Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Interesting Facts

Immigrants from Germany

It is now a well-accepted fact that the tradition of using Christmas trees came to the USA through immigrants from Germany. The custom was a popular one in their native homeland. So now, in almost every home, there is at least a small, decorated tree on display during the Christmas holidays. Here we’d like to present a few little-known tidbits about Christmas trees and some other Christmas-related traditions.

Some specie of evergreen tree is purchased for use as a Christmas tree according to the National Christmas Tree Association and in the United States some 330,000 Christmas trees are purchased each year. Trees can be bought from retail stores, supermarkets on street corners from private individuals who get trees wholesale or from tree farms. The scent of real Christmas trees is the reason they are so popular. The aroma of a fresh pine or evergreen tree is one of the reasons having a live, natural tree is such a popular tradition. But, there is yet another benefit to having a living tree. The Christmas Tree Association indicates that the oxygen produced each day by an acre of Christmas trees is enough for 18 people. And in its first week in the house, a Christmas tree will use nearly a quart of water daily in an effort to support its longevity during the Christmas holidays.

President Calvin Coolidge

During the 1950s, many artificial Christmas trees were not green. Christmas trees with other colors such as silver or blue were heavily in use. The appeal of these colorful trees may have been because they had a shining, bright appearance similar to that of tinsel.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree at the White House, a tradition attributed to President Calvin Coolidge (pictured above) beginning in 1923, is yet another important Christmas tradition in the U.S.

The lighting of the National Christmas Tree was not until Dec. 22nd in 1963 because of a national 30 day mourning period due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When Teddy Roosevelt was President he banned Christmas trees from the White House for environmental reasons. Many consider the assassination of
President McKinley in 1901 as the reason Roosevelt banned the trees, but this is actually not the case.

The National Christmas Tree

In 1984, when the National Christmas Tree was lit on December 13th, the temperatures were in the 70s due to an unusually warm month of December. In the United States, the Christmas holidays have been celebrated from the late 1600s onward even though the holiday wasn’t a very widely popular one. It was not until the mid to late 1860s, after America’s Civil War, that Christmas became a popular celebration throughout the U.S. In 1836, the state of Alabama, became the first to declare December 25th a legal holiday. On Christmas Day in 1789, the U.S. Congress was in session. It was not until June 26 of 1870 that Christmas was declared a federal holiday by the government.

Jehovah Witnesses and The Holy Bible

Not all Christian groups celebrate the Christmas holiday season or any related traditions such as decorating a Christmas tree, sending greeting cards and buying gifts. One of those who specifically do not include Jehovah Witnesses who relate from the Holy Bible that Christmas is not specifically named or cited as a time or reason to celebrate the birth of Christ. An issue of the Watchtower, December, 1975 states, “It is generally acknowledged by Bible scholars that December 25th is not the date of Christ’s birth. In fact, the Bible does not pinpoint the date of Jesus’ birth, but it does give us information to the effect that it was not in the winter season.” The same reference also later adds,

“Jesus gave a definite commandment that the day of his death be commemorated every year, saying: “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19) But as to the date of Jesus’ birth, there is no command to remember it. True Christians today should look to Jesus, not as a babe, but as a mighty spirit person in a position in the heavens second only to his heavenly Father. Now he has been given power over earth as King, and is soon to usher in his thousand-year reign of peace earth wide. (Revelation 11:15).”

Jehovah’s Witnesses therefore, strictly adhere to Jehovah God’s word the Holy Bible, and they refuse to celebrate Christmas with its often-cited pagan origin traditions, in any way.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

The Day Before Christmas

Christmas Eve or the day before Christmas is always a blend of anticipation and anxiety. It’s the final opportunity to get last-minute shopping done. Wrap the last of your Christmas gifts and do final preparations for a traditional Christmas dinner and all the trimmings. Children bounce around the house all day and well into the night in anticipation of the flurry of gifts and presents they expect to receive early the following morning on Christmas day. Most of the time, children are far too excited or nervous to be able to sleep.

The concept of Christmas Eve stems from the concept that in ancient times, and even among some modern day cultures, the holiday or period of celebration day actually
begins at sundown of the day before the actual day that is celebrated. So Christmas Day observances actually begin on the day before Christmas or Christmas Eve.

Midnight Mass and Church Services

For many Christians, attendance of Midnight Mass or church services is obligatory. Even for people who don’t attend church services regularly during the year. The importance of attending Christmas Eve church services is evidenced by the overflow of attendees in church and religious services congregations. Many churches also have services earlier in the evening to allow for overflow crowds during this time of the year. Elderly congregation members also often prefer a service earlier than the traditional one at midnight.

An additional, key aspect of Christmas celebration is related to retail stores. On Christmas Eve, they make a last ditch attempt to extend the sale of Christmas merchandise. There are special sales and last-minute promotions advertised to capitalize on late, desperate or impulse shoppers. This final push is also designed to increase final total sales for the Christmas holiday season.

Macy’s Department Store in 1867

Many stores and shopping malls remain open up to midnight. Macy's Department Store in New York City, known as the world's largest store branch, stayed open until midnight on Christmas Eve for the first time in 1867. The Christmas holidays culminate the single most profitable buying season which begins the Friday after Thanksgiving, called “Black Friday”.

Christmas Eve Traditions

Christmas Eve is the night when parents play the role of Santa Claus, sneaking toys
and gifts under the Yuletide tree to the surprise of children who awake early on Christmas morning to claim their presents. The notion of Santa Claus descending chimneys on Christmas Eve and leaving gifts for good little boys and girls is attributed to the popular Clement Clarke Moore (pictured above) poem written in 1822, officially entitled “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas”. The poem is now usually referred to by the title, “'Twas the Night Before Christmas”. In this poem Santa Claus is described as “a right jolly old elf” who flew from house to house in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer to deliver Christmas gifts to all the good little girls and boys.

It nowadays takes a very young, naïve child to “swallow” the whole notion of Santa Claus, but parents world wide persist – even in countries with no snow, no reindeer and no sleighs. But who am I to change traditions?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

Monday, December 22, 2008

How Merry Christmas is Said in 111 Languages

How "Merry Christmas" is said in ...

Afrikaans: Geseënde Kersfees
Afrikander: Een Plesierige Kerfees
African/ Eritrean/ Tigrinja: Rehus-Beal-Ledeats
Albanian:Gezur Krislinjden
Arabic: Milad Majid
Armenian: Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand
Azeri: Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun

Bahasa Malaysia: Selamat Hari Natal
Basque: Zorionak eta Urte Berri On!
Bengali: Shuvo Naba Barsha
Bohemian: Vesele Vanoce
Bosnian: (BOSANSKI) Cestit Bozic i Sretna Nova godina
Breton: Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat
Bulgarian: Tchestita Koleda; Tchestito Rojdestvo Hristovo

Catalan: Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou!
Cantonese: Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Chinese:(Mandarin) Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan
Cantonese: Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun
Choctaw: Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito
Cornish: Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth
Corsian: Pace e salute
Crazanian: Rot Yikji Dol La Roo
Cree: Mitho Makosi Kesikansi
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok

Danish: Glædelig Jul
Duri: Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak
Dutch: Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! or Zalig Kerstfeast

English: Merry Christmas
Eskimo:(inupik) Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo!
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Rõõmsaid Jõulupühi
Ethiopian: (Amharic) Melkin Yelidet Beaal

Faeroese: Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar!
Farsi: Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad
Finnish: Hyvaa joulua
Flemish: Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar
French: Joyeux Noel
Frisian: Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier!

Galician: Bo Nada
Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr!
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christouyenna!

Haitian Creole: Jwaye Nowel or to Jesus Edo Bri'cho o Rish D'Shato Brichto
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hawaiian: Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou!
Hebrew: Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova
Hindi: Shub Naya Baras (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Hausa: Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara!
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket

Icelandic: Gledileg Jol
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal
Iraqi: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nollaig Shona Dhuit, or Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Iroquois: Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay.
Italian: Buone Feste Natalizie

Japanese: Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto
Jiberish: Mithag Crithagsigathmithags

Korean: Sung Tan Chuk Ha

Lao: souksan van Christmas
Latin: Natale hilare et Annum Faustum!
Latvian: Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu!
Lausitzian:Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Low Saxon: Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar

Macedonian: Sreken Bozhik
Maltese: IL-Milied It-tajjeb
Manx: Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa
Maori: Meri Kirihimete
Marathi: Shub Naya Varsh (good New Year not Merry Christmas)

Navajo: Merry Keshmish
Norwegian: God Jul, or Gledelig Jul

Occitan: Pulit nadal e bona annado

Papiamento: Bon Pasco
Papua New Guinea: Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu
Pennsylvania Dutch: En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr!
Peru: Feliz Navidad y un Venturoso Año Nuevo
Polish: Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese:Feliz Natal
Pushto: Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha

Rapa-Nui(Easter Island): Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua
Rhetian: Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn
Romanche: (sursilvan dialect): Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn!
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele or Craciun fericit
Russian: Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom

Sami: Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Sardinian: Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce
Sami: Buorrit Juovllat
Samoan: La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou
Scots Gaelic: Nollaig chridheil huibh
Serbian: Hristos se rodi.
Singhalese: Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa
Slovak: Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok
Slovene: Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto or Vesel Bozic in srecno Novo leto
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År

Tagalog: Maligayamg Pasko. Masaganang Bagong Taon
Tamil: (Tamizh) Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal (good New Year not Merry Christmas)
Trukeese: (Micronesian) Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech!
Thai: Sawadee Pee Mai or souksan wan Christmas
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun

Ukrainian: Srozhdestvom Kristovym or Z RIZDVOM HRYSTOVYM
Urdu: Naya Saal Mubarak Ho (good New Year not Merry Christmas)

Vietnamese: Chuc Mung Giang Sinh

Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

Yoruba: E ku odun, e ku iye'dun!


"Merry Christmas" in Different Languages - the Video:

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Christmas Holiday Season’s Favorite Foods

Christmas Holiday Foods

One of the aspects which seperates holidays from all the rest of the year is food. For each and every holiday there may be special foods with which the holiday is associated. Christmas especially is known for its abundance and variety of foods and drinks. As one of the world’s great melting pots America has a melting pot cuisine, with dishes originiating from around the globe. There are foods from a number of different countries which represent traditional meals for holiday celebrations such as Christmas.

Christmas comes almost one month after Thanksgiving in the United States. For Thanksgiving, the traditional meal consists of roast turkey or ham as the main dish. This is also true of Christmas as roast ham, turkey, Capon or duck is one of the principal dishes to be served for dinner. As at Thanksgiving, cranberry sauce, assorted vegetables, apple or pumpkin pie and fruit cake for dessert top off a traditional Christmas dinner. Mince meat pie, filled with a mixture of chopped, dried nuts and fruit can also be an addition to to a traditional Christmas dinner. Drinks served during the Christmas holidays include a wide variety of both hot and cold beverages such as apple ciders, hot toddies, and egg nogs as well as wines. Due to the cold weather that is predominant in many countries at Christmas time, hot beverages and hard liquors are highly popular.

The Christmas Holidays are Sweet

The Christmas holidays are sweet ones. Americans enjoy large quantities of sweets, candies, cookies, cakes, pies and desserts of all types during the Christmas holiday season. Gingerbread, sweet breads, sweet rolls and other holiday treats are an indispensible addition to the Christmas holiday season. Candy and chocolate manufacturers produce special packages and types of candies for the Christmas and New Years holiday seasons.

In 2004 was conducted by the National Confectioners Association. This survey discovered that many adults at Christmas received as much pleasure from giving and receiving chocolates, sweets and candies as from other types of gifts and presents. Survey participants said giving special cakes, chocolates and candies to friends and family, placing candy canes in Christmas stockings or hanging them on Christmas trees were some of their favorite ways to share during the holidays.

Forget Diets at Christmas Time

Forget diets at Christmas time. People usually feel free to eat and enjoy the holiday season without any guilt over what (or often how much) they may eat or drink. The tradition of baking and eating gingerbread cookies at Christmas is thought to originate in Germany, coming to the United States by immigranting Germans. When the Grimm Brothers published their story, Hansel and Gretel, German bakeries began baking fancy gingerbread houses with icing and other decorations. The story of “Hansel and Gretel” described a house made of sweet bread, a pastry roof and windows of sugar glaze. German bakeries made cookie cutters formed in different shapes like little people, houses and household animals which were used as decorations on Christmas trees.

The Gingerbread Man

In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania around a hundred years ago, German immigrant homes had cookies up to a foot high in the windows as decorative ornaments during the winter months. The cookies were often gingerbread men and women with colorful rows of hard candy buttons, bows and big smiles. Passersby, fascinated at seeing these unique decorations carried the idea to their homes. The enjoyment of the many types of special foods and dishes, candies, cakes, pies, cookies and treats during the Christmas holidays provides a unique flavor to Christmas. The Christmas holiday season’s favorite foods create many warm and cherished holiday memories.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Music of Christmas

Music During the Christmas Holidays

During the Christmas holidays, music in a variety of forms is popular world wide. From traditional Christmas carols or songs to instrumental versions and related movie themes, music is very much a part of the Christmas holday season celebrations. The music of the Christmas holidays forms such an important role that during the holiday season other forms of popular music temporarily disappear from radios, musaks and background music heard in stores, private offices, public transportation systems and other public venus. Many different types of Christmas music from religiously-based forms to popular vocals, traditionals and classical versions pervade the air from after the Thanksgiving holiday until just after the New Year.

Adaptations of Popular Christmas Music

Christmas music has been adapted by musical artists and performers who re-record classic types of Christmas music with their own personal style. Perhaps a reason for adaptations of popular Christmas music is that most other genres of popular music are not commonly broadcast or played during the Christmas holiday season, so pop, rock and other genre musicians perform their own versions of Christmas music to keep up their own “air time” and popularity with the general public. Popular, contemporary musicians also be want to take advantage of Christmas music’s popularity. It is now a regular trend for popular music performers like Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey to release new Christmas holiday music albums during the season. Variety is the spice of life, as they say, which typically means that there are new renditions of secular, sacred, classical or traditional and popular renditions of Christmas music each holiday season.

Christmas music is used to create a holiday mood. Christmas music helps to promote the holiday feeling or spirit that pervades everywhere and almost everyone. Each of us has our own Christmas holiday favorites when it comes to music. Some like traditional Christmas carols. Others like the instrumental versions of holiday music, while there are those who look forward to new releases of holiday favorites my music artists each year. Christmas songs and carols often bring back special memories of past holiday seasons.

Popular Christmas Songs

The world’s most popular Christmas song is “White Christmas” (both Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra had popular versions) which strangely, is popular even in tropical climates like those in Latin America, where people dream of a “white Christmas” even though it never snows where they live. Some additional popular Christmas songs are: “Away in a Manger”, “O Holy Night”, “Silent Night”, “Joy to the World”, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Angels We Have Heard on High”, which all relate the story of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, in one musical form or another.

In the traditional classical music genre, Handel's majestic “Hallelujah Chorus” is a popular favorite that choirs like to sing owing to the splendor, magnificence and majesty of the chorus.

Nat King Cole

One popular music favorite of note is jazz pianist and pop singer Nat King Cole (pictured above) singing “Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire”. He was a top-rated musician of the 1940s, 50s and early 1960s. Although not categorized as Christmas music per se, it has become a holiday music tradition in many countries, even non-English speaking ones. There are several songs which are humourous in nature, two examples are “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth

So relax and enjoy the music of the Christmas holiday season. You’ll hear these songs and your favorites only during this special time of the year. Listen to Nat King Cole sing his most famous Christmas song in the video below.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Using the Holy Bible as an Authentic Language Learning Text

Foreign Language Learning

There are a slew of commercial textbooks, guidebooks and all manner of language learning study aids when studying English as a foreign or second language. The same is true for most other main stream, major languages like French, German, Italian, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Korean, and Portuguese among scores of others. This is all well and good. But with approximately 6912* languages spoken and used worldwide, it’s still a daunting task to come up with “authentic” language texts. This can be especially true in any of the “lesser” tongues of the world which may be spoken in tightly-knit, compact regions or among a specialized peoples or other ethnic aspect.

The Holy Bible

The Holy Bible, in its entirety or in part is available in more than 376 languages world wide in 236 countries and lands. Being so widely available, it can be easily accessed by the vast majority of English or foreign language learners throughout the globe.

Multiple Translations Available

In major languages such as English, Spanish, German and Arabic, which have undergone extensive evolution and linguistic changes during the last century or two, multiple translations of the Holy Bible are available. Consider English as one distinct example. There is the King James Version of the Holy Bible first published in 1611, during Shakespeare’s era, but which is still popular and well-used even today. This is despite the fact that it employs the use of Elizabethan or Shakespearean English throughout. Let’s examine an example from the King James Version at Revelation 1: 8 which reads,

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”

Many additional bible versions exist in the English language: the Duoay - Rheims version, American Standard edition, the Revised Standard edition, and nearly 100 others.

Modern-day English Language Bible Versions

Then we can contrast this with several additional bible translations using Englishes from the early 1800s up to our present day. Translations such as the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, frequently used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, is an example of a bible version which uses modern-day English language vocabulary and expressions to accurately convey the writings which convey information and human historical events dating back nearly 6000 years. Compare this same scripture again, Revelation 1:8 as quoted from the New World Translation,

“I am the Al´pha and the O•me´ga,” says Jehovah God, “the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty.”

Authentic Language Lexis and Expressions

Whether the Holy Bible version used is ancient or more modern, still authentic English language vocabulary and expressions are used making it a prime English language learning text. The Holy Bible’s format includes a broad variety of grammatical contexts, including, direct quotations, direct and indirect questions, simple, compound and complex sentences, phrasal verbs, both regular and irregular verbs and a vast array of vocabulary. There’s action, adventure, suspense, drama, romance, intrigue and ever horror. Virtually every venue of human emotion and experience are represented in the pages of the Holy Bible, a truly unique book no matter which language you may read or study it in.

From Genesis to Revelation

So despite a plethora of English or other foreign language learning texts, the Holy Bible is an outstanding resource for learning practical aspect of many languages in an authentic language context. It's sixty-six books, from Genesis to Revelation can not only provide extensive use of language in context but even provide practical guidance from Jehovah God for living in our present day.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New “Look” and New Features Added to “Becoming a Better EFL Teacher” Blog

New EFL Teacher Blog Features Added

Regular readers of this Foreign Language Learning and Teaching English as a Foreign Language blog will at once notice that the site now has a new “look” and several new features added. This is an effort to make this blog even more informative and useful to both EFL teachers and English as a foreign language learners. Briefly, I’ll mention the current new features and explain their use and purpose.

ELT Blog Photo Gallery

Here you’ll find a scrollable selection of photos and images using as graphic support for article posts on this blog. See an interesting picture? Just click on it and you’ll be taken to the article that it’s used in as pictorial support for the topic.

Subscribe to Blog Here

Want to easily subscribe to this blog and get regular, automatic feeds when new posts are made? Just click on the appropriate link to quickly sign up to receive all regular posts and / or comments made to article posts on this blog. It’s quick. It’s simple, It’s easy. Become a regular follower of this blog today and receive free e-books and EFL / ESL teaching materials.

Only Wire

In order to distribute the EFL teaching and foreign language learning related article posts on this blog, I’ve enabled the Only Wire Social Book marking site widget and logo. This blog is now regularly read by thousands of your colleagues and peers in 135 countries world wide and growing each month.

Addition of Skribit

On the left in the column below “Followers”, I have now added a Skribit widget.
This allows a place where readers of this blog can make immediate comments and suggestions on what they would like to see covered as topics, themes and relevant article posts on this Language Learning and Teaching English as a Foreign Language blog.

For comments on individual blog posts, readers can and should still write their comments by clicking on “comments” below the article post itself.

Language Learning News

Another addition is the automatic feed posting each day of language learning related news from around the globe through a Google News feed directly into this site. Simply click on any news feed article title to be whisked instantly to the full online text of that news article no matter what or where its source may be. Now you can keep up with what’s happening with language learning world wide with just a mouse click or two daily.

Are there other features you’d be interested in or would like to have available in order to make your experience of reading this blog more interesting and informative for you? Just let me know through the “Skribit” feature and I’ll get right to it!

Thanks for your continued patronage of my blog. I sincerely hope you find these new added features interesting, informative and useful.

See you next post.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are Some Certifications Overrated?

Hello, My Name is Larry ...

Let’s take Scott Ginsberg’s axiom that “Certifications are Overrated.” If we delve a bit more into this concept we find some basis for his rationale. He continues by postulating the following concepts which are well worth considering.

A Master’s degree doesn’t mean you’ve mastered anything”, says Scott.

Do you think this is true? I certainly do. You can obtain a Master degree in many fields like Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Mathematics or even Business from a great any universities without having to actually practice the field professionally. Sure, in teaching EFL you may well have “teaching practice” of some sort, but the type, duration and quality of that teaching practice can vary widely from one institution to another. That’s even if there’s a requirement for it at all in the first place.

You want to master something? Try DOING it.

We’ve all heard the old axiom, “practice makes perfect”. Indeed, in some areas of human endeavor it’s the only way to develop. Think about musicians, for example. What’s more important; how much they practice their instrument or the number and kinds of degrees they may have? The more you do something, the more you practice a skill – any skill, the better you become at it. Notice that I didn’t say the more you study something. Yes, an education as a basis for any field of endeavor is important, but it is not and should not be the do all, be all and end all of anything. If you really want to master something, try doing it regularly and extensively over a substantial period of time.

You want to master something? Try READING five hundred books about it.

Ah yes, knowledge is indeed power. Say you want to learn to write well, even professionally. One of the first things you’ll need to develop is a facility with words. One great way to accomplish this is by reading. It’s true when they say “all writers read, but all readers don’t write”. Read stacks of books about writing all manner of prose and poetry and you’ll come away with more than a solid starting basis to practice your developing craft with knowledge and skill. You’ll learn to apply practical wisdom to your writing skills development. After reading 500 books about writing you won’t be a writer but you will know about writing. A writer writes. Period.

You want to master something? Try INTERVIEWING people who’ve already done it.

There’s an ancient Chinese proverb which states, “To know the road ahead, ask those who are returning”. Who better to describe the joys, twists, turns and pitfalls of what lies ahead than those who have gone before you in some way? The act of interviewing people who have already done what it is that you want to do can be crucial in preparing you for what lies ahead in your future. They say that, “forewarned is forearmed”. Use the advice and suggestions of those with experience to help blaze the way for your success.

You want to master something? Try FAILING at it a few times first.

Now failure, while an undesirable most of the time, is not always a bad thing. That is if you take the time to pull back from and learn from that failure. That is to say, to fail forward as the idea goes. If you truly learn from your failures and mistakes, you can grow and benefit from them. By using those failures and mistakes as stepping stones to improvement, you can achieve more and greater results in a shorter and lesser amount of time and experience. So don’t view failure as a negative, look for the lessons that you can extract from it – and grow wiser.

You want to master something? Try PRACTICING it every single day.

As we said before, when practicing anything, a skill, an activity, a habit, you will improve because of continually repeating that action. Your brain will begin to internalize each and every small aspect involved to “smooth out” the process both physically and mentally for you. Did you know that you don’t even have to physically practice the action to improve either? No, I didn’t just contradict myself. Let me illustrate: Say you want to improve your basketball free-throw shooting, your public speaking, your Salsa dancing or even your learning to speak Quechua. You can and should physically practice regularly, but you can also improve if you “practice” in your mind.

That is, use the power of visualization to beguile your mental faculties into processing the skills, motions, movements and other aspects of whatever you wish to improve in. Use your physical practice to help you in forming the mental images of what you’re doing. Close your eyes anywhere (not while driving on the Interstate, please) and picture yourself performing the action or skill you wish to improve in over and over and over again every opportunity that you get in addition to actual physical practice.

Do You REALLY Need to Go Back to School?

So as Scott says, you should finally ask yourself, “Do you really need to go back to school?” or can you apply the principles we’ve just discussed? So are “Certifications” truly overrated in many cases? I think by now you just might agree with me that perhaps they are.

Portions excerpted from “11 Ways to Become Brilliant
Scott Ginsberg, Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
That Guy with the Nametag

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Practical Tips for Learning a Foreign Language

Guest Blog by Emily Jacobson

Learning a new language can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t need to be. At first it will be natural to hit highs and lows during the learning process. Understanding new concepts can often also lead to disappointment at not learning things faster. Let’s go over some tips that can help make learning a new language as rich and valuable an experience as the language itself.

Being immersive when it concerns learning a new language is perhaps one of the most valuable tips you can take to heart. Thinking in a different language is the key to speaking in a different language, and the quickest way to achieve this is to actually live in the place whose language you are trying to learn. Unfortunately this is not always practical or possible.

Read everything you can get your hands on. If you take the time to read things you already enjoy it will make the experience of learning that new language that much easier. Absorbing newspapers, magazines, and comic books helps to create a broad sense of how the written language is used formally and casually.

Watching movies with or without subtitles will help your ears become more naturally accustomed to a new language. Reviewing sections of the movie again and again so that you can get a handle on inflection and pronunciation have the advantage of being both entertaining and educational.

The key to many people’s hearts is through their stomachs. This makes food an excellent place to start when approaching a new culture and its language. This is a particularly advantageous tip to keep in mind when traveling. Learning how to order food and how to describe meals with simple phrases are great methods for understanding the basics. If you love to eat then you’ll be excited about discovering new words to describe your favourite foods.

Try to think as often as possible in your new language. Every time your mind draws a blank on a word, look it up. Keep thinking, adding new words, thinking with these words, and you’ll see that the next time you’re involved in a conversation, those embarrassing moments when you clumsily grasp for words will quickly decrease in frequency.

Taking notes, creating a phrase book of your own, having a log of your most frequent conversations and new words will keep your language learning routed in your every day life.

Practice as often as possible. If you have a friend who is fluent in your language of study, try to spend as much time with them as you can. Ask them politely to speak to you in their language and to delicately correct you when you make mistakes. We can be defensive when people correct us and our frustration might deter us from continuing to learn, but if the constructive criticism comes from a friend we will be less inclined to become offended. We learn the best when we are happy and when we play, so try to incorporate the language into your social life and have a good time with it. Go to a bar and try to meet someone who speaks the language you’re attempting to learn. If you find them particularly attractive, you will work much harder to find the right words. Unless you completely murder their language with your brutal attempts to speak it, people often find the attempts cute and charming.

It’s completely normal to be frustrated at the beginning. There’s a good chance you won’t understand anything for a little while. But if you remain patient, employing the tips discussed and giving yourself time to become accustomed to the new sounds, to absorb them, hear them, to see them written and to eventually read them, gradually you will ease yourself into a comfort zone where you can speak them. Before you know it, your new language will become second nature to you.

This guest post article was written by Emily Jacobson, who is trying to conquer French in her spare time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Twelve Shopping Days of the Christmas Holiday Season

Christmas Holiday Shopping Days

November 24th – “Black Friday” – the day after Thanksgiving, you have time off from work on Friday and Saturday too. This is the official start of the Christmas holiday shopping season. Stores will be open 3 to 4 hours earlier and they’ll start to close later and later. The Christmas holiday sales now get underway. Now’s the first time that some Winter and Christmas holiday season items will be available in stores. I’m definitely NOT going to be among the loonies who are up before the crack of dawn to get in line for a wild dash for that “insanely-low price electronic item avertised on TV all Thanksgiving weekend or the latest “Kiddie-fad” toy or doll. Black Friday is the second single biggest shopping day for retailers and got its name because so much shopping was done on this day that it could turn the financial tide for many stores and “put them in the black” economically.

December 2nd – the First Saturday of December – The weekends from now on are important because they mean more free time for Christmas holiday shopping. Early Christmas holiday shoppers are usuaklly more than halfway through their Christmas holiday shopping list. Other shoppers are just started with browsing for specials, sales and the most requested gifts on their Christmas holiday shopping lists.

December 3rd – the First Sunday of December – This weekend some early Christmas holiday shopping can be started but many of the stores close earlier than usual on Sundays.

December 7th – Pearl Harbor Day (in the USA) – This day is a very important one to World War II veterans who solemnly remember it. My old uncle and Grandfasther practically can’t shut up about it. The President of the U.S. often gives a speech to a Veterans group and lays a wreath at the "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" (pictured) in honor of those who died on Pearl Harbor Day and during the two World Wars.

December 9th – the Second Saturday in December – Now there are two full weeks to go before Christmas Day. Can you believe it? Where did the time go and where did this whole year go? You’re starting to hear more of, “Have you finished all your Christmas shopping yet?” NO. I’ll simply have to speed up my Christmas holiday shopping or panic now and avoid the last minute rush. You’re running out of time for everything yopu need to do plus having quality Christmas holiday time with your family is getting to be more nightmare than dream.

December 10th – the Second Sunday in December – Hey, you’ve got to go to church if you haven't been attending so that you won't look like a “Christmas-only church attendee” You’ll also need to squeeze in some more Christmas holiday shopping and you absolutely have to start mailing the family Christmas greeting cards this week.

December 16th – the Third Saturday of December, the First Day of Hanukkah – Can you believe that there's only one more week left before Christmas Day? We’ve got to oput together a shopping list for Christmas Eve and finalize our Christmas family dinner preparations.

December 17th – the Third Sunday in December – Now, it’s exactly one week before Christmas Day. We’ll need to make sure that all Christmas presents are safely hidden away and are still a surprise. We’ll also make our final preparations and plans for the family dinner on Christmas Day this year.

December 21st – Oh my goodness!!! Only three more days to go before Christmas. I need to do last minute preparations and planning and to get as many action items as possible out of the way, plus finish all my Christmas holiday and supermarket shopping. Any final preparatory tasks will go to family members as needed. Finally, I’ll need to go over my plans for Christmas holiday Dinner and celebrations.

December 22nd – the First Day of Winter – Is all yet lost? You still have a mountain of shopping to get done! You can’t even think about going to the mall next weekend. Pray for a miracle to get you through your the last crunch of your Christmas holiday shopping at last.

December 23rd – the Last Saturday before Christmas Day – This is Now The Single Biggest Shopping Day of the Year! The mall is just of shoppers who are absolutely crazy and there are no sales people around. They’d be crazy to fight that mob. The part-timers all quit to get their last minute Christmas holiday shopping done. It's an absolute “zoo” everywhere – on the roads, in the supermarket, at shopping centers, lines for ATM machines, even at the gas station people are honking, and screaming at the attendants. But you know what … I found this lady who makes hand-crafted porcelains and bought a huge load of my special-items gifts from her with NO line to stand in.

December 24th – It’s Christmas Eve – All the city, even downtown and the malls are glorious. The holiday lighting displays are wonderful and magical this time of year. Many people will go to a catholic Midnight Mass. Don’t you think that the Christmas holidays are the most marvelous season of the year?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ancient Christmas Customs and Modern Celebrations

The Winter Solstice

At about the same tiome as the Winter Solstice, the Christmas Holiday season is celebrated. This is because religious leaders felt that celebrating the holiday season at this time would allow more people to celebrate. However, many celebrations of pagan origins were also carried over and celebrated during the relios-based Christmas holiday celebration period.

“The Lord of Mis-Rule”

Using one example, people would engage in drunken revelries, debaucles which were similar in nature to Mardi-Gras-types festivities after they had attended church. A “pordiosero”, "miserable" or “beggar” would often then be coronated as “The Lord of Mis-rule”. People would then take part in a series visits to the estates of the rich to ask for portions of food, clothing and drink. Wealthy patrons who refused to “participate” would then be subject to acts of mischief, vandalism and other pranks. Others of the wealthier classes of society would contribute offerings of food, drink, items of clothing and small gifts left outside for the poorer classes during the Christmas holiday season.

Even centuries before the birth of Christ and Christmas, celebrations were held during the mid-Winter season such as celebrations of birth and light during the darkest days of the year. The Winter Solstice meant that the coldest part of that season was now past, so the days would now continually get longer and warmer.

Yule tide Celebrations of Scandinavia

Yuletide celebrations were held from the 21st of December through the first 21 days of January by the Norse people of Scandinavia. Part of this celebration included the men bringing home a yule log which was burned until it was finished. This could last up to twelve days depending on the thickness and length of the log. An extensive feast was held during this time. When the yule log was finished, the feast and celebration were ended. For each spark from the yule log fire the Norse believed that a new calf or pig would come during the new year according to their tradition.

With food, grain and grazing supplies in short supply during the Winter months, especially from the end of December through January and into early February, many cattle were killed to avoid having to feed them. This meant large quantities of meat and beef were available to fuel lavish feasts which included generous portions of the wine, beer and spirits fermented or brewed earlier during the year.

The Tradition of Sinter Klaus, Jultomten and Pere Noel

From about the 1700s in Germany and Switzerland, well-mannered children would receive a gift from Christkind, which means Christ child, or Kris Kringle (aka. Sinter Klaus or Santa Claus). He was originally thought to be an angel-like person who traveled with St. Nicholas (pictured) delivering Christmas gifts. Jultomten was a jolly elf who delivered gifts from a goat- pulled sleigh in Scandinavia. Pere Noel filled the shoes of children in France with presents, treats, goodies and sweets at Christmas. An elderly Russian woman named Babouschka gave the three Wise Men wrong directions so they couldn’t find the baby Jesus. Regretting her actions, she couldn’t then find them to correct her mistake so she visits children on the day before Epiphany, Three Kings Day on January 5th, to lay gifts beside their bed hoping that one will be the baby Jesus who will pardon her.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Dying, Dead and Extinct Languages

Linguistic Imperialism

We’ve seen fairly recent examples of this in Eastern Europe with the “breakup” of the former Soviet Union. Now splintered ethnic, cultural or linguistic groups are returning to the use of their individual lingua franca where once they were “forced” to use Russian as the language of communication, education and commerce. The same held true for the attempted take-over of the English-speaking Falkland Islands by Argentina which would have completely changed the language from English to Spanish by “official decree” – or force. This is a classic definition example of Linguistic Imperialism.

Globalizational or Regionalization

As the impact of one country’s economy and commerce expands to influence that of other countries in the same region, continent or linguistic family, globalization or regionalization extends its grip to assuage countries into the use of a lingua franca other than the official language(s) of the country. Initially isolated by racial, ethnic and geographic restrictions, both Geechee or Gullah language originally spoken by former black slaves on the Eastern U.S., principally Atlantic coast (North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, ref.)


When a language exists in an isolated geographic, ethnic or cultural setting – then that setting fades into non-existence, the language may die or become extinct. At this point we need to clarify the difference between a dead language and an extinct language. According to Wikipedia, a Dead Language is one which no one speaks or uses as a first language and is often replaced by another language. Latin, for example, was replaced by Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese; or the Coptic language which was replaced by Arabic. Old English is also in this category since it is no longer spoken, although numerous detailed examples of it (i.e., literature) still widely exist. An Extinct language on the other hand is one which no longer has any speakers at all. Recently-extinct languages include Cochimi, which was spoken from north of Loreto to the northern part of the Baja California peninsula, Eyak, historically spoken in south central Alaska and the Kakadu or Gaagudju language was spoken in northern Australia, in the environs of what is now known as Kakadu National Park.

Modern Languages

In contrast to these, a Modern Language is one which has living native speakers. The continuing loss of indigenous, tribal, ethnic and historically valuable languages has now triggered a movement for the documentation and preservation of these types of localized tongues for their continued study by linguistics scholars.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Learn English, Spanish or Other Foreign Language Fast with a Supermarket Tour

English s a Foreign Language Learning

As EFL teaching professionals and foreign language learners, we’re always looking for ways to acquire English language skills in the shortest possible time using the least amount of focused effort. This is not to say that a person is necessarily “lazy”. This simply means that we want our foreign language learning efforts to be as casual and “painless” as possible. When you think of learning a foreign language, often the toil of memorizing vocabulary and verb lists comes to mind. Also, we might conjure up images of the drudgery of countless hours of spoken repetition speaking drills and hordes of embarrassing errors when trying to speak the foreign language with someone. However, none of these scenarios need to be the case for effectively learning English as a foreign language or another foreign language.

You DO Eat, Don’t You?

Let’s look at a basic language theme like food. You DO eat, don’t you? Well, likely that isn’t going to change if you visit or relocate to a foreign country. So, we’ll start learning (or teaching) English as a foreign language with a visit to our local supermarket. If you and your learners are in the U.S.A, here’s how such a food vocabulary lesson might work for you.

To start off, write your proposed shopping list in the target language.

Go to the supermarket, then add to your English or foreign language food shopping list in these ways:

• What are three to five meats you like? write these down from the signs
• What are two or three meats you don’t like? Write these down too.
• Can you have dairy products? Write a few of these down. If there are any you don’t know – ask another shopper “What is this?” (¿Que es esto?) Do you know what KUMIS is? How about Quajada?
• Move on to the fruit section – write down three to five of these you like
• Ask another shopper about three to five fruits you don’t know. Do you like this fruit? (¿Le gusta Ud. esta fruta?) Do you know Chontaduro (pictured above), Borojo or Pitaya?
• Note five the foreign language names of vegetables that you like
• Write down a couple of vegetables that you don’t like
• By now you know the drill, ask about a few vegetables you don’t know; at last one vegetable this trip. Now, ask another shopper, “How do you cook this?” (¿Como puedo cocinar esto?)

For More Extended English as a Foreign Language Lessons

If you want a more extended lesson, you can continue to the baked goods section, cereals and seafood if you’re feeling puckish – and brave. But for now, you want to engage locals in brief, non-threatening banter about what’s going on all around you. After all, they eat too, you know. Better yet, save some other supermarket sections for additional trips. This way you can go “shopping” everyday, practicing your English as a foreign language skills casually each day. This works equally well for Spanish and other foreign languages too.

Here’s Your English or Foreign Language Learning Opportunity

Here’s your opportunity to ask for help, explanations and even recipes while getting an in-depth immersion into you new foreign language and culture at the same time. No matter what foreign language you’re learning, it just can’t be a faster, simpler or more interesting than that.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Why Do Languages Die?

Dead or Dying Languages of the World

“How any languages are there in the World?" Well the answer to that question will depend largely on when the question is asked. You see, the number of world languages is a fluid, changing thing. As recently as two years ago, the number of languages in the world was put at 6912, but with dozens of obscure languages falling into obsolescence and disuse almost monthly, now even that figure is in question. More than 517 languages are now on the “endangered” or "dying languages" list. Increasingly, English as a foreign language is extending its influence as a worldwide lingua franca. This, among other reasons, is impacting the survival of regionally or locally-based indigenous tongues around the globe. Hundreds of culturally-rich, ethnic and historically significant languages are dying and not just because of the proliferation of English as a foreign language. But why do languages die?

Why Languages Die

There are a number of reasons for the ultimate disappearance of a language. Briefly then, let’s look at some of them.

No native speakers

As the number of speakers of a language dwindles, the language becomes increasingly endangered to the point of extinction. Grandparents use the language, like Eyak, for example, with their adult children. The adult children, now parents themselves, may use the language little, if at all with their own children, preferring the use of another lingua franca. Finally, the youngest generation abandons the language entirely, never learns it or moves away to seek their fortunes elsewhere, in a location the language is not known or used. With this last generation, the language finally "dies".

No written Form

Numerous languages existed with only a spoken, traditional form, passing down the customs, traditions and elements of the language purely through “Griots”, historians or story-tellers. Harsh climates, lack of durable materials or a distinctive absence of written structure all could contribute to the demise of a traditionally spoken language form. Pictorial forms of a language may exist on non-permanent or semi-permanent media such as animal skins, rock or cave paintings, crudely-formed parchment-like materials or carvings in tree trunks, logs or even as tattoos on human skin.

Absorption by another Lingua Franca

An increasing phenomenon which is causing the disappearance of numerous tongues is the “absorption” of cultures, communicative and data preservation aspects of a “minor” language by a stronger, more widely-spoken and commercially used lingua franca. Nomadic tribes of eastern and central Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the isolated islands and rain forests of the south Pacific tend to “lose” their linguistic heritage through this means. In order for a people or tribe to survive, it becomes increasingly necessary to form trade and other alliances with other, extraneous groups. This requires the adaptation of a common lingua franca for each such tribe. The broader and more widely-used the lingua franca, the more range and options a group, tribe or groups of people have. Often this may take the form of a “pidgin” are mixture of indigenous languages merged into a more broadly communicative form like Melanesian Pidgin.

In part two of this series entitled, “Dying, Dead and Extinct Languages” we’ll continue our glimpse into the demise of some languages and the proliferation of others.

See you then.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here’s What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

“What am I Going to Do If the Boat Sinks?”

An Exciting Vacation on the Pacific Coast of Colombia

A month ago my 87-year-old Mother Praxedes decided she wanted to return to her home town, a small fishing village called Jurubida, located on the Pacific Coast of the Choco region of Colombia. *The Choco is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the “wettest region in the world” with more than 40 FEET of rainfall per year. In order to get there we took a flight from the south central mountain valley city of Cali where I live to the northern city of Medellin mere hours from the border of Panama, and from there another flight by small plane to the county seat town of Nuqui on the Pacific coast. Satena Airlines provided a wheel chair for my Mother, due to her age and the fact that she is not able to walk very well.

The 600-plus population fishing village of Jurubida is one hour away from Nuqui by outboard boat. After arriving in Nuqui we took a small wooden launch to Jurubida. One of our neighbors, a man nick-named “Feo”, from the village piloted the launch. We did not have life vests or any safety equipment. At about the half way point of the passage, heavy rains started and we had strong winds and big waves buffeting our tiny craft. In the middle of the storm the outboard motor failed. Feo worked frantically to bail water and get the motor started. Now we were in the ocean trying to bail the water out from the boat to keep us from sinking. We were cold, wet and praying for our lives.

“What am I going to do if the boat sinks”, a Mother asked me. “My daughter can’t swim at all.” The look in her eyes spoke volumes of the terror she felt.

Trying to comfort her I responded, “If that happens, the best thing to do is to hold on to the boat after it turns over.”

I gazed over towards the shore, at least a couple of kilometers distant. I’d try to swim for it if it came to the worst and the sea calmed down some. Both Nuqui and Jurubida were on the coast a mere four to five kilometers or so apart. You could easily see the lights of Nuqui from the beach of Jurubida at night. The launches essentially paralleled the beach a mile or two offshore for most of the trip. You can even walk from the one to the other with the exception of having to cross two rivers emptying into the sea. One river, the Tribuga, is very broad and deep enough to allow even large ocean-going ships to enter its mouth.

Finally the storm ceased, the motor started, we continued and arrived safely.

After being in Jurubida for about three days, the rumors began. The guerrilla were coming that night to kill everybody in town. At 6 pm not one soul was on the street, everybody was locked in their house praying. The few young, inexperienced soldiers who were in town were very nervous. Then they started running around shouting and clapping*, when we heard that noise we thought the shooting had started so my Mother, cousins, nephew and nieces all hid under our beds. Thank God nothing happened that night.

*Note: This is a military tactic designed to disguise the number of combatants. By moving around and clapping, the constant changing of position, sound echoes and reverberations make it nearly impossible to determine the number of soldiers there are.

The very next day I took a boat back to Nuqui trying to catch a cargo boat south to Colombia’s largest Pacific coast seaport city, Buenaventura, because I was already out of money. My Mother stayed in Jurubida. When my relatives in Nuqui found out about my travel plans, they warned my not to take the cargo boat “Luchador” because my life could be in danger since the cargo boat was under threat by extortionists and the guerrilla. It is one of only two cargo boats that regularly make the trip up and down that section of Colombia’s coast. I called my husband and waited until he wired me the money to fly back to Cali. It had been the most “exciting” vacation I have ever had. Still, even though I was now back home, it wasn’t over. Within a couple of days I knew I had contracted “parasites” from the food and water I consumed during my “exciting vacation”. Three days treatment with Zentel and Secnidol and my ordeal was finally ended.

Thank Jehovah God.


This story is as was told to me by Doris Lopez in November 2008. I have been to Nuqui and Jurubida several times myself, traveling both by air and cargo boat. The fishing village of Jurubida is accessible only by sea by small motor launch. Nuqui has an airport which handles small passenger aircraft only, during daylight hours. The week following this story, a plane crash occurred there which killed nine of the approximately dozen or so people aboard.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Visit to Copper Canyon in Mexico

…while you’re traveling around Mexico you absolutely shouldn’t miss Copper Canyon…

COPPER CANYON is wider, deeper and more beautiful than the Grand Canyon in the U.S. according to many. A system of very deep canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon in the U.S., Copper Canyon is carved into the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in northwestern Mexico. Although the area, also known as Sierra Tarahumara, can be reached by bus or car, the best way to see it is via the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad, (El Chepe) a truly spectacular train journey. If you take the train east to west, the route begins in the desert at Chihuahua, cuts through the mountains and ends up at the sea. The train not only passes through amazing scenery, but also stops at small mountain towns where you can overnight to get a better look at the mountains and the canyon. If you go straight through, the trip takes one long day. It's possible to descend into the steep canyons, but you'll have to arrange a hike or other transportation (bus or car).

A journey through the canyon can be done independently or on a tour, but we highly recommend a tour. Tours usually incorporate stays at hotels along the way and may also provide opportunities for hiking, car tours, horseback riding and rafting. Most rail itineraries follow this basic route: The train leaves Chihuahua very early in the morning and the first stopover is at Creel, where you can take hikes or a horseback ride to several destinations, including a local mission school and some hot springs. From Creel you can also travel to the town of Batopilas, which lies at the bottom of one of the canyons at the end of an incredibly steep and unpaved road. Plan on at least five hours' driving in each direction. You can usually line up a driver in Creel's main square to take you there. The next day's train takes you to Divisadero, where you'll get some of the best views of the canyon. Several upscale rim-side hotels are in the tiny town if you decide to overnight there. Or you can continue on to Bahuichivo, about an hour's ride south of Divisadero, and transfer to the Mission Hotel in Cerocahui.

The final ride on the rails is to Los Mochis, near the Gulf of California. The gulf is an hour away, at Topolobampo, which has beautiful beaches but is not really prepared to offer sanctuary to tourists. From Los Mochis, many people go on to Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta.

You can also start the trip from the Los Mochis end, where the train leaves just as early in the morning. In either direction, reservations are essential, so make them well in advance. Copper Canyon lies about 300 miles or 485 km southwest of El Paso, Texas.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Teaching English in the City of Torreon


The city of Torreon with a population of about 900,000, isn’t exactly what you’d call a tourist town. The does have an Office of Tourism, however, located on Matamoros between Vicario and Corona. Their telephone number is 712 – 3829. Reputedly there are English-speaking staff members, but the key word here is “reputedly”. Torreon is actually part of a trio of cities. Ciudad Lerdo with approximately 110,00 inhabitants is on the other side of the Rio Nazas while Gomez Palacio, populated by around 300,000. The statue of Christ that overlooks the city is the second largest in the hemisphere. Only the one in Rio de Janeiro is larger. Although the temperature soars to well over 100 degrees F during the Summer months and remains in the high 70s to low 80s most of the rest of the year, surprisingly there are Winter days which can plummet the thermometer to below freezing. So, you’ll need to pack some warm clothes for living here too.

Starting from the U.S. border, just take the first thing smoking South …

Some approximate travel times and first-class bus prices…

Torreon Chihuahua 6 hours 180 pesos
Torreon Durango 4 hours 90 pesos
Torreon México City 12 hours 370 pesos
Torreon Monterrey 5 hours 120 pesos
Torreon Matamoros
(across from Brownsville, Texas) 8 hours 30 mins. 250 pesos
Torreon Nueva Loredo
(across from Laredo, Texas) 8 hours 210 pesos

As mentioned in previous posts, you can’t beat the Traveling by Bus in Mexico website, in English, which contains almost everything you need to know about traveling in Mexico by bus. So be sure to visit the site for more detailed information at:


Usually, this town in Baja California is visited for only one Reason; it's near Parque Natural de Balena Gris (Gray Whale National Park). From November through March, gray whales breed near the shores of Scammon's Lagoon. Take binoculars if you go there, and pay the small fee for one of the boat tours. It's worth it to get out closer to the whales.

Another destination in the area is San Ignacio, a small oasis town 90 miles (145 km) to the southeast, and the nearby San Ignacio Lagoon, home of the "friendly whales." For whatever reason, many of the whales there seem better disposed toward humans and some will even swim close enough to be petted. Puerto San Carlos on Magdalena Bay, which is farther south on the peninsula, is another great spot for whale watching. Local tours are available. There are also cave paintings nearby, accessible only on horseback. The area is 375 miles (600 km) south of San Diego, California.


Start with Torreon at: where you’ll find the official website of the city government (in Spanish)

One of the best local information preview sites – in English no less, is Colegio Americano de Torreon’s information-packed site located at: Here you can bone up on what to do and see, additional places to eat, local shopping and cultural events. Also listed are tips for getting around town and handling a variety of money matters.
Underground site giving accurate weather forecasts and information for the area

The Hispanic Culture Center in Torreón maintains a site at: is the Tour By Mexico site for information on the "haps" around town and the region.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 125 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "Creative, Dynamic Ways to Motivate and Teach English as a Foreign Language to Diverse Groups of Reluctant Learners" by requesting the title at: