A libertarian inclined blog for teachers and learners of all ages. Comments, emails and links to other educational stuff welcome.

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Category archive: Languages

Thursday July 10 2008

Again very little to say today, so try something else that is packed with stuff.  A few days ago I got an email flagging up 100 Unbelievably Useful Reference Sites You’ve Never Heard Of, which says pretty much what it says on the tin, but sadly, in American rather than in English.

I also got an email recently urging me to get interested in this.  Here is a testimonial about it:

“Je vous envoie ce mail du Canada. Je suis arrivé il y a 3 jours dans la famille d’Andrew, mon corres. Ils sont tous trop sympas! Demain on va aux chutes du Niagara. Waou!”

Sounds good.

Sunday July 06 2008

Here’s another of those it sounds good but please don’t make it compulsory for all schools ideas.  This time, it’s about children teaching other children lots of different languages.

Sunday February 17 2008

imageRemember Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who got into trouble in Sudan.  Now she’s off to China.

Saturday February 09 2008

I’m mostly watching the rugby today, so my thanks to Johnathan Pearce, who has just done some edublogging for me, here:

Children are naturally inquisitive and rebellious against authority - thank goodness - so my reservations about some of the people who want to school their kids at home are not very large, although I do not dismiss them lightly. I sometimes hear in discussions about home-schooling the old canard about how children educated this way are less well ‘socialised’ than their supposedly more fortunate, state or private-school peers. I doubt this: having myself suffered the joys of state schooling, with all the charms of bullying and indifferent teaching that went with it, the idea of encouraging a possibly more individualistic culture as a result of home schooling is to be welcomed (my education experience was not all bad: I got a good degree in the end, so must have done something right). Many people who have been subjected to more than 11 years of compulsory education in a boarding school or some state school never recover their self-confidence as adults. In any event, the whole point here is that education should not have to follow one ‘ideal’ system at all. As a libertarian, I say let education evolve where it will. Does that mean that Walmart or Barclays Bank should be able to run schools? Yes, why the heck not? I look forward to reading headlines like this: “Education Ltd, Britain’s largest listed schooling company, launched a daring bid for Lycee France, the Paris-listed school chain which has boasted the highest examination result tests for the last five years. The deal, if it goes through, would produce a group to rival that of School Corp, America’s largest education chain by market cap.”

My sentiments exactly.

Commenters raise the specter of home-schooled children being dumbed down by Christian Fundamentalists, rather than smartened up by, you know, us.  Midwesterner responds thus:

My sister has home schooled all of her children in a state that gives home schoolers carte blanc. By state law, the government bodies are forbidden to even test home school children unless they are entering the school system and are being tested for placement.

She is a fundamentalist, the wife of a fundamentalist preacher. She believes in creation and kept computer internet connections out of her house until very recently to prevent access to child inappropriate content. Her definition of child inappropriate.

So how bad did things turn out for those poor helpless children. Four of them have reached college age. All four have gone to college and graduated with full academic scholarships. All in ‘hard’ sciences. 2 have bachelor of science degrees, one is going on farther, the other one just graduated and may go on later. One is now working on a PHD in some extremely mathematical micro electronics. One has a health related degree and wants to work in the 3rd world.

All of them can pick and choose their jobs and are actively recruited by headhunters.

Yup. Sure is dangerous letting fundamentalist parents teach their own children. A lot safer to turn them over to the teacher’s union.

Heh.  Also: pardon his French.

Monday February 04 2008

"Should be compulsory reading” is what people say when they like a book and think you ought to read it too.  Mercifully this is just a “figure of speech”, i.e. they don’t mean it.  They just think it’s a jolly good book.  But when somebody wants people generally to learn something, that somebody will often say that whatever subject he is on about should be “compulsory in schools” or “part of the standard school syllabus”, and all too often, that somebody really means it.

I’m used to British persons saying such things, but I never thought that Poland’s deputy minister of education would join the chorus.  He thinks that the Polish language should be a major part of the syllabus in British schools.

“It should have a higher status,” he said. “It would be unrealistic to say we could set up Polish as a second or third language in British schools in time for the next school year. But the year after, why not?”

British people have no particular reason to want their children to learn Polish, any more than French, Spanish, or Chinese.  As for Polish people living in England, why on earth would they need anybody to teach their children Polish?

If I was the Polish deputy minister of education, I’d be more concerned about the standard of English teaching in Britain.

Tuesday January 01 2008

Check out, if you are inclined, Tim Ferriss writing about How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour.  It turns out that what he means by “learn” is learn whether he can learn it fluently in three months, or not:

If you’re a native Japanese speaker, respectively handicapped with a bit more than 20 phonemes in your language, some languages will seem near impossible. Picking a compatible language with similar sounds and word construction (like Spanish) instead of one with a buffet of new sounds you cannot distinguish (like Chinese) could make the difference between having meaningful conversations in 3 months instead of 3 years.

So this posting is actually most useful if you are in the somewhat unusual position of wanting to learn a foreign language, but not any particular foreign language.  It will help you to choose one that you can learn quickly.

This posting was recently linked to by Alan Little, the latter link to the blog as a whole being because there are later postings after the first one, with more to come.  AL is using the system to check out Russian.  Why?  And why Russian?

Since Step One of one of the more common methods – fall in love with, and subsequently marry, a native speaker of the language – doesn’t seem to have worked out for me, language-wise, I thought I’d give some of Tim’s hints a try.

My problem with languages has never been the various sounds.  These I can do.  It’s remembering all the words that I find impossible.  When in France, for instance, I have to suppress my excellent French accent, because it makes me sound like I know French.  But I don’t.  I merely know how to read it aloud.

So, any tips for juicing up my vocabulary?  I won’t follow them because I am insufficiently motivated, but I’d be interested to know what I ought to be doing if I were motivated, as might others.

By the way, Happy New Year everybody.