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APRIL, 2006 → ← MAY, 2006

Foreign language learning in the UK … Fonética y fonología … McWilliams on credit 4th of May, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 02:20

I seem to be productive at surfing the web, or productive at writing entries here, but rarely both at the same time. (Now, whether either of them can really be classed as “productive activities” is an entirely separate question, and one on which I have no opinion right now.) To remedy that, here’s a few diverting links of the last few days (more are available at http://​del.​icio.​us/​aidan/​ , of course):

Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve in a debate in the House of Lords had this to say on teaching language in the UK:

Let us have no illusions. UK language performance was already in deep trouble before the 14-19 Green Paper was published. That has nothing to do with the special status of being an English-speaking country. Let us make a comparison with the other English-speaking country in the European Union, the Republic of Ireland. More Irish than British schoolchildren take languages to school-leaving level, although the Republic’s population is about one-fifteenth of the UK population, perhaps one-twelfth of the English population. I am talking about numbers, not percentages.…

Now, of course, that does not necessarily mean a whole lot for foreign-language competence among people from the UK. I suspect that of the people in this world who die being able to speak one or more languages that they had no exposure to in their community as children, probably a majority of them learned those languages from immersion in the communities that spoke them. Also, the A-Levels and the Leaving Certificate (the school-leaving exams in the UK and Ireland, respectively) are not directly comparable in this; people routinely study twice as many subjects for the Leaving as their peers in the UK would for the A-Levels. But still, quite a contrast.

Hier gibt es eine angenehme Einleitung zur Phonologie und Phonetik des Spanischen; es ist wirklich leicht zum Lesen, weil alle die Fachwortschatz sehr nah an dem Englischen liegt. Meine Herrschaft der Phonologie und der Phonetik ist gut genug dass ich keinen wirklichen Bedarf daran habe; trotzdem, es ist interessant was zu lesen in einem Fachgebiet die man interessant findet, auf eine Fremdsprache die man kaum nutzen kann.

And a tiny thing, but important all the same; David McWilliams tells us something I didn’t know before; John Hume, famous for being one of the most consistently sane politicians of Northern Ireland’s history, was also one of the founders of the Credit Union up there.

Word of the day: Тамоку is Tajik for “tobacco” and is eerily close to the “tomacco” of Simpsons fame.

DOC_MAX_FILENAME_LENGTH+1 … [βale] … Joe Cabot 1st of May, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 11:08

I know that K&R et al. had other things going on in their lives, that it wasn’t necessarily clear when they were writing it that Unix and C would go on to be so widely used and emulated, but Jesus fuсk, I could do without having the weak points of C and its standard APIs in my life. The language has an operator specifically to determine the size of a buffer allocated globally, statically or on the stack; and the standard file reading APIs choose a measure other than the actual size of the buffer as the way to specify the size of the buffer to be read into.

Anyway. Back to random diary details. A couple gets on the S-Bahn. They’re in their twenties, how she looks says Spanish, with flared jeans and a dark grey loose wool sweater, hippie bracelets, the sallow skin of someone who grew up with Mediterranean sun but has been living with overcast skies for the last half-year.

How he looks doesn’t say Spanish at all, though—he’s dressed as W.B. Yeats would be, were he still around, velvet suit jacket, white shirt, wool sweater, smart trousers and shoes. And his face is the colour of someone from my part of the world; pasty white, pink edges, you get the impression he’d singe pretty quickly in any sort of sun. Shortish black hair, you would expect him to come up with an informed opinion on why the critical reception of « En attendant Godot » changed as it did without much trouble, if you came across him on the fourth floor of the TCD arts block.

But then he starts making more sheep-eyes at her than I’ve ever seen any Irish man do, with a woman in her league; more so even than I could imagine that one fellow who is scrupulously progressive enough to rule out a church wedding; to a level I suspect Irish women would find a bit emasculated.

I can’t hear them speak; there’s lots of announcements, sirens saying the door is closing, the door closing, the engine moving. It dies down, and I catch a [ð] and a ‘vale’ from her in context. Okay, so chances are she is Spanish, and because the Spaniards here are a pretty closed circle, chances are he’s Spanish too. (Yes, I still don’t know, but I enjoy guessing.)

This stuff is hard in Western Europe, eh? I mean, in the US, it is often impossible to guess a person’s family background from how they look, but that mostly doesn’t matter, because if they dress the part you can treat them as being comfortable with wider US culture, and they probably are. But I come across Lawrence Tierney to my right in a movie (thanks for the copy of Reservoir Dogs, M&E!), and even without learning his name, I see that type of Irishman in him that reached adulthood in the forties and fifties, that spent heroic amounts of time in the pub and in the bookies. I know the sort of banter that I would try first in talking to him, I know in his company I would order Jameson or Guinness, I would not propose getting coffee or a meal without being very sure of myself. And I had thought that sort of judgement would be possible with Europe in general; but it’s not.

Word of the day: ‘vale’ is Spanish for “okay” or “sure”; it seems to be more used in Spain than in the Spanish-speaking Americas.

Last comment from mackers on the 3rd of May at 0:28

Word of the day: ‘vale’ is Spanish for “okay” or “sure”; it seems to be more used in Spain than in the Spanish-speaking Americas.

Aye. I didn’t hear it once in South America, but hear it regularly from Spaniards.

It translates in my head as "grand".

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