English 119, farewell.

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I’d like to think of myself as a practical person – there’s nothing else more important to me than being a useful person.

Bottom line, I believe practicing what you preach.

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And that, to me is the most satisfying thing about ENGL 119. Its pragmatic approach, and how the things learned are almost always on a need to know basis. It made me feel like receiving a security clearance and getting briefed in area 51 secrets. The structure of the course feels tight and leaves lots to be discovered by students who are interested, and adequately addresses those who don’t give a damn about the subject as well.

To elaborate, I just LOVE how I finally get to practice what I have learned. I came to UW to learn mathematics, and after every passing semester I feel further from my goals and less competent. On one hand due to how humbling the world of math really is when you start to understand its language. On the other hand, it was caused by how little tools us students learn in these years to apply learned knowledge.
It frustrates me how we are not given the full package: Every math professor blames the professor of the pre-requisite course of taking the easy way out and not fully motivating the material. The students often are left with lots of course specific knowledge, at a loss where to apply it. Waterloo’s coop program helps for some students who are lucky to have companies that trains their recruits.

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The milestone projects in ENGL 119 keep reminding me that “real life” is only a couple of years away. Our Money Masters’ Ted talk left me in awe with their polished speech and professional content. Our proposal and report assignment made me day dream a bit about what I can really do once I am done my studies here.

I have had coop jobs before, but I have not been practicing my mathematical knowledge at all. In this class, I have been given a chance to really appreciate how all the fundamental math classes that the university deems mandatory form a solid background for further use.

I finally have guidelines to do a lot of things that I did by the ear before – writing a serious email, a professional report. I cannot express enough gratitude on how much this helps me to overcome fears of drowning in the real world. To know there are rules to play-by, and how to find them.

Growing with ENGL119

Taking a language course is a requirement for every student at University of Waterloo. I thought that taking an English course would be the best choice to fulfill my required language course. I chose English because it is the language that I depend on daily. I use English to communicate with my peers in class, and I need to use it professionally when addressing my professors and job interviewers.

Growing Confidence

When I first enrolled in ENGL119, I was quite anxious about the struggles I felt I might face with the course materials. I felt that my communication skills diminished as soon as I enrolled into the faculty of computer science, as my communication mostly depended on communicating numbers and theories. As the semester progressed, I was very happy to attend lectures where my professor gave information and instructions on how to properly communicate ideas. The examples that were given in class helped me understand how to use language in a way where the words and sentences sound professional. I enjoyed learning about the different tools of communication which affect the receiver on an emotional and intellectual level. The more knowledge I gained about how to be persuasive in conversations and writing, the more confident I began to feel about being able to interact more professionally.

Using Other Resources

Prior to attending ENGL119, I was more inclined to use information from non-reputable sources. However, I am now willing to take the extra mile and research for information in a more professional and academic manner. I learned that research gives a person a different view about the world, and introduces them to a type of knowledge that they would otherwise have never come across. This course encouraged me to take another English course to further improve my language skills.

Something More

Although I initially enrolled in ENGL119 to improve my communication skills, and to learn how to address people and interact with them more professionally, I actually learned much more than that. Through my research about the effects of gaming on educational systems, I learned that there are many other open resources for learning designed for people of almost all ages. Learning goes far beyond attending classes at a university. Jobs, entertainment systems, and sometimes even children environments can introduce you to knowledge you have never absorbed before. During the term, I learned that making friends and having close connections with people helps you grow as a person. You become more responsible and caring, and feel that you have an impact on the lives of others.

I learned that one should live life to fulfill their potential. In order to achieve that, one must always strive to learn more, and communicate more. People were not created so that each person lives in a bubble of his/her own, but to build a world where every person has the potential to make a difference.

Communicate to Persuade

Communication skills are the key to gaining people’s attention, and respect. People communicate with each other using many methods; including writing and verbal communication. One may communicate with one single person, or with the public. Communicating with the public can be done by writing a book, writing a blog post, presenting an idea verbally to a group of people in a room, or even reporting the latest news via a news reporting channel. No matter how the information is communicated; the most important aspect about the information is that it must be true, supported by evidence, and is relevant to the audience. After all, nobody would engage in something that holds no importance or correspondence to them.

Group Members Share Common Interests

Strengthening students’ communication skills is one of the most important aspects in ENGL119, an English course offered at the University of Waterloo. Midway through the semester, students are asked to pick a topic that interests them from a list of topics provided by their professor. Then, groups form based on a number of people who picked the same topic. Group members then organize their first official meeting in class. When I joined my group, there was no first time awkwardness. Conversation began to flow naturally and instantly because every member started contributing to the discussion by relating to the topic that was chosen by the group. Everybody seemed interested in the topic, and willing to research about it to learn more.

It’s crucial that each member is willing to contribute to the discussion, as a person’s body language as they speak will certainly impact the listener’s perception and focus. Once a person starts talking, the receiver senses whether the speaker is genuine and interested or not. Being genuine eases the atmosphere and encourages collaboration. For a project to be successful, collaboration between group members must be efficient. In other words, every person must put some effort into the project. If one person does all the work; efficiency will not be met. When one person contributes their time, effort, and unique ideas, others are more likely to do the same. After all, being interested and passionate about something is sometimes contagious. When others observe this in an educational way, there’s a chance they will be more attentive and possibly just as interested as the speaker.

Sweet Smell of Success

Being part of a group project in ENGL119 taught me so much about collaboration. I understood the true meaning behind the phrase: “there is no ‘I’ in team.” I learned that one should not be selfish and only care about “his/her” individual performance. To achieve organizational success, one should care about others’ potential, and what others need to improve on. Satisfaction comes from seeing that everything surrounding you is being represented as professionally and precise as you would want to be represented. A single flower has a sweet fragrance, but the aroma of a bouquet of flowers is of course more pleasing. Collaboration takes a lot of patience and understanding of others. I learned that you need to pardon people for their shortcomings, and that you should try to see your own mistakes if others point them out without being offended. I learned that listening to others is very important. It reassures them that you are interested in what they have to say and offer, which opens doors for more useful information. Collaboration taught me that everybody benefits when you teach others and learn from them. It taught me that this is how you grow as a person.

Observing Other Groups

People learn through their own experiences, and through observing others. The objective of the group work project was to prepare a TED Talk regarding a specific topic, and then present it to the class. Attending the presentations of other groups was very entertaining to me. I compared my group’s performance to that of others. I noticed that I engaged more in presentations that used new terminology that was elaborated upon through the presentation. Presentations that were flowing more smoothly and connected different parts of the presentation were more satisfying to listen to and easier to retain information from. In addition, I noticed that speakers who were calm, collected, and confident gained my attention with their professionalism. Indeed, these individuals presented information that was new to me, and I would not have been impressed if it was not for the supporting facts that accompanied with the information that they were presenting.

Learning is a journey, and an ongoing process. I realized that I learn best when I present information and receive feedback, and when I receive information and give feedback. It is great to communicate with people.

Goodbye…

In this blog post, I would like to share my thoughts about the ENGL 119 class that I took this term, the experiences I have gained about academic writing and communication, and the unfortunate news which gave me tough times to continue school life. In the previous blog post I tried to keep my posts funny and entertaining, but because of the context and the situation, I would like to keep this one little bit more serious.

I just checked my email assignment to remember what I wrote. I said I wanted to improve my confidence during speech and eye-contact with the audience in the beginning of the course. In my opinion with the TED Talk presentation assignment, I surely improved these skills. In addition, I learned how to work with team properly, organize well-designed presentations, and do well-transitions in the presentation.

To be honest, I have never heard about “request for proposal” or “Final report” before. I learned the importance of them and where we might need to write them in our future career as a math student. In the writing side of the communication skills, I learned lots of things such as how to write a blog post, e-mail to teacher or professor, etc. I believe I improved my writing skills a lot.

Overall, I must say that the context of the course was a little bit boring for a math student (that is just my opinion). However, Sara made the lectures fun I guess. I’m wishing everyone in the course good luck in the final exams.

Berdem Yildiz

 

Why I Enjoyed ENGL 119

ENGL 119 is the most challenging English course I have taken in life. Having breezed through high school English courses and SPCOM 223 in the first term, I am a little over-confident in dealing with English courses. In ENGL 119, however, I am genuinely challenged by its difficulty. Prepare for the TED Talk, write the proposal, and grind out the two-thousand-word final report; none of them is trivial undertaking. But having gone through the entire process, I am glad to say that I have improved and grown. I learned to do research on the library website, write concisely to facilitate easy reading, and always start by writing a shitty first draft. Most importantly, I learned to manage my time well.

I loved to procrastinate. My habit of procrastination was fully developed in high school, back when I had no sense of priority. I carried this obnoxious habit with me to university. Towards the end of the first term, this evil habit finally decided to take vegeance upon me. On the night before the final SPCOM 223 presentation, I realized that I had not chosen a topic, let alone starting the draft. Sitting in front of the computer, I started to panick. I attempted to read research papers and websites, but the text just would not stop dancing around in front of my eyes. Trying for hours without accomplishing anything, I felt the adrenaline pumping in my body. I started to research at 8 pm, and narrowed down the topic at 9 pm, and finally put some words down on an empty sheet of paper at 10 pm.

I am screwed. I thought to myself.

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Finally, when I was exhausted by my stress and anxiety, I decided to go to sleep. The next day, I skipped all my classes and fervently wrote down whatever was on my mind. Although I managed to finish before class, I did dreadfully on the actual presentation.

“Do not procrastinate”, I think, was the most important lesson I learned in SPCOM 223.
This term, the pain of the SPCOM 223 fiasco still lingers on my mind, so I kept reminding myself to start every assignment as early as possible. I did that, and I am pleased by my achievements. I have tried my best to complete and polish every piece of writing before handing it in. Regardless of the final grade, I am really glad to be able to finish ENGL 119 with a sense of accomplishment.

As a stereotypical math student, I would never have imagined enjoying a English course in university. But ENGL 119 changed my mind. The level of difficulty motivated me to work hard throughout the term, and the content is really relevant to my future career.
There is a CS report due tomorrow. Having written the ENGL final report, I am no longer intimidated by it. I will apply what I learned in ENGL 119—using the rhetorical triangle, writing in concise language, and chunking information effectively—to produce a high-quality report.

Thanks to ENGL 119, I am closer to being articulate.

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Say Goodbye to ENGL 119

This term has finally come to an end. And my journey to learning writing and communication skills in ENGL 119 has come to the last step.

Thinking about what I have learned throughout this semester, the first thing that came to my mind is the rhetorical triangle, which is composed of three elements – Ethos, Pathos and Logos.

Aristotle's Rhetorical Triangle[1]

The way in which the identity of the writer/speaker affects the argument is known as ethos. The writers/speakers must know the purpose of the article or the speech. Are they providing information? Are they calling for action? Also the writers/speakers must show their credibility and authority so that the audience would trust their words. Pathos is considered as appealing to the emotions of the audience. The audience needs to be moved by the words said/written. Thus it is also important to determine the target audience and understand what the audience is interested in.  Logos is the same as contents, which including the information the writers/speakers want to deliver to the audience. To make the audience focus to the article/speech and understand the information, the content of the message must have a clear and organised structure. The rhetorical triangle is also used in our TED talk, proposal and report.

 

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The second task in this term is the TED talk. Form the TED talk, one thing that I have learned is teamwork. Focusing on one’s own part is insufficient. We need to integrate everyone’s work, arrange the order of talking and transit between each other’s work to see assure that  the speech is fluent and clear to our audience. The second thing I learned from my experience in the TED talk is that I have to organize my schedules wisely. Since it was difficult to arrange a group meeting time during the midterm period, we tried to complete and perfect our individual parts before a meeting. As a result, during the meeting we could focus on transition between our topics rather than revising every one’s work. In my experience of the TED talk, I also found out that peer review is beneficial that I could always learn from my peers’ presentation and their feedback. After listening to other group’s presentation in the rehearsal, we found out some drawbacks of our talk. It was seemed that our speech lacked interaction with the audience and contained too many technical explanations. Therefore, during the meeting after the rehearsal, we changed some parts of our talk to fit the topic. Finally, we did a good job in the final TED talk!

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After the TED talk, the final thing to do was writing request for proposal and the final report. At this moment, Sara taught us the process of writing a proposal and a report. We also understood the importance of using reference to give credit to the original writer. Sara also assigned us to a peer review group so that we could get advice from our peers. The report could never be a simple process. However it will definitely be beneficial in my future study and work.

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Thanks for all the great experience in ENGL 119!

Reflections on ENGL119

Almost every student in an English course was told a story: employers told Dean of the Math Faculty that his students lack communication skills. Since then, all math and CS students have been required to take two communication courses, and probably everyone in this class of ENGL119 took this course for this reason. However, the course is not as bad as I expected.

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Throughout the course, we were taught how to explain technical stuff to “normal people”. Unfortunately, it is not easy as it may seem. Technical jargon seems to be the most annoying to people, but in fact, these terms were invented to make explanation easier. Compressing and translating these ideas into slides took us a lot of time and efforts. After that, the proposal and the final report seemed even more challenging. Thanks to Sara, we learned how to write them in class, which made the assignments a little easier. Overall, the course has a relatively high workload, but the organization of contents and topics were designed reasonably.

After taking ENGL119, I also gained some other skills as well as writing. The rhetorical triangle is a good guide for how to convey my ideas, and I noticed that in a communication process, logos alone is not persuading enough, different from math where logos is everything. Also, citing the works of other is as important as writing my own work. In addition, searching for resources with the library database is extremely helpful. While writing the report, I needed some functions of Microsoft Word which I do not use often in daily life, such as table of contents.download-2.jpg

Lastly, I would like to share an idea. The most shocking fact that I learned in this course is, surprisingly, that the majority of the North American population do not take math after grade 10. This is really mind-blowing for me because in China, even when you plan to study literature in university, you will be tested on math for the entrance exam. However, math students have to continue studying communications. My question is that why arts students are not required to take two math courses, given that math occurs everywhere, just like communication.

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A Bittersweet Goodbye

At last, the day has come to say goodbye to ENGL 119 (if I don’t manage to pass the final report, please pretend this blog post never happened).

But actually where did this semester go??

The first day of class feels so distant because of everything that we’ve managed to accomplish since. I remember walking in terrified. The classroom, the atmosphere, what we were learning, everything reminded me of the time I spent in ESL almost 7 years ago. Thankfully, I have erased those first four months of painful integration into Canadian culture, elementary school, and new “friends” almost completely out of my memory. English 119 was like a reminder of where I started. A truly humbling experience! And although it felt a bit degrading at first, to go back to lessons on basic communication, having worked so hard to escape these in the past, I surprised myself with how much  I actually enjoyed the class. irony memeContrary to popular belief, not everyone that ends up in Mathematics hates arts and literature. I for one, love reading (anything but my textbooks), learning new languages, experiencing different cultures, and don’t mind writing if it’s for a purpose or topic that I am passionate about. The best part of this course in my opinion was to have the ability to choose the theme of our blog posts, TED Talks, and final reports. In the university bubble we currently live in, we are defined by words such as “requirement”,  “mandatory”, and the less stressed, but somehow still as painful to hear – “suggested”. Choice is a hot commodity and it is very easy to forget to take every opportunity to explore subjects that actually excite us.

Another high point for me was the first glimpse of the Rhetorical Triangle.

This was partially due to my fascination with ancient Greece, and partially because I am usually the first one to drop out of an argument due to lack of confidence in my own ideas. Now, knowing that learning how to become better at persuading an  audience is a possibility, I fully intend to make it a new personal goal of mine.

Image result for report writing memesThe report writing component, while it was a painful and step by step process (I tend to take a more “all in one go” approach in life), was completely necessary and useful for us to go through as well. I think it took me a few days of mental preparation just to convince myself that I all I needed to do was to start typing and see where my topic took me. At the end of the day , what’s important is not how much we all dread writing reports, but how you can distinguish yourself by showing even the smallest amount of knowledge on report structure and understanding of your readers. Having contributed to a few technical report during my co-ops (also having done audit work which I ABSOLUTELY HATED so I’ll spare you the details), it’s no mystery to me that reports are feared by 99% of the population. The other 1% just haven’t attempted writing one yet… So might as well just embrace it!

Finally, I would like to thank Sara for being honest with her expectations and understanding of our needs. Your guidance throughout this course was very much appreciated. More importantly, thank you for providing us with a great way to escape our day-to-day, math/ computer science – absorbed lives.  Image result for school's out for summer gif

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey of ENGL119

How time flies! I cannot remember when is the first time I came to the class, while I still remember the emotion about first touching this course is nervous since I thought this course is difficult for me whose first language is not English to learn. However, after about three months studying, I thought my English communication improve extremely.

I still remember that the first new thing I learned from this course is the genre which I did not know before. Moreover, I learned the rhetorical triangle which contains  logos, ethos and pathos. In fact, I never consider that I need to use rhetorical triangle to write an essay or communicate with other people before I learned it in this class. I am pretty sure that I will focus on how to use rhetorical triangle to convince somebody when communicating or engage audiences when I write an essay in the future. The way of engaging your audiences is that you should build your credibility, also you should use some logic to convince the audiences. Moreover, you should establish a relationship between you and your audiences.

Another thing I learned from this class is the power of teamwork. I could not forget that I was so nervous when I heard I need to do a presentation with unfamiliar teammates since I thought I might mess it up. However, when I did this presentation with my teammates, I felt very comfortable to communicate with them. They help me a lot when I prepared my part of topic. Although we did not very well for the rehearsing one, we helped each others and practiced much more. Finally, we are satisfied with our final presentations. From this experience, I believe that if I face the same situation like some group work in other courses or future work, I will be more confidence to communicate with others and do not feel nervous any more.

When I check my email which I sent to my teacher to talk about my English level, I think that at least I improve my communication through these three months. In this course, I learned how to communicate with other people using some great ideas. Moreover, I learned how to write a proposal ,even a report. Tell you the truth, I did not touch these before. I cannot imagine that I would search some reliable articles by my university library. The proposal and report will help me a lot since I maybe do some reports when I work in the future. Thus, it is useful to maintain how to write a report. At least, I know how to start it while I did not know anything about it.

After all, it is a great experience to take the ENGL119 this course. It is just like a part of journey of my life. In this journey, I learned how to communicate with others face to face or in writing form. By the way, I am going back to my final report and thanks for your reading!