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Quotation of the Day

November 30, 2005

Election

The countdown is on for the election in Taiwan. Candidates and their followers are struggling to win the election. They know it is not a win-win game; they have to win not only for their own personal triumph but also the part they stand for. The Pan-Blue and Pan-Green, the two biggest political streams in Taiwan, have a totally different standpoint against each other in almost every aspect, which makes the election turn out to be cruel and low.

The eligible voters here must have been fed up with the the so-called negative propaganda campaigns hold either by the green or blue parties. We are unavoidably compelled to see them repeatedly run on the media as long as the TV is turned on. We just can't help it, though.

As the competition is getting fiercer for the last two days, I personally assume that more and more ugly inside information will be revealed from each party. This election is the dirtiest one I have ever seen before.

November 29, 2005

Reposted: The Story of Phantasmagoria -- Why Maya Remembers a Difficult Word -- by Bruce Lin

I.
Maya took an English test in 2004, in which a question in the reading comprehension test asked: “What is the definition of 'phantasmagoria'?” Maya had never seen the word before. She thought the word looked like a combination of phantom (which means “ghost” or “illusion.” She also knew the famous play, the Phantom of the Opera) and morph (which means “change image”). So she guessed the meaning from the context and wrote "It means something keeps changing its shape" on the answer sheet.

II.
Maya's friend Michael showed her a novel, "Midnight's Children." (by Salmon Rushdie) He told her that the story was very imaginative and the writing was beautiful. Maya browsed through the pages and encountered "phantasmagoria" again. She asked him the meaning of it. "Let's see...here we have phantom...I really don't know," said Michael. Though Michael, an American, didn't know the exact meaning, his western background probably guided him through the book without much trouble. As soon as Maya was home, she looked up the word. It means "bizarre image" or "ever-changing scene." Then, she thought that she might have answered correctly to the test question.

III.
Maya was reading a novel, the Taipei Mutt, (by Eric Mader-Lin) and she encountered the word again in the line: “…Block after block it goes on like this: there's the crowded phantasmagoria of shops…” So, in the book, “phantasmagoria” is used to describe the ever-changing forms of Taipei’s shops – right next to 7-11, you might see Hang Ten or Watson's or whatever. By now, Maya's grasp of the difficult word was secured.

IV.
What will happen to “phantasmagoria” in Maya's brain? Who know? Nothing is certain. The word might remain there. Or it might be slowly drifting away if Maya stops reading English.


Weijen
2005/7/4

*Maya is not her real name.

November 28, 2005

The Amish

I recently read an article about the Amish people. They live mostly in the state of Pennsylvania of America. They choose to live such a secluded existence for a fear of being corrupted by the outside world. Their lifestyle can't be simple enough because they don't need any cars, jewelry or fancy clothing, let alone be the fashion victims. They don't want to be tempted by them in any case.

Every now and then, I feel like falling off the earth just like an Amish. I wish to hide out myself from the real world. This is only a sort of dream to me, but I know too well that it's impossible for me to be opposed to any technology that brings me convenience to my daily life. Or, you won't be reading this article now. So, I think I could only get around on horse-drawn carriages in my dream.

November 27, 2005

Welcome back Leo.

Leo is just finished with his 30 day's military training in southern Taiwan and is on vacation now. He said he felt like being in a summer camp when getting trained. He will be transferred to another air force base in Taipei after he returns to the training center. I told him that he should count his lucky stars because he will be able to spend much less hours and expenses getting back home from his future military camp. If you know him, please contact him in your free time. He will be glad to tell you how he has been doing over the past 30 days.

November 26, 2005

Reposted: Jim's Better Luck -- by Bruce Lin

The Entrance Examination was just a few weeks away, and Jim, along with the rest of the classmates, was hopeless. The teachers already gave up on the whole class and about two-thirds of the students were absent. Jim didn't want to go to school but had no other places to go either. While students of other classes were busying themselves preparing for the big test, Jim and his classmates were doing all kinds of strange activities in the classroom: gambling, chatting, reading comic books, or listening to music. It was like a vacation.

One day, Jim asked his good friend Frank* to stay after school. Jim planned to steal some English reference books from other classes, because most students didn't bring their books home; they kept them in their desk drawers. Frank thought that was a terrific idea: he too was tired of gambling or doing nothing in school; it would be nice to do something different for a change.

They made sure no one was around and went through a few classrooms. Frank covered Jim while he was “working.” In just 10 minutes, Jim “collected” more than 100 reference books from those desk drawers. They carefully stuffed the books into their backpacks, sneaked out of school alleys, clambered up the wall, and got themselves safe into the street. They divided those books into two piles. Jim took the pile with many English books and Frank took the other. They smiled at each other with a great sense of accomplishment. It was a good day.

Days went by as if nothing had happened. No one reported burglary.

Jim didn't go to the Entrance Examination, and he didn't read those books he stole either – not even open any of them; he would have hard time reading them anyway. It was more than a decade later that he started to browse them because “English suddenly made sense.” He didn't know why; he just began to read a lot, and those stolen English reference books were a great help. And once he got started to read, he never stopped.

X X X X

Now, Jim teaches English. I need to consult him about English whenever I have questions. I didn't know how he learned so much English; now I do after he told me the story. He didn't know why English suddenly became interesting to him at that moment. Nor did he know why he stole those books. Maybe it was his youthful frustration, or he just liked English, though he understood very little of the language then. This petty crime happened more than 30 years ago, but, make no mistake: Jim talked about it as if it was some kind of heroic deed.

I told Jim that now I knew his secret, I would rat on him. He paused for a second and said: “Oh…in fact…you should….after all, I was guilty of stealing those books, and I owe a lot to those book owners, whoever they were.”


Weijen
2005/6/27
*Jim and Frank are not their real names.

November 25, 2005

For Kay, our friend in America.

Hi, Kay. What's up?

I received your Thanksgiving card the other day. Thank you. Without your reminding, I might have forgotten about this holiday. In fact, we don't celebrate it in Taiwan, but I really want to try again the taste of turkey meat sometime.

I remember going to your place one time during Thanksgiving, and you treated us to a big turkey. We also shared gifts with one another that night, as well as playing the gift-exchanging game. Are you still throwing that kind of party now? I bet you are, because you are always the best friend of us. Rex, Dannis and I had a great get-together days before since one of our friends came visiting us from the States. You are still the person we think of from time to time.

In any case, Happy Thanksgiving bro.

Take care,

Albert

November 24, 2005

Teacher Wanted

Can anyone here tell me if you know any teahcers who are interested in teaching TOEFL class for Global Village? He/ She must be a current instructor of Global Village. I am thinking of putting a stop to this class. Therefore, please pass on this information to any teachers of G.V. you know, and I will appreciate it very much. My class is at Wen Shan Branch. The class meets on every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 7 pm to 9 pm. If interested, you can get hold of me via my email at aboto1@yahoo.com.

November 23, 2005

The Pluto Boy -- by Bruce Lin

Katie once taught English to a 7-year-old boy, Andy. She never met his parents; she only talked to his mother over the phone about the hourly pay for tutoring. The family had a big house, but every time Katie visited, she saw only Andy and the Filipino maid, who acted like his substitute mother.

The boy did not perform well in school and the teachers thought he was strange. But Andy was good at astronomy and knew a lot about the solar system. He told Katie that he loved the planet Pluto the most because “It is far, far away from the other planets.” Katie called him the Pluto boy whenever she referred to him. Like the planet, Andy was not close to his peers.

Katie tutored Andy twice a week, but the tutoring sessions did not go smoothly – no matter how hard Katie tried, Andy just looked out the window as if he couldn't wait for the tutoring time to end. Often times, Katie had to chase Andy around the house. Or he would sing songs, eat crackers, drink soda, pick his nose…anything but paying attention to Katie.

Two months passed, and Katie had taught Andy almost nothing. Her patience was wearing thin. One day, Katie said to him: “If you don't want to learn, why don't we go out?” To Andy, that was a brilliant idea.

They hopped in a taxi, and were at a bookstore minutes later. “Go get any books you want,” she said. Andy picked up two comic books on Detective Conan and a book on volcanoes. “I want to show my mom that I bought these books myself.” After the bookstore, they went to a supermarket. “Andy, you can also tell your mommy that you do grocery shopping yourself.” He pushed the shopping cart, strolled along the supermarket aisles, and picked up bananas, ham, orange juice, chocolate bars… – he was fully in control. Andy looked over his shoulder and said to her: “Katie, today is the happiest day of my life!”

Then, Katie realized that Andy was not a strange boy. He was just lonely. Perhaps he had been far away from people for too long.


Weijen
2005/11/22
*Katie and Andy are not their real names.

November 21, 2005

Reposted:Two of My Good friends: Edison and Hilda -- by Bruce Lin

Edison is very knowledgeable in English. He can easily spell out difficult words and their phonetics. He has a clear understanding of grammar -- he is quick to point out others' grammatical mistakes. Edison has hundreds of English dictionaries and reference books and he uses them thoroughly. The problem is, he does not APPLY those rules to real situations; he does not use the language in life; he does not even read.

When Hilda speaks English, you would wonder whether she has ever studied English. She mispronounces almost every word and there are tons of mistakes in her expressions. Yet she uses the language to the fullest to get her messages across. Believe it or not, Hilda is a tour guide. Armed with her broken English, she brings people to different countries around the world. When she talks to foreigners, she is confident and earnest, and her hand gestures are always there to help communication. Once I heard an American commenting on Hilda's English: "No one's English is better than Hilda's." The irony is, Hilda is unlikely to pass any English test.

Edison is strong in his linguistic ability, but not his communicative ability. Hilda is just the opposite. Then, one question arises: What is the purpose to learn a language? "Well, to communicate," you would say.

It does not make sense if so many people cannot even express simple ideas after learning the language for a long time. We assume that we have to learn grammar well in order to speak. So, the logic goes, we can't communicate if we are not good at grammar. True, tight control of grammar can facilitate communication, but, to me, it is not that essential. Edison and Hilda are real people and here we have a comparison. You would complain that you cannot remember all those grammatical rules in English, but I think we need to demystify our fear of the English grammar. If you use the language often, eventually, the English grammar will follow you around.

Weijen

*Edison and Hilda are not their real names.

November 20, 2005

Website Update

I have posted new words and phrases for you on my personal Webstite. Check it out sometime. The picture on the right was taken during the weekend. We rent the bike as shown in the photo and went through several parks on the riverbank of Keelung river. The weather was pretty nice mild so we had a wonderful trip there the whole afternoon. We are gonna go for a bike ride again next week.

Catch you later! Posted by Picasa

November 19, 2005

Learning with Podcast

Here I want to tell everyone a new way to improve your listening skills: Podcast. For those of you who are not yet in the know of Podcast or iPod, I can simply give you a rough idea about them.

Podcast originates from Apple, the company who makes iPod which is one of the popular electric gadgets in the market for playing mp3 tunes. People having an iPod upload their favorite CD music to it. Basically, iPod plays no difference than any other mp3 players except for the price.

Before uploading your CD music to iPod, you will have to install iTune to your computer and this program transforms any CD music into some digital format (mp3) and keeps them saved in iTune. When an iPod links to your computer, iTune will transfer these digital music files to your iPod. That is how you can listen to the mp3 music in an iPod. In sum, iTune helps you organize music for you and collaborate with iPod.

As for Podcast which is short for Pod Broadcasting, hundreds of thousands of people who are interested in producing their own broadcasting programs, have published them on any Podcast Websites including the iTune Music Store. Podcast plays a similar way to iPod music because both are all mp3 files. To get music into iPod, you can either convert your CD music by iTune or make a purchase of music at Music Store integrated within iTune. It is almost free of charge, however, for people who would like to get Podcast files on Internet because no one dares charge their listeners since it is still at the early stage.

So, folks. Go Podcasting now and search for the Podcast content providers which are associated with any English learning programs. So far I have found several useful ones on iTune Music Store. Remember it! They are all free to use. If don't have an iPod, you can still use iTune and listen to the programs via your desktop or laptop. Or you may download the files and save them to your mp3 player. I deem this to be an economical way for English learning.

Podcast Websites:

iTune: http://www.apple.com.tw/itunes/
Yahoo Podcast: http://podcasts.yahoo.com/
iPodder: http://www.ipodder.org/
Podcast.net: http://www.podcast.net/
Podcast Alley: http://www.podcastalley.com

Recommended Podcast Content Providers:

ESL Pod: http://www.eslpod.com/index.html
eipod: http://www.eipod.net/
Learning English with the linguist: http://blogs.thelinguist.com/
ICRT EZ News: http://www.icrt.com.tw/
My Taiwanese Podcast: http://jasonmcdowell.libsyn.com/
Very Vocabulary: http://veryvocabulary.blogspot.com/

November 18, 2005

Somewhere out there

If you do believe that people having their past lives is true, then you are not alone. Since the beginning of my teaching career, I have seen people come and go all the time. Some of them have made an impression on me. However, it is hard to explain the feeling but I just feel like I must have seen them somewhere in the past, or even earlier than that.

One hypothesis is, that we might have been acquainted with one another in our "last" life. I might have been a teacher already then, and these people used to be the students of mine. We just gather around again for some reason in this life. Though reincarnation can't prove itself to be true to science, I will say I still persist my intuition that life is eternal.

November 17, 2005

Betrayal

She is a teacher. She has been in this line of work for years. Her teaching style has overwhelmed other teachers wherever she is at -- cram schools, language centers, and even after-schools. Students all like her because she has a thoughtful mind when solving their problems and never refuses their requests. Over time, she is getting popular so that more institutes would like to offer her a job. Even so, she still sticks to her philosophy which is not to monopolize her life by teaching day and night. She wishes to spare enough time with her family. She isn't the one of ambition, not a go-getter either.

One night, she met a man on internet and this guy is one of her students. He confessed to his teacher, the woman, that he had a crush on her and wished to keep a good relation with her. This guy has a handsome face and charm that no women can resist. She is in dilemma now whether she has to be in touch with him while she felt like having betrayed her family already. She still doesn't know what to do....

November 16, 2005

Reposted: Sandra's Writing --by Bruce Lin

It's very difficult to teach Sandra. She did not think like normal people. When she told me things, it was hard to understand her. Worse, when she expressed herself in class, she babbled on and on and on, and no way to stop her. Another teacher told me that Sandra's husband left her and this might explain her restlessness.

Afterwards, Sandra stopped talking; she didn't even listen. She just came to the class and started to write hoping that her writing could improve. Again, it's difficult to make out her writing. When I asked her what she was trying to say, her explanation would confuse me further, and I could only pretend I understood. When I explain English grammar to her, she did not grasp it. So I just edited her writing and tried not to edit too much. She was very happy because she thought she had improved.

In fact, she had not.

Her writing did improve after 6 months. Gradually, I understood her writing – her words started to make sense and the organization of her writing was also improved. This was amazing, considering that she just sat there and wrote. One day, Sandra wrote: “My husben to china, he not back, I vary mess he.” (My husband went to China and he has not come back. I miss him very much.)

Maybe it took her very long to learn to express herself in English. It was good that she finally did.

Weijen
2005 June 9

*Sandra is not her real name.

November 14, 2005

Website update notification

It has been half a month since I last updated my personal Website, nor have I posted my writing here. Sorry for the delay since I am quite busy recently. Bruce asked me to subsitute for him for the class tonight. I feel like being a bit nervous, and I always feel the same way when he asks me to do it from time to time. He is such a learned teacher that I am worried if his students would compare my style in class to his. I know, I know. I think I am just too humble the way. Hey! Sometimes it is better to play it down for that matter.

Didn't I tell you that I went to an interview at another school the other day? I can tell you now it was a real nightmare to me. The interviewer, a lady in her late 20's I guess, really was hard on me. During the interview, she tried to find fault with everything I did. I think something she did to me was rediculous, but I still can't speak ill of her becasue after all it is not a virtue to do so. The question is, why would she have called me for the interview if she hadn't liked me to teach there? Too weird to figure it out, I think.

November 10, 2005

Reposted: Media, Distraction, and English -- by Bruce Lin

“And now here is my little secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

- the Fox in The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


The Representation and the Represented

Two things to consider when an idea is being presented: WHAT is being represented -- the real meaning? And HOW is it being represented -- the representation? It seems the current trend is moving toward playing with the representations – TV shows with talking heads talking a lots when actually little message is being carried; movies saturated with special effects and breathtaking actions that the storylines hardly matter. We've watched so much on the assassination of President Chen and so much of our time has been spent on it and in the end so little was revealed. We naively think we are free to choose what to see. Sadly, not so. Our choices and senses are railroaded by the media industry, whose major purpose is to make a quick buck, and we are spending our precious time helping them.

The other day, a student told me a good movie she'd just seen. When asked what the movie was about, she had hard time expressing herself: “I don't know how to put it…you have to see it yourself.” I wonder whether her senses have been bombarded by too much media stimulation that they no longer function well. It'd be great if we focus on seeing things as they are, rather than on the representations.

What Does It Mean to You?

When the representation dominates, our senses would have hard time to reach out – you watch news for 24 hours and gain very little; you have all kinds of books to read but you read very few; you read thousands of product catalogs and still don't know what to buy…. We are constantly distracted by the complicated sign system technology brings. The purpose of this short essay is to let you be aware of this phenomenon and hopefully you can be in control of what and when to learn.

Weijen

November 08, 2005

Chinese Taipei, Taipie China, Taiwan China...

I read that a Taiwanese girl won a beauty pageant hold in China. However, I also noticed that during the contest, the lady was forced to change the country name printed on the ribbon worn by her from "Chinese Taipei" to "Taiwan China". She told the press that if she had chosen to reject the contest, she wouldn't have won the game.

I really admire this smart and pretty girl because she sure made a right decision. Actually no one would care much about where you come from or what the official name of your country is. The point is that you let everyone know you have done a great job so you deserve the honor and appreciation from others. Chinese Taipei, Taipei China, Taiwan China....what the heck! Only the politicians and political enthusiasts care all about these, because it will be an worthwhile issue to arouse for their election campaigns. Just wait and see for December, I am telling you.

November 06, 2005

Reposted: Is Learning English Hard Work? -- by Bruce Lin

Learning English is not necessarily hard work, as long as you enjoy it. If you, at a certain point in your life, enjoy learning the language, you will be very powerful.

We use listening to English songs as a means to learn English. However, it is not a give-and-take process. Things would mean less if there are no interactions. For the songs, I hope you to enjoy them; I want you to immerse yourself in them; and, most of all, I want you to have response to them – I want you to have conversations with them. English songs, like so many other media in the world, are just texts. Those texts cannot come to life if you don’t use them or comment on them.

Listening to English songs is just a way to learn. As you know, you can also learn by watching a sit-com (such as Six Friends) or going to an art exhibition in English. In other words, you are really learning when you USE the language outside of classroom, not just wasting your time trying to memorizing words or grammar rules. If you enjoy those things, you will be very powerful. When you encounter problems you will find solutions on your own; your curiosity will be in control and nothing can stop your from moving forward.

In this course, I will give you the seeds. You can be gardeners, growing the plants to the infinity.

Bruce

November 04, 2005

Reposted: Extension and English -- by Bruce Lin

The Paradox of Technology
We are living in the global village and technology is supposed to bring us closer to each other. Is that so? Do you use technology to the fullest? Do you use English? For many students, the coming of the Internet means countless hours of online gaming, chatting, and dating; besides, students have cram schools to attend and endless tests to take. I wonder how much time has left for them to reach out to the world through the Internet.
The Extension Concept
English dominates the world. If you know things only through Chinese, your perception of the world will be forever limited. English leads as the primary medium for twentieth-century science and technology and it is authoritative in reportage. Do you know this world is also full of matters that are fun and constructive? Economically, politically, and culturally, do you know that we can no longer afford not to pay attention to global affairs? I am concerned that the younger generation is being pulled away from the real things because of our educational and cultural contexts. Businessmen invented so many ways to learn English. Do they ever know that people don’t need fancy techniques to learn English? Remember that there is only one purpose to learn English – to communicate. You might think that you have to learn English well before you communicate. Actually, you should use English often regardless of your English proficiency. The purpose of this club is to make you be in love with reading English because nothing is more powerful than loving something. You can’t always learn grammar and memorize words; you need to absorb knowledge through English. Whatever you English proficiency is, use the language to extend your senses to feel the world. In other words, don’t learn English, use English.
There Is No Way to English; English is the Way
Human beings are the only animal that knows how to use languages. Using a language means making infinite use of these finite resources. There are only 26 letters in the English alphabet and it is amazing that these letters can bring us to infinity. Why choose a boring life? Please put aside your fear and forget about your grammar deficiency; use English to lead you as far as you can. There is no short-cut in learning a language as it is like personal experiences that take time to cultivate. Learning a language is like walking on a road that has no end. You can think of it as an endless torture. I would suggest you consider it as a process that will give you endless surprises.
Weijen
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/extensionreading/

November 03, 2005

GEPT High-Intermediate level

Over the past two years, I haven't had a chance to obtain a certificate to prove my eligibilty of teaching English because of my tight class schedule. Considering the importance of having a certificate for better finding a job, I decided to take part in the test last Saturday.

When I was half way to the NTU campus where the test would be hold, I assumed that there might not have been so many people going for the test. Actually, I was wrong when I arrived there; people all flooded into the buildings for the same reason as mine. The mansions, high or low, were mostly occupied by the test participants. Dear! I didn't expect to see such a big crowd craving for the GEPT certificate. I looked around, finding out that the majority on site were college students. I immediately came into a conclusion that they must be taking this test to fulfill their school's course requirement. No wonder I was told the corporate in charge of the test had made a lot of money out of it.

As for how I did with the test. Hmm...well....the test wasn't difficult to me, but I still made some mistakes, as a matter of fact.

November 02, 2005

Reposted: Curiosity and English -- by Bruce Lin

“Because it is there.”
-- George Mallory, 1924

This was George Mallory's reply when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. Mallory was never to return from the expedition. However, the few words are so famous that they say so much about human nature. We humans are active cognitive organisms; we are supposed to feel, respond, know, search, and express – we are supposed to be curious about the world. You are like a living dead if you don't feel that way.

To me, education is to satisfy our curiosity. But it seems education now is more like counter-education – students seldom know what they like in school; (I often ask students what they like.) they only know to prepare for the endless tests that will judge their worth. They spend most of their waking time cramming their brains; do they find time to digest what they learn? Do they have the chance to know what they like to do? When I was in the US, those high school students are free in the afternoon. Does that mean they will be less successful compared with their Taiwan counterparts? Luckily, I have many students so curious to gain knowledge through English. There I see hope.

Mount Everest is there, so is planet Mars that takes unmanned spacecraft 6 months to reach, and so is Saturn's mysterious satellite Titan that takes 7 years to get to. There are so many “Because it is there” things that await you to explore. It is strange if you don't feel the urge to.

We live because we learn; because our senses are constantly stimulated by new knowledge; and because our brains can be in an active state.
English can make our living potential to the fullest.

Weijen