Thursday, September 21, 2017

Joke Using Reported Speech

(TESOL Worksheets--Reported Speech)

Google: slides, pub

[This little Google Slides is plagiarized from my lesson on jokes, which was in turn plagiarized from my joke-a-day post, which in turn was plagiarized mostly from various joke sites on the Internet.
I discovered some time ago that the joke about the shopkeeper and the dog set up the grammar of reported speech quite nicely, and I've been using it in my classes to introduce reported speech.  And eventually I just decided to make it into a separate little Google Slides document so I didn't have to scroll through all my jokes every time I wanted to use it.]

In case the slideshow doesn't load, here is the script below:
A man walked into a shop…
…and he saw a cute little dog.
He asked the shopkeeper, "Does your dog bite?" 
The shopkeeper said, "No, my dog does not bite." 
So the man tried to pet the dog and the dog bit him. 
"Ouch!" he said. "I thought you said that your dog didn’t bite!" 
The shopkeeper replied,
"That is not my dog!"
Spot the difference:
The shopkeeper said, “No, my dog does not bite.”
"Ouch!" he said. "I thought you said that your dog didn’t bite!" 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ken Burn's Vietnam War Documentary--first thoughts

I don't know if this is news stateside or not, but PBS has been making an effort to make Ken Burn's new Vietnam War documentary accessible to the Vietnamese public.
The first 5 episodes have been all subtitled in Vietnamese, and are available for free in Vietnam on the PBS website here.  (Presumably the other 5 episodes will follow eventually).
Despite the fact that Ken Burns's version differs in several places from the official communist version told by the Vietnamese government (in Ken Burns's version, Communist leaders occasionally make mistakes) the Vietnamese government is showing toleration.  Hanoi isn't promoting this new documentary, but they aren't censoring it either.  Any Vietnamese person with a computer and an Internet connection can watch it.

And, if my Facebook feed is any indication, it's creating a buzz here in Vietnam.  Both among the expat crowd, and among the Vietnamese themselves, many of whom seem to be quite fascinated by this documentary.

At the moment, I've only watched the first 2 episodes, and dipped in and out of episodes 3, 4, and 5.  (Episodes 6-10 not yet available here in Vietnam).
I'm not sure if I'll bother meticulously watching the whole thing.  (I do, after all, already have a few Vietnam War documentaries under my belt, so I probably don't need to watch all 18 hours of this one.)  But if I do end up watching all 18 hours, I'll end up giving it a full review and adding it to my TV review project.

For now, I'll just note down a couple things.

Ken Burns and his team are master story-tellers.  So there's nothing to complain about there.  (But of course you knew that already).

Also, I appreciate the fact that the Vietnam War is so polarizing, that it's impossible to make any narrative of the War that won't upset someone.
That being said....,
I do have some disagreements with the first episode.
The episode mentioned only briefly that at the 1955 Geneva Summit, all sides had agreed to nation-wide elections in 1956, but that the U.S. later cancelled these elections and installed a dictator in South Vietnam instead.
They mentioned the elections being cancelled only off-handedly, and then put all the blame on Diem, instead of on Diem's U.S. allies.  (In fact, the United States government was also against the 1956 elections, because everyone knew Ho Chi Minh would win).
The Ken Burns documentary makes it sound like the U.S. was the victim of Diem, and got suckered into the war because of him.  The reality is more that the U.S. created Diem's regime.

This is a major point, and more should have been made of it. It completely undermines the traditional story that the U.S. was fighting for democracy and freedom in Vietnam.  It also means that the whole war was illegal. (It violated the 1955 Geneva Summit).

The Ken Burns documentary mentions that the CIA warned Diem about meddling too much in the election results, but that Diem ignored their advice.
Like a lot of things in the documentary, this is technically true, but somewhat misleading in its emphasis.  It makes it sound like the CIA had a problem with rigging a democratic election in principle.
In actuality, the CIA didn't have a problem with Diem rigging the election.  What the CIA had a problem with was Diem making the results look unbelievable.
The CIA advised Diem that he could rig the election, but that he should only win the election by a believable margin, and under no circumstances was he to win by 99% of the vote.
So Diem instead won the election by 98.2% of the vote.  (Diem considered it a loss of face if even 2% of the country voted against him.)

you can always detect bias slipping into any account of the Vietnam War when they use the phrase "The Viet Cong controlled most of the countryside" instead of the alternative phrasing "most of the countryside supported the Viet Cong."
The former phrasing implies the countryside wanted to be liberated from the Viet Cong, the latter implies that the countryside was the Viet Cong.
The latter implication is more historically accurate.  But Ken Burns uses the former phrasing often in his documentary.

Other notes:
1) My Vietnamese girlfriend watched part of it with me, and she was very amused at how the narrator mispronounced all the Vietnamese names.  She thought it was the funniest thing ever.  "It's just like you say those names," she said to me.

2) Looking at the old archival footage, it's amazing how much Saigon has changed.  It looks so peaceful back in the 1950s and 1960s--no traffic jams, only a few vehicles on the road, everyone bicycling instead of on motorcycles.... I was able to recognize some of the big Cathedrals, and some of the other iconic buildings, but other than that, you'd never recognize today's Saigon from that old footage.
Started: The Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan

Started: Beloved by Toni Morrison

From His hers yours mine

I'm linking to this in an effort to keep track of and index useful teaching material.  The above link is useful for teaching possessive pronouns.

I came upon it as a result of a question a colleague had.  He was teaching possessive pronouns in English World 3 Unit 12, and he noticed that the textbook taught the form as "This hat is mine" but the test at our school used the form "Whose hat is it?  It is mine."  So after searching on the web, I found this slideshow that could be used for this grammar point.