How can grammar improve your summer work experience?

My students wandered in — late, fewer than usual, not as bright and bouncy as usual, but faithful to their weekly summer English class.

“What are the advantages to working during the summer?”, I asked them, perhaps a little precociously. They looked at me like I was out of my mind, so I explained.

“This is the first time in 15 years I’m working during the summer. As a schoolteacher, I usually have the summer off”. They leant in. I continued.

“So, I was thinking about it the other day and was thinking about what was positive about working while others are on vacation”.

I listed as an example, socializing with colleagues, having fun listening to music or playing games while learning, having an extra reason to get up and get dressed in the morning…

The two answers they gave me were a) money and b) there are no positive sides to working during the summer.

Oh boy! Back to the title of the article: how can grammar improve your summer work experience?

What about a little lesson in modals? Let’s take the three-letter modal: can.

What can you do?

I agree, it’s no fun when you have to pick up after your colleague who’s gone to Italy for two weeks, or have lunch in a cafeteria that’s quieter than usual, or go the coffee machine and realize you’re standing there alone instead of having a great conversation about cars, the kids or your latest purchases at Costco.

But on the other hand, if you look a little closer there may be some perks to working in semi-isolation:

You can concentrate more, you can get to know a new colleague or two you hadn’t noticed before, you can catch up (WOW! Yes!), you can find a new way to do things, you can enjoy your lunch outside, and the list goes on.

What do you think? What do you find you can do during the slower summer months that the frantic pace of the fall-winter season would never allow?  

Cheers, and keep learning!

Claire :o)

3 Reasons to Savor the Summer Solstice

Got to admit it, I didn’t know much about the Summer Solstice. Yet the more I Googled, the more I learned, and the more I realized that this is a date to celebrate.

1. Summer has arrived!

The word solstice comes from Latin and basically means the day the sun stands still (solstitium: sol – sun; stit – stand). Scientifically speaking, it is when in the Northern Hemisphere the sun hits its northernmost point (called aphelion), thus causing June 21 to mark the longest day, the shortest night and the beginning of summer.  

2. Love is in the air!   

Ever heard of Puck? He was the mischievous hobgoblin (a bizarre-looking fairy) who turns a man’s head into that of a donkey’s and mistakenly spreads a love potion on the wrong suitor so he falls in love with the wrong girl in Shakespeare’s comic play A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. Just think: that means he wrote an entire play just to underscore the importance of the summer solstice!

The question is: why would Shakespeare have chosen this event? He obviously knew what he was doing! In many countries in both ancient and more modern times, people celebrate courtship and romance with many rituals and traditions, such as jumping over bonfires as a couple (Sweden), floating wreaths to snag an eligible bachelor (Poland) or leaving a personal belonging beneath fig trees as they dream of marriage (Greece), or contemplate the marriage of the Earth and the Sun over the circle of rocks at Stonehenge (England).   

3. Great food abounds!  

For those who live off the earth, the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of a season of growth and imminent harvest. Spring planting and rain have prepared the crops, and the heat caused by the sun’s position above the earth means that farmers will begin harvesting soon, and enjoy the fruit of their labor, in both food and income.

Of course, if you’re an urban citizen, like I am, it means the heady delight of local market produce and country drives to purchase freshly picked fruit and vegetables that actually taste like the fruit or vegetable their physical form denotes!

I don’t know about you, but it sounds like all the ingredients for a party! Savoring warm temperatures, love and friendship, and delicious food is what summer is all about. So how are you celebrating the arrival of summer?

Cheers, and keep learning!

Claire :o)

[References: https://www.etymonline.com/word/solstice; https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/summer-solstice-world-traditions/index.html; https://www.themanual.com/culture/what-is-summer-solstice/; https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2018/06/21/summer-solstice-celebration-facts-longest-day-year/721004002/ https://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/msnd/character/puck/; https://www.space.com/june-solstice-northern-summer-2019.html; Photo Credit: Tatsiana Hrak/Shutterstock]

Have you connected today?

People matter.

With those two words, American psychologist, Chris Peterson, summarized his life research on how to enable people to go from surviving to thriving, discovering and pursuing what really what makes life worth living for them. 

In the Huffington Post Canadian edition today, publishes a video with the astounding title: The most connected generation is now also the loneliest. The ten-minute video draws the portrait of a society gone screen-happy and heart-sad.

The ten-minute video draws the portrait of a society gone screen-happy and heart-sad.

A humorous, but also thought-provoking, Ted Talk by Chris Nice, entitled A Funny Look at the Unintended Consequences of Social Media describes the side-effects of our modern society that lives in a more screen-to-face than face-to-face fashion. He ends with the startling statement: The true question is not whether technology is scary; the true question is how human are you ?

The ture question is not whether technology is scary; the true question is how human are you? – Chris Nice

In other words, the problem is not the technology, the problem is the user. Just pause for a moment to observe people walking down the sidewalk or shuffling along at your local shopping center to see how true that really is. Couples spend together time walking side by side, but both checking their phones obsessively. Mothers (or fathers) jabber animatedly on their phones while their son or daughter whimpers or whines for attention in vain. No need to go on, you’ve been there and seen that, too.

The problem? Not connecting. The solution? Get together, connect. Have you connected today? If not, read on!

The following are a few synonyms for event and some ways to make an invitation

The Event

A supper (or dinner) – some people over for an evening meal.

Gathering –        usually a larger crowd, more likely in a public venue.

Party (or house party) – some people over to chill at your house.

Pow-wow –        more informal, more fun (think barbecue, or pool party).

House party –    an evening event at home with food, drink and lots of music!

Social –               an organized event probably at a public venue.

Celebration –     a group of invited people in a public or private venue to celebrate a special event (think birthday, anniversary, graduation).

The Invite

  • What do you have anything going on this weekend?
  • Do you have any plans for Thursday after work?
  • We’re having a party on Friday evening. Can you come?
  • Let’s meet up!
  • Do you want to get together on Saturday?  

Now you – or rather, we (since I, the Inveterate Introvert, include myself here) have the means to make our weekend a live event, as opposed to a virtual one!

By the way, these lists are by no means exhaustive. What’s your favorite way to call a get-together or make an invitation?

Cheers, and keep learning!

Claire :O)

References: Chris Peterson video: https://youtu.be/DRiIAqGXLKA; Huffington post video: https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/ retrieved on June 20 2019; Chris Nice TedTalk: https://www.ted.com/talks/chuck_nice_a_funny_look_at_the_unintended_consequences_of_technology?utm_campaign=tedspread&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=tedcomshare; Photo credit: photo id#300361952/Shutterstock]

Disrupt the humdrum and go creative at the coffee machine!

You know the drill. You get to the office, leave your stuff at your desk, grab your coffee cup and head to the coffee machine. Then the conversation begins.

  • Hey Charles! How are you?
  • Oh, you know, busy usual.

Or:

  • Hey Laurence! How are you today!
  • Not bad, you?

Or:

  • Good morning, Simon! How are you this morning?
  • Uhhh… fine thanks, you?

Woah, woah, woah! How can we dress up these dry pieces of toast? Where’s the jam? Where’s the honey?

There are so many ways to dress up your answer – unless of course, you don’t feel like talking! In that case, let me suggest you not even go to the coffee machine! The coffee machine is THE place to chill and chat with your local office fauna.

Let’s look at some ways you could add some pizazz to keep the conversation going!

Response A. Oh, you know, busy as usual.

  • I’m swamped.
  • I’m in over my head!
  • I’ve got a long going on at the moment.
  • I’ve got a few things to handle today!
  • Let’s just say I won’t be bored!

 Response B. Not bad, you?

  • Thanks for asking. Is it just me or is the rain getting to everyone?
  • Good question! How are you doing?
  • Actually, I have felt better. But hey, how are you?
  • You know what? Not that great. Can we talk about it?
  • Not too sure, this morning. Tell me joke. It might cheer me up!

Response C. Fine, thank you, and you?

  • Great! I was listening to the radio on the way in. You know what I heard?
  • Fine! That was a great game last night. Did you see it?
  • Terrific! Did you see that sunshine this morning?
  • I am so excited. I got some really good news last night.
  • I’m doing well. What’s new in your life?

These are just some examples of answers you can use. They’re sure to help you connect better with your co-workers. After all, what’s a workday like without some real conversation?

So, which one will you try out tomorrow morning? Maybe you’ve even got some good answers yourself. What do you like to say?

  • Claire :O)

[Photo credit: qvasimodo art/Shutterstock]

Do you always need to have the last word?

Here’s one fancy way to do just that: use an epiphonema!

What in the world is that?

So glad you asked!  According to Dictionary.com, an epiphonema is, and I quote, “a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said“.  In other word, it’s a fancy way to have the last word!

For an example, listen in to the following conversation:

Dan: I got my bike out yesterday, and it’s already at the bike shop.

Lise: What? How come?

Dan: Well, I cleaned it all up, tuned the brakes and the gears, checked and pumped up the tires. I figured I’d go for a ride before supper, but then my phone rang. So I left my bike there and went into the house. Came back out and what do you know? My son hit my bike with his car!

Lise: Oh no! Not for real!

Dan: Yup, the best laid plans of mice and men!  

Did you notice the epiphonema?

Exactly! The last comment: the best laid plans of mice of men – refers to English poet Robert Burn’s poem To A Mouse, where he writes:  

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/gang aft a-gley.

(Modern translation: The best prepared plans of a human often go wrong.)

Shall we try another example?

Anna: Hey, Laurence! I finally submitted my application for the Master’s program.

Laurence: At long last! Alia iecta est!

In this example, Laurence ends the conversation saying alia iecta est (meaning, the die is cast, or we’ll just have to see what happens), apparently said by Seutonius to Julius Caesar as they crossed the Rubicon River to begin battle against Pompey.

There you have it! Can you think of any epiphonemas you used lately, or heard someone else use?

Have a great day, and keep learning! (Wait! Was that an epiphonema?!)

  • Claire :o)    

[Sources: https://rhetconcepts.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/epiphonema-overview/; https://www.dictionary.com/browse/the-best-laid-plans-of-mice-and-men-often-go-awry; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alea_iacta_est]

Do you believe in what you’re doing?

Why does it matter? More like: why doesn’t it matter?

I was having a conversation with one of my adult sons about personal work choices. I suppose he was trying to figure out my mindset. 

It got me thinking. I realized that at some point I made a decision to only do work that I believed in. Why?

Well, show me someone who believes in what they’re doing. Then show me someone who doesn’t believe in what they’re doing. Here’s what I came up with.

A person who believes in what they’re doing feels energized, excited, passionate, perseverant, part of something bigger than them, and positive about the future.

On the other hand, a person who doesn’t, will probably feel drained, tired, unmotivated, disconnected, anxious, overwhelmed and responsibility-bound.

Okay, then, so how do you know you’re doing what you believe in (other than how you feel)? I think you could consider these questions:

Does your work:

  • Reflect your deepest convictions?
  • Match your dearest personal values?
  • Utilize your key strengths (if you don’t know what they are, I encourage you to do the survey at the following link: https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/testcenter. Scroll down to the Via Survey of Character Strengths.)
  • Let you contribute to a mission you really care about?
  • Make you feel like you’re inching closer to your dream?

I have already been in a work situation where I thought I was doing all those things, but realized after assessing my physical and psychological well-being, that I was definitely off track. I left and have no regrets.

Life is short. It seems there isn’t enough time to do anything but what you really care about for those you really care about. In any case, how can either employee, employer or clientele benefit from a situation where a square peg is trying to fit into a round hole?

What’s your take on this: how do you know you’re doing the right job?  

Have a great week!

Cheers!

Claire :o)

[Photo credit: Shutterstock/Scott Norris Photography]

In Honour of Father’s Day

How many ways do you know how to say father in English? Three?  Five? More?!

I thought it would be à propos on this Father’s Day (note that it is Father’s, the day of father, as opposed to Fathers, plural, the day of/for fathers) to write a post on that precise question, and perhaps provide a bit of insight for English language learners who may be a bit confused at the nuances of difference.

I was amazed to find 16 synonyms listed! Just have a look at this:

ancestor                begetter                padre                    sire

dad                        daddy                    papa                     source

parent                    origin                      pop                        forebearer

predecessor          pa                          progenitor             procreator

Obviously, some are more stilted (read, formal or scientific) than others! If we are talking about ‘Dad at home’, then let’s remove ancestor, predecessor, begetter, origin, progenitor, sire, source, forebearer and procreator right away!   

That leaves us with dad, daddy, pa, padre, papa and pop. Let me explain where you would probably see them used.

Dad – that’s usually the teen or adult’s way of addressing their father. 

Daddy – we’ll leave this one for the kids!

Pa – this is another way most young people call their dad, though there may be some adults too, who still prefer using it as a particularly affectionately way of speaking of their father.

Padre – I was a little surprised to see this one here, but since I know Spanish, I suppose you would see this one in families with Hispanic roots. Correct me, any of you out there who beg to differ!

Pop – that’s a familiar way many teens and young adults refer to their fathers.   

And let’s not forget father, which is a more formal way of referring to one’s Dad.

Around my home, we called our father, Dad (daddy, when we were young). He was a great man: energetic, intelligent (often pulling out the encyclopedia to answer our questions at the dinner table), interested in us (he bought me books to satisfy my inquisitive mind as I went through phases of interest in geology, wild flowers, archaeology…), disciplined and stern (there was no point in arguing when he laid down the law!)

I miss him dearly (he passed away of cancer in 2009) and think of him most often in two specific places. One is at work, since he was an electrical engineer who worked on the first flight simulators ever at CAE in Montreal, and I teach English to employees working in high tech. The other is in the garden, when I’m pulling out the weeds, pruning the hedges or tending my flowerbed. Dad loved to garden!

I am thankful to carry his name as his adopted daughter. I wouldn’t be what I am or have what I have today if it wasn’t for his patience, love and guidance.

So, on this Father’s Day, 2019, I pay him homage. Thanks, Harold E. Ford, for giving me a name and a future.   

Whatever the name you call your own father, I hope that you, readers, had an opportunity to thank him for his input in your life. I am well-aware that some people had experiences much less than ideal growing up, and I am so sorry for you. However, I invite you to look for the blessings in the input your male parent did give you: a life, opportunities, the possibility to change the past and do better.

I leave you with one question: What’s your favourite name for your father (or father figure, if such is the case)?

  • Claire :o)