Machines like Me by Ian McEwan

This is an Audible book that I listened to recently while I was on holiday. Listening to an enjoyable story that is engaging makes long road journeys pass so much more quickly!

It’s alternative history based on the fact that Alan Turing wasn’t turned insane by taking oestrogen tablets to cure his homosexual urges. With this in mind we end up with a very different 1980’s. We have advanced sufficiently with AI to build completely life like humans that tests what it is to be human after all. They are an exercise in humanity as it teaches us whether we can accept machines into our lives as equals.

I loved the philosophical debates that Adam engages in with his housemates Charlie and Miranda. I also loved the technical, mathematical and physics details along with the anthropological studies. Adam raises a lot of interesting questions and provokes strong emotions which you wouldn’t expect a machine to be capable of. He is not really a machine though; but a conscious being capable of existing all by himself as along as he has the same comforts were used to like shelter, sleep and fuel.

This is essentially an exploration of the contradictions of being human. This is what every child has to learn and what autistics struggle with greatly. The same things that Adam can’t comprehend are also what we have difficulties with. There is however no real solution to these issues as life is such a messy business.

Best wishes

Angela

The Current War

This is a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch (yes him of the completely unpronounceable and unspellable name).

In this movie it seeks to understand the reasons behind the battle that took place between Edison’s Direct Current and Tesla’s/Westinghouse’s Alternative Current. Or as I explained to my husband, how the band AC/DC came to be;)

Ben plays Edison who we all know won the battle of who could light up America first. It was the first of the alternating technology battles (Betamax/VHS etc) that proved its not the best that wins but the one that is promoted the most and therefore more popular.

Social skills win over talent as people are much more willing to invest in a person who is like them selling them a dream rather than an engineer who can actually produce that idea. This is why Tesla loses out but it’s far more complex than that.

Of course in between the 2 remaining guys Westinghouse and Edison; they start to play dirty. They use underhand tactics to undermine the others reputation and products. Speed and efficiency are good but money is king in business. The Serbian immigrant is taken advantage of because all he has is his mind when he has sold his patents. As he is unable to communicate his ideas in a way that others understand they belittle him.

Watching a movie like this on a plane doesn’t do it justice. I couldn’t read the historical facts which are presented at the beginning and the end of the movie to separate the facts from the dramatization.

I definitely need to watch this again as the sound quality through the headphones was quite poor and in a movie that isn’t action based, you need to be able to hear the dialogue. I’m sorry I can’t give a very articulate review but I was only able to get the gist of the film.

Best wishes

Angela

The Rise of Empires – Ottoman on Netflix

This is part of the new breed of historical programs on Netflix that are part dramatisation and part recitation of historical facts from learned professors in the area. I have watched some about Russian history too namely the Czars. I will write about this also in due course.

This series has 6 episodes covering the legendary siege of Constantinople in 1453. This was conducted by Mehmet the second against Roman Emperor Constantine the 11th. It is narrated by Charles Dance the man who voiced Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.

I think this is a fascinating period of history starting with the astonishing takeover where 23 armies including his fathers had failed before him. Each episode covers a different bit of the siege from the initial plans, the artillery attack, naval attack to sneakier tactics and finally the success.

This follows on from previous posts I have written about the Ottoman Empire and when I eventually visit Istanbul there will be some more as the city is bound to yield many interesting things to write about.

The Byzantine Empire was much earlier and I have already written about that too in a couple of posts. Byzantines.

Best wishes

Angela

Advocating for autism

As a proud autistic adult I have written 2 new books and these are about how to deal with the traumatic and emotional events that life throws at us like dealing with grief, social occasions, adolescence etc

Imagina and A Life of Ice and Fire.

This is in addition to Autistic Communication and Autistic Education.

My other books are on How to learn the Greek language, Greek life, More Greek, How to learn languages and finally A Life of Halcyon Days which is a romantic chick lit book set in Greece.

Best wishes

Angela

Grammar is essential to interpretation in foreign languages

https://lyricstranslate.com/en/se-sena-stamatise-i-kardia-σε-σένα-σταμάτησε-η-καρδιά-heart-stopped-you.html

My heart stopped with you

This is a song that immediately struck me the first time I heard it. It’s a pop/ rock song but it’s also strangely calming as it’s streamlined. I’ve listened to it countless times and I thought I understood the lyrics as they are quite passionate and evoke your emotions. I therefore thought I knew what the song was about because his speech is relatively clear and distinct. To me it was about love but an all encompassing love that disables you from functioning. It describes the feeling when you are head over heels for someone and it’s just like a bolt from the blue as we say to explain something completely unexpected.

While this is not completely the theme of the song upon reading the actual lyrics, it never occurred to me before despite the fact I have most likely looked up this song before and I’ve certainly tried to analyse its content. I have been passively watching and listening to songs for years with an inkling of their meaning from the emotions that I perceived from the videos but they haven’t been correct. I need to translate the words to get the full picture. My arrogance at my own ability and my naïveté have probably both contributed to this. Plus being selfish and not allowing anyone to critique me as I was too emotional and sensitive myself. I didn’t have enough life experience or emotional maturity to comprehend the message of the song.

The song explains that love is blind as the guy is still stuck on his ex. He can’t get over her as much as he wants to as there are still so many reminders of their relationship. He is still wondering what he has done to lose her. He wants to get back with her as he still loves her and thinks that this will stop the pain he is feeling. He is becoming bitter towards the end and wants to cut out all trace of her from him.That’s certainly different to usual and no wonder I never picked that up.

Have you ever had that before?

Best wishes

Angela

Using games to improve your language skills

Just in case you were wondering what happened to the language posts here is one.

I recently went to a birthday party and the guests there were found of using the Sims computer game in foreign languages to learn all of the basic household items. They also liked to play Command and Conquer online with Russian and other eastern block people as it was a good way to learn the language as it was used by the people. My way of naming my Pokemon after Greek animals seemed rather inferior after that. I have thought about changing my devices to foreign languages but that never goes well. I’ve done it by accident and I’ve used items abroad and it’s just too confusing for me. I also came across an Alexa recently so I thought I would see if it could talk to me in foreign languages. This Alexa was new so didn’t seem to be able to even tell me whether she was an Echo, Dot or what version she was. I gave up after asking the same question in 3 different ways and getting the same default responses. So as much as games and technology can help you learn a new language, the best way is always going to be to get out there and to be social as much as you might dislike this method.

Best wishes

Angela

Using technology to up your language game

It’s always a good idea to work smarter not harder as then you are rewarded for your efforts without you having to struggle so much. Therefore using the resources that are available and around you means maximum effect from minimum work. To this end I have started using Blinkist and Audible in addition to Amazon to be able to create an immersive environment to further my language learning.

As I’m introverted and autistic I’m not too fond of talking to people. This becomes apparent quite quickly if you have previously come across any of my work. As you may expect this presents certain problems. With the fact that I don’t like to mingle with others; my communication skill development has to take a different path. As I’m good at mimicking I can learn pronunciation from repeating the correct sounds made by others. As an integrative approach is best here, I need to look at a diverse range of options to get a broad spectrum. As accents vary from country, region, age, male/female etc I need to incorporate as much material as possible.

I have previously been using YouTube for music and educational purposes (Tedx) but the gap between the 2 is too vast. A lack of “Comprehensible Material” meaning it’s not currently the right level for me. When watching YouTube videos there is frequently no subtitles to assist me so this cuts down there usefulness. I have tried Sky Arts but there is not enough foreign language material. I have also looked into foreign films (World cinema) but again there is a lack of material or maybe access to the material as I’ve never found any. Netflix also seems to come up short when looking for Greek material.

My new idea is based on the fact that was used by a famous polyglot from the past to progress his linguistic merits. That is, read the same book in many languages since then you can learn grammar, syntax and semantics while enjoying a story that you already know well. This is a style favoured by Hungarian polyglot Kato Lomb and is also mentioned by other noted polyglots such as Canadian Steve Kaufmann and Italian Luca Lampariello.

Since the best way to learn a second language is to repeat the way you learnt your first language that is what I’m attempting to do here. It’s a lot easier for children to gain language skills than it is for adults as we try to intellectualise it too much. Basically we think too much about the underpinnings of a language looking to gain an understanding of the structure before attempting to ‘build a house’. Children just go forth and practice.

However the problem comes when the way I learnt is through my mother reading to me constantly. This meant that I could read by 18 months but was unable to talk for a further 4 months. My mum doesn’t know any foreign languages and is dyslexic just like my husband so that counts that option out. This means I have no practice partner. I have tried recording my voice and uploading to YouTube but I haven’t had any luck with that because I can be quite quiet and indistinct.

My solution to this problem is to get Blinkist and Audible to read to me but Greek books are few and far between. Getting a physical book to look at is very difficult online. As your brain reacts differently to an ebook than to a physical book this means that the real copy is much better for this purpose. An ebook could have a narrative attached to it to make it better as a real book wouldn’t have this capability. Getting a physical, audio and ebook of the same title in Greek is next to impossible. Dual language books are equally as difficult to find.

This 3 tier attack is easier in Italian, Spanish and even Russian but in Greek they just don’t seem to exist. I have done extensive research and monitored this over many years. While the situation has improved slightly, I don’t hold out much hope for a sudden burgeoning in the market.

Below is a link to my published work and to my previous blog posts where I have talked about many of the issues I have mentioned above.

My published books

Series links

Best wishes

Angela

Sky Arts programs

These are another fantastic resource to use to learn languages with. There are many European programs where the people being interviewed do not speak English but subtitles are provided for your benefit. This can range from a program about the influence font (sizing, spacing, arrangement, case, style and colour of letters) has on us. The show travels from France, Germany, Spain, Portugal to French Canada, the USA and finally the UK to give a wide variety of signs throughout history with a knowledgeable local in each location.

Another program I have watched was set in France and it demonstrated all of the sketches that the famous fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent did during his working career including his cartoon sketches that he did when he needed a break. They interviewed those closest to him and the majority of the program was in French with subtitles.

The most recent program I have been watching is Sky Arts Master of Photography. I believe this is set in Italy as that’s where the challenges take place. Some of the contestants are Italian so you get to hear them interacting with locals during the course of their day. It’s very European as you get contestants from Germany, UK, Switzerland etc. There are subtitles for the Italian but to stop any more linguistic confusion the main content is in English.

Is there any other bilingual programs that you like to watch and would recommend me to check out?

Best wishes

Angela

Netflix

This is a brilliant platform to watch foreign language films on subjects that you are interested in. I have already posted about watching The First Line which is English but with plenty of Greek to keep me happy. I have also been watching Cathedral of the Sea which is Spanish (English subtitled) history, The Medici which is Italian history, Bolivar which is Spanish (English subtitled) Latin American history and the Last Csars which is Russian history. That last one is part dramatisation, part historical program. For pure drama in Russian with English subtitles watch Trotsky. This is not for the faint hearted as it’s quite raunchy from the start.

If you need to practice your English I recommend watching Peaky Blinders. This is on BBC IPlayer as well as on Netflix. You have 4 seasons so far to sink your teeth into. This is set in Birmingham just after World War One and the language is quite raw but it’s highly enjoyable. Not one for children but then neither are any of the above programmes either.

Do you have programs to recommend that I should watch as you don’t tend to hear about any of the ones above when asking people for viewing suggestions?

Best wishes

Angela