OU blog

Personal Blogs

Use of sources

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 7 Aug 2022, 11:34

I have been marking a lot of work recently - about 70 EMAs and a large number of final TMAs.  Something that strikes me is issues around use of sources and referencing.

One issue is that many students overquote and some even seem to think that there is only a need to reference if they quote.  This seems a quite ineffective way of referring to knowledge of the course.  The references are often too wordy for the point they need to make.  Sometimes they do not make sense out of context - e.g. writing "now" or even "yesterday" when the student's work is about the situation a few years later. 

Another issue is that many students put a full stop before a reference when the reference finished the sentence.  Sometimes students even put a full stop before and after a reference.  This seems to suggest that they consider the reference as being apart from the rest of the sentence rather than an integral part of the text. 

These perhaps suggest that there need to be new ways of presenting how sources are used in academic contexts.

Permalink 8 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 7 Aug 2022, 11:34)
Share post

Linguistic creativity in reaction to the invasion of Ukraine

Visible to anyone in the world

I had read about the term pашизм (literally transliterated as "rashism") being used as a way to refer to the ideology that justifies the invasion of Ukraine and I had assumed that it was mixture of Russian (just represented by the "r") and fascism (represented by the rest of the word).

In this article  https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/22/magazine/ruscism-ukraine-russia-war.html Snyder argues that it is more complex than this and that the "ra" links to the way that Russia is pronounced in Russian (it is written as Россия but pronounced more like /ræsiːjə/.  He also suggests that the pашизм links it more closely to the English pronunciation of Russia/Russian.  As a result, he thinks the transliteration should be "ruscism".  I am not sure that I am completely convinced by this but it is an interesting hypothesis.

There is also much interesting discussion of the role of bilingualism in the Ukraine and presumably this means that there is great potential for cross linguistic puns and creative language.

As someone who knows Russian quite well and has just started learning Ukrainian, I am struck by how much of the lexis is diffferent and Snyder gives examples of this but I am finding I get most sentences correct when doing Duolingo as the grammar seems so similar.


Snyder T (2022) "The War in Ukraine has unleashed a new word" The New York Times Magazine April 22nd 2022 Available at https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/22/magazine/ruscism-ukraine-russia-war.html (Accessed 27/04/2022)

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 27 Apr 2022, 18:43)
Share post

Zelenskiy and adapting messages to audiences

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 28 Mar 2022, 15:22

One of my students kindly sent me a link to this BBC article about the way Zelenskiy adapts what he talks about to his audiences:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-60855280.amp

It seems to me that this adaptation flatters the different audiences as well as helping him achieve his aims of trying to garner support.  For example, references to the Battle of Britain perhaps reminds British listeners of the time Britain stood up against tyranny.  It also makes it seem earth shatteringly important because someone so far away refers to it.  The same could be said of the mentions of "liberté, égalité, fraternité" for a French audience.  They may be flattered by the reference.

I am also interested by the way he presents himself.  He looks too busy to care about his appearance although he is probably quite mindful - he looks just "scruffy enough" (an interesting contract with Boris Johnson whose scruffiness is more over the top and seems contrived - there does not seem any purpose to Johnson's uncombed hair, for example).  He appears approachable and has been seen taking selfies with ordinary Ukrainians so probably seems "one of us" despite having the elevated role.  This contrasts with Vladimir Putin who is pictured at one end of a long table.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

More on Ukrainian, Russian and the invasion of Ukraine

Visible to anyone in the world

I greatly admired Ilya Kaminsky's long poem "Deaf Republic" and so I was interested in his views of language and writing about the situation in Ukraine at https://lithub.com/ilya-kaminsky-on-ukrainian-russian-and-the-language-of-war/

He refers to Russian speakers now choosing to use Ukrainian as a reaction to Putin's threats and of course what later turned out to be actions.  There is a sad account from a poet of how:

"I have never felt discriminated against because I spoke the Russian language. Those are myths. In all the cities of Western Ukraine I have visited, I spoke with everyone in Russian—in stores, in trains, in cafes. I have found new friends."

So, the language itself is not the problem and it was often a way of bringing people together.  This also undermines Putin's argument that he is protecting Russian speakers from discrimination (but, of course, this is just one account).

An even more interesting and tragic point is made about a Ukrainian poet:

"Just as Russian-language poet Khersonsky refuses to speak his language when Russia occupies Ukraine, Yakimchuk, a Ukrainian-language poet, refuses to speak an unfragmented language as the country is fragmented in front of her eyes. As she changes the words, breaking them down and counterpointing the sounds from within the words, the sounds testify to a knowledge they do not possess. No longer lexical yet still legible to us, the wrecked word confronts the reader mutely, both within and beyond language."

It seems that the way to express the broken world is to use language that is as broken as the world it represents.

Kaminsky then reflects on the issue of himself writing in English and presumably this reflects another angle and other ways of representing a perspective on the events.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Discussion on accents

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 17 Feb 2022, 10:51

I was listening to this podcast while walking to play football today.  

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-bunker/id1496246490?i=1000551234508

It is an interesting and informative discussion about accents and how they relate to perceptions of people.  It mainly focuses on English but some references are made to other languages.

There are some key points that are relevant for students of L101, in particular.

1 Accents are not neutral.

2 There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about any sound or any accent.  However, they do have social implications.

3 RP is a rare accent.

4 There are accents for most (perhaps all?) languages.  They are not unique to English.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Gender neutral pronoun in Norwegian

Visible to anyone in the world

I was interested by this story 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/02/new-gender-neutral-pronoun-norwegian-dictionaries-hen-official-language?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

It would be useful to have this kind of pronoun in English, especially for academic writing where there is often the dilemma of choosing “he or she” or using “they” in sentences like “a teacher decides how they/she or he plans lessons”.
Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Language and football - use of different varieties of English

Visible to anyone in the world

I sometimes play walking football with two groups in Bristol and each of these groups has a WhatsApp group.  One of the group has a strong representations of people who came to Bristol from Jamaica or who are of Jamaican heritage.  They mostly speak and write Standard British English (often with a Bristol accent) but there is some use of Jamaican English when two or more people of that heritage or origin are speaking in small groups, presumably as a way of asserting solidarity and a shared identity.

Until yesterday, all messages on WhatsApp had been in Standard British English but fury about the Lewis Hamilton result in F1 led to several messages in Jamaican English.  There was a feeling that he had been cheated because of his race and perhaps this was why Jamaican English seemed the most appropriate variety to express a group feeling.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Descriptivist and prescriptivist views of language

Visible to anyone in the world
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

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 11 Oct 2021, 22:42)
Share post

Multimodality in the news

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Translation difficulties

Visible to anyone in the world
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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Some interesting multimodal political posters and grafitti

Visible to anyone in the world
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"

Permalink 4 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 11 Aug 2021, 19:03)
Share post

Football and language again

Visible to anyone in the world

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.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 16 Oct 2020, 14:12)
Share post

Multilingualism and football

Visible to anyone in the world
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..

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Language and Covid

Visible to anyone in the world

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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

A creative notice on a shop

Visible to anyone in the world
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

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Scots in a prison in Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night

Visible to anyone in the world

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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Screencasts

Visible to anyone in the world

I have been making more screencasts to help students understand tasks.  The latest is for L101 and can be found at https://vimeo.com/384246808


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

"Crackpot" course

Visible to anyone in the world

We had an online meeting of L101 tutors last night and the Module Chair said that our course had received criticism in The Sun.  I looked up the article https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10371755/university-students-study-emojis/  It does not explicitly refer to our course although it refers to others.

It generally seems like a good endorsement of the course.  Any course that provokes such an ill informed article is probably doing something right.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Linguistic analysis tool in The Guardian.

Visible to anyone in the world

The tool below allows enables people to compare today's Queen's Speech with previous ones.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2019/oct/14/how-unusual-language-boris-johnson-first-queens-speech?CMP=share_btn_tw

This is a simple form of DIY concordancing but on first glance it can be very interesting.  For example, I clicked on "departure" and find that it only seems to have been used once before in the speeches since 1911.  I suppose it is not usual to discuss departures in a government's programmes.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Using sources - observing processes in face to face teaching

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Saturday, 21 Sep 2019, 12:12

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

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Dialect in Nice

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Saturday, 3 Aug 2019, 11:25

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.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Creativity in communication between a baby and his father

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 14 Oct 2019, 19:57

This tweet received wide attention recently and it seemed to relate to issues on some of the courses I teach:

https://twitter.com/_11Remember_/status/1136087637914247170

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

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

David Crystal on Standard English and other varieties

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 8 May 2019, 15:45

This interview is interesting and relevant for several of the courses on language at the Open University.

http://www.tefltraininginstitute.com/podcast/2019/2/26/do-we-need-a-standard-english-with-david-crystal?fbclid=IwAR29Hjl-X3rWHqXQxMBjOZUsuDZUYNBRW2619zu0lXkJnZXlafjM26PHtF0

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.


Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Article on slang

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 31 Mar 2019, 19:53

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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

Language learning and Brexit

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 1 Mar 2019, 15:03

There have been many depressing reports of a decrease in the number of people studying languages.  This is reflected in this article

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/mar/01/britain-learning-languages-brexit--education

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.

Permalink Add your comment
Share post

This blog might contain posts that are only visible to logged-in users, or where only logged-in users can comment. If you have an account on the system, please log in for full access.

Total visits to this blog: 577124