A blog from James about English Language Support in Academic Contexts once you arrive at Winchester

For ELTSU I run the support services which are freely available to any member of the University.

Almost every week in term time (23 out of 24 this year) there is at least one walk in ‘surgery’ where you can bring any last minute or arising issues, whether it’s academic or something you overheard at the bus stop.

 There are also a number of workshops covering a range of academic language development topics, from academic vocabulary, to presentations, to speed reading, editing and upgrading written work and so on.

We’ve started hosting a Thesis and Dissertation Writing Group, but you won’t need that till third year.

Lastly, one to one tutorials can be booked (via the learning network) so that individual issues and concerns can be addressed at a personal level. I feel the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask… but that said sometimes it’s easier not asking in public.

All of our support services are student needs driven, and we focus on the work that is of concern to you. I just don’t see the point if someone asks for help with and essay of giving them a different essay to write, that said we can’t write for you.


Proofreading Tricks

Dissertation season is upon us. So here are some thoughts regarding dissertations, final year projects (a term we don’t use any more at Winchester but some institutions might), independent extended studies, and similar documents.

You don’t normally get detailed in-line feedback. So there won’t be any commas added, your spelling corrected or any other little marks. That said, these are your largest and single most important piece of academic work to date. They should be as close to publishable standard as possible. It is worth reading them carefully just for spelling, then again just for punctuation, a third time for grammatical concordance and a fourth time for logic and reasoning.

This can be difficult on the same screen that you normally write on. As we know from Vygotsky the primary function of ‘second order encoding’ or writing as we normally call it is to carry meaning. This is what you should be focused on when you are writing and as this example scramble shows the English language is really quite durable to errors. (Some even argue that this is one of the factors contributing to English becoming such and ubiquitous lingua franca.) This is why you can’t see it when you use “its” instead of “it’s” or “there” instead of “their”, or “your” instead of “you’re”. So your problem is that when you type on the computer you normally use your brain focuses on content.

Print the document. Reading on paper is still significantly different to reading on-screen. And although this may not be the most environmentally friendly, and affordable depending how much your printing costs method it offers us a shift in perspective. On screen, most of us are still in a content focused reading/writing mode. If we switch to paper we can sometimes reduce this compositional modality, and focus more on what is actually on the page. But, watch out this can be time-consuming by itself and you need to get the corrections you make on the page back into the document.

Project the document onto a big screen or even a wall. It’s not overly likely that many of you can do this at home or in your halls and/or dorm rooms, but you might be able to use a study room or even a class room to do this. Again this trick is about shifting your perspective on the piece. Letting you see it for what it is… not what you know it should be.

Read the document aloud, or if you can get someone to read it to you do that. This feels silly, but many professional writers do this, there are some apps that will read text as well. Let’s look at why this works: Studies of how fluent readers read show that most adults read clusters of 4-7 words at a glance. Our brains then reassemble what they think we read and imagine what the text means, rather than trusting it to mean exactly what it says. The trick with this method is to try to shift your focus from your eyes to your ears. This forces your language centres to deal with the language sequentially, rather than in chunks. Additionally, this encourages your brain to utilise auditory and musical intelligences as well as visual and language faculties, so you are using more of your brain to focus on the work. Many people find that the ear is more critical or sensitive to inconsistencies or deviation in grammar, the Monitor Model and related theories support this and feel it is an important part of language learning.

If none of the above are practical for you, or even if they are, use your word processor’s “find and replace” function to add two carriage returns (enter key) after each full stop (or period for our North American readers). This should help you look at each sentence as a sentence and avoid overly short sentences, as well as fragmented or grammatically incomplete statements, and this is not to mention the excessively long and complex sentences. As a guide, a recent survey found that the average length of sentences in published academic discourse was around 25 words with comparatively little variance between disciplines. Of course you will have some short sentences and some longer 25 was an average number. But, if you have only 40-50 word sentences you’re putting a lot of strain on your reader. While 1000 words of 7-10 word sentences will likely feel fragmented and disrupted. If you are working on paper you can still do this or simply use a different colour of highlighter for each sentence.

One last technique, if you are stuck working on one screen, change the font dramatically; (comic sans yes but wingdings is a step to far) change the colour of the text and or background. Remember the key trick is to alter your perceptions of your own work to improve your ability to see it as it is and edit it effectively.

The essential message here is to change the way you read when you change what you read for.

#IATEFL – Adult Learners: helping them clear the next hurdle

Some excellent ideas, aimed at teachers but relevant to IATEFL candidates as well.

Oxford University Press

Businessman jumping over hurdles Rachel Appleby, co-author of two levels of the new International Express (published in January 2014), looks at how to help adult learners to maintain momentum when learning a language. Rachel will be presenting on this topic at IATEFL 2014 on Wednesday 2nd April.

Over the years, I’ve made significant efforts to learn Hungarian, and have done reasonably well; however, I can now “do” what I need to do with the language, and I’m very aware that I’m forgetting it, even though I still live in Budapest. I also go through phases of learning Spanish, and try to do a little everyday, such as reading an article I’ve come across that interests me, or putting Spanish radio on while I’m cooking. OK, so I might be keeping the little Spanish I have alive, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought that I was making any real progress in doing…

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101 expressions meaning drunk or to do with drinking.

This post is in response to a question I was asked a couple of weeks ago. How many ways can you say ‘drunk’, in English, two students were observing just how many ways their English course mates had for discussing alcohol and being drunk. What follows is a selection, not a comprehensive list.

Being drunk has a wide range of idiom and slang terms associated with it, of course if you are going to drink you should only ever do so responsibly. Having a drink (or two) with a meal is something of a tradition in the UK, and many countries. But, with that in mind let’s look as some phrases that mean drunk, and some others related to drinking in general. Being honest, you’re unlikely to get through a UK university degree without hearing some of these from class mates even if you try to avoid it. Some of the idioms below contain sensitive language, as linguists we are interested in their form and provenance so we ignore this offence. If you might be offended, stop reading now. Ok if you are still reading, you promise not to be offended and/or complain and/or get us in trouble.

  1. Drunk: starting off simple here, if your behaviour is affected you are a bit drunk; if you can’t walk you are very drunk. When you have drunk too much you are drunk.
  2. Tipsy: this is a mild one; someone who is tipsy might be noticeably drunk but only because of minor changes in behaviour, laughing louder or longer that sober friends might be one.
  3. Legless: fairly severe the person who has ‘got legless’ probably can’t walk (far) without help.
  4. Drink like a fish: this idiom means that someone regularly drinks quite a lot.
  5. Blotto: someone who is blotto probably can’t answer complicated questions… they may not know where they live.
  6. Three sheets to the wind: another idiom meaning fairly drunk, not necessarily unable to function but definitely acting strange.
  7. Two sheets to the wind: a variant of the above, perhaps from smaller ships that have fewer ‘sheets’.
  8. Four sheets to the wind: as above, the variation could also be regional/dialectical.
  9. Under full sail: as above but almost exclusively in nautical circles, but can also mean someone who talks a lot or tends to dominate a conversation.

    Jacobsen's picture of the American ship 'Challenger' souce Wikimedia

    Jacobsen’s picture of the American ship ‘Challenger’ source Wikimedia

  10. Slammed: Possibly from the shot tequila slammers or perhaps the other way round, someone who is slammed is very drunk, usually people drinking tequila slammers are trying to get drunk.  As the saying goes: one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor tequila.
  11. Trousered: old-fashioned, British and posh (like some of my cousins) someone who is trousered has had enough to drink that they are spilling it on their trousers. It’s probably the only time that the word trouser can be a verb.
  12. Trolleyed:  some trains and planes still have them, many old city firms used to have them a drinks trolley comes round the seats/offices offering drinks and light refreshments, these days it’s usually coffee and tea that are the big sellers. Someone who is trolleyed may have been partaking of the drinks trolley too much.
  13. Pie-Eyed: pie is round pies are often glazed someone who is pie eyed has a round-eyed glazed look; they are in a world of their own.
  14. Away with the fairies: this idiom can be used for anyone who is not mentally in the here and now, sometimes for drunks but also for others who have a poor understanding of reality.
  15. Wellied: another one that is not normally used as a verb to form the adjective and very English, someone who is wellied is very drunk perhaps they are walking like their feet are in the wrong welly? wellies
  16. Hammered: another one for very drunk perhaps even unconscious, as if they’d been hit with a hammer perhaps.
  17. Paralytic: literally, they cannot move
  18. Sloshed: if a container has a fair about of fluid in it and you move the container the fluid will slosh about, sloshed people have had a couple of drinks and are obviously feeling the effects but are not (yet) very drunk.
  19. Plastered: often interior walls are plastered; plaster is usually a white substance that can be used to give a smooth even surface before painting. Someone who is plastered may well have a blank vacant expression.
  20. Wasted: very drunk, someone who is wasted has effectively wasted the next day with a hangover.
  21. Wall-eyed: another one referring to the empty expression that some drunks have.
  22. Steamin’: Particularly in Scots English, someone who is ‘Steamin’ is very drunk, sometimes written steaming.
  23. Pissed: Someone who is pissed is very drunk
  24. Pissed up: as above someone who is pissed up is very drunk, don’t confuse this with pissed off which means angry
  25. A piss up: you can probably guess from the previous two that a piss up can mean a drinking session.
  26. Drunk as a skunk this one probably comes from the sounds –unk and –unk.
  27. Inebriated: this is the medical term, for use with doctors and such but not with friends in the pub.
  28. Under the influence: the legal term driving under the influence (usually of alcohol but it can be applied to other things that affect the mind/judgement) legally being under the influence is ok, it’s what you are doing, such as driving, under the influence that breaks the law.
  29. Ploughed: A plough is the tool farmers use to make a field ready for planting, the field is often then difficult to walk over as the level will vary.
  30. Bladdered: Very drunk, the bladder is the organ that stores piss before we go to the loo, someone who is bladdered probably needs to go to the loo a lot.
  31. Half-cut: Very drunk, odd that you’d expect there to be a ‘cut’ but there isn’t. Also there’s no quarter cut.
  32. Merry: Mildly drunk, just enough to feel happy and relaxed and laugh at jokes that aren’t really funny.
  33. Pissed as a newt: I’ve never seen a newt pissed, and it would be unethical to experiment. But, but this list would be incomplete without this idiom.
  34. Well oiled:  If a machine or engine is well oiled it runs smoothly / without lots of noise etc. Much like the person who is well oiled, probably perceiving themselves to be suave, confident and generally fantastic.
  35.  Arseholed: Very drunk. Sadly, some people become rude and unpleasant when they drink, these people could be said to be arseholed because of what they have become.
  36. Battered: Fish and Chips is traditionally battered meaning covered in a batter with bread crumbs etc. Someone who is battered has metaphorically covered themselves with a crunchy tasty exterior, so is less aware of the world around them.

    Source Wikimedia

    Source Wikimedia

  37. Goggled: As with some of the others above the eyes are often the focus of expressions to do with facial expressions. Someone who is goggled probably has their eyes open but may not be noticing much of what they are seeing.
  38. Ratted: Probably derived from the bellow. Someone who is ratted is drunk.
  39. Rat-arsed: Someone who has a rat for a bottom? Some idioms make no sense when you think about the literal meaning. As above the rat-arsed are drunk.
  40. Shit-faced: This means very drunk but can also be used to insult people… be careful if you’re going to use this because it could cause an argument it is often used reflexively,(i.e. about oneself).
  41. Tub-thumping: This is both idiomatic and dialectical, meaning to get drunk for the purpose of being drunk.
  42. Tongue tied, can be used when someone can’t speak, but it can also happen in awkward social settings so the meaning is ambiguous.
  43. Neck- normally used as a transitive verb, often in the imperative ‘neck that one. We’ve just ordered another round’. Meaning to finish a drink quickly.
  44. Take the edge off: an unusual one, but some alcoholics might have a little drink at several points in the day to ‘take the edge off’.
  45. Quaff: To drink quickly, often the whole glass at one time. This is archaic and almost never used these days.
  46. Sip: to take a small amount of liquid at a time. ‘John sipped his coffee to see if it was still too hot to drink.’
  47. Comfortably numb: Someone who is comfortably numb, is not quite feeling/noticing everything around them at the moment.
  48. Hung over: not technically drunk this is the after effects of a piss up.
  49. Feeling no pain: see comfortably numb, often used reflexively.
  50. Cheers: Especially British English said when clinking glasses together.
  51. Skoll: See Cheers, from Scandinavian Languages.
  52. Chin Chin: See Cheers, rather old-fashioned and quite posh so very rare these days.
  53. Salut: See Cheers, from romance languages.
  54. Prost: See Cheers, from German.
  55. Slanite: See Cheers, from Irish Gallic.
  56. Bottoms Up: See Cheers, an invitation to drink the glass full, but not an obligation.
  57. To toast: Often what you do when you say one of the above, traditional toasts might be to the King or Queen, The Chef/Cook, absent friends etc.
  58. Medicated: see comfortably numb, someone who is medicated has drunk for effect rather than socially.
  59. Off their face: Don’t worry this isn’t literal; someone who is off their face is very drunk, but doesn’t necessarily need a doctor to re-attach their face.
  60. Off their head: This one can also mean crazy, but sometimes people do crazy things when they are drunk.
  61. Barking at the moon:  This idiom refers to someone who’s gone a bit crazy, because of their drinking. They may literally be outside having a discussion with a tree.
  62. Flushed: Mildly drunk, just enough to put some extra colour in your cheeks.
  63. Drinking Games: Some people, stereotypically students in the UK play drinking games where every time you lose you have to take a drink. The games are often simple and repetitive but requiring concentration therefore they get harder as you go.
  64. NekNominate: an online drinking game, where people post videos of them drinking and then challenge friends.
  65. Taxied: this one may come from the USA where drinking excessively is less common than in some other countries. If someone has been taxied a taxi has been phoned to take them home.
  66. Cut Off: If someone drinks too much or too quickly the bartender might cut them off, meaning they can’t have any more alcohol.
  67. Barred: If a bar, restaurant, club or pub decides someone causes too much trouble when the drink they may decide to bar them. This means to ban them from visiting, or in some (rare) cases from having any alcohol when they do come.
  68. A stop out: if someone is a stop out they do go home, just not early or on time, often not until the next day.
  69. Early hours: Similar to the previous one, ‘the early hours’ means late rather than early.
  70. Squiffy: if someone is squiffy they may not act responsibly, or take responsibility for their actions later.
  71. Sober as a Judge: This is an ironic idiom, it means drunk.
  72. Drunk as a lord: This is idiomatic, obscure and old-fashioned, (but I do need another 29) it means very drunk.
  73. Hop-head: someone who likes beer.
  74. Dram: Defined by the late great Iain Banks as ‘a measure of whisky pleasing to both host and recipient’, a portion. This word is often modified by the favourite Scottish word for small ‘wee’. Be careful a wee dram may be a large drink not a small one.
  75. Vinofile: someone who likes wine and appreciates good quality wines. Often knowledgeable and sometimes seen as stuck up.
  76. Trouble with the decanters: Someone who has trouble with the decanters has a drinking problem, probably with spirits. This phrase is becoming quite old-fashioned.
  77. Corked: if a bottle of wine is corked it is spoiled and off and would not be nice to drink, although it may still be safe. If a person is described as corked it probably means they have been drinking.
  78. To drink someone under the table: this means to drink at the same pace as someone until they collapse/give up.
  79. To roll out the barrel: This means to throw or otherwise organise a party, especially if you are very generous buying drinks. It probably originates from ship captains or landlords literally providing a barrel of booze for their crew/workers.
  80. Organise a piss up in a brewery: Usually used in the negative: ‘Jim couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery’ means you don’t think Jim can organise very much, it needn’t have anything to do with drink.
  81. BYOB: this is an initialism, it means bring your own bottle: if you invite friends round do you ask them to BYOB or will you pay for everything.
  82. To tap (the barrel) to tap as a verb can often be used metaphorically: ‘Paula has years of experience to tap’ tapping a barrel was when a tap would be hammered into the end of the barrel to access the liquid inside.
  83. Liquid Lunch: a lunch break from work where people drink alcohol as opposed to eating.
  84. Hair of the dog: a dubious hangover cure, more alcohol, the hair of the dog that bit you is supposed to make you feel better.
  85. Champagne Socialist: Champagne is notoriously expensive so a champagne socialist is one that talks about socialism and liberal ideas while enjoying a luxuriant lifestyle themselves.
  86. Booze: slang for alcohol.
  87. Booze up: slang for a party where lots of people are drinking a lot.
  88. Boozer: slang for a pub/bar or other place to buy booze.
  89. To lose your bottle: to be cowardly or otherwise let your nerves/anxiety get the better of you.
  90. Dutch courage: In the middle-ages Dutch soldiers were famous for their drunkenness; many people thought this explained their bravery on the battlefield.
  91. To bottle somebody: to attack somebody using a bottle as a weapon.
  92. To glass somebody: See 91 but with the glass not the bottle.
  93. To bottle out: See 89, but more idiomatically, perhaps more common when you’ve said you will do something.
  94. Stone cold sober: someone who is stone cold sober is very much not at all drunk.
  95. Stone cold sober and painfully aware of it: See the Stainless Steel Rat series.
  96. Tanked (when your car is out of petrol you need to fill the tank)… if you get tanked then you should never drive.
  97. Tanked Up (see above)
  98. Bottle Shop a shop that sells (mainly/only) alcohol, also called an ‘offie’ from their official description ‘Off License’.
  99. Slaughtered: very drunk.
  100. Suds: Slang for beer, so ‘sudsing up’ is to drink beer.
  101. Sluiced: a sluice is a means of controlling the level of water in a river.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

There I made it, it did take me a couple of weeks but I got there.

Feel free to add more in the comments.