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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Empremtes de Xahrazad - Free city visitant amb Marco Polo

Etymology :  "the person whose realm/dominion (شهر šahr) is free (آزاد āzād)"

  • Scheherazade /ʃəˌhɛrəˈzɑːdᵊ/, or 
  • Shahrazad (Persian: شهرازاد Šahrāzād),

        "Empremtes de Xahrazad.          
   Un viatge a través d´Àsia" 

por Antoni Torreño -Premi Literatura de viatges _ Benicassim (2004)

ell va traduir Viatges de Marco Polo al valencià.
Marco Polo, Llibre de les meravelles del món.
A cura d'Isabel Payà i Climent i Antoni Torreño i Mateu,
«Torsimany», 7, Edicions del Bullent, València, 1997

Mirar video al minut 13:45 fins 15:00... El mapa de Cresques!!!

Per cert,
Marco Polo deixi ben explícit que
 "el Gran Kha envià moltes ambaixades al Papa, al rei de França i al rei d'Espanya"
que no és altre que el monarca Jaume I.... amb un ambaixador Jaume Alarich

distorted knowledge - British isles - medieval maps

Created by

Medieval Maps of Britain

How did people depict England, Scotland and Wales in the Middle Ages? Here are 15 images of maps created between the 11th and 16th centuries, which shows how maps developed over history.

Friday, July 1, 2016

stranger in hell

I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away by Bill BrysonI'm a Stranger Here Myself Quotes

“In the United States, frozen cheese pizza is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Frozen pepperoni pizza, on the other hand, is regulated by the Department of Agriculture.”

piece 1____
This book is really a great comfort to foreigners, because what Bill Bryson told the readers mostly resonates with what we've encountered in our daily lives in the U.S.

As foreigners, we usually assume that lack of proficiency in the language is the cause of ineffective communication and it puts us in a very awkward situation. However, in the chapter, "What's Cooking," we know that though a native speaker, Bryson is also bewildered by the complicated terminology the server uses to introduce the special dishes in a fancy restaurant. And in "How to Rent a Car," Bryson has a difficult time figuring out the complexly tiered options in the contract just as I did when I rented a car in the U.S. for the first time. Sometime it makes foreigners feel secure and relieved when realizing that a native speaker is in the same boat.

I am so glad that I got the chance to read this book. Not only did I understand more about American customs and culture, but I also benefited greatly from the author's funny expression and vivid description in English. For foreigners, making ourselves acquainted with American ways of thinking and speaking is crucial to dealing with daily events in a foreign country. In my opinion, Bill Bryson plays the role of a spokesperson for Americans as well as foreigners. In his sarcastic but intriguing tone, Bryson candidly points out some ridiculous phenomena in American society. Some may regard him as a grumpy man complaining a lot in his book, but I was fascinated by his unique humor. I sincerely suggest anyone who would like to travel to the U.S. read this book beforehand. This book is of great help to getting a broad outline of the life style in America.

piece 2____

 I started reading through the first few pages and am delighted to report that they were so entertaining and accessible that I ended up finishing the book very satified.
This book is about America, about consumerism, hypocracy, politics, culture and everything else in between, such as motels and boring interstate highways and the condition of AT&T service these days. Why should all this be so interesting? Because Bill Bryson's voice shines throughout, dissecting normally more complex subjects into bite-sized articles which are eminently readable to the extent that it is at times impossible to stop. Of course, his trademark humour is present too. If you read this in public, there is the risk of embarrassment by your involuntary snorts of laughter.
However, 'I'm a Stranger here Myself' isn't perfect. Much of the book is predictable, and 85% of the time, Bill appears to be complaining. Someone as talented as Bill Bryson should know not to engage in such indulgence because the end result is that the reader occassionally feels frustrated over the ostensible monotony. You also can't help but feel that an assemblage of brief columns is not enough to make a book.
Although this book is not standard Bill Bryson fare, it still manages to excel. It really is exceptionally enlightening, to read what he has to say subsequent to spending 20 years in England. He compares the contrasts between the two nations and questioning so many aspects of life that Americans take for granted, such as driving from shop to shop when they are merely footsteps apart, or the blatant excesses of junk food. Each article (in my edition, Black Swan) covers only five pages so they are very easy to get into.
If you are an American, perhaps you will enjoy this book more than anyone else as you will undoubtedly find it compelling to look into the views of an outsider in the process of 'assimilation'.
'I'm a Strange here Myself' doesn't feel like a book, more like a colelction of columns binded together. If you are willing to accept this, it is an extremely rewarding, insightful and refreshingly diverting read. This is enough to gain a hearty recommendation.

piece 3____
Bryson is one of my favorite authors, and some pieces were classic, classic Bryson---so funny you really do laugh out loud for a good long while! I liked best the pieces on pop culture---diners, motels, TV, dieting, etc. However, a few pieces were about subjects you can read about in almost any newspaper editorial any day of the week---government waste and stupidity, how hard tax returns are to prepare, and the overactive legal system, to name some. I found those pieces were not really done as well---they could have been written by any skilled writer and did not have the distinctive Bryson voice. Maybe this is because they were not written for an American audience originally, and maybe those topics are not as overdone in England.

piece 4____

  On the way home, I opened the cover (akin to opening a bag of my favorite chips) and sampled a bite. And another. Soon, I was eight chapters into the thing, wiping tears from my eyes to the amusement of my wife and children. Then, the ultimate test: I read a page out loud to my wife. Now I'm not intimating that she has any laughter inhibitions--she'll laugh up a storm within the first minutes of a good comedy flick--but to subject her to oral readings is to watch her mood take a serious downswing. Must be the expectation levels I project. ("Come on, honey, don't you get it? Are you listening?")
Test results: A+
Next thing I knew, I was fighting my wife for moments to gobble down another chapter or two. No kidding. Bill Bryson, in his inimitable manner, adds punch and humor to subjects normally as tastless as...well, as week-old chips. He pinpoints the lunacies in our daily routine, the frustrations of red-tape, and the nostalgia of yesteryear. He makes me wonder why we Americans behave in such ways, then leaves me shaking my head at the idea of living anywhere else.
We're all strangers, in one way or another, in this diverse land of ours.

piece 5____

The things you enjoyed and cherished might not even be part of your new experiences. The reverse culture shock that is part and parcel of moving back to a place after spending time away from it. Having gotten used to the British way of life and terminology, he struggles to remember/find out the American equivalent of things. His British wife and children, though, seem to love America while he seems to be the one having the most difficult time. Rediscovering America with it’s joys and it’s trials, all the while poking fun at himself and others around him, it was a fun read. I chuckled through the book.
Some of the chapters, though did seem dated, after all , this book was written in 1999. Some chapters about computers for instance remind you that this book is of another time. But for most part, it is Bryson’s style of poking fun at the things he observes that stands out. The sentiments and the humour, I have to say, are timeless.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Learned Optimism Test -Martin Seligman

Learn Your Character Strengths. 
Live Your Potential.

The VIA Survey of Character Strengths is a simple self-assessment that takes less than 15 minutes and provides a wealth of information to help you understand your core characteristics. Most personality tests focus on negative and neutral traits, but the VIA Survey focuses on your best qualities.

TASK 1.  Listen to an interview with Martin Seligman.

TASK 2. FOR a review on his would-be weaknesses:
10 reasons to doubt Seligman by Tim LeBon

TASK 3.  READ the adapted test below.
Learned Optimism Test 

(adapted from Dr. Martin Seligman's book, "Learned Optimism")

The Instructions:

There are forty-eight (48) questions in this evaluation test. Take as much time as you need to answer each of the questions. On average, this test takes about fifteen minutes. There are no right or wrong answers. Do NOT read the analysis in "Learned Optimism" until after you have completed this test.

Read the description of each situation and vividly imagine it happening to you. You have probably not experienced some of the situations, but that should not matter. Perhaps neither response will fit; bout go ahead and choose the cause likelier to apply to you.

You may not like the way some of the responses sound, but don't choose what you think you should say or what would sound right right to other people; choose the response you'd be likelier to have.

The Questions: 

1.  The project you are in charge of is a great success.
 I kept a close watch over everyone's work.
 Everyone devoted a lot of time and energy to it.
2.  You and your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) make up after a fight.
 I forgave him/her.
 I'm usually forgiving.
3.  You get lost driving to a friend's house.
 I missed my turn.
 My friend gave me bad directions.
4.  Your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) suprises you with a gift.
 He/she just got a raise at work.
 I took him/her out to a special dinner the night before.
5.  You forget your spouse's (boyfriend's/girlfriend's) birthday.
 I'm not good at remembering birthdays.
 I was preoccupied with other things.
6.  You get a flower from a secret admirer.
 I am attractive to him/her.
 I am a popular person.
7.  You run for a community office position and win.
 I devote a lot of time and energy to campaigning.
 I work very hard at everything I do.
8.  You miss an important engagement.
 Sometimes my memory fails me.
 I sometime forget to check my appointment book.
9.  You run for a community office position and you lose.
 I didn't campaign hard enough.
 The person who won knew more people.
10.  You host a successful dinner.
 I was particularly charming that night.
 I am a good host.
11.  You stop a crime by calling the police.
 A strange noise caught my attention.
 I was alert that day.
12.  You were extremely healthy all year.
 Few people around me were sick, so I wasn't exposed.
 I made sure I ate well and got enough rest.
13.  You owe the library ten dollars for an overdue book.
 When I am really involved in what i am reading, I often forget when it is due.
 I was so involved in writing the report that I forgot to return the book.
14.  Your stocks make you a lot of money.
 My broker decided to take on something new.
 My broker is a top-notch investor.
15.  You win an athletic contest.
 I was feeling unbeatable.
 I train hard.
16.  You fail an important examination.
 I wasn't as smart as the other people taking the exam.
 I didn't prepare for it well.
17.  You prepared a special meal for a friend and he/she barely touched the food.
 I wasn't a good cook.
 I made the meal in a rush.
18.  You lose a sporting event for which you have been training for a long time.
 I'm not very athletic.
 I'm not good at that sport.
19.  Your car runs out of gas on a dark street late at night.
 I didn't check to see how much gas was in the tank.
 The gas gauge was broken.
20.  You lose your temper with a friend.
 He/she is always nagging me.
 He/she was in a hostile mood.
21.  You are penalized for not returning your income-tax form on time.
 I always put off doing my taxes.
 I was lazy about getting my taxes done year.
22.  You ask a person out on a date and he/she say no.
 I was a wreck that day.
 I got tongue-tied when I asked him/her on the date.
23.  A game-show host picks you out of the audience to participate in the show.
 I was sitting in the right seat.
 I looked the most enthusiastic.
24.  You are frequently asked to dance at a party.
 I am outgoing at parties.
 I was in perfect form that night.
25.  You buy your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) a gift and he/she doesn't like it.
 I don't put enough thought into things like that.
 He/she has very picky tastes.
26.  You do exceptionally well in a job interview.
 I felt extremely confident during the interview.
 I interview well.
27.  You tell a joke and everyone laughs.
 The joke was funny.
 My timing was perfect.
28.  Your boss gives you too little time in which to finish a project, but you get it finished anyway.
 I am good at my job.
 I am an efficient person.
29.  You've been feeling run-down lately.
 I never get a chance to relax.
 I was exceptionally busy this week.
30.  You ask someone to dance and he/she says no.
 I am not a good enough dancer.
 He/she doesn't like to dance.
31.  You save a person from choking to death.
 I know a technique to stop someone from choking.
 I know what to do in crisis situations.
32.  Your romantic partner wants to cool things off for a while.
 I'm too self-centered.
 I don't spend enough time with him/her.
33.  A friend says something that hurts your feelings.
 She always blurts things out without thinking of others.
 My friend was in a bad mood and took it out on me.
34.  Your employer comes to you for advice.
 I am an expert in the area about which I was asked.
 I am good at giving useful advice.
35.  A friend thanks you helping him/her get through a bad time.
 I enjoy helping him/her through tough times.
 I care about people.
36.  You have a wonderful time at a party.
 Everyone was friendly.
 I was friendly.
37.  Your doctor tells you that you are in good physical shape.
 I make sure I exercise frequently.
 I am very health conscious.
38.  Your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) takes you away for a romantic weekend.
 He/she needed to get away for a few days.
 He/she likes to explore new areas.
39.  Your doctor tells you that you eat too much sugar.
 I don't pay much attention to my diet.
 You can't avoid sugar, it's in everything.
40.  You are asked to head an important project.
 I just successfully completed a similar project.
 I am a good supervisor.
41.  You and your spouse (boyfriend/girlfriend) have been fighting a great deal.
 I have been feeling crankyand pressured lately.
 He/she has been hostile lately.
42.  You fall down a great deal while skiing.
 Skiing is difficult.
 The trails were icy.
43.  You win a prestigious award.
 I solved an important problem.
 I was the best employee.
44.  Your stocks are at an all-time low.
 I didn't know much about the business climate at the time.
 I made a poor choice of stocks.
45.  You win the lottery.
 It was pure chance.
 I picked the right numbers.
46.  You gain weight over the holidays and you can't lose it.
 Diets don't work in the long run.
 The diet I tried didn't work.
47.  You are in the hospital and few people come to visit.
 I'm irritable when I am sick.
 My friends are negligent about things like that.
48.  They won't honor your credit card at a store.
 I sometimes overestimate how much money I have.
 I sometimes forget to pay my credit-card bill.

The Analysis:
The following analysis uses the rules spelled out in "Learned Optimism" by Martin E.P. Seligman, PhD. The score is listed after each category along with the Seligman assessment of your score.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

P is for pronunciation (a forum thread)

Can pronunciation be taught?  SCOTT THORNBURY

(kind of summary notes, thanx Scott)
1. who denies grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation being the tripod of language teaching ? (as we can see in Ur’s “A course in Language Teaching”) 

2. Four predictors of acceptable pronunciation  (in degree of importance):

  • the learner’s first language (i.e., all things being equal, a speaker of, say, Swedish is more likely to pronounce English better than a speaker of, say, Vietnamese)
  • aptitude for oral mimicry (i.e. ‘having a good ear’)
  • length of residency in an English-speaking environment
  • strength of  concern for pronunciation accuracy (this one arguably be nurtured by the teacher)


A. learners who want to improve their pronunciation (or have an aptitude for it) will improve, and those who don’t (or haven’t) won’t – irrespective of what the teacher does.
Most of my students come to me with grammar cravings and nothing more. The importance of pronunciation doesn’t seem to count.B. As a teacher, I have to confess that I can’t recall any enduring effects for teaching pronunciation in class – but then, I very seldom addressed it in any kind of segregated, pre-emptive fashion. Most of my ‘teaching’ of pronunciation was reactive -  a case of responding to learners’ mispronunciations with either real or feigned incomprehension.    
C. advantages and disadvantages of NESTs versus non-NESTs   the non-NEST who has fluent and intelligible speech is both a more realistic model for learners, and one with whom they can identify more easily. (I’m a great advocate of the motivational value of playing learners recordings of people of their nationality speaking English well – such as Penelope Cruz or Javier Bardem, in the case of Spanish speakers).
D. Is it good news (we don’t have to teach pronunciation, and can spend the time saved on more important stuff)?E. Communication? .... So, remember that about 70% of the English that a non-native speaker uses will be with other non-natives.F. Teaching pronunciation is not only possible, but necessary (not only for the learner, but for us, as teachers, too). As we all know, one thing that fosters the learning process is a sense of achievement.    G. who knows these answers?       How were our students NOT improving their pronunciation?
  • G1. Whom the learners had to model their pronunciation from in the learning process? (as in teachers and local speakers of English), and 
  • G2. How much awareness raising and strategies relative to pronunciation were characteristic of the learning programs they were part of?

1- make some permanent impact on the performance skills, reading aloud, for example, with pauses that turn a monotonous solo performance into something like a communicative act – reading to people instead of at them. And I mentioned exercises based on reading aloud the same passage boringly, hesitatingly, enthusiastically etc. where attention was focussed on overall skills. 
2- when learners of a syllable-timed language are first taught that English is a stress-timed language and have the chance to practise it in class, they can then go home and watch a movie on cable TV (or even online) to see whether they can notice the difference. (Jazz chants for instance)
3- repetition; (from classbook materials, transcripts, etc)learners' competence has certainly improved when  we raise their awareness to vocabulary and work with chunks, it only makes sense we focus on the correct pronunciation of chunks and make it clear this is a feature of the language they’re studying, right?
4- give diagnosis on problematic areas
5- provide  feedback to keep motivation up.‘nothing succeeds like success’. If you can motivate stduents by showing them that their prounciation is improving incrementally – fantastic. Hence the value of recording students ‘before and after’ – 
6-   some areas of pronunciation which can and should be taught: they tend to fall into the category of “consciously doing things with your voice to make a point” (rehearsals, theatre, and so on)
7- SElf-recording and analysing. Listen to your own presentations!she simply sat with her own voice looped through her own headphones and read the text out, marking up the text with pauses and stress. When she started hearing herself speak she grimaced (!) but minutes later had made huge improvements. This was entirely self-directed – putting herself in the shoes of her own listeners had a powerful effect and she was quickly able to work out how to make her reading comprehensible. (to begin with, she didn’t need any external input on the ‘correct’ pronunciation.)

  Item 3 -  METHODOLOGY  (And food for thought)

- some of the most relevant features of pronunciation, the ones that make the students’ speech intelligible should be taught. Even if we’re not sure they’ll actually learn it, at least to make them aware of such features. 

1>   raising awareness to pronunciation is very important. 
   ACQUIRING A GOOD PRONUNCIATION is not a matter of using RP as a model, but it’s about making yourself more easily understood by native speakers and, consequently, other speakers of the language.
  • The most effective way of raising awareness about pronunciation....          is not through making ‘pre-emptive strikes’ on learners’ pronunciation problems (real or imagined), 
  •      but by providing unequivocal feedback. (i.e. play 'dumb' with them.)    If not instructed, a Catalan will probably say at a hotel “I need my kiss” (meaning “I need my keys”); you say: A mummy's night kiss? me, too.
In real life, speakers do this to each other when there is any mispronunciation-induced breakdown in communication.Facing the experience of NOT being understood – as painful as it is – might be sufficient to kick-start a concern for pronunciation improvement, which might then be engineered through lots of exposure (e.g. to movies) and (private) imitation.

2> -   teaching pronunciation and listening 
(actually hearing and differentiating sounds) goes hand in hand. 
When a student gains a level of proficiency in these two areas then the rest of their English learning speeds up. 
(learners confidence grows considerably when they start to be empowered with the skills to change and be flexible with their pronunciation)
2.A. sentence stress, weak forms, liaisons, elisions, and other features are paramount for learners to develop their listening skills.....  

2.B. Comprehension-geared syllabus: I selected excerpts from authentic video material and isolated elements of connected speech that at the time I felt might hider students’ comprehension: the silent H in sentences like “I hatim” = I hate him / the flap T in American English which is rarely understood by non native speakers / final ED endings as they connect to the the next vowel and so on and so forth.At the end of the four terms, there was considerable improvement in comprehension

3>- pronunciation is not easily learned. Or that it’s learned by means other than direct instruction. 
 3A.     .....  what evidence do we have that learners learn our pronunciation contents?
3B. Teacher may receive spontaneous, “soft” feedback from students, claiming that, for the first time ever, they were able to understand songs, movies etc

4 >-  in order for pronunciation work to have a lasting effect
  •   a real, conscious, CONTINUING effort needs to be made on the part of the learner”. AND 
  •   the teacher can be valuable support if he/she is able to help maintan the learner’s enthusiam, and provide appropritae direction.

5>- intonation seems to be often acquired through ...
 the appropriation of whole chunks of language, 
with their intonation contours intact: 
think of “What’s up?” or “Have a nice day!” or “How sad is that!

6> on line (Self-)learning

Teaching online makes handling pronunciation harder to “teach” but in some ways easier for students to work on independently. Three sites to refer students to are: 
All of them appear to be helpful to some extent, AND  having the students go away and work on these areas on their own does appear to be somewhat more effective than having a 1-1 session with their teacher.

until preintermediate level, learners need initiation into basic sound-spelling relationships: 
(in fact sound-spelling relationships are one aspect of pronunciation that I think are really worth drawing attention to)
incremental improvements that you might be trying to produce in intermediate or higher level students who have had significant exposure to English already.

Item 4 - DOs and DONTs tasks

DO_1   Teach stress!
  • DO_1.1> I see some value in focusing on word stress as I find most pronunciation problems my students stem from there. 
  • DO_1.2. >> sentence stress (including contrastive stress) is probably more important – in terms of its communicative load’ – than the accurate pronunciation of individual sounds. 
  • DO_1.3 >>        an inductive approach to guide a group of fairly advanced learners to work out the rules (or, better, tendencies) of word stress in polysyllabic words (the students seemed generally impressed that the system was not as arbitrary as it had appeared), and 
DO_2  Modulating your message.Progress can be achieved and demonstrated in some areas of spoken language. I always found that, for example, the practice of utterances spoken in different styles very productive, for example:Say the following sentence in the indicated fashion.
“Would you like to come to the cinema with me this evening?Hesitatingly // Shyly  // Arrogantly  // Aggressively  //
Ponderously  // Rapidly  //  Loudly  //  Mumblingly  //  Over clearly  //
The advantage of such exercises, I found was that:
  • a) They are fun to do.
  • b) They involve pronunciation, stress, elision, the use of short forms, the ubiquitous schwa and all that jazz , but focus on effective performance and progress is quick and observable – and can be permanent or at least long-lasting.

DO-3where I used a banal dialogue that happened to be in the students’ workbook to highlight the different spellings/pronunciation correspondences ( of the /ay/ phoneme)

      plus  2 DON'Ts

  • introducing the phonetic alphabet and transcribing words is taking it too far – beyond language learning and into linguistics! i. e., segregated activities such as the ones that focus on the past simple inflection (-ed) – well, I’m not so sure. Teachers may teach these “pronunciation macnuggets”, but  what evidence do we have that learners learn them?
  • Let students down about learning a language  where you can overcome to sound like you’re actually speaking a different language. That is, to partially get rid of your most remarkable accentual features. (upperintermediate)