Thursday, August 2, 2018

Using MOOCs in EAP teaching

In teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at Griffith College Dublin over the past nine months, I've made regular use of certain EAP-related MOOCs to supplement, enliven and enrich classes/lessons. The website is an excellent source of such courses in various aspects of EAP and TESOL, and it also has courses on such subjects as conducting research, reading and interpreting novels, IETLS exam preparation and writing academic essays (for non-native speakers of English) in the English language. The MOOC materials and methods are varied and engaging, including video clips and quizzes. One of their best MOOCs for my EAP classes was the Open University MOOC on entitled 'Listening and Presenting', which proved very helpful to students in preparing presentations. 

Novels of Penelope Lively

This is just a very quick post to report my most recent reading activity - I've been happily discovering and enjoying some of the writings of British author Penelope Lively, and, having first read and really enjoyed her novel The Photograph (2003), I'm now engrossed in her 1987 Man Booker Prize-winning Moon Tiger. As soon as I finish this excellent book - already ranking as one of my favourite novels ever - I look forward to reading the other works of this brilliant writer. Reviews to follow on this blog, of Lively's writings, in due course. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Reading material

Currently reading and enjoying Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust Volume One: La Belle Sauvage. Also Amélie Nothomb's Le Fait du Prince, having previously read a couple of Ishiguro's novels. More to follow on the novels I've been enjoying in recent months.

Further warblings on Verne's and Struthers' 'A Winter's Sojourn In The Ice'

In my last post of November 2017 I was writing about the above Verne novella which is now being republished, in serialized form, in the Newsletter Extraordinary Journeys of the North American Jules Verne Society. In their most recent winter edition of this journal, the first few chapters of William Struthers' rendering into English of this Verne adventure have been published, accompanied by an essay I wrote by way of introduction to this novella. I gave a brief synopsis of the plot in my last post to this blog, and my introductory essay in the above journal concludes that the translation is highly accurate and complete. I would recommend this Verne story highly to aficionados of this French author. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Un hivernage dans les glaces de Jules Verne

I'm currently studying Jules Verne's approximately fifty-page novella/long story Un hivernage dans les glaces, which was translated into English (very competently) by the Victorian translator William Struthers, a translator upon whom the late Dr Norman Wolcott, US Verne scholar and expert on Victorian renderings of Verne and Victorian-era translators of Jules Verne's literature into English, has written at length, including, for instance, in the 2008 republication of The Tour of the World in Eighty Days (1873/2008). 

The reason I'm reading this story at present, in its original French, is that I've been asked by my friends in the North American Jules Verne Society (NAJVS) to write a short piece commenting on the nature (form and quality, etc.) of the Struthers rendering of this less famous Verne story in English, as it is planned to republish Struthers' version in a forthcoming number of the NAJVS journal Extraordinary Journeys. By coincidence, I'm simultaneously carrying out a similar descriptive translational analysis on various recent English renderings of Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers, for an article on translation of literary classics.

 My particular interests at present are in investigating the ways in which translators manifest their unique, individual literary creativity within their translations, through myriad strategies including novel choices of target language synonymy, interpretation, expansion, reduction, and many other translation shifts. 

Getting back to A Winter's Sojourn In the Ice, as Struthers titled his rendering, I'm currently nearing the end of reading the story in French, and I'm enjoying it immensely - if you are a fan of Jules Verne, I would wholeheartedly recommend this quintessentially Vernian story of exploration in the icy Arctic wastes and of human endurance of extreme climatic conditions, a characteristically Vernian trope which finds similar expression in so many other novels from his pen, including such works as Five Weeks in a Balloon and Mistress Branican, to cite but two examples.

A group of sailors from Dunkirk in the north of France set off on a mercy mission, a voyage to the North Pole, in the depths of the icy midwinter, to find and rescue some of their missing crewmen; accompanying these brave men is the fiancée of their missing captain, while at their head is the sixty-year-old father of the said captain, convinced his son is still alive. When the group of rescuing sailors reach their Arctic destination, they must fight for their very survival in the face of temperatures plunging to lower than minus thirty-five degrees, the threat of suffocating in an icy prison of snow and ice hemming them in from all sides, hence their enforced period of wintering in the icy wastelands, often reminiscent of the poems of Canadian poet Robert Service, dwindling provisions of food and fuel, and the murderous treachery of some of their crew members. Will this courageous, loyal 'band of brothers' live to tell the tale, and will there finally be a 'happy ever after' wedding back in Dunkirk for the captain, Louis Cornbutte, and his devoted fiancée, who has bravely and selflessly risked her life to come to the rescue of the man she believes is still alive at the North Pole? 

As for Struthers' English rendering, from what I have seen of it thus far, it is highly accurate and complete, and thus a worthy, notable exception to the many truncated Verne renderings of Victorian times, when that author was less-valued than he is today. It is couched in formal, literary language which seems at times somewhat archaic by 21st-century standards, and is also, at times, quite imitative of the syntax and lexis of the source text, but combining such imitativeness with a generally idiomatic target language usage. 

I look forward to finishing this exciting Verne tale and to writing about Struthers' rendering, and I expect to conclude that he was, indeed, a fine translator, just as more recent Verne translators such as William Butcher, David Coward, Frederick Paul Walter and Walter James Miller have produced equally excellent translations of the more famous novels of Jules Verne. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Teaching classic literature as part of the EFL curriculum

In my proficiency level English class this week, I had students explore some classic English literature, viz. literary extracts from the works of Thomas Hardy and Charlotte Bronte. I was happy that the students in question really enjoyed those classes. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Doras DCU Open access

Just a quick note, before I hit the hay - the Dublin City University DORAS website provides open access to DCU researchers' output, including articles, books, theses and dissertations. If you log on to and type the names of an author or topic into the search fields you will be provided with immediate and unrestricted access to relevant research outputs. So, for instance, my M.A. dissertation on the translations of the novels of JK Rowling into French is on DORAS, as well as my monograph, an online journal article on translation theory and my doctoral thesis on Verne retranslation into English. 
And on another note, again related to academic research: next week at Griffith College Dublin's Institute of Language where I currently lecture in English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and General English (to speakers of other languages), from lower levels up to advanced and proficiency, I am about to give some lectures on citing and referencing according to the Harvard style. For those interested in learning more about this topic, I would recommend two excellent authoritative sources: one, the DCU Library's section on training and resources; the other, the Anglia Ruskin university's online guide to citing and bibliography construction. As my colleague Dr Simon A. Thomas puts it, citing, referencing, paraphrasing and summarizing are all planks against plagiarism, enabling researchers to acknowledge the work of others in their writings and to giver the sources of the ideas they refer to, through direct or reported speech. Following a lecture on avoidance of plagiarism charges, students will be give various practical tasks to complete on how to cite and reference, how to summarize, how to evaluate other writings to decide if they display plagiarism or not and how to paraphrase. These tasks are taken from EAP course books published by Cambridge University Press. 
I'm really enjoying my lecturing work at Griffith College and my ongoing research into Verne studies, literary studies and translation studies.