Tuesday, April 17, 2007

English for the Workplace

English for the Workplace - Level Test.
Take this 100 question test to discover your English level. This test was especially designed for English for Business (or the workplace) and focuses on standard business English phrases, vocabulary etc

Business Meetings in English
One of the most common requirements of business English is holding and participating in meetings in English.

Making Business Presentations - Key Phrases
This making business presentations outline provides a guide to giving a business presentation in English. Each section begins with the presentation section concerned, then the language formulas appropriate to giving.

PS to Rajeev - I can't answer your question because it makes no sense whatsover! Be more specific - always include examples. Please give at least one clear example of what you mean by your claim that "sometimes we use 'the' just to start a sentence." I don't.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More about articles: clarity vs correctness

Tai's recent question reminds me of a very important point that can be too easy to overlook.
Do we always have to use the definite article "the" for specific object that both the person speaking and the listener know? For example, "The car over there is fast." I'm confused. If the speaker and the listener are seeing the car for for the first time, is it wrong to use a/an or not? "A car over there is fast."
Both "The car over there is fast" and "A car over there is fast" are correct sentences. However, the meaning is not the same. You can be grammatically correct and still get the meaning wrong. Conversely, you can get the meaning right and make a grammatical mistake. Which do you think is more important? Do you want to make sense or do you want to sound good? Of course you want both, but effective communication is always more important.

The car over there is fast  = That specific car over there is fast. Maybe there is only one car over there. It does not really matter whether or not the speaker and the listener "know" or have seen the specific car before as long as it is clear that the reference is to a particular car. Using modifiers helps too.

There is a fast car over there = one of the cars over there is fast; somewhere over there is a fast car

You can add modifiers (The black BMW with the chrome luggage rack is a fast car) or rephrase. In the second sentence, "There is a fast car over there" would be a better construction.

Articles are such small words but are big contributors to confusion and lack of clarity. They are not alone though. What are some others? Knowing what they are and why or how they make what you say or write unclear helps. You know where to look for problems when you edit. Also as you become more aware, you will be able to avoid problems.

Other problem areas:
Word choice
Word order
Slang and colloquial or idiomatic expressions

Why do you think these problem areas interfere with meaning? What are your major problem areas? Are there others not on this list that you can think of?


Friday, April 13, 2007

Word stress, verbs, articles and more

Pronunciation: Word Stress - Changes in Meaning
 When you are speaking English the words you stress can change the underlying meaning a sentence. Even simple sentences can have many levels of meaning based on the word youu stress.

 English Verbs - Tense Resources
 Learning verb tenses is one of the most important
 tasks in any language learning. Here is a tense
 use guide to resources at the site that will help
 you learn...read more
 A, An, The or no article?
Here is a new 30 question quiz focusing on those tricky definite and indefinite articles. If you aren't sure about the rules, here is a page dedicated to the basics...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Readings in Contemporary Poetry: Audio Archives

Listening and reading practice for National Poetry Month. Poetry usually has stronger and more distinguishable rhythm than prose. Reading and listening to its poetry is an excellent way to absorb the rhythm of another language.

Readings in Contemporary Poetry: Audio Archives

Review of study on poetry and 2nd language learning

Writing poety (for esl learners): PIZZAZ! Creative Writing and Storytelling Ideas (check out the five line poem and try writing your own!) http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/pizzaz.html

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Is anyone studying for the new citizenship test?

As some of you may know, USCIS is piloting a new citizenship
test (6 right out of 10 questions, given at random from the
master list) gets someone citizenship, if all other
qualifications have been met.

A recent update from USCIS has lists of reading and writing
vocabulary needed to do well on the test.

Here's the easiest way to get them:

Once there, look lower left for the box with info on "Pilot
Naturalization Test"

Then, at the bottom of the page you get after you've clicked
the link, look for:

Q&A for pilot naturalization test
Vocabulary for the reading test
Vocabulary for the writing test

Each file can be downloaded easily and printed.

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