Saturday 31 January 2015

The Buddhist Influence on Wu-Tang in 30 Seconds

It only takes a few seconds for this to degenerate into an incoherent rant about Earth Day, but during a solid minute of clarity (from 0:30 to 1:27 on the tape) we get a coherent synopsis of how Buddhism (via the Kung-Fu movies of Gordon Liu) became hybridized with the Harlem Five Percent movement in the minds of some young men who went on to become the Wu-Tang Clan.

I note that he chooses to pronounce Buddhism as Buddh-ee-ism.  Nice touch.

Monday 12 January 2015

On Learning Chinese (and NOT Learning Chinese) in Western Universities

Let's say that a team of researchers concluded that it takes 480 hours of instruction for an American student to reach level 1 in Chinese language ability, the lowest level of a five-level system of evaluation created by the American Council on The Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL).  Yes, as you might suppose, there's a citation coming up for that claim.  Without expanding too much on how this "level 1" might be defined, we've already got a significant problem in figuring out how such a huge number of hours could fit into a western-style university system.

The studies in question concluded that it took seven semesters to reach this 480-hour mark, even under "ideal conditions".  The trouble is that the level 1 described here just doesn't add up to all that much of an outcome, relative to the enormous cost to the student: "In other words, a student who started to take Chinese as a freshman, and who continued with it throughout his/her college career, would at the time of graduation be able to orally 'ask and answer simple questions involving areas of immediate need, leisure time activities and simple transactions.'" (Madeline Chu, 1996, p. 135)

Some students might be willing to sign on even for this limited outcome, but few employers would be satisfied with it: a graduate with a B.A. in Chinese is expected to be many levels higher than this standard, even in moving on to an M.A. program, let alone applying for a position in government service, teaching, or tourism.  Madeline Chu comments, "The description [of level 1] not only classifies [the] level of proficiency but also illustrates the reality of deficiency". (Ibidem)

Sunday 4 January 2015

Gidinwewin, a new (2011) Ojibwe language textbook

I thought I would post a review of Gidinwewin (by Roger Roulette,  2011), but the copy of the CD-ROM that arrived with the textbook doesn't work (or, at least, it doesn't work on my computer), so I can't really review the book (beyond a first impression).

This is a textbook created as part of a Grade 9 (high school) curriculum, produced  by the MICEC (Manitoba).

It uses what I would call "standard" Ojibwe spellings: it seems to consistently use the same spellings that you find in the Ojibwe People's Dictionary, despite the distance between Manitoba and Minnesota (i.e., the editors did not decide to "lean toward" a West-Ojibwe accent, nor Saulteaux spellings).

The textbook contains crossword puzzles and word-searches.  The majority of the pages are direct translation exercises (Ojibwe to English and vice-versa).

There are short word-lists and very short explanations, assuming either (1) a classroom instructor, or else (2) whatever help may exist on the CD-ROM (that I haven't seen myself).