Sunday, March 1, 2015

Making a Donation that Counts!

Thank you to all those readers who purchased a copy of Watermelon is Life.  

For every purchased copy of the book, 25% of the net profits are donated to the Unlock Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that seeks to address critical educational gaps in rural African schools.  The Unlock Foundation works with teachers, students, and community members on small, sustainable projects that ensure students receive the best primary education possible.

Recently, I calculated the total net profit from sales of Watermelon is Life in the year 2014.  The donation amount came to $90.93.  Last week, I was proud to write the Unlock Foundation a check for $100.  After emailing with Scott Karrel, the organization's founder and director, the money will go towards a leadership training program in Divundu, Namibia.

Throughout the year, I've received several emails from people who enjoyed reading about my volunteer experience.  I'm happy that I've been able to reach people though my writing, and I'm grateful that I've been able to use the book to continue supporting education in rural Namibia.  Thanks to everyone who has read the book, written a review, provided me with feedback, and offered their support.  I hope book sales and the donation amount continue to grow each and every year.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

I would like to wish everyone a FRUITFUL and INSPIRING


  • Keep writing/editing the 3rd book in the Do U English series (teaching at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic)
  • Travel around the West Coast (Yosemite, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon)
  • Start doing yoga to repair my back! :(
  • Finish my Master's in TESOL at USF
  • Find way to go hot tubing more often
  • Stay in touch better with friends and family
  • Walk over 250 miles
  • Learn to speak more Romanian
  • Eat healthier (start by trying to like tomatoes)
  • Don't let work consume me
  • Get a new phone (this is well overdue)
  • Spend more time playing the guitar
  • Read...something

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Borrow vs. Lend (Can you borrow me some advice?)

The verbs borrow and lend are often confused by English learners all over the world.  There are myriad of reasons for this.  One reason is that the verbs have a similar meaning, but are used in opposite directions. Borrow means "to take," while lend means "to give."   In order to distinguish which to use, one trick is to try substituting "take" for borrow and "give" for lend.  

Another reason for such confusion is because sometimes in a learners native language there may be only one word to signify both meanings.  For example, in Spanish the verb prestar is commonly used to indicate meanings of borrow and lend, although the true meaning of prestar is closer to lend.  When I lived in Namibia, the native language in my area was called Kwanyama.  In Kwanyama there is one word which signifies the English meaning of borrow/help/lend - kwafelenge.  This caused much trouble for the learners, as they'd sometimes ask me, "Sir, can you help me a pencil?"  However, more often than not they'd confuse borrow and lend as the the story below illustrates...       

“Mr. Wes, can you please borrow me $2?” asked a boy in grade 12 as I was walking home.  He was standing with a group of friends, each smiling to see how I’d react to this boy's request.  Getting asked for money was something I’d grown accustomed to in rural Namibia, and from time to time I’d get asked by some of the kids at school.  Interestingly enough, no matter where I went, everyone would always ask for $2.  Not $1, $3, or $4 - $2 seemed to be the standardized panhandling amount.  I had a longstanding precedence never to give learners money.  However, the education was free.  And if they asked me like this, I’d always correct them.

“You mean to say lend,” I told the boy.  “Borrow means to take something.  Lend means to give something.  So what should the question be?” I asked.

“Mr. Wes, can you lend me $2?” the boy appropriately corrected himself.  I told him good job and patted him on the shoulder.  He looked proud, and probably thought I may actually give him the money.  However, the lesson was not over.

“Now you realize,” I continued, “that in either case, the intention is that you’re going to return the money.  In this case, you plan to pay me back the $2.”

“Ouh, sir, but you are very rich!” the boy protested, and some of the others laughed.

“Nevertheless, if you ask me to lend you $2, then it means you plan to pay me back.  Now do you want to pay me back?”

“Of course not,” the boy said with a smile. 

“Okay, then what should you ask me?” 

The boy contemplated this for a moment.  I think he thought I was trying to trick him.  He looked to his peers for some assistance.  Finally, one of the boys said, “Have…use have.”

The boy turned to me again and asked, “Sir, can I have $2?”

Now we were getting somewhere.  I’m not sure if this little lend/borrow exercise would actually stick, but it was a common mistake that continuously needed to be addressed.  Of course, in the end, all the boy would have was an explanation.  But then again, most would agree that education is priceless.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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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. 

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Rain is Raining (An example of World Englishes)

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 flood-waters 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

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:


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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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


Friday, June 13, 2014

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Happy Time Go Fast: Invaluable Lesson from Teaching English Abroad


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. 

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Amazon UK: Happy Time Go Fast