Hard Decisions

A few days ago, I talked to a friend about my Linguistics degree and languages, and got a bit sad that my decision to be a responsible adult and switch my focus now that I can’t teach in classroom anymore also means that I won’t be continuing with an MA in Historical Linguistics. The thing is, with an MA in Historical Linguistics, my chances of finding an online teaching job in that field are next to nothing (even teaching positions in classroom are rare since it’s a niche degree), but with an MA in Classics with a specialisation in Latin, my changes of finding such a job are a lot higher (maybe not astronomical, but definitely existant).

Now I had been thinking about taking Ancient Greek as my minor next to majoring in Latin (yes, I’m starting a second BA…and losing my scholarship because of it), but that talk really got me thinking, and revisiting the degree regulations for a few BAs and the Classics and Historical Linguistics MAs.

My findings? Much to my surprise, I can specialise in Latin in the Classics MA, meaning I’d only have one module about classical themes in Greek literature (I’d still need to actually know Ancient Greek but I wouldn’t have to do much in terms of literature studies for it). Yes! Don’t ask me why, but Greek literature doesn’t sound half as interesting to me as Roman literature does, maybe because a lot of the classical Greek epics and myths have been done ad nauseam in TV, books, etc., and because the typically treated Roman literature isn’t that limited to epics and myths.

So then I double-checked another BA I’m interested in to see whether it might be a better fit for me as my minor (I have to choose a minor with Latin), and yes, absolutely. It’s called Archeology and Culture of North-East Africa (in short AKNOA, from the German degree name), and besides a module about archeologicy, and one about writing mediums and that sort, I will be learning Middle Egyptian!

Still, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Middle Egyptian are only a few of the languages of antiquity around the Mediterranean. I want more.

I spent a great part of yesterday with research of languages and cultures in antiquity, in Asia Minor, Mesopotamia, the Orient, the Mediterranean region…and realised that I’ll have to restrict myself further since there were too many. The region and time frame are too widely set. So I tried to break it down further. I looked for the major cultures and languages from the beginning of the Hittite Kingdom till the fall of Rome (which is still a frame of over 2,000 years), and then further restricted it to the two major language families spoken in that region: Indo-European, and the Afro-Asiatic languages.

From the Indo-European side, I chose Latin, Ancient Greek, Hittite, Luwian (another Anatolian language and closely related to Hittite), and Old Persian (since the Greeks had a lot of dealings with the Achemenides, who spoke Old Persian). From the Afro-Asiatic side, there are Akkadian (which was spoken by Assyr and Babylonia, two of the major ancient cultures of Mesopotamia), Middle Egyptian, Coptic, and Demotic (the latter two developed from Egyptian).

Apart from Latin, in which I want to become fluent (since I want to teach it), I’d be happy with solid reading and translating skills from the other languages. I also want to get to know the cultures who spoke these languages. How did they live? What did they believe? How were they connected to other cultures of their time, and who was influenced by whom?

It’s a big package I put together for myself, but hey, I’m still young…

University Paper vs Brain Fog

There’s still one paper I have to hand in for university for my current BA. One paper, and then two seminars and a written exam in June. Sounds like a breeze, doesn’t it?

Well, if you pair a very complex topic with severe sleeping problems and a brain that may randomly shut down for a complete reboot (hello, Windows, no clue how I came up with you in this context), which could take anywhere from a few minutes to the rest of the day, suddenly this one paper becomes the Iron Man.

And in case you were wondering, yes, knowing I still needed to finish this paper did stress me out. Depending on my overall mood, I’d say the stress level of this knowledge was between a mild guilt while gaming (because even with a strategy CCG, it still takes less brain capacity than focusing on a complex topic that will be graded) and paralyzing horror (as in, I have lots to do but am unable to focus on anything because I’m completely overwhelmed and wondering whether I’ll get anything done in time).

“Just plan it for the next day, make time for it.” Yeah, thanks, great advice. For healthy people. I lost count of the days where, going to bed, I did exactly that. Make a mental note that the next day, I would do X for the paper. Only to have my brain turn on me (traitor!) and prevent me from sleeping, or from getting more than a few hours of dozing between tossing and turning, and getting up exhausted and frustrated–and kind of defeated.

Believe me, working on a complex thing–any complex thing–after a night of insomnia is not the greatest idea. Unless you like lots of mistakes, or re-doing your work on a day when your focus is better.

It was a long and hard battle. I paid for it in curses, stress, frustration and gifts to my brain (aka chocolate). But, I prevailed (by the way, thanks to my very helpful brain, it took me a nice improv round of Taboo with hubby, and then a dalliance with Thesaurus, to remember this word–another thing my brain likes to do more often nowadays).

This afternoon, I finished up the paper and printed it out. (Cue the hallelujah and the angelic choir. Thanks.)

Now if I can remember to get it bound on Wednesday, and then to hand it in next week Monday, that’d be great.

Victoria est meam. Vale.

A Paper about English Sentence Structure in an EFL Context

My latest paper for university dealt with the issue of regularising English sentence structure especially for low-level EFL learners. The way it is traditionally taught is confusing for a lot of students since it is rife with exceptions (randomly appearing do-support, adverbs of frequency changing places, exceptions concerning the verb be).

In the past four years, I’ve been teaching a lot of EFL classes at an elementary level, but also at higher levels, and basic sentence structure (e.g. questions, negation) has been a constant struggle for some students no matter their level. Since I started studying linguistics in 2014, I’ve started to notice some underlying structural regularities that aren’t taught by text books or grammar books. So I started teaching them the way I saw them, and although it might be a bit more confusing at the beginning when first confronted with it, my students seemed to gain a better understanding of English sentence structure, and I’m noticing less mistakes in my beginner’s class who learnt “my” structure from the beginning.

The paper has been graded a 1.0 (best academic grade in Germany) by my professor, and has been proofread for formatting issues and clarification afterwards. Feel free to share it with others who are interested in this topic, but don’t change it or claim authorship. I publish my paper under a CC-BY-ND-NC licence.


I’ll give a lecture at my university…

So, this is a thing, I guess.


How did it happen? And what on earth did I think?

Yesterday, I got an email from the professors inviting me to suggest (and then give) a lecture for this Kolloquium. They wrote to all students who are currently writing or have just finished writing their final thesis, no matter whether it was for a BA, an MA, or a PhD. And as I finished my BA thesis about my own conlang Kviglivok about a month and a half ago, I was one of the recipients. I responded, offering a lecture about the phonetic part of my thesis, namely “What does an invented language sound like?”

I don’t know how many conlangers had the opportunity to talk about their own language in front of a university class full of students of linguistics. I know Tolkien did, which means I kind of have very big shoes to fill, so to say.

I’m nervous. I have a full 90 minutes to fill with my lecture and a discussion about it. Can I get some encouragement in the comments, please?

Der Formenbestand klitischer Definitartikel im Ruhrdeutschen

Diese Hausarbeit habe ich im vergangenen Semester mit der Betreuung von Dr. Ulrike Freywald an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin geschrieben, im Rahmen meines Bachelorstudiums Germanistische Lintuistik (Note: 1,3).

An dieser Stelle möchte ich noch einmal allen Teilnehmern meiner Umfrage danken; ihr habt die Bearbeitung meiner Forschungsfrage erst möglich gemacht!

Ich stelle meine Hausarbeit hier wieder unter einer CC-BY-NC-ND-Lizenz ein. Ladet sie euch runter, lest sie, gebt sie weiter, solange ihr nichts verändert, mich als Autorin kennzeichnet und kein Geld damit verdient.

Der Formenbestand klitischer Definitartikel im Ruhrdeutschen_Hausarbeit Theresa Travelstead_WS15-16

Update on My Newest Hobby: Conlanging

I realised that I left you pretty much hanging when it comes to my decision about my bachelor’s thesis. So here’s confirmation: I will write about my first conlang, with a part about the historical background of artificial languages and famous conlangs and auxlangs.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to keep you updated on my conlanging progress much here since I’d run the risk of getting help I can’t properly reference in my paper, so my professor and I decided that I should rather not blog about it while writing my paper. I will publish it afterwards, though, as soon as it’s been graded.

Both the professors I asked about mentoring me (there are two mentors/examiners for a bachelor’s thesis here in Germany who will both grade it in the end) are excited about my project, and I feel I couldn’t ask for better mentors: one of them is the head of our department of phonetics/phonology, and the other one teaches language variation, and has written a grammar of a rather unknown language as her PhD project (plus, she knows a lot about a ton of languages, and not just European languages).

Already got some valuable advice regarding my conlang from both of them, as well as some literature recommendations.

Anyway, for anyone interested in this topic, I can highly recommend the following books as starting points:

  • Okrent, Arika (2010): In the Land of Invented Languages. New York: Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperbacks.
  • Peterson, David J. (2015): The Art of Language Invention. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Rosenfelder, Mark (2010): The Language Construction Kit. Chicago: Yonagu Books.

Warning, though: You might find yourself in too deep to get back out again once this topic has sneaked its way into your mind and heart 😉

The Education Journey Goes On

So I’m almost done with my TEFL certificate course (TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language), which is a blended learning course with a 20-h workshop in Berlin (was in January) and a 100-h online course. I’ve submitted the first of two final assignments for grading and now have to wait for my grade before I can tackle the last assignment. So far, my grade is somewhere in the 90 % range, but the quizzes on the course materials only amount to 40 % of my total grade, with the two final assignments amounting to the remaining 60 %. Depending on the last assignment, and when I’ll get my grade for the first assignment, I might still be able to finish the course before university starts again (semester starts on April 18).

That being said, I just enrolled in a specialization course on Coursera called Virtual Teacher specialization. I’m paying for the certificate for this specialization because I think it might help me in my teaching career, even though Coursera certificates are not necessarily recognised by employers. Where I’m working, I do believe that my boss will give credit to it (not necessarily because he knows the course but because it shows that I’m studying to improve my teaching skills and knowledge). Plus, we’re switching to a new textbook series in September, with the new series offering blended learning resources and videos. I might also get a smartboard installed in the room where I teach my classes so that I can use the new books’ resources more effectively in the classroom.

This specialization course will hopefully help me to make the transition to blended learning smoother, and might even enable me to create and offer my own online courses at some point in the future.

With university and the first course of the specialization starting at the same point, I just hope that I’ll have enough time to dedicate to online learning. I’ll be teaching three evenings plus two mornings per week while attending six 90-minute classes per week at university, and I’m considering writing my bachelor’s thesis this semester as well. But I’m looking forward to all of it, and while I wait, I still have some books on teaching English spelling at home.