30 Language bar jokes

April 22, 2018

I am sucker for language nerd jokes. See my previous post, Language humour. I saw a collection of language bar jokes in the staffroom. I thought I would feature them, as well as some others I found online. Here is my selection:

  1. A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.
  2. A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.
  3. A dangling participle walks into a bar. After finishing a drink, the bartender asks it to leave.
  4. A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.
  5. Two possessive apostrophes walk into the bar as if they owned the place.
  6. An antecedent walked into a bar, and they ordered a drink.
  7. A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.
  8. A synonym strolls into a tavern.
  9. An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles’ heel.
  10. Bartender asks a woman what she wants. “An entendre,” she says. “Make it a double.” So he gives it to her.
  11. A subject and a verb have a disagreement in a bar, and one of them pull out a pistol.
  12. A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.
  13. An alliteration traipsed into a tavern, where it tangled tempestuously with an insistent, illiterate intern.
  14. A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.
  15. A pun, a play on words, and a limerick walk into a bar. No joke.
  16. At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar — fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.
  17. Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.
  18. An interjection walked in to a bar. OUCH!
  19. A heedless homonym walks into a bar. You think he wood of scene it write in front of him.
  20. A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.
  21. A typo wakled into a bar.
  22. A dyslexic walks into a bra.
  23. An Oxford comma walks into a bar. Orders a gin, and tonic.
  24. A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.
  25. A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.
  26. Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a war. The bartender says, “Get out — we don’t serve your type.”
  27. An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.
  28. Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.
  29. A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.
  30. A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.


















Naked Language Lessons Stimulating Learners

March 13, 2016

Talking of sensory experiences, is this embodied cognition? I don’t think my students would appreciate it if I followed the example of one online English academy here in Spain. But if it will improve results…

Finland and phenomenon teaching

January 24, 2016

Finland is the exemplar of academic excellence. Ever since the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings first came into being, the Scandinavian country has been at or near the top. Researchers have been flooding there to see if they can discover the secret of the Finnish success.

Finland’s excellent performance system is accompanied by some fascinating statistics, many of which contradict the educational philosophy that I’m used to in the U.K. and Spain. Finnish children don’t start school until they are seven. In their first six years children are not measured at all; there is only one mandatory standardized test in Finland, taken at the age of 16. Exams are rare in general, as is homework, which is not normal until they are well are well into their teens. The difference between weakest and strongest students is the smallest in the world. Unlike the U.K. children are not streamed according to ability. And despite spending 30% less per student than the United States, 93% of Finns graduate from high school, and 66% of students go to college, higher than any other European country.

Recently, though, Finland has been slipping a bit. In the 2012 study they were down to 12th place. Now they are going to overhaul the educational system. The slip in the rankings may have worried the Finns but the motivations for change are deeper. The government believes that schools should teach what young people need to take their places in the workplaces of the future. In a previous post I mentioned how they were going to eliminate traditional handwriting classes. But this is just the beginning. As of August this year they are going to on what the Independent calls one of the most radical education reform programmes ever undertaken by a nation state”.

What they are going to do is introduce a methodology known as phenomenon teaching. They will not be getting rid of the traditional subject-based classes such as mathematics, history and biology, but they will be bringing in more interdisciplinary classes that draw from multiple subject areas. These lessons will be co-taught by teachers from different subject areas. This holistic approach could include topics such as the European Union, climate change or whatever the teachers and stunts think might be useful.  An article in the Independent explained the new system:

For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union – which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

The traditional sees rows of pupils sitting passively in front of their teacher, listening to lessons or waiting to be questioned will be replaced by a more collaborative approach. Pupils will work in smaller groups solving problems while improving their communication skills.

I am a fan of this type of education. I like the idea of students researching topics. The days of students memorising facts should be behind us. I do have doubts though.  Firstly, Finland has a population of five and half million, three million less than London. Secondly, it will not be easy to implement in an education system based on different traditions. The best way is gradually. Spain has introduced a number of educational reforms since I came here in 1987. I am sceptical about the benefits. This is partly because I can’t even agree with myself about what the ideal educational system would be. If we look at the PISA rankings, we will see different recipes. Japan and Korea are also high on the list. I am sure their methodology is nothing like Finland’s.  Nevertheless, I have been impressed with Finland’s unique education system and will be following their experiment with great interest.

The PISA rankings explained

January 24, 2016

Here is how PISA works:

My new blog

September 29, 2013

I have a new blog called MARTIN’S VIDEO CLUB. It is a collection of videos for higher-level English students, featuring both grammar and topic based material. If you want to check it out, go here.

Anything you Khan do: how a former hedge fund trader is trying to transform education

April 21, 2013

In 2004 Salman Khan, then a senior hedge fund analyst, began remotely tutoring his cousin Nadia in mathematics. Word got round and other relatives and friends sought his help too. Realizing that it would be more efficient to distribute the tutorials on YouTube, he created an account there in November 2006. The videos proved to be extremely popular and the organization was incorporated as a non-profit in 2008. A year later Khan quit the day job to focus exclusively on developing Khan Academy full-time. Its goal is to provide “a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.” Students can make use of their 4,000 video tutorials, as well as interactive challenges, and assessments.  It can be used by both individual students or in the classroom and the system provides you with personalized data about how you are doing and which areas you are struggling in.

Khan Academy is just one example of the educational resources available online. I have been interested in online learning for a number of years now. Here are a few examples of what you can find out there:

Open Yale This is one of my favourites. You have video, audio and even the mid-term and final exams. The lectures come with the transcript, No course credit, degree, or certificate is available, but it’s a great way to capture a bit of the flavour of this prestigious Ivy League institution. Here is a selection of some of the courses:


Financial Markets

Frontiers and Controversies in Astrophysics

Fundamentals of Physics

Game Theory

Introduction to Ancient Greek History

Introduction to Political Philosophy

Introduction to Psychology

Listening to Music

The American Novel Since 1945

The Great Courses This company was founded by Thomas M. Rollins, began life as The Teaching Company in 1990. Videos got Rollins, who graduated from Harvard Law School, out of a tight jam when he was a student. He had skipped a number of classes and was facing a difficult exam on the federal rules of evidence. In desperation he sat through ten hours of videotaped lectures by Professor Irving Younger. The lectures were, in his words, “outrageously insightful, funny, and thorough“. He describes it as one of his best experiences as a student. What’s more he got an A. He had initially intended to create a government program to produce tapes for the public, but was unable to do so because of legal restrictions. After leaving his job as Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Committee on Labour and Human Resources, he went looking for top professors to create courses for sale to the public. The Great Courses offers hundreds of courses in such areas as economics, literature, fine arts, music, history, philosophy, religion, mathematics and the social sciences. There are more than 500 available via CD, DVD and Internet download.

Their current top ten shows the enormous range of what they offer:

  1. The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World
  2. The Science of Natural Healing
  3. Physiology and Fitness
  4. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation
  5. Trails of Evidence: How Forensic Science Works
  6. Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time
  7. Introduction to Nanotechnology: The New Science of Small
  8. Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works
  9. Great Tours: Greece and Turkey, from Athens to Istanbul
  10. Writing Creative Nonfiction

Coursera This educational technology company was founded by computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University in October 2011. Coursera works with universities to make some of their courses available online, and offers courses in engineering, humanities, medicine, biology, social sciences, mathematics, business, computer science, and other areas. Each course includes short video lectures on different topics and assignments to be submitted, usually on a weekly basis. Coursera is able to cut costs by having students grade their peers’ homework and employing statistical methods to validate the assessment.

Coursera is following an approach popular among Silicon Valley start-ups – grow fast and worry about money later. Venture capitalists and even two universities have invested more than $22-million but even Coursera seems unsure how it will monetise its courses. Daphne Koller explained the rationale:

Our VC’s keep telling us that if you build a Web site that is changing the lives of millions of people, then the money will follow“. Possible solutions include:

  1. having companies sponsor courses
  2. offering certification
  3. the sale of information to potential employers


 These online courses offer the possibility for great teachers to leverage their talent. This is just like what happened to singers when new technologies meant that records could be sold or concerts broadcast. Lecturers who could only be seen by those actually in their class can now be enjoyed by people all over the world.

The great advantage is the flexibility; you are not bound by timetables or location. You can listen to a lecture on MP3 or watch it on a smartphone. This is perfect for me. I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe when it comes to online learning. I like to flit from one topic to another. I don’t really want to do an exam – for me it’s just a bit of fun. But there are other models. What Coursera offers is much more like a traditional college class. Students have to do around ten hours of study per week. They can watch the videos any time you want during the week, but they have to finish your assignments by the end of the week. The advantage of this is that everyone is working on the same thing at the same time; if they then want to go onto a discussion forum, they can get immediate help from one of your peers.

Many of the courses, such as Open Yale involve just a lecturer standing up in front of a group of people. That is what inspired Thomas Rollins. I love this format. Listening to an engaging professor talking about a subject that he is passionate about is a guilty pleasure for me. However, some people argue that this is a bad use of this medium. Salman Khan has been critical of the lecture format. He sees it as relic from the past. 200 years ago there was no alternative – but now we have so many technological possibilities. I can see what Khan is getting at. Filming someone teaching is not visually compelling. The great insight of what Khan does is that you listen to the voice, you don’t watch the professor. The material you see on the screen is what engages you visually, not the teacher’s face, mouth, gestures etc. Khan has another criticism of a lot of the material online. He thinks that people can pay attention for ten or twenty minutes. Then they start to zone out. That’s why they have micro lectures, which last less than 20 minutes

For us the availability of this material has meant that we haven’t had to pay for a private tutor for our son. How many tutors would be happy to go over the same point twenty times? That is the beauty of video – it enables you to go at your own pace, pausing whenever necessary and reviewing the material as many times as you want.

What about the classroom? Khan Academy materials can be used for class teaching. Flip teaching is one of the key concepts. This involves students watching the videos on their own, and then coming together to discuss them. A teacher can spend more time interacting with and tutoring students instead of lecturing. In the classroom pupils can then try to apply this knowledge by solving problems and doing project-based learning with lots of peer-to-peer learning.

I hope you find this as inspiring as I do. We are living in exciting times for education. I like the fact that there are different models. Let a thousand flowers bloom. I don’t believe that the traditional university will disappear anytime soon. Some of these ideas will prove to be dead ends. But others will help to transform the way we learn. We don’t really know what the best mix is. We are at a very early stage in the application of these technologies, and I can already see massive benefits.  So, I salute you Mr. Khan.

How we saw education of the future

April 21, 2013

I thought it would be a good idea to look at how the future of education was seen in the past. My starting had to be the Paleofuture blog, which features articles, photos  and videos from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries predicting how the world would be in the future. Here is what they said about classrooms and schools:

The Public School of Tomorrow (1912)

Our future transportation for the school of tomorrow will be the automobile, interurban railway, mono railway, gyroscope car, overhead cable car, pneumaticair pressure tubes, flying machines and other means of travel, which future geniuses may develop. Distance will be annihilated and many miles will be as one mile today. Population will be denser in our rural districts and there will be a family on every forty acres or less.

Movies Will Replace Textbooks (1922)

Schools have had a longstanding immunity against the introduction of new technologies. In 1922 Thomas Edison predicted that movies would replace textbooks. In 1945 one forecaster imagined radios as common as blackboards in classrooms. In the 1960s, B.F. Skinner predicted that teaching machines and programmed instruction would double the amount of information students could learn in a given time. Filmstrips and other audiovisual aids were fads thirty years ago, and the television, now seen as a supplier of brain candy, once had a sterling reputation as an education machine.

The Push-Button School of Tomorrow (1958)

Tomorrow’s schools will be more crowded; teachers will be correspondingly fewer. Plans for a push-button school have already been proposed by Dr. Simon Ramo, science faculty member at California Institute of Technology. Teaching would be by means of sound movies and mechanical tabulating machines. Pupils would record attendance and answer questions by pushing buttons. Special machines would be “geared” for each individual student so he could advance as rapidly as his abilities warranted. Progress records, also kept by machine, would be periodically reviewed by skilled teachers, and personal help would be available when necessary.

The student desk of the future includes a small camera, presumably so that the teacher being projected on a large screen in the front of the class can keep tabs on the little rascals. One thing that fascinates me about computer consoles of the retrofuture is that the QWERTY keyboard is not yet an assumed input device. Each computing device seems tailored to meet the needs of the intended user, as with this learning machine of the futuristic year 1999 and this auto-tutor from the 1964 New York World’s Fair.

1968′s Computerized School of the Future

Picture yourself in front of a television screen that has an electronic typewriter built in below it. You put on a set of headphones, and school begins.

“Good morning, John,” a voice says. “Today you’re going to study the verbs ‘sit’ and ‘set.’ Fill in the blank in each sentence with the proper word — ‘sit,’ sat’ or ‘set.’ Are you ready to go?”

 “YES,” you peck out on the typewriter, and class gets under way.

The machine clicks away in front of you. “WHO HAS ____ THE BABY IN THE MUD?” it writes.

You type “SAT.” The machine comes right back: “SET.” You know you’re wrong, and the score confirms it: “SCORE: 00.”

A generation or so from now a truly modern school will have a room, or maybe several rooms, filled with equipment of the type shown on the cover of this issue. Even kindergarten children may be able to work some of the machines—machines such as automatically loading film and slide projectors, stereo tape recorders and record players, and electric typewriters or TV devices tied into a computer.

Customizable instruction seems to be the largest benefit touted by the article when it comes to every child having their own computer terminal:

The major advantage of the computer is that it helps solve the teacher’s biggest problem—individual instruction for every student. In a large class the teacher has to aim at the average level of knowledge and skill, but a computer can work with each child on the concepts and problems with which he needs the most help. A teacher can do this, too, but she often lacks the time required.

Computers combined with other teaching aids will provide schools with new flexibility in teaching. Students will be able to work at their own speeds in several subjects over a period of time. A boy might work all day on a science project, for instance, and complete his unit in that subject before some other children in his class had even begun. But they would be working on other subjects at their own speeds.

Computers are expensive for teaching, and they will not become a major force in education for some time. But apparently they are here to stay. One educational publication predicted that “another generation may well bring many parents who cannot recall classwork without them.” And a computer specialist went even farther. He said, “… I predict that computers will soon play as significant and universal a role in schools as books do today.”

 CNN education in 2025

Looking through my own stuff I also found this piece from a CNN documentary from the year 2000. the piece featured predictions for 2025 from Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard graduate school of education.

There are also no freshman, sophomore, junior or senior classes. Students advance to three levels of learning: not by taking tests or getting grades, but by completing projects.

They can work at their own pace. They can pursue their own interests. They can have contact with people who could be mentors. And I think equally important, they can give. They can help other people.

If we’re lucky is that some will go for 14 and some will go for 10, because you take your formal education as long as it takes to demonstrate that you have the intellectual power that the state, that your community, that your family expects.

People will be able to work more at their home will be able to have contact with other kids elsewhere who have the same kinds of talents and skills they do. They won’t be sort of stuck with the same 30 kids in a classroom for eight or 12 years.

Unless schools prepare us for an information-rich society, then our youngsters simply won’t be prepared for dealing with a world that’s here any day now.

 I thought I’d finish with a couple of contrasting videos: