• Come Back! Don’t fly away!

    One of the essential skills ESL learners need to develop is tolerance to ambiguity. “What?  Another skill I have to learn?” you might ask, ” But you (the teacher)  told us that there are just four: reading, writing, listening, and speaking!  Isn’t that enough already?”  “Not enough, my friends,” I would say.  The four skills you just mentioned are the kind of skills that are OBVIOUS and TALKED A LOT ABOUT.  But there are a few others, that are as important as these four, but  they are not really taught in the classroom, and I think they should be.

    Come back!  Don't fly away!

    Come back! Don’t fly away!

    Ambiguity is a situation in which something can be understood in more than one way.  In simple terms, ambiguity is something confusing.   An ambiguous sentence could be understood in one way by some people, and in a different way by others.  And this misunderstanding makes it very funny sometimes.  Consider this sentence: They said they saw the Eiffel Tower flying over Paris.  Who was flying?  The people who said this or the tower?  This sentence could be understood either way, and that’s what makes it ambiguous.  Watch out for this kind of situations, because there are great many of them in everyday life, and we have to figure them  all out.  And how exactly do we do that?  I’ll tell you in another post.

  • Hmmm…What’s so funny?


    Do you understand what is funny in this cartoon?

    If you understand the humor of any particular nation, that means you’ve achieved a very important milestone (point on your journey toward any goal).  Humor is the essence of any particular nation’s collective experience.   Just think about it: if millions of people find something amusing and funny, there is a deep meaning to that joke, cartoon, or story for so many people speaking your target language.  If you don’t understand what’s funny, you’re not fluent…not yet.  How do you learn the humor? What do you do to understand and appreciate the beauty and wit of a particular joke that most native speakers find funny?  Good question.  You just breathe it in, and wait till it resonates with your personal sense of humor.

    One of my favorite American cartoonists (people who normally make you laugh by creating funny images with captions) is Garry Larson.  He didn’t just draw funny pictures; he created a unique cartoon universe that could become an excellent guide to all of us, immigrants, toward understanding what Americans find funny, and why.

    His sense of humor is not light and airy, but rather macabre (dark, sarcastic, sinister).  At least it is macabre in American perception; I don’t see anything particularly dark or sarcastic, but then again, I’m Russian, and that means I have more tolerance to dark and sinister things. images-3

  • Humor me…

    We consider something funny if what we hear is unexpected or unusual, and amusing. Humor is the key to unlock the character of a particular culture.  Sometimes we hear a joke or see a cartoon, but we don’t get it.  “What is funny about it?” we ask.

    This means we’re missing something…In this blog, we’ll practice understanding jokes.  You will be given a few choices to decide why the joke (picture, image, cartoon) is funny.  After you entered your choice, you will see how your selection compares to other people’s.  Let’s try it now.  Take a look at this:





    Why is this funny?

  • Outrun, outdo, outperform….

    You don’t have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friends…


    Prefix out——- sometimes means “do better than”, so outperform means perform better than somebody, outdo means do better than.

    People say, “You outdid yourself”or “He outdid himself.”

    It means the person did better than expected.

    So, what is the joke telling us?


    This joke is funny because...

  • Good luck!

    No wonder they attached “Good Luck” to a regular traffic sign! I still don’t know which way to go.

    No wonder they attached "Good Luck" to a regular traffic sign!  I still don't know which way to go