Posts

Showing posts from November, 2019

Who Needs English Grammar?

Image
The Irony of English grammarThe irony of English grammar is that we impose it most on the people who need it the least:  second- or foreign-language learners.  (See The "Ball of String" Theory.) Anyone who teaches English will, at some point, feel compelled to tell the fib that you need grammar to communicate and be understood in English.  This claim is pretty easy to disprove. Consider the following sentence:

"Me eats restaurant Italian yesterday."

An astute English teacher will point out that this five-word sentence contains at least six errors of grammar:  1) wrong case of pronoun, 2) wrong verb tense, 3) error of subject-verb agreement, 4) missing preposition for the indirect object, 5) faulty syntax, 6) missing indefinite article/determiner.  All this to say that the sentence should be:

"I ate in an Italian restaurant yesterday."

However, most native speakers of English would have little doubt about the intended meaning of the garbled sentence despite i…

The "Ball of String" Theory for Learning English as a Second or Foreign Language

Image
The "Ball of string" theoryI believe in the “ball of string” theory of learning English. Imagine that the English language is an infinitely long piece of string. You begin rolling the string into a ball. The English that you have mastered, can repeat and understand almost perfectly, is your ball of string.





Daily English is redundant and repetitive Your ball of string begins with the English words and expressions that you might hear every day: “Hello,” “How are you?” “How much is it?” “Where’s the bathroom?” “Coffee and a cheese sandwich please.” “Nice weather today.” “Tomorrow.” “Next Monday.” “That’s nice!” All the simple words and expressions that you hear constantly repeated. Assuming you are somewhere where people around you speak English, you don’t need to learn any grammar or how to conjugate verbs or have a vocabulary of unusual words or expressions. If you are surrounded by people who speak English and you pay attention, you will discover that in daily conversation p…

When It Comes to China, Do Canadians Believe the Media?

The Media blitzSince I first published a post ( 10 Dec 2018) on Canada's arrest of the Huawei CFO, Meng Wanzhou, I have been baffled, awestruck and frustrated by the refusal of Canadian media to question the legitimacy of her arrest and extradition.  Since I began the process of my own modest online inquiries, I have noticed that the National Post, the newspaper founded by Conrad Black before he went to prison (he has since been pardoned by President Trump), has published some of the most strident anti-China editorials.  Although, Black sold the paper to one-time Liberal Izzy Asper, in recent years "the Post has retained a conservative editorial stance."

What does "freedom of the press" mean?Obviously every newspaper in the "free" world is owned by somebody. Does it matter who owns a newspaper or a media company?  I don't know.  I've never worked for a newspaper.  I'm not particularly courageous or selfless, so I imagine that if I worked …

The Panda and the Beaver

Image
The Difference between pandas and beaversThe panda and the beaver are very different animals.  The panda is big and black and white, eats bamboo and likes to sleep in the top of trees.  The beaver is small and brown, eats maple trees and lives inside a beaver damn.  Beavers and pandas don't have much to do with each other, except that eating maple trees is good for bamboo, and eating bamboo helps the growth of maple trees, so they got along.  Then one day the eagle told the beaver, those pandas have been helping the leopards, so you should grab that panda cub when she comes near your pond.  Beavers always do what the eagle tells them to, so they did.  They grabbed the panda cub and brought her underwater to their lodge.  The beavers treated the panda cub very nicely because beavers are nice.  When the pandas saw what the beavers had done they were very upset and they grabbed two beavers and brought them to the top of the trees.  Beavers don't like being high in the air--panda…