Improve the foreign language learning and intercultural
competences of adults through e-learning
SEE THE PROJECT
A collection of e-books for learning English and about intangible cultural heritage
To our knowledge, this collection of e-booksis a rare enterprise of its kind. While it is meant for e-learning and teaching English as a second language it is also devoted to e-learning and teaching about European intangible cultural heritage, taking into account the specific characteristics of different target groups of adult learners.
About the Four 4 Elements project
The collection of e-books is a direct result of the Four elements, a European Erasmus+ K2 project supported by the European Union. The project united partners from seven European countries. It was intended to help adulteducators who want to teach their learners English and about intangible cultural heritage with a focus on myths, legends and tales related to the four elements: earth, fire, water and air. Moreover, the project’s materials were to be adapted to the needs of specific learning audiences like people with dyslexia, hearing impairments, or older people with impairments that may come with ageing. These aspirations were shaped by the composition of the partnership, whose members have divergentscordant, yet compatible expertise leading to a truly creative project partnership where tasks could be equally distributed and learning from each other was unavoidable.
What has proven particularly valuable is that myths, legends and tales are par excellence common European culture that stems from Indo-European culture, originally studied by the Grimm brothers. Moreover, knowing them raises European cultural awareness. The assumption that many myths, legends and tales existing in European countries have
numerous similarities has been validated by this project. Moreover, the authors of the 4-Elements project have found that the four elements are not only substance of earth, fire, water and air but also images attached to them. They may be similar or dissimilar.
The partnership worked together to produce the following main results:
- An interactive resource library with supposedly national and local myths, legends and stories leading to analysis and knowledge about them, that can be used as a teaching and learning resource;
- The Conceptual Background of the project (the Methodology);
- E-books for a general adult learning audience;
- Adapted summary of “national and local” myths, legends, and tales in native languages and English;
- Guidelines and recommendations for teachers.
Who is this collection of e-books for?
This collection of e-books is for adult educators, mostly English teachers, and their adult learners. While the ultimately targeted general groups include adults and older adults, these e-books have been prepared also with the specific needs of people with dyslexia and those with hearing impairments in mind. The specific adaptations of the material, however, support the general plasticity of human brains and therefore they represent an advantage for all learners. In addition, these e-books will be interesting for educators of adults who are convinced that teaching a second language cannot be separated from teaching about the culture in which it arises; more specifically, intangible cultural heritage.
How to use the e-books
Each e-book is composed of several sections. Not all e-books contain all sections and all types of exercise though each of them starts with warming-up activities i.e. introductory questions related to the core topic of the lesson. Introductory questions can be accompanied by pictures meant to animate the dialogue between learners and the adult educator.
It is important that the adult educator gains a wider picture of concepts, facts and names mentioned in the lesson beforehand. The warming-up activities may also require some knowledge offered by the Conceptual Background (Methodology) or/and by the Interactive Resource Library.
All e-books contain a Vocabulary section with exercises (word definition, filling in the gap exercises, etc.) related to the core topic of the lesson which is either a myth, a legend or a tale. The adult educator should/can check the understanding of the vocabulary using communicative drill. For example, servant: Who has servants in this country? What do servants do? Are servants mostly women or men? Are servants treated as family members?
Depending on the language level for which the e-book is intended, the Cultural Background section may contain just some sentences or it maybe quite extensive with exercises pertaining to it.
The Listening section offers a listening activity that may be followed by comprehension exercises i.e. true and false answers, etc.
The most important part of the e-book, however, is the text of the myth, legend or tale. There may be stories related to historical events and historical figures as well as customs preserved in the area, featuring the four elements. This part of the e-book is followed by reading comprehension exercises but it is also preceded by activities in the previous sections.
Additional activities may be suggested or imagined by the adult educator or learners.
The e-books offer extra resources for learners.
About the intangible cultural heritage of myths, legends and tales related to the four elements
Why simultaneously study English and intangible cultural heritage?
In the times of crises, Europeans need to to achieve some kind of spiritual cohesion that will lead to their European awareness and will make Europe a cultural community, rather than a community of unstable economic interests.
We hope you agree. If you do, let us consider some basic concepts we deal with in this collection of e-books.
What is cultural heritage?
Cultural heritage is mostly tangible, material, monumental, grand, and of high aesthetic value while intangible cultural heritage is neither tangible nor stable since it is a living culture, a process going on within cultural communities. There are criteria making this culture cultural heritage: authenticity, community, testimony, characteristics, the danger of its disappearing. Intangible cultural heritage is decided upon by a community and is a measure to empower the community. It is important for a community’s identity and self-perception to have something valuable that represents it.
Let us give some examples of what can be intangible cultural heritage: folklore, culture, art, customs, family, community, knowledge and skills, identity, tradition, places, memory, but also myths, legends, tales, cultural festivities, etc. In short, intangible cultural heritage becomes heritage if a community attributes cultural, social and aesthetic values to it.
What are myths, legends and tales?
Using this collection of e-books, learners will grasp what differentiates or unites myths, legends and tales. To begin with, myths, legends and tales are all based on collective representations.
The oldest myths had to do with religion, art, philosophy. In ancient times, when myths still had a central place in a society’s spiritual life, they were conveyers of primary truth which was taught to be believed. Some, however, have seen myths as an attempt to explain natural phenomena according to people’s beliefs. Myths are rooted in human subconscious! Now, who are the main mythical characters? Originally, myth denotes a tale about gods, but it can also be about human beings like anthropomorhised animals or cultural heroes, whose action is set in an earlier world when the earth was different from today’s earth. They can also be inserted in another world like the underground world or the sky.
Legends are supposed to be truthful accounts, mostly geographically limited. They often acquire their second life in cultural festivities. There are supernatural beings in legends such as water sprites, snakes, dragons, etc.
Tales communicate directly! They lack psychological explanation and do not deal with details. Tales are true stories with humans in the centre of the action. Just think about fairy tales or folk tales you know. Nevertheless, the four elements are present in tales as well, supporting or opposing humans action.
What are the four elements and what representations do they evoke?
In ancient Greece, the four elements stood for the complexity of nature and indeed of all substances. In the four elements are concentrated the prevailing images of our culture.
Gaston Bachelard (1884–1962), a philosopher of science, was the first to analyse imagination in relation to a substance. Four elements (water, earth, fire, air) are connected with rich, unstable images in literature, myths, legends and tales. There is the material aspect of the four elements, and there is the imagery related to them!
Earth feels soft or hard. Bachelard discusses soil and the underground to which he attaches dreams of resting, dreams about being rooted. Further, he studies the underground and again images of rest, recuperating forces. Mother Earth symbolizes maternity, but also rest and irresistible danger.
Fertile soil – a place where something begins or develops in large amounts. According to different European stories, the world was initially rocky. The fertile soil was formed from the body of God, the remains which God had left on the Earth. This tradition can be found, for example, in the Germanic myth in which giant Ymir is sacrificed in order to stimulate the fertility of the soil. The flesh of the victim’s body produces fertile soil, its blood produces the sea and lakes, the blood vessels produce rivers, the hair becomes trees, the bones become mountains, and the brain, clouds.
Dwarfs and other creatures are said to protect the mysterious world of earthly treasures (mines, precious stones, water springs, fertile fields or game) and are connected with popular imagery. People believed that earthly treasures were supervised by dwarfs and other tiny supernatural beings who appear everywhere – in the forests, old tree hives, mountains, mines, marshes; next to the domestic fireplace, at the blacksmith’s or in the shoemaker’s shop.
Water(s) evoke dreaming images. Throughout their life, those who were born in the vicinity of rivers, lakes, etc. cannot live without water and dream about it. Gaston Bachelard appreciates a calm, clear water surface with fugitive images, as much as dark depths of waters where myths and phantasms are born.
Fire and flame. “Everything that changes quickly can be explained by fire.” Fire stands for good and evil (indeed, as do all the other elements). Thus, in the eyes of Gaston Bachelard, fire gives rise to images of passion and enthusiasm, but also of destruction: Fire can destroy your house and all of your possessions in less than an hour, and it can reduce an entire forest to a pile of ash and burnt wood.
Air, a mixture of gases, is related to the dream of flying, the imagery of falling, the blue sky, stars, clouds, trees, wind, stormy weather, etc.