Interview at Lexiophiles.com

Here is a brief interview at Lexiophiles.com about my language learning.

Haruki Murakami ???????????? A Sul da Fronteira A Oeste do Sol

South of the Border, West of the Wind, ???????????????????????????( Kokky?? no minami, taiy?? no nishi) by Murakami is a book well worth reading. I read it in Portuguese. I bought the book during my last trip to Portugal, when I was looking for a book to read. I did not read it until now. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a pleasant nostalgic trip for me, back to the Tokyo where I lived for nine years, and an easy read with many interesting observations about life. Reading it in Portuguese gave it another dimension. Now I am going to buy some more books by Murakami, in Japanese this time. I hope there are also audio books out there, in Japanese I mean. Does anyone know?

Olympic ice dance competition and LingQ

I just watched the ice dance performances at the Olympics. Just amazing performances by all. These wonderful, elegant, dedicated, inspirational athletes just fill me with wonder and appreciation. It dawned on me that it is a pity that there have to be winners and losers. All the performers were wonderful. But the points spur them on, push them to an even higher level of achievement. That is what the statistics at LingQ sometimes do. What really matters is the enjoyment we get from our own performance, but the points keep us focused.

Bureaucracy is the enemy of education

Education should be a personal thing. It should be each individual’s personal journey of discovery and growth. Education is being corrupted by government and bureaucracy. As we spend more and more of society’s money in education, not directly as learners, but as tax-payers via massive organizations with their own agendas and interests, the responsibility and choices of individuals get lost, and the waste just gets larger and larger, and the results, the achievements just plummet.

One example is the continuing willingness of government and schools to invest in systems and technology that are not required or useful. See this article from the Times of London about how schools waste billions on useless gadgetry. I have already commented that the iPod has made language labs obsolete, yet schools are still proud to announce that they have installed a new language lab. Then there is the Canadian public service waste where the government is happy to spend millions on language learners who do not learn. Add to that the government funded immigrants ESL which has to conform to one obscure learning system, and where the only immigrants who really improve in their English are those who do it on their own. Remember the fact that Canadian school kids spend 10 or more years learning French at school and cannot speak it. Then there is the relatively useless Canadian Language Portal at a cost of 16 million dollars. How much waste is hidden in Canadian Government’s “Roadmap for Linguistic Duality“, 1.1 Billion dollars for bilingualism over a period of five years, at the end of which there will be fewer bilingual in Canada than there are today.

How about leaving the choices with the learners, helping them and not the bureaucrats and teachers. If the learners are responsible for their own results, more will succeed.

French in the Canadian Federal Government

The Canadian Federal Government spends a fortune training public employees in French. It was once estimated that the cost for each anglophone public servant ,trained at public expense, who actually reaches a sufficient level to actually use French, is around one million dollars. Sounds like a lot!

A friend has a nephew who works for the Canadian International Aid Agency, CIDA. He is quite senior and so was sent on French training,on full salary, for a whole year!!! At the end of the year he decided that his French was still not good enough to enable him to be assigned to a Francophone country. He went to Vietnam (which is no longer a francophone country) instead. His French will not get better there, so the full cost of his year of language training and salary is a total waste of money.

The vast majority of public servants trained in French never use the language. They go to language schools at public expense on full salary, and then do not speak. There is the odd exception,and if all costs are averaged in, the cost for each successfully trained public servant amounts to one million dollars.