Archive for January, 2011
Very pleased to say that our coursebook English Unlimited Advanced is now out. That completes the set!
Here are couple of sample pages from unit 2:
More to follow soon…
I was reading Neil MacGregor’s History of the World in 100 Objects when I came across image number 11: King Den’s Sandal Label, made from Hippopotamus ivory around 3000 BC. This label is only 5 cm square and was once attached to an Egyptian Pharaoh’s pair of sandals. Made to accompany him in the afterlife, this label would have clearly identified him from the rest. On the label, we can see King Den (the pharaoh) attacking an enemy who is cowering defenceless. It is thought that this would have gone alongside all the other symbolic items that accompanied the Pharaoh on his way, but what’s amazing about the label is how modern it seems to us today.
As Neil MacGregor says in his book “The nearest modern equivalent I can think of to this label is the ID card that people working in an office now have to wear round their necks to get past the security check.”
This comment got me thinking about how we choose to identify ourselves through images, the items we surround ourselves with that have a special symbolism etc. and how all this could make for interesting classroom material.
After a little bit of online research online I found some great projects such as David Gauntlett’s Identity Box:
I can see this idea being very easily transposable to the classroom context, whether it’s done with objects or using still images. It’s a fun and accessible way of looking at objects that say something about you. I also found some other fascinating examples that explore identity issues in a more profound way. One of my favourites is this one by Daniela Ramos called simply Identity which looks at body language and adapting to a new language when everything seems just a noise.
Daniela says: “[On the left hand screen] I am speaking freely in front of the camera, about my experience in the new country. On the second screen, I am reading a text from the book “How to Understand and Use Norwegian” by Odd Børretzen”.
To my mind, the cacophony of Spanish and Norwegian and the difference in the way these languages are projected through Daniela’s body language say so much about her ease with the former and her ill ease with the latter and the different image of herself that she projects through each. The fact that the two images run parallel symbolizes the confusion that can ensue in our minds when having to struggle with two or more languages.
Here is another more playful but no less symbolic example called “Me, Myself and 我”. Among other things here, from the time I spent in Hong Kong, I can recall having to adopt this new identity of the gweilo (“ghost man” in Cantonese) that is so well portrayed in the clip:
Finally, apart from these different “identity-portraits”, of course it’s interesting to analyze how we choose to identify ourselves in f2f communication (tattoos, labels, etc.) and in virtual worlds. Apart from taking on a whole new identity (the case of avatars), the photo that we use in our Twitter or Facebook profile is open to any amount of interpretation and some people change the image as the mood takes them. Sometimes you have to look carefully for details. For example, I only recently noticed in the Twitter profile pic of a friend of mine that the wallpaper used in the background to his portrait has his football team’s insignia all over it! Likewise with business cards: the design, the font, even the texture of the card can communicate different messages. Discreet or extrovert, the card itself can point clearly to your identity as a person who wants to either blend in or stand out.
My co-author Adrian Doff and I thought that this whole issue made for an accessible topic to raise in class so we developed some tasks for it. See attached a couple of pages on the subject of online identity from the just published English Unlimited Advanced coursbook, Cambridge University Press.
Here are a couple more pages from English Unlimited Advanced connected with this post’s topic.
Page 21 looks at the idea of personal/business cards and what they say about people. This comes in the Across Cultures section of the book which focuses on intercultural issues.
Page 29 follows up on the idea of identity and language and looks at three books which discuss the topic explicitly. We discuss various questions here: Can a new language lead you to adopt a different identity? How important is it to develop your own voice in a new language?
I hope you enjoy looking at the activities.