Posts Tagged ‘importance of languages’

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Language Misperceptions in Spain. The language problem in monolingual communities

May 18, 2013

by michelle (talkingpeople.net)

Because for 40 years we were told that in Spain people should speak Spanish, and people who belonged to bilingual cultural backgrounds were persecuted and banned from speaking their other language (which terrified everybody all the same), there is a Spanish-nationalism tradition in monolingual communities in Spain that exhibits (and exposes) this fact: those people’s very-aggressive hostility to bilingual communities. Why should they feel like that? Why such self-justified bellicose outrage? And what if there is resent among people’s whose language was banned? (Obviously, those who feel that need to overcome it, after decades of language revitalization policies and the end of past persecution.) What’s the big deal their heart warms more when they speak the language that was once persecuted? (If you were forced to stop speaking your family’s language, how would you feel?) Why should their heart necessarily love more Spanish than their community’s language? (I don’t mean to justify intolerance on anyone’s side, of course. I’m a free thinker and as such, I’m critical of all nationalisms, because nationalism is not — in my view — about collective identities but about collective impositions.)

In monolingual communities we are confronting a problem and people consistently refuse to tackle it: we need to consider, at least in Madrid, the kind of monolingual people who are always accusing bilingual people of intolerance are not aware that they are perpetuating a tradition which we should have already long overcome — the Spanish democracy re-started in 1976 and the 1978 Constitution included the acknowledgement that Spain was a multilingual country, a country where different cultures coexisted with the Spanish culture.

The 1978 Spanish Constitution recognizes the linguistic diversity in Spain in Article 3.3 where it states: “The richness of the linguistic varieties in Spain is a cultural heritage that will receive special respect and protection”. Co-official languages in Spain: Aranese (in danger of extinction), Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician. Other languages in Spain

Since the 1990s I’ve been bringing up this issue in my lessons, especially when I had Advanced level English students. I’ve tried to make people think critically about the biased opinions monolingual people help spread, distorting in this way the educational process of language and cultural respect to diversity in Spain. To this day (2013), I’m still shocked at the strength of people’s misperceptions, at how they defend these biased opinions as if this was a fundamental ideological issue in their lives, yes, a question of patriotism… Why should someone living in Madrid, an Autonomous Community in Spain, have a say about whether a Catalan person should not prefer to speak Catalan in Catalonia, another Autonomous Community in Spain? Why should they feel they can actually say / they have a “right” (!) to say that Catalans have to speak Spanish in Catalonia, when we’ve had Autonomous Communities – protecting cultural diversity – since the 1970s and 80s? From a democratic or linguistic stand, there is no way language and cultural diversity can be seen as threatening or negative for any community or any part of a community.

2009 Languages of SpainBy-default-mentality people (“ordinary” people) in monolingual communities in Spain say things as false, unfair and openly impolite as this — and it makes me feel so ashamed and overwhelmed that I can’t even react properly in spite of my knowledge and my role as a language teacher: “Galicians don’t know how to speak / write Spanish” (!! against ALL evidence!), “Catalans / Basques have to speak Spanish whether they like it or not because we are in Spain” (!! Francoist mentality!). Just two grotesque examples (grotesque, if we consider it from an informed and democratic standpoint). The fact is that monolingual communities speak only one language, and bilingual communities speak two, and they do. Why should monolingual people be unable to understand that there exists bilingualism in Spain? And that speaking your mother language or languages is a human right? And that languages that have been banned (!!) have needed language revitalization policies – which we have fortunately had since democracy started? Shockingly enough, in Madrid the educational authorities are pursuing bilingualism – not Quality Foreign Language Education, bilingualism they call it — with… English!, a language which is not in people’s cultural background, except people like myself, children from culturally-mixed marriages at the time when Franco, the dictator who isolated Spain from being in touch with the world (with the social movements in the 1960s for instance) welcomed US American airbases in the country. Except minority cases like my own, English is and will be a Foreign Language in Madrid (which doesn’t mean people can’t learn it well and also in the public education system, where we have qualified teachers like myself!)

People in monolingual communities in Spain like the Autonomous Community of Madrid should stop making the ignorant “jokes” and comments on bilingual people we hear every day. This shames us all. This speaks of people’s ignorance and prejudice, it does not “defend” any legitimate Cause. When we tackle the language issue we should exert some minimum respect, and express our questions and comments as such, rationally and with empathy (tactfully at least), because in our past there has existed a terrifying language reality that has made a lot of people suffer and we should not pretend Nothing happened. We should not use our questions and ideas as weapons for showing despise for a different language community. We should question our own perceptions and feelings (in monolingual communities), too, admitting we also have a trauma, the trauma of believing there are languages which are more important than others and should be imposed, if necessary.

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Language is powerful! (audio)

March 18, 2013

Listen to this at Talking People Podcast episode

Here is the transcript

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Language is powerful! Metaphors we live by: Argument is war

March 17, 2013

Listen to this at Talking People Podcast episode

Feminists are people who have been able to question their own conceptual system, the language they use to express it and the way they relate to their own selves and other people. We have actually noticed how our minds liberated and expanded as we realized for instance the importance of language in conditioning our understanding. On top of that, many of us have read and listened to people doing all kinds of research, more theoretical research but essential for human knowledge. Still, the value of feminist work on language is astounding. Unfortunately, most people, unaware of how their own conceptual systems are built and how language works to construct culture — mostly tradition — being unable to develop any feminist curiosity or feminist intelligence, feel entitled to despise and criticize what they are totally ignorant of.

I’m excerpting some thinking by a non-feminist around language, which offers the same rich ground of thought and action feminists offer when we analyze language. I find these ideas really interesting and they bring about the resources of feminism and nonviolent struggle, too — sources we should all be exploring to learn to build a better world.

EFL students will also find value in these ideas for improving their oral work at speaking tests and their ability to hold rational discussions. (You can read my notes on Holding Rational Discussions on the Speaking – Discussions section on talkingpeople.net). Defending a position just means explaining your reasons to say something. Not agreeing should not mean fighting and repeating the same things over and over again. Agreeing on something is not One Winning The Other Losing, but both finding some constructive joint future action. If you collaborate, if you work together in your interaction or conversation, you will all win, so to say! If you don’t, you might all lose, to keep using this kind of violent language that has made us so violent when holding discussions!

It was not violence, but collaboration that developed the best in humanity in PreThemstory!

Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff & Mark Johnson (The University of Chicago Press, 1980)

Concepts We Live By. Chapter 1. Pages 3, 4, 5 [With my underlinings and comments]

Metaphor is for most people a device of the poetic imagination … a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action. For this reason, most people think they can get along perfectly well without metaphor. We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.

The concepts that govern our thought are not just matters of the intellect. They also govern our everyday functioning, down to the most mundane details. Our concepts structure what we perceive, how we get around in the world, and how we relate to other people. Our conceptual system thus plays a central role in defining our everyday realities. If we are right in suggesting that our conceptual system is largely metaphorical, then the way we think, what we experience, and what we do every day is very much a matter of metaphor.

But our conceptual system is not something we are normally aware of. In most of the little things we do every day, we simply think and act more or less automatically along certain lines. Just what these lines are is by no means obvious. One way to find out is by looking at language. Since communication is based on the same conceptual system that we use in thinking and acting, language is an important source of evidence for what the system is like.

Primarily on the basis of linguistic evidence, we have found that most of our ordinary conceptual system is metaphorical in nature. And we have found a way to begin to identify in detail just what the metaphors are that structure how we perceive, how we think, and what we do.

To give some idea of what it could mean for a concept to be metaphorical and for such a concept to structure an everyday activity, let us start with the concept ARGUMENT and the conceptual metaphor ARGUMENT IS WAR. This metaphor is reflected in our everyday language by a wide variety of expresssions:

ARGUMENT IS WAR

[Notice how language has always used the masculine. Why was that? Women were banned from thinking and education. Traditionally, they’ve been considered unfit for rational thinking. Of course, this is not true. We should all be unfit now for exerting patriarchal reasoning and we should all be finding ways to think beyond the patriarchal frame of mind, so solidly based on violence and misogyny (considering women inferior in everything). We’re developing Empathetic Rationality, reasoning which includes love or solidarity, a concern for life, and this is kinder, wiser, and better for our living together!]

Your claims are indefensible.He attacked every weak point in my argument.His  criticisms were right on target.I demolished his argument.I’ve never won an argument with him.You disagree? OK, shoot!If you use that strategy, he’ll wipe you out.He shot down all of my arguments.

It is important to see that we do not just talk about arguments in terms of war. We can actually win or lose arguments. We see the person we are arguying with as an opponent. We attack his [sic] positions and defend our own. We gain and lose ground. We plan and use strategies. If we find a position indefensible, we can abandon it and take a new line of attack. Many of the things we DO in arguying are partially structured by the concept of war. Though there is no physical battle, there is a verbal battle, and the structure of an argument — attack, defend, counterattack, etc. — reflects this. It is in this sense that the ARGUMENT IS WAR metaphor is one that we live by in this culture; it structures the actions we perform in arguying.

Try to imagine a culture were arguments are not viewed in terms of war [but in terms of collaborating in joint thinking, or to learn, to know, to solve problems], where no one wins or loses [but everybody learns a bit more about itself, people and/or the world], where there is no sense of attacking or defending, gaining or losing ground [but a sense of contributing ideas for joint analyses, and contributing experience for joint reflection]. …

Chapter 3. Page 10

… in the midst of a heated argument, when we are intent on attacking our opponent’s position and defending our own, we may lose sight of the cooperative aspects of arguing. Someone who is arguing with you can be viewed as giving you his [sic] time, a valued commodity, in an effort at mutual understanding [or joint pursuing of more knowledge and wisdom, or at problem-solving]. But when we are preoccupied with the battle aspects, we often lose sight of the cooperativeaspects [& knowledge building, problem-solving].

Well, I hope that you mull over all of these ideas, because we should really improve our way of viewing and performing discussions! In the same way we should learn to stop connecting love to obligation, for the latter degrades and distorts love!

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Donations for Talking Dictionaries!

March 6, 2013

33 hours left for Crowdfunding!!!

At Mujer Palabra we have donated 100$ to Living Languages (David Harrison and Anna Lazuli) so that they can continue sending researchers to document languages bound to extinction. In this case, it’s about Papua New Guinea, the place where a highest number of languages are spoken, 680 or so! — if my memory is working!

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/talking-dictionaries-for-papua-new-guinea-s-endangered-languages

You should check out the Talking Dictionaries they already have on their site!

Here is a workshop I put together: On the importance of languages

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Feb 21: Motherlanguage Day!

February 22, 2013

http://www.un.org/en/events/motherlanguageday/

And here’s an article on David Harrison with videos and all! http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2013/02/21/11656/

I first heard him speak on a podcast episode by National Geographic years ago. Unfortunately, this very interesting podcast disappeared, but “Interview to a Linguist” is here because I use it in class with Avanzado 2 people.

More on his work, I published a little workshop on the importance of languages on this blog with excerpts of his very interesting book When Language Die — hello, David and Ana! and thanks for the permission! — and then Sheldonina used it to create her own presentation on the matter at university — she got the highest mark she could get! Hopefully, we’ll publish that on talkingpeople.net soon-ish.

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Intro to Feminism (in Spanish) & More for Curious Happy Creatures!

February 14, 2013

feminism-is-the-radical-notion-that-women-are-people-cheris-kramarae-and-paula-treichlerAfter our celebration of One Billion Rising, and our discussions, I would like to recommend a book in Spanish which I read last year. It includes some of the Herstory we’ve always been denied: the History of the women, particularly of the women /wímin/ that opened the way for what is today known as Feminism. Of women who worked for women’s human rights — risking their lives, most of the times; actually, French “revolutionaries” guillotined the women who demanded the Declaration of Men’s Rights included women, because it didn’t, in spite of the fact that there were philosophers supporting them like Mary Wollstonecraft, and many more! (Well, Wollstonecraft was English, but she moved to Paris at the time, to support the French Revolution.) It also makes a good present/gift. It’s “Introducción al feminismo,” by Nuria Varela. And on this webpage in her website, she has some posts tackling some of the issues she includes in “Introducción…”, in case you want to read a bit before getting a copy!: Feminismo para tod@s.

Yesterday I also recommended Eulàlia Lledó Cunill‘s books on language, from a feminist linguist’s perspective. If you love language, if you are aware of the amazing power of language to affect reality, I particularly recommend you read feminist analyses of language. At Mujer Palabra, guess: we have a lot of resources on the importance and the power of language! Here are our postcards!

Last, a book debunking neurosexism, to clear the way for healthy notions coming from neuroscience, that will enlighten you if you haven’t grasped so far how deeply the gender roles condition our choices. Cordelia Fine, Delusions of Gender. In Spanish (great gift, too): Cuestión de sexos.

  • floresdestructivasMost people have never missed women in the books they read — “he” being enough to represent the species, and the “she” experience being too unimportant to deserve books or even a name.
    (Bansky’s graffiti on romantic love.)
  • I know most people have never wondered why the only books about women we read /red/ were written by men.
  • Fortunately, in the 1990s in Madrid, we finally managed to have quite a few women being published. However, we’re far behind books by women if we compare our case to the USA or Britain.
  • Women have to find their voice, word their thoughts and experiences, and ANY human being should be curious about listening to, reading what they say. Why is there so little curiosity? Why is it so common people immediately feel threatened when women do so? (Patriarchy, as a system, is a terrible idea. Analyzing the construction of the patriarchal gender roles is liberating for all, and much more consistent with the notion of human rights!)
  • I committed to reading women writers in 1989, when I found Feminism in the society that surrounded me — I was living in London at the time. And I was appalled: how could it be that I hadn’t realized women had no voice, no authority as thinkers and artists in my mind-world?! How could it be that I hadn’t missed listening to women thinkers and artists and activists? I felt so ashamed, and so angry! I realized how very destructive the weapon of OMISSION is. My proposal is you commit to reading at least a book a year by a woman. And please, saying “a woman” is just saying, a human being who has been denied the right to study and get involved in public life and all because she has been categorized in culture as inferior, psychologically, intellectually, emotionally, spirituality. There are all kinds of women-persons, but they all share having been considered the dark / evil side of the gender coin.
  • The 20th centuries are beginning to change that (though, if you read the book, you will see how we said this same thing centuries ago!), and we women are voicing our thoughts and experiences in public. We should. It matters. It’s a matter of great importance. Because we have not been allowed to have a voice in culture — we have just been allowed to transmit patriarchal culture. That was the closest we were of any connection to an intellectual life.

I think it would be worth listening to women, too.

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-ed’s, “learned” (adj.) & in defence of texting!

February 1, 2013

I’m quite happy with the progress showed by the students who used to mispronounce the -ed ending. I think I’ve explained it in all the groups. In my presentation, to make this issue simpler, I told you

  1. that you should NEVER pronounce the “e” (the Spanish “e”) in the “-ed” ending (cross it out in red when you see it),
  2. that you can simply pronounce an ending “t”, to make sure you include the dental sound indicative of a regular past tense, and
  3. that when the verb in the infinitive ends in a dental sound (d or t), to avoid assimilation (fusión), and consequently, your verb sounding like a present or infinitive, you need to separate both dentals with an /I/ sound: started = /stártid/ (vowel support).

Well, if you are good at this, and you want to improve further, you will know if you need to pronounce a /d/ or a /t/ by feeling your vocal chords: with vowels and voiced consonants, your “-ed” would be pronounced /d/, as in received /risívd/, jammed /dzaemd/, played /plaied/, studied /stádid/, webbed /webd/… Why all vowels? Because all vowels are voiced. What’s “voiced”? Say AHHHH out loud, with your fingers touch your throat till you notice the vibration of your vocal chords. Now say MMMMMM. Your chords should vibrate, too. But there are voiceless consonants, too: say P – P (with no accompanying vowel sound!), say SH, SH, say K-K-K, all of these are voiceless consonants: your vocal chords do not vibrate when you utter them.

All this you know now. So I’m going to mention some exceptions: you know the verb “to learn”. In US American English it’s regular: learned. In British English it’s irregular: learnt. Both can be pronounced /lE:rnt/ though if you wish to be accurate you can pronounce /lE:rnd/ for the regular spelling. Well, there’s more: there’s an adjective which is spelled/spellt “learned” but pronounced /lÉ:rnId/. Today this word came up in Avanzado 2.

The thing is I used it to say “a learned person is someone who knows what kind of language to use depending on context.” (However, I might be wrong about using “learned” here. I need to check that. I haven’t updated my knowledge on “learned” for a few decades now!) (Perhaps we should just say “a knowledgeable person”?)

By the way, I used that word because I was complaining about the prejudice (at least I think it is a prejudice) against texting. We speak differently to different kinds of people, in different kinds of situations. It’s absurd to text a message writing complete words and complete sentences as if one were writing a letter! As absurd as if we wrote a complaint letter using the kind of abbreviations we use while texting! It’s absurd to say that creating a language of abbreviations (a language that shows how creative and amazing human ability to communicate is) is the reason why people make spelling mistakes — as if people were born knowing how to spell and got corrupted when learning how to text! 😀

Similarly, if you are with friends who are happily hanging out with you and you say, “Get a life!”, they’ll take it as a joke and have a laugh. If you are with a friend who is suffering depression, you will not use that wording, nor the same tone, or body language. You’d sound brutal. You will say something like: I think you could take up some kind of activity you enjoy. You can’t stay in all day, crying. Let’s go out now for a walk.”

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Nonviolent Resistance (edited on the next day – in italics)

January 16, 2013

(Written with a feminist intelligence, this is, not like Gandhi or Martin Luther King would have.)

In the Avanzado 2 textbook, unit 4 is devoted to Warfare. Being a pacifist feminist, I suppose I should try to balance things a bit, posting here about nonviolent resistance, because History books, until the 20th century, like Science, and so many other areas of knowledge, have always been populated by men and wars, and men’s wars against other men. To make matters worse, they have always silenced Man’s war against women, for instance, never including in the description of casualties in war the fact that women were always raped – trophies or rubber dolls for the men that prevailed.

Humankind has been much kinder, throughout its History, but not until the 20th century did we start trying to find out evidence of this. Universities started setting up Women Studies and Peace Studies, both doing research to restore what was obliterated by men in power – kings, people with tons of money or richess, warriors, the clergy or religious reps. And then, we got the Internet, where zillions of people are leaving track of their existence, which makes it harder for manipulators to keep tricking us all. Consumerism is the new war to divert our attention from real life and real people, but it is obvious we have options, we have innumerable sources of information. We, the Jane Doe’s and the John Doe’s in/on the planet, have access to information and means of communication that allow us to travel around the world.

Nonviolent resistance is a method of social change that employs strategies such as strikes, sit-ins, boycotts and civil disobedience. In unit 4 we find some info on famous movie scenes and Spartacus is mentioned. This is an example of one of the most empowering and powerful actions human beings can undertake together without replicating the violence that tries to annihilate them. In class, I mentioned a similar example, much closer to our times: nonviolent resistance against the nazi occupation in Western Europe. People are so beautiful and powerful when they use their imagination and kindness, which is to say their intelligence, to learn to solve conflicts without generating more violence and more injustice!

Women have used nonviolent resistance constantly. But women have always been invisible in patriarchy, so they have not been acknowledged as rolemodels (and certainly not as “people who struggle”). (I don’t believe women are “natural” pacifists. The fact that women cannot use violence is part of the patriarchal rationale. I believe that if we overcome the patriarchal gender role system, we’ll develop our intelligence more, in a good way, and any kind of person will then tend to use nonviolence.)

Fortunately, the time has come when we are finally realizing that any human being is capable of using their intelligence, and that any of them should be treated with respect. Human rights is as new a notion as 1945, so it’s taken us far too long to get to this good idea. But we made it. And if we uproot the patriarchal dogmas that we have been brought up in, if we overcome them, we’ll have a chance of developing more civilized societies.

Here’s a video, “Women, War and Peace,” linked to in this Peaceful Protest Lesson Proposal. It’s just an example of all the nonviolent struggle going on that is not considered “struggle”, because patriarchy has taught us that only violent struggle is struggle, and honorable. And this is false.

564393_289129831196530_26175878_n(1)With our social movement on the streets in Spain, which we call 15M (mostly, I suppose, because “indignados” yet again just made men visible and this was unfair and feminist women and also less machista men protested — not necessary feminist, but some starting to understand or develop a feminist intelligence), and which is called the Occupy movement in English speaking countries, we have a very clear example of how good it feels, how right it feels, how intelligent it is, to use nonviolent struggle. The means should be an example of what we strive for, of the ends. Nonviolent struggle is non-hierarchical, every one can take part, from kids to the elderly, men, women, intersex people, hets, homos, bis, trans, all kinds of people, believers and people who do not believe in any kind of god (it’s not only believers like Gandhi or Luther King the ones fighting for justice through nonviolence)… not only what happens in armies around the world, right? Haven’t you seen how many things are happening where people are helping each other to protest home evictions, and also using nonviolent direct action?, this is, occupying the house, to defend the people being evicted? Or the street markets set in many neighbourhoods, where people are going back / rescuing “trueque”, bartering!

There’s the Arab Spring, too — and I know women were raped in some demos in Egypt, for instance, and we have to denounce that, but women were there fighting, too, they were taking part in this revolution, called nowadays social change, or the social movement.

On TV, have you noticed that when the demonstrations are just by young men, they’re full of violence and that when there are women, and other kinds of men (not only the Brute Force type), and all kinds of ages, from kids to old people, demonstrations are very definitely nonviolent, in spite of provocation?

Do you think there has ever been a time before where so many millions of people are demanding a better world, with less violence and injustice, to “their leaders”?

And there are people in Africa devoting their lives to nonviolent struggle, in the midst of brutal poverty and terrifying violence. And we should all learn to appreciate that, the best options we have if we want to survive as a species.

There’s much to learn from nonviolent struggle and I encourage you all to look for information, to discuss it on/in the street, at home, in bars, anywhere you can! The Franquist dictatorship taught people that we should never talk about politics or religion, and that is still operating, in spite of the fact that it is a crazy idea for democracies. It’s in our cultural unconcious memory, and we have to fight it, because it is not right. Politics is about us people living together and that should be built in cooperation, and via nonviolent struggle.

More hints:

  • Lysistrata
  • The nonviolent theory was developed by Henry David Thoreau in his essay, Civil Disobedience (1849). Thoreau’s argument that it was morally justified to peacefully resist unjust laws inspired Americans involved in the struggle against slavery and the fight for trade union rights and women’s suffrage (see also third wave feminism).
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the USA, with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, thousands of students doing Nonviolent Direct Action, NVDA).
  • Gandhi and the Salt March. (If you are interested in more ideas about nonviolent struggle and today, you might want to read Por qué no soy gandhiana (Why I’m not a Gandhian), written from an anarchist pacifist feminist approach.)
  • The movement of Insumisión (by MOC people, who openly rejected violent action because they were/are pacifists — thought they call themselves “antimilitarists” because the term “pacifist” is not cool.
  • Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp and other pacifist feminist groups or networks, like Women in Black.
  • Indians in America (which is a continent, and not a country) have also used nonviolent struggle, against acculturization, too. And Mayan people were incredibly creative since the European invasions.
  • People’s demonstrations all over the world against the Iraq war in 2003. People all over telling their leaders: we don’t want more wars; solve conflicts differently!

There’s so much, people! Just look around you and learn to see it as valuable, empowering, powerful, intelligent! Because we’re extremely lucky to live in this extraordinary time, when people traditionally pushed to slavery and harship, like most women and a lot of men, have finally the chance to lead their own lives.

Oh my! I can’t possibly keep writing this! There are so many experiences, books, handbooks (how to do this and that), people, peoples… and I really got to relax now a bit! So mull over it! And if you’re interested, some other day I can keep posting on this! 😀

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Dear all, dear all, time flies, don’t stop!

December 18, 2012

IF I have a recording of yours, please remember to send me an email (per recording)!! (email: michelle + what you know!)

If you send me writings for double-checking (final versions) or your final monologues (after having practiced a bit on your own) I might reply during the holiday. Don’t worry about me. I’ll take care of myself. Just send it to me if you have done that work. But please, write the name of your group (level, day) in the subject line!

Tomorrow and next day we’ll have our last lesson together before the new year (TV series, dramatized readings: scripts).

Please, don’t stop learning English. For language learning there are no holidays. It’s non-stop partying! 😀 It could be your habit. Your body might need a dose of that every day!! Don’t interrupt your learning because it takes lots of effort and time to catch a learning rhythm and if you lose it, you’ll need more time to get back to the dance! LISTEN TO ENGLISH EVERY DAY. You know how to exploit your audios and audiovisuals in different ways. And you know where to find audios to help you learn to understand and learn to speak: those of your textbook and various podcasts, including the Talking People Podcast.

PRACTICE BEING a resourceful and independent lifelong learner! This expands your mind!

Remember also that if you have the plan of sitting for a couple of hours a week to do your textbook exercises you’ll be making sure you learn all the amazing things in your textbook. In class, because we interact, there’s not enough time to do it all. A UNIT A MONTH means that you should finish unit 3 this month. I can post the answers at your request (here on the blog: Key intermedio 2, Key avanzado 2, or if you send me an email to “michelle” and then you know what — then I’ll post them here for everybody to see). Remember also that when we meet again we’ll be in the second week of January, so if you can do the Readings, Grammar and Vocabulary in unit 4, we’ll be able to finish unit 4 at the end of January. In February we’ll have two weeks for exam format practice, so you’ll also have to work on unit 5 at home, more than usual. You should use our time in class, to make all your questions. I can clarify all kinds of things, so don’t be shy. If you manage to keep the plan of a unit a month, we could be free in May to practice Listening and Speaking intensively.

Yes, I’m giving you the big picture so you can see the forest too!

Possibly, we’ll meet again in a brand-new year, 2013! It sounds sweet! Liberating. Inspiring! Reaching out for the moon!

The 20th century has done so much for us all! Hopefully, we’ll continue learning to listen. Communicating. Working the world out. Together.

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Learning to speak involves…

December 7, 2012

tons of hours of hearing/listening and also tons of hours of moving your mouth to practice production!

One of the most exciting things happening today is this, for instance, we, ordinary people, being able to learn non-stop, research to share non-stop.

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News for all

December 4, 2012

Hiya!

Absent Marks: I just typed in your November absent marks on the School’s Website, so please, don’t forget to check the site out for possible mistakes — this week! By the way, I don’t use the email I have over there, mostly because I don’t know how to use that platform, but also because I just check it out at the beginning of the month, when I have to type in your absent marks.

Message for Beatriz H (Intermedio 2 Lunes): I have your audio file + my written feedback saved on October 30. I thought I had sent it to you. I have searched the forlder in my email account but I can’t find your email — sorry about that. Can you send me an email, with your Group Code (or this “Int 2 – Lunes”) on the Subject Line (título) and your name, Bea H, plus a note about what it’s for (e.g. my Oct audio), so I can send you both files?

For People following this blog: First of all, thanks for subscribing. If you are not students of mine, double thanks! I’m not sure what you might expect from this little blog — I understand it might have to do with activism or with learning about people in Spain! Anyway, I have good news for you all. Clicking here and there I failed to find the list of who is following this blog 😦 but I managed to set this blog to send out just one message a day, a message which would include the things I posted in the last 24 hours. This also means you won’t get the info in real time, but it’ll be daily. It’s set to send the message out at 4.00 am (Spain).

Feedback. Considering I’m an explorer (meaning I improvise a lot) and multi-chaotic (meaning I improvise a lot), if you find anything here which you find useful or like, it’d be great if you digged it (for my students, “I dig it” means “I like it”) and/or even posted a comment. Don’t feel obliged (no os sintáis en un compromiso), in any case — I am using the widget “Top Posts…”, which helps in this way.

Designing the Avanzado 2 course Together: Although people didn’t comment in class the proposal I posted a few weeks ago, I think, today, in Avanzado 2 Lunes, we’ve talked a bit about it. People will be thinking about the two possibilities I think we have, and we’ll talk about it again next Monday.

The favo(u)red option, it seems, is: you students work with the textbook at home every week (a weekly learning plan would help you lots!), doing one unit a month. (There’s no way we manage that in class.) The textbook is a very good resource, and then you can have our time together to interact and exploit me on language questions, and techniques and stuff. As you would be getting the same input at a similar pace, you would be free to ask questions in class, including making the proposal of checking together some of the exercises. But you would be responsible for learning from the textbook and selecting what to do in class, or asking questions on that.

Then I’d pick the speaking activities and the most important listening activities, and we’d do that in class, plus me checking your writings and oral work.

This would allow us — people working in overcrowded groups — to spend the lessons interacting — while putting into practice what you learned/learnt in the textbook –. And then we would also have more time to listen to selected podcast episodes I’d bring (news, interviews), documentaries, or other. Of course, I’d tell you about language, and culture, and other stories.

Now we’re trying to do it all, but it’s not practical. It’d be amazing for your English if you could find more time to devote to your learning at the advanced level.

In any case, I’m scheduling December to include a lesson on the Alexie novel (I’ll bring a listening, you bring the novel and your willingness to speak about it and share stuff), another on TV series (including dramatized reading), and perhaps… ? another based on viewing a documentary.

Otherwise. You see, if we don’t agree on something, what will happen is this (the other option): we won’t be able to finish unit 3 in December (we’ve got so few lessons together!), and it would take us January too. We’d start unit 4 in February, but — I’d like you to practice exercises in the exam format, esp. listening and reading exercises… Considering they don’t allow us to use previous exams, just the June 2009 example (!), I’m designing some more exercises. And I’d also like to show you at least one of the Ciclo Elemental and Ciclo Superior (old system) exams, to see what you think about the level tested in each kind. So we’d finish unit 4 in, say, mid March, and then we’d have a month for unit 5… Then there’s the spring holiday, right? And then — I think our last month together should be devoted to intense speaking activities (timed monologs, timed dialogs)– which also might include listening (documentaries for discussion in small groups and at plenary).

So — you see? Please, don’t take me wrong: I’m an experienced teacher, a professional, I mean. I can organize all of this on my own. But I believe in teamwork and also in human communication! 🙂 I think what we do together is kind of amazing, as compared to what we can do on our own. I can certainly assist you in your final year with a teacher, I can also help you to become independent and resourceful lifelong learners, to understand the importance of language and languages and how culture is connected to individuals and groups. But in the end it’s all about you and your English. 🙂

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Books should be free!

November 21, 2012

Juan Carlos, from the Intermedio 2 Tuesday group, has sent a link to a beautiful website, “Books Should Be Free” (click). Thanks! So now you all can 1) borrow a book + audio from the School Library, 2) pick a story or a few stories from the Talking People Podcast (but check with me, because not all stories are recommended for your level; here is a story I wrote on the topic “Childhood Memories”, in case you want to have a laugh), 3) use “Books Should Be Free” or the Literature section on Talking People! Remember your priority is to listen to English, so you should use your reading activity to listen to the language too, so that you develop your awareness of the adorable pair “Spelling – Pronunciation” apart from practicing reading out loud. 🙂

We need food, healthcare and shelter for all because… Why should we not care for people? The well-being of other people relates to our own well-being. But we need more. As animals with an amazing mind, capable of imagining and also of creating language, we need culture like a fish needs water. It’s the first time in human history that we all, women included at last, have access to information and culture. We should occupy all the spaces we can with culture. We should be walking bits of culture (trocitos andantes de cultura). Hello, Ms Bit of Walking Culture? How’re you doing? 🙂

 

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“Going on an adventure”, Speaking in Public & Textbook Blues

November 20, 2012

In today’s monolog(ue) by Ana (Avanzado 2), on Childhood Memories, we wondered about how to word this amazing childhood experience of “going on adventures.” Ana’s sentence was something like “We used to have many adventures” (sorry if I’m misquoting). This sentence of Ana’s is correct. Still, we wondered. Jorge suggested “get into many adventures” and I mentioned “get into trouble” was quite common but wondered about “getting into adventures”. Well, Jorge, look what I found!:  “Harry and his friends get into an adventure with Voldemort.” (Harry Potter book review) Well done! Then, I don’t understand why I didn’t think of this!!: “We went on very many (childhood) adventures”, because when I was living at the wimmin’s peace camp in England (Greenham Common, remember?) one of the questions we were all often asked was “Do you feel like going on an adventure?” or “Shall we go on an adventure”? (meaning “Should we trespass on to the airbase?”).

Talking about adventures, do you miss that feeling? Well, if you like, I can tell you about how to get it! I’m kind of an expert in this! 😀 When you have to speak in public — in a Speaking Test, a speaking activity at Plenary, at an international meeting representing your company, at a meeting of any kind, in an assembly in Sol, whatever! — if you are a Spaniard and you see that you’ve got to speak in public 😀 you should count of the fact that your body is going to follow a different path to that which your mind will take! Your body will tremble, your heart will beat faster, your hands will feel icy cold and sweaty, your mouth will go dry, and generally speaking, you won’t be the best looking You! But if you practice, you’ll feel how your mind, this amazing organ we have (that becomes more intelligent and kinder the more you learn and work with it — and not against it!!), becomes amazingly focused on the activity you have to perform. Your only world at that moment is the task, not your looks, what people think of you, or the typical self-destructive assessment of “I should’ve –.” I know it sounds like scifi to the people who have not been often confronted to this arduous task, but it’s true. And this means that your mind will rapidly take over your body. You might still have a dry mouth, but your body will feel much better. I even think your body feels gratitude then, a kind of admiration to its mind! Perhaps just a minute or two will have passed, but all that body storm will be nothing because your mind will be TOTALLY ABSOLUTELY FOCUSED ON DOING THE TASK! Obviously, once the event is over, your knees will feel weak, and you will need to drink some juice and eat some chocolate or some crisps, but then you won’t care about it anymore. You’ll have succeeded in your mission, your Mission Possible! (I always visualize athletes at the Olympic Games when I have to speak in public. Well, that’s with Oposiciones, so that’s over, and when I read poems and stuff at events or in squats. I do have a hard time, in spite of being a teacher — an earthling who spends her days speaking in public. But practice helps so much! You’ve got to experience it this year!

Don’t forget this — speaking in public in class is not like speaking in public at work or in an exam. It’s much safer, it feels much safer, so please — give it a try. We’re all there to learn! You’ll be sharing your world with people and offering language material for us all to work with. You should never feel ashamed of making mistakes — that’s arrogant. When we are learning, the natural thing is we make mistakes, till we master that language item. And most importantly, mistakes — in my view — are opportunities for exploration and (self-)discovery! Mistakes are open doors to improvement. (Work on your List of Mistakes, will you?! Check above, the Page called Learn 2 Learn) Mistakes at Plenary are acts of love! because you’re offering people the chance to remember how to avoid that mistake just because you made it and they remember! (Sometimes I sound a bit demented! 😀 It’s exclamations in English! 😀 Plus, I suppose, the passion teachers are able to bring out when trying to help people understand something.) (But don’t be afraid — I’m a harmless! A pacifist!)

(And I’ve got sweets/candy for people who volunteer to speak at Plenary!)

(We could even buy a box of chocolates! /chóklits/ I’ll check prices!)

Last, I’m going to start skipping pages in the textbook, if you allow me to. But you should do it all, and ask me to post this or that. If I don’t start skipping stuff, or selecting what we WILL do together and what you need to do on your own, we will sink into the traditional lesson of learners not using their mouths or ears much and all that. In my defense I have to say that if we spent (we will not, it’s a hypothesis) all of our time together just listening to people speaking and analyzing their performance in terms of language use and in terms of textual structure and communicative strategies, and to people reading out their checked writings and we doing the same sort of thing, you would probably forget about exams and learn so much that then you’d pass the exam. Because all of this would also bring up sociocultural issues that would give you a richer knowledge of your own culture and some of the English-speaking cultures.

But academic freedom, this Constitutional right, has been crushed by an issue that should not even affect slightly academic freedom — that “parents” (really?) complain about the prices of textbooks (or that textbooks are very expensive)! What does that have to do with teachers?! Why do people who have houses and cars and all kinds of gadgets and fancy clothing complain about how much they spend in BOOKS?! This does freak me out! (What can I say? I’m a teacher!)

How much do people spend in books a year? I WONDER! (Incidentally, how many books a year do people read?) So teachers are not allowed to pick the methodology they work best with because parents can’t afford textbooks or because publishing houses are just interested in money-making! Hello, humankind in Spain: can we solve the problem rationally? And allow teachers to use the methodology they choose because transmitting knowledge and helping people learn skills is fucking difficult, and double hard if you cannot pick your method!! (We’ve got the National Curriculum, and the Local Curriculum to make sure teachers teach the same stuff in the same levels, so why can’t we let them do their job?!) I’m so angry! And so sad. Because I don’t really want to set up my own language school. I love public (state-run) education. I think it’s beautiful! Hard but beautiful. (Hard as hell in primary and secondary, but beautiful.) Just think of the people you relate to in class: it’s people from all walks of life! That is what free education for all creates: the chance of meeting all kinds of people, which is to say, the chance of learning about people, about ourselves, and also about the world. All gathered around the  shared interest in language learning. Who do you relate to in your private life? Like-minded people? Well…

OMG! I gotta go. I should be listening to your audios! 😉 Nightie night

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Languages in Europe

November 18, 2012

Protecting minority languages in Europe: If you don’t use it, you lose it!

Protecting Eureopean Minority Languages. In 1998 the European Union agreed to take action to protect minority languages in its Member States. Why do you think this happened?

Why a European Day of Languages (Sept. 26)

Language Facts

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A Workshop on the Importance of Language(s)

September 19, 2012

NEWS: Sorry, there were a few mistakes, and I fixed them on Sept. 26 (plus enlarged the font!) in case you want to print the improved version!

Dear people, a little workshop I designed on the Importance of Languages and Human Language. I hope you enjoy it! and get a copy of David Harrison’s book, When Languages Die!

If you were in any of my old groups of Avanzado 2, you probably listened to the interview to a Linguist, by National Geographic. The exercise was note-taking and re-telling. Well, you will find some of that info! Have a lovely day!

WhenLanguagesDie_01+activities – 7 pages, pdf file

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