Monthly Archives: February 2018

The role of human emotions in science and research by Ilona Stengel [deconstruction #2]

A scientist Ilona Stengel states a very interesting point about feeling in science. She claims that people in science should find balance between facts and feelings, because they are integral parts of each other. It is also should be mentioned that she is telling the story in parallel between her experience and experience of a main hero Mr. Spock in Star Trek. It gives an opportunity for audience to understand the topic better. Moreover, this “trick” is an attractive approach to focus listeners’ attention to the topic and speech. In general, it was a speaker’s stance to science through feelings by the help of real and fictional examples.

If we look closer, it is clear that her speech does not found only on specific experiences of a person and character. She underpins her idea by the graph, which is likely to be quantitative research design. She demonstrates that dedication, belonging and empowerment trigger the elevation of results in OLED devices development. However, it might be only one of possible factors, which can influence the increase. In my opinion, it could be considered as an assumption, because she looks at the issue from one side, which is related to her topic. I would have improved the speech by investigating other impacts and mentioned various feelings except above-mentioned three. Looking at the topic, I have expected something different in comparison with what I have watched. Author should rethink the topic in order to encounter audience’ expectations. Another case that I would like to notice that she talks more about OLED devices. It can be seem that her speech is likely to be some kind of implicit promotion of these gadgets. Thus, her speech is only one side and looks like an advertisement.

Despite I really like author’s idea that feelings are compounds of science and vice-versa. I completely agree that scientific researches are carried out by humans, consequently humans’ feelings can play essential role in implementation. Instead of Ilona Stengel, I would have considered mood and emotions and their affects on the procedures according to the given topic. She talks more about team-building and their dedication to the purpose, which is a bit further than the theme is.

In conclusion, I would like to tell that I have been attracted by the topic, but the speech has not satisfied my expectation. Surely, there was the idea, which is connected with the topic, in spite of this fact she talks more about team work and dedication.

Linda Cliatt- Wayman: How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard (deconstruction)

As I remember from my school days, our school principal was one of the greatest persons who inspired students to build on their strengths, persuading to believe that all dreams and goals are achievable. This experience allows me to construe that the principal is the key figure in education who keeps the balance in schools. When I saw this videoLinda Cliatt- Wayman: How to fix a broken school? Lead fearlessly, love hard (deconstruction) for the first time, I was speechless, because it really touched me with highlights of the impact and asset that this strong woman brought to the society. It was manifest from her speech that principal, teachers and students in school are more than the system. Linda Cliatt-Wayman is a great principal in Strawberry Mansion High School in the North Philadelphia, who has the 20 years’ experience on a special education for low-performing schools.  She is a solid principal who triggered off a broken school to ameliorate; the woman who had established a student code of discipline among the students with the most outrageous behaviour. The school is defined as a school with the bad reputation and was in the hit list of Philadelphia’s authorities as a “persistently dangerous school”. Nowadays the school is being transformed in a positive direction.

That’s how it was.

She claimed that there was no one around who could be a powerful principal to this school in the last four years, and finally she volunteered to be a principal.  On the first day of work she had witnessed her students fighting each other, after it she moved on to first action toward improvement. During the meeting, one girl named Ashley asked her “Miss… miss, why do you keep calling this a school? This is not a school”.  Linda says that this sort of question made her think back to her low-performing school where she had studied many years ago. Exactly, this was not a real school, the doors were locked with the chains, and the classrooms were almost empty, students carried weapons and there were a drug addicts. What is the worst that even the teachers were afraid for their personal safety. She obviously did a huge work to transform everything in the school, she compel herself to persist these challenges. In this way, her famous slogans were used as leverage to struggle for change. Anyway it seems to me that everything is not easy as it described in her speech.

Her first slogan is: “If you’re going to lead, lead”.

Cliatt-Wayman asserts that everything happens in the school depends on the principal. Being principal requires her to be a leader. She pinpointed that the leader should not sit back in the office, delegate work on others, and cannot allow herself to be afraid of tackling her students’ issues. Also, she emphasized that there’s nothing to be done alone. So, to carry out this task Linda gathered around herself the most skilled staff, who have the faith on children’s potential. All staff including teachers, police officers work constructively, tirelessly and consistently to help the broken school recover. Necessary steps were taken to strengthen the discipline entitled as: “Non-negotiable.” As a result, the school removed from the persistently dangerous list, which in my opinion reflects her truly leadership skills to lead people fearlessly. As she highlighted “Leaders make the impossible – possible”.

The next slogan is: “So what. Now what?”

The principal asserts that the school encountered the low attendance rate, many students were from dysfunctional families, they did not place a priority to study, and this in turn led the school fall behind.  Taking into account conversations about appalling conditions, bad-tempered students, the low results on algebra and literature, she set the goal in front of her colleagues: “So what. Now what? What are we going to do?” Linda depicts development problems and solutions, so she made teachers to differentiate the methodology which might be effective to pay respect to individuality of students. She made every effort to deal with the problems she encountered, but in this video she described only the top of the iceberg. For instance, I was curious to know how they elevate the level of education in details, what exact methods teachers used? So, these questions still required more precise answers.

Her final slogan is: “If nobody told you they love you today, remember I do”.

Her students had financial, social and emotional problems, and no matter what they had she tried to support all of them, because she knows the feeling what it’s like living on poverty.  She believes that opportunities for education and life skills help them to improve their lives and rise from poverty. Linda has daily conversations with her students and  she elevates with pinpoint accuracy those moments when her students feel themselves special, essential and awfully safe.

Though truth be told, my favorite spot is that Cliatt-Wayman has gained the respect and support of the audience on the basis of her work and results. She made tough decisions; she set a clear goal in front of her students, reminding them on a daily basis that education can change their lives.

In her speech there is a powerful message for all educators who have an opportunity to change the world, we should not stand idly by, experience the negative effects of poverty, and be satisfied with promises of authorities. Since any change would require broad support across all sectors of society, she encourages people to let us be prepared to take minute steps toward development of education worldwide.

 

 

Why are there fewer male teachers in Kazakhstani secondary schools?

No one can deny that the secondary school teachers play an important role to make a significant contribution to school education. There have been a considerable number of changes in Kazakhstani education recently.  As a result, the status of Kazakhstani’s teachers has improved. Despite the fact of improvement, we can notice the situation when a great number of female teachers work in schools than male teachers.  Nowadays, there are some reasons for a great number of male teachers are not motivated to work in schools.

To understand the situation better we can take a look at what happens in school education. The main problem of this point is low salary in secondary schools. According to statistics, the average salary per teacher is 18 times less than five successful multilingual educational countries such as Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Spain (Basque country) (Irsaliyev et al., 2017). In today’s globalized world, one cannot exclude that teachers, specifically young male teachers, do not want to work in schools because of low salaries in educational spheres. On this occasion, if they get insufficient fund, they will have a low level of motivation for teaching pupils. As a consequence, each of these male teachers will not able to make an individual contribution to school education.

As a consequence, of low salaries of teachers in Kazakhstan, the teaching profession suffers from low status and prestige. Nowadays, most parents identify “teaching in schools” as a work for women. According to State Program for Education and Development (SPED) for 2011-2020, in Kazakhstan, the gender imbalance is particularly apparent with more than eight women out of every 10 teachers in primary and secondary education on average (81%). From our daily life, there are lots of television programs where the prestige of highly-paid jobs is promoted by increasing economic ideology among people. For instance, a man who works as a teacher in secondary school is criticized by a society that he has a minimum salary who can’t afford to live in prosperity and support his family. In addition, from my daily experience and observation, I have noticed that modern young women prefer to build a stable long-standing relationship with men who have well-paid jobs instead of building a relationship with teachers who can earn small money in secondary schools.

To sum up, our country needs to consider the experience of five successful countries where the high status of teachers depends directly on high salaries as the status of the teaching profession influences on education system’s ability to attract male teachers. While Kazakhstani male teachers will not be received enough salaries in order to support themselves and their families, our students will be taught by female teachers.

 

 

 

References

Irsaliyev, S., Karabassova, L., Mukhametzhanova, A., Adil, A., Bekova, M., & Nurlanov, Y. (2017). Teaching in three languages: International experience and recommendations for Kazakhstan. Astana: JSC “Information-Analytic Center”.

MoES (Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan). (2010). State Program of Educational Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020. Astana: Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Ways of Unblocking a “Writing Block”

Remember those torturing periods when you cannot start writing an assignment, feeling embarrassed, hesitated and STUCK?! Sounds familiar? There was a post about procrastination and ways of battling it, but we should face another “academic demon” that wraps our effort in the start of doing assignments, and i.e. “writing block”. Its Russian equivalent sounds like “creativity crisis”, which precisely depicts the state of a student (or writer) as an inability to start or continue his writing work. Even if this phenomenon seems barely defeatable, any attempt is a chance to push it away. At least, there won’t be a solution without any effort.
Notably, it’s crucial to identify a reason for your writing block. They may be several at once: fear, perfectionism, devoid of ideas or loss of focus. When you are aware of a source of your writing block, there are more possible chances to find a solution for struggling with it.
Let me share my tips on how to overcome a writing block and end up with productive paperwork.

Похожее изображение

Photo credit: http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/likefire/sven-birkerts-on-writers-block

First, take a break and focus on any physical activity. Sounds trite, but it works! Your mind needs a short-term getaway from a continuous overwork. My father always insisted on a systematic shuffle of mental activity with physical work and I do cleaning a house, gardening systematically along with doing my paperwork.

The second recommendation sounds similar to a previous one, although it is about looking for inspiration. Try to change your focus from your assignment because too much concentration causes a deficiency of diverse ideas or vice versa overload of ideas that enable mess in your mind. It is quite useful to draw your attention to those everyday activities, which you like doing on a regular basis, e.g. surfing social networks, watching favorite TV shows, reading a newspaper or visiting galleries (but do not be stuck there too!). There is also a chance of emergence of an answer for your questions from assignment or ideas for your writing work.

Photo credit: http://cuddlesandrage.com/2014/writers-block/

Finally, become an illiterate, grammarian-free writer… for a while. The process of correcting mistakes through continuous editing your paragraphs and concentration on your stylistic errors results in a waste of much time. Ideas and your thoughts matter more than stylistically polished structures, so it is beneficial to start put your raw ideas first with a later proof check of your writing paper.

Hope, my tips on how to get over writing block will be useful for someone who deals with it. What are your suggestions and experiences in overcoming writing block?

The little boxes: Brian Michael Bendis at TEDxCLE (Deconstruction)

During this TED video in Cleveland, comic book writer Brian Michael Bendis is telling about his path to become comic book writer in Marvel studios. His speech begins by letting audience know that he is from Cleveland as well, so situation will be less formal. He immediately makes clear that his main audience are geeks, in order to look friendly with audience, he starts to make references towards comic book movies, like Avengers and Iron man.

Beside all the jokes and “breaking the ice” with audience, his main idea starts from the moment when he started reading his first comics. He felt like his mind was blown by this type of storytelling and people the authors of this comic book immediately became his icons. For Bendis at that time having his name on a cover of a comic book was the coolest thing to experience.

“I would like to do this. Whatever this feeling that I have, I would like to give this feeling to other people. How do you do this? Can you do this? Is there somewhere I can take a class to teach me how to do this? …I dedicated all of it (allowance) to trying to find out how do you make comics and how do you make them awesome.”

Even if he does not tell it directly, people he mentions affect him from different perspectives. Gil Kane and Frank Miller showed him that there are no strict rules in drawing, Walt Simonson treated young fan with respect to his talent, so he will be encouraged to continue his work. Most importantly John Totleban made him to understand that it is not right to question your life choice. As long as you like it, it is worthwhile.

It is not clear from the beginning, there are two main points in his speech. The first is that person must do things that he/she enjoys the most. The second is that if you want to become someone, you need to start working towards it. Bendis is not providing solid argument towards his claim, he just tells the story of how he became comic book writer. His whole speech is based on his life story and people who influenced his career choice.

“If you want to be in comics, you got to make a comic”

In my opinion Bendis’s life situation was unique, that is why his claims might not be applicable to others. He was surrounded by comic books, there were conventions in his neighborhood and Cleveland was place where Superman was created. That is why he had all the conditions necessary. Perhaps, he could make his speech better by giving example of a person who was raised in different environment and became successful in comic book industry.

I found this video interesting. Brian Michael Bendis is not the best speaker in the world and of course his arguments are not supported enough, but he does not need to. It is not complicated science video; this speaker gives us advice about life. No doubt it is subjective and might not work for everybody. Nevertheless, so much as people give us advices throughout our lives, it is useful to hear them once in a while.

 

Photo credits to https://nerdist.com/brian-michael-bendis-dc-comics-marvel/

 

Interpretation of language variations in Son Paskal`s speech (data interpretation)

 

Kazakhstan might be a captivating area for variationist sociolinguistics due to its multilingual diversity. One good example is the famous musician Son Paskal`s speech as a representative of a multilingual speaker. It is interestingly to consider the variation of his language choice as well as its influence on his language identity. Qualitative analysis will be helpful to identify the reasons of his language choice and other participants` view of his identity.
This data interpretation is based on the video of the Kazakhstani comedian program “Du gol Shokolad” with the participation of famous musician Son Paskal. Son Paskal is a 27 year old Italian musician who has Italian origin. He had studied in London for 3 years and then moved to Kazakhstan. He is known for such popular song as “Englishman in Shymkent” which is a parody for Sting`s song “Englishman in New York”. Another motivating song “You should speak Kazakhsha” based on a mixed variation of English-Kazakh words in the text. Chosen short video demonstrates the language shifting from Kazakh to English and Russian and vice versa.
According to Labov (2012), under the influence of the social processes the speakers` linguistic habits change and lead to adoption of certain linguistic forms. It is noticeable from this video how Son can use a variety of languages: Russian, Kazakh and English. Obviously, Son Paskal speaks English free but in Kazakh he is not so confident, however, during the interview we can notice how he shifted from the English language to Kazakh and added Russian words. It might be strong indicator that he realizes the importance of all three languages in our country. In such way for the question of the host about his favorite word in Kazakh he answered: “My really really favorite word samyi lutshi kazaksha kanagattandyrmagandyktarynyzdan”. The words “Samyi lutshi” meant “the best” presented in Russian and the word “kazakhsha” meant “in Kazakh” used in Kazakh. In this case we highlight that the variation of 3 languages took place. Additionally, Son Paskal indicated the longest word “kanagattandyrmagandyktarynyzdan” in Kazakh as his favorite and his ability to say it correctly and precisely though it is hard to pronounce even for native speakers. Thus, we see how Kazakhstan`s trilingual language policy might affect the language choice even of foreigners and their ability to realize the importance of speaking Kazakh.
The environment and content play a significant role in language choice. As Ersoy (2017) pointed out the illustration of code switching occurs in the relation to different variables as context, participants and topic. Likewise, hosts of the program were not very well in English. After greeting and introducing Son Paskal a host announced, “Our English is not so good sol, we should speak shala agylshinsha”. Thus, he switched from English to Kazakh by adding words “sol” with the meaning “so” in English and “shala agylshinsha” which meant “not pure English”. In Kazakhstan there are numerous jokes about native Kazakhs who are not able to speak Kazakh purely. That is why the phase “shala-kazakhsha” which regards to the mixture of Russian and Kazakh words is widely used. However, it has more negative connotation as “a wrong language” variation. The speaker used humorous way of new phrase “shala-agylshinsha” as it was the comedian program. The program is conducted only in Kazakh but this time the hosts asked almost all questions in English, but some words were shifted to Kazakh.
Another interesting issue is how Kazakh people perceive foreigners` identities who can speak Kazakh. The host asked Paskal “If you are from Italy, you are Italian?” Paskal answered as “Zhok, men kazakpyn, myn olip myn tirilgen”. The phrase which he chose is in Kazakh and its translation is “No, I am Kazakh, dying and rising thousands of times”. These lines are from the poem of outstanding Kazakh enlightener Zhuban Moldagaliev emphasizing the strength of Kazakh identity. In other words, the learning and using Kazakh in his everyday life and music experience have changed his language identity towards Kazakh. Noticeably, the hosts` reacted positively showing their appreciation of his choice. Furthermore, Paskal several times used word “zema” and “brat” which were youth slang devoting “person is from the same hometown as you” and “male friend who are very close to you”. The following words have Russian origin but widely used in the Kazakh language particularly among young generation. As the interviewers and the interviewee represented young generation they used relevant slang. We considered language variations changed in the frameworks of content, participants and topic.
To sum up, languages are closely tied to each other particularly when they exist within one country. Multilingual people choose particular words or expressions in different languages due to a variety reasons depending on the environment, interlocutors and intentions. Personally, I believe that this was a good example of tolerance which exists in our country. Speakers show the respect towards each other’s language: hosts tried to speak English but that was not their native language as well as it was not even the language in which they usually lead the program. Their guest also showed that he can speak Kazakh and that he is very curious about it.
References
Ersoy, H. (2017). Code-switching among languages: the instance of Bashkir literary language. Journal of Dil Arastizmalari. 2161(77), 61-77. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.nu.edu.kz
Labov, W. (2012). The social stratification of English in New-York City. Cambridge [UK]. Cambridge University Press.
“Son Paskal. Shala-agylshinsha interview. Du Gol Shokolad”. YouTube, uploaded by Marat Oralgazin, 30 October 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lQX2OcGcXo173436483-2d362fd9-c97e-4ff0-b124-0bdc29143f6b

Why do people choose private supplementary tutoring?

Related image

Photo credits to accountinghomeworkhelp.com/…/improving-pupil-attainment.jpg

Notwithstanding that I worked three years as a teacher at a private English school, I have just discovered that academically we should call this sphere as “private supplementary tutoring”. After I had explored different materials on this topic, I came to the inference that I had better share it with others. Although private tutoring takes place in almost all academic subjects, I will mostly focus on English because of my work experience. It was Mark Bray who pinpointed this kind of tutoring and investigated it extensively.

What is private supplementary tutoring?

Private supplementary tutoring is delineated as a tutoring provided on an additional basis, and it is a part of shadow education system (Bray, 1999). The reasons why this tutoring is called shadow are that its existence depends on the existence of the mainstream education system; if changes take place in the mainstream system, so do in shadow education; and public’s attention is mostly focused on mainstream than shadow (Bray & Seng, 2005). Questions such as “Why do people should hire private educators?”, “How necessary is it?” or “Why do teacher go for teaching in private schools, not in mainstream ones?” might emerge.

The reason for private tutoring might be the poor quality of mainstream education, however, it is not the only one explanation. There are several reasons why teachers or students take private tutoring.

For one thing, it forms subsistence of the tutors, who might be mainstream teachers who would like to make extra income, students, former teachers who are retired, etc. Furthermore, as a former teacher, I can state that it is easier to get a job in private schools than in state ones, which requires at least three years of work experience. Also, it is a good opportunity for students with high academic achievement, as they can teach their contemporaries who have challenges in a subject (Camenson, 2001). So, private tutoring can be a well-paid part-time job.

There are various reasons as well why schoolchildren opt to visit private courses. Usually, parents who are concerned about their children’s academic achievements decide to hire a private tutor. There might be cases when children wish to attend courses only because their fellows do that (Silova, Budiene & Bray, 2006). In my work experience, I met a lot of people who attended private courses because of the poor quality of teaching at a school, and because they would like to have a better understanding of the school topic privately, not in a class where there are 20-25 students.

Have you ever been taught by or worked as a private instructor? What was the reason for that?

References

Bray, M. (1999). The Shadow Education System: Private Tutoring and its Implications for Planners.Paris: UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning.

Bray, M., Seng, B. (2005). Balancing the Books: Household Financing of Basic Education in Cambodia. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong, and Washington DC.

Silova, I., Budiene, V., & Bray, M. (2006). Education in a hidden marketplace: monitoring of private tutoring: overview and country reports: Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine: education support program of the Open Society Institute Network of Education Policy Centers. New York: Open Society Institute.

Camenson, B. (2001). Careers in Foreign Languages. Blacklick, OH, USA: McGraw-Hill Trade.

 

 

Be like a сoach Carter

ken-carter-portada-8

“I came to coach basketball players, and you became students. I came to teach boys, and you became men”, said coach Ken Carter to his basketball team. This quote is from the movie I saw three weeks ago. Then I started making research on the movie and found out that it is based on a real life story. He is not a subject teacher; he is just a coach of school basketball team. However, he is curious about his team players’ trainings as well as their study. His reverential attitude towards students’ future made me feeling amazed because at school his primary task is just to train that team.

My school experience is not a script for shooting a film. The classmates’ prosperous tomorrow and mine were only in the parents’ interests. But, I do not claim that all the school teachers were egregious or gave me poor knowledge. No, they were not. No, they did not. I think, any experience is a good experience that we can put to work. I try to apply everything I heard, did and met. But, when I see such teachers with deep inspiration inside themselves to be more than just a person who checks home tasks and stands by the blackboard, I am eager to be a part of such community especially as a student. Fortunately, at the moment I am facing such fascinating teachers who give us profound knowledge and partly take interest in students’ future intentions and goals.

There should be such teachers as a coach Carter, because a teacher is an impetus for every child starting from the school. He takes small “seeds” called children and waters them, but the way he waters influences children’s world perception. Teachers should be those ones who elevate children’s desire to be a nice person, to be successful pair of hands that like a propeller forces evolution at least within the country. Such teachers are inscribed in children’s memory and turn round their education for the better.

What about your school experience? Could you share with us?

By the way, have you seen that movie called “Coach Carter”? How do you feel about it?

Alan Siegel: Let’s simplify legal jargon! (deconstruction)

Limited legal jargon comprehension is an obstacle on the way to protect one’s rights or receive benefits. Alan Siegel, a branding and business communication expert presenting at TED, argues for simplification—using plain English and making voluminous documents more succinct—of the language in paperwork. Although in doing so he provides relatable evidence and poses crucial questions, certain answers appear one-sided.

Intelligibility of the language, be it English, Russian or Kazakh, facilitates individuals in dealing with documentation. Multi-paged agreements, which pop up before proceeding to use a service, are a thing consumers prevalently ignore, hastily scroll through and check off. In the words of Siegel, shift to plain English will ameliorate the otherwise unnecessarily complex legal language. The positive feedbacks on the use of a simple calendar for responsibilities by IBM proves the effectiveness of doing so. Simplicity of the documentation language reduces the risks people expose themselves to, thereby cutting expenses on hiring a lawyer that would “translate” documents and mediate in working with them. It would also add to their understanding of steps to be taken in contact with the company as an employee, as a user of products or a natural person.

Siegel attempts to show his genuine concern about how “we”, the way he repetitively addresses the audience, interact with legal documentation. However, he ceases to show consideration toward other aspects of language other than its comprehensiveness. Simplification of language inevitably leads to reduced need in jargon, a means of decreasing verbosity and communicating ideas precisely; hence, in a chain reaction, it potentially makes such vocabulary atrophic and increases wordiness. Perhaps, finding an alternative way of amplifying comprehension might have been suggested by Siegel, one of which is enclosing an additional page of glossary to documents shortly explaining terms.

Along with the promotion of plain English, the speaker emphasizes concision as a prerequisite for paperwork. Siegel cites Obama’s words (“I don’t see why we can’t have a one-page, plain English consumer credit agreement.”) and mentions he sought assistance from two highly-qualified consumer credit lawyers to approve his work on content simplification condensation. Again, as he implies he is focused mainly on the ability of people to grasp the content presented in few pages, there is no mention of the hidden danger in shrinking papers. Explicit coverage of all points seems of key salience since both parties—service provider and service consumer—may subsequently have reasons to open a legal dispute, where each word in the document matters. By squeezing every item into limited space, each side’s vulnerability to risk rises tenfold. Not only does this strategy cause omission of substantial details, but also fails to reach the initial goal of making documents more accessible now that the amount of items per fragment goes up. The presenter possibly should include drawbacks of redesigning documentation in such a way, too, to allow the audience to evaluate the status quo and draw an inference independently.

In conclusion, clear language use and succinctness in documentation promoted by the speaker should be valorised without diminishing language and detailedness. Siegel’s somewhat flawed standpoint still resonates with many since he addresses a problem an individual stumbles upon regularly. Hypothetically, if moderately simplified in terms of language sophistication and size, legal papers might be sufficiently clear, transparent and simple.

What would you do to make paperwork more accessible?

7 Ways to Make a Conversation with Anyone (deconstruction)

Malavika Varadan, a radio presenter, claims it is easy to start a conversation with strangers in her TEDx Talks speech “7 Ways to Make a Conversation with Almost Anyone”. In general, I liked the way she presented, explained and engaged the audience. Nevertheless, I don’t think I will watch it again. Here is why. The intro is too long which might discourage the viewers from continuing to watch it. When she gets almost to the point, Ms. Varadan gives her background saying she’s been working as a radio presenter for nine years and every single show she talks with the broadcast listeners for 20 minutes. That is a good strategy to gain trust from the audience since this makes her seem to be experienced in making a conversation with strangers. The presenter encourages people to take a risk and talk to strangers, she assures there isn’t anything to be afraid of, there is nothing they are going to lose. “What’s the worst that can happen?”. Well, anything could happen! Everything might end up with kidnapping or even worse… So, I think she should be careful when claiming everything is going to be fine.

I would like to comment each tip given by Malavika Varadan.

  1. The first word flood gates

“Just start the conversation”. According to the presenter, starting the conversation might be a bit scary and difficult, but then everything will go smoothly. However, I am sure the hardest part of making a conversation is keeping that conversation going. Just imagine, you come up to someone and say “Hi!”, he/she: “Hi!”… The first step is taken so what? How is the conversation with someone who you don’t know anything about supposed to flow after the first word? It would be more helpful to advise on how the conversation could be continued.

  1. Skip the small talk

Instead of wasting time on How Are Yous and What’s Ups, Malavika Varadan suggests asking personal questions like “Where do your parents live?”. It would work with people whom you are familiar with but don’t talk too much or don’t know much about. However, in case of strangers things might go wrong. Personally, if someone came up and asked a personal question I would run away as fast as I could. Along with that, this tip may not work in some countries (for instance, in the UK) where asking personal questions is considered impolite.

  1. Find the me-toos

Ms. Varadan starts well when explaining her third point. I agree that common things bring people together and make the conversation interesting. But after listing out several examples of questions that could be used when trying to find those common topics to talk about, she says: “I don’t know, you’ll find something”. Intentionally or unintentionally the speaker makes everything look easy. However, I assume people who search for and watch such TEDx Talks are mostly those ones who are actually looking for more practical advice because they don’t find it as easy as it seems to the speaker. That’s why I would rather omit that statement or give more concrete advice.

  1. Pay a unique compliment

Here is the part I liked the most: “People will forget what you do, they’ll forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. I feel she did well when supporting her claim with the story about the model with the immunity to the word “beautiful”. I saw her message clearly.

  1. Ask for an opinion and 6. Be present

She makes the eye contact with one of the audience members in order to prove that it helps to keep people present in the conversation. To my mind, it worked better than if she didn’t show it in practice. Next, Ms. Varadan imitates a person who pretends to listen when, actually, he does not. She acted it out perfectly; her tone, movements, everything represented that type of people accurately. Then, she adds: “I know you’ve been through this, I know I have”. It seems to me she is generalizing people and their relationships based on her own experience. There might be people who haven’t been through such situation. And she doesn’t take them into account.

7.Name, place, animal, thing

Lastly, Malavika Varadan advises to remember all the details about your partner and mention them in your conversation. “Be genuinely interested and automatically you kind of become an investor in their well-being; so they feel responsible to you to keep that conversation going”. These words make me feel like I’m being taught how to manipulate people. She could be more specific or cautious about the word choice.

The presenter sums everything up with an analogy. By comparing people to books she suggests to read the whole story instead of looking through the titles. That was a really proper closing. She gave the main point in that sentence, which was more convincing to me rather than the whole speech. In the end, she emphasizes she doesn’t enforce a choice and everything is up to the listeners. Frankly speaking, there were too many “trust mes” which make me think she tries to convince that she is totally right and everything will work for anyone.

Ms. Varadan held herself confidently, spoke clearly and used simple vocabulary, consequently, nothing caused any misunderstanding. However, sometimes, her laugh sounded artificial. I assume those times were when she tried to cover awkward silence after the jokes which nobody laughed at.

Overall, the speaker looks at the making conversation from her own perspective where everything is easy. She is a public and very attractive person. She is open and self-confident which is noticeable from the way she speaks. It might be easy for her. But she forgets about people who are shy or not confident enough to take those “simple” steps. What should they do? Moreover, she doesn’t take into account the second partner of the conversation. Conversation is a two-way process, isn’t it? What if that person is shy or simply doesn’t want to talk to us? Although she tried to depict possible life situations in order to demonstrate her tips in practice, she didn’t consider all the possible situations some of which might lead to embarrassing results that will probably discourage already shy people from speaking to strangers even more.

Moreover, there was nothing new in her tips. These are rather basic rules. The video is worth watching in order to remind yourself those basics; however, it would be more valuable if she came up with really working tips about avoiding those awkward moments when talking to strangers.