MEITS Blog


Is my Chinese good?

by Yanyu Guo

“My Chinese is not good”, a heritage speaker involved in my linguistic study said with some discomfort, after finishing a Chinese reading task of the experiment. The time he spent on the task was almost twice the average, even slower than some non-heritage learners at a beginner level. However, he performed in a native-like way in listening and speaking tasks, in terms of both accuracy and reaction times. Heritage learners seem to have no problem with grammar but struggle with Chinese character recognition. They are bilinguals, but not biliterals.

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Developing multilingual theatre: Polyphonic I and II

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In May this year, the performers of theatre company, Acting Now, with the support of Polygon Arts, regrouped for a revised production of their devised piece, Polyphonic.  First performed in October 2018 by individuals drawn from a dozen linguistic backgrounds, the production was created in the multiple languages spoken in the group alongside a physical, theatrical language.  Less multilingual but very much intercultural, the process of development and performance opened up questions around language dominance and linguistic nuance as well as how theatrical play offers a space in which such issues can become sources of creativity.

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Teaching standard Mandarin pronunciation to Mongolian learners over the past hundred years

by Jiaye Wu

Mandarin Chinese, an emerging key world business language, has become a foreign language option for some UK students in recent decades. Research into state secondary schools in England shows that only 7-8% offered Chinese as a subject in 2005 with this number nearly doubling to 13% in 2015. By 2020, the UK government hopes to have 400,000 students enrolled in Mandarin courses. In China, although Mandarin is the first language of the majority Han population, 106.43 million or 8.41 percent of the total population in China are ethnic minorities who speak other languages. While a high number of these also learn Mandarin as a second language, how different is the Mandarin taught to them compared with that taught to the mother-tongue Han students or to foreign students worldwide? Has this changed over time? In this blog, I will showcase how one particular ethnic minority group in China, the Mongolians, have been taught Mandarin pronunciation over the last hundred years.

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Do you speak emoji?

by Harper Staples

I would imagine for a lot of us, the answer is probably yes. And this opens up some interesting questions. Firstly, if we can use emojis to communicate with others, and if they, in return, are capable of understanding our meaning, does that make the use of emojis a language in its own right? 

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Orange is a migrant word

by Michael Evans

When I was a small boy in Iraq in the 1950s fruit, in particular, loomed large in everyday life. Growing up in a bilingual family, we codeswitched between English and Arabic depending on who you were taking to. Most basic items in daily discourse existed in two sets of vocabulary.

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A rós by any other name..?

by Deirdre Dunlevy

‘That’s a weird name, what is it in English?’

For anyone with a name that is not easily identifiable as English, you’ve probably heard this before. And as someone whose name doesn’t have a ‘translation’- my name is just my name- it is incredibly frustrating as people try to figure out what my name ‘is’ in another language.

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Double minoritisation: non-standard varieties of minoritised languages

by Merryn Davies-Deacon

For a long time, non-standard varieties of widely-spoken languages, such as regional dialects of English, were stigmatised. On the BBC, regional accents are still rare. But there is evidence that non-standard varieties are beginning to be valued as assets to our cultural diversity. Earlier this year, the New York Times British-Irish Dialect Quiz was a big hit.

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“The two cultures” 60 years later

by Thomas H Bak

This week marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most famous and controversial academic lectures in European history: C. P. Snow’s Rede lecture at Cambridge University entitled: “The two cultures”. The lecture is complex and has many interwoven themes, some specifically British, others consciously global, but I think it would be fair to say that at its heart lies C P Snow’s criticism of the lack of respect, interest and knowledge that the “literary” academics have when it comes to science, particularly applied science and technology. The topic has been extensively debated in the context of its intellectual history and subsequent criticism, but my question is a slightly different one: does it still have anything relevant to say to sciences and humanities of our time?

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