Speaking the language

[Episode 5 | 1968 : Sofia]

Sofia and her friend Mareka are watching Professor Julius Sumner Miller's television science show, Why is it so? Janice arrives and meets Sofia's mother and grandmother. She needs Sofia to translate the conversation and Sofia deliberately tells each party the wrong translation.


English

The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [3]

Activity 1: Lost in translation
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Subtheme(s): Customs and traditions; Language and scripting; Multiculturalism
Discover
  • After watching the clip, ask students to list the main events in this part of the story, thinking about what happened, why and to whom. Have students share their responses and discuss, listing the main ideas for further reference.
  • Focus the discussion on the scene in the lounge room when Sofia tricks Janice, her mother and Yaya by changing what they say when she is interpreting for them. Ask students to think about the following questions:
  1. What is the purpose of Sofia's actions here?
  2. Why do you think she is behaving in this way?
  • Discuss the possible reasons why Sofia does not like Janice. Have students consider what Sofia wants for her brother.
  • Ask students who they think has the power in this scene and why. How is Sofia able to control this situation the way she does? List her techniques. This is an important aspect of critical literacy. Have students draw on other ways that people hold power over others: physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
  • Look at how the filmmaker helps the audience understand the jokes and what is happening in this scene. Discuss the way each actor's body language is used to convey a lot of the meaning. Look closely at the attitudes towards Janice and how they change over the course of the conversation. What is the purpose of the subtitles here? As a class, discuss why the Greek language spoken in the rest of the clip is not translated like this.
  • Ask students to imagine what the Greek exchanges are when Sofia answers the door and there are no subtitles. Replay the scene to see if there are any clues. Have students write some possible exchanges between mother and daughter in this scene, knowing what Sofia is capable of from the conversation later in the lounge room. Refer students to read the script for Episode 5: 1968: Sofia, where the script writers planned the exchange between Janice and Sofia. Explain that it isn't exactly as the scene was shot, but is very close.
  • As a class, discuss the layout of this script extract, pointing out that the instructions in the script are called the 'big print' in script writing. The dialogue is what the characters say to each other. The big print gives directions to the director about how the characters in the scene are to act and relate to each other, for example, 'SOFIA sees JANICE as her nemesis'. What does the term 'nemesis' mean? Students should look up the word in the dictionary and then work out what it means in the context of this exchange between Sofia and Janice.
  • Discuss the advantages of being bilingual. Find out what languages students in the class speak at home and discuss. Have students think about how Janice feels in the situation when she is in the lounge room with Sofia and the Greek ladies.

Reflect
  • Have students discuss and find out more information from the library and from interviewing family and community members around the following questions:
  1. What are the disadvantages of being monolingual?
  2. Why do Australian schools teach second languages?
  3. What are the benefits of learning a second language?

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Activity 2: Lounge room television
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Subtheme(s): Customs and traditions; Inventions and electronic media
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  • As a class, discuss the role of the television set in this clip. Ask students to respond to the question, 'What information can you learn about television at this time from what you can see?' An example answer would be that the set is black and white and has a small screen.
  • Ask students to compare the role of the television set in this clip with the role of the set in the clip 'Greek School' from Episode 6. They should respond to the following questions:
  1. What is different about the way television is portrayed in these two scenes, ten years apart? What has happened?
  2. Does Sofia feel the same way about television as her brother Michaelis does in the earlier story? Compare the differences. (Sofia has a television in her lounge room, Michaelis has to watch a neighbour's set through binoculars.)
  3. What does the television in the lounge room say about Sofia's family now, compared with how it was for Michaelis?
  4. What has changed? (Televisions are cheaper and more readily available, and Michaelis and Sofia's parents probably have more money to spend on a set than they did ten years previously.)
  • As a class, discuss the television show Why is it so? hosted by Professor Julius Sumner Miller, which Sofia is watching. Have students brainstorm what style of show it is from what they can see and hear in the clip.

Reflect
  • Ask students to research this show further on the internet and present their findings to the class. They could also research what other Australian television shows were popular in the 1960s. Skippy: the bush kangaroo, for example, went to air for the first time in 1966 Ask students to compare Why is it so? with The Adventures of Robin Hood, which Sofia's brother Michaelis was watching ten years earlier. Ask students if they think The Adventures of Robin Hood was an Australian television show?
  • Discuss:
  1. where The Adventures of Robin Hood originated
  2. the nature of television production and how expensive it is
  3. the development in Australian television production in the ten years between 1958 and 1968.
  • Ask students to interview their grandparents and older relatives to find out what television shows they watched in the 1960s and why. List the information brought back by students, looking for similarities and common themes. Identify which shows are listed the most? Discuss why.

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Activity 3: Yaya
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Subtheme(s): Character
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  • Look at the composition of the family in this clip: Sofia, her brother Michaelis, their mother, Christina and grandmother, Yaya. Brainstorm the concept of family and look at a variety of ways it could be defined. Survey the class to find out if any children have grandparents or members of their extended family living with them. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages for Sofia of having an extended family.
  • Discuss the words used to name grandmother and grandfather in different languages, for example, in Greek it is 'baba' for grandfather and 'yaya' for grandmother. Create a wall chart showing the different words and the language they come from. Have students research this further across other languages to extend the list.

Reflect
  • Grandparents play an important part in the stories of My Place. These characters support the family and guide the children in their actions, providing comfort and advice. Ask students to compare the role of grandmother in each of the My Place episodes. They should develop a character profile for each grandparent across all episodes where this character appears.
  • In small groups, have students work collaboratively to plan and run a 'Grandparents and special elders' day at school or for their class. Students plan the program including a menu and activities for their guests. Ask students to write a letter to their grandmother or a special older friend or relative, inviting them to this celebration.
  • Following this event, students can write a report for the school newsletter or the local paper, describing when the event took place, reasons for it and some of the highlights, and including captioned photographs.

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