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Peter Pomerantsev on international schools, language and identity

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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.


Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 17 Jun 2016, 16:53)
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Profile pictures

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 18 May 2016, 14:18

I am quite intrigued by the kinds of profile pictures people have on sites like the OU site, Facebook, LinkedIn.  I notice the following main patterns.

1 A simple face picture, facing the camera.

2 An action shot doing some kind of relevant activity,  My current picture does this by showing me teaching.

3 A picture of the person as part of a group.

4 A symbolic picture (eg of a flower).

5 A picture of the person next to something significant (eg a statue).

It seems that these are all representative of how the person wants to present themselves and we may have different pictures for different sites.  For example, my non professional twitter account has a picture of me running in a 10K.

What intrigues me particularly are pictures that seem to break some of the rules.  An ex-student (not at the OU) has a profile picture on a professional website  that is taken from the side with her looking at her mobile phone with most of her face covered by her long hair.  I wonder about the extent to which this is a conscious decision and if so, what she is trying to express by this choice.

Permalink 16 comments (latest comment by Sharon Hartles, Thursday, 18 Feb 2016, 22:22)
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Language choice and identity in a recent novel.

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I am currently reading The Mersault Investigation (Daoud 2014, trans 2015).  This is a telling of the story of Camus' L'Etranger from the point of view of the brother of the murdered Arab.  There is the following a very interesting passage, where the narrator discusses the way that he uses a different language (I assume French) from his mother (I assume she speaks Arabic):

"And for a long time, she would make me feel impossibly ashamed of her - and later it pushed me to learn a language that could serve as a barrier between her frenzies and me.  Yes, the language.  The one I read, the one I speak today, the one that's not hers.  Hers is rich, full of imagery, vitality, sudden jolts and improvisations, but not too big in precision.  Mama's grief lasted so long that she needed a new idiom to express it in.  In her language, she spoke like a prophetess, recruited extemporaneous mourners, and cried out against the double outrage that consumed her life: a husband swallowed up by air, a son by water.  I had to learn a language other than that one.  To survive.  And it is the one I'm speaking at the moment.  Starting witrh my presumed fifthteenth birthday, when we withdrew to Hadjout, I became a stern and serious scholar.  Books and your hero's language gradually enables me to name things differently and to organise the world with my own words"  (page 37)

The extract shows how people can choose languages or varieties of language to mark difference or, in more extreme cases, create barriers.  Here, he seems to want to make a barrier and mark the diffeernce between himself and his mother.  He seems to be wary of her emotion and links this to the language and this gives him the motive to use French, which is seen as more precise.  The precision also seems to be used in contrast with the "richness" of his mother's langugae,  It is also interesting that he refers to being able to "organise the world with his own words".  Again this might be a contrast with the world that her mother lives in (and perhaps the word "improvisations" is significant, suggesting unpredictability.

This passage seems to have relevance to many of the OU's languages courses such as L161 and E301.


Daoud K (2014, trans 2015) The Mersault Investigation London: Oneworld

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