How to Handwrite a Blog

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About The How-To Humanist

Ritt Deitz directs the University of Wisconsin-Madison Professional French Masters Program.
This entry was posted in creativity, french, humanities, liberal arts, university, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to How to Handwrite a Blog

  1. PJL says:

    EXCELLENT points you made… esp. the time spent with the actual foreign language material. A closer interaction but the technology express is here and already moving, we have no choice but “hybridism”, yes. PJL

  2. c. shorter says:

    Thanks for the post!
    I certainly understand that your reflective and purposeful student prefers to do translations by hand and that the artifact has its own beauty. I can’t really challenge these notions of preference and beauty. To me, though, it sounds like she could have had a similar “time on task” experience without writing out her translations by hand. In fact, part of the time on task was spent re-mediating from hand written to typed. Because a keyboard enables swiftness*, does it necessarily preclude reflection?
    (*It hasn’t exactly enabled a quick articulation of my own thoughts as I write my dissertation!)

    • C. Shorter: great thoughts. My student’s translation project was not only interesting aesthetically–something I didn’t do a very good job of explaining in my essay. We had some rather long talks about what was happening in the transition, say, between the original manuscribed text and the super-literal translation (that second-line translation, always just below the original text). First–something else I didn’t mention–she could quote whole segments of the text from memory as we discussed it in French. I am convinved that this is because she had spent valuable “time on task” literally reproducing the original words, in their order, using her hand, on the page. I type way too fast to remember things I myself am more likely to remember when I transcribe by hand. The other thing was that, by so doing with her own literal (bad, on purpose) translation, she was able to slow down to get closer to–literally onto, or up against, or inside, depending on your favorite metaphor of proximity–that bad translation. Then she could back up, pencil in hand, go over both again, and scribe one more time.

      • C.–p.s. By the time my student got to the keyboarding part at the end, she was just finishing up. What painters and carpenters call “finishing work” (last touches). That part, using the super-fast technology, was pure hybridity. It could also be described by Truman Capote’s famous definition of Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. To wit: “That’s not writing. It’s typing.”

    • c. shorter says:

      Thanks for the follow up.
      I’m resisting the urge to conflate this translation project with the notion of taking notes (because I’ve recently had a brief dialogue on the idea with a colleague). They’re not the same thing. For this case, I like the hand-written aspect and how it’s an integral part of the process and desired outcome.

  3. Thanks, PJL. We may not have a choice as teachers, but individual users of all technologies must always choose… as they use. I’ll leave that up to my students. I wrote about hopping aboard my bike this morning, all hopped up on caffeine… Choosing to slow down and write a blog with a pencil (or teach yourself some language using an old workbook found at a garage sale) is like saying to yourself, Whoa, slow down. Meditate. Slow down. I find that hard, but it does pay off in depth, as opposed to speed and breadth.

  4. Jim Beal says:

    I’ll just not that you used print. The talk is that schools will soon no longer teach cursive. http://articles.cnn.com/2011-08-24/us/cursive.writing.irpt_1_cursive-handwriting-lessons-penmanship?_s=PM:IREPORT

    • Yes, Jim, and thanks for the link. It’s print… sort of. You probably noted that my print tends to get a little cursive-y in places. My kids were recently checking out my old high school and junior high yearbooks and marveling at both the haircuts and the handwriting (2 good 2 be 4-forgotten, indeed). Even when she’s only written,blandly, “Stay the way you are and you’ll go far,” nothing makes the young man’s heart pound like a heart-shaped “dot” over the final “i” in the signature of a Cindi or a Traci. Will generic emoticons replace that individual flourish in our kids’ yearbooks?

  5. jlzarov says:

    Your SEO sucks!

    But besides that… I enjoyed reading your handwriting. Of course part of that is novelty. If I opened up Facebook and it was suddenly all handwriting all the time, I would not be pleased. For this, though, there was a nice mimetic dynamic reading a handwritten piece about writing by hand… Maybe you should write one about writing with your feet. It would be short, by necessity. You might be MOST thoughtful writing with your feet, given the slowness and difficulty..

    .tyer…p[edf btyhjiosd wsiktghj my to

    i
    Oh, my, the above translates to “I typed this with my toes.” So maybe a good thing can be taken too far…

    THanks for a provocative piece. Nothing ever inspired me to put the laptop on the floor and give that a whirl. Maybe there’s something here about limitations. Most limitations are natural: trying to get to the moon, you don’t say we’re going to build part of the spacecraft out of tinfoil, just to make it harder. But Butch VIg and Foo Fighters did just make an album on old-fashioned magnetic tape. THey must have been exploring a nostalgic limitation. I typed with my feet. They won a Grammy. I did not.

    • Jlzarov,
      Maybe you haven’t won a Grammy, but you have just been nominated for a “Footy,” in the Best Typed On The Ground category.
      Also, Butch et al are right to use magnetic tape. It’s cooler in every way.

  6. Philippe Durant says:

    I do like the thoughts and comments raised. My personal experience learning English was to write out my new phrases in a notebook (that’s before the PC) but I think I would have learned just as much, if I had typed the material. Not sure. I didn’t like to receive typed letters, that’s for sure, and receiving hand-written letters actually helped me learn more than just a different language. By copying some hand-written style, I was learning some emotional “meta-language” that was not available in printed material, and that’s really what made the language learning stick… On that note, I do like your hand-writing, RD.

  7. Ritt Deitz says:

    Philippe,
    Thanks for the comment. Do you think you’d have come as “close” to the language in all its little corners without ever having engaged with it more manually? You seem to be pondering this in your comments. (I have obviously tried to do so, too.) Learning the “emotional meta-language” inside of a culture seems a critical part of real second language acquisition–how we define “language” might be for another post.

    It’s not just a fight against robots here; individual language users choosing to handwrite less, for me, is more of a not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper scenario. I feel a little bad myself when I am handwriting and I notice how much my handwriting has suffered. Not the “penmanship” as it is typically defined, but rather the act itself: the hurried and tight feeling I get while writing. It’s like part of my brain is yawning and doing a hurry-up gesture, as if to imply that we’re now “beyond” that ancient practice. Having become a fast typist, now using the exact same script as every other person, saps some of the pleasure of slowing down.

  8. Leigh Hall Mosley says:

    I love this stuff.

    Your observations are all undoubtedly accurate, but let us not overlook the vital job skill of being able to type correspondence, etc. in your target language at a reasonably normal rate of speed. We learn that like we learned to type in English, practice and muscle memory. That said however, I deliberately do not own a Russian spell-check program, because I long ago noticed that I am apparently ready to go to my grave unable (unwilling?) to definitively learn how many m’s are in “accommodation” (hey – I got it right that time!) or whether the correct spelling is “accidently” or “accidentally” because I know my spell-check will fix it for me anyway as I move on to the rest of my sentence. I am saving myself from repeating this sad fate this time by forcing myself to actually double check the spelling of words I am uncertain about. (I used to just throw my version in a Russian search engine to see if it spit anything back, but…..well…apparently there are an awful lot of Russians out there who spell as badly as I do. Now I use an actual dictionary.)

    Tell me I didn’t use any heart-shaped dots in your yearbook.

    • Leigh–thanks for your comment. I know that you almost hit the heart-shaped smiling dot you had installed on your keyboard, the moment you typed your name. Or used Facebook, or whatever. Incidentally (a word I won’t allow spellcheck anywhere near), “Facebook” itself comes dangerously close to being the company-name version of the heart-shaped dots, don’t you think? I’m just saying.
      You and Ben Rifkin have a lot in common, at least in the reflecting-on-using-Russian-as-a-target-language-when-communicating department. I’m out of my league there, although, as an exercise, I did just peek back into the Ockerman Junior High 1981 yearbook to imagine what a heart-shaped dot might have looked like in Cyrillic, had our Kentucky frontier been settled not by Daniel Boone and other English users but by Tartars.

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