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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Grammar exercises and notes: http://perso.wanadoo.es/autoenglish/freeexercises.htm
  • Ancient History: Rosetta stone: stone found in Egypt (1799) with ancient Egyptian writing and translation in Greek. Made translating Egyptian possible.
  • Irregular Verbs: I don't bet on horse races anymore. I bet on one once and lost a lot of money. So I haven't bet on any since.
  • Idiom: to be macho: to act manly in a strong or exaggerated way. "Mike looks silly with his macho tattoos and leather jacket."
  • Pop Culture: King Kong: giant gorilla in the movies who attacks New York City, climbing the Empire State Building at the end.
  • Slang: everyone knows…: introduces "common knowledge," things that most people should know. "Everyone knows that 'Silence is golden.'"
  • Government: refugee: person who leaves his or her country for safety in times of war or other serious trouble.

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (17): The Hero Falls


GET READY:

What would you do if you suddenly lost everything you had?

An old man has stolen the bronze ring.

READ THIS:

[104] Hardly had the old man reached his own house when, taking the ring, he said, "Bronze ring, obey thy master. I desire that the golden ship shall turn to black wood, and the crew to hideous negroes; that St. Nicholas shall leave the helm and that the only cargo shall be black cats."
[105] And the genii of the bronze ring obeyed him.
[106] Finding himself upon the sea in this miserable condition, the young captain understood that someone must have stolen the bronze ring from him, and he lamented his misfortune loudly; but that did him no good.
[107a] "Alas!" he said to himself, "whoever has taken my ring has probably taken my dear wife also. What good will it do me to go back to my own country?" And he sailed about from island to island, and from shore to shore, believing that wherever he went everybody was laughing at him, and very soon his poverty was so great that he and his crew and the poor black cats had nothing to eat but herbs and roots.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. hideous: horrible-looking. frightening
b. to lament: express sadness; cry and moan
c. misfortune: bad luck
d. Alas!: a sound of hopelessness
e. poverty: condition of being poor
f. herbs: the leaves of plants used for food. In modern cooking, can be used as seasonings.

PRACTICE:

Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. I was sorry to hear about your __________.
2. I enjoy using __________ when I prepare a meal.
3. His accident left a __________ scar across his back.
4. It does no good to __________ the past; you just have to get on with your life.
5. __________ can be overcome with hard work--and a little luck.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. The old man turned everything the gardener's son had to black: black ship, black men ("negroes"), black cats. Why do think he did that?
2. How did the gardener's son know someone had stolen the ring?
3. What is the gardener's son state of mind? What tells us this in the story?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 c; 2 f; 3 a; 4 b; 5 e

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Monday, Jan. 30, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Discuss what you read. For school, for fun--whenever you read, talk about what you have read and it will stay in your longer mind.
  • Proverb: Where there's a will, there's a way: Nothing is impossible if you really want it badly enough.
  • Academic Vocabulary: maximize: Make bigger; make the best use of. "Study hard to maximize your learning opportunities."
  • Literature: Turn the other cheek: Jesus said if someone hits you on one cheek, offer him the other one, too, instead of seeking revenge.
  • Art: The Thinker: one of more than 20 large bronze statues by French sculptor Rodin, shows a seated man with arm on knee and chin on wrist.
  • Slang: or something like that: the information might not be exactly right. "He's a VIP, like a president or CEO or something like that."
  • Geography: Euphrates River: River in southwest Asia that joins the Tigris in Iraq to form ancient Mesopotamia, "The Land Between the Rivers."

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Cliches 2


GET READY:

Look at the cartoons above. Can you guess the "real meaning" of the two expressions? Answers are in the "Notes" below.

READ THIS:

Here are five more clichés which are similes (using like or as).

a. As fresh as a daisy: To be beautiful, a daisy must be fresh. Daisies wilt quickly, so the only ones we might decorate with are always the fresh ones.

b. As good as gold: Everybody loves gold! But the expression means "well-behaved" and "kind-hearted," so it may be more about gold being pure, not valuable.

c. As mad as a hatter: According to some sources, mercury was used in the process of making hats. Mercury works as a kind of poison on the nerves, so hat makers often shook and appeared crazy. That's one possible explanation of where we got this cliché. (Think of the "Mad Hatter" in "Alice in Wonderland"!)

d. As old as the hills: This phrase is often used to describe old people. You know how old the hills are! So imagine…

e. As white as snow: New-fallen snow is often used as a simile for whiteness and purity. It was used by Shakespeare, Chaucer, and the translators of the King James Bible: Quite a pedigree, but a sure cause of its overuse.

Let's look at how to use these clichés, remembering that it's best to avoid them if possible, but to use them correctly when we do use them.

"With this new detergent, my clothes smell as fresh as a daisy." Actually, any common flower will do here ("as fresh as a rose," "as fresh as a lily.") We can also say, "as fresh as new-fallen snow" or "as fresh as springtime."

If we want to tell someone they are kind-hearted, we can say, "Friend, you're as good as gold." We can even go further and say, "You have a heart of gold." Because of its universal qualities, gold figures in lots of clichés, usually symbolizing either purity (as here) or value.

"My teacher says my English isn't very good." "Oh, don't listen to him; he's as mad as a hatter!" We also say "as mad as a March hare," and "as crazy as a loon." The hare (an animal similar to a rabbit) is said to be "mad" in March because that's his breeding season (but this is doubtful); the loon has a call like a maniacal laugh. These are all models of craziness. But "mad" also means angry, and here we find the easily understood "as mad as a hornet," "as mad as hell," and "as mad as (or madder than) a wet hen."

"The chairman of the board is old as the hills." We can also say "older than the hills." Another version is to say "as old as Methuselah," a proverbially old man in the Bible, said to have lived over 900 years. And my dad used to say "as old as Standard Oil"--meaning the product, not the company!

"Not only does the laundry smell fresh, but my sheets are as white as snow!" This is OK for talking about things; but if we talk about someone being pale (due to fright or illness) we might say, "as white as a ghost" or "as white as a sheet."

NOTES:
In the cartoons above, the two expressions are clichés. The "real meaning" of "throwing oneself at someone's feet" is putting oneself at their mercy, begging forgiveness, etc. The real meaning of "finding oneself somewhere" is to be surprised that one is there, not certain how one got there.

Here are a few tips to extend your vocabulary even further. You can add the following endings to almost any "as xxx as" expressions and get the same effect. However, these are really overused, so use them only if you can't think of anything else:

"as possible": "Our detergent will get your sheets as white as possible." Useful, but boring. (However, "as soon as possible" is a fixed phrase, and even has an acronym, ASAP, pronounced "Ay-sap.")

"as it gets," "as you can get," "as they get," etc.: "This cliché is as boring as it gets." "This is as good a mark as you can get." There is also a very slangy version of this, "as all get out." "After work yesterday, I was as tired as all get out." And with "they" we sometimes use "come": "That guy is as stupid as they come."

"as ever": "How's work?" "It's as busy as ever."

You can use these ending for virtually any "as xxx as" simile--but try to be more creative!

PRACTICE:

Look at each of the scenes below. What cliché above goes with each scene?

1. Your mother wasn't feeling well, but today she looks better. You ask her how she feels.
2. You ask how your father how long his grandfather lived.
3. You have a meeting with your child's teacher. You ask about his behavior.
4. Your friend is talking about his boss, who often gets up on his desk and shouts at his employees. You ask what's wrong with him.
5. The walls of your room have been freshly painted. Your friend asks how it looks.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Are there clichés in your language that have the same meaning?
2. Can you think of other English clichés that mean the same as the ones above?
3. Write some short scenes that end with the clichés above.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. a "Much better, thanks! I feel (as) fresh as a daisy."
2. d "I'm not sure exactly, but he was (as) old as the hills."
3. b "No problem there; he's (as) good as gold."
4. c "Simple: he's (as) mad as a hatter!"
5. e "Crisp, clean, and (as) white as snow."
(Note: As you can see, the first "as" can be left out in each answer. Also, I have added a few words to make it more interesting; you can, too!)

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Science: gravity or "gravitation": the force that attracts two objects to each other. In simple terms, what keeps us from flying off the earth!
  • Language Study: jargon: special language used by a profession or other group, like doctors' or lawyers' vocabulary.
  • Business: short-term: for a short time, especially less than one year, as a "short-term loan." Opposite is "long-term."
  • Literature: A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a stingy man who changes after being visited by ghosts.
  • New Words: chick lit: literature ("lit") meant for women ("chicks") to read. Pride and Prejudice and romance novels are usually seen as chick lit.
  • Slang: You mean, like: asks for more information, with examples. A: "I love TV news." B: "You mean, like BBC, CNN, and stuff like that?"
  • Modern History: Queen Victoria: queen of the UK from 1837 to 1901. The "Victorian period" was a time of strict morals and great growth in England.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Cliches 1


GET READY:

Look at the cartoons above. Can you guess the "real meaning" of the two expressions? Answers are in the "Notes" below.

READ THIS:

What, exactly, is a cliché? It is a phrase that may once have been fresh and interesting, but has become stale from over use. We all use clichés from time to time; the problem is when our speech or writing becomes so loaded with them that we become boring.

For learners of English as a second language, there is an added problem: What sounds like a cliché to a native speaker may be brand new to someone just learning the language!

The only way to avoid this is to look up lists of clichés and learn to recognize them.

Here are five clichés which are similes (using like or as).

a. As busy as a bee: The bee is notoriously industrious, so this phrase was natural--a little too natural, since it has become overused.

b.As cool as a cucumber: In fact, this means "calm," not "the opposite of warm." Why? No one seems to know; but have you ever seen a cucumber get excited? Not me!

c. As dead as a doornail: A doornail is the large stud we see pounded into doors to hold them together. One suggestion is that it was pounded through and bent over for security, thus making it "dead"--unable to be reused.

d. As easy as pie: Pie isn't especially easy to make--but it's very easy to eat! That may be the origin of this cliché, similar in meaning to "a piece of cake."

e. As fit as a fiddle: We now use this to mean "in good health," but "fit" here originally meant "suitable." No one knows why we say this, other than the suggestion that it sounds good.

Let's see how these can be used. We should avoid using clichés if possible. But when we do use them, how do we use them correctly?

When you're working too hard, you'll usually use an ugly simile, like "I've been working like a dog," or some exaggeration such as "I'm working myself to death." But when you want to compliment someone in a bright and cheery way, you might say, "My, you're just as busy as a bee, aren't you?" Remember, this is a positive, upbeat idea.

The next cliché, too, is positive. "My boss never freaks out when bad things happen; he's as cool as a cucumber." We sometimes also talk about "grace under fire," and "making [something] look easy": "The boss really shows grace under fire; when he faces a crisis, he somehow manages to make his job look easy."

Ok, I admit, there's nothing positive about "as dead as a doornail." It can be used figuratively, though: "Sorry I didn't answer your call last night; I had already gone to bed, and I was as dead as a doornail." In this case, we can also say, "I was out like a light," or "I was long gone." As for other "as dead as" expressions, we also say "as dead as a dodo," the dodo being an extinct bird.

"How was the test?" "Oh, it was easy as pie." As I mentioned before, this is like saying "It was a piece of cake." Other common expressions are "It was a breeze" (a gentle wind) and "It was a walk in the park."

As I mentioned before, the word "fit" in "as fit as a fiddle" originally meant "suitable," but these days we use it to mean "healthy." We can also say "as healthy as a horse," "as strong as an ox," etc. These are heavily-used clichés, though, and are best avoided. How about, "I'm fit as an Olympic athlete"?

NOTES:

In the cartoons above, the two expressions are clichés. The "real meaning" of "tossing one's head in the air" is putting one's head back quickly. The "real meaning" of "sweeping past someone" is going past them quickly, and not paying attention to them, like when one is angry.

PRACTICE:

Look at each of the scenes below. What cliché above goes with each scene?

1. Your friend had to climb a mountain. When he returns, you ask him how it went.
2. Your uncle runs a small shop. You tell him you haven't heard from him lately, and he tells you why.
3. Your teacher went home to visit her grandfather for the holidays. You ask about his health.
4. Your neighbor's house caught fire, and he saved his wife, his son, his dog, and never looked upset. How would you describe him?
5. Your telephone's battery has no more power. Your friend wants to borrow it. What do you tell him?

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Are there clichés in your language that have the same meaning?
2. Can you think of other English clichés that mean the same as the ones above?
3. Write some short scenes that end with the clichés above.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. d "No problem! It was (as) easy as pie!"
2. a "Sorry, I've been (as) busy as a bee."
3. e "Thanks for asking! He's (as) fit as a fiddle."
4. b "It was amazing! He was (as) cool as a cucumber."
5. c "Sorry, it's (as) dead as a doornail."
(Note: As you can see, the first "as" can be left out in each answer. Also, I have added a few words to make it more interesting; you can, too!)

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Unusual words. Free newsletter, learn "A Word A Day" (AWAD). http://wordsmith.org/awad/index.html
  • Ancient History: Saladin: (1138-1193) Kurdish Muslim general, ruled Egypt and Syria. When he captured Jerusalem, Europeans fought against him.
  • Irregular Verbs: I input data in my computer every day. I input a lot last night. I have input some of it incorrectly, but I have corrected it.
  • Idiom: to turn over a new leaf: to change one's ways. "After his wife caught him smoking, Dan turned over a new leaf and quit completely."
  • Pop Culture: Bible Belt: area of the US where many people strongly believe in the Bible and follow it literally in all areas of their lives.
  • Slang: hate: sometimes really hate, but usually just dislike. Can also be used as a joke. A: "My parents gave me $100!" B: "I hate you!"
  • Government: conscientious objector: person who refuses to fight in a war because of his beliefs.

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Deadbeats and Windbags

A real "bigwig"

GET READY:

The two words in the title describe different kinds of people. Do you have funny words in your language to describe people?

READ THIS:

Here are ten strange names for different kinds of people.

a. bigwig: Also called a "big shot," this is a V.I.P., or Very Important Person. European kings and nobles used to wear wigs. These were expensive to purchase and maintain. And of course, the bigger the wig, the more expensive it was. So a "bigwig" today is a rich, powerful person.

b. cheapskate: This is a person who is stingy. The "cheap" part is obvious, but no one is quite sure where the "skate" comes from.

c. deadbeat: Someone who avoids paying debts. The origin is uncertain: "dead" may mean "absolutely," as in "dead certain." And "beat" was used in the mid-19th century to describe one who didn't pay his bills, but no one seems to know why.

d. fall guy: This is usually a scapegoat, one who takes the blame for the actions of others. To "take the fall" for someone means to take some punishment in their place.

e. goof-off: A person who is lazy or doesn't do his job; without, it's a phrasal verb. To "goof off" means to fool around, especially when you're supposed to be doing something.

f. hired gun: An expert, especially one from outside, who is brought in to solve a problem. Originally applied to a mercenary or assassin, who was hired to literally shoot someone, the meaning is now metaphorical.

g. loose cannon: A person who speaks or behaves carelessly, creating risk. Battleships had cannons mounted on the deck. If one became loose, it could be tossed around during a storm, causing a lot of damage.

h. sellout: One who compromises his own beliefs to gain money or other forms of success. It can also be a verb: "He sold out."

i. tenderfoot: A rookie, a beginner. When a new cowboy bought his first boots, his feet got sore; later, his feet would toughen up, but until then he was a "tenderfoot."

j. windbag: A person who talks a lot and says nothing.

PRACTICE:

1. We couldn't find the problem in our books, until we brought in a __________ from an accounting firm.
2. I always have to work overtime because my teammate is such a __________.
3. We can't trust "Crazy Bill" to handle the negotiations; he's too much of a __________.
4. Our sales meetings are long and useless, because the manager is such a __________.
5. The staff has to have lunch tomorrow with the __________ from the head office.
6. The artist became a __________, giving up his own style to please the market."
7. The bill collector spent many hours trying to catch one __________.
8. Buy her a big engagement ring; don't be such a __________."
9. Don't blame me for your mistake; I'm not going to be the fall guy.
10. That new salesman's a __________, so he might make costly mistakes.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. How would you translate these words into your language? Do they sound funny when you do?
2. Why do you think people made up such funny names for these kinds of people?
3. What other English words can you think of that are similar to these?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 f; 2 e; 3 g; 4 j; 5 a; 6 h; 7 c; 8 b; 9 d; 10 i

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Friday, Jan. 27, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Plan ahead if you can. If you know that you have to do a task, practice first. Think of numbers before asking the time, for example.
  • Proverb: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you: "The Golden Rule" tells us to treat others as we want them to treat us.
  • Academic Vocabulary: highlight: Call notice to something, as with a special yellow pen. "Please read the highlighted passages carefully."
  • Literature: Amazons: Warrior women in classical myths. Now used to describe a large woman. People thought Amazons lived on the Amazon River.
  • Art: orchestra: large group of musicians (maybe 80 or more) playing four types of instruments: strings, brass, woodwind, and percussion.
  • Slang: and stuff like that: "etc." after example(s). A: "Do you like music?" B: "Yes, mostly pop, rock, and stuff like that."
  • Geography: steppe: A type of grassland. "The Steppes" usually refers to the ones in eastern Russia and Siberia.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (16): The Old Man Gets the Ring


GET READY:

If you had something very valuable, would you tell your husband or wife about it? Why or why not?

With the gardener's son away, a magician has been planning to take away the bronze ring. He has caught some pretty little red fishes…

READ THIS:

[91b] Then he came back, and, passing before the Princess's window, he began to cry out:
[92] "Who wants some pretty little red fishes?"
[93] The Princess heard him, and sent out one of her slaves, who said to the old peddler:
[94] "What will you take for your fish?"
[95] "A bronze ring."
[96] "A bronze ring, old simpleton! And where shall I find one?"
[97] "Under the cushion in the Princess's room."
[98] The slave went back to her mistress.
[99] "The old madman will take neither gold nor silver," said she.
[100] "What does he want then?"
[101] "A bronze ring that is hidden under a cushion."
[102] "Find the ring and give it to him," said the Princess.
[103] And at last the slave found the bronze ring, which the captain of the golden ship had accidentally left behind, and carried it to the man, who made off with it instantly.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. peddler: one who sells something, especially on the street
b. simpleton: a foolish ("simple-minded") person
c. madman: a crazy person
d. to make off with something: to take away something that is not one's own

PRACTICE:

The slave girl tells the Princess that the old man will take "neither gold nor silver." This means he won't take gold and he won't take silver. Rewrite the sentences below to use the same style.

Example:
It's not a cat. It's not a dog.
It's neither a cat nor a dog.

1. My father didn't go to university. My mother didn't go to university.
2. I don't eat meat. I don't eat fish.
3. John won't go to work tomorrow. John won't stay home tomorrow.
4. He hasn't seen a tiger. He hasn't seen a dragon.
5. They weren't doctors. They weren't lawyers.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Do you think the "pretty little red fishes" were important? Why did the storyteller choose this and not something else for the old man to sell?
2. Why does the slave girl consider the old man "a simpleton" and "a madman"? Surely a bronze ring is worth more than some small fish?
3. How could the hero have forgotten something as important as the bronze ring?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. Neither my father nor my mother went to university.
2. I eat neither meat nor fish.
3. John will neither go to work nor stay home tomorrow.
4. He has seen neither a tiger nor a dragon.
5. They were neither doctors nor lawyers.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Science: dehydration: loss of water, as when playing sports or in the desert, not drinking enough liquid; can create serious medical problems.
  • Language Study: capital letters: upper-case letters LIKE THIS; these are lower case. Used at the start of sentences, and for proper names, like James.
  • Business: John D. Rockefeller: (1839-1937) American businessman, once the richest man in the world. "Rockefeller"="rich": "I'm no Rockefeller."
  • Literature: Gulliver: main character in Swift's "Gulliver's Travels," who sees little people in Lilliput, horses named Houyhnhnms, and others.
  • New Words: DNA fingerprinting: use of DNA to identify a criminal; not actually fingerprinting, but used in the same way
  • Slang: bus shelter: a small building, often with only one wall, to stand under while waiting for a bus. Often has advertising on it.
  • Modern History: Scopes trial: US teacher John Scopes was tried for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution, which was then (1925) against the law.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

A Trip to the Doctors 2


GET READY:

How has a trip to the doctor changed since when your father was a boy? Your grandfather?

READ THIS:

Let's continue our list of medical specialists.

a. ophthalmologist: a medical doctor of the eye; see "optometrist" and "optician" for more information.

b. orthopedist: This one has a great etymology. "ortho" means straight; "ped" comes from a Greek word meaning "child." The orthopedist specializes in correcting problems with the skeleton, especially in children. When the doctor is finished, you have a "straight child"!

c. pediatrician: The same "ped" we saw in "orthopedist" is here in "pediatrician," a doctor of children.

d. plastic surgeon: No, this is not a doctor who fixes toys. "Plastic" in this case means "able to be shaped, formed." The plastic surgeon reshapes unattractive noses and other body parts. This may be cosmetic, as when a person wants to be better looking; but it can also be done after an accident, to restore the victim's previous appearance.

e. podiatrist: "pod" here means "foot"; this is a foot doctor. The same root shows up in words like arthropod (insects and spiders with "jointed feet") and as "ped" in pedestrian, etc.

f. radiologist: a doctor who specializes in making and interpreting x-rays.

g. surgeon: a doctor who cuts into the body. Interestingly, the word comes from Greek (through French) from a word that means "working by hand," and certainly a surgeon must have a steady hand!

In addition to these medical doctors, there are quite a few doctors whose work, while important to our health, is not classified as part of the medical profession. Here are a few examples:

h and i. dentists and orthodontists: Tooth doctors and tooth-straightening doctors.

j and k. psychologists and psychiatrists: psychologists can only talk to help us with mental problems; psychiatrists are medical doctors who can also prescribe drugs.

l and m. optometrists and opticians: optometrists are professionals who measure the eye for glasses ("meter" means "measure"); the optician is a craftsman who actually makes the glasses.

n. pharmacists: these professionals prepare and dispense drugs. Only a medical doctor can prescribe drugs.

o and p. chiropractor and homeopath: these health professionals are working in a field which, like some parts of Chinese medicine, have a different theoretical basis from the main medical profession. As valuable as they can be, their work is not generally accepted by the Western medical establishment.

PRACTICE:

If you went to the Primary Care Physician with the need below, which specialist might she or he send you to?

1. I had a terrible accident, and my arm was cut up badly. It looks ugly.
2. I need to have new lenses made for my glasses. I have a prescription already.
3. There's a problem in my intestines, and pills and medicine won't take care of it.
4. I'm having some problems with my toes.
5. There's pain in my eye when I see bright lights.
6. I think I may have broken my leg, but I'm not sure.
7. My child's legs are crooked, causing his feet to turn inward.
8. I have some emotional problems, but I don't want to take any drugs.
9. My doctor gave me a prescription, and I need to buy some pills.
10. My baby has a bad cold.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Describe the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist.
2. Describe the difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, and an optician.
3. Why do you think the specialists described in h through p are "not classified as part of the medical profession"?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 d; 2 m; 3 g; 4 e; 5 a; 6 f; 7 b; 8 j; 9 n; 10 c

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: 1,500+ ESL/EFL Conversations on 25 Topics with audio. http://www.eslfast.com/robot/
  • Ancient History: conquistadores: Spanish fighters who conquered (beat) Native Americans to allow Spain to rule most of the American land.
  • Irregular Verbs: I try not to become angry. But I became angry at my friend last week. I am afraid I have become angry too many times!
  • Idiom: elbow grease: hard work, strong effort. "I know you can clean that pot; just use a little elbow grease."
  • Pop Culture: Bill Cosby: black American comedian (born 1937), known for stand-up comedy and "The Cosby Show."
  • Slang: been ---in' anything?: a greeting. To a student who is reading: "Been learnin' anything?" To a salesman: "Been sellin' anything?"
  • Government: Geneva Conventions: international rules for kind treatment of prisoners of war, first made in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

A Trip to the Doctors 1


GET READY:

Do you ever get sick? What kinds of doctors have you been to?

READ THIS:

When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time in hospitals, meeting specialists. But most kids never saw anyone except the "family doctor."

The family doctor is long gone. He was replaced by the GP (General Practitioner), and now she has been replaced by the "Primary Care Physician."

By whatever name, this doctor is the first one we visit in the American medical system. He or she will do some basic tests (take our blood pressure and temperature, for example), listen to our complaint, and then take care of any small problems we're having. If we have a big problem, though, we will be passed along to a specialist.

We almost never go directly to a specialist. Because of the system of medical insurance, we must have a referral from a Primary Care Physician before going to the specialist.

Here are 10 kinds of specialists, and what they each do:

a. anesthesiologist: this is one you will rarely see--if he does his job right! He administers the anesthesia, the drugs that make us sleep during surgery. "Anesthesia" itself means loss of feeling or lack of sensation.

b. audiologist: from the Latin root "audio," meaning "to hear," the audiologist deals with hearing problems. However, see below for a doctor who treats the ear itself.

c. cardiologist: a heart specialist. We sometimes see the root "cardio" used alone in reference to exercise that's good for the heart: a cardio workout, etc.

d. dermatologist: "derm-" is a root meaning skin, so the dermatologist is a skin doctor. We see this root in the word "hypodermic needle": hypo- means "under" or "below," so a hypodermic places its load under the skin.

e. ear, nose & throat specialist: This is the more friendly term; you may also see the intimidating word "otonasolaryngologist." This is a doctor of the passages of the ear, nose, and throat. "oto-" is "ear"; "naso-" is "nose" (as in "nasal congestion"); and "laryngo-" is "throat," related to the word "larynx," the so-called "voice-box."

f. internist: an internist practices internal medicine. He is concerned with the functioning of the internal organs. There are further specialists, as well: gastroenterologists for the stomach and intestines, hepatologists for the liver, nephrologists for the kidneys, and so on. The internist can be contrasted to the surgeon, who invades the body with a knife. The internist, instead, observes the body's function and diagnoses and prescribes accordingly.

g. neurologist: a doctor of the nervous system. One who operates on the nervous system is a "neurosurgeon."

h. oncologist: a cancer specialist. "oncos" is Greek for mass or tumor.

i. obstetrician and gynecologist: We usually abbreviate it "OB/GYN," pronouncing the five letters ("oh bee gee why en"). Obstetrics is the study of childbirth; gynecology is the study of women's parts. Because of the relationship between childbirth and women's parts, they usually make up one specialty. Obstetrics comes from a Latin word "obstetrix," meaning midwife (a woman trained to assist at childbirth). Gyne is the Greek root for "woman," seen in such words as "misogyny" (hatred of women) and "androgynous" (having both male and female traits--"andros" means man or male).

j. urologist: This seems easy enough: a doctor of the urinary tract (the system in the body that lets us get rid of urine). But in addition, because this is also where many of a man's reproductive parts are, the urologist is also a "man's doctor" the way the gynecologist is a "woman's." (But he or she also usually will care for the urinary tract in women.)

PRACTICE:

If you went to the Primary Care Physician with the need below, which specialist might she or he send you to?

1. I have a lump in a place where I didn't expect one.
2. I have a pain in my stomach.
3. I need to have my hearing tested.
4. I have no feeling in my fingers.
5. I'm going to have surgery, and need to be "asleep."
6. I have pain when I try to pee.
7. I have a pain in my chest when I climb stairs too fast.
8. I think I'm going to have a baby!
9. I have a really bad cold.
10. My legs itch terribly, and have red bumps on them.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Why do you think so many of these words depend on Greek and Latin?
2. What's the difference, again, between the jobs of an audiologist and an ear, nose & throat specialist?
3. Why do you think a urologist can take care of a man's reproductive system, but there is a separate doctor (an OB/GYN) for women's reproductive system? Could there be more than one reason?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 h; 2 f; 3 b; 4 g; 5 a; 6 j; 7 c; 8 i; 9 e; 10 d

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Find families of words. For example: assess, assessment, reassess, unassessed, and so on.
  • Proverb: No man is an island: We are all connected with each other; if something happens to another person, it affects me, too.
  • Academic Vocabulary: passive: Not active. "I want a passive dog, one that will never bite anyone."
  • Literature: In the beginning: first words of the Bible; complete sentence: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth."
  • Art: John Philip Sousa: the "March King," 19th-20th century American composer of marching music like "The Stars and Stripes Forever."
  • Slang: an outstanding idea: a great idea. A: "Let's see a movie." B: "That's an outstanding idea!"
  • Geography: the Seven Seas: a way to describe all the world's oceans; found in the common expression "sailing the seven seas."

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Buying a Used Car 2


GET READY:

Have you ever sold a car? What do you think you would have to do?

READ THIS:

In another lesson we talked about a basic used car advertisement written by a car dealer. This time we'll look at a "private party" ad. Notice how much more the seller tells you:

2002 Honda Accord EX 68,000 mi $11,998
Coupe, at, ac, ps, pw, pdl, tilt, cc, am/fm cass, multi cd, lthr, priv glss, alloys, xtra cln

The first line--make, model, mileage, price--is the same. (This is a fixed format from the listing service.) But then the seller wants you to know how wonderful his or her car is. The body style (coupe) is given, and then the accessories package is described in detail:
  • at: automatic transmission
  • ac: air-conditioning
  • ps: power steering
  • pw: power windows
  • pdl: power door locks
  • tilt: tilt steering wheel (you can move it when you get in and out)
  • cc: cruise control, a kind of "auto pilot" for maintaining speed on the highway
  • am/fm cass: the car has an am/fm radio and a cassette player
  • multi cd: the car has a multiple-disc cd player. This was probably "after market"--installed by the owner after he purchased the car.
  • lthr: the seats and other upholstered interior (dashboard, maybe door panels) are genuine leather
  • priv glss: "privacy glass." It means the windows are tinted so people can't see into the car.
  • alloys: As before, this is a special wheel, made from a metal alloy. People like them mainly because they look good.
  • xtra cln: "Extra clean," the car has been well taken care of, without a lot of visible wear.
Are you getting a picture of this car?

QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you have a car, write an ad as if you were going to sell it. If you don't have a car, write an ad for your "dream car." Use the abbreviations at http://automobileonly.com/abbreviations-for-car-ads.html, and look at ads at http://www.autotrader.com/ for ideas, if you want.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Monday, Jan. 23, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Science: Pythagorean theorem: geometry; in a right triangle, long side (hypotenuse) squared equals sum of two short sides squared.
  • Language Study: redundancy: repeating words or ideas. "He is a big giant" is redundant, as all giants are big.
  • Business: boycott: refusing to buy something as a way to change a company's policies. "They charge unfair prices; let's boycott them."
  • Literature: The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation: a statement in Thoreau's "Walden." It means most people endure unhappy lives.
  • New Words: bling-bling, or just "bling": flashy jewelry, gold teeth, telephones, etc. usually connected to hip-hop culture.
  • Slang: like xxx and stuff: "etc." after example(s). A: "What kinds of movies do you like?" B: "Science fiction, like 'Star Wars' and stuff."
  • Modern History: Alamo: fort in Texas, where in 1836 all the Americans were killed by a larger Mexican force. "Remember the Alamo" became a battle cry.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2011 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Buying a Used Car 1


GET READY:

Have you ever bought a used car? What kinds of information can you get from an advertisement?

READ THIS:

Let's look at some real car-for-sale ads and see what kind of information people give when selling used cars in America. This car was being sold by a dealer, so only the basic information is given.

2005 Honda Civic 27,884 mi. $14,977
2dr, Gray, FWD, AUTO 4SPD, 1.7L, 4cyl

2005: First we are told the year the car was made.

Honda Civic: Next comes the make: Honda. This means, who was the car's manufacturer? After that is the model. For example, Honda makes the Civic, the Accord, the Prelude, and many other models.

27,884 mi.: The next information given is the mileage. ("mi." means "miles.") How far has the car been driven? A five-year-old car that has been driven only 30,000 miles is probably in better condition than a two-year-old car that has been driven 100,000.

$14,977: Then comes the price. There are standards for this, formulas applied based on the answers to several questions: What make and model is the car? How old is it? What's the mileage? What is its general condition? What is its maintenance record? What accessories does it have? And so on. Of course you can fix any price you want, but if you go too far above the standards, you may not be able to sell it.

Now we learn a little more about the car:

2dr: This is a two-door car, also called a "coupe." (A four-door car is a "sedan," and a five-door car is usually an SUV--Sports Utility Vehicle--with a door on the back, called a "hatchback.")

Gray: the color of the car's exterior. Sometimes we see something like "Gray, white int" meaning the exterior is gray and the interior (inside) is white.

FWD: This is "Front Wheel Drive." Traditionally, cars received their "push" from the rear wheels. More recently, many cars are powered by the front wheels. And some are "4WD," Four Wheel Drive, where all four wheels are powered.

AUTO 4SPD: this car has a 4-speed automatic transmission.

1.7L, 4cyl: It has a 1.7-litre four-cylinder engine.

~~~~~~~~

Here's another ad for a car being sold by a dealer. Notice the differences from the ad above.

2005 Honda Civic LX 46,442 mi. $11,995
4 dr, at, a/c, gas saver, alloys, xlnt cond, Financing/Warranty Avail

This seller gives us less information about the car itself: nothing about the color, drive mechanism (FWD, 4WD, etc.), transmission, or engine size. Besides the basics, we know that it is a sedan with an automatic transmission and air-conditioning. Then we start to hear something we must be careful of:

gas saver: This is what we call "hype," an attempt to convince you that THIS car is the best. But every Honda Civic is a "gas saver." It's like saying, "Buy this car. It has four wheels!"

alloys: This is a special wheel, made from a metal alloy. People like them mainly because they look good.

xlnt cond: "Excellent condition." Hmmm… According to whom?

Financing/Warranty Avail[able]: Hype again. Every dealer offers financing; every car has a warranty. This dealer is trying to get you to come look at this car, not based on its own merits, but on his ability to sell. Be careful! Don't fall for it!

Next time, we'll look at a car being sold by a private owner.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

Find some used car ads in English. (http://www.autotrader.com/ is a good place to start. And here's a long list of abbreviations to help you: http://automobileonly.com/abbreviations-for-car-ads.html)

Answer these questions about some ads:

1. What kind of car is it? How old? What's the mileage? How much does it cost? Do you think this is a fair price for this car?
2. What features come with this car? Which ones are attractive to you? Which ones aren't important?
3. After you read three or four ads, decide which of those cars you would want to buy. Why did you choose that one?

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Join the English Club, make friends. http://my.englishclub.com/
  • Ancient History: Joan of Arc: (1412-1431) led French army against the English at age 17 because she heard God speak to her. A Roman Catholic saint.
  • Irregular Verbs: I get rid of things I don't need. I got rid of some old clothes yesterday. I have gotten rid of most of my things.
  • Idiom: to be in hot water: in deep trouble. "When he lost the report, Bob was in deep trouble."
  • Pop Culture: Hail to the Chief: official song of the president of the United States, played when he arrives at official events.
  • Slang: the tricky part: the difficult part. "Getting an appointment is easy; making the sale is the tricky part."
  • Government: felony: the most serious form of crime, like murder or kidnapping; usually punished by long jail time, or even death.

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (15): The Hero Leaves Again


GET READY:

When is a hero's journey "over"? Or does a real hero go on adventures again and again?

The gardener's son has beaten the minister's son, and has married the princess.

READ THIS:

[88] Several months passed. The young couple were as happy as the day was long, and the King was more and more pleased with himself for having secured such a son-in-law.
[89] But, presently, the captain of the golden ship found it necessary to take a long voyage, and after embracing his wife tenderly he embarked.
[90] Now in the outskirts of the capital there lived an old man, who had spent his life in studying black arts--alchemy, astrology, magic, and enchantment. This man found out that the gardener's son had only succeeded in marrying the Princess by the help of the genii who obeyed the bronze ring.
[91a] "I will have that ring," said he to himself. So he went down to the sea-shore and caught some little red fishes. Really, they were quite wonderfully pretty.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. as happy as the day was long: a cliche; you can change "happy" to any adjective, and it means "very" something; so this one means "very happy."
b. to secure: usually means "to make safe," but here it means "to get."
c. voyage: trip, journey, especially by sea
d. to embrace: to hug
e. tenderly: softly, gently, with much emotion
f. outskirts: used to describe the edge of a city or town; in the old days, a please for people who didn't "fit in" with the community
g. black arts: a type of magic that involved the devil; also called "black magic"
h. alchemy: the changing of cheap metals (like lead or tin) into expensive ones (like gold or silver)
i. astrology: reading the stars to tell the future
j. magic: using special techniques to create unnatural changes, like making something disappear, or moving something without touching it.
k. enchantment: a type of magic used to influence people, like making them believe they can fly, etc. (Note that the word can also be used to mean "charming" or "attractive," as in Part 12, Paragraph 67 of this story.)
l. genii: a spirit that lives inside something, like a bottle or, as here, a ring. There is a famous genii in a bottle in the story of "Aladdin."

PRACTICE:

Use one of the above terms in each of the following sentences. Be sure to use the correct form.

1. I'm trying to __________ a visa so I can go to Cambodia.
2. It's nice to walk by the __________ and get your feet in the water.
3. It's common for men to __________ each other in some cultures.
4. The only way I could get there in time is if I could suddenly do __________.
5. Once you get past the __________ of a city, there is usually less traffic.
6. He picked up the baby bird __________ and put it back in its nest.
7. How stupid was he? He was __________.
8. If you believe in __________, you might look up your horoscope in the daily newspaper.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. Why do you think the gardener's son left on another voyage?
2. Why do you think the storyteller adds: "Really, they were quite wonderfully pretty"?
3. When you finally achieve success, what could cause you to change your life and risk it all?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 b secure; 2 m sea-shore; 3 d embrace; 4 j magic; 5 f outskirts; 6 e tenderly; 7 a as stupid as the day was long; 8 i astrology

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Read classics. Buy simple versions of great books and READ. Click on any "classics" here for examples: http://plrcatalogue.pearson.com/
  • Proverb: A good man is hard to find: Most people won't do what must be done. The ones who do their best are rare.
  • Academic Vocabulary: rational: Sensible, reasonable. "We should be rational about how we spend our money."
  • Literature: phoenix: A bird from myths that burns itself to death once in 500 years, and rises again from the ashes.
  • Art: amateur: someone who does something for enjoyment or "love," not money. "Though not a professional, the amateur artist was very good."
  • Slang: Huh?: "What?" "Pardon?" Also used when surprised. A: "We won the game!" B: "Huh? That's unbelievable!"
  • Geography: Rio Grande: Meaning "big river," the river that divides the US from Mexico along most of the border.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Opposite Proverbs


GET READY:

What is the purpose of a proverb? Is there a proverb (in English or in your language) that captures the meaning of your life? Can you think of a proverb that you strongly disagree with?

READ THIS:

Pat and Michael (two Americans) are talking:
Michael: Wow! I went on a date last night, and my mom made me take my little brother along.
Pat: Well, "the more the merrier," right?
Michael: Not in this case! Here it was: "Two's company, three's a crowd!"
Pat: Aside from that, how was the date?
Michael: Pretty good. I gave her a present. It was a huge stuffed animal.
Pat: Ah, "the bigger the better."
Michael: That's what I thought, But she said, "Big things come in little packages."
Pat: Hey, that's twice that we found two proverbs with opposite meanings. Do you think there are more?
Michael: Let's see. How about, "The pen is mightier than the sword"? And…
Pat: "Actions speak louder than words!"
Michael: Great! Give me one.
Pat: Ummm…"Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
Michael: "Out of sight, out of mind!"
Pat: Yeah! OK… "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Michael: That's easy. "Better safe than sorry."
Pat: OK, give me one more.
Michael: All right. "Look before you leap."
Pat: Got it! "He who hesitates is lost."
Michael: That's it!

NOTES:

It's funny how "conventional wisdom" can contradict itself. Maybe "wisdom" is more slippery than we thought.

PRACTICE:

Here are some more proverbs. Can you think of an opposite proverb?

1. Many hands make light work.
2. Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.
3. Clothes make the man.
4. The best things in life are free.
5. Birds of a feather flock together.
6. You're never too old to learn.
7. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
8. Above all, to thine own self be true.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Are there "opposite proverbs" in your language?
2. Why do you think there can be two popular proverbs with completely opposite meanings?
3. How useful are proverbs, anyway?

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

Here are some suggested answers. If you found others, let me know! (Try searching the Internet under "opposite proverbs"--you'll find more!)
1. Too many cooks spoil the broth.
2. Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.
3. Don't judge a book by its cover.
4. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
5. Opposites attract.
6. You can't teach an old dog new tricks
7. Silence is golden.
8. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Friday, Jan. 20, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Science: endocrine system: system of glands in the body, and the hormones they produce. These control what other cells, tissues, and organs do.
  • Language Study: autobiography: a true book about the author's own life. One famous example is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
  • Business: interest: money charged by a lender. "The bank is lending at 10% interest" (or "at a 10% interest rate").
  • Literature: The Canterbury Tales: Middle English work by Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) where a group of travelers meets and tell stories.
  • New Words: newbie: someone who is new at something. "Please explain the rules of our club to the newbie."
  • Slang: that's too bad: "That's a pity." Kind: A: "My dog died." B: "That's too bad." Or unkind: A: "I hate it." B: "That's too bad. Eat it."
  • Modern History: government of the people, by the people, and for the people: Near end of Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address," a definition of democracy.

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The sooner, the better


GET READY:

Do you know what "The sooner, the better" means? Have you heard other English sentences like this?

READ THIS:

Ron, an American, and his Chinese friend Jen are planning a party:

Ron: So, Jen, when should we have the party?
Jen: Sooner is better!
Ron: Pardon?
Jen: That's an idiom, right?
Ron: Oh! Not exactly…I think you want to say, "The sooner, the better."
Jen: But that doesn't make sense. There's no verb!
Ron: Yes, that's right. This is a special construction.
Jen: How does it work?
Ron: Well, you say "the" and then one comparative, then another "the" and another comparative. The meaning is as you said: comparative is comparative.
Jen: So "the bigger the better" means "Bigger is better," right?
Ron: Right.
Jen: Do we always have to use "better" as the second comparative.
Ron: No, but it's the most common. Try to say this: "More is merrier."
Jen: The…more…the…merrier?
Ron: Right!
Jen: Are there other ways to do this?
Ron: Yeah, there's a slightly longer construction.
Jen: Can you give me an example?
Ron: Sure. One idiomatic expression is, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." It still starts with "the" and a comparative, but adds a subject and verb.
Jen: Another example, please, that's not an idiom.
Ron: Let's see…my friend from the states is coming to visit this summer. So I could say, "The closer summer gets, the more excited I get."
Jen: Oh, I get it. So about our party: The better we plan, the more fun it is?
Ron: Wow, Jen! Good job.
Jen: It's nothing, really. The more I do it, the easier it gets.
Ron: Stop! Enough!

NOTES:

Often, idioms are based on vocabulary. This is a kind of "idiomatic grammar," where we break the rules of grammar for a special effect.

PRACTICE:

Here are some more sentences. Try to turn them unto the "the…the…" construction.

1. Earlier is better.
2. Redder is sweeter (like a strawberry).
3. Cleaner is healthier.
4. Slower is safer.
5. Steadier is better.
6. If I work harder, I get more tired.
7. If you start sooner, you'll finish earlier.
8. If you eat less, you'll get slimmer.
9. If you have to work less, you can relax more.
10. If you produce more, you'll get paid better.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Do you have any "idiomatic grammar" in your language?
2. Do you know other examples of this in English?
3. Write some short dialogues that end with the answers below. Act them out with a friend. Example (using number 2)
A: Oooo, strawberries! I love them!
B: Me, too. And these are so red!
A: Yeah, and the redder, the sweeter!

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. The earlier, the better.
2. The redder, the sweeter.
3. The cleaner, the healthier.
4. The slower, the safer.
5. The steadier, the better.
6. The harder I work, the more tired I get.
7. The sooner you start, the earlier you'll finish.
8. The less you eat, the slimmer you'll get.
9. The less you have to work, the more you can relax.
10. The more you produce, the better you'll get paid.

[Note that in 1-5, the comma is not absolutely necessary. You can write them "The earlier the better," etc.]

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Link: Read ancient Chinese stories with vocabulary help: http://www.englishdaily626.com/stories.php
  • Ancient History: Christopher Columbus: Italian explorer who "discovered" America in 1492. Sailed three ships across the Atlantic Ocean from Spain.
  • Irregular Verbs: What do the experts foretell? Last year they foretold bad economic times. But I'm not worried; they have foretold incorrectly before.
  • Idiom: to have the last laugh: to win after seeming to lose. "The team was losing 20-2, but they scored 30 points and had the last laugh."
  • Pop Culture: Peanuts: popular comic by Charles M. Schulz. The most famous character is Snoopy the dog, and his owner is Charlie Brown.
  • Slang: How so?: "Why is that?" A: "I can't come tonight." B: "How so?" A: "I have to go to my parents'."
  • Government: blue laws: US laws based on morals that don't allow certain activities on Sundays, like selling alcohol, or sometimes even dancing.

NOTES:
  1. The Idiom, the History and Government words, and some of the Pop Culture words, are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Link was found online; the Slang words, the Irregular Verbs, and some of the Pop Culture words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

The Bronze Ring (14): The Hero Revealed


GET READY:

Do you think a king should always keep his word?

The captain of a magnificent treasure ship has revealed the minister's son, to be his servant.

READ THIS:

[84] "And now, sire," said the young captain, "do you not recognize me?"
[85] "I recognize you," said the Princess; "you are the gardener's son whom I have always loved, and it is you I wish to marry."
[86] "Young man, you shall be my son-in-law," cried the King. "The marriage festivities are already begun, so you shall marry my daughter this very day."
[87] And so that very day the gardener's son married the beautiful Princess.

NOTES:

Here is some vocabulary from the story:

a. recognize: know someone or something by looking at it. "Do you recognize the man in this picture?"
b. son-in-law: a man married to someone's daughter.

PRACTICE:

There are only six types of person called "-in-law." All others must be described (my wife's grandfather; my husband's uncle).
They are:

a. father-in-law
b. mother-in-law
c. son-in-law
d. daughter-in-law
e. sister-in-law
f. brother-in-law

Match the description below to the term above. Use "g" if it's non of these.

1. Fred's wife's niece is Fred's __________
2. Fred's sister's husband is Fred's __________
3. Fred's wife's mom is Fred's __________
4. Fred's son's wife is Fred's __________
5. Fred's wife's dad is Fred's __________
6. Fred's brother's wife is Fred's __________
7. Fred's wife's sister is Fred's __________
8. Fred's daughter's husband is Fred's __________
9. Fred's wife's grandmother is Fred's __________
10. Fred's wife's brother is Fred's __________

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

If you can, try to talk about these questions in English with a friend. If not, try writing your answers.

1. The king promised his daughter to the first man to return; of course, that was the minister's son. Why do you think he changed his mind? Is it fair?
2. What would you have done if you were the king?
3. Use your imagination and describe the feelings of: (a) the princess; (b) the king; (c) the gardener's son; (d) the minister's son.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1. g none of these; we must say just "his wife's niece."; 2. f brother-in-law; 3. b mother-in-law; 4. d daughter-in-law; 5. a father-in-law; 6. e sister-in-law; 7. e sister-in-law; 8. c son-in-law; 9. g none of these; we must say just "his wife's grandmother."; 10. f brother-in-law

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Tip: Translate (both ways). Get a bilingual book (your language and English); translate part to or from English; check your translation.
  • Proverb: Good fences make good neighbors: We will get along better with people if we don't get too close to them.
  • Academic Vocabulary: explicit: Clearly expressed, with nothing unsaid. "I gave you explicit instructions to arrive at 6 p.m.; why are you late?"
  • Literature: the Twelve Apostles: Jesus' twelve followers who carried on his teachings after his death. Peter, James, John, and others.
  • Art: The Nutcracker: a ballet (dance performance) by Tchaikovsky. Tells a Christmas story, so it is often performed at Christmastime.
  • Slang: stuff: things. Used by lazy speakers, or when we can't think of a word. "There's lots of stuff I want to do in my life…"
  • Geography: Sinai: A desert peninsula in northeast Egypt, between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt across it.

NOTES:
  1. Academic Vocabulary is the Academic Word List from Oxford University Press. This is "a list of words that you are likely to meet if you study at an English-speaking university."
  2. The Proverb, and the Literature, Art, and Geography words are from lists in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  3. The Tip and Slang words are from my own lists, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"

Giving Directions


GET READY:

Think of two places you know, like your house, and your school or work. Tell someone how to get fromone to the other.

READ THIS:

[Lyle calls Susan on his mobile]
Lyle: Hey, Susan, how do I get to the Hilton Hotel?
Susan: Where are you now?
Lyle: I'm just around the corner from Mountain Park.
Susan: Are you on Sunrise Road?
Lyle: Yeah, south of the gas station. I can see a fountain kitty-corner from me.
Susan: OK, head up Sunrise and veer right at the Y intersection of Valley Road.
Lyle: How far to the Y?
Susan: It's one long block. There are a couple of T-intersections along the way, where little streets dead-end into Sunrise. Once you're on Valley, keep going. The hotel is straight ahead.

NOTES:

Many of us know the basic terms for giving directions: "Go straight," "turn right," etc. This conversation uses some more advanced words for telling people where to go. Here are some of the terms Lyle and Susan used:

a. around the corner from: We often hear "on the corner" or "at the corner." "Around the corner" is a little different. It means "on a street that crosses the one you're on." (See the "Locations" lesson for an illustration.)
b. kitty-corner: sometimes "cater-corner." If you are on the southwest corner, the northeast corner is "kitty-corner" from you.
c. head: We often use this instead of "go."
d. veer: The intersection at Sunrise and Valley isn't a 90-degree corner (a right angle). It's shaped like a "Y" (see next term). So when you get to it, you don't really turn, you sort of just adjust your course a little. A similar term is to "angle towards or away from" something. You can say that a bus was veering toward you or angling toward you, deviating from his path. Whichever you use, you'd better move!
e. Y-intersection: Where three streets meet, and none is at a right angle. Often, one is straight, or veers a little to the left or right; the other "branches off" from that.
f. long block: You may have learned about "blocks" in another directions lesson. When Susan says a "long block," she means "don't count the little streets."
g. T-intersection and dead-end: Where two streets meet in a T-shape, one of them "dead-ends" into the other; that is, it doesn't continue, it ends there. This is a verb usage. As a noun, however, "dead-end" usually indicates that the road ends with no alternatives. It simple stops, with nowhere to go but back the way you came; another word for this is "cul-de-sac." When I was a boy, we played ball in a dead-end near our house, because it had little traffic.

PRACTICE:

Look at the picture below. Match the illustrations to the descriptions above. One description will not be used.




QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR WRITING:

1. Practice giving directions to a place you know, using the above terms as often as possible.
2. With a friend, give directions to a place you both know, but DON'T SAY THE PLACE. Your friend must guess what the place is.

ANSWERS TO THE PRACTICE:

1 e; 2 f; 3 a; 4 b; 5 g; 6 d

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use."

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mini-Lessons from Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012

These Mini-Lessons are posted on Twitter, and in China on Weibo, throughout the day. You can follow them there!

To get the most from them, you should try to use them in sentences, or discuss them with friends. Writing something on Twitter or Weibo is a great way to practice!
  • Science: seismology: science that studies earthquakes and other motion inside the earth; seismic waves can be used to "see" inside the earth.
  • Language Study: transitive verb or "v.t. ": a verb that needs a direct object. "Like" is such a verb; we must like SOMETHING, and not say, "I like."
  • Business: depreciation: lowering of something's value over time, like a house. "My car is almost worthless; it has depreciated a lot."
  • Literature: I think; therefore I am: French philosopher Descartes doubted all, even that he existed; then saw that as a thinker, he must be real.
  • New Words: babycino: steamed milk drink; like a cappuccino, but without coffee and so without caffeine. Suitable to serve to children.
  • Slang: It's just...: used when making an excuse. A: "Why are you late?" B: "It's just, I lost my bus card." Sometimes "It's just that…"
  • Modern History: czar: once the title for emperors of Russia; also spelled "tsar." Now used to describe any powerful leader, like a "crime czar."

NOTES:
  1. Except for the Slang words, all the words in these Mini-Lessons came from lists either on the Oxford University Press site or in the Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. I wrote the definitions and examples myself.
  2. The Slang words are from my own list, and I wrote the definitions and examples myself.

This lesson is ©2012 by James Baquet. You may share this work freely. Teachers may use it in the classroom, as long as students are told the source (URL). You may not publish this material or sell it. Please write to me if you have any questions about "fair use"