Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Few Chinese Things

As you may know, I'm currently taking a Chinese course and I'll be visiting China soon. So naturally I've been interested in Chinese language and culture. I've come across a few resources recently and I thought I'd share them here. They're all in English (at least the explanations), so even if you don't know a word of Chinese they may be interesting for you.

The first resource is actually my teacher Elizabeth. She's sent a lot of videos, and some of them may be interesting for you. This is one about Shanghai:

Next, there's a site called LingoBite. I found out about this site through a contact on Airbnb, actually. The site has very short and quick lessons to help you learn Mandarin Chinese. It also has a blog, which recently had a list of the 8 Best YouTube channels for learning Chinese.

Finally, the language blogs at Transparent are usually pretty great and they post frequent updates, and the Chinese one is no exception. A few days ago they had one that described the parts, history, and evolution of Chinese characters. It's pretty cool, so check it out!

I hope something here is interesting for you. Thanks for reading, and have a good one!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Schedule Change

This is just a quick note to let you know about Sitzman ABC's new publishing schedule. Right now there are three posts a week, but that's going to be very difficult since things are busy right now. Some posts can even take up to two hours to write and at three per week, that's a lot of time. Additionally, I'll be traveling some in the coming months. So I've decided to do one post a week, at least temporarily. The weekly post will probably be on Wednesday.

I really like writing this blog, and I've gotten good feedback from my students. And in fact I do think that this blog has attracted a few more readers with three posts a week, but unfortunately it doesn't attract extra time or money. So in the interests of having more time to do other things, I've decided to make this change, at least for the next month or two. If you have any comments or feel strongly that this is a good or bad idea, I'd like to hear from you. And of course, if you want to leave a donation* to Sitzman ABC, I'd love to hear from you, haha!

Thanks for reading, and thanks to all my readers for giving me a reason and motivation to write this blog! Have a great week!

*Seriously, though, if you do want to donate something, just click on the big yellow "donate" button at the top right of Sitzman ABC. No pressure, though. Just do it. If you want. Now.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fun Friday: Interesting Site About Physics (Strangely Enough!)

It's been a long day, but I still wanted to do a Fun Friday post. Today I wanted to mention a website that my brother recommended to me called "What if?" Its motto is "Answering your hypothetical questions with physics, every Tuesday."

Now, I'm not a fan of Physics normally, I must admit, but this site talks about it in an accessible, interesting, and funny way. This week's post asks, "What would happen if everyone on earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?"

(Image from this week's post)
If you can even get your mind around the question, it's pretty funny, but the answer is even funnier. If you're interested, check it out. And either way, have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

False Friend: Groserías vs. Groceries

Good evening, and welcome to Word Wednesday! Today we'll look at another False Friend. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post (and go here for a list of the False Friends we've already talked about). Today we'll look at the difference between groserías in Spanish and groceries in English. 

This is our refrigerator right now. I'd say it's about time we bought some groceries!
False Friend: groserías vs. groceries 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, groserías are bad words:

"No me digas groserías!"
("Don't say bad words to me!")

In English, groceries is a word that refers to all the food you buy at a store or supermarket:

"We're almost out of milk, and we need to buy more pasta, also. Let's go to the store to buy some groceries."

Notice also that the "c" in "groceries" is pronounced like an "sh," like in the word "she," at least in American English.

This is pretty easy to remember, and it's not that commonly confused --but when it is, it's pretty funny! Now that I think about it, I'll have to do a series on bad words in English and Spanish, since there are some that are very similar, but they're less serious or offensive in one language or the other. So stay tuned for that!

In the meantime, if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, August 20, 2012

False Friend: Terrorífico vs. Terrific

Hello! I've been pretty busy lately, so instead of a (longer) Common Error post, I decided to do a False Friend post today (especially since we talked about this word in my class this evening). If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post. Today we'll look at the difference between terrorífico in Spanish and terrific in English. 

Is this clown terrific or terrorífico? I guess it depends on your point of view, but read on to find out the difference between these two words (they're very different)! Image by Graeme Maclean via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

False Friend: terrorífico vs. terrific 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, something that is terrorífico is very scary; the English equivalent is terrifying:

"La foto del payazo es terrorífica!"
("The photo of the clown is terrifying!")

In English, terrific is a synonym for words like excellent, wonderful, or amazing:

"I had a terrific time on my vacation. I can't wait to show you the pictures I took!"

So, I think this is pretty easy. Just remember that "terrorífico" and "terrifying" are bad, and "terrific" is good!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Really Good English Blog

Peter Bruegel's painting Tower of Babel. (Image)
I recently came across a blog called Separated by a Common Language. The author is a woman who goes by the name Lynneguist. The blog mostly focuses on differences and similarities between American and British English and indeed, the blog's name comes from a quote by George Bernard Shaw that says:

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

It's a pretty funny quote, since in my job as an English teacher I constantly notice little differences between American and British English, but I really like how Lynneguist investigates and explains them more.

For example, in this post from a day ago she talked about how British people seem to be more likely to say "please" when making a request, especially in restaurants, and then explains why that may be. 

In short, I'd definitely recommend the site if you're an upper-intermediate or advanced English learner, or if you're a native speaker that just likes to learn more about our language's idiosyncrasies.

That's it for tonight. Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

False Friend: Colegio vs. College

A hallway at a colegio (high school) in San José, Costa Rica.
(Picture by Ryan Sitzman)
Hello! It's been a long time since we had a False Friend, so let's look at another one today. If you're not sure what a False Friend is, check out this post. Today we'll look at the difference between colegio in Spanish and college in English. 

False Friend: colegio vs. college 
This SPANISH word...
Looks like this ENGLISH word...
...but they are DIFFERENT because...
In Spanish, a colegio is like a high school in English:

"Ella va a un colegio bilingüe."
("She goes to a bilingual high school.")

In English, college is basically the same thing as a university (apparently there's a difference in Britain and Canada, but in my experience in the US, the two were  essentially the same):

"Most people in Costa Rica graduate from high school when they're between the ages of 17 and 19. After graduation, some of them go to college, and others get jobs right away."

So, it's pretty easy to tell the difference between these two words, right? Just remember, college=university. For our next False Friend I think we'll talk about the differences between a bachelor, a Bachelor's degree, and a bachillerato in Spanish. 

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for other False Friends or Common Errors, please tell me.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Senses: Final Review

When I drink coffee, it activates all five of my senses (and sometimes even my sixth sense: the ability to find more coffee). If coffee doesn't do the same thing for you, you're probably doing it wrong. (Picture by Ryan Sitzman)

Good evening! Last Friday we finished our last post related to the five senses. It's taken a few months, though, since it was a pretty complicated topic to talk about. So, I decided that for today's post, I'd just give a complete overview of all the other posts, so that you can have them all in one place and you can check any you might have missed.

The Five Senses

This post introduced the topic, and also included a video that briefly explained how to use the sense words.

Sight Post 1 Common Error. This post talked about how to use the words look at, see, and watch.
Sight Post 2: Vision Vocabulary. This talked about all sorts of words related to sight and vision.
Sight Post 3: Video. A video of Johnny Nash's song "I Can See Clearly Now."

Hearing Post 1: Mistake Monday. This post examined the difference between the words listen and hear.
Hearing Post 2: Hearing Vocabulary. All sorts of vocabulary related to hearing and ears.
Hearing Post 3: Podcasts. A list of my top 5 favorite podcasts to practice listening skills.
Hearing Post 4: Common Error. Another common error post, this time about hear and sound.

Smell Post 1: Vocabulary. Words related to smelling and smells.
Smell Post 2: Videos. Two videos related to "smells."

Taste Post 1: Common Error. A post explaining the difference between taste, try, test, and prove.
Taste Post 2: Vocabulary. All sorts of vocabulary related to taste.

Touch Post 1: Common Error. The difference between touch and feel.
Touch Post 2: "Good" Touch Vocabulary
Touch Post 3: "Neutral" Touch Vocabuarly
Touch Post 4: "Bad" Touch Vocabulary

So, that's a lot of posts and a lot of information! If you've been following the series you obviously don't need to read all of these again, but it could be good to review some time in the future if you ever have any questions or problems related to the senses. 

And as usual, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to tell me.

As always, thanks for reading, and have a great week!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Few German Things

Good Evening! As you probably know, I focus mostly on English here at Sitzman ABC. I do that mainly since it's my native language, and because there's a lot more demand for English than any other foreign language here in Costa Rica. However, I actually studied German, not English, and I have a special place in my heart for German-- a dark, somewhat scary place in my heart, but a place nonetheless.

I've been teaching a few German classes lately and I came across a few interesting links and resources that I thought I'd share. If you're learning German, it may help out, but even if you're not, the explanations are often in English, so they can help you practice English, also!

Gender (aka "German Word Sex")

First of all, I found this page with tips about German genders. As you may know, some languages have "gender" for their nouns. Spanish, for example, has masculine (el) and feminine (la). German takes the fun to the next level! It has masculine (der) and feminine (die), but it also adds a third one called "neuter" or "neutral" (das). The worst part is, there's no clear-cut way to know what gender a word is. In Spanish most words that end in "-o" are masculine and most that end in "-a" are feminine...but that doesn't work at all in German. However, there are a few general tendencies that you can find, and these pages help you sort them out:

Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle is awesome in any language, but it's best in German. It's like the BBC's continental cousin that always wears black, even on hot days. It's got all kinds of information and news, and it has a whole section about learning German. It also has extensive cultural articles, like this one about Ostfriesland, one of my favorite parts of Germany.

And Another Video

In class this week we were talking about seasons (all of which are masculine words in German, by the way), and I found two videos about Der Sommer. The first is at the top of this post, and the second is here:

Enjoy, and have a nice week. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Bad Touch" Words

Good evening! Tonight we'll look at our last three words related to the sense of touch. In our last post we talked about "neutral" touch, and today we'll talk about "bad" touch, which are words that are generally used in a negative way.

What is this woman doing? If you don't know, read on to find out!
(Image by Jonathan Pankau, used under a Creative Commons license)

Today's words are generally used when talking about touching humans, not objects. The words are:

Slap, Punch, and Molest: "Neutral" Touching

Technically, a high five is a kind of slap, since you need to have an open hand to do it. I know a high five is usually "good" touching, but I had trouble finding a picture of someone slapping another person in the face. (Image by Ingorr, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Slap" is to use your open hand to hit a person. Many times this is used to describe a hit to the face:

"Mark often says offensive things to women, so women often slap his face."

A synonym of slap in this case can often be "smack." The main thing to remember is that with this action, your hand is open, not closed.

If you're good at boxing, you can make a lot of money by using your fists to punch other people! (Image
"Punch" is another type of hitting (and that's why it's generally "bad" touching). It's different from slapping because if you punch someone, you hit them with a closed hand. In fact, there's a special name for a closed hand: a fist:

"The two drunk men at the bar used their fists to hit each other like boxers. They punched each other in the head and stomach until they got kicked out of the bar."

Be very careful with this word! In Spanish, molestar means "bother" or "annoy" in English. But in English (especially American English), "molest" generally means to touch someone in a sexually inappropriate way! Unfortunately, it's often used with children, but not always (and you can understand why I didn't include a picture for this word!)

"The criminal was put in jail for abusing and molesting a child."

So, that's it for now. I hope you rarely have to use these words, but they're still important to learn to increase your vocabulary. If you have any questions ideas, please feel free to leave a comment! Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

(Answer from Monday's post: The problem is the word the. It's not necessary before "Istanbul," but it is necessary before "The United States." Thanks for checking it out!)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Sad Day

(Today's post will be very short-- We'll be back in a few days with an English post.) 

One of my students, a young man named Johnsen, suddenly died last night or early this morning. It was a shock to me and to all of us around here. My thoughts go out to his family and friends. He was a very nice man. He was not only a student, but also a friend. He will be missed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mistake Monday: Find Two Errors

Hi! I was going to complete the series of posts on "touch" words, but today has been a long and tiring day, and I need to get up tomorrow morning for my Chinese class. So today, I'm just going to do a short post, and we'll finish the "touch" words on Wednesday.

Look at the picture below, taken from Turkish Airlines' website. Does anything look strange? I can find two mistakes, can you?*

We'll be back on Wednesday with the answer, as well as the final post in our "senses" series. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great night!

*By the way, I'm referring to language mistakes, not geography. But now that I think about it, there doesn't seem to be much order in the way they're listing cities or prices, either!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Neutral Touch" Words

The two people in this picture are holding hands.
(Image by Elizabeth Ann Colette, used through a Creative Commons license)
Hello! Tonight we'll be looking at four more words related to the sense of touch. In our last post we talked about "good" touch, and today we'll talk about "neutral" touch, which are words that can be positive or negative, depending on the context and circumstances.

Today's words can be used for humans, but you may notice that they're also frequently used to talk about touching objects. The words are:

Touch, Poke, Hold and Grab: "Neutral" Touching

"Touch" is the most obvious of these words, and I'm only listing it here to mention that it can be positive, negative, or neutral, depending on how you use it. It's general, basically. It can also mean to make an emotional connection:

"I was touched by the thoughtful gift you gave to me, especially since I didn't expect it."

The children in this picture are using a stick to poke into the sand, possibly to find something. (Image by Jconnell22, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Poke" means to use your index finger (or any other single finger, or a long object like a stick or a pole) to touch something. People often poke things to test if they are dangerous, to feel their texture, or to check if they are alive:

"Jane drank a lot of wine and now she's apparently 'sleeping' on the couch. Someone should poke her to wake her up and make sure she's OK."

This animal is called a Hedgehog. The person is holding the hedgehog in his hand. (Image by Hundehalter, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Hold" is a word that indicates you continually have something in your hand for a period of time. It's often used in sentences like:

"Can you please hold this bag of groceries while I find my keys and open the door?"

Also, if two people have their hands together for a long period of time, they are holding hands (like in the first picture above). This is common in romantic couples.

The bars on the sides of this toilet are called grab bars. If a person has difficulties sitting or standing up, he or she can grab the bars to help keep their balance. (Image by Shoyuramen, used under a Creative Commons license)
"Grab" is very similar to hold or take, but it indicates taking something quickly or informally. For example, if you leave your house and realize you forgot something, you can say:

"Oh! I forgot my book. I'll go back inside to grab it."

Another way to use "grab" can be to use it like "get," as in:

"After we finish work, a few of us are going to a restaurant to grab some dinner. Do you want to come?"

So, that's it for today. On Monday we'll finish our trio of posts with three more "bad touch" words. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the conversation! Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sense Vocabulary: "Good Touch" Words

Hi, and welcome to Word Wednesday! Tonight we'll be looking at words related to the sense of touch (also often described using the word feel; see Monday's post for a closer explanation).

Over the next few posts we'll look at 10 words that can describe different ways to touch. I'll divide them into three categories:

Today -"Good" (types of touch that are generally considered good)
Friday -"Neutral" (can be good or bad, depending on the circumstances)
Monday -"Bad" (types of touch that are generally considered bad)

Today's three "Good Touch" words all used for humans, but coincidentally they're also commonly used to talk about animals. They are:

Pat, Pet, and Rub: "Good" Touching

A sign advertising a "back rub" for men and women surrounded by red lights? Sounds a bit suspicious! I guess this could be good or bad! (Picture by CTLiota, used through Creative Commons license).
Here we go...
This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. The pages had different textures that you could touch and feel.
"Pat" usually means to move your open hand up and down on top of something. In some cultures, people often pat children on the head. You can also pat an animal, especially on its head.
In a semi-literal sense, you can use the phrase "pat on the back" when you want to congratulate a person for something. For example, you can say: 

"John deserves a pat on the back because he finally graduated!"

Of course, "Pat" can also be an abbreviation for Patricia or Patrick, so pay attention to the context.

Many guide dogs and other "working" dogs (like drug- or bomb-sniffing dogs at the airport) have signs that say something like "Please don't pet me, I'm working." (Picture by Hurricane Omega, used through Creative Commons license).
"Pet" usually means to move your open hand in a line while continually touching a surface. There is more hand contact with petting than there is with patting. 
"Pet" is often used to talk about touching animals. Of course, animals that live in our houses are called "pets," but I'm not sure if that's a coincidence.
Also, when people have a close romantic relationship, they often use different or "cute" names when talking to each other. Those names can be called "pet names."

Our cat Chubby always enjoys a good belly rub! (Picture by author)
"Rub" is very similar to "pet," but it's more continuous. Sometimes it's used to describe touching in a circular motion. It's also used for therapeutic touching or massage. For example, when a cartoon character is hungry, he often rubs his stomach. You can also give a back rub to someone who has back pains.

So, that's it for now. If you understood all these words, you deserve a pat on the back! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to join the conversation!