Is Britain suffering a crisis of patriotic feeling? According to the latest British Social Attitudes survey, only 35% of Brits are now willing to say they are “very proud” to be British, down from 43% a decade ago. Another 47%, however, say they are “somewhat proud”, which is an increase from last time.
What are we to make of this? Have we become slightly sheepish, as some have suggested, because of the Iraq war and the financial crisis? After the Olympics, and the national roar heard from space when Mo Farah won his second gold, that seems implausible. Could it be, rather, that claiming to be “very proud” of being British these days is too uncomfortably reminiscent of resurgent far-right parties and bonkers ale-quaffing anti-Europeanism?
For language-fanciers, the real news here is the continuing charm of that marvellously British word “somewhat”, which has been used in English to mean “a little” or “to a certain extent” since the 14th century. In Chaucer’s dream-vision poem “House of Fame” (c.1380), the poet hopes charmingly that the god Apollo will find his verse “sumwhat agreable”, which critics have interpreted as a rejoinder to the more fame-hungry, laurel-chasing invocation of Apollo by Dante in his Paradiso. If so, then perhaps Chaucer invented the bardic humblebrag.
"Somewhat" has been a splendid tool of fine British understatement ever since. Helpfully, to say one is "somewhat proud" to be British is less ambiguous than saying one is "quite proud" to be British, since "quite" itself, in wonderfully British fashion, can mean either "a bit" or "very", depending on subtleties of tone and stress. (Compare "rather".)
It’s therefore tempting to interpret the reduction in people saying they are “very proud” to be British as something to be, er, somewhat proud of. Being very proud to be British, after all, has never been very British. Much more in keeping with the national character is the polite, diffident murmur of “somewhat”, with its ironic and modest deferral of judgment. This is the reasonable and hesitant land of “somewhat”, and all the better for it. More or less.
This is the first week of the Webskills Online Course sponsored through the US Department of State and offered through the University of Oregon, Linguistics Department, American English Institute. I’m really privileged to be taking part in it. We received clear instructions, our course instructor, Donna Shaw, is very friendly and helpful, and everyone has been very welcoming and pleasant. We have a wealth of resources to our disposal, I really like the course website: it’s easy to use and has everything we need. The teachers in our online discussions on Nicenet are both intelligent and original in their posts.
Oh my, it’s almost over! This week’s theme was Peer Observation and Reflective Teaching.
The benefits of peer observation are clear: it helps both the teacher being observed and the observer to learn more and improve upon areas of their teaching based on peer feedback.
We talked about the issue of objectivity on the observer’s part, they should try not to influence their judgement with previous baggage or points of view. But I think one of the important things to say about having your class observed is the stress and anxiety it brings when you’re not used to it. I think pre- and post-observation talks are very important, and keeping it friendly too. This is no time for competition.
Reflective teaching is the concept of thinking about your teaching, analyzing it, considering what is working and changing what isn’t. Julie Tice (2004) suggests a few ways to keep track of your classes to look back and think about them, such as: Teacher diary, peer observation, recording lessons and student feedback. She also suggests you ask questions like What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How effective is it? How are the students responding? How can you do it better?
I think any good teacher is a reflective teacher. It’s a requirement.
I’ve finished and submitted my FAP. I’m proud of it and I can’t wait to implement it!
This time we talked about Classroom Management and Teaching Large Classes. We had a guest moderator again, Robert Elliot.
I don’t personally teach large classes, and I’ve been working with adults for so long I rarely have behavior problems in class, but this week’s themes were still very interesting.
This is going to be a short post, because I think the techniques suggested were just too many to mention them all. We talked about Total Physical Response as a good strategy to engage a large group, and also positive narration, non-verbal cues, setting rules and expectations on the very first day. We learned we should not be reactive when facing bad behavior, and keep a normal tone of voice so that the students will mirror it.
We saw the characteristics of an effective teacher and a checklist to see if you’re being one: Checklist
Robert Elliot’s final considerations were be positive, create a bond, prepare, love your job and never stop learning, which I think are truly the best guidelines for managing classrooms in general!
The end of the course is approaching (no!) and we need to work on our FAP’s final draft. I have to say I’m excited to apply the innovations in my classes!
I’m also very happy with my grades so far :)
michaeltheteacher asked: Hi Mike! The updates on the English File are so cool, I know there are many excellent materials out there, but it's my favourite. And I think it's very cool that you worked on the EF Int Plus. We have students who work with Americans and have an urgent need to improve their English, so we use the American English File with those. I usually use the British editions, Raíssa uses the American ones. Would you say this EF Int Plus is more British, American, or do you think there is a balance?
Hi Michael, thanks for all your nice words about English File! I’m a fan, too, and it’s been an honor and a privilege to work on this series with Christina Latham-Koenig and Clive Oxenden.
The new edition of Int Plus is a British edition. However, there are several texts by Americans and interviews with Americans in Int Plus, and in those cases you will see or hear American English. There is even an entire lesson on the influence of American English and American culture which I hope people will find very interesting and thought-provoking. In that lesson your students will also learn lots of differences between US and UK English.
So even though the language we teach is British (colours, not colors), I think people will find that the content itself is very international and there is plenty of great stuff for teachers and students interested in American English.
Right now the level is just coming out so I don’t think we’ve had a chance to think about doing an American edition. I’ll keep you posted!
This is really amazing, especially the fact that it is mixed. I think my love for these books will continue for a very long time indeed. They make our work so much easier, more effective, and rewarding. I can focus on my student and his/her needs and have all the tools I need, in one place. And the students have everything they need as well.
I like the heterogeneity because I always emphasize to my students the importance of learning English, not just British or American, but exposing themselves to all kinds of accents and cultures so they feel more confident and can really use their English as native speakers do and are able to express themselves and make themselves understood.