Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Language of Stone


A steel knife and hydrochloric acid

I started this Language of Stone Blog, not long after I had finished an account of my last visit to Spain, 2 years ago, when I participated in a trial Anglo-Hispanic Language Exchange programme - staying with a Spanish host and contributing to English language workshops in the city of Murcia.

Before this trip to Spain, I had been thinking about the possibility of teaching general English and combining it with Geotourism, following on from ideas that I had when working for the Geological Survey of Ireland and, although I had no firm ideas for excursions, a shortlist of places to visit included the region of La UniĆ³n and one of the World Heritage Sites - to see some rock art.

An unexpected bout of la gripe curtailed my plans but I managed to take a look at the ancient city port of Cartagena, where the idea of teaching technical English to geologists came to me.

Wandering around the back streets, to look at the various hills and walls, I encountered the Polytechnic of Cartagena and knowing that work for geologists, engineers, architects etc in Spain had come to an abrupt halt – having discussed this with friends in Madrid a couple of years earlier – I reasoned that they must need to learn English to explore opportunities that might exist abroad.

Following up this idea through the IGME and the ICOG  I have discovered that various attempts have been made to establish such courses online, particularly in the north of Spain. My Spanish has since improved considerably and I have developed a vocabulary list for teaching English to tour guides, based on my own experience of visiting geological sites and historic monuments.

The next step has not been an easy one to make. On a minimal budget and with my means of travel restricted to a limited range of public transport, I have come near to the end of a list of places that I can easily visit here in England - to further develop my varied practical experience.

I would like to visit another place where the concept of Geotourism is being embraced by like minded professionals who appreciate the relationships between the geology and the subsequent cultural development of their region.

Spain has been foremost in my mind, simply because I have taught English to very many students from all over mainland Spain, Las Canarias and South America too - in the classroom and via Skype – and I have briefly explored some of these places; however, I have visited Italy, Holland and Greece several times and I also have a good grasp of their Language of Stone.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Minerals & Maps


The Commercial

Having spent a year exploring some of the geology, ancient monuments and historic stone buildings in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Derbyshire – ending with a lashing by the wind and the rain on Curbar Edge – winter is a good time to reflect on past achievements and to plan the year ahead.


After lunch


An impressive display of minerals
With constant thoughts of being in much warmer and sunnier places – Spain or Italy for example - the English weather doesn’t motivate me and so I was very pleased to continue my association with the U3A Sheffield Geology Group, when meeting up at the Commercial Inn in Chapeltown.

About 25 members turned up to learn some more about minerals and geological maps, through a short series of excellent presentations and practical demonstrations.

It has been more than 35 years since I was introduced to the Mohs hardness scale, a ceramic tile and a fingernail - to physically investigate a mineral.

Together with the discreet use of other essential geologists’ tools - a steel knife and hydrochloric acid – the group soon learned how to undertake this task.


Following lunch, the afternoon was dedicated to the discussion of a provisional itinerary for the forthcoming season of field trips and an introduction to geological maps - armed with protractors, rulers, pencils, rubbers and scrap paper, we all learned a thing or two.


An introduction to geological maps

I turned up with my rucksack full of miscellaneous items that I know are of interest to geologists but, on this occasion, I had no need to take them out – such was the enthusiasm that so obviously pervaded this meeting.


Minerals and geological maps