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February 03, 2009

Voices From The Past - Abbot & Costello and Bono to Lincoln

All of us as learners of any language learn from those who came before us. We absorb words and ideas from every singer, writer, friend or neighbor we encounter.

So what can we learn from historical figures? From comedy teams to political leaders we can learn....

...how to define - or avoid a problem, how to define our hopes and name our fears. We can recognize the limits of words and the cost of misunderstandings.

Look here for some classic speeches from famous movies - http://www.americanrhetoric.com/moviespeeches.htm.

In America we love movies because they express what we want and what we are afraid of. Listen to these speeches and consider the context and the mood and how the tone of voice expresses passion, hope, fear or facing a challenge.

Or consider the speech by Bono at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/bononationalprayerbreakfast.htm.

Listen closely at how Bono uses humor to win over his audience - and emphasize a point. For more speeches on all kinds of topics, look at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speechbank.htm.

A speech that presents miscommunication as an art form is the famous "Who's on first?" comedy routine by the American comedy team Abbot & Costello. You can see and hear it at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/abbott&costellowhosonfirst.htm.

Or, for those of you with children, listen to this talk by Bill Cosby on the "brain damage" peculiar to children. Again, consider how Cosby uses humor to make his point. You can find it at http://www.americanrhetoric.com/mp3clips/speeches/billcosbyfirstparent43638.mp3.

For something completely different, consider President Obama's speech as he spoke to the people of Berlin. You can see and hear it here http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/barackobamaberlinspeech.htm.

If you want to master a language, learn from the best and practice, practice and more practice.

Keep us posted on your progress.

We are all learning.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Morf is also quietly anticipating that unexpected, but lucrative job offer.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

Posted by mmorf at February 3, 2009 10:51 PM

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