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The difficult area of women’s gifts in the Church.


English: Margaret Thatcher, former UK PM. Fran...

One of a few very rare female leaders who have outshone the men. I call these people “Deborahs” – but they are rarer than you think.

I received the following letter from Jeni, which has blessed me a lot during my recent struggle with pneumonia (firstly misdiagnosed as bronchitis) – I have just emerged from a four day hospital stay with a large bag of different types of pills and I don’t feel fantastic – I have been given another estimate of two weeks before it all goes away, but it’s nothing like what it was. If you haven’t had a bout of pneumonia, you don’t want it. By the way, since the lovely WordPress interface lets me do this, lets just take a check at this point of those of you who had pneumonia already and who didn’t have it yet, that would be quite interesting.

Anyhow, the letter from Jeni which cheered me up a lot is in the comments to one of the trilogy of anti -Watchtower films on this channel. In order to give more prominence to the interesting issues I wanted to give my answer instead as a main article, and thanks to Jeni for waiting patiently for me to get a bit better. I’m not really well enough to be writing about this, but if Calvin can write letters all over Europe when he had about 200 illnesses going on, then who am I to not write a blog post while recovering from Pneumonia? Even if I come up with more than the usual levels of fallibility, surely the Lord will add his blessing, which is the olny important thing.

Here’s Jeni’s letter:

Hi Viktor,

I’m writing you because I watched all 3 You Tube videos on the Jehovah’s Witnesses back to back. I have been “studying” with a JW for a year now in my home and am trying to expose her to scriptures that will open her eyes. It’s a slow process. I think you and your theology is spot on and I wish you were my Sunday school teacher. Basically I just need your prayers as well as the woman with whom I’ve been studying. Please pray for her. I would love to have a house church or other ministry full of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses from my area and disciple them.

Side note, what do you think about the scripture in 2 Timothy where Paul says he doesn’t permit a woman to teach a man? I’ve listened to a little bit from both sides of the argument and I tend to lean toward the conservative view. However I’m a woman and so this is disappointing because I so want to pour out what I believe God tells me in the scriptures to others and there is no avenue for that presently at my church. All the women’s classes have plenty of teachers. Please tell me your view so that I can more fully examine my own.

Love in Christ,
-J-

First of all, many thanks to your compliments and desires that I could be your Sunday school teacher. I have in fact never been a Sundeay school teacher and am afraid and greatly tremble at the idea of having that or any other position of “power” in an organised Church. It says in James 3.1 “My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation”. A higher level is applied to those who have had the rule in the Church. In particular there are big condemnations awaiting people who have had carnal kickbacks from being rulers in the Church, and by “Carnal kickbacks” I refer to everything from taking advantage of the monetary gifts of the faithful, using the position to gain more tempral influence like improving your CV for a temporal role, and also the utility a person’s pride has from the receipt of a title – Elder This, Deacon That (the Mormons love to leverage that one!) and also the influence over others – the joy of exercising power, and how in many cases we see little popes appear in Churches all over Protestantism – people who rightly reject the Papal claims to be able to tell people what to do in Roman Catholicism above and beyond scripture, or to be the uniques interpreters of scripture to their flock, and in the end they are even more papal in the way they treat their flocks than the very Pope in Rome that they abhor. The worst case of power abuse in the Church and the ultimate “carnal kickback” of leadership of course is the sexual abuse that thrives wherever leadership is put on some unnecessary pedestal. That again we hear of mostly in the media related to Roman Catholicism, but never fear, I am sure that Protestantism contains cases that can absolutely run rings around the worst of them, so let us be humble and circumspect. Read the rest of this entry

The stubborn ear of the first-time linguist.


Portrait of Jane Austen, from the memoir by J....

Meet your new English teacher...

This is an answer to the question received from Grzegorz Siwiec which I’ve answered also where he put it in the Goldlist section, and also I wanted to make an article of it in its own right as it’s a great question. I’ve added a bit more here than in the answer to his question, so hopefully you’ll read it here as well. The additional bit is at the end.

You basically said that when you read English you understand a lot, but when you hear even the same text spoken, you understand a lot less. You asked whether the Goldlist method would help with listening.

OK, so here’s the answer.

Firstly, reading and listening are two sides of the same discipline. They are both the passive sides of linguistic activity. Linguistic activity, like mathematical activity, has four main functions. In maths we have addition, multiplication, subtraction and division. And just as division is like the opposite or passive side of multiplication, so hearing is the passive side of speaking. And just as subtraction is the passive side of addition, so reading is the passive side of writing. And just as it is easier to do big subration sums than it is to do long division without a calculator, so it is that the beginner until fluency is gained will find the passive activity of reading to be easier than the passive activity of hearing.

In reading, we provide in our heads our own “voice” for the words and we “listen” to that. But it is a voice that we have made and therefore it will contain the mispronunciations that we have picked up. We may hear the same word back read by a native speaker and it may sound different because the pronunciation is not what we expected. The Goldlist can help here if you note with words in the goldlist any unexpected pronunciation to an English word if you’re learning English or other not precisely phonetic language.

In the main the reason why we do not understand a spoken text as well is that the tempo it is presented in will be someone else’s tempo. When we read we adjust the speed of the internal voice to match what we are comfortable with. We pause when we need to think about a word, whereas in a spoken text the voice carries on while we still need to chew on an earlier word, and we get lost. We can also see an unfamiliar word and analyse it for etymological clues, and do things that we don’t have time for when listening to a text. If we do get lost we can repeat it.

So don’t expect following a spoken text to be equally easy as following a written one. Not unless you are learning Japanese, that is. And even there, the speech of some speakers, especially male speakers, is quite hard to follow. Bear in mind also that some languages swallow half the letters, for instance French and Danish, and many accents of English. Accents in themselves cause listening comprehension to be much tougher than reading comprehension, especially in languages like German or English which contain strong dialects. In Polish even the Zakopane accent is not so hard to follow – I heard some on the radio this morning as a local was commenting record visitors to the place last long weekend. Kashubian is the biggest challenge maybe, or a thick Silesian, but Kashubian counts as another language and even Silesian is not as far from Polish as some of the dialects around England are from one another. People speaking southern England dialect can follow standard Australian or American with much greater facility than they can follow broad Geordie or Scouser once they get going. Please make sure you are following people who are speaking a form of English that is fairly standard. Many Poles went to Ireland and pride themselves on getting an Irish brogue, but the downside is that they aren’t all that understandable to other native speakers. Irish is a lovely accent when it’s authentic, but it’s not one the foreigner should be aiming to copy for international use if they can help it. I’m not talking Terry Wogan here, I’m talking a strong Irish accent.

So, what tools can one use to improve listening comprehension? In the good old days, in schools we used to be given dictees in French – less so in German as it was more self evident how things were written as long as a person wasn’t speaking to us in Schwaebisch. I understand that ‘dyktando’ was also used in Polish schools. You can actually give yourself a dictation by taking an audiobook and sampling a paragraph at random on the mp3, writing it out from listening to the actor read and then checking it back to the book.

You don’t even need to write it, you can simply listen to an audiobook paragraph by paragraph, then read the original to see if you understood everything, and then mark the words you still don’t know, and then use the translation to get those words, which by the way should be added to the Goldlist headlist. This linguistic Triathlon is a great way to develop both the passive skills.

The best way to go about it is to see if you can get three things for the same novel or short story: first the audiobook read by a good actor on mp3 on audible.com or other sources. There’s no shortage of material out there on the net and not all of it is paid, if you get my drift. second you need the English original and finally you need a Polish translation. It probably helps if at least one of the two written ones is in printed form – a print-out if not a book bought or borrowed from the library. By using this method you’ll gradually come to see that you need the Polish translation less and less and you need to read the material in addition to just hearing it less and less. Also you’ll familiarise yourself with some of the jewels of English literature. Take twentieth century literature in order to have a more modern standard – we tend not to talk these days in the way people did in Dickens or Jane Austen, but in due course if you like the process you’ll be able to graduate to them.

If you cannot get into novels and literature, you could choose films. Films with a lot of talking in are preferable. Green Mile, Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, Fight Club – these are all better than pure action movies like James Bond which will take your time up with car chases and sexy women which could more profitably be spent on language learning. The thing to do here is to get DVDs – preferably hiring them, and play about with the soundtracks and titles. Basically when the DVD was born the language lab died.

Here are the additional bits I wanted to say:

The problem which you are encountering is particularly noticeable when learning your first foreign language. Sometimes the ear is slow in reacting to the different sounds of a language, especially when being in a country for the first time and hearing native speakers when all one has had has been other more adavcned foreign learners as speakers. This training the ear to accept strange sounds is different to activation, and can take a couple of months of being in a country. Once one has “broken” this stubborn ear then for subsequent languages the problem doesn’t tend to happen.

The other thing is that as long as you have a small vocabulary, of only a few thousand words, then you will come up against unfamiliar words more often and they will put the ear off track all the more often. A vocabulary of 15,000 words or more means that you are really familiar with 99.9% of what you hear so interruptions to the flow are that much rarer and one’s ability to follow for longer periods that much easier. Therefore working on the Goldlist to gain really large vocabularies will also help the ear to become attuned.

Concert for Polish Grandparents


One of my Polish viewers who now lives in the UK didn’t believe that concerts on Grandma and Granda‘s day (near the end of January) are marked with concerts all over Poland, as she didn’t remember any from her school days.

The fact is that this piece of Polish charm was actually imported from the United States during the 1980s! It seems like the typical piece of socialism hangover, but the funny thing about Poland in the eyes of an Englishman is that a lot of things which we are tempted at first glance to write off to the Communist era actually has a completely different explanation.

That’s why you still see May holidays, Red plaques by buildings, military parades all over the place, grandparents’ day concerts and the habit of putting the water in the cup in restaurants without the bag – which I always assumed to be an East Europeanism until I got precisely the same in the States. Some of these things which the British would wave off as Sovietisms actually come from a totally different direction.

Frédéric Chopin

If Freddy Chopper had really liked Warsaw, nobody was stopping him staying! As it was he left even despite the fact that Konstancja was there. That's how desparate he was to go...

ANYWAY, this was Sophie’s first ever piano recital in front of a hall full of people. We thought she was going to be given a proper piano and not this joke of an instrument. Notice also how the music teacher doesn’t give any credit for the talents of the piano playing kids to their teachers (Sophie’s teacher is sitting with Irina and me in the audience cringing with the amateurishness of it all) as naturally there is nothing of the sort available in the State curriculum. The appalling song at the end about Warsaw being Chopin‘s city (which he dreamed of nothing but escaping, despite his liking for one girl there) which has been shoved out at kids in all the Warsaw schools just as a recorded karoke piece – although the sheet music is available on the internet just in case any Warsaw school music teacher can actually read musical notation.  Some pieces were played by the music teacher not on the tape recorder, that fine baroque instrument, but on a guitar of which 1 of the 6 strings was absent and I think she knew a good 4 or 5 different chords.

I didn’t write all of this in the YT description and discussion, I’ve saved it for here as I like to give you a separate perspective on here, or why would you come? The videos are all on YT and some of you have already watched them once.

Please add your thoughts on musical education in schools, including answering the poll on what the government policy should be.

Give to the American Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami Relief Fund


Flag of the Red Cross

They'll carry your help where it's needed

The American Red Cross is a charity with exemplary governance, so we can do something to help the victims of the earthquake disaster in Japan and the Pacific tsunami which is meaningful and real.

https://american.redcross.org/site/Donation2?idb=0&5052.donation=form1&df_id=5052

Some of you may be thinking “Why help them, their economy is the third largest in the world and per head they are richer than most people”? But try to push away those thoughts. Japan has helped generously many other nations in trouble, now it’s time to give back to them at a moment of great need.

Airport shocker


Departure hall of Terminal 2 opened in 2006

If'I'd remembered it in this hall before handing in my case, all would have been well...

OK, this one’s hot off the press, as I am writing about something that happened about ten minutes ago, and I’m writing this from one of the machines in the lounge at Prague airport.

A few days ago I gave a lecture about cross-cultural management to students of Susquehanna University in Prague. At the end of the lecture I was given a bottle of fine Moravian wine.

I forgot that I had this bottle in my briefcase, but naturally the detectors as I passed from streetside to airside at Prague found it.

Now clearly they all recognise me as having been through there eighty or so times before, so there’s no terrorism alarm bells ringing, and you can see how they’re in two minds about whether or not just to let me get on with it. But in the end the three of them say no, they have to do things by the book, which mean that the wine is thrown away.

I’m there saying to them, just take it and drink it yourselves, it’s a sin to throw it away. And of course as they know that I’m a regular, they also know that there’s no risk I’m trying to poison them, give them an exploding oesophagus, or anything like that.

It’s not the loss I’m bothered about. I could make that up just by drinking the free wine that’s flowing like milk and honey (there’s milk and honey too, in the fridge) here in the Lounge. It’s a bit early in the day for me, though, and I’m actually not a big fan of alcohol despite what readers of my blogs and viewers of my vlogs may think.

It is a bit sad that it happened to a present. But most of all it’s  pity to see something like that just thrown into a bin and not enjoyed by anybody. When anyone can see there’s no real risk there. It’s just the over-zealous application of a rule book.

That’s the real shock. That’s what’s really saddened me and sent me running to the production corridors of WordPress to get it off my chest.

The teleological significance of the Egyptian unrest


Joseph made ruler in Egypt

Walking in Memphis?

In many respects, the life of Christ depicted in the Gospels echos the history of the people Israel. Once of the aspects strongly identifying the person of God the Son with Israel is that in his very youth he is taken to escape disaster from Israel into Egypt, echoing the escape of Joseph’s family into Egypt to escape the famine in Israel. Later on other Pharaohs appear who do not know Joseph, and it culminates in the Pharaoh at the time of Moses, who oppresses the Hebrews and is forced in the end to let them go home. In the same way regime change – in the case of Jesus’ life the removal of Herod – enables Christ’s family to return to Israel from Egypt.

In the Bible, Zechariah 14.2 to be precise, you will read a prophecy of all nations gathering against Israel to fight. This verse has remained in every copy of the Bible ever printed, even through the hundreds of years when there was no Israel and atheists would have used it as another one of their “proof texts” against the veracity of scripture. The most savage enemies of the state of Israel are the Islamic States, with a notable exception in Egypt. The regime change now occasioned against Hosni Mubarrak, whatever his faults may be, is this a symbol that the final battle is now coming? The most influential Arab state that had been keeping peace with Israel is now in turmoil, and some other states, like Iran, are claiming that the unrest has an Islamic revolutionary character and are calling on Egypt to wipe Israel out. So now all the surrounding nations would be hostile, and a situation emerges where the prophesy of Zechariah 14.2, which many people believe to be an end times prophesy.

What does Jesus Christ say about this time in Matthew 24?

1And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

2And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

3And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

4And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. Read the rest of this entry

Who is this mystery customer?


Countries where the Russian language is spoken.

The Russian Linguation

The following review can still be read for Derek Offord’s “Using Russian – A Guide to Contemporary Usage” on Amazon.co.uk (not the American Amazon and I really don’t understand why they don’t carry these reviews over, when I want to write for only the UK or only the US I shall forget about the internet altogether!) As it was way back in 2001 I seem to have lost the accreditation for the review along the way. At first it was under my name, but at some stage they must have had a technical blip and the older reviews became “A Customer”. but it’s mine, well enough. I don’t know if my style has changed much in ten years.

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is essential reading for those doing a Russian degree.
28 Sep 2001
By A Customer

This review is from: Using Russian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage (Paperback)

I bought Using Russian when I was browsing in a bookshop for another language, as I already speak Russian, but when I looked at a few pages it immediately appealed as an excellent update to the way the language has developed since I did my degree. Sections in the book refer to different problems that face the English speaker in particular, such as faux amis. There are also sections on homonyms and other confusing aspects and they act rather like a checklist of what you need to have got right in your head in order not to make too many ‘howlers’ in translations or in conversation.

One particular plus in this book and as I found out in the whole series of ‘Using’ books that this is part of is the focus on register. If there is one thing that separates the wheat from the chaff among language students. it is the understanding and application of the idea of register, and this applies to Russian perhaps more than most European languages, as this is a language in which not only the vocabulary, but also the syntax, grammar and phonetics are all subject to complex nuances. This book was not available when I needed it. Now that it is I urge you to make use of it. It is the book about Russian that I would have liked to have written myself. If I thought there was demand for it, I’d offer to do a sister volume for Polish.

In any event it made me go out and by the sister volumes already in existence for French, German and Spanish. They are of a similar quality to this volume, the weakest is probably the German one, the Spanish one I would put as second favorite. It can be read cover to cover, or simply dipped into as a work of reference.

It is not material for learning the language from scratch, but would be a very useful second step after completing any of the standard self-instruction books such as the Colloquial series, the Teach yourself series or the Linguaphone course.

Either A-level or degree level students of the Language will profit from it and find it enjoyable because of its good presentation and readable style.

What if I pledge?


Folding the U.S. flag

It's time to fold our flags away and put them in the drawer. The only banner I will march under is that of Jesus Christ

I got into a discussion today on YouTube with someone who disagreed with pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States and said that people should not be forced to do that.

I said I agreed, that we should pledge allegiance to the human race and the whole planet.

He then got back to me and said that what he had in mind was that people should just be allowed to pledge allegiance to what they wanted, to their families, their own state if they wanted, to Nato if they felt strongly about that level, etc etc.

But here’s the rub with that one: what if I pledge allegiance to the ordinary man and woman, regardless of where they are born, but no-one pledges allegiance back to me, then it seems I’m on the losing end. So the only way to be fair is for everyone to pledge allegiance to everyone else. Nation of birth should be as irrelevant as star sign.

To war for a country should be as ludicrous as to war for Gemini or Sagitarius. Time and space are both dimensions so if we can be agreed, as most sensible people are, that the timing of your birth shouldn’t prejudge anything about you, and that all these star signs are just sillinesses, then why can’t we apply the same reasoning to space also? Why does the fact that you are born in this point on earth and not another give you a different status in the eyes of some people? Why will they pledge allegiance on to those born near them to go and fight against you? Is there any real sense in that?

We’re human beings, and when you go around the world, either by travelling physically or by using the social platforms that the internet affords, you can find people who are on your wavelength and who share your views and passions and priorities and likes and dislikes who look completely different to you in that they might be a so-called race, gender, generation, class, nationality, etc, from the ones you’d expect to have any similarity with.

You might find a partner for life in a nation which is supposed to be utterly unlike your own, and understand that person more closely than if she had been the girl next door when you were kids.

And you might find that your own family members, brothers and sisters you shared a table, a telly or even a bedroom with growing up are utterly different to you in outlook, priorities, likes and dislikes, personality traits…

So why even have nations? Why get so het up about them? If they are the cause for people to be segregated and given unfairly differing packets of rights, then we need to treat the nation state with the contempt it deserves, along with everything else that divides us.

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