Language exchange

Our Language Exchange programme is now completely online! Do join in for meeting a Language Exchange partner. You are then most welcome to use the Language Centre as your chatting ground! 🙂

You can start at any level, and can also use language learning textbooks from the Library that are designed for self-learning, such as the Colloquial and Teach Yourself series.

Go to WebLearn (top right from our Language Centre website) and, after signing-in using your Oxford University user name and password, click on Language Exchange

 

WebLearn Main LC page

Advertisements
Posted in News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Ancient Scripts

Seminar series open to all

Wednesdays 5.15 pm at the Taylor Institution Library, room 2

Convenor Dr Johanneke Sytsema, Linguistics Librarian

Introducing Ancient Scripts2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Welcome back students!

 

French

Here is a library presentation for our Modern Languages French students

with information about the examinations we have in the library and other resources you will find useful.

Spanish

Here is a presentation for those using Espanol en Marcha 4

And one for those using ELE actual B1

 

pleiade-002

Posted in Course, Library, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Course registration: get ready!

Our Language Centre course registration start at 9am on Monday 2 October.

English registration closes 12 noon, Thursday 5 October.

Modern languages (LASR & OPAL) registration closes 12 noon, Wednesday 11 October.

And yes, all information available on our beautiful new website ! 🙂

www.lang.ox.ac.uk 

Main page website sept 2017

Posted in Course, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Library, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Library, News, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

#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!

 

Posted in Library, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment