Six internet acronyms your learners really ought to know


Here’s another language list I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. As I am spending more and more time online and doing things like twittering and online chatting or moderating of courses, I find I am forced to use more and more abbreviations and acronyms in my writing. I also come across them a lot more, even when communicating with people whose first language isn’t necessarily English. Could online communication be one future component of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)? Should we start talking about ILF (internet lingua franca)? Whatever the take on those bigger questions, to start with here are six acronyms that I believe are pretty important for learners to know as they navigate the www.

1. lol and variations. This is one of the most common acronyms in online communication. People on the net laugh a lot, it seems. They don’t simply laugh either (l). They’re laughing out loud (lol), or they’re rolling on the floor laughing (rotfl), or they’re laughing their arses/asses off (lmao). I’ve even seen rotflmao, for really funny things.

2. IMO and variations. With the rise of blogging and microblogging everybody has an opinion and wants to share it. However, to make it clear that it is just an opinion we might add in my opinion (IMO) afterwards. If what we are saying is potentially face-threatening we could make it a humble opinion (IMHO). For example, “Lindsay, your book looks really boring IMHO”. Or if we really feel like stirring things up or adding humour we can say in my arrogant opinion (IMAO). Dunno why, but I almost always see this in uppercase letters.

3. brb. Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of a really good chat or tweet conversation and the outside world rudely butts in (e.g. having to go off to class, or go to the bathroom). This is when you need to tell people you’ll be right back (brb). Useful to buy time too.

4. ttyl, cu. Two common sign off acronyms are talk to you later (ttyl) or see you (cu). Really clever internet folk do things like cul8r but I always think this is a bit like showing off.

5. btw. Good for adding something extra to a conversation or tweet, by the way (btw) is another one I see an awful lot.

6. omg and other expressions of alarm. The internet can be a shocking place, we may see or read shocking things. This is when it’s a good time to say oh my god (omg). You may want to shout it (OMG!) or really yell it (OMG!!!!!!) but someone told me if you do this too much people will think you are a fifteen year old Lady Gaga fan or something like that. Occasionally you will see something that confounds, annoys or enrages you. And an omg just doesn’t cut it for those situations. No, here you need a what the f*#k (wtf). This is also often shouted (WTF!)

I know, I know, there are hundreds of others that I have probably shamefully overlooked. But I had to stick to six. So, if there is a glaring omission from my list, why not add a comment? What acronyms do you think your learners should know for online communication?

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm  Comments (12)  
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Six most frequent collocations in English

Photo from Morguefile.comI found this list in the October 2008 English Language Teaching Journal. It’s based on the ten million word spoken section of the British National Corpus. The research was done by Dongkwang Shin and Paul Nation, two experts in applied linguistics from Victoria University in Wellington. To know all the ins-and-outs of how they got the list I’d recommend reading the article. For those of you who, like me, just want the top six here they are.

1.  you know – 27348 occurences

2. I think (that) – 25862 occurences

3. a bit – 7766 occurances

4. always used to / never used to – 7663 occurences

5. as well – 5754 occurences

6. a lot of – 5750 occurences

I personally think that this list is much more interesting and potentially useful than the six most frequent words in English. As a materials writer, it makes me think of what to include in low level texts and listening comprehension activities. As a teacher, it makes me think about what to point out to my students and encourage them to remember. As an English speaker, I find it interesting to think we use “used to” so much.

I had toyed with trying to come up with a short text which included all these collocations, but I thought I’d leave that to someone else on the comments below. Go for it!

Published in: on February 27, 2009 at 3:33 pm  Comments (9)  
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Six very original “what if” questions


Want an alternative to the usual "second conditional" question about winning a lot of money?

A little while ago we tackled the conditionals with my intermediate class. One of my students brought in a book and asked if we could use it for a speaking activity. The book is called If, you can see it here. Just flicking through it produced some excellent alternative questions for your conditional practice (specifically the second, or present unreal, conditional). If you want a fresher alternative to the tired old “If you won a million dollars/euros/pounds what would you buy?” here are half a dozen of my favourites!

1. If you could have one current writer write your biography, who would you pick?

2. If you could receive one small package this very moment, who would it be from and what would be in it?

3. If you could sing any one song beautifully and perfectly, which one would you pick?

4. If you could be the only one to hear the confession of one criminal from history who would it be?

5. If you could go back to any age and start a different life, what age would that be? Why?

6. (the last one I would reserve perhaps for the staff room, but I had to include it here) If you had to give up all sexual activity for one year, how much money would you demand (minimum) in return?

In fact, I’ve chosen some of the lighter ones in the book. Thanks to my student Sagra for pointing it out.

Published in: on February 13, 2009 at 5:21 pm  Comments (5)  
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Six bits of Latin that make your English look smart

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice

Si monumentum requiris, circumspice

So… everybody knows that et cetera (etc) means “and the other things”  but here are six other “bits” of Latin that appear from time to time and may have you scratching your head. Each of these has had me wondering in the past. Not having the benefit of a classical education (only 2 years of Latin), I’ve looked them up now and share them here. Just drop them into any conversation or piece of written work to make yourself look awfully clever (well, more clever perhaps).

1. ipso facto – “Because of that thing”. Literally “by the fact itself.” Example: Canadians are nice people. He’s a Canadian, so he is ipso facto a nice person.

2. sic. Literally means “so” or “just as that”. Put this in brackets in a quote when you want to say “this is wrong, but it was how the original speaker said or wrote it”.Example: Lindsay wrote that “Canadians are nice people (sic)”

3. non sequitur – Literally means “it doesn’t follow”. Used to say that something is illogical. Example: It is a non sequitur to say that we should treat beginner adult language students like children because children are (often) good language learners. 

4. sine qua non. Means “a crucial condition”, literally “without which not”. Example: The sine qua non of blogging is not that you post every day, or three times a week, or once a week. It’s that you post on a regular basis.

5. viz – Means “namely”. Viz is a short form for videre licet – “one may see”. Example: “There are some very interesting blogs for English teachers out there now, viz Six Things, DCBlog, Kalingo English,, Be a Better EFL teacher, Alex Case’s TEFLtastic, Nik Peachey’s blogs etc.

6. QED. Short for quod est demonstrandum. Means “the thing that is to be proved”. I think that it was originally used in maths problems. Once a solution of some problem has been proven you can put QED at the end. It has gone beyond mathematics and can be used now in arguments. Write or say it at the end of a particularly impressive bit of arguing to say “there, I’ve proved it”. Often used tongue-in-cheek.

Anyone else have one they’d like to add? If not, then nunc dimittis (“now you may leave”)

Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 9:30 pm  Comments (4)  
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Six wildly popular lists in English Language Teaching

list2Yes, by this time you’ve figured out that this site is all about lists. However, I’m far from the first or last person to be interested in lists. And there are quite a few lists in English Language Teaching (not as many as there are acronyms but still…). Here are six “wildly popular” lists, that you just can’t afford to ignore 🙂

1. Irregular verb list – the daddy of all lists. This is the list of choice to fill the last page of a coursebook, put on a classroom wall, go on a school promotional bookmark etc. etc. It’s also the list that no student can escape. I have long sought a secret “way” to teach this list to students without them having to memorise it. Can’t find one though.

2. Multiple Intelligence list – The idea that there are seven, or eight (or more, this list keeps getting longer) “intelligences” was proposed by Howard Gardner over twenty years ago but it still keeps popping up at conferences as if it’s the newest thing. The original seven “intelligences” proposed were (I believe) logical-mathematical, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical, visual/spatial, linguistic. interpersonal and intrapersonal. This list tends to be very popular with teachers looking to change their teaching style.

3. Krashen 5 Hypotheses – a theoretical list, these are the five hypotheses proposed by Stephen Krashen in the early 1980s on how people acquire a second language. They are: the natural order hypothesis, the acquisition/learning hypothesis, the monitor hypothesis, the input (or input +1) hypothesis and the affective filter hypothesis. I don’t have space to explain them, but Vivian Cook has a nice resume here. These hypotheses have been contested, but the list remains popular especially on MA and Diploma courses.

4. Eight word classes – This is a language list, the main classes that a word can fall into. They are noun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, determiner, conjunction and pronoun. The sad truth is that many language teachers (native English novice teachers especially) would be a bit hard pressed to identify whether or not a word belongs to one class or another.

5. Common European Framework of levels – A1, A2 etc. This list has become the bane of many large institutions as they switch their system of classes, levels and exams to attempt to reflect the descriptors and levels outlined in the Common European Framework. For those wishing a cure for insomnia, you can read the whole list here.

6. Frequency Lists.  Since the arrival of large corpora, the idea of frequency of words, longer lexical items or grammatical items has gained more and more importance. It’s used in dictionaries and grammar books and to a lesser extent in coursebooks. The top six keywords, according to one source, are the, of, and, to, a, in. I personally think this kind of list is more useful for those who make teaching and reference materials than teachers in their day-to-day work but I may be wrong. This list, and its implications,  is popular at conferences.

Are there any lists you would add?

Published in: on December 22, 2008 at 12:29 pm  Comments (7)  
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