Question: How do two of the things you do compare?

We generally have more than one kind of task to do at work or at college. For instance, we might need to write up our research and then make a presentation, which are two entirely different kettles of fish (“2 versch. Töpfe mit Fischen” = 2 Paar Stiefel). Or we might need to manage a group of people, but also do some highly specialized work ourselves. Each of those elements of work has its own challenges and rewards.

In my case, as a provider of language services I translate, write and teach, and each of those requires very different skills. I have to change my mindset when I go from one to the other. Let me just compare writing and teaching: When I write I’ve got an audience in my head, and need to use my imagination to figure out what the reader will want and need. When I teach, I do some of the same kind of imagining in advance, but I don’t fix things absolutely. Instead, I wait for immediate feedback, and just need to be very awake and aware to respond to what I see and hear. Another difference is that when I write, I can make corrections once I see the whole thing. But as a teacher, once you’re in the situation, it’s live. This is something I really enjoy. And finally, when I write I’m responsible for the content. When I teach, my students and I share that responsibility.

So: I’d like to invite you to think about two such types of work you do:

  • Where are the challenges?
  • Where do the rewards lie?

Essay models for this question

This could be a nice essay question for a 6 paragraph essay: 1 introducing your subject, then 4 dedicated to the challenges and rewards of the first and second type of work, and then your final paragraph summarizing something that your reflections have led you to recognize.

An alternative, 5 paragraph essay could take 3 differences between the two types (as I did in the text above) and devote a paragraph to each, plus the introductory and closing paragraph.

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Question: What’s your summer picture?


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The summer break is coming to an end for us. We’re packing up and going home after our very long holiday. This picture summarizes what was nicest about the summer for me. Have you got a summer picture to share?

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Question: What are you conservative about?

I did something for the very first time in my life this past week, and you’re going to laugh at me. “What,” you’ll say, “it was her first time?” You see, I may be relatively radical and I do love to experiment and try things out, but there are some things about modern life that just rub me the wrong way. And so I’m incredibly conservative in some ways.

I’d like to share my conservative side with you in this week’s podcast… and I hope you share yours with me and the other readers, too.

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Question: So what’s your island?

We’re heading over to Drummond Island to my family’s cabin place, but I’m going with very mixed feelings. First of all, my mother is too sick to travel there, and I got us both, Helmut and me, tickets primarily to see her. I don’t know when I’ll be able to see her now. Then there’s the minor issue of the weather, which has been dreadful. But a little more worrisome is that my brother Adam has opted to give the horrible old Toyota a new battery-driven life, to save us all money. When I saw it last year it was already decomposing. Ye gods! Wish us luck.

Drummond Island is as down-home and funky as it gets. It’s a place where the best bar serves beer in jam jars and where an older man once tried to chat me up by showing me his teeth and saying “they’re all mine”. It’s also a place where neighbors hang out together and where people you don’t remember will welcome you just because they know your last name. My father’s family started going there in the late 20s or early 30s, not sure which. Anyhow, in this world of transient relationships, it’s a small miracle, and I love that place. I only hope that Helmut survives the three weeks that we spend there. – I’ll be posting our adventures, naturally.

So: Do you have an island like that, be it an actual island or a down-home place you will always want to return to at some point, for some time? Leave a GPS point in the comments, and say a few words about the place, will you?

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Question: What’s your New Frontier?

Today is the 40th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon and I’m up there too today, somehow. Kennedy called space the New Frontier, and that was certainly what it felt like 40 years ago. I’m leaving out the Cold War context here to focus on social change for the moment. The Apollo missions showed us that the moon was a cold, dusty place and how beautiful and inviting Earth looked from outer space. I used to watch Star Trek, and the inside of Starship Enterprise looked cozier and cozier as the crew continued “To boldly go where no man has gone before” – a grammar structure, by the way, that drove grammarians nuts. This was the era of progressivism. No matter what your political leanings were, you believed that the world would become a better place if only people would buy into your mission. And you know, just look at the trailers to the two main Star Trek series and you’ll see what the many real frontiers in that era were.

The first trailer of 1966 is all about Captain Kirk and his two reports, but shows nothing of the men. All you see is empty space and a modern spaceship. When the series restarted everything was different. In the second trailer for the Next Generation series of 1987 with Captain Picard space is magical and beautiful, the man’s voiceover is emotional, and it’s clearly all about the people on board the ship, the men and the women, the ethnic mix, the mix of natives of the known world and assimilated aliens. The issues depicted over the years included war and peace, personal loyalty, getting over authoritarianism and dealing with leadership, class warfare and economics, racism and religion, sexism and human rights and feminism, and the role of technology, which was changing. Have a look:

1966:

1987:

The progressive age may be looking a little dated, but the whole concept of a trek and a mission is still very much alive.  So back to the occasion itself: Those people setting out on the Apollo mission to land a man on the moon didn’t know how they were going to do it, and they frankly didn’t have the big picture. But they did it. This is something that I find very heartening. I really think we are an ingenious race and will always figure out how to make things work. But we do need frontiers to aim for, and the means to do it, and sometimes a visionary to push us.

Do you have a personal frontier? What are you going for?

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Question: Where and what is “home”?

“There’s no place like home.” That was Dorothy’s homesick mantra in the Wizard of Oz, and saying it got her back to Kansas. For her, “home” was where she was from, and where she wanted to be. But I find it quite difficult to say just where home is. Is it where we are now, or where we are from, or something else entirely? Two of the best ways into small talk are “So, where are you from?” and “Where do you live?” But even little innocent questions like that can open up a whole can of worms. These days you might find yourself living in a virtual home someplace between BlueTooth, Minnesota and WiFi, Israel.

Let me tell you about where I am at home in this week’s podcast. I can tell you: It doesn’t have much to do with my street address. And what about you? I’d love to hear from you.

Life’s a voyage that’s homeward bound. – Herman Melville
Where thou art, that is home. – Emily Dickinson (thou art = you are)
A man’s homeland is wherever he prospers. – Aristophanes

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Question: Which thinker taught you to think?

Out on the streets of Tehran the opposition is protesting, disputing the June 12 election. The brutality being used against them by the riot police is just horrible. I’ve read that this election and the US election of 2000 are both being discussed as “stolen elections” and being compared, as if they were shades of the same kind of thing. Now, that’s very misguided. Come on. If Americans had taken to the streets in 2000, they would not have been shot down. The stolen US election of 2000 was very, very unfortunate! But the stolen Iranian election of 2009 is a crime against civil society. It’s a real pity when people start comparing apples and oranges.

I don’t pretend to be a great thinker. Going to college didn’t go to my head, but the experience did teach me to use it. So I’d like to ask you: Which thinker taught you to think? For me, one of the most important thinkers was Jürgen Habermas, who turned 80 last Thursday. His belief in our communicative competence and his theory of communicative reason influenced the way I think and live. Let me tell you about him in this week’s podcast.

I’d love to read what you have to say about a person who taught you how to think, and why that person is important to you.

Think! Use your head!
If something goes to your head (in den Kopf steigen) you become arrogant.
A heady experience is one that leaves you excited and high (berauschend). College was a heady experience for me.

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