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Archive for April, 2008

Wednesday - April 30, 2008

A TV Show You Can Understand

VOAMany of you know that Voice of America has a “Special English” program that helps you improve your English by using a more limited vocabulary and slowing down the rate of speech (how fast someone talks). It is similar to ESL Podcast, except that there are no explanations or “fast” versions at the end.

Voice of America Special English now has a 30 minute television show which gives you four to five news stories each week in video format. The nice thing about these videos is that they are captioned, meaning you can see the words in English on the screen. VOA makes it easy for you to get these automatically by making them part of a weekly podcast.

If you have iTunes and want to subscribe to the podcast, do this:
(a) Open your iTunes and go the the Advanced menu on the top
(b) Click on the ‘Subscribe to Podcast’ menu item
(c) Copy and paste this web address into the box:

(d) Click Okay.

The latest podcast will begin to download in iTunes. When it’s finished downloading, just click on the episode and enjoy!


Monday - April 28, 2008

Do You Hear a Din in Your Head? Part 2

Last week, I wrote a post about something called the Din in the Head, what is sometimes called “involuntary mental rehearsal.” (If you haven’t read the first post, go back and read it now.) I asked at the end of Part 1 what the meaning of the Din was. What does the Din say about language acquisition?

One researcher thinks that hearing a Din is a sign that your brain is actually picking up new vocabulary, sounds, and grammatical structures. The “noise” of the Din is a product (result) of your Language Acquisition Device (LAD) – that part of your brain that is dedicated to (has the special purpose for) language acquisition.

Who gets the Din? Usually, it is those who are not yet very advanced speakers of the language, or those who are reading or listening to a type of language they are not familiar with (they don’t know very well). Notice that I said read or listen to this language. We acquire languages by reading and listening, especially reading and listening to things we are able to understand. The Din may be your brain’s way of telling you that you are picking up new language, that your LAD is working.

Don’t be discouraged (down, depressed) if you don’t now hear a Din after listening to or reading English. Many of you are already very advanced speakers, and the English you read and listen to now may not contain anything “new” for you to acquire (to get, to pick up). Remember the Din also seems to work for music as well as language, so just listening to a new song a couple of times will soon give you the Din experience. Just be sure to pick a song you like!


Thursday - April 24, 2008

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day

This song by Green Day is, I think, about saying good-bye. The title, Good Riddance, is something we say when we are glad that something or someone is no longer here. I think the title is facetious (joking; being funny). He is not really glad that the person he is saying good-bye to is gone.

This song is dedicated to P.D.M. It is not “good riddance” but a loving farewell to one of the best men who ever lived.

~ Lucy

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)”
by Green Day

Another turning point (time to make a major life change), a fork stuck in the road (a place or time where/when more than one option or way is possible)
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
So make the best of (accept a bad situation and make it as good as possible) this test, and don’t ask why
It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
It’s something unpredictable (not able to know the future), but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life (a great experience; the most enjoyable, interesting, and exciting experience of your life).

So take the photographs, and still frames (each individual picture in a film) in your mind
Hang it on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoos (permanent pictures on your body made with ink) of memories and dead skin on trial (being judged)
For what it’s worth (even though it may not be important) it was worth all the while

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

Wednesday - April 23, 2008

Quotation of the Day

Instead of forwarding this to all of you via (by) email, here is your quotation of the day:

“What is a committee? A group of the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary.”
– (Richard Harkness, New York Herald Tribune, June 16, 1960)


unwilling = not eager to do something; don’t want to do something
unfit = not qualified; does not have the skills or ability to do something
unnecessary = not needed

~ Lucy

Tuesday - April 22, 2008

Remove Me From Your List (Please!)

If you’re like me, you have friends, family, and co-workers who forward (send to other people messages that were sent to them) email jokes, chain letters, and other messages that you probably don’t want. Chain letters are letters that tell you to forward that message to other people or something bad will happen. I never forward chain letters so I’m expecting to be killed or maimed (permanently injured), or have many years of bad luck.
For me, it’s difficult to email that person to tell them to take me off his or her list. I don’t want to hurt their feelings (make them feel badly) or to make them think that I don’t appreciate them thinking of me (having me in their mind). The flip side (the other side of the issue; on the other hand) is that I have far too many email messages in my inbox when I check for new messages.

Some people suggest writing an email to the person who has you on their distribution list (list of people who receive a message or something else) to ask them to remove you. This is one example:
. . .

Thank you for thinking of me with the jokes and quotations of the day (words said in the past by someone else that are funny, interesting, or inspirational). I’ve appreciated you sending them to me. Right now, though, I am trying to get a handle on (to manage; to keep in good order even though it is difficult) my email, and I am asking people to remove me from their distribution lists for the time being (for a short time).

Would you please remove me from your distribution list?

Thank you very much.
. . .
This note is polite enough and I might send something like this to someone, but I haven’t done it yet. Right now, my strategy (plan) is to continue deleting (erasing; putting in the trash) those messages from my inbox.

What do you do with unwanted email from people you know, people you don’t want to offend (upset)? Would you write someone directly to ask them to remove you from their distribution list?

~ Lucy

Monday - April 21, 2008

Do You Hear a Din in Your Head? Part 1

Several years ago I published some scientific articles on a topic called involuntary mental rehearsal. To rehearse means to practice or go over something so that you get better at it. Involuntary is the opposite of voluntary, and means that you don’t intend or try to do something – it just happens. Mental refers to thinking. So you put these all together and you get “thinking about something over and over again without actually wanting or trying to.” An example of involuntary mental rehearsal would be when you hear and song and you keep singing or humming (making noise without opening your mouth) it, even if you don’t like it! (This is sometimes referred to as the Song Stuck in My Head experience, as researcher Tim Murphey has called it.)

Involuntary mental rehearsal also happens with language acquirers (people picking up a new language). One of the leading (best, most important) linguists in the world, Dr. Stephen Krashen, called this the “Din in the Head.” A din is noise, usually a noise that you cannot understand. Krashen noticed that he sometimes experienced a “din” or involuntary mental rehearsal in languages that he was studying. Here’s a description of this experience. See if you have ever had this happen to you in English:

“You have the Din if you sometimes ‘hear’ a clearly noticeable jumble (mix) of English words, sounds, phrases, or even melody patterns in you head. These words and phrases are usually things you have been hearing or reading recently (in class or on English audio programs or television). Often you ‘hear’ the words and phrases in the voice qualities of your teacher or of the people who made English audio, or maybe even in your own voice. These random pieces of English just come into or appear in your head at nearly any time or place, and it’s all usually involuntary. At times it may be active enough to be described as a ‘constant rehearsal in the head.’”

I used to get the Din in my head when I was a beginning and intermediate student of Spanish, and I still do after I read magazine or watch a TV show in Spanish. The same thing happens to me when I hear other languages I’ve tried to acquire (such as Italian and French).

It is also possible to experience a din in your own languge, if you read or listen to a style or type of language that you are not familiar with, such as poetry or an older form of your language. The din usually doesn’t last long, and will go away after a few days unless you continue to read or listen to that form of the language.

Do you ever get a Din in the Head after listening to ESL Podcast? The Din usually takes place when you are not thinking about English or concentrating on something else (for example, when you are washing the dishes or driving and not listening to music).

The more important question is: What does the Din really mean in terms of language acquisition? To find out that, come back next week for Part 2 of this post.


Tuesday - April 15, 2008

Fun Puns

Puns are jokes that use different meanings of the same or similar sounding words. English spelling allows different words with the same sound to be spelled differently, so there is more opportunity in English for puns. Puns are very difficult to understand unless you know both meanings of the words. Although there is an expression in English, “If you have to explain the joke, it is no longer funny,” I will try anyway.

When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.

The pun here is on the words seconds and four/for. Seconds has two meanings: a measure of time (60 seconds in 1 minute), and a second helping or serving of food. For example, if you are eating at home and your spouse asks you if you want “seconds,” s/he means “Do you want another serving of the food you just ate?” Four is a number (4), and for is a preposition. To go back for seconds means to go get more food. To go back four seconds means the clock reverses in time four seconds. So this is a “double pun,” in that we are “punning” on the words seconds and four.

Don’t worry if you don’t think the joke is funny. I liked it, but I really like puns!


Thursday - April 10, 2008

Googleganger, Part II

Mirror ImageLast October, Lucy posted a note about the concept of a “Googleganger,” who is a person who has your name and whom you discover while searching on Google. For example, I would search for “Jeff McQuillan” and find other people with that same name around the world.

The New York Times has an article this morning on this idea of finding people with your name, and actually contacting them to meet! The article is entitled “Names that Match Forge a Bond on the Internet.” To forge a bond means to make a connection, to get to know someone better.

So if you haven’t looked for your Googleganger yet, then read this article and you may decide to make friends with your namesakes (people who have the same name as you).


Wednesday - April 9, 2008

Meet Actor Carin Chea (English Cafe 132)

carin.jpgIn today’s English Cafe 132, Jeff interviewed Carin Chea, an actor as part of our “Ask an American” segment. Carin gave us a behind the scenes (secret or hidden information that most people don’t know) look at what it’s like to be an actor in Los Angeles.

Carin mentioned that one thing an actor needs to have is a headshot, a photograph of one’s head and shoulders, to submit when applying for an acting job. Carin was nice enough to give us a copy of her headshot, so you can put a face to a voice (see what someone looks like after hearing their voice).

When Carin was in the studio (where we record our podcasts), she said she had thought about getting her hair cut short, but that if she did, she would have to get new headshots taken. I guess that’s an occupational hazard of being an actor. An occupational hazard is something that is a drawback, or unfortunately part, of one’s job. You have to think twice (to think carefully before deciding) about changing your appearance!

Carin has been in films, television shows, theater productions (shows), commercials, and many other things. Thanks, Carin, for telling us about life as an actor in L.A.!

~ Lucy

Tuesday - April 8, 2008

Jokes: An Irish Toast

French ToastI thought I would comment on a joke I found, since everyone enjoys a good laugh now and then (occasionally). I put a general explanation on the left side of the page which you can read to give you some background information. Read that first, then read the joke. Finally, read “The Joke Explained” on the bottom, right side of the page to see if you understood it correctly.