Thursday, 26th January (Cambridge)

1. A piece from my previous employer, the British Council: Vicky Gough’s article for their online magazine, Voices: The British and their secret language regrets

We are not a nation of happy monoglots, it seems.

2. A piece from my current employer, NILE (the Norwich Institute for Language Education): their newsletter this month leads on the NILE CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors

If you haven’t got a clue what on earth a CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors is about, you might want to give it a miss; if, on the other hand, a CEFR Filtering Tool with YL proficiency descriptors sounds like it might be useful in your work, watch Thom Kiddle’s introductory video here

3. How do you identify and nurture people with potential? How do you turn a bunch of talented individuals into a cohesive team? Where does decision-making science end and judgement begin? are some of the questions that Ed Smith, until recently the Chief Selector for the England cricket team, will be answering in his talk, How to make better decisions, at the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on Thursday, 2nd February at 13:00 UK time.

Online and face-to-face: make sure you book the right kind of ticket

4. And, finally, a word cloud of the answers to the question, What policy do you most associate with Rishi Sunak? (the current UK prime minister) from Redfield and Wilton (R&W) which suggests he’s not yet achieved ‘cut-through’ with the public:

More R&W polling here and an explanation of ‘cut-through’ here

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Tuesday, 24th January 2023 (Richmond)

1. I could imagine that many of us have mixed feelings – at least! – about the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. This year’s has just ended, and here’s McKinsey’s ‘five key takeaways’ from it There’s a link to a piece on each of the key takeaways, with an audio version of each read (rather well) by ChatGPT’s younger sister.

Here’s the print piece on the space economy takeaway and here’s the audio version

2. The latest free download in Heath Rose and Jim McKinley’s Cambridge Elements in Language Teaching series is Teaching Young Multilingual Learners by Luciana C. de Oliveira and Loren Jones

Available to download till 3rd February; PDF below just in case you don’t get round to it in time.

Information on the rest of the series here:

3. Your friends at school, languages and the pandemic legacy is the title of the latest weekly TeacherTapp blog post, which, as usual, addresses three questions.

This week’s three are:

a) who needs friends at school? (not head teachers, apparently);

b) which languages are being taught in the UK nowadays? (and possibly also learnt?);

c) what did we learn from the pandemic? (and which innovations did we retain post-pandemic?)

4. Just Twenty-Five Pages a Day is a nice idea, possibly explained at greater length than necessary here

5. And, finally and I hope acceptably self-indulgently, Flanders and Swann were a favourite musical duo of my father’s, and we ended his celebration-cremation service yesterday with their Hippopotamus Song

He would be very pleased, I’m sure, if you sang along with the chorus!

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Thursday, 19th January (Richmond)

1. Three more on ChatGPT – tell me when you’re getting bored, please!

Nick Cave’s view is that This Song Sucks

From The New York Times, Alarmed by A.I. Chatbots, Universities Start Revamping How They Teach

From The Guardian, Lecturers urged to review assessments in UK amid concerns over new AI tool

2. Maybe Pecha Kucha is part of the answer? I’d no idea that pecha kucha was Japanese for chit-chat – which brings back an instant memory of a South African teacher of geography at school barking out at least twice a lesson, “Cut out the general chit-chat at the back there!”

3. Here’s a storytelling lesson plan from TeachingEnglish, Carnival crime, based on the theft and recovery of some diamonds at the carnival in Rio ‘Suitable for primary learners from A1 and above’. Lesson plan, worksheet, script & cards and story text all below!

[file x 4]

4. And, finally, the seventh and last instalment of The New York Times Happiness Challenge: Keep Happiness Going All Year Long We can but try!

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Tuesday, 17th January 2023 (Cambridge)

1. More easily promised than delivered, a values-based education? John Gibbs of Teachers Talk Radio asked Bridget Knight, the author of ‘On the Subject of Values … and the Value of Subjects: New thinking to guide schools through the curriculum’ and the CEO of the Values Based Education organisation: What is values-based education?

Here’s Values-Based Education’s own website Their aim is to give “learners access to an ethical vocabulary based on human values, such as respect, justice, integrity, harmony, trust and honesty”.

2. The Edinburgh International Book Festival website has recordings of all last summer’s talks and readings (and many from previous years) – well worth a browse!

Here’s a varied half-dozen from last summer to start with:

Tsitsi Dangarembga, Dipo Faloyin & Howard W French: Africa’s Rich Diversity

Liz Lochhead: 50 Years of a Pioneering Poet

Noam Chomsky: Dissent Across the Decades

Gulbahar Haitiwaji: To Make Us Slowly Disappear

Devi Sridhar: How to Prevent (Another) Pandemic

 Mohsin Hamid: What Does it Mean to Be White?

3. Days 5 and 6 of The New York Times Happiness Challenge:

The Importance of Work Friends

Don’t Cancel Those Plans

I just have one ‘gift article’ left for Day 7!

4. And, finally, a piece by Sally Rooney, the hugely successful author of ‘Normal People’ and ‘Conversations with Friends’, on a book by an equally famous Irish writer from an earlier era, James Joyce. Here’s the transcript of her T S Eliot Memorial Lecture last autumn on Misreading Ulysses

I can’t find a video – let me know if you can, please!

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Thursday, 12th January (Cambridge, just)

1. Climate Justice: what’s it got to do with ELT? The answer according to Green ELT is, ‘Quite a lot!’ Find out more here and register here for the event at 14:00 UK time next Friday, 20th January

2. I’ll continue to post occasional pieces on ChatGPT – I don’t think it’ll be going away anytime soon! Here’s the Brooking Institution’s take Has some good links to more excitable pieces in The Atlantic, such as The End of High-School English and The College Essay Is Dead.

3. Positively the first and last mention I’ll make of Spare, promise! Two of the more interesting pieces from the many published recently: one from The Conversation on the royal brand by a professor of marketing and, secondly, the New York Times book review

4. And, finally, some thoughts on national identity from the Serbian-American poet Charles Simic, who died earlier this week Samizdat PDF below just in case.

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Tuesday, 10th January (Richmond)

1. I’ve mentioned NESTA, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, before. Not sure they use their full, long name anymore

Here’s their annual round-up “of the innovations and ideas that could have implications for the next year and beyond” for 2023, ‘Future Signals – what we’re watching for in 2023’, this time including robots in the kitchen and energy so cheap it’s free

and here’s a short introductory video if you’re not familiar with NESTA’s work

2. Here’s a TikTok about a recent discovery to do with the origins of writing by a furniture restorer and amateur archaeologist from London, Ben Bacon

I nearly showed my age by saying ‘Here’s a TikTok video …’ – don’t think there’s anything else, is there? – and I am showing my age by wondering why the presenter keeps hopping from side to side of the screen.

Here’s a less jerky article from The Guardian on the same story

TikTok courtesy of Mark Henebury, who’s clearly a slightly funkier dude than I’d appreciated.

3. Numbers 3 and 4 in the NYT happiness series:

Day 3: Small Talk Has Big Benefits

Day 4: Why You Should Write a ‘Living Eulogy’

4. And, finally, a short story from Assam, ‘A Wagtail’s Song’, written by Bikash Dihingia and translated from Assamese by Harsita Hiya

Includes a short reading in the original Assamese by the author: see if you can spot the Assamese for ‘social media’!

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Thursday, 5th January (Cambridge, just)

1. Two from the TeachingEnglish site to start with:

a) A three-module, four-week, nine-hour course on Teaching English through literature, developed in partnership with Macmillan India

b) Maria Jose Galleno from Uruguay talking about effective strategies for enabling teacher reflection at 12:00 UK time on Thursday 12th January, Making it obvious – reflection that works

‘Reflective teacher practice’ is often paid lip service to; Maria Jose takes things a step further.

2. Starting next Friday, 13th January, there’s a whole free three-day (say that quickly) conference from the IATEFL YLT (Young Learners & Teenagers) SIG: more info here

If you’re a member of the YLTSIG, you can also sign up for a six-hour mini-course.

3. Day 2 of The New York Times Seven Day Happiness Challenge: The Secret Power of the 8-Minute Phone Call

Nice idea!

4. And, finally, a bee in the Cross bonnet, originating in my inability to even give away to a charity shop my CD collection:

a (quite technical) video, The Truth About Vinyl – Vinyl vs. Digital

and a (more accessible) article

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Tuesday, 3rd January 2023 (Richmond)

Happy New Year, everyone!

1. Here’s another academic’s take on ChatGPT: Tony Bates’s Playing with ChatGPT: now I’m scared (a little)

There’s a growing (sensible) consensus that ChatGPT is not going to go away, so we’d better find a way of working with it rather than attempting – in vain – to ban it.

2. Two ‘gift’ articles from The New York Times:

a quiz, How Strong Are Your Relationships?

which is the first day of the NYT’s Seven Day Happiness Challenge, which is explained more fully here

I’ll aim to share all seven days if I can, and we shall see how New York specific their notion of happiness is!

3. Here’s McKinsey’s well-put-together review of 2022, What just happened?

The cynic in me was expecting it to be more USA-centred.

4. And, finally, if you’re going to tell a lie, tell a whopper – or several – like Republican politician George Santos did recently

Letters from an American is the name of Heather Cox Richardson’s blog. Richardson is “a history professor interested in the contrast between image and reality in American politics. (She) believe(s) in American democracy, despite its frequent failures”. I thought that her 30th December post was a good overview of the war in Ukraine

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Thursday, 22nd December (Richmond)

1. The T S Eliot Prize website is now very nearly complete, just the Yomi Ṣode videos missing, I think, and they should be up soon

Try these two poems, both short, read by their author:

James Conor Patterson reading his poem ‘london mixtape’

and Denise Saul reading ‘The Room Between Us’

All the videos here, including this year’s innovation, the Young Critics Scheme video reviews

2. I’ve not had time to explore fully this Mercator European Research Centre site yet but this page on Endangered languages and archives has caught my eye

Thanks to Sarah Breslin for bringing this site to my attention.

3. Here’s the Conversation Weekly podcast site

I’ve listened recently to this short series, Uncharted Brain: Decoding Dementia A bit close to home, but has helped me understand my mother’s condition.

4. And, finally, if you’re enjoying a holiday break this coming week, how about writing a short story?

Thanks to Thom Kiddle for this one.

The next ‘Free Resources’ message/post will be on Thursday 5th January – enjoy your holiday if you’re getting one!

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Tuesday, 20th December (Richmond)

1. A provocative piece by Michael Feldstein on his blog, I Would Have Cheated in College Using ChatGPT

‘But I wouldn’t have thought of it as cheating’, says Michael. ‘Cheating is a state of mind.’

2. So, I thought I’d give ChatGPT a go.

With an eye (ear?) to developments in Artificial Intelligence, I asked the ChatGPT bot, “For how much longer will we need to learn foreign languages?” The bot replied immediately:

“Learning a foreign language can be a valuable and enriching experience for many people, and it is likely that the need for multilingualism will continue for the foreseeable future. There are a number of reasons why learning a foreign language may be important or beneficial: Communication: Being able to speak a foreign language can make it easier to communicate with people who speak that language, whether you are traveling, working, or interacting with others in your community. Career advancement: Many employers place a high value on employees who are proficient in a foreign language, as it can be an asset in a globalized economy. Cultural understanding: Learning a foreign language can also help you learn about and understand different cultures, which can broaden your perspective and enrich your life. Brain health: Studies have shown that learning a foreign language can have cognitive benefits, such as improving memory and problem-solving skills. Overall, the need for multilingualism is likely to continue as long as there are diverse languages spoken around the world and people who want to communicate and interact with one another.”

I made myself clearer in a supplementary question: “But won’t advances in AI mean that we will all benefit from instant, high-quality translation and interpreting?”, to which the bot replied, again pretty much straightaway:

“While advances in artificial intelligence and machine translation have made it possible to translate texts and spoken language with increasing accuracy, there are limitations to what these technologies can currently do. Machine translation systems are generally best at translating individual words and short phrases, but they can struggle with idiomatic expressions, complex sentences, and context-dependent meanings. As a result, they may produce translations that are less accurate or natural-sounding than those produced by a human translator.

In addition, machine translation systems do not currently have the ability to interpret spoken language in real time, which requires a level of understanding and interpretation that goes beyond simply translating words. Interpreting involves not only conveying the meaning of the words being spoken, but also capturing the tone, style, and intent of the speaker, as well as adapting to the context of the conversation. This is a complex task that requires a high level of language proficiency and cultural knowledge, which can be difficult for a machine to replicate.

As a result, it is likely that the need for human translators and interpreters will continue for the foreseeable future, especially for situations where accuracy and nuance are important. That being said, it is possible that machine translation and interpreting technologies will continue to improve over time, and they may eventually be able to handle more complex tasks.”

One last question from me: “Can I talk to you in other languages apart from English?”

“Yes, you can talk to me in any language that you know. As an artificial intelligence, I am not limited to understanding or communicating in a particular language. However, please keep in mind that my ability to understand and respond to a language may depend on my training data and the specific language model I was built from. If you would like to communicate with me in a language other than English, I will do my best to understand and respond appropriately based on my programming. If I am unable to understand what you are saying or if I make a mistake, please let me know and I will do my best to improve my understanding.”

Try it for yourself!

3. Dictionary definition sparks global culture clash is a necessarily carefully-written piece by Melanie Butler from the latest issue of EL Gazette Be sure to read to the end for the West African Pidgin versions!

4. And, finally, if you’ve not yet had quite enough of football – my wife certainly has! – here’s three football pieces:

Chris Sowton’s new podcast for TeachingEnglish,

the Premier Skills English website, stuffed with material and activities

and The Athletic’s poignant story of the young French player, Yann Gueho, who everyone was sure would be a better player than Kylian Mbappé

Maybe don’t bother reading that last piece if you haven’t heard of Kylian Mbappé! If that last link doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

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