Since mid-March and the temporary closure of the language school that employs me, I’ve been adhering to quarantine. However, I have been taking the whole thing as an opportunity to do some things I hadn’t had the time for previously. You know, trying to turn a negative (the pandemic) and do something positive with it. My update is this: when you go looking for new things to try, more than you expect find their way to you. I’ve been busy, to say the least.
For fans of my video series English Weirdness, I have good news; we filmed our final two episodes of season one before the pandemic shut everything down. That was back in February, and I’ve been editing the episodes since then. It has taken me far longer than usual, owing in part to several major adjustments I’ve had to make to my work routines. These have included the departure from the project of my closest collaborator, cinematographer and co-editor Uriel Alejandro Lopez DeLara Meneses, who began film school shortly after that last shoot. That said, episode 9 is almost there, and will be released before the end of September.
Back in the early days of this COVID summer, I was interviewed on two podcasts. The first was The James Rice Show, the second was on Dropping Dimes. My James Rice episode is available to hear, but the Dropping Dimes one has yet to be aired. Both were exciting and interesting conversations with two innovators in the podcast space. Cool stuff.
In July, I also launched the first episode of my new short-format video series, English Confidential, in which I investigate the many idiomatic expressions and MISuses of English perpetrated, not by learners, but by native English speakers. In my opinion, learners all too-often assume a native speaker’s English is flawless and thus suitable for imitation. In this series though, I explore the ways native speakers butcher their own language and cause confusions of mis-usage for a learner. It’s tongue-in-cheek, a little edgy, both playful and informative.
This summer, I also signed a deal with media distributors McIntyre Media to make English Weirdness available to schools, government institutions, and other organizations across Canada. This is exciting, not least because it may generate some revenue that will allow me to continue making Weirdness, but more importantly, allow it to be seen, and hopefully, appreciated by many new learners here in Canada.
My partnership with Sakata Minami High School in Japan has continued, yesterday, September 14th marking the day two years earlier when it was announced to the Japanese press in an online conference. The students there, plus an additional class, continue to meet monthly for our online classes, in which they ask me questions, and using the whiteboard, now in my home ‘studio’ (actually my office/study), I answer them, live.
I was invited to do a similar format of class on Maha Kitaabie‘s show, the recording of which you can see here. It was a lot of fun, and inspired some new ideas.
My sessions with Sakata, and show with Maha, gave me the idea to expand this form of live Q&A to a general audience. So, in August, I began the first weekly LIVE show. These shows are broadcast to both Facebook and the Hard-Boiled English Youtube channel simultaneously. This week’s show will include an interview with English Coach Anesh Daya from On The Spot Language in Toronto. He’s doing interesting things with language learning there, and I want everyone to know about it. As they accumulate, the video recordings of these otherwise live events will be cataloged on my Youtube channel under the playlist heading The Breakdown-LIVE.
In addition to these shows, I wrote a short article for the online journal Bright Classroom Ideas, explaining the origin story of English Weirdness, and its impact on the learners who have participated in its production. I received a lot of feedback and interest in the project as a result of this.
Because learning, and by extension, teaching, never stops, quarantine hasn’t stopped me from doing what I do. In addition to all the production mentioned above, I’ve continued to tutor private students online. I had been doing this before the pandemic shut us into our homes, so the transition was fairly comfortable.
Many students and some teachers now seem to recognize these new ways of teaching online as perhaps among the defining features of a ‘new normal.’ Though it may not be ideal at the moment, software such as Zoom, Be.Live, and Streamyard have made great things possible, and no doubt will continue to innovate and provide amazing support for those of us who will teach regardless of the social conditions. There are millions of learners out there who need us, and we have to find ways to reach them, COVID be damned.
Stay safe. Stay cool. Stay weird.