Colloquium on Multilingualism

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Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. Nowadays multilingualism is conquering educational programs and there is a debate whether this is correct or, on the contrary, monolingual education is better. In my opinion, learning more than one language has more advantages than disadvantages.

It is a well-known fact that in our world it is necessary to be multilingual if you don´t want to be left behind. An example of this is when you want to get a job because, as everyone knows, employers prefer to hire people that can use more than one language.

When we go to school we learn a lot of subjects, we enlighten ourselves. Therefore, there isn´t a better way to know about a culture (literature, art,…) than having direct access to it. That means that, for example, you are going to understand Vladimir Nabokov´s literary style if you read his “Lolita” in its original language than if you read a translation.

Let us now move to an important concept: ‘split personality.’ As BBC explains in an article, ‘split personality’ is the quality that lets multilingual people travel to a country or place depending on the language that they are using. Let us suppose that someone asks you what is your favorite food in English. In this situation you are going to think about a food you like but at the time, you are going to relate this food with England. ‘Split personality’ is a complex skill but the fact is that it reveals that there are a lot of cognitive qualities associated to multilingualism that are just starting to be discovered and that we should start developing when we go to school.

From what has been said, it can be seen that multilingual educational programs, if they let students have enough hours of every subject, is becoming a social phenomenon governed by the needs of globalization and cultural opening, and I´m in favour of them.

Aitana V.

What can you do nowadays if you can only speak one language? Very few things out of your country. Languages are a very important aspect of our daily lives, they are necessary to travel and they can bring advantages to find more jobs.

It’s true that bilingual and multilingual education plans have less hours to work other subjects, and that the kids will have a larger amount of work because they have more subjects to study. But apart from this, all’s advantages.

One of them is that students develop better communication skills. They can talk with people from different countries with no problem and they will have the opportunity to meet new people that they wouldn’t have met if they hadn’t learnt the language. Also, there are studies that show that the brains of people who know more than one language are fitter and have skills to block the disturbing noises to get the information they want.

Knowing many languages can give you access to jobs where languages are necessary and give you opportunities to travel to new places and even live abroad and learn different cultures and lifestyles.

All of this makes us think that multilingual education must be mandatory. It’s very important to take advantage of the age of the kids because while they are younger, learning languages is easier and faster.

Eider V.

 Hallo gehachte leezer. That is a sentence in Dutch which means ‘hello dear reader. ‘ Something most people are not capable of understanding. The reason for that: lack of multilingualism, a problem caused by education centers unwilling to teach many languages because of the time it would take out of other subjects such as Maths or History.  That leads to controversy among people who defend the idea of monolingualism and those who don´t, but I will explain why an equilibrium between both is the solution.

 Firstly, it´s a common thought that learning more languages at school will decrease the students’ performance in other subjects. However, if a student is willing to take that risk, it shouldn’t be fair for an educational institution to deny them the right to learn that. What they should be doing is figuring out a way to achieve that goal with the minimum cost of performance, because that would widen the students´ opportunities in, for example, applying for a university or traveling around the world.

 Another reason why multilingualism should be limited and monolingualism avoided is to contribute to the relations with other countries. For example, certain economical sectors wouldn´t be available due to low language proficiency, which has been the case in many Asian countries. The main concern about exploiting these possibilities is education, which reinforces the point that mixing both ideas is necessary.

 Lastly, it´s needless to say that learning new languages leads to a more profound base of cultural knowledge thanks to reading varied literature and/or travelling. Therefore, to become a more knowledgeable person in general, multilingualism is an option which should be taken into account.

 In summary, in order to give more opportunities to students while minimalizing the risks, educational centers should try to find a balance between monolinguistic programs and multilinguistic ones.

Jordi L.

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The Butterfly Effect

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The Butterfly Effect (2004), starring Ashton Kutcher and Amy Smart

It has been said that the flutter of the wings of a butterfly can provoke a typhoon half the world away. So, minor changes can lead to a snowball effect and create whole new situations, and that´s why, if given the opportunity, I wouldn’t change my past.

Firstly, if you changed something in your past because something in the present troubles you, there´s almost no probability that you´d create a new perfect situation, because this change would trigger something you might want to change again, or it could just lead you to skip an important event in your life such as finding your significant other half or getting something you wanted.

So, there´s only one prediction we can make about life: it is unpredictable and we should try and see the beauty of this chaos instead of wanting to control it.

María M. A.

It tolls for thee

ErnestHemmingway_ForWhomTheBellTolls.jpgTitle: For Whom the Bell Tolls

Author: Ernest Hemingway

Publisher: Arrow Books

Genre: Historical Novel

Year: 1941

Pages: 492

“No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent…  therefore, send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” This quote by John Donne inspired Hemingway’s novel, which tells us about death and suicide but, above all, it shows the devastating consequences of war.

For Whom the Bell Tolls is set during the Spanish Civil War and the plot shows a parallel development with the war itself. At the beginning, Jordan and the Republican guerrillas go through an optimistic stage but later the Fascist forces overwhelm the protagonist, pushing him into a dark fate. Furthermore, the novel is not a mere fictional book but a primary historical source whose content has been key to understanding our contemporary context.

What is thrilling about this novel is its clear and concise writing style. Ernest Hemingway’s style is one of the main attractions of the book: not a single barroquity or pompouse adjective is found. The direct grammar drives us into the vertiginous relationship between Jordan and Maria within the implacable civil war. What’s more, some characters -such as Anselmo or Pilar- are so well depicted that they accurately embody traditional Spanish stereotypes and characteristics. It seems you could come across them round the corner.

Even though it is a historical novel, it can not be regarded as objective nonfiction. The Spanish Civil War was the consequence of a geographic and historical framework which divided the country and the people, making foreign volunteers become nothing more than mere spectators.

Alberto A.

Learning through memorization

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‘Forgetting curve’. Hermann Ebbinghaus (German psychologist, 1850-1909)

Throughout my grandmother’s childhood, learning was seen as a process of memorization, indeed she learned by heart every chapter of Mio Cid’s epic poem. However, a new era has arrived: globalization and internationalization have given value to learners that are always open to new information and opinions and can easily adapt to any situation. However, the big question is: to what extent is learning through memorization a valid method in this day and age?

To begin with, learning this way presents what could be seen as an advantage. Every student is given the same material and no difference can be found. This is understood by some as a positive aspect since everyone has equal treatment.

Be that as it may, this method is outdated and condemned by many educational offices and boards. The main reason is that it doesn’t stimulate any of the basic skills that learning should entail: curiosity, creativity and critical thinking to name but a few. Moreover, learning through memorization is based on the conception that intelligence is the ability to absorb knowledge. Nevertheless, intelligence is an addition of originality and perceptive observation as well as an organized and structured way of thinking.

In light of the above, the unpredictable and always-changing nature of life make learning through memorization an obsolete pedagogic method since it is necessary to give the student freedom of expression and the chance to investigate the world.

Alberto A.

You have probably been in the middle of an exam, head between your hands, trying to recall that vast amount of information that you tried to memorize the night before. I’ll tell you why you can’t recall it: because memorization does not work.

Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t have advantages: it can get you out of a pickle if you forgot to study the week before an exam, if you don’t go blank in the middle of it. Because that’s basically the only advantage memorization has. It’s a process that, if done incorrectly –like most people do-, never holds information in your brain for extended periods of time, so you may not even be able to recall things and blackouts happen more often than not.

The thing is, memorizing works at times, but it sure isn’t the most effective way, especially since people often do it wrong and try to cram everything in one night because they haven’t bothered to review from day one. Memorizing and studying take a lot of time. Learning in general does. However, there are better ways to learn, such as mental image mapping.

Paco S.

 

Still waiting for Godot?

godot.jpgCreative text based on ‘Waiting for Godot’ (tragicomedy in two acts written by Samuel Beckett, 1953).

Vladimir: Well? Shall we go?

Estragon: Yes, let´s go.

[They meet next day. Vladimir stares at the rising of the sun while a tear drops from his right eye]

Estragon: Well, it seems Godot hasn´t shown up.

Vladimir: I think we should wait until nightfall.

Estragon: Indeed, and when the moment comes, you know what will happen.

Vladimir: What!

Estragon: Don´t you remember?

Vladimir: Clearly not.

Estragon: [murmuring] how stupid can you be?

Vladimir: [stands up and begins yelling] O, now you´ve done it. Are you happy?

Estragon: What do you mean?

[Vladimir stares angrily at Estragon but decides it´s too early in the morning to start an argument. Hours pass quickly, and Estragon notices that Vladimir is getting nervous]

Vladimir: I can´t believe it´s noon already.

Estragon: You´re right.

Estragon: Look, I´m sorry for what I did before, it was completely out of place, you´re not that dumb.

Vladimir: [smiles] Thank you, you are not that annoying either.

Estragon: Did you bring the rope?

[Silence]

Vladimir: Yes, I did.

Estragon: It´s time.

Vladimir: Bring the rope.

[They start climbing the tree]

Vladimir: I think we should do it at the same time.

Estragon: I was thinking the same.

 

Vladimir: [sighs] It´s fine.

Estragon: [silently agrees]

Vladimir: Let´s make a countdown.

Vladimir and Estragon: One, two, three, …

THE END

Jordi L.

Pride and Prejudice have not left us

pride.jpgTitle: Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen

Publication date: 1813

Genre: Romance novel

Jane Austen was born on 16th December 1775, in Hampshire (Hants), southern England. As the seventh of eight children, she received a very complete education in the internship of Steventon, where kids were instructed and prepared for college. She wrote other books such as “Sense and Sensibility” and “Emma”.

“Pride and Prejudice” narrates the situation and problems that the Bennet family will have to face in order to keep their small fortune, with the help from a rich, singular man who falls in love with one of the five daughters of Mr. Bennet (Elizabeth).

The novel represents a fierce criticism on the social conventions and the big abyss that existed between classes at the beginning of the 19th century. In it we can find the protagonist determined to marry for love, but at the same time she assumes without drama the treatment that single women received, showing she was proud of being what she was… a woman.

I think this novel inspired many writers and even film directors to use women as powerful characters who become independent, strong and educated, having the possibility to succeed in life as much as any man.

Julia V.

What’s that smell?

perfume.jpgTitle: Perfume – The Story of a Murderer

Author: Patrick Süskind

Publication date: 1985

Genre: Magic realism, horror fiction

“Perfume: the Story of a Murderer” is a 1985 novel by the best-selling German author Patrick Süskind. It follows a young orphan born in Paris during the late modern times who has an extraordinary sense of smell that allows him to sense objects and things that other people could only imagine. It comes to a point when he doesn’t need his sight to guide himself around the city, as he easily recognizes the smell of everything around him. One day, he crosses paths with a virgin girl whose scent he’d never come across before and becomes obsessed with it. From then on, Grenouille begins murdering young girls with a similar fragrance in order to preserve them.

“Perfume” is a book that absorbed and fascinated me in ways others haven’t in years. I’d watched the film a few years ago but, either it didn’t succeed in capturing the novel’s essence, or I was too little for it to significantly mark me.

“Perfume” is written in a way that not only seizes your attention, but physically immerses you into the story too. There were passages where the different smells were so beautifully written that you thought you might be able to feel them in real life. I think my favourite element from the novel was Grenouille’s characterization. In my opinion, “Perfume” is more about his inner journey than about the serial killings, even if these are sold as the main focus of the story.

In conclusion, Süskind’s “Perfume: the Story of a Murderer” is a fantastic book that covered every expectation I had and managed to secure a spot among my favourites.

Elena A.