Thursday, 24 March 2016


an animation series by Deiniol Morris and Michael Mort

The first time I saw an episode of Gogs was some 20 years ago, in Leeds, during LIFF. It was an evening of British animated films featuring, among others, Achilles and A Close Shave. At the time, I didn’t know much about Wales, so for me it was like a revelation: Gogs were Welsh!

In 2000s, I bought the DVD. Our kids practically grew on them, so I forgot what effect they could have on a fresh audience. Last year, on my penultimate day in Liencres, I did show my 5-year-olds a couple of episodes — only to be totally ignored. I couldn’t understand what’s wrong with those kids. Wasn’t it gross or violent enough for them? Then again, it took a while to introduce them to Simon’s Cat, which they eventually demanded daily.

Last week, it was a turn of my sixth-graders. On the last day before the Easter break they were clearly not in a mood for science. To my delight, their reaction was exactly what I was hoping for.

¡Qué asco!
Yes, my dears. If I don’t teach you a bit of British culture, who will?

Sunday, 20 March 2016


by Lila Downs, Niña Pastori and Soledad Pastorutti

I can’t tell how come that Lila Downs never was featured in this blog. Now that, at long last, I got hold of this album, I have no excuses. Because it’s so damn brilliant.

You’d be hard pressed to look for highlights here. Is it La Maza by Silvio Rodríguez, El día que me quieras by Carlos Gardel, or a Spanish-language version of Sodade? (By the way, I never bothered to look up the Portuguese lyrics of Sodade. Until now, that is, just to see what’s lost in translation. Looks like nothing is lost.)

Si tú me escribes, te escribiré,
Si tú me escribes, te escribiré
Si tú me olvidas, te olvidaré

Si tú me escribes, te escribiré,
Si tú me olvidas, te olvidaré
Hasta el día en que tú regreses.

Niña and Sole’s contribution notwithstanding, Raíz is unmistakeably Lila Downs’ project. I think that only she could get away with performing Que Nadie Sepa Me Sufrir in the rhythm of cumbia. And then, just for the hell of it, her very own Cumbia del mole in 3/4. Or is it 6/8? Even better, Zapata se queda switches back and forth between waltz and cumbia. Two more of earlier Lila’s songs, Agua de rosas and Tierra de luz, are also radically re-worked. Yet, if I had to choose the one song, that would be the opener, La raíz de mi tierra. No matter how many times I listen to it, it never fails to goosebump.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Historia de un Oso

a film by Gabriel Osorio Vargas

This year’s surprise Oscar winner for Best Animated Short Film, is a beautiful heartwarmingbreakingwarming story. Bear Story, to be precise.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Mapping Applied Linguistics: A Guide for Students and Practitioners

by Christopher J. Hall, Patrick H. Smith and Rachel Wicaksono

Finally, I finished this book. Not the easiest reading, especially if you have it on Kindle and try to go through it on the beach, as I did. But gratifying. I did not expect to go much past the introduction — yes I do read introductions. And this is what caught my attention (together with a 3-D representation of human forkhead-box protein 2 shown above):

All communities and cultures have deeply held beliefs about the nature of language and languages, which applied linguists ignore at their peril. But research in linguistics and allied fields allows us to bring new perspectives on the practical problems facing language users, which we must also be aware of if we are not to be led astray by tempting, but misleading, courses of belief and practice. Sometimes the most level path or the straightest-looking route doesn’t lead to new territory, but ultimately sends us round in circles or soon dries up altogether. <...> We’ll also continually bear in mind that most language users (the clients of applied linguistics), hold them to be self-evident; and, furthermore, that the beliefs of users can have profound effects on language uses. Finally, we’ll remember that all those who work professionally with language, including linguists, will succumb to the lure of these attractive avenues of belief . . . even if they do lead nowhere except to fewer spirited discussions at family holidays, the dinner table, the pub or the coffee house.
And here is the author’s top ten ‘dead ends’:
  1. People think in language
  2. Children are taught their first language(s)
  3. Written language is superior to spoken language
  4. Some groups of people don’t use their language properly
  5. Some people speak their language without an accent
  6. The way groups use their language reflects their intelligence
  7. People with two languages are confused
  8. Languages get contaminated by influence from other languages
  9. A nation has, or should have, one language
  10. Languages exist independently of users and uses
The fact that many of my colleagues (teachers!) indeed hold many of these beliefs is enough to convince me that I should go on, if only for the sake of being able to destroy their arguments in the pub or the coffee house. Moreover, this book made me realise that I am an applied linguist too. Beginner level, but still.