Saturday, October 27, 2007

EZslang: Idiomatic expressions for ESL/EFL students

One reason students have a difficult time understanding conversational speech is that native speakers often use a variety of idiomatic expressions that students have not been exposed to. Just think of the word, "nose", and you can come up with a whole variety of expressions:

- thumb your nose at
- have your nose in a book
- put your nose to the grindstone
- have a nose for something

For this reason, I created my listening Website, ( So, do you have a favorite idiomatic expression? If so, share the expression, its meaning, and a sample sentence.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pronunciation or Grammar: Which is more important?

In this poll, I asked visitors this question: "If, by magic, you could change your English language skills overnight, in which situation would you prefer to find yourself?":
  • You would have perfect pronunciation like a native speaker, but you would still make a lot of grammar mistakes.
  • You could use English grammar perfectly in all situations, but you would have a noticeable accent.
Interesting enough, it appears that visitors are almost equally divided on this issue. But why? Which skill do you think affects a native-speaker's impression and reaction to ESL/EFL learners? Share your ideas on this topic.


Monday, October 22, 2007

UFO: Are they signs of life out there?

Appearances of UFOs, or unidentified flying objects, have been recorded for years, but are these real visitors from space or just made-up stories to attract attention. What is your opinion on the subject? Are there stories about such objects specific to your culture? Here is one Website that deals with the topic ( Share your ideas.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Language Learning: Why does it slow at intermediate levels?

Many ESL/EFL students experience a slowdown in their language learning once they reach an intermediate level of language proficiency, and they often do not know why. Although there are a number of factors that contribute to this, a main cause can be a fossilization (a state of not changing) of their language skills. In other words, at the beginning stages of language learning, students are focusing on everyday topics like shopping, eating out, and directions; however, as levels increase, students need to be able to talk about more abstract topics or subjects (e.g., freedom, honesty, psychology) that require critical-thinking skills (e.g., compare, analyze information from various sources, infer meaning); unfortunately, students tend to try to rely on their basic language skills to talk about advanced topics instead of experimenting with newer language skills they are learning at the intermediate level.

What complicates this matter is that most people, even in their native languages, tend to use basic language on a daily basis---you can't change that---and might not find themselves (or try to put themselves) in more challenging situations, particularly when learning a foreign language.

So, what other factors affect the slowdown of language learning among students? Share your own personal experiences and solutions to this issue. Randall

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Race Discrimination: Is it always real?

Listen and share your thoughts on this topic.

School Uniforms: Are they in everyone's best interest?

Throughout many parts of the world, elementary school students are required to wear some form of uniform to school, and many state that it provides stability and order in a classroom enviroment. On the other hand, some might say that it limits students' freedom of expression. From my poll on the subject, 75% seem to favor uniforms. Now is you chance to share your written opinions on the topic. Comment on your experiences on the topic and share what is common in your part of the world. Randall

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Internet Addiction: A follow-up

Thanks for sharing your opinions on this poll. As you can see, 20% of those who responded spend 5 or more hours online. My question is how does being online affect normal, face-to-face relationships in a real world verses a virtual one. Please share any follow-up comments on the topic.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Internet Addiction: How bad is the problem?

We often speak of different additions to smoking, drinking, and even carbonated drinks like coke, but how big is the problem with Internet addiction? Using the Internet for education and work purposes is an indespensible tool today, but what about the effects that using the Internet can have on our daily lives and relationships? Share your experiences and discuss the problem in your own country? How can we live more balanced lives?


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Generation Gap: How have things changed?

Generation gaps occur throughout the world as innovation, technology, and other advances take place. Such changes can affect society in a huge way. Personally, I was born in the early 1960s, and one of the biggest changes has been in how students study and do research. When I first was in college, students wrote their papers using a typewriter, and if you made a mistake, then you'd have to start all over again or try to correct it by erasing the errors. This was before the revolution of home computers and even the Macintosh personal computer in 1984. Now, many students have their own laptops or home computers. Furthermore, to do research, I always went to the library and used the card catalog to find the information I needed. Nowadays, students' first step is to browse the Internet. These changes bring their own challenges. I find that unless students know how to conduct good research and identify quality sources, they often can't judge what is accurate or not. So, please share your ideas on how time and generation gaps have affected your countries and areas.


Thursday, October 4, 2007

School Lunches: What and where do children eat?

In schools across the world, children who go to school might have some sort of lunch during the day. However, where they eat and what they eat might be influenced by culture or local circumstances. For instance, in many schools in the United States, there is a lunch room where students can buy lunch. In the lower grades, there is a set meal which often includes some basic main item (chicken sandwich), plus some vegetables, and fruit. There are usually two choices. Of course, children can bring a lunch from home, which might include a sandwich, chips, an apple or similar fruit, and a cookie. What about in your country or area?


Monday, October 1, 2007

Search Engines: Finding What You Need?

In this poll, I asked visitors which search engine they use first to find information on the Internet, and it wasn't surprising to see that Google came in first. This has been due, in part, to Google's simple design and efficiency. However, after showing many students and teachers other search engines with specialized features, they are surprised to discover that these engines often give better focused results that are not determined by link-popularity alone. In fact, websites like group search results by clusters to help users brainstorm new ideas, and presents information of all types in your search results. Try searching something like "China" in both of these search engines and see what results you get. Share your ideas on the topic. Students and teachers can benefit from learning how to search the Internet more effectively.