Twinkle, twinkle, little star…

I’m sure you can all recall a few nursery rhymes you used to sing as a child (or sing to your child). I certainly can remember a few, but before I had my son I was unable to recall most of my childhood favourites. The good news is that I have ‘relearnt’ these songs and widened my repertoire, that’s thanks to our regular visits to our local children’s play centers.

In case you are thinking as to what I am doing this 2015/16 academic year,  well without any further delay let me explain! Yes, I am full-time mother and often this role is somewhat underestimated. As a professional mother, deciding to take a brief career gap was a conscious decision I made for personal reasons. As a Linguist, I mainly specialize in developmental linguistics, and know that the first few years of a child is critical. Yes, many aspects of child development is part of ‘nature’, but a parents’ role is to provide nurture in a loving and caring environment. In terms of the nurture or environmental component, a baby’s brain develops as a consequence of both ‘experience-expectant’ (e.g. vision, hearing, language) and ‘experience-dependent’ (e.g. socio-emotional and cognitive development) processes.It is these two components which I strive to enrich for his development, as my son’s primary caregiver.


Having said all this, the primary purpose of this post is to provide a partial explanation to those curious about my current situation. Hopefully, when the right opportunity crops up I consider going back to work, but until then my central goal is to spend quality time with my son and educate him AND myself. When I do have ‘me’ time I still actively do research and continue to build the Mehmet Osman Corpus. Trying to balance work with personal life, is probably the most challenging, but my profession is also an integral part of my identity. Although maternal instincts come naturally it is after all a completely new role and takes time to adapt! This is all the more difficult if you are a mid-career professional, since your daily lifestyle, social network, hobbies, and primary and secondary discourse is pretty much established. According to Gee (1990), a person’s primary Discourse is what they are socialised into within their face-to-face kinship group (their family). Our primary Discourse shapes our initial ways of speaking, our ‘normal’ ways of acting, views,
values, beliefs, experiences and our first social identity. Secondary Discourses
socialise people outside of their immediate family groups, within institutions
(social structures) and other forms of social groupings and social practice. My secondary discourse is the discourse I use at work and part of my profession, but with my new motherly role I have had to learn a new secondary discourse. It is precisely this aspect that I have struggled with, as the vocabulary set and all other conventionalized conversation patterns are totally different. The further details of these differences and the specific challenges I have encountered deserves a separate discussion, possibly for a journal article, which I am currently developing.

Nonetheless, being a full-time mother now means that I am singing, dancing, playing with my child and other children, and mingling with other mums; all of these activities have now become a part of my daily ritual. Mind you, I have also realised that English is not the mother tongue of the many children raised here in London. Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Polish, and Arabic are some of the many heritage languages I hear on a daily basis. It is a welcome to be surrounded with such diverse languages and cultures.

Ok, I have to leave now and do some singing🙂 Below I have enlisted some of these songs. Those which are incomplete are the ones I already knew by heart, while the full lyrics are the ones I have ‘relearnt’! Oh before I go, I also sing Turkish nursery rhymes, but it’s pretty much limited in numbers and working on that as well!


Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are…

If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands, CLAP CLAP, If you’re happy and you know it stamp your feet, STAMP, STAMP

The wheels on the bus goes round and round, round and round…

Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream…

Rowley Powley, Rowley Powley Up Up Up, Rowley Powely, Rowley Powley Down Down Down, Prowley Rowley, Rowley Rowley Clap clap clap, Rowley Powley Rowley Powley Put Your hands behind you back…

One two three four five once I caught a fish alive, six seven eight nine ten, then I let it go again, why did you let it go? because it bit my finger so, which finger did it bite, this little finger on my RIGHT!

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon. Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon.Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re going to the moon. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ZOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full! One for the master, One for the dame, And one for the little boy, Who lives down the lane

Wind the bobbin up, Wind the bobbin up, Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.
Wind it back again, Wind it back again, Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap,
Point to the ceiling, Point to the floor, Point to the window, Point to the door,
Clap your hands together, 1, 2, 3,

I am the music man, I come from down your way, and I can play! What can you play?              I play the piano! Pia-pia-pia-no, pia-no, pia-no; pia-pia-pia-no, pia-pia-no

Oh, the grand old Duke of York, He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of The hill and he marched Them down again. And when they were up they were up. And when they were down they were down. And when they were only half way up, They were neither up nor down.

Head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes, and eyes and ears and mouth and nose, head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes

Elephant has wrinkles, wrinkles, wrinkles, elephant had wrinkles, wrinkles everywhere, on their nose, on their head, on their tummy, on their ears, no one knows, no one knows, why aye aye aye!


Gee, J.P. (1990) Social Linguistics and Literacies, New York: Falmer.


Leave a comment

Filed under Food for thought

Call for papers

BAAL 2016. Taking stock of Applied Linguistics – Where are we now?

Source: Call for papers

Leave a comment

Filed under Food for thought

Mehmet Osman Corpus (MOC)

coming soon…


Leave a comment

Filed under Mehmet Osman Corpus (MOC)

A quick peek

Hello, merhaba,

I know I said I was back, but have been quiet for some time, as I was super busy for the last 2 months. Below I provide a brief summary of my scholarly engagements- also accompanied with some photos for events (1-4):

1) Between 14 and 15 May we held the 4th BUiD International Conference in Current Trends in Teacher Education.


2) I presented a joint research paper entitled ‘The role of social networks on the progress of English attainment: a study of Year 10 EAL boarding pupils’ with my former student Aimon Sabawi at the 5th International Conference on Foreign Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics, International Burch University, Sarajevo, between 7 and 9 May, 2015.


3) Both of my doctoral students successfully defended their PhD thesis and graduated in June. Below are the details of their thesis titles:

  • Ahmed Bourini (completed). Differentiated Instruction in the EFL Classroom in UAE Public Secondary Schools: Exploring Teachers’ Beliefs and Practices. Unpublished PhD thesis in Education, The British University in Dubai, 2015. External examiner Dr Nicos Sifakis.


  • Mohammad Samimi (completed). An Analysis of Emirati Undergraduates’ Multiliteracy Practices and Perceptions on English as a Medium of Instruction Policy in the UAE Higher Education: A Linguistic Ethnographic Approach. Unpublished PhD thesis in Education, The British University in Dubai, 2015. External examiner Dr Mario Moya.


4) Last, but not least, our graduation ceremony was held on 10 May. Many congratulations once more to all BUiD MEd and PhD graduates!



So now I am back at home in London and in between my holiday I am busy trying to finish two research papers and a book chapter for Routledge. Once published I will update my publications list.

In the meantime, I have nothing extravagant to report about my son’s speech development, as of yet! He will be 6 months next week, bless him. He certainly is more verbal though and babbles, giggles, and squeals. [bfu-bfu], which sounds more like a car engine, is his favourite open syllable. Once the ball starts rolling the official MehmetOsman archive will be available for scholars and research students who are working in the areas of child language development and biliteracy.

Wishing you all a very pleasant and productive Summer.


Leave a comment

Filed under Food for thought

The apple of my eye…



“This is Allah’s gift” these were the first words the doctor uttered to me in her Dubai surgery. She was wearing a big smile on her face and showing me the sac in the scan. Yes I was pregnant and what made this all the more special was that I received this news on Mother’s day- 11 May, 2014- according to Turkey’s calender. After such a long and exciting journey our prince Mehmet Osman (and first child) was born in January, 2015, in London (same city and borough I was born in). He is already 3 months now and still it has not hit me that I am a mum; despite those sleepless nights. It’s the most challenging, yet rewarding experience in my life. He truly is the apple of our eye and so much wish we had met him long ago. We love him to bits. Raising a child is, I know, no easy task. By default I want him to stand on his own feet and be well educated, but what I want most is for him is to be loving, caring, and merciful to all creations of Allah; that includes humans and animals.  I don’t want him to ever hurt anyone’s feelings and always live with dignity. There’s so much more I want for him and all children…all the very best…

So yes he is indeed Allah’s most beautiful gift and am cherishing every moment with him and feeding him with my endless love.

As a linguist, raising a child is all the more exciting, as I work closely in the areas of child language development and multilingualism. My son has started to giggle and babble but I can’t wait to hear his first syllables and words. Research has shown that children develop their perceptual skills in their mum’s womb and hence perception precedes production. This is why I try to speak in both English and Turkish and vary my intonation when speaking to him. I am an advocate of Cummins’ Linguistic Interdependence Hypothesis, which in principle holds that first language attainment is a prerequisite for second language attainment. One can think of this as the iceberg analogy (Cummin’s Iceberg theory); you can not feed or understand the surface level by neglecting the underlying level. Only with this accomplishment can one navigate between different languages or cultures. So I am hoping my child will be raised as a bilingual, biliterate, bicultural, bipalatal (something I coined) child, and and and very importantly I also hope he will be biscriptal. I am not biscriptal as I can only read and write in the latin/Roman alphabet (e.g. English, Turkish and German). There seems to be this rooted misconception, however, that the Turkish language uses the Arabic script, but in fact it uses the Roman script. During the Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Turkish used the Arabic alphabet, with Persian additions. However, in 1928, following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of Republic of Turkey, the “new language” reform introduced by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk replaced the Arabic alphabet with the Latin one and many Persian and Arabic origin loanwords in the language were replaced with their Turkish equivalents. To keep a long story short, I would like my child to also learn different scripts, let it be Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, etc. All of this, of course, needs to be accomplished before the critical age.

Having said all this, I guess this also explains why I haven’t been on this site for some time. I will try to update you all whenever time permits. In particular, I will report on my son’s language development. If you are interested in collecting naturalistic and longitudinal data your child could be your best resource. Prominent examples of such case studies in child phonology include Smith’s (1973) child Amahl, and Gnanadesikan’s (2004) child Gitanjali. These studies have provided invaluable data which has enhanced our understanding in the area of phonological development. I hope Mehmet Osman will also be a useful resource for those working in child language development in the same way as Amahl and Gitanjali. Mehmet will showcase examples of developmental biliteracy, phonetics and phonology.

Last but not least, I would also like to share some essential information about the origin of my son’s name. You can, I confess, become very fussy with names, especially if you are a linguist and never thought it would be such a challenge.  My husband is a software engineer, so I thought he wouldn’t be fussy as myself, but yes dads can be fussy with names too! It was also my father’s decision to name me Yasemin, so there you go. I am grateful that my name is an international name and comes in various forms- Yasemin, Yasmin, Jasmine, etc. Likewise, my son’s name had to be: traditional, not too funky, no umlauts (yes Turkish names have umlauts), Arabic or Turkish origin, and meaningful. The naming task became all the more difficult when I realized that I and my husband was unable to find a mutual name we BOTH liked. It was therefore my decision that we name our son after our fathers- this way we met in the middle and his name was deeply rooted and meaningful. Mehmet is my father’s name and his middle name, Osman, is my father-in-law’s name. In the Gulf region, Mehmet is mistakenly confused with Mohammed/Muhammed. Mehmet is the Turkishized version of Muhammed but in present-day Turkey its meaning has changed and now means ‘soldier’. My father was initially named as ‘Muhammet’ but back in those days you were not allowed to name your child after prophet Mohammad (s.a.a.w), as it was considered as a sacred holy name, so can understand why through time it was Turkishized. Now in present-day-Turkey Muhammet and Mehmet are used as separate names. Osman, is also of Arabic origin and means ‘honest’ and ‘sincere’. Othman I (Osman) is also who founded the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman dynasty that ruled Turkey after the 13th century; conquered most of Asia Minor and assumed the title of emir in 1299 (1259-1326). This is why we speak of the Ottoman (derived from Osman) Empire.

As of now I will continue to update you all from this site on a more regular basis, not only as a linguist, but also as a proud mother.

Best wishes,



Cummins, J. 1979. Linguistic interdependence and the educational development of bilingual children. Review of Educational Research, 49, 222-251.

Gnanadesikan, A. 2004. Markedness and faithfulness constraints in child phonology. In: René Kager, Joe Pater and Wim Zonneveld (eds.), Constraints in Phonological Acquisition, 73-108. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, N.V. 1973. The Acquisition of Phonology: A Case Study. Cambridge University Press.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food for thought

The Fourth BUiD Current Trends in Teacher Education Conference

Dear All,

As part of the organizing committee, I am pleased to inform all that the Fourth BUiD International Conference, which will cover Current Trends in Teacher Education at the British University in Dubai, will be held on Thursday 14th May and Friday 15th May, 2015.

For call for papers please click here

For abstract template please click here

The conference website

Plenary Speakers

Professor Fatima Badry, American University of Sharjah, UAE

Topic: The cognitive benefits of bilingualism

There is plenty of evidence to show that possessing more than one language has several conceptual benefits for the individual and society. These benefits span a wide range of cognitive functions with diverse communicative and socio-cultural dimensions. In academic life, evidence shows that proficient bi/ multi-linguals tend to have higher scores in math test scores, exhibit mental flexibility, possess better memorization skills and are more creative with language. Socially, multi-linguals are said to be more perceptive to cues in their environment and possess enhanced general skills. Recent studies have even claimed that bilinguals are more resistant to conditioning and that multilingualism may delay dementia in old age. The UNDP report on human rights cites research from the US, Canada, Africa and the Philippines, showing that students in bilingual programs outperformed those taught in the second language only.

However, these benefits depend on what is meant by bilingualism.  Definitions of bilingualism range from considering a bilingual  as someone possessing an equal mastery of two or more languages in all domains, to merely being able to function appropriately in different languages in different domains.  In addition, researchers caution that to achieve beneficial bilingualism through education, education policy makers need to consider several variables in designing their programs ranging from pedagogical issues and teacher qualifications, proficiency in L1 and L1 role in the curriculum, learners’ age, to sociolinguistic, economic and political factors.  It is suggested that bilingual education programs should use “the two languages to educate generally, meaningfully, equitably, and for tolerance and appreciation of diversity” to prepare students to become global citizens by enabling them to “function across cultures and worlds” (Garcia 2009, 6).

In this presentation I will suggest that curriculum design and current methodologies combined with sociolinguistic perceptions attached to both English and Arabic in the GCC do not favor a dual language education that would lead to a proficiency level in the two languages to yield the benefits listed above. Instead the language in education policies in place are not likely to lead to the desired  academic proficiency in either language and may explain several of the academic challenges faced by high school graduates entering university.  Research in bilingualism has demonstrated that in order to develop the cognitive and academic benefits of bilingualism, bilingual education needs to foster an equal appreciation for the two languages being utilized and promote the development of academic skills in both.


Professor Fatima Badry has a PhD in psycholinguistics from the University of California at Berkeley, CA, USA. She has international teaching experience and is currently professor of linguistics at the American University of Sharjah. She has occupied several administrative positions at AUS including chair of the department of English, director of the MA TESOL program, and graduate programs director at the College of Arts and Sciences.  Her research activities span over a wide range of language, education and globalization. Her publications are in the areas of language acquisition, bilingualism, identity, education policy and globalization of higher education.
Professor Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow, UK

Topic: Conflict and Compassion:  Intercultural Language Education and the Human Ecological Paradigm

This paper present work undertaken with Professor Glenn Levine, UCI, which challenges the predominant model of language teaching, particularly at the university level, which we frame here as a performative model largely limited to functional and technicist goals (Lyotard, 1984). In this paper I aruge that  this model is no longer adequate to meet the demands of a globalized world and economic, ecological and global insecurities and vulnerabilities which are part of today’s geo-political context. Initiatives for reform, beginning in the 1990’s with the National Standards, through the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), to the proposals of the 2007 MLA Ad Hoc Committee, have remained limited in their overall impact because the pedagogical model for communicative language teaching is rooted in a structuralist model; in our work we argue that what is needed instead is a “human ecological” pedagogy based on an ecological perspective of language learning and teaching In this paper I focus on two core elements of our five-fold model: that of conflict and that of compassion.

(1) conflicts both within the classroom and in the L2 society in our mdoel are not ignored or simply smoothed out, rather transformed into affordances for learning and for the expansion of language education capabilities

(2) the fostering of compassion needed in a globalized, interconnected world in which security, sustainability, and indeed success in one’s life and profession have come to mean different things from just a generation ago. Languages play an important role in the fostering of compassion.

These elements form part of  a framework toward an approach to curriculum and teaching practice which we label “human ecological’ and offer for discussion and dialogue for a C21 pedagogy of intercultural language education.


Alison Phipps is Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies, and Co-Convener of Glasgow Refugee, Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNET). She is a member of the Creativity, Culture and Faith group in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow where she teaches languages, religious education, anthropology and intercultural education and education for non-violence. She is also Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Waikato University, Aotearoa New Zealand. In 2011 she was voted ‘Best College Teacher’ by the student body and received the Universities ‘Teaching Excellence Award’ for a Career Distinguished by Excellence. In 2012 she received an OBE for Services to Education and Intercultural and Interreligious Relations in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. In 2013 she was awarded a grant of £2 Million by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under its Translating Cultures programme, as Principal Investigator to undertake a project entitled Researching Multilingually at the Borders of the Body, Language, Law and the State.

She has twenty years of research experience in using creative and intercultural methodologies, including participant observation in multilingual communities, work across mobilities (international students, modern linguists, tourists, migrant communities, international NGOs) and overseas. She has undertaken work in Palestine, Sudan, Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France, USA, Portugal. She has produced and director theatre and performance and worked as creative liturgist with the World Council of Churches from 2008-2011 for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation. She is regularly advises public, governmental and third sector bodies on migration and language policy.

She is author of numerous books and articles and a regular international keynote speaker and broadcaster. Her first collection of poetry, Through Wood  was published in 2009. She has published widely in the field of modern languages, tourism and intercultural studies and European anthropology as well as in the field of Higher Education Studies. She co-edits the journal and book series Tourism and Cultural Change and the book series Languages, Intercultural Communication and Education and is on the editorial board of both Language and Intercultural Communication, and Hospitality and Society. From 1999 – 2004 She was Chair of the International Association for Languages and Intercultural Communication (IALIC). She is a senior policy advisor to the British Council and a member of the Iona Community.

Dr. Margaret Dowens, The University of Nottingham, China
Topic: tba

Dr Christine Coombe, Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE

Topic: tba

Leave a comment

Filed under Upcoming Events & Announcements

11th Teaching and Language Corpora Conference Lancaster University, UK – 20th to 23rd July 2014

I am pleased to announce that my next upcoming conference paper will be at Lancaster University. I will be presenting the findings of my funded research entitled “The BUiD Arab Learner Corpus: Explaining Second Language Writing Systems within a Markedness Framework”.

Conference website:

Abstract: TALC2014_abstract  Acknowledgements: This research is funded by The British University in Dubai.

TALC_Lancaster_2014 (21) (1)

Leave a comment

Filed under Upcoming Events & Announcements