There are many English textbooks meant for the English native speakers that we can also use for the purpose of teaching English as a foreign language. They have some fantastic ideas and great exercises. Here are some books that I particularly like and find useful. If you look at their covers you can get an idea what's inside. All the skills they are aimed at training are pretty much what our students need to use in their diagnostic tests.
In my future posts I will show some of the most interesting ideas from these workbooks.
The other day my younger daughter was working on paragraphs using yet another workbook I really like.
The task she was doing reminded me of a fun game that we can also use with older and more motivated students. It is called Ex Libris and can be played with any number of players over 3, even if you don't have the official game cards. Having a couple of paperback books with a synopsis or a blurb on their backs would be enough. Here's another description of this game with some real life examples - on the blog of the wonderful children's illustrator Sarah McIntyre.
"Once upon a time, sixty years ago, a little girl lived in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, in a little grey house made of logs.
The great, dark trees of the Big Woods stood all around the house, and beyond them were other trees and beyond them were more trees. As far as a man could go to the north win a day, or week, or a whole month, there was nothing but woods. There were no houses, There were no roads. There were no people. There were only trees and the wild animals who had their homes among them..."
This is the beginning of a wonderful 'Little House' series of children's books about the life of a pioneer family in the Wild West written in the 1930s-1940s by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She was describing her own childhood experiences and that's what makes the books especially interesting to read. They are full of humour, many little stories inside the main story and many details of how people lived in that harsh environment: how they celebrated different holidays, how they made maple syrup, what they ate and how they had fun.
There is no account of what they did for Shrove Tuesday, but there is a description of how their mother made pancakes on other days:
"... For breakfast there were pancakes, and Ma made a pancake man for each one of the children. Ma called each one in turn to bring her plate, and each could stand by the stove and watch, while with the spoonful of batter Ma put on the arms and the legs and the head. It was exciting to watch her turn the whole little man over, quickly and carefully, on a hot griddle. When it was done, she put it smoking hot on the plate ..."
I personally found it quite inspirational and for several years while my kids were little made them animal-shaped pancakes.
2017 is one of those years when Eastern Orthodox (including Russian Orthodox) and Western (not just Catholic!) Christian churches celebrate Easter the same day. So one would think that they would all have their happy pancake time together as well. After all, Lent traditionally should last 40 days - the same number of days that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the wilderness.
But if you look at the calendars you will be surprised to see that western christians will be having their single pancake day (February 28) when the Orthodox have already had their long pancake week (February 20-26) and are 2 days into Lent! The funny thing is, if we take this year's Ester day - April 16 - and count 40 days back we will get March 11, which is neither Russian Orthodox, nor Western Christian beginning of Lent. How can that make sense mathematically?
Well, it doesn't. While maths is important in Christianity, it's not the main thing. That's why it gets a little complicated.
The Russian Orthodox Lent period lasts 48 days: first, 40 days straight, beginning on Monday after a whole week of Maslenitsa. Divide 40 days of Lent by 7 days of the week and you will get 6 weeks minus 2 days (6x7=42). These two days come at the end of the Lent and are Saturday before Palm Sunday (Lazarus Saturday) and Palm Sunday itself, when there's no fasting. The Holy Week (or Passion Week) that follows has 6 more days of fasting, which is another lent - the Lent of the Passion Week. So, all in all, 40+2+6= 48 days.
The Western Christian Lent period lasts 46 days and begins on Ash Wednesday which comes after Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras (the pancake day). Since Sundays - even Sundays in Lent - in the Western Christian tradition are considered to be holidays of Resurrection, when there should be no sorrow and therefore no fasting, the six Sundays in Lent are not counted: 46-6=40.
Isn't that fascinating?
Here are some religious words used in the post!
to fast = not to eat (поститься). We can see this word in the word 'breakfast'. Since we don't eat at night, we break our fast in the morning by having breakfast!
Lent - пост
Palm Sunday - вербное воскресенье
Shrove Tuesday - прощёный вторник, масленица
Mardi Gras - жирный вторник, масленица (фр.)
Ash Wednesday - пепельная среда, начало Великого поста
Easter - Пасха
Resurrection - воскрешение, воскресение
wilderness = desert. Don't forget that 'wild-' in this world is pronounced with a short monophthong [i] and not a diphthong [ai]!
Thomas Mackenzie (1740-1786)
Фома Фомич Мекензи
Another prominent Scottish name in the military history of Russia and a true defender of our Fatherland is Rear Admiral Thomas Mackenzie, better known as Фома Фомич Мекензи (1740-1786).
He was born in Russia to the Scottish family of Thomas Mackenzie – Фома Калинович Мекензи (his father’s name was Colin, but it looks like the spelling with an ‘a’, that brings to mind a certain berry, appealed to the Russians more), and Ann Mackenzie, the granddaughter of Admiral Thomas Gordon – another “Russian” Scot who lived in Peter the Great’s time and was Governor of Kronstadt.
Thomas Mackenzie had a brilliant career in the Russian Navy starting as a midshipman and rising through the ranks to rear admiral.
Thomas Mackenzie took part in many battles in the Russo-Turkish Wars (1768-1774). But what he is most famous for is the fact that it was him who founded the city of Sevastopol on 14 June 1783. It happened when he had to spend the winter in the uninhabited bay of Akhtiar on the Crimean Peninsula. He had with him nine frigates and several smaller ships. The city he had in mind was a base for the navy that would have a shipyard, a hospital, barracks for the sailors and living quarters for the officers. Thomas Mackenzie successfully implemented his plan; and today, the Mackenzie heights (Мекензиевы горы) on the outskirts of Sevastopol remind us of the brave and insightful Foma Fomitch.
Here are some navy words used in the post!
'midshipman - try saying this word very quickly and you will get its Russian translation! (мичман). In fact, this is a fantastic example of trans-language assimilation (not that the term really exists!) Midshipman is a compound word made up of three little ones: mid+ship+man, all three monosyllabic with short vowels. The middle one - ship - is the least noticeable out of the three due to the voiceless consonants and a clipped vowel. [p] becomes completely assimilated with the following [m]; -sh- together with [d] form the voiceless affricate -tch-; [i] becomes voiceless and disappears altogether. So what is left to the Russian ear? Мичман. That's what.
rear admiral - a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a commodore and captain, and below that of a vice admiral (контр-адмирал).
James Bruce (1670-1735)
Яков Вилимович Брюс
There were many British military men who defended our Fatherland throughout the history of Russia. Surprisingly, or maybe not quite so surprisingly, many of them were of Scottish origin, the Scots being famous for their long military tradition and remarkable bravery. Sometimes there were whole families that bravely served Russian tsars. One of such families was the Bruce family.
The first Bruce to come to Russia was officer James Bruce, who in 1647 decided to go abroad in order to escape from ‘the troubles of Oliver Cromwell’. He was the founder of the Russian Bruce branch, served under tsar Alexey Mikhailovich as a major and died near Azov in 1695.
His son, Colonel and later Major General William Bruce fully assimilated into the Russian culture and raised his sons Roman and James as Russians. He died in 1680.
Lieutenant-General Roman Vilimovitch Bruce (1668-1720) participated in the Azov campaign and in the Siege of Schlüsselburg. He was commandant of St.Petersburg and built the Fort of St.Peter and St.Paul, where he is buried.
His younger brother Field Marshall James Bruce (better known as Yakov Vilimovitch Bruce) (1670-1735) participated in the Crimean and Azov campaigns, as well as in the Great Northern War against Sweden. After Peter the Great’s army was defeated by the Swedes near Narva in 1700, it was James Bruce who improved the Russian army, which eventually led to its victory over Sweden in 1709. In 1721 Peter I made him Count. James Bruce had a house in the centre of Moscow, and later in the 18th century the street where his house was located was named after him and his cousin who inherited it: Brusov pereulok.
Idioms and slang expressions can sometimes make you wonder what they actually mean. In fact, that's the best-case scenario. The worst-case scenario is when you think it's not an idiom and take it at its face value. This is exactly what can happen with the baby bear idiom. Even though its origin is obvious - Goldilocks and the Three Bears, of course! - its meaning may not be as clear. Here are some example that I've found on the Internet:
Example Number 1 - BABY BEAR CAR SEATS!
Example Number 2 - BABY BEAR SHOES!
Example Number 3 - BABY BEAR CONDITION OF THE STOMACH!
From all these examples it's pretty obvious that baby bear is used as an adjective and means 'just right' - like the porridge, the chair and the bed belonging to the baby bear in the fairy tale. So if somebody asks you "Is your meat ever baby bear?" you should not be shocked and answer "I don't eat baby bears!" It is just an innocent question about your cooking abilities: do you ever manage to cook meat so that it's not too dry and not completely raw at the same time, not too spicy and not too bland, in other words - JUST RIGHT?
Here are some idioms used in the post! (Apart from the baby bear)
best-case scenario - being the best result that could be expected under the circumstances (в лучшем случае)
worst-case scenario - being the worst result that could be expected under the circumstances (в худшем случае)
to take smh at (its) face value - to believe that the way things appear is the way they really are (понимать буквально, принимать за чистую монету)
Do you know the English-language equivalent of our teaser "Тили-тили тесто, жених и невеста..."? Here you go!
Arthur (put any name here) and his girlfriend sitting in a tree,
K-I-S-S-I-N-G. (this is spelled out: kay-eye-ess-ess-eye-en-gee)
First comes love, then comes marriage,
Then comes Arthur with a baby carriage!
The key words here are "a secret admirer" and "to have a crush on smb"
And of course, Carolyn Graham's Holiday Jazz Chants always come in handy!
It is interesting to see how at times something as purely grammatical as the definite article can acquire a lot more significance than just its mere functionality. In this article called "Here Are 13 Examples Of Donald Trump Being Racist" at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-racist-examples_us_56d47177e4b03260bf777e83 the 13th example ("He treats racial groups as monoliths") is all about grammar! Check it out!
"...Like many racial instigators, Trump often answers accusations of bigotry by loudly protesting that he actually loves the group in question. But that’s just as uncomfortable to hear, because he’s still treating all the members of the group — all the individual human beings — as essentially the same and interchangeable. Language is telling, here: Virtually every time Trump mentions a minority group, he uses the definite article the, as in “the Hispanics,” “the Muslims” and “the blacks.”
In that sense, Trump’s defensive explanations are of a piece with his slander of minorities. Both rely on essentializing racial and ethnic groups, blurring them into simple, monolithic entities, instead of acknowledging that there’s as much variety among Muslims and Latinos and black people as there is among white people..."
My name is Elena Rafaelevna Watson, I have been teaching English as a foreign language for over 25 years now. I have also been translating and interpreting (English/Russian) for over 20 years.