“Do you know the secret to feeling alive?” On fun in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

November 2022 Vol 4 Issue 11


Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Communication

Let me teach you to tell your story!


Welcome Mid-November 2022!

What a difference a day makes! November fourth was a beautifully crisp autumn day, followed by our first snowstorm of the season–on November fifth and sixth, which has stayed! Since transitions in seasons in Saskatchewan tend to be brief (or non-existent), I’ve been especially grateful for the frequent updates on weather conditions from Environment Canada!

Unseasonable cold caused many of us to break out our long-johns and parkas in the first week of this month, as I started to prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter.”

Winter often feels like the cruellest season of the year in Saskatchewan, since it brings reduced daylight hours and at times brutal cold, wind and snowstorms. But it’s also a time when many professionals like you, good reader, dig deep and excel in your work, since the distractions of the outside world are minimized (unless you’re a winter enthusiast!).

If you can (like a neighbour of mine) already foresee “winter blues/blahs” coming, then I encourage you to keep reading–or, rather, to widen the topics of the books you’re already reading. My writerly colleagues (and friends) Julie Barnes and Ashleigh Mattern are regularly posting the books they’re devouring on Goodreads (aka “Facebook for writers”).

And what about music? Have you tuned into opera from “the Met” (Metropolitan Opera House) in New York, which is often broadcast at Cineplex theatres across the country? My ESL student in France has introduced me to the recordings of German tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, whose subtle voice would make anyone forget the breath of hoary-bearded, “Old Man Winter.”

Whether through books, music or other activities, I find the perfect antidote to prairie winters is to have more FUN!

FUN, you say? An absurd suggestion?

In Article One, this month, I visit science journalist Christine Price’s recent TEDTalk on the topic of FUN. While most of nature sleeps during winter, how can we feel fully alive? Price suggests that “fun” is the best answer.

Most of us enjoy some fun during winter, whether from hitting the ski trails or curling up by a crackling fire to read Alexander McCall-Smith or Louise Penney.  But how do we go about having more fun, on a regular basis? Article One shares some hints on that.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit a potentially troubling phrase that itself sounds fun-ny–“tuna fish“–in the words of our resident etymologist (and a man of humour), Bryan Garner.

Perhaps we can view the snowy and cold portion of winter as being like the influence of a schoolyard bully? We can work around his (or her) blasts of nasty wind and frigid air, by immersing ourselves in our own creative activities and exercise . . . .

I wish more FUN for you this winter, good reader, that even the coldest of winds and the heaviest snowfalls cannot dispel.




Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: “Do you know the secret to feeling alive?”  On FUN and how to get it 

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:  The case of “tuna fish” from American etymologist, Bryan Garner




Article One: “Do you know the secret to feeling alive?” Christine Price’s TEDTalk on FUN and how to get it

In her recent TEDTalk, science journalist Catherine Price observed something that should make us all pause: “It’s harder than we think it should be to actually feel alive.”

Consider that statement: We’re so busy constantly scrolling (and often “doing” things) that we have forgotten how to live! We forget that life is more than days filled with frenetic activity.

Price says: “We keep ourselves busy to the point of exhaustion. But we’re also languishing. We feel a little bit dead inside.” She thinks we’re living something close to despair, staying busy because we know that we are not truly living, but we simply don’t know what else to do about it.

Her answer? “Have more FUN!”

But what does that mean?

Our confusion over what actually constitutes “fun” arises from the “sloppy” way that we use the term: we often use it to describe what we do in our leisure time (e.g. “We had a fun weekend with my in-laws at the family cabin”), when the activity is often not enjoyable and may even be “a waste of time.”

Price gives as an example our scrolling through social media, which we assume is “fun,” but which she says can “make us feel bad about . . . everything.”

Even our best English language dictionaries have trouble defining the term “fun”: According to them, fun is “amusement or enjoyment, or lighthearted pleasure,” and refers to what children experience “in the play area.”

Fun seems to be, Price observes, “frivolous and optional.”


When she was working on a project, collecting stories about having “fun” from people all over the globe, they would “tell you about some of the most joyful and treasured memories of their lives.” That means that FUN is not simply “lighthearted pleasure, it’s not just for kids and it’s definitely not frivolous.”

Price suggests on the contrary that fun is “the secret [to] feeling alive.”

Clearly the term deserves a new, “more precise” definition!

Fun is a feeling, she asserts, not an activity, although when asked to describe “fun,” most people still list “dancing” or “skiing,” or “pickleball.”

Some “serendipity” (or downright chance) is involved in the word, since activities or events we expect to be fun often disappoint us, while those we don’t expect to enjoy can become “ridiculously fun.” Sound familiar?

Price says that it’s easy to identify someone who is having fun, because they look as if “they’re being illuminated from within.” True fun “produces [a] visceral sense of lightness and joy.” People can radiate fun.

From her interviews with dozens of people from diverse cultures, Price says that “three factors are consistently present” when we experience fun, yielding a much more accurate definition than what the OED or Webster’s tells us.

These three terms are “playfulness,” “connection” and “flow.” Where these experiences overlap (see the venn diagram, courtesy of Price), is the space of “true fun.”

Playfulness,” she says, is not playing games or make-believe but “having a lighthearted attitude, of doing things for the sake of doing them and not caring too much about the outcome. Letting go of perfectionism.” Playfulness means not being defensive and “not taking ourselves too seriously.”

“Connection” refers to “the feeling of having a special, shared experience.” It is possible to be alone when this happens (and so to feel connected to oneself and/or to an activity), but most often, another person is involved—“even for introverts.”

Flow” is a state where we’re so intensively engaged and focused on what we’re doing that “we can even lose track of time.” (e.g. “in the zone” as a musician or athlete).

Price argues that “it’s possible to be in flow and not [to] have fun, like if you’re arguing. But you cannot have fun if you’re not in flow,” she says.

Each of these three factors is enjoyable on its own. “But when we experience all three at once, something magical happens: we have fun.” And that “doesn’t just feel good, it is good for us.”

(i) Price says that fun is so beneficial that it “is not just the result of human thriving, it’s its cause.” For instance, fun is “energizing,” so that when people talk about such moments, “they glow: It’s like a fire has been lit inside of them and the energy and the warmth they give off is contagious.”

Whereas “so much of life drains us . . . fun fills us up.”

(ii) Fun requires us to be “present,” or in-the-moment, but doesn’t require meditation, yoga, etc. Apart from being present, there’s no other way that fun can arise.

(iii) Fun also unites us in a “really polarized world.” When we have fun with others, “we don’t see them as having different ethnicities or religions from ours. We connect with them as human beings.” She adds that such a connection is the first step whereby we can begin to solve the world’s problems.

(iv) “Fun also makes us healthier.” Isolation and loneliness can cause hormonal changes in our brains and bodies that increase the risk of disease. But when we have fun, we become “relaxed and more socially connected,” both of which are health-giving. So, Price argues, “having fun is a health intervention.”

(v) Finally, fun is “joyful.” While we read books or listen to favourite music, the truth is that “when we are in a moment of having fun, we are happy.” Price says this: The “secret of long-term happiness may be simply to have more everyday moments of fun.”

In order to have “more fun,” she says, we should do all we can to increase our everyday moments of playfulness, connection and flow.

Here are some ways:

(i) Reduce distractions in order to increase flow. Distractions disrupt flow. The chief source of distraction in 2022 is our smartphones. (Act accordingly!)

(ii) Increase connection by interacting more with other human beings in real life. This is easier and less scary than we (huddled over our phones) tend to fear.

Interaction starts by making eye contact with someone. “Say ‘Hello,’” Price advises. If that goes well, introduce yourself. From there, ask an interesting question (e.g. “What’s one thing that delighted you today?”)

(iii) Increase playfulness “by finding opportunities to rebel.” This doesn’t mean becoming a total iconoclast, but to show “playful deviance,” to “break the rules of responsible adulthood” and “give yourself permission to get a kick out of your own life.”

(iv) Finally, Price recommends that having fun should be a “priority.” Try to reproduce the circumstances (including other people’s presence) that have created fun for you in the past. Make some time in your schedule to have fun. “Treat fun as if it’s important, because it is,” she enthuses.

Fun brings “more creativity, more productivity, more resilience,” Price says. Fun can make us, as she claims, a better spouse, parent and friend.

Fun, she concludes, for anyone still puzzled by it, is “a distillation of life’s energy. And the more often we experience it, the more we will feel that we are actually alive.”

And now it’s your turn: do you agree with Price’s definition of fun and why it matters? 

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you!



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, storis, riddles and articles on speaking, listening, writing and editing . . .

The case of “tuna fish” with American Etymologist, Bryan Garner

In his recent blog on modern English usage, American Etymologist Bryan Garner observed that the term ” ‘tuna fish’ is redundant (see last month’s issue that differentiates between “redundancy” and “tautology’) because “tuna” is always a fish. The issue surrounding whether to write “tuna” or “tuna fish,” he says, arose around 1914.

Garner cites three more recent examples of this use, including this one in Sports Illustrated (“Letter from the Publisher, July 9, 1984):

“If he had his way, he would rid the world of ‘tuna fish.’ What else can a tuna be? asks Anderson.”

But the term “tuna fish . . . denotes a useful nuance,” Garner observes. ” ‘Tuna fish‘ is the type of processed, canned fish that is commonly served in sandwiches, whereas tuna typically refers to fresher types, such as those found in seafood restaurants and sushi bars.

How’s that for a fishy example for this month’s usage tip?

Do you have an, idea, problem or joke involving any aspect of language or communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue. 



Special thanks this month to the very gifted business coach and facilitator, Deanna Litz, of “Powerful Nature Coaching & Consulting Inc.” In previous years, Deanna has coached me through Praxis’  startSMART, staySMART and digiSMART programs, and through her excellent private coaching program, as I pivoted in 2021 toward teaching English as a second language (ESL/EFL).

Deanna and her husband, Saskatchewan Polytechnic facilitator, Rick Cumbers, own and operate “Lazy Hounds Farm,” located in Marysburg, SK (near Humboldt), where, for over 110 years, Deanna and generations of her family before have been stewarding the land.

Why is this relevant? Because in a recent delivery, Deanna shared with me some of their farm’s tantalizingly flavourful tomatoes, succulent peppers and zesty garlic!

In fact, Deanna and Rick grow free-range, naturally grown fruit, vegetables and herbs, raised by earth- and bee-friendly methods, for humans (and when the wildlife and the couple’s three lazy hounds don’t beat them to the harvest).

You may already have eaten Deanna and Rick’s beautiful fruit, vegetables and spices without even knowing it.

Their food has been enjoyed by folk from all walks of life, from Saskatchewan’s premier to those needing a helping hand. Deanna and Rick supply produce for some of Saskatoon’s finest restaurants, caterers, regular folk, foodies and local food banks. Their produce will spoil you for mass-produced, grocery store crops!

To learn more about “Lazy Hounds Farm,” purchase some of this year’s bountiful pumpkin and garlic crops (still available), or to tap into 2023’s harvest, please email Deanna at this address:


Delivery to/within Saskatoon regularly and readily occurs.


Special thanks also go out this month to Lisa Focardi, Community Development Worker at Saskatoon’s Open Door Society (ODS). An Italian-Canadian immigrant, Lisa capably organizes (amongst many programs) the volunteer-led conversation circles, throughout the calendar year.

At Lisa’ s invitation, I offered an introductory presentation on “brain health” last week, pitched at a beginner level of English, and found newcomers from Europe and Asia all very interested in the topic.

Lisa’s organizational efforts and generosity with others makes sharing conversation skills with newcomers a great pleasure. Thank you, Lisa!

Are you a native speaker or are you otherwise fluent in English? Do you have 60-90 minutes (each week) to share your skills with others? Please drop me a line and I will connect you with Lisa, who is always glad to have more volunteers on board.


There are always new businesses, non-profits and entrepreneurial programs to promote.   

Please write me to share your success stories!

I’m excited for what’s ahead in our entrepreneurial community.

But for now, this is a wrap for mid-November!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs and economic immigrants to secure contracts by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).

Published by www.storytellingcommunications.ca–Storytelling Communications – Copyright © 2022.


Sleepless in Saskatoon? Tips to treat insomnia in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

October 2022 Vol 4 Issue 10

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-October, 2022!

The shortening of our daylight hours has become perceptible this month. And with the return of at least some professionals to commutes and the pressures of sharing public office space, not to mention the next set of deadlines and in-person training, we may not be surprised to find that regularly getting a good night’s sleep can be a challenge!

So in Article One, this month, some tips for treating insomnia from Australian psychologist, Chris James.

In Storytellers’ Corner, I visit the difference that exists between the words “tautology” and “redundancy,” with help from world-class etymologist, Bryan Garner.

Although our golden and crimson leaves have now mostly fallen, autumn is still beautiful in Saskatchewan. This coming week will bring temperatures as warm as 20 degrees Celsius, to remind us that the season is more than simply a precursor to another Canadian winter!

But as winter does return, crisp, cold days will prevail, encouraging us to pack away those shorts and sandals for warm sweaters and boots; and to replace our iced “bevvies” with hearty soups and hot ciders.

Although these late Covid days bring many challenges to us all, good readers, my hope is that we will continue to feel gratitude for the blessings that we sometimes overlook, but which still grace our lives.


Elizabeth Shih


Storytelling Communications




ARTICLE 1: Sleepless in Saskatoon? Tips to treat insomnia

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: The case of “tautology” and “redundancy” with  etymologist, Bryan Garner




Article One: Sleepless in Saskatoon? Tips to treat insomnia (as we brace for another winter) . . .

I’ll get to the point: How are you sleeping, these days?

Have you been struggling with a lack of good sleep, while fighting one of the many viruses (besides Covid-19) that have infected our province in recent weeks?

In last June’s issue of the ezine “Psyche,” an article titled “How to sleep well again,” by Australian psychologist Chris James, updated us on effective methods to relieve insomnia—and with methods beyond the usual “pills and potions.”

We don’t need James to remind us that “insomnia” for entrepreneurs and other professionals can be a “debilitating, distressing [and] deeply frustrating condition that affects all aspects of sufferers’ lives.” We all know that we need sleep to recharge our bodies and minds, to allow our bodies to heal and to process the day’s events. If we get seven to nine hours nightly with little (if any) disruption, we should consider ourselves blessed! Good quality, deep sleep can be elusive.

Sleep-deprivation causes us to drag ourselves through meetings, to manage time intended for thinking and writing amidst a groggy, tired, irritable fog. It can, as James says, “feel like torture.”

To diagnose the term, he says, we must have “persistent difficulty with getting to sleep and/or staying asleep, at least three nights per week.”

But who among us hasn’t ever plodded through the “vicious cycle” that can cruelly develop between the desperation to sleep and the frustration of being unable to do so (tossing and turning), that actually “makes it even harder to get to sleep?”

I remember being told to try Zopiclone a few years ago (pre-Covid), by a medical professional who used it herself to catch sleep when she had sick children at home and a demanding, daytime career. Zopiclone is habit-forming, however, and I never felt comfortable relying on it, which undermined its usefulness to me in the first place.

Medical science tells us that about one-third of the population experiences one or more symptoms of insomnia, of which 10 percent have chronic insomnia. James notes that the condition is one of the most prevalent to beset us in current times.

It may consist not only of failing to get the usual seven to nine hours that modern medicine says we need; insomnia can also involve having “highly fragmented” sleep, and struggles to get and/or stay asleep, throughout the night.

Insomnia, James says, is distinct from sleep problems that arise from factors like work-shift patterns, perhaps the late-night parties (that some attend, post SABEX awards!) or noisy neighbours. And the term also excludes those with other conditions like circadian rhythm disorders or sleep apnea.

We don’t have to have long-term insomnia to know how it detracts from work performance, relationships and the motivation to exercise regularly and eat healthily. Sufferers report that they stop doing extracurricular activities and lack the energy to maintain their health.

Feelings of powerlessness and deep depression can ensue. But few insomniacs seek support for their sleeplessness and the field is partly populated with unregulated practitioners. It doesn’t help that most medical students in North American and Australia receive only two-and-a-half to three hours of sleep education in the whole of their degrees!

Therefore, doctors often overlook or minimize symptoms. Patients’ desperation may lead them to try supplements and remedies (“pills and potions”) that offer to quickly fix the problem, without substantiating how.

But James claims that the last 10 years have brought “highly effective treatments . . . supported by solid scientific evidence.” Doctors and psychologists who specialize in sleep disorders say that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is now considered the “gold standard” treatment for insomnia, because it focuses on sleeplessness as the result of self-perpetuating, negative behaviours and thoughts.

If you have experienced more insomnia lately than earlier in the Covid pandemic, this bears out medicine’s claim that insomnia results from changes in routines and periods of elevated stress, due to illnesses, having babies, changing jobs, losing a loved one or other relationships troubles.

Sufferers often try to treat their problem by taking “more caffeine, going to bed earlier, drinking alcohol, taking sleep supplements, sleeping on the sofa” and so on, which tend only to fuel the problem and persist, even if stressful events or bereavements have long passed.

James says that learning about how sleep works, making changes to habits, learning ways to relax properly and debunking damaging myths can all be helpful. This treatment, he says, is more “training than . . . therapy,” because it requires self-discipline and emotional (and physical) exercise. But he says the treatment does work.

As a sufferer of occasional sleeplessness, but not full-blown insomnia, I’m aware that negative thought patterns can coincide with sleeplessness, as though the “world is too much with us” to leave us a few hours to find some peace.

While James says he’s found success as a psychologist offering CBT methods, as outlined in such classic books as Mind Over Mood, I’d personally recommend some strategies that may be less laborious: listening to hypnotherapy recordings (https://hypnoheather.com/may refer you to some) and to CDs of relaxation music (e.g. “Letting Go of Stress” and “Sleep Soundly” by Emmet Miller and Steven Halpern) have been composed to include sleep-inducing rhythms and sounds.

I also urge you to read about and consider taking Dr. Jud Brewer’s program Unwinding Anxiety,” which assists sufferers in resolving anxiety and depression. (And no, I do not receive any affiliate or other compensation for recommending these providers.)

And now it’s your turn: Do you suffer sleeplessness, or worse, insomnia? What strategies are you using to free yourself from the agony? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:  The case of “tautology” and “redundancy” with etymologist, Bryan Garner

Anyone who has read or studied the Arts or Fine Arts will be familiar with this month’s words: “tautology” and “redundancy.” I can remember first using the word “tautology” when translating medieval poetry in my Middle English course in the early 90s. (Remember translating “The Parliament of Fowls,” anyone?)

American etymologist Bryan Garner recently clarified the difference between these two words.

“Tautology,” he writes, is a term “found mostly in discussions of logic and rhetoric,” and specifically “to a restatement of something already said within the immediate context—in words that are different but do not add anything new.” Tautologies  often underpin circular reasoning, so that the words may sound convincing, but on closer analysis, merely circle back upon themselves.

To demonstrate the term “tautology,” Garner quotes Daniel Mitchell in a 2022 article on the “European Cult of Multinationalism” (“Washington Times,” 7 Nov. 2022, A25):

“Some people in Europe seem to think international bureaucracies and global treaties automatically generate good policy. Indeed, they define good policy as anything that is produced by this process—a rather convenient tautology.”

Garner distinguishes “tautology” from the more general term, “redundancy”: the latter refers to a word or phrase that adds nothing to the overall meaning because its sense has already been expressed (for e.g. “advance planning,” or “first introduction,” etc.).

Redundancies are common in wordy and imprecise writing that can (of course) be found all over online and off-line sources. Prior to retiring, the former Managing Editor of The Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Wilf Popoff, gave workshops to local writers and editors that cited many such laughable redundancies, as  “new baby,” as well as “fatally killed” and “permanently deceased.”

Redundancies can tickle your funny bone, as well as alert your mind. Some of my favourites are “absolutely essential,” “first conceived,” “basic fundamentals,” “harmful injury,” “joint collaboration,” “major breakthrough,” and “very unique.”

Put simply: brevity and precision carry power. And language matters!

And now it’s your turn. Have you wondered about what a “tautology” is, or how it is different from mere redundancy? Please send in your examples for me to use in a future issue!



Thanks and kudos this month to the staff at The Franklin (Revera’s senior assisted living building) in Saskatoon, who cultivate empathy and caring for our seniors without sacrificing professionalism.

I’m particularly grateful to Executive Director, Vin Rana; transportation director, Steve, and duty and building managers, Dea, Mason and Charmaine for taking very good care of seniors who need their care and dedication.

If you have a senior in your family who would benefit from assistive living support, please contact Daniel at The Franklin for a tour, at (306) 664-6366.


Congratulations to Monica Kreuger, Chief Visionary Officer of Global Infobrokers (Home of the Praxis Group of Schools), and her team, including Vice-President Brent Kreuger, Facilitator Deanna Litz and Program Administrator, Elaine Mantyka, for reaching “finalist” standing for “Business of the Year” at Saskatoon’s 2022 SABEX Awards, last Thursday evening, October 13th!

Also included in this thanks are PSE staff, Marie Weinkauf (bookkeeper) and Silvana Cracogna (Coordinator and facilitator of Language Programs).

Of the 400+ attendees of the awards, no business other than Global Infobrokers had provided entrepreneurial training and preparation to more than 1200 Saskatchewanians, including alumni who were present to promote their separate businesses, and even to win awards in other categories.

And no other business hosted a larger number of its team (me included) for the event—more than three lengthy rows of Praxis delegates, who attended to support them.

For more than 30 years, Monica and Brent Kreuger and their team have introduced to and deepened the practice of entrepreneurship in the province of Saskatchewan, shaping and making many, many careers in the process.

Those entrepreneurs remain affiliated with them and become part of a large network, which reflects Praxis’ commitment to excellence.

From among the list of finalists and the winner (Magnus Construction Services), I can think of no company more worthy of the “Business of the Year” than Praxis/Global–and yes, I am partial, as an alumna who also facilitates for them, every quarter. (But no, I am not paid for affiliate marketing!)

Global Infobrokers wins as the Business of Every Year, for those fortunate enough to train through it or work with its team.

So deepest THANKS, Monica, Brent and Team, for all you’ve achieved and continue to do!


While the above companies are not new businesses, they continue achieve excellence across all fields, including community service, which earns them recognition, here.

There are always new businesses and entrepreneurial programs to promote.

Please write me to share your success stories.

But for now, this is a wrap for mid-October!


Finally, my spirits as a teacher and writer are regularly buoyed by local friends Laura Van Loon (Parish Nurse), Monica Kreuger (Chief Visionary Officer of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship), (Lesley-Anne McLeod (Regency novelist), Steve Cavan (Classicist and ESL teacher), Rev. Roberto DeSandoli (minister of word and sacrament), Julie Barnes (professional writer and philanthropist), Erin Watson (librarian, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan), and Dani Van Driel (painter and Director, Action Battery).

When waters get choppy around issues like cutbacks to publicly funded health and senior care in the province, these friends have expressed their support in fortifying. ways and words.  Merci beaucoup, mes amies!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs and economic immigrants to secure better contracts by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca)





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Want to succeed as an ESL teacher? 16 tips to increase motivation and engagement from your ESL students (A webinar presentation by Carl Cameron-Day)

Carl Cameron-Day, a very experienced (and affable) TEFL teacher, based in Northern Ireland, has hosted many webinars on EFL/ESL teaching topics (see Tefl.org). You can find them posted on YouTube and Facebook. Recently Carl discussed how motivating students to learn and to engage with your lessons (and each other) can present a challenge.

How to encourage motivation and engagement may be especially challenging when you teach “young learners” (YL) and when adult learners (AL) have such busy lives that attending class (and preparing homework) can be tough

Carl suggested numerous strategies for EFL/ESL teachers and tutors. Here are a sample:

  1. Adopt a friendly teaching personality, even on your worst days (e.g. when you’re sleep-deprived, sick, etc.): Only the most ungracious and tactless student can resist the power of a friendly teacher/facilitator. Aim to be magnanimous!

2. All education involves at least some degree of suffering on the part of the student. So, when students are struggling, reassure them that if they keep trying, what you’re teaching will soon make sense.

3. Learn your students’ names as quickly as possible. You may need to use signs initially or nametags but make the effort to match faces to names.

4. Treat students individually and not according to stereotypes you may have heard about their cultures. Ask why they’re taking your course, and what music, food, pop culture, etc. they like.

5. Show students that they’re improving, by doing group vocabulary or grammar
“progress tests,” about every four weeks. You can also encourage students to make portfolios out of their marked exercises and projects; the portfolios provide a record of their efforts, in which they can take pride.

6. Explain how to use English in the real world—for instance, what words would you use if you went on holiday to New York City or to London, UK?

7. Use topics for conversation practice that are appropriate to the age of your students: For instance, what have the Kardashians done lately?

8. Think about different learning styles among students and use coloured images, pictures, YouTube videos and a wide variety of teaching activities (e.g., games, music, TedTalks, etc.)

9.Think about the bad teachers you had in life and do the opposite: smile, laugh, use humour, including having a laugh at yourself. Avoid being too serious.

10. Learn how to praise students without sounding like a sycophant.

11. Move students around in the room (or breakout rooms, on Zoom), so that every 10 minutes or so they must often work with someone new.

12. When giving “bad news,” remember to use a “bad news sandwich.” Preface and conclude bad news with good news, so the criticism doesn’t sound too harsh.

13. Male students often like to compete, so you can assign them words to define and use in sentences—“the first one with correct answers gets to choose the music for the class break.” By competing against their peers, some students are motivated to learn better. 

14. If your students know the grammar rules but are not applying them when they speak, then choose an activity that requires accuracy. For instance, you can search for online grammar and vocabulary games, where only one answer can be correct.

15. Be confident as a teacher, even if you do not feel that way. Remember the education and training that you have. Send yourself positive thoughts about how prepared you are to teach new learners of English.

16. You can create a Facebook group for each class and encourage its students to meet and practice their English with each other, in that group.

And now it’s your turn:

To facilitators/teachers: What ESL teaching tips or strategies do you use in a classroom?  

To students: What activities do you enjoy most in class?

Why bother studying languages? Because language learning lasts a lifetime. . . in this month’s issue of ‘Tell Your Story Newsletter’

September 2022 Vol 4 Issue 9

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Communication
Let me teach you to tell your story!

ARTICLE 1: Why bother studying languages? Because language learning lasts a lifetime
On “accent hallucination” and “accent bias,” from “Grammar Girl,” Mignon Fogarty

Welcome Mid-September 2021!

The prairie heatwave of August and early September has finally abated (and still pales next to the 40+ degrees my students in Europe have reported).
As we conclude the second full week of September, I can hear renewed road construction nearby,suspended in the late summer, but now intensified (perhaps because winter looms?).

Have you, like many Canadians, felt saddened by the sudden (but not unexpected) passing of Queen Elizabeth II? Her dignity, grace and unsurpassed 70 years of service, as the monarch of Great Britain
and Commonwealth nations, cannot be dismissed, even by those not interested in royal history. Most of us were not alive (or cannot remember) a time before she acceded the throne.

My sense of sadness at her passing has been mitigated by the queen’s sense of humour, while the world observed her Jubilee year. Have you seen (maybe more than once?) her “tea party” with Paddington Bear, at Buckingham Palace? (This clip was recommended to me last spring by friends in
the UK): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UfiCa244XE
May Queen Elizabeth II rest-in-peace and inspire us to show the kind of dedication to our lives’ work that she did, to hers.
In Article One of this month’s issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” as a teacher of (and writer in) the English language, I discuss a surprising truth of the longevity that language learning has, in our minds.
Many arguments are regularly made for the importance of studying sciences and mathematics (STEM fields), but seldom has anyone discussed the time defying power of learning new languages.

And in “Storytellers’ Corner,” I discuss the worrisome development of “accent hallucination” and bias, as described by American “GrammarGirl,” Mignon Fogarty. Equally important are steps we can take to stop them.

Despite the exhaustion many of us find during these world-weary, pandemic days, I wish for you that this autumn will allow you both to plan and accomplish your professional endeavours; and that you will take heart in some of the joys of life that have arisen from our recent summer season.

And may each of us find gratitude for the blessings that we sometimes fail to notice, but which continue to grace our lives.

Storytelling Communications

Article One: Why bother studying languages? Because language learning lasts a lifetime
In a recent article in “The Conversation” enewsletter, author Monika Schmid discussed the lasting nature of language studies, as shown in recent research conducted in the United Kingdom.

This year, students in the UK took 25,000 A-levels and 315,000 GCSEs (“General Certificate of Secondary Education”) in a modern foreign language. (GCSEs are needed for colleges and employers in the UK. Passing five GCSE exams at the grades of C or higher is considered roughly to equal a North American, “high school” diploma).

These statistics indicate that the extent to which languages are studied as subject matter for GCSEs has fallen by more than 40% (and A-levels by about 25%), over the past 20 years.

Schmid notes that between 2014 and 2019, there was a 19% reduction in students taking GCSEs in modern languages. Why does this matter?

This development concerns educators because, contrary to some popular belief, language learning is a very useful pursuit. Studies have shown that being able to read and write in a language other than
English allows students to perform higher on standardized examinations and also to earn more at work, especially in Europe, the US and Canada.

Of particular interest to Schmid and her readers is her recent research that shows that “language knowledge will last you a lifetime.” The capability you develop in a foreign language lasts longer than many of us might think and is “astonishingly stable over long periods of time.”

The first sign of such results was reported, nearly 40 years ago by American psychologist Harry P. Bahrick, who found that 600 Americans retained high school Spanish studies up to 50 years after their original classes: while he found “a small amount of loss between the third and sixth year after
learning had ceased, knowledge appeared stable for decades afterwards.”

For instance, 25 years after they stopped studying other languages, learners were found to have preserved about 70% of their vocabulary, despite not having used the language in the intervening time.

By contrast, unless learners became math students in college or university, within three or four years, their memory of high school mathematics, calculus and geometry-trigonometry, were all virtually forgotten.

In the UK, nearly 500 test participants who had studied French GCSEs or A-level courses, up to 50 years previously, but who had not used or studied the language since, performed “at the same level as those who only took the exam a few months ago, and as those who did, on occasion, use French”

This surprises many (including me), because of the common belief that one must “use it or lose it” when it comes to our education. But Schmid says that the reason such memory is possible is due to the “way we acquire, remember and use language.”

More specifically, while the vocabulary of a new language is learned by memorization, similar to the facts and rules of algebra and science, which are vulnerable to forgetting, grammar functions are learned in a way that Schmid says is like “riding a bicycle.”

Studying grammar involves using the part of our brain that is good at remembering sequences and patterns through frequent repetition, so that linguistic grammar becomes “more like a reflex,” and a kind of knowledge that “resists forgetting” (Schmid).

For example, I remember first learning the “causative faire” and the conditional mood in grade nine French. Today, I still remember how it works, although more than 30 years have lapsed since that instruction.
Furthermore, the brain does not compartmentalize “English” grammar and usage apart from “French” or any other language. Instead, the brain can develop a very complex, responsive net that we draw on, when we use a word or phrase.

When we draw on that linguistic net in our brains, researchers have found that one area that lights up with energy then transmits to other areas that are connected to it. (For e.g., words that sound similar, words that mean similar things, and are often used together, are all energized.)

Studying a foreign language causes a learner to build a net that partly overlaps the one we already built in our native language. Then, every time you use the word “apple” in English, the term “pomme” in French “receive[s] a small amount of stimulation every time you use the English version.” That stimulation “prevents the [second] language from eroding entirely” (Schmid).

While this does not mean we will start conversing in a second, third or other foreign language, years after our high school/GCSE education ended, it does make it possible for us to return to the language without having to “painstakingly re-learn the grammar [we] were taught” in the past” (Schmid).

Schmid adds a particularly wonderful insight about the value of studying foreign languages: when we experience minor emergencies in life, “like lost luggage or a broken-down car,” language learners find we can excavate words from the language of that country, with just a bit of prompting or help
from its native speakers, whom we encounter.

Schmid’s article in “The Conversation” enewsletter explains that the depth of mental engagement that comes from learning a language reveals that non-Native language studies should be better appreciated and promoted, as a part of education systems, globally, and certainly our own.

And now it’s your turn: Have you seriously studied foreign languages at any time in your life? Have you tried to remember that knowledge, later, when interacting with native speakers?
Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you!

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, stories, riddles and more on writing and editing . . .
On “accent hallucination” and “accent bias,” reported by “Grammar Girl,” Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty (America’s “Grammar Girl”) recently shared some findings on issues raised by accented English, from the research of Professor Valerie Fridlund (Department of Linguistics, U of Nevada, Reno, NV).

Fogarty began by saying that research shows that people tend to prefer those who sound like we do. This leads to what linguists call “accent bias” (AB).

AB occurs when someone feels negatively about another’s (different) accent and develops resistance or prejudice toward it. Fogarty goes on to report that AB can make it harder for those with minority accents to succeed in
school or at work. Those with different accents also may not find legal recourse for such discrimination.

Even the belief that people (who may be perceived as non-native speakers) have an accent, rather than the accent itself, can create a barrier to comprehension and acceptance. So some speakers are discriminated against or suffer accent bias, without even having an accent!

The increased processing time (a small amount more of cognitive functioning) that we need to understand a non-Native speaker of English, or even the anticipation that we will hear an accent, can lead to problems in comprehension.

That might be challenging enough for a non-Native speaker. But the phenomenon that someone who looks different will have an accent can lead to “accent hallucination.” Here, a native speaker is heard to have a foreign accent, when they actually don’t (e.g. such as a speaker who is a second-generation

Fridland’s research shows that online, oral comprehension among university students of a lecturer believed to be an international graduate student Teaching Assistant (TA) can be reduced, even if students are simply shown a photo of the TA as a non-Native speaker. Here there is a perception
(“hallucination”) of accent, not an actual one.

Just being shown a minority person’s photo made it harder for students to accurately transcribe what a Native Speaker TA was saying! “Accent hallucination,” indeed!

The bias is believed to pertain to the listener’s resistance to making extra cognitive effort to decipher another’s accent, which diverts attention from their transcribing process. Processing efforts may play a role in how comprehensible speakers are found to be, whether or not
they actually speak with accents.

Hearing something unexpected, like a foreign accent, can have other, detrimental consequences, such as finding a non-Native speaker of English to be less trustworthy or believable (credibility).

In the face of racist implications from linguistic misperception, Fogarty reports that “fortunately, we are fast and flexible learners” of others’ accents and speaking styles. She shares these insights:

(1) Recognizing listeners’ bias parks some responsibility on the listener’s efforts and not only the speaker’s. (I can remember learning to adjust to understand a South African professor, 25 years ago,
whose accent was new to me.)
(2) We can reduce listener’s bias (and delay in comprehension) by (i) increasing our exposure to non-Native speech and (ii) by receiving more information about what to expect before we hear a non-Native speaker

For instance, prior exposure to or training on speech with a foreign accent reduces the cognitive processing we as listeners must do and can decrease negative value associations (e.g. the belief that accented speakers are less credible than “non-accented” ones). In truth, all speakers of every
language are accented, according to some background, such as Western Canadian, as I found when living in the UK. Some Londoners found my English hard to comprehend.

But tolerance can be found when listeners are willing to make additional effort and not if they are unwilling or refuse out of racism. Giving listeners the information that they’re about to hear a foreign accent prior to exposure can help them adapt more quickly. This is likely because less of a mismatch arises between listeners’ expectations and what they actually hear (which pertains to at least some of the results of “accent hallucination” studies).

Likewise, when subjects in linguistic processing studies were told, before hearing and rating non-Native speakers, that the process could affect the believability of the speakers, listeners no longer judged those with mild accents to be untrustworthy.

(3) Broader exposure to other, non-Native linguistic communities also improved listeners’ processing. Encouraging listeners to have a “growth mindset” whereby they will improve in their ability to understand and transcribe non-Native accents by increased exposure, helped to decrease resistance and accent bias.

Fridland’s findings on “accent hallucination” and “accent bias” can improve communication between Native and non-Native speakers globally, thereby reducing racism.

As Fogarty concludes, it is our responsibility to “prim[e] a positive mindset” and to give listeners more contextual information about who they are listening to, when we teach, introduce, or translate speakers with foreign accents, so as to reduce negative outcomes for both listeners and speakers,

Do you have a concept, idea, or problem involving any aspect of writing or communications?
Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue.






A very deep “thank you” this month to Dr. Ravi Basi and the team of wonderful nurses and care aides, at City Hospital’s Observation Ward (of the Emergency Room).

These talented individuals provided sensitive and compassionate, patient-centred care for an elderly relative who is enduring poor health.
To receive such quality care in the chaotic context of an Emergency Room and amid a high number of Covid patients makes me deeply grateful. I do not take this for granted, and a written “thank you” is certainly forthcoming!

It can be challenging to secure quality senior care in hospitals, especially in crisis times for the health care industry. So thanks are doubly due, when care is excellent and deftly handled.

Many “thank yous” to all involved.
Equally important thanks to Parish Nurse, Laura Van Loon (RN), for helping my family navigate the choppy waters of hospital care in Covid times.
Laura is a discerning, wise, and powerful advocate for many–truly an “unsung hero” of physical, mental and spiritual health in our community.

Thank you deeply, Laura.
Special thanks also this month to the very gifted business coach and facilitator, Deanna Litz, of “Powerful Nature Coaching and Consulting.” Deanna has coached me through the digiSMART program, as I seek local clients for my language teaching services.

A huge thank you and SHOUT OUT to Monica Kreuger (Chief Visionary Officer), Brent Kreuger (VP) and the Team at the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE), whose company, Global Infobrokers, is a finalist for Saskatoon’s SABEX Award for “Business of the Year, 2022!”

CVO Monica Kreuger, who is a long-time member and also has directed both local and provincial Chambers of Commerce, VP Brent Kreuger, Administrator Elaine Mantyka, Facilitator and Coach, Deanna Litz, Bookkeeper Marie Weinkauf, Coordinator Silvana Cracogna, and Director of Chinese Operations, Grace Wang, along with a host of part-time facilitators, have undertaken colossal work on program development, and refinement throughout recent, Covid years.

Programming innovation and excellence are among the reasons the PSE has been finalized for this much-deserved award! To many of us alumni and facilitators, the PSE is already the business of this year and many more (both past and future)!

Congratulations to the Praxis Team and “Bonne chance” in the competition!

And while we’re on the topic of entrepreneurial training, here is a renewed call to readers with entrepreneurial instincts: If you (or someone you know) is entrepreneurially minded or even  simply has “an idea for a business,” the digiSMART and startSmart programs (developed and
offered by the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship) will help you make it a reality.

Besides core training on entrepreneurial concepts and processes,
the PSE also offers deep instruction on complementary topics, including content marketing and communications.
Furthermore, a network of support continues long after Praxis programming ends.

The PSE is a forging ground for fruitful relationships with talented leaders, entrepreneurs and alumni, under the visionary leadership of Monica and Brent Kreuger, and their deeply talented and experienced team.

To learn more, contact program administrator Elaine Mantyka today at: (306) 664-0500, or email elainem@globalinfobrokers.ca
(Disclosure: I facilitate on blogging to entrepreneurs in digiSMART, on a quarterly basis, as part of my suite of teaching services.)
Thank you to Clarity Coaching and Development CEO, Jolene Watson, for generously accommodating a recent scheduling snafu. Thank you, Jolene, and I look forward to a future conversation on Facebook marketing!



A tip of the hat to the fine staff of the Saskatoon assisted living building, The Franklin Retirement Residence, where my family is living.
Particular thanks to the generous and very gracious Vinod, Steve, Dee, Mason, Charmaine and several others who assist senior residents with kindness.
I am grateful to them all.

There are always new businesses and entrepreneurial programs to promote.
Please write me to share your success stories!
I’m excited for what’s ahead in our entrepreneurial community.
But for now, this is a wrap for mid-September!

Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs and economic immigrants to secure contracts by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating better; and I write the legacy stories of major

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
website (www.elizabethshih.com). After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca)

Those who can, both do and teach

“Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach” (George Bernard Shaw)

“Give someone a fish and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime” (Lao Tzu)

I’ve been troubled for years by the false division between teaching and doing, expressed by a character in George Bernard Shaw’s 1905 play, Man and Superman.  More than 100 years later, the denigrating, first epigraph (above) still gets flung at teachers of all vocational backgrounds, including me.  Shaw’s character argues that teaching is a role taken up by people who fail in the “doing” of their field of vocation.  But is that always and only true?

As an English as a Second Language teacher (ESL), I teach immigrant newcomers and entrepreneurs to our country the language skills they need to succeed; this is “doing.” I am teaching them a language of international education, commerce and industry.  I earlier succeeded at content writing and editing and I continue to engage in those activities;  however, I have found that my local market better understands and appreciates the legitimacy of teaching. And when I teach, I serve my community in a shorter cycle of time than I can when I write and edit documents for businesses, non-profits and entrepreneurs. Sometimes the latter take months or longer to be digested. 

In a recent posting on medium.com, blogger “Strontium” argues that “most of our greatest doers have been great teachers,” such as Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Stephen Hawking and Noam Chomsky (to name a few). In modern times, these teachers and their followers show us that teaching is “the premiere avenue to funding, equipment, and access . . . . [to] the cutting edge of most disciplines.” So it is a false binary to position “teaching” against “doing” (i.e. research, experimentation, publication, etc.). They are more interconnected processes than that.

But many good teachers are not famous like these folk. As I found when returning to facilitating a class on blogging for the digiSMART program of the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship on August 31st, a deep understanding of the subject matter and not any high ranking or certification is necessary in a teacher who wants to cultivate (or “facilitate”) learning in students.

For instance, Customs and Excise expert and Praxis alumnus, Barry Frain, asked off-the-cuff why it’s necessary to end a blog posting with a Call-to-Action (CTA). Having lived and breathed blogging and article writing for the past 11 years (and so having some understanding of the process), I could immediately refer him to the reality that readers tend to read (especially online) documents passively. For that reason, bloggers can address their readers in the second person, and may engage their attention consciously, by urging them to take action (CTA).  Action by prospects is needed if a blogger’s posting is to gain any traction.

The “action” (of the CTA) might be simply to make the reader think more about the content of the posting, to make a change in the way they conduct their business communication, or, after consideration, to contact the blogger to purchase their product or service.

But teaching well can still involve close study and certification that are a form of “doing” or engaging in one’s field. For instance, I am certified in ESL from Tefl.Org  (Scotland), and in literacy language teaching from the Canadian Centre of Language Benchmarks (CCLB). In a few months’ time, I’ll complete a third certification, in the niche of Business English as a Second Language. A teacher’s learning and ongoing training/studying is never done; when education occurs well, there is no barrier between teaching and doing.

Teachers have tended to be undervalued in the Western Hemisphere, due to funding cuts and the focus of our broken system on what Strontium calls “workers, and not thinkers.” Teachers have simultaneously tended to be underpaid and overworked. And the teaching profession has sometimes been taken up by practitioners who don’t have the stamina or interest to stay connected as  “doers” in their specific fields.

While I’m not at all interested in asserting another false binary, such as between Western versus Eastern philosophies, when grappling with (or hearing) the denigrating epigraph from Shaw’s play, we might consider the proverb of Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu.

Tzu says that the purpose of teaching a learner is to instill in them the will and capability to solve problems on their own: “Give someone a fish and they’ll eat for a day. Teach them how to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime.”

When a teacher or facilitator rightly and capably does that work of instilling capacity, of making the learner learn independence (which should be the goal of any study), in my view the false separation Shaw refers to, between teaching and doing, dissolves.

And now it’s your turn: Do you as a learner or a teacher find Shaw’s statement true or false? How do you define good teaching, if not as a process of instilling independent capacity? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.