Archive for September, 2009

The best way to learn Spanish?

September 14, 2009

In the Costa Blanca News (Spain) this week I came across a column that hit on the right way to learn. It presented a passage in English and followed it immediately with a translation of the passage in Spanish underneath. When I first started learning Spanish I found parallel texts like this had a much greater effect than expected. Even though much of the language was too difficult for me, after reading lengthy passages of Spanish with an English translation handy, I felt I was picking up much more than vocabulary. I felt I was gradually getting a feel for the language even if I could not produce any evidence of this in my own output. I was getting a feel for basic grammatical constructions and also a feel for the underlying attitude, mood and psyche of the author. Perhaps more credence should be given to the use of parallel texts when language teaching generally?

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John Cleese teaches me a lesson

September 8, 2009

Who’d have thought it! John Cleese of Minister of Funny walks claim, helps write fascinating book.

I’d been advised to read the book by John Cleese and Robin Skynner Families and how to survive them. I had asked my local Writers’ Group how I should approach writing up my language learning diary I’s written for my PhD thesis. One of the members suggested that the format of Families and how to survive them might suit my book.

 On reading Families and how to survive them I find it’s not just the format that makes it – the writing is very approachable – not a patronizing word in sight as we are gradually led to greater understanding of what makes us tick and why we choose the mates we do. In a conversational style we are reminded of what had been discussed before, have specific points magnified and are generally entertained and informed in a gentle, relaxed and enthralling manner. It’s going to be very difficult to write a book of similar interest and tone!

How important is it to check everything thoroughly?

September 3, 2009

No matter what you do, we are always told to check what we have done, sometimes not once, not twice but at least three times. This is an irksome task, but essential if we are going to be accurate and clearly understood by others. This applies to one’s writing and I am the first to admit that I have to force myself to read through what I have written even once.

However, it struck me yesterday, that the need for thorough checking procedures has far more serious consequences in other fields. I have been in contact with a geneticist at a large hospital. The plan was to see if I have a genetic inclination to cancer. I went to the nurse at our GP’s surgery.  My veins would not produce enough blood to get a sample. The geneticist sent me repeat phials, with a self-addressed envelope and my GP took the blood samples. She placed the phials in the self-addressed envelope and the samples were collected by the car provided by the genetic institute. No results came. I wrote and asked what had happened. I received a letter stating that the genetic institute had not received the samples and that the GP would probably be able to shed light on what had happened.

It seemed clear to me that the assumption was that the GP was at fault. I have checked with the GP and the evidence at the surgery is that the blood samples were taken by the genetic institute’s car.  I wonder, had the geneticist checked thoroughly? Had the car driver confirmed receiving a list of samples received that day? Had the laboratory signed for specific samples delivered? Were there any ‘unclaimed’ samples left over that day? Had the car driver thrown the samples out the window?

It seems obvious that the error occurred at the genetic institute. By failing to check things thoroughly it makes one wonder about the accuracy and reliability of their laboratory results.  Let us hope there are sufficient checking procedures when they do their tests!