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Video of the Week #020

The video for this week returns to the subject of language. Human beings communicate in a variety of ways. This is not just spoken methods but written, drawn and expressed in the likes of rope tying. Languages also vary in the concepts being conveyed as well. In the case of the Hopi, we see how different the concept of time is addressed.

I have decided to give you some activities again this week in order to demonstrate the concept of time. This is in the form of questions.

  • What is time?
  • What methods do you use to track time?
  • How does the passage of time affect how you perceive and interact with the world?
  • Consider how time is conveyed in any of the languages that you are familiar with. How do they compare to the few examples given in the Hopi consideration of time?
  • Grab an ice-cube from the freezer and place it in a clear receptacle. Observe and time the process using the method of your choice, documenting factors such as temperature, humidity and wind chill factor. Be mindful of how you felt at different points: 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 melt. How long did it take to completely melt? How did you feel at the various stages of the melting process? Was there a point where it felt like it was dragging out significantly longer than you would like? What other emotions did you feel about the process? Now explain it in 200 words, being sure to indicate your state of mind going into the experiment. Now repeat this experiment under three more different conditions: A strong taste in your mouth, Mozart playing in the background, play footage of a sport that you enjoy in sight. Compare the four conditions.

You can find the NativLang channel here.


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Course Review: Writing in Plain English

Teacher: Judy Steiner-Williams
Length: 1h 51m (course link)

In early 2016, I did my first LYNDA course. Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story was a great introduction to the platform. Not long after that, I took a long hiatus from online education. With renewed enthusiasm, I have returned with a review of Judy Steiner-Williams’ course entitled Writing in Plain English.

As the name suggests this course relates to the use of Plain English.  Steiner-Williams begins by discussing an act passed by the USA Congress in the late 70’s. This required governmental organisations to release materials that were easy to read and understand. This frames much of the materials in the course. The focus is on conveying meaning as easily and concisely as possible.
Over the various modules, she discusses how to tighten sentences and discourages use of terminology or phrases that can potentially confuse the reader. We see the problem with using scientific terminology in a setting where the person or persons receiving it may not share the same meaning. This addressed the issue of writing for your audience. I found the sections on buzzwords and weasel words to be of special interest given how often companies use them.
Plain English is important. In the pursuit of this goal, you should avoid changes that may have a detrimental effect on the meaning of a sentence, paragraph and larger piece of writing. I picked up on one or two examples where Steiner-Williams made the mistake of using words with a different meaning from the ones they were replacing. It wasn’t deliberate, by any means, but it did teach me how important words are for overall meaning and to be thoughtful in your use of them.

In spite of a few disagreements on word usage, I got a lot out of this course. It’s resulted in me being more thoughtful about word usage, length and several other aspects of written communication. However, I also keep in mind that the rules don’t apply as readily when writing fiction as it often makes use of emotive language. In conclusion, if you are looking for tips for tightening your writing then this course is a must. Just keep in mind that different forms of writing and the target audience will likely affect writing style.

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Course Review: Crafting an Effective Writer

Provider: MSJC at Coursera [course page]
Lecturer: Lawrence Barkley, Ted Blake and Lorrie Ross
Subject: Communication / English + Writing
Delivery: intake-based asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 4-5 hrs/week over 6 weeks
Completion Date: 21/10/2014

Mt. San Jacinto College

Mt. San Jacinto College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: This course goes over the basics of English, covering grammar, sentence structure and the various categories of words in the English language.

Strengths: This course is a great refresher in English, going over the stuff that we often forget after leaving educational institutions due to lack of practice. It was also my second attempt at the course, having had a failed start in an earlier intake. This time around, I completed and passed the course. I was gratifying for me and I found myself smiling in appreciation at things relearned. I suppose that my own experiences in high school English were different from others though. I enjoyed it because it laid the foundation for learning and interacting with other people.
As mentioned above, the course goes over the basics of English. The teachers and teaching staff were thoughtful but were careful not to treat students as idiots. This approach made the material accessible and avoided breaks in the flow of delivery. The assessment and quizzes appropriately evaluated student learning, and I found myself going over the lecture videos and notes in order to correct errors in logic and perception. I was pleasantly surprised, and discovered that several areas that I have had issues with for years being addressed by this humble course.

Weaknesses: It involves the basics of communication, which some folks may find unappealing.

Conclusion: I really enjoyed this course. I was a bit worried several times throughout though, as some personal stuff creating a slight obstacle for finishing assessment by the deadlines listed, but I am glad that I stuck with it. The high quality of this introductory course bodes well for the rest of MSJC’s offerings, though I doubt they will offer any more courses on Coursera for a while apart from the regular intakes of this MOOC. This course will be of great assistance that are looking for a refresher in English, had difficulty with English in school, or for folks new to the written English language.

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Why I Like Chatting to Creatives

Chat bubbles
Image via Wikipedia

I like chatting to other creative people. No matter their particular circumstances, there is a connection that I feel with people drawn to create something all their own. It is that unique connection that each has with their own creations that is akin to a parent and their beloved child, time spent nurturing and molding until the product reaches completion.

Why do I like Chatting to Creatives? Well, it is the knowledge that I am not the only one making the journey. I imagine that before the internet, the telephone or radio, life would have been quite lonely for creatives. By chatting to other creatives, I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that my journey is not in vain. I know that it is okay to make mistakes along the way as well, and that this isn’t the end of the world.

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