Guest post on less commonly taught langauges

This week we are having a guest blogger, Pat Goodridge, who has just graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and is now studying for a Master’s degree at Stanfod University.

Less-commonly-taught languages present learners with less-commonly-experienced challenges

By Pat Goodridge, Stanford University

In American language education, there is a clear system of favoritism. A small group of languages, out of the nearly 7,000 spoken around the world, dominate the pedagogical landscape. These languages represent some of the most widely spoken in the world (Chinese and Spanish), but also extend to include those particularly relevant to major domains like technology (German and Korean), business (Japanese and French), cultural heritage (Greek and Italian), and religion (Arabic and Hebrew). Other languages receive attention for the political positions their countries hold in relation to the West (Russian). These languages are the most studied because the countries associated with them are those we know the most about, the ones we see most often in the news, the ones we (or most of us) would like to visit. As a result, their languages are the ones we care about the most. But they are not the only ones out there and not the only ones worth learning.

While such languages retain the lion’s share of funding, enrollment, and other forms of sponsorship, another group of languages lies beyond the bounds of mainstream language education—the less-commonly-taught languages, otherwise known as LCTLs for short. As with major languages having identifiable reasons for their popularity, LCTLs vary in the reasons why they are rarely taught in schools and universities; some have limited necessity by virtue of being spoken in countries with very high populations of English speakers (Dutch and Finnish), some have sizable speaker bases but are overshadowed by larger languages surrounding them (Tamil by Hindi and Cantonese by Mandarin), and some are spoken in developing countries that have limited relevance to most in the developed world (Twi and other African languages).

In spite of these limits, one particular subgroup of LCTLs has received positive attention since the turn of the century: the endangered languages. This group refers to those languages with the fewest living speakers, including especially those with fewer than 100 speakers. Media, academia, and industry have all rushed to the aid of these language communities: National Geographic began the Enduring Voices Project to “bring wide attention to the issue of language loss”; Transparent Language began the 7000 Languages Project as an initiative to create resources for endangered languages like Ojibwe, Balinese, and Kurdish; and prominent academics have embarked on high-profile research ventures, such as the case of Dr. Mark Liberman, a professor of mine at Penn who in 2012 received a $100,000-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a method of gathering data on endangered languages.

Furthermore, the fact that there are so few speakers of these languages makes linguists and anthropologists all the more eager to study them now, while time is of the essence. Just ask one of my linguistics professor at Penn who wrote about Warlpiri (an indigenous Australian language with 3,000 speakers) for her MIT dissertation, another who wrote an entire dictionary on dialects of Huave (18,000 speakers), and a classmate of mine who has now spent three summers in Montana studying the Salish languages (less than 2,000 speakers total). The language community is clearly dedicated to the cause of saving the rarest of languages, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, not all LCTLs are as fortunate to have such attention.

Despite these efforts in support of endangered languages, there are countless LCTLs that lie in the obscure area of being too small in terms of speakers to gain institutional support from universities and resource publishers, but too large to garner the attention like that of endangered languages. These languages include those spoken in Central Asia (Tajik, Kazakh, Uygur, etc.) and those of smaller, isolated countries such as Hungary, Cambodia, and Somalia. It is these languages that are the most difficult to learn not for the particular difficulty of their grammars, but for a number of factors entirely external to the languages themselves. The major implication of LCTLs being taught at a limited volume is that learning them becomes significantly harder for those who are interested in doing so. Below, I describe a few of the challenges arising from this truth.

There are very few effective resources for LCTLs

The first challenge facing LCTL learners is that resources for the languages are sparse, especially quality ones. When I first set out to learn Kazakh on my own, I was limited to Peace Corps packets from decades ago (scanned and put online) and old textbooks, many written in Russian. Some of the textbooks even still had Kazakh written in the Arabic script, which was replaced in 1927! There is also a lack of apps or other high-tech resources that for the major languages have existed for years. Cutting edge websites like FluentU, along with software companies like Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone, have foregone expanding to rarer languages, most likely due to the limited income potential of offering them. Luckily, a few high-end language app makers, such as Nemo, have begun to expand to LCTLs. Though app giant Duolingo’s language options remain conservative, mobile apps may still be the future of learning LCTLs, with much less overhead cost involved in their production. This lower cost is, in turn, transferred to the consumer. Buying one app for $4.99 is, after all, more cost-effective than 300-dollar software, taking a course, or even buying a textbook, which brings me to my next point…

Resources for LCTLs can be pricey

Another challenge is that the resources that do exist for LCTLs tend to be more expensive than those for other languages. Even books are more expensive, since there is a smaller demand for them and to make production profitable, prices must be raised to compensate for smaller sales. For example, Colloquial Languages by Routledge does have books available to teach a number of rare languages, but one finds a Kazakh book for roughly $70, while whole books in the same series, of the same length, for other languages are only $20!  Furthermore, the fact that it tends to be smaller publishers who focus on LCTLs means that logistical costs boost prices more than they would for larger, more optimized resource companies like Rosetta Stone. For learners who prefer to learn languages directly with native speakers instead of electronically, other challenges exist still…

Native speakers of LCTLs can be difficult to find

Fortunately, it is easier now than ever to connect with speakers of other languages; social media websites like Interpals are a godsend and have my personal seal of approval. However, some learners will find that meeting and practicing with native speakers online is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Meetups.com can be a reliable means of finding native speakers with whom to acquaint in person, as can simply researching organizations dedicated to groups of speakers. For example, the Uzbek American Association of Chicago has a large picnic every year, with thousands in attendance. You may notice, however, that all of these options involve the Internet in some fashion. Without the web, it’s easy for me to imagine how impossible it would be for me to meet Kazakhs, Hungarians, or even speakers of languages with a large diaspora in the US, like that of the Turkish people. One type of native speaker is especially hard to find, which poses a particular barrier to learning LCTLs…

There are few teachers available

One side effect of there being so few native speakers of LCTLs is that it can be hard to find not just speakers, but speakers with teaching skills. Learners will find that even tutors are difficult to find, let alone university-level lecturers dedicated to pedagogy in an LCTL. In fact, the Turkish teacher at my university was only part-time and was a banker by day. I was lucky enough, however, to have a bona fide scholar of Hungarian literature as my Hungarian teacher, so certainly there are exceptions. When domestic teachers are scarce, programs may look abroad to fill teaching positions for summer programs or temporary semester-long stints. This practice is for the most part very beneficial to students, since it exposes them to a native speaker who comes directly from the culture they are seeking to discover, though there are a few issues that can arise. For example, teachers that come from regular positions in the target countries could have a limited knowledge of English, leading to confusion in class when questions are asked. This is especially relevant at the beginner level, where students rely on a teacher with at least some knowledge of their native language in order to pose questions and communicate difficulties they’re experiencing. This is less of a problem at the higher levels, though by that point many students are already prepared to travel to the target language’s country without further instruction.

As we’ve established, the difficulties of learning LCTLs go beyond the mere fact that they tend to be fundamentally different from English and other Indo-European languages. Though there are challenges facing even the most enthusiastic of LCTL learners, progress is on the horizon. The University of Minnesota has a LCTLs Project sponsored by its renowned Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA). The program’s initiatives include a listserv of LCTL teachers, a book on developing LCTL curriculum materials, and a summer program. Other world-renowned summer language programs are available at the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University and the University of Michigan. The most positive news of all is that it only takes one excellent resource, one inspiring teacher, or one unforgettable trip to make an indelibly positive mark on learners that catapults them to success in their language studies. The challenges surrounding learning an LCTL are numerous, but are no match for dedication.

 

 

 

 

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My ERASMUS experience

My Erasmus in Oxford

I’m an Erasmus postgrad student from the University of Bologna and I have a master’s degree in Modern languages and Postcolonial Literatures.

In my time at the library, I have gained valuable experience of a library assistant’s key responsibilities, which include: dealing with general enquiries, writing on the Library blog; providing assistance with the self-issue terminal, photocopiers and computers; locating material and helping readers find books on the shelves, using the ALEPH circulation module for registration and renewing.

Thanks to Lucile’s patience and professionality I could learn easily and I never felt inadequate to the role. I am also very thankful for her support as she let me write an article for the Creative Multilingualism Blog, which I’m very proud of.

During these three months, I have been given the chance to help students preparing for their final OPAL test in Italian; I used to teach English or French to Italian speakers and the issues I had to face on this occasion were very different. My passion for languages and learning has now become even stronger and I’m determined to pursue a career in language teaching.

I also greatly enjoyed helping to induct potential students during the Oxford University open days, as I could show them how learning a new language can be a thrilling experience.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Christine Mitchell, Lucile Deslignères, Sarah Cook and Martin Hurajt, who have been extremely kind and supportive; they made my stay at the Language Centre a unique experience whose memory I will always treasure.

Arrivederci!!

Marta Triberio – Erasmus student

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#loveourcollections Russian films donation

An impressive collection of Soviet classics, from the 1940s Mosfilm comedies to the more serious (and dark) Tarkovsky, and in between dramas, comedies, musicals even! Most of those films were box-office successes in Soviet Russia.

Горе от ума  Woe from wit, after the play by Alexander Sergeyevich Griboyedov, 1952 version

Наше Кино Михайло  Ломоносов,  Угрюм-Река, Демидовы

Золотой Теленок  the television series from 2006

Преступления и наказания  Crime and punishment, the television series from 2007

Инна Чурикова   a collection of films with the actress Inna Churikova

Евгений Леонов   a collection of films with the actor Yevgeny Leonov

Армен Джигарханян a collection of films with the actor Armen Dzhigarkhanyan

В круге Первом   a telefilm about “The first circle” the Solzhenitsyn novel

Мастер и Маргарита  the 2005 telefilm after the great novel by Bulgakov

Дядя Ваня  Uncle Vanya a film from 1970.

Герой нашего времени  A hero of our time by Lermontov, 2006 television series

Свадьба Кречинского  1953 version, a comedy by Aleksandr Sukhovo-Kobylin

Братья Карамазовы 1968 film version of the Brothers Karamazov

Москва слезам не верит  Moscow does not believe in tears

Соларис Solaris, the famous film by Andrei Tarkovsky

Небеса обетованные The promised heaven, 1992

Очи черные  Dark Eyes in which Marcello Mastroianni was awarded the Prix d’interprétation masculine at Cannes

Особенности национальной охоты   Peculiarities of the national hunt

Я шагаю по Москре  Walking the streets of Moscow

Карнавальная ночь   Carnival night

Место встречи изменить нельзя   The meeting place cannot be changed

Осенний марафон  Autumn Marathon, winner of the 1979 Venice Festival.

Афоня  Afonya

Бесы a 2005 film from the novel Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

12 Стульев  12 chairs, a musical comedy after the famous novel by Ilf and Petrov

Джентльмены   gentlemen of fortune 1971

Трецкий гамбит  The Turkish Gambit 2005

Ностальгия  the famous film by Andrei Tarkovsky

Бриллиантоая рука the diamond arm

А гори здесь тихие

Русский бунт

Статский советник  The state counsellor, an adaptation of Akunin’s novel

Три тополя на Плющихе   three poplars in Plyuscikha

Свадьба  и  юбилей  two Mosfilm from 1944

Холодное лето  The cold summer of 1953 and калина красная  the red snowball tree, seen by Fassbinder as one of his favourite films

Дон Сезар де Базан и Собака на Сене

Гостья из Будущего  Guest from the future

Возвращение  The return

And a few more!

 

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Using the catalogue

Using SOLO, the Library Catalogue

You can search for all material available in the library on SOLO, our online catalogue.

First, select Language Centre library on the top right page to filter your search.

You don’t know the title of the item that you’re looking for? Don’t panic. Here you are a few tips to make sure you’ll find it.

Enter key words is a very useful trick and will allow you to filter your search.

NEW: for non-latin writing system, if may be possible to find new materials by typing these alphabets on your keyword, for example Arabic, Chinese or Russian in SOLO. Caution: make sure you are selecting the right alphabet in your computer, for example Urdu not Arabic, for finding Urdu resources.

For example, all films are sorted on the library catalogue and can be searched for by title or by director.

Let’s picture this: you’re looking for an Italian film set in Rome:

  1. Try entering key words such as: Film; DVD; Rome. You’ll find your key words have been highlighted to help you skimming the results.
  2. Scroll the list down and click on “details and links” to have more information about the film.
  3. To know where the item is located in the library click on “find and request”, you’ll find the call number or shelf mark of the selected item. Also, you will be able to know the status of the item.

Looking for a Swahili learning book and CD? Try with the following key words: Swahili book + cd.

German film set during world war? Type German, DVD, world war.

Perhaps you would like to know what films you can find in a particular language. The easiest way is to type the language you’re interested in, followed by the words “film” and “DVD”. For example, try entering the following key words: Korean, film, DVD and you’ll have a full list of all our films in Korean language.

Also, when viewing the set of versions make sure that the sort order is set to relevance. This will ensure that the items which most closely match you search criteria (see the little box saying “sorted by” on the top page).

Easy peasy!

For more information on how to use SOLO catalogue visit Oxford LibGuides

Marta Triberio, ERASMUS 2017.

 

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Training from the Bodleian libraries

In Week 9, Bodleian Libraries are running the following FREE workshop.  Please follow the link below to book your place:

Bodleian iSkills: Open Access Oxford – what’s happening? (Wed 21 June 11.00-12.00) Week 9

A briefing on open access publishing and Oxford’s position, including guidance on how to comply with the Open Access requirements for the REF and mandates from key funding bodies whilst respecting your publisher’s rights and policies.

Topics to include:  what is open access;  key terms – Gold, Green, Article Processing Charges;  how to find out about research council or funder requirements;  how to find out what your publisher will allow;  Green route – how to deposit in ORA;  Gold route and how to claim for APCs;  where to get more information & help;  Act on Acceptance and HEFCE OA policy for the post-2014 REF.

Who is this session for: Current Oxford University academics, researchers, postgraduate research students, research support staff and librarians

Presenters:  Juliet Ralph and Kate Beeby 

In addition, we still have some places left on the following workshop this week:

Bodleian iSkills: Authors, copyright and open access – making it work for you (Thu 15 June 14.00-15.00) Week 8

Authors are often unsure what rights they retain when signing the publisher agreement for a journal article. Your choices affect what you and others can do with your work. This introductory workshop deciphers the jargon and explains the pitfalls so you can understand your options and make informed decisions.

It covers benefits of retaining copyright, Copyright Transfer Agreements (CTA) compared with other Licence types (inc. Creative Commons), author rights and sharing permissions, subscription and open access articles, uploading to the web or repositories, University and funder policies (inc. REF), and the support available.

Participants are asked to bring along an example of a publisher copyright agreement that they have signed in the past or from a journal they publish in regularly. There will be time for Q & A but if you wish to send questions in advance please email openaccess@bodleian.ox.ac.uk using subject line: August Copyright session.

Who is this session for: Current Oxford University academics, researchers, postgraduate research students

Presenters: Sarah Barkla, Kate Beeby, Juliet Ralph, Sally Rumsey

Open Access Drop-in sessions

In weeks 1-8 we will be running weekly drop-in sessions to provide face-to-face support and answer all your queries on Open Access, Act on Acceptance and ORA:

•    Tuesdays 14.30-15.30 –Knowledge Centre Library, Old Road Campus, ask for Judith Ames
•    Wednesdays 14.00-15.00 – Social Science Library, ask for Kate Beeby
•    Thursdays – 11.00-12.00 – Radcliffe Science Library, ask for Juliet Ralph
•    Fridays 14.00-15.00 – Radcliffe Humanities Building, ask for Hilla Wait

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Return your items – thank you!

For those of you who are now leaving the University, I wish you the best of luck!

Don’t forget however, to return all your library items before you go. Thank you.

For the others… Please note that we do not have a special vacation loan during the summer, ie lendings continue to be 4 weeks for books and CDs and 2 weeks for DVDs.

Therefore it would be best if you could return all your borrowing before the end of term.

Thank you very much in advance,

Best wishes,

Lucile,

Librarian

 

Library March 2017 017.JPG

 

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#loveourcollections Italian

Italian library section

The Language Centre has a wide collection of Italian novels, graphic novels, reference books, self-teaching textbooks and films.

In the novels’ section, we have Elena Ferrante’s L’amica geniale: infanzia, adolescenza (My brilliant friend), the first story of a four books series. The writer surprises the reader with the private story of a friendship between two girls from Naples, Lila and Elena. The writer’s identity is a mystery as she signs her novels with a pseudonym, leading many scholars to propose their own theories on the author’s true identity based on the clues she leaves behind in her stories; will you be able to hazard a guess yourself?

If you are passionate about theatre and your Italian is of an advantaged level, you may want to challenge yourself with the detailed overview of 20th century Italian theatre presented in Il teatro del Novecento da Pirandello a Fo by Franca Angelini. Follow the stream of her interpretation and learn more about the political and social engagement of Italian theatre.

If you have never read a comic before, then Corto Maltese will definitely get you into comics. Written by Hugo Pratt, it is the most famous Italian graphic novel and a brilliant example of the genre.  Here is the link to Appuntamento a Bahia. In this episode Corto Maltese, Steiner and Tristan Bantam are sailing by the coast of French Guyana heading to San Salvador de Bahia. Once there, Morgana, Tristan’s stepsister, will help him to solve a mystery about their father, but along the way, they will be met with a series of exciting situations and obstacles.

Would you like to improve your Italian out of the classroom? Then give Perfect your Italian a try. Each topic comes with a range of activities to enable you to start a conversation, perfect what you already know and put your speaking skills to the test, whilst articles and interviews will be very useful for improving your reading ability. Don’t panic! All activities vary in length so you can set your own working pace.

Culture is generally shaped by a country’s arts and that is particularly true of Italy and films. Italian through film: The classics is a guide to the milestones of Italian film history. You will enrich your vocabulary with the essential terminology required to talk about films and you will also be able to give a satisfactory synopsis of the story thanks to the activities at the end of each chapter. You will analyse the characters’ personalities and both the social and historical context they are part of. Will you be hiding from the Nazis in 1944 Rome or will you be chasing a bike thief in post-war Rome?

Don’t forget that we have a wide collection of film classics, so if you read about them, you will also be able to watch them. Here are some examples of essential Italian cinema: Ladri di biciclette by Vittorio de Sica, Rocco e I suoi fratelli by Luchino Visconti, Uccellacci e Uccellini by Pier Paolo Pasolini or La strada by Federico Fellini.

Last but not least, the library staff are friendly and keen to answer any queries. 🙂

Marta Triberio, ERASMUS

 

 

 

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