Monday, July 21, 2014

taste test

I've always loved the word "taste test". Yes, I love food and tasting it for a living would be a dream job. I had a student from India whose job it was to fly all over India - which has the best food in the world - and write about the food. AND SHE LEFT IT FOR A GUY! AND although she was this awesome journalist and of a higher caste, his mother didn't approve because - I'm not kidding here - she wasn't a doctor. There is an Indian improv player in Chicago at IO who has a routine because his family wanted him to be a doctor and he chose comedy. Well, probably any parent would disapprove of his career choice, but he sings this great song about how everyone in his family is a doctor even his cat! I love that. Where was I? I hope my dear readers don't mind my digressions...TASTE TEST! The reason I love this word is that it is a great minimal pair for my students, all of whom confuse /E/ and /ae/. Men/man, bed/bath, pen/pan. And the my student taught me something new, of course, because I learn something new every day teaching ESL. She talked about that food shows and asked whether they say "to the taste". No. They say "to taste" like adding salt and pepper to taste. She countered that they sometimes say "let's put it to the taste". AHA! They say" to the test". I explained the difference, how to put something to the test results in a win or lose.

Speaking of taste, I made an amazing gooey butter cake, a St. Louis specialty that is divine. She had never heard of it. It's so puzzling and sad how many immigrants don't know much about local culture. She tried it and begged for the recipe. I will be kind and share it with you.
Mix a cake mix- any flavor but yellow is most popular. Red velvet kicks butt too-with a stick of melted butter and two eggs. Spread this pasty gooey stuff in a cake pan. Then mix a package of Philly cream cheese that is softened with three eggs and powdered sugar. I only use a cup. If you like, you can add something you love like vanilla, chocolate chips, cinnamon - almost rhymes with synonym - nuts, or brown sugar. Pour this on top of the cake mixture.
Bake at 350 F for thirty to forty minutes until top browns. You can put a knife in the side to test it. I doubled the recipe yesterday in one pan (my kid didn't read the entire recipe and put all five eggs in the cake mix) and it took like an hour to bake. It may have been underdone and the cheese mixture went to the bottom of the cake. It was sinfully delicious.

looking for Mufasa

A student asked me for a word to describe a man who walks into a room (like he was walking aboard his yacht) and his combination of personality AND looks make you want to follow him. Like Mufasa from Lion King - her words! Words like "distinguished", "attractive", etc. are focused on appearance. "Magnetic", "charismatic", "commanding" are too focused on the personality. I looked up a word on, switched to, (the best reference to get students to build vocabulary yet most have no idea what a thesaurus is), and found "eminent". Close. OK, my followers, please add your suggestions.

Return, new book, fossilization, denonyms and Vermonters!

First of all, I apologize for neglecting my blog for four years! I think you know that we language teachers are very busy people. Very. During the semester, I feel I'm in a tornado. I get to work, spend a few minutes clearing my desk, and WHAM! 40 new emails, have to finish grading before class starts, have to get all the grades posted in Blackboard, forgot the quizzes, start putting grades in, student pops in with a question, I'm organizing materials, need to print a handout, have all the books, time to go, DIDN'T FINISH PUTTING QUIZ GRADES IN! Show up to class, no questions, begin lesson, student has a question, he pulls out his phone and says "You forgot to put in my 10 points for this homework assignment that I turned in late last month." ARGH!

ALSO, I edited a book of ESL writing activities. It's great so you must check it out. There are lessons for all levels and populations and subjects, from motivation to research, and options using technology. It's called "New Ways in Teaching Writing" by TESOL Publications. That kept me busy as well. Enough excuses...

This summer I have been off and I have missed teaching! Tonight I tutored a woman from Vietnam. She was my student last fall. She was very difficult to understand when I met her because her vowels were nasalized and consonants missing. She has lived here many years, many cases of such result in little effectiveness. This is called "fossilization", when someone's habits are so ingrained that they can't be undone. However, I am an optimist; otherwise, I wouldn't be teaching, would I? She overcame all odds. This requires monitoring and practice. I told her to monitor during small talk. If she can reach a high accuracy when relaxed, some should spill over when she is stressed, like interpreting in the ER. She makes some errors like deletes final "S" half the time but she sounds so good!

I'm getting off track...SO, I enjoyed our lesson and learned many new things! One new word for me was "Denonyms". Can you guess what it means? It's the name of how people are titled according to where they live. My student asked me about the word "Floridian". Do we use it? In a heated debate, she was told we just say "people in Florida." Yes, true, but I have used the word. St. Louis used to have a Floridian restaurant and I call obnoxious colors like sea foam green and the pink on pink flamingoes "Floridian". She then asked why we add "N" to most states (think Texan, St. Louisan, Iowan, get the point) but say "New Yorker". I guessed that states ending with vowels, which most do for some reason, add "N". But those like Massachusetts don't add "ER". Then I guessed that stops (p, b, t, d, k, g) add ER.  But then she asked about Vermont. Vermontian? I inquired on Google and sure enough, someone else asked whether they are called Vermontians or Vermonters. The answers were "tree huggers" or "hippies". The consensus on the Internet was Vermontians but this is WRONG! According to the government official denonym on Wikipedia, they are VERMONTERS! I WIN! Ha! My theory was right. Rhode Islanders also end in a stop and thereby are ERS!

If I ever am mistaken on my linguistic theories, please correct me... as long as you're nice about it. Or I'll call you something that ends in an ER and you won't like it.