If you happen to live in the USA or Canada, you can get free comic books tomorrow (Saturday, May 4), because it’s Free Comic Book Day! The free ones are a mix of typical American superhero comics and other, alternative comics. You can read a FAQ that explains the idea of Free Comic Book Day. To find a comic book store near you that’s participating, visit the Free Comic Book Day Locator. Salon has short reviews of each free comic (3 pages). Some are for adults; others are for children. So tomorrow is a great day to get acquainted with your local comic book store. Go on in and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
There’s an interesting set of articles about English currently online at website for the Daily Yomiuri, a Japanese newspaper. I agree with many, though not all, of the ideas expressed in the articles. Here are two I particularly liked:
“Forging Paths toward Fluency” by Brian Chapman: “A key element in learning a foreign language well is having the desire and a passion for learning it. The same holds true for teachers, and a passionate teacher will strive to produce what is best for the student to learn–and, more importantly, to communicate.” The writer interviewed a teacher, Stephen Soresi, who uses a special method to get students to talk more. I don’t know how good his method is, but I agree with him that even native speakers don’t speak with perfect grammar–so why pressure students to be perfect? It’s better to help them say anything than to scare them into saying nothing. I also agree with him that the main reason many Japanese people can’t communicate in English even after studying for years has nothing to do with being Japanese. Instead, it’s because of “the way schools, all the way up to the university level, treat English education and entrance examinations.”
In “Business English Fun?”, another teacher has a similar point. Michael Jones tells students “Have the confidence to fail in English!” Research supports this idea: if you don’t experiment with language, it’s hard to progress. Jones also tells teachers “If [students are] communicating, don’t interrupt. If they’re actually speaking, that’s half the struggle–and let them finish.” I totally agree. If you’re looking for a teacher, observe their classes. See if they usually wait long enough for students to complete their thoughts. You don’t want a teacher who is impatient or who interrupts.
Take a look at the other articles, which are all listed on the Language Connection section.
The Hugo Awards are given annually for outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy. Recently, many of the works that have been nominated are put online so that the voters can easily read them. They may not be online for a long time, so they’re worth reading now. Because they’re high-level, literary science fiction, some of the stories are very difficult to read. But here’s one you might like: “Impossible Dreams” by Tim Pratt is a wonderful story for fans of classic American films. If you’re a movie-lover, try this story.
I haven’t had time to read any of the novellas or novelettes, but if you would like to recommend one that advanced English learners could read, please do.
On Thursday, I’m flying to San Diego to attend the statewide conference for CATESOL. My classmate and I are going to give a presentation about using Japanese comic books to teach English. It should be fun! I’m also going to attend lots of other presentations. I’ll probably be too busy to post here. However, I expect that I will come back with lots of new things to write about.
In the meantime, here is a long-time favorite self-study site: Interesting Things for ESL Students (also called “Many Things”). There is so much here that you could spend months using it. There are word games, quizzes, explanations, idioms, jokes, poems, songs, drills, and a lot more.
Let me know what your favorite pages at Many Things are. There are so many pages, I can’t try them all.
Have a good week! I’ll be back in just a few days.
StoryCorps is an interesting project to record ordinary Americans’ stories. There are booths in various parts of the USA, and people go in to talk about their family or personal histories. Of course, this means there are lots of different accents for you to listen to. There will probably also be a lot of slang and colloquialisms, so take your time finding an interesting story that’s understandable. It’s a good way to practice listening to ordinary, everyday English as spoken in the USA by a variety of Americans, including those who were born in other countries. You’ll also learn about people’s lives and American culture.
You can even subscribe to the free podcast, which can be downloaded onto your mp3 player or hard drive.
If you try listening to these stories, tell me about it. Does anything surprise you about the way people talk or what they say? Are they easy to understand? Which stories are the most interesting?
Yesterday was April Fool’s Day in many countries. You can read about the origins of April Fool’s Day on Wikipedia. Many news organizations, companies, and individuals make joke announcement on this day. As a result, people may not believe you if you tell them surprising news on this day, even if it’s true. And people may get upset by jokes that are in poor taste (such as calling your friend and telling her you have cancer–that’s not funny!).
I don’t participate in April Fool’s Day, but I love to read about it. People make lists of public April Fool’s jokes every year, such as the list for this year at Wikipedia. I added two jokes to this page myself! Here are some international April Fool’s Day jokes to read about:
- The Japan Times reported that the famous statue of Hachiko in Shibuya had been stolen.
- MuggleNet posted fake comments about the seventh Harry Potter book.
- PC Magazine created a slideshow of ten fake technology products.
- The US space agency, NASA, posted a real picture from space, labeled as “the first space Quidditch” match (another Harry Potter reference). (You can check out their Astronomy Picture of the Day every day.)
- Google claimed to offer a new paper-based e-mail service.
Here are three web-based comic strip makers:
has cool black and white graphics
is very cartoony
lets you use your own photos
All three are free, though you need to register. You don’t have to draw anything, just click and drag! StripGenerator and ToonDoo let you choose from their graphics to tell your story. Comeeko lets you use photos from your digital camera.
This is a fun way to practice writing in English, and you can share your completed comic strips with your friends. Here’s a quick one I made at StripGenerator! You can post them in your blog, too. (Warning: Some of the other users’ comics are crude or stupid.)
Here’s a silly one I made just now at Comeeko, which has lots of special effects and other things you can add:
In my MA program, we talk about “metacognitive strategies.” These strategies are ways you consciously think about how to learn, use, and remember information or skills. One way to think about it is “learning how to learn better.” This article, Hacking Knowledge, lists 77 different ways to learn better. I don’t agree with all of them, but take a look. (You might want to scroll down to where the numbered list begins.)
Setting goals is one technique they mention. (I really need to do this myself!) Write down a list of your language-learning goals. Be specific: don’t write “become fluent,” but things like “have a long conversation with a stranger.” Discuss the goals with someone else to be sure the goals are reasonable. Then put the goals somewhere you’ll see them often, such as stored in your cell phone, in an open document on your computer, or pinned to your wall. Various studies have shown that having specific goals can lead to more accomplishments.
Have you ever tried this or any of the other 77 ways to learn? Did it help you? (Or do you have a suggestion that’s not on their list?)