Entries Tagged as 'Just Plain Helpful'

Conversation Tips: American Football

Here are some open-ended questions you can ask Americans about football:

  • Who’s your favorite team?
  • Where are they from?
  • Why do you like them?/Are you from that area?
  • Do they have a good defense/offense?
  • Who is their quarterback?
  • What is the goal/objective of the game?
  • Who is playing in the Superbowl?
  • Who do you think will win?

Accent Reduction Tips

If you’re thinking about altering your accent, try focusing on these aspects of language:

  • study the characteristics of your language’s sound system and how it differs from English.  Start with the differing consonants, which seem to create more misunderstandings.
  • practice in phrases (not individual words) and how one word blends with the words surrounding it
  • move your mouth more than you’re used to – open it wider like you’re yawning, spread the corners of your lips to meet your ears!  This sounds like an exaggeration, but moving your mouth in different ways is a major component of forming new sounds.
  • watch Americans’ lips when they speak – watching on TV is OK to avoid any awkwardness, but the Simpsons, Family Guy, or some other cartoon won’t help you.
  • listen to and imitate sentence stress and intonation and stress patterns within phrases (my favorite activity for this is listening to and singing along with music)
  • copy what you hear exactly and often (as exact and as often as you can)

This is all I can think of for now, but there are more.  I’ll post them as I start to remember them.  For now, I hope these help.

Get Social with AllEnglish

Did you know you can now subscribe, follow, and like AllEnglish all over the internet? Here are some different ways:

So many of my posts are inspired by comments and suggestions from people with the same language questions as you, and I would love to hear what’s on your mind.  So, now your job is to comment, call, subscribe, and, of course, like!

What does “eve” mean?

When speaking of Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, “eve” means the evening before.  So Christmas Eve is December 24th, and New Year’s Eve is December 31st.


Child’s Play and Spatial Vocabulary Development

This Science Daily article refers to research about how playing with blocks increases spatial development.  Interaction during this play time also increases spatial vocabulary.

The researchers found that when playing with blocks under interactive conditions, children hear the kind of language that helps them think about space, such as “over,” “around” and “through.”

So, is there an age limit to playing with children’s toys in the classroom to learn these prepositions?  Some classes are academic leaning and don’t allow for much play.  However, other groups might be willing to play around, especially if it helps them master prepositions reflecting spatial concepts that are often difficult to explain with words and pictures only.

It’s Halloween Eve! What does “Eve” mean?

Why do people say “Eve” instead of just Christmas or New Year’s?  What does “Eve” mean?

During the holidays, we say “eve” to mean the evening before the holiday.  It is also used when speaking about Halloween.  October 31st is All Hallow’s Eve.  All Hallow’s Day, or All Saints Day, is November 1st.  We usually don’t say Halloween Eve, because (1)  it would be redundant to do so, since Halloween, the word itself, comes from an abbreviated form of All Hallow’s Eve, and (2) Halloween Eve, if used, would actually refer to October 30th.

I have heard (and seen on Twitter) people jokingly expand the definition of eve to mean the day before any day:  my birthday eve (the day before my birthday), or Thursday is Friday Eve.

People don’t joke about Eve very often, just often enough for me to want to mention it.  Remember, if you use eve in writing after a holiday, even if you’re joking, remember to capitalize it!

If you are troubled by English…

Sometimes when learning a language, or anything new, we can get so wrapped up in pushing ahead and learning more.  More vocabulary, less frequent verb tenses, the exact translation of a phrase, or figuring out why they use this preposition over that!

If this sound like you, take a moment to relax.

As you relax, think about the early days when you were too timid to utter a sentence.  What are some of the things you learned in your first class?  What are some things you and your first English speaking friend talked about?

My point is that you should take some time and revisit the basics.  You might benefit by realizing how far you have come in your studies.  You might build your confidence by mastering those grammar points that seemed so confusing last year.  You might even find that there, within the first pages of your notebook, or on page 6 of your 400-page textbook, is the answer you’ve been looking for all along.

Plurals – The Good, The Bad, and the Puzzling

You might have noticed that I’ve been writing a series on Puzzling Plurals.  Here are links to all of those posts in one convenient place for you, organized by topic:


Signs of Dyslexia

The signs of dyslexia go beyond abilities of decoding symbols. The International Dyslexia Association covers some of the other common problems people with dyslexia encounter including memorizing number facts, learning a foreign language, and correctly doing math operations.  Check out their website for signs of dyslexia among adults, very young children, and older children.

They also have a frequently asked questions page if you are interested in learning more.

Spelling Incorrectly Hurts Online Sales

If you have hired, or if you are, a content manager or editor whose native language is not English, please read this report from Search Engine Watch.  The report spells out how misspellings can hurt online sales, stating that it’s not important if the author isn’t concerned with the spelling.  What really matters is the website visitor’s opinion.  Specifically alarming is is the fact that your visitors will equate good spelling and grammar with legitimacy.

Accurate spelling and good grammar are equated with legitimacy, if not consciously then subconsciously. Some of us may be more aware of this sentiment when it is expressed in the negative: Bad spelling and bad grammar are cause for suspicion. For example, what’s the first clue a piece of email from a stranger is a scam? Many people would say it’s the bad spelling and grammar.

The article is also helpful by providing tips for avoiding such costly mistakes.

  1. Don’t rely on spell checkers. The above heading passes a spell check with flying colors. Spell checkers can be a big help, especially those that flag errors as you type, but they just don’t have the human intelligence required to know which words you should be using.
  2. Use multiple human editors. I don’t know any serious writers who believe they can reliably copy edit their own work. As the writer you tend to see what you think you wrote, not what characters ended up on the page. In a pinch, “multiple human editors” can mean the person writing the copy and one other person, but three sets of eyes are better than two.
  3. Make sure your graphics people use the spellchecker in Photoshop for any images that include words. They need to use it before rasterizing the text layer. Editing typos in flattened image files is a real pain so check before you save to JPEG, GIF, or PNG.

If you are an ESL student, you should know what your instructors’ goals are when grading.  Some might focus more on content rather than on accuracy.  If  your instructor looks more at content and less on grammatical accuracy, ask them what areas you can improve.  There is always room for improvement whether it is working on native English phrasing, choosing the right diction to present the intended meaning, or using the most appropriate verb tense.