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Lone Star College

Speaking in front of an audience is one of the biggest fears among our society today. Such reluctance infects the speaker’s confidence and causes people to feel like calling in sick rather than keeping their commitment to speak in front of an audience. Not many people seem to be natural-born speakers. Are those who speak well in front of an audience gifted? Or, have they improved over time through practice and learned techniques? To find the answers to these questions, we researched Toastmasters International.

Toastmasters understands the common fear most people experience when it comes to public speaking and helps victims of anxiety find their voice. (Toastmasters Find). Enhancing communication skills and fostering communication effectiveness is the ultimate goal of Toastmasters (Toastmasters Find). To help its members overcome anxiety, Toastmasters builds confidence through a deliberate process of building upon strengths while eliminating weaknesses through practice. Continue Reading…

My Life in Language

Christopher Hurtado —  December 15, 2005

There is nothing I am more passionate about than languages and culture. My entire life revolves around words and their meaning. In fact, it always has; and my lifelong goal is that it always will. I grew up bilingual and bicultural. I began translating and teaching languages professionally at a young age. I have also become a published author and a public speaker.

From the time I was born, my parents spoke to me in English but to each other in Spanish. My mother was a Spanish teacher born in New York and raised in Baltimore. My father is a Venezuelan. When I was eight, my family moved to Venezuela. Although I’d heard Spanish all my life, I hadn’t learned to speak it. Now I had to. At first, I struggled to communicate, but I became fluent in less than six months. I lived in Venezuela for eight years. During those eight years, English was predominantly spoken in my home and Spanish outside of it. In school, ESL was a required subject. At age 12, I started tutoring my classmates in English after school. My parents divorced when I was 16, and I returned to the United States with my mother and sisters. At 18 I dropped out of school. Around the same time, I made a trip to Venezuela for a short visit with my father. While in Venezuela, I did my first paid translation job. My father accepted and delivered the job, but had me do it and paid me once he was paid. I’ll never forget that job. The topic of the translation was “the chemical composition of the Moore pecan leaf.” I still keep a copy of it to this day. I was thrilled.

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Civil Society

Christopher Hurtado —  December 12, 2005

The Church of Ascension on London’s Blackheath has a small metal plaque set into its wall that reads “Fellowship is life and lack of fellowship is death, but in hell there is no brotherhood but every man for himself.” John Ball, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, spoke these words nearby in 1831. Ball would not have thought of himself as part of “civil society,” but citizens who join groups, form associations or volunteer to defend or advance the causes they believe in have, in effect. echoed his sentiments down through the centuries (Edwards 1). However, “citizenship is not a cure for spiritual malaise but spiritual malaise is a roadblock to citizenship because it impairs the capacity to create the community institutions on which a civil society and a democratic culture must rest” (Barber 275). It is through our participation in the institutions that make up civil society that we learn what it means to be a citizen (Barber 276).

Citizenship can be defined as belonging to a community, or can refer to the quality of our response to our membership in that community, or how actively we participate in it. (Merriam-Webster Online). Civil society can be defined as “the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations or institutions which form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force backed structures of a state” (Wikipedia). According to the London School of Economics Centre for Civil Society these organizations and institutions act “around shared interests, purposes and values,” and are separate from the family and the market as well. Examples include “charitable organizations, community groups, women’s organizations, faith-based organizations, professional associations, trades unions, self-help groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups” (Wikipedia).

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Mandatory Term Limits

Christopher Hurtado —  November 19, 2005

I am vehemently opposed to mandatory term limits, especially at the state and local level, and find great weakness in the argument made for them by their advocates. Mandatory term limits were first considered by our Founding Fathers at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and rejected by its delegates. They didn’t make sense then and they don’t make sense now. What does make sense, and was chosen over mandatory term limits by our Founding Fathers, is short terms, or in other words, frequent elections. James Madison, who was one of the Constitutional Convention’s delegates who opposed mandatory term limits recorded in his notes the words of another delegate, Roger Sherman, who also opposed them: “Frequent elections are necessary to preserve the good behavior of rulers. They also tend to give permanency to the Government, by preserving that good behavior, because it ensures their re-election.” This argument makes sense. The argument for mandatory term limits doesn’t.

Given mandatory term limits, a politician ineligible to run for re-election would be stripped of his incentive to please his constituency and would become easy prey for special interests. Our Founding Fathers not only recognized the need for frequent elections to keep politicians responsive, they recognized as well that this was most important at the level of government closest to the people – the House of Representatives. It stands to reason, therefore, that this is what is needed at the state and local level as well. Our Founding Fathers knew that the best way to restrain a politician would be to periodically put his performance on trial by the electorate. What better way to keep politicians loyal to their constituency? What need have we for mandatory term limits? What more could they do for our system of government than the frequent elections instituted by our Founding Fathers? This system has kept in office for as many terms as was deemed appropriate by the people of the United States, according to their performance in office, the likes of John Quincy Adams, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, Sam Houston, James Madison and Daniel Webster.

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The 2004 Democratic and Republican party platforms have a lot in common. In fact, they arguably have more commonalities than differences. Each party is apparently attempting to appeal to the middle. Nevertheless, each party’s leanings are still evident to the discerning reader. Each of the two platforms discusses many of the same issues, each using it’s own rhetoric to dance around them in a non-committal way. The similarities between the two parties’ platforms is evident from the start in the striking resemblance between the title of each party’s platform, both of which make reference to national security and foreign policy. Additionally, each platform deals with “the war on terror,” the economy, healthcare, community, family, and energy independence. There are, however, notable differences between the two parties’ platforms. These difference show up mainly in the way each party addresses the issues at hand.

Notable among the differences in each party’s rhetoric is their take on how to strengthen the economy. Although both parties speak of creating jobs to strengthen the economy, the Democratic party’s rhetoric regarding the economy focuses on job creation and retention from offshoring through tax reforms. The Democratic party emphasizes the worth of America’s working middle class and claims that it is underserved and overtaxed by the Republican party. This, they say, the Republican party does to inure to the benefit of America’s upper class and big businesses. Their solution: add tax cuts for the middle class and eliminate those for the wealthy and for big businesses. The Republican party speaks of tax reform also, but its rhetoric contradicts the Democratic party’s. The Republican party claims that it is already working on cutting taxes for the very same “hard-working Americans” the Democratic party claims it disdains.

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Marketing Bad translation has been the cause of many international marketing blunders. When Hunt-Wesson introduced its Big John family brand in Canada, it was translated as “Gros Jos.” Unfortunately, this turned out to be French slang for a woman with large breasts. Fortunately, this actually helped the brand sell. Apparently, a number of Canadian men were interested in “Gros Jos.” A United States (U.S.) airline got lots of attention in Brazil when advertising its swank “rendezvous lounges” on its Boeing 747s. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the kind of attention that leads to increased revenues, since Brazilians didn’t want to be seen entering or leaving an airliner with rooms rented out for prostitution, which is what “rendez-vous” means to them. In Miami, where a number of Spanish dialects are spoken by Hispanics from all over Latin American, a company advertising a bug spray that kills all “bichos,” meaning bugs to Mexicans, didn’t fare so well among Puerto Ricans since, to them, “bichos” are men’s private parts (Ricks 87-88). The proliferation of the Web as a medium for international marketing and commerce underscores the importance of good translation to international marketing success.

Translating Web content is key to capturing global markets. According to Forrester Research, “shoppers are three times more likely to buy products from Web sites in their own language” and over 65% of Internet users shy away from Web sites in a foreign tongue (Heckman 1). However, it takes more than just translation to capture global markets. Translation means converting text into another language, taking into account its full meaning and paying special attention to cultural nuances and style (Esselink 4). According to James Heckman, director of publishing,, “the message and presentation must be tailored to the audience.” (Heckman 2). Tailoring the message to the audience is known as localization. The Localization Industry Standards Association (LISA) defines localization as “taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale (country/region and language) where it will be used and sold” (Esselink 3).

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Hurricane Katrina

Christopher Hurtado —  September 7, 2005

Hurricane Katrina “created an area of destruction that is 90,000 square miles, an area larger than the size of Great Britain.” ( President Bush has declared states of emergency in the affected states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and also in Texas and Arkansas to help make federal assistance available to those who need it. “A vast coastline of towns and communities [in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana] has been flattened; [New Orleans] is submerged.” ( “The [Louisiana] state secretary of environmental quality, Michael D. McDaniel, said that wildlife habitats along hundreds of miles of coastline had been destroyed and that the hurricane exacerbated the slow coastal erosion that had already made the coast more vulnerable to hurricanes.” ( The Mayor of New Orleans reports major fires and gas leaks throughout the city of New Orleans. Flood waters there are contaminated with sewage, bodies and chemicals. It will take months, or perhaps years, and billions of dollars to overcome the effects of this natural disaster.

As a result of Katrina’s destruction, tens of thousands have lost their homes and been displaced. Many have been separated from their families. Others suffer for lack of food, water, or medicine. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost. Sports facilities, convention centers, church meetinghouses and the homes of private citizens all over the country have provided shelter, showers, meals, water and medical assistance to the homeless. “After accepting more than 11,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees, officials said the Astrodome was full and at least temporarily halted the flow of evacuees into the shelter Thursday night.” ( Refugees are now being housed in the Reliant Stadium, the George R. Brown Convention Center, other shelters and churches throughout the Greater Houston Area.

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