If you’re upset by all of the horror going on in the world recently then watch this. It offers valuable perspective about how we’re living in the most peaceful time in human history despite it seeming the very opposite. Steven Pinker, psycholinguistics professor at MIT, goes into the cold hard facts and a little informed speculation about why life in the past was so violent and deadly and that in fact we are living in extremely peaceful times. He points out the fact that our standards about human life has changed, so even though violent death is far more rare, we’re actually more outraged by it. This is a good thing as it was routine for humans to witness and participate in public executions, vendetta killings, tit for tat violence of warring communities, slavery, and so on. This is not to minimize the horrendous events of late that we should very much be paying attention to and doing whatever we can to change things in order to make the world even more peaceful, its just to give us perspective and let us appreciate the peace and stability we actually enjoy on a daily basis. The problem is the vividness of these negative events causes the emotional parts of the brain to override and shape our memory. If we have many negative high impact memories then what we think about and expect from the world is heavily influencing since thinking and understanding is basically the processing of memories and perceptions. Take the following example:
1. Here is a 5 minute video where Prof. Noam Chomsky explains that language actually isn’t for communication; Communication is just a byproduct of language. Watch to see what he thinks it’s really for.
2. He also says language doesn’t pick out actual objects in the word. What does it do then? Watch and find out:
Here is a fun activity for the language classroom:
- Look at the following picture and describe what you see. What are they wearing and how would you describe their expression?
- What do you think might be going on in the background and what do you think the baby is feeling?
- Create a dialogue or thought bubble for each image.
- Take two or more of the images and create a story based on them:
How do we know which emotions are what? What parts of the face tell us the most?
Which parts of the face moves for each emotion you can think of? Use a the photos to discuss these.
Photos via Scout Cheat Sheet
Many Americans mistakenly view Mexicans as foreign. In fact, the indigenous people of Mexico have called North America home for a whole lot longer than the Europeans who first started populating the Americas at the close of the fifteenth century. As a reminder, here’s 13 words in Nahuatl, the language of the Mexica people of Central Mexico, that English speakers use all the time — many without knowing it.
Passed into English by way of the Spanish word “aguacate,” the word originates from the Nahuatl term “āhuacatl,” meaning both “avocado” and “testicle,” according to Merriam-Webster.
What is the difference in meaning, pronunciation and part of speech for the following words in bold?
1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at the dove, it dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present!
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Passives can be confusing for some learners from other languages where it may be formed differently. Its typically used when the object or action of the sentence emphasized more or is more important than the subject, or the subject is know e.g. The thief was arrested. Most people understand that the police do the arresting and what is important is who was arrested.
Below is an illustration from engames.eu of how to form the passive form from the active form.
Exercises adapted from onestopenglish.com
Changes in your town (present perfect passive)
Write down some changes in the town where you live over the past fifty years. e.g., A new hospital has been built. Include things that haven’t been changed, but that you would like to see changed. e.g. The new sports stadium still hasn’t been opened.
Changes in the office since you started working here (present perfect passive)
Describe how things are done in the workplace.
- Where are the major decisions made?
- Where is most of the work done?
- Where are the supplies kept?
- What changes have you noticed since you started working at your current job?
Changes in your life (past passive or passive with used to)
Think about when you were a child and consider. For example:
- When I was eight years old…
- I was called …
- I was taught to listen in class and to ask interesting questions by my teachers.
- I always used to be given more food than I could eat.
Five bizarre things
Think of five bizarre facts, myths or rumors about the world. These could be strange historical facts, legends about people, conspiracy theories…
- It is believed that…
- It is said that…
- It is claimed that…