Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Look Who's Talking

Do people think you’re crazy? If the answer is ‘no,’ then I know you haven’t been doing your homework!

Yes, this is one of those posts where I’m checking up on you. Are you talking to your plant? Here is what will happen if you do:

  • You can practice new sounds
  • You will gain confidence
  • Your mouth muscles get exercise
  • You can test new vocabulary
  • Plants grow better when you talk to them
  • The plant won't laugh at you

Of course, you can talk to your dog or cat too, they’ll also love it. Way back in ‘92 when I didn’t know how to speak Spanish, one of my roommates had a couple of parakeets. I asked him what they were called and he said ‘buitritros.’ Whew, that was a hard word for me to pronounce so I practiced and practiced and every day I said good morning to the buitritros and every evening I wished them a good night. And every time I said it my roommates laughed. I thought it was because I was pronouncing it so badly. I found out later that a buitrito is a little vulture. LOL!

In any case, talking to those birds really helped me get my mouth around new sounds and did wonders to boost my confidence.

Some people find singing a lot more fun than talking. That’s great. Pick a song in English that you like and use youtube to help you learn it. Even if you can only remember the chorus, that’s a great start. Your plant is going to love it!

Until soon!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

How to Write an Email

The sound, the word, the sentence … the paragraph. Surely you’ve been doing your homework and you’ve been writing your sentences diligently every day. Have you tried something bigger? Perhaps an email or two? That’s awesome! Today I want to give you a few tips on how to write a better email, one that communicates the information in a succinct, appropriate and effective manner.

Let’s start from the beginning. When you address your reader you must do so according to your relationship with him or her. If you know them well, a friendly ‘Hi Allen’ is perfect. If you have interchanged emails before but there is no real ‘feeling’ between you, then ‘Dear Kelly’ should be your choice. If you have never had an exchange with this person before you must use their surname: ‘Dear Ms. Harrison.’ If you do not know who you should be addressing your email to (eg: you have a complaint regarding a product you purchased from a large company), use ‘To whom it may concern.’

Anglo culture dictates that we thank our reader for dedicating time to us. If you are responding to an email from a client or supplier you can thank them for contacting you. If someone has responded to one of your mails, be sure to say something along the lines of ‘thank you so much for your prompt reply’ (formal) or ‘thanks for getting back to me.’ (informal). When writing to someone for the first time you may say, ‘thank you for taking the time to read this email.’

Emails tend to be shorter communications, so the next thing you want to do is get to the point and state your purpose. Ask the question if you have one or answer your reader’s question. Use short, clear sentences. This paragraph is the main body of your text.

In the next paragraph, you are going to thank the reader once again. You can thank them for their cooperation, consideration or a specific thing that they did for you. Finish this paragraph by inviting the reader to respond by saying something like ‘I’m looking forward to hearing from you again’ or ‘please don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any (more) questions.’

End the email by signing off with ‘best regards,’ ‘sincerely’ or you can even say thank you one more time. Use very informal closings such as ‘cheers’ and ‘best wishes’ only with dear friends. Before clicking the send button, re-read your email at least three times to make sure that everything is spelled correctly and is in its place.

Perhaps you need some help with this last part. Just send me a sample email and I will correct it for you. Of course I usually charge for this service, but because I consider you a special friend, I’m happy to do this for you!

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nouns as Verbs

English is such a flexible language. It stretches and moulds to every need. It ebbs and flows. It changes. Similar to flora and fauna, a word morphs over time and usage, adapting to the environment. All you have to do to see some examples of this happening is take a look around the room you’re in right now.

What do you see? You’re likely sitting on a chair at a table. There could be a phone, some books and pencils there. You might have a clock or a picture on the wall and you most certainly have a switch to turn the light on and off. There’s probably a trash can and beneath you lies the floor.

Believe it or not, all these nouns are also verbs.

To chair a meeting is to preside over it, to moderate, to lead. To table a project in Canada or the UK means to have it in consideration whereas in the US it means to suspend or postpone it. If you want to talk with someone you can obviously phone them and if you need to see them in person, you can book an appointment. If you are unsure as to whether or not you will be available, you can pencil it into your agenda. You can clock employees’ working hours. And picture this: walling off an area at company headquarters to discuss switching suppliers or canning an idea that just doesn’t seem to be working out.

Are you surprised? If so, then this information floored you.

This last concept comes from boxing and means to knock someone to the ground, also known as a floor. ‘Ali floored his opponent with a single punch.’ This jargon became mainstream and we now say things like, ‘She floored him with her remark.’

Do you see how this works? Would you like to know more? I have the perfect package for you with everything you need to master fluency:

Looking forward to next week,

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

5 Ways to Invent New Words

Every two hours a new word is added to the dictionary. By the time you go to bed tonight, there will officially be upwards of a dozen new words in the English language. That’s not to say the dictionary editors invented them. New words are born on the street, in laboratories, at the office: wherever a term is needed to describe a new process, product or state of being. Some languages have an official academy which governs vocabulary and its usage. Not so with English. It is the people, the ones who use the language in day to day life that validate and give meaning to a word. You can see, vocabulary in English is like a big pot of stew. We dump in all kinds of stuff in there. We like the taste of an old word with a new meaning. And we just love to coin a phrase.

Shakespeare is credited with inventing somewhere around 2000 words and phrases. Advertising, fashionable and champion are but a few. You too can invent words that may some day be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. Here are 5 ways to go about it:

Step 1: pick a noun.
Step 2: use it as a verb.

Want some examples? Just google it.

Adjectivicate (verb: to make a verb or noun into an adjective)

Ok, so I made that up. See how easy it is to invent words? To adjectivicate all you have to do is add ‘ed,’ ‘ing’ or ‘y’ to the end of the word. ‘Bloody,’ ‘gnarled’  and ‘blushing’ are all words Shakespeare invented using this trick.

Portmanteau is a french word meaning coat rack. In linguistics, it refers to the putting together of parts of different words to form a new one. Says Humpty Dumpty to Alice in ‘Through the Looking Glass:’ “You see it's like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.” Here are a few examples:

Smoke + fog = smog
Breakfast + lunch = brunch
Bill + Hillary Clinton = Billary

You can decorate almost any word with a prefix and/or a suffix to make a completely new word. Adding a prefix changes the meaning of the word -- 3 little letters make the difference between an agreement and the total opposite. Suffixes changes the function of the word, to a verb, an adjective, a noun or an adverb.

Let your Hair Down
My husband’s first language is Catalan. When we first met his English was shaky and my Catalan was nil so we invented a lot of words to communicate with each other. ‘Flaunchy’ describes yesterday’s pizza or a weak idea. ‘Jocho’ (/hOw-ChOw/) means ‘holy crap.’ And we call our kids ‘bumby-heads’ when they do something stupid.

Have you invented a word? Share it with us here:

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'!” Audrey Hepburn

Have fun!