All Posts Tagged With: "English"
Recent survey of international students might surprise you
In 1916, Bill Boeing went to MIT to hire his first chief engineer. He picked Wong Tsoo, a Chinese guy who had emigrated to England at the age of 16 for undergrad before crossing the Atlantic for graduate school. Wong quickly got to work on Boeing’s first commercially successful plane, the C-Model. Imagine how different the airline industry might have been had another country’s university—Canada’s perhaps—enticed Wong. Both Canada and the U.S. had racist anti-Chinese policies at the time, such as the Head Tax, but if Canada had been less racist than America, might the Wongs of the era have chosen McGill?
We’ve come a long way since then. From 2001 to 2008, the number of international students in Canada increased at a rate of 4.3% per year; between 2008 to 2012 the annual increase was, astonishingly, 12.3%. There were 265,377 in 2012 (74% of them in post-secondary schools). We now get five per cent of all international students worldwide, making Canada the seventh most popular destination after the US, UK, China, France, Germany and Australia, according to Project Atlas.
Concern grows about English proficiency on campus
At 23, Dalhousie University student Ishika Sharma speaks with such self-assurance and optimism, it’s hard to imagine how lost she felt in September 2012, when she arrived in Halifax from New Delhi. She recalls those early weeks in the YMCA’s international-student residence as a bleak period of culture shock and loneliness. “Oh my god, the international student housing was a weepfest for the first two months,” she says. Gradually, the closed doors of her neighbours would open, if only to share late-night hot chocolate and a bit of sympathy.
Sharma was more fortunate than most. While she grew up speaking Hindi and Punjabi, she arrived with a solid command of English, the language she used in most of the undergraduate courses in physiotherapy she studied in India. “Many of the students who joined the university with me were not well-versed in English,” she says. “They had trouble getting along with people in English. They had trouble asking for help, and that was a big reason why they did not socialize enough.”
It wasn’t the prof. It wasn’t the material. It was too easy.
There’s a point in most fizzling relationships when the magic is gone and everyone is just going through the motions. My relationship with the University of the Fraser Valley’s English department reached that point in a Fall 2011 class when, like a threadbare superhero plot, everything just became too easy.
It wasn’t the prof. He was great. It wasn’t the material. I loved that too. I think it was the fact that I scored an A- in the course and knew I didn’t deserve it. Or that we all were scoring grades we didn’t deserve and that the department was convincing us that we earned them.
I remember my friends and I swapping stories about late nights, unfinished readings, rambling and incoherent essays. We attributed our successes to what we called the ‘bullshit’ factor. Our pride protected us from the truth: that we were victims of a system that was exploiting us for tuition.
Students talk of a brilliant but sexist professor
News of David Gilmour’s proud indifference to ideas and people unlike him has rocked the Canadian Twittersphere.
Gilmour and his off-the-cuff paean in Hazlitt to macho men of letters earned him attention in the American press and incited the wrath of Jezebel writers and academics eager to point out that the Canadian novelist does not have a PhD (because a doctorate, as we all know, is the prerequisite to a sound and tolerant mind). After that first cringe-worthy interview, Gilmour did himself no favours by attempting to clarify his remarks in the National Post. Again he insisted that those interested in reading the works of women, gays and Chinese people go “down the hall.”
“I don’t love women writers enough to teach them. That’s all I’m saying,” he explained. “What I teach are guys. If you want women writers, you go down the hall. … I have a degree in French literature, and I speak French fluently, but I don’t teach French literature because I don’t feel it as deeply and as passionately as some of the other teachers here. So I actually send people down the hall to somebody who can teach it better. The same thing goes for German writers, for women writers, for gay writers, for Chinese writers.”
Down the hall … it’s a big theme in Gilmour’s worldview. It’s also, I’m assuming, as a gay female writer, where he thinks I belong.
So who exactly is down the hall? I decided to find out.
Why some on campus are calling for more language help
Professors at the University of Regina, which has doubled its international student population from 730 in 2009 to 1,448 in 2013, say students are being admitted without good enough English.
English professor Susan Johnston told CBC that some don’t have the listening skills to understand what’s going on in classes and they also appear to be crafting papers in one language and converting them to English, “through some kind of Google Translator or BabelFish program.”
The discussion isn’t limited to Saskatchewan. The international student population grew by 60 per cent nationwide between 2004 and 2012.
While universities are happy to have the extra tuition, funding and diversity that foreign students bring, schools face pressure to make sure these new recruits can read, write and speak well enough to succeed.
Students Nova Scotia, an advocacy group, recently studied international students. After consulting government, professors and students (both foreign and domestic) they concluded that, “language fluency is possibly the most important academic challenge affecting international students.”
Students connect through Potter clubs and classes
Two summers ago when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 arrived at the cinema in Ancaster, Ont., Stephanie Kesler took the day off work and lined up for 12 hours to make sure she got a good seat. Afterward, Kesler, now 23, says she felt “a little bit sad.” Growing up she had eagerly anticipated each of J.K. Rowling’s books and films. “That was my whole childhood.”
But last semester, the third-year English student at Western University in London, Ont., realized that the end of the series didn’t mean saying goodbye. In her children’s literature course, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was on the syllabus.
For her class assignment, Kesler presented to her peers on the symbolism of Rowling’s Dementors, dark creatures that suck the life out of people, and the Patronus Charm, the only thing that can fight them off. She likened the Dementors to depression and the Patronas to overcoming it through positive thinking.
Not far away at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., dozens of wizarding fans had a similar idea. Emma Morrison, a third-year Medieval Studies and Religion major, had started a chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance, a global network of campus and community clubs where Potter fans jointly work for social justice. The Laurier chapter’s first big project focused on Dementors and depression. After a social media campaign promoting awareness of mental health services on campus, the group held a Yule Ball (a Hogwarts-inspired formal) during February mid-terms. “We wanted to have something fun to allow people to let loose in their time of stress,” she says. More than 220 showed up for butter beer and dancing.
Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi, who teaches children’s literature at Western, is unsurprised by the focus on the Dementors. “Emotional states in the series are always represented through magic,” she says. Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards, is bewildering, much like university, she points out. “The staircases never stay in the same place from one period of class to the next.”
Heather Zwicker earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Heather Zwicker, a professor of English and Film Studies turned Vice-Dean of Arts at the University of Alberta, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
It was 2003 and Zwicker had taken a six-month teaching position in Hawaii when it dawned on her that she knew more about the culture of Honolulu than that of her hometown Edmonton.
When she got back to the University of Alberta, she put together a senior-level course that focused on the city’s history and arts scene.
It was difficult at first, because there weren’t many published works about Edmonton.
“That’s when I realized that the other part of the course had to be getting students into the city,” she says. She had them tour the campus, taking in the history of the university, and go for walks and transit rides, recording everything they noticed. Based on their observations, they created unique maps of the city using soundscapes and video. “It was really fantastic. The students’ work was amazing,” she says, adding one project was submitted to a film festival.
Leader recalls great teachers, friendships and… manure?
The 2013 Maclean’s University Rankings asked some of Canada’s most successful writers, politicians and scientists what they wish they’d known in university. Their answers are perfect additions to our First Year Survivor blog. Here’s advice from Bob Rae, former premier of Ontario and interim leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I came to University College, University of Toronto, in the fall of 1966, studied modern history, and graduated with a B.A. in 1969. In the first week I was assigned by the seniors in residence late one night to find a bucket of horse manure, which meant figuring out where the police stables were.
Subject rankings for psychology, law, economics…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of all Canadian schools for arts, humanities, and business. For science, engineering, and health disciplines click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of California, Berkeley (UCB) (United States)
3. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
4. London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) (United Kingdom)
5. University of Chicago (United States)
16. University of Toronto
33. McGill University
40. University of British Columbia
45. Queen’s University
51-100. Université de Montréal, University of Alberta
101-150. McMaster University, Western University, Université du Québec, University of Waterloo, York University
151-200. Carleton University, Concordia University, Dalhousie University, Laval University, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, University of Ottawa, University of Victoria
English college questions French school’s funding
The president of Sudbury, Ontario’s English-language college wants the province to look into the funding disparity between her school and the city’s French college, which gets significantly more provincial funding per student. Cambrian, the English college, is cutting staff, while College Boréal is planning to give all new students iPads. “Cambrian doesn’t get enough funding to offer every student an iPad,” president Sylvia Barnard told CBC News. College Boréal president Denis Hubert-Dutrisac defended the disparity. The iPad money came from fundraising, he said. He also said it’s more expensive to run his college because of translation costs and its network of small campuses.
Prof. Pettigrew explains his “no… yes… ummm?” method
This week my Detective Fiction class was looking at Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, a novel about a Miami forensics analyst who is secretly a serial killer, but who only targets other killers (and yes, the inspiration for the Dexter TV show).
Trying to get my class to think through the complex moral questions that the novel raises, I asked them, “To appreciate this novel, you have to support capital punishment, don’t you?”
One of my best students jumped right in. “No” she said firmly, then instantly changed her mind: “Yes.” Then reconsidered again: “Ummm…”
And I knew I had asked the perfect question.
Regina prof’s revelation highlights students in the sex trade
A University of Regina professor who worked as an escort when she was a master’s student many years ago has shared her story with CBC News.
Jean Hillabold, now an English instructor, says she’s speaking out because she wants to draw attention to the debate over sex trade regulation.
But in doing so, she’s also highlighted the fact that some students and university graduates work in prostitution, erotic dancing and pornography to pay their bills.
Its not 4 the reasonz u thynk
Does it matter whether university students can spell or not?
Anne Trubek of Oberlin College argues in a Wired article entitled Its tyme to let luce! that standard spellings are obsolete.
Oh, they were fine when we all stumbled through our lives under the oppressive burden of paper and ink, but adding an apostrophe on an iPhone takes an extra couple of keystrokes, and really, why spend the time?
In one sense—that we should not be slaves to an arbitrary sense of what is correct—Trubek is right. But that misses a bigger point. I will suggest there is a good reason to care about spelling, and to talk about it even at the university level, though it’s perhaps not the reason one might think.
Students should learn to build arguments, not write entries
All professors have to deal with what Noah Geisel has recently termed The Wikipedia Dilemma. With the online encyclopedia now the largest in the world, freely available, and ubiquitous on the web, the problem is evident. Should a prof forbid students from using Wikipedia or embrace it as a modern research tool without equal?
The case for Wikipedia is obvious: it’s easy to access, simple to use, and covers a far wider range of material than any other reference work. And though it may occassionally be subject to error, as all reference works are, its eminent editability keeps it relatively accurate and incredibly up to date. I once read an article about quicksand, and curious to know more about it, checked Wikipedia, only to find the article I had just read, an article that had been published that very day, cited among the sources.
It encourages research, citation, revision…
Wikipedia is an outcast on most university campuses. At the beginning of the semester, most professors mention that it’s banished from essays and assignments. If you dare to include a Wikipedia article on your reference list, you’re practically asking for a zero on your bibliography. In extreme cases, your professor might set your essay on fire and scatter the ashes across the Pacific Ocean. That’s because most profs regard Wikipedia’s crowdsourced articles as unreliable.
Despite the website’s reputation, some professors at schools like the University of Alberta are using Wikipedia as a teaching resource. Never mind using Wikipedia as a reference: these profs are actually replacing traditional essays with assignments where students write Wikipedia entries.
Word received ‘unprecedented’ number of searches: Merriam-Webster
English majors, take note: Merriam-Webster has chosen pragmatic as its top word of 2011.
On Dec. 15, the American dictionary publisher announced its annual top-10 list, determined by the volume of searches on their online dictionary. Pragmatic, an adjective that means “practical as opposed to idealistic,” received an “unprecedented” number of searches throughout the year.
Merriam-Webster says search trends are often influenced by economic and political conditions. In 2011, the words ambivalence, insidious, didactic, austerity, diversity, socialism, vitriol and “après moi le déluge” topped the list—influenced in some part, no doubt, by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
What do you think, Canadian wordsmiths? Should pragmatic be the top word of 2011?
Latest in U Ottawa language tussle
A University of Ottawa professor stole a National Bank sign set up on campus because it wasn’t available in French. François Charboneau, an assistant professor of Political Studies told CBC News that he did so because he wanted to send a stronger message than simply “making another complaint.” All official signs must appear in English and French at the university, but many companies providing services on campus, such as construction companies and food shops, don’t follow the same rules. That’s because the 1974 provincial act that made the university bilingual says it must support this mandate in “programmes, central administration, general services, internal administration of its faculties and schools, its teaching staff, its support staff and its student population.” It says nothing of ancillary services. It isn’t just francophones who are often frustrated by the relationship between English and French on campus. An anglophone student recently wrote of her frustration about French-only signs and service at a Quizno’s sandwich shop on campus.
French-only signage at the bilingual University of Ottawa has caused debate on The Fulcrum’s website. Anglophone student Jaclyn Lyte writes that at an on-campus sub shop, employees have practically given up on English, with French-only signage. “Call me crazy, but I think it’s important for students to be able to make informed choices about what they eat,” she writes. “I shouldn’t have to grapple with francophone food workers and hold up the line for 15 minutes just to find out what I’m eating.” Lyte supports billingualism. “I’m content to listen through French messages first, and I won’t complain if I have to scroll down an extra page or so to get to my English message,” she says. But she draws a line French-only lunch.
In the comments section, students show their frustration at the school’s official bilingualism. “This school is so French biased,” comments ‘Nick.’
Students explore Jay-Z, Rap Poetics, Religion and Hip Hop
Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. has launched a new course centred on the works of rapper Jay-Z, reports The Nation.
It’s getting a lot of attention, but it’s certainly not the first time that a prestigious university has used hip-hop to help students explore big questions.
Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z has units on “Hustling Hermeneutics” and the “Monster of the Double Entendre.” The course is popular so far, with 140 signed up—about three-times the normal enrollment for a Georgetown seminar.
“Many are white kids—they bring a level of criticism about the culture they have emerged from… because they’ve seen that culture through Jay-Z’s eyes,” course instructor Michael Eric Dyson told The Nation, explaining the course’s popularity among a student body that’s only 6.7 per cent African-American.
But annual hiring is still one-third lower than in 2007-08
The Modern Languages Association’s job board is North America’s dominant website for posting full-time professor jobs in English and foreign languages departments. That makes it a decent barometer for the two fields’ PhD job markets.
An analysis of this year’s listings shows that full-time job availability improved compared to the previous two devastating years—a period in which listings dropped 40 per cent. There were 8.2 per cent more English professor jobs posted in 2010-11 than in 2009-10. The number of foreign languages jobs was up too—7.1 per cent year-on-year. It’s a welcome improvement, but annual hiring is still one-third below its peak in 2007-08.