Friday, 10 February 2017

Bits of educational stuff.

On Wednesday I went to the cinema with a friend. We went to see "Toni Erdmann", a German film which was nominated for the best foreign language film in the recent film awards. It tells the story of an ageing father (but not all that ageing in modern day terms) and his relationship with his daughter, a hardworking, would-be high-flying business consultant working in Romania. When he goes unannounced to visit her in Bucharest, causing havoc in her professional life, all hell breaks loose.

It's basically a sad story about their relationship and a satire on modern life with its rather skewed values but also very funny in a quirky, surprising and occasionally rather shocking way. The naked birthday brunch has to be seen to be believed! The friend I saw the film with, herself German, was seriously underwhelmed. Despite making her laugh a little, she found it very depressing and apologised, quite unnecessarily, for suggesting I should go and see it with her. Different ways of looking at things.

We didn't have time to discuss it at length as she wanted to dash off home and watch the parliamentary debate on the EU on television. Almost the only comment was about the "typical German nudity" in the film!!!

During all the scenes in Rumania, it was impressive how well everyone spoke English, clearly the international language. Sorry, French people, English has certainly taken over as the lingua franca.

Skimming through stuff on the internet I found a link to photos taken by a Danish actor for Google street view. This actor, Nikolaj Coster Waldau played the baddie Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones. His English was so good that you would never have guessed he was not a native speaker. Isn't it amazing how well these foreigners speak English??!

I was talking about all this language learning stuff with a friend today. We met for lunch after she finished her Spanish conversation class at the Instituto Cervantes in Manchester. She has really impressed herself over the last year by taking herself off independently to travel around Spain by train, trying put her fairly recently acquired Spanish speaking skills with great success. Giving the lie to the idea that you cannot learn a new language well at a relatively advanced age!

As both of us have a background in education, our conversation rambled over a number of educational topics, among them the fact revealed by some recent study that children in private schools are more likely to be granted extra time in exams than children at privaate schools.

To gain extra time the pupils have to be diagnosed as having some specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia. One reason for the greater number of such diagnoses in private schools may simply be that the private schools have more time and money to devote to such diagnoses than state schools.

My friend, who has worked in the private sector, added that privately educated children are also more likely to have an aunt, uncle, grandparent, family friend who is an educational psychologist and willing to supply the necessary diagnosis. So it goes.

Still on the topic of learning and child development, I came across an article which said that first-born children are likely to be more intelligent than their younger siblings. They are also more likely to go on to study at university. All of this is fairly understandable: parents have more time to spend on stimulating activities with their first child than with subsequent children.

My sister, the youngest of four, would argue furiously against the idea that she might not be as intelligent as I am; she has long maintained that she is, and always was, the brightest of the four of us. While disagreeing on who is the brightest of us all, I put her intelligence down to her having an older sister who read to her, told her stories and generally stimulated her imagination and development of skills! The article, however, did inform us that, "the University of Edinburgh and Sydney University study used data collected by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, but experts have warned any results are generalities, which may or may not translate to individual families."

What surprised me most in the article was the finding that first-born children are more likely to be short-sighted than their younger siblings.

Goodness gracious! how does that come about?

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