Blacksmithing Words With TH: Mr. Smith’s Guide in Using TH-Words in English

blacksmith

When I first came to Germany in 1999, one of the main struggles I saw and even witnessed myself in learning a foreign language was the way words were pronounced. In particular, words in English that have TH in them happen to be a struggle among Germans and other foreigners whose native language is not English. The classic example I can pull out straight away was the problem pronouncing my last name, Smith. Even though Smith is one of the top three most popular family names in the world (along with Johnson and Brown), non-native people had a lot of difficulties pronouncing my last name. Instead of Smith (where the tongue is nudged behind the lower teeth partially blocking air flow), my last name was pronounced as the following:

Smizzzz, Schmiet, Smit, Schmizz, Smis (like Swiss Miss) and Smif (like Smurf).  Funny, isn’t it. 😉  Furthermore, many insisted that my last name should be Schmidt instead of Smith.  Sorry to disappoint you, but we have a lot of Schmidt in the US and Canada, plus a beer bearing that name (which comes from my homestate of Minnesota) 🙂 :

To put it bluntly, the name is SMITH! Even more so because we have several words, whose ending is the same as my last name.

Words with TH are indeed the most difficult to pronounce in the English language- just like with the German CH, Z and all the vowels with the two dots on there. This has to do with the fact that we have two different types of TH pronunciation: the voiced (which sounds like a bee buzzing behind your teeth) and the voiceless, which produced a slight steaming sound with the tongue behind your teeth. A video below better explains how the voiced and voiceless TH’es work from a phonetical point of view:

Also important to note from a historian’s perspective that nearly every second word used during the Middle Ages had TH in there, but mostly at the beginning or end of each word, such as doth, hath, thou, cometh, etc. Many of these words over time have been transformed to the ones we use in our modern time, which meant the THes were dropped. Yet even though we’ll find our TH-words in one out of ten sentences, they are there for people to use, even though practicing can be a torture, which brings up this Tongue Twister activity.  Consisting of both the video and the sentences to practice, this activity will give you amples of opportunities to work with the TH-words so that you not only know how the TH-words are pronounced but also give you the confidence needed to say them properly.

You could say that producing TH-words is like blacksmithing: you work with it until you have the right form to use. 😉

It is highly recommended to watch the video to see how the TH-words are spoken before practicing. Yet how you implement them in class or practice them in groups or at home individually depends on you, the person who wants to handle this rather difficult part of English phonetics.

So enjoy and may the TH be with you. 🙂

 

Something in a thirty-acre thermal thicket of thorns and thistles thumped and thundered threatening the three-D thoughts of Matthew the thug- although, theatrically, it was only the thirteen-thousand thistles and thorns through the underneath of his thigh that the thirty-year old thug thought of that morning.

 

There was a mammoth with the name of Thurman, who thrives in Gotha, Thuringia. The sloth slithers through at three in the morning to slither to Thorn’s thermal threading company in Furth, threading thermalware for thirty thoughtless worthless months for thirty-three Euros a month. Through thirteen months and thirty days, this mammoth threads strings from moths and makes thermal underwear. Thurman is happy.

 

Three Catholic athletes bathe in clothes in a bathtub. The thirty-somethings thoroughly thought something that’s thick through their teeths. Through their theory they thought about thieves, thugs, theocrats and heart-throbbers that thrive through their three-thousand thirty-three throwaway thermos cloth, and loath thirty times a month.

 

Thou hath throweth thy health through thy wrath with thy thick thighbone. Theoretically cometh death onto thee though Beth Smith hath saveth thy life through warmth smooth hearth.

 

The South Path is thin. The North Thruway is thick. Through thousands of thinkers, sleuths, telepaths, sociopaths and youths, badmouthing and thrashing over vermouth for the umpteenth time, is the South Path thick and the North Thruway filthy.

 

Beth’s with Ruth. Theodore’s with Faith. They’re thinking ethics. They’re thinking theology. They’re thinking myths. They’re thinking with vermouth with a twist.

 

The Moth is on meth. The moth does math. The moth thaws myths and thus they’re through with this.

 

There are thousands Smiths on Earth. The twentieth blacksmith with the thirtieth locksmith with the fortieth gunsmith with the fiftieth silversmith with the sixtieth goldsmith with the seventieth tunesmith with the eightieth coppersmith with the ninetieth songsmith with the hundredth whitesmith. Smiths ends with z, while one smith has TH.

 

Author’s note: These tongue twister stories are homemade, by the way. 😉  Feel free to add more to this list if you have some more. 🙂

 

ALSO: Check out the other tongue twisters produced by the author for you to use in class or in your personal time. Each one has a video to help you with your pronunciation. Have fun! 🙂

The Shunned: A Guide to Words with Endings of -ion, -ial, -ience, and -ian

Dining in Stein in Schleswig-Holstein: A Guide to Words with I-Consonant-E

flefi-deutschland-logo

 

 

Can Learning a Second Language Destroy Your Native Tongue?

GUEST COLUMN:

For those who have been living in a country outside your home, and have had problems forgetting some words in your own language, you’re not alone. I’ve had this experience, especially since I’ve been living in Germany for almost 20 years. But so has this guest columnist, and here’s a short explanation for this. You don’t necessarily lose your language, but you integrate it into the one of your current country of residency. Enjoy! 🙂

Source: Can Learning a Second Language Destroy Your Native Tongue?

 

 

Genre of the Week: Mein Enkel

dscf6633

Communication- the key to eliminating misunderstandings, solving problems and bringing people together. When one thinks of communication, we think of two things: a letter to a penpal or best friend living hundreds of kilometers/ miles away and talking to friends and family in a closed setting. I also think of communication as enjoying a cup of coffee while getting to know new people, talking with colleagues over lunch in a cafeteria like this one (this photo above was taken at the University of Bayreuth during my time as an English teacher in 2010), or even talking to parents and family members over the phone to see how life is like back home in Minnesota.

When the term communication comes to mind these days, we have the Smartphone, facebook and instagram. While they are meant to bring us together, they also separate us by not allowing the healthy face-to-face verbal communication. And while many in the older generations, especially the Baby-boomers have tried embracing the new technology, others have considered them the instrument of evil, especially when the computer language is English and it has penetrated many native languages, resulting in a bit of Denglish. 😉

And this is what takes us to this Genre of the Week, entitled “Mein Enkel.” Produced by Sebastian23, based in Cloppenburg, the short film was released in 2012 with a setting being in a semi-empty restaurant in Bochum. The characters in the film consist of three people in their 60s (specifically, the older version of the Babyboomers), a grandmother (Mathilda) and two of her male friends (Eduard and Roland), one of whom is into sugar and has problems catching up with the conversation with the other two. One of the characters (Mathilda) starts off the conversation of her grandchild registering on facebook and her being added to his friends’ list, which sets the conversation in motion about social networking using pure Denglish. Have a look at this rather “flustig” scene below:

This film has been used as a platform for many conversations and presentations on the pros and cons of social networking, specifically, who profits from this new form of communication and whether social networking is destroying the way we communicate with other people or if it a supplement to oral and written communication. Especially when Denglish (a combination of German and English) is becoming a hot subject among linguists and teachers of foreign language as many in these circles have debated on how inappropriate the language is. Personally speaking, Denglish is an informal form of communication which is best understood when people know both English and German and can speak it outside the work environment. However it is very funny to see how the language is used and therefore, there is an exercise for you to try.

  1. Decipher the conversation among the three characters in the story. What was the story about?
  2. Why do they consider the grandson’s registration on facebook to be an “epic fail?”
  3. What does Mathilda do with her grandson’s facebook page? Does she add him or not?
  4. What other social networks do they mention? Which one got the LOL by Mathilda?
  5. Why does Mathilda say “Opfer” after her granddaughter leaves to go play? What’s the meaning behind this?
  6. Who loves the sugar in the coffee? 
  7. Discussion: What are some advantages and setbacks towards social networking?
  8. Discussion: When should a child have a social network page, like facebook, and under what conditions?
  9. Discussion: Would you introduce or even allow a friend or family member of the Babyboomer generation (like the three) to social networking? If so, how would you teach them how to use it? If not, why not?

Please note, this is good for people learning German or English as a foreign language. 🙂

You can click to the website of Sebastian23 here to see more about the German slam poet and musician: http://sebastian23.org/

flefi-deutschland-logo

All They Want is Stuff: The Use of Stop-Gaps in English Part I

261185-L
Willow Creek Bridge in Mason City in the 1950s: New Bridge on the Left, Antique 1800s Bridge on the Right. Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

This article is co-produced with sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in connection with a project being constructed.

fast fact logo

Stop-gaps. Each language has its set of stop-gap words that people use, either as a substitute for a word they were looking for (but couldn’t find it), or as a bridge in the conversation with the purpose of avoiding a pause and revealing their insecurities in communicating with other people. Many of us are guilty of using these stop-gaps, both in our native tongue as well as when learning a foreign language. Here are some examples of how they are used in English:

  1. In connection with the picture above, I had my final conversation with my grandmother back in January 2007 about her community’s strive to destroying historic buildings and bridges, including a bridge near her home and a high school that used to be a haven for theatricals. Her reaction to the city’s plan to tear down the high school: “All they want is stuff!”  Difficult to replace stuff with new or modern things, but she was opposed to modernization, fighting all the way up to her death three months later.  Highly spirited woman I admired. 🙂 <3
  2. A former college classmate goes off on a tangent over a teenager’s excessive use of “like.” Example: “I was like great. We could like meet at like 7:30 at like the theatre. Would you like that?”  Overhearing this in a restaurant, she paints a vivid reaction on facebook.  Geil! 🙂
  3. A college professor stresses the importance of not using thing in a paper and was appalled to see at least 10 of these words in a 25-page paper in English. That student bawled his eyes out while receiving a failing grade, using that as one of the main reasons justifying the need to rewrite it.  The professor was Czech and his student was from Saxony, who had spent time in Iowa as a high school exchange student, by the way. 😉

But the underlying question is which of these stop-gap words are really informal and used for personal communication, and which ones are formal and can be used  for formal purposes as well as for research papers? In connection with a project being conducted at a university in Jena, a question for the forum is being introduced for you to think about. All you need is two minutes of your time to answer the following questions:

frage für das forum

1. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of verbal communication?

 

2. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of written communication?

3. Which of these words do you think are considered stop-gaps and used for informal communication?

4. Which of these words do you think are NOT stop-gaps because of their use in formal communication?

5. Why do you use stop-gap words in English?

For the first two questions, only one word applies; the next two has a limit of five possibilities and the last question has more than one answer possible. Each one has an option where you can add other words and items that are not on the list.  You have until 16 May, 2016 to vote. The results and some exercises will come in June. In case of any questions, please feel free to contact Jason Smith at the Files, using the contact details in the website under About.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to find out how often these stop-gap words are being used and why they are used. Already there have been discussions about this subject and even the author has put together a worksheet on this subject for use in college (that will be presented in the June article). It will help linguists and English teachers find ways to modify the use of stop-gaps and (especially for the latter) encourage students of English to use other alternatives and widen their vocabulary. Interesting is to compare the use of stop-gap words in English with that of other languages, including German- one of the words has been used here in this article.

Can you figure this one out and find the English equivalent? 🙂

 

bhc-new-logo-jpeg

flefi-deutschland-logo

The Beamer and Laptop: An Inseparable Love Affair

11228530_1015088715188444_4328690344218624909_o

If there is a rule book on how to effectively teach an English as a Foreign Language class and there is a section on the usage of technology, one should expect to abide by the following two rules:

  1. No matter how hard you prepare, always expect the element which will make you feel unprepared, and
  2. The beamer and the laptop are like a relationship between a man and a woman: No matter how hard you try, if they don’t connect, it doesn’t work.

The usage of technical equipment in the classroom, be it the beamer or the Smartboard, or be it a video conference call or technical equipment with special features to ooh and ahh the students, has become more and more popular for use in any class, including foreign language teaching. Yet no matter how much experience and competence the teacher has with the use of technical equipment, something bizarre can happen at any time, which there is no control over.

This takes us to the love affair between the laptop and the beamer. Usually, like a man loving a woman, when a laptop is connected with the beamer, then it must work 100% of the time, right? Not in the case of the story of a teacher and a group of students working at a large electronics company in Germany recently. The story behind it is as follows:

In the first three months of teaching English for business, the group met in a small classroom that featured a mobile beamer, speakers and a flip chart with markers. The teacher provided his own laptop, which was an Acer running on Windows 8. The beamer was used to show students the vocabulary of certain words covered in a chapter- a way of saving paper used from the flip chart. The connection between the beamer and the laptop worked well, with no problems whatsoever. After the third month, the group moved to a bigger room- a conference room, which was equipped with an overhead beamer. This is where the problem began…..

Normally the overhead beamer did not have any problems with any laptops used by the company employees and executives. This was claimed and testified by the students having used the beamer before, and all the computers were also running on Windows 7 or 8. In the case of the teacher’s laptop, when connected to the overhead beamer via cable and activated, there was no connection. The laptop was rebooted and reconnected to the beamer. Again, it didn’t work. The ends of the cable were switched and the two devices were reconnected. Again, sela vie. Both devices were shut down for five minutes before being reactivated again. The laptop and the overhead beamer were reconnected and there was a glimmer of hope as the connection was established. Yet two minutes later, it ceased! The teacher’s face becomes redder with rage as he was running behind schedule and he needed the beamer for a pair of video exercises. Desperate, he has one of the students bring in the mobile beamer where he uses the cable from there to hook the laptop up with the overhead beamer! Didn’t work. He then connected the laptop with the mobile beamer, using that cable. And…….

it worked! 🙂

Both the teacher and the students were scratching their heads as to determine the cause of this bad connection between the laptop and the overhead beamer as well as why the connection worked with the mobile one. It was bewitched for some reason. Yet it served as a reminder of a relationship that went awry. No matter how much effort is put in, if a man loves a woman but the feelings are not mutual, one can try everything, but the end result will be either failure or an unhealthy relationship. It can only work if both have something in common and are willing to develop the relationship further. This also applies when a relationship does not work in one environment but works suddenly in a different environment, after a short break.

And while work is underway to determine the cause of the failed connection between the laptop and the overhead beamer, and eventually provide a new cable for the latter, the main idea behind this story is no matter how well-prepared you are for teaching or even a presentation, you can expect something like this to happen, just a much as a relationship going bad. So keep this in mind next time:

PREPARE FOR BEING UNPREPARED!  CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT BEFORE EXECUTING!! MAKE SURE THE LOVE AFFAIR WORKS!!! <3

Thank you! 😀

Author’s Note: The photo was taken at a different company after a session, where both the beamer and the laptop had a well-established connection. It was not allowed to photograph on the premises of the company where the incident took place. 

five years flfi