Nice post on verbal self-defense in the workplace

January 28th, 2008
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Jay Morrissey blogs on personal development issues, and much of it is about communication skills. He writes with a refreshingly simple, straightforward style that would be appropriate down to pre-intermediate students I would imagine, and even high elementary level with support such as vocab pre-teaching.

There are some nice functional phrases for dealing with verbal attacks in this post.

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Leadership styles and communication: Tactician vs Inspirer

January 8th, 2008
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Here’s an interesting post on Found|READ on being a “Tactician” vs being an “Inspirer”, and how that is reflected in the presentation styles of Clinton and Obama respectively, with links to video of both. This could provide some great class discussion, and Obama’s speech is masterful as always.

Also interesting is how Obama focuses his message: it’s about the audience. Rarely do you see a politician decline to talk about himself or herself. In Obama’s message the key word is “you”.

Another comment on Obama’s communication style:

Yet if Clinton’s answers come off as well-intended lectures, Obama is offering soaring sermons and generational opportunity. In 1960, the articulate Adlai Stevenson compared his own oratory unfavorably with John F. Kennedy’s. “Do you remember,” Stevenson said, “that in classical times when Cicero had finished speaking, the people said, ‘How well he spoke,’ but when Demosthenes had finished speaking, the people said, ‘Let us march.’ ” At this hour, Obama is the Democrats’ Demosthenes.

Intercultural communication note: the context of these speeches is a political campaign in the US, so naturally there is a fair amount of nationalistic…I guess “fervor” could be the word. This may be off putting to some students, especially in Europe, where the culture of political communication is more emotionally restrained in my experience (and read the comments here.)

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Meetings and discussions resource

December 29th, 2007
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I can imagine a lot of ways Debatepedia could be used as a resource for higher level BE classes, especially for skills such as meetings, discussions, presentation Q & A, and negotiations. Whatever the class goals are, it’d be good to work on “polite disagreement” – debate classes can get contentious in my experience, and it’d be good to practice “how to keep your cool in English”!Debatepedia calls for user-generated content from its community:

As a wiki like Wikipedia and an open-source movement, Debatepedia’s socially important content is developed by editors like you – students, citizens, debaters, professors, experts, and thinkers. Here’s why you should join our community of editors

Its mission:

[Debatepedia] improves your ability to think through the complicated issues and debates you care about, take a confident stand, and take action as a citizen. An important way to take action is by participating as an editor on the site, where you can create new debates, build and organize pro and con arguments, and present supporting evidence (quotes, studies, links) from your readings all so that you can better deliberate. Your efforts, in turn, will also improve the ability of a wide audience of citizens, leaders, and decision-makers to deliberate and draw reasoned conclusions. As such, we believe Debatepedia will help fix an apparent deficit of balanced reasoning and deliberation within the public and among leaders today.

I’ve re-read that last sentence a few times now, and each time I smile (which is probably a prelude to either laughing or crying).

Hat tip to Jeffrey Hill of The English Blog.

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Ugly American, or defending individual rights?

May 12th, 2006
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Here’s a nice simple guide for US teachers (or anyone) travelling or working abroad, on how to adapt to a culture and not reinforce cultural stereotypes (right-hand column half-way down: “download free abridged version”). Many expats may find it obvious or simplistic but for newbies it’s a good start. (Via Fast Company Blog).

I managed a language school in Buenos Aires for 8 of the 18 years I lived in Latin America, and probably recruited over a hundred teachers directly from the US. It was interesting to see how each individual adjusted to the new culture and managed the inevitable cultural baggage that they brought with them. I think language teachers in general are culturally flexible, for a variety of reasons: sensitivity to language, facility at SLA, cultural curiosity, etc. And because they are in the new culture for longer than the typical two week vacation, they are more motivated to integrate.

What was also interesting was to see how longer-term expats differed in degree of cultural adaptation. Some fit so easily into the Argentine culture that they essentially “became Argentine”: friends, activities, partner/family, language level and sophistication, L2 primarily for interactional as well as transactional goals, understanding and assimilation of folkways. Other long-term expats encircled themselves in a US cultural bubble: other ex-pat friends, only watched CNN and Sony Entertainment Television, ate at Mickey-D’s, limited (and mainly transactional) language ability. One 10-year expat I knew (worked for a big US multinational) refused to learn or speak Spanish for the entire 10 years he was there – a truly amazing feat.

I was somewhere in the middle, tending toward assimilation but keeping some personal idiosyncrasies that are archtypical of US culture (is “archtypical idiosyncrasy” an oxymoron? …probably). One of these idiosyncrasies: I refuse to accept the petty abuse that individuals receive from large institutions and corporations. Anytime Citibank or Dell or American Express or my insurance company or a government agency tries to step on me I don’t let them: I politely point out the mistake and work my way up the supervisor sequence to get a solution or register a formal complaint.

I encountered two problems with this when I lived abroad. First, when in another country, this behaviour isn’t seen as a justifiable defense of one’s individual rights – I was seen as an example of US arrogance and entitlement. So, in order to not appear as the ugly American, I would usually just shut up and take it. But as a result something bad happened, so slowly and insidiously that at first I didn’t notice it: after several years of suffering in silence I started thinking, subconciously at first, then overtly: things aren’t this bad in the States, big companies aren’t as screwed up in the States, they treat their customers better in the States, etc. And that’s the second problem, because this line of thinking is dangerous; the “it’s better at home” thought is a huge barrier to understanding a culture.

Well, I moved back to the US a year ago: it’s just as bad here. Institutions and corporations try to abuse the little guy just as often. The difference is that I can complain incessantly without fear of reinforcing the ugly American stereotype. They just think I’m a jerk, not an ugly American.

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Email writing resource

September 25th, 2005
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Here’s a nice short text suitable for an email writing class or two.

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English360 site redesign

July 18th, 2005
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Well, we’re online with our new website redesign…you’re looking at it. We’ve still got a little tweaking to do, mostly with the text, but we’re pretty much there.

A big round of applause for our website team is definitely in order:

+ Cameron Moll for his design wizardry. Cameron led the project and really delivered, combining attention to design detail with a big-picture perspective. And I love the new logo he designed for us.

+ David, Manuel, and Vito of Venecorp in Caracas for their brilliant back-end engineering (you’ll see much more from them in our upcoming web application).

+ Carson McComas of Frogbody, for his adroit project management skills. Carson combines web savvy and solid tech skills with a get-it-done practicality that is exactly what we need to keep us in line at English360.

They did a great job. And you’ll be seeing more from the team really soon, when we start beta testing our online needs analysis application.

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