Analyzing Arrival: The Linguistics Behind the Film

This week’s post is something new for this blog: a movie review. Movies involving language learning are rare, so I had to write about Arrival. It’s best to read this post after seeing the movie; it’s a “car ride home from the theater” type of rant and might not make sense if you haven’t seen it yet.

Arrival has an unlikely hero. Amy Adams plays Louise, a professor who hears that aliens have touched down on earth during a lecture on Portuguese. She’s soon recruited by the government to figure out what these visitors want. Since she’s a skilled translator and speaks several very different languages (Farsi, Chinese, Sanskrit, and it’s implied that she’s fluent in several others), Forest Whitaker’s character believes she’s the person who will be able to learn the aliens’ language and communicate with them.

Louise is a cool character. She’s an insanely talented polyglot who learns an alien language, sees the future, and saves the world. It’s not every day that a linguist gets to do that in a Hollywood movie.

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Teaching Hedging for ESL Writing (Worksheet included)

Here’s my worksheet if you want the good stuff right away: Practicing Hedging.
Read on for more good stuff about hedging.

Students who have gone through an English-speaking education system usually pick up on how to write in a “proper” or “academic” way. They gradually learn the sentence, paragraph, and essay structure from their teachers and classes. Their vocabulary improves through contextualized exposure in reading. Gradually, these students learn what “sounds right” when writing.

But learners of English often need to be explicitly taught what “sounds right,” “sounds wrong,” and why.

One writing skill that is often used in academic writing is hedging. Many native English speakers do it fairly naturally in speaking and writing, but for newer learners of English, especially those who are thrown into the deep end of academic writing without much previous exposure to English, this skill needs special attention in ESL classes.

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Teaching Trump: Two Listenings

The election is finally over. Whether you like it or not, Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. He’s a person who many of my ESL students were very interested in talking about and learning about, so I’ve given a few assignments about him.

In this post, you’ll find two videos I’ve used in my classes and the worksheet and quiz that goes with them.

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