Friday, March 31, 2017

A few weeks back I linked to a podcast discussion between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson, and suggested the theme of understanding Christianity through stories might be similar to some of the themes on Whisky Prajer's blog.
Whisky Prajer agrees with me that the conversation between Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson is fascinating, and has written up his own thoughts on his blog.
If you haven't listened to it yet, it's worth checking out.  Don't take it from me.  Take it from Whisky.

Slideshow for Will and Won't (for future predictions)

(TESOL Worksheets--Will)

In my own classes, I used these to supplement English World 4, Unit 6 Grammar p.68.

Statement form slideshow: slides, pub
Question form slideshow: slides, pub

Thursday, March 30, 2017

English World 4 Unit 6 Grammar p.68

(Supplementary Materials for Specific Textbooks--English World 4)

Exercise 1: 
Vocabulary for Exercise 1 Slideshow: slides, pub
Match the words to the pictures Exercise 1 Vocabulary: docs, pub
Complete the sentences: docs, pub
PowerPoint for Exercise 1: slides, pub
Will Won't Slideshow: Slides, pub
Review Exercise 1 (for use in subsequent class): slides, pub

Exercise 2:
Vocabulary for Exercise 2 Slideshow: slides, pub
Match the words to the pictures Exercise 2 Vocabulary: docspub
Will Won't Questions Slideshow: slides, pub
Review Exercise 2 (for use in subsequent class): slidespub

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Dictator by Robert Harris

(Book Review)

This is the third (and final) book in Robert Harris's Cicero trilogy.
I gave a mostly negative review to the first book in the series, Imperium.  However, despite being critical of many of the narrative choices that Robert Harris had made, I said at the time that I would probably be back for the subsequent books anyway.  I'm interested enough in the time period that I'd happily read just about any book on the subject, and plus I'm a big fan of historical fiction.

And so I came back for the second book, Conspirita, which I enjoyed much more.
And then here I am with the third and last book in the series.

The Review
I really enjoyed this book.
(I'm not sure what happened with Imperium.  It could be that I was just in a bad mood when I reviewed that book.  Or it could be that Robert Harris improved his craft with the subsequent books. I'd have to re-read the book to know for sure.)

The history that this book covers was already well-known to me (see HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE , HERE, HERE, HERE , HERE and HERE).  So there was very little suspense for me in the actual story.  I pretty much knew exactly all the events that this book had to cover.  But even with a well-known story, it is still interesting to see the unique spin that a  different story teller brings to the story.  I already knew Clodius's murder was coming, but how would Robert Harris tell it?  I already knew Cicero would freeze up at Milo's trial, but how would Robert Harris explain this failure of nerves?  I already knew Cicero would be a beneficiary of Caesar's clemency, but how would Robert Harris portray Caesar at this moment?  Et cetera.
And this is the pleasure of a historical novel when you already know the history--anticipating how you think the author is going to tell the story, and then checking your predictions as you read.

This novel covers the time period of 58 BC to 43 BC.  This was a time when, to put it mildly, a lot was happening in the Roman Republic.
As Robert Harris himself says: "...[this book] encompasses what was arguably--at least until the convulsions of 1933-45--the most tumultuous era in human history..." (from the Author's Note).  And I'm not sure he's wrong.
When I first started this book, I wondered, "Wow! How is Robert Harris going to cover all these events in just 376 pages."
For comparison's sake, Colleen McCullough spread these same years over about 2 and a half books, each book close to 1,000 pages.  So how could Robert Harris do justice to these years in just 376 pages?

And yet, Robert Harris pulls it off.  He manages to cover this whole period without ever feeling like he was rushing anything.
He mostly accomplishes this by keeping the focus of the story tightly focused on Cicero.
Any events for which Cicero was not personally present are either summarized very briefly or skipped over entirely.
As a result, this book won't work for anyone interested in a complete history of the period, but it works just fine for a biography of Cicero.

Other Comments
* Each book in Robert Harris's Cicero Trilogy is about 300 or so pages.
By comparison, one book in Colleen McCullough's Master of Rome series is often close to 1,000 pages.
No doubt if Colleen McCullough had been writing this series, all three books would have been published all at once under one single binding.
Apparently Robert Harris wasn't capable of this output (and who can blame him) but if his Cicero trilogy ever goes through a reprinting, I recommend putting all three books under the same binding and just selling it as one book.

* As with the other books in this trilogy, the framing of the story is in favor of Cicero, and against Cicero's enemies.
This results in a biased view of history, but it's fair enough in historical fiction.  If you're going to expect the reader to stick around for 3 books, you need to create likable protagonists.  And so you need to tilt everything in favor of your protagonist.  (Colleen McCullough did the same thing in her Masters of Rome series, only she favored the other side of the political aisle).
Robert Harris pulls this off for the most part, but there are one or two blind spots.
Cicero, although he was a new man in Rome, usually sided with the aristocratic Senate against the populares (the populist reformers) like Julius Caesar.
The legacy of the populares is mixed.  On the one hand, they often resorted to illegal and extra-constitutional measures to get their reforms through.  But on the other hand, these were much needed reforms for Rome's poor.
Robert Harris omits everything positive about the populare legacy.  As a result,  it is stated that Caesar was very popular with the Roman mob, but never explained why.
Nor is it obvious in Robert Harris's book why the assassins of Julius Caesar weren't immediately greeted by the general population like liberators (as Cicero thought they should be.)

* Actually while I'm on the subject...
It's tempting to draw a parallel between the ancient Roman populares and modern day leftists.  But the parallels are not exact.
The anti-war crowd during this period was actually the conservatives--something Robert Harris does a good job of pointing out.
Despite the image most people have of ancient Rome--an image of armies marching in and conquering whatever they wanted to--the ancient Romans actually had laws against wars of unprovoked aggression.
They often got around these rules of course--sometimes by getting themselves invited into one side of a civil war, often by a puppet government (like the United States did in Vietnam)
Or sometimes by manufacturing a cause of war on flimsy evidence (like the United States did in Iraq).
I think it's important to remember this, because otherwise we risk exaggerating the difference between us and the Romans, and in the process forgetting some of the lessons of history.
Robert Harris does a good job of recording some of the anti-war sentiment that took place in ancient Rome.  Cato and the conservatives were convinced that Caesar's whole war in Gaul was an illegal war of aggression, and wanted to prosecute him for it.
And this anti-war sentiment popped up again when Crassus marched against Parthia--many people in Rome also condemned Crassus's war as an illegal act of aggression.
(Dan Carlin also does a good job of talking about the anti-war sentiment that grew up around Crassus's expedition against Parthia.)

* Contrary to what you read in Shakespeare, Octavian and Anthony did not immediately team-up to make war on Brutus and Cassius right after the assassination of Julius Caesar.
Instead, when Octavian originally arrived on the scene, he was an ally of Cicero, and an enemy of Mark Antony.
There followed a complex period when there was a lot of political games being played and shifting alliances until Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus finally decided to team up and form the Second Triumvirate.
Robert Harris doesn't shy away from these complex back-and-forth political negotiations, and it's all included in the book.
If you're a history nerd like me who loves this kind of detail, then this is all great.
If not, then consider yourself warned ahead of time.

*  In my review of Imperium, I complained that, among other things, the book didn't do justice to Cicero's early years and only briefly skimmed over Cicero's first case in which Cicero defended a parricide.
Robert Harris tries to bring that parricide case back in Dictator, by having the soldier who delivered the death blow to Cicero be the very one that Cicero defended in the parricide case.
It's an ironic end to Cicero's career, but it's a pity this wasn't set-up better in Imperium.  It just seems to highlight the fact that Robert Harris dropped the ball by not including that story in his first book.

* Although I was familiar with most of the stuff in this book beforehand, I'd be exaggerating if I said it was all old information.  For example Cicero's attack upon Clodia during Marcus Caelius Rufus's trial (W) was new to me.
Also Cicero's various philosophical works were also new to me as well.  (The philosophical books came up in the narrative, because the narrator would describe the circumstances that lead Cicero to write each particular book, and briefly summarize its contents.

* In his acknowledgements section, Robert Harris praises Rubicon by Tom Holland as the book which first gave him the idea for this whole trilogy.

* Moving away from Cicero, I also tremendously enjoyed one of Robert Harris's other books: An Officer and a Spy

*This is only of interest to us history geeks, but I thought Wikipedia's section on Cicero's legacy was interesting.  To quote:

Likewise, no other ancient personality has inspired as much venomous dislike as Cicero, especially in more modern times.[90] His commitment to the values of the Republic accommodated a hatred of the poor and persistent opposition to the advocates and mechanisms of popular representation.[91] Friedrich Engels referred to him as "the most contemptible scoundrel in history" for upholding republican "democracy" while at the same time denouncing land and class reforms.[92] Cicero has faced criticism for exaggerating the democratic qualities of republican Rome, and for defending the Roman oligarchy against the popular reforms of Caesar.[93] Michael Parenti admits Cicero's abilities as an orator, but finds him a vain, pompous and hypocritical personality who, when it suited him, could show public support for popular causes that he privately despised. Parenti presents Cicero's prosecution of the Catiline conspiracy as legally flawed at least, and possibly unlawful.[94]

Some of this comes out in Robert Harris's book. Robert Harris does a good job of explaining why political necessity sometimes forced Cicero to lend his public support to causes he privately despised. But Cicero's opposition to populist reforms is played down in Robert Harris's trilogy.

Video Review
Link here and embedded below.

Link of the Day
Professor Noam Chomsky & Filmmakers - Q&A for Requiem for the American Dream (4-22-16)

Life Intermediate: 12D I'm so sorry! p. 148

(Supplemental Materials for Specific Textbooks--Life Intermediate)

Transcript: docs, pub
Sorting Activity and Running Dictation: docs, pub
Slideshow for drilling: slides, pub
Useful Phrases: docs, pub  (Cut up into strips and give to students.  Students use in conversation practice.   Every time they use one of the phrases in conversation, they remove strip from their hand and place it on the desk.)
Writing Practice: docs, pub

A: Is everything okay with your food?
B: Yes, yes, it’s lovely.  But, erm, I should have told you that I don’t eat meat.
A: Oh!  Oh dear!
B: I’m really sorry you’ve gone to all this trouble.
A: There’s no need to apologise--it’s not a problem.
B: No, I should have said something earlier.
A: It’s okay.  I should have asked you if there was anything you couldn’t eat.  It’s my fault.  I’ll make you something else.
B: No, please don’t.  The vegetables are delicious and there’s plenty to eat.
A: Are you sure?
B: Yes, really.  I’m enjoying this.  I’ll just leave the meat if that’s OK with you.
A: OK.

C: Oh, my goodness.  What was that?
D: I dropped the tray of glasses!
C: Oh, those nice glasses from Italy…
D: I couldn’t help it--I slipped.
C: Are you OK?  Let me help you up.  You are clumsy, though.
D: Don’t blame me--this floor is slippery.
C: Yes, but if you’d been more careful…
D: Look, it was an accident!  It could have happened to anyone.
C: I know, I know.  It’s not your fault.  Sorry I got upset.
D: It is a shame about those glasses, though.  We’ve only had them a little while!

E: I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.  The bus didn’t come!
F: Were you waiting for the number 46?
E: Yes, it was supposed to come at half past five.
F: Don’t worry about it--that service is terrible.  It’s always late.
E: I tried to phone you but I couldn’t get through.
F: Ah, I think my phone is switched off!  Sorry about that!
E: Goodness, I’m almost an hour late!
F: It’s OK.  It’s just one of those things--Buses are unreliable!  Anyway, you’re here now and that’s the main thing.

Remember these structures from the listening?  Sort them into categories:
I should have V3
I’m really sorry ...
There’s no need to apologise
it’s not a problem.
It’s my fault.
I couldn’t help it
Don’t blame me
if you’d been more careful…
Look, it was an accident!
It could have happened to anyone.
It’s not your fault.
Sorry I got upset.
I’m so sorry to V1
Don’t worry about it
Sorry about that!
It’s OK.
It’s just one of those things


Forgiving someone

Denying blame

Accusing someone

I should have V3
I’m really sorry ...
It’s my fault.
I’m so sorry to V1
Sorry about that!

Forgiving someone
There’s no need to apologise
it’s not a problem.
It’s not your fault.
Sorry I got upset.
Don’t worry about it
It’s OK.
It’s just one of those things

Denying blame
I couldn’t help it
Don’t blame me
Look, it was an accident!
It could have happened to anyone.

Accusing someone
if you’d been more careful…
Running Dictation 1:
___________  should ___________ V3
___________ really ___________ ...
___________ my ___________ .
___________ so ___________ to V1
___________ about ___________ !

Forgiving someone
___________ no ___________ to ___________
___________ not ___________ problem.
___________ not ___________ fault.
___________ I ___________ upset.
___________ worry ___________ it
___________ OK.
___________ just ___________ of ___________ things

Denying blame
___________  couldn’t ___________ it
___________ blame ___________
___________ , it ___________ an ___________ !
___________ could ___________ happened ___________ anyone.

Accusing someone
___________ you’d ___________ more ___________ ...
Running Dictation 2:

Forgiving someone

Denying blame

Accusing someone

I should have V3

I’m really sorry ...

It’s my fault.

I’m so sorry to V1

Sorry about that!

There’s no need to apologise

It’s not a problem.

It’s not your fault.

Sorry I got upset.

Don’t worry about it

It’s OK.

It’s just one of those things

I couldn’t help it

Don’t blame me

Look, it was an accident!

It could have happened to anyone.

if you’d been more careful…

Monday, March 27, 2017

3rd Conditional Naruto PowerPoint Game

(TESOL Worksheets--3rd Conditional)

Google: driveslidespub

The PowerPoint template is from Stemarty.  The questions are from Essential Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy.

In my own classes, I used this to supplement Life Intermediate Textbook, lesson 12B The Man Who Ate His Boots p.144-145

Sunday, March 26, 2017

TEFLology Podcast: Episode 57: Contrastive Analysis, Robert Lowth, and Linguistic Injustice

(TEFLology Podcast)

I'm still playing catch-up.  This episode is a couple weeks old now.  But let me chime in with my two cents.
The episode can be listened to here.

Contrastive Analysis
Contrastive analysis is something that has been mentioned in several of the books I've read on second language acquisition.

At the moment, the one freshest in my mind is the book I read last month: How Languages are Learned by Patsy M. Lightbown and Nina Spada [Third Edition]

I don't have my copy in front of me now, but if memory serves, according to Lightbown and Spada, one of the main reasons contrastive analysis fell out of favor was that it failed to make accurate predictions about the type of mistakes learners would make.
Instead, it was discovered that all learners seem to go through the same stages of acquisition whether or not their languages where similar to English.  (The order of acquisition)
For example: learning how to make negation in English sentences.
According to contrastive analysis, it would be predicted that learners from languages with similar negation patterns would have no problems with making negative sentences in English, while learners from languages with different patterns would struggle with negatives in English.
Instead, it was found that all learners seem to go through the same stages when making negative sentences in English, regardless of their first language background.  (Although I believe I read somewhere that the first language could influence how quickly the learners moved through these stages.)

So this is why contrastive analysis was abandoned in favor of studying interlanguage.
At least that's my impression from the books that I've read.

Some of this was hinted at in the TEFLology podcast (I believe it was mentioned a couple times that contrastive analysis failed to make accurate predictions).

Other notes:
There was also some brief discussion of the order of Scott Thornbury's blog: An A-Z of ELT.  I believe Scott Thornbury is not methodically working his way through the alphabet, but just using his blog to randomly document any entries he missed from his first edition of his book An A-Z of ELT.

See here:

In 2006 Macmillan published my dictionary-encyclopedia of English language teaching called An A-Z of ELT. On the off-chance that there might be a second edition of that book, I am using this blog to revisit some of the key entries, and discuss, critique and update them where necessary, while at the same time inviting comments from interested practitioners. I will be choosing items in no particular order, and in line with the issues that happen to interest me at the moment. Your comments and suggestions are very welcome.

Robert Lowth 
An interesting little insight into the history of grammar books.  I had no idea about any of this before, and thought it was very well presented and informative.

Linguistic Injustice
One of the great things about the TEFLology podcasts is that for those of us who don't keep up with the journals (like me) the TEFLologists do a great job of summarizing some of the more interesting controversies.

I had no idea about any of this before, and I thought the TEFLologist summary of this controversy was very clear and informative.

I'm reminded of something I wrote just a few weeks ago on this blog.

A few years ago I was at a conference in which a Filipino national was presenting a paper on how difficult it was for Filipino's to write papers in academic English, because the colloquial English used in the Philippines was so different from the style required in formal academic papers.
This got me thinking.  I spoke standard English, but my colloquial English would not be acceptable in a formal academic setting either.  I could not write an academic paper in the same style I used to talk to my friends.
I guess the advantage I had, in comparison to Filipino speakers, was that for me the socialization started incredibly early.  (As early as primary school, I was already getting some socialization in formal academic writing).  But it was a long 12 year struggle for our school teachers to finally get me and my classmates to realize that we had to write formal papers in a certain way.
So was this a case of Filipino's being uniquely disadvantaged, or was this a case of everyone having to adjust to the conventions of formal academic English?
I brought this up during the Q&A session at the end of the paper, and we had some interesting discussion.
I had the same question when Professor Hudson mentioned the problems faced when people who spoke non-standard dialects went to university.

Of course this is not entirely the same thing, because this was talking about another dialect of English, not L2 English speakers.

3rd Conditional Brainstorm Activity

(TESOL Worksheets--3rd Conditional)

Google: drivedocspub

Put students into groups.  Cut this sheet into 4 different sheets, and only give them one prompt at a time.  Give them a prompt, and give them a set time (2 minutes?) to come up with as many sentence endings as possible.  Then award points to the group with the most endings at the end of the time.  Then give them the next prompt.

In my own classes, I used this to supplement Life Intermediate Textbook, lesson 12B The Man Who Ate His Boots p.144-145

  1. If I had been born in America….
  1. If I had studied harder…
  1. If I hadn’t come to class today…
  1. If I had overslept this morning…