‘Can you sing?’ – ‘Yes I can very well’

Yesterday one of my classes was practicing ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ for ability. One question was something like ‘Can you sing?’. One student wrote ‘Yes I can very well’. Maybe I shouldn’t have worried about so much (or still be worrying about it now), but there was/is something not quite about this sentence.

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한국어 쓰기 연습 (1)

나는 한국어를 배우고 있어요. 하지만 아직 잘 못 행요. 그래서 매일 연습 하야 뒤요. 시작 합시다!

나는 호주 사람 이에요. 보통 호주 시드니 광역시에서 살아요. 하지만 요즘 한국 광역시에서 살고있어고 대학교에서 영어를 가르쳐고 있엉요.

처음 한극에 이천육년에 왔어요. 일년 육개월 동안 이광역시 있는 학원에서 일 했어요. 정말 좋았어요. 그때동안 다른 시 살는 한국 여자를 만았고 결혼 했요. 그래서 다른 일을 찾았어요. 고등학교에서 일하기 안 별로 좋았엉요. 일년 후에 우리는 호주에 갔어요.

작년에 요즘 하는 일을 찾았어요. 가끔 좋아하지만 가끔 안 별로 좋아해요. 대학교  근처 있는 아파트에서 살고 있어요. 좋아하는 취미가 사진을 직기 예요. 요즘 아름다운 봄 꽃 많아요.

내 한국어는 어때요?

(I know there are mistakes. 살다 is irregular, so some of those ㄹs shouldn’t be there.)

Schoolhouse Rock and Grammaropolis

A few years ago, an online friend alerted me to the Schoolhouse Rock songs and videos, especially the series on English grammar, which had been a big part of her school education in the USA. Since then I have used them occasionally to reinforce grammar points in the textbook. Now I’m planning to use the whole series as an introduction to the semester’s study. I get the feeling that English textbooks for Korean students focus on the details without ever giving the ‘big picture’. (In fact I get the feeling that almost all English textbooks do.) Schoolhouse Rock’s English grammar songs/videos cover subjects and predicates, nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections.

While I was re-viewing those videos in preparation, Youtube suggested a similar series of songs/videos called Grammaropolis, which I had seen briefly before but never viewed in depth or used in class. Their songs cover nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections and punctuation.

I could quibble with some of their explanations and examples, but generally they cover the basics in a light-hearted way. Students and even native speakers could well benefit from spending an hour listening through to each series, especially comparing and contrasting the information in each.

Youtube also suggested other grammar resources (songs/videos or presentations) which I might or might not follow up on.


Over the years, I have created a number of lessons and worksheets based on pop songs. My selection of songs tends to be oh so last century, but there are a few from this one. One of the textbooks I am using had a section on will for ‘future tense’.* I found Youtube clips for a number of songs, starting with We will rock you and made a ‘fill the gaps’ worksheet. For songs with multiple occurrences of will, I listed the following verbs in random order at the top for the students to select from. For songs with only one occurrence,  I left a gap for them to fill in, either by predicting (which they got better at doing as the lesson progressed) or by listening (or in some cases looking at the title of the Youtube video).

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Butterflies in my body part

This week’s lesson in the textbook included discussion about showing emotions by facial expressions and body language. There was a section about idioms related to emotions, with the body part missing. One sentence was ‘I have a test on Friday. I’ve got butterflies in my _’. One student suggested ‘head’, which makes sense: test > studying > not remembering because my thoughts are flitting round like butterflies. Another student suggested ‘heart’. I like the idea of ‘I get butterflies in my heart whenever I see you’.

After class I searched the internet. Other people have already used those phrases, though they are far from being common – Google Ngrams doesn’t record either. There are images for both phrases.

There is a song called ‘Butterflies in my head’ (link, reasonable), and another called ‘Butterfly’ (link, don’t bother) which uses that phrase, and some people have blogs titled that.

People use the phrase ‘butterflies in my heart’ in two ways – either about love or friendship, or about possible cardiac problems. Speaking of which …

Another sentence in the activity was ‘When (I forget the name) left David, she broke his _’. One student suggested ‘foot’.


My class was practicing changing nouns and verbs into adjectives. At the end of the activity in the textbook was a series of words for them to suggest suitable adjectives for. The last one was ‘yourself’. Various students suggested various adjectives. One hesitated, dived for his mobile phone translator app and said ‘involute’ (emphasis on the second syllable). I asked, ‘What does that mean?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know’. I said, ‘Neither do I’. He showed me his phone, which had a word in his language (which uses a script I can’t read) followed by the English words ‘inextricable, involute, involved, kinky’. I said, ‘Just don’t use any of those words to describe yourself’ (especially not ‘kinky’!) (even there’s nothing wrong with describing yourself as ‘involved’).

One of the problems in relying on translator apps is that they usually don’t include information on usage, for example, whether a word is common or rare, technical, formal or slang, or usually applied to humans, animals or things. This came right at the end of the last lesson of the week, so I was unable to talk to them about that.

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Australia or Austria

Australia often gets mistaken for Austria, and possibly vice versa. When I was interviewed for a teaching position at a high school in Korea, the principal asked if I was aware that the first president of the Republic of Korea was married to an Australian woman. I wasn’t, and he wasn’t, either; he was married to an Austrian woman, as I found out when I checked later. One corrects an employer very cautiously in a hierarchical society like Korea. Today we were talking about stereotypes of people from various countries, and one of the students mixed up Australia and Austria. He asked if the two names were connected. I honestly didn’t know – I’ve never bothered to check. I did after the class, and they’re not. Australia is derived from “Latin australis, meaning ‘southern’” (an ‘unknown south land’ (Terra Australis Incognita) had been hyphothesised for hundreds if not thousands of years), and was popularised by Matthew Flinders in 1814. Austria is derived from  “Österreich, mean[ing] ‘eastern realm’ or ‘eastern empire’ in Old High German” (it was east of Bavaria and the other Germanic territories), and first appears in the form Ostarrîchi in 996.

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