Posthuman Pedagogy

As I am learning to speak Hungarian I thought I’d use this for the posthuman pedagogy task. I’ve spent a week or two in Hungary these last couple of summers.   Total immersion is probably the best way to go;  surrounded by sounds, words and local voices. And as few speak English being ’forced’ to try the language definitely works for me. However, the reality is that I have to be a distance learner. For me to learn I need to read and hear at the same time – I can’t just listen.  By the end of the course I want the skills of reading, writing and speaking. It’s also important for me to go at my own pace.  I’ll probably want to re-do earlier chapters before moving on. These are some of my requirements before I went looking for a course.

To find a suitable course I searched on the Internet and also asked friends.   I finally chose the Complete Hungarian by Zsuzsa Pontifexwhich was recommended by a friend who had done a lot of research before making the choice so I benefitted from that. I actually bought the book and CDs when in Budapest but the author does run online courses. Zsuzsa is a native Hungarian who taught for a time  in Britain so has a very good understanding of the difficulties Hungarian poses for English speakers.    I like the way the lessons the lessons are set up; how the chapters are broken down; exercises given; words and phrases reinforced; and conversations given at normal speed (which is way too fast for me at present). I have to do a lot of travelling to and from schools this year so listening to the CDs is a great way to use the time.

There is also a BBC site that I use to help reinforce phrases which I have the opportunity to download onto mp3,  so I can listen on my iPod should I so wish.  I also like that this site displays soundwaves as I find it helps with pronunciation.

A native Hungarian recommended that I also watch videos by an Australian who speaks Hungarian.  He is known as Ausztrál Tom and is very popular in Hungary partly because he introduces slang terms as well as a little Australian culture. He doesn’t appear to have produced any new videos recently, these are a year old. I find it helpful listening to a non-native speaker and he’s entertaining.

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Of course there is so much more I can do to enhance my learning experience. To really get into the feel for the country I can take a virtual tour.  Budapest is a beautiful city, lots of history, culture, and wonderful architecture. I can book flights, check out train and shuttle times, find maps and information to other cities, all online.  And to find out what’s going on before visiting the city, this site will inform what’s happening locally:

It’s great having these technologies at my disposal to use when, where and how I decide.  Learning Hungarian is enjoyable (mostly) and it’s a challenge I have set myself although in order to progress I will rely on friends and native Hungarian speakers to encourage and correct my usage.






About Grace Elliott

Working at present as an Education Advisor for Abu Dhabi Education Council.
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6 Responses to Posthuman Pedagogy

  1. Jeremy Keith Knox says:

    The descriptions of language learning here are intriguing Grace. I like how you describe wider activities than mere learning of linguistic structures, such as virtual tours or city information. It is interesting to think how language (and language learning) might be a product of experience, place, and culture, rather than the foundation from which these things derive.

    The way you describe technology as altering the boundaries posed by geographical distance is interesting too. Your ‘total immersion’ becomes mediated by books, CDs, MP3s, and virtual tours, and with a posthuman lens, this seems to highlight the ways that face-to-face interactions might also be mediated, through our own technologies of perception, language, and urban space.

    • Grace Elliott says:

      Hi Jeremy,
      Thanks for your comments. Language learning has moved by leaps and bounds since I was a shoolgirl. I was thinking the other day that SecondLife would be an excellent tool to use. Total immersion could work there, e.g. walking through the virtual Hungarian streets, all signs and notices displayed in Hungarian; stopping by a restaurant, discussing the menu with the waiter before ordering a meal, making hotel reservations, asking for directions.. and so on. The limit is only our imagination (I can’t remember who said that). Maybe this is already happening in schools. :)

  2. Neil David Buchanan says:

    Hi Grace, I lived in Hungary for almost a year back in the early 90s, so I really admire you for taking on such a challenging language! I’ve been wondering a lot these last couple of weeks about how all of this relates to language learning. I tried to learn some Hindi following similar techniques but found it difficult to keep up the online motivation. Some great resources here and I like the way that you have included so many different ways of accessing the language.

    • Grace Elliott says:

      Hi Neil,
      Thanks for your comments. How interesting that you worked in Hungary. I seem to be following in your wake! Hungary, Dubai and India (although I only visited India). I looked at jobs in Hungary but they don’t pay much. It maybe an option for the future though. Because Hungarian is so different to English I feel that makes is easier to learn in a way. I expect there are a number of English words in Hindi. I agree that keeping motivation high online in tough. I have a friend who checks on my progress so that helps. :)

  3. Another post on language learning :-) – I’m definitely with Neil here, especially in regard to how it all relates to language learning. Could it be implemented in the language classroom? Should it? How?

    Learning the language is interesting because it’s not only about mastering the vocab and grammar structures but also about the culture, contextualised and personalised experience, shown by your preference for immersion and also discussed by Neil in his post.

    If in a broad sense posthumanism is about blurring the boundaries, learning a foreign language is a good example because you are bound to acquire a different identity. You become double in a way. There is a good video on vimeo showing the identity play which takes place when trying to learn a new language . How does the foreign language influence your first language identity? When speaking Hungarian, do you think in English, Grace? Does your voice change, your gestures, your facial expression?

    I find myself increasingly confused (mostly in a playful way) when I switch between English and Polish, the way I speak Polish using English sounds, the way I write in Polish using English ways, the way I overuse ‘thank you’ when in Poland but underuse it while in the UK. Who am I? What sort of a changeling? Am I still Polish? Could I be English? British? With my Slavic soul (whatever that is – I’m playing on stereotypes here)? Would I like to be one? What would I have to change in my intellectual and emotional make-up if I did? Lots of fascinating questions a language learner could/must ask themselves on top of mastering lists of vocab and grammar structures.

    If you’re interested in language learning and identity, there is some good stuff on Ben Goldstein’s website (talks section)

    On a more practical note – a few websites to check out if you want to learn a language , (both offer Hungarian) and (no Hungarian at the moment but there is Hindi and lots of other lanaguages).

    And yes, kudos for taking up such a challenge Grace – Hungarian is difficult! Good luck with it! :-)

    • Grace Elliott says:

      Hi Ania,
      Thank you for your comments. As always, you put a lot of thought into any responses you make. I can’t ever see me writing as well in Hungarian as you do in English. :) Thank you for the links too. I shall check them out. At school, and even after, I tried to learn French but apart from being able to say a few sentences, I was pretty inept. For many years I was willing to accept what my teacher told me, that I was no good at learning a language. I’ve spent the last few summers in Budapest and have fallen in love with the place. It is a difficult language but because it is so different from English I felt that would make it easier somehow. I can’t get away with ‘guessing’ what the word can be like I could with French. I must stress that I am an absolute beginner. I want to train myself not to translate everything into English, if that is possible. I have to say that the MSc has made me question how I was taught and how I learn. I am ridding myself of old beliefs. We are all capable of learning – it’s just a question of how much we want to. And I really want to learn Hungarian. :)

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