Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Anglobubble hits the road – literally and online

I have been formulating ideas about the Anglobubble for some time and had the first chance to present my initial musings – with a humorous take – at a regional language teachers conference in Wangaratta (Victoria) in 2012. The technology didn’t work quite as planned but people got the idea and there was a lot of laughing – and nodding in agreement. I have had the chance to find new clips and thoughts since then….

More recently. The AFMLTA asked me to present at their most recent national conference in Canberra in July 2013 – I took the whole thing a lot further – and the technology worked really well. The audience was great (language teachers are very accepting of humour – we need to be – given the many challenges we face in the English-speaking world). Emails from teachers followed and I started thinking about creating a dedicated blog.

A couple of weeks ago, at the kind invitation of the MLTAQ, I spoke in Brisbane at their inaugural award night for exemplary practice in language. It was a great event – 11 teachers were formally acknowledged for their success,  and the Qld minister of education, the Hon John-Paul Langbroek, said some really positive things about languages education.  I even managed to get the 1st blog post up in time. Pity I didn’t have any other content at the time!

This week I spoke at the Archdiocese of Sydney’s inaugural Language Teachers Colloquium – and again I was really impressed by the enthusiasm and work of the many participants there. The networking value of such an event for teachers is tremendous. I even managed to add a post beforehand about our amazing yoga-posing Italian-speaking chihuahua – so people had something to think about and look at after the talk as well. I’ve also been assured every single Italian teacher present at the event (and there were many) will have shown their students that clip the very next day. Go Pancho!

Yesterday I also gave another talk to Year 9 University High students about the benefits of languages – and the Anglobubble got a detailed talking about. The kids were great – they got the idea straightaway too.

Already I have learnt through all of this that humour (including some shameless dancing on my part) really works and can change attitudes.  Technology remains a challenge (just as it sometimes does in the language classroom). Unexpected tech hitches of one kind or another have occurred on most occasions. Luckily with some patience on everyone’s part, we have been able to resolve them each time. But it all highlights why  the blog is a handy repository for people to use and visit when they wish 🙂

Italian, Dog, Yoga. Or start them with languages when they’re little coz it’s cool and it works…….

One of my favourite videos at the moment is a simple clip about a one on one yoga class in Italian – with a twist. It’s a great tool to generate interest in and discussion about language issues in the Anglobubble.

The clip in question has gone viral in the English-speaking world – in 10 weeks since upload it’s had more than 2 million views and generated media coverage around the world. I have also started showing it at talks and presentations  – because it’s easy to watch and because it’s a humorous good news story about bilingualism, and languages (in this case: Italian).

It is all packaged in such a way that it’s a marketer’s dream: in this case Italian is made modern, sexy, and hip (think: tattoos, yoga, bearded instructor and a little sidekick who steals the show). Hipsters everywhere will be asking to do their yoga in Italian, once they have seen this clip.


The reaction of audiences I have shown it to is always positive – it’s hard not to get a laugh, as people try and understand what exactly Nic the instructor is saying to his mate, Pancho (he calls him Panchino – Little Pancho at the end – Spanish root + Italian ending), as Pancho does his yoga moves in return.

You can get an idea about the reaction in the media by the wording of these 2 links:

So how can we use the clip to think about languages in the Anglobubble? Here are some simple thoughts and points – many with humorous intent:

(1) The clip went viral in the English-speaking world – not in Italy where they seem to think this is more normal – hehe. We’re intrigued even if we don’t know exactly what’s going on. As we watch, we logically try to connect what the dog is doing with the instructions – in an effort to try to understand what the instructor says. As we sit there, many of us think ‘I wish I knew what he was saying….’.

English-speakers are interested in other languages, if it’s done in a way that engages them and stimulates interest.

(2) It shows you that anyone and everyone, including little dogs, can be bilingual: Pancho is fluent in Chihuahua and Italian. If a Chihuahua can do it, then why can’t we all be at least bilingual in the Anglobubble?

(3) It can be used, as I have done, to address the question of when Australian children should start learning another language in school? My answer: it’s best to start when they are little. Pancho’s the proof.

In many parts of the Anglobubble, including parts of Australia, children do not receive language instruction in schools until relatively late – often as late as secondary school. We know – from direct experience – that little minds are huge language sponges. The task is much easier for children (and educators) the younger they are. They also get sooner the additional benefits of language learning, e.g. cognitive improvement, improved social understanding and awareness, etc….

(4) The clip is also a classic example of the value of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) – alongside direct instruction. Here yoga (content) is integrated with Italian (language) – so you get a much bigger bang for your buck. Not only do you get the language benefit you get the sport and health benefits as well.

For principals concerned about the Crowded Curriculum, here’s a great way to save time by bringing together Language, Sport and Health Sciences!

(5) You can also use the clip to stimulate discussion with your students – there’s lots to say and ask. You might then get your students to think about what they might do to create a similar clip that would promote whatever language they were learning. Get them to make a clip – and see if it too can go viral.

(6) If you teach Italian (like I do!) it’s a dream piece of material for promotion as well. But it’s great promotion for all languages. Good marketing potential (as I have explained above) is the key.

(7) Oh, dogs doing yoga really is true. It’s called Doga – and there really are Doga classes – just go online for more information.

The Monolingual Mindset – what it is, briefly defined and exemplified for you…

“The greatest impediment to recognizing, valuing and utilizing our language potential is a persistent monolingual mindset. Such a mindset sees everything in terms of monolingualism being the norm, even though there are more bi- and multilinguals in the world than monolinguals” (Clyne, 2005).

Add to the monolingual mindset the view that English is the only language worth knowing, then it’s too easy to end up with an incredibly powerful combination leading to skewed thinking that’s self-generating and hard to crack.

Sad to say it but the monolingual mindset is common amongst inhabitants of the English-speaking world. Here’s a good example:

“The new national curriculum will, after establishing Italian and Chinese, also teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Why? Can’t someone explain to the bureaucrats and educators that this is a massive waste of time and resources? English, as anyone who regularly travels will tell you, is the universal language of business, diplomacy and entertainment.”

This quote is taken from an opinion piece by a Melbourne-based media personality and press columnist that was published by the influential Herald-Sun (Feb 3, 2011). It appeared in an article titled ‘Let’s ditch the study of languages’.

He’s critical of current policy on teaching languages in Australian schools – and there is no doubt there are many problems and failings.

But to claim stridently that English is the UNIVERSAL language of business, diplomacy and entertainment is just plain WRONG.  This person appears never to have ventured outside the Anglobubble……

I can assure visitors to this blog that LOTS of languages are used in business, diplomacy and entertainment – in every moment of the day….. Like many of you, I have seen it with my own eyes  – and much of it can also be observed from inside the Anglobubble.

Here are some simple examples:

(a) BUSINESS: Chinese trade networks operate internally around the world in Chinese (and are becoming stronger each day)…. Even where they use other languages to reach the public in other countries, e.g. French in France or English in Australia, the appearance of signage in Chinese characters common in Chinatowns around the world shows that Chinese business are also happy to take your business in Chinese wherever or whoever you might be.

Most people doing business of any kind in the world, down to a cash transaction in the market, do it in local/national languages.

(b) DIPLOMACY: the French have their own diplomatic network operating in French (alongside English and other languages when needed). French diplomats speak French to diplomats from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and many other countries. They call that network ‘la Francophonie’. The British call theirs ‘the Commonwealth’. The Russians have their own diplomatic network, centred on the former USSR, that operates in Russian….

(c) ENTERTAINMENT: Bollywood, well Bollywood does most of its magic in Hindi and other Indian languages……. The French do theirs in French… The Chinese in Chinese and the Koreans in Korean (it’s called the Korean Wave)…..

Enough said…..

It’s going to be a fun ride as we gather and dissect other examples of the monolingual mindset in the Anglobubble in future blog posts……

Welcome to life in the Anglobubble

This is a new blog dedicated to a random and occasional collection of posts, thoughts, snapshots, vignettes and occasional analysis about life in the Anglobubble and how it skews the way we see, experience and understand the world around us.

What is the Anglobubble?

Well, it’s that part of the world, with a concentration of monolingual English speakers, that operates in English, thinks it only natural that everything should happen in English and should logically be experienced and understood in English. Of course, in this worldview, everything is always best in English too. Sometimes it’s just plain crazy thinking……

English is often said to open up the world for you. And while that is certainly true in many respects, it’s amazing what you don’t see and what you can’t do when you only speak English.

Where is the Anglobubble exactly? Well, when you’re ensconced in it as a monolingual English-speaker, it feels like the entire planet. For those with a more discerning eye and ear, it’s particularly concentrated around the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. But its reach is certainly huge and in many many respects global.

The take is often humorous and ironic, but the intention is serious. The Anglobubble really does it exist – and we need to burst its skin just that little – so that those stuck inside can see what’s happening around them – from the other side(s).

We also focus on the benefits of being bilingual and multilingual – and spreading the good word about languages for English-speakers and others. There are real long-term benefits – in so many different ways – in speaking more than one language. Come vedrete……