absolutely intercultural 69 +++ digital world +++ communication via new media +++ media fashion +++

thirty-three-messagesSkype, SMS, Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Second Life. Like the characters in Pirandello’s play “Six Characters in search of an Author” these applications seem to have been set loose on our post-modern society without a clear script or a destination.
We have all heard about these digital applications which promise to make our lives richer, more interesting and more “connected”. However, it is difficult to predict which of these activities will still be part of our culture in 20 years’ time. Will they replace old-fashioned communication channels like the telephone or email? Or are they just a passing fashion for digital geeks and flat rate junkies?
Today we want to look at the online culture and how we all manage to be part of it in our daily lives at work and at home.

absolutely private:
Some weeks ago at a teacher-training event I met Evi and Linda who had attended my seminar on integrating new media such as podcasts and twitter into their teaching. Later in the afternoon I had the chance to speak to the two to ask them about their general attitude towards new media for communication. I asked how essential mobile telephones are in their private lives and while Linda has had her mobile since she was 13 (which seemed normal to me) to my utter surprise I heard from Evi, a successful professional in her thirties that she only bought her first mobile phone four months ago and only because she had to …

absolutely connected:
Assja Tietz, one of our students, who has spent a lot of time in different countries during her studies speaks about her study period in Australia, an excursion to Ireland and her recent internship in Hungary. What with all her moving around her challenge is actually to stay in touch, both with family and friends at home but also with those new friends she met during her stays abroad. So rather than being overwhelmed by too much communication on different media channels she is constantly looking for the best ways to be “close to home” even when she is far away…

absolutely fashionable:
Katrin dares a prognosis whether the new technologies we hear so much about will become important parts of our communication or whether they are more like a fashion that comes and goes. Can you imagine that perhaps nobody will remember Facebook or Twitter in ten years’ time?

The next show will be coming to you on 14 November from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

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

absolutely intercultural 68 +++ 2 Million Minutes +++ Bob Compton +++ Rotary Youth Exchange +++ Shakespeare +++

2 Million MinutesLet’s start with a bit of Shakespeare!

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

I’ll stop right there because it’s our attitude to school which is going to be the main topic of of the show today. And if you want to know the rest then you’ll have to revisit ‘As you like it’.

In the last show we explored some of the many cultural aspects of learning apparent in one educational institution and in this show we’re going to stick with the idea of learning culture but this time on a world wide basis.

I mentioned the 2 Million Minutes project very briefly in the show on China and the Olympics but I was so intrigued by the project that I got in touch with Bob Compton, the man behind the project, so that I could find out more.

absolutely educated: What do you want to be when you grow up? According to Bob Compton the answer you give to this question when you are six or seven years old says a great deal about how successful your country is going to be economically in the future. Be honest now! What would your answer have been at that age?

Bob Compton is worried about the economic consequences of the American education system but sees the problem as arising from different cultural attitudes to learning and teachers. He decided to raise awareness about the competition from India and China by making a film following the lives of 6 high school students from the 3 different countries. The project is called 2 million minutes and I asked Bob to tell us more….

absolutely rotary: Bob kept asking me about how things were in Europe generally and Denmark in particular but having never experienced anything other than the European education system it was difficult for me to say. When I heard that one of my colleagues was hosting an American student, Brittany Alcorn, through the Rotary Youth Exchange programme I jumped at the chance for a chat with her. It seems that the Danish situation is probably closer to the American model than the Indian and Chinese models.

absolutely concerned: Back with Bob Compton I asked him to explain the title of the project and then wanted to know more about some of the main observations made in the film. He picked out the differing parental aspirations as a key difference.

absolutely musical: Ah but, say the objectors, it’s not healthy to study all the time, what about creativity? A running theme through the project seems to be the musical prowess of the Chinese on all sorts of instruments. Even the translator could play something on the accordion!

absolutely prepared: So having seen the situation in India and China did this have any effect on Bob Compton’s family at an individual level? I asked him in particular about his daughters’ education and discovered that the family had made radical changes.

‘In America you have tutors when your children are failing but in India and China you have tutors when your children are doing well so that they can do even better.”

‘In India your college application is your name and your test score. Nothing else!’

I was interested in this project for what it told me about cultural differences in the attitude to education but there have also been some very strong negative reactions to this project because it tends to view education in purely utilitarian terms. Where do you stand on this? Let us know here on the blog. What is the learning culture in your country? Is it closer to the Indian and Chinese models or closer to the American model? You will find lots more information about the 2 Million minutes project at their website where you can even take an Indian maths test and you will find many film snippets about the back story behind the project on their dedicated channel at YouTube.

By the way, I would like to do a show exploring some of the new social networking language learning websites which have sprung up in the last year or so. So if you have any experience as a user of sites such as Live Mocha, Palabea, Mango Languages or Babbel then get in touch because I would like to know if they really work.

The next show will be coming to you on 31 October from Dr Laurent Borgmann in Germany.

So stay tuned!

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

absolutely intercultural 67 +++ teaching culture +++ South Americans in Germany +++ adult learners +++ women in adult education +++

Mauricio Virgens, Bariton, on his way up
In this episode we are going to have a look at adult education. Anne and I were lucky enough to be invited to the Volkshochschule Rhein-Sieg by Alexandra Haas. We took part in a very stimulating workshop day for trainers inspired by Alexandra’s previous project “Teaching Culture!”.

absolutely learner-oriented:
Mechthild Tillmann, director of the Volkshochschule Rhein-Sieg, reports on 24 different work-shops in which teachers shared ideas about marketing, suggestopedia, podcasting in the classroom and other subjects related to their teaching. Following the idea of “teaching culture” and the “culture of teaching” the institution invited their own teachers to turn into learners and improve their methods.

absolutely bossanovarized:
We listen to Mauricio Virgens from Brazil and Andres Villamil from Columbia, two South American musicians who played music for us, and “bossanovarized” our busy lives a little. Mauricio speaks about his mission as a cultural ambassador for his native country Brazil and tells us how he keeps up his cultural identity through music. Of course, we also get to enjoy a bit of their music.

absolutely enjoyable:
Katrin, one of the new staff at the Volkshochschule Rhein-Sieg, tells us how previous learning experiences of the participants can a be challenge for the teachers. She has noticed that learners seem to expect the same “learning culture” which they got used to when they were learners for the first time – years ago. However, one aspect seems to be important to all learners – that they learn faster if they are having fun.

absolutely gendered:
Evi and Linda both work in adult education and explain to us how adult education creates its own culture. We also hear about their perspectives on gender issues and that adult education, just like health services, appears to attract women with a strong impulse to help.

The next show will be coming to you on 17 October from Anne Fox in Denmark.

Und bleiben Sie schön interkulturell!

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

absolutely intercultural 65 +++ working cultures +++ email writing styles +++ excursion to Poland +++ teaching staff mobility program +++

In today’s show, we put our emphasis on working cultures, both, in digital work contexts and in face-to-face team work.

Whether you prefer to work in a hierarchical context or whether you prefer to work collaboratively – we sometimes end up in workplaces which do not leave the choice to us. Are you aware of the working culture that surrounds you? Do you appreciate it or would you change it if you could? Do you notice that you have an impact on this culture, too?

absolutely structured:
We hear about different email cultures and discover that yes – your email may show your personal writing style – but that your email also says a lot about the working culture of your company or your institution. Our interviewees fill us in on their opinions regarding the perfect email. We learn that signals which indicate whether the message is well structured and can easily be read and dealt with are quite important and that preference is often given to those messages which have a “speaking” subject line.

absolutely international:
Different working cultures in face-to-face teamwork are explored. Jean Lennox of the University of Applied Sciences in Mönchengladbach, Germany, reports about an international excursion with university students to Posnan, Poland, which confronts them with the difficulties of working in groups of European students from various countries. We learn that intercultural tests of what we expect of the working cultures of other countries can bring up interesting results.

absolutely mobile:
Nora Müller, who is going to the Netherlands for her practical training, gives us some insights into her preparations for her stay abroad and tells us that she believes that going to a neighboring country in Europe is still a big step.
Dr. Cruickshank from Scotland and Clementina Poposka from Macedonia came to Germany as lecturers under the “teaching staff mobility” program. We get to hear what they hope to gain from their academic mobility and in which way universities in their home countries differ from what they experienced during their visit.

The next show will be coming to you on 19 September from Anne Fox in Denmark.

So long…stay tuned!

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

absolutely intercultural 63 +++ studying abroad +++ ERASMUS placements +++ internships abroad +++ intercultural preparation +++ international week in Remagen +++ scholarships +++

logo of the \
In today’s show the emphasis is on students who decide to spend some quality time abroad. What are their choices, how do students need to prepare themselves, when should they start with their intercultural preparations? Most students, whether they take a Bachelor or a Master course, have the opportunity to go abroad for some time during their studies. Our interviewees tell us what the benefits of such a study abroad period can be.

absolutely welcome: 
At most universities the international offices try to highlight students’ opportunities for going abroad by celebrating an international week at least once a year. The university invites representatives from their partner universities who can then explain and advertise their study programmes and answer specific student questions concerning the best choice of courses, the credit points which students can gain during their stay abroad and also questions concerning accommodation or living costs in their countries. Listen to Prof. Henzler, president of the University of Applied Sciences Koblenz as she welcomes the delegations from the different partner universities on the first day of the international week. 

absolutely useful:
From the student perspective the presence of the foreign guests offers a number of opportunities. They can follow lectures in foreign languages, can get to know teachers and administrators from the partner university before they arrive there and make informed choices as to which university would be the best one to go to. We listen to one of the student representatives of the “go-out”-initiative (German Academic Exchange Service – DAAD). Gerrit tells us that he sees the main benefits of these periods abroad in the fact that they create new and unexpected opportunities to expand your own personality and that well-documented experience abroad is a great plus when you are looking for a new job – because it seems to be a strong signal to the prospective employer that you are motivated, flexible, and that you show initiative and speak foreign languages.

absolutely integrated:
Most universities have orientation weeks where all foreign students get together and get basic information or do excursions around the university in order to facilitate their integration. Some universities have “buddy programs” where the incoming foreign students are paired with local students whose task it is to integrate the newcomers as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. Adelheid Korpp, who is in charge of the “incoming students” at RheinAhrCampus tells us what the university offers to make sure that the students from the partner universities have the best start, get integrated quickly and, if possible, feel at home in their new surroundings right from the beginning of their stay.  

absolutely strategic: 
Students should prepare themselves interculturally for their stay abroad before they arrive at their new destination. Barbara Neukirchen, who looks after the “outgoing students” at RheinAhrCampus and coaches them during their application process for universities and scholarships tells us how students can plan a successful stay abroad if only they start the planning phase early enough.  

absolutely prepared:
In our last interview Carsten Ritterath a Bachelor student of business administration reports about his preparation for an internship in England. His football coach helped him find the English organisation where one of his tasks will be to compare English and German approaches to health management in companies. Carsten has applied for a scholarship from ERASMUS-placements and he tells us what he needed to do in order to apply for this. He wrote a letter of motivation, a curriculum vitae, he took part in an intercultural seminar and he had to pass an English test. We are keeping our fingers crossed for him to get the scholarship in the end because accommodation in London can be quite expensive.

Our next show will be coming to you on 22 August from Anne Fox in Denmark.

Und bleiben Sie absolut interkulturell!

The host and editor of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann

absolutely intercultural 62 +++ Abu Dhabi +++ virtual field trip +++ privacy

Abu Dhabi_2198Today we are going to Dubai, the centre of the world, to which increasing numbers of tourists and business people are coming. How do you prepare the nationals of a very conservative society with fairly strict gender separation for these intercultural encounters? Canadian, Mark Karstad, instructional designer at Dubai Women’s College for five years, decided to develop virtual fieldtrips to the USA, South Korea and Darfur amongst others through the virtual world of Second Life. The whole show is given over to exploring some of the many issues raised by this decision.

 

absolutely virtual:

Very few of the students at Dubai Women’s College take advantage of offers of foreign trips such as attending a trade conference in China. Mark Karstad, former instructional designer at the university, tried out the idea of virtual field trips using the online world Second Life. This enabled him to take his students to a range of safe destinations such as Islam Online and Darfur. It also enabled him to collaborate with a college in South Korea and the USA to enable virtual meetings with the students where for example the students came dressed in their national costumes.

 

In Second Life an avatar, a sort of cartoon character, represents you as you move and interact in the online world. You choose what this avatar looks like and how it is dressed. How would the students of DWC choose to represent themselves? The answer was without their abayas and in the designer clothes which they wear underneath. As Mark describes it, bling, meaning ostentatious jewellery.

 

absolutely private:

As a male employee in the women’s college Mark describes some of the norms he had to adhere to such as never coming into physical contact with the students, not even bumping into them on the stairs. He also describes how the students needed to have a chance to put on their abayas and shaylas before he entered the classroom. This meant that he had to knock and pause for word that it was safe for him to enter the room.

So long! Stay tuned.

The host of this show is:Anne Fox
Editor: Peter Kron

The next show will be coming to you on 8 August from Dr. Laurent Borgmann  in Germany.

absolutely intercultural 61 +++ stereotypes +++ prejudice +++ regional diversities +++ pre-fabricated phrases +++ national pride +++

\“Germans are all punctual but don’t have a sense of humor, people from Great Britain do and always have their tea at 5 pm in the afternoon, Italian men pick up girls all the time, the French eat baguette, cheese and frogs’ legs. Women can’t drive cars and men simply cannot listen, young people are irresponsible because they get drunk all the time and old people are terribly inflexible.” You could easily continue this list about any nationality, age, gender, political or sexual orientation. Stereotypes are pre-fabricated phrases to generalize about certain groups of people. But how are they generated? Do they have any practical use in daily life or are they just wrong and useless? Are their fixed for all time once they have been established or can they change over time? In this show, we try to find some answers to these questions about stereotypes.

absolutely Spanish:
Emma Cuevas-Saunders, who is an ERASMUS student from Spain, has been studying and doing a practical training in Germany for about a year now. She tells us about her experiences with stereotypes in Spain and how prejudices about Germans almost prevented her from going abroad. We also learn that Spain, known as a nation marked by national pride, actually is divided into many different sub-groups, which each have stereotypes about the other groups. However, as Emma says, this is a rather positive aspect, because it demonstrates Spanish diversity and these stereotypes are also used as a conversation starter. But first, she tells us, that all Spaniards have discovered a new pastime: They like to sit on the beach and guess the nationality of the tourists, but perhaps this is also a stereotype?

absolutely Mexican-American:
In our second category we talk with Susana, who has her roots in Mexico, lives in the United States and currently is studying in Germany for one year. Although she is probably the expert on this topic, we thought she tends to underestimate the popularity of her two “home countries”, thinking that they are not very much liked in the world. We learn that stereotypes really can change over time, if people like Susana have the courage to go abroad, make their own experiences and afterwards, tell people about it.

absolutely Austrian:
We speak to Dr. Nicole Slupetzky from “Volkshochschule Salzburg” (institute of adult education) about the challenges connected with harmful stereotypes and the opportunities of friendly ones. While friendly stereotypes can provide you with conversation topics and sometimes make these conversations run more smoothly, harmful stereotypes can be responsible for hate and racism. Nicole emphasizes that it is important to talk about these stereotypes, to learn about the affected groups and sometimes even to laugh about these statements together. We discuss that, of course, we shouldn’t believe every stereotype we hear, because they can be produced in many different ways, by the media, the family or even education.

So long…stay tuned!

The host of this show is: Dr. Laurent Borgmann
Editor: Peter Kron

The next show will be coming to you on 25 July from Anne Fox in Denmark.

 

absolutely intercultural 16 +++ Moët et Chandon +++ Internships in France +++ Bilingualism +++ Intercultural faux pas +++


Using cultural informants from your own personal network.

Absolutely interactive highlights the Crossing Borders forum which aims to foster intercultural dialogue.

In Absolutely Personal we talk to Greg Houfe who had two French internships almost twenty years ago as part of his degree in European Business Administration.
Looking back did he think working at Moët et Chandon benefited him? Would he now employ a former intern preferentially over someone who had not had this type of experience?

In Absolutely Linguistic I talked with Gwen and Mia, 12 and 9, who are bilingual in Danish and English. Does this affect their identity? Do they mix the languages up?

And finally in Absolutely Confidential I talked to Tony Fox who was caught out in a conference in Germany recently.
The Host of this show is: Anne Fox

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