Tuesday, July 15, 2014

FREE EBOOK! -------> Watermelon is Life (Free on Amazon 7/16 - 7/18)




AN INSPIRING TALE OF A VOLUNTEER TEACHER ABROAD! 

Namibia is a country of intrigue and mystique. Many of the country’s regions are economically deprived, but rich with culture and tradition. For one year, Wes Weston lives and teaches out in the rural countryside. Water and electricity are intermittent, donkeys and livestock roam the school grounds, and the pace of life is almost at a standstill. But Weston learns invaluable lessons in this new environment, ultimately discovering that perhaps one person can’t change the world, but the world can certainly change one person. 

Free on Amazon (US) ----> Watermelon is Life

Free on Amazon (UK) ----> Watermelon is Life




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Saturday, June 21, 2014

An Example of World Englishes (The Rain is Raining)

When I began teaching in Namibia, it didn’t take long before the rainy season fell upon us in full force.  In Namibia, the core of the rainy season lasts from January to March.  However, the true effects may not be felt until April or May, as the floodwaters from Angola rush over the border and fill the oshanas (the Ovambo word for flood plain).   

As 2010 got underway, the rains arrived late.  The rainy season in general was rather mild, or so I was told.  But by February, lines of dark clouds would suddenly burst onto the scene on a daily basis.  There was no better place to feel the intensity of the rain than from inside the classroom.  Since the roof to all the school's classrooms were sheets of corrugated metal, the sound of something hitting it – whether it be a tree branch or small droplet of water – would echo loudly throughout the room.  In the middle of my lesson, the rain might start tapping the metal roof intermittently.  I’d elevate my voice a few notches.  If I excelled at anything, it was projecting my voice throughout the room.  Yet the rain kept coming and the competition was on.  I’d try to carry on speaking, pretending to ignore the sound of water falling from the sky.  As the rain began to come down harder and louder, one by one it would grab the learners’ attention away from the lesson.  I was losing. 

Streams of water would rush off of the room and splash into an already flooded courtyard.  I talked louder, but as the clouds truly unleashed their full power, it ceased to be much of a competition.  The learners couldn’t hear a word I was saying.  Heck, I couldn’t even hear myself.  At that point I just stood there waiting for the rain's burst of energy to dwindle.  Sometimes it’d take a few minutes before I could properly resume the lesson.

One time, after a heavy downpour, the pelting sound of the rain subsided and a grade 11 learner in my English class, Walter, raised his hand.  I acknowledged his wish to speak.

“Mr. Wes, when the rain is raining we can’t hear anything.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said.  What did he just say?  I asked him, “Did you say the rain is raining?”

“Yes, the rain is raining,” he replied. 

“I don’t think that’s right,” I told him.  I always tried to be diplomatic when correcting the learners’ speech instead of just telling them, “You’re just flat out wrong!” because some of the learners were a bit sensitive since English was supposed to be one of their first languages.  “What you mean to say Walter is, ‘It’s raining.’”   

“Ooh, sir!” he said in mild protest.  The use of ooh in Namibia was another unique part of their English vernacular.  They said it frequently when beginning a sentence.  I was somewhat bothered by it in the beginning.  To me it sounded strange, but it was something I just had to get used to.  Walter continued, “I think it is you who is wrong.  In Namibia, we say 'The rain is raining.'” 

Other students confirmed Walter’s assertion.  To them, the rain was, in fact, raining.  The learners became more active and interested in this discussion since my authority of English was being questioned.  More people rallied to Walter’s side with similar comments.   

“Of course the rain is raining.”

“Look at what the rain is doing now – raining!”

“Ooh…Mr. Wes, how can the rain not be raining?”

It was 43 against 1.  Therefore, I didn’t stand much of a chance.  Worse yet, I was caught so off guard by this that I couldn’t explain that it was improper English.  In three years of teaching English, I’d never been questioned as to why this is.  To me, you just always say, “It’s raining.”     

The pronoun it is a singular neuter pronoun that can be used to describe any physical or physiological subject and/or object.  According to it’s Wikipedia page – that’s right, I’m citing an open-source reference – the pronoun also serves as a place-holder subject in sentences with no identifiable actor.  In this case, the pronoun it is called a dummy pronoun, whereas it does not refer to any particular agent.  An example sentence of this use would be – drum roll, please – It is raining.

At the time, I was the one who looked like dummy since I had no idea that a dummy pronoun even existed.  All I told them was that it is a generic reference to the weather.  But this isn’t even correct.  I then asked them if it’s possible in other cases as well, such as the snow is snowing.  To which, I received this response.

“Ooh, Mr. Wes, we have never seen snow.  So how can we know if the snow is snowing?  But I’m looking at the rain raining right now.” 

I couldn’t fault them for this logic.  Empirical evidence is often the best way to formulate your thoughts and opinions.  But English grammar is fact, not opinion.  Or is it?  This was my introduction as to a completely different usage of English.  And there were many more instances to come.  I discovered many differences in both pronunciation and vocabulary, which often caused great confusion on my part.  Who’s to say exactly where, and to what extent, an imperialist form of proper English should extend its authority?  Arguably, you could say that areas like rural Namibia are asking for English autonomy.  In some ways, it seems like proper English is powerless because even in my little village of Omungwelume, the rain is raining on its parade.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Restaurant Role Play for Learners of English as a Second Language

The Restaurant Activity

Overview:
Role plays are a great way for students to actively engage in a lesson. When choosing the type of role play, teachers need to take into consideration the age of the students and the context of the activity. A fabulous role play that students of just about all ages can relate to and understand involves the restaurant environment.

How to Set It Up:
There are various ways teachers can set up this activity. Much will depend on the number of students available to take part in the role play. Ideally, the class should be divided into restaurant employees and customers. The employees have their designated position in the restaurant (waiter/waitress, host/hostess, cook, manager) and the customers can be divided into small groups. Have the customers enter and seat them accordingly. Run through the role play from ordering food to paying the bill. After, the students can switch roles and keep the activity going. The customers become the employees and vice versa.

Eliciting Conversation:
Create an interactive storyline. This may be more difficult with younger children, but for older students and adults you can build on the activity by providing students with a situation. Why are they at the restaurant? One group could be celebrating a birthday. Another group could be eating out with colleagues from work. Perhaps people are on a double-date. The scenarios are endless, and will give the customers conversation to develop on while they're at the restaurant.



Restaurant Vocabulary

Food Vocabulary:
Make a menu in class. You can let the students choose what food items will go on the menu or utilize learned vocabulary. Here are some food suggestions:

Sandwich
Soup
Salad
Hamburger
Cheeseburger
Chicken
Steak
Ribeye
Filet
Fish
Pasta
Spaghetti
Fettuccine
Pizza
Lasagne
Nachos
Eggrolls
Cake
Icecream
Pie



Restaurant Vocabulary:
Discuss some common vocabulary words that pertain to restaurants. Use real objects or pictures so the students have a visual reference. Here are some suggestions for creating a list of vocabulary words.

Menu
Appetizer
Entree
Dessert
Doggie-Bag
Breakfast
Lunch
Dinner
Take-Out
Check
Waiter
Waitress
Chef
Cook
Manager
Host
Hostess
Silverware
Napkin
Plate




Restaurant Script

Waiter/Waitress - Questions and Phrases
"Hello. How is everybody doing today?"
"Would you like an appetizer?"
"What would you like to drink?"
"Are you ready to order?"
"How is everyone's meal?"
"Would anyone like desert?"

Host/Hostess - Questions and Phrases
"Hello. Welcome to (Name of Restaurant).
"How many in your party?"
"Follow me please"
"Enjoy your dinner."
"Please come again"

Manager - Questions and Phrases
"Hello. How is everyone tonight?"
"Have a great night."
"Is there a problem?"

Customer - Questions and Phrases
"I would like a cola/juice/a glass of wine"
"I would like the ________."
"I would like to speak to the manager please"
"It's delicious"
"No thank you."
"Yes please"

To print out a complete script click on the link below. 
Restaurant Script





Make Your Restaurant Better

Menus:
Have the students create menus once a list of food items has been determined. This could be an arts & crafts activity. Allow the students to be creative in designing the restaurant menus.

Tables:
Create tables by pushing desks together. Set two to four chairs around the table. You can even throw a sheet over the top as a tablecloth. Place candles, flowers, or other miscellaneous items to make the setting appear more authentic.

Food:
Get creative when serving the food. Have some students work in the kitchen. They can draw the food on blank sheets of paper as the waiters/waitresses tell the orders.

Music:
Bring some speakers and an iPod into the room. Put on some background music at a low level. The music could even correspond to the theme of your restaurant.



Supplemental Activity - Word Search

To print out click on the link below.
Word Search

Wordsearch

Friday, June 13, 2014

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Happy Time Go Fast: Invaluable Lesson from Teaching English Abroad

PUT YOURSELF IN THE SHOES OF A FIRST-TIME ENGLISH TEACHER AS SOON AS YOU OPEN THE BOOK! 

Humorous, informative, lighthearted and educational, Happy Time Go Fast takes you inside the classroom and standing in front of the students. Wes Weston shares amusing stories and anecdotes that illustrate his misadventures with discipline, classroom management, positive reinforcement, and even school romance. These experiences are then put into context against the serious backdrop of English education in South Korea where the English craze is uncanny. 

Happy Time Go Fast also takes you outside the classroom, examining what it’s like to live in a foreign country. From learning the Korean language to learning how to use chopsticks, from discovering the fascinating world of Konglish to discovering the tranquility of Korean saunas, Wes Weston reveals some of the cultural norms and quirks of life in South Korea. 



Amazon US: Happy Time Go Fast

Amazon UK: Happy Time Go Fast

Saturday, May 31, 2014

A Lesson in Korean Konglish

Any country that’s trying to learn English, especially on a nationwide scale, will inevitably develop some sort of fusion between the national language and the English language.  When cultures and languages collide, there’s more of an overlap as opposed to a barrier.  Even in our own colloquial speech, foreign words are commonplace.  English has borrowed French words like chauffeur, fiancé, and entrepreneur.  Lager, Kindergarten, and wanderlust are taken from German.  In Korea there has been a surge of English words and expressions that have been put to use in Hangul.  The outcome has been the creation of what some may consider a sublanguage, a Korean/English hybrid known as Konglish. 

The phenomenon of Konglish is widespread throughout Korea.  Konglish is mostly unintentional, yet it has become staunchly embedded into Korean society.  The sphere of Konglish seems limitless in scope since it encompasses just about any English mistake a Korean might make such as pronunciation gaffes, translation mistakes, altered meanings, spelling mishaps, grammatical errors, or the inappropriate use of words or expressions.  Konglish ultimately keeps people from learning proper English and is something Koreans should probably learn to forget.

One day a young girl asked me during break time, “Teacha, do you like pija?”  

“I have no idea what pija is.  What is pija?”

“You don’t know pija?”  She and her friend giggled and looked at me like I had been living in a bubble all my life.  

“No, I don’t know pija,” I confessed.  “Is that your boyfriend?”

The girls laughed some more.  “Yes, I love pija,” and they continued laughing.

“Where is he?”  I stopped an unassuming boy wandering around the hall.  “Is this him?  Is this pija?”

“No,” said the girl.  “Outside…Mr. Pija!”  Both girls were practically rolling around on the floor after she said this.  I had no idea what was so funny.  I slowly backed away from the conversation and consulted one of my colleagues.

“Do you know a little boy named Pija?”

My colleague looked confused.  “Here?”

I shrugged my shoulder.  “I was just asked if I like Pija.”

“Oh…pizza!  They wanted to know if you like pizza.”

In retrospect the conversation made much more sense, but the idiosyncrasies of Konglish got in the way of what should have been a basic conversation.  In Hangul, pizza is spelled 피자, which is correctly pronounced as pi-ja.  This Hangul word is written on every single pizza establishment in Korea.  There’s even a popular pizza restaurant in Korea called Mr. Pizza.  When I finally put two and two together, the girl actually made a funny joke.  But I’m sure they thought the situation was mostly comical because their teacher was a complete idiot.

When you take a word from a different language and make it your own, people are likely to bastardize the pronunciation.  Pronunciation mistakes are common among Koreans since the Hangulization of English words leave vast enunciation discrepancies.  The alphabets are different enough so all sounds are not completely represented.  What you’re left with are words that are taken from English, but grossly mispronounced.  

Then there’s Konglish where meaning is interpreted or simply altered altogether.  In extreme cases, the word becomes fabricated into a meaning that’s nowhere close to the original.  For example, I’d always hear the kids say, “Teacha, my arm is sick.”  Jokingly, I may walk over and put my hand on the kids arm as if I were taking its temperature and say, “It’s a little warm but it feels fine to me.”  My audience failed to see the humor in this.  The misuse of this word comes from the fact that Korean uses the same word to represent both sick and hurt.  It’s difficult to grasp, especially for children, that one word in their language may be two different words in another language depending on context.  An example of a fabricated expression is eye shopping.  Any idea what common English expression this equals?  If students told me they went shopping, I usually asked if they bought anything.  Just about always they would reply that they were eye shopping (instead of window shopping). 

Other forms of Konglish are mere interpretations of English words.  Often these words could be put into context but would make you second guess if you actually heard them correctly.  Some of my favorite Konglish interpretations are:

      English                                           Konglish
Swiss Army Knife  ---------------   MacGuyver Knife
Underwear  -----------------------   Panties
Fart  ---------------------------------  Hip Gas
Motorcycle  -----------------------  Auto Bike
Cell Phone  ----------------------   Hand Phone

Even though some Konglish may be entertaining, it really isn’t a laughing matter since it impedes the English fluency that Koreans so desperately seek.  However, I always got a chuckle when one of the students would defiantly proclaim that someone dispersed hip gas into the air.     

Ultimately, Konglish just perpetuates a level of bad English among Koreans.  It’s an uphill battle since Konglish is everywhere.  You find it on t-shirts, billboards, in restaurants, and you even hear it on television.  So how do Koreans limit their exposure to Konglish?  There are a variety of things that can take place, all easier said than done.  Koreans should relinquish their reliance on electronic translators.  Businesses need to incorporate a level of grammar and spell check before promoting to the public since seeing Konglish in a public forum helps legitimize its authenticity.  Also, care should be taken by teachers in the classroom to address these issues and not exacerbate them.  The first few months I caught myself using Konglish words such as hip gas only because I thought it was funny.  When students heard me say these words, it validates Konglish since they view me as the be-all and end-all of English.  I could just imagine one of these kids traveling to America in the future to study abroad and inquiring to the other students, “Do you smell that hip gas?” 


Classic Konglish







Monday, May 26, 2014

My Experience with the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select Program

Let me start out by saying that I was reticent to jump into Amazon's pool of KDP Select.  Once you're in the waters, you can't get out...at least not for 90 days.  When I self-published my first book in December of 2012, I avoided the KDP Select program for several reasons.  I wasn't crazy about the exclusivity factor since the book can only be sold on Amazon.  My book was also for a niche market - travel memoir of my teaching experience abroad - and therefore, I didn't feel the need to promote it to a larger audience whose reading interests lie outside of this realm.  Finally, I entered the self-publishing world when the program was over a year old, and some people were saying KDP Select wasn't as beneficial as it was when it first started.  Hordes of people were entering the program, which meant it was becoming more saturated.  In 2014, after having my book on sale for an entire year, I decided to give KDP Select a try.


For me, self-publishing has been extremely rewarding, and I've enjoyed learning about the process.  I don't expect to make a career in writing, but I like sharing my stories and experiences.  When I published my first book, Happy Time Go Fast, I sold the book through the Amazon, Kobo, and Nook platforms.  I sold about a book per day the first year and was pleased with those results.  I played around with pricing, selling the book anywhere from $3.99 to .99 cents (the vast majority of my sales came when priced at .99 cents).  I promoted the book via Twitter, numerous Facebook groups, and book reviews from university newspapers.  After the first year of selling the book, what I found most intriguing was Amazon made up roughly 95% of sales.

By the end of of 2013, I was getting ready to publish the second book, Watermelon is Life.  The book is also geared toward a niche market of teaching abroad.  However, it does cater to a wider audience because it also entails volunteering.  Now that I was about to publish my second book and practically all of my sales came from Amazon, I was ready to test out KDP Select.

KDP Select allows publishers to give books away for five days during the 90-day enrollment period.  After enrolling my book in the program, I began skimming through pages of information on the internet as to how people can maximize their free days.  I discovered two key pieces of information:
  1. Most Amazon book sales occur on Saturday and Sunday.  Therefore, people reiterated free days should be used just before weekends in order to drive sales.
  2. People should adjust the price of their book before starting a free promotional period.  Sales typically continue once the book is no longer free, and people can take advantage of earning a little more money while the book's price is higher than normal.
The first promotion I ran was a two-day giveaway on January 31st and February 1st (Friday and Saturday) of this year.  At this time, my book had 14 reviews on Amazon, and it was being sold for .99 cents.  The day before the promotion, I raised the price of the book to $5.99.  Since I'm still learning how to market the book, I only utilized social media to spread the word.  I sent out dozens of Tweets and posted in roughly 30 different Facebook groups.  My goal was to give away over at least 1,000 books.  On Friday, my book had 371 downloads.  On Saturday, there were 757 downloads.  The following day, Sunday, I sold five books at $5.99, which is a substantial day of sales for me.  Overall, I was pleased with the results.  However, I knew I could do more in the way of promotion the next go round.

My second book promotion was almost two months later.  I ran a three-day giveaway on March 26th, 27th, and 28th (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).  Just before the promotion, I raised the price of the book from .99 cents to $4.99.  By now, my book had received only one more book review.  Therefore, I don't know if people weren't reading it after the first promotion or not enough time had elapsed.  Regardless, I decided to branch out in my promotion efforts and use social media along with free ebook promotion sites.  I used the following sites which announce free ebook giveaways:



There are a lot more sites out there, but all of the following offer free listings (though not guaranteed).  Some sites ask people to notify them of the promotion at least a few days in advance, so the earlier the better.  Also, some ask for a review minimum and a star minimum (e.g. at least 10 reviews and a 4-star rating).  Fortunately, my book fell within the limits, so I hoped to get lucky and have my book listed.  On Wednesday, my book had 854 downloads.  On Thursday there were 537 downloads, and on Friday 1,838 downloads.  At one point on Friday, my book was listed at #351 under free ebooks.  As momentum carried over into the weekend, I sold 22 books on Saturday at $4.99 and another five books on Sunday.  This was, by far, record breaking for my book sales.  I kept the book at $4.99 for two more days and then began lowering the price.  Over the course of the next six weeks, I received 14 book reviews on Amazon, giving me a total of 29 reviews with an average of 4.2 stars.  The promotion proved extremely useful, and perhaps instilled me with unrealistic expectations as I continued using the program.  

Once the 90-day period came to an end, I enrolled my second book in the program hoping to generate similar results.  I ran a two-day promotion on May 8th and May 9th (Thursday and Friday).  This time, I raised the price of the book to $3.99 in hopes of capturing more sales when the promotion ended. Once again, I used social media (Twitter and Facebook) and announced the promotion on the same ebook giveaway sites, as well as a few others.  At this point, my book had only four reviews on Amazon since I had just published it a few months ago.  On Thursday, my book had 361 downloads and on Friday there were 116 downloads.  On Saturday, I sold two books at $3.99 and only one book on Sunday.  I was a little disappointed with the results, especially considering the success of the last promotion.  However, I feel this entire process is a learning exercise.  Given my second book did not have many reviews, I believe it probably was not listed on many of the free sites.  Since running the promotion a couple of weeks ago, I have received two more book reviews for a total of six.

In the next couple of months, I am going to run two more promotions, one for each of my books.  I'm interested to see how many I can give away, and I will post the results in order to keep a running record and share my experience with those who may be interested.  I plan to play around with the promotion days and am considering using a few paid promotion sites to see if that may drive sales.  We'll see what happens!


**I would love to hear about experiences others have had with KDP Select.  Please leave your comments below!    

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Teacher has become the Student

The first time I moved abroad was to Costa Rica in the fall of 2004.  I worked as a volunteer in San Jose, and while I bounced back forth across the country on weekend excursions, I met a lot of English teachers.  Two years later, I started my own career as an English teacher.  Since then, the profession has taken me to South Korea, Namibia, and the Dominican Republic.  I love teaching English simply because it's a job that can take me anywhere in the world from capital cities to remote villages.  Teaching has allowed me to explore other countries, but ultimately it led me back to the U.S.


Daegu, South Korea

Omungwelume, Namibia

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

About two years ago, I made the decision to pursue a master's degree.  I knew I wanted to continue teaching internationally, and in the world of academia, credentials are important.  If I returned to school, I was inclined to take the brick and mortar route instead of the online one.  Thus, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to complete a Master's in TESOL.

Shortly after I arrived, I discovered UC Berkeley Extension offered a certificate program in Teaching English as a Second Language.  The program, which is greatly discounted, is credited towards the first year of a master's degree at the University of San Francisco (USF).  Because the entire program is catered to working professionals, I'm able to teach at a language school while taking classes, providing me with the most economical and expedient way to receiving a master's.

Last week, I completed the certificate program at UC Berkeley Extension.  In the fall, I've been accepted to USF and need to take five classes in order to get a Master's in TESOL.  That means by the end of 2015, I'll be looking for a new place to live.  So far I've been considering Argentina, Chile, Vietnam, Turkey, and Morocco.  But for right now, the Bay Area not a bad place to live.

Golden Gate Bridge with San Francisco in the background