Category Archives: miscellaneous

Word play – Minimum

Academic life – it’s all about publish or perish, and quality over quantity

The bottom line in academia is publish or perish … but … .

I have a friend who says publish anything anywhere but in the long run that is academic suicide. Publishing a junk paper in a junk journal is selling yourself short academically. And there are some who think publishing a lot is important. Sure it is. But publishing ten papers in a year can not and will not be seen as good academic practice.

There is something to be said about quality over quantity. To use a mass production of goods analogy, Made in China is everywhere but products with this label soon fall apart. There is nothing like Made in Japan. You may not see many of them out there but they are really durable, of excellent quality. So which do you want to be – a product with a Made in Japan or Made in China label?

In short, one should take pride in their research. A scholar of any worth should not take their life’s work, their  ‘viva‘, the term for the defence of their thesis, lightly.

To survive in the academic world, then, one should publish often within practicality. This means maybe 1-3 papers a year. There should be always something cooking on your stovetop, so to speak. If you are not working on something then you are not really an academic. And one should also publish in peer reviewed journals of quality even if it feels like selling your soul. Actually the feeling of selling your soul is really a sign of not good academic quality. Afterall the point of your research is to convince the readers (first the reviewers, then the readers) through strong evidence and reasoning that your findings and interpretation are valid. If your research cannot do that then there is something wrong with either 1) your research and research results, and/or 2) your writing.

And now I must go turn off the web browser, return to my research and put my money where my mouth is.

Language death and the preservation of Australian indigenous cultures

Before British colonialisation began there in 1788, around 250 aboriginal languages were spoken in Australia by an estimated one million people.

Only a few dozen languages remain and the communities number around 470,000 people in a nation of 22 million.

It is often said that language is culture. So 250 languages spoken means the existence of 250 cultures. And the loss of 200 languages means the loss of 200 cultures. The numbers therefore point to the loss of on average one culture per year on the Australian continent since its “colonialisation”. Staggering.

But how does one preserve a language if one does not have a culture to go along with it?

Japan, China, South Korea mull academic credit system

From the Daily Yomiuri due to the lack of archiving.

The education ministry has decided to draw up a new framework in conjunction with China and South Korea to allow universities in all three countries to integrate methods to evaluate students’ academic achievements and certify academic credits.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry hopes the collaboration will encourage more students to study abroad.

Currently, individual universities in the three countries swap academic credits with each other at their own discretion.

The ministry is keen to expand the standardization to also cover universities in member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The ministry plans to hold an initial meeting in Bangkok in March to lay the groundwork for the plan.

University education differs among the three countries, as do the number of academic credits required to graduate.

In Japan, many university students are obliged to submit a graduation thesis, but in China and South Korea, only students with high academic records are obliged to do so.

Japanese universities employ an absolute evaluation system, which judges whether a student has reached a certain level of achievement. But in China and South Korea, many universities employ relative evaluation systems.

Because of these differences, there have been many cases in which students have been unable to transfer academic credits obtained at foreign universities into credits at the domestic university where they initially enrolled–even if individual universities have agreements regarding foreign students.

In a survey conducted in 2007 by the Japan Association of National Universities, about 70 percent of Japanese state-run universities said it was highly likely that students who obtained credits from foreign universities could not enter the next academic grade, as such credits were not recognized by the Japanese universities.

Under the planned new framework, the ministry aims to standardize rules to certify foreign universities’ credits when students return to Japanese universities, as well as the method for converting foreign universities’ credits into those acceptable by Japanese universities necessary for graduation.

At the first meeting, representatives from the three countries will confirm their intention to integrate terms relating to education systems and a policy that will allow universities in Japan, China and South Korea to jointly evaluate one another’s facilities on an experimental basis.

(Mar. 1, 2010)

How to save a Word 2007 document as a PDF

Microsoft Office Word 2007 now allows you to save a document as PDF. All you have to do is choose to save it as a PDF in File Type in the Save or Save as dialogue box. If you don’t see it in the File Type dropdown list you may have to get the update from Microsoft though this is usually (or should have been) done automatically.

Statistical terms – measurement

Generally, there are four data types in statistics: nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio.

Nominal data as the name suggests is characterize data by name. For example, the categorization of someone as male or female is nominal data. There is no order or rank between nominal data or only difference.

Ordinal data is data which can be ordered. For example, student class levels are ordinal in the sense that second year students are above first years students, and third year students are above second year students. Thet may be logical in order but they do not in any way say anything about how good students are or how diferent they are. Third year students, say, are not twice as good as first year students because they are two levels higher than the latter.

Interval data has order and also discrete differences in their intervals. Temperature is an example of interval data. There difference of ten degrees between 20 and 30 is equal to the ten degree difference between 30 and 40. They are relative to each other.

Ratio data is has an order, discrete intervals and (in Sarah Boslaugh’s word) a “natural” zero. Unlike temperature in the previous example of interval data zero degrees does not end there. Temperatures can drop below zero (and they often do). Weight, height and money and good examples of ratio data in that you cannot be -10 pounds, -10cm or -$10 dollars (well you can be in debt but you can’t show me -$10). You can say your friend has twice the money as yourself.

Just remember, measurement types make most sense when contrasted against each other and not talked about in isolation. When in doubt, try to fit them into the definitions aboves to see which one they match.


Praat is “a free scientific computer software program for the analysis of speech in phonetics”.

WordNet 3.0 Vocabulary Helper

This seems like an interesting tool, WordNet 3.0 Vocabulary Helper. Wikipedia defines WordNet as something which “groups English words into sets of synonyms called synsets, provides short, general definitions, and records the various semantic relations between these synonym sets.”

Created at Princeton University for research in Machine Translation. An offline version can be downloaded from the official Princeton University website.

Speaking isn’t the key

… most students learn how to speak English by actually speaking it.

This comment original made in a letter to a Taiwanese newspaper about how teachers should make sure students produce a lot of L2 language while in classroom echoes the sentiment and attitude of many teachers in Japan. It could well have been a letter in a Japanese newspaper.

Here Stephen Krashen, a leading researcher in language acquisition (LA) and co-author of an important study Language Two, gives a concise explanation as to why the belief that increased speaking of L2 will promote language acquisition is ultimately a mistake.

The best hypothesis is that the ability to speak is the result of language acquisition, not the cause. If this is true, forcing students to speak before they are ready is not only useless, but counterproductive.

The italics are mine. He continues by suggesting the way to develop spoken fluency is “to provide lots of interesting and comprehensible input” instead. In other words, rich reception or input, is better and more logical. And I agree with this.

But because input is predominately a passive activity it is often equated, both by the teachers and students, to low language acquisition. It is avoided by both groups because the language gains are not seen immediately in a world that demands immediate results. More often than not more effective methods, like rich input, simply take the backseat in ELT because of profitability, and students suffer for this linguistically as well as financially. Students pay large sums of money only to have poor results. Their language foundation is weak and bad habits form that later become hard to change; all the while the teachers and language schools are laughing all the way to the bank.

“Range check error” in Paul Nation’s Range program

“Range check error”.

This is the message I get everytime I try to run the Range program using basewrd#.txt files I have created myself. The text-files seemed to have been saved properly and the original ones work fine, so there shouldn’t be a problem.

Anyone else has had trouble with this? And does anyone have a solution?