Just as much as Achill seems to have become part of the annual calendar so does the Intercultural Management Institute conference each March. 2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the Washington conference and promises to be the best yet so if you haven’t already booked your place then I suggest you hurry. We’re hoping to be able to bring you some highlights from the conference in a few weeks but to get the full flavour you really ought to attend in person.
We’re not talking about green souvenirs or drinking a pint of Guiness. Instead this is about about the Irish language, Gaelic, whose future is hanging in the balance. All over the world people are learning English mainly for practical economic reasons. But could something be lost if English is at the expense of the local language? Tom Johnston is a former teacher in Achill on the west coast of Ireland where Gaelic has been the native language. What is the situation now? Réka and Kerstin, two of the Borrowed Identity students went to find out.
Pride is an important element in keeping a language alive, and so, it turns out, is music. You may recall hearing the haunting song, The Island, on this podcast last year. It is not traditional but it was written by an Irishman and one of the activities for our visiting students this year was to learn this song from Kate so that they could perform it at our final evening event. As we’ll hear later, music is a way of maintaining and passing on traditions…so let’s go absolutely musical and hear how they’re doing.
absolutely Irish 2: So what can be done to preserve a language? Let’s find out more from Tom Johnston who tells us about the Conradh na Gaeilge, the organisation promoting the use of Gaelic. Do you live in an area where the native language is threatened? Is anything being done to save your language? Should we be saving languages in the same way that we try to preserve animal and plant species? If you have any comments about this or any of our other content then do let us know.
The next show will be coming to you on 20 March from Germany.
So long…stay tuned!
The host of this show is: Anne Fox
Editor: Jan Warnecke
Thank you to Alberto and Collette for leaving comments on our blog. If you recall, in the last show we featured the Tapas investigation in Léon, northern Spain and this obviously made Alberto homesick as he is now studying outside of Spain and was in fact a student on a pilot course called Hands On Learning which is designed to help students raise their intercultural awareness when they go on foreign internships or semester exchanges. Collette, in Germany responded with an update of the Hands On learning course which is now firmly established. So thanks both of you for taking the trouble to visit and leaving your comments. And if you have a comment about what you hear, a suggestion about what we could do in the future or even a complaint then just go to the website and leave us a comment. Better still you could record a comment and email it to us and we’ll include it in the next show.
Today we’ll be delving into the concept of mateship, a word which I hadn’t heard before but which almost made it into the Australian constitution in 1999 according to Wikipedia. Kym Dixon is a teacher at Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide, Australia and he visited Denmark recently on a study tour to find out how we integrate ICT in everyday teaching here. One of the institutions he visited was Grenaa Technical School where he gave a talk to the High School students. One of the questions after the talk was from a student who wants to visit Australia and wanted advice about where to go. ‘Make sure you visit the outback and don’t just go to the cities.’ was Kym’s advice.
March is the time for the Intercultural Management Institute conference in Washington on March 12 and 13. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the conference and it is set to be rather special. Looking at the program if I were able to go I’d definitely want to attend the ‘Making it Stick’ session about presenting interactive learning to a cross-cultural audience. I am also always attracted to the simulation exercises such as another one involving the unidentifiable Asian, Mr Kahn. Then there are sessions on the use of film in cross-cultural training and the intercultural aspects of medical tourism. In previous years we have tried to give you a flavor of the conference in one or two follow up podcasts and I hope that we will be able to do this again this year as long as we can find somebody able to wield a recorder close enough to the speakers.
Back in Australia, or rather with Kym Dixon in Denmark, we went through a ritual common to many intercultural travelers, that of establishing exactly what is on the plate.
This is a very diplomatic and chaotic show. Normally we are right down at the individual level but when you are talking with diplomats they tend to have a more global view of matters. We’ll also be talking about a very special postgraduate course with an international perspective.
When I met the Nicaraguan Ambassador for Denmark recently he tended to bring almost every topic we talked about to a global level, even when I asked him what he missed most from Nicaragua. Mr Ricardo Alvarado Noguera was on a visit to Grenaa Technical School when one of my students, Rune, asked him about the environment; perhaps not the first priority, you’d think, of a country which the ambassador himself referred to as ‘developing’….
Maybe you remember a couple of months back when I spoke with Signe Møller about the charity she had set up called 100% 2 the children. The reason I contacted her was because I was intrigued by this dynamic one woman effort, but when I spoke to her I could see that one of the reasons for her clear vision and dynamism was the post graduate course she had taken to qualify her as a Chaos Pilot. The idea of the chaos pilots is to address the increasingly frenetic, information rich and global pace of life and is summed up in Signe’s comment that ‘If I don’t know then I can find out’ We have talked several times on this podcast about student experiences of foreign internships but with the Chaos Pilots the internship idea is somewhat different.
If you remember anything about the history of Nicaragua you will know that its relationship with the USA has not been smooth to say the least but that didn’t stop Rune, my technical college student from probing Ricardo Noguera about this sensitive area.
As I said at the beginning, the ambassador always tended to take the global perspective so finally I asked him a question which I was sure would give an answer at the personal level. By the end of our meeting I think I had begun to get an idea of the art of diplomacy! Or perhaps a good diplomat needs to be less culture specific then his fellow countrymen.
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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this show we go from a European base to Turkmenistan, Kenya, the United States and Nicaragua.
Signe Møller is a Chaos Pilot who decided to take a career break and ended up setting up her own charity helping children in Kenya. We’ll be learning more about the innovative social business and project management Chaos Pilot course in a later podcast. Meanwhile Signe’s groundbreaking approach called 100 percent to the children is based on allowing donors to choose whether the money they give supports the Kenyan projects directly or whether it helps to pay for the administrative back-up needed to keep the whole enterprise afloat. This new way of approaching charity work earned her the title of Fun Fearless Female 2008 organised by the Danish edition of Cosmopolitan magazine. How did Signe end up in Kenya in the first place?
You go to stay at the home of a family in Turkmenistan and you notice that you never see the older daughter. She is always in the kitchen cooking or doing housework and she does not eat together with the family. Why is this? Is it because
a) the family do not want their precious first born daughter to mix with foreigners
b) the first daughter is always the least favoured in Turkmen families or
c) it is traditional for the eldest daughter to do all the household chores
The next question is would it be possible for you to get to know her better? Find out the answer as Zohre Ovezlieva who has been organising Peace Corps placements for many years explains what to do in this situation.
When people who don’t have enough to survive are confronted by groups of strangers with access to seemingly unlimited amounts of resources, the problem of corruption often arises. Is this a problem Signe Møller of 100 percent 2 the children recognises and how does she deal with it?
Zohre has been looking after American Peace Corps volunteers for many years and decided that she would like to find out what it feels like to be a foreigner by going to the US for a month. How did she fare?
Nicaragua is a small country with a population roughly the same as Denmark’s but with much lower living standards partly as a result of the civil war in the 1980’s, so when Nicaragua’s ambassador to Denmark, Mr Ricardo Alvarado Noguera paid a visit to our school in Grenaa his perspective was very much that we are all connected.
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.
Today’s show is about people who live in the past, more specifically about those who live as Vikings for one week in the year or every summer weekend depending on their role. What makes them prefer the Viking era over any other? How authentically do they try to live the Viking lifestyle? Is there anything we can learn from this living tableau?
We’re going to the Mosegaard Viking Moot, a gathering of people from all over the world who just want to be Vikings. Every year at the end of July, just south of Aarhus, the Vikings meet to show off their horsemanship, their handicrafts and their fighting skills for a week. People live as Vikings, more or less, and at the weekend the public are invited to join in. Since I have been enjoying this for many years I decided that this year I would be brave and approach some of these warriors, feisty women and well-travelled minstrels to try and find out what makes ordinary people try to step into such a faraway culture so completely.
absolutely historical: I spoke to Peter Hambro Mikkelsen at the Mosegaard Museum to get some background to the event and only then did I find out how special the Mosegaard Moot really is!
absolutely homely: Now let’s hear from some of the enthusiasts who live as Vikings. First I talked to Grethe, a conscientious Viking woman who makes all her own clothes and who comes to Mosegaard with her husband who is a horseman.
absolutely exotic: As I was wandering round the encampment, buying pancakes and roasted meat and getting smoke in my eyes, my gaze was inexorably drawn to a very exotic looking person even by Viking standards: This turned out to be the alter ego Ibn Fadhlan who revealed his Arabic roots and recommended the 2005 film ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ as a fair representation of the Crusades story.
absolutely violent: Then I could put it off no longer; I simply had to gather all my courage and nail down one of the warriors to find out what made them come from all over Europe and beyond to fight. I’d always been intrigued by the number of English voices I’d heard on the battlefield over the years so I made sure that it was a Briton that I talked with. The voice belongs to Ian Judd or Gunnar as he is known in Viking circles.
Finally we return to Peter Mikkelsen from the Museum to find out if there is anything we can learn through these cultural recreations. This leads to an interesting parallel between how there was class distinction even in death in the Viking era but that the same distinction was made during the Falklands War when privates were buried in a mass grave on the Islands while the fallen officers were flown home. Peter ends with a powerful anecdote about the strength of the Viking identity.
With the Olympics in full swing it seems obvious to turn our attention to China this time round. However if you think that we’re going to be talking about heights, lengths, points, timings and goals then you’ve come to the wrong place. But maybe by now you have an idea what the intro music was. It didn’t sound stereotypically Chinese but Forever Friends is the official anthem for the Beijing Olympics.
So what are the intercultural aspects of the Olympic Games? The list is long and could begin with the opening ceremony which was a lesson in world geography with the majority of the world’s countries represented, even those currently in conflict such as Afghanistan and Georgia as well as many small nations such as Andorra and Cape Verde. Be honest, how many flags did you recognize? I was also struck by the number of parading athletes using their mobile phones mostly to take pictures but also in conversation. The formality of the occasion has obviously been very much reduced. I can feel a theme for a future show coming on!
As the games swung into action inevitably another issue raised its head, that of cheating. What is cheating? I’m not referring here to using drugs to enhance performance but of the strange story of the Danish sailors. The weather conditions for the start of the race were very rough and the mast of the Danish boat broke. Instead of bowing out of the race, the Danes asked the Croatians, who were no longer competing, if they could borrow their boat. The Croatians said yes, the Danes set off late and incredibly went on to win the competition on aggregate and were in line for the gold medal. But it took 18 hours for the judges to decide whether the Danes had broken any rules by borrowing the Croatian boat. In the end the Danes were awarded the medal but other nations have put in official complaints. So was that cheating? Let us know what you think.
Firstly hello to Zohre Ovezliyeva in Turkmenistan who administers the American Peace Corps programme there. I was so interested in Zohre’s work that I arranged to link up with her for a future show so watch out for that.
Then we heard from Christopher Cummings who wanted to tell us about his Spanish language learning site at Spanishdict.com and who also told us that some of our pieces resonated with him as an Asian American. I hope that we can get Christopher to tell us more about his approach to language learning in a future show.
Hello also to Eddy Van Hemelrijck in Belgium who was interested in getting his students involved in producing some material for the podcast. Yes of course, we’re very open to suggestions like that and I am very much looking forward to seeing what they come up with.
Today we’ll be hearing from Ken Carroll, a Dubliner who has lived in Shanghai for 15 years and who offers online language training through Chinese Pod, French Pod and Spanish Pod. What does he think is the significance of China hosting the games? Inevitably we started talking about learning the Chinese language too.
We’ll also be hearing from Yaodong Chen, a professor of English at Guangxi University in Liuzhou and one of his students Justina, currently working as an intern, about whether they will be watching the games or not.
A recurring theme seems to be homework in China. This reminded me of an interesting initiative happening in the USA at the moment called 2 million minutes. That is the amount of time available to the typical teenager to qualify themselves for university in high school. The project is making a series of films documenting how teenagers in India, China and the USA are spending their time during this critical period and it will be no surprise to learn that the Chinese students spend a great deal of time doing homework compared to the Americans. Although you need to buy the main film there are many short clips available for free on the project website and on You Tube.One of them features Bob Compton, the executive producer, giving his answer to a typical question about how students in China feel when they get low marks.
absolutely olympic (part 2):
What? More inter-cultural aspects of the Olympic Games? Well how about, is it about individuals and teams or about countries? I know many people are simply looking at the medal tally for each country but in the Olympic Charter it does explicitly say, and I quote:
‘The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.’
Finally, isn’t there a tension between the supposed coming together of nations and the inherent rivalry in sporting events? I heard one athlete interviewed who said ‘I didn’t come here to socialize with the other athletes!’ and in fact there doesn’t seem to be anything in the Olympic Charter compelling him to do so!
Well that’s it for today. Thank you to everyone who took part, we couldn’t do this without you!
So long! Stay tuned.
The host of this show is:Anne Fox
Editor: Peter Kron
Today 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.
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.
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
Welcome to the 60th show of Absolutely Intercultural, the podcast about all things inter-cultural. In many cultures, 60 of anything marks a celebration. For example if you have been married for 60 years then that is your diamond jubilee and everybody has to give you diamonds!
absolutely vocational: Firstly we go to the closing event of a European project, Brydlydmuren, (break the sound barrier) all about using sound in vocational education. Students had done all sorts of sound-related work including a collaborative project with a university in Turkey. This final event took place in a large hall in the city of Aarhus and included displays and experiences such as a blind restaurant, which is where you eat in complete darkness so that your other senses come to the fore. One of the events was a Skype video conference with the Turkish university.
absolutely culinary: I attended a chat show featuring one of Britain’s celebrity chefs, Jessie Dunford Wood. This was another of the events offered by Language Lab, the online language school based in Second Life. One of the attractions of going to these events is that you can participate by asking questions yourself. So what comes to mind when you hear the phrase British food? Would you go to a British restaurant for a special treat?
In the second extract from the Jessie Dunford Wood session we hear about the difference between a chef and a cook and why the athletes had to bring their own food to the London Olympics in 1948. In the podcast I promised you could see a memo written at the time by British civil servants who were checking on how the different national teams were coping with their British food rations. One I particularly liked was about the Mexican team. The civil servants noted that ‘the habit of regarding food as a precious commodity was foreign’ to the Mexican. See the memo here.