Can Learning a Second Language Destroy Your Native Tongue?

GUEST COLUMN:

For those who have been living in a country outside your home, and have had problems forgetting some words in your own language, you’re not alone. I’ve had this experience, especially since I’ve been living in Germany for almost 20 years. But so has this guest columnist, and here’s a short explanation for this. You don’t necessarily lose your language, but you integrate it into the one of your current country of residency. Enjoy! 🙂

Source: Can Learning a Second Language Destroy Your Native Tongue?

 

 

Genre of the Week: Mein Enkel

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Communication- the key to eliminating misunderstandings, solving problems and bringing people together. When one thinks of communication, we think of two things: a letter to a penpal or best friend living hundreds of kilometers/ miles away and talking to friends and family in a closed setting. I also think of communication as enjoying a cup of coffee while getting to know new people, talking with colleagues over lunch in a cafeteria like this one (this photo above was taken at the University of Bayreuth during my time as an English teacher in 2010), or even talking to parents and family members over the phone to see how life is like back home in Minnesota.

When the term communication comes to mind these days, we have the Smartphone, facebook and instagram. While they are meant to bring us together, they also separate us by not allowing the healthy face-to-face verbal communication. And while many in the older generations, especially the Baby-boomers have tried embracing the new technology, others have considered them the instrument of evil, especially when the computer language is English and it has penetrated many native languages, resulting in a bit of Denglish. 😉

And this is what takes us to this Genre of the Week, entitled “Mein Enkel.” Produced by Sebastian23, based in Cloppenburg, the short film was released in 2012 with a setting being in a semi-empty restaurant in Bochum. The characters in the film consist of three people in their 60s (specifically, the older version of the Babyboomers), a grandmother (Mathilda) and two of her male friends (Eduard and Roland), one of whom is into sugar and has problems catching up with the conversation with the other two. One of the characters (Mathilda) starts off the conversation of her grandchild registering on facebook and her being added to his friends’ list, which sets the conversation in motion about social networking using pure Denglish. Have a look at this rather “flustig” scene below:

This film has been used as a platform for many conversations and presentations on the pros and cons of social networking, specifically, who profits from this new form of communication and whether social networking is destroying the way we communicate with other people or if it a supplement to oral and written communication. Especially when Denglish (a combination of German and English) is becoming a hot subject among linguists and teachers of foreign language as many in these circles have debated on how inappropriate the language is. Personally speaking, Denglish is an informal form of communication which is best understood when people know both English and German and can speak it outside the work environment. However it is very funny to see how the language is used and therefore, there is an exercise for you to try.

  1. Decipher the conversation among the three characters in the story. What was the story about?
  2. Why do they consider the grandson’s registration on facebook to be an “epic fail?”
  3. What does Mathilda do with her grandson’s facebook page? Does she add him or not?
  4. What other social networks do they mention? Which one got the LOL by Mathilda?
  5. Why does Mathilda say “Opfer” after her granddaughter leaves to go play? What’s the meaning behind this?
  6. Who loves the sugar in the coffee? 
  7. Discussion: What are some advantages and setbacks towards social networking?
  8. Discussion: When should a child have a social network page, like facebook, and under what conditions?
  9. Discussion: Would you introduce or even allow a friend or family member of the Babyboomer generation (like the three) to social networking? If so, how would you teach them how to use it? If not, why not?

Please note, this is good for people learning German or English as a foreign language. 🙂

You can click to the website of Sebastian23 here to see more about the German slam poet and musician: http://sebastian23.org/

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All They Want is Stuff: The Use of Stop-Gaps in English Part I

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Willow Creek Bridge in Mason City in the 1950s: New Bridge on the Left, Antique 1800s Bridge on the Right. Photo courtesy of Iowa Department of Transportation

This article is co-produced with sister column, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in connection with a project being constructed.

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Stop-gaps. Each language has its set of stop-gap words that people use, either as a substitute for a word they were looking for (but couldn’t find it), or as a bridge in the conversation with the purpose of avoiding a pause and revealing their insecurities in communicating with other people. Many of us are guilty of using these stop-gaps, both in our native tongue as well as when learning a foreign language. Here are some examples of how they are used in English:

  1. In connection with the picture above, I had my final conversation with my grandmother back in January 2007 about her community’s strive to destroying historic buildings and bridges, including a bridge near her home and a high school that used to be a haven for theatricals. Her reaction to the city’s plan to tear down the high school: “All they want is stuff!”  Difficult to replace stuff with new or modern things, but she was opposed to modernization, fighting all the way up to her death three months later.  Highly spirited woman I admired. 🙂 <3
  2. A former college classmate goes off on a tangent over a teenager’s excessive use of “like.” Example: “I was like great. We could like meet at like 7:30 at like the theatre. Would you like that?”  Overhearing this in a restaurant, she paints a vivid reaction on facebook.  Geil! 🙂
  3. A college professor stresses the importance of not using thing in a paper and was appalled to see at least 10 of these words in a 25-page paper in English. That student bawled his eyes out while receiving a failing grade, using that as one of the main reasons justifying the need to rewrite it.  The professor was Czech and his student was from Saxony, who had spent time in Iowa as a high school exchange student, by the way. 😉

But the underlying question is which of these stop-gap words are really informal and used for personal communication, and which ones are formal and can be used  for formal purposes as well as for research papers? In connection with a project being conducted at a university in Jena, a question for the forum is being introduced for you to think about. All you need is two minutes of your time to answer the following questions:

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1. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of verbal communication?

 

2. Which of these words do you use the most in terms of written communication?

3. Which of these words do you think are considered stop-gaps and used for informal communication?

4. Which of these words do you think are NOT stop-gaps because of their use in formal communication?

5. Why do you use stop-gap words in English?

For the first two questions, only one word applies; the next two has a limit of five possibilities and the last question has more than one answer possible. Each one has an option where you can add other words and items that are not on the list.  You have until 16 May, 2016 to vote. The results and some exercises will come in June. In case of any questions, please feel free to contact Jason Smith at the Files, using the contact details in the website under About.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to find out how often these stop-gap words are being used and why they are used. Already there have been discussions about this subject and even the author has put together a worksheet on this subject for use in college (that will be presented in the June article). It will help linguists and English teachers find ways to modify the use of stop-gaps and (especially for the latter) encourage students of English to use other alternatives and widen their vocabulary. Interesting is to compare the use of stop-gap words in English with that of other languages, including German- one of the words has been used here in this article.

Can you figure this one out and find the English equivalent? 🙂

 

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The Beamer and Laptop: An Inseparable Love Affair

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If there is a rule book on how to effectively teach an English as a Foreign Language class and there is a section on the usage of technology, one should expect to abide by the following two rules:

  1. No matter how hard you prepare, always expect the element which will make you feel unprepared, and
  2. The beamer and the laptop are like a relationship between a man and a woman: No matter how hard you try, if they don’t connect, it doesn’t work.

The usage of technical equipment in the classroom, be it the beamer or the Smartboard, or be it a video conference call or technical equipment with special features to ooh and ahh the students, has become more and more popular for use in any class, including foreign language teaching. Yet no matter how much experience and competence the teacher has with the use of technical equipment, something bizarre can happen at any time, which there is no control over.

This takes us to the love affair between the laptop and the beamer. Usually, like a man loving a woman, when a laptop is connected with the beamer, then it must work 100% of the time, right? Not in the case of the story of a teacher and a group of students working at a large electronics company in Germany recently. The story behind it is as follows:

In the first three months of teaching English for business, the group met in a small classroom that featured a mobile beamer, speakers and a flip chart with markers. The teacher provided his own laptop, which was an Acer running on Windows 8. The beamer was used to show students the vocabulary of certain words covered in a chapter- a way of saving paper used from the flip chart. The connection between the beamer and the laptop worked well, with no problems whatsoever. After the third month, the group moved to a bigger room- a conference room, which was equipped with an overhead beamer. This is where the problem began…..

Normally the overhead beamer did not have any problems with any laptops used by the company employees and executives. This was claimed and testified by the students having used the beamer before, and all the computers were also running on Windows 7 or 8. In the case of the teacher’s laptop, when connected to the overhead beamer via cable and activated, there was no connection. The laptop was rebooted and reconnected to the beamer. Again, it didn’t work. The ends of the cable were switched and the two devices were reconnected. Again, sela vie. Both devices were shut down for five minutes before being reactivated again. The laptop and the overhead beamer were reconnected and there was a glimmer of hope as the connection was established. Yet two minutes later, it ceased! The teacher’s face becomes redder with rage as he was running behind schedule and he needed the beamer for a pair of video exercises. Desperate, he has one of the students bring in the mobile beamer where he uses the cable from there to hook the laptop up with the overhead beamer! Didn’t work. He then connected the laptop with the mobile beamer, using that cable. And…….

it worked! 🙂

Both the teacher and the students were scratching their heads as to determine the cause of this bad connection between the laptop and the overhead beamer as well as why the connection worked with the mobile one. It was bewitched for some reason. Yet it served as a reminder of a relationship that went awry. No matter how much effort is put in, if a man loves a woman but the feelings are not mutual, one can try everything, but the end result will be either failure or an unhealthy relationship. It can only work if both have something in common and are willing to develop the relationship further. This also applies when a relationship does not work in one environment but works suddenly in a different environment, after a short break.

And while work is underway to determine the cause of the failed connection between the laptop and the overhead beamer, and eventually provide a new cable for the latter, the main idea behind this story is no matter how well-prepared you are for teaching or even a presentation, you can expect something like this to happen, just a much as a relationship going bad. So keep this in mind next time:

PREPARE FOR BEING UNPREPARED!  CHECK YOUR EQUIPMENT BEFORE EXECUTING!! MAKE SURE THE LOVE AFFAIR WORKS!!! <3

Thank you! 😀

Author’s Note: The photo was taken at a different company after a session, where both the beamer and the laptop had a well-established connection. It was not allowed to photograph on the premises of the company where the incident took place. 

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In School in Germany: The Culling of Quatsch in German

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How to eliminate trash from the German language in order to make it more sophisticated

A few weeks ago, you know, there was like a cool article from that whatchamacallit online thing, where writers, like put down something like 15 words that should, you know, be eliminated from the vocabulary, because they are, like very dailylike and not good for use in college. Do you know wha I’m sayin?

First reaction from the audience: “Mr. Smith, can you please repeat that? I don’t know what you are saying.” (Typical reaction from a dedicated student from Denmark learning English for her job.”

Again: Don’t ya know, there was like an article on taking out stuff from the language, you know, English. It was like we cannot use these words because they are, you know, babylike…..

Second reaction from the audience: Basketball star Elena Delle Donne shakes her head in disbelief and puts on her headset listening to some iTune music, getting mentally prepared for the next WNBA basketball game. Yet at the same time, a hysterical mother of three stands up and says this as a third reaction:

“If you say one more like, I’m gonna pound you! Do you know how many likes you’ve said in a MINUTE?!!”

You can imagine, how many responses came out regarding the article that was posted in the Files’ facebook pages as well as the pages in the circles dealing with Anglo-Saxon and German cultures: in the short paragraph above, identify the words that probably made it to the list made by the newspaper and in the group circles.

While English is becoming more diluted with slangs and other expressions, which is making the language less sophisticated in both the oral and written senses, the German language unfortunately is suffering from a similar fate.

Take a look at the example that a former colleague from a German Hochschule where I taught for two years  received from a student of civil engineering via e-mail:

Hi, ich hab mal ne frage zur presentation, wir sollen die ja schon 2 wochen vorher abgeben, was is aber wenn wir später noch was ändern wollen, ich glaub kaum das ich schon 2 wochen vorher die finale version der presentation hab und die 2 wochen lang für gut befinde und nichts mehr dran ändere, auserdem wollt ich wissen wann ich jez eigentlich meine presentation hab jez wies aussieht alles nach hinten verschoben und ich weis nich mehr wann meine dann ist…..

In English:

Hi! I have a question regarding my presentation. We should hand it in two weeks beforehand. However, what if we have to change something? We doubt our presentation will be done beforehand. In addition, I would like to know if it is possible to push my presentation date back and if so, when. (This is a shortened translation of the German text, by the way.)

This is from a native speaker of German. Do you trust him constructing the next bridge carrying a German Autobahn? Especially the one being planned at Rendsburg over the Baltic-North Sea Canal in the next two years?

If you are a German academic or an expatriate who has lived in Germany for more than ten years, like I have, you will see the mistakes in less than a second.  Sadly, more and more e-mails, papers, documents and even theses are containing words that do not belong in the German language if a person wants to write like Goethe or Schiller- words like: geil, doch, noch, was and –ne, as well as some Denglish words, such as liken, downloaden, fischen, etc. While one could communicate them orally (but please, sparingly), they do not belong on paper.

So what is there to do about the erosion of the German language? It is a surefire fact that we need to eliminate some stuff from the German language in order to make it pure again, just like with the English language. And while Germans have adopted many words from English that can be used, and vice versa, there are some words that just do not belong in the vocabulary, period.

If you were a German teacher, which words would you like to see your pupils NOT use- both orally as well as written? Here are the English words that many people have listed that should be at least capped for use:

Whatever, like, awesome, umm, stuff, thing, honestly, irregardless, would of (instead of would have), actually, viral, addicting, just, maybe, really, very, went, that, literally, and absolutely.

Und du? Welche deutsche Wörter möchtest du zum Verwenden begrenzen, außer was erwähnt wurden? Her mit deiner Liste in the Flensburg Files Comment page, sowie in den anderen Seiten und wir freuen uns auf den Vergleich zwischen den englischen und den deutschen Wörten!

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