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.

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.

Listening for Lectures PLANTER

Lectures can be a huge part of academic study especially for undergraduates and taught programmes.

They present one of the first academic linguistic challenges that a second language user of English will face at university and our support-tutors have already seen several people this week who were finding their first lectures daunting. If you’d like to join them get in touch.

lecture

photo credit: Berkeley Center for New Media 2016 Digital Humanities at Berkeley Summer Institute via photopin (license)

Attending a lecture is a bit more demanding than finding a seat in the right room at the right time. (Although, depending on the campus and the time-table this can be a hurdle in its own way especially in the first week.) There are several (remarkably easy) techniques that you can use to get the most out of going to lectures. Before we look at them let me just make one thing clear, you need to find the way that works best for you; these suggestions might help most people most of the time but everyone is different. If you are already doing something that works well for you then don’t change that.

An easy way to remember today’s tips are, is PLANTER. A Planter is a piece of furniture (indoor or outdoor) functionally built for growing plants and/or vegetables. Lectures can often serve as the seed of further work and developing your lecture skills is a good way of encouraging those ideas to develop into good work, just like a planter in your home or garden.

planter

photo credit: Lynn Friedman Ohmega Salvage Bathtub and Plants via photopin (license)

  • Prepare
  • Listen in the moment
  • Active Listing
  • Note
  • Taking
  • Engage
  • Revise/Reflect

PREPARE: At Winchester a lecturer using slides will share the slides beforehand. Even if there are no slides for a particular session there will still be an outline. If you can’t find these try emailing the lecturer to ask for them. Looking through the slides and/or outline or even brainstorming the topic the day before can help prepare your mind for listening to the lecture. This works through schema activation and by activating your existing schema (background knowledge of the topic of the lecture) you help make sure that you learn as much as possible from the lecture. Many courses will also set a weekly reading this is usually (if not always) complementary to the lecture for that week. Reading it before the lecture can help to prepare your mind and enrich your schema. Another key aspect of preparation is making sure you have the right equipment and materials for the lecture. Whether that’s an audio recorder, (more on this later) a notebook and pen or your laptop to take notes, or even a print-out of the slides to work with you want to make certain that you have got everything you need (including your cup of coffee and taking a toilet brake before the lecture starts).

coffee

photo credit: kendrak COFFEE via photopin (license)

LISTEN IN THE MOMENT: It may seem amazing but I’ve seen student go through whole lectures with one earphone in, (and occasionally audible music distracting people around them). Also phones ringing or even buzzing & vibrating in pockets and bags. All of these can distract you from what’s going on right now in the lecture. Another big part of listening in the moment is focusing on what is being said at the time. Not trying to copy down what’s on the slide (remember you can down load them) not trying to write down every word that’s said, (most people speak 2-3 times as fast as they write). Try just focusing on the ideas that the lecturer is sharing with you at that moment.

ACTIVE LISTENING: This means overtly and deliberately paying attention to the lecture and the lecturer. Not staring at your laptop, phone, or notebook. Watch them; don’t be afraid to meet their eyes. Seeing people paying attention to your lecture is encouraging to the lecturer, it also shows them if you are following and understanding or whether they need to explain things a little bit more. Even in a large lecture hall those people in the first few rows can share this interaction with the lecturer.

listening

photo credit: d_t_vos Eline via photopin (license)

NOTE TAKING: It’s not uncommon to see some people taking notes even in public lectures where there’s no course to take notes for. The act of making notes on something helps us to form memories and the written document can serve as a useful prompt for memory in the weeks and months that follow. Scientific studies have shown that it’s best (for most of us) to take notes with a pen and paper compared to typing notes directly into a tablet, we remember more (even without consulting our notes) and tend to take more useful and selective notes. One fairly widespread and successful note-taking method uses the top 2/3rds of the page (leaving a wide margin) for the core of notes in the lecture. The margin is reserved for particular things you want to single out, a name you want to remember, an article or book you want to read, advice for an assignment that you feel will help you. Lastly the bottom third of the page is where you can summarise and personalise the notes, importantly after the lecture. This may cut into your social life a tiny bit but it gives you a second chance to engage with the notes and tailor them to you personally. This will give you a big boost to your memory of the lecture.

ENGAGE: If you’re doing the things listed above you will already be engaging to an extent but depending on the size of the lecture, and the individual lecturer, engaging further may be an option. In large 1st year survey courses it may not be practical or appropriate to shout out questions or opinions, but many lecturers will welcome these at appropriate moments. Don’t be afraid to ask or even offer your view/experience. In courses I’ve taught with the same lectures the groups with more engaged learners all did better from their engagement. In British culture at the moment there seems to be a silly fashion to be anti-intellectual and anti-expert; but if you’re not interested in expertise and being intellectual about a subject why are you at university studying it. Embrace your inner geek; you’ll enjoy your course more, get more out of it and better marks as well.

REVISE and REFLECT: The lecture experience doesn’t end at the end of the lecture. Take the time to: look back over your notes; follow any interesting leads that were mentioned; re-read the slides/article/chapter associated with it. Work out for yourself what the important ‘take away’ points are for you personally, and how these fit into your wider, ever developing knowledge of the subject.

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.

crepe

Post Graduate Advice…

The Times Higher Ed has recently published a list of failure tips (or as they observe a list of potential pitfalls) for graduate degrees.

There is of course one more if you are an international student studying in a second language. Ignore any language weaknesses you may have, even if you’re unsure come and see us to find out.

Shield

At ELTSU (University of Winchester, English Language Teaching and Support Unit) we have special sessions (Logon Required) focusing on individually supporting international post-graduate students. Some see us for help with developing their writing others get support with speaking before their Viva (thesis defence). We can support your language development in a number of ways: from speed reading to editing or from the start of your research process to your final revisions.