to be crowned king, his father is tricked into exiling him to the forest for 14 years. He is accompanied there by his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. Near the end of the exile, the demon king of Lanka, Ravana, kidnaps Sita and imprisons her on his island. Rama, his brother, and his army of monkeys and bears build a bridge and cross over to Lanka, where a 10-day war is waged. On the 10th day of the combat, Rama kills the demon and cuts off his 10 heads. This battle is remembered in the nine day period of fasting known as Navaratri, followed by a celebration on the 10th day known as Dussehra (also “Dasara”). The first day of Navaratri is on the new moon of the month of Ashwin. Diwali is celebrated the following new moon to commemorate the return of Rama and Sita to their kingdom in Ayodhya after the defeat of the demon. Hindu householders typically prepare for the day by thoroughly cleaning their homes. New bedding may be bought and new clothing worn, while rows of lighted oil lamps or candles decorate homes, rooftops or courtyards to welcome back Rama and Sita. In the case of the latter, she is welcomed both as Rama’s wife but also as a form of Lakshmi. Boxes of sweets are given to family, friends and neighbors.

Ascetics of the Ramananda Sampraday, the largest order of Hindu monks and devotees of Lord Rama, see it more as a time of prayer and reflection, and many begin their commemoration from the first day of Navaratri. Some will undertake a fast or food restriction for the entire month (from Navaratri to Diwali). Others will begin a fast on Rama Ekadashi, which occurs four days prior to Diwali. It is a day on which many Hindu householders fast as well. On the day preceding Diwali, Ramanandis commemorate the birth of Hanuman, the divine in the form of a monkey who represents selfless devotion, with prayers and chants. Again, many will fast in his honor. Like with householders, monks will clean their temples or abodes in preparation for Diwali, and they spend the day itself chanting prayers and singing religious songs.

Anju Bhargava’s article : Out of Many, One: Diwali Illuminates Unity

The very foundation of Indian civilization is based on the pluralistic acceptance embodied in the ancient Vedic scriptures; the oft used perennial Vedic saying: “Ekam Sat Vipra, Bahudha Vadanti,” meaning, “The Truth is One. The Realized Ones describe the One Truth in several ways.” Acceptance of this edict gives citizens space to express their differences while finding a common ground. And, closer to home, Diwali shares a special connection with American values as it exemplifies the ideals of “E Pluribus Unum,” or, “out of many, one.”

The strength of the Dharmic culture is the multitude of ways in which the Puranic (ancient traditional) stories and epics are brought to life through colorful festivals and selfless service (seva). These stories and epics bring to surface the deep philosophical truths of the ancient Hindu scriptures, known as the Vedas. The Festivals often express the common Vedic tenets of Hinduism, and of other Dharmic cultures, making them accessible to people from all walks of life.

Festivals form a lifeline that binds the Hindu and Dharmic cultures to family, the community and to the country where they reside. Festivals connect and bring people together in camaraderie and service. Hindu festivals also reflect and sustain the underlying pluralistic values for diverse people to co-exist harmoniously.

Hinduism is the contemporary word used for the monotheistic “Sanatana Dharma” or Eternal Order. The joy and peace in human life is based on observance of this eternal order. In the Hindu approach, an integration of spirit, mind and body is emphasized for pursuit of happiness (ananda). Festivals play a very important role in Hinduism as they manifest this integration.

A festival is a joyful synthesis and expression of spirituality, religion, philosophy, culture, service and social values. The spiritual aspect is founded on the human instincts of joy and happiness. The philosophical aspect is grounded in the struggle between the forces of good and evil with the ultimate triumph of the former. This struggle and ensuing victory of good is to be celebrated and used as a reminder to us, and future generations, that selfless service and giving are an interwoven part of the traditions.

“Service which is given without consideration of anything in return, at the right place and time to one that is qualified, with the feeling that it is one’s duty, is regarded as the nature of goodness.” (Bhagavad Gita 17.20)

In bringing together people of all Indic traditions — Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists and others — the celebrations of the different aspect of Diwali create an interlocked mosaic.

For Hindus themselves, the festivities of Diwali are celebrated by many stories. Universally the celebration is the triumph of Good (Lord Rama or Lord Krishna) over Evil (Ravana, Narakasura, etc.).

You are welcome to share more links and ideas on this topic.

If you are wondering where in India I am writing to you from, it is a brand new town in southern India, called Swarnabhoomi, where I am  planting the seeds of music education and world-opening vision for the future with a team of extraordinary people from all over the world, at the Swarnabhoomi Academy of Music, India’s first professional college of contemporary music! You can take a virtual walk in the city here.

On this gratitude note, I wish you a great Diwali time, wherever you are!

Filed under: ■ Celebrations, ■ India, ■ Nationalities and Stereotypes, ■ World Myths & Mythologies, ►12.OFF THE MAP▼

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