is anybody listening?

Way back, in my incarnation as an EFL teacher, we talked a lot about the four language skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The skills were usually grouped in pairs. Either written versus oral (reading and writing versus speaking and listening) or active (speaking and writing) versus passive (reading and listening).

He that hath ears to hear, let him listen!
He that hath ears to hear, let him listen!
In fact, particularly when we’re talking about English, using the word “passive” to describe listening is inaccurate. English is a stress-timed language where the most important words – those that contain new or important information – are emphasised. The other words often disappear into a blur of unstressed sounds, including the schwa, which means the listener is presented with a kind of fill-in-the-blanks puzzle to deduce the speaker’s meaning.

This last week I’ve been busy with cvs – a translation for a client, assisting a friend with an on-line application, and general advice and encouragement for another friend who just got “let go” from his job. All of them need to include information about their language skills. And none of them mention one of the basics: there is no mention anywhere of listening.
Continue reading “is anybody listening?”

pedigree moon?

No, not pedigree, but perigee, apparently.

Last night’s full moon was the biggest of 2009 – or, to put it another way, the moon passed closest to the earth yesterday on its eliptical orbit, making the full moon appear bigger than it will again during the year ahead.

Nasa have waxed poetic on the subject –
Continue reading “pedigree moon?”

cold snap

simplifies the city.
Cameras click; mobiles sing.

El Prado, Madrid
El Prado, Madrid

don’t make me raise my voice!

For years there have been jokes about whether computers are male or female. (There are many variations on the theme, this link shows just one.) But has anyone ever actually tested a computer’s response to the different kinds of violencia de género (gender violence) as the Spanish insist on calling domestic violence?

Yes, computers are delicate mechanisms, and, if you physically mistreat one, it will no doubt break down eventually. But what about verbal abuse?

At last we have a – partial – answer:

You have been warned: don’t shout at your computer (or at least, don’t shout at your disk drive).

Fortunately, I think it’s still all right to make snide remarks.

24 hours and a second

It’s sad, isn’t it? that I should be writing a blog entry at 11:30pm on New Year’s Eve. Actually, it’s only indicative of the fact that the dinner isn’t cooked yet and I meant to do this hours ago and didn’t get a-round-tuit.

Maybe it’s just as well the day is going to be slightly longer than other days as there is so much to do. 24 hours is simply not enough, though that’s what the clock in the photo (at Greenwich) offers:

accurate to the second?
accurate to the second?

successes, exits and happenings

Although it’s only the 30th, people in the village are already beginning to round their conversations off with the phrase “feliz salida y entrada…

the way out to success?
the way out to success?

It always seems such a mouthful to me, and I can never get the order right – subconsciously I think “happy exit and entrance” seems a bit cart-before-horsish, although in the context of the old year leaving before the new one comes in, it’s perfectly correct. Still, it twists my tongue every time, and today it’s set me thinking:
Continue reading “successes, exits and happenings”

festive food, anyone?

I’m used to the neighbours’ guard dogs objecting to my walking down their patch of road when I go for a walk, but this young animal seemed mighty friendly as he came to investigate when I passed the garden he was in this morning:

on the hoof...
on the hoof...

I wonder if he realises he’s probably destined to be guest of honour at the New Year meal next week.

Of course, some people prefer to buy their festive food pre-processed from the supermarket:
Continue reading “festive food, anyone?”