The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Spreading the word

On Monday afternoon, I did a "guest lecture" for all the pre-sessional students at Bristol Uni. My topic was Choosing and using a dictionary; an insider's guide. I've often felt that I'd like to do more to combine the two elements of my work; teaching and publishing/lexicography. I find it a bit frustrating that I don't really have time when I'm teaching to do more than little 5 minute slots of dictionary training. And the talks I get to give at conferences are a. usually for a specific publisher about a particular book and b. usually to teachers and other ELT folks rather than students. So it was really nice to be able to pass a bit of my inside knowledge about dictionaries accumulated over the past decade or so on to some real students.

I tried to put something together that would give students an overview of what's available on the market in terms of learner's dictionaries (from all the different publishers, books, websites, mobile apps) and also specialist dictionaries and other vocabulary books. But at the same time, give them some concrete ideas about how they can use them in their own context. As I said last week, on a very intensive pre-sessional EAP course, you don't get much time in the classroom to deal specifically with vocabulary, so it's nice to give students a bit of guidance as to how they can work on vocabulary independently - both for comprehension and production.

Guest lectures are optional (and at the end of a long teaching day), so I was quite pleased to get a healthy turnout. I'm a bit rubbish at judging numbers, but I'd guess that about 150 students turned up. We had a lovely lecture theatre in the Physics dept which felt fabulous to speak in. It's a proper old-fashioned lecture theatre with lots of wood and curved banked seating - I almost felt as if I should be wearing a gown! I meant to take a photo once all the students were in, but inevitably, I got caught up in chatting and getting ready, so I completely forgot. Here's one I took of the empty room though, you still get an idea of the space.

It took a big chunk out of my Sunday to prepare the presentation and it did mess up my schedule a bit, taking out what's usually a non-teaching afternoon, with lots of other work piling up on my desk. I really enjoyed the experience though, so I think it was worth it. It'd be nice to do the same thing elsewhere, but I'm not sure how I could make it work from an economic point of view. Would other institutions pay me to deliver a talk or are they too used to publishers doing this kind of thing for free?

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