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.

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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

 

 

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.

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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.

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.

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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.