MEITS Blog


Noticing languages - noticing linguistic inequality

by Nicola McLelland

I’ve just been called up for Jury Service – my first time – and I’m approaching it with what I’m guessing is the usual mix of curiosity, eagerness to be useful, and nervousness. The last time I set foot in a courtroom was doing work experience as a teenager, shadowing a court interpreter. The defendant who needed the interpreter was convicted of a driving offence. He said he hadn’t understood the rules, but, I discovered, that was no defence, though it might mean a more lenient sentence.

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Dipping a toe into language standards and variation in multilingual China

by Nicola McLelland

I’m an intermediate learner of Chinese, something I’ve been doing very slowly in my “spare” time over the past few years. Last year, I scraped a pass at Level 4 of the official government-sponsored Chinese language tests (HSK), which means - to quote the official Hanban website - that I “can converse in Chinese on a wide range of topics and are able to communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers.” That might even be true, as long as by “conversing” you mean that I mainly listen.

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‘I am the circumflex’– language rules, language purity, and language rage

by Nicola McLelland

My earliest memory of learning French, aged about seven, is being told to learn the verb ‘to be’ in a particular order, starting with Je suis [‘I am’], and working through to ‘they are’. When I was given a list of vocabulary to learn, I assumed, logically, that these words must also be memorized in the exact order in which they appeared in my book: la table, la chaise, la femme [the table, the chair, the woman] … and there were bitter tears when my mother tried to explain otherwise. It’s a trivial example, but the point is that language learning for me began with rules.

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