Language Learning

Not too long ago, I was correcting papers and wishing the writers would not be so inventive with their sentence structures and vocabulary. I would see something with a phrase, a comma, or an unfamiliar word like ‘thalassemia’ and sigh. I had an prickly sense that something was off but wasn’t strong enough on the structure to… READ MORE >>

The other day in my 1000 Places to Visit Before you Die calendar, I saw Chuuk Lagoon. It sits in the Pacific, far out and filled with sunken Japanese ships. Because it was the naval base for most of the Japanese Imperial fleet, the U.S. bombed the lagoon in 1944. Now it’s a graveyard and… READ MORE >>

After a day in Tian An Men Square with a trip to the mausoleum to see Mao Tse Tung, I stayed in a hotel nearby with many other tourists. I went down to the lobby to write for my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) because my mother was sleeping in our hotel room. I… READ MORE >>

Not too long after I started working with the Ukrainian welders, I began a class with Vietnamese studying Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). This class was much smaller – about 5 instead of 25 -and much quieter. Many of them had come to the U.S. when the war ended in 1975 and wanted me… READ MORE >>

Україна When I first started teaching immigrants instead of international students like the Japanese young people in my last post , I had a classroom full of Ukrainian men mixed in with a few Russians along with one Armenian. Many had been welders or miners in their first countries.  They studied in a welding program… READ MORE >>

Mother Tongue Tuesday: Arabic

The young woman stood before me speaking English clearly with an accent that rounded out sounds. Her eyes lit with joy as her tight curls framed her face. She struggled with her writing, she said, and wondered if she could join our ESL classes. When she told me she spoke Arabic, I understood the trouble. Most of… READ MORE >>

Before my students educated me, I had pictured the Soviet Union as one solid mass of land with only Russian speakers across the expanse. I also never heard of the tiny landlocked sliver of Moldova tucked between Romania and Ukraine until many of my students said they came from there. When I began to listen, I… READ MORE >>

I often think of decoding grammar as piecing together a giant word filled jigsaw puzzle. A thousand pieces to put together on a kitchen table is really not so daunting compared to the complex ways English and other languages fit together, moving with our new ideas and needs for communication. The analogy somehow helps me… READ MORE >>

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