Volkswagen: The Wagon of Vikings- Or Was It Vagen for Women? The Tongue Twister Guide to the V and W Words in English

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Vince and Vance went with the Volkswagen Van west to Las Vegas. Vince is from Wiesbaden and Vance is from Wernersgrün. They both have fathers named Werner and they both enjoy Weizenbier (Wheat beer).

Looking at this sentence, how would you pronounce these words? Chances are, regardless of where you are coming from, you are pronouncing at least some of the words wrong. If you are a native speaker of English, chances are you are pronouncing the German words with a W when even though they start with a W, they sound like a V. This puts Wernersgrün, Werner, Weizenbier and Wiesbaden in the line of fire. Yet if you are a non-native speaker of English, be it German, Russian, Arabic, or eastern European, chances are that you are pronouncing the V-words like they are W. This is where Vince, Vance and Vegas fall into that unfortunate trap. Furthermore, especially in Germany, some words that start with W are pronounced with V. Apart from west and wheat in this example, other words that fall into the crossfire include wake, watch and wear.

To keep it straight, as well as short and to the point, the Vs and Ws are always mixed up! 😦  Aside from the TH-words, the VW words are one of the most difficult pronunciations in the English language for that particular reason. Another reason behind it is the way they are spoken, something where Ronnie in this video has an easy way to explain the difference between V and W words:

And while she views W-words as words spoken of a true kisser from the Czech Republic and V-words like a two-eared bunny rabbit saying “FUCK!” when spotted by a vulture, here’s another easy way to explain the difference between the VW words.

With the V-sound, it has a close relationship with the F-words, meaning air is constructed from the top part of the mouth. The difference between the F and V is the length as the V-words are longer and most of the time voiced consonants. The F-words are shorter and mostly voiceless.

As for the W-words, apart from forming that short O in the mouth and then widening it in length, one can refer to the Seven-Ws in terms of question form, meaning the Who, What, When, Where, Why, Which and How. With the exception of Who and whose (since the W there are silent), the rest follow this kissing Czech concept. This is also regardless of whether the W-words stand out alone or if a consonant is added to the W.

This takes us to the Tongue-Twister exercise featuring the uses of V and W words. Homemade by the author, it was divided up into the V-category, the W-category and the mixed category. If you can master the first two, then you should be able to master the third one easily. 🙂 A video is enclosed at the end of the article to provide you with reference on how they are pronounced in case you need assistance. 🙂

So without further ado, away with you in your Volkswagen and be vicious, vivacious and victorious with these examples! 😉  Good luck! 🙂

V-category:

V/F:

Vincent went to Fargo with Fred to visit his friend Vance, who owns a Volkswagen five-some conversion van. Fred is fat from feasting on fawn while Vincent is invincible for being Vice President of the Federation for the Advancement of Unforgivable Follies. Vince and Vance are Friends for forty-four years, while Fred is friends with Faye for fourteen fortnights.

 

V:

The Virgins value the Vikings.

The Vikings value the Vegans.

The Vegans value the Vegetarians.

The Vegetarians value the Viceroys.

The Viceroys value the Vocalists,

While the Vocalists avenged the Viceroys with Viagra.

 

W-Category:

W:

Where was Wally Worthington when we wanted him? Wally Worthington was one writer who won twenty wonderful awards for his work, while his wisdom we want, for Wally wants to whistle a wonderful, unwavering work with a whippoorwill.  But Wally Worthington will walk with a wild woman to Willy Wonker’s white and wealthy, western restaurant. Why? Wally and the wild woman want to eat a whoopee cushion.

 

TW:

Twelve twiddling twins tweeted Mark Twain on Twitter with twenty tweezers and with twelve twitches. The twisted twins tweeted that Twain twined twenty tunes about twinberries and twinflowers, twisting and twittering in a Twinkie. Twain twinkles a Twinkie in the Twilight and twists and twirls with the twins.

 

SW/W:

There was a Swiss doing Swan Lake wearing her Swatch Watch on her wrist. She swaddled in the water and met Katharina Witt, who swiped the Swatch Watch swished it into a weaved swivel with White Washington underwear. Where was Washington who wore white underwear? Underwater with Winona Ryder.

 

TW/SW/W:

Twelve twisted witches were swimming with the wind, when we witnessed twenty twisted wolves, who were witty wonders of the world. The wolves were weeping with wiseguys who wore woolen sweaters weaved by sweating workers twiddling with white whisks, swearing with white wisdom teeth, while the twelve twisted witches swirled with their sweethearts, switching their swords with words.

 

Mixed Category:

V/W:

Waking in Vegas, William walked to Vincent with a victorious whistle, wondering why Warren visited Vanessa while wrestling with Vegas Wally Vanderworth, the world wrestler with wonderful vicious wild faces which wants William to wail him one.

 

V/W:

Wayne Von Western ventured with Victoria Wallace with a Volkswagen Van with four wheels to western Washington. Wayne and Victoria were whistling various vivacious songs about a white Hoover vacuum cleaner with various vinyl vibrating hoses with wax which Viviane and the Women Vikings whacked with a vulture.

 

 

V/W:

Virginia with a wonderful voice, ventured with Vivi in a Volkswagen onto Venice with Winnie to voice their vengeance with world-renowned vocalists Vincent Wallingford who videotaped with Werner and Verne their voices for Weight Watchers.

 

V/W:

Victory was wonderful. Winning was victorious. Women were invincible. Vikings were whipped, while Vince and Vance vacated the white Woolworth and went with the Volkswagen to Vegas.

 

Here’s the video where you can listen to the tongue twisters, some of which even the author stumbled during the recording……. 😉

 

 

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Blacksmithing Words with TH: Mr. Smith’s Guide in using TH-words in English

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When I first came to Germany in 1999, one of the main struggles I saw and even witnessed myself in learning a foreign language was the way words were pronounced. In particular, words in English that have TH in them happen to be a struggle among Germans and other foreigners whose native language is not English. The classic example I can pull out straight away was the problem pronouncing my last name, Smith. Even though Smith is one of the top three most popular family names in the world (along with Johnson and Brown), non-native people had a lot of difficulties pronouncing my last name. Instead of Smith (where the tongue is nudged behind the lower teeth partially blocking air flow), my last name was pronounced as the following:

Smizzzz, Schmiet, Smit, Schmizz, Smis (like Swiss Miss) and Smif (like Smurf).  Funny, isn’t it. 😉  Furthermore, many insisted that my last name should be Schmidt instead of Smith.  Sorry to disappoint you, but we have a lot of Schmidt in the US and Canada, plus a beer bearing that name (which comes from my homestate of Minnesota) 🙂 :

To put it bluntly, the name is SMITH! Even more so because we have several words, whose ending is the same as my last name.

Words with TH are indeed the most difficult to pronounce in the English language- just like with the German CH, Z and all the vowels with the two dots on there. This has to do with the fact that we have two different types of TH pronunciation: the voiced (which sounds like a bee buzzing behind your teeth) and the voiceless, which produced a slight steaming sound with the tongue behind your teeth. A video below better explains how the voiced and voiceless TH’es work from a phonetical point of view:

Also important to note from a historian’s perspective that nearly every second word used during the Middle Ages had TH in there, but mostly at the beginning or end of each word, such as doth, hath, thou, cometh, etc. Many of these words over time have been transformed to the ones we use in our modern time, which meant the THes were dropped. Yet even though we’ll find our TH-words in one out of ten sentences, they are there for people to use, even though practicing can be a torture, which brings up this Tongue Twister activity.  Consisting of both the video and the sentences to practice, this activity will give you amples of opportunities to work with the TH-words so that you not only know how the TH-words are pronounced but also give you the confidence needed to say them properly.

You could say that producing TH-words is like blacksmithing: you work with it until you have the right form to use. 😉

It is highly recommended to watch the video to see how the TH-words are spoken before practicing. Yet how you implement them in class or practice them in groups or at home individually depends on you, the person who wants to handle this rather difficult part of English phonetics.

So enjoy and may the TH be with you. 🙂

 

Something in a thirty-acre thermal thicket of thorns and thistles thumped and thundered threatening the three-D thoughts of Matthew the thug- although, theatrically, it was only the thirteen-thousand thistles and thorns through the underneath of his thigh that the thirty-year old thug thought of that morning.

 

There was a mammoth with the name of Thurman, who thrives in Gotha, Thuringia. The sloth slithers through at three in the morning to slither to Thorn’s thermal threading company in Furth, threading thermalware for thirty thoughtless worthless months for thirty-three Euros a month. Through thirteen months and thirty days, this mammoth threads strings from moths and makes thermal underwear. Thurman is happy.

 

Three Catholic athletes bathe in clothes in a bathtub. The thirty-somethings thoroughly thought something that’s thick through their teeths. Through their theory they thought about thieves, thugs, theocrats and heart-throbbers that thrive through their three-thousand thirty-three throwaway thermos cloth, and loath thirty times a month.

 

Thou hath throweth thy health through thy wrath with thy thick thighbone. Theoretically cometh death onto thee though Beth Smith hath saveth thy life through warmth smooth hearth.

 

The South Path is thin. The North Thruway is thick. Through thousands of thinkers, sleuths, telepaths, sociopaths and youths, badmouthing and thrashing over vermouth for the umpteenth time, is the South Path thick and the North Thruway filthy.

 

Beth’s with Ruth. Theodore’s with Faith. They’re thinking ethics. They’re thinking theology. They’re thinking myths. They’re thinking with vermouth with a twist.

 

The Moth is on meth. The moth does math. The moth thaws myths and thus they’re through with this.

 

There are thousands Smiths on Earth. The twentieth blacksmith with the thirtieth locksmith with the fortieth gunsmith with the fiftieth silversmith with the sixtieth goldsmith with the seventieth tunesmith with the eightieth coppersmith with the ninetieth songsmith with the hundredth whitesmith. Smiths ends with z, while one smith has TH.

 

Author’s note: These tongue twister stories are homemade, by the way. 😉  Feel free to add more to this list if you have some more. 🙂

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In School in Germany: Picture Games

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To start off this article, I would like to offer a word of advice to teachers whose passion also includes photography: Take as many pictures as you can and keep as many as you can. You may never know when and how you will need them- especially if you find the best ones for an activity (or several) for your class. 🙂  This principle I’ve followed for years which has led to not only successful activities but also successful articles.

This applies to vacation time, as two thirds of the population of German children are starting school now, with the remaining third still out until September. The same trend applies in the US, where half the schools start in mid-August; the rest after Labor Day. Children gather vast amounts of experiences through travel, summer camps, visits to long-distant relatives and friends, work and other events that add experience and enrich their knowledge of what’s around them. And at the beginning of the school year, they would like to share that experience with other classmates and especially their teacher.

After all, as we would like to look at their interests and get to know them, we can help them along so they can be what they want to be, right?  Be all that you can be, like in the US Army commercial. 😉

 

If you, as a teacher, have some problems coming up with activities to encourage the students to use their language skills and share their experiences with others, there are some activities that can help. Using a collection of photos, you can introduce the following exercises to them to motivate them to speak and be creative. These activities are not only meant to break the ice in terms of establishing communication between the teacher and the students, it is meant to unlock the knowledge that has been sitting in the freezer inside the students’ heads and it just needs to be thawed out. For the first exercise, photos from the teacher are required for use, whereas the second and third activities one can also use the photos from the students, if requested. In the fourth and final exercise, the students should present their photos and images, even if through Powerpoint or a slideshow.

Here’s a look at the photo activities you can use in the classroom (suitable for all ages and language levels):

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Picture This:

Based on an exercise in Baron’s TOEIC Preparatory Book, the object of this game is to look at a picture provided by the presenter to the group, and identify what is seen in there. How students view it and express themselves depends on what the picture has. The picture can be a landscape, a certain scene with people doing activities, a phenomenon, or something totally different. What is seen is what is to be identified. Some people may feel restricted because they have to focus on the picture itself and therefore may have some difficulties finding the right vocabulary for the pictures. Yet by the same token, especially if the activity is done in groups, one can take advantage of learning new words from this game or even refreshing the vocabulary that had been sitting unused for some time.  There are two ways of doing this activity: one is in a large group where each student can find what is in the picture and make a statement on it. The other is in pairs or small groups, where each one receives a picture, analyses it and can present it to the rest of the class. With the second variant, five minutes of preparing and five to ten minutes of presentation total will suffice, pending on the number of students in class.

As a trial run, use the picture above and find out what you see in there. You’ll be amazed at what you will find happening at a place like the Westerhever Lighthouse at the moment of the pic. 😉

 

Finish the Story: 

This activity comes from the film, Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Originally in the film (produced and directed by the late Sidney Pollack), the character Karen Dinesen (played by Streep) is a story-teller and in a conversation with Denys Hatton (played by Redford) and others, she explains the concept, where one starts the story with a sentence, where the other finishes the story the way it is seen fit. Like in this example:

While one could adopt this concept in the classroom, if it was a one-to-one training session, in larger groups, it would not be as exciting as it is when each student adds a sentence to the first one given by the teacher, and going through a couple rounds until the entire class feels the story is complete. This concept helps students become creative while at the same time refresh their knowledge of sentence structure and a bit of grammar. While one can try this without pictures, more challenging but exciting would be with pictures, especially from summer break, like the ones presented below. Try these with the following sentences below and complete your own story……. 🙂

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It was afternoon on the North Sea coast and a storm is approaching. It is windy and perfect weather for kite-flying………   

 

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It is high tide, and the beach is underwater. Two people sitting in Strandkörbe are taken by surprise……..

 

Make a Story:

 Going further into talking about vacations and things to do in the summer is creating your own story, using a pic provided by the teacher. In groups of two or three, students have five minutes (for those on the beginner or pre-intermediate levels, 7-10 minutes should suffice) to create a story to present to the class. The advantage of this exercise, is that students are able to exchange ideas and knowledge to create a fantastic, rather interesting story to share with the rest of the class. In small groups of six or less, the exercise can also be done individually.  Even when you have pics like these below, which are rather simple, one can create great stories out of it. The whitest and plainest of canvases make for world-class pictures with this game.  Word to the wise  from my former uncle, who was a world-class painter. 😉

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Mini-Presentation:

With time constraints being the thorn in the side of teachers, one has to go by the principle of “Less Means More,” and optimize your class, in order to make learning as effective as possible. Mini-presentations are the best way for students to talk about their vacation in the shortest time possible. With a couple pics as support, each student has 2-3 minutes to talk about their trip.  The downside to this activity is that the student does not have much to talk about. It is possible though to choose one aspect of the vacation that you love the most and would like to talk about. The best aspect always receives the best attention. How it is presented depends on the student’s creative talents. One can focus on a sport the student tried, a wonderful place the student visited, a local food the student tried and loved, or a local event that took place during vacation. It can also include a summer job, summer camp, talent show or even a local festival, such as a parade, county fair or city market. Whatever event was the highlight, the student should have a chance to present it- as long as it does not overlap with another presenter.  🙂

 

There are several more activities which require the use of photos, while an increasing number of them require the use of 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and other interactive platforms, yet these four exercises do not require the use of technology (minus the Powerpoint aspect), but more with your language skills and your creative talents.  While these four activities can be used at any time, with even different themes, such as Christmas or school-related events for example, for the purpose of reactivating their language knowledge and getting (re-)acquainted with the students and teacher, are they perfect for the occasion. By implementing one or more successfully, the class will become so involved, it will appear that the first day in school never happened, and that the class will pick up where it left off before break, without missing a beat.

Even more so, when using photos for classroom use, a teacher can do a lot with them, while the students can benefit from them through their own stories. Therefore, take a lot of pictures and be prepared to use them for your future classes. Your students will thank you for it. 🙂

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In School in Germany/ Genre of the Week: Pelmanism- From the Novel: Don’t Try This At Home by Paul Reizin

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This Genre of the Week looks at a novel that may look ordinary to some readers who go through the whole book (or even half of it before putting it down for another one) and judge it as textbook style- where the protagonist gets caught in a situation where he has to find his way out.

The novel “Don’t Try This At Home,” by Paul Reizin looks at the protagonist from a first person point-of-view, who ends up being entangled in a mafia, getting in trouble with the law, and in bed with several girls in the process. All of these are by accident; all of these despite his attempts of getting himself out of the situation, only to end up digging himself even deeper in a hole until his wit, quick thinking and a little romance got himself out in the end.  How it all happened and what his personal life was like is worth reading and interpreting yourself. 🙂

Yet Reizin’s novel also features a few unconventional games that are worth trying, if you knew how they were played and done it wisely. Pelmanism is one of those games mentioned and described in the novel.

And while in the book Pelmanism had experiments with different types of alcohol while guessing what they were without looking, the game itself can be a useful one that provides the players of all ages with valuable learning experiences in all subjects of study.

Especially, when learning foreign languages!!!! 😀

I’ve been using this game for all my English classes since 2004- most of the time when we have our last course meeting as a group before the semester ends and we part ways for other commitments in life- and the game features words that are sometimes forgotten by some and unknown by others. It also presents some of the typical things and characteristics of some students. All it takes is some guessing what the objects are and who they belong to.

 

The object of the game is simple. You need:

A sheet of paper and a writing utensil

A timer

And a bag with ten personal items- the items should be small enough to fit in a cloth bag (not a see-through plastic one)

 

How the game is played goes like this:

One student grabs a bag and places the contents on the table in the middle, while other students close their eyes and/or look away as the contents are being taken out. Once all the items are on the table, that student signals the rest of the group to open their eyes and look at the table and the objects.  At this point, students have one minute to identify the ten items on the table in their working language, namely the foreign language they are learning. At the same time, they should guess who these objects belong to.

Once the teacher, who runs the timer, says “Stop!”, the students are called on upon random to name the objects and who they belong to. The student, who gets all the objects right as well as the correct person, will be the next one that chooses another bag, and repeats the same procedure.

This whole process continues until all the bags are used up or the teacher ends the game for time reasons.  There is no clear winner, but the objective of the game is to get the students to “reactivate” their brains to remember the words they learned in the past. At the same time, they also have an opportunity to learn new vocabulary- much of which may need to be listed on a sheet of paper with the native language equivalent, should the foreign language level range from beginner to intermediate (A to B level, according to the Common European Framework). In some cases, small devices that are new to the students will need to be explained by the person who brought it with the other objects.

 

I’ve had some weird but interesting examples that warranted explaining, for instance:

A can of deoderant that is actually a capsule for fitting a small object for hiding in geocaching, a pen that functions as a light, laser pointer and hole puncher, small books full of quotes, USB-sticks with company logos, stuffed animals (also as key chains), pieces of raw material (wood, rock, metal), postcards, pictures and poems. If you can think it, you can present it and be genuine at the same time. 😉

As mentioned earlier, Pelmanism can be played by all ages, regardless of language knowledge, and if you can have at least four participants (the more, the better), you can treat yourself to an evening of fun for either the whole family or friends. If you are a teacher in an English class, you will find this useful and fun for the students; especially if you participate in the game yourself.

Pelmanism is one of those games found in a book, where if modified for use in the classroom and mastered properly, it can be a fun experience for those learning new words, especially in a foreign language. It reactivates your brain and gets you reacquainted with words learned in the past (but seldomly used in the present), while at the same time, encourages active learning and acquisition of new words into an ever-expanding vocabulary. It is a fun game for everyone, and if you are as lucky as the protagonist in the story, you might come out with more than what words you learned in the game. 😉 ❤

Thanks, Paul!

 

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Naming and Faming: A Guide to Idiomatic Expressions in a Sense of Names

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Imagine this scenario: You are approaching a town in Iowa, tucked away in a steep river valley, while driving an 18-wheel rig (semi-truck, lorry- LKW (German). You are about to go down hill on a narrow road, and you need to slow down. In order to do that, you have to jake the truck, like in the video below:

To jake the truck means what?

 a. To shift the truck down to lower gear (5th gear)  

 b. To shift the truck up to a higher gear (2nd or 3rd gear)    

 c. To shift the truck up to a higher gear and activate the braking system  

d. To put the truck in neutral and idle the engine

It’s weird to use names to express situations in English, as we have the name Jake in there. Yet idioms in the sense of names serve as a better alternative to trying and describing situations in detail, especially when you are directing a person to do something (in linguistics terms, we would use the word imperative in this case). While German instructions tend to be detailed, long and sometimes complicated (if you don’t know the gists and shortcuts to the languages), but using idiomatic names in English is even more confusing because the notion of using a person’s name is considered insulting. Furthermore, one has to explain the origin of the idiomatic name used in the context to better understand its usage. It is safe to say especially in this case, one has to learn the idiomatic names by heart, just the way you learn (and conjugate) words in Latin.

And lastly, some expressions do not exist in mainstream English but do on a very local level, and these are in connections with certain local events that was caused by that particular person. There is one story in reference to this final argument that I will explain at the end of this exercise. 😉

Keeping this in mind, here are some exercises to get you acquainted with the idioms in connection with names. 🙂

A. Look at the following videos and determine which idiomatic name is best used.

  1. (Esp. at Minute 2:30)

The SImpson family is………

a. Trying to be rich as Croesus     b. Keeping up with the Joneses   c. Boasting like Bobby     d. Cherishing like Sherry

 

2.

My name is mud in this case is………

a. Dirty Harry   b. A fool     c. An unintelligent figure        d. both b & c     e. Bernd the Toast

 

To slip a Mickey means:

a. To put a drug into someone’s drink  b. To deceive someone    c. To trick someone              d. To gossip about someone

 

4.

To need one’s John Hancock means your (……) is needed

a. Signature    b. Penmanship       c. Handwriting           d. Story

 

5.

Great Scott is an expression used to describe……

a. Surprise        b. Shock         c. Amazement          d. Excitement         e. All are applicable

 

B. Identify the name and find out what the expression means.

  1. You can’t buy just any Smartphone. This one has to be the real McCoy.
  2. Since its founding in 2010, the company has been going Jesse, having earned millions of dollars.
  3. Jasmine is an elite class basketball player. Trading a couple of our great players for her was the Jack of all trades!
  4. You can count on Chuck to do the job. He’s always a Johnny on the spot!
  5. Working the cornfields takes the patience of Job in order to get a great harvest.
  6. Sometimes our president is Jack the lad. He has what he wants, no matter how!
  7. The public raised Cain when the politician made the announcement about the project to replace a bridge.
  8. The woman dialed for the police after a peeping Tom watched her get dressed.
  9. If there are no questions, we’ll cut to the Chase and talk about the progress of our project.
  10. I hate it when I have smart Alecs in my class, who claim they have the brightest bulb in the box!

 

C. Determine whether the following are true or false

  1. To Steve it means to do it perfectly and with power.
  2. For the love of Pete was named after one of Christ’s disciples and means happiness.
  3. Walter Mitty is a person who daydreams about success.
  4. To beat around the Bush means to get to the point, like Bush Jr.
  5. A nervous Nellie is one who is irritated or annoyed.
  6. To be happy as Larry means to be very happy over something you did successfully.
  7. Silly Sally and Good Time Sally are the same idiomatic expressions.
  8. If a person is the Benjamin of the family, then he is the oldest.
  9. To pull a Louie is to mess up on a date by not getting the girl’s telephone number.
  10. Even Stevens are things between people that are equal.
  11. A doubting Thomas is one who thinks the action will fail.
  12. We use John and Jane Does as names for unidentified people
  13. To dick around is the same as to Mickey Mouse around, when it comes to tampering with things.
  14. A person with a mixed, extreme personality is known as a Bonnie and Clyde
  15. To be petered out means to be tired. 

After being petered out by all the idiomatic names, you should have an idea of how these work in the English language. You can find more by clicking here . 🙂

To close this section, I would like to refer back to the previous arguments about the difficulty in understanding the idiomatic names in English, and with that, my third argument on local idioms that have a local meaning. Americans have been well-known to create idioms and other expressions because of their affiliation with certain events, stories and names of people. Some stick and move to mainstream, others either remain local, disappear after a certain time or even both.

Mine fortunately belonged to the idiomatic name that disappeared after a few years. In high school I was a discus thrower, and our discus throwing facility was right next to the bleechers that lined up along the football field on the left-hand side. As I was a left-handed thrower, guess where my throws always went……. 😉

 

No wooden disc survived being “Jasonized!”

 

For those who read this and attended my high school, it will bring back some memories. For those who read it for the first time, your first question is probably going to be along the lines of this: “Why have the throwing area next to a football field?”

 

My response: Ask the coach. I’m more than 20 years away from home to answer that one. 😉

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Answers:
Jake the truck:   c.
 
Activity One:
  1. b. 2. d. 3. a.  4. a.  5. e.
 
Activity Two:
  1. Real McCoy- The real, genuine thing
  2. Going Jesse- becoming a success
  3. Jack of all trades- The best of both worlds; best deal for both
  4. Johnny on the spot- always reliable and willing to do it.
  5. Patience of Job- A lot of patience; nerves of steel
  6. Jack the lad- a brash, cocky person
  7. Raise Cain- Cause a commotion; pandemonium; hot debate
  8. Peeping Tom- a stalker who watches women
  9. Cut to the Chase- Get to the point. Chase is a male name.
  10. Smart Alec- a person who claims to know everything but doesn’t in reality
 
Activity Three:
  1. t 2. f. 3. t. 4. f.  5. f.  6. t.  7. f.  8. f.  9. t.  10. t.  11. t.  12. t.  13. t.  14. f. 15. t.

Genre of the Week: What Teachers Make by Taylor Mali

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Typical one-room school house and church in Iowa. 

Teaching:  A profession that is undervalued, underappreciated and underloved. Teachers: People who enter the classroom with one thing in mind: to teach people the basics for real life and skills for their dream job. To teach people means to show them not just how to communicate and obey the structures of our society, but also how to be decent to others, how to be tolerant towards people from different backgrounds, and lastly, how to understand the feelings and reactions of others as well as adapt to different backgrounds.  Some people perceive teachers as travellers with a backpack full of books going from place to place to teach students. Others, like Pestalozzi, taught in empty buildings, where not even the basic necessities, such as a chair or table, or even a chalk board existed, and therefore they were forced to be creative and vocal in teaching their students.  In either case, the teacher brings out the best in each and every student, by finding and developing their talents, showing them how life works and people should be treated, namely, with decency and respect.

Many people enter the profession with high expectations, only to quit the profession after 10 years for the following reasons: lack of pay and benefits, lack of available resources (esp. with regards to technology), lack of respect from the students or other members of the faculty, but most importantly, lack of support from family and friends, claiming that teaching is a “loser job” that pays “Hungerlohn!” (German for salary that is barely enough to support even one person). This explains the reason behind schools closing down due to too many students, too few teachers and too little pay.  This goes beyond the bureaucracy, test guidelines and the political talk that makes a person want to write a novel series about this topic.

And for the record, coming from a family of teachers and having taught English since 2001 (all in Germany), I have experienced enough to justify even a mystery series in a form of Tatort, exploiting the ways to anger students, teachers and even parents. 😉

But what we all don’t know is why we teachers choose this profession to begin with, let alone stay in this profession for as long as the generations before us. From a personal point of view, if it has to do with money, you would best be a lawyer, lawmaker or litigator. You’re best needed there. If it has to do with status, you would best work in a corporation. If it has to do with family, you would best be a scientist, like Albert Einstein.

You should be a teacher because you have the creative talents, ideas, character, dedication and most importantly, the heart to make a difference in the lives of others. Plus you should be a story-teller, an example for others, funny, chaotic, crazy with ideas but cool under pressure and able to handle the stress like nerves of steel.  And lastly, learning from my father (who was a teacher), you have to strategize like you are playing chess- and actually have played chess. 😉

If you are looking for more reasons, then you should take a look at this Genre of the Week entitled “What Teachers Make,” by Taylor Mali. A 12th generation of the original Dutch immigrants of New York City, Mali once taught in the classroom, having instructed English, History and test preparatory classes before finding a niché as a writer, a slam poet and a commedian. He has written six anthologies full of poems and narratives, several audio CDs and three books, one of which is entitled What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the Worldpublished in 2012. The poem presented here comes from this book. Mali nowadays offers seminars and lectures to teachers and other professionals, providing them with an insight into the profession that is sometimes highly disregarded, yet one that is highly needed and, if one does make a difference in the lives of others, most loved.

So watch this audio by Mali and look at the comic strip provided by Zen Pencils, and then ask yourself this question:

  1. Why do you want to be a teacher?
  2. What aspects of teaching do you like?
  3. As a teacher, what difference can you make for the students? Yourself? Your institution?
  4. If people play down your profession, how would you convey and convince them that you love your job and the reasons behind it?
  5. Do many students come back to you years after you taught them? Why?

For nr. 5, it is very important for if you are in touch with them even today or come to you for a visit/help, then you definitely belong to this profession because you are doing a damn fine job.  🙂

And if you have the urge to write about it in your later life, then you really should stay in that profession until Jesus Christ tells you otherwise. That will definitely be my destination and my advice to all teachers out there, young and old. 😉

 

Link to Taylor Mali’s website you can find here as well as via youtube.

Video with soundbyte from Mali:

 

Image courtesy of Zen Pencils:

124. TAYLOR MALI: What Teachers Make

 

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Martin Luther and 2.0 Technology: How to Convey the 95 Theses

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“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Communication: a commodity that is underrated, undervalued and underloved. Whenever we communicate our ideas and concerns to others, we intend to get critical and sometimes degrading feedback, which causes us to keep silent for a long time, if not ever. When we see a post on facebook, where a person balks another behind his/her back to please his “friends,” we feel offended because it shows that that person would rather be a coward and promote psychological guerilla warfare rather than be involved in any direct discussion. When we get into a discussion over a post, we intend on going below the belt, through insults, death threats and “echo chambers,” to a point where we get exhausted by their acts of cowardice and take that offender off the friends list.

 

The Elections of 2016 in the United States clearly showed the true colors of these people indulging in such acts. The victor, Donald Trump won because he had engaged in satanistic acts of hatred and encouraged others to engage in these acts deemed fattening, illegal and even unintelligent. They fall even below the lines of evil wicked pro-wrestlers, like Big Van Vader, Sid Vicious, The Wrecking Crew and the Demolition Crew (just to list a few), who not only submitted their weak opponents in brutal ways, but broke every bone in their bodies doing it.

 

Yet his brutal acts consisted of demonizing Hillary Clinton and those who didn’t follow the now “President” by using the form of communication we know, use and sometimes abuse a lot these days: the internet. And in particular, 2.0 technology!  Consisting of social networks, such as facebook, selfie networks, like Instagram, and blogs, like wordpress, as well as online (chat) platforms, like Moodle, 2.0 technology is one of the most effective ways of communicating with others thousands of kilometers away as well as conveying important messages to the audience. They have, however, been tools for mudslinging and making death threats to a point where people look for ways to block that person, in order to be protected and have one’s serenity back. In my case most recently, after a below-the-belt spat with three Trump supporters on facebook, I not only blocked them directly, but also indirectly.

 

While doing this, I had an idea for a work on the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses by Martin Luther. One of the most important questions that came to mind was this: How would Martin Luther use 2.0 technology to convey his message about the Church to the public and how would the Church respond? How would the public react to his Theses online and in social media?

 

We need to remember that 500 years ago, when Martin Luther posted his thesis outside the Cathedral in Wittenberg, the only form of communications that existed featured paper and pen, the horse, and word of mouth. That meant that Luther’s way of getting the news around was by addressing the faults of the church through speeches with the audience, whereas his followers spread the word around to people in other communities, even on horseback to towns, like Erfurt, Jena, Weimar, Leipzig, Halle, Zwickau, Coburg and other places, which took days to complete, and it required lodging at different inns, houses, and even in tents along the way.  Gutenberg’s printing press, created in 1440,  made it easier to copy and spread the news around.

 

Like in the present-day debates where there is opposition and even misinterpretation that can be posted with a click of the mouse, supporters of the Church worked together with the pastors, cardinals and bishops to not only argue against the revolution being sought by Luther but also apprehend him and bring him to his senses. This all occurred by word of mouth and by having couriers send letters around, going up the hierarchy of the Church until that day on January 3, 1521, when Pope Leo excommunicated Luther, and three months later when Luther spoke the truth with the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at Worms and was subsequentially declared an outlaw.  Sometimes debates with the church ended in violence, which if compared with the Elections of 2016, without 2.0 communication, there would have been more fist fights in saloons, bars, restaurants and on the streets than at the Trump rallies. With 2.0 communication all the fighting can be done with the keyboard, emoticons and a click of the mouse.

 

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We do know two variables that go along with social networking and blogging: the messages can be conveyed much faster than by horse, mouth or even the press. The audience would be reached in larger masses than at that time when the 95 theses were posted,  for Luther’s revolution was focused on eastern Germany first and it took four years until it spread to the south, towards Rome. It would take another 150 years until Lutheranism spread to all of Europe and parts of Asia and eventually to America.  In other words, with 2.0 technology, the whole world would have known about the faults of the Church within a matter of four minutes, instead of four years!

 

Like in the 2016 Elections, Luther’s 95 Theses would have impacted global society within a matter of seconds. Luther would have several forms of social media at his disposal to convey his message to the world, yet the easiest way for him to do that was to produce a new blog, facebook account and even Instagram and spread the word on his treatsies in the following order:

 

  1. Luther would post his 95 Theses on his blog. As we saw in a couple example literary works about the Theses and the Sojourns and Sayings, Luther was a man of quotes and short sayings by pen, but a man of long speeches by mouth, which inspired an audience of the dozens. This means that Luther would have been forced to describe each of his theses in detail so that the reader would understand his logic. As only one in 1000 do not have a Smartphone or iPhone in their possession, chances are most likely that Luther would need more time than what he actually did in the past to write about it in his blog, let alone speak about it in a video provided that he had a youtube account. 
  2. After posting his theses online, he would have to post it on his facebook page- both in his own profile page as well as in the group pages he either is in or administers. In actual reality, it is easier to spread the word when a person is involved in multiple groups that have the same values. Even pages that involve Christianity can be found on facebook in many languages (Even the author is in a Christian network for central Germany).  Luther would have to be careful to not overkill his theses by posting them everywhere, where the themes are either contradictory and can spawn hefty discussion or irrelevant. In short, posting his 95 Theses page on the JC Insurance Agency facebook page, which sells indulgence insurance would be a definite no-go unless you want a discussion with Pope Francis. Or putting them on a Jesus-freak facebook page would turn off all the followers as it would have nothing to do with Jesus and Mary Magdalena. 😉
  3. Then Martin Luther would have to have an iPhone or a Smartphone in order to have an Instagram page, where he could photograph the plight of the poor, beggers and real believers of Christ who want access to his teachings but are denied because of lack of money. By using the features to “doctor” the photos and add some commentary, Luther could try and make the scenes as graphic as possible to catch the eye of the viewers. 

 

By doing all this using the key social networking pages, the news would spread in a matter of minutes, pending on how many followers Martin Luther would have. It is much more effective to have friends of the “friends” in your network receive the piece, as well as followers and members of the clubs you are in, so that they can react, comment and share the post, than it is when you only have your profile page and that is it. Given his popularity as a revolutionary in Wittenberg and the surrounding area, with about 1500 people in his facebook network, Luther would not have had any problems conveying the message.

 

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However, the responses from the people are a much different story……

 

Going back to the debate over the election of Donald Trump as President, as mentioned at the beginning of the article, people who didn’t support him became targets of slurs, insults and echo chambers. One needs to understand that in a social network, regardless of your identity and views, you are always in the minority and anything you post may be used against you, where you least expected it.

 

In my facebook profile page alone, over 80% of the 1000+ people in my network are Trump supporters, which has resulted in me splitting the account into two and separating the people between the toupeed pumpkin supporters on one side, and the cosmopolitans and open-minded Emma Watsons on the other- the latter representing the minority!  While that measure may be unkosher to some, the  most effective way to protect yourself from trollers and harassers is not only unfriending them, but also blocking them- directly if you had them in your network but also indirectly, where you can look up people not in your network in the directory and block them there. In either case, when you are blocked, you can never find him ever again.

 

Martin Luther’s response to his 95 theses would not only have been with emoticons, likes and dislikes, but it would have produced discussions and insults from over 75% of the people in his network, mainly those who held firmly to the Church and its beliefs because it was the only institution where the fittest as well as the spiritually and financially strongest people are the ones that are granted immunity from the evils of the Earth, a belief that Luther strongly disagreed. Luther would probably have been forced to spend an average of half his day in front of the computer responding to the critics and indulging in hefty conversations, thus neglecting his job as professor at Wittenberg, as well as his marriage to Katharina von Bora, who would have thrown out his computer, cursing it as the devil, and would have taken him to a psychiatrist who would help him with his online addiction. 😉  Or even better, as computer jobs can put on weight, if Katharina was an athlete, he would have been forced to go running with her. 😉 ❤

 

But putting aside the effects on a powerful, yet fragile relationship between a professor and a nun, the response to the theses would have been two-fold. On the one hand, there would have been more unity among supporters of Luther and his teachings and therefore, the Lutheran Church would not have been fragmented into hundreds of different denominations as they are today, like the Mennonites, Methodists, Episcopalians, Calvinists, Jehovas, etc. And if the fragments, then in no more than eight of the key ones, 2-3 of each representing a region in the world where Christianity is in the majority. People would have received Luther’s ideas more in open arms for they would have had a possibility to read his work and interpret them in a way that they would either agree or disagree with him. In other words, the followers would have been a thousand-fold as many as in Luther’s time when he posted them. Discussions would have fanned out almost instantly, which would have resulted in negative impacts on Luther.

 

That meant that the Church in Rome would have been informed of Luther’s revolution right away, and he would have been apprehended within a matter of days, instead of the four years it took to not only excommunicate him but also exile him at Wartburg near Eisenach. Damage control would surely have been needed because of the growing opposition toward the Church. Instead of bishops and pastors taking to the streets as the only measure to attract and keep the number of congregators, as seen 500 years ago, with the use of 2.0 Technology and the internet, the Church would have been forced to issue statements right away, protecting its fundamental values and its reputation, while at the same time, play down Luther’s Theses and its effects on the institution and its people on its website as well as through the homepages of cardinals, and even the Pope.  In reality, the Vatican has its own website, where you can look at its government, how it was founded and the people who run the smallest city-state. Discussions with the Church with negative consequences would have been high and hot on the facebook pages of those working for the Church, including that withe Pope, thus keeping him from performing his duties.

 

People opposing Luther would have trolled him on facebook and presented their facts supporting the Church, while demonizing him in the process. The discussion about the Church would have been just as intensive if not even more than with the Elections of 2016 because society before Luther was already established, and the Church was its anchor. It was only at the time of the Theses where Luther reshaped the way we believe in Christ, and the respondants would either have praised him and embraced change or opposed it, clinging onto the old system because it was effective in their eyes, despite the flaws. For 2016, we had a traditionalist of the establishment, a quasi-destroyer of the establishment and a revolutionary from the establishment which resulted in bashing the establishment in general. I’ll leave it as that.  😉

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To summarize a rather lengthy discussion of the what-ifs and what could’ve happens, had Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses with the use of 2.0 technology, the word would have gotten out in a matter of minutes instead of years, as with the responses, both positive as well as negative.  The message would have reached the rest of the world in a matter of 150 seconds instead of 150 years like it did.  The Church would have been forced to clarify Luther’s accusations instantly, while summoning authorities to arrest and extradite the revolutionary pastor at the same time.  And given the sometimes misinterpretations of Luther’s work resulting in the Lutheran Church branching off into hundreds of segments, the message that came out online would have been easily read and understood if detailed properly, and there would have been only eight at the most, 2-3 per region in the world.

 

Whether or not it would have changed the church landscape the way it happened in real time- where Luther was granted immunity by the princes in Germany and in other regions while being pursued by Rome for the rest of his life- remains unclear. However, unlike Luther’s legacy, where he established the church we know today (along with its fragments), when looking at the Elections in 2016, the use of 2.0 technology actually split society into several fragments, each with its own rigid edges, used for defending their rights and privileges, thus changing the landscape of family, friends and even relationships. No matter what you say or state, you are always in the minority.  Had 2.0 technology existed during the time of Luther, it would not have been much different, except that instead of Democrats, Republicans and third parties, we would have seen Catholics and Protestants battling it out on the platforms. It is doubtful that there would be any bloody revolutions like we saw in Northern Ireland, it is clear that people would be on opposite ends of the spectrum, spewing out facts and counterfacts, insults and whineries, to a point where instead of actually killing off the person, like it happened in the 1970s and 80s in Northern Ireland, all the person needs to do is delete the other from facebook, never to communicate to each other again.

 

Whether they would live happily ever after with their families and friends remains another story………

 

TIP: In your opinion, had 2.0 technology existed in Martin Luther’s time, how would he have used it? Would he use facebook, twitter, Instagram or XING? What about other apps? How do you think the people would respond to hs Theses? This would be a genial classroom discussion and possible activity to think about. 🙂

 

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