A Paper about English Sentence Structure in an EFL Context

My latest paper for university dealt with the issue of regularising English sentence structure especially for low-level EFL learners. The way it is traditionally taught is confusing for a lot of students since it is rife with exceptions (randomly appearing do-support, adverbs of frequency changing places, exceptions concerning the verb be).

In the past four years, I’ve been teaching a lot of EFL classes at an elementary level, but also at higher levels, and basic sentence structure (e.g. questions, negation) has been a constant struggle for some students no matter their level. Since I started studying linguistics in 2014, I’ve started to notice some underlying structural regularities that aren’t taught by text books or grammar books. So I started teaching them the way I saw them, and although it might be a bit more confusing at the beginning when first confronted with it, my students seemed to gain a better understanding of English sentence structure, and I’m noticing less mistakes in my beginner’s class who learnt “my” structure from the beginning.

The paper has been graded a 1.0 (best academic grade in Germany) by my professor, and has been proofread for formatting issues and clarification afterwards. Feel free to share it with others who are interested in this topic, but don’t change it or claim authorship. I publish my paper under a CC-BY-ND-NC licence.



Guess what? I have a secret superpower.

Yep, that is basically what my doctor explained to me, in a nutshell (a geeky nutshell).

So it seems I’ll be doing Feldenkrais (a kind of yoga from what I understand) now. Doctor believes me and takes me seriously, and is working with me to get to the root of my problems. He’s 99% sure Feldenkrais will help me and solve most of my problems, and said to try it out for half a year. If not, I guess we’ll have to dig deeper, but if he’s that hopeful (and his explanations made sense), then I’ll be hesitantly hopeful too.

About that superpower part? According to him, my body developed a hypersensibility to what’s going on with it, so he’s in overprotection mode (since pain is usually a warning sign that something is wrong). It’s basically warning me before anything is wrong, to prevent me from getting something wrong. So if I put too much strain on my knees, for example, it will respond with pain and symptoms that people would normally develop much later, when the strain has caused real problems. Which would explain why, even if the pain and other symptoms last year matched an infection inside my knees, none of the actual signs of infection (warm to the touch, swelling, antibodies in my blood) could be found. Which would also explain why painkillers often don’t seem to work for me. My doc said I’d have to take a much higher dose of them for them to work against this warning pain, which would likely cause my body to respond in turn with every side effect imaginable since it wouldn’t like drugs in me either. So suddenly it makes sense why I know that painkillers will work against certain types of pain but not most of the others.

This would also explain why I went to doctors with real problems and then was sent home, frustrated, after they had told me that they couldn’t find anything wrong (graciously refraining from spelling out that they thought I’d made it up, or my problems weren’t real). This happened several times, which is one of the main reasons why I more or less stopped going to doctors at some point. Too much frustration without help.

Probably the best part about my visit with him today (well, apart from the fact that I now have a diagnosis and a solution that may just rid me of most of my problems if he’s right) was him actually saying that, of course, my pain and my other symptoms are real. Yes, even though he couldn’t find a physical cause in his examination (which also means my knees and back are still okay, apart from the scoliosis I already know about), he told me matter-of-factly that my pain is real. And that I’m not crazy.

It took me so long to try to get a diagnosis again because of all the times doctors dismissed me without answers, and now the solution to my problems might be as simple as learning Feldenkrais and doing yoga. All it took was a doctor to believe me and to look outside the obvious-physical-reason box. I already signed up for a Feldenkrais class, which started two weeks ago actually but will start tomorrow for me, so I’m still sceptical but hopeful that I’ll already feel better by the time Christmas comes around.

Oh, and you want to know just how badass my body is? He said part of the pain and symptoms I feel might just be the normal aging process, that normal people don’t feel until they start having actual physical problems. Yep, my body’s that badass. Now I just need to learn to use my superpower for my own good instead of letting it control me. Where’s Mr. X when you need him?

Life with Chronic Illness: Where are the very good days?

I’m currently (finally, I could say) seeking a diagnosis for problems that have been my companions for a long time, but haven’t yet been diagnosed. They are still there, even without a label attached to them, and they’re just as real. Tomorrow’s an appointment with a specialist about my knee and back problems, and I’m nervous because part of me is afraid of it being another waste of time (i.e. not being taken seriously, or brushed off and left alone without answers). The other part, who dares to hope for a good doctor and a diagnosis (probably not right away, though), is afraid of what the diagnosis might be.

What brought me to the point that I’m finally seeking a diagnosis? The realisation that my problems are not going away, and instead seem to be getting worse over time. And the fear that I might have to quit my dream job at some point if I don’t get help.

There are still good days. Good days are days when I’m not feeling tired all day, and when my exhaustion is not slowing me down mentally and physically. Good days are days when I’m able to go about my day without wanting to cry out in frustration, or in pain. Good days are days when I don’t feel too restricted by tenseness in my muscles. Good days are days when I don’t even think about pain killers. They are not days without problems. They are not days without feeling tired, or without feeling tense, or without experiencing pain. They are simply days when I can live a normal live in spite of all the problems.

And then there are very good days. Very good days are days without pain, days when I feel awake and can move without feeling tense or restricted. Very good days are also very rare.

And then there are bad days. A lot of bad days. And sometimes it becomes hard to remember how good days feel like, and it becomes hard not to confuse a random good day with a very good day, just because it feels so much better than some of the bad days.

As for very good days, there are times when I cannot remember how they feel anymore. There are times when good days are the best I can hope for, and pain becomes a constant companion. Pain, and feeling tired, and feeling tense. And those are the times when I wish I’d have a diagnosis, and some hope of getting better, and a doctor (or doctors) who understand me and who believe me and who know what’s going on with me, and most of all, who have a plan how to help me.

I want to remember the very good days. I want more good days than bad days, and I want very good days to be the best I can hope for, every day, and not be disappointed so often. I want good and very good days so I can be a better teacher for my students, and so I can be a better student, and so I can be a better cat parent, and so I can be a better wife, and a better friend. I don’t just want them for myself; I want them so that I can give more to others who are important to me. I want to share the very good days.

Ferien? Watt für Ferien? (Humor auf Ruhrdeutsch)

Lehrer malochen nur vormittachs und ham ständich Ferien, hamse gesacht. Studenten ham ja sowieso die meiste Zeit frei, hamse gesacht. Biste schlau, hab ich mir gedacht, und kombinierste einfach beide für doppelte Freizeit. Tjaaaa, dumm gelaufen! Wat se mir natürlich nich gesacht ham: Beide müssen in den “Ferien” trotzdem jede Menge malochen. Hausarbeiten schreiben, Unterricht vorbereiten, für Prüfungen pauken … nix mit Freizeit!

Und da ich ja nu beides auf einmal mach, hab ich den Salat. Endlich Ferien vonne Uni, da fängt die Ferienschule an. Also morgens Flöhe hüten. Nachmittachs dann Unterricht vorbereiten, Hausarbeit schreiben (tippt sich ja auch nich von allein), pauken … und abends dann tot ins Bett falln.

Irgendwat is faul, wenn man nach getaner Arbeit nich direkt nach Hause fährt, sondern sich mitte Kollegen verquatscht. Nach Hause? Da, wo noch mehr Arbeit wartet? Nee … liebern Kaffee trinken. Und hoffen, dat es doch die Mainzelmännnekes gibt, die heimlich die Hausarbeit für einen tippen. Irgendwer muss ja die ganzen Socken klauen, die nach dem Waschen fehlen. Dann könnse ruich ma wat dafür tun. Oda habbichse mitte ganzen Socken längst freigelassen? So wie der Dobby von Harry Potter? So wat Blödes aba auch! Na ja, ich bin dann ma wech, tippen und so.