Wednesday, October 21, 2009

History and sociology - Thinking Allowed

BBC Radio Four's Thinking Allowed is a very charming weekly program about social science that is always worth a listen. Today there will be a new program, so be quick to download last week's and if possible the one before.

Host Laurie Taylor has repeatedly revealed he has studied criminology and since I studied the same, I am not surprised by his choice of subjects and lines of questioning. A subject like two weeks ago, about the ever growing amount of inmates in prisons, especially in the US but also in the UK, is typically interesting to criminologists. Be advised to listen and think of this in advance: the size of prison populations says more about policy than about crime rates.

For the average follower of this blog, last week's issue should be even more of interest since the subjects, although sociological in nature, are heavily touching upon history. Taylor spoke about alcohol politics and grave goods. As to the first subject: over the centuries governments have been worried about alcohol abuse and one way or another attempted policies to do something about it. The definitions of what counted as abuse and who were targeted as the prominent abusers are of both historic and sociological significance. The second item was a brief inventory of what goods people choose to bury their deceased loved ones with. Does this seem just social science? An archeologists is in the studio to explain what lessons are in this study for his field.

More Thinking Allowed:
Boffins and WW I,
Richard Hoggart,
Secular vs. Religious,
Renoir and Slumming,
Mizrahi Jews.

Laura speaks Dutch - language learning podcast

One of the most successful and broadly applied genre of educational podcasts are the language learning podcasts. On the website of Open Culture (which is one of the best sources for free educational content) an extensive list of language learning podcasts is available, covering many different languages. So far I have been postponing to review this genre, but I think the time is more than ripe to get started. Please let me know of specific language learning podcasts you would recommend or would like me to review.

I have spent all my life picking up foreign languages. My native is Dutch and from the Dutch culture and educational system I have inherited both extensive learning in English, German and French, as well as the everlasting intention to address people, wherever possible, in their own tongue and therefore to never stop learning languages left and right. Thus I have dabbled in Danish, Arabic, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Hindi, Portuguese and last but not least, on account of emigrating to Israel, I have learned Hebrew in its natural environment. It will allow me to evaluate a wide variety of language learning podcasts.

The first to pay attention to is Laura speaks Dutch by Brenno de Winter (picture). Brenno's friend Laura needed to learn Dutch and this is why he started making the podcast over three years ago. The podcast is still kicking and true to its original format. In short, 5-10 minute lessons Brenno teaches a couple of sentences and some idiom, allows for on the spot practice by leaving a pause to repeat and then he closes off with some trivia about The Netherlands. Although far from impeccable (it could do with some more post-production), this podcast plainly delivers the handy phrase book level which is needed for initial survival on the spot. (feed)

Brenno's pronunciation falls in the main stream of Dutch speakers, which is important, because the pronunciation of the language is rough and being taught from a dialect sample could be very confusing. Some podfaded podcasts I have tested did not evade this pitfall and with the immense variety of dialects this can cause terrible error. Brenno also has chosen a main stream, tending to the polite and slightly outdated, speaking style, which may sound a bit awkward in Dutch ears, but surely offers a safe haven for the dabbling speaker. Better to sound a bit bookish and old-fashioned, than gamble with the subtle mannerisms of everyday language.

For the more advanced in Dutch one may try some Dutch podcasts to listen to:
Argos (research journalism),
Bommel (audio drama),
De Geschiedenis Podcast (history),
Flavius (Jewish culture and history),
Hoor! Geschiedenis (Dutch history),
Hoorspelen (collection of radio plays),
Interview Vrijdag (interviews about current affairs)
Het Marathon Interview (in-depth interviews, 3-5 hours long),
Simek 's Nachts (interviews by Martin Simek),
Sterke Geschiedenis (general history by Tom Tacken),
Veertien Achttien (history of World War I by Tom Tacken),
Voor een nacht (interviews with Marc Stakenburg).