What's new in music, sociology, anthropology, and women's & gender studies…from your librarian

Archive for March, 2008

How to Encourage Early Language Development

I’ve long been convinced that my ability to learn new languages comes largely from my first-grade exposure to French, which gave those neurons a chance to connect while they still could. For several weeks, a small group of students met with “Miss Nina” on the grounds behind Chatom Elementary School in Alabama. I still have my tiny yellow notebook where I wrote the French words & phrases she was teaching us. The last time we met, she served us French toast. (I can’t imagine now that I ever liked French toast.) I know not from whence Miss Nina came (other than that she was from France), but wherever she is, merci!

Entonces (sorry, I’ve learned more Spanish than French :), the following is a guest post from Susan Jacobs (thanks, Susan!):

Parents are tickled pink when their children speak their first little word. However, they might not be so impressed by a single syllable word if they knew just how wired children are for new languages. In fact, they are sponges.

According to Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, humans are born with a natural instinct for languages. Pinker seems to agree with Noam Chomsky’s theory that grammar is also universal. The best time for expanding one’s language skills, it seems, is before the onset of puberty.

Below are 7 tips for encouraging early language development. With this kind of preparation, you may end up with a multi-linguist on your hands.

  1. Make eye contact when speaking to a child.
  2. Encourage the repetition of vowel sounds in babies and words in older children.
  3. Speak clearly to children rather than speaking in “baby talk.”
  4. Ask questions that require more than a “Yes” or “No” answer.
  5. Say the names of common household items as you walk past them.
  6. Teach the child nursery rhymes and repetitive, simple songs.
  7. Discuss spatial relationships and opposites.

It is important to remember that children don’t need to be grilled with flash cards in order to begin speaking properly. Instead, you should find healthy and relaxed methods of encouraging language development. Playtime is the best time to start teaching and learning with a child.

For foreign language lessons that won’t put undue pressure on small children, the BBC has a language course called “Muzzy.” This program includes fun, educational cartoons and workbooks. Available in seven languages, many educators swear by the series. Even without such a lesson plan, however, a child should readily soak up his/her new language skills.


Susan Jacobs is a freelance writer as well as a regular contributor for, a site helping students select an online college degree. Susan invites your questions, comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address [email protected].

Sociology of Facebook

Here’s another story on Facebook and sociological research, from the New York Times.  (free login required, or bugmenot)

Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship

This article was co-authored by danah boyd, who set the Net aflame with her 2007 essay about a socioeconomic divide between Facebook and Myspace users.

Full article here.


Call for Proposals

The following is being widely distributed; it appeared on the Society for Ethnomusicology listserv, SEM-L:

“The Train Just Don’t Stop Here Anymore”: An Interdisciplinary
Colloquium on the Soundscapes of Rural and Small-Town America

Millikin University
Decatur, IL
3-4 April 2009

The Millikin University College of Fine Arts invites proposals for
papers and lecture-recitals for an interdisciplinary colloquium on the
soundscapes of rural and small-town America.  The aims of this
colloquium are to reach a broader understanding of the nation’s
diverse musical cultures and practices, to develop strategies by which
to investigate musical culture in rural communities and small towns, and
to investigate the challenges facing professional musicians and culture
industries in those communities.  We welcome proposals for papers from
an interdisciplinary field, including history, musicology and
ethnomusicology, anthropology, folklore, and American studies.  Possible
themes include:

* Community bands, orchestras, and choirs.
* The role of religious, social, government, and non-profit
organizations in supporting local musics.
* The impact of urban and suburban expansion on rural and small-town
* The effects of media conglomeration on local and regional musics.
* Culture industries that support rural and small-town music-making.
* The effects of cultural tourism on musical cultures.

Please send a 250-word proposal to Travis Stimeling at
[email protected]  Electronic submission of proposals is
encouraged.  Print submissions can be sent to Travis Stimeling, Millikin
University School of Music, 1184 W. Main St., Decatur, IL 62522 by 1
September 2008.

Travis D. Stimeling, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Music
Millikin University School of Music
1184 W. Main St.
Decatur, IL 62522

Katrina Ballads

“KATRINA BALLADS is a brand new collection of songs inspired by the tragic events surrounding Hurricane Katrina. This work uses entirely primary-source texts to paint a rich musical portrait of that devastating and telling week in September 2005. Setting the words of flood survivors, relief workers, politicians and celebrities, New York composer Ted Hearne creates a cutting-edge musical experience and a vivid look into America’s darkest hours. The music is rhythmic, theatrical, and American to the core, possessing an edgy post-minimalist drive and a deep jazz influence.”  More info here; free audio here.

US Treasury deleting international websites

The New York Times reports that websites about Cuba are being shut down by the United States Department of Treasury.  Full story here.  (Free login required; or bugmenot.)