Eddie Izzard is a Force Majeure

Posted by Anne on February 3rd, 2014

Eddie Izzard is unbelievable. 8 years of French and 2 years of German in school. And after witnessing people of many nations splashing about peacefully together in Santorini and believing that languages will unite us, he’s decided to do his show in various countries and languages. Standup comedy in  foreign tongues, not just in French, which he speaks, but also in German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Arabic, which he doesn’t.

The title of the show, “Force Majeure”, he says, is about his wanting to be a force of nature for peace. He doesn’t believe in waiting for some hand of God to come down and do the business.

His brother has translated the show into German, and he began learning it by heart, came to Berlin on 4 January, and on 14 January was on stage, doing the show. The show gets a bit longer every night as he adds new bits he’s learned, and the older parts get a bit shorter as he gets through them more quickly.

He handles forgotten lines by interacting with the audience. Finally, a suitable context for that word! It slows his pace down, but also provides the opportunity for some fresh improvisation, playing with words and the audience. Then he surfs on the positive energy of the audience. The basement at the Imperial Club seats no more than 150, and maybe 100 people were there on Sunday, so it’s all rather intimate. I was close enough to get a good look at his lovely manicured fingernails, with the Union Jack and the flag of the EU painted on them.  The show is set to continue through to the end of February. Tickets and dates here.

In language learning terms, he’s proving a point. As he said in the Q&A he gave instead of an encore, he finds the key to learning to speak a foreign language is

  • total immersion
  • not worrying about the grammar
  • learning by heart
  • simply having the courage to speak
  • being under extreme pressure to actually perform before an audience with high expectations

He says sometimes he can access language at will, it all flows out of him, and sometimes he’s completely stumped.

In the interview below he somewhat surprisingly says he doesn’t think there are any cultural differences in humor. His jokes work in any language, he says. I’d  agree, but isn’t that simply a measure of Britain’s lead in the world of comedy? With Britain’s history, after all, how can it not be multi- and cross-cultural?

I’ve found an illegal recording of the show from about a week ago. Judging from what I heard as compared to what the video shows, he’s already made some headway.

State of the art: Machine translation

Posted by Anne on January 18th, 2014

In a word: Aaaaargh! The German machine translation below is complete nonsense. Lexis is far more complicated than you’d think. A word like ‘searing’ can be a verb, an adjective or a noun. Consider how differently ‘even’ can translate –’even heating’ has been translated here as  ‘sogar Heizung’ rather than ‘gleichmäßige Erwärmung’. And ‘seasoning’ is a good example of usage in a technical context: ‘Seasoned cast iron’ does not mean ‘iron with a pinch of salt’!
Curiouser and curiouser: How did the machines get from ‘bare’ to ‘Blondine’?

Original article:
By: Michael Shah
Cast iron is used for cookware because it has excellent heat retention and diffusion properties, and can be produced and formed with a relatively low level of technology. Seasoning is used to protect bare cast iron from rust, and to create a non-stick surface.
Cast iron cookware is slow to heat, but once at temperature provides even heating. Cast iron can also withstand very high temperatures, making cast iron pans ideal for searing. Being a reactive material, cast iron can have chemical reactions with high acid foods such as wine or tomatoes. In addition, some foods (such as spinach) cooked on bare cast iron will turn black.
Cast iron is a porous material that rusts easily. As a result, it typically requires seasoning before use. Seasoning creates a thin layer of fat and carbon over the iron that coats and protects the surface, and prevents sticking.

Machine translation:
Von: Michael Shah
Gusseisen ist für Kochgeschirr verwendet, da ihm verfügt über ausgezeichnete Wärme-Speicherung und Verbreitung Eigenschaften, und produziert und können mit einem relativ niedrigen Niveau der Technologie gebildet. Gewürz dient Blondine Gusseisen vor Rost zu schützen, und eine Antihaft-Oberfläche erstellen.
Gusseisen Kochgeschirr ist langsam zu heizen, aber einmal bei Temperatur bietet sogar Heizung. Gusseisen kann auch sehr hohe Temperaturen, so dass Gusseisen Pfannen ideal für die sengende standhalten. Ein reaktives Material können, aus Gusseisen chemische Reaktionen mit hohen saure Lebensmittel wie Wein oder Tomaten haben. Darüber hinaus werden einige Lebensmittel (z. B. Spinat), gekocht auf nackten Gusseisen schwarz.
Gusseisen ist ein poröses Material, das leicht rostet. Daher bedarf es normalerweise Würze vor Gebrauch. Würze erzeugt eine dünne Schicht von Fett und Kohlenstoff über das Eisen, das Mäntel und schützt die Oberfläche und verhindert kleben.

Google translate back to English:
Cast Iron Oven to Tableware
From: Michael Shah
Cast iron is used for cookware because it has excellent heat retention and distribution properties, and produces and can be formed with a relatively low level of technology. Spice serves blonde cast iron to protect against rust and create a nonstick surface.
Cast iron cookware is slow to heat, but once at temperature provides even heating. Cast iron can also be very high temperatures, so that cast iron pans withstand ideal for searing. A reactive material can , of cast iron have chemical reactions with high acid foods such as wine or tomatoes. In addition, some foods (such as spinach ) cooked on bare cast iron black.
Cast iron is a porous material that rusts easily. Therefore, normally it requires seasoning before use. Seasoning creates a thin layer of grease and carbon over the iron that coats and protects the surface and prevents sticking.


Posted by Anne on January 13th, 2014

Scratch off the wallpaper in the front room upstairs, and out comes Taut’s blue. Fantastic. I’d love to just leave it as is, but I’m worried it will be too busy. Many of the walls in this room and in others are all patched up from new wiring. So I’ll make a window of sorts wherever the original color shows through, and then match the color with silicate paints and try to reconstruct the look, for this room for sure and perhaps for some of the others. This blue room is going to be my and Helmut’s home office. There’s a great view of the buildings across the street from here, the walls of which show up in the oxblood red and ocher yellow Taut used. It has the feeling of true primary colors. One of the downstairs rooms was originally painted a dark green. He was clearly not one to be cautious about wallpaint.

Hitting the books again

Posted by Anne on January 3rd, 2014

Having finished Basis for Business C1, and soon to hand over ELTABB events coordination, my workload is relatively light.  Next to my compact teaching sessions I’m writing teaching files:

But overall I now have a little extra time on my hands to finally, finally finish my Diploma TESOL.

I was in Barcelona in August 2011 to complete Unit 1, the written exam, and Unit 3, the assessed lessons and the oral phonology exam. I blogged about that here. I’ve also completed most of Unit 2, including my Observation Instrument – though I need to rewrite the argument thoroughly, since scaffolding means something different to me now.  My Developmental Record on teaching pronunciation is all done.

What remains is my Independent Research Project. It will most probably be either

  • a questionnaire on Learner Inventory – an issue that is much debated and misunderstood, but was a revelation to me in Barcelona. I’m looking forward to welcoming Rebecca Oxford to ELTABB on 1 June.  We had Marjorie Rosenberg speaking here recently on Learning Styles, and her book for Delta Publishing is very useful. I think there is more to both Learner Inventory and Learning Styles than meets the eye. Specifically, I’m interested in how awareness of learner-style diversity can increase skill in handling cross-cultural diversity. This is a minefield I’ve wanted to get a handle on for some time. It’ll require a bit of deep thought.
  • a questionnaire on using technology to extend a coursebook – this is an old chestnut of a topic, but one I’m rather a specialist in. Oxford University Press have very kindly invited me to provide a VHS teacher training workshop on combining the new Headway with online tools, a workshop due on 21 June.

As I work out how to set up those questionnaires and the arguments to go with them, I’ll be rereading Theresa’s and Paul’s related posts on their great (discontinued) blog,

Bella ciao, blogroll

Posted by Anne on December 25th, 2013

I’ve deleted my old blogroll, which hailed from the heyday of teachers blogging (about 2009-2011). More than half of the blogs linked to were no longer being updated, and many new ones have emerged over the past year or two, some of whom have also in part given up in the meantime. I’ve found it very time consuming to manipulate my back end to delete and add individual blogs. So: Blogroll, bella ciao!

Tag: 11 facts, questions, answers among ELT bloggers

Posted by Anne on December 22nd, 2013

I’ve been  tagged in a Twitter-cum-teacher-blog game, and am happy to play by the rules:

  1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  3.  Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  4.  List 11 bloggers.
  5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

1. Thank you, dear  Eva Buyuksimkesyan (on Twitter: ‏@evab2001) and Janet Bianchini (Twitter ‏@janetbianchini for tagging me. Season’s greetings to you ladies! May your fondest wishes for 2014 come true. Read the rest of this entry »

Our house

Posted by Anne on December 22nd, 2013

onkelbraesigHelmut and I have decided to move to the Hufeisensiedlung / Horseshoe Estate in Berlin, a social housing estate designed in 1925-33 by architect Bruno Taut, municipal planning head Martin Wagner, garden architect Leberecht Migge and Neukölln gardens director Ottokar Wagler. It is one of the earliest such estates in Germany, a physical metaphor of the utopian ideals that its planners had for communal living in Weimar Germany. The estate was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008 as one of six Berlin Modernism Housing Estates, and since 2010 has been listed as a garden monument.

We’ll be renovating for a while before we move in, and have to budget and plan and get permissions and select a builder and coordinate schedules. Exciting. Read the rest of this entry »