“Astérix in Britain”: an exhibition on the life and work of René Goscinny

A major retrospective on the co-creator, with Albert Uderzo, of beloved Astérix books

Until 30th September 2018, Jewish Museum London is hosting a major retrospective exhibition on the life and work of René Goscinny (1926-1977), the ingenious writer of beloved comics such as Astérix and Lucky Luke, an artist who revolutionised the genre and dissolved the divide between learned and popular culture.

Over 100 items gathered from around the world are being displayed for the first time together in the UK. This includes original artworks, scripts and storyboards as well as Goscinny’s own tools, sketchbooks and family photographs.

Born in Paris in 1926, Goscinny was a child of Jewish emigrants from Poland and Ukraine. He spent his childhood in Argentina, before moving to New York as a young man. It was following his return to Europe that Goscinny founded the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote and launched his career as a cartoonist.

Astérix in Britain

In 1959, in the first issue of Pilote, Goscinny, with Albert Uderzo, released his most famous creation, Astérix. The series follows the adventures of a village of indomitable Gauls as they resist Roman occupation in the year 50 BC. Created in collaboration with cartoonist Albert Uderzo, it was an instant hit with readers. Today it counts as one of the world’s most popular comics.

500 million books sold worldwide

Goscinny’s books have sold 500 million copies worldwide. Now, his work is available in 150 languages, with 100 film adaptations. Yet despite the impressive figures, the story of the man himself and the scale of his work have been underexplored until now.

Organised chronologically and thematically, this exhibition illustrates the course of Goscinny’s life and career as an illustrator and writer. It explores some of his most important artistic collaborations. Highlight objects in the exhibition include Goscinny’s typewriter, war-time illustrations by the young Goscinny of Stalin and Churchill, and extremely rare original Asterix artworks by Goscinny and Uderzo.

Moreover, the playful and dynamic exhibition includes a number of interactive elements for families and younger visitors to enjoy. There are immersive sets based on the worlds of Goscinny’s most popular comics and dressing up stations. You will find larger-than-life characters and creations, games and cosy areas for storytelling and reading.

Exclusive 2-for-1 offer

Great news: Linguascope subscribers can claim a “2 for 1” discount on full price adult tickets. Simply print off this page and present it at the front desk to redeem the offer.

To learn more about the exhibition, visit the Jewish Museum London.

Free formative assessment tools for language teachers

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

One of the challenges language teachers face today is formative assessment. How do you manage to find the time not only to teach the content but also review students’ progress and help them improve, while keeping the pace of a lesson going and keeping motivation in a subject that some students’ may find less than engaging?

Online assessment tools

The answer? Integrating online formative assessment tools into language lessons and for distance learning are a ‘win-win’ for teachers and students alike. Firstly for the students, they are motivating and encourage healthy competition through gamification. They can allow learners to learn languages at their own pace wherever and whenever they wish. For teachers, self-marking vocabulary or grammar tests are helpful time-savers. The tests can be easily shared, edited and tailored to the needs of individual learners. They provide evidence of every student’s performance on a given day and work on any internet-connected device too. They also allow for quick responses and reflections from the whole class which inform the teacher of what the students are thinking in real time. This information is of course useful. It should inform future planning as well as create immediate teaching opportunities.

Tools such as Google Forms with Flubaroo, Socrative, Mentimeter, Kahoot or Quizizz run in the browser or have cross-platform apps making them perfect for a bring your own device (BYOD) environment. They are good time-savers too for busy teachers as they are quick and easy to set up. Some also generate Excel spreadsheets with individualised scores which can be stored in the cloud.

Google Forms are versatile for carrying out surveys, submitting web links for students’ work and administering tests. When combined with the Google Sheets Add-on Flubaroo, results can be marked automatically and saved to Google Drive.

Socrative lets you generate multiple-choice, true or false and short-answer questions on the fly as well as pre-made quizzes which can be shared with colleagues. Kahoot and Quizizz add gamification to quizzes as well as a motivational scoreboard for the highest scores.

Q&A feature

In addition to multiple-choice questions, Q&A features in Google Slides and Mentimeter also include the ability to crowd-source opinions from the class, publish content in real time and give an immediate real audience to student work and ideas.

The Q&A feature in Google Slides, once enabled, displays an URL in the header of the current slide. Students type in the link on their devices and send the teacher questions which they can choose to display with one click of the mouse or one tap of the finger. Students have the possibility of posting anonymously or be named if they log into their Google account. They are also able to see each other’s questions. They can vote for their favourite one (if they are logged in) in the hope the teacher displays it on the screen. The idea behind the Q&A feature is to make presentations more interactive and engaging through audience participation. Being able to ask questions about their teacher’s presentation allows them to clarify meaning and deepen their understanding. They feel more directly and actively involved in their own learning process.

Mentimeter includes a range of exercise types and allows you to post responses to different pre-prepared questions. You can generate a word cloud in real time, a bar chart from a poll or open-ended questions. You can also have the answers appear as tiles on screen. It is easy to export the results as a PDF or individual images too.

Additional tools

For those hungry for further free formative assessment tools to explore, I suggest checking out Quizlet, NearPod, Triventy, ClassroomQ, Glisser, Quizalise, Goformative and Plickers for starters.

Check out these wonderful and free services for reducing time spent marking and shortening the feedback loop in your classroom.

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.

Eurovision 2018 : Bring some musical magic into your classroom!

This Saturday evening, a very special window opens up onto the voices of Europe again. The Eurovision Song Contest 2018 is revved up and ready to go. And for language teachers, it’s a chance to bring a bit of musical magic into your lessons.

In the distant, pre-Internet days, Eurovision was amongst the most accessible ways to catch a glimpse of overseas media. Once a year, families sat down together to listen to songs in many languages other than their own. As a young language enthusiast, that was something to be treasured, for sure – how else could you experience that cultural and linguistic diversity without leaving your living room?

Today, with target-language resources available via a five-second Google search, some of that exclusivity has disappeared. But there still remains something particularly spectacular and attention-grabbing about our wonderful, colourful and unique international song contest.

France, Italy and Spain

French, Italian and Spanish teachers are spoilt this year, with three entries in the national language of each country. France sends an entry with a topical message on the refugee crisis. Italy deals with a terror-tainted world. And Spain, somewhat bucking the trend, sends “Your Song” (not the Elton John hit, of course, but Tu canción), a male-female ballad sung by a real-life couple of lovebirds. Video clips and full lyrics are available from the above links on the official eurovision.tv website.

France's Madame Monsieur rehearsing in Lisbon. Photo by Andres Putting, eurovision.tv.
France’s Madame Monsieur rehearsing in Lisbon. Photo by Andres Putting, eurovision.tv.

No German this year

On the other hand, Germanists are left wanting this time round. Sadly (for us linguists), Germany, Austria and Switzerland all send a song in English for Lisbon 2018.

The problem is ongoing; since countries were allowed once more to enter in any language (for ‘any’, read: English!), we are only treated to snatches of German now and then. Austria 2004 and Germany 2007 are nice, but ever rarer examples of German in the modern Eurovision age.

Germany's Michael Schulte rehearsing in Lisbon. Photo by Andres Putting, eurovision.tv.
Germany’s Michael Schulte rehearsing his song – in English – in Lisbon. Photo by Andres Putting, eurovision.tv.

But not to fear – there is a huge archive of material available online, right back to the days when a national language rule was standard.

Mine Eurovision past

YouTube is a cinch to mine for Eurovision songs, for example. Just search for “Eurovision country year” and you’ll get a whole raft of user uploads for that particular entry. As a rule of thumb, anything before 1973, and anything between 1978 and 1998 is almost certainly in the national language of the country. (Odd exceptions include a couple of Austrian entries sung in dialect, for example!)

Once you have your song, head over to Diggiloo Thrush – forgive the name – and look up the lyrics for that song. They have an archive of song texts right up to 2013, so you can easily copy/paste/print MFL song words into your own classroom materials. Try lyrics gapfills as a starter – can your students identify the sung lyrics you’ve blanked out?

Ride the press wave

As an entertainment jamboree, the contest always generates a colossal amount of secondary material. New articles on the contest, being light entertainment pieces, can often be quite accessible reading pieces for upper beginner to intermediate learners. And, naturally, they tend to focus on the drama and intrigue that make the run-up to the contest so captivating. It’s a very serious business, this Eurovision!

Some outlets have a special page or feed for the latest Euro-goss, like ABC.es Eurovisión in Spain. Otherwise, a quick Google news search will always yield results at this time of year, such as this article in Le Monde on the upcoming French performance. Frequently, such articles will also tie in to wider world news events, so can be a nice way to ease into more general topics on social and political issues. France’s entry could make an interesting segue into a discussion on the refufgee crisis, for example.

Language awareness

Of course, it’s always great to show students that there is a world of diversity even beyond your target language. Eurovision song clips can provide some great opportunities for language / cultural awareness. Gather together a set of songs in far-flung tongues, give your students a list of options, and ask them to listen and match the song to the language. Try closely related ones to make it extra hard (Dutch for German students, Portuguese for Spanish ones, for example).

If you’re using YouTube, you can use this little trick to start your clips in the middle of the song. This not only speeds things up, but prevents the students from getting spoilers when the country flag appears at the start of the performance. Otherwise, the official 2018 song list is available on Spotify from this link. With Albanian, Greek, Serbian and Slovenian-language entries included on the list, there should be ample unfamiliar language to keep students scratching their heads.

Sowing the seeds of (happy) discord

After all that, there is another characteristic of Eurovision that you can use in your lessons – its ability to elicit discussion, disagreement and general (light-hearted!) discord. A single performance can represent fertile ground for talking about likes/dislikes, clothing, physical descriptions and more.

Do you like this song? Why not? How would you present it differently? Is it modern? Old-fashioned? Even if your students just find the whole thing ‘stupid’, then get them to explain why, in the target language. It’s not possible to accept a simple ‘no’ when it comes to Eurovision!

However you choose to mark Eurovision 2018 with your classes, we hope the spectacle of the whole thing can convert a few reluctant linguists into passionate polyglots. And beyond that, who doesn’t want a bit of musical magic in their lessons every now and then?

Richard West-Soley heads the technical team at Linguascope. Languages and music have been part of his life as long as he can remember. As well as coding for Linguascope, he regularly writes on language learning topics at Polyglossic.com.

Using avatars & filters to promote speaking & listening skills

A guest blog post by Joe Dale

Using iPads to create customisable video avatars and face filters in the languages classroom can boost the confidence of learners and facilitate their creativity. Avatars allow learners to play a role rather than be themselves in front of the camera. This can be particularly effective with shier students and encourage them to extend their speaking.

Free iOS apps

There are a number of different free iOS apps which make voice recordings fun. They bring pictures to life through multimedia and turn inanimate objects into talking characters. The resulting clips can be saved to the camera roll of the iPad and uploaded to a platform such as Padlet or Seesaw. They can be used for assessment purposes and to give the students a real audience for their work.

AvatarsFor example, the popular Snapchat-like cross platform app MSQRD is great for promoting speaking skills creatively in the languages classroom. You can add live filters over your face and  pretend to be a spaceman, shark or fox, etc.

PhotoSpeak is a similar app which lets you animate the mouth of a person’s face in a still photo. You can also record a voice-over and export the video it produces. Students can animate themselves or the face of a famous person they like and practise speaking as if they were the character in question. For downloading royalty-free images from the web to use in PhotoSpeak, I would recommend the website photosforclass.com. It is a directory of Creative Commons images which when downloaded display the image’s licensing attribution in the footer. This makes them perfect for use in class as there is no risk of breaching copyright.

Chatterpix Kid lets you animate a photo with a moving mouth too and records up to 30 seconds. You could also import a hand-drawn image of a character as a background and add a mouth to this too. This would be perfect for younger learners in particular.

Customised avatars

My Talking Avatar FreeAvatars, BuddyPoke and Kouji are apps which give you the opportunity to create a customised avatar with lots of choices over your appearance and animation style. You can then add your voice as before. With My Talking Avatar Free you can also add your own background produced in an app such as Pic Collage and record for up to 5 minutes of audio! So, you could produce a video promoting both speaking and writing where the Pic Collage is used as a background putting the language learning into context.

Animating several characters simultaneously

Superhero Comic Book Maker is another cool app for bringing to life characters in a still image and making them speak in the target language. But with this app, it is possible to animate two avatars at the same time making it great for pair work. There are a number of default backgrounds you can choose from or import your own from your camera roll. You can even combine scenes together to make a more varied video featuring a range of contexts for your talking avatars to describe.

Other iOS apps which let you animate two or more avatars simultaneously include iFunFace, Toontastic 3D, Plotagon, Evertoon, Puppet Pals 2 and Storyfab. Storyfab is an augmented reality app. It lets you choose different characters such as zombies, knights and explorers, animate them in different scenes in a movie. You can also record a voice-over for each person.

Adding speech bubbles and audio

Balloon Stickies PlusAvatars is an easy way of adding speech bubbles to any image. The image could then be imported into an app such as Adobe Spark Video or iMovie. You can also add a voice-over to promote both writing and speaking. Likewise, the app Sticky AI  uses artificial intelligence to remove the background of a picture automatically. You could use this to make a sequence of headshots with text and then narrated over in a movie editing app.

If you have access to iPads, why not try out some of these apps as a way of enabling learners to present both spoken and written information in different dynamic ways? They can extend their speaking with professional looking multimedia outcomes. Many of the apps are available for Android too, so you can also incorporate them into homework tasks.

Here is some further reading on the topic too:

Joe Dale is an independent languages consultant from the UK. He works with a range of organisations such as Network for Languages, ALL, The British Council, the BBC, Skype, Microsoft and The Guardian. Joe was host of the TES MFL forum for six years, former SSAT Languages Lead Practitioner, and a regular conference speaker. He is also a recognised expert on technology and language learning.