Archive for August, 2014


August 17, 2014

Pisa full results graphic - amendedThis year’s results of External Independent Testing in Ukraine (the equivalent of SAT in the USA or GCSE in Great Britain) have just been commented on by the Head of the EIT Centre in the media. The results are the worst ever. I’ll mention only three moments which I consider symptomatic:  Almost 8 per cent of the applicants did not write a single word of their Ukrainian essay during the test. A quarter of those who were tested for English handed in empty test sheet of their “Letter to a Friend”, which they were supposed to write within a given time period. Only 70 per cent of all high school graduates applied for testing.

My explanation for the applicants’ failure to present their thoughts in writing is that they cannot disclose their point of view orally either. That is to say, they can communicate in short burst of verbal exchange, but as soon as it comes down to the logic argumentation of the case in question and to some more or less lengthy exposition of one’s point, not so many young people can do that. I wonder if they write letters nowadays at all? Even emails are not so frequent. An sms or a facebook message dominates. With that in mind, wouldn’t it be better to offer (during the EIT) an assignment of the type “Texting to your friend that you really dig Imagine Dragons.”

As for the 30 per cent of those who decided not to take the EIT, one of the reasons may be low motivation: 90 per cent of all vacancies available to school graduates do not require any qualification in this country.

The other day it was reported that the Ukrainian Ministry of Education allowed the use of mobile phones at lessons in secondary schools – as it was said, “for students to be able to retrieve needed information for educational purposes.” However, with some 30 students in the classroom, can a teacher be sure that all of them are immersed in googling a theme that is being discussed and not playing games or writing sms-s?

I browse the Internet for “international student testing.” It looks like the most popular at the moment is PISA – Programme for International Student Assessment – done every three years. The latest 2012 rankings are: Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China, Taiwan, South Korea (the first five places), Estonia – 11th, Canada – 13th. Poland 14th, Germany – 16th, United Kingdom – 26th, Russia – 34th, USA – 36th, Montenegro – 54th, Peru – 65th.

I cannot find Ukraine in the list.


August 13, 2014

Introducing others:

Here are expressions to introduce others:

  • Jack, please meet Nicolas.
  • Jack, have you met Nicolas?
  • I’d like you to meet Liza.
  • I’d like to introduce you to Betty.
  • Leila, this is Barbara. Barbara this is Leila.

Useful responses when introducing yourself or other people:

  • Nice to meet you.
  • Pleased to meet you.
  • Happy to meet you.
  • How do you do?



“I’d like you to meet Vladimir from Russia, the peacekeeper.”




A useful response phrase may be found at the address:!




August 12, 2014

2014-08-12aWhen used in a secular context, Matthew 6:3 often derides lack of coordination when a person simultaneously performs two contradictory actions, or actions that exclude each other: “His left hand does not know what his right hand is doing.” However, in his Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke about quite a different thing – about how charity should be given (… But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…). In this case Jesus presents the lack of coordination as an ideal stating that we should not seek public praise for our good deeds and not feel smug about our own goodness.

A Ukrainian military convoy moves along a road near DonetskI thought about this Bible verse when I read about Russia sending its humanitarian aid convoy to eastern Ukraine. What is being discussed in the media at the moment is whether the Russians may use the humanitarian assistance as a pretext to invade Ukraine. No denying this perspective: Russia may “help” the people of Ukraine as it “helped” the Baltic states in 1940, Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, or Afghanistan in 1979 (I remember the last two cases of “assistance” very well: there was much hullabaloo in Soviet newspapers and over the radio and TV about the “brotherly help”). But I also thought about how hypocritical Russia’s position is this time, when it dispatches the aid convoy and, at the same time, sends its hired militants into Ukraine, gives the militants weapons (with which they also down a passenger aircraft), or shells the territory of Ukraine with its rocket launchers from sites 10-20 kilometres inside Russia. Cynically, each Russia’s hand knows very well what the other hand is doing.


August 8, 2014

2014-08-08Maidan on August 7Enantiosemy is the existence of two opposite meanings in one word. The words containing such opposed meanings are called differently: contranyms, auto-antonyms, antagonyms, self-antonyms, Janus words (after the two-faced Roman god of beginnings and transitions), etc. Enantiosemy may be observed in all languages. In English it is represented by such words as “cleave” (= to separate and adhere), “dust” (= to remove dust and to cover with dust), “inflammable” (= capable of burning and unburnable), “sanction” (= to permit and to punish), “off” (about something that is not functioning and something that starts functioning). There are more complicated cases of enantiosemy, like the word “deceptively.” When we say “The room is deceptively large”, the room may be either larger or smaller than it seems. A classical example of historical enantiosemy is an alleged description of St. Paul’s Cathedral given by a British monarch: “It is awful, pompous and artificial”, which in the Shakespearean times actually meant: “awe-inspiring, majestic and ingeniously designed.”

In Ukrainian, enantiosemy is not so widespread: one of the few cases is the word “slava” [sl-AH-va], which may stand for “glory” as well as “bad repute.” However, the Ukrainian language may be credited for one other recent self-antonym — “Maidan.” When used last winter, it was the key-word symbolizing the “Revolution of Dignity” as well as the strength and stamina of the revolutionaries who rose against the corruptive regime. As of nowadays, Maidan is nothing but a gathering place of aggressive  individuals armed with Molotov cocktails and pretending to defend democratic values. Dirt and stench are all over the central square of Kyiv. It’s impossible to have any negotiations with the present-day Maidan: there is no single self-administrative body there. Boastfully, the Maidan inhabitants say Maidan comprises about 60 organizations. Considering that the total number of the “maidan-ers” living in tents is about 300 people, each “organization” is supposed to include about 5 members(?). Those who are keeping watch on Maidan say they are staying there because the government “hasn’t fulfilled Maidan’s winter directives”, which is why the government must be “controlled.” There are now hardly any people on Maidan who were there last February. All those who “gave directives” last winter and who understand where the real danger is, and who are fit for military action, are at the moment in the East of Ukraine fighting against the Russians. Those who remain on Maidan now, are largely homeless, or drunkards, or both. When you ask them, they will tell you that they are going to the war “in a couple of days.” Meanwhile they are following passers-by with “charity boxes” asking for money (they say it’s “for Maidan”) or accosting females who happen to be in this place.

Yesterday, when the communal workers tried to clear the central street of the city, the Maidan dwellers set fire to the tyres which they keep as a kind of defensive weapons. Many communal workers were injured and retreated. After that the maidan-ers brought even more tyres and built barricades using also portable toilets for this purpose.

My strong suspicion is that the present-day “Maidan” (or, rather, anti-Maidan) is financially supported by anti-Ukrainian subversive organizations – including those from Russia. Otherwise, this stupid, dirty and stinking “protest” wouldn’t last that long.

In Ukrainian and Russian there exist two words which come from the same root but mean quite opposite things: “vrodlYvyi” (Ukr. for “beautiful’ or “handsome”) and “urOdlivyi” (Russ. for “ugly”). For me that opposition epitomizes the difference between what Maidan was before and what Maidan is now.


August 2, 2014

Having posted the previous blog, I entered the kitchen and brandished “precocious” in the presence of my daughter. “Do you know the word?” I thunderously asked. She immediately met the challenge by humming the tune with the lyrics from the movie “Mary Poppins”:

It’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious
If you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious

Pls watch:


August 2, 2014

???????????????????????????????I love the word “precocious” – the name “produces vibrations”, as a character of Oscar Wilde’s play once said. The name promises a spring when you see an apricot tree blossoming without its leaves appearing yet. It promises a Mozart when you hear “a small little one” deftly playing a piano sonata of his own composition, with the top of his head hardly visible from behind the huge pianoforte.

Today I came across the poem “The Song of a Mischievous Dog” by Dylan Thomas. As a philologist, I automatically started “deciphering” the poem trying to extricate the ideas loaded into it by the poet (besides, modernism, of which Dylan Thomas was a representative, permits a wide spectrum of interpretative applications).


by Dylan Thomas

THERE are many who say that a dog has its day,
And a cat has a number of lives;
There are others who think that a lobster is pink,
And that bees never work in their hives.
There are fewer, of course, who insist that a horse
Has a horn and two humps on its head,
And a fellow who jests that a mare can build nests
Is as rare as a donkey that’s red.
Yet in spite of all this,  I have moments of bliss,
For I cherish a passion for bones,
And though doubtful of biscuit, I’m willing to risk it,
And I love to chase rabbits and stones.
But my greatest delight is to take a good bite
At a calf that is plump and delicious;
And if I indulge in a bite at a bulge,
Let’s hope you won’t think me too vicious

Of course, I thought, Dylan Thomas’s poem is about the simplicity and the basics of existence. It’s also about the approach: you cannot squeeze a free personality into a “category” by labeling them with a standardized characteristics, like “Every dog has his day” or “A cat has nine lives.” I would have been delving further into the depths of the poetic senses if I hadn’t read the commentary accompanying the publication: Dylan wrote this when he was 11. This was his first published poem.

That’s a stellar example of PRECOCIOUSNESS!  An 11-year-old boy making a 65-year-old philologist fish in the poem (89 years after the poem was written) the concepts which are not there! 🙂

Incidentally, 27 October 2014 will see Dylan Thomas’s birth centenary.

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