Check out the promising new magazine, Babel, written by linguists for non-specialists. I’ve read a bit of the first issue and I thought it was at a fairly nice level–new ideas if you haven’t had any linguistics classes at all; not too challenging if you have, but still plenty of interest. There are some great people on board. I wouldn’t have heard of it if it hadn’t been for David Crystal’s blog post about it, due to being fairly absent from Twitter. (Thank goodness for Google Reader.)
For now, you can read the first issue of Babel online or download it. It has a very wide range of topics, including an article on xenolinguistics from someone who definitely knows his sf.
They were just looking for book reviewers via their Twitter account, too, if you’re interested (I probably don’t have quite enough of a linguistics background, alas, and there’s that appalling parentheses addiction, too).
It looks like the post-hacking cleanup is ongoing. The site has been reset to its defaults as I’ve installed a fresh version of the theme I was using, so bear with me if things look odd or difficult to use.
If you are an edu-blogger or any other kind of blogger, be sure to keep your blogging platform up to date AND your themes up to date, and don’t keep old themes or other things lying around. They can be very bad news.
I was at an ACE FELI all last week. It was pretty amazing. If you get a chance to go to one, or if you can request one for your community college, absolutely go! I’ll write more later if I have a chance.
P. S. It appears that my site has been compromised. I apologize for not keeping a tighter rein on things. If you have gotten any email that appears to originate from this domain and wasn’t just an update with this post, it didn’t come from me. I’m doing my best to fix things!
What’s the oddest place you’ve found a lesson or lesson resource?
I just ran across an old Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer. Trader Joe’s is a specialty grocery chain where I do a lot of my shopping, and they send out a newsprint newsletter/magazine/ad every few months, with four or so products per page, illustrated using only altered Victorian clip art and described in chatty, often pun-filled prose.
On one page, they describe their “Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken” in a way that I thought might be useful in a rhetoric/composition/writing/reading/media etc. class. It’s two paragraphs, and among other things, they write “And while some of our Thai style foods are incredibly authentic, others are simply our twist on the taste and textures that we love most about the cuisine of Thailand. This is where our Spicy Thai Style Pasta Salad with Chicken fits in. We can’t recall ever tasting a pasta dish just like this one in Bangkok, but we think it would blend in well with the local dishes … with a spicy dressing that evokes Thai cooking with its flavors of peanuts and ginger.”
Assuming your students are at a level where they can understand words like “authentic” and “evoke,” if you asked them whether the entire passage claimed that the salad was authentic or not, what would they say? Many of the students I’ve known, even advanced ones, would think it was supposed to be authentic. What are the signals in the passage that it is not authentic? There are specific sentence patterns, contrasts to other items that are authentic, and other subtle and less subtle cues that the pasta salad is not really Thai food at all. Marking up a paragraph like this could be a useful activity for an advanced class.
(Using ads as source material isn’t appropriate in every class, but it’s very appropriate in some classes.)
I’d like to spotlight a new addition to the recommended blogs here, Surviving in Japan (without much Japanese). This blog/how-to-directory is an ever-growing guide to how to improve your life in Japan if you are not perfectly fluent in Japanese, but are in English. The author, Ashley, is a writer (and part-time teacher) with a good sense of what people settling in to Japan really need to know about. She’s also the new writer for the “Lifelines” column at the Japan Times. There’s no travel-guide-style “wear toilet slippers in the toilet or risk embarrassment!”-style advice here–you can find that in your Lonely Planet. Instead, you get instructions, recommendations, links, photos, and even translations on topics such as
There are lots of other posts on everything from minor issues like how customize your order at Starbucks to critical issues like what to do if your Alien Registration Card is missing. (I’m secretly hoping for a post on reading Japanese nutritional labels at some point! That would be handy for me over here, even.)
This blog is highly recommended for being informative, readable, and essentially performing a public service. If you’re moving to Japan or are already there, check it out! I just wish someone were doing this for every country (and in every language combination!).
I wrote before that Twitter was like a magic cafe or an eternal, really good TESOL conference, but it can actually be a lifeline in times of disaster.
When the Tohoku Earthquake hit Japan, I was in California, but I was using Twitter at the time, on my @readable account with a lot of Japanese users. Many of them quickly tweeted 地震だ–”it’s an earthquake.” I realized something was wrong when, even fifteen minutes later, they were tweeting things like まだゆれる–”it’s still shaking.”
For people who were and are in a disaster area and are not totally fluent in the local language, the situation can range from stressful to life-threatening. Even being in the Tokyo area (distant from the tsunami and major quake damage), with aftershocks, confusing power outages, train stoppages, and food shortages, is proving a challenge for many people. People who have made a good effort to learn Japanese are still finding that a whole host of new vocabulary is cropping up–planned power outage, aftershock, evacuation, contamination, nuclear power plant, and so on.
For the first couple of days, information from official sources was hard to get (at least overseas) in English–people kept saying to watch NHK World News, but when I turned it on, it was often just a loop of tsunami warnings, or a loop of translated news that I knew to be many hours old. (I knew the news was old because Twitterers like @makiwi, a food writer, and @TimeOutTokyo, an entertainment magazine site’s account, were tweeting live news in English–read about Six 6 Tokyo Tweeters Who Kept the City Informed here. And while NHK World News was behind, CNN and MSNBC and so on were woefully behind, and just so bad overall that I quit bothering with them. Meanwhile, BBC’s radio announcers mangled Japanese place names so badly that I couldn’t understand where they meant, which was pretty useless. While there was some good mainstream reporting later [caveat], I would not currently rely on these news outlets in a crisis where I needed to make decisions.)
During this time, and even (to a great extent) now, if you wanted to get information about things like the current status of the nuclear plants, who could help with emergency translation (seriously–medical experts were volunteering on the spot!), what all those microsieverts and millisieverts meant, where you could get shelter, how you could get from Point A to Point B with the expressways closed, where get temporary medication refills, which train lines were running, where to buy bread and batteries, how to use Google People Finder to check on survivors, who would take English-speaking volunteers, where to get information on cooking with limited resources, how to extend a visa or replace a passport, and so on, you could find the answers on Twitter. And during the aftermath, many of my Japanese friends say that Twitter has also helped them feel less alone, more reassured, and constantly encouraged, despite the stress and confusion. Some people have criticized Twitter for spreading hoaxes and rumors, but those spread by word of mouth, too (and for, heaven’s sake, even newspapers). Critical thinking, asking questions, and checking with reliable Twitterers all go a long way.
People rapidly came together on Twitter to help each other find information, connect users to other users who could translate something or supply an answer, and otherwise assist each other (even outright offering spare rooms to strangers). I noticed people’s lists of followers exploding, and not just those (like @makiwi and @TimeOutTokyo) who were valiantly translating NHK live and otherwise providing information you couldn’t get anywhere else.
Anyway, I can tell you that if I’d been in Japan, I wouldn’t have wanted to have been without Twitter. At the moment of a crisis, of course, it’s better to head for high ground, get under your desk, or whatever rather than checking Twitter (although at least one person was apparently rescued from a rooftop due to Twitter, since he wasn’t able to make a call but could send a tweet!). After that first moment, though, Twitter’s usefulness really kicks in. Disasters of one kind or another–floods, invasions, earthquakes, wildfires, uprisings–can happen almost anywhere. And despite the way we humans naturally tend to think, you’re not immune to disasters if you’re an outsider who is only there for a year or two: without fully-developed family and social networks, high-level language skills, knowledge of your surroundings, a fully-stocked household, and so on, you are probably more vulnerable.
Of course, you can’t necessarily sit there and wait for information to flow in–you need to either already have a well-developed Twitter network or be willing to seek out and find additional useful people to follow (or both). And you need be adventurous and creative in your use of English and the local language to search Twitter for the information you need (and not hesitate to ask people who might be helpful). Two places to start are 1) my Twitter guide for ESL students (simplified, but suitable for anyone, including people who use Twitter but haven’t explored its various functions–hashtags, for example, became very useful for regional information-sharing), and 2) my Twitter lists. To use Twitter lists, click on the name of the list and then the “Following: ” tab at the top. You can choose to follow individual members, who will show up in your Twitter timeline as usual. Or you can follow the whole list, but the members won’t show up in your timeline unless you also follow them individually. To read tweets from the list, you’ll have to go look at the list in your Twitter app or on Twitter.com.
Anyway, sorry for the length, but I hope this is useful to someone (although I suppose it’s better if it’s not, eh?). If you have any questions, let me know–and take care!
Anyway, thank you for reading this, and take care wherever you are (and remember to prepare for whatever disasters tend to strike your part of the world–even if you’re just living there for a year or two!).
If you’re deskwarming in Korea or Japan, and you’re all caught up on lesson-planning, here are some ways to make the most of your time. (Of course, some sites might be banned at your school, but you never know.) I’ve never been in this position myself, but many teachers wind up spending time at their desks for a couple weeks (or more!)–no classes, no students, and few responsibilities (at least, if they’re experienced lesson-planners). It’s a little hard to imagine, but I’ve heard about it from several friends, and who knows, maybe I’ll experience it someday.
Anyway, I dug through my links. I decided to mix the links together, just as I might want to mix the use of my time–professional development, taking a break, and so on.
Read about fascinating things on Metafilter and the endless international help column of AskMetafilter (see orientation if you get distracted by in-jokes sometimes used on the site).
Improve your CV and your chances of getting that next job/getting into that PhD program by submitting an article/activity/etc. for publication at an online journal (yes, it’s the same link as above, but it’s worth saying!).
Play the devilishly cute, misleadingly simple games at Eyezmaze Games.
Get pulled into the underlying threads of fiction at TV Tropes–if you’re not sure where to go, look up a favorite TV show and wander around from there.
Watch streaming media in Korean and Japanese to improve your language skills will entertaining yourself: Crunchyroll, MySoju, Drama Fever, Viki, and relevant searches on Youtube and Veoh (e.g., for example.) Whether the content is legal or ethical depends on the site and content, plus your location and perspective.
This is a pretty fun look at the surprisingly common quote “(Toto,) we’re not in Kansas anymore.”:
It’s pretty current, with lots of things that adult students may have seen (like Sex and the City 2 and Avatar). It has a couple of possibly objectionable scenes, though (mild swearing and what may be a sex scene–it’s a little hard to tell, as it’s waist-up and there’s no nudity). But you can always show just part of a video. It really shows the breadth of the situations in which this phrase is used, and how phrases get turned around and changed. (Notes and sources are here.)
“What are you doing here?” and endless variations, always popping up on Doctor Who (skip if you haven’t watched through the end of 2008 and plan to):
I probably wouldn’t actually use this video unless my students had watched Doctor Who (I know some schools have it in their libraries, though!). It does give an idea of the many ways you can stress the different words in “What are you doing here?” for different meanings, though!
Not very useful, but entertaining–”I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you”:
For those of you who don’t hesitate to teach taboo words, this and its variants really are common:
How many ways can you say “What?” How often is it actually a rising sound? When is it a question, a request for repetition, an expression of disbelief? Let Lost tell you:
“Get out of there!” is a phrase that we use in real life occasionally, not just in movies:
The second half or so has some swearing.
“Sorry I haven’t updated” features ordinary vloggers (video bloggers) of various ages, starting off their vlogs with an apology:
It’s really interesting how different they appear to be, and yet how similar their phrasing is!
There are more out there, and you could probably make some yourself to focus on issues your students have. What other uses might there be, or is this a totally crazy idea…?