This is quite an interesting video on the history of Spanish. I suppose it has something in common with Horrible Histories in style.
I have just seen a tweet about a poor translation of advice into Polish https://twitter.com/TOrynski/status/1341540344832385024?s=20
The description of how poor it is makes use of back translation, a topic covered in L161. A famous, but perhaps jokey, example is the back translation of "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" from Russian to "the vodka is good but the meat is bad".
It is surprising that the authorities could not find a good translator for the advice, especially considering how large the Polish community is in the UK.
My wife sent me the following sentence from an email she received:
"My dad was on Open University BBC late night TV when I was a kid as the
classic bearded wool jumper wearing maths type lecturer!"
Some time ago I posted a Private Eye cartoon that featured a stereotype of OU lecturers. I have discovered that there is at least one more cartoon that makes use of this view.
Thanks to Mike McNulty for sharing this.
I have recently been watching the documentary "All or Nothing" about Tottenham last year.
There are a variety of languages used representing the multinational nature of the team. I was interested to see Jose Mourinho talking one to one with the England international, Eric Dier in Portuguese. Dier's Portuguese seemed fluent (but I am not expert on this) but I wonder whether there was a power dynamic at work here as it is obviously Mourinho's first language.
I was also struck by how often swear words were used as part of the culture. Do the players and managers think this provokes more passion? Interestingly, Amazon did not bleep out the "f word" but did bleep out the "c word".
There is also an interesting section where Mourinho learns the names of the players. Again, there are aspects of hierarchies. Harry Kane is called "Harry" so Harry Winks has to be called "Winksy". He also asks the player Kyle Walker Peters if he is "Walker" or "Peters" and he replies "Walker Peters". It seems surprising that Mourinho who has worked in Britain for a long time is not really aware of double barelled surnames.
I am preferring to watch football on the television without artificial crowd noise when I can. This means that it is often possible to hear the managers and players. I was watching Arsenal and Fulham and heard a few shouts in French as well as English.
The rather old fashioned pundit Martin Keown was disapproving and said that English should be the only language used. This seems to be an assumption but as the manager of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta is multilingual, it seems reasonable that he should make use of his linguistic capabilities to speak in the language that is the most appropriate for the circumstance. If he is able to speak French to the French players, it may give them a very slight advantage in terms of the time it takes to process the message as it is in their first language even if their English is good. It might also help them affectively in feeling that their first language is valued.
The use of French might also be of value in confusing non French speaking opponents. I remember listening to an interview with the ex Coventry player Dave Bennett where he said that he and Cyrille Regis often used patois, partly to confuse opposition players. It might also have helped to bond Regis and Bennnett through commonalities in their backgrounds..
There have been several articles on popular websites referring to language creativity and Covid. The following is interesting in many ways:
Key points I take from this are:
- there is creativity in recombining for new contexts (e.g. "quarantine and chill" repurposing "netflix and chill" although the latter seems to have a sexual implication that the former might not have)
- there seems to be a tendency to form abbreviations like WFH
- the metaphors used like "a war" are consequential and perhaps both reflect how people are thinking about the pandemic and how they may react to it. There is perhaps a key role for politicians to think carefully about how these are used. It was, for example, pernicious for so many allies of Johnson to say he would survive Covid because he was a fighter. How does this make relatives of people who did not survive feel?
- the links between cultures and the forms used are clear - e.g. there seems to be a trend for Australian English to shorten words. Presumably there are many more specific examples of creativity in smaller cultures.
I also read the following article about the way that new terms are being created in Welsh:
It seems telling that the writer refers to a term being "rather lengthy" in Welsh when the English is hardly shorter.
Perhaps the most important point is that in the last paragraph where the Welsh language commissioner warns that Welsh speaking patients could be at risk if they are not able to use their own language.
I saw the following poster yesterday and it links to some of the themes of some English language courses at the Open University. The use of « the thing » rather than Covid is perhaps euphemistic but is perhaps also an inter textual link to the film of the same name.
The picture from the film Betty Blue is also a link to the product of the shop - it rents videos and also arranges for small scale screenings of films. The reference to Betty Blue might also relate to the use of a French phrase at the end.
I have had a relatively quiet time at the moment in terms of tutoring duties so I decided to take a MOOC on Language and culturehttps://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-language-culture/6/todo/72483
As someone with a Masters in a related area and also being the tutor on L161, I was not expecting to be particularly challenged in terms of the content but I thought there might be some new perspectives.
Despite realistic expectations, I was rather disappointed by the course. Many of the tasks were rather vague. Course participants often posted interesting examples and ideas but there was no interaction with the course writer who might have been able to clarify exactly what she was expecting from the discussion. I think this is quite a serious weakness.
There was a final test that did not seem to be well thought out. It had multiple choice questions and I am convinced that some of the answers that were not accepted could be argued for but there is no chance of dialogue on those.
Perhaps the content of L161 has spoiled me but I was disappointed by the MOOC. Anyone wanting to study this area would be better off studying with the OU.
I have been studying a MOOC on intercultural studies for the past weekhttps://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-concept-culture/6/steps/736782
There are some differences from previous MOOCs I have studied. It is shorter (two weeks) but more intense (5 hours per week). There seems to be no presence from moderators/facilitators and some of the discussion questions seem slightly vague and it would be useful to get more feedback on what is expected.
The content is mainly quite familiar to me from previous studies but there are some useful examples which might be useful for future teaching, especially on L161.
I was watching Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night and was fascinated by a sequence where there was a class on Scots in a prison. https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000f9cr/frankie-boyles-tour-of-scotland-series-1-2-edinburgh-to-aberdeen (from about 14:30).
It was interesting to see how engaged the participants were in a variety/language/dialect (I make no judgement about its status) that reflected their lives. These was an interested sequence where they write a report in Scots and it seems likely that they are more motivated by the subversion involved.
Another apsect that was interesting was the discussion of how much the dialect/language varied in terms of lexis according to different parts of the country. There are clear links then to identities within the country.
I was also intrigued to see the apparent differences between this prison and those I had visited. It seems more "high tech" and the rooms for teaching seem smarter but perhaps much of this is down to the editing.
I have recently finished teaching on a pre-sessional course and I was intrigued by some of the ways some students were using sources.
One aspect I noticed was that many students tended to put a full stop before references that should have been at the end of sentences. I notice that this is also common with students on online courses. This seems to suggest a mindset that regards the reference as being separate from the rest of the sentence (and perhaps the text).
This is perhaps reinforced by the way that some students inserted references after they had drafted quite extensively. This is something that I do not really see in my teaching of online students as I tend to only read the final products (the TMAs) although LB170 allows for some reading of drafts. Again, this seems to suggest a lack of integration with the text.
I wonder if the problem is that there is too much emphasis on the mechanics of referencing rather than the purposes and opportunities. Referring to sources allows a writer to be able to show that they are aware of how what they write relates to what others have written and that academic texts are often dialogues with the ideas of previous writers.
I mentioned some of the points in a twitter thread that begins at https://twitter.com/patrickelt/status/1174635019555487744
We recently visited Nice and were struck by many signs written in the local dialect. As someone who understands French quite well, I was struck how different it was from standard French. For example, the badge of the football team has “Despi 1904”, which I assume is the equivalent of “depuis 1904”. The picture below shows a bilingual sign with French at the top and the dialect underneath.
I have been listening to a very interesting radio programme on polyglots at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csz4pt
There are interesting points about the ways that knowledge of languages brings power (reference is made to Mandela learning Afrikaans, which was seen as the language of his oppressors but that it was much more useful for him to know it than not know it). This seems to have resonance with the need for English speakers to know other languages.
A speaker explains how the knowledge of several languages helps her to gain respect. It also helps her to break down stereotypes.
This tweet received wide attention recently and it seemed to relate to issues on some of the courses I teach:
Some key points that seem to emerge are:
- the interactional function is key here. It is not clear what the baby is expressing and if he understands what his father is saying (it is doubtful that he understands much of the informational content) but there seems to be a strong communication of fellow feeling, companionship here
- the communication is multimodal as the two of them use gestures to accomapany what they say
- they often mirror the gestures
This interview is interesting and relevant for several of the courses on language at the Open University.
I find this quotation most interesting "What is Chinese English for me? Chinese English is not somebody learning English from China and getting it wrong.
No, it's somebody learning English from China who is now developing a good command of English but using it to express Chinese concepts and Chinese culture in a way that I would not necessarily understand, because I don't understand Chinese culture, coming from outside it."
Presumably this would include political concepts like "the four modernisations", food terms and educational terms like "gao kao" (the National College Entrance Examinations) as well as historical terms related to Confucianism and Daoism.
This article on multi-ethnic London English (MLE) https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/mar/29/ching-wap-ox-slang-interpreters-decipher-texts-for-court-evidence links to several courses I teach.
It shows how language and sub cultures interrelate and how groups might want to include and exclude certain kinds of people (there is a reference to "a “cryptolect” – a language meant to hide things". A link is made near the end of the article with Polari, which is studied in Exploring Languages and Cultures (L161).
The comment by a young "drill producer" that "If it was a young person like me translating it would be more accurate. You want to understand the context" could almost be the motto for understanding language and language use and context is certainly key.
It also seems that the variety is influential outside London and is even known in East Yorkshire so the language seems to be connected to a culture that transcends geographical boundaries.
It was also interesting to read the origin of words (mainly Caribbean but with some Arabic and Polish) and this presumably reflects some of the origins of some users.
There have been many depressing reports of a decrease in the number of people studying languages. This is reflected in this article
An interesting point is that "more than half (58%) of UK adults wish they hadn’t let the language skills they learned at school slip, 77% agree that language skills increase employability and just over half (53%) regret not having made the most of studying languages when they had the chance."
It is to be hoped that Brexit does not happen but it seems that the lack of encouragement to learn languages and to understand other cultures may have been a factor in causing the referendum result.
I have come across this dialect quiz.
Interestingly, when I tried it, the answer came as the Midlands (I lived in Coventry for the first 11 years of my life) and the north west of England - I did live there for about 5 years but I spent longer in Cambridgeshire, including my secondary school education.
I have just seen a fascinating tweet from Michael Rosen:
"My mother was a ‘suppressed ‘ bilingual. We discovered on a trip to Germany in 1957 her first language was Yiddish which from about 15 she suppressed and repressed. I’m still figuring out the personal, social and political reasons why she did and what we all lost as a result."
I wonder if he will ever be able to completely figure "out the personal, social
and political reasons why she did" it.
Final results for many of the courses I teach have just been released. Some students have given feedback on the courses, which I think is useful for me and the designers of the courses as it indicates what students think has been particularly pertinent for their needs.
The comments are probably quite altruistic but I think they can improve the effectiveness of my future support for students on future courses.
This article about an increasing interest in Luxembourgish is quite intriguing and relates to some of the issues discussed on some OU courses, especially L161, "Exploring Languages and Cultures"
I have also been reading "Flight" by the Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk and she writes pityingly of those who only speak English as follows:
"There are countries where people speak English . But not like us - we have our own languages in our carry on luggage.... only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries. It's hard to imagine but English is their real language. They don't have anything to fall back on or turn to in moments of doubt.
"How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excrutiating pamphlets and brochures - even the buttons in the lift - are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment....." (Tokarczuk 2007/2017: 183).
Tokarczuk O (2007 translated 2017) Flight London: Fitzcarraldo.
I have come across the following article about Koreans and the Korean language in Kazkhstan - Koreans in Uzbekistan are also mentioned in passing.
I was aware of quite a large community of people of Korean origin in Tashkent as I had been there in the late 1980s and early 1990s. For example, Korean style pickled cabbage was a significant feature in the markets.
The article is interesting but seems naive in some ways. Some of the comments made me feel uneasy because of the way the language seems to be seen as inferior.
There are interesting comments about language change. It discusses the way the Korean language has changed in these new contexts. According to the article, the variety of Korean derives from one that used to be spoken in the north of Korea. This reminded me of the way that American English has some things in common with older dialects of English. For example, "fall" was commonly used to mean "autumn" in Britain but has almost died out.
The changes seem to be seen negatively - the writer refers to languages "deteriorating" and to this variety as being "broken" and that there was "grammatical decay". However, she also refers to "grammatical aspects of the language changing", which could also be seen as an indication of vitality.
This is an interesting case of how languages evolve in different contexts and can be compared to the way that the English language has evolved in varying contexts..
I subscribe to the London Review of Books and often find the articles very interesting although they may be about topics outside my professional interests.
However, this blog posting is strongly related to my interests in languages, cultures and identity. I hope that many people will read it and see that different languages and cultures provide opportunities for enrichment rather than pose a threat.
I have been having interesting discussions with some students through email and OU Live about academic writing. These relate to issues of avoiding being too informal and personal while also being evaluative and developing a point of view.
Part of the issue is that academic writing tends to value concision and personal markers tend to use words that would be better used for other things.
However, it is important for students to show stance. They can do this by using a variety of evaluative words such as "major/partial"). Epistemic modality ie modal verbs for likelihood (eg "might/will") or deontic modality ie modal verbs used to express desirability ("should/must") are ways that students can show their stance without being too personal in style.
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