Angry Birds, Angry Words


http___web-assets.angrybirds.com_abcom_img_games_223_Icon_download_ab_223x223“What if instead of tabbing over to the web browser in search of some nugget of gossip or news, or opening up a mindless game such as Angry Birds, we could instead scratch the itch by engaging in a meaningful activity, such as learning a foreign language?”

Enjoyed this post.

Angry Words

How to Travel the World and Get Paid to Do It!


The Bucket List

The Bucket List

Is your bucket list full and bank account empty? Perfect. Now’s the time to plan an extended vacation abroad! Sound crazy? Not really. If you have portable skills or residual income, there are many countries where your talents are in demand and your money will stretch a lot further.

Even if you aren’t in the group just mentioned, don’t despair. You may be able to put your ability to speak English and your knowledge of Western culture to practical use. Ever thought of teaching English as a Second Language? Here are the steps.

Step 1

Update your resume. Having a college degree is a definite plus, however there are courses you can take towards certification as an ESL teacher. These courses usually take about one or two months to complete and can often be done online. Check out the Internet to learn more about different types of ESL certification.

Step 2

Place your resume online. There are numerous websites where you can browse ESL jobs and also post your resume. Before you put up personal information, however, be sure to read the website directions and disclaimers.

Two of my favorite ESL sites are ESL Teachers Board and Dave’s ESL Café. By the way, some countries prefer a CV, which is like an expanded resume concentrating on your academic experience.

Step 3

Get your passport. If you’ve never had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person at your nearest passport facility, which is quite often the local U.S. Post Office. Details are available on the official government website: Travel.State.Gov

Step 4

Screen carefully. After you post your resume online, you’ll start getting invitations to teach. Unfortunately, not every invitation you receive may be legitimate. The ESL websites I mentioned in Step 2 have a wealth of information about finding the right teaching position and being safe in the process. Do your homework.

Step 5

Negotiate a contract. This is sometimes easier said than done, however a good way to tackle this chore is to ask the school if you can speak with one or two of their current or former ESL teachers. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you do this. If they are reluctant, keep looking.

Step 6

Get ready to travel. Many schools will offer some reimbursement for your travel expenses, so be sure to ask. Travel lightly. If you’ve established contact with another ESL teacher at the same or similar school, ask them what to bring. The best thing you can take along is an open mind.

Tips and Warnings:

In addition to your passport, you may need a visa for travel to certain countries. Once you know which country you will be working in, check out the official website of their Embassy or Consulates for more information.

Prepare yourself for jet lag and culture shock. Perhaps the best preparation you can make is just be aware that you will experience them.

Never put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough money to leave if things don’t work out.

Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been living and teaching in China since August, 2004. Every day is an adventure. Good luck and good journey!

Encore!


The following is, by far, the most popular post I’ve written to date. If you missed it, here it is again:

How Do Chinese Use An English Computer Keyboard?

Business cards in China are offered and accepted with both hands. It’s a sign of courtesy and respect. After a couple years of exchanging cards, I’d managed to fill a rather large desk drawer with them. One day a fit of efficiency overtook me and I decided to go in search of a Rolodex or business card organizer. It took longer than I expected; most things do in China.

It wasn’t until I’d made my purchase and returned home that it dawned on me – there is no Chinese “alphabet.” At least, not in the way we think of one. Hence, no way to organize most of my cards. Duh. Which brings me to today’s topic, “How do Chinese use an English computer keyboard?”

Firstly, there are such things as Chinese computer keyboards. However, they’re not standardized and not widely used. There are also writing pad interfaces that work well for Chinese characters. However, most Chinese rely on software to change their keystrokes into Chinese text.

Chinese Keyboard
Chinese and English Keyboard

Perhaps the two most  common software transcription methods in mainland China are Wubi and Pinyin. Wubi means “five pen” or “five stroke” and is based on the idea that Chinese characters can be categorized with five fundamental pen strokes. In contrast, the Pinyin method is based on pronunciation of Chinese “syllables.” Each method has advantages and drawbacks.

In it’s simplest form, Wubi could be input with just the number pad of the keyboard: one for horizontal strokes, two for vertical strokes, three for downward right-to-left strokes, four for dot strokes or downward left-to-right strokes, and five for all other strokes. To utilize this method, users must be familiar with the correct order of strokes, which is actually fairly easy to learn.

Once a user has input the correct strokes in the correct order, Wubi software presents a number of possible Chinese characters from which to choose. This method is probably most suited to individuals with Chinese language background.

Pinyin, on the other hand, is a method more suited to individuals with an English language background. Pinyin breaks Chinese down into “Romanized” syllables. However, because Chinese is a tonal language, the user must also be able to select the correct tone for each syllable.

Mandarin Chinese has four basic tones. They are: first tone – “high and level,” second tone – “rising,” third tone – “falling then rising,” and fourth tone – “falling.” There is also a fifth tone which can be thought of as “neutral.” Cantonese is more complex, with between 6 and 9 tones depending upon the dialect.

A classic example of the difference tones make is with the syllable “ma.” With first tone the word means mother, with second tone the word means hemp, with third tone the word is horse, with fourth tone it means scold, and with the fifth tone the word becomes an interrogative often used at the end of a sentence. Here is an example of a “silly sentence” using the word ma.

Pinyin: māma mà mǎ de má ma?
English: “Is Mother scolding the horse’s hemp?”
(source: Wikipedia)

How Do Chinese Use An English Computer Keyboard?


“With thousands of individual characters, ever wonder how a Chinese person sends an email?

Business cards in China are offered and accepted with both hands. It’s a sign of courtesy and respect. After a couple years of exchanging cards, I’d managed to fill a rather large desk drawer with them. One day a fit of efficiency overtook me and I decided to go in search of a Rolodex or business card organizer. It took longer than I expected; most things do in China.

It wasn’t until I’d made my purchase and returned home that it dawned on me – there is no Chinese “alphabet.” At least, not in the way we think of one. Hence, no way to organize most of my cards. Duh. Which brings me to today’s topic, “How do Chinese use an English computer keyboard?”

Firstly, there are such things as Chinese computer keyboards. However, they’re not standardized and not widely used. There are also writing pad interfaces that work well for Chinese characters. However, most Chinese rely on software to change their keystrokes into Chinese text.

Chinese Keyboard

Chinese and English Keyboard

Perhaps the two most  common software transcription methods in mainland China are Wubi and Pinyin. Wubi means “five pen” or “five stroke” and is based on the idea that Chinese characters can be categorized with five fundamental pen strokes. In contrast, the Pinyin method is based on pronunciation of Chinese “syllables.” Each method has advantages and drawbacks.

In it’s simplest form, Wubi could be input with just the number pad of the keyboard: one for horizontal strokes, two for vertical strokes, three for downward right-to-left strokes, four for dot strokes or downward left-to-right strokes, and five for all other strokes. To utilize this method, users must be familiar with the correct order of strokes, which is actually fairly easy to learn.

Once a user has input the correct strokes in the correct order, Wubi software presents a number of possible Chinese characters from which to choose. This method is probably most suited to individuals with Chinese language background.

Pinyin, on the other hand, is a method more suited to individuals with an English language background. Pinyin breaks Chinese down into “Romanized” syllables. However, because Chinese is a tonal language, the user must also be able to select the correct tone for each syllable.

Mandarin Chinese has four basic tones. They are: first tone – “high and level,” second tone – “rising,” third tone – “falling then rising,” and fourth tone – “falling.” There is also a fifth tone which can be thought of as “neutral.” Cantonese is more complex, with between 6 and 9 tones depending upon the dialect.

A classic example of the difference tones make is with the syllable “ma.” With first tone the word means mother, with second tone the word means hemp, with third tone the word is horse, with fourth tone it means scold, and with the fifth tone the word becomes an interrogative often used at the end of a sentence. Here is an example of a “silly sentence” using the word ma.

Pinyin: māma mà mǎ de má ma?
English: “Is Mother scolding the horse’s hemp?”
(source: Wikipedia)

How to Travel the World and Get Paid to Do It: Teach ESL


How to Travel the World and Get Paid to Do It

Is your bucket list full and bank account empty? Perfect. Now’s the time to plan an extended vacation abroad! Sound crazy? Not really. If you have portable skills or residual income, there are many countries where your talents are in demand and your money will stretch a lot further.

"The Bucket List"

"The Bucket List"

Even if you aren’t in the group just mentioned, don’t despair. You may be able to put your ability to speak English and your knowledge of Western culture to practical use. Ever thought of teaching English as a Second Language? Here are the steps.

Step 1

Update your resume. Having a college degree is a definite plus, however there are courses you can take towards certification as an ESL teacher. These courses usually take about one or two months to complete and can often be done online. Check out the Internet to learn more about different types of ESL certification.

Step 2

Place your resume online. There are numerous websites where you can browse ESL jobs and also post your resume. Before you put up personal information, however, be sure to read the website directions and disclaimers.

Two of my favorite ESL sites are ESL Teachers Board and Dave’s ESL Café. By the way, some countries prefer a CV, which is like an expanded resume concentrating on your academic experience.

Step 3

Get your passport. If you’ve never had a passport, you’ll need to apply in person at your nearest passport facility, which is quite often the local U.S. Post Office. Details are available on the official government website: Travel.State.Gov

Step 4

Screen carefully. After you post your resume online, you’ll start getting invitations to teach. Unfortunately, not every invitation you receive may be legitimate. The ESL websites I mentioned in Step 2 have a wealth of information about finding the right teaching position and being safe in the process. Do your homework.

Step 5

Negotiate a contract. This is sometimes easier said than done, however a good way to tackle this chore is to ask the school if you can speak with one or two of their current or former ESL teachers. If the school has nothing to hide, they should be willing to let you do this. If they are reluctant, keep looking.

Step 6

Get ready to travel. Many schools will offer some reimbursement for your travel expenses, so be sure to ask. Travel lightly. If you’ve established contact with another ESL teacher at the same or similar school, ask them what to bring. The best thing you can take along is an open mind.

Tips and Warnings:

In addition to your passport, you may need a visa for travel to certain countries. Once you know which country you will be working in, check out the official websites of their Embassy or Consulates for more information.

Prepare yourself for jet lag and culture shock. Perhaps the best preparation you can make is just to be aware that you will experience them.

Never put yourself in a position where you don’t have enough money to leave if things don’t work out.

Get ready for the experience of a lifetime. I’ve been living and teaching in China since August, 2004. Every day is an adventure. Good luck and good journey!

How to Teach Children to Think Outside the Box


Teach Kids to Think Outside the Box

Here is a great lesson plan from my “bag of tricks.”

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
By Ron Hendricks

This is one of my favorite lesson plans because it can be adapted to just about any age and skill level. It can also be used for small or large groups.

Materials: Cardboard box, whiteboard and marker, or blackboard and chalk.

Objectives: Students will explore and expand their English vocabulary, listen and participate in a story about facing challenges, use their thinking skills to solve puzzles, and learn and understand the American idiom “think outside the box.”

Introduction: (1-2 minutes)
Begin by placing a cardboard box on a desk. The children are usually curious, so show them the box is empty. Write the word “box” on the board and have the children say it with you.

Next, draw a stick figure of a little girl on the board and ask the children to help you give her a name. Then, begin the story…

Story: (5 – 10 minutes)
Once upon a time in China there was a little girl. She lived in a very small village at the foot of a very tall mountain. (Draw village and mountain and ask children to repeat the words.) In fact, this mountain was so tall that nobody from the village had ever bothered to climb to the top.

This mountain was so tall that the clouds (draw clouds) always circled the mountain and blocked out the sun (draw sun). The people of the village had never, ever seen the sun. In fact, the people of the village did not even know the word for “sun!”

One day, the little girl woke up very early. (For young groups or groups with little or no English, pantomime the girl waking up, etc.) She yawned and stretched. And then she had an idea. She said to herself, “Today I will climb the mountain. Today I will see what is at the top!”

She jumped out of bed and before anyone else in the village was awake, she began to climb the mountain. She climbed and she climbed and she climbed. And she climbed and she climbed and she climbed. She grew very tired and sat down to rest. “Maybe this is a bad idea” she thought. “Maybe I should just go home to my warm little bed and forget about climbing.”

But then, she stomped her foot and said “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” So on she climbed. The path got steeper and steeper, but still she climbed.

Soon she came to the beginning of the clouds. She stopped for a moment and thought. “Maybe I should just go home to my warm little bed and forget about climbing.”  But then she stomped her foot and said, “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” And on she went.

Now, inside the clouds it was very cold and quite hard to see. It was strange and scary, but the little girl kept on climbing. As she climbed through the clouds she thought about her warm little bed, about her village and about her family. She started to worry about her Mother and Father.

“Oh! I better go back right now because my family will be looking for me,” she thought. But then she stomped her foot and said, “No, I said I would climb to the top and that is what I will do!” And then something wonderful happened…

As she stomped her foot, the clouds began to part and the little girl saw a beautiful blue sky! But that was not all, no, that was only part of it. Right in the middle of that beautiful blue sky was a big, round, orange, bright and warm…. ball!

She stood staring for a moment. She could not believe her eyes. She ran the rest of the way to the top of the mountain. And then she lay down in the warm glow of that bright, orange ball and fell fast asleep.

When she woke up, she was afraid. She had dreamed that her family and the people of the village were looking for her. So she jumped up and started to run. Down, down, down the mountain she ran as fast as she could.

When she reached the village, there was a large crowd of people gathered around her house. She saw her mother and father in the middle of the crowd and ran up to them. “Oh! There you are daughter! We were so worried! Where have you been?”

But the little girl did not stop to answer their questions. Instead she shouted, “Good news! Wonderful news! In the sky there is a big, round, orange, bright, warm, beautiful…ball!

The End

Questions: (3 to 5 minutes)
1. What do you think the people of the village said to her?
2. What do you think her parents said to her?
3. Why do you think they reacted this way?
4. Why do you think no one from the village had ever climbed the mountain before?
5. What do you think it means to “think inside the box?”
6. What do you think it means to “think outside the box?

Exercises: (10 to 15 minutes)
Draw a square on the board and ask the students “What is it?” They will probably say “a square” or “a box.” Write their answers on the board. Now challenge the students to “think outside the box.” Go around the room asking each student “What is it?” Write each answer on the board. (e.g. a book, a TV, a desk, a piece of paper, etc.)

Repeat the exercise with other shapes (a triangle, a circle, a rectangle, etc.). Ask the children to explain their answers.

If there is time, divide the class into small groups. Have each group draw an everyday object, but from a completely new angle. For example, what would a door look like from a side view? What might a bus look like from underneath? What does a pencil look like from the pointy end? Have someone from each group draw their picture on the board.

Puzzle Handout: (5 to 10 minutes)
Alone or in pairs, have the children solve the puzzle on the handout. There are many printable handouts available on the Internet. Adapt the handout to the age and skill level of your class.

There is a classic “think outside the box” puzzle involving nine dots and four lines. It is sometimes called the Christopher Columbus Egg Puzzle.  Look for it on the Internet.

Conclusion:
Hold the cardboard box in the air and ask “What is it?”  Yes, it’s a box, but maybe it is more than that! Remind the students of the little girl who climbed the mountain and discovered the sun. Challenge them to “think outside the box” whenever they encounter difficult problems.

Thinkin’ of Leavin’… About Culture Shock


Where have all the students gone...

I’ve been here since August of 2004. The day I arrived (actually the next morning) I wrote: “Be not ashamed of the earthen road; she is our mother.” I remember thinking that it was very Chinese or something. When I first arrived everything was new and fresh and interesting and VERY strange. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still think every day that I wake up in China is a new adventure. BUT….
It is time to leave Jian. I am tired of feeling angry and frustrated most of the time. The students are absolutely wonderful, but the system and the situation in which I find myself is starting to take a toll. I guess my  current state of “mental health” is not at all unusual:
Culture Shock: A Fish Out of Water Written and contributed by Elaine Addison
Hannam University, Taejon, South Korea

Kalvero Oberg was one of the first writers to identify five distinct stages of culture shock. He found that all human beings experience the same feelings when they travel to or live in a different country or culture. He found that culture shock is almost like a disease: it has a cause, symptoms, and a cure.

Whenever someone travels overseas they are like “a fish out of water.” Like the fish, they have been swimming in their own culture all their lives. A fish doesn’t think about what water it is in. Likewise, we often do not think too much about the culture we are raised in. Our culture helps to shape our identity. Many of the cues of interpersonal communication (body language, words, facial expressions, tone of voice, idioms, slang) are different in different cultures. One of the reasons that we feel like a fish out of water when we enter a new culture, is that we do not know all of the cues that are used in the new culture.

Psychologists tell us that there are five distinct phases (or stages) of culture shock. It is important to understand that culture shock happens to all people who travel abroad, but some people have much stronger reactions than others.

During the first few days of a person’s stay in a new country, everything usually goes fairly smoothly. The newcomer is excited about being in a new place where there are new sights and sounds, new smells and tastes. The newcomer may have some problems, but usually accepts them as just part of the newness. They may find themselves staying in hotels or with a home-stay family that is excited to meet the foreign stranger. The newcomer may find that “the red carpet” has been rolled out and they may be taken to restaurants, movies and tours of the sights. The new acquaintances may want to take the newcomer out to many places and “show them off.” This first stage of culture shock is called the “honeymoon phase.”

Unfortunately, this honeymoon phase often comes to an end fairly soon. The newcomer has to deal with transportation problems (buses that don’t come on time), shopping problems (can’t buy their favorite foods) or communication problems (just what does “Chill out, dude.” mean?). It may start to seem like people no longer care about your problems. They may help, but they don’t seem to understand your concern over what they see as small problems. You might even start to think that the people in the host country don’t like foreigners.

This may lead to the second stage of culture shock, known as the “rejection phase.” The newcomer may begin to feel aggressive and start to complain about the host culture/country. It is important to recognize that these feelings are real and can become serious. This phase is a kind of crisis in the ‘disease’ of culture shock. It is called the “rejection” phase because it is at this point that the newcomer starts to reject the host country, complaining about and noticing only the bad things that bother them. At this stage the newcomer either gets stronger and stays, or gets weaker and goes home (physically, mentally or both).

If you don’t survive stage two successfully, you may find yourself moving into stage three: the “regression phase.” The word “regression” means moving backward, and in this phase of culture shock, you spend much of your time speaking your own language, watching videos from your home country, eating food from home. You may also notice that you are moving around campus or around town with a group of students who speak your own language. You may spend most of this time complaining about the host country/culture.

Also in the regression phase, you may only remember the good things about your home country. Your homeland may suddenly seem marvelously wonderful; all the difficulties that you had there are forgotten and you may find yourself wondering why you ever left (hint: You left to learn English!). You may now only remember your home country as a wonderful place in which nothing ever went wrong for you. Of course, this is not true, but an illusion created by your culture shock ‘disease.’

If you survive the third stage successfully (or miss it completely) you will move into the fourth stage of culture shock called the “recovery phase” or the “at-ease-at-last phase.” In this stage you become more comfortable with the language and you also feel more comfortable with the customs of the host country. You can now move around without a feeling of anxiety. You still have problems with some of the social cues and you may still not understand everything people say (especially idioms). However, you are now 90% adjusted to the new culture and you start to realize that no country is that much better than another – it is just different lifestyles and different ways to deal with the problems of life.

With this complete adjustment, you accept the food, drinks, habits and customs of the host country, and you may even find yourself preferring some things in the host country to things at home. You have now understood that there are different ways to live your life and that no way is really better than another, just different. Finally, you have become comfortable in the new place.

It is important to remember that not everyone experiences all the phases of culture shock. It is also important to know that you can experience all of them at different times: you might experience the regression phase before the rejection phase, etc. You might even experience the regression phase on Monday, the at ease phase on Tuesday, the honeymoon phase on Wednesday, and the rejection phase again on Thursday. What will Friday be like?

Much later, you may find yourself returning to your homeland and -guess what? – you may find yourself entering the fifth phase of culture shock. This is called “reverse culture shock” or “return culture shock” and occurs when you return home. You have been away for a long time, becoming comfortable with the habits and customs of a new lifestyle and you may find that you are no longer completely comfortable in your home country. Many things may have changed while you were away and it may take a little while to become at ease with the cues and signs and symbols of your home culture.

Reverse culture shock can be very difficult. There is a risk of sickness or emotional problems in many of the phases of culture shock. Remember to be kind to yourself all the time that you are overseas, and when you get home. Give yourself time to adjust. Be your own best friend. If you do these things you will be a much stronger person. If you do these things, congratulations, you will be a citizen of the world!

Monday, January 17, 2005: Finals Week


Ron and Students

(note: In an effort to totally confuse everyone I have decided to periodically post entries from my diary!)
Hmm… looks like my New Year’s resolution is going the way of most. I’ve spent this last week grading essays and listening to oral reports. This afternoon Audraie and I will supervise the final examination of our Survey of English Speaking Countries classes. We worked on the exam together and tried to make it fairly easy for anyone who was paying attention in class. Hope the language barrier isn’t too much of a problem. We’ll see.
In my Oral English classes I assigned an essay on “My Family.” I read about 300 short compositions on the subject, so am pretty tired of it by now. I will say that some of the students turned in papers that were both “original and interesting.” Some of the students turned in papers that were neither. Will have to explain the concept of plagiarism next semester!
I did not give out too many “A’s”, nor did I fail anyone. Perhaps some of them deserved a failing grade, but my impression is that the consequences of failure are rather dire, so I will work them harder next semester.
On the 19th, Audraie and I will head south for a much-needed vacation on the beach. We will visit Guangzhou and Hainan, then come back through Hong Kong. It is nearing Spring Festival, so traveling could be a madhouse. Fortunately Audraie is highly organized (unlike someone else I know) and has made all the important reservations. I’m sure that we’ll have a few surprises along the way… this is China after all.
I’ve been working on a business plan for an English Corner Coffee Club. A friend of ours, Wang Hua, is interested in helping with such a venture. He has a friend that helps to run the Ming Tian Coffee Language here in Jian. Tea is by far the number one beverage in China, but I think coffee has a place as well. My thinking is to locate a coffee cart on campus and a coffee bistro just off campus. Students really have no place comfortable to study. They can study in their classrooms, in the library, in their dorms or outside. All of these locations have drawbacks. Anyway, will keep you posted on my progress.