The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

10 ways to tackle coronavocab: #2 Trending terms

As well as the new coinages that I looked at in my first post, lots of existing words and phrases have suddenly become used way more frequently than before.  Many of these have become part of our everyday usage over the past few months but might not be familiar to learners. 

Some dramatic surges in usage (from Timestamped JSI web corpus)

Some of the newly-popular items may wane in frequency as the pandemic subsides (quarantine, isolation), others though are generally useful for learners to have as part of their vocabulary in other contexts (household, gathering, distance). Remember to choose just a few items that you think will be most appropriate for your students and think about exploring collocations and patterns as well as just the words themselves.

A few examples in context:

The three people who tested positive will go into a 14-day quarantine at home.
We were able to quarantine people very quickly and the outbreak was quite quickly contained.
Alice is currently isolating in her flat with her partner Tim.
If you are in isolation, you cannot go to public places, even if it is for essential items.
We are living in unprecedented times.
Businesses will need to provide increased hand sanitization* for customers.
Public health experts have emphasized the importance of frequent hand washing.
You can only exercise outdoors on your own or with members of the same household.
Travel control is very important to prevent the spread of infection.
We've put signs out asking people to keep their distance.
Any gathering must be limited to a maximum of 10 people in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

*Can be spelled -iz- or -is-

  • Find images of signs or instructions featuring some of these words (feel free to reuse the images below, all taken by me out and about in Bristol) – Where would you see these? What are people being asked to do? Have students seen similar signs in their language?

  • Lots of the words in this group are being commonly used in both their verb and noun forms, some without a change of form (quarantine, distance), many in different forms (isolate/isolation, comply with/compliance, sanitize/sanitizer/sanitization, gather/gathering, prevent/prevention) – these are ripe for some work on typical noun endings and/or some sentence transformations. And of course, the nouns will need appropriate collocations too.
Complete the sentences with the correct verb or noun form of the word:
a. Alice is currently ______ in her flat with her partner Tim.

b. If you are in ______, you cannot go to public places, even if it is for essential items.

Rewrite the sentence using the noun form of the underlined verb. 
We were able to quarantine people very quickly.
We were able to _________________________. 
  • Especially with students from European language backgrounds, there may be scope for comparing similar and different terms from their L1. For example, several languages have been using a cognate of confinement to describe what’s been called lockdown or isolation in the UK (confinement in French, confinamiento in Spanish, confinamento in Italian). The word confinement does, of course, exist in English with a similar meaning, but hasn’t been widely used in the context of the pandemic.

For more ideas and activities for teaching vocab generally, take a look at ETpedia Vocabulary

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, June 29, 2020

10 ways to tackle coronavocab: #1 Coronacoinages

When I recently asked ELT teachers on Twitter how much their students wanted to talk about the pandemic, I was unsurprised to get a mix of answers. A few said they didn’t want to talk about it at all, some said their students were keen to talk about the situation and they felt it was good to let them get it out. Most were somewhere in-between. Comments included “no more than any other topic” and “it inevitably crops up”.

If you’d like to tackle the topic with your students, over the next 10 mini-posts I'll be suggesting different angles you could take and activities you could try or adapt. You don't need to make a big deal of it, it could just be a quick 10-minute activity. And you might be able to work in some useful ideas about English vocabulary in general too.

Which words to choose?
I'll be suggesting a range of possible vocab items in each post. Please select the words you want to focus on so they're appropriate for your students taking into account their age, level and interests, and don't overload them with all the words in each set. Working through 10 or 12 new words gets boring and repetitive, even for advanced learners, and they really won't remember them. Pick a handful, explore how they're used in context, draw out some general points and just have fun with them.

1 Coronacoinages
One of the more light-hearted effects of the coronavirus pandemic is the way it’s inspired a wave of new coinages, many taking the corona- prefix as a starting point. English is a fabulously creative language when it comes to combining words and parts of words to create new ones and it’s a really useful aspect of language to highlight with students to encourage them to notice how other words are made up of meaningful parts. A greater awareness of morphology can then help learners to decode new, unknown words they come across in future. Remember that these activities aren't about learning these particular words – which will likely (hopefully!) have slipped out of usage in a year's time – it's about noticing word parts and about having fun with English.

Some examples in context:
Take a mini coronacation by driving by these landmarks.
Many of us are on what's been called the coronacoaster, experiencing sudden ups and downs.
The coronacrisis has hit the company hard.
Expert advice before you grab the clippers for that coronacut.
Manipur still remains a corona-free state.
The management said that the park had been made corona-proof.
A local psychologist offers tips to ease anxiety in the coronaverse.
Panic buying saw the country's supermarkets stripped of flour as many turned to isobaking.
Name three things that are helping you get through isolife right now
All it's going to take is one covidiot who will ruin it for everyone else.
It's also a good idea to go over these guidelines with your quaranteam group as well.
In these quarantimes, some of us are missing our access to hairdressers and it SHOWS.
Often, the loudest voices are the ones with misinformation; we're having an infodemic.
New and unfamiliar sights await: hand-sanitizer dispensers scattered on every surface, employees smizing through their face masks.

  • Pick a handful of new words and get students to guess what they mean by dividing them into their parts.
  • Find examples of the words in use (use the examples above or trying googling them) and get students to work out the meaning from context. Images to go with the examples would work well too.

My attempt at 'smizing' - smiling with my eyes when wearing a face mask
  • Get students to make up some of their own coronaspeak words to describe phenomena they’ve experienced.

For more about emerging coronaspeak and some useful definitions, check out Tony Thorne's excellent series of blog posts. You'll also find a few of these new coinages already appearing in online learner's dictionaries - Macmillan has 'Open Dictionary' entries for coronacoaster, quarantini and infodemic (among others) and smize appears in several online dictionaries. And for more ideas and activities for teaching vocab generally, take a look at ETpedia Vocabulary:

Labels: , , , , , ,