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Este Blog sirve a dos propósitos fundamentalmente, algunos de los cuales me pueden ser desconocidos. Menciono i) como catarsis cuando quiero que algo se sepa y ii) como promoción o espoloneador de mi Perfil en LinkedIn y mi actividad dirigida a personas que ya saben hablar inglés, español u otras lenguas pero que saben que pueden mejorar su fluidez conversacional. Para romper con el orden añado un tercero, que puede ser publicar algún texto controvertido o ayudar a darse cuenta que el Inglés, el español, el francés o el portugués no pertenecen solamente a los anglosajones, o a  España, Francia o Portugal...

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Parlez-vous diplomacy? English won???t serve the UK abroad

Publicado el 12 Ee abril Ee 2018 a las 11:30 Comments comentarios (0)

A report from the British Academy has warned that a lack of foreign language skills could undermine the UK’s future security and capacity for global influence.

 

The report warns of an apathy towards language learning in some parts of government. But the “radically different landscape of international engagement and security” that we find ourselves in makes these skills more important than ever.

 

Because of globalisation, international communication is no longer the preserve of the Foreign Office and diplomats. Our energy policies are international, our business policies are international and our defence activities are certainly international.

 

The report’s emphasis on the importance of languages will come as little surprise to many analysts of contemporary international affairs.

 

Language skills have long been recognised as fundamental to successful diplomacy. An important role of diplomats since antiquity has been as messengers. That role can only be properly fulfilled with an understanding of language.

 

This doesn’t always mean being able simply “speak” a foreign tongue but to be able to communicate with an “other”. Language is determined by time, place and cultural context. To that end, we would do well to remember that language skills are not just about picking up vocabulary and grammar but relate to the more general concept of communication.

 

Languages and universities

The report emphasises a particular concern about the teaching – or lack thereof – of foreign languages in British universities. Modern languages are in a fragile state and face even greater challenges now the government has removed teaching subsidies and increased tuition fees, which are now supposed to cover the cost of teaching.

Because funding now comes from students, many language departments may struggle to make courses financially self-sufficient if they can’t recruit enough people to pay for them. This is a concern given the importance of these subjects to national security and prosperity.

But UK higher education institutions may well be able to play to a comparative advantage in the short term. They are well practised at teaching rigorous analytical skills across disciplines, particularly those that support communication. When an undergraduate studies for a business degree, they will take in all kinds of skills along the way. When they read law, they are taught theory and practice. When the learn in the arts and humanities they are often as not assessed with an essay; itself a written form of communication.

Now, more than ever, the practicalities of “having” a language are self-evident in looking at future careers and social relationships. What’s more, many universities strongly encourage undergraduates to study a language as a part of a joint honours degree with another subject.

That means universities can support a student’s understanding of communication as they learn the nuts and bolts of a language. The British Academy report notes that universities are taking steps to adapt to the changed world and that some parts of government are too.

But the UK has a tendency towards complacency when it comes to language that really won’t wash in a world in which China and India are emerging as global powers.

Equally, we should be in no doubt that being custodians of the lingua franca of the internet is not a perpetual guarantee of the prevalence of English. Language has undergone significant change in recent times, particularly in its electronic usage, and that is likely to continue.

The English language may well be the last vestige of a bygone imperial age: if it is, it will end as did the notion that the sun never set on the British Empire.

Do Different Languages Confer Different Personalities?

Publicado el 12 Ee abril Ee 2018 a las 11:25 Comments comentarios (0)


Recently, Johnson took a look at some of the advantages of bilingualism. These include better performance at tasks involving "executive function" (which involve the brain's ability to plan and prioritise), better defence against dementia in old age and—the obvious—the ability to speak a second language. One purported advantage was not mentioned, though. Many multilinguals report different personalities, or even different worldviews, when they speak their different languages.

It’s an exciting notion, the idea that one’s very self could be broadened by the mastery of two or more languages. In obvious ways (exposure to new friends, literature and so forth) the self really is broadened. Yet it is different to claim—as many people do—to have a different personality when using a different language. A former Economist colleague, for example,reported being ruder in Hebrew than in English. So what is going on here?

Benjamin Lee Whorf, an American linguist who died in 1941, held that each language encodes a worldview that significantly influences its speakers. Often called “Whorfianism”, this idea has its sceptics, including The Economist, which hosted a debate on the subject in 2010. But there are still good reasons to believe language shapes thought.

This influence is not necessarily linked to the vocabulary or grammar of a second language. Significantly, most people are not symmetrically bilingual. Many have learned one language at home from parents, and another later in life, usually at school. So bilinguals usually have different strengths and weaknesses in their different languages—and they are not always best in their first language. For example, when tested in a foreign language, people are less likely to fall into a cognitive trap (answering a test question with an obvious-seeming but wrong answer) than when tested in their native language. In part this is because working in a second language slows down the thinking. No wonder people feel different when speaking them. And no wonder they feel looser, more spontaneous, perhaps more assertive or funnier or blunter, in the language they were reared in from childhood.

What of “crib” bilinguals, raised in two languages? Even they do not usually have perfectly symmetrical competence in their two languages. But even for a speaker whose two languages are very nearly the same in ability, there is another big reason that person will feel different in the two languages. This is because there is an important distinction between bilingualism and biculturalism.

Many bilinguals are not bicultural. But some are. And of those bicultural bilinguals, we should be little surprised that they feel different in their two languages. Experiments in psychology have shown the power of “priming”—small unnoticed factors that can affect behaviour in big ways. Asking people to tell a happy story, for example, will put them in a better mood. The choice between two languages is a huge prime. Speaking Spanish rather than English, for a bilingual and bicultural Puerto Rican in New York, might conjure feelings of family and home. Switching to English might prime the same person to think of school and work.

So there are two very good reasons (asymmetrical ability, and priming) that make people feel different speaking their different languages. We are still left with a third kind of argument, though. An economist recently interviewed here at Prospero, Athanasia Chalari, said for example that:

Greeks are very loud and they interrupt each other very often. The reason for that is the Greek grammar and syntax. When Greeks talk they begin their sentences with verbs and the form of the verb includes a lot of information so you already know what they are talking about after the first word and can interrupt more easily.

Is there something intrinsic to the Greek language that encourages Greeks to interrupt? Consider Johnson sceptical. People seem to enjoy telling tales about their languages' inherent properties, and how they influence their speakers. A group of French intellectual worthies once proposed, rather self-flatteringly, that French be the sole legal language of the EU, because of its supposedly unmatchable rigour and precision. Some Germans believe that frequently putting the verb at the end of a sentence makes the language especially logical. But language myths are not always self-flattering: many speakers think their languages are unusually illogical or difficult—witness the plethora of books along the lines of "Only in English do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway; English must be the craziest language in the world!" What such pop-Whorfian stories share is a (natural) tendency to exoticise languages. We also see some unsurprising overlap with national stereotypes and self-stereotypes: French, rigorous; German, logical; English, playful. Of course.

In this case, Ms Chalari, a scholar, at least proposed a specific and plausible line of causation from grammar to personality: in Greek, the verb comes first, and it carries a lot of information, hence easy interrupting. The problem is that many unrelated languages all around the world put the verb at the beginning of sentences. Many languages all around the world are heavily inflected, encoding lots of information in verbs. It would be a striking finding if all of these unrelated languages had speakers more prone to interrupting each other. Welsh, for example, is also both verb-first and about as heavily inflected as Greek, but the Welsh are not known as pushy conversationalists.

Neo-Whorfians continue to offer evidence and analysis that aims to prove that different languages push speakers to think differently. One such effort is forthcoming: “The Bilingual Mind” by Aneta Pavlenko, to be published in April. Ms Pavlenko speaks to François Grosjeanhere. Meanwhile, John McWhorter takes the opposite stance in "The Language Hoax", forthcoming in February. We'll return to this debate. But strong Whorfian arguments do not need to be valid for people to feel differently in their different languages.

10 Memorable Quotes spoken by Nelson Mandela ??? RIP Madiba

Publicado el 12 Ee abril Ee 2018 a las 11:05 Comments comentarios (0)


As Johannesburg, South Africa hosts a huge memorial servicecelebrating the life of Nelson Mandela, I want to share with you 10 quotes from this wonderful, inspirational and most humble of men.

I first heard of Nelson Mandela, I’m ashamed to say, when I first arrived in the UK in 1985 through this catchy song playing at my halls of residence bar at university:’ Free Nelson Mandela’ by The Special AKA. At that time, Mandela had been a prisoner on Robben Island for 21 years. He would later be released in 1990.

I absolutely loved this song and danced many nights away giving very little thought to the man for whom this song was dedicated.

28 years later, I have a far better understanding and deep appreciation for this man who symbolized an era of great hope, when equality and justice seemed possible, humility and supreme wisdom.

For me, these 10 quotes convey very clearly the greatness of this man who, whilst being a great leader and example of humility and tolerance, was above all a human being like the rest of us. But what a human being!

On Education.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

On Courage

2. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

On Freedom

3. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

4. There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.

On Racism

5. No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

On Leadership

6. It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

On Peace

7. If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

On Society

8. There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

9. A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

On Death

10. Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity.

Thank you, Madiba, for the sacrifices you and your family made to make democracy and freedom a reality for so many people. I truly hope that the future generations will not let you down.

HONG KONG STILL THINKS ENGLISH IS BRITISH OR AMERICAN!!! AND... IS AMERICAN THE BEST OPTION FOR INTERNATIONAL TRADE, OR RATHER, AN INTERNATIONAL ENGLISH IS MORE FIT?

Publicado el 11 Ee abril Ee 2018 a las 0:00 Comments comentarios (0)

Hong Kong's English language skills branded 'pathetic' as Chinese has 'negative influence'


 

The English-language skills of Hong Kong's adult population have slumped to the level of South Korea, Indonesia and Japan, according to new rankings of 60 countries and territories.

Despite rising in the global rankings for English proficiency, over the past six years, the city's actual score has dropped and it now sits fourth in Asia.

Experts put the blame partly on the switch from teaching mainly in English to mainly in Chinese since the handover. They said English skills must be improved if job-seekers were to remain competitive with mainlanders, whose English skills were improving.

Anita Poon Yuk-kang, associate professor in Baptist University's department of education studies, said mother-tongue teaching had had a "very negative influence" on the efficiency of English learning. She said having two standard written languages - English and Chinese - and three standard spoken languages - Putonghua, Cantonese and English - had further lowered the importance of English.


Business consultant Joseph Luc Ngai said the performance of Hong Kong job applicants was "very pathetic", with weaknesses in both English and Putonghua.

"Language ability has become a basic requirement [in job seeking]," Ngai, director of McKinsey and Company's Hong Kong practice, said. "There is no option but to improve Chinese and English at the same time. Too many people are fluent in both."

The annual rankings cover countries and territories in Europe, Asia, North Africa and Latin America where English is not the native language.While mainland China ranked 34th, just above Thailand, the study by language learning company EF Education First showed its English skills have been improving.

Although Hong Kong ranked 22nd among all countries and territories - three places up from last year - its score, at 53.5, has fallen a full point since the first survey in 2011. South Korea, Indonesia and Japan were ranked, respectively, 24th, 25th and 26th. Malaysia, ranked 11th overall, came first in Asia.


Watch: US accent booms in Hong Kong language schools

 

 

The rankings are based on tests taken last year by 750,000 people aged 18 and over.

The company also analysed the trends of English proficiency in these countries and territories over the past six years, based on test data from almost five million adults. The minimum sample size in each country or territory was 400 and the tests covered English vocabulary, reading, listening and writing.

Poon said that with the influence of mainland tourists and more frequent business exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland, more parents, job seekers and employees had focused on learning Putonghua.

Ngai said if Hongkongers wanted a language advantage over mainlanders, they needed good English, as their Putonghua would, at best, put them on a par with mainland graduates.

He said many potential employees he interviewed were poor at writing e-mails in English, with many grammatical and spelling errors, while others, although fluent in English, were "very mediocre" in Putonghua.

Smaller European countries proved to be the most proficient in English, occupying the first seven places and led by Sweden. The analysis showed that they believed better English could help them improve their international competitiveness.

France was ranked one lower than mainland China on the list, making it the worst English-learning country in Europe.


 

"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A NON-NATIVE TEACHER OF ENGLISH" (4)

Publicado el 10 Ee abril Ee 2018 a las 11:50 Comments comentarios (0)

"THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING A NON-NATIVE TEACHER OF ENGLISH" 


Dear readers from the World over, here you will find another piece of the Academic paper published by Professor Dr Barbara Seidlhofer on the issue. Please feel free to comment..

 

Informant and instructor roles

EFL teachers need to be able to handle different roles. On the one hand, they are under pressure to teach their students ‘authentic’, or ‘real’ English, that is to say English that has not been ‘doctored’ for pedagogic purposes. For this, they need to be competent speakers of the language (informants). On the other hand, they are under pressure to make the learning process real for their students, to help learners authenticate language so that they can make it their own in various contexts of use, including those of the classroom specifically designed to induce such learning. For this, they need to be competent pedagogues (instructors).


Difficulties may arise when teachers have to balance these two requirements in their heads while making choices as to what is relevant and helpful for their students: what do their learners have to do now, in the classroom, to get to where they are eventually going? With the advent of communicative language teaching , this second question receded somewhat into the background and over the years has become increasingly difficult to address. Taking into account the disciplines which have been particularly influential in the development of communicative language teaching, namely discourse studies, the ethnography of speaking, pragmatics and work in related disciplines, there are two perspectives on the subject EFL: in terms of the target communicative competence, and in terms of creating appropriate contexts for learning (Seidlhofer & Widdowson (forthcoming)). Communicative target behaviour refers to the target language of the native speaker community in contexts of language use. This is for instance what the needs analysis of the Council of Europe is all about (e.g. Van Ek & Trim 1990). The definition of communication in target contexts of use is based on observations of native speaker discourse in specific contexts. For the purposes of FLT, these observations were then formulated in supposedly generally applicable ideas such as notions and functions, which constitute the groundwork of a communicative pproach. In some extreme cases, over-zealous communicative teachers have interpreted their task (and have sometimes been encouraged to do so by the ELT industry) as that of getting their students to ape native speakers as faithfully as possible, of rehearsing them in patterns of nativespeaker behaviour, with all the cultural baggage that comes with this going unquestioned, even unnoticed (see e.g. Prodromou 1988, 1996; Widdowson 1994a). Correspondingly, great importance has been attached to authentic texts, that is naturally-occurring texts that have not been meddled with for pedagogic purposes. Clearly, in such a view of the subject EFL, native-speaker teachers reign supreme: as naturally occurring speakers of the target language, as it were, whose access to their language has not been meddled with for pedagogic purposes, they have a huge advantage over the non-native teacher because they can be admirable, infallible informants.


In communicative language teaching, the emphasis has tended to be on the target competence of the learner, but not on the pedagogic competence the teacher needs to have in order to facilitate learning. This is why language proficiency, that is the ability to model the target communicative behaviour, has achieved such paramount importance in the language teaching profession.


There has often been the danger of an automatic extrapolation from competent speaker to competent teacher based on linguistic grounds alone, without taking into considerations the criteria of cultural, social and pedagogic appropriacy (Seidlhofer 1994).


As to the second perspective on the subject EFL, this is in terms of the context of the classroom in the actual process of learning, where the emphasis is on communication not in contexts of language use in the native-speaker community, but in the transitional language which activates learning in the learner community. Here native speakers lose their initial advantages over nonnative teachers, since being an effective communicator in the target language does not automatically make for the ability to identify language which is pedagogically effective.


The familiar arguments in this context are that the non-native teacher in many cases shares the same background as the students, she knows the cultural context which the context of the classroom has to be constructed from, rather than just modelling it on the target community. Most importantly perhaps, the non-native teacher has been through the process of learning the same language, often through the same L1 ‘filter’, and she knows what it is like to have made the foreign language, in some sense, her own, to have appropriated it for particular purposes. This is an experience which is shared only between nonnative teachers and their students. One could say that native speakers know the destination, but not the terrain that has to be crossed to get there: they themselves have not travelled the same route. Non-native teachers, on the other hand, know the target language as a foreign language. Paradoxically, it is precisely this which is often perceived as a weakness, although it can be understood, and drawn upon, as an important resource. This shared language learning experience should thus constitute the basis for non-native teachers’ confidence, not for their insecurity.


 

Double think

I have argued, then, that English as a foreign language is a quite different phenomenon from English as a first language. They are distinct experiences, which the teacher has somehow to reconcile - and this can be an overwhelmingly complex undertaking. While the balancing act required of EFL teachers between linguistic/pragmatic and pedagogic competences has always been difficult enough, the situation has been aggravated over recent years by rapid developments in the disciplinary areas which ultimately feed into teacher education and teaching methodology. Pushed along by drastic sociopolitical changes


in the ‘real’ world and technological revolutions in the ‘virtual’ one, many issues seem to have gathered critical mass all at the same time which are in urgent need of analysis, reflection and synthesis in order to make a positive contribution to TEFL. For instance, there are at present two major developments which seem to pull teachers in two directions.


Computerised text analysis has made available vast and detailed profiles of actual language use, and has made it possible to devise dictionaries and grammars based on corpus research. In Britain, the pioneer in this field, John Sinclair, has argued for some time that only corpus-based research provides valid descriptions of English which can then be the basis of teaching materials (e.g. Sinclair 1991). While the most famous outcome of the Sinclair team’s Birmingham research are the COBUILD Dictionary and the COBUILD Grammar7 (based on British and American spoken and written texts), the Nottingham-Cambridge CANCODE project aims at providing a corpus-based description of spoken grammar, in particular of informal, naturally occurring conversations conducted by native speakers throughout Britain (cf. Carter & McCarthy 1995). An important finding of these descriptions of actually occurring language use is that much of what we find in conventional grammars and textbooks (which was at least partly based on native speaker intuition) does not accord with the newly-found reality uncovered by corpus research. Existing textbooks are being examined with reference to certain features of real, i.e. attested language, and invariably found wanting (e.g. Boxer & Pickering 1995); the verdict is that practically all studies based on naturally-occurring data show that “at least some of what existing textbooks contain is wrong, or at best, misleading” (Channell 1996). Consequently, materials writers and teachers world-wide are exhorted not to withhold the newly available facts of native speaker language use from their students, to forsake EFLese and to teach them English as it is really written in Chicago, and really spoken in Cardiff. This claim might be summed up as “aspire to real native-speaker English!”.


But there is another, and as I see it, conflicting claim. This derives from the fact that we now know a good deal more than, say, 20 years ago about nonnative varieties of English and the use of English as an International Language.


There is an ever-growing recognition of the importance of institutionalised varieties of English in the Outer Circle (Greenbaum & Nelson 1996), of the sheer volume of non-native - non-native communication in English as a lingua franca (e.g. Meierkord 1996), and a recognition of bi- and multilingualism rather than monolingualism constituting the socio-linguistic norm. The notion of native speakers’ ‘ownership of English’ is radically called into question (Widdowson 1994a), and a lively interest is arising in describing non-native varieties of English and in drawing on these descriptions for a more realistic methodology of EIL (e.g. Baxter 1980, Brown 1995, Gill 1993, Granger (forthcoming), Jenkins 1996).


 

These insights pertaining to linguistic factors are complemented by developments in methodology. The prevailing orthodoxy of learner-centred teaching combines with an emerging respect for local cultures in lending strength to calls for an appropriate methodology (Holliday 1994) and alternative research agendas for classroom teachers (Holmes 1996). These changes go hand in hand with an increased confidence of, and in, non-native teachers (Medgyes 1994, Van Essen 1995-). This state of play might be summed up as an exhortation to EFL teachers “assert non-native norms and local values!” And to reconcile this request with the above one to “aspire to real native-speaker English!” would seem to require a considerable capacity to engage in double think. Seen in a positive light, however, EFL teachers can practise double think constructively by weighing up these conflicting demands and taking responsibility for resolving incompatibilities from the vantage point of their learners’ needs and interests.


 

 


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