Monthly Archives: November 2010

Alone x Lonely

Are you alone right now? Are you lonely? Are you both?

What’s the difference anyway?

Well, the word  “alone” refers more to a physical state, a fact: being apart from others. It can be used to talk about people, animals, objects, companies…

The word “lonely” has more to do with the feeling of being alone, associated with the idea that it’s something bad and undesirable. Because it is more like a feeling, it can be used to talk about people and even animals, but it’s not usually applied to inanimate objects.

So, let me repeat the questions from the beginning of the post: Are you alone right now? Are you lonely? Are you both?

And what do you think about this: can you be lonely even when surrounded by people?

Here’s to those who, like me, have to stay apart from their significant others most of the time and therefore feel lonely…


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After a long day, all you want to do is…

let your hair down
take a breather
let off some steam
chill out
cool off
hang loose
loosen up
take it easy
sit back
kick back

or just plain old…


All these words/ expressions have similar meanings…

Enjoy these tips:

Seven Secrets to Stress-Free Joy
Stress, tension, frustration…ever experience these?

Silly question, I know.

We all feel stressed from time to time; it’s part of being human. And we certainly feel frustrated. But as common as these feelings are, there are simple things we can do to ease them, even erase them in some cases. Seven such gems are below.

Create a CD of Your Favorite Songs
Listening to your favorite music not only takes your mind off of your worries but also reduces blood pressure and a rapid heart beat. Because music is so closely tied to memory, listening to music brings to mind happy memories, which in turn affects the part of the brain that regulates these and other automatic physical responses. So make a list of your 15 favorite songs, visit an online music store to download each one, and create your very own stress-busting CD.

Control Your Breathing
Stressful situations lead to short and shallow breathing, which in turn leads to an increased heart rate and creates feelings of tension and anxiety. To reverse these effects and reduce your stress, completely empty your lungs with a large sigh. Then, breathe in deeply from your belly on up, hold your breath, and exhale slowly. You may want to follow the 4-7-8 rule. (4-second inhale, 7-second hold, 8-second exhale.) This simple exercise sends better oxygen content to your cells, improving your health and ridding yourself of the tension and stress.

Studies by Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan have found that laughter ‘lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, increases muscle flexion, and boosts immune function.’ It also triggers the release of endorphins, which act as the body’s natural painkillers and produce a sense of well- being. The lesson? Laugh! Expose yourself to humor as often as possible through jokes, funny stories, comic strips taped up in your office, or anything else that makes you laugh.

Make Your List
Even though you may not realize it, there are most likely specific situations that cause stress time and again. By putting your finger on exactly what they are, you can begin to fix or avoid the things that constantly add stress and tension to your life. Get out a sheet of paper and a pencil. Begin by thinking back to stressful times and what specific things caused them. Then, keep the list handy for two weeks and record the cause of any stress you experience during that period. After two weeks, create a master list of stress causers and spend time thinking of specific remedies for each one. The solution may be as simple as taking a different route to work or getting up fifteen minutes earlier to handle tasks in the morning.

Focus on Now
Thinking about the next ten items on your list of things to do is enough to cause anyone stress. That’s why it’s vital that you focus on only one thing at a time.
Allowing only one task into your thoughts at a time – the one thing you are involved with right now – will improve your productivity, decrease mental mistakes, and relieve your mind of feeling overwhelmed as well as your body of feeling physically stressed out and drained.

Hold a Pencil between Your Teeth
A recent study at the University of California found most people have a set of ‘smile muscles’ which, when activated, send signals to your brain that you are happy. In turn, your brain releases the chemical that register happiness. In fact, you don’t even need to personally feel happy at the moment to create the internal response of happiness. Simply holding a pencil between your teeth can be enough to trick your brain into thinking you are happy and releasing the corresponding chemicals into your system.

Wake Up with the Sun
You’re sound asleep and dreaming peacefully. And then, out of nowhere, you’re shocked awake by the screeching of an buzzing alarm. It’s easy to see why such a routine can get things started off on the wrong foot. Instead of being startled every morning, try using natural light to wake you up. Studies have shown that the light of dawn alerts your body to wrap up your dreams, raises your body temperature, and begins releasing the hormones you need to function throughout the day. So leave the blinds open tonight and wake up with the sun. (Afraid of oversleeping? Keep an alarm nearby set to five minutes after your normal wake time. This way, if the sun doesn’t do its job on day, the alarm will.)

Founder, Motivation123
Author, Shifting the Balance

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Vocabulary practice: CRM

Here’s an extract from a very interesting text, which was taken from

Although its topic concerns aviation, it can be used to enhance your vocabulary, regardless of your professional area.

Match the underlined words/ expressions in the text with words/ expressions with similar meanings from the list below:

accidental – birth – it still has to get much better – long – makes this idea clear – mentioned – recognize – unexpected events – upsetting – when it started – with commitment

“Cockpit Concepts: November 20, 2010

Position Report: CRM.

Now called Crew Resource Management, it was Cockpit Resource Management at the outset. For today, let’s concentrate on the original concept and how well the cockpit team functions.

First, we must acknowledge a great deal of progress in team performance since the advent of CRM. To a large degree, pilots acknowledge the possibility of human error and the authoritarian captain has largely given way to a team leader who utilizes the capable human resource alongside. However, after reading current incident and accident reports it becomes apparent that there is a great deal of room for improvement in task performance and team discipline. As stated here in the past, the M in CRM needs far more emphasis.

Just this week NASA’s Flight Cognition Laboratory released a report1 on airline flight deviations that drives home this point. In discussing adherence to procedures the authors note:

“By far the most common deviations were failure to properly configure systems, poor planning for contingencies, poor coordination between the pilots, and problematic use of the FMS. Most of these deviations appeared to be inadvertent and can properly be described as errors.”

One report conclusion stands out:

“Only 18% of deviations—even those that were clearly errors—were trapped (caught and corrected) or even discussed, a disquieting finding.”

Perhaps it’s not fair to select only a phrase or two from a lengthy, data intensive report, so let me encourage all to read it and form conclusions with respect their own flight practices. There is a wealth of information in this report that can benefit every DO, SO and Training officer and, as Norm Komich would emphasize, these managers need to collaborate in earnest. Plus, at the cockpit level, every pilot can examine the findings for comparison to his or her own performance. Many of the decision making and discipline issues apply to the single pilot as well as the air transport crews studied.

–Bob Jenney (
1Key Dismukes and Ben Berman, Checklists and Monitoring in the Cockpit: Why Crucial defenses Sometimes Fail, NASA/TM—2010-216396.
Go to for this and other reports on aviation human factors.”

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English training x just training

When learning a new language, right in the beginning of the process we have to learn vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation. It’s also important to learn something about the culture of the native speakers of the language, so we can better understand the way they express their ideas, and therefore be able to speak this new language well. But there’s more to learning a language than just learning and practicing its structure and vocabulary.

Sometimes what we need is just training, not language training. We need to train those skills we naturally have when using our mother tongue, but that need to be developed when applied to a second or third language. And this is necessary especially in those moments when we feel like we should be able to communicate better than we actually do. For example, when you know –  and your teacher tells you – you have a good range of vocabulary, but the words seem to disappear whenever you need them. Or when you can understand most of a movie you watch at home, but find it hard to grasp a listening exercise in class. In these moments, what seems to be missing is just training, more than English training, to boost your confidence and prove to yourself that you are able to use all the language you’ve already learnt to your own advantage.

Let me suggest some training activities to help you enhance your communication skills:

1) Background listening
This activitity aims at improving your listening skills in general, without aiming at any particular vocabulary or topic. Leave the TV on on an English speaking channel, such as CNN or BBC, or even the Discovery Channel or a movie, and go do something else. Stay close enough to the TV set that you can hear it as background ‘noise’. If something you hear happens to catch your attention, by all means, move closer and listen more intently. Don’t try to learn anything, just try to make it part of your routine to listen to English being spoken. This way you’re telling your brain that it’s just as natural for you to hear someone speak English as your own language, and maybe those listening exercises won’t seem so daunting after a while.

2) Paraphrasing
This activity may seem too hard in the beginning, but stick to it, the results are worth it. Its goal is to show your brain there’s always a way out, that means, there’s always another way to say the same thing, or to express the same idea. Get a short, simple text and tell someone (or the mirror!) the exact same information that is in it, but try to make an effort not to use the same words. For example, the sentence “Airlines normally ask you to be at the airport no less than two hours before departure time”  may become “Air transport companies usually require that you arrive at the airport at least two hours before take-off “. It’s not so important to find the ‘perfect’ words, or to learn a lot of new vocabulary, for that matter. Just keep doing it, and hopefully you won’t blank so often when faced with a real challenge, like a test or an interview, because your brain will feel more comfortable looking for alternative words or alternative ways to express the same idea.

3) Self-recording
Sometimes we feel funny when we hear our own voice speaking a foreign language. We may feel silly or shy, and end up not communicating as well as we need professionally or even when we travel. This activity’s objective is to desensitize you and make you feel more at ease with the idea of speaking English, and therefore improve your fluency and assertiveness. Record yourself reading a short text in English. Don’t worry about pronouncing the words correctly, focus more on using your intonation and your voice to convey the general idea of the text. You could also just record your feelings, or your plans for the day. Don’t listen to the recording immediately, save it for a few days later. It will definitely sound strange in the beginning, but after some time you will get used to hearing yourself in English – you may even find that you don’t sound bad at all!

Well, I hope these tips will help you feel more confident in your ability to communicate in English.

If you have any other suggestions, let me know!

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Português é fácil porque… não tem verbos irregulares

Tá aí outra reclamação freqüente de alunos… “Teacher, pelamordedeus, não tem condição, como eu ia saber que o passado de ‘think’ é ‘thought’? Esses verbos irregulares são impossíveis! Em português é muito mais fácil!”

Ok, vamos começar pela definição de “verbo irregular”: verbos irregulares são verbos que sofrem alterações em seu radical ou em suas desinências, afastando-se do modelo a que pertencem. Ou seja, verbos irregulares são aqueles verbos que, quando conjugados, não se parecem muito (ou quase nada) com sua forma infinitiva.

Você realmente acha que em português não há verbos irregulares? Dá uma olhada nessa lista e depois me conta… As formas irregulares estão sublinhadas.

Presente do indicativo: eu LEIO, tu LÊS, ele LÊ, nós LEMOS, vós LEIS, eles LÊEM.
Pretérito (passado, para os leigos) perfeito do indicativo: eu LI, tu LESTE, ele LEU, nos LEMOS, vós LESTES, eles LERAM.

(você já tinha esquecido que era assim que conjugava, confessa aí!!)

Presente do indicativo: eu SEI, tu SABES, ele SABE, nós SABEMOS, vós SABEIS, eles SABEM
Pretérito perfeito do indicativo: eu SOUBE, tu SOUBESTE, ele SOUBE, nós SOUBEMOS, vós SOUBESTES, eles SOUBERAM

Presente do indicativo: eu FAÇO, tu FAZES, ele FAZ, nós FAZEMOS, vós FAZEIS, eles FAZEM.
Pretérito perfeito do indicativo: eu FIZ, tu FIZESTE, ele FEZ, nós FIZEMOS, vós FIZESTEIS, eles FIZERAM

Nada mais a declarar…


Portuguese is easy because… there are no irregular verbs

Now there’s another complaint made by students… “Come on, teacher, no way, how am I supposed to know that the past of ‘think’ is ‘thought’? Irregular verbs are just impossible to memorize! It’s much easier in Portuguese!”

Ok, let’s start from the definition of “irregular verbs”: irregular verbs are those verbs  that fall outside the standard patterns of conjugation in the languages in which they occur, meaning that their conjugated forms are (very) different from their infinitive form.

Do you really think there are no irregular verbs in Portuguese? Take a look at the verbs above and get back to me… The irregular forms are underlined.

I rest my case!



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Expression of the week: one more expression with”at…”

“At the latest”

Portuguese equivalent: “no mais tardar”.

Sample sentences:

“The traffic is pretty heavy, but I guess I can get there by 8 at the latest“.

“You must send the application by Friday at the latest if you want to take the test next week”.


Thanks, Patricia, for the suggestion!

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Expression of the week: 4 expressions with “at…”

“At best”

Portuguese equivalent: “no melhor dos casos.”

Sample sentences:

“He will get a 7 at best. He’s not that good at Math.”

At best we’ll have missed the teasers. The movie won’t have started yet.


“At last”

Portuguese equivalent: “finalmente”.

Sample sentences:

“I’ve arrived at last! The traffic was nasty.”

At last we learn the actor’s secret: he had two wives!”


“At least”

Portuguese equivalent: “pelo menos”.

Sample sentences:

“The man will be in jail for at least 20 years before he may be granted parole”.

At least now I know why she didn’t call: she was sick in bed”.


“At (the) most”

Portuguese equivalent: “no máximo”.

Sample sentences:

“You can wait in the car. I’ll be 5 minutes at (the) most“.

“Each customer may purchase at (the) most 3 items on sale.”


Know any other way to express these ideas? Got any other sample sentences? Send them to me!

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