WordTraveler

Traveling, Teaching, and Thinking

Tea, Chai, Cha, Te,

Do you prefer tea or coffee? I favor tea. However,  I am in the minority in the US for having that opinion. 75% of Americans favor coffee, while only 25% would rather have tea.

tea and coffee around the world

If you go to the actual link, you can interact with the infographic and see the percentages in each country.

Tea is overwhelmingly embedded into cultures.  It speaks of hospitality, of tradition, of history. The tea ceremonies of Japan, high tea in England, the offering of spicy chai in India when a neighbor visits.

It is said that tea was first discovered in China in the Yunnan Province probably before 1000 BC, so tea has been around for quite some time. The legend is that Emperor  Shen Nong was boiling water to drink when some leaves fell into his water from a nearby bush, and he decided he liked this new drink. Tea traveled from China into other areas of Asia, then to Europe, and then on to America.

Did you know that tea is grown on a bush? If left untended, the bushes turn into tea trees, which can grow to be 50 feet tall. The tea fields are beautiful because of the arrangements of the rows.

I had the chance to visit the Longjing (Dragon Well) tea fields in my Chinese hometown of Hangzhou. It was amazing to see the beginnings of a beverage I love so much- the picking of the leaves, the roasting.

Longjing Tea

Chinese Woman Picking Tea in Tea Field

American drinking green tea in China

Tea was constantly offered to me in China- at meetings, in people’s homes, from complete strangers! It is a way to connect with people, a way to show hospitality, and a way to socialize with friends. While bars are the most common places to consume a beverage in the West, most Eastern countries spend their time in teashops. I wish America was more of a tea culture still like it was in the revolutionary days. I need more people who can understand my need for a good cup of black tea with milk and sugar in the morning! I’ve even had my girl friends over to my house in the US for tea parties, and we really had a lot of fun. I am trying to single-handedly bring back the tea culture to the US!

American girls drinking tea

Iced tea was invented at the 1904 World’s Fair when a tea plantation owner couldn’t sell his hot tea to fair-goers because of the high temps, so he dumped a bunch of ice in his tea, and it became a craze. And now southerns can’t live without it! I have an IV of sweet tea that is pumped into my bloodstream daily. Southerns in America use sweet iced tea to show hospitality to their guests, much like the hot tea traditions around the world. In fact, 80% of tea consumed in the US is served cold.

Tea is thought to have quite a few health benefits, especially green tea. Cancer prevention is one of the greatest of these benefits. Tea may help cardiovascular health, improve metabolism, and help fight viruses. Drink tea for your health!

As a language teacher, I’ve always wondered about the word “tea” and its origins.  I’ve always heard that tea comes from the Chinese word, but I know the Chinese word is cha, which sounds nothing like tea. So, one day my boss and I, the language nerds we are, looked it up online. Apparently, it comes from a southern China dialect in which it is “teh” or “te”, which is how we have the English word tea. The word  probably traveled out of a port in Xiamen and moved on to Europe.  However, many languages follow suit with the more Chinese-sounding cha, while many middle eastern or western Asian countries stick with a variant of chai.

German- tee                    Spanish- te               Swedish- te

French- the                      Italian- te                 Indonesia- teh

 

Korean-cha                      Persian- cha            Tibetan- ja

Japanese- cha                  Thai- cha                  Punjabi- chah

 

Aramaic- chai                Ukrainian- chai        Turkish- cay

 

Only an English teacher would make a chart about the etymology of the word tea! Please don’t tell anyone I did this! I’ll never admit it. :] 

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water. Now can you tell me if you prefer tea or coffee?

Please share on your social media if you think someone you know might enjoy reading about tea!

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Why Do Asians Always Do The Peace Sign?!

I sent a few pictures to my Dad of my recent field trip with my ESL students. He said, “Why do Asians always do the peace sign in pictures? They always did it when you lived in China.”

Anji, China

In China

 

“When you visited Korea and Japan, they did it too. “

Koreans Doing Peace Sign

In Korea

Japanese people doing the v

In Japan

“They do it in the US. What does it mean and why did it start?”

I was able to explain that it actually is a “v” for victory, not a peace sign. But what does it really mean, and when did it start? I wasn’t able to give an explanation. So, I thought I’d do a little research on the topic.

The V sign began to be used during World War II by Allied troops.  Victor de Laveleye, former Belgian Minister of Justice, suggested the V sign on his 1941 BBC news broadcast as a way to rally support for the war. It spread through Belgium and moved on to France and the Netherlands and eventually all of Europe. Even Winston Churchill used the V for victory sign.

US President Richard Nixon went on to use the V sign for victory in the Vietnam War. However, protesters and hippies who were against the Vietnam War, changed the v from “victory”  to “peace” by holding up the same sign but saying “peace” as they did it as a subtle protest of the war. They wanted this hand gesture to change from its meaning of war to a meaning of positivity and happiness. 

The V sign probably became popular in Asia through an ice skater named Janet Lynn, who was a peace activist. She was often photographed in the Japanese media in the 1970s doing this sign.  Although the Japanese knew the V sign as victory because of WWII, Janet Lynn often displayed this sign as peace.

Another story says that a famous Japanese actor named Jun Inoue starred in some camera commercials in the 70′s where he flashed the V sign, thinking it was popular in the West, and it caught on from those commercials.  All in all, a lot of Asia copies Japan. And more importantly, Asia copies the West. Whether or not it was from seeing this ice skater make the V sign and thinking it was a popular thing to do in the West, we may never know.

China, Taiwan, and South Korea are also well known for doing this sign in photos. They say that the symbol means “yeah!”, like they are feeling good. But, really, Asians do so many poses for photos. They have the need to do hand gestures  in almost every informal photo.

There is one that guys do in China that means handsome. They might even just throw up a fist.

Chinese guy pose for photo

My students Cole and Soul doing the handsome pose and a fist

 

When girls do the V sign, it is usually close to their face. My Chinese friends told me it is a good chance for them to cover up some of their fat face. (Having a fat face is a big issue that many Asian girls dread).

Asian girl doing peace sign

 

I had to include this photo of me and my friend Ben in a bowling alley in China. Here I am being all fierce and competitive, and he told me he was doing a pose like a flower!

bowling in China

 

I even started doing the V sign after living in China for 2 years and traveling there in the years after.  It just became natural. In fact, it was nice to actually have something to do in a photo instead of just standing there awkwardly with my hands down to my sides.

Americans in China

Not a single Chinese person in sight, but here we are in China doing the V sign

 

American and Chinese on Great Wall of China

 

So the general rule of thumb is for that every month you live in Asia, you are 5% more likely to throw up your V sign in a photo. And, actually, it can be kind of fun. :] So I’m still not sure I fully understand why Asians do the V sign, but hey, sometimes with cultural differences, we don’t need to and can’t fully understand certain phenomenons, and there’s a real beauty in that.

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Spritz and Spreeder

I just learned about speed reading apps, specifically  Spritz and Spreeder. It only shows one words at a time, and each word is in the same spot on the screen. This allows us to speed through reading. Spritz’s website explains it much better than I can:

“Reading is inherently time consuming because your eyes have to move from word to word and line to line. Traditional reading also consumes huge amounts of physical space on a page or screen, which limits reading effectiveness on small displays. Scrolling, pinching, and resizing a reading area doesn’t fix the problem and only frustrates people. Now, with compact text streaming from Spritz, content can be streamed one word at a time, without forcing your eyes to spend time moving around the page. Spritz makes streaming your content easy and more comfortable, especially on small displays. Our “Redicle” technology enhances readability even more by using horizontal lines and hash marks to direct your eyes to the red letter in each word, so you can focus on the content that interests you. Best of all, Spritz’s patent-pending technology can integrate into photos, maps, videos, and websites to promote more effective communication.”

The average reading speed is about 220 words per minute. I’m a pretty quick reader, so I’d say my reading speed is somewhere around 300-350. Speed readers can help you read up to 600 words per minute! When I tried it, I was able to keep up at 600 and comprehend. I think I would need to practice though to read articles or whole books that quickly. I’d probably stick to about 500 wpm.

Another similar site is Spreeder. It’s a little more advanced than Spritz, because they are actually ready for you to copy and paste whatever you want to read on their site and choose your reading speed. And, it’s free!

http://www.spritzinc.com/

http://spreeder.com/

I really want to try this. I could read journal articles for work a lot faster. I could read news articles online for fun at a quicker speed.

Have you ever used a speed reader before? What speed did you use?

I really want to show this to my ESL reading class and even my domestic students. Everyone could use a little boost in their reading speed, especially students, who are required to read so much!

 

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And The Mountains Echoed

 

reading and traveling

 

I truly believe this about reading. It’s been about 1 year since I’ve had an overseas trip. I’m starting to get that itch. But, alas, work is standing in my way. So I’ve been escaping via books.

I just finished reading the book “And The Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. This novel allowed me to visit Afghanistan, when I don’t think I’d normally ever go there. I learned more about the Afghan culture, just like I did with Hosseini’s previous books “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns”.

The title of this novel struck me as being so beautifully poetic. I had that thought every time I opened the book. In the acknowledgments, the author mentioned that the title was inspired by a William Blake poem, so now I understand its poetry.

I really do relish going somewhere by reading. I’ve been to India several times, Italy, Mexico, Hawaii, and so many other amazing places I’ve yet to visit. Where have you traveled via a book? What book was it? I’d love some recommendations.

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I’ll Take One Order of Mice Please!

For  the ESL courses at our school, we generally use textbooks that are specifically made for English language learners. However, there is one exception- our reading textbook, and it has proven to be hilarious on some days for us.

In reading class yesterday, we were doing an activity in which we needed to understand how topics are related so that we can better comprehend how paragraphs are organized. The activity asked us to mark out the word that does not belong in the group and then to say a very specific topic in which all the words could belong.

The words were cows, sheep, pigs, mice, goats, and chickens. The students should have marked out the word mice and the topic was “farm animals that are kept for meat.” My Chinese student thought this was a very poor question, because, in fact, some Chinese people do eat mice, especially in Guangzhou province. We probably laughed for ten minutes about this. So, all textbooks are not created equal. ;) 

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1st Street Urban Exploring

You know me and my Instawalks. Today I did one in this run-down part of town that has some abandoned buildings- a little urban exploring if you will.

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Helping ELLs in the Mainstream College Classroom

Let’s face it. Most college professors have no  training in working with English language learners. So in order to help my colleagues better support the ELLs in their classroom, I sent an e-mail to all the faculty and adjuncts with the just a few ways in which they can help these students.

Give extra time to take a quiz or a test.

>For these students, it takes much longer for them to read and comprehend what the questions are asking. If you feel comfortable, please give them extra time.

Do not write in cursive.

> I have had several international students come in and ask me to read the feedback from their teachers at the end of their papers. Most people who learn English only learn print letters, not cursive, so cursive is usually unreadable to them.

Use visual aids, gestures, and write on the board as often as possible.

>Writing key words and even homework assignments on the board is so helpful for these students. Showing instead of only telling can really assist these students as well.

Simplify your language and slow your speed.

>This does not mean you have to “dumb down” your language. Try to use less slang and idioms, which hinder comprehension for these students. Try to watch the speed of your speech. I know I am guilty of speed talking sometimes when I get going in a lecture!

Offer supplementary materials.

>This might be offering an outline of the lecture of a copy of the PowerPoint. Listening comprehension is often most difficult for these students, so they may have trouble catching all the details of your lectures. Introduce them to a top student in the class who would be willing to share their class notes.

Get to know your international students.

>Take a minute to talk one-on-one with these students, so you can gauge their English ability and their comprehension of class material. You may think they are understanding and keeping up, but most of the time, to be polite, they will just nod and pretend to understand. Did you know that in some cultures, especially Asian cultures, it’s rude to tell the teacher you don’t understand, because you are basically accusing the teacher of not teaching well?

These were just a few quick and dirty tips I wanted the faculty to know. I hope you can make use of a few of them too if you have ELLs in your mainstream classroom. Are there any you would add? Please share with others that might find this helpful.

 

Foreign Students, ESL

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How I Made my Students Really Mad

This semester, I am back to teaching a composition course for college freshmen. Apart from learning in-depth about research writing, we also read the play A Raisin in the Sun in College Writing II.  This play took stage in 1959, and it focused on an African American family in Chicago. It showed what life was like for blacks in the 50′s and 60′s. I wanted my students to know a little more about the civil rights movement and also the discrimination and segregation of this time period in American history.

To begin the lesson, I asked everyone with blue or green eyes to sit on the left side of the room and everyone with brown eyes to sit on the right side of the room. They were expecting a quiz on the introduction to the book, so they were very confused about what I was doing. I explained that instead of a quiz, we would be working on something else for which they would receive points. I gave the blue/green eyed students a page copied from the dictionary and told them they had to copy it letter-for-letter, word-for-word. They all glared at me with a look that seemed to say -Uh, are you serious? The brown-eyed students seemed scared to get their assignment next. However, they were relieved when I told them they would be working on a word search puzzle about pizza. As they were working, I told them to be sure and find the word pepperoni. I went over to the other side of the room and told that students that they better finish the whole page. I let this go on for about 3 minutes, then I finally allowed them to stop. I asked them how they felt knowing that the other half of the room was working on a different assignment. The light-eyed group said they felt angry at me and at the other group of students. They said they wondered what they did to deserve the terrible assignment. The brown-eyed group said they felt badly but not badly enough to exchange assignments with anyone or to even ask questions about why the assignments were different. I did have one blue-eyed guy ask me why he had to do the dictionary assignment and not the pizza one. It all worked perfectly. I asked my students to relate their feelings and the way I treated them to how Africa-Americans felt in the past. I think it really hit home with them and made a good point.

I then went on to show 2 YouTube videos. This first video really makes me emotional. I really can’t believe this happened so recently in my own country. I can’t fathom why people thought they were better solely based on their skin color. This video is a general overview of everything that happened. It’s about 5 minutes long.

The second video is about Bull Connor, who greatly influenced the civil rights movement, because of the terrible things he allowed to happen in Birmingham, Alabama while he was the commissioner of public safety for the city. It’s about 10 minutes long and really worth the watch.

After the activity, the videos, and a discussion, I really felt my students were ready to read A Raisin in the Sun and fully understand the context and the time period. I hope that no matter the grade level, this recap of my lesson might be helpful for you to teach about the civil rights movement, especially since it is black history month. Share with me some ideas you’ve used to teach this same topic.

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Russian Police Officers Are Trying to “Get Lucky”

Like many people, I was interested to watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The opening ceremony for the winter Olympics is usually not as grand as the one for the summer Olympics, but Russia really wanted to try and outdo its buddy, China. I think they put on a high-quality performance, which highlighted Russia’s contribution to dance, literature, and music. It was strange at times, but I think, overall, it stayed pretty classy with the ballet and the opera. However, they didn’t show one very, um, interesting performance on television here in the US. There was a choir of Russian police officers who sang Daft Punk featuring Pharrell’s hit from the summer “Get Lucky”. Not only is the performance very awkward, but the song choice is very awkward, in my opinion. And as an ESL teacher, I have a theory on it. They chose an upbeat song to try and show Russia’s fun, carefree side. However, they really have no idea what the song is about! Most non-native English speakers know the word “lucky”. In fact, luck is often talked more about in countries outside the US, because people strongly believe in luck.So, perhaps the Russians were thinking this was a fun song about luck. Maybe they thought this song would bring luck to their Olympic athletes. Here are the lyrics to the chorus of the song:

We’re up all night ’til the sun
We’re up all night to get some
We’re up all night for good fun
We’re up all night to get lucky

This song is talking about a hook-up, about sex! I am almost completely sure that the Russians don’t realize this. They don’t know that “getting some” and “getting lucky” are synonymous with casual sex. How could you know these idioms unless you’ve learned them before? I highly doubt that the Russians would want their country to be known for police officers singing about having sex as they present themselves to the world during the opening ceremony. It also surprised me because the Russians are so conservative about many things, sex and homosexuality being just a few of them. Maybe this is something only an ESL teacher would think of; I don’t know.

Here is the video:

It’s strange to watch. Some members of the choir look like they were forced at gunpoint to sing this song. And there are some parts that I can’t quite understand what they’re saying. What are your thoughts on the performance? Are you a non-native English speaker who didn’t know what “get lucky” or “get some” really meant? If you’re an ESL teacher, do you think your students would know?I don’t think most of mine would. Oh well, I hope those police officers get lucky from being so famous for their performance! Share this post with those who you’d like to see this fun performance!

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The Great Language Game

A travel site I follow on Facebook shared a link to a great game. It plays someone speaking in a certain language, and you choose what language it is from 3 or 4 choices. While I wouldn’t say I’m good at learning languages, I definitely have an ear for languages. I can usually tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. I can tell if a language is from Eastern rather than Western Europe. I can figure out that a language being spoken is Middle Eastern. It’s actually kind of strange. Anyway, if you like languages, culture, or travel, give this game a try by

clicking here.

I got a score of 900 on my first try! I’m kinda proud of myself if I do say so. Play the game, and comment with your score. Share this post with others who you want to challenge to this game.

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