Thursday, 28 October 2010

Destressing...

Well the past few days for all U211'ers has been quite stressful with the run up to the first TMA deadline of the course.  There has been so much support and comradeliness on the Forums it has been great, the new posts were coming in thick and fast as people were taking a break from the word counting, referencing, general muddling over what the question meant.  Whatever time of day you visited it was active, for the first time I felt that I was not alone and that I was part of our community.

As for the TMA itself well, I am glad to be rid of it, I managed to hand it in with plenty of time to spare before deadline which was great!  I don't know what to expect in terms of a grade, I am hoping for a 40% pass at least I might even be hopeful for 50-60%.  The biggest sense of achievement really comes from actually carrying on when I wanted to give up and making a submission of something I worked my hardest on.

I have learnt a lot from this experience, I know that going forward to make notes as I read, I know not to worry about other peoples experiences of the course and to concentrate on how I am getting on and deal with it in my own time, I know that I can ask for help or express a concern on the Forum and will be met with others in the same boat.  I am not the worlds most organised person, and if it were a sliding scale I'd probably be closing in on the worlds least organised person, but I have begun to make use of organisational tools.  Every TMA and Tutorial is marked in my Outlook calendar, with alarms to remind me plenty in advance, I have also marked in other appointments and commitments so that I can make study appointments with myself.  As a result it is not only helping with my studies but every area of my life.

Now we all just have to think about what we wrote until the marks come back, which should be within the next two weeks, I'll keep you posted.  Now best get started on the next lot of studies and checking out TMA02!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Snow big deal...

So most of my posts have been about my studies but I want to make this as much about that as it is about the hugest thing in my life, moving to Germany!  I really am so excited about it, and I still have such a long time to go before the move happens.  I know that the closer the date gets some of that excitement will be overshadowed with fear and self doubt which is only natural, which is another reason for wanting to post more about the subject, so that when I do wake up at 5am panicking I have somewhere to come to calm me down and remind me just why this is the best decision I can make.

Originally when we talked about relocation it was supposed to be next month and it was decided before I set foot on German soil, we had of course covered what would happen if I arrived and hated it there, luckily for us both I didn't I instead fell in love with the place.  The first visit I had to his home was last December, we had spent Christmas in England with my family and flew out on 28th to spend New Year with his.

Originally his mum had chastised him for bringing me over during winter for my first visit, but actually this is part of the reason I knew I made the right decision.  It wasn't just because the place is insanely beautiful when covered by 6 inches of snow, which it is, or that even though it was cold it wasn't damp like England can be but crisp and refreshing.  It was more to do with the fact that life carried on as normal, and back home there was utter chaos and everything was at a standstill, if we had been at home we would have been housebound but instead we still got out and about exploring.

Although I have felt very much at home there each time, and his family and friends have been extremely welcoming, I decided that I wasn't ready to make the move.  There were a variety of reasons for this, such as my Brother having his first child in January and I would like to be able to spend some time getting to know my new Nephew, I was accepted on my OU courses as well as wanting to continue with the group of people I am at evening class with through to next year. I also wanted some extra time with my Dad, our relationship over the years has been turbulent and we are finally spending some quality time together on a regular basis and I wanted that to continue for a while before leaving, safe in the knowledge that we can maintain that level while being far away.

I have now made 3 trips over and will be spending another month there this Christmas, and I will be seeing my BF in 10 days time for a long weekend, can't wait!  A long distance relationship is hard but, as I have said before, we do make the most of our time together and we are never far out of contact, whether it be hours chatting to each other in the evening or MSNing during the day.  We can talk about anything with each other and neither of us judges the other.  Like everyone does, we do have the odd disagreement but never fall asleep unless it is resolved.  It is hard to describe how you know you have found "the one" but with all my past relationships there has always been a voice in the back of my mind saying 'well when I'm single again I'll...' and with Uwe that voice just makes plans for us and our future together, and for me that is how I know.

I have been busy with investigating moving and this week I have been looking at shipping prices deciding that I don't have enough stuff I want to hold onto to justify paying the extortionate rates involved so, unless I can find someone that fancies a road trip across Europe, I will be taking 4 suitcases max 80 kilos, hopefully less, it depends on what my big de-clutter leaves when I start it in January.

Three firsts...

Well I really meant to post before now as there has been quite a lot going on to report.  I had my first U211 Tutorial at the weekend and I found it to be very useful.  The group was a nice size of about 11 people and the tutor was quite enthusiastic which was nice as I had been worried that his lack of contact was going to be an indication of tutorial quality, but I am pleased to say that was not the case.  It was good to know that like myself most people also felt a bit daunted by the module, I think that comes from the fact that it is a compulsory module in so many degree combinations so a lot of us wouldn't go near this subject by choice.  That said it is very interesting and the tutor told us that most people find the first block the hardest going and find the rest of the course a lot better, so there is hope!

TMA01 is due next week and I have been working through the text book with my highlighter pen and writing summary notes for each sub-section which I am finding extremely helpful and I have decided that I will tackle the materials this way from now on.  I don't think that I have ever been taught how to study properly, I really have never taken notes about anything but now I am able to identify areas of interest and by trying to summarise in my own words I am finding the information is even sticking!  I don't expect to get a high mark for the TMA and at the moment I am aiming for the 40% needed to pass, which is helping to take the pressure off, of course I am trying my best and it would be nice to get higher but 40% would suffice.

L193's website opened today and the first thing I checked, as I think most OU students do, was the TMAs and their submission dates.  I was surprised at the pace of the course, although I suppose it is beginners but the final TMA is due at the end of August and the ECA at the End of September, I expected that because it started one month after U211 that it would finish a month after too which would make it mid July.  I will aim to get ahead as much as I can so that I don't find L130 too much of a step up.  As for the TMAs themselves they look quite straight forward and I was happy that I can complete most of the first one without looking anything extra up, so over the past year of evening courses I have retained some knowledge!

I am still excited to be studying, I will be happier after next week when the first assessment is under my belt though.

Bis sp├Ąter!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Nine Months

Well, after some discussions, a few days ago we finally set a date for me to move to Germany, and it is a lot sooner then it was going to be, nine months today in fact.  I am very happy to actually have a date pencilled in the diary, by that time both U211 and L193 will have finished and I will be quite far through L130 too, and I am happy that I should have enough German to get by and really the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in it.  I am of course even happier that I will get to go to bed, with and wake up next to, my lovely German boyfriend.

I have already started gathering useful information such as German bank accounts etc, and after Christmas I shall start my 6 month de-cluttering project!  I do have too much "crap" around and I want to move as little as possible to make room for other essentials like Newkie Broon and English Mustard to last for quite some time :p

Monday, 11 October 2010

Distracting Distractions

Well I finally wrote the first 51 words of TMA01 today, being sick with Flu too.  I think they are a good 51 words, well I suppose good is in the eye of the beholder but I am happy with them.  The TMA is split into two parts.  In the first part we have to explain the meaning of two linguistic terms, which have been chosen by the course moderators, in 100-150 words per definition.  Part two is a 900 word essay about one aspect of the history of English.

I still have 2.5 weeks before it is due but I am not sure how I am going to understand what is expected more than I do today, our tutor so far has made no contact, other people have at least had a welcome email even if for some it had out of date information.  Others are lucky and have active tutor group forums with activities and advice, I am hoping that the tutorial will be good next week and he is just waiting until he has met us in person before posting on-line, but somehow I'm not holding my breath.

So because of my lack of knowing which direction to go in pretty much everything else seems a lot more interesting than studying, such as the U211 forum which as you might have noticed from my previous posts is not short of controversy.

There are couple of people that are self confessed experts and feel the need to chime in and assert their egos dropping highly academic concepts to people that for all they understand might as well be written in Chinese, and there are people that seem to praise them every time they say something which only encourages them to get more involved.  I am sure they are trying to be helpful but there have been a few occasions where they have been wrong and most of all they are making a lot of people feel very uncertain with their ability, so this week I was happy to see the emergence of something called "The Out Crowd" which is open to anyone who doesn't have a clue what is going on.  The other thing to bear in mind is that as interesting as I am sure it is, we need to stick to the U211 curriculum and it might be that the information given to us by people other than the tutors might be a hindrance rather than a help.

(Edit: I wanted to add to the above as there was a post on the Out Crowd thread from someone that has been very helpful and not one of the people I was referring to above saying that he will no longer post on the forum because he doesn't want to make people feel put off by "clever answers".  I have found all posts by the guy in question to be extremely helpful and easy to understand.  The posts that I am referring to contain highly technical information that a person with no linguistic background cannot understand, which is why most people find it frustrating.  I shall say no more on this subject as it is not my intention to offend anybody just to vent my own inner thoughts, which is why I have added this here and not created yet another new blog entry on the subject.)

The other thread which is getting most attention is one about Linguistic Pet Peeves, which does have some of the things in there that you might expect such as They're/Their/There, Your/You're, etc but a lot had to do with the pronunciation and regional dialectal variations, such as pronouncing "garage" as garridge and valette instead of valet, which has unsurprisingly riled some people.  The many varied dialects and accents of Britain are wonderful and should be celebrated, it is a way of identifying immediately with someone you have just met and most of us wear our accents with pride.  I love a nice west country accent personally because it reminds me of my Nan and many childhoods spent there, of course there will be some accents we prefer to listen to, and some we might not even be able to understand but if we all spoke in the same way then wouldn't television be boring?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Joys of Forums

Forums, they are a great source of information and if you find the right one to pose your question on there will be someone that knows the answer to that question no matter how obscure.  Often they are also the home of a fantastic (insert sarcasm) breed of people called "Forum Trolls", generally they have no life and will post anything if they believe it will provoke a negative response from other users, nothing is sacred and because they can hide behind the anonymity of their avatar they are more outrageous and confrontational then they would be in real life.  One of their favourite things on Facebook is to create a number of false accounts and join groups just to troll, they will post racist, sexist and any other kind of negative and offensive -ist comment and unfortunately people rise to the bait, in fact I have heard people refer to it as Baitbook.

It happens on all forums to different degrees, I have spoken before about the self promoting know it alls, but someone brought up a good point on the U211 forum earlier that often hostility arises from misinterpretation of written language compared to spoken is this accidental trolling?  When you speak to someone, even if you can't see their facial expressions, you can hear their intonation and intention.  When it is written it the person may have penned a cheeky comment that if spoken would have been light and mischievous in tone, the person reading may interpret it in a more direct way as if it was meant to insult.

In the case I am referring to in particular someone asked a question in a new thread when it had already been answered in the exact same way in another larger thread of the same subject, there are in fact about 7 or 8 threads with the same topic, unfortunately the forum has no sticky or else an FAQ thread could have been started, another person pointed it out and expressly said that he was not ranting but just offering advice. The original person then took complete offence and wrote quite a direct reply back which could have only one way of interpreting it, you get the idea.

As with everything there are pros and cons to forums and for the most part they are, as I stated at the beginning of this post, great sources of chat/information sharing/ideas bouncing, but how can we make the most of them and post our pieces of text to be interpreted the way they are meant to be?  This extends to not just internet forums but all forms of written communication such as email, texts, instant messaging, internal memos, etc.  With more and more ways of communicating instantly via textual means this is something that might evolve in the future, a version of English that can be taken the way it is meant to be.

Other than that I have finished all the units and am still not so sure about my ability to write the TMA, everyone else seems to be talking about how many notes they have taken and I have to admit to taking none, I never have taken notes but I am wondering if perhaps doing so might help my learning and understanding, so from tomorrow I will be reading through the first three chapters of the book for the third time, but at the end of each sub section within the chapter I will try to write a summery of what it was about in my own words.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Home Comforts

After having a conversation with friends on a forum where I informed them that Lemsips were not available in Germany, I have added a new page to the blog, it will be a list of things that I cannot get in Germany and will miss. A very modest amount of items on there at the moment just the aforementioned Lemsips and English Mustard, there is a good range of mustard available but not English!

I have also found a few good websites answering questions related to moving to Germany, the most general one is called Toytown Germany (http://www.toytowngermany.com/) aimed at English speaking ex-pats it contains forums where you can ask for advice from people that have, a searchable wiki with lots of useful information as well as job listings and news (Edit: there is a large expat contingent who appear to hate all things German, everyone does need a place to vent every now and then and after a while you learn to ignore them). I found a brilliant German Wage Calculator (http://www.parmentier.de/steuer/steuer.htm?wagetax.htm) which allows you to see exactly how much your net income will be and the breakdown of taxes and other contributions. So I will look at adding a links box down the side of the blog, just need to work out how to do it :p

Saturday, 2 October 2010

On the Up

Well last night after my panic I did go on to work through the whole of unit 2, some of it I had looked at before I knew the subject of TMA01, and I am now confident enough that I could be able to draft a an answer to past of the question and I know the structure needed for another part of the question.

In the coming week I will study unit 3 which is the last unit which TMA01 is concerned with and then after that I shall start drafting, I would like to have a first draft of the TMA ready by the tutorial on 16th October, that way afterwards I will hopefully have a better idea of what the tutor is looking for and therefore be able to tweak it into a finished version.

I am really pleased that I worked around the panic attack, which blocks be from functioning as a human being for so many things, I really want to make a go of this module, I am not expecting miracles like a distinction but I would like to pass with more than just the minimum mark.

The one concern that I am having at the moment is my lack of note taking, I am sure that I should be doing something, but I suppose that if I want to know a particular piece of information I know where it is located within the unit/course books/dvds and should be able to access it fairly easily, unlike a lecture which when it is over it is only available in memory and notes taken. My Glossary of Terms is getting slightly bigger though so that is something at least.

Anyway I am going to have some time away from the books today and do something fun...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Panic Stations

U211 officially starts tomorrow, so now that I have started understanding the more basic grammar terminology I thought I would start working through the course materials to get a head start. Armed with all the materials I need I sat down and looked at TMA01 so that I can hopefully pick out the areas which will be helpful.

Unfortunately this has put me into a full on panic about my ability, complete with nervous sick feeling in my belly. I wanted to just give up right now but instead I decided to take a break after re-familiarising myself with the first unit, I took a walk to the shop for some fresh, albeit wet, air and decided that I need to blog in order to convince myself that I can do this.

I am not supposed to open up the TMA booklet and see a question that I can answer immediately, if that was the case why am I studying the course. I haven't even started working on the parts that will most relate to the questions so of course I don't know where to start yet. There is a tutorial between now and the cut off date where any questions I have can be asked.

I know that I am not alone, yes there are a few people on the forums that seem to have studied linguistics before either professionally or out of personal interest but they are the minority, there are many people that have used the word "daunted" for a variety of reasons. It is a natural human trait to show off how much you know about something already, I am sure I have done it myself when it came to a subject I was passionate about, even so it can make you feel a little on the dumb side if you are lacking confidence in the first place.

I do think that the course is going to be extremely interesting, what I have read so far strengthens that view. I think most of it is down to the fact that I have not written an essay to this level of academic study on this subject ever before, coupled with the knock I took a couple of weeks ago in my understanding of Grammar.

I am pleased to report that blogging has indeed calmed me down for now, so Unit 2 watch out! I'm coming to get you!