SLA: How Meaning Is Negotiated Using Technology

Technology is taking the second language acquisition to a whole new different level.  Consider for instance, visiting the Google Translate website – Google’s free online language translation service.  The site instantly translates text and web pages to any desired target language that you want.  Although this automatic translation tool clearly has its own set of limitations (as will be explained later), you can’t deny that a lot of people find this useful one way or the other.

A product of innovation and technology, Google Translate is not the only thing that’s prominent when it comes to helping people in learning or understanding a new language.  Some of the related advancements in this arena include automated communication systems, online dictionaries, electronic talking machines, dictation programs that can transcribe speech, and a whole lot many more – innovations that can simulate the human speech and intelligence.  But the question of how accurate are these computerized programs to fully assist the learning needs of people remains to be Continue reading

Some Thoughts on the Essay Genre

The word essay comes from the French word meaning, “to try”.  In all instances, the genre is an attempt to write about any subject matter – relevant or mundane though maybe on the outset – in the hope to capture an interesting thought, experience and insight from it.  Compared to other genres in literature, essay is the least explored and may be considered to be the least popular, but the scope of this genre is huge, ranging from the formal, clear-cut essays popularized by Montaigne, Addison and Steele and Emerson to the informal loosely-constructed ones popularized by Scott Russell Sanders, George Orwell, EB White and other contemporary writers these days.

The history of the essay goes back to the works of Continue reading

Means, Opportunity and Motive in Sequential Bilingualism

Language seems to be highly accessible now for other cultures and countries to learn.  Aided with and made possible by various factors, language is not anymore confined or exclusive to specific countries and geographical locations.  Acquiring a second language (L2) may begin at any age or life stage – usually during childhood or adolescence, although there are still cases in which L2 learners beyond those age range are still capable of Continue reading

Mythmaking Today?

Mythology has always incited to its readers a sense of wonder and freedom to explore their own imagination.  Myths are widely interpreted as reflections of the ideas and beliefs of a particular culture.  Interesting details about such “indigenous lore” have fueled folklorists, anthropologists and researchers to continuously collect, classify and analyze these materials.  If we were to consider that myths and other folklore materials are included in the rich oral tradition predating the colonization period, then we might as well safely assumed that the subject concerned are likely to be Continue reading

Linguistic Competence and Literary Competence

If we were to consider that literature can only be appreciated only if one understood it, then linguistic competence becomes a prerequisite for literary competence.  The student’s ability to infer is greatly influenced by his or her proficiency in the language.  Language is the premier medium in literature and if one lacked the proficiency in the former, then the latter might appear almost inaccessible to the reader.

There are many reasons as to why linguistic competence becomes significant in gaining literary competence.  The most obvious one is the fact that language is a medium of understanding.  Some works of literature require a certain level of proficiency that limits only a number of audiences.  If you have successfully Continue reading

Thoughts on Revision

The first drafts I wrote were really terrible, pretty rough works that reeked of grammatical errors and loose ends that needed cleaning up, some gaping holes left unexplored, and a couple of flat characters.  The very act of writing the stories was less daunting than revising them; confronting the stories for revision carries a much conscious responsibility – in steering the plot or fine-tuning the characters to create a certain kind of depth.  Yet amidst all these editing woes, revising the stories can be as pleasurable as writing them.  The American short story writer and novelist Bernard Malamud once said in his lecture delivered in Bennington College entitled Reflections of a Writer that “Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.”  True enough, sometimes it gets me excited when I come across symbols and metaphors, and I’d tell myself, “Hmmm, I didn’t notice this before,” and then it makes me enthusiastic to develop a certain angle from which the readers can latch upon based on that guiding light, that consciousness.

To fine-tune a certain character is also an exciting activity – I get to know a lot more of this character as if he/she were a former friend, slowly revealed to me in full recognition through revision.

Sometimes my characters had their own ways of escaping the capricious plans I laid out for them, and so they set out a new story for me.  This is a good thing that can happen to a writer, surprisingly so, when I realized that a story can engender another story.

Favorite Writers

I am not a voracious reader, I am picky when it comes to books. Usually I read books if they are highly recommended but I don’t go around reading all kinds of books anytime of the day. When I was in grade school I was encouraged to read books, but when I got hooked into reading (being able to use my school library card and all) my parents would be worried of what I’ve been reading. Even though they didn’t bluntly say “Don’t read that kind of book!” young as I was, I knew back then that there was more in those “You know, you should read the encyclopedia rather than these books” (by these I mean, romance novels and pocketbooks), or my sisters would say, “You should read the classics.” My father would leaf through the pages of the books I borrowed from the library, as if trying to dissect what’s the story’s all about just by flipping the pages. Then he would say, “Tell me about that book after you read it.”

If writers assert that writing often improves with age, I think so does reading. I didn’t appreciate Continue reading

An Education (2009)

Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan

Last night I watched An Education – a 2009 film starring Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard.  The film is directed by Lone Scherfig with a screenplay by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch).  This film is a coming-of-age story, an initiation story in which the character or the protagonist goes through an experience that will make him or her a different person afterward.   Carey Mulligan plays the role of Jenny, a 16 year old school girl who is on the run to prepare to enter Oxford University and Peter Sarsgaard plays the role of David Goldman, a middle-aged man who charms Jenny.

Since I don’t want to let you off with some spoilers, you Continue reading

The Old Fyodor

I just read an excerpt from Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Notes From the Underground from where I read one of the most interesting quote this week:

“Now you, for instance, want to cure men of their old habits and reform their will in accordance with science and  common sense.  But how do you know, not only that is possible, but also that it is desirable, to reform that way?  And what leads you to the conclusion that it is so necessary to reform man’s desires?”

– Notes From the Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

And I come to ask myself, Why did Fyodor Dostoyevsky believe that people will act in opposition to their own interest? I think that it is inevitable for men to stay logical and empirical all the time.  There will come a time when men would have to submit to the desires of their wills and impulses.  And even instincts too.  Because if a Man will adhere only to the objective truths and universal principles that would make him a rationalist, positivist, liberal or socialist, then he is not a human being – he is a creature devoid of human capacity for subjectivity: he is an automaton.

And so Dostoyevsky is right when he said that “the whole work of man seems really to consist in nothing but proving to to himself continually that he is a man and not an organ stop.”

Tomorrow, I will read Nietzsche.  Just excerpts from three of his famous work, “The Birth of Tragedy,” “The Will to Power” and “The Antichrist.”  Controversial guy.

On the lighter note, follow @dostoyevsky and @nietszche on Twitter.

Medea, as a Woman

The exploration of the politics of gender is indeed evident in the play Medea by Euripedes.  The play is about a passionate woman named Medea, a sorceress and a princess, who faced a dilemma when she was abandoned by her husband Jason.  This in turn fueled Medea’s revenge that led into a horrifying series of murders.  The play is likely to be seen as a feminist material, but it can be also seen and analyzed in the misogynist point of view.  More importantly, it’s an exploration of the psychological state that women undergo every time they were rejected by their lovers, or faced with extreme anger or alienation.

Medea

The play also challenged the power play between man and woman in the context of strong patriarchal context.  Medea at the early part of the play didn’t have any choice when her husband left her and resolved to cry and lament all day.  Jason can reject the domestic responsibilities that concerns with her former relationship with Medea, and was free to marry the daughter of King Creon.  But as the play progressed the change is evident in Medea’s temperament – from weakness to revenge, suicidal to sadistic fury, feminine to masculine.  In the end, Medea defied gender inequality as she assumed a masculine disposition. She denied her husband Jason to bury their children after murdering them, aggravating his pain.

In Medea’s soliloquy in the early part of the play, I couldn’t help but sympathize with her – she was a woman unreasonably rejected by her former lover, ordered to be banished by the king, a woman who rebels against her own wretchedness.  But the rage in her heart would not disappear without a certain kind of release, to which revenge is only the proper to do it and the most likely to happen.  So as a reader I began to feel what Aristotle’s concept of ‘fear’ in a tragedy would feel like, especially when Medea was brewing her plans to avenge herself.  With cleverness and natural devious attitude, she began to maneuver the course of the play, the gruesome manipulation of her own children in her horrifying revenge that led to their pitiful deaths.

What the play shows us was that human beings are the sole authors of their own misfortunes.  God or any divine being was not responsible for any consequences of the horrible actions that the characters need to bear and endure.  The limits of human knowledge is indeed obvious in the play – this serves as the dramatic irony – the audience are more aware of the deceit of a character to another character than anyone else.  A woman such as Medea, passionate and once deeply in love with her lover, can turn into violent vengeful woman because of her all-consuming love.