Silencing the Vikings: Bureaucracy and The End of Old Norse at Aarhus University

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“Not perverts but bureaucrats will set things off, and we won’t even know if their intentions were good or bad. Things will go off by command; they will be carried through according to regulations, mechanically, down the chain of command, with human wills bent, abolished, overcome, in a task that ceases to have any meaning”.[1]

– Jacques Lacan

Old Norse is the language of the Vikings. It is the language carved laboriously into runestones all over Scandinavia, indeed even as far afield as Ukraine. It is the language of the Icelandic sagas of the High Middle Ages, and the language which preserves most of our knowledge of Scandinavian mythology: Gods such as Óðinn and Þórr, the vengeful Fenrisúlfr …

Revolution in Yiddish teaching: The New Yiddish Textbook In eynem

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It was nothing less than a revolution that hit the world of Yiddish teaching this summer, when the multimedia Yiddish textbook In eynem (White Goat Press, 2020) was published. For many years, Yiddish students have been studying the language with Uriel Weinreich’s College Yiddish from 1949, or with Selva Zucker’s Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature and Culture from 1995.

Now, Yiddish students and teachers have a more up-to-date alternative. In eynem is a monumental textbook, counting 800 pages (split up in two volumes), with beautifully illustrated dialogues, word explanations, exercises and texts about Jewish culture. It features a goldmine of material for the first two years of Yiddish studies. A dedicated website offers even more teaching material, e.g. …

Your brain can learn languages your whole life…

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– but it cannot learn languages attending language classes once a week

Back when I was a cheeky 14-or-so-year-old, I taught my mom how to say this English sentence: I am an old and ugly witch! She didn’t have a higher education, but at the age of almost 50, when most of the childbearing and caregiving was over and done with, she had decided that she wanted to learn English at a Danish evening school. Apparently, I wanted to help her out a little, and so I taught her the abovementioned phrase. Of course, I told her that it meant something completely different than what it actually does, and I succeeded in my deception, despite the fact that she had …

How do learners make use of foreign language learning materials?

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How do learners make use of foreign language learning materials? This was the question that I set out to answer in my ph.d. thesis. Along the way, I learned to use to methods for evaluating usability of a product (think-aloud protocols and constructive interaction), learned how to analyze the results quantitatively (which was scary), and found new ways to look at the data qualitatively (conversation analysis). Especially through detailed qualitative analyses of how our study participants made use of the learning materials in our usability test settings, I learned more about the sequential organization of such sessions, how instructions are realized, and how different visual and other aspects of the learning material drafts were made relevant.

In this blog post, …