Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Fluency is Just a Stone's Throw Away

‘Away’ comes from an Old English word, onweg,  meaning ‘on one’s way.’ it is broadly defined as ‘at a distance from’ but we can use it to talk about physical space, time and focus, amongst other things.

  1. Physical space We parked about 10 meters away from the entrance.
  2. Time My keynote speech is only a week away!
  3. Focus We shifted our efforts away from traditional marketing and moved towards social media.
  4. To keep in a place Put away your phones and we’ll start the meeting.
  5. To disappear All my fears faded away as I stepped up to the podium.
  6. Not here I’m sorry, Maribel is away this week.
  7. Continuing Sara whistled away as she finished up her day’s work.

And of course ‘away’ has its collocations. If something is a heartbeat away it is very close. If you are unavailable during working hours, your colleagues might tell a caller that you are away from your desk. To separate from the rest is to break away. If someone has a far-away look in their eyes, that means they’re daydreaming, not thinking of the present. If you have a gift for your customers, it’s called a give away. Telling someone to go away will make them leave. You can move away and relocate to another neighbourhood or city. You throw away what you want to discard. I do so hope you come away from this post with a few extra tidbits of information!

Up, up and away!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mind your Ps & Qs

You’ve probably noticed that anglos say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot. If a request is a sandwich, these two words are the bread.

Many moons ago (early 14th century), those of a lesser station (servants and the like) would address their superiors by saying ‘if it pleases you to do this …’ The first known use of ‘please’ as a stand alone is 1667 and there haven’t been many variations since then. It’s an easy way of getting someone to do something for you.

‘Thank’ comes from ‘think’ and originally implied that the speaker would always remember the service or gift that was bestowed upon them.

Of course, once we ask someone to do us a favor, we are now in their debt. Even if the only thing they did was pass the salt, we still owe them something. Luckily a simple ‘thanks’ will suffice to save our pound of flesh.

I will admit, it can get boring saying thank you, thank you, thank you all the time, so here are some alternatives:

much obliged: similar to the Portuguese 'obrigado'
thanks a bunch: ironic
I owe you one: I will return the favor
I owe you big: I will return the favor extravagantly
cheers: very informal
you shouldn't have: used especially when someone gives you a gift

To wrap up the conversation the person being thanked then goes on to say ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘my pleasure’ which translates into ‘I got satisfaction out of passing the salt to you so actually you did me a favor, I invite you to ask me to do it again.’

Know that when anglos use these words they are expressing an ingrained morality ... forgetting your Ps & Qs is an uncivilised travesty.

Of course I can’t end this communiqué without a proper thank you, so please accept this micro e-book, ‘THE’ as a token of my appreciation for your kindness, gentle reader.

Yours faithfully,

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Dream On

I remember the magical moment I realized I wasn’t translating from English to Spanish any more. It was in the middle of the night. I was dreaming that I was conversing with my parents. Something seemed strange. ‘Wait a minute,’ I exclaimed to my virtual mom and dad. ‘You people don’t speak Spanish!’

Scientists are hesitant to confirm the theory that dreaming in a target language means acquisition, but it has been suggested that while our bodies rest, the brain is extracting and processing the useful information we have accumulated. Wouldn’t you like to know how to tap into that infinite resource that is your brain? Here are some tips on how to remember your dreams and use that ‘down time’ to your linguistic advantage.

First, get yourself a journal to write your notes. It can be plain or fancy, lined or with blank pages. You’ll need a pencil at least, but you also might get some colored pencils or markers to highlight certain themes or threads. Keep these items on your night table so they are handy in case you wake up in the middle of the night. Having one of those little book lights isn’t a bad idea.

Before turning out the light, write that day’s date on the first blank page and jot down one thing you want to dream about. This one thing could be specific like a word, a phrase or a grammatical structure or more general like having a conversation with someone. Remember, your Dream Journal is your communication channel between your conscious and your subconscious so it’s important to follow this step. If you tell your subconscious what you want it to do, it tends to listen.

You must record your dreams as soon as you wake up, even if it’s in the middle of the night. Otherwise you will forget them. This task can be difficult at first, as at best you may only remember fragments. Write down everything you can remember … colors, textures, feelings, language … with time you will train yourself to remember more complete sequences.

Get enough sleep. It’s just logical that the more you sleep, the more you’ll dream. If you like to fall asleep with the TV on, put the audio in English.

In my own personal experience, it took very little time to be able to intervene in and control my dreams, perhaps a few weeks. Currently I enjoy seeing far away friends and flying.

Jumping into the conscious world, I’d like to recommend a book that outlines a holistic way of using your brain. Written for learners, teachers and decision makers, ‘Brain Power’ by dear friend and colleague Rita Baker illustrates that you don’t need to be a neuroscientist to understand how the brain works. Take a look inside for free here:

Sweet dreams,

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Recently I was doing a fluency workshop with a group of C level executives. The first thing I asked them to do was to rate their abilities. They were all silent. Nobody seemed to know what to say. Finally one brave soul raised her hand and asked, “what does ‘rate’ mean?”

Out of the 12 highly intelligent women and men in the room, not one of them had any understanding of this common word. When you took the Fluency Questionnaire, you rated your abilities, but this word is not on the page because I know it’s challenging for English as a second language learners to comprehend.

So, as in the example you rated your abilities, the word means to evaluate, calculate, measure. The percentage your bank charges on the money you borrow to buy your home is called your mortgage rate (price). A parking garage charges an hourly rate (price). Your heart rate (speed) indicates to medical personnel if you are well or not. A movie can be well-rated (of a certain quality). You rate (deserve) a gold medal for your efforts. Something that is of high quality is first-rate whereas a second-rate product or service is really terrible.

At any rate, you rate high in my books!

Speaking of books, have you visited the ‘Speak English Once and for All’ facebook group lately? If not, why not drop in to like, share and say hi:

See you there,