The very last class

For this last class we studied instruction language in textbooks, handbooks and worksheets, through a personal task at first and then through what the others found. As with last class I wasn’t able to attend class, but I will blog about what I found in the course documents.

For the first part of the task it was expected from the students to look at a textbook, handbook or worksheet and describe what you see qua instruction language. Then theory and reality had to be linked based on the given material, to then come to a conclusion about the instruction language.

For part two of the task students exchanged per three what they found to then compare their work and look at both the positive and the negative sides of the instruction language in the others’ given materials. Which ones were better then others? And which ones needed improvement?

In my eyes it is very important that teacher can give good instructions. Else pupils may get confused and not do tests or tasks as desired and so lose points where it might have been the fault of the teacher. Teachers have to make sure instructions are clear and not complicated. Instructions should also be unambiguous, as double meanings will probably end in pupils making mistakes. Finally for me instructions should be in words pupils understand. There is no use in using difficult words where easier, more understandable words fit too. This way you are more certain pupils will understand.

 

Liz V

A guest lecture on documentaries

For the fifth class of the course communicative skills as a European teacher there was a guest lecturer from Portugal who spoke about documentaries and the types of documentaries. Sadly I could not attend this lecture due to medical issues, but I shall continue the blog with the information from the Power-points and course documents.

According to Bill Nichols an American film critic and theoretician there are six types of documentaries, with each their own trades. Each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages, but they all have their place in the world of documentaries. Nichols also explains that all documentaries, whether it is conscious or not, make use of one or more of the six types.

The first type of documentaries stated by Nichols is the poetic documentary. This type of documentary regroups fragments of reality in a poetic way. The director communicates here through a subjective impression of experimentation. An example of this type of documentary is The house is black from 1962, directed by Forough Farrokhzad. 

The second type of documentary is the expositive documentary.  This type of documentary has a direct approach to historic world themes and always uses a voice over. An example of this type is Night mail from 1934 from Basil Wright.

The third type of documentary is the observational documentary. Here things are observed the way they are, so comments and representations are avoided. An example of this type is Primary from 1960 from Drew Associates.

The next type of documentary is the participative documentary. Here the director is a participant in the film and so interacts with the characters shown. An example of this type is Moi, um noir  from 1958 from Jean Rouch.

The fifth type of documentary is the reflexive documentary. In this type the director questions regular documentary forms and tries to do something new. Here the director also tries to represent the world through a negation with the audience about the reality he tries to represent in the film. An example of this type is  Sans soleil from 1982 from Chris Marker.

Then finally the last type of documentary is the performative documentary. Here the director’s purpose is to make the audience enter a process of universal understanding through his or her own experience. An example of this type is Roger and me and Bowling for Columbine from 1989 and 1992 from Michael Moore.

For me all these types show that you can easily incorporated short documentaries into classes. For several types of classes you could probably find a good documentary to start class of and get the pupils involved. I will certainly try to take what I learned from this to the classroom when I teach.

 

Liz V

The world of multilingualism

Whether you teach in Belgium, Spain, America or any other country, as a teacher there will always be a moment in your life where you will be confronted with multilingualism. Sometimes pupils just don’t speak the school language at home or they just moved from another country. For this reason it is important that teachers know what multilingualism is and how it affects the pupil and the surroundings. So that was what this fourth class was about; what the benefits are for bilingual learners, how it affects their learning and how they learn different in general.

The class started as always with a short introduction from Mrs Kelly about the subject of the class. After that however we strayed from the normal path. We were split up in groups of three and we each got one specific topic on bilingual learning. We were asked to read and summarize the texts we were given and then put the information in a schematic overview, which we had to present later.

The group I was put in had the text revolving around bilingual language acquisition. On top of the page there was an overview of the four phases (pre-linguistic phase, early linguistic phase, differentiation phase and completion phase) children go through when acquiring a first language orally. Through these phases children will slowly learn how to use a language and how to form full sentences. Children will only really start to speak from phase three, though as the first two phases are part of the silent period where children mostly listen.

The second part of the text was about the two possible processes when children learn a second language orally and so become multi-linguistic. The first process is the simultaneous process where children learn their second language at the same moment as they learn their first language or mother tongue. When going through this process children will have a better developed meta-linguistic conscious, so they will have it easier thinking about uses of language than children who are not multi- linguistic from the same age. The second process is the successive process where children learn a second language after acquiring their mother tongue.

The last part of our text discussed the duration of language acquisition. For example: it takes two years for a child to fluently use a second or next language in a successive way.
Another example is that it usually takes 5-7 years (or more) for a child to fully understand a school language that isn’t the same as their mother tongue.

The themes the other groups got were everything from linguistic repertoires to the assets of multilingualism to problems during acquiring a new language. One thing all groups did have in common is that they all started from a positive point of view on multilingualism.

As someone who speaks five languages and is learning a sixth my opinion is of course that multilingualism is something good. It opens a lot of doors in life and it is easier to communicate with people around the world. Just as anything discussed in these classes it is of course not all good. Knowing multiple languages can cause confusion and I do notice that sometimes I switch from one language to another in the middle of a sentence. But overall I want to end by saying multilingualism is something very positive in my eyes. So until next time.
Goodbye
Tot ziens
Au revoir
Auf Wiedersehen (Grützi)
And adiós!

Liz V

Thinkers: from ET Hall to David Pinto

There have always been thinkers going from the great Greek philosophers, such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, to the more modern ones such as Nietzsche and ET Hall. In this class we studied some of these more modern great thinkers and their philosophies. The three greater names we studied were ET Hall, David Pinto and Geert Hofstede. Before I go deeper on this subject, I think it is important to define what a great thinker is. According to the dictionary a thinker is someone who considers important subjects or produces new ideas, such as philosophers, theorists or scholars. In other words a great thinker is someone who has made an impact on society with their theories or philosophies of that what they considered or studied.

The first great thinker we discussed was E T Hall or Edward Twitchell Hall, an American anthropologist, who is remembered for his social and cultural theories, such as the Iceberg Metaphor. This metaphor  shows a cruise ship sailing close to the iceberg for a look at this foreign territory. Part of the iceberg is immediately visible; part of it emerges and submerges with the tides, and its foundations go deep beneath the surface. The metaphor was developed for intercultural communication and relations, however, we used the theory for interpersonal and cross-cultural communication. The metaphor is used to show that we can always only see a small part of a society or person (everything above the water) and that we will never truly know what lies beneath the water.

A second theory Hall is known for is his theory around high and low context. This theory states that high context are groups or societies where people have close connections over a long period of time. Because of this most members will know what to do in specific contexts and there will be no need for certain rules to be made explicit. Low context on the other hand refers to societies where people tend to have many connections but of shorter duration or for some specific reason. In these societies, cultural behaviour and beliefs may need to be spelled out explicitly so that those coming into the cultural environment know how to behave.

Both of these theories were for me very understandable and clear. Of course I had already heard of the Iceberg metaphor, as it is an often used metaphor in the spoonie culture (the culture for people with chronic illness linked to heavy chronic pain, such as lupus, myastenia gravia and fibromyalgie). It’s also a metaphor in which I can really find myself. You will never truly know what a person feels or thinks, because you will never think exactly the same or feel exactly the same. The second theory was in my eyes a bit more of a way to explain and specify cultural and social differences, so of course it was harder to link it personal.

The second thinker we talked about was Geert Hofstede. Here we focused on his six cultural dimensions. These dimensions are: Power Distance Index (PDI), Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV), Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS), Masculinity versus Femininity (MAS), Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation
(LTO)Long Term Orientation versus Short Term Normative Orientation (LTO) and Indulgence versus Restraint (IND). This theory focuses on how values in the workplace are influenced by culture.

Overall I liked the idea behind Geert Hofstede’s theory and it was certainly interesting to read about, but I feel like it is a bit too theoretical to put into works in real life.

The third and last thinker we talked about was David Pinto. He described “Fine Meshed” and “Coarse Meshed” cultures and developed a Three-Step-Method on problems in intercultural communication. This Three-Step- method refers to obstacles that impede
effective communication. Although I was interested in the three-step-method I doubt that anyone would actively think about using it in a real-life situation.

To sum up I found this a really interesting class that certainly makes a person think. I do think, however, that very few of these metaphors and theories will be actively used in real life. They are in my eyes good for a better understanding of communication, but not necessarily for real-life use.

Second class: migration

Migration has been a hot topic in both overall news and politics for the last few years. Many people who fear for their lives have been trying to seek asylum in Europe or other safer countries. The huge flow of asylum-seekers has of course sparked many discussion and led to a lot of research on both sides of the discussion. On the one hand we have the people who want to help the asylum-seekers as much as possible and who focus on the advantages of the asylum-seekers. After all research shows that those migrants usually are willing to work hard in their new country and that they are unlikely to commit serious crimes. On the other hand we have of course the people who fear or don’t want these new people in their country. They are afraid that it will cost a lot and will affect the locals. They also think that the asylum-seekers will steal away their jobs and will push their religion onto the locals. Another anxiety of the ones who don’t want the asylum-seekers to come is that they will be violent and disrupt the peace.

Even though I can understand some of the points the opponents cite, I mostly identify with the people who want to help as much as possible. Every human being has the right to feel safe and no one should live in a place where they fear for their lives. I do understand that some people are afraid of the cost of these new people and how it could affect them, but as the research shows the asylum-seekers are usually hard workers and they will make up for the money in a few years time. We should see it as an investment. If we invest money in the asylum-seekers now, they can help us later with for example care of the elderly and paying of debts the government placed on the newer generations.

In the course documents it was rather clear from the beginning that the course showed the point of view from the supporters for opening our borders to asylum-seekers. All points from the opponents were debunked and the course explained all the benefits and facts thoroughly. The graphs and maps helped to do this. The course also gave an overview of the past on migration, which helped in my eyes to understand the migration discussion of now better.

Liz V

First Entry: Class 1

For the very first class of “Communicative Skills as a European Teacher”, on Friday the 15th of February, we started of course with getting to know each other a bit. From the very first moment it was rather clear how diverse the group was, thus immediately putting focus on the European part of the course. There were, besides the students from Mechelen, students from several places in Europe. There were for example people from Barcelona and Austria present in the group.

After a first introduction round on the people in the group, we got an introduction on the course itself and the tasks included in the course. Here we focused on non-violent communication and intercultural communication. We tried to come up with some necessities for non-violent communication and whether these necessities were something we had to work on ourselves or whether another party had to work on them. We also briefly discussed whether these necessities were something that was taught to us or something we were born with.

Although we did come up with a wide array of necessities for non-violent communication, some things did come back and overall our picks were in the same line of thought. In my eyes this shows that we all do have some idea how we would best communicate, but that we also know that there is still room for improvement and that we still all have to work on these things. So in my opinion it is important to talk about those things and so bring them back into the light. Like this we can only improve the way we communicate.

One of the main things that kept coming back in this exercise was respect. We all tend to say “If he/she respects me, I will respect him/her”, but during the class we also saw that respect shouldn’t have to depend on that. If we disrespect someone, mishaps could happen, leading to more confusion and maybe even to violent behavior. So in conclusion we should try to respect our collocutor to prevent mishaps from happening. For me this was a rather new point of view, as I tend to respect people when they respect me just as most other people. I will however try and take this lesson into every day life to improve my way of communicating. Just as I now think other people should do too.

Liz V

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