Busy, busy, busy

I knew going to a convention in late February was going to be a bad idea. I feel like I haven’t had a chance to breathe since coming back from Wellington, let alone do things like update my diary. It’s one of our busiest times of year at work, of course (and although I don’t talk about the specifics of work in my diary, I will say that this year has been particularly chaotic), plus I’ve started studying again (and after only one week of lectures, we’ve already been given our first assignment!), plus of course my ESOLHT training, and somewhere among all this I’m supposed to be putting together our bid for the 2009 convention (if I ever find time to write up the rest of the Wellington weekend that will be explained), and suddenly it’s March which means I’ve only got a few weeks to finish off my other secret project (more details to follow in a friends-only post), and…

Anyway, what I’ve been up to since I last found time to post (which I’ve just noticed was over a week ago!):

We spent a very pleasant evening at the Gwilks’ last Friday playing board games. I had to wimp out and go home just before midnight, though, because I was in serious danger of falling asleep at the table.

Then on Saturday we were out again, this time having dinner with awhina, fianc√©, and kids, her bridesmaid’s husband, and lytteltonwitch. Again, a very enjoyable evening, but another late night.

On Monday term started, and it was full-on into study. I’m taking a sociolinguistics paper this semester (sociolinguistics is the study of how language varies and changes according to non-linguistic factors, like age, gender, social class, education… even just social context e.g. many people have a “telephone voice”, very different from their normal speaking voice), and it looks like there’s going to be a lot of practical work. Our first assignment (due next week) is to do a mini field study sampling the way NZers speak. Should be an interesting course, anyway.

Tuesday night was my ESOLHT class, where we did a fascinating exercise. They had a guest speaker who said she was going to teach us another language, so that we could get a feel for the challenges our learners face. Then for the next hour she didn’t speak English, just this new language (which she told us later was Marathi, from Maharashtra state in India). At first we were all completely confused and had no idea what she was saying (of course!), but by using gestures and a lot of repetition she gradually taught us to say “hello”, “my name is…”, “what is your name?”, “how are you?” and “I’m fine”. It was incredibly hard work, because you were not only having to try and remember the new words, and pronounce them properly, but you were also having to try and work out what she wanted us to do, because all the instructions were in Marathi too – it took a massive amount of concentration. In the debriefing afterwards everyone was saying how utterly exhausted they felt by the end of the lesson. As part of the debriefing we were asked how much we thought we’d remember by our next class, and most of us realised we’d already forgotten half the words! The only one I can remember now is “hello”, which sounded something like “Namascar” (no idea how it is actually spelt!).

It was fascinating to see just how you can (with a lot of patience and hard work!) teach someone a language without knowing theirs. I’ve always wondered how ESOL teachers manage unless they’re bilingual themselves, so it was really interesting to see the beginnings of the process. Most of our learners will have already had some basic English lessons, but some may be absolutely starting from scratch like that, so it was also reassuring to see that it’s not impossible!

I’ve been trying to release a book somewhere around the university every day this week, to catch a few of the new students:

Friday: Demon of the Air by Simon Levack
Monday: The Eye of the Tiger by Wilbur Smith
Tuesday: Grail Quest: Voyage of Terror by JH Brennan
Wednesday: Hot as a Pistol by Gene Curry and The Goodbye Summer by Patricia Gaffney
Friday: Moviola by Garson Kanin

The strategy has been reasonably successful, because I’ve had two catches so far: The Eye of the Tiger was caught by an anonymous finder, and Grail Quest was caught by celeritas2, who’s been a member for a while, but was inspired by catching my book to finally start releasing a few of her own, and is going to try and come along to meetups!

I’ve been releasing a few books in other places as well: in the fish and chip shop while buying our “Friday night junk food” tea (Daddy’s Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark and Charlotte’s Secrets by Charlotte Dawson) and in a cafe in town last weekend (The Black House by Paul Theroux).

I was in town again today, at an ESOLHT workshop (it was really aimed at people who are already tutoring, but our instructor said we were welcome to come along anyway, and I was glad I did, not so much for the content of the workshop as for the chance to talk to some experienced tutors and find out how their reality matches up with what we are being taught), so I took the opportunity to release a few more books: Eva Luna by Isabel Allende in the ESOLHT offices (I thought an Isabel Allende book might be a good match for a group of people interested in other cultures, and it seems I was right, because I had a look when I was leaving and it had already been picked up by someone!); The Hearth and the Eagle by Anya Seton in the cafe where I had lunch, and Birds of a Feather by Leigh Roberts in a phone booth.

Tomorrow I fully intend to have a very quiet and lazy day. Well, apart from having some reading to do for both sociolinguistics and ESOL, and I have to start on my field study, and I really should get to work on our convention bid presentation… Roll on Christmas!

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