A web site for the developing language teacher

September 2008 - issue 9/08


Welcome to the September Newsletter.


6. PS - Internet/computer-related links


1. Hello

A couple of interesting articles in the news recently:

Bunty wanted to be a "don", one of the select few Indian gangsters who live a glamorous life in Dubai beyond the reach of law. To make sure he could start intimidating a better class of victim, he began learning English. When he was shot dead, Bunty was found with a bag containing a student's guide to learning English, a dictionary and a notebook where his first sentence was "Do you study English? Yes I do." There is little doubt among police that Bunty was influenced by the glorification of violence and thuggery by Bollywood. Bunty's desire to speak English was straight out of a scene from a recent blockbuster, Tashaan, where a gangster made a point of speaking like a BBC presenter from the 1960s.
To read the whole article:


20 examples of grammar misuse

3 September 2008

Examples of good and bad grammar
Grammar just ain't what it used to be, it seems. When we explained the difference between "fewer" and "less than", following Tesco's policy shift on this matter, readers told us what grammar rules they see being flouted or find confusing. The list was a long one. Here are the best.

1. The one that really annoys me is how people suddenly seem to confuse "have" and "of", as in: "I could of learnt how to write properly." There's no excuse for it!
Pete, Sheffield

2. The phrase "for free" is becoming commonplace and is used often on television and it's wrong. It should be "for nothing".
Mary, Basingstoke

3. That guardian of our language, the BBC, is full of solecisms these days; just one example: 12 pm. There is no such time; "meridiem" as in am ("ante meridiem" means "before noon") and pm ("post meridiem" means "after noon") means midday. The 12th hour is neither before nor after midday. So please, BBC use either midday or noon with midnight the correct term for the other end of the day. This is not being pedantic; in these days of 24-hour days, it is often not readily apparent what time 12 pm might be.
Mervyn, Usk, Monmouthshire

4. If you do something to change a situation, then you "effect" a change. If your circumstances are changed by an action, then the change has caused an "effect". You cannot "affect" a change in something, nor can you be "effected" by one.
Rob, Lyme Regis

5. I get annoyed at the reckless use of apostrophes, for example, the plural of CD can't be CD's.
Shahed Alam, London

6. Many people, including public speakers, incorrectly use "I" instead of "me". For instance, they would say "She said some very kind things about George and I", thinking that they are being polite or grammatically correct. An easy way to remember which to use is: if you would say him or her on its own, use me; if you would say he or she on its own, use I. For example, "She said some very kind things about him".
Lorraine, Aylesbury

7. Incorrect use of reflexives make my blood boil. I think that for someone to say "yourself" and "myself" when they just mean "you" or "me" is possibly out of a false sense of politeness, or maybe the insidious effect of TV soaps, or both. Those who use it correctly can give "themselves" a pat on the back.
John Self, Wisset, Suffolk

8. How about "none of them is" and "none of them are"? Most people would use the latter whereas the former is correct. "None" is short for "not one" therefore "not one (none) of them is" would be used. Most newsreaders still get it right though - on the BBC anyway!
Emily, Bristol

NOTE: Fowler's Modern English Usage says that "none" is not short for "not one" and although using a singular verb is more common, using a plural verb has also been an acceptable option since the reign of King Alfred.

9. Similar TO, different FROM, compared WITH. Not "to" used for all of them!
Susan, Brisbane, Australia

NOTE: Fowler's Modern English Usage says: "The commonly expressed view that 'different' should only be followed by 'from' and never by 'to' or 'than' is not supportable in the face of past and present evidence or of logic." It adds that "compare to" is to liken and "compare with" or "compare to" is used to point out similarities and differences. The BBC News website style guide differs with Fowler's on this last point. It says that when pointing out differences, "compare with" should always be used.

10. Here's one they often get wrong on BBC news! BBC reporter: "Then they opened fire on us". This is incorrect. In military terms there are two methods of shooting at an enemy, controlled-fire and open-fire. I.E. you are not opening anything so using the past tense of open is incorrect. The correct expression should be "Then they open-fired on us"
JWTH, Belfast

11. I find the increasing, incorrect use of "literally" annoying.... "I literally went blue with anger!!" "Really?" I ask.
Ned, Wallingford

12. The proper use of "its" and "it's" seems to confound many people, with "its" being a possessive and "it's" being a contraction of "it is". I've seen this mistake made even in some rather lofty publications...
Eric, Berlin

13. It annoys me when people use "due to" when they mean "owing to". But then I'm a pedant.
Guy, London

NOTE: The BBC News website style guide says "due to" means "caused by" and needs a noun, but "owing to" means "because of" and relates to a verb. Hence, "the visit was cancelled cancelled is the verb] owing to flooding" is correct. So too is "the flooding [flooding is the noun] was due to weeks of heavy rain".

14. As a secondary teacher, I'm beginning to despair when it comes to "they're", "there" and "their"; not to mention "to", "two" and "too". Why are we so afraid to correct these simple mistakes which make all the difference at a later stage?
Alexandra, London

15. There is also confusion over lend and borrow. I keep hearing school children asking "to lend your pencil" when what they actually mean is to "borrow" the pencil.
Ian Walton, Bedford

16. I cringe when I hear BBC reporters say "amount of people" when it should be "number of people"!
Jill Thistlethwaite, Leyburn, UK

NOTE: Fowler's says "amount" is used with nouns that are not countable, such as "amount of forgiveness" and "amount of glue" - but "number" is used with countable nouns, such as "number of boys" and "number of houses".

17. I don't like it when people say: I can go there "by foot" instead of "on foot"....the right preposition to use is ON.
Daniela, Urbana, IL

18. The usage that I find particularly irritating is that of a single noun with a plural verb, for example: "the team are happy with their victory", or "management have congratulated the workforce on the recent increase in productivity". Team is a singular noun so it should read "the team IS happy..." or "the team members ARE happy", the same applies "management HAS congratulated..." Also, what has happened to the word "versus", abbreviated "vs"? Now all we see is "v"; it is even read like that in sports announcements.
Lucia, Horndean, UK

NOTE: The BBC News website's style is that sports teams and pop/rock bands are always plural.

19. A classic confusing rule is the one that states that one is supposed never to end a sentence with a preposition. While this is easy and appropriate to follow in most cases, for example by saying "Yesterday I visited the town to which she has just moved" instead of "...the town she has just moved to", it becomes troublesome when the verb structure includes a preposition that cannot be removed from it, as in "At work I am using a new computer with which my manager recently set me up", which cannot correctly be changed to "...I am using a new computer up with which my manager recently set me".
Philip Graves, Stockholm, Sweden

20. Stadiums, as a plural of stadium, rather than stadia.
C. Matthews, Birmingham, UK

NOTE: Fowler's says that when dealing with modern sports grounds, rather than ones from the classical world, the plural is"stadiums".


Just spell it like it is
7 August 2008

Don't let students' howlers drive you mad, says Ken Smith. Accept their most common mistakes as variant spellings ... and relax. Teaching a large first-year course at a British university, I am fed up with correcting my students' atrocious spelling. Aren't we all!?

But why must we suffer? Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea. University teachers should simply accept as variant spelling those words our students most commonly misspell.

The spelling of the word "judgement", for example, is now widely accepted as a variant of "judgment", so why can't "truely" be accepted as a variant spelling of "truly"?

As a starting point, may I suggest the following ten candidates, which are based on the most commonly misspelt words by my students:

- Arguement for argument. Why do we drop the "e" in argument (and in judgment) but not in management? We do not pronounce "argument" "ar-gum-ent", so why should we spell it this way?

- Febuary for February (and Wensday for Wednesday). We spell the word "February" the way we do only because it is taken from the Latin word februa, the Roman festival of purification. Similarly, the "correct" spelling of the word "Wednesday" comes from the Old English Wodnes daeg, or Woden's day. But why should we still pay homage today to a pagan god or a Roman festival of purification?

- Ignor for ignore. The word "ignore" comes from the Latin ignorare meaning "to know" and ignarus meaning "ignorant". Neither of these words has an "e" after the "r", so why do we?

- Occured for occurred. There is no second "r" in the words "occur" or "occurs" and that is why nearly everyone misspells this word. Would it really upset you to allow this change, and if
so why?

- Opertunity for opportunity. This looks odd, but in fact we only spell "opportunity" as we do because in Latin this word refers to the timely arrival at a harbour - Latin portus. However in Latin this word is spelt obportus not opportus, so, if we were being consistent, we should spell "opportunity" as "obportunity".

- Que for queue, or better yet cue or even kew. Where did we get the second "ue" in the word "queue"? Its etymology is obscure. But, etymology or not, why do we need it?

- Speach for speech. We spell "speak" with an "ea". We do not have to but we do. Since we do, let us then spell "speech" with an "a" too, to coincide with the spelling of the words "peach", "preach" and "teach". Both words come from the same origin - the Old English spechan - which, therefore, does not support either the "ea" or "ee" spelling.

- Thier for their (or better still, why not just drop the word their altogether in favour of there?). It does not make any difference to the meaning of a sentence if you spell "their" as "thier" or "there", and the proof of this is that you are always able to correct this. "Thier" would also be consistent with the "i" before "e" rule, so why do you insist on "their"?

- Truely for truly. We don't spell the adverb "surely" as "surly" because this would make another word, so why is the adverb of "true" spelt "truly"?

- Twelth as twelfth. The "f" word. How on earth did that "f" get in there? The answer is Old English again: twelf is related to the Frisian tweli, but why should we care? You would not dream of
spelling the words "stealth" or "wealth" with an "f" in them (as "stealfth" and "wealfth") so why insist on putting the "f" in "twelfth"?

I could go on and add another ten words that are commonly misspelt - the word "misspelt" itself of course, and all those others that break the "i" before "e" rule (weird, seize, leisure, neighbour, foreign etc) - but I think I have made my point.

Either we go on beating ourselves and our students up over this problem or we simply give everyone a break and accept these variant spellings as such.

Remember, I am not asking you to learn to spell these words differently. All I am suggesting is that we might well put 20 or so of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language on
the same footing as those other words that have a widely accepted variant spelling.


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A Profile of Dumindi - Sri Lankan Learner by Sharon Buddemeier

The Learner

Learner Background and Candidacy

Dumindi is an 18-year-old Sri Lankan student studying for her ‘A’ levels. She lives in Nugegoda, just outside Colombo, with her parents; she is an only child. Her father works for the UN as an engineer and her mother works for the Colombo Police Commission. Her father speaks English and he and Dumindi sometimes communicate in English at home; her mother only speaks Singhalese.

Dumindi has studied English in school since she was six years old. All of her current classes, with the exception of a twice-weekly English language class, are in Singhalese. She studies seven days a week, including twice a week at the British Council, Colombo. She has taken two out of four 10-week (45 hours) FCE preparation classes and is now following a pre-Advanced course. She uses the self-access centre at the British Council about once a week and usually does listening practice.

I first met Dumindi outside of the British Council library where we had a very interesting conversation in which she told me that she wished she had a ‘personal English trainer.’ We discussed why she was learning English and her future plans, and continued to run into each other around school over the following weeks. So, when the time came for me to start this assignment, she came quickly to mind. She was very keen to participate in the project and get detailed personal feedback that would help her attain her short-term goal of passing the First Certificate in English exam (FCE).

Learner Needs and Motivation

During our first ‘official’ meeting, Dumindi and I discussed her needs and motivation. They are inevitably linked to one another, and yet in Dumindi’s case, they are quite complex. Her short-term needs are exam-based and her life goals are at the heart of why she is learning English. She wants to be a navy doctor, and the first step on the path to achieving her goal is to get admitted to an appropriate university.

Her preference is to attend a university in Colombo, but places are scarce and the competition is fierce. She therefore feels there is a high probability that she will not be accepted for immediate entry. It is common for students in Sri Lanka to be admitted to a university, but to have to wait one to two years before a space becomes available for them to actually begin their course of study. Dumindi, and moreover her parents, feel that such a long waiting period is unacceptable and so if she does not receive immediate placement, she will go abroad to study. Dumindi shared that both of her parents “strongly encourage” her to study English so that she will be prepared if and when she must go abroad. To do this, her goals over the next two years are to pass the FCE exam, to pass the CAE exam in 2009, and to score high enough on the IELTS exam to gain admittance to a UK university program in 2010.

Her motivation, therefore, is both extrinsic and intrinsic. Dumindi comes from a culture and a family background where obedience and filial piety don’t end when you reach a certain age. Williams (1999), writing about motivation, asserts, “from a cognitive perspective, one factor that is of central importance is choice” (p.3). It is essential to remember that ‘choice’ has very different connotations in different cultures. In many cultures, including Dumindi’s, parental approval and obedience are far more central to one’s life than personal wants and private ambitions.

As a result, her reason for studying English has what Gardener (1985) calls an instrumental orientation because her motivation arises from the external goals of passing exams that will, eventually, lead to a successful career. She very much wants to please her parents, and although she personally would prefer to wait and attend a local university, she won’t consider delaying her education and disappointing her mother and father. That said, she is definitely willing to go abroad and her parents do accept her goal of becoming a doctor in the navy.

Learning Style

Dumindi completed Ellis and Sinclair’s quiz “What sort of language learner are you?” (Appendix 6) as well as Nunan and Lockwood’s (1991) student questionnaire (Appendix 7). She scored ‘18’ on the quiz which means that she has a mixture of both analytical and relaxed learning styles. The most revealing points on the Nunan questionnaire and during the follow-up discussion showed that she is generally more relaxed than analytical. From Nunan it was discovered, “It doesn’t matter if I don’t understand every word,” “I [don’t] plan what I am going to say before I speak,” “Out of class I always try and practice my English,” and “It doesn’t bother me if I make mistakes.”

In the follow-up discussion about her learning style, she said, “I have to [spend more time thinking and practicing grammar] because I never take much time to correct my faults” (see Appendix 8) for a complete transcript of our discussion). She also clarified her rankings in regard to the question “How and where do you like learning?” on the Nunan survey. She had ranked ‘learning at home by yourself’ number one, but explained that this was true for her in general, but not true for learning English. She said “In class listening to the teacher” and “In class working in groups” were most important because of the immediate feedback and error correction from the teacher and classmates.

Overall, she feels that her communication skills are good but she struggles with range and accuracy. After numerous meetings and observing her in class for a total of three hours, I believe that her self-awareness will help her immensely in improving her English.

To view the remainder of the article:


Are YOU a Locavore? by Alicia Delahunty - A worksheet to develop speaking skills.


At Developing we occasionally carry out consultancy work. The different projects have included tutoring DELTA candidates by email, offering advice on curriculum design & materials choice & short training courses in person & by email. If you would like us to help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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'Incredibly fast dictionary is a fast, free dictionary based on Princeton's open WordNet 2.0. The website framework is Ruby on Rails. Looking up words in a dictionary is easy, so we do that with MySQL and cache the top 10,000 definitions in memory. Doing word completion (a.k.a. auto-complete, auto-suggest, globbing) is not easy, at least not when you have to search through 200,000 words for every keystroke. So our word completion is done in a C module for Ruby, and the word completion server is separate from the rest of the site. With the DefinrBot algorithm, we can do 190,000 word completions per second without caching, and that translates to about 10,000 completions per second once the Ruby layer is factored in.'
The Extensive Reading Foundation is a not-for-profit, charitable organisation whose purpose is to support and promote extensive reading. One Foundation initiative is the Language Learner Literature Award for the best works of language learner literature in English. The Foundation is also interested in helping educational institutions set up extensive reading programs through grants that fund the purchase of books and other reading material.

Learning languages online - sites -pass them on to your students:
Mango Languages
Live Mocha
Friends Abroad
Learn It Lists
They are A Guide to English Language Usage for non-native speakers and Great English Mistakes made by Spanish-speakers with a few Catalan specials. The former has 411 pages and is an encyclopaedic work in dictionary format. It is essentially a compendium of all the things that I have told my students in answer to their questions during my teaching career. It is a serious, professional work that has been inspired by Fowler’s Modern English Usage, a book which, for all its many and excellent virtues, is not suitable for EFL teaching. The second book is
shorter (100 pages) and lighter in tone, though still professional in content and philosophy. As its name implies, it deals with mistakes made by speakers of Spanish and Catalan when they learn English.
Politics And The English Language
Peter K Austin's top 10 endangered languages - The linguistics professor and author shares a personal selection from the thousands of languages on the brink of disappearing.
Plan Lessons, Create Teaching Materials and Track Classes - Automatically!
With Lesson Writer teachers can quickly and easily:
* Choose content to motivate students.
* Paste in content and write a lesson plan and student materials with pronunciation exercises, comprehension questions, vocabulary, word building, and grammar components.
* Customize lesson plans to meet the needs of secondary, adult and ESL populations.
* Differentiate your lesson plans for students with different learning styles and needs.
Oxford Language Dictionaries Online - 'At Oxford we know what it's like to learn, study, and use languages, and this site is designed to support you every step of the way. Oxford Language Dictionaries Online provides you with authoritative, up-to-date translations of all the words and phrases you need, plus a wealth of tools and resources to help you learn and use language more effectively.'
'The Global Language Exchange (GLE) is a site to help people all over the world learn and practice foreign languages. According to different needs of users, we provide seven learning modes which are "Language Exchange" mode, "Teacher" mode, "Student" mode, "Text" mode, "Media" mode, "Residence" mode, and "Language School" mode.'

If you've visited a site that you think would be beneficial for all or would ike your site to appear here, please get in touch. Thanks.

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A few days, among many, to plan your lessons around in September & October:

7th - Brazilian Independence Day
8th - International Literacy Day
15th - International Day of Democracy
19th - International Talk Like A Pirate Day
21st - International Day of Peace
26th - International Tourism Day
26th - European Day of Languages
29th - Scotland Yard Anniversary
30th - International Spelling Day
Rosh Hashanah

3rd - Reunification Day in Germany
5th - World Teachers' Day
9th - John Lennon's birthday
10th - World Mental Health Day
4th > 10th - World Space Week
12th - Columbus Day
24th - United Nations Day
29th - Internet First Created - 1969
31st - Halloween
Nobel Prizes

To see the list of Days:

Wikipedia's excellent focus on days of the year:
Some holiday origins.

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Free weekly practical teaching tips by e-mail.

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International Literacy Day - Lesson ideas
Blogging away - Writing & reading skills
Vocabulary cards - Vocabulary
A breakfast of champions - Lesson ideas
Beijing 2008 - Lesson ideas
Scribbling away - Speaking
Tour de France - Lesson ideas
Thank You - Round off courses
Weird Festivals - Lesson ideas
Different beginners - The Learner
World Refugee Day - 20th June - Lesson ideas
Stop cards - Mother tongue use

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6. PS – General internet/computer-related links

A few computer use rules of thumb:

- make copies of all
- important files
- run scan disk & then defragment the hard drive
- use firewall software - use a virus scan & update the files
every week
- install security patches that software providers offer
- update your DirectX files regularly
- don't open attachments without scanning for viruses first
- don't respond to spam
- just delete & forget
- don't send personal or bank information by email
- turn off your computer at night
Post-holiday reading list from none other than Philip Pullman.
Google Chrome browser download - try it out.
The 38 page comic explaining it all.
WWF carbon footprint calculator
Brilliant tool: Pixlr is a online image editor, that means that you can upload your images and edit them in your browser. It is built in Flash and you need to have a Flash plug in (get flash) to get it to work.
Who needs Pixlr?
Pixlr is built for non-professionals, the users that have basic editing needs. It's not for large RAW images or for printing. It is merely a tool for editing web images to be posted on blogs, news-sites, social networks like Facebook, Bebo, image sites like Flikr, Photobucket etc.
Upload & leave files for friends.
25 Simple Tips to Improve Your Health and Fitness
The 50 greatest arts videos on YouTube
Sharing good deeds.
'coign of vantage - Put your spatial perception into perspective with this 3d puzzle game. Assemble as many images from an abstract cloud as you can before time runs out.'
The 10 Most Bizarre Athlete Superstitions
Extend Firefox 3 has wrapped up and we’re very excited to announce the winners! We received well over 100 entries, representing hundreds of hours of hard work from people around the world.
101 atheist quotes.

How to buy a car....
20 Tech Habits to Improve Your Life
WANTED: your ikea hacks. whatever they may be - a funked up klippan sofa, an ingenious idea for your pax wardrobe, a creative twist on your kitchen countertop, or even advice on how to finally stop forby stools from wobbling, i'd love to see your ikea hacks

Weird and wonderful gadgets that never quite took off
25 Must-Have Thumb Drive Apps for Geeks
Jukebox - 'the top 100 songs from the golden years of popular
Game & lots of things.

35 Places To Download Free, Legal MP3s
30+ Insanely Useful Websites for Guitarists

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