November 2006 Archives

Ramada Jarvis Bristol

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Just spent the weekend at the Ramada Jarvis Grange near Bristol. I can't say I had a great time, but it wasn't bad for the price.

So the British are rubbish at languages, that much we know. What's the problem, though? Why are we rubbish? I don't know, but I have a few ideas.

The British Academy thinks bringing back compulsory language GCSEs is a good idea.

Onora O'Neill, President of the British Academy, said that “A prompt return to mandatory study of foreign languages at GCSE is crucial, since otherwise schools will not have the complement of staff to teach any languages to a reasonable standard.”

The Academy also believes that longer-term measures are needed to incentivise foreign language study and to improve teaching and learning opportunities. Robin Jackson, the Academy's Chief Executive, added that 'The decline in school level language learning results in damage to language-based degree study and also to the many other university subjects that involve linguistic skills, with further malign effects upon the standard of UK research in these fields“.

Hmm, actually teaching children languages might help them to speak languages? Why hasn't anyone thought of that before? Silly government.

But I have a question. We all know that the Dutch, some of our closest neighbours and fellow speakers of a West Germanic language, are incredibly multilingual, speaking English, French, German and Dutch fluently almost to a man (or woman). Now, there are probably plenty of reasons for this, including easy access to foreign language TV stations, thanks to signal leakage from neighbouring countries and cable TV, and a healthy number of people to speak those languages with.

All the same, I can't help but wonder this: why don't we just send a fact finding team over to The Netherlands, find out how they teach languages there, and just do that here – rip out our entire language-teaching system and use theirs instead?

It's just an idea.

Who's the tramp? Me.

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I've descended to hobo levels of existence. It's ridiculous. I'm absent-minded at the best of times, but my Monday activities were just silly.

In a fit of efficiency, I went out to recycle the household waste, get a couple of pairs of trousers dry-cleaned and post a letter. Given that I had two bags for everything, what do you think happened?

Yes, you guessed right. I put the trousers and the post in the recycling bag and then accidentally recycled them. Fortunately, the recycling bins were close to the house so I was able to run back, fetch a broom and use that to hook out my trousers and post.

But I am now, officially, the kind of guy who wears trousers that have been fished out of wastebins. Oh dear.

I've already told you how my slightly rubbish hosting service, Dataflame, chose to change all the permission requirements on PHP files without bothering to tell me. Now my ISP, Be, has decided to get in on the “zero communication” act.

On Friday, mid-way through the day, they suddenly decided to implement an anti-spam measure that blocked all outgoing emails (technically, they closed ports 25 and 465). Took me a while to work out what was going on, and a bit less than a day to respond to my support request but it's all sorted: if you're a Be customer and you can't send emails, set your SMTP server to

But why couldn't they simply have emailed me (and everyone else) and told us that we'd need to change our email settings on a particular date? Or have a transition period? I ask you...

Although its readership was increasing and it was making a profit, another one of the mags I write for has decided to close. There's no winning, sometimes, is there?

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