See Less, See More

Seventeen (17) seconds. That’s all.

That’s about how much time people spend in front of a piece of art as they walk through an art museum. An organization, called Slow Art Day, is trying to change that.

Every year in April, Slow Art Day encourages art museums in the U.S. and around the world to choose five paintings for people to look at “slowly” for 5-10 minutes and to show them in a place that makes it easy to do.

They believe that if people take more time to look at fewer works of art, they will learn more about the art, understand it better, and appreciate it more, even if they know nothing about it. They believe that if people see less, fewer artworks, they will see more in each piece of art.

I used to do something similar with my adult ESL students. Let me use one of my favorite paintings – Claude Monet’s Portal (doorway, entrance) of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light (the photo at the top of the page) – as an example. It’s at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (If you want to look at a larger photo of it, it’s here).

When you first see the painting, it’s easy to see that it’s a cathedral, but there are many things about the cathedral that look different than if you saw it. The lines are soft. Some things aren’t clear and others are missing. The color isn’t what you would expect.

As my students and I talked about the painting and thought about its name – Portal of Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light – they began to think differently about what Monet was doing. He wasn’t painting the cathedral. He was painting the light shining on and around the cathedral, the kind and color of light you find early in the morning.

Monet was interested in the mixture (combination) of air, light, moisture (small amounts of water in the air), and temperature around the cathedral. As that mixture changed during the day, so did the way he saw the cathedral and the way he painted it.

Monet made about 30 of these paintings while looking out of the window of a room he rented across the street from the cathedral. He worked on each one for only about 10 minutes at the same time every day so the light was always the same.

Whenever my students looked at a new work of art, I asked them where their eyes went first and where they went after that. And to think about why. With this painting, the answer was almost always the same. They looked first at the dark area at the bottom and moved up from there. The change from dark to light “pushed” their eyes up to the top of the painting. So did the triangles (shapes with 3 sides) at the top of the doors, the one above that with the small circle for the clock, and the one at the top of the cathedral.

My students discovered that they could learn a lot about works of art by practicing “slow art,” taking time to look at them and think about what the artist did and why. The next time you go to an art museum, choose a few works of art and spend some extra time looking at them and thinking about them.  Remember: see less, see more.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo of Monet’s Rouen Cathedral in Morning Light courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 

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NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – April 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for April 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1302 – Complaining About Parents

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “permissions” and “to come up short.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Emancipation of Minors.”
“The word ’emancipation’ means setting someone free and is often used to talk about the end of ‘slavery’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 602
Topics: Questions Answered – To head-butt a curb, to thin the herd, and to sound like a blue chip; to mock versus to jeer versus to taunt versus to deride; background versus backdrop; to turn out to be; to be on fire; pronouncing “Is he?” and “Is she?”

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Beavis and Butt-Head.”
Beavis and Butt-Head was an animated television show that ‘aired’ (was shown) on MTV, the music television cable television station,…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1303 – Disputing an Incorrect Bill

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “statement” and “look.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Consumer Reports.”
Consumer Reports is an American magazine that publishes ‘detailed’ (with a lot of specific information) “reviews”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thomas Edison’s Talking Doll

We can thank the inventor (person who creates new things) Thomas Edison for many inventions, including movie cameras, phonographs (early record players), light bulbs, and so many others.

In his lifetime, he had near 1,100 patents (government licenses for an idea or invention)! He was also a businessman and was able to turn some of his inventions into commercial (business; financial) successes.

But not everything Edison invented was a success.

In 1890, he invented a talking doll (see photo). The doll had a mini (very small) phonograph inside of it. Edison had hoped that the talking doll would help him sell more phonographs.

But the doll was a flop (failure).

First, the doll itself wasn’t very lifelike (looking like a real person) compared to other dolls sold at that time.

Second, and more importantly, the doll’s “voice” sounded very . . . well, listen for yourself. (Warning: If you don’t want to have nightmares (bad dreams), you might not want to listen to this!)

“Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” (a bedtime prayer (message to God))
“Little Jack Horner” (a nursery rhyme (children’s poem))

The doll’s voice was a recording of a woman imitating (trying to sound like) the voice of a little girl. Edison himself thought the recordings were very unpleasant to listen to and everyone else agreed. The doll voice was creepy (frightening), perhaps something you would hear in a horror (intended to be frightening) movie.

The final flaw (problem) was the price: it cost about $200 in today’s dollars.

Edison stopped making dolls after only a month. His experience just reminds us that even very talented people have failures.

But it’s just a good thing for us that he didn’t stop inventing after this setback (failure after having some success) or we might be writing this in the dark!

~ Jeff

Photo Credit: National Park Service
Posted in Life in the United States | 2 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – April 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for April 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1300 – Diversifying a Workforce

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “stale” and “to tackle problems.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Job Accomodation Network.”
“The United States Department of Labor created the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) in 1983…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 601
Topics: Questions Answered:  Whose Line is it Anyway?, to shiver versus to tremble versus to quiver; something versus something else; to bite the bullet; to blow (something) apart; to shy (away) from

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Actors Studio.”
“Most professional actors, theater ‘directors’ (the person who is in charge of the actors and staff), and ‘playwrights’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1301 – Describing Very Large and Small Sizes

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “size” and “to bolt.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Clothing Stores for Large or Small People.”
“Most ‘department stores’ (large stores that have for sale clothing and household items, usually within a shopping mall)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Things That Stick Out

“Stick out” is an interesting little expression.

It describes something that is easy to see, or is noticeable, because it comes out farther than the rest. For example, “He’s so tall that he sticks out in a crowd (large group of people).” Or, “His legs stick out when he’s working under his car.”

If you studied geography in school, you learned about the countries, oceans, rivers, mountains, cities, etc. of the world. And you probably learned about peninsulas, those “almost islands” that stick out into a large body of water. In the U.S., the state of Florida is a good example. Like a large finger, it sticks out of the larger part of the U.S. into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

If you had studied geography in the U.S., you might have studied something else that sticks out, called a panhandle (in other countries, they might be called a salient).

The word comes from the kitchen. Pans are what you cook food in. One pan – the frying pan that you might might use to cook eggs and bacon for breakfast – has a long narrow handle to use to pick it up.

In geography, a panhandle is a long narrow piece of land that sticks out from a larger area, like a state, into another. Ten U.S. states have panhandles, and some of them are well known.

The Alaska, Oklahoma, Florida, and Maryland (you need a larger map to see it) panhandles look like what you’d expect – long and narrow handles attached to one side of the state; Nebraska’s panhandle is where you’d expect it to be, but it’s short and fat. Idaho’s looks like a finger pointing up at Canada; the Texas panhandle is also at the top and, like Nebraska’s, it’s short and fat. West Virginia has two panhandles and Connecticut’s, at the bottom of the state, points at (to show with your finger) New York City.

Why talk about panhandles? Robert Reid recently wrote on the National Geographic website that some of the U.S. panhandles are interesting enough that people should think about visiting them. Here are his three favorites:

1. Alaska’s panhandle is already a popular place to visit. You can cruise (travel on a boat) among the islands along the panhandle to see snow-covered mountains, glaciers (large sheets of ice), small villages, and bears and other animals. You can visit Sitka, an old historic village or Juneau, Alaska’s capital.

2. When you think about Florida’s panhandle, think about 200 miles (320 km) of beautiful white-sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico, sunshine, and . . . tourists.

3. I wrote about Nebraska’s sandhills in Where Buffalo Used To Roam. The Nebraska panhandle is mostly sandhills, but they are broken up (interrupted) by 800 foot (~240 m) high rocks that have been carved (cut into shape) by years of wind and rain. Early Americans traveled through this rough but beautiful area on their way to the West.

If you’d like to learn more about America’s panhandles, take a few minutes to look at Reid’s article on the National Geographic website.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Map photo from National Geographic.

 

 

Posted in Language & Terms, Life in the United States | 8 Comments

English is a Four-Letter Word

conversation-545621_1280When someone in the U.S. uses the term “four-letter word,” they are referring to those words in English that are considered “obscene” or “vulgar”  – that is, bad language that you would not say in front of your mother, your teacher, or your boss. We call these “four-letter words” even though some of them have more or less than four letters.

We do this because many of the obscene words in English are one syllable, and many of them have four letters, including perhaps the most famous one which begins with the letter “f,” which we call the “f-word.” Some of the less vulgar ones are “hell,” which refers the very unpleasant place that some people believe bad people will go when they die (sometimes capitalized – “Hell”), or “damn,” something you would say to curse someone or if something bad happens to you.

From our common use of four-letter words comes the popular expression: “________ is a four-letter word.” This phrase means that this thing, whatever it is, is unpleasant, very bad, or causes you terrible problems and you want to express how much you dislike it or how much trouble it has caused you.

Some popular phrases are:
– “Love is a four-letter word.”
– “Work is a four-letter word.”
In these two examples, “love” and “work” actually have four letters.

But, we can also use this expressions with longer or shorter words, such as:
– “Trust is a four-letter word.” Trust is the belief in the reliability or truth of something or someone.
– “Rejection is a four-letter word.” Rejection, when used it to talk about love and relationships, refers to someone refusing the love and affection they are offered.
Of course, “trust” and “rejection” have more than four-letters, but the idea (and the joke) is that these things have the same meaning as four-letter words — they are bad and they make you want to curse them.

If you’ve been trying to improve your English for a long time, you might say: “English is four-letter word!”

~ ESLPod Team

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*This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 54. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Language & Terms | 3 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – March 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for March 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1296 – Taking a Buyout

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “tight” and “rat race.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Buyouts.”
“Companies may have several types of buyouts. The type of buyout described in this lesson happens when…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 599
Topics: A Fraudulent Auction; term versus semester; to go to church/mosque versus to go to the church/mosque; to coin a phrase

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Famous Auction Houses.”
“People who are selling ‘valuable’ (with a high worth; able to be sold for a lot of money)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1297 – Types of Neighborhoods

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “planned community” and “new lease on life.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Famous Urban Renewal Projects.”
“The United States has many famous ‘urban renewal projects’ that have improved the ‘atmosphere’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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The Hello Project

Few of my students had trouble with the first part of the assignment (work given to students):

Identify a kind of person you don’t like or makes you uncomfortable and describe what it is that you don’t like or makes you uncomfortable.

Everyone had trouble with part two:

Find someone like that. Spend some time with them – take them to lunch or have coffee with them – and talk to them for at least 20-30 minutes. Learn as much as you can about them.

The third part was always the best:

Look at your answer to part one, then write about what, if anything, changed.

Something always did. And when we talked about it in class, we discovered quickly that talking – and more importantly, listening – to someone can change ideas about other people that we had believed, often for many years.

During last year’s election campaign (political activity before a vote), reporter Yvonne Leow felt that too few people were talking – or listening – to each other. She believed that many people forgot that “we’re all humans at the end of the day trying to understand each other” and did nothing about it. That’s why she started the Hello Project.

Leow is a second-generation American – her mother was born in Cambodia – and the two of them have often had trouble understanding each other. Their relationship began to improve when they sat down to talk about themselves – Leow calls it storytelling. Her mother grew up in Cambodia, she in the U.S. They had had different experiences while growing up and, as a result, looked at life differently.

Leow wanted the Hello Project to help people connect with each other and to share their stories, like she and her mother had. In her invitation she wrote, “We know our country is divided, and we want to see if individual conversations can help” make a difference. We want to encourage “understanding, not necessarily agreement and . . . learn from each other.”

More than 100 people signed up to talk. One of them, a reporter from Washington, D.C., talked to a retired school teacher in Phoenix, AZ. Their backgrounds, their lives, and their hopes and fears were very different. But after they finished talking, they shared their email address and agreed to become pen pals (people who write each other). Others had similar experiences.

Leow is hoping to continue the Hello Project. She writes that we as people and the world we live in are complex (difficult to understand) and asks if we can accept and respect each other for that. The Hello Project’s answer seems to be, “Yes!” Especially if we continue to talk to each other.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor/coach and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo by Steve Garfield used under Creative Commons license

Posted in Life in the United States | 7 Comments

NEW Daily English and Cultural Lessons – March 2017

icon_51812New lessons are released the first day of each month.

Here are a few of the new lessons available for March 2017.

To listen to these and other Daily English and Cultural English lessons, become a Select English Member today!
………

DAILY ENGLISH 1294 – Chaperoning a Field Trip

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to get out of hand” and “signed.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Types of Field Trip Destinations.”
“Most schoolchildren ‘look forward to’ (are excited and eager to do something) going on field trips…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

CULTURAL ENGLISH 598
Topics: Popular Idioms – “Mexican Standoff” and “Young Turks”; paranormal versus abnormal; tough, tuff, and tough guy; even

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Cinco de Mayo in the U.S.”
“‘Cinco de Mayo,’ which is a Spanish phrase that simply means ‘May 5th,’ is an ‘unofficial’ (not recognized by the federal government) but…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

DAILY ENGLISH 1295 – Buying a Watch

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “face” and “hand.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Specialty Watches.”
“A simple watch ‘merely’ (only; just) tells the time, but ‘specialty watches’ have additional ‘features’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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It’s Spring – Let’s Party!

Spring is here, and in the next few weeks U.S. students will be getting one week of vacation from elementary (kindergarten to 5th grade) and secondary schools (middle school/junior high school and high school), and from colleges and universities.

For students, especially college students, spring break is a time to go on vacation with friends and to go to a lot of parties. Whether you’re partying for spring break, attending a friend’s birthday party, or going to a more formal gathering (social meeting), you might find these terms useful to talk about parties and the people who attend them.

Americans have many terms to talk about party-goers (people who go to parties). A guest of honor is the person for whom a party is held (organized and hosted). For example, at a birthday party, the person who is celebrating a birthday is the guest of honor. At a graduation party, the person who has completed his or her studies is the guest of honor. Often there are VIPs (an acronym for “very important people”) at a party. If your boss comes to a party, then he or she might be a VIP even if he or she isn’t the guest of honor.

Sometimes people come to a party without an invitation (a request to attend or go to an event). These people are called party crashers. In American movies, you sometimes see parties on college campuses (the buildings and land belonging to a college/university,) which are ruined by party crashers who drink too much alcohol and damage the home where the party is being held.

A party pooper is an informal term for a person who isn’t very much fun at a party–or any social event. A party pooper is someone who is sad or depressed and makes it difficult or impossible for other people to have fun. Often a party pooper is a person who doesn’t want to do what everyone else wants to do.

The opposite of a party pooper is a party animal or the life of the party. The term party animal isn’t used very often today, but you still hear people use it jokingly to refer to a person who really enjoys going to parties and has a lot of fun, often getting too wild (out of control). The life of the party is simply someone who makes the party more fun and is often the center of attention (the person other people notice because he or she is interesting).

Finally, some people who go to parties are known as wallflowers. A wallflower is a very quiet and shy person who doesn’t enjoy talking to other people and sits quietly somewhere and is not noticed. This is especially true at dances, where wallflowers sit and watch everyone else dance, but are too timid (shy) to dance themselves.

So the next time you throw (have) a party, let’s hope you don’t get any party crashers or party animals attending the party and upsetting the VIPs or the guest of honor (but don’t forget to invite me!).

~ Jeff

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Learn English Magazine: http://www.learnenglishmag.com (free Apple/Android app)
* This post was adapted from “Culture Note” from Daily English 338. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
Posted in Life in the United States | 10 Comments