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.

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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)

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.
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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.

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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,

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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.

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.

The Start is the End!

It’s almost the start of another academic year at Winchester, (Tuesday of Welcome week as I write this). Today is also the pre-sessional exam board. Our tutors have already been teaching for 12 weeks. So with that in mind, and sparked by a conversation over coffee this morning, let’s look at what a pre-sessional programme should do. The points below are all taken from feedback and expectations of students both past and present.

A pre-sessional should:

‘Teach grammar and vocabulary’ – yes and no. This sounds like a very basic expectation of any language class, (from the view that language is made up of grammar and vocabulary). By the time you get to the pre-sessional you have probably got most (if not all) of the nuts and bolts grammar you need. Additionally, the formulaic verb phrase teaching that helped you get this far isn’t as useful in academic contexts. It is true that there are words which are much more common in academic contexts. SEE Coxhead LINK. Practicing sentences with dummy subjects (ones that start with it/this etc.) can also be useful as it’s often left out of grammatical syllabi, or glossed over in application, and you will use this frequently in academic writing. Of course applying some of the grammar and vocabulary knowledge you already have; work on good drafting, proofreading, rewriting and editing skills is invaluable. So teaching grammar and vocabulary no teaching proofreading and editing of that grammar and vocabulary yes.

essay

‘Raise my IELTS score’ – No, proficiency point exams like IELTS can do no more than provide an indication of proficiency in a language. They occur on a single day and can be prepared for and even coached through. Your IELTS might go up (or it might not) the language skills you need at Uni are very different from what you need for IELTS. For example writing you will be writing an order of magnitude more for even first year papers that is possible within the framework of IELTS. What’s more what you write will be expected to be polished through several (or at least a few) drafts, supported with reasoning, citations, data, research, evidence, analysis and argumentation, again hardly possible in a couple of hundred words.

Creative Commons attribution information. Testing times. ©comedy_nose via Flickr

‘Let me on to my University course’ – Well yes if you’ve been required to take a pre-sessional before starting then this is something you need to do. However, this wording gives the impression you’re not really engaging with the pre-sessional in its own right. Any good pre-sessional prepares you for your course of study, but this is much more complicated that the tick box or a traffic light system this implies. Some Universities have separate pre-sessional programmes for different streams of study while this may be in part due to different requirements it’s also because different fields of academia tend to express themselves differently. And when you have so little time to prepare it can be a benefit to prepare very specifically. For example in many business focused programmes reports are much more common than traditional essays. In the arts and humanities (and also business) you’ll almost certainly have to stand up and give a convincing (argumentative) presentation. Whereas in the sciences you might need to report on research or give a presentation of data, but you want to let the facts/data convince the audience not try and argue them into agreeing.

The challenges of academic writing in ESL

‘Help me settle into life in the UK’ – We do pride ourselves at Winchester on the pastoral care of our students. Naturally, we’d argue that all good pre-sessional programmes do this. However, this isn’t something that will get a lot of classroom time devoted to it and even more than adjusting to the academic life this can be a very personal issue. Some students will want to study here for purely academic reasons; others will be much more keen to integrate socially as well as academically. Additionally, every different culture will need to adapt differently, and every student personally.

Coffe

‘Teach me how to do well at Uni’ – Yes this is another thing that every good pre-sessional programme does. Academic culture can be subtly (or quite unsubtly) different at different institutions let alone countries, even ones that share a single language. Many of our American international students have struggled with differing expectations, despite going to school their whole lives in English. Our pre-sessional at Winchester engages lecturers from around the University to teach and give guest lectures, workshops and seminars every week. The current heads of both the English Literature and English Language Programme are former ELTSU tutors. We’ve had lectures from Linguistics, Education, Business, Sport, Music, Archaeology, History and many more.

Shield

Where we are…

There is a saying in real-estate circles “location location location”  and when you come down to it where one is can be very important. Recently Winchester has been judged the best place to live in the UK, see here, here and here. While Winchester is in no way immune to problems, as this blog mentioned and in other news, these are minor. There are a wide range of events and festivals based in the city, the Hat Fair is perhaps the best known internationally. It’s also a popular destination in any season whether for a specific event or just to walk around.

Winchester Kings Gate

Photo: J Beddington Many medieval city gates would have had Churches near or even on them. Winchester’s King’s Gate houses St Swithun’s Upon King’s Gate. This was to enable travellers to pray and give thanks for safe journeys.

Of course the University is a key part of the city and celebrating our 175th year. Here and here are some of the media coverage. Furthermore this article talks about being based here as a student.

Frost

Frost – in one sense it’s weather. As what happens to dew when the temperature is cold enough to freeze it. But, there are a number of interesting linguistic and cultural features using “frost” or a derivative in English.

Jack Frost – an anthropomorphic nature spirit; a representation of winter with a number of spin offs from beer to cartoon characters , and films to games. You might say – “watch out for Jack Frost tonight” – if you think it will be cold.

Jack Frost wikimedia

image via wikimedia

Frosted – adjective used in baking. When there is a thin layer of something (often sweet) on the top or even outside of a baked item. The layer is thinner than icing but more than just a glaze. The cupcakes were frosted with crystallised sugar.

Frosting – noun used in baking. See frosted.

Frost Nixon – a 2008 film directed by Ron Howard. This is a fictionalisation from writer Peter Morgan of the interviews between David Frost (a British journalist and presenter)and Richard Nixon (a former US president with a mixed reputation following the Watergate Scandal).

Touch of frost: expression meaning that there is some frost but not a hard frost.

Hard frost: a very severe frost, many gardeners dread predictions of a hard frost once the spring growth has started. It can be very damaging for many plants.

A frosty reception/welcome: a greeting but without the normal and/or expected warmth. We got a frosty reception at the hotel; despite booking on their website it appears they were closed for renovations so we had to stay somewhere else.

Touch of Frost  – TV programme. Starring David Jason as the eponymous Detective Inspector Jack Frost a determined if not always organised police detective.

A frosty smile/look: When someone looks unfriendly or even hostile despite outwardly seeming normal. I’m not sure we should leave Dave and Simon alone. Dave gave Simon a really frosty look when he arrived I think he’s still upset over losing the poetry prize to him.

Frosty the Snowman – A kid’s song often sung in winter or even as a non-religious Christmas song.

Frostbite – the name for the medical condition where part of your body (starting with the skin freezes. Fortunately, this is very rare in the UK but can be a serious danger in countries that get more severe winters.

Frost Maiden/Queen: a woman who is or seems frightening and/or intimidating and/or unapproachable because of manner, but also one who is logical and unemotional at all times. I’m aware that she seems like a bit of a frost maiden at first; but trust me she’s really very nice just a bit shy around people she doesn’t know. You might be surprised to find that this is a case of sexism in English but there is no male equivalent.

The Year of the Monkey

The year of the monkey is here.

Capture monkey

This week we’re celebrating the year of the monkey which started on Febuary 8th. Traditionally celebrations last 15 days, but we’re only a few weeks into our second semester so we’re not ready to have a big break yet, so we made do with a half day on Wednesday to celebrate together.

Enjoying the food MandyJ

Guests at the Chinese New Year party enjoying the food. Photo: M. Jones

The monkey is the 9th of 12 astronomical symbols and all the years of the monkey are divisible by 12. People born in the year of the monkey tend to be active often out of doors and generally very healthy. Monkeys (as people born in this year are often called) are seen as clever and often inventive, but also witty, flexible, social, and kind. Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Dickens are two European ‘monkey’s that fit this description well.

Capture Lion J Huang

The Lion Costume/Puppet. Photo J. Huang

It’s sometimes said that your birth year (when you are 12, 24, 36 etc.) is a potentially unlucky year for you so you should be doubly careful about new businesses or relationships in that year.

Monkey_2_svg Wikimedia

Image via wikimedia

While not all predictions are positive (and more specific predictions depend on when (exactly) you were born)  we wish you all a prosperous healthy and happy year of the monkey.

Pancake Day

Today is ‘pancake day’.

Wait a second what does that mean?

Well ecclesiastically we are entering the season of Lent where traditionally in the Christian calendar people fasted or gave up rich foods, such as cream and eggs, or meat  most frequently on a Friday but for some throughout the season.

However, in contemporary Britain you’re more likely to find someone giving up chocolate,  sugar; fizzy drinks; wine or even Facebook or supermarkets.

With that in mind how do you make pancakes?

Well it’s actually very easy but a little practice makes perfect.

pancake -wikimedia

image via wikimedia

For North-American (sweet & fluffy) pancakes you need:

  • 1 cup (284 ml) self-raising flour
  • 1 cup (284 ml) of milk (full fat is nice but if you’re lactose intolerant water will work but you might need a bit more egg to help bind it).
  • 1 egg

Optional Extras:

  • A table spoon of sugar (Soft Brown sugars are especially nice here but anything works this helps the pancake to caramelise slightly).
  • Some Cinnamon and/or Vanilla (Personally I’d only use one or the other here).
  • Baking powder (especially if the flour isn’t self-raising/or isn’t that fresh)-(or you want to make them extra fluffy).
  • Cut fruit banana is a favourite of mine berries are also very nice but I’ve known people use chocolate chips here as well.

To make the batter: mix the egg, flour, milk, sugar, flavouring & baking powder together.

Fry on a medium high heat in lots of butter (the secret ingredient)-(margarine or oil will work here but may produce a slightly greasy pancake that you may wish to place on/pat with a piece of kitchen paper briefly before eating).

Pour about 100 ml or a third of a cup of your batter into the hot pan.

Add the slices of fruit etc.

When the bubbles on top are popping and leaving a little hole in the upper surface flip the pancake over. Unless you have lots of practice use a spatula or fish slice, flipping pancakes with a twitch of the wrist is a skill that requires work to master… and is only really good for showing off.

Serve with maple syrup, (golden syrup or honey work nearly as well) alternately jam and whipped cream.

Syrup_grades_large

image via wikimedia

For British savoury pancakes substitute water for milk and plain flour for self-raising (and don’t add the baking powder). The pancake will also cook more quickly and can be served rolled with a variety of fillings. Ham & leek is a personal favourite and nice both with and without cheese, but experiment as lots of things work very well. You can substitute sour cream for the whipped variety as well. Be careful not to overfill them, especially if you plan to try and eat them like a burrito.

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