Final TEFL certificate

Last weekend I went to the Hague, to attend a workshop for the only TEFL module I didn’t have yet, the 20 Hour Classroom TEFL Course AKA weekend TEFL.
There were approximately 17 people attending, minus the teacher. It was a fun and creative experience.

The people all had very different backgrounds, and different reasons to go abroad. For a number of them, this was the fact that they had a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife in another country. This is, let’s just be honest, one of the main reasons for people to travel. It’s never about where you go, or just about the culture, it’s always about the people you meet that make something worthwhile doing or not. Another reason is that you genuinely want to experience other cultures and their way of life. Maybe because you are bored back home, or because you really want to get as much as you want out of life. But then again, what is it that defines culture? It all comes down to people again. When I was in Sri Lanka I met some of the friendliest people I know, and I also met some of the most vile people I’d rather not know. I also met a lot of cool people in Bulgaria, which is a reason I want to go back there, to meet more of them :).

So, let’s get back to the actual course, what exactly was it about?
Basically, we had to learn, or show we had the awareness of the basic concepts of language teaching.
We had to show an understanding of basic English grammar. This is something non-native speakers actually excel at. Native speakers have a lot more trouble with their own grammar. We had one assignment that had us match up cards that held sentences with cards that held grammatical structures. We solved it very quickly. Our teacher told us that native speakers really struggle with this. They asked: “Do we really need to learn this?” And our native speaking teacher told them: “Yes you do, because dutch people (non-native speakers) can do this in a heartbeat.” English may be our second language, but there is something about the way in which we are taught, that makes us remember these things better. If you have your native language, you tend to take all these rules and structures for granted. They come easily to you. But if it isn’t, you have to put in more effort to learn it, and it sticks in your mind better.

We were given a few language classes in a foreign language that none of us knew (Swedish), so we could better understand what we should, and shouldn’t do. The first lesson focussed on having us pronounce words, and sentences. We could speak the sentence at the end of the lesson, but nobody had any clue about its meaning. Then, we had another lesson with a few of the same words, but put into context with a flash card or a drawing. That way, it was much easier to remember both the word and idea or structure behind it. We were presented with a lesson with a cuddly toy, to say simple things like “hello”, “good/well done” and goodbye” in swedish.

From the coursebook:
When we teach our non-native students new language, we do it this way:

  1. Meaning Teach or show the meaning through context or story.
  2. Pronunciation Teach or drill the pronunciation until our students can say it naturally.
  3. Form Teach or show the way it is written

It makes complete sense to teach a language structure in this way:

  1. What does it mean? (Meaning)
  2. What does it sound like? (Pronunciation)
  3. What does it look like? (Form)

It does make sense, doesn’t it?
We were shown how versatile the game “find someone who” is.
We had to create a few lesson plans, and teach them to the rest of the students. This part was a lot of fun. Put a little role play into it, present the grammar structure somewhere during the lesson, but don’t make that the main target of the lesson. Don’t focuss on the actual structure. The desired outcome is that students can communicate with the structure. There are countries where English is taught in such a way that students understand English grammar close to perfection, and they can write English flawlessly. But put them in a situation where they have to use their English knowledge to have a real conversation, and they get stuck. Because they don’t know how. This is the difference between knowing a structure, and knowing how to put it to use in a real life situation.

We were shown (also mentioned in the rest of the TEFL course, but it is important, so it never hurts to mention it again) that it is better to elicit the meaning of something from a student, than to just explain it. You can use concept questions to make sure that students understand what you are trying to teach them.

Something else about pronunciation: I read somewhere on the internet, that a lot of schools want their teachers to speak as close to native English as possible, to have no accent whatsoever. There are some important overlooked aspects to that:

  • I’m not so certain there is one universal version of English. Not only is there a difference between American and British English, but there are a lot of accents in english as well, and English people with one accent can have difficulty understanding English people with another accent, apparently. When the English queen Elizabeth 2nd had her coronation, it was going to be broadcast on television. For the first time in history, there was a need for a version of English that all people could understand. A standard English (I haven’t researched this enough to be certain, I heard it, and did a quick search on the internet, there are a number of wikipedia pages about this).
  • I read on the internet that if students get taught English in their own accent, it becomes a lot easier for them to understand the structure, and communicate with it. To me, this makes sense, I haven’t traveled that much, but I found in a few countries that if you twist your accent to the way the local population speaks english, it becomes a lot easier for them to understand you. Indian people for instance are very good at speaking english, but a lot of us western people don’t see this because of their accent. While their level of understanding of the language is quite high. As an example, our teacher mimicked a french girl who wanted to take english classes. We (the students) had to assess her level. We all placed her much lower than she was, from elementary to intermediate. But she was actually at the level of advanced. Our teacher told us that this is a mistake almost everyone makes. Because of her intonation and pronunciation, we misjudged her, but her usage of english structures was pretty much flawless.

Not to say that it is bad to teach English with a more native pronunciation, but students learn to communicate more easily if you teach them with their own accent. And having an accent doesn’t make you less skilled as an English speaker.

There is loads more, but that is what the course is for. Either way, it was a very fun and at the same time productive weekend.

On another note, (switching to 3D artist mode), I read on the blenderartists forum about people who were wondering when or if Zbrush Zspheres would make it into blender. I figured if you create an armature, and use bones in envelope display mode, you could at least emulate how this looks. You can’t use this to automatically create automatic (heh, funny) geometry to work with, not that I’m aware of anyway, but it does help to quickly come up with a nice proportioned character. You could even pose it if you set up the base skeleton in a clear way. It is not a lot of work to go from there and create a lowpoly cage to start sculpting, similar to Zbrush. You could give this mesh an armature modifier with automatic weighting, and you’re good to go in different poses as well.
It is only a small test, but maybe some people like this approach… And I can use the extra character to try my new rig. People build 3D character models in various ways, this is an approach (sculpt from a mesh with very simple topology) that I have not done before, so it’s a good thing to try out. I want my rig to work on a lot of different characters.

Quick prototyping of different characters

Building a simple character mesh cage based on the rig's envelopes

Long post, I’m out… 🙂
See you later/Довиждане

Michael/Майкъл

MTI_newfella

That is this little guy’s name for now. Someone asked me to come up with something, so I started and it ended up becoming this new character rig. It reminds me of little_fella, so I called him newfella. His rig is a spin-off, or fork from my other project: lowpoly character.

"Hello world! My name (for now) is newfella"

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Report from Sicily

So, last month I went to Sicily for a holiday/volunteer work. Here’s a little report:

After a few hours driving to the airport in Germany, and a flight of a few hours to Trapani, Sanne (the other volunteer on the same plane) and I are waiting for the bus to take us to Palermo. And from Palermo we would take a bus that would take us to the other part of the island, to Catania. The project we volunteered for was close to Catania, in a place called Biancavilla, but the cheapest flight was arriving on the other side of the island, meaning we’d have to take a few buses and travel a day to get to where we were supposed to be. With a few hours to wait between buses.  Quite original, and fun to do once or twice. After all, I can say that I’ve “crossed the island”, but next time, I’ll just take a ticket that costs a little bit more and flies straight to Catania 😛

So arriving at Catania airport by bus, Sanne and I wait for the guy from the project to come pick us up. This guy’s name is Rocco Pennisi, and he’s the son of the people who run the project. Basically, it’s a family living in the countryside that do volunteer work and do a lot for the local community. They have a volunteer organization: “Casa di Maria” (Maria’s house) and a commercial organization: “Vino di Cana, Turismo rurale” to support themselves.

Rocco drives us to Biancavilla where we meet the family and the rest of the volunteers.

The volunteers, no group photo with just the family, sorry.

For the rest and a LOT more photos, click the “Read the rest of this entry” link.

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Back from Sicily and a small update

So I got back from Sicily last week. I went there for volunteer work, did a lot of gardening. To be honest, it wasn’t as much fun as Bulgaria was, but still pretty cool nonetheless. The other volunteers and I took a lot of pictures, and we haven’t shared them with each other yet (didn’t have access to a computer with the correct cardreaders). Look for some photo’s here soon.

I also have an update on the rig. The facerig is done, all the controls have nice shapes now, and everything just works nicely. There is a slight “issue” with the toes that I might solve for a small additional amount of freedom, but there is apparently a new constraint in the latest build of blender that might have me remove the footroll bone and add footroll functionality to the heel bone instead. Which means I have to rethink the foot setup. Then again, the footroll as it is now doesn´t get in the way of the foot control, while the heel might, so I might leave it and just make the toes controllable.

So yeah the rig works, gotta skin the character to it, make textures, cleanup, etc…. I might also make another rig system for the eyes, one that is for an actual spherical eye, instead of the flat planes of this character. So people with a character with real eyes can use that system instead. I also wanna model more props.

EDIT: not enough for a new post, some bugfixes in the eyes, found some new bugs to squash, and a few new images under “read the rest of this entry”.

rig with just IK controls, and both IK and FK

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Report from Sri Lanka…

As was mentioned in the previous post, I’ve been to Sri Lanka recently, to do volunteer work as a teacher in the Vajira Sri Rehabilitation Children’s home in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Here’s the story, and pictures, if you click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link:

First day, arriving in Colombo, and staying at the Ranvelli beach resort. Met volunteers for another project further south in Kosgoda.

Ranvelli beach resort

beach near mount Lavinia

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Got back from Sri Lanka.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, where I had been teaching english to children in Colombo. Look for a big post with lots of photos soon (sorting out over 600!)

A local friend came to me one day when I just woke up, and was still sleep drunk. He needed help with an essay about creditcards. He was dead serieus and I was like a (sleep)drunk guy.
I told him to grab a piece of paper and write down the first things that came to mind. I did the same, and this is the weird story I came up with:
————————————————————————-
1. Why was the creditcard invented?
2. Who invented the creditcard?
3. When was the creditcard first introduced?
4. How has the creditcard changed the way we live?
5. Why/how did the size of today’s creditcard become standard?

1. Once upon a time, not as long ago as the phrase makes us believe, there was a groovy fellow who didn’t like coinage and paper money. They cramped his style. Coinage was too bulky and inconvenient, and he kept mixing up paper money with toilet paper. Especially after a good night out when he was so drunk he couldn’t tell the difference between a car and a horse. He found out the hard way that horses don’t run on gasoline, and their exhaust gasses have a peculiar fragrance that is much less tolerated than that of the average car.

One day he thought: “Enough of this nonsense! I need something new. Something that doesn’t cramp my style. Something that’s more convenient than conventional money. And something that can be personalised”
And thus, he went to the bank with a small piece of plastic that had a smiley drawn on it. He hold it boldly in front of the clerck and declared: “Let it be known, from this day forth and all eternity, I shall pay my bills with this piece of plastic. And it shall be known as the credit card!”

The clerck picked his nose, ate the booger and said with an empty look in his face: “Whatever you’re trying to sell, I’m not interested. Mata epa.” With the groovy fellow still standing boldy in his victory pose, holding his card up in the air however, the clerck paused for a moment and said: “Hey dude, maybe that’s not a bad idea. Take it up with the big boss man over there.” He pointed at the bank manager.
“Groovy!”, said the groovy fellow. “Peace me breda” the clerck replied.

So the groovy guy took his plastic card and his idea to the bank manager. The bank manager farted, pretended it wasn’t him, then said: “Whatever you’re trying to sell, I’m not interested. Mata epa.”
But as the groovy fellow jumped on the desk and declared this plastic card to be the renaissance of modern times, the bank manager paused and said: “Yeah, sure man, that sounds like a good plan.”

And that is how the creditcard came into existence.

2. The creditcard was invented by a groovy fellow who needed something that wouldn’t cramp his style. I don’t know his name, but hey, who cares, he’s groovy.

3. The creditcard was first introduced when the groovy guy had a need for it.

4. The creditcard has changed the way we handle our money transactions. We no longer need to take physical, real money with us. We use a card that informs our banks whenever a transaction is being made. There is a lot of debate as to when and what culture first started using money. I read in the museum in Colombo that the chinese were believed to be (one of) the first cultures to start using metal money. But now that I have internet again, I’ve seen sources suggesting differently. (Lydians, Phoenicians) Either way, the point is that we’re once again migrating towards a point were physical (metal or printed) money seems to become less and less important.
Another point is, but that doesn’t mean this has anything to do with creditcards, what is also changing is the way we consume. We have less and less need for physical property, as long as we can have access to it when we require it. We don’t buy physical CDs, we buy mp3s from the internet. We don’t buy movies, we rent or stream them. We don’t need to own a car, as long as we can lease one and trade it in for a better one when a new model hits the market.

5. because the groovy guy said so.

Back from Bulgaria

As I mentioned in the previous post, I just got back from Bulgaria. I went there for volunteerswork, and I’ve had the time of my life there.

We renovated a building, met loads of fun people, went sightseeing in practically every town that was within reach, had a lot of fun, and…. and….. aaah to much to mention. And of course we also went swimming…. I love swimming. It was amazing.

Wasn’t all fun, there were a few things that weren’t so nice, but then again, not enough to really mention.

I started looking through some photo’s from everyone (we had a couple of hundreds of photo’s) and now I’m left with something around 80 photo’s. I’ll just put them in a gallery format. To see all the photo’s, click the “read the rest of this entry” link.

Off course, there’s also a picasa gallery which currently doesn’t have all the photo’s. But still a bunch. You can find it at picasaweb.google.nl/Balgarovo.project.

DSC00052

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