Internet tech and trends in the L2 classroom

I’m in a workshop with Silvina Orsatti from Pitt this morning talking about incorporating digital storytelling into the foreign language classroom to develop the 5 C’s. In today’s high pressure academic world I think that faculty on the tenure-track have a hard time redirecting their energies to such creative concepts in the classroom, but the instructors in this workshop have so much passion and energy for their teaching! And I have a feeling their classes are better for it. Here’s my 5-minute experimentation with memes for the linguistics classroom:


Whales can speak dolphin! Who knew?!

A new paper from the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego shows that killer whales who were held with bottlenose dolphins were able to produce vocalizations similar to those of their dolphin companions. (Maybe language isn’t just a people thing after all..) More interesting still, one whale even produced chirps like dolphins which fell within the range of individual differences for dolphins themselves, suggesting that not only can whales be second language learners, but that, through immersion, they, too, can achieve native-like proficiency! Very cool.

Overheard en route to the MLA

I am at my gate in the MDT airport waiting for my delayed flight to Chicago for the MLA. The woman working the desk, who I later learned is named Marisol – has a Spanish accent of only middling thickness and she just made an announcement for a SkyCap to bring a wheelchair to the gate for the arriving flight. It’s “accented” English, but understandable. Immediately after her announcement clicks off a woman with a distinctively central PA accent repeats the same request over the loudspeaker. As soon as that announcement clicks off, Marisol’s walkie-talkie comes in with some static and a condescending: “…don’t know what the heck you’re talking about Marisol…” Marisol politely, if sheepishly, responds: “It’s already taken care of, but thank you,” and goes back to work. In fact, a wheelchair is rolling up to the boarding area right now. I’m left wishing I knew where the lady on the other end of that walkie-talkie is so that I would have somewhere to cast my angry glares. And yet, something in the whole interaction makes me think she thought she was really looking out for her buddy Marisol.

Why is this acceptable behavior? Why do we adjust to some accents and not others? Have you ever had any similar experiences (as witness or participant)? What do you think?

Hollaback! grrl

I tend to be pretty open about to talking to strangers, but a recent experience made me realize that not everyone believes in the inherent kindness of people like I do, which forced some critical auto-analysis on my part. After sharing the story of my being “picked up” cleverly by a grad student on my campus, I have become entangled in a bit of a debate about where the line is drawn between getting-to-know-you and harassment.

Hollaback! is a worldwide organization aimed at putting an end to street harassment as the most pervasive in a larger context of gender-based violence that women experience every day. One of my oldest and dearest friends is a leader in the Boston branch of this movement. She shared my story on the Hollaback!Boston blog last week. Her choice to even associate it with street harassment surprised me and led to a lot of interesting conversations over the course of my weekend. Those conversations led me to come out as the “victim” (?) of this experience and share my side of the story. You can read my holla here.

If you’re interested in joining the debate, sharing your own story of street harassment, donating to Hollaback! or getting involved in your own community, please do! Hollaback!