Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

“Micromanagement stifles creativity” said film-maker Ken Loach in a recent interview with Kim Hill.

Teacher friends have been enjoying a new book “Disobedient Teaching” which has a similar message.  It points out that teaching students how to pass tests can actually narrow the options for learning.

I’ve spent many years in the voluntary sector where it was noticeable that as new regulations were introduced and more form filling was required it became harder for the spirit of volunteering to flourish.

Have you noticed examples of creativity being stifled?

“Bureaucracy can be a pest
sometimes our intuition’s best.”



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I’m enrolled in a MOOC.   That’s a Massive Open Online Course, with unlimited participation and open access via the internet.  The course I’ve started is run by the University of Iowa, and is called “Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Poetry and Plays”.   Registration is free.  It’s optional to pay $US50 to get a Certificate of Completion.   Certificate fees are used to fund the development of future MOOCs.

I don’t want a certificate, and am not sure whether I’ll complete, but I’ve enjoyed the two weeks (out of seven) that I’ve done so far.  Each week we are given video lectures, readings, and an assignment.  There are also optional group discussions.  The lectures are short – the longest I’ve seen was 24 minutes – and given by a wide range of academics from around the world.  Feedback on assignments is given by other students, and we are all encouraged to give feedback to each other (that’s one of the requirements of course completion).  When I submitted my first assignment I was pleased to get feedback from four other students, but I haven’t yet felt confident to comment on others.  My writing tends to be short and simple, and I’ve had difficulty understanding some of the other assignments I’ve read.  There are options to write either poetry or plays, and the discussions are graded for beginners (that’s me!) and experienced writers.

Some screens say “This programme was made possible by the generous support of the American people throught the U.S. Department of State and by the University of Iowa”.  It’s pleasing to think there’s something beneficial coming from the U.S. these days.  Have you ever studied on a MOOC?

“I’ve started on a writing course
thanks to the U.S. State resource.”


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This sign for ‘Beglian’ chocolates caught my eye at the supermarket.   It was repeated several times.  I guess, like Fairfax, they don’t employ proofreaders.

The next shop we went to had fresh ginger, clearly labelled as garlic.

What is the retail world coming to?

“It seems if people want to sell
there is no need for them to spell.”

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I was intrigued to see this Latin motto on an architects’ office at the corner of Colombo and Peterborough Streets.

It reads ‘Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas’.  I knew the first two words meant strength and usefulness, and I guessed the third must mean beauty, but I’d never come across Venustas before.  I looked it up in our trusty Latin dictionary, and sure enough it means beauty.  Plus the Shorter Oxford says that venust means beautiful, elegant, graceful.  I learn something new every day.  Now, all I need is to find a place for it on a scrabble board.

“Today I met a brand new word
it’s one that I had never heard.”

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Eight weeks of writing classes have taught me heaps, and stimulated all kinds of writing.  Fiction writing is a challenge for me, but we were given good questions to trigger this.  I found I love the Tanka format.

Tanka are similar to Haiku, but written from a subjective viewpoint, with a syllable count that goes 5,7,5,7,7.  The first two lines are an introduction.  The third changes the tone, gives a twist.  The last two lines should have a profound meaning and/or prompt reflection, and the whole should be able to be read as one sentence.   We were also introduced to Haiga, where the poem (which could be a Tanka) is combined with a picture.  I enjoyed being given a picture and asked to write an accompanying Tanka within ten minutes.  Here are a couple I wrote (sorry I don’t have the pictures they were intended to go with).

Your concentration
is focussed on one pathway
let your mind wander
there are other points of view
that may give a fresh outlook


Together apart
each of us on our own path
there is unity
with an agreed objective
reached by diff’rent processes


Have you come across Tanka poems before?  And do you know whether the plural of Tanka should have an ‘s’?

“After this course I now hanker
to be writing many Tanka.”



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Fairfax Flaw

How many of you shuddered when you saw this glaring error in yesterday’s “Press” headline?

I know that proofreaders have been made redundant, and I’m used to the many minor mistakes I see daily, but you’d think someone would have noticed this before it was printed!

“I often notice a mistake
but this one really takes the cake.”

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At  a concert last week I was surprised when the person introducing the artist used ‘um’ a number of times.  In this role you expect someone to be a confident public speaker.  If they don’t know what they’re going to say they could have it written on a piece of paper and read it.  That would be better than using ‘um’.

This morning I listened to a podcast of an interview with Jeremy Corbyn, and was disappointed to hear him also using ‘um’.   He appeared to not be fully prepared for the interview, which in his position is inexcusable.  I’d rather see Labour in Government in the U.K. than the Tories, but after hearing this I see how unlikely that is.

For people in public life training in public speaking is vital.  In the 1990s I benefitted greatly from being a member of Tecorian Speakers.

I learned a lot, and also had fun.  I still remember an Avon Tecorians A.G.M. as the most enjoyable I’ve every been to (we played charades).  Tecorian clubs still meet in Hornby, Rangiora, and Darfield, but sadly the inner city clubs have disappeared.  One reason I was attracted to Tecorians was the fact that they were entirely New Zealand based.  Similar training can be found at Toastmasters, but they are an international group based in the U.S.

The only time ‘um’ has been acceptable was in this 1964 recording by Major Lance.  Do you remember that?

“There’s no excuse for the Um word
if your message is to be heard.”


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