9 August 2005

Anne of Green Gables phrases

For the purposes of my radio program I am going to underline useful phrases from the following text of Anne of Green Gables. You find this text both in the Main Linguist Library and in the limited Linguist Club Library. You can listen to the text and work on learning words and phrases. We will be adding new chapters every week.

It is important that learners develop the ability to discover their own phrases and use them. I have selected a large number of phrases, of varying degrees of difficulty. These phrases are all typical of how a native speaker puts words together.

Learn to look for phrases. Learn to use phrases. Get the phrases right and you will not have to worry about grammar.

Anne of Green Gables, Chapter 1, Part 1

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Chapter 1 – Mrs. Rachel Lynde is Surprised

Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a valley where it was crossed by a brook. This brook started as a fast flowing brook but by the time it reached Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s house, it was quiet. Not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and good behaviour. The brook probably knew that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, watching everything that passed, including brooks and children. If she noticed anything odd or out of place she would surely find out why.

There are plenty of people in Avonlea who concern themselves about their neighbor’s business but neglect their own. Mrs. Rachel Lynde was one of those capable people who can manage their own concerns and those of other folks at the same time. She was a capable housewife. Her work was always done and well done. She “ran” the Sewing Circle, helped run the Sunday-school, and was the strongest supporter of the Church Aid Society and Foreign Missions Auxiliary. Still, Mrs. Rachel found plenty of time to sit for hours at her kitchen window, knitting while keeping a sharp eye on the main road.

Since Avonlea was on a little piece of land jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with water on two sides of it, anybody who passed by had to pass over that hill road where they would be seen by Mrs. Rachel’s all-seeing eye.

She was sitting there one afternoon in early June. The sun was coming in at the window warm and bright. The orchard on the slope below the house was in pinky-white bloom, hummed over by bees. Thomas Lynde – a meek little man whom Avonlea people called “Rachel Lynde’s husband” – was sowing his late turnip seed on the hill field beyond the barn. Matthew Cuthbert ought to have been sowing his seed on the big red brook field over by Green Gables. Mrs. Rachel had heard him tell Peter Morrison the evening before in William J. Blair’s store over at Carmody that he meant to sow his turnip seed the next afternoon. Peter had asked him, of course, for Matthew Cuthbert had never been known to volunteer information about anything in his whole life.

And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly driving over the hollow and up the hill, dressed in a white collar and his best suit of clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea. He had the buggy and the sorrel mare which further indicated that he was most likely going a considerable distance. Now, where was Matthew Cuthbert going and why was he going there?

Had it been any other man in Avonlea, Mrs. Rachel might have given a pretty good guess as to the answer of both of these questions. But Matthew so rarely left his home that it must be something pressing and unusual which was taking him. Matthew Cuthbert was quite possibly the shyest man alive and hated to have to go to strangers or to any place where he might have to talk. Indeed, Matthew dressed up with a white collar and driving in a buggy was something that didn’t happen often. Ponder as she might, Mrs. Rachel Lynde could make nothing of Matthew Cuthbert?s peculiar behaviour and as a result, her afternoon’s enjoyment was spoiled.

7 August 2005


I am struck by the opposition to e-learning from within educational institutions in Canada. Rather than seeing e-learning as an opportunity to provide education of various kinds to a broader range of people than can be accommodated in institutions, teachers seem to see it as a threat to their livelihood. A recent meeting I had was only the latest illustration of this sad fact.

Our lumber company has always contributed annually to various charities. Since I launched The Linguist, I make sure a portion of our donations go to literacy education. We have been working with a local Rotary club to develop a program whereby the members of this Rotary club would record content about their careers, companies, history etc. This could be transcribed and become learning material for The Linguist that would be especially useful for recent immigrants, many of whom are struggling financially. The Rotarians could also mentor learners.This could all be done via The Linguist which we would make available free to group of learners.

Our company gave a considerable amount of money to the Rotary club to cover teachers, MP3 players and other expenses. The club arranged a meeting with a local Immigrant Services Society which is paid for by government money and from charitable foundations. The Rotary club was thinking of giving the money to this organization to administer the program.

In my first meeting with the Immigrant Service Society I was told the following.

1)Language teaching can only happen face to face, nothing else works. People need to learn the body language. ( I forgot to ask if they even bothered to look at our website).

2) Their students do not have computers. They are poor. This kind of learning would alienate them. (Well what about others in the community that they are not now serving I asked, the professional immigrants.)

2) Immigrant professionals do not need to improve their English,I was told. The only problem is prejudice against certain accents and the unwillingness of employers to recognize foreign credentials and experience. (Of course there is some prejudice against accents, not only non-native ones, but also regional variants of English. This kind of prejudice is not deep, and is only one of many factors an employer considers. The ability to communicate easily and naturally is more important than accents.)

3) The only part of our proposal that was of interest to them , they said, was the mentoring by the Rotary club members. Language learning can only happen in a class room, they said with emphasis.

4) Then they said that It should still be possible to work something out, however. (Even though they had completely dismissed our system they thought we could work together!) The problem was that there was no benefit for the Immigrant Service Society. In their words, I benefit by spreading my system, the Rotary benefits by appearing to help the community, but what about their Society? What is in it for them? (The fact that I was providing the funding for a program that might help 50-100 immigrants over 6 months was an irrelevant detail. The idea that they might develop a new outreach program to a client group that they were not serving did not seem to interest them.)

At that point I said that there was no fit here and ended the meeting.

3 August 2005

The Linguist Challenge

The Linguist Challenge

This Challenge is only available for residents of B.C and is carried out in conjunction with the period of the radio program. it is especially conceived to encourage more recent immigrants to look at new ways to continue improving their English. There will be other promotions. Please stay posted.

You will improve your English language skills with good study habits. The Linguist website (www.thelinguist.com) will help you develop learning habits that can change your life, regardless of your age or English level. Now is the time to get started.

As part of my 13 week program at 96.1 FM radio, I am offering The Linguist Challenge to all listeners. We have created a section of our Linguist website that is free of charge. This is called The Linguist Club. (语言家俱乐部). Please register there to become a free member of The Linguist Club and start improving your English, the way I learned nine languages.

Please read all instructions carefully. Download the manual (用户指南) and read it. There is a lot of explanation in English and Chinese.

Every week the three most active learners in The Linguist Club will receive a free copy of my book, The Linguist, A Personal Guide to Language Learning, a headset microphone and the chance to take part in online discussions at The Linguist with our tutors and learners from around the world. Winners will also be able to submit a short sample of their writing for correction. Winners will be announced each week during my program.

In addition, during the first weeks of The Linguist Challenge, I will select five very active Linguist Club members and give them 3-months free Premium Membership in The Linguist system. This package is our most intense study level, with tutoring by me as well as other tutors.

To be eligible, candidates must agree to spend 90 minutes a day working on improving their English using The Linguist method. They must agree to speak on my radio show, either in person or via telephone, twice during the 3-month period, to tell the audience about their experience with The Linguist. Please email me if you are interested in this opportunity.

That is The Linguist Challenge!



作为调频96.1 FM电台第13周节目的一部分,我向所有听众献上“语言家”终极挑战。我们在“语言家”网站开辟了一个新栏目,完全免费,名叫“The Linguist Club (“语言家”俱乐部)。请在此注册,成为“语言家”俱乐部的免费会员,开始提高您的英语水平,就像我学会9种语言那样。






3 August 2005

To ESL learner on confidence

A very interesting comment from ESL learner here below to which I would like to respond here.

First let me say that every language is worth learning, whether spoken by a few people or by many. Nevertheless, at certain times and in certain places, some languages are more useful than others. English is very useful today. The policies of the




may be unpopular, but there is a great depth of history and literature and a great number of good people to know through English. The same was true for Russian under Stalin, Chinese under






even when they are rivals, and any other country and language. For people to ridicule others who try to learn languages is simply childish. We have a short time on this planet and should spend our time learning whatever interests us.

In my experience I was much less sure of myself in my twenties, than I am now. I am more confident in most situations now that I ever was. I guess this is experience. It is the feeling that you have seen a lot and are not easily surprised or awed by things. I recognize now that there were situations when I was younger when I could have been stronger or more confident. Maybe it is just a matter of maturity and battle hardiness.

I recommend that whenever you can, you just recognize that you are as good as any other person, although no better. If you respect others, you have the right to be respected. You have no need to be nervous.

When we are younger we are more self-conscious. We think we appear nervous. In fact, people normally do not pay that much attention. If we have good ideas or something positive to offer, whether it be a service, or friendship, that is really all people expect of us.

Take your life into your own hands and you will not regret it.

3 August 2005


I played ice hockey at noon and managed to pull a muscle or pull a cartilage just below the rib cage. I am out of commission.I cannot swim in the ocean, I cannot play hockey on Thursday ( I was supposed to be on the ice twice a week leading up to a tournament in September). I probably cannot play golf. It hurts to cough and I sure do not want to laugh!

I have been listening to a CD on Zen in Italian which I just got from Il narratore. It is fun to hear about Zen in Italian.  Zen teaches oneness, our oneness with the universe. It also teaches the futility of categories, like grammar rules. Zen teaches the futility of aspiring to things. It is not because we desire things that they will make us happy. Zen is against trying to focus on things. WE need to focus on the whole.

Language learning is a bit like that. We should just enjoy the process. Empty ourselves of our native language and identity. Absorb the new language as a part of something that we already belong to. Just take it in. Listening, reading and saving words and phrases can be a a repetitive exercise like zazen. It helps us, yet we should not be ambitious. We should not be striving. If we are open we will learn as much as we are supposed to learn. We will communicate and eventually we will not know what language we are communicating in.

I start my radio program on language learning tomorrow on FM 96.1 radio, Mandarin radio here in Vancouver.

2 August 2005

Swear words

I normally say that non-natives speakers should stay away from swear words. They just do not realize how bad they can sound.

Nang Pan has asked me if Russian and Arabic have particularly powerful swear words. I think they do but I am not a speaker of either language. Cantonese certainly is full of swear words, much more so than Mandarin, but I do not know how that compares with other languages.In Swedish the most commonly used swear word is “devil” while Cantonese speakers and Spaniards use the “f..k” word very often. The French Canadians like oaths associated with the church, while Frenchmen prefer “s..t” or words associated with sex. The Japanese are not strong swearers. What about elsewhere in the world. Inuits, Turks, Lapplanders, Bushmen, Javanese, Mongolians, people from India, Persians? Anyone know?

1 August 2005


I hope I have fixed the link to the Gutenberg project and ESL Learner has kindly suggested another useful site for ebooks.



1 August 2005

A beautiful day

Today was just one of those magic Vancouver days. It was warm and sunny. My younger son’s family came over and with the three grandchildren we swam and paddled in the ocean. My son and I went out in our two kayaks. The bright sun glistened off the water. We looked up at the mountains and the many houses and properties that come down to the ocean. The water was calm. There were a few seals out swimming although we did not go as far as the seal island, because we had not brought our life jackets and had not put on the skirt that keeps water out of the kayak.

We ended the day with a lovely dinner on our deck, watching the sail boats come in as the sun gradually set. A lovely bottle of Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris from the interior of B.C. reinforced in our minds how lucky we are to live here. But not all days are this nice.

31 July 2005

Cultural friction

Cultural friction

I played golf at my club Saturday morning. I was alone so I joined a threesome of members all of whom were originally from

Hong Kong

. Of the three, one was about fifty and had come to


when he was 15, the other two were around 60 and had come to


as adults.

Normally, at the club, if you join members whom you do not know, you talk and get to know each other while you golf. For the first three or four holes, the only member of this group who would carry on a conversation with me was the golfer who had come to


s a 15 year old. He behaved very much like a Canadian although he had a very slight accent. The other two spoke accented but adequate English but were mostly silent, or spoke to each other in Cantonese when they were further away. One of them would occasionally talk on his cell phone which is against club rules. I felt awkward, as if they really did not appreciate me joining their group.

After a few holes I let them know that I spoke Cantonese. This caused a short conversation. One of the older golfers said that his son was in

Hong Kong

, spoke Cantonese but realized he should learn Mandarin. Growing up, his son had resisted learning to write Chinese because “everyone spoke English” in


. In the last five years, the golfer said, that has all changed, now everybody “has to learn Chinese”!

I volunteered to him that I learned Chinese characters after the age of 21. Since his son already spoke Cantonese, learning the characters would help him learn Mandarin. This really annoyed the fellow for some reason and the conversation ended.

The other older golfer stated that Cantonese, even though it did not really have a written language, was the best spoken language in the world. I replied that in my view most native speakers feel that way about their own language. He was not impressed and went on to say that Cantonese had the best swear words. I wondered to myself if he knew how to swear in Russian or Arabic!

That little exchange did not break the ice. It was still only the Canadian golfer who communicated with me.

A few holes later the people playing behind us came up to one of our group and told him not to pull his cart so close to the greens, as this was against club rules. He said it in an unfriendly way which made me feel uncomfortable. After this person left, one of our group said that he knew the rule but did not see why this mattered.

A few holes later as we were putting out on a par 3 hole, we heard one of the group behind us impatiently say “come on” from the tee box, implying that we were too slow.

A hole later they came up to us and, again in an unfriendly way, told us to play faster. They did not want to receive another letter for slow play. (At our club we are obliged to punch a clock and make sure we finish our round in 4hours and 15 minutes or risk getting a letter. Two letters and you cannot book tee times). My Chinese golfing threesome apparently had also previously received a letter for slow play.

My Chinese playing buddies offered to let the group behind play through us. I refused. We were keeping up to the group ahead of us and could not go faster. I also told the group behind us that it was rude to shout “come on” from the tee box as they did on the previous hole. From that point on my golf went down hill as I felt really upset at the actions of this group. I later reported them to the club pro. As members of the club this is unacceptable behaviour.

So what is the point here? Were the people behind us racist, just rude or just afraid of getting another slow play letter from the club? I cannot help feel that there was an element of racial or, more accurately, cultural friction. There are perhaps 10-15% people of Asian origin at the club. In the group ahead of us there was a Japanese-Canadian who regularly plays with various different members. My wife and a handful of other members of Asian origin also play regularly with other members, and even play for the club against other clubs in



The point is that they mix in and are culturally integrated. At least at the level of their interaction with other members they do not isolate themselves, whatever cultural attributes they may enjoy away from the club. So while I was made uncomfortable by the group behind us, I think the behaviour of my group of Hong Kong Chinese playing partners, who had not made a greater effort to fit in was also part of the problem. I certainly was made to feel that I was not welcome to join their threesome and will not do so in the future.

30 July 2005

Radio program

On Wednesday I will start a 13 week radio program in Mandarin on Fairchild Radio 96.1 FM in Vancouver. I will try to encourage the many Mandarin speakers in Vancouver who need to improve their English and in most cases do not work on it in a concentrated and efficient way. Many do not make the effort to get to know English speaking people or spend time with them. Some are almost determined to prove that they have little in common with “the Westerners” who live in Vancouver. This tendency to see people, and oneself, as just part of a group rather than as individuals, is a great psychological barrier to language learning