Category Archives: Language

Um, Uh, Huh Could Be Keys To Understanding Human Language

“Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words ‘um’ and ‘uh’ from your conversation? When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it’s natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency. In How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, hitting shelves Tuesday, University of Sydney linguist Nick Enfield rescues those words (and everyone who uses them) from censure.” B. J. King, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Image-tesolcourse.edu.vn

Excerpt: Um, Uh, Huh? Are These Words Clues To Understanding Human Language? By Barbara J. King, NPR

“In so doing, he exposes the fascinating and intricate workings of what he calls the human conversation machine: ‘a set of powerful social and interpretive abilities of individuals in tandem with a set of features of communicative situations — such as the unstoppable passage of time — that puts constraints on how we talk.’

Using cross-cultural data, Enfield shows how rapid is the turn-taking aspect of human conversation. Across 10 languages (from Italy, Namibia, Mexico, Laos, Denmark, Korea, the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan and Papua New Guinea) the rule is clear: Speakers offer an answer to a question posed to them within 207 milliseconds, on average. The range goes from 7 milliseconds in Japanese to close to a half-second in Danish.

Based on speech cues, we anticipate rather than wait for the moment when it’s our turn to speak. We risk losing our turn, or seeming hesitant, if we don’t jump right into the flow. What happens, though, if we’re experiencing some kind of processing delay as we ready ourselves to speak? Perhaps we can’t think of the right term, or we’re struggling to process an unfamiliar word we just heard. After 600 milliseconds, “social attribution” kicks in — that is, the delay becomes a matter of concern for the community of speakers. We may, at this point, utter ‘um’ or  ‘uh’ as a signal that we are working toward producing speech.

The evidence shows we also may use these words intentionally as buffers before offering what are called dispreferred responses, or answers our conversation partners may not welcome. Let’s say a friend asks you to an event that don’t wish to attend, and you’re about to decline. If you slightly delay that bad news by starting out with ‘uh’ or ‘um,’ that’s the conversation machine at work.

Enfield’s overall point here is that these tiny words, far from just being ‘noise’ for scholars to ignore, deserve linguistic study. ‘Huh?’ plays a key role, too, because, judging again from cross-cultural research, it is a human linguistic universal. When we ask ‘Huh?’ in conversation, it can be a mark of cooperation rather than confusion a point that Enfield elaborated on via email (Email responses in this post have been edited for length.):

‘It’s true that ‘Huh?’ can be a sign of confusion. On the other hand, ‘Huh?’ does much more than simply signal a problem. The usual effect of ‘Huh?’ is to get the other person to repeat, confirm, or rephrase what they just said. This is only possible in the highly cooperative context of conversation.’

In How We Talk, Enfield aims to set apart our behavior and language from the behavior and communication of all other animals.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups and ask them to think about what they already know about  human language.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article.  Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.

G. Cluster Brainstorming-workshopexercises

 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. We were taught to purge certain words from our conversation.
  2. Some people are very fluent when speaking.
  3. Enfield exposes the intricate workings of human conversation.
  4. Using cross-cultural data, Enfield shows how rapid is the turn-taking aspect of human conversation.
  5. Based on speech cues, we anticipate when it’s our turn to speak.
  6. The evidence shows we also may use these words intentionally as buffers.
  7. “Huh?” in conversation,  can be a mark of cooperation rather than confusion.
  8. Language arguably supports a uniquely human form of social accountability.
  9. Speakers may sometimes delay bad news by starting out with “uh” or “um,” .
  10. ‘Huh?’ can also be a sign of confusion.

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

“Some 7,000 ___are spoken in the___ today, each a ___system made up of many thousands of sounds, words, ___structures and rules. Infants ___these systems natively, without ___insruction, within the first few years of life. Animals do not have___ in this sense. In linguistics, this has ___the search to define what makes this possible across our___, and only in our species.”

WORD LIST: world, species, formal, languages, grammatical, massive,acquire,motivated, language,

Grammar Focus: Word Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Language/Linagearguably supposes/supports a uniquely human/humaneform of special/socialaccountability/accountable: with language, we can name/noun or describe a piece of behavior, drawing/draw public attention to it, then characterizing it (as good, bad, not allowed, wrong, great, or what have you)

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the meanings of the  following statements in their own words. Ask students to provide examples. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.

In his book How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, Enfield  states:

“Based on speech cues, we anticipate rather than wait for the moment when it’s our turn to speak. We risk losing our turn, or seeming hesitant, if we don’t jump right into the flow.”

When we talk, we agree to be accountable to each other for doing our respective parts in order to achieve a common goal, that of mutual understanding. Saying ‘Huh?’ draws attention to a possible failing in keeping up with that commitment, one which needs to be redressed on the spot, and we respond to it by helping the other, redressing the possible failing, so that we can move on.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Language

My Deaf Son: “I see his voice. I hear his face.”

“I watched my toddler wade into the Gulf and launch a fistful of pebbles in flight. They glistened, tiny sparks of light, before I realized he was up to his chin in cold water. And I realized that if I called his name, if I screamed it, the word would sink like stone.”  E. Engelman, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Credit Giselle Potter, The New York Times

Excerpt: My Deaf Son Fought Speech. Sign Language Let Him Bloom  By Elizabeth Engelman The New York Times

“When Micah turned 2 we had learned that he was profoundly deaf. In the audiologist’s office, an auditory brain response concluded he couldn’t hear a helicopter. ‘You’re taking this well,’ the doctor had said. But later, as I watched Micah step deeper into the Gulf water, I wanted to rage. I was so angry, I could have torn the beach apart. We celebrated his third birthday, and the audiologist turned his cochlear implants on for the first time.

Cochlear Implants | Brain Computer

I said, ‘Hi Micah, can you hear mommy?’ His hazel eyes widened and he screamed in terror, his body trembling. Shock. In American Sign Language, the sign for cochlear implant is similar to the sign for vampire. Vampire is signed with two fingers like teeth to the throat. Cochlear implant is signed with two fingers like teeth behind the ears.

Photo of 3 young children with cochlear implants. photo-hearingsearch

The audiologist told me not to sign at all. She said sign language was a crutch that would hinder his speech. When he heard my voice for the first time, his cry was guttural, a stab wound. He was bitten by sound…He refused to wear the $18,000 sound processors, and his defiance was feral: head butts to my face, kicks, bites. The back of his head smacked against my jaw, and for a moment everything went black. The implant surgery alone had cost $50,000. Auditory verbal therapy was out of pocket, the doctors were out of network. What choice did I have but to force him?

Cochlear Implant and Rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins Listening Center. Photo- John Hopkins

When Helen Keller wouldn’t cooperate, her teacher Annie Sullivan used brute force. In The Story of My Life, Sullivan described how teaching obedience to the deaf and blind girl had to precede teaching language. Each week, I dragged him to speech therapy. He didn’t resist.

In public, his meltdowns drew unwanted attention on playgrounds and in grocery stores. How had I become the dejected mother in the fruit aisle, helpless as Micah bucked and cried, dangerously hitting his head on the linoleum floor?… I was no Annie Sullivan. I couldn’t break him, and instead, he was breaking me.

I gave up on spoken English, and enrolled in American Sign Language classes at the local community college.

Sign Language for children with Autism. photo- shieldhealthcare

Micah’s first sign was flower. To sign flower, the right hand grasps an imaginary stem and holds it first against the right nostril and then against the left, and like a flower, Micah blossomed one new sign at a time and took his implants off his head for good.

The Benefits of Using Sign Language with Your Child | .Intellidanceiff

Nine-week-old Aria, pictured right, was filmed concentrating closely as she was tenderly shown the gesture for ‘grandma’ by her grandmother Pamela, pictured left. photo- The Daily Mail

The first time he told me a story, he was 6. In the dark, his hand reaches up to speak, and I shine a flashlight on his fingers. They make rapid shadow puppets onto the bedroom wall, and I understand his story like a hieroglyph. I see his voice. I hear his face. His pristine silence fills a room far more than sound.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The audiologist turned his cochlear implants on for the first time.
  2. The audiologist told me not to sign at all.
  3. When he heard my voice for the first time, his cry was guttural.
  4. Helen Keller wouldn’t cooperate at the start of her training.
  5. When she took  him to speech therapy he didn’t resist.
  6. I woke up paralyzed on the right side of my face.
  7. The doctor said it was trauma to the nerve.
  8. She gave up on talking English.
  9. They enrolled in American Sign Language classes.
  10. His pristine silence fills a room far more than sound.

ELLteaching 2.0 vocabualry chart

 

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Micah’s first___ was___. To sign flower, the right hand grasps an___stem and holds it first against the right___and then against the left, and like a flower, Micah___ one new sign at a time and took his___off his head for good.

WORD LIST: implants, imaginary, sign, blossomed, flower, nostril,

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III. Post Reading Activities

Graphic Organizers: Finding the main idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main points from the article.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups  and  have each group compose a letter or note to a  person mentioned in the article telling her/him their thoughts on the topic. Share the letters as a class.

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the topic from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Language, Social Issues

Create Your Own Language for College Credit

What do you say to embarrass a polar bear? How might an underwater society write? Can a creature without teeth say “tooth”? How many verbs for “to pray” does an angel need? These are some of the questions students have pondered in ‘Invented Languages’  at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex., as they create languages of their own.” A. Winchester NewYork Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo credit-Credit Ron Barrett

Photo credit-Credit Ron Barrett

Excerpt: Create Your Own Language, for Credit by Ashley Winchester NewYork Times

“The tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki warriors of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones has entered the pop-culture lexicon, and so sparked new interest in constructed languages, or conlangs.

Inventor of Game of Thrones' Dothraki has released a book on how to create your own language. telegraph

Inventor of Game of Thrones’ Dothraki has released a book on how to create your own language. telegraph

Avatar language based on Maori.

Avatar language based on Maori.

Thanks to the popularity of G.O.T., Avatar, etc., more people the world over know what language creation is, says David J. Peterson, the linguist behind spoken Dothraki and alien-speak on the Syfy network’s Defiance.

Kindzi in SyFy's Defiance.huffingtonpost.com

Kindzi in SyFy’s Defiance.huffingtonpost.com

At schools like S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns of such conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (Avatar), Elvish (Lord of the Rings) and Klingon (Star Trek) to get a sense of how languages evolve to meet the needs of their speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity of speculative fiction genres and pop culture.

Eleves from Lord of the Rings had their own language. wikia.com

Eleves from Lord of the Rings had their own language. wikia.com

So how do you create a language? First, think about your speaker’s anatomy, and therefore what sounds he can create, says Jessica Sams, whose conlang course at S.F.A. has grown from minimum to maximum capacity.

Can you speak Vulcan? wikipedia

Can you speak Vulcan? wikipedia

Klingon became a universal language. mashable.com

Klingon became a universal language. mashable.com

Then, she says, build on elements of grammar, culture and habits (and, in the case of bears, growling patterns).

xkcd-Language Nerd. xkcd.com

xkcd-Language Nerd. xkcd.com

Hash yer tihoe jin, hash yer shili Dothraki (translation: If you understand this, you know Dothraki).”

To Those we lost in 2016:

REST IN PEACE

Umberto Eco January 5, 1932- February 19, 2016

~Umberto Eco~January 5, 1932- February 19, 2016

 

Harper Lee April 28 1926-February 19, 2016

~Harper Lee~April 28 1926-February 19, 2016

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” Harper Lee

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. This is the tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki.
  2. The series has sparked new interest in constructed languages.
  3. Thanks to the popularity of  these shows new languages are created.
  4. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics.
  5. Students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns.
  6. Students  learn how languages evolve.
  7. Students can create new fiction genres.
  8. First, think about your speaker’s anatomy.
  9. Next, think about their culture.
  10. A savvy bear might hide its snout to blend in with snow.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

At schools like/look S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, studies/students take apart/part the words, signs/sounds, writing and patterns of such/songs conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (“Avatar”), Elvish (“Lord of the Rings”) and Klingon (“Star Trek”) to get a sense/cents of how languages evolve to meat/meet the needs of their/there speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity/create of speculative fiction genres and pop/pip culture.

 Grammar Focus: Prepositions

Prepositions:  in, for, of, with, by,  on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over,  through, from, during, up, off, with,

Directions: The following sentences are from the news article.  For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed above. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.

The tongue spoken___ the nomadic Dothraki warriors___ HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.

Students need___ get a sense___how languages evolve___ meet the needs___their speakers.

A savvy bear might hide its snout___blend___   ___snow when hunting.

Eight verbs are needed___Brandi Woodstock’s New Jeruslanic, including one___ ask___ something, one___intercede___someone’s behalf and one___plead.

III. Post Reading Tasks

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them restate the following statement in their own words. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. 

“So how do you create a language? First, think about your speaker’s anatomy, and therefore what sounds he can create… Then build on elements of grammar, culture and habits (and, in the case of bears, growling patterns).”

Group Activity: Create Your Own Language

Directions: In groups, have students reread the instructions from the article for how to begin creating a language. After, groups will share their new languages with the class!

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Language

Receipe for Language: English +Cooking!

“For many immigrants, coming to America is full of the unfamiliar — from the language to the food. In Philadelphia, a program aims to help these arrivals settle into their new country by folding English lessons into a cooking class. On a recent Wednesday afternoon, 20 recent immigrants and refugees to the United States streamed into a shiny commercial-size kitchen on the fourth floor of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s central branch. They were here to partake in the library’s take on teaching English as a second language.” N. Roshania, NPR

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Photo- npr.org

Photo- npr.org

Excerpt: A Cooking Class…For English  By Neema Roshania, NPR

“The program, dubbed Edible Alphabet, is run through the library and Nationalities Service Center, an organization that helps settle refugees when they arrive in Philadelphia. By offering English instruction in the form of a cooking lesson, organizers hope to provide a familiar setting for the students — who hail from over 10 different countries — to connect to each other.

Photo- smapan.org

Photo- smapan.org

It’s been great for us to sort of connect over, Here’s a can of chickpeas. What do you use chickpeas for in your meals? How would you do this differently at home?  says the library’s program administrator, Liz Fitzgerald.

Each class is helmed by both a chef and an English-as-a-second-language instructor. The class starts off with an English lesson focusing on the day’s ingredients. Today, the students are spelling and sounding out words like onion, garlic, tomato and jalapeno.

Photo- yahoo.com

Photo- yahoo.com

After the language lesson is over, they’ll set out to make chana masala and roti together…This is about welcoming new Philadelphians to the city…”There is no better way to do that than to share a meal together.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level:  Low Intermediate- High Intermediate


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

Pre-Reading Task

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann

 

 While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The program is  dubbed Edible Alphabet.
  2. The program helps settle refugees.
  3. Each class is helmed by both a chef and an ESL teacher.
  4. The program helps people adjust to life in America.
  5. Some students rolled out roti and chopped vegetables.
  6. Saleh was carefully documenting each step.
  7. Many students are sociable.
  8. All the recipes used in the class are pulled from the cookbook.
  9. Learning how to  shop in an American grocery store on limited means is important.
  10. One students says he savors the choices  of foods.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Reading Comprehension

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students are to circle or underline the correct word or phrases from the article. This exercise reinforces students’ attention on words that have been introduced in the reading. Have them skim the article to check  their responses. Students should also find the meanings for any  unknown words.

“It’s the third/bird time the class has been caught/taught. And along the way, the instructors/instruct say they’ve learned/leaned some lessons of their own. For instance, Fitzgerald says in the first round of classes, they stated/started off by teaching recipes like quinoa salad. But, they quickly realized the students weren’t dig/digging the flavors. That’s when they started teaching/teach recipes that used flavors and ingredients more familiar to the students, who mostly come from Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

Click here for a review of Adjectives

III. Post Reading Tasks

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them restate the following two  statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

  1. “Each class is helmed by both a chef and an English-as-a-second-language instructor. The class starts off with an English lesson focusing on the day’s ingredients. Today, the students are spelling and sounding out words like onion, garlic, tomato and jalapeno. After the language lesson is over, they’ll set out to make chana masala and roti together.”
  2. “…the class is about much more than just learning English…learning how to navigate an American grocery store on limited means is an important part of the class. Strawberries, for example, are available in America year-round, but will cost more and won’t taste as good in January.”

Extra: Web Search

Directions: In groups/partners have students “google” the topic and see what additional information they can find. Students can either have further discussions or write an essay about the subject.

ANSWER KEY

Category: Language

Are Emojis A New Language? …Maybe

“An obscure organization that standardizes the way punctuation marks and other text are represented by computer systems has in recent years found itself at the forefront of mobile pop culture, with its power to create new emojis. A new batch is under review, a process that takes months. But don’t call the pictorial system a language, unless you want an argument from Mark Davis, 63, a co-founder and the president of the Unicode Consortium, the group that serves as the midwife to new emojis.” J. Bromwich, New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Emoji sentences used for Valentine's Day. photo- curious

Emoji sentences used for Valentine’s Day. photo- curious

Excerpt: How Emojis Find Their Way to Phones By Jonah Bromwich, The New York Times

“Mr. Davis said there was no broadly shared way to interpret the symbols, despite their widespread use on phones and other devices. I can tell you, using language, I need to go get a haircut, but only if I can get there by 3 p.m., and otherwise I have to pick up the kids.  You try to express that in emoji and you get a series of symbols that people could interpret in a thousand different ways. In an interview last week, Mr. Davis discussed the latest group of 67 images, set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.

Emoji provided by Emojipedia and Unicode Credit via Unicode

Emoji provided by Emojipedia and Unicode Credit via Unicode

The Unicode Consortium is sometimes labeled “mysterious” (as in a recent post from New York magazine) but Mr. Davis said there was nothing shadowy about it. Its work is largely transparent, and information about its history, members and processes are included on its website...The group meets quarterly; at a meeting in May, they will vote on whether to formally induct the 67 new emojis.

Unicode was started in the late 1980s to develop a standardized code for text characters. It used to be that different computers could not easily talk to one another because they used different codes for the same letters.

Photo- itunes.apple

Photo- itunes.apple

To solve that problem, Unicode takes every letter, number, symbol and punctuation mark that it deems worthy and assigns each — including emojis — a specific number that a computer will recognize.

And, whatever Mr. Davis thinks, some experts are not quite as sure that emojis do not represent the beginnings of a new language.

Take Colin Rothfels, who works for a keyboard company. His job title? Emoji grammarian. Mr. Davis concedes that emojis could one day evolve into something more.

A hypothetical emoji keyboard photo- peopleuni-code

A hypothetical emoji keyboard photo- peopleuni-code

It’s not a language, but conceivably, it could develop into one, like Chinese did, he said. Pictures can acquire a particular meaning in a particular culture…Before the 67 new emojis can be the building blocks of language or personal style though, they will have to be made official.

Mr. Davis said that all but one of the last group of emojis to be subjected to a vote were inducted into the official hieroglyphic system…Some people are bothered by the inclusion of the rifle as a candidate,” Mr. Davis said. But the reason that’s included is because shooting is an Olympic sport…I’ll tell you what I think I’m going to use the most often once it’s available, he said. The rolling eyes emoji.”

Here’s a sample emoji from the Consortium. If Apple or Google ever included this emoji in iOS or Android, it would look different.

Face With Rolling Eyes

You Tube: Liz Lemon’s masterpiece eye roll. Courtesy Logan Warren

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills:
Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time:
Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: 
Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective:
Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, ask students to think about what they already know about  the topic.  Next, have students look at the picture(s) in the text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Debrief as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use the UIE brainstorming chart (sample) for brainstorming the meanings. 

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

Brainstorming chart by UIE.

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. Mr. Davis said there was no way to interpret the symbols.
  2. The symbols are used on phones and other devices.
  3. You try to express that in emoji.
  4. They’re set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.
  5. The pictures include a groom in a tuxedo.
  6. There’s a drooling face, a clown, and a shark.
  7. Unicode was started in the late 1980s to develop a standardized code for text characters.
  8. Some of these modern hieroglyphics have prompted debate.
  9. Some think that emojis do not represent a new language.
  10. It’s not a language, but conceivably, it could develop into one.

    Word Map from Education Oasis.

    Word Map from Education Oasis.

Reading Comprehension

Fill-ins

Directions: The following sentences are from the article. Choose the correct word for each blank space.

1. I can ___you, using language, I need to go get a haircut, but only if I can get there by 3 p.m., and otherwise I have to pick up the kids,” he said.

  1. write
  2. tell
  3. sense

2. You try to express that in emoji and you get a series of ___that people could interpret in a thousand different ways.

  1. letters
  2. notes
  3. symbols

3. In an interview last week, Mr. Davis___ the latest group of 67 images, set for a vote at the consortium’s meeting next spring.

  1. described
  2. discussed
  3. dismissed

4. The Unicode Consortium is sometimes labeled___.

  1. mysterious
  2. mystery
  3. mighty

5. In deciding which emojis to add, the Unicode Consortium considers factors ___compatibility.

  1. inclusive
  2. including
  3. excluding

6. The group of ___new emojis includes a large number of sports icons. That was to accommodate people texting during the next Olympics.

  1. portent
  2. potent
  3. potential

 

Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

Finding the Main Idea

Directions:  Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with  discussing  or writing about  the main idea and points from the article.

Cerebral Chart by Write Design Main idea chart By Write Design

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1.The following two  statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“Some of these modern hieroglyphics have prompted debate. Sets of default emojis that included only white skin tones prompted Unicode to release more diverse characters last year. And one image in the latest group has prompted protest: The British gun control group Infer Trust has spoken out against a proposal for a rifle emoji.”

“In deciding which emojis to add, the Unicode Consortium considers factors including compatibility… and frequency of use (whether people will be interested in using a certain picture often enough to justify its existence). Another factor is completeness. For instance, at one point, the group added a mosque, a synagogue and a generic place of worship to complement the Christian church symbol that was already included.”

2. Do you use emojis? If so how often do you use them?

3. In your opinion are emojis useful? Explain why or why not.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

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