Blog Flux LinkLog: Outgoing Link Logging and Click Tracking for Em duas línguas

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I don't believe in referendums

I'm disappointed with the results of the latest Swiss referendum. The results about changing the law for second and third generation immigrants was a resounding "no", despite a strong campaign to the contrary. Fifty two per cent rejected the first proposal that would give automatic citizenship to third generation immigrants living in Swizterland. Fifty seven per cent voted against legislation that would facilitate citizenship for the second generation. It's yet another sad blow for racial tolerance in Europe - let alone for visions of growth and learning.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

blogging - a man's world?

I'm having difficulty finding blogs written by women - in Portuguese. Hopefully I have tuned into the wrong loop - and if I have, I'll be happy to find the right direction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Article from the Hindu: Between two tongues

This articleThe Hindu : Between two tongues: Falling at the speed of light, in the online edition of India's national newspaper, was fascinating. H. Masud Taj writes about growing up with Urdu, his first language (written from right to left) and English, which he learned at boarding school (written from left to right). Urdu has no past tense while English no future.

"Both English and Urdu are symmetrical; two conditions of the same bipolar disorder. Both tongues are immigrants in alien grammars (Latin and Sanskrit respectively), both have a similar strategy for overcoming their weakness: a voracious appetite for foreign words. Like the monster software AutoCAD and indeed life itself (both versions at 2004) they make up as they go along, disguising their formal inelegance with awesome number-crunching, memory and vocabulary respectively. Both English and Urdu are tongue colonisers with their dictionaries metamorphosing into thesauruses (Webster and Roget face off as John Travolta and Nick Cage once did in an exciting Woo classic). Both languages also colonise lands, English the world and Urdu the Indian subcontinent and the Indian diasporas spread out in the world. They have an evangelical fervour that turns speakers into born-agains, again and again."

Once again - I'm struck by the fascinating dynamics of life and languageS.

Monday, September 20, 2004


There has been a new call to ban female genital mutilation (FGM) which, according to wikipedia was something that was even practiced in the United States until well into the 20th century to prevent masturbation. There are still 168,000 women or girls circumcised or at risk of FGM in the US (according to Census data.) I couldn't find the statistics for Portugal.

I pass a moment wondering what this has to do with "em duas linguas". But that moment passes. It's relevant at a meta-level - where you are exploring those boundaries between the process of creating, learning and refining the values that you have developed (in one or other languages) with the values of "diversity" or "multi-" and "inter-culturalism". Some things, like female mutilation, are easier than others. It's wrong - no matter what culture it comes from.

But in the everyday life of an everyday person living in another culture you are posed every day with decisions (often unconscious) about what values you hang on to, which values you refine and which ones you reject. And also - how you reconcile and grow with the synergies between the two. FGM is an easy decision in my own personal "in-between-ness". There are so many others which are not.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Good news for wine devotees

A fine wine grasps you by the hand and calls you by your first name, according to Elizabeth David (a food writer). If that's true, then there will be a lot of friendly handshakes in 2010. A friend came back today from his family vindimas (grape harvesting) with stories of how this year is going to be a really great year for wine (he was in Bairrada) which will be ready in 5 or 6 years. I also read the other day that it had been a very good year for wines in Alentejo. I'm smiling in both languages.

A quick search for buying Portuguese wines online and I came up with: Loja do Vinho in Sintra; Vinhos Online which also includes a glossary and detailed information about the producers (mostly in Portuguese); A slick site in French, English and Portuguese from and about Dourowines.

My search took me mostly to Port wine, which isn't nearly so interesting. Funny how wine is such an important industry in Portugal (and Portugal is the seventh largest wine producing country in the world) but still has to be commercialised on an international scale. It has also, by the way, been a bumper year in Portugal for cork I found out today.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Blog musings in Portugal

The meeting of bloggers in Portugal today coincides with my starting Pedro Mexia's book "Fora do Mund O" (Out of this world). His book is a collection of the posts from two blogs, one of which was Coluna infame, written as a blog challenge "contra a hegemonia intelectual da esquerda " (against the intellectual hegenomy of the left). One of the authors of this blog, João Pedro Coudinho, now has a sort of web page/blog Dominical - a genre I haven't seen before. Pedro Lomba, who previously co-authored Coluna infame, now keeps a blog with Pedro Mexia and Francisco José Viegas. The three are journalists, and I see that Francisco José Viegas has a big name for himself as poet and narrator in Germany.

Ana Pago writes in the DN (Diário de Noticias) that blogs «influenciam pouco» journalism in Portugal. But José Pacheco Pereira, in an article in the Publico, reckons that "Cerca de 20 a 30 blogues portugueses fornecem todos os dias novas ideias, reflexões, informações, que um cidadão avisado e culto não deve perder. (About 20 to 30 Portuguese blogs provide all the new ideas, reflections, information that an informed and educated person shouldn't miss). He describes how this year the Portuguese blog world has gone from being a small group of pioneers using it as at an intimate space to becoming more agressive and politicised in a negative sense.

My own blog reading is the political, cultural sort in Portuguese, while in English it's from the world of new technologies and learning. I think I might experiment a bit with the site Weblog em Portugal and see how it compares to the blogspot I'm using.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Os tacanhos

"Bev - gostei de conhecer o teu dinamismo, o teu interesse pelas ideias inovadoras, eficazes e (deixa-me usar um termo envelhecido…) humanistas, a tua simpatia e simplicidade. "Espero que os tacanhos deste país não consigam destruir o teu trabalho. Um abraço" (Bev - I enjoyed knowing your dynamism, your interest for innovative, efficient and (let me use a well-used term) humanistic ideas, your charm and simplicity. I hope that the narrow-minded people of this country don't manage to destroy your work.)

I received this email todayfrom a colleague who is dropping out of a project we are both involved in. He's a pragmatic man, in his late '50s and respected for his conscientiousness. It's by no means the first time I've been given such a signal. Once again it gets me reflecting on questions like: What is it that drives me? How different is it to be an outsider that parachutes into a country but who will/can return to "their own country" - and an outsider (by nationality or otherwise) who's life is invested in a system (by choice or otherwise). I am (again) reminded of the precariousness of my position. There are narrowminded people in all parts of the world. In some countries the narrowminded have more power over other people's lives than others. In all situations outsiders, whose lives are invested in the system, are more vulnerable to the mesquinho (stingy, penurious) acts of people in positions of power. Am I foolish - or do I really have something to say?

I can't help but also wonder why, despite my downs, I remain so positive and excited about the future!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Lots of languages!

I've always been amazed how so many supposedly illiterate people I've met in different countries in Africa speak, as a matter of course, three quite different languages. In Kenya, for example, many people speak English, Swahili and their local language.

The politics and complexities of individual relationships, of local, national and international governance are multiplied with every language that we speak on a day-to-day basis. How those politics and complexities are taken for granted by the people who live them! And how they are so invisible to those people who don't.
It's equally amazing to me that in our supposedly increasingly globalised world, so many English speaking people speak only one language, as a matter of course.

I recently joined two Yahoo Discussion groups, which I'll be following up here in my own language quest. African languages: "A forum for African Language reading and writing. (It) aims to explore and exploit the power that the language is, while tapping and nurturing the richness and the breadth of the African culture." and Multilingual Literacy: "The goal of Multilingual_Literacy is to serve as a forum for discussion & exchange of information about literacy theory, practice, & policy in multilingual contexts worldwide during the Decade (United Nations Literacy Decade)"

I'm also intrigued to see how the Bisharat initiative develops: a language, technology and development initiative, concerned with " the importance of maternal languages in sustainable development and the enormous potential of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) to benefit efforts in the area of language and development."

Monday, September 13, 2004


My heart went down as I read this in the Publico today:

"O sindicato criou um grupo de trabalho que vai ser fazer um levantamento do número de trabalhadores-estudantes e iniciar contactos com as associações académicas e reitores das universidades no sentido de os sensibilizar para os problemas desta classe estudantil." (The Trade Union created a working party that is going to raise the question of the number of working students and begin contacts with academic association and university rectors to raise the problems these students face).

One thing is the passion I feel (and work I do) for increasing learning opportunities in distributed communities. Another is the queue of students outside my door who say they deserve a higher mark (nota) because they are "a working student" (trabalhador-estudante). Somewhere something is wrong when students think they can pass with a lower performance in English - for the reason that they are already working in companies. My heart sinks further as the Institutions I have worked for declare (privately) that disciplines like English are the ones that should be making allowances for weak students.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Ashes (cinzas)

Today my (adopted) son asked me where I wanted to put my ashes (cinzas) when I died. He was anxious to know the precise place. (Of course I chose somwhere along my cycling route!)

But, as I told him, it's a funny thing. My mother's ashes still sit in a box on the mantlepiece (prateleira sobre a lereira) in my sister's house in London. They have been there for five years because we (four sisters) cannot think of where to put them. It isn't that we can't agree where to put them (unusually - as we disagree about most things). And, as my mother was an atheist, we have no feeling of responsibility on her part about where we put the ashes. But we would be much happier and more settled if we could think of somewhere to put them.

Our problem is that we don't have any feeling for where she belonged. And we are still waiting to find out. So many people in Portugal ask me where my "terra" (land) is. Where do I begin when my mother is still on the mantlepiece?!

Tags: ,


Complaining about the mosquitos today, I was reminded that malaria mosquitos were only eradicated in Portugal (and other parts of Europe) in 1969.

In a book I have: "The selected traveller in Portugal", written in 1963 (by Anne Bridge and Susan Lowndes) they have this to say about Setúbal (where I live):

"Rice is largely grown up the Sado valley; the paddy-fields make some of the towns and villages unsafe during the summer, owing to the prevalence of the malaria mosquito, though much research (in part financed by the Rockfeller Trust) has been conducted on how to overcome this danger."

Does anyone recognise this Setúbal?

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Status, humility or strategy?

For one reason or another, a significant number of people I've worked, or interacted or had more initimate relationships with during my life have not spoken English as their first language. It can be demanding and sometimes difficult as a listener (or reader), but I've mostly found it interesting and rewarding for the insights and clues it gives you into other people's way of thinking (which comes out as they "see" another language being spoken) and it's often creative in the mix of words, concepts and tenses that people use.

This puts me in a bit of a conundrum when well-meaning Portuguese friends and colleagues urge me to write (informal) e-mails in English, not Portuguese. Writing them in English, they tell me, looks more educated than writing in Portuguese with mistakes. Someone who writes in English maintains their superior position, whereas writing in Portuguese as a second language puts you in an inferior position in relation to people who write it correctly - and you risk not being taken seriously.

So, do I stick to my principles and enter other people's world's - creatively using their language, but at risk of being looked down on? Or do I stick to the language I know best and maintain my lofty status?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Oscar ...

In my first posting I talked about writing my blog with the insights of a "priveleged outsider". This expression was one a Brazilian friend of mine used in a conversation we had related to insider/outsider status in a country (in our case, Portugal) and to racism (he works for SOS Racismo in Portugal).

Oscar, a psydonym, has just bid farewell to his own blog which is mostly poetry, pictures and letters and to cheer him (and me) up I invited him to talk with me here for a week. I'm not sure how we'll do it, or what we'll be doing ... but whatever it is, he'll write in Portuguese and I'll write in English.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Tariq Ali in Setubal this weekend!

The Bloco de Esquerda is running a summer school in conjunction at the Escola de Educação, IPS (II Escola de Verão do Bloco de Esquerda) with some great speakers.

Tariq Ali's dissenting voice has been important, especially his writings against the wars, and US presence in the Middle East. He's made the transition from being an activist to a writer. To what extent are they the same, different or overlapping roles, I ask myself?

Boaventura de Sousa Santos, a leading social scientist in Portugal, will also be there (para confirmar). Some of his writings availiable online in English are here. Sousa Santos has been important in helping rewrite a more up-to-date narrative about Portuguese identity that doesn't focus on (macho) myths and symbols of Portugal's importance as a maritime and colonial empire. His metaphor concept of fronteira (border) to describe both Portugal's geo-political position and also the effect of this location as a cultural "way of being" is fascinating and I suspect the principle reason why I live in Portugal. I "feel" that fronteira condition living in Portugal. And I feel at home in it. I see exactly what Santos is saying when he sees this fronteira condition as one of Portugal's most fluid and dynamic traits that makes it a bridge between cultures of "the centre" and its peripheries.

Fernando Rosas is another person I admire who will be there. His writings on the political history of Portugal, especially the Estado Nova have been important readings for me.

Gaiteiros de Lisboa

Gaiteiros de Lisboa
Originally uploaded by Bev Trayner.
wow ... I wasn't expecting to hear such a great sound. This band (from Portugal) using a range of instruments (especially different types of bagpipes and drums) were absolutely great. They use traditional and modern instruments and create their own; they use classic and modern poetry for their lyrics and create their own. This traditional/post-modern mix in the hands of excellent and creative musicians just made my day.

This was at the Festa de Avante, perhaps the biggest annual festival in Portugal. All three generations go, the family atmosphere combines well with the hard politics, great food, brilliant music and just fun. No Reds under any beds here (it's organised by the Communist party) ... everyone's out on the streets partying!

Saturday, September 04, 2004


It's a long time since I went dancing, but last night as my daughter was here we went to All-barreque, a bar on the beach, to hear a Brazilian band. I was thrown back to my early days in Portugal when I used to go every Sunday to the sambode in Carcavelos above the Bombeiras (Fire station). An old room with creaky wooden floorboards and a mix of heroic and austere pictures of Portuguese men of the past hung forgotten on the walls - while we all samba-d and partied the night through. It was a great way for me to learn Portuguese. My Brazilian friends always responded positively to what I said - regardless (I think) of whether they understood what I meant. Positive reinforcement made me speak more, I didn't worry about mistakes and became inaccurately fluent. It was great. Dancing was a different matter - my dancing was full of mistakes. No-one cared that I was more comfortable using the rhythms to improvise more to an African style. For my own good, the people around me wanted me to dance Brazilian-style and properly. So I one-two, one-two-d my way through Sunday nights, clasped and thrown about in the arms of whoever wanted to dance ... becoming more accurate at dancing and more fluent at speaking.

Oh yes, the same smiling musician who ran the show in Carcavelos was playing at All-barreque last night. Same smiles, same hairstyle and same music ... just a good ten years older, 10 kilos heavier and a lot more grey hair.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Language is power

I recently finished reading a book by John Honey, Language is Power - the story of Standard English and its Enemies". I enjoyed it because it challenges the development of my own ideas about language and power. He critically (and very controversially) examines the ideas developed by current "politically correct" socio-linguistics following in the steps of post-colonial writers who claim that Standard English is a form of "linguistic imperialism". He argues that minority groups can only win by learning (and being taught) Standard English and that not teaching it ("properly") is, in fact, a way of disempowering minority groups.

His final chapter is about Standard English as "a national and international language". He acknowledges that "many teachers of English are rightly concerned about the value-system that is implicit in the teaching of both the language and its literature, and much attention has been paid to the uses of English as a voice for writers from non-British cultures." (p. 256) However, I think that he then goes on to focus too much on language rather than looking at the dynamics of language, voice, knowledge and power.

Compare Honey's apparently simple question: "is it possible that, globally, the more people speak English, the less it reamins culturally the exclusive property of one group?" with Alasdair Pennycook's statement about voice in "The cultural politics of English as an international language".

The notion of voice ... suggests a pedagogy that starts with the concerns of the students, not in some vapid, humainist 'student-centred' approach that requires students to express their 'inner feelings', but rather through an exploration of students' histories and cultural locations, of the limitations and possibilities presented by languages and discourses. The issue in teaching critically ... is one of working with students to come to terms with the continuing struggles over language, knowledge and culture, over what is constituted as knowledge, and how one is represented and can come to represent oneself in the world."(p. 311)

Pearls of wisdom from Pennycook!

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

writing a blog and em duas linguas

I enjoyed Miguel Vale de Almeida's blog posting "Olha, alguém com o mesmo nome que eu..." (Look, someone with the same name as me..."). He describes how he bought the paper "A Capital" (which he rarely buys) only to find an article "Opinião: Blogmania" a third of which was quoting from his blog. No-one asked his opinion to publish it, and despite having written a column for a newspaper during a number of years, he felt very strange seeing his blog words in a newspaper. A newspaper whose words will be stored in the National Library. Writing for his newspaper audience, in terms of language and content, was quite different from adapting your writing for a "community" that you feel is involved in the writing of your blog. As he says: "É difícil explicar, mas ainda são media diferentes, com mensagens diferentes, com identidades de autor diferentes. (It's difficult to explain, but they are quite different media, with different messages, with different author identities).

I feel like I have an additional twist in my writing. I feel like I'm accountable to different audiences. Both Portuguese speaking and non-Portuguese speaking. I can't explain it fully yet. But I would write differently if I didn't have have both (os meus gajos! ) good Portuguese friends - and international and Portuguese friends/colleagues who read my blog and hold me into account (in my real life, not just online) for what I say. It's a weird sensation that has sent me off one on one of my thought tracks ...