Fry’s Planet Word: Babel

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

patrick-tomasso-71909-unsplashWhat is the value of language? Indeed, why is it something that we study, or devote the slightest iota of attention to? ‘Babel’, the first episode of Fry’s Planet Word, presented by Stephen Fry, explores this very notion, focussing upon the origins of language as a uniquely human concept, helping both teachers and students to gain a greater understanding of this foundational method of communication and thus obtain a greater appreciation, both of its importance and how it continues to shift and develop over time.

At its root, language is the grounding method of communication, but it does far more than that, with the acquisition and development of our utilisation of language being, according to Fry, ‘the most complex bit of brain processing that we know of.’ It goes beyond an animalistic need to communicate fear, hunger, danger, etc., becoming a nuanced social medium that differentiates vastly from person to person based upon a multitude of factors: the particular language you speak, the breadth of your personal vocabulary and manner in which you use it, the register that you use, whether or not in is appropriate to use idioms and colloquialisms regarding the situation, the list goes on and on. In short, language is something that uniquely identifies us, but also allows us to find commonality and communicate with those around us.

At present, there are approximately 7,000 languages in use today, varying from a handful of users, to over a billion. Whilst many of these languages differentiate in their conception of sentence structure, complexity, breadth of vocabulary, whether or not they are vocalised (in the case of sign language), the vast majority are made up of the same basic components: nouns, to identify things; adjectives, to describe them; verbs, to tell you what they do. It is from the use of these building blocks that much of what we identify as being a uniquely human quality springs from, a sinuous and consistently changing lens through which our worldview is shaped, in addition to allowing other people to share in our perspective.

Fry demonstrates the pervasive and fundamental nature of language in ‘Babel’ through a myriad of ways: the initial acquisition of language as the documentary tracks 15 month old Ruby over a one year period, philology, the comparisons between the Turkana language and English, how communication methods between animals are vastly different than those explored in humans, the determining factors on if a language flourishes or dies out, how our brains are affected by language use, and many other topics.

‘Babel’ proves to be an informative and uniquely insightful glance into the value of language and how it underpins so much of our daily lives, and will prove to be of particular interest to English and Language students as a supplement to their primary studies.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Fry’s Planet Word- Babel (S01E01)

The Sound of Aus (2007) 

TED-ED Lessons Worth Sharing- The Controversial Origins of the Encyclopedia

How I’m Discovering the Secrets of Ancient Texts

 

Shakespeare For Today

SmartLessons, Sophie's Tips, Tips and Tricks, Video Highlights

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William Shakespeare is undoubtedly one of the greatest playwrights in history, and likely the best known. His work is still broadly studied and performed worldwide, more than four centuries after his death- so how has his work acquired a stereotype of being fusty, irrelevant and difficult to decipher?

Whether or not you are aware of it, Shakespeare’s work has cemented itself in the collective conscience of our society. For example, look at these common sayings and idioms: a foregone conclusion, a sea change, a sorry sight, dead as a doornail, all’s well that ends well, be all and end all, foul play, green eyed monster, hot-blooded, a charmed life, lie low, in a pickle, in stitches, I have not slept a wink, night owl, up in arms, woe is me, wild goose chase– the list goes on and on. What do these have in common? They were all originally coined by Shakespeare.

Perhaps one of the greatest errors in the study of his work is to concentrate solely upon the transcriptions of his plays: Shakespeare counted himself as a playwright, and thus his plays are designed to be performed to an audience as a visual medium, and not limited to the page. Given a performance of his work, the cadences of language and utilisation of techniques such as metaphor and iambic pentameter immediately become apparent to students, opening up the apparent barriers between our modern English and that of Shakespeare’s day. This allows students to better utilise their knowledge of the themes and motifs being explored within his work, rather than being bogged down by individual stanzas, without understanding the broader context of the act, or indeed the piece as a whole.

Indeed, perhaps the reason Shakespeare has been such an enduring influence upon our society is due to the commonality of the human experience that is explored within his work. Whether you are studying works as fanciful as the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream or the romance The Tempest, his histories or his tragedies, they are all rooted in the tribulations, the joys, the melancholy and the general experience of what it is to be human. Love, loss, revenge and political intrigue are all common threads within his work, and it is largely for this reason that Shakespeare has stood the test of time- think of any popular film, television series, book or popular culture phenomenon, past or present, and they will likely be grounded in at least one of these things. Shakespeare was considered a vastly accessible playwright in his time, with every class coming to view his work. To be accessible to so many, he had to tap into the commonality between them all.

Another common error in studying his work is to purely view Shakespeare’s work through our own 21st century lens, without consideration for the historical, social and political context in which he was writing in. The culmination of this is often a sense of isolation and irrelevance on the part of students, or a complete misrepresentation of the original themes, such as an overt attachment of colonialist overtones to The Tempest. Whilst the universality of his plays and the exploration of our current context is an important addition to any textual study, it is just as vitally important to hold in consideration the viewpoints and broader context that Shakespeare was writing in.

As has been established, it is a necessity to study Shakespeare using a range of methods and angles, in order to better consolidate our understanding and bring his work to life. Here at TV4Education, we have a vast collection of material to better assist with this. Be it the fantastic Shakespeare Uncovered series, that delves into the context that Shakespeare wrote the play in whilst also examining how it the work continues to evolve, its relevance in today’s society, and the different facets that are explored by different actors, productions and scholars; or Lenny Henry Finding Shakespeare, a witty, down-to-earth look at how Shakespeare was originally for everybody, how this has changed over time, and how to rectify this; or the numerous of productions of his work in our collection, from Richard II, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest and many more.

Whilst close study of the written text is an important facet, viewing Shakespeare in action and accessing  a variety of perspectives through the medium of multimedia will prove to be an invaluable tool and addition to the classroom. The amalgamation of these learning techniques will foster an increased appreciation of Shakespeare’s work, something that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Here’s a list of TV4Education resources that can be used in relation to the topics covered in this post. If you use the SmartSuite version of TV4Education just search for the titles below on your site.

Shakespeare Uncovered – Series

Lenny Henry Finding Shakespeare

The Taming of The Shrew

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare Animated – Series

Horrible Histories Special Sensational Shakespeare

Othello

Hamlet

Insults by Shakespeare

Relates to Australian Curriculum Codes;

ACHAH070, ACDSEH059, ACELA1500, ACHHS070, ACHHS086, ACHHS124

Geography Week – a global ticket from your classroom

Newsletters, Video Highlights

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hawaii

Wild Hawaii – Land of fire

Explore the fiery heart of Hawaii — from volcanic eruptions spewing rivers of molten lava to spiders that smile, fish that climb and turtles that bury secrets in a landscape that defies expectations. Learn about the monster at Hawaii’s molten core, Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. See how Hawaii’s creatures have evolved to be different from their cousins the world over. Finally, we show how 95 percent of the flora on these islands does not exist anywhere else in the world.

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Travel Man – Iceland

Richard and Jessica Hynes explore the wild and wanton scenery of Iceland. Find out more about the places they visited.

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Travel Man – Istanbul

Richard and comedian Adam Hills get a massage, a very close shave, and do some haggling.

marrakech

Travel Man – Marrakech

Richard and Stephen Mangan eat steamed sheep’s head and go camel riding in the desert.

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Nature’s Microworlds – Galapagos

A visit to arguably the most famous archipelago on Earth, the Galapagos. It’s home to a myriad of bizarre and unique creatures, endemic to these islands – but how did they get here and what is the key to these extraordinary islands that allows them to thrive? 

east capeThe East Cape

The East Coast of New Zealand is a spectacular coast blessed in stunning beauty. Lonely shores are strewn with driftwood, while picture postcard sandy bays lure just a handful of visitors.

wild britainWild Britain – January To March

This enchanting series that reveals why Britain’s climate is so unique and why the country’s relationship with its wildlife is so enduring and so special.

wild arabiaWILD ARABIA – Sand, Wind and Stars

Revealing the astonishing landscapes, extraordinary wildlife and remarkable people found in the vast region of Arabia, which stands at the crossroads of three continents.

cool japanCOOL JAPAN – WINTER

Convenience stores are lined with winter edition products, and the changing of kotatsu, futons, and even tableware in households for the winter is a wintry scene unique to Japan. A foreign guest visits the location of anglerfish, the king of winter food loved by the Japanese. 

urban lifeExploration India – Urban Life

What is life like in urban India? Join a team of 13 year olds as they travel from the UK to learn about life as a teenager in their native land.

Rachel Khoo – making female chefs cool

Video Highlights

Here at TV4Education Plus – we love when any woman kills it in a male dominated field. Rachel Khoo is classy, talented, cool and extremely inspiring in the kitchen.

Follow her cooking journey around the world on TV4Education Plus and inspire some of the young women in your classroom.

Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook Melbourne (s010e1)

Food sensation Rachel Khoo travels around one of Australia’s most stimulating regions and immerses herself in the world-renowned foodie capital of Australia – Melbourne. #rkkitchennotebook

Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook Melbourne (s01e04)

Rachel takes a break from city life and heads out on a road trip to the Bellarine Peninsula, a region emerging as the new ‘it’ area for foodies seeking local produce. #rkkitchennotebook

Rachel Khoo’s Cosmopolitan Cook – Barcelona (Ep.10)

In the final episode, Rachel explores Barcelona, taking in the quirkiness and creativity of this vibrant city. Back home, she cooks savoury churros with a red pepper dipping sauce. #sbsfood