Archive for 2010

absolutely intercultural 125 +++ Christmas time +++ New Year’s resolutions +++ international Xmas +++

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Today is the 24th of December – this means Christmas trees, mulled wine, lots of snow recently, and if you were lucky you may have spotted the odd reindeer. In our show today I asked how my guests celebrate Christmas in Australia, Hungary and Germany but also how people formulate their New Year’s resolutions in different cultures.

absolutely santa
Our exchange student and podcast enthusiast Lucy Warren talks to Barbara Neukirchen, who is responsible for the outgoing students from RheinAhrCampus, Remagen. Lucy is interested in how Barbara celebrates Christmas time and whether this could be seen as typical for Germany. In our first category Barbara tells Lucy on which days Germans celebrate Christmas and how they celebrate the count-down to Christmas.

absolutely positive
Have you thought about your New Year’s resolutions? For example stop smoking or drinking less alcohol? Or losing a couple of pounds by going to the gym regularly? I asked Beatrice about her resolutions and she explained to me the difference between positive and negative ones. In our second category we listen to Beatrice’s view about New Year’s resolutions.

absolutely festive
I put together a round table with Lucy from Australia, Emese from Hungary and Andreas from Germany. All of them shared their typical customs and Christmas traditions from their families with me. Of course this does not mean that everybody in their culture celebrates in the same way – sometimes this may be just the culture of that particular family or region. Let us listen to very different experience which range from Christmas on the beach to Advent Calendars.

Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 07. January 2011

The Team of “absolutely-intercultural” wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for supporting us!

Until then –
Bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 124 +++ Soundcities +++ Korea +++ Kenya +++ TED talks +++

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absolutely urban
Recently I came across an intriguing project called Soundcities. The project started in the 90s when an anonymous British artist known as Stanza started making sound recordings in cities all over the world. You can now go to the Soundcities website and choose a city or a mood and hear the sounds associated with it. Of course I went straight to the collection for Aarhus which is my nearest big city and among other things, found the familiar sound that the pedestrian crossing plays when it’s safe to cross the road. The project isn’t over yet so if you fancy going out and making some recordings then Stanza would love you to upload them to the website to add to the database. So what sounds would you record for your city? Well before you decide I’d like you to sit back and relax for three minutes while I play you a medley of sounds from a well-known city. The question is, can you guess which one?  So where did those sounds come from? I’ll be kind and accept answers from the right country. I recommend you go to soundcities.com and play around with the map and the sounds that you can find there. I also recommend the Soundmaps mixer page where you can create your own cacophony using the mixer on the page.  So where did the soundscape come from earlier in the show? I wonder if you guessed Asia? I wonder if you guessed South korea? The sounds in fact came from Seoul. I thought that would be the most appropriate to play for our conversation with Carol.

absolutely delicious
I was delighted when Carol from China contacted us saying she’s be willing to talk to us about her experience as an exchange student in Korea. Carol studies Korean and English at Nanjing Normal University in Jiangsu Province in China. She arrived in Korea in August and we talked about various things including food so this is the absolutely delicious segment but first I couldn’t resist asking how she had heard about our podcast.

absolutely on time
Samuel Osamba has been living in the US for 20 years but is originally from Kenya to which he returns on project work several times a year. He tried to leave a comment on the blog after our piece on the intercultural business webinar in October but there was a technical glitch. That is now solved so thank you Samuel for letting us know about that but also I was curious to find out more so I arranged to ring Samuel to see if he had another perspective on the issue of timekeeping in our segment absolutely on time. Samuel you’re quite right that Africa does not feature often enough in our podcast so if there is anybody out there from Africa who has some interesting stories to tell then please do get in touch.

absolutely critical
I’m not sure that we’ve had recorded critical incidents on this show before but I managed it as I spoke to Carol from China about her year abroad in Korea. Listen as I get it completely wrong not just once but twice in the space of five minutes in absolutely critical!

absolutely back to front
For our last segment I decided to play you one of the shorter sessions from TED talk. If you don’t know TED Talks yet then I strongly recommend that you go over to TED.com and choose one or two from the amazing selection of recorded talks by some amazing people. The TED talks are even starting to have their own superstars such as Sir Kenneth Robinson and Professor Sugata Mitra who both talk about education or Hans Roslin who makes statistics come alive or Jill Bolte Taylor giving a minute by minute account of a massive stroke she had. The TED slogan is ‘Ideas worth Spreading’ and I think they are addictive so watch out. The one I’m going to share with you today is by Derek Sivers’ entitled ‘Weird or just different?’ which is about how what you think may be true may not be true or absolutely back to front! One of our very first podcasts featured South African, Mark Anderson who went to South Korea and specifically mentioned this problem that the streets have no names. So now four years later, problem solved!

Our next show will be coming to you from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany on 24th December

So long … stay tuned!

The host of this show is Anne Fox : Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 123 +++ stereotypes +++ traveling +++ foreign countries +++

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On this show (no. 123) we will hear from the US, from South Korea and from Lebanon in the Middle East. I think this mix promises your dose of culture shocks from around the world and insights into new ways of thinking.

absolutely unpunctual
Have you ever made the experience that you traveled in a foreign country and because of your preparation or knowledge about this country your head is spinning with ready-made clichés about the people in that country? Often, when we are well prepared we really have the impression that we know a lot about the country we visit and the people who live there – but are these preconceived ideas the truth? Are they even helpful? In our first category I talked with Yoav Wachsmann, an American professor (originally from Israel) who travels a lot and comes over to Germany regularly. He told me what he liked most about his time in Europe but also how he had to revise his stereotypes as he was getting to know the Germans. He tells us an interesting story of misinterpretation where he thought that his German students were always late for their class until he discovered that in German Academia there is a system which could be called “formalized impunctuality”.

absolutely perfect
In our next category Anne Gründer, a student from Rhein Ahr Campus in Remagen told me why she took South-Korea as her destination for her semester abroad and what her friends’ reaction were like when they hear about that. Let us listen to how she enjoyed her trip to a completely different world and culture and how she spent her time in Korea.

absolutely specialized
Jennifer, an American professor who is teaching in Lebanon told me her story! She comes from Boston, in the US, is married with a Lebanese and is now living in Beirut. Many people back home are worried about her safety, because it seems to be dangerous living there, particularly as an American. But is it true? Is life more dangerous than in the US? In our last category Jennifer shared with me some stories, experiences she made in class and what she is missing most from the American culture.

Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 10. December

Until then –
Bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 122 +++ besig +++ contracts +++ mindfulness +++ longterm relationships +++ pragmatics +++

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In this show we’re going to be hearing about why knowledge of the local culture is important, how different cultures understand the notion of a contract, what sort of intercultural problems business people have, the right and wrong way to express disagreement and lots more. In the past we have brought you tasters from various conferences on intercultural topics and in this show we are very lucky to have been given permission to bring you extracts from the recent online webinar organised by IATEFL’s Business English special interest group on the topic of intercultural communication. IATEFL is the International Association of teaching English as a foreign language and IATEFL has many special interest groups of which Business English is just one. Carl Dowse in Germany was the organiser of this recent webinar and you can see the full recordings on the BESIG webiste at besig.org and they are also on YouTube

absolutely overlooked
We’ll start with an important observation from Baoquan Liu who was talking about how to test intercultural competence in his students when he mentioned something which is often absolutely overlooked…So could YOU describe your own local culture? Baoquan also included an interesting case study at the end of his talk which would be a great starting point for a discussion. You can see the case study on the besig.org website where the recording and slides are available free of charge.

absolutely contractual
For our next segment we are going to go absolutely contractual and find out some of the problems various business people operating across cultures experience with one of the basics of business – the contract. Listen as Evan Frendo, an intercultural trainer, talks about some of the problems he hears about with contracts and why the last thing you want to do is have a lawyer in the room when hammering out the details. 

absolutely problematic
The next speaker in the webinar was Sabrina Gerland, an American based in Germany for the last 30 years, who spoke about the crucial importance of tone and expression. In this segment Sabrina starts by listing the types of real life questions which German business people present her with during her training sessions and then talks about how what you say can also be absolutely problematic even when it is grammatically correct.You can hear more examples of communication going wrong by listening to the whole of Sabrina’s talk on the besig.org page

absolutely mindful
So far we have heard about very specific aspects of intercultural communication in business; be aware of the local culture, what do you understand by the word contract and how can you express disagreement politely. Our next segment, , will bring this all together. Peter Franklin, the final speaker in the Besig webinar, presented results of extensive research into what he calls intercultural interactive competence. He then pulled it all together into an idea called mindfulness… 

absolutely short term
One of the great joys of this webinar was the constant reference to real life, real people and real situations so in our next segment, absolutely short term, we’ll hear why the usuall advice to nurture long term relationships in order to build trust in business may not work. 

absolutely German
And talking of real world problems, I’m going to end the extracts from this webinar with a lovely case study; an incident related by one of Sabrina Gerland’s course participants. I think we have to call this segment absolutely German!

So my thanks to Carl Dowse, the organiser of this wonderful and free webinar, for allowing me to bring you some extracts today.Did you like this taste of an online conference? Do you know of any other relevant upcoming online meetings? Do you have an idea for a show or a segment of a show. Do get in touch if you’ve got something to say about the podcast. And don’t forget that if you catch the show online it is now very easy to do so on your iphone or ipod.

The next show will be coming to you on 1 October from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.
So long…stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 121 +++ intercultural meetings +++ round table +++ positive thinking +++

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intercultural meetingsToday our topic is about intercultural meetings and I have a co-host, Lucy, from Australia. Maybe some of you remember her from one of our last shows, in which I interviewed her about her first impressions of Europe. She is doing an internship at Rhein Ahr Campus in Remagen and has agreed to help our editor Dino and me with this episode.

absolutely adversarial
Do you often take part in meetings? Do you like meetings or do you think they are a waste of time? Have you ever taken part in an international meeting, with participants from all over the world? If you have and if you had no problems, congratulations – you are perhaps a natural talent? For those of you who never had the chance to participate in such a meeting, let me tell you, it can be full of traps and dangers.  Imagine a room with people from 6 or 7 different countries, that means 6 or 7 different cultures and different working habits. Now you can imagine that such a meeting can be a challenge for all participants. At a round table discussion Lucy, Dino and I discussed some topics relating to taking care and being aware of different attitudes in meetings.

absolutely international
Try to remember meetings in your own culture. What is the predominant style for finding the truth or for taking a difficult decision? Do participants seem to “fight each other” with words and arguments like lawyers in an adversarial system or are you used to the consensual approach which concentrates more on the common ground between different opinions and not so much on the differences?
Let us include two more cultures in this. Nicole is from Austria and Thomas from the Czech Republic. They shared with me their experiences of meetings. Sometimes you have to spend all day in project meetings with your colleagues, and after the meetings you may want to be on your own.

absolutely well prepared
Now for the second part of the round table. Controversies within a meeting are discussed as well as which document is needed, what preparation needs to be done and what the perfect duration of a meeting is. Also, stay tuned to find out how  Lucy picked on a poor German girl during one of my meetings… If you only remember one thing from this podcast let it be this piece of advice – make sure you are mentioned in the minutes after a meeting, otherwise it’s like you were never there!

Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 12. November

Until then –
Bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 120 +++ Serious Games +++ Haji Kamal +++ Wiglington & Wenks +++ SIETAR +++

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Welcome to AbsolutelyIntercultural, the podcast where we look at all things intercultural. We’re going to see if playing games can increase your intercultural knowledge. I’m talking about serious games which are becoming more widespread in education at all levels.   

absolutely serious
Mikkel Lucas Overby works for a Danish company Serious Games Interactive which has produced several games both in Danish and English which are mainly aimed at high school students. The games explore topics which we all know something about such as the Israeli Palestinaian conflict, child soldiers in Arifca or child labour in Asia. But the difference here is that you are on the ground and have to deal with the situation by interacting with the different people involved. I tried out a couple of these and so did my daughter, Gwen. But are there limits even within Serious Games? It seems yes when you hear what Mikkel has to say about their forthcoming game about the slave trade.  I started by asking him how the Serious Games Interactive company started and how they chose the topics of their games.

absolutely playful
As you heard I got to play a couple of their games and so did my daughter Gwen who took on the role of a buyer from a European clothes company inspecting reports that the factory which sources their leather uses child labour. How did she fare?

absolutely military
And what about war? We’ve mentioned this before on Absolutely Intercultural but one of the groups which need intercultural communication skills the most are soldiers. Think for example about the situation in Afghanistan where you need to get on with the locals for all sorts of reasons including to get a continual stream of information from them. In the game ‘Connecting with Haji Kamal’, Lieutenant Justin Harril is about to meet Haji Masoud Kamal, an influential local leader who Harril hopes will become a longterm contact. Harril knows that Haji Kamal is going to offer him chai, the local tea which he really doesn’t like? We hear the advice offered by two other officers. The Lieutenant has the following choices, refuse saying he’s not thirsty, refuse saying he’s allergic or accept. What’s the best choice? The game is available online from the World Warfighter company which specialises in military intercultural training through games.Earlier we had a taste of the type of interaction faced by soldiers in Afghanistan. The game Connect with Haji Kamal is available online at worldwarfighter.com and takes about 10 minutes to play. You heard the first dilemma at the beginning of the show when Lieutenant Harril is offered tea which he thinks he won’t like. What did you decide he should do? Of course if you refuse his hospitality then that won’t start your relationship with him on a good footing. How might the visit continue? The soldiers noticed a field of cannabis plants growing close by Haji Kamal’s house – should they mention it? So the choices are to compliment Haji Kamal on his cannabis crop, admire the hills or suggest that you get down to business. What would you choose? I think this game would be a great discussion starter plus it is a great way to try out various strategies without the consequences being too bad as you can always re-start the game. So what if you had refused the tea? If you want to see how the situation develops you’ll have to go to the worldwarfighter website and play the game yourself. And if you have any comments about how you did or what you think of the game then you can leave them at the end of this blog post.

absolutely virtual
There are intercultural games for children in the virtual world of Wiglington and Wenks where you can visit Brazil, London and Madagascar finding out about the places as you go. I sent my younger daughter, Mia on safari to explore Wiglington and Wenks. I had a feeling she was older than the target group but younger children might learn something about the world in Wiglington and Wenks.

And there are also intercultural quizzes in one of the most famous virtual worlds of them all, Second Life. SIETAR is the society for intercultural education, training and research and they have equipped a whole floor of their building in Second Life with over 30 quizzes about different countries. So for example in the quiz on Sweden you can answer a question about being offered a pat of butter on a butter knife at a dinner. What happens to the knife? Do you only use it to put the butter on your plate, or use it to butter your bread and then return it or use it and keep it as yours? The answer is butter your bread and return it. If you want to try the rest of the quiz or quizzes for other countries then you can find the link to SIETAR’s place in Second Life here.

So what do you think? Could playing computer games help raise your intercultural awareness? Did we miss out some really good digital intercultural games? I’d be very curious to hear about your experiences with any of the games I’ve mentioned and any that I missed out.

The next show will be coming to you on 29th October from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.

Until then have fun!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absoutely intercultural 119 +++ Australian impressions +++ Erasmus life +++ Turkish challenge +++

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Australian Intern Lucy Warren at RheinAhrCampusMerhaba, welcome, and iyi günler. Yes, I have learned some basic Turkish and took part in a beginners’ language course. Why did I do that? Well, here in Germany we have important Turkish communities in our big cities, so my idea was to learn more about their language and their culture.
G’day from down under! I also want to present Lucy! Lucy is one of our new members in the international team of the Rhein AhrCampus in Remagen. She is from Australia and over the next months we might hear more from her if she decides to help us with this podcast.

absolutely up-above
As you know, every year we have a number of international students, who visit us to spend a semester or two at our university. One of our newly arrived incoming students is Lucy Warren from the University of the Sunshine Coast. She is half Australian and half South African. So I asked her about the first impressions she had after her arrival and what differences she has noticed in Europe. Perhaps we will be able to convince Lucy to keep us up to date with her intercultural discoveries throughout her stay over the next months? In our first category she told me her stereotypes about Europe and the very first impressions she gained.

absolutely changed
I took an interview with Maria Koehnen. She spent a semester in Belgium where she met a number of international students from all over the world. She explained to me how to get an ERASMUS scholarship and stressed the advantages of a semester abroad. So, how can one semester abroad change you so much?

absolutely challenged
A couple of weeks ago I created my own challenge. I took part on an intensive Turkish language course at Netzwerk Deutsch in Cologne for one week. Many friends and colleagues asked me “Why Turkish?” and it is true that as I have learned English, Latin, French and Italian at school and at university, it would have been a little more plausible to learn Spanish for example. And clearly this would have been a lot easier for me! However, in our private and professional lives we are surrounded by people from all over the world, with different languages and different cultures. On my way to our supermarket I actually meet more people who can speak Turkish than people who can speak English as I live very close to a Turkish community in Cologne. So my aim was to learn more about this culture and now I am proud to say, that when I went to my Turkish corner shop last week, I managed to do the small talk in Turkish. I am amazed at the reactions, shop keepers immediately turn into friends. It is almost as if I was the first person they have met who has learned a little bit of Turkish just for my social life. I must admit though that learning Turkish was the hardest thing I have ever learned in my whole life and in our third and last category I talked with participants and the teacher of my Turkish course, and we tried to find out, why people choose or reject the challenge of learning Turkish.

Enjoy listening to our show no. 119

Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 15.October

Until then –
Bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 118 +++ Kenya +++ Zachariah +++ Gallaudet University +++ Mike Marzio +++ Real English

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In this show we’re going to be covering three very different topics with one person, Mike Marzio. In actual fact I’ve been wanting to invite Mike onto the show for a long time mainly to tell us about his wonderful Real English set of video lessons but right now Mike has a pressing reason to talk to us. You may remember that way back in 2006 we featured deaf students from Gallaudet University and how they could express themselves online with hearing Israeli students. Now Mike would like to raise $30,000 to send Zachariah from Kenya to do English at Gallaudet University. We also hear from Mike about his days in the sixties as a civil rights worker helping black people register for the vote and the culture shock he experienced just by visiting a different part of his own country. 

absolutely worthwhile
So let’s find out how and why Mike is trying to raise $30,000 dollars to send a young man from Kenya to college in the United States.  And just to repeat the web address where you can find out more about this project, that was http://zachs-fundraiser.blogspot.com  Finally we also hear more about what Zachariah hopes to do once he has completed his studies in America.

absolutely eligible
Back in the sixties Mike worked as a civil rights worker helping black people to register to vote in the southern states of the US and what he experienced was culture shock in his own country!

absolutely real
If you’ve heard the name Mike Marzio before it’s probably because of the Real English series of videos which Mike has made since the early nineties to help people learn English by hearing Real English. We hear more about why he had the idea and how it works.

absolutely daily
As an added bonus on the blog, we include here an English lesson which is based on the story of Zach in Kenya. The lesson was prepared by Sarah Lilburn of the Daily English Show fame. Her blog includes the text of the “conversations with Sarah” section of this show, and a lot of other interesting information about Zach’s area called Karagita, in or near Naivasha, Kenya.

If you want to help, see below.

The next show will be coming to you on 1 October from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 117 +++ Chinese food +++ Belgium habits +++ Hong Kong adventure +++

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/fortes/279647509/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Let us  take you on a culinary audio-trip to China and Belgium. Yes, let us talk about food! In previous shows we’ve talked about going abroad, about culture shocks and the different habits in foreign countries. But apart from the language and the attitudes of the other culture, what about the local cuisine? What happens if you travel to a country in which you don’t know anything about the food culture? Can you prepare yourself for such a situation before you leave?

absolutely different
I am not sure whether you have seen the film Julie and Julia which is all about food and preparing food and eating food and cultural differences between food in America and food in France. If you have not seen the film, please put it at the top of your list of films to see because it is full of little intercultural gems and Meryl Streep is just incredible in it. In the film Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, an American who is the wife of a diplomat in Paris and falls in love with the French way of cooking. She decides to introduce the French cuisine to the American housewife of the fifties by writing the book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”
Now, what about you? What are you like? When you travel to a foreign country, where you have a totally different cuisine from home? I asked Mingxia, one of my business students from China, if the food offered in Chinese restaurants in Europe is the same as food offered in China.

absolutely fun
When we talk about countries like China we expect a big difference in food habits, but how about our European neighbors – for example the Belgians? Normally we would think that we have a lot in common, but Filip Dedeurwaerder told me that even the time we spend eating our food is very different. For example, while in Germany we often only take half an hour to eat during our lunch break, the Belgians take much more time to celebrate their food and are allowed to have a glass of wine with their lunch. So, eating and drinking habits seem to be very different even with our closest neighbors.

absolutely adventurous
Carina Mayer, a student from the RheinAhrCampus in Remagen, did an internship in Hong Kong, searching for a cultural change and new experiences. She gives us some insights into her experiences with the Chinese cuisine. It seems that she was eager to try everything that the Chinese put on her plate. She often went out to try out and enjoy the variety of the Chinese cuisine with her colleagues. Carina is really adventurous and was looking for a totally new experience and that was exactly what she got.

Our next show will be coming to you from Anne Fox in Denmark on 18.September

Until then –
Bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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absolutely intercultural 116 +++ Languages Out There +++ Jason West +++ Verge +++ China +++ Morocco +++ Chantiers Sociaux Marocains +++

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Chantiers Sociaux Marocainsabsolutely out there
Back in March we talked about the Languages Out There approach by Jason West which consists of preparing students in the classroom and then sending them out with mini tasks which involve interacting with the general public outside the classroom. For those classes not based in English speaking countries Jason suggests organising students to interact with English speakers online. I spoke to Jason about how he developed that side of the approach and how practical it could be.

absolutely online
After speaking to Jason I decided to ask Richard Wood of Verge  in China how he applies the Languages Out There approach in an environment with very few native speakers available to practice with.  While speaking to Richard Wood I realised that the Language Out There approach is simply what a motivated person might do and what Jason West’s methods do is to enable less motivated or less confident learners to make progress.

absolutely voluntary
I met Rachad Izzat from Rabat in Morocco at the Anna Lindh Foundation Forum in Barcelona in March. Rachad is Programme Manager at Chantiers Sociaux Marocains which organises volunteer work all over Morocco and he explained how voluntary work lead to intercultural exchange without needing to leave Morocco.If you wanted to get involved with CSM you could for example sign up to a trekking project this September or October staying with local hosts, learning a little Arabic and being shown around some of the main historical sites and then trekking in the Atlas mountains. You will find more information on their Facebook page.

The next show will be coming to you on 3rd September from Dr. Laurent Borgmann in Germany.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Dino Nogarole


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