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Back in France

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... and reluctant to leave. All I need to do now is the OU Course in Intermediate French. I had meant to sign in last year, missed the deadline by a few days and got a very snotty 'non' when I tried to sign in late. Maybe I should look elsewhere. 

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How's your French?

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'There is no
Small annoyance
Small sigh
Small shrug of the shoulders
Small feeling nervous
Small insult
There is no small incivility
Overall, prefer the serenity'

Is how Google translate delivers.

What do you think works best?

I have a sense of what it means.

I say this poster in the booking office of SNCF in Dieppe.

I know in England such posters are more likely to state that aggressive behaviour will lead to prosecution.

If you know the poetry of Jacques Prevert, that this is what it made me thinking of. The English translation needs to be as poetic. I don't think repeating the word 'small' does it for me.

Any suggestions?!

 

 

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Taking a second look

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While waiting to see someone relating to some timeshares my late father bought I decided to look more closely at the deeds I had brought out to France only to discover that they are some kind of legal evidence of my late father's divorce from a) my mum and b) his second wife - he's been married to his second wife, who had also been divorced for all of two years - very profitable, though she had told me for some spiteful reason that she had no intention of staying with my Dad and was only aftr his money - my late father was not the kind of person you argued with. I go into the meeting and find myself speaking to a woman who after 35 years is retiring - we had something in common: she had known all my late father's wives too, four eventually. The legalease wasn't her responsibility. Returning to a timeshare flat I last occupied in 1977 I felt the presence of my late father, his four wives ... and some seven or eight girlfriends. Any chance I'll be able to sell it or give it away? For what it isn't worth we timeshare owners will be given ownership of the entire 1970s edifice in 2024. Will this give me a 1/1600 or less share in a building site without further damage to my wallet? 

So, it pays to read a thing closely - it is in French though and I'm sure French legalease is worse than our own which explains how in France you can be charged 1500 Francs to sell a cupboard in this time share block. 

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Filling the gaping hole ...

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Aug 2013, 07:30

I won't study at the OU just out of habit and I'll have to take on more work to pay for it, but I am looking to continue my studies here. Nothing else works but the relentlessness of it. I miss the 'railways tracks' of the VLE that punctuate my week with some reading with meaning and an activity or two or six or more.

Perhaps after a lifetime of wishing I could write as well as read French this is something I should tackle?

Having said that - a recent visit to Belgium and I was surprised when people looked at my blankly when I spoke French - for them it was Flemish or English. I gave up apologising for speaking English and slipped, usually, into a fluent conversation. It seems that Belgium is close to us, even if we aren't close to them. Like Scandinavia I think it has something to do with back to back English TV.

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Is Google translate teaching me written French or am I teaching 'it' to translate French into English?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 14:31

It's 21 years since I lived in France.

Amongst other things I translated kids TV cartoons from French into English! I'm now trying, once and for all, to get my written French in order courtesy of:

  • Doulinguo
  • Qstream
  • OpenLearn French
  • Google Translate
  • A MOOC in French (ABC of business start ups if I have understood what is going on!!)
  • And the threat of legal action from the owners of my late Father's timeshare flat in the French alps (he died 11 years ago ... ). Only this week have they finally acknowledge my letters - probably because I chose to write in pigeon French rather than bolshy English.

When I want to write in French I give it a stab, stick it through Google Translate then  jig my English around until I get what I would have said in French out of the other end. (I can speak French - like a Belgian I am told).

When I read any tricky French I paste it into Google Translate and adjust until, once again, it has the sense of what I would have understood had I simply heard it spoken to me.

The test is how quickly will I be found out in an all French MOOC.

The only issue is that hopping around computers in our house (My teenage son has a couple of huge screens which I particularly enjoy using while he is at school) - I found one viewing of the MOOC was being automatically translated - which can in itself be quite a laugh. But at what point will such translation be seamless, at least to the non-linguists? At what point will it suffice as an adequate stab at what is being said and meant by what is being said?

Will be have a Bable Fish in our ear along with the Google Glass(es)?

 

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The inaugural lecture of Agnes Kukulska-Hulme (part 2)

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 27 Aug 2011, 10:08
Prof. Agnes Kukulska-Hulme joined the OU's Institute of Educational Technology in 1996
Her research interests were Digital assets and eBooks, mobile devices, hand held devices and smart technologies for personal learning.
It intrigues me that her first interest was languages, and French, which she studied at Warsaw. She then went on to computing, which is another language, indeed I wonder if programming has achieved what Esperanto dreamed of.
These first personal choices on what to study runs with us for our loves does it not.
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Toy sword or steel?

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I have for the last six months survived H807 with a toy plastic sword.

The gob-smacking revelation that everything is achieved with far greater ease when you have an up-to-spec computer is ...  or should have been obvious.

I am borrowing a club lap-top. Design - hideous, Feel - awfull. DEsire to even tap at this QWERTY keyboard ... very low.

Once was a time for a few quid you could distinguish yourself and feel distinguished with a fountain pen. Not a Parker, but a Schaeffer ... or if you had a 21st or a 40th or some such celebration coming up, a Monte Blanc Cuban-cigar like phallus of a writing thing.

There's nothing phalic about a cheap Toshiba QWERTY keyboard.

Not upgrading a PC or MAC for six years leaves you squeezing ideas through a straw ... and a world that wants to pipe megatrons of info through your home and into your head FAIL ... if your didgeridoo, or straw, just don't come up to spec.

e-didgeridoo

Now there's a thought, and a word ... a s*** e-word.

I feel as if I have spent six months in training, and suddenly, fighting fit I am provided with the tools I need to communicate.

Voice recogntion?

In French, simultaneously ...

If the French language is to die in fifty years then il faut que je ... essaie ... de reflechire en francais.

 

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Some interesting facts about English

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 12:02
Courtesy of Henry Hitchings. 2008

K.O. = 'Knock Out' so 'OK' ... not so!

I’ve learnt something. And so simple. I thought it might be American Airforce derived. Code. I always wondered about OK.

What about F.A.B? From ‘Thunderbirds.’

There are 6,900 different, mutually unintelligible natural languages.


96% of the world's languages are spoken by 4% of its inhabitants.

There are 750 languages in Indonesia.

Eleven languages account for the speech of more than half the world's population:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Arabic
5. French
6. Bengali
7. Portuguese
8. Russian
9. German
10. Japanese
11. English

Only SIX may be significant in fifty years time:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Bengali
5. Arabic
6. English

English dominates in diplomacy, trade, shipping, the entertainment industry and youth culture.

English is the lingua franca of science and medicine.

Its position is prominent, if not dominant, in education and international business and journalism.

There are more fluent speakers of English in India, where it persists as 'subsidiary official language' than in Britain.

English as a second language is spoken by some 120 million non-British.

English is spoken by

* 80% of the population of the Netherlands and Sweden
* 50% of the population of Germany, Slovenia and Finland
* 30% iof the population of Italy, France and the Czech Republic

REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008
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E-words. E-terms. E-lexemes.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 May 2014, 11:22

Inspired by The Secret life of words. How English became English. Henry Hitchings (2008)

‘Communications is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?’
Hitchings (2008)

Whilst ‘where words came from’ is the premise for ‘The Secret Life of Words’ it is much more: it is a history of the people who spoke English. It is a refreshing take on a chronology of events. We learn history through words for warrior, through the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing ... and through the words the English language has so easily accommodated from across the globe. It is a fascinating journey, one made pertinent to someone studying on the cascading wave-edge of the digital ocean that is ‘e-learning’ with the frequent coining of new terms.

For a description of the way the English language functions (or mis-functions) I love this:

English is ‘Deficient in regularity.’

From James Harris (c1720) in Hitchings (2008:1)

It is exactly the kind of thing a teacher might write in red pen at the bottom of a school-boy’s essay.

This is another way of putting it. English, ‘this hybrid tongue’, as Hitchings calls it. Hitchings (2008:2)

A tongue that re-invents itself, twists and transmogrifies at every turn.

A couple of decades ago I recall there being suggestions that the English language would splinter into so many dialects, creoles and forms that a speaker of one would not understand the user of another. The opposite appears to be the case, that ‘core English’ has been stabilised by its myriad of versions. Users can choose to understand each other or not, to tolerate even celebrate their differences or to use difference to create a barrier: think of the class divide, the posh voice versus the plebeian, one regional accent set against another, or an accent from one former British Dominion compared to another.

‘Words bind us together, and can drive us apart.’ Hitchings (2008:3)

How is the Internet changing the English Language?

What impact has Instant Messaging, blogging and asynchronous communication had? Can we be confident that others take from our words the meanings we intend? As we are so inclined to use sarcasm, irony, flippancy and wit when we speak, how does this transcribe when turned into words? How can you know a person’s meaning or intentions without seeing their face or interpreting their body language? Must we be bland to compensate for this?

I love mistakes, such as this one from Hitchings:

Crayfish ... ‘its fishy quality is the result of a creative mishearing.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

Age ten or eleven I started to keep a book of my ‘creative mishearings’ which included words such as ‘ragabond,’ instead of ‘vagabond.’ I love the idea of the ‘creative mishearing,’ isn’t this the same as ‘butterfly’, shouldn’t it be ‘flutterby’? And recalling a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast on Creativity with Grayson Perry, ‘creativity is mistakes.’

Mistakes and misunderstandings put barbs on the wire strings of words we hook from point to point, between arguments and chapters. We are fortunate that the English language is so flawed; it affords scratches and debate, conflict and the taking of sides.

An American travelled 19,000 miles back and forth across the US with a buddy correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation on billboards, notices and road signs. His engaging story split the reviewers into diametrically opposed camps of ‘love him’ or ‘hate him.’ (Courtesy of the Today Programme, the day before yesterday c20th August 2010)

‘Our language creates communities and solidarities, as well as division and disagreements.’ Hitchings (2008:4)

My test for the longevity and acceptability of a new word coined to cover a term in e-learning will be twofold:

Can, what is invariably a noun, be turned with ease into a verb or adjective?

Might we have an Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing. We like to have many words for the same thing ... variations on a theme.

And a final thought

Do technical words lend themselves to such reverse engineering? Or, like a number, are they immutable?

If they are made of stone I will find myself a mason's chisel.

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