Sparks of Humanity


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In this article from 2008, Amnesty International claims that “world leaders should apologise for 60 years of human rights failures since the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.” This idea is still timely and I wonder how much longer it will be.

It’s upsetting to know that despite the existence of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, one of the most relevant documents of our time, there are still numerous communities which still lack basic rights. Not to mention the staggering high number of countries where child abuse, slavery or human trafficking are an everyday issue; children are obviously the most vulnerable part of society and often their chances of a life full of hope and opportunities are buried under insufficient support by the authorities.

But just when we start to lose our hope in humanity, and one can only see examples of actions triggered by greed and economic interest, a spark amidst the dark appears somewhere in the world, like a match that slowly ligthens up to shed some light and make people aware of where humanity is missing. With their actions they are making sure that human rights are promoted, protected and have some chances of becoming a reality.

I’m thinking of Malala, an example of inspiration for all of us. But before her, many others like Martin Luther King or Gandhi sought peaceful ways to make life more bearable and dignified for millions of people around the world.

Sparks of Humanity

#sparksofhumanity

And this is what we are up to in class these days. We are learning how to express obligations and duties, but we are also talking about ways of protest and movements that have led to real social transformation, like the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s.

Would you like to join us generate small sparks of humanity in the world? 

Generosity, positive feelings and purely human driven actions are everywhere, so why not make them more visible?

Voice your concerns

Express your wishes

Share stories of humanity around you

I invite you to reply on this blog post, and also on twitter. Be sure to include the hashtag #sparksofhumanity to create a thread of positive ideas and examples so we can eventually ignite some hope in the human race.

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Tips for learning pronunciation

problem-860227_1920It might seem that English pronunciation is difficult to handle. But there are habits that will make it easier for you to pronounce better. Here are a few tips I usually share in class with my students:

TIPS FOR LEARNING SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION

  1. Keep your own pronunciation record. I always recommend dedicating a few pages on your notebooks to grouping words according to their pronunciation. This is particularly helpful with vowels and vocalic groups. When you learn a new word which has a “weird” pronunciation, write it down with other words that contain the same sound. It can be useful also when there is a word you always seem to be getting wrong.
  2. Learn the symbols of the IPA (international phonetic alphabet). The IPA is an essential tool for language learners. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to learn to transcribe or even be familiar with every single sound, but you should be aware of some phonemes, as it will enable to pronounce any word at all by simply looking it up in the dictionary. The interactive phonetic chart below may be of some help to get started:

3. Learn to recognize word stress and sentence stress. Stress is the most important features of the English phonological system. Being aware that some syllables and words will not be heard because they are weak forms, while others will surely stand out because they are strong, will make it a little easier for you to start prediciting certain phrases because of their stress patterns. And you’ll finally get to understand the reason why “the English seem to eat up all the words”.

4. Be patient!

Words of Autumn

Last year some students in our school took part in the #asísedi campaign, a collaborative activity to learn and raise awareness on the right forms that exist in Galician to refer to everyday aspects of our life.

Students and teachers were invited to write  words in Galician  on an empty piece of a paper, which remained available and public over a period of time so anyone could stop by and share a word they knew.

The first semantic field we proposed was autumn and we asked people to simply write down or share on social networks what they associated this season with. Many words that were written on the board referred to melancholy, or popular festivities like “O magosto”, “Samaín” or “Tódolos Santos”. What ideas would have added?

After checking the correctness and suitability of the words, we posted the result:

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How many of these words do you know in English?

Test your knowledge of English words related to autumn with the quiz below:

https://quizlet.com/156646924/flashcards/embed

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It’s your turn!

Is there any word you would like to add to this glossary? Can you spot any untranslatable phrase or word? Feel free to share your comments and ideas.

How sound affects us

Even when unnoticed, sound plays its part in our well being and mood. If you are curious about how it can be so, watch the TED talk by Julian Treasure and find out how sound actually affects us.

You can click here to access the lesson that features the talk and a multiple choice listening comprehension exercise.

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If you are interested in the topic of sounds and noises and you’d like to learn more vocabulary related to the topic this blog post might be right up your alley.

What makes people successful?

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Richard St John spent 10 years trying to find out what traits successful people had in common. It took him 500 interviews and listening to more than a thousand success stories to come up with the answer.

On a TED talk he explains his findings. Click on this link to access the talk and a multiple choice listening task to do while you watch: http://ed.ted.com/on/kUEoaB9w

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What do you think about it? #occeoic

Taking into account what you just learnt after watching the TED Talk, and your own experience, what advice would you give to people in the situations below?
1) Imagine a friend of yours wants to change their career but they are full of self-doubt and are wondering if it will be worth it. What would you say?
2) Imagine a co-worker of yours is full of brilliant ideas to improve the workplace but won’t communicate them for fear of being turned down or unwelcomed. Could you give them some advice?
If you need extra help to describe personality in English, you can click on this blogpost, which features a short film and a list of websites where you can learn or revise adjectives of personality.

 

Mind your spelling

On a former post I had written about how weird the English language was and this text by Richard Leverer proves it once again. But, among all this jungle of weirdness, probably one of the big challenges for most English learners is spelling and pronunciation. It is even a big issue for native speakers who may have difficulties spelling correctly.

Some words have different meanings, but are pronounced the same (homophones); others share the same sounds but are spelt differently, and there are silent letters (debt) and disappearing syllables (as in strawberry, because of word stress)….enough to make anyone go crazy!

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There is a poem that illustrates this wonderfully. The title is ‘The Chaos’ (by the way, are you sure you know how “chaos” is pronounced?) and it was written by  Gerard Nolst Trenité in 1922. You can read the whole poem on this post . How do you feel about it? Do you agree with the Frenchman who said he’d rather spend six months of labour than reading six lines aloud ever again?

The Spelling Reform

Watch the following video and find out the speaker’s main argument.

There are many people who advocate a spelling reform, in fact many proposals have been put forward to bring English up to date, arguing that the current spelling system has a significant economic and social cost.

What do you think about this? Would you like English spelling to be easier? Do you think there is no point in changing it ?

TIPS FOR LEARNING SPELLING AND PRONUNCIATION

  1. Keep your own pronunciation record. I always recommend dedicating a few pages on your notebooks to grouping words according to their pronunciation. This is particularly helpful with vowels and vocalic groups. When you learn a new word which has a “weird” pronunciation, write it down with other words that contain the same sound. It can be useful also when there is a word you always seem to be getting wrong.
  2. Learn the symbols of the IPA (international phonetic alphabet). The IPA is an essential tool for language learners. I wouldn’t say it’s necessary to learn to transcribe or even be familiar with every single sound, but you should be aware of some phonemes, as it will enable to pronounce any word at all by simply looking it up in the dictionary. The interactive phonetic chart below may be of some help to get started:

3. Learn to recognize word stress and sentence stress. Stress is the most important features of the English phonological system. Being aware that some syllables and words will not be heard because they are weak forms, while others will surely stand out because they are strong, will make it a little easier for you to start prediciting certain phrases because of their stress patterns. And you’ll finally get to understand the reason why “the English seem to eat up all the words”.

4. Be patient!