Monthly Archive for December, 2008

absolutely intercultural 73 +++ Culture as the Software of the Mind +++ teaching intercultural awareness +++

"Culture as the Software of the Mind"

In our show today we look at Geert Hofstede’s statement of “Culture as the Software of the Mind” and will try to explore that metaphor to the extreme. We will be asking ourselves how we get to learn about a piece of new software and whether this experience can really be transferred to learning about a new culture. What, for example, can be done in the classroom to raise the intercultural awareness of students who prepare for their stays abroad?

absolutely programmed:
In a round-table discussion with Berit Wiebe and Karsten Kneese we asked ourselves: “Where do we get our culture from? Do we get if from our parents like a new version of Photoshop for Christmas? Or do we get it from our peers like we would get new software if we illegally shared a programme with our friends? Or does the cultural learning rather work like the spell check in Word, which learns from us and improves because of the way we use it and add new items to it?

absolutely disturbing:
Audrey Fernandez-Diehl, who was born in Malaysia, studied in Australia and New Zealand, lived in Switzerland for a while and now teaches intercultural communication at university level in Germany tells us about her concept of culture, whether she thinks culture can be taught and about a very disturbing cultural game called Rufa Rufa. As Audrey teaches intercultural awareness, she says that her training is both, for foreign students who come to her university but also for her own students who prepare for going abroad.

absolutely grateful:
On this last day of Christmas I would like to say that Anne and I have enjoyed another year of being in intercultural contact with you, the listeners, through our show. We appreciate your response, please keep it coming. Now, if you have not made any new year’s resolutions yet, maybe you could share your thoughts about the shows a little more with the other listeners on this blog using the “comment”-function. This show has given Anne and me many opportunities for having conversations about intercultural topics with experts and ordinary people which otherwise we would probably not have had. So, the two of us would also like to thank you, the listeners, for keeping us going and looking at intercultural issues from different angles on a fortnightly basis.

The next show will be coming to you on 9 January from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Jan Warnecke

absolutely intercultural 72 +++ hole in the wall +++ Babbel +++ iTalki +++ Chinese Pod +++

A social networking language learning site

Today’s show is devoted mostly to language learning. This is partly because intercultural awareness is tightly linked to language learning but also because there has been an explosion of new internet sites to help you learn various languages. This is not new of course. What is new is that these sites work on the premise of building a community of people interested in helping each other out by offering help in their native language while trying to learn another language. This means that you can exchange messages and meet up live using text, audio or video so that you can practice in real life situatons. Social networking for a purpose, if you want. You’d be amazed at what language learning websites like Babbel can lead to!

absolutely universal:
So often those of us interested in intercultural matters are looking for differences but in this case not only has Professor Mitra come up with a surprising theory, that children will actively organise their own learning if left to their own devices, but also presents some amazing evidence to show that this applies not only in India but all over the world.

It all started with an internet enabled computer with touch screen, installed in a public area in an Indian slum area and I really recommend that you take a look at some of the movies available about this experiment to really appreciate what is going on. The children taught themselves how to use the internet and a basic English vocabulary because so much of the Internet is in English. But in further experiments Mitra showed that the children could also teach themselves complex biological concepts and even French when they were presented with a graphics editing program which was available only in French! That’s the clever link to this show’s language theme by the way! Mitra described this particular feat as a double positive. The children wanted to use the program therefore they needed to learn the language whereas adults would tend to have the attitude that because they didn’t know the language then they wouldn’t be able to use the program. So how does Mitra explain children’s ability to organise their own learning like this?

absolutely social:
One of the key findings from Mitra’s observations is that it is the working in small groups which is key. So perhaps it is no coincidence that the newest internet language learning sites such as Babbel or iTalki, rely heavily on the social aspect for their attraction. So let’s ask Dr Elizabeth Hanson-Smith why she joined Babbel when she wanted to improve her Spanish.

absolutely simple:
So that was Spanish. Now what about Chinese, or more accurately, Mandarin, is that easy to learn? Well it seems it depends on what your goals are according to Ken Carroll in Shanghai who is the man behind Chinese Pod, a learning system based on the spoken language rather than the written language. In fact you can try out much of the Chinese pod materials for free to test for yourself.

absolutely beautiful:
A great deal of language learning these days is purely functional. You do it because it’s on the school curriculum or you need it for your job. But there are still people who learn a language for it’s own sake. One such person was Gloria from Hungary who is using iTalki to learn English and Turkish. The English is for work but the Turkish is for pleasure.

absolutely impossible:
Now we’ll return to Ken Carroll in Shanghai to discuss the thorny problem of writing Mandarin. He reckons it’s absolutely impossible. I am amazed that Ken says he can always find someone to write Chinese for him. I must say that I haven’t found that to be the case for me here in Denmark, so many people have to suffer my poor written Danish.

absolutely impossible (part 2):
Our final segment was a last question to Professor Mitra who has just moved from New Delhi to Newcastle where they speak with the strong Geordie accent. Does he understand it? I must just say that I love the Geordie accent but it does take some getting used to.

So don’t complain to us about that but if you do have any other comments or suggestions then you can always leave a comment on our blog at www.absolutely-intercultural.com or send us an email or even an audio file to contact@absolutely-intercultural.com.

The next show will be coming to you on 26 December from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.
So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke











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