How to find tweets in a specific language?
That’s an issue for many Twitter users, including language learners and native speakers of other languages. Because of the dominance of English on the web, it’s easy to find English tweets. But finding tweets in other languages is not so straightforward.
One solution could be to tag each tweet with a language code. Using IANA’s existing language codes seems an ideal solution for compatibility and ease of recognition. This coding system is used widely on the web and in its basic form uses a two-letter code for each language. For example, the code for English is en, the code for Maori is mi.
It would be possible to use a tag prefix symbol in front of each code so that we could search for tweets in that language. But we need to use a different tag prefix than is currently used for tweet topics. Ideally, we could use just a single non-alpha character: where # is used for topic tags, we could use something like the percent sign. So, a tweet in modern Greek might be tagged with %el.
It might also be useful to flag tweets written in a non-standard language character set. For example, because of the limitations of some Twitter clients, we might want an additional symbol to tag a tweet that it is in Greek but which is transliterated into an English character set. Eg %el!
Since there is a lack of documentation on which specific characters are distinguished by Twitter’s search function, any use of a new tag prefix to denote language will require some trial-and-error testing to ensure it works effectively. If the polyglot community of Twitter users could agree on such a coding system, it would make it much easier to find relevant posts in languages other than English.
Image: Brueghel’s Tower of Babel
I worked with the management and teaching staff of a small provider to plan strategies for developing the organisation’s capability to incorporate a blended / flexible learning approach into its training and education. One key component was a short professional development programme for teaching staff, with the purpose of developing staff skills in using Moodle and incorporating its use into teaching and learning activities.
Initially, the staff had little experience with learning management systems and other online tools. There was also uncertainty about the appropriateness of incorporating online components into the existing face to face courses: staff shared a strongly-held belief in the organisation’s values and special character. In particular, there was a strong emphasis on establishing a sense of whanau in the relationships with and support for learners.
I knew that the professional development programme for staff would need to provide participants with a strong sense of ownership and engagement. I especially didn’t want to appear as some external ‘expert’ attempting to impose a culturally inappropriate model on the organisation. So I was keen to ensure the blended learning activities (online and face to face) incorporated and valued the participants’ Maori language and culture.
Prior to the first face to face session I set up a glossary of key terms and concepts relating to flexible and online learning. Although these were mostly in English, I included a few in the Maori language. During the first face to face session, I demonstrated how to use the glossary, including how to add comments and new entries.
Over the next few weeks participants added additional content as they chose, including:
- translation into Maori of English glossary entries
- explanations of how a term or concept related to their own students and their culture
- comments and questions on others’ glossary entries
- additional material in their own language which contextualised the English term – for example, one participant posted a traditional proverb to illustrate a particular term
Although the glossary never grew to include many entries, I was impressed by the depth of thinking and contextualising that took place in a short period of time.
- Because the Moodle glossary can be configured to allow both comments and edits by participants, there is plenty of opportunity for collaborative development of shared knowledge
- The collaborative development of a bilingual resource not only provided a body of shared knowledge but helped establish an environment where the participants’ language and culture was valued and there was a sense of ownership of the online resource
- I’d recommend this as a useful blended learning approach in a range of contexts: whether bilingual or not, the collaborative glossary can be very effective in building engagement and collaboration