I wonder how much longer I can get away with calling this ‘work’…


So, ahem.  It’s been a couple of weeks since the ‘Ifan Electricity Holiday‘ post, which in any reasonable company would mean that I’ve had my nose firmly back to the grindstone to make up for lost time.

Well.  Let’s brush over the fact that I didn’t post on the blog at the end of last week because I was in a networking event for people involved in some way with the whole Welsh for Adults field – and let’s brush even more firmly over the fact that this particular networking event overlapped in terms of time (and, er, location) with the Wales vs France rugby international in Cardiff.

caerdydd2But, um, we did talk about lots of interesting things to lots of interesting people, though, and I hope to be going back down to Cardiff at some point to put the head of Radio Wales through his paces in a two day intensive jamboree.

That’s enough for it to count as work, isn’t it?  Surely?

With hindsight, perhaps I should have planned to make this week an obvious slave-drive, since certain elements of last week might look (to the untutored eye) as though we were enjoying ourselves a little too much.

It didn’t quite work out like that, though.

Instead, I meandered my way back down the Welsh railway system to Cardiff on Wednesday, in order to be wined, dined and luxuriously accommodated by the remarkably kind people at the Cardiff School of English, Communication and Philosophy.

Yes, indeed, I take your point – what did they get out of it?

caerdydd31, the chance to listen to me dealing in my own self-pitying way with the heavy head cold that Angharad Lliar was kind enough to give me as a leaving present.  2, the opportunity to be quizzed in brutally relentless detail about lots of things I wanted to try and understand, and to give me new ideas out of the kindness of their hearts.  3, the chance to put me in the stocks in front of thirty or so undergraduates who’d been forced to try out some SSi sessions (but who were fortunately very badly prepared in terms of either eggs or tomatoes).

3 was the reason for it all, of course.  Tess Fitzpatrick, who runs their PhD programme in Applied Linguistics, had rather delightfully decided to make her third year undergraduates listen to at least six sessions of any SSi course they chose, after which they would then have to write an analysis of the method in the light of what they’ve been learning about language acquisition.  She thought the sufferers would appreciate having me tell them how the idea started, how the course material was put together, what we were planning for the future, and how much fun we hoped they were having with this unusually painful part of their degree.

And as though that wasn’t enough entertainment, the School was also in the middle of an ‘Advanced Research Residency Workshop’ on ‘The role of formulaic language in language acquisition and attrition‘, which had attracted a collection of extremely interesting contributors and researchers, including Alison Wray, the Director of Research and a genuinely big hitter in the field of formulaic language.  Oh, and they decided to tag my starry-eyed moment in the spotlight onto the end of the workshop.  Sorry, the Advanced Research Residency Workshop – yes, it would have made you feel a little intimidated and vulnerable, too, I promise.

Probably too enjoyable to be strictly legal

caerdydd4It was a roller-coaster of fascinating ideas from start to finish.  These are seriously intelligent and seriously interesting people, who were themselves genuinely interested in what we’ve built and are building at SSi Towers, and I spent the whole train and bus journey back on Friday scribbling down new ideas at a frantic rate.

I don’t think I can remember the last time I had such pure, unadulterated fun (well, with the possible exception of bath night when the offspring are in a cheerful mood).  And to top it all, both Tess and Alison floated some very effective bait in my direction about their PhD programme (which I’d love to find a way to make happen), and encouraged me to think in terms of their Visiting Scholar setup as well, which was as kind as it was tempting.

But of course it was all Very Hard Work (in some possible definition of the phrase that I happen not to have encountered yet).

I know, you’re not inclined to cut me much slack by this point.

But in a moment of seriousness, there can be no doubt whatsoever but that SSi will benefit enormously from having a lively, challenging and interesting relationship with research academics of this quality.  Tess and Alison have done us a very significant kindness with their interest in what we’re trying to do, and with their hugely generous welcome of our moderately haphazard approach into a more rigorous academic context.  Staying in touch with them is going to be extremely valuable and enormously entertaining.

And I promise I’ll do some recording and publish some new Welsh sessions next week, cross my heart.

Well you’ll have to believe it, when you see it.


P.S.  The ‘Naughty Boy’ Award for this week goes to Steve (catflap on the forum) – for turning up to the talk about SSi and then running away without saying hello at the end!

Perhaps he sensed how determined I would have been to grill a real, live SSiWer on his experiences (in front of all the undergraduates) if he’d admitted who he was – nonetheless, he has been told that this kind of behaviour won’t be tolerated in the future, and that I’ll be expecting a pint next time…:-)


P.P.S.  Those of you who’ve mentioned how much you’d love to do a PhD on particular ideas we’ve covered previously – I think I know a particularly good place to do one, where you’d be very warmly welcomed…:-)

6 responses to “I wonder how much longer I can get away with calling this ‘work’…

  1. Is the first picture the new SSi Towers HQ?

    All sounds very exciting, as usual. You’re starting to become quite the celebrity Aran…;-)

    Dal ati gyda’r gwaith da! 🙂

  2. What even is your life? Swanning about the countryside discussing language acquisition and watching rugby, the luck of some people, I don’t know. In all seriousness though because I think it’s important, well done for having worked hard to create something massively successful that allows you to do what you love and is still meaningful work. It’s pretty inspiring 🙂

    • Diolch, Amy! I do have some mild residual guilt issues, which I’ll blame on having too many Methodists in the family…;-)

      Having said that, I think the whole issue of ‘meaningful work’ is one of the most important aspects of building successful societies. Fingers crossed that as the company grows, we’ll be able to share this particular load of meaningful work with as many other people as possible – and I also hope in due course we’ll be able to contribute to efforts to help people and communities to build their own structures of meaningful work.

  3. I’ll see your Methodist Guilt and raise you some (ex)-Catholic Guilt (and no one feels as guilty as an ex-Catholic)….either way We’re all DOOMED!.

    Still trying to figure why the school of English though ….. 🙂

    • Oh, yes, there’s some eye-watering 100% proof guilt to be had over in Catholicism, that’s for sure…:-)

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