English 101

5 Feb

Ethan Morris, a graduate student in the public history program, is the first MTSU student to participate in the study abroad program at Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England! Throughout the semester he will be guest blogging and letting us know about his experience! Below is his first blog post and some pictures of Newcastle!


English 101

I never expected that language would prove to be such a difficultly. In the English county of Northumberland, the locals seem to speak another language. The common phrase, “ye deed canny is oot,” baffled me until a local explained it meant “your as dead nice as anything.” Folks from the area around the Tyne and Wear Rivers (of which Newcastle is the center) speak in a dialect known as Geordie. Geordie is one of more than seven distinct dialects spoken by the people of Northumberland. To an American, each dialect might sound slightly Scottish. Indeed, Northumberland is so far north that I’ve heard it described as the southernmost region of Scotland. The consolation of learning these “foreign languages,” however, is that the locals will give you a helping hand. There are quite a few non-native Geordies from other regions of Britain who remember the struggles of learning the dialect for the first time.

Learning a new vocabulary will be something to get used to in England. As many of you probably know, American fries are British chips, and our biscuits are their scones. There is a different academic language as well. While in the States, a Master’s student is called a graduate student, in England, he is called a postgraduate. University is usually abbreviated “uni,” Departments are known as Faculties, professors are referred to as tutors, and classes are known as modules. One other vocabulary fact that may startle is that the British do not use the term public history. When I mentioned the term “public historian” to a colleague, she admitted after reflection, “I guess that’s what I am. I just never used the term.” As such, there are no university-level public history programs. Master’s programs in cultural management, events management, or museum studies are much more common. Given that my degree does not exist in England (at least in name), I am taking one course with the Cultural Management Faculty and another course with the History Faculty. Together, these two classes resemble a typical semester in MTSU’s Public History Program. Even more surprising perhaps, are museum apprenticeships. In 2005, in order to get more young people in the museum field, the British government encouraged city councils to offer vocational training to socially- or economically-marginalized workers, aged 16-25. Apprentices work for little pay (£2.50 or $3.60 an hour) at a museum for one year, finish with a certificate, and then go on to apply for museum jobs anywhere in the nation. While an apprentice’s certificate is not as highly-regarded as a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, many apprentices find work in English museums. Bede’s World, the museum where I work, employs three or four former apprentices. Most of the administrators, however, have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Both the British and American people speak English. Yet, there are different dialects, vocabularies, and colloquialisms that make the English of the two nations seem dissimilar. So dissimilar in fact, that (although Northumbria requires English-proficiency among exchange students) Northumbria’s faculty still feels it necessary to introduce newly-arrived students to academic British vocabulary. From my little experience, I’m not sure a non-native can ever pass “English 101.”

-Ethan Morris, Public History Graduate Student


The lake at Leazes Park.IMG_1742


A view from the top of Newcastle’s Castle, looking northward toward St. Nicholas’ Cathedral.DSCN7445


Newcastle’s Castle’s Keep.



A view from the Swing Bridge, looking down the Tyne River at the Tyne Bridge and Gateshead Millennium Bridge (a pedestrian bridge).IMG_1673

Stay tuned for more updates from Ethan!!


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