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pubs and an anecdote


September 17, 1999: This message was distributed by Papyrus News, a free e-mail distribution list on the global impact of information technology on language, literacy, and education. Feel free to forward this message to others, but please include this introductory paragraph. For information on subscribing or unsubscribing to Papyrus News see


(1) According to Fran Keenan, the New York Times article I mentioned last week is "The Rise and Swift Fall of CyberLiteracy," by John Markoff, from March 13, 1994, p. E1. (Five years later and we still have cyberliteracy, though! :-) (Pat is involved with the National Clearninghouse for ESL Literacy Education at the Center for Applied Linguistics. Their "adult ESL home on the Web" is at

(2) Check out for information on three recent books which will be of interest to many Papyrus News readers. _The Future of English_ is a well researched and nicely written treatise on how new technologies and other factors are impacting the English language(s). _The Language Machine_ by Eric Altwell discusses among other things how Speech and Language Technology might have an impact on the demand and delivery of English language teaching. There is also information on the second edition of _The Internet and ELT_ by David Eastment.

(3) As a follow-up to the AILA paper I sent out yesterday, I thought I'd share an anecdote that I mentioned during the talk but was not included in the paper. (Actually, on a side note, that's an interesting discussion itself, the process of converting a presentation from one medium [conference address] to another [e-mail text]. The presentation itself was bolstered by a number of features --- side comments and anecdotes, a joke at the beginning, a number of visual displays, my own smile, etc. --- which were not available in e-mail text. I made some alterations to the text, adding some of the data which had been included in visual displays, but it still feels incomplete to me, thus the desire to share at least this one anecdote.)

The anecdote is as follows. I work in a large program based in Cairo Egypt, with both American and Egyptian staff. One day I wrote a short letter to an American working in another institution in Egypt, and asked one of the (Egyptian) administrative staff to dig up the address and send out the letter. When reading what I had written, she decided to edit my letter. There had been no grammatical mistakes, but she felt that the content of this very short letter would be expressed more politely in another manner. In other words, even though this was one American writing to another, her implicit message was, "this is the way we communicate in English about such matters in Egypt". I gladly accepted her advice and revisions of the letter. This was one interesting piece of evidence to me that there is an accepted Egyptian variety of English which even Americans communicating with other Americans are expected to follow. (I would be interested in hearing evidence of similar phenomena in other countries where English is usually thought of as being a "foreign language".)


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Last updated: October 14, 1999