English- language media

Hi!

This post is written to cover my last competency aim, namely to analyze the role of some English- language media in the international society.  

Media play a big part in influencing people. Whether the goal is to sell a product, impart an important case or set the standards in today’s society, they function as the fourth estate, meaning that their power is immense. Still, media written in certain languages have more power than others. The question is therefore, what role has the English- language media in this maze of languages and cultures we know as the international society?

In the world of media there is especially one language that stands out, and that is English. It is the native language for approximately 360 million people and the second language for about 430 million people, giving newspapers and magazines, let alone articles on the internet, a broad audience. (Wikipedia) It is, therefore, natural that most information will be found in English and that the different media have more penetrating power than, for instance, Norwegian- language media. An example of that are articles written on subjects like medicine. Today, all the most influential medical journals are written in English, and English has become the language of choice at international conferences. Where the medical terms were in former times derived from Latin or Greek, English has now become the joint language. (Medical English).  The focus in today’s society has shifted from using different languages, towards having a joint language one can communicate with, namely English. That gives the English- language media a central role transmitting information.

However, there are other examples which are more pressing when showing the role English- language media has in the international society. Even though it can be wrong to pin the responsibility of today’s expectations regarding looks on only one language, the magazines in English are central in developing an international standard. Despite the fashion industry doing what they want, magazines have the choice not to publish pictures of thin models and stop retouch images. As English is an important language in the fashion industry, and the magazines written in English have a big audience, they help communicating images which can hurt their readers’ self-image. Furthermore, TV-shows in English and films from Hollywood often help contributing to the focus on looks and appearance. Films, TV-shows and magazines in English are, therefore, important when it comes to setting an international standard on how people should look and act.

To conclude, English- language media play a very central role in the international society, probably the most central, as it is read on a global scale and reach a bigger audience than most other languages. Consequently, it is important for the media to be aware that power and not misuse it.

Have a nice day!

– Kristin

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Earth Day- A greener city

Hi everybody!

Today, April 22, is the earth day, which was established to protect our environment. This year the focus is on making the cities greener, thus my subject is chosen amongst the things I think can be done better in my own little city, Sandvika.

Sandvika is a little city approximately 20 kilometers south of the capital, Oslo. Over the next years, it will be almost totally rebuilt, making room for many new buildings with the need of an efficient heating and cooling system. As the winters in Oslo, Norway are quite cold, it is necessary to have a well-functioning system to heat public and private buildings.

A geothermal heat pump, or ground source heat pump, is a central heating- or cooling system that transfers heat from the ground. Since the temperature underground is consistently higher than on the surface, the pump only has to force a transfer of heat in order to work. More precisely, heat pumps can transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, against the natural direction of flow, or they can enhance the natural flow of heat from a warm area to a cool one. (Wikipedia)

By using the geothermal heat to warm up buildings, we can reduce the use of electricity. In Norway, we mostly use energy extracted from falling water to generate the power to warm up buildings. As the water power is high-quality, meaning that the energy is easily usable, it would make more sense to use it in other processes demanding a higher level of energy quality. Low- quality energy, on the other hand, is difficult to extract, thus better to exploit in processes needing a lower energy quality, like heating. Geothermal heat pumps do exactly that, they extract the heat from the ground to use when heating, or cooling, buildings.

To summarize, Sandvika city will undergo a big change in the upcoming years. By using a sustainable way of heating the new buildings, we can make the city a bit greener.

ghp

This is a photo showing how a geothermal heat pump can work.

–          Kristin

Why I agree with Edward Snowden

In class last week we learned about the whistleblower Edward Snowden and his effort when it came to making the public aware of the surveillance carried out by, amongst others, the NSA.

Edward Snowden

A whistleblower is a person who exposes misconduct, alleged dishonest or illegal activity occurring in an organization. (Wikipedia) Edward Snowden exposed an extensive surveillance, making him one of the most famous whistleblowers of our time. In fact, he stands behind the biggest leak of top-secret surveillance documents of all time. The files he leaked showed, for instance, that each day, the NSA gathers approximately 2 billion data connected  to personal information from mobile- companies, social medias, mail and other websites. (News-article 31.01.2014, Aftenposten) These files, leaked to newspapers like the Guardian, have resulted in an extensive debate about personal security and the definition of spying.

The NSA has a different definition of spying than what most people would have. According to them, they are not spying when they are gathering information about people. It can only be seen as spying if they are intentionally looking for something. Furthermore, there is a co-operation between several countries, like England, making it possible to share already gathered information. This agreement leads to a further distribution of sensitive information.  However, it is not classified as spying, they have managed to find loopholes in the laws.

Because the surveillance is so extensive, I think Snowden did the right thing when leaking the documents. Even though leaking classified information is illegal, I believe that the surveillance done by the NSA is worse. As he only leaked the documents to newspapers, making them in charge of deciding what people should know, he did not do it to benefit himself, and that is important.Furthermore, the leakage of these documents has made it possible to openly discuss the surveillance. Having the knowledge about actions carried out by the governments is central in making a change. I believe that people have the right to know, if not all, a bit of what is happening around us. Edward Snowden made that possible. He gave people the opportunity to protect themselves and voice their opinion on the matter.

On the other hand, I understand that it is important for a government to have some knowledge about their population. In order to have control and prevent dangerous situations it is central to have information available. However, there is a line between having the knowledge and having total control over the population. Gathering sensitive information brakes with the right of privacy, and there is no way to object to it if we do not know what happens.

To conclude, I think Snowden’s decision to leak documents containing information about surveillance was right. Even though it is important for the government to have knowledge about their inhabitants, there is a line that definitely has been crossed. Edward Snowden has given us the opportunity to change the way the surveillance works and regain parts of our privacy by speaking up. The public should have a say in this.

What do you think about this?

–          Kristin

My thoughts around the use of water

As we have had much about the water crisis in class this year, it has become something I have taken an interest in. Luckily, I have realized how fortunate we are in Norway when we do not need to think about polluted water or  water shortage. However, I think more people, especially my generation, have to learn to appreciate it. In my school, girls have a tendency of leaving the water on when they go to the toilet. Just think about the amount of water that is wasted doing this. Of course, we are fortunate to live in a country with almost unlimited water resources, however, that does not mean that it is okay to abuse the public asset. This action shows how necessary it is to have knowledge about this subject, because clean water is, on a global scale, a limited resource, as I have written more about in an earlier post.

Are there any strange habits like this one where you live?

– Kristin

Why can’t we all just drink bottled water?

It has been a while since I last wrote something here, but now school has returned to normal, consequently meaning more updates. In class this week, we watched a documentary called “Last Call at the Oasis”, informing us about the water crisis in the world. “What water crisis?” some might think. Even though it is not visible for everybody, we are running out of clean water for people to use without a proper solution to the problem.  This documentary can be seen as an independent continuation of the film about Erin Brockovich, that I wrote about here. Not only does it bring up the same problems on a global scale, Brockovich also has a central role.  

“Last call at the Oasis” is a documentary focusing on, amongst other subjects, the usage of bottled water. In America it has become a 4 billion dollar a year- industry, nurturing on people’s mistrust in the water cleansing systems and fear of drinking polluted water. It has come to the level where millions of people are willing to pay between 240 and 10 000 times more per gallon for the bottled version than for tap water.  The question is: is bottled water that much better than tap water? And is it smart to stop drinking water from the tap?

Drinking bottled water is in tally with drinking clean water and is, therefore, a way of securing a healthy population. Or is it? When the water is known to be contaminated, drinking it from a bottle seems like a better solution than exposing yourself to a potential threat. However, there are several studies which show that bottled water is not necessarily better than tap water. For instance, an article in the Guardian states that “One in five French bottled waters contain drugs or pesticides”. Despite the levels being minuscule, it ruins the illusion that water from a bottle is totally pure and safe.  These findings have been backed up by research done by NRDC (the Natural Recourses Defense Council).  Out of 1000 bottles, approximately one fourth of the brands were contaminated at levels violating the Californian state limits. Furthermore, almost 1/3 of the water tested exceeded a state standard for level of bacteria or chemical contamination. In other words drinking water from a bottle, which has become almost a trend, is not as clean and good as people might think. In addition, it draws the attention away from the real problem, which is contaminated drinking water.

Furthermore, if everybody choose to drink water from a bottle, the cleansing systems will be ruined. The 4 billion dollars which are used in America on bottled water every year would be much better spent at maintaining the water cleansing systems, as well as finding new, better ways to draw chemicals out of the water. If people stop drinking water from the tap, there will be no or little reason to improve the system. Consequently, people might have to buy water for showering and brushing their teeth. If the public water systems suffers from rust on old technology that might happen in the future. Therefore, the money is much better spent on finding new solutions. On the other hand, recycled water on a bottle can be a good short- term alternative to making people step out of their comfort zone and get used to drinking it. If that works, it will be a sustainable way of using, and reusing, the limited water resources. The best solution would therefore be to find a balance between drinking bottled water and tap water. However, there are many places where the water is so contaminated with for instance hexavalent chromium that there is no other choice to drink bottled water if the economy allows it.

To summarize, drinking water from a bottle, rather than from the tap, is not a good long-term solution. Not only is it expensive and not as clean as one might get the impression of, if many follow this development, there will be no need to repair the water cleansing systems. However, the case is not just black and white. In some places the water is so polluted that drinking it will be a danger to people’s health. Furthermore, giving recycled water on a bottle to the population can be a good way to introduce something which most people are uncomfortable with. Yet, these are both short- term alternatives, as we have to focus on a finding new sustainable ways of using water and cleansing it. We simply cannot all drink bottled water.

Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

water

– Kristin

Zimbabwe. WW2. Reflections

First, let me start by thanking those of you who have commented on my posts, it is nice to get feedback!

Today we worked with a range of subjects connected to English. First, as our teacher is currently in Barcelona to speak at a conference, we had a substitute who talked about Zimbabwe. He grew up in Zimbabwe and worked there for many years before moving to Norway, making it natural to talk about the English- speaking country and its development. Personally, I think it is very interesting to hear other people’s stories and getting to know a country from their perspective.

The other main subject we worked with today was the Second World War, a subject we are collaborating on together with a class in Alaska. The purpose is to share information and knowledge connected to this important part of history. The way we do that, is by sharing a google-document where all the students can write and ask each other questions. We have also made presentations, for instance I worked with Holocaust and Norway’s participation in the deportation of Norwegian Jews. Today, however, it was time to answer questions the students in Alaska had, and reflect around the project.

This is what I wrote:

I have learned different things during this project, for instance how it is to work together with a class from Alaska, and how we might have different knowledge about the Second World War. I don’t know whether I think Norwegians know more about WW2, but our focus might me more directed towards the events in Europe, and not so much towards America’s participation. Furthermore, as Norway took part in the deportation of Norwegian Jews, people might feel the need to learn more about Holocaust and how to prevent it from happening again. Even though Holocaust scared everybody, I fear that injustice of this kind can happen, if we are not conscious. A Norwegian writer, Arnulf Oeverland, wrote before the war began that we should not accept the pain that does not affect us directly. I could not agree more. It is the indifference that is the most dangerous, because when we stop learning about these subjects and caring about people and injustice, history can repeat itself.

Do you have any reflections around WW2?

–          Kristin

Outside the Anglo- American core areas

For a long time now, English has strengthened its position as the language connecting us all. One can travel the world and still be able to communicate with people from different countries and cultures. However, it might not always be that simple. Outside the Anglo- American core area, countries often have their own version of the familiar language. Amongst them are Hinglish, Jamaican English and South African English.

These are all languages which have taken English and giving it a more personal/ cultural twist, matching it to the purpose of the use. In general, the different varieties of English have elements from their own language, making it harder for “outsiders” to understand. Hinglish is a good example of that. For instance there are several authors writing in Hinglish, using features from Punjabi. In that way, they are showing that it is the most common form of English in India, targeting an audience of approximately 350 million people. Salman Rushdie is a famous author focusing on just that.  However, the biggest communicational problem appears when one tries to talk to people who speak Hinglish. The intonation mixed with foreign words can often be found challenging. For instance, they say “pphunny” for funny, and often use the term “glassy” rather than “wanting a drink”.

Another language that can be difficult to understand in the beginning is Jamaican English. Jamaican English is, understandably, a sub- form of English spoken in Jamaica. It is a mixture between British and American, with an Irish intonation. Another characteristic is the usage of local words, such as “duppy” rather than “ghost”. However, Jamaican English should not be confused with Jamaican Creole, a language using many of the same words. The last is influenced by the languages spoken in West- Africa, and is often used in less organized situations, such as at home. Jamaican English, on the other hand, is the formal language used in the education. Due to that, as the Jamaican population reaches a higher level of education, standard English will become increasingly important.

South African English is the last form of English I want to focus on. Since English replaced Dutch as the sole official language of the Cape Colony, it has grown to be a language which 45 % could speak in 1991. Such as in Jamaica, English is the language of the educated, giving it an important status. However, there are many varieties of English within South Africa, using terms from the different languages in the country. These forms are more distinct in the lower layers of the society. A characteristic with South African English is, for instance, the reduplication of the adverb now.  They say now-now, meaning immediately or soon.

To conclude, there are others varieties of English, than those people living in the Anglo- American core areas are used to. In the beginning they can be hard to understand, however, the basis is still English. That means that if one has the knowledge of a given culture or a language, it will not be a problem to communicate. It takes a bit of effort, and the opportunity to ask questions when needed, but that should not be an obstacle.

english in the world

–          Kristin