Intensive weekend courses

The Language Centre is having, as usual, its wonderful intensive weekend courses in French, German, Italian and Spanish.

I personally went to Italian beginner and German intermediate a few years ago and it was a fantastic experience! A great way to discover a new language or go back to a forgotten one. So go on, if I can do it, surely you can too! 🙂


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#loveourcollections Sign Languages

There are many sign languages. It all started in France (excuse me while I polish my nails an instant…) with Charles Michel de l’Epée who opened the first free specialist school.

But actually it’s not true! Wikipedia states that the first mention of sign languages is in Plato’s Κρατύλος (Cratylus, here it is in English on Wikisource) when Socrates makes a a mention of it.

Recently, another old sign language was found: the Anglo-Saxon sign language, this was a religious one used by monks when they were forbidden to speak out loud.

Another notable sign language was the village produced sign language of Martha’s Vineyard Sign Language, used by all members of the community. It is no longer spoken but it had an influence on the American Sign Language.


Unspoken a CC picture by Marina del Castell on Flickr: the word “friend” in English, Spanish, French and Catalan sign languages.

In the library, we have a few books and videos for several sign languages. Unfortunately, when I catalogue material, there is, so far, only one language code for all sign languages (which is sgn for those interested). So you have to be inventive in your use of SOLO, the university library catalogue. Perhaps the best is to enter “sign language” and restrict your search to the Language Centre Library. I wish I could say that all the films we have are entirely in the sign language, it is not so unfortunately!

First of all of course you will find the BSL, British Sign Language with a teach yourself BSL (book and video) and a few films, such as Dear Frankie or It’s all gone Pete Tong.

American Children of a lesser God which became a commercial success and started Marlee Matlin acting career

French La famille Bélier which was also a huge commercial success. In the Bélier family, Paula is an indispensable interpreter for her deaf parents and brother on a daily basis. One day, her music teacher discovers her gift for singing…

German Jenseits der Stille (Beyond silence) and the very touching Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (Land of silence and darkness) which is a Werner Herzog documentary on Fini Straubinger, by partly in German tactile sign language.

Hindi Iqbal the story of a deaf and mute boy, who dreams of playing cricket for India and Koshish which depicts a deaf and mute couple and their conflicts, pain and struggle to carve out a niche for themselves in a desensitized society.

Korean  복수는 나의 것 (Boksaneun naui geot: sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) Ryu, a deaf mute, is trying to earn enough money for his sister’s kidney transplant.

Russian Страна глухих (Strana glukhikh: country of the deaf) It is about an unusual relationship between two women, one of them a deaf-mute dancer and the other on the run from the mafia.

Spanish Tacones lejanos a melodrama by Almodovar where we have the brief story of Isabel, a sign language interpreter for the television.

Ukrainian  The Tribe a rather tough film about a young and shy boy, Sergey, who arrives at a boarding school for the deaf. There he tries to find his place in the hierarchy of the school community, which operates like a Mafiosi group ruled by the King. The gang partakes in acts of violence, robbery, sex and prostitution. Please note that this film does not have any subtitles. It was the wish of the director to be so.

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then and now (part deux)

Before you were looking for a book the library collection like this:

before 001

Now you are looking for a book, a CD, a DVD in the library collection like this:

library catalogue 2

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then and now

Before, if you wanted to register for a course at the Language Centre, you had to do this:

queuing at the Language Centre - Copy

Now, you only have to do that on our main website

UntitledSimplier, non?

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#loveourcollections Poetry

As part of a new post series #loveourcollections will look at the different collections of the Language Centre Library. Today I would like to speak about poetry.

It is said poetry is the highest form of the language, still, I strongly believe that poetry can be read, and appreciated (at least partially) when you are learning a language.

For this, bilingual collections will help a lot. Of course you will not understand all the subtilities of the language, nor all the words!, but you could, for example, try to read it with your language partner, or if you don’t have one, search the web for some video or audio. Let’s have a quick look at what we have here.

Of course, for Arabic, we have Mahmoud Darwish in an bilingual anthology called Victims of a Map (and for those very keen, I also have, in my personal library, a selection of his poems with translations in French, currently on loan with our Arabic Tutor), we also have a donation: the intriguing Book of Sins

For French, we have selections of works by Jean de La Fontaine, Pierre Jaccottet, Arthur Rimbeau, Pierre de Ronsard, Francis Ponge, Yves Bonnefoy, François Villon, Guillaume Appolinaire, Alfred de Musset, Victor Hugo, Joachim du Bellay and many many more in anthologies from Medieval to contemporary French.

For German, we have a nice bilingual selection of poems by Paul Ceylan

that will include the very famous “das Karussell”

Also an anthologie Lieblingsgedichte der Deutschen

Greek, and we have the rather hilarious and still relevant today of “Waiting for the Barbarians” by the great poet Constantine P. Cavafy

(it’s worth noting that there is a wonderful Cavafy website with his poems both in Greek and in English)

Italian I believe I could get more, but we have Vilma de Gasperin’s lezioni di lingua

Portuguese, and we had to have the very misterious and diverse all poets in one, that is Alberto Caiero + Alvaro de Campos + (Ricardo Reis + Antonío Mora + Bernardo Soares) = Fernando Pessoa

Russian, ah don’t get me started with Russian (do this test: meet a Russian, make them have a few toasts, say “Pushkin please!” see what happens…normally you should hear at least 3 poems from the famous poet ! and if they get very drunk perhaps… “Я вас любил”…)

so in one world, yes, we have a few poetry books of Russian poetry, including Contemporary Russian Poetry: a bilingual anthology

and others, only in Russian, Alexander Blok

and Marina Tsvetaeva

(and if you are nice I could lend you my Garnett book of Russian Verse, but only for a few days, minutes, seconds – as it is MINE!)

And the collection is not only for languages taught at the centre, we also have Taras Shevchenko considered to be the most famous Ukrainian poet, that I brought back from my travels

Spanish an anthology Al son de los poetas with poems from Lorca, Neruda and, speaking of Lorca, a CD (another present from my travels) of the Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías composed by Maurice Ohana. And a collection by Francisco de Quevedo

I’m adding here the work of Yunyao Zhai about Chinese and Tibetan poetry

Poetry: Chinese and Tibetan

Chinese: If asking Chinese people: ‘who is the most famous Chinese poet of all time’, the answer you get is very likely to be ‘Li Bai’.

Although Li Bai lived more than a thousand years ago, his talents and optimism have inspired the Chinese intellectuals over generations. Even today, his poems are still hugely popular; every Chinese child nowadays begins their school life by memorising and reciting Li Bai’s poems.

Tibetan: the legendary Sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso is probably one of the best known Dalai Lamas in history . He is sometimes referred as a ‘playboy’, or a legendary composer of poems and love songs rather than the religious and political leader of Tibet.

Many of his verses are now translated into English and Chinese ).

His poems are also an important inspiration for contemporary Tibetan artists, as you could listen to this beautiful song , the lyric comes from his poems.



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A great donation!

in fact, the best library donation I have ever had in my life!

In memory of Nigel Richards.

Many beautiful volumes from the famous Pléiade collection, with French authors like Marcel Proust, madame de Lafayette, Rabelais, Molière, madame de Sévigné. Each volume contains footnotes written by renowned academics.

I am in the process of cataloguing the collection and put it in the highest standard of RDA if I can! (RDA is the new cataloguing process we use)


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Here is a commentary about one of our Russian Tutors, Marina Bogdanova, who went to the workshop. The books have now been purchased by the library:

In week 6 of Michaelmas Term I attended the workshop, organized by Tatyana Linaker ( of Modern Language Centre, Kings College London, Strand Campus to promote a series of unconventional textbooks authored by Ignaty Diakov, who, while teaching Russian to the City bankers, designed his course to make the Russian language study process a bit more bearable for adult learners.

Designed for B1-B2 level of proficiency, two books in the series of the study texts contain stories, which deal with many basic conversational grammar structures and the core vocabulary required for business and every day life, phrases used in city and home environments. Verbs of motion receive particular attention.

The workshop consisted of a masterclass (50 min) and an interactive discussion based on a chapter 3 of text book The Story Sensation, aimed at A1 level of proficiency.

I personally would not use this type of supplementary reading material for my class, but would highly recommend it to be acquired by our library, since Oxford University graduates quite often aim to work for the City banks and this unconventional course could be quite useful for self-study.

Marina S. Bogdanova


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