Wednesday, December 31, 2008

retrospective 2008

I won't write much today, at the very end of 2008. Just wanted to think of what this year meant to me.
It was a wonderful year. It started in a beautiful beach house in Bethany Beach, Delaware, US. It continued with a South Beach Diet with Ellie and with my going to the gym and putting a lot of effort in losing weight at the YMCA in Bethesda. I was once again frustrated in my studies (I guess it's just part of the game and I finally got this) of American Literature and American History. I was doing ok in my English classes and took my first English certificate (TOEFL). I went to Disneyworld, to Maine, to Boston, to Philadelphia. I met people from all around the world (Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, Colombia, Argentina, Germany, France, Russia, Moldova, Poland). I decided to study in England and live life more adventurously. I went to London and met Professors. I had good meetings, but wasn't sure it was what I really wanted. I went back to Italy, a place that I knew I didn't want to live in. I came back to Brazil. It's time to get my life moving, to go somewhere, but not physically, I need to move on with my own life. I still wanna go to places, wanna travel, wanna go abroad. But maybe I would take more advantage of the experience if I first get my life together, focus on what I really want to do...
So, 2008 was a great year, full of great experiences on the one hand. Still, I felt I wasn't really in charge of my life. I lost focus on what I wanted to do. I valued other people's opinions more than my own. And I got lost. For 2009 I plan to be in charge of my life. And follow my heart. Stop feeling sad, envious, angry. I wanna be more active. I wanna make my own choices. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Native speaker?

So, I'm finally back to studying. Maybe "studying" is a little bit too much. let's just say I'm back to reading things related to linguistics and, more specifically, applied linguistics. I have been reading something on this field because I am trying to make sure this is really the path I want to follow. I'm still not sure, but I do think the subject is just fascinating. I just feel the opportunities to work in the area are sometimes limited to teaching...I love teaching, but I don't know whether this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I just don't know. As I wrote in my previous post, I would really enjoy to have a job that would let me travel, and teachers don't travel much :/

Anyways, let us forget for a second about my future and try to understand my present. My readings. In the book I'm reading, Applied Linguistics by Guy Cook, I have read a lot of things that made me question myself. As we all know, the native speaker is that speaker that should be able to grasp the language in a way that he/she could see what is a proper and improper construction in the language. 

These days I was working with my father on a translation from Portuguese to English. We both worked on it, but there were times when I saw that my father, who never studied either linguistics or translation (but he does translate a lot as a personal hobby and does read a lot), did a much better job than I could. This made me question my abilities with languages. In fact, even though I do not have all the experience he has with the Italian language, I have lived in Brazil for 7 years (and he lived there for a little more than 3 years). Besides, for the whole time I lived in Brazil, I studied and read and had contact with the Portuguese written and academic language. However, my dominion of the language is not as his.

For me this is a little frustrating. I was born in Brazil and my first language was Portuguese. Then, I moved to Italy, where I was raised speaking Italian. At the age of 16 I used to know no Portuguese at all and moving back to Brazil was not that easy. Even so, I am usually considered bilingual (but I have to admit some people think I have a slight accent when I speak Portuguese). What I would like to understand is: am I native apeaker of any language at all? Because I do not feel as a perfectly fluent speaker of neither Portuguese or Italian. maybe this is why I concentrated all my efforts in learning English, but how proficient will I ever be in a language I didn't grow up with? And mastering a language requires time, effort, and sometimes even money...could I ever be equally proficient in all three? Hardly... 

Anyways, a lot of people know three languages is not that hard. Problem is, most people are "native speakers" in one language and know other languages. My problem is: am I a native speaker of any language at all? Because I don't feel like one...

Friday, November 07, 2008


I've been away again for a while. In the meantime, some things happened.

My year in the US came to an end...the last days were so wonderful and so sad at the same time. Part of me wished to have stayed for on more year, but the other part of me realized I couldn't be an au pair forever and it was time to start getting my life moving, getting my studies on, getting a job, whatever. And so it was...I left the family, the kids, the cats, the US and all the friends I had there. I felt so terribly sad and wanted so badly to go back the first few days. 
After a while, I got used to Italy, even though something tells me this is not the place for me. In these months I spent here I realized I'm just not happy to stay here. All your dreams, perspectives, interior happiness, everything fades away and you end up feeling gloomy, sad and confused all the time. It might be the winter approaching, it might be living with my dad again, but I think it goes beyond that. I remember when I first came, I thought Italians were so narrow-minded, so bleak, so pessimistic...and now I feel like I blended in, I see myself as pessimistic, bleak, sad as anyone else. And this is killing me, taking all the strengths out of me. I desperately need to go away. 

I have to say, I can't blame it all on Italy. There's much more than being in the wrong place. Actually, the problem is exactly that I haven't found my place yet. I am completely free and i could do whatever I wanted. I have so many ways to go in front of me, but I can't just make up my mind. It is so hard to make this choice, and I am completely aware of what is blocking me. 

First of all, I am so painfully aware that the choice I make now could influence all of my life...meaning all of it completely. I feel like I'm starting from scratch, I have no real objective and the ones that I could have are related to values that I don't know if I can recognize as my own any more. Should I proceed in the academic career (even though it is so hard and I might end up with nothing at all in my hand), should I start to think of something more practical, something that could actually get me a good job? The only thing I know is that I would like to keep moving and not stay in the same place for too long. But is this just a wish to escape, go away, leave the past behind me just because I'm not mature enough to deal with it? And does this really work? I lived for one year in the US, miles away from my past, and still I couldn't move on because all the people, all the unsolved situations kept haunting me throughout the whole year. Moving away really doesn't solve a thing...still, I've always loved to travel, go places, see new things, deal with different people...that's what I want to do. That's my dream. And there's no real barrier that would keep me from doing that. 

Also, there is another thing that is blocking me. I have many ways to go in front of me, but none inside, just like one of the characters of Alessandro Baricco. I just can't understand what way I want to go...there are so many things I should take into account: possibilities of jobs, possibilities of carriers, possibilities for further studies... Bou also I can't forget I want to do something somehow related to my previous studies and the fields I like to deal with. 
Being aware of all this should definitely bring me somewhere, lead the way to a certain objective, show me the path. Still, so far I'm still in deep darkness, I just can't figure it out yet.

I hope this is normal, and actually I am glad I'm going through all this. I'm glad because I've always valued doubt and questioning above everything. I believe that only dobt and questioning make you live life in a conscientious way. Thanks to doubt, we question ourserlves and we force our inner side to come out with answers, or even more doubts, but at least there is some thinking about what we are living and what we are after all. This is good. This is much better than being superficially happy never asking ourselves what we are and what we feel, just moving on because everybody else does. 

So, I'm trying to search the web, tryin to figure out my interests, my opportunities, my possibilities in order to just figure things out little by little...
Hope this will lead to something...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

catching up

Gosh! I was silent/absent for a while again and a lot of things happened. First of all, I went to Dinseyworld - Orlando. It was great, I loved getting to know it! It was really fun to see all of those things I had always dreamed of seeing when I was a kid. It was really nice to see Cinderella's castle, Disney characters all over the place, Epcot and everything else. I had a great time there! Soon after I came back from Disneyworld I went to take the TOEFL in Baltimore suburbs. That was a very looooong test with very loooong texts...but I did it, and after that I took a bus to Baltimore, I went to the Inner Harbor and then to Penn Station and took the train to DC. It was really nice and relaxing, but y the end of the day I was exhausted! On the way home I even went to Target :P Then there was July 4th. On this very important holiday I went with Luisa and Sebastian to see the fire works at the Mall. They were great! It was a wonderful show...definitely, the best fireworks I've ever seen (even though the Disneyworld ones were very nice too). On July 11th I got the results of the TOEFL and I found out I got 113/120. It is a nice score. As I knew it would happen, I lost most of my points in the speaking part. Also, I thought I would have done better in the writing (but I still lost a couple of points). Both the reading and listening went pretty well. Now I have to start looking for my master programme" Finally, on July 13 I went sightseeing in Philly with Luisa and Siri. It was a really nice day, we had lots of fun hugging Rocky's statue, running on the steps of the Museum of Art, cuing to take a picture with the Liberty Bell. The return trip wasn't so fun since we had to wait more than one hour for the bus (argh!). Ok, this was a brief summary of my last weeks...i'll keep u posted!

Sunday, June 22, 2008


The very last writing before the test. Time was ok, also the subject was fine. The result...see by yourself:


Telecommuting is becoming more and more common, and there is a reason for this phenomenon: telecommuting presents a variety of advantages over working in the office. Because of all of these advantages that improve the lives of the employees, a lot of people prefer telecommuting instead of commuting every day to the office. Personally, I believe there are three main advantages that telecommuting offers to employees: saving time, flexible schedules and comfort.

The most important advantage of telecommuting is the time that employees can save with it. As everybody knows, time is golden, and saving it is very wise. After years of waking up very early in the morning and face a terrible traffic jam or crowded metros and buses, who wouldn't like to sleep one hour more and just walk in one minute from the bedroom to the office to start working? I know a lot of people would be happy with the exchange. Having more time makes people happier and more motivated for work.

Beside the time people can save by telecommuting, we can't forget about the flexibility of the schedule for those who telecommute. As long as employees respect the deadlines their bosses give them, they can use their time however they want. They can go to the gym in the morning, they can spend more time with their children, they can walk the dog, have a calmer and healthier lunch. This would not be a problem if they could make up for these hours in the evening or at night. Also, when employees can have a flexible schedule that allows them to live their life with more freedom, they will definitely feel happier, less tired, less depressed and more willing to work.

Finally, we cannot forget about the comfort of working from home. People can sit on a comfortable chair, decorate the office the way they want, have the best cup of coffee, listen to their favorite CDs and even wear a sweatshirt and flip flops instead of suits and uncomfortable shoes. All of these comforts also contribute in making the quality of employee's life much better.

As you can see from the advantages I just described, I prefer telecommuting rather than working in the office every single day. The advantages and improvements in the life quality are truly important. Sadly, being a teacher, I don't think I will have this possiility any time soon. However, if I ever have the chance of doing that, I would certainly telecommute rather than commute to work every single day.


I wrote this essay the day before yesterday, as a preparation for the test. Timing was great, I could plan, write and proof read! The subject was not that interesting, though...


"Promotion" is one of employees' favorite words, especially because it involves money. Organizations, then, use "promotions" in order to make their employees feel better, keep them working inside the organization, provide them an extra motivation to work better. This is the general idea behind promotions in every organization; however, different organizations deal with promotions in different ways. We can say that there are two main kind of promotions: those based on seniority and those based on performance.

The promotions based on seniority offer advantages both for the worker and for the employer. On the one hand, the worker feels safe working for the same company for many years because he knows that his fidelity to the same company will be rewarded every once in a while with a promotion. On the other hand, also the employer gains something with that. In fact, it is really expensive and time-consuming for the companies to train new personnel. By giving promotions based on seniority, companies make sure that the employees will keep working for them and this reduces possible expenses with training new people.

Promotions based on seniority, though, do not provide the same advantages that the promotions based on performance do. Promotions based on performance, in fact, provide different advantages to both the employee and the employer. The employee, on the one hand, will know that his efforts in trying to do a good job will always be acknowledged and awarded at any time. When the employee feels that he is being rewarded for his good job, he will want to keep doing a better job to try to get more promotions. This way, the employer also has an advantage: his employees will always be motivated to work hard, which will be good for the whole organization after all.

As we can see, both kinds of promotions provide some advantages to employers and employees, so that it is hard to say which one works better. From my stand point-of-view, I would say that I would prefer working for an organization that acknoledges my good work no matter how old I am in the company. When my good work is acknowledged and rewarded, I am sure I would feel more motivated to keep working for the same company, even though I would lack the security that organizations with promotions based on seniority grant to their workers. This is why I prefer promotions based on performance rather than those based on seniority

Grading students

I wrote this text some time time ago, to prepare for TOEFL. I don't remember if the timing was right, but I remember this was a subject I did not think too difficult to write about. Let's see how I did:


Grading students is known to be one of the hardest parts of being a teacher. Teachers sometimes prefer to rely on test grades, but some other times prefer to see the participation of the students in class. Personally, I believe both grade systems present positive and negative aspects.

When the grades are based uniquely on exam results, the process is more "impartial" on the one hand, but also more impersonal on the other. Being impartial in grading tests might be easier for the teacher, but the students might not feel that the teacher is close and concerned about them. Besides, there is always a chance that even the best students don't know the answer for one question, so that grades based on tests are not always the best tool to evaluate the preparation of the students. However, we have to consider there are students that are shy and do not like to participate in class. For these students, grades based on exams might be better.

The same kind of shy students that do not like participating and talking in front of the other classmates might be strongly disadvantaged in those courses where grades are based on participation. Since they do not like to participate, even though they study hard, they would never get good grades. Nonetheless, grades based on participation might be good for students that like to participate and show their interest in the subject. Moreover, the teachers that use this system are usually felt like being closer to the students and able to evaluate their progress more attentively.

Personally, I believe that none of these systems is actually very good if taken separately. I believe, instead, that, in order to give every student a chance, a fairer grade system should be based both on exam results as well as on participation. In this way both the shy and the outgoing students would be able to show their improvements and their hard work. Since it is up to the teacher to decide, I believe a sensitive educator would certainly take this into account, proving to be closer to and concerned with his own students.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

All is well that ends well

I finally made it in 30 minutes! I wrote and revised practically my whole the end, though, I thought of adding one more sentence (it was not really necessary, though) and I didn't check how much time I had! Pretty dumb thing to do, because the window shut down while I was writing and I couldn't finish the sentence. I sort of messed up at the very end. I'll have to remember not to do this on the day of the test...

Everything else went pretty well, I goes my text, so that you can see y yourself (574 words, btw)


Sometimes there are unexpected things that happen in our life and that toss us in the most dreadful desperation. We get very upset, angry or sad when an event changes the course of our plans. However, not all bad things bring about bad outcomes. It can happen, in fact, that unpleasant events turn out to bring us pleasant surprises and results. This is what happened to me almost eight years ago, when I was forced, against my will, to leave my home country.

I lived for most of my life in Italy with part of my family. My mother, though, lived in Brazil with my brother and all of her part of the family. At the age of 16, for several reasons, my parents decided it was better for me to move to Brazil and live with my mother. I do not need to say it was a big shock for me, and I really did not want to leave my school, my studies, my friends, my city and that part of my family with whom I grew up. However, I did not really have a choice and I had to move.

Starting my new life in Brazil was not easy. First of all, I did not know anybody there. Also, because at that time schools were closed due to the holidays, I did not meet anybody for a long time. Another obstacle I found was the language. I did know some Portuguese, but not so much and I had not spoken it for almost 12 years. The first few months, then, were really sad for me.

Once I started going to school, I met new people and things were a little bit easier. Nevertheless, I still wanted to go back home, not only for the friends and for my family, but specially for my studies. In fact, it was hard for me to adapt to the way schools worked in Brazil.

I do not know when exactly, but at a certain point I started realizing I would not go back to Italy. By then, I was already preparing for my Brazilian SAT and I was applying to go to a Brazilian university. Little by little, I stopped feeling homesick and I did not feel that desire to go back to Italy any more.
After two years that I had been living in Brazil, I finally went back to Italy for a short visit. I found my friends there and my family and it was wonderful to meet them again. However, I also saw the sadness, the bad humour, the stress and the unhappiness that my friends and family were experiencing. This is when I realized I was actually lucky to have had a chance to live abroad. This experience, that started in the most unhappy way, turned out to be my salvation. If I had stayed in Italy, I would probably have experienced the same stress, negativism and unhappiness that my friends were going through.

As you can see from my experience, unpleasant events that start bringing about sadness or anger may actually surprise you with wonderful results. It may be hard at the beginning and the situation might require a lot of strength from us, as it happened when I first moved to Brazil, but sometimes it is really worthwhile, as I later found out in my experience. After all, as Shakespeare used to put it, "all is well that ends well".

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is(n't) the TOEFL a wonderful test?

Argh!! 40 minutes again!!! Will I ever make it in 30 minutes?


Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The TOEFL test is a wonderful test! Use reasons and examples to support your response.

Personally, I have to admit I would never say that “the TOEFL test is a wonderful test”. With that I do not intend by any means to criticize the test or to say that the test is not a valid way to prove the level of English of students interested in this language for academic purposes. Much on the contrary, I believe the TOEFL test is one of the most interesting and advanced tests if compared with other proficiency exams. However, I still believe that saying that it is wonderful test is a little bit too excessive for me, which would make me disagree with the statement. My reasons to disagree can be summarized in two groups: the reasons that are not inherent to the TOEFL itself, and the reasons that are inherent to the TOEFL.

The first group actually consists in only one reason: for students there is no such thing as a wonderful test. This, as you can see, has nothing to do with the TOEFL itself, but rather with fact that the TOEFL is a test. The word “test” evokes in the students a whole range of feelings and sensations that are far from being wonderful. First of all, the stress that accumulates during weeks or months before taking the test. Then, the hours of hard study spent in libraries or at home rather than out with friends. Also, we cannot forget the fear that on the day of the test something bad will happen: will the clock alarm work? Will the bus come on time? Will I get there late? Will I feel good during the test? What if I have bad day? Of course, all of these fears accumulated will not let you have a nice rest before the test.

Within the second groups of reasons that would not make me say that the TOEFL is a wonderful test, we find those features of the test with which I disagree. First of all. one of thing that I really cannot understand in the TOEFL is the timing. Specially in the speaking and writing parts, the timing plays a great role in the final score. It is really hard to write a well-done essay in thirty minutes, specially because, according to the topic you get, you might need a lot of thinking to write 350 words. Also, having 20 to 30 seconds to prepare a well-organized speech is not enough. It seems that it obvious the student will have a lot of things to say on the topic, but that is not always true. A second complaint that I have about the TOEFL is on the speaking part. Most of the test takes into account the use of English for real communication, but I do not see how this could apply to the speaking part. In the first place, the very idea of preparing your speech before talking is against what happens in real (and spontaneous) communication. I do understand that a monologue in the form of a speech is interesting to evaluate the students’ academic preparation, however, also in the academic environment, we do not participate orally only through speeches. We do take parts in dialogues, that is one of the most important uses for the oral language. This important aspect of the oral language seems to be completely disregarded in the TOEFL. My final complaint is about the price. I believe that 150 dollars for a test that is valid only for a few years is simply too much money. It should be a little cheaper, considering all the people that take it all around the world.

Saying that the TOEFL test is wonderful would be simply too much for me. I do believe that the test is well done and it takes into account a real use of language much more that other proficiency tests; however, I still believe there are some things that could be improved in the test. Also, I couldn’t agree with the statement because of my position towards the TOEFL: I am student that is living all the negative feelings and sensations that tests bring to students. I could never say that the test is wonderful in this state of mind.

Is it difficult to learn a new language?

Again, I wasn't good at timing. Hum....I should definitely improve this part. I remember a teacher I had...she used to say:

5 minutes for planning
5 minutes for the introduction
10 minutes for the supporting paragraphs
5 minutes for the conclusion
5 minutes for proof-reading

I should definitely follow her advice and keep in mind that it does not really matter WHAT you write, but rather HOW you can link the ideas together using connecting words, the structure of the essay, the examples. And that's it. Maybe next time?

It can be quite difficult to learn a foreign language. What do you think are th most difficult aspects of learning a new language? Give reasons and examples to support your ideas.

Learning a language is not easy. This might be one of the reasons why so many people dedicate time to learn new languages. They see it as challenge they are willing and eager to undertake. The new language might seem dangerous, tricky, complicated or even impossible at the beginning. Those that decide to learn it, though, will fight the adversities and be able to succeed at the end. Definitely, it is not an easy task, but maybe that is exactly why we feel so proud of our victory. Personally, this is one of the reasons why I like learning languages so much: I like the challenge, I like to be able to overcome the obstacles. I had the chance to learn quite a few languages, all of them descendants from the ancient indo-european. Thus, in my experience I had to overcome only some difficulties that did not include learning alphabets or structures that have very little to do with my first language. Personally, I think there are four most difficult aspects of learning a new language: the phonology, the vocabulary, the grammatical structure and, last but not least, the practice.

The phonology of the language is very often downplayed as not so difficult. Most people believe they master the sounds of the language after the first months. This is not even close to be true. It takes time for your ear to get used to the new sounds. Also, it takes time for your mouth to articulate those sounds you do not have in your native language. Finally, it takes time for you to be aware of how your pronunciation differs from the target one. Matering the phonology of a new language is not easy, so much so that I know foreigners that have lived in the United States for years and still present difficulties differentiating “sheep” from “ship”, or “think” from “sink”.

The vocabulary of the language is really difficult to master at an advanced level. At the beginning it is easy learning a lot of words every day. As you learn the language, the vocabulary you assimilate becomes bigger and bigger, until you reach an advanced level of English. From a certain point, I believe vocabulary becomes rather difficult to learn. Most of the times, you can understand the meaning of the words from the context and you end up never looking them up in the dictionary. This is also the stage when those strategies such as flashcards do not really work so well any more. In my own experience, I remember my first years of English classes, when, after each class, I used to go home with a lot of new words in my head. When I take English courses now, instead, I am lucky if I get to learn one word every class.

Also, I believe that it is not easy to understand the structure of a new language, specially from a syntactical point of view. It is hard to understand such things a word order or different verb tenses. However, I have to say that in my experience language structure has always seemed so fascinating to me that I did not really have time to find it difficult. I would just be amazed at the differences from my native language. I remember that word order had specially fascinated me when I was studying German, and at the beginning my classmates and I had a very hard time trying to fugure out the rules. Phonolgy, Vocabulary and Structure are definitely among the most difficult aspect of the process of learning a new language. However, none of these, in my opinion, is really the most difficult aspect of learning a new language. What I elieve to be pf the utmost difficulty is instead keeping practicing the new language(s) we learn and trying not to forget them. Of all the languages I have learnt, only English was the one I kept studying and improving. The other languages I once studied seem instead to have disappeared from any place in my brain. I can still read something in German, French or Latin. I could also read some Greek. However, I could not speak, write or listen to a conversation in any of these languages because I just stopped practicing them. The reasons why I stopped are innumerous, but mainly because of time and money. In fact, it is expensive and very time-consuming to learn a new language and not everybody can afford to spend both time and money on this.

Finally, we can conclude that learning a language is not an easy task and presents several difficulties. Some of them are relative to the language itself, such as its phonology, structure or vocabulary. However, the most difficult aspect of all is to find time and money to dedicate to the new language, This seems really something not everybody – but actually a very few people- are willing to do.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Haste makes waste

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

Haste makes waste

Use specific reasons and examples to support your response.

Being a calm person that likes to take her time to do any tasks, I do agree with the statement “haste makes waste”. Personally, I like it very much when I can focus on one single thing and dedicate to it as much time as I wish. However, I also think that nowadays it is difficult to do that. We have to optimize our use of time because every day we need to be able to handle a lot of things and situations. For this reason, it is becoming more and more difficult to spend a lot of time on one single task. This does not necessarily mean that we are not productive or that we are not doing a nice job, though. It just means that we know that we have to expect realistic results that are compatible with the time we can dedicate to a certain task. I have two examples to illustrate how “haste makes waste” is an old saying that does not fit in our modern reality so much any more.

My first example is about something I had a lot of contact with: University. When we study at University, we usually are very interested in the subjects we take and we want to learn as much as we can. To do so, one would think that it is important to dedicate a long time to study and carefully reading books, articles, newspapers. However, this is not always the best policy. Our teachers load us with great amounts of reading material that will take a long time to read. Sadly, though, most of the students don’t really have so much time to read, because they also need to work and earn enough money to pay for some of their studies. Therefore, it is difficult to find students that read every article or book very carefully and spend a lot of hours on each material. In fact, one of the first skills students learn in college is how to read rapidly and absorb only the main information in the texts. This does not mean that these students are not studying well enough. They are actually being very successful students and show they are putting a lot of effort in their studies.

Once we are out of college, things do not get any better. We always have a very busy life. First of all, we start our career, and then we settle down, get married and have kids. Having a family, though, does not mean that we will stop neither working, nor meeting our friends or socializing with our neighbors and co-workers. All of these aspects, summed to the regular stress we go through to keep our house in order and take care of our kids, make us have a very busy life. This means, once again, that we have to use our time wisely. Of course, it would be nice to spend hours cooking a delicious dinner for the friends that are coming to dinner, but maybe we only have time to order food or keep things simple. Also, who wouldn’t love to have a perfect shiny house? But we can’t spend so many hours every week to vacuum the carpet, sweep and wash the tiles, clean all the windows. Little by little, we learn how to be quick and be content with a clean house that is not shiny, with a nice dinner that is not fancy, with meeting our friends for a couple of hours instead of whole afternoons, and so forth.

Finally, I do believe it is very nice to focus and be able to put a lot of time into something that will come out almost perfect, but I also think this is not possible most of the times. The dynamics of modern life are dictated by rapidity and haste, so that a lot of things can be done by the end of the day. Once again, I don’t think haste makes waste, it just makes us speed and be less perfectionists.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Are you a good teacher?

Today I exercised twice :P here`s my new essay. Again, timing was not really good. It took me around 40 minutes to really finish it. I was interrupted in the end, though...


What are the characteristics of a good teacher? Use reasons and examples to support your response.

Judging whether a teacher is good or not is not something on which students would agree easily. Some of them would say wonderful things about one teacher, while some others would say horrible things about the very same teacher. We can therefore say that a teacher can be considered as good or bad depending on the student and on the student’s parameters to define a good teacher. In the following paragraphs I will describe three characteristics that, in my opinion, should be fundamental in every good teacher.

First of all, a good teacher should show a very deep interest – if not a true passion – for the subject he/she teaches. When the teacher is interested in and really enjoys what he is explaining, students are more likely to take interest in the subject as well. I know that since I’ve started studying English I’ve always been lucky enough to have teachers that loved English themselves. This made me want to study English more and more and eventually become an English teacher myself. On the other hand, when the teacher does not seem to be interested in his own subject, students will probably not pay attention to the class. This is what happened to me when I was 15 and I had a Math teacher that did not seem interested in teaching Math at all. The whole class would not pay attention to a single minute of the lesson, and would score really badly at every test.

Second, a good teacher should be responsible and attentive with her job as well as with her students. In fact, it is important that teachers take their profession seriously, prepare their classes and correct the students’ exams as promptly as possible. When teachers come to class without a clear idea of what to do with the students, we have the idea that the teacher does not take his duties seriously. When the time comes for students to study hard and do the homework for that subject, they will probably follow the example of the teacher and come to class unprepared. Also, it is important that a teacher show to her students that she cares about them. There are several ways to do that: teachers can praise the students that put a lot of effort into a task, call all the students by their name, encourage the more bashful to talk, let students give ideas and suggestions (and actually take them into account later), etc.

Finally, I believe a teacher should be patient and open minded with his/her students, but he/she should also be firm at the same time. It is important to understand and forgive students for some of their faults; nobody is perfect, after all. However, a good teacher should not be too forgiving. It is important to set some limits, otherwise students can take advantage of the situation. Last semester I was taking an English class and my teacher was always very nice and smiley. Since the beginning, students started not doing the homework, and he would never really scold them, but he would just ask the students to join in with a classmate. By the end of the semester, practically nobody was doing the homework any more. This is why it is important for a teacher to show a certain strictness.

In my opinion, then, these are the main characteristics that help constitute a good teacher. Talking to many other students, though, I found out not so many share the same ideas as me, which made me realize that rating a teacher is a rather personal judgment. Luckily, teachers are different, therefore any students can have their favorite.


I did in 35 minutes, I think! The subject was a little better than usual... still, not so much to say aout it...


What is the best age to marry? Give reasons and examples to support your answer.

Arguing about the best age to marry is almost as difficult as arguing about the best age to fall in love. Personally, I do not really believe there is one perfect age to get married. I believe, instead, that people are different, they have different values, different backgrounds and different ideas. It is hard, then, to determine one thing that would fit all. In terms of getting married, one should just feel when it is the right moment. However, we can try to be more objective and consider important factors that would make a marriage work.

First of all, in order to get married, people should already have a clear idea of what they want in their life and what they want from their marriage. Young men and women in their 20s usually do not have a clear idea of what they expect from marriage as well as of what they really want in their life. Usually, when they get married at this young age, they mostly believe that love and passion will be enough to make a marriage work. After a few years, though, they might find out that the person they married is changing, is pursuing different goals and believing in different values, and this would lead to unhappiness or even divorce. People in their 30s, instead, should already have a clear idea of what they expect from their marriage as well as from their lives. This would generally make them more mature to face such a big commitment as marriage.

We also cannot forget another important factor: a young couple that has recently gotten married will need a place to stay, and will therefore have to cope with bills, rent, groceries, etc. If the couple is young, they are unlikely to have their career going. They have probably just entered the job market and have no financial security. On the other hand, people in their 30s are supposed to have started their career already and should earn enough money to settle down and have a family. It might sound rather anti-romantic, but money does play a big role in keeping a healthy marriage. Lack of money would promote stress in the young couple and this would lead to big fights and unhappiness.

From the reasons we just presented, the logical conclusion would be that there actually is a best age to marry, which is when people reach a certain maturity as well as a certain financial security. However, I still do not feel I can say it is not advisable to get married young. In fact, marriage is for me a really romantic decision taken by two people, and, no matter what happens next, I still believe there is no wrong marriage. The important is that, when two people decide to get married, they really mean it and they want it to last happily ever after.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Team sports and Individual sports

Again, the essay wasn't timed. I tried to do it in the afternoon, but I had too many things to take care of (laundry, cleaning & stuff) and when I started I saw it was time to give up. So, once more my essay was not timed and maybe that's why it's so long.


Discuss advantages of individual and team sports. Express your preference.

Since we are really young, our parents and our teachers talk us into practicing any kind of sports. It is important, though, that we experience both individual and team sports because these two kinds teach us very different values and rules that are fundamental not only in the sport world, as well as in life.

Learning how to play a team sport has a lot of advantages. The first we can think of are related to the interaction among the members of the team. It might seem fun and easy to play in teams, but it is not so simple. In fact, it takes time and training to develop those skills that we need to join in a team. Practicing team sports can effectively teach you a very important lesson: how to work together to reach the same goal. This means that, to be in a team, you need to know how to rely and trust your team mates, how to accept their mistakes and praise their efforts and how to keep a healthy relationship with them no matter what. Practicing a sport team will surely help you acquire these skills that are going to help you throughout life. Furthermore, team sports have another great advantage: they can be played for fun among friends just to spend some time together. It is very common to see a group of friends playing soccer or volleyball on the beach, when they are spending a nice time together. Finally, I believe that team sports can be played for fun because the pressure and competition are not concentrated on one single person, but spread into all the members of the team. This means that, in case of victory, everybody is happy and cheers together; in case of loss, instead, they can console each other.

In individual sports, instead, the pressure to win is generally high, especially at high levels of competition. However, there still is the advantage to practice an individual sport for fun. For example, I started taking ice-skating classes a few months ago with the only goal of learning how to ice-skate. Therefore, during the classes I do not feel any sort of pressure to win or to be better than the others. What I really feel when I am practicing is a full awareness of my successes and my failures. When I am successful in any sort of exercise, I feel rather proud of myself and know that I deserve all the credit for that; when I fail, instead, I feel a deep frustration because I know the failure is due to my own limitations. For as much frustrated as I feel, I still believe that learning how to be aware of one’s own successes and failures is something very important, thus I would list this as one more advantage of individual sports. Finally, in individual sports you have the advantage of not having to deal with other members of the team. Even though I believe this is a very important lesson we learn in team sports, it is good sometimes not to go through all this and being focused in doing what we want rather than what others want us to do.

Personally, when I was really young, I always went to gymnastics, which is an individual sport. Because of that, I believe I didn’t learn a lot of the values that I would have learned practicing a team sport, and this made things difficult when I tried to join in teams afterwards. Up to now, I still prefer individual sports to team sports because of my difficulties in fitting in a team. Nevertheless, I consider this a fault in my uprising, and I strongly believe people should have experience in both individual and team sports so that they can learn two different kinds of important lessons for their lives.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I haven`t really kept the promise of being a better student. In part, it was my fault: I was just too tired to write anything that made sense. On the other hand, a bad internet connection and a lot of problems trying to get into my blog didn't exactly help me keeping the promise.

Anyways, here goes my second TOEFL essay. I have to say this thing of practicing with time hasn't really worked so fine. I always have people distracting me from that. I will try to work harder on doing everything in 30 minutes, just like in the TOEFL test...argh!! it`s getting close :s

here we go:

********* Compare yourself today and yourself five years ago. In what ways are you the same or different? Use specific examples to support your response.

Thinking of myself now and five years ago brings to my mind different feelings and ideas. The first thing that strikes me is the difference. I feel I am very different from what I used to be in so many aspects: my experiences, my responsibilities, my needs. On the other hand, I realize I am not really a different person: deep inside I can see it is still myself. The same person that was living inside me five years ago.

When time passes by and we grow up (or maybe I should say “grow older”), change is inevitable. With time, we have to go through different stages of life and, therefore, different experiences. These experiences make us see the world and our own life from different angles and perspectives. In my last five years I had mainly two experiences that made me change a lot. First, I went to college, where I learnt a lot about linguistics, but also about studying, responsibility, group-work. Second, I spent one year abroad, in the United States, which made me understand what it means to live far away from my home and family, and also made me find courage to start a new living in a new family and with new friends. Also, with time, we see that our responsibilities change. When I think of myself five years ago, I remember I used to spend many hours at the University Campus studying and talking with my friends. Nowadays this is no longer possible because I know have to earn my own money and find a nice job. Finally, I realized that my own needs changed with time. Five years ago I just wanted to study, get good grades, hang out with my friends and my boyfriend. Now this is not enough and I feel I need many things that I would not even think about before: a steady job, a nice career, my own place and also a family.

In the previous paragraph I discussed some of the main changes that happened in the last five years in my life. However, not everything changes: I am still myself. I believe that some parts of us are very unlikely to change much as time goes by. First of all, it is difficult to change personality. I might have even changed some parts of it and lost some of my bashfulness or introversion; however, these deep characteristics of my personality will never disappear and will still show up in certain situations. Second, I believe my most cherished dreams didn`t change in these past five years. My career dream of becoming a University Professor, for example, is still present in my life. Finally, my passions also didn’t change. I might have added some to the list, but the pleasure I get from reading, watching movies and writing letters or e-mails is still there.

With time, a great deal of change takes place in our lives. Nonetheless, this does not mean that we change completely into a new person. Some parts of us, mostly the ones that are deeply rooted in ourselves, still remain unchanged. For the parts that change, we have to keep in mind that change is inevitable and, most of the times, for the best.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A place to visit

Again, I haven't written for a while. I know I should have practiced my writing more ...daily writing, my teacher used to tell us. Well, I haven't been a good student at all ...but in one month I`ll have to take the exam, and I should start studying harder...

I decided I will keep posting personal writings here, but once in a while I'll post my writing exercises which are taken from the book. If you`d like to comment on them, feel free...any comments will be very much appreciated...

So, let`s start with my first one...

What famous place would you like to visit? Use details and reasons to support your response.

There are so many famous places that are wonderful and interesting in our world, that it is really hard to pick one above all. However, I think that if I had to choose only one famous place now, I would definitely choose to visit the Niagara Falls. This choice would be dictated mainly by three reasons.
In the fist place, Niagara Falls are widely known for their beauty and importance. Of course, if I had to choose a famous location to visit, I would choose one that is unanimously considered beautiful. As far as I know, the Niagara Falls are considered among one of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the United States. Luckily, I had the chance to speak to several people that actually went there and already saw them. Everyone described the experience as amazing, stunning, incredible and wonderful. This leaves no doubt that Niagara Falls are a place to be seen in the United States.
The other reason that made me pick Niagara Falls out of thousand other places is their location. As a temporary United States resident, I am living in the city of Bethesda, in Maryland. From this city, it is not difficult, far or either expensive to get to Niagara Falls. There are several possibilities of transportation, from airplanes to cars or even buses. This makes it definitely easier for me to plan a trip to Niagara Falls and makes this destination much more appetizing than other famous places that are far and expensive to get to.
Finally, you have to agree with me that traveling alone is, if not sad and boring, at least much more difficult and dangerous than traveling in good company. Most of the friends I have in the United States have actually never been to Niagara Falls, and all of them would like top go there. This makes it much easier to plan a trip with some of my closest friends, which would make the excursion much safer and more enjoyable.
We can conclude that for its beauty and importance, for its location and for the good company I would have in the trip, I would certainly choose Niagara Falls as a famous place I would like to visit. I hope I will be able to do so by next August.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Being a bad student

Yes, I'm being a bad student. Since this is something that doesn't happen very often, I wanted to share my feeling with you guys (I seem to have more than one reader, now). I anticipate this post will not be a long one, so don't worry.

Well, everything started a couple of weeks ago, when I had a class and my teacher gave us homework, which I diligently wrote on my notebook with my heart filled with good intentions (I'm reading Jane Eyre...can you tell?). When I came home, I found out I wouldn't be able to go to my next class, so during the week, instead of working hard on my homework trying to make it up for not going to the class, I just relaxed and did nothing. I know: bad, bad, bad!! What kind of example am I setting for my host-kids?

When I missed the class, something inside (conscience?) started to feel bad, and I decided that the very least I could do was to send an e-mail to my teacher and ask him what happened in the class I missed and what would be the next homework. However, I knew the teacher sometimes would send us a reminder of the homework anyway by e-mail...I decided to wait. When I finally realized the e-mail wouldn't come, it was Friday already, the day before the class. Therefore, I just gave up sending any e-mails.

If you think this is irresponsible, wait to see more! I did know I hadn't done the homework for the previous class, and I did know I had copied it down on my copybook...but on Friday evening I was feeling so tired I just went straight to bed. I did not even open my notebook. Saturday, when I finally went to class, I found out a terrible thing: I have so many things to hand in to my teacher! And all of these things will be evaluated and will grant me a good (or bad) grade.

So, don't behave as I do! Be good students/workers! Don't be irresponsible! And reproach me when I am behaving irresponsibly!! I should go to my TOEFL mini-tests...

Monday, April 21, 2008


No, I haven`t given up, as Emmanuele put it, but I've been very very bad, I know. I can't explain what happened even to myself...I know I used the computer almost every day but I just wasn't able to reply to any e-mail, to write (or think of) anything to write on my blog, to do any of my homework, to do any laundry...what happened to me? I just don't know. I do know I feel bad about my homework (which I intend to start as soon as I post this) and I do know I feel tired too, in the morning and in the evening. Don't ask me why...maybe I`m just doomed to tiredness.

One of the reasons I haven`t been able to write is Jewish Passover. At around this time of the year (but the exact date changes according to the lunar calendar), Jewish celebrate Moses and the freedom he brought from the Egyptian Pharaoh. This is probably the most popular holiday in Jewish families and its beginning is celebrated with big dinners called Seders. Personally, I took part in two Seders for the first and second day of Passover. So, this time, instead of looking up the holidays on Wikipedia and write about Jewish tradition, I`m just going to rely on my memory and try to re-tell the experience from a very personal point of view.

The first thing I found out about this holiday is that it requires a lot of cooking. Since my host-mom was hosting the first night Seder, we had to prepare some of the traditional Jewish meals. First of all, the famous Matzo Ball Soup, which is chicken broth with some spongy balls made out of Matzo, oil and eggs. Now, I imagine you are wondering what Matzo is. It's a sort of cracker (actually, it tastes a lot like Doriano, my favorite Italian crackers!), the only sort of bread that Jews are allowed to eat during the 8 nights of Passover (it's unleavened bread made out of white flour and water). Well, for how simple it can sound, making a good Matzo Ball Soup for around 20 people takes a really long time. Along with Matzo Ball Soup, Jews usually have on their tables Brisket, Tsimmes (something that goes with the Brisket), roasted chicken, Gefilte fish and some sort of vegetable.

Besides having all of these dishes ready for the actual dinner, there are some other things that need to be set on the table before the ceremony that precedes the dinner begins. Before the dinner starts, in fact, the whole family likes to remember the reason why this holiday is celebrated reading prayers and passages from the Bible, and singing songs together. This is when they re-tell the story of Moses, the suffering the Jewish people had to endeavor in Egypt before they achieved freedom. While they go through the story/history, they have food that represent feelings and parts of the story:

  • Karpas - usually parsley (but it can be celery too) which is dipped in salt water. This symbolizes the pain and the tears of the Jewish slaves in Egypt.
  • Maror or Bitter Herb - usually horseradish. It represents the bitterness of Jewish conditions as slaves.
  • Charoset - a yummy mixture of nuts and honey which represents the abundance of food.
  • Shankbone - which represents the Passover sacrifice
  • Beitzah or Hard-boiled egg - which represents the festival sacrifice. I still didn't understand the difference of the Shankbone sacrifice and the egg one.

Finally, I found out that Passover Seders make you gain a lot of weight. Going on a scale the day after definitely wasn't the fun part. I guess I`ll e spending a lot of time at the gym this week...:/

Monday, April 14, 2008

Restaurants & culture

Writing everyday has become more and more difficult lately. Don't ask me why - I have no idea.

Well, these last days I have been talking of different foods, cultures and restaurants a lot, so I decided this might offer a good topic for my post today. By the way, going back one paragraph, I might actually have some ideas about why I haven`t written as I should these days - it's just too hard to find something to talk about every single day.

I remember my talks about food started with my host-dad, who happened to have a business meeting at a Brazilian Restaurant. he really enjoyed the food, which consisted on a buffet of vegetables, cheese and pasta and meat that the waiters would bring to you and cut on the spot. This is what Brazilians usually refer to as a Churrascaria. Personally, I am not a lover of this kind of these restaurants, but I remember going there a couple of times.
After that, my host-mom started talking about the next (and most important) Jewish holiday: Passover (I will write more about it). During this holiday, Jews can't eat bread, rice, pasta, all the by-products of corn, but they have special food. One of the most tradizional is Matzo, with which they make soup, crackers, sticks, pizza, and all sort of things.

Yesterday I went out with Isia, my friend from Indonesia, and her American friend Paul, who lived in China and Japan for a long time. Talking with them about food, I realized for the first time any things of the Asian cuisine I had never thought of before. First of all, I realized they don`t eat raw vegetables there: they cook everything, even lettuce. So, if you go to Asia, forget about Caesar salads, Greek salads and also Asian salads (no such thing there). Also, I realized they don`t have cheese there. As a result, most Asians don`t really like cheese. I thought Tofu was considered a kind of cheese, even though it is made out of soy, but it seems Tofu is not considered to e even close to cheese. Finally, Paul told me it is very difficult to get meat in India, where almost all the dishes are vegetarians. The same cannot be said of Indian restaurants around the world ( I remember having a hard time to find a vegetarian dish in a Indian Restaurant in England).

Finally, we also extensively talked about Italian food. As a matter of fact, it was impossible not to, since we had dinner at Mamma Lucia. Personally, I really enjoyed my Ravioli Romana (I know, it should have been Ravioli alla Romana, but it is too much to expect a correctness in Italian that goes beyond orthography, at least from restaurant Menus), which I hadn't eaten for ages :) We also talked about Italian cheese and pasta. Finally, we agreed that a mediterranean diet is good, it keeps you healthy and pasta on its own doesn't do any harm (if consumed in moderate portions).

My weekend ended up with a movie (of course) : the Kyte Runner. Once again, I was immersed for a couple of hours in a very different culture: the Afghan one. Sometimes I wonder what is the meaning of living in the US...there are so many people from other countries and the Americans themselves seem so interested in going abroad (for a while). More specifically, I often ask myself how it is like to live in the US the way many immigrants do, inside their communities, getting married among themselves, longing for their original countries, yet not being able to go back there for good. I think immigrants` identities work a little it like that children game, the one that begins with as many chairs as children set in a circle. At the beginning all the children can sit down, but then music`s on, and the have to stand up and run and walk around the chairs. When the music goes off again, they all have to sit down again. But some grown ups removed a chair from the circle and one of the kids won`t have his place any more. The solution might be to sit in someone else's lap; but this solves the problem in part: the child will have a place to stay, but it's not his own. He wishes to get his chair back, but it`s not there any more. The same with immigrants: they think they want to go back to their countries, but they only want to go back in time...geographical and historical dimensions mingle to gether into something that is just too hard to explain.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I know what I you?

Ok, enough with Literature. I guess that with my last posts I managed to scare away even my one reader...gosh! I'm hopeless, aren't I? I will stay in the language field and talk a littl ebit of my experience in English as a foreign language.

First of all, I have to say that with the status of my identity, being considered a foreigner is not really new to me. Having people making fun of my accent, then, is just something I got used to. As well as having people asking me: where are you from? This happens on a regular basis here, but it also happened all the time in Brazil.

Now, of course, my English is not as good as my Portuguese. I`m not saying I have an excellent Portuguese, but my English is definitely far below. When I first got here, my English wasn't as good as it is now, and when I started speaking to people, specially on the phone, I experienced some huge problems. With the Americans it is pretty fine...not always, but most of the times. When I speak too other nationalities, though, i`m never sure they understand me and I`m not sure I understand what they mean. I find myself asking repetitively the same thing just to make sure I got it right. Sometimes it's because I really don't understand what they are saying - this happens a lot ith an Autralian friend of mine -; most of the times, though, I do understand the words, but I don`t understand the meaning these words are trying to convey. I do understand the literal meaning, but it is hard to understand the intention that underlies (and is part of) the meaning. I believe part of this difficulty is due to the cultural factor. Different cultures convey meanings, and specially intentions, in different ways. When I hear a Thai speaking English in the US, there are too many cultures involved: my country`s, the American and the Thai. In deciphering the intention, my brain doesn't know to what culture it should refer to. As a result of this insecurity, I end up trying to make sure my interpretation is the right one, and there`s no other way but asking the speaker himself.
I was thinking aout this problem yesterday, when I was talking to a girl from South Africa. She was trying to tell me something, but I wouldn`t understand her. Looking at my puzzled face, she asked me: "do you understand what I`m saying?" and I innocently told her the truth: "No, I don`t". Then, she came up with something totally unexpected: "I know what I'm saying". It was funny, because before I could realize it, I had already answered her: "Good for you!". She`s right, though...things do always make sense in our mind. However, in order to uild up a meaningful and pleasant conversation, we have to ear in mind that those who listen to us have access to our words and not to our heads. It is important, then, to pay attention to our language and use it wisely.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pulitzer Prize

Let`s continue the saga of posts on Literature :) as you can see, I really enjoy the subject.
Well, this Monday the Pulitzer Prizes have been awarded, and I couldn't not mention anything about it.
First of all, do you know what the Pulitzer Prize is and how it came to be? Everything started a long time ago with an experienced and revolutionary journalist: Joseph Pulitzer. He was so interested and fond of his work, that in his will he donated US$ 2,000,000 to Columbia University so that the first School of Journalism could be opened. As a result, Pulitzer Prizes are awarded mostly in the field of journalism (14 awards). In his will, though, Joseph Pulitzer also explicitly requested that important work in literature, drama and music also be rewarded.
In response to Pulitzer`s will, since 1917 every year the Pulitzer Prizes are awarded to those that proved excellence in journalism, music, literature and drama. The Board that choses the winners is composed y the president of Columbia University, the dean of the School of Journalism and other important teachers and journalists.
This year i know that 6 Pulitzer Prizes went to the Washington Post (the newspaper I tend to read almost daily), one went to Bob Dylan and another one went to an author I had never heard before coming to the US. It was on the cover of the Style section of the Post, in Septemer, that I saw his picture and read one of the first reviews of his (then new) book. This author is original of Republica Dominicana, but lived in the US for most of his life. He is an accredited writer but also a professor at the MIT. His name is Junot Diaz, and his book is " "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao". It is a book about immigrants from Dominican Republic, it is a book about cultural shock and cultural mixture, it is a book written in code-switching. In short, it is a book I can`t wait to read :) I`d better hurry up with Jane Eyre....

Let`s discuss literature

Ok, I know, I said would have written yesterday, but once again I fell asleep on my PC. What`s wrong with me? I don`t know...according to the doctor, I`m just fine. I hope he`s right...Anyway, today I`m a little better than I was yesterday, even though I`m still a little tired, so I won`t be able to write too much (lucky you, right?).
In my last post I told you I had read another interesting article about Books and Literature. Joe Queenan wrote an interesting -and, in my opinion, hilarious - essay on those questions that come at the end of paperback books. Most certainly, when you finished the book, you also give a look at those pages in the end and you might end up reading the set of questions that some editors publish to promote the book discussion. In itself, I do agree with this idea: it is very important to finish a book and to have something to say about it. It is sad, instead, not having anything to say when we finish the book. Yes, because, you see, reading a book is not about being passive receivers of the information that the book contains. We need to be active in our reading activity, we need to interact with every page,every line of the book, because this means interacting with the very author in the book. Yes, interacting with the writer is possible, I would say fundamental. Everything goes back to this question: "why do writers write?". Do you really think that writers would go through all the troubles of writing a 300 pages novel if they didn`t have anything to say? Writers do have something to say, and it is not something easy to understand. This is why we have to build a dialogue with the book, because only through dialog we can really understand and learn something from the writer. Starting from the premise that we do need to create a dialog with the text in order to understand it, some editors decide to facilitate our jo as readers giving us the questions that we should ask ourselves and th book. The idea is very admirable, but the way it is put into practice is not as pleasant. The questions that can help build a dialog with the text should also stimulate us to dig into the text and read in between the lines. As Joe Queenan shows us, though, it seems that the questions we see in our paperbacks are far from accomplishing their purpose. Citing a couple of examples will help you understand what I mean:
  • “Would divorce and remarriage have helped Anna Karenina? If Anna had lived in our time, how might her story have been different?” (in Anna Karenina)
  • “Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was asked how he could explain the killing of six million Jews. He answered, ‘One hundred dead are a catastrophe, a million dead are a statistic.’ Have we become more or less tolerant of murder since he made this observation?” (in The Diary of Anne Frank)
  • “Have you ever seen a movie version in which the woman playing Jane was, as Austen imagined her, truly more beautiful than the woman playing Elizabeth? Who doesn’t love Elizabeth Bennett?!! (in Pride and Prejudice)
  • “What do you make of Hyde’s appearance? (He is small and subtly deformed.) Do you think he should have been depicted as tall and hypermuscular, or obese and debauched, or pale and cadaverous? Why? (Or why not?) Is there a specific meaning in, or reason for, Hyde’s appearance?”
Joe Queenan tried himself to see if he would become a good paperback writer:
  • If it took Odysseus 10 years to make a short trip across a microscopic body of water, why does everyone in “The Odyssey” keep insisting he’s so smart?
  • If Heathcliff were alive today, would he mention Cathy’s death on his Facebook page and change his relationship status to “It’s complicated”?
The really funny thing is that, reading Queenan`s artcle, I realizes I myself had to make up a lot of questions to promote discussions in my classes. Personally, i`ve always tried to do a good job, ut now I`m not so sure aout my results. Did my students make fun of me? Were my questions just too stupid?