A post from @PeakMemory about English as a working language in a Japanese company.

As I have mentioned before, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis claims that specific languages affect how speakers view the world. Recently, I came across this article about a Japanese company that is making its employees (in Japan) speak English: Japan continues to work inside a linguistic bubble – not least because many firms in Japan are oriented […]

via Another Sapir-Whorf claim — peakmemory

What about Brexit?

This post discusses both the word and the events.

Brexit is an interesting term, with over 100 million hits in Google it’s also a hot topic, despite what some wish. First recognised by the OED in 2012 it’s older than some imagine if still very young as a word. Also in 2012 from the OED there was Grexit which was perhaps popularised a little earlier (but now has just 4.5 million hits in Google) under fears that Greece would crash out of the Eurozone. Also posited were Frexit (not yet recognised as a word by the OED, 0.8 million hits in Google and described by Wikipedia as “based on Grexit”) and the possibility that Spain and or Italy may also leave the Eurozone. “Spexit”seems was never likely to catch on  (with a mere 50K Google hits). While *Itexit *Nexit (The Netherlands) are discussed their traction is limited; although perhaps growing in the case of Nexit.

union-jack-hat

Why does Brexit work so well? well Brexit and Grexit are easy to say, clear and understandable as blends of the words they derive from. The consonant cluster at the beginning of the word seems to help. But, Spain also starts with a consonant cluster. But, in this case the following vowel sound is a diphthong not the short /e/ that starts exit, and  the /I/ in Britain and the /I:/ in Greece being monothongs merge better with the overall shape of the word.

Of course we also get asked what it will mean for us.

eltsu-banner

UK Universities and schools have been feeling the pressure of uncertainty here, and Winchester is not alone in that regard although some figures show we’re less threatened than many institutions. While this has obviously been of particular concern for us in ELTSU, here at Winchester we’re continuing to build on our base as an open and welcoming institution with this message from our Vice Chancellor.

Brexit and US immigration

 As I said following the results of the EU referendum last year, we are a proudly European university with a global outlook. With students and staff from nearly 80 countries, we hugely value the contribution and uniqueness of each individual, wherever they are from.

For many members of staff and students, these are troubling times; questions remain about what Brexit means for EU nationals, and the deeply disturbing developments in the USA pose real threats to people in our community. 

Whilst these questions remain, may I reiterate our commitment to all of our students and staff. We are working closely with colleagues across the sector as policy emerges following the recent Brexit vote in the Commons. We will be establishing an EU Nationals support group that will seek to provide advice and guidance as policy becomes clearer over the coming months. 

Our community will always remain resolutely open and hospitable.Shield

 

Are you an international student at Winchester who’d like help? Canvas Link

 

 

The Year of the Rooster is upon us!

It’s the Lunar New Year, and many traditions mark the new year now rather than January 1st. Each year in the Chinese lunar calendar is represented by an animal and since this year is the year of the Rooster why don’t we look at some bird related language. Previous lunar new year posts: here and here.

Birds of a feather (flock together): This idiom simply means that people with similar tastes and interests often group together even subconsciously. Just look at the first class of any of the first year modules and you can see some of the more visible divides already taking place.

Get (have) your ducks in a row: An idiom with a built in verb phrase. If someone has their ducks in a row they are well organised and ready to move to the next step.

ducks

photo credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks. Ducks In A Row via photopin (license)

Worth (their/his/her) scratch: This idiom is a value judgment on an individual. If somebody is worth their scratch they are good to have around, (even if you don’t like them). This probably comes from chickens scratching for food in farmyards.

Up to scratch: Similar to the above this is a judgement either good enough or not. Something that is up to scratch is good (enough) if not then it needs work. Example: “I used to be fluent but my French isn’t really up to scratch anymore.”

A scratch player: (isn’t really bird related but I doubt I’ll now do a post with scratch in it) is someone who is a reliably good player in almost any condition. This originally comes from golf where a scratch player would be expected to play to par (the rating of the course) on any course, this has been extended into all sorts of activities including video games where you can watch YouTube videos of ‘scratch gamers’ completing levels etc.

Sing like a bird: this comparison means someone sings well, beautifully.

Sing like a canary: this one means that the person tells people (often authority figures) about things they shouldn’t (in the view of the speaker). Example: “We were going to have a surprise party for my Mother’s birthday this weekend but Tommy sang like a canary and now she knows everything.”

canary

photo credit: dominique cappronnier Girl in cage via photopin (license)

Pecking order: this idiom refers to authority and/or seniority. If you are higher up the pecking order you come first or are more important. Example: “Final year students typically come higher up the pecking order because of the importance of NSS results”.

Beak: this is the term for the hard nose/mouth part of most birds but it can be used to talk about someone’s nose. Example: “keep your beak out of my business and we’ll get along fine.” Also used as adjective beaky meaning with a big nose (now rare), Example “you’ll know Tom when you see him, he’s beaky”

On the wing: this is a slightly old fashioned term meaning while flying, “to take a bird on the wing” was used in hunting to talk about killing birds in the air. If something is on the wing it is moving or in process and/or hard to reach.

To wing something: means to do it without much preparation. Example: “Toni was ill yesterday so I had to wing the sales talk for Simon. I think it went fairly well.”

A feather in your cap/hat: This idiom refers to an achievement or attribute that you can be proud of. Example: “Public speaking is often frightening, but being able to give a talk is a feather in your cap to many employers.”

Chicken: When used as an adjective this means that a person is easily scared or frightened. Example: “Don’t be such a chicken; everything will be fine.”

A chicken and egg problem: this idiom refers back to the logic puzzle what comes first the chicken or the egg? If you have a chicken and egg problem you may know that two things are related but you’re not sure which affects the other directly?

chick-egg

photo credit: Evelio Sánchez Hay alguien ahí? via photopin (license)

10 Good Scottish Words:

Tomorrow is Burns Night, 25th January. Scottish is a distinct variety of English with it’s own vocabulary and usage. Here are some of my favourite Scots words.

In honour of Burns Night (the celebration of Scotland’s national poet) here are some of our favourite Scots words. By the way yes it’s Burns Night, not day; after all (especially at this time of ye…

Source: 10 Good Scottish Words:

Happy New Years (Resolutions)

Happy New Year!

fireworks-london

photo credit: RobW_ Happy New Year! via photopin (license)

Yes a new year and many posts along the lines of “New Year New You” here is some focused on language and study.

  • Start small: statistically speaking most new years resolutions are broken and a great many of them are broken because they are too ambitious, too vague. Don’t say “I’m going to read a book in my field every week”  start with a chapter or a paper a week.
target-cc-dave-fergy-via-photopin

Creative Commons Photo Dave Fergy

  • Set goals: keeping in mind the above set small (achievable) short term goals, meet them and use this to help you move towards your long term goals. This works well within the ideal self and second language learning perspective for more on this start here.
  • Do a little often, rather than a lot infrequently, anything done too much can become a chore, but little steps taken often can make for huge improvements over time.
  • Get out and get involved: this can be a time of year when it’s all too tempting to stay at home. This in many ways is one reason so many resolutions don’t succeed.
  • Get organised: Over the years working with students, all to many limit their results and attainment by leaving assignments to the last minute. Use these weeks to look ahead at the semester and start working on assignments now. Even if it’s just starting to read around the topics. This early in the semester you have certain advantages: first the library is open but almost empty and second almost all the books are actually on the shelves.
reading2

photo credit: Senado Federal Biblioteca do Senado via photopin (license)

There’s more help and advice for you here and here.

Chawton Excursion

Recently both our Certificate of English for International Study and our International Foundation Year Programmes went to Chawton. To visit both Jane Austin’s home (now a museum) and Chawton House Library  which was her brother’s home. It’s just one of many excursions that we build into our programmes.

While classroom learning  and independent study are the core of a solid education, there are sometimes things to be gained from getting out of the classroom and visiting relevant locations to get a feel for how things are in real life. Whether that’s visiting a historic location   or an art gallery to see paintings first hand, changing the context and mode of learning can be a huge benefit and can both reinforce as well as enrich knowledge.

Here are some of the (unedited) comments from students who went on the trip.

Chawton House Library:

My most favourite room of the library was a room having bookshelves. It was a historical and beautiful room. I liked the hidden shelf in the room.

Old people were also using wig sign to avoid witches.

Garden which has a gate was beautiful.

Secret shelf.

The oak room is my favourite part of this short journey. Its special smells make me feel relax and comfortable. The corridor which I also like; it was fun to imagine how Jane Austen and other ladies who live in this house before walk on it.

chl-hall

Photo: ELTSU

There were a lot of flowers and they were so beautiful (garden).

Sofa was really comfortable and big stove was so nice. I wanted to relax there more.

Secret space in the library made me exciting. I thought it’s like films!

Garden was so lovely.

chl-garden

Unfortunately not a day for photography outdoors Photo: ELTSU

There were lots of picture of people who were related to Jane Austin and I could enjoy them.

So polite explanation.

chl-talk

Photo ELTSU

I could know about history and growth.

The library was so lovely and brilliant!

I enjoyed the explanation as well.

As well as the care and detail in which the house, library and garden has been kept special attention was also given to the secret bookshelf and the sense of ‘walking into history’. Many houses at the time would have had secret shelves, cupboards or even rooms to hide valuable or dangerous things.

 

Jane Austin’s House:

I though Jane Austen’s house was cute. I like a brick fireplace and a cute white bed.

I like the kitchen, the fireplaces are new and interesting for me.

ja-house-kitchen

Photo: ELTSU

The kiln to burn bread.

The exhibition is great. However, there is just four things that can touch and see and if they can point me which book that Jane Austen may read it will be great.

Kitchen.

We could experience Jane Austen’s era. For example, we could wear costume of the age and make lavender bag.

ja-house-lavender

Photo: ELTSU

Book room.

There were many books which is written by many languages. I found Japanese books so I felt happy.

Before seeing Jane Austen’s house, we could watch a short film of her life. It was good.

Not just seeing the house, we could enjoy wearing clothes and making lavender bag.

House was very beautiful. We could know about Jane Austen more.

We could enjoy making flavour bag.

I could get lovely souvenir.

It was fun that I could try wearing traditional clothes and making a lavender cologne sachet (plus playing the piano).

ja-house-piano

Photo: ELTSU

 

Dressing in period costume,

ja-house-costume

Photo: ELTSU

(also available here and here )seeing the house and especially the kitchen all help us imagine life at the time, and is popular for many museums .  As for the sense of living history there are any number of places that make this real for visitors and it is the essence of why we visit places like this.

Cramming is not learning.

The blog at The Learning Scientists is well worth following. Here is their self description: We are cognitive psychological scientists interested in research on education. Our main research focus is on the science of learning. (Hence, “The Learning Scientists”!) Our Vision is to make scientific research on learning more accessible to students, teachers, and other educators. […]

via A blog about the science of learning — peakmemory

Listening and Speaking for Seminars: QuICK

Following on from the lecture the seminar is probably the next big hurdle and to discuss the seminar in terms of just one skill is to leave half of it out. The two key skills here are listening and speaking and seminars can be an essential part of your learning at university especially if you benefit from talking ideas out or want to try out your developing competence in your field in a supportive and colligate environment. This week the mnemonic (easily remembered word) is QuICK.

QUestion

Interactive

Content and Context

Keen

seminar

photo credit: UK in Italy XXIV Pontignano Conference via photopin (license)

QUESTION: Seminars are the ideal place to ask any questions that may have arisen in the lecture, the reading or related to the coursework and assessments. They are also a good place to address any problems you may have encountered with the materials, your assessments or your study of the field in general, but try to stay on topic as seminar time is a precious resource, you may want to book a personal tutorial to cover things as well.

INTERACTIVE: Seminars are much more interactive and student focused than lectures can be. In the UK HE sector most Seminars (but perhaps not all) will be between 15-25 people where lectures can be a couple of hundred even at a small institution like Winchester. In that it’s an interactive session it can be much more difficult to prepare and plan for it. But, focusing on the moment is just as important as it is in a lecture.

CONTENT and CONTEXT (yes I’m cheating but I only have one C in Quick!)

Firstly, when you are speaking in a seminar, you have a clear context (the subject you are studying, the reading or lecture being discussed or expanded upon, and/or the application of knowledge gained from one or both) all this serves as a scaffolding to support what you are saying and make it easier for your colleagues (whatever their language) to understand you.

1

ELTSU students discussing British Painting in their TATE Britain. Photo: I Preston

 

At the same time both you and your course-mates have all signed up to study this particular field and presumably are interested in it, (at least generally if not always specifically). When they are listening to you in seminars they will be much more interested and focused on what you are saying not how you are saying it. Another important feature to keep in mind here is that language teachers have to be specially trained to do this well, most people won’t notice little grammatical or pronunciation slips (with technical jargon it’s not uncommon to hear varying pronunciation among native speakers of the language dependent on dialect, subfield or education).

The last point here is that in interactive speaking (which seminars feature within) you need to focus on fluency even if this comes at the expense of accuracy. Some seminars can be quite fast paced and if you take too much time to formulate your response or question the talk will have moved onto another aspect, (which you may have missed because you were worrying about grammar). Stick with the talk in the moment and say what you have to say, (even if you’re not sure how to say it).

KEEN: Don’t be afraid to be passionate, even out-spoken at times. Seminars are one area where international students with differing expectations and educational experience can be an invaluable asset to the group as a whole. You might be the only representation of a particular cultural viewpoint on a novel, or a business practice. Don’t keep these to yourself and don’t suppress them; enrich everyone’s experience and they’ll make sure they keep you around and involved.

Harvest time

Hampshire Harvest Festival This weekend it’s the Hampshire Harvest Festival hosted around Winchester Cathedral. As well as kid’s activities there will be a variety of stalls showcasing the county’s agricultural produce. With that in mind here are some harvest, (and harvest related) words.

Close Door

Photo J Beddington

Harvest appears first in English as a noun (in 902 OED) and is derived from Old English, with related words in a number of old Germanic languages. Around 1400 it started to be used as a verb as well both uses are still current.

The harvest originally refers to the time of year autumn (or fall for our American readers) but now is most commonly used in compounds like Hampshire Harvest Festival, Harvest Faire, Harvest Moon Etc.

harvest

photo credit: christian.grelard Vintage harvest via photopin (license)

It’s also widely used to talk about the outcome of some work even if that work has little to do with agriculture. Ex, ‘The harvest of new contacts from the latest advertising campaign was down on predictions again. I think we need to reconsider the approach.’ This more metaphorical approach also works as a verb Ex. “Analysing the survey data took longer than expected but we were able to harvest some really significant leads, even if the data is not entirely conclusive.”

A threshold, we may commonly understand to be the liminal space in the doorway say between two rooms, a room and a hallway and/or the inside and the outside of a building. The term comes from thresh (what you do to grain crops to separate the edible bits from the straw) and hold meaning to keep. Originally thresholds were put in the doors of barns to stop the grain blowing out.

A harvest moon is a large often orange-ish moon in autumn that would allow agricultural workers to work late to get the harvest in, or at least to return late from the fields before we had streetlights, torches (flashlights for you Americans) and cars.

Reap what you sow: this old saying means that you get what is coming to you. If you are nice and helpful towards others (even when you don’t have to be) then they are likely to be kind to you when you are in need. If you only do what you need to, then they are likely only to help you as much as they have to. Reaping is one of the first stages of harvesting many crops especially grains.

grim-reaper

photo credit: Anthony Quintano Banksy Grim Reaper New York City via photopin (license)

The grim reaper: this goes back in folklore to the idea that there is a spirit or “angel of death” that collects the souls of the recently dead and takes them to heaven. Normally depicted as a skeleton in a black hooded robe with a scythe, the grim reaper is a common theme for Halloween costumes.

To scrump: this means to take fruit, (especially apples) from trees that are not yours. Don’t forget scrumpy a type of strong cider perhaps made from these apples.