He said, she said: the importance of reported speech -vol.1

Picture this: you arrive at work on Monday morning and ask your colleagues how their weekend was. Even though you’re just trying to make polite conversation, there’s always someone who will tell you exactly what they did, in detail, and it will go something like this:

“So, I went to the beach with some friends and that guy I like, you know. I told my friend ‘I’m not sure he likes me’ and she said ‘don’t worry about that, just be natural’, so I said ‘I can’t be natural around him he’s so hot’, then he arrived and said ‘what are you girls talking about?’ and we just said ‘nothing!’ It was really awkward…” and so on and so forth.

Quite annoying, right? Well, that’s probably what you do too, especially in English (sorry to be the bearer of bad news). So how can we make the same information sound less repetitive and more  precise, without having to make the voices and faces of all the people involved? That’s what Reported Speech is for.

So why do we usually resort to Direct Speech instead of Reported Speech? Basically because its easier, and let’s admit it: we’re just a tiny bit lazy… I say that because when you use Reported Speech, you naturally change the verb tenses to depict more precisely the actions that took place; when you use direct speech (that one that sounds like a theater play), you can keep the verb tenses unchanged, which is muuuuuch easier…

I’m not going to go into the details of the rules for verb tense, places and pronoun changes, you can find a very good explanation here.

My goal with this post is to remind ourselves that it doesn’t take much to express yourself better in English.

Reported speech is especially important for pilots taking the ANAC English Test. It shows the examiner that you master verb tenses, pronouns, connectors…on my next post I will give you some examples of verbs you can use in Reported Speech in order not to keep repeating ‘he said, she said’, ok?

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Pro-nun-ci-a-tion

I can’t talk enough about the importance of pronunciation when you are speaking English, or any foreign language, for that matter. Would you like to know why?

Because a non-native speaker of any language depends much more upon a clear pronunciation of the individual sounds*  and on the syllable stress** than native speakers. That is because native speakers’ brains are so used to listening to that particular language that they are able to “fill in the blanks” and understand practically everything they hear, as long as the intonation*** and rhythm**** are right.

It’s quite easy to see this feature in action when you are talking to someone in your own mother tongue. Let’s say you’re at a bar, having a beer with your pals; that’s a pretty noisy environment, but you’re still able to maintain a conversation with them, even if you can’t make out every single word they say, right? That’s because your brain is being kind enough to process the clues of intonation and rhythm, and putting together fragments of words so that you can make some sense out of what you hear. You don’t need your friends to articulate every single sound perfectly, even because after a few beers, that isn’t even possible…

Now, you certainly don’t have that much time to be immersed in an English-speaking environment to allow you brain to achieve that same level of proficiency in puzzle solving. So when you are talking to another English speaker, whether native or not, you pay close attention to the articulation of each sound, and to where the stressed syllable is, and if you hear a sound that doesn’t match the version of a word you have heard and learnt before, you feel like you don’t know that particular word, or you might even get completely lost.

Well, let’s say you’re speaking to another non-native speaker of English, maybe face to face, or over the radio, why not? That person is going through the same process you went through, and may not even have the same linguistic level that you have, so what will come out of that mix? Slower communication, for sure, and possibly a miscommunication. We don’t want that to happen, do we?

So you have to be the agent of change here, and make and effort to pronounce words correctly, to articulate each sound clearly and to imitate the rhythm and intonation of the listening materials available on the market. Because if everyone does their job, we can mitigate the risks of communication breakdowns, which are potentially dangerous in any environment, let alone aviation.

Oh, and before I forget, you can keep your Brazilian accent, all right? Some people are more “musical” and are able to mimic accents easily and naturally and we often feel jealous of that ability. But what we’re trying to achieve is intelligible and clear pronunciation, not a perfect American or British accent. Unless you are born again in the US or in the UK, your mother tongue will always be Portuguese and you shouldn’t be ashamed of that!

Here are some links that will help you improve your pronunciation:

How do you pronounce that word?

Pronunciation practice

*phonemes
** some call it word stress, it’s the position of the “strong” syllable in a word
*** the rising and falling sounds in a sentence, e.g. rising intonation at thye end of yes/no questions
**** also called sentence stress, it refers to the “strong” words in a sentence, that usually carry its meaning

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How do you say “ano bissexto” in English?

FEBRUARY 29, 2012

I wish I’d had time to post this earlier, but my day has been hectic (nothing new there) and the sizzling heatwave that has stricken us paulistanos just makes any task painstakingly hard to accomplish…

ANYWAY, enough with the excuses and let’s skip straight to the point. Actually, let’s LEAP to the point, as today is LEAP DAY!

That’s right, every four years or so we have an extra day added to our calendar, in order to adjust our man-made timekeeping system to the natural movement of our planet, which takes a little longer then 365 days to go around the sun: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to be more precise.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to say it in English, here it goes: 2012 is a leap year. And today is leap day! Leap is a kind of jump, so it makes sense to call this special year “leap year”, as you leap over 4 years to have one.

Apparently there’s a tradition in Ireland that on this day women are allowed to propose to men, instead of waiting for them to get down on one knee. I’m not sure it’s still observed, but it’s a neat tradition, don’t you think?

What about you? How have you spent your extra day?

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Confusing words: listen x hear

Listen! Did you hear that noise?

I guess this sentence illustrates quite well the different meanings of these two verbs, so frequently mixed up by English learners.

To listen is to make an effort to hear something, like when we keep quiet for a moment to pay attention to a noise and figure out exactly what it is, or when we select our favorite song on our iPod and enjoy its harmony and lyrics.

That’s why we say we listen to music or listen to the radio, because we’re actively trying to catch the sounds that are being generated by the device. That’s also why you teacher tells you “Now we’re going to to a listening exercise…” – that’s because she wants you to pay attention to what she is going to play…

Moreover, it’s always polite to listen to other people’s opinions and points of view when you are atteding a business meeting, for example.

To hear, on the other hand, is often an involuntary action that happens when sound waves reach our inner ear and do their magic in our eardrums (did you know this word, by the way?). Ex: “Can you hear me? The connection is a little shaky!”

It can also have a similar meaning to the verb to listen, but it’s not used so frequently. Ex: “Hear you mother and take a sweater! It’s cold outside!”

Another meaning of hear is to express that somebody else has told you something, like some juicy gossip, or even some good news. Ex: “I hearshe’s having triplets! I don’t envy her a bit…”

And when your mother/wife/husband/teacher asks you to do something umpleasant, like taking out the garbage or doing your homework, you can always say:

Sorry! I can’t hear you!

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A prova da ANAC mudou?

“Anda rolando uma AFA”…

É assim que meus alunos começam a frase quando querem que eu confirme alguma informação a respeito das exigências da ANAC -na verdade, da OACI (estou escrevendo em português, e é assim que chamamos a ICAO nas línguas latinas).

Pois bem, “anda rolando uma AFA” de que a prova da ANAC mudou, que tem novas exigências, e tem até curso de inglês capitalizando em cima disso…

Vamos direto ao ponto: A PROVA DA ANAC NÃO MUDOU. Continua igualzinha. O mesmo formato, a mesma duração, os mesmos critérios de avaliação, o mesmo nível de exigência.

Esta é a página da ANAC que trata da Proficiência Lingüística. Nela, encontra-se este outro link, que leva a uma explicação detalhada do Santos Dumont English Assessment, ou “prova da ANAC”, para os íntimos.

Para quem tem curiosidade de saber como é a prova, há um MOCK disponível , ou seja, uma versão simulada, que não está sendo utilizada pelos examinadores no momento, mas é exatamente o “script” que eles têm à sua frente enquanto estão aplicando a prova nos pilotos. E continua idêntico ao que sempre foi, portanto essa “informação”, ou desinformação, não tem nenhum embasamento na realidade.

Então, não dê ouvidos a blá blá blá e concentre-se nos seus estudos, que você ganha mais!

Então, por que tem pilotos indo fazer a prova em Madri? Oras, eu já estive em Madri, tenho até parentes lá, e é uma cidade linda. Quem sabe eles estão indo visitar A Plaza Mayor, La Puerta del Sol, ou o Museo del Prado, né? Aliás, eu recomendo a visita, são todos lugares fantásticos!

Agora, se você estiver precisando de ajuda para praticar para a prova da ANAC, entre em contato para fazermos algumas aulas! Eu também continuo a mesma, igualzinha…

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Enough with the guidance

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A Rescue Mission Gone Wrong

This video was sent to me by a former student, M.V. (thanks, by the way!).

It is a great material to practice listening comprehension because it’s a piece of news, beautifully told by CBS news correspondent Bruce Dunning. Of course, it’s also a historical document of the horrors of war.

The aircraft had been sent to Da Nang short before the end of the Vietnam War in order to evacuate women and children. Instead, it landed in Saigon full of soldiers who defected the South Vietnamese regime, and had crammed inside the plane, leaving behind the people to whom the rescue mission was intended.

As you watch the video on a new window, try to answer these questions:

1) When did this happen? (day + month)
2) How did the people run after the plane as it landed in Da Nang?
3) What did the pilots report via radio when the people started boarding the plane?
5) What did the angry men left behind do?
6) What part of the aircraft was damaged by a grenade?
7) How high was the plane when seven men fell off?
8) How many passangers were there on board? Of these, how many were women and children?
9) Why did the plane have to fly at low altitude?
10) Summarize the total damage the aircraft suffered.
11) How long does this trip usually take? How long did it take on that day?
12) Where did the soldiers come out of when the plane finally landed?

Here’s the video.

Did you have trouble understanding the video or answering the questions? Why not take some classes?

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