Richard Flynn (aka Tdol) is an English teacher and the Site Editor here at UsingEnglish.com. Here, he talks about English usage that catches his eye or ear, and looks at language issues that interest or puzzle him.
A couple of weeks ago, we blocked access to the forum from all IPs from South Korea. The forum had been under attack by some organised spammers for a few weeks, and it was ruining the forum. The attack was, presumably, using something like a botnet as there was a seemingly unending supply of different IPs used. Day after day, hundreds and hundreds of posts were being made and it was impossible to keep up with deleting and banning the accounts posting the spam. This was affecting the forum- people were complaining, and many were simply put off by finding page after page of nonsensical messages. The spam filter was not catching a lot of the messages as most didn't contain links but text pointing towards sites that were probably full of malware.
Quite a lot of people post the same question in a number of ESL forums. The logic behind doing this is clear- you should be able to access a wider selection fof views and opinions and get better answers. However, things don't always work out the way people think and this process can lead to objections from the people answering.
We are updating our site to incorporate the changes that have been made by the updates to the First Certicate in English (FCE) exam from Cambridge English.
I left the UK in 2004. There are jobs currently advertised that pay the same, or in some cases 10% less, than I was earning then. Add even a very small amount of inflation and this makes for a huge drop in spending power. The average salary that people talk about in Japan today is the same as when I first visited Japan in 2005. I saw hourly rates in Portugal, where I first taught, a decade later that were the same as when I left.
I have had a few complaints about swearing in the forum, even though the posts were legitimate questions about the use of slang and swearwords. There aren't that many threads dealing with these, but some of them do contain language that somewould consider to be extreme and taboo.
The World Cup is about to start and the football glossary posted in the forum a couple of years ago has now been updated, turned into a regular glossary format and put onto the main site. You can view it alphabetically or by category.
After we changed everyone's passwords a couple of weeks ago, people were asking some questions about passwords and personal data. Firstly, we don't hold much personal data- as people have usernames, we don't know real names. We do ask for the year and date of birth to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). We ask for an active email account and send a link that has to be clicked on to complete the registration. This is to make it harder for automated registration by advertisers and spammers. We also ask where you're from, where you are based now and what your first language is. There are also optional fields where people can add biographical information and interests if they wish. Unless you use your real name as a username or connect via Facebook, the data is anonymous. If an acount is deleted, this information is deleted from our records.
I was having lunch a few months ago when I suddenly struggled to get to the end of what I was saying- my voice dipped and wouldn't come back. Within a week or so, I couldn't produce any noise and was forced into a soundless whisper. If I strained a bit, I could just about make a sound that could possibly be heard at very close range. My first medical consultation did nothing, and I had tickets to go abroad that meant going with just this silent croak.
A few years ago we used to host some pieces written by Martin Wolff and Niu Quiang about their experiments in trying to teach English in new ways in China, which have since evolved into the China Holistic English site (link broken).
There have been a number of articles about the growth of ESL teaching in the Philippines like this, but some of what they are stating don't strike me as right. The Philippines does have potential and in the drive to reduce costs, it is clearly a place to watch out for.
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