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Topics - Rafiz Uddin

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Depending on where you get your numbers, somewhere between 81 percent and 92 percent of New Year's Resolutions fail.

Translation: At least 8 times out of 10, you are more likely to fall back into your old habits and patterns than you are to stick with a new behavior.

Behavior change is hard. No doubt about it.

Why is that? What are the biggest reasons new habits fail to stick? And what can we do to make positive changes easier?

I don’t claim to have all the answers, but after two years of researching and writing about the science of behavior change, let me share the most practical insights I’ve learned so far.

English / The Chemistry of Building Better Habits by James Clear
« on: February 27, 2020, 02:13:21 PM »
There is a concept in chemistry known as activation energy.

Here’s how it works:

Activation energy is the minimum amount of energy that must be available for a chemical reaction to occur. Let's say you are holding a match and that you gently touch it to the striking strip on the side of the match box. Nothing will happen because the energy needed to activate a chemical reaction and spark a fire is not present.

However, if you strike the match against the strip with some force, then you create the friction and heat required to light the match on fire. The energy you added by striking the match was enough to reach the activation energy threshold and start the reaction.

Chemistry textbooks often explain activation energy with a chart like this:
It’s sort of like rolling a boulder up a hill. You have to add some extra energy to the equation to push the boulder to the top. Once you’ve reached the peak, however, the boulder will roll the rest of the way by itself. Similarly, chemical reactions require additional energy to get started and then proceed the rest of the way.

Alright, so activation energy is involved in chemical reactions all around us, but how is this useful and practical for our everyday lives and building better habits?

English / How to Be More Creative
« on: February 27, 2020, 02:11:54 PM »
Assuming that you are willing to do the hard work of facing your inner fears and working through failure, here are a few practical strategies for becoming more creative.

Constrain yourself. Carefully designed constraints are one of your best tools for sparking creative thinking. Dr. Seuss wrote his most famous book when he limited himself to 50 words. Soccer players develop more elaborate skill sets when they play on a smaller field. Designers can use a 3-inch by 5-inch canvas to create better large scale designs. The more we limit ourselves, the more resourceful we become.

Write more. For nearly three years, I published a new article every Monday and every Thursday at The longer I stuck with this schedule, the more I realized that I had to write about a dozen average ideas before I uncovered a brilliant one. By producing a volume of work, I created a larger surface area for a creative spark to hit me.

Not interested in sharing your writing publicly? Julia Cameron's Morning Pages routine is a fantastic way to use writing to increase your creativity even if you have no intention of writing for others.

Broaden your knowledge. One of my most successful creative strategies is to force myself to write about seemingly disparate topics and ideas. For example, I have to be creative when I use 1980s basketball strategies or ancient word processing software or zen buddhism to describe our daily behaviors. In the words of psychologist Robert Epstein, “You'll do better in psychology and life if you broaden your knowledge.”

Sleep longer. In my article on how to get better sleep, I shared a study from the University of Pennsylvania, which revealed the incredible impact of sleep on mental performance. The main finding was this: Sleep debt is cumulative and if you get 6 hours of sleep per night for two weeks straight, your mental and physical performance declines to the same level as if you had stayed awake for 48 hours straight. Like all cognitive functions, creative thinking is significantly impaired by sleep deprivation.

Enjoy sunshine and nature. One study tested 56 backpackers with a variety of creative thinking questions before and after a 4-day backpacking trip. The researchers found that by the end of the trip the backpackers had increased their creativity by 50 percent. This research supports the findings of other studies, which show that spending time in nature and increasing your exposure to sunlight can lead to higher levels of creativity.

Embrace positive thinking. It sounds a bit fluffy for my taste, but positive thinking can lead to significant improvements in creative thinking. Why? Positive psychology research has revealed that we tend to think more broadly when we are happy. This concept, which is known as the Broaden and Build Theory, makes it easier for us to make creative connections between ideas. Conversely, sadness and depression seems to lead to more restrictive and limited thinking.

Ship it. The honest truth is that creativity is just hard work. The single best thing you can do is choose a pace you can sustain and ship content on a consistent basis. Commit to the process and create on a schedule. The only way creativity becomes a reality is by shipping.

English / Creativity Is a Process, Not an Event by James Clear
« on: February 27, 2020, 02:09:26 PM »
In 1666, one of the most influential scientists in history was strolling through a garden when he was struck with a flash of creative brilliance that would change the world.

While standing under the shade of an apple tree, Sir Isaac Newton saw an apple fall to the ground. “Why should that apple always descend perpendicularly to the ground,” Newton wondered. “Why should it not go sideways, or upwards, but constantly to the earth’s center? Assuredly, the reason is, that the earth draws it. There must be a drawing power in matter.”

And thus, the concept of gravity was born.

The story of the falling apple has become one of the lasting and iconic examples of the creative moment. It is a symbol of the inspired genius that fills your brain during those “eureka moments” when creative conditions are just right.

What most people forget, however, is that Newton worked on his ideas about gravity for nearly twenty years until, in 1687, he published his groundbreaking book, The Principia: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. The falling apple was merely the beginning of a train of thought that continued for decades.
Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life by William Stukeley
The famous page describing Newton's apple incident in Memoirs of Sir Isaac Newton’s Life by William Stukeley.

Newton isn't the only one to wrestle with a great idea for years. Creative thinking is a process for all of us. In this article, I’ll share the science of creative thinking, discuss which conditions drive creativity and which ones hinder it, and offer practical tips for becoming more creative.

English / Writing for the Web
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:59:12 PM »
When writing for the web, using plain language allows users to find what they need, understand what they have found, and then use it to meet their needs. It should also be actionable, findable, and shareable.

It’s important to understand how what you are writing fits into the overall content strategy, what the content lifecycle entails, and who is involved in the process.

English / Overview of L2 Writing
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:51:06 PM »
The Nature of L2 Writing

Writing is a visual form of communication, either printed in hard-copy or in electronic form. It follows conventions that are mutually understandable by the writer and the reader, even if these conventions change over time or are used with specific meanings in smaller speech communities (e.g., special texting rules used by a group of teenagers). Writing is considered a productive skill because the writer creates new language and does not only interpret existing information.

Here are some common terms used in the discussion of writing.

English / Poll on the needs for guidance
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:45:58 PM »
This one is my first poll in this forum.

English Language Skills / Challenges in Teaching Listening by
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:39:20 PM »
Despite its obvious importance to language learning, the listening skill was for a long time relegated to a marginal place in foreign language curricula. With the advent of communicative language teaching and the focus on proficiency, the learning and teaching of listening started to receive more attention. However, listening is not yet fully integrated into the curriculum and needs to be given more "prime time" in class and homework.
For learners, listening presents a challenge for a variety of reasons, among which are the following:
•   Listening involves multiple modes: Listening involves the interpersonal and interpretive modes of communication. It requires the listener to assume either a participative role in face-to-face conversations, or a non-participative role in listening to other people speak or present.
•   Listening involves all varieties of language: In addition to listening to lectures and presentations in academic and formal settings, learners have also to partake or listen to exchanges that involve various levels of colloquialism.
•   Listening involves "altered" and "reduced" language forms: In addition to dealing with the vocabulary and structures of the language, listeners have to learn to comprehend reduced forms of the language (e.g., I wanna go, Just a sec).
•   Listening involves variable rates of delivery: Unlike a reading text that is at the learner's control, a listening text is constantly moving and at variable speeds that often cannot be controlled by the listener.
Because of all these factors, listening activities often create high levels of anxiety and stress among learners that can interfere with comprehension.
For teachers as well, addressing listening in the language classroom poses some challenges.
As a language teacher, one of your tasks will be to develop a vision of where listening fits within your teaching. As you progress through this module, continue to think of how you might plan to approach listening activities and what goals and expectations to set for your students.

This article is about how to teach speaking. First we will identify some characteristics of spoken language. Then, we will see how it is taught using a discovery approach where students notice salient patterns and try to make sense of them and how these patterns have to be practiced to attain automaticity and self regulation. The approach described in this article is largely adapted from Thornbury (2005) “How to teach speaking”

Speaking is one of the four language skills, the others being reading, writing and listening. It is referred to as a productive skill. According to Chaney (1998), speaking is “the process of building and sharing meaning through the use of verbal and non-verbal symbols, in a variety of contexts” (Chaney, 1998, p. 13).
Characteristics of speaking


    is interactive;
    requires the ability to cooperate in the management of speaking turns;
    takes place in real time with little time for planning;
    requires the capacity to marshal a store of memorized lexical chunks;
    involves linguistic, socio-linguistic and pragmatic knowledge.

To teach speaking teachers need to take into consideration the knowledge required for fluent speaking and the skills needed to automate this knowledge. In addition to this, teachers should be aware that learning occurs in low anxiety environment.
Teaching Speaking

Teaching Speaking

Decisions should be taken about the following:

    Which approach?
    Which materials?
    What to focus on?
    What kind of activities?
    How to assess speaking performance?

Teaching speaking approaches

There are different approaches to teach speaking:

    The traditional Present, Practice and Produce (PPP) approach.
    The Test, Teach, Test (TTT) approach based on the task based instruction.
    The discovery approach, based on awareness raising, appropriation, and automaticity.

This article focuses on the discovery approach to language teaching which is also called the Observe Hypothesize and Experiment approach. This approach encourages learners to use an inductive reasoning to notice and discover recurrent patterns or rules. The role of the teacher is to guide and provide examples of a language item and help them find the rules themselves. The speaking lesson goes through three stages:

Awareness Raising

    Awareness raising (other-regulated – assisted/scaffolded)
    Appropriation (other-regulated – assisted/scaffolded)
    Automaticity (self-regulated – unassisted)

Awareness raising

The teacher starts by raising learners’ awareness. The starting point should be a recorded spoken text: a conversation. The choice of the conversation is of paramount importance. Should one opt for an authentic or an artificial conversation?
Which materials?

Let’s look at an example of an authentic material reported by Scott Thornbury (2005):
Authentic conversation

    Speaker 1: I went in and bought some stupid things this morning in boots, twenty five p, [laugh] for twenty five p you could be a s silly as want to, couldn’t you? Silly aren’t they? Oh what fun! Silly green nonsense. Children bead earrings.
    Speaker 2: You got green?
    Speaker 1: I’ve got green jumper which I wear in winter.
    Speaker 2: Yeah, that’s fine.
    Speaker 1: So I thought I would. I’m – am very fond of my green jumper. silly green earrings to go with it.
    Speaker 2: Why not?
    Speaker 1: It’s a laugh. There was another lady there looking through all the stuff where I was and she said to me ‘isn’t it fun?’ [laugh] and I said ‘yes, only twenty five p, [laugh]. Absurd!

Now here is the same conversation but rearranged (fabricated/artificial) to fit pedagogical aims.
Fabricated conversation

    Speaker 1: What nice earring!
    Speaker 2:I bought them this morning.
    Speaker 1: Where did you buy them?
    Speaker 2: I bought them in boots
    Speaker 1: How much did they cost?
    Speaker 2: Only twenty five p.
    Speaker 1: What a bargain!
    Speaker 2: I am going to wear them with my green jumper.
    Speaker 1: What a good idea!

Comparison between the two scripts

    Clearly, the first script is authentic, but it is difficult to understand as it contains too many features of spoken language that may hinder comprehension.
    The second script is very easy to understand, but it looks a far remove from naturally occurring speech.

A compromise

    Speaker 1: What nice earring!
    Speaker 2: Do you like them? Silly, aren’t they? Silly green nonsense. I bough them in Boots this morning. Twenty five p.
    Speaker 1: What a bargain! Have you got something green that goes with them?
    Speaker 2: I’ve got green jumper which I wear in winter.So I thought I’d get some silly green earrings to go with it.
    Speaker 1: What fun!
    Speaker 2: I know. It’s a laugh. Only twenty five p.

The conversation above is a brushed up version of the authentic script.  Although it includes many features of spoken language, it does not sacrifice its pedagogical utility.
Stages of awareness raising

Using recorded and transcripts like the third one above learners are invited:
Awareness Raising

Awareness Raising

    to pay attention,
    notice consciously to register the occurrences of some event ,
    and understand a general rule, principle or pattern

Learners will have to do tasks such as:

    listening and reading, identifying, matching, classifying, connecting, filling the gap, comparing and contrasting, noticing the difference etc.

Speaking Awareness Raising-activities

Speaking Awareness Raising-activities

These tasks are meant to raise learner’s consciousness about salient patterns in preferably well-chosen recorded materials.

The focus should be on spoken features such as organization, socio-cultural rules, topic shift, performance effects, communication strategies, speech acts, discourse markers, spoken grammar, vocabulary, lexical chunks, stress and intonation or noticing a gap.
Focus in speaking activities

Focus in speaking activities

Going back to the conversation above, one would opt for features of spoken grammar such as:

    Tag questions


Appropriation is the second stage in a speaking lesson. Scott Thornbury (2005: 63) states that appropriation is the “act of taking over the ownership of something.” In line with social constructivism, this stage is other regulated. Through collaborative work and interaction, appropriation aims at self-regulation by the end of this stage. Instead of controlled practice Scott Thornbury suggests practiced control activities:

    “Practiced control [as opposed to controlled practice], on the other hand, involves demonstrating control of a skill where the possibility of making mistakes is ever-present, but where support is always at hand” Scott Thornbury (2005: 63)

Examples of the activities suggested are drilling, chants, memorizing scripts, task repetition, writing, reading aloud, and communicative tasks.

This practiced control attempts to foster the spoken language features highlighted at the awareness-raising stage. These features can be some discourse markers, lexical chunks, stress, intonation…

After the appropriation stage, learners reach a level where they have to use the language with minimum intervention on the part of the teacher. Autonomy is thus the result of “the increased automaticity of the learner’s language production”. In fact, the skill to automatize the more mechanical features of a task contributes to freeing attention for higher-level activities. According to Scott Thornbury, the following features characterize autonomy activities:


The autonomy stage includes activities such as presentations and talks, stories, jokes, and anecdotes, drama, role play, simulations, discussions, debates, conversation and chat. This stage is meant to give free vent for learners to use the language to carry out a task.

To sum up, speaking is a very important skill for EFL learners and teaching it necessitates being acquainted with the different characteristics of the spoken language. It also requires the knowledge of what learners need in order to develop their speaking fluency. It is very important for teachers to devise appropriate communication classroom activities and find ways to involve learners in an anxiety-free learning environment. Lesson plans should vary the modes of interaction and activities to cater for learners’ learning styles and preferences. It should be framed within a learner-centered approach where the teacher is just a guide on the side and where learners work collaboratively to notice and discover regular patterns in spoken language. The aim is to appropriate and automatize these patterns in well-devised communicative activities.
Chaney, A. L. and Burk, T. L. (1998) Teaching Oral Communication in Grades K-8, Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Thornbury, S. (2005). How to teach speaking. Harlow, England: Longman.

Development Studies / 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2020 by Robert Malley
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:14:54 PM »
Local conflicts serve as mirrors for global trends. The ways they ignite, unfold, persist, and are resolved reflect shifts in great powers’ relations, the intensity of their competition, and the breadth of regional actors’ ambitions. They highlight issues with which the international system is obsessed and those toward which it is indifferent. Today these wars tell the story of a global system caught in the early swell of sweeping change—and of regional leaders both emboldened and frightened by the opportunities such a transition presents.
Only time will tell how much of the United States’ transactional unilateralism, contempt for traditional allies, and dalliance with traditional rivals will endure—and how much will vanish with Donald Trump’s presidency. Still, it would be hard to deny that something is afoot. The understandings and balance of power on which the global order had once been predicated—imperfect, unfair, and problematic as they were—are no longer operative. Washington is both eager to retain the benefits of its leadership and unwilling to shoulder the burdens of carrying it. As a consequence, it is guilty of the cardinal sin of any great power: allowing the gap between ends and means to grow. These days, neither friend nor foe knows quite where America stands.
The roles of other major powers are changing, too. China exhibits the patience of a nation confident in its gathering influence, but in no hurry to fully exercise it.
China exhibits the patience of a nation confident in its gathering influence, but in no hurry to fully exercise it.
It chooses its battles, focusing on self-identified priorities: domestic control and suppression of potential dissent (as in Hong Kong, or the mass detention of Muslims in XInjiang); the South and East China Seas; and the brewing technological tug of war with the United States, in which my own colleague Michael Kovrig—unjustly detained in China for over a year—has become collateral damage. Elsewhere, its game is a long one.
The U.S.-Chinese Trade War Just Entered Phase 2
Its next chapter will be fought through export and import controls, investment restrictions, and sanctions—and the…
Russia, in contrast, displays the impatience of a nation grateful for the power these unusual circumstances have brought and eager to assert it before time runs out. Moscow’s policy abroad is opportunistic—seeking to turn crises to its advantage—though today that is perhaps as much strategy as it needs. Portraying itself as a truer and more reliable partner than Western powers, it backs some allies with direct military support while sending in private contractors to Libya and sub-Saharan Africa to signal its growing influence.
To all of these powers, conflict prevention or resolution carries scant inherent value. They assess crises in terms of how they might advance or hurt their interests, how they could promote or undermine those of their rivals. Europe could be a counterweight, but at precisely the moment when it needs to step into the breach, it is struggling with domestic turbulence, discord among its leaders, and a singular preoccupation with terrorism and migration that often skews policy.
The consequences of these geopolitical trends can be deadly. Exaggerated faith in outside assistance can distort local actors’ calculations, pushing them toward uncompromising positions and encouraging them to court dangers against which they believe they are immune. In Libya, a crisis risks dangerous metastasis as Russia intervenes on behalf of a rebel general marching on the capital, the United States sends muddled messages, Turkey threatens to come to the government’s rescue, and Europe—a stone’s throw away—displays impotence amid internal rifts. In Venezuela, the government’s obstinacy, fueled by faith that Russia and China will cushion its economic downfall, clashes with the opposition’s lack of realism, powered by U.S. suggestions it will oust President Nicolás Maduro.
Syria—a conflict not on this list—has been a microcosm of all these trends: There, the United States combined a hegemon’s bombast with a bystander’s pose. Local actors (such as the Kurds) were emboldened by U.S. overpromising and then disappointed by U.S. underdelivery. Meanwhile, Russia stood firmly behind its brutal ally, while others in the neighborhood (namely, Turkey) sought to profit from the chaos.
The bad news might contain a sliver of good. As leaders understand the limits of allies’ backing, reality sinks in. Saudi Arabia, initially encouraged by the Trump administration’s apparent blank check, flexed its regional muscle until a series of brazen Iranian attacks and noticeable U.S. nonresponses showed the kingdom the extent of its exposure, driving it to seek a settlement in Yemen and, perhaps, de-escalation with Iran.
To many Americans, Ukraine evokes a sordid tale of quid pro quo and impeachment politics. But for its new president at the center of that storm, Volodymyr Zelensky, a priority is to end the conflict in that country’s east—an objective for which he appears to recognize the need for Kyiv to compromise.
Others might similarly readjust their views: the Afghan government and other anti-Taliban powerbrokers, accepting that U.S. troops won’t be around forever; Iran and the Syrian regime, seeing that Russia’s newfound Middle East swagger hardly protects them against Israeli strikes. These actors may not all be entirely on their own, but with their allies’ support only going so far, they might be brought back down to earth. There is virtue in realism.
There’s another trend that warrants attention: the phenomenon of mass protests across the globe. It is an equal-opportunity discontent, shaking countries governed by both the left and right, democracies and autocracies, rich and poor, from Latin America to Asia and Africa. Particularly striking are those in the Middle East—because many observers thought that the broken illusions and horrific bloodshed that came in the wake of the 2011 uprisings would dissuade another round.
Protesters have learned lessons, settling in for the long haul and, for the most part, avoiding violence that plays in the hands of those they contest.
Political and military elites have learned, too, of course—resorting to various means to weather the storm. In Sudan, arguably one of this past year’s better news stories, protests led to long-serving autocrat Omar al-Bashir’s downfall and ushered in a transition that could yield a more democratic and peaceful order. In Algeria, meanwhile, leaders have merely played musical chairs. In too many other places, they have cracked down. Still, in almost all, the pervasive sense of economic injustice that brought people onto the streets remains. If governments new or old cannot address that, the world should expect more cities ablaze this coming year.
Protesters have learned lessons, settling in for the long haul and, for the most part, avoiding violence that plays in the hands of those they contest.
More people are being killed as a result of fighting in Afghanistan than in any other current conflict in the world. Yet there may be a window this coming year to set in motion a peace process aimed at ending the decadeslong war.
Levels of bloodshed have soared over the past two years. Separate attacks by Taliban insurgents and Islamic State militants have rocked cities and towns across the country. Less visible is bloodshed in the countryside. Washington and Kabul have stepped up air assaults and special-forces raids, with civilians often bearing the brunt of violence. Suffering in rural areas is immense.
Amid the uptick in violence, presidential elections took place in late September. Preliminary results, announced on Dec. 22, gave incumbent President Ashraf Ghani a razor-thin margin over the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Final results, following adjudication of complaints, aren’t expected before late January. Ghani’s main opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, whose challenge to results based on widespread fraud in the 2014 election led to a protracted crisis and eventually a power-sharing deal, is crying foul this time too. Whether the dispute will lead to a second round of voting is unclear, but either way it will likely consume Afghan leaders into 2020.
Last year did, however, see some light in U.S.-Taliban diplomacy. For the first time since the war began, Washington has prioritized reaching a deal with the insurgents.
For the first time since the war began, Washington has prioritized reaching a deal with the insurgents.
After months of quiet talks, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leaders agreed on and initialed a draft text. Under the deal, the U.S. pledged to pull its troops out of Afghanistan—the primary Taliban demand—and, in return, the insurgents promised to break from al Qaeda, prevent Afghanistan from being used for plotting attacks abroad, and enter negotiations with the Afghan government as well as other key power brokers.
For the first time since the war began, Washington has prioritized reaching a deal with the insurgents.
Hopes were dashed when Trump abruptly declared the talks dead in early September. He had invited Taliban leaders to Camp David, along with Ghani, and when the insurgents declined to come unless the agreement was signed first, Trump invoked a Taliban attack that killed a U.S. soldier as a reason to nix the agreement his envoy had inked.
After a prisoner swap in November appeared to have overcome Trump’s resistance, U.S. diplomats and Taliban representatives have started talking again, though whether they will return to the same understanding remains unclear. In reality, the United States has no better option than pursuing a deal with the Taliban. Continuing with the status quo offers only the prospect of endless war, while precipitously pulling U.S. forces out without an agreement could herald a return to the multifront civil war of the 1990s and even worse violence.
Any deal should pave the way for talks among Afghans, which means tying the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal to both counterterrorism goals and the Taliban’s good-faith participation in talks with the Afghan government and other powerful Afghan leaders. A U.S.-Taliban agreement would mark only the beginning of a long road to a settlement among Afghans, which is a prerequisite for peace. But it almost certainly offers the only hope of calming today’s deadliest war.
A fighter poses with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and the southern separatist flag (the old flag of South Yemen) in the Khormaksar district of Aden, Yemen, on Aug. 29. NABIL HASAN/AFP via Getty Images
In 2018, aggressive international intervention in Yemen prevented what U.N. officials deemed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis from deteriorating further; 2020 could offer a rare opportunity to wind down the war. That chance, however, is the product of a confluence of local, regional, and international factors and, if not seized now, may quickly fade.
The war’s human cost is painfully clear. It has directly killed an estimated 100,000 people while pushing a country that was already the Arab world’s poorest to the brink of famine. Yemen has become a critical fault line in the Middle East-wide rivalry between Iran on the one hand and the United States and its regional allies on the other. Yet a year after it briefly grabbed international headlines, the five-year-old conflict is at risk of slipping back out of international consciousness.
The loss of focus is the flip side of recent good news. A December 2018 deal known as the Stockholm Agreement, fostered a fragile cease-fire around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida between the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels who seized the capital, Sanaa, from him in September 2014. The agreement likely prevented a famine and effectively froze fighting between the two sides. Since then, the more dynamic aspects of the conflict have been a battle within the anti-Houthi front pitting southern secessionists against the Hadi government, and a cross-border war that has seen the launch of Houthi missiles and retaliatory Saudi airstrikes.
Today’s window of opportunity reflects movement on these latter two fronts. First, fighting between loyalists of the Southern Transitional Council and the government in August 2019 pushed the anti-Houthi bloc to the point of collapse. In response, Riyadh had little choice but to broker a truce between them to sustain its war effort. Second, in September, a missile attack on major Saudi oil production facilities—claimed by the Houthis, but widely suspected to have been launched by Tehran—highlighted the risks of a war involving the United States, its Gulf allies, and Iran that none of them seems to want.
This helped push the Saudis and Houthis to engage in talks aimed at de-escalating their conflict and removing Yemen from the playing field of the regional Saudi-Iran power struggle; both sides have significantly reduced cross-border strikes. If this leads to a U.N.-brokered political process in 2020, an end may be in sight.
But the opportunity could evaporate. A collapse of the government’s fragile deal with the Southern Transitional Council in the south or of its equally vulnerable agreement with the Houthis along the Red Sea coast would upend peacemaking efforts. The Houthis’ impatience with what they consider the Saudis’ sluggishness in transitioning from de-escalation to a nationwide cease-fire, coupled with their access to a stockpile of missiles, could rapidly reignite the cross-border war. Heightening U.S.-Iranian tensions could also spill into Yemen. The lull in violent conflict in the second half of 2019, in other words, should not be mistaken for a new normal. The opportunity for peace should be seized now.
Supporters of Jawar Mohammed, a member of the Oromo ethnic group who has been a public critic of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Oct. 24 following rumors of Jawar’s mistreatment by state forces. STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images
Perhaps nowhere are both promise and peril for the coming year starker than in Ethiopia, East Africa’s most populous and influential state.
Since assuming office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has taken bold steps to open up the country’s politics. He has ended a decadeslong standoff with neighboring Eritrea, freed political prisoners, welcomed rebels back from exile, and appointed reformers to key institutions. He has won accolades at home and abroad—including the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.
But enormous challenges loom. Mass protests between 2015 and 2018 that brought Abiy to power were motivated primarily by political and socioeconomic grievances. But they had ethnic undertones too, particularly in Ethiopia’s most populous regions, Amhara and Oromia, whose leaders hoped to reduce the long-dominant Tigray minority’s influence. Abiy’s liberalization and efforts to dismantle the existing order have given new energy to ethnonationalism, while weakening the central state.
Ethnic strife across the country has surged, killing hundreds, displacing millions, and fueling hostility among leaders of its most powerful regions. Elections scheduled for May 2020 could be violent and divisive, as candidates outbid each other in ethnic appeals for votes.
Elections scheduled for May 2020 could be violent and divisive, as candidates outbid each other in ethnic appeals for votes.
Elections scheduled for May 2020 could be violent and divisive, as candidates outbid each other in ethnic appeals for votes.
Adding to tensions is a fraught debate over the country’s ethnic federalist system, which devolves authority to regions defined along ethnolinguistic lines. The system’s supporters believe it protects group rights in a diverse country formed through conquest and assimilation. Detractors argue that an ethnically based system harms national unity. It is past time, they say, to move beyond the ethnic politics that has long defined and divided the nation.
Abiy has generally sought a middle ground. But some recent reforms, including his merger and expansion of the ruling coalition, the Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), move him more firmly into the reformers’ camp. Over the coming year, he’ll have to build bridges among Ethiopian regions, even as he competes with ethnonationalists at the ballot box. He’ll have to manage the clamor for change while placating an old guard that stands to lose.
Ethiopia’s transition remains a source of hope and deserves all the support it can get, but also risks violently unraveling. In a worst-case scenario, some warn the country could fracture as Yugoslavia did in the 1990s, with disastrous consequences for an already troubled region. Ethiopia’s international partners need to do what they can—including pressing all the country’s leaders to cut incendiary rhetoric, counseling the prime minister to proceed cautiously on his reform agenda, and offering multiyear financial aid—to help Abiy avert such an outcome.
A group of soldiers from the Burkina Faso Army patrol a rural area during a joint operation with the French Army in the Soum region along the border with Mali on Nov. 9. MICHELE CATTANI/AFP via Getty Images
Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is the latest country to fall victim to the instability plaguing Africa’s Sahel region.
Islamist militants have been waging a low-intensity insurgency in the country’s north since 2016. The rebellion was initially spearheaded by Ansarul Islam, a group led by Ibrahim Malam Dicko, a Burkinabé citizen and local preacher. Though rooted in Burkina Faso’s north, it appeared to have close ties to jihadis in neighboring Mali. After Dicko died in clashes with Burkinabé troops in 2017, his brother, Jafar, took over but reportedly was killed in an October 2019 airstrike.
Violence has spread, blighting much of the north and east, displacing about half a million people (of the country’s total population of 20 million) and threatening to destabilize regions further afield, including the southwest. Precisely who is responsible is often murky. In addition to Ansarul Islam, jihadi groups based in Mali, including the local Islamic State and al Qaeda franchises, now also operate in Burkina Faso.
Militant strikes can be intermingled with other sources of violence, such as banditry, herder-farmer competition, or all-too-common disputes over land. Self-defense groups that have mobilized over recent years to police rural areas fuel local intercommunal conflicts. Old systems to manage disputes are breaking down, as more young people question the authority of traditional elites loyal to a state that itself is distrusted. All this makes fertile ground for militant recruitment.
Unrest in the capital, Ouagadougou, hinders efforts to curb the insurgency. People regularly take to the streets in strikes over working conditions or protests over the government’s failure to tackle rising insecurity. Elections loom in November 2020, and violence could affect their credibility and thus the next government’s legitimacy. The ruling party and its rivals accuse each other of preparing vigilantes to mobilize votes. Burkina Faso appears close to collapse, yet elites focus on internecine power struggles.
Burkina Faso appears close to collapse, yet elites focus on internecine power struggles.
Burkina Faso appears close to collapse, yet elites focus on internecine power struggles.
Burkina Faso’s volatility matters not only because of harm inflicted on its own citizens, but because the country borders other nations, including several along West Africa’s coast. Those countries have suffered few attacks since jihadis struck resorts in Ivory Coast in 2016. But some evidence, including militants’ own statements, suggest they might use Burkina Faso as a launching pad for operations along the coast or to put down roots in the northernmost regions of countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana, or Benin.
In May 2019, Ivoirian authorities report having disrupted planned attacks in the country’s largest city, Abidjan. Coastal countries exhibit weaknesses militants have exploited in their northern neighbors, particularly neglected and resentful peripheries. Some—notably Ivory Coast—also face contentious elections this year. This both distracts their governments and means any crisis would make them more vulnerable still.
Cooperation between Burkina Faso and its neighbors thus far has focused mostly on joint military operations. Coastal states may be gearing up to do the same. Yet governments in the region would be better off focusing as much on intelligence sharing, border controls, and policies aimed at winning over villagers in areas affected. Without those, the turmoil appears set to spread further.
A fighter loyal to the Libyan Government of National Accord fires his gun during clashes with forces loyal to the strongman Khalifa Haftar in the Tripoli suburb of Ain Zara on Sept. 7. MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images
The war in Libya risks getting worse in the coming months, as rival factions increasingly rely on foreign military backing to change the balance of power. The threat of major violence has loomed since the country split into two parallel administrations following contested elections in 2014. U.N. attempts at reunification faltered, and since 2016 Libya has been divided between the internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Tripoli and a rival government based in eastern Libya. The Islamic State established a small foothold but was defeated; militias fought over Libya’s oil infrastructure on the coast; and tribal clashes unsettled the country’s vast southern desert. But fighting never tipped into a broader confrontation.
Over the past year, however, it has taken a dangerous new turn. In April 2019, forces commanded by Khalifa Haftar, which are backed by the government in the east, laid siege to Tripoli, edging the country toward all-out war. Haftar claims to be combating terrorists. In reality, while some of his rivals are Islamists, they are the same militias that defeated the Islamic State, with U.S. and other Western support, three years ago.
Libya has long been an arena for outside competition. In the chaos after former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi’s 2011 overthrow, competing factions sought support from foreign sponsors. Regional rivalries overlaid the split between the two rival governments and their respective military coalitions, with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar-led forces and Turkey and Qatar supporting western armed groups loyal to Sarraj.
Haftar’s latest offensive has found support not only in Cairo and Abu Dhabi but also in Moscow, which has provided Haftar military aid under the cover of a private security company. U.S. President Donald Trump, whose administration had supported the Sarraj government and U.N.-backed peace process since coming to office, reversed course in April 2019, following a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Turkey, in turn, has upped support for Tripoli, thus far helping stave off its fall to Haftar. Ankara now threatens to intervene further.
As a result, the conflict’s protagonists are no longer merely armed groups in Tripoli fending off an assault by a wayward military commander. Instead, Emirati drones and airplanes, hundreds of Russian private military contractors, and African soldiers recruited into Haftar’s forces confront Turkish drones and military vehicles, raising the specter of an escalating proxy battle on the Mediterranean.
Emirati drones and airplanes, hundreds of Russian private military contractors, and African soldiers recruited into Haftar’s forces confront Turkish drones and military vehicles, raising the specter of an escalating proxy battle on the Mediterranean.
Emirati drones and airplanes, hundreds of Russian private military contractors, and African soldiers recruited into Haftar’s forces confront Turkish drones and military vehicles, raising the specter of an escalating proxy battle on the Mediterranean.
The proliferation of actors also stymies efforts to end the bloodshed. A U.N.-led attempt in Berlin to bring the parties back to the table appears to be petering out. Whether the peace conference that the United Nations and Germany hoped to convene in early 2020 will take place is unclear. For their part, Europeans have been caught flat-footed. Their main concern has been to check the flow of migrants, but disagreements among leaders over how to weigh in have allowed other players to fuel a conflict that directly undercuts Europe’s interest in a stable Libya.
To end the war, foreign powers would need to stop arming their Libyan allies and press them into negotiations instead, but prospects of this happening appear dim. The result could be a more destructive stalemate or a takeover of Tripoli that could give rise to prolonged militia fighting, rather than a stable single government.
A picture obtained from Iranian News Agency ISNA on June 13 reportedly shows fire and smoke billowing from an oil tanker said to have been attacked in the waters of the Gulf of Oman. The attack on two tankers came amid spiraling tensions between Tehran and Washington, which has pointed the finger at Iran over earlier tanker attacks. -/AFP via Getty Images
The United States, Iran, Israel, and the Persian Gulf
Tensions between the United States and Iran rose dangerously in 2019; the year ahead could bring their rivalry to boiling point. The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement and impose mounting unilateral sanctions against Tehran has inflicted significant costs, but thus far has produced neither the diplomatic capitulation Washington seeks nor the internal collapse for which it may hope. Instead, Iran has responded to what it regards as an all-out siege by incrementally ramping up its nuclear program in violation of the agreement, aggressively flexing its regional muscle, and firmly suppressing any sign of domestic unrest. Tensions have also risen between Israel and Iran. Unless this cycle is broken, the risk of a broader confrontation will rise.
Tehran’s shift from a policy of maximum patience to one of maximum resistance was a consequence of the United States playing one of the aces in its coercive deck: ending already-limited exemptions on Iran’s oil sales. Seeing little relief materialize from the nuclear deal’s remaining parties, President Hassan Rouhani in May announced that his government would begin to violate the agreement incrementally. Since then, Iran has broken caps on its uranium enrichment rates and stockpile sizes, started testing advanced centrifuges, and restarted its enrichment plant in its Fordow bunker.
With every new breach, Iran may hollow out the agreement’s nonproliferation gains to the extent that the European signatories will decide they must impose their own penalties. At some point, Iran’s advances could prompt Israel or the United States to resort to military action.
At some point, Iran’s advances could prompt Israel or the United States to resort to military action.
A string of incidents in the Gulf in the past year, culminating in the Sept. 14 attack against Saudi energy facilities, underscored how the U.S.-Iranian standoff reverberates across the broader region. Meanwhile, recurrent Israeli military strikes against Iranian and Iran-linked targets inside Syria and Lebanon—as well as in Iraq and the Red Sea basin, according to Tehran—present a new, dangerous front. Any of these flash points could explode, by design or by accident.
Recognition of the high stakes and costs of war has nudged some of Iran’s Gulf rivals to seek de-escalation even as they continue to back the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” approach. The United Arab Emirates has opened lines of communication with Tehran, and Saudi Arabia has engaged in serious dialogue with Yemen’s Houthis.
The potential for conflict has also prompted efforts, led by French President Emmanuel Macron, to help the United States and Iran find a diplomatic off-ramp. U.S. President Donald Trump, eager to avoid war, has been willing to hear out his proposal, and the Iranians are also interested in any proposition that provides some sanctions relief.
But with deep distrust, each side has tended to wait for the other to make the first concession. A diplomatic breakthrough to de-escalate tensions between the Gulf states and Iran or between Washington and Tehran remains possible. But, as sanctions take their toll and Iran fights back, time is running out.
United States-North Korea
The days of 2017, when U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hurled insults at each other and exchanged threats of nuclear annihilation, seemed distant during most of 2019. But tensions are escalating.
The dangers of 2017 yielded to a calmer 2018 and early 2019. The United States halted most joint military drills with South Korea, and Pyongyang paused long-range missile and nuclear tests. U.S.-North Korea relations thawed somewhat, with two Trump-Kim summits. The first—in Singapore in June 2018—produced a flimsy statement of agreed principles and the possibility of diplomatic negotiations. The second—in Hanoi in February 2019—collapsed when the gulf between the two leaders on the scope and sequencing of denuclearization and sanctions relief became clear.
Since then, the diplomatic atmosphere has soured. In April 2019, Kim unilaterally set an end-of-year deadline for the U.S. government to present a deal that might break the impasse. In June, Trump and Kim agreed, over a handshake in the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, to start working-level talks. In October, however, an eight-hour meeting between envoys in Sweden went nowhere.
The two leaders have at times floated the idea of a third summit, but they have backed away at least for the time being. That may be for the best: Another ill-prepared meeting could leave both sides feeling dangerously frustrated.
Another ill-prepared meeting could leave both sides feeling dangerously frustrated.
Another ill-prepared meeting could leave both sides feeling dangerously frustrated.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang—which continues to seek leverage to obtain sanctions relief and an end to joint military drills—stepped up short-range ballistic missile tests, which are widely understood not to be covered by the unwritten freeze. North Korea seemed to be motivated by both practical reasons (tests help perfect missile technology) and political ones (those tests appear intended to pressure Washington to propose a more favorable deal). In early December, Pyongyang went further, testing what appeared to be the engine for either a space-launch vehicle or a long-range missile and related technology, at a site that Trump claimed Kim had promised to dismantle.
Although Pyongyang’s warning of a “Christmas gift” for Washington if the United States does not propose what Kim deems a satisfactory way forward had not materialized at the time of writing, prospects for diplomacy seem to be dimming.
Yet both sides should think about what will happen if diplomacy fails. If the North escalates its provocations, the Trump administration could react much like it did in 2017, with name-calling and efforts to further tighten sanctions and by exploring military options with unthinkable consequences.
That dynamic would be bad for the region, the world, and both leaders. The best option for both sides remains a confidence-building, measure-for-measure deal that gives each modest benefits. Pyongyang and Washington need to put in the time to negotiate and gauge possibilities for compromise. In 2020, Trump and Kim should steer clear of high-level pageantry and high-drama provocations, and empower their negotiators to get to work.
After falling off the international radar for years, a flare-up between India and Pakistan in 2019 over the disputed region of Kashmir brought the crisis back into sharp focus. Both countries lay claim to the Himalayan territory, split by an informal boundary, known as the Line of Control, since the first Indian-Pakistani war of 1947-48.
First came a February suicide attack by Islamist militants against Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir. India retaliated by bombing an alleged militant camp in Pakistan, prompting a Pakistani strike in Indian-controlled Kashmir. Tensions spiked again in August when India revoked the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s semiautonomous status, which had served as the foundation for its joining India 72 years ago, and brought it under New Delhi’s direct rule.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, emboldened by its May reelection, made the change in India’s only Muslim-majority state without any local consultation. Not only that: Before announcing its decision, it brought in tens of thousands of extra troops, imposed a communications blackout, and arrested thousands of Kashmiris, including the entire political class, many of whom were not hostile to India.
These moves have exacerbated an already profound sentiment of alienation among Kashmiris that will likely further fuel a long-running separatist insurgency. Separately, the Indian government’s new citizenship law, widely regarded as anti-Muslim, has sparked protests and violent police responses in many parts of India. Together with the actions in Kashmir, these developments appear to confirm Modi’s intention to implement a Hindu nationalist agenda.
New Delhi’s claims that the situation is back to normal are misleading. Internet access remains cut off, soldiers deployed in August are still there, and all Kashmiri leaders remain in detention. Modi’s government seems to have no road map for what comes next.
Pakistan has tried to rally international support against what it calls India’s illegal decision on Kashmir’s status. But its cause is hardly helped by its long record of backing anti-India jihadis. Moreover, most Western powers see New Delhi as an important partner. They are unlikely to rock the boat over Kashmir, unless violence spirals.
The gravest danger is the risk that a militant attack sets off an escalation. In Kashmir, insurgents are lying low but still active. Indeed, India’s heavy-handed military operations in Kashmir over the past few years have inspired a new homegrown generation, whose ranks are likely to swell further after the latest repression. A strike on Indian forces almost certainly would precipitate Indian retaliation against Pakistan, regardless of whether Islamabad is complicit in the plan. In a worst-case scenario, the two nuclear-armed neighbors could stumble into war.
External actors should push for rapprochement before it is too late. That won’t be easy. Both sides are playing to domestic constituencies in no mood for compromise. Resuming bilateral dialogue, on hold since 2016, is essential and will necessitate concerted pressure, particularly from Western governments. Any progress requires Pakistan taking credible action against jihadis operating from its soil, a nonnegotiable precondition for India to even consider engaging. For its part, India should lift the communications blackout, release political prisoners, and urgently reengage with Kashmiri leaders. Both sides should resume cross-border trade and travel for Kashmiris.
If a new crisis emerges, foreign powers will have to throw their full weight behind preserving peace on the disputed border.
Members of the National Bolivarian Militia take part in military exercises in Caracas, Venezuela, on Sept. 16. MATIAS DELACROIX/AFP via Getty Images
Venezuela’s year of two governments ended without resolution. President Nicolás Maduro is still in charge, having headed off a civil-military uprising in April and weathered a regional boycott and a stack of U.S. sanctions. But his government remains isolated and bereft of resources, while most Venezuelans suffer from crushing poverty and collapsing public services.
Juan Guaidó, who as National Assembly head laid claim to the interim presidency last January, attracted huge crowds and foreign backing for his demand that Maduro, reelected in a controversial poll in 2018, leave office. Yet the unpopular government’s survival has offered Guaidó, as well as the United States and its Latin American allies such as Brazil and Colombia, harsh lessons. No one can rule out the government’s collapse. Still, hoping for that is, as one opposition deputy told my International Crisis Group colleagues, “like being poor and waiting to win the lottery.”
For a start, Maduro’s rivals underestimated his government’s strength—above all, the armed forces’ loyalty.
Maduro’s rivals underestimated his government’s strength—above all, the armed forces’ loyalty.
Despite hardship, poor communities remained mostly unconvinced by the opposition. U.S. sanctions heaped stress on the population and decimated an ailing oil industry, but were circumvented by shadowy actors working through the global economy’s loopholes. Gold exports and cash dollars kept the country afloat and enriched a tiny elite. Many of those left out joined the mass exodus of Venezuelans, now numbering 4.5 million, who in turn funneled remittances back home to sustain their families.
Maduro’s rivals underestimated his government’s strength—above all, the armed forces’ loyalty.
The crisis is having other ripple effects. The United Nations estimates that 7 million Venezuelans need humanitarian aid, many of them in border areas patrolled by armed groups, including Colombian guerrillas. Though sharing more than 1,300 miles of criminalized, violent, and largely unguarded border, the Colombian and Venezuelan governments no longer talk to each other, instead trading insults and blame for sheltering armed proxies. The border has become Venezuela’s primary flash point. In the meantime, the split between those Latin American countries backing Guaidó and those supporting Maduro has aggravated an increasingly polarized regional climate.
With the United States seemingly downplaying the possibility of a military intervention—even as Venezuelan opposition hard-liners pine for one—the issue is now whether Maduro’s obstinacy and the opposition’s and Washington’s lack of realism will mean a deepening crisis and possible flare-up, or whether more pragmatic voices can find a path to agreement. The omens are not overly promising. Government-opposition talks facilitated by Norway were suspended in September.
But there is still a negotiated way out of the turmoil. It would entail compromise from all sides: The opposition would need to drop its demand that Maduro leave now; the government would have to accept steps ensuring a credible and internationally monitored parliamentary election in 2020 as well as an early—and equally credible— presidential poll in the near future; and the U.S. government would need to incrementally relieve sanctions as progress is made toward a resolution. This would be an acceptable price for Venezuela’s peace and stability, and to avoid a far worse calamity.
Ukraine’s comedian-turned-president, Volodymyr Zelensky, elected in April 2019, has brought new energy to efforts to end Kyiv’s six-year-old conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the country’s eastern Donbass region. Yet if peace seems slightly more plausible than it did a year ago, it is far from preordained.
Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, negotiated the 2014-2015 Minsk agreements, which aim to end the Donbass conflict; they call for the separatist-held areas’ reintegration into Ukraine in exchange for their autonomy, or “special status.” But the agreements remain unimplemented as Kyiv and Moscow disagree on their specifics and sequencing.
Zelensky pledged while campaigning to make peace. He interpreted his and his party’s landslide wins in 2019 elections as mandates to do so. He started by negotiating mutual withdrawals from front-line positions and a cease-fire with Russia and its proxies. In September, he cut a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin on a prisoner swap. The following month, he endorsed the so-called Steinmeier Formula put forward in 2016 by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then Germany’s foreign minister and now its president, which proposed that elections in separatist-held areas would trigger first provisional, and then, if the vote was credible, permanent special status and reintegration into Ukraine.
Zelensky’s take on the formula required Ukrainian control in those territories before the vote. He nonetheless faced immediate domestic backlash from an unlikely coalition of military veterans’ organizations, far-right groups, and public intellectuals. In contrast, Moscow and separatist leaders welcomed Zelensky’s acceptance of the formula, despite his conditions.
In December, Zelensky and Putin met in Paris with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The leaders failed to agree on Minsk sequencing but left with plans for a more comprehensive cease-fire, further disengagement at front-line positions, increased Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitoring, and new crossing points for civilians at the line of contact separating Ukrainian and separatist forces.
Zelensky’s detractors at home appear satisfied he did not sell out in Paris. This gives him more room for maneuver.
If things go as planned, the next meeting in France, set for spring, should tackle other components of the Minsk agreement, including amnesties, further troop withdrawals, and a path to reintegrating separatist-held areas into Ukraine.
Zelensky’s detractors at home appear satisfied he did not sell out in Paris. This gives him more room for maneuver.
Much could go wrong. Cease-fire and disengagement plans might collapse and fighting could escalate. Even if they hold, Zelensky needs Moscow to compromise for peace to stand a chance. So far, however, although Moscow has been more amenable to deals with Zelensky than with his predecessor, its core positions remain unchanged: It denies being party to the conflict it initiated, fought in, and funded. It insists Kyiv should negotiate the Donbass region’s self-rule with separatist leaders.
Peace would offer clear dividends for Ukraine and carry benefits for Russia: It could bring sanctions relief and remove the burden of financial and military support to separatist-held areas. From his Western allies, Zelensky needs all the help he can get as he continues his charm offensive in eastern Ukraine and outreach to Moscow.

English / How to Teach Pronunciation By Kenneth Beare
« on: February 27, 2020, 01:00:51 PM »
Teaching English pronunciation is a challenging task with different objectives at each level. This guide on how to teach pronunciation provides a short overview of the main issues to be addressed at each level, as well as pointing to resources on the site, such as lesson plans and activities, that you can use in class to help your students improve their English pronunciation skills. Following each level are a few suggestions for level appropriate activities. Finally, the best way to help students improve their pronunciation skills is to encourage them to speak English as much as they possibly can. Introduce the idea that even when doing homework students should be reading aloud. Learning to pronounce English well takes muscle coordination, and that means practice - not just mental activity!
Beginning Level English Learners

Key Points:

    Syllable Stress - students need to understand that multisyllabic words require syllable stress. Point out common syllable stress patterns.
    Voiced and Voiceless Consonants - Teach the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants. Have students touch their throats to note the difference between 'z' and 's' and 'f' and 'v' to demonstrate these differences.
    Silent Letters - Point out examples of words with silent letters such as the 'b' in 'comb', '-ed' endings in the past for regular verbs.
    Silent final E - Teach the influence of the final silent 'e' generally making the vowel long. Make sure to point out that there are many exceptions to this rule (drive vs. live).


At the beginning level, English learners need to focus on the basics of pronunciation. In general, the use of rote learning is best for this level. For example, the use of grammar chants is a great way to help students pick up pronunciation skills through repetition. Teaching the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) is too challenging at this point as learners are already overwhelmed with the challenges of learning a language. Learning another alphabet for pronunciation is beyond the capability of most beginning level English learners. Certain patterns such as silent letters in English and the pronunciation of -ed in the simple past is a good starting point for future pronunciation drills. Students should also learn the difference between voiced and voiceless consonants.

Beginning Level Pronunciation Activities

    Slap That Word! - Fun game for learners asking them to associate words that are posted on the wall of the classroom. This exercise will reinforce pronunciation patterns during a fun, competitive activity
    Read and Rhyme - Rhyming game asking students to come up with words that rhyme with others presented on cards.

Intermediate Level English Learners

Key Points:

    Use of Minimal Pairs - Understanding the small differences in pronunciation between similar words is a great way to help students notice these differences.
    Word Stress Patterns - Help students improve their pronunciation by focusing on short sentences using standard word stress patterns.
    Introduce Stress and Intonation - One of the best ways to help students is to focus their attention on the music of English through the use of stress and intonation.


At this point, English learners will feel comfortable with relatively simple pronunciation patterns in English. Moving on to exercises using minimal pairs will help learners further refine their pronunciation of individual phonemes. Intermediate level learners should become aware of common word stress patterns, as well as sentence stress types. At this point, students can also begin becoming familiar with the IPA.

Intermediate Level Pronunciation Activities

    IPA Symbol Card Game - This card game helps students learn phonetic symbols. Cards are included on the site that you can print out and use in class.
    Tongue Twisters - Classic English tongue twisters to help students focus on some of the more challenging phonemes.

Advanced Level English Learners

Key Points​:

    Refine Understanding of Stress and Intonation - Further students' understanding of stress and intonation by changing up particular words stress to change meaning.
    Use of Register and Function - Introduce the idea of changing through pronunciation depending on how formal or informal the situation is.

Improving pronunciation through a focus on stress and intonation is one of the best ways to improve higher intermediate to advanced level English learners. At this level, students have a good grasp on the basics of each phoneme through the use of exercises such as minimal pairs, and individual syllable stress. However, English learners at this level often focus too much on the correct pronunciation of each word, rather than on the music of each sentence. To introduce the concept of stress and intonation and the role it plays in understanding, the students first need to understand the role of content and function words. Use this lesson on practicing stress and intonation to help. Next, students should learn how to use sound scripting - a way of marking up texts to help prepare for reading aloud. Finally, advanced level students should be capable of changing meaning through word stresses within sentences to bring out contextual meaning through pronunciation.

Advanced Level Pronunciation Activities

    IPA Transcription Lesson - Lesson focusing on continuing students familiarity with the IPA in order to focus on the issue of connected speech in English.
    Pronunciation Activities from FluentU - Make pronunciation fun with these clever ideas.

বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধের কোপে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে চীনা পোশাক রপ্তানি ব্যাপকভাবে কমে গেছে। সেই ব্যবসা ভিয়েতনাম, বাংলাদেশ, ভারত, মিয়ানমার, পাকিস্তানসহ বিভিন্ন দেশে ছড়িয়ে গেছে। ফলে বিদায়ী বছর যুক্তরাষ্ট্রে বাংলাদেশের তৈরি পোশাক রপ্তানি ৯ দশমিক ৮৩ শতাংশ বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে।

গত বছর চীন যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে ২ হাজার ৪৮৮ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক রপ্তানি করে, যা ২০১৮ সালের চেয়ে ২৪৯ কোটি ডলার বা ৯ দশমিক ১০ শতাংশ কম। এমন দুরবস্থায় গত পাঁচ বছরের মধ্যে আর পড়েনি চীন। ২০১৮ সালেও ট্রাম্পের দেশে চীনের পোশাক রপ্তানি বেড়েছিল ১ দশমিক ৩৪ শতাংশ।

ইউএস ডিপার্টমেন্ট অব কমার্সের আওতাধীন অফিস অব টেক্সটাইল অ্যান্ড অ্যাপারেলের (অটেক্সা) দেওয়া পরিসংখ্যান থেকে এসব তথ্য জানা গেছে। অটেক্সার তথ্যানুযায়ী চীনের পোশাক রপ্তানি কমলেও যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের আমদানিকারকেরা ব্যবসা কমায়নি। গত বছর তারা বিশ্বের বিভিন্ন দেশ থেকে ৮ হাজার ৩৮২ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক আমদানি করেছে, যা ২০১৮ সালের চেয়ে ১ দশমিক ১৬ শতাংশ বেশি।

অটেক্সার পরিসংখ্যান বিশ্লেষণ করে দেখা যায়, চীনের ব্যবসা হারানোতে সবচেয়ে বেশি লাভবান হয়েছে ভিয়েতনাম। গত বছর যুক্তরাষ্ট্রে শীর্ষ পাঁচ পোশাক রপ্তানিকারক দেশের মধ্যে তাদের প্রবৃদ্ধি হয়েছে সর্বোচ্চ ১১ শতাংশ। ভিয়েতনাম গত বছর ১ হাজার ৩৫৬ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক রপ্তানি করেছে। তারপর দ্বিতীয় সর্বোচ্চ ৯ দশমিক ৮৩ শতাংশ প্রবৃদ্ধি হয়েছে বাংলাদেশের। রপ্তানির পরিমাণ ৫৯৩ কোটি ১৯ লাখ ডলার। গত চার বছরের মধ্যে এটিই সর্বোচ্চ প্রবৃদ্ধি বাংলাদেশের। সর্বশেষ ২০১৫ সালে পোশাক রপ্তানিতে ১১ দশমিক ৭৪ শতাংশ প্রবৃদ্ধি করেছিল বাংলাদেশের উদ্যোক্তারা।

২০১৩ সালে রানা প্লাজা ধসের পর যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে বাংলাদেশের পোশাক রপ্তানি ধাক্কা খায়। অনেক বিদেশি ক্রেতা তখন বাংলাদেশ থেকে তাদের কার্যক্রম গোটায়। সেটির প্রভাবে ২০১৬ ও ২০১৭ সালে রপ্তানি কমে যায়। টানা ১৫ মাস ঋণাত্মক প্রবৃদ্ধির পর ২০১৮ সালের জানুয়ারিতে বাজারটিতে ঘুরে দাঁড়ায় বাংলাদেশ। ওই সময় চীন ও যুক্তরাষ্ট্র একে অপরের সঙ্গে বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধে জড়িয়ে গেলে বাড়তি শুল্কের হাত থেকে নিস্তার পেতে অনেক মার্কিন ক্রেতা চীনের বিকল্প খুঁজতে শুরু করে। তাতে বাংলাদেশে পোশাকের বাড়তি ক্রয়াদেশ আসতে থাকে। সেটি এখনো অব্যাহত আছে বলে জানালেন কয়েকজন উদ্যোক্তা।

বিদায়ী বছরে চীনের পোশাক রপ্তানি ৯ শতাংশ কমে গেলেও বাংলাদেশের বেড়েছে ৯ দশমিক ৮৩ শতাংশ

বিষয়টি নিশ্চিত করে নিট পোশাকশিল্প মালিকদের সংগঠন বিকেএমইএর প্রথম সহসভাপতি মোহাম্মদ হাতেম প্রথম আলোকে বলেন, ‘বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধ শুরু হওয়ার পর যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের ক্রেতাদের কাছ থেকে বাড়তি ক্রয়াদেশ আমরা পেয়েছি। তবে সবচেয়ে বেশি লাভবান হয়েছে ভিয়েতনাম, ভারত, তুরস্কসহ বিভিন্ন দেশ। তারা ডলারের বিপরীতে নিজেদের মুদ্রার অবমূল্যায়ন করে প্রতিযোগিতায় এগিয়ে গেছে। আমরা সেটি করতে পারি না। ফলে বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধের কারণে চীনের হারানো ব্যবসা শেষ পর্যন্ত কাঙ্ক্ষিত মাত্রায় নিতে পারছি না আমরা।’

জানতে চাইলে তৈরি পোশাকশিল্প মালিকদের সংগঠন বিজিএমইএর সাবেক সহসভাপতি মো. শহিদউল্লাহ আজিম বলেন, ‘যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের ক্রেতারা ক্রয়াদেশসংক্রান্ত নানা তথ্য আমাদের কাছ থেকে প্রতিনিয়ত সংগ্রহ করছে। তবে তারা যে দাম দিতে চাচ্ছে, তা অনেক ক্ষেত্রেই আমাদের উৎপাদন খরচের চেয়ে কম। সে জন্য অনেক ক্রয়াদেশ ফিরিয়ে দিতে হচ্ছে। তবে ডলারের বিপরীতে টাকার অবমূল্যায়ন করা হলে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে আমাদের পোশাক রপ্তানি অনেক বৃদ্ধি পেত।’

যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে ভালো করলেও সামগ্রিকভাবে পোশাকশিল্পের রপ্তানির অবস্থা খারাপ। রপ্তানি উন্নয়ন ব্যুরো (ইপিবি) তথ্যানুযায়ী চলতি ২০১৯–২০ অর্থবছরের প্রথম ৭ মাসে ১ হাজার ৯০৬ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক রপ্তানি করেছে বাংলাদেশ। এই আয় গত অর্থবছরের একই সময়ের চেয়ে ৫ দশমিক ৭১ শতাংশ কম।

এদিকে বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধের কারণে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের বাজারে পার্শ্ববর্তী দেশ ভারত লাভবান হয়েছে। বাজারটিতে গত বছর ভারত রপ্তানি করেছে ৪০৬ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক। এ ক্ষেত্রে তাদের প্রবৃদ্ধি ৬ দশমিক ৮০ শতাংশ। তবে ভারতের থেকে বেশি রপ্তানি করেছে ইন্দোনেশিয়া, ৪৪০ কোটি ডলার। তাদের রপ্তানি কমেছে ১ দশমিক ৬৮ শতাংশ।

রপ্তানির পরিমাণ এখনো তলানিতে থাকলেও বাণিজ্যযুদ্ধের কারণে কপাল খুলেছে মিয়ানমারের। যুক্তরাষ্ট্রে গত বছর ৪ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক রপ্তানি করছে দেশটি, যা ২০১৮ সালের চেয়ে ১৬০ শতাংশের বেশি। মিয়ানমার ভালো করলেও পাকিস্তান অবশ্য পারেনি। গত বছর ১৪৩ কোটি ডলারের পোশাক রপ্তানি করেছে পাকিস্তান। তাদের রপ্তানি কমেছে ১ দশমিক ৭৯ শতাংশ।
- শুভংকর কর্মকার, ঢাকা

১০ ফেব্রুয়ারি ব্রিটেনের ডেইলি মেইল এবং ১২ ফেব্রুয়ারি সানডে এক্সপ্রেস পত্রিকা একটি খবর ছেপেছে। খবর না বলে সন্দেহ বলাই ভালো। সন্দেহ, চীন সম্ভবত হাজার হাজার করোনাভাইরাসে আক্রান্ত লাশ পুড়িয়ে ফেলছে! সন্দেহের কারণ করোনা উপদ্রুত উহানের বায়ুমণ্ডলে রহস্যজনক ‘স্মোগ’ বা ধোঁয়াশাকুণ্ডলী দেখা গেছে। সংক্রমণের ভয়ে উহানের অধিবাসীরা গৃহবন্দী। অর্থনৈতিক কর্মকাণ্ড স্থবির। কলকারখানা বন্ধ। তাহলে ধোঁয়া হবে কেন? দ্য সান পত্রিকা লিখল, চীন করোনার আলামত ধ্বংস করছে। দ্য মিরর পত্রিকাও একই কথা ঘুরিয়ে একটি প্রশ্ন রেখে শিরোনাম করল। সাধারণ্যে এ রকম শক্ত-পোক্ত বিশ্বাস আছে যে চীন তথ্য লুকায়। গোপনে অনেক অপকর্ম করে। সুতরাং খবরটি চাউর হতে সময় লাগল না।

ট্যাবলয়েড ছাড়াও অনলাইন নিউজ নামে অসংখ্য ওয়েবসাইট ওঁত পেতে থাকে চমকদার ও চটকদার গালগল্পের অপেক্ষায়। উইন্ডি ডট কম নামের একটি টুইটার অ্যাকাউন্টে মিলল আতঙ্ককর আরেক খবর। কয়েকটি স্যাটেলাইট ইমেজে দেখা যাচ্ছে যে উহানে কড়া আগুন জ্বলছে। বেশ বিশ্বাসযোগ্যভাবে উপস্থাপন করা স্যাটেলাইট চিত্র। খবর হয় যে উহানের বাতাসে মারাত্মক ক্ষতিকর মাত্রার সালফার ডাই-অক্সাইড জমা হচ্ছে। কেমিক্যাল ঢেলে হাজার হাজার মৃত প্রাণী পোড়ালে এমনটি হওয়ার কথা। সেই থেকে দুনিয়াজোড়া একটি অনুমান শাখায়-প্রশাখায় বেড়ে উঠেছে যে সংক্রমণ ঠেকাতে লাশ তো বটেই, চীন সম্ভবত করোনায় আক্রান্ত মৃতপ্রায় রোগীদেরও পুড়িয়ে মারছে।

অনুসন্ধানে জানা গেল যে স্যাটেলাইটের ছবিগুলো আসলে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের মহাকাশ সংস্থা নাসার ‘জিইওএস-৫’ নামের একটি পরিবেশদূষণের পূর্বানুমানের মডেলিংয়ের ছবি। এই মডেলিং বা সিমুলেশনটি ভবিষ্যতে বায়ুমণ্ডলে ক্ষতিকর রাসায়নিকের অস্তিত্ব ও পরিবেশ বিপর্যয় কতটা ভয়াবহ হতে পারে, সেই ধারণা দেয়। এর সঙ্গে করোনাভাইরাসের বা আগুন জ্বলার বা স্মোগ হওয়ার কোনো সম্পর্ক নেই। তা ছাড়া উহানের বাতাসে সালফার ডাই–অক্সাইডের ঘনত্ব আগে থেকেই বিপজ্জনক পর্যায়ের।

গণযোগাযোগ মাধ্যমগুলোর তথ্যকে তুলনামূলকভাবে নির্ভরযোগ্য ধরা হয়। এখনকার সময়টি গণযোগাযোগমাধ্যমের বাড়বাড়ন্তকাল। ফলে পত্রিকায় প্রকাশ পাওয়া ‘ব্যাপক সংখ্যক শব পুড়িয়ে ফেলা হচ্ছে’ বা ‘মৃতের সংখ্যার প্রকৃত তথ্য গোপন করা হচ্ছে’ ইঙ্গিতগুলো আমজনতা মুহূর্তেই আমলে নিয়ে নিচ্ছে। আগে গুজব ছড়াত ব্যক্তির মাধ্যমে—কানে কানে। গুজব ছড়াতেও বেশ সময় লাগত। এ সময়ে পত্রপত্রিকা, টিভি ও সামাজিক যোগাযোগমাধ্যমের কল্যাণে মুহূর্তেই গুজবগুলো শাখায়-প্রশাখায় ছড়িয়ে পড়েছে বিশ্বময়। তালিকা করলে কয়েক ডজন বিশ্বাসযোগ্য গুজব মিলবে, যেগুলো সংবাদমাধ্যমের হাতে তৈরি। সেগুলোর প্রতিটির উল্লেখ পত্রিকার এই অপরিসর কলামে সম্ভব নয়। তবে একটির উল্লেখ আবশ্যক। কমবেশি গুজবটি দুনিয়াজুড়ে চাউর হয়েছে যে জীবাণু অস্ত্র তৈরি করতে নেমেছিল চীন। ভুলবশত সেটি ল্যাবরেটরির বাইরে চলে আসে। এই গুজবের দ্বিতীয় সংস্করণ এই যে কানাডার একটি অণুজীব গবেষণাগারে এক চীনা দম্পতি বিজ্ঞানী হিসেবে কাজ করতেন। তাঁরা এই সুযোগে গুপ্তচরবৃত্তিও করতেন। [গুজবে যেমনটি হয়—কানাডার নাকি চীনের পক্ষে গুপ্তচরবৃত্তিতে নিয়োজিত ছিলেন, সেটি আর জানা যাচ্ছে না] চীনে ফেরার সময় তাঁরা এই ভাইরাস সঙ্গে নিয়ে আসেন।

বাংলাদেশের গ্রামসমাজে ‘ঘর পোড়ার মধ্যে আলু পোড়া’ বলে একটি লোককথা চালু আছে। শেষের দুই ধরনের গুজবে আন্তর্জাতিক রাজনীতি আছে। এই মানবিক দুঃসময়েও চীনবিরোধী আন্তর্জাতিক শক্তি চীনকে আরও বিপাকে ফেলার সুযোগ খুঁজছে। জীবাণু অস্ত্রতত্ত্ব প্রথমে ছড়ায় ইজরায়েলি গণমাধ্যম। তারপর এখনো চীনা বিজ্ঞানীদের অনেকের বরাতে বিভিন্ন মাধ্যমে এই তত্ত্বের সত্যতা প্রমাণের চেষ্টা চলছে। অস্ত্রবিদ্যা বিষয়ে চীনও দুষ্ট দেশ। জীবাণু অস্ত্র নির্মাণের চেষ্টা যে করছে না, সেটিও জোরগলায় বলা যায় না। তবে করোনাভাইরাসটি আবিষ্কারের বিষয় নয়। এটি হাজার হাজার বছরের পুরোনো ভাইরাস। আগে অন্তত এই ভাইরাসের ছয়টি প্রকরণ দেখা গেছে। বর্তমানেরটি সপ্তম প্রকরণের এবং আগেরগুলোর চেয়ে ভয়াবহ ও বিধ্বংসী। সব ভাইরাসের নতুন প্রকরণের চরিত্র এ রকমই। নতুনটি আগের চেয়ে বেশি শক্তিধর হয়ে ওঠে। যতক্ষণ প্রাণিজগৎ তাকে মোকাবিলা করার মতো রোগ প্রতিরোধক্ষমতা গড়ে তুলতে না পারে, ততক্ষণই সে তার ধ্বংসযজ্ঞ চালিয়ে যেতে থাকে। যেহেতু এটি পুরোনো ভাইরাস, জীবাণু অস্ত্রতত্ত্বটিকেও কমবেশি গুজব বলেই ধরে নেওয়া যেতে পারে।

কিন্তু মানুষ কেন অনায়াসে সবকিছু বিশ্বাস করে বসবে? প্রথমত, নৌম চমস্কির ভাষ্য—মিডিয়ার ‘ম্যানুফেকচারিং কনসেন্ট’ বা ‘সহমত নির্মাণ’–এর সক্ষমতার প্রমাণ দেখছি এখানেও। এই করোনা উপদ্রুত দুঃসময়েও। সংবাদমাধ্যমে প্রকাশিত বলে সারা বিশ্বের শিক্ষিত মানুষজনও সহজেই বিশ্বাস করে নিচ্ছেন। পত্রপত্রিকার হাত থেকে গুজবগুলো সামাজিক যোগাযোগমাধ্যমগুলোর হাতে যায়। এখানে এসে পাতায়-লতায় ছড়িয়ে পড়ে। সোশ্যাল মিডিয়ায় এসে আতঙ্ক ও মনোরঞ্জনের এক অদ্ভুত মিশেলে নতুন নতুন বয়ানের জন্ম হয়। তা–ও অতি অল্প সময়েই। সেখানে রাজনীতির বিষয় যুক্ত হলে গুজব নিয়ন্ত্রণের বাইরে চলে যায়। অপরিসীম ক্ষমতাধর চীনা কর্তৃপক্ষ এবার নিজ দেশের ভেতরেই গুজব সামলাতে পারেনি।

দ্বিতীয়ত, যখন সত্য জানার উপায় থাকে না, তখনই গুজব ছড়ায়। সব দেশের বেলাতেই কথাটি সত্য। রাষ্ট্র সত্য না বললে বা অন্যদের সত্য বলতে না দিলে জনগণ বিকল্প সত্য বিশ্বাস আনতে শুরু করে। চীনে তথ্য ব্যবস্থাপনা সম্পূর্ণ সরকারি নিয়ন্ত্রণে থাকায় চীনা জনগণ নিজেরাই সরকারি তথ্য বিশ্বাস করে না। চীনা সরকার সেই ভুলের মাশুল গুনছে এখন। আন্তর্জাতিকভাবে চীনের ‘মিথ্যাবাদী রাখাল’ পরিচিতি তৈরি হয়ে যাওয়ার কারণে বিশ্বময় করোনাভাইরাস-ভীতি গণ–আতঙ্কের রূপ নিয়েছে। কানাডা থেকে করোনাভাইরাস এসেছে, তথ্যটি গণচীনের ভেতরেই সংবাদের কড়াকড়ির মধ্যেও মাত্র দুই দিনে সব দেশের ভেতর ছড়িয়ে পড়েছিল। উইচ্যাটে তথ্যটি শেয়ার হয়েছিল ৪৮ হাজার বারের মতো। সাম্প্রতিক কালে কানাডার সঙ্গে চীনের কূটনৈতিক ও বাণিজ্যিক সম্পর্ক অত্যন্ত শীতল। কারণ, কানাডা বিখ্যাত হুয়াওয়ে কোম্পানির মার্কেটিং ডিরেক্টরকে পাকড়াও করতে যুক্তরাষ্ট্রকে তথ্য দিয়ে সহায়তা করেছিল। এই সম্পর্ক-শীতলতাকে মাথায় রেখে অনেক কানাডীয় নাগরিকও গুজবটি গুজব না–ও হতে পারে মনে করেন। ভাইরাসটির ভ্যাক্সিন আবিষ্কারের জন্য এই সময়ে যখন সারা বিশ্বের সব কটি দেশের সমন্বিত চেষ্টা প্রয়োজন, তখন গুজবের ডালপালা এসব অর্থনৈতিক ও কূটনৈতিক বিদ্বেষকে না কমিয়ে বরং আরও উসকে দিচ্ছে প্রতিদিনই।

ইতিহাস ঘাঁটলে দেখা যায় যে প্রতিটি মহামারিতেই গুজব বাতাসের আগে ছড়ায় এবং গুজবগুলো সমস্যাকে নিয়ন্ত্রণের বাইরে ঠেলে দেয়। মাত্র সাত-আট দশক আগে মাঝেমধ্যেই বাংলাদেশে ওলাওঠা রোগটি ছড়াত। একটি গুজব কীভাবে যেন প্রতিষ্ঠাই পেয়ে গেল যে গ্রামসমাজে ওলাবিবি নামক এক ডাইনি নামলেই ওলাওঠা মহামারির রূপ নেয়। খোঁড়া কুকুরদের ওপর ভর করে ওলাবিবি গ্রামে ঘুরে বেড়ায়। ফলে ওলাওঠা দেখা গেলেই খোঁড়া হোক বা না হোক, নির্বিচারে কুকুরনিধন শুরু হয়ে যেত। কুকুর নিধনযজ্ঞ শেষে শুরু হতো ডায়েরিয়া–কলেরার মহামারি। গ্রামে স্যানিটেশনের ব্যবস্থা ছিল না। বিষ্ঠাভোজী কুকুরের অভাবে যত্রতত্র করা কাঁচা পয়ঃকর্ম পরিষ্কার হতো না। সেগুলোতে মাছি বসত। পানিবাহিত হতো। মাছি বসত খাবারে। ফলাফল, কলেরা-ডায়েরিরার মহামারি। এখন একই রকম গুজবে বাদুড় ও অন্যান্য পাখিনিধন শুরু হয়েছে। ফলাফল ভালো হওয়ার কথা নয়। সম্প্রতি খবর বেরিয়েছে যে বাদুড় মারার সঙ্গে সঙ্গেই চীনে পঙ্গপালের উৎপাত বাড়ছে। বাদুড়ের অভাবে পঙ্গপাল বাড়লে ব্যাপক ফসলহানি ঘটবে। খাদ্যনিরাপত্তা ব্যাহত হবে। মশকজাতীয় পোকামাকড় বাড়বে। ফলে ডেঙ্গু বাড়বে। ম্যালেরিরা ফিরে আসবে। গুজব যে কী ভয়াবহ মহামারির জন্ম দিতে পারে, সেটি দেখতে পাওয়া যায় মধ্যযুগে ইউরোপ ও ইউরোপের উপনিবেশগুলোয় কয়েক কোটি মানুষের ‘ব্ল্যাক ডেথ’ বা প্লেগে মৃত্যুর মধ্য দিয়ে।

ত্রয়োদশ শতকের মাঝামাঝি একটি সময়ে ইউরোপে কালো বিড়ালনিধন শুরু হয়। কালো বিড়ালে ভর করে শয়তান বা অপ-আত্মা সমাজে নানা অনিষ্ট তৈরি করে—এই ছিল কালো বিড়ালের বিরুদ্ধে অভিযোগ। গুজবটির পেছনের দীর্ঘ সমাজ-নৃবৈজ্ঞানিক আলোচনা ও বিতর্ক এড়িয়ে ফলাফলটি বলা যাক। জনমনস্তত্ত্ব এমনই যে ভয় পেলে বাছবিচার ভুলে যায়। কালো বিড়াল, সাদা বিড়াল না দেখে বিড়াল দেখামাত্রই নিধনযজ্ঞ শুরু হলো। বিড়াল মরে সাফ হয়ে যাওয়ায় ইঁদুরের দখলে চলে গেল গোটা ইউরোপ। কোটি কোটি ইঁদুর। ফসল কাটে, খাবারে মুখ দেয়, মানুষও কাটে। হ্যামিলিনের বাঁশিওয়ালার গল্প সম্ভবত সেই সময়ের ছায়াতেই জন্ম নিয়েছিল। ইঁদুরের গায়ে উকুনের মতো একটি পরজীবী অণুজীবই ছিল প্লেগের জীবাণু। ফলে লাখে লাখে মানুষ মরতে শুরু করল ইউরোপে। একই সময়ে উপনিবেশ তৈরির জন্য নতুন নতুন জায়গার অন্বেষণে সমুদ্রপথে বেরিয়ে পড়েছিল ইউরোপীয়রা। খাবার-পানীয়র বাক্সপেঁটরায় চড়ে জাহাজগুলোতে উঠে পড়েছিল অসংখ্য ইঁদুর। ফলে প্লেগের দাপটে জাহাজে মরেছিল জাহাজিদের বড় অংশ। নতুন ভূমি দখল করার পর নব্য উপনিবেশগুলোর জমিনেও নেমে পড়েছিল ইঁদুরের দঙ্গল। ফলে উপনিবেশগুলোতেও প্লেগ মহামারি আকারে ছড়িয়ে পড়েছিল। বিড়াল–সংক্রান্ত গুজবটি জনমনস্তত্ত্বে যে গণ–আতঙ্ক সৃষ্টি করেছিল, বর্তমান অবস্থাটি সে রকম না হলেও সতর্ক হওয়ার বিশেষ প্রয়োজন রয়েছে। নয়তো করোনাভাইরাস প্রতিরোধের চেষ্টাকে ছাড়িয়ে যেতে পারে গুজবনির্ভর করোনাভীতি এবং বিপজ্জনক প্রতিক্রিয়া।

- ড. হেলাল মহিউদ্দীন: অধ্যাপক, রাজনীতিবিজ্ঞান ও সমাজবিজ্ঞান; এবং গবেষক, সেন্টার ফর পিস স্টাডিজ, নর্থ সাউথ বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়।


ইন্টারনেটের এ সময়ে পড়ার অভ্যাস যদিও সোশাল মিডিয়া আমাদের কিছুটা দিয়েছে, কেড়ে নিয়েছে ঢেড়। আমরা প্রতিনিয়ত নিউজফিড স্ক্রল করছি, পড়ছি, আবার ভুলে যাচ্ছি। আচ্ছা, বই পড়ার অভ্যাসটা আমাদের কী আগের মতোই আছে? উত্তর তো আমরা জানিই- না।

বই আমাদের অন্যতম ভালো বন্ধু। বই আমাদের জ্ঞানের উৎস। বই হাসায়, কাঁদায়। বই বিচরণ করায়। বই জানায়। বই জীবন শেখায়। বৈচিত্র্যের মধ্যে ভ্রমণ করায়। এর চেয়েও বড় কথা- বই আমাদের অনেক সেরা সেরা মনের ভাবনাকে জানিয়ে দেয়। আমরা বড় হই।

আজকাল আমরা যে হারে অডিও ভিজ্যুয়াল ইনপুট নিচ্ছি তার কতোটুকুই ধারণ করতে পারছি? বেশিরভাগই ভুলে যাচ্ছি। কেননা, বই যেভাবে আমাদের মনন-মগজে তথ্য মর্মে প্রবেশ করায়, ভিডিও আজ সেভাবে পারছে না। কেননা, আমাদের ইন্টারনেট অভ্যাস তার জন্য দায়ী। অতি মাত্রায় ভিডিও আমাদের ভাবনার সময় দিচ্ছে না। আমরা যন্ত্র হয়ে যাচ্ছি।

অনেক কথা হলো। কিন্তু কীভাবে এই বই পড়ার অভ্যেস আবার আয়ত্ত্বে আনা যায়? নিচের নোকতাগুলো সাহায্য করতে পারে:

১। সময় নির্দিষ্ট করা
দিনের একটি নির্দিষ্ট সময় ঠিক করা যেতে পারে কখন বই পড়লে সবচেয়ে ভালো লাগে, কোন সময়টায় ক্লান্তি থাকে না। কোন সময় মন নির্ভার থাকে। সাধারণত ভোর কিংবা বিকেল এ জন্যে খুব ভালো সময়। আরেকটা বিষয় হলো কখন পড়বো। তার জন্য একটা রুটিন করা যেতে পারে।

২। বই সাথে রাখা
সব সময় যদি কোনো না কোনো বই সাথে থাকে তবে পড়ার জন্য মন চাবে কোনো না কোনো সময়। কিন্তু শর্ত থাকে যে ফোন ও ইন্টারনেটকে দূরে রাখতে হবে। নইলে আসক্তি আপনাকে ভুলিয়েই দিবে বইয়ের কথা।

৩। বইয়ের লিস্ট
আপনি এ বছর বা এ মাসে কী কী বই পড়বেন তার লিস্ট তৈরি করতে পারেন। লিস্ট অনুযায়ী একটা একটা করে পড়ে ফেলতে পারেন। এটা সাহায্য করবে।

৪। শান্ত পরিবেশ
পড়ার জন্য যতো শান্ত পরিবেশ ততোই তা আনন্দের। আপনার পড়ার স্থানটির আশেপাশে যাতে কোনো মিউজিক বা টিভি না বাজে তা দেখুন। আর বাড়ির অন্য সদস্যরা যাতে হৈহুল্লোড় না করে সেটাও নিশ্চিত করুন। এবার মন দিয়ে আরামদায়ক পরিবেশে পড়তে বসুন।

৫। ইন্টারনেট বা টিভি কমানো
অতিরিক্ত ইন্টারনেট বা টিভি দেখা আসক্তি সৃষ্টি করে। সুতরাং এগুলো যতো কমানো যায়, আপনার পড়ার আগ্রহ বৃদ্ধিতে তা ততোই সহায়ক।

৬। লিখে রাখুন
আপনি যা পড়ছেন তার সারসংক্ষেপ নোটপ্যাডে কিংবা ব্লগে লিখে রাখতে পারেন। এটা খুবই কাজের। বিশেষ করে অনেক দিন পর খুব সহজেই আবার মনে করা যায়।

৭। লাইব্রেরি ডে
সপ্তাহে একদিনকে উৎসর্গ করতে পারেন লাইব্রেরি ডে নামে। শহরের কোনো লাইব্রেরির সদস্য হতে পারেন। অথবা পাবলিক লাইব্রেরিতে ফ্রি বই পড়তে পারেন।

৮। পরিবারে বই পড়ুন

পরিবারের সবাই মিলে বই পড়ুন। তাহলে একটা পড়ার পরিবেশ পরিবারে তৈরি হয়ে যাবে অনায়াসেই। আপনার সন্তানকে বই পড়ে শোনান। শোনান আপনার বাবা-মাকে।

৯। ই-বুক রিডার
অনলাইনে সহজেই এবং অনেক ফ্রি বই নামাতে পারেন অনায়াসেই। আর বাংলাদেশের জ্যামকে ভুলেও কাজে লাগাতে পারেন সময় যদি সাথে থাকে কোনো ই-বুক রিডার। আমাজনের বুক রিডার আপনার সঙ্গী হতে পারে। অথবা আপনার আইফোন বা অ্যান্ড্রয়েডকেও বানিয়ে নিতে পারেন ই-বুক রিডার। এক্ষেত্রে ইরিডার প্রেস্টিজিও নামের অ্যাপটা অনেক ভালো।

১০। সোশাল মিডিয়া অ্যাপগুলো আনইন্সটল করা
সোশাল মিডিয়া আজকাল আমাদের অনেকটা সময়ই নষ্ট করে ফেলছে। আপনি এগুলো নিয়ন্ত্রণ করতে পারেন যদি এগুলো আনইন্সটল করে ব্রাউজারে (ক্রোম, ফায়ারফক্স ইত্যাদি) এগুলো ব্যবহার করেন। এছাড়াও সপ্তাহে সময় নির্দিষ্ট নির্দিষ্ট করে নিতে পারেন ঠিক কখন কখন সোশাল মিডিয়া ব্যবহার করবেন। একদম না ব্যবহার করলে তো সোনায় সোহাগা।

উপর্যুক্ত পরামর্শ আপনাকে আবারও বইয়ের জগতে আরামে বিচরণ করাতে সাহায্য করবে নিঃসন্দেহে। তবে সেক্ষেত্রে আপনাকে দৃঢ় হতে হবে। বিশেষ করে ইন্টারনেট আসক্তি কমিয়ে ফেলা যায় এমন দিকে নজর দিতে হবে।

ELT / Grammar, its history & development
« on: August 01, 2019, 11:54:00 AM »

In linguistics, grammar is the set of structural rules that governs the composition of clauses, phrases and words in any given natural language. The term refers also to the study of such rules, and this field includes morphology, syntax, and phonology, often complemented by phonetics, semantics, and pragmatics. Linguists do not normally use the term to refer to orthographical rules, although usage books and style guides that call themselves grammars may also refer to spelling and punctuation.

The term grammar is often used by non-linguists with a very broad meaning. As Jeremy Butterfield puts it: "Grammar is often a generic way of referring to any aspect of English that people object to." However, linguists use it in a much more specific sense. Speakers of a language have in their heads a set of rules for using that language. This is a grammar, and the vast majority of the information in it is acquired—at least in the case of one's native language—not by conscious study or instruction, but by observing other speakers; much of this work is done during infancy. Learning a language later in life usually involves a greater degree of explicit instruction.

The term "grammar" can also be used to describe the rules that govern the linguistic behaviour of a group of speakers. The term "English grammar", therefore, may have several meanings. It may refer to the whole of English grammar—that is, to the grammars of all the speakers of the language—in which case, the term encompasses a great deal of variation.

Alternatively, it may refer only to what is common to the grammars of all, or of the vast majority of English speakers (such as subject–verb–object word order in simple declarative sentences). Or it may refer to the rules of a particular, relatively well-defined variety of English (such as Standard English).

"An English grammar" is a specific description, study or analysis of such rules. A reference book describing the grammar of a language is called a "reference grammar" or simply "a grammar." A fully explicit grammar that exhaustively describes the grammatical constructions of a language is called a descriptive grammar. This kind of linguistic description contrasts with linguistic prescription, an attempt to discourage or suppress some grammatical constructions, while promoting others. For example, preposition stranding occurs widely in Germanic languages and has a long history in English. John Dryden, however, objected to it (without explanation), leading other English speakers to avoid the construction and discourage its use.

The word grammar derives from Greek γραμματικ τέχνη (grammatikē ὴ technē), which means "art of letters", from γράμμα (gramma), "letter", itself from γράφειν (graphein), "to draw, to write".

The first systematic grammars originated in Iron Age India, with Yaska (6th century BC), Pāṇini (4th century BC) and his commentators Pingala (c. 200 BC), Katyayana, and Patanjali (2nd century BC). In the West, grammar emerged as a discipline in Hellenism from the 3rd century BC forward with authors like Rhyanus and Aristarchus of Samothrace, the oldest extant work being the Art of Grammar (Τέχνη Γραμματική), attributed to Dionysius Thrax (c. 100 BC). Latin grammar developed by following Greek models from the 1st century BC, due to the work of authors such as Orbilius Pupillus, Remmius Palaemon, Marcus Valerius Probus, Verrius Flaccus, and Aemilius Asper.

Tolkāppiyam is the earliest Tamil grammar; it has been dated variously between 1st CE and 10th CE. A grammar of Irish originated in the 7th century with the Auraicept na nÉces. Arabic grammar emerged with Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali from the 7th century who in-turn was taught the discipline by Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth historical caliph of Islam.

The first treatises on Hebrew grammar appeared in the High Middle Ages, in the context of Mishnah (exegesis of the Hebrew Bible). The Karaite tradition originated in Abbasid Baghdad. The Diqduq (10th century) is one of the earliest grammatical commentaries on the Hebrew Bible.[8] Ibn Barun in the 12th century compares the Hebrew language with Arabic in the Islamic grammatical tradition.[9]

Belonging to the trivium of the seven liberal arts, grammar was taught as a core discipline throughout the Middle Ages, following the influence of authors from Late Antiquity, such as Priscian. Treatment of vernaculars began gradually during the High Middle Ages, with isolated works such as the First Grammatical Treatise, but became influential only in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. In 1486, Antonio de Nebrija published Las introduciones Latinas contrapuesto el romance al Latin, and the first Spanish grammar, Gramática de la lengua castellana, in 1492. During the 16th-century Italian Renaissance, the Questione della lingua was the discussion on the status and ideal form of the Italian language, initiated by Dante's de vulgari eloquentia (Pietro Bembo, Prose della volgar lingua Venice 1525). The first grammar of Slovene language was written in 1584 by Adam Bohorič.

Grammars of non-European languages began to be compiled for the purposes of evangelization and Bible translation from the 16th century onward, such as Grammatica o Arte de la Lengua General de los Indios de los Reynos del Perú (1560), and a Quechua grammar by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás.

In 1643 there appeared Ivan Uzhevych's Grammatica sclavonica and, in 1762, the Short Introduction to English Grammar of Robert Lowth was also published. The Grammatisch- Kritisches Wörterbuch der hochdeutschen Mundart, a High German grammar in five volumes by Johann Christoph Adelung, appeared as early as 1774. From the latter part of the 18th century, grammar came to be understood as a subfield of the emerging discipline of modern linguistics. The Serbian grammar by Vuk Stefanović Karadžić arrived in 1814, while the Deutsche Grammatik of the Brothers Grimm was first published in 1818. The Comparative Grammar of Franz Bopp, the starting point of modern comparative linguistics, came out in 1833.

Development of grammars
Grammars evolve through usage and also due to separations of the human population. With the advent of written representations, formal rules about language usage tend to appear also. Formal grammars are codifications of usage that are developed by repeated documentation over time, and by observation as well. As the rules become established and developed, the prescriptive concept of grammatical correctness can arise. This often creates a discrepancy between contemporary usage and that which has been accepted, over time, as being correct. Linguists tend to view prescriptive grammars as having little justification beyond their authors' aesthetic tastes, although style guides may give useful advice about standard language employment, based on descriptions of usage in contemporary writings of the same language. Linguistic prescriptions also form part of the explanation for variation in speech, particularly variation in the speech of an individual speaker (an explanation, for example, for why some people say "I didn't do nothing", some say "I didn't do anything", and some say one or the other depending on social context).

The formal study of grammar is an important part of education for children from a young age through advanced learning, though the rules taught in schools are not a "grammar" in the sense most linguists use the term, particularly as they are often prescriptive rather than descriptive.

Constructed languages (also called planned languages or conlangs) are more common in the modern day. Many have been designed to aid human communication (for example, naturalistic Interlingua, schematic Esperanto, and the highly logic-compatible artificial language Lojban). Each of these languages has its own grammar. Syntax refers to linguistic structure above the word level (e.g. how sentences are formed)—though without taking into account intonation, which is the domain of phonology. Morphology, by contrast, refers to structure at and below the word level (e.g. how compound words are formed), but above the level of individual sounds, which, like intonation, are in the domain of phonology.

No clear line can be drawn, however, between syntax and morphology. Analytic languages use syntax to convey information that is encoded via inflection in synthetic languages. In other words, word order is not significant and morphology is highly significant in a purely synthetic language, whereas morphology is not significant and syntax is highly significant in an analytic language. Chinese and Afrikaans, for example, are highly analytic, and meaning is therefore very context-dependent. (Both do have some inflections, and have had more in the past; thus, they are becoming even less synthetic and more "purely" analytic over time.) Latin, which is highly synthetic, uses affixes and inflections to convey the same information that Chinese does with syntax. Because Latin words are quite (though not completely) self-contained, an intelligible Latin sentence can be made from elements that are placed in a largely arbitrary order. Latin has a complex affixation and simple syntax, while Chinese has the opposite.

Grammar frameworks
Various "grammar frameworks" have been developed in theoretical linguistics since the mid-20th century, in particular under the influence of the idea of a "universal grammar" in the United States. Of these, the main divisions are:
Transformational grammar (TG).Systemic functional grammar (SFG) Principles and Parameters Theory (P&P).Lexical-functional Grammar (LFG) Generalized Phrase Structure Grammar (GPSG).Head-Driven Phrase Structure Grammar (HPSG).Dependency grammars (DG).Role and reference grammar (RRG)

Prescriptive grammar is taught in primary school (elementary school). The term "grammar school" historically refers to a school teaching Latin grammar to future Roman citizens, orators, and, later, Catholic priests. In its earliest form, "grammar school" referred to a school that taught students to read, scan, interpret, and declaim Greek and Latin poets (including Homer, Virgil, Euripides, Ennius, and others). These should not be confused with the related, albeit distinct, modern British grammar schools.

A standard language is a particular dialect of a language that is promoted above other dialects in writing, education, and broadly speaking in the public sphere; it contrasts with vernacular dialects, which may be the objects of study in descriptive grammar but which are rarely taught prescriptively. The standardized "first language" taught in primary education may be subject to political controversy, since it establishes a standard defining nationality or ethnicity.

Recently, efforts have begun to update grammar instruction in primary and secondary education. The primary focus has been to prevent the use of outdated prescriptive rules in favor of more accurate descriptive ones and to change perceptions about relative "correctness" of standard forms in comparison to non standard dialects.

The pre-eminence of Parisian French has reigned largely unchallenged throughout the history of modern French literature. Standard Italian is not based on the speech of the capital, Rome, but on the speech of Florence because of the influence Florentines had on early Italian literature. Similarly, standard Spanish is not based on the speech of Madrid, but on the one of educated speakers from more northerly areas like Castile and León. In Argentina and Uruguay the Spanish standard is based on the local dialects of Buenos Aires and Montevideo (Rioplatense Spanish). Portuguese has for now two official written standards, respectively Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese, but in a short term it will have a unified orthography.

The Serbian language is divided in a similar way; Serbia and the Republika Srpska use their own separate standards. The existence of a third standard is a matter of controversy, some consider Montenegrin as a separate language, and some think it's merely another variety of Serbian.

Norwegian has two standards, Bokmål and Nynorsk, the choice between which is subject to controversy: Each Norwegian municipality can declare one of the two its official language, or it can remain "language neutral". Nynorsk is endorsed by a minority of 27 percent of the municipalities. The main language used in primary schools normally follows the official language of its municipality, and is decided by referendum within the local school district. Standard German emerged out of the standardized chancellery use of High German in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until about 1800, it was almost entirely a written language, but now it is so widely spoken that most of the former German dialects are nearly extinct.

Standard Chinese has official status as the standard spoken form of the Chinese language in the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC) and the Republic of Singapore. Pronunciation of Standard Chinese is based on the Beijing dialect of
Mandarin Chinese, while grammar and syntax are based on modern vernacular written Chinese. Modern Standard Arabic is directly based on Classical Arabic, the language of the Qur'an. The Hindustani language has two standards, Hindi and Urdu. In the United States, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar designated March 4 as National Grammar Day in 2008.
[Adapted from "Introduction to Syntax" by Prof. Dr. Slavica Perovic]

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