Sakata Students Meet Aya and Guilherme

In our most recent ENGLISH WEIRDNESS video, a multi-cultural couple, Gui and Aya, confuse each other with their weird article usage. Several people have commented that the acting in this scene was very good, that the performers really seemed to be a bickering couple.

The truth is, these performers had never met each other before the day we shot that scene. The result is a testament to the great performances by both Guilherme Cariani and Aya Hioki, and the coaching they received from Felipe Cesarini, our performance advisor.

Last night, in our latest online class with Sakata Minami high school in Japan, the students had a chance to review the grammar analyzed in this episode, as well as interview both Guilherme and Aya about their experiences learning English and studying in Canada.

As usual, the students had interesting and challenging questions for me, and made me think carefully several times. I love their curiosity and dedication to figuring out even the most complex English language issues. Good job!

-P

Now Playing!

It took longer than we wanted to make this release happen, but ladies and gentlemen, our latest episode of English Weirdness is now playing.

Thank you to all our viewers and supporters for making this episode possible. And, thank you to all the “Weirdos”, the talented and dedicated student volunteers who acted, assisted and produced this project with me.

Please help us spread the WEIRDNESS to all the English language learners out there in the world who might find these videos useful and enjoyable. SHARE this post, or any of the myriad other postings I’ve made, on your social media platforms, connect your networks to mine, or subscribe to our Youtube channel. Together we can expand our network of viewers, bring ENGLISH WEIRDNESS to learners worldwide, and continue to make these videos.

Thanks for watching everybody, and remember, WEIRDNESS IS COOL!

-Paul

Episode 8: Longest Episode, Longest Shoot.

This past weekend, the English Weirdness team and I completed photography of our longest episode, and longest shoot to date. Intended as our special Halloween episode, and scheduled for release in early October, episode 8 was written as the first of our new 30-minute episode formats. This longer-form video may not suit those in search of quick Youtube thrills or tutorials, but English Weirdness has always been intended for a curious audience determined to learn and understand English on a deeper, more meaningful level. Shooting this monster, however, involved far more time, and in the end spanned over three entire shooting days over a three-month period.

After intense preparations in June, we began shooting this episode on a Monday evening in July, at the ELS school campus where I work and where most of the Weirdos have studied and graduated from, after classes finished at 4pm. It was a regular school day, so the school was packed with students and noise until they vacated the building after 4. We needed to shoot the video at night to get the right spooky effect for our scary story’s needs. We began setting up and shooting soon after 4, and worked non-stop late into the night.

The shots we captured were amazing, the performances great, but by the time we got to around 0400, it was clear that everyone’s energy, ability to concentrate and think clearly, were close to spent, even though we had only shot about 1/3 of the 30-page script. After a brief conference, Uriel and I chose to wrap the shoot, send everyone home to rest (most of us had to either work or attend class the following morning), and schedule another shooting day to complete the episode.

Cut to: August 10/11, and the re-shoot. We shot all day Saturday, and all day Sunday, both days from 0800 until close to midnight. It was exhausting, but by the time we wrapped Sunday night, we had captured everything we needed, with very little compromise, to complete episode 8.

That brought to a close a very intense, grueling and busy summer of shooting English Weirdness. The EW season is not done–we’ll shoot the last two episodes in the winter–but we’ve got enough material to move into an Autumn packed with editing and releasing several new episodes. As well, at some time in October or November, EW will move to its own “TV” channel, on which you can subscribe or view the various episodes, so there’s still a lot of work to be done. Nonetheless, it is nice to feel a bit of relief at having gotten ‘in the can’ a summer’s worth of great footage. I am thrilled to have been able to watch the EW team accomplish what they have. This time, we added some new members, or ‘Weirdos’. Camilo joined us as our Uriel’s Camera Assistant/Gaffer/Sound Recordist, and did a great job. Eduardo joined Guilherme in providing all-round muscle and production assistance. Aaron returned to provide me assistance supervising script and continuity. Their hard work and dedication to realizing the Weirdness vision, as always, inspires me to continue this project. So, onward we go. Next step: editing and releasing.

Hyeri gets into character

Weirdos Go the Distance!

I’m always amazed and touched when we shoot an episode of English Weirdness. The efforts and dedication of our small band of volunteer ‘Weirdos’, almost all of whom have precisely zero experience with film-making, are unfailingly impressive.

Over the past weekend however, these efforts assumed new heights when we did a marathon four-day shoot of three new episodes. Our plan was to maximize our shooting budget by hammering out three full episodes worth of material in one stretch. It sounded good on paper.

Beginning on Friday afternoon, working well past midnight, then onto Saturday morning until after midnight again, the same on Sunday, and then onto Monday. Monday of course, we all had school; the students needed to get their tired butts into class, and I of course, had to teach. Then came 4pm. That’s when we began shooting our special Halloween episode 8. We shot and shot, deep into the night, until Uriel and I made the decision to act responsibly and wrap the shoot. It had become clear that our team was exhausted, our performers getting incoherent, and with my own cognitive capacities fading, things like safety and health had to take priority.

So we got two full episodes completed over the weekend and half of episode 8 done on the Monday night. Wrapping the shoot and striking the camp halfway was certainly the responsible choice, but I did feel somewhat disappointed and frustrated for the team, who had already given so much of their time and effort.

In the end, we opted to schedule one more day in a couple weeks to complete episode 8. This involves calling the team back in for another day of effort, which I know is asking a lot. But, in true Weirdo fashion, everyone agreed and seemed ready to go for it. As ever, Team Weirdo remained singularly dedicated to producing this series. What this says about the series or me, I can’t say. But it says a hell of a lot about these young Weirdos, their willingness to get involved in an unusual and challenging project for which there are no immediate rewards, other than some decent pizza (in lieu of pay!).

All I can say, to each and everyone of you hammering Weirdos, is THANK YOU. I am forever grateful for knowing you and being your teacher.

Sakata Students Meet Diego

This past week, we held another online class with the keen students from Sakata Minami High School in Yamagata, Japan. As always, the all-girl class impressed us with their interesting questions and curious thoughts. In fact, they even had me ‘on the ropes’ for a moment when one of them asked me a tough question I wasn’t sure at first how to answer. These, in fact, are my favorite type of questions, so…well done girls!

Having watched English Weirdness, episode 2, the girls were eager to interview the star of that video, Diego Molina. Wearing a longer beard than he sported in the video, I think he surprised the girls, who nonetheless seemed to enjoy meeting him. Diego told them about his experience as an international student, coming from Venezuela to Canada five years ago. He has since made Vancouver his home, and even married a Canadian.

There were some guests online with us too. Apparently, over 30 educators from around Yamagata prefecture were in attendance to see what this Global Skills program is all about, and perhaps too, who this weird Canadian English Instructor is. By all accounts they were impressed with our project and have taken an interest. Who knows? Maybe they will join our little revolution in English education in Japan, and help us Spread the Weirdness.

The Weirdness Has Begun–in Japan!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 marked the first time I, along with the English Weirdness team, met the English students of Sakata Minami High School in Yamagata, Japan, in an online video ‘class.’

As you may recall, in 2018 Sakata’s inspiring Principal Ms. Hiroko Nakahara and English Weirdness established a working relationship wherein the students of Sakata’s innovative and revolutionary English-as-Global-Skill program would view and study our videos as part of their English curriculum. In addition, we agreed to meet in an online video conference regularly, so the students could discuss the videos, and the language issues presented in them, directly with us. Wednesday evening was the first of these meetings. In attendance was myself, the original Weirdness team of Tomoko and Uriel, Nakahara-sensei, her colleagues Ikumi-sensei, Yokose-sensei, a contingent of local media there to cover the event, and of course, the students.

And…WOW!

Student: “Teacher Paul, what is your favorite song?”
Paul: “Uh….”

These students were very impressive indeed. We were all a little nervous, but after some interesting introductions in which the students explained their hobbies and interests, we began our discussion of English grammar and learning in general. The students were attentive, taking notes as I spoke. They were eager to ask questions, exactly what we had hoped for in providing the model of teacher-student interaction we depict in the English Weirdness videos. I’m not sure whether it is our model that has inspired this in them, or Sakata’s teachers and program, but it was encouraging to see, because it is often a challenge for Japanese learners of English to assert reveal their doubts by asking questions.

In addition to their interesting and insightful language questions, which I think I managed to comfortably answer, they asked me several interesting and insightful personal questions, which I managed to uncomfortably provide no answer for. Real stumpers! They asked me, for example, what my favorite song was, and I had no idea what to say. I guess I’m better at being put on the spot for grammar questions than questions about my own interests; something to remember when asking similar questions of my students.

The featured student-performer of English Weirdness episode 1, Tomoko, also joined in the meeting. As a Japanese student who came to Canada to study, the Sakata students were also excited to ask her about her own experiences. I think her responses may have inspired the Sakata students to think about studying abroad themselves, so maybe we need to develop a Weirdness exchange and host the student for a visit to Canada.

It was only the first meeting of what will be many. As each new episode of Weirdness is released and presented to the Sakata students, there will be more of these online meetings to review. But if this first one was any indication, the collaboration between us English Weirdos and the inspiring students of Sakata Minami school is off to a great start.

What Drives You Bananas?

What part of English gives you headaches? What grammar still confuses you? What irregularity drives you bananas?

I’m planning new episodes and new seasons of English Weirdness and want your help. I want to address features of the English language that you guys want to learn about. So, tell me what grammar or usage confuses you, and your idea might become the focus of an upcoming episode of English Weirdness.

Use the CONTACT FORM on the sidebar to the right, or the COMMENT BOX below to share with me the grammar weirdness that baffles and confuses you. I’ll do my best to address it in an episode of the video series, or at least in a future blog posting.

-p

The Weirdness is spreading…but we need your help

Welcome to the new home of all things English Weirdness. Since it has become clear that EW is now its own ‘thing,’ I felt it deserved its own website. So, here it is. On these pages you will find information about EW and the people involved in it, news about recent EW goings-on, merchandise, and, best of all, every one of the EW videos, all in one place. Enjoy, and please comment or contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Weirdness is made entirely with student and teacher volunteers. And recently, over a gruelling three days of weekend, the team and I shot two brand new episodes. I was moved and impressed by the tireless efforts of everyone who helped. From the performers to the crew, everyone worked around the clock to make this happen. Thank you for your dedication to the Weirdness, and for giving me your precious time.

As you may know, making these videos comes at a cost. It takes hundreds of hours and dollars to prepare, shoot, edit, and promote each one of them. Now, I’ll provide the hundreds of hours of work, but I need help with the rest. And, although our most recent fund-raising campaign raised enough money to cover the costs of these two episodes (thanks to everyone who contributed), to continue producing the series, we once again need help.

Please consider supporting this project. You can contribute any amount you like. You can use the “Donate” button on the website’s sidebar, or here:

Donation
Other Amount:
teacherpaul1965@gmail.com:

Alternatively, you can become an ongoing supporter or corporate sponsor and Producer of English Weirdness through Patreon.com