Saturday, 22 April 2017

I was right all along!

Sometimes the newspapers just confirm things that you have long held to be true.

For example, there is a type of footwear called Crocs, made of a soft plastic or rubber material. Shaped a bit like clogs, you can wear them into the sea or paddling through puddles if you wish. They come in a range of colours, mainly nursery colours in my opinion. Which brings me to my opinion of them. They are great for children. In fact, I was convinced for quite some time that they were only made in children's sizes.

And then I started to see adults wearing them! Now, they may well be extremely comfortable to wear but there are other, more adult looking shoes around which are also very comfortable. Adults should not consider wearing them except, at the very outside, to toddle down to the swimming pool on a summer's day. Anyway, somebody asked the delightful Hadley Freeman this question in her regular column: "I have read that Crocs are now acceptable, but I’m wary about wearing them because of all the old associations. Or has their newfound trendiness overcome these issues?" Her response had a lot of waffle about how we should all be more like Dylan and stand by what we truly believe in but in the end she concluded that the questioner should just give up the idea of wearing Crocs, ever again!

And then there is the question of how you should read a book. Is it acceptable to skip to the end to discover the fate of the protagonist or who did, in fact, commit the crime, and then go back and enjoy the book for the quality of the writing? I have commented before about my occasional habit of reading very quickly to discover the plot and then rereading to fully appreciate the prose style. I know people who scoff at this. But here is a link to an article saying that such a practice is really a good idea.

 “Plots are just excuses for great writing. What the plot is is (almost) irrelevant. The pleasure is in the writing,” said Christenfeld, a UC San Diego professor of social psychology, somewhere in the article.

Vindicated! At least as regards my reading habits. Nobody finds it odd that we listen to the same piece of music over and over. Or that we look again and again at the same paintings. Or indeed, reread the same poems. So why not do the same with prose?

More seriously, today I came across a short item about A-Level modern foreign languages. Back when I was a teacher of A-Level languages I was often asked to justify why certain students who achieved the coveted A grade in certain other subjects only managed a B in French or Spanish. My colleagues and I would be mocked if we suggested that it was actually more difficult in our subjects. Some people must have half believed us, however, as I can remember at least one student advised to choose another subject as she planned to apply to Oxford University (not to study a language) and would need to achieve A grades in all subjects. The hidden message was that an A for Spanish could not be guaranteed.

And now experts are saying that the number of native speakers - usually the bilingual offspring of a Brit married to a Frenchman, German, Spaniard or Italian - sitting the A-Level exams is affecting the distribution of grades, moving up the grade boundaries and (just imagine!) making life more difficult for the non-native speaker candidates!

There you go!

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