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The importance of language for integration

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 4 Jul 2022, 16:23

My son is studying in Germany and we went to visit him last week.  We met in Dusseldorf and went to a museum about the state he is living in and there was an interesting section on immigration into the state.  Language was often an important issue and this is one of the captions.

Caption about the importance of language in the case of an immigramt to Germany from Russia.

It is interesting that she believed that "language is a key to life in Germany".  They are described as learning German from dictionaries, which no teacher training course on language teaching would recommend.  However, this seems to show how important having investment in wanting to learn a language is (Norton 2010).  These people have a real investment in the imagined community they want to join.

Norton B (2010) "Identity, Literacy, and English-LanguageTeaching" TESL CANADA JOURNAL/REVUE TESL DU CANADA1VOL. 28, NO 1, WINTER 2010

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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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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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Three Identical Strangers

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The film "Three Identical Strangers" was shown on the television a few days ago.  It has been in my thoughts ever since, mainly because it was a moving film in its own right but also partly as an example of dubious ethical behaviour in terms of research.

The film is a documentary about triplets who had been separated as babies and adopted by three families.  The families did not know that they were triplets.  One of the triplets found out about one of the others by going to College and encountering many people who thought they knew him because one of his brothers had been to the same College the year before.  They got in touch and this made the news and the third brother recognised that they looked like him and contacted his brothers so they found each other.

At first, all seemed to be "happily ever after".  The brothers seemed to get on well, appeared on television programmes and opened a restaurant.  However, there then became tensions between them as it was apparent that they might look very similar but were actually different in key wells.  They also met their birth mother and there were some hints of something worrying as one of them reported that like many young men they could handle a lot of alcohol but their mother could keep up with them in etrms of "holding her drink".

Then, the flm turned even darker as it became clear that they had been separated for the purposes of research.  They had each been placed with a well off, middle class and relatively poor family and were monitored to see the effects of this background.  The families who adopted them were not told that this was happening and so did not give consent.

The story gets even murkier ethically.  There were other twins who were being separated and monitored and it seems that they all had birth mothers with mental illness so this seemed to be another focus of the resarch.  The word "seemed" is used because the aims of the research were not clarified and even some of the staff working on the research project did not know what the research was aiming to find out.  One of the triplets committed suicide and it is not clear if there is a link between his life circumstances and him taking his own life.

The remaining brothers tried to find out about their records  but these were confidential.  After a long struggle they have got access to redacted records but it is still difficult for them to find all the details about what the data means.

There are a variety of ways in which this research was unethical.  These include:

- flouting the principle of doing no harm.  Children were exploited and there was perhaps an expectation that there might be a genetic link to poor mental health

- they were separated into social categories rather than being placed with families that were best for their interests.  At least one of the parents stated that they would have adopted all three of the brothers given the opportunity

- they did not give informed consent

- they did not have access to their records.

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I try to avoid politics on this blog and in some ways, what I write in this posting is not party political.  It seems very strange that when the government is making such consequential decisions, it is so desperate to avoid scrutiny from MPs or the public.

Scrutiny from "critical friends" and perhaps even critiques from people who are not so friendly can help develop better ideas and avoid mistakes.  I have, for example, written materials and been given feedback on these.  This feedback has often pushed me to develop better work as well as simply pointing out mistakes, mistypings etc.  Similarly group discussions can ideally lead to exploratory talk where ideas and solutions are produced that are better than any one person can produce.

MPs are not being given time to read the Bill in detail and this is simply bad practice for effective decision making.    This coincides with a period when many students are writing their first assignments of the academic year (if they are on J presentations).  I and many other tutors are advising them to make sure that they read carefully and consider what they are reading from different angles and in a critical way.

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