I’ve just started one-on-one lessons again after a really busy summer, when I admittedly did little in the way of language study (besides learning a few words essential to getting delicious treats on my European holiday). I’m lucky enough to have a personal tutor who is more than happy to focus on the things I need, rather than prescribing a course to me.
I decided to start formal lessons again because I am awful at motivating myself and, obviously, it’s great to have someone to correct my work and pronunciation in a live setting. I also really need to improve my language skills, because often none of my meetings are held in English, and I either have to struggle through them and rely on the presentations for information, or have someone translate for me. It’s especially frustrating that I can’t properly articulate myself (and I can be very opinionated sometimes).
So, I told my tutor that I wanted to focus on business language, but I really wanted it to be focused on one field, and predominantly so I can get by in meetings. Many business language courses focus on so many areas that aren’t useful for me (interviews, chairing meetings, foreign trade, HR issues), and my tutor is more than happy for me to just learn what I need.
In order to find out exactly what I need to learn, I’m going to gather my own materials in realia form – meeting minutes, documents, presentations, recordings from meetings. It’s a bit difficult to know exactly when you need to learn (especially since you obviously don’t know these things), but if I can eventually get to where I can understand all of my realia, I’ll be ready to move on to learning how to fire someone or something.
Where do you get your study materials?
For those of you who feel the way I do about the standards of English going down the drain these days, especially when you see the awful errors made by supposed paid journalists, here is an excerpt from a rant by Gene Weingarten for the Washington Post.
The language’s demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America’s daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.
In the past year alone, as the language lay imperiled, the ironically clueless misspelling “pronounciation” has been seen in the Boston Globe, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Deseret Morning News, Washington Jewish Week and the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, where it appeared in a correction that apologized for a previous mispronunciation.
On Aug. 6, the very first word of an article in the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal was “Alot,” which the newspaper employed to estimate the number of Winston-Salemites who would be vacationing that month.
The Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal has written of “spading and neutering.” The Miami Herald reported on someone who “eeks out a living” — alas, not by running an amusement-park haunted house. The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star described professional football as a “doggy dog world.” The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald and the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune were the two most recent papers, out of dozens, to report on the treatment of “prostrate cancer.”
The world needs more copy editors, but sadly they are becoming increasingly rare (or decreasingly talented).
Full article: Goodbye, cruel words: English. It’s dead to me.
It really doesn’t feel like it, but I’ve just noticed that my last post was the 300th one on this blog (and I guess it could have been more positive, but oh well). Not that the quantity should make a big difference, but I do like nice round numbers. Of course, this post makes 301, so now I have to wait until I’ve done 99 more.
In the meantime, did you know that the OED does quarterly updates of their online dictionary? I didn’t. The most recent (and 34th) update was on the 16th of September, and it included a review of the words from rod to rotness, as well as the addition of some miscellaneous words from around the alphabet.
Some of my favourite added words are borek (a delicious Turkish pastry), eggcorn (a misheard word), goji (a type of berry), and parkour (that crazy thing some people do where they try to get from one place to another in the most difficult way possible. Also added was the now ubiquitous iPod.
Wishing you many new, exciting words, and language goals achieved!
I’m very particular about the English language. I love the language, and I like to see it used properly. I notice even the tiniest of mistakes, and I think the descent into txt speak is abhorrent. Unsurprisingly, I often forget that English hasn’t always been what I consider to be correct, and even within my lifetime people have changed the way that they speak English properly.
I was reminded of this after reading Alison Flood’s recent article on The Guardian’s website. She also brought to my attention that dreaded unnecessary abbreviations were in existence 150 years ago, when people were still being encouraged not to drop their H’s.
Because it turns out, you see, that we Brits have been lamenting declining standards of English for centuries: all the way back in 1712 Swift wanted to “fix our Language for ever” to stop any more change. The British Library exhibition will also highlight a 19th-century pamphlet, which attempted to persuade the lower-middle classes to stop dropping their “h”s if they wanted to get ahead, and it makes the point that far from being a curse of today, text speak was actually prevalent around 150 years ago, as shown by its exhibit of Charles C Bombaugh’s poem Essay to Miss Catharine Jay. Just take a look: apparently the poem was much admired, but it looks like the sort of thing one of today’s teenagers could dash off in a minute: “an S A now I mean to write / To U, sweet KTJ”; “I 1 der if you got that 1 / I wrote 2 U B 4″, etc. (Although I’m quite impressed by the line “in X L N C U X L” … can anyone beat that?)
Meanwhile, I think I’ll still continue to be crochety about language, and eventually someone will start thinking that I am incorrect.
There are certain things about learning that we know. Things like how you are supposed to study in a quiet place and how every student has a different learning style. I just read a very interesting article that turns a lot of these established theories on their heads.
A study by Californian psychologists has shown that there’s no evidence to support teaching to accommodate different learning styles. Even though everybody does prefer getting input in slightly different ways (e.g. visual vs aural), regular teaching is basically equally beneficial to everyone.
Another myth is that you should use the the same quiet study area for every study session. New evidence has shown that if you vary your surroundings, it will better store information in your brain. If information is associated with more than one thing (e.g. sound or visual information), it will help reinforce the neural pathways. Also, if you study more than one thing in a session (e.g. vocabulary, speaking, and listening), it is much more effective than sticking to just one topic.
To summarise, mix it up a little, in both location and subject. See if it works for you!
Full article: The New York Times.
I usually don’t have a problem getting around in taxis and having basic conversations in Chinese. Apparently my pronunciation is generally pretty good, even though I sometimes still have problems with differentiating the tones. So I was kind of surprised to find a street name that taxi drivers almost never understand when I tell them. It’s not a small street, and it even has a subway station with the same name. It also happens to be the street that I now live on.
I said the street name over and over again in my head, looked up the tones to make sure I was getting them right, but no matter how much I practised (in my head and out loud), as soon as I say it to a taxi driver, he has no idea what I’m talking about, and I get really flustered. Maybe I’ve just started saying it with a sort of hopeful lift at the end, which is definitely not the tone I’m going for. Even worse, they understand it when my boyfriend clarifies, and he barely speaks two words of Chinese.
I know I’m just going to have to keep at it until I get over the mental block I’ve now put in front of the words, but in the meantime, it’s a bit of a struggle to get home. Maybe I’ll just have to start taking the bus.
On a recent episode of Mind Your Language, Konnie Huq discusses something that I can relate pretty well to, the losing of your native language to English as you grow up. For me, I lost the majority of my Cantonese around the time my older sister left me alone at kindergarten to start her primary school career. For Konnie Huq, she lost her native Bengali when she started at an English speaking school. While there are clear advantages to speaking more than one language fluently, are there any advantages to dropping your mother tongue to speak only the local language? Does assimilation outweigh the loss of language and culture? Have a listen to the audio and see what you think.
Speaking of losses, this show was originally broadcast on BBC’s Asian Network, which was slated for closure earlier this year. It’s a pity that it wasn’t shown more support, especially with the large Asian population in the UK. I’m not sure what kind of message the BBC is sending out by shutting down ethnicity-based channels, but I hope that there will be some kind of alternative available after the Asian Network closes.
I’m still not 100% sure where I sit on the e-books vs print books issue, and tend to think there is a time and place for both. With the rising popularity of e-book readers and tablets (most notably the Kindle and the iPad), though, it’s inevitable that people will be doing more of their reading on the screen rather than on the page.
Owning a traditional print dictionary has always made me feel slightly more involved with language, but for logical reasons the print dictionary is becoming very out-of-date. With modern search functions, space saving advantages, and the ability to constantly update material without reprinting, online and electronic dictionaries are becoming obsolete.
The latest version of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is not even going to print. It is going to be re-released online in December, on a subscription basis. Because they won’t be limited by the size of a physical book, they will also be able to make available the historical thesaurus of the OED, containing almost every word in English dating back to Old English times. Unfortunately, the prices for the subscription are pretty steep - £7+VAT for a week’s access, and £205+VAT for a year. You could sponsor a couple of third world families for that much (and probably buy a few print copies of the OED), so I hope they change their minds before they go the way of The Times, who reportedly lost 90% of their readership after they started charging for their website.
If you’re looking for an alternative, The Guardian has done a good comparison of various print and online dictionaries.