bookmark_borderNordic Horizons

noctilucent clouds
Originally uploaded by kanelstrand

The newspapers have recently been full of stories about how an independent Scotland will try to move closer to Scandinavia.

I think it started with this article in The Independent, which was their mostly commented article for days.

Then a journalist called Lesley Riddoch wrote this article in The Guardian, saying many of the same things but also drawing attention to her think tank and Facebook group, Nordic Horizons.

A few days later, the story appeared in Danish and Norwegian newspapers.

As a consequence of this, the Facebook group I mentioned above has grown considerably, so now a meeting has been arranged for the 19th of January in the Counting House. Will I see you there?

bookmark_borderI drook it all

Originally uploaded by andrew_mc_d

Anna (der fylder 4 den 19.) sagde i dag spontant “I drook it all”.

Jeg er ikke helt sikker på, hvordan hun dannede “drook”. Hvis det blot er påvirkning fra dansk “drak”, skulle hun vel have sagt “I drack it all”, men hun ser ud til at rodet bøjningen af take/took ind i det.

Tosprogede børn er sjove! 🙂

bookmark_borderScotland and Scandinavia superimposed

On a normal map it’s difficult to see how far north Scotland is compared to Scandinavia.

To illustrate it better, I generated two Google maps of the same latitudes, just 15 degrees apart, and then superimposed them in the Gimp.

You can see the result on the right (click on it for a larger version). It’s clear that all the cities of Scotland are on the same latitude as Denmark and southern Sweden, whereas only the far north of Scotland is as far north as southern Norway.

Aberdeen is on a similar latitude as Aalborg or Varberg, Dundee is like Viborg, Glasgow is like Horsens, and the southernmost bit of Scotland is almost exactly as far south as Gedser in Denmark.

bookmark_borderThe Danish-Scottish Christmas party

I joined the Danish-Scottish Society shortly after moving to Scotland, but I was not a very active member due to the fact that almost all events took place in Edinburgh (which seems to have a much bigger Danish community than Glasgow). For a couple of years, some people tried to arrange events in Glasgow, but they didn’t typically attract more than ten participants, so eventually I let my membership lapse.

However, these days I’m living with three bilingual children who really could use an opportunity to hear other people speak Danish and learn more about Danish culture, so we recently joined again as a family.

The first event we went to was their Christmas party (in Edinburgh). It was really good fun for the kids. There were at least a hundred people there, including lots of kids, and they were selling glögg, æbleskiver and pebernødder. Towards the end, we all danced around the Christmas tree, singing Danish and English Christmas songs, and afterwards somebody read the kids a Christmas story, and then Santa arrived, bringing presents for all the children.

We then had to leave, but on our way out, each kid got a large bag of sweet, so they were well chuffed!

It’s just a shame it takes an hour and a half to get to Edinburgh – the kids really thought it was a long trip, If only there were enough people in the Glasgow area to arrange similar events for Danish-Scottish families here…

bookmark_borderLanguage learning in Scottish schools

Marcel started Spanish this year (S3, i.e., the third out of the six high-school years), and he asked me to give him a few extra lessons, given that I speak Spanish and he isn’t too impressed with what he’s learnt at school so far.

His class don’t seem to be using a course book – they’re just using photocopies and the like – so I couldn’t just ask him what he’d learnt already. (As a parent, it would really be much easier if kids were given one book in every subject! Not only is it much harder to help them with homework if you don’t know what they’ve learnt, but it also makes it impossible for them to catch up if they’re off sick, and revision becomes dependent on good note taking in a way it didn’t use to be.)

I therefore decided to ask him some really easy questions, and I started by asking him to tell me the present indicative of the verb ser “to be”. I had expected him to quickly say “soy, eres, es, somos, sois, son”, after which I would have proceeded to some harder verbs or tenses.

However, he really didn’t know the answer. It wasn’t a problem with the terminology – I tried to ask him how he’d say “I am”, etc., but he didn’t know the answer. He claimed the teacher had shown them the forms once, but that he hadn’t had the time to copy them into his jotter.

I asked him what they were doing instead, and he said they were just learning words.

If it’s true, it’s absolutely ludicrous! Language learning is primarily about learning structure – the words are easy to add on later.

However, this episode suddenly made me understand an article I read six months ago and that I had dismissed at the time. It was an article in the Guardian about learning Mandarin in two days (hat-tip: Sabine Citron), and I thought it was just telling me things I knew already. The advice in that article is absolutely right for language teaching in Scottish schools, though: ‘The narrow set of nouns and verbs is an integral part of Noble’s technique. “One of the worst things you can do with language teaching is teach someone a massive number of words. It’s back-to-front – teach them to speak and then add to their knowledge. You have to become very fluent in a very small amount of the language.” Many students, he says, are led astray by learning numbers, colours or days of the week before they’ve learned any kind of framework with which to use them. “The nouns are almost irrelevant. That’s stuff you can learn yourself.”’

I don’t agree with everything in the article (amongst other things, I don’t think grammatical terminology is a hindrance so long as it’s used to convey structure rather than a goal in its own right), but the bit I quoted here I could almost have said myself.

If language teaching in Scotland has become a case of learning words but no grammar, they really need to go back to square one and start all over again. Their current approach just does not work.

bookmark_borderBalgray Reservoir drained

Barrhead dams
Originally uploaded by viralbus

I forgot to blog this at the time, but when we drove past Balgray Reservoir last month, we noticed that it had been almost entirely drained (see the photo). (According to Google Maps, that’s what it’s called, although my beloved wife – who grew up here – seems to call it the Barrhead Dam instead.)

I haven’t found any information anywhere about why this has been done – are they perhaps trying to find more murder victims?

bookmark_borderScottish Well-Fired Rolls

Scottish Well-Fired Rolls
Originally uploaded by viralbus

Last week Charlotte made burgers and chips for dinner, and Phyllis chucked a bag from Waitrose onto the table. It contained six completely black rolls, as well as a sticker saying “reduced”.

I obviously thought the price had been reduced because somebody had forgotten them in the oven for two hours, so I commented to Phyllis that I found it strange that the shop hadn’t binned them instead of trying to sell them at a reduced price, given that nobody in their mind would go near badly burned food, which is likely to be carcinogenic.

She looked at me like I had just landed from Mars and pointed out the the bag was labelled “Scottish Well-Fired Rolls” and that Scots have eaten this type of rolls for ages.

I’m quite relieved I didn’t encounter them earlier! They’re surely an even more appalling Scottish delicacy than deep-friend Mars bars and deep-fried pizzas (which actually taste very nice).