martes, 28 de abril de 2009

Preparing for next year's tour! (and reflecting on this year...)

Well, Fifthbiz is going well: we are hiring in the middle of the crisis in Spain, and we are generating a lot of interest.

This year we have:

Performed in almost every province in Spain,
Performed at the TESOL National conference in Sevilla.
Performed at the APAC Conference in Barcelona. (Asociació de profesores de Anglés de Catalunia...)

In addition, I have had time to do corporate work with Vaudeville Negro, teach a class integrating science with language in an English for Biotech Master program, and work on my newest and most important job: being a Dad to the newest team-member, Ana...

Fifthbiz is still evolving, but it is exciting that there is not a traditional hiarchical system: there is no boss. It is like the circus: you are are not higher or lower in position, but only in or out of the circle. Everyone has to look out for everyone else. This creates a bit of chaos sometimes, and we won't ever be a big corporation, but we can take care of each other, and make cool things happen, and that is enough.

Speaking of making cool things happen, I have seen a few resources that might be interesting: - a web page using youtube videos that might be interesting to use with whiteboards, run by Jamie Keddie, a top notch fellow.

I also attended a few talks at the conferences, seeing Michael Swan (a personal grammer hero!)and Scott Thornbury talk about grammar... Elena Bañares Marivela, from Madrid gave an excellent talk about using Ning in the Classroom, that also touched on Hot Potato use, and Annette Capel and Ron Carter gave very interesting talks on Corpus, the Cambridge language database, and Annette's incredibly intensive work at classifying words for levels, and use... a new English in 1000 words? I don't think so...

Jeremy Harmer brought up some interesting points about who "owns" the language, there being now more ESL speakers than Native speakers of English. What I understood, which might not be what he meant, was that the mistakes learners make should not necessarily be corrected, and that we should just accept them as they are. We should not worry about mistakes with irregular verbs, etc.

Swan's rebuttal, or "pre-buttal" as I heard him first in the Barcelona conference, is that there is only one language without irregular verbs: Esperanto, the artificial language experiment. And that the first "native" speakers, the children of the original Esperanto speakers, added a feature to Esperanto: irregular verbs.

Swan suggested that irregular features of a language serve to separate "us" and "them". The implications for me are that Harmer's speech might be great to be more inclusive as native speakers, but as teachers, we have a responsiblity to help our students be as accurate as they need to be. The barrier of "he can't be relevent if he can't even speak right!" of not getting to the content for judgement of the form, or simply, "us" and "them", can exist in many moments. I am sure there are things I don't understand from the speech, but the title phrase of the speech: "ease up on the slap", talking about teen-age English, does more to demonstrate Swan's point than Harmer´s. Teen-agers re-invent their language to make it theirs, and to have a vocabulary that separates them from previous generations. The obstacles that are placed there are a set of hurdles, that if jumped, will win the affection of the native speakers.

With a bit of Spanish, Basque, or Catalan "argot", the listeners often find my frankly dreadful accent charming... because I am trying to imitate something they identify themselves with. It is a way of honouring the listeners, tools that we can give to our students. Accuracy and a more profound understanding of the language and culture shouldn't ever be regarded as "non-trendy".

2 comentarios:

  1. Swan's rebuttal... is that there is only one language without irregular verbs: Esperanto, the artificial language experiment.Esperanto may have been both artificial and an experiment in the beginning a bit over 120 years ago, but it has since gone way past that to being a natural, living language in every respect.

    ... the first "native" speakers, the children of the original Esperanto speakers, added a feature to Esperanto: irregular verbs.There are now about 2,000 native speakers of Esperanto, who tend to be from either couples who meet through Esperanto and have only Esperanto as a common language (the most common scenario), or couples who decide to speak Esperanto at home out of principle. If any native Esperanto speakers added irregular verbs, it's the first I've heard about it, and they certainly didn't last long, because Esperanto has, to my knowledge, never had irregular verbs.

    Besides, doesn't this contradict what was said in the preceding sentence ("there is only one language without irregular verbs" vs. "added a feature to Esperanto: irregular verbs").

    Swan suggested that irregular features of a language serve to separate "us" and "them".Interestingly, this statement confirms Esperanto's inclusiveness, which stems from its vocation as a second language for everyone.

  2. Michjo, thanks for your information on Esperanto... I hope you weren't too offended with the crass "artificial language experiment" status I attributed to it.

    I imagine the variants of irregular verbs would be kept within the groups of children, as "slang".
    The sentence should read "added a feature to THEIR Esperanto: irregular verbs".

    Esperanto undoubtably has an inclusiveness behind it that would, of course, suppress the irregular verbs from becoming common... a unique feature of Esperanto as a language.

    The theory that was being discussed was not so much "Esperanto" as the (built in?) use of irregularities in languages for exclusion. If you are interested, I will try to get more precise information on the case that Swan spoke of.