Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas: Is it celebrated in your country?

Christmas is a holiday celebrated by many people around the world, but how the day is remembered can differ widely from country to country and even from family to family. Please share your ideas and experiences on this holiday, and what people do on this day. If Christmas isn't celebrated, then please share any other festivities or holidays celebrated at the end of the year.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

English Teachers in the Classroom

So, how much does a teacher's use of English affect students' learning of the language in the classroom?As you can see from this poll, only 37% of students responded that their teachers use/used English usually or always in the classroom, where as 29% said that their teachers seldom or never use/used English. What do you think the reasons are for these results, and in what ways does this affect students? Share your experiences and opinions on this topic.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Culture Training: Breaking Down Stereotypes

Although ESL/EFL students most of their time learning English, little time is often spent on learning about cultures and how to adjust to new environments. One of the greatest concerns is that people develop stereotypes (or negative images) about another cultures, and these perceptions can lead to making false judgements about other people. For example, many international students coming to Utah and the United States think that all North Americans eat is fast food (hot dogs, hamburgers, and pizza), but they are surprised to see that the university cafeteria serves food from all over the world, and salads are a very popular choice.

So, is there a stereotype that people often have about your culture? If so, share what it is, and help us understand your culture better.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Snacks: What do people enjoy?

Many people enjoy snacks between meals, either while at work or after school when they return home. However, the snacks people each can vary widely from culture to culture or family to family. While some people think of potato chips as a snack, I really enjoyed Edamae, or boiled soybeans while I was in Japan. Basically, you boil the beans with the shell in salt and then serve. At that point, you just remove the pod, or outside shell, and enjoy. So, what about you? Share any unique or interesting snacks that people eat where you live. Randall

Friday, November 23, 2007

Job Interviews

Listen and share your ideas on this topic.

Household Chores: Who is responsible in your culture?

Cooking, cleaning, caring for children, sweeping. So, who is responsible for such chores in your family and culture? Is there any expectation that women do these around the house instead of men? Is this changing? Do women put off getting married because they are worried they will have to do everything?

Having a clear understanding of the expectations on both sides before marriage can help avoid contention and problems in a relationship.

Now, tell us who is responsible for one or more of these household chores in your family and culture. Be sure to tell us where you are from so we can understand your culture better:

  • cooking
  • cleaning the bathroom
  • vacuuming floors
  • changing babies' diapers
  • washing clothes
  • ironing clothes
  • washing the dishes

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Leisure Activities: What do you like to do?

Leisure or recreational activities outside of work and school can give people opportunities to relax and get rid of stress from the day, but I think that what people do is often determined by individual preference, culture, and even geographic location. Personally, I really enjoy hiking, as seen on my Website, Hiking in Utah ( Hiking in the mountains not only gives me chances to exercise, but it allows me to see nature and get away from the cares of the day. There is nothing like standing on a high mountain peak and enjoying the solitude. So, how about you? What do you like to do in your free time?


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

School Grades: How are they determined?

One question that often comes up is whether ESL/EFL teachers should grade students based on their attitude and participation in classes, and if so, how much should this be part of the grade. In other words, what is the relationship between actual English ability and attitude. In the program where I work, students can move up to the next level in the program if the pass the class with a good grade, and 15% of the grade is based on participation. However, if too much of the grade is based on just whether they participate or not, and not how they perform on language tests, students might move up but not be ready in terms of their true ability. What do you think on this topic? How should students be scored and graded?


Monday, November 19, 2007

Learning English: Is exposure enough?

Having taught ESL/EFL for the past 20 years, I have come to realize that mere exposure to the target language isn't enough to learn English. In other words, thousands and thousands of students come to the United States with the hope of learning the language, and their parents often think that by just being in the country, their children will pick up the language. Unfortunately, the reality is that many students come to the US, attend ESL classes, and then tend to speak their native language with their friends the rest of the day, only to return to the class the next day for a sprinkling of English. In fact, some ESL students complain that there are too many other students from their country in their class, and therefore, they can't learn English. However, these same students just speak their native language once they walk out the classroom door.

For many of these students, they end up being able to carry on basic day-to-day conversations and order a hamburger at a restaurant, but they never reach a higher level of communication skills that leads to interesting conversation. What do you think about this?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Famous Tourist Spots: Where do you suggest?

If an international visitor were to visit your city, what places of interest would you recommend he/she to visit? It doesn't have to be an internationally-famous place, but a place where people can find out about the local culture, history, or geology. In my city, there is a famous cave called Timpanogos Cave, and it is a favorite site for locals and international visitors. You can see more about this site at You can earn about the geology of Utah and the history of the people who first lived in this area. Now, please tell us about a tourist spot in your area and why we should go there.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

School Drink Machines: Should kids decide?

A hot topic of discussion in many parts of the world is whether schools should ban drink machines with certain types of soda (Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, etc.) for health reasons and replace these drinks with healthier choices like milk, water, and fruit juice. However, others feel that schools make money from these drinks, and students should be allowed to decide for themselves. What do you think about this topic? How do people in your area and country feel about this issue? Share your ideas.

Here are the results of my poll on the topic.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Home Remedies: What do you do in your country?

Many people dislike running to the doctor for medicine to cure common ailments or sicknesses, and thus, they rely on traditional home remedies to help them feel better. For example, for a common cold I had one time, someone mixed up some lemon, garlic, and honey in boiling water, and I drank in to help relieve congestion. Fortunately, it seemed to work. So, are they home remedies specific to your family, country, and culture? Write about any home remedies to the following problems (or any other you can think of):

  • back pain,
  • bad breath
  • colds
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • insect bites
  • insomnia (sleeping problem)
  • nosebleeds
  • sore feet
  • sunburn
  • stuffy nose

Monday, November 12, 2007

Funerals: Expressing Condolences

The loss of a family member or friend due to illness or accident can be a very difficult experience, and each culture, area, or family hold funerals or other activities differently based on a number of factors including cultural traditions and religion. Thus, it can be important to know the local customs expectations when attending a funeral so everything goes smoothly. In my area, funeral proceedings are based on a lot of things including religion. I believe there is life after death, so a funeral is a time to remember the life of the person, but it is also filled with hope because I believe we will see the person again. A funeral is filled with music, short talks about the life of the person, and perhaps a lunch after the person is buried. Visitors often wear formal clothing, but not black suits and ties. In my religion, we focus on hope of seeing the person again, so it isn't just a sad occasion. So, what about in your family or culture? What are the traditions surrounding funerals? This should be helpful for all international visitors to your country.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pets: Are they common in all cultures?

Often, we might assume that having some type of pet is common across the world; however, is this really the case? In my family, we have two dogs, a cat, a bearded dragon (lizard), and fish, but this is due in part to helping my kids learn how to care for animals, available space, and a love for animals. But what about you and people in your culture? Are there certain types of pets that people often have? Are there any pets that people don't have due to cultural values or religion? Share your ideas.


Thursday, November 8, 2007

Intensive Verses Extensive Reading

Getting ESL/EFL students to read sometimes can be a challenge, particularly if their only experience has been years of intensive reading that has been way over their head. In other words, students are sometimes asked to read articles or books that are way too difficult for them, and students then have to use their dictionaries to figure out the meaning of every other word. So, while we thing students are improving their reading and vocabulary, they just end up hating reading entirely and never read for just pleasure.

Extensive reading, on the other hand, is having students read a lot for pleasure, but the reading passages are well within their linguistic reach. For my students, if they can understand 95 percent of what they read, then continue with the book. Otherwise, choose something easier. In this way, I want students to be exposed to high-frequency vocabulary they could recycle in everyday language, particularly in a productive, speaking way. So, what are some ways to encourage students to read more and love it? Please share your ideas.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007

English: Should it be the official language?

There are movements around the United States to make English the official language where any government business can only be done in English (e.g., getting a driver's license). This could spread to the workplace or other situations. However, do such laws help foster unity within a society---a sign of patriotism, or do the become a divisive issue. What do you think?


Monday, November 5, 2007

Polls: Do you have an idea?

As you see on my blog, I have a weekly poll on some aspect of language or culture to help us share our ideas on various topics. Now, I'm looking for ideas on future polls. What topics would you like to discuss and see in a poll? Please post your ideas. Randall

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Birthday Celebrations

Listen and write your ideas on the topic.

Common English Errors: Are native speakers good models?

In a somewhat joking way, I recently asked how many of my students have native English speakers as roommates, and I replied by saying, "Oh, that's too bad." They were surprised by my response, but I commented on how often native speakers (regardless of language) are not perfect role models of how language should be used. This, of course, can lead learners to learn the language incorrectly and/or question what the right usage is. For example, which sentence is correct?

She is tired, so she wants to lie down.
She is tired, so she wants to lay down.

Thus, how can ESL/EFL students best learn from native speakers so the use English correctly? Share your ideas.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flowers: Which colors and types for the right occasion?

Buying flowers for different occasions is a common practice in many parts of the world, but figuring out the types of flowers (and their colors) can be a challenge. For example, you would never give a potted plant to someone in the hospital in Japan because the Japanese feel that the roots of the plant represent the deepening and serious nature of the illness. So, what types of flowers and colors would you give in these situations? Choose one or more and share your ideas:

  • a wedding
  • the death of a close friend
  • a birthday party
  • a school graduation
  • a farewell party
  • a friend is sick in the hospital

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