Barcelona

I’ll be away for a month, to be assessed as a teacher and to take time out to see where I should go next. This is the longest I’ve been away from my husband since my dad died some 17 years ago. It’s not the best time to go, either. But when is ever a good time to be away from the ones you love for so long?

As I pack up my books, I realize how few I can take with me, despite packing light to leave room up to 20kg. And my paper notes have to stay here. While I was reading I realized that I couldn’t do everything digitally, I needed to write things down in longhand. I tried to write as many essays as I could, but kept running out of time. So I don’t have enough consolidated notes for revision, then. Bother.

I had quite a shock when I sat down to write my first essay longhand, and simply couldn’t sort my ideas to commit them to paper. There are quite a lot of questions, in three sections, and it’s hard to know when to finish and move on to the next one. It took me 8 hours to write what should take 3 hours, because I kept starting over, I couldn’t just leave it and move on to the next thought, no matter how I tried structuring through headings. The devil is in every little word. Writing digitally has changed the way I write completely.

As a result, I’m pretty sure my exam is going to bomb. But I’m taking it relatively lightly. I’m not in this to make a career at this point. As I said at the beginning of this project, I’m in it for the pleasure of learning more about a field I’ve dedicated quite a few working years to.  I also feel I’ve been losing my edge, and want to make sure, as I expand my repertoire from mostly Business and Academic English to Scientific English and teaching speakers of other languages, that my knowledge of methodology and applied teaching is broad enough. I specifically wanted to do this diploma course over a masters course for the practice and exchange with other teachers, and that now lies ahead.  I’m excited, looking at 3-4 weeks of assessed teaching in a country I’ve never been to. Which is something quite different from just teaching and finding your way in, let alone from spending time there as a tourist and slowly getting to know the place. Language is so very key. So to me this is all a real adventure.

Oxford TEFL have told me I can retake the exam if I fail. I’m also handing in my projects late. And all of that is fine.

Amy Winehouse at 19

Amy Winehouse, dead, at 27. This was her at 19. So sad.


One more for the 27 Club.

Take the box – Amy Winehouse

Your neighbours were screaming
I don’t have a key for downstairs,
so I punched all the buzzers hoping you wouldn’t be there
So now my head’s hurting
You say I always get my own way
But you were in the shower when I got there,
I’d have wanted to stay, but I got nothing to say
Cos you were so beautiful before today
But then I heard what you got to say…man that was ugly
The Moschino bra you bought me last Christmas
Put it in the box, put it in the box
Frank’s in there and I don’t care
Put it in the box, put it in the box
Just take it
Take the box
Take the box
I came home this evening and nothing felt like how it should be
I feel like writing you a letter but that is not me…you know me
Feel so f*cking angry; don’t wanna be reminded of you
But when I left my sh*t in your kitchen,
I said goodbye to your bedroom it smelled of you
Mr False Pretence, you don’t make sense
I just don’t know you
But you make me cry, where’s my kiss goodbye?
I think I love you
The Moschino bra you bought me last Christmas
Put it in the box, put it in the box
Frank’s in there and I don’t care
Put it in the box, put it in the box
Now take it
Take the box
Just take it, take it
Take the box
And now just take the box
Take the box
Take the box

Ruby’s shoes, ruby shoes

“The Problem We All Live With”  by Norman Rockwell is currently on display at the White House, just outside the president’s office. It shows Ruby Bridges, the most famous of the children who in 1960, at the age of 6, walked into an all-white school and helped desegregate the schools of New Orleans. Daddy’s brave little girl, indeed. Never forget. I’d like to believe that the Civil Rights Movement has become a part of the core of our civil religion.

Ruby’s shoes. Ruby shoes.

In the song Ruby’s Shoes by Lori Mckenna, from 2002, it seems to me her story has become almost generic. Ruby is Everygirl, just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, whose ruby shoes in the film help her get back home to Kansas. Ruby is Everygirl, just like Anne Frank.  – Ruby Bridges recollects:

Scenes from a Disney, made for TV movie. Some very nice Norman Rockwell-like scenes of the intact black community.

Ruby’s Shoes, 2002

by Lori McKenna

Ruby’s shoes would take her
A mile or so to school every day
Where the white people hated her
They’d scream and hold signs and tell her to go away

But Ruby’s will was stronger
Than the bigots with the signs could ever know
She stopped every morning on the corner
And prayed that someday the pain would go

And she’d stop and she’d pray
That all the hatred would go away
She was only six years old but she knew
Walk a mile in Ruby’s shoes

Ruby sat alone in the classroom
She never dreamed the other children wouldn’t come
They hated her for the color of her skin
Well color is such an amazing illusion

She’d stop and she’d pray
That all the hatred would go away
She was only six years old but she knew
Walk a mile in Ruby’s shoes

Now Ruby knew about Dorothy
And the ruby shoes that she wore
She wondered about Oz sometimes
Well, well no other child ever walked her shoes before

And she’d stop and she’d pray
That all the hatred would go away
She was only six years old but she knew
Walk a mile in Ruby’s shoes

Ruby, if birds can always fly
Why oh why can’t you and I?

Ruby’s shoes would take her
A mile or so to school every day
Where the white people hated her
They’d scream and hold signs and tell her to go away

And she’d stop and she’d pray
That all the hatred would go away
She’d stop and she’d pray
That no other children would be raised this way
Ruby’s shoes

If birds can fly
Then why oh why
If birds can fly then why oh why can’t I

Features of connected speech:

assimilation: when words are spoken together and the sounds at the word boundaries change
s can change to sh: this shop => thish shop or Ruby’s shoes =>rubysh shoes
t, d, n at the end assimilate to the place of articulation to become bilabial: in bed => im bed
d can change to g: good girl =>goog girl
voiced can become unvoiced: have to go => haf to go
d and y can fuse to j: how d’you do => how jou do

elision: omitting sounds, esp. d and t, between words
next please => nex please
Ruby’s shoes =>ruby shoes

vowel reduction and weak forms:
You and me => You
ənd me
If birds can fly => If birds cən fly

She should əv known better. She shəd ə known I’d wait.

laison: her English => her ringlish
brother and sister => brother rən sister

intrusive r and w:
no other => no wother

Marlee Matlin and Jack Jason

An article by Nataly Kelly landed in my intray, and it was interesting to follow up: Jack Jason is actress Marlee Matlin‘s interpreter. Watch them interact here: Do you notice the places where she “says” nothing, but gives us this look, this fabulous body language, this space where we infer and bond and relate, and he puts that non-verbal communication into phrases marvellously, filling in the blanks, repeating what is already understood, adding warmth and stress and intonation… the way we do when we’re doing it well? With phrases like: “Guess what, girl:” “You know? I did. I really did. I had that opportunity.” What he’s doing here is definitely worth noting for learners of English. In this case, particularly female ones, though. A man interpreting a woman. He connects and accomodates just like a woman.  (Communication Accomodation Theory on Wikipedia) Do you forget that you’re hearing a man’s voice when she speaks, is it just her voice? Or are you hearing a man sounding like a woman?

Tangent time. Thinking about what this means for me when I teach men: I sound like a woman, I minimize differences between us, I converge as a part of building rapport. Do they use any aspects of my language as a model? I can’t really see that at all. If they did model anything on me, they would have to correct out the “female factor”, right? But I’d probably notice that, wouldn’t I, because I don’t really see how a learner would do that without sounding really weird. It’s more likely that they don’t apply any model of accommodation based on phrases at all. It’s far more essential than that, closer to Noam Chomsky’s universal grammar, “an innate set of linguistic principles shared by all humans”, so that the way anyone, including a learner of English, will accomodate another can only come out of a lifetime of practice, using multiskills honed in real interaction.

I’m buying into Merrill Swain’s concept of “comprehensible output“. This says that when a learner encounters a gap when speaking English, he or she becomes aware of it, and this leads him or her to want/try to modify it, providing the imulse to learn something new about the language. So there is clearly still a place to teach those phrases on an on-demand basis.

PS: Unfortunately the video has been made private. Here’s an alternative that shows the two interacting – if not quite as eloquently:

Marlene Dietrich: Falling in Love again – Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss

Marlene in English and German and then again in English, great German accent; followed by Caroline Nin singing franco-anglo-tinged German.

ICH BIN VON KOPF BIS FUSS AUF LIEBE EINGESTELLT
(Friedrich Holländer)
Marlene Dietrich

Ein rätselhafter Schimmer,
Ein “je ne sais-pas-quoi”
Liegt in den Augen immer
Bei einer schönen Frau.
Doch wenn sich meine Augen
Bei einem vis-à-vis
Ganz tief in seine saugen
Was sprechen dann sie?:

Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt,
Denn das ist meine Welt.
Und sonst gar nichts.
Das ist, was soll ich machen,
Meine Natur,
Ich kann halt lieben nur
Und sonst gar nichts.

Männer umschwirr’n mich,
Wie Motten um das Licht.
Und wenn sie verbrennen,
Ja dafür kann ich nicht.
Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt,
Ich kann halt lieben nur
Und sonst gar nichts.

Was bebt in meinen Händen,
In ihrem heißen Druck?
Sie möchten sich verschwenden
Sie haben nie genug.
Ihr werdet mir verzeihen,
Ihr müßt’ es halt versteh’n,
Es lockt mich stets von neuem.
Ich find’ es so schön!

Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt,
Denn das ist meine Welt,
Und sonst gar nichts.
Das ist, was soll ich machen,
Meine Natur,
Ich kann halt lieben nur
Und sonst gar nichts.

Männer umschwirr’n mich,
Wie Motten um das Licht.
Und wenn sie verbrennen,
Ja dafür kann ich nichts.
Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß
Auf Liebe eingestellt,
Ich kann halt lieben nur
Und sonst gar nichts.

FALLING IN LOVE AGAIN
(Frederick Hollander / Sammy Lerner)

Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
Can’t help it

Love’s always been my game
Play it as I may
I was born that way
Can’t help it

Men flock around me
Like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn
I know I’m not to blame

Falling in love again
Never wanted to
What am I to do?
Can’t help it

Love’s always been my game
Play it as I may
I was born that way
Can’t help it

Men flock around me
Like moths around a flame
And if their wings burn
I know I’m not to blame



Also recorded by:
The Beatles; Diahann Carrol; Chas & Dave; Petula Clark;
Rosemary Clooney; Sammy Davis Jr.; Doris Day; Roy Eldridge;
Marianne Faithful; Brian Ferry; Crystal Gayle;
Benny Goodman; Billie Holiday; Nana Mouskouri;
André Prévin; Alan Price; Linda Ronstadt; Nina Simone;
Jo Stafford; The Three Degrees; Don Williams; … and others.

Joe Jackson and learner agency

Joe Jackson has a new live album out, and I’ve just ordered it. He lives in Berlin. I found this marvellously provocative video dedicated to him by New Yorkers who want him back:

This all came out of surfing around after Ann posted something about Coney Island being the target of redevelopment, and Coney Island always makes me think of Luna Park, and I can’t think of Luna Park without thinking of Joe Jackson’s fantastic cover of Graham Parker’s “You can’t be too strong”, a song about abortion and responsible relationships that came out in my wild years and made me think. Anyway, enjoy the wooing of Joe, and his latest cover of the song. Which is not on the live album, unfortunately.

That was a real time-out. Or was it?

Back in Munich I used to teach English to people who enjoyed sharing and talking about songs. I really miss that sort of teaching. Now when I teach it’s all about focus, the curriculum fitting an agreed target precisely, the lessons in line with elaborately planned outcomes. Not that it always works, but that’s the plan. Sigh. Somehow I’m getting the sense that learners need a lot more space to build up motivation. I love learner groups that demand more space and want to help develop their own curriculum. Learner agency, that’s what I like!

And I love the serendipity that comes with teaching unexpected stuff. For instance, can’t you just hear all the alarm-bells go off in German learners’ heads when the New Yorker woman changes the lyrics in “Is she really going out with him?” to “Are you really going to waste your time in that stupid city where they killed the Jews?” (3:05) What a way into dealing with intercultural non-communication! How do you handle it, dear learners, what are your options, do you let it pass, do you respond and how, what do you think she would say in return, how does this mindset influence your willingness to speak English or change your German accent…or are you actually quite happy to maintain your German accent as a part of your cultural identity?

Oh, to teach a class of people willing to devote maybe a 1/4 of their course time to exploring extraneous content, to learning for life and not for the boss, the exam, the publication! Where are you? Hello, calling, calling…

YOU CAN’T BE TOO STRONG
Written by Graham Parker

Did they tear it out, with talons of steel
And give you a shot, so that you wouldn’t feel
And wash it away, as if it wasn’t real
It’s just a mistake I won’t have to face
Don’t give it a name, don’t give it a place
Don’t give it a chance, it’s lucky in a way
It must have felt strange find me inside you
I hadn’t intended to stay
If you want to keep it right, put it to sleep at night
Squeeze it until it could say

CHORUS

You can’t be too strong
You can’t be too strong
You can’t be too strong
You can’t be too strong
You decide what’s wrong

Well I ain’t gonna cry, I’m gonna rejoice
And shout myself dry, and go see the boys
They’ll laugh when I say I left it overseas

Yeah babe, I know that it gets dark down by Luna Park
But everybody else is squeezing out a spark
That happened in the heat somewhere in the dark, in the dark
The doctor gets nervous, completing the service
He’s all rubber gloves and no head
He fumbles the light switch, it’s just another minor hitch
Wishes to God he was dead

REPEAT CHORUS
You can’t be too strong
You decide what’s wrong
Can’t be too hard, too tough, too rough, too right, too wrong
And you, can’t be too strong
Baby you can’t be too strong…

Samuel L. Jackson reads “Go the F*ck to Sleep”

Samuel L. Jackson reads the book “Go the F*ck to Sleep” by Adam Mansbach.

Not in my parents’ generation, and not among some of my brothers’ families, but I do think “what the f*ck” and other similar phrases using “the fuck” as an intensifier are very prevalent indeed even in everyday family talk. I had an interesting conversation with a housemate here in Potsdam last week who said our next-door neighbors, who are from the States and have a great big yard, so we get an earful of their life through the garden fence, yell at each other a lot and use expletives. My response was, well, I frankly hadn’t noticed, but yes, that just might happen among American couples, sure. It’s sort of like saying “verdammt” in German, except of course nobody says that. Every region here in Germany has its own colorful language. Take Bavaria – and take the Schimpfwörter-Quiz.

But Mansbach’s book has in fact been translated into German by Jo Lendle, and the title translation is perfect: “Verdammte Sch*e, schlaf ein!” It’s sparked controversy among German parents, as summarized in the Atlantic Wire (with sample translations.)

Would I teach the various uses of “the f*ck”? We’ve discussed this before, but I’m revisiting the issue.  In my EFL classes, the most popular phrase, WTF, is generally acquired correctly anyway and learners won’t really have much occasion to use the other phrases until they are deeply enculturated and using them would be appropriate, by which time they’ll be acquired. I generally react to the way learners use language in class, so of course if students used incorrect phrases like “I’m not going to the f*ck do this!” I would correct to “I’m not the f*ck going to do this”, to get at least the grammar cleared up. LOL. But learners don’t, you see, so I haven’t! Thinking through acquisition and learning, I get the sense that even a long chunk like “Where the f*ck do you think you’re going (e.g. with my bicycle)?” will be acquired seemlessly if the affective filter is low enough. So the chunk will be acquired, but its appropriacy – who thinks what is ok, and where and when – must be taught. So, yes, “the f*ck” should most definitely be a part of the curriculum.

Putting this stuff out there is what blogs and Moodles are for! Many thanks to Eamonn for posting the link.

PS: Ash just posted that an Englishman would say “go to f’cking sleep.” Really? Not “Will you f*cking go to sleep”?