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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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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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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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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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MOOC on Language and Culture

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 21 Jul 2020, 14:52

I have had a relatively quiet time at the moment in terms of tutoring duties so I decided to take a MOOC on Language and culture 

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-language-culture/6/todo/72483

As someone with a Masters in a related area and also being the tutor on L161, I was not expecting to be particularly challenged in terms of the content but I thought there might be some new perspectives.

Despite realistic expectations, I was rather disappointed by the course.  Many of the tasks were rather vague.  Course participants often posted interesting examples and ideas but there was no interaction with the course writer who might have been able to clarify exactly what she was expecting from the discussion.  I think this is quite a serious weakness.

There was a final test that did not seem to be well thought out. It had multiple choice questions and I am convinced that some of the answers that were not accepted could be argued for but there is no chance of dialogue on those.

Some of the content seemed very out of date.  For example, there was a document on the Welsh language that seemed to make some dubious assertions and the references were all quite old.

One of the learners also made the good point that sign language should have been considered.  This is an issue I have become particularly aware of in the past year as one of my students has been working with deaf students and there is a great deal of variation in language practices and cultures.

Perhaps the content of L161 has spoiled me but I was disappointed by the MOOC.  Anyone wanting to study this area would be better off studying with the OU.
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"Crackpot" course

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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.

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Linguistic analysis tool in The Guardian.

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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.

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Dialect in Nice

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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.


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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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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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Russian as the language of space travel

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It is interesting to listen to Helen Sharman at about 58 minutes of this programme describing how the first few months of her training to go into space were devoted to learning Russian and physcal fitness.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y1xkr

She seemed very matter of fact about the need to learn it.

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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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MOOC on EMI

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I have started studying a MOOC on English as a Medium of Instruction for Academics (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/emi-academics/1/todo/8341)  The first week has been interesting in seeing the variety of concerns that practitioners have.

It is also good to see that the course makes heavy use of input from Kristina Hultgren, who works for the OU.  This shows how this university is doing important work in the field of Applied Linguistics.


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Brexit effect on the role of English

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An interesting view of the implications of Brexit on the English language:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/05/brexit-english-is-losing-its-importance-in-europe-says-juncker

I suspect he is overstating the effect it will have but clearly Brexit will have a negative effect on Britain's role in the world.

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English in Dutch universities

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I came across this article in the THES on the use of English in Dutch universities.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/dutch-universities-defend-growth-english-courses

I was very struck by figure of 60 per cent of courses being taught in English.

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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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An interesting brief talk on translating brand names into Chinese

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 25 May 2016, 15:15

I found this talk on translating brand names into Chinese interesting:

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/languages/chinese/chinese-the-tip-your-tongue-how-do-you-translate-brand-names?in_menu=349360

It shows how creative translators need to be if the translation is to be effective.  In some cases, as in the example of "mini", there is a "lucky" coincidence of sounds that matchg the original and a positive meaning (although, this new meaning rather changes the connotation of the original).  In some cases, there has been more of a focus on the meaning and the original sound is lost and someone not speaking Chinese will not know what car is being referred to - as in the translation for Land Rover.

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Lexical distance of European languages

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 24 Feb 2016, 16:18

I find this diagram about the lexical distance between European languages intriguing:

https://elms.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/lexical-distance-among-languages-of-europe/?utm_content=buffere404a&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

It seems to show English as being close to French in terms of lexis (which I would expect) although it belongs to the Germanic rather than Romance sub group.

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Grammar 2.0

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 5 Nov 2015, 15:21

I came across the following article today.

http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2015/nov/05/roots-language-what-makes-us-different-animals

I found it generally interesting but feel it misses opportunities to explore issues and ended up feeling slightly disappointed.  The sub heading Grammar 1.0 was presumably making a parallel with web 1.0.  I assumed there was going to be a discussion of Grammar 2.0.  This then made me think about what Grammar 2.0 might be and whether this was an appropriate term for SFL.  There seem to be parallels in terms of the focus on the social and language being seen as something that is produced by people for their needs rather than being an idealised resource that users simply receive passively.

Does anyone have any thoughts on whether it is useful to think of Grammar 2.0?

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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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Short video in Polari

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 25 Jun 2015, 16:44

E301 includes some content on "polari" (a gay language) and I found it interesting to see the following video where the dialogue is mainly in the language.  It is clear that some of the words such as "naff" have been taken up in English more generally but other words are mysterious to me.

https://vimeo.com/125398425

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