It’s The Hard Knock Life

The biggest obstacle for me in my hopefully-soon-to-be-finished BA trajectory has been the course “Wetenschapsfilosofie”. Twice. After having done two of its exams in the first exam week, I am once again feeling the anticipating fear and despair in my gut of having to wait for the results and getting to know whether or not I will have to delay graduation for another year. Now I’m not exactly a straight-A-student to begin with, but this is just one of those courses that is aimed at making you fail.
There are several reasons why I feel that the course is set-up in an illogical manner, and is meant to give you a hard time, rather than actually allowing you to learn what it teaches. I would firstly like to explain the structure of the course for those who have not yet had the pleasure of taking it: Philosophy of Science is divided into two parts: a general part and a part that is specific to your actual course, like English in my case. The general part is taught in Dutch (more on this will follow) and the English part is sub-divided into two modules: Linguistics and Literature. The general part lasts 16 weeks and the Linguistics and Literature modules each last 8 weeks and they follow each other up respectively. Like so:

linguistics

It seems to be constructed in a fair way, but in practice this structure simply does not work very well. Both the general part and the English part (in specific the Linguistics module for me) require a great deal of hard work, attention and effort in order to keep up with the material and getting good grades. If you’re someone like me, who has to also take an elective, work at a part-time job, have personal projects and a half-assed social life as a result, you will find that Wetenschapsfilosofie is too much in too little time. For the general part, you’re force-fed an average of 30 pages per week on complex topics in an academic language that you’re not used to (Dutch), while simultaneously having to put at least as much effort in the English part, for which you must have a 5,5 for each module – no compensation allowed. Luckily, the general Dutch part can be compensated by the English one, but for a non-straight-A-student, this is Mission: Impossible, meaning that it all works out in the end, but you have to work your butt off astronomically.
As I mentioned before, I take issue with the general part of this course being taught in Dutch. It does not make sense in any way to have a course that is taught to all studies in the Humanities department in a non-international language. Yes, part of my reasoning is because I want to be taught in English, a language I’m used to, but I have heard from more than one international student that it is very difficult to follow this course in a language that they don’t know very well (gee whiz, why would that be?). I find it odd that such an essential part of a course, content-wise and audience-wise, is not taught in a language that is understandable for everyone. Because not only does this affect the grades of international students badly, but those of others as well – there are more studies that are predominantly taught in academic English and not in academic Dutch. I just hope for future Wetenschapsfilosofie students that someone somewhere who is in charge of changing this course will make some effort into improving this issue. Mostly because it is so easy to improve: change the Dutch material into an English equivalent. I’m sure there are plenty of study books that are just as good, if not better than the Leezenberg & de Vries book.

I would only like to conclude that I genuinely enjoy the material taught in Wetenschapsfilosofie – yes, even the linguistics module, terrible though I am at it -, but the course is made in such a way that unfortunately I’m not really allowed to savor the knowledge I’m ramming down my brainpan at lightning speed with the delicacy of a raging rhinoceros.

 

Ines

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WB Column: Accents

Awrite! Hou’s aw wi ye? Can A gie ye a haund?

It’s quite remarkable that when you study English you get taught about grammar, literature, philosophy even, but nothing about pronunciation. We do have phonology, but that is mostly theoretical and only in Received Pronunciation. We learn how to pronounce sounds and phonemes, but don’t actually practice it, there is no oral exam.

We firmly believe that there should be a possibility to both practice oral skills and different types of accents. Wouldn’t we all like to show off our well-polished Scottish or Australian accents? We understand that this might not be suitable for the obligated curriculum, but it would definitely be so much fun as an elective. Take the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen for instance, they already have a similar course to train their students’ oral communication skills.

It would not only be fun but also very useful to be able to speak different accents, because it would broaden the fields of research in other courses. There are books that read as though written in an accent. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh for example, is written in Scottish English, or The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which is written in African American Vernacular English, and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner in a Southern American dialect. One can of course understand these books when you speak RP, but knowing the accents and where they come from enriches the experience of reading so much more.

Another reason to learn all sorts of accents, is because it is toe-curlingly awkward when you’re having a conversation with a native speaker and you don’t understand them, to tell them that you study English at University. We’ve had many occasions when we had to embarrassingly admit to this.

Basically, we’re secretly hoping a UvA staff member will read this column and get it done. From our most beloved source WikiHow. We’d like to share with you this golden gift of learning how to speak like a Geordie: http://www.wikihow.com/Talk-Like-a-Geordie . Enjoy rebelling against the system and learning your first non-standard accent on your own! Cheers!

Ines Severino & Yentl Dudink

Essay and Fiction Competition

Competition

After the success of the first two competitions, Writer’s Block magazine will now continue with the next categories: essay and fiction. We are looking for:

Essay: No restrictions regarding theme and form. Maximum of 1500 words.

Fiction: No restrictions regarding theme and form. Maximum of 1500 words.

We hope you’ll be inspired to write for us in the next few weeks, or that you already have something that you can adjust so you can make it to fit our competition!

Jury

A professional jury of at least two academics will award a prize worth 50 Euros to the winner in each category. The winners will of course also be published in our next issue.

Requirements

To participate, you have to be a student of the University of Amsterdam, but if you are not, you are very welcome to submit any kind of creative writing for the magazine itself.

Deadline

You can submit your work (essays and stories) until the 21st of April by sending an email to writerssblock@gmail.com and mentioning the category of your choice in the header.

Please let everyone who might be interested know we are hosting this competition and we are looking forward to read you work!

Writer’s Block #17

We are very happy to present to you: Writer’s Block #17:

Writer’s Block #17 Digital Edition   (Click for PDF)

Poetry and Translation Competition

Competition

Writer’s Block magazine proudly announces four competitions: in the upcoming half-year we will be hosting a translation, poetry, essay and fiction competition. The first part, for the next edition of WB, will be the translation and poetry categories. This is what we are looking for:

Poetry: No restrictions regarding theme or amount of words. Send in your best work, with a maximum of 3 poems.

Translation: 300 words of Dutch prose into English. The text we selected is from Allerzielen by Cees Noteboom, to be found below.

Jury

A professional jury of at least two academics will award a prize worth 50 Euros to the winner in each category. The winners will of course also be published in our next issue.

Requirements

To participate, you have to be a student of the University of Amsterdam, but if you are not, you are very welcome to submit any kind of creative writing for the magazine itself.

Deadline

You can submit your work (poetry and translation) until the 24th of January by sending an email to writerssblock@gmail.com and mentioning the category of your choice in the header.

Please let everyone who might be interested know we are hosting this competition and we are looking forward to read you work!

Text to be translated, by Cees Noteboom, first passage from Allerzielen:

Pas een paar seconden nadat hij langs de boekwinkel gelopen was merkte Arthur Daane dat er een woord in zijn gedachten was blijven haken, en dat hij dat woord intussen al in zijn eigen taal vertaald had, waardoor het meteen ongevaarlijker klonk dan in het Duits. Hij vroeg zich af of dat door de laatste lettergreep kwam. Nis, een raar kort woord, niet gemeen en bits zoals sommige andere korte woorden, eerder geruststellend. Iets waarin je je kon opbergen, of waar je iets verborgens in aantrof. Andere talen hadden het niet. Hij probeerde het woord weg te krijgen door sneller te lopen, maar dat lukte niet meer, niet in deze stad, die erin gedrenkt was. Het bleef aan hem haken. De laatste tijd had hij dat met woorden, wat dat betreft was haken de juiste uitdrukking: ze haakten zich aan hem vast. En ze klonken. Ook als hij ze niet hardop zei hoorde hij ze toch, soms leek het zelfs of ze galmden. Zodra je ze uit het snoer haalde van de zinnen waarin ze thuishoorden kregen ze, als je daar gevoelig voor was, iets angstaanjagends, een vreemdheid waar je niet al te veel over na moest denken omdat anders de hele wereld ging schuiven. Te veel vrije tijd, dacht hij, maar dat was nu juist zoals hij zijn leven had ingericht. In een oud schoolboek had hij ooit gelezen over ‘den Javaan’ die, als hij weer een kwartje verdiend had, onder een palmboom ging zitten. Kennelijk kon je in die lang vervlogen dagen heel lang leven van een kwartje, want die Javaan ging volgens het verhaal pas weer werken als het kwartje helemaal op was. Daar werd schande van gesproken in dat boekje, want zo kwam een mens niet verder, maar Arthur Daane had bedacht dat de Javaan gelijk had.