2010-06-18

To prepare written manuscripts of lectures or not

I have been lecturing in five languages: Japanese, Hebrew, English, Yiddish and Esperanto. When I lecture in classroom settings, I only prepare handouts and speak spontaneously in all of them. But when it comes to talks in more formal settings with more rigit time frame such as academic conferences, I almost always prepare written manuscripts in English, Yiddish and Esperanto, usually in Hebrew, but never in Japanese. This difference reflects my different masteries of these languages. Since I have never spent a sufficiently long period of time, speaking English, Yiddish or Esperanto in academic settings, I cannot allow myself to rely on my knowledge of these languages when I have to squeeze what I would like to say into twenty to thirty minutes in academic conferences, so I do not have the luxury of stopping to look for appropriate words and expressions.

It is clear that the ideal would be to prepare written manuscripts in advance, remember them by heart by repeating them alone and lecture without them as if you were speaking spontaneously. Unfortunately, however, I do not have enough time to do this. Then I have two alternatives: either to prepare written manuscripts of lectures or to prepare only handouts and speak spontaneously on the spot. Until quite recently I tended to opt for the first alternative, but I have come to notice more and more disadvantages. For example, when you read a written manuscript, you have less eye contact with the audience, and sound more mechanical and less lively.

So I have decided to make an experiment of giving my two forthcoming talks in Hebrew solely according to handouts without preparing written manuscripts. Since I have taught my courses in Hebrew for the past six years this way, I will hopefully be able to finish this experiment in peace. I may make some stupid mistakes, but it seems to me that I will have more things to gain than what I will lose, especially in view of the fact that the Hebrew-speaking audience expects more interaction and less formality.

2010-06-04

Overdrinking

I have a strong tendency to get addicted to what I really like. This tendency can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on what I develop an addition to. Beer used to be one of my additions for many years, until I had to stop drinking it completely a few years ago for fear of gout. Then I switched to red wine. It did not take me a long time to get seriously addicted to it, drinking one bottle of wine every day on weekdays and even two or three bottles on Sabbath.

It is no wonder that this habit of overdrinking wine had a negative effect on my body, especially on my liver. Recently my feet started to become a little numb, and this unpleasant feeling still lingers. So I have decided to stop one of my few culinary pleasures on weekdays and limit it to Sabbath. Everyone who heard that I drank one bottle of wine every day asked me if he or she heard my word correctly, as this quantity was beyond their imagination (and digestion). There are at least two reasons why I drank so much red wine every day.

First, I simply love its taste and feel that it can enhance meals. I agree that it is definitely an acquired taste, and actually when I still used to drink beer, I seldom drank wine, as I was not used to its taste. But once I have become used to the taste of red wine, especially that of Cabernet Sauvignon, I do not find beer tasty any more, nor can I drink even white wine. I used to consider beer, especially top-fermented Belgian beer as one of the three greatest inventions of the humankind, together with the Internet and matzo ball soup. But ever since I switched from beer to red wine, the latter has replaced the former.

Second, drinking wine (or beer in this respect) helps me reduce, if not completely get rid of, the enormous stress I often feel after teaching in the university. It is a kind of stress I have not been so successful in relieving by running and swimming. I am fully aware that drinking wine is not a healthy solution. That is why I have decided to limit the pleasure of drinking red wine to Sabbath. Actually, I know a far healthier solution to overcome my daily stress, but unfortunately, it is beyond my reach at the moment.