Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Popular linguistics online

I've been popularizing linguistics for more than three years on a Hungarian site Nyelv és Tudomány 'Language and Science'. I think this site offers ideal opportunities for discussing several language-related topics such as educational policies, minority rights, exotic cultures, games, IT gadgets, translation softwares or even methods in scientific research. Since I live in Finland, nowadays I especially like a series on Finnish popular culture: with my wife, we usually listen to the songs (for example Jukka Poika's) and learn a lot from the lyrics, its translation and the explanations provided by the authors.

Nyelv és Tudomány –

In April, my Finnish colleagues at the university invited me to a researcher meeting where I presented how I popularized the activities of the university's Language Campus and my own research. I emphasized that working on these multimodal materials (i.e. texts, pictures, videos are combined) helped me in rethinking my studies. When I write to a wider audience, I can't hide behind a fancy jargon: I need to explain the topic in plain language so those who are not experts of my field can also understand everything. I also need to apply those people's points of view who don't come from the academia. It's not by accident that I started this activity while writing my PhD thesis. I wanted to summarize the most important results for myself, and the best way of doing so was to explain them to others. Another thing I really like is that I get immediate feedback after each publication. In the case of academic journals, it takes a year or two to submit something, receive the reviewers' comments and publish your text, and feedback from readers comes after this long process. When I write to Nyelv és Tudomány, I send my manuscript, the editors carefully work on it and publish it within a couple of days or weeks – and, what is the nicest, everybody can like or comment my stuff immediately.

Materials for the Turku conference

The topic of a Turku conference was 'Language and linguistics in a technological world' so I prepared a paper on science popularization via internet. In this talk my personal activity was less emphasized, I rather concentrated on interactions between the authors of the materials and those who commented on it. I analyzed various bases and positions of argumentation (e.g. 'expert', 'non-professional') in the flow of the comments. I also presented, as I wrote in the abstract,
how such online journals as Nyelv és Tudomány can contribute to the social visibility and the self-positioning of linguists as professionals in the online culture of content production and consumption.
I can say that the colleagues liked both presentations and I hope that one day the English version of this site will be launched, and then enthusiastic Finns will also contribute...

Walking on the bank of river Aura

I always like visiting Turku with its old houses and nice city centre. I also like its bilingual (or, together with English, trilingual) reality. However, when I was consciously looking for Finnish–Swedish signs on the streets, I found less than I remembered and expected. The conference was also trilingual – at least in principle because I couldn't find any presentation in Swedish in the programme even though there were Swedish-speaking colleagues who were chatting in Swedish during the coffee breaks and social programmes.

Bilingual signs in Turku / Åbo: sometimes the Swedish text comes first

11 April 2014. Popularizing the Jyväskylä Language Campus on a private Hungarian linguistics portal. Language Campus Researcher Meeting, Jyväskylä.

10 May 2014. Popularizing linguistics in the digital age. 41st Finnish Conference of Linguistics ’Language and linguistics in a technological world’, Turku.

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