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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

BASIC STRUCTURES 2: PARTS OF SPEECH

In English, like in Spanish, a word is a single unit that has full meaning and can stand alone or be part of a larger structure (spoken or written). 

Words can be classified according to their meaning and function and divided into different categories or parts of speech. Some books list up to 8 or 9 parts of speech depending on whether they take determiners as adjectives or as a separate category. Others divide verbs into lexical verbs and auxiliary verbs. In my posts, I’ll be taking determiners as adjectives and treating verbs as a single part of speech, so the 8 major parts of speech in English grammar are noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunction, preposition, and interjection.

NOUN: A noun names a person, thing or quality: E.g. boy, John, brick, beauty, decision, etc.

It can be further classified as common (book, chair) or proper (Italy, Mary), abstract (intuition, love) or concrete (house, table), countable (cup, car) or uncountable (mass: advice, work), collective (group: staff, team), compound (father-in-law, coursebook), etc. Moreover, countable nouns can have regular (adding -s/-es) or irregular plural forms.

PRONOUN: A pronoun replaces a noun (to avoid repeating the noun): E.g. he, him, me, it, they, them, you, anyone, who, whom, etc. As a pronoun replaces a noun, which is called the antecedent, proper pronoun usage requires that this antecedent should be clear and agree in person and number with the pronoun if applicable.

Pronouns can also be classified as personal (he, she, them), relative (who, whom), demonstrative (this, those), interrogative (who, which), indefinite (none, some), reflexive (myself, yourselves), etc.

ADJECTIVE: An adjective modifies = describes a noun (or a word working as a noun, such as a pronoun or a gerund). It can either stand in front of a noun (attributive position) or refer back to it (postpositive or predicative position): E.g. a black cat, your story, the quick brown fox, the students present; Tom is clever.

Adjectives can be further classified as descriptive (large, interesting), possessive (my, our), demonstrative (that, these), quantitative (one, many), interrogative (which, whose, what), articles (a, the), distributive (every, either), etc. They can also be divided into gradable and non-gradable or extreme.

ADVERB: An adverb usually modifies = describes a verb, telling how, where, when or why an action is done: E.g. Tom speaks Spanish fluently. I truly believe he can win. I usually go to the beach in the summer.

However, an adverb
 can also describe an adjective (I’m truly sorry) or another adverb (You speak Spanish very well.)

VERB: A verb expresses an action or state of being: E.g. run, be, become, go, have, etc.

Verbs can be classified according to different criteria and deserve a post of their own (or several) to explain and discuss the different classes. Broadly speaking, a verb can be classified as transitive, intransitive or ergative (labile); dynamic (action) or stative; main (including linking verbs), auxiliary or modal; finite (conjugated) or non-finite (verboid or verbal).

In this post, I’m going to include only finite and non-finite verbs because I think this classification is the most relevant regarding parts of speech:

The FINITE or CONJUGATED VERB works as a verb in a clause, and it has voice (active / passive) + aspect (continuous / perfect) + tense, which shows the time (present / past / future), continuance or completion of the action: E.g. When I arrived (active voice/past simple) at the party, John had left (active voice / past perfect simple.)

A NON-FINITE VERB (verboid or verbal) also expresses an action; however, although it can have voice (active / passive) + aspect (perfect / continuous), it never has tense, i.e. it is not conjugated, and therefore, it never works as a verb in a clause (it will always work as a noun, an adjective or an adverb). Non-finite verbs are:
  • The to-infinitive: to break, to be broken, to have been writing, etc.
  • The infinitive without to, bare infinitive or base form: be, be broken, etc.
  • The gerund: studying, having studied, writing, etc.
  • The present participle: studying, having studied, writing, etc.
  • The past participle: written, studied, broken, etc.
Notice that there is no difference in form between a gerund and a present participle (they both are '-ing' forms); however, they are different in terms of function: the gerund always works as a noun in a phrase/clause, while the present participle is always an adjective or an adverb, or is used in continuous /progressive forms: to be writing

CONJUNCTION: A conjunction (linking word, connector, connecting word, etc.) connects words, phrases or clauses. There are two types of conjunctions:

COORDINATING CONJUNCTION: The action of joining similar structures is called coordination, so a coordinating conjunction joins similar structures, i.e. structures that are at the same level (clause with clause; noun phrase with noun phrase; adjectival phrase with adjectival phrase, etc.): E.g. fish and chips, poor but honest, for better or worse.

There are 7 coordinating conjunctions: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so; a mnemonic for these conjunctions is FANBOYS.

SUBORDINATING CONJUNCTION: A subordinating conjunction introduces a subordinate clause, i.e. links the subordinate clause to the main clause: E.g. Tom played well although he was injuredI went to bed because I was tiredIf I were you, I’d apply for that job.

PREPOSITION: A preposition introduces a phrase and is followed by a noun or a word working as a noun (such as a pronoun or a gerund), which is the object of the preposition; it also expresses a relation to another word or element in the clause: E.g. the pencil on the table, travelling by air, between you and me.

INTERJECTION: An interjection is a short exclamation or remark, especially as an interruption or as part of speech: E.g. Oh! Ouch! Wow! Aha!

πŸ’‘Notice that some words may belong in more than one word class or part of speech: increase is both a noun and a verb, yet is an adverb and a conjunction, over is a preposition and an adverb, etc.

πŸ‘‰The contents of these posts comply with formal grammar rules. Take into account that, in a language that is constantly changing, there is always some conflict between current usage and established practice. Similarly, there are differences between what is permissible in popular speech and what is expected in formal writing. I’ll be describing structures and full forms as they are used in standard written English.

πŸ“ŒONLINE EXERCISES:
πŸ’‘You may also be interested in:
πŸ’‘More on sentence structure:

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Are you heading for BURNOUT?

Here are two excerpts from two reading articles and three videos on burnout: what it is, what its consequences are and how you can avoid it.
Credit: GETTY IMAGES

πŸ‘‰How to tell if you’re close to burning out, by Zaria Gorvett (From BBC WORKLIFE) 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has redefined burnout as a syndrome linked to chronic work stress. There’s a difference between a busy workload and something more serious, writes Zaria Gorvett.

[…] Late last month [June 2019], the WHO announced that the trendy problem will be recognised in the latest International Classification of Diseases manual, where it is described as a syndrome “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”.

According to the WHO, burnout has three elements: feelings of exhaustion, mental detachment from one’s job and poorer performance at work. But waiting until you’re already fully burned out to do something about it doesn’t help at all – and you wouldn’t wait to treat any other illness until it was too late.

Feeling the burn ⇒ How can you tell if you’re almost – but not quite – burned out?
“A lot of the signs and symptoms of pre-burnout would be very similar to depression,” says SiobhΓ‘n Murray, a psychotherapist based in County Dublin, Ireland, and the author of a book about burnout, The Burnout Solution. Murray suggests looking out for creeping bad habits, such as increased alcohol consumption and relying on sugar to get you through the day. Also watch out for feelings of tiredness that won’t go away. “So that even if you do sleep well, by 10 in the morning you’re already counting down the hours to bed. Or not having the energy to exercise or go for a walk.”
As soon as you begin to feel this way, Murray advises going to see your doctor.
Depression and pre-burnout are very similar, but as much as there was a lot of enthusiasm recently that burnout has now become a medical condition, it is still not – it is still classified as an occupational phenomenon.” It’s important to get help from a medical professional who can distinguish between the two, because although there are many treatment options for depression, burnout is still best tackled by making lifestyle changes. […] 
πŸ‘‰GO TO FULL ARTICLE How to tell if you’re close to burning out, by Zaria Gorvett

How to Avoid Burnout: Crash Course Business - Soft Skills #17 (10:39 minutes)

[…] What Is Burnout?

Two important definitions are:
"A state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by long term involvement in emotionally demanding situations." – Ayala Pines and Elliot Aronson.
"A state of fatigue or frustration brought about by devotion to a cause, way of life, or relationship that failed to produce the expected reward." – Herbert J. Freudenberger.
Between them, these definitions embrace the essence of burnout, with the first stressing the part that exhaustion plays in it, and the second focusing on the sense of disillusionment that is at its core. […]

πŸ’‘13 Warning Signs That You're Heading for Burnout ⇒ Specific symptoms include:
  1. Having a negative and critical attitude at work.
  2. Dreading going into work and wanting to leave once you're there.
  3. Having low energy, and little interest at work.
  4. Having trouble sleeping.
  5. Being absent from work a lot.
  6. Having feelings of emptiness.
  7. Experiencing physical complaints such as headaches, illness, or backache.
  8. Being irritated easily by team members or clients.
  9. Having thoughts that your work doesn't have meaning or make a difference.
  10. Pulling away emotionally from your colleagues or clients.
  11. Feeling that your work and contribution goes unrecognized.
  12. Blaming others for your mistakes.
  13. You're thinking of quitting work or changing roles.

[…] Burnout is a mixture of professional exhaustion, and disillusionment with other people, the organization, or the career, over the long term.

Symptoms of burnout include low energy, a loss of interest in your work, and irritability with colleagues or team members. As such, it can cause low productivity, high absenteeism, low creativity, and even health problems.

πŸ’‘Tips to avoid burnout:
  • Work with purpose.
  • Perform a job analysis and eliminate or delegate unnecessary work.
  • Give to others.
  • Take control, and actively manage your time.
  • Get more exercise.
  • Learn how to manage stress.
Remember, if, at any time, stress and burnout are causing you to worry about your health, seek the advice of an appropriate health professional.
πŸ‘‰GO TO FULL ARTICLE 13 Warning Signs That You're Heading for Burnout (From MindTools)

How stress affects your body - Sharon Horesh Bergquist (4:42 minutes)

How stress affects your brain - Madhumita Murgia (4:15 minutes)

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

RECOMMENDED: Skills 360 – Business English Pod (More than business English)

πŸ”ΊIMPORTANT: This is NOT an advert! This is just my honest (and free) opinion. 

I've already recommended other interesting websites, tools and videos, and I'll keep on doing so in the future as long as I come across things worth recommending. 😊

Why do I recommend this website? Simply because find it useful. Business Skills 360 podcast lessons provide essential tips and language for communicating in English, along with free transcripts, vocabulary quizzes and PDF downloads. (Lessons are listed on the website by the date published, with the more recent lessons at the top.)


πŸ’‘Below is a brief podcast lesson overview:

PODCAST: Skills 360 – Levels of Formality in English (Part 1) There are different things you can do:

🎧You can click on the link above and just listen to the podcast:








πŸ’‘Or you can use the free resources below:
πŸ‘“πŸŽ§Click on "Lesson Module" and listen to the podcast while reading the transcript:


















πŸ“Click on "Quiz and Vocab" for online exercises and a full glossary:


















Or download the audio file or the pdf file, which includes discussion questions, a useful vocabulary list, the full transcript and an exercise + answer key)

πŸ’‘Here are just a few podcast lessons:

Friday, July 26, 2019

The 101 people, ideas and things changing how we work today (From BBC Worklife)

πŸ‘‰ GO TO BBC WORKLIFE 101
The world of work is in transition. Are you ready?
In Japan, companies are encouraging employees to go for lunchtime sleep, or hirune. It could contribute to a better working environment. (From BBC / Image credit: Piero Zagami and Michela Nicchiotti.)
The world of work is being struck by waves of change. Some are vast and visible – leaps in machine learning and artificial intelligence or the rise of ‘do anything from anywhere’ technologies. Other ideas are just beginning to emerge – like monitoring content to ensure proper gender balance, or rethinking office design to promote air quality. Behind it all are the people whose ideas and attitudes have the potential to shape the next chapter of our lives.

[In this reading article] are the 101 indispensable things that you need to know about our work-life future:

We’re more likely than ever to live past a century. Whether this becomes a blessing or a curse for society and business depends on how much we can prepare for it.

2. 5G
Self-driving cars, robotics and smart cities, to name a few, will be supercharged through the 5G wireless network. It’s the next step in mobile internet connectivity – and it’s here. Almost.

In an ever-changing work environment, ‘AQ’, rather than IQ, might become an increasingly significant marker of success.

More machines than ever can recognise us, but they inadvertently discriminate on race, gender and more. People like Joy Buolamwini are trying to fix these built-in biases.

For better or worse, the internet is an attention-sapping platform. Perhaps an app that blocks, well, almost everything can help you focus.

We’re starting to trust AI systems to write our emails for us. Is this time-saving tool changing how we communicate?

AI can screen your job application – the question is whether it should also be allowed to scan your social media, analyse your facial expressions and even fire you.

Fasting, micro-dosing, supplements, some go to great lengths to boost productivity – even if the validity of such approaches is unproven.

Wearable tech that monitors physical performance is booming. Whether there is a place for it in recruitment and performance analysis is debatable.

Rethinking how buildings are designed, decorated and operated could help benefit our health and even our productivity at work.

11. Burnout
How the idea that we can work harder and be better at everything is creating an overwhelming sense of exhaustion and anxiety from not meeting these high expectations. (Continue reading)

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Active Listening: Hear What People Are Really Saying (From MindTools)


How well you listen has a major impact on the quality of your relationships with others. 

[…] Given all the listening that we do, you would think we'd be good at it! In fact, most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear, as described by Edgar Dale's Cone of Experience. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren't hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50 percent, but what if they're not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What's more, you'll avoid conflict and misunderstandings.

πŸ’‘Tip: Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. Understanding your own personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions with others.

Becoming an Active Listener

It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening skills are as bad as many people's are, then you'll need to do a lot of work to break these bad habits.

There are (some) key techniques you can use to become a more effective listener:

1. Pay attention
  • Give the speaker your undivided attention and acknowledge the message. Recognize that non-verbal communication also "speaks" loudly.
  • Look at the speaker directly.
  • Put aside distracting thoughts.
  • Don't mentally prepare a rebuttal […]
2. Show That You're Listening
  • Use your own body language and gestures to show that you are engaged. […]
  • Make sure that your posture is open and interested
  • Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like yes, and "uh huh."
3. Provide Feedback
  • Our personal filters, assumptions, judgments, and beliefs can distort what we hear. As a listener, your role is to understand what is being said. This may require you to reflect on what is being said and to ask questions.
  • Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing. "What I'm hearing is... ," and "Sounds like you are saying... ," are great ways to reflect back.
  • Ask questions to clarify certain points. "What do you mean when you say... ." "Is this what you mean?"
  • Summarize the speaker's comments periodically.
πŸ’‘Tip: If you find yourself responding emotionally to what someone said, say so. And ask for more information: "I may not be understanding you correctly, and I find myself taking what you said personally. What I thought you just said is XXX. Is that what you meant?"

4. Defer Judgment
  • Interrupting is a waste of time It frustrates the speaker and limits full understanding of the message.
  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions.
  • Don't interrupt with counter arguments.
5. Respond Appropriately
  • Active listening is designed to encourage respect and understanding. You are gaining information and perspective. You add nothing by attacking the speaker or otherwise putting her down. […]
  • Assert your opinions respectfully.
  • Treat the other person in a way that you think she would want to be treated.
Start using active listening techniques today to become a better communicator, improve your workplace productivity, and develop better relationships.




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Thursday, July 18, 2019

How Good Are Your Listening Skills? (From MindTools)

πŸ‘‰Understanding Someone's Entire Message

For many of us, listening is the communication skill we use the most. Yet, many people listen poorly, and they rarely think to improve this important skill.

They get distracted by their own thoughts or by what's going on around them, and they formulate their responses before the person who they're talking to has finished speaking. Because of this, they miss crucial information.

Good listeners, on the other hand, enjoy better relationships, because they fully understand what other people are saying. Their team members are also more productive, because they feel that they can discuss problems easily, and talk through solutions.

So, how good do you think your listening skills are? Test them HERE, and then find out how you can improve.


πŸ”ΊNOTE: Evaluate each statement as you actually are, rather than as you think you should be. When you've finished, click "Calculate My Total" to add up your score, and use the table that follows to think about next steps.

πŸ’‘ You may also be interested in the quizzes below:

Monday, July 15, 2019

How to escape the ‘hyperactive hivemind’ of modern work, by William Park (From BBC Worklife)

πŸ‘‰ By William Park
Should ‘deep focus’ become a central pillar of workplace culture?

The constant ping of messages that keep us plugged into work chatter might be doing more harm than good. We feel we must respond – it is about work, after all. But always being switched on means we never have the chance to think deeply. And that is a problem for companies that want to get the most out of their employees.
Copyright : Evgenii Naumov
The next great revolution in the office will need to correct this, according to one man who wants to reset the way we work. He believes that the value someone can bring to a company will be judged not by their skill, but by their ability to focus. But how do we find the time to shut off distractions and do our best work?

Our workplaces are set up for convenience, not to get the best out of our brains, says Cal Newport, bestselling author of books including Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, and a Georgetown University professor. In knowledge sector jobs, where products are created using human intelligence rather than machines, we must be switched on at all times and prepared to multitask. These are two things that are not compatible with deep, creative, insightful thinking.

[…] Psychologists thought that busy multitaskers possessed abnormal control over their attention. But evidence suggests that multitaskers do not have a particular gift for being able to juggle multiple projects. In fact, in many cognitive tasks, heavy multitaskers underperform. Our brains have a limited capacity for what they can work on at any given moment. And using tricks to cram as much into our working day as possible might be doing more harm than good.

Being switched on at all times and expected to pick things up immediately makes us miserable, says Newport. […]

Because it is so easy to dash off a quick reply on email, Slack or other messaging apps, we feel guilty for not doing so, and there is an expectation that we will do it. [… According to Newport:] “The average knowledge worker is responsible for more things than they were before email. This makes us frenetic […]”

Fighting for concentration

What might being wired for work at all times lead to? Inevitably, burnout. Newport describes this way of working as a “hyperactive hivemind”. Unstructured conversations on messaging apps and meetings dropped into diaries on the fly congest our day. His objective, to give people the space to do their best work without distraction, is the subject of his next book: The World Without Email.

[… T]he important thing is to encourage a culture where clear communication is the norm.

Newport is advocating for a more linear approach to workflows. People need to completely stop one task in order to fully transition their thought processes to the next one. However, this is hard when we are constantly seeing emails or being reminded about previous tasks. Some of our thoughts are still on the previous work – an effect called attention residue.

Annoyingly, the busier we are, the more we switch tasks. So, feeling busy is not conducive to deep concentration. Estimates of how long it takes us to refocus after a distraction vary. But at the top end, one study found on average it takes us 23 minutes and 15 seconds to regain deep focus after an interruption.

The flipside is that it is very convenient to have everyone in an ongoing conversation, Newport says. But convenience is never the goal in business, it is value. The assembly line revolutionised car production, but it is not a convenient system – it is the system that produces the most cars quickly.

Our workplaces should learn from production lines

According to Newport, the knowledge sectors that operate in the most focus-oriented way are areas like software engineering, where the goal is to produce a product. “Agile, scrum and sprint-based executions have been used in these sectors for a while,” says Newport. “They work on only one thing for three days and during that time the product is their whole focus. Software engineers never let things unfold in an ad hoc manner. This is more amenable to the way the brain operates.” (Continue reading)

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