Students in Tongren, western China, protested last week about the rumoured removal of the Tibetan language from textbooks. While China is committed to promoting minority languages, locals fear that there have already been moves to replace existing Tibetan language books with books only in Mandarin Chinese (the national language).
Thousands of students reportedly marched in support of continued teaching in the Tibetan language. The Chinese government has roundly denied that there will be any changes, and say that the students merely misunderstand educational policies.
Luckily, there haven’t been any violent repercussions so far, as there were in the nationalist protests in Tibet two years ago.
Sources: thestar.com, Washington Times.
I’ve just read some sad, but not unsurprising news about the state of Maori language learning in New Zealand. Although te reo Maori learning had a boom in the 90s, with lots of kids learning the language, it has been in steady decline since then. This has been a compounding problem, so now there are fewer fluent Maori speakers, and this also means a lack of people qualified to teach it.
Sadly, the majority of people still think that Maori is on the up-and-up. The Waitangi Tribunal has “warned speaker numbers are declining and said there is a ”deep unease” over the Crown’s response to the decline.”
There have been a few suggestions as to how to address the problems, but nothing has emerged as a real solution. It’s a tough job trying to motivate learners while also having to deal with funding and government issues, but I really hope a successful campaign emerges, as it would be a tragedy to lose such a beautiful, historic language.
Full article: The Dominion Post.
I’d already written a post about finding or making your own learning materials on the Language Trainers UK blog, but then I read a blog post by Steve from Lingq, recommending that teachers always let their students find their own content.
I think that this can work in some contexts, such as a one-on-one or small group class, where students can study independently and then receive native-speaker or expert help during their class time. However, I think for young learners and big groups, this may become problematic.
Steve says: If I had a class with 25 or 30 learners, and if I were allowed to do so, I would have them come in once a week, 5 or 6 people at a time. Those that did not come to class would be asked to go to a study room and listen, read or write. I would use LingQ or some other system to monitor what they are doing.
I can get on board with this to a certain extent, but do find it a bit idealistic. Students often need more motivation, and it’s likely that people will feel a bit shortchanged if they are paying for a teacher but only seeing them some of the time. Also, if everyone is studying something different, the teacher may not be able to advise on specialist subjects without some time for research.
For younger students, too, it is often more fun to learn songs and chants together, and it is a bit unrealistic to expect that young learners be able to fully direct their own study.
I do agree that it’s often not that useful to speak a new language with other learners (especially if the teacher isn’t there to listen and give feedback), but I do think that there are advantages to studying in groups. I have benefited from having time to prepare my own answers, and a chance to watch and critique (and learn from, of course) other students’ input. I propose a teaching method in between teacher and student-guided study. Perhaps the teacher could suggest a broad theme for a class or ask students to propose the class topics, while homework topics are self-guided for the teacher to look at at their own leisure.
Does this topic speak to you? What’s your opinion?
There are some terms in every language that people all seem to use differently. In English, usually the first example I think of is ‘next weekend/Friday’ and ‘this weekend/Friday’. If I’m talking about the upcoming weekend/Friday (or other end of the week day), some people will use ‘next’ and some people will use ‘this’. Some people are even more confusing and use both, depending on where in the week you are, e.g. if you are closer to the end of the week, you use ‘this’, otherwise, ‘next’. I use ‘this’ for everything up to the upcoming weekend, and ‘next’ for everything in the following week, but not everybody agrees with me.
Another example is ‘geek’ vs ‘nerd’ (and other words that laypeople don’t really care about the difference between). To the learner, and the average English speaker, these phrases might be interchangeable. They all mean people who have varying levels of intelligence and obsession with fields that everyday people might not be concerned with, and varying levels of social ineptitude. To the average person, it might not matter which term you use to describe someone (although you might want to avoid them if you don’t want to offend people), but to someone who might be described as a geek, nerd, dork, or dweeb, the differences can be huge. Some nerds, for example, are quite proudly nerdy, but would be quite offended to be called dorks. Apparently, dorks only lack social skills, and might not even know anything about anything.
Here’s a helpful pie graph from Great White Snark (which satisfies my own inner nerd):
If you’re still interested, there’s also a Cat and Girl comic about it.
By the way, even usage amongst nerds and geeks varies, so don’t be worried if you still can’t get it right.
I just found a great resource for hearing samples of accents of English from all around the world. It’s from the esteemed University of Edinburgh, and though it predictably has more focus on the British Isles (which is great, because there are so many different British accents), it also has accents from many other places where people speak English natively. Interestingly, it includes audio clips from other Germanic languages, including Dutch and Icelandic.
A really great feature is that you can search and display by place (so it shows you a list of words in that accent), or by word (which shows you a list of all the accents saying that one word).
If you’ve ever wanted to know how a person from the Isle of Lewis pronounces the word goose, now you can find out.