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Monday, March 18, 2013

Los nombres de América Latina.... Pero ¿cuál?

Bastenier a EL PAIS:

América Latina.... Pero ¿cuál? Porque hay más de una y no da igual decir Tegucigalpa que Buenos Aires. Hay una América meridional de mayoría euro-descendiente; una América andina que a medida que avanza hacia el norte, de Chile al istmo, se va indianizando; una América caribeña, continental e insular, que se enriquece con la negritud; una Mesoamérica que abarca dos océanos, donde cobrizo, negro y blanco se juntan sin confundirse; y la América supremamente mestizada, de Chiapas a Río Bravo.
Existe algo, sin embargo, que las une y permite hablar de América Latina: España. En todos esos países se habla español como lengua principal y en la mayor parte de los casos, propia, aunque con las variantes que la antropología impone. Hasta hace solo unas décadas la religión, la Iglesia, era un vínculo tan sólido como la lengua. Pero cada día lo es menos por la ofensiva protestante que financia el dólar norteamericano. Según fuentes vaticanas, millares de feligreses abandonan incesantemente la Iglesia; el New York Times lo cifraba hace unos años, quizá confundiendo sus deseos con realidades, en 8.000 tránsfugas diarios. Pero lo cierto es que en los últimos 25 años América Latina ha perdido entre un quinto y un cuarto de su parroquia católica.

SECCION NOMBRES de la America latina. 
EL PAÍS aborda en una serie de artículos el origen de los nombres de las naciones latinoamericanas, con motivo del Bicentenario (1810-2010) de su independencia. Historiadores del continente explican el proceso, complejo en varios casos, hasta llegar a las denominaciones actuales. Detrás de ellas se esconden historias curiosas y numerosas connotaciones políticas surgidas en el nacimiento de estos Estados.
Coordinadores: José Carlos Chiaramonte, Carlos Marichal y Aimer Granados.

Uruguayos y orientales: itinerario de una síntesis compleja

Los orígenes de la denominación de la República Oriental del Uruguay no son menos históricamente complejos que aquellos de muchos otros países latinoamericanos, como lo revela el ensayo de Ana Frega, de la Universidad de la República (Montevideo)

En la Asamblea Constituyente en 1829 se alzaron severas voces de rechazo a integrar la "Nación Montevideana". Finalmente se aceptó el nombre de "Estado Oriental del Uruguay", el que se mantuvo hasta la reforma constitucional de 1918, que impuso el actual de "República Oriental del Uruguay"

Saturday, March 16, 2013

the many deaths of English

Apple’s Siri system can answer spoken restaurant requests.
If, as Laurie Anderson sang, language is a virus, then English is the common cold.
Jeff Yang states that it is already ubiquitous — English has an estimated 1.5 billion speakers — it’s only growing more so, given its status in fast-growing emerging markets. In China alone, over 50,000 private English schools have sprung up to accommodate professionals and parents skeptical of the quality of the nation’s standardized language education.
To see some reflections on the issue in RURAL China, click here.

“The reports of my death 

are greatly exaggerated.” 

         ― Mark Twain

Below the Beltway

Goodbye, cruel words: English. It's dead to me.

It succumbed last month at the age of 1,617 after a long illness. It is survived by an ignominiously diminished form of itself.
The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post. A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the "youngest" daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their "younger" daughter.
The language's demise took few by surprise. Signs of its failing health had been evident for some time on the pages of America's daily newspapers, the flexible yet linguistically authoritative forums through which the day-to-day state of the language has traditionally been measured. Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.

David Crystal. He’s written a book on the subject of electronic media and its impact on the English language, aptly called “Txtng: the Gr8 Db8” where he argues against the popular belief that texting leads to poor literacy among young learners.

Mei ban fa. Language teaching in rural China a national embarrassment.

Learning English in China? “Mei ban fa.” (It can’t be done.) 

SEEING Red in China, a blog by an American teacher there, makes a provocative argument. Behind the eye-catching number that 300m people either are learning or have learned English in China is a depressing reality. Classes are extremely poor, the teachers themselves not fluent in English. Rote memorisation is the norm—a fact Tom, the blogger, buttresses with his own experience of reading Chinese texts out loud, for hours every day, at Beijing's specialist university for foreign languages.  He says he was never once asked to produce his own sentences. Shocking if true.
By the by, he makes another provocative point: that rural literacy in Chinese (not English) is in fact far worse than authorities say. Farmers simply don't use the written language enough to maintain their knowledge of thousands of characters. 

Yet from the moment you step off the plane, you start to question whether or not 25% of the population really learned anything more than “Hallloow,” “A-What-a is-a your name-a?”. and “I’m fine, thank you and you? (with a rapidly rising pitch to indicate the question mark)” and “Chinglish” signs abound as online translators (like Google translate) seem to be the only authority on language, where  much Chinglish spreads.  
As in the picture.

Summary: deep impression to your 2 points mentioned from the magazine:  poor level of English and poor literacy from farmers. Up to 3oo million English learners??
“The job of a journalist is to simplify and to exaggerate” 
John Humphrys
About the deat of English, click here.

Some reflexions from English teachers who worked there:
1. NO USE. I taught English there for a few years myself. After school, there’s simply no need for them to use it. I didn’t know much Chinese by the time I left, but I can tell you…not using it at all for the last six years has me remembering little more than “ni hao”. I can’t even remember the names of most food I used to love! So I think the problem is probably largely due to lack of use.
2. TESTS. The main problem facing effective teaching in China is indeed the gaokao, as well as its relatives CET and TEM. These tests do not check real acquisition of language, but just the rote memorization of vocabulary lists and grammar structures. It’s perfectly possible to ace the gaokao and be entirely unable to communicate in English. Since these tests are the only thing that matter, all English teachers (generally) do is cram as much repetition as possible in and cut out anything even vaguely communicative. 
3. LIES: Here is something of a pattern with a lot of things in China: There is a stupid policy, everyone recognizes it’s stupid, but it has to be done, so everyone gets to work to “get it done.” That is, by cheating, by faking, by lying, or by whatever it takes. In the end the leaders on the higher level make a bigger lie out of many smaller lies on the lower levels; but given time, just about everyone begins to believe the house of lies they have built.
4. FROM OUTSIDE. What you are experiencing is shared:  “Am I wasting my time? Are they learning anything? Is it just about the test and getting credit?” “When can I go home?” Very few if any of the local people can communicate even after 6 years of language classes and more if they move on to some kind of post secondary education.
5. FACE OR SHAME. the Chinese don’t actually care what they get out of English lessons. They merely do it for face. It’s their equivalent of Americans over-extending themselves financially to drive a bloody German car that’ll impress their friends. You know very well not to trust a single Chinese statistic. to assume 95% can read and write in Chinese is as fabricated as the goods they sell.
6. FLAWED TEACHERS. When I went to college in Nanyang, Henan, my English teachers were all a joke. I had Greg Rhue the girl touching drunk, Jerry Urbanthe stupid and violent, and Robert Baggio the sociopath pedophile. They all “taught” this old ESL grammar/game/scenario English class. It was nothing more than a waste of time. The teachers were all losers from their own country who had some sort of professional god complex because they speak English. I hated it actually. 
7. TECHNOLOGY. We need a new method that will be based on latest developments in our Digital era and new learning habits of Digital Learners.  It is nearly impossible to think in Chinese and try to speak in English; learners should be given a tool that will automatically stop cross-translation and help them to formulate direct links between English words and images and situations which they describe without using subconscious translation into Chinese. Also, we need to  trains the brain to recognize sounds (phonemes) and word blocks in a new language. See Arkady Zilberman's Language bridge
  • Believe it or not, this actually sounds like the situation in Hong Kong too!
  • Errrr, try living and teaching in Italy. You don’t have to go that far to encounter all of the aforementioned problems!!!!!!!!
  • The truth is the majority of island native Puerto Ricans speak next to no English. The official stat is 17% fluency in English

Monday, March 11, 2013

Many lies lie between one truth, no Doubt -PLAY

Doubt is a drama written by John Patrick Shanley
Doubts, gossips , parable
The Setting of the Play: Bronx, New York - 1964. The play takes place, mostly, in the offices of a Catholic School.

the playwright argues in his preface, "deep down, under the chatter we have come to a place where we know that we don't know... anything. But nobody's willing to say that.

to read about the plot, here


"Gossip kills three: the teller, the listener, and the subject."

 Having a sharp tongue may cut your own throat.

Click the link to enjoy The Sermons of Father Flynn (Doubt)

A woman was gossiping with a friend about a man she hardly knew— I know none of you have ever done this—that night she had a dream. A great hand appeared over her and pointed down at her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession.
She got the old parish priest, Father O’Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. “Is gossiping a sin?” she asked the old man. “Was that the hand of God Almighty pointing a finger at me? Should I be asking your absolution? Father, tell me, have I done something wrong?”
“Yes!” Father O’Rourke answered her. “Yes, you ignorant, badly brought-up female! You have borne false witness against your neighbor, you have played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed!”
So the woman said she was sorry and asked for forgiveness. “Not so fast!” says O’Rourke. “I want you to go home, take a pillow up on your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me!”
So the woman went home, took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to the roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. “Did you gut the pillow with the knife?” he says.”Yes, Father.” “And what was the result?” “Feathers,” she said. A world of feathers.
“Feathers?” he repeated. “Feathers everywhere, Father!”
“Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out on the wind!”
“Well,” she said, “it can’t be done. I don’t know where they went. The wind took them all over.”
”And that,” said Father O’Rourke,“is gossip!”

What do you do when you’re not sure? That’s the topic of my sermon today.
Last year, when President Kennedy was assassinated, who among us did not experience the most profound disorientation? Despair? Which way? What now? What do I say to my kids? What do I tell myself? It was a time of people sitting together, bound together by a common feeling of hopelessness. But think of that! Your BOND with your fellow being was your Despair. It was a public experience. It was awful, but we were in it together. How much worse is it then for the lone man, the lone woman, stricken by a private calamity?
‘No one knows I’m sick.’
‘No one knows I’ve lost my last real friend.’
‘No one knows I’ve done something wrong.’
Imagine the isolation. Now you see the world as through a window. On one side of the glass: happy, untroubled people, and on the other side: you.
I want to tell you a story. A cargo ship sank one night. It caught fire and went down. And only this one sailor survived. He found a lifeboat, rigged a sail…and being of a nautical discipline…turned his eyes to the Heavens and read the stars. He set a course for his home, and exhausted, fell asleep. Clouds rolled in. And for the next twenty nights, he could no longer see the stars. He thought he was on course, but there was no way to be certain. And as the days rolled on, and the sailor wasted away, he began to have doubts. Had he set his course right? Was he still going on towards his home? Or was he horribly lost… and doomed to a terrible death? No way to know. The message of the constellations – had he imagined it because of his desperate circumstance? Or had he seen truth once… and now had to hold on to it without further reassurance? There are those of you in church today who know exactly the crisis of faith I describe. And I want to say to you: DOUBT can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone.

On the subject of doubt, Rabbi Sholom Ciment told this story:
The only survivor of a shipwreck washed up on a small uninhabited island.  He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.
Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements and to store his few possessions.  But then one day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky.
The worst had happened; everything was lost.  He was stung with grief and anger. "God, how could you do this to me?" he cried.  (He certainly had his doubts about God!)  Early the next day, however, he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island.  It had come to rescue him.  "How did you know I was here?" the weary man asked his rescuers.  "We saw your smoke signal," they replied."
  (Source:  "Fire And Smoke," by  Rabbi Sholom Ciment, The Jewish TImes)