Pronunciation: the nightmare of all language learners

My first actual post on!

The ELT Gypsy

DISCLAIMER: this entry contains a number of words in pink. The reason they are highlighted so is that while this entry is mainly directed at fellow teachers, English learners might benefit from it as well and might wonder about the idiomatic expressions or cultural references made within. At the end of the article there is a handy list of the aforementioned expressions complete with analysis.

I was flipping throughan Assimil book for learning Arabic… OK, one moment, let’s rewind. Some weeks ago, a student whose corporate-paid course was ending asked me about maybe keeping in touch and having private lessons. Naturally, my eyes became like this:

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

She then asked me if I thought Assimil books might be an effective way to learn a language and if we might use them in our course. Now, I have since done the customary google search…

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Rant: Why terms like “Social Distancing” and modern communication in general piss me off.

First of all, a premise: I am not about to criticise the precautionary measures being taken to fight the spread of the infection. I encourage everyone to do everything is required of them to prevent more people suffering and dying. That said, here goes my rant.

Because we live in a world where everything has a trendy name, we now have terms like “Social Distancing” become an official status. This obsession with giving a label to pretty much everything is getting out of hand.

Flashback to little less than 20 years ago. I was a teenager, I had a LiveJournal and I went on a long rant about women who didn’t identify as feminists. I couldn’t understand, and honestly still cannot, why wanting equal opportunities at work and in social life, demanding a fair pair and refusing to tolerate blatantly sexist behaviour would be something a woman wouldn’t identify with. Of course I now see how the term and label gets exploited (You don’t like this all-female remake of a film? You’re sexist!) and perverted, very often for commercial interest or exceedingly biased agendas.

I still identify as a feminist, because morally and conceptually that’s what I am. And I honestly don’t give a fuck about the online backlash a statement such as that might provoke.

That said, I have grown weary of labels. Especially the way they are used today. When communication tools like Twitter began, I was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon. I loved the immediacy of it, how I could select a source of information and have the updates delivered straight into my pocket (where I keep my phone, yes). And I even found the hashtag system clever and fun. Until it wasn’t.

It started to become a substitute for content. People started applying “meaningful” labels on meaningless content, and it turned into a patting each other on the back for doing nothing and being proud of it. The pointless and senseless became fashionable, and suddenly sticking a label on things became the only thing that mattered, even more than having something to stick that label upon.

The dangers with this type of behaviour is when, aside from the sheer emptiness and vacuity of those who are now our entertainers and celebrities escalates, other things are given equal attention and get popularised. Ignorance (hello, flat-earthers?), hatred (and a good day to you, racism, xenophobia, misogyny and so on and so forth), stupidity (of course I wouldn’t leave out the new politics) and self-indulgence (each and every person making a living about expressing an opinion on something without even doing as much as basic research).

This is now a world where instead of using Twitter to access the news, we use Twitter to make the news. Where instead of having little girls play with make up we have little girls publishing videos in which they teach how to apply make up, which they happen to have learned 2 hours earlier by watching an already existing video explaining the exact same thing. Where reviewing something has become getting money for advertising something, regardless if you like it or not. (To be fair, this was the case most of the times even in the past, but at least those doing it had a minimum mastery of language and syntax to make the whole experience somewhat worth our time.) A world where we want to be congratulated for doing the minimum required during a pandemic: staying the fuck at home and avoiding spreading a virus. And a world where we are allowed to foster our narcissism because all it takes is access to the internet and using trending tags.

Meanwhile, all our “heroes” are dying. Thinkers, writers, movers and shakers, all the people we could look at and go: “Fucking hell, now that is an amazing human being!” are disappearing, due to illness, age, the harshness of the world we live in, etc. And with their absence, it feels like the world grows darker and darker, while the masses popularise what they feel familiar with rather than what they could learn from.

And I sit in my home, waiting for my regular life to restart, and having too much time to think about how I’d rather it didn’t. I’d rather this became a moment for the world to stop and think: where the fuck are we going with this? What’s the plan? Here is my crazy idea: how about we make a world where we need to earn respect, popularity and celebrity? I am so ready to like someone new. I just need a reason to. I just need someone to do more than just the bare minimum and demand recognition for it. Don’t you?

Network (1976, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

P.S. Has anyone re-watched Network, lately? It turned out to be rather prophetic…

Homecoming, part 5

Indeed here we are, yet another promise to myself not to abandon this blog. I have successfully managed to even break my one post a year streak with my last resolution, which I must admit was impressive even for me.

Who knew that becoming a freelance language trainer, moving (twice), getting married and adopting a cat would take up so much of my time? Had I thrown in also a pregnancy, I would have had enough excuses for a lifetime for not writing.

And yet again, this needs to change. Despite having so many sources of satisfaction and happiness, they don’t seem to suffice the sense of exhaustion I tend to reach, and as far as I can see, the only reason for that is that I’m not doing all I want to do.

My energy and creativity are currently on loan, working for another’s vision, which is fine, but not enough. I need to get back on track, achieve my own goals and finally reach a sense of balance that will make me finally feel like I’m not just wasting away and running around like a headless chicken.

I’ve given myself a series of deadlines between now and the 31st, and hope to meet all of them. And if I don’t, I hope to at least have motivated myself into some form of proactiveness that will bleed into the new year. So here is to new beginnings, for about the fifth time since starting this blog. And here is a picture of my cat, who is always an internet hit.


Apropos of nothing


If you have ever seen Grave of the fireflies, you’ll know what the perils of waiting too long might be.

It has come to my attention that despite my best promises, I have not come up with any content in quite some time. As much as I would love to say that despite my absence without leave from the world wide web, I have been very productive in the real world, I’m afraid it isn’t so.

Yes, there were the holidays to tackle, and they were a rather hectic period.

Yes, I have made some drastic changes to my life, which of course took up a lot of time as well.

No, I don’t believe I have a valid excuse for my creative blank page.

I am not “being my harshest critic”, I’m just being honest. There were moments aplenty for me to get my act together and write, as I always claim that I want to do.

Sure, I’m against constantly blogging apropos of nothing and ending up just cluttering the information stream with exercises in self-aggrandizement, as I have found so often to be the case. I still believe in quality over quantity.

But I do admit that it is a fine line between being fussy about doing things right and being downright lazy, and I have crossed it over a million times. It’s far too easy to just say, “Nah, I can’t write today, I’m too distracted and nothing worthy could ever come out of it.”

I have been making excuse after excuse for not being able to get down to business: my working hours were too tough, I didn’t have a computer of my own, I didn’t have anyone motivating me. That’s exactly what they were: excuses. A metaphorical note from my mom to excuse me from class today.

I may be well in my thirties (hint: yes, I am looking for responses such as “But you don’t look a day older than 25!”) but there are still many sides of me that are… unfinished.

Do I think I should be all-knowing and wise by now? Of course not. I don’t expect that to happen when I’ll be well in my nineties. But I did expect to have developed a more graceful way to deal with the awkwardness and self-loathing I developed when I hit puberty and that I had since then clumsily mishandled.

It was rather disappointing for me to realize that I hadn’t progressed much from being a “little girl lost” in my mid-twenties. It was even more disappointing to notice how even that metamorphosis hadn’t really changed me much from the dazed and confused teenager I used to be.

Suddenly, it hit me that the name of this blog, which I thought I was using as a punchline developed over 10 years ago I had simply grown fond of, was the most honest and appropriate thing I had produced. I am still waiting to happen. I don’t consider myself a woman in my own right.

I see women, often younger than me, and I admire them. They’re in a world that still hasn’t figured out what to make of them, that still questions them. But despite how insecure this might make them feel, they stand there, determined to feel comfortable in their own skin.

And then I see overgrown children, of any gender, my age or older. They often put up a front but when push comes to shove they just huddle in a corner of self-indulgence and do nothing. They just wait for life to happen to them.

On October 1st 2015 I handed in my resignation letter from the school I had worked for since September 2002.

Sounds dramatic enough? OK, so here is some background.

I had just turned 20 when I started working there, and throughout the years I had let it become the new authority figure that would determine my life’s opportunities and limitations. As a teenager, you blame your parents and your teachers for “ruining your life”. After that, it usually is your workplace.

It’s a comfortable lifestyle. You practically never have to be responsible for yourself because you always have someone else making those hard calls for you. And when the outcome is unpleasant you rant about it for a while and then wait for things to blow over. But you’re stuck in limbo.

I was young when I started working, and I’ll allow that to be my excuse then. Most people my age were in university extending their leave of absence from adulthood, getting acquainted with it in small doses. I thought I was “being real” instead, but in the end I just allowed my emotional growth to be stumped, having replaced the parent to please or rebel against my employer.

I am not unique in this behaviour. As a matter of fact, this accusatory finger could be pointed to every other person in the western world: overgrown babies across the internet, take a pledge to grow up with me! (I’m giggling as I type this, please take it in that spirit.)

So what about that letter of resignation, then?

I’m now doing exactly what I used to do, I teach English as a second language. And I still work with the school I resigned from, naturally. But I’m a freelance now, so everything I do is all up to me. My mistakes. My victories. My responsibility.

It’s scary, and I must admit I’m not entirely sure of the timing. As mentioned in my previous post, I have a wedding ahead of me. That will probably be followed by the messy business of setting up a family, eventually. I’m not sure it was the right choice to make.

But it was my choice and I’m not making any more excuses for myself.

My working hours are the ones I make for myself, so I can easily fit some writing in there.

I have both a working laptop of my own and a working tablet, so I can easily write wherever I am.

I have had people who have been preciously encouraging my efforts and motivating me for years.

I’m very excited about this new year, let’s see what it will bring.

But I’m not waiting anymore. I’m good and done with that.

Sometimes they come back


…graaaargh, someone get these brambles off me!

Am I dreaming? The blog is actually being updated? Has the account been hacked? The answers to these questions are, in order: quite possibly, yes and no.

It’s been almost a year since my #NotNaNoWriMo project crashed and burned, but to be fair it ran longer than I had estimated. I’ve never been a glass half full kind of gal. I’d more likely eye the glass suspiciously whilst pondering on who left it behind, what were their intentions and what are the odds of it being poisonous (usually they would be pretty high). And then write a short piece of fiction about fear and paranoia and the lengths it can drive one to. As a matter of fact… *takes a short break to scribble something on her notepad*

But then if someone else gingerly approached that glass and made moves to drink from it I’d probably grab it and drown it in one gulp. Which is why I think it’s time to come back to blogging. My massive ego needs a place to vent before I start making all those around me too miserable with it.

So yes, I’m updating my blog again and I have many reasons for this: things in my life I’d like to share with the sole purpose of getting advice on, personal projects I’d like to spam the world wide web with and the such. I have a wedding to plan and have no idea on how to get around that. I need to make some serious career decisions. And finally, I need to write, it’s a craving that’s always been in me this entire time and it’s slowly burning a hole within me, so big it started sucking away pieces of me. I swear, I feel like I’m getting hollower by the minute and sooner rather than later there won’t be enough of me left to make a whole person.

Say what? Is this in direct contradiction with the aforementioned massive ego? Well, first off, you really focus too much on detail. You would probably be good at CinemaSins. I suggest seeing if they have any vacancies opening up. Secondly, I’m the author of this blog. I reserve for myself the right to contradict myself on the grounds of “so it is”. Thirdly, have a look at showbiz: there are hollow people wrapped up in massive egos aplenty. And that’s a legion I’m not interested in joining.

Back to being serious for a short bit: what started the whole mental process that led me back here was that last March the best author in the world passed away. He was my role model in practically anything literature-related. I had this dream hidden somewhere in my chest of wonders that one day, he’d read something I wrote. He would have picked it up in some nice little bookshop he was visiting, perhaps for a signing, and read it and had an opinion on it. I didn’t particularly care whether he thought of it as good or bad (well, that’s partly a lie, I’d have been well chuffed if he thought it any good), but just having him think something of it would have been enough. And there you go, what with that not happening anymore I started having all these… things happening in here, feelings and ideas and stuff that I started pushing away but that refused to budge. They didn’t want to go. And I would stare blankly because I had no idea what to do with them.

So there, I’m back because there are some feelings and ideas that are worth saving, if only for their admirable stubbornness. And I’ve decided to save them here.

The Everything Junkie

Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble cherries gobble gobble ghostie gobble

Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble cherries gobble gobble ghostie gobble

I suppose there are some people who are more inclined than others to get addicted to things. Whenever I latch on to something that I like, I devour it. A bit like Pac-Man, apparently I cannot content myself with just a few white dots. I must have all of them, and then more, and then more. It might be food, or literature, or a good TV show, or a stupid game app, or some pretty crazy behaviour like categorizing everything in alphabetical and chronological order. Yes, I’m looking at you, CD towers and bookcases. It wouldn’t be so bad, you know, but as it usually is with addictions, it means you tend to let go of everything else. Sleep, money, order, brushing your hair…

Last weekend I had to take a break from writing. I didn’t have a block, I kinda knew what the next instalment was going to be about, but I had been losing sight of the other things in my life that are important. First and foremost, there are people in my life, the ones that live outside my head, that deserve to be given at least the same amount of attention the ones I create get. And in some cases, well, even more. Secondly, wanting to be a writer mustn’t mean I can forgo being human and living in a human dwelling that wouldn’t resemble a prehistoric cave. And finally, enough with the egomania, I really cannot float through life expecting people to bend over backwards to help and support me and not be willing to do the same for others. I mean, I usually dismiss the guilt Scott Pilgrim-style, but I’m not a twenty-something any more, and egotism stops being cute when you’re supposed to be building a future with someone. So yeah, I spent last weekend sorting things out.

Which means I haven’t edited any of the things I wrote last week yet, nor have I reviewed this one. Same old same old, it’s late, I’m tired, etcetera. I’ll probably end up mass editing everything during my Christmas break. Ho ho ho!

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You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need.

Boo, remember me? Until you don't.

Boo, remember me? Until you don’t.

There are some aspects of my personality that are like the Silence. I don’t remember they exist as long as I don’t lay eyes on them, but when I see them – shit! They’re just terrifying. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and as a teenager I often found I could exorcise my darker self by writing down whatever she thought, whatever she wanted, whatever she wished for. Once on paper, I was free. My evil twin would be trapped in the pages of my diary and not dwelling in my heart any more. But the downside was that my diaries were really hard to read, the words on there would sting my eyes. It’s good to get rid of the filth that accumulates in your stomach when you’re upset, but then you come across one of those notebooks months, years later, read them and it’s a sucker punch. On balance, it’s probably better seeing your darkness on a blotted piece of paper than it is having it stare back at you from a mirror. So tonight’s lesson is that I probably need to start keeping a diary again.

I’ve written a lot again, even though I still intend to just put the minimum necessary on-line tonight. A lady must have a contingency plan! Part of me is a bit surprised by how much I seem to have to give to this latest project. Unlike any of the previous pieces, the events described aren’t drawn from my life, only the feelings are. When I wrote about Eskarena’s walk, I was just describing a moment from a holiday I’d had a gazillion years ago with a former boyfriend. The fictional direction the story took was what took me by surprise then, I didn’t expect it to become science fiction and as a result, despite being terribly thrilled at the idea of writing something of that type, I was stuck. There were vague notions of what I wanted to do in that world, but it had been so sudden, so unexpected, I got lost. I didn’t actually know anything about it.

When I started writing yesterday, I didn’t have anything clear in mind either. I started making up scenarios from scratch, and somehow ended up dealing with stuff I knew all too well. I feel so familiar with this piece I almost feel I should put one of those disclaimers, you know, all events and people hereby depicted are fictional and any resemblance with actual people yada yada yada. So yes, that.

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And then the first shoe dropped

You just can't trust yourself when you don't sleep - apparently it turns you into a sociopath with dissociative identity. And an obsession for making up rules.

You just can’t trust yourself when you don’t sleep – apparently it turns you into a sociopath with dissociative identity. And an obsession for making up rules.

So I had promised myself I would write every day this month, but to be honest, on Wednesday I was knackered. Technically I’ve skipped also Thursday because it’s 3AM on a Friday now, but I don’t believe in technicalities. Day isn’t over until I go to sleep. Which I’m going to do right now, otherwise it becomes a slippery slope. I’ve pulled this kind of bullshit before, I stay awake all night working on something and I’m like, yeah, just one night, no biggie. Then the day after I consume ridiculous amounts of caffeine to keep myself in an upright position and by the time I should be going to sleep again I’m too supercharged to even consider it. And then the thing goes on until I collapse or something, which I hear isn’t super healthy.

I’m off to bed now, which is kind of a nuisance because I’m totally on a roll and haven’t finished my piece yet. But whatever, I’m sleepy and if it’s good it’ll still be there tomorrow. And if it’s bad, sleepless minds are not the best judges so I wouldn’t be able to notice it and this would be a waste of time. So goodnight, and if you want in the meantime you can read the first 500 or so words. Yep, it’s happening, I’m cheating by posting only the first part of what I’ve written and keeping the rest for tomorrow so that I have backup in case I can’t get anything more down. It’s my blog, I can make my own rules!

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I wonder if today's weather might have in some way influenced my story...

Wonder if today’s weather might have influenced my story in any way…

I think it’s become pretty clear that my day job is becoming a hindrance to my writing. At least when the objective is to write a minimum amount every single day. I guess I could just quit my job and become a full time writer, but then again I would probably find some other excuse, like how difficult it is to write when it’s cold and rainy and you live under a bridge.

I actually had a couple of classes cancelled today so I ended up getting home pretty early and on my way here I thought how lucky I was! Today I won’t reduce myself to writing at midnight and being super-cranky! So I got home at about 5:30, turned on the computer, sat myself on the sofa and began procrastinating. I read a couple of interesting New Yorker articles, an old interview of Terry Pratchett by Cory Doctorow, checked my Facebook news feed, checked my Twitter notifications, read some other blogs on WordPress and all in all managed not to write a single word for three full hours.

Then the love of my life got home and I admitted that a) I was feeling uninspired and b) I was hungry. We ended up having dinner watching last week’s Doctor Who. And I thought, this is it. I’m actually going to sink the project this time. So I went anachronistic, grabbed a notebook and a pen and locked myself up in the only room in the house that provided no distractions: the bathroom. There I sat, pen resting on my lips, cogs turning in my head, just the sound of the rain and passing cars to keep me company

I wasn’t surprised by the outcome. Just like yesterday, I apologise in advance for the lack of editing. I’ll try to fix these over the weekend.

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Alas, missed the midnight deadline for a blink of an eye!

Alas, missed the midnight deadline for a blink of an eye!

I had the most annoying case of lightning writer’s block. All the way home from work and while doing a couple of urgent chores I had this situation in mind, which was probably set in the same world as Eskarena and the Imaginarium and could have been an interesting chapter one. But as soon as I sat in front of the screen the idea started weakening, I realized I hadn’t thought through any of the details and got hopelessly lost at about 150 words in.

So I decided it was destiny, opened a new file and started an entirely different thing. An odd piece that appeared to deal with compulsive behaviours and boring summer afternoons. But that turned out to be a dead end too. I was ready to throw in the towel. My number one fan kept trying to motivate me, suggesting I should write about sexy female vampires, or sexy witches, or sexy female vampires with sexy witches, but I had to turn down all of those ideas despite being aware of just how marketable they would be.

But then, after staring aimlessly outside the window and smoking a nasty cancer stick, a memory emerged. And it led me to another memory. And then another one. And then I knew what I was going to write today.

I haven’t edited it at all, so I can only imagine how dreadful the syntax and grammar must be, but bear with me. It’s past midnight, I’m exhausted and a long day awaits me tomorrow!

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