DeConstruction – ReConstruction

De-Re

De-Re

Happy New Year!

The theme I’ve been pushing with students over the past 6 months has been the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction with regard to comprehension ability and improvements in understanding across the vast number of accents that are to be found in the English language. The same theme could also be extended to perceptions governing definitions of correct and acceptable 2nd language use in general. How good is our English? Are breakdowns in communication our fault? If the problem is comprehension, what steps can we take to improve that area? How can course design help learners overcome limitations?

The video below deals with design and how the person speaking interprets the design process. The ideas are interesting, yet what really stimulated my interest was the fact that the word ‘design’ could have been substituted with ‘language’ and the concept would have been quite similar in terms of course design. I’ll leave that to you to work out.

The speaker is Ayse Birsel, a Turkish woman with an excellent command of English, although she does seem to have some difficulties with the pronunciation of ‘digital.’ Does that mean her English is bad? Or does it mean that there is no such thing as ‘perfect.’ 😉

The following are some excerpts from the dialogue which are useful considerations in relation to 2nd language learning and course design in particular.

how things come to us,
breaking preconceptions, we are full of preconceptions,
shifting our perspective or points of view,
creating new value, 1+1 = 3,
moving towards a creative economy,
user centered to human centered,
humanistic,
doing good and doing well,
serving a purpose,
deconstruction, reconstruction, DeRe,
creative process, design logic, pragmatism,
communication supported by problem solving,

create value within constraints,
imagination, how do you use inspiration?
How do you think outside the box?
a thinking tool,
dichotomous, dichotomy,
left brain – right brain, creative – pragmatist,
3 dimensional in 2 mediums,
tactile as well as digital,
they will elevate my thinking, we will influence each other,
yippee.

Ayse Birsel: Deconstruction & Reconstruction from MFA Products of Design on Vimeo.

Double Dutch

Dubbed

Hello again,

While on holiday in August I had the chance to drink a glass of wine with a Dutch couple. We spoke in English, although one of the couple was studying Italian and had a lot of difficulty in speaking it. She recounted how only that day in the supermarket she had asked the cashier ‘posso andare?’ instead of ‘posso pagare?’. The cashier was very confused by this of course, as one generally tends to pay before leaving the shop. She was highly embarrassed by this episode which she said she encounters regularly and which causes her particular frustration.

After a few minutes of small talk I was curious to know how it is that the Dutch speak English so well. They told me that they watch virtually all the films they see in English / original language with subtitles from when they are children. When children in The Netherlands go to see the new Batman / Spiderman and other non- Dutch films on a typical Sunday afternoon, they see them in the original language. Strangely, this doesn’t happen in the same way in Belgium,  where international films are shown in either French or Dutch and where the general standard of English is lower.

Applied linguist Kees de Bot has spoken on this subject with the BBC.

One Dutch applied linguist likes to speculate that there might be a correlation between language aptitude and intelligence. The reason why Dutch people have a reputation for being good at languages might be, therefore, that Dutch people are simply cleverer than other people. “Unfortunately,” says Kees de Bot, “the experience of having lived in that country for more than 50 years has made it absolutely clear to me that that cannot be the explanation.”

Instead, his research shows that the stereotype of the multilingual Dutch person isn’t entirely accurate. The Dutch aren’t amazing at languages generally; they just speak particularly good English. In fact, things really aren’t all that rosy for other languages in the Netherlands. The numbers of students taking French and German are in decline. University departments teaching other European languages are struggling to survive. Teaching minority languages such as Turkish and Arabic is no longer allowed during school hours. And other languages are hardly taught at all – just like in the UK. The main reason why the Dutch are so good at English, according to Kees de Bot’s analysis, is that English is highly visible and valued in mainstream culture. Most of the music Dutch kids listen to is in English and the films they watch are mostly in English. Most interesting, in my view, is the link between TV and being good at English. In the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where proficiency in English is very high, English-language TV programmes are subtitled. In Germany, Spain and France, where fewer people speak English well, the TV programmes are dubbed.

Read the full extract on the BBC voices website.

Europe and Dubbing of Films and TV

The graphic on the left backs up what is stated in the article. Those countries in blue are those where English is more proficient and are the same countries where TV/ films are not dubbed (including countries in eastern Europe where proficiency levels are high with regard to English). The countries in red are generally less proficient in English and are those countries where dubbing is commonplace.

So to return to my original point, why did this Dutch woman communicate so confidently in English and so insecurely in Italian? The most obvious reason is because she had started studying English at a young age (this is also true of many Italians who aren’t so confident with the language, however). The most important reason is because she had been exposed to ‘natural’ English from a young age. And by ‘natural’ I mean television, music, cinema and so on. It’s generally not the type of language one comes across in schools.

The moral of this post; go on line and watch language clips, rent a movie, watch an English language program in the original language and don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult…it has to be. Then if you’re feeling really ambitious you can also decide to read a few pages of a book or some articles in English every week.

You can see in the video below why many English speakers have always disliked dubbing!

 

Writing Letters

Hand-written

Hi again,

I recently received a wedding invitation. These often contain a card inside for the purpose of RSVP which derives from the French ‘répondez, s’il vous plaît’. Traditionally, this card wasn’t included, so invitees had to respond using their own stationary, as was the case with this invitation. The last time I wrote a hand-written letter was in 2002. That’s a long time ago. To make a long story short, I didn’t have any specific stationery and so went out to find some. I went to 3 different stationers and guess what . . . they didn’t sell the stationery I was looking for because in their words; ‘nobody really uses it anymore.’

I eventually found a shop that sold something close to what I was looking for. And this made me think about this video I watched a few months ago, which describes how digital technology is changing the way we use (or don’t use) the materials around us, and how not using these materials (pen and paper in this case) can cause the disappearance of services linked to them, such as the printer and paper experts in the video you’ll see below.

The speakers are American and they speak clearly, so although it’s 9 minutes long, it’s worth it from a comprehension, and mechanical engineering point of view.

What / is / your / question? What / do / you / want / to know? How / would / you / like / it pronounced?

Q & A

Questions are the keys to conversation. It’s a tricky area due to the use of auxiliaries in English. We usually structure the question in English in the following way;

Question word / Auxiliary / Subject / Verb / Object or Complement

The person speaking in the clip has a standard south of England accent, well, that which you’d come across in and around the Greater London area anyway. Pay particular attention to the pronunciation (or non-pronunciation) of the ‘r’ after vowel sounds. You can see from the dictionary links with phonetics that the American dictionary includes the /r/ sound yet the British version includes it as an option (r). I’ve marked some examples under the video itself. You can check those against US pronunciation of the same word.

Click on the ‘pronunciation’ button beside the phonetic text when the dictionary opens.

Ever wondered (have / you / ever wondered) where a question might take you? UK /ˈwʌndə/ – US /ˈwʌndər/

Why / do / cats / purr? UK /pəː/ – US \ˈpər\

How / can / we / turn / garbage into energy? – UK /ˈɡɑː(r)bɪdʒ/ – US /ˈɡɑrbɪdʒ/

___ / Can / robots / change / their mind? – UK /ðeə(r)/– US – /ðer/

Explore the impossible. UK /ɪkˈsplɔː(r)/ – US – /ɪkˈsplɔr/

The moon was once a pie in the sky.

You have the power (UK /ˈpaʊə(r)/) – US (/ˈpaʊər/) to change things for the better (UK /ˈbetə(r)/ – US /ˈbetər/)

To find the answer – UK /ˈɑːnsə(r)/ – US /ˈænsər/

My Blog

Questions...questions...?

Hello all,

Yes, you’ve guessed it…this is my new blog. As you’ll see from reading the ‘about’ section, the idea is to provide you with a platform from which to access language content. The idea was to get to grips with the technical aspect and then bombard you with language you may (or may not) find interesting. It took me 6 weeks to understand the technical aspects of the blog which meant that I was ready to upload content around mid October 2011…..or so I thought!
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A friend of mine involved in creative visual design recently observed that the use of facebook as a means of communication was creating more questions than answers. In terms of language content on this blog I’ve also encountered more questions than answers.
I’ve been ruminating on what content to put up online for about a month now, and I’m still no closer to an answer. Well, that’s not exactly true. Putting up content will be easy; getting you to actually watch, read and make use of it will be a wholly different matter. And that’s the part that I’m really interested in.
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I’ve decided to go with it regardless, in the hope that students will provide me with some answers. There are links and associated material on the various posts and pages, but it’s content that many of you are aware of already and don’t use that often. In fact, you only tend to use this content when I’m nagging you on a regular basis.
The text I’ve put in italics is language that you could / should find interesting and of benefit. I’ll try to keep it as natural as possible. Log it in your vocab lists and ask questions about it if unsure about meaning.
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The posts you see below are simply tests to see what kind of content I was able to play with. I’m going to leave them there so that I can start as I mean to continue; audio-visual material, with grammar and vocabulary reference.
Please sign-up, leave comments and remember that what you post is public….so get the spelling right!!
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Alan