Showing posts from May, 2011

I know why computers fail

Computers, as I understand, operate on a simple system: on/off. In numbers it's called the binary system: 0, 1 and nothing else.

In language this opposition is found in yes/no. You might think that the simplest possible communication would be yes/no. "Would you like some tea?" "Yes" or "no." "Will we have our lesson next week?" "Yes" or "no."

But in daily life, the yes/no distinction is constantly blurred, changed and misunderstood. Example: "I ask my husband if I can move the liquid soap from the bathroom to the kitchen. "Yes" or "no." Instead, he tells me a long story about how he uses the soap--which doesn't answer the question, as he could use the soap in the kitchen or the bathroom.

Example: "I can't teach your lesson next week" is heard as "I can teach your lesson next week." Even if I enunciate and say "I cannot teach your lesson next week," my student…

Teaching conversational English to Dana

This has been an interesting problem for me--how can I, as a tutor, help my client "Dana" become more comfortable in speaking English "without a script"? In other words, how can I structure our tutoring sessions so that Dana and I can just talk to each other?

It's not as easy as it sounds to have a normal, relaxed conversation in English with someone who's learning English. Dana studies English grammar for 5 hours a week with another tutor, and so has a good grasp of the fundamentals of English. But she wants to put her knowledge to practical use and talk with me in English.

The basic challenge is having something to talk about--something we are both interested in and that Dana has enough vocabulary about to have a good conversation. It would be hard, for example, to talk about geology, as neither of us has any deep interest in or specalized vocabulary about geology.

If we were in a group setting, it would be easier, as there wouldn't be so much pressur…