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 WORLD BABEL

The Sound Of Aus (2007)

The controversial origins of the Encyclopedia

How I’m discovering the secrets of ancient texts

 

English Second Language

SmartLessons

Aim: To teach students how to deal with a particular situation with proper English and syntax.

English

Preparing:

Get students to pick a situation in which they want to learn about from the following list: Living English

Are there some Kangaroos

roo

Come to Lunch

lunch

You were going too fast

fast

Presenting:

After watching the clip get students in pairs to role-play the situation and give feedback on how they did.

Applying: 

This lesson can be repeated until students are fluent with all of the different scenarios.

©Copyright Functional Solutions 2017

Celebrate 400 Years of Shakespeare

Newsletters, Video Highlights

Othello

William Shakespeare’s Othello is a timeless story about race, love, jealousy and betrayal.

As you like it

“All the world’s a stage And all the men and women merely players”.

All’s well that ends well

Helen’s got it bad for Bertram and she’ll do anything to get him (like cure the king of France’s gross skin disease for a chance to choose any husband she wants). The problem is that Bertram’s not into Helen. At all.

Loves Labour Lost

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register’d upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;
When, spite of cormorant devouring Time,
The endeavour of this present breath may buy
That honour which shall bate his scythe’s keen edge,
And make us heirs of all eternity.