The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A grown-up dictionary!

It's not often that a project I've worked on gets a mention on Radio 4, but this morning, as I was trying rouse myself out of bed, the new edition of the Oxford Dictionary of English (Oxford's single-volume dictionary) got a mention on the Today programme. This was exciting, not just because things I've worked on don't often get talked about on the radio, but also because it was my first foray into native speaker dictionaries and it feels all rather 'grown-up'!

I didn't actually work on researching and writing the dictionary, but I was involved in working on the database on which it's compiled and stored; tidying up some technical stuff, making sure everything was structured and formatted correctly, checking that nothing was missing, checking links and cross-references. It was still a great experience though and an insight into a different branch of lexicography. After years of working on ELT dictionaries, where the vocabulary's all very frequent and familiar, and where the grammar's simplified for learners, at first, it was a bit daunting. I learnt loads, having to deal with grammatical distinctions that I'd never really had to think about before and coming across lots of words that were way outside my vocabulary. I may have only joined the project at the tail end, but it was still fun to deal with some 'grown-up' language for a change!

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The wonders of technology

Well, my first lesson with my new class didn't quite go to plan ... I had a really swish lesson planned with a PowerPoint presentation, an activity using online videos and a demonstration of online resources that I wanted my students to look at for homework. Inevitably though, when I got to my classroom, a funny little basement room I'd never used before, half an hour before the start of the lesson, I discovered that although the computer worked, it wouldn't link to the big screen at the front of the class. After a bit of fiddling, I called technical support, but they didn't make it to me until halfway through the class and even then, couldn't fix the problem on the spot. So I had to do a bit of thinking on my feet!

After years of working with computer technology, I know not to rely on it 100% and wasn't too fazed. It was a shame though as it didn't quite create the impression that I'd hoped for my first class, especially with all the faffing around and interruptions from the engineer.

It does reinforce though what I often think when I go to conferences and people are extolling the wonders of new technology in the classroom. It's all well and good when it works, but all too often, it lets you down and you have to be ready with a backup plan. And if the setup at a well-equipped UK university can have glitches, I'm sure that teachers working in less supported contexts around the world must have an even greater struggle to 'keep up'.

I'm not a technophobe and I think there are some wonderful things you can do in the classroom with technology, I'm just very aware of not relying on it too heavily and always keep a couple of marker pens in my bag, just in case! Keeping fingers crossed that the problems are fixed for my next class ...

Labels: ,

Monday, August 09, 2010

First day nerves

Tomorrow I'm starting my summer teaching stint at Bristol Uni - teaching EAP to overseas students. And I know it sounds a bit ridiculous, but almost 20 years after I walked in to teach my first class, I still get a bit nervous before my first lesson with a new group of students, especially now that I don't teach all year round. I'm not talking about a major crisis of confidence here, just a faint feeling of apprehension, a slight butterflies in the stomach. I'm not teaching until the afternoon, so I know that I'll be a bit restless all morning and won't be able to settle to anything else, faffing about and rechecking what I'm going to teach. I know it's illogical and that almost as soon as I've walked in and said 'Good afternoon' I'll be absolutely fine, but that doesn't make any difference - it still happens every time.

I haven't met my class yet, but I do know that the overall intake this year is more than 90% Asian - mostly Chinese and Taiwanese. Classes are always heavily Chinese-biased, but I'm still holding out hopes of an odd European for a bit of balance! Apparently, there's also been a huge influx of students doing Economics, Finance and Management (due to changes in language policy in that department). So I'm likely to be spending the next 5 weeks with lots of Chinese economists! I guess that's preferable to a load of chemists, computer scientists and engineers - I'm rubbish at science, but can talk fairly knowledgeably about business and economics! I'm very glad though that I'm teaching the 'speaking' rather than the 'writing' components of the course this year and won't have to plough through all those finance research projects.

Labels: , ,