absolutely worth it Thank you to Valentina Dodge for nominating the podcast and blog as one worth taking a look at. Thanks Valentina and now I just have to compile our own list of blogs worth looking at. I’ll be doing that in time for the next show but in the meantime you’ll hear about a great nomination in today’s show.
absolute textbook It’s often said that you can’t learn a language without culture so it makes sense to bring out a book which helps you learn English through learning about intercultural matters. I was at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate in April where I met Adrian Pilbeam, the author of the new book Working across Cultures, and discussed it with him. The book is part of the Pearson Longman Market Leader series and could be a useful supplement to the main course text.
absolutely social Now we’ll hear from Fred Dervin in Finland about why he was involved in organising a webinar about social media and inclusion and quite what this has to do with culture. The online conference took place in late April about the potential of social media, such as this podcast or our blog, to reduce social exclusion. The event was part of a large European project Language Learning and Social Media which will be coming up with best practices. You’d be surprised how much social exclusion has to do with cultural differences. In her session Professor Ruth Illman from Finland presented us with some different metaphors for culture. Prof Illman’s then moved on from talking about boxes to something more flexible. In the webinar we also heard about some problems in Second Life, the virtual world where one of the things you have to do is to choose an avatar or representation of yourself which you can then clothe according to your preferences. Prof. Gráinne Conole from The Open University, UK explains.
Today we’re going to start with a short test. You’re going to need something to write with and a piece of paper. I’m going to say two words and you just need to write down the first two or three words which come into your mind when you hear them. Ready? Right. The first one is Britain. Note down the first two or three words which you think of when I say the word Britain. Done that? The next one is Africa. Note down the first two or three ideas which come into your mind when I say Africa. Finished? Well I’ll tell you how you scored later on in the show. What have we got for you today? Well in the first piece I’ll be talking to Ekene Ajufo and Polly Anna Sanches Martinez about a discussion forum event they organised on behalf of the African Student Union at their university in Florida to discuss the theme of ‘Us v Them’ But surely in this era of the internet we’re all reasonably aware of what it’s like in Africa? We’ll also be hearing more from Cornelis Hulsman in Egypt about why good information literally can save lives. And as well as good information we’ll be hearing about the power of music to bring people together in a very concrete way when we talk to Merlijn Twaalfhoven who specialises in bringing music to conflict ridden areas of the world. And I’ll be reminding you that it is still possible to vote for us in the European Podcast award both under Germany and under Denmark, and that you don’t have to be in Europe to vote for us, and that the voting is open until July! We have prepared some guidance here.
absolutely African So in our first segment we go absolutely African to hear about a discussion forum entitled ‘Us versus Them’ which was organised by the African Students Union of the University of Florida as its contribution to Black History Month. I watched a video of the highlights of that discussion and then talked to two of the organisers, Pollyanna Sanches Martinez and Ekene Ajufo, to find out more about why they staged the discussion and what came out of it.
So what did you note down during my little test? If your notes include words such as tribal, tyrants, Aids or lions then you will understand that you have failed! If you’d like to tell us how you did on the test or talk to us about anything else to do with the podcast then please add a comment.
absolutely musical We’ve featured various ways in which music can bridge cultural barriers and in a way this is what Merlijn Twaalfhoven does but perhaps in a much more proactive way. You can find out more about Merlijn’s amazing musical projects at his website http://www.twaalfhoven.net/ and Merlijn has also given a TED talk.
In this show I’ll be mainly reporting from the Anna Lindh Foundation forum which was held in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. We’ll be hearing from a Moroccan about his experience of volunteering in Norway. We’ll also be hearing about how Cornelis Hulsman from the Netherlands found himself attracted to go and live in Egypt. I was making an Internet search challenge recently and included the question ‘How many podcasts about intercultural communication can you find?’ and although there are one or two one-off podcasts on the topic, it still seems that the answer is one and that is Absolutely Intercultural. What’s more this particular show marks our fourth birthday since it is four years, give or take a few days, since we first started.
If I think about my identity as half French, half British and living in Denmark the conclusion I most often come to is that I see myself as European. I have even bought myself a dot eu internet domain so certain I am that Europe defines my identity! So when I was invited to the Anna Lindh Foundation forum in Barcelona last month to live blog that really meant a change in perspective for me since the focus of the Anna Lindh Foundation is a rapprochement between the countries of the Euro Med region. This translates as better mutual understanding between the mainly Arab Southern Mediterranean region and the Europeans on the northern shores of the Mediterranean sea.
absolutely musical The Barcelona forum was a way for the Anna Lindh Foundation to find out what its priorities in the coming period should be. So we heard about a great many inspiring projects seeking to promote reconciliation and mutual understanding between former enemies. There were also many discussions about best practices and the priorities for the future. A recurring theme was about how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and there were inspiring stories about how the reconciliation process can be promoted from people in Northern Ireland and the Balkan countries. If the Israeli Palestinian problem seemed intractable then the musical interlude on the last night of the forum certainly gave one hope. The group, Aisikedes, of local musicians from Barcelona together with Omar Faruk played an eclectic mix from the shores of various Mediterranean countries including Greece and Israel.
One shining example of a one man effort to bring North and South together was Rachad Izzat of Chantiers Sociaux Marocain an organisation which helps young Morrocans find voluntary work. Before working for the CSM Rachad was a volunteer himself in Denmark, Italy and Norway so I asked him about his Norwegian experience. I’ll be talking with Rachad about his current work in Morocco in a future podcast.
absolutely accurate Another recurring theme during the forum was the issue of media reporting. There were many issues of concern including the quality of reporting, the threat or opportunity posed by the new media and online social networks, censorship and so on. And in fact the quality of media reporting is one major reason which led Cornelis Hulsman to go to Egypt where he founded the Centre for Intercultural Dialogue and Translation as well as well as the Center for Arab-West Understanding and the Electronic Network for Arab-West Understanding. Cornelis Hulsman, originally from the Netherlands is now based in Egypt. I asked him what had brought him to Egypt in the first place. Much of Hulsmans work is aimed at improving the quality of media reporting in the region so I also asked him why he thought this issue was so important.
There will be more reports from the ALF Barcelona forum in future podcasts and you can of course find links to the people and organisations mentioned on this blog. And if you have a comment about the forum and whether such initiatives can do any good then please do leave us a comment. If you were at the forum and think your project should be featured here in the podcast then do get in touch. There were so many interesting projects and I could only be in one place at a time! And if you like the podcast then please do consider voting for us in the European Podcast Awards either under Germany or Denmark (or dare I say it – both). If you need help with the voting then you will find a page on this blog where we explain what to do.
absolutely foolish Finally for this show I was speaking about this podcast to some graduates of teacher training courses at The Consultants-e and realised that this show would be coming out on April 2nd, the day after April Fool’s Day. In Britain, France and Denmark this is a day for playing tricks on people and I was interested to know how far this tradition extended. So listen as Bea from Argentina and Galina from Russia explain whether they have April Fool in their respective countries.
In this show we will be finding out about a rather different way of learning a language, in this case English. How about just going out on the street and talking to people? In today’s show we’re going to be exploring whether you could learn a language mainly by speaking it with other people.
If you like what you hear in these shows then why not go along to the European Podcast Award website where we have been nominated for the EPA. Just click on either the Danish or the German flag and vote for Absolutely Intercultural. The address is http://www.european-podcast-award.eu/ and basically all you need to do is to give us a star rating for both content and design and then click the Vote button and that’s it.
The difference between textbook English and real English is often very wide. Michael Marzio an American based in the South of France recognised this and started recording street interviews for language learners back in 1992. These interviews are freely available on real-english.com where they have been edited into a series of lessons to make it easier for non-natives to understand English as she is spoken. So what, for example, do the Great British or American Public have to say about what the Italians are like? What I like about this is that it gives you the opportunity to study all sorts of adjectives and it also shows you stereotypes in action. Michael Marzio makes all the material available free of charge on his Real English website so if you want to brush up on your pronunciation for example, it’s well worth a visit.
absolutely out there
Jason West in the UK has taken the concept one step further with his approach, called Languages Out There in which it is the students who go out on the streets and do the interviews directly with the public, having first practiced the target language in the classroom. Where did the idea come from and how does it work? We will also find out what one of his students thinks. Eri is from Japan and has just completed two weeks with English Out There. Now you may be thinking this is a wonderful idea but if you don’t live in an English speaking country then not for you. I asked Lize Odendal originally from South Africa but now working in Shanghai China for EF what she thought about the idea for her students. Well Jason has been giving that problem some attention and has come up with an online version of English Out There which involves using social networking sites such as Facebook. We’ll be finding out more about that option in a later show. But the online option is one reason that Jason has started making many of the lesson ideas freely available on the Languages Out There website. So if you’re curious then go along to the website and take a look
On the day this show comes out I shall be in Barcelona attending the Anna Lindh Foundation forum from which I’ll be blogging and recording material for future shows. The aim of the forum is to bring people from Europe and the mediteranean area together in an effort to promote mutual understanding and collaboration. The forum is organised around an Agora, an exchange of ideas, and a Medina, a market place for building project partnerships. I’m very curious and looking forward to it. You can follow the event at the forum blog and I will also be blogging about the event at my blog.
Don’t forget to vote for us in the European Podcast Award! The next show will be brought to you by Laurent Borgmann on March 19th and to be honest I’m not sure whether that will be from Australia or Germany so stay tuned!
In this show you’ll be going on a guided tour of Mecca; we’ll be hearing from Mark Pegrum, author of the book ‘From Blogs to Bombs’ about the impact of digital technologies and we’ll be finding out how international a team of online moderators can be.
What I want to concentrate on in this show is a phenomenon which started about 10 years ago as an event leading up to the TESOL convention which usually happens in March. TESOL is an organisation of teachers of English and 10 years ago a couple of TESOL members had the idea of offering free online development sessions of interest to English teachers in the run-up to the face to face convention in March. The idea was such a success that it has become an annual feature and the current sessions are going on right now.
I thought I would explore some of the intercultural aspects of this event since it draws people from all over the world both as moderators and as participants and is built on the voluntary efforts of a growing band of enthusiasts. So, for 6 weeks starting in mid-January you can sign up to any of a growing list of sessions which this year included using video in class, using images, using the Internet with Young Learners, making the most of your Interactive Whiteboard, using drama, using online games and teaching in Second Life.
absolutely international After ten years a certain number of traditions have emerged, one of which is the kick-off meeting during which all the sessions on offer are described by their moderators. There is a link to a recording of the full 2 hour event here. If you have ever taken part in an Evonline session for example perhaps you could tell us about your experience of working with such a mixed international group as a comment to this blog. Not only do the participants come from all over the world but the moderators do too. Teresa Almeida d’Eça talked about the locations of the moderating panel for the session ‘Becoming a Webhead’ which is abbreviated to BAW.
That international mix is also reflected in the participants who sign up for the sessions and means that lively discussion is guaranteed. For example, in this year’s drama session, the moderators planned that participants should develop activities around the theme of tolerance and over the past few days there has been a heated, but respectful discussion about whether tolerance is actually a good thing or not. Does it lead us to condone actions which we disapprove of?
absolutely Mecca When the Evonline sessions started over ten years ago most sessions were text-based discussions supported by a collection of Internet links. Now technology has moved on to such an extent that live meetings are common across all the sessions and teachers explore the use of all types of communication and storytelling methods. These include the use of virtual worlds such as Second Life where for example you can take your students on a virtual tour. What could that be like? One example is the tour led by Nergiz Kern around virtual Mecca as part of the Evonline session on teaching languages in a virtual world. You can see the full 30 minute tour on the video above but for now we will eavesdrop on the introduction. The way the tour was organised meant that only Nergiz spoke, while comments and questions were taken through text chat so you’ll hear typing noises when the ‘tourists’ ask questions. You will also hear camera shutters when the tourists take photographs. Is this Absolutely Mecca?
So it’s not just a question of walking round replicas of buildings. With a good guide like Nergiz and an interested mixed group such as these language teachers I think you can learn a great deal from an event like this.
absolutely digital Another of the Evonline sessions is about exploring the idea of multiliteracies, that it is not enough to be able to read and write but that we also have to be able to read more critically all the different digital channels which have emerged recently. Mark Pegrum in Australia has recently published a book about the topic and he was happy to join the Multiliteracies Evonline session to take questions about it. I let Vance Stevens, one of the Multiliteracies moderators introduce Mark, during one of the live sessions which were organised for this topic.
absolutely real Now we’ll continue with our tour of Mecca by going into the Grand Mosque. Hey! Don’t forget to take off your shoes!
absolutely the best European podcast? We’ve been nominated for the European Podcast Award which is being offered for the first time this year. You can go to the European Podcast Award webpage. What we need from you is a rating if you like the podcast. Now for the hard part. The award is divided according to countries and the Award organisers don’t know whether to allocate us to Germany or Denmark. At the moment you will find us listed under both countries but I think in the end we will only appear on the Danish pages. That’s the problem with being intercultural I guess! Anyway well keep you posted about how you can help us. The first deadline is mid-March so there is time to tidy things up.
Welcome to show number 100 of Absolutely Intercultural. Yes, it’s true we have reached three figures since March 2006 when we first started. In most cultures anniversaries are celebrated, birthdays being the most common. But even in that case there are huge differences in emphasis. For most, birthdays are an occasion for gifts and special foods but in some cultures a birthday can only be celebrated as a humble thanksgiving for the blessings you have enjoyed to date. So in that spirit I would like to say thank you to everyone who has taken part in the show so far. We couldn’t have done it without you. Certainly for me it’s been a wonderful excuse to get in touch with people from all over the world and to collate a wonderful collection of ideas, perspectives and experiences along the way.
Fri Bailey sent us an email and is the main topic of our anniversary show because she arranges celebrations which give rise to that other important anniversary, the wedding anniversary. Now we’ve covered weddings before in show number 41 when we heard about two intercultural weddings and how they were organised by the bride and groom. But this time we’re going to hear from someone who arranges intercultural weddings for a living. So what’s the answer to the question about whose traditions should be adopted for the wedding?
absolutely inspired When I started this anniversary show I thought that celebrating anniversaries must be one of those universals of culture on a par with gender roles, kin groups and marriage but a closer look revealed that while anniversaries may be implicit in some of the universals they are by no means common across the world. However in my everyday life I have the feeling that I am overwhelmed by anniversaries but all I could find for 2010 was that it will be the 40th anniversary of Earth Day and the 100th anniversary of Scouting in the USA. Where wedding anniversaries are concerned then there has to be a wedding to trigger the anniversary so I asked Fri Bailey, who is originally from Cameroon in Africa, where she got the idea of arranging inter-cultural weddings for a living.
absolutely silver As regular listeners may know I am a Briton living in Denmark and when you come to live in a different culture there are many new things to learn, new days to celebrate and new ways to celebrate. When we had lived in Denmark about 6 years we received an invitation to a 25th wedding anniversary celebration. I have to say that joy turned to consternation when we realised that this meant arriving at the happy couple’s house at 7.30… in the morning. Guests have to go through the pretence of waking the couple up by singing in the garden under their window. They then wake up and invite you in for an impromptu breakfast. Well I was the only one in our household who was prepared to accept the invitation as everyone else had to go to work or school. And when we woke the happy couple up with our singing, they seemed remarkably awake and miraculously dressed. Thankfully the wedding anniversary was in spring and the rain held off and when we trouped into the house there was rather more than just a quick coffee and lightly toasted slice of bread to eat. I must say that an early morning party left me with many questions such as How long was it polite or expected that I should stay? Perhaps I needed an inter-cultural advisor like Fri Bailey?
absolutely matrimonial Having discovered where she got her idea for the Wedding Nouveau service I was then interested to hear about some specific examples of weddings she had been asked to assist with. I would recommend a visit to the Wedding Nouveau website at where you will see some of the inspired and creative suggestions that Fri has come up with for different couiples, definitely a feast for the eye.
Well I hope that you have liked our 100th show. In fact we are planning to enter the podcast for the European Podcast Award. You will be able to register your support for the Absolutely Intercultural podcast at the award website.
The two people we will be hearing from in this show have both come half way round the world to visit Europe and such a long distance seems to lead to very strong contrasts – not always in those aspects which you would expect. We’ll be hearing from Cao Lei, a biology lecturer from Heifi in China, here on her first visit to Europe.
We’ll also be hearing from Minhaaj Ur Rehman, from Pakistan, who recently arrived in Sweden to do an MBA even though he already has an MBA from Pakistan but apparently a foreign MBA will be much more impressive to any future employers back home. One of the major differences which was immediately apparent is the relationship between the students and their teachers. It’s often surprising to us who live here what people from outside the area notice so I had to smile when Minhaaj mentioned how considerate he found drivers in Sweden to be.
When Cao Lei from China visited Europe recently she found that the Netherlands was very relaxing and peaceful in spite of it being one of the most densely populated countries in the world. But once she started to talk about the normal 18-hour school day in China for her 13 year old daughter I began to understand how much the visit to Europe must have represented a change of gear for her.
It is a cliché for a Brit like me to talk about the weather but the weather has certainly made a deep impression on Minhaaj Ur Rehman who came from Pakistan to do an MBA in Sweden and not in southern Sweden but in northern Sweden, Umeä where already in October the temperature was close to zero (centigrade that is). And it’s interesting that Minhaaj points out the lack of congestion and people as a plus, just as Cao Lei did.
absolutely spoiled for choice
If you don’t speak a language which uses script then you have probably never given a thought to the way in which a computer produces ideograms such as those used in Chinese and Japanese. So when Cao Lei from China visited us recently it was fascinating to watch how she could turn Chinese written with western letters into Chinese script using good old Word.
absolute double? Minhaaj Ur Rehman is from Pakistan and already has an MBA so why is he in Sweden doing another MBA? Is this an absolute double? It turns out that even if you are reading the same books there are some very good reasons for re-doing the course and he gets to experience some very different approaches to education along the way.
By the way if you have any comments or suggestions you’re always welcome to contact us through our blog at www.absolutely-intercultural.com and leave a comment. We love following up on contacts or just reading about your reactions and experiences.
The next show will be coming to you from Germany with Laurent Borgmann on November 27. So until then, stay tuned won’t you?