Mabel Osejindu

Mabel Osejindu
GRADUATED 2015, BA English Language and Linguistics
I am studying English Language and Linguistics at Queen Mary, University of London, now in my 3rd year. I've always wanted to attend QMUL and was so happy when I got in. I love my course and hope that I can pursue a career in either teaching, writing/publishing, language research or broadcasting (I'm still deciding!). I love reading, writing and playing tennis - and I hope to learn the piano and learn another language one day!

Am I bilingual? Yeah, kind of.

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Having completed a module in bilingualism for my course, it got me thinking about whether I myself was a bilingual, and if I could ultimately claim that my choice of degree was indeed credible given that eve-ry sin-gle time I am asked what course I study, I often get confused replies assuming I must speak other languages. It goes something like this:

 

Person: So, what do you study?

Me: English Language and Linguistics

Person: Cool, do you speak any another language(s)?

Me: No (laughs knowingly of expectations)

 

Most people would define a bilingual as an individual who speaks two languages. Fluently, for that matter, right? This notion is really what theorists call a “balanced bilingual” – which has proven to be very unlikely in realistic terms because bilinguals are rarely equally fluent in both languages in every single topic discussable.

However, “passive bilinguals” are different. They often have the ability to understand a language but not speak the language i.e. produce meaningful sentences in that language. Strangely enough, this is not an unusual thing. I am a passive bilingual, by definition. English is my first language which I can speak, read and write in but I have a profound understanding and comprehension of a dialect of a language called Enuani Igbo, my parents’ native tongue. Now, I cannot speak Enuani Igbo fluently at all but my conversations with my family usually consist of an interaction between both languages. My parents may speak Enuani Igbo, and I reply in Standard English, or a may give short Igbo replies, mostly Igbo “backchannels” and “fillers”.

 

I had always always always thought that I was a monolingual (someone who only speaks and understands one language) because of the widely accepted definition that a bilingual must speak all the languages they know fluently, and in the extreme case, write, read and understand in all they languages they know. So learning about passive bilingualism, in a way, reconstructed my identity. I have more knowledge of the entire dimension of bilingualism and the many variables that affect the phenomenon. According to the field, it is most likely that I understood both languages during childhood and then as English began to be spoken more at school and in other forums, knowledge of Enuani Igbo worsened.

While I hope I can one day speak my second language fluently, I can now say I am a (passive) bilingual/former monolingual.

 

New conversation:

Person: So, what do you study?

Me: English Language and Linguistics

Person: Cool, do you speak any another language?

Me: No (laughs). But I am considered a passive bilingual I understand another language which I can’t speak entirely fluently.

Person: Okay interesting

 

(This may well make you rethink your ‘language’ status!)

 

 

See for more information: Romaine, Suzanne (1995), Bilingualism (Oxford: Blackwell).

Coffee Inspiration

So it’s the final week of term and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. It’s my last ever week of lectures for my degree. One thing I will miss which sounds a bit weird is the quotes (or notes) that are written on the blackboard just outside “the Coffee House” on Grove Road, a couple of yards from East Gate at the Mile End Campus which sell tea, coffee, cakes and other baked goods. They give you something to think and reflect about and make you laugh (sometimes out loud), especially in the hectic, busy life of a final year undergraduate student. It’s always positioned in a really visible position for pedestrians to read and it almost makes you feel intrigued to buy something from their shop. There have been countless good ones but unfortunately I haven’t been able to take pictures of many. But I did manage to get one!

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I think it’s a creative thing for the store to do. I will miss seeing and reading them once I have officially left the beloved Queen Mary uni. Not only has it been a recent thing used by the store but is also an idea widely used in Mile End underground station. Double inspiration and thought for students!

 

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Mentor?

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I recently joined the Linguistics helpdesk in the linguistics department of SLLF. I am available to help in the area of prosody/phonetics and second language acquisition. As a third year student, I’ve developed some useful skills and abilities that could be beneficial to 1st and 2nd year students like time management, revision techniques, module content, organisation etc. As you progress through your degree, you are, in my opinion, better able to manage your workload in question and plan your time more effectively given the time you’ve has to adapt to uni like in general. In first year, I would literally panic about each assignment and worry about time constraints, and understanding info in lectures and group work (which can be strenuous) and the like. But now, I am a tad more relaxed; I’m able to set aside time effectively for the abundant list of tasks for the week ahead and utilize lecturer office hours and also the gift of having an “organised” diary. So I think your degree is really a journey in confidence, flexibility and growth. It gets better semester by semester! I’d encourage third year students to take on mentor roles like such on campus as it does help enrich another student’s experience whether it’s the understanding of a particular topic or advice on approaching assignments, but also remind yourself on how far you’ve come yourself!

Memphis: The Musical

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So on the last day of term on the 12th Dec, I went to see one of the most popular musical show in theatre right now, Memphis the Musical, partly to celebrate the end of my exam and a stressful semester as a whole. I had only been to the Shaftesbury theatre once before to see “Umoja” in 2004 (I think – *jogging my memory*). Got there and the theatre was packed with people, eagerly anticipating the show. I waited a while for the show to start but when it did, it went straight into song with a loud thump/beat that caught the immediate attention of every member of the audience. It tells the story of forbidden love between a black female singer (played by the UK soul artist, Beverley Knight) and a white male radio show presenter set in racially segregated Memphis, U.S. There were so many moving and catchy songs; my personal favourite is “Someday”. I was singing the songs a good 2 weeks after the show – everything about it was great, the dancing and the production. My favourite scene is definitely the finale where all the actors sing an dance “Steal your Rock and Roll” in bright gold and black outfits. Beverley’s voice was phenomenal! For those who love musicals, you’ll love it. Ii think it’s the hottest place in Oxford Street this winter.

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Presentation time!

I did my first ever individual (assessed) presentation of my degree so far yesterday and can I say that it was such an amazing sense of relief afterwards! It was really quite daunting at first being all up there by yourself but once I got into it, I was fine and my chosen topic’s capacity to be intellectually stimulating took over – it brought out the inner ‘teacher’ in me. I chose to talk about “Turn-taking” and conversational management – a fascinating aspect of linguistics and spoken language research. It started off well till it came to the point in my presentation where I had to play an audio clip (of people having a conversation) to support a particular argument of mine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t loud enough for the classroom to hear as it had been recorded from a considerable distance from those speaking in the clip. I was disappointed but I didn’t let it get me down. I continued and remained calm until the end where my class and lecturer commenced the ‘questions’ portion of the talk. And that was it! Over in just over 15 mins. Later in the day, I received an email with my mark which I was really pleased with, given some of the shortcomings I had. But I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a few tips (I could add way more but the space!) on how to deliver a great presentation:

1. Be prepared: Research widely in your chosen presentation topic/field as you lecturer can really tell when you have well-prepared for it and have spent considerable time and effort on it, compared to a couple of Google searches. Strive to stand out by researching widely!

2. Project your voice: Right, so this really does apply to those of us who are quite shy and quiet (like I am), but your lecturer needs to hear what you are saying in order to assess you. If you’re nervous, think about positive things (e.g. something really funny or maybe something that always makes you smile inside, or even pretend one of your friends/loved ones is standing right beside you in front of the class silently reassuring and encouraging you, to kick-start the process of release into a relaxed, composed side of you – it all sounds a bit weird but it works)

3. Eye contact: It is REALLY important that you maintain eye contact with both your lecturer and classmates to make your presentation engaging by acknowledging them and not simply reading from your presentation notes which can easily become a habit. Try even memorising your presentation notes so that you don’t have to read or constantly look down at your notes and can therefore maintain the flow of your speech.

4. Audio: Last but not the least, if you’re playing any audio sound or video clip in your presentation; try it out before your presentation on the day in the classroom you will be doing it in. Politely ask your lecturer at the end of your lecture if you could test your audio ahead of your presentation next week (or even 2 weeks ahead), assuming there isn’t a class in the same classroom straight afterwards in which I’m still sure you can work something out.

These are just a few. But presentations I think don’t have to be daunting or time-consuming to prepare for – preparing adequately for a presentation puts your mind at rest ahead of the day. Perhaps even checking out books on presentation skills can take your presentation to a whole new level. Not sure whether I prefer individual or group presentations though!

The Great British Festival

The Great British Festival!

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On the bright Sunday afternoon of the 27th July, my family and I headed down to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, East London for a family day out, thanks to the recent full opening of the whole park to the public since the 2012 Olympic Games. The free event attracted thousands of people from the home crowd to happy tourists and international visitors. Seeing as it’s summer and to indeed celebrate and have fun after the hard work of second year at uni, I thought what better way to really enjoy the summer than engaging in the spirit of festivity. Before the Games, I had signed up on the national website for email alerts for updates on ticket availability but to my disappointment, given that I spent most of the time working at the Park, I was unable to get any tickets to fit in flexibly into my schedule. However, the email alerts continued even after the Games, informing those who signed up, like me, opportunities to visit the Park once necessary reconstruction was completed and could subsequently invite the general public. That brings me to now; following the official opening of the park in April 2014, to which I received the email advertising the event.

The park looked great and the atmosphere was really amazing. It was vast (now a staggering 360 acres!) – even bigger than I remembered! From the main entrance, one could see the Aquatics Centre in view of the Olympics Stadium straight ahead, north of the main entrance.

 

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The canal

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Crystal view of the park!

Though I had been to the Olympic Park several times before myself, I noticed several transformations and changes to the Park. Right of the Aquatics centre entrance, used to be a plain levelled ground with several kiosks selling food and drinks, but now, the canal, which had been at the further north side of the park, had now been extended underneath a new bridge which acted as a pathway to the stadium.

Also, the festival itself featured reggae music played through loud speakers, local contemporary and rap artists (the best platform) and Brazilian dancers and performers who danced on the route, in bright blue, yellow and red colours, to the north of the park, handing out flyers on participation in Brazilian culture workshops which was cool. As well as seeing many people selling their own merchandise like children’s clothes, hand-made jewellery and fashionable handbags and purses, there was a vast array of food stalls too including British, Caribbean, Malaysian, Chinese, Vietnamese, American and Mexican food kiosks (though I didn’t taste some, they all smelt delicious!).

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Carnival performers during procession!

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I’ll definitely be visiting the Park again in the near future especially seeing as it’s so close to the main Queen Mary Mile End campus and most importantly, the fact that the Get Active program at QM sports centre has granted all QM students (who have signed up for Get Active online) access to the swimming pool in the Aquatics centre as part of a new collection of weekly activities available in the next academic year. Not to mention opportunities to see an awesome view of London from the Orbit tower! Why not sign up for the alerts on their website so you can be the first to know about further events?

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The aquatics centre!

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The aquatics centre!

See www.queenelizabetholympicpark.co.uk/whats-on/events for more.

Summer Reading Challenge Ambassadors!

Summer Reading Challenge Ambassadors!

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The summer is always a great time for new experiences and opportunities, especially in London! During the summer of 2012, I worked voluntarily as a Summer Reading Challenge Ambassador at my local library for 2-3 days a week, as part of the annual national programme with the Reading Agency to help children and young people (4-11 years old) to actively continue reading over the summer holidays. The kids are awarded prizes and stickers along the way for their achievements in reading a designated number of books within the 6/7-week span. Those who complete the challenge, which has a new theme every year (this year, the “Mythical Maze”), are awarded a badge and certificate and I can surely say that it was great to see the immense pride children had once they had completed the challenge. The role of the ambassador was simply to encourage children to read and engage with the sorts of stories associated with the theme in question through play and discussion. If anything, I gained invaluable and beneficial experience working with children, administrative and customer service skills and most importantly, the role really enhanced my interpersonal/communication skills.

Additional info on the job description!

Additional info on the job description!

 

If any of you guys are really interested in working with children and young people, love reading and have a passion for helping others, you can apply for the post this summer at your local library which runs from 12th July – 14th September 2014 – it would look great on your CV. Simply enquire, they’ll give you an application form and then, your form is left with the staff there for review! Alternatively, apply online at www.do-it.org.uk. Check out the websites below for more details:

http://summerreadingchallenge.org.uk/

http://readingagency.org.uk/young-people/004-get-involved/volunteer-as-an-activist-for-the-summer-reading-challenge.html

 

 

Living in London: Travelling from home

 

Living in London: Travelling from home

As many of you may know, living in the UK’s capital is quite expensive – and especially if you happen to be travelling from home in London to our various campuses in Mile End or Whitechapel, for instance, on a daily basis. But, the benefits and just the excitement many experience studying in this great city eventually overcomes any anxieties of commuting. Now, I live in Enfield, North London, and during the semester(s), I usually buy a weekly Travel card on my Student Oyster Card for £18.20 (up from £17.60 last year) to cover all my travel costs on both the Overground train (zones 2-4) and the bus, ensuring I attend all my lectures during the week. That’s £72.80 a month! For me, it is by no means cheap. I had taken the conscious decision to not work during my studies until the end of the final semester for the year in question, so money was funnily enough only going out of my bank account (and my dad’s) containing my savings from previous summer jobs/work placements. The ‘money out’ information of my bank statements were definitely a familiar sight!

Hence, living away from home or arranging long-term accommodation is an important decision to make. For those of you who are hoping to attend Queen Mary in East London and live in the areas in the far West of London such as Feltham, Stanwell or Weybridge or perhaps in Berkshire, Surrey, Bedfordshire or even Kent, this decision is even of greater significance. Do a bit of research on how long it would take to you to get to uni on an average day and how much (weekly or monthly) – perhaps by getting a hold of train timetables and maps from your local station. Maybe take a more pragmatic approach and draw a little table of the pros and cons of travelling from home or living on campus or a rented accommodation close by to one of Queen Mary’s campuses where you can just easily walk or cycle to uni.

 

 

Travelling from home?

Pros

Cons

¬   Convenient – expenses restricted to travel (at possibly stationery) therefore excluding costs of rent, laundry and food ¬   Expensive – could be time consuming

I’ve started for you!

 

If using an oyster card is new for you or you just want to generally find out more about your potential travel journeys and other questions regarding purchasing more efficient travel cards as opposed to pay as you go regular top-ups, check out the Transport for London (TFL) website, https://www.tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-payments/oyster.

Alternatively, for those of you who have already made a firm decision to commute from home, why not consider the 16-25 Railcard? It’s a travel card for students for only £30 per year, offering 1/3 off most rail fares throughout the UK. Getting your railcard is available online at a £3 discount so check out whether this railcard could be convenient for you and the area around your home at www.16-25railcard.co.uk/leaflet!

 

The 16-25 railcard brochure/leaflet available at your local (mainly overground) stations!

The 16-25 railcard brochure/leaflet available at your local (mainly overground) stations!

The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall

Now, I recently visited the Royal Albert Hall in Kensington, West London with my sister for the Rays of Sunshine charity concert. Though I’m a born and bred Londoner, I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the exquisite site previously and so, it was my very first time visiting. At first sight, one is definitely struck by the sheer size of the slightly oval-shaped building (it’s huge!). Its exterior is dressed with arched, golden-framed windows, dark ochre walls and a dome-like frame.

 

 

Side view of the Royal Albert Hall, opposite Kensington Park!

Side view of the Royal Albert Hall, opposite Kensington Park!

 

 

It is undoubtedly an amazingly designed building with so many doors! Opened by Prince Albert in 1871 through his passion for grand British infrastructure, it’s the famous stage for world class performers like Frank Sinatra, Elton John, the Beatles and Adele, and performers at the traditional Royal Variety Show for the Queen like the dance group, “Diversity”, high political figures and powerful
speakers like Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela, not to mention home to the BBC Proms.

 

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The stage from the back row seats!

 

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The beautiful sight of the building at night after the event!

Entering at door 11 stall J, the corridors inside are sophisticated and nicely modernized with historical pictures of events like the Queen’s 50th Anniversary Concert in July 2003 and Jay Z’s performance in September 2006. What’s really nice is that the hall offers an inside out tour of the entire building for individuals and groups (upon request) which would be great for all those new to London and want to explore some of its greatest sites, conveniently next to one of London’s largest parks, Hyde Park.

 

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The brochure about the tours of the Royal Albert Hall

 

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The brochure about the tours of the Royal Albert Hall (2)

 

More information is at www.royalalberthall.co.uk and its official Facebook page!
Mabel I. Osejindu
BA English Language and Linguistics, 2nd Year

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