Talking about technology

You are going to watch two different videos. Listen carefully both of them and answer / reflect on the questions below.

Listen to the following speech and try to think about sort of register used to deliver the communication. Pay attention to the use of verb tenses, coordinating structures, linkers, etc. Think about the skills needed to be a good engineer and add them to the linguistic ones seen during the second unit.

Now compare the language use in that talk with this one:

Can you identify different levels of specialization? Can you find any similarity in both videos? Can you identify the kind of “people” involved? The audience? The level of the producers in both examples?

Comment your feelings using the comments option.

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27 thoughts on “Talking about technology

  1. 1. The speaker uses both academical and tecnical registers as he is adressing to both international engineers and employers. As an academic conference is mainly formal but, the tenor, the type of role interaction between the participants, the identification between the speaker and the engineers and the mode, specially the genre, which is persuasive when adressing the engineers directly, changes into a more informal register. In the presentation he identifies himself with them and in the conclusion he gives them advice (Do not…, You have…, don’t give up, be part of…).
    2. The most widely used tense is the present tense. He uses the past tense when he refers to his beginnings in Canada. He uses both the conditional and the imperative in the conclusion.
    3. He uses parataxis continously. Juxtaposition is very frequent but also coordination (and).
    4. He uses linkers widely, for instance:
    • Result: based on the above
    • Reason and cause: for that, and that’s why.
    • Consequence: so.
    • Addition: at the same time.
    • Contrast: but.
    • Expressing a personal opinion: it is important to know.
    • Adding information: and let’s face it.
    • Order: before I conclude, in closing.
    5. The focus of the conference (within the frame of bridging occupational programs: assisting newcomers to Canada to make a quicker transition into the Canadian labour market) was Canada’s engineering future and the potential to leverage global talent. He shares his experience with his audience in relation to the skills needed to be a good engineer:
    • Knowledge of the country (Canada).
    • Consistency in education and research methods: international equivalence.
    • In Canada, it is necessary to put new knowledge in action in order to develop new products and processes to improve the life of people. Innovation, advances in technology, engineers have to be the leading innovators in society.
    • More engineers are needed to make Canada’s economy more competitive.
    • More leadership positions in Canada’s society industry, businesses, university.
    • Education is needed in Canada, knowledge and training is an asset. Diversity is also an asset.
    • Financed, supported by the Canadian society.
    • Engineers as ‘problem solvers’, modern thinkers, leaders.
    • Creation of opportunities for an international community of students coming to Canada. International trained students and companies participating in these programas.
    • Having confidence in the education provided, opportunities arise by being part of the society.

  2. I agree with Eduardo said. I would just like to add some comments and ideas to his message.

    The choice of the speaker was, in my opinion, deliberate as he himself was in the same situation as the audience – the international trainee engineers – several years ago. This can be easily seen when he addresses them as fellow engineers. This is a good example of what it could be understood as EAP in its broadest sense and of English being used as lingua franca, as these engineers come from different parts of the world.

    He gives them some practical advice, talking from his personal experience, at the same time as he tries to convince them of the importance of their job, especially in a country like Canada, by calling them leading innovators and leading problem solvers. He also remarks that nowadays more and more engineers are taking senior leadership positions in Canadian companies.

    Eduardo forgot to mention that repetition is a common characteristic throughout his speech. I think it serves two purposes. First of all, to make sure that the engineers grasp the main ideas he is trying to convey. If they miss them the first time, they can always get them the second, third, etc. time he mentions it. Besides this, I think this is a useful technique to persuade the audience and convince them that what he is saying is true.

    To achieve his aim, he also uses vocabulary or expressions with a positive connotation like asset, benefit, outstanding, problem solver, leadership, talent, improve people’s lives, pioneer, do not underestimate, do not lose confidence.

  3. I agree with the comments of Eduardo a Juan Carlos.
    I presume that the lecturer is a native French speaker person because of his accent. However he addresses to the audience in English.
    Although this conference takes places in Canada, apparently the listeners are from all over the world. They are professionals engineers. He uses a formal language but with a friendly tone. He uses language as a way of persuasion with a kind of imperative mode. Moreover, the conference has been very easy to follow because he hasn’t used almost any technical vocabulary. Since the topic of the conference wasn’t really about a specific subject of the engineering world, but about encouraging engineers to believe in their skills and to gain self-steem. In order to achieve this aim, he appeals to his professional background by telling his personal experiencies. He knows how to use the discursive tactics to attract the people’s attention.
    The main verbal tenses are past simple when he recounts his experiencies in Canada and the present tense to remark the current situation of the engineering world.
    Another important thing that he comments is that engineering is the same all over the world and that it is a multicultural profession. Therefore, it is easy to interac with engineers from different parts of the planet. Besides, English plays a crucial role here due to it works as a lingua franca in this profession.

  4. Activity 3.1: Watch the following video : “Skills for Change: Conference for International Engineers” and pay attention to the use of verb tenses, coordinating structures, linkers, etc.

    A) Try to think about the sort of register used to deliver the communication.
    Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice-Chancellor of York University, gives a conference to Engineer students in an understandable language that encloses very few specific terms that may be qualified as ‘academic register’. The academic vocabulary is also identified as general or common to different sciences. His dialogue is rather informal in order to reach his student-listeners and give them a general speech about the skills they should expand as future professionals.

    B) Think about the skills needed to be a good engineer and add them to the linguistic ones seen during the second unit.
    Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri tells his students that as ‘new professional comers’ to any country in which they will work, they have to:
    – be comfortable with the new country: learn its history, geography and evolution as a nation
    – know about local national practices and codes in order to operate safely, as their profession involves public safety and other societal impacts
    – produce new knowledge and transform it into products and services to benefit society, improving its peoples’ lives
    – become innovators and problem solvers in every discipline such as: technology, services, communication, health-care, etc.
    – address issues from the perspective of the country in which they have studied, as different perspectives allow them to become broad thinkers who will engage with the society they serve.

  5. The tone used is quite formal, but the lecturer tries to engaged in some kind camaraderie with the audience in the grounds of a shared profession. I would considered it as a subliminal persuasive method. The lecturer identifies himself with the audience, introducing some personal details into the equation in order to get the complicity and recognition of those present.
    The message is always very positive and well directed. Connectors are cleverly used to lead the discourse in the desired direction
    Once he has gained the sympathies and confidence of the audience, he presents himself as an authority, and changes the tone of the discourse, without loosing the positivism in it He then, advises and encourages and gets his round of applause.
    It is not simple to achieve so much in only 14 min 51 seconds. There is obviously a mastery of communication through language, with the right use of connectors and tenses.
    The final conclusive imperative denotes the power of the speaker to transmit the confidence the listener needs.

  6. These videos show two radically different techniques to ‘sell’ something and persuade others to ‘buy’ it. Apart from what has already been said above, I think that it would be interesting to comment on how prominent the use of ‘prefabricated language’ is in both recordings. What I mean by that is the extent to which the speakers make use of repetitious rhetorical structures that have progressively become devoid of their (once) meaningful content.

    Dr Mamdouh Shoukri, acting as President & Vice-chancellor of York University in Canada, performs his role of walking and talking embodiment of the ‘American Dream’. He starts off by telling the audience about his undergraduate years in Egypt and concludes by soothing the future engineers’ minds by stating: ‘Everything will fall in place naturally [provided that you do not underestimate yourselves]’. Such a degree of cheerful optimism appears amalgamated with the institutional messages he wishes to plug from the very start, which boil down to the simplistic asseveration that engineers are great, but if they have studied at York University in Canada, then they will be even better.

    Some examples of prefabricated language would be the following (notice the meaninglessness of some constructions, which the speaker has jotted down in the form of bullet points on a sheet of paper): consistency, common training, interconnected world, societal impacts, knowledge-based economy, the key drivers of…, better leverages, leadership positions, global citizens, addressing issues from different perspectives, massive expansions, building on the strength of…, transitioning toward…, etc.

    To drive the speech forward, Dr Shoukri relies on connectors, hedges, thematic/rhematic redistributions and expressions of personal feelings: I would argue that…; What I mean by that is…; From my point of view…; Of course…; This is something just to…; All evidence indicate that…; Who can do that better than…; Look at…; So…; Also…; …not only…but (also)…; Based on the above…; I can honestly say…; …that’s for sure; One of the things I enjoy more is…; That’s why…; Speaking of…; Again…; And that’s exactly…; Let me say that…; Later on…; I’d like to remind all of you…, etc. This mixture of styles, from the melodramatic to the commercial, contributes to the viewer’s initial astonishment and increasingly acute state of ennui.

    Toby Shapshak’s mini-lecture is half the length of Dr Shoukri’s but contains as many, in not more, commonplace rhetorical strategies: 1) inviting the audience to participate (passively, so as not to be challenged); 2) letting the audience think that they know something; 3) opening the audience’s eyes to one particular ‘uncomfortable truth’; 4) trying to substitute the audience’s ingrained beliefs with that ‘truth’; 5) celebrating the new state of harmonious agreement. With this in mind, the lecturer entices the members of the audience with the initial ‘show of hands’ -their only instance of participation, applause and laughs excluded- to turn, just a moment later, to the provocative ‘I bet you didn’t even know that…’. Names such as Nikola Tesla, with his alternating current, and Henry Ford, inventor of the production line, feature alongside Eric Mowbray Merrifield, ‘the most famous inventor you’ve never heard of’. The inventor of the dolos (‘Each of a series of interlocking concrete blocks used to guard against erosion by the sea’, according to the OED) is presented by the lecturer as only one example -of, we assume, many- of the African continent’s -and the African people’s- immense creativity. Some wild assumptions and many flagrant oversimplifications later, the lecturer concludes that African inventions are much more commendable and far more efficient than anything being developed in the West.

    It might be true that the format of both these short lectures limits the speakers’ leeway as to how cerebral the contents can get, although the plethora of stereotypes and dead metaphors being used definitely does not help the viewer to sympathize.

  7. The first speech is delivered by Dr Mamdouh Shoukri, President & Vice-chancellor of York University in Canada though he’s from Egipt, which can be seen by his accent. He talks about the role as problem solvers and as producers of economic goods and services that engineers should play in Canada as well as in a globalized world . He is addressing his talk to an academical community in a very plain and simple way using a very general and divulgative register, not making any mention to any specific technical item.
    As regards the second speech, it’s delivered by journalist Toby Shapshak about innovation in Africa in a very divulgative way too, even in a more simple one that Dr. Shoukri, sprinkled at times with trite rethorical devices and easy jokes in order to make it close and enjoyable. Without getting into the content of the speech, which in my opinión casts a too optimistic view about innovation in Africa, his speech has little to do with technical English though of course he makes reference to some technical innovations created in Africa.

  8. I would like to add some points to Tomás’ rightly comment. I consider that Toby Shapshak is using irony in his lecture in order to create humour and engage the audience. One example of that irony could be his remark on the invention of the dolos (“the global shipping economy could not be possible without African technology like this”) or when he shows the world map from space and he asserts that “it is really easy to see where innovation’s going on: all the places with lots of electricity it isn’t”. I think he wants to point out that African inventions are not very well known in the West, they may be simple for us, but they are important for people in Africa. For that reason, he uses irony and says the contrary that the Western listener wants to hear.
    He also uses commonplace scenarios and references to everyday things: “it’s a bit like a huge jumping jack”, “and people go, “Look, it’s the dark continent””, “and it’s really easy to see where innovation’s going on”, “the little square plastic that you put”, “well”, “and more than anything else”, “and that’s where we’re going”, etc. Most connectors are copulatives (and) where a formal lecturer would have split the sentence or would have empoloyed a more formal connector. He also uses contractions to emphasize the proximity of his speech (“it’s the dark continent”, “it isn’t”, “we’ve liberated”, etc). He is deliberatedly colloquial in order to connect with the audience. He knows that his audience is composed by lay persons and, as Robert A. Day points out, he uses it to convince his audience, even though his style and strategies are really informal.

    • To the detailed comments by my fellow students above, one could add that Dr, Shoukri addresses his audience with the formality expected of a general address in academic circles, a feature that stands out when comparing this speech to the one by T. Shapshak.
      Shokri’s speech is aimed at encouraging a sense of transcontinental professional community, regardless of country of origin. This he stresses by using “positive” vocabulary (the word “asset” turns up several times), and plenty of repetition to make his point.
      As is the practice in Northamerican universities, in particular technical education goes hand in hand with the requirements of the industry/ economy. This partnership is acknowledged by the speaker towards the end (to which industry representatives present respond with a little applause). The aim of the conference , as has been said, is thus to “sell” the promise of successful professional life in Canada to the aspirants, and at the same time provide the industry with the work force they need.
      Regarding the second text, the speaker is equally engaged in the “selling” of mobile-driven Africa as a site of technological innovation for the world, introducing his subject by posing a few questions about mobile phones to his (seemingly general public) audience, which engage their attention. Shapshak’s comments (the “dark continent” etc.) are meant to inform humorously about a little known reality, in order to undermine prejudiced, cliched visions about Africa. However, precisely the mobile phone industry exploits mineral resources in that continent (Congo being an example of it) under the worst possible conditions and certainly not for the benefit of the African people. Also, I wonder whether as a white South African journalist, Mr. Shapshak is really referring to the whole continent with his hyperpositive speech…

  9. The first locution is addressed by President & Vice-chancellor of York university, Mamdouh Skouri,an egipcian based in Canada for 40 years.He stills carries a strong foreign accent maybe because he also probably commands French (due to the geopolitic linguistic status of Canada).
    He tries to play a leading role in the encouragement of new students and engineers at the aforementioned university by enhancing their role as producers of economic wealth in Canada’s outcome in a globalized world.
    The language used seems to be formal, but it could almost be ‘chewed’ by any GP. He uses short sentences ,but juxtaposition and coordination can also be seen.
    Mr. Skouri also uses many linkers in order to blend and leave everything tied up in his persuasive discourse. Throughout the discourse we can heard some specific terms that could be fitted as ‘academic register’.This vocabulary,though, could also be considered as general to different areas of competence.
    Toby Shapshak’s speech about innovation in Africa seems to be a part of a battery of conferences given in a sort of technological event or fair.On a personal basis,I consider his predictions over the top,but surely with a valuable crux…
    His speech is very divulgative and gains the complicity of the audience with some jokes about the matter.Technical terms are not used in profusion, but maybe some, are leaked while talking about innovation in Africa.

  10. In the first conference, both formal and informal, academical and no-academical, technical and no-technical register are mixed. The use of technical terms denotes that the speech is addressed to specialized people. Juxtaposition and coordination are alternatively employed and also linkers. But, the lecturer may want to create a relaxed atmosphere in order to involve the audience, looking for their attention. He also presents himself as somebody who lived the same things that the students are going through, so, they can identify with him. He addresses to them in a direct way using persuasive methods (for example, use of personal pronoun “you”). The speaker is trying to connect with his audience. In the end, He gives some personal advices, maybe as a chance to encourage students. So, as conclusion, the level of specialization varies along the conference, from 1 to 3 all the time.

    In the second one, actually, the lecturer uses almost the same strategies in his speech, but the register and tone is even more direct and informal than in the first conference. The beginning opens a kind of dialogue between the speaker and the audience by some direct questions, which may be seen as an attempt to looking for public’s attention and participation. In this case, the speech is not very specialized because he does not use many technical terms and I think that anybody could understand him. He is more focused on “selling” the ideas that he is presenting than anything else. So, in my opinion, this last speech has a level 2 (not very specialized).

  11. The two videos use rather different means to get the purposes of the lecturer across:
    In the first one, Dr. Shoukri´s speech is mainly formal with a level of specialization 1, he is a forty-year old experienced engineer (SP) speaking to a Specialised audience (engineers too); but the tenor, the persuasive genre, as far as the degree of involvement of the speaker with the audience, makes the register more informal. He uses a serious but ,at the same time , familiar and encouraging style, maybe because he feels identified with his audience, sharing his personal experiences in the field by using a personal ´I` or ´we` all throughout the conference.
    He uses present and past tenses together with some modals like ´must, could or have to`. He uses simple and short sentences, as well as the coordination particle ´and´ very often.
    As for the linkers he uses, the most common and repetitive are ´so, so that, that´s why, let me say that`.
    Referring to the focusing of the conference, it deals with the assertion of the asset of an international education, high level academic background and qualifications in the field, the future prosperity and competitiveness of Canada by means of transforming new knowledge into products (becoming an innovator), and about the role of engineers in leadership positions. The conclusion is a encouraging speech to give self-esteem and confident to the audience.
    In the second one, Tobi Shepshak´s speech is informal, with a level of specialization 3, directed towards the general public. His discourse is more interactive, making the audience participate by given the more reasonable answer, for him to change it. He uses a strongly persuasive and quick genre, not allowing time for the audience to refute his ideas.
    The sentences are not as simple as the ones from the previous discourse, using more complex construction.
    He uses rhetorical device as the humour and the irony to keep the audience alert and entertained.
    The focus of this performance about mobile phones is Africa, and the Innovation out of Necessity. He intends to define Africa, and not the developed countries, as the source of innovation as necessity makes people to be innovators.

  12. I fully agree with the above comment. Dr. Shoukri uses a formal, yet approachable register in what seems to be a commencement address. He uses nominalization, the conjunction “and” as well as “I can say that” throughout he speech. He endeavors to to motivate the graduates; encouraging them to have confidence in their knowledge, to become involved in society and to contribute to Ontario’s progress through the creation of innovative products and services. His language is slightly repetitive which makes for a less interesting speech.

    Toni Shepshak, as a native speaker, has more of the phrasal verbs and ellipsis that one would expect. He is engaging and funny; his sense of timing is spot on and he is able to connect with his audience by way of rhetorical questions and anecdotes. The visual content is also useful for illustrating examples and involving the audience

  13. In the first video, the speaker is delivering his speech at a conference so he uses fairly formal (academic) language although it is not particularly specialized. However, he has been in the position of the students that he is addressing and so because of this be delivers the speech in quite a relaxed manner. The speaker uses simple grammatical structures giving most of his speech in the present tense but does use lots of medium level conjunctions or linkers to structure his presentation eg in closing. As well as having good English skills, the speaker says that engineers need to be good at problem solving as well as being good leaders and having a diverse all-round knowledge that he believes York University help students with.
    In the second video, the speaker tries to engage the audience with humour and using less academic vocabulary ideas eg bribing customs officials, Instagram. The speaker uses questions such as “what can it do”, not expecting or wanting an answer from the audience, but simply to keep them engaged. In the speech, there are also expressions eg catchy and the use of phrasal verbs are widespread with makes the tone seem more informal.

  14. 1st Video: The speech of Mr. Shoukri is easy to understand, due to the fact that he is not an English native speaker(may be French or even Arab).
    The audience could be engineers from several parts of the world and English is chosen as lingua franca with academic purposes.
    We can check several repetitions in his speech and the use of present and past tense ,and sometimes modal verbs. The speech is aimed to persuade the audience that their profession is important (persuasive discourse)
    2nd video. In the second video Mr. Shapshak uses a very differente tone (informal) even his look is casual. He talks about innovation in Africa and in comparison with the first video he wants audience to participate in the speech. Not many technical terms are found, but on the contrary rethoric strategies are done (level 2) I also deem that communication with audience is dynamic and positive.

  15. Dr M Shoukri uses a formal academic register to address the audience. However, though he is talking about engineers, he is not really using engineering language as such. His focus is not on engineering, it is on international engineering students and the importance of their integration into Canadian society. He doesn’t mention engineering designs, processes or problems. He tells the audience about his own personal experiences as an international engineering student, with a good deal of self mentions. The language he uses therefore is not really the technical language of problem solving or cause and effect that we might expect in engineering. In short, his talk is not specialised. I understood the talk easily and I have no idea about engineering! Neither did I notice a heavy passive load or many instances of nominalisation Also, it seems he is not only addressing engineers, towards the end of his intervention, he talks about the importance of business investment and thanks some of the representatives who are present at the talk. For these reasons, I would say that despite the fact that this is a conference and that the context is formal, we cannot conclude that this is an example of specialisation level 1 due to the lack of specialised content.

    Toby Shapshak gives and interesting TED talk. As with most TED talks, the audience is not made up of experts in a specific field of study. This places the register in specificity level 3 (understandable) where the audience is lay and the speaker is specialist. While TED talks are informative they also have an element of entertainment, so we could say the context is pseudo formal, and the type of divulgation that we see is similar to the current affairs and popular science documentaries we see on TV. As with Dr Shoukri’s talk, there is a notable absence of technical /scientific language. Mr Shapshak is a skilled speaker and uses a good deal of humour, irony and exaggeration to keep the audience entertained. Furthermore, he is a good deal less formal than the Egyptian engineer, and even insults a member of the audience at the beginning for comic effect as stand up comedians often do. In fact, he has the audience laughing throughout with references to angry birds, bribing customs officials etc. Technical language is even avoided, he refers to a new innovation as ‘a little square of plastic you plug in to your phone’ rather then telling the audience what is called.

    Neither speech really uses much of the technical and scientific language we have been studying.

  16. 1. I do agree with Euardo and Juan Carlos. Language is commented as I am going to do but I would also like to focus on non-verbal actions as I think they are also important and must be considered. In video number one, language used is academic but also formal as being a common motivation strategy for students to keep their attention. Language used is not frightening but confidence. A smile is seen on his face. Audience are students and the context is quite formal where present tense is present and yuxtapoisiton and linkers too. Second video offers a direct but friendly question in order to open his speech. Even he makes them laugh in order to introduce the main topic. Audience is common people that go to see some kind of entertaining debate, so they do not want a long and complex speech. That is what the speaker is perfectly doing: he is speaking about the incredible technological development Africa has seen. He “sells” his theory by using daily language when dealing with scientifical terms and using the key of humor. Both strategies are the tips to convince audience, to impress people and he gets his goal. Both videos share the idea of trying to make audience comfortable in order to get their goals. There is a slight difference: First video is sending a message of aim where the academical context is more present. He, as a vice-president in the University of York, have to keep is formal and serious image to be respected. I am not saying that the second must not be respected but it is true that he is appearing on TV program with the intention of being broadcasted online. It is more a divulgate speech so it has to connect more with common spectators. Both adapt his speech to the context, not only his language but also appearance, gestures, proximity…

  17. 1. Different leves of specialization:

    In the first video, the speaker uses a formal register with a wide range of Academic language in a lecture-like style, represented in conventional expressions such as ” It is wonderful to speak” ” I must mention that” “in order for me to…” and also indirect structures characteristic of formal language such as “having done” or ” in terms of” ” it must be noted” . As this is a conference for international engineers , he also uses some technical vocabulary related to the topic of engineering. Whereas in the second video, the speaker uses an informal style, the vocabulary is sometimes even more technical than in the first video (as he mentions different technical innovations which require specialized terms), he uses humor, irony and dynamic intonation, similar to the one used by tv presenters ( in fact, he conducts a TV show ) in order to engage the audience.
    2. Similarities between speakers:

    Both use English as a vehicle for communication and both are talking about technology; they also try to engage and persuade their audiences and use specific language in their speeches.

    3. People involved, audience and level of the producer:

    The first speaker is the President and Vice-Chancellor of York University, and he is delivering his speech in a conference for international qualified engineers (many of them , already employed in international companies) and he is stressing the importance of formal education for engineers in order for them to be successful.
    The second speaker is the editor and publisher of “Stuff” magazine, a publication in technology and gadgets. Although his speech contains some technical words, it can be considered a divulgative one, as the TED conference is aimed at a multidisciplinary audience, not necesarily with an Academic educational background, with special focus on creativity and imagination as core values in innovation.

  18. The development of this activity concerns the comparison and contrast of two videos in order to analyse the vocabulary, type of structures and register used by the speakers. The first video has been taken from a Conference of Engineers in Canada. Therefore, the register used is formal and the vocabulary is significantly technical. In this video, the speaker, who is a non-native speaker of English addresses to other Engineer fellows in particular and he talks about his beginning in Canada 14 years ago. He states that in order to progress he had to engage with the Canadian’s society. Apart from that he speaks about the Engineer education in Canada and compares it to the rest of the world as well. Conversely, in the second video, the speaker uses simple functions and vocabulary. Among the devices that he uses, we can find repetition and simple sentences.

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