W-Th, Sept. 12-13 (Week III)
Key Terms and Concepts
[sby] suggests that ____
to infer [sth - a meaning] from [what sby says or writes]
a piece of writing / a text
evidence from the text
idiomatic / unidiomatic
to relate to [sth]
Yiyun Li and Angel Lin
We talked about Yiyun Li’s “Listening is Believing” and Angel Lin’s “English and Me.” Most sections agreed that the Li essay is difficult to understand, so I walked the class through the essay paragraph by paragraph, explaining the story.
Afterward, I asked you to tell me what you believe Li’s primary motivation for learning English was by filling out the following “template”:
In “Listening is Believing,” Yiyun Li suggests that her initial motivation to learn English came from _________.
(“Suggests that” is a good phrase to use when inferring something from a text that is not said explicitly.)
You came up with many different possible explanations for her motivation. The key take-home message was that you could argue that any of these were true, as long as you presented evidence from the text.
I then introduced the assignment for Short Essay #3 (see “Homework” below) which asks you to do exactly that.
Before handing back Short Essay #2, I delivered a short lecture explaining common problems I noticed in student essays and how to avoid them, formulated as 7 easy “rules of thumb.”
Strategies for writing more idiomatically
Many of you receive feedback on your writing in which I mark places that are not grammatically wrong but simply “weird” — in other words, language that is not idiomatic, i.e. not normal English expression.
A native speaker can often tell at a glance which expressions are unidiomatic and can tell you the “normal” way of saying it without even thinking about it. However, as a non-native speaker, one doesn’t have this same “gut feeling.” In the long term you can develop this “gut feeling” through constant to exposure to the language. But in the short term, we need to develop strategies for figuring out which expressions are “normal” (idiomatic) and which are not.
Over the next several classes I’ll introduce several such strategies. In this class, I began by showing how by entering an expression into Google between quotation marks (searching for an exact string of words) one can quickly tell how common that word combination is:
The phrase “to own the ability” appears on the Internet only 706 times, while “to have the ability” appears 201 million times! So we can be pretty confident that “to have the ability” is the more idiomatic word combination.
Due M-Tu, Sept. 17-18 (Day 7)
➤ Read Alison Mackey, “Wanting It Enough: Why Motivation is the Key to Language Learning.” Write a list of the main points Mackey makes in this article. Decide which point you think is most interesting and coming to class ready to summarize that point verbally and tell us why you think it’s interesting (all in no more than 2 minutes).
➤ Short Essay #3
Compare and contrast Yiyun Li’s “Listening is Believing” and Angel Lin’s “English and Me,” with an emphasis on each author’s motivation for learning English. How are their motivations similar, and/or how are they different? Which author do you relate to more, and why?
A successful essay (one that gets a check-plus on the “Writing” component) will:
Give me a clear idea of what you think Yiyun Li’s motivation is, supported by concrete evidence from the text
Give me a clear idea of what you think Angel Lin’s (main) motivation is, supported by concrete evidence from the text
Make clear why you think their motivations are similar or different
Explain clearly why you relate to one author or another