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robertogreco : languageacquisition   14

The Transformative Experience of Writing for “Sense8” | The New Yorker
"A large number of the American writers I know, and I know a few, are involved in writing or developing long-form narrative television. One reason for this was recently provided by John Landgraf, the C.E.O. of FX Network, who said that four hundred and fifty-four scripted original series had aired in the U.S. in 2016; he thought that the number could rise to five hundred this year. Apparently, the industry needs writers and, black-hole-like, is sucking in galaxies of them. Until I was asked to work on “Sense8,” I’d never been interested in that particular black hole, even though I had come to believe that American television had overtaken narrative literature in its ability to deal with contemporary realities. No novel has addressed the Bush years’ crypto-fascist notion of “leadership” with the same clarity of thought as “The Sopranos.” If you wanted to understand the waste laid by the so-called War on Drugs, you wouldn’t read a novel—you’d watch “The Wire.” Television, in other words, offers opportunities to confront and report from the world as it changes.

Before “Sense8,” my screenwriting experience consisted of co-authoring a script with the Bosnian director Jasmila Žbanić for her comedy “Love Island,” in 2014. The rest of my writerly life had taken place in the self-imposed isolation of my head. I don’t take part in workshops or writing groups; I don’t share ideas or drafts with my fellow-writers for feedback; I make all the decisions and am responsible for every word in the book that I am writing, acknowledgments included. My solipsistic authorial habits would seem to feed into a common misconception about writing, which is that it is merely a conduit for the writer’s interiority, and that a good writer—or even just a capable one—possesses the skills to transfer the contents of that interiority onto the page with as little loss as possible. Much of the creative-writing industry depends upon that misconception and the promise, implicit or explicit, that the acquisition of those skills is unconditionally achievable. I’ve grown to be suspicious of that notion, as I have learned that writing generates the content and therefore transforms—or even creates—the interiority. Writing is a means of interaction with the world, and therefore it changes the writer. If it doesn’t, it contains no discovery and merely reproduces the already known and familiar. Writing, I believe, should be a matter not of execution but of transformation.

My screenwriting experience confirmed my belief. While Lana, Lilly, and Joe were responsible for the foundations of the show—for all the characters and their narrative trajectories—my role was to make proposals that would be taken up by the other people in the room and spun around a few times. The version of the proposal that emerged would have little to do with the original, yet belonged to me as much as to everyone else. In the course of one of those spins, I realized that, whenever I spoke or listened to someone, I was looking at the center of a circle that was delimited by the participants. Somehow, we started calling this space, and the collaboration that it housed, the Pit. A whole Pit-related phraseology soon emerged: “I’m going to throw this into the Pit.” “Let’s spin it in the Pit.” “The Pit concurs.” “The Pit needs a pendulum.” I enjoyed losing myself in the process, which felt all the more fascinating for the fact that the distinguishing characteristic of the heroes of “Sense8” is an ability to inhabit someone else’s mind. All this may be yesterday’s news to the film, television, and theatre people out there, but I’d never experienced the pleasure of temporarily losing my intellectual sovereignty—of watching my bright idea be destroyed, only to be transformed into something entirely different.

After that week in 2015, David and I went back home. (My home is about five blocks away from Kinowerks; David’s is in Ireland.) For the rest of the year, we were regularly assigned scenes to write on short deadlines. Cognizant of their place and role in the larger narrative, we were tasked with working out the dialogue and the details, tossing in our suggestions for a remote Pit spin. “The Wolfgang and Lila dinner, 2-3 pages, tomorrow,” Lana would write in an e-mail. The following day I’d submit the requested two to three pages. Lana and Joe would perform the bulk of the Pit work, developing, amending, or just rejecting the pages we sent in. Over the course of three months or so, I sent in some hundred and twenty pages, happy in the knowledge that not a single one of them would make it to the final seven-hundred-page script in the form in which I had written it."



"In my literary projects, the plotless structures I gravitate toward allow me to seek connections and meanings that emerge primarily not from characters and events but from language and the potentialities of thought within it. I think inside endless semantic, syntactic, rhythmic variations. Both David and I were continuously tempted to apply our respective colored pencils to the pages of the script (David’s grammatically persnickety alter ego is named Lawrence and likes to use a green pen), but there was little time and even less need to attend to the language in the way we were accustomed to. We did, however, often discuss the structure of individual events and their positioning in the larger plot. For instance, the second season of “Sense8” ended with a cliffhanger, the resolution of which would necessarily prohibit certain future plotlines. There was, nevertheless, an infinite number of possibilities for the plot that would follow; not unlike language, our plot was a discrete combinatory system, in which from a finite number of elements any number of combinations could be made. From our respective couches (which Lana, David, and I named, for reasons that I cannot explain here, “Illumination,” “Ireland,” and “Doom,” respectively), before making any notes, we spent hours reshuffling the abstract, as yet nonexistent structure of the story.

During one of those sessions, I had a near-Proustian involuntary memory of a time, some thirty years ago, when I was a freshman at an engineering college. My friend and I were studying together for an advanced-differential-calculus exam, solving tough integral problems, until we ran into one that we could not break. For two days, for at least twelve hours a day, we sought a solution; the process required reducing the integral to some identifiable type and then applying a preëxisting algorithmic protocol. (We finally called in a math-genius friend, who looked at the unbreakable integral and solved it in just a couple of steps.) The memory made me realize that plotting a narrative is a logical, algorithmic operation, albeit one that has an infinite number of possible outcomes, rather than one correct resolution. Building a plot is like creating an algorithm from scratch, starting before the problem is even defined and then backtracking after the desired solution has been selected.

The memory also suggested that my subconscious was following a logical algorithm. My dreams are usually amorphous, featuring a field of confusingly connected events—a description that also applies to most of my work, as well as to my waking mind. The subconscious authority governing my dream life, however, had lately begun to insist that the events and the characters in my dreams be logically connected, that they follow one another causally. In recent dreams, I’ve struggled to connect discrete events, so much so that I’ve woken in despair. Once, I dreamed that I was a screenwriter trying to untangle a plot knot. Some dreams have featured “Sense8” characters, others those from the New Project, who sometimes act like real people in my dreams and are sometimes just structural problems that I have to solve.

Back in my early years in the U.S., at the time when my English was in transition from tourist to survival mode, I’d catch myself dreaming in English, and noticing, in my dream, that the people who shouldn’t be talking in English were doing so. Even more bizarrely, I would recollect English conversations with my family or friends, which would certainly have taken place in our native language. I interpreted those dreams and memories as my subconscious mind welcoming this non-native language. If I hadn’t absorbed the new language in that way, I wouldn’t have been able to write any of the books I’ve written in English, or to have lived a full life in this language. I am writing this on the last day of the Pit’s screenwriting session, overwhelmed by the feeling that the sandbox is about to be dismantled, that my friends will go back to their separate lives and careers, and that, very soon, I’ll be returning to my former, stark, monastic literary practices. What the experience of exultant plotting at Kinowerks may have done to my mind, I cannot begin to know, at least not yet."
aleksandarhemon  2017  writing  sense8  collaboration  collaborativewriting  english  languageacquisition  dreams  dreaming  memory  kinowerks  television  screenwriting  howwewrite 
october 2017 by robertogreco
GrokReader
"Dual Language Interactive Alternating Chapter books offer a new way to read and learn a foreign language. The patent pending (GrokReader) interwoven and overlapping book format compels you to read the complete chapter in the original foreign language. When you make it to the end of each chapter, there is a link to re-read the chapter in English to help you understand what you read, or a link to jump to the next chapter in English or Original Language. For a Spanish English book, you choose whether to read the Spanish language chapter first, covering new territory, or take the easier route and read it in English first, followed by the same chapter in Spanish. No matter which path you take, you will come out having read a classic book in its original language, improving your Spanish (or English) chapter by chapter.

As you improve, you can choose to read more chapters in the foreign language first, which studies show is a key way to "strain the brain", forcing you out of your comfort-zone, and facilitating improved retention of vocabulary and meaning."
kindle  applications  translation  reading  languages  languageacquisition 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Debunking the Myths of English Language Learners | Edutopia
"Myths in the education system are important to debunk in order to build a better support system for students. The future of education depends on looking at past failures, and not just learning from them to move forward, but to rise upwards. There are several myths in English Language classrooms that are often seen as normal practice.

Identifying these myths will help us meet our students’ needs, and be able to serve them better.

Myth #1: Students cannot use their first language in the classroom

There are still many teachers who enforce this rule in their classrooms despite the fact the it is outdated and has many negative effects on the learner. When students are able to use their first language amongst peers who also speak the same language, they are more likely to use English for communicative purposes in social settings. Another reason to allow students’ use of first language in the classroom is for them to understand instructions fully. In this way, the student is able to concentrate on the task at hand, rather than being preoccupied with trying to understand the instructions.

Myth #2: Students need to be corrected when they’re speaking English

It is often tempting for teachers to correct grammar or pronunciation when student is speaking. However, it’s best to let the students speak freely without the interfering act of correcting. Correcting often decreases students’ self-confidence and diminishes their agency and voice in the classroom. Over time, with lots of practice of oral communication, students will eventually recognize grammar and sentence structure patterns on their own. In the meantime, teachers should support students when speaking by offering help when the student asks for it. Corrective strategies in the classroom, if at all necessary, need to be done privately, with kindness and care.

Myth #3: All English language learners are immigrants

Many language learners are not immigrants and have in fact been born in the US. Some language learners are also international students, who are here on a study period. It is important to be mindful and empathetic to the backgrounds of our learners to help us meet their learning needs and create a safe classroom culture for them.

Myth #4: To learn English students must assimilate within North American culture

To assimilate is to change or acquire certain characteristics of a group. Many teachers are under the impression that in order for students to succeed in language acquisition, a student must adopt and assimilate in North American culture. It is important to remember that the two processes are completely separate from each other.

Students can and do learn the language regardless whether they assimilate to North American culture practices or not. Understanding that the two processes are unrelated will help teachers be supportive of the student’s learning of the new culture and its practices and ideologies. In this way the teachers can act as a support system to help the student navigate new cultural understandings and help them make sense of what is usually an overwhelming experience.

Myth #5: All English language learners share similar background, culture, socio-economic status

This might seem like an obvious myth, however, often times teachers unconsciously view English language learners as a collective of students. It is absolutely crucial to shift this mindset and focus on the student from an individualistic perspective. English language learners are often so different from each other that they do not relate to their peers for the simple fact that they are both ELLs. Reminding ourselves that our language learners do not share the same culture, religion, socio-economic background, race, etc. helps us see them as the special individuals that they are. Connect with students by knowing who they are, it is the only way to touch their minds and their hearts."
esl  language  languageacquisition  2015  education  teaching 
july 2015 by robertogreco
There is no language instinct – Vyvyan Evans – Aeon
"For decades, the idea of a language instinct has dominated linguistics. It is simple, powerful and completely wrong"



"In the 1960s, the US linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky offered what looked like a solution. He argued that children don’t in fact learn their mother tongue – or at least, not right down to the grammatical building blocks (the whole process was far too quick and painless for that). He concluded that they must be born with a rudimentary body of grammatical knowledge – a ‘Universal Grammar' – written into the human DNA. With this hard-wired predisposition for language, it should be a relatively trivial matter to pick up the superficial differences between, say, English and French. The process works because infants have an instinct for language: a grammatical toolkit that works on all languages the world over.

At a stroke, this device removes the pain of learning one’s mother tongue, and explains how a child can pick up a native language in such a short time. It’s brilliant. Chomsky’s idea dominated the science of language for four decades. And yet it turns out to be a myth. A welter of new evidence has emerged over the past few years, demonstrating that Chomsky is plain wrong.

But let’s back up a little. There’s one point that everyone agrees upon: our species exhibits a clear biological preparedness for language. Our brains really are ‘language-ready’ in the following limited sense: they have the right sort of working memory to process sentence-level syntax, and an unusually large prefrontal cortex that gives us the associative learning capacity to use symbols in the first place. Then again, our bodies are language-ready too: our larynx is set low relative to that of other hominid species, letting us expel and control the passage of air. And the position of the tiny hyoid bone in our jaws gives us fine muscular control over our mouths and tongues, enabling us to make as the 144 distinct speech sounds heard in some languages. No one denies that these things are thoroughly innate, or that they are important to language.

What is in dispute is the claim that knowledge of language itself – the language software – is something that each human child is born with. Chomsky’s idea is this: just as we grow distinctive human organs – hearts, brains, kidneys and livers – so we grow language in the mind, which Chomsky likens to a ‘language organ’. This organ begins to emerge early in infancy. It contains a blueprint for all the possible sets of grammar rules in all the world’s languages. And so it is child’s play to pick up any naturally occurring human language. A child born in Tokyo learns to speak Japanese while one born in London picks up English, and on the surface these languages look very different. But underneath, they are essentially the same, running on a common grammatical operating system. The Canadian cognitive scientist Steven Pinker has dubbed this capacity our ‘language instinct’.

There are two basic arguments for the existence of this language instinct. The first is the problem of poor teachers. As Chomsky pointed out in 1965, children seem to pick up their mother tongue without much explicit instruction. When they say: ‘Daddy, look at the sheeps,’ or ‘Mummy crossed [ie, is cross with] me,’ their parents don’t correct their mangled grammar, they just marvel at how cute they are. Furthermore, such seemingly elementary errors conceal amazing grammatical accomplishments. Somehow, the child understands that there is a lexical class – nouns – that can be singular or plural, and that this distinction doesn’t apply to other lexical classes.

This sort of knowledge is not explicitly taught; most parents don’t have any explicit grammar training themselves. And it’s hard to see how children could work out the rules just by listening closely: it seems fundamental to grasping how a language works. To know that there are nouns, which can be pluralised, and which are distinct from, say, verbs, is where the idea of a language instinct really earns its keep. Children don’t have to figure out everything from scratch: certain basic distinctions come for free."



"In his book The Language Instinct (1994), Steven Pinker examined various suggestive language pathologies in order to make the case for just such a dissociation. For example, some children suffer from what is known as Specific Language Impairment (SLI) – their general intellect seems normal but they struggle with particular verbal tasks, stumbling on certain grammar rules and so on. That seems like a convincing smoking gun – or it would, if it hadn’t turned out that SLI is really just an inability to process fine auditory details. It is a consequence of a motor deficit, in other words, rather than a specifically linguistic one. Similar stories can be told about each of Pinker’s other alleged dissociations: the verbal problems always turn out to be rooted in something other than language."



"Stop and think about this: it is a very weird idea. For one thing, Chomsky’s claim is that language came about through a macro-mutation: a discontinuous jump. But this is at odds with the modern neo-Darwinian synthesis, widely accepted as fact, which has no place for such large-scale and unprecedented leaps. Adaptations just don’t pop up fully formed. Moreover, a bizarre consequence of Chomsky’s position is that language couldn’t have evolved for the purpose of communication: after all, even if a grammar gene could have sprung up out of the blue in one lucky individual (already vanishingly unlikely), the chances of two individuals getting the same chance mutation, at exactly the same time, is even less credible. And so, according to the theory of the language instinct, the world’s first language-equipped human presumably had no one to talk to."



"According to the US comparative psychologist Michael Tomasello, by the time the common ancestor of Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis had emerged sometime around 300,000 years ago, ancestral humans had already developed a sophisticated type of co‑operative intelligence. This much is evident from the archaeological record, which demonstrates the complex social living and interactional arrangements among ancestral humans. They probably had symbol use – which prefigures language – and the ability to engage in recursive thought (a consequence, on some accounts, of the slow emergence of an increasingly sophisticated symbolic grammar). Their new ecological situation would have led, inexorably, to changes in human behaviour. Tool-use would have been required, and co‑operative hunting, as well as new social arrangements – such as agreements to safeguard monogamous breeding privileges while males were away on hunts.

These new social pressures would have precipitated changes in brain organisation. In time, we would see a capacity for language. Language is, after all, the paradigmatic example of co‑operative behaviour: it requires conventions – norms that are agreed within a community – and it can be deployed to co‑ordinate all the additional complex behaviours that the new niche demanded.

From this perspective, we don’t have to assume a special language instinct; we just need to look at the sorts of changes that made us who we are, the changes that paved the way for speech. This allows us to picture the emergence of language as a gradual process from many overlapping tendencies. It might have begun as a sophisticated gestural system, for example, only later progressing to its vocal manifestations. But surely the most profound spur on the road to speech would have been the development of our instinct for co‑operation. By this, I don’t mean to say that we always get on. But we do almost always recognise other humans as minded creatures, like us, who have thoughts and feelings that we can attempt to influence.

We see this instinct at work in human infants as they attempt to acquire their mother tongue. Children have far more sophisticated learning capacities than Chomsky foresaw. They are able to deploy sophisticated intention-recognition abilities from a young age, perhaps as early as nine months old, in order to begin to figure out the communicative purposes of the adults around them. And this is, ultimately, an outcome of our co‑operative minds. Which is not to belittle language: once it came into being, it allowed us to shape the world to our will – for better or for worse. It unleashed humanity’s tremendous powers of invention and transformation. But it didn’t come out of nowhere, and it doesn’t stand apart from the rest of life. At last, in the 21st century, we are in a position to jettison the myth of Universal Grammar, and to start seeing this unique aspect of our humanity as it really is."
language  linguistics  instinct  languageinstinct  2014  vyvyanevans  noamchomsky  michaeltomasello  behavior  psychology  evolution  cooperation  howwelearn  languages  communication  universalgrammar  stevenpinker  genetics  languageacquisition 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Chineasy - Where characters are revealed
"A visual-based learning system which teaches Chinese characters, simple stories & phrases.
Our aim is to bring down the great wall of Chinese language."
chinese  languages  language  learning  education  languagelearning  languageacquisition  via:anne  srg  edg 
may 2013 by robertogreco
Departures, Cont. - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"I felt myself as horrifyingly singular there. A language is more than grammar and words, is the movement of The People, their sense of appropriate laughter, their very conception of space. In Paris the public space was a backyard for The People and The People's language was not mine. Even if I learned the grammar and vocab so part of it must be off-limits to me. it could never really be "mine." I had a native language of my own. I felt like a distant friend crashing a family reunion. Except the family was this entire sector of the city. I could feel their nameless, invisible bonds all around me, tripping my every step."



"I got my ticket, boarded the train. and descended further into the European continent.

The loneliness was intense. I knew at a least few people in Paris. But this train winding through high and gorgeous country, leaving behind small Hallmark towns, was truly taking me into foreign depths. For most of the ride there were English translations. But when I transferred at Lausanne, the pretensions dropped away and there was only French. I have spent almost as much time away from my family in the past year as I've spent with them. Is this how it's supposed to be? Is learning forever winding through these strange and foreign places? Is study the opposite of home?

In Vevey, I was met at the station by a mother and her daughter. They gave me the layout of the town. They showed me how to catch the train to school. They told me how to lock up their house. They poured me red wine, served bread and cheese. This was immersion. I was given a room. I called my wife then went to bed. That night everyone in my dreams spoke French.  I could not understand a word they said."
paris  switzerland  language  learning  ta-nehisicoates  2013  dreams  dreaming  french  france  languagelearning  languageacquisition  solitude  cultureclash  loneliness  belonging  safety  risk 
march 2013 by robertogreco
France, J'ai Vous Peur - Ta-Nehisi Coates - The Atlantic
"What happens over there? Can I jog in the streets? Will people ask if I know Kobe Bryant? If I forget my place and say "tu" instead of "vous" will they cane me? And if I say "vous" instead of "tu" will they think I am being sarcastic? Who goes to another country and stays with people they don't know?

I don't know. I don't know anything. This is truly frightening--and exhilarating--part of language study. It's total submission. All around you will be people who know much more than you about everything. And the only way to learn is to accept this. You can't know what's coming next. You can't think about false goals like fluency. You just have to accept your own horribleness, your own ignorance and believe--almost on faith--that someday you will be less horrible and less ignorant. 

I've come to the point where I can accept that I am afraid and keep going. This is not courage, so much as understanding there's no other way. People who read this blog now send me notes in French. At speeches Haitian students approach me, and they speak French. My kid is starting to believe that learning a language is cool. I'm hemmed in by all of this, by ma grande bouche. 

And now there's no other way. Ces choses doit être fait."

[In a comment he left: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/france-jai-vous-peur/274132/#comment-833933574 ]

"It's funny because my first impulse was to have all of this read by my French tutor.

Two things stopped me.

1.) I wanted to communicate who I was to the family. Part of who I am is someone working out my French. It seemed important for them to know this.

2.) I really look forward to reading back over this entire series in five years.

With that said, correct away. Public correction is part of this."
ta-nehisicoates  language  languageacquisition  2013  french  ignorance  horribleness  learning  vulnerability  cv  canon  life  risk  honesty  identity  presentationofself  notknowing  uncertainty  certainty  thelearningmind  howwelearn  risktaking  culture 
march 2013 by robertogreco
My Family’s Experiment in Extreme Schooling - NYTimes.com
"He [Bogin] seemed to care about the way they thought, not what they knew. The children found him bizarre…

As things settled, we were discovering that New Humanitarian was a pretty remarkable place. Bogin set up a system of what he called curators, two or three teachers whose job was to oversee the 10 to 15 children in each grade. Curators generally do not conduct lessons but observe classes, identify problems and take children to meals and activities…

Bogin had another innovation: classes were videotaped…

New Humanitarian cost about $10,000 a child our first year. We could afford it — like many companies that send workers abroad, The Times paid tuition. Yet for Muscovites, the school was a strange breed. It was too expensive for most but not appealing to the rich, who often preferred compliant teachers and lavish facilities…"

[See also: http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/15/z-is-the-first-letter-of-the-alphabet/ ]
education  russia  moscow  schools  progressive  tcsnmy  learning  children  language  2011  criticalthinking  languageacquisition  vasiliygeorgievichbogin  bogin  cliffordlevy  experience  resilience  lcproject  teaching 
september 2011 by robertogreco
Deb Roy: The birth of a word | Video on TED.com
"MIT researcher Deb Roy wanted to understand how his infant son learned language -- so he wired up his house with videocameras to catch every moment (with exceptions) of his son's life, then parsed 90,000 hours of home video to watch "gaaaa" slowly turn into "water." Astonishing, data-rich research with deep implications for how we learn."
debroy  language  science  ted  languageacquisition  learning  infants  children  childhood  environment  visualization  video  mit  neuroscience  social  spacetimeworms  naturenurture  speech  words  memorymachines  memory  lifelogging  tracking  audio  recording  classideas  patternrecognition  patterns  vocabulary  media  television  tv  socialmedia  eventstucture  conversation  semanticanalysis  wordscapes  communication  communicationdynamics  engagement  data  socialgraph  contentgraph  coviewing  behavior  socialstructures 
march 2011 by robertogreco
The 7 Fascinating Education Ideas of the Year - voiceofsandiego.org: Schooled: The Education Blog
"Solving Einstein's Algebra Problem [Einstein Academy], Letting the Kids Make the Rules [Innovations Academy], English Learners Who Seem to Know English [Pacific Beach Middle School], Small (Change) Is Beautiful [Euclid Elementary], The Data War [SDUSD in opposition to RttT], Wording Up Without the Dictionary [Grant Barrett, SDUSD], One Class Fits All [Correia Middle School in Point Loma drops tracking]"
sandiego  2010  emilyalpert  einsteinacademy  innovationsacademy  algebra  math  teaching  learning  sdusd  language  languageacquisition  change  euclidelementary  data  rttt  vocabulary  tracking  democracy  democratic  schools  biliteracy  assessment  collaboration  teacherretention 
december 2010 by robertogreco

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