Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sick Days

Woke up today and still felt feverish and my throat felt thick as if I swallowed a pillow. My nose was clogged and I sound like Darth Vader from Star Wars when I speak. I got out of bed sluggishly and went on my routine of washing up and preparing for breakfast.

It's 10:30 and I'm finishing off my breakfast with a bowl of oatmeal and a piece of banana. I practically couldn't taste anything, but I just thought - it's necessary as a pre-workout meal.

Yes, you read it right- even though I felt very sick and feverish, I still decided to go the local gym and work out. If I sweat this out, I can reduce my sick days.

So, sluggishly I went to the gym - literally dragging my feet. It was a 15-minute walk, and the sun was searing hot. It's a good thing that I met some of my oldest friends there and we had a good conversation (like Katsumoto and Algren from the "Last Samurai" -hahaha!)

It's already 12:15 - have to work out already and not waste too much time talking. I did my usual circuit exercises and had very short conversations with my old friend while resting between sets. (multi-tasking - hahah! again!) Sweated really profusely and it felt good. Finished my workout at around 1:00pm and on my way home.

The searing sun was suddenly replaced by a cooler wind and cloudy skies. I should be happier, because I don't need to feel so uncomfortable with the extreme heat. But I actually felt cold as if it's wintertime. I'm still not well - obviously.

Arrived home - finally. Drank my protein drink, prepared my lunch - sweet potatoes and tuna and boiled some eggs. Showered first, then ate lunch. It's like I'm eating wood, there's practically no taste because of my colds. Anyway, I'm positive I'll be better soon enough.

I just look at this old picture of mine to motivate myself:

I took this picture 3 years ago and it was really quite expensive to maintain this kind of mass. But it's very motivating nevertheless. Tomorrow I'll be running early and hopefully I will feel better. 

I usually do this to sweat out my "illness", if there's such a thing. But, it pretty much works out for me since it shortens my sick days, so to speak. I don't particularly recommend this for everyone because of the stress that it causes on the body. 

In my case, it just works - whew!

Well, logging on now for my online job and will be eating boiled egg whites every 2 hours.

Some may think of me as being obsessed, but I call it being passionate :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Self-learning Strategies for EFL Learners

Most students don't have time because of busy schedules at work, house chores or unforeseen activities. The obvious question is: How could I find the time in studying English?

1) Make time.

   Time is usually against us, but  if we could squeeze in at least 10-15 mins 3x per week or even during the weekends, it could make a big difference. Reviewing your lessons weekly and select those that are personally important to you. You could supplement your lessons using these links: - Online Bilingual quizzes (Japanese-English) - Vocabulary and Grammar - Voice of America Channel (Listening/Grammar/Vocabulary) - Basic Collocations - vocabulary and Grammar

2) Have an online or written diary.

   Record any new words/expressions/phrases or any corrections in terms of grammar and sentence structure. This would serve as a "quick reference guide", because you can remember the most important points and what needs to be improved more. Read it constantly, until you have learned from your errors and integrated the important details in your life. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to memorize, but to understand, utilize and integrate the important points of your lessons. - it should always be progressive.

3) Listen, read aloud and repeat.

   Listening to a recorded text and reading the actual text aloud (while listening to yourself  or recording your voice) should be the backbone of your learning. The holistic approach of learning multiple skills is not only time-efficient, but also a reflection of real-life situations wherein English skills are used simultaneously.

This is primarily a pronunciation site and focuses on the "schwa" or reduced vowel and proper rhythm and intonation. But you can also learn: Vocabulary/expressions, proper sentence structure (correct word order and word choice) and Grammar that is based on relevant contexts.

You can also think of your own self-learning strategies based on your specific circumstances and needs. The key is being able to sustain your language studies without losing interest or having a burnout.

Hope these tips could help - keep the faith!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Duality of Learning

We have started out in life knowing nothing and we are who we are now because of what we have learned throughout our unique experiences, interactions with different people from different generations, different circumstances good or bad or simply from our homes where we grew up.

It's interesting to think back that half of my life was spent studying in schools and universities and back then I thought that after graduating, I could spend a less hectic life away from the academic rigors of the intellectual pursuit of excellence.

Nevertheless, now as an educator myself, it is only now that I get to appreciate the learning process brought about by my experiences with students and life itself. It is very much different from the way I learned in school - less tedious, but more insightful and fulfilling.

Don't get me wrong, I truly enjoyed studying in school back then. But I have to admit that I love the practical learning process now than when I was a student. It's now that I get to realize that to be a good educator, I also have to be the best learner and in being an efficient learner, I could be the best educator in my own right.

So is the same for learners of different ages and circumstances. Learners can be also teachers in their own right, because their experiences are unique and if shared with others is in a sense: "teaching" to a certain extent.

If people ask me what I have learned, I can always say that learning goes beyond the walls of a school, it is not merely academic in nature and it is continuous and progressive. Life is multifaceted and we can all learn from various areas that life has to offer, but most importantly -  sharing or teaching what we learn can enrich  our lives and others profoundly.

We are all therefore learners and teachers in our own right.

What about you? What have you learned lately?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Vocabulary Acquisition

Much of our English learning focuses on memorizing and detailed attention to Grammar and other necessary rules to be able to create well-structured sentences. This is of course the basis of any language learning, but is quite short-sighted and "robotic" in some cases.

Widening our learning perspectives is a good way to learn a language more efficiently and more naturally. As the idiom goes: "there will always be more than one way to skin a cat".

Here are some ideas that you could employ to efficiently improve your vocabulary by making a word or an expression a part of your daily life...for the long term:

1) Rely not only on your memory:

    Although memorizing is the most basic instinct that we use when studying or trying to acquire a new word/expression, but more often than not, it's just committed to our "short-term" memory. When acquiring a new word, it should be "situational". Think of situations, experiences or a related expression in your native language that are already known to you and "analogize" this new word.

ex: "proclivity" - a tendency or inclination to something.

  **you may have an "equivalent" word in your own language related to this that would help you remember it for the long term.
** think of a situation that is unique to you: What is your "proclivity"? Do you have the "inclination" to be strict? or Do you have a proclivity for medically-related issues or topics more than politics?

2) Use it or lose it: 

    The greatest muscle is the brain. Just like with any other skill, whether it be physical or mental; if we don't use what we have learned or gained - we practically become rusty until we forget everything altogether.

How do we prevent this?

Practice. Use it in everyday conversations with your teachers or with fellow learners. Try keeping a notebook or an electronic copy of your lessons and write sample sentences using this word. Practice on your own, sort of like "talking to yourself" and determine what statements you think would be comfortable for you. The repetitive process is likened to "mental gymnastics" and you would be able to naturally remember this word "on-demand" and with ease.

3) Word order/Word choice:

The next step is learning how to construct a logical and natural sentence according to context at that particular moment or situation. This is where your knowledge in Grammar comes to play. If we grammatically classify the word: "proclivity", it's a NOUN and since we already know the meaning and analogized it to something that we already know; it wouldn't be too difficult for us to use it properly in a sentence, or in this case; in a dialogue:

Ex: A: John seems to be awkward in social situations, isn't he?
      B: Yes, he is. But, he does have an interesting proclivity in imitating foreign accents and it's very entertaining!
      A: Really? He doesn't look the type!
      B: Yup, I guess looks can be deceiving
      A: You can say that again!

4) Pronunciation: 

   Although vocabulary centers primarily on spelling and proper sentence structure, if you mispronounce it, nobody would be able to understand you. The combination of vowels and consonants in words like "proclivity"could be quite confusing, so it's best to: "syllabicate"

pro-cli-vi-ty \pr'-KLIV-i-tiy\

  a) practice pronouncing this word constantly in front of a mirror

  b) "listen" to yourself and correct your pronunciation constantly if it's not consistent with the correct vowel and consonant sounds above
 c) pronounce slow at first, then faster until you could pronounce it more naturally and with ease

5) Words are very situational: 

   Since the word: "proclivity" is a Noun. It can be used in a variety of situations, whether for hobbies, general situations, activities, sports, or even when it comes to personality traits. 

There are also some collocations that you need to understand in terms of correct contextual usage. There are many types, but for now - we will focus on Adjective-Noun pairs.

ex: "desperate" - Adjective + "situation" - Noun

  = "desperate situation" is  a very common collocation and it sounds very natural

**It's very unnatural to use this word like this: "desperate illness"

Now, in terms of the word: "proclivity", what Adjectives do you think can we use for this Noun? Possibly, "intense" or "unique". Like: "intense proclivity for..."/"unique proclivity for..."

6) Read, read, read

   Read different articles and different lesson types or even online newspapers or anything that catches your fancy. Reading is one way of exposing yourself to different vocabulary and collocations as they are used naturally in different contexts. Similarly, in conversations we can be exposed to different contexts. Everything that you do therefore should be purposeful and goal-oriented - in this case: learning and acquiring new words or expressions.

Now that you know the most practical way of learning words, it's now up to you to use them and learn as much as you can. 

Keep the faith!