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Tag Archives: America


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A great game to use in the English class is Taboo. While it’s very time-consuming to prepare (tip: get your students to write the cards themselves, so they have to think hard about related words), the students have tons of fun and it gets them to speak quickly.

Yet the best pay-off for me is hearing what is REALLY on students’ minds, when the time pressure makes them blurt out the first thing they can think of.

Here is a sampling of favorites:

1) When you take the elevator you are a ……

A. Wheelchair!

2) We all have it in our trousers.  (Me: Where is this going?!?!)

B. Cell phone! (Me: Phew!)

3) Americans are it!  (Me: Nobody can answer something like that!)

C. Overweight! (Me: Oh, COME ON!)

So for all the teaching about disregarding stereotypes, and speaking with care and political correctness, when the pressure’s on we can see what you’re really thinking!

Anyone else have favorite Taboo moments to add to this list?


“A” for Enthusiasm

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According to  an article on non-verbal communication, only 7% of communication is done through spoken words. That’s not great news for a language teacher.

55% occurs through body language. No wonder a firm handshake and eye contact are so important!

The remaining 38% of communication happens through the tone of your voice.

Now, I wonder if this is true for all languages, or just English. In German, it seems like people put more weight on the words themselves than on tone. If you say ‘That’s OK” in German, people nod and leave you alone. If you say “That’s OK” in English, we wonder, “Are you sure?? What’s wrong? Is it REALLY ok? It didn’t SOUND ok…”

My husband is an excellent cook, and loves trying out new recipes. A while ago he made a salad, and I am not the biggest salad eater, but this was divine. I could have eaten it all day. I told him it was the best salad I’d ever had.

Later that evening, he was expressing doubts about the meal:

“You didn’t like my salad very much.”

“What are you talking about?!”

“All you said was, ‘It’s the best salad I’ve ever had.’ But from my American wife, I expect, “IT IS THE BESSSTTTT SAALLADDD EEEVVEEEERRRRR!”

He used to tease me about my American enthusiasm (and get me in a room with my American friends, you will drown in exclamation marks…)  but I suppose he’s come to get used to it. For me, a simple, monotone “I like it” basically means it’s awful. There MUST be some emphasis on the “like” or even “love” to show any degree of preference. As far as I know, “Ich mag es” in German means you like it, no matter how you say it. (Native speakers, correct me if I’m wrong!)

So for every hour of English vocabulary I teach, should I be teaching 5 hours of American enthusiasm? (Or lack thereof – what if something is:                    THE.         WOOOOOORRRRRSSSTTTTTT?) How important is tone of voice when learning or teaching a new language?