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Language Learning (Or - How To Make Me Feel At Home)
7/16/2017 7:11:40 PM

I have set myself a little challenge. Well, that is not quite true – two of my friends kind of talked me into it without realising it.

Regular readers of this blog (and people who know me personally) will know that I love words and language.

There are different ways of learning languages. You can learn a language as a native speaker, you can learn it because otherwise you won't get any sandwiches (or anything else you might be offered that you don't understand the word for) you might even miss out on useful information, you can learn it via textbooks and recordings, or you can learn it through a mix of the second and third options.

In my case – I learned English as a native speaker, the “sandwiches” method is how I ended up learning Dutch, the textbooks and recordings were how I learned French, and the mix of “Sandwiches” and textbooks and recordings was how I learned German.

The language I found the most difficult to learn was French (it is also the language I have forgotten the most of). This is because I couldn't get used to the way I was taught it. Remember – I learned Dutch through having to associate things directly with words (and the English translation wasn't provided half of the time). So, if you stand me in front of a “Hond” and ask me what it is I will be able to tell you it is a dog, if you ask me to get you something out of the “koelkast” I will automatically head to the kitchen and locate the fridge (the literal translation being “Cool Cupboard”), etc. Try the same thing with French and I can tell you a “Chien” is a dog but if you want something from the fridge you had better get it yourself or we will be here all day.

As my French lessons were served via textbooks and recordings instead of practical experience and real life connections I couldn't really make it stick. What I found the most difficult were the French tenses – and that was before we were told to “take the infinitive and add and remove different bits of it as appropriate”. Please – just give me the Dutch “Ik heb, ik had, ik heb gehad”, or even “Ik ben, jij bent, jullie zijn, hij is, zij is, zij zijn, wij zijn, U bent”, I can cope with that. Given a bit more time I could probably dig up the German versions of those from my memory bank as well.


Anyway – back to my little challenge.

 
This challenge kind of started as a result of me successfully guessing the English translation of a word I had never heard before in my life. (I have to confess that the word was connected with something I had just eaten – which made it that bit easier.)

 

I suppose the best way of learning a new language (apart from having no other option if you want to understand a word of what your Mum and her Dutch family and friends – as well as any other Dutch human you come across – say) is to be interested in both the language and the country in which it is spoken. The best way to do that is to have close friends who come from that country and speak that language. Oh good – I think I should have fun with learning this particular language. I am interested in the language and the country and I have close friends who come from the country (in fact – one of them seems to spend most of their time in the country in question).

So I decided to treat myself to a free audiobook which claims to teach the language I decided to learn in easy bite-sized chunks. From what I have listened to so far it seems relatively idiotproof – it even gives some explanations of contexts, etc. I am looking forward to carrying on with it.

 

I am not going to name the language in question – because I know that my friends read this blog and I want to try to surprise them if I can.
The Dangers Of The Mythological Stereotype (Or - We Are Not The Same So Don't Pretend We Are)
7/16/2017 7:01:51 PM

I was reading a very interesting review of a play this morning and it got me thinking about who has the right to tell our story – us or the people who have only seen it from the outside?

I can't remember the title of the play or the name of the reviewer – what I can remember is the reviewer actually had experience of what the play was supposed to be about. The play didn't match the reviewer's experiences at all. In fact, the memorable line from the review was “the play appeared to be an English view of Northern Ireland”. The reviewer then went on to give his expert opinion of what actually went on during the time and situation in which the play was supposedly set (apparently the reviewer came from the place where the play was set and had personal experience of what actually happened).

The funny thing is – we see people attempting to tell stories they have no real experience of all the time. Or – and in some cases this is even worse – they try to tell a story which they only have partial experience of. I admit that there are some people who can actually succeed in doing that but there aren't very many.

When I say “attempting to tell stories they have no real experience of” I am obviously not talking about people who need to be professionally dispassionate when they relate the story – as in journalists. I am talking about people like writers, comedians, etc. Sometimes even people like you and me.

Let's just say – the minute I hear someone getting the old “paintbrush” out in a conversation I become very wary indeed. “Paintbrush”??? I hear you ask. Yes – a useful device for applying paint to surfaces, sometimes even surfaces where you have no intention of paint being applied. A bit like when someone speaks in such a way that every single human in a particular group share the exact same characteristics – based on the single member of that group which they have met in person or read about. You know the ones I mean - “All Muslims are terrorists” because a single human who claimed to be a Muslim carried out a terrorist attack, “All Disabled people are Benefit Scroungers” because one person who claimed to be Disabled got caught cheating on their Benefit claims, “All Asylum Seekers/Foreigners are here to cause trouble/steal our jobs, etc”, because one person got their nose put out of joint because an Asylum Seeker/Foreigner might be better qualified and therefore have got the job they wanted.

Try turning the story on its head and looking at it from the point of view of the person at the centre of the story. Whilst you are at it you might as well try to think how the particular group they belong to might feel on being told they are exactly like the last person you met or read about who is a member of that group.

I am a Disabled person. I am also the daughter of someone who would legally be classed as an immigrant. The highest qualification I have is a Level 1 NVQ in Business Administration. I have got GCSEs (“C” Grade and above) in four different languages. My first name isn't exactly common in England. I have been diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer and Heart Failure.

I can tell you about my experience of all the above – using my own words. I can even make a joke out of some of those things – whilst being greatly offended if someone with no experience of them tried to do the same.

One of my friends said something which kind of relates to this. I had commented on their Facebook status after they had done one of those quizzes about who would be their “Life Partner”. This friend happens to be one half of a pair of identical twins (guess who was picked as their “Life Partner”???). I made a semi-serious comment along the lines of “of course this person would be your Life Partner – you were together before you were born”. Of course I cannot claim to know what it is like to have any brothers or sisters, let alone be one of a pair of twins. However, I can definitely claim to know what it is like to be friends with a pair of twins.

I can still remember when I first met my friend and their twin – mainly due to the fact that I nearly asked my Mum to book me in for a sight test when I got home from school that day. I was standing in the dinner queue during my first term at Lutterworth High School when this pair of identical-looking girls stood in front of me (one in front of each eye). I still haven't worked out exactly who said, “Got double vision, have you?” - and that is after 32 years.  (I still get them confused even though they now have totally different hairstyles and hair colours.)

What I am trying to say is – if you want to tell someone else's story try to keep it accurate and keep them in the centre of it. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking that everybody has the same experience – because we don't. You and I can be in the same place, doing exactly the same thing, but I can guarantee that we will have differet experiences and memories of it. The same goes for myself and another person with a similar sight problem (Heaven help them). As U2 sang “We are one but we are not the same”.

Not everybody has the same story – so they shouldn't all be swept up in some mythological idea of what their life seems like to an outsider who has no experience of it. Nor should they be subjected to the quickest stereotypical label you can apply to them. After all – if I tried that trick I would probably alienate over half of my friends very easily.

Here's an idea – if you don't understand why I am doing something you may find odd – or if I am not doing something which you would expect me to be able to do – try asking me about it. As long as you don't open by muttering, “Can't you read?”, or, “Everybody else does... so why can't you?” -ao or look at me with pity or as though you think I should be locked up for my own safety – I will be willing to tell you my reasons. After all, how can we learn about things we don't know without being taught about them???

Stereotypes are barriers which really need to be broken down – and mythological ideas about different sections of society really should be replaced with true facts.

The best people to do that are the people who have the experience to back their words up. In fact – the best people to do that are you and me.

Introducing The Inimitable Jonathan Morley
7/16/2017 6:54:04 PM
For today's “Inspirational Person” I would like to introduce you to someone who – if I am totally honest with you – I didn't like one little bit when I first met him (don't worry – this hasn't come as a newsflash to him).

So – how come you asked him to do this questionnaire? (I hear you ask).

Well, if anybody can make my opinion of them change in the space of a one hour conversation – to the point where I actually look forward to speaking to them again – there must be something unique about them.

Seriously – the reason I asked Jonathan Morley to take part in this is because he shows that “Men of the Cloth” can also be really funny (as in witty), caring, and human.

Enough of my ramblings – over to you Jonathan.

1) Let's start by you telling the readers of this blog in your own words how you know me.

I have known Ineke since September when I came to be Minister of Sutton Elms Baptist Church, of which Ineke is a member

2) As this is about "Inspirational People" can you please tell me three people in your life who have inspired you and how they have done so (they can be teachers, colleagues, friends, etc)?

There has been many that have inspired me over the years but here are three to elaborate on.

Without meaning to give a Sunday school answer, Jesus would have to be one. Without all that He did and does I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am, and for that I am truly thankful.  I think we need to be inspired by Jesus more if I am honest.  It is so easy, even for Christians, to be impressed with Jesus, but not inspired.  Inspired takes what we are impressed with and enables us to do it.  That’s the short form anyway. ?

My parents would also be one.  Being the main role models in my life, particularly my formative years, they raised me and taught me as best as they could (they seemed to have done an okay job?).  Being in a Christian home, my dad an AOG minister and both leaders within the church), faith in God was central in our lives. Not just a passive “I believe in God and go to church faith” but one that was living and active and dependent on God.  That said, I didn’t always walk in that fullness of faith at times but that’s another story, however their faith in God inspired me.  Faith for provision when there naturally wasn’t any, and it came. Faith for healing when there was sickness, and it came. Faith that trusted God in impossible and unpleasant situations, He carried us through and made a way.

3) What qualities do you look for in a friend?

I have never really sat and compiled a list of qualities I look for in a friend. Is this going to be put into an advert?  FRIEND WANTED: apply within!  In all seriousness, I think we all long for people we can relate to, who are honest, kind, have a sense of humor, people we can trust and open up to.  It’s good to be able to help each other out and have difficult conversations when needed.

4) How would your other friends describe you?

Caring and considerate. Finds it hard to just ‘sit back’ and let the world go by. Has an Infectious laugh and tries to look for the positives in most things. Thoughtful and spontaneous (with random moments).  Some would say an extrovert but I would say an introverted extrovert!

4) Finally, please tell me something about you that I don't already know (please make sure it is something you don't mind sharing with the rest of the world)?

I had my nose broke by a cricket ball.  Yes it hurt! I have also cooked for David and Victoria Beckham, the Neville brothers and a few other celebrities.

Thank you Jonathan.

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