Friday, June 24, 2011

Common Error: "-ed" vs. "-ing" Endings

 Hello, and happy Friday! I'm still planning on talking more about other languages' influence on English, but it's been a while since we've had a common error, so I wanted to share this one. I've heard my students make mistakes with words like bored/boring, excited/exciting, amazed/amazing, and other similar word combinations.  Fortunately, this is an easy error to correct. Let's look:

Common Error: Bored vs. Boring, etc. (-ed vs. -ing)
DON’T say this:I have been doing grammar exercises for an hour, so I'm very boring.
The movie last night was very amazed.
This Common Error is not very confused.
Can you please play some relaxed music?
WHY?For word pairs like these, just remember how to use the two endings:

-Use -ing at the end of the word if the subject causes the emotion.
For example, a movie can cause an emotion, but it can't experience an emotion (because it's not alive). So, we'd have to say:
"The movie was boring/exciting/interesting/etc."

-Use -ed at the end of the word if the subject experiences or feels the emotion.
For example, a person can experience an emotion, so you could say:
"John is bored/excited/confused/etc."

-BUT, a person can also cause an emotion (if he or she makes someone else experience that emotion). So, you could also possibly say:
"John is boring/exciting/confusing/etc."
...depending on what you want to express in your sentence.

Other similar word pairs include:

Can you think of any others?
INSTEAD, SAY THIS:-"I have been doing grammar exercises for an hour, so I am very bored."
-"The movie last night was very amazing."
-"This Common Error is not very confusing."
-"Can you please play some relaxing music?"

I hope that this Common Error isn't too confusing... and I also hope that you're not confused! If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave a comment or contact us. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Loanwords Part 4: German Words in English

Welcome to our final post about loanwords! We've previously talked about loanwords from French and Spanish, but I wanted to mention German loanwords. I studied German for nearly 10 years, and even though it's difficult, I really do like German.

Sauerkraut, anyone?
I didn't think so.

I originally was going to talk about how German is related to English, but I think that topic is much more complicated than just loanwords, so I'll talk about that in a different post in a day or two. Today let's just focus on German loanwords in English.

German and English share many historical similarities, so many vocabulary words are similar. However, the number of direct German loanwords in English is much smaller than the number of words from French or Spanish. (Click here for a partial list). There are a few areas where we can notice a higher concentration of German loanwords.

Like Spanish, German gave English some specialty words related to food; some examples are bratwurst, sauerkraut, delicatessen, schnitzel, and strudel. There are also words related to technology, such as autobahn, wunderkind and ersatz. Also, it's interesting to note German's contribution to philosophical and psychological vocabulary, with words such as gestalt, realpolitik, angst, and zeitgeist.

Unfortunately, many German words migrated into English as a result of World War II, and as a consequence they have an association with Nazis and/or war in general. Such words include blitzkrieg, fuehrer, lebensraum, flak and even Nazi (an abbreviation of "Nationalsozialist").

However, it's not all gloom and doom (or Sturm und Drang, if you prefer). German has many great words that made it into English, so here I present you with my list of...

Ryan's Top 7 German Loanwords in English*:

7. kindergarten: Literally meaning "children-garden," it makes going to school seem fun. Now I suspect it may have just been a trick.
6. poltergeist: It means "banging spirit." In other words, call the Ghostbusters.
5. kitsch: A dismissive word used to indicate something is tacky or uncool.
4. kaput: A synonym of "broken."
3. gesundheit: It literally means "health," but it's what you say when someone sneezes.
2. schadenfreude: It means "misfortune-pleasure," but it's a word to describe the sensation of being happy when bad things happen to other people. Very German.
1. wanderlust: Not as funny as "schadenfreude," but it's nicer. It means the desire to wander or travel.

Can you think of any others? What are your favorite loanwords, either from German or any other language? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

So, that's it for today. Since we're already talking about German, I'll write a post in a few days exploring some similarities and differences between German and English, just in case you're interested. Thanks for reading, and have a great day! 

From the (English-language) comic Bizarro.

*A few of these words are spelled differently in German (like kaput/kaputt), and in German all of them except kaput would start with a capital letter, since German nouns are capitalized. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Loanwords Part 3: Spanish Words in English

In the neighborhood where my family lives in
the U.S., many street names are of Spanish
origin, like Orilla del Lago or Camino Real.
A week or so ago we talked about loanwords in general, and then later we focused on some specific loanwords that migrated from French to English. Since most of my current students' native language is Spanish, I thought it would be interesting to take a quick look at Spanish loanwords in English. Then, in a few days we'll look at loanwords from German.


I did a bit of research for this post, and you can read more about Spanish loanwords here, here, and here. One thing that's quickly noticeable about many of the Spanish loanwords in English is that many of them belong to certain types of words. 

As you can imagine, there are the predictable food words, such as burrito, taco, enchilada, cilantro, chili, and many others. There are also words to describe animals that would have been in areas conquered by Spanish-speaking conquistadors (itself a loanword). These are animal words such as burro, armadillo, mosquito, alligator, and others. Finally, there are others that have to do with descriptions of landscapes, like arroyo, mesa, canyon and caldera. Notice that many of them have changed their spelling, and almost all would be pronounced with an "English" sound and accent to them (just ask a Mexican and an Englishman to both say "burrito," and you'll see what I mean).

You can check out the lists if you're interested in more examples. For now, I just want to mention my Top Five Favorite Spanish Loanwords:

5. aficionado: You could say I'm a fan of this word. You could I'm also say I'm an aficionado. That's why it's so great.
4. piñata: It's written with the tilde even in English, and it's an instant party starter!
3. vigilante: The perfect word for when you need to take the law into your own hands.
2. salsa: Although it's a generic word for "sauce" in its native Spanish, in English this word makes not only your food, but also your sentence, seem more exotic and spicy!
1. machete: This doesn't actually appear on a few of the lists of Spanish loanwords, but it definitely appears on my list. Anyone who says otherwise can talk to my machete.

That's it for today, but later in the week we'll look at loanwords in English from the German language to finish our series. Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave a comment. Have a great day!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Words: Loanwords, Part 2

Is this a Chevrolet? Maybe--but I don't care, since this isn't an automotive blog.
The important question for us today is: 'How do you pronounce Chevrolet?'
Last weekend we had a quick introduction to loanwords, so this past week I've been thinking about how common they really are in English. Today I want to focus on a few loanwords that originally come from French. The reason I'd like to call your attention to them is because my students often have problems pronouncing them. For example, in yesterday's class we talked about the word "bouquet," which is a word that means "a bunch of flowers," like a bride has in a wedding.

Notice the spelling of the word "bouquet," and that it ends in the letters "-E-T." A few other examples  of similar French loanwords are filet, buffet, bouquet. The interesting thing about these words is that when you pronounce them in English, the T at the end is silent. You can click on the words to go to the Merriam Webster dictionary to hear their pronunciation, but basically the "-et" is pronounced like the letter "A," so "filet" is pronounced "fill-A," and so on.

Now, note that not all words that end in "-et" are loanwords from French--think of words like "bet," "tweet," or "mallet"--so for non-French words, you'll probably pronounce the "T." But if you can recognize the French loanwords that end in "-et," you can use this pronunciation rule.

Knowing that, how would you pronounce the following common French loanwords in English?
(Click on any of the words for definition and to check your pronunciation):

Can you think of any more that follow this pattern?

Later we'll look at more loanwords, so check back soon. Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weekend Words: Loanwords

A buffet table. Have you ever wondered why it's spelled with a "T," but pronounced "buf-A"?
Maybe you've noticed English speakers saying bon appetit before they eat their lunch, or you heard one say gesundheit when someone sneezed. Or maybe it's occurred to you that kindergarten is spelled with a "T," but garden is spelled with a "D." Or maybe you wondered why the "T" isn't pronounced in words like valet, fillet, buffet, or chalet. If you've experienced any of these situations, then you might have thought that English was a bit insane, but the truth is that you were simply noticing what's called "loanwords."

A loanword is simply a word that one language adopts or adapts from another language. Loanwords can really go from any language to another, but in English they're really common. As English has developed through the centuries, it has taken on many loanwords from languages like GreekGerman, Spanish, and, more recently, especially French

You can follow some of the links in this post to read more about loanwords now, and in the next few weeks we'll look at some specific loanwords from different languages. For now, I'd also recommend this interesting short story, which is written almost entirely with French loanwords!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Vocabulary: "Procrastinate"

Are you the type of person who waits until the last minute
to do something important? If so, you're a procrastinator!
I've wanted to focus on some vocabulary words on this blog for a while, so today's post will be the first one. I wanted to call it "Vocabulary ____," but there's no day of the week that starts with "V," at least not in English. So, I decided to call this feature "Word Wednesday"! So today's word is:

(click on the word for definition and pronunciation)

I noticed that even some of my higher-level students hadn't heard this word, but it's a great one. It sounds vulgar, but it's not. As a verb, procrastinate means to avoid doing something, usually something important. The idea or concept is procrastination, and the person who procrastinates is a procrastinator.

Here are some examples of these words in use:

"I'm disappointed with John's presentation. I heard that he was procrastinating and planned it at the very last minute."

Pete: "Hey Sally, I thought you had an English test tomorrow. What are you doing?"
Sally: "I do, but I can't focus on studying. I really prefer to chat with my friends on Facebook."
Pete: "Wow, you're a real procrastinator! You should start studying or you might fail the test!"

"I know that I should clean the toilet, but it's such a terrible job and I keep finding other, more interesting things to do. Still, sooner or later, I'll have to stop procrastinating and actually clean it."

So, that's it for today. If you have other suggestions for new vocabulary words to talk about, I'd love to hear them. But be sure to tell me soon--don't procrastinate! Thanks for reading, and have a good day!