Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Plagiarism: How big of an issue/problem is it?

Plagiarism, or copying exact words or concepts of others without giving credit, has become an important issue throughout the world, and in particular, the United States where many international students have attending school. In working with such students for many years, many struggle with the language and either copy material from the Internet because(1) they believe they can't write effectively on their own, (2) don't understand the issues and concept of plagiarism, and/or (3) don't see anything wrong with it because so many people do it anyway.

But, of course, this isn't just an international student issue as well; native English speakers engage in the practice. So, my question is on how we can best train and educate students to better do research and improve their writing skills so they can avoid the problem of plagiarism and the potential penalties of engaging in such a practice. Please share your ideas and experiences.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Daily ESL: Learning English for Everyday Use

Students often complain that the English they're learning in their classrooms has little value outside in the real world . . . at least for everyday use. In other words, although some textbooks have topics on undersea creatures in the Arctic region or the life of a rare butterfly in the rain forest, students rarely feel that this information is useful to them to order a burger at a restaurant or meet new people ("So, nice party, isn't it? How about talking about the life of the Wawu Butterfly in the rain forest?") Now, honestly speaking, all topics have value, and I'm not saying that ecology isn't valuable to all of us. I'm just saying that students often want language that is very practical . . . the kind that can be quickly used once you step off the airplane in New York City.

For these reasons, I created my site, Daily ESL (http://www.dailyesl.com) to help students learn common expressions, dialogues, and vocabulary for everyday use. Give this site a try. Here is one example:


I'm still developing the site, but this page should give you an idea on the types of activities and lessons I'm working on. There is a listening activity, discussion questions, a vocabulary quiz, and even an Internet Exercise.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Volunteer Work and Service: How common is it?

Most of our lives are spent taking care of our own needs, but I once read the following quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill:

"You make a living by what you earn;
you make a life by what you give."

What do this mean to you and have you done anything in your life for others that made their lives better? I'm speaking specifically things done for other people outside of your family or immediate relationships (wife, husband, partner, girlfriend, etc.). I remember years ago one of my sons picked apples off his grandfather's apple trees (with his grandfather's permission, of course), sold the apples to neighbors, and then gave all of the money he earned to our church to help the poor in our area. I think he remembers that experience, and it also affected those who perhaps didn't really need all of the apples they bought, but they saw that his efforts might help other people.

So, what things have you personally done or have seen done in your area to help others? Is this type of volunteer work common? Please share your ideas.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Home Repairs: What would you fix?

Think about the place you live. If you could fix or change one thing about your place, what would it be, how would you change it, and why? Personally, my wife and I have wanted to fix up our kitchen for some time. The wall paper is a little old, and so is the floor, and the counter top and sink really need to be replaced. However, we are pretty frugal with our money, so I think we'll wait to take care of other expenses first.

So, what about you? What would you fix or change? Share your ideas.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Travel: Fly or Drive Across the Country?

If you were visiting a new continent in the world (e.g., Africa, South American, Australia, etc.), would you rather travel from city to city by plane or by ground transportation like by car? Why? Also, what are the advantages and disadvantages of for of transportation? Please share your personal experiences if you have traveled before?


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Senior Citizens: Who should care for them?

In many parts of the world, the number of older citizens is slowing growing to the point someday in which the elderly will out number younger citizens. However, in your country, what are common ways in which family take care of their older members? Do families care for each other in their old age, or do the elderly prefer to live on their own? Are these attitudes changing over time? Please share your ideas.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Street Markets: Bargaining Tips in Your Country

Although haggling (=bargaining for a better price) is common in street markets in certain parts of the world, this practice is not universal. As I have traveled to many parts of the world, I often find myself in street markets trying to buy local crafts (bags, pottery, leather goods). In such cases, I find myself trying to talk down the price. However, I find that some international students, from countries where these practices are common, try to do the same thing where I live in the United States, and the result is that they can appear somewhat aggressive to shop owners.

So, what tips or suggestions do you have for people trying to buy things in stores and street markets in your city or country?


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Important People in Your Life

As a father of four children (ranging from 11 years old and up to adulthood), I sometimes sit down to the dinner table to hear kids complaining about the dinner meal. "Ah, are we having this again?!" "Ah, I didn't want this!" Fortunately, this doesn't happen too often, and my kids are generally appreciative of my wife's cooking (which is EXCELLENT), and I have loosely calculated that she has probably made about 15,000 meals for the family over the years. That's a lot! I often tell my kids that my years growing up were happy, but my parents' dinner menu consisted a few basic meals, including spam, frozen fried chicken, and some of my mom's good Mexican cooking. I was grateful for what they did for me.

Now, the person that is most important in my life is my wife of 21 years. I told my kids that when two people are considering marriage, they really have no idea the amount of work that it takes to build a happy marriage, particularly when it takes a lot of work, patience, selflessness, and service. Romantic love only will take you so far. Deep commitment in the face of challenges is what can carry you through some dark hours in your life.

So, who is the most important person in your life? Please tell us about this person and describe how he/she/they have influenced your life.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Unique Pizzas: What toppings can I expect?

Although pizza can be found in countries around the world, the actual toppings on the pizza can vary from place to place based on traditional foods of the area. Please share any unique pizza styles I could expect if I order a pizza in your hometown. Share your thoughts on this topic.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Presidential Candidates: Should people with young families run for office?

Recently, a great deal of talk in the United States is on the running of Alaskan Governor Sara Palin who has a young family, including a baby son who has a medical condition called Down Syndrome. The same could be true to Barak Obama, another leading candidate for president of the United States, who has two young daughters. My question is whether people (men or women) who have young families run for political office, especially at a national level, where they might have limited time to see and raise their own families. What do you think? Can people really balance time between family and career in this kind of work? If so, how? Please share your ideas on this topic.


Monday, September 1, 2008

New Listening Activities

Many of you might already be aware of my listening Website, Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab (www.esl-lab.com), but you might not know about my newest short listening activities. These are designed to help low to intermediate ESL/EFL students with short listening pratice, and they also encourage students to talk about the topics. Here are some of my newest listening activities, and you can find more on my main page under Basic Listening:

Shopping Center:
- http://www.esl-lab.com/eslbasic/shoppingmall-1.htm

- http://www.esl-lab.com/eslbasic/movies-1.htm

ESL Programs:
- http://www.esl-lab.com/eslbasic/eslprograms-1.htm

Let me know what you think about them.



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