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Issue #036 -- Week 11/01/15-17/01/15
January 20, 2015
Greetings and General Information
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Month 5 ~ Lesson 20
We started studying three subjects back in September 2014: pronunciation and grammar for improving your communication skills, as well as website design and development, for applying your English in practice once you get skilful in English and website building. Once we covered the basics of pronunciation, we started a new course in reading.
You can find our past lessons as follows:
Reading ~ Reading Skills for TOEFL 
Simplify Meanings in Sentences
The two reading skills we treated in our past issues (understanding vocabulary from context and recognising referents) had to do with words as such. Now we shall turn our attention to sentences and look in depth at four new reading skills required for the TOEFL test, which is one of the strongest official means of testing your English, should you ever consider taking it.
In this issue we shall consider the skill of simplifying meanings of sentences, as this is one of the basic skills required when learning a new language.
In the TOEFL test you will be given a passage of text to read, in which one of the sentences will be highlighted, followed by a question and a number of sentences (usually four) of which you will need to select only one that best answers the question. No need to mention that you would only have a few seconds at your disposal to make your choice, once you read the passage and the choices.
I met Chinese students who, through years of training based on tests like these, have gone two distinct ways:
a) some have perfected their test taking skills to the max and can handle anything that comes their way, but once they pass the test…. The actual knowledge they have doesn’t really matter, so then they stop building on it;
I shouldn’t stereotype this to the Chinese culture, although they are notorious for securing that certificate, but not the actual knowledge behind it. No, this mentality applies to any student, studying any subject, for as long as they’re studying for ‘external gratification’ – that diploma, certificate or any other piece of paper that attests that they have passed that level. A better, in fact the best way of studying is for ‘internal gratification’, meaning that the student will learn for the knowledge acquired in the process, regardless of whether they secure that ‘piece of paper’. I keep learning, without the need for more ‘papers’ like this, just for the simple joy of knowing more and being able to use that knowledge in real life, whether for work or for pleasure.
That was a big digression, but let’s get back to our subject for this issue. Let me give you an example of how this skill is tested in a TOEFL context, when you will be asked to simplify the meaning of a highlighted sentence.
The Great Red Spot
“One distinctive feature of the planet Jupiter is the Great Red Spot, a massive oval of swirling reddish-brown clouds. Were Earth to be juxtaposed with the Great Red Spot, our planet would be dwarfed in comparison, with a diameter less than half that of the Great Red Spot. The Spot’s clouds, most likely tinted red as a result of the phosphorus that they contain, circulate in a counterclockwise direction. The outer winds require six Earth days to complete the circumference of the Great Red Spot, a length of time indicative of the vastness of the Great Red Spot.”
Question: Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in the passage? Incorrect choices change the meaning in important ways or leave out essential information.
A) The density of the Great Red Spot is much higher than that of the Earth.
Now, you will notice that this question is asking you about the essential meaning of the complex sentence. You can see the sentence consists of two parts:
The first part were Earth to be juxtaposed with the Great Red Spot, which means by placing Earth next to the Great Red Spot.
The second part of the sentence states that our planet would be dwarfed in comparison, with a diameter less than half that of the Great Red Spot, which means that the Earth has a much smaller diameter.
You find these meanings in the third option: C) By placing the Earth next to the Great Red Spot, one could see that the Earth has a much smaller diameter.
How to deal with this kind of questions, in a TOEFL test is simple.
i) You identify the question [Which of the sentences below best expresses the essential information…?]
ii) You find the answer in the highlighted sentence in the passage. Be careful, as you may also find relevant meaning in the context around the highlighted sentence, so glance over this as well, in the process.
iii) The way you need to answer the question is not simple and it usually contains a few steps in your thinking:
1. Study the highlighted sentence carefully;
This is only one example of a TOEFL question of this kind, but you need to practise this skill thoroughly, in order to not only pass that test, but like I said before, to master this kind of situations at any point you come across one in the future – be it in reading or writing, listening or speaking. When you can do this, then you may consider yourself a fluent speaker of the language and that’s what matters.
Grammar ~ Presenting and Focusing Information
We spoke about cross-reference and omission last time. Well, there are many other strategies of omission in English, just as there are in any other language – nothing new here. However, this matter gets very complicated and it is rather for the advanced learners.
Therefore I suggest we skip the rest of the points on substitution and omissions for now and we discuss something more relevant to you, for example how we present and focus information. This is very useful both for writing and for speaking, at beginner’s and advanced levels alike. I remind the reader that this is communicative grammar, in the sense that it works from the angle of the person communicating a message. If the question is “What do you want to communicate?” this type of grammar will show you how to do it correctly. Traditional grammar will give you the pieces that go into a message and then ‘send you off’ to communicate it.
Because this chapter on presenting and focusing
information is rather large, I shall start with an overview of the matter, after which we shall look into the details, in future issues. First, I shall send you back to the introductory lesson on using grammar for speaking/writing in
, where you can review or familiarise yourselves with the ingredients that go into a message:
Now we are going to start considering how meanings can be presented and arranged for effective communication. If I told you that, for a message to be properly understood, 3 things need to happen:
… You would say – “Yes, but I know this!” Ah, that’s the obvious logic, which I would risk say that all of us know, but it is applying this in practice that turns out to be a problem in most of the cases. Therefore, we shall take it easy and give you the tools to effectively apply these three principles in your speech and writing.
i) Pieces of information
These are the pieces we link together (by using the tools I gave you in issues 025 to 031 – please refer back to these sessions, if you need to review anything), i.e. the pieces of language which are separated from what goes before and from what follows and which do not contain any punctuation marks. In written English, we use the punctuation marks to make this separation, but not to split the unit/piece of information. In spoken English, a piece of information can be defined as a tone unit.
ii) The right focus and emphasis
The nucleus of a piece of information is the most important part of a tone unit, as it marks the focus of information, which is exactly where the speaker draws the hearer’s attention. We need to consider types of expressions, types of focus and types of information, before we decide the right emphasis we need to give a particular part of our message and then how we can do that correctly, either in writing, or in speech.
iii) Order and emphasis
Here we shall look into how English has various sentence processes, which help to arrange the message for the right order and the right emphasis. We shall see how the end position and the first position in a sentence are given more importance and, according to how much importance we want to give a piece of information, we place this either at the beginning of our sentence or at the end.
If you get to understand this overview of information in your message really well by next time, the details will fall into place slightly easier, when it comes to it.
Website Design ~ What Exactly Is AdSense?
I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but every time you visit a website and you see some Google adverts on that page, if you click on those ads, the website owner receives a small sum of money from Google, whether you buy the product or not. The product is advertised by another company and Google uses the website you’re visiting to display the ad. It’s all done on a contractual basis between the owner of the product in the ad, Google on the one hand, and Google and the owner of the website on the other hand.
Google's AdSense (and similar programs from other companies) is a contextually based ad system. It means that Google quickly reads the content of any page that contains its AdSense code, every time someone views that page. Based on that content, Google then supplies ads that are relevant -- in context -- to the page information. A page about dog grooming will show ads about dog grooming, or pet grooming, or perhaps about pets. It won't show ads about iPods or travel to Thailand. An example of how an ad will appear on the page:
However, photos can also be chosen as an ad, instead of text.
Alternatively, if the website owner chooses to put Google interest-based ads on the website, then the ads on the page will change according to the individual visitor's browsing history. If he visits a site on power tools, for example, and then your site on dog grooming, Google might serve power tool ads to this visitor.
The AdSense system is very easy to use and a simple way to add another income stream to your business's bottom line. You don’t need to do anything else then
It sounds very straightforward, doesn’t it?
I considered it in the past, at least a few times, but I decided against it every time. I check things out as much as I can before I commit to anything and I need to sign a contract, in this case the AdSense Terms and Conditions agreement. With regard to AdSense, I am lucky to work with SBI! (the system I’m using for this website) and they teach me a lot about anything I need to know – should I be lucky enough to have the time necessary to learn everything they teach me… This is what I’ve learnt from another lesson of theirs about the negative aspects of AdSense
• I am targeting a sensitive audience – at least that’s what I think. I am concerned about the sort of image your business will portray by running ads. I believe in ‘focus and concentration’ on a task in hand, and I think that having pictures of random adverts on my pages would distract my readers’ attention to the content of the page, so I prefer to avoid it, hence I turn down a nice and (what can become) a lucrative source of income. Instead, I can wait
until I have my own books to sell, when you will start finding my own pictures that are specifically relevant to the content on the page;
Getting Started is easy
Google has even created AdSense Academy to help us get off to a fast start with AdSense. Use it to apply, read the terms and conditions document, and learn about the various tools inside your AdSense account.
We are advised that setting aside a few hours to get to know AdSense inside out is a must-do. Not only will this small investment of time ensure that you don't commit any of the cardinal sins (resulting in a disabled account), we'll also learn strategies for maximizing future AdSense earnings. The tips and advice in these articles will help you stay in Google's good graces and make all the difference between a thin and a fat AdSense check landing on your doormat every month.
AdSense Terms and Conditions
Before one proceeds with signing an agreement with Google, one must read and understand it before agreeing to it. You don't want to make any false steps. These are some key points I would need to have in place, before I agree to sign and before I get accepted by Google for placing AdSense advertising on my website:
It could cost me a lot in lawyer fees, should Google come after me for any errors or wrong doings I would commit once I signed on the dotted line. Well, practically, one has nothing to worry about, if one plays honestly. But do read it all and understand it -- the above is our opinion, not legal advice.
If you make enough with Google, stick with them. There's an old saying about business deals... "Never count the other guy's money." Google is too smart to ever alienate a super-savvy group of tens of thousands of Web marketers. So don't expect the AdSense program to become a waste of time.
The bottom line for AdSense is SBI!'s core philosophies... "Keep it real." -AND- "Add value." So... Write original material, about what you love and know preferably, or, as Joseph Campbell said... "Follow your bliss."
This is what I’m actually doing, by writing articles and posting them on the website. This trail of thought needs to be continued, but I shall find a good spot for it in the pages of the website itself, as we cannot postpone these lessons – we only have one month for the monetizing chapter and there is so much to cover!
This Is It, Folks!
I hope you find this information useful and not too confusing. Even though you're in the stage of building on it, have patience at this point in your learning and you'll be able to reap the fruit of your work later on, whichever aspect of our lessons you are concentrating on.
Please feel free to comment and suggest your ideas by replying to this email - I look forward to hearing from you. If you wish to chat either with me or with other members worldwide, go to My English Club !
OK, I wish you all a great week ahead.
Have fun, as always! My best wishes,
Lucia da Vinci
Founder of My English Club
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