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Start writing fiction: a free MOOC through FutureLearn with The OU

From E-Learning V

Fig.1 Something I wrote 40 years ago ! (age 13)

The last five weeks I’ve been following the FutureLearn MOOC ‘Start Writing Fiction’.

Extraordinary. I’m on my second pass. I came through early, and now return not wanting to get ahead of the conversation. Particularly useful as I am actively writing at the moment, so this is the best of all learning because it is applied. Regarding character it about giving them shape, depth and ‘points of interest’ – more 6D than even the 2D we are asked to get away from. I visualise characters as hedgehogs with many prickles, but only a few of these matter to the story – though all of them matter to the notebook which I’m gradually coming to care about more and more, cursing the times I ‘have a thought’ and don’t get it down somewhere safely. I am hugely pleased to be here and very proud to be an OU graduate already – not, sadly, from this faculty: yet!

I’m finding the oddest of balances in my life too:

  • Writing for myself from 4.00am to 8.00am.
  • Picking up work from 10.00am.
  • Evenings from 5.00pm to 9.00pm

I am often ‘poolside’ teaching or coaching swimmers.

Delighting yesterday evening to be back with some squad swimmers I last saw four years ago – now in the mid teens, some achieving amazing things in the water, all at that gangly stage of youth development my own children have come through in the last year.

The issue then is how or where or why I fit in the OU module L120 I committed to. Learning a language is daunting and outside my comfort zone. What I do know now, not surprisingly, is that all learning comes about as a result of concerted and consistent effort over a long period of time.

From E-Learning V

Delightfully explained here. 

Offered as an Open Education Resource (OER) easily shared through Twitter and Facebook. Come on, let’s speak French like the French  and not Ted Heath 🙂

And some wonderfully expressed and illustrated that we’ve made it into a party game at home. My wife is word-perfect having gone to a French-speaking school for a year age 13 in Canada. She always picks me up on the ‘r’ – maybe I can finally crack this.

Not easy.

I had elocution lessons as a boy age 7 as I couldn’t manage my ‘Rs’ in English, let alone the greatest challenge.

Brilliant. Wonderfully put and comprehensive.

Pilates for the British tongue. I still can’t quite manage ‘Bruno’ though – something about the mouth position for the ‘B’ to the ‘R’ – currently the equivalent of trying to do a standing backflip.

Thank you. L120 Team smile

P.S. Also the most charming way to learn how to say ‘tongue’ with a French accent smile

Learning … at the point of sale

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Is green glass especially preferred by alcoholics? Recycling in the Budgens’ car park, Moreton in Marsh, Gloucestershire.

In advertising, the saying goes, that you are influencing a person’s decision to purchase as they reach up to the shelf: do they buy this or that product.

Increasingly, as we are forever at that point of sale because the shop shelf is now in the palm of our hands or at the end of our fingertips, these sales hints, tips and pushes are there too; or at least they try to be.

Learning on the job, in the workplace, or ‘applied’ and ‘just in time’ learning is like this too. The intention is to influence and support us right when we need it, to be that mentor looking over our shoulder, someone whispering in our ear … our omnipresent HAL.

Particularly when it comes to learning a language I most desire someone by my side, seeing where I am, what I am doing and even what I am looking at or reaching for to give me tips, in their mother tongue, describing or explaining what it is before me. I can think of four occasions when this has occurred:

From E-Learning V

1) On a French Exchange visit when I was at school.

I was 17. He was 19 and on his second repeat year at his French High School in La Rochelle, determined to achieve the grades in his BAC to go to an ‘Ecole Superieur’ (He succeeded, he now runs housing in Nice). Frédérique fed me words, explained what was going on, worked on my accent, gave me lyrics to French songs and poems, took me to school, to museums, introduced me to his friends … I kept a journal and scrapbook covering my three weeks in France; I’ve just been looking through it.

From E-Learning V

2) Working in my gap year as the ‘chasseur’ or ‘bell boy’ or ‘ day porter’ for five months in a French 4 Star hotel in the French Alps.

This was well before the ‘English invasion’ so, laughingly, my role was to help the Manageress and reception team when they had English speaking clients, as well as carry bags, dig cars out of snow, serve breakfasts, run errands, carry skis … The young women, I was 18, they were in their early twenties, on reception, would explain a term; the staff in the hotel fed me filth: phrases and words they hoped I’d use and get into trouble and sometimes the guests … I kept a photo journal of the five months Dec through to May that I spent in Val d’Isere.

3) Working with a bilingual production assistant

I’d known in the UK during the 18 months or so that I had various jobs in French TV/Film. We’d work in both French and English, rocking and rolling between the two languages to write proposals and scripts. I found a file of this stuff in the garage: I’ve not looked at it in 23 years.

4) My girlfriend, fiancée and wife

She went to a French speaking school in Quebec when she was 13 and like me has done spells working in France. She now limits herself to correcting my accent, forcing my face into an oral workout that makes me feel like I am 14 again and have a brace with elastics. Speaking French, if you’re getting the accent right, for a Brit, is like taking you mouth to the gym and pushing weight.

Examples of learning ‘at the point of sale’

From E-Learning V

Fig.2. Poster display in the waiting room of the Department of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, Princess Royal Hospital. 

Language learning with augmented reality

From E-Learning V

Ce que je voudrais utiliser est la ‘réalité augmentée’. Soit à l’aide de quelque chose comme ‘Google Glass,’ le mot pour quelque chose en français pourrait se superposer automatiquement sur tout ce qu’on regard.

From E-Learning V
From H818 EMA

Ou, quelque chose qu’on peut faire aujourd’hui serait de mettre un QR Code sur les objets autour de la maison et quand on prend un « téléphone intelligent » comme un iPhone, on verrait le mot en français devant le QR code.

From E-Learning V

Mais, pour l’instant on pourrait utiliser quelque chose comme Rosetta Stone. On est se montré des objets quotidiens et il faut qu’on les nomme jusqu’à ce qu’on peut la faire correctement toujours. Cool smile

From E-Learning V

Fig.1. Pronunciations around the globe

Learning French with The OU I am finding the toughest task is to kill my British accent. I’ve been using Rosetta Stone too. There are certain words with combinations of letters that fox the English tongue.

You know you’re mastering French, for example, when you can differentiate between the subtleties of ‘de’ and ‘deux’. Do you want some croissants or two? You think you are saying you want two, they think you are saying some, they ask you how many, you repeat ‘some’ and you resolve the problem by holding up your fingers. ‘Trois’ and ‘quatre’ may flumox your British tongue too, so you perhaps go in wanting two of a thing, and end up asking for five, as ‘cinq’ is far easier on the English tongue. You then hide or eat the spare three croissants on the way back to the campsite?

As I’m working with the written and the spoken word and I’m used to Googling everything I was delighted to come across a website that purports to help you correctly pronounce anything.

I was toying with words such as ‘Victoire’ and who wouldn’t get their tongue tied with ‘Hesdigneul.’ This has to do with the FutureLearn Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) ‘Start Writing Fiction’ that I’m using to galvanise my writing once and for all … the trend is good, in ‘Write a novel in a month’ I’m on course to complete at the end of November. 

The ‘grin from ear to ear’ fun came when I looked up ‘Bruno’. 

I had a French friend in my teens called ‘Bruno’ and I could not, for the life of me get his name right. It always sounded like Bruno, as in ‘Frank Bruno’, the name you’d give to a bloodhound as it is so droopy. In French ‘Bruno’ is perky like a sharp dig in the ribs.

What this site does is it gives you sixty versions of how ‘Bruno’ is pronounced all over the world. Click on the UK, then somewhere in France and you’ll see what I mean.

I laughed even more when I put my own name in, to hear ‘Jonathan’ said in a Swedish, Taiwanese, American, French and German accent.

Go on, give it a go! smile

Undoing the blogging habit of a decade

For a decade I’ve settled into a blog post every morning.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve at least been forming a new habit. Whether 3.30am or 5.40am I get up and work on fiction ’til breakfast. That out of the way I can get on with the rest of the day. This leads to early nights. But am I missing much? ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here?’ No thanks.

A first from The OU – a TMA that was an audio file that came back with written comments and an audio file.

A very different beast learning a language. Both in the text and the spoken word there is lots to pick up on.

French tongue twisters are doubly troubling for the English tongue

From E-Learning V

 Fig.1. Un chasseur sachant : a tongue-twister in French

I just stumbledupon this fun, fun, fun way to pick up some fresh French vocabulary AND with some exceedingly difficult tongue twisters to take your mouth to the gym – very necessary if you are to pronounce much correctly in French. After three minutes of these you’ll feel as if you’ve been chewing the entire packet of ten sticks of Wrigleys’ Spearmint Gum simultaneously.

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