Saturday, 31 October 2009

joshua bell - stop and hear the music

One of my brilliant on-line Students, Marta, told this story yesterday. That's a story about a social experiment which involved international violin virtuoso and passers-by hurrying in the morning rush hour at a subway station in Washington DC. I chose this piece of news, because the presenter is speaking so distinctly that you can distinguish every single word:

And this is a fragment of the concert itself:

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

improve your english

I can't resist the temptation to upload here my favourite advert promoting English learning. I recalled this short video when I was watching a DVD training material for teachers, attached to one of the teacher's books published by Oxford University Press. The training DVD showed a case study of a one-to-one lesson. The teacher was an English woman in her mid-fifties, and her student - a German manager. He was quite fluent, however, hardly capable of producing the "th" sound. It veered towards "s" all the time.
That's how I remembered this 40-second story about the German Cruise Guard.

case study - studium przypadku
one-to-one lesson - lekcja jeden na jeden (indywidualna)
hardly capable of - niemalże niezdolny
veer towrds - zmierzać w kierunku, skłaniać się ku

Monday, 26 October 2009

I wish I was able to produce my teacher's notes on the fly, but I'm afraid they would form, at the most, a complaint book. A teacher's diary is namely a record of ups and downs, of commitment rarely matched up by the genuine response of the students, who generally wish they had got prepared but unfortunately had no time, next time it will be better I promise, and what can I do but accept.
Instead of writing this, I might have produced a nice informative piece on meteorological phenomena or economy, which would help me carve out a career for myself. Alas!, as Shakespeare's characters used to say, I can't find proper time for that.

on the fly = right away - na poczekaniu
at the most - co najwyzej
a complaint book - książka skarg i zażaleń
namely - minaowicie
commitment - zaangażowanie
match up - dopasować, spełnić oczekiwania
genuine - autentyczny, szczery
what can I do but accept - co mogę zrobić, jeśli nie pogodzić się z tym
carve out a career fr oneself - wyrobić sobie pozycję zawodową
alas [old-fashioned] = unfortunately

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

i'm so happy

I would like to apologize for my inclination for the songs that seem cheerfull but only as long as you don't get into the lyrics; however, I can't resist them. Today there's another example - a song we listened to with a group of my intermediate students tonight.
I first heard the song some seven, eight perhaps, years ago, and it has become one of my favourites ever since. The mood of the tune is so entirely careless that you might think it's just another country song. The idea of being happy on the verge of tears is not unfamiliar, either. The mixture of those two - music and lyrics - brings about an unusual effect. Listen and judge for yourselves.

I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying
Seven weeks have passed now since she left me
She shows her face to ask me how I am
She says the kids are fine and that they miss me
Maybe I could come and baby-sit sometime

She says, "Are you O.K.? I was worried about you
Can you forgive me? I hope that you'll be happy."
I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm so happy I'm laughing through my tears

I saw a friend of mine
He said, "I was worried about you
I heard she had another man,
I wondered how you felt about it?"
I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm so happy I'm laughing though my tears

Saw my lawyer, Mr Good News,
He got me joint custody and legal separation
I'm so happy that I can't stop crying
I'm laughing through my tears
I'm laughing through my tears

I took a walk alone last night
I looked up at the stars
To try and find an answer in my life
I chose a star for me, I chose a star for him
I chose two stars for my kids and one star for my wife
Something made me smile
Something seemed to ease the pain
Something about the universe and how it's all connected

The park is full of Sunday fathers and melted ice cream
We try to do the best within the given time
A kid should be with his mother
Everybody knows that
What can a father do but baby-sit sometimes?

I saw that friend of mine, he said,
"You look different somehow"I said,
"Everybody's got to leave the darkness sometime"

inclination for - skłonność, upodobanie do
resist - opierac się; I can't resist them - nie mogę się im oprzeć
tune - melodia
on the verge of sth - na skraju
bring about = cause

Thursday, 15 October 2009

'tis a memoir

And now it's the time for a piece of prose. That's the fragment of a memoir. The author remembers his mother and a special story of hers - an account of a lonesome Irish immigrant's day. Please, pay attention to curious punctuation - in order to show the story as it was said, to make the narration more "real", most of punctuation marks have been omitted.

Well, I was sitting in my apartment and I was feeling lonesome so I went up and sat on one of those benches they have in the grassy island in the middle of Broadway and this woman came along, a shopping bag woman , one of the homeless ones, all tattered and greasy , rooting around in the grabage can till she found a newspaper and sat beside me reading it till she asked me if she could borrow my glasses because she could read only headlines with the sight she had and when she talked I noticed she had an Irish accent so I asked where she came from and she toled me Donegal a long time ago and wasn't it lovely to be sitting on a bench in the middle of Broadway with people noticing things and asking where you came from. She I asked if I could spare a few pennies on a soup and I insisted she could come with me to the Associated supermarket and we'd get some groceries and have a proper meal. Oh, she couldn't do that, she said, but I told her that's what I was going to do anyway. She wouldn't come inside the store. She said they wouldn't like the likes of her. I got bread and butter and rashers and eggs and when we got home I told her she could go in and have a nice shower and she was delighted with herself though there wasn't much I could do about her clothes or the bags she carried. We had our dinner and watched television till she started falling asleep on me and i told her lie down there on the bed but she wouldn't. God knows the bed is big enough for four but she laid down on the floor with a shopping bag under her head and when I woke up in the morning she was gone and I missed her.

I know it wasn't the dinner wine that had me against the wall in a fit of remorse. It was the thought of my mother being so lonesome she had to sit on a street bench, so lonesome she missed the company of a homeless shopping bag woman.
(Frank McCourt 'Tis. A Memoir.)

shopping bag woman = bag lady - kloszardka
tattered - obszarpany
greasy - zatłuszczony
root around in - grzebac w
garbage can - US pojemnik na smieci
she wouldn't come inside
the likes of her - infml jej podobni
groceries - artykuły spozywcze
rasher - plasterek bekonu
had me against the wall - zmuziło mnie do oparcia się o scianę
a fit of remorse - przypływ wyrzutów sumienia

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

I heard this song today, standing in the traffic jam, rain pouring down on my windscreen and on me, as I got off at the traffic lights to fix the wing mirror, which had bent back when I drove into the hedge.
It's one of my favourite song-stories, devoid of melodramatic twists. Its force is in the diverse content put together, uttered at one pitch, as if no part was more important than the other. That's why the drama is there, it's in all that has not been spoken about.

Private Dancer
Well the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

You don't think of them as human
You don't think of them at all
You keep your mind on the money
Keeping your eyes on the wall

I'm your private dancer
A dancer for money
I'll do what you want me to do
I'm your private dancer
A dancer money
Any old music will do

I wanna make a million dollars
I wanna live out by the sea
Have a husband and some children
Yeah I guess I want a family

All the men come in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

Deutschmarks or dollars
American express will nicely thank you
Let me loosen up your collar
Tell me do you wanna see me do the shimmy again

pour down - lać (about rain)
wing mirror - lusterko boczne
drive into - wjechać w
hedge - zywopłot
twist - zwrot akcji
utter - wypowiadać
at one pitch - na jednej wysokości, jednym tonem

Monday, 12 October 2009

One of my on-line students asked if the texts here might be accompanied by sound, and I've been exploring this option for the last twenty minutes or so. I've already found the mike on my notebook and I'm wondering why it's so tiny.
Anyway, reading your own writing is surely an act of the utmost courage. I'd even risk saying, it's shameless.
For the last couple of weeks I've been listening to an audiobook by Sebastain Faulks, On Green Dolphin Street - "read by the author". Whenever I hear Faulks's unwavering voice, especially while reading his own complex metaphors and insights into the characters' minds, I admire his capacity for self-publishing.
I still have the excuse of not being able to upload the sound files.

mike - infml for "microphone"
utmost - najwyższy
shameless - bezwstydny
unwavering - pewny, niezachwiany
insight - wgląd, spostrzeżenie

Friday, 9 October 2009

tom's diner

Probably when Susanne Vega sang the song for the first time, nobody has heard of "blogs" and "blogging". When you listen carefully to the lyrics, though, what is the song but a record of a fleeting, non-significant moment, one of those that you are not able to recall after a week or so - a perfect subject for a blog entry? Blog-writing resembles looking at the world in close-up and making of it a collection of stills. It's registering experiences, one by one, as they come into view, and turning them into subjects of stories almost devoid of plot. Like this one:

Tom's Diner

I am sitting in the morning
At the diner on the corner
I am waiting at the counter
For the man to pour the coffee

And he fills it only halfway
And before I even argue
He is looking out the window
At somebody coming in

"It is always nice to see you"
Says the man behind the counter
To the woman who has come in
She is shaking her umbrella

And I look the other way
As they are kissing their hellos
I'm pretending not to see them
And instead I pour the milk

I open up the paper
There's a story of an actor
Who had died while he was drinking
It was no one I had heard of

And I'm turning to the horoscope
And looking for the funnies
When I'm feeling someone watching me
And soI raise my head

There's a woman on the outside
Looking inside
Does she see me?
No she does not really see me
'cause she sees her own reflection

And I'm trying not to notice
That she's hitching up her skirt
And while she's straightening her stockings
Her hair has gotten wet

Oh, this rain it will continue
Through the morning as I'm listening
To the bells of the cathedral
I am thinking of your voice...

And of the midnight picnic
Once upon a time
Before the rain began...
I finish up my coffee

It's time to catch the train

fleeting - ulotny
non-significant - nic nie znczący
recall - przypomnieć sobie
in close-up - w zblizeniu
a still - fotos
devoid of plot - pozbawiony fabuły
diner - jadłodajnia
at the counter - tu: przy barze
kissing their hellos - całują się na powitanie
fills it only half-way - napełnia tylko do połowy
behind the counter - tu: za barem
hitch up - podkasać
straighten up - poprawiać
a stocking - pończocha

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

road to mandalay

It's not that I'm a RobbieWilliams fan, but what I like about his songs, or at least some of them, is their streak of self-mockery. As if the singer was trying not to be serious about himself, and on no condition melodramatic, even though between the lines you can sometimes hear the drama of everything that "got broken" along the way. The same with his Road To Mandalay - the music is so cheerfull that it alleviates any possible anxiety audible in the lyrics. When you add up all of his biographical swoops, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, the song seems to be at least an attempt at self-detachment.

The Road to Mandalay is a perfect song for a teacher. Firstly, because it has a story behind. Secondly, because the lyrics are long enough. Thirdly, because it's easy to sing, and some of you asked for a pronunciation exercise. Remember only not to sing too loud, especially if you work shoulder to shoulder in some vast corporate space. The full text and explanations - HERE.

Play the song and fill in the gaps: )
Road to Mandalay

Save me from ______________ in the sea
Beat me up on the _____________

What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say
This ___________ song would drain the sun
But it won't shine until it's sung

No water running in the _____________
The saddest place we've ever seen

Everything I touched was ______________
Everything I loved got broken
On the road to Mandalay
Every mistake I've ever made
Has been ___________ and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

There's nothing left for you to give
The truth is all that you're left with
Twenty paces then _____ ______________
We will die and be reborn

I like to sleep beneath the _____________
Have the ________________ at one with me
Look down the ____________ of a gun
And feel the _________ replace the ___________

Everything we've ever stolen
Has been lost ____________ or broken
No more dragons left to __________
Every mistake I've ever made
Has been ______________ and then replayed
As I got lost along the way

Save me from ________________ in the sea
Beat me up on the beach
What a lovely holiday
There's nothing funny left to say

a Robbie Williams fan - proszę zwrócić uwagę na brak possessive 's

streak - element, "coś"

self-mockery - autoironia

on no condition - w żadnym wypadku

along the way - po drodze

alleviate anxiety - złagodzić niepokój

audible - słyszalny

swoop - lot nurkowy, pikowanie

self-detachment - dystans do siebie samego

shoulder to shoulder - ramię przy ramieniu, ramię w ramię

vast - ogromny

Friday, 2 October 2009

test yourself

And now, ladies and gents, you may test yourself. The vocab comes from previous entries, and the answer key is HERE. But I don't think you'll need it.

1. What's the name for the sport discipline shown below:

original photo HERE

2. If you want to express the same meaning in a different manner, you can add the phrase:

a. in another word

b. in other words

c. in the other words

d. in another's words

3. Don't worry that your project didn't work, you can always ___________________

a. start from start

b. start from the line

c. start from scratch

d. start from zero

4. What's the English word for the device that cleans rain and dirt from the windscreen of your car?

5. Choose the best description for the photo below:

original photo HERE

a. they line up at the start

b. they start at the line

c. they line the start up

d. they start up the line

Thursday, 1 October 2009

rain on my windscreen

By the time I left home this morning, they had already been gone. My windscreen wipers.
I checked on wiki if anybody had seen them. It turns out they’re quite famous:

"A common windscreen wiper arm and blade. "
The thief actually left the arms, took only the blades with him.

"A windscreen wiper (windshield wiper in North America) is a device used to wipe rain and dirt from a windscreen. Almost all motor vehicles, including trains, aircraft and watercraft, are equipped with windscreen wipers, which are usually a legal requirement."
Well, as for my car - not anymore.

and "Windscreen wiper on a parked car."

Now a distant memory.

They have a history:

"Inventor J. H. Apjohn devised a method of moving two brushes up and down on a vertical plate glass windscreen in 1903. Mary Anderson is said to have invented the windscreen wiper swinging arm in the United States, where she patented the idea in 1903. The idea was initially met with resistance, but was a standard feature on all American cars by 1916. "
I gotta go now, have to find some auto parts and accessories store.

windscreen wipers - wycieraczki
arm - tu: ramię wycieraczki
blade - tu: pióro wycieraczki
motor vehicle - pojazd mechaniczny
watercraft - pojazd wodny
as for my car - jeśli chodzi o moje auto
devise - wymyslić
brush - szczotka
was met with resistance - napotkał opór
auto parts store - sklep z częściami samochodowymi