Category Archives: Linguistics

Living in the UK – Some thoughts on food, books and my classes

Welcome back,

Now since I had a number of deadlines this week and I was a bit sick (I had a vertigo because of a blocked ear and had therefore an ear syringing – was ok ;-)), I can’t offer you any travel reports this time but I can offer you an insight into living in the UK and everything that comes with that, like buying and eating food or searching for a new book to read. I am sure you will find some things familiar if you have been to the UK before, but I am also sure you will learn something new too and hopefully enjoy reading it! 😉

Food is obviously always a big issue, but especially if you live in a country that offers food which his mostly different from the stuff you are used to at home, you will need some time to get used to it. What I can say about British supermarkets is that you won’t believe me what kind of awesome stuff they are selling here, and the good thing about it – it is very cheap compared to food sold in Austria. That might be one reason why every time I look into my basket before paying I say to myself “well, that escalated quickly…..”

Too much sweet stuff….

Another reason for this is certainly the fact that I always find something new I want to try in the sweets section, but I have to say that now (mid-March) I have control over it. Some of the most delicious things I have tried so far are Milky Way chocolate stars, Oreo Golden cookies, mint-flavored Aero bubbles and a Maltesers bunny (Easter is coming).

‘Spread’ is one of the words I have never used before I came here but is now quite important to me because I eat it every day. It refers to the paste you put on a toast or bread, you surely know the most famous one in Austria, Nutella. Here they sell hundreds (I am exaggerating) of different peanut butter spreads, but the coolest ones I found so far are Maltesers, Bounty, Cadbury and Twix spreads. I have tried all except for the Bounty one, and they are really good.

What amazes me  most is the variety of different hot chocolate drinks, which can be made with hot water. I have tried a lot of them like White Maltesers, Milky Way, Wispa (very bubbly), some mint and orange-flavored thing, but there are still so many to try.

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The selection of teas is simply amazing, I already bought more tea that I can drink during my stay here. But not everything is good, I have not told you about the cat food yet…

Cat food

Here they offer a huge selection of cans with everything you can imagine in them, I bought a chicken soup once in case I get ill. That was a very bad idea!  I will always remember that as the ‘cat food incident’: When I opened the can I thought omg this looks and smells like cat food. But I gave it a chance and prepared it in the microwave and tried it. I cannot say if it tastes like cat food because I have never tried cat food but I will certainly never try this soup again. I think cat food tastes like that…Now I really don’t understand why cats  eat this…

Tilda

Apparently British people  like Tilda Swinton – one of their fellow Brits – so much that they even name rice after her.I did not want to take a photo myself because I guess people would stare at me if I took a photo of rice in the supermarket….

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Crisps & Waste

Those were the positive aspects. However, this variety of great things apparently comes with a price: waste culture. Let me illustrate this by showing you how crisps look like here.

If you buy a bag of crisps (“Chips” in German) – usually 2 bags because you can have 2 for 2 pounds – and you open it you won’t find crisps. You will find five six smaller bags of crisps. It is double the amount of waste you produce if you buy one pack. The one shown on the photo below is rather small, about the size of crisps bags in Austria, but there are also much bigger ones which typically contain X2 salty x2 cheese and onion 2x salt and vinegar and sometimes 2x prawn. PRAWN??!? Yes, that is not a mistake. Prawn crisps. Why do they do that to those little creatures… I guess it is artificial flavor but still, the mere idea of turning a creature into crisps is kind of disturbing…..

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By the way, Chips (“Pommes”) are eaten with vinegar. Everything is eaten with vinegar. WHY??? I don’t like vinegar. But ok, if they like it…

Books

Before I went abroad I said to myself that I won’t buy books here because it is so annoying to get them back home. I did not stick to that. At all. You might know that I love CYAL ( children’s and young adult literature) and here you find a children’s books section everywhere! Every little bookshop such as the shop in Liverpool cathedral or Chester cathedral has a children’s books section. I found one in the Football Museum’s store as well, have a look at the photo below.

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I am particularly happy that I found a Shakespeare collection for children, I really love those books and I might find them useful for teaching in the future. I would have never thought that I would end up reading Shakespeare hear…what comes next? James Joyce? Äh..maybe not. Especially if there are no children’s editions.

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Another thing that is certainly very different here is teaching. I think I have already told you that I am doing five classes here, two of them being electives. Let me tell you a little bit more details about them.

English & Society

English & Society is a first-year Sociolinguistics course i have originally taken just because I had to find another course and this one was available to me and fit my schedule. You might think it is very basic and boring to me, but that is absolutely not true! While there are certainly many things I am already familiar with (and the teacher noticed that after thanking me for my active participation 😉 ), there are certain topics which are almost completely new like Language and Gender, which was very interesting and should definitely be a part of an introduction to Linguistics that features Sociolinguistics. Other issues were being discussed from a very different perspective compared to Vienna, especially since dialects have a very important status here. As David Crystal said, RP is not popular anymore, it does not even exist anymore. Another aspect is the fact that we have a 1-hour tutorial every week, which is basically a practical class – we analyze graphs and discuss certain aspects from the lecture. It is very similar to my ISL2 tutorial in Vienna, there is no repetition of content, but application of content, and now I experience it on the other side and see how very meaningful this is. For every course we have an online course on Blackboard – the Welsh Moodle – have a look at the screenshot below. It is – of course – bilingual.

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SLA and Language Teaching

SLA and Language Teaching is a course dealing with various aspects of bilingualism, language acquisition and language teaching, such as the Critical Period Hypothesis, Code-switching and native and non-native teachers of English. The session on the last mentioned topic was particularly interesting because this is such a controversial topic. The only thing I want to say about this is: Please ask yourself  if being a native-speaker of a certain language is something you decide yourself or something you are born with and cannot change….I guess you can imagine what I want to say, I am just pointing out the similarity to other discourses…problematic discourses…just saying…I won’t comment on this issue anymore because the discourse makes me a bit pissed. 🙂

Metaphor & Thought

This course mainly deals with metaphor and metonymy. At the very beginning I thought I was well informed about those because i have read so much about it, and many things were certainly familiar to me, but there are soooo many new aspects. For this course I have a tutorial every fortnight (tutorial = practical section with the teacher), where we practice the content with worksheets (as I said, very much like the ISL2 tutorial). It also inspired me to start with a certain project which I might tell you more about in the future…

Japanese

I do this course as an elective, it is taught by the ERASMUS coordinator and he is really cool! Most of the times we work with newspaper articles, we translate them in groups and then do some interactive stuff like playing out a dialogue. Yesterday I was the admin of JAXA (Japan’s NASA) talking English with a Japanese accent! But we also have more traditional lesson where we work with the book, but in general the atmosphere is rather relaxed and I feel very comfortable in the course.

Welsh

Welsh is communicative classroom, that means we are taught Welsh by the communicative method: Most of the time we learn constructions by practicing the pronunciation and using them by talking to fellow students. I really like it and I think I highly benefit from the class because I learn a lot for my own teaching. To show you what I have learned (and to show off a little bit) I write a short text about myself (without help): Alex dw i. Myfyriwr dw i. Dw i’n astudio Saesneg yn y Brifysgol ym Mangor. Dw i’n dwad o Awstria ond dw i’n byw yn Neuadd Kyffin ym Mangor. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg yn Cymraeg i Oedolion yn Stryd y Deon. Dw i’n licio pêl-droed yn fawr! 😉

I hope you liked the blog entry, next time I will provide you with more interesting travel photos, but to finish this blog entry, have a look at the sunset I caught at the pier one week ago, it was amazing. 😉

Best wishes,

Alexandra

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Anfield, Liverpool ONE and following the White Rabbit in Llandudno

Welcome back,

Sorry, it took me a bit longer this time to write a blog entry, but last week was reading week, that means no classes (almost no classes, Welsh and Japanese took place) but a lot of time for reading travelling. I was not on the road the whole week and I somehow do not remember what I did when I was not travelling but I am sure it was something meaningful, the usual stuff you do when you don’t do anything in particular.

During reading week I went to Liverpool again, a very rainy Liverpool as you will read, experienced the Welsh national holiday, and went to a place not that far away from Bangor at the sea – Manchester by the Sea. Just kidding, it was Llandudno. After reading week I went to the cinema with a friend- read this blog entry to the very end to find out what is the best movie of 2016.

Some of you might have read my first entry about my first trip to Liverpool, where I wrote that I really want to come back to Liverpool soon – and that is exactly what I did. After a two-hour journey and change of trains in Chester I arrived at a rainy Liverpool and immediately took a bus to Anfield – the stadium of Liverpool FC. One thing you might want to know if you ever go to Liverpool or the UK in general: The buses won’t stop at your stop if you don’t raise your hand and the buses won’t stop at a certain stop if you don’t push the stop button – very different from Vienna but very efficient. You need to know it, though.

It took me approximately twenty minutes to get to Anfield, which is not exactly in the city center, and I just came in time to join a stadium tour. The tour guides did a great job, it was both informative and extremely funny to listen to them, although it is sometimes a bit tricky to get everything spoken in Scouse (Liverpool dialect). I want to share one of their many jokes with you: When we went to the player’s dining lounge we got to see an area designated to the children of the players. The guide said that there used to be many toys in there……….. but when Balotelli left the club he took most of them with him! 😉

During the stadium tour I met a friend from Porto Alegre in Brazil, who is also a big football fan, and he said that we will meet again in 2018 in Russia. I’m sure about him seeing Brazil, but I’m not so sure if I will see Austria there…

After the stadium tour I went to the club’s museum, which – as I was told – is the only museum displaying a real Champions League trophy.

I particularly enjoyed the new Steven Gerrard collection, it is really amazing what he gave to the museum to display.

After visiting the museum I went to the club’s shop and bought the best fitting hoodie I have ever bought in my entire life. It is black with a big grey Liverbird print on the front and you will certainly see me walking around Vienna in that one.

Afterwards I took a tour bus which went to Albert Dock, on the way I passed Goodison Park – home of Everton FC – which is actually VERY close to Anfield. Maybe I will go there too one day.

From Albert Dock I went straight to Liverpool ONE, Liverpool’s biggest shopping center, and spent the rest of the day there. It is incredible how many shops there are! I also have a very good excuse for shopping almost the entire day: the rain became heavier and in the end my umbrella did not leave Liverpool the way he came there with me. I went to Disney store, the football club stores, Primark, Forbidden Planet, a Sushi takeaway shop and many more I don’t seem to remember…I think I can only remember those ones I bought something at…So I bought many things, including a very cute Nemo plush, which is looking after me now.

It was very difficult in the heavy rain to make photos, so I have only a limited number of photos unfortunately. Before I went home I went around Albert Dock and then the rain got really heavy, I have never experienced such a heavy rain before in my life. My shoes got soaked and that was a rather unpleasant feeling but I took some great photos at least . 😉 I left Liverpool with a large number of shopping bags, a wet coat and many new impressions of a great city – I will be back.

WARNING – LINGUSITS ONLY – DANGER OF CONFUSION

Have a close look at what my Nemo plush has printed on:

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Just by printing this on a plush Nemo, Disney (2017) has successfully extended Widdowson’s (1978) distinction of genuineness and authenticity by adding the aspect of originality. So remember: Best material is genuine, authentic and original (whatever original means….). As you can see, I am in academic mode at the moment, I have two deadlines next week.

WARNING OVER – EVERYONE CAN CONTINUE READING

The first of March is St. David’s day, the Welsh national holiday. I saw a lot of Welsh flags in Bangor and went to a traditional dance in the evening which I took part in (I got very dizzy from the twirling) and I ate one of the most delicious food I have ever tasted – Welsh cake. It’s like a pancake but smaller and sweeter, simply great.

At the end of reading week I went to a place called Llandudno, which is pronounced as “Chlandidno” (for German speakers). This time not by train but by bus, so I got to see a little bit of the Welsh countryside, which his very green and very sheep-filled. After arriving in Llandudno, I was very surprised because I expected a very small town but it was actually much bigger than expected and surrounded by the sea. We first went to the promenade and discovered one of the most awesome things one can find in Llandudno: There are more than 50 statues of characters from the two Alice in Wonderland books and there are signs on the road which guide you through the town to the next statue. Alice, Alice everywhere!

The last statue of all is the White Rabbit, which can be found very close to the promenande, which you can see below.

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Llandudno promenade

On our way to the pier we came across a tent where a family – I assume – presented some birds, mainly owls but also a falcon. It was great to touch Hedwig’s cousin, it was very soft! Have a look at the photos, especially the one of the tiny little owl, he or she was so cute!

The pier was filled with small shops selling food, Wales merch and other stuff.

At the very end there was – what a surprise for British piers – an amusement arcade. My friends wanted to grab a Winnie the Pooh in a dragon costume out of one of the machines, but they were not lucky unfortunately…and of course, Alice was there as well, but a very…mature…Alice.

The pier from the pier on the town was simply great, but we made our way to the town accompanied by our well-known friends (?) and their laughing sounds from Bangor – the seagulls.

It was raining a little bit throughout the day, but as a result Llandudno said farewell to us with a rainbow.

I promised you to let you about the best film of 2016: I watched it with a friend in Bangor’s Art and Innovation Center – called Pontio – and it’s name is “Don’t Take Me Home”. It tells the story of the Welsh Football National Team and their journey from losing a coach to becoming one of the best teams in Europe. It was simply amazing, it shows the emotion of everyone connected to football – the players, the team, the supporters. If you are only a little bit interested in football or (national) identity, you should watch it, it is worth every single penny!

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With this tip I want to finish this blog entry, I hope you liked it! 🙂 With a few deadlines coming up I’m not sure whether I can provide you with exciting travel photographs in the next week(s), I will probably share with you some ordinary stuff, but which is also interesting and very funny, I promise! 🙂

Best wishes,

Alexandra

Academic life, bilingualism and Caernarfon Castle

Welcome back!

This time I’m going to tell you a little bit about the Academic life at Bangor University, the role of bilingualism in Bangor (or rather Wales) and my trip to Caernarfon – with lots of photos of its magnificent castle.  😉

Academic life at Bangor University

I certainly cannot share everything there is to say about the academic life here, I will therefore focus on things I find particularly interesting, especially because they are so different compared to how things work in Vienna.  (Please forgive me if some parts are hard to follow for someone who is not familiar with the University of Vienna system and/or linguistics, just skip those sentences or passages 😉 ).

One huge difference can be found in the course registration system: In Vienna we are all familiar with univis /u:space, e.g. online course registration. Here in Bangor that is also possible, but only in certain Schools. (Schools are like our departments in Vienna, so my school is for example the School of Linguistics & English Language). We had a great welcome meeting during our first week, where we were given a pink sheet. The pink sheet is used to note down all your courses, then you need to get a signature from a certain member of your school and hand it back to the International Office – then you will get registered. It was not that complicated but a lot of running from one place to another, in Vienna this kind of registration would certainly cause a mess – so everyone be glad we have univis / u:space 😉

The course system is also very different, while we have individual courses in Vienna, here in Bangor it is only possible to take modules, which consist of one course but this course might consist of more than one class. You couldn’t follow me? No problem! I’ll give you an example: One of my courses is called English & Society, we have a weekly lecture on Tuesday and a tutorial on Friday, which is almost every week. Now the concepts of ‘lecture’ and ‘tutorial’ and very different here: ‘Lecture’ means the lecturer talks most of the time, but the talks are very interactive, we sometimes get worksheets or are supposed to talk to our neighbors about a question or something, several times during one lecture. I would say it is very similar to what we know in Vienna as tutorials or ARs. Another difference is the number of participants, I think we are only about 30 to 40 people in this course and I was told it is more than full. In addition to that, attendance is always compulsory, attendance lists need to be signed every single time and we are basically not allowed to miss a single session. As far as I have understood it, we can miss class, but we need a good reason for that.

Now that I have mentioned English & Society – which deals with Sociolinguistics – I will tell you a little bit more about the courses I take. As an exchange student you have to do at least 25 ECTS, maximum 30 ECTS. Since I could only do courses with 10 ECTS, I do 30 – which means I have three courses. One of them is English & Society, the other ones are SLA and Language Teaching as well as Metaphor & Thought. At the very beginning before the classes had started I was not very happy with my course selection because apart from M&T I had to pick what fits my schedule, since the courses I wanted to do originally were not offered or not accessible to ERASMUS students. However, now I think SLA and Language Teaching was really good choice, because it deals with bilingualism and I am in the middle of a bilingualism community. So I guess there is no better place to learn about something I have not yet focused on that much, especially because my home is actually bilingual too. Metaphor & Thought was the course I came here for, it is Cognitive Linguistics in its purest state (does that sound weird? I guess it does…but I hope you know what I mean).

That was what I have to do because the University wants me to do that and because of my ERASMUS scholarship (they only want 15 ECTS, however – very nice people!). But that was certainly not everything I do here! I came here to learn as much as I can, after all. So apart from my the courses I take as a module (this means I have to do exams and get grades), I also do Welsh and Japanese!

 

What can I tell you about Japanese? It seems all Japanese teachers in the world are just awesome, so that is actually something I found in Vienna and I also find here in Bangor. I just had one lesson and although I became part of community (=class) that had been together since September, I felt very welcome and enjoyed the session. I also feel that I really learned a lot in just two hours. Oh yeah I forgot that – here there is no real academic quarter but two hours of teaching with a break in the middle. 😉 It is also quite interesting to experience being taught the same target language – Japanese – by using two different languages as means of instructions, German in Vienna, English in Bangor. Why? Because it requires some kind of metalanguage to learn and talk about Japanese, and this kind of metalanguage is a bit different in the two languages. 😉

Welsh is also pretty great, it was a bit difficult at the beginning because the pronunciation of certain letters is so different from what I am used to in all other languages I know. Have a look at this:

student –      spelling: myfyriwr            pronunciation:/məˈvərjʊr/

linguistics – spelling: ieithyddiaeth   pronunciation: /jəi̯ˈθəðjɑɨ̯θ/

So for instance the <y>, which is pronounced as /ə/ or /ɪ/ depending on the position of the syllable, as far as I have noticed so far. The <w> is also irritating, as it is pronounced as /ʊ/. However, one gets used to it after some time! (‘thank god!’ – my tongue said that, not me)

Bilingualism

One thing I have already realized in Chester when I was waiting for the train when listening to two old ladies talking Welsh is the importance of the Welsh language in Wales. One expects that Wales as a part of the United Kingdom is an English-speaking country and don’t misunderstand me, it is, but Welsh has the same status if not a higher status. Everything is provided in both languages, mails from the university are first in Welsh and then below one can find the English version. I am very impressed by the efforts made here to keep Welsh as a language actually spoken by the people. Bilingualism is omnipresent everywhere. However, I am not sure if younger people have the same command of Welsh as previous generations do. Nevertheless, being allowed to experience bilingual community is certainly something I highly value. Please find some evidence of what I said about the role of the two languages in form of photos below.

Societies, clubs and David Crystal (yes the famous linguist David Crystal!!)

Two things I would also like to address  with respect to academic life – societies and club and David Crystal day.

Societies and clubs play a very important role here. Those are basically communities or people sharing the same interests and having similar goals. They meet regularly and organize events such as social events or workshops. You can google ‘societies’ and add any university name you are interested in to find out what people do around the world. At the Welcome meeting we were told how important those are at university, and I am very happy that we are now working on establishing the same back at home, I was very fascinated by the idea and really want to realize it for our students as well. One event in which a society also plays quite a role here in Bangor is David Crystal Day, which I was very glad to experience on the 1st of February. David Crystal is one of the most famous linguists in the world and honorary professor at Bangor University, and after the two talks he gave on this day I can say that he is a brilliant entertainer as well. I missed the chance to see him back in 2012 when he was in Vienna, so I am even more happy about this chance. The second talk he gave was on eloquence, the first one on English accents. I want to share a few highly interesting things of his talk – especially for the linguists among you: He said that he himself does not have one accent -“mixed accents are increasingly the norm“. He also said that RP is not that popular anymore in England, it is changing – because of that change recent textbooks call it “General British” instead of RP – “formal characters dropped so much, it makes no sense to use a term reflecting class distinction if it is not relevant anymore“. He also said that the Queen’s accent has changed! All in all, his talk was absolutely great, I have learned so much and it certainly gave me food for thought.

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David Crystal – a celebrity in linguistics*.* (he’s the left one btw.)

I apologize for the long text, don’t worry, the photos come now! 😉

Day trip to Caernarfon

Last Saturday we went to a town called Caernafon, which is actually very close to Bangor. It took us approximately thirty min to get there by bus. Caernarfon is mainly famous because of its castle, which is also where we went to and spent most of our time this day.

The castle is huge and very impressive, we spent quite a few hours in there walking through all the towers and going to the very top of them, which was not that easy because of the narrow stairs. However, it was definitely worth it going up. We paid a visit to the museum, which is part of the castle. The visit was  very insightful in many ways (I have learnt, for instance, that goats apparently fight in wars). This exact castle is also the place where Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales in 1969. I do not want to bore you with history here, this time I let the photos I took there speak to you (many more to find in the gallery!!). 😉

I hope you liked this blog entry, I know it’s a rather long one but there was a lot of information to share this time. 😉 Next time I will probably write about our visit to Roman Camp, the Chinese New Year Celebration in Bangor and the planned visit to Beaumaris castle, we will see. 😉

At the very end I want share one important insight with you:

A few days ago I was reading a text about frames, ICMs ect. for my Metaphor & Thought class and I realized something: At the beginning it was difficult here, it was all about going abroad, being far away from home and those things – some of you will know too well what I mean. However, while reading this text I could not feel more like being at home. Home is indeed where the heart is. No matter where I am, as long as there is linguistics, I am at home.

Best wishes,

Alexandra