Author Archives: Grammarai Warrior

About Grammarai Warrior

I am a teacher with a B.A. in English. I'm originally from upstate New York, I currently teach English as a second language in South Korea. I previously taught English on the island of Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Affordable and Educational Gifts for Children that Don’t Include Screens

The following is a guest post by Joyce Wilson of TeacherSpark.org. Visit her blog for more great articles and teaching ideas!


Many children spend a lot of time playing video games and watching television these days, and it can be a real challenge to get them interested in anything else. We don’t want them to be bored, but it is natural to want to give gifts that move them away from screens, since as ParentMap notes, too much use can be bad for them. Luckily, many educational gifts that are reasonably priced are easy to find. Here are some simple, budget-friendly suggestions courtesy of Grammarai Warrior.

Encourage Artistic Expression

Encouraging children to express themselves artistically has many emotional benefits and it doesn’t cost a lot of money to foster their natural talents. Art supplies like acrylic paint, brushes and a canvas or two make an excellent gift combination for youngsters. Other good options include modeling clay, charcoal pencils, watercolors, and calligraphy sets. Even simple coloring books and crayons can offer hours of creative fun.

Music is another form of artistic expression that can draw a child away from the lure of screens. Although a new musical instrument can be a big investment, a used one can be purchased from online sites like eBay or Etsy. As an example, a keyboard is relatively easy to learn and is a good way for a child to start making music. Be sure to throw in a book of easy-to-master songs and a pair of noise-canceling headphones to round out the gift.

Hands-On Education

Children love watching things grow and learning how substances react. A biology lab kit can be assembled by buying seeds, growing medium, and a few pots. Try to choose plants that grow relatively quickly like marigolds or beans so the whole operation won’t be abandoned. If your child is hooked on science, chemistry sets provide hours of interesting activity for children while teaching them about experimentation. Select one that is age-appropriate and meets your price point.

Another inexpensive hands-on learning toy is a set of building blocks like Legos and other creative construction toys. Parenting Science points out there is ample evidence that construction play encourages problem-solving as well as language, spatial, and motor skills. You can start with a simple set that can be added on to as the child’s ability to build expands. And you might be surprised to learn that if you visit Lego’s website, you can often find sales on their products.

For the Bookworms

Books never go out of style. Consider popular nonfiction titles or even a series of books. Many bookstores, whether online or not, have members’ clubs that offer discounts and special rates.

Also, consider shopping second-hand bookstores for first-edition classic titles or gently used selections. If you have an e-reader, download some freebies. With endless options on every topic imaginable, books are the perfect way to expand your child’s horizons and help them learn.

Family and Social Interactions

Meaningful interactions with family and friends are the best way to get children interested in leaving the world of their screens behind. Consider games and puzzles to brighten your child’s day, enjoy more family time, and, of course, keep them off the electronics.

Puzzles are both fun and challenging mental exercise and can be a super low-cost gift. A jigsaw puzzle of the world, for instance, is an excellent gift for helping kids to learn geography. Several puzzle books like crossword and word search are also a good choice. Finally, board games can teach a variety of skills like counting, spelling and even real estate.

Another activity you can do with your kids is to teach them about the practical skills you demonstrate at home everyday. You can talk to them about doing things with you around the house. You can ask them to help you cook lunch, tend to the garden, or wash the car. If they’re interested you can check different websites, and look at some project that you can do together.

Deciding on a screen-less gift for your child doesn’t have to be a difficult or impossible decision. Children love learning, creating and moving, so all of these options should provide a great first step. Don’t be afraid to get creative, and don’t forget to take advantage of online opportunities to help you save money.

Grammarai Warrior offers inspirational tips and free grammar resources. Check out our store or contact us today!


If you enjoyed this article by Joyce Wilson, get in touch with her and check out all of her content at TeacherSpark.org for more helpful information and inspirational teaching ideas!

Powering Through Projects

We’ve all been in a situation where we had a lot of work to do and not enough energy to do it. Whether it’s college papers or projects at work, sometimes you just have to trudge on through and get things done for a deadline even if it kills you. Here are a few quick tips and ideas to maintain your energy levels and power through those projects like a champ.

Stay hydrated

This is a fairly obvious tip and one that a lot of gurus are already promoting, so I won’t stay on this one for long. Sometimes all you need is a glass of water to get rehydrated, and you’ll feel much more awake. If you often get too busy and forget to have a few glasses of water throughout the day, set a reminder on your phone or smartwatch to keep yourself hydrated.

Maintain a regular sleep schedule

Being mindful of your circadian rhythm can make a big difference in how you feel throughout the entire day. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Make bed time non-negotiable, and do whatever you have to do to make yourself get up in the morning. If you have a hard time getting out of bed on time, Jocko Willink has some brilliant ideas for making yourself get up.

Sleep is a very deep topic to study, and everyone is unique. At the end of the day though, we all need enough sleep to stay healthy and function at our best. If you’re interested in digging deeper into the importance of sleep, I recommend the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD.

Make bed time non-negotiable, and do whatever you have to do to make yourself get up in the morning.

Eat something

If you’re the type to get intensely focused on your work, you might tend to skip meals. As tempting as it might be, don’t skip breakfast in the morning or cut corners by eating junk food like Pop-tarts or donuts. Sugary foods will only give you a temporary boost that will be gone as quick as it came. Eat healthy, and eat regularly to maintain your energy levels throughout the day.

Don’t eat anything

This point might sound like the exact opposite of what I just mentioned, but hear me out. You can still eat, but it might be a good idea to put off your meals or rearrange your schedule. We all know that feeling of lethargy and sleepiness after a big meal. The digestive process can sap a lot of energy and leave you feeling lethargic for a while, especially if you eat something heavy and unhealthy. Eat light, healthy meals that are easy to digest to avoid feeling bloated and sleepy.

If you’re already eating healthy but still feeling sleepy after your meals, consider changing up your schedule so that your meal times don’t come before or in the middle of working hours. Some people even find intermittent fasting routines helpful for avoiding eating during work hours.

And of course (as common sense hopefully tells you already) you should always consult your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet.

A change of scenery

It can be hard to stay focused in certain environments. If you’re working at home, you might be distracted by all the chores you need to get done around the house or all the mediums of entertainment at your disposal. If you’re at your work office, your coworkers might keep stepping in for small talk. Whatever distractions you face, sometimes the best way to make yourself get something done is just to do your work somewhere else where you don’t have anything else competing for your attention. Work in a place that is dedicated to productivity, such as a library or study center. Go to a café where you have nothing else to do and no friends around to talk to. Everyone has different preferences and pet peeves, so find a place that works for you and makes it easy to stay focused on the work at hand.

Get some sunlight

Sunlight plays a significant role in our sleep cycle. It’s one of the cues that helps our bodies know when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to start winding down for the day. Wake yourself up by getting some direct exposure to sunlight in the morning. If you can, do your work outside or next to an open window to allow for direct sunlight exposure. Even a quick fifteen-minute walk during lunch break can help you feel much more awake and energized after being cooped up inside all morning.

Exercise

Regular exercise can be beneficial for lots of reasons. If you have a hard time falling asleep at night, going to the gym might help exhaust you enough to fall asleep at a decent hour. If you feel groggy in the morning, an early workout can get your blood pumping and help you feel alert and energized.

In addition to your regular exercise routine, some brief physical activity when you’re feeling sleepy or lethargic during the day can help clear your head and get you reenergized. A short walk outside might help you brush off that afternoon grogginess at work. And if you’re really getting sleepy, an intense set or two of burpees or jumping jacks will wake you right up. You’ll almost never be so tired that some burpees can’t wake you up!

You’ll almost never be so tired that some burpees can’t wake you up!

Take a nap

If your schedule and environment allow, a quick power nap can give you a great energy boost to get through the rest of your day. A nap cannot replace a proper sleep schedule, but it can be a great compliment to one, or at least help you power through a temporary lack of sleep for a big project. For more information on the art of napping, I recommend this article from The Art of Manliness.

Use coffee for a temporary boost

As you may have read in this previous post about coffee, caffeine is usually not a great idea. However, it might be useful as a temporary boost in particularly demanding circumstances. If you’re going all out for a few days to finish a big project or burning the midnight oil to meet a deadline, caffeine might be useful to keep yourself going for those last few hours before you inevitably crash. Used in conjunction with a power nap, caffeine can be used for a strong temporary energy boost. Simply chug a cup of coffee and immediately crash for a brief power nap. When you wake up in twenty minutes or so, you will not only be reenergized from the nap, but the caffeine should also be kicking in for an extra boost. Caffeine is not a good long-term solution or a healthy addition to your regular diet, but it can be very effective when used strategically.

Try the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique developed by Francesco Cirillo. It is designed to help you get work done in short stages or bursts of productivity followed by short periods of rest. To use the Pomodoro Technique, set a timer for twenty-five minutes. During those twenty-five minutes, get as much work done as you possibly can. When the twenty-five minutes of work is over, you get five minutes to rest and do whatever you want. After five minutes of rest, set the timer for another twenty-five minutes of work, and repeat the process as necessary.

You might find setting a short timer and knowing that there is an end in sight very motivating. Or you might find that you just needed the timer to get yourself started and think a five-minute break is completely unnecessary once you get the ball rolling. Experiment with different lengths of time to find a cycle that helps you get the most done.

Conclusion

You probably noticed that a lot of maintaining energy levels comes down to being healthy and consistent in day-to-day life. Eating healthy, sleeping on time, and exercising regularly are important to just about every aspect of life. However, there are times when even the healthiest among us have to rely on a few life hacks to power through projects in trying circumstances. Stay healthy and hack wisely!

A Great App for Memorizing Vocabulary: Anki

If you’re one of the many people trying to learn a new language, you know how difficult it is to remember a bunch of vocabulary words. There are tons of different apps and methods out there for learning new vocabulary, but the most useful and practical memorization tool I’ve ever used is Anki.

What is Anki?

Anki is a powerful flashcard app designed to help you memorize just about anything. It can be used to make flashcards for learning a language, memorizing terms for a science test, or remembering mathematical formulae. Anki is packed with features and options that can be optimized to fit any preference or study schedule.

There are tons of different apps and methods out there for learning new vocabulary, but the most useful and practical memorization tool I’ve ever used is Anki.

One of Anki’s best features is that it can be synchronized across devices. With apps available for any computer or mobile device, you can start studying flash cards on your computer at home and pick up right where you left off any time you have a few spare minutes throughout the day with your phone. This article is not meant to be a full walkthrough of Anki’s capabilities, but you can visit Anki’s website to read about more details and amazing features.

How Anki Works

Anki is designed to help you memorize terms by spaced repetition. Each time Anki shows you a flashcard, it asks you how difficult it was. The easier the card was to remember, the longer Anki will wait to show you the card again in the future. The more difficult the card was to remember, the sooner Anki will bring it up for review again.

the Anki flashcard difficulty scale
The easier a card is to remember, the longer Anki will wait to review it again. The more difficult a card is to remember, the sooner Anki will review it again.

You can change Anki’s settings to review cards more or less often if you like, but the default settings have always worked great in my experience. If you forget a term, you can always tell Anki to review it again when it asks how difficult it was. You can always count on Anki to review each card again eventually, so you don’t have to worry about scheduling reviews or forgetting terms that you learned in the past.

But I already use Quizlet!

Already made a bunch of flashcards on Quizlet? Quizlet is great too, but it doesn’t have all the options and features that Anki has. If you want to switch from Quizlet to Anki or use your flashcards on both, you can easily move flashcards to Anki without making them all over again. Simply export flashcard decks from Quizlet and import them to a new Anki deck!

Exporting a deck from Quizlet and importing the file to Anki.
Export flashcards from Quizlet (left), and import them to make a new deck in Anki (right).

How I Use Quizlet for Vocabulary

I like to keep things simple, so I put all of my vocabulary flashcards in one big deck for each language. As I study and come across new words and phrases that I want to remember, I add them to the deck. Since Anki reviews cards by spaced repetition, not by topic or deck, it doesn’t matter if you have one deck or twenty. All the cards that need to be reviewed each day are due on that day, no matter what deck they are in or how you prefer to categorize them.

A tactic I employ to ensure thorough memorization of vocabulary is creating two versions of each card. For example, when I add flashcards to my Korean deck, I create an English-Korean card and a Korean-English card. Sometimes I can easily remember the English translation of a Korean word, but I struggle to remember the Korean translation of an English word. By creating two versions of each flashcard, I ensure that I can more easily bring to mind each word that I learn in either language.

Since both versions of each flashcard are already in the same big deck, Anki will review each word both ways each time it comes up. However, if you wish to keep both versions of a card together in a deck, you must create them back-to-back and use the default “Show new cards in order added” option rather than the “Show new cards in random order” option. Otherwise, the two cards will be randomly shuffled into the deck and will likely end up being reviewed separately days or weeks apart from each other. Don’t forget to sync your account when you add new cards or finish a study session!

Finally, try not to skip a review day with Anki. If you have a few small decks, catching up the next day might be easy, but when you have multiple decks and hundreds or thousands of flashcards, missing a day can really cause things to pile up! If you find that you have too many flashcards to review in one day, you can change the “Maximum reviews/day” setting in the “Reviews” tab of the options menu.

Download Anki


As you’ll see for yourself, Anki is a powerful app with tons of great options and features. There is so much more that could be said about Anki, but exploring all of its options and features would take us far beyond the scope of this post. I hope you’ll find Anki as helpful as I have on your own educational journey. Do you use Anki or any other study apps? Share your own tips and tricks in the comments!

a teacher speaking to his class

Teaching: A Calling Not Just A Career

The following is a guest post by Susan Good of RetiredEducator.org. Visit her blog for more great articles like this one!


Teachers are more than educators. They are community leaders and are largely responsible for shaping what our world will look like in the future. If you are thinking about stepping into the classroom, keep reading as the Grammarai Warrior blog covers the basics on how to become a teacher.

Traits of a teacher

Not just anyone can be a teacher. You must be highly organized with the ability to give clear and concise directions to a group of people with varying skills and knowledge levels. If you choose to work at the elementary level, you also need to be exponentially patient and understand that kids must burn energy and question authority. A great teacher will have an astounding sense of humor and be a perpetual optimist.

Educational requirements

If you believe you have what it takes, the next step is to evaluate your dedication to your education. The vast majority of teaching positions in the United States require, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. You should know, however, that earning your master’s degree (there are plenty of programs available online) opens up other opportunities. For example, you could potentially become a lead educator or administrator earlier in your career than with a bachelor’s alone. Once you are done with your education, you will need to take an educator certification test and pass a background check.

Ongoing training

Even though you will spend the vast majority of your time in front of a class, you will also find yourself on the other side of learning more often than you may expect. After you finish your student teaching, you will be required to complete ongoing professional development. Many enthusiastic teachers are given opportunities to further advance their teaching skills by visiting other schools — many of which, like the Ron Clark Academy, have a reputation for innovative teaching styles that cater to at-risk youth.

The rewards

There are obvious rewards to being a teacher. One is that you get to shape the leaders of the future. But as educational technologies company Shmoop explains, you will also learn while you earn. If impacting the future and enhancing your own knowledge base isn’t enough, think of all of the funny moments that you’ll have in the classroom — both because of the students and your sense of humor, which will grow out of necessity. Further, you get to work with other men and women who have similar goals as your own, and you’ll form a network of friends that will quickly grow outside of work.

The money

Very few teachers start their careers because of the money. Depending on where you live, you can expect a starting salary of $32,000 or less. Some higher-paying teachers in states like New York and Massachusetts easily top out at $75,000 or more. According to Niche, the average teacher in the US makes around $58,950 per year.

Being a teacher is a calling just as much as it is a career. For all of its positives, teachers are sadly overlooked and underappreciated. There may be days when you want to throw in the proverbial towel. But remember: The work you do now will have a long-lasting impact. The students you teach today hold tight to the lessons you’ve taught long after you retire, and they will take these with them into their adult lives. As a teacher, you are important, you matter, and you make a difference — and you can’t put a price on that.


If you enjoyed this article by Susan Good, check out more of her content at retirededucator.org! Whether you’re a professional educator, a parent, or a lifelong learner, you’re sure to benefit from her wealth of knowledge and practical teaching advice gained from thirty-eight years of teaching experience.

a laptop on a desk

What to Consider When Buying a Computer

Buying a new computer is a big and expensive decision. There’s a lot of research to do and many factors and specifications to consider. I recently bought a new laptop that I’m quite happy with, but it was quite the job to choose the right one. In this article I’ll discuss the details that affected my decision and the important things to keep in mind when selecting a new computer.

Portability

Most of use end up doing a lot of computing on the go these days. We need to be able to do our work at home, at school, or anywhere else we go to get things done. If extreme portability is a big deal to you, you may want to consider a small laptop with an 11- or 13-inch display, or even a tablet. These days even small laptops and tablets are available with some powerful specifications. Just keep in mind that choosing high portability might mean compromising on things like screen size and durability. If you’re looking for a powerful laptop that can handle CPU-intensive software, you may have to sacrifice some portability.

Durability

Depending on where you find yourself using your laptop, durability might be crucial. If you teach young kids or have some of your own, you might need a fairly rugged laptop, or else a good protective case or sleeve for it. Keep in mind that the most durable laptops are not generally the most sleek or portable.

Battery Life

Battery life can be a tricky and fickle thing to manage. Thankfully we usually have plenty of places to plug in, but some of us need a device that will last all day, so we don’t have to carry a charger around everywhere. If you are in the latter camp, you may have to compromise on other specifications like screen resolution, size, and processing power or else adjust settings to minimize battery usage. Some people also like to purchase an extra battery or two in case they run out of juice with nowhere to recharge.

Hard Drive

There are two things to keep in mind when it comes to the hard drive. First you need an idea of how much memory you need on your device. If you need to store a lot of files and data directly on your device, you may need a few hundred gigabytes or more. If you can keep most of your files in cloud storage and only keep what you currently need on your device’s hard drive, then you can likely get by with a small hard drive and save yourself a sizable sum.

The second thing to keep in mind with the hard drive is the type of hard drive you want. Computers used to use hard disk drives (HDDs), but now the computing world is moving toward solid-state drives (SSDs), which are much faster but also more expensive. There are also hybrid drives (SSHDs) that try to combine the two to offer quick access to frequently used files on a small portion of SSD memory while also providing plenty of storage capacity with a large portion of HDD memory at a lower price than an SSD of the same size. An SSHD can be a good compromise to save some money if you only use a few of the same applications most of the time, but to really future-proof your laptop and get the best performance out of it for years to come, an SSD is the best choice.

RAM

RAM (random-access memory) is where your computer temporarily stores the information for apps and programs you are currently using or will likely use in the near future. The more RAM, the more things your computer can handle at once. For a good all-around experience, 8GBs of RAM should be plenty. If you only do basic tasks like browsing the web and using common office applications, you could even save some money and do just fine with 4GBs of RAM. However, 8GBs of RAM is probably a preferable minimum if you want to future-proof your device and multi-task more effectively. Keep in mind that having more RAM than you will actually use does not boost your computer’s performance. Unused RAM is wasted money. Unless you’re getting into gaming and other RAM-heavy operations, you probably won’t need more than 8GBs of RAM.

Processor

The processor is the brain of your computer and has a lot to do with your computer’s speed and power. For most average computer users, an affordable processor like an Intel Core i3 is plenty. Unless you’re into gaming, editing videos, 3D animation, or some other kind of CPU-intensive work, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on a more powerful processor. If you do need a little more processing power than a Core i3 offers, then moving up to a Core i5 might be worth considering. The two big companies in the realm of processors are Intel and AMD. For basic computing needs, you can’t really go wrong with an Intel Core or comparable AMD Ryzen processor.

Ports

It’s important to consider all the things you might need to plug in to your computer before you buy one. You’ll of course need to be able to plug in some USB peripherals and memory devices, so it’s best to have at least one USB 3.0 port. There is also a trend moving toward the use of USB-C. To future-proof your laptop and ensure you are able to connect to the latest USB-C devices and peripherals without having to buy additional dongles and adapters, it is wise to make sure your device has at least one USB-C port. With the USB-C trend, many manufacturers are starting to leave out other ports like the standard headphone jack on their devices as well.

If you often connect to another screen or projector for presenting slides and videos, it’s also a good idea to have a full-size HDMI port. Be aware that there are several sizes of HDMI cables and ports. Unless you have specific reasons or devices in mind for wanting a smaller HDMI port, make sure you’re looking for a full-size (type A) HDMI port.

If you take a lot of pictures or videos on a camera, you might also consider looking for an SD card port. With most other media and software available for download from websites and app stores these days, you likely won’t need a CD/DVD drive anymore. If you really need one, you may have to sacrifice some other ports and portability. Otherwise, you could always consider getting an external CD/DVD drive.

Depending on what you need, you might not be able to find the perfect computer with every single port you would like. Carefully consider the ports you need the most and remember you can always find an adapter or two for the rest.

Connectivity

For the most part, you’ll probably be using Wi-Fi to connect to the internet. However, if you travel frequently to places without Wi-Fi, you may want to look for a device with a SIM card slot so you can stay connected even without Wi-Fi. It’s also good to have a device with Bluetooth connectivity. Bluetooth allows you to connect many devices like mouses, keyboards, and speakers wirelessly. You can also use Bluetooth to tether your device to your phone or tablet to borrow its network connection when Wi-Fi is unavailable.

Keyboard

The smaller the device you are looking for, the more limited the keyboard is likely to be. Small devices will not have room for things like a separate number pad. Some small devices may even have cramped keyboards that are not as comfortable to type on. If you do much typing, you should at least get a laptop with a normal keyboard size and layout. The look, feel, and sound of a keyboard are things you can adjust to, but a cramped keyboard is plain uncomfortable and could also be bad for your hands.

Trackpad

Like the keyboard, the look and feel of the trackpad is largely a matter of personal preference. Most standard trackpads will get the job done fine, but if you’re picky about your track pad experience, you might have to spend more money for a laptop with a glass trackpad. If a fancy trackpad isn’t a big deal to you or you plan on using a mouse most of the time anyway, you can save some time and money by not worrying about the trackpad too much.

Display

The display is one of the most important things to consider when buying a laptop because it’s what you’ll be looking at most of the time. For basic computing tasks, you shouldn’t need a ridiculously expensive display. Most laptop computers come with practical displays that will suit your basic needs. Unless you plan on editing photos and videos, watching lots of movies, or playing video games, you shouldn’t need a high-end display. Higher-resolution displays drain your battery faster, so unless you have a real need for such a power-hungry screen, you’re better off saving your money or at least turning down the resolution settings until you have a real use for it.

The size of the display is also very important to consider. If portability is a top priority, then you might want a smaller screen, which could also help with battery life. If you like having multiple apps and windows open for multitasking, you may prefer to have a larger screen. Large 15- or 17-inch laptops can be a bit bulky and precarious, so you might consider compromising with a more reasonable 14-inch screen. Some people also find it useful to invest in a second portable monitor.

The final thing to consider regarding the display is whether or not you want a touchscreen. Touchscreens might be a bit more expensive, but they open up a variety of possibilities and allow you to rely less on a trackpad or mouse. Before deciding on a touchscreen, you should also consider what kind of peripherals you might want to use with it. If you like to use styluses or pens, be sure that they are compatible with your device.

Configuration

Laptops are no longer limited to the standard clamshell configuration. Screens can now be flipped, folded, and rotated in all directions on certain laptops and 2-in-1 devices. For basic tasks, such flexibility might not be necessary, and you can save some money by getting a standard laptop. If you want the power of a full-sized laptop and the flexibility and interactivity of a tablet, you might consider getting a foldable 2-in-1 or a detachable.

Price

As I’ve already hinted at, for basic computing needs, you shouldn’t have to spend a ton of money for a decent laptop. Understand what you really need and decide what things you are willing to compromise on. Also remember that in seeking to save money, there are some levels you still might not want to stoop to. There are plenty of great and competitive manufacturers out there who make practical laptops at affordable prices. However, it’s still important to do your research and stay away from brands and companies you’ve never heard of or who offer deals that seem too good to be true.

Many people buy overpowered computers with specs they don’t use because they don’t understand how little computing power they actually need for the simple tasks they do. Others buy a fancy computer for the “wow factor” or a brand name they like without understanding what they are actually paying for. This problem seems particularly true of Mac users for some reason. Many people spend around $1,000 dollars on a basic MacBook Air when they could get a better-suited and more flexible PC for much less. While others overpay for more computer than they need, Apple fans seem uniquely eager overspend in return for less than they could be getting. That’s not to say that Apple doesn’t make some great computers. They definitely do, but it’s important to be aware of what you’re getting and consider how important looks and brand names are to you.

Operating System / Ecosystem

Apple

If you are a diehard Apple fan and/or have more money than you know what to do with, then the Apple ecosystem is a fantastic option. Many people love the seamless connection between all their Apple devices. Another benefit of Apple is that, since they make their own devices and their own operating system, their devices are extremely well optimized to make the best and most efficient use of their hardware possible.

The Apple ecosystem has a lot to offer, but it can also be very restrictive. Apple doesn’t play nicely with others, so many Apple products are only compatible with other Apple products. Those who invest in Apple devices often become trapped in the Apple ecosystem because they don’t want to buy another device that wouldn’t be compatible with their other Apple devices or lose money by switching to a different operating system that would render all their Apple peripherals useless paperweights.

In addition to the risk of being trapped in the expensive and restrictive Apple ecosystem, it’s also important to remember that customer service and repair options are limited. Apple is very picky about who can repair their devices and order the necessary parts to do so. Any attempt to repair or modify an Apple device on your own or through an unauthorized technician voids your warranty. There are also many horror stories about Apple repair technicians declaring devices unrepairable or too expensive to be worth repairing, leaving customers out hundreds or thousands of dollars, when in fact the issue could have been fixed. These problems are actually how businesses like iFixit and Rossman Repair Group make quite a bit of their income. Apple offers some impressive tech, but you really have to be willing to pay for it and play by their rules.

Another thing to keep in mind if you’re considering Apple is that you will need a lot of adapters and dongles. Apple is famous for their minimalist approach to things, which makes their devices look sleek and futuristic but also severely limits your port options, forcing you to buy adapters and dongles for anything that doesn’t have a USB-C plug.

Google

Google’s Chrome OS is a good option for basic computing needs. Chromebooks are some of the cheapest and most portable devices available. There are also higher-end models such as the Pixelbook available if you’re willing to pay. A benefit of Chrome OS is that, like the Apple ecosystem, it connects your other Google devices smoothly within the Google ecosystem, while allowing you some flexibility regarding what kind of device you want. Plenty of manufacturers besides Google make Chromebooks with a variety of specifications to choose from.

The downside to Google is that, also like Apple, it is still restrictive. Chrome OS is not as fully featured as other operating systems and limits you to what is available on the Google Play Store. For basic office and browsing tasks, the Play Store should have all you need, but if you’re looking for more freedom and flexibility, then the Google ecosystem might not be for you.

Windows

Windows is a solid operating system. It’s available on all kinds of different devices by lots of different manufacturers. It’s also very popular, well-maintained, and well-documented, which makes help and support easy to come by. Since it’s so popular, there are nearly infinite applications available for just about anything you want to do.

One big reason many people preferred Apple over Windows was that Apple devices could connect so seamlessly for applications like iMessages, but now the same functionality and more is available on Windows as well through the Your Phone app and apps by other manufacturers for their Windows devices such as the Dell Mobile Connect app.

While Microsoft offers plenty of its own paid apps and features, there are plenty of other free alternatives. Choosing a Windows device does not entrap you in a Microsoft ecosystem. Windows is a great choice for a combination of stability and standardization combined with the freedom to customize and explore without overpaying or being trapped within one company’s restrictive ecosystem.

Linux

If you are familiar with Linux, then you are probably tech-savvy enough that I don’t need to explain it to you. For those of you who haven’t used it before, Linux might present a challenge and come with a steep learning curve.

Technically, Linux is not an operating system but a kernel upon which many operating systems are based. All of these free and open source operating systems are referred to as Linux operating systems because they are all based on the Linux kernel. Even Chrome OS and Android are Linux-based operating systems.

One of the greatest things about Linux is that it is free. There are tons of Linux operating systems—called distributions or “distros” for short—to choose from. You can choose one and install it for free, or you can even make your own if you really know what you’re doing. Because it is open source, it is always growing and improving and has plenty of support and documentation available from a worldwide community of users and developers. Linux is extremely powerful and presents nearly limitless possibilities, but it is also difficult to get into and master.

Because Linux is so technical and not as mainstream as other operating systems, fewer popular apps and games are available for Linux, although many developers are already beginning to address these limitations. There are plenty of free alternative apps available for Linux though, and you can still do most of the same things you would on other operating systems if you know what you’re doing. However, as mentioned before, there is quite a learning curve, and you might have to give up some of the popular apps you’re used to using on Apple or Windows devices until more mainstream users and developers embrace Linux.


Thanks for reading this article! I hope you found it helpful. Please feel free to share your own computer preferences, ideas, and advice below! If you enjoyed this article, consider subscribing and following the Grammarai Warrior Facebook page for updates.

a stack of old books

The Real Shortcut to Learning

At some point most of us find ourselves needing or wanting to learn another language. Thankfully, we live in a world with a surplus of available information. There are countless free and paid learning resources available. We have apps, books, online courses, and everything in between that promise to teach us just about any language we could possibly want to learn. And all of these learning methods promise to teach us more effectively than all the others. Language courses claim to have the latest and greatest instructional methods that guarantee the fastest and easiest way to become fluent.

Sadly, as we can often instinctively tell, most claims of fast and easy fluency are exaggerations at best and sometimes flat-out lies. Many of us are all too familiar with the falsehood of such claims. We’ve signed up for a subscription for some app that promised us the easiest way to fluency or bought a phrasebook that promised to teach all the essential vocabulary we’d need to speak like a native and found out the hard way that such short cuts don’t work. We’ve seen the advertisements and infomercials about language courses that immerse us in a new language so that we can have fun learning naturally without having to study grammar or memorize vocabulary and ended up bored or frustrated.

If you’ve looked into learning a new language, or really anything else, you’ve probably noticed the trend learning systems are following. They’re promising that learning will be easy and fun. We’ve been indoctrinated with the fallacious idea that education is supposed to be entertaining since we were toddlers watching Sesame Street and Dora the Explorer, and developers are using the false doctrine of “edutainment” to make a profit. This doctrine is so pervasive that many of even the most conservative and traditional educators promote the idea that learning should be as fun as they can make it.

Replacing real education with cleverly disguised entertainment breeds ignorance and frustration. Having all grown up under the delusion that we need to be constantly entertained, we’ve shortened our attention spans and weakened our ability to sit still and pay attention to something that is not meant to be entertaining. We are shocked at the idea that people living before the subtle takeover of entertainment culture could willingly sit and listen to speeches, lectures, and sermons for hours at a time and read books for pleasure. Now it’s hard enough to find an adult, let alone a child, who could sit alone in a room with his own thoughts for an hour or two without desperately craving some kind of entertainment or media to consume.

Having all grown up under the delusion that we need to be constantly entertained, we’ve shortened our attention spans and weakened our ability to sit still and pay attention to something that is not meant to be entertaining.

In addition to making everything entertaining, language educators are also claiming that they can make learning easy, especially by eliminating the study of grammar. Grammar is often presented as some terrible monster of a subject that no one in their right mind would approach. Many people growing up in the public school system don’t even learn much grammar anymore, if they learn any at all. When people are ignorant and fearful of the grammar of their own language, mastering the grammar of a foreign language seems like an insurmountable obstacle. Language instructors then design apps and curriculums that attempt to teach languages with as few technical grammar points as possible.

When people are ignorant and fearful of the grammar of their own language, mastering the grammar of a foreign language seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

Language learning techniques that claim to be easy and entertaining sound great. Everyone wants to achieve maximum results with minimal effort, so most popular language learning tools strive to provide easy and entertaining courses without dry or difficult material like grammar. Entertainment sells. When consumers get bored with an app, they end their subscription and uninstall it. When learning a language gets dry and difficult, we often become frustrated and discouraged. We lose our steam and want to quit and find something better. And without the motivation of a serious financial investment in a real language class and a report card to keep us committed to our studies, it’s all too easy to cut our loss of a few dollars and move on to something else. In the end, we don’t end up learning much of anything.

We could blame the developers of “easy” and “fun” language learning systems for making exaggerated and inaccurate claims about their grossly inadequate curriculums, but the truth is that they only produce the products that consumers want. They’re only making what sells. The reason educators are producing lazy curriculums is that we the consumers are lazy. Businesses sell what consumers want, and what consumers want is to be entertained. We have lost the discipline and mental fortitude required to make real progress.

Businesses sell what consumers want, and what consumers want is to be entertained.

Most of us would readily admit that great thinkers and leaders of the past were much more intelligent than we are today. We wouldn’t dare compare ourselves to historical figures like Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Sun Tzu, or Alexander Hamilton. But did any of these men become highly intelligent and successful by learning through entertainment? Absolutely not. Benjamin Franklin did not learn French by subscribing to an app. Napoleon did not become a great strategist with brain teasers and puzzles. King Solomon did not become wise by watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Great thinkers of the past learned by putting in significant effort. They studied. They wrote. They practiced. They memorized. They read all the books they could get their hands on. They weren’t expecting to be entertained. They realized the importance and necessity of applying themselves and working hard even when something was not easy or entertaining.

At some point, studying will get difficult and boring. We’ll have to struggle with difficult words and grammatical concepts from time to time. That’s how we learn. We can’t master a new subject if we’re just looking for novelty all the time. As entertaining as the “fun” teachers are, they might not always be the best for us if they don’t also make us work. The teachers I would have claimed as favorites in school were the ones who were funny and entertaining. I remember them well, and I even remember some of their funny stories, but I don’t remember much of what they taught in their classes. However, I do remember lots of boring things like grammar, multiplication tables, and spelling rules that my strict teachers forced me to memorize day in and day out. I didn’t have fun in their classes, and I hated all the homework. But all the hard work and memorization forced me to learn things that are nearly impossible to forget now.

The real shortcut to learning is to stop looking for shortcuts. Stop demanding constant novelty and entertainment. We master subjects by wrestling with new ideas and concepts, making mistakes, and building on the foundations of what we’ve learned before. To make real progress, we have to stop demanding that everything be fun and easy and develop the discipline and mental fortitude necessary to truly succeed.

The real shortcut to learning is to stop looking for shortcuts. Stop demanding constant novelty and entertainment.

The modern mind is like a spoiled child demanding constant entertainment. We need to stop spoiling our brains, stop trying to work around their childish cravings for novelty, and start disciplining them. There is truth to the saying that the mind is a muscle. Like our other muscles, the mind will grow through strenuous activity. Just as we gain strength and muscle mass by challenging our physical limits, so too will we gain mental strength by challenging our intellectual limits. We need to stop looking for shortcuts and falling for sales gimmicks telling us what we want to hear and start disciplining ourselves to work hard toward meaningful progress.

roasted coffee beans

Why You Should Quit Coffee

I know it sounds terrible, but hear me out. Do you really need coffee? Some of you just gave an emphatic and whole-hearted YES! before you even finished reading the question, but let’s stop and be honest with ourselves. Why do we even like it so much? Some coffee tastes pretty good, but some of us don’t even drink it for the taste. For a lot of people, coffee is an acquired taste. For one reason or another, many of us made ourselves like it. Some of us probably started drinking it because we wanted the caffeine boost. Others of us started drinking it because it was cool or popular, and we didn’t want to feel left out. To be blunt though, neither of those are good reasons to obsess over a drink.

Don’t be a coffee snob.

The coffee shop culture is what started turning me off about coffee at first. I used to be quite interested in coffee. I started drinking it in high school and really got into it in college where two good friends of mine worked in coffee shops and further encouraged my caffeine craze. I also liked to make my own coffee with a French press and enjoyed trying different brands and roasts. I had had enough coffee to taste the difference between the cheap stuff and the quality stuff. A cheap cup of Maxwell House or Folger’s instant coffee was no longer satisfying to me. I would settle for cheap coffee if necessary, but I was starting to think of my palette as too refined to be satisfied by low-quality coffee.

And things only got worse when I moved to a new job where I worked with some serious coffee drinkers. My coworkers were the kinds of coffee “connoisseurs” who took pride in tasting the difference between an average cup of joe and high-quality coffee. While these coworkers were otherwise wonderful people, seeing how proudly addicted to coffee they were made me realize that I had once been on the brink of becoming a bit of what I call, for lack of a better term, a coffee snob.

By coffee snob, I mean the kind of person who goes out of his way to let you know that he has a refined palette. I mean the kind of person who takes pride and sometimes might even seem boastful about his addiction to coffee. Coffee snobs are the kind of people who “can’t live without their morning cup of coffee.” They are the cringy hipsters wearing beanies and giant headphones and sipping overpriced coffee in some no-name café while they shop for more plaid flannels from a brand you’ve never heard of on their MacBooks.

Okay, they don’t all look like that, but you know who I’m talking about. And while I was never really in danger of becoming one of those people, I realized that I had been in danger of foolishly obsessing over something that wasn’t important.

If you’re a coffee snob, allow me to be blunt and give you some tough love here. You’re not that cool, and no one is impressed by your refined taste for exotic toasty bean water. Coffee is just that. It’s toasty bean water, and while it may taste good, it’s not something you should be finding your cultural or social identity in. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a nice hot cup of bitter brown bean sludge once in a while, but don’t let it be more important to you than it should be. Coffee is just a beverage.

Get more sleep!

Drinking coffee for the caffeine boost is at least understandable. We wake up early and we feel groggy, so caffeine seems like a good fix. We get sleepy at work around 2 pm, so another cup of coffee seems like an effective way to get through the rest of our shift. After a while, we build a tolerance for caffeine, which means we need more coffee to get the same stimulating effect. We create a vicious cycle in which we constantly feel a need for coffee and continue to waste more time and money on it. We end up trapped wasting our money on coffee we wouldn’t have needed if we had just slept enough in the first place. Coffee is not a healthy way to deal with our sleepiness. The real ground-breaking solution is to get enough sleep.

I’m not a scientist or doctor, and I don’t want to get too technical, but suffice it to say that adequate sleep is extremely important for all areas of mental and physical health. If you are drinking coffee to cope with inadequate sleep, then the most important advice I can give you is this: make adequate sleep a non-negotiable priority. Forget what Arnold Schwarzenegger said about sleeping faster or what your favorite politician or business tycoon claimed about doing just fine on four to six hours of sleep. Sleep is vital to our health. No one is immune to the detrimental effects of inadequate sleep or the long-term damage it has on our minds and bodies, and no amount of coffee can prevent or reverse the damage caused by inadequate sleep.

Caffeine does not actually help you in the long term. It makes you feel temporarily more alert by preventing your brain from receiving adenosine, the chemical that makes you feel sleepy. Normally, adenosine slowly builds up in your brain throughout the day. The more the adenosine builds up in your brain, the sleepier you feel. Adenosine in conjunction with your circadian rhythm should keep you on a good, natural sleep schedule.

Caffeine keeps you awake by blocking your brain’s adenosine receptors so that adenosine cannot gradually build up in your brain and make you feel sleepy. In the mean time, adenosine is still being produced but has nowhere to go since the caffeine is blocking its receptors. Later, when your body processes the caffeine, the receptors it was blocking are suddenly wide open, and the adenosine that previously had nowhere to go floods in and causes the crash you feel after the coffee wears off.

How quickly or slowly a person’s body processes caffeine is largely up to genetics. Thus some people seem almost immune to the effects of caffeine and can sleep like a baby after having coffee only an hour before bedtime, while others might not be able to sleep after a cup of coffee they had several hours before bedtime. If your body processes caffeine slowly, then the coffee you drink throughout the afternoon could be one of the reasons you don’t get adequate sleep.

When we understand what coffee does to our brains, we can see that it is not a permanent or wise solution to sleepiness. It does not solve the root problem of our fatigue and can often end up making things worse by creating a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, overcompensation, and caffeine dependency. If you’re interested in the importance of sleep and the effects of caffeine, I highly recommend the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker.

Save yourself some cash.

I’m not one of those guys trying to sell you a book about how giving up your daily latte will make you a millionaire, but giving up coffee actually can save you some cash. If you’re an avid coffee drinker who buys a cup at Starbucks every morning, you could save a lot of money each month by forgoing the fancy brew. You spend more on coffee by getting it from a café than you would by brewing it at home or using up the Folger’s in the breakroom at work. Even a plain cup of black coffee can cost several dollars at a café. Multiply that by about twenty workdays per month, and you’re talking some serious cash.

If you’re not quite so rabid for coffee, you might not end up saving a ton, but you could still save a good bit. I usually made my coffee at home in the mornings and only bought from a café a few times a month. By cutting out coffee, I save around twenty or thirty dollars per month. That’s not crazy money, but twenty or thirty dollars can be helpful when you’re on a small budget.

How do I quit coffee?

If you are thinking about quitting or cutting back on coffee consumption, you might be in for a bit of a challenge. If you’re addicted to caffeine, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms by quitting cold turkey. It’s important to know yourself and accept your weaknesses before you try to quit or cut back. Some people might have the self-control and willpower to cut back a little at a time. Others would be better off quitting cold turkey because they would be too tempted to give in and brew a pot of coffee every time they feel a craving for it.

If you know you don’t have the self-control to drink coffee in moderation, I recommend quitting cold turkey. One good way to stay motivated is to visualize your progress by crossing off each day on a calendar or planner. You might also consider keeping a journal of the challenge and how you’re improving. It’s also helpful to create accountability. Tell your friends and family that you’re cutting back or quitting coffee. Decide on some consequences you agree to pay if you fail. Make a post on your blog or social media account to hold yourself accountable to your friends and followers. And most importantly, eliminate temptation by removing coffee from your home.

If you have sufficient self-control, then you might be able to cut back incrementally. I started cutting back on coffee by limiting myself to one cup each day. I failed here and there, especially if a coworker brought in coffee or offered to buy, but most of the time it wasn’t very hard to limit myself to one cup per day. More recently I decided that I didn’t want to feel dependent on even a daily cup of coffee. I eventually decided that once the bag of coffee I was using ran out, I just wouldn’t buy any more.

I’m not writing this article to say that coffee is terrible and that no one should ever drink it. I still enjoy a good cup of coffee myself, but I don’t think that it’s wise or healthy to be addicted to it. A lot of us would benefit from taking a good honest look ourselves, our health, the things we value, and the kind of performance we should expect of ourselves and to what extent we should allow a simple beverage to control our lives.


What do you think about coffee culture? Please feel free to share your opinions and coffee quitting anecdotes too!

a smartphone next to an open notebook

How Texting Affects Literacy and Grammar

With all the advancements in communication in the last few decades, texting has become a commonplace form of communication. Because of the quick and often brief nature of texting, a new abbreviated communication register referred to as “textese” has surfaced. Due to the informal nature of textese and its blatant disregard for basic grammar and spelling rules, textese has received a lot of negative attention from the media. Many claims have been made about how detrimental texting is, especially to peoples’ reading and writing abilities. It has been claimed that texting and the use of textese damage spelling, vocabulary, grammar, and literacy. Much research has been done on the effects of texting and surprisingly shows some positive results. Many studies that show negative results, usually among adults, are mixed and inconclusive, often citing a need for more research. Texting may get a lot of bad publicity from the media and others making big claims without doing their research, but it may not be as bad as they assume. In fact, texting may have more positive effects than negative. Contrary to popular belief, texting is not always detrimental to literacy and grammar and is rather beneficial in many ways.

Research indicates that texting does not necessarily have the negative effects on literacy that many people have been led to believe it does. Studies show mixed results, but they largely indicate that texting has positive effects with few or no negative effects on literacy and grammar among children and adults. M.A. Drouin points out that “studies in both the United States and Britain have shown that there are no significant, negative relationships between the use of textese and standard measures of literacy,” and that those studies actually indicate positive effects among children and little effect on young adults.[1] However, research, especially concerning adults, is often inconclusive. With so many variables in regard to people and their environments and circumstances, it is difficult to determine consistent trends and effects brought on by texting. It is likely that an adult’s comprehension of literacy and grammar systems is determined more by his own competency than by his use of language.

Regarding children, research indicates that texting offers some clear benefits. As children learn to differentiate between textese and formal writing, they improve their literacy and grammar skills through texting. If children are capable of such improvement with relative ease, adults should at least be able to differentiate between the registers of textese and standard English and know the appropriate time and place to use each one. Drouin says, “It does not appear that textese just seeps out into writing everywhere and in equal amounts; instead, the average person uses textese thoughtfully, and more often within the contexts deemed ‘appropriate.’”[2] People are not usually oblivious when using textese. They generally seem to make the deliberate choice to use it or not. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron also pick up on this idea of the average person’s awareness in their study: “Our results suggest that the impact of ‘lazy’ language use when texting may have been overstated. Our findings reinforce the need to differentiate between the deliberate violation of grammatical or orthographic convention and a genuine lack of understanding.”[3] When a person uses textese, he is likely doing so consciously. The use of textese does not necessarily mean that people are becoming completely ignorant of the proper rules of grammar and syntax in standard English. People are aware of two distinct forms of communication, even if they do not always choose the best one.

Even in the case that an individual being truly oblivious or grammatically incompetent, textese could still be potentially useful to him if he still wishes to make use of the convenient flexibility of textese. De Jonge and Kemp assert that “if less competent language users are drawn to the creativity and flexibility of textese in a way that improves their language skills through exposure to written language (as has been suggested with younger children), then mobile phones could prove useful in educational settings.”[4] As with children, textese could prove beneficial even to young adults, if it serves to expose them to written language and encourages them to experiment and manipulate it in different contexts. Of course, texting is not preferable or comparable to real language education, but something is better than nothing. Texting has the potential to be beneficial to people of differing levels of linguistic competency.

There are other factors to consider besides the competency of the person texting when considering the effect of textese on literacy and grammar. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron point out that things like the state of the person texting and even the texting device they are using also play make a difference. Factors such as time constraints, emotional states, and who is the intended recipient of a message can all affect how a person texts, as “the use of kisses, emoticons, and multiple punctuation marks might have more to do with one’s tendency to feel or to display emotion and affection, than with one’s grammatical or orthographic prowess.”[5] Different situations call for different levels of correctness and formality; the use or neglect of standard grammar and punctuation in a situation that does not require their strict application does not necessarily indicate any detrimental effects of texting on an individual. Wood and associates also indicate that “the inclusion or omission of conventional punctuation and capitalization might be determined more by the sophistication of self-correcting phone technology than by the skill of the writer.”[6] Even the notorious “auto-correct” functions account for some of the apparent lack of literacy and grammatical skill associated with texting.

Texting is not necessarily as detrimental as people often think. On the contrary it can actually be quite beneficial, particularly to children. Research shows that children who text frequently tend to be better readers. Deacon and Whitzman point out that the more proficient a child is at texting, the more proficient he is at spelling and reading standard English and believe “it seems unlikely that texting, on its own, impairs children’s development of the vital reading and writing skills that they need in the classroom.”[7] Studies indicate that texting does not have negative effects on children’s literacy and rather show the opposite. Van Dijk and associates assert that in most studies “children’s use of textese and their spelling and literacy abilities were found to be positively related.”[8] Drouin and Driver agree that textisms are positively related to children’s literacy.[9] Wood, Kemp, and Waldron also observe that school children “who used more ungrammatical word forms and more unconventional orthographic forms showed better . . . spelling and growth in orthographic processing.”[10] Contrary to what we may have been led to believe, research indicates that the more children use textese, the more their literacy improves.

There are several possible reasons for the positive effects of textese on children. One common idea is that texting is fun because it allows children the freedom to play and experiment with language without regard for spelling and punctuation rules. If children enjoy the fun of texting and using language in this way, they are more likely to enjoy and appreciate other literacy-based endeavors as well, further increasing their interest in the use of language. Van Dijk and associates suggest that texting exposes children to more text and also increases their “phonological and phonetic awareness” to improve their reading skills, suggesting that simple exposure to text itself, whether typing it or reading it, provides practice of sorts and increases children’s awareness and mastery of reading and using text.[11] Wood, Kemp, and Waldron echo this idea as they discuss the phonetic nature of many textisms: “Their use contributes to phonological awareness and phonological processing, which in turn contribute to spelling development.”[12] Simply gaining more exposure to language and putting it to use in different ways contributes to children’s development.

Van Dijk and associates suggest another idea that texting generally increases children’s awareness of different registers and the appropriate times and places to use each register.[13] Texting may help children to understand that there are different registers of speech and writing and to differentiate between those registers as they learn where and when each register is appropriate. Children who frequently use textese may develop advantages similar to those of bilingual children. It is possible that switching between the registers of textese and standard English may exercise similar mental functions to switching between languages. Van Dijk and associates point out that being bilingual strengthens one’s abilities to suppress certain information while making use of information relevant to a given situation, even a non-linguistic situation.[14] A similar process for choosing between registers of speech and writing could offer the same benefits.

Texting has been found to have positive effects not only on children’s literacy but also on their grammar. Much like the effects of texting on basic literacy functions, its effects on grammar are largely positive. Van Dijk and associates found that “the more words children omitted in their text messages, the better their grammar performance,” suggesting that the omission of words in textese may train children’s grammar systems and improve grammatical performance in their speech.[15] Similar to the way exposure to texting and manipulation of language improves phonological awareness, experimentation with omitting words enhances grammatical performance. Van Dijk and associates further explain that “by using textese, . . . children apply rules of grammar and do so in a context-sensitive manner.”[16] When children regularly analyze sentences and make decisions about which words to drop in ever-changing contexts over text, they are essentially doing grammar exercises without even realizing it. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron’s studies agree that texting has no detrimental effects on grammar and found that grammatical violations in texting do not appear to be linked to loss of grammar skills.[17] Texting has no significant detrimental effects on grammar, but rather improves understanding of grammar. Writing is an art form, and as with any art, one must understand the rules before he can break them. Combined with an understanding of the rules of standard English grammar, textese can help deepen a student’s understanding of grammar as he picks grammatical constructions apart and uses them in different ways and contexts. The manipulation of language to write in textese actually exercises grammar systems and improves understanding of grammar. As long as the correct rules are learned, remembered, and applied when appropriate, breaking them through textese offers only benefits.

Many of the claims against texting for its supposed negative effects on literacy and grammar are woefully unfounded. Studies indicate that texting is more often beneficial than detrimental to literacy and grammar. It is especially beneficial to children and likely harmless if not beneficial to adults as well. Texting exposes children to text in new ways and contexts and serves as a mental exercise to sharpen their understanding of grammar. Studies show mixed results regarding the effects of texting on adults, but many apparent linguistic deficiencies in adults can often be attributed to outside factors or to the individual’s own carelessness or lack of linguistic competence in general. Texting may break a lot of rules, but, so long as the distinction between registers is understood and each register is used appropriately, there is likely no need to worry about texting destroying our language skills.


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[1]. M.A. Drouin, “College Students’ Text Messaging, Use of Textese and Literacy Skills,” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 27, no. 1 (February 2011): 69, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[2]. Drouin, “College Students’ Text-messaging,” 72.

[3].Clare Wood, Nenagh Kemp, and Sam Waldron, “Exploring the Longitudinal Relationships Between the Use of Grammar in Text Messaging and Performance on Grammatical Tasks,” British Journal of Developmental Psychology 32, no. 4 (November 2014): 427, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[4]. Sarah De Jonge and Nenagh Kemp. “Text-message Abbreviations and Language Skills in High School and University Students,” Journal of Research In Reading 35, no. 1 (February 2012): 65, accessed April 5, 2017,  Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[5]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[6]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[7]. Helene Deacon and Sara Whitzman, “Does Texting Lead to Poor Literacy Skills?,” Literacy Today no. 67 (December 2011): 15, accessed March 29, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[8]. Chantal N. van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language on Grammar and Executive Functions in Primary School Children,” Plos ONE 11, no. 3 (March 31, 2016): 2, accessed April 5, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[9]. Michelle Drouin and Brent Driver, “Texting, Textese, and Literacy Abilities: A Naturalistic Study.” Journal of Research In Reading 37, no. 3 (August 2014): 264, accessed March 28, 2017, Academic Search Elite, EBSCOhost.

[10]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

[11]. Van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language,” 3.

[12]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 425.

[13]. Van Dijk et al., “The Influence of Texting Language,” 3.

[14]. Ibid., 4-5.

[15]. Ibid., 16.

[16]. Ibid., 17.

[17]. Wood, Kemp, and Waldron, “Relationships Between Grammar and Texting,” 427.

Roman architecture

The Benefits of Studying Latin

Latin may be a dead language, but it is not useless or irrelevant. For years the study of Latin was common practice in schools and colleges for good reason. Though Latin is no longer a requirement in most schools or college majors, the study of Latin still has benefits, no matter what discipline one might be studying. The study of Latin sharpens the mind and enriches a good education in other areas of study.

The study of Latin enriches a student’s education through its deep connections to history, philosophy, and culture. Many great Roman thinkers, scholars, and writers recorded their works in Latin. Roman thinkers had great influence on other peoples, languages, and legal systems, including America’s: “Our own culture, including our system of government, architecture, art and religion, shows the heavy influence of Rome.”[1] Studying Latin gives a student a better appreciation and understanding of these ancient scholars, their works, and their enduring influences in today’s world. As Claude Pauver observes, “You don’t just read about Seneca or Caesar; you read the words of Seneca and Caesar themselves.”[2] The study of Latin gives a student a deeper understanding and appreciation of influential Latin works by enabling him to study works in their original language. Latin’s historical and cultural roots improve a student’s understanding and appreciation of ancient literary works and their influence on world history and culture.

Studying Latin also improves a student’s study of English and foreign languages. An understanding of Latin improves a student’s study of grammar and expands his vocabulary. According to the University of Illinois, “Students of Latin see immediate benefits to their spoken and written English. More than 65% of English words come from Latin.”[3] Studying Latin improves a student’s understanding and use of the English language. Pauver asserts that after studying Latin, “you don’t just speak your own modern language unreflectively, but you learn where much of it came from, after actually seeing the contents and the workings of one of its greatest sources.”[4] These benefits are not only gained by English speakers, but also by speakers and learners of other foreign languages that have Latin roots and influences, such as French and Spanish. An understanding of Latin enhances a student’s study and comprehension of English and other languages that are derived from and influenced by Latin.

In addition to improving a student’s understanding and appreciation of history and languages, the study of Latin also sharpens a student’s mind for better mental performance in general, no matter what he is studying. Latin forces a student to stretch his mind and think in new ways, because it is difficult and takes discipline to learn. The mind is like a muscle: it improves as one uses it and wrestles with new and difficult concepts. With these facts in mind, Sal Khan asserts that “our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.”[5] Wrestling with a difficult subject like Latin forces a student’s mind to grow and improve for better function in any field of study. By sharpening a student’s mind, studying Latin can enhance performance in all his academic endeavors.

Despite being a dead language, Latin continues to offer multiple benefits. An understanding of Latin improves a student’s understanding and appreciation of many ancient works and other areas of study, and it stretches and sharpens a student’s mind for increased function in any other mental undertaking. Even in the modern world, the study of ancient Latin has limitless benefits.


[1]. Department of the Classics, “Why Study Latin?”, University of Illinois, accessed April 5, 2020, https://classics.illinois.edu/admissions/why-study-latin.

[2]. Claude Pauver, “Some Leading Benefits of Latin (and Classical) Studies, “Saint Louis University, 2009, accessed, April 5, 2020, https://www.slu.edu/colleges/AS/languages/classical/latin/tchmat/pedagogy/latinbenefits.html.

[3]. Department of the Classics, “Why Study Latin?”, University of Illinois, accessed March 23, 2017, https://classics.illinois.edu/admissions/why-study-latin.

[4]. Claude Pauver, “Some Leading Benefits of Latin (and Classical) Studies, “Saint Louis University, 2009, accessed, March 23, 2017, http://www.slu.edu/colleges/AS/languages/classical/latin/tchmat/pedagogy/latinbenefits.html.

[5]. Sal Khan, “The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart,” Khan Academy, accessed April 5, 2020, https://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/conversations-with-sal/a/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes-smart.

a group of giraffes

Some Humorous Group Names of Animals

Have you ever wondered why we use such strange terms for groups of different animals, or where these terms came from? Having so many ridiculous names for groups of animals might seem a little excessive or pointless, but they were originally coined with a purpose.

Words referring to groups of animals are called terms of venery, an old word for “hunting” derived from the Latin word venari, meaning “to hunt, or pursue.”​1 Although most terms of venery are largely unknown and unnecessary for most of us today, they were once part of Medieval hunting traditions, which included a plethora of specific terms for groups of animals. Considering the sheer number of terms and the arguable lack of practicality of such jargon, it is quite possible that many terms of venery may have been used more for academic purposes or as an indicator of one’s expensive education rather than for regular use among the common folk.​2 Even solitary animals that do not naturally form groups have their own special terms for no apparent reason other than to say they have one.

Terms of venery have been recorded in several notable works. One of the most famous books to include terms of venery is The Book of Saint Albans, also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Arms, which was likely written by a highly educated prioress named Juliana Berners. Enthusiasts looking for a more modern collection of terms might also be interested in James Lipton‘s An Exaltation of Larks, which includes old terms of venery along with collective nouns for just about anything else imaginable.

Now that we know where all the strange animal terminology came from, let’s have a look at a few interesting and humorous names for groups of animals.

  • Apes: a “shrewdness” — A clever term for one of the more clever creatures of the animal kingdom.
  • Cats: A group of cats may be called a “clowder” or a “glaring.” The latter is easy to remember since cats have those big “glaring” eyes they always glare so disapprovingly at everyone with. A group of kittens is called a “litter” or a “kindle,” and a group of wild cats is aptly named a “destruction.”
  • Cockroaches: an “intrusion” — This might be the most fitting term on the list.
  • Crows: a “murder” — A fitting name and easy to remember considering their associations with death.
  • Flamingos: a “stand” or a “flamboyance” — Both of these words are very appropriate, but “flamboyance” has to be more fun to say. And what bird is more flamboyant than a bright pink flamingo?
  • Frogs: an “army” — Remember this one by thinking about the second of the ten plagues God sent on Egypt in Exodus 8. Egyptians saw frogs as a sign of fertility associated with their goddess Heqet. It’s interesting how God used their own idols and gods against them.
  • Giraffes: a “tower” — Never mind, this one might be more fitting than an intrusion of cockroaches.
  • Hippos: a “bloat” — They do look a little bloated.
  • Jellyfish: a “smack” — Should have been a “sting.” *Ba dum tss*
  • Komodo dragons: a “bank” — What creature has ever been better at guarding gold than dragons? From Beowulf to the The Hobbit, dragons have always been very stingy with their money.
  • Lemurs: a “conspiracy” — Makes sense. Their eyes just make it look like they’re up to something.
  • Locusts: a “plague” — Another one to remember from the plagues on Egypt. This one begins in Exodus 10.
  • Monkeys: a “barrel” or a “troop” — So that’s why that game was called Barrel of Monkeys.
  • Owls: a “parliament” — This term is sensible given the owl’s association with wisdom and intelligence. It was probably quite a compliment to the owl to be associated with human politicians when the term was coined, but now it might be more of an insult.
  • Penguins: A group of penguins on land may be referred to as a “colony,” a “rookery,” or a “waddle;” while a group of penguins floating in the water is called a “raft.”
  • Rattlesnakes: a “rhumba” — This one just makes me think of robot vacuum cleaners.
  • Ravens: an “unkindness” — This name makes good sense since ravens have similar connotations to crows — not to mention how “unkind” their call is to the ears.
  • Seagulls: a “squabble” — Makes perfect sense, especially if you’ve ever seen seagulls “squabbling” for a piece of food.
  • Tigers: an “ambush” — “Ambush” is an accurate description of a tiger’s hunting methods, which often involve stalking its prey and hiding in the bushes before a swift surprise attack.
  • Toads: a “knot” — Toads are so lumpy that they do sort of bring to mind a knot in a tree or log.
  • Vipers: a “generation” — In Matthew 23:33, Jesus called out the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees and asked them, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
  • Vultures: A group of vultures is called a “committee” when resting, a “kettle” when in flight, and a “wake” when feeding. Since they feed on carcasses, “wake” is a very fitting term.
  • Worms: a “bunch” — I would have guessed “can.” Sorry, that was bad.
  • Zebras: a “zeal” — Not sure what zeal has to do with zebras, but at least both words start with Z for easy recollection.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this article. Share your favorite terms of venery in the comments below! Consider subscribing and following the Grammarai Warrior Facebook page for updates.


1Douglas Harper, “Venery,” Online Etymology Dictionary, accessed March 21, 2020, https://www.etymonline.com/word/venery).

2​ Sarthak Chatterjee, “What Are the Origins of Bizarre Names for Animal Groups?,” Quora (Quora, May 24, 2015), https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-origins-of-bizarre-names-for-animal-groups?share=1).