Blogger's Choice Awards

My site was nominated for Best Education Blog!So somebody went ahead and nominated by blog for best education blog in the Blogger’s Choice Awards. I have a feeling I know who did it, and it was a good personal friend. So I have absolutely no illusions about winning. But since I’ve been nominated, I figure I’ll try to get all the ego-love I can out of this. So if you like this blog and you think it’s high quality, please click on the badge and give me a vote. It would be a huge motivation and ego boost for me!

Also I am informed by the Blogger’s Choice Awards people that there is exactly one month left. On October 15th, voting will close. So boost my ego and give me a vote. Let me know if you have a blog too, and I will definitely check it out and vote if I like it.

English Advantage is the 126th Best Language Blog

Lexophiles, a linguistic site that covers a wide variety of language questions and currently seems to be featuring idioms, has compiled a list of the 250 best language blogs. And this blog ranks 126.

My initial reaction was to be extremely pleased, of course. First, I didn’t enter any contest or register my blog at their site, which means the authors picked these blogs themselves which means they found my blog on their own initiative. Second, this blog focuses on ESL, and to some extent international student issues. But the lexophiles list looked at the best blogs in the area of language. So I was competing not only with other ESL blogs, but also blogs on French, Greek, Russian, Chinese and Arabic not to mention blogs on linguistics and philology. So to be even mentioned in such a broad range is pretty exciting.

My second reaction was 126 out of 250 means I am below average. Slightly below average, it is true, but that only worsens the blow somehow. What was missing that I didn’t rank 125 or 124?

All kidding aside, I am thrilled and if you’re looking for other blogs to help you learn English, Check out some of these blogs on the list.

Hiatus Ended

Sorry for the lack of blogging over the last two weeks. I had a series of personal crises that all hit in a row and left me unable to blog. But, as we say in New England, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I should be able to go back to my usual schedule now.

Book Meme

One of many lists of great books that one should read. You can just read the list below and then argue in the comments about which books made the list and which books didn’t. Or you can simultaneously play along and be amazed at my literary prowess. If you want to post the list on your own blog or in the comments you should:

Put the books you have read in bold.
Underline the books you loved
Italicize the books you hated (this is my variation)!

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series – J.K. Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
6. The Bible (parts I loved, parts I hated)
7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles– Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I’ve read a lot of his plays but not all of them!)
15. Rebecca– Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
19. The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
21. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
34. Emma – Jane Austen
35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis (Yes, when I read #33 the complete Narnia books, I also read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe)
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery
47. Far From the Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52. Dune – Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60. Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70. Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses – James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal – Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession – A.S. Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
88. The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare (See #14)
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo (I read an abridged version so it doesn’t count I guess)

Your turn! How literary are you?

Paid TOEFL Courses

Once upon a time, an education program in Kazakhstan hired me to develop a TOEFL prep course. The program was sending students to study abroad but a big obstacle was that even highly qualified and competitive students didn’t have the TOEFL scores needed to get into top universities. I was brought in to design a school for preparing students for the TOEFL and to run that school.

Unfortunately a couple of things happened in my first few months on the job: First of all, there were disagreements about what kind of space to use and because rents are so high around here that became a major obstacle. Second, there were some serious structural changes in the organization and a lot of new managers being brought in meaning that the school project became less important that trying to get our main work done–sending students to study in foreign universities. Eventually the school project fell through and the powers-that-be thought I would be more useful as a liaison with American universities than an English teacher.

But before my job change, I had three months of sitting around doing next to nothing. In that time, I developed a TOEFL textbook to help students prepare. My idea was that it could be used as a framework for teachers or as an individual book. I worked pretty hard on it, putting together my experience teaching and developing materials at Kaplan with the best of TOEFL textbooks I used. It’s now been edited by even more experience in the classroom.

I’ve always had it in the back of my head to do something with it. I would ideally like to make some money off of it since I’ve worked so hard on it. But I know there are a lot of free TOEFL resources on the Net and I know I am not a world famous teacher or brand name (yet!). So I ask you, gentle readers, if you are kind enough to answer:
1) Would you be willing to pay for a comprehensive online textbook with good test-like questions and practice from English Advantage?
2) If you would, how much would you be willing to pay?
3) Would you pay for a practice test but not for a textbook?
4) Would you prefer it to be all together or would it be better to offer it in modules?
5) What other courses or textbook subjects would you be willing to pay for? How much?
6) How do you usually pay for things online? Credit card? Paypal? E-checks? Other?

Thanks in advance for your input.

Back in Astana

I have returned to Astana from Kyrgyzstan. I was working with a great program, funded by the US government to sen Afghan teenagers to study for one year in the US. The kids were great: very smart, very motivated, and a lot of fun to teach. It was also fascinating to learn about life in Afghanistan and Afghan culture.

I also picked up a little Dari (one of the two dominant languages in Afghanistan). The most important sentences in Dari for an English teacher are:
chup: Quiet!
Anglisi gap bazan: Speak English!

Anyway, great to back home and now is your big chance to sign up for lessons with me because my schedule is 100% free, though I am looking to try to work in some schools, so if any of you are rectors at Astana schools and looking for a native speaker to teach kids (or I’ve heard it is possible to arrange classes after-school where the kids pay themselves), let me know!

Robot Tutor!

Robot Tutor
BIG NEWS! English Advantage has made a new hire: Robot Tutor. That’s right, we hired a robot, thanks to the kind people at Pandora Robots, who will speak English to you 24-hours a day, 365 days a week. He never gets tired of hearing from you, or answering your questions. So practice your typing skills with our Robo-buddy!

Go check him out and what he can do!!!