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Use of video in online tutorials

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When we first started using online tutorials (Elluminate), advice was to avoid the use of webcams because the quality was not good enough.  However, I recently saw an OU document recommending the use of webcams by the tutor and I have been switching it on recently.  Student response seems to be quite favourable with comments like "It is good to put a face to the name and voice", which slightly surprised me as most of the time I focus on the whiteboard, slides and chat.  However, if it makes a difference to how students feel about the experience, I am very happy to have my webcam on.

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Descriptivist and prescriptivist views of language

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 1 Oct 2021, 11:51

The course L101 covers the issue of descriptivist and prescriptivist views of language and this is reflected in the Guardian article about a school discouraging the "use of slang" (the scare quotes reflect my view that some of the examples are creative uses of language rather than slang) https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/sep/30/oh-my-days-linguists-lament-slang-ban-in-london-school

In particular, the expression "he cut his eyes at me" seems very expressive and eloquent and this seems to contradict the school's advice that following conventions will lead to eloquence.  These kinds of expressions seem to be the kinds that are valued in literature where linguistic deviance is an important way of "making the world strange" (остранение)  - for a brief summary of this see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamiliarization and follow links to Russian formalists for more detail.

This is not to say I would always encourage these kinds of creative expressions (and perhaps it mainly seems creative to me because I had not come across it before).  If clarity is required and the audience is older and would not know the expression, it should probably be avoided but this is different from saying it is not eloquent,

Ermm is a normal part of spoken language (see for example, Hultgren 2015: 126).  In fact, people are often more intelligible if their speech contains some redundancy (and fillers like this are examples of redundancy).  It would not normally be used in written texts but an awareness of the differences between spoken and written language is very useful in educational contexts.


Hultgren AK (2015) Exploring English Grammar Book 1: Grammar, context and meaning Milton Keynes: Open University

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A language awareness quiz

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This is an intriguing quiz on Open Learn.

https://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/could-you-be-super-linguist

I got all parts correct apart from one although a few were guesses.

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Multimodality in the news

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 22 Sep 2021, 10:04

Many of the English language courses I tutor discuss multimodality and issues of multimodal design are in the news today.

The story at https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/sep/22/british-rail-logo-designer-appalled-by-green-makeover-mess discusses the way that the British logo has been redesigned to have more of an emphasis on green issues.  It is interesting that the original designer thinks there are too many colours as it seems that really there are shades of green but I can only see part of the design.

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Translation difficulties

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 13 Sep 2021, 11:57

Alice Roberts posted an interesting problem posed to a translator of one of her books.

https://twitter.com/thealiceroberts/status/1425444246321041414?s=21

https://twitter.com/thealiceroberts/status/1425444247776514052?s=21

I suspect a translator would need to be of a certain age as well as having a good knowledge of British culture to recognise the Smash advertisement.

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Some interesting multimodal political posters and grafitti

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 16 Sep 2021, 23:08

The course L101 has a Block on language and society and this obviously involves some discussion of language and politics and political protests.  I have recently seen some quite interesting posters and pieces of grafitti in Bristol that reflect the political and social situation.

The first one is subverting some of the advice about recommended behaviour to avoid contracting Covid.  This means it is making an intertextual link to texts most people who pass it will have seen and slogans like "face, space, hands."

A poster about racism

The second multimodal text is a piece of grafitti that also makes use of an assumed knowledge that Mussolini was known as "Il Duce".  This has been changed to "Il Dunce" with the use of "dunce" suggesting that Johnson is even less intelligent than Mussolini.

A pictureof Boris Johnson's face with the caption "Il Dunce"

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Choice of languages to be taught in schools

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 11 Aug 2021, 16:52

There has recently been some discussion of increasing the numbers of schools that teach Latin - see https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/aug/08/requiescat-in-pace-no-need-to-resurrect-latin-in-schools for a response to this.  This seems to be an ill thought out response to the crisis in language teaching in this country.

I studied Latin at school for a couple of years although I never got to a high standard.  I can see the value of learning Latin for its intrinsic interest as a language and for the access to history.  However, of the languages I have studied (French, Russian and Chinese), it is the only one I have not made an effort to maintain (I am currently practising the latter two on Duolingo and read some texts and watch films in French.

There seems to be an argument that most learners will have less investment (Norton 2000) in learning Latin than modern languages.  There might, for example, be an incentive for schoolchildren to learn languages like Polish or Urdu.  These would be languages that would seem relevant in many communities where pupils might hear the languages or see shops with words written in those languages.

These languages would be at least as intellectually challenging as Latin (e.g. Polish has cases) but would have the advantage of seeming relevant to the modern world.

Norton, B. (2000) Identity And Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity And Educational Change, London, Pearson Education.

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Nabokov on spoken language

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 6 Oct 2021, 22:41

Many courses that I teach and have taught discuss the differences between spoken and written language and I was interested to read the following description by the narrator in a novel by Nabokov that I was rereading recently:

“I am a bad speaker, and the oration which I seem to render word by word did not flow with the lissom glide it has on paper.  Indeed it is not really possible to set down my incoherent speech, that tumble and jumble of words, the forlornness of subordinate clauses that have lost their masters and strayed away, and all the superfluous gibberish …..”

This short extract seems to refer to the difficulty of transcribing speech, the frequency of false starts and redundancy, which is commonly mentioned in the literature on spoken discourse.

Nabokov, V (1965) Despair Harmondsworth:Penguin

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New blog post

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This is part of an essay written by a student I taught on an online course for a Chinese university.  It is interesting that she says she and her partner dare not speak, which is a major constraint in a speaking course.  This perhaps reinforces my view that it should have focused on writing skills and teachers who could teach face to face should have taught speaking.

It is interesting that she overstated my age by at least ten years.  I suppose 60 year olds look ancient for 18 year olds.

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Successful Adobe Connect tutorials - the student contribution is key

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I had a couple of Adobe Connect tutorials that seemed to work well last week.  This was because students asked questions and these replaced the tutorial slides and plans I had made.  Of course, I always have content prepared and if students stay quiet, I tend to go through the plan but this can seem mechanical and unrelated to what they really need - some students are strangers to me (from different groups, have been to tutorials with other tutors before) so I do not know the "gap" between where they are and where the course would ideally like to be.  Students asking questions based on their own concerns enable me to really address the needs but it demands something of students and some are willing to ask questions, make comments etc.

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A history of Spanish

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This is quite an interesting video on the history of Spanish.  I suppose it has something in common with Horrible Histories in style.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAGak27LddQ

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Why I write these posts

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 26 May 2021, 19:27

A student asked me some interesting questions about my purpose in writing the blog and my intended audience.  I suppose I had not even made these explicit to myself.

I think the postings are an opportunity to reflect on issues that seem interesting and relevant to me at the time of writing.  I also imagine that my main audience is myself although I do make the postings public so I hope some other people read and perhaps feel interested enough to comment.

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An interesting incident in a recent online tutorial

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Last Saturday, I was teaching an online class and one student who had been very engaged was speaking.  She came to an end and I started to respond and she had nor turned her microphone off.  A few seconds later, I heard quite loud talk in the background and gradually it got so loud I was finding it hard to get my message across.  I then said "X, please turn your microphone off" as politely as I could (and I really understand how easy it is to forget to turn the microphone on or off). 

One of her peers initially seemed to write in a blunt way - "X, turn your microphone off" but then softened this with "We can hear your family, darling".  Perhaps she had realised that she was verging on rudeness but then mitigated this by an affectively sensitive explanation. 

I suspect that tone is very important in these kinds of tutorials and it is easy to emphasise speed through very direct interactions but this additional comment was perhaps important in maintaining a good atmosphere - of course, I do not know exactly what the responses are and whether the later comment was helpful or even needed.  It is, however, clear that this was only a comment that could have been made by peers and probably only woman to woman (possibly, but unlikely, woman to man?)

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Coronavirus and language

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An earlier posting (https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/view.php?user=12245&taglimit=500&tag=coronavirus) has referred to the effect of Corona on language.  There is now a new article on the effect of the virus on the German language ttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/23/from-coronaangst-to-hamsteritis-the-new-german-words-inspired-by-covid?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

It shows some words are directly taken from one language to another - eg Covidiot and some make use of rhyme to be memorable eg CoronaFußgruß (corona foot greeting)

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Voice messages on WeChat

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Mar 2021, 13:57

I notice that several ex students and colleagues contact me on WeChat by voice message rather than written messages and I wonder why this is.  Do they think it is easier to speak than compose a message?  It seems less convenient to me as the receiver as they cannot be processed as quickly.

This is a contrast to many of my OU tutorials where many students seem keener to use text chat than the microphone.

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Online teaching in China - personal experience

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 23 Feb 2021, 23:26

I have been doing some online teaching for a university in China.  There have been some challenges, perhaps largely due to too little notice about preparing and difficulties in communication.

Something that surprised me was that the original intention was that I would teach oral skills to a class sitting in a classroom with one shared microphone.  So, I was sitting in my room in Bristol seeing students and they could see me through a screen.  I would say something and responses involved students passing the microphone around the classroom.  This was clearly a very ineffective way of teaching.

Eventually, I managed to persuade the College to change the model so that students were working outside the classroom on individual computers or using the phone.  However, we were using Dingtalk and I was told that breakout rooms were not possible.  So, although the communication was improved, I was not able to monitor group work or even have any idea if it was actually taking place.

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Translation in times of crisis

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 23 Dec 2020, 12:36

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.

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Stereotypes of OU lecturers again

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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!"

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Stereotypes of OU lecturers.

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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.

Badly dressed OU tutors at a funeral

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Online teaching and mindsets

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I have recently been teaching a course on academic literacy to students studying for a doctorate at the Open University.  This is the first time for me although I taught EAP (mainly writing skills) to a group of Doctoral students at the University of Bristol for many years. 

The current course has existed for many years and I am taking over from previous tutors and, to some extent, building on what they have done rather than building a completely new course.  However, this is the first time it has been taught online.  There are certain constraints such as not being able to see each other and gauge desires and needs through expressions.  However, there are also some advantages like more people being able to access the course because they can do it from home (people were joining from other countries like Ghana and Cyprus as well as the length of the UK (several students in Scotland as well as some in the south of England).

We are using Adobe Connect, which is sometimes temperamental.  Today, I wanted students to analyse texts.  I first showed them in plenary and wanted participants to discuss them in a breakout room but they were not there when I expected them to be and would not load when I tried to download them.  This disconcerted me and I was about to exit and come back in (the equivalent of turning the computer on and off) but one student made the excellent suggestion that they take screen shots and then discuss from their screen shots.

This struck me as an example of the second mindset or the "new ethos stuff" that Lankshear and Knobel discuss.  I see the value of technology in helping learning but sometimes do not think creatively enough about this new way of thinking that technology enables.

Knobel, Michele and Colin Lankshear. 2007. “The New Literacies Sampler.” New York: Peter Lang, pp.2-17.  Available at https://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-2/knobel-and-lankshear-on-the-new-literacies  [Accessed 04/11/20]


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Football and language again

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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.

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Multilingualism and football

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 14 Sep 2020, 17:52

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..

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MOOC on Antisemitism

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I have started a Future Learn MOOC on antisemitism.  So far, it seems much stronger than the rather vague MOOCs I had done recently on language and cultures.  I wonder whether my more favourable impression is the result of knowing less about the issues than on the previous ones but there does seem a more academic tone and engagement.

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Language and Covid

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There have been several articles on popular websites referring to language creativity and Covid.  The following is interesting in many ways:

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200522-why-weve-created-new-language-for-coronavirus

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:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jul/23/coronavirus-coronafeirws-dictionary-welsh-speakers-wales

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.

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A creative notice on a shop

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 4 Aug 2020, 21:58

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.

A poster on a video shop

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