Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Revocation of Independence

He didn't write it, but it sure sounds like it could have been him. What a laugh! So who wrote it? Read about it here.

John Cleese's Letter to the USA

To the citizens of the United States of America, in light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II resumes monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.8% of you who have, until now, been unaware there's a world outside your borders) will appoint a Minister for America. Congress and the Senate are disbanded. A questionnaire circulated next year will determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid your transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

1. Look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Check "aluminium" in the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you pronounce it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour'. Likewise you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary."

Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed." There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you should not have chat shows.

2. There is no such thing as "U.S. English." We'll let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u'.

3. You should learn to distinguish English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). Scottish dramas such as 'Taggart' will no longer be broadcast with subtitles.You must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires" e.g. Texasshire Floridashire, Louisianashire.

4. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1.

5. You should stop playing American "football." There's only one kind of football. What you call American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.1% of you aware there is a world outside your borders may have noticed no one else plays "American" football. You should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls.

Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies).

You should stop playing baseball. It's not reasonable to host an event called the 'World Series' for a game which is not played outside of America. Instead of baseball, you will be allowed to play a girls' game called "rounders," which is baseball without fancy team stripe, oversized gloves, collector cards or hotdogs.

6. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns, or anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because you are not sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you need a permit to carry a vegetable peeler.

7. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 2nd will be a new national holiday. It will be called "Indecisive Day."

8. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left. At the same time, you will go metric without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

9. Learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips. Fries aren't French, they're Belgian though 97.8% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat.

10. The cold tasteless stuff you call beer is actually lager. Only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer." Substances once known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine," except for the product of the American Budweiser company which will be called "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

11. The UK will harmonise petrol prices (or "Gasoline," as you will be permitted to keep calling it) for those of the former USA, adopting UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon, get used to it).

12. Learn to resolve personal issues without guns, lawyers or therapists. That you need many lawyers and therapists shows you're not adult enough to be independent. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

13. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

14. Tax collectors from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all revenues due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

* John Cleese
[Basil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers, Torquay, Devon, England]

Monday, March 28, 2005

If Earth's Population Were Only One Hundred...

One hundred people: this is what it would look like.

After viewing that, ask yourself what the world would be like if we did not spend so much money on war. Who dies in most wars? It is not the soldiers. Take a look here. It only takes a minute.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Great Newsweek Article on EFL...

After five years of being denied education, girls in Afghanistan are going to school—some for the first time

Not the Queen's English

Non-native English-speakers now outnumber native ones 3 to 1. And it's changing the way we communicate.

By Carla Power
Newsweek International

March 7 issue - The name—Cambridge School of Languages—conjures images of spires and Anglo-Saxon aristocrats conversing in the Queen's English. But this Cambridge is composed of a few dank rooms with rickety chairs at the edge of a congested Delhi suburb. Its rival is not stately Oxford but the nearby Euro Languages School, where a three-month English course costs $16. "We tell students you need two things to succeed: English and computers," says Chetan Kumar, a Euro Languages manager. "We teach one. For the other"—he points to a nearby Internet stall—"you can go next door."

The professors back in Cambridge, England, would no doubt question the schools' pedagogy. There are few books or tapes. Their teachers pronounce "we" as "ve" and "primary" as "primmry." And yet such storefront shops aren't merely the ragged edge of the massive English-learning industry, which in India alone is a $100 million-per-year business. They are the front lines of a global revolution in which hundreds of millions of people are learning English, the planet's language for commerce, technology—and, increasingly, empowerment. Within a decade, 2 billion people will be studying English and about half the world—some 3 billion people—will speak it, according to a recent report from the British Council.

From Caracas to Karachi, parents keen for their children to achieve are forking over tuition for English-language schools. China's English fever— elevated to epidemic proportions by the country's recent accession to the World Trade Organization and the coming 2008 Olympics—even has its own Mandarin term, Yingwen re. And governments from Tunisia to Turkey are pushing English, recognizing that along with computers and mass migration, the language is the turbine engine of globalization. As one 12-year-old self-taught Eng-lish-speaker from China's southwestern Sichuan province says, "If you can't speak English, it's like you're deaf and dumb."

Linguistically speaking, it's a whole new world. Non-native speakers of English now outnumber native speakers 3 to 1, according to English-language expert David Crystal, whose numerous books include "English as a Global Language." "There's never before been a language that's been spoken by more people as a second than a first," he says. In Asia alone, the number of English-users has topped 350 million—roughly the combined populations of the United States, Britain and Canada. There are more Chinese children studying English—about 100 million—than there are Britons.

The new English-speakers aren't just passively absorbing the language—they're shaping it. New Englishes are mushrooming the globe over, ranging from "Englog," the Tagalog-infused English spoken in the Philippines, to "Japlish," the cryptic English poetry beloved of Japanese copywriters ("Your health and loveliness is our best wish," reads a candy wrapper. "Give us a chance to realize it"), to "Hinglish," the mix of Hindi and English that now crops up everywhere from fast-food ads to South Asian college campuses. "Hungry kya?" ("Are you hungry?"), queried a recent Indian ad for Domino's pizza. In post-apartheid South Africa, many blacks have adopted their own version of English, laced with indigenous words, as a sign of freedom—in contrast to Afrikaans, the language of oppression. "We speak English with a Xhosa accent and a Xhosa attitude," veteran actor John Kani recently told the BBC.

All languages are works in progress. But English's globalization, unprecedented in the history of languages, will revolutionize it in ways we can only begin to imagine. In the future, suggests Crystal, there could be a tri-English world, one in which you could speak a local English-based dialect at home, a national variety at work or school, and international Standard English to talk to foreigners. With native speakers a shrinking minority of the world's Anglophones, there's a growing sense that students should stop trying to emulate Brighton or Boston English, and embrace their own local versions. Researchers are starting to study non-native speakers' "mistakes"—"She look very sad," for example—as structured grammars. In a generation's time, teachers might no longer be correcting students for saying "a book who" or "a person which." Linguist Jennifer Jenkins, an expert in world Englishes at King's College London, asks why someAsians, who have trouble pronouncing the "th" sound, should spend hours trying to say "thing" instead of "sing" or "ting." International pilots, she points out, already pronounce the word "three" as "tree" in radio dispatches, since "tree" is more widely comprehensible.

Not everyone is as open-minded about English, or its advance. The Web site of the Association for the Defence of the French Language displays a "museum of horrors"—a series of digital pictures of English-language signs on Parisian streets. But others say such defensiveness misses the point. "This is not about English swamping and eroding local identities," says David Graddol, author of the British Council report. "It's about creating new identities—and about making everyone bilingual."

Indeed, English has become the common linguistic denominator. Whether you're a Korean executive on business in Shanghai, a German Eurocrat hammering out laws in Brussels or a Brazilian biochemist at a conference in Sweden, you're probably speaking English. And as the world adopts an international brand of English, it's native speakers who have the most to lose. Cambridge dons who insist on speaking the Queen's English could be met with giggles—or blank stares. British or American business execs who jabber on in their own idiomatic patois, without understanding how English is used by non-natives, might lose out on deals.

To achieve fluency, non-native speakers are learning English at an ever-younger age. Last year primary schools in major Chinese cities began offering English in the third grade, rather than middle school. A growing number of parents are enrolling their preschoolers in the new crop of local English courses. For some mothers-to-be, even that's not early enough; Zhou Min, who hosts several English programs at the Beijing Broadcasting Station, says some pregnant women speak English to their fetuses. At Prague's Lamea children's English-language school, 3-year-olds sing songs about snowmen and chant colors in English. Now 2-year-olds have a class of their own, too.

For the traditional custodians of English—the British and, more recently, the Americans—this means money. The demand for native English-speakers is so huge that there aren't enough to go around; China and the Middle East are starting to import English teachers from India. The average price of a four-day business-English course in London for a French executive runs 2,240 euro. Despite—or perhaps because of—all the new Englishes cropping up, it's the American and British versions that still carry prestige, particularly with tuition-paying parents. Australia and Britain, in particular, have invested heavily in branding themselves as destinations for learning English. More than 400 foreign English-teaching companies are trying to break into China. On a visit to Beijing last week, British Chancellor Gordon Brown said the Chinese thirst to acquire the language was "a huge opportunity for Britain," which already boasts a 1.3 billion pound English-teaching industry. Says Jenkins, "Owning English is very big business."

To see big business in action, one need only walk down London's busy Oxford Street, where ads hawk instant access to the language of success: DOES YOUR ENGLISH EMBARRASS YOU? BUSINESS ENGLISH FOR BEGINNERS; LEARN ENGLISH IN JUST 10 WEEKS! Above clothing stores, bustling English-language schools are packed with eager twentysomethings from around the world. Ben Beaumont, a buoyant 28-year-old Briton, presides over a class that includes a South Korean business manager, a nurse from rural Japan and an Italian law student. "Do you want a lot of homework or a little?" he asks. The class is unequivocal: "A lot!"

Why such enthusiasm? In a word, jobs. A generation ago, only elites like diplomats and CEOs needed English for work. "The ante on what's needed is going up year by year," says Graddol. "Throughout organizations, more people need more English." In China, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympics is pushing English among staff, guides, taxi drivers and ordinary citizens. For lower-middle classes in India, English can mean a ticket to a prized call-center job. "With call centers, no longer is speaking English one of the important skills to get a good job," says Raghu Prakash, who runs an English-language school in Jaipur. "It is the skill." At the new Toyota and Peugeot plant in the Czech Republic, English is the working language of the Japanese, French and Czech staff. Says Jitka Prikrylova, director of a Prague English-language school: "The world has opened up for us, and English is its language."

Governments, even linguistically protectionist ones, are starting to agree. Last year Malaysia decided to start teaching school-level math and science in English. In France, home of the Academie Francaise, whose members are given swords and charged with defending the sanctity of the French language, a commission recommended last fall that basic English be treated like basic math: as part of the mandatory core curriculum beginning in primary school. As it turns out, the minister of Education didn't agree. No matter; French schoolchildren are ahead of their government: 96 percent of them are already studying the language as an elective in school.

Technology also plays a huge role in English's global triumph. Eighty percent of the electronically stored information in the world is in English; 66 percent of the world's scientists read in it, according to the British Council. "It's very important to learn English because [computer] books are only in English," says Umberto Duirte, an Uruguayan IT student learning English in London. New technologies are helping people pick up the language, too: Chinese and Japanese students can get English-usage —tips on their mobile phones. English-language teachers point to the rise of Microsoft English, where computer users are drafting letters advised by the Windows spell check and pop-up style guides. In the temple town of Varanasi, India, Sanjukta Chaterjee says she's astonished by the way her 7-year-old son learns the language, through CDs and video. "Our teachers were strict that we should practice, and speak the language till we were near-perfect," she says. "Now there's an additional technological finesse to learning English."

Schools are becoming more and more creative. Last August, South Korea set up its first English immersion camp. The Gyeonggi English Village, built on a small island in the Yellow Sea and subsidized by the provincial government, comes complete with a Hollywood-style fake bank and airport, where students must conduct all transactions in English. "Through the camp, we want to train capable global citizens, who can help Korea win international competition in this age of globalization," says Sohn Hak Kyu, governor of Gyeonggi province, who started the program. In one class, eighth grader Chun Ho Sung, wearing a long black wig and posing as British heartthrob Orlando Bloom, sweats under the lights of a mock television studio as he prepares to be interviewed. "Do you think you are handsome?" asks the anchorwoman. Shyly, in broken English, Chun responds: "Yes, I do. I am very handsome." The audience of other students collapses in giggles.

While courses like Gyeonggi's sound simple, English and its teaching are inexorably becoming more complex. Ilan Stavans, an Amherst College professor, recently finished a translation of Cervantes's "Don Quixote" into Spanglish, the English-Spanish hybrid spoken in the United States and Mexico. Writing in the journal English Today last spring, Hu Xiaoqiong argued for reorientating China's English curriculum toward China English, incorporating Chinese phrases like "pay New Year calls," a Spring Festival tradition, and "no face," to be ashamed—as Standard English. In countries like Germany, where most kids begin English as early as the second or third grade, the market for English studies is already shrinking. German language schools no longer target English beginners but those pursuing more-expert niches: business English, phone manners or English for presentations. Beginning-English classes are filled with immigrants from places like Turkey and Russia, eager to catch up with the natives. As with migrants the world over, they're finding that their newfound land is an English-speaking one.

Volunteers like Steve Restains, who teaches English in Phuket, are helping rebuild countries hit by last year's tsunami

Volunteers like Steve Restains, who teaches English in Phuket, are helping rebuild countries hit by last year's tsunami

With Sudip Mazumdar and Hindol Sengupta in Delhi, Paul Mooney in Beijing, Katka Krosnar in Prague, Emily Flynn and Marie Valla in London, B. J. Lee in Gyeonggi, Tracy Mcnicoll in Paris, Stefan Theil in Berlin, Henk Rossouw in Johannesburg, Maria Amparo Lasso in Mexico City and Jaime Cunningham in New York

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7038031/site/newsweek/

Sunday, March 13, 2005


School Food


G.I. G.O. I always say. Garbage In Garbage Out is as true for what we read, watch and even eat. And anyone who has ever taught a class load of pubescent thirteen year olds who have just gorged themselves on the latest of sugar-laden snacks and caffeinated sodas for lunch can attest to this. Get rid of the garbage sold in the school caseta/cafeteria.

At EIS in Honduras, our situation is unique. The operator of the caseta is contracted out each year -- though always to the same group. They serve all their food on non-recyclable Styrofoam, paper and plastic. Hygiene is questionable at best. And by far the most popular foods, beside the Honduran balliada, are sucrose infused caffeine-encrusted junk food. We might as well sell the kids crack or speed.

Add to the mix ADD and hyperactive students and wonder why little work gets done. Students need to eat healthy food in order to process information more effectively. They actually will eat healthy food if the alternatives are taken away from them. And they will stop complaining about the lack of choices too, once they are used to it.

But wait, is this not some sort of fascist food police? No, as we have not taken away the student's ability to bring in food they want. But given the Honduran heat, warm sodas and melted sugar bombs will not be that popular. And good thing -- unless you want to teach those hyperactive sugar junkies some Friday after lunch.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

If schools in the USA are obsolete, then my school in Honduras must be...

Bill Gates Makes It Official

By EdWonk

Some 45 of the nation's 50 Governors have had a little get together to discuss the state of American public education, and the crisis in America's high schools:
Most of the summit's first day amounted to an enormous distress call, with speakers using unflattering numbers to define the problem. Among them: Of every 100 ninth-graders, only 68 graduate high school on time and only 18 make it through college on time, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
It's nice to know that the governors are on the case. Interestingly, Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jeb Bush decided not to attend.

But then Bill Gates showed up and informed that room full of governors (and us too) that it may be too late:

The most blunt assessment came from Microsoft chief Bill Gates, who has put more than $700 million into reducing the size of high school classes through the foundation formed by him and his wife, Melinda. He said high schools must be redesigned to prepare every student for college, with classes that are rigorous and relevant to kids and with supportive relationships for children.

" America's high schools are obsolete ," Gates said. "By obsolete, I don't just mean that they're broken, flawed or underfunded, though a case could be made for every one of those points. By obsolete, I mean our high schools... even when they're working as designed...cannot teach all our students what they need to know today."

We who are doing the teaching in the classrooms have known for years that there are some serious problems with our system of public high schools. But now that Bill Gates has officially declared our public high schools to be obsolete, I guess that we can look forward to him coming into our classrooms and showing our students how it's done.

I hope that Gates hurries-up, as my daughter will be going into the ninth grade next year and I certainly don't want her education to be "obsolete."


Wednesday, March 02, 2005

High Court Debates Commandments Displays

By HOPE YEN, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Ten Commandments displays should be allowed on government property because they pay tribute to America's religious and legal history, the Supreme Court was told Wednesday, in cases that could render a new definition of the role that religion plays in the life of the nation.

AP Photo

Reuters Photo
Slideshow Slideshow: Ten Commandments Display Debate

"The idea of having a fence around the Ten Commandments to make clear the state has nothing to do with it, I think that is bending it too far," said acting Solicitor General Paul Clement, in arguing against a strict First Amendment wall between church and state.

David Friedman, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) who is challenging courthouse displays in Kentucky countered: "An assertion that the Ten Commandments is THE source, THE foundation of our legal system ... that is simply wrapping the Ten Commandments in the flag, and that's endorsement."

In their comments and questions from the bench, justices were reluctant to adopt a blanket ban on such displays. They struggled to formulate a clear constitutional rule that could determine the fate of thousands of religious symbols on public property around the country, including one in their own courtroom featuring Moses holding the sacred tablets.

Justice Antonin Scalia (news - web sites) noted that legislative proclamations and prayer invoking God's name are permissible. "I don't see why the one is good and the other is bad," he said.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

What kind of morality do you have?

This test contains subject matter of an adult nature.

Now that I have your attention and you have been properly warned, proceed if you wish.

Click on the link below and find out what kind of morality you have.

Morality Test