lunes, 4 de marzo de 2013

Expressions: The Naming of Days

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

I'm sure we've all been told about the importance of Latin in Western languages. It's hardly surprising that many days share similar name forms or concepts between languages. What is more, with celestial bodies in our solar system being of huge importance for everyone I'd like to look at some of the more surprising similarities. There are of course exceptions but the cultural connections with ancient empires have bestowed upon us similarities in the way things are named. For now we'll look at the days of the week: Today is Monday, So let's get started there... then?

Monday: Day of the Moon.
The moon is central enough to life here on Earth that it's even got it's own calender. I'm not going into months  and calender beyond what is pertinent to days but I might choose that next time.

Vikings and Germanic cultures share a similar word and concept. Some variation of Mon  or maan and dag, daeg, tag.
Spanish and other romance languages often have Lunes, Lundi or something similar. Again Luna = Moon.

Here's where it gets a little funky. In Japan, not only do they have "Day of the Moon" (Getsuyōbibut it's the day that follows Sunday! The same is also true in Hindi. (Somavār)

Note: On the whole Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew and Portuguese follow a structure of something akin to "1st Day, 2nd Day etc." easier to learn if you can count... but I hoped for something that might lead to some old Gods of the Ancient cultures of those areas or something like that. Old Portuguese, however, DOES use this. If and when something relevant pops up in one of those languages, I'll mention that.

Take care, all. Don't get the Monday blues.
And as always, any clarifications, corrections or help of any sort are appreciated.

Sources: English references from
Admittedly a bit of Wikipedia so don't take this blog as irrefutable in any way.

miércoles, 23 de enero de 2013

And a Merry 2013 to you all

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

From a cursory glance at the blog statistics and a few comments made by personal acquaintances, we have more than zero followers. So, it's time to kick things off again for the new year.

If you have come here from the new shiny website, welcome one and all.

This blog was envisioned as a means to ramble semi-aimlessly about the things we love here: Language, teaching and our students.

The original intention was to update weekly, but with everything else in life piling on top of itself like a traffic jam this will become a monthly effort. In terms of language, the updates concerned will deal with certain things that you can see in the English language itself. Perhaps a funny coincidence with another language, or something philosophical.

The next month is set to update on the ongoing gamification (I'm gong to stick with this spelling from now on) of the school. This is something that sees more TV time these days but if your not familiar with the concept there are a couple of blog entries from earlier that you can read. Those deal with my first attempt at motivating students through points systems that focused on giving more autonomy to the students by allowing them to earn point through work to then spend them on special rewards such as making posters, or watching a movie.
I have made huge leaps in finding out what works and what quickly gets overly complex so don't worry if you find the previous updates get too bogged down in detail. I've been giving talks

If there's enough interest I'll put up something newer.

Lastly, the hope is that students who wish to write poetry or a story have a space to get their material out there.

My hope is also that other members of staff add something too. So with a little luck, we'll have another writer here on the blog.

Best wishes to you all for 2013

lunes, 13 de febrero de 2012

Call of Rye of Duty 2: Big fat 10

Ok so I'm back... apologies for the "hiatusotototote".

Today we cover the special abilities in the system.

To promote self-study, autonomy and teamwork, several abilities can be unlocked with the appropriate amount of experience. A boost to experience for careful use of new structures for those who want to venture out of their comfort zone. Or for those who would like the support they can "call command/HQ" .. the teacher. For help. Normally they can't get points for something I do with them. But with this ability they can keep the points.

Each ability takes time to recharge. A default of 6 classes.
Originally they would also earn money to pay for these but I felt it was an extra, unnecessary layer of complexity. So arriving bang on time for 4 classes will accelerate them by one class.

For example, If the teacher helps they won't suffer the point penalty but cannot do the same for 3 weeks. However, constant attendance will shorten that to 5.
If they also use no Spanish in class it becomes 4.

Other rewards of this type include paying attention without constant reminders or helping the other team.
Classes are divided into teams of 3 or 4 depending on size for this to work. You can modify or remove this if it's a class of 4 students.

Now I have divided the possible careers into Army, Navy and Airforce. The airforce recharge 2 classes quicker to be able to use their abilities but they gain less experience... and the student with the highest experience is team captain.

This makes the Army seem great as they have an XP bonus. But they recharge 2 classes slower.

The idea is to have the students self regulate. The leader gains a small percentage of the teams lowest scorer. If all perform well and the one who struggles most gets 50 points the leader will also get 5 more. This should encourage stronger students to help the weaker ones in their group. In addition, points can be taken for misconduct. In which case the "commander" looses the same percentage of points as the lowest scorer, if that person is the commander the points are taken from the whole team. This way the teams can help control themselves and relieve the teacher a little.

A new group has been selected to pilot version 2. I believe the system is still too complicated and I will look to that after trying things as they are a little longer.

That's all for now.

sábado, 2 de julio de 2011

Call of Rye of Duty

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

I realise I have been absent and quieter these last few weeks. We have something a little more focused. I decided to try my hand at implementing a promotions system in the classes. 
After a particularly unruly day with one class, I was decided to implement something similar to what was mentioned in the first 2 posts about gamification.

The idea was to create a reward system to foment the intrinsic benefits of working together as a class or team and using English. 

The system is not too complicated. 

In this post I would like to cover the resource systems.

There are two main resources in the game. Experience points (XP) and money ($) (hey, it's a Mexican laptop; I don't have a pound sign).

Students gain XP by completing the day's exercises and successfully showing they understand the concept and structure. The teacher (T) can adjust the totals
I.e. If the work is a little easier 2 pages are needed to gain the points.

In my test classes further points are given (around 50% of those awarded for class work to promote homework (Hwk) as, in fact, page for page, designated Hwk page(s) (is) are worth more.

I have let them do such exercises in class if they want to but at the expense of games time, activities etc.

An additional similar amount for extra things they do. E.g. Read and report on a chapter of a book. or write a Synopsis. Points for this depend highly on the work they do. A well structured (for their level) report could reap 100% of an average class. 
(For reasons I will explain later this is being kept in at an average of 100..ish XP per class.. semi-arbitrary but bear with me.)

$ is earned by an achievement system. Punctuality for 4 consecutive classes. Using English as much as possible. Helping each other. Autonomous learning, I believe, should be regarded with the high..est...... regard

Critique: So far, things have worked well

The children although generally not that bad. Got straight down to... what's that charming expression in English... brass tacks? Either way they started work.... BEFORE class had officially began and with passive supervision. In the second class during ice breaker activities. There was some cheekiness ... in buena onda... I could tell it was just for a laugh I played along and we got down to work. 

A few moments crept up where blatant disregard for my instructions was met. 
I chose to ignore such behaviour and focus on the others making a show of the points they were getting. Soon enough the student in question came back over asking for a hand with the next question. After a time the behaviour got worse and two of them began to use the cork board for darts practice. I explained that it could be dangerous and was ignored. The threat of 5 points being removed was far more effective than predicted. Yet again I found myself in the same situation... I took of 5 points and threatened another 20 ....

What started as a reluctant handing pins over turned into a flurry of... well .. like ..... this 

albeit sans lethal weapons... but a pin in the eye is no laughing matter. In short, he handed a good deal of them over very quickly.

I can only speculate but once the others gain further points a little something called the Chain of Command will come into play and he will work hard to catch up.

On the negative side, no one seems to be taking the initiative and doing extra work. Perhaps more points are needed or some other form of incentive.


2 resources: XP and $

XP: gained for work in class.
Homework with a bit of a boost as an incentive.
Extra, voluntary activities.

$: rewarded for something a little "beyond the call of duty" the idea being that it can be spent on "special abilities" which I will cover in the next update.

jueves, 9 de junio de 2011

Because It Can #3 - Contextual Creation or Creational Contexts.

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

So.... prefixes... There was a moment when in Spanish I felt ... a little put out by Des___

Descomponer... from component and the negative nature of the prefix (for those who don't speak Spanish) indicate a lack of composition... i.e. it fell apart/doesn't work anymore. But that implies it used to work fine. At least as far as I can tell. 

Spanish launches me on the trail of discovery in English.

So what about desconocido or unknown (person). To me that means I never knew the person. Not that I used to. 

So    un/dis____   means   (Not currently)___. Whether never the case or that it was the case before but no longer so.

And so we come to the knot. "The knot was left untied"... if their used to be a knot.. ok we have the broken down type of dis... if never then WAIT... aha the text didn't say was undone... but LEFT undone... so the person never got round to tying it. And yet a knot by definition is a tied something.. cable, string....

Yet we can express something about the knot that never existed... even describe that knot; as undone. So how do I know which things are just string and which things are "undone knots"? (In the never before sense)
Do potential undone knots exist at all points on a string? Are all string really just knots that never formed? Or are knots modified strings?
Does it matter? (No)
Why do I care? (Mostly for the fun thought experiment)
Why does language do this to us?... yes... again
Be..cause it ...can.

Ha-ha got you. No. Obviously the knot must surely be an applied effort so the context of undone implies someone was about to do it and we understand the "undoneness"es in general and by the more specific varieties through context because of rule no. 1
Context is Everything

viernes, 13 de mayo de 2011

Because It Can #2 - The nature of perception in creation and reality

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

Language as a tool of thought and expression is closely linked to perception. At its simplest level we have the creation of paradoxes through the nature of English. A hand exists fairly objectively I would argue. Yet a closed hand is bit of a useless expression as the word fist exists; combining both concepts, and yet closed is a necessary part of fist. It cannot exist in any other state. An open fist.... just no. It's a hand. Yet open hand is more specific... it all gets little to much if you start to think about it.... so don't... Oh! wait... we already are.

Let's move on to something similar.
A not. You tie it, and it's done. You untie it and it's undone. In the sense that it was done but the process was reversed. The other sense is that it was never done in the first place. Meaning you still have rope, an open hand to link the metaphor. Yet you can think about this undone knot even though it doesn't exist, never did and, assuming you ensure it isn't.. let's say by burning the rope, it never will be. Yet we create it by perceiving the possibility... I could have made it. The language created this "knot" out of rope.

The list goes on but here's a response to a typical hispanophone criticism of English.
"There is no way to say te amo."
Yes there is. I love you. Sure yes the concept "Te quiero" represents can also be represented by the same words but we can perceive both emotions.. English just considers love more general than amor and  I guess "cariño" will have to do.

And while listening to people who speak both languages discuss this, a smile comes to my face... mostly because I love irony. Did they never stop to think... you know... if I complain about there only being 1 word in English ... who says it stops at 2...

Personally, I don't know about you... and I'm not judging here, but I wouldn't say I "love" my family i.e. mum dad sisters in the same way as ... well "my" family i.e. wife and children. I don't love my wife in the same way as I love my friends... or chocolate... or the dog. Yes in Spanish people will say... well OK but context... it understood... YES. Thank you. Of course it is. As it is in English... the listener just needs to do a little bit more work.
Who is to say that other languages don't have terms for romantic vs familiar love? In fact, as I understand it, in Japanese my girlfriend can "love" me as can my dog... it seems a sort of adoring romantic love. However, if I use that same term to say I love my dog...... you are expressing something that is best described as.. illegal. I don't romantically love my dog.
So the words create that reality in each language in a different way. Why? No.. not because it can... but because that's what language is. Expression, perception. but also creation... sometimes without realising.... it works because you believe it works.. on a level so deep that it's not really even belief anymore just acceptance.... this works better in Spanish... Creer es crear

jueves, 5 de mayo de 2011

Gamification in Education 2

by Liam Bourret-Nyffeler

Ok... hmm. So I was going to write something else but tonight the same people at Extra Creditz [sic] uploaded a new video focusing on this with a focus on education.

I write this a little on the spot as I was not expecting a follow-up to their previous video but I find that I could well be worth investing more time in some of the ideas they put forward. I especially like the idea of the earning levels system. This is something I know from personal experience in online military FPS (First Person Shooter) games, although I rarely find myself too interested in that particular genre. However, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare changed the landscape when they implemented this system and I found enjoying myself far more than I would otherwise have done so.

Please post critical responses to the points they bring up. I will be honest that I'm not hugely convinced of some of the linking activities they suggest however I am more than open to try as I have little knowledge of that style of teaching.