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Jonathon Frantzen's "Freedom"

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:17

I have recently finished this novel and it is interesting that he seems to be quite quotable in materials about language - he is featured in the E303 materials and I have used extracts from "The Corrections" in my face to face materials and some distance learning materials I wrote a few years ago.  I suspect this novel will also be used by materials writers.

In  particular, one of the main characters writes an autobiography featured near the beginning and later at the end of the book.  The title of this is "Mistakes were made" and this made me wonder why it was not "I made mistakes" or "The mistakes I made" in the first extract.  However, in the second extract, it becomes clear that it was not just the writer of the autobiography who made mistakes.

This is just one example of issues in the novel where the forms are significant for the meaning of the whole novel.

 

 

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Guy Deutscher's "Through the Language Glass"

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:01

I have just finished reading this book.  It is argued that we can say anything we need to say in any language but that each language forces us to make some distinctions that others might not.  For example, in Russian, there is a need to decide whether something is siniy (dark blue) or goloboy (light blue).  This, he argues makes the distinction more significant in speakers of Russian than it is for those who do not speak Russian although most people can recognise different shades of blue and label them as we do in English by, for example, using light and dark.

There is another key example, which is that of Matses, a language spoken in Peru.  Here, speakers have to state how they know facts they state (Deutscher refers to them being like "the finickiest of lawyers" (page 153)).  There are separate verbal forms for whether you know something from direct viewing, inferred from evidence (eg a footprint), conjecture or from rumour.  This would presumably give listeners a good opportunity to be critical of other people's claims to knowledge.

Overall, a very interesting book although there are some aspects of the style that are slightly irritating such as a tendency to refer to language as weird or outlandish.

Reference

Deutscher G (2010) Through the Language Glass London: Heinemann.

 

 

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Police interpreters

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:18

There are interesting reports in Private Eye (unfortunately, the web site does not seem to include the details) about the contracts for interpreters.

It seems that the job of interpreter is being deprofessionalised and there are many compromises with quality as a result of saving money.  One shocking case is where Czech interpretation is being used for Slovak users whereas in the Czech Republic, Slovak suspects are given interpreters using Slovak.  As well as the danger of misinterpretation of nuance, there are the general affective factors of suspects being helped by people who do not share the same language.

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Sorry I Haven't a Clue and language

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:19

The comedy programme "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" could provide useful examples of many aspects of language analysis.  For example, last week there was a reference to 20,000 odd people in Thanet where the comedy derives from the fact that the odd could be attached to 20,000, meaning about 20,000 or to the people, meaning that the people are odd (strange).

It is interesting how often comedy can help us be aware of how language works in context/discourse.  McCarthy's(1991) book starts with an example from Morecombe and Wise. 

McCarthy M (1991) Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers Cambridge: CUP

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Reflections on yesterday's Elluminate

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:20
The session seemed to go okay and there was some useful content discussed but students seemed to prefer to use the texting option than speaking.  I would like future sessions to be more student centred. 
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Elluminate compared to Adobe Connect

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:20
I had a go with using Adobe Connect a few days ago.  It seems quite simple compared to Elluminate.  This is both good and bad.  From the point of view of students having problems connecting, Adobe Connect seems more successful but it seems to be more limited pedagogically.
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Style in Tony Blair's autobiography

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:21

Another good article in the London Review of Books.  This time it is on Tony Blair's style in his autobiography.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n02/john-barnie/our-guy

 

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very interesting article on how work is represented in language textbooks

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:21

This is a very interesting article on textbooks and the kinds of capitalistic perspectives that are often shown.  If any students of E844 are reading, they might see the links with Wallace's article and her reference to the overuse of topics like "diets, dating and dinner parties".

It is interesting that there are still analyses of "Streamline" and "Strategies" as I wonder if these are still used.  I think I remember Strategies as being quite critical as it says here.  I also remember reading an East German textbook with a portrait of a British working man who was a Morning Star reader.  

Gray J (2010) "The Branding of English and The Culture of the New Capitalism: Representations of the world of Work in English Language Textbooks" Applied Linguistics 31/5: 714-733

http://applij.oxfordjournals.org.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/content/31/5/714.full.pdf+html

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an interesting newsletter

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:22

I have received a couple of issues of the technogogy newsletter at http://tinyletter.com/technogogy

It has been useful and interesting so far.

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iTunesU

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:23

This is a great source of lectures and other academic content.  There is lots of Open University context.  It is useful for students of EAP as they can access their subject matter and also useful for Masters in Education students as there is so much relevant content.

There is an interesting lecture by Lightbown at http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Browse/tc.columbia.edu.1389069061

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Statistics and machine translation

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 10 Nov 2011, 14:44
There was an interesting TV programme on statistics last night on BBC4.  It was explained how statistics are used for machine translation.  The presenter who was Swedish was impressed with the results of a translation from Swedish to English but I was not so impressed as he was - perhaps different expectations.
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Being critical

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:24

This is a tricky aspect for some students and I think it might need some clarification.  I think Poulson and Wallace is useful

Poulson and Wallace (2004: 6) suggest that it is important to:

 

·         Have a sceptical attitude towards your own and other people’s knowledge and how it has been produced

·         Have a habit of questioning knowledge and how this is produced

·         Scrutinise claims and check the evidence for them

·         Respect others’ points of view

·         Be open minded

·         Be constructive.

 

I think all of these points are useful.  Some students on courses I have taught on have seemed to think it is mainly about finding fault and criticise texts for not being totally different kinds of texts.

Poulson L and Wallace M (2004) Learning to read critically in Teaching and Learning London: Sage.

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Trialling Learnosity

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:27

We are trialling learnosity as a way of assessing oral skills and I have just marked the first TMA.  This involves learners responding to various prompts by logging in to the Learnosity website. In the case of my involvement in the materials design, the prompts related to academic English (e.g. giving their responses to an academic text). 

It seems to be a useful tool but feedback is quite time consuming as I often need to listen several times.

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An interesting thought provoking article by Stefan Collini

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:28

A very interesting article by Stefan Collin in the London Review of Books.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n21/stefan-collini/brownes-gamble

I think this is a good point:

" But this, other problems aside, comes perilously close to reducing important human experiences to a set of ‘preferences’ as reported on a tick-box questionnaire. I would hope the students I teach come away with certain kinds of dissatisfaction (including with themselves: a ‘satisfied’ student is nigh-on ineducable), and it matters more that they carry on wondering about the source of that dissatisfaction than whether they ‘liked’ the course or not."

 

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Physics envy

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:28
I was reading the book Whoops by John Lanchester and he referred to economics having a case of physics envy, meaning that it often wants to use quantitative data in the way that the natural sciences do.  Later in the book, there are examples where this has proved to be very mistaken - some events that have happened were described as being extremely unlikely - one chance in a number bigger than all the atoms in the universe.   I suspect education does not envy physics so much but some educational research still seems to have too much faith in numbers.
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Staff development day Cardiff

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Saturday, 17 Apr 2021, 22:22

There was a Languages staff development day in Cardiff last Saturday.

It was interesting to meet people teaching different languages.  There was a strong feeling of teachers of Welsh that they were doing something important in terms of maintaining national identity.

It is clear that Elluminate is being widely used and is seen as having great potential but I wonder how long students need to get used to it.

I gave a brief presentation on plagiarism issues in EAP.

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Good Elluminate meeting last night

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:30

We had an Elluminate meeting last night to debrief on the L185 course.  From a technical point of view, it was the first flawless Elluminate I have experienced.  I have further meetings today and on Sunday.

I thought the content of the meeting was useful.  As is often the case, there was quite a variety of views on the usefulness of metalanguage for language teaching.  I tend to be someone who feels that metalanguage should be very limited but some colleagues did not agree.

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Language in Greenland

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 10:31

A very interesting article on many levels but one of the most interesting for researchers into language is the point that what will be developed is an ethnography of speaking rather than a grammar or dictionary.  Not knowing much about the project, it seems it would be useful to have both but I assume this is not practical.  I certainly see the point of this ethnography of speaking.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/03/last-of-the-arctic-hunters

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language learning in the UK

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 11:59

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/aug/24/who-still-wants-learn-languages

Interesting if depressing.  I am surprised businesses do not make more of an issue of this.  It seems that even if a lot of business is done in English, British firms can only really find out about other countries (eg opportunities, problems etc) if they have the linguistic capacity to do so. 

I also wonder if more use should be made of capacity to teach languages spoken in this country rather than the traditional foreign languages.

 

 

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Lack of languages in embassies

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:00

Patricularly interesting part is

" It is worth mentioning that, of these examples, only the Luxembourg business was conducted mainly in English. I was dismayed to learn recently that neither the Middle East director in the Foreign Office nor two of our ambassadors in important Gulf countries can speak Arabic."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jul/22/ambassadors-relations-diplomacy-cameron

This does seem to show a lack of awareness of the importance of languages among the people in power.

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Review of McCRum book

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:01

Interesting issues are raised here.  To me, it seems that all languages are complex overall although they tend to be relatively simple or difficult in different aspects - eg Chinese is simple in terms of days of the week (day 1, day 2 etc) but very complex compared to English in terms of words for family relationships.

http://www.tnr.com/blog/john-mcwhorter/75710/english-special-because-its-globish

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New blog post

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 5 Apr 2011, 12:02

A very interesting article about the diversity of the world's languages.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627621.000-language-lessons-you-are-what-you-speak.html?full=true

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Elluminate again

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 19 May 2011, 15:51
It seems to be working more smoothly as a way of teaching as I become more familiar with it and also (perhaps even more importantly) use a better quality computer.  It does seem to require a very good computer and some students do not have that.
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Language issues in novels

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 19 May 2011, 15:52
It is interesting to read portrayals of language issues in novels, stories etc.  I am now reading Aravind Adiga's Between the Assassinations and there is an interesting portrayal in one part of the link between the knowledge of English and power/privilege.
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Guardian and language issues

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 19 May 2011, 15:52

Several interesting things in the Guardian on languages.

Phrase books - interesting that they think that these phrase books might be useful in learning a language rather than just being for tourists.  However, it is positive that they are focusing on mainly non- European languages.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/series/language-phrasebooks

The death of a language

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/05/bo-language-extinct-linguistics

A blog on language learning policy and attitudes.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/07/anushka-asthana-french-language-education

 

 

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