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Radio programme on superlinguists

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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.

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Creativity in communication between a baby and his father

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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

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David Crystal on Standard English and other varieties

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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.


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Article on slang

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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.

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Language learning and Brexit

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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.

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A dialect quiz

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 15 Feb 2019, 12:28

I have come across this dialect quiz. 

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/02/15/upshot/british-irish-dialect-quiz.html

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.

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Suppressed bilingualism

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 30 Nov 2018, 09:47

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. 

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Feedback from students

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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.

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Language and identity

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018, 16:58

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"

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/28/luxembourgish-grand-duchys-native-language-enjoys-renaissance

One key theme of the article is the ability to have a private language.  As one person says "it expands your view and your children cannot talk in a secret language that you do not understand.”

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.

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Korean in Central Asia

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 12 Jul 2016, 10:22

I have come across the following article about Koreans and the Korean language in Kazkhstan - Koreans in  Uzbekistan are also mentioned in passing.

http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2016/32826/

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..

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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.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v38/n12/peter-pomerantsev/diary?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=3812&utm_content=ukrw_subsact&hq_e=el&hq_m=4303579&hq_l=15&hq_v=d1401cc27b



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The challenges of academic writing for students at level 1

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Feb 2016, 12:33

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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Briton in space, multlingualism and intercultural competence

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 16 Dec 2015, 17:44

I suppose I am showing my age if I state how interested I have always been by space exploration.  So, I have been very interested in newspaper coverage and television coverage of Tim Peake's flight.

One of the aspects that drew my attention was his need to study Russian during his training,  This was not surprising as he is traveling in a Russian craft and the Star Gazing programme last night mentioned how Russian is naturally the working language for the Soyuz flights although English will be used on the ISS.  The international nature of the ISS also presumably means there would need to be a high degree of intercultural competence on the part of the cosmo/astronauts.

Probably most viewers would have been aware of his physical, psychological and scientific skills but linguistic and intercultural competence must also be vital for these cosmo/astronauts.

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New courses about to start

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 29 Sep 2015, 17:46

I am about to start tutoring on courses about to enter new presentations (E852. L161, LB160, L185).  It is slightly confusing that for some courses, I can post introductory messages on the Tutor Group Forum but students cannot reply - I am not really sure why this distinction is made.

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EMA results

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EMA results for several courses I teach (L161, L185 and E303) have recently been released.  There is very strong correlation between high scores and attendance at tutorials (either face to face or OU Live).  Of course, this does not prove causation as the students getting high marks might be those who are most motivated or at least those most able to devote time to the course.  However, it is an interesting link.

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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.

Reference:

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




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Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters

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The new L161 course makes use of the Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters (Byram et al 2009).  It seems to be a useful document in that it provides a framework for the analysis of intercultural encounters.  However one aspect slightly puzzles me and that is the use of the question "Who am I?".  Thinking about significant intercultural encounters I have had, it appears that they change who I think I am and I would think the relevant question would be "Who was I?".

It seems to make use of the principles of reflection dealing with "what?", "so what?" and "now what?" (Barrett 2001).  The first stage after the "Who am I?" section involves describing the encounter (page 6).  The section on the importance (page 7) deals with the question "so what?" .  The section on "looking back and looking forward" (page 18ff) seems to deal with the issue of "now what?".

 

Barrett, H.C. (2001) “Electronic Portfolios: a chapter to be published in Educational Technology: an Encyclopedia [online] Available from http://electronicportfolios.org/portfolios/encycentry.pdf (Accessed 28 October 2007)

Byram M, Barrett M, Ipgrave J,  Méndez García M de C, Buchannon- Barrow E, Davcheva L, Krapf P, Leclercq J-M (2009) Autobiography of Intercultural Encounters Council of Europe Available at http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/autobiography/Source/AIE_en/AIE_autobiography_en.pdf [Accessed October 21st 2014]

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L161 briefing

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 22 Sep 2014, 16:37

I was in Milton Keynes for a briefing for tutoring on this new course (L161 Exploring Languages and Cultures) on Saturday.  It looks like a very interesting course and I think students should be looking forward to doing it.

There are examples from many different languages and text types.  For example, there is an interesting analysis of different kinds of menus in different kinds of contexts where it is pointed out that the categories expected on menus in Britain and the ordering of these is not the same on Chinese menus.

 

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