Today I provide links for designing courses in schools, language power struggles, an epic dictionary and achieving fluency.
Freakonomics has a Radio Podcast which reported on the an experimental math program in NYC that’s part of an overall concept shift on teaching. This is an example of good, iterative design in teaching. It also acknowledges a simple truth: everyone learns differently. I can’t wait till foreign languages teach with this approach. I previously discussed design and language courses on this blog.
When two people can’t decide on what language to communicate in, a language power struggle has ensued. Sinosplice had two posts on language power struggles. The first describes the dynamics that lead to these struggles. In the second, a linguistics professor adds to the discussion. I hate power struggles. It annoys me when I use a sub-optimal language for communication, but sometimes in China I find I have to.
I was excited to read on Pinyin.info that the Grand Ricci has been released on DVD (as opposed to the dead-tree version which was released in 2006). Work on this dictionary started in the 50s! That’s 60 years ago! With over 280,000 expressions and 13,000+ characters, it’s an amazing accomplishment. Still, the cynic in me gets cynical: if languages are always changing and it takes such a long time to create a dictionary, how much of the dictionary is filled with words that have “gone extinct”? How useful will this dictionary be for people who actually want to speak modern Chinese?
This reminded me that to truly become fluent in a language, there really are a lot of words you need to know – there are so many words I don’t know, even about cars & traffic (which is just one topic out of millions). So many more.
Most people learning a language look to textbooks first. But textbooks have a very narrow range of vocabulary and task you can learn. In the real world, topics of discussion aren’t limited to basics like “What hobbies do you like?” and “Where are you from?”. To achieve more than a basic proficiency in a language, you have to really look long and hard for good material. I like watching interview shows. Nothing simulates a conversation more closely than an interview (which is basically an edited conversation).
- Freakanomics Radio: How is a bad radio station like the public school system
- Lingomi Blog: Language Learning, Learned Helplessness and Design
- Sinosplice: Language Power Struggles
- Sinosplice: Orlando Kelm on Power Struggles
- Pinyin.info: Grand Ricci DVD available
- Mandarin Segments: The Taxi Driver Who Taught Me Everything