Monday, December 10, 2007

Life update 2

This is finals week here in Paca Land. It doesn't have me as crazy as in past semesters where I would disappear from home for almost the entire week, but it's still keeping me busy with gradings and exam prep and such. This is also heavy editing week for the journal. I need to ship articles off to our web manager by January 1, and to do that I have to get all the papers back to the authors pretty much now so that they have time to review their proofs. So that's how I'm spending most of my time.

Let's see. From that editing, I can tell you about differences in academic style between mainland Chinese students and "Western" students. Essentially, there's a Chinese rhetorical style to essays as there is to American and UK ones, and when Chinese grad students go abroad to study, their essays get marked up as being illogical and poorly written, when in fact they are just being written well according to a different standard. So some profs invented a class to try to teach people how to write essays across cultures.

What else?

Wow, it takes about 8 hours per paper, you'd think I'd remember something about the other ones.

Oh, when people chat online in cross-cultural exchanges, they frequently fix their errors before they hit "send". This seems utterly obvious, but a lot of academics have been relying on chat transcripts to study various things, and yet most of the errors are gone before you have a transcript. So it's important to research methodology.

And something about students correcting other students in their language mistakes, again typically across cultures. What were the findings? Hm. If you ask them to do it, they will, but if you don't, they won't. That's one. And apparently Spanish speakers in both Spain and Chile can rather accurately explain to American students some grammar point about their language, while American students basically have no clue how to explain their grammar. They know it, as they know what's right and wrong when they see it, but they can't explain it. This might be due to the fact that many places, such as Spain and Chile, start teaching foreign languages at a young age and go at it for years, while American students usually take a couple years in high school and then wait until college. I also suspect that Spain and Chile might just teach grammar more than Americans do. I went to one of the premier prep schools in the nation and I think we only had an explicit grammar section in maybe two terms out of 12 or 15.

I will be able to tell you something about Japanese learners of English tomorrow. However, the most important thing I care about on that paper is slashing words.

In completely different news, N's mom arrives tomorrow or today for everyone not reading this in the next 32 minutes in Hawaii. She will be staying with us for two weeks and we've spent many, many hours cleaning in preparation. She's not some mean ogre who will come through with a white glove; we just took the opportunity to do some spring cleaning -- in December. This included things like dismantling the computer system and moving a book case in order to get the dust bunnies buried there. In fact, we completely empty every room and clean it and then move everything back. It's only yesterday that all of the furniture was actually in its designated room again.

Apparently, two geckos were also living behind the radio. We like our geckos and leave them alone because they eat bugs and cause little trouble. They still can startle you when you open a cabinet and one goes running off. I remember being bewildered for several weeks at what the heck was making those chirping sounds at night. Geckos. Unfortunately, I managed apparently to pin one when I grabbed the mattress to lift it up and when I moved my hand, because that texture sure didn't feel like mattress, and looked up he was running off without a tail. In fact, his tail was in two pieces and one twitched on the floor for a good two minutes without the rest of the gecko attached. Oops, sorry, gecko buddy. It's good to know that they don't bite even when losing appendages, however.

And that's the news.


Robin S. said...

Thanks for the update, paca. The grammar thing you brought up- about how Americans understand their grammar seemingly by osmosis rather than possessing concrete knowledge of it - I think you're right, and i think it's because the sentence diagrams and parts of speech breakdowns that used to be drilled and drilled, are no longer being given the same emphasis. And I think that's too bad, really.

Enjoy your time with B's grammy!

Hope geckos are fine.

Send us a link to the journal when you've got it where you want it, OK?

Mamaebeth said...

when i was a research associate at LSU for a Dr originally from India and also semi-incharge of a grad student from India, i made a few observations.
1) In India they learn British English, not American English.
2) My Dr was very very very good at writing grammatically correct English that was easy to read. the only things i ever corrected when proof-reading was his use of prepositions. i am not sure why prepositions was the hard part.

on a side note, why when i read "my neighbor totoro" the first time did i think "totoro" was pronounced toe-TOR-O with toro said like Zoro instead of the way it is pronouced in the move.

pacatrue said...

Hi robin s. Will do on the link. I don't know how important it is that Americans don't know about their grammar. It is certainly a barrier in teaching English, but after that, it's hard to say if it makes any difference. It might.

-e, I can answer the toTOro thing a bit. Basically, you are applying the default stress pattern of English to Japanese. I say toTOro as well and this is a prime give away to English-accented Japanese. We do the same thing with suZUki, kyOto, NINja, tsuNAmi, kawaSAki, etc. In English unless we've memorize a particular word differently, we go to the end of the word, move one syllable to the left, and then give it the primary stress. We then move left giving secondary stress to every other syllable. EleVAtor OperATor.

Japanese, however, is not a stress language. It's called mora-timed and this is something I've intended to write up as part of my dissertation posts for a while. What mora-timed means is that each mora in a word gets about the same stress. So to-to-ro are all about equally well pronounced in Japanese. Learning to use this accent pattern is a big part of being understood in Japanese. (I will explain moras further in my big post on this stuff whenever I get to it.)

writtenwyrdd said...

Good luck with the paperwork. Sounds like a ton of work.

I loved the geckos in hawaii. I'd watch them stalking each other on the ceiling in the dog kennels (I was a military dog handler in Schofield Barracks)for entertainment. We had to have someone there 24/7, so on the days it was my turn, I had gecko-vision! (The tail will grow back, I b elive.)

Enjoy N's mom's visit. Enjoy the clean house. And have a great Xmas!

Church Lady said...

That's interesting about the Japanese language not placing stress on syllables. It must be hard for a Jap speaker to learn English and vice versa.

I love geckos. We have some in Dubai. they drop their tails all over the place...

Ello said...

Hey Paca - still trying to wrestle with your story. Been going through your archives. Did you ever do a blog on why you chose Pacatrue? I haven't come across it if you did. Any help?

Merry Jelinek said...

Wow, I'm glad I stopped here... I hadn't been aware that other cultures had a firmer grasp on their grammar than American students... though it would make sense now, as they all seem to text rather than read.

I do know a lot of Italian and Spanish speaking people who learned English as a second language, some with very little accent, and the consensus on learning to read and write in the English seems to be that the rules of grammar are harder to learn in English - because there's always an exception to our rules... Also, people I've met who speak multiple languages usually say that it's easier to learn associated languages - for instance, Spanish as a first language has a much easier time picking up Italian and French... and Latin of course, though no one uses that one much these days except in legal speak.

I followed your link over from Ello's, I'll have to stop in from time to time to see what you're posting.... by the way, I did spring cleaning in November, not odd at all.

pacatrue said...

Hi Ello, I anwered your question in an email. Hope that works.

Merry, thanks for dropping by. We've passed each other on several other blogs, I believe. I will try to write interesting things in the next bit, but no promises.