Archive for the ‘Events ~ Writing Studio’ Category

daffodils photo

(photo credit:  Rene D. Caputo)

March Madness is in the air around the country ~ and definitely here in North Carolina. Many fans are watching collegiate basketball as teams compete to be national champion. Just around the bend, the men’s and women’s tournaments will hold games featuring their Final Four teams on April 1, 2, and 3.

Another sure sign that spring has arrived in our corner of the word? Pollen’s in the air, on trees, cars, our hair, and everywhere. Clouds of yellow dust are floating through the air. The rain thankfully knocks that yellow to the ground now and then.

In addition to basketball and pollen, March and April bring the New Year to some cultures. If you are celebrating in this season, we wish you the best in your new year.

And April Fool’s Day is just around the corner. Be ready for some silly pranks on the first of April. In France, the day is known as Poission d’avril, or April Fish. Children there apparently sometimes tape a paper fish to the back of their friends’ clothes…a bit of lightheartedness in the midst of other seriousness.

Join in our international conversation gathering this Thursday. We tend to cover the spectrum from silly to serious as the hour goes by. We’ll be in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Board room starting at 12:30. See you there!

~ Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist


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(photo credit:  Rene D. Caputo)

Happy solar and lunar New Year to all!

Our International Conversation Café is back in full swing for the semester. In our two opening gatherings, topics discussed included the election, the inauguration, other current events, and New Year’s celebrations.

The tradition in the United States is to celebrate the New Year’s arrival on January 1, but for many cultures here and around the world, the year begins on other dates. Celebrants of lunar New Year (sometimes called Chinese New Year) ushered in the year of the Fire Rooster this weekend.

Duke University has some belated celebrations of the Lunar New Year in February.

Other New Year’s festivities around the world include a Sri Lankan solar festival in April, Rosh Hashanah in September/October, and Diwali in October/November.

Wishing you and yours well no matter when you celebrate.  Join us this Thursday at 12:30 in the Bryan Center’s Griffith Boardroom for our next discussion group.

~ Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist

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The leaves are falling as rain showers continue here in Durham, NC. And two gas stations near Duke University show a price of $0.00 in bright numbers. No, it’s not a dream world, but instead is due to the pipeline break further south. And life continues on…

Speaking of continuing on, our International Conversation Café gathering resumes its weekly run tomorrow. Join us in Griffith Board Room, Bryan Center main floor, at 12:30!

We recently hosted 10 participants whose homelands included Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, and South Korea. We chatted about the Centerfest street fair and the Durham farmers market, held year round. Duke’s own farmers market came up as well, but that’s now wrapping up for the season.

Participants traded ideas about studios offering Pilates and yoga, then discussed several beach destinations (Wrightsville Beach, Topsail Island, the Outer Banks) to consider for coastal adventures. Other topics jumped in along the way.

Upcoming conversation gatherings: Thursdays, September 22 and 29th, then October 6 and 13. Duke University students, visiting scholars and researchers, staff, faculty, and spouses are welcome.  No registration is necessary. Griffith Board Room, Bryan Center main floor, 12:30 to 1:30.  Come join us!

Rene D. Caputo, Duke University ESL Specialist
Thompson Writing Program and Writing Studio

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Our International Conversation Café got off to a great start on Thursday, with nine participants from around the world ~ plus me. What came up?

Romance Studies: A Parisian participant talked a little about his field. And about how some people were not sure what “romance studies” actually meant. Laughter ensued.

Labor Day: Participants were used to celebrating in May. And without classes! Chinese participants said that workers there would typically get one day off in addition to the weekend (and that the holiday was previously longer).

How to improve speaking & conversation skills? After various conversation opportunities were highlighted, I suggested using a Writing Studio handout I created. http://twp.duke.edu/uploads/media_items/listening-conversation.original.pdf

And how about writing skills? Two student attendees learned about Writing Studio appointments: http://twp.duke.edu/twp-writing-studio

We wrapped things up with by chatting for a bit about various street fairs and other entertainment in the area, including:

Happy fall semester, Rene

Rene Caputo
Duke ESL Specialist, Thompson Writing Program
Instructor, English for International Students

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I hope that you are enjoying the beginning of the fall semester.  The summer flew by, but with milder weather here than usual.  This time around, we  had more cool summer mornings than I remember ever experiencing in the Triangle before.

Labor Day weekend is upon us.  And for whatever inexplicable reason, in Duke’s undergraduate college and Graduate School, this means classes as usual on Labor Day Monday.  It’s an excellent time to reflect on being lucky to be employed, perhaps?!  Yes, I feel fortunate indeed, not only to be employed but also to be surrounded by talented, supportive colleagues, brilliant students, and killer staff.

If you’re a member of the Duke community, you can join me and others this coming ThursdaySeptember 4, to talk about Labor Day, current events, culture, and other topics of interest.  Our International Conversation Café returns to the Bryan Center’s Griffith Board Room (formerly Meeting Room B) at 12:30 for our weekly hour gathering.  Hope to see you there.

Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!


Rene Caputo
ESL Specialist, Thomson Writing Program and Duke Writing Studio

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In our final International Conversation Cafe gathering of the semester, one of the main subjects for discussion was massive open online courses, known as MOOCs.  This topic was prompted by a cover story in The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper.  Below is information about major sources for such courses, which cover a wide range of disciplines.

Coursera website: https://www.coursera.org/
Free Duke online writing course begins April 21: https://www.coursera.org/course/composition

EdX website: https://www.edx.org/
Berkeley Courses:  Principles of Written English, parts 1 and 2 (archived):

You might also want to do a Google search for iTunes U, as one of our participants noted, to learn about the courses offered there.

We later talked about Easter and Passover, which some of our participants were curious about. We found more than one explanation for the origins of the word Easter, including that it came from the name of a pagan goddess. If you’re interested in Easter-related events at Duke Chapel, head here:  https://chapel.duke.edu/events

We also discovered some information about Passover ~ and Duke activities related to that ~ here: http://studentaffairs.duke.edu/jewishlife/shabbat-and-holidays/passover-duke

Wishing you a good weekend and springtime, whatever you may or may not celebrate,

Rene Caputo
Duke ESL Specialist
Thompson Writing Program and Writing Studio

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Our International Conversation Cafe group had some interesting discussions this week. Prompted by the cover story of the newest Working@Duke magazine (http://issuu.com/workingatduke/docs/w_d_april-may2014), we started out by talking about the culture of retirement in China, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United States. It seems that for several of the cultures represented by our group members, the retirement age for men and women was different. After talking about retirement issues a bit, we looked at a story from International Business Times that examines the expected upcoming adjustments in retirement age for U.K. workers: http://www.ibtimes.com/which-country-has-highest-retirement-age-developed-world-69-1498496  

These websites provide data about retirement worldwide:  Data on retirement ages, differences between men and women, and the question of if you have to retire at a certain age: http://chartsbin.com/view/2468  More data: http://www.oecd.org/employment/emp/ageingandemploymentpolicies-statisticsonaverageeffectiveageofretirement.htm

We next took on the subject of rain, flooding, and droughts, prompted by a Duke Chronicle story about the rainy Oregon location of a sports event and by my recent rainy visit to Portland, OR for the TESOL International Conference. From there, we turned to drinking water and the norm of boiling tap water in most of our participants’ homelands. In Turkey and Japan, participants noted, the water in the countryside would typically be of better quality than of city water. A participant from China, who was planning to send water filters home to family, noted that the Kunshan area was known for having had better water than the major cities.  Looking up Kunshan and water online, we came across this story about Kunshan’s becoming an incubator for water sensitive design and technology: http://watersensitivecities.org.au/city-of-kunshan-signs-mou-to-be-chinas-first-crc-incubator-city-for-water-sensitive-design-and-technology/    Note ~ Duke Kunshan University opens this August: http://dku.edu.cn/

An attendee mentioned a Taiwanese dance group performance, one which involves dancing with tons of rice onstage.  The first story about that dance that we found, published on April 1, 2014, sounded like a perfect April Fool’s Day tale, but it turned out to be true. Here is an excerpt from the “Song of the Wanderers” dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb3sV6J6Rr0  Longer version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dH-fRHobMk4

We have two more conversation gatherings this semester, on April 10 and 17, each from 12:30 to 1:30 in the Griffith Board Room (Bryan Center). All members of the Duke Community, including spouses, are welcome.

Enjoy the springtime weather,
Rene Caputo

Duke ESL Specialist
Thompson Writing Program and Writing Studio

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