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National Associate Lecturers in Languages Conference Part 2, Stephen Bax

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 28 Apr 2016, 14:35

The second talk at the conference was by Stephen Bax, a fairly recently appointed professor at the OU.

He gave some background on his experience and interests.  He has experience of working in Arabic speaking and also studied the language. It seems that this interest in Arabic and the Arabic speaking world might become influential within the OU in the near future - I hope so as it is clearly an interesting and important part of the world.

He discussed his interest in languages more generally and referred to the mysterious language, Voynich (the name sounds Russian as "voina" means "war" but I think this is just a coincidence).  Apparently, it still has not been decoded although he has attempted parts of the manuscript.

He then referred to his role in encouraging research and referred to the important research that the OU is engaged in.  This is highlighted at http://www.open.ac.uk/creet/main/research-themes/language-and-literacies  He suggested that research is not intrinsically complicated although some of the details are.  He explained about his interest in eye movements while reading.  He referred to some very sophsticated equipment that can track these movements and showed some of the results demonstrating that effective readers move around a text rather than in a linear way.  This is quite familiar in principle from what I have read on reading as a skill but it would be useful to know more of the detail.

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Sharon Hartles - Zemiologist - because ALL HARM MATTERS

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Hiya Patrick,

'interest in eye movements while reading'

I do find the above interesting.

Unfortunately, I am a linear reader and read every word; never managed to master the skill of skim reading.

Those who are able to train their eyes into moving beyond the skill of systematic reading of words are very lucky...it must be like multi-tasking.

Languages in general I find so difficult. I struggle to master or even enjoy the English language, without adding the additional chore of the thought of other languages.

It intrigues me how different peoples interests of choice are. My choice of enjoyment is to disassemble the social worlds, to understand the how and why, the purpose behind things. 

Interestingly, you talk of language and I my mind reverts it into habits, habititus, social constructionism and normalisation. 




Patrick Andrews

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Thanks for the comment, Sharon.

There is quite a lot of research on reading and some of it refers to "saccades", which are the movements the eye makes as it reads (ie how many words a person sees in one "look").  Then there is research on how the eyes move around the text and I think we all move back and forth - presumably you move back when you have read something particularly significant that you might want to consider as you learn.


Sharon Hartles - Zemiologist - because ALL HARM MATTERS

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Hiya Patrick,

That is true.

I tried to read just forward (to keep the pace going) and found I ended up just reading the words. At the end of it I had no idea of what I had read!

I gave up in the end and just accepted that I am just an extremely slow and methodical reader. As a rule, I do not take notes of anything I read. I tend to read it, think about it, reread if I need to and make sense of it as I go along. I analyses and apply it it parts of my own life. 

My tutor has commented in the past the my work sometimes appears to over simplify complex ideas. However, my reply was that in order to retain what I learn, I have to make sense of it, be able to have a conversation and feel completely secure in my knowledge of what I am talking about.  

I feel that because I have had to train my brain to do this... I can put things straight into my long term memory. Bowed well for exams. smile 

So on reflection what I had always considered to be a weakness of mine - I have trained it to become a strength!

Thanks Patrick, I feel pretty good now. smile