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!

 

Counting Sheep … conditionals … and grammar rules …

'..if I'd (had or would?) known ..I'd (had or would?) have gone..'

How/ do / grammar and numbers / go together? It’s part of my job to analyze language, yet I sometimes have to remind myself that I study it too. I’ve been a student of Italian for many years now, and my approach to the language has always been an attempt to make sense from chaos. This is due to the fact that we usually have an endless number of possible grammatical combinations and lexical structures from which to choose, every time we open our mouths, or put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard as is now more often the case).

Making the correct grammatical and vocabulary decisions, while at the same time trying to pronounce correctly, speaking at a speed that is acceptable and, last but not least, giving the impression of actually enjoying the experience, is daunting to say the least. However, it should be our ultimate objective in terms of 2nd language learning. Attaining perfection in a 2nd language is particularly difficult. Striving for it shouldn’t be.

The following video deals with numbers and common language associated with adding (plus, add), subtracting (minus, less), multiplying (by), dividing (divided by, into). What it also reminded me of was the often exasperating experience of attempting to turn all those grammar rules and all those words into something coherent, satisfying and correct.

For conditionals info. go here;  http://www.englishpage.com/conditional/conditionalintro.html

A day in the life . . language is everywhere. Chew on that!

On yer bike . . .

Okay,
So what exactly / does / this video have to do /with learning English? To be honest it took me a while to come up with something. The reason I posted it is simply because I liked the video, as well as being struck by the music accompanying the song; I then started to analyse it more carefully from a didactic perspective.

The video you see below, describing a general day in one’s life, was filmed in the Canadian city of Montreal. Canada is a predominantly English speaking country with the exception of the province of Quebec, which is principally french speaking. Around 50% of the city of Montreal is bilingual, in that both French and English is spoken fluently. The existence of two languages so historically and culturally opposed, while at the same time existing within the same sociological sphere /sfɪə(r)/ (UK) /sfɪr/ (US), is intriguing. And it’s just the excuse I needed to put this clip online.

Language is everywhere. Go and find it. The irony with regard to this post in particular and language in general, is that this video has no spoken English content; yet look at the amount of language analysis that was generated. Now chew on that!

Music

Different types of language…

Hello again,

So, why / did / I / choose/ this particular song?

1. It has lyrics which I can use to draw attention to vocabulary and pronunciation.

2. I can put it online without copyright problems.

2. It was made using 2000+ pieces of recycled paper and was filmed using an iphone4 and time-lapse photography editing, which I think is pretty cool.

3. It’s short and you’re all extremely busy, aren’t you? Although at the same time you want to improve your English, don’t you? (slight hint of irony there).

4. You might actually watch it,  listen to it and learn something new; this being the objective of the blog, after all.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/ one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough /tʌf/one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me.

now I’m driftin‘,  but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin‘, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart /hɑː (r)t/ is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

Now I see land ahead, I see blue skies, these crashin’ waves they are wearin’ me down, and the water’s leavin’ salt /sɔːlt/ (UK) /sɔlt/ (US) in my eyes.

I am driftin’,  but my heart  is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3) (UK).

I am overboard, I am lost at sea,

the decision I made was a tough one to take,

but the ship that I jumped was gettin’ to me,

now I’m driftin’,  but my heart is sinkin’, I’m just driftin’ alone,

but my heart is sinkin’ like a stone (x3).

On reflection

Run… or reflect..

Hi all,

I suppose Happy New Year would be a good place to start seeing as it’s the first post of 2012. So it’s back to school time again and I’ve been thinking about the blog and content. Having done a few lessons and having had contact with some students, I was thinking about the theme of reflection, particularly with reference to language acquisition and use. The start of the year usually means the start of the running season..running for work..running for family..running for sport…running to get to English lessons on time.

Before we start running again, take a moment to think about your English. Are you happy with your level? Do you think you can improve? How can you improve? How can you develop fluency? How can you improve your comprehension? How can you be more precise? Is your teacher pushing you to be more fluent and more precise? Is your teacher helping you to realise your ideal of where your English should be at? If not, why not? What are your specific language objectives this year?

Have a think about the questions above, try and answer them and discuss them with your teacher. Tell him/her what you want and be realistic about how you can achieve those goals.
The video clip you are going to see is from a guy who decided to give up his job, travel the world, take photos, and put together a splendid time-lapse photo montage for us to enjoy. There isn’t any dialogue given that the theme is reflection. And strangely enough, do you know what struck me most about the images captured in the piece? The frenetic running from place to place…even on holiday…go figure!
https://vimeo.com/34400428

Technology Loop…Yeah right!

Language Loop.....

Hi again,

I hadn’t planned on posting so soon but recent feedback from a student informed me that the technology loop video below is no longer available outside the US. It’s probably because it’s part of a new TV series they are doing in America called Portlandia, and they don’t want European viewers getting it before time. I asked a friend of mine living in London to check if it was working in the UK and the answer was “no.”  I looked into the series a little more and it seems to be one of the few occasions where british style humour has travelled from the UK to the US and not vice-versa, as is usually the case. ‘English’ TV is largely influenced by its American counterpart. One of the features of British humour is its sense of the ironic and absurd, which sometimes borders on the surreal and is often presented in sketch format. American audiences generally don’t go for this type of humour; until now that is. Hopefully with the success of the series, more clips of the video will go online and I’ll be able to update it again; preferably before the series is exported to Europe in its dubbed version.

Alan

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