Monthly Archives: November 2015

‘Communicative vulnerability’ in healthcare delivery

Mind the Gap: ‘Communicative Vulnerability’ and the Mediation of Linguistic/ Cultural Diversity in Healthcare Delivery – plenary by Professor Srikant Sarangi at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

The conference so far has discussed multilingualism in education systems, but Professor Srikant Sarangi session helped us to broaden this discussion to other domains – from the classroom to the clinic.

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Srikant Sarangi, Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark

Professor Sarangi started by acknowledging the relevance of discussions around multilingualism beyond education in the areas of healthcare and the current refugee crisis. The linguistic and cultural diversity has cost implications for health care professionals. He stressed that in ‘super diverse societies’, the objective is to maximise access without the help of formal or informal mediators.

Sarangi then talked about how in the European context, healthcare given by a ‘foreigner’ is perceived as poor quality and as substituting ‘mainstream’ healthcare. He identified these scenarios as evidence of the need for multi-cultural and multilingual communication research and training.

Sarangi discussed the ethical vulnerability of healthcare professionals and how mediation can sometimes leading to negative consequences. He acknowledges racism and discrimination among overseas healthcare professionals and states that legal action and judicial reviews have started to emerge against European mainstream health care bodies. Language clearly has a role to play in the construction and mediation of these situations.

Sarangi concluded by recommending questioning, training and assessments rather than stereotyping differences. He highlighted the need to raise awareness about inter-cultural interaction and stressed the importance of research in clinical practice. He also was clear that there is much that we know about learner-centred teaching which can be translated and transferred to the healthcare context.

Watch plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s session here:

Plenary speaker Srikant Sarangi’s interview can be viewed here:
Post by: Radhika Gholkar
The writer is the Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in West India

Share via email

Language and learning: the challenges of primary education in India

Language and learning: The Challenges of Primary Education in India – Plenary by Dr Rukmini Banerjee at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Dr Rukmini Banerjee, Pratham Education Foundation

Personally my favourite session of the conference, although I would have to admit to a degree of bias as many of the locations mentioned in the presentation including Bihar and the North East are precisely those areas where the British Council East India projects I’m involved with are working: however, I think it was clear from the audience reaction that this was a very highly-valued session. 

Dr Banerjee provided a range of examples which were microcosms of interaction with language and our often stumbling educational interventions to deal with them. They included her account of language breakdown between visitor and children in a Jharkhand school, children in the slums of Mumbai ‘navigating language continuums’ where mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters might all speak different languages and contexts where the printed word documents become highly valued, frozen and never used. Most memorable to me was her description of the visitor to an Assamese school unable to speak any of the children’s languages who was escorted to the river by the kids and taught to fish – with follow up work in the classroom in visuals and multilingual writing. A brilliant way to conclude such an interesting conference…….

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Multilingualism in Africa: marginalisation and empowerment

Multilingualism in Africa: Marginalisation and Empowerment - Plenary by Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne, University of Oslo

Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne, University of Oslo

So why EMI? And, finally for the day, a speaker who feel strongly that EMI Is not appropriate for Africa – and nor is it good for English. Professor Dr. Birgit Brock-Utne expressively articulated many concepts of which I’d been not very articulately aware when working in East Africa: that Africa is not ‘English-speaking’ or ‘French-speaking’ (the extent to which it is has much to do with missionary work), that English is only to a limited extent a medium of instruction and policies are often complex and the idea of L1 and L2 in Africa doesn’t make much sense. Three quarters of economic activity in Africa requires African languages.

I was fascinated by the discussion of two North Namibian languages which are basically the same but are transliterated in different ways because of the influence of Finnish and German missionaries. The sheer scale of Africa means ignoring its diversity is a big mistake – although I was surprised that twelve to fifteen African languages would be enough for communication across Africa to take place. But Africa also presents many examples of how not to impose English and how it’s owned by the ‘English knowing caste’ and the need to increase the status of national languages.

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Translanguaging in the contact zone

Translanguaging in the Contact Zone: Language Use in Superdiverse Urban Areas – Plenary by James Simpson at the 11th Language and Development Conference, 2015

James Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Language Education in the University of Leeds

James Simpson, Senior Lecturer in Language Education in the University of Leeds

Let’s translanguage: I’d come across the term before but never quite understood what it meant and I’d never heard of superdiversity. James Simpson clarified both terms and presented a study which was literally close to home for me: the study has looked at one specific superdiverse inner-city area in the North of England (Leeds), investigating evidence of language including the kind of conversations you hear and street signs you see in areas such as these. James showed how traditional waves of migration in the past have now been replaced by a tremendously varied, complex mosaic of different languages, a situation in which L1 and L2 no longer have any real meaning. It’s something I’d dimly noticed on my last trips back to the UK but without quite understanding what was happening on my own doorstep. The session showed how speakers of different languages translanguage using words from whichever language is the most convenient to communicate so that those languages are no longer anchored in one particular background. I’ll definitely be far more aware of translanguaging the next time I’m eavesdropping on fascinating, multilingual conversations on Yorkshire buses – as James said, the more you look, the more you find!

Watch plenary by James Simpson here:

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Digital media and the internet

Digital Media and the Internet: Threats or Opportunities for Local Languages, Culture and Knowledge – Plenary by Osama Manzar at the 11th Language & Development Conference, 2015

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

Osama Manzar, Founder Director of the Digital Empowerment Foundation

There are one hundred and ninety six endangered languages in India, oral languages spoken mainly in rural India. But what is the impact of digital media on local languages? Why do some languages flourish and some do not and will we become a monolingual world?

At the 11th Language & Development Conference 2015, plenary speaker Osama Manzar described his own exposure to a range of languages in his own multilingual journey and the wealth of languages in India. India is an oral society and oral languages are making use of digital media such as Google and Facebook which reach communities and these become tools to support oral languages.

A radical shift is taking place in which graphic design, visuals and symbols become digital tools beyond language which are accessible to speakers of less spoken languages in rural areas, including older people or people who may not be literate. Osama provided striking examples of homemade local language based radio stations at minimal expense, with functions including the reduction of violence against women. Written language is restricted; oral language and oral tradition is inclusive and self-generating digital media including mobile use can support the democratic process of this inclusivity, keep less spoken languages alive and empower their speakers.

Post by: Andy Keedwell
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in East India

Share via email

Multilingualism, Education, English and Development: Whose Development?

Multilingualism, Education, English and Development: Whose Development? - Plenary by Professor Ajit Mohanty at the 11th Language and Development Conference, 2015

Professor Ajit Mohanty with Alisher Umarov

Professor Ajit Mohanty with Alisher Umarov

Alisher Umarov, (Chief of Education and Programme Specialist, UNESCO) the Chair of the session, kept the expectant audience entertained and informed with is dry wit while technology issues were solved at the start of the plenary. Professor Ajit Mohanty framed his talk identifying the key issue as access to development, opportunity and success, and that this access is usually controlled by language, with English perceived by many as the gatekeeper to success.

Professor Mohanty outlined the impact of a hierarchical structure of languages, and how these layers put English and major regional languages at the top of the hierarchy, with local indigenous languages disadvantaged and marginalised, entering a cycle of neglect. He explained that in India, EMI schools are almost always private, and therefore link between class and social status is directly related to school fees. The rise of low cost EMI private schools, which he labelled as ‘Doom schools’, are on the rise, with lower socio-economic classes making great sacrifices (5-10 per cent of their income) to send children to schools that achieve very little education, apart from rote learning and memorisation of phrases and texts. The wide held belief is that EMI schools offer a better quality education, however Mohanty provided research evidence that showed that children learning through Mother Tongue medium at lower primary levels are more successful than EMI schools in all subjects, and that when English is introduced in Grade 4 or 5 as a subject, their English proficiency is the same by grade 9. In Orissa, for example, out of the 22 languages identified, education is now being provided through 19 of these languages and research shows these children are doing better than children receiving their education through English or even Odia. English, he stated, benefits the privileged and discriminates against the disadvantaged, and children from low income and marginalised communities who study through EMI and worship the ‘English Goddess’ neither learn English nor get a proper education.

Following this point, Geetha Durairajan asked whether English can be viewed as a ‘healer’ language rather than a ‘killer’ language. Professor Mohanty explained that English can lead to diminishing of linguistic diversity, but within a multilingual framework, English does have a key role to play when it is founded on strong mother tongue development. Our children, he said, need to be multi-lingual, and education is a place where they learn about their world through their mother tongue, and learn English as a subject that can provide access to so much. The key is that English is learnt and used on a strong foundation which he believes is best achieved through teaching in the children’s mother tongue.

Post by: Simon Etherton
The writer is the Senior Academic Manager English Partnerships for British Council in South India

Share via email

“Twelfth Night is about the madness of love”: Oliver Dimsdale, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre on turning around a 400-year-old script and using a music and sound to keep the theatre experience live

  • Why is the production staged almost like a rehearsal? Why is it so minimal on stage?

When we made the show we only had 10 days to rehearse it, and a limited amount of money. This limited us to a smaller number of actors and meant that we didn’t have the budget for an expensive set. That’s why we have double roles with some actors.

“If music be the food of love, play on” is the first line of Twelfth Night. The play is about every form of love, and we interpreted that in as many forms of music and song too. We knew we were going to work with music and sound, the text, and the actors, so why make it any more than that?
If there is a design, or a concept behind the rehearsal aesthetic of the show, it is that there is a band on stage. They are Orsino’s band, helping him to find that ‘strain’ that unlocks the key to Olivia’s heart. They are also the band in Olivia’s household – Feste’s band perhaps. In that respect all we need is the equipment that a band has.

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night by Filter theatre ©Robert Day

  • How did the idea of ‘Filter’s Twelfth Night’ come about?

We got invited to go and be part of the RSC’s Complete Works after we’d performed Caucasian Chalk Circle for the National Theatre London, and they offered us a full rehearsal period. We said we’d like to approach Twelfth Night. Because there was no pressure on us, we were only going to do three performances up in Stratford for their Complete Works Festival and it was a tiny little footnote in the big, grand programme of the RSC.

Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter theatre

Oliver Dimsdale, Artistic Director, Filter Theatre

Twelfth Night’s definitely Shakespeare’s most lyrical play and Sean Holmes (the director) suggested that we use the Filter process to free ourselves of the shackles that can plague more traditional Shakespeare productions. The ethos was really ‘Let’s chuck the play into the room, add sound designers and brilliant actors and a me, and let’s just see what comes out of the process’, and sure enough sometimes when you’re using the gut and the heart instead of the head for inspiration, irreverent, interesting and dynamic things can come out of it.

  • You started off with six actors. How did you go about casting it and making those decisions?

A couple of suggested doublings from Sean were brilliant. The Fool and Maria (a double) both have huge vendettas against Malvolio and have good reasons to want to exact a revenge so at the point at which you see the Fool putting the nose on Malvolio at the end, there are echoes of Maria’s revenge as well in laying the letter down.

Andrew Aguecheek and Orsino (again, a double) are both in love with the same woman, so there were many echoes which was the point. And the Viola/ Sebastian double is obviously a very tricky double, but we think it adds a really lovely ambiguity and innuendo, a ‘ménage à trois’ going on with all these people that are chasing one person.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

  • What is the significance of using so many microphones and sound technology?

In our production of Twelfth Night we use the natural voice, the amplified voice (microphones), the distorted voice (reverberated through use of a ‘memory man’ distortion machine), and a pre-recorded voice (i.e. the Shipping Forecast on the radio).

Sound is very important to Filter, though very often not central to many other theatre productions, where it’s very often tacked on to the end of a rehearsal process. Filter shows have sound design and music at the very heart of the action on stage because we work very closely with sound designers and composers.

If you show the sound being created on stage, we think it frees the audience to think beyond the boundaries of theatre, whereas if you simply hear sound effects or music on stage whilst not seeing where and who is creating it, it feels like you are trying to con the audience that the play, or the scene, is happening in a particular period or environment.

In Filter shows there is always a playfulness and an honestly about the relationship between the actor, the story and the sound designer on-stage that we believe is an exciting ‘live’ aspect to theatre. It’s about keeping the experience of theatre as live as possible, not always so pre-recorded, or second-hand.

  • Why does the actor playing Sir Toby Belch wear traditional Elizabethan costume?

The idea came from when I originally played Sir Toby 10 years ago. When we’d done the first performance, I’d been sitting around on stage, like the rest of the cast, in jeans and a T-shirt, and it just didn’t seem to work for me personally, as well as with Belch being an anarchic whirlwind who is constantly disrupting Olivia’s household, causing mayhem.

So I took myself off to the RSC Costume department and fitted myself in a clichéd Elizabethan doublet and hose, and ruff. Nobody else knew about this, and no one on stage knew what I was going to do. I made sure I had a can of Special Brew (beer) and there was food hidden everywhere around the stage. During the performance I entered and exited the stage whenever I wanted to during the scenes.

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

Twelfth Night by Filter Theatre ©Robert Day

We wanted to get away from the cliched portrayal of Belch. We wanted him to be real – as real as possible – by having a young Sir Toby Belch dressed in doublet and hose searching for alcohol, to embrace what the character is about. He’s desperately looking for the next drink to forget his woes.”
The really interesting thing about the experiment was that not only was it demonstrating the destructive element in Belch with Olivia’s household, but there was also the notion of there being the remnants of this 400-year-old text that we were speaking and that this is the way that it was done originally but with a bit of a twist because he’s got a can of Special Brew and he’s genuinely drunk.

The play is about the madness and wonder of love. Every character is in love with, or loved by, another character, in many different ways. It is also his most lyrical play, and hence the amount of different types of music in our show.

  • Where do you draw the line between interpretation and adaptation when approaching Twelfth Night?

The play is called Twelfth Night, or What You Will, and the production draws inspiration from both the title and the subtitle. We interpret and adapt from the original, but never at the expense of the robust emotional heart of Shakespeare’s play. The first version of the production was a response to Twelfth Night, and in many ways that’s what it still is, but we are actually incredibly faithful to the linear structure of Shakespeare’s original play.

This post was contributed by Oliver Dimsdale, artistic director, Filter Theatre. Find out about Twelfth Night tour dates in your city.

Share via email